All posts tagged business

DSEF & BBB: Facebook Graph Search: The Good, The Bad & The Opportunity

DSEF & BBB: Facebook Graph Search: The Good, The Bad & The Opportunity


By Rachel Harner

Facebook graph search. Have you heard of it? Probably, but do you know what it is? Facebook graph search is a new feature, in an ever-growing list of Facebook changes, which rolled out to a select few last week. According to Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, graph search will join News Feed and Timeline as the third pillar in the Facebook structure.

Where a typical search engine would give you a list of links relevant to your query, graph search delivers people, pages and photos already available on Facebook to your fingertips. To maximize results, you’ll want to customize your search using language Facebook understands, such as “friends who work at my company and like to ski.”

Here are a couple practical examples: Are you new to the area and experiencing back pain? Search: Chiropractors in Phoenix my friends like. Are you planning a trip across the pond and want some tips on local hotspots? Search: Friends who have been to London, England.

While innovative, graph search has raised privacy concerns. Many of us probably do not think about the consequence of our actions when liking a page or filling out the “About” section of our profile, but that information will now be searchable in a myriad of ways. If you are looking to keep your information private, triple check your privacy settings now that anything set to “public” will be even easier for others to find. And remember, if you don’t want people to know about it, don’t put it on social media. (Click here for an informative article by the Electronic Frontier Foundation that will help you keep your information private.)

On the other hand, graph search could provide huge advantages for businesses and marketers currently on Facebook. Engaging with customers on social media is a great business practice, and now companies will have more opportunity to get brand content in front of consumers who are intentionally looking for someone in their area of expertise. Graph search will also allow businesses to form well thought out searches to reach targeted demographics.

Do you want to be among the first of Facebook’s billion+ users to get Facebook graph search? Click here to be placed on the waiting list for the beta version.

DSEF and the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) foster 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. Visit for more information.

DSEF & BBB: “Bait and Switch” Coupon Scams Promise Savings, Deliver Spam

DSEF & BBB: “Bait and Switch” Coupon Scams Promise Savings, Deliver Spam

blue_with_website-225x30022By Emily Patterson

Searching for coupons online is an easy way to save money. Unfortunately, it’s also an easy way to give your name and contact info to scammers. Be sure to verify a coupon deal is real before sharing your information.

How the Scam Works:

You need to make a purchase, but you hope to save money by finding a coupon online. A Google search turns up dozens of websites. Most of the online coupons promise a modest 10%-15% discount. But one offers a significantly better deal: 50% off your purchase.

You click the link, and the website looks official. It uses the logo of the business. It asks you to enter your email address and telephone number, promising that your coupon will be sent to you.

When you complete the form, you may be taken to a promotion for an unrelated (and untrustworthy) product. It may be anything from car loans to pharmaceuticals. Other sites do provide fake coupons to print, meaning that consumers don’t know they were scammed until the store clerk rejects their coupon.

This “bait and switch” is a way for unscrupulous businesses to collect names and contact info for resale. If your information is sold, you will start receiving spam calls, text messages and/or emails to the contact information you provided.

How Can I Tell Fake Coupons from Real Ones?   

It is easy to copy a business’ logo and make a fake coupon look real. Identify fake coupons by the following warning signs:

  • It’s the only website with that great deal. If most websites offer a code for 10% off, a 75% off offer is likely a scam.
  • Be wary of all high value offers. A promo for a $500 gift card is nearly always fake.
  • Look for legal language and expiration dates. Online coupons need to match manufacturer requirements.
  • Never pay for coupons. Don’t be tricked into paying for something that’s actually free.
  • Watch for “bait and switch” tactics. This scam offers you online coupon codes and, once you agree, requires you fill in a form with personal information.
  • If you suspect that a coupon is fake, check it against this list. The non-profit Coupon Information Center maintains a list of fraudulent coupons.

For More Information

To find out more about scams, check out the new BBB Scam Stopper.

DSEF and the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) foster 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. Visit for more information.

Ways to Establish Trust

Ways to Establish Trust

followyouIn the highly competitive small business world, it is of utmost importance to develop a level of trust between you and your clients. A strong professional relationship built on trust will bring you long term success through repeat business, loyal customers, and referrals. Here are some ways that you can improve your ability to establish trust in your professional relationships.

  • Be real. Most people will likely be able to sense if you are being insincere. Tap into your true desire to help people find what they need, solve a problem they have, and provide excellent service. It will be clear to others that you are a genuine person, and they will begin to trust you. Nurture that trust over time.
  • Be truly curious about everything. What are your clients looking for? How can you best serve them? Is there a more efficient way to conduct business that you haven’t thought of before? Become more inquisitive, and observe how other successful people operate. When your clients and colleagues see that you are always striving to improve, they will trust you as a person and as a professional. For example, a potential customer has just moved into the area and comes into your flower shop looking for an affordable option for his daughter’s wedding. He raves about the florist in his hometown and how he wishes he could still use him. Ask the prospect questions about why he loved this other florist so much and express your desire to fulfill that need. He will trust that you have his best interests in mind.
  • Keep personal conversations private. Separating your personal life from your professional life is a crucial part of owning your own business. Even if you have customers who are also friends, make sure that any personal conversations you have had with them stay between you. An easy way to break someone’s trust in you is to spread their personal life around town. Even if they haven’t specifically mentioned that discretion is needed, it is a good idea to err on the side of caution.
  • Become an expert. As the owner, you should be an expert in all things involved in your business. This includes products, industry trends, customer demands, marketing strategies, etc. Clients will trust someone they feel is knowledgeable about relevant topics and can educate them accordingly. If you owned a camera shop, and a customer came to you wanting something to get started as a beginning photographer but admits to knowing nothing about cameras, it would be your job to demonstrate your expertise. You would narrow down their choices, help them compare options, and ultimately guide them to making a wise selection. Your specialized knowledge will allow customers to trust your judgment.
  • Help others and always be respectful. This applies to almost every part of life, not just business. However, it often goes overlooked when people are under pressure and stressed out. Maintain a pleasant demeanor and practice appropriate social skills. Even if you come up short in other areas, it is unlikely that you’ll make a bad impression by being a genuinely nice person. Always treat others the way you would want to be treated; this includes everyone from VIP clients to mail room interns.

Establishing trust is a necessary investment to make in your business. Treat others well and always conduct yourself professionally.

How do you establish trust with your clients and colleagues? Please share your ideas below!

4 Ways Photos Can Help You Grow Your Business

4 Ways Photos Can Help You Grow Your Business

Friends Photographing ThemselvesIf you’ve got a smartphone, you’ve got access to a camera, and you may enjoy sharing shots you take with your friends via social networks like Facebook and Instagram. But did you know that you can use that camera on your smartphone to help you grow your business? Here’s how:

  1. Take pictures of yourself and other people using your product. All the words in the world about your product don’t match the power of a single picture. So take pictures of yourself or your family using your products, or ask customers to share photos of themselves using it. Have a contest where people submit photos when they see someone using your product while out and about, and offer a prize your for favorites. Then share these photos through your business presences. It’s a great way to show others that your product is used and enjoyed by many people.
  2. Take pictures of your parties (with permission of course!) If you have meetings or parties where people can experience your products and learn more about them, take pictures! When people see how much fun your gatherings are, and how many folks are participating, it can encourage others to want to attend.
  3. Take pictures of things you get to enjoy as a result of your business. Have you been able to take that long-awaited vacation because of your business? Do your kids get to participate in a special program or sport because of what you do? Share photos of those things, and be sure to let everyone know that your business is the reason you get to participate. It can encourage others to want to learn more.
  4. Share photos of things unrelated to your business. Of course you want to share photos directly related to your business. But by sharing other photos, too, of things like sunsets, great meals, etc, you display your human side. Every time you share, you show up in the feeds of the people you’re connected to on your social networks. And each photo is a little reminder that you’re there, so people remember you. Then, when you share a photo related to your business, people are more likely to see it and respond.

Sharing photos as part of your marketing strategy is a great way to highlight what’s great about your business and products. It can highlight what you have to offer and connect with people when words fall short.

How do you use photos to promote your business? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

How Your Business Can Solve Real Problems

How Your Business Can Solve Real Problems

woman planningIn order to maintain a long-term, thriving business, it is important that you offer a solution to real problems that people face. To do this, take the time to find out what these problems are, what solutions have been tried and failed in the past, and how your product or service can fulfill that need. The following is a basic list of suggestions for how to solve real problems with your business.

  •  Look for a need. This is especially important in over-saturated industries where a great deal of competition exists. For example, a metropolitan suburb with a bustling downtown area is home to several different restaurants on every block. The reason each one is successful is because its owners have satisfied a need. Local residents want the convenience of city life while maintaining the quiet, more laid-back, affordable lifestyle of living in the suburbs. Their downtown area is like a prized possession, especially because of the shopping and dining that exists. Each restaurant offers something different, whether it’s a specific type of cuisine or a particular ambiance  Without these options, local residents would have to travel into the city to find unique dining options, so these restaurants together fulfill a need for a convenient alternative.
  • Provide good value. At a time when everyone is watching his or her pennies more than ever, it is crucial to provide a good value. Is your product or service versatile? Is it reliable? Don’t forget to factor in those elements when deciding on price points. People are willing to pay more for something that is of high quality and can be relied upon. Another key aspect of value is the level of customer service you offer. When customers know that you genuinely care and that they can trust you, the value of your product increases.
  • Make sure your product or service is for long-term use. Have you ever bought something that needed to be replaced shortly thereafter? How likely were you to purchase from the same company again? Only offer products that will last a reasonable amount of time and services that can be used for the long term. That Bluetooth headset you sell should last a customer longer than his or her cell phone contract does. Similarly, those students who pay you for private voice lessons should be taught techniques that can be used in any style of music at all levels. Repeat customers mean long term success.
  • Seek out client feedback. This should be a top priority. Asking for feedback can be done informally through casual conversation or in writing on a survey card provided at checkout. Whatever strategy you use, listen carefully and adjust accordingly. You may have customers that swear by your products but aren’t being provided quality customer service by your staff. If this is the case, wouldn’t you do everything necessary to change that? Your clients are the backbone of your business, so listen to what they tell you.
  • Make improvements that benefit clients. Based on feedback you receive and other observations you make about how your business operates, make improvements that benefit the client first. For example, the owner of a small fitness studio wants to make renovations to her outdated space. As much as she looks forward to a lobby with a more efficient layout and an exercise area with new padded flooring and a state of the art sound system, she can’t afford to make all these renovations at once. The improved flooring will benefit her clients the most, as it will be easier on their joints and more pleasant to exercise in general. Make decisions with your customers in mind.

Step outside of your role as a small business owner and take an honest look at how you can solve real problems with your business. Evaluate your products, talk to your customers, and make improvements accordingly.

How do you solve real problems in your business? Please share your answers below!

Why You Procrastinate

Why You Procrastinate

doubtProcrastination is a challenge we all have from time to time.  Perhaps there is a fear of failure, being overwhelmed by a complex project, or too many distractions in our daily lives. The good news is that there are several effective ways to combat this problem. If procrastination gets the better of you, ask yourself the following questions.

  • Are you settling for less? Procrastination may be caused by a lack of passion. If you are settling for less, then whatever it is that needs to be done feels unimportant, and the result is procrastination. So, make sure you understand why you want to achieve your goal and make it meaningful. Realize that action is required to reach what you want, and it is necessary to put forth your greatest effort each time to achieve success.
  • Do you have a clear goal or plan of action? Lack of direction is a common reason why people procrastinate, especially when tackling a long-term project. Set an objective that includes your desired outcome, and then break it down into smaller, manageable parts. If you need to redesign your company’s website, for instance, decide why it should be done and what will come of it. Your objective might be: Redesign the company website to improve customer navigation, increase internet visibility on search engines, and reach a broader customer base. Now that you have laid out the reasons why you are tackling such a project, you can more easily break it down and focus on just one step at a time.
  • Do you have a support system, such as a mentor, role model, or advisory group? When you are self-employed, it may seem like the weight of the world is on your shoulders since everything about the business depends on you. Don’t carry this burden alone. Instead, seek out others to guide and support you along the way. Is there a former employer you trust to give you sound advice? Are other local entrepreneurs interested in creating an informal support group for small business owners? You will be much more motivated to act when you surround yourself with like-minded people who truly want to help and support each other.
  • Have you set your priorities? The list of goals we want to achieve or tasks we want to accomplish can become so long that we don’t know where to begin. Start by prioritizing your goals or tasks in a way that works for you and your business. Some people find that a daily to-do list is the best way to stay focused. Each day contains a list of tasks that either must be completed or canwait until the next day. Implementing such a system will prevent important tasks from being overlooked.

Don’t beat yourself up for procrastinating; it is a common problem, especially in today’s world filled with distractions and personal obligations. Do make the choice, however, to be proactive. Procrastination can prevent you from achieving your goals, so take charge of your business and be passionate in the actions you take.

Happy New Year! A Free Gift for You from the DSEF

Happy New Year! A Free Gift for You from the DSEF

Reflections on Success - Free ebook from the Direct Selling Education FoundationThe New Year is a time for reflection, focusing on where you are, and where you want to take your business moving forward. It is helpful for business owners to take time to write down these insights, for they can help you create a road map for your business. Rather than simply “going through the motions” of the day to day tasks your business requires, you can give your business strategic direction that moves you in the direction of your goals.

With that in mind, we at the Direct Selling Education Foundation have put together a free gift for you. It’s a 30-day reflection journal called “Reflections on Success” and you can download it from our Facebook Page by clicking here. This journal helps you focus on success habits and your goals, helping you build the business you want in the coming year. We encourage you to take some time each day to focus on the daily thought, in order to develop the habits that will help you build a thriving business.

We hope that you will use this free book to build your business, and pass this link along to your friends and colleagues as well:

You’ll find all 3 free ebooks we’ve offered this year at this link, so if you haven’t yet taken advantage of our “Business Owner’s Roadmap to Success” or “Creating Your Success Mindset” ebooks, you’ll be able to download those as well.

We wish you much success in the coming year! Happy New Year!

Your Friends at the DSEF


Balance Without Sacrificing Business (How to Make Your Business More Efficient)

Balance Without Sacrificing Business (How to Make Your Business More Efficient)

MP900284939In the times when your business gets busy, it’s natural to long for more work/life balance. Too often, however, balance comes at the expense of cutting back on income producing activities. Yet it doesn’t have to be that way!

Instead of simply working less, look at your overall business strategically, and find ways to make the work that you do more efficient so you don’t wind up earning less, simply for the sake of balance. Here are some tips:

  • Review your manual processes. For example, do you have to manually enter customer information each time a customer places an order? Is there paperwork that you are filling out over and over again? Are there business information packets that you always have to stop and make? Consider ways that you might streamline these processes by keeping information in an electronic database (for easy copy/paste or import), making packets in larger batches, or storing filled out documents electronically so they can be printed when needed. Take some time to write down all the manual processes that you regularly engage in, and then see if there are ways you can make those manual processes more efficient.
  • Use technology. There are many technology tools that can help you work more efficiently. Use a simple autoresponder like Constant Contact to automatically send emails to all of your customers without you having to type in each address. Store documents in the cloud (using a service like Dropbox) and share folders so people can access the information they need themselves, without you having to stop and send those documents. Use Google Calendar and sync the calendars on your phone, computer, and iPad so appointment information is always handy no matter where you are and you don’t have to take time to reschedule appointments because you forgot about something on your work calendar. If you are not familiar with technology tools you can use for your business, turn to friends or colleagues who are comfortable with technology and ask them which tools they use.
  • Learn keyboard shortcuts. If you’re still clicking menu buttons when you want to copy and paste something, it’s time to learn some keyboard shortcuts. According to Brainscape, you can save an average of 8 days per year simply by using keyboard shortcuts instead of mouse clicks. Just Google “keyboard shortcuts” to find shortcuts for your computer.
  • Re-evaluate your office layout. Some business owners waste a lot of time simply because their office space isn’t organized well. If you have to walk halfway across the building each time you print something or want to throw something out, you may be well served by rethinking your office layout. Spend a week writing down each thing that makes you have to stop, such as getting a print-out, finding documents that aren’t handy, etc. Then, think about how you could rearrange your space to make the most-used items more convenient.
  • Get organized. Brother International Corporation conducted a survey that found that 76 hours per worker per year are spent looking for things. They determined that over $177 billion is wasted annually looking for misplaced items in the office and on the computer. If the thought of getting organized overwhelms you, start small. Set up a filing cabinet and start by sorting the papers on your desk (and getting them put away.) Think about the files you use the most that are currently a big mess on your computer desktop or My Documents folder, and set up folders on your computer for them. Train yourself to put things where they belong, rather than leaving them out, and reward yourself when you follow through regularly.
  • Plan ahead. Often a lot of time is wasted when people are together and trying to figure out what to do. So if you are in charge of leading anything from a business meeting to a class party, set up a schedule or agenda ahead of time, and pre-distribute it. That way everyone comes to the meeting knowing what will happen, in what order, and what they need to bring. The result is often shorter, more productive meetings that bring results.

Balance is definitely important, but you don’t have to sacrifice income to achieve it. Instead, look for ways that you can improve your operational efficiency. Your business will be much better off in the long run.

How do you achieve work/life balance in your business? Would love to read your thoughts in the comments below!

DSEF & BBB: Not All Customer Reviews & Review Sites Are Created Equal

DSEF & BBB: Not All Customer Reviews & Review Sites Are Created Equal

blue_with_website-225x30022By Myriam Cruz

Looking for pre-purchase advice, more and more consumers are turning to reviews for products and services. However, not all reviews are created equal and many consumers question their validity after several reports claim fake reviews are more common than expected.

An article by TIME Magazine highlights that while various review sites – such as YelpTripAdvisorExpedia and Google – are implementing steps to identify both positive and negative fake reviews, “the system is being manipulated…and that’s all negative for consumers who are using them to try and make smart choices.”

Aside from company staff and marketers, freelance writers are also paid for reviews praising a company, product or service. In one case, a Wall Street Journal reporter plugged the name of a reviewer into a search engine and discovered the “consumer” was a communications manager at the company whose product she was praising.

Are there any consequences for such misleading behavior, you might ask?

Considering similar situations misleading, theFederal Trade Commission (FTC) revised its Endorsement Guides in 2009 to reflect three basic truth-in-advertising principles:

  1. Endorsements must be truthful and not misleading.
  2.  If the advertiser doesn’t have proof that the endorser’s experience represents what consumers will achieve by using the product, the ad must clearly and conspicuously disclose the generally expected results in the depicted circumstances.
  3. If there is a connection between endorser and the marketer of the product that would affect how people evaluate the endorsement, it should be disclosed.

While FTC guidelines provide some protection from misleading customer review practices, they are only part of the solution. Consumers play a vital role when it comes to identifying and denouncing misleading practices.

As Better Business Bureau (BBB) joins the customer review industry, it provides guidelines to help identify real reviews from fake or paid praise. In the end, the best way to obtain information about a product or service is to become familiar with the review process and use review sites that have a user verification process, such as BBB’s email verification.

Do you think it’s worth looking at reviews before purchasing a product or service? Are you more likely to consider reviews for higher priced items?


DSEF and the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) foster 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. Visit for more information.

Planning for a Bigger Business: The 3:3:3 Approach

Planning for a Bigger Business: The 3:3:3 Approach

If you’re like most business owners, you take time each year to look back on your business and evaluate your progress. As you review how far you’ve come, it’s great to celebrate your successes. But truly successful business owners also use their “Year in Review” to both identify key elements of success so far, and to make changes that will help build even bigger moving forward.

Here’s a process you can use for your “Year in Review” to help you focus your business activities on even greater success. Write these down, and refer back to them as needed throughout the year.

  1. Identify 3 strengths of your business this year. Did you come up with an innovative idea that led to increased business? Did you put an emphasis on personalized customer service? Write down the 3 things you feel were most important to your success. These are areas that you will continue to develop moving forward.
  2. Identify 3 areas of your business that you would like to improve moving forward. Do you need to do a better job following up with customers? Could you get more organized in your paperwork? Should you get out and do more networking? Write down 3 areas that you will focus on in the coming months, along with specific activities you will do to achieve greater success in these areas.
  3. Identify 3 goals that you have for your business in the coming year. These can be things you can measure, such as increasing your sales per customer or increasing the amount of repeat orders. They can also be something new that you’ll create for your business to drive growth, such as creating a social media marketing strategy. Starting with 3 goals keeps you focused without causing you to become overwhelmed. Write your goals down, and then make a bulleted list of the activities you’ll need to do in order to achieve each goal. Set dates to those activities to hold yourself accountable.

By taking some time to plan, you can be sure that your daily activities for your business are focused on growth.

Do you take time periodically to review the growth of your business? What tips do you have for planning ahead? We would love to read your thoughts in the comments below!

To get your free copy of the eBook, click here: 15 Days to Greater Success. You can download it from our Facebook Page. And while you’re there, you can download our other free eBooks too: Business Owner’s Road Map to SuccessCreating Your Success Mindset, and Reflections on Success. They’re all designed to give you an edge in your business, and help you focus on the daily practices that lead to your goals.

Please share this link with the business owners you know: