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Should I get an app for my small business?

phone-1601Every once and a while, someone will ask me if I can build them an app. Depending on how complicated the app is, this is something I can do; however, it’s not always a good idea.

In order to decide if it makes sense for you to get an app for your small business, it’s a good idea to consider the following questions.

What extra value will this app provide to the end user?

As a business owner, it’s appealing to have your app installed on your customer’s phone. The real question, however, is “Why would someone install the app?” Many of the most basic and affordable apps, to create, provide little or no more value than a mobile website.

Do you have the kind of business that is a natural fit for an app?

If you are running a restaurant, you could use an app for things like notifications of specials and a virtual punch card. If you are a plumber, it’s much more difficult to find those things that make your app useful. (See the previous question).

Is this a good use of your money?

It’s uncommon to spend less than $1200 on an app; even the inexpensive ones are regularly more than $2500. If you have a brilliant idea for a custom app, it might even cost 10’s of thousands of dollars or more. Considering the other, more cost effective, ways of accomplishing the same things, an app is mostly a poor investment for a small business.

This is just a quick post because the questions came up again recently. What are your thoughts on it? Do you still have questions or are unsure? Please let me know. I’m happy to update this with further information.

Are You Paying Retail for Credit Card Processing?

Before I explain how to buy your merchant services at wholesale prices, let me take a minute to explain why it’s important to review these kinds of bills. Credit card processing is generally billed monthly. Anything billed monthly can sneak up on you. This is why I feel it’s important to review your insurance, credit card processing, telephone, internet, and any other monthly bills on a regular basis. If you shave $100/mo off your monthly bills, that’s $1200/year. It’s not at all unrealistic to save that amount when you really start reviewing your bills.

A few years ago I had the good fortune of meeting Scott. Scott works for a local software company (Sage Payment Solutions) that offers credit card processing / merchant services. I can hear you now, “So what? Those people call me all the time.” Well I have a few reasons to feel lucky to know Scott. Here are the reasons I think you should use Scott at Sage Payment Solutions.

Wholesale Pricing
He sells his services to the banks, they turn around and resell them to you. In other words, he’s the wholesale source.

Low Pressure
You are probably sick of hearing from merchant service people. Maybe you’ve been burned by one. Maybe you have just started hanging up on them when the call. Scott is different. He’s been in business for a several years (significant in that industry), and he has strong values.

Online Integration Tools
Sage also has great tools for integrating payment within your website. I haven’t found an easier or more cost effective way to accept credit cards using your own merchant account. It makes a great alternative to PayPal.

Expert in Your Corner
Merchant services have some of the most complicated billing practices. It’s so easy to get fooled by someone who is showing you one number and not all of the hidden extra costs. This is why having Scott in your corner is such a great way to make sure you aren’t ripped off. It’s like having a mechanic you trust.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must let you know that I have incentive to recommend Scott & his service. He sends business to me, and I get paid a nominal fee per account I send him. It’s even more important to note that even without these incentives, I would still recommend Scott, all day long. I was sending him referrals for a long time and that is why he put me on as an affiliate to get paid, so you understand the order of things. I would suggest that you call Scott and have him review your credit card statements. He will be honest with you and let you know if he can save you money or not. You can contact Scott at 503-307-1331, or for more information look at his website http://ScottLongacre.com (Note: I didn’t design the site, it’s provided by his company)

Free Fax / Voicemail Service – K7.net

*** 2017 Update ***

It doesn’t appear that K7 is still doing free fax numbers. I switched to FaxAway.com which is $1/mo prepaid. I actually prefer this to K7, as with K7 I lost my number a few times. If you are concerned with having your CC# out online, you could probably use a prepaid CC. I’ve even found those at the Dollar store, so you could put $20 on a card from there and fund the account, and be all set for 20 months.

For outgoing faxing, I always use GotFreeFax.com. I’ve used both the paid and free version of this service and both work well.

For free phone/voicemail, I use Google Voice. It’s a great way to get a second phone number that you can use for business or just for privacy. You do need to connect it with an existing number, I don’t recall if the number must be a cell phone.

For about a year I’ve been using a free fax service (http://voicemail.k7.net/signup/). People can also call my fax number and leave a voicemail, so you could use it as a voicemail number. When you sign up for the free service, you get an assigned phone number. Mine is a Seattle number. I believe you can pay extra for a local number.

The faxes come in as TIFF files that open fine in Microsoft Image Viewer. I didn’t need to set that up. When I clicked on the attachments they just opened. Some free services require you to use their software.

Note: I used to have another number, and I lost it. The reason is I don’t get very many faxes. If you let your account stay inactive for too long, you’ll get your number taken away. To make sure this didn’t happen I signed up for a weekly fax advertisement to come to my free fax number. This means I know I get a fax once a week, and that my fax number is staying active. I’ve included the link below to the one I use, but you can also just google “Weekly Fax Advertisement.”

http://www.busbook.com/busweekly.freesubscription.html

Coupons For Printing

I’ve created a partnership with OvernightPrints.com. Right now you can get the following special deals.

Cheap Reliable Phone Service – Vonage

I’ve used Vonage for years. Every once and a while I’d have a connection related issue, until about 2 years ago. I can say for sure I’ve had flawless service for at least one year, and probably more like two.

If you are interested in trying vonage you can sign up through this link and get up to two months free (and I get two months free as well) http://www.vonage.com/friend/ Just put in my vonage phone number of 503-914-5990.