How To Review Small Business Apps with Merchant Maverick

Small Business Reviews Merchant Maverick
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Have you ever been confused about which app to use for your small business? With so many options available, you have probably tried to find a good review site to distinguish between top companies and bottom feeders. After all, the reputation of your own business is on the line, depending on who you decide to go with.

When considering who to use for payment processing, you have probably found that most software review sites have a lot of questionable practices – untrustworthiness, “pay-to-play” marketing, and biased (and even fake) reviews.

We decided to interview the founder of one of the most transparent and trustworthy review sites – Merchant Maverick.

Merchant Maverick

Check out our full interview with Amad on PocketSuite’s Professional On The Go Podcast.

POTG Amad Ebrahimi

Merchant Maverick is one of the leading app review websites because of its commitment to raising the bar for business apps and supporting developers who want to improve.

The website was started by none other than Amad Ebahimi of Santa Monica, CA.

Amad was turned off by all of the “pay-to-play” tactics used by other online business app review sites. They do just about anything to promote apps that advertise with them.

The big question that Amad was trying to answer when he started Merchant Maverick was:

“How can we improve transparency and integrity in the online review industry for small businesses?”

Amad Ebrahimi Interview

A fan of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and video games, Amad explains his reasoning for founding Merchant Maverick: 

Amad: I was inspired to create Merchant Maverick because I had had some bad personal experiences with finding a reputable credit card processor. There was a general lack of transparency in regards to pricing and contract terms. The processors themselves lacked transparency to me and the review sites back then in 2009 seemed pretty shady, and they seemed to be handing out high-ratings to processors that would pay them the most. I used that pain point as an opportunity. In the immediate years prior to starting Merchant Maverick, I was working as an internet marketing manager for an online tour company and a network hardware company.

This sounded like a great reason to start a review site. There was clearly a pain point in the industry that needed to be solved for small business owners.

Merchant Maverick In Depth Reviews

Next we dove into what Merchant Maverick offers and who their clients are:

Amad: We offer in-depth reviews focused on business software, apps, and services. For example, point-of-sale software, booking and scheduling apps, or credit card processing services. We also write informative content pertaining to the small business industry as a whole. Ultimately, we take on the burden of in-depth research so entrepreneurs don’t have to, freeing up time for them to focus on running their businesses.

Our “clients” can be classified in two-ways: 1) our review site readers or users who are small business owners looking for advice and direction, and 2) our vendors or partners that we have commercial relationships with. We serve as kind of a broker between those two “clients.”

As Amad mentioned, this type of “flywheel” business relies on two types of clients – businesses offering services and consumers looking for them.

However, Merchant Maverick has separated themselves from the pack by using a transparent ‘Consumer Reports’ strategy as opposed to the classic ‘Yelp’ online review model.

We were curious as to what the differences are between the Consumer Reports business model and Yelp’s online review model.

How did Amad decide which model to use at Merchant Maverick?

Amad: The difference is that Consumer Reports is focused on expert-based editorial reviews and Yelp is an aggregator of actual customer-reviews. The Consumer Reports model requires them to really understand the product that they’re reviewing, spending hours testing products against each other to determine the best of breed. Yelp, on the other hand, relies on gathering as much customer reviews as possible to calculate an average score based on all of those individual reviews. Merchant Maverick is a bit of a hybrid of both models but we place most of our focus on our own expert-based editorial reviews. We do, however, still allow customers to leave their own experiences, but our ratings are based on our editorial team, not an aggregate of customer-ratings. We spend dozens of hours researching and testing each company or product to develop our own assessment. I chose this model, long-form reviews backed by research, because I felt that it was best suited for my goal to educate small business owners as much as possible. 

We were also curious about the difference between 5 Star Business Apps and those that aren’t? Are those business apps just better products or is there more to it?

Amad: I think it largely depends upon the review site. To speak for our own process, we use several different review guidelines to measure business apps against each other, including ease-of-use, pricing, feature set, transparency of sales and advertising, customer support. We clearly outline how we determine our ratings so that our readers can engage in that research themselves and see if they draw the same conclusion. I’m sure there are some other review sites that might be accepting money for high ratings, but I’m not particularly aware of who that might be. 

On that same note, what is Amad’s take on the “pay to play” tactics that happen in this industry? How can small businesses best spot and avoid online review sites that do this?

Amad: It depends on what you mean by “pay to play.” If by that phrase you mean review websites that accept money to manipulate star ratings, then the only way to spot a review site that is “pay to play” would be to only trust the sites that clearly outline how and why they determined their rating. In other words, using those sites that provide full transparency and breakdown of the review and all of the details that went into the research.

Given this, what is Amad’s vision for bringing “journalistic transparency” and integrity back to the Online Review world?

Amad: Honestly, I think that we are already doing it, at least in the categories that we operate in. When Merchant Maverick first started, most of the review sites that existed around credit card processing all had the same two or three credit card processors listed as their top three. Once we launched and the market was able to see the level of research that we put into our reviews, and the fact that we did not rate those aforementioned top three as the highest rated, those same review sites begin using our top three as their own. They were essentially forced to rearrange their so-called top credit card processors because of our in-depth reporting on the market. So, again, the only way to bring journalistic transparency to the online review world is to review business apps with the level of detail that an investigative journalist would. Conduct your research and lay out all of the facts so your readers can trust your process.

Authority Magazine

Amad is a guest writer for Entrepreneur.com – check out his bio and articles!

Merchant Maverick also recently celebrated their 10th birthday – as a special celebratory gesture, Amad posted this on their Instagram:

10 Years Merchant Maverick

This company is truly coming to the rescue of small business owners, as evidenced by the photograph above.

It’s a weight off our shoulders to know that there are still review sites out there that truly care about providing transparent information to small business owners.

If it’s helpful to SMBs and solo businesses, we’re all about it!

Check out our full interview with Amad on PocketSuite’s Professional On The Go Podcast.

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History of Thumbtack and Changes For 2020

Thumbtack for your Business
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If you’ve had a small business for even a day much less a year or more, you know how important online leads are. Getting new clients is tough and the easiest way to do that today is online. If you’ve read our Guide on how to Generate Leads for your Service Business in 2020, you know that we recommended trying out Thumbtack.

We also discussed some Pro Tips on how to make the most of being on the platform.

Today, we’ll dive deeper and talk about the history of the platform and recent changes to it.

We’ll also share some recent issues the company has been facing.

Lastly, we’ll give you more Pro Tips you can use to grow your business effectively on Thumbtack.

Thumbtack Changes in 2020

THE HISTORY OF THUMBTACK

Thumbtack was founded in 2009 by Marco Zappacosta, whose father was the co-founder of Logitech.

The company has raised over $200M in funding, with another $120M H series round closed in 2020.

Some of their “big name” investors include Google Capital and Sequoia Capital.

Today, Thumbtack provides services in hundreds of categories, from Plumbing to Wedding Photography to Belly Dancing.

The company has been called the ‘biggest startup you’ve never heard of’ because of its elusive nature as the middle-man between local businesses and consumers.

“Sure,” you smirk, “I’ve heard of Thumbtack. But what makes it different from any other player in this market? There are tons of other companies that do the exact same thing…”

Thumbtack vs other Directories

HOW IS THUMBTACK DIFFERENT FROM OTHER DIRECTORIES?

Directories like Yelp or Angie’s List are a great way to find a local service provider.

Typically, these directories attract brick and mortar service businesses.

Thumbtack, on the other hand, focuses on mobile solo businesses and small business owners.

Finding a restaurant or beauty salon is easier with the directory model because these types of businesses have walk in availability and require you to show up to their location.

Plumbers and handymen, on the other hand, must be scheduled to arrive at your residence at a specific time.

Thumbtack promises to make it easier to find a pro that is available in your area at your chosen date and time.

Thumbtack is competing against Amazon Local Services and Taskrabbit to name a few in order to generate leads for mobile service businesses.

This makes sense, considering the size of the local services market.

Research firm BIA/Kelsey estimates $64.6 billion is spent on local advertising to generate business leads every year.

Thumbtack is an active member of this market and has since passed the $1B valuation mark.

This means it has achieved Unicorn status in the startup community.

Top Issues of Thumbtack

ISSUES WITH THUMBTACK

The online giant’s most recent round of funding was a flat round for $120M, which may mean the company’s investors are unsure of the company’s future.

The down round could also be an indication that they’ve experienced growth challenges.

One possible factor could be the lower quality of their leads.

All you have to do is check out Thumbtack’s 1-star rating on Trustpilot (out of 195 reviews) and its 446 complaints on the BBB website (and counting).

Small business owners are even writing extensive articles warning others not to advertise with Thumbtack.

Common criticisms include:

  • Fake leads
  • No returns/refunds on fake leads
  • Leads outside of service area
  • Bad customer support
  • Consumers who are cheap
  • A 10x markup on lead price

It seems consumers are very price-conscious when deciding which service professionals to book on Thumbtack.

Other reviews mention that the leads are going to folks outside of the service professional’s service area.

Still others are adamant that more Pros are receiving the same leads, creating more competition for the Pro and devaluing the lead.

Consumers have a worse experience when 12 different Pros are constantly following up with them vs. 4 to 5 Pros.

The outlook seems negative, but don’t worry! You can still make Thumbtack a reliable and profitable source of leads for your small business – here’s how:

Competition on Thumbtack

HOW TO MAKE THUMBTACK WORK FOR YOUR BUSINESS

We covered some of these points in our article on How to Generate Online Leads for your Service Business in 2020.

Recently, Thumbtack introduced a new pricing structure that doesn’t let Pros see how much the cost per quote is until after they’ve contacted the client.

This has raised an uproar among Pros who are paying 4-10x what they used to for the same quote.

Paying much more for quotes causes your Average Cost per Lead to go up, which makes it easier to find cheaper leads elsewhere online.

You should still give the platform a shot, seeing as how it controls a large portion of the online leads market for service businesses.

Here’s how to make the most of it:

BUILD A SOLID PROFILE

If you decide to create a Thumbtack profile for your business, make sure to get at least 10 reviews for your profile from past clients.

Thumbtack will provide a way for you to input your past client’s email addresses and will automatically send them an email asking them to review your profile.

You should also set your profile picture to be something captivating and professional.

Many Pros report that smiling human faces work great as profile pictures.

Use Real Faces on your profile

RESPOND QUICKLY

It’s also incredibly important to follow up quickly with all online leads, including Thumbtack ones.

We’re talking almost immediate – less than 5 minutes to have the best chance at turning those leads into clients.

For this reason, you should install some sort of notification system to alert you of new quote requests as they come in.

Being the first to respond to a quote request can put you miles ahead of the competition, especially if you combine that with including your PocketSuite online booking link in the quote.

This way, clients can click the link in your response and book your services directly from their phone or computer.

No more playing phone tag or getting voicemail every time when you follow up with your leads!

You can even take it a step further by setting up a Smart Campaign to automatically respond to quote requests with your booking link – this saves you a ton of manual work!

Simply set the timer to 0 and your Smart Campaign will respond to each quote request on your behalf.

SPICE UP YOUR DESCRIPTION

You should also make your business description appealing – talk about the selling points of your business:

You could create a short explainer video for how your business works and post it on your Thumbtack profile in the pictures section.

Overall, think about what you would want to see as a consumer that would build trust between you and a possible hire and do that.

We hope these tips will guide you on your journey to profitability and success with your small business.

We know firsthand how hard it is to build a small business from the ground up and make it successful.

For this reason, we recommend you check out PocketSuite’s free plan to make your life that much easier.

From Business Messaging to Payments, Invoices, Accepting Cards, and much more… you need PocketSuite on your side to lighten the load.

See how PocketSuite works for your industry, or check out some of our other articles below.

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The Benefits of Using a POS Card Reader

Card Reader for your phone
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There are so many ways for you to accept payment from clients. From cash to cards to mobile payment apps, it has never been easier to ensure your business is paid promptly and smoothly after every appointment. Today, we’ll be covering the benefits of using a POS Card Reader for your phone.

You’ll also learn:

  • What to watch out for when using card readers
  • The history of this technology
  • How you can best use it to benefit your small business

Tap Swipe or Insert

 

TAP, SWIPE, INSERT HERE, PLEASE

Have you ever been to a farmer’s market?

Have you ever purchased products or services from a solo business or small business?

If so, you’re already familiar with what a card reader is.

The technical term for this technology is ‘Payment Terminal.’ This is usually part of a Point of Sale System.

We wrote an entire article on POS systems, but today we zoom in on the benefits of using a POS System with hardware.

The portable version of this technology is affectionately known as a ‘Card Reader.’

Card readers are typically dongles that can be attached to any phone. Small businesses and freelancers use them to swipe credit or debit cards.

In this article, we’ll show you how to use this technology to accept cards for your small business.

We’ll also discuss the history of these convenient devices, potential pitfalls, and what makes PocketSuite’s card reader so awesome.

Get your RFID-proof foil hats on, because today’s discussion is going to be magnetic!

THE HISTORY OF CARD READERS

Did you know that the magnetic strip on your credit card was originally bonded to the plastic by heating it up with a household iron?

An IBM engineer was frustrated that none of his methods of bonding worked, until he came home and his wife suggested he use their iron to bond the magnetic strip to the card.

Before this invention, merchants used barbaric instruments called Charga-plates to accept payments.

These crude devices looked nothing like modern day credit or debit cards:

Abraham Straus Credit Strip

Later, Ron Klein invented the credit card strip, but made surprisingly little money from his patent.

EMV (Chip) cards are the most recent development in the card payment space.

Originally created in the late 90’s, ‘Chip Cards’ have since become the standard for card payments.

Today, there are over 600 Million payment cards in circulation, and this number is growing every day.

In fact, Mastercard Advisors did a survey that showed that 80% of American’s spending was cashless in 2013.

This trend isn’t going away and small business owners are taking notice.

If your business is able to accept credit cards, you immediately become an easier person for potential clients to do business with. 

PROBLEMS WITH CARD READERS

With such widespread use of credit cards, it should not be surprising that there have been some security concerns related to these convenient devices.

In 2018, one study showed that magnetic strip technology exposed card owners to bluetooth-based attacks and remote access vulnerabilities.

Fortunately, the problem was corrected when the software that runs these swipers was fixed.

Overall, swipers have proven to be safe and secure.

They are also incredibly convenient for your clients. Let’s find out why:

BENEFITS OF CARD READERS

CONVENIENCE

Imagine being responsible for paying a vendor, but not having any cash.

What do you do in this situation?

Previous generations of folks would scramble to find an ATM or sheepishly offer to write a check.

However, nowadays most small businesses and freelancers are able to accept credit and debit cards via a Card Reader on their phone.

Simply hand your card over to the merchant, watch them insert, tap, or swipe it on the fob attached to their phone, and then sign on their phone using your finger.

It couldn’t be easier to collect payment from clients and run your business smoothly.

SECURITY

Clients think card readers on the phone are more secure than taking a picture of their credit card.

If a mechant takes a picture of your card, you’re running the risk of them inputting the wrong amount when they go to charge the card later.

You also don’t see the transaction in your bank statement until the next day, which gives scammers time to make a clean getaway.

Additionally, with the relatively recent iPhoto security breaches, keeping card information on your Camera Roll may not be the most secure option.

SPEED

If you are a small business, freelancer, or solo business that processes a high volume of client payments, you’ll also benefit from the speed of collecting payments using a Card Reader on your phone.

Instead of accepting cash and giving out change to clients, using a bulky cash register, you can simply swipe and go.

There are also no checks to collect, which run the risk of bouncing when you deposit them later.

ANONYMITY BENEFITS

Using credit or debit cards allows customers to pay for services relatively anonymously.

Unlike handing a check to the merchant, there’s no personal info to divulge with a simple swipe.

There is a certain anonymity that comes with swiping – clients don’t have to share their address or phone number with you.

Simply insert, tap, or swipe the card and let the card terminal process the payment.

This leaves no room for scam merchants to potentially memorize the client’s card number, cvv code, and expiration date.

It also keeps the client’s location hidden in case there is a dispute or problem related to the transaction.

HOW TO BEST USE CARD READERS IN YOUR BUSINESS

There is a right way and a wrong way to do just about everything.

Choosing a Card Reader for your phone and your business is no different.

In our article entitled ‘What Frustrates Me About Squareup’, we discussed the pitfalls of a popular Card Reader from Square.

The reality is, there’s a much better way to process your client’s cards to accept payments.

Enter PocketSuite.

Charge Card in Pocketsuite

Let’s say your customer hands you a card to charge:

  • You enter the amount you’d like to charge into PocketSuite.
  • You swipe, insert, or tap it using PocketSuite’s Card Reader on your phone.

That’s it!

The card is stored for future charging, which makes recurring appointments a breeze.

If that was it, PocketSuite wouldn’t be much different than other Card Readers on the market.

Here’s what makes PocketSuite different:

Since you can use PocketSuite to manage your entire business from 1 app, now that you’ve inserted, tapped, or swiped, you can also:

  • Connect the payment to any sent invoice or scheduled appointment
  • Store the client’s card on file for future charging
  • Use the low payment processing fee – lower than you’ll find anywhere else!

Managing Your Business with Pocketsuite app

What about if you’re selling products and have inventory?

PocketSuite has an entire inventory management system that allows you to keep track of your products.

It will even alert you when you’re running low by giving you a reminder to stock up again.

It’s no wonder why the ASCP recommends PocketSuite as their go-to app!

START ACCEPTING CARDS TODAY

If you’ve thought about whether you should accept credit cards in your service business, now is the time.

Your customers want it and it will make your life super easy.

Join the tens of thousands of pros using PocketSuite to accept credit and debit cards in their small business.

Check out PocketSuite’s free plan to get you started and start swiping cards today!

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How to Charge Clients Credit Card After Each Appointment

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As a small business owner or solo business, have you ever been in the position of having to call a client after the appointment has been completed in order to get their credit card details? If so, you’re probably very familiar with how awkward a call like that can feel for you and your client.

That is, if they even answer (leaving a voicemail about it is even more awkward).

If you’ve been self employed for any amount of time, you know that as soon as your appointment is over, clients are way less likely to be responsive. It’s not that they are dodging you. It’s just that you are immediately lower on their priority list. You may not be at the very bottom, but you are far from the top, especially if they know you haven’t secured payment from them yet.

Weirdly, you become a little like a “creepy” debt collector.

Your time is spent calling past clients who suddenly are always busy and unable to take your call. You desperately need to get paid for a backlog of past appointments.

You may even lose out on income by not being able to reach that client – they’ve effectively ‘ghosted’ your business, and after getting such great service from you. They literally fall off the face of the earth and are nowhere to be found.

Relax, I feel your pain. That’s why here at PocketSuite we developed a tool called ‘Complete-and-Charge,’ and it’s revolutionized the way solo businesses and freelancers like you charge clients and run your business.

Complete and Charge with Pocketsuite

Not only does it minimize bad debt income by allowing you to charge your client’s card as soon as you complete the appointment, but it also stores your client’s card securely so you can charge them again and again after every future appointment, without ever having to call them for their payment information again.

That’s right – you can store your client’s card details using PocketSuite while remaining fully PCI compliant.

No more shameful, sheepish conversations asking your clients for payment.

Let’s unpack how Complete and Charge has changed the game for businesses and freelancers using PocketSuite. It can do the same for you.

HOW ‘COMPLETE-AND-CHARGE’ IS CHANGING THE GAME 

Require Credit Card to Schedule Pocketsuite

More and more, consumers prefer to pay for everything these days with credit and debit cards.

In fact, a 2017 study by payment processor TSYS found that “fifty-four percent chose debit cards, while 26 percent selected credit cards, and only 14 percent specified a preference for using cash.”

Doing some back-of-the-napkin calculations, that means that a full 80% of consumers (out of a sample size of over 1000) preferred paying with plastic.

That being said, how could you ignore such an important trend by not accepting credit or debit cards for your business? Four out of every five of your potential clients prefer it!

Not only that, but the same study also found that clients are becoming increasingly comfortable with in-app mobile payments – this should further solidify the idea that folks are getting used to paying for things within an app:

Mobile App Payments Data

Another study done by the SCPC in conjunction with the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta found that…

 

  • “In 2017, 12 percent of consumers reported that they did not pay with cash, even once, during the year.” 
  • “In 2017, one-third of all consumers made a mobile payment, compared with just one-fourth in 2015.”
  • “Fewer than 80 percent of consumers who had paper checks on hand reported using them even once in 2017.”

 

 

 

 

 

I hope by now you’re sold on the idea that you need to accept credit cards. Fantastic.

Now let’s get down to business…

If you’ve recently come to this conclusion, you’re probably faced with a dilemma – what’s the best way to process these transactions?

In fact, we wrote an entire article on this topic, but today we’ll just be covering how to complete and charge repeat appointments.

The fact of the matter is, for the longest time, small business owners were forced to get in touch with clients after every appointment to book the next appointment and collect payment details for the last appointment.

This, of course, came with a set of challenges – clients wouldn’t answer the phone, business owners would get stressed out, and the vicious cycle would repeat itself over and over again.

However, PocketSuite has made a big contribution to breaking this unhealthy cycle by creating a method of payment called ‘Complete-and-Charge.’

For freelancers and business owners using PocketSuite, long gone are the days of calling pesky clients who can’t seem to have a minute to pick up the phone once you’ve delivered the service to them.

You will no longer feel that dread creeping up on you as the workday approaches its end and you still haven’t called the clients for that day to collect payment.

From now on, all you need to do is to with one tap complete the appointments on your calendar for that day.

As soon as an appointment is complete, you select the appointment on your calendar and tap ‘Charge,’ which brings up a screen that allows you to modify the total; select the client’s preferred credit card (if they have one on file); and even hand your phone over to them so they can add gratuity (a tip).

Setting up an Appointment in PocketSuite

This brings an Uber-like convenience to your transactions and eliminates all of the pain and frustration of having to chase down clients for payment.

It’s no wonder that over 50% of payments that occur on PocketSuite are of the ‘Complete-and-Charge’ type.

This is a massively useful and popular feature for a reason.

Say goodbye to outstanding invoices and unpaid bills – you don’t have to be the pushy salesperson that’s calling again and again because you need to get paid to pay your bills.

In fact, you only have to collect your client’s card once and never again.

From then on, the card details are securely stored and fully encrypted within PocketSuite, which means you can keep charging their card after every appointment without having to chase them down or harass them with multiple phone calls.

Better yet, using PocketSuite’s handy online booking form (which by the way, you can put on your website, Facebook, Instagram, and email signature) you can have them add their credit card details into your booking link, and eliminate the need for asking for their card details over the phone entirely!

Appointment Confirmations in Pocketsuite

So how exactly does this work on your end?

Once you tap on the appointment (unpaid job) you’d like to charge, it will bring up a screen where you can tap on ‘CHARGE’.

From there, you can add your client’s credit card, accept gratuity (if you like), and process payment.

Check out this video for additional details on how a client experiences booking an appointment with you through PocketSuite.

As a freelancer or business owner, your time is precious, and you should be spending it on the most valuable activities – delighting your clients.

Instead of spending hours chasing down clients, why not invest that time in your Facebook/Instagram marketing, getting more clients, and growing your business?

Let PocketSuite do the heavy lifting by using ‘Complete-and-Charge’ today.

One tiny improvement, all from 1 app, can change the game for you, forever.

There’s even a free plan to get you started, so you have no excuse not to start charging your clients directly after every appointment.

Get ahead of the game and take this advice today. Your future self and healthy business will thank you.

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Top Reasons to Take Client Reservations as a Freelancer or Service Business

Taking Reservations as a Freelancer
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Have you ever needed to book a multi-day stay for your dog while you went away on vacation? How about hiring a contractor for a bathroom remodel that will take at least 3 days? What about hiring a photographer for rehearsal dinner one day and a wedding the next day?

If you’re a pet sitter, pet boarder, contractor, or photographer – you understand the idea of offering multi-day reservations to clients.

The question that most of these service industry professionals typically ask when they get started is – how do you handle reservations effectively, while making use of the latest technology to create a seamless experience for your clients?

Today we’ll talk about just this – and we’ll also touch on the pros and cons of offering reservations.

We’ll also cover best practices for taking reservations so your client experience is an absolute delight.

Using these strategies, you can ensure that your customers and your staff are happy at the end of the work day, all while increasing your bottom line.

But first, a brief interlude, as we delve into the history of reservations. It turns out, they haven’t been around as long as you probably think…

HOW BUSINESSES STARTED TAKING RESERVATIONS

Historic Graph of Dinner Reservations

Here’s a graph of the prevalence of the phrase “dinner reservation” in books, thanks to Google Books.

As you can see, the phrase appeared briefly in 1915-1925, and then didn’t get used again with any regularity until 1950.

According to an unbelievably in-depth article from the Atlantic, reservations only became a thing starting in the 1950’s and only became commonplace as late as the 1960’s.

WHY DID RESERVATIONS BECOME COMMONPLACE?

With the advent of reservations in the restaurant industry, chefs were able to predict the flow of their night smoothly, which led to less food waste and lower wait times for hungry patrons.

Some restaurants take reservations at all hours, while others only take reservations for their busiest times, such as for the ever-popular mid-day meal known as brunch.

However, choosing to take reservations comes with a downside – folks can frequently show up late or skip out entirely, causing you to lose potential income.

How can service professionals avoid this issue when flakey first timers, fueled by impulse scheduling on social media are driving reservation cancellations to reach an all-time high?

Social Media and Reservations

THE PROS AND CONS OF TAKING RESERVATIONS

The obvious benefit of taking reservations is that you have a predictable flow of traffic to your small business, and you can plan accordingly to save yourself and your clients time and frustration.

The primary con of taking reservations is that you’re limiting your schedule for walk-ins, which may mean losing out on potential revenue.

In fact, more and more busy establishments have been refusing to offer reservations in recent years, which has steadily increased wait times for customers.

This means they’re turning away entire groups of people, and the Yelp blow-back is an ever-present threat and cause for concern.

No Reservations as a new business

If your business isn’t busy or you’re just starting off, you may not want to take advantage of reservations (unless you’re utilizing the pro-tip outlined below). Since exclusivity is part of the charm of reserving a service, there’s nothing that can suck the excitement out of a magical evening like showing up to an empty restaurant.

If you’re a service provider, make it easy on yourself by offering reservations online using a booking link such as the kind available at PocketSuite.

The deciding factor for whether your business should accept reservations boils down to the following metrics:

Do you have a lot of foot traffic? If so, you may want to consider not accepting reservations since you’ll be filling up your schedule with walk-ins. If you don’t have lots of foot traffic, reservations can offer predictable income.

Do you have a waiting area? If so, reservations may be ok, since guests have a comfortable place to wait their turn. If you don’t, watch out, since guests will often simply leave your business and find someone else who can serve them right away.

Are you certain of the duration of your appointments? If so, reservations may smooth out wait times since you’re familiar with how long an appointment will take. If your appointments typically take a variety of different lengths of time, depending on the client and service, reservations may be a bad idea since your appointments may take longer than expected and eat into another client’s reserved time. Picture your doctor’s jam packed waiting room – that’s a bad client experience – you don’t want it to be like that.

If you do decide to take reservations, make sure you don’t overbook. There’s nothing more infuriating than calling ahead to reserve a spot and then having to wait anyway.

Pro-tip: PocketSuite’s online booking form allows you to display your live availability to customers, so you’ll never run the risk of being overbooked and damaging your reputation both on and offline.

So there you have it – a systematic breakdown of the Pros and Cons of taking reservations for your business.

The next thing to think about is how can you best use technology to ease the burden of managing your schedule and free yourself of pen-and-paper calendars?

There’s got to be a better way! Luckily, you’ve come across the right article.

PocketSuite is the #1 app for anyone with clients. It is a seamless app for managing your reservations, period. Whether you’re a contractor, a photographer, a consultant, or any kind of pet sitter or pet boarder, read on to discover how to take the stress out of running your business with just 1 app.

HOW TO ACCEPT RESERVATIONS WITH POCKETSUITE

Accept Reservations with Pocketsuite

PocketSuite arrives as the knight in shining armor for any solo business or small business owner looking to #ditch pen-and-paper scheduling.

No more flipping through your calendar, erasing no-shows from your appointment book, and stressing over filling up your schedule with reservations so you can pay your bills.

You can accept reservations (also known as partial-day or multi-day appointments) in PocketSuite easily.

This comes in addition to being able to accept deposits, send reminders, and offer clients the ability to self-book their reservation online.

Simply specify the name of the reservation, the duration, the price, and your chosen deposit amount.

You can also require clients to confirm a multi-day reservation by paying for their deposit via a credit or debit card – PocketSuite will even text them a link so they can pay online!

Multi Day Reservations with Pocketsuite

Not only that, but PocketSuite takes it a step further by allowing you to display your reservations on your online booking form, which means clients can find you online and book a reservation on the spot, right from their phone or computer!

Reservations and Online Booking

Clients don’t have to download an app.They simply receive a text message with a link to confirm their reservation, which leads to a form where they can input their card details to pay your deposit.

Additionally, PocketSuite makes it easy for you to keep all of your reservation and client information in the same place.

Reservation Text Confirmation with Pocketsuite

You’ll be able to see when they confirm their reservation, any payments, and client communication – all in one thread!

You can also sync with your Google Calendar, Outlook, iCal directly.

Now that’s a powerful tool to manage your reservations, if I do say so myself.

Here’s to a full schedule, happy clients, and more income for you!

Don’t have PocketSuite yet? Start managing your reservations using the free plan today.

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5 Types of Estimates For Contractors and Freelancers

Estimates for Contractors and Freelancers
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Are you a contractor, consultant, or photographer that’s looking to create an estimate for your client, and you’re not sure how to do it? Fear not, for today we’ll tackle an important topic for anyone who’s ever been asked the question: “Could you send me a proposal?” “How much would it be if …?” “Can I have a quote for that…?”

Whether you need to itemize an estimate for a basic renovation job, or a detailed itemization for a multi-day wedding photography package, or a fixed fee proposal for a consulting gig, keep reading for a quick guide on how to get this done.

Even if you’re an experienced small business owner or solo-preneur, you’ll find some tips in this article that will change your business and lead you to create more accurate estimates that your clients will really appreciate.

We’ll even discuss the topic of how to win more business with your professional estimation tactics!

Estimating costs for a project is a practice that has been around since the 1950’s.

The most official body of knowledge on the subject is called the PMBOK, which stands for Project Management Body of Knowledge, and is assembled by the Project Management Institute (PMI).

There is actually a continuum of accuracy when it comes to pinpointing exactly how much a project will cost.

Win More Business with Estimates

TYPES OF ESTIMATES 

Here are the steps, which are defined by a guide on the topic that was written by the American Society of Professional Estimators, or ASPE, in descending order from least precise to most precise:

Order of magnitude estimate:

A rough cost estimate that’s based on previous jobs. Typically, ranges from -25% to +75% in terms of final cost. 

Intermediate estimate:

More in-depth than an order of magnitude estimate, but still a rough one, leveraging cost benchmarks. It used to judge if a project is something you can even take on. 

Preliminary estimate:

Used for project financing, the preliminary estimate is the one usually given by a contractor to their potential clients. It uses a detailed scope of work and is often used to create a budget.

Substantive estimate:

This type of estimate is often used to control the budget of the project, and make sure the project doesn’t go over budget. It is based on materials, labor costs, final scope of work, and deliverables.

Definitive estimate:

Typically, bottom-up estimates are placed in this category – the most accurate estimate is a definitive estimate, since the way to create one is to estimate the individual costs for the different parts of the project and then put them together into one estimate.

Quotes and Estimates

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A QUOTE AND AN ESTIMATE

Generally, a quote can’t be changed once it’s accepted by a customer unless the project scope of work changes. An estimate, on the other hand, by its very nature is flexible and expected to change within limits as the project progresses.

Typically, an estimate will account for unexpected events. However, if you’re in the construction, house cleaning, or photography industry, you know that the project scope can change once you get in there and actually start doing the work.

For this reason it’s important that if you are unsure of the exact price of the job, you give an estimate, not a quote. That way, the customer isn’t surprised by extra fees down the road.

HOW TO BUILD AN ESTIMATE

Here are some common costs to keep in mind when writing up your estimate:

  • Labor
  • Materials
  • Equipment
  • Services
  • Software
  • Hardware
  • Facilities
  • Contingency costs

If you are a freelancer, you may also want to consider estimating the time it will take to accomplish the following:

  • Client Negotiations
  • Initial Research
  • Writing
  • Design
  • Re-writing
  • Invoicing / Admin work

You should also try to do a great job describing the project in writing, according to the BBB. This eliminates any room for error or miscommunication between you and your client.

This is an important point, since most of the communication between you and your clients will be verbal by phone, in person, or over text/email.

If your client wants specific tasks done that are outside of the scope of the original project, you’re able to easily point out that those tasks are not included in the original estimate. You can always re-write or expand the original estimate with a higher price and include those tasks.

If you are a contractor, there are two major ways of estimating: Stick Estimating and Unit Cost Estimating.

STICK ESTIMATING

Here’s a basic way to do stick estimation. Keep in mind, this is not the recommended way of doing estimates, but unfortunately it’s how most folks will end up estimating their projects:

  • List the parts of the job.
  • List the hours that it will take to do each portion.
  • List all the materials that will be used.
  • List each subcontractor that you will need.
  • List all the other items you will have to purchase or rent to get the job completed (permits, rentals, port-a-potties, etc.)
  • Assign a cost to each item.

Here’s why this is a bad way of estimating: 

  • Pros will often rush through the estimate and end up underbidding
  • It is time consuming to do properly
  • You typically need another knowledgeable party to check your numbers

UNIT COST ESTIMATING

A much better way of creating estimates is the Unit Cost method. It’s faster, and often more accurate.

Here are the three simple steps to Unit Cost estimating:

  1. Compile all the line items (scope of work components) for your job.
  2. Attach a unit cost to each line item.
  3. Have a third party check your numbers to ensure you’ve calculated correctly

In other words, instead of estimating the individual labor and materials costs for all of the steps involved in replacing countertops with granite ones, you simply calculate your costs ahead of time for each cubic feet of granite countertop that you replace.

Another example would be parking lot paving. Instead of estimating the cost for the materials, and adding the labor costs, you simply work out a formula beforehand for a per-square-foot price (unit cost) of parking lot paving, so you can submit your quote faster than the other contractors and secure that job!

Better yet, use construction estimating software to create an accurate estimate. You can’t go wrong and you’re eliminating human error from the equation!

Win Clients with Estimates

HOW TO WIN MORE CLIENTS WITH YOUR ESTIMATES

The best way to win more clients with your estimates is to take advantage of the latest software that makes you look more professional; makes you stand out from the other bidders; and helps you respond fastest to client requests.

That way, you won’t have to be the lowest bidder to win a job – you can distinguish yourself by being the most professional, which will allow you to command a higher price for your work!

One way to do this is to send estimates by text using PocketSuite:

PocketSuite Estimate Preview

You can itemize your estimate in PocketSuite and then send it off via text or email to your client.

On the backend, you can track your estimates and view the status of each.

Track Estimate Status with Pocketsuite

The best part? You can actually convert the estimate to an invoice after you’ve completed the job, and send that out via text as well.

The client can also pay via their smartphone by tapping the link in the message that you sent them, and the money is instantly transferred to your PocketSuite account (and into your bank account within 15 minutes).

Now that’s the kind of professional approach that can differentiate you from your pen-and-paper competition. I know I’d prefer to work with someone who had access to this kind of modern, convenient system! It makes for a better client experience.

If you’re already using PocketSuite, here’s how to set up estimates.

If you’re not yet using PocketSuite, check out the free plan to send your first estimate effortlessly.

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How To Accept Client Deposits

Accepting Deposits for your business
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“A deposit is required to book an appointment.” How many times have you seen this plastered on the terms and conditions of service providers’ websites or storefronts? Probably more than once, since it’s a powerful tactic that businesses have been using for decades to decrease no-shows, eliminate late cancellations, and protect your income from large swings.

Whether you’re a hairstylist, makeup artist, esthetician, dog trainer, or any other small business owner that operates by providing a service, you should be considering accepting deposits for your business.

In this review, we will share the following information about accepting deposits:

  • Why deposits are a must-have for any solo business or small team
  • Why accepting credit card deposits are far better than cash
  • The way accepting deposits helps grow your revenue and reduce your cancellations and no-shows

First things first, what do you need to do in order to be able to accept deposits of any kind (legally)?

Setup Business to Accept Deposits

HOW TO SET UP YOUR BUSINESS TO ACCEPT DEPOSITS

Here are the rough preliminary steps you should take in order to be able to accept deposits:

  • Set up your business bank account
  • Obtain a Tax ID number (File IRS form SS-4)
  • Set up your merchant account (or just set up a payment system like PocketSuite)

Seems fairly simple, right?

Now that you have a foundation for your business to accept deposits, let’s check out the mistakes that happen when business owners attempt to avoid using credit cards and instead accept cash.

Why you dont want to work with cash desposits

You may not want to work with cash deposits for the following reasons:

FEES

To quote Chron:

“Many banks … have rules in place that require you to organize your bills in denominations from largest to smallest and to make sure that all of your bills are facing upward. You pay an extra surcharge if your bills are not presented in an orderly manner.”

Are you squinting to see if you read that right? Yes, you did. Banks can actually charge you a fee if you force them to organize all of your messy bills.

No thanks!

SECURITY

Either you need to bring large sums of cash to the bank every day, or you need to have a trusted employee (or two) help you out.

Either way, there’s a chance this can work out for the worst – the last thing you want to deal with is accidentally losing the money or possibly even theft.

EXTRA REPORTING & FORMS TO FILL OUT

If you’re depositing more than $10,000 in cash, the government even requires the bank to fill out an extra form called a Large Currency Transaction report.

This may mean you or your employees would have to answer additional questions. Often these questions can be personal in nature and not the most comfortable to reply to.

CORRECTIONS & DISCREPANCY

If you do an overnight drop-off at a bank, the tellers have to count the cash in your deposit in the morning and accept the amount that is in the bag.

If you counted wrong and you wrote the wrong amount on the deposit slip, you’re left with the discrepancy and may not notice it unless you check the deposit amount every morning and then make sure it’s the same number you wrote on the deposit slip the night before.

Sounds like an accounting nightmare!

In the next section, we’ll cover why accepting deposits will be one of the greatest things you can do for your business.

Why you should accept desposits

WHY YOU SHOULD ACCEPT DEPOSITS

Here are some benefits of getting paid up-front and accepting deposits:

CASH FLOW

The best thing about having positive cash flow is that you can reinvest the money into your business to grow faster.

Instead of waiting for clients to pay you (if they ever do), you can immediately have money in your account to pay for more marketing and get more clients.

Also consider out-of-pocket expenses – these you can reimburse yourself for, but with what money? Deposits can cover these easily.

Instead of depending on the goodwill and grace of your clients deciding to pay your invoices, require a deposit and keep your business running the way it should – like a cheetah, not a turtle!

FEWER NO SHOWS

One of the worst things about having an appointment-based business is when the client does a no-notice no-show.

Not only does this mean you’re missing out on the income from that client, but it’s frustratingly difficult to fill that seat with another client (with no lead time).

Since you’ve probably have some monthly expenses if your business involves any preparation, it will be doubly painful when your clients no-show because all of that prep time and money is wasted when your client doesn’t take your time seriously.

Accepting deposits forces clients to think twice before flaking on you – this will ensure you have a steady stream of income coming in to cover your monthly expenses and prevent you from having wild swings in your income.

Don’t let clients waste your time and money – requiring a deposit (even a small one) to book an appointment will ensure your clients have ‘skin in the game.’

Compare this to businesses where the service provider has recourse. Recourse is when a business has access to collateral (an asset of value owned by the client), which can be held if the client doesn’t deliver on their end of the bargain. If you’re a mechanic, you have the client’s car as collateral. If you’re a landscaper, you’re physically present at the customer’s property and can refuse to leave until you get paid. Well, squatting on a client’s property as a result of nonpayment is a bit extreme, but you get the spirit of the concept of recourse.

However, if you’re like most independent professionals, you have no recourse – accepting deposits are the missing piece that will help you. The deposit is your collateral.

LOWER CANCELLATIONS

Similar to no-shows, late cancellations are no fun to deal with because they hurt your business and your income.

Finding clients is expensive, so anything you can do to lower cancellations will keep your income strong.

Preventing late cancellations is yet another reason you should be accepting deposits in your business, starting today!

HOW TO ACCEPT DEPOSITS WITH POCKETSUITE

Accepting Deposits with PocketSuite

PocketSuite, in characteristic fashion, makes it uber-simple to accept deposits.

Let’s say you want to book a client on your calendar, but you’d like to require a deposit up-front in order to book the appointment.

That’s a breeze to set up! 

Setting up an Appointment in PocketSuite

Simply hit the plus (+) symbol from your Schedule tab.

Then make sure the deposit amount is entered. You can enter a partial amount or even the full amount of your service price.

Then hit send!

Shows Deposit in Total

Your client instantly receives a text message with an appointment link.

They tap the link to open up a PocketSuite online form where they can enter their credit card details in order to charge the deposit amount.

Deposit Confirmation with Text

The coolest part is – if the client is already in the system, they can just text back the number 1 to confirm and the system will automatically confirm the appointment (since your client’s credit card details are already in your PocketSuite system)!

Within 15 minutes, you’ll have the funds instantly deposited into your bank account.

How easy was that?

Take the pain and frustration out of accepting cash deposits, dealing with no-shows and late cancellations, and massive changes in your income.

Start accepting deposits today with PocketSuite – your clients and business will thank you.

You can even try the PocketSuite free plan to get started accepting deposits today. No strings attached!

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How to Invoice Clients Online

Invoice Clients Online
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From contractors to photographers… if you are a service professional, you’re likely familiar with online invoices, as they are a really common tool for collecting payment. You also likely know that you have so many options for online invoicing at your fingertips. Simply searching ‘invoice’ on Google gives 353,000,000 results – more than enough options to choose from. And then some!

So if you’re looking for an online invoicing solution, what criteria are you going to use to decide on which is best for your business?

Are you going to choose one that’s connected to an accounting system (QuickBooks comes to mind)?

Or would you rather go for a standalone online invoicing solution?

A third option would be to choose an invoicing app that allows for smart invoicing, i.e. one that’s already part of your suite of client management tools.

Today, we’ll be discussing the benefits of each and how you should go about making your decision.

What is an Online Invoice

WHAT IS AN ONLINE INVOICE?

If you are from the “Land of the Living” (shameless Game of Thrones reference), you probably already know what an invoice is.

For those of us who have been out of the loop, an online invoice is a statement issued by a business to a client that includes the details of the transaction.

Don’t confuse invoices with Purchase Orders (POs) – POs are typically for before the transaction and they record a client’s order. Invoices, on the other hand, are for after the transaction and they record the delivery of the product or service.

The details usually include things like the date of the sale, which products or services were sold (sometimes including a description), the quantity purchased, and agreed-upon prices.

The contents of a typical invoice are so important, I’ll share more below…

WHAT DOES AN INVOICE INCLUDE?

What does an Invoice Include
Source: The Balance SMB

Here are some common items that can be included on your online invoice (if they are relevant to your business):

  • A unique reference number (to make correspondence easier)
  • Date
  • Tax
  • Name and contact details of the service provider
  • The service provider’s company details
  • Name and contact information of the service provider
  • Date that the product or service was delivered
  • Purchase order number (or similar tracking numbers)
  • Description of the products or services
  • Prices of the products or services
  • Total amount charged
  • Payment terms (when payment is expected)
  • Charges for late payments

A key ingredient of any good invoice is the payment term.

If you’ve ever heard of terms like ‘Net-15’ or ‘Net-30’ these indicate a time window (usually the number of days) that a service provider gives the client to pay an invoice.

For example, a Net-30 invoice gives the client 30 days to pay the service provider.

In some industries an invoice could also include the duration of time that the client is being billed for (such as in the rental industry).

HOW TO CHOOSE AN ONLINE INVOICING SOLUTION

As we’ve touched on previously, there are typically three different types of online invoicing solutions for the independent professionals:

  1. An online invoicing system that includes accounting (i.e. QuickBooks)
  2. A standalone invoicing system (i.e. Invoicely)
  3. An invoicing system that comes with software to manage your clients & run your business (i.e. PocketSuite)

Why don’t we break down the Pros and Cons of each?

AN ONLINE INVOICING SYSTEM THAT INCLUDES ACCOUNTING (i.e. Quickbooks)

PROS

  • Your accounting system includes your sales history
  • No need to Export sales data from your invoicing system and import into your Accounting system

CONS

  • Your client bookings or purchase orders are tracked separately and online invoices have to be manually updated
  • Your online invoices and client messaging are siloed on different platforms
  • You can’t auto send online invoices for unpaid appointments
  • You can’t attach contracts to your online invoices for e-signing
  • You can’t link forms to your online invoices to be completed online

A STANDALONE ONLINE INVOICING SYSTEM (i.e. Invoicely)

PROS

  • The least expensive option, sometimes free

CONS

  • Your online invoices are in a different system from your client messaging
  • Your appointment bookings are out of sync with your online invoices
  • These types of free software companies sometimes sell your email address to spammers (no free lunch!)
  • You can’t integrate any of your other client transactions (e.g. forms, contracts, saved messages)

INVOICING THAT COMES WITH SOFTWARE TO RUN YOUR BUSINESS (i.e. PocketSuite)

PROS

  • You can automatically track the status of your online invoices and know when they’re paid
  • You can send automatic payment reminders to your clients
  • You have full-fledged reporting that integrates with your sales history
  • You can send online invoices via text message or email
  • You can attach online invoices to appointments on your calendar
  • Your customers can pay your invoices online with a credit or debit card
  • You can customize the online invoice with your logo
  • You can add discounts and sales tax
  • You can accept gratuity from clients
  • You can itemize a bundle of client purchases
  • You can itemize reimbursable expenses, including labor, mileage, and supplies
  • You can add a form to an online invoice that your client can complete (i.e., intake form, client satisfaction survey, etc.)
  • You can link a contract to your online invoice – client digitally signs before paying online invoice
  • You can add a surcharge to pass on your payment processing fee as a credit card convenience fee 

CONS

PocketSuite Sending an Invoice

As a dazzling display of insight into the world of independent professionals and freelancers, PocketSuite displays yet another one of its many powerful features by bringing you Smart Online Invoicing.

No longer will you have to wait and wonder if your client has seen your online invoice – you’ll know with PocketSuite.

Neither will you have to keep sending payment reminders to your busy clients – PocketSuite has you covered there as well.

Further, consider that less and less clients are checking their email, causing them to potentially miss your online invoice completely (and to think of all that hard work you put in designing that beautiful invoice!)

This is no problem for a PocketSuite Pro because you have access to online invoicing via SMS.

Send Online Invoice via SMS

Simply send an online invoice, and it will be delivered to your client via text message, automatically.

Not only that, but we go a step further by allowing your client to pay you with 1 tap.

Your client can whip out their credit or debit card and enter it to securely pay your invoice online.

There is a low card processing fee of just 2.7%, with 1-2 business day direct deposit or instant payout to your debit card.

It’s never been easier for Pros to send online invoices via SMS or email to clients for payment.

It’s also simple enough to customize your online invoices, which makes your business look even more credible and professional.

For professionals who want to set up recurring payments with clients, you can use a scheduled online invoice. A scheduled invoice (check it out in PocketSuite) automatically sends your clients invoices online based on timing that you set. Depending on how you invoice, as an option, you can also set a scheduled invoice to automatically include unpaid appointments as well as other unpaid products and services.

Schedule Online Invoices

Here’s the best part, you can also customize pricing, include sales tax, discounts, and more. You can even add a surcharge and pass on the credit card processing fee to your clients, if necessary!

As if that wasn’t enough, you can also link your Contracts (available in PocketSuite) to your online invoices in order to make it super convenient for your clients.

This includes the ability to request instant contract signature by your client, which can be done conveniently online, including from your client’s phone.

That’s what I’d call an amazing combination of business power and consumer friendliness.

You’ll always be seen as the most professional service provider in your industry when you use PocketSuite – and that’s no accident.

Check out the free plan to get started using PocketSuite for all of your online invoicing needs!

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How to Setup a Subscription Payment Business Model For Your Clients

Subscription Model for Business
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Are you a freelancer, service professional, small business owner, or anyone with clients who sells subscriptions, memberships, or payment plans in your business? From health & wellness specialists, beauty experts and pet professionals to accountants, marketers, life coaches, and therapists – if your business model relies on charging your clients a monthly subscription or membership fee, this article is for you.

In fact, a recent article from Stanford Business suggests in a rather grandiose fashion that nearly every business in existence will eventually become a subscription payment business.

The Guardian and the Harvard Business Review have both raised awareness about the virtues of companies with a subscription payment model.

Hitwise put out a study recently that found the number of companies with subscription payments grew by a staggering 3000% over the last 3 years.

Today, we’ll be investigating how subscriptions work, how you can improve the different parts of your business to include subscriptions, and best practices to follow when doing this.

If you charge your clients a subscription fee, keep reading, as it may change the way you run your business forever.

HOW SUBSCRIPTION PAYMENT BUSINESS MODELS WORK

A subscription offers a period of access to a product or service. In the case of service businesses (such as gyms or life coaches) the payment is collected on a monthly basis, although the frequency can also be yearly or seasonal.

If you’ve ever had a gym membership or received regular cleaning services, you’re most likely familiar with a subscription payment model.

However, this type of payment is now being used more and more by freelancers & service professionals, which is driving an increase in their revenues as well as client loyalty.

It makes sense that more and more professionals are exploring subscription payments as there are so many advantages to a subscription payment-based model.

GUARANTEED REVENUE

For example, if there are contracts involved, the business is virtually guaranteed to bring in the agreed-upon amount of revenue for the duration of the subscription payment term.

This reduces riskiness and uncertainty (i.e. “How am I going to pay my bills next month?” is no longer a pressing issue)

CONVENIENCE

Subscriptions can also help to increase client retention and build client loyalty by offering the convenience factor.

A client doesn’t have to worry about purchasing the service every month or have to consider another service provider, because everything is already ‘taken care of,’ so to speak.

In other words, if you’re already paying for a gym membership, you’re less likely to go searching for an alternative, especially if you’re locked into a good rate or even better, a long term contract.

A repeat client that has a subscription with your business is more likely to stick around, which increases your LCV (lifetime customer value) – more on that below.

This in turn gives you the ability to spend more money acquiring that client (and thus broadening the range of different advertising methods you can invest in as a business owner).

This also means you have better cash flow, which allows you to hit your income goals and immediately begin making a profit.

Service Level Satisfaction
Source: Chief Outsiders

HOW TO OPTIMIZE YOUR SUBSCRIPTION PAYMENT BUSINESS MODEL

FIGURE OUT YOUR PRICING STRUCTURE

According to Zuora, you can tweak your pricing in the following ways:

Your subscription pricing model can be “tiered according to functionality, discounted to incentivize bulk purchases, metered according to usage levels, or optimized to reward loyalty.”

Zuora goes on to share that pricing can be “adjusted to incentivize activity from particular geographic regions, term-based to lock in long-term commitments, or adjusted in cooperation with partner promotions.”

If I’ve lost you, just stick to the basics and offer two or three different tiered pricing models based on a scale that make sense for your industry – for example, if you’re a trainer, you could have a basic subscription for group training class access and a higher fee for one-on-one training subscriptions. If you are a life coach, you could offer an entry level subscription plan and price for those doing group coaching and meeting with you once a month and more one on one access for those in the higher priced plan. For beauty professionals, it could be that you offer a low price option for those just looking for basic bi-weekly hair/nail/skin maintenance while the higher priced option is for more involved treatments and add on products.

Know Your Numbers

KNOW YOUR NUMBERS

The three key metrics you should be paying attention to in terms of subscriptions are the following:

  • Lifetime Customer Value (LCV) – The expected amount of income your client will pay you (a quick and dirty way to calculate this is to multiply the average monthly revenue per client by the average number of months they tend to stick around)
  • Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) – How much are you paying to acquire a new client (or lead)?
  • Retention Rate – What percentage of your clients actually stick around past a certain time period? (This is often measured on a month-over-month basis.)

Measure your numbers regularly and improve them by testing different things in your business.

COLLECT PAYMENT AUTOMATICALLY

Use an app like PocketSuite to automate your billing, so you’re not having to manually charge customer’s cards every billing cycle. This also eliminates the need to store credit card information, as everything is self-contained in the app.

Collecting Payments Contained in App

Simply specify the $ amount, payment period, and # of payment periods in the subscription.

Then you can send out the subscription with 1 tap.

You can also attach a contract to the subscription so when the client receives the subscription payment plan, all they need to do is e-sign it from their phone or online and confirm the subscription with a credit or debit card (which can also be done in the app) and off you go!

Your clients simply confirm the subscription payment by entering their credit / debit card details at which point the subscription begins.

The subscription payment will automatically be auto-charged every billing cycle, leaving you to focus on growing your business and finding more clients.

This is a double whammy of convenience for both you and your client:

  • You can sleep tight knowing that your subscriptions are being billed automatically, which eliminates the need for you to invoice or manually charge clients.
  • Your client can rest easy without having to worry about forgetting to pay you.

Don’t forget, if you are offering special promotions you can discount the first client payment or choose how many subscription payments to apply the discount to. There is nothing like a discounted membership offer to attract new clients. Try it out, works like a charm.

For those that have to do some setup work to onboard new subscribers or members, you can charge a subscription setup fee or activation fee or membership enrollment fee. That fee will be charged immediately when the subscription is confirmed. That covers your costs for creating the subscription payment plan for the client.

Some freelancers and service professionals, including personal trainers, life coaches, consultants have an early cancellation fee to encourage clients to complete the full term of their subscription. You are welcome to include a cancellation fee that will be charged if the client cancels the subscription before the plan expiration date.

Including Cancellation Fees

BONUS: CLIENT SIDE APP

With PocketSuite you literally give your clients access to their own version of the app, where they can track their calendar, status of their appointments, packages, subscriptions, and things like their payment history, update their credit card information, and contact you if they have questions about their subscription.

With all of these convenient features, it’s no wonder that thousands of Pros use PocketSuite to manage their subscription businesses.

The best part is, everything is self-contained in 1 app, so there’s no need for extra software or running to open your laptop or boot up your desktop.

Client Side App Texting Feature

You can run your entire business from your phone – it’s the independent professional’s, freelancer’s, and small business owner’s dream come true at last.

What are you waiting for? Download PocketSuite today – there’s even a free plan to get you started!

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