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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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11 Ways to Build an Email List That Actually Yields ROI

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Every online business and brand needs to have a mailing list. It’s simply the best way to get subscribers to leave their personal information before they leave your site. Some of the largest websites and blogs on the world today do nearly all of their business through their mailing list.

When used properly, email campaigns can be one of the most effective marketing tactics for any brand. Campaign Monitor reports that email marketing can yield $38 for every dollar spent — but if you’re not targeting the right people, you’ll never see that kind of return on investment.

Building an opt-in email list can be tricky, especially as a website owner, but with the right tactics, you can translate subscribers into profits. Here’s what 11 YEC members had to say about creating an email list with ROI in mind.

1. Consistently Offer Valuable Content, Before and After Signup

You want access to the inboxes of potential leads, and you have to give them something in exchange. You can persuade people to give you that privilege with relevant and valuable content, compelling branding and trust. Bring leads to your site with social media posts, SEO, blog articles and videos; then offer even more valuable content in exchange for that all-important email address.

Justin Blanchard, ServerMania Inc.

2. Use Social Media to Target Your Audience

Social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn provide brands with a way to create marketing campaigns that can target a specific demographic audience that will most likely buy their products and/or services. Simply create an online form that prompts the user to enter their email address in exchange for a 30-minute consultation or free download.

Codie Sanchez, www.CodieSanchez.com

3. Invest in Content Marketing That Speaks to Customer Needs

What has worked well for us is investing in content marketing and taking blogging seriously. Use sites like Quora and Answer the Public to find out the questions your target customer is asking. Then, come up with catchy titles and hire freelancers to write great articles that answer their questions. Optimize each blog post with opt-in forms and you’ll start forming a highly targeted email list.

Syed Balkhi, OptinMonster

4. Build a List From Your Existing Subscribers

Buying a bulk email list is definitely not the way to go. If you’re looking at optimum return on investment, it is important that you focus on building a targeted email list. Your best bet is to turn to people who subscribe to newsletters through your website. Website owners should also consider providing users with relevant top-quality content in the form of e-books, white papers and blogs.

Derek Robinson, Top Notch Dezigns

5. Hire an Email Marketer

People assume that once you have a list, it will simply sell itself. You have to make tactful and succinct drip sequences and carefully layer in your offers. If you’re just providing news, it’s important to consistently reiterate good content.

Nicole Munoz, Start Ranking Now

6. Find Your Company’s Voice

Use your e-blasts to tell a story, and make sure there’s a consistent voice. Emails written by a company look like spam. Emails written by a singular voice with personality have the best chance of survival in this new frontier where social media has highlighted our fascination with the individual. If your Instagram and Facebook pages have a narrative, your e-blasts should too.

Anthony DiFiore, Neverland Events & Artist Management Corp.

7. Include a Short Survey With Email Signup

Ask three to four key questions with your signup form to shape a better email list with a more targeted audience. This will help you sift out the people who may not be as ready to buy from you or who are not interested at all.

Angela Ruth, Calendar

8. Offer Mutually Beneficial Incentives

Incentivization, when handled correctly, is a great way to build an effective (read: profitable) email list. Whether it’s a discount on your most popular product or service, or a link to a valuable resource or white paper, the key is to offer an incentive that is beneficial enough to encourage the sale while ensuring you are still meeting your margins.

John Scheer, Herman-Scheer

9. Use Engaging Pop Ups

Wheelio is an interactive exit-intent pop up that allows users to spin the wheel for a chance to win a prize after entering their email address. A user who is willing to engage with your pop up is clearly interested in receiving a special offer or promotion to use toward their next purchase. Thus, these users are more likely to engage with future emails and convert.

Duran Inci, Optimum7

10. Take Advantage of Pinterest

For us, Pinterest is the most effective way to build an email list. We use it when we publish a new blog post with a content upgrade, offer a freebie or launch a new product/service. We will link to a landing page where people can opt in to receive some type of download. We will then use BoardBooster for automation. Since we’ve started using Pinterest, our email list has grown by 35,000.

Kristin Marquet, Creative Development Agency, LLC

11. Focus on Segmented Journeys and User Intent

Simply slapping a form on your site will not work. List-growth magic happens when you identify top traffic sources to your site, then tailor the message and creative in your forms to that visitor journey. For example, if a Facebook ad for a red sweater drove them to your site, don’t show that visitor a generic form. Rather, present a specific form or offer including that same message and creative.

Ben Jabbawy, Privy

Turn Visitors into Customers through Email Marketing

Now that you’ve learned some of the best ways to convert site visitors and social audiences into high-value email subscribers, it’s time to start implementing these methods into your own site or business. Also, remember, it’s all a numbers game. Just 30 new email subscribers per day is more than 10,000 over the course of a year. Think small, to think big.

To see more expert roundups like this one, be sure to view our previous articles on improved Facebook marketing and the best tools for monitoring your brand online.

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Preparing for Cyber Monday: 15 Ways You Can Improve Sales and Reach

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The last couple months of the year are crucial for many consumer-focused companies. People are in the mood to buy during the holiday season, and there is a lot of competition for their attention.

In order to build up engagement, you need to create content that helps ease consumers into your sales funnel. Deals should be offered to people in the know — through subscriber lists and social media groups — but you should avoid encouraging people to wait to buy. Small micro sales can help, as they get people to check in regularly.

To help you narrow down the many options, we asked 15 entrepreneurs from YEC for their best advice on how to promote your fast-approaching Cyber Monday sale to increase its reach and success.

1. Expand Your Top Funnel Ad Buys

There’s still time to juice the opportunities you have in order to capture more volume during the holiday sales. Widen your top funnel with ad campaigns that target reach or brand recognition goals instead of actual conversions. The more people you can pixel for retargeting later this year, the better. This should be followed up with a strong retargeting campaign as your sales go live.

Derek Shanahan, SuperRewards

2. Collect Email Addresses

Start collecting email addresses by A/B testing different email capture forms on your website. Segment your email lists to send the most relevant offers to your customers based on how they interacted with your website and which sign-up form they submitted their information through.

Syed Balkhi, OptinMonster

3. Use Pay-Per-Click Ads, Then Retarget

Launching an early pay-per-click ad group is a great way to get people aware of your promotions in the week leading up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. All throughout Thanksgiving weekend, launch a retargeting campaign for people who have clicked on your ads during the early stages of their research. This will keep your brand top of mind once a purchasing decision is finally made.

Kristopher Jones, LSEO.com

4. Have Chatbots Provide Offers

Chatbots share personalized messages with each person who contacts the company with a question. Before they leave, and after having their questions answered, the chatbot has time to search through purchase history and match the person up with one of many promotions you have developed, and then share that deal with a special link.

Murray Newlands, Sighted

5. Create Helpful Content

Creating content may take effort, but if it answers your target customer’s questions and moves them down the buying funnel, there are few things more effective. Other methods may involve more push, but content helps you pull your prospects and customers in to learn more about your offerings.

Karl Kangur, MRR Media

6. Don’t Get Too Specific

Promote the sale, but don’t offer specifics. That way you will minimize sales decreases in the time leading up to Cyber Monday. People wait to stockpile their usual items on sales, but if they don’t know they will be on sale, it will maximize non-deal sales for better overall margin. Ambiguous terms like “Biggest sale ever!” can be used to pique interest without killing normal sales.

Marc Lobliner, TigerFitness.com and MTS Nutrition

7. Provide Early-Bird Specials

Promote your Cyber Monday deals through a social media campaign and offer a promo code they can use on Cyber Monday for larger discounts. This not only allows you to display your Cyber Monday deals, but also encourages customers to visit your site and take advantage of the promo code the day the deals become live. Start off with larger discounts and slowly decrease them as you approach Cyber Monday.

Duran Inci, Optimum7

8. Create Story Videos

Create videos that start highlighting what you have planned for the holidays. Make little stories around each product highlight to get people feeling warm and fuzzy about the upcoming holiday season. Include helpful hints for your audience as they start their shopping. Early shopping promotions can be included to start ramping up sales early on.

Angela Ruth, Calendar

9. Tap Into Amazon Deals

If you’re selling on Amazon — and if you’re not, you should be — take advantage of features such as Lightning Deals. While you have to provide a substantial discount, the volume you could generate during Cyber Monday or for the holidays is incredible, not to mention the additional exposure that comes along with it. Entire product lines can be popularized in this fashion.

Nicolas Gremion, Free-eBooks.net

10. Offer Free Shipping

How many times have you wanted to buy a product but decided not to because of its shipping cost? Too many, I’ll bet. People love it when things are free. Free shipping is the cherry on top of your Cyber Monday discount sale sundae. Whether you use social media, your blog or ads to market your products, make sure that your customers know you can deliver your products free of charge.

Diego Orjuela, Cables & Sensors

11. Hold Mini Sales Until the Big Day

Drum up excitement for the big sale with tiny daily sales that get unlocked every day until Cyber Monday. One great way to make this interesting is by bringing back every item that was on sale throughout the last few weeks so that anyone who missed the sale they wanted has one more chance!

Adam Steele, Loganix

12. Use Instagram’s Poll

Instagram Stories are becoming a popular platform for marketers — and with good reason! Instagram recently launched a tool called Poll that allows users to ask their audience interactive questions. This is a great way to let your audience pick what they want and get them excited. Using data to choose the perfect promotion will increase engagement and give you a great holiday season.

– Suneera Madhani, Fattmerchant

13. Get Strong Returns Through Facebook Canvas

Our ROI from Facebook Canvas ads has been over 50 times in some recent cases. Those ads are so visual and interactive that they really engage the users and drive them to act. For a Cyber Monday deal, use a Facebook Canvas ad to drive to a landing page with a wait list for the deal. Give a small incentive to the first set number of consumers on the list.

Brennan White, Cortex

14. Advertise Subscriber-Only Discounts

In the weeks before Cyber Monday, advertise subscriber-only discounts via social media, your blog and email. Only shoppers subscribed to your mailing list get the discounts. Encourage customers to share the discounts with their network. It’s a great way to generate advanced interest and build an email list of shoppers you can target with specific promotions.

Vik Patel, Future Hosting

15. Partner With Niche Influencers

Influencers are a great way expand your reach and connect with consumers, but many people make the mistake of trying to find influencers with a wide reach rather than a deep one. Focus on influencers in a relevant niche and prioritize high-quality content. Build them into your Cyber Monday plan and share your promotions and sales with them, which they’ll share with their audience.

Kyle Goguen, Pawstruck

How to Make the Most Out of Cyber Monday and the Holidays

Now that you’ve read through some of the most actionable tips for ways to not only make more sales and generate Revenue during Cyber Monday but to also increase brand exposure for your service and products. it’s time for you to actually Implement some of these methods into your business.

In short, it doesn’t matter what you are selling on Cyber Monday, as long as you were selling something and giving your audience something to take advantage of. Everyone is going to have their credit card in hand and ready to buy like crazy.

This is simply the best opportunity for you to make additional money and generate sales like never before.

If you enjoyed this expert roundup, also be sure to check out our previous ones on the best ways to create buzz around your brand and twelve working methods to increase homepage traffic.

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11 Ways to Reduce Churn Rates by Keeping Customer Card Data Up to Date

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Losing a customer can be devastating for any business. Losing them because of a credit card decline that comes from outdated information is just plain frustrating. Keeping credit card information current is a necessity for all business owners, yet it is a task that gets little attention.

With the expansion of e-commerce, customers can make online purchases quicker and easier than ever before. When credit card declines occur, customers need to be able to update and input information quickly. You should stay on top of their expired information and update it regularly to ensure all purchases go through seamlessly when your customer wants to buy.

Below, 11 entrepreneurs from YEC share their strategies for minimizing credit card declines and increasing online revenue.

1. Send Email Reminders

Have multiple payment options available. For customers who pay using their cards, send out friendly reminder emails in case the card is about to expire, ideally one month before the expiry date. If the account shows outdated information, remind them well in advance. Give them a grace period, if really necessary, to update their account information. Customers will feel appreciated.

Liam Martin, Staff.com

2. Provide Other Payment Options

By offering other payment methods, such as digital wallets, e-cash, peer-to-peer payments, ACH and e-checks, there are ways to get around such churn rates. Plus the more payment methods offered, the more likely you are to retain and attract new customers, increasing your online revenue.

John Rampton, Calendar

3. Encourage Digital Wallets

Encourage customers to use a digital wallet feature so they can update all their information across all companies they buy from in one action. This will keep them from returning and shopping with outdated account information.

Drew Hendricks, Buttercup

4. Use a Payment Method Updater

Visa and MasterCard offer a service that automatically updates card information. Due to security measures, new cards are issued more frequently than ever before, making it inconvenient for your customers to constantly update card information. A payment method updater (PMU) can stop declined payments from happening, but this could still creep out your customer so get their permission first.

Karl Kangur, MRR Media

5. Use Recurly to Do the Work for You

Recurly has saved us thousands of dollars (and tons of following up). It’s a simple app that integrates with all e-commerce systems. When you sign up with Recurly, all of your repeat customers will be notified automatically when their cards are expiring. It’s a simple platform for customers, and anyone who intends to do business with you will find it easy to keep doing so.

Aaron Schwartz, Passport

6. Give Them a Call

From my personal experience, the most effective way for a company to reach out to me and to get me to update or confirm my billing information is for them to give me a call. Email reminders are great too, but a phone call is even more effective.

Andrew Namminga, Andesign

7. Use Stripe

Stripe and some other payment processors have largely solved the problem of outdated cards. Stripe works with MasterCard, Visa and other credit card providers to ensure that customer cards still work after the card has been replaced. The system has limitations, but it takes care of many outdated card issues.

Vik Patel, Future Hosting

8. Fix the Problem Before It Happens

Fixing the problem before it happens is the only true way to avoid those declined cards. Reaching out to your customers before their cards expire will help you retain repeat customers for much longer than if you allow cards to be declined. Use payment technology that alerts merchants when a card stored in the system is about to expire, making it easy to update records and get paid.

Suneera Madhani, Fattmerchant

9. Set Automated Expiration Date Detection Functionality

Have a basic script set up that automatically detects what cards are about to expire and sends the customer an email reminder to update their credit card information via a direct link. If you do not have this functionality, there are third-party solutions that provide similar functionalities. We use this with our e-commerce clients who have recurring products or orders.

Duran Inci, Optimum7

10. Ask for a Backup Credit Card

Ask your customers for a backup credit card to keep on file in the event that charges cannot be put through on the primary card. Savvy companies like Google and Amazon asked me to input a backup credit card when I signed up for services such as Google AdWords and Amazon Prime. All recurring revenue businesses can and should be equally astute.

Adam Mendler, Beverly Hills Chairs

11. Offer Financing to Customers

A simple solution for avoiding failed credit card payments is to utilize services like Affirm or PayPal Credit. These services take on the credit risk and you receive the total order price upfront. The advantages to these services are that you decrease your accounts receivable and save time by not having to dedicate an employee to track down customers to update their credit card information.

Bryan Kesler, CPA Exam Guide

Reduce Churn Rate by Implementing these Expert Tips

No one likes the thought of churn rates and the real numbers behind companies and how much money they are losing with subscribers or recurring subscription drops. However, this is part of the business industry and it’s something that needs to be addressed. If you are currently ignoring drop off rate within your company, be sure to implement some of the expert tips above while also checking out their recommended tools and solutions.

If you enjoyed this expert round up, I highly recommend you take a look at this roundup with 83 online marketing experts and their best advice on “How Do I Start a Successful Blog?“. If you don’t already have a website or blog of your own, follow my blogging guide to getting started with one today.

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