Monday, December 15, 2014

Does Your Business Have a Data-Breach Response Plan?

Imagine this: During your company’s busiest time of year, you discover that your database has been hacked and thousands of your customers’ personal information has been stolen.  This scenario isn’t just the nightmare of retailers like Target; it could happen to any business – large or small. In fact, Verizon reports that 40 percent of data breaches in 2012 happened to small businesses with fewer than 100 employees.

If this happened to your business, would you be able to recover? Would potential new customers ever trust you? Would current customers want to return? The time to prepare a response plan – and avoid the public relations debacle that could hurt or even ruin your business – is now, before disaster happens.

Even though you’re a small business, without the financial resources to mitigate a data breach that a company like Target might have, there are some simple things you can do now to be prepared, just in case. A good place to start is BBB’s toolkit, “Data Security Made Simpler”.  It’s an easy-to-read tutorial on how to protect your business from a data breach, what to do if your customers’ data is compromised, information for companies who do business abroad, and much more. It includes helpful checklists and a treasure trove of valuable resources.

Yes, it might take some time to go through all of the material. It would be a great project for you to complete after the busy season when you have some down time. Hopefully, you’ll never need a data breach response plan. But if you do, you’ll be glad you have one. It could save your business.

Written By: Susan Bach, NE Regional Director at BBB Serving Wisconsin

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

4 Tips for Your Holiday Social Marketing

The holidays are a special time of year, highlighted by the three F’s – family, food, and … fighting? Not fighting over who gets the last drumstick or whether Home Alone is better than A Christmas Story. I’m talking about retailers and brands fighting for consumer attention during the busiest shopping time of the year.
The month between Thanksgiving and Christmas is the biggest opportunity brands and retailers have each year, but it’s also incredibly competitive, so it’s crucial to reach and communicate with your customer audience in the correct way.
One way to do so is through social media. The holiday season is filled with social posts about gifts bought, deals found, and complaints of poor customer service. Now like never before, brands and retailers have the ability to connect directly with their customers and create a more personal shopping experience.
Here are four tips for how brands can get savvy with their social media marketing during this year’s holiday madness.

1. Drive that local cheer.

The holidays experience in New York is different than in San Francisco. Your messaging should reflect that. Leverage geo-targeting tools to know from where your customer is. Then you can create content they can relate to and messaging that resonates with a personalized brand experience.

2. All I want for Christmas is user-generated content.

How do you connect with audiences when they are already inundated with advertisements? You make them the hero. Businesses that can actively leverage user-generated content are the ones that will drive deeper connections with fans. Most people today are programmed to ignore ads. Showcasing authentic photos of your audience drives your intended message while encouraging a deeper, emotional interest from new and loyal fans alike. Relate to them with real people, in real moments, using your product and services.
Your featured fans get credit and interaction, audiences find trust in real people using your product or service, and your brand will better understand what motivates your audience. Everyone is jolly.

3. Deck the social walls.

The best way to harness a viral lift is to showcase your interactive experience. Remember, the more observable you make a campaign, the easier it is for your fans to imitate.
Create a social hub with aggregated content from multiple social channels on your website or microsite to capture audiences online. Your consumers can then share with their social community when you feature them, extending your reach. But don’t forget about in the store. Providing social displays, with easy calls to action at physical locations, are a simple, yet effective way to generate engagement.

4. Multiple chimneys equal multiple presents.

Facebook is still expected to be the channel of choice for holiday social spend, as 92 percent of marketers are planning extensive campaign efforts for this one platform. But 73 percent of marketing professionals think Instagram is going to be the breakout platform for this year’s holidays.
Don’t silo yourself to one social-media platform. Instead, create content on the appropriate channels for your audience, each with native content focused exclusively to that channel. Your Facebook posts, Instagrams and Tweets should drive the same idea, but the content should be customized to resonate best with each channel’s unique community.

Think of your various social media channels as your own little elves, and put them to work for you this holiday season. Utilize these tips and you’ll win the holiday retail battle while leaving your customers filled with joy.
What social media marketing will your company be doing this holiday season? Comment below.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Things to Know to Avoid Being Scammed

You got duped. Deceived, hoodwinked, bamboozled. You went against your gut (and you didn't check and someone just walked away with your valuable money or time. Getting scammed is not a great feeling. In an effort to avoid getting this, familiarize yourself with these six ways to avoid getting scammed!

  1. Do Not take someone at their word. Always do your homework. Ask lots of questions and check with your BBB. If a business tells you they are accredited with BBB, double check. It’s always best to be skeptical and thorough when dealing with businesses and solicitors.
  2. Do Not become emotional. Never allow yourself to get wrapped up in the story a solicitor is telling you. Scammers feed on people who allow their emotions to dictate their actions. If you believe their tragic or sad or exciting story, the scammer is more likely to make money off of you.
  3. Know common persuasion tactics. Scammers like to try to ignite emotion in their victim. They either manipulate the victim’s emotions or use fear to get what they want. If you get an unexpected phone call and are being asked for money (recently people were getting phone calls from the IRS demanding immediate payments with the threat of jail time if the payments were not made immediately) ask questions. If you have an uneasy feeling about something call your BBB. Never blindly hand out your personal information or money.
  4. Do Not act impulsively. Downloading files, clicking pop-ups, signing up for trial offers, and opening emails from unknown senders are all behaviors to avoid if you want to protect yourself from a scam or from being hacked.  
  5. Do Not be afraid to be rude. Often the people who end up scammed are those who feel bad about hanging up the phone or shutting the door in someone’s face.
  6. Always protect your personal information. This last tip is vital. Always shred personal documents or keep them locked up. Shred credit card offers that come in the mail. Anything that has your social security number or your banking information on it needs to be destroyed. Never use the same password for all of your accounts and change it frequently.

What other ways can you think of to help avoid scams! Comment Below!

4 Quick Tips to Make Your Company Shine This Holiday Season

With the holidays just around the corner, it can be challenging to remain visible to your prospects and customers. There are key actions you can take through social media, special offers and personalized customer service to promote your business while maintaining relationships through the holiday season.

1. Be Social

Today’s buyers are constantly interacting with various types of technology throughout the day, which makes social media a powerful way to increase visibility and engagement with customers. Moreover, research shows that 82% of customers trust a company more if they are involved with social media ( while only 14% trust advertisements ( Creating a connection with customers through social engagement allows businesses to increase their customer base and brand loyalty. Take advantage of free platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, to remind your target audience what you have to offer. From special promotions, answering customer inquiries, or even behind-the-scenes footage, create fun and interesting content that relates to your industry and helps cultivate your brand.

2. Offer Opportunities

A sale, giveaway or special offer is always a sure way to grab the attention of even the busiest customer. Adding a sense of urgency prevents most users from over thinking a purchase and positions it as a limited time opportunity, which typically improves the rate of conversion. For example, a product-based business could have a buy one, get one free deal or $10 off your purchase for one day only, while a service-based business could offer a free consultation if you book an appointment before a certain date. Value offers can be promoted through email, paid ads on Google, or even a “tweet deal” on Twitter.

3. Make it Personal

Making the transition to personalized communication is an effective way to stand out amongst competitors. It can be something as simple as sending a personalized email by adding the customer’s first name, reaching out to ask about their holiday season, or following up on past purchases. Additionally, always offer a survey to get feedback about your business’ customer service and experience. Asking for feedback makes customers feel valued for their opinions and helps your business remain top of mind during the busy holiday season.

4. Show Appreciation

Lastly, let customers know you appreciate their business and support. Send them a thank you card for Thanksgiving, a gift basket of goodies, or make a donation to a local charity in their name. Showing appreciation differs from promoting your business or making a sale—it comes from the heart. A simple gesture or personal touch reveals a different side of your business and can be a perfect way to express gratitude to valued customers. Relationships with customers and public reputation are essential no matter what time of year. Spending a little extra time to let customers know you are here for them even during the busiest months can go incredibly far in terms of growing those important relationships.

Monday, November 17, 2014

3 Effective Ways to Respond to Negative Online Reviews

Any press is good press, right?


Customers who have negative experiences at a store or with a business often can’t wait to get online and tell everyone about it. This can be extremely detrimental to any business. Luckily, there are ways to turn a negative review around. It’s all about being responsive, listening to the customer, and reacting appropriately. 

Turn a negative review into positive publicity with these three steps.

1.  Set up tools to monitor yourself online

Free: Google Alerts
Paid: Mention (You can track up to 500 results per month for up to three keywords for free. $19.99/month for a premium plan)

There are free and paid options for monitoring online reviews. With both Google Alerts and Mention, you will be able to plug in what terms and queries you would like to get notifications about. Set up a search for your business name to get an email (from Google Alerts) and a notification (from Mention) that will send you to the source of the message. Here you will see who said what, why they said it, and where they went to spread the word.

Now is your chance to respond.

2.  React with a positive, apologetic attitude

  • Publicly acknowledge
  • Apologize
  • Resolve the issue at hand

This is your chance to be a responsive business. By not saying anything, you are leaving room for more criticism. By responding to the comment, you can brand yourself as a business who wants to work with its customers to create the best experience possible. Apologize for the negative experience, publicly acknowledge that you will take this as an opportunity to learn, and let your audience know that you will resolve this issue. 

While you don’t have to give anything away, depending on what the situation is, do your best to right what has been wronged. If you are a retail store, replace a faulty purchase; if you are a restaurant, say that the next one is on you; etc. Make sure that the person who left the “less than satisfied review” feels as though you were actually listening to what they had to say.

Next, attract authentic positive publicity.

3.  Encourage positive reviews

Reward those who give positive reviews

“If you had a positive experience…”

Consumers have no issue jumping online and writing a cutting review when they have had a poor experience, but are much less likely to go online and tell everyone how great they think you are. As a business, you need to give consumers an incentive to go online and write you a dazzling review. With each transaction or business deal, ask your clients and customers to go online and talk about their positive experience. Chances are it wouldn’t even have crossed their mind to do so, but most are very willing. If you feel so inclined, provide an incentive program, “If you write a testimonial you will be entered into a drawing for the chance to win big!” 

Find these tips helpful? Start using them!

Go online now, monitor your mentions, and become a responsive business partner. This will raise brand awareness as well as assist in branding your business as one that goes the extra mile to make sure they are providing a positive experience for all. 

What tips might you add for dealing with unsatisfied customers online? Comment below with your advice!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

This Veterans Day, BBB Reminds you to be Aware of Military Scams and Fake Charities

Better Business Bureau Serving Wisconsin is reminding veterans and their loved ones to be aware of scams that may be targeting them. If you’re looking to donate this holiday, BBB is offering advice for consumers looking to give to military-affiliated charities.

Some common scams target service members and their families, including elderly veterans.

The most common military scams to watch out for include:

  • Posing as the Veterans Administration and contacting vets to say they need to update their financial records with the VA;
  • Charging veterans for services they could get for free or less expensively elsewhere, such as military records;
  • Fraudulent investment schemes that convince veterans to transfer their assets into an irrevocable trust;
  • Offering “instant approval” military loans (“no credit check,” “all ranks approved”) that can have high interest rates and hidden fees;
  • Advertising housing online with military discounts and incentives, and then bilking service personnel out of the security deposit;
  • Trying to sell things like security systems to spouses of deployed military personnel by saying the service member ordered it to protect his or her family;
  • Selling stolen vehicles at low prices by claiming to be soldiers who need to sell fast because they’ve been deployed;
  • Posing as government contractors recruiting veterans and then asking for a copy of the job applicants’ passport (which contains important personal information);
  • Posing on online dating services as a lonely service member in a remote part of Iraq or Afghanistan, and then asking for money to be wired to a third party for some emergency.

If you’re interested in donating to a military-affiliated charity this Veterans Day, BBB recommends the following tips:

  • Watch out for charities that sound similar to more well-known ones. Many veterans’ charities include the same words in different order or form to appear legitimate.
  • Look for a clear description of the organization’s programs in its appeals and on its website. If the charity says it’s helping veterans, does it explain how (financial assistance, shelter, counseling) and where it is doing so?
  • Telemarketing can be a costly method of fundraising unless carefully managed. If called, do not hesitate to ask for written information on the charity and its finances before making a decision.
  • Be wary of excessive pressure in fundraising. Don’t be pressured to make an immediate on-the-spot donation. Charities should welcome your gift whenever you want to send it.
  • If donating clothing or other goods, find out how the charity benefits from the collection and re-sale of gifts.
  • Check first before giving, for free, with charity monitoring services like BBB’s and the state government’s charity registration agency (in WI: Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions  Charitable Organizations and Fund Raising;

BBB advises service members, veterans, and all consumers to never give out personal information to any unknown person who contacts you by phone, email, or solicitation, especially those that involve purchasing something or transferring money.

Always check a BBB Business Review before doing business or donating. If something seems fishy, report a scam or submit an investigation suggestion.

For further information, visit BBB’s Military Line. Follow the BBB on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, November 10, 2014

How Your Business Can Benefit from Small Business Saturday

Will your business take part in Small Business Saturday? This year, the shopping holiday, which encourages consumers to support small businesses by shopping locally, will take place on November 29th, the Saturday after Thanksgiving. American Express will sweeten the deal for its cardholders by giving them up to three, $10 statement credits for eligible purchases made that day.

As a small business, you can download free resources from the American Express/Small Business Saturday website and be included in the Shop Small Map and online directory, whether or not your business accepts the American Express card. You do not need to pay to have your company included in the map or online directory. However, you must meet certain qualifications to ensure that your company is both small and local.

Without spending a penny, your business could be a part of this movement, and take advantage of consumers’ desire to support their communities on Small Business Saturday. The toolkit for small business owners includes free templates for signage, social media posts, postcards and emails to customers, and more. It also includes Small Business Saturday logos, which you could add to paid promotions, like advertisements. While you’re on the website, check out case studies of what other companies have done to benefit from Small Business Saturday. This might get your creative juices flowing.

Small Business Saturday started in 2010 by founding partner American Express. In 2011, the U.S. Senate officially recognized the day, and by 2012, an estimated $5.5 billion was spent at small, independent businesses on that day, according to American Express. 

Here are 10 ways to capitalize on Small Business Saturday, courtesy of the American Independent Business Alliance:


Join with community organizations and fellow business owners to celebrate. Throw a parade on your main street. Host a neighborhood block party or downtown fair. Design an event that showcases what your businesses have to offer and inspires people to participate. And, don't forget to leverage existing events in your town on the day.


Reach out to your customers and prospects in the community to let them know your business is participating in Small Business Saturday. Use the free marketing tools to spread the word including social media, email outreach, online marketing, advertising and direct mail.


Dress up the town and your store with signage, banners and balloons to call your community to action on the day. Also consider photo booths, free food or live music.


The easier it is to shop, the more people will do it! Work with town officials to close down streets for pedestrians and to offer free parking or shuttles on the day.


Connect with other small business owners and brainstorm ways to leverage your existing resources and to promote the initiative collectively in a way that benefits everyone. Consider partnering to offer discounts to consumers who bring in a receipt from another participating small business.


Send a press release to your local newspapers, radio and television stations announcing your participation. Encourage them to visit your event and interview you and your customers on the day.


Reach out to town officials to encourage their participation which would help provide the message of the day’s importance to the local economy.


Consumers will be on the lookout for special deals and discounts. Reward them for shopping small by offering a small discount, a free gift with purchase, complimentary gift wrapping or a store gift certificate that can be used towards a purchase at a later date.


Consider donating a percentage of your profits from the day to a local charity such as a food pantry or animal shelter. This gives you another great marketing message to communicate. Even better, you will be paying it forward by supporting a non-profit in your community.


Mention Small Business Saturday to customers, in meetings, at community events and to your friends and family and share some of the some of the top reasons why buying local and independent matters!