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How to Safely Manage Your Digital Files and Customer Data

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As online businesses and entrepreneurs, we can all appreciate the power and value of data on the internet today. No longer do we need to download and install software to a computer and be limited to where we can access our work or data online. At the same time, the costs of data storage and web space are also now cheaper than ever. With so much information constantly being uploaded, created and accessible on the internet, the business of online security is booming. While all of this is going on, it’s also important to understand why and how your data is being stored and if it’s being protected in the process.

Quick Tips for Keeping Your Personal Data and Customer Information Safe

The ability to store thousands of digital files in a single location has eliminated the pressure that a person might otherwise feel to organize those files if they were physical documents or materials that were cluttering up a desk or bookshelf. The “out of sight, out of mind” principal helps a person to ignore the clutter that is likely buried in their personal workstations, laptops, tablets and smartphones. But that lack of organization elevates that person’s cybersecurity risks. A physical document that includes sensitive personal or financial information can be shredded and destroyed, but a digital file that contains the same information can lay hidden forever.

Safe management of digital files begins with organizing those files into digital folders according to a consistent filing structure. Businesses with several employees can use a commercial document management system to automate this task. Duplicate digital files should be deleted to avoid losing track of sensitive information. Create a separate index of files to allow easy access to and recovery of data. Folders and sub-folders can become overly complicated, and a business that is not relying on a management system should develop its own folder filing system and naming strategy to minimize those complications.

Even with such protections in place, the number of attacks on personal data and customer information is still growing daily. Kaspersky reports 62% of people have experienced attacks involving their financial data, while 61% of those people were never able to fully recover data that was lost due to a cyber attack.

Document management should be coupled with a data backup strategy. Some commercial document management systems automatically back data up into the cloud. If cloud backup is used, make sure that all data sent to the cloud is encrypted at the time of the backup process. If cloud backup is not used, data can be backed up onto external hard drives, SSD devices, or other media that is disconnected from any online environment and stored in a secure location.

Customer files and other sensitive data can be further protected with hashing and salting routines. Hashing will authenticate messages to confirm the legitimacy of an information request. Salting adds extra values to passwords to make them more difficult for a password hacking algorithm to guess. When used with end-to-end encryption, hashing and salting will create an even more secure data management environment.

The Business of Keeping Personal Data and Company Information Safe

While these tasks might seem simple enough, data protection is a 24/365 game of defense for nearly all businesses and brands in the world today. With company and customer data being more crucial to protect than ever before, Microsoft recently came out with their own stats and infographic on the matter. Highlights from the report noted the following:

  • 140+ Days – The average number of days a hacker sits on your network before they are detected.
  • $12M – The average cost a business is impacted by for each security breach.
  • 72% of the U.S. workforce will be mobile by 2020, relying on devices other than their laptop to be productive.
  • 87% of senior managers admit to regularly uploading work files to a personal email or cloud account.

You can see even more information through the visual infographic below.

Unfortunately, even the safest management of digital files will not guarantee their protection from hackers who are intent on stealing the information in those files. In 2016, for example, the commercial cloud backup provider, Dropbox, suffered a data breach that leaked details of more than 68 million user accounts. Information in those accounts that was encrypted or otherwise locked down with hashing and salting was better protected from loss, largely because hackers will go after data that is easier to access without wasting time trying to break through encryption and other protections. Still, those data files did fall into cyberattackers’ hands and still remain at risk of being unencrypted.

Even with the potential for a data breach at all times, data storage platforms like Dropbox are still in massive demand and their usage numbers just continue to keep growing over time. Take a look at the chart below to see how Dropbox has scaled from their initial launch in 2008 to having more than 500 million users today. The massive growth behind Dropbox all started with their referral program that would reward users with extra space in exchange for referring a new Dropbox user. The funny thing about this process is that Dropbox was already ahead of the data storage game before many other companies and brands jumped into the mix.

Eight years later and Dropbox is still the largest player in this space, thanks to their five times faster sync on average versus competitors, having released over 90+ product updates in the past year and also having 500 billion calls to the Dropbox API per year. All of this is ultimately in place to not only scale the company in size, but to also protect customer data and files as well.

In addition to the massive business of online data storage and data protection, there is also going to be a world of opportunities for affiliate marketers to make money in this space as well — which includes everything from data monitoring, spyware software and data notification platforms that are constantly monitoring personal information and mentions online. The more money and competition that flows into this space, the more money there are for advertisers, affiliates and the sites covering such data and resources.

Personal and Customer Data Manage Best Practices are Key

At the end of the day, the more we talk about data management and the potential downsides and hacks that come along with it, it’s simply a matter of keeping us all aware of such conditions and informing each other on better ways to protect our information. There is no doubt that online data storage and customer data will continue to be hacked and released on the dark web by hackers, but there are also some precautions everyone can do to keep their data safe. The unfortunate truth is that most of these leaks will likely come from other companies and brands that already have customer information, and will soon be attacked.

Good digital file management can therefore raise the bar for cyber protection, but it cannot stop a cyberattack that potentially compromises data in those digital files. The question that frequently comes up during a data file management project is “what is liability insurance and how does it fit into management of data files?” The simple answer is that cybersecurity insurance reimburses direct losses that a business might experience when hackers break through its cyber defenses, and provides funds to pay certain liabilities to third parties and fines from regulatory authorities that are levied when sensitive customer data is lost.

One of the more consistent recommendations for good data file management is that doing something is better than nothing at all, and that a management project should be started as soon as is possible. Hackers and cyberattackers are working every day to find new gaps in cybersecurity procedures as older gaps are closed off. Managing data files and adding cybersecurity insurance can keep businesses and individuals at least one step ahead of the hackers.

To learn more about the costs associated with cybercrimes and data leaks, be sure to always keep an eye on the latest data leaks in the business world, and also set up something as simple as a “Google Alerts” notification around your personal name to see when and where your information might be posted online.

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8 Retail Tips to Boost Sales and Help You Finish the Year Strong

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If you work in retail, you may be feeling the pressure to finish the year strong with a major sales boost. However, success in retail selling doesn’t happen on its own. It requires creativity, hard work, and some killer retail sales strategies.

But did you know that there are some simple sales tips and tricks that can help you achieve your goals quicker than ever? It’s easier than you think.

When it comes to marketing any type of product or service to an audience, it’s all about the perceived value, call to action, and the marketing strategy put in place. This is what makes the online marketing space so amazing. Not only is it easy to go live with a new ad campaign, but it’s also easy to split test and target your exact audience in the process.

Keep reading for eight must-know retail tips that will help boost your sales and finish the year on a high note. Let’s dive in!

1. Focus on Making a Positive First Impression

If you work in retail, then you know that first impressions can make or break your sales. But did you know that forming a first impression can take as little as a tenth of a second?

It may sound shocking, but it’s true. Although this impression is solely based on facial appearance, it matters. Whether it’s fair or not, it plays a huge part in how others treat us.

If you’re working on boosting your sales, keep this fact in mind. You can create positive first impressions by maintaining a pleasant facial expression and proper grooming habits.

2. Re-familiarize Yourself with Your Products

If you’ve worked in retail selling for a while, it’s important to keep your relationship with the products you’re selling fresh. After all, if you’re excited about them, others will be, too.

Take some time to reconsider each and every item. What’s special and unique about them? What can they offer people?

Allow the answers to these questions to inspire you and reinvigorate you as a salesperson. Passion and enthusiasm are at the core of how to be successful in retail sales.

3. Create Tangible Sales Incentives

A great retail sales technique to boost your end-of-year sales is to entice potential buyers with some alluring sales incentives. Let’s explore some effective options.

– Discounts

Discounts are a surefire way to catch the attention of retail shoppers. Use the upcoming holidays to your advantage and create stellar deals that buyers won’t be able to turn down.

– Added Bonuses

If you don’t like the idea of discounting your items, consider adding bonuses to your customer’s purchases. Partner with other local brands who would like to spread the good word about their products. They may be willing to give you products or samples to pass onto your clients for free.

– Free Shipping

If you’re using e-commerce to boost your holiday sales, offering free shipping is a great incentive for buyers. You can even encourage higher purchases by giving free shipping to those who buy over a certain price point.

– Competitions

To conjure up some buzz around your products, create a giveaway competition. For the best results, make sure that you’re giving away an item with a high price point. This is a great way to get ahold of potential customer’s information for marketing purposes as well.

Guarantee the Quality of Your Products

If possible and appropriate, provide your customers with a guarantee of quality for your products. This will instill confidence in potential buyers and boost your sales.

4. Treat Everyone Like a Friend

Sales success is all about persistence. However, there’s a fine line between not giving up and being pushy.

Keep yourself in check by remembering to treat everyone like they’re your friend. This will create a pleasant, welcoming demeanor that will attract people to you and your products.

5. Aim for Open Body Language

In addition to treating everyone in a friendly manner, focus on your body language as well. And this doesn’t just mean smiling. Here’s how to keep your body language open and engaging:

  • Keep your back straight, but your body relaxed.
  • Maintain steady eye contact, but break away once in a while to keep things casual.
  • Lean in toward someone while they speak to communicate interest.
  • Avoid crossing your arms.
  • Try to project confidence at all times.
  • Give a firm (but not painfully firm) handshake when you meet someone new.
  • Keep the tone of your voice even and calm.
  • Study others’ body language and learn how to spot when they are uncomfortable or annoyed.
  • Get to know your own habits when you’re excited, unhappy, nervous, etc. Keep your habits in check while working in retail and stay neutral.

6. Use Management Software for More Retail Tips and Assistance

If you feel that you need some extra help managing things, try a retail management software program. These programs provide a streamlined, clear way to manage all aspects of your retail operation.

Many also offer easy-to-use-apps that don’t require training. In these apps, you can communicate with team members, access information about each of your retail locations, and share photos, files, and documents.

7. Offer Customers Fewer Options

When trying to boost your retail sales, it can be tempting to offer potential customers tons of options to choose from. However, it’s important to resist this temptation.

Instead of appreciating the selection, consumers tend to become overwhelmed when presented with a lot of choices. Keep things simple to make shoppers more comfortable.

8. Learn from Your Mistakes

As a salesperson, your education never ends. It’s important to continue learning from both your successes and your mistakes as you grow.

So, whenever you make or break a sale, ask yourself why. Use each and every outcome as an opportunity for further learning.

The Bottom Line

If you want to boost your sales and finish the year on a high note, simply follow the eight simple retail tips above. These tricks will not only help you meet your end-of-year goals, but they will also help you to become a stronger salesperson for the remainder of your career.

For the best results, remember to focus on your body language at all times and to treat everyone like a friend. Refamiliarize yourself with your products and streamline your inventory wherever possible.

And if you make a mistake, don’t worry. Take it as an opportunity for learning and growth instead!

Do you have any questions or comments? Don’t hesitate to reach out.

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What is Performance Management? 9 Strategies For Your Small Business

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Running a business isn’t always about making big money, traveling the world, and reaping all of the benefits it has to offer. Sometimes there are less exciting tasks and components involved in the day to day operations of these businesses — especially if you are running a big company with employees.

One such area that large business owners and corporate teams will have to focus their efforts on are team evaluations and performance management. Evaluations at the end of the year can be daunting and stressful for you, your supervisors, and your employees.

Performance management doesn’t have to be a dark, looking matter in a business. In fact, it should be something that continuously encourages growth and improvement while handling negative matters in a professional manner.

Are you asking yourself right now, “What is performance management?” It’s a way of creating an ideal work environment to reach optimal productivity. It’s definitely something you need to incorporate into your small business.

Below are 9 strategies of performance management to help your business succeed. Keep reading for more.

1. Accurate Job Descriptions

Whether you’re in the process of hiring or have had a set staff for a while, keep job descriptions up-to-date and accurate will help things to run smoothly and effectively. Everyone needs to know what is expected of them.

Not only does this help things get done, it can highlight certain skills in individuals. Allowing everyone to be in a position where they can use their best skills will create a more positive work environment. If people are unhappy with their job or are experiencing unexpected tasks, it could cause stress.

Sit down and update job descriptions. Then meet with your employees and explain what is expected, and allow them to ask questions and voice concerns.

2. Consistently Review Goals

Time is precious, whether you are an employer or an employee. Make the most of your time and consistently go over goals and milestones with everyone on an individual basis.

Not going over your goals until the end of the year could open up space for issues that could have easily been prevented. Plus, not reviewing goals can cause people to lose interest or become fearful of the unknown.

It’s always best to keep everyone on the same track, and consistency makes for better performance management. If you need help staying on track, don’t be afraid to turn to outside help — check it out!

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Praise

People are more inclined to work harder at their job when they know they will receive praise for it. Giving praise to an employee doesn’t make you look weak, it shows you care about good performance management.

If you notice an individual making great efforts at his or her job, don’t hesitate to throw them a compliment. Make sure you are being sincere because everyone loves a genuine compliment.

Want to go the extra mile? Get to know your employees personally. Tell your employee how proud you are of them for doing a 5k the past weekend.

4. Offer Payment for Work

Compliments are great, but one of the best motivations for anyone is money. Let’s face it, everyone wants to make more money.

A great strategy for better performance management is creating monetary rewards for the employees going beyond their goals. For example, offer them a small bonus every time they exceed a weekly sales goal.

It doesn’t have to break the bank for your business, but you’d be surprised what people will do for an extra 10 dollars.

5. Critique in Private

One of the most humiliating moments in performance management for any employee is being critiqued or punished in front of large groups. It lowers their self-esteem and creates an uncomfortable atmosphere for everyone.

If a problem needs to be addressed, schedule a time to talk with the individual. Don’t intimidate them or scare them into thinking they are about to get the automatic boot. Approach them by stating the issue and give them a chance for any explanation.

As reported by Motley Fool, there are three big reasons why you will want to avoid this:

  1. You’ll alienate the employee you call out — and possibly the rest of your team
  2. You’ll be less effective
  3. You’ll come off harsher than you probably mean to

It’s also a great idea to come to the meeting with possible solutions, and ask them for solutions that may motivate them to do better next time.

6. Highlight Top Performers

When setting goals for your small business, keep track of who is meeting the goals. If you notice certain individuals consistently meeting goals, make a point to highlight their successes. This will create a friendly sense of competition to motivate others to work harder.

You can set up a whiteboard in the communal area of your offices and write the names of top performers. If you wanted to create a sense of fun and goofiness in your performance management, you can purchase funny hats or ribbons for top performers to wear.

When it comes to overall goal setting for your business and how to highlight top performance, Inc has the following recommendations.

7. Establish Open Office Hours

Feedback is only effective when it goes both ways. To create an open and inviting atmosphere for your employees to voice concerns or ask questions, establish open office hours, giving them a chance to walk into your office and talk.

This will give you a better view of what’s going on in the business and gives your employees plenty of chances to ask for help or fix an issue. Being open to feedback gives you more respect and boosts the office atmosphere.

If office hours become extremely popular, give everyone a time limit and request they come with notes. This will help you stay on track and keep things efficient.

8. Keep Records

When it comes to the time for evaluations, you need to have quantitative evidence for your evaluation. Throughout the year, keep records of each employee.

Note some of their problem areas as well as highlight what they are good at. Your employees will appreciate a performance management system with solid evidence and support.

Also, it can be easier for some employees to make adjustments for the future if they can visually see records of their past performance.

9. Eliminate the Weak Links

As harsh and scary it can be, eliminating the individuals causing the problems will be the best for your company. With this said, don’t storm into your office one day and start firing people, but if someone is not improving even after speaking with them, it’s okay to let them go.

By letting someone go, you are opening up the opportunity for someone with stronger skills and a greater passion for the job role.

If someone is constantly creating drama or a negative work environment for everyone else, let them go. You don’t want one person ruining it for the rest.

Discover What Is Performance Management at It’s Best

If you have been sitting around and thinking, “What is performance management?”, look no further. It can seem like a tall task to take on, but with preparation and consistency, it can be simple.

Make sure to sit down and create a plan for performance management. Address concerns, praise the success, and create an atmosphere of productivity and diligence.

Do you need more help and tips on your workplace or a boost in online marketing? Check out this article on 101+ expert growth tips!

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Lawyer Up: The 9 Most Effective Marketing Ideas for Law Firms

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If you want to put the most effective marketing ideas for law firms into practice, you’re going to be doing a lot of work online. In a study by Martindale Nolo, 78.4% of lawyers said online marketing was their best-performing advertising medium.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Consumers now have smartphones in their pockets that are more powerful than the computers that sent the first humans to the moon. Every resource we need is just a tap away, whether we’re shopping for shoes or looking for a lawyer.

So, if you’re ready to finally amp up your law firms’ marketing strategy, here are the 9 strategies you can’t afford to ignore.

1. Start a Law Blog

The public doesn’t know much about the law — not the fine details, at least.

While there are plenty of online resources they can turn to, you have an opportunity to stand out in your area of law. The law differs from state to state. Make your blog the top source of legal information for your niche in your state.

Publish blog posts regularly: a few a week, if possible. If you’re strapped for time, you can always contract the work out to a blogger with legal expertise.

Speak directly to your audience. For example, if you’re a personal injury lawyer, address your audience as “you” and answer frequently asked questions about your practice area. Visit Utah Advocates for more info on how to write for personal injury clients.

2. Build a Mobile-Friendly Website

If you let out a sigh of frustration every time you look at your website on your phone, your visitors are doing the same thing. Law firm web design doesn’t vary much from site to site. But there are a few things you can do stand out.

First, you should make your website mobile-friendly by making it mobile-responsive. Don’t create a separate website for mobile devices. Instead, make your website adjust based on the device that’s accessing it.

This will require the attention of a web developer, but it will be worth it. A growing population uses their phones to access the internet more than they use a desktop computer or laptop. Some people use their phones exclusively.

3. Get Friendly with Live Chat

When someone contacts a lawyer, time is of the essence. You’d think lawyers would be quick to respond to leads and prospectus. But according to Law Technology Today, a shocking 42% of lawyers take three or more days to reply to an online form submission or voicemail.

Live chat is a simple feature you can add to your website to streamline your response time. You can even hook it up to your cell phone, so you never miss a lead.

Keep in mind: Live chat is not a channel for providing legal advice. Rather, it’s a way to nurture your website visitors toward a consultation.

4. Do an SEO Audit of Your Website

If you’re unsure about what SEO stands for (it stands for search engine optimization), or you haven’t updated your website in years, it may be time for an audit. Improving SEO rankings often requires technical knowledge, so this may be a job suited to a web developer.

Nonetheless, improving your SEO by adding meta information, header tags, and other attributes can help search engines better understand your website. There’s no silver bullet for ranking in search. But maintaining a basic SEO strategy isn’t just one of the most important marketing ideas for law firms — without it, it’s hard for anyone to find you online.

Once you’ve got your SEO taken care of, you can focus more on creating helpful content for your lawyer blog.

5. Create Targeted PPC Ads

It’s easy to waste a lot of money on pay-per-click (PPC) ads. The trick to success is finding your PPC niche market. You can do this with display ads on social media networks, but Google AdWords remains one of the most popular lawyer advertising tools because of its precision targeting.

For example, if you’re doing personal injury marketing, the keywords you choose will matter. Ads targeting a keyword like “best lawyers” won’t always give you viable prospects. But keywords like “personal injury lawyer in (your town here)” and “how to find a personal injury lawyer” might.

6. Stay Active on Forums

Not every client will find your blog to get the answers they need. Many people still post legal questions to sites like Avvo and Justia. Try to answer relevant questions on these sites as often as possible. Typically, the people asking them need more than answers — they need a lawyer.

In addition to making your stay active within forums and putting your name and face out there, it’s also a good idea to search for local legal directories as well. Many of these sites not only offer listing services for free, or at a premium — but they often rank really well for content as well.

7. Always Track Your Leads

If you aren’t tracking your leads, you won’t know how well your marketing strategy is working. That means you could be wasting money on strategies that aren’t generating new clients.

You may need a CRM to track your leads and contacts effectively. Some CRMs can even give you analytics to help you measure the success of your marketing campaigns. But if you don’t want to use a CRM, an old-fashioned spreadsheet can help you measure your success and keep track of your contacts.

8. Get Active on Social Media

In a joint study by Bloomberg Law and the Legal Marketing Association, 52% of attorneys said social media was their highest-rated marketing initiative. In fact, social media was ranked higher than every other strategy.

Once, social media was a grey area for lawyers, ethically. You still need to be careful what you post, but if you want to reach your potential clients, social networks can’t be ignored.

Research which platforms your prospects use. Post regularly and respond when people like and comment on your posts.

9. Generate Referrals

Just because most marketers are investing in digital strategies doesn’t mean the old school approaches are obsolete. 62% of consumers still seek lawyer referrals from friends and family, according to Above the Law.

Take a systematic approach to your referral strategy. Referrals can come from anyone in your network, like past and present clients, classmates from law school, professional service providers, family, and friends.

Once you map out your existing contacts, develop a plan for outreach. You can send automated emails to clients to generate testimonials after successful cases, for example. Create referral scripts to give to other contacts and reach out personally to those you’re most comfortable with.

Discover More Marketing Ideas for Law Firms

The cyber world is always evolving so make sure you do some research on the latest marketing trends or better yet consult an expert in online legal marketing to help raise the bar for your law firm.

If you just need more marketing ideas for law firms. Shoot me an email at any time to start up a conversation.

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Hi, I’m Zac Johnson

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