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 - 

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!