Is joining and maintaining a membership in the Better Business Bureau worth it? Or, a waste of time?
This post was originally written in 2009. Then, it was updated in 2014 (see below). I no longer bother maintaining a BBB membership. However, since this post still gets search traffic from people looking into the BBB, I’ve left it here for posterity. Enjoy!
Late last week, I got word from the Better Business Bureau that I am now officially accredited by them. I paid them about $600 and had them go over my business to make sure I’m legitimate. It took a couple of weeks, but it is now done.
The question, though, is WHY did I bother? Is the BBB even relevant anymore?
Is the BBB Relevant?
The BBB was formed with the mission of advancing “marketplace trust”. They do this by holding their members accountable to trustworthy business practices, encouraging best practices, and speaking out against bad market behavior. I think it is a worthy mission. However, the questions remains: Does anybody really bother checking the BBB anymore?
What’s interesting, too, is that their fee structure is a bit discriminatory against online businesses. I had to pay them an extra fee to get into the BBBOnline program – only because I am an online business.
Why Did I Bother?
The answer comes down to one word: TRUST.
No doubt, some businesses join the BBB because they’re looking for client referrals. I highly doubt the BBB refers much in the way of clients and I’m not interested in getting clients anyway. However, the logo does still instill a sense of trust. Especially to the the generation who didn’t grow up around the Internet.
See, internet businesses like mine often use things like sales letters. Now, be honest…when you visit a sales letter, do you automatically assume it is a scam? I don’t, but that’s only because I am familiar with how online business works. But, the normal “joe blow” on the street who doesn’t live their life on the Internet is probably not accustomed to long form sales letters. Internet businesses are unproven territory to these people. They look for signs that the business is legit and that they’re not going to take your money and run.
This is why I bothered with the BBB.
It most certainly isn’t going to hurt anything. My expectation is that it will improve conversion rates and make more sales. Especially when I cater to less-online-savvy markets.
I don’t know exactly what they checked with me in all. I know the process took a little more than 2 weeks. They had me sign up for a business occupational license with the county (only cost me $15). They also went over 3 Day Money with a fine-toothed comb to ensure that it was not a disguised “business opportunity” and that my income claims are accurate. I had to send them proof of income to prove that what I say is correct (which it is).
So, that’s why I did it. I’ll keep you informed on any effects on sales I notice.
As I was going through my archives and cleaning things up, I came across this post from 2009. And it got enough traffic every day to warrant an update. So, here it is…
I have since dropped my membership in the BBB. The reason was that it became apparent to me over time that it simply wasn’t useful. It did nothing to increase my sales. The BBB, in their attempts to renew me, would tell me how many people had inquired on my business in their database – but interestingly, they ONLY bothered to tell me that when they were trying to get me to renew. Not only that, the nature of my business is that if somebody wanted to find out about me, they easily could. After all, my online presence is pretty large and the last thing I need is the BBB to tell people what to think.
So, I determined that the BBB did me no good at all, and their only real purpose was membership dues.
I emphasize… this is MY opinion. I can’t speak for another business owner.
Were you interested in the BBB in order to give your business social proof? Check out: