Friday, March 13, 2015

3 “Slam Dunk” Ideas to Capitalize on “March Madness”

Whether they’re basketball fans or not, most Americans will be tuning in for at least some portion of “March Madness.” The annual NCAA basketball tournament begins on March 17 with 68 teams, and culminates with the last two remaining teams playing in the championship game on April 6. Millions of people will watch – whether it’s to cheer for the hometown team or for the underdog. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the sporting event garners more television advertising revenue than any other event, except the Super Bowl.

If you’re a savvy business owner, you’ve probably already thought of ways that you can use the fervor of “March Madness” to your advantage. With such widespread appeal, it’s a great way to engage current or potential customers, and show them that what’s important to them is important to you, too.

Here are some ways that you can use March Madness to your advantage, even if you don’t have a big marketing budget:

  1. Use your social media sites to offer promotions that tie-in with the tournament. Offer a discount every time the local team wins, or to any customer who walks in wearing the local team’s colors. Use hash tags so that readers who are interested in the topic can more easily find your posts. Click here for more information on hashtags.

  2. Launch an email marketing campaign with a basketball theme, even if your business has nothing to do with sports. Encourage readers to come into your store or visit your website for a chance to win prizes.

  3. Sponsor a contest or promotion or purchase an advertisement at a nearby venue where people will be watching the game. You’ll get your brand or company name out in front of fans, without paying big bucks for a national TV commercial.

Keep in mind that terms like “March Madness”, “The Big Dance” and “Final Four” are trademarked, so don’t use them in any promotions or you risk getting sued by the NCAA. However, there are ways to make your audience aware that your promotion is related to the tournament, without actually saying it.  Own an ice cream shop? Offer a “Bracket Buster” parfait or “Marshmallow Madness”. You get the picture.

Monday, March 9, 2015

7 Crucial Web Design Tips for 2015 - Guest Post

Web development and design has been changing by leaps and bounds for years, and 2015 will be no different. Many small businesses are under the impression that if they have a decent web site built, then that is the end of it for a while, but, it is really the beginning. Without a continued effort to improve and grow a web site, it risks the possibility to become stagnant in Google. 

We have developed some crucial web design tips for 2015 to keep your web site from being passed by the Google Bots (Google's web crawling bot also known as a spider).

Update your Site Content Regularly

Web site that are slow to update their content risk becoming stagnant. To avoid this, get on a regular schedule for updating content on a regular basis by adding new content, new photos, blog posts and more pages to your web site. The more that your site is updated, the more likely the search engines will crawl the site. 

Create Site Maps

No one likes it when someone makes them work harder then they need to, this holds true for the search engines as well. Google, Bing, Yahoo and the like, do not like to guess what the plan is for your web site is. Creating a simple .xml site map giving the ranking, priority and the frequency, will give the bots a true map as to how the site is run and what should be looked at first. 

Avoid Duplicate Content

Your web site should contain content that is not copied from other sites. Search engines not only can pick up on that really quickly, but you risk getting your web site banned or put in a lower site ranking. By duplicating content on the web, you are only repeating what has already been said. Stand on your own and show the world your expertise by creating original content regularly for your web site. 

Reduce your Site Loading Times

Make sure that you are hosting with a good hosting provider that has low down time. Most reputable hosting companies now boast a solid up time of about 99%. If your web site is down for too long, Google notes this and your site is crawled less frequently then someone who has a good uptime. 

Optimize Images Using Proper Coding

Images are so important on your web site. Good quality photos that have been not only adjusted to the proper size to reduce load times, but, are set to the proper format as well. Know when to use a .gif, .png, and a .jpg. Also, your photos need to have the alt tags filled in as well as title and descriptions. Give the photo a useful name as well. Naming them "image1.jpg" is not a good name. Try instead "cheeseburger.jpg" instead. 

Avoid Cookie Cutter Web Design 

I am not sure how many times we have ran across a client who has a web site developed using a template build for their industry and then come to us and wonder why they have little success with it. It is silly to expect that your web site will be any different or treated any different then your competition if the only thing that a potential client has to rate you on is your price because your web site is the exact same other then a couple pictures from theirs. Your business needs a custom web site that reflects the uniqueness of your brand. 

Search Engine Optimization

Your web site needs to have at least the basics in Search Engine Optimization done to stay competitive. Titles tags, meta data, sub titles, alt tags, .xml site maps and listing your site with the major search engines is KEY to any successful web site. 

For more website tips and information, follow ABug Bytes Web Development Studio on social media.

Blog post written by: Jill Ochoa, President, ABug Bytes Web Development Studio. Contact Jill at

Would you like to submit a guest blog post? Click here to find out more on the BBB blog.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Credit Card Habits of Successful People

Credit cards can be a terrific tool if they’re managed carefully. With credit cards, bad habits can land you in hot water, but good habits can improve your creditworthiness immensely.

People who manage their cards successfully tend to stick to a few tried-and-true methods when dealing with credit, and you can too. Here’s how to use your cards to your advantage, from USA Today.

Use fewer cards. Don’t spread your spending around. Having more than one credit card may promote unnecessary spending. Keep the number of credit cards you carry low, and focus on spending less.

Pay off your balance in full. Successful people rarely carry a balance on their credit cards. Having a balance means you’re in debt, and credit card debt is something you want to avoid. The number one way to pay off a balance is to cut spending and pay it off as aggressively as you can. Once you reach zero, keep it at zero.

Pay on time. Missed payments can be a credit score killer. Paying on time is essential to creditworthiness, and good credit records depend on paying all of your payments on time. Sign up for email or text alerts, or keep a watchful eye on the cut-off dates so you never miss a bill.

Use your cards to your advantage. Use your rewards! If you have a card that gives you free miles or cash back, be sure to use them. Keep track of your savings as well as your benefits, and be sure to stay on top of every reward point, dollar, or mile you’ve earned.

Know your credit score. Successful people stay on top of their credit reports. You need to know where you stand, so you can take adequate steps to maintain or improve your score. Ignoring bad credit can lead to penalties and severe consequences down the line, so keep an eye on your scores by ordering free reports from the three main credit bureaus each year.

You can read the full article on USA Today here.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

BBB and Join Forces to Provide Homeowners with Trusted Resources

BBB ratings and accreditation coming to the Porch home network

An established and trusted  business review organization is joining forces with a new and innovative home network to offer consumers the most comprehensive information available on home improvement and maintenance professionals. Better Business Bureau and announced today that homeowners can now find BBB information, including ratings and accreditation status, for millions of professionals right in their Porch search results.
Porch will display BBB information on home construction, maintenance and repair companies, and the information is updated and refreshed daily. Consumers who wish to see more detail can click through to read the entire BBB Business Review.
Porch is the first website and mobile app in the home services space to offer nationwide integration of BBB ratings and accreditation status.
“Our BBB Accreditation is our best marketing tool and key to our success, bar none,” said Jim Borst, president of West Coast Roofing and Contracting, Inc., a BBB Accredited Business in Clearwater, Florida. “To our prospective clients, it illustrates stability, professionalism, and the ability to work through conditions that our industry inherently produces when disrupting the norm. Now with the agreement between BBB and Porch, our accreditation will gain even greater exposure.”
“We are on a mission to make Porch the place you go to find the best and most trusted home improvement and maintenance professionals,” said Matt Ehrlichman, chief executive officer and chairman of Porch. “Partnering with BBB is a natural fit for us, since consumers have been relying on BBB for more than a hundred years to help them find businesses they can trust. By putting BBB accreditation and ratings front and center across our website and mobile experiences, we can offer homeowners additional confidence in selecting a home services professional.”
“BBB is pleased to partner with an innovative company like Porch,” said Mary E. Power, president and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. “They have based their business model on trust, transparency and collaborative information, and they share BBB’s commitment to building trust between consumers and businesses. BBB’s information on Porch’s sites will allow customers to get more detail prior to hiring home professionals.”
The agreement gives Porch six months of exclusive access to BBB accreditation and ratings for the home improvement and maintenance industry for use on Porch’s website and mobile app. The company has matched more than 3.2 million Porch profile pages to BBB Business Reviews, and is displaying the BBB accreditation status in its search results along with the BBB rating. Businesses can learn more about participating at

BBB and partnership
ABOUT PORCH: Porch is the home network, free for homeowners and home professionals. With over 3.2 million professionals and over 130 million projects, Porch enables homeowners to make smart home improvement decisions by giving them the information they need to find the right professionals, get inspiration, and manage their home. The Porch App, a first of its kind app available for iOS, gives homeowners direct access to a personal Porch Concierge to help find the best professionals for your home. For more information about Porch, visit or download the Porch App at

Monday, January 26, 2015

BBB Standards of Trust Resonate With All Buyers

Recently, a local retailer made this statement to me when she was trying to decide whether to renew her annual Accreditation.  “But, none of my customers know who the BBB is because they are in their 20’s and haven’t used your website.”

My question is “why not?”

If your customers haven’t used the BBB, or don’t know the mission and why you’re supporting our BBB community, maybe you could tell them.  After all, do we think that someone in their 20’s can’t have their identity stolen, lose money by buying from an unethical player in our market, or fall for an online scam on Craigslist?  

Most young people today resonate with our mission to advance trust in the marketplace because they have a strong social conscience.  They want to work for, and do business with, ethical companies.  BBB brings them information, news, and business reports without the hype or marketing messages.  They would probably like to have an informational resource that is dedicated to helping them make good buying decisions on their own.  They can also find assistance for issues they can’t resolve on their own, or join in the conversation on good companies through positive customer reviews.

It is also important for them to know that you believe in an organization that monitors and researches ethical business practices, like being honest in your advertising, protecting your clients privacy and dedicated to excellent customer service.  These are all attributes of character on your BBB Standards of Trust.  

We can provide the “Standards of Trust” flyer as a tool so you and your front line sales staff can display what you believe and stand for in your business.  Nothing demonstrates a company’s core values more than where they invest their funds, and your financial support provides all of the free services that our local community uses every single day.

Everyone, regardless of their age, wants to know they’ve made the right choice after they sign that dotted line.  Giving your customers the assurance that you believe in, and support, integrity in all of your dealings will help them feel assured that they’ve chosen well.   

Written by: Liz Fredrichs, EVP at BBB Serving Wisconsin

Monday, January 12, 2015

Four Ways to Increase Sales for Your Business

The world of sales is constantly evolving. New competitors can emerge at any minute, and you have to be willing to adapt as the market changes or you face the possibility of being left behind. Whether you are just getting started or looking to refresh your sales strategy, here are some useful ways to increase sales for your business:

1. Develop a clearly defined mission
The most important part of your business is making sure you have clear statement of what your business aims to achieve. Your employees and consumers should have no doubts that you are 100% committed to the mission of your business. Your belief in the product or service you are selling can have a huge impact how your employees sell it.

2. Sell to customers needs
You should always operate within the assumption that your customer will only buy what they need. Emphasizing the features of a product or service you are offering may convince the consumer of their need for it. Remember to be creative in your approach!

3. Outline your sales process
Having an updated Best Practices document readily available for your employees can make a big difference rather than relying on them to come up with their own strategy. Outlining a comprehensive, step-by-step process allows for a clear standards that can be measured. Once documented, these procedures can also drive training, coaching, and marketing efforts.

4. Get creative!
The world is constantly changing and it is important to stay on top of trends that fall in line with your business philosophy. Never thought about using social media? It may be time to start that Twitter account. Play on the creative strength of your staff to find new and refreshing ways to close your sale.

How do you refresh your sales strategy? Comment below!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

7 Tips for Choosing a Credit Card Processor

There was a bit of good news for businesses delivered by the Federal Trade Commission that may have gone unnoticed. The FTC brought charges, with the help of the Better Business Bureau, against a company that sold credit and debit card payment processing services to small businesses. If you own a business that accepts credit or debit cards, you know costs for this customer convenience can really add up.

According to the FTC, the company – Merchant Services Direct, a.k.a. Sphyra, Inc. – made deceptive claims and misled merchants about the fees and costs for its services and equipment. Since the BBB receives a lot of complaints (almost 2,400 in 2013) against payment processing services, here are some tips for businesses to help them choose a reputable company to provide this service:

Know who you’re dealing with. Don’t let a shady sales person falsely claim that they work for your current credit card processor. Ask for identification and call your current processor directly to verify, using a phone number you know to be legitimate.

Watch out for red flags. If a sales person promises that they can reduce your payment processing costs by “cutting out the middleman” or offers “wholesale pricing”, beware. All payment processors are middlemen and there are no wholesale prices. All rates for the payment network  -- known as interchange rates -- are the same for merchants and are generally non-negotiable.

Know what IS negotiable to get a better deal. Only two factors contribute to price differences:  1) the types of cards you accept (i.e. – debit cards or rewards cards); and 2) the fees that payment processors and others in the card payment processing sales chain charge for their services. Discounts – the rates above the interchange – and fees are negotiable or will vary from one company to another. If a sales person claims to waive a fee, make sure you get that promise in writing.

Read the fine print. Make sure you read every word of a contract before signing. If a sales person wants you to sign something to “get a quote” or suggests it won’t be binding until the contract is “approved”, don’t believe him. In addition, watch out for clauses that refer to the “terms and conditions” or “terms of use” on the company’s website. Some disreputable companies will hide fees in their online “terms and conditions.” Insist on a separate written Schedule of Fees for your files.

Watch for hidden fees to lease Point of Sale (POS) equipment. Be wary of any sales person who offers “free” equipment, but buries in the fine print that you have to pay monthly “insurance” or other fees. Before signing a lease, shop around. Leases can be very pricey, and you often end up paying thousands of dollars for equipment you can buy for much less.

Get copies of all signed documents. It’s your best defense against unscrupulous sales people who alter documents or add terms to lines that are left blank.

Before purchasing a product or service, be sure to check out companies with BBB at

Have any tips to add to this list? Let us know in the comments below -