Saturday, June 28, 2014

How To Educate Customers About Your Products or Services

Are You a Small Business Teacher or Preacher?

When you think about it, there’s a lot in common between teachers and preachers.

Teachers dispense information to their class; preachers impart their own belief system on their congregation.

Students look to their teacher for knowledge; the congregation looks to their preacher for answers.
Teachers share their knowledge; preachers share their convictions.

But, there is one huge difference between the two. Teachers teach and preachers preach.

A teacher’s ultimate goal is to help their students understand difficult concepts, theories and notions. The best teachers don’t lecture; instead they immerse their students’ in the entire learning experience.
A preacher’s job is to passionately motivate their congregation to accept their ideology. They accomplish this goal by talking to them. (Although, the congregation might join in with a few “amens” along the way.)

Obviously, I’m sterotyping both teachers and preachers. And yes, I know teachers who preach and preachers who teach. But, bear with me as I drive down stereotypical lane for now.

Most small business owners are preachers. They talk at their prospects. They tell their prospects what to believe. They stand at their small business pulpit spewing out information in a loud, bellowing voice.

Prospects hate small business owners who follow the preacher model. They’re not interested in listening to a long-winded sermon about when the company was founded, where the company resides and why they’re such a top-notch operation. (You can probably see a few of them nodding off in the back row.)

Your prospects aren’t interested in you or your spectacular small business. Not really.
Prospects are interested in solving their own problems. However, the only way that a problem can be solved is when the prospect learns new information. And obviously, in order to learn new information it needs to be taught.

Here’s a 3-step process to move out of preaching mode and into teaching mode:

1. Pinpoint your prospects’ pain points.

It’s your job as a small business owner to identify the most pressing problems that your potential prospects and clients face. Let them know that you understand and empathize with them. Even better, show them that you once faced the very same problems yourself.

2. Offer the solution.

A great teacher uses as many tools and strategies as possible to reach their students. The small business owner should do the same. Help educate your prospects through a variety of channels such as social media, articles, press releases, videos and audios. You can never teach your prospects too much. It’s completely impossible.

3. Allow time for the education to take hold.

It takes time to learn new concepts. Accept that is will take your prospects time to fully digest all that you are teaching them. It doesn’t happen overnight.

Don’t try and force them to make a purchase before they’re ready. If they haven’t completely soaked in all the important concepts about how your product or service can best serve them, then they’re just not ready.

Take a good look at yourself as a small business owner and decide if you follow the teacher model or the preacher model. And don’t be too hard on yourself, 90% of small business owners are stuck preaching to their prospects.

However, the most successful small businesses focus on education first; sales second.

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How To Accept Bitcoin Payments At Your Business - Part 2

How To Accept Bitcoin Payments Using
BitPay is another popular choice for online and offline bitcoin businesses. The company has several payment plans and boast to have “the world’s first All-Inclusive Processing with Zero Transaction Fees, and Zero Hidden Charges.” Monthly plans start at $0 with a 1% transaction fee. By signing up for their “Professional” plan and paying $30, you can cut the transaction fees down to 0% (Check their pricing table).

BitPay is available in every country and you can set your prices in over 150 different currencies. You can see the current BitPay exchange rates and how they’re calculated here. To avoid risks presented from accumulating reserves at the site, BitPay prefers to send at least one payment daily to every merchant. Payments to bank accounts are made every business day while payments in bitcoins are sent to your btc address at least once per calendar day. The company has daily direct deposits to 33 countries (Click here for more info).

BitPay makes it easy to accept btc payments in your retail store. Their Mobile Checkout allows brick and mortar shops to receive bitcoin payments by using their smart phones.

How To Accept Bitcoin Payments Using

Similarly to BitPay, Coinkite has a tiered payment plans system. The options start at the starter pack that is free but carries a charge of 1% on withdrawals and 1% charge on POS (Point of Sale) transactions. By paying $29.46 per month you can cut those fees down to 0% (Check their pricing table).

Coinkite has two distinctive features that are better suited for offline shops, a dedicated Bitcoin Payment Terminal and a Bitcoin Debit Card. Here’s what the terminal looks like.

There are two terminal versions to choose from, a Retail Payment Terminal that is WiFi only and costs $491. The option with the QR code scanner (the Exchange Payment Terminal) will set you back $819. Both terminals allow you to take Bitcoin and Litecoin payments. The Exchange Payment Terminal can dual as your own personal fiat to bitcoin/litecoin exchange. Some of the other features of the terminals include the ability to accept the Coinkite Bitcoin Debit Card, setting your own exchange mark-up that will be added automatically to all fiat conversions and invoicing capabilities. You can learn more about Coinkite’s products here.

How to Accept Bitcoin Payments on Your Own

Bitcoin is a completely decentralized currency that doesn’t rely on any third parties. Any two individuals that have access to the internet are free to engage in commerce. While the three options outlined above make the whole process much easier, if you own a very small business and you’re not yet sure if the bitcoin “gamble” will pay off, you can try taking bitcoin payments on your own.

There are a lot of ways you can do this but in this example I will use MultiBit. MultiBit is an easy to use bitcoin client that allows you to send or receive bitcoin payments. One of the major advantages of MultiBit over the traditional Bitcoin-qt client is that you can use MultiBit without having to download the entire bitcoin blockchain (which is over 5 GB in size at this point). You can download MultiBit by going here, the options on offer are Windows, Linux or Mac based clients.

The installation shouldn’t take more than few minutes and after you’re done you’ll be able to send or receive btc payments from anyone with a bitcoin address. After installing the client you will be presented with a screen that looks something like this.
Here’s an easy step by step process on how to accept a payment. First, go to the <Request> tab. You can either use of the pre-generated bitcoin addresses or make a new one by clicking on <New>. In the amount field, indicate how much the client should pay you. You can charge the “invoice” in either bitcoins or another “fiat” currency like the US Dollar. Due to the volatility of bitcoin prices, it is recommended to input the sum in the US Dollars field (or other fiat). Just as an example, let’s use a charge of 10 USD. After inputting the $10 value in the <$> field, the client will automatically pull up the current exchange rate of bitcoin versus the US Dollar and translate the USD to BTC.
With current BTC-E prices of $632.49 per bitcoin, a bill for $10 equates to 0.01581053 of a bitcoin. At the same time as you put in the $10, you will notice that the QR code on the right changes. If your customer has installed one of the many bitcoin clients available on mobile, all he needs to do is use his smartphone to scan this QR code. This will generate an “invoice” on his end. After he confirms the charge, a payment of 10$ worth of bitcoins will be sent to your address.

Few considerations are in order here. You can change the currency displayed and the bitcoin exchange MultiBit will use to pull data from by clicking on <View> at the top and then on <Preferences>.

If you cannot use the QR code function, you can use the bitcoin address displayed in the <your address field> to receive payments. To avoid copy/paste mistakes, MultiBit allows you to easily copy this address by clicking on the button right next to this address. This will automatically copy the bitcoin address. You can then paste the address in an email and send it to a client/customer. This process is obviously a lot more cumbersome than a simple QR code scan.
In addition, if you don’t want to carry the risk of volatility associated with bitcoin prices, you should setup an account with one of the popular exchange websites. The top 3 options as of March 1st 2013 are Coinbase, BitStamp and BTC-E.

Confirmation and Fees

As of March 1 2014, the minimum bitcoin fee is 0.0001. This translates into a charge of around 5.5 US cents at current prices. Due to Bitcoin’s persistently high exchange rate, the minimum fee will be cut tenfold to 0.00001 BTC or 0.55 of a US cent soon. The fee is not depended on the size of the transaction, a $1 transfer will carry the same fee as a $1 Million Dollar transfer.

The Bitcoin network is completely decentralized and all transactions need to be included in a public ledger known as the blockchain. Because of this, btc transactions need a certain amount of time to both be included in the blockchain and then to propagate around the network. This time is measured in “confirmations”. This is a somewhat complicated subject, you can learn more about this process by going here. Most merchants and bitcoin clients use 6 confirmations to count a transaction as legitimate. After a client sends a payment to you, in the MultiBit client you can follow the progress and the number of confirmations by switching to the <Transactions> tab. Keep in mind that 6 confirmations can take as long as 1 hour in some cases. It is recommended to include a fee to the transaction. By using the minimum fee you ensure that bitcoin miners will “pick up” the transaction and include it in the blockchain as soon as possible.

How many confirmations should you wait for?

Taking into account the fact that a transaction with 6 confirmations can take up to an hour to propagate around the network, for smaller amounts it is recommended to use 1 or even 0 confirmations. For very small bitcoin payments, like purchasing a cup of coffee for example, a payment can be considered as confirmed as soon as it is seen on the network. It is unlikely that people will go through the trouble of initiating a “double spending attack” over a few bucks. If time is not a factor, it is recommended to wait for 6 confirmations. If you prefer instant payments, you can either use a 3rd party payment service like Coinbase or an online bitcoin wallet like the one offered by BlockChain.Info. In order to have instant btc transactions, both you and your client have to have an account with your chosen 3rd party. In addition to this, the customer needs to have enough bitcoins in his online wallet to cover the purchase.

Despite trying my best to outline a simple process for accepting btc payments, I realise that all of this probably seems complicated and a bit overwhelming to someone who is new to bitcoin. Take your time and download MultiBit or one of the other bitcoin clients here. Tryout one of the three payment services we’ve discussed in this article. Deposit a small amount and make a few transactions to get familiar with how the software works. Bitcoin is a new payment phenomenon and the businesses that decide to embrace this technology will get access to a fast growing customer base at a fraction of the cost compared to traditional payment processors.

How To Accept Bitcoin Payments At Your Business - Part 1

Why should you consider adding bitcoin as a payment option? According to Coinbase, a US based bitcoin payment processor, more than 25,000 merchants are using their platform to attract new customers. BitPay, another Bitcoin Payment Service Provider, has over 20,000 merchants currently accepting bitcoins with their payment interface. Two years ago this number stood at few hundred. The number of transactions facilitated by Bitpay increased tenfold in 2014 and crossed the 50,000 mark in November. The payment processor said that 6,296 bitcoin transactions occurred on Black Friday last year, up from only 99 transactions the year prior.

Some of the notable merchant adopters as of late include the NBA team Sacramento Kings, Virgin Galactic, and Overstock.

Why are so many merchants interested in bitcoin lately? According to Coinbase, on 27th of February 2014, the company has hit one million Coinbase consumer wallets. At the start of 2013 that figure was under 13,000. That is an astounding growth rate of 7,592.31%. As more people start using the upcoming virtual currency, more merchants are bound to follow suit and adopt it into their payment systems.

Lower Fees

With Visa and MasterCard estimated to take a 2 to 3 percent cut out of every card transaction, by using bitcoin instead, merchants stand to improve their bottom line instantly by at least 2 percent. In addition, because bitcoin transactions are irreversible, there is no possibility for chargebacks and other payment related fraud. This reduces the costs of operation by another several percentage points. This coupled with the very low fees charged by bitcoin payment processors should make any business consider adding bitcoin to their checkout process.

How To Accept Bitcoin Using Coinbase

Adding bitcoin to your payment options today is easier than ever. Several major payment processors have their own turnkey solutions that make bitcoin payment integration a breeze. Let’s start with US based Coinbase. The company’s payment solution has 0 fees on the first 1 Million US Dollars in sales. In addition, this fee only applies if you choose to convert bitcoin into your local currency, US Dollars for example. There is no fee if you decide to keep your funds in bitcoins and you just withdraw them to your local bitcoin wallet. Furthermore, the firm offers custom solutions for merchants who already process over $1 Million in sales per month (for more info click here).

Here are some of Coinbase’s professional merchant tools.

In addition to being a payments processor, the company also allows you to buy and sell bitcoins for US Dollars. The fee for this is 1%. If you live in the States, you can also link your bank account to Coinbase to facilitate quick and easy transactions.


How to accept bitcoins with Coinbase if you own a brick and mortar business?

You can accept bitcoin at your brick and mortar shop by using a mobile device. Currently, due to restrictions by Apple, Coinbase’s app cannot be used with an iPhone/iPad. Luckily, the app works on android and android phones/tablets are much cheaper than their Apple equivalents. The picture below shows the simple few step process.

  1. Enter the details of the sale
  2. Tap “Request payment” to display the QR code
  3. The customer scans the QR code with their own phone and taps to pay
  4. The customer receives payment confirmation, so do you — sale complete!
You can read more about Coinbase’s POS solution here. You can download the android app on Google Play.

Have you thought about accepting Bitcoin currency at your small business?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

How Hackers Are Tricking You to Get Into Your Computer

Stop and check what you’re downloading before you download it. Don’t assume that all emails you receive are safe to download, no matter who the sender is. It’s better to be cautious than sorry; removing viruses can be frustrating and costly.

There is a new method that has become prominent for hackers to inflict malware onto your computer, involving the use of well-known delivery companies. They convince victims that they’ve missed a delivery, the victim downloads the zip file from the email, and before they know it they have malware on their computer. Hackers are using companies as well-known as UPS and FedEx to get malware onto your computer, and people are falling into the trap of trusting these emails and downloading the files.

The lesson from this new method used by hackers to get into your computer is to use good online common sense and awareness. Don’t download, install, and trust files if you have no idea what they are for. Pay special attention to the email address that the email is sent from, make sure that is matches up; for example, if the email is from FedEx make sure that the email address is Due to the increased improvement in online and electronic security, hacking attempts like this will only occur due to human error and carelessness.

Ensure that your online security software is regularly updated with the latest patches and updates. Have the latest security software, web browsers, and operating systems on computers. Install key software updates as soon as they become available. Set antivirus to run a scan after each update, and run full system scans on a regular basis. This is a relatively straightforward step and is a strong defense against malware, viruses, and any other online threats. It’s important to remember and train your employees to be careful when downloading. Your current IT services team should be informing employees which types of files they should not be downloading. It is important that your IT support team provides you with this information as the main cause of malware being inflicted on your computers is due to human carelessness. You should regularly run a antivirus scan on your computer and remove any viruses that are detected. Also, it is important to keep up-to-date with any potential email scams that are going around the Internet.

Make sure your antivirus protection is up to date.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

How to Write Effective Job Descriptions

Job descriptions are an essential part of hiring and managing your employees. These written summaries ensure your applicants and employees understand their roles and what they need to do to be held accountable.

Job descriptions also:

  • Help attract the right job candidates
  • Describe the major areas of an employee’s job or position
  • Serve as a major basis for outlining performance expectations, job training, job evaluation and career advancement
  • Provide a reference point for compensation decisions and unfair hiring practices


A job description should be practical, clear and accurate to effectively define your needs. Good job descriptions typically begin with a careful analysis of the important facts about a job such as:

  • Individual tasks involved
  • The methods used to complete the tasks
  • The purpose and responsibilities of the job
  • The relationship of the job to other jobs
  • Qualifications needed for the job

What to Avoid

Don’t be inflexible with your job description. Jobs are subject to change for personal growth, organizational development and/or evolution of new technologies. A flexible job description encourages employees to grow within their position and contribute over time to your overall business.

What to Include

Job descriptions typically include:

  • Job title
  • Job objective or overall purpose statement
  • Summary of the general nature and level of the job
  • Description of the broad function and scope of the position
  • List of duties or tasks performed critical to success
  • Key functional and relational responsibilities in order of significance
  • Description of the relationships and roles within the company, including supervisory positions, subordinating roles and other working relationships

Additional Items for Job Descriptions for Recruiting Situations

  • Job specifications, standards, and requirements
  • Job location where the work will be performed
  • Equipment to be used in the performance of the job
  • Collective Bargaining Agreements if your company's employees are members of a union
  • Salary range

Proper Language in the Job Description

Keep each statement in the job description crisp and clear:

  • Structure your sentences in classic verb/object and explanatory phrases. Since the occupant of the job is the subject of your sentence, it may be eliminated. For example, a sentence pertaining to the description of a receptionist position might read: "Greets office visitors and personnel in a friendly and sincere manner."
  • Always use the present tense of verbs.
  • If necessary, use explanatory phrases telling why, how, where, or how often to add meaning and clarity (e.g. "Collects all employee time sheets on a bi-weekly basis for payroll purposes.")
  • Omit any unnecessary articles such as "a," "an," "the," or other words for an easy-to-understand description.
  • Use unbiased terminology. For example, use the he/she approach or construct sentences in such a way that gender pronouns are not required.
  • Avoid using adverbs or adjectives that are subject to interpretation such as "frequently," "some," "complex," "occasional," and "several."

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    How To Write Your "About Page"

    Did you know that the “About Page” is the 2nd most popular page on your website? The main reason so many of your website guests pay a visit to this page is simply because they’re interested in knowing the “person” behind your small business. They just want to connect with an actual human being. (Is that truly too much to ask?)

    That being said, hopefully your “About Page” isn’t a tiresome dissertation of mind-numbing facts about your small business.

    Here are three simple tips for putting together an “About Page” that will stun your visitors:

    1. Avoid stock photos.

    Stock photos are just not going to cut it when it comes to depicting your small business. Your visitors want to get to know you. They really don’t care if you’re fat, skinny or somewhere in between, they’re just trying to make a connection.

    Your visitors want to get to know the “real you,” not the slick and polished picture of Mr. Joe Clipart.

    2. Don’t use wearisome industry jargon.

    There’s nothing worse than an About Page that drones on and on with industry jargon that only your mother would care about.

    Here’s an actual “About Page” paragraph that I read the other day:

    “XYZ Marketing Solutions is a recognized leader in online and offline marketing solutions. Dedicated to providing the highest level of marketing expertise, XYZ Marketing Solutions delivers unparalleled support, superb customer service and superior education to their discerning clients.”
    Yawn…are you sleeping yet?

    Here’s the deal. When visitors read about your small business, they don’t give a hoot about your high level of expertise or superior education. They simply want to know how you can solve their problems.

    I rewrote John’s “About Page”:

    “If you’re looking for ways to create more visibility, generate more leads and make more money, XYZ Marketing Solutions will produce maximum results for your business.”


    3. Include your contact information.

    If you operate a small business, then there needs to be an easy way for prospects, customers and clients to contact you. Obviously, you don’t need to give out your home phone number. You can simply use a 1-800 number that redirects to your cell phone (i.e. Grasshopper is a low-cost, professional choice.)

    And, the same is true for providing a simple way to email you. If you don’t want to use your personal email account, but want a low-cost email solution try Zendesk.

    So, make sure that when visitors land on your “About Page,” you give them something to remember. It’s as simple as that.

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    Tuesday, June 24, 2014

    How To Increase Your Business's Average Order Size By 40%

    How would you like to increase your businesses’ average order size by 40% just by making one small tweak in your payment processing system? Doesn’t that sound great? The first step is to make sure your small business accepts credit card payments.

    The infographic below, created by Merchant Warehouse, tells quite the story. Small businesses accepting credit cards for the first time can see an increase of their average order size by up to 40%. More importantly, people tend to spend more when using plastic instead of cash, perhaps because spending on credit never feels quite as “real” as handing over bills from your wallet.

    The Impact of Accepting Credit Cards and Mobile Payments  - Infographic
    Shoppers spend 12 to 18% more when using their credit cards, and adding mobile payments ups the ante even more.

    Small businesses still lag behind the times when it comes to accepting credit cards. Intuit’s research indicates that slightly more than half, or 55% of all small businesses in America, still do not accept credit cards. When you consider the fact that additional research points to 66% of all point of sales transactions completed using credit cards, the gap becomes crystal clear: many small businesses are missing an easy opportunity to increase sales, improve service, and add to their bottom line by refusing to accept credit cards.

    What’s the barrier to accepting credit cards at your small business? Is it the confusing fee schedules attached to many bank acceptance programs? If so, then you’re in luck. Now more than ever, small businesses have an incredible array of choices when it comes to adding payment methods to their businesses.

    Key Take-Aways for Small Business Owners

    Accepting credit cards is no longer a “nice to have” service – it’s a necessity.
    • Banks are still one route to accepting credit cards, but mobile and online payment options give small businesses greater flexibility and convenience than ever before.
    • Other services enable you to convert your smartphone, tablet or other mobile device into a portable credit card acceptance machine. The initial investment is minimal, and customers are increasingly accepting and even expecting such services. Restaurants, food service businesses, artisans and retailers can all benefit by using mobile payment methods.
    • Services frequently used by small businesses to easily and smoothly accept credit cards include PayPal, Square, WePay, and Intuit’s GoPayment. Each offers slightly different terms, but most require the purchase of a low-cost device that connects to a smartphone or tablet, and a per-transaction fee. Your service account securely connects to your bank account to keep cash flowing from the transactions into your accounts.
    • While it’s tempting to add a small amount to each transaction to cover credit card fees, customers tend to balk at paying extra for something they expect. You’ll generally make up the fees through increased orders, so accepting the cost per transaction of credit cards as part of your company’s operating expenses is a smarter move than tacking on fees to credit transactions.
    According to the previously cited Merchant Warehouse article, McDonald’s saw their average order size climb from $4.50 per order to $7.00 per order once they started accepting credit cards. Such an increase looks very promising for most small business owners. With so many benefits and few risks to your business, it makes sense to add credit card payment options to your businesses’ accepted payment methods.

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