Saturday, November 23, 2013

Sharp Rise in Online Retailer Complaints

The long lines for the newest iPhone showed that consumers are still willing to wait for the latest and greatest electronic device. However, many prefer to skip the line and jump online to find good discounts on electronics and other items. But before you do, Better Business Bureau is warning online shoppers to beware of questionable advertisements and phony websites.

BBB received six times more complaints nationally against online retailers in 2012 than 2011 – from 62 in 2011 to 347 complaints in 2012. Most consumers allege they were charged undisclosed fees and taxes, while others claim they were charged for a product they later discovered was out of stock and undeliverable.

When considering the purchase of an electronic device or any item from an online retailer, it’s important for consumers to do their research. Make sure the price advertised is specifically for the device you want and not just a similar version. Also, remember that not all websites are legitimate. Ensure the site is secure by looking for the “s” in https when entering your payment information.

BBB advises consumers to also look out for the following when planning to do business with an online retailer:

1) Advertised prices are much lower than retail. Everyone is looking for a bargain on electronics and scammers use tantalizingly low prices to lure victims in. If the prices for items are well below those of trusted competitors, be prepared to walk away.

2) Spelling and grammar. Many phony electronics websites are created by scammers overseas and you can spot them because they usually contain spelling and grammar mistakes.

3) Payment via wire transfer onlyScammers often ask victims to wire payments because the money cannot be easily tracked or retrieved in the case of fraud. BBB recommends always using a credit card to pay for electronics online. If the website turns out to be fraudulent, you can dispute the charge with your credit card company.

4) Lack of information. Always try to find a seller’s physical address, not just a P.O. Box and phone number. Research the company’s name and website for additional information. Check for detailed information about the company including owner information and history of complaints.

5) Fraudulent security seals. When shopping online, you want to look for the seals of trusted organizations and confirm that the business’s use of the seal is legitimate. You can typically do this by clicking on the seal which, if legitimate, will link you to a confirmation page on the certifying organization’s site. For BBB Accredited Businesses using the dynamic seal on their website, the clickable link will direct the consumer back to the company’s BBB Business Review.

How often do you shop online for business or personal reasons?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Help Your Employees Share the Holiday Spirit

According to a report from Giving USA, charitable giving grew by about 3.5 percent last year, totaling $316.23 billion. Much of the giving takes place during the holidays and businesses often lead the way.

There are more ways to spread holiday cheer to the less fortunate than simply donating money, however. One way is to harness your employees’ natural desire to help others.

BBB has the following tips for businesses looking to help employees share their time, talent and treasure:

Match donations. One way to encourage cheerful giving is to match a portion of your employees' local charity donations.

Ask for employees’ charity recommendations. Invite your employees to select a charity as a group and promote their cause throughout the holiday season. Not only will this help the charity of your choosing, but your business may benefit from the brand awareness created by aligning yourself with a worthy organization.

Do some research. Learn how the organization uses the donations it receives by reviewing its BBB Charity Report online at Avoid giving to the wrong charity. Check the name of the organization closely to ensure you are giving to the right one, rather than a similarly-named organization that might not be legitimate.

Offer time off for volunteering. Consider giving employees paid time off for volunteering for charities. BBB gives employees 16 hours of paid leave for charity volunteer work. Employees have a year to utilize those hours for any charity they want to support. Call the charity directly and ask them if there are opportunities available and make it a company event. Consider wearing matching clothes with company logo to identify your business while you volunteer to market your brand.

Pick a cause you believe in. One great way to get motivated is to find an organization that appeals to the same demographic as your business. For example, if you sell clothing, consider aligning yourself with a children’s or women’s shelter where your donation directly impacts the individuals there.

Hold a food drive. BBB encouraged staff to donate to a local food bank last year by holding a team contest on who could collect the most food items. The prize was minimal, but in the end, the contest netted 1,425 pounds of food for families in need.

Partner with a charity. Supporting a fundraising event such as a toy or food drive can be a source of good public relations. Businesses can donate time, floor space or promote volunteering among the staff.

How do you spread the holiday cheer?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

How to Market for the Holidays without Breaking the Budget

Some businesses depend on the holidays for a big portion of their annual revenue. For others, the fall/winter holiday season might be a slow time of year. Either way, this is a great time to engage and connect with your customers.

Holiday marketing doesn’t have to mean offering big discounts. There are many ways for businesses on a budget to go after their piece of the holiday pie.

BBB has the following tips for businesses looking to take advantage of the holiday season:

Use holidays to add a personal touch. Offer special discounts or sales tied to holiday themes. Showcase seasonal gifts, menus or merchandise. Offer treats like warm cider to get customers into the holiday spirit. You could use the opportunity to present a special offer or coupon that customers can redeem any time through Dec. 24.

Make special holiday offers for faithful customers. One way to take advantage of the season is to make existing customers feel special and try to get their repeat holiday business. You can make special offers available to current customers — give them sneak previews; offer perks like free shipping or secret sales.

Feature different products or services. You could feature different products or services and give them a holiday spin. Share your holiday-themed promotion on your website, social media, email, posters and flyers.

Cross-promote. You might be able to partner with a complementary store or restaurant and offer limited time specials that cross-promote each other’s goods and services. For example, a retailer and restaurant could hold in-store events where the restaurant provides food and drinks and the retailer provide the location.

Get involved in local events. Supporting charities, as well as sponsoring or getting involved in community events can generate awareness for your business during the holidays. If you can’t donate large chunks of money, you could volunteer or offer space or services.

Use your website and social media. Target and connect with local consumers during the holidays using your website, social media or email marketing. Develop holiday themes for email templates and update your social media with a holiday theme. You can also use social media to engage customers about their holiday activities and help drive foot traffic to your store.

Check back often for all your business tip needs.

Saturday, November 16, 2013


Are you a small business owner? Make Nov 30 one of the biggest days of the year for your business by taking part in Small Business Saturday®. Check out resources that can help you stand out on the big day at

• SPREAD THE WORD: Download marketing materials that can help you attract new customers on the day

• PROMOTE YOUR BUSINESS: Apply for free personalized online ads. Eligibility restrictions apply; see Terms of Participation for full details. Registration for free ads closes on 11/4/13 or while supplies last.

• GET INSPIRED: Visit to see what others have done in past years to make the day a success

This is a day no small business would want to miss. Make sure you’re a part of Small Business Saturday 2013.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

How to Maximize Your Time Spent on Social Media

Please raise your hand if you've ever felt like you were wasting your time on social media.

FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ are just some of the few tabs you have open at any given moment. The activity feeds of all the sites are constantly streaming by with pictures and jokes that have no impact on you or your business. As the minutes pass ten, twenty, sixty you realize you are not spending your time wisely, especially when other aspects of your business could use the help.

Well, don’t worry there’s good news: With a little discipline and a couple set blocks of time, soon you will be in control and able to accomplish what you need efficiently and quickly.

Follow these next few steps, and we’ll walk through how to wisely spend your time on social media. When we’re done you’ll know exactly how to maximize your time spent and get a maximum return. Let’s dive in.

5 Steps to Maximizing Your Time on Social Media

1.) Track your time on the computer for the week.

Before you start diving into the restructure of your social media habits, we need to monitor how you currently spend your time on the computer throughout the week. You want to establish the three or four main time syncs of your current computer habits. Then, you can decide whether these habits are valuable to you and your business before completely start from scratch.

Keep in mind that some of your habits might be on the correct track, but just need to be completed in a more structured manner.

Nothing to overly analytical about this process, keying in on a few points creates our base for improvements.

2.) Brainstorm list of social media values.

After you've monitored your computer habits for the last week, now you must figure out what values you hope to achieve through social media. Similar to the first step—create a list of why you use social media and also what you wish to accomplish using it.

You can refer to How to Set Social Media Goals for specific examples.

3.) Set focused blocks of time.

Whether you plan on devoting anywhere from 20 minutes all the way up to a few hours, breaking up your efforts into focused blocks of time is one of the main focuses of optimization.

Start by choosing any combination of morning, noon and afternoon to be your designated social media times. For example, let’s say you want to devote 45 minutes a day to social media. Break that 45 minutes into multiple 15 minute segments and for those 15 minutes focus only on replying, updating and curating your social media feeds.

4.) Choose your most important goals and stick with them.

Some days you might feel short on time during your predetermined social media sessions. Without risking falling back into your old unstructured way of doing social media, during these times prioritize your most important goals first.

 Making sure to reply to comments and tweets is much more important than scheduling a post for next week, so the less pressing matters can be pushed back to later in the day or sometimes different days all together.

5.) Modify based on results.

Once you are settled into your allotted social media times, the next step in the process is fine tuning. A few times a month or whenever you have reached a milestone you should re-evaluate your goals.

Highlighting the differences between the goals that are currently be fulfilled and those that are not fully being reached, allows you to devote more resources and time to certain areas. Eventually you will find a balance that allows you to pursue all your goals equally.

There you go, now you are ready to manage your social media in a more consistent and efficient way. And you know what the best part is? Now your social media will work for you, instead of the other way around.

Have any more questions about common social media tips? Don’t hesitate to ask.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Saturday, November 2, 2013

How to Set Social Media Goals

How do you remain productive through your day? For some they jot down quick lists of goals to accomplish and for others they can put all their focus into completing once task at a time.

While each individual person has preferences in how they accomplish their tasks, defining proper goals when it comes to social media is key to success in the long run.

It is common for a business to feel the need to jump on the bandwagon that is social media. Find the most popular sites and quickly signing up, and then having no idea what to do from there. You might think “Hey, I just need 10,000 likes and I will be golden” or “I want to make money from this”.

These are the worst types of goals to have. While in the end they might be exactly what you want, without defining any type of specifics the chance you reach them are slim to none.

Here are some examples of proper goals:

-          I will add 100 new fans per month on the FaceBook page
-          I will make 5 new professional connections on LinkedIn through December 31
-          I will follow 10 new people on Twitter per month

These are examples of proper goals because they are S.M.A.R.T.

-          Specific
o   Goals should be specific and state exactly what you want to accomplish
-          Measurable
o   Goals should be measurable so you know you’ve met your goal
-          Attainable
o   Goals should be attainable and reasonable
-          Relevant
o   Goals should be relevant, consistent with other goals
-          Timely
o   Goals should be timely and include a deadline for reaching the goal

By defining proper goals when it comes to your social media practices, you will be able to track your progress and have an easier time when adjusting certain aspects in order to be successful.