How to Secure Your Business’s Data

Natural disasters, trespassers, hackers and human error can all pose a threat to your critical data. If you have failed to undertake the appropriate measures to secure your data, your organization might be forced to pay the price.

Unfortunately, a data breach or loss could have a negative impact on your operations, and it might be difficult or impossible to recover from the disaster. To ensure your company runs safely and smoothly, find out how to secure your business’s data.

Employee Education

It was reported that 60% of all security breaches in 2016 were carried out by insiders. Unfortunately, this means the biggest risk to your data could potentially be your employees. Your staff could knowingly or unwittingly cause a data breach or loss, which could affect your company finances and reputation.

For this reason, you must educate your employees on the importance of data security. Brief them on how they can secure essential information and provide regular cybersecurity courses and annual refresher training.

Invest in the Best VMware Cloud Hosting

If you want to take control of every network resource in one location, VMware cloud hosting is an intelligent choice. You can configure your virtual data center to your exact specification, and can use tools to create secure internal networks, protective firewalls, and vApps. Also, as it offers Backup as a Service, it can provide peace of mind when it comes to your network and data. Get in touch with Access Group to find out more.

Choose Your Passwords Wisely

Everyone knows that strong passwords are essential for data security. However, you must also avoid using the same password for multiple systems, as hackers will almost certainly try a password for your other accounts. While using the same password might help you to remember them, it can also leave your business vulnerable to attacks. So, vary your passwords and encourage your employees to do the same.

Routinely Review Authorizations

Get into the habit of reviewing your account authorizations, which will ensure the right people have access to your sensitive data. You also should restrict access to various employees, so they can only use the data they need and nothing more.

Routinely monitoring your authorization will allow you to track who has access to the data, so you can quickly remove a user or narrow down the culprit following an internal breach.

Overwrite Deleted Files

You might think a file has gone forever once you hit delete, but you would be wrong. The data will remain on a disk, which could be easily recovered by a talented cyber-criminal. If you want to ensure the critical information is lost forever, you must overwrite it.

Install Effective Spam Filters

Ensure you never fall victim to a clever email scam by installing a solid spam filter onto an email system. Spammers have mastered sending seemingly legitimate emails, which you or your employees could fall for one day. Effective spam filters will, therefore, send fishy emails directly into your junk folder.

How to Ensure Your Business Stays Relevant

One of the hardest things about running a business from year to year is trying to stay relevant. If a business is not relevant, then few people are going to use it for their needs; they will look to other companies who seem fresher and more in line with their needs and wants instead. The good news is it is actually pretty easy to stay relevant if you put a little effort in.

Here are just a few, mostly very simple, things you can to do to ensure that your business stays relevant now and in the future:

Monitor Your Competitors

Perhaps, the best way to ensure that you stay relevant in your industry is to watch what your competitors are doing, or more specifically, to watch what your competitors who are doing well are doing. After all. If they’re appealing to their target audience and making lots of sales, they are doing something right and if you follow their example – not copying, but taking inspiration – you will be able to do the same and ensure that your company is as fresh as any in your niche.

Take a Look at Your Sales Data

If you run a business, you should absolutely be collecting any and all data relating to your sales, so if you aren’t already doing that, put something in place so that you can track sales trends now. Then, take a look at your data to see what your customers are buying, what customers who keep coming back come for and which content/sales pages get the most views. This should give you some idea as to what your customers want from you right now, so you can give them more of that and less of the stuff that they do not seem to be as interested in.

Consider Rebranding

Company rebranding is a very good way of overhauling your company’s image and bringing it more into line with the modern market. This can be as simple as changing your logo to reflect current trends, or something more involved like overhauling your website, all printed materials, and even the products you sell. What you need o do will depend on just how out of touch your business has become, but if you keep on top of trends, then going forward, you should find it all much easier.

Read Trade Magazines

You can’t stay relevant if you don’t know what relevant means to your business, which is why you should always make time to read trade magazines. Not only d they give you a good idea of what is popular now, but also what will be popular in the future, which means you can get ahead of the curve and start making changes that will ensure that you are the go-to business for new trends before they break and that will give your company lots of kudos.

If you do all of the above, and you review the way your business is going on a regular basis, it will not be hard for you to stay relevant!


Achieving More With Your Visual Marketing Strategy

Visual marketing is a very powerful tool when it comes to spreading the word about a business. That’s why posters, billboards, and other forms of advertising involving imagery have been so popular for decades. But marketing techniques are always changing. In this technological age, new types of visual marketing are being developed all the time. Over recent years, video marketing has had a massive impact on the success of many businesses. If your own visual marketing strategy has been lacking then these suggestions might get you back on track.

Improve your own knowledge.

Reading this article is a good place to start, but you also need to become an expert in the field of marketing. Whether you’re running a million-dollar empire or a small business, the rules of advertising are always the same and the role of the employer is always the same. It’s up to you to drive your company in new directions as the world of marketing changes around you. You might even want to study for a marketing masters online to improve your knowledge on this topic. This will help you to become a much more valuable asset to your company when it comes to planning visual marketing campaigns because you’ll understand the ins and outs of this complicated business sector. It’s important to be more than a delegate if you want to achieve more with your visual marketing strategy. You have the ideas in your head, but you need to know how to make them a reality.

Utilize influencers on YouTube.

You really need to do some research on influencer marketing if you know very little about the subject. It’s an incredibly powerful online tool when it comes to reaching a wider audience of people. If you can find a social media influencer with followers who’d be interested in the kind of business you run then this is the perfect opportunity for you to reach them organically. Essentially, these influencers could “vouch” for your brand or a particular product. People are more likely to trust somebody they willingly follow on social media rather than a business that’s blatantly advertising to them.

And this is definitely the case when it comes to video marketing. You should utilize influencers on YouTube to spread your message. If a YouTuber wears your merch in a video or uses a product of yours then their followers are going to be much more impacted by this than a typical advert on the side of a website. It’s easier for somebody to make a judgement on your brand when they see it in a video. It feels a little more real. They’re seeing your brand or its services in action. They’re seeing a real person (the influencer) using your brand in a real way.

Always include a call to action.

One of the best ways to maximize the success of your visual marketing campaign (or any marketing campaign) is to include a call to action. You need to let your customers or potential customers know what you want them to do next. If you want them to follow you on social media then you need to ask; most people won’t automatically do so. If you have a YouTube channel (which every business should) then it helps to include CTA links in your videos. If people can jump straight to your business website or social media pages from a video then you’re making life easier for them.

Why are you scared of SEO?

Whether you run a startup or a multinational corporation, you’ve heard about search engine optimization. SEO can get incredible results.  But many business owners are afraid of investing in SEO.

Why are you scared of SEO?

More Traffic

Businesses invest in SEO to get more visitors to their site. Looking only at the numbers – is there a difference of 10,000 to 50,000 monthly visits?

Yes.  The average conversion rate for an ecommerce website is 2%. So, 2% of website visitors become a paying customer. Based on 10,000 visitors, that means 200 will make a purchase. With 50,000 visitors, the total number of paying customers bumps up to 1,000 per month.

SEO is done for purpose of building traffic. Based on your industry and your products/services you can see the return on investment makes sense.

The ROI of SEO is Excellent

SEO provides quantifiable results which you can easily track and add attribution to.  Track and measure each aspect of your SEO campaign – you can then see what works and what the ROI is. Each increase in ranking, traffic and number of conversions can be measured and you will see how it affects your bottom line.

Are you Getting the Right Kind of Traffic

There’s a reason why organic traffic converts so well in comparison to paid, outbound traffic. People who type in Chicago jewelry are looking for a place in their city where they can buy a necklace or a ring for a gift. They are actively looking for a solution and you are there to instantly provide it.

Outbound marketing methods such as paid ads are much more intrusive. Imagine the same visitor looking for a necklace and being pushed an ad for designer clothing simply because of their search filters and location. Which of the two scenarios are more likely to turn a visitor into a buyer? The first one – as the visitor gets exactly what they were looking for.

Good SEO has Effects Offline

If you’re in an appliance store looking for a new TV, naturally, you’ll look up some reviews online. By going online, you have a high chance of landing on someone’s website, where that same TV is being sold.

The review is good, and would you know it, they also have a better price than the store you are in at the moment. You can see where this is going – you’re more likely to order online and get a better deal, because a website with good SEO has shown you the way.

SEO has quite an effect in the offline world. The vast majority of people who make purchases nowadays go online first to search for a review. This is the perfect chance to steer them towards your website. An experienced SEO agency will know exactly how to help you beat brick and mortar stores using white hat SEO practices and make sure buyers end up at your website instead.

In fact, SEO experts strongly advise optimization especially if you have a local store. This is extremely important for places such as bars, restaurants, hotels etc. According to Google’s own stats, 50% of people who do a local search, visit the store that they found on that very same day. Still not convinced? 18% of local searches on mobile resulted in a sale, also in the same day.

By having a website optimized for local search, you’ll make sure that if someone searches for a restaurant, Google won’t take them to the nearest one – it will take them to yours, since it has flawless SEO.

You Don’t Have to do SEO Yourself

SEO is not the only inbound strategy at your business’ disposal. However, it’s the only one that can completely be outsourced to a third party. While it’s necessary to have someone knowledgeable write your own content and do your social media marketing, you can safely outsource your SEO to an agency and sit back and relax while magic happens.

Of course, this is only valid if you have great content already. From personal experience, it often happens that business owners want to build links, but they don’t have anything worth linking to on their website and blog. Make sure to cover your content before digging into serious SEO campaigns.

Your Competition is Already Using it

If you’ve been slow to add SEO to your marketing arsenal, your competition probably hasn’t been sleeping. In fact, depending on how much work your competition has done, it can be incredibly difficult to make an entrance using SEO and get significant rankings.

By starting an SEO campaign in time, you ensure a solid foundation for years to come. By doing some simple on-page optimization and investing moderately into SEO, you can gain a considerable edge over the competition.

In fact, in some cases, SEO may be the only way to outsmart your competition. If your competitors have large amounts of money to spend on PPC ads and social media advertising, you will be unable to beat them on this front. They may not have the perseverance and time to devote to SEO, and this can be your time to take the crown.

It Can get Great Results, Cheap

For many business owners out there, shelving out money on marketing is one of the hardest things they have to do. You can rarely see the effects, and some marketing strategies can cost and arm and a leg, without getting solid results.

Fortunately, getting SEO services is very cost efficient. With other strategies such as banner ads or content marketing, you’re aiming at the entire world wide web. SEO allows you to pinpoint precisely those people who are interested in your products and services.

Don’t get it confused – SEO is not dirt cheap. In fact, SEO experts can charge anything from $75 to $150 per hour for their services. However, these amounts are only large if you think of SEO as a cost, rather than investment.

Like other inbound strategies (such as content marketing), SEO provides great return on investment and leads that come in through SEO are on average 61% cheaper than those from outbound strategies, such as paid ads or cold calling.

Increased Brand Awareness

What’s the value of having a #1 position in Google for a certain keyword, such as London plumber, for example? The practical value is the number of visitors, conversions and paid customers coming through from organic search. However, there’s another valuable aspect of SEO done properly.

By having a website that ranks well, you get more exposure to your site. Top positions mean a jump in website impressions, and it allows customers to associate your brand with certain keywords and services. Wouldn’t it be nice if people started associating plumbers in London with exactly your workshop?

Another psychological element is that companies that rank on the first page of search results are perceived as more trustworthy.

In the end, the benefits of landing a #1 spot on Google go far beyond monetary incentives. You’ll be able to build awareness and stay on top of visitors’ minds, which is added value to an already great deal for the money invested.

SEO Beats Paid Advertising, Every Time

Over time, web visitors have grown accustomed to ads. So much so, that many of us simply skip them when browsing Google or other websites. In fact, you probably skip the paid suggestions in search results as well.

Why isn’t PPC all that great? Simply because it only works for as long as you’re paying. Once you stop forking out cash, the ads are gone. On the other hand, a properly set up SEO campaign can generate results for months in advance.

If you’re still not convinced, here’s a stat to pay attention to – SEO search engine results get 90% more clicks than those coming in from PPC. Couple that with high costs to get started with PPC, and SEO is clearly the better option of the two.

Better Website Usability

This may sound unlikely, but SEO will bring benefits to your website beyond better rankings and more revenue. As best SEO practices focus on the structure of your website and posts, you will inevitably make for a better user experience.

Besides this, a well-optimized website is lightning fast. The attention span of the average website visitor nowadays is only mere seconds. Do you want to make them spend that time looking at the loading icon or at your latest, hottest product, which happens to be on discount? By using the right SEO tactics, you will be able to significantly decrease the time it takes for your website’s pages to load.

You know what else Google values, besides great structure, good links and lightning-fast load times? Security. Another major ranking factor for websites, security can greatly influence a website’s ranking. Therefore, all properly optimized websites have greater security levels. Needless to say, this will make customers more comfortable with leaving their hard-earned cash in your hands, as they will know the chances of fraud are minimized.

If a site is well structured, has a clean layout and all the content is organized into proper headings and subheadings, two things will happen. First, it will be easier for Google to scan it and find what’s relevant. Second, your users will have a much easier time going through pages and scanning the content.

When done right, proper on-page SEO can bring a multitude of benefits, making both search engines and site visitors happy.

Can You Do SEO on Your Own?

The short answer is – yes, you can absolutely do some aspects of SEO on your own. If you run your own website, you’re probably doing something in regards to SEO already. You can download the Yoast plugin for WordPress and follow the directions to take care of your on-page SEO factors. In regards to off-page, you may be better off consulting an expert.

If you are serious about achieving tangible, measurable results with SEO, it is much better to outsource the task to professionals. You will get better results in less time, and you will probably spend less money as well. Think about it, would you rather be learning about SEO or doing more for your business and increasing your profit?

About Author:

Neil Helson is the marketing manager at Blurbpoint Media, SEO, SMM and digital marketing company. He is passionate about helping small businesses and startups grow online.

Eight Ways To Increase Productivity In The Workplace

Employee productivity is necessary to keep your company thriving. If productivity is halted, so too will operations. If you notice internal projects aren’t be completed at a reasonable pace, or observe that your team isn’t motivated enough to properly reach milestones and deadlines, it’s probably time to restructure the way manage operations. For instance, if you were a broker and wanted to build the best real estate websites, you’d need your staff to be as efficient as possible, and part of being productive is ensuring workplace happiness.

It’s not uncommon for the businesses of today to have 40-hour work weeks–but how much of that time is actually spent being productive?

There are several things you can do to increase productivity

Shuffle The Routine

If your staff is working on the same tasks each week, it can be easy for them to succumb to burnout. You can alleviate this by switching up their routine from time to time.

Begin by having a 1:1 meeting with them to learn more about their long-term interests, as well as their hobbies. For instance, perhaps a member of your sales team is a great writer, and wants to try their hand at penning a blog post. Give employees the chance to have some flexibility with their tasks, which can make them feel more valued and make their days feel less robotic and monotonous.

The project management application Evernote does a great job of achieving this. Their Officer Training program allows staff to sign up to attend two extra meetings per month in any department. For example, a member of the marketing team would be allowed to sit in on a coding/development meeting to learn more about what it takes to build the product on the backend.

Programs like the aforementioned allow your team to gain insight about how other parts of the business are operating to form a whole, and to gain more interest in what it takes to run a business and meet set goals.

Don’t Micromanage Your Staff

There’s a fine line between managing your team and micromanaging them. Micromanaging can be much more hurtful than helpful, and it can definitely have a negative impact on your staff’s productivity. Furthermore, when management micromanages their teams, it inadvertently encourages other managers and supervisors to follow their lead. This permeates the culture and can create a toxic environment.

When micromanaging occurs, it can create a slew of issues. Among them include:

  • Your staff’s inability to make even the most basic decisions on their own
  • Can lead to high employee turnover
  • Results in low company morale
  • Has a negative impact on workplace relationships, particularly between staff and management

Micromanaging creates a vicious cycle of poor work and behavior. When managers observe and hover over their staff too frequently, those employees can become nervous and fearful, resulting in poor performance. And when the staff performs poorly, managers hover even more. Give your staff some freedom and space to perform to their full capacity.

Instill More Autonomy

During an interview with Hubspot, productivity expert Robby Slaughter explained how the most effective tool for increasing productivity is for managers to give their employees freedom.

“The best way to encourage productivity is to encourage individuals to take ownership over how they manage their own time and resources,” says Slaughter. “This is a wonderfully self-correcting process: we want people who are self-starters and are able to operate independently. Granting workers freedom over when, how, and where they work creates proof of their work ethic in a way that trying to control them cannot.”

As previously mentioned, freedom in the workplace can go a long way. It’s important that management trust their employees to do their jobs, and there’s no better way to demonstrate this than by instilling additional autonomy. Studies have shown that overall autonomy provides better results in the workplace. In fact, one study even found that employees are more motivated by autonomy than they are by financial rewards.

Reward Good Results

A little recognition goes a long way. You should be working towards rewarding your employees for a job well done. And there are many different ways to reward your staff: you can offer monetary bonuses, deliver gifts during meetings, and even just acknowledge their hard work in front of others, as well as in private. Words of encouragement can be equally as effective. By rewarding them, you motivate them to work harder for the company. Check out this detailed article on 52 creative ways to reward your employees.

Provide Great Equipment

It’s difficult for your staff to be motivated and productive if they don’t have the proper equipment to do their job stress-free. Slow computers, old printers, and outdated equipment can stunt productivity. High-quality, efficient products help your staff get their work done much quicker and easier. Reach out to your staff and talk to them about what they would need to do their job as best as possible.

Communicate Goals

You’d be surprised to discover how much more employees are motivated if they understand more about what’s going on behind management doors. Communicating your goals allows your staff to feel much more involved, and gives them something to strive towards. As a founder or manager, ask yourself:

  • Do my employees know our company vision and where we’re headed?
  • Do they understand how we provide value?
  • Does the staff know what we are trying to achieve, considering short and long-term goals?
  • What do we need to do to progress? How will we do it?

How you communicate is important, too. Rather than just communicate from a top-down, management to staff level, your employees should be involved in early conversations and planning discussions. This involvement allows them to feel more inclined to achieve those goals.

Build Company Culture

Workplace culture is the embodiment of your company’s personality. Company culture refers to the environment you curate with the business persona in mind. It’s what allows your employees to enjoy being in the workplace.

Better workplace culture can also reduce workplace stress. According to the American Psychological Association, roughly $500 billion is lost in the U.S. economy, and 550 million work days are lost due to workplace-related stress. And when the culture of the workplace is great, employees are more likely to be productive and happy. In fact, employees actually prefer workplace well-being over material benefits.

One of the first things you want to do is get feedback from your employees. Send out a survey and invite them to make suggestions on how to better the workplace environment. Be sure to gather information on what’s most important to them. For example, would they value company hours? Remote work? Free Friday lunches? Office snacks? Use the survey to gain a better understanding of what your team would enjoy the most, and what’s most likely to boost company morale.

You should also take a look at how different companies are building their own cultures. This allows you to become inspired and motivated by some of the best businesses.
It’s not all about workplace perks, either. Workplace culture is also about building out your core values, and nurturing your team. Fostering a great workplace community means that you’ll need to ensure that there aren’t other issues that are stifling the culture you’re trying to build. For instance, even with happy hours and free lunches, micromanagement can destroy employee happiness and lessen the value of your efforts to build culture.

Offer Remote Work

Several researchers have found that remote work can be highly beneficial. A State of Workplace Productivity Report found that 65% of surveyed full-time employees said they worked better when they worked remotely. Another study from ConnectSolutions found that remote workers worked more efficiently and were 52% less likely to request time off.

Because of this, not only does it make employees happier, but can lead to significant cost savings for businesses. In fact, IBM was able to save $100 million annually since the company launched their remote-work program. And many businesses are catching onto this trend: a Global Workplace Analytics survey revealed that remote work among non self-employed telecommuters has seen growth of 103%.

As you can see, remote work is a win-win situation for employers and employees. Consider starting your own remote work program. You could offer remote work for employees one day per week (to keep things fluid, for example, you might allow your staff to all work remotely on Wednesdays). Another option would be to offer a set amount of remote days per month for each employee, and allow them to choose when they want to take advantage of this option.

As you build out your remote work program, create guidelines and build a system that makes your program run as efficiently as possible. For example, train your team on how to use conference systems (like Zoom or Google Hangouts) that make it easy to have remote meetings. You’ll also want to be sure that your staff is trained on best security practices for accessing and sharing documents on outside networks.