Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Apps that Deliver: 5 Marketing Professionals Share their Favorites

We’re all striving for that work/life balance. The struggle is real for most of us. We admit it. It can be tough to turn off work. We want to be the best we can be and find it hard to relax until we’ve tackled the total to-do list. If professionals can rely on something (or things) to help us simplify a busy lifestyle -- there’s a good chance it will be technology-based.

Whether it’s staying organized while offsite and on the go, or injecting personality into work from the palm of your hand -- being a modern day professional means getting on-board and online with apps for your smart device to remain pleased with your productivity. Everyone deserves time for family, friends and that pilates or crossfit class.

Members of our Communications and Marketing team weigh in on their favorite apps and why they consistently deliver.

Amy Schram, Senior Community Outreach Specialist
Fave: Google Calendar: time and event management
Why: It is literally my whole life. I have anywhere from 10 - 15 places each day that I need to be, often in different cities in different states. I am able to not only save and reference the address of each location but contact names, phone numbers, links to relevant websites and details on each event as well. I could not do my job without it!

Jaime Slatt, Community Outreach Specialist
Fave: Waze: real-time map with re-routing functionality
Why: I actually do not know what I would do without it, especially as someone who is on the road on a daily basis visiting with businesses in BBB’s service area. Not only does it alert me to delays on my route, it updates me with opportunities to avoid the issues that crop up between me and my destination. It is the best traffic app out there, in my opinion.

Paula Fleming, Vice President of Communications and Marketing

Fave: Google Drive: file storage accessible from any of your devices
Why: It allows me to work on the go. I can edit, share and review files with the team. Drive is very user friendly from a handheld device and documents can be worked on simultaneously with a colleague. In addition, edits are made quickly and automatically.

Rachel Gelb, Communications and Marketing Manager

Fave: Giffage: gifs literally at your fingertips
Why: The app allows you to send gifs right in a text message, using your own keyboard to search for them. You can see trending gifs and save your favorites. You can even make your own gifs and save them for later. It makes finding and using gifs effortless. In an increasingly gif-centric world, it’s a marketer’s dream.

Stephanie Benz, Senior Social Media Associate

Fave(s): Twitter and Pic Stitch: an online timeline and one-stop shop for photo editing
Why: If you can’t find me, check Twitter. It’s where I go for real-time news, how I stay up to speed on what other BBB’s are saying or doing and one of the main platforms for communication with BBB Accredited Businesses online. Pic Stitch and Twitter go hand-in-hand for my social media efforts. Since tweets including media are proven to perform better than those without, many of our BBB tweets will contain an image. In addition, our Instagram account is a mainstay for featuring snapshots from our Community Outreach team’s travels. Pic Stitch allows me to edit, embellish and create images for both social media accounts -- all in one app.

Do you have a favorite app? Do you use it for personal or professional reasons -- or maybe it’s one that allows you to balance the two? Let us know. Tweet us at @BostonBBB with the app and your “why” and we’ll retweet you! #FaveApp

For more information you can trust, visit us at bbb.org/boston, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and Linkedin.

Written by Stephanie Benz, Senior Social Media Associate for Better Business Bureau Serving E. Massachusetts, ME, RI & VT.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

15 Ways for your Small Business to Save

Penny pinching for your business? It can be painful. Instead of getting frustrated, why not get frugal? Start by balancing your budget, separating your personal banking and business expense accounts and cleaning up your debt. There are many techniques for saving your business’s bottom line. Here are 15 ways you can implement simple changes and save.

Network (It)
  • Attend free and/or affordable workshops and events run by organizations like General Assembly to network with other small businesses and/or participate in ongoing education.
  • Host and/or co-host events with like-minded partners to deflect cost and get double the exposure for your brand and/or initiative.
  • Connect with your alma mater(s). Attend networking events that are often free for alumni. Offer to speak in front of alums and/or soon-to-be graduates on a topic in an area of your expertise.
  • Join or register your business with local organizations like the Chamber of Commerce, applicable trade associations and Better Business Bureau.

Reward Yourself
  • When applying for credit or gas cards, cash back or point-collecting programs will prove thrifty. Take annual fees into consideration but more often than not, these cards act like a VIP pass. Same holds true for hotel and airline loyalty programs. These accounts will not only present amenities but enable you to track spending activity and evaluate where your business spends the most.
  • Join a wholesale shopping club like Costco or BJ’s. Necessities like paper supplies and printer cartridges can be more affordable when purchased in bulk. If you do buy a membership, always request a business account. Remember, keep it separate from your personal one so you can track spending and how long supplies last in the office.

Staff and Space
  • Growing and established businesses alike struggle with the hiring process. Save money, management sweat equity and time by employing a temp agency or hiring independent contractors.
  • Take advantage of universities in your surrounding community. College and Graduate students are often eager to apply their newly-acquired skills with businesses who support their education endeavors and offer opportunities in their area of study.
  • Embrace the telecommuter. Avoid office space headaches, like shifting of employees desks and/or the need to expand physical space all together by allowing staff to go "virtual."
  • For younger small businesses and/or businesses without a physical office space, consider utilizing community workspaces like WeWork and WorkBar. A business can rent coworking space by the day and/or maintain a dedicated space as well as access conference rooms.
  • On the road 24/7? Plan out your trip for the most direct route AND one based on where you can find free wifi. Cafes, sandwich shops, etc. are pretty commonplace for offering wifi to its customers free of charge.

Tackle Tech
  • Could your business benefit from streamlining your technology needs? Like small businesses, Better Business Bureau Serving E. Massachusetts, ME, RI & VT (BBB) is consistently faced with finding ways to be financially efficient. In 2014, BBB merged hardware and software applications onto one platform. This decision to streamline with Google proved to be a profitable venture. Converting the staff to universal devices eliminated the need for full-time IT support and improved confidence regarding security. BBB's technology guru, Lisa Ventura, said:

Not only are we greatly reducing IT issues, we have saved roughly $900 per seat by purchasing Chromeboxes versus computers with added software. With a staff of approximately 50 people, that savings really adds up.

  • Be willing to invest your time in free online tools as part of your business plan. The art of engaging with your customers and customers-to-be online - if executed well - can be very rewarding for lead generation, customer retention, and more. Keep in mind, online tools don’t run themselves. Carving out time to participate in forums on topics you can add value to as well as having an active presence on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn, not only increase your Internet footprint but won’t cost much (if anything) to incorporate into your marketing efforts. Sound like a lot? Find out and evaluate how and where your customers interact and spend your online-time accordingly.
  • YouTube can be a gateway to new customers as well as an effective branding tool. Content and quality are key there (as is keeping most videos under 90 seconds). Everyday devices like an iPhone can be used as a legitimate recording tool. A focused YouTube account allows you to effortlessly cross-promote video content via your website and/or social media accounts and can serve as a 'priceless' component of your marketing budget. Cue the Mastercard commercials.
  • Make a habit of periodically circling back to service providers like Internet, cable and cell phone. There are often promotions available at the start of a new quarter or a credit you might qualify for, especially if you are a loyal client.

Let the saving begin!

Did you know that 7 out of 10 consumers prefer to do business with an Accredited Business? Learn how to become part of a community of trustworthy businesses. If your business is already Accredited, find out how you can update your business online for free with Google and BBB and make it easier for people to find you online. For more information you can trust, visit us at bbb.org/boston, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Written by Stephanie Benz, Senior Social Media Associate for Better Business Bureau Serving E. Massachusetts, ME, RI & VT.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

How to Make Business Travel Less Turbulent

Despite much of today’s marketplace being well-suited for virtual management, in-person meetings and off site events continue to be a component of maintaining and growing your business. Out of town team gatherings as well as conferences or conventions are an opportunity for both personnel and brand strengthening. Before you check your bags, here are some items to check off the “travel to-do” list plus ideas for making your business travel less turbulent. 


Plan ahead. Research hotels in your destination city before committing to a stay for your business. Utilize online reviews to get a grasp on their reliability and learn past experiences of other guests who have stayed. Plus, plans can change. It’s always wise to understand a hotel or resort’s policies regarding length-of-stay -- make sure to ask questions on topics like cancellation and penalty fees before you book. Using a travel agent? Agencies can be helpful for package deals and learning about hidden gems but it’s crucial to do your due diligence before hiring an agency to avoid scams and misleading fine print. 

Ask away. Your lodging is in the business of hospitality, afterall. When you book your reservation, make requests that might make your stay more enjoyable. Traveling for work -- especially if across different time zones or jam-packed with obligations -- can be exhausting. Inquire about early and/or late check-in and if your routine includes regular exercise, ask for details on the gym. Does your room have a kitchenette? That’s a score, if so. On a recent trip, mine did and I brought along the ingredients to make my daily smoothie. It allowed me to maintain my morning routine despite not being in my own kitchen. 

It’s all in the details (make sure you know them). Are there multiple team members in the mix? Confirm who will be attending which session/dinner/client meeting, etc ahead of time. It also can’t hurt to familiarize yourself with the layout of the event space and/or area you’ll be staying in. If traveling alone, you could reach out to clients or colleagues in the area for tips and suggestions for staying there. Oh, and cell phone numbers -- you’d be surprised how many employees don’t communicate outside of work. Get co-workers' digits before you hit the road so you can keep in touch if edits and or issues arise.

Pack it up, pack it in. Do you literally sit on your suitcase before dragging it down two flights of stairs? Are you pulling things out of your bag at airport check-in because it’s overweight? Avoid the hassle and pack smart. Try not to (I admittedly find it hard to resist) bring too many options. It’s helpful to bring an extra outfit or two in case plans change but bringing three dresses or shirt/tie combos to choose between for that client dinner will only add to frustration courtesy of extra decision making. The time you spend deciding on what to wear subtracts time from something else you could be doing (i.e. networking, sightseeing or taking a nap). Try on and coordinate clothes before you include them in your “necessities” for the trip. With versatility in mind, take into consideration your color palette. Neutrals are your best travel friend! For example, bringing mostly black pieces of your wardrobe could allow you to get away with one pair of business-ready shoes and leaves room for a more casual or cocktail appropriate pair. Think about wearing the heaviest pair of shoes on the plane to save pounds on the luggage scale.

Communicate. Regardless of the role you play for your business, you’re important. An out-of-office signature on your email is the best way to spread the word with external contacts and a direct email and/or in-person conversation is probably best for communicating travel plans with your colleagues.


Organize from the start. Allow yourself time at the train station/airport to get organized. Separate out items you’d like to work on while in transit. This will alleviate the need to repeatedly access the overhead bin. 

Sounds good. You fully-charged your devices before you left home so you can use them during travel, right? Don’t forget your headphones so you can work without the background noise and/or listen to music to politely drown out that Chatty Cathy sitting behind you. Looking to catch-up on sleep? I never (ever) leave home without ear plugs.

More than you paid for. Upon check-in at your destination, why not ask if there are any free upgrades available? All they can say is “no” and if you belong to their rewards program, you’re considered a preferred customer. IF you don’t already belong to their program, ask to join with the caveat that you’d like a perk during your stay. A suite sounds nice. Or maybe it’s a noontime check out in advance of a late departing flight. 

Sleep soundly. You are where you are for a reason. You won’t be the same or nearly as productive without good sleep. What works when you’re at home? I sleep with a sound machine. When I travel, I use a free smartphone app that replicates it. It kind of feels like home and helps filter out other hotel noises in the night (also, see ear plugs above).


Pay it forward. Once back in the office, submit an online review for each of the businesses you interacted with. The hotel, convention center and restaurants you enjoyed during your trip will appreciate the feedback on their performance. These reviews allow other travelers to learn from your experience in preparation for their own. You benefited from someone’s feedback and they’ll benefit from yours. In addition, it gives the business you review a leg up on their competition and a stronger presence online. Via InsightSquared:

88% of consumers are influenced by online customer service reviews when making buying decisions and 58% are more likely to tell others about their customer service experiences than they were 5 years ago.

Reach out. Solidify connections you made via timely follow-up. Suggest that you find one another on social media platforms like LinkedIn or Twitter. Remember, networking doesn’t end with an in-person meeting. Provide new contacts pertinent info from conversations you engaged in or topics you enjoyed at a joint-attended event. Keep the lines of communication open after the trip to avoid being out of sight and out of mind. 

Did you know that 7 out of 10 consumers prefer to do business with an Accredited Business? Learn how to become part of a community of trustworthy businesses. If your business is already Accredited, find out how you can update your business online for free with Google and BBB and make it easier for people to find you online. For more information you can trust, visit us at bbb.org/boston, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn

Written by Stephanie Benz, Senior Social Media Associate for Better Business Bureau Serving E. Massachusetts, ME, RI & VT.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

BBB Continues to Evolve in an Ever Changing Marketplace

Huffington Post writer, Ann Brenoff recently shared her experience using Twitter for customer complaints and the power that social media has in the all encompassing arena that is customer service.
“Twitter, for all intents and purposes, is the new Better Business Bureau. The ability to publicly shame a company for its bad service is a weapon in the consumer arsenal that shouldn't be overlooked. An unfavorable tweet can ding a company's reputation, something that major businesses have become aware of.”
Won’t you Tweet with Us
As Jessi Hempel pointed out last month for Wired.com, almost 80 percent of the questions people ask businesses on social are happening on Twitter. While it’s easy to agree the impressive influence that social media channels like Twitter have in the marketplace, Better Business Bureau doesn’t consider itself replaced. Rather, BBB embraces social media as a tool to help businesses grow in a trustworthy environment and marvels at business’s success stories via social media marketing. Twitter is part of BBB’s social artillery. BBB tweets to communicate with consumers and businesses on a daily basis including topics like scam alerts, local and industry newsworthy topics as well as BBB specific news. Twitter users can even tweet #BBBHelp during business hours to request assistance from the team.

Better Business Bureau is in favor of consumers having the ability to engage in open communication in the forum of their choice, private or public but also believes in the importance of supporting both the business and the consumer. BBB prefers that the reputation of a business not be judged until both sides of the story are presented, confirmed and addressed. While a consumer may -- and often does -- have a perfectly legitimate complaint or issue, there are times where a simple misunderstanding could elevate to something more than it was by making it public. In such cases, a business could take unfavorable treatment or publicity based off an escalated miscommunication.  

BBB Directory
In addition to being a powerhouse in moderating customer complaints and providing a place for business owners to connect with their customers in an unbiased environment, BBB hosts an online reservoir of businesses. Consumers can utilize BBB’s directory of businesses -- both BBB Accredited and Non-Accredited -- during their purchase decision making process. If a business has been Accredited by BBB it means the business meets 8 standards of trust, including a commitment to answering consumer complaints. In June, Myles Anderson presented his analysis of traffic data for local online directories like Better Business Bureau. The study included 30 of the most prominent U.S. online directories. BBB stood out as one of only 3 directories showing growth with BBB.org up 70% in visits from May 2014 - May 2015. Anderson feels that two factors set BBB’s directory apart from the rest: unique customer review content and high trust factor. 
Technically, BBB isn’t a directory like the others. It is a group of local organizations that champion trust in local businesses and offer accreditation for businesses — which helps consumers know if a business is trustworthy and decent versus low quality and to be avoided.“
Through educating consumers online about local businesses’ transparency, BBB is empowering and helping consumers make stronger, well-advised decisions.

Customer Reviews, Good or Bad News
When users search for a business via Better Business Bureau’s online directory, they get full disclosure on the state of a business and at the same time businesses can show they have dealt with and resolved issues big or small that have come into the fold. A business can also invite its customers to write a review of their experience, which makes up the unique content referenced in Anderson’s analysis. A review might include special insider customer info, a referral program or that hidden easter egg other consumers are looking for...a coupon code. In addition, Customer Reviews provide businesses a leg up on their competition. More reviews draw more attention from potential clients, provides the opportunity to promote positive business attributes and measures common usage of their offerings. By encouraging consumers to share their experience, a business builds credibility with the community. It’s simple. When a consumer searches for a product or service, they want to know how others have fared. The more educated a consumer is, the more confidence they have in their commitment to a business and the investment they plan to make in their product or service. According to Shelf Inc., 70% of consumers reported Customer Reviews as the 2nd most trusted source in purchase decision making. In addition, Customer Reviews -- of which BBB has 46K+ on local enterprises -- allow businesses to interact with customers that they might not otherwise have had the opportunity to engage.

No Dinosaurs to See Here
While Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern MA, ME, RI & VT might be 100 years old, it does not have plans for retirement! BBB’s online resources (over the last year bbb.org/boston saw over 4.6 million visits with over 3.7 million unique visitors) include an active social media presence. BBB Serving E. Massachusetts, ME, RI and VT alone has over 33K followers on social media platforms and this blog sees over 1500 unique visits/month. Plus, BBB is accessible on-the-go. BBB.org was accessed over 1.6 million times on mobile devices in the last year. Both on and offline, BBB assembles a community of trustworthy businesses and inspires consumer confidence in a safe and secure environment. It’s true, BBB isn’t like the others.

For more information you can trust, visit us at bbb.org/boston, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn

Written by Stephanie Benz, Senior Social Media Associate for Better Business Bureau Serving E. Massachusetts, ME, RI & VT.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

BBB and Google Partner to Get Businesses on the Map

Businesses encouraged to attend in-person BBB workshops for expert help

Being on the map matters. 4 in 5 consumers use search engines to find local information, like store addresses, business hours, product availability and directions.1 Yet, only 37 percent of businesses have claimed their listing on a search engine.2  And complete business information can help generate economic value to individual communities. In small communities, this could be worth up to +$300k a year; in large cities it can be up to +$7m.3

stasiasbakery.pngThat’s why Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island and Vermont and Google have teamed up on Google’s latest program called Let’s Put Our Cities on the Map. Our mission: to help businesses in 30,000 cities get the help they need to succeed online, for free. Because stronger businesses mean stronger communities.

Ready to get started?
Businesses are invited to attend free workshops to get online and on the map. Attendees can look forward to giveaways, dedicated staff to help update business information on the spot, and free food and drinks.

Find a workshop in your area and get your business on the map.

Want to see how your business appears on Google Search and Maps now? Head to www.gybo.com/business and type in your business name to see how your information appears across Google Search and Maps.

The tool highlights suggestions for areas that could use attention, including:
  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Hours of operation
  • Photos

Want help updating the information? Attend a BBB workshop to learn how to manage your business info across Google.

We’re excited to be partnering with BBB. By working together, we can help our local businesses succeed on the web and make our communities even stronger.

Written by Whitney Lemon, Google Small Business Engagement. Whitney is a marketing manager on Google’s Let’s Put Our Cities on the Map team. She hosts Friday 15: Small Business Tips, Google’s series to help small businesses succeed online. Friday 15 is part of Google’s Get Your Business Online program, providing small businesses with a custom domain name and web hosting–at no charge for one year.

For more information you can trust, visit us at bbb.org/boston, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn. Become an Accredited Business and get the resources you need to give you confidence and help keep your business safe and secure. 

1 Google/Ipsos MediaCT/Purchased, Understanding Consumers’ Local Search Behavior, May 2014
2 Marketing Sherpa, Search Marketing Benchmark Report SEO Edition, 2012
3 Google/Oxera, The Benefits of Complete Business Listings, December 2014