Katharine and Bill Strock knew that a few professional upgrades could make a big difference in the pine needle sale business.
Typically, salespeople drive unmarked trucks full of pine needles around neighborhoods selling to people who flag them down.
The Strocks wanted a better way to connect with customers. With professional marketing and signs, they are finding ways to reach new customers and retain repeat business.
They hope their Waxhaw-based business, PineNeedles4sale.com, will see a turning point this fall. In early October, they added a mobile payment system that allows customers to buy pine needles, firewood or mulch off the truck with a credit card.
“No one expects a pine needle truck to offer them the ability to pay by credit card,” Katharine Strock said. “We are working to make our customers and future customers aware that they now have another option when paying for their pine needles when purchased directly from the truck.”
On seeing a need: The Strocks started PineNeedles4sale.com and its sister companies, Firewood4sale.com and Mulch4sale.com, in 2007 after deciding there was a better way to reach and retain pine needle customers. They have three employees.
Without signs, business cards or web sites, customers rarely could get in touch with a pine needle company for repeat orders. The Strocks added professional signs to their two trucks, gave their drivers business cards to hand out and created websites where customers could order pine needles, mulch or firewood anytime.
Now, customers can easily get in touch with PineNeedles4sale.com for orders.
On pursuing innovation: Bill Strock, the company’s operations manager, learned about mobile payments after reading newspaper and magazine articles. He felt like his customers would like it.
“We are always looking for ways to improve and offer better customer service options,” Katharine Strock said.
After researching several options, the Strocks chose Intuit GoPayment as their mobile payment service. The Strocks liked that GoPayment synced their onsite transactions with their QuickBooks accounting software.
The service operates through a free app, which is downloaded onto iPhones that Strock provides her drivers.
“Signing up and getting set-up to accept mobile payments was very simple and easy,” Katharine Strock said.
The program also keeps track of the 2.75 percent processing fee that credit card companies charge for each sale.
“It really helps keep the books more accurate,” Bill Strock said.
On retaining customers: GoPayment emails receipts to customers, which gives them an online record of their transaction and an easy way to keep the company’s contact information on file. The company has not seen a big increase in business yet from using mobile online payments, but Bill Strock said customers like the added payment option.
For small businesses, mobile payments can help connect customers and generate repeat business. “Mobile payment will be a game-changer by allowing more small businesses the ability to accept credit cards at non-traditional business outlets such as farmers markets and craft shows,” Katharine Strock said.
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