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 said. Debi had been doing the bookkeeping for her father, Scott Robinson, who founded the business in 1972, and found a number of outdated contracts that her father continued to pay, only because the bill came across his desk.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 a Yellow Pages sales representative called, she was well-prepared.
"I said, 'I haven't seen anything on that for a year,' " she said.
As the salesman recovered, he asked to confirm her mailing address - which changed two years ago - and other essential company information, including ownership. He had that her brother was part of the business.
"He lives in Colorado," she said. "Why would he have been on the business query?"
She then started asking the salesman 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 expense 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 and 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 in addition to local telephone companies.
Check out the business publishing the directory with Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org. BBB Business Reviews provide a 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 personnel to be on the lookout for disguised solicitations. Read Yellow Pages offers carefully, including small print. Look for terms and conditions, as well as costs.
When Debi told the salesman 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.