The Persistent Entrepreneur

Google Data Feed Export from 3DCart

I spent much of this morning trying to get my 3DCart products to export a google data feed and had a couple of problems. I was unable to find the answers online so I thought I’d share what I did to solve it. If you are looking for the solution, don’t do what I did, skip to the end.

First, I was getting the error “Too many column delimiters”. Basically, it was reading the commas in the title and description and thinking that signaled a new field. Which it shouldn’t do because the data used quoted fields. But whatever! I went through all my products and replaced every comma in the title or description with the character code for it, which is “,” (without the quotes). What a pain.

After that I tested it and received another error. Something about the date format being wrong. It was right, but it was including the quotes. Again, it should have just used those to determine what data was a field but whatever! So after a little digging I found that if I click on “Settings” under the data feed, one of the options was “Use Quoted Fields”. This option is not available when you first create the new data feed. I changed that to yes and all was right in the world.

Then I got to thinking, could I have skipped all that work replacing the commas and just changed that one setting? I tested it and sure enough, it worked. So, if you are having this same problem, change that setting FIRST!

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3DCart

I recently switched my MolonLabeShop.com website from Zen Cart to 3DCart and so far I am loving it! Here are some initial observations.

Cons:

  • Had to switch from my own hosting service to a 3rd party. That costs money.
  • Cost is more than getting affordable hosting elsewhere.
  • Loss of control. With my own hosting service I had complete control over everything

Pros:

  • They handle security updates. With Zen Cart updates were laborious and could take hours. Here I don’t have to worry about it
  • They handle all updates. With Zen Cart even if I was just updating to a new version it could take longer than security updates. And it could (and usually did) break my site.
  • Shipping method on packing slip. Sounds minor but it was a big deal to me, when I’m in the shipping room with a stack of packing slips I need to know what shipping method they chose.
  • Inventory control by attribute. If you sell shirts for example, you probably have multiple sizes and colors. With Zen Cart if I said I had 12 shirts it didn’t care what sizes I had. I might have 3 of each size but Zen Cart would accept orders for 12 of one size and then say the product was out of stock. So now I have orders for 9 shirts I don’t have and I have 9 shirts Zen Cart wouldn’t sell. Major Issue! With 3DCart I can list how many I have of each size/color combo.

That’s all I can think of right now but I’ll probably add more as I think of them. If you are starting a shopping site or already have one, I highly recommend you check out 3DCart. It does cost at least $20/month though so keep that in mind.

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First Data Scam

If you are looking into getting set up to accept credit cards, I highly recommend you avoid First Data.

When I set up my checking account at my bank they asked if they could have their merchant services guy call me to give me a quote. I was already looking into another provider (Payment Alliance) but thought what the heck. The First Data sales guy, Charles DeFelice called me later that day. Since they offered a portable machine and slightly better rates I signed up. I was in a hurry as I had my first show in three weeks and wanted to be setup to take credit cards by then. He sent me the forms to sign, which I did and sent back. I skimmed through them because I am no fool, I’m not going to sign something without reading it. The only thing that seemed strange was the check box that said I had read the “Complete Program Guide” which is a 46 page book. I checked it anyway but when I sent it back to the sales guy I told him I’m doing this because I’m in a hurry but I wanted a copy of it to review. He assured me I would receive it in the mail.

At the time I thought I was setting up my merchant services account, and the lease for the machine would come after that. I still had not seen any terms for the lease. It turns out that was lease for the machine. I didn’t notice the small “Page 7 of 7″ at the top of the page.

The sales guy had told me it would cost $40/month for the machine. I had searched for the machine online and saw it available for about $600 – $700. Turns out the lease was actually $44.95 per month… for 4 years! He also told me at the end of the lease I own the machine. Wrong again, I either have to return it or “Rent” it for the same monthly payment.

I tried to cancel the lease but was told it was not cancellable. I had my lawyers right them a letter and they still denied it. In fact they enclosed the complete lease agreement that I signed. All pages. The other pages that I never saw, the ones with the terms had my initials typed in to indicate I read and agreed.

I talked to another lawyer and he basically said I have a case but the expense to get out of the lease won’t be worth it.

I’ve had this machine for 9 months now and have never used it. I think I will just need to accept that I’m screwed and warn everyone else.

Come to find out these tactics are standard procedure for First Data. I found this page with many other victims sharing their experience.

PLEASE AVOID THESE SCAMMERS

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Tees4Awareness.com

One of my projects is finally live. We are donating 50% of the gross profits from this site to the non-profit organization we feature. The first design is benefiting the American Red Cross’ disaster relief efforts to help those affected by the earthquake in Japan and tsunami throughout the Pacific.

We aren’t really doing any advertising for this, just relying on word of mouth to spread the word. So please help us by clicking the “Share” button and share it with whatever social media you use.

Tees4Awareness.com - Helping Charities One Shirt at a Time

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Get Started Now

One of the biggest pitfalls new entrepreneurs face is a fear of getting started. You might not admit it, even to yourself but you might be afraid to get started. This is especially bad if you just quit your job and are on your own full time.

Many people will use this new found extra time to get caught up on home repairs, or fix up a rental property they may own. I’m sure it’s all very important but what would you do if you still had your day job? Well guess what? You do still have a day job, your own business. And failure is not an option.

Another thing new entrepreneurs will do is endless preparation. They will spend weeks coming up with a logo or the perfect website. Or setting up their new office space and shopping for equipment. Some of it is necessary but much of it is fluff. I would avoid big ticket purchases if possible until you have some money coming in. Maybe you don’t really need that shiny new iMac, maybe your old laptop is adequate at least for the time being. And your logo doesn’t need to be absolutely perfect before you start. In my opinion, the best logos are the simplest. I too have spent too much time designing logos and usually end up going with my first, simple design I did in the first 10 minutes.

So stop planning. Stop putting off the inevitable and start talking to potential clients. Ask everyone you know for referrals. Join a networking group. Start going to social networking events. Give your business card to EVERYBODY! They are cheap and even if the person you give it to isn’t interested, they might know someone who is. Get Back to Work!

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The Persistent Entrepreneur

So I was at the bank yesterday opening a new business account for a new startup I’m working on. The banker I worked with was the same lady that opened up my last business account, less than two months ago. (More on those later) So when she asked me what my occupation was I said “Persistent Entrepreneur”. Seriously, I work for myself full time and have a few other side businesses I’ve started on the side. And that’s just what’s going on currently, that doesn’t account for my past conquests (or failures, depending on who you ask). So anyway, I thought that was pretty clever so I just had to get the domain name thePersistentEntrepreneur.com.

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Create a Short Elevator Speech

One thing you should do as a small business owner is come up with an elevator speech. What is an elevator speech? It’s a short description about what you do. The idea is to get your point across in the time it takes to ride an elevator.

You should use your elevator speech anytime you meet someone and are asked “So, what do you do?”. It should be short enough to not bore them to death but still get the point across. And please, try not to make yourself sound like a pushy sales person.

Here’s an example of an elevator speech similar to what I use for my printing business.

“I sell promotional products. I can print anything on anything! I can print on golf balls, stress balls, hats, shirts, even walnuts. Of course I also do business cards, presentation folders, window signs, etc. I recently worked with a client starting up a new business. I designed and printed business cards and a sign for her car window. We also printed pens for her to use as a giveaway. Here, take my card.”

This is short enough to retain the listeners attention and now he knows exactly what I do and knows how to contact me if he needs my services. Plus I gave an example of how I helped one of my clients. This is handy because while he might not need my services it could trigger a referral from him. Perhaps his sister is starting a new business and needs business cards, pens and a window sign.

A well crafted and well presented elevator speech can be a powerful tool in your tool box for gaining new clients. Next time someone asks you what you do, what will you say?

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SendOutCards

In a recent post I mentioned sending greeting cards as a way to keep in touch with clients. Well, I liked SendOutCards so much I signed up as a distributor. If you are interested in using SendOutCards to keep in touch with your clients or if you are interested in becoming a distributor yourself, contact me. I’ll show you how it works and you can even send a card or two on me.

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Don’t Be Afraid to Ask

When you’re just starting out with a new business…. or anything for that matter… nobody expects you to know everything. Nobody was born knowing the difference between a sole proprietorship and an LLC, or how to set up a facebook fan page. So don’t be afraid to ask.

Too often people will let pride get in the way and it seems they would prefer to make the wrong decision than to admit they don’t know. Everyone who has the answers was told by someone. Whether they learned it in school or searched google for answers, somebody supplied them with the answer. So don’t be afraid to ask.

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Keep in Touch With Your Customers

One of the most important keys to having a successful business is keeping in touch with your customers. I strongly believe that many businesses that fail, fail to do this. I myself have failed to do this in the past and I shudder to think about the revenue I’ve lost.

First let’s talk about why it’s so important to keep in touch with customers. You can’t assume that your customers will remember who you are. Let’s use a screen printing business as an example. We’ll use a landscaping company as our example client. They have a crew of workers they want to outfit with shirts that have their name and contact info on them. They order 48 shirts from you. You do the job, receive payment and thank them. Four to six months later they need another batch of shirts but they can’t find your info. They think they found you on Craigslist so they go there to try to find you. There’s a lot of screen printers on there so rather than look at each ad trying to find you, they decide just to contact the first one that comes up. They get the sale for the 2nd batch and you lose out. How could this be prevented? That’s right, by keeping in touch with them. Now let’s be clear here, I don’t mean you should constantly spam them with emails every week asking of they need anything. That’s a surefire way to lose them as a customer.

Now let’s discuss methods to keep in touch.

Newsletter – A newsletter is a great way to keep in touch with customers. I recommend sending out a newsletter once per month. In it you can include any specials you are having, events you might be attending/sponsoring and anything new and newsworthy in your business. Try to keep it short and sweet though. If it’s too long they are not likely to read it.

Thank You Cards – Use these less frequently. I would recommend once per quarter at the most. This is just to say thank you for your business, you aren’t trying to sell them anything here. I like SendOutCards.com for thank you cards.

Direct Mail – Another way to keep in touch is by sending a brochure or catalog. Again, don’t spam them with these but this is another good way to let your customers know about a special sale.

Promotional Items – Everybody likes a free gift. Just make it something useful. It should especially be something they will use when you want them thinking about you. For example a pizza shop might want to give their customers a magnet for the refrigerator and a pizza cutter with their contact info printed on it. In this example you want them thinking about you when they are hungry. A computer repair company might want to send out some sort of desk calendar or maybe even a mouse pad. These are great because it keeps your name and contact info in front of them every day, so it’s there when they need you.

Hopefully this has given you some ideas on ways to keep in touch with your customers. Ideally you should use more than one, or even all of the methods listed but just make sure you keep in touch!

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