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What is Marketing Automation?

Marketing automation is one of those loaded terms that means di erent things to di erent people. It’s the subject of a fair amount of hype and embellishment, too, which adds to the confusion. The reality is that marketing automation is a simple idea, though one with wide variation in execution. It can be simple. It can be extremely complex. It’s done by huge companies. It’s done by one-person businesses. The goal is always the same, though: to automate previously complex marketing tasks so you can always send the right message to the right person at the right time.

Marketing automation is about using software to automate the process of communicating with your customers and prospects – driving them further along the path toward buying whatever it is that
you sell, whether that’s a product, a service, or a cause. It involves marketing with email but it’s quite di erent from basic email marketing, and far removed from the disreputable practice of “spamming” subscribers. This paper reviews the basics of marketing automation. It is intended to give you a sense of what it is and how it might work for your business.

Deficiencies in the Manual Marketing Process

Marketing automation began as a way to use technology to make up
for de ciencies in the traditional, manual process of marketing. Here’s a problem though: The “What is marketing automation?” conversation assumes that everyone understands what aspects of the marketing process are going to remain manual, versus those that will be automated. Adding to the confusion, the “marketing automation” community has also given some new, high-tech names to familiar, traditional tasks. We’re going to clear this all up.

Marketing for the Modern World

Quickly, let’s answer the most basic question rst: What is marketing? Everyone will have their own speci c answer, but in general, marketing involves all of the tasks and processes that lead to a new customer placing a rst order or an existing customer placing a repeat order. This is not a new topic, obviously. What’s changed in recent years, however, is the way that prospects and customers interact with businesses.

Today, as most managers have observed, customers are increasingly connecting with companies through technology. Car shopping, for example, which used to involve driving around to various dealerships, today almost always starts with online browsing of car websites. After gathering information about cars, the potential car buyer then goes out for a test drive at a dealership that ts the buyer’s criteria. Alternatively, or perhaps in addition, the potential car buyer might use a mobile device and a map-enabled search app to locate a car dealer while out and about.

If you’re a car dealer, you want that potential customer to drive to your dealership and test drive a car as soon as possible. If the customer doesn’t come that day, you want him to keep your dealership “top of mind” so that he will return another day. Better yet, you want a salesperson to contact the buyer, nd out what he’s looking for and do as much as possible to ensure that he will come and buy a car from you, and not anyone else.

How can you make this happen? Traditionally, a car dealer might advertise in the newspaper, on billboards, on TV and radio. When a prospect saw a car he liked in an ad, s/he might call the dealer, ask about the car and then perhaps drop by for a test drive. There is nothing wrong with this process and indeed, advertising is still very much the norm in the automotive industry.

Here’s the issue. The dealer, who is spending a lot money acquiring that rst conversation with the customer, is out of luck if he cannot sell a car on the rst contact. As Figure 1 shows, the traditional manual marketing process runs the risk of losing contact with a prospect. Not everyone is ready to buy a car at the rst point of contact with the dealer. If the dealer gets contact information from the prospect, it is possible to follow up, but doing so is a laborious, uncertain process. And follow-up requires a consider- able investment in time on the dealer’s part.

Attract Customer with Advertising

Marketing automation raises the probability of creating a lasting connection with the client through email and then automatically follows up with the prospect until s/he is ready to buy.

First Contact with Customer

Get Contact Info

Manually Follow-Up by Phone/Mail/Email

How can the dealer create a connection with the prospect that enables the dealer to follow up regularly and persistently without being irritating or spending hours playing phone tag? That’s what marketing automation is all about. Marketing automation raises the probability of creating a lasting connection with the client through email and then automatically follows up with the prospect until s/he is ready to buy. Then, after the rst sale, marketing automation continues to stay in touch – without people doing too much work to make it happen – in order to attract the customer back for repeat business.

How Marketing Automation Works

Most of us have had the experience of interacting with a marketing automation tool even if we didn’t know what it was called. Though there is a lot of variation in the practice, automated marketing begins with a visit to a website. Once on the site, the visitor is o ered an incentive to exchange his or her email address for something of value. This could be a coupon, a free trial, a piece of marketing content, the ability to receive special o ers in the future, and so forth. After entering his or her email in a web form, the email address is sent to a marketing automation tool, which adds the address to a list. Most marketing automation tools are hosted in the cloud. The user accesses the tool through a web interface.

Depending on the system, there may be a con rming email that goes out automatically that double- checks that the site visitor is, in fact, opting in to receive messages from the business. After that, the marketing automation tool automatically sends pre-written messages to the site visitor at predetermined intervals until the visitor either buys something or opts out. Figure 2 illustrates this basic marketing automation work ow.

There are many variations on this pattern. Some retailers, for example, ask for a customer’s email address at the point of purchase. Others may use contests or sweepstakes to get customer names and email addresses for future marketing automation use. The “contact us” form may also feed email addresses into the marketing automation tool.

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Putting an appealing and feature-rich website online is a great thing for any company, but it is not the practical solution to run your business unless you are driving visitors to it. There are hundreds, if not thousands of other businesses offering the same products or services as yours. If your website is not visible on search engines, there is no point in investing in a well-designed site.

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No matter how attractive your site is, it will produce nothing unless you let someone know that it’s available. In today’s fast paced internet world, you need a combination of marketing solutions in order to stay competitive.

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Netpromotions.com provides affordable website marketing, search engine listing and seo services to small online businesses

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Netpromotions.com provides affordable website marketing, search engine listing and seo services to small online businesses

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How to secure your remote workers

Posted August 24, 2016 by

Advances in networking and mobile technologies have enabled remote workforces on a global scale, whether that’s employing full-time staff members who live thousands of miles away or simply allowing employees to work while at a conference or at home with a cold.

While remote work policies often hinge on company culture or manager preferences (like Marissa Mayer’s controversial ban on remote work for Yahoo! employees), most companies must at the least accommodate a mobile workforce—employees who check their work email via phone at 10pm or diehard workaholics who insist on sending out that memo, even though they’re on vacation in Thailand.

Therein lies the challenge.

Always-on access to work documents, emails, and programs creates loopholes for cybercriminals looking to infiltrate a company’s network. “Remote workers are a known weak link in almost every organization’s security profile, which is why threat actors target them,” says Justin Dolly, CISO of Malwarebytes. “The farther away from the typical corporate network you get, the less security there is protecting the users. There has always been a challenge managing endpoints, especially with the advent of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) some years ago.”

The most common security challenges for remote workers center on the following:

More devices, more problems

While full-time remote workers often use company-assigned equipment, contract workers or employees who are traveling usually connect on personal devices—especially mobile phones. In addition, some industries, such as education, support even more diverse endpoints, since an ever-changing roster of students and faculty rely on BYOD policies. A combination of personal and company devices, each with, potentially, different OSes, decentralizes management and makes keeping company data safe a challenge.

And let’s not forget the high potential for data leak through lost or stolen devices. According to a 2014 study commissioned by information security firm Imation, nearly one-third of remote workers admitted to losing unsecured and unencrypted mobile devices in a public place.

Insecure connections

Many companies require remote workers to log in with virtual private networks (VPN), but that may be tough to enforce. For convenience, workers may use their own Internet connection or set up in a coffee shop and use public wifi. Those on business flights or staying overnight in a hotel typically connect on airport or hotel wifi, open connections being accessed by thousands of other travelers a day.

Public wifi is insecure by nature—it requires no authentication to connect to the network, allowing cybercriminals to easily intercept the connection and distribute malware. Hackers can also spoof public wifis by creating fake access points and mimicking the names of legitimate connections. If you’re in a coffee shop and the shop’s wifi name is COFFEE_SHOP-WIFI, they might call theirs COFFEE_SHOP_FREE_WIFI. Users would have no idea they had connected to the wrong one, since they’d be able to browse the Internet with no apparent interference. Those connecting to rogue access points can have all of their traffic harvested in plain text, including passwords and other sensitive company data.

On the flip side, while remote workers who do not use VPN are at risk, the danger is less severe than if threat actors gained access to the entire network. Remote actors on private ISPs or public wifis could have their machines infected and their data harvested, but a criminal would only gain access to data contained on that device and not the network at large. If a marketing professional gets hacked, the criminal might see some marketing data, but he won’t tap into company financials or proprietary code.

Vulnerable endpoints

With the onus on remote workers to keep their machines updated, there’s a lot of room for error. Out-of-date software, plugins, and browsers, plus unpatched and unprotected systems leave remote employees even more vulnerable to attack.

Cybercriminals have been known to target remote workers, developing malware that identifies programs installed on a remote desktop in order to determine whether this particular employee’s data is worth gathering. If a remote worker has unpatched systems or isn’t running updated security software, he leaves the door open for threat actors to start the attack chain, collecting passwords for FTP clients or recording keystrokes.

Remote workers with unpatched systems are especially vulnerable to malvertising campaigns and their associated exploit kits, an estimated 70 percent of which drop ransomware payloads these days. According to a recent survey by Osterman Research, nearly 40 percent of businesses have been victims of a ransomware attack in the last year—and unprotected endpoints are part of the problem. “Part of the reason [that there are so many attacks] is that we have people that are using their own devices, they’re using corporate devices, and also privacy regulations in the U.S. aren’t as strict as in other countries,” says Mike Osterman, President of Osterman Research. “So there’s a lot of information that’s not as protected as it needs to be, a lot of endpoints that aren’t as protected.”

To add insult to injury, remote employees whose systems are outdated or who don’t have proper security software run the risk of exposing the entire network to the potential for breach if they connect via VPN. Say a remote worker using Adobe Flash goes to a trusted website to conduct research. Unbeknownst to that user, the website is hosting malicious ads that deliver exploit kits. Without ever having clicked on the ad, the user can become infected—the exploit kit discovers a vulnerability in Flash and delivers its payload. Now, when that user logs in to VPN using credentials, she’s giving cybercriminals access to the company server, the network, the infrastructure, and sensitive data.

So what’s a company to do? “Establishing policies that educate remote workers on known pitfalls, while also rolling out software and hardware requirements wherever possible, can give the IT staff some peace of mind,” says Dolly. Here are eight ways that businesses can better secure their remote workers.

  1. Switch to cloud-based storage. Look into cloud services that offer high levels of encryption so that data is not only easily accessible for remote workers on the move, but also better protected from threats like ransomware.
  2. Encrypt devices, when possible. When assigning laptops or other mobile devices to remote workers, encrypt hard drives to protect any data stored directly on the machine. However, not all security programs work with encrypted devices, so be sure to double check tech specs before doing so.
  3. Create secure connections to the company network. Remote employees should be connecting to the network through VPN so that their Internet traffic is encrypted. However, to protect the network at large, IT staff should only allow remote users to connect to VPN if their system is properly configured and patched, and their security products are updated and active.
  4. Roll out automatic updates. Take updating hardware and software out of remote workers’ hands by putting their devices on a standard image and activating automatic updates, especially for their security programs.
  5. Use an encrypted email program. Since checking company email offsite is a common practice, even among in-house employees, using a secure email program that encrypts messages is key. Cloud-based applications such as Mimecast manage business email security for Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft 365, for example.
  6. Implement good password hygiene. Safeguard against lost or stolen devices by requiring that remote workers (and all employees) use strong passwords that are long and memorable enough that they needn’t be written down. Request that employees also password-protect their phones, since they are the easiest to lose, be stolen, or hacked.
  7. Increase user awareness. Rather than attempt to restrict personal browsing or monitor other digital behavior (which can actually lead to decreases in employee satisfaction and productivity), IT staff should put an emphasis on user education. Distribute a cybersecurity policy that spells out how to identify phishing emails, tech support scams, and other social engineering tactics that threat actors use to bypass otherwise strong security measures.
  8. Deploy an endpoint security program. If not already implemented, look into endpoint protection platforms, such as Malwarebytes Endpoint Security, that can be deployed remotely and managed from a central location. Your endpoint protection platform should also include a strong anti-exploit component in order to shield unpatched programs or legacy systems.

Remote workers may present challenges for IT staff, but a combination of cybersecurity best practices, strong policy, and a dedicated user awareness campaign could keep company data safe for all employees outside the office walls, whether they’re checking email on the elevator or hunkered down in an Antarctic research station.

Scam Phone Calls Continue; IRS Identifies Five Easy Ways to Spot Suspicious Calls

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service issued a consumer alert today providing taxpayers with additional tips to protect themselves from telephone scam artists calling and pretending to be with the IRS.

These callers may demand money or may say you have a refund due and try to trick you into sharing private information. These con artists can sound convincing when they call. They may know a lot about you, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling. They use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. If you don’t answer, they often leave an “urgent” callback request.

“These telephone scams are being seen in every part of the country, and we urge people not to be deceived by these threatening phone calls,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said. “We have formal processes in place for people with tax issues. The IRS respects taxpayer rights, and these angry, shake-down calls are not how we do business.”

The IRS reminds people that they can know pretty easily when a supposed IRS caller is a fake. Here are five things the scammers often do but the IRS will not do. Any one of these five things is a tell-tale sign of a scam. The IRS will never:

  1. Call to demand immediate payment, nor will we call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill..
  2. Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  3. Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
  4. Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
  5. Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, here’s what you should do:

  • If you know you owe taxes or think you might owe, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. The IRS workers can help you with a payment issue.
  • If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to believe that you do, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1.800.366.4484 or at www.tigta.gov.
  • You can file a complaint using the FTC Complaint Assistant; choose “Other” and then “Imposter Scams.” If the complaint involves someone impersonating the IRS, include the words “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
  • Remember, too, the IRS does not use unsolicited email, text messages or any social media to discuss your personal tax issue. For more information on reporting tax scams, go to www.irs.gov and type “scam” in the search box.
  • Additional information about tax scams are available on IRS social media sites, including YouTube and Tumblr where people can search “scam” to find all the scam-related posts.

Preparing Your Business and/or Website For The Holidays

My advice is to be prepared. Preparation for a holiday ecommerce marketing campaign should at least include the following activities:

  • Schedule your campaign activities: From creative, to technical, to launch, it’s critical that campaign activities are scheduled well in advance, with plenty of buffer room for the inevitable hurdles that you’ll face.
  • Make sure you’ll be adequately staffed: Increased activity means increased need for customer service and fulfillment staff. Make sure you’ll be ready. Customers don’t care that your order volume is the cause of slower response times. They expect the same level of service all year long. Consider adding live chat. This is a great way to address customer concerns and keep them moving down the funnel.
  • Give your site a festive, holiday feel: This tends to heighten the emotional shopping experience, which can boost conversions!
  • Feature your top sellers and offer gift suggestions.
  • Figure out your holiday shipping deadlines and plan to post them prominently: This is both helpful as well as adds a subtle bit of urgency, which is a conversion booster. Plus, it’ll mean fewer headaches on the fulfillment side.
  • Determine which channels to focus on: Will it be email, blog posts, Facebook ads, etc.?  Get a clear picture of your channels so you can develop strategies for each, and perhaps an overall strategy that makes them all a cohesive unit.
  • Develop landing pages for specific products and promotions: These convert much better than a standard product detail page.
  • Track your results: Make sure you’re tracking individual campaigns and channels, as well as money in vs money out.

Preparing Your Marketing For The Holidays

Keep in mind that there will be even more day-to-day operations work during the holiday season, so it’s best to have everything marketing-related in place beforehand. Here are the most important things you should be preparing before the holiday season.

  • Ensure you have the bandwidth for traffic spikes: Check the past performance of your website against seasonal spikes in traffic. Be sure that you have the bandwidth to handle this extra traffic and that your site performs well under the extra pressure. If your website is slow or crashes, you will lose customers (many of whom may have turned out to be returning customers). Keep your average page loading time under three seconds –– under two, if possible.
  • Make certain your inventory is ready: The holidays are the most important time to be paying attention to inventory forecasting. Develop a robust forecast of which products will sell at which time, and allow sufficient lead times to get your products in. Late-arriving products can cause other problems for your operations and create problems down the whole chain.
  • Bring on additional staff to handle increased orders: Calculate staff capacity and ensure that it can handle the worst-case scenario. This goes for handling orders (a very time-consuming process) as well as answering customer queries. Shipping orders quickly will keep those customers coming back. Aim to keep your average shipping time consistent during the holiday season. Also, answering those customer queries faster will lead to higher conversion rates. After all, it’s easy for customers to switch to a competitor during the frenzy of the holiday rush.
  • Email marketing: Do you have a list of buyers who might be ready to come back? Maybe they just haven’t thought about you for awhile. The holiday season is the best time to hit them up again. This is a great opportunity to leverage your holiday promotions and of course, use great holiday-related content to entice people to shop.
  • Pay-per-click advertising: Although there will be a lot of competition from other retailers during the holiday season, this is a great opportunity to attract new buyers to your store, especially if you launch your campaigns early. Highlight your promotions and offers in order to attract buyers.

New Site Uptime Monitor Installed

 1. You protect the professional image of your business 

A professional brand image is important. The brand image of your business depends on the level of customer satisfaction.

Frequent downtime issues can jeopardize the reputation of your online business. Monitoring your website is the best way to prevent these unwanted hazards and protect the image of your business.

2. You keep your customers happy 

If your customers frequently access your website, you need high levels of uptime to ensure that your customers are happy.

If a downtime issue is unresolved for a prolonged period of time, then chances are quite likely that your customers will switch to your competitor.

3. You prevent losing sales 

Frequent downtime issues can lead to lost sales. Some years ago, Amazon was down for only two hours. This led to a loss of $3.48 million. Website uptime is vital to online stores.

4. You make sure that your pages get good search engine rankings 

Google does not like websites that are down. If your website comes up with constant downtime issues for one or more days, then it can suffer a huge setback in how your site is ranked by Google in its search results.

The search rankings of your web pages is influenced by the downtime and the speed of your website.

5. You detect hackers fast 

One of the potential reasons that can lead to downtime are hackers. If a hacker compromises your website and puts in malicious code then your website is sure to suffer a setback. Website monitoring (and checking your pages for particular words) informs you about downtimes as they happen.