Retailers save $7 Billion! R U getting your share?

Brad Arnott - Credit and Debit Card Processing

New Federal Debit Law will save Retailers $7 Billion!  How to get your share…

By Brad Arnott

Omega Processing Solutions

Did you see the Cincinnati Enquirer article on Sunday, November 6th “Banks Look for New Fees”? There has been much discussion over the last month about new fees the large banks may be charging.  Bank of America received a lot of negative press lately because they intended to charge their debit card customers $5 per month!  Well, there is a reason the large banks are looking to make some money…… is to offset losses from the Durbin Amendment passed as part of the Dodd-Frank Financial Reform package.  This new law caps the fees the large banks can make on debit card purchases, basically a $7 Billion per year loss.  The $7 Billion is being transferred to the retailers and other businesses that accept and process debit cards.

Good news if you own a retail business! My business gets to help pass out some of the $7 Billion in savings!  Since we process credit and debit cards, our costs as a processor has gone down on debit cards from this new law and so we can pass along these savings to our clients.  As you may know, businesses that accept credit/debit cards must pay processing fees.  If you own a business that caters to consumers then you are

debit card

probably receiving a lot of debit cards (swiped or key entered) and qualify for some lower costs.

How do you make sure you are getting your share? Many processors’ (bank and nonbank) margins have been squeezed the last several years and they may not be passing on the savings to the business owner.  Some of Omega’s customers are seeing a significant reduction in fees of hundreds and even thousands of dollars per month.  However, since Visa & MasterCard utilizes a complicated pricing structure you should work with an established local processor and experienced representative that can educate you on the best pricing system to implement.  Don’t fall for the out-of-town telemarketer’s promises though or you may get locked into a contract that is not good for  your business.

Brad Arnott is a partner at Omega Processing Solutions, an award winning local credit/debit card processing company that performs no obligation analysis of merchant’s current processing fees.  Brad can be contacted at 513-755-6501 or $50 gift card if you mention Matt Plapp when switching over your processing services to Omega!

I hope your emails stop, or your phone dies

Brennan Scanlon - Executive Director BNI Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky
Brennan Scanlon - Executive Director BNI Greater Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky

If constantly flowing water can erode rock and create the Grand Canyon, then imagine what constantly flowing emails can do to you.

I was in Baltimore for a speaking engagement recently. I decided to stay a couple of extra days, rented a car, and traveled with my wife to Washington DC. I had never been. The morning we left, I noticed that my emails were no longer coming to my Blackberry. I called Kathie at my office, she stated that my email server was at capacity and she needed to back up and empty my trash folder. “Might take a little while”, she said. Like Linus reluctant to let go of his blanket, I went on with my day. Out of touch.

While in Washington we went to the White House. We went to the Lincoln Memorial. Then, we found ourselves at the Vietnam Memorial. I walked slowly along looking at all the names on the great wall. Every three steps I took represented another thousand men who died for our nation. We then made our way to the World War II Memorial. It took me at least 40 minutes to make my way around. I read stories of heroism, and quotes from Truman and Roosevelt. After an afternoon of honoring all those men and women who gave their lives so that I can live the life I enjoy, I reached into my pocket. I pulled out my phone, and still no emails.

I hope your emails stop, or your phone dies. At least temporarily. Mine did, and for those few hours, it was the best thing that happened to me in a long time. Vision, perspective, and inspiration can only come when your mind is clear from distraction. Later that evening, my emails came in. There were 72. Half were junk, and the rest I returned in the 30 minutes.

On any other day, I would have been thumbing through my phone. With each scroll and click, I would has stepped past another quote and another soldier not being revered or remembered. The tempo of life is at a new, unsurpassed pace. Information flows faster than ever. However, the information can be too much to absorb, and too easy to send. We are becoming victims of our own technology, and unless we learn how to manage it, it will overtake us. The world is changing. Don’t let it change you from being some who can stop, turn off, and pay attention to what truly matters.

Brennan Scanlon is a Referral Institute Franchise owner as well as an Executive Director for BNI, Business Network Int’l ( SW Ohio & No. KY Region. He has been ranked in the Top 10% of BNI Directors nationally for the last two consecutive years, this ranking resulting in performance reviews submitted by BNI members.  Most recently, Brennan has been inducted into BNI’s Founder’s Circle 2008-2009 as nominated by his peers and approved by BNI’s Founder, Dr. Ivan Misner.

How Much Are You Risking To Theft?

I recently attended a  fraud prevention seminar at The Cintas Center hosted by US Bank.  The speaker was  Frank Abagnale (the movie “Catch Me If You Can” was based of his life) and he was great.  It was eye opening to hear how much money is stolen every year from consumers and small businesses.  In fact, most of the theft within small businesses is from an employee that you’d never expect.  I’ve not taken this many notes at an event in a long time and I’m going to be putting up some of his links and suggestions.   Below you’ll find my top 10 take-aways from this event, and I’ll warn you, you’re probably not doing ANY OF THESE.  He had every business owner in attendance wondering if they had money missing.

Frank -AbagnaleThe 1 word you’ll hear throughout this is “Opportunity”.  Frank says that is the biggest reason for theft.

1.  Bank Statements – Have ALL company bank statements mailed to your home.  WHY, because this takes away the Opportunity for your accounting department to alter the statements and hide something they may be doing behind your back.  In fact, this is a major issue with many small businesses.  An underpaid accounting clerk thinks they are owed something, are they taking it from you?

2.  If they steal, or should I say WHEN they steal from you – There is 1 branch of the US Government that no one wants calling them, the IRS.  Many times it’s hard to prosecute a theft by an employee or vendor.  If all else fails and you can’t get your money back, send them a 1099.  Take the write-0ff and let the IRS deal with them.  Frank said that this threat alone will have them calling to arrange a payment plan.

3.  Fake Money – Most employees don’t know how to recognize fake money.  PH pens don’t work all the time and can easily be tricked.   If you are in a cash business, your cashier should have a magnifying glass and know what to look for on the different bills.  For example, the $100 bill has “United States of America” on Benjamin Franklin’s jacket.  You would only see this detail with a magnifying glass.  This is just 1 of many items that fake bills won’t have.

4.  Shredders – You should be shredding EVERYTHING, but only with the Micro Shredders.  The most popular Strip Cut and Cross Cut shredders are easily put back together.  In his presentation Frank showed how the FBI pieced together numerous garbage bags on shredded documents to find out exactly what they needed to know.  With Micro Shredders, it”s impossible.

5. Your Checks – I was amazed at how easy it was for a check to be changed.  He took a check that had just been printed with a ink jet printer (what he said is commonly used).  He applied a piece of scotch tape and put it over the payee and with a few presses, it lifted off the payee, which he then entered his name.  He talked about how this happened to a national magazine that ended up printing a story on check fraud because of this.  They sent a subscriber a refund check of $33.33.  Someone took that check and forged it to a different person for $333,000.33.  It worked, the guy was off with the cash 4 days later and the magazine didn’t catch it until the next month.  There is only 1 check that is FRAUD PROOF, it’s Abagnale Super Business Check, it’s a must see.

6. Your Pen – Yes your pen that you sign checks with.  The ONLY pen (according to Frank) that is permanent is the Black Uni-Ball 207 Gel.  Believe it or not this inexpensive pen found at any office supply store is the only pen will leave the ink on permanently.  No chemical wash or scotch tape trick will take it off.

7. Positive Pay – This is a system that banks Cash Management Departments have that allows you to send them a file each day with the checks written that day (must be done before checks are cashed).  When the checks are presented for processing, it automatically matches the information you supplied.  It compares the account number, the check number, dollar amount and sometimes the payee name on the check.  If all components don’t match exactly it becomes an “exception item.”  The bank then contacts the customer to determine each exception item’s authenticity.  If there is an issue and something fraudulent is exposed then the check is returned unpaid.

8. Wire Transfers – This is one of the easiest ways to lose a LOT OF MONEY.  Wire instructions contain all the information necessary to draft against a bank account.  To avoid this scam, set up a separate account that is used exclusively for incoming credits.  Place the account on “no check activity” and make it a “Zero Balance Account” (ZBA).  This will save you from any major headaches.

9. Copy Machine Hard Drives – Most copy machines have a hard drive that stores EVERY IMAGE that you’ve ever copied.  If  you ever get rid of your machine you want to remove the hard drive.  Frank talked about a time when they went to random dealer of used machines and pulled the hard drive from a few machines and they found many items that these companies would not have wanted in the wrong hands.

10. Know Who To Look For – More than 80% of occupational fraud cases, and 95% of their resulting losses, come from six departments:  accounting, operations, upper management, sales, customer service, and purchasing.  Two-thirds are male and they cause twice as many losses as females.  More than half of all cases are committed by people 31-to-45, but the greatest losses come from 60+ upper management.   86% of perpetrators were first-time offenders making background checks less effective.  What this also means is that you probably have what you think is a good relationship with this person.  This is why you have your bank statements mailed to your home.

If you get a chance visit Franks website,  And i you ever get invited to hear him speak I highly recommend you attend.

Are You Giving?

Andrea-Whitley-Genuine-expressions-online-gift-basketsWith 4th quarter fast approaching it is time to consider your client and employees. Now is the time to say Thank You; Thank you for your business through these tough times, for your hard work; thank you for the referrals, and thank you for your continued support.

Giving a gift in the business world has become a tradition over the last few years. A few points to consider

• With the tough economic times we are facing, you may be thinking that maybe this year, I will not give a gift. If you have given gifts in the past, continue to do so. If you need to scale back on the cost, that is understandable but not sending any gift without any explanation may lead to hurt feelings.

• Consider a budget and stick to it. Plan ahead and talk to someone in the profession who can give you price quotes on small, medium and large orders. Also, order early! Many companies give discounts if you order your holiday gifts in advance.

• Know your customers! What are their likes and dislikes? Personal interests? Make the gifts personalized if possible with company colors, personalized card or labels and items they will enjoy.

What office worker wouldn't love this!

• Are you going to include promotional items? When saying “thank you” to your clients and customers don’t overload a gift basket with pens, pencils, mugs, and note pads with your company logo. Just add one or maybe two items at most! Remember, this gift is to say Thank You.

• Is this gift for one person, 5 people or 10 people? Make sure the gift is the correct size.

Now that you have your clients/customer taken care of, now let’s focus on your employees. One great way to retain employees is to recognize and thank them for their hard work. It is important and sometimes forgotten. Businesses will remember their clients but sometimes forget their employees. They are the backbone of your company and deserve the recognition.

Listed below are some great gift ideas for clients, employees for even friend and family! Just remember that many companies are inundated with gifts the entire month of December. Giving a gift is a great idea but why not stand out from the crowd? The Holidays are a great time to send a gift but what about Fall, Halloween, Thanksgiving and New Year?

You can say thank you with a gift for Fall that could include items such as hot chocolate, marshmallows, flavored coffees and teas, chocolate truffles and biscotti. Or you could send one with bread and soup mixes for those cool fall days. Who wouldn’t want a warm bowl of soup on a cool fall day?

Halloween is another time to send gifts:
• Candy baskets with ghouls and goblins or pumpkins and black cats. Each one overflowing with treats such as popcorn, Skittles, M & M’s, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and more! If you are trying to stay healthy you can always sugar free and fat free snacks.

The Holidays, Winter or New Years, are always a great time to let someone know you are thinking of them.

• Snowflake boxes, Santa bags, stockings, winter baskets, gift boxes and more; all of these can be filled with winter treats from candy to coffee or summer sausage and cheese with crackers to peanut brittle and fudge or truffles.Holiday=Christmas_Greeting-holiday-company-employee-gift-baskets

For any of the gift ideas mentioned here, please allow Genuine Expressions to provide these gifts. We can do one to two baskets for a company or as many as 100+, all of which can be customized. Or you can order from our great selection on-line! Please visit If you would like to place a custom order or large quantity order call Andrea Whitey, owner, at 513-532-1494 or email

Are you building relationships?

Matt PlappHave you ever been sitting through a sales pitch and wondered what the other person is thinking about while the spew senseless product stats and talk your ear off?  Are you tired of losing sales and clients because of price?  Read below!

In my past life in the boat business I can think how this example played out to show the value of a relationship.  We purchased a small boat dealership that sold Mercury, Johnson, Evinrude and Yamaha outboard motors.  Mercury was 99% of their business and Yamaha was a very small part of the remaining 1%.  Within the first year we got to meet our reps from each company.  Our Yamaha rep, Terry, was new to the business and was a hustler.  Our Mercury rep was an industry veteran and thought his home office was where he should spend most of his time.  I’ve always been a big believer that you have to see your clients on your terms, not theirs.  Meaning, don’t think you’re doing your job when the only time you see them is when they make the effort (like attending a trade show).

Our Yamaha rep was by our store every 4-6 weeks.  He never negative sold, in fact, most of his visits were just to say hello and talk about life and family.  When he did talk about products it was to point out subtle differences and talk about their current promotions.  He went out of his way to become friends with all of our sales staff and took great care of them.  In fact, he realized that our sales people controlled what our customers bought more than anyone else.  The Mercury rep would have had a hard time naming 1 of our 7 sales people.  Long story short, within 2 years we were a top 10 dealer for Yamaha in the US.  They went from under 5 motors sold per year to over 170, while Mercury dropped off the map.

This change had nothing to do with the product, let’s face it, every company has a competitor that offers very similar products.  This came down to a relationship.

Flash forward to June 2011.  I was attending a franchise dealer meeting with a client in Las Vegas.  This meeting included break-out sessions with many of the manufacturers whose products are sold in their stores.  We attended around 6 of these sessions and I had a hard time not falling asleep…EXCEPT in 1.

The first 5 sessions were all the same, a sales rep standing in front of 100+ people puking product info.  In fact, most of them read from their product book/labels and told us EVERYTHING that we could care less about.  As a person who has sold many different products I understand what it takes to close deals.  It’s not talking about the compression of the cylinders, oil to gas ratio or every ingredient in a particular product.  Your customers want to know a little of this, but they mainly want to make sure your products or services have the benefits to live up to their expectation and that you will take great care of them.

THEN there was Pat.  Pat was a machine.  The 2 days before his presentation I watched him on the show floor.  EVERYONE knew him.  He had more hugs, high fives and screams of any booth/rep in the show.  This showed me his relationships were deeps.   He not only had 100+ people in the room, it was STANDING ROOM ONLY.  Afterwards I knew why.  Pat had the same 1 hour slot as everyone else.  But instead of spending 58 minutes on his products like the others, he spent maybe 5 minutes.  Instead of boring us with the product info he talked to his audience about what he knew would really help them:

1.  How to get customers in the stores.

2.  How to keep customers coming back to the stores via relationship building.

3.  How to up-sell for more profits.

He had energy in his presentation that I’d not seen in a long time.  His passion, past retail experience and understanding of what it took to help his clients was spot-on.  He talked about creating relationships (ironic since he was practicing what he preached), how to create loyal customers and how to pair his products with his competitors to increase your average ticket and profit margins.  It was great and even better to see that my client spent most of their money with him.

The point of this is simple.  Customers don’t care that much about ratings, options and features.  THEY WANT YOU and the benefits of dealing with you and your company. I challenge you to stop and watch your staff’s sales presentations.  Go on client visits with them and see how strong their relationships are.  Here’s a hint, if 98% of the visit is about your products and not the life and family of them and their customers…THEY DON’T have relationships or long term clients.  They are a commodity.  Their replacement is 1 incoming cold call.  Price and features only go so far, customer loyalty is built on relationships.

Matt Plapp is a the President of Driven Media Solutions, a Full Service Marketing Firm in the Cincinnati Northern Kentucky area specializing in small business marketing via grass-roots, events, guerilla, online and social media marketing. You can contact him at

Are you passing the buck?

Matt PlappBy now you are finding out if your marketing plan is working for 2011 and tweaking it to get the most out of your budget and staff.  I remember the days when I was cold calling in radio back in the early 2000’s and I’d call a customer this time of year to hear “Our marketing budget is gone until next year, call back in November”.  At first I took it and called back in the Fall.  Then I soon realized it was an easy way to get me off the phone.

2 Questions for you:

1.  Are your sales people settling for this classic blow-off?  If so you better change that before your competitors sales people realize it’s just a ploy to get off the phone and close a deal you missed.

2.  Are you using this to get the annoying sales people to leave you alone and not looking at new ideas that could help you increase profits?  I know the headache, for 10 years in retail I received hundreds of these calls per month.  It was tough to listen to everyone, but I was amazed at what I found out when I did.  I challenge you to take more of those calls serious and see what you might be missing.

Is Your Business Easy To Find Online?

Doug Smith - Cincinnati Radio Marketing Consultant
Doug Smith - Cincinnati Radio Marketing Consultant

Last night, thanks to yet another big thunderstorm, most of my area lost power.  Having no lights was one thing, but no power to a sump pump was another.  My wife and I spent four hours at my mother-in-laws house bailing water out of the sump pump so her basement didn’t flood.  Fill a bucket, run upstairs to the kitchen, empty the bucket in the sink, run downstairs, and repeat….for four solid hours!

Just a few years ago, the only way I could have stayed in contact with the outside world would have been to call someone on my cell phone or turn on a battery operated radio.  But, thanks to my smart-phone, I was able to contact friends via Facebook who had also lost power and we kept each other updated on if, or when, power had been restored to their area.  I was able to price generators at a local home improvement store, obtain updates on the power issues from multiple news outlets, and use The Weather Channel app to keep an eye on the weather in hopes that the rain would stop and give us a break on our sump pump efforts.

In the best of times, and in the worst of times, technology makes it easier than ever to find what you need when you need it.

Are you making it easy for your customers to find you when they need you?

As I always say, the point of advertising is to educate your customers about your business BEFORE they need you, so that WHEN then need you they will FIND you.  Times have changed and your marketing efforts need to match the times.  If you are not educating your customers about your goods and services on a consistent basis, as well as building your digital footprint, there is a good chance your biggest competitor is.  In time, you could find yourself under water…… and trust me, bailing yourself out is no fun.

Doug Smith is a Senior Account Executive for WREW Rewind 94.9 and in Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky.  You can contact Doug at  (513) 535-9123 or

Where does marketing stop in your company?

Matt Plapp
Matt Plapp

When I’m consulting my clients on marketing it gets hard to determine the line of where marketing stops.  Many think it’s tied to the advertising, when in fact it goes way beyond that, but I’m not sure how far.  A great story I heard a few years ago by a very successful retailer in Naples Florida makes me wonder if it does stop.

Noel was the business owner’s name.  He had a very high-end boat dealership and his customers were the wealthiest in the area.   He was in his office overlooking the showroom as a couple was completing the paperwork on their purchase. The wife excused herself and a few minutes later came over and whispered in the husband’s ear.  Poof, they were gone.  He couldn’t believe his eyes.  One minute they were customers and the next they are bolting for their Mercedes Benz.  He had to know what happened.  He rushed out of his office and caught them in the parking lot.  Noel introduced himself as the owner and asked “what happened?”  The wife told him she went to use the restroom and was upset with how disgusting it was.  She wondered how a business that just recently remodeled their beautiful showroom could ignore the women’s restroom.  She questioned him about whether he wanted female clients.

He was crushed. Of course he wanted female clients, but thought I could I miss this?  If I remember the story correctly, he mentioned that they didn’t have female employees who used that bathroom and somehow it fell between the cracks.  Of course they fixed it ASAP and invited the young lady to come back and give them her thoughts.  She did, she approved and finished their paperwork.

This begs the question, where does your marketing stop?  Recently I was in a business that had an underage girl working the counter (presumably the owner’s kid).   Another business I was in had their “Employee of the Month” plaque displayed next to the register; the problem was the last time it was updated for 2007???  So I guess no one has done a good enough job to earn this distinction in over 3 years?  Then my favorite was a business that had different colors on their P.O.P displays, store sign, website and employees shirts.  I had no clue where I was.

Do you really want your customers being waited on by someone who can’t possibly represent your company in a professional manner?  Do you want people to see that you are so lazy that you can’t fix your plaque?  And more importantly do you want to confuse people about your brand?

I guess the conclusion is that your marketing touches every part of your business.  You MUST be aware of everything going on within your organization.  In fact, before you buy a SINGLE advertisement you need to make sure everything under your roof is ready for the customers to come in.  Don’t invite customers in until you are ready for them. Would you rather grow slower and correctly?  Or faster and burn through customers with bad experiences?

Matt Plapp is a the President of Driven Media Solutions, a Full Service Marketing Firm in the Cincinnati Northern Kentucky area specializing in small business marketing via grass-roots, events, guerilla, online and social media marketing. You can contact him at

8 Easy Ways To Make Your Customers Love You

Increase Your Sales With Customer LoyaltyApr 13, 2011 –

Everyone knows you can’t have a business without customers. However, one of the worst mistakes any business can make is focusing its marketing efforts on attracting new clients while neglecting past and current customers. Studies have shown that the cost of acquiring a new customer is far greater than what it costs to generate business from an existing client.

Thanking your clients for their business can also set you apart from your competitors, increase loyalty, boost sales and even build relationships that last a lifetime. Effective marketing depends on repeat exposure and showing appreciation is an affordable and effective way to build your company’s presence.

Here’s what you can do to show your clients how grateful you are for their business:

1. Send a thank you card after an appointment or major purchase. Thoughtful and unexpected thank you notes are an easy way to let people know you appreciate them. Consider sending a hand-written note in the mail. Sending birthday cards with a coupon is another way to express your appreciation.

2. Give small gifts. Token items such as flowers, books, and mugs make thoughtful gifts for clients. These can be sent on special occasions or can be sent for no other reason than to show your gratitude.

3. Let them choose their own reward. Give people what they want by letting them choose among several options. Introduce a rewards program that lets customers choose from a variety of gifts or coupons if they spend a certain amount within a month, for example.

4. Surprise them. Select repeat customers at random and surprise them with a free gift or a discount. Zappos, a company that is renowned for its strong customer service and company culture, gives “surprise” free upgrades to overnight shipping for many customers.

5. Fill customer service roles with people who are patient and have a pleasant attitude. Encourage your employees to be personable, particularly when they interact with your customers. “It’s the simple things that mean the most to everyday people, it’s about caring and listening to the customer,” Jane Judd, the senior manager of Zappos’ Customer Loyalty Team, tells Econsultancy. “Many times retailers are about the sale and not the experience. We try our best to be personable and we don’t upsale our customers or put a time limit on our calls.”

6. Implement your customers’ suggestions and tell them about it. Score points with your customers by proving to them you’re taking their suggestions and complaints seriously.

7. Reward referrals. The highest compliment a business owner can receive is a referral. Always acknowledge when a customer sends business your way.This gesture deserves recognition in the form of a thank you note, discount on services or small gift card.

8. Pay it forward. If your clients are business owners, look for ways to refer business to them in return.

Be aware that some industries have strict guidelines about accepting gifts. Gifts can be perceived as bribes so when in doubt, ask your clients if such policies exist or stick to sending items with no monetary value.

Compliments of American Express Open Forums

Are you giving good instructions?

Matt Plapp - Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky Marketing & Social Media Consultant
Matt Plapp - Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky Marketing & Social Media Consultant

Recently I bought a new desk.  Once the boxes were delivered to my house, I unpacked everything and organized the pieces by their letter and number.  Ten years ago I would have been stressed looking at these 25 pieces of wood and bags of hardware.  The task of making everything look like the display the store would have seemed impossible.  But I’ve learned a thing or two over the years, the most important is to follow the instructions.  I followed every word on every page and sure enough a few hours later I’ve got a beautiful new desk.  This was similar to my experience over Christmas with my son and his Lego’s, everything went as planned, except for searching for an occasional dropped piece:)

I bring this up because I can’t help but think how detailed instructions could make customer service top notch.  What if every time you hired an employee you had a multi-page document that outlined your company, what you did, why you did it and the expected result.  If every task they were required to perform was written down to the smallest possible detail.  Just imagine how many of your customer complaints would go away.  How many times does a customer have a bad experience with your company because a few steps were skipped in the process?

Now, relate this to your marketing plan.  Have you ever written down everything you are going to do each month to help drive sales and profits.  Defined the goals of each marketing medium and outlined to your staff how this should be carried out?  How can you expect good results without doing this?  AND how can you judge a particular advertisement without setting the proper ROI goals and expectations.

My challenge to you is not only to sit down and write out instructions for your business before 2011 is gone, but to also map out your marketing plans just like you were leaving tomorrow to drive to Nebraska.  Make a plan and stick to it, and I’m sure you’ll have a great looking desk in 9 months.

Matt Plapp is a the President of Driven Media Solutions, a Full Service Marketing Firm in the Cincinnati Northern Kentucky area specializing in small business marketing via grass-roots, events, guerilla, online and social media marketing. You can contact him at