Blog

August 11th, 2017

Customer relationship management (CRM) software is essential for every marketing, sales, and customer service department. It allows you to capture your customers’ information and keep a record of their interactions with your business. If you’re new to the concept of CRM, here are some tips and tricks to help you get the most out of it.

Always update customer information A CRM system is only effective when the data it provides is current. If the customer’s address, company name, or preferred method of contact has changed, your staff should be recording this information immediately so your sales and marketing teams are always equipped with the right information.

Use purchasing history for upselling opportunities It’s easier to sell to existing customers than acquiring new ones. Boost your sales performance by analyzing your existing clients’ purchasing history and designing promotions or events designed just for them. For example, if they recently purchased a razor from your online store, you can program your CRM to recommend related products like shaving cream or aftershave. Not only does this widen your profit margins, it also makes customers’ lives a lot easier and promotes repeat business.

Automate processes Take advantage of the workflow automation features in CRM apps to eliminate time-consuming and repetitive tasks. For instance, when a new lead is added to your CRM (via newsletter subscriptions or website visits), the CRM can be programmed to send follow-up emails, offer promotions, and other interactions to keep your business at the forefront of their attention. This saves you from writing the same canned responses while also making sure that you’re engaging your clients throughout the entire sales process.

Learn from analytics CRM also makes it possible to analyze customer trends and behavior. If you noticed a spike in demand for certain products and services during the holidays, be more aggressive in pushing them out next year. If certain email campaigns were more successful than others (e.g., higher open rates, click-through-rates, and potential customers), understand what elements were responsible for that success and try to replicate them the next time you send a newsletter.

Customer data should also be used to shape sales and marketing tactics. A salesperson that already knows the client’s name, locations, and preferences can deliver more personal sales pitches and has a better chance of closing a deal. The point is this: If you're not learning from your data, your business growth will be limited.

Integrate CRM with other business software Tying CRM software to other programs makes it even more powerful. Integration with accounting software combines customer and financial data, eliminating redundant manual data entry and providing more insightful reports. When used alongside a VoIP system, your staff will get relevant customer information from multiple databases displayed on one screen when they’re about to make a call.

Get some CRM support Last but not least, work with a CRM provider that offers 24/7 support. Ideally, they should be keeping your data safe, updating your software regularly, and advising you on how to use complex CRM features.

This may seem like a lot, but the important thing to remember is that just like every technology investment, CRM requires active participation from executives, managers, and frontline staff. If you need more advice on keeping customers happy or want to know what technologies can add value to your business, call us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
August 7th, 2017

With 4.75 billion pieces of content shared on Facebook and 500 million tweets shared every day, harnessing crucial social media data is becoming an increasingly monumental task. Businesses need to leverage social media in order to deliver relevant and personalized content to customers. You can make it happen by taking these four steps:

Identify what’s trending on social media From global events like the WannaCry and Petya ransomware attacks to the Super Bowl halftime show that took the internet by storm, content marketers need to know what consumers are talking about on social media.

For example, when Steve Harvey read the wrong name at Miss Universe in 2016, Burger King wasted no time tweeting a picture with the caption: “At BK, everyone gets to keep their crown.” This clever and timely message resulted in almost 100,000 retweets, likes, and replies.

Knowing what's trending helps marketers fine-tune content to ensure better engagement and higher conversion rates. And it can even help establish relevance in larger conversations and engage new groups of potential customers.

Understand what’s happening locally and globally Content marketers should stay on top of what's happening on both a global and local scale, and then share what they've learned with their teams. For instance, children’s clothing companies can combine the latest trend with the back-to-school season to attract more students and parents.

Leverage user-generated content According to a recent Bazaarvoice report, shoppers who interact with consumer-generated content are 97 percent more likely to make a purchase than shoppers who don’t. Customer-generated content helps drive awareness among non-customers who may be persuaded by positive and authentic customers' experience. Social data derived from user-generated content also helps marketers address content pain points.

Incorporate social data into your marketing strategy Put the social media data you've gathered to good use by integrating them into your current marketing strategy. They immediately provide a better understanding of the customer and highlight the type of content audiences are currently engaging with. This can be used to help develop and execute better content and marketing campaigns.

Social media has changed the way small- and medium-sized businesses operate. In order to get ahead of your competitors, it’s imperative that you understand how to leverage it to your business’s advantage. Feel free to contact us about what we can do to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
July 28th, 2017

You’ve all heard of viruses, spyware, ransomware and trojans. But did you know that they’re all types of malware? They’re all designed to ruin your digital life, but different types of malware put your computer at risk in different ways. Understanding what sets them apart can keep your business guarded.

Viruses

Once created to annoy users by making small changes to their computers, like altering wallpapers, this type of malware has evolved into a malicious tool used to breach confidential data. Most of the time, viruses work by attaching themselves to .exe files in order to infect computers once the file has been opened. This can result in various issues with your computer’s operating system, at their worst, rendering your computer unusable.

To avoid these unfortunate circumstances, you should scan executable files before running them. There are plenty of antivirus software options, but we recommend choosing one that scans in real-time rather than manually.

Spyware

Unlike viruses, spyware doesn’t harm your computer, but instead, targets you. Spyware attaches itself to executable files and once opened or downloaded, will install itself, often times completely unnoticed. Once running on your computer, it can track everything you type, including passwords and other confidential information. Hackers can then use this information to access your files, emails, bank accounts, or anything else you do on your computer.

But don’t panic just yet, you can protect yourself by installing anti-spyware software, sometimes included in all-purpose “anti-malware” software. Note that most reputable antivirus software also come bundled with anti-spyware solutions.

Adware

Are you redirected to a particular page every time you start your browser? Do you get pop ups when surfing the internet? If either situation sounds familiar, you’re likely dealing with adware. Also known as Potential Unwanted Programs (PUP), adware isn’t designed to steal your data, but to get you to click on fraudulent ads. Whether you click on the ad or not, adware can significantly slow down your computer since they take up valuable bandwidth. Worse still, they’re often attached with other types of malware.

Some adware programs come packaged with legitimate software and trick you into accepting their terms of use, which make them especially difficult to remove. To eradicate adware, you’ll need a solution with specialized adware removal protocols.

Scareware

This type of malware works like adware except that it doesn’t make money by tricking you into clicking on ads, but by scaring you into buying a software you don’t need. An example is a pop up ad that tells you your computer is infected with a virus and you need to buy a certain software to eliminate it. If you fall for one of these tactics and click on the ad, you’ll be redirected to a website where you can buy the fake antivirus software.

Scareware acts more like a diversion from the other malware that often comes with it. A good antivirus solution will help scan for scareware too, but you should patch your operating systems regularly just to be safe.

Ransomware

Ransomware has become increasingly common and hostile. It encrypts your computer files and holds them hostage until you’ve paid a fee for the decryption code. Because ransomware comes with sophisticated encryption, there aren’t many options unless you have backups of your data.

There are some tools that can protect against ransomware but we recommend that you backup your data and practice safe web browsing habits.

Worms

Similar to viruses, worms replicate themselves to widen the scope of their damage. However, worms don’t require human intervention to replicate themselves as they use security flaws to transmit from one computer to the next, making them far more dangerous than your typical virus. They often spread via email, sending emails to everyone in an infected user’s contact list, which was exactly the case with the ILOVEYOU worm that cost businesses approximately $5.5 billion worth of damage.

The easiest ways to protect your network from worms is to use a firewall to block external access to your computer network, and to be careful when clicking on unknown links in your email or unknown messages on social media.

Trojans

Usually downloaded from rogue websites, Trojans create digital backdoors that allow hackers to take control of your computer without your knowledge. They can steal your personal information, your files, or cause your computer to stop working. Sometimes hackers will use your computer as a proxy to conceal their identity or to send out spam.

To avoid trojan attacks, you should never open emails or download attachments from unknown senders. If you’re skeptical, use your antivirus software to scan every file first.

In order to keep malware at bay, you need to invest in security solutions with real-time protection and apply security best practices within your office. If you have any questions or concerns, or simply need advice on how to strengthen your business’s security, just give us a call and we’ll be happy to help.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
July 26th, 2017

Employees don’t usually prioritize managing files and photos because they can be tedious and time-consuming. Those who have to deal with a high volume of files and photos across different devices often depend on the auto-sync functions of Google Drive or do manual backups on external drives or SD cards. With Google’s nifty new application, managing files and photos is more seamless.

Seamless backups and syncing

Google’s new application, Backup and Sync, allows both PC and Mac users to seamlessly back up files, photos, and video files from various devices, SD cards, and USB drives in Google Drive or Google Photos.

To use the app, download and install it on your Mac or your Windows computer, sign in with your Google account, select your sync settings, and choose the folders you wish to back up. If you’re uploading photos or videos, you can choose between High or Original quality upload size. And if you want to upload photos only, you have the option to upload to Google Photos.

Once you’re done setting up, a folder will be created on your computer where files can be saved and accessible anywhere via the cloud. Any file dropped into this folder will automatically sync to Google Drive.

Benefits and downside

Although Backup and Sync is free, you can store only up to 15 GB of data. But if you want to exceed the limit, simply upgrade your Google Drive storage. That said, this new tool is valuable because it simplifies the backup process.

The app is especially beneficial to businesses because it’s easy to set up and requires minimal effort from users. It’s also useful to companies with remote work policies; employees can simply drag and drop files into their computer’s folder and access them anywhere from any device.

Backup and Sync not only gives your business greater flexibility by providing anytime-anywhere access to your files, but it also helps keep them safe and sound in the cloud. If you want to explore other productivity tools for your business, get in touch with us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
July 19th, 2017

There are plenty of VoIP solutions available in the market today, but the two clear standouts are Microsoft’s Skype for Business and Google’s Hangouts Meet. Each product offers stellar voice and video conferencing features, and rich integrations with other apps. So which solution is best for your business? To answer this question, you first need to understand the differences between the two.

Calling features While Hangouts and Skype both offer enterprise-grade security, 1080p HD quality video, and screen sharing capabilities, there are some slight differences. For starters, Skype for Business users can set up and record online meetings for up to 250 participants and broadcast meetings for up to 10,000 attendees. With call forwarding and auto-attendant features, Skype ensures you never miss calls and streamlines caller management. What’s more, it has Skype Translator, a plugin that instantly translates voice and text.

Hangouts Meets, on the other hand, supports up to 30 people per session and lacks broadcasting and voting capabilities. It does, however, have intelligent built-in features like auto screen focus and muting so that participants get the right amount of attention when they’re sharing ideas with the group. You can also invite participants to the call by simply sending the URL link of the Hangouts session.

Presence Hangouts sports a simple green circle to indicate that a contact is online. Skype offers similar features, but the difference is that you have more status options to choose from such as Available, Busy, Away, Do Not Disturb, and In a Call.

Integrations and add-ons Being a Google product, Hangouts has tight integrations with powerful G Suite apps, including Gmail, Sheets, Maps, YouTube and Google Calendar. With Calendar, Hangouts can schedule appointments and set call reminders within the app. Using YouTube, you can even broadcast your presentations live.

Meanwhile, Skype for Business is heavily integrated into Office 365. This means you can initiate calls with colleagues working on the same Word, Excel, or PowerPoint file. Outside of Microsoft, Skype also integrates with Slack and other unified communication solutions.

Price The biggest difference between Google and Microsoft’s VoIP product is pricing. Hangouts is offered with every G Suite subscription plan (Basic, Business, Enterprise), and usually starts at $5 per user per month. By comparison, Skype for Business can be purchased as a standalone solution starting at $2 per user per month. Keep in mind, those with Office 365 Business subscriptions also get all the Skype features listed above.

What works for you? Based on these features, it should be easy for you to decide which platform is suitable for your business. Hangouts is clearly built for startups and small companies that need a low cost communication solution. It supports only up to 30 people per call, and while its features are a bit limited compared to Skype, it does offer companies with fewer than 50 employees what they need.

In contrast, Skype for Business and its robust features are designed for small and large businesses alike. Of course, if you’re still unsure about either product, you should opt for a trial run and make up your mind then. Otherwise, contact our team today so we can recommend a VoIP solution that fits your business.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
July 13th, 2017

The WannaCry ransomware, which infected 200,000 business globally and made over $100,000 in ransom payments, is said to be one of the worst cyber attacks in history. However, a new ransomware strain named Nyetya is shaping up to be a more formidable security threat. It has already affected businesses globally, and security firms and researchers believe it to be stealthier and more sophisticated than WannaCry.

Worse than WannaCry

Nyetya is deemed worse than WannaCry mainly because it spreads laterally, meaning it targets computers within networks and affects even systems that have been patched. Because it also spreads internally, it needs to infect only one device to affect several others within a single network.

Cyber researchers trace its origins to a tax accounting software called MEDoc, which infected 12,500 systems in Ukraine. Since the initial infections in June, it has spread to thousands of networks in 64 countries. And although it hasn’t spread as fast as WannaCry, it might have a wider reach soon because it uses three attack pathways to infect a system. It hasn’t made as much money as WannaCry, which is why cyber researchers are concluding that the attacks are not economically motivated.

Don’t pay the ransom

Cyber security firms and researchers strongly recommend affected businesses to avoid paying the ransom. According to them, paying the ransom would be a waste since the infected user won’t be able to receive a decryption key to unlock their files or systems. This is because the email provider has blocked the email address on the ransomware message.

Although it operates like a ransomware -- locking hard drives and files and demands a $300 ransom in Bitcoin -- it functions more as a wiperware that aims to permanently wipe out data and/or destroy systems. So far, it has affected big-name multinationals in various industries, including Merck, Mondelez International, and AP Moller-Maersk, among others.

Perform backups and update outdated security patches

The only way businesses can be protected is by performing backups and staying on top of patch updates.

It’s safe to say that in case of a Nyetya attack, there’s no chance of getting back your data. In such a scenario, you would have only your backup files -- whether on an external storage or in the cloud -- to fall back on. But backing up is not enough; you should also ensure that your backups are working, which you can do by testing them regularly. Given the nature of Nyetya, you should also make sure that your backups are stored off-site and disconnected from your network.

Like its predecessor, Nyetya exploited vulnerabilities in unpatched Microsoft-run computers. As a business owner, make it a part of your cyber security routine to update your systems with the latest security patches, or risk having your files or systems permanently corrupted.

As a business owner whose operations’ lifeline depends on critical files, your backups are your insurance. If your systems’ network security needs another layer of protection, get in touch with us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security
July 11th, 2017

Everyone wishes there were more minutes in a day. Between repetitive emails and seemingly endless meetings, it’s hard to find time for important tasks. Thanks to the increasing affordability of enterprise-level IT however, SMBs can start getting at least half of those problems under control with email automation.

What is email automation?

Usually included in customer relationship management (CRM) software, email automation centers around the idea of combining your business data into emails to customers and prospects. This allows you to draft templates with placeholders for names, addresses, and other variables that the platform will match with individuals from your email list.

Even better however, is personalizing how and when your emails go out to clients. Automatically inserting customer data into an email is great, but it still requires that you draft the content that surrounds it and hit Send. Email automation grants you the ability to create templated emails that are automatically merged with client data and sent when certain conditions are met.

Examples of email automation

To really get an idea of how valuable this solution is, it’s important to see what it looks like in action. Say you own an eCommerce site that sells complementary goods, like golf clubs and golf balls. You could create a campaign wherein anytime someone buys a set of clubs, pre-written emails automatically go out one month later on how high-quality golf balls improve your handicap.

You’re not limited to two-step workflows either. Take a look at this example:

  • Step 1: Send a personalized email with a special offer on golf balls for existing customers.
  • Step 2: Send a follow-up based on how customers interacted with the offer email:
    • If a customer cashed in the offer, send a thank you email.
      • Step 3: Follow it up with a similar offer three months later.
    • If a customer visited the promo page but didn’t convert, send a promo email for another type of product, like golf bags.
      • Step 3: Follow it up with either a thank you email or another promo for golf clothes.
    • If a customer didn’t even open the email, send a survey email asking about their interests.
      • Step 3: Follow it up with email campaigns based on what they selected.
Email automation means there’s no need to micromanage your customer relationships. As long as you define the path to purchase for high-volume products, you can program workflows to nurture customers and prospects automatically.

For as little as a couple hundred bucks a month, your customer outreach campaigns can compete on the same level as your corporate counterparts with little effort from your team. Add in an expert IT provider and you have the ability to blow the competition out of the water. To learn more, contact us today!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
July 10th, 2017

Facebook has numerous built-in features to help small- and medium-sized businesses thrive. But chances are that most business owners are taking advantage of only just a few. With Facebook’s audience reaching 1.8 billion users monthly, it’s vital for your business to leverage the right tools to enhance growth. Here are four features you should start using right away:

Audience Insights tool This free tool is designed to help businesses learn more about their target audience. Audience Insights takes the guesswork out of identifying your customers by providing data such as geography, purchasing patterns, and even the Facebook pages they like. You can also use your existing customer database, Facebook page, or email list to learn more about your clients. Audience Insights help save a lot of time and money by determining whom you should advertise to.

Facebook Product Shops This allows you to sell your products directly from your Facebook page. After following these instructions, you can set up your product shop in just a few clicks. You can choose whether you want buyers to purchase directly on Facebook or whether you want buyers to complete checkout on your website. Consider running ads using the data gathered from the Audience Insights tool to target ideal customers and increase sales.

New Facebook Ads Facebook’s advertising platform offers endless combinations to create the perfect ad. It features numerous placement options that go beyond the traditional newsfeed. There are two new ad destinations that could help you reach new audiences:

  • Facebook Messenger ads - deliver a highly personalized experience by providing an opportunity for you to chat with prospective customers. You can answer questions or schedule appointments from the Messenger app.
  • In-stream video ads - despite being relatively new, this prime advertising space allows businesses to deliver 5-15 second mid-roll video ads within live and non-live videos on Facebook.
Facebook Live marketing Due to its rising popularity, businesses are looking for ways to incorporate Facebook Live into their social media marketing strategies. Here are a couple of tips to optimize Facebook Live usage:
  • Livestream pre-scheduling - this tool creates and pre-schedules Facebook Live streams, thereby boosting anticipation for your videos and prompting viewers to mark their calendars if they want to tune in.
  • Merge it with your Product Shop - this feature can be used on your Facebook page only if you’ve set up your Product Shop. When you mention your products in a livestream, you’ll be able to tag your products in the video, allowing viewers to access your Product Shop directly from the video.
In order to surpass your competitors, you’ll need to not only establish a strong online presence but also know how to leverage Facebook to your business’s advantage. If you’re interested in adopting a social media marketing strategy, feel free to give us a call or send us an email!
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
June 30th, 2017

Our craving for data seems to increase every year, fueling the constant advancements in wireless technology. The latest is 5G, an abbreviation for the fifth-generation wireless systems, and it is set to transform VoIP for the better. Here are three ways it will do that.

Improved video conferencing The major factor holding web and video conferencing back is how fast current networks can transmit data. Fortunately, innovations like Web Real-Time-Communications (WebRTC) and 5G networks will enhance VoIP for businesses. Providing open and stable streaming as well as sufficient transfer speeds will soon allow businesses to accommodate higher quality, even 4K and 8K resolution videos.

Virtual and Augmented Reality With 5G network speeds, virtual and augmented reality will become more common for small- and medium-sized businesses. 5G will blow past 4G’s Gbps (gigabits per second) limit, which is currently holding back the adoption of VR and AR applications.

VR and AR need to process significantly more visual data because of the freedom of movement they allow, and this puts an enormous strain on mobile networks. 5G is also set to ensure a better user experience by lowering latency levels that simplify and smoothen daily business operations, preventing network delays from affecting your bottom line.

Mobile VoIP VoIP calls rely heavily on sufficient download and upload speeds. For example, when mobile VoIP users on 4G networks are limited to 12Mbps upload and 2Mbps download speeds, they experience unstable and poor call connectivity and clarity. These limitations could also lead to packet loss, which happens when one or more “packets” of data traveling across a computer network fail to reach their destination, typically caused by network congestion.

When businesses decide to adopt the up-and-coming 5G network, businesses can expect to see significant improvements when it comes to VoIP. Ensure the success of your SMB with increased network speeds, better call quality and conversations with consistent connectivity. If you’re looking to set up a VoIP system for your business, call or email us today!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
June 27th, 2017

When we write about how antivirus software isn’t enough to keep you safe from malware, it’s not just scare tactics. There are so many ways hackers can break into your system that antivirus solutions will never catch. For a real-world example, look no further than the router exploit kit recently leaked from the CIA.

The Wikileaks CIA documents

For several months, the notorious website famous for leaking government data has been rolling out information it obtained from the Central Intelligence Agency. The documents detail top-secret surveillance projects from 2013 to 2016 and mainly cover cyber espionage.

In the most recent release, documents describe government-sponsored methods and programs used to exploit home, office, and public wireless routers for both tracking internet browsing habits and remotely accessing files stored on devices that connect to compromised networks.

Is my router one of them?

According to the documents, 25 models of wireless routers from 10 different manufacturers were being exploited by the CIA. They weren’t off-brand budget devices either; the list includes devices from some of the biggest names in wireless networking:
  • Netgear
  • Linksys
  • Belkin
  • D-Link
  • Asus
Those brands account for over a third of wireless routers on the market, which means there’s a good chance you’re at risk.

After WannaCry used a previous CIA leak to fuel its global spread, you need to worry about more than just being a target of government espionage too. Over the past few years, almost all of these leaks have quickly made their way into criminal hands.

Patching vulnerabilities

Fixing security gaps in hardware is tricky business, especially when they’re mainly used to monitor rather than corrupt. In most cases, there will be no visual cues or performance problems to indicate your hardware has been infected. As such, you should plan on regularly updating the software on your hardware devices whenever possible.

Accessing your router's software interface isn’t a user-friendly experience for non-IT folks. Usually, to access it, you need to visit the manufacturer’s website and log in with the administrator username and password. If these are still set to the default “admin” and “password” make sure to change them.

Once logged in, navigate through the settings menus until you find the Firmware Update page. Follow the instructions and confirm that the firmware has been properly installed.

The CIA’s router leaks were vague, so we’re not even sure how recent they are. We are fairly certain, however, that all of the manufacturers have since patched the vulnerabilities. Regardless, updating your router’s firmware will protect from a number of cyber security risks. If you’re unable to finish the task on your own, one of our technicians can fix it, as well as any other firmware vulnerabilities, in a matter hours. All you need to do is call!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Security