Archive for the Business Category

Case Studies: How to Use Storytelling as a Marketing Power Tool

Posted in Small Business on March 20, 2012 by wolfwomyn

Every day you and your employees create or update data. You gather customer information, update financial documents or create marketing materials.

Each bit of this data is critical to some part of your business. It might be the up-to-date information you use to ship your products, serve your customers, get new customers or file taxes.

But many small-business owners focus on increasing revenue and forget to protect this valuable aspect of their company. If your server crashes this afternoon, can you recover your data? What will you do if your office burns down tonight?

Security breaches are important part of data protection. Have you taken precautions to prevent a data breach? Craig Blessing, with security company Datacastle says the average data breach costs a company $7.2 million, or $214 per breached record.

Because the stakes are high, make the first item on your to-do list properly protecting your data.

Here are three things you can do to help protect your data. Follow these steps so you can get your doors open again in case of a loss or breach.

Back up your data

One of the most important safeguards is to regularly back up your data. Security experts do not recommend copying unencrypted data to a tape or portable drive each night. The data can be stolen. To prevent theft, all saved data must be encrypted.

“While we recommend that you have onsite backup, it’s absolutely critical to keep an encrypted copy of your data off-site as well,” said Amanda Harper, president of Gaeltek Technology Solutions in Northern Virginia. Harper wrote Business IT 101: A Business Owner’s Guide for Finding Hassle-Free Computer Support.

If a disaster or theft makes it impossible to access your computers or servers, the onsite backup is useless says Harper.

Jeff Hoffman, a small-business data-security specialist with ACT Network Solutions, recommends backing up any data that would hinder your business if it is lost.

“Identify the information that you can’t live without to operate your business, like the accounting system, the client-tracking system, any contracts, your quoting system if you have one, your customer-support files,” said Hoffman. “Sometimes people go overboard and try to back up everything, including pictures of last year’s company picnic.”

Get advice on which online backup services are recommended for small businesses.

How often should you back up your data? The answer to this question depends on your specific industry and business needs. If your data changes dramatically during the day, then back up throughout the day as critical information changes. For most companies, a nightly back up is sufficient.

Often, companies will set up a backup system and then not check on it until they have a data loss. Only then do they realize that the backup stopped working six months ago.

“After you have a good backup system in place, you need to test it regularly to make sure it works,” said Harper. She recommends testing the backup at least once a month and more often if the data is critical to business operations.

Develop data-recovery and disaster-recovery plans

“If your building burned down, what steps would you have to follow to get your business up and running?” asked Jeff Hoffman, with ATC, a small-business security company.

Write out a plan for data recovery as well as what you would do after a disaster. Remember that if you ever have to use either of them, you will be under stress and most likely you will not have access to company resources. Be as detailed as possible and include all phone numbers and websites you need to execute your plan.

Keep a copy of the plan in several locations, both onsite and off-site. Hoffman said two businesses he worked for were involved in a fire. “One was up and running within 48 hours and one had to close their doors,” he said.

Educate employees

Train each of your employees on the importance of data safety.

Make sure they password-protect their laptops and mobile devices with strong passwords. Require that employees not use passwords that contain the word password since Password1 was recently found to be the most common password.

Data protection should be an ongoing priority in your office. Each quarter, set time aside to review your data-protection policy and make adjustments. You may have added a new location or a new technology.

The time spent on data protection is much less than the time it will take to recover your losses, after something goes wrong.

Photo credit: Thinkstock, Jennifer Gregory

Four Keys to Finding Better Keywords

Posted in Websites on March 13, 2012 by wolfwomyn

In a recent guest post at It’s All About Revenue, Brian Posnanski shares tips on finding just the right keywords to boost standings in search results. “Keywords are the ingredient that make content searchable and discoverable,” Posnanski notes.

That’s why TrafficPRM—Posnanski’s interactive agency—created the Seven Keys to Keyword Research guide to help inbound, social and content marketers find the right keywords to optimize their content and ultimately achieve higher organic search ranking, Posnanski explains.

Here are some of the tips the guide offers for deriving more specific keywords:

Benchmark current rankings. Use your content management system, Google Analytics and other tools to assess where you are and track where you’re going.

Brainstorm a beginning list. Through a combination of people and tools, identify the terms that map to your customers’ and prospects’ interests or needs.

Don’t rely solely on Google AdWords. Many organizations base their optimization on a raw list of keywords, pulled from Google’s AdWords keyword finder, Posnanski says. But often these keywords are too generic or competitive, he cautions, and may not be right for your organization.

Start with a keyword cluster or silo. Determine which group of keywords is most important to you right now, he suggests: “Don’t try to optimize everything at once.”

Once you’ve identified some truly stellar keywords, create a short SEO “cheat sheet” for your marketing team, with top keywords and their corresponding landing pages, Posnanski advises.

The Po!nt: A valuable keyword list is a key to online success. Use it to optimize all your digital assets, monitor progress and adjust your approach to buyers as necessary.

Source: Marketing Prof’s-Search Engine & It’s All About Revenue.

Four Lessons From the Social Business Trenches

Posted in Social Media on February 28, 2012 by wolfwomyn

On CMSWire, Web engagement strategist Dion Heathcliff shares what he has learned from successful—and not so successful—social businesses in recent years. The lessons he offers address “what to focus on and what drives improved outcomes when applying social media within a large organization.”

Read the full article for the meat, but here are a few observations to whet the appetite.  (http://www.cmswire.com/cms/enterprise-collaboration/seven-lessons-learned-on-social-business-011880.php?)

Changing staff behavior is more important—and harder—than selecting social tools. Today’s workers multitask over a wide array of tools—too many, actually, Heathcliff says. Your task is to get them to change their habits in a natural and intuitive way. Imposing more tools is the typical approach to doing this, but it’s an ineffective shortcut, he argues. Work processes must become more open, shared and transparent in the social business world.

The more control over social you seek, the less you’ll have. It is imperative that you design your social outreach for how you want users to behave. Create their paths in ways that take your needs, legal and otherwise, into account from the very beginning of their engagement journey.

Help people help each other. Successful social communities aren’t purely self-organizing. They still need leaders and effective support systems (like community management and well-integrated CRM that acknowledges the most pertinent current user needs).

Don’t lose the observable value your social business creates. Store your activity streams, and make them accessible, discoverable and trackable. Most of their value lies in the information accrued, so make sure you employ resources for distilling trends and market signals from all that conversation.

The Po!nt: Implement intelligently! Social business has matured enough that we can glean what works and what doesn’t from past experience. It’s time to take heed of the lessons of those who have already walked the path.

Source: Get to the Point/Social Media

Socialize Me! In Stages, Though, Please

Posted in Social Media on February 15, 2012 by wolfwomyn

The journey to complete socialization (the connected kind, not the 1984 kind) takes time, and it’s okay to do it in steps.

Sometimes it helps your advancement in the social direction when you can clearly see where you’ve been—and how that affects where you could be headed.

That’s why Chris Carfi of Ant’s Eye View has put together the Social Engagement Journey, which takes you through five social stages—from basic broadcast to fully engaged.

Let’s go through ’em together:

Traditional. This is about one-way communication driven by command-and-control businesses. Still here? Get movin’! This model won’t be sustainable for long.

Experimental. There’s some social dabbling, but it’s disconnected from overall business operations. This stage is characterized by fractured tools, silo’d efforts (the “social media intern” in the marketing department ring a bell?). Well, it’s a start, anyway.

Operational. Social engagement becomes more embedded in everyday ops, including business training, channel alignment, and campaign integration. Things are starting to take shape!

Measureable. Real business results are beginning to flower as a result of your social efforts, and employees, brimming with new confidence, are beginning to more fully harness their online relationships.

Fully engaged. Social engagement and customer experience is part of your organization’s DNA. It’s integrated with all you do, and customer feedback and usability are built into the heart of all projects at the planning stage. You’re seeing both increased revenue and customer loyalty!

Don’t worry: You don’t have to leap from phase 1 to 5 right away. It’s okay to take baby steps—as long as you have a clear idea of where you’re headed and why. For more tips and details, dip into Chris’s Social Business 2012 presentation.

The Po!nt: Slow and steady can win the social race. Take a few steps in the right direction, and keep moving forward.

Source: Marketing Profs; Social Media

Take A Break and Your Employees also.

Posted in Business on February 1, 2012 by wolfwomyn

One of the things that is so prevalent in todays society is stress related illnesses and breakdowns.  This is especially happening in people own small businesses.  I read an article the other day about our pets and what we are learning from them.  You don’t see many stressed out cats and dogs.  So they started doing some research.

What they have found is that cats and dogs spend some time just sitting and looking out the window.  This, they have found, has a stress reducing effect on the eyes and the rest of the body.  So they are bringing this learning into the work environment.

The technique that they have found they are referring to as the 20/20/20.   Every 20 minutes, take 20 seconds (0r more) to look at something more than 20 feet away.  And if you can gaze out the window the more the better.  This gives you a minute of a break, gets your eyes off of the glaring computer screen, and significantly lowers the stress level. This is especially important for those of us who spend the day on the computer, but also applies to those of use who are in stress filled jobs.

So take a few minutes every day, and have your employees do the same, to reduce that stress.  And you might actually enjoy looking out the window and see what is happening in the world outside.

Have a great day.

How a Typo Can Hurt Your Business

Posted in Business, Websites on January 17, 2012 by wolfwomyn

“Have you noticed spelling errors on the websites of major, legitimate retailers and/or service providers?” asks Julia Rubiner in the Editorial Emergency newsletter. “The answer is almost certainly ‘no.'” Large corporations set a high bar for the rest of us: A single error looks sloppy and unprofessional to visitors, who are used to polished online copy. But the ramifications can be worse than making a bad impression.

Typos on your homepage, landing pages and product pages aren’t just embarrassing; they might actually hurt your business. Rubiner points to a BBC News article that provides anecdotal—but startling—evidence of a misspelled word’s negative impact on income: After a spelling error was corrected at tightsplease.co.uk, the online retailer’s revenue per visitor doubled.

“I like to think this is attributable to widespread disdain for spelling errors,” she notes, “but it’s not; it’s attributable to shoppers wary of fraud.” According to Rubiner, many people associate typos with phishers and con artists. “[I]t positively screams ‘fly-by-night operation,'” she explains.

In an ironic twist, customers who notice misspelled words might suspect your website is merely pretending to be your website. Or—if they’re unfamiliar with your brand—they might worry that you’re not even a real company. That’s when they’ll decide to withhold their personal information and credit-card numbers. And a valuable click-through becomes a lost sale.

The Po!nt: Clean it up. Any copy destined for your website or your email campaigns should be spell-checked and then printed out for a hard-copy proofread. “Your bottom line will thank you,” Rubiner concludes.

Source:Get to the Source/Email marketing &
Editorial Emergency.

How to Be a Successful Anti-Engager

Posted in Social Media on December 13, 2011 by wolfwomyn

Dan Zarella’s “Science of Social Media” Webinar inspired a recent post by Facundo Villaveiran at Channelship’s Video Blog about the known “truths” of “winning” at social media—and the realities that may or may not match them. Below are a few of Zarella’s insights about how some anti-engagement tactics might actually get the engaging results you seek.

These aren’t silver bullets, but they may merit experimenting with your strategy to see if Zarella’s results stand up.

Don’t just comment; share content. In an experiment, Zarella discovered that engaging in comments at your Facebook page doesn’t draw more views—but sharing lots of interesting links in your comments does. (By all means engage in conversations; just don’t rely exclusively on that to draw traffic.)

Use “information voids” to your advantage. Researching unanswered, seemingly abandoned, questions, and producing content around them can do wonders for traffic. Track Twitter’s trending topics or Google Zeitgeist. Seek mysteries and address them head-on.

Publish on Fridays and weekends. People get less email during down times, streams are less cluttered—more visibility for you! (Don’t abuse this window, but it can come in handy when you have something great on the pipeline.)

Don’t mistake social “proof” for impact. Zarella A/B-tested two blog posts with different “tweet buttons”—one fixed to zero tweets and the other showing 776 (the number of times that content was allegedly “tweeted” or shared). The post that had the least social proof, as opposed to the most, was shared the most. “When it comes to sharing, nobody wants to be the 777th person breaking the news,” Villaveiran says.

The Po!nt: Don’t limit your prospects for engagement. Try a range of social tactics, and track your results to learn what works best. Your discoveries will be invaluable—not just for your company, but for your reputation as you share and leverage your ever-growing social savvy.