Tuesday, March 31, 2015

BBB Warning: Scams Currently Affecting Small Businesses

Scams targeting small businesses are not only becoming more frequent, but are also appearing in many different forms. Most recently, BBB has received reports of office supply scams and Yellow Page spoofs.

Office Supply Scam

How It Works:
Scammers will call your small business claiming to be from an office supply company making offers for limited time pricing, discounts, or going-out-of-business sales. Once you have agreed to make a purchase, weeks later you receive a large invoice for products you did not order. If the scammer is questioned regarding the invoice, they will often back off. However, if your Accounts Receivable staff is authorized to pay any and all invoices, and are unaware of current scams, your business could fall victim.

How to Avoid this Scam:
  • Train your staff and make sure they are up-to-date and aware of current scams and schemes.
  • Make sure your staff does not respond to unsolicited phone offers. All sales pitches should be made in writing.
  • Do not engage with unknown sellers. Make sure they are a trustworthy business by visiting bbb.org.

Yellow Page Spoof

How It Works:
A scammer posing as Yellow Pages might contact your business about updating your directory information. They ask you to confirm some basic information such as your name, address, and phone number. Weeks later you will receive an invoice for an ad in the Yellow Pages. When you call to complain, the scammer posing as a representative tells you that you made a verbal confirmation. They might even play you a spliced recording making it sound like you had agreed to placing an ad.

How to Avoid this Scam:
  • Hang up. Don't confirm information over the phone from unsolicited callers.
  • Don't trust caller ID. Scammers sometimes use special technology to fake the number and name that appear on your phone.
  • The Yellow Pages name and logo are not trademarked, making it an easy target for scammers to impersonate.

If you are unsure if you have fallen victim to a scam, trust your instinct. If something seems too good to be true, it usually is. If your business has experience with or has fallen victim to these scams be sure to contact your local Better Business Bureau.

If you are seeking specific information about a business, or simply need assistance, contact BBB serving Eastern MA, ME, RI & VT by info@boston.bbb.org or call 508-652-4800.  

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Increase Your Facebook Page Visibility

One of the biggest frustrations I see small-business owners having when it comes to social media is figuring out how to reach their audience. On Facebook, a page's visibility is dictated substantially by Facebook's algorithm. Essentially the algorithm decides where stories appear in each user's newsfeed. The good news is, there are a few no-brainer ways to combat this algorithm and maximize your page's visibility.

  1. Use a branded cover photo. Research shows that photos receive the highest amount of engagement on Facebook. Additionally the cover photo is the first thing a user sees when they visit your page. You want to pick something creative, engaging, and most importantly something that communicates your brand message. We used our hashtag #StartWithTrust as the focal point of our cover photo. The hashtag is a vital part of our brand message, which is to help people find and recommend business, brands, and charities they can trust. As soon as a user visits our page this message is the first thing that is communicated to them. 
  2. Include photos in your Facebook posts. As previously stated, photos receive the highest amount of engagement on Facebook. Visual content draws users in. When you include a photo with your Facebook post, users are 39% more likely to click onto your post, therefore increasing engagement and visibility. 
  3. Respond to consumer feedback. It's no secret that the best kind of marketing is consumer word-of-mouth. When you give a timely and informative reply to your consumers you are enhancing consumer confidence. Additionally, do not shy away from negative feedback. This is an opportunity to not only show the consumer that you are concerned about their experience, but it also shows potential customers that you are attentive and you care about the customer. Engaging with consumers on Facebook is a easy way to retain and gain customers. 

Here at BBB of E. MA, RI, VT, & ME we have started a series on our YouTube page called Social Media Minute. You can check in monthly for small-business social media tips and tricks. We also encourage you to submit your own questions to be addressed in an upcoming episode. 

Check out our first episode:

If you have a question about social media you would like answered please submit it HERE.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Selling: Back to the Basics

Written By: Gary S Goldman
Business & Management Consultants to the Construction Trades
New and experienced contractors always ask three questions: “How can I be successful in the industry?” “How do I find prospects and “How do I market?”?” My answer is always the same: get “back to the basics” of selling. It really doesn’t matter what it says on our business cards. We may act as a consultant, but, in fact, we are all salespeople. So, what are the “basics?”

Let us start with the ethic of reciprocity – the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated. Many times, salespeople forget that 90 percent of selling is listening. It is very easy to tell people what you want them to hear and try to earn their business, but – keeping the Golden Rule in mind – is that how you want to be treated? Do you really want someone telling you what you have to do or buy without asking you what you want to do and why? 

Being a great salesperson is as easy as treating others the way you want to be treated. If you are like most contractors, you spend a good portion of our day on the phone or emailing potential customers whom we may never meet. As we all know, it is very difficult to build trust over the phone or computer. Technology continues to change our daily communication, and we are easily connected to people worldwide. Depending on your niche, your market could encompass one or many states. So as sales people, we are to build rapport with our prospects, whether they are in Boston or Portland Maine.  

Keep in mind during all conversations that the goal should be to treat them with the same respect that you expect from your business contacts. You are your best asset. Sell yourself by using your personality and expertise to earn business. People want to do business with people they like. If they like you, prospects will find it more and more difficult to tell you “no”. When you earn the trust and respect of your potential customers, you will earn their business.

How many times have you heard people say they would rather have a root canal than deal with a salesperson? People as a whole don’t like to be sold, but they really like to buy. Ask yourself what you liked about the people you purchased items or services from. Your prospect has the same right you do in choosing who they wish to do business with. Are you the only person providing this service or product? Most likely you are not the only game in town. So how can you earn the right to be the ONE? Perhaps by allowing people to do what they do best. People love to talk about themselves, their family, pets, hobbies, vacations, etc. Be the one that takes the time to learn about your prospect on a personal level. You just might find out that you have similar interests and can use that information as an opportunity to create a comfort level for you and your prospect. They already know what they want to do; the question is who is going to help them reach that goal? It does not have to be a chore. When done right, it can be a pleasant experience for both parties. When your customers look at the sales experience positively, they are likely to refer you to business associates, friends, and family members. This is a great way to market and grow your business.

Obviously, it is not practical to think that you are able to build a rapport with every prospect that you meet or talk to on the phone. You must determine if they are a true prospect or not, then identify how they operate. Are they a logical or emotional decision-maker? Do they use their heads or their hearts? Are they talkative or do they keep their feelings inside? Are they working to avoid the problem or are they working toward a solution? It is important to remember that it is much more comfortable to work with people that have a similar personality. We have to step out of our comfort zone to connect people that we consider “difficult.” To master the selling yourself method, you have to learn how to customize your message in your own words for all personality types. Don’t stub your toe by not being yourself. The potential customer wants to work with you, but you need to know them, and they need to know you.

Has technology changed how customers behave or operate? Absolutely! People have forgotten how to interact with other humans. Think about it – do you order items from a catalogue? Do you buy things on the Internet? Do you Google for information? Do you interact with a credit card machine or a cashier? What happened to working with people? Whether in the past, present, or future, successful salespeople deliver personal, professional service through human interaction.

As you start to prepare your marketing plan, remember the importance of getting “back to the basics” and start from within yourself. You are the least expensive and most important asset that you have. It doesn’t matter what you sell; your prospects need to like you, and you need to understand and connect with them. 

We work hard to build relationship with our clients. Be confident and feel good about what you are doing to help others. Sell yourself by sticking to the basics.