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Do it once (and only once) with workflow automation

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Do it once (and only once) with workflow automation

There’s a concept in productivity philosophy that suggests you “only handle it once” (OHIO) — the idea is that you immediately deal with whatever crosses your desk rather than wasting time by setting it aside and getting back to it later. When designing workflows for myself and my team, I like to take this a step further and set up processes in such a way that people need only do a simple task a single time. 

“Why would you do something more than once?” you might ask. You may not think of it that way, but, in many cases, everyday work involves doing the same thing several times. For example, you mark a task as done in your product management software, then send an email to your colleague to let them know it’s complete. You enter content into the CMS for your website, then copy the same content to the system you use for your mobile site. Not only is this kind of thing inefficient, but every time you’re entering or copying data from one system to another, you risk introducing errors. 

In my last article, I explained how I save new contacts’ information by entering it into a form that then updates a variety of different systems. This time, I’ll walk you through a few more examples, explaining the automation tools that enable them. 

Cross-posting from one website to another

At one time, we’d frequently cross-post content from one of our sites to another whenever the article would be of interest to both audiences. Rather than start completely from scratch, I designed a workflow where editors would select a certain category in WordPress (which wouldn’t be displayed on the site) to indicate that a piece should be published on both sites. 

The annotated screenshot above, along with this shared Zap, gives you a sense of how this worked. The trigger setting the workflow in motion was the publication of any article on the first site. The first thing Zapier did, using its built-in filter function, is to see whether the requisite category was checked. If not, nothing more would happen. 

If the Zap continued, it next copied over the featured image associated with the article. This took several steps, in part because we were getting a lot of time-out errors on the second site. We solved this, for the most part, by getting the name of the featured image file, downloading the image to our Google Drive if there wasn’t already a file with that name in the folder, then uploading that image to the second WordPress site. 

We continued to have time-out problems, so I set up a step whereby if the image wasn’t uploaded successfully to the second WordPress site, a default generic image would be selected instead. This kept the process rolling along rather than getting stuck on an error. 

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Finally, the system would create a new post on the second WordPress site, copying over the headline, body copy and featured image. The rest of the images within the article were still hosted on the first site, which we’d decided we were OK with. The resulting post was set to Draft status rather than automatically published because we did have to do a few things manually. 

The manual part (and why)

First, you may notice the process doesn’t address the question of authorship. Because WordPress stores authors as ID numbers, and because our author IDs differed from one site to another, we couldn’t just copy an ID over. At one point, we did a lookup in Google Sheets that matched ID numbers from one site to another, but that ended up being difficult to maintain so we went with selecting the author by hand.

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Our categories and category IDs differ from one site to the other, too, which means we categorized the articles after they’d been copied over to the second site. In addition, we went into the Yoast SEO plug-in and designated the original URL as canonical. This also gave us the opportunity to check the article over to ensure everything functioned as intended before publishing. 

Making form submissions go further 

The submission of a form is a fantastic time to trigger other events. For our MarTech Intelligence Reports, we use a form to gather information about software vendors in the categories we cover. When someone we’ve asked to fill a questionnaire hits submit, this triggers a number of processes. 

  1. The company logo they’ve uploaded gets added to a Google Drive folder set up for this purpose.
  2. The answers are copied into a Google Doc, which serves as the starting point for a vendor profile. Internal parties receive an email notification with a link to the draft.
  3. The submitter receives an email acknowledgment.
  4. The status of the ClickUp task representing that vendor profile is automatically updated to indicate that we’ve received the form submission
  5. A comment is posted to the ClickUp task with a link to the draft document. 
  6. The vendor’s analysis of industry trends goes into my unstructured data store tool, Mem, so I can tap it when writing the analytical part of the report. 
  7. The submitter’s name, company and email address are added to my directory of contacts.

I’ll walk you through a few of these processes so you can see how it all happens.

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Even though we cover a lot of different software types in our MarTech Intelligence Reports, we use a single questionnaire to gather info from vendors. That questionnaire uses conditional logic to ensure the right questions appear for the correct category. This means that when we make a change to a question that’s required for every vendor, we don’t need to change it 12 times in 12 different forms. We also use a hidden field to link the form to the task for which it is being submitted using a task ID. 

Uploading the company logo (number 1 above) uses a simple JotForm function to call a webhook at the time of submission, sending the uploaded image to the proper Google Drive folder. 

Creating a Google Doc draft from the form input (number 2) uses native JotForm functionality to send an email with form data when it’s submitted. One general challenge with these form submissions is that even though the conditional logic prevents certain questions from appearing to the person filling out the form, those questions (and blank answers) are output whenever you export the form data. And as we expand to cover new categories, this issue grows larger. 

We get around this by utilizing the native email notification feature, which is set to only include fields that are completed. The email goes to a Zapier tool called “Email Parser by Zapier” that parses the email with all the questions and answers (but only the relevant ones, because the blank ones weren’t sent over) and copies plain text into a Google Doc.

It’s not formatted very nicely, but it’s a good head start, putting the answers into the tool we will use to write the profile. That same Zap emails the team working on the report with a link to the Google Doc so we can get to work.

Automatically setting the status of the ClickUp Task (number 4) is something I’ve only recently implemented and I’m really finding it useful. The form submission triggers a webhook from Zapier that passes over the task ID number from the hidden form field. That sets off a POST to the ClickUp API that checks a box in the linked task to indicate that the form has been submitted. 

I’m using the API instead of the native Zapier ClickUp integration because the native connector requires me to designate a space, a folder and a list for each Zap. Because of the way our tasks are organized in ClickUp, this means I’d need a separate Zap (or some other functionality) for each report. With the API, I only have to specify the unique ClickUp task ID to work with that task.

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For whatever reason, though, the API doesn’t allow me to change task statuses. So I have a checkbox within the task record that essentially asks “is the form submitted?” and that box is checked through the API when it is. Then, I use native ClickUp automations to change the task status to “Info Submitted” and put a little comment on the record alerting the assignee. 

This process doesn’t “know” about the other Zap that creates the Google Doc, however, so another API call (number 5) is for connecting the task and the draft. Whenever a new Doc is created in the designated folder, Zapier parses the title of the document and extracts the task ID (which I’ve set up to be the last part of the title).

With that task ID, it uses the ClickUp API to POST a new comment to the task providing the assignee with the Google Doc URL.

How it appears in ClickUp

As I explain this, I realize that I probably ought to combine number 2 and number 5 into a single Zap. See? We’re all learning together!

Is all this worth the trouble?

As you can see, there is a lot of detail work involved in setting up these workflows and, like any other computer process, it’s not very forgiving — include an extra space or leave off a slash mark and that’s the whole thing scuppered. 

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That said, if you’re automating processes your team encounters over and over in the course of their daily grind, it’s well worth the trouble of the initial setup. We’re doing 12 MIRs this year and each one of them has somewhere between ten and 22 profiles, so it’s worth it to me to set this up once and potentially benefit 286 times in 2022 alone. Once automated workflows like this are functioning smoothly, they eliminate a lot of mind-numbing repetitive work and let you focus on more creative, strategic tasks. 


About The Author

Pamela Parker is Research Director at Third Door Media’s Content Studio, where she produces MarTech Intelligence Reports and other in-depth content for digital marketers in conjunction with Search Engine Land and MarTech. Prior to taking on this role at TDM, she served as Content Manager, Senior Editor and Executive Features Editor. Parker is a well-respected authority on digital marketing, having reported and written on the subject since its beginning. She’s a former managing editor of ClickZ and has also worked on the business side helping independent publishers monetize their sites at Federated Media Publishing. Parker earned a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University.

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MARKETING

How to Accept Payments Online [7 Top Payment Processing Providers]

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How to Accept Payments Online [7 Top Payment Processing Providers]

With only 16% of consumers carrying cash and the popularity of ecommerce, if you don’t have a payment processor for your business, you’re missing out.

In this post, we’ll talk about the software options available for accepting payments online — including some free options, and how payment processing can help streamline your business processes and increase sales.

But first, let’s cover the basics of how payment processing works.

What is payment processing?

A payment processor is a company that facilitates electronic payments (credit card, digital wallets, ACH) between a business and the bank. Essentially payment processors handle all of the backend logistics between merchants, banks, and credit card companies that enable businesses to accept payment.

How does payment processing work?

When you shop at a retailer and pay with a credit card, the payment processor works in the background to authenticate and complete the transaction, moving the money from your account to the business’ account.

Here’s what happens behind the scenes when a customer makes a card payment:

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  1. A customer gives the merchant their credit or debit card to make a purchase. This is either done using a payment terminal in-person or through an online payment page.
  2. The card information goes through a payment gateway or portal which encrypts the customer’s personal data to ensure privacy and sends it to the payment processor.
  3. The payment processor then sends a request to the customer’s issuing bank to see if they have enough credit (or cash if using a debit card) to pay for the purchase.
  4. The card issuer either approves or denies the purchase.
  5. The payment processor sends this “approved” or “denied” info back to the retailer to complete the transaction with the customer.
  6. Once complete, the processor tells the customer’s bank to send funds to the retailer’s banking institution.

While this sounds like a lot of steps, it all happens in a matter of seconds and requires no work on your end or the customer’s.

Benefits of Payment Processing

Here’s a look at some of the advantages payment processing software will bring to your business.

1. Convenience

Convenience is one of the main factors that influence conversion rate. The more steps a customer has to take to make a payment, the more likely they are to abandon their purchase and go elsewhere.

2. Speed

Payment processors can transfer most payments between shoppers and sellers instantly. On the other hand, transfers to and from bank accounts can sometimes take 24 hours or more.

3. Trust

Many payment processors are brands that are globally recognized. If a customer already uses payment software, they’re more likely to trust your payment system.

4. Security

Payment processing companies add an extra layer of protection to online transactions. You can set limits, flags for activity on your account, and sometimes even a time frame to recall payments.

5. Record-Keeping

With payment processors, you’ll have access to your account online and can manage your contacts, recurring payments, and other account activity via desktop or mobile.

Costs to Consider When Using Payment Processors

While payment processors offer convenience and security among other perks, they also come at a cost. Each player in the payment chain — banks, credit card companies, and the payment processor takes their cut. Here are some of the transaction fees to look out for.

  • Interchange Fee: These are fees paid to the card issuer (Chase, TD Bank, Bank of America, etc.) The card issuer gets paid by getting a percentage of each sale.
  • Assessment Fee: These fees are paid to credit card associations (Visa, Mastercard, Amex).
  • Acquirer or processor Fee: These are fees paid to the processor (PayPal, Square, Stripe).
  • Merchant Fee: This is a fee paid to your merchant bank. The percentage charged will depend on the volume of transactions, the number of sales, and the industry.

The interchange, assessment, and merchant fees are bundled together and quoted as one percentage. The Processor fee is quoted separately. For example, your transaction fees could be 3% total with a $0.20 processor fee per transaction. This will be good to keep in mind when considering what pricing structure to go with, which we’ll explore in the next section.

Payment Processing Pricing Structure

Another factor to consider is pricing structure, which will vary from one processor to another. This structure typically falls within the categories below:

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1. Interchange Plus

With Interchange Plus pricing, the retailer pays an additional fee plus the interchange amount. For example, you would be paying a 3% interchange rate plus a $0.25 per transaction.

  • Pros: This can be a more cost-effective option than other structures.
  • Cons: Because there are hundreds of interchange rates, the costs will vary significantly from one transaction to the next.

2. Flat-Rate

This is a fixed rate percent for all transactions paid in a certain manner regardless of the interchange rate. For example, you could pay 2% plus $0.20 for in-person purchases and 2.5% plus $0.25 for online purchases.

Pros: Your costs are predictable.

Cons: Your costs may be higher than the interchange plus model if you have a high volume of sales.

3. Tiered

Tiered pricing combines aspects of flat-rate and interchange plus. In this model, interchange rates are categorized into buckets or tiers. The processor then assigns a cost to each tier. For example, on a $75 purchase, you could have fees ranging from $2 to $3 depending on which tier it has been classified as.

Pros: Rates are easier to understand since the hundreds of possible interchange fees are bundled into predetermined tiers, making costs more predictable.

Cons: Since the processor sets the tiers, the overall costs can be higher than the other options.

Now that we’ve explained the costs, let’s look at some of the best online payment processors on the market.

Top Online Payment Processing Providers

Once you’ve developed a strategy for accepting payments online, you’ll need to decide which payment processing provider to use. Here are seven of the most popular options:

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1. PayPal

Payment Processing Provider: Paypal

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Price: 3.49% plus $0.49 per transaction.

PayPal is one of the most trusted and widely recognized payment processing companies. It’s free to join and they provide all the tools you’ll need to integrate PayPal payments into your website and set up a secure payment gateway for visitors. Additionally, comprehensive coverage makes the platform a good choice for international companies.

2. Stripe

Payment processing provider: stripe

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Price: 2.9% plus $0.30 per transaction.

Stripe offers a wide range of options for online businesses such as customizable checkouts as well as subscription management and recurring payment features. Stripe supports all major credit cards, mobile paying apps, wallets, and more.

3. Square

Accept Payments Online for Free: square

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Price: 2.9% plus $0.30 per transaction.

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Square entered the payment processing space by introducing a dongle that sellers could insert into a mobile phone to accept credit card transactions.

They’ve since expanded their software to cover all the major payment processing options and have included some useful tools for online businesses as well as high-street stores.

You can even create a basic website for free and integrate all of their point-of-sale (POS) solutions at the same time. They also have paid options for a custom website.

4. Google Pay

How to Accept Payments Online for Free: google pay

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Price: Google Pay doesn’t charge any fees — merchants only pay transaction fees as usual with credit/ debit sales.

Google Pay has a payment tool for businesses, websites, and apps. Google Pay’s APIs work to create a delightful checkout and payment experience for your customers.

If you use Google Pay on your website, you’ll gain secure and easy access to hundreds of millions of cards saved to Google Accounts worldwide so customers can pay for your products safely and at the touch of a button.

5. Apple Pay

How to Accept Payments Online for Free: apple pay

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Price: Apple Pay doesn’t charge any fees — merchants only pay transaction fees as usual with credit/ debit sales.

Apple Pay can be used on websites, in stores, by app, and via Business Chat or iMessage. It allows Apple users to quickly and safely input contact, payment, and shipping information during checkout.

Rather than having your ecommerce customers look around for their credit cards, Apple Pay allows them to checkout at the click of a button within apps and websites. On a website, an Apple users will simply click “Apple Pay” as their payment option, confirm the payment with one tap (via their iPhone, Apple Watch, etc.), and they’re good to go.

6. Venmo For Business

Payment processing provider: venmo for business

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Price: 1.9% plus $0.10 of the payment.

Venmo For Business is a mobile payment software and app owned by PayPal. You can choose to allow users to pay via your mobile app or your website.

You can set up a business profile on Venmo so users can quickly find your profile on the app. And if you add Venmo to your website, it’ll appear as a payment option right next to where it’ll give customers the option to pay with PayPal.

Once a customer selects the Venmo option at checkout, they’ll be directed to their Venmo app to complete the transaction. The Venmo payment option can be added to any of the pages of your ecommerce site that would also show the option to pay with PayPal, including your product pages, shopping cart page, and checkout page.

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7. Helcim

Helcim

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Price: 2.38% plus $0.25.

Helcim is an online payment solution for ecommerce businesses — you can choose to start an online store from scratch or add a payment solution to your current website.

The easy-to-use and secure online payment system integrates into your website, shopping cart, billing system, and/or app, thanks to Helcim’s API. In addition to in-app and via website, Helcim works over the phone, in person, and by invoice, and it integrates with your accounting tools to save you time when it comes to bookkeeping.

Next, let’s cover the steps involved in receiving payments online.

1. Create a secure online payment gateway.

There are a couple of ways you can approach creating a secure online payment gateway. You can hire an outside developer or use your website development team to create a bespoke gateway. Or, you can use third-party software.

Setting up a secure gateway is essential. You’re also putting automated processes in place, which will save time on manual processing, especially as you scale your business and handle more transactions.

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The more payment methods you make available within your payment portal, the wider the audience, and the easier it’ll be for your customers to send you money.

2. Facilitate credit and debit card payments.

Although it may change as mobile payments become more prevalent, using debit/ credit cards is still the most popular way people pay for products and services online.

You can easily facilitate accepting card payments through established payment providers such as PayPal or Stripe. These will accept the most-used credit cards worldwide — Visa, MasterCard, and American Express.

3. Set up recurring billing.

If you offer subscription plans or ongoing monthly services, the most efficient and reliable way to invoice and receive payments is via recurring billing.

Most of the major payment processing software also includes recurring billing features. For example, Growth Marketing Pro built an SEO tool that charges subscribers on a monthly basis and they used Stripe to set this up.

Sites like Paysimple also offer a suite of tools to set up custom, automated recurring billing if you already have a payment processing system in place.

Using automation is essential. It removes most human error and the stress of keeping track of invoicing and payments.

Your customers can commit to recurring payments with just a few clicks, and you won’t have to worry about manually managing your customer base.

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4. Accept mobile payments.

These days, people are often more likely to have their phones on hand than debit cards — plus, mobile payment apps are more convenient than ever.

For instance, Apple Pay has quickly become one of the most popular mobile payment systems in the United States. With an estimated 43.9 million users, you’d miss out if you didn’t accept Apple Pay.

Google Pay, Venmo, and PayPal also have mobile apps with a decent market share.

5. Use email invoicing.

Email invoicing is a proactive way to request payments. You can share a payment form through email or add a link redirecting the recipient to a payment portal.

However, there are a couple of issues with this method: Email isn’t the most reliable form of communication, and customers can have trust issues making payments via email.

Expect a failure rate, but it’s a vital part of payment processing for a lot of businesses.

6. Accept electronic checks (eChecks).

To accept eChecks for payment, you need a form where the user can input their information, which you can see using payment processing software.

It’s basically a way to pay by check online. It’s a quicker and more reliable way than sending a paper check through the post, so offering this to your customers will make the process run smoother.

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7. Accept cryptocurrency payments.

If you’re okay with handling cryptocurrencies, it’s a way you can extend your reach to a broader online audience.

Sites like Bitpay provide all the tools you need to accept crypto payments online, send invoices, request payments, and receive money on the go-through apps.

Because they’re a decentralized exchange, cryptocurrencies offer some unique benefits for businesses. You can accept payments from anywhere in the world without incurring currency exchange fees or bank handling fees. There’s also a reduced risk of fraud.

Start Accepting Payments Online for Free

No matter which payment processing software you choose, the most important part is making it easy for the customer to pay. And the more ways they can pay, the more likely your customers will follow through on a purchase.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in April 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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