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 Porch.com 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 Porch.com 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.org/porch-pro.

BBB and porch.com 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 porch.com or download the Porch App at porch.com/app

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 bbb.org.

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.