Learn From My Mistakes to Avoid a Branding Tragedy

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about the importance of branding for small businesses. Basically stated, a brand builds credibility for your store. It shows that you’re a professional, and that you’re serious enough about your work to put the time and effort into creating a cohesive brand. Your brand instantly shows that you put time and consideration into this venture, and aren’t going to throw it away on shoddy products and lackluster customer service. It says that you’re passionate about your job, and that job includes taking care of your customers and treating them with respect.

Creating a brand is also really hard to get right.

How do I know?

Because I’ve tried and failed. Several times.

So perhaps you’re a fledgling entrepreneur who has stumbled upon this post whilst researching branding ideas, or maybe you’re revamping your current brand. Or possibly you’re reading this at some unidentified time in the future as part of an investigation as to Why Jess Went Bonkers (in that case, you should have ample evidence already). No matter the reason, I’m going to tell you the sad tale of what happens when you neglect your brand.

I hope you can learn from my mistakes.

It all started in the far-off year of last year. I was a hopeful young(-ish) writer, working on creating my brand. I wanted something that was uniquely me: sophisticated (or so I like to pretend) and creative (possibly), yet still amusing (subjective). This led me to my first mistake…


Not sure why we’re going with the scare caps, but okay. My mistake was, I went to art school (this mistake has come back to haunt me in, just, so many ways over the years). I believed that the power was within me to come up with a genius idea for a logo and brand identity, without ever asking anyone for help or input.

And it may have been!

Unfortunately for me, that part of me who is a genius artist has been hibernating for about three years now, so I was out of luck.


Don’t fly solo! Ask for advice from your friends, family, neighbors, and sympathetic bartenders. And if you’re not an artist, or you don’t have the time to cook up a good logo, hire someone to do it for you! Even if it’s expensive, it’s worth every single penny.

But, back to the story. I went through design draft after design draft, but nothing quite felt… me. I decided that I simply could not move forward without a good logo. It was the linchpin, as it were, of my entire theoretical business. It had to be perfect.


All of that. I had the idea in my confused little mind that my logo was so important that I couldn’t move on anything else until it was done. I was all up in my own head, and getting nothing accomplished.


Yes, your brand is important. I’m not telling you to ignore the importance of it (if I were, this article would make no sense at all), but I am telling you to continue working on, you know, the actual reason why you need your branding. Don’t get bogged down in the details and forget all about your big picture, and don’t overthink it! It’s important, but it’s not everything.

Finally, after months of inaction, I decided that I had to have my brand settled on, like, yesterday, otherwise I wouldn’t ever get going on my career. I decided to go with one of those pre-designed fill-in-the-blank cards, while promising myself that I’d come up with something better when I had time. I had one caveat: I would not include typewriters, quills or pens in my design. Ever. Especially not a typewriter. Because that’s low hanging fruit, and it’s been done a million times. Creativity is key!


My logo is a typewriter.


Don’t use a typewriter as a logo.

But it gets worse. Since I had dismissed this branding attempt as a throwaway, I didn’t really look it over before I sent it to the printers. My business cards didn’t have the word “WRITER” anywhere on them, and my other publicity materials were printed in a font far too small to be easily read. I had spent way too much money on paper that I had screwed up, and I had no one to blame but myself. And you know you’re in trouble when you hand your cards out to your friends and family, and watch them wince when they see them.


I didn’t take this attempt seriously, and I paid the (painfully high) price. I had 50 very high-quality business cards that didn’t say what I did on them. That’s not something that can be easily overlooked.


Take this seriously! Even if you’re not 100% committed to your brand as it stands right now, it’s still committed to you. Show it some love, and treat it with the respect it deserves. If I had taken my own advice, I would surely be a massive success right now (let me pretend), and not destitute and  squatting in an abandoned doll factory while living off of tree bark and stale candy corn (just kidding, my apartment is nice and I had pancakes for breakfast). Which leads me to…


I believed that my failure was written in stone. I thought that just because I had done it wrong, it was a sign from the universe that I shouldn’t try to write (some would agree with that, but they’re not buying me pancakes so it doesn’t really matter, does it?). And as sad as it is, I was ready to give up over a single mistake.


It’s not the end of the world if your first (or second, or fifth, or twentieth) branding attempt falls flat. It’s just a few colors and shapes on paper. It can’t break you, and it doesn’t mean that you’re not ready to start a business. It just means that this one part of your business didn’t quite get over this time. And I went back and fixed my branding, and it’s quite nice now if I do say so myself.

But I still keep my old failed cards around, just to remind myself of how far I’ve come.

PayGo is a solution provider for independent retailers based in Rochester, Minnesota. Our primary focus is on point of sale / retail management software. We also offer a Merchant Account integration, a WooCommerce integration, Digital Marketing Services, and more.

Marketing Monday: You Need a Blog! Here’s Why:

Marketing Monday is a weekly-ish feature about growing your business through (you guessed it) marketing.

Truth time!

Are you reading this article because you went to write a blog post about your business, lost your motivation, and started aimlessly clicking around on the internet?

If so, I feel your pain. In fact, I stared at no less than thirty-four unrelated-to-work websites in the course of writing this post. I now know what alligators do at night (same thing they do during the day, but in the dark), the right way to clean my house (hire a housekeeper and avoid children or pets), and what cake recipe I should try to make my next dinner party sparkle (I prefer to just dump craft glitter in the batter but apparently that’s “a bad idea” and “toxic to humans”). But unfortunately, my blog post was still not done once I finished up wasting my time.

“But why should I even bother with a blog? I run a store, isn’t that enough work to do?!” you may be lamenting, while still clicking through a quiz to find out what kind of modern animal you are (I took that one too, I’m a koala on a juice cleanse). The answer to that very valid question is: because an entrepreneur’s work is never done, and because blogging has a lot more benefits to your business than you might think.

Also, according to the quiz you’re a hummingbird who needs a spa weekend.

First and foremost, blogging about your business raises your all-important SEO profile. In an industry that increasingly takes place almost entirely online, SEO is vital for keeping your business afloat. It’s how your new customers can find you, and how you can find new customers. And in a world where content is still SEO gold, there’s no easier and faster way to generate good content than through a regularly updated blog.

A blog can also help you connect with all of those new (and current, and old) customers in a way that is hard to replicate in person. Specifically, you can ask questions of your customers in a blog post, and they can comment in a way that is (hopefully) thoughtful and well-reasoned in the replies. Your reach is also greatly extended in blog postings, too; you may only have a chance to talk to a handful of shoppers a day, but your blog is available to anyone who’s interested in your store, 24 hours a day and on weekends, bank holidays and on company time when you’re hiding from your boss under the desk and surfing the web. …theoretically.

Blogging creates a ton of content for social media sites, as well. You can post your own content to your sites, and your customers can share and comment on it as well. The beautiful thing about social media is that anything that goes up on it can be spread across the internet like the roots of a tree, or some kind of profit-generating virus.

But how can blogging about your store help your business evolve? Well, besides everything I just mentioned, you can see what’s happening behind the scenes in a way that you can’t get from typical customer feedback such as surveys or sodium pentothol. You already know that your website analytics show you where your customers are spending their time and clicks on your site, but you can also see what blog posts are creating the most buzz. Maybe you wrote about a new product line you’re thinking about carrying, and you’re getting tons of clicks on that post. It’s a good indication that your market is interested in buyin’ what you might be sellin’.

So what should I blog about?

Your blog should be about all things that relate to your brand and your store. If you have some new merchandise, take a few pictures and put together a write-up about it. Do you have great clients? You can interview them and post it online. Your employees are wonderful, and they could use some online accolades as well. Maybe you had something funny and/or tragic (the best stories have both) happen in your store. Share it! As long as you’re posting regularly and being sunny and upbeat about your business, you can’t do much wrong here.

So what does “posting regularly” mean? It’s good to have at least one post a month, but weekly or more is always better. People and search engines both love new content, and the more you post, the more attention you’ll get. And if that’s too much work for you to fit into your extremely busy schedule, don’t forget that you’re under no obligation to write all the posts yourself. You can outsource to your employees, or even hire a freelancer to cover those bi-weekly blogs.

Just make sure they stay off the internet.

PayGo is a solution provider for independent retailers based in Rochester, Minnesota. Our primary focus is on point of sale / retail management software. We also offer a Merchant Account integration, a WooCommerce integration, Digital Marketing Services, and more.

Back to Class: Color Psychology Revealed!

Good morning, and welcome to another episode of Back to Class, the only POS blog series that lets you enjoy the back to school season without having to actually go anywhere. It’s just like regular school, except not like regular school whatsoever.

Today’s episode takes place in a psychologist’s office. Why? It’s not about that dream you keep having (you know the one). No, we’re going to be talking about the role of color in retail this morning, so don’t worry about unpacking all that emotional baggage yet.

I just haul this around with me all the time.

Color has a huge subliminal impact on all of us, and a good retailer knows how to take advantage of our fragile little minds and use that subliminal trickery to drive up sales. And now you can too! Color can be used in more than just your products and branding; it’s amazing what a coat of paint can do to up your sales and change the vibe.

Less is more, though. Don’t get carried away.

Here are a few color basics:

Black is Fancy

A million little black dresses, top hats and overpriced personal electronics can’t be wrong: Black is the color of sleek sophistication. A lot of manufacturers like to use black to make their products look high-end and expensive (even if the products in question are decidedly not so). This color (or non-color for all you nerds out there) can be used as a great accent to make your luxury displays stand out, but don’t go overboard! You don’t want to make your store look like a funeral home (unless that’s your vibe).


White is Pure

Remember waking up on a school day in January only to find out that it had snowed last night and you now had a full day of video games and sledding to look forward instead of spelling tests and the nightmare that is the school cafeteria (our apologies to the southern states and warmer climates for missing out on this beautiful phenomenon)? It was an innocent joy, and that still stands for white in general. And while some of us (okay, me) find it physically impossible to keep anything white clean for more than 36 seconds (yes I timed it), white is the (non-) color of cleanliness, purity, modernity and simplicity. It’s an absolute good, but don’t forget that too much white just adds up to… well, nothing. It’s a literal blank slate, so use strategically.


Blue is Chill

This one is a touch obvious, but blue is the color of tranquility. It has a calming and rational effect on people, which is why everyone loves blue skies and blue water and blue raspberry vodka. When used in a store, blue makes your shoppers feel more secure and trusting of you, your shop and your stuff. And that doesn’t just extend to an afternoon of binge shopping; shoppers are 15% more likely to keep coming back to stores with a blue color scheme.


Yellow is Friendly

Aww, it’s like a smiley face! Our yellow sun powers all life on earth (also certain superheroes), so it’s an absolute good, color-wise (unless you’re a supervillain or a vampire… or a vampire supervillain). When used in merchandising and branding, it catches your shopper’s attention and makes them feel more energetic and hungry (hello golden arches). It can also evoke feelings of youth and sunshine and happiness… it’s just a really good color all-around.


Red Demands Decisions

There’s a reason that all sale tags are printed in red: It’s a color that makes people stand at attention, and make quick spending decisions. There’s a reason it’s used in stop signs, clearance signage and the flags that pop up all over my dating history (I have baggage, you were warned in the intro), and that’s because it’s a very decisive color. But too much red can make consumers stop shopping altogether and run for the door, so be careful.


Green is For All of Those Rich Artists

You know the ones, right? Well, they must exist somewhere. Green is the color of growth, both artistically and monetarily. It has the effect of both calming a person, and making them think creatively (which is why I’m writing this in a forest). It can also be used to signify that a product is environmentally conscious, so if your store is focused on ecological sustainability… well, then you probably already knew that.


Orange is Your Secret Weapon

Orange is a great color for retail. A bright orange shade evokes energy and optimism, and can even act as some visual stress reduction for your customers. And a nice burnt orange (think wood grain or pumpkin pie… see? you’re getting less stressed out just thinking about orange!) can comfort a shopper and make them feel more taken care of while in your store. Think of it as vitamin C for the soul. It’s just the right balance of comfort and energy, which creates a perfect storm for your customer’s wallets.


Pink is For the Romantics

It’s the sweetest of all the colors, really. Both relaxing (it’s been scientifically proven to slow down the endocrine system and relax tense muscles) and intimate, pink is most often used to market products for both the ladies and the romantically-minded. It’s also associated with sugary sweets, babies and panthers, so if those are your niches, go wild!


Purple Calms the Insecure

The royals were onto something when they started using purple as a kingly color. It’s a strong, rich color that screams luxury and beauty while also being calming. It’s heavily used in the beauty industry, and especially with anti-aging products. In merchandising, it can convey to your customers that yes, this is something worth spending some extra cash on because darn it, you’re worth it. Spoil yourself!


Just promise to use your powers only for good.

PayGo is a solution provider for independent retailers based in Rochester, Minnesota. Our primary focus is on point of sale / retail management software. We also offer a Merchant Account integration, a WooCommerce integration, Digital Marketing Services, and more.

Marketing Monday: Is Your Branding Working for You?

Let’s talk, business owner to business enthusiast. Do you remember when you were working on creating your store branding? Wasn’t that a nightmare? All the agonizing over style and colors and logo… there were so many sleepless nights, and so much second-guessing. Yet you did it! You figured it out, and now your brand stands as a perfect emblem on your business.


You know, for instance.

But are you putting your brand to work?

It only makes sense after what it put you through. Your brand shouldn’t just sit there and look pretty, it should be earning its keep!

Most small businesses prefer to think of themselves as just that: a business, and therefore immune to that whole “branding” thing that bigger companies have to worry about. But all big companies start as small ones, and small companies who concentrate on spreading their brand become big.

Why do you need to be throwin’ your brand up all over town?

First off, your branding is, for all intents and purposes, you. It is the snapshot of your entire business career, distilled into an easily recognizable image. It’s making your introductions and opening doors for your business, without you having to speak a word. It’s a marketing force unto itself. It says, “I’m the Real Deal over here, so check me out.” It proves your credibility to the world.

Credibility means a lot more than a good-looking brand.

As a whole, people tend to be a rather “book by the cover” bunch. Our time is limited, as is our money; and, we don’t want to spend a whole ton of time trying to figure out if the place we may be spending our limited money in is above-board or not. It helps if your brand represents you well. Customers want to be reassured that yes, you are indeed “legit,” as the youths say.

Part of being legit is what people say about you, how they feel about you, and if they know you. If you have a fantastic looking brand that’s leaning against the wall, staring at its shoes, afraid to talk to potential customers at the consumer party, it doesn’t matter how good it looks.

So what should your brand be doing?

The short answer is, everything. The long answer is… well, also everything.

  • Put your branding all over your store, on your bags, and all of your promotional materials. You’ve offered those who have walked into your store amazing products and exemplary service at a fair price. Help happy customers talk about you when they leave your store by ensuring they remember your name. With PayGo, you can make sure they bring your name, address, and phone number with them on their receipt. Memory can be fickle.
  • Make sure it’s splashed all over your social media sites and your online store.
  • Bring your brand to trade shows, and be sure to print it all over your giveaway swag.
  • You can also try out some guerrilla marketing tactics to show off your fun, creative side while creating your very own brand recognition.

Now go forth and brand well!

PayGo is a solution provider for independent retailers based in Rochester, Minnesota. Our primary focus is on point of sale / retail management software. We also offer a Merchant Account integration, a WooCommerce integration, Digital Marketing Services, and more.


4 Steps to Visual Merchandising Success

It’s September, which means we’re about to rush headlong into the three month sugar-fueled shopping frenzy that is the holiday season. Even now, customers are breaking out their good credit cards and replacing their blood with pumpkin spice in preparation for the season. They’re coming for your store. How do you make sure your shop enables these fearless hunters, these deal-savvy sharks in cute scarves and sweaters to buy even more?

“I prefer mocha and blazers, but by all means, do go on with your stereotypes.”

Visual merchandising, that’s how!

Basically stated, visual merchandising is the art of creating a vignette (which is French for small illustration or portrait… That’s right, we’re getting all international up in here) with your products, with the purpose of being visually interesting, to make your customers want to buy said stuff. The beauty of visual merchandising is that it doesn’t matter if you sell quilts, pet supplies, or car parts – you can still use visual merchandising techniques in your store.

1. Use Your Space

You may notice that all of your displays and products are governed by those pesky laws of gravity and tend to stay away from the ceiling. I can’t help you with that. At least, not until my super-secret subterranean lair is completed. And…I’ve kidnapped all of Earth’s top scientists for my nefarious experiments. That’s another story. I won’t bore you with the details.

I can give you some good news: your shoppers eyes are used to looking for stuff at counter-height. Want to mix that up? Create a display that uses that unclaimed real estate towards the ceiling. Hang items from the ceiling. Create a faux drop ceiling to make a more intimate space to view your wares in.

Don’t forget to use your floors. You could even toss in some negative space! You want to create a visually appealing display and that can mean anything, including balancing something with nothing.

Pro tip: Don’t go overboard on the nothing.

2. Create a Cohesive story

Is it Christmas? Not yet, so don’t panic. Customer appreciation week? Store anniversary? Maybe it’s just a really lovely summer and you want to celebrate it. Your displays can reflect all of these things (although you should probably stick with one theme at a time). Think of your vignette as a painting or other work of art. Use it to convey an emotion, desire, or story without having to spell it out for your shoppers. Don’t fret. You don’t have to get all high-concept with it. “Look at how great these items will look together in your house!” is still a story.

3. Group Items With Purpose

Create a focal point around a big-ticket or popular item. Then, surround it with great add-on purchases for your shoppers. It can do a lot to drive up your sales. This story is, “You need all of these things together! Look how awesome they would be together! They’d be so happy together! You must buy each and every one!”

4. Take Advantage of Color

It’s been proven a million times over that color has a huge influence on shoppersChances are that your sales floor has a whole lot of color out there. So use it!

Green makes people feel relaxed and creative, pink and blue are calming, and orange is associated with great deals. White is “boring,” so use it sparingly.

If you think that color isn’t such a big deal, consider this:

In one afternoon of pure shopping joy,  I spent my entire paycheck on beautiful items that served no purpose. I attribute it (and resulting week of eating ramen and stale crackers) to the store’s visual merchandising. This store grouped products into beautiful vignettes based on single colors, in displays reflecting the psychology of each color. Friends and family no longer allow me to return to that store. Interventions may have been staged for my own financial safety.

Color psychology works!

No joke, I would totally buy this if it fit in my living room.

What’s the end of your successful merchandising story? We hope it’s you traveling to a beach where someone brings you drinks and whimsically plated fruit.

Pictured: the advantages of visual merchandising.

Want more visual merchandising inspiration? We’ve created a whole board about it. While you’re at it, check out the rest of our Pinterest page!

Are you looking for more ways to make your customers smile (and spend more)? You may want to check out:

Slow Shopping: The Trend that Could Make You Big Bucks

Marketing Monday: Advertise Outside the Box with Guerrilla Marketing

PayGo is a solution provider for independent retailers based in Rochester, Minnesota. Our primary focus is on point of sale / retail management software. We also offer a Merchant Account integration, a WooCommerce integration, Digital Marketing Services, and more.

Back to Class: Drive up Your Online Traffic With These Advertising Tips

Who doesn’t love this time of year? It’s a time for change, improvement, and pumpkin spice. In this spirit, PayGo would like to introduce our Back to Class series. In it, we will focus on changing and improving your shop to ramp up for the holiday season. Pumpkin spice is optional (yet so recommended).

Let’s say you just brought your shop online. Yay! But unfortunately for you, discount-cacti.com (yup) isn’t seeing a whole lot of action. Maybe people don’t know about your site, maybe you haven’t found your market yet, or maybe the online affordable living pincushion scene is more difficult to break into than you thought.

It’s an extremely competitive market.

It’s a lovely dream to have your shop advertised singularly by the heaping praises of your happy customers, but unless you sell mythical creatures and literal magic, that’s probably not gonna happen. This means, you’re going to have to advertise to get people to your URL. So, how do you properly advertise to drive up traffic on your site?

Make Sure Your SEO is Top-Notch

Right now at this very second, there is someone out there who desperately wants what you’re sellin’. They’ve never heard of you, your store, or maybe even your town, yet you’re the one place that has what they want to find. So how do they find you? By you working your  SEO skills.

Get Social

Social media is where we get movie recommendations, travel planning advice, and the occasional melodramatic meltdown so why wouldn’t people be looking there for shopping, too? Social media is one of the best ways to advertise your shop, and arguably one of the easiest. Something as simple as setting up a Facebook or Instagram page for your business or tweeting about all of your great new products and promotions can increase your visibility all over the internet. You can get your customers in on it, too! Sending out links to your best customers for reviewer sites like Yelp can show unsure customers that you’re established as a solid business.

Freebies and deals

Free stuff! Just the idea of it makes people buy more. I have a vast collection of branded keychains, bumper stickers and so on from places I’ve shopped at online, and even though it means that my car is the tackiest one on the block, I continue to shop at those places because I just like getting free stuff (well, and I like their products, but… yeah, free stuff). If tossing in a store-branded sticker or two into each shipment isn’t in the budget, you can still give another kind of freebie: discounts! Percentages off of next sales, BOGO deals, or free shipping for customers are great perks that keep people coming back to your store. They also keep your store favorable in your customer’s minds. You could even count this as guerrilla marketing, which is like traditional marketing’s cool, edgy sister and is also a great (and cheap) way to advertise in general. You don’t even have to limit it to online stores; your brick-and-mortar shoppers might like some incentive to shop online when they can’t get to your store as well.

Blog it Out

We all know you could talk about your store at length, but that doesn’t always work into regular conversation. But don’t hold yourself back from chatting it up, shop-wise. Start a blog! Here’s a place where you can put your SEO skills to work while still talking about all the great new products, discounts, and sales you have going on both online and in-store. The key to blogging isn’t just in the content, though. It’s important to blog consistently (at least one post a week) and to be sure you’re sharing your content all over the web on things like social media. You don’t even have to write all the time. Creating content such as tutorial videos for the stuff you sell is a great way to increase visibility online.

But what if you don’t want to blog consistently? Track down some bloggers that promote the kind of things that you sell and see if you can’t make a deal. Professional bloggers have a built-in audience that might be beyond your current reach. If you can set up a deal with a blogger or two with some free product, advertising space, or discount codes for their viewers, you could see your online traffic surge. You can also look into hiring some guest bloggers to do your writing for you!

PayGo is a solution provider for independent retailers based in Rochester, Minnesota. Our primary focus is on point of sale / retail management software. We also offer a Merchant Account integration, a WooCommerce integration, Digital Marketing Services, and more.

Slow Shopping: The Trend that Could Make You Big Bucks

Everyone loves some good retail therapy (everyone’s bank accounts, on the other hand, might disagree). And we all know that a leisurely afternoon wandering a neat, eclectic shop is way more fun than a breakneck slalom through Target on a Saturday.

Pretty much like this, yeah.

More and more retailers – especially small, independent ones – are turning to the practice of “slow shopping.” Slow shopping means placing value of the shopping experienced over sales, with the idea that happy shoppers who spend more time shopping are willing to buy more. Seems logical, right?

So how do you get shoppers to slow down and smell the roses?

Bring Snacks (And Maybe Also Roses)

Have you ever been out and about with a group of people and heard someone mention food? Did you notice how everyone’s necks snapped around and their eyes got all wide and feral-like? …No? Maybe that’s just me. Regardless, food is always a great draw for customers. Maybe it’s something as simple as putting out coffee and a candy dish for your customers, or maybe even adding some cafe items to your shop (which your PayGo software can be set up to accommodate) so your customers can nibble away while they peruse your store.

Be Eye-Catching (Within Limits)

Blank walls and uninspired displays will leave absolutely no impression on a customer. Yet, if your shop is stuffed with stuff, your customers won’t know where to start. Then, they may give up before they find anything they want to buy. Find a balance between bland and overwrought, with some well-thought-out visual merchandising.

Be Friendly (Not Pushy)

Customers may not like to be jumped on like a fly in a spiderweb the second they walk in your store. It’s still important to establish some kind of dialogue. A simple, “Isn’t it just lovely outside?” can break through a customers tough, I’m-shopping-so-leave-me-alone attitude without literally shoving them into the nearest display (which, while hilarious, is rarely a crowd pleaser). Some simple small talk can open up all kinds of conversations, which can keep the customer in your store a lot longer.

PayGo is a solution provider for independent retailers based in Rochester, Minnesota. Our primary focus is on point of sale / retail management software. We also offer a Merchant Account integration, a WooCommerce integration, Digital Marketing Services, and more.

These Tips Will Help You Pick out the Perfect WooCommerce Extensions

As you may have heard (because we won’t stop talking about it), we’ve integrated PayGo with WooCommerce. You may have also heard some of the fuss about extensions – mainly, that there are tons of them. They may even be a bit overwhelming, but fear not! I’m about to guide you through the jagged peaks of confusion to that which is the seasonably chilly and thinly atmosphere-d world of extensions.

You’re gonna want to dress in layers.

The climb will be… not that tough, really; you’re just making a few decisions.  I’m already dedicated to this mountain metaphor, so here we go!

You Need a Map

No one starts an expedition without knowing where they’re going.

Unless they’re me, in which case you might be heading out to a house party with no idea where it is. Then, somehow you’ll end up in Idaho despite not even living in Idaho. Chances are you followed a wrong road somehow and there was a squirrel and you got distracted and now you live in the woods on berries and pinecones and the wolves have accepted you as one of their own.

I digress…

Navigating extensions requires having a destination in mind. It’s all well and good that you have thousands of extensions (or roads) to choose from, but until you know where you’re going (probably not Idaho) it’s just going to be confusing (roughage-based diets and woodland creatures).

So, what do you need your extensions to do?

First off, what does your online store do? Where do you usually ship? Do you need to worry about different currencies on a regular basis? How much customer feedback do you need? How much detail do you need for your items? Do you sell intangible things like classes, or events that need to be sold through the site? Much like when you are setting up SEO keywords, it’s wise to break down exactly what you need your website to do.

How do you climb a mountain? One step at a time

Okay, now you have your map and hopefully some comfy shoes, because this will be… yeah, still not as difficult as it looks. I’m really making a mountain (ha!) out of a molehill. Regardless, let’s scale that peak!

The best place to start is at the beginning. Let’s say you need a tool to calculate shipping. You can search the extensions stores, or just perform a search on “WooCommerce Shipping Extension” and see what turns up. You might end up with a list of extensions, or possibly some articles on what the best extensions might be. It might still seem like a dizzying amount of information, but we can narrow that down even further.

Pay Attention

When hiking, you pay attention to animal trails, markings from previous hikers, and which berries are hallucinogenic (ingest or avoid depending on personal preference). These are important things to notice. Extensions are the same way – people have been there before you and they’ve left you clues and guides. There are ratings, reviews, and information on builds and updates. Ratings can show you how many people were either impressed or irritated enough to take to the web and express their feelings (and we all know how hard it is for people to open up on the internet).

It’s a good idea to read both the positive and negative reviews, because people who have downloaded the extension in the past may have run into problems or benefits that you haven’t thought of yet. Reviews can act as guidelines or warnings, and it’s wise to pay close attention to them. Keep in mind, the companies who are developing these plugins and extensions write their own descriptions, and they may not match up to the reviews.

Similarly, look at the stats. How many people have downloaded the particular extension you’re looking at? Because too few might mean that the software is new and hasn’t been tested too much, so you may run into bugs. Has the extension been updated recently? A recently (within the last few months) updated extension means that the developers are still working on improving it, and if there is a problem that might come up there’s a good chance it’ll get fixed quickly. How old are the reviews you’ve been reading? If you’re seeing a lot of complaints about a certain bug, that might have been fixed already.

Don’t Worry!

So you’ve done your research, you’ve chosen a few that you think are winners, and we’re nearly at the peak of this weird metaphor. However, now you’re having second thoughts. Could you have made a wrong decision? What if you don’t like an extension you chose? What if you find out you need something different later on down the road?

It’s okay! This isn’t defusing a bomb. You’re just picking some extensions. Sometimes you might not like an extension you picked, and it’s very possible that you might either outgrow an extension or need a new one someday. That’s okay, because these aren’t decisions that will be written in stone. They can be changed if something doesn’t work out. You can also add or remove extensions at a later date if you need to. Pick what you think will be the most useful to you, and modify as you go.

You’ve done it! And really, isn’t picking extensions easier than opening a store or managing employees or climbing a mountain?

PayGo is a solution provider for independent retailers based in Rochester, Minnesota. Our primary focus is on point of sale / retail management software. We also offer a Merchant Account integration, a WooCommerce integration, Digital Marketing Services, and more.

Marketing Monday: Advertise Outside the Box with Guerrilla Marketing

Anyone who goes into business knows that marketing is everything. It’s what most effectively and efficiently lets the world know that you have something to offer them, instead of settling for wishing, waiting, and the occasional voodoo spell. Most people think of marketing as fancy, professionally designed advertisements or commercials. Sometimes that’s just not a fit for your business. That’s where guerrilla marketing comes in.

I’ll get the big disappointment out of the way: guerrilla marketing doesn’t involve business-casual office workers crawling through the bushes and throwing branded keychains at unsuspecting pedestrians (although I would absolutely give all of my disposable income to any business that actually did that). Instead, guerrilla marketing refers to the practice of using creative and unconventional methods to cheaply and effectively advertise for your business. It’s different and less expensive than the usual marketing methods, it catches consumer’s attention in a unique way, and it may be a perfect fit for you.

Get Your Name Out

There are a lot of ways to increase you or your business’s name and brand visibility around town and online. You could do something as simple as leaving your business cards around town in places that might relate to your business. You could sponsor and attend an event, since most events list their sponsors prominently in their promotional materials and a sponsorship could be quite cheap. Or, you could go with something everyone loves and get your business name printed out on M&Ms or other sweet treats and hand them out at events, gatherings, or just to people and businesses.

Make it Fun

Everyone loves giveaways and contests! They’re a fun way to get the community together and talking about how great you are. Maybe you could raffle off a few items, or even some classes and events. For a one-two marketing punch, get all entrants to submit their email addresses – and add them to your newsletter. You could also give away branded things like keychains, bumper stickers, or even temporary tattoos to your customers, so they can have free stuff and you can have a whole army of marketers.

Do Good Things

Helping others is always a good move, but if you can help others while working in some low-key promotion, it benefits everyone. I’m not saying do something nice simply for the benefit of your business, of course. However, there’s no harm in snagging a bit of credit for the good of your company. For instance, you could volunteer with a charity while wearing something branded with your business, or you could organize a blood drive at your store. People respond well to kindness and good deeds, and they’ll remember your name in a positive way.

Thank Your Customers

One fundamental truth of advertising is, there’s no marketing substitute for a happy customer. They will talk up your business more effectively than any commercial, ad, or skywriter ever could. So how do you make your customers happy? Well, you could throw a customer appreciation day. You could also offer a loyalty or frequent buyer program to keep your customers coming back and bringing friends.

Need more guerrilla marketing ideas? Check out our Pinterest board!

PayGo is a solution provider for independent retailers based in Rochester, Minnesota. Our primary focus is on point of sale / retail management software. We also offer a Merchant Account integration, a WooCommerce integration, Digital Marketing Services, and more.

Everything-Proof your Business with These 5 Tips

The world is an uncertain place. At any moment and without any warning, something might come along and completely change your life for the better or for the worse. We try to predict the future, but despite what economists, psychics, and that one uncle who won’t stop forwarding you those weird chain emails say… we don’t really know what might happen five minutes from now, much less five years. All we do know is that it’s best to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

How does that extend to your business? We can build emergency preparedness kits and plans for ourselves all day, but how can you disaster-proof your store? Check out these 5 tips on Everything-Proofing Your Business:

1. Always be Prepared

Contingency plans are wise to have. Contingency plans for your contingency plans are even wiser. What would you do if your income started drying up? Are there things you can cut from your inventory and your budget to keep afloat? What is carrying your business, and what would you do if that thing went away?

2. Find A Way to Cut Costs and Save Cash Now

This is pretty simple, but the best way to weather a recession is by keeping expenses low and savings high. Are there vendors that would give you a better deal? Do you need all of your employees to work full-time? Can you get rid of items that you don’t use much but still cost you upkeep, such as copiers or fax machines (which you can use at a Kinko’s or some other office-y postal-y place)?

3. Listen to your Customers

This can never be said enough, but pay attention to your customers. They want to keep shopping with you and they will tell you ways to improve your business, bring in new customers, and keep afloat. Consider scheduling meetings with some of your best customers to pick their brains.

4. Marketing is Everything

What’s the best way to get people into your store? Well, there are lots of ways. Top scientists have recently proven that the best way to get people interested in your store is to make them aware that it exists. You’ll never waste money on marketing, as it’s the best way to let people know how awesome you are.

It’s easy to talk about spending marketing money, but what if you’re reading this while in the midst of a worrying income-slump and there simply isn’t enough money for a solid ad campaign? First of all, hello, I’m sorry you’re having problems but you’ll be alright (and you look fabulous, by the way). You can do this on the cheap, by using guerilla marketing tactics such as giveaways, promotions, or social media ads.

5. Demonstrate your Value

Anyone can sell stuff, from kids with lemonade stands to your high school acquaintances with their handbag/energy drink/candle scheme on Facebook. Getting people to buy things is easy, because everyone needs stuff. Big box stores have the edge on you with their convenience and established brand awareness, but you have something that they don’t. Your service. When the going gets tough, the smart add value to their goods instead of cost. Can you offer services for your items? Can you hold workshops that teach people how to use your items? Customers who feel valued and taken care of will come back to you instead of seeking out your competitors. Best of all, they’ll tell their friends about it. Word of mouth is still the best advertising of all.

PayGo is a solution provider for independent retailers based in Rochester, Minnesota. Our primary focus is on point of sale / retail management software. We also offer a Merchant Account integration, a WooCommerce integration, Digital Marketing Services, and more.