Securing sensitive information has never been more difficult with new malware threats that seem to pop up every single year. Data breaches affect even the most renowned companies like Yahoo, LinkedIn and Dropbox, to name a few.
For small businesses, in particular, being ready for a data breach is essential to survival if — or more likely, when — one occurs.
“Preparing for a data breach has become much more complex over the last few years,” Michael Bruemmer, vice president at Experian Data Breach Resolution, said in a statement. “Organizations must keep an eye on the many new and constantly evolving threats and address these threats in their incident response plans.”
Based on Experian’s Data Breach Industry Forecast report, here’s some of the cyber threats businesses can expect:
1. ‘Aftershock’ password breaches will become more common
Experian predicts that “aftershock” breaches — repeated unauthorized logins after usernames and passwords obtained in previous breaches are sold on the dark web — will continue to rise in 2017.
To mitigate this risk, companies can implement two-factor authentication to verify users, which helps solve the password reuse problem. Secondary authentication methods can be password alternatives such as tokens, SMS alerts, geolocation confirmation or biometrics.
2. Nation-state cyberattacks will move from espionage to war
President Trump stated during his election campaign that he would be in favor of using cyber weapons in retaliation against enemy states. Experian expects cyberattacks to continue against the United States, and with no international agreement governing engagements in cyberspace, the number of attacks will increase and could possibly escalate already existing tensions between countries.”
3. Health care will be the most targeted sector
As health care institutions deploy new mobile apps, it’s anticipated that they will introduce new vulnerabilities that will be attractive targets to hackers. It is expected that ransomware will be the main type of malware used. The HHS Office of Civil Rights has classified ransomware attacks as requiring consumer notification; Experian suggests that preventing data breaches will become even more important. Consumers who have never been notified of breaches are likely to react strongly to news of their information being stolen.
4. Criminals will focus on payment-based attacks
Payment-related breaches will continue, since many small merchants still lag behind in their transition to EMV chip and PIN. There are legitimate barriers to adopting this technology, such as having to manage more infrastructures, the need for software updates to accept payments and the impact on the checkout process. However, the risk of not adopting the technology is high, as attackers have demonstrated the ability to exploit older technology.
5. International data breaches will cause big headaches for international companies
New regulations in Canada, Australia and the EU require companies to notify customers whose data has been stolen. Even if your business doesn’t sell to international customers yet, it’s wise to start complying with these new rules to ensure you are prepared in the event of an incident.
To prevent breaches, Experian advises all organizations to train employees on how to spot phishing attacks, keep all security software fully patched and have contingency plans for responding to a ransomware attack.
Having a company culture with a little love and compassion can go a long way toward making a better workplace, new research finds.
A study recently published in theAcademy of Management Journalsuggests that businesses need to strike a balance between a lighthearted and fun workplace and one that is compassionate and caring.
While the researchers looked specifically at the life of firefighters and the culture inside fire stations, the study’s authors believe their findings are also relevant to less male-dominated workplaces.
The study found two types of workplace cultures inside fire stations: joviality and companionate love. A jovial workplace is one where employees can have fun and take a joke, as well as participate in pranks and practical jokes.
Conversely, a workplace of companionate love is one in which compassion, affection and caring in times of need are deeply important to its culture. The researchers said they were surprised to find that this type of culture permeates fire stations, considering they are typically filled with men.
“This seeming paradox – the presence of a strong culture of companionate love … illustrates the importance of adopting a more nuanced, contextualized view of masculine organizational culture,” the study’s authors wrote.
The study found that the best workplaces strike a balance between these two types of cultures.
“The positive aspects of a culture of joviality and a culture of companionate love can work together to temper one another and allow individuals to flourish,” the study’s authors wrote.
The research found that in fire stations where both cultures were strong, workers were significantly less likely to engage in risky behaviors off the job than was the case at stations where one of the cultures wasn’t as strong.
The study also found that a compassionate culture aided the physical health of workers who experienced a great deal of work-family conflict and coped with it by bottling up the emotions at work. Specifically, a strong culture of companionate love significantly lowers the occurrences of many common ailments, including insomnia, headaches, indigestion and fatigue. A strictly jovial culture tends to make those health problems worse.
For the study, researchers conducted group interviews at 27 firehouses in a major metropolitan area in order to find both prominent and hidden aspects of emotions.
The researchers found that the cultures were both strong in about 37 percent of the fire stations surveyed and both weak in about 30 percent of the stations. In 19 percent of the stations, joviality was strong and companionate love weak, and in 15 percent the opposite was true.
Olivia Amanda O’Neill, one of the study’s authors and an assistant professor at George Mason University, said she was surprised to see the culture of compassion and love in such a male-dominated workplace.
“I had previously done research on emotional culture among the largely female staff of a long-term-care facility, where companionate love was very much in evidence, and a question this raised is whether something similar would be true in a largely male workplace,” O’Neill said in a statement. “That this culture emerged strongly, in combination with a strong culture of joviality, was something prior behavioral research on men had not led us to anticipate.”
Although this research looked specifically at firefighters and fire stations, the study’s authors believe leaders in all workplaces would be best served to implement rituals, practices and policies that make compassion normal and appealing.
“First recognize that workplace culture involves not just cognitive values, like the need for teamwork or innovation, but emotions as well,” O’Neill said. “Then pay attention to the emotions you express every day, modulating them as needed. For example, our study found joviality to be associated with good group coordination, so if lack of coordination is a problem, those in charge should try to lighten things up.”
However, if stress is a problem, warmth and kindness should be more of a focus, O’Neill said.
The researchers believe a balance between the two cultures is critical, because without a strong culture of compassion, a completely jovial culture may emerge, which could worsen some negative tendencies often associated with masculinity.
“In some corporate contexts, the types of jokes and pranks we observed that were associated with a strong culture of joviality might be considered harassment or bullying,” the study’s authors wrote. “This possibility underscores the importance of the tempering effect of companionate love for harnessing the positive aspects of an organization’s emotional culture.”
Being a leader comes with a host of responsibilities, including being a good influence on those you work with and who work for you. Whether you’ve recently landed your first leadership role or you’ve been managing employees for years, there are always lessons to be learned and improvements to be made.
Because a leadership role is important, you owe it to yourself and your staff to always be sharp. This means being wise enough to recognize your weak points, and humble enough to work on correcting them.
Here are five common mistakes that leaders at all levels struggle with, and how you can fix them.
Holding any position of power can be good for your ego, but don’t let that position of power create a false sense of security. It’s important that your employees know you’re not above your shortcomings.
“Leaders must not be afraid to recognize their own failures,” said Joe Chiarello, owner of two Murphy Business & Financial Corporation franchises. “We all fall down at some point, but what really matters is the way we pick ourselves up and learn from our mistakes. This is what helps us grow and makes us stronger.”
Leading by example and having transparency with your team if you do something wrong or make a bad decision can go a long way.
It’s easy to let your feelings about a situation influence the choice, and sometimes it makes sense to do so. But in business, using emotions as your sole justification for any choice is a bad practice. Your team needs to see the facts and logic backing up your choices if you want them to trust you.
“(When you’re) making decisions based on emotion … the team may not truly understand the rationale behind the decision being made, and in many cases, rationale may not exist,” said Christopher Ayala, partner at manufacturing company Gardner & Co. “This can lead to confusion, uncertainty of future roadmap plans or the validity of the decisions over time, slowly chiseling away at the effectiveness of the leader.”
When it comes to making a decision, he suggests taking a deep breath, stepping back and holding your tongue, then thinking.
Making emotional moves can lead to authorizing decisions without a full understanding, too. You don’t want to make decisions because you feel you have to. As a leader, you may find yourself in a position to make choices about things outside your area of expertise.
As a leader, you should be sensible enough to not make a final decision without consulting the people in your company who do have experience in these areas.
One of the most difficult adjustments a new leader has to make is learning how to handle disagreements or problems that arise within the group. You may want to come off as fair and balanced but avoid calling people out for their negative behavior to avoid potential conflict. Doing so will hurt your whole staff more if you don’t nip an issue in the bud.
“Managers often veer away from confrontation and try to avoid it at all costs. But when performance or personality issues go unaddressed, they fester and set an overall tone that minimizes the urgency of correcting mistakes,” said Mark Feldman, vice president of marketing at Building Engines. “If there is (an) issue, it’s best to address it right away when the situation is fresh.”
Feldman notes managers incorrectly assume that a problem is the result of incompetence or poor performance when in actuality it’s often a result of a misunderstanding of expectations.
Taking on unnecessary work
Leaders are typically hired or promoted to their positions because they know what needs to be done and how to do it. This may be accompanied by the mentality of “if you want something done right, do it yourself,” which can be a dangerous attitude to have when managing a team.
Completing or tweaking your employees’ work because it’s not to your liking — or, similarly, failing to delegate tasks — not only creates more work for you, but also hinders your team from reaching its full potential.
“When leaders take on the responsibility of completing a team member’s work, they are actually doing the team and themselves a disservice,” said Nancy Mellard, national leader of CBIZ Women’s Advantage. “(It) is breeding ground for disengagement.”
According to Mellard, by getting into this habit, a talented team member may bring a project to only 75 percent completion, assuming the leader will finish the rest. As a result, performance will move in the wrong direction, while the leader takes on more responsibility for the team’s overall project demands.
Not having faith in your abilities
You’ve been entrusted with a leadership position because someone else trusts your judgment. Consistently second-guessing yourself can rub off on others, and before you know it, no one trusts you. Don’t be afraid to obey your gut instinct when it’s right.
“While it’s important to listen to others, employees and clients alike, sometimes this can be very dangerous to an innovative startup. If you truly believe in what you are doing, it’s OK to listen only to yourself sometimes. (Be) loyal to your internal compass,” said Moran Zur, CEO of SafeBeyond.
It’s fantastic that the government is required to set 9.5% of the actual amount of a person’s wage to your Superannuation retirement deposit, yet absolutely no truly intelligent man or woman really depends on somebody else to provide for him the things which really make a difference. Together with a person’s Super, there are a selection of various things that you can personally do in order to guarantee that when the precise day finally happens whenever you walk out of your workplace for what is the last period that you will not fear the common wolf at the doorway, for you’ll know that you have stored ample funds to be able to provide for your own needs and wants inside retirement.
In addition to that which a person’s workplace offers towards a person’s retirement living, it is advisable for anyone to understand how to get by within their means from a early point, keeping the extra to enable them to keep it for that rainy day, or perhaps for their particular old age. There are many ways one could actually invest his revenue, such as turning out to be a silent partner in someone’s business, by purchasing real estate property for you to trade with a profit or perhaps like a rental home, or even with buying bonds/stocks. People that desire to really have a very good old age should discover quite early that they should handle their funds and that they should never allow his or her wants regarding non-essentials regulate them.
Many folks want to do business from home a result of the flexibility that this sort of lifestyle presents them. Those individuals whom drive to high-powered, high-paying, high-pressure business important job opportunities must relax once they at last get to their homes so as to preserve his or her higher level of career functionality. A home business opportunity comes into the world whenever these types of folks choose to pay another individual to complete their purchasing, food preparation, enhancing, bill-paying, and other regular responsibilities. Many times, it just takes to get started on some sort of profitable in your own home industry is for a person to identify an opportunity for themselves in somebody else’s need.
Subsequently, at the same time, you will find a tremendous quantity of on the internet home-based business options for the personal computer informed along with determined individual that is able to comprehend this sort of principles as affiliate marketing online and marketing, multi-level marketing (MLM) business models, stock digital photography, instructing both remedial along with state-of-the-art individuals, article writing work opportunities, running a blog, plus more. The truth is, 1000s of writers have discovered satisfying work at home opportunities from home composing provision. Some now have attained this anchor of true financial self-reliance by means of producing E-books in your own home, plus the information mill is uncovered pertaining to experts focusing on both fiction as well as non-fiction. Other freelance writers earn a living by simply making term papers for young students, and by ghostwriting on-line web copy for various organization websites.
Presently, most individuals fully understand that they won’t be able to depend on government retirement benefits to be able to finance his or her retirement. Practically anyone who has an workplace 401(k) account is actually contributing and people who don’t have their individual IRA. People tend to be accustomed to selecting mutual funds, stocks and shares, munis as well as ETFs and reading through the monetary details relevant to these kinds of purchases. Typically, this content will be straightforward and effortless for people who have any amount of past experiences to understand. Nevertheless, in relation to investing in commodities, not many people are self-confident ample to leap in. While commodity buying and selling isn’t the same as share buying and selling, it’s not very hard to master if you are dedicated to introducing a protection to the stock portfolio. Simply complete this contact form to acquire valuable information and facts. Precious metal, like stock and municipal bonds, can be acquired and held for many years. The cost of precious metal tends to increase every time the stock market falls thus people who have rare metal will not suffer the identical deficits compared to those who merely possess stocks and shares. Buying and selling precious metal shares demands a lot more familiarity with the marketplace along with a trustworthy monitoring program to watch exactly how the price changes in real time. Regardless of whether you want to buy and hold rare metal or buy and sell it to get a income, you have to find out the fundamentals first.
Someone that would like to sell their particular house as quickly as possible will desire to recognize exactly what to do to not just get it into the real estate listings but to be able to make sure it sells as fast as possible as well. They’re also likely to wish to make certain they’re able to get just as much funds as possible from the property. Anytime they want aid in this area, they are going to need to work together with one of the neighborhood realtors who has a tremendous amount of practical experience helping folks sell their properties.
Anytime it can involve listing your estate, physical appearance can be everything. The individual is going to desire to ensure their home looks excellent. This typically signifies eliminating the maximum amount of as is possible from the house and finishing virtually any essential maintenance. The more they’re able to do for you to make the residence appear far better, the more funds they are able to request. Additionally, houses that appear to be better often sell faster, meaning someone may get the sum they’ll want and ensure that they are able to sell the house as quickly as possible. Even modest duties such as planting new flowers may help.
For help selling your property, lots of folks consider real estate professionals. The realtor they choose could move through the property to be able to point out anything at all that could be improved in order to enable them to sell the home faster and for more money. Typically, the real estate agent can target the appearance of the home, however they might indicate crucial repairs that are required as well. This way, the individual can easily accomplish just as much as possible to ensure that their residence is prepared to sell. Once they’ve carried out everything achievable from the real estate professional’s list, the real estate professional will work along with them to make an effort to sell the property.
If you want to sell your property, ensure you do not wait any longer in order to speak with one of the home agents close to you. They are able to be sure you realize exactly what to do in order to make certain your house will be all set to sell. Then, they are able to work with you through the whole selling process to help you get precisely what you are going to desire from the home as soon as possible.
Business people usually begin with a love for exactly what they’ll do, however it is all too simple for them to turn out to be distracted by the responsibilities necessary to run the organization and set out to be behind on all of the newest developments in their particular industry. For individuals who own a manufacturing firm, getting back into the details of the organization and getting a lot more into the day to day operations of the company may enable them to boost earnings and also continue to expand their particular business. A good way to accomplish this is via injection molding seminars.
Company owners who wish to be far more involved in exactly how their firm works could be required to take full advantage of added training to be able to make certain they’ll comprehend the most recent innovations, the equipment which is currently essential, and a lot more. This can enable them to work directly with their particular workers, comprehend precisely what has to be done in case there are virtually any difficulties that the staff have to have aid with, and remain up to date with their particular field to enable them to continue to develop the business all around. They are going to need to take full advantage of the decoupled molding training seminars that exist to make certain they will have this added knowledge as a way to enhance their firm.
Improving the business through added assistance for the workers, figuring out when new equipment might be required or a good plan, as well as far more are only a couple of of the advantages of additional instruction. Company owners who obtain scientific molding training for themselves are going to see added revenue also. Since they are more hands on with the business, they’ll have the know-how in order to know what to achieve to help boost their own production, help bring in brand-new buyers, as well as help make sure their own buyers are content with the items they will be given.
In case you’ve gotten far from the daily operations of the firm and are a lot more into the management part, it could be a smart idea to get into the basics again and also become caught up regarding almost all that’s adjusted since you started out your very own organization. Take some time in order to benefit from injection molding training now to find out precisely how you are able to boost your firm and also make it a lot more prosperous.
Millions of cooking fanatics have a tendency to express a number of the exact same grievances when it comes to the kitchen. These types of individuals grumble about simply not having enough space for their materials. Shelves tend to be stuffed with lots of pans and pots for cooking and baking. This is certainly one reason why it’s so important to obtain a fabulous product that enables you to condense as many chores as possible.
Thankfully, you will discover lots of kitchen appliances around that work to be able to make cooking less difficult for homemakers. As an example, in most cases somebody would have to buy some sort of food processor or blender and some sort of pot to be able to create some kind of homemade soup. This may require somebody to step out and acquire more products to include in their own collection. However, this website shows just one solution that can easily combine and slowly cook your ingredients in a really straightforward and convenient way.
You can find plenty of ways to steer clear of the actual jumble of which a lot of men and women observe with their kitchens. Companies can make buyers feel that they require the latest collection of exclusive kitchen tools. Typically, those pans and pots happen to be highly expensive and will not commonly last very long. You can find this to learn about a lot more handy techniques of cooking.
No matter what kind of business you run, you need customers to keep growing. Word-of-mouth referrals and repeat clients can certainly help, but most businesses could benefit from a little marketing boost.
While the purpose of marketing hasn’t changed, the methods and trends companies follow to achieve results has evolved drastically in recent years. New marketing technologies continue to emerge, and businesses that want to keep up need to look ahead and prepare for the future.
Business News Daily asked experts about five key tech trends that will shape the marketing landscape in 2017 and beyond.
1. Content-driven commerce is on the rise
The rise of social media quickly gave way to a new breed of content marketing— one driven by links, shares and referrals. Although affiliate shopping links have been around for years, today’s companies have started to connect the dots between content and commerce, and assets like sponsored articles and social media posts are continuing to gain popularity.
“Content-driven-commerce is the use of affiliate links within published content,” said Oliver Roup, CEO of VigLink, a platform that helps companies create and place affiliate links. “[This] form of content marketing is helping small business bring in incremental revenue without the cost of a typical marketing campaign. A brand can … incentivize publishers to incorporate their products into their content. Once a consumer purchases the product after leaving the publisher’s site, brands and publishers cash in.”
Roup said this form of marketing is becoming a preferred outlet for many, as traditional advertising (which he notes has been on the decline) can be costly—and isn’t always worth the spend.
2. Programmatic advertising will continue to grow
Automation solutions — which, as the name implies, automate a process based on data input — have been growing in popularity, and for good reason: They help businesses make many areas of their operations much more efficient. In the marketing world, programmatic ad platforms fill this need: According to Jeffrey Finch, CPO and co-founder of digital marketing and advertising platform Choozle, these tools “turn everyday workers into advertising experts.”
“Programmatic advertising has been taking off for a while now, but it’s poised to greatly expand in the coming years,” said Finch. “[These platforms] do the hard work of finding ad space for you, while you simply provide them the information about who you would like to target.”
3. Mobile development still matters (but niche apps are on the decline)
Remember the days of, “There’s an app for that?” John Marcinuk, group director of marketing production at Blue Fountain Media, believes those days are winding down: While brands should absolutely still be focusing on mobile development, he said, it’s better to spend time and resources on a great mobile web experience, rather than creating separate apps for everything.
“Asking your customers to download one more app to their phones for an experience that should be available on the mobile web is not only a big ask on their time, but can cost many thousands of dollars for a brand to develop,” he added.
Although customers are more and more comfortable making purchases via mobile devices, many still research on mobile and switch back to their desktops later to complete the purchase. Marcinuk said an optimized mobile experience can encourage customers to whip out their credit cards with their mobile phones in hand.
“For marketers hoping to win back users who don’t convert, we’ll be utilizing technologies that target across devices and properly attribute our advertising success to all touch points along the purchase process,” Marcinuk told Business News Daily.
4. Data analytics will become even more crucial for success
Any company with an online presence knows the importance of using customer data to inform business decision. Most brands are beginning to make data analytics a priority, but marketers still have a long way to go, said Curtis Tingle, CMO of intelligent media delivery company Valassis.
Today’s data goes well beyond basic demographics, Tingle said. Now brands can access consumers’ online and offline media behaviors and preferences, location throughout the day, purchase history, promotion sensitivity, etc. This, he said, allows you to customize messages, images and offers across channels, even to the household level.
“Marketers must learn how to better use the data that they collect,” Tingle said. “Customers are constantly feeding personal information to the companies they engage with – from purchase behaviors to favorite products to the best ways to reach them through advertising and marketing efforts. With this data share, customers are looking for some sort of return, whether it be in the form of more personalized advertisements or targeted coupons/deals.”
Tingle noted that utilizing a targeted approach to a select audience is much more impactful than a blanketed “spray-and-pray” method of delivering marketing messages.
“Collecting as much data as possible should no longer be the primary goal; leveraging it to reach and activate consumers in unique and meaningful ways must come first,” he added.
5. Artificial intelligence (AI) will be a marketer’s best friend
Wondering how to analyze all that data you’ve got? Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine-learning might just be the answer.
John Callan, VP of marketing at Boxever, a customer intelligence cloud platform, said brands are now using AI to better understand how a customer prefers to interact with a brand (email, personalized homepages, mobile, call-center, in-person, etc.), and tailor offers and messages delivered via those preferred channels based on a customer’s desires.
“Another example includes being able to ‘interrupt’ a regular campaign offer or message based on some new contextual information — perhaps due to a real-time service issue or a change in a behavior pattern — to deliver a more relevant and timely offer or message,” he added.
To take advantage of AI for your marketing needs, Callan advised finding a tool that will help you connect the dots between channels and provide relevant insights to drive successful marketing campaigns.
Circosta advised approaching sales from a helping perspective. Instead of putting pressure on yourself to make the sale, just focus on what the product means to the buyer, he said.
“If [sales reps] focus on how to communicate effectively and help the person, it takes pressure off themselves, and puts the focus and energy where it needs to be,” Circosta said. “A superior salesperson inspires the buyer to feel the benefits of what they have.”
If you want to craft better sales pitches, here are a few key elements you should focus on.
The first contact with a potential customer or client is crucial to setting the tone for the ongoing relationship. Tom Silk, executive vice president atWorkStride, a provider of employee recognition software, said there is power in the first sentence of the sales pitch. But it’s not what you say; it’s how you say it, he added.
“Use tone, energy — stand up and show enthusiasm,” Silk said. “Energy sets the tone of the conversation.”
Moreover, it’s important to establish a connection with the person you’re selling to, said Brian Stafford, CEO of collaboration software company Diligent Corp.
“Establishing rapport is absolutely critical,” Stafford said. “The best sales rep creates a connection with the prospect as early on as possible.”
Whether in person or on the phone, pay attention to the cues that are happening during the pitch, Stafford said. Pay attention to who is speaking, and if it’s an in-person meeting, note the body language. Look for affirmative cues, such as head nods, forward leaning, and open, relaxed postures. If you are getting the opposite, such as crossed arms or other nonresponses, then take a step back.
“I think sometimes, [sales reps] keep plowing ahead even if they aren’t getting the response they hoped for,” Stafford said. “It can be more dynamic to stop and pump the brakes, ask questions, and force them to say what isn’t working for them.”
It is harder to identify these types of social cues over the phone, but they are there if you listen. Silk advised envisioning what is going on in the room and working through the “noise language.” What is being said, by whom and how? Adjust to the silence, and solicit feedback.
“If the plan is not going well, change and adjust on the fly,” Silk said.
The call to action
This is perhaps the most important part of the sales pitch: Ask someone to take action at the end of a sales presentation, Circosta said. Even if the prospective buyer isn’t ready to make a final decision yet, leaving them with a clear call to action will at least keep the idea of doing business with you fresh in their mind.
“If you don’t ask them for the sale, they probably won’t go through with it,” he said.
The follow-up plan
Knowing how and when to follow up on a sales pitch is another factor in its success. It would be nice if every sale were closed at the end of the pitch, but that rarely happens. Decision makers need to take time to evaluate the proposal and ensure what you have to offer is going to fix their problem or improve their capabilities.
WorkStride creates a project plan with its potential clients, defining the milestones for follow-up and the best method to do so.
“The whole purpose of the project plan is to let us know when to follow up,” Silk said. “No ‘checking in’ annoying calls. We can make the follow-up calls with a purpose — after a key meeting of decision makers or at the appropriate time in their budget cycle.”
Diligent Corp. employs a similar strategy: “Follow up, and make yourself be a champion of your key contact in the sales process,” Stafford said. “Problem solve with them. What are the things we need to do to get them over the line?”
Above all else, Stafford said the most important thing you can do throughout the entire sales process is to listen to your prospective client.
Most small business owners know the importance of a business plan, which outlines your company’s course for success. One crucial element of that plan is your marketing strategy.
Because this strategy is buried in the larger business plan, many small business owners may not give marketing the time, research and attention it deserves, assuming that they know their customer base and how to reach them. But an in-depth and detailed approach to laying out your marketing strategy can reveal opportunities from a new audience or potential product line, pitfalls in pricing, competition reaction, and potential reach.
At its most basic, a marketing plan describes who your customers are, where they get information and how you are going to reach them. Robert J. Thomas, a marketing professor at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, said the development of a marketing plan requires that you complete four specific tasks:
1. Develop a very clear and focused insight into why a potential customer would use your business. More specifically, figure out the core need that your product or service will meet. Is it to help your customers get through the day more easily? Do their job more efficiently? Be respected and admired by friends? Your offering should be designed to solve client problems or meet customer needs better than the competition can.
2. Identify your target customers. There are numerous potential customers in most markets, but to succeed faster and better, a small business must study the market and determine the characteristics of its best target customers. The target customer should be described in detail. Create an avatar, or fictional person, who has all of your target-customer attributes, and examine what that person would say, do, feel and think in the course of a day.
3. Identify competitors that would also want your target customers. No matter how original your product or service may be, there is always competition for your target customer’s dollar. Small businesses seldom take the time to study their competitors in depth, or determine competition that may be outside their industry but just as capable of luring the customer away. Preparing to know who that is, what their core competitive advantage is and how they will respond to your offering (price cuts, increased communication, etc.) will help you figure out strategies to combat such losses.
4. Write down your brand-positioning statement for your target customers. Ultimately, your brand and what it symbolizes for customers will be your strongest competitive advantage. You should be able to write down a simple declarative sentence of how you will meet customer needs and beat the competition. The best positioning statements are those that are single-minded and focus on solving a problem for the customer in a way that promotes the best value.
Now that you know the elements of the plan, you need to figure out how you are going to reach that target customer. Aside from traditional print and broadcast media, here are three tech-driven marketing channels that many of today’s business owners utilize.
Social media has become an essential part of businesses’ marketing plans because every type of customer is on some type of platform, such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and other networks. Small business owners can feel overwhelmed at the possibilities but should focus on the ones that can benefit them the most.
Brett Farmiloe, founder of internet marketing company Markitors, advised companies that are just getting started in social media to get to know their customers and what platforms they are using.
“Figure out where your customers are spending their time, and set up shop on those platforms,” Farmiloe told Business News Daily. “Develop a content strategy that can be executed internally, [and then] execute your strategy by posting branded content on your selected platforms. While all three steps are key, the biggest one is really determining if your customers are on these platforms.”
Though email marketing may not be a new concept like social media marketing, it is an effective and popular choice for many small business owners. Companies can implement email-marketing techniques in a number of ways, including using newsletters, promotional campaigns and transactional emails. Companies such as MailChimp and Constant Contact make it easy for companies to manage their email campaigns.
Farmiloe noted that companies can set their email marketing efforts apart by segmenting their markets.
“Not all subscribers want to receive the same blast,” Farmiloe said. “Smart email marketers take the time to segment subscribers at the outset, and then continue to segment based on subscriber activity. Through segmentation, companies reduce the amount of unsubscribes, increase open rates and, most importantly, increase the amount of actions taken from an email send.”
The popularity of smartphones and tablets has helped change the way companies target their customers. Since people have the devices with them nearly all the time, companies are looking to implement strategies that reach customers on their gadgets.
“Mobile marketing is interruptive,” Farmiloe said. “It’s because of this power that a marketer has to let the consumer determine how and when to receive marketing material. That’s why almost every app comes with the option to turn notifications on or off. The consumer has to hold the power with mobile marketing.”
Creating a well-defined list of budgets, goals and action items, with appropriate personnel assigned to each item, can help make your marketing plan a reality. Think about how much you’re willing to spend, the kind of outcomes you expect, and the necessary tasks to achieve those outcomes. ACleverism article advised defining three key elements to help you measure the effectiveness of your marketing efforts:
- How you want to track your campaign
- The channels you want to track
- The metrics you want to measure
The metrics — the numerical data that allows you to see if you’re reaching your goals — are the best ways to measure your return on investment, according to Cleverism. This can include wesite visits, lead conversion, click-through/bounce rates, social media effectiveness and referrals. More tips for measuring your marketing results can be found in this BND article.
The key is selling potential employees on the benefits of working with you. This makes recruiting almost a marketing effort, and in truth, the best recruiting techniques have their roots in the most effective marketing tactics. Here’s how to recruit the best of the best in a job market that favors the candidate.
Take advantage of social media
Social media profiles have become standard tools for researching and evaluating talent. Instead of looking only at candidates’ résumés, thoroughly vet them by looking at their LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media profiles.
“Candidates’ social media profiles [can highlight] personal experiences and interests that tie into professional lives and skills, and may show the person is a perfect fit,” said Pete Kazanjy, founder of Modern Sales Salon and recruiter search engine TalentBin. “[Depending] on the type of job you’re recruiting for, make sure you’re looking at the right social networking sites to find candidates who may be off your radar.”
Kazanjy noted that engaging with potential candidates on social media can be to your advantage, regardless of whether they are interested in the position you’re offering right now.
“Although the person may be content where they are now, you never know what the future has in store,” he said. “Engaging with candidates on their personal profiles allows you to form a relationship.”
Market your compensation package (beyond salary)
Money is important, but it’s not the only thing top talent wants. They want a work environment that challenges them, allows for innovation, makes work fun but also provides work-life balance. This could mean paid time off (PTO), the ability to work from home, time to volunteer in their communities or the ability to take unpaid leave to pursue interests, to name a few.
Personal finance writer Kevin Mulligan said your company needs to create an employee value proposition (EVP) to use as a selling point with candidates. This should describe what sets your organization apart and why people should want to work there.
“The more attractive your EVP is, the more likely you will be attracting the cream of the crop to your company,” Mulligan wrote in a BusinessDictionary article.
Optimize for mobile
One of the best ways to draw candidates in is a mobile-friendly hiring process. Dr. John Sullivan, a Silicon Valley-based author and HR expert, said that more than 43 percent of job seekers use their mobile phones in their job searches.
“That number will continue to rise until the mobile phone is dominant in recruiting,” he wrote in an article on EREMedia.com.
To that end, your app or website should allow candidates to accept offers, hold live video interviews, complete referral tasks and self-schedule interviews. For retention purposes, you can also build in functions for new employees: an interactive employee handbook, benefit registration, access to PTO balances and more.
Expand your search area
Even just a decade ago, it might have seemed like a distant dream to have full-time, off-site employees with the same exact technological capabilities as workers in the office. Today, advancements in cloud computing and videoconferencing have opened the doors to hiring remote staff members, so recruiters are no longer limited to candidates in close geographic proximity to the company’s headquarters.
“If your company is located in a competitive hiring market, you’d be better off searching for top talent in a less competitive area,” said Anthony Smith, founder and CEO of CRM software company Insightly. “Technology allows for smooth collaboration and communication no matter where employees are located, so you don’t need to lose out on experts in your field because of where your company is based.”
Increase your hiring speed
This goes back to the workforce’s “immediate” expectations. Top talent will move quickly, because it is in high demand. Be ahead of the curve by investigating ways to speed up your hiring process while still demanding high-quality candidates reach a high standard.
“Others may view your slow hiring as a mirror of the speed in which you make business decisions, and drop out because they expect faster decision making,” Sullivan wrote.
You can speed up hiring by prioritizing hires for revenue-generating or key positions, surveying past candidates for their perception of what worked and what didn’t, and identifying other unnecessary delays that seem to be common in each vacancy-fulfillment effort.
Use existing employees to market your company
Sometimes the best way to attract a candidate to your organization is to show off the people he or she will join there. Taso Du Val, founder and CEO of global tech industry network Toptal, advised highlighting your company’s existing talent during the recruiting process.
“Talented individuals want to work with top talent, so showcasing the all-stars already on your team can help validate why other high-quality candidates should hop on board,” Du Val said.
“Ask employees why they like working for your company,” said Sandy Mazur, president of staffing firm Spherion. “When you’re vetting talent, share some of the feedback and anecdotes that your workers shared with you, as those may resonate with candidates and attract them to the job.”