Saturday, February 21, 2015

New BBB Code of Advertising

Better Business Bureau has made comprehensive changes to its BBB Code of Advertising to reflect the many new ways advertisers reach consumers via websites, social media, texting and other channels. Every business that advertises in North America is expected to follow BBB’s Code, and compliance is monitored by 112 BBB offices in the U.S. and Canada. Industry self-regulation of truth-in-advertising rules has earned the support of federal regulators who take seriously cases referred to their agencies. 

 The Code states that “the primary responsibility for truthful and non-deceptive advertising rests with the advertiser” and that advertisers “should be prepared to substantiate any objective claims or offers made before publication or broadcast.” The goal is to make industry self-regulation track with rules to encourage the most honest and ethical marketing by businesses.

One of the most significant changes to the Code is an update to the section on testimonials and endorsements, to reflect the Federal Trade Commission’s current thinking on the use of them in social media. The most noticeable change to the Code is the elimination of the requirement that advertisers include a range of savings whenever an “up to” price savings claim is made (for instance, up to 40%); the Code retains the requirement that at least 10% of the class of items identified in the ad must be offered at 40% off. 

All BBBs across North America have Advertising Review Specialists who work with businesses in their service area to help ensure truth-in-advertising in all channels. When BBB learns of an advertisement or questionable marketing claim, it notifies the business and seeks voluntary substantiation, modification or discontinuation of the claim(s) in question. In 2014, BBBs conducted more than 11,000 ad reviews at the local level, and nearly 250 national advertising reviews were conducted by various programs at the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

Originally published at:

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

BBB and Join Forces to Provide Homeowners with Trusted Resources

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

Saturday, February 7, 2015

3 Reasons to Read Online Reviews before Hiring Them

Before the advent of the Internet in the mid-1990s, people conducted business on a face-to-face basis or by speaking on the phone. Many times, customers could gather a lot of information about the integrity and reliability of a company by simply walking through the front door of the company's retail store or offices. When people realized the power of the internet, companies began doing more business online and personal contact was sacrificed. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Doing Business Online One of the primary advantages of using the Internet to advertise and/or conduct business is the ability to efficiently and effectively reach more people. The related advertising costs savings for many businesses have been significant enough to help business owners expand into other areas with other services or products. However, nothing comes without a price. The price of interacting business over the Internet is losing the ability to get a gut feel for how a business operates. For many consumers, that's a significant disadvantage. 
A New Level of Trust It's quite remarkable that so many Americans are willing to transact business online. The amount of trust that comes with ordering goods and services without physical contact between parties has absolutely changed the way that customers interact with retailers and service providers. When you factor in the notion that most customers are going to offer up personal information and access to their credit/debit cards in the process, it elevates the need for trust far beyond anything that was ever required pre-Internet. Researching Before Buying It's sad to say, but there are far too many predatory companies operating in the business world, especially on the Internet. Unscrupulous businesses have been around for centuries, but the Internet provides a substantial curtain behind which they can operate. The fact remains that customers have an obligation to themselves and/or their businesses to do the proper levels of due diligence prior to purchasing goods or services no matter where they purchase them. This isn't a new notion. 
The Better Business Bureau has been operating since 1912. It's a non-profit organization that provides ratings for companies in almost every industry. That said, the Internet has made it easier to research companies via a wide range of other watchdog and review sites that provide information about companies and the way they conduct business. Best Ways to Avoid Commerce Issues If an individual is planning on hiring a company to provide services, they need to make sure the services offered come as advertised and that the people offering those services are qualified to do so. If they are looking to purchase products, they need to know the products being sold are real, reliable and come with some sort of guarantees and/or protection such as good customer service. Keeping in mind that no method is going to be 100% reliable, the three most popular methods for determining the reliability of a retailer or service provider are: 
• Word of mouth from friends, family or acquaintances. 
• Business ratings from organizations like the BBB and Consumer Reports. 
• Online reviews provided by review sites like Google Places, Yellow Pages, Yelp, Trip Adviser, etc. 

Over the past several years, online reviews have increased in popularity. According to BrightLocal's 2013 consumer survey, it was determined that 85% of Internet users were reading online reviews prior to hiring or purchasing. Also, it was reported that 79% of respondents say they trust those reviews. While online reviews are subject to some scrutiny for a variety of reason, they still provide a useful tool for choosing the best companies with which to do business. The three most important reasons to read online reviews are: 
1. Help Identify Potential Rogue Companies - If you see a negative comment or two about a particular company, you should take note and perhaps contact the company about what those reviews are saying. By doing this, you offer them a chance to explain prior to eliminating them as a prospect. If you see reviews that indicate a company might be involved in some type of unethical or criminal business practices, you should simply move on and find another company to use. There are plenty of reliable companies that provide goods and services in every industry. There is no sense in taking unwarranted risks. 
2. Gain Confidence in The Company's Reputation - It becomes quite reassuring when you consistently read positive reviews about a company with which you are considering doing business. When you hire a company under these circumstance, you are awarded great peace of mind that you are going to get what you're paying for as advertised. This helps provide great rationale for your hiring or purchasing decision. 
3. Time Savings - It might take a significant amount of time to call enough references and referrals. Also, the company is assuredly going to point you in the direction of only satisfied customers. 

Online reviews give you a place to go where you can read a number of diversified opinions in one place at one time. These reviews are being offered by folks who are freely taking the time to offer advice with nothing to lose or gain. This makes the decision making process easier to complete. When providers and consumers do business, some level of trust comes into play. The tools are in place to protect consumers if they know where to look and want to protect themselves. Online reviews are becoming the most prominent method for consumers to go for meaningful advice. This is a great tool that shouldn't be ignored. 

Bio: Brad Smith is CEO and co-founder of Rescue One Financial, headquartered in Irvine, California. Rescue One Financial helps individuals resolve unsecured debt during troubling times and have settled over $3.1B in debt. Brad's 18-year financial services career includes Wall Street with Merrill Lynch, where he helped pioneer the restricted stock diversification business at Morgan Stanley.
Smith still holds all of his licenses today (Series 7, 31, 63, and 65).

Monday, February 2, 2015

BBB Top Ten Scams of 2014

Better Business Bureau hears from thousands of consumers and business owners every year about a variety of scams and frauds. Many are new twists on existing scams, but scammers get more sophisticated every year in how they spoof trusted names and how they fool consumers.

While BBB doesn’t have specific numbers about how many people were defrauded or for how much, here are the scams we think were most pervasive this past year:

#10 Sweepstakes Scam: You’ve won a contest! Or the lottery! Or the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes! All you have to do to claim your prize is to pay some fees or taxes in advance so they can release your prize… This is not a new scam, but it is a perennial problem.

#9 Click Bait Scam: This one takes many forms, but the most notorious of the past year was when the Malaysian Airline plane went missing (“click here for video”). Other click bait schemes use celebrity images, fake news, and other enticing stories to get you to unintentionally download malware.

#8 Robocall Scam: The notorious “Rachel from Cardholder Services” made a resurgence in 2014. This scam claims to be able to lower your credit card interest rates and takes personal information – including your credit card number – and then charges fees to your card.

#7 Government Grant Scam: You get a call saying you’ve been awarded a government grant for thousands of dollars. It may even mention a program you’ve heard about in the news. All you have to do to collect your grant is pay a couple hundred in fees by wire transfer or prepaid debit card…

#6 Emergency Scam: This one is sometimes called the “grandparent scam” because it often preys on older consumers. You get a call or email from your grandchild or other relative who was injured, robbed or arrested while traveling overseas and needs money ASAP.

#5 Medical Alert Scam: Another one that preys on older folks. You get a call or a visit from a company claiming a concerned family member ordered you a medical alert device in case you have an emergency. They take your credit card or banking information but you never receive anything.

#4 Copycat Website Scam: You get an email, text message or social media post about a terrific sale or exciting new product. You click through and it looks just like a popular retailer’s site. But when you order, you either get a cheap counterfeit or nothing at all… and now they have your credit card number!

#3 “Are You Calling Yourself?” Scam: Scammers can make a call look like it’s coming from anywhere. The latest trick puts your number in the Caller ID, which piques your curiosity and gets you to pick up the phone or return the call… and then they’ve snagged you in whatever scam they are running.

It was almost a tie for the top spot this year, because BBB sees this one every day:

#2 Tech Support Scam: You get a call or a pop-up on your computer claiming to be from Microsoft (or Norton, or Apple) about a problem on your computer. They say if you give “tech support” access to your hard drive, they can fix it. Instead, they install malware on your computer and start stealing your personal information.

And the top Scam of the Year, because it’s just so terrifying, is:

#1 Arrest Scam: You receive an ominous phone call from someone claiming to be a police officer or government agent (often the IRS in the United States or the CRA in Canada). They are coming to arrest you for overdue taxes or for skipping out on jury duty… but you can avoid it by sending them money via a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. Another variation on this is that you’ll be arrested for an overdue payday loan. Whatever the “violation,” it’s scary to be threatened with arrest, and many people pay out of fear.

Why Scams Work:

There is a science to scams, and it may surprise you to know that scammers use many of the same techniques as legitimate sales professionals. The difference, of course, is that their “product” is illegal and could cost you a fortune. Here are the major techniques they use to draw you in:

Establishing a connection: The scammer builds rapport and a relationship with you. This is usually used face-to-face, as in home improvement scams and many investment scams, but also online romance scams.

Source credibility: The scammer uses techniques to make themselves look legitimate, such as fake websites or hacked emails that come from a friend’s account. Most email phishing scams spoof real companies, and many scammers pretend to be someone they are not in order to add credibility.

Playing on emotions: Scammers rely on emotion to get you to make a quick decision before you have time to think about it. An emergency situation or a limited time offer is usually their methodology. They count on emotional rather than rational decision-making.

What You Can Do:
Don’t be pressured into making fast decisions.
Take time to research the organization. Check them out on, search online, etc.
Never provide your personal information (address, date-of-birth, banking information, ID numbers) to people you do not know.
Don’t click on links from unsolicited email or text messages.
If you are unsure about a call or email that claims to be from your bank, utility company, etc., call the business from the number on your bill or the back of your credit card.
Never send money by wire transfer or prepaid debit card to someone you don’t know or haven’t met in person.
Never send money for an emergency situation unless you’ve been able to verify the emergency.

For more information:
For more information on these and other scams, go to BBB Scam Stopper ( Sign up for our weekly Scam Alerts to learn about new scams when we do. You can report scams here, too.
For more information on investment scams, go to BBB Smart Investing, a partnership with the FINRA Investor Education Foundation.
To search for a business in the U.S. or Canada, or to find your local BBB, go to
For information on charities, go to (BBB Wise Giving Alliance).
For information on U.S. government services, go to:
For information on Canadian government services, go to Service Canada.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Guest Blog: 10 Reasons Why Contractors Fail!

Written By: Gary S Goldman
Business & Management Consultants to the Construction Trades

We spend a lot of time maintaining the trucks, loaders, mowers, trimmers, and blowers that we purchase. However, many contractors do not see the need to perform “preventive maintenance” on their business operations. In these times of uncertainty, I am seeing more and business, struggling to keep their “bottom line” in the black. In most situations it has nothing to do with quality of the product or service that the company offers to its clients. Most contractors that I work with are excellent craftsman.

The problems that many business owners are faced with are not derived from the lack work and backlog. The majority of the contractors that I work with have more work than they can handle.

Watching a business die is never easy, if for no other reason that it can happen in so many different ways. And, no matter what the cause, it’s never funny. Here, in the hope that a bit of foreknowledge may make a dent in the death rate, are 10 of the most popular reasons contracting businesses fail:

  1. UNDERCAPITALIZATION. Money’s not only the root of all evil; it may well be the leading cause of business failures among contractors. Far to many contractors underestimate how much money they are going to need, not merely to get the business up and running, but also to sustain it as it struggles to gain a commercial foothold. Once you start out undercapitalized, that can start a downward spiral from which you can never catch up. 
  2. BAD CASH FLOW. This is the macabre cousin to inadequate capital. Even businesses that move past the embryonic stage often collapse when incoming cash doesn’t at least offset expenses and other costs. Watch your cash “burn rate” by not falling into the trap of confusing cash receipts, or a positive cash flow, with excess cash. Once you spend it you cannot get it back. Understand the importance of monthly budgets and cash flow projections. They are great tools that will help you manage your business. When it comes down to it, cash is what really counts. 
  3. INADEQUATE PLANNING. Not surprisingly, this is the reason problems like capitalization and bad cash flow happen in the first place. It’s critical that you map out as comprehensive a business plan as possible, covering financial issues, marketing, operations, growth and an array of other elements. Granted, it can be time consuming, as a well-prepared plan can take weeks or months to complete. That’s the time to find out an idea may not work. If you don’t plan and still go ahead, you may end up with heartache and thousands of dollars down the drain. 
  4. A COMPETITIVE EDGE. Genuinely unique ideas are as rare as honest CEOs these days, but it’s still critical that your business gain a toehold in some sort of singular niche that you can exploit. Be it a slightly different service or customer support that goes beyond your competitors; earmark that one element that sets your business apart. Too many contractors are simply “me too” operations. Make sure something is unique or different.
  5. MUSHY MARKETING. Your mother knows your special, but what about your prospective and current customers? It essential to develop a marketing strategy not merely to identify who might buy from you, but why. Make certain your marketing strategy sets you apart so a customer can clearly see why they would rather work with your company than a competitor.
  6. INADEQUATE FLEXIBILITY. From stacks of cash to battalions of seasoned employees, every small-business owner knows the advantages a larger competitor brings to the game. Well, one thing they can’t necessarily do is turn on a dime, something smaller companies can exploit. Never forget to remain flexible. If a service isn’t quite right or a marketing campaign isn’t really flying, don’t be afraid to tinker. Making those sort of in-course adjustments is much more unwieldy for the big guys.
  7. IGNORING THE NEXT STEP. Make sure you and your people emphasize complete customer support, from doing things you don’t have to offering thoughtful, useful advice that goes beyond the ordinary. Make sure that all members of your staff focus on quality, service, responsiveness, and value. All members of your staff need to be focused on operating in a proactive manner. This mindset often gets lost in the hustle and bustle of your day-to-day activities. However, it is essential for the growth and continued success of your business.
  8. FORGETTING THERE”S NO “S” ON YOUR CHEST. Entrepreneurs are a smart, resourceful bunch, but running a small business carries its share of hidden kryptonite. Don’t try to be all things to your business. If you cringe at the thought of maintaining complete books, don’t hesitate to hook up with a good bookkeeper. When a legal issue crops up, don’t rely on your home-baked juris doctorate to evaluate the legal ramifications. Establish a long-term relationship with an attorney; preferably one with small-business acumen.
  9. GREAT BOSS, MEDIOCRE STAFF. Inexperienced and unmotivated employees can often bring down a solid business with a knowledgeable, enthusiastic owner. Make certain your employees are well trained, fairly compensated, and somehow share in the fire that burns in your belly. 
  10. UNCONTROLLED GROWTH. Ironic as it seems, but a small business that simply succeeds to quickly often pushes itself into an early grave. If your production fails to keep pace with demand or necessary expansion coincides with insufficient cash, the growth you dream about as an entrepreneur can actually threaten your business’ very existence. Again, cover foreseeable growth in your original plan and track it adequately to make certain that it never gets dangerously out of hand. 

If you feel that your company is suffering from any of these “symptoms” do not panic. In fact, it is not uncommon for a business to have these types of problems as it progresses toward its long-term goals and objectives. What is important is the ability to have a system in place to identify the various problems and take the necessary corrective action.

I have developed a simple process that allows you to take a proactive approach to help you manage your organization. I recommend that you perform a B.E.A.R., Business Evaluation And Review, on an annual basis. Conducting a B.E.A.R. is nothing more than a “preventive maintenance program” on the operations of your business.

You will be conducting a comprehensive evaluation, review, and analysis of 6 key components of your business operations & procedures. The internal audit that you will be conducting will focus on the following:

  1. Management and Administration
  2. Marketing & Sales
  3. Contract Administration
  4. Field Production
  5. Finance & Accounting
Each of the above components will be sub categorized and analyzed to determine if there are standard operating systems, procedures, and processes in place. If they exist they should be reviewed to make sure that they are meeting the needs of your organization. Where it is identified that they are lacking or non-existent, you will need to determine how they will be implemented.

The B.E.A.R should be conducted on an annual basis prior to the preparation of your annual budget and any goals that you may be setting for the upcoming year. That will give you the opportunity to take the appropriate corrective action and move forward.

The first objective of the B.E.A.R is to provide you with the information that you need to manage your business efficiently, profitably, and with confidence. Secondly, this evaluation will help create a degree of standardization within your company. Company wide standards are an integral component in maintaining quality control within your organization.

This will result in more efficiently, professionally completed jobs which directly equals greater profit not only financially for your company, but also for the client from a satisfaction standpoint. You will also benefit because employees at all levels, administrative through production, will enjoy coming to work where well defined practices, policies, and procedures clearly outline what is expected of them.

Your business needs to be monitored on a regular basis. Conducting a B.E.A.R on an annual basis is only one faucet of the monitoring process. You need to get in the habit of performing monthly operating reviews to be sure that what you projected and planned is really happening.

By grabbing control of your business and keeping it running at peak performance, you will increase your odds for long-term success and profitability. And most important, you will have a good time doing it! Remember, the “secret of getting ahead is getting started”.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Guest Blog: How to Determine you Google Ad Word Quality Score

Written By: Kerri Koncius

Okay, so you’re ready to start your first Google AdWords paid search campaign. Great! You’ve got your landing pages ready to go, your ad copy written, and your budget nailed down. Now all you have to do is bid highly on the keywords you want to target, and you’ll show up at the top of the results, right? Not so fast…

There is another piece of the AdWords puzzle that is incredibly important, yet widely unknown by those outside of the search industry. That piece is called Quality Score, and impacts not only what positions you show up in and how often, but how much you pay per click as well.

Google defines Quality Score as “an estimate of your ads, keywords, and landing page” and claims “higher quality ads can lead to lower prices and better ad positions.” It takes into account the relevance between your keyword, ad, and landing pages, as well as user experience.

The reason for this measure is that once upon a time, you could just pay your way to the top of Google results with a high bid. You could rank prominently on highly searched keywords without having anything to do with those terms. This led to users having poor experiences and not getting what they were searching for. Quality Score ensures that an ad for a dentist’s office won’t show up on a search for “Disney World,” no matter how much that dentist is willing to pay to target that term.

So how can you set your business up for high Quality Scores, low cost-per-clicks, and effective paid search campaigns? Here’s how:

  1. Don’t bid on keywords that aren’t relevant to your business 
  2. Write compelling ad copy that encourages high click-through-rates 
  3. Ensure that users won’t be surprised when they reach your landing page, that you are giving them exactly what they were searching for 

The bottom line is that you need to make sure that your keywords, ads, and landing pages are all relevant to each other. This can be easier said than done, especially when you are a small business owner, responsible for many different facets of your company. Fortunately, there is a lot of help available, from webinars and whitepapers, to professionals that can set up and maintain campaigns for you. Whether you choose to give it a go on your own or enlist some assistance, if you keep relevance and quality in mind, you will be setting your business up for paid search success.

Friday, January 9, 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!