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. 

Database Strategy: Target influencers to sway business-to-business sales

Barbara Spagnola - Wednesday, August 13, 2014
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Business-to-business marketers, like their counterparts in the consumer sector, know the effectiveness of database marketing in communicating with decision makers. What they may overlook is the key role of influencers in the business-to-business buying decision. 

With influencers, as with decision makers, database marketing can be an extraordinarily useful tool for enhancing relationships. It also can be used to measure the return on investment in influencers. 

Who is an influencer?

Influencers include individuals who can affect a marketer’s sales results and help find prospects within the business market but who typically do not make the decision to buy the product. The influencer, who holds a position of credibility and influence vis-à-vis the product or service, has the ear of the decision maker and can sway the purchase decision toward the marketer’s offering. The following are examples of business-to-business marketers, their decision makers and their sales influencers: 

For a company that sells printing and computer-imaging services, the purchase decision maker is the advertising manager at a cosmetics, food or beverage company. Influencers whispering in the ad manager’s ear include the creative director at the customer’s advertising agency. 

A computer-services firm’s decision makers are information technology (IT) managers. Third-party IT consultants, who shape the IT managers’ view of technology and products, are key influencers. 

A sales training firm has identified the key decision maker as director or vice president of training and development. The key influencer is the sales manager who knows how much the sales force could benefit from the marketer’s training programs—and who conveys that perception to the VP of training. 

A manufacturer of office furniture views office managers as key decision makers for its products but realizes architects and office design firms strongly influence the office manager’s decision of what furniture to buy. 

Build credibility 

It is essential to include influencers in the database and feed them information about products, because they can find sales opportunities and help move opportunities along. Influencers include salespeople at firms whose products or services complement what the marketer sells. For example, a videoconferencing equipment supplier’s influencers include the salespeople at telephone service providers such as AT&T, Sprint and Verizon.

Another group of influencers are decision makers who would have bought from the marketer but budgets or some other corporate factor scuttled the sale. These decision makers may be lame ducks at their own companies, but they endorse the marketer with decision makers at other companies. 

Additional influencers are less obvious. They include the marketer’s shareholders, who want to see the company thrive, and its employees, who verbally convey the marketer’s messages to external audiences. Industry consultants and trade-press editors also are influencers, as are the friends of the marketing company’s executives—the people with whom they play golf, for example. These individuals may be quite high in the corporate hierarchy at companies that buy the marketer’s products and may well influence sales to their company. The product’s users also are influencers, as are the accountants, attorneys and other advisors to executives at the customer company. 

It is not essential and may even be inappropriate to send all these groups every communication. However, sending influencers information that is of use to them and conveys the marketer’s message can be extremely beneficial. Some influencers may only receive communications concerning the electronics industry, for example, or the marketer’s newsletter, which offers tips for using the product. 

By sending appropriate information periodically, the marketer builds credibility and the foundation for a relationship with the influencer. When faced with risk, decision makers buy from familiar companies, and influencers recommend familiar companies. Receiving communications from the marketer makes the products familiar; receiving it in bite-size pieces at regular intervals makes the information digestible. 

Measure return on investment (ROI)

Too often, when marketers are deciding which names to keep and which to drop from the database, they look only at monetary issues such as sales recency and frequency. If those are the only factors they consider, they may eliminate all the influencers from the database.

Although influencers have an impact on a great deal of business, the marketer can never attach a sale directly to them. Therefore, the presence of influencers in the database can be problematic when calculating response rates. To solve the problem, it's best to subtract the influencers from the number of mailers sent before calculating the percent response. Say a marketer mails 1,500 direct mail pieces, including 500 to influencers. If the mailing generates 100 responses, the response rate is actually 100 of 1,000 - not 100 of 1,500. 

It does make sense to track the times an influencer is involved in a sales decision and to record those occurrences. One way to do this is to include fields for “referred from” and “referred to” in the database. This prioritizes influencers’ impact and dictates the marketer’s response to the influencer. Marketers need to track who influenced which sale, consider the number of sales the influencer participated in and the size of each sale, and create a relationship with that influencer accordingly.

If the database notes reveal that John Doe consistently brings in many opportunities, the marketer needs to thank Mr. Doe and do something special like give him a copy of a proprietary CD-ROM or invite him to an executive briefing. The dual goals are to keep the influencer up-to-date on the marketer’s offering and applications and to provide something of objective value. 

It is also helpful to note in the database records what kinds of business the influencers affect. Perhaps they only influence purchase decisions in one of the marketer’s vertical markets or for one product application. The marketer needs to build the relationship accordingly, sending only mailings related to that vertical market or application. For example, a marketer of sales automation software could send the president of an electronics-industry ad agency copies of mailings directed at customers in the electronics industry but not copies of mailings directed at food-service and toiletries manufacturers. 

By recognizing the amount of influence the influencer wields over the buying decision, the marketer can tailor database marketing activities to meet the influencers’ needs. Including influencers in the database is one of the most effective ways to increase sales, and it can be done by a company of any size without breaking the promotional budget. Influencers line up behind marketers with which they have a relationship, and database marketing is the ideal vehicle for building those relationships. 


About the Author

M. H. "Mac" McIntosh, an authority on inquiry handling and sales lead management, is president of Mac McIntosh Incorporated, a sales and marketing consulting firm specializing in generating high-quality sales leads and turning them into sales. He can be reached at mcintosh@salesleadexperts.com.

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How long should you keep companies and contacts in your marketing database?

Barbara Spagnola - Wednesday, August 13, 2014
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I’ve found that companies often remove people from their databases far too soon—especially considering the potential lifetime value of the prospect and his company. Some guidelines and a look at the cost-effectiveness of your database marketing can help you know when to hang on and when to let go.

If your customer only buys once in a lifetime, then keep him or her on your database only until they buy from you or a competitor. However, if the contact continues to repeatedly buy the kinds of products or services your company provides, consider leaving the person on your database forever. 

Or, you could leave the contact on your list for as long as you know you can still cost-effectively get your marketing messages through to the person by mail, e-mail, fax or phone. My clients frequently tell me that they are now closing first sales from prospects that have been on their databases for two, three, four or more years.

One way to determine if keeping prospects and customers on your database for a long time is cost effective is to compare the annual cost of database marketing to one prospect or customer compared to the cost of finding a new one. For example, if your company spends an average of $250 to generate an inquiry, but only $25 a year to keep in touch with each contact through database marketing, you could afford to keep the prospect or customer on the database for up to 10 years for the same cost.

If you’re going to keep contacts and companies on your list for a while, I suggest that you occasionally ask the contacts if they still are interested in hearing from your company. Tell them, if they don’t respond, you’ll remove them from your list. Keep those who say “yes” on the list. Then remove those who fail to respond. Better yet, keep the non-responders’ records for statistical purposes, but code them to be suppressed when pulling lists for mailing, faxing, e-mailing or calling.


About the Author

M. H. "Mac" McIntosh, an authority on inquiry handling and sales lead management, is president of Mac McIntosh Incorporated, a sales and marketing consulting firm specializing in generating high-quality sales leads and turning them into sales. He can be reached at mcintosh@salesleadexperts.com.

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Enterprise Data Management And Other Business Intelligence Solutions

Barbara Spagnola - Sunday, August 10, 2014

Enterprise data management (EDM) is like oxygen for today's businesses. The data is increasing massively and we need a management system to keep the useful information intact and accessible. EDM is a system that defines, integrates, and restores data from internal applications as well as external communications. The former includes human resources, financial, enterprise resource planning, business intelligence solutions, and customer relationship management. The latter includes shareholders, business partners, suppliers, regulators, and others associated with the business.

Benefits Of Data Management

Enterprise data management assists the organizations in handling their data better. Thanks to EDM, they know about the data they have, the place it is stored, the way it is used, the technique to secure it, and the duration of its usefulness. Such a system can allow the businesses to get rid of useless and corrupt data and keep only what is needed. It makes the business processes more efficient, decreases security risks, increases the speed, cuts down infrastructure costs, allows the businesses to comply with the standards, and makes them more competitive.

In this age of swift changes in the business world and stiff competition, you need to move from conventional strategies to newer and more competent ones. Business intelligence (BI), today, no longer comprises business delivery alone. It also encompasses the capability to assimilate the business in such a way that your performance peaks.

According to the experts in the area of BI solutions, content intelligence will replace BI in the coming years. We would shift toward a blend of structured and unstructured data. Here, the former would be numbers and spreadsheets, whereas the latter would be the rest, including multimedia, voice, and others.

The experts believe that enterprise data would be one of the things to be assimilated in this evolution. With the structured and unstructured data joining hands, a large number of vendors, focusing on things like data warehousing, data visualization, data integration, enterprise data management, and such things, would extend their horizon to content management.

The advanced form of BI would enable the users to ask questions. The intelligence would contextualize the questions, look for answers, and interact with you like a human being. It would feel as if you're actually talking to somebody highly intelligent.

Business analysts predict that BI will evolve constantly in the future, opening new avenues for meeting business needs. According to experts, by 2015, BI methods and technologies would almost become a necessity, with almost 80 percent of enterprise business being associated with it. But, in the wake of such dynamic technologies and competition, the organizations would have to keep a balance between the capability of humans to make decisions and using advanced enterprise data management and intelligence to come with optimized business solutions.

Amidst such breakthroughs, there are still businesses that are aloof of such technologies and intelligence. It's high time for them to come in the league of progressing organizations. Introducing enterprise data management in their business would prepare them to embrace other advanced intelligence systems and roar ahead in the next century.


About the Author

Brian Cain is the author of this article on modern Business Intelligence Solutions such as Enterprise Data Management

A Brief Overview Of Data Collection

Barbara Spagnola - Thursday, August 07, 2014

Data collection, as applied to survey applications, is defined as the systematic aggregation, collation and recording of information from a sample population. The findings are then organized and arranged into a rational medium that would make them easier to study and understand. From these figures, things like future trend predictions and causal relationships between different factors can be derived.

Identifying why society leaned one way or the other in the past and knowing where it would move on to in the future are invaluable in many different fields. Manufacturers can use these figures to predict what types of products would be most profitable in the next quarter while governments can accurately pinpoint which sectors of the populace needs their attention the most. Surveys and data collection are par for the course in politics, economics, medicine, engineering and many more disciplines.

The implementation process is relatively simple. All organizations need to follow the same basic steps in order to ensure the success of their endeavor. It doesn’t really matter what the specific application of the information will be; the procedure still remains the same.

Those conducting the study must first come up with a comprehensive plan. They should set definite goals and targets that would succinctly answer the question, “what is data collection going to provide us with?” Only once a unanimous agreement has been reached on what exactly is the purpose of the campaign can they start formulating the exact methods they are going to employ. There are several viable alternatives that can be used. In addition, the time frame for the activity also has to be set.

The next step involves the actual execution of the plan. Different survey systems require different sets of resources. For example, focus group discussions would need adequate manpower to curate the event, a suitable location to hold the meeting, food, refreshments as well as a monetary incentive for the participants. Flyer or questionnaire surveys, on the other hand, would need publishing equipment and an effective distribution network.

The final steps include collating and organizing the data into an easy to digest form. If there are too many respondents for the information to be processed quickly, consider investing in one of the many excellent computer programs specifically designed to meet the needs of high-volume survey systems.


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