5 Ways to Attract Your Ideal Customer on Instagram

Barbara Spagnola - Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Being active on Instagram is no longer enough. If you want to build a powerful following on this platform, which now boasts well over 500 million monthly active users, you have to do something different and unique. More than that, you have to invest significant time and resources in understanding your audience and building unique and optimal content to reach them.

Your success starts when you stop optimizing for top of line follower count and realize that not all followers share the same value to you and your brand. What is more important, rather, is that you are cultivating an active and engaged community of users that are carefully tailored to your company’s niche. These followers are far more valuable for your brand.

While there are no shortcuts, there are some things you should be doing on the platform to maximize your likelihood of success.

Here are 5 ways to attract your ideal customer on Instagram:

1. Truly understand your audience.

Before you experiment with any growth hacks or viral marketing strategies, take the time to understand the demographic of your intended audience. You’ll want to know everything possible about your ideal followers, and you may have multiple personas for different types of followers. You should also use an Instagram analytics tool to analyze who your core demographic is.

You should invest in understanding everything, from who these users currently follow to what they look like and where you can find them. One “low barrier to entry” way of doing this is to simply start direct messaging people that you believe to be in your target audience. While some of them may not respond, if you can get a few people on the phone for a user interview, you will learn tons really quickly. 

Many marketers glaze over this step and jump right into building content. When you do that, you lose the ability to pick up on the little details that truly differentiate the biggest and best brands.

2. Engage with your followers.

You can increase the lifetime value of a single follower by developing a deeper, longer term connection with them. At the end of the day, marketing is about relationships (not transactions) and your audience needs to feel that.

One of the best ways to create this feeling and show your followers that you really care is to be active in the comments’ section of your posts. Your responses do not have to be particularly long winded, but they should prove to your audience that a) you care that they commented on your post and b) you took the time to not only read every comment, but also respond to them. This is definitely a longer term investment (with no immediate ROI), but one that can be crucial in developing a defensible brand strategy on Instagram.

3. Hold relevant contests.

Hosting giveaways that are hyper-targeted to your niche follower is a great way to reward current users for their support as well as expand your relevant follower base. Everyone likes free stuff! And for just a small investment, you can make your entire audience feel a part of something bigger than just themselves.

The easiest way to do this is publish a post with a picture of the prize you are going to give away. In the caption, tell your followers to tag three friends in the comments to qualify as an entry in the contest; this helps the giveaway spread to new and different pockets of the Instagram community.

In just a few days, you will have, hopefully, thousands of comments to randomly choose from to assign to your winner. Better yet, you will have attracted tens of thousands of new eyeballs who, at least you know, are interested in the giveaway (and potentially your content).

4. Leverage hashtags.

Organic growth occurs, generally, when you have “non-followers” finding your profile on their own accord. On Instagram, this happens most often on the “discover page,” where popular, featured, and relevant photos/videos surface to users’ attention. To increase your likelihood of showing up on the discover page, you should use hashtags relevant to your ideal customer.

You can throw in hashtags on all of your posts (up to 30 per post). That way, your content is more likely to show up in front of new people. Whenever there is trending news across the world, a hashtag surfaces to tie together the community. One quick hack is to make sure you are always keeping up with popular and trending hashtags so you can capitalize on the buzz.

Another thing you can do as a brand is make up your own hashtag. The simple phrase should be concise (so it is easy to use) and unique (so it is easily identifiable). You should encourage your followers to use this hashtag, so it gets popular and spreads horizontally.

5. Be real.

One thing that a lot of marketers get wrong is that they think their followers want to see a particular version of themselves so they mold their brand in a plastic and manufactured way.  While this approach may have worked in the past, social media users are jaded. They are sick and tired of seeing the same spammy, unrealistic content popping up on their feeds.

They really just want to interact with brands that are willing to be real and honest with them. Showing the true side of your brand’s profile, through native posts and behind the scenes stories, will earn you respect among your followers. 

4 Tips To Get Your Online Business Going

Barbara Spagnola - Friday, October 20, 2017

With the vast growth of technology and internet space, chances for small businesses have grown rapidly. Today almost everyone can start an online business, but only a small portion of them end up being successful. It’s not enough just to open your domain and think of the name for your firm, you need to know this world of technology and understand the way it functions. The online area has become so vast that there are many roads a beginner can take. But first, you need to understand the basics and guidelines that will get you on the right track.

1. Human voice behind the machine

Leading a business online doesn’t mean you don’t have to be present all the time. The computer won’t do your work for you. It is an inevitable truth that people today are addicted to their computers and customers prefer finding products or services from their comfortable chairs, but they still need the notion that there is a human voice behind the machine. That is why you need to have a great customer service and the open communication with the users all the time. And never forget that every single user hates to wait. If they don’t receive an email on their screen in a response time they think is right, they will get the feeling that they’re trying to communicate just with the piece of equipment and move on.

2. The Echo

One of the most important things is to engage your users by turning them into active participants and letting them hear the echo of their own voice.  That way you’ll definitely earn their loyalty which will inevitably increase your sales. The simplest way to achieve this is to include comment sections wherever possible, but there are also many benefits in starting a blog section. If your business is a larger one and you offer a wide range of products or services, you might want to consider adding a discussion board that allows your visitors to create their own topics. This can be very useful because these boards are places where people exchange opinions and it can serve at the same time as a free commercial.

3. Part of the family

You should always make your customers feel like family members, to make them feel they belong in your company. The best way to do that is to make yourself present on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram, etc. People spend more time on Facebook communication that in conversations face to face. We live in the times when Facebook family member means even more than a real family member. But it’s not enough just to set up your page and chose an attractive cover photo. You need to keep all your social media accounts up to date and in order to do that you’ll probably need to open more workplace whose solemn purpose will be to take care of your company’s ‛social’ life.

4. The Foundation

It’s sufficient to say that every online business needs a strong foundation in the form of a professional website. But not many people know what the website needs in order to be professional. Most of the beginners make the same mistake and want to over-design their websites. But the key is actually in simplicity and precision. Functionality must always come before the aesthetics. Animations, videos, popping sounds and high graphics might attract your visitors in the first instant, but they’re not here to have fun but to find the products or services they’re looking for. Every experienced website developer knows that the main characteristic of a good website is a good organization. The trick is to make a simple website that is engaging at the same time. Making the text straight to the point, readable at first glance, knowing where and when to put a video or animation - this is the kind of art that professionals learn their whole life in order to turn your websites into an interactive playground for your customers.

From people to people - the conclusion

Even though almost everything has been moved to the realm of technology and the machines, business will always remain an interaction between people. Technology provides you with faster and more precise tools, bigger market, more connections, but they can’t make your deals and sign your contracts. In order to earn your customer’s trust, your company needs to have an identity. A human behind the machinery, with its own voice, who is ready to listen. A part of the family who’ll take care of all their needs.

 

 

Online Marketing Strategies to Generate Patient Leads for Your Practice

Barbara Spagnola - Friday, October 20, 2017

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Healthcare setups and medical practices need effective marketing strategies to accomplish their predetermined long-term and short term goals. In addition to getting an edge over competitors, increasing cash flow, advertising products and services or enhancing their reputations, medical practices also seek to generate patient leads as part of their objectives.

Generally, patients make use of the internet to search for the best medical practice closest to them. Effective online marketing strategies can therefore be employed to generate patient leads for your practice. Here are some top online market strategies you can make use of.

Make Your Website Stand Out

The first impression a prospective patients gets of your practice is more often than not communicated by your web site. Websites for health providers, just like any other business, are built to serve the same purpose. If you are trying to get chosen by possible patients as their go-to practice, you need to inspire trust and the best way to achieve that is through a great website. Your website must look modern and be updated. If it looks like something that was built a long time ago, you run the risk of portraying an equally antiquated knowledge of science and medicine.

Another important factor your website should embrace is transparency in order to provide patients and referring providers alike with the idea that they are in charge of their own care. The website should be clear and concise, offering easy access to pricing options, patient testimonials and procedures.

Learn the Art of Social Media Marketing

Social media is undoubtedly a highly effective marketing tool and it has been used severally by different businesses to increase awareness and grow their customer base. This method of marketing will continue to be relevant in how medical practices generate patient leads and market their businesses. However, it has to be used appropriately to maximize benefits. An active presence on the right social media platform is a great way to break away from the completion, stay unique and build a following for your brand. Your social network must be carefully selected, and time and resources dedicated to market your practice the right way, which will very likely drive in new patients.

Careful thought should also go into selecting the content you share on social media. The best content will include facts and recommendations that are informative and relevant to your patients.

Engaging and retaining old patients while attracting new patients is a combination of choosing the right social media platform for your business and top notch content. Sometimes, you might be too busy to take the time to plan effective social media marketing strategies for your medical practice. Orthosynetics provides a full service orthodontics marketing team that focus on providing social media management strategies that drive new patients.

Use Video Marketing

In order to generate patient leads, spend time on high quality online video marketing. Videos work better in growing trust and showing credibility because people can see a person in real life and relate to what they are saying. As previously mentioned, offer testimonials from your customers on your website, and make sure a large number of them are in video form. To make the videos as effective and as authentic as possible, ensure your patients are genuinely interested in speaking on your behalf, as an engaging and passionate testimonial is more relatable and believable. In addition to testimonials, provide high quality educative videos that offerC:\Users\Onah\Desktop\ariadna-oltra-883879_960_720.jpg
information about the services you offer in your practice.

YouTube comes highly recommended as an effective hub for video marketing. After uploading your videos to YouTube embed them throughout your website. Because YouTube is owned by Google, prospective patients can easily discover your video contents from search results.

Content on Your Website Should Educate

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You get major SEO benefits from creating educational content for your audience, because search engines would drive long-term traffic to your website overtime. In addition, the quality articles, blog posts, eBooks and white papers which you produce and distribute on your website will build trust between your patients and your practice with time.

As a guide, your content should be providing answers to questions that patients need about your field. For instance, a person looking to go to the dentist might type questions like “how much does teeth whitening cost?” or “what’s the best toothpaste for whiten my teeth?” into a search engine. By providing answers to such questions on your website, you position yourself as an expert on the topic.

Healthcare practice websites have to provide content that is completely true, addresses expectations clearly, and accommodates the differences in laws for different regions. Also, remember to keep content anonymous where patients are mentioned and to get the approval off good counsel ahead of time.

Use Google to Get Noticed

By using Google, you can attract local patients to your practice. There are lots of potential patients search Google to discover medical practices in their area. Therefore, you should ensure that when people search for the available medical practices in your area, your website is one of the first they see on the search engine result pages.

One sure way to do so is to encourage your patients to review your practice on your Google Places listing after their appointment. If you consistently get positive reviews, your practice will start to show in Google’s local search results, resulting in more patients for you.

Also, take advantage of Google My Business which is ideal if your medical practice is a brick-and-mortar one. Create and claim a business page and ensure your information is correct and consistent. Review sites such as ZocDoc, Vitals, Healthgrades and RateMDs will also help you generate patient leads and give you an edge over the competition.

These are some of the most efficient online media marketing strategies to help your medical practice grow its patient base. In addition to those discussed, sending email reminders to patients is also effective, especially when you include a personalised touch.

Online marketing strategies have worked for many and there’s no reason why yours should be an exception. The earlier you start incorporating these strategies, the earlier you can grow your patient base.


Driving Engagement With Real Stories About Real People

Barbara Spagnola - Thursday, October 19, 2017

“The Rocketeer” (1991) gave us the quote “Acting is acting like you're not acting.” If that’s true, then marketing is marketing like you’re not marketing. At least, that applies to blogs and social media. While superhero stories are great, the real heroes are the people who take your company’s goods and services and use them to transform their lives.

These people are some of the best marketing partners you could ever have; they are real-life success stories, and your business is a part of that tale. Leaving the sales lingo behind and inspiring readers is one key to creating an enchanting business blog that leaves customers wanting more.

Beyond the Testimonial

Testimonials are often bland affairs with little useful information for readers. Superlatives and empty praise sounds great on paper, but savvy readers tend to skim over these unless they contain real details and interesting stories. To make the most out of testimonials, take the reins and tell the story of your client. A few key quotes about the experience from the customer are much more valuable when placed in context alongside the trials faced and challenges overcome with a bit of help from your company’s goods and services.

Student-loan startup Earnest regularly features full-length articles on the stories of entrepreneurs and business leaders who overcame debt to rise to success. While rarely tearjerkers, these stories contain all the important elements to engage readers and show them how the company’s offerings can help without using any marketing language. This type of story, focusing on people rather than products, resonates with readers and has the ability to reach viral status as people share the information with hopes of creating their own tales of success.

Showcasing Success

Customers love a success story, whether it comes from companies they’re already engaged with or those that they’re currently considering. Reading about the successes of others reinforces the belief that an organization is a good choice and can inspire investment or business opportunities. Intuit, the global leader behind Quickbooks, advises that finding your customers’ power stories and showcasing how your company changed their lives lies at the heart of this process.

 

The elements of such power stories include:

     A description of the subject’s situation before the company’s offering was introduced.

     How the subject of the story came to be a customer of the business.

     A direct quote from the customer about the experience of working with the company.

     How the customer attained success with the assistance of the product or service.

     A second quote that serves as an endorsement of the product and inspires others.

 

Additional quotes and details are always useful, but these elements provide the basic building blocks of a great customer-driven story for your blog or social-media outlet. Remember to include photos of the customers as well as their businesses to further enhance the integrity of the piece and build reader confidence.

Creating Shareable Experiences

Getting these stories may seem daunting for new companies or those that have few direct customer contacts. Organizations just starting out should begin the outreach to customers or potential clients as soon as possible, letting them know that the company is interested in their stories as well as the situations behind why these customers chose that particular business.

There are some pitfalls to this practice. Customers don’t want to feel manipulated or that they’re being used as a tool for marketing. Empathy goes a long way as how you say things matters more than what you say. Explaining how these stories can inspire others to success and transform their lives in similar fashions is often all it takes to get a customer on board. Successful clients may also view such tales as direct marketing for their brands.

Customers who have not yet attained their goals should still be viewed as success stories in the making. The inevitable challenges and hurdles that come along the way can make reaching the ultimate goal all that much sweeter. Savvy business owners understand driving marketing with customer service and how word-of-mouth advertising and customer experiences are paramount to success. Taking the time to showcase the people who use the products in more than a few quick snippets builds confidence and rapport with readers, leading to increased engagement and creating more than a few opportunities down the line.

5 Myths About Marketing Strategy For Web Hosts

Barbara Spagnola - Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The hosting industry is an incredibly competitive market. There are almost 50,000 companies in web hosting worldwide, and 10,000 in the USA alone. Gone are the days of a few big providers dominating the market – in recent years, several smaller hosting providers have used innovative marketing strategies to significantly improve their market share.

The rewards for doing so can be huge. Revenues for Cloud services alone are expected to grow to $95 Billion in the next 3 years. But with so much competition, how do you make your company stand out from other hosting providers?

Well, one thing is for sure, don’t believe these 5 myths:

                        1. I Can’t Afford Marketing

Trust me, you can. In such a competitive market, you can’t afford not to have marketing.

Bear in mind that marketing need not be expensive. HubSpot research has found that something as simple as blog update frequency can drive sales. Focus on quality rather than quantity – write a few genuinely engaging blog posts, rather than spamming every potential customer with dozens of marketing emails.

                        2. Social Media is Dead

Nowadays, it might seem that the efficacy of social media campaigns is getting less and less. However, this is largely because a lot of companies still aren’t using social media properly.

At its best, social media is a great way of building a relationship between your brand and your customers. Rather than paying for Facebook ads, why not engage directly with your customers by commenting when they mention your company, and responding to their questions? This is free, and a great way of securing repeat business.

                        3. My Competition Doesn’t Advertise

It’s definitely tempting to feel that since your large competitors are not marketing their company, you don’t  need to. Remember, though, that in these days of social media and targeted email campaigns, they might be doing a lot of marketing that is invisible to you.

The trick is standing out from the crowd. According to research done by Q3 internet, 53% of companies don’t have a particular reason why they chose one hosting provider over another. It seems that measures of speed, uptime, and reliability are not the selling points you thought they were – what matters is being seen by the most customers.

                        4. Content Marketing Is Too Expensive

Content marketing is definitely expensive, but you get what you pay for when it comes to effective marketing. Research done by SocialMediaB2B suggests that companies with blogs generate 67% more leads, on average, than those without.

Content marketing also helps to build a relationship between your customers and your brand, ensuring repeat sales. Doesn’t sound so expensive now, does it?

                        5. My Customers Know Where To Find Me

I hear this one all the time. The truth is that in this market, unless you are continuously generating new customers, you are going to be out-competed. Small businesses are getting more tech-savvy all the time, and unless you can convince your existing customers that you are still the best option for them, they will leave.

Why Is Web Design The Most Important Part Of Your Marketing?

Barbara Spagnola - Thursday, October 12, 2017

When first starting out, rarely do business owners grasp the importance of designing a good website right off the bat. Nowadays, without a substantial internet presence, a business might as well just not exist. This is due to the prevalence of social media and our increased reliance on Google searches and similar activities. With so much people spending hours upon hours online, it’s only natural that designing a good site helps reel all of those people in and, more importantly, gets them to stay and/or make a purchase. When thinking about good web design, people often make the mistake of only considering the visual and, while it does play a big part, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

SEO

The first and obvious choice here is SEO or Search Engine Optimization. The main reason people choose to revamp their sites or simply build them in accordance to Google’s guidelines is to be perceived as SEO-compliant. This means that a site will fit as closely as possible to Google’s own mold of what a high-ranking site would look like and, as a result, pop up higher in relevant searches. This kind of presence generates organic traffic, meaning that the users come themselves when they’re actually searching for things relevant to your area of business, making them more susceptible to make a purchase due to the newfound sense of agency.

UX

As mentioned previously, this is the main thing people associate with good web design, as they should. User experience is a tremendously important factor that essentially deals with the users after SEO has reeled them in. A good UX can make or break a deal simply due to the convenience at which everything on the site is offered. Is it streamlined? Does it load fast? These are just some of the factors that need to be addressed to cater to anyone that ends up on our home page. We’ve all grown accustomed to fast load times and clear-cut sleek designs, there is no reason not to have our site follow suit. 

CRO

With so many factors that go into Conversion Rate Optimization, there are two main reasons that will have a lasting impact on a site: authority and simplicity. As stated above, a simplistic design is something we should all strive for, people tend to get lost and annoyed with too many things happening on the screen at once. A good design will ensure the right amount of elements for the site to be visually pleasing without swarming visitors. As for authority, this comes down to not having a site look like a stock template someone found on Tumblr. Rarely do people trust sites like these and they most-certainly wouldn’t feel safe spending their money there.

Analytics

Measuring analytics didn’t present much of a problem until web design got a bit clunkier. With so many sites’ parts staying on one singular URL, the difficulties of analyzing site data go through the roof. To combat this, it is best to use a simple yet effective method of designing a site, keeping future measurements in mind. This will help owners figure out what works and what doesn’t and actively work on their site to deliver the best experience possible for the best bang for their buck.

Brand consistency

Bringing your site to the next level helps establish and maintain your brand, anything from colors, logos, fonts or slogans will become more prominent and instill themselves in the minds of customers and passersby alike. Your site is essentially the face of your company in modern day marketing, making anything presented there stick. This can help associate your business with certain ideas or notions that you might present yourself with. Make no mistake, being associated with words like “trust” and “safety” can go a very long way.

Higher user retention

The trust of the matter is – people like pretty. Whatever the object in focus might be, if it’s visually and functionally appealing, we’re pretty much sold on it. A good design will keep people coming back for more as seen on the sites worked on by Bapple Freelance Web Design. This is precisely the whole point of marketing - keeping them coming back for more. With such an increased user retention, even if users are only buying, each visit is a step closer in the right direction – towards sealing the deal.

Tl;dr

The gist is – everyone needs a good web design. So many other aspects of a business hinge on the assurance that the site potential customers land on will be able to close the deal. With less and less people wanting to leave the house to actually buy something and drones starting to deliver orders directly to houses – soon, building a good online presence will be the only way of getting noticed. Take the time, do your research, invest in good web design and watch your business flourish. 

6 Moving Company Marketing Strategies from Proven Companies

Barbara Spagnola - Thursday, October 12, 2017

When going into the moving business, it’s considered good practice to take a few hints from companies in the same line of work. This does not necessarily mean competitors, but getting a general idea of the market we’re stepping into seems like a good idea before going headfirst into whatever is waiting for us on the other side. Luckily for the majority of fledgling business owners, there are very few area which haven’t been delved into, so there’s pointers everywhere. When taking a closer look into the inner workings of these companies we seem to find six factors that most of them share in common.

Customer Service

There is no question about it, without a doubt, the single most important thing a moving company, or any company, needs is quality customer service. There is a reason the policy “the customer is always right” became popular. Simply put, a good relationship with customers guarantees good feedback and recommendations to friends and family in the future. The real kicker is the fact that unsatisfied people are usually the most outspoken – and if there’s one thing a company does not want, it is bad publicity. With the onslaught of review sites and social media pages, collecting a few bad reviews could tarnish the company’s reputation and tank it.

A Strong Online Presence

This goes for any company starting out: building a good site is crucial. We live in the information age where everything is at the click of a mouse, why wouldn’t your business be? Setting up a good site will keep people informed about what’s going on within the company, what you offer, where you offer it and at what price. Make sure to focus on implementing a simple, yet eye-catching design for your webpage. Larger companies usually stick to a certain theme or color scheme and focus on doing one or two things really well to set them apart from others. Pick a shtick, stick to it.

Be reasonable

When offering services, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of overpricing, or worse, underpricing what we’re offering. The first thing that needs to be done is gauging the service being offered. If we’re delivering a higher quality service than your competitors, then it’s perfectly find with asking for more to compensate for it. Most people would rather spend more to be sure their possessions will be safe as opposed to skimping out on a few bucks for a gamble. All in all, your revenue will vary on how much time you have to move people and how many appointments you can muster within this timeframe. It is important to keep both of these in mind as it can influence pricing quite a bit to make ends meet.

Keeping mobile in mind

With the online revolution gaining a stronger grasp on everything we do, we are faced with the sad truth that most people won’t take more than a couple of seconds to see what we have to offer. If these seconds should run out, they’ll just back away and look elsewhere. This is the society we live in and other companies have realized this and started optimizing for mobile as a response. The optimization doesn’t need to make the site AMP ready, but it should offer quick load times and neatly formatted content on as many devices as possible to cover the attention-deficient market.

Social Media

Out of reach of conventional marketing, there is the unique no man’s land of social media. With an astounding number of users on Facebook alone, it has become one of the most powerful platforms through which customers are being reeled in. If closely observed, every large business has bought into this marketing avenue and has taken to advertising on Facebook one way or another. Some have even went as far as to offer customer support through Facebook to hit two birds with one stone. However silly it may sound, social media can and will influence our business, whoever we might be.

SEO

Last but certainly not least, we get to the elephant in the room, SEO. With such a reputation preceding it, one might think that SEO is the crown jewel of online marketing – and they wouldn’t be far from the truth. Affordable home & office removals are a dime a dozen, and companies that offer these services have figured out how to reap the rewards of SEO, skyrocketing their offers to the top of Google’s searches. This provides organic traffic, leaving users with a sense of agency – ultimately nudging them into the right direction – your site. With all the other bases covered, anyone who does get redirected to the site is sure to be coaxed into loosen their wallet. 

In Summation

Every company ends up barking up the same proverbial trees when it comes down to marketing – and that is perfectly fine. We would all love to be the first ones to try something new and watch it succeed, but in reality, it’s better to stick to what’s been laid out. These are methods that have been tried and tested and, at the beginning, this is exactly what is needed. Save experimentation as an option down the line when a footing has been secured and you’re well on your way stealing business from those you took pointers from. Good luck!

Make Cybersecurity #1 on Your Company's Holiday Wishlist

Barbara Spagnola - Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Winter and the holidays are coming. We can feel it in the air and see it in every store aisle by now. Hopefully, you’ve taken advantage of big data in your business plan in preparation of the holiday season (if you haven’t, it’s not too late to start).

Once you've grown a stable base of customers, you need to be able to protect their data. This will ensure continued growth in customer retention as well as acquisition. With the many recent data breaches that have been reported on the news, consumers are rightfully wary of the companies they’re considering purchasing from.

An incredible amount of customer data is tracked and used by companies, and if customers can’t trust you to keep that personal information safe, your business will have a much harder time making it to the new year. Here’s what you need to know about the rising threat of online hacking and what you can do to protect your customers’ data.

The Hacking Epidemic

Online fraud is on the rise. As technology becomes more and more advanced, hackers and scammers are coming up with new and better ways to steal your customer’s information. This becomes apparent in the increased attacks on various companies, such as ones in the clothing and food industry. Each industry suffered over 40 percent more hacking incidents than usual in 2016.

With the advent of EMV credit cards, traditional identity theft methods have transitioned more to the online sphere, where the protection the chip on your card provides becomes null and void. IoT devices are now being questioned as well with the data breach of CloudPets. This company sells stuffed animals that are able to send recorded messages from one person to another. Although the messages were not accessed, customers’ emails and passwords were.

You even have to be worried about mobile apps infecting your device with viruses when over 100 apps in the Google Play store were infected with malware. Fortunately, no one’s devices were affected, but it makes you think twice before downloading the latest mobile app.

Protect Your Data

Hackers are out there, there’s no doubt about it. The only thing that’s uncertain is whether you and your company are implementing the necessary steps to ensure the safety of your customers’ data. A lot can be learned from infamous cyberattacks from the past. Here are some ways to protect and secure your customers’ information:

     All hands should be on deck when it comes to protecting your customers’ data. Most businesses solely rely on IT services within and outside the company. Communication is not always clear to the IT department who has access to what and many employees may not have the technical knowledge to protect crucial information. That’s why companywide discussions should be held so that everyone is in the know and can keep customer information secure.

 

     Make sure to regularly update your company’s encryption practices. Hackers evolve as quickly as technology does. If your business implements encryption processes that are not up to date, your data as well as your customers’ is at serious risk.  

 

     If doesn’t need to be shared, then don’t share it. Limit the amount of people that can access customer information. This will result in less opportunities for that data to be pilfered by cybercriminals.

 

     Be wary of implementing bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies. It only takes one stolen phone or laptop to be the next serious data breach in the news. However, BYOD policies are an excellent way for your business to save money. Protect your customers and your company by having employees work on devices that have secure virtual private network access when using the company’s network. Also, if an employee does lose a work device, have a policy set in place so that reports can be made and appropriate steps can be taken to prevent a breach.

 

     If your company deals with ecommerce at all, you need a website malware monitoring service. It can be hard to tell if your online security has been compromised. By having a malware monitoring service, you can prevent any serious losses before it is too late.

 

     If your business has not gone paperless yet, make sure to shred any physical documents that have customers’ personal information. Although identity thieves are tech savvy, they’re not above dumpster diving.

 

     Don’t just have one line of defense. Make stealing your customers’ data as hard and inconvenient as possible. Don’t only have firewalls, but also have contact forms and logins to make accessing your information as hard as possible for hackers.

 

     Being a data hoarder is a big no-no. The security of information greatly outweighs the convenience of stored data. By regularly removing customer data, hackers will have nothing to steal.

 

     Although it’s more of a hassle, have your customers choose longer, more complex passwords by using a combination of symbols and numbers. The more complicated a password is, the more difficulties cybercriminals will have trying to access that information.

Although cybersecurity has improved over the years, there are still many areas that need improvement. Identity thieves and hackers have upped their game as technology progresses, and so should you if you want to keep your customer’s data secure. By following these steps, your company and customers’ information will be safe and sound this upcoming holiday season.

Author's Bio: Brooke Faulkner is a writer by day and mother of two by night. Her sons love helping her dream up new ways to market their latest business idea. This year, the town's best lemonade stand. Next year, the world. When she's not writing, she can usually be found roaming through retail shops, thinking up clever puns to enhance their signage. 

Big Data and Your Business Plan: Prepping for the Holidays

Barbara Spagnola - Thursday, October 05, 2017



The leaves are changing, and the air is getting crisper. We all know what that means. Fall is here and winter is just around the corner. These seasons mark the approach of some major holidays, and if you’re not prepared, your marketing campaign won’t make it on the nice list.


Although there are still a couple of months before the holidays roll around, it’s never too early to get your marketing game in gear. One way to do this is by utilizing big data.


The value of data in marketing and business cannot be overstated as our society becomes more and more integrated with technology. By focusing your big data analysis on social media, cash flow, and your business plan, your website will be all the more prepared for the holiday shopping season.

Track Social Media With Google Analytics

Social media is one of the trends that are changing the way brands market to consumers. That being said, platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are a goldmine for marketers who know how to analyze it correctly.


However, according to CEO of MarketShare Wes Nichols, “Big data without the right math-based analytics is a big problem,” and that, “The ‘right’ analytics are essential to bringing big data to life for marketing organizations, thus allowing for faster insights and better decision-making.”


One of these “right” analytical tools is Google Analytics. There are three ways to measure social media success in Google Analytics. The first is to set up some goals for Google Analytics to track. One type of goal that is easily trackable is URL destination.


This task is completed when a person visits a specific page on your website. Setting up goal funnels is one tip for a successful ecommerce business since the steps potential customers take to the shopping cart page can be all tracked. These goals will make it much easier to measure how successful your holiday social media marketing campaign is.


This can be seen in the social media reporting section. Through these reports, you’ll be able to evaluate which network your business is performing best in, which landing page of your website most people visit from social media, and how many conversions your company receives from these platforms.


To get even more specific, you can employ Urchin Tracking Module (UTM) parameters. UTM parameters are tags you can place in your URL. This will give you a better understanding of which ads and marketing campaigns work best on which social networks with each click.

Plan Long-Term Cash Flow

Cash flow can make or break a business. According to founder of Accountiful Bill Mosca, “The thing that sinks entrepreneurs again and again is conflating profit with cash flow.” One of the biggest cash flow mistakes a company can make is using fragmented data in their strategic decision-making.


When a business is small, the most basic accounting tools and spreadsheets could be all that you need to accurately track your cashflow. However, when your business grows, those spreadsheets aren’t going to cut it anymore. Time is money, and if a client or employee has a question, neither of you have the time that it would take for you to physically look for the records with the answer.


Having an integrated financial system in place will be best for you and your company in the long run, as well as having a budget to stick with. Even if you have money to spend, it’s best to wait as long as you can before making any purchases. You never know when you really might need that cash, so it’s best to hold onto it just in case.


That being said, it’s best to project your cash flow over the long term, especially with the holidays coming soon. This will make it easier to spot early warning signs that your finances are not where they should be. Keeping that extra cash on hand will make these deviations go much more smoothly.

Make a Flexible Business Plan

You can prevent many holiday hiccups by having a flexible business plan. Although most people conflate business plans with the start of a company, it’s very important that changes be made to the plan as the company grows. To put it simply, here are four components of every business plan:


  1. Objectives: You need to know what your company’s objectives are and clearly state them so they can easily be understood by everyone.


  1. Identify Your Target Audience: Your business will go nowhere if you’re targeting an audience that doesn’t resonate with your company or product. Potential customers will be much more appreciative and responsive if you do your demographic homework.


  1. Projections: Setting up realistic expectations for your company to meet is essential for progress and growth. Projections become even more important during the holiday season. With pre-holiday expenses such as shipping, production, and the inevitable post-holiday slumps, your company will come out on top when contingency plans are set in place.


  1. Marketing: If people know about your company, it’s all because of marketing. Figuring out how you will reach potential customers and how they will reach you is one of the most important things you can do for your company. Sending out customized thank you holiday postcards won’t hurt your marketing efforts either.  

The holidays will be here sooner than you think. However, by putting social media, cash flow, and a flexible business plan on your holiday wishlist, you can get ahead of the competition and have a happy new year.



Thinking Of Marketing Inside Of Your Waiting Room

Barbara Spagnola - Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Despite the current trends of online work and freelancing, the waiting room is still at the heart of most businesses today. Whatever the reason for sitting down at said waiting room, it is imperative that any customer, potential or otherwise, is entertained. It is in this window that we should consider and implement subtle marketing strategies to both improve their time spent in waiting and help give our business that extra little nudge in terms of visibility and popularity. Just because people have already stepped in does not mean the ad campaign is over, oh no, it has just begun.

Piece together a “while you’re waiting” area

First and foremost, if it’s not already present, some space should be made for the waiting area itself. It shouldn’t be too spacious but it shouldn’t be cramped either. There should be just enough space to keep people busy while they wait their turn and potentially get work done while they wait. Take into account the various needs one might have and furnish accordingly. A small desk with several charging outlets would be a welcome addition to any waiting room along with branded notepads, pens etc. This minimal amount of effort will go a long way in raising a customer’s opinion and will already plant them with merch in form of pens, notepads and sticky notes carrying the company name.

Decorate accordingly

When the area has been set up, the next logical step would be to cater to the surrounding area. A nice example would be any bank’s waiting room. If one takes a closer look, they will notice product placement all over the place, from limited time offers to yearly interest rates, everything is made visible but never too in-your-face about it. Using this approach, several of the pictures and decorations around the area could be stylized to better represent your brand and potentially inform people that have come in for option A that you have options B through Z.

Distract the kids

Although we tend to overlook the young ones, the kids that adults usually bring into waiting rooms have it worse than most. They are there without purpose and are bound to wait for an arbitrary amount of time for reasons they cannot explain. This is why setting up an area that caters to their needs is considered optimal. They are young, they are impressionable, and you’d be surprised how much pull a kid’s attitude towards something can have. If they like it there, they’re going to make sure everyone who’ll hear them out knows about it, friends, family, complete strangers – you name it.

Don’t shy away from conventional ads

Expanding on the idea of decorating your office accordingly, never be too afraid to place in an obvious ad here and there. Sometimes all you need to do is grab someone’s attention, and ads are specifically designed to do just that. Factor in a potentially long wait time and nothing to do via Wi-Fi and you’ve got the perfect mindset to ingest advertisements. This equates to reading shampoo labels in the bathroom when the phone decides to die out or wasn’t brought for some strange reason. It’s not so much about making a sale as having them come back for more.

Encourage social check-ins

And, finally, the crown jewel of waiting room marketing – social media. Encouraging people to sign into social media and make others aware of their whereabouts can have the biggest impact one can imagine. We are all well-aware of the pull a certain site has, now imagine a customer using your nicely-decorated   PhotoBoothMe photo booth, tagging friends and family alike to see where they’re at and how good a time they’re having. Couple this with your very own i.e. Facebook page getting tagged and you’ve got a surefire way to pull in more likeminded customers for a spin or two.

Don’t knock it ‘till you’ve tried it

We’ve all heard about the benefits of SEO and UX, AdWords etc. But we often forget that all of these experiences are digital, and as such rarely carry the same amount of weight as a more personal approach. This is why marketing inside the waiting room is important, it lowers people’s guard by luring them into a sense of security and reminds them that you have much more to offer if they opt to stay. Sometimes a personal touch is all it takes.