Monthly Archives: January 2012

First, Show Me the Money

By Gail Z. Martin

Before you commit to any shopping cart program, think about what you need from your cart. How will you accept payment?

First, determine whether your volume of transactions justifies having a merchant account. A merchant account enables you to take credit cards directly over the Web. Without a merchant account or an intermediary service, you won’t be able to do business over the Internet, since you can’t accept cash or checks.

You can create a merchant account through your bank or though one of the many services that specialize in credit card sales. Merchant accounts usually enable subscribers to rent/purchase a wireless credit card reader. This makes it possible for you to accept credit cards during in- person events as well as through your online shopping cart. On the down side, traditional merchant accounts are expensive, charging a monthly fee and a per-transaction surcharge that may exceed the sales of a beginning retailer.

Square is an alternative to the traditional merchant account. Square is free to join ( As of the writing of this book, the Square credit card reader is also free. Square provides a small card reader that’s the size of a postage stamp with a plug to connect to a smart phone through the headphones jack. The Square app can be downloaded for free from iTunes or from the Square Web site. Instead of a monthly fee, Square charges a low per-transaction fee. It also provides the ability to accept a credit card number without swiping the card through the card reader. Square charges a slightly higher per-transaction fee for cards that are keyed in instead of swiped through. Square provides a very viable alternative for companies that have a relatively low transaction volume or that may not use a card reader every month. It’s easy to use, secure, and at the time of this writing, works anywhere within the continental U.S. (Square says they are working to make Canadian and other international transactions available soon.) To use Square, the merchant have either a smart phone or a tablet PC (like an iPad) and have access to secure WiFi.

If you are new to online commerce, you may want to begin with PayPal. PayPal is an online service that allows you to accept credit card payments without requiring you to have a merchant account. Instead, PayPal creates a buffer between the merchant and the buyer, safeguarding the purchaser’s card information. The buyer creates an account that stores his/her card information. Using the PayPal interface, a buyer can purchase by using the email address linked to the account.

However, buyers can only pay with PayPal if the merchant is also signed up with the service. And, merchants can only get paid if their intended buyer is a PayPal user. It is also possible for a PayPal user to pay directly from a bank account, and payments can be direct deposited into the merchant’s bank account. PayPal is free to buyers but charges a transaction fee for sellers.

(Excerpted from the brand new book 30 Days to Online PR and Marketing Success: The 30 Day Results Guide to Making the Most of Twitter, Facebook, Linked In and Blogging to Grab Headlines and Get Clients by Gail Z. Martin)

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The Wisdom of Crowds—WWW Style

By Gail Z. Martin

Foursquare is an intensely local social media application that makes going about your business or going out for the evening a shared experience treasure hunt. Foursquare users use the site and text messaging to share their current location as they patronize businesses, retailers, entertainment venues. They can become the “mayor” of frequently-visited sites, and can gather their friends to join them on a spur-of-the-moment basis. Foursquare rewards users who are out and about in their local area—and the local companies they frequent benefit as well.

Groupon subscribers can sign up to get special online deals from local businesses. Subscribers indicate their local area and their willingness to receive emails and social media alerts to short-lived discounts from local merchants. Companies sign up to provide limited-time special deals that are only available via Groupon. In some cases, deals are only available if a specified number of people show up to claim it. Groupon makes bargain hunting fun and social while retaining an intensely local flair.

LivingSocial is another site that offers a daily deal from local businesses with up to 90% off the regular price. Once a subscriber buys the daily deal, he/she has the opportunity to forward the deal to friends, and if one of those friends also buys, the original customer gets the deal item for free. It’s a fun way to publicize specials while encouraging customers to tell their friends about your company.

Yelp, and Citysearch are other sites that capitalize on the concept of “local.”  Not only can they help others to find your company more easily (both online and in person), many of these new locally-oriented sites also encourage customers to rate their recent experience.  Don’t let that scare you off.  If you provide good service and a good product, you have reason to expect most of your ratings to be positive.  Those that aren’t positive provide valuable feedback for you to make improvements, and a highly visible arena in which to demonstrate your great customer service to woo back a less-than-thrilled former customer.

Your neighbors, customers and prospects are online, and they respond to businesses that reach them where they spend their time. Customers also like getting relevant messages and discounts when they’re on the move. Create your own highly local online PR and marketing strategy and reap the benefits!

(Excerpted from the brand new book 30 Days to Online PR and Marketing Success: The 30 Day Results Guide to Making the Most of Twitter, Facebook, Linked In and Blogging to Grab Headlines and Get Clients by Gail Z. Martin)

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Filed under Gail Z. Martin, Marketing

Social Media Becomes a Local Resource

By Gail Z. Martin

Google AdWords offers specialized services to target customers within a 20-mile radius from your business. AdWords permits you to add or exclude areas, and can integrate your targeted AdWords campaign with text messaging.

Facebook can serve as a showcase for your community activity. When you host an event that benefits a local charity or sponsor a local sporting team, promote before, during and after the event with updates, photos, Web video and testimonials. Encourage attendees to become part of an ongoing conversation. Many companies successfully use their Facebook page as an instantly updateable second Web site to let their community know what’s going on and to share information and updates.

Twitter has been used by local charities to mobilize volunteers for projects or to alert donors to immediate needs. Animal rescue groups and humane societies have used Twitter to match shelter animals with new homes. Schools have demonstrated Twitter’s ability to alert parents to unplanned closings or to request badly needed supplies or last-minute parent volunteers. Businesses tweet about their upcoming live entertainment, dinner specials, or daily discounts.

Twitter can also help you promote upcoming local events, share photos and video via links, and give your online press releases a broader readership as you tweet news and provide links to coverage you’ve received in local online publications. Your blog can also be an effective part of your online marketing program by sharing the story behind your achievements or by providing deeper insight into what’s happening with your business, which deals and events are coming up, or the news of your industry as it impacts local customers.

(Excerpted from the brand new book 30 Days to Online PR and Marketing Success: The 30 Day Results Guide to Making the Most of Twitter, Facebook, Linked In and Blogging to Grab Headlines and Get Clients by Gail Z. Martin)

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The World Wide Web is Also Local

By Gail Z. Martin

You can also use online PR and marketing to cultivate a local audience by making sure that the content you post has a very local focus. Make your blog, Web site and social media pages the go-to location for your friends, neighbors and customers to see local news first. Create contests that encourage your neighbors and local patrons to send in photos of themselves, their kids or their pets. You can bet that when their photo is posted they’ll shoot off an email to several hundred of their social media contacts and drive traffic to your site.

Capitalize on the local angle of your social media pages, blog and Web site by running your own online banner ads to highlight your company, products and services. Use Facebook ads that target readers within a geographic area or with locally-focused keywords. Don’t overlook paid advertising in online publications to reach local readers. Realize that you’re also reaching consumers at their laptops and on the go as they read the publication—and see your ad—via mobile devices.

Mobile advertising is a growing element of online marketing. Many local companies have gone from asking customers for their email address to asking for their mobile phone number—and permission to send coupons, event news and updates via text messages. This can work especially well for entertainment providers, such as nightclubs and theaters, that benefit from customers making a spur-of-the-moment decision on what to do and where to go based on mobile advertising. Likewise, letting your customers know about a special deal, an online-only coupon or a newly available hard-to-get product via text message can result in sales you’d otherwise miss. Sites like AdMob and MakeMeSocial specialize in helping companies add text messaging to their online marketing mix.

(Excerpted from the brand new book 30 Days to Online PR and Marketing Success: The 30 Day Results Guide to Making the Most of Twitter, Facebook, Linked In and Blogging to Grab Headlines and Get Clients by Gail Z. Martin)

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