Sales is Dead: Why Social Content is the Best Sales Tool

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Sales is Dead: Why Social Content is the Best Sales Tool


Ramon Ray, editor, Smart Hustle Magazinewww.smarthustle.com


No one cares about you.


No one cares about your business.


Everyone is distracted.


No one’s paying attention.


These things are all hard to realize but they’re true – with one exception.


They’re true until you, dear business owner, earn the attention of your prospective customer and are able to show them that YOU have a solution to their need.


Hard core selling is a short term strategy to generate short term revenue. If you want to succeed for the long term, if you want to build relationships with your customers and potential customers, first seek to educate them. Seek to get them to know, like and trust you. Seek to build a fan base of those interested in learning more from you.


Social media is the best gift that business owners can use to educate their customers. Supported by a website and blog, social media is the best way to consistently deliver a message to customers who want to hear it.


Instead of asking someone to buy your legal services or sign up for your logo design services, educate them. The lawyer who specializes in real estate should use LinkedIn to do a weekly 2 minute video with tips and stories to educate his customer on what they need to know to better invest in real estate. Over time, he’ll find a growing following who are looking forward to his knowledge.


The real estate lawyer, for example, won’t have to do any selling. From his or her followers, a certain percentage of people will seek him out.


When you take the time to educate your customers, to add value to them, you won’t have to CHASE down new clients, instead clients will be chasing you down.


Twitter’s a great way to frequently and succinctly share content of interest to your potential customers and somewhat related to what you do. Maybe you have a doggie day care business, what if you’re sharing every day cute pictures of your dogs and tips on caring for your dog? Over time your Twitter (or Instagram or Facebook) followers will see YOU as the expert in dog care and will seek you out for their needs.


Am I saying that “selling” is dead? Of course not – selling has its place.


However, what I am advocating is that you spend less time selling and more time educating your customers.


Each time you educate your customers it’s yet another occasion to remind them that you’re there for their needs. It’s another time to give them an opportunity to seek you out for your expertise.


Instead of focusing on 4 potential customers and trying to have them buy from you. Focus on educating 400 customers. If 10% of them buy from you, that’s 40 customers.


People are much more willing to be educated and given valuable insights than to be sold to.


Another advantage to leveraging social media for educating your customer is that you build your personal brand. The business owner with the stronger personal brand will often be more successful in their market. Your market might be defined by your local geography – a small town near Portland or Dallas or Atlanta. Or it could be a particular industry niche – like fire safety for tall buildings or organic fruits and vegetables.


For very small businesses, empower your traditional sales team to be educators. To seek ways to provide value to their customers and not just in the mode to “make a sale”. Instead urge them to use their smartphones to take video, record podcasts and overall make the customer a smarter customer.


By spending less time selling and more time educating you’ll get more sales.


 

Channel Partners: Survival of the fittest

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Channel Partners: Survival of the fittest


You don’t need me to tell you that the partner channel is undergoing massive change. That’s nothing new, but the pace of change feels faster than I’ve seen in my 25 years in the business. New technologies, growing security risks and dramatic changes in customer expectations are demanding rapid transformation. Only the best will thrive; will you be one of them?


By Bill Hooper, Managing Director, Verizon Partner Channel


The partner channel has always been fiercely competitive. And in the last four to five years, we’ve seen an enormous number of mergers, consolidations and acquisitions in the telecommunications industry. Many of the smaller, niche companies are being absorbed by larger ones. Meanwhile, customers are demanding lower prices than ever, reducing profit margins.


While competition is a perpetual challenge, I’ve found the biggest thing affecting the partner channel is the speed of technological evolution. I’ve seen many channel partners struggling to keep up with the pace of change. Some are determined to stick with selling their dated product sets and older network elements—but this can make it harder for them to stay ahead of the technology curve. Products like SD-WAN are in high demand, and if you don’t have the capability to offer these advanced solutions then your customers will look elsewhere. And they will take all their business with them.


Several years ago, you might have sold an internet connection and voice services to a business, and that would have been fine. Today things are very different. Customers want to work with someone that can provide data networks, voice services, advanced security solutions and 4G LTE wireless backup solutions—to name just a few. As a result, Partner Program Members need much deeper technology expertise to stay relevant. And achieving that is no easy feat.


Train to stay ahead of the curve


There’s no simple answer to these challenges, but there are steps you can take to improve your chances of staying competitive. One of my key recommendations is having a robust training program. Your employees need to be informed about the latest technologies and services—so they can anticipate your customers’ needs, instead of reacting to them.


Verizon is investing enormous amounts of time and resources into training our Partner Program Members. Each week our product specialists run two-hour training classes which our master partners and their sub-agents are encouraged to attend. These sessions delve into the specifics of our products and services, so the people out selling in the field can spot opportunities and provide useful advice and guidance to their customers.


We invest so much in this training because our channel partners’ success matters to us. When our partner channel does well, Verizon does well. And we know that great channel partners are hard to come by, which is why we’re willing to put in the hard work to attract and retain your business.


To put it simply—we’re in this together. And we’ve found that ongoing training is the best way to stay ahead of the technology curve, which is evolving so rapidly. It gives our channel managers and partners the toolset they need to solve challenges their customers face on a daily basis.


Innovate or be left behind


Innovation is also incredibly important. Take security, for example. Even just five years ago, you didn’t really hear most carriers talking security services. But that’s changed dramatically. Now security solutions are an essential offering for any telecommunications provider.


Earlier this week, I was watching the news and I saw that another major retailer has been hit by a data breach. Millions of consumers’ credit card details have reportedly been stolen and are being sold on the web. I don’t know what kind of security solution this company had in place, but if the tale follows previous ones it’s likely we’ll find out that the breach could have been prevented—and damage to its reputation and finances avoided.


And it’s important to realize that it’s not just large corporations at risk. Verizon’s 2018 Data Breach Investigations Report found that 58% of data breach victims are categorized as small businesses. Unfortunately, some channel partners are still stuck in the past in terms of security and technology—and not surprisingly they’re being left behind. If you fail to innovate, your customers will soon suffer for it.


Learn from the success of others


It helps to look at the channel partners who are doing it right. I once worked with a relatively new company which had decided to branch out on its own and become a channel partner. They already had a number of strong relationships with customers. Despite this, it took a long time to get their business going.


Over the next few years they worked hard. They looked at customer billing problems, service issues, and how to improve their customers’ existing networks. It wasn’t glamorous work, but focusing on their customers’ needs and tackling these basic IT problems was a sensible starting point. They also invested a lot of time in getting their customers up to speed with the fundamentals of the new technology. Today, this company is one of the largest channel partners in their region—so all that hard, gritty work has definitely paid off.


It might sound clichéd, but the truth is that success doesn’t happen overnight. You need to stay ahead of emerging technology, continually train your employees, offer innovative security and use your knowledge to deliver real benefits to your customers. You can’t afford to rest on your laurels—change is a constant.


Work with a supportive vendor


I’m a firm believer that technology vendors should provide both solutions and support to help their channel partners grow. Your success is key to our own, so let’s help each other out.


Verizon has recently announced a new package that will address their customers’ biggest telecommunications and connectivity needs. This new solution will enable channel partners to provide a data network installed entirely on Verizon’s facilities. It will also have advanced voice communications services and security solutions as part of the package. And on top of that, Verizon will provide 4G LTE backup for the data network.


With all-in-one solutions like this, we can help our Partner Program Members to meet their customers’ needs in the most efficient way possible. This means both parties get the best results and can focus on growing their business. I’m very proud to be involved in this new initiative and can’t wait to see the impact it will have on our partner channel.


 


Author bio


Bill Hooper, Managing Director, Verizon Partner Channel North American Agents, has over 25 years of sales and operations management experience leading both indirect and direct sales organizations. Prior to working at Verizon, he led the channel at XO, and before that sales organizations at Qwest/CenturyLink for over 15 years in Houston Texas and Atlanta Georgia. While there, Bill led his global account teams to work collaboratively with channel partners to win large enterprise accounts increasing revenue annually. At Verizon, Bill continues to drive significant enhancements for the Business Partner Channel with investments in automation, innovative sales programs to strengthen relationships with channel partners, and other key initiatives designed to create an excellent experience for the Verizon and former XO partner community.

How to Write a Tagline for Your Business


04/19/2019
What is the best retirement plan for a self-employed person? Which is the best retirement plan for a small business owner? More importantly, which is the right retirement plan for you – as a business owner and / or a self-employed individual? Choosing the best retirement plan for you and your personal financial goals will depend on a few factors. Those include how much you can save into a retirement plan, whether or not you have employees and when you are setting up the retirement plan. Is it during the tax year or when filing taxes? To name a few.

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04/17/2019
Here are 15 examples of great integrated marketing campaigns that work by combining content, digital and website marketing, with traditional marketing methods like PR.

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04/15/2019
Here are three popular things that are actually not mandatory for all small businesses:

1. Aggressive Marketing

It is easy to go overboard with marketing. With so many tools available, your gut instinct is to try anything with the slightest potential. Even if you stand to lose money, you want the assurance of knowing you are doing everything you can to gain the interest of your target audience. And it is difficult to ignore a marketing tool that has worked marvelously for other small businesses. If they had to do it all over again, these businesses would likely spend 10% of their time developing their products or services and 90% marketing them.

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04/12/2019
So what sets those who actually take the plunge from those who only dream? What pushes a keen hobbyist or excellent amateur into actually becoming a business owner? A recent study of more than 400,000 people out of MIT came to decisive answer, and it is not the one you are probably expecting.

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04/10/2019
Many successful entrepreneurs were inspired to start their businesses after noticing a hole in the marketplace that needed to be filled, whether it was Bill Gates creating an operating system for home computers, Pierre Omidyar starting an online auction site, or Elon Musk building a reliable electric car.

But what happens when you want to jump feet first into a marketplace thats already crowded? We spoke to the entrepreneurs behind a wide-ranging group of successful companies in some of the most competitive digital spaces — from butchers to home brands to eco-friendly cleaning products — to get their insights into what makes a business that lasts.

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04/08/2019
Today, tens of thousands of people are considering starting their own business, and for good reasons. On average, people can expect to have two and three careers during their work life. Those leaving one career often think about their second or third career move being one they can run out of their own home. The good news: Starting a home-based business is within the reach of almost anyone who wants to take a risk and work hard, as are a plethora of other low-cost ideas.

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04/06/2019
Now, I do not want to burst any happy bubbles for those of you who are already treading the traditional pathway, but that traditional narrative no longer makes much sense, because over the past two decades, big corporations, big academia, and big corporatist government have rigged the business world so that the longer you wait to start your own company, the less likely you are to be successful.

Because of this, young entrepreneurs (Mil

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04/04/2019
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) included a bevy of changes that will affect the 2018 federal income tax returns of many small and medium-sized businesses and their owners. As tax return time approaches, here are the 10 changes that are most likely to affect your business or you as an owner.

1. New flat 21% tax rate for corporations
Before the TCJA, C corporations paid graduated federal income tax rates of 15%, 25%, 34%, and 35%. Personal service corporations (PSCs) paid a flat 35% rate. For tax years beginning in 2018 and beyond, the TCJA establishes a flat 21% corporate rate, and that beneficial rate applies to PSCs too. So the tax cost of doing business as a profitable C corporation is greatly reduced, and this favorable development will show up on 2018 corporate returns. Enjoy.

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04/02/2018
When done correctly, a tagline can become synonymous with a brand. A good tagline should communicate your companys message quickly and effectively, helping your target customers understand how you can help them in a way that’s easy to remember.

Since it is something that will likely appear in all of your companys marketing materials and may stick with you for years, your team should put a lot of care and consideration into crafting your tagline.

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03/29/2019
A business plan is a written description of your business future, a document that tells what you plan to do and how you plan to do it. If you jot down a paragraph on the back of an envelope describing your business strategy, you have written a plan, or at least the germ of one.

Business plans are inherently strategic. You start here, today, with certain resources and abilities.

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03/27/2019
Very few entrepreneurs have an accounting or finance background. Here are four tips to ensure your small business is achieving profitable growth.

Most small business owners start their own business because they have a passion for something, a new idea, want to be their own boss or are seeking more financial stability and/or earning potential. However, very few entrepreneurs have an accounting or finance background.

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03/25/2019
The standards for small business success have unquestionably gone up. Todays small businesses must do a lot more to stay competitive than their predecessors. Myriad businesses, however, take this notion a bit too far. Once they discover yet another resource or strategy with the potential to elevate their success, they jump all over it. This is partially due to the many online articles urging business leaders to devote more effort to virtually every element of their businesses.

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03/22/2019
Many small businesses start out with a single location or product offering and grow over time. Expanding your business is a good way to increase your long-term profitability and reach a wider audience.

But while growing your venture might be something you’d like to do eventually, now might not be the ideal time to dive in. Here are four reasons you might choose not to grow your business, and instead stick with the status quo.

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03/20/2019
Get out your pink paint. Or your coral, or yellow or teal. By the time you finish reading this column, you’re going to be painting one wall of your small business a color that will pop on Instagram.

Why? Because Instagram is today’s powerhouse social media site for consumer businesses. And if you give customers an inviting way to post to Instagram, they’ll advertise your business for free.

A few years ago, if you wanted to reach retail consumers, the social media site of choice was Facebook. While it may still work for reaching certain demographics, many consumers – especially female Millennials – love Instagram.

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03/18/2019
A new report is saying that almost half of people recently hired (41%) used an online job board to find work and 61% flagged automatic job alerts as helpful. What is more, a full 14% found their present job using social media. The findings from How Do People Find Jobs? published by the B2B research firm, Clutch, highlights how today’s candidates are connecting with small businesses and vice versa.

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03/15/2019
How did life lead you to entrepreneurship?

I have been in the technology industry for 25 years. I am a business-facing technologist, which basically means I have a background in finance and business. However, I stumbled into being a software engineer early on in my career. This resulted in a passion for data and solution creativity.After hitting the 20-year mark of working for enterprise-size organizations, I decided I needed a change. I experienced some life-threatening health challenges–all while taking care of my two sons with their own unique needs. A culmination of it all really made me stop and reflect on what I really wanted to do on a daily basis and the people I do it with.

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03/13/2019
Step 1: Set meaningful goals.
People do nott achieve goals unless the goals are meaningful to them. Sure, every seller has a quota for this year, but so what? If you want to maximize your motivation to achieve the goals, you must know why achieving it is important to you. To do that, go beyond your one-year quota-focused goal.

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03/11/2019
Are you making big changes to your small business?

Whether you’re entering a new market, eliminating services that your clients love but no longer work for you, or changing the structure of your business entirely, follow these three tips to shake up your small business without losing revenue or hurting your reputation.

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03/08/2019
Most working class Americans are employed by companies that either require or offer retirement savings options in the form of a 401(k), 403b), or pension plan. Because these contributions are automatically deducted from the employee’s paycheck, saving for retirement tends to be a rather painless process. Over time, the cumulative effect of regular monthly contributions leads to a nice sized nest egg that can be used in the retirement years.

But for entrepreneurs, the story is a little different. With no steady paycheck or employer-sponsored plans, many of these hardworking individuals forgo retirement contributions.  And though it may not seem like a big deal in the early years, this misstep can prove to be dangerous and irresponsible as entrepreneurs age.

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03/06/2019
Crowdfunding has become a viable form for funding a venture, project, cause, event and much more. For small businesses looking to bypass traditional sources of financing such as bank loans, angel investing or venture capital, it is now a great option.

If you have been thinking about starting a campaign, it is important to note there are different types of crowdfunding. And this does not mean the platform or portal such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo and others.

The confusion stems from clumping crowdfunding under one umbrella, when in reality there are different types or models. Depending on your project, choosing the right model for your small business is critically important to ensure the success of your campaign.

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03/04/2019
Being a leader can be a difficult, and sometimes thankless, job. You work long hours, make tough decisions, and try your best to make your employees and your customers happy. But things don’t always work out the way you hope.

Every leader can use a bit of inspiration and humor every once in a while. Adding some fun to your day can make it all come together and, at the same time, perhaps even put a smile on your face.

The next time you feel down, here are 17 funny leadership quotes to perk you up.

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03/01/2019
Procrastination is an odd compulsion. Everyone has experienced it, but the underlying reasons can be tough to pin down.

After all, procrastination delays the very activities that bring people closer to their goals — whether that is building a thriving business or stronger triceps. So why do not humans just sprint toward that brighter, fitter future?

The science.
Scientific studies of procrastination have spiked over the past 20 years. Researchers once considered the issue a basic time-management problem, but they now view it as a complex and highly individual phenomena.  

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02/27/2019
Not every step you take to move your business forward will be a big one. But sometimes, even small steps can make a large impact on your future. Here are some recent tips and insights from members of the online small business community about big and small steps you can take to really make an impact on your business.

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02/25/2019
Like departments and agencies throughout government, the Air Force is tuning its acquisition methods to get closer the speed of technology, and will be holding its first live pitch day in March, with an available funding pool of $40 million.

The Air Forces Small Business Innovation Research program has issued a call to start-ups and small businesses—those with fewer than 500 employees—to offer pitches on innovative technologies for secure communications, down-range battlefield operations and digital technologies.

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02/22/2019
I am pleased to bring you my top five tricks for disconnecting – and at least temporarily escaping the job stress.

1. Make the business case.

Taking time to recharge is not just good for your mental and physical health — it is the smart thing to do for your business. Studies have shown that increased stress leads to reduced productivity, while decreased stress levels lead to increased productivity.

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02/20/2019
The benefit of working for a large company is gaining access to an employer-sponsored 401(k) – a critical tool that helps millions of workers save for retirement.

But if you are a small-business owner, you should know that you have several tax-advantaged savings plans at your disposal that allow you to sock away substantial funds for your golden years.

Better yet, the annual contribution limits for all of these plans increased in 2019, so now’s a better time than ever to start funding one.

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02/18/2019

The beginning of the year is a great time to make resolutions for your small business. Whether you’re launching a new product or implementing a new technology, you are setting goals and working hard to achieve them. The New Year could also be the perfect time to fix internal issues that are holding you back from success. Below is a list of common business hurdles that arise in small business and how you can overcome them.

Hurdle #1: Trying to do everything yourself

There are a lot of tedious tasks involved in keeping a small business running smoothly – like running payroll, approving time off requests, and so on.

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02/15/2019
Rising interest rates and high levels of corporate debt have lots of investors concerned. Should small businesses be worried?

The majority of small businesses (in most industries) are able to pay their bills on time. According to Experian/Moodys Analytics Main Street Report, overall delinquencies for businesses with fewer than 100 employees were slightly down in the third quarter of 2018. Credit utilization rates were also down slightly.

At the same time, that same research has found that rates for delinquencies of 31 to 90 days rose slightly. While it is not yet a cause for concern, the report points out that the period of consistent declines in delinquency rates for small businesses may be near its end.

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02/13/2019
Owning or running a small business comes with a special set of challenges that larger companies do not face. Major national brands have a lot of advantages, with the biggest one being that a single misstep probably won’t derail a business.

That is not always true for owners of small businesses, where the distance between success and failure can be precarious. Sometimes seemingly small decisions can send a smaller company on a course that can’t be corrected.

In some cases, however, it is possible to plan ahead to avoid certain pitfalls.

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02/11/2019
As we welcome 2019, attention is shifting to what’s on the horizon for small businesses in the year ahead. The reality is that the nature of work is evolving. During my more than 25-year career, I have held a number of leadership positions. Early in my time in the health insurance industry, compensation reigned supreme among my employees, while health and wellness were perceived as a nice-to-have benefit.

Now, workplace norms are beginning to align more with employee wants and needs and new rules about conducting business are being established — particularly when it comes to employee health and wellness. I believe this shift, which I have witnessed within my own team, will continue to dominate work environments across the nation in the new year.

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02/08/2019
Establishing a strong social media presence can mean big business for your small business. But if you don’t have dedicated resources to devote to it, or you don’t have much time to spare, you might find it tough to gain traction. Use these nine social media tips to boost business and grow your brand.

Set Clear Goals

No matter how eager you are to start using social media for your business, take the time to set clear goals before you begin. Try setting SMART goals — specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely — to guide your social media strategy.

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02/06/2019
On one hand, year-on-year improvements are what makes companies great; on the other, firms can’t control many of the factors that dictate whether, say, revenue rises or not.

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02/04/2019
When Mandy Bass speaks to business leaders and professionals who want to improve sales, productivity, teamwork, customer satisfaction and profitability she consistently finds that they are working way too hard to achieve the results they seek. With that in mind, for the New Year she has compiled a list of seven small or low-cost things that could get small business owners, solopreneurs and sales professionals big results in 2019.

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02/01/2019
The 2018 holiday season is in the books, and small to medium-size businesses (SMBs) sold big on Amazon. In fact, SMBs had their best holiday shopping season ever.

The e-tail giant itself had a record-setting holiday season as well: More items were ordered worldwide on Amazon than ever before.

But it was not just corporations like LEGO that benefitted from all this shopping. More than 50 percent of all items sold came from small and medium-sized businesses.

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01/30/2019
A healthy economy means many small businesses are thriving — but they’re also having a hard time hanging onto employees. A good 24% of small businesses lost at least one employee in 2018, while 11% of small businesses lost 10% of their workforce, according to Bank of America. Not only that, but 58% of businesses had trouble finding qualified candidates for open roles, and 25% said it took more time to fill open positions in 2018 than it did in 2017.

And there lies the problem with a strong job market: When employment is plentiful, workers have more options to choose from, so getting them to join or stay with your team becomes more challenging for companies across the board, but particularly for small businesses with limited resources.

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Top 7 Ways to Protect Your SMB Network from Cyber Threats

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Securing a Small Business Network: it even sounds daunting! The days of installing Norton Anti-Virus on your computer and thinking you are safe, are over. Today you need to take a layered approach to securing your network. Think of it as a puzzle, with each piece playing an important role. No one solution solves the problem; it’s various products, devices, solutions, and software that must all work together to secure an environment. In my upcoming webinar with Verizon, I’ll discuss the top seven ways you can protect your Small Business Network. Here’s a sneak preview of what you’ll about learn at the webinar.


#1 – Replace Your Router with a UTM Gateway


Unified Threat Management, or UTM, is a buzzword in technology today. The idea is to block security threats before they enter your network. Traditionally a network gateway consisted of a Router or Firewall while the workstation or other devices would handle AntiVirus, AntiSpam, Web Filtering and other security functions. A UTM Gateway combines a Router, Firewall, Anti-Virus, Anti-Malware, Intrusion Prevention, Content and URL Filtering, etc. into one device. This device analyzes incoming network traffic before it enters your network and can throw out suspect data before it has a chance to infect your computers.


 


#2 – Install Content and URL Filtering on your Computers


Content Filtering is the process of controlling the content that a computer can access on a network. This can be as simple as blocking broad categories of websites, such as pornographic or violence-oriented content. Going further, Content Filtering can be used to block things such as pop-ups, advertisements, URL redirects, cookies and even Flash or Java-based content.


URL Filtering is allowing or denying access based on the URL or origin of the requested content. This can be used to block specific websites that an organization does not want its employees accessing, such as monster.com or facebook.com. Instead of filtering based on broad categories, this is a granular approach to filtering. Many URL filtering services include dynamic block lists which will prevent access to websites that are known security threats. This can significantly reduce the risk from zero-day threats, which are so new that most anti-virus software is not yet aware of them.  


#3 – Implement Software Restriction Policies


Software Restriction Policies define the files and file types that are allowed to execute on your computer. Similarly to how a firewall will allow or disallow traffic based on specific parameters (source, origin, port, protocol, etc.), Software Restriction Policies can allow or reject programs based on their location on the disk, filename, file type, etc.


There are essentially two ways to implement Software Restriction Policies: Whitelisting or Blacklisting. Blacklisting allows any program to execute by default unless it matches a restriction defined by an administrator, specifically file type, file name, or file path. For example, a Blacklist restriction might say that any file named Spotify.exe cannot execute. This would effectively block the program Spotify from running on a computer that is subject to this policy. For a brief analogy, think of Blacklisting as the TSA’s No Fly List. Anyone can fly on an airplane (with a ticket and proper ID) as long as they are not on the No Fly List.


Whitelisting, on the other hand, takes the opposite approach. By default, no programs can run unless they match specific allowed criteria. In a Whitelisting scenario, you may have a policy that will enable C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\root\Office16\Excel.exe to execute. This would allow Microsoft Excel to run, but any other program would be disallowed. You can think of Whitelisting as the lock on your home’s front door. No one is allowed in unless they have the key to unlock your door


Whitelisting is a more effective strategy to keep your computers secure; however, it can require more time and effort to implement and can be more intrusive to the end user.


#4 – Filter Incoming Email for Spam


Spam Filtering is the process of separating the “good” email from the “junk” email. It’s the same thing you do when you get home from work and stand over the trash can with that day’s mail. You filter the junk into the trash can, and you keep the important items.


Spam email can be overwhelming without effective filtering. It is estimated that there are over 14.5 billion spam messages sent daily. In addition, some estimates indicate that 73% of all email traffic is spam. These aren’t just advertisements for the next gadget or miracle pill, many of these messages contain malware, viruses, phishing scams, etc.


Spam is also very costly to a business. Without a solid spam filtering system, employees can spend a significant amount of time identifying and then deleting spam that arrives in their inbox. Nucleus Research Inc. did a study that found spam costs U.S. companies over $71 billion per year in lost employee productivity.


#5 – Install Endpoint Security Software on All Workstations and Servers


Think of Endpoint Security Software as one of the last lines of defense in our layered approach to securing your SMB network. Endpoint Security Software is installed and runs on each of your workstations and servers. A decade ago, Endpoint Security Software was essentially Anti-Virus software (Think Norton or Symantec Antivirus). That type of software only had to look out for viruses involving rogue code. Fast forward to 2018 and Anti-Virus software is just a small part of Endpoint Security Software.


Today, it is expected that your Endpoint Security solution will include Anti-Virus, Anti-Malware, and Anti-Ransomware. Many leading solutions include things such as Sandboxing (A way to safely execute suspicious applications/code), dynamic firewall and port protection (To prevent Trojans and/or Ransomware from downloading payloads), Email protection (Anti-Spam, Anti-Virus, Anti-Phishing), Browser Protection and URL Blocking, USB Protection, the list goes on and on.


#6 – Make Sure You are Installing Patches and Updates Regularly


Patching is the process of approving and installing updates to the software, hardware, and operating system installed on your computer. The term “Patching” is normally used when addressing a security risk. “Updates” usually refer to an improvement or an upgrade in a software package. Security Firms, Hackers, Software Companies, and Hobbyists are continually finding defects and exploits in software. When these vulnerabilities are identified and made known to the software companies, the software company should quickly release a patch to resolve the vulnerability. For example, Adobe Flash is one of the most exploited applications of all time. When a new exploit is identified, Adobe will release a patch to resolve the threat. Your computer is considered vulnerable until you install the latest Adobe Flash patch.


 


#7 – Restrict User Accounts


Local Administrative Rights give you full access to a computer. This allows you to install programs, remove programs, modify and delete any files on the computer (regardless of which user created them), and change any settings/configurations that you wish.


The number one reason why you should be restricting administrative rights is to combat malware, ransomware, and viruses. If a user opens an infected email attachment or clicks on a link they shouldn’t, the malicious program can only execute using the permissions of the end user. As a result, if the end user has Administrative Rights, the malicious code/program can likely do whatever it was intended to do on that computer. However, if the user account doesn’t have permission to execute programs or edit specific files, the malicious code won’t be able to execute. In an adequately secured SMB network, the end user is always the weakest link. Restricting local administrative rights dramatically reduces this risk.


Conclusion


The layered approach that Banks Technology Services uses to secure our client’s networks was developed over many years of seeing what works and what does not. No single piece of this puzzle will secure your network. Each piece focuses on a particular attack surface, and together they minimize the risk to your Servers, Computers, and your data. Be sure to register for my webinar, on Wednesday, March 21st, to learn how each of the pieces should be tailored to your specific business needs. I look forward to answering your questions during the live Q&A session.  

UI Animation: Don’t let screen overloading succumb your customers!

Most of the companies have taken the online route to reach out a large number of customers and to increase the scope of their business. For this purpose, a website is the obvious place to start with. There are web designers who offer professional services to create the UI design of company websites. The latest trend in web designing is the use of animation to enhance the visual appeal of a website.

Benefits of using UI Animation

Animations and other interactive elements on a website have the following objectives:

  • Drawing the attention of the users to particularly important sections.
  • Add an element of fun to the user experience with the help of colorful and attractive popping designs.
  • Give the impression to the user that the website is updated with the latest technology.

Companies go for animations in order to attract more customers to their website. However, it is important to remember that overloading the UI design with too many motion elements can do more harm than good. Designers tend to go a little overboard with animations to show off their skills.

When you ask a designer to create your website interface, you should make it a point to check out all the aspects yourself to see whether they are user-friendly or not. Delightful animations do not always imply that customers will be pleased by them. Here are some of the reasons why too much of animation can hurt your business and drive away customers.

  • Slow website loading- Too many animations affect the speed of website loading. The longer it takes for the website to load, the more frustrated the users become. They immediately close your web page and look for other faster websites. This means a direct loss of potential customers.
  • Page transition becomes tedious- UI animation can have a detrimental effect on the transition from one web page to another. When the user selects a page on the website, the motions of zooming in and out or the constant appearance of a rotating circle on the screen, can really annoy the user. There is no way out once the animation begins which is why the users think twice before coming to the website again.
  • Increase in cognitive loading- Cognitive load refers to the amount of mental effort that is required for completing a task. A heavy cognitive load can cause the users to get distracted. Animations are basically pictures or graphics in motion. These visuals always attract the attention of a person first, but too many visuals can cause confusion and lead to cognitive overload.
  • Inaccessible content- Repeated animations can act as roadblocks to the actual content of the website which the user is really looking for. This increases the effort that the user has to put in locating the content that he or she wants. If the users do not find what they are looking for in the first few minutes, they once again leave the website. Bad user-experience can really affect your business.

Now that you know what a massive disadvantage your business suffers from if you go overboard with the UI design, you should be careful while creating it. Here are a few pointers that you can follow to avoid a debacle.

  • Focus on the goal- You need to ask yourself the question ‘what is the animation communicating to the user?’ It is very important to stay on track. When you think from the user’s perspective, you can make a better decision regarding the design.
  • Think about the user’s focus- While designing the interface, you should determine the target sections where the user’s attention is most likely to get focused on and avoid placing animation effects there.
  • Speed of the animation- You should select a speed that is not too fast nor too slow. If your animation is conveying some useful information, you should let it be on the screen long enough for the information to register on the user’s mind.
  • Frequency- It is annoying for the user to encounter the same animations again and again. You should go for such a UI design which does not get in the way more than once otherwise it can reduce the user’s efficiency in finding the content he or she is looking for.
  • Accessibility- This point is related to the last one in the sense that the important content on the website should not get hidden under unnecessary animation. All the significant content should be accessible to the user without interference from animations.

If these points are kept in mind, you can avoid the pitfalls of screen overload and make your website user-friendly and navigable. The next time you approach a web designer for your UI design or UI animation, do not fall into the trap of complex designs. Use animation to attract more customers instead of driving them away.

Utilizing Big Data: 7 Tips for Small Businesses

The term “big data” can seem intimidating and even misleading to small business owners, but the reality is that it can hold significant promise and value if you keep your mind open to the incredible possibilities that it offers.

Simply put, big data refers to the use of analytical data to make important business decisions. If you understand the scope of the possibilities available to you through the analysis of big data, you can better use it to the advantage of your own business. A closer look will tell you how big data can be used by small business owners in highly effective ways.

1. Diagnose the Issue That Needs Addressing

Big data can be used for a wide range of purposes in a small business setting, but before you can effectively use it, you need to determine exactly what you need it for. To accomplish your goal, you need to come up with a single question or hypothesis that you want to answer using big data. After that, determine how you plan to use short-term and long-term data to address the issue at hand. It’s all about careful planning!

2. Use Available Tools to Collect Info

Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to be an expert programmer to create code that will generate the results you need from big data- You can easily create simple Google search to use big data for your needs. You can also use Google Analytics or any number of social networks for your purposes. Remember that there are also online state and regional databases that may meet your needs in a fast and cost-effective way.

3. Leverage the Right Business Intelligence Tool

While there are multiple complex intelligence tools that larger companies can use with big data, remember that there are simplified tools that are ideal for smaller companies to use. For example, smaller companies can easily use cloud-based services, such as Google for Work apps or Office 365, to save time and effort with big data analysis.

4. Measure Important Parameters

Some small business owners get bogged down on analytics with big data, but remember that you cannot and should not try to measure everything. Instead, you should try to measure only what is relevant to the question that you are trying to answer. Refer back to the original question and hypothesis that you have focused on with regards to big data. This will help you to determine the measurements that you want to focus your attention on when determining your parameters.

5. Filter Quality Data

When it comes to analyzing data, it is imperative that you understand the quality of your data. Eliminate all trash or junk data from consideration, and focus your attention only on quality data that is relatively new. All data that you review should be properly sourced and verified as completely and accurately as possible before you begin using it for analytical purposes.

6. Include Your Employees in the Process

Remember that big data analysis should be a team project. Everyone in your team should join in the fun and should participate in the analysis and results in some way, so try to make that possible. This will have other useful benefits, such as increased team collaboration. You can also use big data to improve employee engagement.

7. Make Use of the Findings

Analytics should be used for important purposes. Consider how they will be used to guide your future marketing and advertising efforts. Understand their meaning and relevance, and make important derivations from them. Remember that small businesses usually operate with a very fixed or limited marketing or advertising budget. Your use of analytics in this area could help you to make better use of marketing funds going forward.

Conclusion

Making important marketing and advertising decisions for your small business is rarely easy to do, and you understanding need all of the help that you can get. While the use of big data analytics is most commonly associated with major companies, you can see that it has real benefits for smaller companies as well. If you are ready to take your marketing efforts to the next level and launch your small business’s marketing to new heights, now is a great time to move forward with the use of big data analytics for your small business.

How to Establish a Marketing Budget in the Current Climate

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Given that small businesses are not blessed with huge financial resources, it is imperative that they invest their capital in line with a strategic vision. This should be applied across all commercial disciplines, but particularly those that are capable of delivering significant ROI (such as marketing).

According to a new study, however, managerial and strategic errors cause SMEs to inadvertently waste 25% of their paid search budgets, while others simply fail to create a viable budget in the first place.

With this in mind, it is imperative that your SME creates a detailed and accurate marketing budget before spending a single penny. Here are some steps that can help you to achieve this objective:

Start With Establishing Clearly Defined Marketing and Business Goals

While establishing a budget may be pivotal to your endeavours, it is difficult to achieve this without having a clear idea of your marketing goals and how they empower you to accomplish long-term business objectives. This will enable you to determine a justifiable marketing spend, while also ensuring you have the means to invest in other areas of the business as required.

Additionally, this creates context for your clearly-defined business objectives and helps you to achieve them more effectively. If you decide that you want your business to grow by as much as 20%, for example, you will need to identify complementary marketing goals that allow you to target new customer segments across various platforms.

This will also indicate the scale of your marketing strategy, and the resources you will need to bring it to life.

Once all of your business and marketing-centric goals have been clearly outlined, you can begin to create a realistic and viable budget.

Understand the Basic Rules of Creating a Marketing Budget

As you can probably tell at this stage, the size and scale of your marketing budget will be largely influenced by your core commercial objectives.

With that being said, it is also recommended that you adhere to the fundamental rules of creating a marketing budget (along with the guidelines that are suggested for businesses of variable sizes).

For example, as a general rule it is recommended that small, start-up ventures that are less than five years old invest between 12% and 20% of their gross revenue on marketing disciplines. Interestingly, this is more than larger and more established companies are advised to spend on marketing, with companies of this type likely to invest between 6% and 12% of their gross revenue.

The reason for this is simple, as SMEs and new ventures are looking to build brand awareness and claim a viable market share. In contrast, established firms can minimise their spend as they have a fixed market share that they can target, as they leverage the fact that it is five-times more expensive to acquire new customers than retain existing ones.

Allocate Funds to the Various Elements of Your Marketing Budget

We have already touched on PPC and paid advertising earlier in the article, but this is one of many marketing elements that will make-up your overall marketing strategy. While these will be combined as part of an integrated and tactical plan that drives your marketing spend, each must be allocated an individual amount to ensure that you get the most from your capital.

There are two further considerations to keep in mind here. Firstly, you should understand the customer segments that sit at the heart of your business, as this will influence the channels that you use to reach them. Similarly, you will need to identify universally popular channels that deliver the best ROI, so that you can make an informed decision when allocating funds.

In terms of the latter, the Forrester Research Group has published a digital marketing forecast across all B2B sectors in the U.S highlighting where capital will be spent in the near-term.

Intriguingly, email marketing, social, search marketing and display will all see increased expenditure during the next years, as the average digital marketing spend exceeds £1 billion. In most instances, these tactics should therefore play a pivotal role in your marketing budget, alongside less strategic elements such as PPC and traditional advertising.

On a final note, you should also conduct competitor research to allocate your marketing spend. This not only offers an insight into best practice, but it also highlights how much you will need to spend in order to achieve specific goals.

Consider Implementation Costs

At this stage, you will have an informed budget that has been allocated to specific marketing disciplines. The final step requires you to factor in the variable costs of implementation, as you look to secure the specific skills that can execute your campaigns.

Given the increasingly diverse nature of contemporary marketing, most firms will combine the skills of their in-house team with external contractors. While the former will include permanent employees who can offer strategic insight and management skills, the latter will be hired on a temporary basis and according to the demands of each individual project. Your cost base will therefore vary at different times, but it at least contributes to a more accurate budget.

Freelancers and external specialists may also be required to handle the more technical elements of your campaigns, including outbound marketing, SEO and even content creation. Given that the average asset that ranks on the first page of Google contains an estimated 1,890 words, for example, it is little wonder that even SMEs outsource their content creation and marketing needs.

The key is to minimise these implementation costs without compromising on execution, so you will need to perform an audit on the skills that exist in your marketing team. You must then consider the best and most cost-effective way to augment these skills, while identifying the main areas where external help will be required.

The Last Word

So there you have it; four key steps towards establishing a viable marketing budget in 2017. By following these and maintaining a core understanding of your businesses needs and financial limitations, you can create a realistic budget that also enables you to realise your goals.

6 Top Tips For Choosing Your Website Domain Name

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Choosing your domain name wisely is essential. It’s your identity.

For something that has a minimal outlay, your domain name has tremendous power. So how do you choose it? Follow our 6 top tips for choosing a powerful domain name.

1. Brand First

As a start-up, branding is everything. You are competing against a sea of noise. You need to stand out.

Your chosen domain name must reflect your brand name, be memorable and easily recognisable. So, scrap any hyphens and make it simple.

2. Think Concise

No one is going to remember a domain name that’s long and bulky. It needs to be snappy and succinct.

For example, if you run an electronics shop called Rob’s Electronics Warehouse & Store then you might imagine that your domain would be something like:

‘www.robselectronicswarehouseandstore.com’

…but this is far too cluttered and isn’t memorable. A good domain name would be a simplified version, such as:

‘www.robselectronics.com’

Additionally, if your business name is long and you can’t simplify it into a shorter more succinct domain name then it may be worth condensing it into an acronym.

For example, if Rob didn’t want to shorten his business name then an alternative domain name option would be to condense ‘Rob’s Electronics Warehouse & Store’ into:

‘www.rews.com’

However, if you do decide to condense your domain name you need to be confident that your consumers will recognise and associate your business with the acronym that you’ve used (this can be something that can be achieved within your wider marketing strategy).

3. Say It Out Loud

You might have some incredible ideas bouncing around in your mind, but before you become fixated on a domain name, say it out loud. Pop it in some random sentences and see how easily it rolls off the tongue. This will underline how memorable it is.

4. Choosing the right domain extension

Choosing the right domain extension will depend on the type of website that you are launching. Domain extensions can often go overlooked but they are incredibly important to signal to Google what Internet category or country code you operate in.

.com domains have become the most commonly used extensions for commercial businesses but there are plenty more which you should be aware of, some other top-level extensions for you to consider are:

    .org for organization
    .gov for government
    .edu for all educational institutions
    .int for international organisations
    .mil for military
    .net for a network

There are also country code domain extensions, these are ideal if you plan to target your business to one specific country, for example:

    .co.uk for UK-based businesses
    .com.es for Spanish-based businesses
    .com.au for Australian-based businesses

5. Be Flexible

All of the above is all very well, until you see that the domain name you have your heart set on is not available. This is not the case every time but it does often happen.

If the domain name that you want is not available because it has already been bought then you may discover you need to refine, be creative, and definitely be flexible. Many domain name providers have automatic idea generators should you need some pointers.

6. Don’t Stop At One

Yes, it’s quick, easy, and cheap to get one domain name. However, if you really want to ring-fence your brand then you need to future-proof your domain name. If you can, you should try to get hold of a range of different domain extensions and similar domain names – make them yours, and stop others from cashing in on your success.
Summary: Choosing Your Domain Name

Choosing your domain name is just one of the steps to building a website from scratch, and even though it may seem like a minimal task that doesn’t need much thought, it really is the opposite. Your domain name should not be overlooked, you should pay extreme attention to it and choose carefully.

Remember to put your brand first, be concise, simple, memorable and flexible, and to choose your extension wisely.

5 Pieces of Legal Advice That Small Business Owners Should Know

If you are going to be running a small business anytime soon, then you are going to have to know some important things about the law. As with any business out there, small or large, you must obey the law and you must understand what your legal obligations are. However, of course, you don’t have to do this on your own. There are plenty of attorneys for small businesses who can help you understand what you need to know about legalities as a business. Keep reading down below to learn about these top things and how you can get the right attorneys on your side to push your business forward in a legal way.

  1. Don’t underestimate how much you’re going to have to pay in legal fees

Of course, you’re going to have to pay out legal fees if you want to get the help you need to keep your business safe. And many small business owners just don’t budget enough into their monthly and annual budgets for legal fees. Never underestimate how much you’re going to have to pay out to attorneys and for various other legal fees. You have got to make sure there is enough money set aside in this fund to keep you and your business safe and prosperous.

  1. Make sure you get the right attorneys on your side for the variety of legal tasks you have to get done

You don’t just have to follow one law in the books to keep your business safe. You are going to have to follow multiple laws across a whole spectrum of legal fields. That’s why you have got to figure out which attorneys that you need for the variety of legal services that are required of your business. For example, you might need an attorney to figure out which licenses you need to get your business running. Or you might need an attorney to help you in a case of your worker’s injury on the job. Each of these tasks is going to take specialization on the side of the attorney.

  1. Don’t break any laws and operate in a safe manner

Of course, one of the first steps to operating a small business is ensuring that you are operating in a safe and legal manner. If you think something is against the law and you have a bad feeling about some kind of business transaction, then most likely it is. If you are completely unsure of what to do, then be sure to consult the right attorney who can help you make the best decision. You definitely don’t want to get into any sort of legal trouble, as this is going to cost your business a ton of money and could even put you out of business in the end.

  1. Ensure that you are operating under the right licenses and accreditations

When you first start out your business, you’ve got to get everything set up. And depending on what industry you might find yourself in, you are going to need to get certain licenses and accreditations on your side. Make sure that you properly research what licenses you require, consult with your attorney, and get those licenses under your belt.

  1. Know that you’re going to have to put a lot of time into this

When you are starting up a small business and obeying the law in all ways, you should know that you’re going to have to put time and effort into this. It’s not going to happen overnight and you are not going to find success right away. Make sure that you know how much time you have got to put into this and budget enough of that time.

There you have it. Going through the legal hurdles necessary to your business can be a tough and challenging thing. However, when you know the above points, this is going to make your life a bit easier.