Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Hackers Will Target Small Business Through the Internet of Things in 2018, New Report Says

2018 Cybersecurity Predictions: Hackers Will Target Small Business Through the Internet of Things in 2018, New Report SaysA new report finds hackers are poised to target small businesses that use Internet of Things technology to gain access to data from larger global firms in 2018. The  2018 Cybersecurity Predictions by Aon’s Cyber Solutions predicts a small business Internet of Things breach will create a domino effect that damages a larger company.

2018 Cybersecurity Predictions

The report also found that while  55 percent of small businesses were breached between 2015 and 2016,  only a small minority see cybersecurity as a critical issue. This is despite the fact that the overall money spent on cybersecurity in 2017 was $86.4 billion, an increase of 7 percent over 2016.

New Threat

The Internet of Things (IoT) is at heart of this new threat.  It’s loosely defined as all software enabled devices we use ( from appliances to smartphone sand computers) that can exchange data.

Criminals hijacked hundreds of thousands of Internet of Things (IoT) devices worldwide in 2017. They’ve even fine tuned  social engineering and spear-phishing tactics according to the report.

Jason J. Hogg is the  CEO, Aon Cyber Solutions. He explains the looming threat as small businesses use this technology.

“IoT is notoriously unsecured: manufacturers often lack necessary security expertise, constant product innovation creates vulnerabilities, and companies frequently overlook proper patch management programs. Hackers exploit this reality, targeting IoT as a pivot point to enter systems and take control of physical operations.”

Botnets

The report found that hackers favored botnets like “Hajime” and “IoT_reaper” last year. The growing trend  caused concerns about DDoS attacks and other issues. DDoS attacks occur where servers get flooded with bogus data and websites and networks get shut down.

High Cost

Any attack can really harm a small businesses’ operations as well as a larger organization.  There’s always a high cost to having your business shut down for any amount of time. What’s more, there’s lasting reputational damage because these smaller firms are working more and more with big organizations that have a large reach.

Hogg also says there are some other reasons why small businesses are ripe for this new IoT cybersecurity threat.

“Small businesses, lacking resources and/or awareness to effectively secure their systems, are particularly vulnerable to cyber attacks on IoT,” he says. “The breach will serve as a wake-up call for small and midsized businesses to implement better security measures so as not to risk losing business.”

Passwords

The report also predicts the passwords will continue to be hacked. Multifactor authentication will become critical as hackers learn to get around biometrics.  Larger businesses will adopt standalone cyber insurance policies and chief risk officers will play a larger role.

The report also sees the spotlight on regulation strengthening and widening as calls for a harmonized approach to cyber security get more intense.  It points to  The EU’s attempt to set  a universal standard for consumer data privacy and Global Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), that oversees companies that collect data of EU citizens.

Criminals will also target transactions that use points as currency like retailers who use rewards, gift and loyalty programs.  The use of cryptocurrencies will also see an increase in  ransomware attacks in 2018  like  the WannaCry ransomware that   affected 200,000 computers in 150 countries last year.

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Hackers Will Target Small Business Through the Internet of Things in 2018, New Report Says" was first published on Small Business Trends



Hackers Will Target Small Business Through the Internet of Things in 2018, New Report Says

How to Gain Customer Appreciation – And Why You Should

4 Ways to Show Clients Your Appreciation this Year

While it’s easy to view customers as just another business account, you must remember they’re people with very real thoughts and emotions. Keeping this in mind, let 2018 be the year that you show better appreciation for your loyal clients.

The Significance of Customer Appreciation

For all of the time and energy businesses pour into product development and other important business tasks, the reality is that everything pales in comparison to the significance of customer appreciation.

According to data collected by the U.S. Small Business Administration, 68 percent of clients leave because they feel the business doesn’t care about them. Compare that to just 14 percent that blame product dissatisfaction and you’ll see how critical customer appreciation is to a company’s overall health and well-being.

Customer appreciation can be defined as the measure of a company’s efforts to show customers their value and importance. It’s the way in which businesses show customers they’re grateful for them. The benefits of high customer appreciation include:

  • Higher retention rates. As the previous data point shows, customers who feel appreciated are much more likely to become repeat customers. They have a positive association with your brand and will come to you with their future needs.
  • Increase profits. It’s not just that these customers come back and do business with you again — they also spend more. Research shows loyal customers purchase products and services 90 percent more frequently, while spending 60 percent more with each transaction.
  • Positive word of mouth. As you know from experience, customer acquisition can be expensive. There are multiple stages involved in moving people from awareness to purchase and the dollars quickly add up. But do you know what doesn’t cost a thing? Positive word of mouth. When your customers are satisfied with the value you offer and feel appreciated, they’re apt to tell their friends and generate organic referrals and leads for you.
  • Benefit of the doubt. Finally, customers who feel appreciated are much more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt in situations where you fail to meet expectations. Whether it’s a late delivery, order screw-up or an interaction that’s uncharacteristic of your company, they’ll give you a second chance (as opposed to immediately going to your closest competitor).

The desire for appreciation is in our DNA. “As human beings, we long for connection. During that precious moment when someone sees us, praises us, or validates us, there’s a spontaneous connection that can arise — if we’re open to it,” psychologist John Amodeo explains. “Feeling appreciated strengthens the bond between people. It helps satisfy our longing for healthy attachment.”

While customers certainly seek and find more meaningful benefits in the relationships they have with family, friends and romantic interests, the appreciation that your business exudes goes a long way towards establishing a profitable and sustainable business connection.

4 Ways to Show Clients Your Appreciation

Every customer is different. Some people find meaning in tangible expressions of appreciation, while others simply want to hear you say a kind word.

Regardless of who your customers are and what they prefer, here are some practical steps you can take to show your clients that you appreciate their business in 2018.

1. Host an Event

There are plenty of subtle things you can do — and we’ll discuss those in further detail in the following points — but sometimes the best strategy is to do it big. In B2B companies, or small businesses that have a very specific and localized customer base, hosting a customer appreciation event is an awesome way to leave a lasting impression.

The key is to look at customer appreciation events in the same way that you would a dinner party you’re hosting in your own home. Guests are to be viewed as special friends, not customers you’re trying to close.

When asked about her New Year’s resolutions to be a better party host in 2018, For Your Party’s Rachel Anderson says, “Be better at following up with guests after the party and thank them for coming.” Anderson’s coworker Emily believes you should, “Put effort into the details, such as handwritten place cards or thank you notes to make guests feel special.”

Execution is the most important aspect of hosting a customer appreciation event — and success is found in the details. Be intentional about every little aspect and leave nothing to chance.

2. Personalize Your Services

Personalization of products and services is another way you can show your customers that you appreciate them. Not only do personalized features play to a customer’s likes, interests and needs — but the mere fact that you went through extra effort says a lot about your brand.

Personalization can happen in a number of ways. It could be something as simple as creating a custom color scheme that coincides with a client’s logo, or something as complex as tweaking software code to integrate a custom feature that doesn’t exist in the standard product offering.

3. Send Hand-Written Notes

“In today’s world, instant communication through emails, social media and text messages is commonplace, while receiving a handwritten card or letter in the mail is rare,” one customer engagement expert believes. “Even though technology has changed the way we communicate, receiving a handwritten, personalized note still touches our emotions in a way instant communication tools can only dream about.”

This year, make it a habit within your organization to send handwritten notes to customers. While a long, detailed note is sometimes useful, you don’t have to spend a ton of time on them. A simple note like this works well:

Hey, Dave! I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your business. It’s been an absolute pleasure to work alongside you this year and I hope we’ll continue to do so for years to come. Let me know if there’s anything else I can do for you.”

The process of writing this note, sticking it in an envelope, and dropping it off in the mailbox takes less than five minutes, but imagine how much more appreciation your customers would feel this year if you wrote one handwritten note per day.

4. Launch a Loyalty Program

While loyalty programs ultimately end up benefiting your business more than anything else, they also have the added advantage of making customers feel appreciated. As you look for unique ways to engage your top customers this year, consider launching some sort of loyalty program that rewards them for their repeat business.

What you don’t want to do is blindly launch a loyalty program. You’ll waste a ton of resources and do very little to move the needle on customer appreciation. Take your time and study what successful brands like Starbucks and Amazon do and you’ll learn a lot.

Make 2018 the Year of the Customer

If you’ve been in business for any period of time, you’ve had years where you look back and realize that everything you did was about you. You’ve also had years where you came to realize that you did a pretty good job of prioritizing customers. Almost certainly, the years when you put customers first were more successful and profitable than the ones when you were self-centered.

Now’s the time, while we’re still on the front end of 2018, to make a pact with your team to prioritize customers. As part of this shift, you need to develop a concrete customer appreciation strategy that allows you to engage and connect with customers on an intensely personal level.

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "How to Gain Customer Appreciation – And Why You Should" was first published on Small Business Trends



How to Gain Customer Appreciation – And Why You Should

53 Percent of Small Business Owners Pessimistic About Trump Legislation Helping Them

Rocket Lawyer 2018 Small Business Index: 53 Percent of Small Business Owners More Pessimistic About Trump Legislation Helping Them

Small businesses aren’t feeling especially optimistic about the Trump administration’s ability to enact policies that will help them, according to Rocket Lawyer’s 2018 Small Business Index. Or at least, the optimism that many of them were feeling last year has waned a bit.

Rocket Lawyer 2018 Small Business Index

Rocket Lawyer’s annual survey, which includes responses from 500 owners of small to medium sized businesses in the United States, found that 53 percent are feeling more pessimistic about the administration’s ability to enact helpful policies than they were at this point last year.

Heathcare and taxes seem to be the biggest concerns for small businesses heading into 2018, followed by infrastructure, immigration and trade issues. Though Republicans recently passed a new tax bill, small business owners don’t seem totally sold on that either. Forty-eight percent of respondents reported feeling pessimistic about tax issues, while 31 percent said they are taking a “wait and see” approach. Though, many of the responses were collected before the bill officially passed.

Despite those concerns, the index did find that small businesses tend to have a fairly optimistic outlook about their current and future opportunities for growth. In fact, 80 percent of the small businesses surveyed reported growth in 2017. And 63 percent believe their sales will increase again in 2018. Twenty-three percent even have plans to hire new employees within the next six months. So this feeling of optimism could continue leading to benefits for the U.S. economy as a whole.

So it seems even though businesses aren’t as optimistic as they once were about the current administration’s policies, that’s not having much, if any, negative impact on their plans for growth. Even without seeing as much progress on things like healthcare as they might have hoped over the past year, plenty of small businesses remain upbeat. And this outlook seems likely to continue into 2018, regardless of the laws and policies enacted.

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "53 Percent of Small Business Owners Pessimistic About Trump Legislation Helping Them" was first published on Small Business Trends



53 Percent of Small Business Owners Pessimistic About Trump Legislation Helping Them

How to Make a Great First Impression in 30 Seconds or Less

How to Make a Great First Impression in 30 Seconds or Less

If you think you have at least a couple of minutes to make a first impression, you are wrong! According to the On Stride Financial infographic below, you only have at most 100 milliseconds to form an initial impression. What this really means to small business owners is that the way you evaluate potential employees, business partners and personal acquaintances on your first-time encounter with them, is the same way other people evaluate you and your business, relying mostly on how you conduct yourself.

So how can you ensure people are judging you accurately and also seeing your best side in just a few milliseconds? Atalanta Beaumont, a psychotherapist, says: “Humans can work like a wolf pack when in groups, and if they get a sniff of desperation they will either ostracize the perpetrator or target them unkindly.”

Tips on How to Make a Great First Impression

You can, however, avoid getting devoured by considering the following tips.

First, you need to offer a firm, 3 to 4 seconds long, handshake. University of Alabama researchers found out that a good, firm handshake indicates that you are outgoing, positive and an emotionally expressive person.

You also want to wear more conservative clothes in simple colors when going or your first business meeting.

And besides clothing, your business meeting might just become a little better if you could just dedicate a few minutes to peeking at the profiles of the people you are meeting at your business meeting. According to Dorie Clark, author of “Reinventing You: Define your Brand, Imagine Your Future”, finding common points of connection will help you create emotional connection and even build rapport.

And while at the meeting, resist any urge to cross your arms. Opening up your “body windows,” according to body language expert Patti Wood, will make you appear more approachable.

You also need to make sure you smile throughout your conversation, and also remember lean in just enough during conversation as it makes others feel safe and understood.

The tips don’t end here. View the infographic below for more.

How to Make a Great First Impression in 30 Seconds or LessImages: OnStride Financial

This article, "How to Make a Great First Impression in 30 Seconds or Less" was first published on Small Business Trends



How to Make a Great First Impression in 30 Seconds or Less

Scoping Out the Competition Doesn’t Have to Be Hard, Check These 5 Sources

5 Tips for Scoping Out Your Small Business Competition

Some of my best ideas have come from my competitors.  Think about it…as entrepreneurs, we’re constantly networking and looking for best practices and inspiration.  And sure, we can learn from people in every industry.  But each industry has its special concerns, the things that are unique and don’t necessarily translate well for outsiders.

Scoping Out Your Small Business Competition

That’s where your competition can be so useful.  Rather than developing solutions to every problem all on your own, take a peek at your competitors.  You’ll uncover all kinds of useful information from the following sources.

1. Their website. You’ll be amazed at how much you can learn from your competition’s website.  In addition to the obvious things, like pricing and special offers or sales, there’s even more to be learned from how they’re marketing themselves.  Are they appealing to a different niche than you?  Do they use an interesting approach to connecting with your prospective customers?  Everything from font to color choices matters on a website, and you should absolutely be checking the other guy’s frequently.  Don’t forget to sign up for their email list so you can receive regular updates!

2. Reviews.  Yelp, Facebook, Google… the sources for customer reviews are practically endless.  I’ve found two primary uses for reviews.  First, they give me insight into ways my competitor is failing.  If there are lots of reviews about missed deadlines or slow service, that lets me know just how important those things are to my customers.  Second, it gives me ideas for marketing.  If I advertise speedy service, that’s going to appeal to dissatisfied customers who left reviews for my competition.  Basically, you’re learning what you can do better by mining the other guy’s complaints.

3. Job advertisements.  Not only is it fascinating to take a look at how your competition describes themselves to applicants, but you can also learn a lot from the kinds of positions being advertised.  Maybe they’re adding a new manufacturing shift.  Perhaps they’re opening a new location.  Look for signs of growth that can signal their intentions and give you time to prepare for market changes.

4. Conferences and trade shows.  Industry events are outstanding opportunities to take a look at the competition.  You’ll discover trends and identify who’s driving them.  You’ll find chances to pick up ideas for marketing and defining your niche in your market.  Taking cues from what’s working and what’s not for you competitors lets you learn from mistakes without having to make them yourself.

5. Google.  Don’t overlook the obvious.  See if you can uncover new ways to reach out to your ideal customers.  Has your competition been featured in an article?  Are they sponsoring a community event?  Is there a review site you weren’t aware of?  Spend a few minutes investigating all the ways your competition interacts with customers online.

There’s so much we can learn from our competition, and we can absolutely do it without jeopardizing what makes us unique.  I’m not advocating being a copycat, but there’s no sense reinventing the wheel.  Use all your available resources.

Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Scoping Out the Competition Doesn’t Have to Be Hard, Check These 5 Sources" was first published on Small Business Trends



Scoping Out the Competition Doesn’t Have to Be Hard, Check These 5 Sources

Monday, January 15, 2018

How Xero’s Ryan Himmel Explains the Impact of Trump’s Tax Plan on Small Businesses

trump tax plan small business

The recent passage of the Republican tax bill could lead to big changes for small businesses. But some entrepreneurs are still unsure exactly which parts of the bill might have the biggest impact. So a financial professional could potentially shed some light on the specifics.

Ryan Himmel is a CPA and head of financial partnerships in the Americas for Xero. Himmel recently spoke with me as part of our exclusive Smart Hustle Report. During the conversation, he shared some insights about the Trump Tax Plan and the impact it might have on small businesses.

Himmel said, “It’s a fairly broad based plan to change taxes across individuals and small business as well as large corporations. I think, by and large, the intent of the bill is to put more money in individuals’ and businesses’ pockets and keeping less with the government.”

You can listen to the full conversation here.

Trump Tax Plan Small Business Implications

And check out some of the highlights from the discussion below.

Pass-Through Entities Get an Additional Deduction

The bill includes a proposed 20 percent deduction on income for entities that are pass through, including LLCs that are taxed as S Corporations, partnerships and sole proprietors. So essentially, if the income from your business flows into an individual tax return, you could qualify for this deduction. This is obviously most relevant for very small and microbusinesses, and could provide major benefits for those companies.

You Might Not Be Able to Deduct All State and Local Taxes

Though most businesses have been focused on the tax changes that are specifically business related, small businesses are in a unique situation where they’re also largely impacted by the changes for individuals. One of those changes is a new rule that limits the amount of state and local taxes that individuals can deduct on their federal tax returns.

You should still be able to deduct some of these tax payments. But there will be a cap in place. This is mostly relevant for individuals with a fairly high income. But for those individuals who pay a lot in state and local taxes, the impact could be great.

Standard Deduction Increases Could Simplify the Process

One of the aspects of the new tax plan that has gotten a lot of attention is the increase in standard deductions. In many cases, the deduction is now double what it used to be. The idea is that with this higher deduction, fewer businesses and individuals will feel the need to go through the complicated process of itemizing deductions.

Himmel explains, “They want to get away from the idea of individuals itemizing tons of deductions where they could not have the proper support and things of that nature.”

Image: Ryan Himmel

This article, "How Xero’s Ryan Himmel Explains the Impact of Trump’s Tax Plan on Small Businesses" was first published on Small Business Trends



How Xero’s Ryan Himmel Explains the Impact of Trump’s Tax Plan on Small Businesses

Small Business Confidence Was Higher Than Ever in 2017

2017 NFIB Small Business Optimism Index

The National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) says small business confidence hit a record high in 2017.

2017 NFIB Small Business Optimism Index

The NFIB recently released its Index of Small Business Optimism indicating how small business confidence blasted off after the 2016 election and remained in the stratosphere for all of 2017 because of “massive tax cuts and significant regulatory relief” as NFIB President and CEO Juanita Duggan puts it.

December’s 2017 optimism index was slightly lower than the near-record November report, coming in at 104.9, yet it was still a historically exceptional performance. According to NFIB, 2017 was a strong year in the history of its survey — one that has been conducted since the fourth quarter of 1973.

“We’ve been doing this research for nearly half a century, longer than anyone else, and I’ve never seen anything like 2017,” said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. “The 2016 election was like a dam breaking. Small business owners were waiting for better policies from Washington, suddenly they got them, and the engine of the economy roared back to life.”

As a result of the increased confidence, the report states that many small business owners were bedeviled by labor shortage in 2017. According to the report, 31 percent of business owners currently have positions open they are unable to fill — and the problem will become more intense if the optimism continues to grow.

“There’s a critical shortage of qualified workers and it’s becoming a real cost driver for small businesses,” said Dunkelberg. As a counter measure, many small business owners have been raising compensation for workers as means to attract and keep good employees. However this is “a positive indicator for the overall economy, ” Dunkelberg said. And also overall, it is clear that better policies often lead to better economic results.

Image: NFIB

This article, "Small Business Confidence Was Higher Than Ever in 2017" was first published on Small Business Trends



Small Business Confidence Was Higher Than Ever in 2017