Click the link below for the weekly business rail, with smartphone tips for small businesses, BBB advice on staying safe in 2012 and more. Or check out these other links.
Tip of the Week
In the United States, 87.4 million people own smartphones. And in 2012, smartphone sales are expected to top sales of personal computers. As smartphones allow people to connect with businesses in new and exciting ways, businesses in turn need to become savvier about going mobile.
For small businesses, embracing the smartphone age is becoming crucial for success. Here are some easy ways small businesses can go mobile in 2012:
- Invest in smartphones: Transitioning from a flip phone to a smartphone makes it much easier to run a business on the go. Providing easy access to email, calendar information and the Internet, smartphones increase productivity and can provide peace of mind while out of the office. Today, smartphones are more affordable than in the past, so now is a perfect time to take advantage of their capabilities.
- Consider industry-specific devices: Numerous mobile technologies, from smartphone applications to tablets, have been created with specific industries in mind. For example, rugged tablets that can withstand the elements are available for those in the construction industry and tablets created for the health care industry can be sterilized between patient visits to avoid contamination.
- Make websites mobile-compatible: In an era in which most consumers first go to the Internet to find local service providers, it's crucial that small businesses have a polished and informative online presence that's friendly for mobile consumption. Even for business owners who aren't tech-savvy, starting a website is feasible. A quick Internet search will reveal numerous free or low-cost website templates. You might also choose to work with a Web developer to ensure your business's website is smartphone-friendly.
- Get social: Popular social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter make it simple to connect with customers in a casual, but also personal, manner and also embrace the mobile population that frequents these sites on smartphones. Consider leveraging one or more of these platforms to further establish your business's online presence and create positive buzz around new offerings and special deals and promotions.
The BBB recommends the following New Year's resolutions to become a savvier consumer in 2012:
1. Look for the BBB Seal of Accreditation and always check a business out with BBB prior to making a purchase. Over 400,000 businesses bear the BBB Seal of Accreditation and meet our standards; you can find the Seal on Web sites and at business locations. The BBB doesn't just report on Accredited businesses, you can locate trustworthy businesses by visiting www.bbb.org to view free BBB Business Reviews for over 4 million businesses across North America.
2. Read the fine print - especially for "free" trial offers. Many consumers complained to the BBB in 2011 after signing up for a "free" trial offer online that resulted in repeated charges to their credit or debit cards sometimes amounting to as much as hundreds of dollars every month. Read the terms and conditions of any "free" trial offer before handing over credit or debit card numbers.
3. Get everything in writing. Don't just take a business' word for it. Get every verbal agreement in writing to limit miscommunication and misunderstandings between your expectations and what the business delivers.
4. Beware of "job" offers to make easy money. Unemployment in the nation remains high and scammers are targeting the large pool of job hunters. Beware of any job offer, work-at-home scheme or business opportunity that promises big money for little work and no experience. Look up companies at www.bbb.org before you apply for any job.
5. Keep your computer safe. If you haven't already, install anti-virus software onto your computer and don't forget to regularly check for software and operating system updates and patches. Don't open attachments or click on links in emails unless you can confirm the email came from someone you trust.
6. Never wire money to someone you don't know. Many scams require that the victim wire money back to the scammers. Tracking money sent via MoneyGram or Western Union is extremely difficult. Even more troubling for victims is that it's nearly impossible to get your money back.
7. Fight identity theft. Shred paper documents that include sensitive financial data and dispose of computers, cell phones and digital data safely.
8. Fight fake check fraud. Thanks to advances in printing technology, scammers have the ability to create very real-looking phony checks. Educate yourself on the common types of check fraud and be extremely wary of checks that come with claims that you've won the lottery, are eligible for a government grant or have landed a job as a secret shopper when you never applied.
9. Ask the BBB for help. File a complaint with your BBB if you have a disagreement with a business or have been ripped off by a scammer. Your complaint will become go on record and may help others in dealing with that company.
10. Create a budget and stick to it. If you're a cash-strapped consumer, setting a budget can help you stay afloat in 2012. The BBB has additional advice on how to create a budget to help you get out of debt and stay out of debt at www.bbb.org.
For more consumer tips, visit www.bbb.org.
According to MarketWatch, here are the worst states for retirees:
3. Rhode Island
Number to Know
70,000: Workers Home Depot is expected to hire this spring for its busy season. That’s about the same number as the company hired in spring 2011.
According to comScore Inc., Bing became the No. 2 search engine in December, beating out Yahoo. Google remains No. 1.
GateHouse News Service