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09Jun

How Can Big Data Help You In Your Business

Posted by Pamela Swift in Technology

big-data

Data is one of the most important things that your business can possess. It will tell you if your are making the most profitable choice for your company or whether you may want to think about adjusting how you complete a job for a client. What kind of data can be useful when creating and growing a profitable enterprise?

Know Where Your Customers Are

Let’s say that you want to start a grout cleaning business in your neighborhood. While there very well be a market for that, you don’t know unless you have the information that supports your hypothesis. For instance, you will want to know how many homes or housing developments are located in your area.

Next, you will want to know how many people buy compared to how many people rent in a given area. This is important because renters may not be as worried about the condition of their grout compared to owners. Those who own a rental property may be more concerned with profit over nonessential cleaning tasks, which could take them out of the picture as potential clients.

Finally, you will need to know how much disposable income people have in a specific area to make sure that they would want to pay for such a service. Typically, a person is most worried about paying the mortgage, buying food and then paying for upgrades or cosmetic enhancements to their property.

Big Data Helps You Complete a Job at a Lower Cost

Instead of cleaning grout, let’s say that you were the owner of a kitchen cabinet refinishing company. You know that there are plenty of homeowners in your area who want the services that you sell and can afford your prices. While that is great to know, you can use data to further enhance profits and margin by letting it show you what type of materials to use during a given project.

For instance, you may decide that it’s cheaper to simply sand and paint existing cabinets instead of buying new ones. You may also see that buying existing units is cheaper than buying custom units. As long as the customer is OK with one or both of those ideas, you have increased your profits without offering substandard service to the customer.

Anticipate Lulls and Spikes in Demand

With big data, you can anticipate shifts in the way that your customers think or in the items that they desire. In some cases, your target market may no longer want what your have for sale because of a recession or because they don’t need to upgrade or update an existing product that they have.

However, there is a chance that your customer base may shift to those who haven’t had the time or money to remodel their kitchen or do interior work on their home in general. If you have the information about your potential market at your fingertips, you can start to penetrate those potential new markets before anyone else even realizes that there is one to court.

In really bad economic times, you may be able to use your data to identify new products or services that your customers may want or need. This can help you get through the tough times until the economy picks back up and you can start to focus again on your core offerings.

Big data is something that no business should ignore or underestimate. When used correctly, it can help to grow your company or even keep it from closing when times get tougher. Therefore, you should start collecting such data either on your own or through a third-party that may collect and share it with businesses such as yours.



 
  


website-safety-security

2014 will go down as the year people and businesses experienced some of the worst security breaches. There were reports of breaches and attacks that made headlines across the world when many businesses both small and big corporations learned first-hand how damaging such security breach can affect a brand. One of the lessons learned was that any business regardless of size can be attacked when proper security measures are not in place. In fact, the websites of small businesses have higher chances of being attacked because they typically lack dedicated security staff and expertise compared to companies ranked in the top half of the Fortune 500. Breaches on small enterprises may not make the headlines of the day, but the damage caused might crush down the company. The following are some of the measures small business owners and entrepreneurs can use to keep the website of their business safe from a breach.

Data Encryption

In all types of sensitive data whether it’s credit card accounts, bank routing digits, or employee social security numbers are the kind of data the hackers want. Anytime you are storing sensitive information on the website, especially when the data is being transmitted over the internet somehow, it is important to ensure it is encrypted. It is recommended to turn full disk encryption tools that are currently coming as a standard on most operating systems. On Windows, the features are referred to as BitLocker and on Macs it is FileVault. It is easy to activate the features because it takes a few minutes to encrypt all files on the drive with noticeable performance lag. One catch about this type of encryption is that it applies when only one users are logged out of the computer.

It means that hackers can still attack a business computer when the users are logged in even if you are not using the computer. It is, therefore, necessary to set the computer to log out automatically after 15 minutes when it is not in use.

Security Layers

It is important to have a security system and ensure it serves as the first line of defense for your website. For instance, consider a web application firewall as the first line of defense. A firewall is designed to inspect the incoming traffic and does all the work of examining the users and weed out any malicious attempts requests offering protection from SPAM SQL injections, brute force attacks, cross-site scripting and other OWASP.

The Security-as-a-Service (SaaS) available today have made things easier to provide protection of data to small businesses who cannot afford the traditional type of firewall only available as hardware appliances. The SECaaS is using the cloud technology to cut down prices that are affordable to small businesses.

SSL Encryption

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is a standard security technology that establishes a secure link between the client and the server. It may be through a web server and a browser or a mail client and a mail server. According to Blue Coat Systems, as much as 35% of all traffic is now SSL encrypted online. It is a technology that allows sensitive information such as social security numbers, credit card numbers, and login details to be transmitted securely over the internet. Since the data is sent over browsers and web servers in plain text, it leaves the data vulnerable to interception. SSL encryption is used to encrypt data for both the link and the data being sent. Since all browsers have the capability to interact with web servers, the SSL Certificates is used to establish a secure connection.

Conclusion

A successful attack on your small business site may lead to compromising of users’ data and personal information. The indirect consequences could be the site being excluded by search engine organizations such as Google, once it is listed as one of the infected sites that could spread malicious content on the web. Ensuring the website is protected with the latest security software and hardware is a critical step to prevent chances of intrusion.


07Jun

The Recipe for an Effective Brand

Posted by Pamela Swift in Branding

Sticker with the word brand over a beige background. Brand name concept. The image is a 3D rendering with blur effect

There is a lot of talk in the world of marketing these days about branding. Most people have a concept of a brand, in fact, brands influence our day-to-day purchasing decisions in ways we don’t realize. When we reach for one box of detergent in an aisle filled with choices, it might be because of a commercial jingle or a witty ad. Just as often, customers buy a product not because of captivating advertising, but because they feel it represents their viewpoint or way of life.

Who Is Your Customer?

Many branding strategies begin with envisioning who the typical consumer of your product is. This could be based on past sales or the people you see coming into your stores or it could also include a concept of a target customer and a demographic you want to reach. Think about the age, gender, profession and the geographical region this prototypical customer lives. What does he or she like to do in their spare time? What are their goals and objectives? What do they value?

How a Brand Becomes a Movement

Envisioning the typical customer is a step many companies make when forming a marketing strategy, but beyond demographics and other interests are essential causes your customers believe in. When you can tie your brand to a particular cause that is discussed often in the media, like the environment or science education, you have tapped into a need for your product. As a consumer, you walk past a variety of things every day you want but don’t buy. However, if you feel you need it, you are more likely to buy it. If your brand is tied to things your customers feel passionate about, such as healthy eating, you may generate many more new customers.

The Key to a Lifestyle Brand

The healthy eating trend is an example of a phenomenon that has popularized a number of brands, such as Whole Foods and Hampton Creek. In a sense, food is not only lifestyle, but it is life, and it is an activity most people engage in at least three times a day. This means, of course, repeat sales if a company manages to create a lifestyle around a brand. Even before veganism became a major movement, Hampton Creek’s products appeared on the shelves of health food stores. The explosion in the number of people opting for dairy and egg-free foods was a boon to the brand, which symbolizes a lifestyle.

In addition to a number of high-profile celebrities who have announced that they are swearing off meat, dairy and eggs as the trend as it plays out on social media. Groups dedicated to veganism and healthy eating in general post Hampton creek recipes for favorites, such as chocolate chip cookies, dips and cakes that contain no animal products. Recipes are an effective way to promote a brand, because they are a necessity, reinforce the healthy eating lifestyle and encourage purchasing the actual products. In addition, sharing recipes is a favorite social media activity that garners many “likes” and shares on Facebook.

When Conflict Can Help a Brand

Many brands have suffered from bad press or litigation, and may require a substantial amount of public relations resuscitation to recapture their former glory. However, in some cases, conflict can be good for a brand, as it was with Hampton Creek. The company’s egg-free imitation mayonnaise product called Just Mayo graced the shelves, not just of health food stores, but big box retailers like Wal-Mart. Unilever filed a lawsuit against the company for referring to its product as “mayo” even though it contained no eggs.

Rather than hurting Hampton Creek, sales of its product tripled quickly, and the conflict was good for business. The reason why Hampton Creek thrived in the midst of controversy was that its brand represented something new and healthy, while its adversary Unilever was touting the “old fashioned” definition of mayonnaise.

Branding in the 1950s involved a lot of talking and telling the customer why they should want a product. In later decades, soft sell became the name of the game and representing the brand with a slogan or image. Nowadays, branding is about creating a lifestyle or representing a philosophy of life. If a customer feels that brand represents who they are, what they believe in and how they eat and live on a day-to-day basis, they will be loyal to the brand.


technology-employee

Article Contributed by Jennifer Livingston

One of the biggest challenges for businesses is maintaining employee engagement. Irrespective of benefits, salaries and incentives, a working environment where employees are motivated and engaged is important since they feel they are working for a common goal, participating in formulating business strategies and objectives and supported to develop themselves. When the staff are not engaged with each other, it is difficult to retain them, business struggles with low productivity, and increased absenteeism. Top five drivers of employee engagement include innovation, pay, career opportunities, organization reputation and managing performance. The good news for many organization is that there are technologies which can create a motivated workforce and boost engagement.

Peer-to-peer platforms

Internal social media platforms are one of the ways managers can encourage employees to engage with each other. Social media platforms especially those with instant messaging capability allows the employees to send a simple message such as ‘thank you’ to a fellow co-worker. Social media may allow events such as internal nomination for recognition for various programs such as employee of the month.

Social media offers the business a way to engage with customers on social networks as well as keep the employees engaged. Social media technology platforms may also allow an organization collect important data and feelings about their products from the customers. Social media platforms include Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Skype and email. Employees can translate webpage as work platforms to promote better engagement with peers. Basically, this technology “creates a visible culture of recognition within the business to boost employee engagement”.

Instant tangible rewards

Tangible rewards are known to have more impact on employees in terms of improving their engagement and motivation than pay rises and cash bonuses. For example, a manager may use an online platform to instantly award credits or points to an employee. The employee will then have the choice to choose a reward which means something to them. Whether it’s an electronic gift, merchandise or an experience, the reward means more than cash related rewards. Most of these platforms in many organizations are used to monitor employee achievement and reward scheme performance and then used to give feedback to the employees.

Big Data

When managers use data collected from social media and online feedback platforms to improve efficiency and business processes, it means the employers have huge amount of information available for use. Instead of disposing the information, it is a wise choice to use it to give employees real-time performance reviews for their performance rather than the bi-annual manager-employee performance review meetings.

Instant feedback mechanisms

The bi-annual performance review meetings are known to be too infrequent to maintain a healthy employee engagement between the managers and their employees. However, instant feedback is good for higher engagement rates. Instant feedback helps the managers to gather more actionable feedback. Instant feedback mechanisms can be done through social media platforms or an online rating platform that can tell the employee how well he/she has performed.

BYOD, embracing mobile and more work flexibility

The three of them are meant to provide flexibility for the employee to work effectively. Bring their own devices to work (BYOD) continues to grow in any organizations where employees want to work with devices they are familiar with and not the ones provided at work. This is because most employees own smartphones and tablets. Linked to BYOD, is the ever-growing usage of mobile devices for work. In order to embrace the idea of employees to work from anywhere at any time, smartphone devices and personal computers have enabled companies to allow some of their employees to work from home. This has provided more flexibility for employees while maintaining a constant engagement between them.

With the availability of technologies which can enhance employee engagement, businesses should take advantage of this opportunity to promote and create a positive working environment. The global employee engagement has improved tremendously in the recent times. The main factor for this growth is because employees prefer working for companies which offer career progression, has solid reputation and rewards for performance.


twitter-marketing

Article Contributed by Nate M. Vickery

Recent years have brought a rather unexpected rise of Twitter influence, at least in the domain of socially targeted issues as well as coverage in popular and mainstream sphere of authority. At the time Twitter was at its beginning of becoming a thing nobody could have predicted it would develop into one of the main social medias for self-promotion, business and news interactions and internet-evoked opinion exchange.

And while getting noticed on Twitter seems as a rather easy and natural thing to do, getting trending on there is actually something you need to wisely plan out. Depending on your target audience and the end result of your intention, there are a few things you should consider doing (or start doing, if you haven’t already) to succeed in your goal.

Given that tailoring your content marketing strategy for Twitter is your main goal this time around, here are some of the best advice you’ll ever get on the topic:

Understand the network you are on

Depending on the network you are on you will have to act in accordance with the responsiveness of that network. The reason why Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and other networks are so individually successful is because they all operate on a similar basis but with a different approach and sensibility to them.

Twitter is a public channel for non-conservative audiences who aren’t afraid to speak their minds and indulge variety of contents. This is why humor and wit pose as essential in your tweeting – a Twitter person won’t ever go for average – you need to always be on top of your game and follow this unique crowd’s tone.

Get content ideas from Twitter… for Twitter

Twitter information influx is pretty quick so to actually get content ideas for Twitter you should be on Twitter and see what’s up.

If you have your own blog, whether you are working independently or as a company, Twitter is a great way to make use of your content in a way that you make it closer to your potential and existing clients and customers. Find influencers from the business sphere you work in, see what type of content may be trending in your niche currently and apply it to your blog. You can take advantage of link prospecting tool developed by Four Dots SEO company for finding blogs and content on the Internet where your favorite influencers publish their articles; this is a perfect chance to see which articles were most widely distributed on social networks (in this case, Twitter). This way you will know which topics to cover in your or business blog and how interested people will be in following your twitter profile and blog. If you do this mission successfully, you will bring more visitors to the site.

Engage in conversations

To get noticed, it’s important to have presence and be on the outlook for topics you may directly have a link to your business. The easiest way to this is to search topics per key words related to your niche of work and communicate with people interested in what you are offering. Although, don’t be pushy in the attempt to be interactive as you may appear as too aggressive.

Understand what kind of posts will be the most successful

Since Twitter posts are limited to 140 characters you need to be concise, to the point and interesting. Statistics show that posts which are most retweeted are around 100 characters, leaving room for the retweeter’s handle.

The best post on Twitter consists of a:
– link
– hashtag x2
– photo

Obviously, it’s important you switch it up from time to time and make your feed interesting and attractive, to both regular users and those who have just joined Twitter or heard about your channel.

Know the best time to tweet

Since Twitter never sleeps, it’s best to always have something to say. However, research confirms that the best proven time to tweet is throughout the day, actively. Since Twitter has a much faster stream than other networks you will be expected to tweet multiple times a day. The more present you are the bigger chance is you’ll get noticed.

If you are tweeting to reach audiences in different time zones there’s a plug in for setting automatic tweets which will be helpful in the mission to get trending.

Responding quickly is important too because that way you are showing you care about the people interested in your content. Such professionalism is much appreciated, regardless of the network you are on.

About the Author

Nate M. Vickery is a business consultant from Sydney, Australia. He has a degree in marketing and almost a decade of experience in company management through latest technology trends. Nate is editor-in-chief at Bizzmarkblog.com.



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GetEntrepreneurial.com is a small business blog dedicated to providing business advice and resources to our community of aspiring entrepreneurs. Our specially hand-picked panel of GetEntrepreneurial.com Network experts regularly contribute entrepreneurial content and professional tips for small business owners worldwide.