How to Protect Your Small Business From Cyber Attacks Right Now - Entrepreneur

How to Protect Your Small Business From Cyber Attacks Right Now - Entrepreneur


How to Protect Your Small Business From Cyber Attacks Right Now - Entrepreneur

Posted: 09 Jun 2020 09:30 AM PDT

An annual report from Verizon found one type of breach makes up 30 percent of attacks on small businesses. Here's what you need to know.

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5 min read

For 13 years, has released its annual Verizon Business Data Breach Investigation Report, or DBIR, a comprehensive look at more than 150,000 incidents that gives business owners insight into trends in cyber attacks. As expected, the 2020 report took on more meaning: Unprecedented numbers of professionals are working from home, and small- and medium-sized businesses without clear data policies in place are particularly at-risk right now. "Employees are dispersed and on different devices, and you don't know what they're doing. This opens up vulnerabilities like never before," says TJ , SVP and president of Verizon Business Markets. 

The exhaustive 120-page report breaks down threats by industry, business size and region, but there are common takeaways for owners of any size business — especially those who don't consider theirs big enough to attract cyber attacks. "Should a owner sit and read the DBIR from start to finish? No. But they should definitely understand what their vulnerabilities are," Fox says. 

Related: How Hackers Take Advantage of a Crisis

In this time of uncertainty many are hesitant to make capital outlays on projects like a data security overhaul, but it's more important than ever. Beyond office workers turning their homes into offices, retail locations are introducing services like order pickups, and restaurants are utilizing new ordering platforms like GrubHub. All this means you're interacting with customer data on new networks in ways you've never done it before, and it's crucially important that you understand the data security implications.

In a conversation with Entrepreneur, Fox broke down four measures he considers the first line of defense for small business owners who haven't paid much attention to data security in the past. "There's no one magic button when it comes to this, but there are things you can do to greatly minimize your exposure to breaches and devastation to your business and customers."

Avoid public WiFi

If you do one thing, forbid any and all use of public WiFi for work activities. "Public WiFi is the most dangerous place on the planet," Fox says. It's a line he's been using in interviews for several years, but it doesn't make the sentiment any less important. Logging into a public WiFi network at an airport or coffee shop opens devices up to attack. Make sure your employees know it's against company policy to use public WiFi and provide alternatives such as a mobile private network or VPN for them to utilize when they're not in the office. Use mobile device management on company-owned devices like work laptops or cellphones to prohibit users from connecting to public WiFi networks. 

Related: 4 Statistical Reasons Data Security Should Be a Top Priority for Small Businesses

Develop policies for suspicious emails

This year's DBIR found that 30 percent of cyber attacks against small businesses involve phishing. Do your employees even know what phishing is? If not, Fox emphasizes it's critically important they know what to look for. Make sure they know they shouldn't click on links or download files sent out of the blue, even if they appear to be from members of their organization. Set clear policies about how files should be sent between employees so that they know when something is amiss. 

It's also crucial employees know this applies to all of their devices: "I met with an analyst a few years ago who said 'Oh, I got a fishy email at work on my laptop, so I decided to open it up on my mobile device,'" Fox says. "It's the same thing." Using a phone makes you just as vulnerable to bad actors looking to steal information. 

Related: 4 Telltale Signs Your Business Is Ripe for a Cybersecurity Attack (and How to Respond)

Have clear guidelines about downloading apps

This year's DBIR found that 43 percent of the breaches studied involved web applications downloaded from the internet to their devices. Set clear expectations about what types of applications your employees can have on their company devices — maybe they like using an application like to listen to music while they work or check sports news on an app, for example. Enact policies about where applications should be downloaded from, whether that's the App Store, or another market. 

Related: Zoom's Security Pile-on Caused a Lawsuit - Are Microsoft, Cisco and Others Next?

Get on the cloud

Large enterprise organizations have whole teams to manage their data storage, but small businesses are much less likely to know the current best practices. "A lot of times small businesses have a computer that's sitting in their office or at their retail location," Fox says. "It's been there a long time, and that's where their email and records sit, and they're not keeping it updated from a patch perspective or a software perspective. That creates incredible vulnerabilities."

If you're a small business not already using cloud-based systems like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud, you need to seriously consider making the switch. Determining which one is right for you should be part of a comprehensive look at what data security changes you might need to make, especially right now. 

Related: 6 Cybersecurity Must-Haves for Your Business

5 Tips for Recognizing a Meaningful Business Opportunity When You See One - Entrepreneur

Posted: 11 May 2020 09:09 AM PDT

5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

According to the Small Association, roughly 50 percent of businesses survive to reach their fifth year. What is interesting, however, is that the SBA's analysis found that these survival rates generally remain consistent regardless of the overall state of the . In other words, lasting is largely dependent on choosing the right business opportunity.

While understanding the basics of running a business is certainly important, your ability to recognize meaningful opportunities will play a major role in whether you author a lasting success story.

Idenitfying these opportunities isn't an exact science, but there are still telltale signs to look out for, beginning with the following five.

1. You've found a noteworthy market inefficiency

Not surprisingly, the best ideas come when you find a meaningful problem to solve. As I've written previously, some of the easiest ways to identify these opportunities come by looking at problems within your own community or drawing from things you've experienced firsthand.

A big part of why these methods are so valuable is because they help you identify issues that you are going to be more passionate about. As a result, your business endeavors are more likely to be warmly received and create a meaningful impact.

2. Identify successful in similar markets

I recently had the chance to speak with Alex Cruder, CEO of Curbie. During our conversation, he advised, "Pay close attention to business models and products that work well in similar markets to your own, but aren't currently available in your area. Look for ways to bring these concepts to your local market, as they will have much lower risk than more novel ideas. For example, I saw the success of online car dealerships in the United States, a that had not yet been introduced in . Bringing an already-successful to a new market led to incredible growth."

Even in our digital-centric age, many successful businesses are still confined to a particular country or region. This gives you the opportunity to establish your own similar business in your own area. The basic business model and product line have already been proven. Using this model to launch your own is an easy course to success.

Related: 5 Simple Ways to Identify Business Ideas That Could (Really) Change the World

3. A new approach to a tried-and-true idea

In a 2009 on-campus podcast interview, Raffi Amit, professor of at Wharton, gave this example of how digital entrepreneurs develop winning ideas: "You could go back to the beginning of , where they saw an opportunity to connect people through launching a virtual flea market. It offered a platform that connected buyers and sellers directly."

This description of eBay as a "virtual flea market" doesn't make it sound too unique, but that's a big part of what helped make it so successful. It took a concept that people already knew and understood and brought it to the digital world. This same idea has worked for countless other brands. Finding ways to digitize or otherwise streamline an in-demand concept will fuel rapid growth.

4. It's something people are asking for

Regardless of whether you currently run your own business or are working in a 9-to-5 job, your gives you ample opportunity to hear from customers. Direct customer feedback, buying trends and other requests give you greater insight into what the market wants and needs. 

Sometimes, your customers will ask for something that isn't currently being offered. Other times, they'll want something similar to what is already available, but better. Whether the opportunity lies in a new product or improved , paying close attention to what customers are saying is key for identifying business models that will be well-received by your local market.

5. There is an opportunity to act quickly

While market research and other preparatory steps are certainly important, many of the most meaningful business opportunities are those which allow for a fast launch and an agile, iterative approach. This allows you to respond quickly to market disruptions and pivot so you can better serve customers with your winning idea.

Being the first in your market with a particular idea also gives you the opportunity to establish yourself as the market leader. As one example, an evaluation of pharmaceutical launches by McKinsey found that on average, the first product to market maintained 40 percent of the market 10 years after its launch. Those that were fifth to market or later only achieved 10 percent of the total market share.

The advantage was even greater for drugs that had a longer lead time before other competitors entered the market. The ability to get into the market first has played a big role in the successes of brands ranging from Amazon to Kellogg.

Related: 7 Ways to Identify Real, Money-Making Business Opportunities

At the end of the day, you'll never know if a business opportunity delivers meaningful results until you test the market. However, by using these principles to help you better identify and evaluate ideas, you will be better poised for successful market entry.

Don't delay when you have a winning business idea in hand. The sooner you act, the greater your impact on the marketplace will be.

30 Real Estate Marketing Tips - Small Business Trends

Posted: 09 Jun 2020 11:39 AM PDT

The real estate industry is highly saturated in nearly every market throughout the country. So it can be tough for new or emerging small businesses in the space to really set themselves apart. A unique marketing strategy is a must for anyone trying to build sustained success. But what does that look like?

First, you need some basic local and online marketing tactics to gain visibility for your business. Then, you need some creative ideas to help your real estate business stand out from the competition. Finally, you need to use your insider knowledge to gain traction and create valuable partnerships within the industry.

To help your real estate business break through the noise and find success in a saturated market, try these 30 real estate marketing tips.



Real Estate Marketing Tips

Whether you're marketing real estate listings, selling potential clients on your services, or creating partnerships within your community that help you build long term success, you need a wide array of real estate marketing ideas. Though traditional marketing strategies can help you build your customer base and create some buzz, you also need to think out of the box and consider "insider" real-estate only tricks as well during marketing. Ideally, you should choose a mix of strategies, from email marketing and social media to open houses and networking events. See a full list of options below and then choose the ones that work best for your specific market and target clients.

Traditional Real Estate Marketing

Most marketing plans are built around the basics. Before you can worry about standing out or getting specific with the tools available in your industry, you need to increase visibility and make sure people in your community know how to get in contact with you. Many of these strategies also apply to other types of businesses. But they build a foundation for a successful real estate enterprise as well. Consider these traditional marketing ideas as the first step in creating your overall marketing strategy.

1. Hire a Real Estate Photographer

The photos of your listings can help you make a great first impression with potential home buyers and clients. Real estate photography is a skill that is best left to professionals. Search online in your area for photographers who take amazing interior shots or look at photo credits on other real estate agent websites. You can then have photographers go with you to the clients' home when they're ready to stage and list. This way they can get shots of each of the rooms, as well as the exterior and surrounding area before the open house.

2. Build a Website

Like other businesses, real estate agents need quality websites. The site needs to make it easy for potential clients to learn about the benefits of working with you and actually get in touch when they're ready to buy or sell. Include listings, contact information including email address, and a short bio that helps people in the area get to know you virtually. A blog, social media buttons, and links to your listings on other platforms can also help people connect with you elsewhere and give them the information they need to make a decision.

3. Make It Easy to Share

Real estate marketing can be made significantly easier if others in your area can do some of the work for you. It's not uncommon for people to share listings directly with their friends or family members via email, text, or social media. So include share buttons on your listings and the various pages of your website so they can get others involved with a quick click.

4. Distribute Business Cards

As a real estate agent, your marketing efforts don't always have to be far-reaching. Sometimes, just networking with individuals in your community can be an effective lead generation strategy as part of your marketing efforts. Pass out business cards to individuals you meet and other entrepreneurs around town. You might even leave extras with certain businesses like movers or home improvement contractors.

5. Create Valuable Content

People often do online research before buying or selling a home. So, if you can provide people with helpful information about the process, they may be more likely to reach out to you once they're ready. For example, you could publish blogs about the best neighborhoods for families in your city or different types of home loans for first time home buyers.

6. Add a Lead Magnet

You can also create content with extra value that's aimed at lead generation in your marketing. For example, offer a free, downloadable ebook that walks people through the entire home buying process. Potential clients who want the resource can simply enter their email address to receive a copy. Then you can add them to your email marketing lists and nurture those leads such as inviting them to an open house.

7. Make Videos

Pretty much every real estate listing has photos. But you can make yours stand out even more with video walk-throughs that make people feel like they're actually there. This isn't just a great way to show off your listings; it also shows people who are interested in selling how you go the extra mile for your clients.

8. Buy Local Search Adds

A quick Google search is often the first step potential clients take when searching for real estate agents in their area. By purchasing local search ads, you can go up toward the top of those searches and get in front of more people who are ready to take that step.

9. Use Social Profiles

Social media is a great way to share helpful information and connect with clients and people in your community on a more personal level. Choose a couple of platforms where you can post regularly. You can start by sharing photos of properties, providing helpful tips for buyers and sellers, and information about your community.

10. Communicate with Your Email List

Email marketing isn't just about collecting email addresses and pushing your services. Use email as another avenue to nurture relationships and provide value to clients. It may be most effective for you to segment your email list and send out tailored content. For example, those who signed up for a first-time home buyer's guide can get information aimed at those who are currently looking to buy. While those who have already bought a home with you can receive information about community events and general homeowner tips. This keeps them engaged so they'll call or email you again the next time they plan on moving.

Out-of-the-Box Real Estate Marketing

Once you have the basics covered, it's time to jump into some out-of-the-box thinking. These real estate marketing ideas likely go beyond what many of the other professionals in your area already do. So they can help you cut through the noise and promote your company in a way that allows it to actually stand out from the crowd of other real estate businesses in your market.

11. Provide a Complimentary Moving Truck

After your clients are done buying and/or selling a home, they'll almost certainly need help moving. Providing a moving truck along with your services streamlines the process for them and helps your value proposition stand out. Work with a local moving company or truck provider to see if you can get a bulk or recurring discount. Then promote your offer on your website and in local ads.

12. Hire a Writer

Many real estate agents already understand the value of quality images, but a powerful copy can make a major impact too. If you don't have the time to craft unique stories about each of your properties, work with a writer who can paint a picture of what it would be like to live in each property. This can help potential buyers actually envision themselves living in your area or in a specific property.

13. Partner with Local Businesses

There are tons of other businesses that tend to cater to people who may be in the market for a new home, like home improvement companies, movers, and mortgage brokers. Partner with these companies to provide referrals to one another or bundle your services together so customers can easily find all the assistance they need. You might also decide to share the cost of local or online advertising campaigns. Even if you don't create official partnerships, communicating with these companies and promoting them on social media or your website can help you increase your own visibility in the community as well.

14. Try Remarketing

It's common for people to do online research into the local real estate market before they're actually ready to move. With remarketing, you can target the people who have already visited your listings or website in the past. This gives you a better chance of grabbing their attention later when they're actually ready to get started. Many online platforms, including Google and Facebook, offer this as an option.

15. Host an Event

Most realtors know about the value of hosting an open house. But if you want to get even more people involved, go beyond that idea and host local events that people can attend even if they're not interested in a specific property. You might have a happy hour event or a simple networking gathering where you can introduce yourself to potential buyers and sellers in a casual setting. Give them a card or share your unique value proposition so they can easily get in touch with you when they're ready for your services.

16. Answer Questions on Your Website

Aside from the business page on your website, a FAQ section can help you grab qualified leads from online searches quickly. For example, people searching for "how do I get a certificate of occupancy in [city]?" are likely getting ready to sell their home. If your answer comes up on the main search page, they can easily visit and get in touch with you right away. Pay attention to the questions clients ask you early in the process so you know what to include.

17. Create Lifestyle Videos

Aside from the videos you create for individual properties, you can make video marketing that sells a lifestyle. Promoting the general feeling that people can get from buying a home in your area can get people excited about buying and help you position your brand in a positive light. Highlight fun local attractions, the architectural beauty of homes in your location, or other selling points about moving to the area.

18. Design Infographics

Infographics are simple images that share statistics and fun facts. As a realtor, you can use them to promote cool features about homes in your area or details about specific neighborhoods. Then share them on social media and other local residents may latch on and help them go viral. Include your branding and links to your website and social profiles so people who find the graphics online can easily find you as well.

19. Make a Fun Quiz About Your Area

Another fun online activity that local residents tend to love is quizzes. Create a "how well do you know [city]?" quiz on your website or social channels and get people to share their scores with friends. At the end of the quiz, include a short blurb or link to your email or website so those who are in the market for real estate services can easily find you.

20. Set Up a Referral Program

Referrals are crucial to any successful real estate business. But not many have programs designed to actively encourage word of mouth marketing among clients. Find some kind of incentive or reward you can offer for past clients who recommend you to friends and family.

Insider Real Estate Marketing

The real estate industry is full of unique platforms and concepts that you can leverage to get in touch with relevant individuals — as long as you know how to use them properly. These "insider" real estate marketing tips can help you make the most of these items that are specific to the industry. And you can use these marketing ideas not only to capture client leads but to market to other agents as well. Whether you're looking to get more visibility for your listings with buyer agents or grow your team.

21. Reverse Prospect on MLS

Many online listing platforms let real estate agents search for other agents who have clients looking for homes in a particular area. You can use this reverse prospect feature on multiple listing service (MLS) to find agents with clients who are looking for listings similar to those you have to offer. Then contact those agents to let them know about your new listing, allowing them to easily share that information with their interested clients to push a potential sale along.

22. Try Virtual Staging

Staging a home can help clients visualize what it might be like to live in a home. Staging in person can be beneficial, but the decor choices might not appeal to every single person who comes through. Use virtual staging software to easily and affordably create different room layouts with various furniture and decor pieces. This can help you appeal to various styles or even help specific clients insert their personal style into a home.

23. Host Webinars

You can use webinars to share helpful information for potential home buyers or sellers in your area — or even to appeal to other realtors. Pick a topic that provides specific value to your target audience and consider even having a co-host to increase your reach. Then you can offer a short sales pitch at the end to bring in new clients, grow your team, or simply create goodwill with other realtors in your area who you may want to work with in the future.

24. Complete Your Profile on Real Estate Sites

Real estate listing sites like Zillow and Trulia are popular for people who want to browse homes on their own. But each listing also includes realtor information that they can use to contact you if interested. Instead of just putting your basic name and contact information, fill out your whole profile and use it as a way to share your unique value proposition with potential clients. By thinking of your business page as a marketing opportunity rather than just a formality, you can set your listings apart from others on those platforms.

25. Submit Articles to Local Publications

Many communities have their own newspapers, magazines, and websites that are popular with local homeowners and potential buyers or sellers. Sharing your expertise with guest articles or blog posts can help you gain some credibility and name recognition locally. Think about submitting articles related to things like financing a property or staging your home to sell. Anything relevant to people who are considering a move. Even if everyone who reads isn't currently ready to buy or sell a home, they may be more likely to remember your name when it's time if you provided some value to their favorite local reads through the years.

26. Partner with Agents in Other Communities

For agents who work in areas where second home purchases are popular, network with agents from other states or areas to provide referrals. These partnerships can help them provide extra value to their clients and help you gain more visibilities in these markets. Connect with people at conferences or online to form these lasting relationships.

27. Join Local Organizations

Your local chamber of commerce and other business groups can help you gain more visibility in your community. Especially when it comes to other realtors. Even though you're technically vying for the same clients, forming positive working relationships can be vital for marketing your listings and completing sales quickly. This type of networking can also help you gain traction with other businesses that buyers and sellers trust. This includes home improvement professionals, interior designers, contractors and others in the area.

28. Share Content from Other Local Businesses

All the content you share on your blog or social media platforms doesn't have to come only from you. Find valuable blog posts and insights from other realtors, moving companies, and financial institutions in your area so you can share them with your online audience. This not only provides a quick and easy way to add value, but the people whose content you share are likely to appreciate the shout out. In turn, this can help you increase your reach even more going forward.

28. Participate in a Virtual Chat

Lots of local business groups and industry organizations host online events like Zoom conferences and Twitter chats for members to share resources and network. Find chats that are applicable to your market or real estate expertise and then share insights, ask questions, and form real connections with other professionals. This can help you form valuable partnerships within the real estate industry or even grow your team.

30. Advertise on Zillow

When marketing real estate listings, it helps to go where most of your potential customers already spend time. Zillow gets 36 million monthly visits, so it's by far the most popular platform for those searching for homes. If you're going to invest in real estate advertising, promoting your listings on this platform is a great way to get homes sold faster, gain clients, and ultimately run a more successful business that clients will recommend to others.

Conclusion

A successful real estate marketing plan requires multiple facets. You start with the basics, add some unexpected twists to stand out, then bring in some insider secrets to appeal to both clients and other professionals who can help you build a successful operation. The real estate marketing ideas listed above include a huge array of ways you can get started building your local and online marketing strategy right away.

Image: Depositphotos.com


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