Category Archives: Small Business Websites

Five Steps to Turn Your Great Idea Into a Profitable Business

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Is entrepreneurship calling your name? Starting your own business is a rewarding way to earn a living, but it’s not as simple as hitting the market with a great idea. If you have a brilliant idea you want to turn into a profitable business, take these five steps before you launch.

Know Yourself

A business may be a good idea, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea for you. Explore your interests to discover the type of business you’d like to run. Then, explore your strengths to decide how you’d like to run it.

For first-time entrepreneurs looking to save on overhead, gig economy businesses are a good choice because you don’t need a brick-and-mortar presence. For example, a dog walker can set their own prices and schedule and be selective about the animals they work with. That said, it still takes great organizational skills to operate an on-the-go business.

Complete Market Research

You have a great idea, but who is going to buy it? If your problem doesn’t meet an identifiable need, you’ll have a hard time finding paying customers. This is where market research comes in. Market research shows you what unmet need exists in your target market, how you can meet it, and how much people are willing to pay. For a step-by-step guide to completing your own market research, read the guide from Envato Tuts+.

Write a Business Plan

The business plan is where you synthesize everything you’ve learned about your business idea and market into an actionable plan. The business plan details:

  • What you’ll sell (description of products or services).
  • How you’ll produce it (funding, suppliers, manufacturing, and staffing).
  • How you’ll sell it (pricing, sales strategy, and marketing plan).

A business plan should also outline your mission, values, business structure, and financial projections, among other components. Basically, anything you need to know to run your business should go in the business plan.

Craft a Brand

This is the fun stuff — picking a name, designing a logo, and choosing a color scheme for your brand. However, it’s serious business too. Your brand has a huge influence on how customers perceive your business. Your brand’s image and voice should be consistent across all platforms, including website copy, social media messaging, images, and in-person communication. Learn more about developing your brand at HubSpot.

Register Your Business

Before you launch your business, there are a few legal steps to attend to:

  • Choose a business structure and register your business with the state.
  • Apply for sales tax permits.
  • Apply for a federal tax ID number.
  • Apply for licenses and permits if your industry requires them.
  • Apply for a zoning variance for home-based businesses.

In addition to these legally required steps, knock these administrative tasks off your list before starting up:

  • Purchase a domain name and create a website.
  • Create social media profiles and content calendars.
  • Establish record-keeping systems.
  • Order business cards.

Once you’ve finished all these steps, you’re ready to launch your business! As you operate your first small business, remember to stay disciplined so you don’t fall behind and take time for self-care so you don’t burn out. There’s a lot to do when running a business, but with focus and dedication, you can get the job done.

How to Make Free Shipping Profitable (Infographic)

Free shipping has become the standard in online shopping. Proven to increase order volume and reduce cart abandonment, it is an effective tactic to generate more sales. The dilemma is that free shipping is never actually free, as businesses have to eat the costs. With shipping costs rising, offering unlimited free shipping is not sustainable for most businesses in the long run. The good news is there are alternate forms of free shipping that make this shopping perk profitable for your business.

To implement an effective strategy, you will need to evaluate your margin (how much your product sells against how much it costs you), shipping costs, product type, and your audience. Red Stag Fulfillment put together an infographic with 22 research-backed tips to create a free shipping strategy that meets customer expectations and drives profit.

How to Make Free Shipping Profitable

E-Commerce Problems And Solutions Guide

Retailers know it’s not enough to simply open stores and expect customers to cooperate. It’s important to make sure shoppers have the best possible experience in the store to ensure they become customers — and remain customers for a long time.

Retailers need to make the shopping experience at their stores as convenient and enjoyable as possible. One of the biggest ways retailers have boosted the convenience factor for their customers in recent years has been to add an e-commerce element to their businesses. However, just because e-commerce is more convenient doesn’t mean retailers and other businesses don’t need to put the same level of attention and care into their websites as they do in-store shopping experiences.

The novelty of e-commerce definitely has worn off for most people, and e-commerce businesses these days must do more than simply be open for business. With so many e-commerce choices, don’t give shoppers an excuse to ditch your website for a competitor’s. For example, poor website design is one of the biggest reasons why shoppers avoid e-commerce businesses. A website that features unpleasant design or has a broken interface will turn away customers faster than anything.

For better or worse, customers also have come to expect a lot from e-commerce businesses when it comes to logistics. They want their orders to be filled quickly and delivered even faster. What’s more, they’ve come to expect free shipping as one of the perks of buying online — so e-commerce retailers that ask customers to pay through the nose for shipping that takes more than a few days are asking for trouble.

Although e-commerce has become a major differentiator for many businesses, it can become a significant hindrance if they don’t take the time and effort to offer their customers the best possible experience. The guide below spells out many of the most common e-commerce problems businesses may have, as well as tactics to use to avoid or solve those problems. It’s no longer enough for business to simply have an online presence — they must work to earn customers’ business (and trust) in the virtual realm as they do in the “real” world.

E-Commerce Problems and Solutions Guide by Jordan Crown.

PCI FAQs and Myths

Today, approximately 75% of consumers prefer to pay with a credit or debit card. One of the biggest reasons why these transactions have become increasingly popular in recent years is because it’s so much easier for a shopper to swipe or dip his or her card instead of carrying the right amount of cash for every purchase. Yet, although card transactions are so easy for the consumer that most people never even think about them, the opposite is true for the merchants accepting those transactions. Behind the scenes, there’s a complex infrastructure humming to help guarantee all of those card transactions are as seamless and secure as they appear to the shopper. Further, it’s the merchant’s responsibility to maintain payment processing protocol to keep transactions secure and minimize liability risks.

To help make card transactions seamless and secure, the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) has implemented a set of data security standards that all merchants need to follow to accept card payments. If businesses are found not to be in compliance with PCI standards, the consequences can be dire. In addition to risking their customers’ sensitive financial data, merchants who do not comply stand to be hit with monthly fines on top of the penalties they may incur from issuing banks in the event of a data breach.

PCI compliance is much too important to ignore. However, because there are so many factors to PCI, it can be difficult for merchants to separate fact from fiction. For example, businesses that use an outside vendor to process cards may be under the impression that this alone puts them in compliance. Still, it remains their responsibility to ensure that they are following the guidelines to become and remain compliant.. This guide details some of the most persistent myths about PCI compliance. Take a look and make sure your business is doing everything it should.

What You Need To Accept Credit Cards Checklist

The main appeal of credit and debit cards is their accessibility. Rather than having to carry a wad of cash that might not cover your purchases, a card allows you to carry a single piece of plastic — or numerous, depending on your shopping habits. Indeed, the number of people in the United States who primarily use cash for their everyday purchases has dropped to under 25 percent of the population, and that number continues to decline. Using a card to make purchases is simply more convenient for the consumer. Unfortunately, however, that comes at the merchant’s expense.

Retailers and other merchants need to know how to navigate the often-confusing ecosystem of accepting credit and debit cards. Otherwise, they stand to miss out on the business of customers who exclusively carry cards or have a small amount of cash on hand. At the same time, those merchants need to be aware of their security and legal requirements that are part and parcel of accepting card payments. As if all of that weren’t complicated enough, the advents of online and mobile payment options have their own individual requirements and infrastructures. Whether you’re a small business or a large one, accepting credit and debit card payments is nowhere near as simple as it is for a customer to make them.

Yet, accepting credit and debit card payments is a requirement for business of any type today. Businesses that don’t accept these types of payments run the risk of distancing customers who will feel inconvenienced. Any type of inconvenience has the potential to push consumers into finding other options, so there’s no excuse for businesses to avoid accepting credit and debit card payments. Even though the process of setting up the infrastructure necessary to accept these payments can be troublesome and complicated, some preparation can make all the difference.

Making processes simpler for your customers often means making things a little more difficult for yourself, but isn’t that what customer service is all about? By following the checklist from BluePay below, businesses can prepare themselves to accept credit and debit card payments if they don’t already. The advice covered in this guide can help businesses avoid many of the most common frustrations that come with establishing the framework needed to become part of the credit and debit card ecosystem.

Checklist Source: credit card processing company Bluepay