All posts by TheDSEF

DSEF & Money Wise Women: Organizing Your Financial Records

DSEF & Money Wise Women: Organizing Your Financial Records

Today’s highlighted post from Money Wi$e Women Get Smart Teleseminar Series (click here):

Organizing Your Financial Records

Organizing your financial records provides you with a sense of freedom and accomplishment. Learn some simple steps you can take to organize your financial records. You’ll also learn what records to keep and which records you should toss. Once you’re organized, you’ll be ready to determine your net worth.

Stacey Anderson, Organized Innovations

Stacey Anderson is a Professional Organizer, speaker and author. As founder of Organized Innovations she has tackled almost every dis-organized situation out there. Her book Get Organized : Get Revitalized is chalk full of quick, easy to implement tips for those struggling with getting started. Stacey is an active member of the National Association of Professional Organizers and is currently on the Seattle Chapter board. She has been a guest expert on local radio and has been featured in many local newspapers. www.organizedinnovations.com

DSEF proudly sponsors the free Money Wi$e Women Get Smart Teleseminar Series hosted by Marcia Brixey, Founder and President of Money Wise Women Educational Services and author ofThe Money Therapist: A Woman’s Guide to Creating a Healthy Financial Life. The series covers topics related to business and finances and provides women the opportunity to learn from professional experts in a safe, comfortable environment.

To find out about upcoming teleseminars, visit http://www.moneywisewomengetsmart.com/

DSEF & CBBB: How “Top” Are the Top Ten?

DSEF & CBBB: How “Top” Are the Top Ten?

Today’s highlighted blog post from the Council on Better Business Bureaus (CBBB)

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How “Top” Are the Top Ten?

Recently a local journal published a list of “Top Companies” in our area. “Wait a minute,” I said, spotting a familiar name. “Don’t they have an F with the BBB?”

Further research turned up the fact that this rating was earned in part due to a BBB Accredited Business revocation. We had revoked the company for not responding to a complaint after having had numerous chances to do so. Ironically, the complaint was about lack of response to the business’s paying customer.

DSEF and Council on Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) fosters honest and responsive relationships between businesses and consumers—instilling consumer confidence and advancing a trustworthy marketplace for all.

About the Better Business Bureaus
As the leader in advancing marketplace trust, Better Business Bureau is an unbiased non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Every year, more than 87 million consumers rely on BBB Business Reviews® and BBB Wise Giving Reports® to help them find trustworthy businesses and charities across North America. Visitwww.bbb.org/us for more information.

Four Priorities for Small Businesses

Four Priorities for Small Businesses

Being a small business owner often requires you to wear many different hats. However, it is important to focus on your business’s main objective, which is to turn a profit.  Read on for four elements of small business that should be at the top of your priority list.

  1. Be social. Make a list of all the possible ways you can meet and socialize with people. Start with a list of people you know and their interests. Then make a list of the people they know and finally, create a list of ways to meet new people. Becoming a social butterfly will help grow your business naturally and effectively. The benefits of being social will result in greater word of mouth for your business, increase business and increase opportunities. To optimize your social interactions utilize social media networks to stay connected and to nurture relationships with all your people.
  2. Focus on your local market. In the past, the idea was to cast a large net and hope to catch as many as you can. But, that was expense and usually yielded poor results. The better strategy is to help customers find solutions that your products solve, keep them close by so your business can easily maintain a relationship with them, and efficiently promote return business.  Here are a few ideas on how to tap your local market. Hold an open house, inviting local residents and business owners to see what your business is all about.  Consider getting professionally involved in a local cause such as school fundraisers, community food banks, or places of worship.
  3. Collaborate with others.  In addition to focusing on the local market, join forces with other businesses that complement your own.  Collaboration can take several other forms as well.  Perhaps attending a convention or other professional development opportunity, you will meet people with similar goals and interests.  Working cooperatively with them can benefit you both.
  4. Make it snappy and easy.  Most people today are always on the run and are multitasking all day long.  When introducing your business either in person or online, make sure you have an informative couple of sentences that sums up what you do and how it might help that possible customer. Also make sure your business processes are efficient. Make sure your business is easy to find, make the sales process quick, make customer service engaging and quick to respond to customers/prospects needs.

What other elements of being a small business owner do you feel are important?  Please add them to the list by commenting below!

6 Strategies to Attract Customers

6 Strategies to Attract Customers

As a small business owner or direct seller, your customers are your livelihood.  Attracting customers is something you’ll likely be striving to do whether you are just starting up or have been in business for years.  In order to attract customers more effectively here are six strategies to help you attract customers and keep them coming back.

  1. Host an open house and make yourself accessible.  In doing so, you have an opportunity to not only bring in new customers, but also to connect with your community.  Consider inviting local business owners and residents to your open house, where they can become acquainted with what you have to offer.  Provide merchandise samples, product or service demonstrations, giveaways, and brochures.  Supply refreshments for your guests and use the time to introduce yourself to them so they can put a face to your business name.  You can begin building professional relationships by immersing yourself in the community.
  2. Cross-promote your business.  Another benefit of being active in your community is the ability to join forces with other businesses in order to reach a wider customer base.  There are many ways to use cross-promotion such as: offering incentives to customers who use both your services, providing each other’s fliers to your customers, and sharing ad space in newspapers that you could not afford by yourself.  Cross-promotion, when used effectively, can become an inexpensive way to expand your clientele.
  3. Generate conversation and maintain an online presence.  Let’s face it: ever since the word “Google” became a regularly used verb, most people have begun to research nearly everything online before making an actual purchase.  Your website should not only be informational, but useful as well.  If possible, provide specific product information and the ability to purchase online.  Furthermore, many business owners are adding blogs to their sites where they can answer questions and provide tips that their customers would find useful.  Beyond your business’s website, use social media to promote your business and generate conversation with your target market. Facebook and Twitter are obvious choices, but also consider Foursquare and Pinterest.
  4. Explore and tap into unique communities. Explore your interests. Look for hobbyists, clubs/organizations, and causes that you can get involve with. This is a natural and low stress way to network. The more interest you explore the more people you network with and the more exposure for your business. 
  5. Provide a little something special.  Many consumers perceive indifference from the businesses they frequent, which is why it’s extremely important that you provide the special extras. Here are some examples, when customers make a purchase, provide an inexpensive sample product and ask for their input about it. Remember to send them a birthday card, sponsor free kid workshops to give your customers who are parents a break, offer free gift wrapping, and local delivery service. This will help retain your customers, but also remember that word of mouth is very effective.  By making a memorable and positive impression, your customers will want to share their experiences with their families and friends.
  6. Make customer service the focus of your business. Create a system that rewards customers for their patronage and loyalty. Develop a clear, simple process on how to engage prospects, first time customers, repeat customers, loyal customers and doing follow ups. Your goal is to make prospects and customers feel that they are special and highly valued with their first experience with you. You want to hear that they’ll be back soon and that they’ll refer their friends to your business.  Click here for some good ideas to increase your referrals.

When coming up with more ideas to attract customers, remember to be genuine, friendly, and professional.  Aim for accessibility, authentic engagement, uniqueness and processes that deliver consistent excellence. What are some of your tried and true strategies for attracting customers?  Please share them with us in the comments section below.

DSEF & CBBB: Protect Your Mail

DSEF & CBBB: Protect Your Mail

Today’s highlighted blog post from the Council on Better Business Bureaus (CBBB):

By CAROL ODELL

With the mail picking up for the holiday season it’s a good time to focus on mail theft.

The Colorado Springs Police Department sent out a Community Alert about mail theft that is worth repeating. Here it is.

Mail fraud can mean anything from non-delivery of mail-order merchandise to mail actually being stolen. Not only do criminals steal packages containing presents and cards filled with money or checks but personal information in your mail can be used by criminals to steal your identity.

Preventing Mail Theft:

  • Do not leave outgoing mail in your unlocked mailbox.
  • Deposit mail in a collection box or inside your local post office.
  • Promptly pick up your incoming mail after it is delivered.
  • Arrange for the installation of locked group mailboxes for neighborhood delivery. These are Neighborhood Deliver & Collection Box Units (NDCBU). Each address has an individual locked unit for delivery and collection. At least seven neighbors are needed to sign a petition requesting an NDCBU.
  • Install a locked mailbox or convert your unlocked box to the lockable type.
  • Have mail delivered to a Post Office Box or Personal Mail Delivery Service.
  • Use Direct Deposit and Electronic Banking to avoid checks in your mail.
  • Contact the senders if you don’t receive credit cards, checks or other valuable mail.
  • When out of town have the post office hold your mail or have someone your trust pick up the mail daily.
  • Be observant of and report suspicious activities on your street, including those near your letter carrier, the postal vehicle, residential mailboxes, and collection boxes.
  • Notify the post office and people who will be sending you mail that you have a change of address.
  • To stop receiving pre-approved credit and insurance offers call: 18885OPTOUT (1-888-567-8688) or visit:  www.optoutprescreen.com

Do you have any other mail safety tips?

DSEF and Council on Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) fosters honest and responsive relationships between businesses and consumers—instilling consumer confidence and advancing a trustworthy marketplace for all.

About the Better Business Bureaus
As the leader in advancing marketplace trust, Better Business Bureau is an unbiased non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Every year, more than 87 million consumers rely on BBB Business Reviews® and BBB Wise Giving Reports® to help them find trustworthy businesses and charities across North America. Visitwww.bbb.org/us for more information.

DSEF & FTC: Take A Close Look At Your Phone Bill For Mysterious Charges

DSEF & FTC: Take A Close Look At Your Phone Bill For Mysterious Charges

Today’s highlighted blog post from FTC/NCPW:

Click here:

Take a close look at your phone bill for mysterious charges

May 20th, 2011 by Cheryl

Do you examine your phone bill closely enough each month to recognize any new charges? Would you notice a $2 or $3 one-time service charge? Or an obscure, recurring monthly charge?

Scammers hope you don’t.  That’s why they invented cramming – the practice of sneaking charges onto your phone bill for services you didn’t order or use.

For 13 years, the DSEF has been proud to partner with the FTC and other organizations to offer a wide array of education events and resources that encourage consumers nationwide to take full advantage of their rights and make better-informed decisions.

You’ll find a wealth of resources at www.ncpw.gov that will help you protect your privacy, manage your money, learn more about credit and debt, decipher advertising messages, and steer clear of fraud and scams.

Please take a moment to share the resources on this Web site with others in your communities and companies and, together, we’ll help build a nation of better-informed and educated consumers.

Charles. L. Orr
Executive Director

DSEF & FTC: Getting Your Free Annual Credit Report

DSEF & FTC: Getting Your Free Annual Credit Report

Today’s highlighted blog post from FTC/NCPW:

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Getting Your Free Annual Credit Report

July 5th, 2011 by Carol

Are you looking for a job? Thinking about buying a car or a home? Applying for credit?  Before you do, get – and review – a copy of your credit report.  The information in your credit report can affect whether you get a job, a loan, or the terms or cost of a loan.  You want to be sure the information about you is correct, complete and up-to-date.

For 13 years, the DSEF has been proud to partner with the FTC and other organizations to offer a wide array of education events and resources that encourage consumers nationwide to take full advantage of their rights and make better-informed decisions.

You’ll find a wealth of resources at www.ncpw.gov that will help you protect your privacy, manage your money, learn more about credit and debt, decipher advertising messages, and steer clear of fraud and scams.

Please take a moment to share the resources on this Web site with others in your communities and companies and, together, we’ll help build a nation of better-informed and educated consumers.

Charles. L. Orr
Executive Director

Gamification To Increase Business

Gamification To Increase Business

Gamification is a relatively new term that refers to the integration of game dynamics into any aspect of business.  Its main objectives are to drive participation, increase awareness of the business, and draw in new customers.  Here a few ways to get started.

  • Use a service designed to track your customers’ loyalty.  A great place to begin is Badgeville, a “social loyalty platform” that gives businesses the “power to drive and measure user behavior with social game mechanics.”  Badgeville provides a step by step process to help you set an objective, choose which behaviors to track, and create real-time user rewards.  This is similar to the way FourSquare works, except you get to create your own system.  The advantage here is that you can truly tailor your game to the needs and wants of your customer base.
  • Gamify your team’s professional development.  Big businesses, such as Google, are using this with increasing frequency.  In order to motivate employees to spend less than they were allotted for business trips, they created a game in which employees could save up unused amounts to receive cash back, donate to charity, or save up towards a future trip.  (Source)  Small business owners and direct sellers can use this same concept to motivate teams and increase sales.
  • Take to Twitter and Facebook.  Many companies are using gamification to increase awareness of themselves to prospective clients.  A simple way to do this would be to give away a free small sample. For every 20 new Twitter “retweets” or every Facebook “like”, you draw a name from the new likes or people who retweeted for the give-away. Doing so will keep customers coming back to your site, encourage them to seek out what’s new with your business, and drive them to recommend you to their friends.  Think of it as 21st century word of mouth.
  • Invite participation in your blog.  The fast-food chain Wendy’s recently created a short-lived game show on Twitter to promote a series of new items on its menu.  The game show gained a cult following for several reasons, including the mystery surrounding who was hosting it, but also because prizes were being given away for participating in various tasks.  Fellow tweeters were asked to post pictures of themselves in their funniest pair of socks, for example.  Consider using this method in your blog by creating a task and giving each participant one entry into a small giveaway.  Getting creative here will also draw more people to your blog and of course, your business.
  • Other game formats to explore. A scavenger hunt, Motto/Jingle contest, Wheel of fortune like – fill in the blank, and an old fashion riddle of the day contest. As you continue to explore using games and contests to generate engagement please check your social media site’s terms of service before installing a game. Most social media sites have rules you must follow or risk being removed from the site. For example, Facebook requires that you use a third party service like Wildfire to administer any contest on its platform.

When integrating games into your business, keep in mind your objective, audience, and reward systems.  You need not spend exorbitant amounts of money to gamify; start simple with the plethora of free resources found all around the internet and build out from there.  And most importantly, have fun!  That is what gaming is about, after all.  What ideas do you have for gamification? Share them with us in the comments section below!

DSEF & CBBB: The Worst Fees of 2011

DSEF & CBBB: The Worst Fees of 2011

Today’s highlighted blog post from the Council on Better Business Bureaus (CBBB):

The Worst Fees of 2011

BY GREG HUDSON – DECEMBER 27, 2011

It was the year of fees, reports MSN’s Money Matters. As businesses scrambled to make up lost revenue, they tacked on charges for everything from paying a bill (online and offline) to printing out your concert tickets at home. With so many fees frustrating consumers in 2011, narrowing down the list was a daunting task, writes Liz Weston. But here are her top five stupidest fees of the year:

Debit card fees: After Congress limited how much banks could charge merchants for each debit card transaction, banks started making customers pay instead. Fortunately, the backlash was “immediate and fierce.” Banks that had begun charging monthly $4 and $5 fees, quickly pulled the programs.

Boarding pass fees: First, airlines started charging for checked baggage and onboard meals. But this year, Spirit Airlines, which markets itself as a low cost airline, out did the fee-crazy industry by charging a $5 fee for having your boarding pass printed out at the airport counter, rather than a kiosk or on your home computer.

Early-termination fees for TV service: Be sure to read the fine print when you sign up for new a television service. Pay TV providers, such a Verizon Fios and DirecTV, are taking a pay from cellphone carriers and hitting consumers with high charges (from $200 up) for early termination of services.

See the full article and the rest of MSN’s list here.

 

DSEF and Council on Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) fosters honest and responsive relationships between businesses and consumers—instilling consumer confidence and advancing a trustworthy marketplace for all.

About the Better Business Bureaus
As the leader in advancing marketplace trust, Better Business Bureau is an unbiased non-profit organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Every year, more than 87 million consumers rely on BBB Business Reviews® and BBB Wise Giving Reports® to help them find trustworthy businesses and charities across North America. Visitwww.bbb.org/us for more information.

DSEF & FTC: Is Losing Weight Really this Easy?

DSEF & FTC: Is Losing Weight Really this Easy?

Today’s highlighted blog post from FTC/NCPW:

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Is Losing Weight Really this Easy?

It’s some pitch — lose lots of weight quickly with products you can try for free. Even better — the products seem to be endorsed by trusted news sites, and satisfied “reporters” attest to all the unwanted pounds they’ve dropped.

Those were the kinds of claims behind a recent complaint filed by the FTC and State of Connecticut against Boris Mizhen and his companies, who allegedly used fake news websites to promote weight loss products. Featuring stories like “Acai Berry Diet Exposed: Miracle Diet or Scam?,” the sites often displayed the logos of major news sources,  including CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News, and featured fake reporters claiming to have lost lots of weight quickly without any special diet or real exercise. Many people who followed the links and signed up for a free trial, rather than paying a small shipping handling fee, ended up paying $79.99 for the trial, and for recurring monthly shipments of products that were hard to cancel, the FTC alleged.

For 13 years, the DSEF has been proud to partner with the FTC and other organizations to offer a wide array of education events and resources that encourage consumers nationwide to take full advantage of their rights and make better-informed decisions.

You’ll find a wealth of resources at www.ncpw.gov that will help you protect your privacy, manage your money, learn more about credit and debt, decipher advertising messages, and steer clear of fraud and scams.

Please take a moment to share the resources on this Web site with others in your communities and companies and, together, we’ll help build a nation of better-informed and educated consumers.

Charles. L. Orr
Executive Director