Like most other small business owners, you have an unrelenting zeal for what you do, and the commitment to work endless hours to do it. Unfortunately, the bottom line dictates whether or not you can continue to pursue your passion. So, while you may or may not be in business "for the money," you still have to chase payments to survive. Fortunately, there are more ways than ever to collect and bank all the monies owed to you.
"Small and medium-sized businesses can accept payments in an almost infinite amount of ways," says Rob Nathan, chief technology officer at CardConnect, a payment processing company. "From traditional countertop terminals to advanced Web-based integrations, business owners have the tools available to allow their customers to easily make payments."
How to Choose a Small Business Payment Solution
Unfortunately, there are so many ways to get paid that it can be confusing as to which solution is the right one to use in your company. The best way to sort all this out is to consider which payment options appeal the most to customers, not in general, but specifically in regards to how they interact with your company.
"Payment services are popping up every day," says Bryan Colligan, architect and visionary of SeQR Pay Mobile Commerce Platform. "Context matters when choosing a payment service, especially the 'where' and 'when' for a small business. How are your customers connecting with your product: in person, in a brick-and-mortar store, on the Web, print advertisements, or on their mobile device?"
Nail down the where and when customer transactions occur, and you’ll pretty much know which payment options to offer and what solutions you’ll need to handle them. At least you will know in general what you need; you still have some work to do to determine and select specific vendors and brands.
Small Business Payment Options
First, let’s take a look at all the payment options currently available. Jamie Sutherland, president of U.S. Operations at Xero, spells them out:
- Cash: Self explanatory
- Check (paper): Still the dominant form of payment for invoices in the U.S.
- Card: Can be used as either in-person payment or as Card Not Present
- ACH: Via a service like PayPal or provided by banks
- Wire Transfer: Available via banks
- Mobile: payment made via a mobile device
"Mobile payment is an often-used term that can have a broad array of meanings depending on context," explains Sutherland. "This is not necessarily a payment type, rather a vehicle for payment. In fact, you can execute all of the above payment types via 'mobile', and thus they can be considered mobile payment. It is helpful however, when thinking about mobile payments, to differentiate between mobile-initiated payments, and mobile payment acceptance."
The smart way to handle payments is to narrow the options to fit your business. If you are a B2B business, then accepting paper checks, ACH and wire transfers may be all you need. If you operate only a brick-and-mortar store, then maybe all you need to accept is cash, checks and cards at the point-of-sale.
If you sell exclusively online or you sell through a website associated with your brick-and-mortar operation, you’ll need an ecommerce solution. It is relatively rare for a small business to accept all forms of payment, and that’s a good thing because they all come with costs and risks that most companies would prefer to curtail.