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Cashing in Without a Cash Register

I was trapped. I knew it. There was nothing I could do. The rows of brightly colored candy, tabloids and magazines were closing in on me. The family of four behind me had no idea. Customers in other checkout lines were oblivious. But there I was, trapped as soon as I saw it: my nemesis, the checkbook.

My nemesis doesn’t look threatening when it’s hiding in a purse or pocket, but when it rears its worn blue cover in front of me in the grocery line, all bets are off! For the next five minutes I waited as the wonderful shopper ahead of me double-confirmed the amount, discussed the weather, slowly filled out the check in lovely cursive, handed it to the cashier for verification and then recorded the entire multistep process in a miniature check registry balanced to the cent. Oh, how I longed to be in a line where checks were not accepted! Let me pay by scanning my phone, entering a secret code, or with my mom’s credit card. I would even scrounge for the most elusive payment type of all: cash.

While this store hasn’t caught on to the modern way people want to buy, its competitors have. The Starbucks next door lets me pay using my phone, and I can receive coupons on my phone, too. The food truck one block down lets me sign my name on a tablet with my finger and instantly texts me a receipt—all before I take my first yummy bite of a homemade taco. These are changing times, my friend!

So here is the question: Are you positioned to cash in on this emerging payment revolution?

The starting place is to recognize the new consumer mindset. Consumers are more informed and marketed to than ever. They have more options than ever. The final hurdle to closing a deal is the transfer of payment from them to you. Anything sellers do to make it more difficult to receive or process payment can lead to lost sales in a time of unprecedented competition and shrinking margins.

Your goal is to make it so easy for customers to pay that they stop comparison-shopping on their smartphones while waiting in your checkout line. Here are the three steps to make the leap from checks and counting pennies to mobile payments and serious dollars:

1. Ask your customers how they want to pay for your services. You may be surprised. We discovered many of our customers want to pay for my speaking services by credit card. That was a shock. It turns out paying by credit card is easier for them than issuing a purchase order.

2. Integrate mobile into your payment experience—even if it’s purely to show you’re hip to the latest trends. With services such as Square and GoPayment, it’s easier and cheaper to take orders anywhere, anytime. In fact, we’ve sold items simply because customers wanted to try signing their names on our iPad. Seriously. How can you not love a service that literally pays for itself?

3. If you’re going to offer coupons, accept digital versions. Three reasons: First, they get forwarded online, which increases your potential market. Second, you can ask for customers’ email addresses when they use the e-coupon, which means you can market to them via email to make future sales. Third, an entire generation has never seen your coupons in the newspaper.

The bottom line: Cash is not king if your customers don’t carry it. Make it easy to pay how they want, and they will. Best of all, if you move away from accepting checks, no one can steal your favorite pen!

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