Monthly Archives: April 2017

Pick the Perfect Password

Creating a password is easy. Creating one that is strong, is the challenge.

The problem is that password selection involves two conflicting goals.

Goal 1: Pick a password that’s easy to remember.

Goal 2: Pick a password that’s hard to crack.

If all you had to worry about was Goal 1, your name would be your password and life would be simple. At the same time, if you only wanted something difficult to hack, you could easily come up with a long series of random letters, numbers, and characters that would confound even the most hardened hacker.

You would not, of course, be able to remember that password. You would have to write it down somewhere or carry it with you, making breaking into your computer as easy as looking at that Post-it note affixed to your keyboard that says: “My password is: Eg(4$ll)31opx*.”

Basic Rules

Eric Wolfram provides some good basic rules that apply to passwords.

  • Longer is better. Six characters is the minimum. Many sites require 8.
  • Made up or altered words are better than actual words. Avoid calendar dates as part of the numeric portion of password.
  • Personal information that can easily be looked up or verified should be avoided.
  • Don’t use account numbers or other billing information as part of a password.
  • The use of adjacent keys or consecutive numbers are easy for others to notice and should be avoided.
  • Maintain a separate password for each highly sensitive account, such as email, financial institutions, and social media.
  • It’s OK to recycle for sites that don’t store personal info, such as Internet radio stations.
  • Memorize your password. You should never write it down.
  • Mix letters, numbers, and punctuation and, when possible, include both uppercase and lowercase letters.
  • Don’t overdo it and make the password so complicated it becomes cumbersome. It should be something you can type fairly quickly.
Password Systems

Using misspelled words or words with a number or punctuation mark at the end can be effective. Examples include “KrazzyDood,” “PensilNek,” “Sawsy2468,” or “ShurThing**!.”

Replacing some letters with punctuation increases security. So does the use of numbers. This simple system turns the word “hello” into “h3llo” and “seagull” into “s33gu!!”

RELATED: Protect Yourself and Your Business From Identity Theft

Another system that is easy to memorize involves creating a sentence – such as “When I was in 3rd grade, my teacher’s name was Mrs. Schmidt.” Then create your password from the first letter of each word: WIwi3gmtnwMS.

Password Reset Questions Tip

To generate better security for password-reset questions, Randy Abrams, Director of Technical Education at WeLiveSecurity has a simple suggestion. He says do not provide correct answers. For example, say your mother’s maiden name is Tarzan. Or, that the name of the first school you attended was LegoPrimary.

When to Change Passwords

Change major passwords at least twice a year. (For example, January & July.) Changing too frequently becomes cumbersome and waiting too long increases risk. Whatever your time frame, stick to it. Maybe you change your passwords when you change your clocks. (You know, “Spring forward, Fall back?)

Passphrase

An alternative to the password system is the passphrase system as long as your software or operating system allows it. A passphrase is a series of words, instead of a series of letters, punctuation, etc.

Instead of a 6 or 8-character password, security would depend on four or five 2 to 6 letter words. The words do not need to make up a sentence. They could be a list of words, for example: rat onion climb frog batman.

Of course, the words could be more random, even nonsense, and could include punctuation, numbers, or almost any combination.

One of the best passphrase generation systems is Diceware. Click on the link for a full explanation and all the information you need to generate a passphrase using this unique system.

RELATED: Protect Your Business from a Data Security Breach

Password Management Software

Despite your best intentions, memorizing every password you’re asked to create is close to impossible. Fortunately, password management software exists to securely store your passwords and apply them, as needed when you log on to various sites.

Top 10 Reviews provides reviews of the best password management systems, most of which will not only store your passwords, but will also help you create them. This year’s top-rated program is RoboForm Everywhere, which sells for less than $10.

According to Top 10 Review, RoboForm Everywhere can be used to manage passwords on a number of different devices, although the device versions, according to Top 10 Review are read-only.

Although new information has to be added using the desktop version, Top 10 considers this a minor irritant and still gives the software a perfect score of 10

Know More About Unicorn Customer

A store is a place you go to buy stuff, usually out of convenience or habit. In contrast, brands inspire irrational loyalty and yes, even love. How does a company build itself into a brand that people can fall deeply, madly in love with? The old model says segmentation is the key to business success. This involves strategically dividing your potential customers into groups based on who they are and why/how they’re buying. Segmentation is a fine marketing tactic, but it won’t help build a brand people can wholeheartedly rally behind. In fact, segmentation can even work against a brand by diluting the brand identity. In order to build the type of brand that customers can fall in love with, you must first create a detailed picture of your ideal “unicorn” customer.

Let me start with a real-world example of one brand that I personally worked with. This company is a parent-focused digital media company with the mission to make every parent feel like a rock-star by inspiring them to do fun things with their kids. When I asked them who they thought their ideal customer was, they initially described a harried, anxious, busy mom struggling to find activities for their kids that didn’t involve plugging them into a TV or an iPad to watch movies while they went about completing other household tasks. In fact, their ideal customer – the person likely to bring in the most revenue for this company over time – was an “everyday” parent who values spending quality time with the people who matter most. She’s primarily a mom who wants to get out and do something FUN TOGETHER. Unlike their initial ideal customer impression, this parent is practical, always prepared, and highly engaged. She’s not perfect, but she’s resourceful and into finding great ideas for connecting with her kids with a single click. She’s always out and about – but more importantly, engaged – with her family, going to festivals, exhibits, performances, and games. She spends a lot of money on engaging activities with the whole family. So, for a digital media company that makes money from parents researching and paying for family experiences online, you can see why she’s the ideal customer.

RELATED: Branding Strategies for Your New Business

This example clearly demonstrates how to define this ideal customer. First, start by asking yourself these three questions:

  1. Who is the customer who will be worth the most over the long haul?
  2. Who will be the customer who is the most profitable and delightful to serve?
  3. Who will not only keep buying from you again and again but will recommend you to others?

Then, create an in-depth profile of this customer – the person who is most highly predictive of your brand’s success. Imagine the ideal customer in excruciating detail: What kind of car do they drive? What clothing do they wear? What’s their perfume? Every minute detail must be worked out in your mind so this person becomes as real as possible. To help you fill in the details, consider doing the opposite of segmentation. Think about what unites your customers, and create a singular brand that is for a singular customer archetype.

What are the benefits of identifying the ideal “unicorn” customer?
  • Build a stronger brand identity. If a brand can clearly define who its biggest brand champion is, then more doors will open than previously imaginable. The creative process will become easier, and everything the brand does will be more thoroughly informed by this one anchoring concept. The brand purpose becomes unified and less fragmented, making it stronger and more appealing to customers.
  • Create a brand that your team can rally behind and be truly passionate about. When you build a brand with a strong identity and purpose, you can then recruit people to be part of the team who also feel strongly about the brand purpose. It’s much easier to inspire the team to put in extra work when they feel like the brand is something worth working for. In fact, it starts to feel less like work and more like plain old fun.
  • Make the brand more human. Thinking about the ideal customer as an actual person will help you think about the brand in more emotional terms. The result is a brand that people can relate to on an emotional level.
  • Inspire irrational customer loyalty. A strong brand identity makes for a strong company that instills customers with confidence. This means that people come back even if they’re dissatisfied simply because they love the brand and they know the brand will redeem itself.
  • Help to better inform segmentation. Without a clear brand identity, segment marketing is like driving around without a clear destination in mind. You might find some interesting things along the way, but you’ll waste time and gas, and you will probably find yourself getting a bit lost. Build a brand first, and then use segmentation to help spread your awesome brand identity far and wide.

Is Segmentation Dead?

Segment marketing has its place, and identifying the ideal customer archetype shouldn’t replace segmentation practices. But if your boss has asked you to go out and segment the market, you are probably putting the cart before the horse. First you have to identify the ideal customer, and then you can think about segmentation. Remember, you’re building a brand for ONE and segmenting the market to get your actual product or service in front of many.

If you want to make yourself more attractive to the man or woman of your dreams, you don’t start off by researching all the people in the world who might find you attractive. You focus in on that one person – your ideal mate – and learn everything you can about them – their favorite flowers, what TV shows they like, what they do on Friday nights. In order to build a brand, you have to approach your customers in a similar way. Learn more about the ideal customer and let those insights inform the brand identity. Segmentation can help in marketing, but it’s not going to help build a brand that customers can fall in love with. Finding your “unicorn” customer will

Some Small Business Survival Strategies

Has your business fallen on hard times? Running a business is never a sure bet, but sometimes it can feel like you’re caught between the proverbial rock and hard place. Thanks to the Internet, you can reach customers outside of your local area. But at the same time, your customers find it easy to go online and compare prices, find product information and make purchases from companies across the country, or across the world. As a result, you may have customers calling to cancel orders or asking you to cut prices. And big companies who bought services from you in the past may be outsourcing them overseas.

Whether you target businesses or consumers, there’s a good chance your customers have less time, and less patience for sales pitches than they did in the past, too. They may find that researching and shopping online is preferable to talking with a salesperson or traveling to your retail location.

And then there are other problems. Even if you can compete on price, your company may not be found online. Labor costs and other expenses may be rising, and changing customer needs and preferences may be putting a big crimp in your sales and profits. How many bookshelves can you sell to people who read books on their e-readers or tablets?

How to Recover from a Business Downturn

What can you do when your small business falls on hard times? How can boost sales and profits? The answer is to be proactive. Here are 21 strategies to consider:

1. Reinvent Your Business

You don’t have to be a big, high-tech company to reinvent your business. In fact, the smaller and leaner your business already is, the faster you can shift gears and zoom back into action.

Sit back and take a cold, hard look at your strengths and weaknesses and possible markets. Ask yourself the hard questions first: Do customers still want and buy the same type of products or services you sell? Have industries and styles changed since you started business? Have you kept up with the changes? If not, what changes should you implement now to make your business competitive again?

Do you need to develop new products or services? Don’t guess at what customers want and will pay for. Analyze your existing sales and talk to actual customers and prospects. What do they need? What can you provide? What’s the best way to deliver solutions to them? What’s going to bring in the most profit?

Is there any particular niche that buys regularly from you now? If so, consider how you can bring in more of the same types of customers, and what other merchandise they’d be likely to buy.

2. Sell on the Internet

Are you selling your products and services online? If not, why not? If your sales are declining and you aren’t selling online or capturing leads online, it’s time to get your head out of the sand. Even when people buy in-person or on the basis of personal relationships, they are likely to research the products, company or consultant online before making a decision on what to buy and from whom to buy it. If you have a business, you need a website. The type of website, and what should be on it depends on what you sell.

3. Get Involved in Social Media

Do you have a social media presence? Social media may not be your cup of tea, but the Pew Internet Social Media Update 2016 found that 68% of all U.S. adults (i.e., Internet users and non-Internet users) are Facebook users, while 28% use Instagram, 26% use Pinterest, 25% use LinkedIn and 21% use Twitter.

Find out which of the social media sites attracts the types of customers you want to reach and then get active in those channels. Post comments, answer questions, start discussions related to your products and industry. If you don’t have time, consider having a trusted staff member handle social media tasks. Consider advertising on social media sites, too.

4. Be Mobile Friendly

An ever-growing percentage of business people and consumers are reachable electronically via computer, smart phone or tablet for a majority of the day. These people include everyone from teenagers to retirees. The Internet – thus their ability to search for vendors, products and prices and be notified of deals (as well find the nearest restaurant or gas station) – is no longer limited to their desktop computer. It’s on their tablets and smartphones. You need to be accessible by the devices and methods the customers you want to reach prefer.

5. Contact Former Customers

Don’t assume that a former customer who stopped buying from you in the past will never buy from you again. Customers’ needs and circumstances change, just as yours do. The megacorporation that didn’t renew your contract a couple of years ago because of changing business priorities may have changed their direction once again and be a good prospect now. The customer who went with a lower-priced competitor may be dissatisfied with the quality or service and be receptive to a call from you today. Or, the manager who had given the work to his best friend may no longer be with the company.

6. Contact Competitors of Present or Former Customers

If a company needs what you sell, there’s a good chance their competitors do too. Industry groups you belong to, trade shows, seminars, and friends in the industry can all help you identify likely prospects. If the people you meet don’t need your services, ask if they can put you in touch with someone at their company who could.

7. Call Former Prospects

The bigger a business, the slower they are to move. The project that was put on indefinite hold last summer may become urgent this spring. Or, some other project the company is working on may be right up your alley. So touch base periodically. The more recently you’ve contacted a prospect, the more likely they’ll be to remember your name – and your phone number – when they are ready to buy.

8. Sell Additional Products and Services to Existing Customers

Often the easiest way to bring in new business is to sell more to your existing customers. You may be able to sell more of the same product to the same contact, or sell the same product to a different division of the company. Or, you may be able to sell related products and services to the customer. Keep your eyes and ears open for new opportunities and be sure your customers are aware of all of your capabilities.

9. Work the Neighborhood

If you provide services to homeowners, market to homeowners near your customers. When a homeowner needs to hire a contractor, they often ask neighbors who they use to do similar jobs. Keep your name in their minds with mailings and local online advertising. Leave extra business cards with your existing customers (so they can give them out if anyone asks for your number).

10. Work Your Contact List

Labor statistics show people entering the workforce today are likely to change jobs seven to 10 times in their careers. You can position yourself for new sales just by keeping in touch with people as they change jobs. The human resources manager who hired you to do a harassment awareness training program for Company A, may need to find someone to put on the same kind of seminar at Company B. Thus, if a contact at a client company tells you they are leaving the company, ask them for new contact information.

11. Team Up with Other Vendors for Joint Sales

Recommendations and referrals are among the leading sources of new business for small businesses. An easy way to get more referrals is to team up with other businesses who sell to the same market but don’t directly compete with you. Agree to refer business to one another and link to each other’s web sites. Look at possibilities for joint sales, as well. Doing so may allow you to bid on and win bigger projects than either of you could on your own.

12. Develop Multiple Revenue Streams

That’s corporate speak for a concept that’s as old as the hills: find more ways to make money. For instance, could you add landscaping services to your lawn care business, or add coffee rolls and muffins as choices at your bagel shop? What about adding a delivery service or catering to your restaurant business? If you are a writer whose market is drying up, hone your skills to write how-to articles, blog posts and social media content for businesses. Or, learn to do social media marketing for businesses, and add that service to the writing services you offer.

Cost-Cutting Strategies

13. Ask Existing Vendors for Discounts

If you buy a substantial amount of goods or services from any company, ask them to give you a discount. Remind them of your long-standing account and frequent purchases. If their competitors charge less, ask them if they can match the competitor’s pricing.

14. Switch Vendors

If your current vendor won’t lower their price, or won’t lower it enough, consider switching vendors. Give the new vendor smaller orders at first, and then increase them in size if their quality, on-time delivery and service satisfies your needs.

15. Seek Lower Credit Card Transaction Rates

The fees charge to process credit card transactions can be significant. If your sales are higher now than when you first got your merchant account you may be able to get your existing merchant account provider to lower your fees. If they won’t, contact their competitors and ask for their best rates based on your sales volume, type of business and years in business.

16. Ask Your Landlord To Lower the Rent

If you are a good tenant and your business is located in an area where there’s a lot of commercial retail space for rent, your landlord may be willing to lower your rent a bit to keep you from leaving or defaulting on your lease. Even if they won’t lower the rate permanently, they may be willing to reduce it for a few months to help you get through the tough times. The only way to know: Ask. All they can do is say no, and they might say yes.

17. Be Alert for Employee Theft

No business owner wants to think their employees would steal from them, but employee theft and fraud is a very real problem for small businesses. Losses from internal theft can be enough to cause a company to fail. Often the perpetrator is a trusted employee, or sometimes a partner.

18. Layoff Unproductive Workers

If you are like most business owners, you dislike firing employees, and may put off doing so far longer than you should. Perhaps you feel uncomfortable confronting employees who aren’t living up to expectations, or you may worry about how being fired will affect their family or self-esteem. If your business is starting to falter, however, you need to weed out the employees don’t measure up.

19. Reduce Employee Hours

If business is slowing down, you may not need your employees to work as many hours every week. If possible, try cutting the hours for some or all of your staff a little each week. Your employees won’t be happy with the reduced hours (and income), and some may leave, but if you can reduce your payroll costs, it could save your business.

20. Eliminate Advertising That Isn’t Working

Take a careful look at your advertising and marketing expenses. Are you tracking results? Do you know what campaigns bring you business, and which don’t? What advertising and marketing strategies produce customers with the highest lifetime value? Focus on the strategies that bring in the most business, and consider eliminating, or at least temporarily suspending the rest.

21. Look For Low Cost Marketing Techniques

There are dozens of ways you can promote your business and reach a very targeted audience without spending a fortune. Review strategies that work for other businesses, and put them to work for your company. Pay particular attention to email marketing. It is one of the most cost-effective strategies for getting prospect and customers to remember and buy from you