The Enduring Relevance of the Better Business Bureau Seal
Published: Oct 31, 2020
Last Updated: Feb 4, 2021
The Better Business Bureau has been a symbol of trust since the days of teletypes and horses and buggies. In 1912, the organization emerged to help businesses respond to a crisis in public trust, when exaggerated advertising claims were the subject of high-profile lawsuits by the U.S. government against the Coca-Cola Company and others.
More than a century later, the BBB is still relevant. Whereas retail storefronts in the pre-internet world proudly displayed the BBB seal in their shop windows, today about 400,000 accredited businesses worldwide display the badge on their websites. Beyond those accredited companies, more than 4 million businesses have profiles at BBB.org, which receives 160 million website visits annually.
Visitors use the site to search for local vendors (roofers, car mechanics, HVAC repair) as well as to post reviews and lodge complaints. The BBB warns the public when a company receives a lot of complaints, or when it gets wind of various scams online or in local communities.
Given the organization's storied history and high visibility, you might assume that adding a BBB seal to your website would be a no-brainer. The catch is that to display the seal you have to be accredited -- and that costs money. Depending on the nature of the accreditation and the size of your business, the cost could run in the hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year.
So, is it worth it? You can find any number of articles online by folks who say it isn't, based on their own experiences. Many cite its decreasing influence with younger consumers, going so far as to label it the "OK Boomer" seal. Here are some sample criticisms:
Housecall Pro: Although some businesses have found success with the BBB, for the majority of home-service companies, the costs are likely to outweigh the benefits. There are a few exceptions, however. If, for instance, your business caters to an older clientele, a BBB accreditation could quickly pay for itself.
Fast Capital 360: For many industries, this lack of usage makes membership cost-prohibitive. Businesses who have younger, more tech-savvy customers may not need to worry about putting money into a platform that will not produce results.
Blog Marketing Academy: 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 has many supporters as well, though -- including me.
My point of view is that while BBB accreditation may not directly drive leads and sales in an easily quantifiable way, it still has significant value as a trust signal. This is particularly true for the following types of businesses:
Local service businesses such as contractors, plumbers, restaurants, financial services, doctors and dentists;
New businesses that have not yet had time to establish a cadence of positive customer reviews on review sites such as Google, Yelp, Tripadvisor, G2 and others;
E-commerce businesses trying to establish their credibility relative to Amazon and other large players;
Businesses whose clientele is generally age 50+, the demographic with which BBB carries the most weight;
Businesses for which spending, say, $1,200 for an annual accreditation fee (this would be a typical fee for a national company with a headquarters in a large metropolitan market) is a minor expenditure within the context of your total marketing budget.
The bottom line is, adding a trust badge to your site touting that you are a BBB accredited company with an A+ rating carries a lot of weight to this day. Strongly consider it for your business.
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Scott is founder and CEO of Idea Grove, one of the most forward-looking public relations agencies in the United States. Idea Grove focuses on helping technology companies reach media and buyers, with clients ranging from venture-backed startups to Fortune 100 companies.