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How to cut your expenses if your business is struggling

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on March 10th, 2010

1176251_27831922When times are not great, every business should reevaluate their overhead and cut any unnecessary expenses that do not have a big impact on the bottom line or day to day operations.  One of the most common areas business owners cut is advertising & marketing.  Granted, this may be a very big expense, but it probably should never be cut.  Instead, you may want to consider increasing this particular expense.  Without new customers, your business will not be able to thrive and make it through the tough times.  Customer service is another common area that usually finds itself cuts but probably should not.  Customer service and advertising are some of the most important areas to any business.  You must continue bringing in new customers while taking care of the ones you have.

Some possible areas you can cut could be: Technology – Most of us can live without all the latest gadgets & cool toys.   Start focusing on all the new technology purchases and eliminate anything that is not really necessary.   Telephone – because VOIP has been rapidly growing these last few years, traditional (analog) phone service companies are becoming more competitive.  Call your phone company and see if they will cut you a deal or give you a discount.  Energy – many areas have a choice in electricity companies.  If you are in one of those areas, do some shopping around.  Switching electric providers can be a very easy task.  Supplies & Inventory – consider keeping smaller quanities of your office supplies and try to keep a tighter control on inventory.  Just like what many retail merchants are doing today, keep as little quantity of a product as possible.  You want enough inventory on the shelf to sustain sales, but not anything excessive that will be collecting dust.  Lastly, credit card processing fees. We are receiving numerous calls lately on merchants wanting to switch to reduce their processing costs. Last week, we received a pricing proposal from one of the Trump International hotels, so merchants of types & sizes are looking at their processing costs.

Are you taking advantage of referral business

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on January 26th, 2010

referralAre you having a hard time taking your company to the next level?  Are you currently taking advantage of the powerful referral business? I can’t speak for most companies in the credit card processing arena, but Gotmerchant.com puts 100% effort in obtaining as many referrals from current customers as possible. You can too and here are several ways of doing it. I will skip the reasons as to why you should go after referrals, but simply put, they are the best leads any business could ask for. 1. Be cautious with the timing of your referral request. You want your customers to experience your service before you ask for referrals. 2. Always remember, not all clients are referral candidates, only about 20% generally are. 3. Offer incentives for your customers to refer your products or services.  Such as, we offer our clients $50 for anyone they refer that signs up and gets approved.  4. Gotmerchant.com always sends out hand written thank you cards after a customer signs up.  This may be a great time to ask for a referral. Also, be sure to ask for referrals whenever your customer needs assistance in the future and you have helped them with their problem.  People love to spread the word about a company after they have fixed their problem for them.

Image thanks to  http://www.flickr.com/photos/36499169@N04/3563008885/

Retail survival strategy tips for 2010

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on January 26th, 2010

retailcovx-largeThe recession is starting to push hard against the retail industry and is having a big impact on sales.  This usually has a trickle down affect for the credit card processing business. Many retailers are getting their chips in-line to be able to market itself efficiently during the new, tougher economy. This past holiday season was a good test for the retail industry on the new less is more buying mentality. Former JCP CEO made a statement that described this perfectly and I quote “I never saw anyone go out of business because they didn’t have enough of something.” So what are retailers suppose to do? You can only cut prices so low. Retailers should create themselves a niche or leg up over the competition. Such as JCP has created over 20 different private label brands that you will not find anywhere else. Having an exclusive brand keeps your customers coming back time and time again. Being green is another business concept that is on the rise as well. How retailers operate and the products they sell are becoming more green than ever before. Organic goods is one popular item that is increasing in demand. Many retailers like Wal-mart and Target are also  incorporating as many green products as possible in their building’s designs when creating or renovating a store.

What can poor customer service do to your business

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on January 18th, 2010

1205188352_2e0558e0b6If you didn’t know it already, I’m a stickler for good customer service.  I think most customers would say the same thing.  If after repeated attempts, you do not provide good service, they won’t come back.  Back in the day, if you were not happy with a business, you would tell a few of your friends.  Well, that was so 1999.  This is 2010 and the Internet has evolved into a word spreading machine.  With places like Twitter, Facebook and blogs, if a company doesn’t take care of their customers, that one bad apple could share their voice among thousands of potential customers.  This can also work in the merchant’s benefit too.  However, we all know too well what bad press can do.  It spreads like wild fire and good news moves like a turtle.  Unfortunately, the credit card processing business has too many companies that do not believe the same as I. There are plenty of great processors, but the ones with poor service should not be able to survive even though they do.

photo thanks to brainclots at flickr.com

Bill Me later found itself some trouble.

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on January 15th, 2010

Does your business currently accept payments using the Bill Me later service in addition to credit card processinglogo-slogan payments.  Bill Me later is currently facing a law suit over the interest rate they charge for their service.  The suit was filed by a former customer of Bill Me later.   The suit is asking for 3 times the amount of interest Bill Me later charged the plaintiff and anyone else who joins.  They claimed the interest rates could be as large as 40 to 100% APR.  Since they are not a chartered bank, they are not regulated by the government.  While the service can be a very good selling tool for merchants, I think this law suit is frivolous.  People are suing companies for unjust reasons.  In my opinion, if you are not ok with the percentages that they will charge you, then do not use their service.  Simply do not buy the products if you do not have the cash and live your life within your means.  It sounds like this person was doing exactly that and instead of taking responsibility for their own choices, they decided to pass the blame onto the company and try to get some money out of it.  This ultimately then affects the rest of us as law suits are very expensive.

Are you offering free shipping, part two

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on January 15th, 2010

Picture_9This is a second part to my free shipping post.   There are many shipping strategies one can use for their business.  One such example would be a fixed amount like $7.95 regardless of order size or amount.  This would however encourage large orders, but that is a good thing!  As I mentioned in my other post, offer free shipping with a minimum purchase amount.  There are a few benefits to offering free shipping, such as larger order sizes, item prices could increase and per-order cost may decrease.  Downsides are your profit margin for the heavier items may be too low and the additional profit may not justify the increased shipping expense.  You would need run some “what-if” scenarios using each pricing method and see which one works best for your business.  Click on the image to the left for a download excel sheet you may download to help you figure this out.  Gotmerchant.com tailors to merchants of all types including Internet, retail and wireless credit card machines. However, this really only pertains to Internet merchants running an ecommerce store.

Are you offering free shipping

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on January 15th, 2010

FreeShippingOffered In today’s market place more and more consumers are expecting Internet merchants to offer free shipping.  If you currently do not, isn’t it time you consider doing so?  A recent report by an analyst showed that free shipping remains an important factoring in normal online sales.   What I found interesting was that the average order amount was higher for merchants that offered free shipping.  When an Internet store offers free shipping for purchases over $75 for example, it encourages consumers to spend more to receive the incentive.  People like to receive free stuff.  This encourages them to continue shopping to see if there is anything else they may like to buy.  Merchants do have a cost by absorbing the shipping cost, but if it were to increase your average sale amount, that would very well pay for it.  Plus, the extra bonus is you landed a customer that could very well come back many more times in the future.  Look at Amazon, their profit margins are very slim, but they have a ton of repeat customers.  Having larger sales does increase your merchant account fees, but then that is also something you must expect too.

Is it time to wean consumers off huge discounts in 2010

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on January 11th, 2010

This year may look very different for consumers in terms of big discounts.  Many large merchants are reporting that they plan on keeping their inventories low to cut operating costs.   It is different for each industry though.  For example, take the auto industry.  They are slowly seeing a 15% increase in auto sales.   The clothing store on the other hand, maybe one of the few markets that will still be heavily discounting to encourage consumers to keep shopping.  However, the discounts may not be as big as last year.  Deep discounts is a result of overstocking and big chain merchants should do a much better job this year controlling it.  The economy doesn’t seem to be dropping anymore, but it will definitely take time for consumers to feel confident enough to start spending big bucks again.  Business for us in the credit card processing industry took a big drop in December, but things seem to have picked back up after the new year.  This is the main reason for such a delay in posting a new topic.  We are seeing more merchants calling us that are interested in switching processors to save a little bit on their processing fees.

Is your store turning away customers

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on December 30th, 2009

Mike from Allbusiness.com describes his recent experience in a REI store located in California.  It is a warm 80 degrees on a December day.  He went there looking for some clothing and the first thing he noticed is it was warm in the store.  This definitely did not encourage him to try on any clothing.   I think most business owners would agree, nothing turns a shopper away faster than an uncomfortable experience.  Society as a whole is becoming more picky on what they expect and will tolerate.   It doesn’t matter if you or your employees are comfortable, but your customers.   How can this apply to your business?  I personally go to a local gym here in Denton and at times, it feels like they try to save money by not keeping the place at a cool temperature.  I would think most fitness people would agree, that is one of the most important things for a gym.  Another area that can cause inconveniences for your customers is the speed in which you handle your credit card processing. For example, the speed it takes to process a credit card transaction can be critical for a fast food restaurant. Not so much for a sit down eatery, but is for many types of businesses. Also, older credit card machines process transactions slower than newer units. Such as the Verifone 3200 machine is awfully slow compared to a newer units introduced in the last five years.

2009 holiday ecommerce sales are up 3%

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on December 21st, 2009

It looks like 2009 has been a good holiday sales season for Internet merchants.  From Nov 1 to Dec 11, online stores received a total of 19.9 billion in sales, compared to 19.2 last year.  That is a 3% increase over last year during this tough economy.   According to ComScore, last week was the Internets best opportunity to get the last minute shoppers and receive their finale sales for the holiday season before shoppers direct their focus onto retail stores.  We still have some ways to go.  Compared to 2007, Internet merchants have seen several billion less than just two years ago. A 3% increase is great news for the credit card processing industry as well. That means our merchants have processed more compared to last year, which should result in a slight increase in our processing profit as well. I hope this is a sign of a positive 2010.



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