Tag: arizona small business

3 Reasons to Consider Using Gift Cards for Your Small Business

3 Reasons to Consider Using Gift Cards for Your Small BusinessWith the holiday season upon us, it’s time to talk gift cards. According to a survey done by the National Retail Federation in 2014, “gift cards [are] the most requested gift item eight years in a row.” And why not? Gift cards are more personal than cold, hard cash. They show that the giver took an interest in the receiver’s wants. And best of all? They practically eliminate the hassle of returning an unwanted item.

Gift cards put the power in your consumers’ hands. Whether you’re ushering in season’s greetings or simply considering adding another purchase path for your customers, here are three reasons why gift cards are a must for your small business.

  1. They make gift buying easy.

For the indecisive shopper, gift cards are a great way to save the day. As I mentioned above, they reduce the hassle of returns. Unless you’re armed with a shopping list of exact wants and needs, it can be hard to nail down exactly what your friends want. Wrong T-shirt size? Allergic to vanilla-bean coffee but not caramel? What if that scarf simply isn’t their style? These are common dilemmas all customers face when purchasing gifts.

Gift cards eliminate returns for unfavorable gifts. And when those customers do come into the store? Get ready for some serious spending. According to a study by First Data, “72% of gift card shoppers spent more than the original gift card value when redeeming their cards.” So not only are they easier for shoppers, they’re also great for profit!

  1. Gift cards boost new business while building relationships.

Generally speaking, we’re all creatures of habit. We eat at our favorite places, visit our preferred coffee bistros, and shop at the same stores. Why? Because we know what we’re getting. So how do you convince new customers to walk through the door? Gift cards are a great solution.

Gift card use study

Since they’re an easy go-to for consumers of all ages, you can expect a boost with first-time customers. Gift cards encourage new shoppers to branch out and try locations they otherwise might overlook. And when they come in to redeem their card, you’ll have the opportunity to impress them with your customer service and small business feel. Even if you primarily operate online, you can still use e-cards to bring in new shoppers.

Pro tip: Consider offering reloadable gift cards. They encourage shoppers to return and give you the chance to foster relationships.

  1. They help you compete with big box stores.

As a small business, it’s already difficult to compete with big box stores. Shoppers on the go can stop by any prominent retail shop and grab a gift card right next to the register. The entire trip could take less than five minutes. It’s great that you sell unique wares with heartfelt packaging, but sometimes ease and speed rank higher than your boutique feel.

Options are always better. Set up some gift cards near the register and promote e-gift cards on your site to help those in a rush. Customers will appreciate the ability to still shop local even though they’re on a time crunch.

Picking a solution

There are tons of reasons for adding gift cards to your arsenal, so now that you’re onboard start looking for the right gift card program. Prepaid cards, merchant bank cards, outside gift card vendors — be sure to do your research and find a program that fits your small business needs. You can even create your own to add branding flair to your business’s new plastic cash.

Just remember: Check out your state’s legislature concerning gift cards ahead of time. There are rules in place to protect both you and your customers.

With the right gift card program, you could be well on your way to more sales and new customers this holiday season. Happy Holidays!

[Image found at: http://research.nrffoundation.com/Default.aspx?pg=9007#.WDXRXuErIch]

About the Author:

Maxym Martineau Maxym Martineau is a copy editor and staff writer for GoDaddy. She’s an avid reader with an unhealthy addiction to Dr. Pepper and chocolate. She binge watches TV shows like there’s no tomorrow and is always up for a good plot discussion. You can follow her on Twitter @maxymmckay for further shenanigans.

 

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SCORE Wants Military Veteran Clients

Thank you VeteransSo why is that? I can think of three good reasons—although there are probably more. First, it’s the right thing to do. We know that coming back into the civilian world from military service can be a difficult transition—whether at a young age from just a few years of service or at an older age from a full military career. Those who have put themselves on the line to defend our freedom deserve all the help we can give to make it easier to be successful in the civilian world as well.

Second, many of us who serve as SCORE mentors are veterans ourselves. Though we are open to and happy to serve all, it is a special bonus for us to be able to “give back” to one of our own.

Third, we have found that veterans are often better equipped to succeed at business and thus are more satisfying clients. When you look at the traits necessary for successful entrepreneurs, you find that they need to be hard-working, dedicated, disciplined, multi-skilled, self-sufficient, and focused on accomplishing their goals. Those are precisely the traits that have made veterans successful in military service. Veterans bring that culture to the challenges that are inevitable in starting a small business and nurturing it to succeed.

SCORE wants to be part of extending the long history of military veterans finding success in business. For example, a Syracuse University study found that nearly 49.7% of WWII veterans went on to own or run a business. More recently, U.S. Census data from November 2015 indicates that veterans owned more than 10% of the 2,540,000 businesses in the United States. In Arizona, the ownership percentage was about 9%, probably reflecting that more of the veterans in Arizona are already retired from their second careers as well.

For veterans who see themselves as potential business owners, I encourage you to use the many resources that are there to help. The Small Business Administration (SBA) is a great place to start. They are actively engaged in military transition programs like “Boots to Business” and, as a “resource partner of the SBA, SCORE is an active participant. As a continuation of your transition, you should engage with us to take advantage of the experienced business mentors, business training, and support we provide. For those of you in the Phoenix Metro Area, start with our website and make an appointment to meet with one of our 75 experienced mentors. We are there to help you no matter what stage you are in business—start up or long-standing existing business. And we never send you a bill—our mentoring services are always free. Take advantage of one of the best deals in town!

Jay Gladney, president of Greater Phoenix SCOREBy Jay Gladney; Chapter President, Greater Phoenix SCORE; Retired Mustang Major, USAF

 

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Love the Problem, Not Your Solution

One of my favorite business gurus, Ash Maurya, uses the phrase

“Love the problem, not your solution.”

Got an idea to solve a problemWhat he means is that as an entrepreneur the key to success is to solving problems, not the solution itself. Entrepreneurs are great at identifying problems (like the traditional taxi business provides horrible service at high cost) and coming up with solutions in the form of new businesses, and new business models (like…Uber).

But entrepreneurs are also often guilty of falling in love with their solution. Here’s what that means.

When I mentor an entrepreneur or new small business owner, I ask them first, “What problem are you solving? (the simple business model)” and “Who are you solving this problem for? (Who – and how many – and how will you reach them)” and finally, “Do they care? (Are they willing to pay you for your solution?)” These are critical questions that each small business owner must be prepared to answer quickly and succinctly and with real data.

To those three questions, I’ve started to ask a fourth. “If someone brings you an obviously better solution – all or in part – would you rip up your way of doing things and incorporate the new solution?” It’s very easy to become overly focused on the elegant solution you have come up with, and not the critical problem that your customers need fixed. It’s also easy to become more and more inflexible, especially after investing hundreds of hours to relentlessly pursue a desired solution. This happens to the detriment of the business model, growth, profitability, and eventually, the entire potential success of the company.

So what to do? Try the following and make it part of your daily or weekly self-examination:

  • State the problem you are solving clearly and differently from the proposed solution. Problems are problems (for your customers), and solutions are solutions (and can change)
  • State your solution as a proposal. A fluid process that may or may not solve the problem and therefore needs to be constantly tested and evaluated.

If you find yourself saying, “it seemed like a good idea at the time, but I’m glad we looked at the data and modified our approach.” Then you are well on the way to loving the problem and being open to change and better solutions.

You are an entrepreneur creating a business to solve a problem. The solution is merely a tool, not the goal.

If you have an idea to solve a problem and would like to bounce it off someone who’s been there, done that, schedule a free mentoring session with one of the Greater Phoenix SCORE mentors.

About the Author:

Andy BeranAndy Beran is the immediate Past President of Greater Phoenix SCORE and has been a mentor since 2008. Andy currently owns a medical transport company in the Phoenix area.  Since purchasing the company in 2010, he returned the business to consistent profitability and growth. During his extensive corporate career, Andy held various management positions at a leading Fortune 50 high technology research, development and manufacturing company.  His positions included Group Controller and Director of Strategic Planning.  He was a proven expert in the areas of Strategic Planning, Mergers and Acquisitions, Strategic Alliances, New Business Development, Operations and Capacity Planning, Finance & Budgeting and ROI / Productivity. Learn more about Andy here.

 

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3 Tips to Help you get Paid like a Pro with your e-commerce site 1 Aug

eCommerce: 3 Tips to Help you get Paid like a Pro

Collecting payment online through an eCommerce site has never been easier!

Making sales online without a way to get paid immediately is like opening a corner market and asking people to mail in a check — then waiting for it to clear before they can take home their fresh tomatoes. They want their produce now, and so do people who want to download your eBook or buy your product or service.

In short, in an era of instant gratification, businesses need to be able to serve up what’s on the menu before customers leave your store.

That’s great, you might say, but just exactly how does someone who’s just starting out take online payments? Doesn’t it require a merchant account with a major bank? Well, yes—and no.

That’s because at times a merchant account is the perfect solution. We’ll come back to it shortly. First, let’s talk about how to get paid when you’re new to the eCommerce game.

The all-in-one solution

Let’s say you sell T-shirts. They come in various styles, colors and sizes. You know you can’t just post a list of what you have on a web page and ask people to send an email outlining what they want, along with a personal check. That might work for a limited, one-time distribution for a specific event. But it would not be a practical way to run your business.

Fortunately, many ready-made online store options are available, including GoDaddy’s Online Store. In addition to providing a place to showcase your T-shirts, you are immediately able to collect payment through PayPal and all major credits cards. Funds will automatically transfer into your bank accounts.

By using this type of all-in-one eCommerce solution, you get a seamless way to collect payment.

For those entrepreneurs who prefer to let someone else get their hands dirty in site development, look for a reputable company that offers professionally built eCommerce solutions that include baked-on payment process (like GoDaddy’s Web Store Design Service).  Either way, you’ll have an automated way to collect money — so you can get paid.

The point-of-sale solution

We get it. Not all sales take place online. Whether you set up shop at ever-changing weekend festivals or showcase your T-shirts at the same mall kiosk day in and day out, you need a dependable way to accept a variety of payment types. Enter the point-of-sale (POS) solution.

From mobile credit card readers and apps like Square and PayPal to robust online bookkeeping tools with mobile payment capabilities, you’ve got plenty of POS options. Just be sure whatever point-of-sale solution you choose includes the following features:

  • Affordable. Look at costs including monthly fees and swipe rates.
  • Easy to use.
  • E-commerce integration.
  • 24/7 customer support.

As a busy business owner you’ll likely also benefit from time-saving features such as inventory management and industry-specific functionality like bill splitting for restaurants. It’s worth a bit of extra time to settle on a solution that’s the right fit for your and your business.

The CMS solution

Maybe you want to sell products from a website built on a Content Management System (CMS)  such as WordPress. In that case, you’ll need a few special parts:

  • Reliable web hosting, where you can install your CMS software. Be sure to choose a hosting provider (like GoDaddy for Managed WordPress) that guarantees uptime, keeps a close eye on security, and offers outstanding customer support.
  • The right theme. WordPress, in particular, offers myriad eCommerce themes. You want to choose a well-designed theme that features the functionality you need. Again, make sure there will be solid support available if you need it.
  • The right eCommerce plugin. Most themes don’t have baked-in eCommerce functionality; instead, they’re designed to work with an eCommerce plugin like WooCommerce for WordPress or Eshop for Joomla!.

Now, back to the business of getting paid.

In these types of cases, you’ll need to line up a merchant account or payment gateway. Stripe offers just such solutions for Joomla! and Simple Pay Lite for WordPress. Of course, there are others as well. The takeaway here is that before you can get paid, you’ll need to collect.

And with a store built using a content management system, you’ll need to integrate a way to do so.

Finally, you’ll want to secure your store with an SSL certificate to make sure your payments are accepted safely.

Before long, you just might be need to upgrade, and start the whole process over again to handle booming sales. We have a feeling you won’t mind.

About the Author: RuthAnn Hogue, GoDaddy

Based in Arizona, RuthAnn Hogue is the owner and founder of Whiptail Publisher’s Syndicate, a published nonfiction author and a contributor to the GoDaddy blog. The recovering journalist occasionally breaks out her 1979 Gibson Les Paul Custom Deluxe Silverburst rock ‘n’ roll guitar when she wants to let loose. A devoted fur mother, RuthAnn makes time to spoil all four of her Jack Russell terriers when she is not tweeting from @MyWhiptail or posting on Facebook @whiptailpublishing.

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25 Jul

Entrepreneurs: You Are Not Alone

Entrepreneurs and owners of small businesses are used to doing everything – from unlocking the doors in the morning, to emptying out the trash cans, and locking up before heading home at the end of another long day. Along the way, making hundreds of decisions, often with significant potential consequences. It’s challenging, risky, unsettling, and often intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be lonely.

Every entrepreneur and small business owner will benefit from an informal team of advisors that they can call on for advice and help. As you pursue your entrepreneurial journey, seek out and invite an advisory team of business professionals to join you. Your core competency is running the business, theirs is to help you be successful.

Your advisory team should include a Lawyer, an Accountant, a Banker, an Independent Insurance Agent, and a Mentor. In addition, given the pace of technology, adding an IT guru and an On-Line Marketing expert is highly recommended.

Referrals and recommendations from friends and respected colleagues are the best sources of leads to fill out your advisory team. Once you identify one or two members, ask them who they feel comfortable working with and you’ll likely quickly assemble a talented team.

Each member of the team will be able to advise you on the many pitfalls that face small businesses, as well as help you set a firm foundation for future smooth operations. For instance, the Lawyer will counsel you on creating a legal entity for your business, but also provide guidance on the regulatory environment, labor law issues, and review of contracts (before you sign). Ask lots of questions, take advantage of free advice, but always be willing to pay for their professional services.

The Mentor on your team can play a particularly important role. Find a Mentor with relevant experience, a willingness to share, and the time needed to be available to you. SCORE is a great source of Mentors – with over 70 talented business professionals in the Greater Phoenix Chapter – and no charge for mentoring.

You don’t have to be alone in your entrepreneurial journey. Reach out to others and focus on identifying and forming a team of business professionals. Your advisory team will provide the advice and support needed to drive your success. Add this task to your “to do” list today, and then take out the trash.

About the Author:

Andy BeranAndy Beran is the immediate Past President of Greater Phoenix SCORE and has been a mentor since 2008. Andy currently owns a medical transport company in the Phoenix area.  Since purchasing the company in 2010, he returned the business to consistent profitability and growth. During his extensive corporate career, Andy held various management positions at a leading Fortune 50 high technology research, development and manufacturing company.  His positions included Group Controller and Director of Strategic Planning.  He was a proven expert in the areas of Strategic Planning, Mergers and Acquisitions, Strategic Alliances, New Business Development, Operations and Capacity Planning, Finance & Budgeting and ROI / Productivity. Learn more about Andy here.

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Who’s Your Restaurant’s Target Market?

This is the next in the series of posts on opening a restaurant. In this part we cover how to determine a restaurant’s target market, the marketing plan and location, location, location!

Target Markets

Who's your restaurant's target market? No single food-service operation has universal appeal. Focus on the 5 or 10 percent of the market you can get, forget about the rest. The main market targets of food-service business customers:

  • Generation Y. Born between 1980 and 2000, A prime target for a food-service business, Generation Y goes for fast-food and quick-service items. About 25 percent of their restaurant visits are to burger franchises, follow by pizza restaurants at 12 percent.
  • Generation X. Born between 1965 and 1977, they are concerned with value, they favor quick-service restaurants and midscale operations that offer all-you-can-eat salad bars and buffets. Offer a comfortable atmosphere focusing on value and ambience.
  • Baby boomers. Born between 1946 and 1964, boomers make up the largest segment of the U.S. population. Many can afford to visit upscale restaurants and spend money freely. Many are becoming grandparents. Offer them a family-friendly atmosphere and/or provide an upscale, formal dining experience.
  • Empty nesters. Early 50s to about age 64, typically have grown children who no longer live at home. They continue to increase as boomers grow older and their children leave home. With the most discretionary income and the highest per-capita income of all, they typically visit upscale restaurants. They focus on excellent service and outstanding food, they like elegant surroundings and a sophisticated ambience.
  • Age 65 and older, often on fixed incomes they tend to visit family-style restaurants that offer good service and reasonable prices. They typically appreciate restaurants that offer early-bird specials and senior menus with lower prices and smaller portions.

Marketing Plan – concentrate on local area

  • Generally lunch requires at least 10,000 potential customers within a radius of 1 mile
  • Generally dinner requires at least 60000 potential customers within a radius of 3 miles
  • Identify competitors
  • Loyalty programs with significant rewards
  • Direct mail
  • Churches (ads in directory)
  • Schools (fund raisers – PTO/PTA)
  • National Restaurant Association (NRA) for additional information see website
  • Door hangers
  • Inserts in local papers
  • Co-op marketing with non-competing businesses
  • Personal contacts with hotel concierges, car dealerships, large employers
  • Grand opening campaign / specials

Location, Location, Location

Where you locate your restaurant is importantChoosing the right location for your business is important. Considerations include the needs of your business, where your customers and competitors are, and such things as taxes, zoning restrictions, noise and the environment.

The better the location, the fewer marketing funds you have to spend. Your restaurant should be highly visible and located in an area with a large number of customers you’re trying to attract – don’t forget to include availability of easy parking.   Don’t make the mistake of leasing a location before you’ve got a solid business model. Don’t sign a lease until the concept and business plan is complete and you’ve reviewed it with a SCORE counselor and an attorney.

Note that not every food-service operation needs to be in a retail location, but for those that do depend on retail traffic, here are some factors to consider when deciding on a location:

  • Anticipated sales volume. How will the location and seasonality contribute to your sales volume?
  • Visibility, Signage, Accessibility to potential customers. How easy it will be for customers to find you, to get into your business. If you are relying on strong pedestrian traffic, will nearby businesses will generate foot traffic for you?
  • The rent-paying capacity of your business. Do a sales-and-profit projection for your first year of operation? Use that information to decide how much rent you can afford to pay.
  • Zoning, Restrictive ordinances. You may encounter unusually restrictive ordinances that make an otherwise strong site less than ideal, such as limitations on the hours of the day that trucks can legally load or unload.
  • Traffic density. Carefully exam of foot traffic. Two factors are especially important in this analysis: total pedestrian traffic during business hours and the percentage of it that is likely to patronize your food service business. Estimate sales potential based on pedestrians passing a given location.
  • Customer parking facilities. The site should provide convenient, adequate parking and lighting as well as easy access for customers.
  • Proximity to other businesses. Neighboring businesses may influence your store’s volume, and their presence can work for you or against you.
  • History of the site. Find out the recent history of each site under consideration before you make a final selection. Who were the previous tenants, and why are they no longer there?
  • Terms of the lease. Be sure you understand all the details of the lease, because it’s possible that an excellent site may have unacceptable leasing terms. Be sure to negotiate a tenant improvement allowance for build out costs. Caveat CAM (common area maintenance costs).
  • Future development. Check with the local planning board to see if anything is planned for the future that could affect your business, such as additional buildings nearby or road construction.

If you are thinking of opening a restaurant, we’ve got mentors who have been there and done that! Click here to schedule a free mentoring session at a Phoenix location near you!

About the Author:

Roger_RobinsonRoger Robinson, PhD has been a SCORE mentor for over 16 years. His specialties include non-profits, business planning, specifically in restaurants and hospitality, recreational and arts and Entertainment verticals. Read more about Roger here. Click here to schedule a free mentoring session with Roger or another SCORE mentor.

 

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