Newsletter

THE BALANCING ACT.

CREATIVITY IN A CORPORATE WORLD.

Need toothpaste? Milk? How about new towels or a picture frame for your grandma’s birthday gift? Maybe even a cute outfit for your weekend plans? We all know there’s one place where we can go and cross off all those items on our shopping list: Target. It’s the go-to store for students, young professionals, families, and kids. With their trusted in-house brands like Up & Up, Room Essentials, and Simply Balanced, Target meets the needs of all their customers from the smallest one to the oldest.

While creating brands for a well-known company, such as this one, may be the dream of many designers, it’s still the accepted idea that ‘corporate’ and ‘creative’ don’t coincide.
However, creative Director, David Hartman, feels this perception is changing. He has been leading Target’s Brand Design Lab team for over two years now, focusing on the untapped aspects of Target’s in-house brands and how to increase their potential.

Hartman points out brands like IBM, Pepsi, and even AirBnB as examples of companies that value the role design plays in the business’s success. They see it as a vital ingredient to differentiate their brand among the competition, and the public eye in general. As a result, designers need to adjust their vision of success.

While a designer may feel corporate America is not the place to grow, they may be wrong. According to Hartman, working for a large corporation can allow a young designer to grow and gain a lot of experience. Working directly with hyper-disciplined business leaders and understanding exactly how to work with them can make the designer stronger in the long run. There are tight deadlines that need to be met that can be as little as five weeks but, at the same time, the teams own ongoing management of their brands which lasts years.

As a designer, working in a large corporation, you have to learn how to effectively communicate the relevance of your work to the business model and end goal. Creativity has freedom and you’re able to design pieces that you’re proud of but you also have to do the work that needs to be done. Although there may be a lot of steps along the way, maintaining the balance will allow you to thrive and be successful.

Direct mail has become an overlooked advertising channel in the HVAC industry. When direct mail is done well and at scale, it is still one of the most cost-effective and targeted marketing solutions in the game. But for an HVAC direct mail campaign to be successful, it needs to follow a certain set of rules and best practices.

3 Tips for Creating a Targeted Direct Mail Campaign

A while back, the Direct Marketing Association found that every dollar spent on print marketing could create an average of $12.57 in sales. A recent Gallup poll showed that 41% of adults look forward to checking their mail each day, and another survey discovered that 73 % of consumers actually prefer mail to other marketing platforms. Follow these tips when setting up your next HVAC direct mail campaign.

Personalization is Key; Don’t Spray and Pray

A personalized direct marketing piece sent to a targeted individual is more effective for your HVAC business than
an impersonal direct mail blast. You wouldn’t send a postcard for a $49.99 AC tune-up to apartment residents, for example, and sending a rebate offer on a new HVAC system to customers who just paid full price would not be a good idea either. Once you have established your target, make sure you personalize your material accordingly.
Try hand – or laser-addressing your mail and using a “real” stamp instead of a meter mark will make for
better responses.

Send a Consistent Message; There’s more to it than just Sales

Receiving direct mail that is always trying to sell you something is similar to a neighbor who only stops by when he needs something from you. You don’t want your customers to grow weary of your sales offers, it’s important to try mixing it up with appointment reminders, thank-you postcards, surveys, and newsletters. Remember to keep your brand message consistent throughout all your direct marketing pieces. It is vital for customers to immediately associate the name of your HVAC company with savings, quality, service, and your specific brand message.

Test Your Offers; Don’t Disregard Multi-Channel Opportunities

A low response rate to an untested direct mail campaign costs you a lot beyond the wasted postage. For example, if you had tested the 5,000 pieces you sent out beforehand. You might have discovered that a simple headline change increased your response rate from 0.75 percent to 1.2 percent. That would’ve meant many more leads, potentially costing you thousands in sales. Testing at least 5% of your mailing list before you launch a campaign can lead to an overall better response rate. It’s also important to keep in mind the value of a multi-channel approach. Test CTAs and offers that utilize various combinations of platforms and landing pages to see which ones provide the best results for your target market. According to Direct Marketing News, you can increase your direct mail response rate as much as 35 percent with a multi-channel approach.

Create a Direct Mail Campaign that Gets Results

Even when done as part of a group or co-op program, direct mail campaigns can mean a significant investment for manufacturers, distributors, and individual HVAC dealerships. The response rate of your direct mail campaign will only increase as high as the quality of the campaign itself.

To do the job right, you need to work with an agency that has experience with multi-channel direct mail marketing for all levels of the HVAC industry — local, regional, and national. At Figment Design, we keep all of our marketing and advertising specialties under one roof to expand our ability to execute any campaign, regardless of its scope. Our print production team can create an effective direct mail campaign designed to get results. Contact us today to get started in planning your next direct mail campaign.

As your business grows, you might start to feel spread out thin. As businesses develop, managers and CEOs become concentrated on guiding the company instead of tracking its daily activities.

One segment of your business that will require continued monitoring is the performance of your customer service representatives (CSRs) and your after-hours answering service. These individuals are a vital contact point with customers, and there’s a lot you can learn from them. Here’s why continued call monitoring and call scoring are important.

Listen Directly From the Customer

As a business owner, it’s easy to get tunnel-vision about the business and how your customer thinks. Listening to recorded calls between your CSRs and clients allows you to understand their exact pain points and how they react to new products or services.

As you listen to calls, you may realize that their biggest worry isn’t the one you’re trying to solve. For example, your brand messaging might focus exclusively on price, while customers are more focused on service quality and safety. Altering your message to align with consumer needs, you’re able to increase conversions and ease their fears quicker.

Call Monitoring Can Identify Shortcomings in Your Training Process

What’s the best way to train your customer service team? Most companies have a set script that their CSRs stick to, and then receive additional training on proper phone etiquette and company products. While these steps are a great start for new hires, it’s rare that all of the problems and situations your CSRs face will adhere to the script.

Listening to these recordings can show you how your customer service team reacts when they need to go off-script. Do they handle stressful situations well when the customer is aggressive? What happens when the customer is overly friendly and wants to keep them on the phone for a long time? You may decide that your team needs additional training on soft skills as well as product offerings.

Business teams will set up monthly seminars to train their team on CSR skills. Each month will have a new theme, from handling aggression to introducing product options. This way learning is a process for all team members, regardless of their time at the company.

We saw this not too long ago with one of our clients in the HVAC business. After listening to calls, the business owner identified that his customer service reps needed training. He invested in call training for his employees and was able to close more calls and increase revenue the following year.

How to Identify (and Rectify) Lost Opportunities

Treat your CSR recordings like the game film of Monday morning quarterbacks. Your goal is to listen and learn what went right, what went wrong, and how everyone involved can improve. For example, why was a customer representative unable to close a deal? Is your team unintentionally frustrating your customers and creating unnecessary friction instead of helping them?

After monitoring a number of calls, another one of our HVAC clients changed his after-hours answering service. It turned out the answering service was telling potential customers to call back the next day instead of scheduling appointments while having the customer on the phone. He identified he was losing out on significant revenue-generating opportunities with every after-hours call and took immediate action to fix the situation.

There are also solutions that will allow you to monitor other factors like the level of agitation in a call, awkward pauses, and other conversational markers. You can use these to create milestones for your team, allowing you to make the most of their call time. Set a goal to increase the number of conversions through calls by five percent and decrease angry customers by 10 percent either monthly or quarterly. These additional happy customers can result in thousands of dollars in additional income that you would otherwise be losing.

Observations into the Customer Experience

It costs five times as much to acquire a customer as it does to retain one. For every customer you lose through a poor customer service experience drives up your cost per acquisition, raises your overhead, and limits the growth of your business. We understand that listening to calls may not be part of your daily routine, but they can provide phenomenal insight into your business and help you retain and convert more prospects.

If you haven’t started listening to calls, set aside 30 minutes a day to listen to a handful of them. Monitor your CSR team and their improvement over time. This small step will help you identify strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities within your team.

remarketing

Digital remarketing, also known as retargeting, can be one of the most underrated marketing channels in the digital arsenal. This usually happens because remarketing ads contact customers in the middle or end of the funnel, while most analytics tools focus on first or last-click attribution.

The best metaphor we’ve heard is that your remarketing campaign is your relief pitcher. It doesn’t get the shine that the starters get, and it doesn’t get the wins of closers, but without it, you’re going to lose the game. Here’s why you should value your remarketing ads and other “relief pitchers” in your marketing strategy.

Remarketing: The Basics

Remarketing is based on the concept that someone is already familiar with your name, brand, or website, but something keeps them from purchasing. This can occur because you sell higher-ticketed items or services that require a lot of research before buying, or because the customer got distracted before they can buy.

Remarketing ads are shown to customers who have browsed your site (generally in the past 30 days, but sometimes longer) in hopes of bringing them back to your site. They assist in keeping your name top-of-mind and closing if an email or phone call distracted them from the original sale.

These ads are very effective because they can follow the user across channels and even across devices. They keep your messaging and services in the forefront of the consumer throughout their buyer’s journey, which is an incredibly powerful tool for any company that needs leads and conversions.

Remarketing: How Does it Work?

How does remarketing actually work? This is the question most often asked by clients and customers alike. The answer can be found in the browser cookies.

When you visit a site that has remarketing enabled, if only for a few seconds before you bounce, a small piece of code is executed and drops a “cookie” on your browser. This lets different remarketing providers, like Google, Facebook, and AdRoll know when to show a generic ad or a specific remarketing ad.

Depending on your industry, you can utilize a basic form of remarketing ads to keep your name top-of-mind, or you can get more advanced based on customer interest. Some companies, like local service providers, create a special offer in their ads to bring visitors back. An HVAC company might offer a free unit check or repair guide in their remarketing to convince people to call. Many retail sites will actually show the items that the customer browsed and others that they might like. This is based on the belief that the customer really did want to buy that cute dress, but they couldn’t at the moment.

The cookies tend to live on the browser for 15-30 days depending on the business. During this time, companies can make the offer richer if they don’t think they’re going to get a conversion. The HVAC company might advertise the free unit check for the first five days, and then promote a 15% off discount for the back ten.

Remarketing: The Benefits

Let’s say you develop a marketing campaign that brings 5,000 more people to your website in a month. If you generate leads from 5% of them — which is a reasonable amount — then you’ve lost 4,750 of those additional site visitors. Remarketing helps bring them back. For context, customers are ten times more likely to click on a targeted display ad over a regular display ad and have a 50-60% higher conversion rate than normal.

It can cost a few pennies to bring someone back to your site through remarketing but costs a few dollars to bring someone there for the first time. If you can constantly get your message in front of prospects that already have shown an interest in your brand, then your overall CPA will drop significantly.

Depending on your existing channels, you might want to be on multiple remarketing platforms or just one. Companies with a robust social presence would benefit from Facebook remarketing, while others with a well-managed paid search budget can use Google’s expansive network. Both of these audiences will behave differently, but the results can be significant when knowledgeable professionals manage your campaigns.

Figment Design provides expertise in running and optimizing remarketing campaigns to increase conversion rates and generate local leads for your business. For clients with one of our Internet marketing plans, our performance marketing and social consulting teams specialize in creating local remarketing solutions for local businesses just like yours.








referrals

Customer referrals are vital in the marketing world. According to Nielsen, potential customers trust recommendations made by friends and family 92 percent of the time. And yet with this strong statistic few companies are actively harnessing the power of the referral.

When online and offline marketing and advertising tactics are combined, these word-of-mouth referrals can have a significant impact on your sales. The first step, in achieving this, is getting your referral program off the ground, and here’s how to get started.

Referral Marketing 101: The Basics

A referral program incentivizes existing customers to attract new customers into the business. Offering an incentive is critical because only studies show 29 percent of customers who have a positive experience with a business end up recommending it to others.

The incentive doesn’t need to be monetary; in fact, the University of Chicago found that referral programs based on non-monetary incentives are found to be 24 percent more effective. For instance, your incentives can offer free merchandise, gifts, or free or discounted services.

The size of the reward is fairly inconsequential. The American Marketing Association reports that while rewards increase the likelihood of referrals, the size doesn’t actually matter. This would suggest that “firms need to choose the reward size carefully and compute the expected incremental sales revenue compared to the cost of alternative reward programs.”

How effective is a Referral Program?

Marketing by word of mouth works because existing customers have credibility and perceived objectivity that companies will never have. But how effective are referral programs as a means of referral marketing?

A 2011 academic study published in the Journal of Marketing shows that referral programs are incredibly lucrative. Philip Schmitt and two of his colleagues studied 10,000 accounts of a major German bank for three years. The results of the study confirmed the profitability of referral programs. Customers brought in through the referral program produced higher profit margins, showed more loyalty, versus those acquired through conventional channels.

Is a Referral Program Right for Your Business?

A referral program could work for you, no matter what your industry. Some detractors point to the risk that opportunistic customers will exploit referral programs, generating bogus leads solely for the program’s incentives. While this is certainly a risk, the Journal of Marketing study showed how a referral program’s benefits can outweigh its potential unfavorable effects.

Additionally, even a modest marketing budget can support a referral program. The attractiveness of referral marketing is that it requires very little effort and almost no cost. The rewards given to referring customers are a small compared to the returns on customers acquired without any marketing effort on your company’s part.

How to Find the Right Referral Marketing Software for Your Program

There are many different types of referral programs that can be implemented to help manage your referral program. The best online referral software solutions are easy to set up and loaded with features for managing the referral program and delivery of notifications, capturing referral lead data, and managing the rewards for a low monthly fee. Here are a few examples of referral marketing software solutions:

  • ReferralCandy ($25/month): This app works by generating post-purchase coupon codes for your customers to share with their friends. When their friends purchase from you, the referring customer gets their reward. Reviewers cite the platform’s e-commerce readiness and social media integration features.
  • Ambassador ($99/month): This referral software is characterized by its robust and highly customizable Referral Dashboard and Campaign Builder features. Advocates (known as “ambassadors”) are provided with unique sharing links, and reward notifications are managed via email triggers.
  • Referral SaaSquatch ($99/month): This app has quick set-up options, double-sided incentives, a customizable referral widget, and a single sign-on interface. The referral management system is fully automated with reward options that can be customized.

Before deciding on the software, make sure to determine your specific needs and do your research. Finding the right software platform can make all the difference.

Converting Loyal Customers into Brand Advocates

A referral program takes the word-of-mouth endorsement one step further by giving customers an incentive to share their positive experiences. Not only do referral programs succeed in acquiring new customers, they also bring in customers who are more loyal and more profitable.

At Figment Design, we know how to get the most out of your local marketing efforts. Our holistic, turnkey marketing and advertising programs are designed to transform loyal customers into brand advocates, thereby helping to generate more of those oh-so-precious referrals. Let us help you take care of marketing your business so you can get back to running it.








radio

Do I go with a 30-second spot or a 60-second spot? That is the question you ask if you’re a business considering radio advertising as an option.

Trying to determine the right length of creative when it comes to a radio spot can be a difficult choice. Do you go with a longer spot that may have more initial impact, or do you use a shorter spot that will give you more airplay? There are definitely pros and cons to each.

The 30-Second Radio Spot: The Pros and Cons

So you’ve decided to go with a 30-second spot. Good choice! You’ll get much more airplay with a shorter spot. A well-known principle of advertising is that frequency works.

There’s a rule in TV and radio advertising called “The Rule of 3s.” People generally retain information more readily if they’re exposed to it at least three times. That’s why you may hear phones numbers or URLs being repeated a few times in a single spot. This can also be accomplished by having the same spot repeat a few times in a single hour.

Since 30-second spots are less expensive to run than their 60-second counterparts, you can achieve more frequency with them. The production fees associated with a 30-second spot also are lower, since the script is shorter and most voice-over talent charges by the word.

There are a few downsides to a 30-second spot as well, though. If you have to abide by any co-op guidelines, this can greatly reduce the amount of time for your message. It can also be difficult to fit all the information into this short amount of time and still be creative. Additionally, the time constraints can cause the spot to be read a bit faster, making it harder for listeners to understand.

The 60-Second Radio Spot: The Pros and Cons

Or maybe you’ve opted to use a 60-second spot — also an excellent choice! You now have the ability to let the creativity run free. In this amount of time, you can take a narrative-focused approach and develop an entire story with characters. This can really help if the story is compelling and engaging.

Plus, there’s much more room to fit those co-op requirements. This spot length also allows for plenty of time to repeat certain information to really drive it home for the listener.

In terms of drawbacks, one big thing to consider with a 60-second spot is the cost. The longer the script, the more expensive it will be. The voice-over work will be more expensive as well. If you decide to go with a story and the voice-over turns into voice acting, this will greatly increase the cost as well. Paying to run a 60-second spot can be more expensive as well, so unless you have a larger budget, you may not be able to achieve the same frequency overall.

The last thing to consider with a longer spot is the modern-day attention span of most Americans. According to a Time Magazine article in 2015, the modern attention span is less than that of a goldfish:

“The average attention span for the notoriously ill-focused goldfish is nine seconds, but according to a new study from Microsoft Corp., people now generally lose concentration after eight seconds, highlighting the effects of an increasingly digitalized lifestyle on the brain.”

A 60-second radio spot greatly surpasses the now-standard eight-second attention span boasted by much of your audience. At the very least, you’ll need to create a highly engaging ad in order to take advantage of all that runtime.

Great Creative Makes a Great Campaign (No Matter How Long the Spot)

On one hand, 30 seconds is much longer than you might think. Go ahead, sit and watch a clock for 30 seconds. You’ll realize it really is a long amount of time. But on the other hand, if you’ve ever tried to tell a fully realized story in that amount of time, you’ll see it’s very difficult.

In the end it comes down to doing what works best for your creative vision. No matter what you decide to go with, the right creative can grasp the listeners’ attention. The creative team at Figment Design can help you write and produce the best possible creative for your business. Reach out to us today for a comprehensive creative consultation for your radio advertising campaign.








ideas

Creating a defined and well-communicated brand can convert the typical consumer into a loyal brand advocate. You have to tell your brand’s story in a way that’s compelling and engaging.

To accomplish that goal, you need a brand communication strategy, but that’s easier said than done. At Figment, we’ve assisted hundreds of brands find their distinctive voices. Here’s how we suggest you go about doing it.

Three Things to Decide when Communicating Your Brand’s Message

To acquire real brand evangelists, you need to develop what Hubspot’s Meaghan Moraes calls an “authentic, humanized brand voice.” In order to achieve this, though, you need to complete a few steps:

Step 1: What is the Message You Want to Communicate?

This question is deceivingly simple. Too often brands get so caught up in their own talking points, and they forget to focus on their core message. This can be seen in brands that claim to have the best deals in the entire city, a higher quality product than anyone around, and better customer service — all in the same ad.

For every campaign you create, focus on one core goal that ties back to your campaign’s primary objective. It’s possible to have multiple goals, but they should all point back to the original mission of the brand. This will prevent your brand messaging from getting confusing while empowering your customers to talk about your brand.

Step 2: Who is your Target Audience for this Message?

The target audience has expanded beyond traditional demographics. If you’re still using audience descriptors of age and gender, then you’re leaving massive holes in your buyer personas that can lead to confusion.

At Figment, we spend the requisite time to define your buyer persona. What kind of lifestyle do these consumers lead and what circumstances lead up to them buying your product? What are they actually looking for when they research your business? By answering these key questions about the buyer’s journey and user intent, you’ll be able to create goals and clear messages that meet their needs.

For example, a home services company might have two types of buyers: those who are looking for an affordable solution and are willing to wait longer to cut costs, and those who will pay whatever it takes to solve the problem immediately. With that information, brands can create two different campaigns with optimized messaging to clearly reach specific customers.

Step 3: How Do You Reach Your Desired Audience?

Once you have your goals, desired message, and audience personas, it’s time to craft your message. This is another instance where knowing your audience pays off. You have to be able to reach them on the platforms that they find the most valuable and use the most often. For some audiences, this may be radio; for others, it might be direct mail, television, or social media.

Leveraging Your Brand’s Message Visually

Whichever type of marketing your brand chooses, we highly recommend opting for a visual element for at least part of your budget. Audiences respond well to visual stimuli because they’re processed by the brain faster than text or audio, and the images stay in the long term memory while text stays in the short term memory. Utilizing powerful images, whether you’re tapping into bright color palettes or large fonts, can make your brand significantly more memorable and easier for your customers to recommend.

It is of the upmost importance to speak to consumers in a way they can understand. And your brand communication strategy is vital in ensuring you have the right strategy. Figment works closely with clients to ensure their vision is communicated effectively to the audience they are attempting to reach. This is how you turn audiences into buyers, and buyers into long-term brand advocates. Contact Figment today and let’s get started creating a comprehensive strategy to get people talking about your business.








Web Security

All website owners should have cyber security on their minds, and if you’re the owner of an eCommerce site it should always be on the top of your list.

If your website accepts credit card payment then you should be taking extra care in making sure you have a secure method of accepting those payments. Your business’s reputation is at stake every time some on enters their credit card and personal information, and if your site is easy to hack then your business will as customers will not feel safe in purchasing from you.

Cyber security is a constant ongoing battle because hackers are always working for ways to breach and exploit the latest cyber security methods. Keeping that in mind, you can reduce your exposure to security hacks if you take to putting some important safeguards in place.

1. Software updates are important.

One simple step to take that can make a big impact is to have your software contain all the latest updates. Most software updates are created to address security vulnerabilities found within the software. Software designers always working on ways to secure their software against any new methods that hackers develop.

You should update your software as soon as you get an update reminder. You should also check frequently for updates to your eCommerce software, plug-ins and any other software related to you site. By simply following this step it will reduce your sites vulnerabilities greatly.

2. Create secure passwords.

Don’t use passwords like “123456” or “password”. You would be surprised how many people do this.
Create your website password with a mix of numbers, letters, and special characters. Avoid using a password that someone who knows you might be able to guess. Another thing to avoid is using you kid’s names or birthday’s these are also something someone might be able to guess. Make sure that your password is different from your other passwords you use and the same rules goes for anyone else within your company that has access to the site.

A good rule to apply is to make changes to passwords every 6 months. Setting a calendar reminder is a good way to remind yourself on getting this done regularly.

3. Create backups regularly.

Things can happen to your site and to avoid being forced to rebuild your site over again from scratch, and a way to avoid this nightmare is by backing up your website regularly.

This can be set up with your web hosting company, It can help make backing up your site completely effortless since everything is automated, but restoring your site if the need ever arises is a simple process as well. Check with your hosting company on what back up services they offer.

4. Having malware detector is essential.

Malware is a very common occurrence and hackers are looking infect any website that people are very likely to visit. That means your website could be infected by malware, and by having the malware on your site you would then in turn pass the malware on to your customers’ computers.

You can avoid this from happening to you and your customers by having strong malware detector installed. Anti-malware programs detect malware quickly and help you get rid of it before it can do damage. Anti-malware programs are inexpensive and they’re not all that difficult to put in place. Check with your web hosting platform as they might offer it, which makes activating it especially easy to do.

5. Be careful with your permissions.

How many people have permission to access your webite? Most businesses, need to have at least a couple of people with access to the website so they can make changes. Medium or larger businesses will most likely have more people accessing the website regularly.

Your vulnerabilities grow as you have more people accessing the website to make changes. Not every person needs to have the same level of site access. By using your permissions wisely, you can minimize the potential damage from simple user error or a malicious act caused by one of your employees or contractors.

6. Set up SSL.

If you have customers making payments of any kind on your site, then purchasing an SSL certificate is not optional. Customers need to know that their payments are going to be secure before they hand over sensitive information. That security is provided by means of an SSL certificate.

An SSL certificate isn’t expensive and your website will shows a green HTTPS in the browser bar, which is what lets consumers know that the website can be trusted. It provides a level of protection with the information customers share with encryption and can’t be easily read up by cyber thieves.

7. Using AVS and CVV.

Fraud attempts are far less likely to happen when adding an address verification system (AVS) and credit card verification value (CVV) field for all credit card checkouts. This provides you with a chance to check the information a customer provides against the information their credit card company so people possessing stolen credit card numbers alone won’t be able to get past your confirmation process.

8. Reduce XSS vulnerabilities.

This step is very technical and you may want to consult with your webmaster or a cyber security consultant first.
XSS (cross site scripting) vulnerabilities are weaknesses in the code that allow hackers to add their own code to your website that will infect your visitors’ devices.

To reduce these vulnerabilities, you need to validate and sanitize your data. You may also be able to insert this string onto your webpages to reduce your vulnerability:

echo htmlentities($string, ENT_QUOTES | ENT_HTML5, ‘UTF-8’);

This will only work for you if you’re not using HTML. If you are using HTML, running your code through the HTML purifier at http://htmlpurifier.org/ is the best way to go.

9. SQL injection vulnerabilities.

As with step 8, this step is also very technical and you may want to consult with your webmaster or a cyber security consultant first.

SQL injection vulnerabilities aren’t as frequent as XSS vulnerabilities, but they do exist. XSS vulnerabilities allow hackers to get ahold of the sensitive data stored in your database – which often includes information like your customers’ credit card numbers.

All of the best methods for prevention here are pretty technical and it’s better to bring in someone who does understand this so it gets done right.

10. Using a DDoS mitigation service.

Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks can happen when a hacker sets a large number of compromised systems to flood the bandwidth of a website all at once. This will then overwhelm the server and cause it to reject all visitors.

A web hosting provider that has put protective measures in place is good first line of defense, but with how common DDoS attacks have become, having a DDoS mitigation service can further reduce your risk.

Hackers are always working to create new methods to bypass these protections and will require you take time throughout the year to read up on the latest security threats and best practices.

By taking on the practice of eternal vigilance when it comes to your cyber security – you’ll create an eCommerce experience where customers will feel secure in using your. Make sure your websites cyber security is the priority it should be.

https

Google’s latest changes – Moving towards a more secure web

Now small business owners have one more reason to switch to HTTPS thanks to Google latest change in the way it searches for URLs. Google has announced that it is modifying the way its indexing system seeks out for more HTTPS pages.  The recent changes came as Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst, Zineb Ait Bahajji announced that Google will now give HTTPS pages priority over equivalent HTTP pages. What this basically means is that even if you have an HTTP URL, Google’s new search algorithm will now give similar HTTPS URLs priority back in June 2016.

During this announcement, Bahajji explained:

“Specifically, we’ll start crawling HTTPS equivalents of HTTP pages, even when the former are not linked to from any page, Bahajji also stated,”When two URLs from the same domain appear to have the same content but are served over different protocol schemes, we’ll typically choose to index the HTTPS URL if:

It doesn’t contain insecure dependencies.

It isn’t blocked from crawling by robots.txt.

It doesn’t redirect users to or through an insecure HTTP page.

It doesn’t have a rel=”canonical” link to the HTTP page.

It doesn’t contain a noindex robots meta tag.

It doesn’t have on-host outlinks to HTTP URLs.

The sitemaps lists the HTTPS URL, or doesn’t list the HTTP version of the URL

The server has a valid TLS certificate”

Presently HTTP or Hyper Text Transfer Protocol, has been the method for to establish a connection with the server and send HTML pages back to the user’s browser. The biggest drawback to this method of communicating is the Web page is transmitted without any encryption, which makes it susceptible to hacking the data as it is travels across the web. HTTP is fine for streaming video or reading content such as news or blogs, but not for sending personal information when conducting a purchase on an eCommerce site. Web addresses that use HTTP protect its data by encrypting it by using an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) Certificate.

Currently there have been concerns raised because some types of HTTPS may be accessible to hacking.
Most of these security concerns are presently being addressed. At present HTTPS is still considered the safest way to conduct eCommerce. With Google’s recent announcement to change its algorithm to boost sites that use https. This move by Google gives small eCommerce owners one more reason to change their sites to HTTPS.

Google Chrome Changes

To help users browse the web safely, Chrome indicates connection security with an icon in the address bar. Historically, Chrome has not explicitly labelled HTTP connections as non-secure. Beginning in January 2017 (Chrome 56), will mark HTTP pages that collect passwords or credit cards as non-secure, as part of a long-term plan to mark all HTTP sites as non-secure. Chrome currently indicates HTTP connections with a neutral indicator. This doesn’t reflect the true lack of security for HTTP connections. When you load a website over HTTP, someone else on the network can look at or modify the site before it gets to you.

Studies show that users do not perceive the lack of a “secure” icon as a warning, but also that users become blind to warnings that occur too frequently. Chrome plans to label HTTP sites more clearly and accurately as non-secure will take place in gradual steps, based on increasingly stringent criteria. Starting January 2017, Chrome 56 will label HTTP pages with password or credit card form fields as “not secure,” given their particularly sensitive nature. In following releases, they will continue to extend HTTP warnings, for example, by labeling HTTP pages as “not secure” in Incognito mode, where users may have higher expectations of privacy. Eventually, they plan to label all HTTP pages as non-secure, and change the HTTP security indicator to the red triangle that we use for broken HTTPS.

Requirements in Changing From HTTP to HTTPS

Changing from http to https seems like a pretty simple procedure:

Purchase an SSL certificate from a hosting company, or from an SSL certificate vendor

Install your SSL certificate on your website’s hosting account

Make sure that any website links are changed from http to https so they are not broken after you flip the https switch

Set up 301 redirects from HTTP to HTTPS so that search engines are notified that your site’s addresses have changed and so that anyone who has bookmarked a page on your site is automatically redirected to the https address after you flip the switch.

Seems like easy process. However, due to the large number of options offered by SSL certificate vendors and by hosting companies, this process then become somewhat confusing.

Also keep in mind that by moving your site from http to https will require dealing with more tech work than most small business usually like to deal with.

In Conclusion

One thing to be sure about changing from http to https, is that you will be confused at some point during the conversion.

Your website site will benefit if you leave most of the tech work to a professional and focus on the decisions you need to make about what SSL Certificate is the right one for you. The benefits you’ll reap include greater customer trust, data security and even a chance that Google’s new algorithm will rank your site higher.

For more information about SEO or how our company can help your business grow please fill out the form below.








marketing-strat

The holiday season is upon us and it’s time to make sure your email campaign has all the right elements to be successful.

FIVE WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR HOLIDAY OPEN RATES, CLICK THROUGH RATES & REVENUE:


SUBJECT LINE

It’s what leads to an opened email or a deleted one, so make sure it stands out.

Keep your subject line brief and to the point: 50 characters or less.

Use questions to engage the reader and entice them to wonder how your email’s subject matters to them.

Personalize the email by including the person’s name in the subject line. Chances of it being opened will increase.

PLANNING

Proper preparation that includes both lead and production time are key to a successful campaign.

A high percentage of Cyber Monday online shoppers are interested in travel deals through the holidays, and that includes New Year’s travel planning.

A multi-channel campaign in three phases: Pre-Sale, Cyber Monday and Extended Sale are an effective way to capture potential holiday travelers.

INCENTIVES

Engage and motivate your guests and you will generate a significant increase in ROI.

Offer special room types or rooms with upgraded views.

Create special packages with additional or upgraded amenities, services or activities.

Offer a special reduced rate on a second room.

PERSONALIZE

Personalization is key to having higher open rates and increased click rates.

Consumers expect you to know who they are and provide them with interesting, meaningful content.

Use email automation to deliver relevant, personalized emails at the right time.

Send targeted information through a single email campaign using dynamic content.

TARGET DATA

Having segmented email campaigns will get you more clicks than non-segmented emails.

Use data points like gender, location and income to enhance the email subscriber experience.

Re-target potential repeat guests by going over the previous year’s bookings.

Use data collected from eSurvey to segment audiences based on their interests.

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