SMB Nation Blog

SMB Nation has been serving the Bainbridge Island area since 2001, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

Knowledge is Power: Small Business and Five Cyber Security Myths

By: Steven Bearak, CEO of IdentityForce

Building an effective cyber security strategy is critical for all small business owners. When running a lean operation, it’s common for a small business to do more with less. IT resources can be scarce, even for those small to mid-sized Cyber Securitycompanies that are in the high-tech and IT fields. In fact, when 600 IT leaders from small and mid-size businesses were surveyed for a 2016 State of SMB Cybersecurity Report, only 14 percent of the companies indicated that they were highly effective at mitigating cyber risks, vulnerabilities, and attacks.

The first step to protect your small business is to really understand perceived myths versus the truth around cyber security protection. So, let’s get started:

Myth #1 - A Strong Password Keeps Everything Secure
Strong passwords are important, but they won’t fully protect you. Consider using a password with two-factor authentication, and make sure that your team never leaves passwords lying around the office or their homes. Instead, encourage them to use a password manager.

Myth #2 – I’m Prepared! I have an Antivirus Program
Many businesses, including small business owners, believe that an antivirus program will keep their data safe and secure. While it helps, there’s a lot more to cyber security than installing a simple piece of software. And, more people than ever before are also using smartphones and tablets on unsecured networks without installing the proper antivirus software on those devices.

Myth #3 - A Good Firewall Will Keep the Bad Guys Out
In the same way that antivirus software won’t fully protect your business from a cybercriminal, firewalls won’t either. Gaps remain even if you are using both firewall and antivirus software. In today’s work environment where Bring your own Device (BYOD) and telecommuting are prevalent, many of the risks come from a lack of communicating and enforcing best practices with your employees. Other solutions such as identity theft protection can further protect your employees’ Personally Identifiable Information (PII).

Myth #4 – Cyber Attacks Don’t Happen to Small Companies
Cyber threats are very real and becoming more prevalent. This can also include ransomware – or malicious software – that threatens to publish the data on your device, or lock down your device, unless a ransom is paid. Your business can be a target 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And, according to a 2017 IT Risk Report by Netwrix, 73 percent of small businesses don’t have a dedicated function to handle information security, therefore making them an appealing and easy target to cyber criminals.

Myth #5 – I Don’t Know Any Cybercriminals, Therefore I’m Safe!
Even if it accidental, many cybercrimes can be traced back to internal events. This can be an unintentional phishing email sent by a vendor or partner, or in the case of ransomware, the attack can happen when your employees visit malicious or compromised websites. Often spam in the form of email attachments forwarded among colleagues can leave your business vulnerable.

Protecting your small or mid-sized business starts with knowledge. Always keep security in mind, research and install security software on your computers and devices, and conduct ongoing training with your employees. And, it’s not a one and done effort; you must refresh your practices every few months or at least twice a year to ensure you are keeping up with the latest cyber threats and attack methods.

Steven Bearak is the CEO of IdentityForce, a company commercialized from nearly four decades of in-depth experience around personal identity and security services and products. IdentityForce is a leading provider of proactive identity, privacy, and credit protection for individuals, businesses, and government agencies. In May 2017, IdentityForce introduced a secure mobile app to help members stay protected anywhere, anytime. For more information, visit www.identityforce.com

 

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Tips to Create an Office Space That Increases Staff Retention

People take a great deal of pride in their work, and they want their efforts to be as meaningful to employers and society at large as they are to them, on a personal level. But having more authority, more responsibilities, and a friendlier boss doesn't cut it these days. You'll find out soon enough that there's only so much you can do, as an executive, to keep employees running on all cylinders and happy on the job, before you turn to office interior design.

But what could a designer do to address staff retention problems? Typically, it should start with an in-depth analysis of how employees work, what they need throughout the day to carry out tasks effectively and what they Office Spacerequire to take a break and come back to work feeling refreshed. This knowledge should be a major source of information to help turn your business premises into the ideal workplace environment and commission the right office fit for your company. The idea is that a more employee-centric design would not only draw prospective candidates to your company, but also help existing employees focus and feel at ease at the office. As any designer would tell you, optimizing design and managing noise levels more efficiently fosters creativity and innovation. Here's how:

1. Take a Page from the University's Book
Switching from college desk to corporate office is a slow and sometimes painful transition. Working on the go is something graduates continue to yearn for even as their office looks nothing like the campus. It's entirely achievable with an office that focuses on flexible and movable furniture created for remote and spontaneous work.

2. Go from Unisex to Universal
It used to be that an inclusive work environment meant one where men and women worked together in harmony. Today, it's about catering to people of all abilities and ages. In other words, your office interior design needs to make work accessible to everyone, using specific types of furniture that is the right weight and placed at just the right height or distance. To round it off, you need to back up this approach with the latest technology and the right kind of general office attitude toward diversity.

3. Listen to What 'Mother Nature' Has to Say
Green never goes out of style. If there's one thing a plant will never be, it's 'outdated'. So, swap expensive end-to-end, turn-key designs for low-maintenance plants and trees that can turn your décor into something truly inspirational.

4. Light Up with Excitement
It goes without saying that people need fresh air and daylight aplenty to give it their best on the job. Don't let seasonal affective disorder or bad mood hold them down. If your windows aren't large enough, resort to glass, mirrors and other shiny and reflective surfaces to make the most of the light ingress.

5. Look Outside the Cage
Considering all aspects of office, check one last thing before you give the designer the go-ahead. Is it pet-friendly? Studies suggest one in two people worldwide have at least one pet, and it's not unusual to have a pet awareness day at the office every now and then. Some companies even go out of their way to have their own workplace pet. If that sounds like something you'd like to have for your employees, then it could be time to start making the office feel at home to more than one species.

6. Be Smart with Art
Is the photo frame on your desk the one and only accent piece at the office? You need only say the word, and your office interior design will be brimming with character. Opt for youthful colour schemes and don't be afraid of unusual contemporary combinations, such as mint and copper, blush and gold, soft Greek blue and silver, etc.

Author Bio:

Reno is the founder and director of Enigma Visual Solutions, a leading office interior design and office fit-out Company in London, specializing in retail designs, graphic productions, signage systems, office refurbishment, event branding, office space planning and much more. He specializes in experiential marketing and event productions. He enjoys sharing his thoughts on upcoming marketing ideas and design trends. Feel free to follow him on twitter.

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How to Nurture an Email and Facebook Lead into a Sale

As more and more businesses adopt inbound marketing as a way to get more leads, the significance of choosing the most effective lead nurturing strategy becomes paramount. Typically, a large share of leads disappears after the first interaction with a business, so getting more quality ones and turning them into sales is something that you just need to master.

If you haven’t been able to turn your subscribers, followers, and fans into active sales, you need to change your approach to nurturing them. Are you interested in knowing how to accomplish this in the right way?

If you are, keep reading.

Today, we are going to talk about email and Facebook leads. Why? Because these two sources contain the most users, therefore they are used by the vast majority of businesses.

Let’s start with Facebook.

How to Nurture Facebook Leads

When it comes to social media, you should think about it as the initial step of your sales cycle. Your ultimate objective is to move leads to a landing page on your website. However, there is a complex task of getting them there.

These tips will help you to make this task easier:

Engage leads with Helpful and Shareable Content

Facebook is a powerful platform for lead generation that has one significant advantage: it gives brands a human face. The interaction with the customers, however, should follow some guidelines. For example, Facebook is not a tool for spamming your followers. People are using it for fun and communication, not sales pitches.

The marketers understand that. According to 2016 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends study completed by Content Marketing Institute, creating more engaging and useful content remained the highest priority in 2016. This situation is not likely to change anytime soon.

Top Priority B2C

Source: Content Marketing Institute

Therefore, all content you share with the leads on Facebook should be useful and shareable. The more shares and likes it receives, the better your reputation is.

Dos:

  • How to articles
  • Articles relevant to professionals from your industry
  • Engaging news

Don’ts:

  • Sales pitches
  • Posts with clear messages to “click here,” “buy from us,” and “share this.”

Optimize the Path to Conversion

Let’s come up and be honest here: many of us are fairly lazy customers. We don’t look for something really hard unless we urgently need it. So, if we have to figure out how to purchase a product or a service, we just might close that site and look for another one where purchasing is easy.

The takeaway here is that you to need to ensure that it’s super easy for leads to make purchases from you. Analyze the page of your business on Facebook:

  • How does a customer make a purchase?
  • Do they have to click on tabs, then click some more on your website, and then figure out how to contact you for the inquiry?

If you feel that your purchasing process is a bit complex, simplify it until it’ super easy.

How to Nurture Leads with Emails

If you’re using email marketing to increase your profits, consider these tips:

Think about the Experiences and Needs of your Leads

After a lead has signed up on your website using an email, you need to treat it as the beginning of the sales cycle. However, the most important role that defines your future marketing effort is the experience of that lead. Here are some examples of emails just for that:

  • Welcome Series – welcome the lead and thank them for joining! See an awesome example from Holland & Barrett below:

HB 1

  • Upsell Offers – emails that let the leads know about the sales and discounts and create a sense of urgency. Another great example from Holland & Barrett:

HB2

  • Educational Content – by sending relevant and helpful articles about the products you sell, you are building rapport with the leads. For example, you can describe product use ideas, benefits of specific products and other actionable information. Holland & Barrett excel at that as well:

HB3

Emails like these can drive major conversions and ensure that customers receive only highly personalized messages at the best possible moment.

Tools for Nurturing Leads using Facebook and Emails

  • MailChimp – an email automation tool that allows to enhance the process of engaging leads via emails sent on an automated basis.
  • Buffer – a social media tool that automatically posts the content at a time at frequency specified by the user.
  • Assignmenthelper.com.au – this tool is useful for creating marketing texts for Facebook campaigns, targeted emails, and more.
  •  Headline Analyzer from CoSchedule – verify whether the headlines in your content are appealing and get tips on improving them. 

Final Thoughts


To succeed, be critical of your lead nurturing campaigns because they are your tool for getting more sales. Don’t forget to measure the results you’re getting because it is the only way to determine where leads are in the sales process.

Hope these tips will be helpful for increasing your profits and getting more quality leads. Follow them closely and continue to build your success sale by sale!

Lucy Benton is a marketing specialist, business consultant. She helps people to turn their dreams into the profitable business. Now she is writing for marketing and business resources. Also Lucy has her own blog ProWritingPartner where you can check her last publications

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How to Reduce Your Business Energy Costs

Owning and running a business is an epic feat.

by: Trevor McDonald

As a business owner you have a task at hand every day: producing an agenda of the day’s workload, assigning projects that will be managed by trusted colleagues, sending quick-fire responses to an endless stream of emails, Reduce Energypromoting your next marketing tactic, and frankly, so much more. Consequently, it is almost impossible to remember every single responsibility, which can cause you to occasionally overlook some major details - such as making sure that the business energy costs are not unexpectedly skyrocketing.

When was the last time you thought about your energy business costs? This money enables you to run a business in the first place, thrive in a productive and comfortable space, and operate technology. Hence, it is imperative to prioritize strategizing methods of reducing business costs and creating an energy-efficient environment in your workplace.

Take a step back from the hustle and bustle of your business and make careful note of these pivotal ways to reduce your energy costs.

1. Implement the use of “green” technology

Businesses are rapidly upgrading their old office equipment into greener and environmentally-friendly alternatives. That’s due to two main reasons: one, is that it saves a tremendous amount of energy and recycles it, thus reducing excess energy consumption and saves money; the second is to shrink their business’ carbon footprint on the earth and prevent any additional harm to it.

2. Prevent colleagues from changing the thermostat temperature

Everyone is prone to the discomfort of weather. In an office, it’s easy to get up and change the temperature of the thermostat and get back to work by thriving in a “perfectly” conditioned space. But minutes later, someone else stands up and shifts the number just a smidgen so that the air feels “just right” to them instead - and unfortunately, the cycle continues with another person right afterward. Did you know that adjusting the thermostat uses more energy than simply allowing it to function and change naturally? The solution: lock up the thermostat and limit the number of individuals allowed to set temperatures, or set it on an automatic setting that adjusts to the seasons and weather accordingly.

3. Maximize the use of natural light

Being stuck inside a building with artificial lights all day gets tiring and uncomfortable. If you are in the process of redesigning your building, look to build large windows and diminish the use of light bulbs as much as possible. Studies show that employees who work in a naturally-lit space are shown to be more productive and happy in the workplace. Also, you can expect employees to come to work lively and awake almost every morning since the constant exposure to natural light helps them sleep better at night.

4. Go digital when distributing or sharing information

Filtering through stacks of paper in a drawer of endless files not only wastes time, but is overwhelming and obsolete. Use a cloud system to store data, engage customers and employees with media outlets, and distribute information. By using a cloud system, you are able to hone in all the business plans, goals, and collaborations into one digital space which keeps you consistently organized.

5. Invest in energy-saving appliances

While energy-saving appliances are expensive, investing in them will serve you more benefit than harm with chronic use, such as gradually decreasing your expenses on bills and reducing the business’ impact on the environment.
Energy-saving appliances also perform better than normal appliances, cultivate a “cleaner and greener” atmosphere, and inspire your employees to take their part in saving energy both in the office and at home. The prime appliances to invest in first are computer monitors because they never stop running throughout the workday. Other examples of energy-efficient appliances to consider are printers, microwaves, and refrigerators.

6. Properly seal areas that allow air to escape from the building

In the summer, one of the leading causes of business energy bill spikes is the increased use of air-conditioning. You must check to see that air emitted from the air-conditioner does not escape the building due to an unknown draft. Not to say you should aggressively barricade the building or put it on lockdown when the AC is in use. Rather, you can set aside time to check problem areas that release air, such as windows and the space underneath doors, seal them accordingly, refrain from opening windows all-together when the AC is on, and ensure that the air is circulating in its designated area.

7. Switch out current light bulbs into either CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) or LED (light-emitting diode) bulbs

CFL and LED light bulbs are incredibly energy-efficient: they last longer than normal incandescent light bulbs and rarely need to be replaced. Additionally, CFL and LED are easy on the eyes, and not as invasive or hazardous as incandescent light bulbs.

Paying for unwanted finances is always a hassle. Therefore, make sure you are equally prioritizing the use of energy within the workspace alongside the dedication to optimizing productivity within the office and finding new ways to market the brand. Now that you’re equipped with vital ways to keep business energy bills at an all-time low, you can invest more time into expanding your business and propelling it forward to greater heights.

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KnowBe4 Releases Email Exposure Check Pro to Help Organizations Identify At-Risk Users

KnowBe4 Releases Email Exposure Check Pro to Help Organizations Identify At-Risk Users
Revamped tool identifies at-risk users through deep web searches and hundreds of breach databases for no-charge.
Tampa Bay, FL – September 6, 2017KnowBe4, provider of the most popular security awareness training and simulated-phishing platform, today announced the release of the new version of its Email Exposure Check (EEC). knowbe4The new version is called the EEC Pro, has powerful additional features and is still provided at no cost.
While employees give out their corporate email for various reasons, IT is hard-pressed to keep track and manage the risk. EEC Pro helps IT by identifying an organization’s at-risk users by crawling social media information and scouring hundreds of breach databases to identify risk associated with user emails and identities. The more at-risk email addresses a company has, the bigger its attack surface, and the higher its risk.
EEC Pro only requires filling out a form, and works in two stages. The first stage performs deep web searches to find publicly available organization data provided on sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook. This allows the EEC Pro to show what organizational structure an attacker would be able to easily pull together and use to craft targeted attacks.
The second stage of EEC Pro utilizes the Have I Been Pwned data breach service to find users that have had their account information released in any of several hundred breaches. These users are particularly at-risk because an attacker knows more about them, potentially including their actual passwords. As the final step, EEC Pro provides a detailed summary report to the IT team, including an overview of the data found, a summary of organizational risk levels, and a link to a web report that contains a full list of all users found, the breaches the users were found in, and an overview of the data included in the breach. This allows IT managers to ensure exposed emails or exposed passwords are modified.
“Since 91% of data breaches start with a successful phishing attack, an organization must act reasonably or do what is necessary or appropriate to protect its data and take steps to identify weaknesses that expose their employees,” said Stu Sjouwerman, Founder and CEO of KnowBe4. “Employees are the last line of defense within an organization. We want to make it as easy as possible for IT professionals to reduce their attack surface and strengthen their weakest links.You need to create a ‘Human Firewall’”
Exposed emails and passwords can lead to recent data breaches such as those experienced by security companiesMandiant and Enigma where compromised passwords were not changed.
More information about EEC Pro is available here.
 
 
 
About KnowBe4
KnowBe4, the provider of the world’s most popular integrated new school security awareness training and simulated phishing platform, is used by more than 12,500 organizations worldwide. Founded by data and IT security expert Stu Sjouwerman, KnowBe4 helps organizations address the human element of security by raising awareness of ransomware, CEO Fraud and other social engineering tactics through a new school approach to security awareness training. Kevin Mitnick, internationally recognized computer security expert and KnowBe4’s Chief Hacking Officer, helped design KnowBe4’s trainings based on his well-documented social engineering tactics. Thousands of organizations trust KnowBe4 to mobilize their end-users as the last line of corporate IT defense.
Number 231 on the 2017 Inc 500 list, #50 on 2016 Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500 and #6 in Cybersecurity Ventures Cybersecurity 500. KnowBe4 is based in Tampa Bay, Florida. For more information, visit www.knowbe4.com and follow Stu on Twitter at @StuAllard.
 
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