8 Secrets of Social Media Marketing That Everyone Misses

Social media marketing sounds simple enough to many newbie business owners, but they need to recognize the difference between personal social media use and professional use.

Think about it like this: if you make a good pot of coffee to serve your family, then that’s something you can manage on your own. But if you plan on serving 1,000 cups of coffee to peers over the course of a three-day business conference, then that’s an entirely more complex matter!

Everything gets more complicated when you move from personal to professional, and the results matter more, too.

Suddenly, you aren’t just posting on your Facebook when you feel like it. Nor can you just feel good about the occasional reply and like. Instead, you’re actively trying to drive business goals and represent your brand in a likeable way.

The dramatic difference between the two approaches catches many business owners off-guard. To help them out, here are a eight secrets the pros use when it comes to social media marketing — and that many small businesses overlook.

Write Down a Policy and Style Guide

Ask them to tell you what the business’s social media policy is, and you’re just as likely to get dozens of different answers. In fact, most employees may look you back blankly in the face.

A social media policy guides the brand voice as well as the decisions a business makes when posting. So, if you were trying to pick between two image types, the social media policy could help you decide on the one that aligns better with your social goals.

Set policies for employee social media use, too. Make sure they know they represent the company! Let them know what sorts of offenses could get them in hot water, including posting extreme political opinions or offensive takes.

Creating a social media style guide can similarly help make posting easier, especially if more than one employee handles the duties. Align everything in your policy and style guide so that your social media accounts can support both your brand and your marketing goals.

Target Your Content and Conversations Towards Personas

Some small businesses get HUGE social media followings …of people who would rarely buy anything from them.

There is a big gap between mass engagement and targeted engagement.

You want your posts to speak to a highly targeted audience based on the traits of your best customers. For instance, if you pitch your services to existing IT departments, don’t be shy about using jargon. Stay current on any discussion, too, so that your ideas don’t seem dated.

But if you want to offer managed IT services to regular businesses, they may not know a CAT cable from a cat collar. Feel free to post basic how-tos, and try to keep terminology approachable.

Decide upon the segments you want to speak to in order to raise your chances of success. Imagine traits of a single person in this segment, including their typical job role, the things they value most, and broad aspects of their personality. This is your “persona” for an idealized version of a target audience group.

You can even name them! That way, before you decide on a post to share or an image to use, you can ask something like: “Would Sarah the retired optometrist care about this post?”

Strategize, Set Goals, And Ditch Vanity Metrics

Always set goals for your social media usage. It should serve a concrete purpose that ultimately benefits your business.

Common social media marketing goals include:

● Raising website visits
● Generating leads through job quotes
● Helping introduce new products to people
● Getting more participants for events, contests, and things like webinars
● Upselling existing customers
● Reminding prior customers to return again
● Promoting a specific brand value, especially through philanthropy

No matter what your goals are, ensure they actually help your business get more money or improve its brand.

For instance, having a certain number of “likes” or shares from a post promoting your content should not be a goal. These are vanity metrics. Instead, you should monitor the amount of actual visits to the content on your website. Ideally, you will also have targets for the percentage of people converted from social to content to signing up for your related offer.

Carry on Actual Conversations and Engage

Don’t just post into the void or post things you, personally, want to read.

Everything you post should be targeted towards the personas you have created and tied towards business goals.

With this in mind, you want your audiences to feel like your brand is carrying on a conversation rather than just talking at them.

Respond to certain positive comments or interesting ideas. Try to see if you can get the full perspective from people who have something negative to say. Make each response feel personal, not canned.

Give your audience opportunities to take center stage. Post a question for them, like “what are your favorite ways to save money?” Ask them if they would like to see more of certain content types, or less of certain post types.

Also, make your social media use broader than just posting on your own page. Use social listening tools to monitor brand mentions and jump in on messages when you think it’s worthy of a conversation. Find other business pages, and engage with them like you would want others to engage with you.

As Andrew Kucheriavy of web development company Intechnic writes, “make [sure] your interactions are meaningful! Networking is about adding value to a relationship.” https://www.intechnic.com/blog/10-common-social-media-marketing-mistakes-to-avoid/

Make Time for Off-Schedule Posting

Many business owners go ahead and queue up an entire month’s worth of content in advance.

This is great! Having a schedule makes the social experience more consistent and professional for your audience.

But you shouldn’t be shackled to this schedule.

New articles and ideas will pop up on your radar all the time. Maybe something interesting happened in your industry this week. Maybe you just snapped a great photo of your team at the office.

Promote Content Posts to Put Them in Front of Targeted Audiences

Promoting content on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter can be highly affordable. More importantly, it can grow your audience beyond people who already follow and interact with your pages.

Start experimenting with promoting certain posts and using custom audience building features. Platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook even offer the ability to target specific companies or hyper-local areas.

If you put just a small budget behind a few key posts a month, then you can quickly multiply the number of people who see your messages. You also generate valuable data based on who does and doesn’t interact when they see certain posts.

Give yourself the chance to actually share content during opportunities like these rather than hoarding it all until next month. If you set aside, say, an hour each week to make time for unscheduled postings, then you can flesh out your existing content and make your page feel more organic.

Just remember to stick to your policy, goals, and persona guides. Also, proofread twice!

Don’t Assume Social Media Marketing Is Easy to Do Yourself

There’s a reason “social media manager” is a full-time job at most big companies. Even for small businesses, managing it all and doing it right can be tough.

On top of that, you may not have the time to dig into your data or revisit your strategies and guiding documents.

So seek out help. Share the burden with others who are qualified and whose judgement you trust.

As Social Media Week observes: “Long gone are the days when you could rely on an intern to manage your business’s social media accounts. Either hire an in-house expert, or outsource to a social media management firm.”

Crawl Before You Walk, Walk Before You Run

As with anything in business, don’t bite off more than you can chew. Stick to one or two social networks at first. Otherwise your pages could feel like soulless cookie-cutter copies or, worse, ghost towns with nary an update in months.

But if you stay focused on your goals and your principles, then you can start out small to find gradual success. Only once you get the hang of it should you start to scale out and do more.

Affiliate Marketing on Social Media

Affiliate Marketing on Social Media

You really can improve your affiliate marketing business by using social media. Some people say you don’t even need your own website to become an affiliate marketer and in many ways, with the advent of social media this is true. Try using social media marketing in these ways to improve and boost your affiliate marketing business.

Promote Quality Products and Services

It’s imperative that you keep the trust of the people you promote to. The only way to ensure that a product is amazing is to try it. At the very least try at least one product from each creator before you promote all their stuff. You want them to have top-notch customer care and a great product. After all, you’re telling your audience and your people to go buy it from that person.

Create a Redirect

When you have an affiliate link it’s usually very ugly, and if the owner of the product changes their mind about the network they want to use you’ll have a hard time finding all the times you used the link. But, if you create a redirect you only have to change that link in one place if it should change. Find instructions on how to create a redirect on this site: https://yoast.com/cloak-affiliate-links/

Provide Quality Content

Don’t just post content for the sake of publishing. Instead, focus on quality content that has the interest of your audience. You don’t have to make everything be about the product you’re promoting, but it should all be related. It’s tempting to post videos of cats but unless you’re selling pet-oriented stuff, don’t do it. Keep it the most relevant that you can.

Grow Your Email List

On every social media page there should be a way to get people to sign up for your email lists. If you get people on your email list from social media, then you can market your affiliate products directly to them, knowing they’ve already been interested.

Set Up Your Own Facebook Page

With more than a billion people using Facebook worldwide, it offers a lot of potential for affiliate marketing. The best place is to start your own Facebook page for the offer you’re trying to promote. You can then post pictures of the product, testimonials, and more right through the page.

Be Relevant on Twitter

Twitter is a great place to promote affiliate products but the stream moves so fast, and everything is so quick that you have to be extra creative to make it work. Personalize your messages, and recommend only products you know for sure are amazing and that are relevant for your audience. Use a link shortening service but ensure that they allow affiliate links.

Pinterest Encourages Commerce

Unlike a lot of social media sites, Pinterest likes it when people conduct business on their site, so they make it relatively simple to do it with Pinterest gift pages. Just include your affiliate link within any image you share. Create a separate board for your affiliate products using your website URL, and then use the item URL for each of the pins you add to the board.

If you know that the products you’ve chosen to promote are valuable for your audience, there is no shame in promoting them the same way people promote their own products. Just follow the rules for each social media network as well as the product affiliate rules as you move forward.

How to Achieve and Sustain Business Growth

How to Achieve and Sustain Business Growth

One of the most important things you can achieve as a business owner is sustained growth. That means you’ll be secure in your business for the long haul. Luckily there are strategic ways to achieve what you want.

Know Your Why

Even though you may have been in business a while, you still need to go back to your why. Your reason for being is very important. You have to have a reason that takes into consideration the problems you’re solving for your audience, because that’s where your profit lies.

Create a Powerful Brand

How your audience perceives your business is a very important component in long-term sustainable business growth. This is because the emotions that anyone feels when they think of your business is almost as important as the product at times. When you’ve built that type of brand, you’re more protected during an economic downturn.

Form Strategic Partnerships

If you don’t want to buy new businesses to spur growth, you can do the next best thing, which is to form joint venture partnerships that help you expand your audience while maintaining your current business model.

Focus on Customer Retention

A lot of times when we think of growth we think of new customers. But, your best bet for growth is to retain the customers you already have and then encourage repeat buying. You may need to develop new and complementary products to do this, depending on your business type.

Build an Active Community

When you can relate to your audience in a personal manner, it can help with business growth in a seamless way. When you have a community around your business, the members will become raving fans that help you make more sales.

synchronize-150123_640Develop Repeatable Processes

If you do nothing else, make sure that you work on creating processes in your business. From how you onboard a new client to how you actually do the work is important, because if you can create repeatable processes, you’ll eliminate the problems with uncertainty and chance.

Get a Competitive Advantage

Get to know and understand your competitive advantage. This starts with understanding exactly who your customer is, what their problems are, and how you are especially qualified to help them solve them.

Learn to Lead Mindfully

As a business owner, you’re the leader of every aspect of your business, from creation to sales. It’s important that you’re able to be mindful of all aspects of your business so you can see through to the end results of all actions taken. That takes time and an understanding of metrics.

Achieving sustained business growth is an important part of building a business that lasts for the long term. When you know exactly what to look at in your business and how to improve each aspect, you’re on the right road to achieve and sustain business growth.

When you are seeking to grow your business, make sure you first understand the various ways that you can grow. You can get more of the market share, you can expand your offerings, and you can form alliances with or acquire other businesses.

Market Penetration

This strategy involves increasing your product’s market share. This can be done in a number of ways, from improving sales pages and conversions to offering more products to existing customers.

coconut-1597233_640Market Expansion

When you studied your target audience, you may have identified complementary audiences who may want what you have to offer. You can choose one of these audiences to start marketing your offerings to in order to expand your market. This can be risky but it can also pay off big.

Product Expansion

Creating new products is a good way to grow. But, first realize who your target audience is, create audience personas, know their demographics and then create the new product. This is going to be a way to expand your market by giving your customers more of what they want.

Diversification

Another great business growth strategy is through diversification. What this means is that you’ll look at your offerings and see if there is something you can add on, to add value to what you already offer. For example, if you have a weight loss site, you could add an app to your menu offerings.

Know Your Value Proposition

Whenever you want to grow your business, it’s important to go back to the beginning and reassess what your value proposition is. This is a combination of what makes your product better than someone else’s, what the product features mean to your audience, the points of difference between your product and the competition's, and why it’s useful to your audience.

Identify Your Ideal Customer

Anytime you want to grow it’s important to do a study about your ideal customer. In fact, studying your ideal customer periodically is imperative to your success. Why? Because while your audience may stay the same, such as “women between 23 and 33,” the group as a whole changes their ideas about what is right and wrong.

graph-41423_640Know Key Performance Indicators

For each business the key indicators are different, but knowing them will help you measure success and judge how to be even more successful. A few that you might track are conversion rates, site traffic, bounce rates, and so forth. Each activity you do to improve your business has a different KPI to track.

Acquisitions and Alliances

One really great way to grow your business is to acquire other businesses or form an alliance or joint venture with a complementary business owner. The joint venture option is a great way to grow your business fast.

If you want to grow your business, put in the work necessary to get to know your audience, and do an income stream inventory to find out where your money is coming from. Then look at where you can either add products, create more value, or develop a new audience.

Tips for Successful Business Networking

Tips for Successful Business Networking

Choose a Networking Group That Works for You

One of the most important ways to get ahead in the world is to make connections with other people. These connections can lead to opportunities and joyful situations for everyone. You might meet someone who can help you boost your business to the next level, or if you’re not married you might meet your future spouse. Here are some tips on how to choose a networking group that's right for you.

Ask Your Contacts

You already have contacts that you work with on a regular basis such as vendors, contractors and colleagues. Simply ask them if they’re part of any formal networking or mastermind groups that you can check out. Be sure to ask them what types of people are in the group, and what the goals of the group are.

Know Your Reason for Joining

Before you join any group, it’s important to figure out why you want to join a networking group. For example, do you want to find customers or do you want to find partners?

goal Set Goals

When you find a group to join, set some goals. For example, if you want to get new customers you’ll need to ensure that you talk to people who can become customers. Get them on your lists, and market to them via the list. What goals do you need to set to accomplish that?

Do Your Research

Check out the leaders of the group, what the group stands for, and as much as you can about the membership. The members are very important but so is the leadership, so leave no stone unturned.

Find out the Goals of the Group

Each networking group usually has a goal of some kind. Sometimes the goal of the group makes it impossible for you to make a name for yourself, because they don’t allow members to network freely.

Know the Costs and Fees

Many networking groups are free, but others have a cost to join. They may have membership fees up front, and then of course you may need to pay for other expenses such as travel, food, and so forth in order to fully participate in the networking group.

Try Out Some Events

When you’ve done enough research to feel that the networking group is a good one, try out some events. You might have to buy a membership in some cases in order to go to an event, but it will be worth it if you’ve done your research.

Ask Questions

Don’t be afraid to ask members and leaders questions about the networking group so that you can be sure it’s the right one for you. Ask members how long they’ve been part of the group. Try to identify the movers and shakers in the group, because you want to become one.

Participate Once You Join

The biggest factor once you’ve picked a networking group or two to join is that you need to participate in the group. Volunteer, host, talk to people, and do all you can to make yourself known within the group.

Networking is a very powerful way to make your world bigger and better. You can meet all sorts of people that will help you and that you can help on your journey in business and life. But, first you must choose the right group for your needs. You might even need more than one group based on your goals.

How Often Should You Attend Networking Events?

Networking events are wonderful ways to learn more about your industry, get to know movers and shakers, and even become a mover and a shaker. There are many reasons to attend networking events that you should consider. But, if any one event doesn’t fulfill at least a couple of these factors, then there is no need to go. Attend as many events as you can afford and that you’ve researched, to fulfill at least a couple of these reasons to attend.

To Increase Visibility

The more events you can afford to attend, the more visible you and your business will become. Visibility helps your business because the more known you are, the more people trust you.

To Be the Expert

As someone who is going to a lot of events, you can be the expert for your niche at the event. Answer questions, be open, honest and transparent, and people will start to see you as the “go to” person for that niche.

To Build Relationships

Knowing people online is great, but meeting them in real life is even better. Getting to really talk to someone in person, see their face, shake their hand or hug their neck builds relationships beyond what you may have thought a business relationship would become.

statistics-1020319_640To Stay on Trend

In-person events are usually a lot more up to date on the trends than other types of events. You’re going to learn so much about what’s happening right now, what’s in the news, what’s hot right now and more.

To Connect with Key Influencers

Most key influencers attend a lot of live events. They do it because it keeps them a key influencer. You can’t be a key influencer and remain unknown or anonymous. You must meet people in person and meet them a lot.

To Learn from Others

Most networking events offer some form of learning opportunity. If you open your mind and listen to everything anyone says, as well as the speeches given, you’re going to learn so much from others about your business.

partnersTo Find Partners

One really great way to find joint venture partners is at networking events. Most of the time a person who will spend money going to a networking event isn’t a scammer, is likely pretty honest, and could even be a potential serious partner for your serious business.

To Improve Your Marketing Message

When you go to a networking event you’re forced to work on your “elevator pitch,” know your value proposition, and talk about your business. Talking it out helps you make your message even better.

Attending networking events is a really great way to build your business, learn more about your business, and make the right connections. If the events you’re choosing from fulfill some of the reasons to attend and it’s within your budget to attend, you should do it.

 

Timeless Pricing Strategies to Increase Sales

Timeless Pricing Strategies to Increase Sales

Effective Price Anchoring Strategies

You can get super-deep into the psychology behind price anchoring, which is simply offering your audience a focus price based on the fact that they tend to remember and rely on the first piece of information that they see. You often see this when a business offers a pricing table with three or four different choices.

That first piece of information that the audience sees is the anchor. Using price anchoring can help your audience feel like they’re getting a good deal and like they had a choice. It helps your customer feel like they are winners, and it’s a win-win for you too. To ensure that you practice effective price anchoring strategies, follow these tips.

Understand the Psychology

All you really need to know is that when a human sees a higher number at the start of any presentation (whether it’s in person, on the retail floor, on a website or something else), when the offer price is lower than that number they feel as if they’re getting a lot more value.

Start with a High Price

Always start with a high price in your sales copy to get your audience thinking about a higher price before you tell them about your actual price. Even if your item is still high priced, if it’s lower than the initial number you put in their head then they’re going to feel like they’re getting a bargain.

Drop the Price but Not Really

A great way to present your price is to use so-called manufacturer suggested retail price, or an
y number you want if your product is unique. If you can find a super-high priced item to compare it to, that will work too.

Add On Value

Always add on as much value as you can to anything you offer anyone. If you’re mowing grass, make sure you sweep up the mess. If you’re offering a service, do a little extra to wow your customer. If you’re offering a product, make sure the packaging is special. Whatever you can do to make it seem worth more can make a huge difference in perception.

Remember That Price Is Relative

As a business owner, if you price in the traditional way using costs and traditional markup as a factor, you could be leaving money on the table. Instead, use that as a starting point and then price according to value and based on who your audience is. You can often charge more with this in mind.

Show Other Prices on Similar Items

Even if you provide a service, you can put a price in your audience’s mind by stating that similar items / services usually cost xyz amount before telling them your amount. This puts a larger price in their head before they see the real price.

Use Package Comparisons

This works really well on memberships, monthly software fees, monthly memberships on products and even services. This is usually shown in a chart form where one of the choices is the package solution, which seems less expensive next to the anchor prices.

Don’t Discount the Value of Your Offering

One thing you want to be careful about doing is discounting your value so much that you set a new price anchor in the minds of your audience. You want them to be accustomed to well-priced, high value items from you.

Effective price anchoring works really well if you give it some thought and think outside of what you’ve learned about pricing. Lower is not always better, and do not start with low. Start with really, really high, and then display high to get the best from your products and services.

Finding Your Perfect Price Point

One of the first things you’ll need to do when you create a product or service is determine how you’re going to price it. There are a lot of thoughts about pricing and none of them are right or wrong. How you price is up to you. But, think about using a method that considers value and not just how much it cost you. This is one of the best ways to come up with the perfect price point.

Know Your Audience

You have to know everything you can about your audience, including how much money they have to spend on extra items in their budget each month. When you understand your audience you’ll not only know what type of products they need, but also how much they’re going to be willing to pay for them.

Identify Your Direct Costs

You must always cover your costs in any pricing method, because if you don’t you’ll lose money. So a great place to start is figuring out the direct cost of your product. But, if your product is digital, it’s going to be somewhat relative. For example, it might cost you 500 dollars to have the product created but you’ll not have individual per item costs to consider in your pricing.

Identify Your Indirect Costs

Sometimes there are costs such as marketing, advertising and other indirect costs that you should consider adding. For example, if you're teaching a course that you had to get a Master’s Degree to understand, then you can add in something for your education.

Identify Your Competitors’ Prices

Take a look at your best competition’s prices. It’s more than likely that this price is something you should consider being around, because if your competitor is successful it’s a price point that’s working. However, you never want to get into a situation where you’re competing on price. You want to compete on value.

Consider the Market

The market plays a huge role in pricing for pretty much every product. If you have a digital product, this is especially great for you because you don’t have incremental costs like you do with a physical product.

Understand the Value of Your Offering

Outside of direct and indirect costs there is also value. The value of your item is something that is perceived by your audience. For example, if you have an offering that will help anyone who follows it boost their income to six figures from zero, what is thvalue of that?

Ensure It’s Worth Your While

If the price you come up with feels too low, then raise it. You want the work that you do to be pleasurable for you too. If you under-price your offerings, you’re going to end up resentful instead of happy.

Test Different Prices

When you come up with a price point, try testing different prices. You can do this by having different sales pages, or you can do it by offering different levels of service on one page with the various price points.

When you come up with your perfect price point, you’ll be able to work less and make more money. The reason is that your buyers are focused on the value of your offering and you don’t have to concern yourself with selling high volumes if the price is right.

Simple Tricks to Secure Your Website

Simple Tricks to Secure Your Website

Keeping Your Data Secure When You’re Out and About

Everyone has free Wi-Fi now. When you travel or just go out to dinner, you can easily use the free Wi-Fi that is available so that you never miss out on any work, no matter where you may be. But, this access to the internet, while convenient, is also risky. Public networks have low security and you can open yourself up to someone stealing your information. Here's how to keep your data safe.

Update Your Antivirus/Spyware Software

internet-1593448_640You should make sure your protection software is always updated, but do this especially before you plan to go in public and use a public network. If you use a Windows-based PC, the native Windows Defender works just fine.

Turn Off File Sharing

This is in your PC settings; you’ll want to find any devices that can be shared and any files that can be shared, and turn that off. That way no one can break into your files and read them while the network is open.

Turn off Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS

If you’re not using these, turn them off. Obviously it’ll be on while you’re using it, and it’s okay to use it, but don’t keep it on when you’re not using it. This will help offer an extra layer of protection when you’re in public.

enter-1643453_640Use 2FA

Two-factor authentication, two-step verification, or multi-factor authentication requires a password, username, and something else that the user has on them. This will be information that only they have, such as a special code sent via mobile text.

Don’t Share Sensitive Data

When you’re on a public network, don’t share sensitive information in chats, emails, or elsewhere if you can help it. It gives the criminals who are likely watching your chat too much of a chance to take that info and use it for criminal purposes.

Get a HTTPS Everywhere Plugin

The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) offers free plugins for most browsers that you might use to help you offer a little extra layer of security when using these URLs on a public network.

switch-949109_640Log Off Sites You Visit

Rather than just x out or close out a window when you’re done, it’s better if you actually click “log off” instead. The reason is that if someone is trying to steal your info and they’re watching what you do, they can quickly use your information to get right back into that site. If you log off, they’d have to enter security info again.

Turn Devices Off

You can go a step further to protect yourself; if you’re not actually using the device, turn it off. That way someone can’t take over your device and use it for criminal purposes without your knowledge.

You don’t want strangers snooping around in your email, watching your social media conversations, or stealing your banking information while you’re shopping. If you follow these tips, you’ll stay a lot safer and keep your data more secure when you’re out and about.

How to Secure Electronic Payments

Ensuring that your customer electronic payments are secure is very important because if anything goes wrong, consumers will lose trust in your business. There could also be high financial costs now and in the future, due to the lack of trust consumers will have for your business if word gets out.

internet-1593378_640How Payments Work

Electronic payments all go through the same type of system. Whether it’s a card used in person at a business, or a card used online through a service like Amazon, the card holder gives the business access to their card and information which is encrypted by the credit card companies using a payment network.

Third Party Processors

Today, there are many third party processors that you can use that take some of the issues of security out of your hands. Processors like PayPal, Stripe.com and others take that worry from your hands and hopefully their security is good enough that you never run into problems.

Merchant Accounts

Another way to accept credit cards is to get a merchant account. Merchant accounts are set up separately from your bank account and only take credit card payments. They often come with the equipment you need to take cards, as well as information about how to set it up on your website. You’ll need to learn about PCI compliance.

Set Up a Process

If you’re going to take credit cards, especially if you’re using your own merchant account, you need to set up a process that you and everyone follow to ensure security. Never write down card numbers, always follow the rules that you’ve been given by the processor, and do it the same each time.

letter-1831918_640Get Signatures

When you have your own merchant account it’s important to ensure that you get your customer’s signature on the credit card receipt or invoice. You can send invoices electronically and ask them to sign them using a signing service like DocuSign.com.

You Are Libel

No matter what, if someone uses someone’s card fraudulently, you are libel. The business always pays for the fraud, not the consumer. Therefore, it is very important for you to verify that anyone buying anything from you with a card is using the card legally.

Know the Signs of Fraud

Watch out for these signs: buyer buys via email; says they’re hearing impaired; makes a really large order; uses international shipping; card may be initially declined, then order is split; offers special instructions involving third parties; items are easily resold. It’s best to not take the order than take the chance if too many red flags go off.

pexels-photo-4Get Written Permission for Recurring Charges

If you do want to have your clients pay you via recurring payments, it’s important to get permission for charging their card again each month. Having that written permission will go far if they ever dispute the charge.

Being secure with electronic payments is imperative, whether you’re making them or taking them. Don’t use questionable websites, and be careful about who you buy from because any business can potentially be set up as a scam. Plus, pay attention to any anomalies when someone is buying.

How Botnets Damage a Business

Let's start with defining what a botnet is, in case you've never heard of the term before. A botnet is a network of computers, sometimes called a “zombie army,” all infected with the same virus. The zombie army is controlled by criminals. What is done with the zombie army later is up to the criminals. You can get infected the same way you get any computer virus, via malware by accidentally downloading it. Unfortunately, botnets pose a serious threat to businesses today.

Lost Time and Money

When any type of virus attacks your network, it will be costly in terms of both time and money. You might lose a lot of data that is important, or it may be corrupt, and it will take time and money to fix and recreate what was lost.

Loss of Trust

Unfortunately, if your website, computer or email list is ever taken over by a botnet, you may unknowingly send spam to others on social media, via email, and even infect others via your website. This can result in a loss of trust by the public of your business. It can even destroy a business.

legal-1143114_640Legal Issues

One well-known example is the fact that a lot of illegal botnets are currently hosted on the Amazon cloud. They’re not purposefully hosting criminals, but due to their cheap hosting and the ease of signing up, some people believe Amazon and other hosts like them should be held more accountable for problems.

Manpower Issues

When you have to use your people to fix these types of problems, it takes them away from what they should be doing. It doesn’t even matter whether you have to hire someone specially to take care of it or you have to divert someone, the issue still causes problems with your contractors and employees and takes them away from what they should be doing.

Infects Your Cloud

More than likely if you do business online at all, you use the cloud. Almost everyone does today, even without a business. They use banks, online appointments at their doctor’s office, email, and so forth. As a business owner you likely use the cloud for much more, and if your cloud is infected it can cause your information to be banned.

no-spam-sign-on-laptop-screen_zk2rn4suSpam Problems

If you have an intranet that is being slammed by spam, it’s likely your business has been infected with a botnet. They’ve taken all the email addresses of your employees or members and use them as their own.

Click Fraud

If you run ads online, or have shares that you want engagement with on social media, it can be very disheartening to realize that a lot of your likes are fraudulent. This happens a lot on Facebook ads to get more likes for your page. This is costly, and messes up your conversion numbers.

More Expensive IT Costs

Having to worry about becoming part of a zombie army can be very expensive in terms of IT costs. Not only do cloud-based companies have to spend more on security, you as an individual also have to really double check everything and even hire more knowledgeable people to ensure you don’t get trapped.

To protect yourself from being part of a botnet “zombie army,” it’s imperative that you keep all your software updated, your computer updated, and use only reputable cloud companies that keep up to date on security.

The Importance of Backing Up Your Data

When you have any type of business data or even important personal data on your computer, it’s imperative that you back it up. Even if you have data online in the cloud in the form of WordPress websites or other types of websites, it’s imperative to back up that data often because things happen.

Data

You’re Not Infallible

Sometimes mistakes happen, and you or anyone else can make the mistakes. You might try to update your WordPress website and make a mistake somehow and lose everything. If you’ve backed up the data, then it will literally only take a few minutes to fix it.

You Are Required

In some instances, depending on the type of data you have, you may be required to keep it for a certain number of years, like taxes. If you deal with other types of private information, you may be required to save it in a certain way. The best way to ensure that you have the data you need is to back it up.

Disasters Happen

The fact of the matter is that disasters happen, both man made and nature made. Because of this, you can assume that you will lose your data due to some sort of disaster eventually. It could be something as simple as a power outage that knocks out your hard drive, or a massive tornado, flood, or worse.

neo-urban-1734494_640Downtime Can Kill Your Business

Statistics regarding lost data are astounding. More than 40 percent of businesses that suffer a huge data loss do not recover and end up going out of business. Why risk it when it’s so simple to back up and save your business.

Saves a Lot of Time

The fact is, even if you don’t suffer some sort of data loss, having backups can save a lot of time. In fact, backing up your data on a regular basis or any time you create anything new can save time, because you won’t have to struggle to recreate the data or do it over again if you lose it or mess it up in some way.

Crashes Happen

Sorry, but technology isn’t perfect. You can get a virus, the thing can overheat, it might just crash for no reason and you’ve lost it all. We’re so lucky today to have the option to back up in the cloud, because it virtually eliminates multiple system failures that can cause you to lose all your data.

Thieves Exist

A lot of people think their computer and their external drive or jump drives are safer than the cloud. But nothing could be further from the truth. People forget that thieves when they break into your business or your home will just take your stuff, hard drive, external drive and all.

It’s Inexpensive Today

Having a fancy backup system used to be expensive, but today it’s not. You can literally save all your data in the cloud for less than 20 dollars a month and never run out of space. Look at Dropbox.com, Carbonite.com, Mozy.com and others. The one you choose depends on your needs.

The importance of backing up your data can’t be overstated. You’ll save time, money, stress and your business if you start backing up all your data as often as possible.

Types of Fraud That Target Businesses

Phishing is at an all-time high. This is where scammers try to get any type of sensitive information in many different ways to use to steal from a business or a person. They will use means such as breaking into email by stealing passwords in hopes to find information in the email, or to use the email for more phishing scams by pretending to be you when they’re not. You can protect yourself if you understand the various types of fraud that is targeting your business.

Overpayment Trick

This scam requires that the scammer buy expensive items and overpay by check. When the business gets the overpayment, they are then asked to just send the overpayment back to them via wire transfer. Of course, the first check is cancelled, no order is made and now the business is out the money they transferred to the thief.

scamPhishing Scams

Usually these are messages that look to be sent by a real company but aren’t. They will download a virus onto your computer that will get the details of your bank and other private information that you don’t want them to have.

Award Scams

Someone informs you that your business has won an award. But of course you have to pay a membership fee to get the award and you’ll be charged this membership fee, usually every single year. There is no real organization and it’s just a way to get your money.

internet-1593358_640False Orders

This happens to a lot of online businesses, whether they sell information products or physical products. Someone uses someone else’s credit card to buy a lot of merchandise which they then either return or sell to someone else.

False Bills

Often scammers send business owners fake bills to trick them into thinking they owe the money. This happens with domain renewals and other issues that look real when you get them but aren’t real.

IRS Scams

If you get a phone call from the “IRS” telling you that you owe back taxes and you know that you don’t (and even if you do), this is not how they’ll contact you. The IRS sends letters, and you call them. Not the other way around.

Fake Loan Scam

You’ll get a phone call that you’ve been awarded the opportunity due to the government or the president or some other nonsense to get a special loan for your business at a very low interest rate. These people really only want your personal information; you’ll never get the loan.

These scams and more are quite common, but unfortunately many people fall for them every single day. This is why they are common – they work. If you don’t want to be a victim of a scam, be sure to stay educated on the current scams, research anything that seems too good to be true, and do your due diligence to ensure that information is correct.

How to Secure Electronic Payments

Ensuring that your customer electronic payments are secure is very important because if anything goes wrong, consumers will lose trust in your business. There could also be high financial costs now and in the future, due to the lack of trust consumers will have for your business if word gets out.

How Payments Work

Electronic payments all go through the same type of system. Whether it’s a card used in person at a business, or a card used online through a service like Amazon, the card holder gives the business access to their card and information which is encrypted by the credit card companies using a payment network.

Third Party Processors

Today, there are many third party processors that you can use that take some of the issues of security out of your hands. Processors like PayPal, Stripe.com and others take that worry from your hands and hopefully their security is good enough that you never run into problems.

internet-1593256_640* Merchant Accounts – Another way to accept credit cards is to get a merchant account. Merchant accounts are set up separately from your bank account and only take credit card payments. They often come with the equipment you need to take cards, as well as information about how to set it up on your website. You’ll need to learn about PCI compliance.

Set Up a Process

If you’re going to take credit cards, especially if you’re using your own merchant account, you need to set up a process that you and everyone follow to ensure security. Never write down card numbers, always follow the rules that you’ve been given by the processor, and do it the same each time.

Get Signatures

When you have your own merchant account it’s important to ensure that you get your customer’s signature on the credit card receipt or invoice. You can send invoices electronically and ask them to sign them using a signing service like DocuSign.com.

You Are Libel

No matter what, if someone uses someone’s card fraudulently, you are libel. The business always pays for the fraud, not the consumer. Therefore, it is very important for you to verify that anyone buying anything from you with a card is using the card legally.

iphone-624709_640Know the Signs of Fraud

Watch out for these signs: buyer buys via email; says they’re hearing impaired; makes a really large order; uses international shipping; card may be initially declined, then order is split; offers special instructions involving third parties; items are easily resold. It’s best to not take the order than take the chance if too many red flags go off.

Get Written Permission for Recurring Charges

If you do want to have your clients pay you via recurring payments, it’s important to get permission for charging their card again each month. Having that written permission will go far if they ever dispute the charge.

Being secure with electronic payments is imperative, whether you’re making them or taking them. Don’t use questionable websites, and be careful about who you buy from because any business can potentially be set up as a scam. Plus, pay attention to any anomalies when someone is buying.