Accepting Online Payments

Here’s a quick overview of the two main options you have when considering payments online.  As someone that spent time on the board of directors of an e-commerce focused credit card processor, I’ve seen lots of options come and go in this industry.  While shopping carts are common on websites and many come bundled with web hosting accounts, the methods to accept payment for bills are a bit rarer and can be trickier to implement.  Your two primary options are to use a full service payment processor such as Google Checkout or PayPal, or to create your own solution that uses your own merchant account and a payment gateway you integrate with your website.

Here are the pros and cons of the two main options you have:

  • PayPal/Google Checkout:
    • These are both widely used online payment processors, so your clients are likely to have used them for making purchases from online stores or making online payments.
    • Security is outsourced to their servers, meaning you don’t need to worry about safeguards and regulations that require you to protect credit card and bank account information.
    • The fee structure is simple, and normally winds up costing less at low transaction volumes (less than a few hundred transactions per month)
    • Simple technical implementation- you are often able to get these up and running much faster than a system where you send transactions directly to a credit card processor from your website.
  • Merchant Account/Payment Gateway:
    • You typically need to have a few things to make this happen- a merchant account to process credit cards, an ACH account or instant fund transfer account to process checks, a payment gateway account (such as that links the aforementioned accounts to your website, as well as taking security measures on your web server. 
    • Each of these items have their own fees that can be annual, one time setup fees, monthly, or per transaction (some may incur fees that fall into more than one of those categories).  Most of them also have minimum fees that you would need to pay even if you didn’t process any transactions.  It is not uncommon for the minimum fees to add up to about $100/month, to have setup fees for these accounts that are a few hundred dollars, and to incur lease payments on some of these items.  The per transaction fees are normally far less, so if you process a few hundred transactions per month these accounts can be less expensive.
    • Check processing directly through a bank can often be done faster than through PayPal (since PayPal adds an additional step to the process)- credit cards take about the same amount of time regardless of which system you use.
    • The technical implementation is much more complicated for these setups, and generally requires greater ongoing troubleshooting and support.  At high transaction volumes this becomes worth it due to savings on fees.

If you’re just looking to allow customers to pay invoices online (not selling products), in most cases its best to start with PayPal or Google Checkout, since it is an easy way to get stated and judge the interest from your customers in making payments online.  If it is a big success and hundreds of invoices are paid online each month, then it justifies migrating to a setup with your own merchant account.

South Bay Technology Expo

From time to time we send out special announcements and this is one about an event being held by some good friends of mine. The Holden-Andrew Corporation is on the cutting edge of technology, and they are sponsoring the South Bay Technology Expo in Torrance, CA this Friday, March 9th. I’ll be there, as will many members of the SBA Network team, so if you have any interest in technology, I strongly encourage you to attend. Below are some of the details about this event:

The South Bay Technology Expo is a FREE event that focuses on bridging the gap between business and information technology by placing the latest products and services into the hands of the local business community. The event’s goal is to be an educational resource in a fun, interactive manner. The South Bay Technology Expo is sponsored by Holden-Andrew Corporation, a Managed Information Technology Service Provider in Torrance, CA.This year’s event will take place on Friday, March 9th from 11am to 4pm at the Torrance Marriott (Torrance, 90503)The event’s centerpiece is the presence of Microsoft Across America, a 42-foot long mobile experience where you can demo Microsoft Vista and Office 2007. In addition to Microsoft’s presence, the event also features the following technology providers: Ricoh Document Imaging, BTI Communications (VOIP and Call Center applications), Dell Computers, The New Cingular- At&T Wireless, Fat Pipe, Agility Recovery Solutions, The Daily Breeze (On Line Advertising),and Holden-Andrew Corporation.There will be many giveaways for attendees from these companies, and I will be giving away a few copies of my Attract More Business program.For information and pre-registration please go to or call Melissa Stewart of Holden-Andrew Corporation at (310) 792-4999

Lessons of the Blair Witch

Before we start this week’s business update, I’d like to thank all of our listeners for the great feedback we’ve received about our interview with Tom Hopkins on our radio show two weeks ago. In case you missed it, you can listen to the show over the Internet by clicking here.

-Mark Deo Tired of reading already? Click here- LISTEN TO THIS ARTICLE. In 1993, two young filmmakers decided that it had been too long since they had seen a movie that actually scared them, so they set out to make a scary movie. To keep costs down, they eschewed big name actors, fancy effects, cameramen, and even a script, instead opting to take some unknown actors into the woods, scare them, and have the actors themselves film their reactions. By now you can probably guess I’m talking about “The Blair Witch Project”, which went on to gross well over $100 Million dollars in the United States alone during the summer of 1999. It is generally considered to be one of the most cost effective films ever made, with a budget that has been reported anywhere as low as $2000, to as high as $350,000. No matter where it falls in that range, it clearly was a HUGELY profitable film.

It was widely considered a good movie, qualifying for an 85% rating at There are, however, many low budget movies that are well reviewed, yet they never achieve the same level of success. How is it that they managed to achieve such success?

The filmmakers engaged in what is widely considered one of the best guerilla marketing campaigns of all time. Starting with phony “Missing” posters they used to get an audience at the film festivals they attended and a back story they made up about finding the film rather than making it, they were able to generate enough interest to sell distribution rights to Artisan Entertainment. Then they really got to work.

How did they get millions of Americans to see their movie? Using the Internet like no one before. This article focuses on two primary techniques the filmmakers used, and one additional technique you can use to apply to your own business.

Message Boards
Many people are familiar with message boards and on-line communities- these are what grew out of the old text based days of the Internet before the World Wide Web. Some examples of on-line message board sites I use are a newsgroup all about the car I drive, the Toyota Prius, and one about stand-up comedy at We also have an on-line community on our website at where people can post messages about business issues they face and receive advice from their peers. What the filmmakers did was find message boards that dealt with horror films, urban legends, and independent films. They then became members of these communities- providing information of value to the community. Only then did they begin to post messages about the “legend” of the Blair Witch. If they had joined solely to promote their movie, and not to provide information that the readers of these message boards would find valuable, they would NOT have been successful with this tactic. It is important that if you want to use message boards to promote yourself, that you give to the community first. Try finding some message boards and communities that apply to your business, become involved, and watch the members spread the good word about you.

Chat Rooms
Another element of on-line communities is chat rooms. There are millions of people world wide chatting with another on the Internet as I write this. Go find some chat rooms that match the target audience for your products and services. Some of the more popular chat programs are AOL Instant Messenger and Yahoo! Messenger. By finding chat rooms where people who are interested in the types of products and services gather, you have the potential to gain many “sneezers” for your business. For more about sneezers, read Mark’s article on Buzz Marketing. Again, focus on giving to the community first, or the members will see right through you.

Freebie Sites
One great way to get people talking about your business is by giving something tangible away to people. They can then test out your products and services, and tell others about them. How do you find interested consumers? One great way is with “Freebie” websites. One that I frequent This is a site where people post great deals for products that they find. If you have something to give away to get people interested in your products, this is a great place to make the offer. There are many other sites that are similar, and a quick Google search will find literally hundreds of places you can use to give away samples of your products and services. Be sure, however, to abide by the rules on these sites. The last thing you want to do is post something that the community isn’t interested in and they consider “spam”, as that can yield the opposite of what you want- negative buzz.

In short, use the Internet for all it’s worth- we are lucky to have a communication medium available to us that can generate more publicity for our businesses than an army of PR firms. Use this to your advantage, and you may be the next Internet marketing success story that I’m writing about. If you’re having trouble finding appropriate communities on the web, send me an e-mail- I’ll help you find some people to connect with. I’d also love to hear about how you are using the Internet in your business. Send me an e-mail at and let me know how these techniques are working for you. Have a great week!
This article was written by SBA Network sales technology specialist Matt Walker. You can reach him for more information on this topic at

I hope that this “Business Update” has been helpful in assisting you to improve the performance of your organization. For more information on how the Small Business Advisory Network assists companies in improving their performance, please feel free to contact us at 310-320-8190 or email

Mark Deo

Internet Resources

It’s been a few months since we last sent out some of our favorite Internet resources. This time around I think you’ll find that these are truly some of the most powerful tools available on the web. As Peter Drucker wrote, “Time is the scarcest resource and unless it is managed nothing else can be managed.” So in an effort to save you some time when looking for the answers you need on the web, here are some starting points that you may wish to bookmark.

1) Google Answers:’ve written before about Google the search engine. But did you know you can ask ANY question and have it researched for you on-line? At Google Answers, you enter your question with the amount you are willing to pay for the answer, and pre-screened researchers will go to work finding the answer to your question. These answers are then made available to the public at no cost. Ever wonder who is in charge of marketing for PepsiCo? Thanks to someone out there who paid $15 for the answer, we can all read the result here: This site can be used to provide sales reps with essential pre-approach information without them having to spend their selling time doing research. Give it a try!
2) PDF 995: you have the need to create PDF files occasionally, but not often enough to justify spending hundreds of dollars on Adobe Acrobat? Give PDF 995 a try. It is a FREE alternative to Adobe Acrobat. Just download and install this software and you can select PDF output just as easily as printing a document.
3) Megaproxy: you ever been in a situation where you need access to a website that your network either filters out or is unable to find? Megaproxy is a proxy site for accessing web based content. What you do is use this as a web browser within a browser. Even if your computer is unable to access a webpage directly, if you are able to get to Megaproxy you may still be able to access the site. Just enter the address in the address bar, and you will be viewing content by proxy. This means that it may be able to find content for you, and relay it to your computer. There are both free and paid versions available depending on your needs.
4) RhymeZone: http://rhyme.lycos.comWriting letters, reports, or proposals and need to add some punch to your phrases? Try The Lycos RhymeZone. This website allows you to find words that rhyme with your entries, as well as functioning as a dictionary/thesaurus to help you uncover synonyms, antonyms, homonyms, definitions, quotations, and even search the collected works of Shakespeare! As I discovered when writing this business update, Hamlet once stated, “Words, words, words.” That is truly what this website is all about.
5) The Small Business Advisory Network: OK, this is a shameless plug for our own website. If you haven’t seen our new version, however, click on over and try out some of our newest additions. Search our business update and radio show archives for specific topics at site search, view our library of articles sorted by category at business development articles, ask for help on our new message boards, and check out our free audio learning programs at audio coaching programs. This is THE place to go for FREE business advice on sales, marketing, and management.
I hope these sites are of some value to you. If you are looking for sites that can give you specific information, please feel free to contact us at (310) 320-8190 or send me an e-mail at and I’ll let you know if I know of any.
Have a great week!


What is it?

We are constantly seeing and hearing about electronic commerce or E-Commerce. One might ask, what is it? E-electronic commerce is the conducting of business on-line. This includes, for example, buying and selling products with digital cash and via Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) as well as Internet based credit card and check transactions.How it really works?
It’s quite simple really. To understand E-Commerce all one needs to do is “Follow the money.”
E-commerce can be divided into:

  1. E-tailing or “virtual storefronts” on Web sites with online catalogs, sometimes gathered into a “virtual mall”
  2. The gathering and use of demographic data through Web contacts
  3. Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), the business-to-business exchange of data
  4. E-mail and fax and their use as media for reaching prospects and established customers (for example, with newsletters)
  5. Business-to-business buying and selling
  6. Security of business transactions

E-tailing or The Virtual Storefront and the Virtual Mall
As a place for direct retail shopping, with its 24-hour availability, a global reach, the ability to interact and provide custom information and ordering, and multimedia prospects, the Web is rapidly becoming a multibillion dollar source of revenue for the world’s businesses. A number of businesses already report considerable success. As early as the middle of 1997, Dell Computers reported orders of a million dollars a day. By early 1999, projected e-commerce revenues for business were in the billions of dollars and the stocks of companies deemed most adept at e-commerce were skyrocketing. Apart from computer and network products, books (, gardening products (, music on compact disks (CDNow), and office supplies (SuppliesOnline) were a few of the better-known e-commerce sites. By early 1999, even businesses that have always counted on face-to-face customer interaction were planning e-commerce Web sites and many businesses were planning how to coordinate in-store and Web store retail approaches. Meanwhile, new businesses based entirely on Web sales were being invented daily.Market Research
In early 1999, it was widely recognized that because of the interactive nature of the Internet, companies could gather data about prospects and customers in unprecedented amounts -through site registration, questionnaires, and as part of taking orders. The issue of whether data was being collected with the knowledge and permission of market subjects had been raised. (Microsoft referred to its policy of data collection as “profiling” and a proposed standard has been developed that allows Internet users to decide who can have what personal information.)Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)
EDI is the exchange of business data using an understood data format. It predates today’s Internet. EDI involves data exchange among parties that know each other well and make arrangements for one-to-one (or point-to-point) connection, usually dial-up.E-Mail, Fax, and Internet Telephony
E-commerce is also conducted through the more limited electronic forms of communication called e-mail, facsimile or fax, and the emerging use of telephone calls over the Internet. Most of this is business-to-business, with some companies attempting to use e-mail and fax for unsolicited ads (usually viewed as online junk mail or spam) to consumers and other business prospects. An increasing number of business Web sites offer e-mail newsletters for subscribers. A new trend is opt-in e-mail in which Web users voluntarily sign up to receive e-mail, usually sponsored or containing ads, about product categories or other subjects they are interested in.Business-to-Business Buying and Selling
Thousands of companies that sell products to other companies have discovered that the Web provides not only a 24-hour-a-day showcase for their products but a quick way to reach the right people in a company for more information.The Security of Business Transactions
Security includes authenticating business transactors, controlling access to resources such as Web pages for registered or selected users, encrypting communications, and, in general, ensuring the privacy and effectiveness of transactions. Among the most widely-used security technologies are SSL and RSA. Secure Electronic Transactions (SET) is an emerging industry standard.Recommendations:
These days nearly everyone is claiming to be an E-Commerce/Web Development expert. I have found that very few can be trusted. Try not to deal with a middleman. They make big promises and deliver small results. Go DIRECT with an e-commerce provider. Find a provider that is preferably a large, public company with 24 hour technical support, fully staffed customer service, has SSL and RSA security, and has their own banking and transaction processing solution. This way you’re not stuck dealing with 4 different vendors who all end up pointing fingers at “the other guy” when things don’t work right.It is also absolutely critical that you find a provider that permits YOU to make you own changes to the site and user configurations. You should be given and FTP account and password so that you can go into their server and make changes to your site directly. Some providers even have a simple interface established which will permit you to make site changes WITHOUT uploading our downloading information through an FTP function.