ATF Issues an Advisory Letter to All Firearms Dealers

ATF
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has issued a an advisory letter warning to all federal firearms licensees and firearms dealers. This letter warns that some scammers are using fraudulently altered Federal firearms licenses to sell, but never deliver firearms online. This is a must read for anyone dealing in firearms.

The ATF warns that a scam will usually start with an online ad. Respondents to the ad will receive a copy of a fake license. After they send a payment they never receive any firearms and the seller basically disappears.

The letter from the ATF outlines some ways to help you avoid the scam. It also gives you some contact information if you think your license has been used in this or other scams.

 

February Recap

As Data Age moves closer to the 3,000 client mark, our customers are reporting February was a month of growth and opportunity. It is obvious this progressive trend is continuing as we are experiencing both new store openings and expansion units being added by our existing clients. We also applaud the efforts and work delivered to the market by the other vendors in the space, as they continue to service our industry and open up new stores as well. With 35 new stores coming on line in February, Data Age continues to take mantel of the pre-eminent leader in the space. Our enhanced focus on education, support and & product development, all based on the feedback from the thousands of clients, is paying big dividends.

The Power of the PawnMaster network has helped many new and existing brokers in a multitude of ways. As our brokers continue to build on their existing business as well as expand their operations, they are able to leverage the PawnMaster network to help them save money and build beneficial relationships with a wide variety of vendors.

Some of the many advantages of working with a well-established and stable company is the ability to focus on, and listen to their client base. We have been preaching this for a while now and we continue to hear that ongoing education, world class support and agile development cycles are still the areas of significant interest for our clients. Having all of these resources under one roof affords our clients a real competitive advantage in the market place. This stability gives our customers the ability to focus on THEIR customers and their businesses. They know as long as they’re in business they have a partner backing them up.

Since the inception of Data Age University, our on-site and off-site training programs, our clients are reporting huge returns based on the continued education we and our partners like the Pawn Shop Consulting Group are providing them. Not only helping them maximize the efficiency of their stores by using PawnMaster but also assisting them in many other areas like marketing, demand generation and overall business operations.

At Data age we have built a culture of high integrity and high standards. We are happy to see other vendors and brokers in our space holding themselves to these same principles. We have begun reaching out to these businesses and individuals, asking them to help us improve the quality of information available about our industry. You probably have seen our client corner blog posts and Facebook posts on improving your marketing, updating your website, and other business ideas. We will continue to provided this type of information, including insights from experienced pawnbrokers, marketers, and more. This is a great time to be in the pawn industry and we are excited about the future.

I hope everyone has a productive and profitable March.

The Social Media Phenomenon – What you should know!

FacebookThis months Client Corner comes from Chad McGhee, VP of Operations for CashWiz Holdings located in the Cayman Islands. Chad outlines the importance of including Facebook as part of your ongoing marketing strategy.

BREAKING THE SURFACE

The Social Media Phenomenon – What you should know!
By Chad McGhee, VP of Operations for CashWiz Holdings

“The question isn’t what do we want to know about people? It’s what do people want to tell about themselves.” – Mark Zuckerberg

I can’t have harped on the importance of customer qualifying enough. I’ve preached it over and over again, “Ask the questions and find out what our customers need!” But that’s not the first step. Before we can wind up and let loose our best sales pitch we have to have someone to pitch to.

CashWiz over the past few months has started breaking the surface in social media marketing through the world’s largest database, Facebook (FB). Facebook is the world’s largest online database of people and one of the most targeted marketing platforms ever developed. Through Facebook marketing, companies are able to build their own database of people in their specific markets. This allows us access to a large percentage of our local populations to market our business and services to directly.

Right now our stores, depending on location, have between 40 and 200 people per day walking through our front door. That’s quite a few people that get to see our goods and services. Now, imagine if 50,000 people were to walk in the door tomorrow as see your goods and services! Sounds unbelievable but it’s not. Through building a database of locals with your Facebook page it is possible. With our Facebook pages we are able to build a database of thousands of people that we can market to daily and directly. We are able to post our popular items, promotions, services, competitions and events to a large percentage of our local market without leaving our office.

Today we have over 70,000 Fans on Facebook. That’s right, 70,000 people follow our CashWiz store FB pages. 90% of which checks their Facebook daily. These people, now that they are fans of our pages, will see what we post. So instead of the 100 people that walk in our store today and see our products, 60,000+ will see the items we post on our Facebook pages. We run games, competitions, and all kinds of promotions on our pages. This is an invaluable tool but must be managed. Make sure you utilize this to its maximum potential and assign a Facebook page manager from your store to answer customer questions and update content.

What you need to do today!
Build a Facebook Fan Page. It is simple and Facebook will walk you through the process. DO NOT create a new profile for your company, it will be shut down. Under your profile “Create a Fan Page”. Once it’s up and running, allow Facebook to promote the page for you. Set a daily budget of what you’re comfortable with. We use $10 per day. That’s it. Good luck!

Chad McGhee
VP Caribbean Region
Cashwiz© Limited
cmcghee@cashwiz.com

How QR Codes Can Benefit Your Pawnshop

QR Codes are everywhere! From grocery stores to the streets, from business cards to billboards, from marketing materials to people marketing themselves with tattoos, everyone is scanning! (or Everyone seems to be scanning)

What is a QR Code?

QR Code

Originally developed in Japan, this 2D barcode is the Quick Response Code. The code gives smartphone users direct access to your products, services and information. The QR Code’s great storage capacity, as well as its fast readability, has made it a popular marketing tool all over the world.

The code is used as a shortcut to directly connect customers with websites or online resources by scanning your smartphone over the square design. It connects your mobile browser directly with the intended online location, without ever having to type a URL into a browser. Easy!

For example, if a person on the street walks by your pawn shop flyer, billboard, or any other advertisement and scans the QR Code on the ad, it could directly take them to a map to your location, your website or to pictures of items new to your inventory.

According to the Los Angeles Times, for the first time ever more Americans own smartphones than regular phones or feature phones. As we leap into 2014, a lot more people are “tech savvy,” as smart phones are a big part of our everyday lives, and what people want is a fast and easy life. All you need is to download the application on your smartphone and have a URL of the online location you want people to view.

The best part is that QR Codes are free!

Check out this easy video on How To Create QR Codes

Benefits of QR Codes in YOUR Business

Larger brands and businesses are using QR codes as a marketing tool for their products and services and to bring in more traffic to their websites. Small businesses such as pawnshops should not be an exception. Whether you are a large, multi-shop operation or a small, single store owner, integrating QR Codes into your marketing campaigns could give you a competitive advantage.

Devicemedia.ca states that QR Code scanning has increased by 1600% over the last year. Around 70% are between the ages of 25 to 55.

How QR Codes Can Be Used

  1. On Your Business Card – QR code on your business card allows your customers to instantly add your contact information to their phone, link them to your online portfolio/resume, or link them to websites of your choice.
  2. Coupon – Link direct shoppers to specific coupons and current deals in your shop.
  3. Product and Service –You can link the code to a new or existing product or service and its details.
  4. Social Media –Link directly to your social media accounts for more exposure of your shops inventory and to gain followers. (See Alex Cybul’s post on Using Social Media for Pawnshops .)
  5. Link to Video –Give customers instant access to advertising, training, and informational videos. Link a virtual tour video of your shop.
  6. Registration –Quickly register for an event, mailing list, appointment. Register for possible discounts in your pawn shop.
  7. Link to Google Places –Link your QR Code to your Google Places page of your pawn shop for customer reviews and testimonials.

How QR Codes Can Benefit You

  1. Save money –With QR Codes your business can save a lot of marketing money from reprints of advertising materials.
  2. Ad Space –You can give your customers a lot of information about you and your shop without requiring a large ad space.
  3. Instant & Direct Information –Being able to give instant and direct information on what you want viewed.
  4. Traffic to your website –You decide what action you want your customers to take and what online location to visit. Whether it be your inventory, social media accounts, testimonials, your shops website, or discounts for your pawn shop.
  5. Instant Subscribers –Add viewers as email subscribers of your monthly newsletter for your shop.
  6. Measurable – Actions triggered through QR Codes can be traced with web analytics or other tools for marketing campaign measurement. You can track to see whether your customers like spending more time on your shops inventory page, or the social media accounts, as well as how many people visit which site.
  7. Competitive Differentiation – Because QR Codes are taking off in the U.S., those who are among the first to employ them in their pawn shops, will set themselves apart as leaders in strategic marketing within the industry.
  8. Versatile –Quick Response Codes can be integrated with a wide range of marketing materials for just about any purpose, which includes direct mail, outdoor displays and print collateral.

For your customers, this is a way to keep them connected as they learn more about your pawn shop and what it has to offer. For you, QR Codes is a way to keep relationships strong, even after your customers walk out of your door, and improves the chances of them coming back to your shop.

If your shop is looking for new ways to target and engage your audience, to show off your inventory and what you stand for, QR Codes offer opportunity to combine online and offline media, while setting yourself apart from your competition in the process.

Here is a fun video on Where To Find QR Codes

Here are a few sites where you can generate your own QR codes for free.

https://www.the-qrcode-generator.com/
http://www.qrstuff.com/
https://qrcode.kaywa.com/
http://zxing.appspot.com/generator/

Client Corner: Listening to Employees Creates a Win-Win for this Pawnbroker

Crown Pawn and JewelersAs in any operation, we’re always trying to maximize our performance. We began looking into employing “Think Tanks” (paid groups based on a specific income/demographic/age/gender criteria). Instead, we tapped our greatest resource, our staff.

We spoke with them one by one in a private setting and gave them three days to come up with some thoughts and suggestions. The criteria: if they could make any number of changes to improve our operation, what would they be? These changes would be influenced by their consumer experiences, work experiences, and life experiences. The parameters explained to them were: there are no bad or wrong suggestions and if we used their ideas or strategies we would compensate them accordingly.

Three days later my managers and I interviewed each staff member for the second part of this internal “Think Tank”. My managers were given specific instructions that no idea or suggestion would be criticized, disputed, or visibly dismissed. They could, however, request additional explanation or definition.

The results were phenomenal. Some of the suggestions were ideas that, unfortunately, we in management miss because we may be inundated with our own functions. We had some great promotional ideas, ways to improve our transaction speed, and some great sales strategies. Another benefit that came from this “Think Tank” was employee empowerment. Our staff felt that we valued them and their opinions.

We now see our staff taking additional ownership for their areas of responsibility and taking the initiative to resolve issues before bringing them to management. It has been a win-win!!!

Michael N. Katsanevas
President/Operator
Crown Jewelers & Pawn, Inc.
https://www.facebook.com/crownpawn
Salt Lake City, Utah

Data Age Office Virtual Tour

This virtual tour takes you through the Data Age corporate office located in Clearwater Florida. Here you will see all of our departments including support, development and even fulfillment are located under one roof. PawnMaster, Buy/Sell Plus, CheckMaster and all of our other products are created and supported in our headquarters. Our open office space encourages collaboration, helping us deliver the best quality software products available. Sit in on a development meeting, help us prepare a computer system for delivery and take a class in Data Age University, our on-site training center. Come on in and take a tour.

Client Corner: Shift Marketing Strategy for 2014

logoLa Estrella, a pawnshop located on the beautiful most southern Caribbean island of Aruba, has noticed the impact in the shift from the traditional (info based) marketing outlets of newspapers, yellow pages and radio to a more interactive, social media and digital marketing strategies.

Having a strong presence in Internet advertising in the community has helped La Estrella become a house hold name allowing closer contact with our customer base as well as given us the opportunity to share what we do and receive reviews from a number of people that would not have normally entered our stores. Here Alex Cybul discusses some of the social media strategies they have incorporated into their marketing efforts.

La Estrella is known for its “Product of the Day” that is being posted daily on our Facebook Fan Page (https://www.facebook.com/ArubaEstrella). This product is seen by over two thousand different people. Aruba’s population is around 110,000, some which are fans of our Facebook page and others who are part of our target audience. We have recently started to share this same “Product of the Day” on our Instagram account @laestrella_aruba. At least two of these products are sold per week and most are new customers to La Estrella. We also do fun engaging campaigns to have great interaction between our fans and the La Estrella community. Some of our more notorious campaigns include paying a person’s utility bill, giveaways of “HOT” products (iPhones, Galaxy’s, Tablets, Laptops), or customer testimonies stories explaining how the services at La Estrella have helped them. In Aruba we are one of the largest company Facebook fan page with a total of 10,890 fans and with daily interaction.

I recommend people to use the social media as marketing tool because it is easy, less expensive and a more efficient way to reach and attract new customers. Each day there are more and more people on the web, and it is easy to filter what is the best way to reach your target audience. It is a cost effective, efficient and user friendly medium in promoting your store and products to your customer, it gives access to those potential customers that would not normally walk in to your store. It allows customers to access your store from their house, place of work or just casually surfing the web. Social media gives you access to the turned on world, to a population that only needs a phone to be aware of who and what you are, and lets face it how many people nowadays do not have a phone.

Alex Cybul
Operations Manager
La Estrella, Aruba
www.arubaestrella.com
www.facebook.com/ArubaEstrella
www.facebook.com/CrownAruba

Stamp Prices Go Up

Stamp prices are increasing 3 cents to 49 cents today. This is a 6.5 percent jump. Even with this increase The US Postal Service is expected to continue to face a financial short fall. The USPS provides an important service, especially to rural areas. Because of their locations, using a for profit delivery service often isn’t cost effective. The USPS is mandated by law to delivery anywhere in the US for the same price. This means the cost of maintaining post offices in these rural areas is passed onto the main public in the form of higher stamp costs. Because of new technologies like email and text messaging, fewer and fewer people are using the postal service. With fewer people using the USPS and their costs continuing to grow, it’s unlikely we will see a decrease in stamp prices anytime soon.

For industries like ours, ongoing communication with our customers is key for success. Pawnshop customers all need a little reminder sometimes. Sending them a letter in the mail can be helpful but often has a limited success rate. Not everyone opens their mail right away. Even if they do, it can be easily forgotten. You can’t even be sure the right person opens the letter to begin with.

Many PawnMaster customers initially start using text messaging as a way to lower their postage costs. A text costs a few cents to send as compared to now 49 cents for a stamp. While they do see this savings almost immediately, they soon discover something else. The response rate to texts versus a letter of even email is considerably higher. Why? First, you know the right person is receiving your message. People rarely share a cell phone number. Second, immediacy. Studies show that 99% of all text messages are opened and the average time for a text message to be viewed is 14 minutes. Third, demographics. Text messaging is how people in their 20s and younger (and even some on their 30s) communicate. Even email is considered by this group to be “traditional” and is rarely used.

As the cost of stamps continues to increase and the use of newer technologies like email starts to slip, text messaging is emerging as an easy, cost effect and successful way to communicate with customers.

Did You Know? – Text Alerts for Managers

Many of our customers use the text message module to notify their customers of payments due and forfeits as well as for marketing blasts. This helps build customer loyalty and can give you a competitive edge over your competition.

But, did you know PawnMaster will also text you when an employee has given a customer too high of a discount? Or loaned too much? Or when an employee deletes inventory items? There are over 27 alerts in the latest version of PawnMaster.

Watch our Did You Know video below to learn more.

Client Corner: The Multi-Store Pawnshop Solution

We began the transition from our old software to PawnMaster ten years ago. Currently we have 15 stores on our central server. We were quick to move our corporate stores onto PawnMaster. Our franchises were given notice of the transition. They were hesitant to give up the old software as they knew how to use it and liked the simplicity. It is human nature to resist change. They were not given an option. We stressed the importance of consistency with chain stores and the professional service of this new software.

Due to the GL export to QuickBooks we were able to downsize our accounting department considerably. Even with some associates clocked into different locations during a pay period, payroll is a breeze. Processing transactions and payments from head office or just a different store is a great service to our customers. Being able to check a customer’s account while you are on the phone with the manager of that remote store is a real time saver.

The Search all stores inventory feature is used daily in each store. I highly recommend using that for great customer service and increasing sales. We are happy to transfer that item to the inquiring store for the customer to see. Sometimes that “customer” is our own associate that has been waiting for that item to come in, which is a perk for them.

The ability to see which stores the pawning customer is dealing with has been very helpful. A manager recently notified head office of a customer that had been to 3 different locations that day bringing in similar items in all locations. That certainly sent up the red flag and saved us additional losses.

Customers enjoy the ability to quickly pawn an item they have had in another store. The associate helping the customer can see they have had the same item in before and were successful in redeeming it.

There are many features of PawnMaster we have not utilized. It is my role to implement the changes by enabling the handy features within the software. More than once I have felt sheepish as there has been a valuable utility there that I didn’t recognize years earlier.

Jeffrey Hockley
Chief Executive Officer
Hock Shop Canada
www.hockshop.com