What to Look For In A Payment Management System

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Quick and efficient payment options benefit both small business owners and their customers.

Consumers are used to flexibility – cash, check or charge? – when buying from large retailers. If you’re a cash-or-check only operation, consider how many sales you may be losing – and how your business would grow if your customers could pay with debit or credit cards.

If one of your goals is to start selling online, an easy-to-use payment processing system is a must.

Read on to learn the most important features when searching for the right payment management system for your small business.

1. Cost considerations

Cash flow is typically one of the biggest concerns reported by small business owners – so ROI is key when investing in any new system. Some companies like FreshBooks are tailored for small businesses in the service industries and offer a flat rate fee of 2.9%. Paypal offers flexible payment options at low rates and was designed with small businesses and start ups in mind.

If you use online accounting software, start by looking into whether an affordable payment add-on is available. This option may make the most sense as you’ll greatly increase efficiency when payment processing, invoicing, customer data and financial reporting are part of an integrated all-in-one system.

2. Mobile compatibility

Forget card reader machines. A payment processing system that syncs up with your tablet or smartphone is a great fit for small business owners – especially when selling on the go. Just think how mobile payment processing will make your life easier when you’re making sales at trade shows or when travelling for business.

3. Security concerns

When you’re accessing your customer’s credit card data, you want to know with 100% certainty their financial information is kept safe and secure. Inquire into how any payment solution option you’re considering protects sensitive client data. Some payment processing solutions like CyberSource use tokenization to let you accept credit card payments without storing data in your system.

4. Try it for free

Many companies who market payment processing systems to small business owners offer a free 30-day trial. Why not research a handful of the best solutions available and give them a test drive before deciding on the right option for you?

Now that you’ve looked into the benefits of a payment processing system – and what to look for before you make the leap– it’s time to take action.

Start by shortlisting a few of the best contenders. Ask your colleagues for input on the payment processing system they use. Read online reviews to get some unbiased opinions. And take the time to investigate whether an add-on is available for your online accounting software – or which third-party payment processing apps integrate with your current accounting system.

Use your Accounting Software to Boost Sales

depositphotos_86794002-income-statement-accounting-software-money-calculator-application-laptopIf you think accounting software is just for tracking expenses and generating financial reports, you’re losing out on an opportunity to improve your bottom line. By taking advantage of insights provided by your software solution, you’ll benefit from a more informed approach to marketing and customer service – and by making the most of all the ways your software can improve productivity you can take meaningful action to increase profits. Here’s how. Understand buyer behavior

In addition to storing real time financial data, your accounting software can also retain important information about your clients. Insights into your customer buying history and preferred payment methods, for instance, can help you tailor your marketing strategies to each type of client you serve. Use what you know about customers to set up a segmented mailing list. Marketing directly to the clients who tend to hire you for a particular service is a much more effective way to make sales than approaching your customers with a one-size-fits-all email campaign or in-store promotion.

Reporting capabilities built in to your accounting software can show you who your best customers are and your most popular products. With this key info, you’ll hit your sales targets by only promoting the goods and services that you know your customers really want. The real time data your accounting software provides can also translate to an improved overall experience that will win over your customers. For instance, when a client gets in touch with a question you’ll be able to respond quickly with useful, accurate background info. With more in-depth knowledge of your customers you’ll be able to cross sell and upsell more easily by suggesting additional products that might meet their needs.

Free up time to reach more customers
One of the great things about accounting software is how much time you’ll save by automating processes like invoicing and payroll. And if your software solution integrates with your other small business apps as well as your CRM, ERP or POS systems, your business will be even more productive. By getting more efficient, you’ll have more time to touch base with customers and find new clients.

Consider making the most of that extra time in your schedule to

  • organize professional development opportunities that improve your team’s sales skills
  • update your business plan based on real time financial data and enhanced reporting
  • determine the best on and offline marketing strategies for your business based on what you know about your customers’ spending patterns
  • implement loyalty rewards for your return customers that you know will appeal to them – a sure fire way to spread positive word of mouth
  • implement growth strategies designed to scale your business and
  • make more informed decisions on every aspect of your business to cut costs, improve productivity and boost your profit margin.

How will you boost your bottom line?

Now that you’re fully aware of the customer insights and time-saving capabilities your accounting software provides, what will you do differently to build a more profitable and successful business?

Three Ways an Accountant Can Save You Money

 

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Many small business owners think they’re saving money by handling their financials themselves. While it’s a real asset to learn bookkeeping basics, cash flow management and your tax obligations, hiring an accountant to oversee your finances has many benefits. Leaving your books to a pro will free up time so you can focus on serving your clients and implementing plans for growth. Here are a few ways an accounting professional can help you save money that you can reinvest back in your business.

Finding money

There’s no one more suited to discovering “found” money than an accounting professional. Hire an accountant to sort your books and systemize your bookkeeping; better record keeping is the easiest way to allow you to quickly see – on a monthly, weekly or daily basis – where your money is going so you can cut costs. Keeping your accounts up to date will also help you understand which of your business investments yield the greatest returns so you can be more strategic about spending. An accountant can spot trends that you can take advantage of to earn greater profits – and even find savings with vendors, staff and operating expenses. Hiring someone to manage your accounts will also reduce the costly errors that are commonplace when business owners try to manually track their expenses.

Avoid tax penalties

Your accountant may be your trusted advisor when it comes to staying up to date with the latest regulations for small business taxes. She can also provide you with expert advice on how to maximize your benefits and minimize your taxes each year. Don’t underestimate the cost savings of hiring someone to complete your tax forms correctly and submit them on time. Penalties for small businesses who neglect to file their taxes on time – or at all – can quickly add up; the longer you wait to file, the more interest you’ll be charged and the likelihood you’ll incur additional penalties. A business that is already struggling may not be able to pay a tax fine and find themselves closing their doors. If your small business is ever audited, having an accountant on board will let you rest easy knowing you won’t be hit with a penalty for errors or omissions.

Business advisory services

Your accountant possesses business knowledge that can help you make more informed decisions. Rely on your accountant for advice when you draft or revise your business plan; those key insights on assessing profitability will help you move your business in the right direction – and avoid wasting time and money on strategies with a lesser chance of success. Look to your accountant to help you determine your most valuable clients, how much money you need to invest in a growth plan and which marketing strategies yield the best ROI. Having someone you can rely on to help set targets and monitor your progress is an invaluable asset that can help you not only save money, but earn higher profits.

The bottom line? Your accountant can do much more for you than simple bookkeeping or ensuring you’re on the right side of the tax authorities. Hire a small business accountant and you’ll be doing a lot to help increase your chances for long term growth and success.

Protect Your Small Business from Cyber Attack

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Many small business owners assume that cyber attacks only happen to big companies, banks or governments. But the truth is, limited knowledge of digital security and lack of defences make small businesses particularly vulnerable to attack.

Research shows that 71% of all cyber attacks happen to businesses with less than 100 employees – and yet many CEOs have yet to invest in a formal defense plan.

With cyber attack insurance premiums running as high as $35,000 per year, prevention is typically the smartest (and most budget-friendly) approach for small business owners.

Follow these four steps to fortify your small business against a cyber attack, and maintain the ongoing trust of your valued customers.

Conduct a Cyber Threat Assessment

75% of small business owners simply don’t know if they have enough cyber security – or the right solutions – to protect their digital assets.

A thorough threat assessment is the ideal first step to knowing precisely where and how your small business may be vulnerable to cyber intruders.

Consider contracting a cyber security specialist to help you analyze your digital ecosystem and data storage practices, in order to identify weak areas and create a security action plan.

Install a Firewall and Anti-virus Software

Cyber attackers use highly sophisticated automated software to seek out and infiltrate poorly defended networks.

Ensure your business doesn’t get caught in their net by installing a firewall that can control incoming and outgoing data and help prevent unauthorized access to your network.

Other practical steps you can take to protect yourself include:

  • ensuring your anti-virus software is always up to date
  • updating your browser and applications like Java and Flash to the latest version
  • protecting your WiFi by making it invisible to outsiders, encrypted and secure.

Regularly Change Your Passwords

Many businesses overlook the importance of regularly changing passwords that guard critical systems and confidential data.

Refresh your passwords every two months, ensuring they are at least 8 characters long and a mix of letters, numbers and symbols. Steer clear of using personal information, like your child’s name or your date of birth, as these combinations are much easier for cyber attackers to guess.

Invest in Employee Training

Employee education is one of the most important defenses against cyber attack. For lack of training, your own team members might inadvertently install malware or release confidential information to a criminal masquerading as a trusted contact.

A staggering 95% of online security breaches involve human error. Ensure your staff understand best practices in digital defense by:

  • developing an easy-to-read cyber security guide so employees are better equipped to identify and deal with malware, dangerous email attachments, phishing attempts and other digital threats
  • meeting regularly to discuss new potential online threats so team members know what to watch for
  • encouraging each team member to speak up immediately if they notice suspicious behavior on your digital network.

By implementing these preventative measures, your company will be well positioned to evade cyber attack – and get on with the business of growing!