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 dont 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
"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 everyones 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, well give you
a more in-depth look at each of these three organizations BBSs.
- An architectural firm in Omaha, Nebraska is using a BBS to stay in
touch with branch offices and clients. They save time and money by
being able to send plans and drawings electronically. Also, as a service
for the public, they offer general interest files and messaging.
- A medical school in Montana is using a BBS to conduct long-distance
education courses and keep rural physicians informed. Health care
professionals and the public can access up-to-the-minute information on
health issures, drug interatctions and symptoms, and even view job
postings in the medical field.
- A radio station in Dayton, Ohio is using a BBS to publicize concerts
and coming events. This community service provides valuable
exposure for the station well beyond its listening area, and it helps
build goodwill and a postive public image in the community.
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
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?
Electronic mail (E-mail) is one of the most popular uses for a BBS.
With it, callers can send messages to individuals or departments within
your company at any time of day or night. Their messages always get
though, leading to improved communications and goodwill.
E-mail is an
obvious use for a BBS -- but did you know that you can also dedicate
parts of the BBS to public message forums as well? That allows your
callers to help each other as they participate in ongoing public
- File transfer
With a company BBS, you can have sales information, technical data,
catalogs, press releases or product specifications on-line for your
callers. You can also accept confidential bids, inquiries, or even
resumes electronically. For many companies, the ability to send and
receive files has boosted their sales and profits significantly.
about letting your customers download and view photographs of your
products, or other digitized images? With a BBS, your prospects can
download photos or even multimedia presentations of your products and
services, complete with animated graphics, sound effects and music.
- Displaying information on-line
If you often have time-critical information your callers need to see
to stay informed, a BBS will automatically notify callers of new
information bulletins as they are logging on. Callers can view new
bulletins right away, or they can capture them for later review and
printing. What types of information can you make available to your callers?
Just about anything -- from bulletins and press releases to meeting
announcements and technical help notes.
- Gathering information
A BBS can perform a valuable marketing service for your company by
making it easy toknow more about the people who use your products and
services. You can get valuable demographic information, opinions,
buying preferences, or suggestions for improved service
even lifting a finger. All of this information can be easily gathered
on a BBS via a simple on-line questionnaire. Then the results can be
processed into a meaningful format for analysis.
Some companies even use a questionnaire to qualify callers to give
them access to certain portions of their BBS that are not open to
everyone, adding a level of security to their BBS.
If your companys BBS is equipped to handle more than one
caller at a time, you can convene staff meetings on-line
need for people to leave their offices. During an on-line
teleconference, anything that anyone types on their keyboard instantly
appears on the screens of everyone whos taking part.
Teleconferencing can save considerable time and money for most
companies. At-home and on-the-road, staff members can participate, too.
You can conduct meetings in real-time with multi-user chat, or you can
start a discussion in a staff-only message conference.
- On-line shopping
On-line catalogs and order-entry make it easy to sell products and
services from your BBS. As a special service, you can also set up a
classified ad database so caller can sell items as well. Real estate
professionals can "show" properties on-line, complete with
pictures, while prospective buyers can post their "want lists"
for hard-to-find items.
- E-mail access for work-at-home staff
Telecommuting is one of todays smartest productivity
solutions. Remote staff can use your BBS to send and receive E-mail and
documents while they are on the road, as well as communicate easily with
others with one centralized information center.
What advantages does BBS technology offer over other ways of taking
care of business?
- Availability -- clients, customer, prospects and staff can
access a BBS when its convenient for them.
It goes without saying that self-serve retail stores and gas
stations are here to stay. A BBS is the ultimate self-service
information provider, and its a perfect way to help those
customers who already know what theyre looking for. While no
business should consider doing away with personalized customer service
during regular business hours, a BBS can provide self-service
information around the clock to those who need it, long after the front
doors have closed and the switchboard operator has gone home for the
day. Its a great way to increase customer satisfaction.
- Time shifting -- you can send and receive messages whenever
Callers in different time zones no longer need to worry about getting
in touch with you during business hours. Your customers can place
messages, files or on-line orders on the BBS after hours and overnight,
ready for your staff to handle when business resumes in the morning.
Overseas clients can do business with you at their convenience, instead
of staying up all night just to reach you at the office.
- Wide area communication -- anyone with a computer and modem
can keep in touch.
More and more people are using computers every day-four and a half
million of them now, with thousands more joining their ranks every day.
The majority of new computers sold today have modems and communications
software already installed. Your staff, customers, colleagues and
prospects already know they can save time and money by doing business
on-line, and they are eager to send business your way -- if you can
offer them the convenience of on-line communications.
- Electronic accuracy -- you can make sure that everyone has the
Voice-mail messages, answering machines and handwritten phone
messages all have their place, but these kinds of messages can all too
easily get lost, garbled, or misunderstood. The result? You have to
call back to get things straightened out -- and the person you need to
talk to may not be available. On-line messaging, file transfers and
order entry through a BBS assure you that the information is saved
exactly as the caller entered it.
- Unattended operation -- once its set up the BBS pretty
much takes care of itself.
A well-designed BBS can be automated to the point where the only
thing your staff needs to deal with is answering mail, processing
on-line orders and reviewing files. No need to "get under the
hood" during normal operation.
- Low cost -- compared to other ways of sending and receiving
Think about how much youre currently spending on overnight
couriers, conference calls and telephone tag. Are you mailing or faxing
printed copies of documents you could just as easily put on-line? Are
you waiting days, or even weeks, for printing and mailing services?
Consider also the indirect costs to your business from customers who go
elsewhere because you couldnt deliver the information services
Whats 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 issue of time demands.
Choose a BBS software program that is largely self maintaining.
That frees up the Sysop, or BBS system operator, for the most important
tasks: handling the mail, inquiries, and orders that come in through the
BBS. Customer service, administration, processing orders, reading and
answering mail are the most important areas where you should spend your
time. Expect to spend no more time on the BBS than youre now
spending on paper-pushing and telephone tag -- and watch your
productivity grow and grow.
- The issue of cost.
Some BBS programs can cost far less over the long term to set up and
operate than others. The purchase price of the software is not
necessarily an indication of its long-term cost or performance. There
are plenty of "free" BBS programs -- but you usually get
exactly what you pay for when it comes to support or bug fixes.
Some programs offer a low inital price for a bare-bones package but
require expensive add-on modules to make them usable. At the other end
of the spectrum, some expensive packages pretend to offer "all
things to all people" -- so long as youre a programmer with
time to figure out how to put it all together.
What you should choose is a BBS program that is network friendly, easy
to set up and maintain, customizable, and one that will run on virtually
any ordinary computer using off-the-shelf modem hardware.
- The issue of support.
Find a BBS software vendor that can provide customer support when
you need it, with a variety of support options -- one with a real
"corporate presence." Look or professionalism in the way the
BBS software is written, marketed and supported. Make sure the manuals
are clear and easy to understand.
The best BBS software is easy for a non-technical person to set up and
use, and it offers complete functionality at a moderate price. Choose an
"industry standard" program -- one that is popular enough that
your callers may already be familiar with using it.
- The issue of space.
Most BBS programs can handle multiple users on a single PC. Most
packages will allow you to run four or more phone lines on one computer,
depending on the type of operating environment you select. Choose a
package that is friendly to your Local Area Network and does not require
additional computers to launch user-selectable applications.
- The issue of manpower.
A good BBS program is designed to be easy for almost anyone to use.
That means you can confidently delegate the BBS operations to your
administrative, sales or PR staff.
- The issue of security.
The only type of BBS program you should consider using in your
company is one that you can depend on to keep your BBS secure from
unauthorized access. For maximum security and peace-of-mind , choose a
program that has already proven itself with a large installed base of
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, owners 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
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 theyre looking for is easy to
find, and that the information is complete. Thank them for calling, and
invite them to call again.
Mustang Software -- the company that makes it easy for your company
to start a BBS.
Mustang Software, Inc. takes great pride in presenting its family of BBS
and communication products. Since our inception in 1986, we have sought
to become an industry leader in the PC telecommunications world. Today,
we rank as the premier single-source supplier of Bulletin Board Systems
and related software worldwide. We offer a broad range of on-line
products that include communications software, single and multi-user BBS
programs and E-Mail connectivity products. We connect the world with
functional, easy-to-use communications tools.
We are especially proud that our products have not only made a
contribution to worldwide communications, but have also created an
industry. Today, Fortune 500 companies increasingly recognize Bulletin
Board Systems as a valuable communications tool-both inside and outside
their organizations. Our professional communications software products
are the most full-featured in the industry. And we continue to pioneer
new innovations which keep our customers ahead of the competition.
We invite you to see the many ways Mustang Software is connecting the
world. For more information about Wildcat! 4 BBS software and our other
cutting-edge products -- or for the name of the Mustang Software dealer
nearest you -- call toll-free (1-800-999-9619 or 1-805-873-2500).