Can a BBS mean big business for your business?
We bet it can!

Thousands of companies have already set up their own computer Bulletin Board Systems to help them boost sales, enhance customer service, market their products, make their employees more productive, and keep the news media informed.

Most likely, a BBS can do the same for your company. This handy guidebook will help you explore the issues involved in setting up a BBS and what you can expect it to do for you.

More businesses treat a BBS as a tool that helps them market their main product or service line rather than as a profit center in and of itself. You probably don’t expect your fax machine or photocopier to generate direct revenue for your business. Likewise, the BBS is a tool that offers your customers another way to contact your company.

Besides cost-savings and increased sales, a BBS can provide more intangible benefits for your business such as goodwill and public awareness. A BBS can, with minimal additional effort and expense, improve your image in the community and provide a valuable public service.

"Why should I consider starting a BBS?"

Companies of every type and size are discovering the benefits of operating their own computer Bulletin Board Systems. Although the first companies to get involved in this area were, as you might expect, computer companies, now everyone’s getting into the act.

Could a BBS be right for you? To help you answer that question, take a quick look at how three organizations are using their BBSs to provide services and improve their profit picture. Later, we’ll give you a more in-depth look at each of these three organizations’ BBSs.

A closer look at the BBS world.

What exactly is a BBS and why are companies starting to get interested in them?

A Bulletin Board System (BBS) is a personal computer (PC) connected to a modem and telephone line, running software that allows it to receive incoming calls from anyone equipped with a personal computer and modem. The caller can be in the same room, across town or anywhere in the world.

People can call your BBS from their computers and modems to send and receive electronic mail messages (E-mail), send and receive files (uploads and downloads), request information or purchase products.

Companies use BBSs to make it easier for their staff, customers, and potential customers to communicate- 24 hours a day.

The types of services a BBS can deliver.

What types of services can a BBS deliver to your customers, prospects, employees and members of the news media?

What advantages does BBS technology offer over other ways of taking care of business?

What’s involved with setting up a BBS?

There are many different BBS software programs available, ranging in price from "free" public domain systems to expensive high-end custom-programmed solutions. As you think about setting up a BBS, you need to consider the direct costs such as the BBS software, dedicated phone lines, modems and computers, and the indirect costs such as overhead, training, security, and the allocation of staff to maintain the system.

How to market your BBS to let others know they can use it to get information and services from your company.

Your BBS phone number should be on every piece of printed material your company sends out -- with the same prominence as your Business and Fax phone numbers. Mention your BBS on business cards, letterheads, invoices, brochures, owner’s manuals, advertisements, flyers and direct mail pieces.

Encourage your switchboard operators and telephone sales staff to tell callers about your BBS. Be sure staff members are familiar with the BBS and feel comfortable using it.

Mention your BBS any time you talk to the press, and send a press release about it to the editors of your trade publication or community newspaper. Make sure your trade organization knows about your BBS, too.

Spend some time to create a pleasant, well organized system. Before you go on-line with your BBS, ask yourself "Is our BBS one that I and my staff can be proud of? Is this the image we want to present to our customers?"

And finally, welcome callers to the BBS, make them feel at home, and be sure their questions and inquiries are handled promptly. Do everything you can to ensure the information they’re looking for is easy to find, and that the information is complete. Thank them for calling, and invite them to call again.