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  • 5 Summer Tech Initiatives for Small Businesses

    Thursday, July 19, 2018 by
    summer tech initiatives for small business

    5 Summer Tech Initiatives for Small Businesses

    The summer is a slow time of year for most businesses, with many customers and clients out enjoying the longer days and extended vacations. This makes summer the perfect time to implement new technology. With your business and employees less stressed by pressing deadlines and client demands, you can finally tackle some of those technology projects or updates that have been put on the back burner. Bolster your tech before this season ends with these tech initiatives. HostGator Website Builder

    1. Digital Security

    Big, high-profile business aren’t the only ones being attacked by cyber criminals. According to Verizon’s 2018 Data Breach Investigations Report, small businesses represent 58 percent of data breach victims. Per the report, the majority of breaches (73 percent) came from outsider threats, while 50 percent came from organized criminal groups and 12 percent involved nation-state or state-affiliated actors. To protect your business from expensive and damaging cyber attacks, it’s important to implement improved digital security. For example, if you don’t have an IT team, consider hiring consultants who can mitigate threats and monitor regularly for you. Use the summer months to educate your employees as well. You may even want to start a cyber security series, sharing a new digital security tip for employees to learn and then follow each week.  

    2. Mobile Responsive Website

    More and more consumers are accessing information and purchasing goods via their mobile device. According to eMarketer’s estimates, smartphone retail mcommerce sales in the U.S. increased more than 50 percent in 2017, to total $102.14 billion. mcommerce sales In order to successfully compete, it’s important for small business owners to have a mobile responsive website. This makes it easy for customers to find and purchase your products or services, or simply read about what you have to offer—which is, of course, step one in the buying process. To do so, start with your development team. Is your website already mobile responsive? If so, head online and test it with a number of mobile browsers. What’s showing up wrong? What’s not working properly? Better yet: do what the big tech companies do and “eat your own dog food.” In this case, that means requiring employees to only use your app or website via mobile for an entire week. You’ll be sure to come up with a long list of issues that need to be addressed.  

    3. Better Developer Training

    Employee training is valuable for all employees, but especially those in tech-focused roles, like your development team. With technology changing at what feels like the speed of light, and more and more tasks on their plate each day, it’s crucial that they stay up-to-date. As you look to improve your online training for this team, start by asking them what they want to learn about. “If you haven’t asked your technical talent what they want to learn, you could be missing an opportunity to customize your learning strategy, and more importantly, to build your business. Your technical talent is often closest to problems that will produce cost savings and or increase sales, service or efficiency if solved. Therefore, they often know what they need to learn—so ask,” suggests DeveloperAcademy.io. Use their answers, in addition to tech leadership preferences, to start searching for a better tool to implement the training they requested. Look for platforms that allow for customized lessons, dedicated implementation and ongoing development support, and gamification. All of these features make it more valuable for your employees, and easier to manage from your end.  

    4. Collaboration Tools

    With so many companies choosing to hire remote employees, it’s become imperative to implement better collaboration and communication tools. This is the only way for teams to work together without being in the same office, and luckily, technology makes it easy to facilitate. There are likely a number of collaboration and communication needs between your various employees. Consider onboarding a variety of the following tools to mitigate those woes:  

    5. Chatbots

    Chatbots are computer programs that use artificial intelligence to converse with with customers or website visitors. They’re becoming increasingly popular within the small businesses community because they can help you save both time and money. The experts at BusinessTown explain: “Hiring a developer to build a basic bot is remarkably easy and affordable … Chatbots are [also] an affordable means of providing a better customer experience. They don’t take time away from otherwise busy employees and don’t cost much money to use.” With chatbots, your business can run 24/7 without ever having to pay an employee overtime. What’s more, chatbots can help improve customer engagement and satisfaction as their needs and questions are being answered any time, day or night. Check out Impact’s list of chat bots to check out in 2018 to find the best one for your needs.  

    It’s Time for Tech Initiatives

    Now’s the time to get started on the projects that make the most sense for your business. Pick the tech initiatives that will help you work faster and more efficiently, while mitigating issues you’re currently experiencing. When your busy season comes around, you’ll be glad you took the time to make these updates now—and your employees will thank you too.
  • 3 Digital Security Tips for Your Small Business

    Wednesday, June 20, 2018 by
    digital security tips for small business

    3 Simple Tips to Keep Your SMB’s Digital Assets Secure

    While most news stations report only on the attacks and data breaches of large organizations, your small business is just as much at risk, if not more. In 2017, 61 percent of SMBs have experienced an attack and 54 percent have experienced a data breach, according to a report from Keeper Security. Your company may be small, but that’s what makes it more vulnerable. To an attacker, that means you're less likely to have a solid security strategy in place, and even less likely to have a cybersecurity team monitoring your digital assets. Just because your business is small doesn't mean you have to accept this potential security threat. Instead, protect yourself against an attack or breach with the right insurance, knowledge of what’s most vulnerable, and better employee security management.  

    1. Identify Vulnerable Assets

    Only 37 percent of small businesses feel very confident about the security of their digital asset storage. In such a remote and collaborative culture, assets need to be readily available to a large number of employees, if not most or all of them. This makes keeping them secure challenging. The good news is, not all assets should be of concern. An old press release or recent product photos aren’t likely a target for hacking or breach. The following assets are vulnerable to attack, however, and should be protected as such, according to Leonardo Cooper, CEO of VaultOne: Domain name registrar: You may not even consider your domain name as an asset, but it is, and it’s one of your most vulnerable. “Management should put access to the domain name credentials in a vault or safe place, and never discuss passwords or usernames via email with colleagues. Access should be limited to a select few team members whose role dictates they need access to the DNS, and passwords should be changed frequently following basic password safety rules,” suggests Cooper. Backup systems: Cloud storage is extremely vulnerable, with some of the largest corporations worldwide experiencing breaches to data stored here. Your best method of protection for this is twofold: make a regular habit of backing up all assets in the cloud to an external hard drive and create an emergency plan, in case the worst happens. Secure your HostGator website with daily, automatic backups from CodeGuard. Third party payment services: While it may seem safer to use a third party payment processor, it’s hard to be sure what their security practices actually are. Don’t let your data, or that of your customers, fall into the wrong hands by using one simple technique: two factor authentication (2FA). This adds one extra layer of security by requiring another password, a specific code, or the use of an app like Google Authenticator, making it harder to hack.  

    2. Bolster Your Cyber Defense

    There are many ways to ensure you have a strong defense to protect your business in case of an attack. Here are two simple ways to bolster your current security measures. Cyber Liability: You insure your business to avoid expensive legal issues with employees or customers, but do you have insurance for cyber liabilities as well? Update your current insurance plan to protect your digital assets: “Some general business owner policies will include specific provisions protecting a business in the case of a cyber attack. Depending on your specific policy and business, you might need errors and omission insurance, which protects your company from liabilities arising from mistakes made by you or your employees, or even specific cyber security policies,” explains the guide, Cyber Liability: How to Protect Your Business. This added protection can likely be included with your current policy, making it easy to update quickly. Better Protection: If you don’t have a security team, your next best option is to work with a service provider who can monitor your domain and assets for breaches or vulnerabilities. Choosing a service provider can be confusing. Steve Bassi, CEO of PolySwarm, shares some suggestions for vetting products and teams: “Companies shouldn't look at any one tool, rather how is the service provider protecting them with defense and response in depth. Put another way, how does the service provider plan to layer defenses and man them with experienced technical folk?” Don’t forget to ask the right questions, referring to specifics like automated monitoring and threat detection. Bassi continues, “A good provider here will provide tools that automate the detection of attackers on employee's machines and across servers. Good examples of this are tools like Carbon black, which does something very simple: if it sees an application executed that has never been seen before in the enterprise it reports it. That's one layer of defense but a good service provider should analyze any foreign applications and see if they look malicious.” Protect your website from malware and digital threats with SiteLock: HostGator SiteLock Malware Protection

    3. Address Your Biggest Threat: Employees

    Your greatest cybersecurity threat is not outside attackers, but the people working for you—or former employees. While in some cases their intent is not to harm the company, employees have access to a wide range of assets that can be breached or attacked due to lack of strong passwords or poor sharing and security management. In many cases, even former employees may still have access to these assets. In fact, the 2017/18 Kroll Annual Global Fraud and Risk Report found that 71 percent of businesses that reported a security incident cited insiders as the perpetrators. More importantly, they found that 39 percent of those perpetrators were junior employees and 37 percent were former employees. There are two ways to combat this in your small business:
    • Create a culture of security, where all employees are empowered to be safe in their interactions, and requirements like 2FA for all employee logins are enforced.
    • Follow a specific procedure when employees are fired or quit. Even when leaving on good terms, your assets are vulnerable if that employee can still access them.
    In general, it’s wise to create a culture of security within your small business, which encourages employees to take ownership of their security and that of the business. TechBeacon shares six great tips for making this happen with your team:
    • Remind employees: security belongs to everyone.
    • Focus on awareness.
    • Create a secure development lifecycle.
    • Reward employees that do the right thing for security.
    • Create a security community.
    • Make security fun and engaging.
     

    Get Serious About Digital Asset Security

    Cybersecurity is no joke for small businesses. With so many digital assets being created, used and shared, this is an important vulnerability to address. Luckily, there are a number of ways to protect your business from breach or attack, including working with a security consultant, creating a culture of security and identifying and protecting the assets that are most vulnerable. Learn more about securing your small business website with our free Website Security Checklist.
  • How To Create The Ultimate Holiday Coupons

    Thursday, December 8, 2016 by
    Creating Holiday Coupons Coupons may seem like a thing of the past—who sits down on Sunday to do their weekly clipping anymore, anyway? Well, as with everything in business, coupons have evolved. Now people are using online coupon codes or even going into the store with short discount codes that the cashier uses to deduct from the total at check out. Not only are coupons still valuable to and used regularly by consumers, but they can also increase revenue for retailers by up to 40 percent, according to a 2016 CouponBox survey.  CouponBox also found that the surveyed retailers earned $29,435 per month on coupon sales alone. [bctt tweet="Coupons can increase revenue for retailers by up to 40%. #ecommerce" username="hostgator"] The holidays are the best time for your business to take advantage of this opportunity, when everyone is looking for a deal to save on the next present on their list. However, not all coupons are created equal. Just because you offer a discount of some sort, doesn’t mean that you’ll automatically drive sales. Here’s what you need to know to create epic coupons that drive the sales you need this holiday season. HostGator Website Builder  

    Do the Math

    Before deciding on any coupon discount, you have to stop and do the math. You risk losing more money than is necessary if you don't plan your discounts thoughtfully. The first step is to determine the regular profit margin of the product that you’re discounting. A simple equation for that is: (Retail price – Cost) / Retail price = profit margin This profit margin number is your baseline. Because coupons naturally cut into profits, you want to make sure you aren’t selling items for too low a cost that splits your profits in half, or worse. Figure out how many more of the item you need to sell to break even, and put a plan in place to ensure that happens. [bctt tweet="Discover your profit margin. The formula is simple: (Retail Price - Cost) / Retail Price" username="hostgator"]  

    Don’t Undervalue Your Business

    When you want to get the most out of your coupons, it’s easy to jump in with the biggest discount, but this can backfire quickly. Once a discount has been given, customers expect it every single time, which of course will not be the case. Instead of offering one large coupon, segment your current and potential customers and offer them a smaller, more exclusive discount: “20% off for returning customers” or “$50 off for new customers.” Continue varying the discount and audience you offer it to so you don't train your customers to expect to pay little for your high-quality products every time. These lower-discounted coupons can be just as valuable if you create a sense of urgency as well. While that customer may not have planned to shop with you that day, a good deal is a good deal, and they may go out of their way to take advantage before it’s over. In fact, 83 percent of shoppers admitted to making a purchase that wasn’t planned because of a promotion, according to Market Track. This tactic puts you in the driver’s seat, not your customers, while still encouraging sales and avoiding the danger of undervaluing your business. [bctt tweet="Create urgency with your coupons. 83% of shoppers made an unplanned purchase due to a promo." username="hostgator"]  

    Offer a Variety of Coupons

    The holiday season is a long and busy one, so instead of offering one deep discount, spread your coupons out throughout the month of December. You can even do something fun like, “12 Days of Discounts” to help people remember. The benefit of this is two-fold:
    • By spreading your discounts out, you increase the chances that someone will be able to use one (or more) of them. Great promotion or not: the holidays are busy and a packed schedule can stop even the savviest shopper from taking advantage of a great deal.
    • This tactic gives you a chance to encourage another purchase. A whopping 96 percent of shoppers use coupons, according to RetailMeNot. If they have a great experience the first time, and you can put another great coupon in front of them, they’re like to come back and shop with you again.
    Ultimately, however, the key to making the most of your coupons is distribution—if your customers don’t see them, they won’t use them. [bctt tweet="Offer coupons multiple times throughout the holidays so your shoppers don't miss out." username="hostgator"]  

    Distribute, Distribute, Distribute

    You have a mailing list, you’re on social media—these are two of the best ways to get coupons in front of current and potential customers. But, before emailing or sharing your coupons, always segment your distribution. More than 80 percent of customers want to receive promotional opportunities that are tailored to their needs, according to Precima. The best way to ensure this happens is to segment your audience, whether you’re emailing or promoting on social media. Most email clients make this easy to do, with customizable segmenting options. For example, you may want to separate your email list by past purchases, geographic location, or another general status. You can do the same with most paid social media ads including those on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter. There's even a Facebook feature called Offers, which allows you to create your offer directly through the platform.   Do the math to make smart discount decisions. Put your offers in front of the right people. Get the most out of your holiday coupons.
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