Advertising contracts should be reviewed annually

By Robb Hicken/ BBB’s chief storyteller

When Debi and Jerome Roessler took over the 40-year-old Robell Fence company in Boise, two things were noted immediately: no social media presence and unsubstantiated advertising contracts.

The first step was the development of a website where people can find out what Robell Fence is all about.

“That was crucial,” Debi says. “We were operating blindly trying to get people to notice us, and we’ve been in the same place for 40 years.”

The next step was to maximize advertising.

“I’ve cleaned up a lot of the advertising issues we had,” she says. She’s been doing the books for her father, Scott Robinson, who founded the business in 1972, and had looked a number of delinquent contracts that were paid, only because the bill came across his desk. “I discovered a $600 a month advertising contract that was not doing us any good.”

Knowing what advertising works and how it works is critical when it comes to small businesses.

So, when yellow pages sales representative called, she was well prepared.

“I said, ‘I haven’t seen anything on that for a year,’” she responded to the phone solicitor.

As the sales rep recovered, he asked to confirm her mailing address – which changed two years ago – and other essential company information.  Including ownership, which he had down as her brother as being part of the business.

“He lives in Colorado,” she said, “Why would he have been on the business query?”

She then started asking the sales rep questions about the yellow pages account, and when he began to balk, she knew this was a scheme to get her to sign a new contract.

Campaigns like these attempt to confuse businesses. Knowing the cost registry and monitoring accounts payable will equip owners to avoid the pitfalls of a fast talking salesman trying to extend a worthless contract.

Additionally, here are a few precautions to take when dealing with business directory solicitations:

  • Don’t provide any personal or financial information. Don’t provide your credit card or checking account number to unknown telemarketers.
  • Directories may have names that sound alike, so look closely, ask for spellings or website addresses to see who the offer is from. The term “Yellow Pages” can cause confusion because it isn’t copyrighted, and independent directory publishers use the term as well as local telephone companies.
  • Check out the business publishing the directory with Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org. BBB Business Reviews give a BBB rating from A+ to F based on 16 elements, including whether there are complaints and whether complaints are resolved by the business.
  • Alert your accounting people to be on the lookout for disguised solicitations. Read Yellow Pages offers carefully, including any small print. Look for terms and conditions, as well as costs.

When Debi told the sales rep she wanted to talk with someone about cancellation, he said he would transfer her, but the call went dead. When she called back, there was no answer.

This column first appeared in The Business Insider, published by the Idaho Statesman.

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