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Five simple ways to file your LLC online – cost and feature comparison

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Filing an LLC online

If you are a small business owner looking to expand your service into a full-fledged company, an LLC is the way to go. An LLC, or Limited Liability Company, is a form of enterprise that combines both partnership and corporate structures and is commonly used by independent real estate brokers, retailers and service providers. Easy to set up, LLCs allow business owners to have a flexible management and ownership structure while being able to protect personal assets behind the corporate veil.

The process of creating an LLC can be done through many means. While some business owners tend to go through the expertise of an LLC start-up attorney which is ideal, the costs of legal advice can be prohibitive to some, anywhere from $200 to $450 an hour. In the age of the Internet, more and more business owners look to structure their LLC through an online service. Online LLC filing services offer many perks to small business owners looking to expand, and although there are many options for web filing, we are highlighting five up-and-coming services that can help you take the next step from sole proprietor to LLC member.

BizFilings.com

BizFilings, an online incorporation provider based in Madison, Wisconsin, has incorporated over 500,000 entrepreneurs since its inception in 1997. They offer multiple options for its incorporation services, with a five-step process that strives to give you a unique and bureaucratically-sound company. Buyers can start off with a basic package for $97 plus tate fees which includes business name availability verification, document filing, phone and email support, six months of agent service, and BizComply, an online compliance tool. For $237 and $347, more goods and services are included that ease the process of incorporation.

Verdict: While one of the more expensive options, BizFilings has over a dozen years of experience, half a million success stories and an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau.

EZOnlineFiling.com


EZOnlineFiling promises a staff of experienced professionals that aim to give the easiest online LLC filing process on the web. From first glance, on the website are two notable features. One, a graphic box with a giant “$39”, and two, a 100% satisfaction guarantee, committing to matching or beating any competitor’s price. EZOnlineFiling has extremely low prices considering the services rendered, charging $39+ state fees for preliminary LLC name research, a custom Articles of Organization, filing the documents with the Secretary of State, unlimited phone and email support, and free business tax consultation. The Standard and Premium packages will run you $169 and $329 respectively, but look for inclusions such as EIN application filing and custom LLC member certificates.

Verdict: A value service that doesn’t appear to skimp on quality, EZOnlineFiling is banking on low prices and guarantees. PRWeb.com names EZOnlineFiling “the fastest growing online incorporation service”, a sign that EZOnlineFiling is known for getting the job done well.

AAAFiling.com


AAAFiling is a rapidly growing Internet-based legal document filing company that has been helping small business owners, entrepreneurs, musicians, and film/movie producers since 2006. While many online incorporation services offer multiple package deals, AAAFiling offers one standard deal of $48+ State fees, including preparation and submittal of the Articles of Organization, reviewing the documents, 24-hour order processing, and unlimited phone and email support. For additional costs, users can add expedited filing, Federal Employer Identification numbers, or an LLC kit with binders, certificates, documents, waivers, and more.

Verdict: Swift and simple, AAAFiling supplies an affordable service that allows customers to add individual supplements to their purchase as seen fit. Clients like Erick Hoffman created Cascadia Equity Holdings LLC and Steve Quan created OverstockPB.com, a paintball gear supplier through the company.

IncorporateFast.com


IncorporateFast, celebrating its eleventh year of existence, provides both solid information of the benefits of incorporation, and an affordable service to help your business become an entity of its own. A five-minute questionnaire and $49 plus State fees is all it takes for your documentation to be professionally prepared and sent off to the state for filing. Your money will get you preliminary clearance of your LLC’s name, preparation of your documents, filing, and unlimited toll-free and email support throughout the process. Like many other services, IncorporateFast offers more premium packages, with the first $173 step getting you Federal Tax ID assistance, a deluxe company kit, and a CD with essential forms. The most expensive $265 package will get you professional registered agent service.

Verdict: Relatively more affordable than most services, IncorporateFast will take care of the entire filing process and make certain you are satisfied with your result. With a 4/5 star rating on LegalSpring.com, their reliability is proven.

LegalZoom.com


LegalZoom is one of the best known eLawyering services in the world, and their good reputation extends well into the field of LLC filing. $99 plus State fees will get you the Economy Package- preliminary clearance of your LLC’s name, filing of the Articles of Organization, a custom Operating Agreement, and LegalZoom’s trademark “Peace of Mind review.” The Standard Package will run you $289 plus State fees, but includes Federal Tax ID assistance, a deluxe company kit with custom embossing seal, 20 membership certificates with transfer ledger, and a boost in online presence with the PRWeb.com visibility package. For a higher $359+State fees, you can get the Express Gold Package, which will give you priority rush service on ALL filings, a 30 day trial of Business Advantage Pro Attorney assistance, over 100 important business forms, and a fully functional Peachtree accounting software.

Verdict: LegalZoom is easily the most costly option listed, but it’s also the most recognized and historically successful eLawyering service in recent history. The cost is dwarfed by their reputation for outstanding customer service and speed in which your documentation will be filed. If you can afford the extra cash, LegalZoom is a reputable option.

Making your choice

There are many routes you can take when making the leap from small business to Limited Liability Company, but all will lead you to a golden opportunity for your business to expand and thrive under the corporate veil. Whether it’s low price, fast results, or a record of merit and satisfaction, you will be able to find the service that is tailored to your personal needs. These companies will help you, but first you need to take the leap and plan to create something special and ride the entrepreneurial spirit all the way to the bank!

The American Genius is news, insights, tools, and inspiration for business owners and professionals. AG condenses information on technology, business, social media, startups, economics and more, so you don’t have to.

Business Marketing

The checklist every company needs when redesigning a website

(MARKETING) Web design is deceptively complicated, and failing to meet the proper criteria can leave you with the cyber equivalent of a ghost town. Here are some crucial steps to take before you publish (or republish) your website.

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website redesign

Web design can be a huge pain in the rear even for seasoned veterans, and the arduous list of things that can go wrong all but guarantees that you’ll miss something crucial before going live. If you need to update (or create) your company’s website, make sure you’ve met the necessary criteria before you click that “Publish” button, even if it’s a revamping done through a firm.

Your initial steps should involve determining the purpose of your website and cleaning up the website’s copy to match that purpose. For example, if your website’s primary goal is to serve as a call to action for customers looking to purchase your products, any additional information or services listed on the site should be appropriately categorized and removed from the landing page.

You’ll also want to ensure that your website’s copy is clean, easy to understand, and thoroughly proofread. Nothing pushes potential customers away more quickly than misspelled messages or overly technical explanations.

The importance of optimization cannot be overstated, and that concept applies doubly to your website’s mobile performance. If you don’t have an accessible mobile version of your website, you’re kissing a huge amount of revenue goodbye. Remember that, while your mobile site should stand out, it should also endeavor to mirror your desktop site as closely as possible to facilitate a sense of continuity.

Accessibility is actually a pretty complex issue in and of itself, so you’ll want to make sure that your website meets all of your country’s standards for basic web design in addition to meeting — and, if possible, exceeding — the standards for disability-related challenges such as those faced by blind or epileptic visitors. This can include anything from making sure your links are functional to creating a spoken version of your site for the blind.

While important, the above is not an exhaustive list of your website’s crucial criteria. Your website should also include some form of the following:

  • Reviews or links to social discussions about your goods or services
  • Relevant, high-quality photos and videos
  • Standard web conventions including having your website’s logo in the top-left corner and the search bar in the top-right corner

Once you’ve checked off these requirements for your site, it’s not a bad idea to have other people go through the website with the same criteria in mind. Peer review — especially from both a professional developer and someone on the consumers’ side of the process — will be a substantial aid in allowing you to find and plug the holes in your website’s design.

Mindfulness is only the first step in creating a flawless website. As long as you adhere to the above requirements and recommendations, your website should stay relatively active and frustration-free.

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Business Marketing

Study finds cancer care centers using illegal deceptive marketing tactics

(MARKETING) A new study alleges deceptive marketing practices rampant with cancer care centers, leading to FTC complaints.

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cancer care centers

When my uncle passed away from colon cancer last year, I was ready for it – that is, as ready as you can be to lose a loved one to a terminal illness. Although his death was deeply sad, I was spared the shock because his doctors had always been honest with our family about his prognosis. Once he received the diagnosis, we knew we’d be lucky to have two more years with him.

When it comes to fighting a serious illness, it’s important to have hope – but it’s also important to have realistic expectations. Unfortunately, some cancer treatment centers are luring patients and their dollars by selling them an unwarranted belief that they can beat the odds. Truth in Advertising (TINA.org), calls it “the deceptive marketing of hope.”

TINA.org has published the results of a year-long investigation into the marketing of cancer treatment centers. One study focused on Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), the cancer center that spends more than any other on marketing – an estimated $110 million over the last three years. The other study analyzed 48 big-spending cancer care centers, including Sloan-Kettering, Dana-Farber, and NYU.

The results were disturbing.

TINA.org found that many of the biggest names in cancer care use deceptive practices in their marketing. Specifically, 43 out of 48 (yes, that’s 90 percent) used anecdotal patient testimonials that show atypical care results without disclosing what the “generally expected results for a patient in a similar situation would be.”

Testimonials featured patients with types of cancer that, more than half the time, result in death within five years. By showing unusual and rare recoveries, these cancer care centers give patients the false impression that, by choosing their care center, they will have “a therapeutic advantage, allowing them to beat the odds and live beyond five years.”

Testimonials also featured atypical results from new treatments and clinical trials, without disclosing that these treatments are experimental and that success is far from guaranteed.

TINA.org also conducted a specific investigation of CTCA, who in 1996 entered a consent agreement with the FTC that barred them from using deceptive testimonials. This agreement is near expiration, so TINA.org decided it was a good time to review CTCA’s marketing practices. They found 130 examples of deceptive testimonials in CTCA’s marketing.

This week, TINA.org sent a formal complaint to the FTC asking them to re-open their investigation of CTCA. They also sent notices to 42 cancer centers warning them that using atypical testimonials is illegal.

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Business Marketing

What the YETI “cult” can teach you about marketing success

YETI has built a cult following for their 300 dollar cooler. Confused? Don’t be. This story isn’t rocket science; just good old fashioned product innovation and saavy marketing at their finest.

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yeti

The rise of YETI

Here at The American Genius, we feel the term “cult” gets a bad name. In fact, we find it beautiful. It’s the product of keeping promises and delivering remarkable experiences to consumers time and time again until they have no choice but to love a product or service unconditionally. That’s not just gold for your business, but it’s a grand human experience to build a relationship founded on trust and loyalty (and a leeeeeetle bit of fanaticism).

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We’ve written about cult followings before, like the Crossfit craze. However, we can understand if you’re a bit skeptical when we tell you that a company making coolers is cultivating a similar craze amongst consumers. However, the facts don’t lie. In six years, YETI sales grew from $9 million to $450 million. Sales are so strong, they can barely keep certain products in stock.

All this over a 300 dollar cooler. Yep, 300 dollars for something you usually pick up for no more than 50 bucks at any no-name Walmart.

Confused? Don’t be. This story isn’t rocket science; just good old fashioned product innovation and saavy marketing at their finest:

YETI didn’t just make a better cooler; they made a luxury product

Those janky, $50 Walmart coolers don’t cost much for a reason; their functionality is a bit limited. So, there’s plenty to improve on. But a Yeti Cooler isn’t just an improvement; it’s damn near perfect.

It’s practically indestructible. So indestructible that it’s grizzly proof. It also keeps ice frozen for a long-time. Long enough that you will still have ice after a long weekend trip in many cases. Combine those things together, and it’s not hard to believe that when a fire engulfed a vehicle, the YETI Cooler and the ice inside it survived the inferno.

Excessive? For most, maybe. However, there’s a beauty in its utilitarian luxury. And they have expanded this utilitarian luxury beyond coolers to products ranging from tumblers to soft-side coolers to bottle openers.

It’s not uncommon to find brands that succeed on a platform of relentless perfection of their product; Apple, Harley Davidson and Ferrari come to mind. Consumer trust in the quality of the product, be it durability or user-friendliness, forms a strong foundation for a relationship with your customers. Here, Austin-based YETI is no different, and more than ever, it’s necessary to be remarkable to achieve the business success you want.

Marketing to aspirations

YETI Cooler’s marketing focuses intently on the ideal outdoorsy lifestyle, and it has kept that focus throughout the product’s lifetime.

yeti

“The aspirational use and the actual use don’t always have to be the same thing,” said YETI’s VP of Marketing Corey Maynard. “We want our communication to stay as absolutely authentic to the hardcore user from the hardcore user as we possibly can.”

Influencers aren’t just Instagram yoga girls

From the beginning, YETI has marketed the cooler to people like the founders; passionate and respected outdoorsmen whose passions drove them to own the latest and greatest gear.  To do this, they hired influential guides and fisherman as brand ambassadors. They also sponsored programming on hunting and fishing TV stations. All of these early efforts earned the trust and recommendation of “influencers” and “prosumers.”

“Those commercials didn’t reach millions of people, but the people that they did reach were the most serious hunters and fisherman,” Maynard said. “So it would reach 100,000 or so hardcore hunters and fishermen who would be the person within their circle of friends who their buddies would ask about the latest gear.”

When they did land the sale, YETI made sure they could advertise that too. In the beginning, the company handed out stickers and hats with each cooler sale as a way to kick start conversations about the brand.

All of these factors created a “grassroots marketing goldmine,” where word-of-mouth made a lot of difference. That, combined with the aspirational messaging, creates a tribe where consumers feel included as a part of something bigger than themselves. So, as you go about marketing your business, consider these key concepts in your model. It could be just what you need to take your business to the next level.

This story was first published on May 6, 2016.

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