You know about Amazon’s retail services for selling everything from books to fishing equipment. But do you know about the range of Amazon payment services the online retailer already offers, or plans to offer, to small businesses and consumers? If not, let us clue you in. Below are some of the programs either already in place or in development for Amazon. Amazon Login and Pay First off, last year the company launched its Amazon Login and Pay option for online merchants. The idea is to let customers sign in and pay at other eCommerce websites using their Amazon accounts. Login and Pay differs from the older Checkout by Amazon program, which requires only copying and pasting a snippet of HTML into your site. It also appears to offer a bit more integration than the older service. Here’s a video that explains more: Amazon says the new service allows payments on any device and allows you to add payment options like pre-orders, split-orders and in-store pick-up. Amazon Payments You may not have heard, but Amazon also has a peer-to-peer money transfer service letting you send or receive money online similar to a service also provided by PayPal. It’s called Amazon Payments , simply enough. The feature allows private accounts using an Amazon sign in to send or receive up to $500 a month. Sellers using the service pay 2.9% plus a $0.30 per-transaction fee for payments of $10 or more. Other Amazon Payment Services Coming Earlier this year, reports surfaced about Amazon plans to offer small brick and mortar retailers a checkout system built on Amazon’s Kindle . The Wall Street Journal reported Amazon might be considering the move later this summer and targeting smaller retailers without a good checkout system already in place. The maneuver could get Amazon a piece of the nearly 90% of all sales that still happen at brick and mortar retailers. Re/Code also reports Amazon is looking into creating a payment option that would let customers handle offline transactions by phone. For example, you could pay for your parking or for a meal at a restaurant by phone. The post Bet You Didn’t Know About These Amazon Payment Services appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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Many small business owners are revamping their content marketing strategy this year. While there are lots of different ways to alter your strategy and stay safe being discussed among the Webmaster and SEO community, one of my favorites is by creating buyer personas. It’s creative and it’s a great way to try something new, so there’s really no reason not to get started. How Buyer Personas Work and Why They Matter Creating buyer personas essentially means you’re really digging into the buyer habits and patterns of everyone in your audience. Typically, you’ll have several different buyer personas in order to fit everyone in your entire audience into at least one group. Everyone is different, but usually you’ll find trends among your audience in terms of where they search before they buy, for how long, and how they form their decision. The reason I like buyer personas is because they can work directly with many editorial calendars, so you know exactly which content you should show which people and/or make sure you have a good mix of content that’s really targeted (more on this later). Creating buyer personas is an excellent way to compare audiences and determine the content each would want to read most. This might mean more work because you may have to create a different piece of content for each of your five buyer personas, but it’s more personalized which will get you far. How to Get Started Creating Buyer Personas to Help Your Content Efforts Below are three different ways to create buyer personas and how to use them to your advantage: 1. Talk with your audience through surveys, phone calls, and user accounts. Unless you have a company with only 20 customers, it is unrealistic to talk with every single person in order to fit him/her into the right persona. Nonetheless, you can ask customers or visitors of your website to take surveys and answer questions. If you have a system where visitors can create a profile or account, this is a great way to get a lot of information about a potential client. If you work for a big company, having a team of people call everyone who signs up for your service is a great way to get some key information. When talking with your audience, you’re going to want to get demographic information as well as information about their buying process and interests. Remember that you want to learn about them as buyers, so ask questions such as: How much did you know about the product/service before researching? How do you like to shop for this product/service? What was most important to you about this product/service? How long did it take you to find this product/service? Make a final decision? Of course, there are other questions you can ask depending on your specific company, but try not to ask too many. If you’re talking with someone on the phone asking more questions is a good idea, but sometimes surveys online can seem daunting if they last more than 5 minutes. 2. Look at your marketing funnel and try to segment your audience into personas. Segmenting your audience based on the information they gave is how you’re going to determine your main personas. It typically helps to look at your marketing funnel and determine where he/she would fit. This helps you understand how each buyer acts at each step in your marketing process. Once you have your information/audience segmented into your marketing funnel, you should look for trends within each funnel to potentially create even more personas. In the end, you should have groups of people who act similarly when it comes to buying your product/service, which means not only can you improve your paid marketing efforts or other marketing strategies, but also your content marketing. 3. Think about the content needed to help each persona make a final decision, and use and editorial calendar to schedule content and create these personas. When thinking about content, you not only want to think about content to be published on your blog or your website, but also what type of content will be published on other channels like YouTube, social media, etc. You will want to take a look at your buyer personas and see which group uses YouTube the most to find information, for example, and then create content that fits in with some of that groups other buyer traits. I highly recommend using a tool called “ CoSchedule .” This is a standalone app that syncs with WordPress. (Extra tip: It does quite a bit more than work with personas.) It allows you to create your buyer personas and then lets you mark which content is best for which personas so that you can target them specifically and make sure you’re putting out an even amount of content for each persona. Do you have practice working with buyer personas? What was your process to find these buyer personas like, and do you have any tips for using personas to jump start a content marketing strategy? Republished by permission. Original here . Persona Photo via Shutterstock The post How to Create Buyer Personas for Your Content Marketing Strategy appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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Punch cards for your repeat customers will soon be a thing of the past. But it’s difficult for small businesses to afford those plastic key cards that you might get from a place like a grocery store or gas station. Huzzah Media says its new Huzzah Loyalty platform is one solution. In fact, the company is targeting businesses with fewer than 10 employees that are still looking for ways to keep their valued customers coming back. Huzzah VP of Marketing Greg Garrick told Small Business Trends recently that a company survey found nearly half of all small business owners consider repeat customers key to their business’ success. However, less than 20 percent of them offer their customers a loyalty program. Cost in setting up such a program is a major obstacle. Huzzah says that some custom loyalty programs could cost a small business tens of thousands of dollars. In a company press release, Huzzah’s VP of Product Development Lance Brown added: “We know that for all businesses today, increased customer engagement is essential to keep customers coming back, and for smaller merchants, this rings especially true. Huzzah brings deep expertise in the small business market and we are committed to delivering a new set of services that enable them to compete with bigger brands and drive revenue.” The Huzzah Loyalty program is fairly simple. Currently, the company is giving small businesses a chance to try it out for six months for a nominal fee: $1. After securing a credit card, Huzzah sends you an iPad to display at your business and a box of loyalty cards to give to your customers. When customers visit your store after receiving a loyalty card, all they need to do is swipe it or a QR code on their smartphone in front of the iPad to earn points. These points can be accrued toward rewards that you select as the business owner. In an interview with Small Business Trends, Brown said that his company works with small business owners to set up their unique loyalty program: “Small business owners can talk to specialists to help them guide on which offers to offer. We walk them through the process. You answer questions, they set up everything.” After about five months, Huzzah contacts small businesses that have been using the loyalty program to gauge their interest going forward. Following the trial period, monthly subscriptions to Huzzah’s platform range from $69 to $139. Businesses are required to enter into a one-year contract with Huzzah at that time. In addition to the loyalty program, Huzzah has also announced several other services aimed at small businesses competing with bigger ones. Huzzah will design a mobile app for your business, customized with your company’s logo and color scheme. The company’s website claims that you need no coding experience or design skills to get your app active. The company also places it on all the major app stores with a premium plan. Mobile apps designed through Huzzah range from $20 monthly up to $65. Huzzah also has a mobile ad program designed to drive traffic to your mobile app, website, and eventually your business. The ads are localized so that mobile users in your area are more likely to see your ad. Monthly subscriptions in Huzzah’s mobile ad network get your business between 20,000 and 40,000 impressions for $100 and $200, respectively, the company says. Each level gets your business a banner ad and a mobile landing page when someone clicks on your ad. Image: Huzzah The post A Plug-and-Play Customer Loyalty Program for Small Businesses appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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Dallas recently passed a citywide 5-cent fee on plastic bags. New York City is considering a 10-cent fee. Similar plastic bag fees (or bans) on plastic bags already exist in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Supporters of the fees and bans say they will help raise awareness about the damage these bags do to the environment. Business groups say the added cost will hurt both consumers and businesses. In a statement issued to FoxBusiness.com, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Carlo A. Scissura explained : “We are reviewing the legislation and speaking to our members, but any additional regulations for businesses and consumers have to be carefully considered before action is taken. This is especially true in light of recently enacted regulations that continue to place additional burdens on the backs of small business owners.” But in reality, it sometimes seems as if larger businesses have been complaining the loudest. For example, in the case of the new Dallas plastic bag fee, Kroger , a national grocery chain with 2,640 stores in 34 states, has been one of the most vocal critics. Store representative Gary Huddleston told a Dallas radio station the new rule would force many hardships on the chain including creating special bags to comply. The Dallas Observer quotes Huddleston as saying : “In addition, the new ordinance forces Kroger and other retailers to add signs, reprogram cash registers to account for the bags, train staff, and even reprint all of their bags to include their thickness on them. Plus, retailers worry check-out lines could get longer, since bags have to be added to your bill before you pay.” But there are some businesses that don’t mind the new rules and some have already started creating incentives of their own to encourage customers not to choose plastic. Tony Marcano manages Union Market , a small chain of locally owned grocery stores specializing in organic and local produce with three locations in Brooklyn and one in Manhattan. He recently told FoxBusiness.com: “I don’t mind if it’s going to help the environment. A lot of places are already charging for bags. To be honest with you, 90% of our customers come with their own reusable bags. . .We don’t go through many bags here, because our customers are conscious.” Bag Photo via Shutterstock The post Small Business Opinions Divided on Plastic Bag Fees appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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Trips to the bank may soon be a thing of the past. New imaging technology lets you take a snapshot of a check with your smartphone and use that to make your deposit. Mitek Systems says it has partnered with more than 2,000 financial institutions – including the top 10 retail banks in the U.S. – to bring mobile check deposits to customers. For a lot of small business owners, the ability to deposit a check they receive without having to plan a trip to the bank could save time and money. Provided your bank uses Mitek’s licensed technology, all you have to do with your customer’s check is point and shoot. In about two days, the money is deposited to your account. Mitek’s patented technology allows customers to use their “Camera as a Keyboard.” The mobile photo technology automatically captures images of personal and financial documents and then extracts relevant data, according to the company’s website. Now that a lot more financial institutions are getting on board, the head of Mitek Systems expects use of the technology to grow exponentially. Mitek President and CEO James B. DeBello says in a company release: “We’re excited to see the continued adoption of Mobile Deposit. We continue to support the top 10 banks in the country, and coupled with our 100% customer retention rate, this further solidifies our leadership position in the market. We now estimate that consumers have deposited over $150 billion which represents more than 250% growth in cumulative deposit volume.” Several small business owners spoke with Small Business Trends recently to discuss their experiences with and the advantages of depositing checks through a smartphone photo: Jeff Wolfert is an aspiring professional football kicker. While he’s chasing that dream, Wolfert runs KCKicking camps in the Midwest. His camps aim to get college recruiter exposure for high schoolers. He says that he receives a lot of checks and often, on the road, there isn’t a Bank of America nearby. Another benefit is that, even if there is an error on the check – like the name of his business being spelled wrong – there aren’t delays in making the deposit. Wolfert explains: “Running a small biz, it’s about time. If I can take 5 pictures in one minute, it saves me a 25-minute run to the bank. I’ve never had a check returned to me because of errors on the check. It’s a little less strenuous.” Oleg Korneitchouk is a young Web designer and has been using Mitek’s technology for more than a year. He says that he started depositing checks via his smartphone once he upgraded to a better phone. Like Wolfert, he sees efficiency as the main advantage of the technology. He adds: “(Going to the bank) took up a lot of my time. The mobile app is super convenient to deposit my money. It’s the most convenient way to deposit checks.” Image: Mitek Systems The post Now All You Need to Deposit a Check is a Smartphone appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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Everyday I feel gifted to live in Paris. But some days are exceptional, and Netexplo event is one of them. I don’t know any event which compares to the worldwide digital symphony that Netexplo plays, collecting trends and gathering start-ups from every continent. Continue reading →

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Open Innovation has gained a lot of traction since Henry Chesbrough’s eponymous 2003 book. Simplistically, it can be split into two. The first, the vast majority, is inbound, where a business uses the assets of other companies to develop something new and take it to market. The second is outbound, where a company licenses its assets to somebody else to take to market. Continue reading →

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Let’s say you’ve amassed years worth of mostly positive reviews on your Yahoo Local listing. Then, all of a sudden, your Yahoo Local reviews disappeared and they aren’t showing – but Yelp reviews are showing instead. This is exactly what happened to Dan Tringale, owner of Colonial Hardwood Flooring of Lexington, Mass . Tringale says his company had amassed six years of mostly positive reviews on Yahoo Local. But when a new deal between Yahoo and Yelp went into effect, all that changed. A few weeks ago, Tringale estimates about 50 of his reviews on Yahoo Local disappeared in search as Yahoo started displaying Yelp reviews instead. Tringale tells the Wall Street Journal : “It’s a slap in the face that they took all those reviews down overnight…It’s not easy to get 50 great reviews.” If you were this business, you wouldn’t be happy. Yahoo says it’s in the interest of users. A spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal: “We partnered with Yelp, one of the most trusted, relevant sources of consumer business reviews, to provide a richer search experience for Yahoo users. . . That’s why when Yelp’s reviews are available for U.S. businesses, they will replace Yahoo Local reviews.” But is this really in the interest of users of the site, if six years of good reviews are hidden from view just because of a deal Yahoo made with Yelp? If you’re focused on getting online customer feedback, be sure to direct satisfied customers to Yelp, rather than other online feedback like Yahoo Local listings, for example. In the first place, Yelp reviews are now featured prominently on major search engines including Google and Bing. In the second, small businesses are discovering that, since the deal giving Yelp reviews a more prominent place in Yahoo search , Yelp reviews trump Yahoo’s own. The post Why Your Yahoo Local Reviews Are Disappearing appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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Dealing with the ebb and flow of workloads can be challenging for small businesses. How do you address those extra busy times without adding regular employees? And what happens when things slow down again? Subcontractors can often help provide a great solution. Below are some benefits of using subcontractors and considerations for bringing subcontractors on board. The Benefits of Using Subcontractors 1. Cost-Effective Help Without creating a lot of additional overhead, you can bring subcontractors (or independent contractors, freelancers, etc.) on board to handle extra work. Hiring a new employee can cost you 25 percent more than if you bring a subcontractor on board for the same purposes. Why? Because for an employee, you’d likely pay Social Security and Medicare tax, worker’s compensation insurance, liability insurance, employee benefits, training, and so on. 2. Specialized Assistance Subcontractors can bring with them a unique skillset that can enhance your business’s work. From design efforts to technical writing tasks and beyond, you can keep clients happy by meeting their needs with specialists you might not have in-house already. This also keeps your existing team members focused on their areas of expertise, so their primary work doesn’t suffer if there’s an assignment that doesn’t play to their strengths. 3. Busy-Season Boost Is there a particular time of year that sees a surge in business? Subcontractors can provide the extra manpower when you need it temporarily. Whether it’s around the holidays in the winter months or tourist season during the summer, subcontractors can be the answer to meeting those seasonal needs without bringing folks on board for the long haul. So, what’s next if you decide this could be a good path to take for your business? When Working With Subcontractors. . . Find the Right Fit Use your existing networks – word-of-mouth, social media, etc. – for trusted recommendations and referrals. Check out portfolios or samples to get an idea of a person’s work. Create an Agreement Formalize the basic terms and conditions of this new working relationship. Include a description of the professional services delivered, quality expectations, termination conditions, invoicing terms, tax reporting requirements, non-compete language and an intellectual property agreement. Consider a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) This legal document establishes the confidentiality of shared knowledge or materials. It can restrict subcontractors from speaking about or divulging private company information to outsiders. Follow Hiring, Tax Reporting and Labor Requirements The law is strict when it comes to how businesses classify subcontractors/freelancers versus employees  – and violations can be costly. Check out these articles about contracts and tax forms for more information. Subcontractors Photo via Shutterstock The post Strengthening Your Small Business With Subcontractors appeared first on Small Business Trends .

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Start-up Chile is a program on behalf of the Chilean Government that seeks to attract early-stage companies to start their business using Chile as a platform to go global. Its mission is to transform Chile into the leading innovation and entrepreneurial hub of LatAm. There are various incentives: Continue reading →

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