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2019 Merchant Services Trends

Nothing so constant as change! Business owners that keep up on merchant services trends will delight their customers by offering a wide variety of payment options, convenient refunds and fast processing. Technology advances quickly in all spheres, sure, but the rewards are yours when you work with your processor to keep your buying processes current.

Several Companies May be Serving You
Financial technology (fintech) companies have found cooperating gets them further than competing these days. The smaller companies do the innovating and let the larger ones shoulder the marketing costs in exchange for their technology. Some banks have connected with PayPal to allow shoppers buy in physical stores. Others partner with scanning technology companies to turn images into figures that can debit accounts. The bottom line is when you get your statements, be prepared to see several names, one claiming the other is part of their “group.”

Payment Options Expanding

Hang on to your POS processors! P2P platforms are shaking up the payments industry. Around 20 percent of young adults use Venmo and Zelle at least once a week. Since they remain peer-to-peer, these platforms don’t charge a fee. Their long-game, however, is to develop C2B or consumer to business payments, where the business shoulders the costs. Your merchant services provider should handle these new payment methods to capture these audiences, who are, after all in the prime spending years of 18 to 34.

Rewards Hunting Makes Consumers Fickle
Card issuers have found recently that they can lure customers away from competitors with more and more lavish rewards. They’re offering higher cash-back rewards on purchases and even upfront bonuses. Half of all consumers surveyed will go to the trouble to change cards if the enticement is rich enough. But someone has to pay for this fickleness, and it isn’t the consumer. In most cases, the resulting interchange fees go to the merchant processor and are in turned passed to the merchants. If your processor raises these interchange fees, there’s a good reason behind it.

The New Financiers
Auto and mortgage dealers aren’t the only ones to have financing programs. Today, Home Depot, Overstock and Walmart use PayPal to offer revolving credit lines that let shoppers buy online without a credit card. Newcomers giving PayPal a run for this financing opportunity are Klarna, Affirm and Square. According to a recent survey, 33 percent of American e-commerce businesses will offer purchase financing options in the next year or two.

Credit Card Processing Technology and Devices Changing
Real-time payment processing, cutting-edge anti-fraud measures and API integration advance at lightspeed and that means the credit card machines and POS systems must keep up. Where once, Mastercard and Visa ruled the day, today there are hundreds of payment options, some covered here. Businesses that capture whatever payments options shoppers care to use will prevail. Merchants must stay up-to-date on the hardware and software integrations that help their businesses thrive.

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How Will You Make Your Vape Shop Unique?

high end vape shop owner

Will your shop be swanky or gritty?

 E-cigarettes and vape pens are spreading to every corner of the world.

High demand has spawned the emergence of over 200 electronic cigarette brands in just 10 years since the industry began. Today, 12% of middle school and high school students in every state vape or use e-cigs at least once every month.

Are you planning on opening a vape shop? Consider carefully what kind of clientele you want to draw. Over the past 5 years, the vape and e-cig shops cropping up have been as varied as grungy biker/hipster joints to sophisticated, urban lounges.

Use these ideas to put your own imprint on your new vape shop.

  1. The Urban Salon

Ron and Deana Marshall of Bozeman, Montana decided to open a vape shop in the middle of a college town with a population of approximately 65,000. Young adults usually buy e-cigs online, perhaps afraid to be seen in public areas. However, Ron and Deana wished to leverage the added value of personal service. They had a young designer help them choose colors arrange comfortable couches and chairs into cozy enclaves. Given the social nature of the age group, it wasn’t long before students were taking study breaks in the Marshall’s off-beat abode. While there, the Marshall’s offered to let the students sample various flavors and pens. They hope one day choosing these devices and the liquid smoke that goes in them will be as personal and revealing as choosing a car.

  1. The Joy of Eating & Smoking

Any smoker will tell you of the ideal relaxation experienced in smoking after a delicious meal. Texan Kyle Harris decided to go with this already established practice when he opened The Ramble Creek Vape Company and Grill, which offers unique burgers and other comfort food along with the e-liquids they sell.

What began as just offering the e-liquids quickly expanded to actually pairing the dishes with the smoke flavors. Just as a sommelier pairs a vintage cabernet with the right cheese and beef, Harris began suggesting several after-dinner choices that complement the meal. The idea took off and Harris, like the Marshalls, opened up a new store with the same concept in another Texas town.

vape shop with motorcycle

  1. The Niche Appeal

Andrew Poirier felt he was stagnating in his job pouring concrete, but assumed he could never make the same money anywhere else. Further, since it was his father’s company, he hated to admit he wasn’t happy.

On a trip to Arizona, a friend introduced him to vaping. Inspired, he began selling vape pens and e-cigarettes from his car to construction and concrete workers.

Poirier explains, “I was pouring concrete and climbing girders to get vaping products to the steel workers many stories overhead. It was almost comical.” With years’ experience in the industry, his credibility in his target audience was solid. He knew his way around a site and could talk to the managers easily.

As he built his contacts, he began considering opening an actual shop. He rented a space close to where he knew many construction workers lived, and his grand opening was well attended. He continued to appeal to construction workers by putting on events he knew they would enjoy and creating frequent user programs and even competitions that made interacting with his store familiar and fun.

Today, Poirer enjoys a six-figure MONTHLY income. With his own capital, he is considering creating his own e-liquid flavors.

Clearly, involvement in another field doesn’t preclude anyone from opening a vape shop. In fact, your former career can act as a springboard into your life as an e-cig entrepreneur!

Our blog post “E-Cigarette Trends to Expect After FDA’s Recent Ruling” covers how even with something of a backlash against e-cigarettes, the trend is rising. The Research Foundation predicts vaping could eliminate traditional cigarettes all together over the next 20 years. In India today, 10% of smokers have already switched to vaping. Doctors there predict that the smoke-related illnesses and diseases will decrease significantly over the next 5 years.

Use this article to come up with your own fresh version of a vape and e-cigarette shop. Implementing guerilla marketing strategies always give you an edge among competitors.

Before you start, have a clear idea of a well-defined target audiences, as well as their needs, motivations and pain points. Since vapers tend to buy regularly, accepting credit cards is critical. Not only does using this payment method ensure consistent payment, it makes re-ordering convenient for your customers. First Financial specializes in providing the best merchant services for vape shop owners and others in high-risk industries. Apply today!

7 Credit Repair Business Habits for Long-Term Success

credit repair business owner showing clients how to plan on glass board

Provide robust services to your clients and your business with thrive long-term. 

 Ironically, one-quarter of credit repair agents don’t have good credit themselves. But, clearly, they learn every day how to raise their own scores doling out advice to clients day by day.

Opening a credit repair business is more than just having a great score and being skillful in handling other people’s money. Stabilize and maximize your profit when you have these credit repair business basics in place.

  1. Equip Yourself

You’ve probably heard the old quote, “Physician! Heal thyself!” This saying gained popularity because it suggests that professional should look at his or her own issues in the field.

Credit repair business owners should start in their career by studying their credit scores and habits. Study your own credit report and rectify any negative issues.

Tackling each one will be easier if you get some guidance. Read helpful information from sources such as The Consumer Protection Bureau, Bankrate.com, and the industry organization, National Foundation for Credit Counseling. The last is an information source for those wanting to become credit counselors.

As you conduct your research, pay attention to necessary skills, techniques and strategies to master the process itself and the negotiations in order to be successful and to keep clients happy.

Starting out with an accounting, business or finance degree jumps you ahead of the learning curve. It also gives you credibility. Even an Associate’s degree adds to your resume. Some even choose to set up a business as a credit counselor while completing their degrees. This said, getting a bachelor’s degree is not a prerequisite to becoming a credit repair specialist.

  1. Establish Your Credibility

In this type of business, knowing the highest standards and ethics is a go signal for a client. Your reputation spreads fast, so make it a good one. Be open to listening to client feedback. By making improvements as your business matures, you gain confidence in what you have to offer. You become attractive when you know what a credit repair agent should and should not do when interacting with clients. There’s a good change your clients have been taken advantage of before. Their suspicions are warranted. Ease their fears by having them do everything within the law and with diligence.

  1. Polish Negotiation Skills to a Shine

As a credit counselor, you will handle your client’s creditors. This aspect of the job takes assertiveness, verbal dexterity and awareness of the “game” of negotiation. The good news is that anyone can learn how to handle a conflict with poise and effectiveness. Learning negotiation skills through classes may be the best avenue. This skill just can’t be learned as well through strict reading.

  1. Be Informative

One of the most important thing as an agent is knowing all the federal and state credit repair laws. As you’re both working with legal documents, mistakes can result in jail time. In order to be updated with the newest laws, join the National Association of Credit Services Organizations.

Credit score report

 

  1. Market Yourself and Your Service in Person and on the Internet

Display your knowledge and genuine motivation by blogging either via text or video. Familiarize and humanize your business so that potential clients grow to trust you. While Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter seem mostly for people to entertain each other, keep in mind that 1.6 billion people go there, often every day. Catching a glimpse of your business name should help keep you top of mind.

  1. Widen Your Network

Open yourself to new relationships by attending commerce events, seminars, free or paid braining. Not only will you build connections and meet potential clients, you’ll keep yourself up to date on new legislation, products and strategies.

  1. Stay Up-to-Date

You should know that laws and regulations change over time so it’s a no-no to follow old regulations and marketing methods in running this business. Also, seek opportunities in today’s trends. In this way, you can also educate your clients with the best and newest ways on how to manage their finances such as recommending new apps to them. Helping them to help themselves will make clients happier.

Mastering these habits will help you build a successful career as a credit repair specialist. Investing effort and building skills throughout the lifespan of your business will give you confidence, which in turn attracts clients. Keep in mind, too, that you will need to accept credit cards yourself to ensure you’re paid consistently on time. Because traditional banks see credit repair businesses as high-risk, you’ll have to get your high-risk merchant account. First Financial is the leader in providing these accounts to worthy businesses across the U.S. Apply today!

 

Successful Marketing Tactics for the Web Design Company

web design presentation

Web designers with a niche can command higher fees. 

 While the growing demand for web design is something to celebrate, it also brings new designers to the market, making competition fierce. The freelance web designer needs to be an able marketer, coder and creative artist to earn a living.

Conquer the marketing aspect of running your own web design company by reading these tried-and-true tactics. 

  1. Get a Niche

Today, the business website is critical not only to bring in new customers, but to establish credibility.

Capturing the true size of the market only starts with every business having a mobile-friendly website. Anymore, businesses are putting up separate websites for events they put on, books they write and communities they establish. Further, every entrepreneur starts one business only to spin off two or three others. As we discussed in our post, Web Design Outlook for 2016 and Beyond, demand for the average American job will increase by 7% until the year 2024, but the American economy will call for 27% more web developers and designers.

Long story short: there’s enough business to go around. Designers with niches (restaurants, finance, healthcare, retail, etc.) can begin to build deep expertise. They learn characteristics not only of their clients, but their client’s target audiences and referral partners. Further, they learn the legal limitations and opportunities for everything they can say on the website. When a web designer can convince a prospect they learned from the successes and failures of past attempts, they gain credibility . . . and more money. Most businesses would prefer to pay a little more to get the job done right the first time.

 

  1. Network in the Niche

Everybody knows how to network through their Chambers of Commerce where they meet people in all industries. Finding niche networks helps the web designer hear all of the participants’ pain points, complaints, opportunities and successes. This information eventually becomes very valuable, as the informed web designer can explain the prospect’s issues before he or she even has a chance. Networking events also gives you opportunity to meet new talented people, create connections with them and eventually find potential customers.

Putting on a presentation or attending a meet-up in your niche also gives you the opportunity to connect on a personal, face-to-face basis. Even volunteering your skills for an organization showcases your talents to your selected niche.

web designer with client

 

  1. Set up a Good Looking Portfolio

This is the best way to show off all your skills and experience on web designing. This lures customers and make them interested in your capabilities. You can attached this to your own website or any owned social media accounts.

You can go general in your portfolio. Do not just limit your portfolio to skills and experience related to web designing. You can go general and make people see your other talents. They might serve as an additional asset so keep your portfolio versatile.

  1. Make Valuable Partnerships

You can collaborate with field related businesses like web hosting companies or web developers. In this way, you are actually operationally putting your skills to the test. You can also offer more to your clients with the additional features and services from your partner companies, an advantage in keeping up over other competing web designers.

  1. Making it Personal

If you want to make your customers happy, you need to make them feel that you genuinely care for them and can provide them quality service and output with personal intentions even after you are done making your work and have been already paid. There are customers that need to be wooed and need to be given nice gestures, compliments to win them. Gifts and like chocolates and cupcakes, as well as holiday greetings or anything that reflect you as devoted and friendly can win them over. This also includes your way of advertising your service. Try to be a bit provoking and trendy that can catch someone’s attention.

 

These are the 5 most helpful tips in marketing planning for web designers like you to be successful in the industry. Remember that you have to be versatile to new strategies and techniques so that you keep up with the new trends and demands. Attract customers, make them happy, and you will be successful. When you go to collect credit card payments, remember to apply at A+ Rated First Financial, where high-risk businesses like web designers get the best merchant accounts.

 

9 Elements of the Tech Support Business Plan Lenders Love

technology services business plan

 In Heart, Smarts, Guts and Luck, released by Harvard Review Press, author Anthony Tjan explains the commonalities among the hundreds of successful entrepreneurs he and his team interviewed over a two year period.

Surprisingly, 70 percent of this fortunate cohort did not start with a business plan. Instead, they dove in feet first, working hard doing the business rather than writing about it.

Did they need one when they got to the point of expansion?

You bet. Lenders don’t even look at a borrower without a business plan. A robustly written document chronicling the business’s history to this point indicates how seriously entrepreneurs take the whole borrowing experience. It also indicates the respect a business affords those willing to lend them money.

Careful attention to each of the ten elements of the technical support business plan increases the odds that you’ll win money from those looking to earn a healthy return.

  1. Business Description

Keep your description concise and straightforward, but include exactly what your company does and where it earns profits. It should also answer:

 

  • why your business was formed? Feel free to include your passion as many lenders will be looking for it. The most successful entrepreneurs have an abundance of heart and drive. They work around the clock because honestly, working their business is their hobby, their fun, their stimulation and achievement. Don’t be afraid to let that show.

 

  • the business’ mission and model: how does your business seek to solve problems of consumers, other businesses or government entities? Be clear on why you started the business: what gaps did you see in the market that desperately needed to be filled.

 

  • products (software) or services (technical or computer support: describe exactly what you sell and the price point of each item, package or service. Remember to cover both features and benefits.
  • people involved: lenders will want to know what each key player brings to the table. They will consider themselves owners of the business to some extent, and as owners want to be able to depend on talented, hard-working people.
  • relationships to be leveraged. When a company principle knows a key player in their market, lenders know they have a shortcut to profits. List all relationships your business can leverage to get to the end user as soon as possible.
  1. When the company was formed and the major hurdles it’s crossed.

This is a follow-up of the previous section, where you discuss more about the history of the company and its achievement so far. It is important not to skip this part because you can trace the business’ development by tracking what it has done since the beginning. Emphasizing that your started small and conservative and then scaled quickly will win points. Jot down when the company reached each of these milestones and the result

  • Initial capital contributions
  • Product/service launch
  • First client
  • First business loan
  • Additional product/service launches
  • Marketing plan roll out
  • Month company made a profit
  • Quarter company made a profit
  • Legal filing (S-Corp, partnership, LLC, etc.)
  • Internet launch
  • Overseas launch
  1. Target Market and Market Analysis

Describe the ideal consumer of your products (software) or services (tech support). The size of the market and how it will grow should also be couched to entice lenders.  That consumer can be other businesses, individuals, non-profits or government entities. Explain their needs and pain points and how your company solves them. Include target demographics like income, gender, family situation, social status, buying habits and more. Include trends and research to indicate your target market will only demand more of your products or services in the years to come.

  1. Competitors and Unique Selling Proposition

No company is without competition. It’s the carefully chosen niche or unique selling proposition that ensures the easiest profits won.

First, list your top competitors, their target markets and unique selling propositions (a.k.a. differentiators). Then discuss what products and services they’ve missed supplying in the market. You can also discuss a niche market they’ve failed to target effectively.

Finally, go back to your milestones and fill in how your unique selling propositions played a part in the achievements the company has won. This step will help deliver a complete picture to the lenders you approach.

 

  1. Business Model

How you make money exactly can be more important than endless Excel spreadsheets depicting every revenue stream and expense. Early estimations don’t carry much weight with lenders as these can be just too hard to predict.

Instead, carefully explain whether your business makes money via subscriptions, transactions or advertising.  Each model has a very different way of bringing in sales. Principles must start from the beginning monetizing the business in the most appropriate and effective way. Have your business model down cold. 

 

business plan checklist

  1. Marketing Strategy

After you have done a market analysis, lenders want to see how you plan to reach out to your ideal audience. After all, “A business with no marketing is just a hobby. A business without a solid product is just snake oil.”

Here, you can either explain your most effective marketing tactics and the agencies or consultants you’ve used so far. If your business is a start-up, explain how you plan to reach your ideal audience via both digital and traditional channels. Demonstrate that you’ve researched just where your ideal audience hangs out these days and whether they respond best to email, television commercials or search engine optimization. This section could require an outside marketing agency or at least a marketing consultant. 

  1. Sales Strategy

Your sales strategy should be as robust as your marketing strategy. More, each element should reference the other. How do you plan to divide your technical support services? Do you have packages in mind for different sized businesses? In this section, you should also include pricing policy. What costs of labor and overhead goes into your pricing policy? Finally, don’t forget to include the sales promotions you plan to include, especially those designed to win new customers.

  1. Funding Sources/Requirements/Projections

In this section, detail the funds your business requires. After writing the fund requirements, describe fund projections. These are forward-looking projections like cash flow statements, balance sheet and profit-loss-statements.

Business plans are indeed very essential in your business. Those who start with a plan can roll out their businesses in an informed way. Also, the business plan helps you keep track of whether you’re meeting your goals or not. Those looking for business loans, merchant services or merchant advances can trust A+ rated First Financial to review their applications and provide an answer with 48 hours.  Operating 100% online, First Financial’s automation and lower marketing costs keep interest rates affordable for all small businesses. Apply today!

 


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