Is my small business a target for hackers? Absolutely!

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Cyber security is a popular topic right now. It seems, no matter what you read about small business and cyber security, two questions tend to rise to the top.
I’m just a small business, I can’t possibly be of interest to a hacker. They just want to break into the big companies right?
The fact is, while hackers certainly would love to take down a large corporation or a government site, they can “earn” just as much money with much less effort by stringing together a series of small business hacks.You may not store the volume of data a major retailer archives daily but, your data is just as valuable on the dark web and it most likely doesn’t have sophisticated security protecting it. So, don’t assume that because you are small, you are overlooked. You may just be exactly the type of target a hacker is looking to exploit.
OK, so you’ve scared me into doing something to protect my small business, what is the first thing I should do?
In a word, education.  You should educate yourself (the owner) on what the vulnerabilities are within your company. When you start this process, you will have a tendency to focus on hardware, software and network access. These are all a very important part of the picture but any cyber security expert will tell you, the weakest link in any defensive strategy is the human. Learn what you should and should not be doing online. Figure out where you are most likely to face a possible attack and make sure the employee(s) on the front lines understand how to identify a threat and avoid enabling the attack.  Train yourself and your staff how to identify malware, phishing and spoofing. (If you don’t know what these are, that is a bad sign!)  Continue to train and monitor your behaviors and don’t let up. Hackers never take a day off and they are extremely creative.
There are so many topics surrounding cyber security and protecting your business. These two items don’t even scratch the surface but, they are a good place to start
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Posted in eCommerce Operations, Web Design

Still stuck on Ground Hog Day? Like Bill Murray, make it a learning experience…

Ground Hog Day. It’s just a day when a rodent is used to predict the weather, right? Well as a guy who lived in the North and would long for sunny Spring days right about now each year, I can relate to anything (even a borrowing critter) that would give you hope for a shortened winter. But lets dig deeper.
Time magazine did a story that claims the small town in Pennsylvania that hosts this annual event will see over a $5 million boost in their economy due to this furry forecaster. Over 25,000 people will attend the event and the guest of honor will be featured by the news media all day. Feature stories, blog posts, and social media entries will abound regarding people’s viewpoints and experiences surrounding the event. This “free” publicity alone is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to Punxsutawney, PA.
So, I ask you, how can you learn from the marketing prowess of a Ground Hog!? What can you do once a year that can bring you into the spotlight, create enough buzz to get free publicity and make crowds of people take part in the shared meaning of your event?  Don’t think sale, think celebratory buy in! Ground Hog Day may just be another silly excuse to party but it is big business for this small town and every small business surrounding the local area is taking advantage of it.
Get creative! Come up with that one emotional connection that will resonate with your customer base and have them looking forward to the big event each year. After all, if a fuzzy little guy, carried by a man in a top-hat can draw thousands of onlookers, it can’t be that hard right?
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Posted in Internet Marketing

How well do you know your online business?

It is a challenge to keep a small business afloat. There are regulations, customer issues, employee problems and marketing short-falls that cause daily angst. The average business owner struggles not only with the fires they face daily but also the unknown “gotchas” they haven’t discovered yet.  So, how do you minimize the stress? Knowledge!  Always be focused on learning.

Know Your Customer

When is the last time you really took time with a customer and just listened to their observations about your business and the challenges they are facing in their daily life? Just because your business is online and you rarely “see” your customer, doesn’t mean you can’t reach out to them. You should always be on the lookout for opportunities to speak to customers and learn things like how they perceive your marketing, what causes them to buy your product over the competition, what they don’t like about your operations. The more in touch you are with your customer, the more effective you will be with marketing and the more successful your product or service will be.

Know your Competition

Many entrepreneurs get a sick feeling when a new competitor comes on the scene or an old competitor scores a big win. However, both of these situations are actually positives. They point to a market that truly needs your product or service. Instead of losing sleep over the competition’s success, use their win to increase your knowledge. How did they win that new client? What marketing was used to reach the customer? Why did the new competitor choose the location they did? What can I do to capitalize on the surge in market interest my competitor is generating?  The answer to these questions and more will help position your business to be the market leader for your product or service.

Know your Numbers

You can’t manage what you don’t measure as they say.  The financials in your business measure the effectiveness of your efforts as a business owner. Sit down with your financials at least monthly. Compare this month to last. This quarter and this year to last year. If the trends you see are not favorable, dig deeper. What caused the negative trend? Can you pinpoint an operational or marketing event that caused a peak or valley?  Is it possible to avoid the negative or duplicate the positive event? Many small businesses do not keep reliable financial data. If the business survives, in most cases, the owner is working harder than they need to and spending more than required to get the results they are experiencing. Knowledge of your numbers will help you work smarter, not harder.

It seems cliche but, knowledge is power. Especially in business.  The more you know, the fewer your mistakes and the more effective you will be with your time and resources.

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Posted in eCommerce Operations
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