by Megan Totka
Many of us take for granted that the information we enter online is safe. Small businesses use lots of different services to make their business successful and keep it running smoothly. Some applications, sites, and programs like Microsoft Office, Google applications, Facebook, Twitter, and other email services are naming just a few.
With your information spread so far and wide, it’s really important to keep a close watch on the sites that you use frequently. It’s particularly critical to keep the information belonging to your customers safe. While small businesses may not always be the target of hacking, scams, or phishing, it is still absolutely possible to fall victim.
Here are a few things that you can do to keep your business information confidential online:
- Set a great password – most sites now offer the ability to use any and all characters when it comes to creating your password. Set the most unique password you can while still being able to remember it. Also, be sure to use different passwords for different services that you use. Often, people are guilty of using the same password for every single service. This is dangerous because if someone gains access to one of your passwords, they’ve gained access to all of them.
- Try to use services that utilize two factor authentication – this is a relatively new process that is used by some services such as Google (if you enable it) and PayPal. Two-factor authentication is a process where in addition to using a password, you also have to answer another question or enter a number that is emailed or texted to the user. This way, even if someone gains access to your password, they shouldn’t be able to get into your accounts.
- Consider scrambling some information – you know how sometimes a site makes you set up security questions in addition to your password (in case you have to reset it)? Answering these questions honestly may seem like the easiest thing to do, but think about how easily accessible some of that information might be on the web. For example, the security question “what city were you born in” could be easily answered by just about anyone with a quick Google search of your name. Instead, choose a word or phrase that is a nonsensical answer. So for the preceding question, answer something like “cupcake” or “airplane.”
- Back everything up – if for some reason your accounts or information are hacked or physically stolen, it’s critical to have everything backed up. You can even back up your information in several places. Some good ways to back things up include utilizing cloud storage, or purchasing an external hard drive. Losing the information about your business or customers could potentially be detrimental to you company.
Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.
For centuries, individual workers had their holiday on May 1. Now, small business leaders have their own annual celebration of what they do just a few weeks later in the year; chambers of commerce in cities like Philadelphia and San Francisco have designated May 13-17 as Small Business Week, hosting conferences and events aimed at acknowledging the role that small businesses play in the American economy, and providing opportunities for networking, skill sharing and more.
In today’s business world, it makes sense to have a greater emphasis on small business. Recent reports show that the United States Small Business Administration credits small businesses with about two thirds of new job creation over the last 20 years. While it’s possible to split hairs in terms of what exactly constitutes this type of enterprise and how many jobs small businesses create, it’s evident that a new era of globalism, a digitally connected world and the demise of many large corporate job havens have created a larger small business world that is more prominent and more active than ever before – by recognizing the central role that small businesses play in America, government and private sector leaders can help prepare the public for a future with an increasing reliance on newer and less established competitors in many industries.
So what will small business leaders see this week? Event holders will be presenting various different kinds of happenings, from workshops to webinars. Giant vendors like Verizon will offer some discounts to small business customers. Mixers and other social gatherings will give small business leaders the opportunity to talk to others with similar kinds of challenges, and big dreams for participation in their respective fields, and skill building lectures can run the gamut from items like education on business law and small business legal structures to other more ‘social’ or internal elements of running a business, focusing on skills like dynamic leadership and good time management. For its part, the national SBA will be holding various events including a video contest, while promoting other local celebrations of small enterprise at different field locations around the country.
In the sort of career where one-size-fits-all solutions are rare, small business leaders can benefit from these kinds of aggregating events and resources that help them to figure out how others are approaching some of the common issues in a given field or market: small business leaders often wear many hats and have to take on diverse challenges as they wade through all of the requirements for setting up and running a successful business operation, whether it’s in retail, trades, or some other type of product or service industry. Experts will be looking at how what happens this week will affect the overall community of small business owners and managers and where to go in the future in terms of supporting some of the businesses that are providing the most benefit to the national economy.
Justin Stoltzfus is a freelance writer covering technology and business solutions at Techopedia, Business Finance Store and Ringio, focusing on emerging trends in IT services.
Ringio offers a complete phone solution for the small and medium businesses in the U.S. and Canada, who love their customers. Celebrate the Small Business Week with a Free Trial for Ringio to explore how it can improve your customer service and sales.
In the last 5 years, the startup ecosystem in the United States has flourished more quickly than perhaps any other country in the world. If you’ve been thinking about beginning your journey through Startup Land, there’s never been a better time.
CoFoundersLab is a matchmaking platform for the aspiring entrepreneurs to find their fellow co-founders and meet each other through in-person events across the U.S. It unites co-founders based on geographic location, complementary skill sets, compatible personalities, goals and values. Till date it has made 25000 matchmaking!
Shahab Kaviani, the CEO of CoFoundersLab takes you through an awesome journey in the
Startup Land. Read more.
Software as a Service or SaaS is a technology that is attracting many business customers looking for new paradigms in order to source software functionality in new ways. Web delivered or cloud hosted SaaS options can allow for more scalability, leaner IT budgets, more efficient business processes, and a “buy what you need” approach to specialized IT architectures. Here are some of the big changes that experts are predicting for the coming year in SaaS markets.
U.S. and “Emerging Markets” Customers
In general, many with an eye on the industry are expecting growth of SaaS usage in newer markets to outstrip demand in established regional markets like that of Europe – for example, this OpenView item from Jan. 15 shows how SaaS in emerging markets is expected to provide for the majority of growth, and projects current U.S. growth rates of over 5% per year, contrasting both to a more stagnant European enterprise demand.
Experts who are looking closely at the SaaS landscape are also identifying some top providers like SAP and Salesforce.com – while these vendors may not be the first choice for each and every client, they are getting recognized for specific kinds of use and prominent demand as executives and business leaders figure out exactly what each kind of web-delivered platform or service does.
PaaS and Cloud Hosting
Within the greater realm of SaaS, the idea of PaaS is also gaining traction. Platform as a Service is used specifically within SaaS to refer to a situation where the provided web-delivered software has the functionality of a platform, or in other words, the ability to support development or some other kinds of engineering. This Forbes article headlines the use of PaaS, which author Anthony Kosner calls “rentable backend platforms,” to allow developers better access to environments for building mobile apps, which leads to another main prediction for future SaaS markets.
The Mobile Revolution
In a very general sense, and also in more specific ways, lots of analysts are expecting mobile device technology to drive SaaS. This includes the idea, as mentioned above, that a lot of the ordered SaaS services will be used to create mobile apps or perform mobile marketing, and that so much of what used to be based on a desktop model will be put into 4G-capable environment that travel well with individual users. This includes not just consumer services, but internal business software, as Bring Your Own Device and other phenomena incentivize enterprise systems to move to a mobile venue.
Bypassing Internal IT Departments
Some might see this as a given, but it’s worth noting that part of using SaaS options inherently involves replacing an “internal IT” model where local techies employed directly by a company tweak elements of its software architecture as necessary. Therefore, it’s also a pretty sure thing that the internal IT departments of many businesses will start to look leaner, and that companies using SaaS will be able to simply call vendors for fixes, upgrades or improvements. There’s also the related idea that more companies will be paying by the month or by the year for software functionally, instead of buying conventional “in perpetuity” licenses and installing everything onto local networks.
All of this is part of how industry pros are reading the tea leaves for a tech change that’s currently taking the business world by storm. Think about what an SaaS approach can do for nearly any kind of evolved business process.
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In today’s business world, customer loyalty is more than just a neat idea; in many places it’s becoming an imperative. Many of those who have observed business trends for several decades have seen the idea of customer loyalty get a lot more relevant as new advances in data and analytics drive more informed business strategies, and businesses have started to get a lot more raw information about their customers. In the old days, there was the intuitive understanding that customer loyalty was a “good way of life” that helped the reputation of enterprises that tended to be local and plugged into a community, but these days, there is an additional element to why executives and business leaders see customer loyalty as so important.
Behind the idea of customer loyalty is the similar but different term “customer retention.” Using the latter, business experts are often looking more at the technical statistics around various kinds of business strategy, including the idea of the relative value of keeping existing customers compared to generating new ones.
With that in mind, there are plenty of business studies that have shown that it’s much cheaper to keep existing customers or clients than it is to acquire new ones. For example, this release from Baxter Strategies Incorporated puts the issue in terms of return on investment, stating that “ROI is up to 10 times higher for investments in customer retention than for the acquisition of new customers.” To put this another way, keeping your established clientele is many times cheaper than going after a new customer base. Most small business leaders who have built a company from the ground up can testify to the work and money that goes into finding new customers, but now there’s a lot of actual statistical data to back up this concept.
Using Customer Loyalty Programs for Customer Retention
Simply put, there is a reason that supermarkets, “big box” department stores and even pet stores are now signing their visitors up for little plastic tags that will track purchase activity and reward money spent with visible incentives, while other kinds of businesses are pushing branded credit cards offering deep discounts. Giving these incentives gives customers a reason to come back to a business, which can pay dividends, again, based on highly sophisticated market research about how to retain a customer. But these kinds of broad-based approaches are not the only ways to keep customers interested; in many smaller or more precise markets, it’s all about communication.
When sales and support take a more personal form, businesses of any size can benefit from adding customer relationship management or CRM software to their toolkits. These kinds of software help provide organized, detailed information on each individual customer, so that businesses can reach out with new information and serve their existing customer base in better, more efficient ways, and perhaps more importantly, in ways that resonate with customers instead of irritating or annoying them. In going after additional business from those who have purchased before, business experts warn companies about simply using any customer loyalty program, rather than crafting one that is carefully designed to work to the firm’s advantage, for example, in this business broadsheet from Deloitte.
Building those precisely calibrated customer loyalty models is one way that enterprises use visual CRM tools to their advantage. The kinds of at-a-glance business intelligence that CRM provides can help staffers to relate to customers better and serve them more efficiently and precisely, which can be its own kind of incentive value – customers who feel appreciated are more likely to stay with a particular vendor, even without a value card saving them a few dollars on this or that product or service. It’s the human touch that’s important to many customers, and that’s part of what CRM provides, for a business model that helps the company to avoid becoming an impersonal, faceless business.
Ringio is an intelligent business phone software that comes with built-in CRM features. Try it free to explore how it can improve your customer service and retention.