3 Ways to Improve Your Company’s Security

3 Ways to Improve Your Company’s Security

As a business owner, you need your business to be secure. An attack against your business can not only lead you to lose significant profits, but customers’ private information as well.

When you think of security threats, you likely think of thieves and vandals who would break into your business and steal products, cash, or documents.

However, there can be internal security risks too. You must try to address all potential security risks in order to ensure that your business and your customers’ information are safe. Here are a few ways you can improve your company’s security and protect your business.

Surveillance System

Installing a business surveillance system can help protect you from both internal and external threats to security. When thieves are choosing a business to target, they are looking for buildings that don’t have a security system of any kind, and most especially ones that don’t have cameras; being caught on a security camera is a quick and easy way to end up in prison. If would-be thieves see that you have a surveillance system in place, they will likely pass up your business and find an easier target. The surveillance system also acts as a deterrent against any internal theft or illegal activities. When employees know that there are cameras throughout the office, they are going to be much more hesitant to steal cash, products, or client information. The last thing they want is to be caught stealing from the cash register or copying confidential documents on tape.

Go Paperless

Today, the most secure way to handle documents is to not actually handle them at all, especially if those documents include valuable, confidential information like clients’ Social Security numbers or credit card information. Rather than keeping hard copies of these kinds of documents in your office, you should have digital copies on a secure drive, and that drive should only be accessible to those employees who really need access to that information. By going paperless, you decrease the odds of losing information or having it copied or stolen. There are a lot of secure, paperless systems for sharing documents out there, so look into them and find one that’s right for your company. And if you do happen to have hard copies of important documents, make sure you shred them as soon as you no longer need them.

Electronic Access

If you want your building to be secure, you should use an electronic system that only unlocks the building for those with an access card. These electronic access systems are a lot harder to break into than simple lock-and-key systems, so you don’t have to worry about any common criminal being able to break into your business. These types of systems can also be used to restrict employee access to certain areas, or to limit the times at which certain employees are allowed to enter the building.

Each access card can be coded to only open certain doors during certain hours so that you can ensure nobody is going somewhere they shouldn’t or entering your business during odd hours. Additionally, these systems can track what cards are being used to access which areas. If something goes missing, you can look at the history in the system to see which employees’ cards were used to enter the building or access the area where something went missing. This can be a valuable feature to have, and can be a deterrent for internal theft.

Impacts Of E-Commerce On Business

Impacts Of E-Commerce On Business

E-commerce has made a profound impact on society. People can now shop online in the privacy of their own homes without ever having to leave. This can force larger brick and mortar retailers to open an online division. In some cases, it can also force smaller businesses to shut their doors, or change to being completely online. It also changes the way people look at making purchases and spending money.

E-commerce has changed the face of retail, services, and other things that make our economy work. Undoubtedly, it will continue to influence how companies sell and market their products, as well as how people choose to make purchases for many years to come. The following are the impact of e-commerce on the global economy.

Impacts on Direct Marketing

Product promotion E-commerce enhances promotion of products and services through direct, information-rich, and interactive contact with customers. New sales channel E-commerce creates a new distribution channel for existing products. It facilitates direct reach of customers and the bi-directional nature of communication. Direct savings The cost of delivering information to customers over the Internet results in substantial savings to senders when compared with non ­electronic delivery. Major savings are also realized in delivering digitized products versus physical delivery. Reduced cycle time The delivery of digitized products and services can be reduced to seconds.

Also, the administrative work related to physical delivery, especially across international borders, can be reduced significantly, cutting the cycle time by more than 90 percent. Customer service Customer service can be greatly enhanced by enabling customers to find detailed information online. Also, intelligent agents can answer standard e-mail questions in seconds and human experts’ services can be expedited using help-desk software. Corporate image On the Web, newcomers can establish corporate images very quickly. Corporate image means trust, which is necessary for direct sales. Traditional companies such as Intel, Disney, Dell, and Cisco use their Web activities to affirm their corporate identity and brand image.

Other Marketing Impacts

Customization E-commerce provides for customization of products and services, in contrast to buying in a store or ordering from a television, which is usually limited to standard products. Dell Computers Inc. is a success story of customization. Today, we can configure not only computers but also cars, jewellery, gifts, and hundreds of other products and services. If properly done, one can achieve mass customization. It provides a competitive advantage as well as increases the overall demand for certain products and services.

Advertisement with direct marketing and customization comes as one-to-one or direct advertisement, which is much more effective than mass advertisement. This creates a fundamental change in the manner in which advertisement is conducted not only for online trades but also for products and services that are ordered in traditional ways.

Ordering System taking orders from customers can drastically be improved if it is done online. When taken electronically, orders can be quickly routed to the appropriate order-processing site. This saves time and reduces expenses. So sales people have more time to sell. Also, customers can compute the cost of their orders, saving time for all parties involved. The physical market is disappearing as is the need to deliver the goods; with the growing popularity of an electronic market, goods are delivered directly to buyers when purchasing is completed making markets much more efficient. For those products that are digitally based-software, music and information-the changes will be dramatic. Already, small but powerful software packages are delivered over the Internet. This fundamentally affects packaging and greatly reduces the need for historical distribution.

New selling models such as shareware, freeware are emerging to maximize the potential of the Internet. New forms of marketing will also emerge, such as Web-based advertising, linked advertising, direct e-mail, and an increased emphasis on relationship marketing. Customer’s convenience is greatly enhanced, availability of products and services is much greater, and cheaper products are offered. All these provide EC with a competitive advantage over the traditional direct sales methods. Some people predict the “fall of the shopping malls,” and many retail stores and brokers of services are labelled by some as “soon to be endangered species.”

Impacts on Organizations

Technology and organizational learning rapid progress in E-Commerce will force companies to adapt quickly to the new technology and offer them an opportunity to experiment with new products, services, and processes. New technologies require new organizational approaches. For instance, the structure of the organizational unit dealing with E-Commerce might have to be different from the conventional sales and marketing departments. To be more flexible and responsive to the market, new processes must be put in place.

This type of corporate change must be planned and managed. Changing nature of work and employment will be transformed in the Digital Age; it is already happening before our eyes. Driven by increased competition in the global marketplace, firms are reducing the number of employees down to a core of essential staff and outsourcing whatever work they can to countries where wages are significantly less expensive.

The upheaval brought on by these changes is creating new opportunities and new risks and forcing us into new ways of thinking about jobs, careers, and salaries. The Digital Age workers will have to become very flexible. Few of them will have truly secure jobs in the traditional sense, and all of them will have to be willing and able to constantly learn, adapt, make decisions, and stand by them. New product capabilities E-commerce allows for new products to be created and existing products to be customized in innovative ways. Such changes may redefine organizations’ missions and the manner in which they operate.

E-Commerce also allows suppliers to gather personalized data on customers. Building customer profiles as well as collecting data on certain groups of customers, can be used as a source of information for improving products or designing new ones. Mass customization, as described earlier, enables manufacturers to create specific products for each customer, based on his or her exact needs. For example, Motorola gathers customer needs for a pager or a cellular phone, transmits them electronically to the manufacturing plant where they are manufactured, along with the customer’s specifications and then sends the product to the customer within a day.

Impacts on Manufacturing

E-Commerce is changing manufacturing systems from mass production to demand-driven and possibly customized, just-in-time manufacturing. Furthermore, the production systems are integrated with finance, marketing, and other functional systems, as well as with business partners and customers. Using Web-based ERP systems, orders that are taken from customers can be directed to designers and to the production floor, within seconds. Production cycle time is cut by 50 percent or more in many cases, especially when production is done in a different country from where the designers and engineers are located.

Companies like IBM, General Motors, are assembling products for which the components are manufactured in many locations. Sub-assemblers gather materials and parts from their vendors, and they may use one or more tiers of manufacturers. Communication, collaboration, and coordination become critical in such multitier systems. Using electronic bidding, assemblers get sub-assemblies 15 percent to 20 percent cheaper than before and 80 percent faster.

Impacts on Finance

E-commerce requires special finance and accounting systems. Traditional payment systems are ineffective or inefficient for electronic trade. The use of the new payment systems such as electronic cash is complicated because it involves legal issues and agreements on international standards.

Nevertheless, electronic cash is certain to come soon and it will change the manner in which payments are being made. In many ways, electronic cash, which can be backed by currency or other assets, represents the biggest revolution in currency since gold replaced cowry shells. Its diversity and pluralism is perfectly suited to the Internet. It could change consumers’ financial lives and shake the foundations of financial systems and even governments.

The Eagle’s Dynamic Strategy

The Eagle’s Dynamic Strategy

Business strategy is important as it can give you a competitive edge in securing clients over other companies who are pursuing the same business model. In order to develop that edge, you need to identify a competitive advantage and develop your business strategy around it.

Once you have done that, you need to sustain that advantage. Simply put: Business strategy is the process that allows you to leverage, develop and sustain a competitive advantage over other companies targeting a similar market. The problem is sustaining that competitive advantage over time.

Can you sustain your advantage?

The problem is that we no longer do business in a bubble. Therefore, your competitive advantage can be enjoyed only for a short period of time. Modern business strategy must be a continuous process evolving with new competitive advantages. One must build their business on the basis of moving from one competitive advantage to another as smoothly as possible. This is a continuous process and one that is critically important to long-term success. In general, you can only depend on new innovations giving you an edge for a year or two. For example, lower cost of base elements and new configurations can last a short period of time, sometimes as little as one-quarter of a year.

These are tangibles that will impact your current edge. There are intangibles that must be paid attention to as well including how you are perceived by your customer base. This includes issues like how satisfied your customers are, how strong your brand is nationally and in some cases, internationally, how strong your distribution channels are and whether they can be expanded. The best part of the intangibles is they are far more challenging for your competition to duplicate without a significant investment in time, energy and in some cases, money.

What is the bottom line?

In short: your overall business strategy and the competitive advantages you develop and nurture have to be more dynamic than ever. You have to identify a business strategy that works for you, analyze your competition’s responses to your advances and work out your next steps. Stop and think about it like an eagle on a migration route: The eagle already knows where he is going and how he is going to get there. However, his decisions remain dynamic, responding to altitude, air currents and stops. There may be other factors that come into play including the weather and his need for food and shelter. Simply put: The eagle is always on the lookout for a new competitive advantage and he has developed a dynamic strategy to ensure he reaches his destination regardless of the circumstances he is facing.

Without this type of dynamic strategy, the eagle would quickly exhaust himself; he must always be ready to adapt to changing conditions along his route. While this may seem like an oversimplification of the problem, business strategies must have a competitive advantage roadmap. This means determining early on how long we will have a competitive edge once we have a new innovation and being able to jump to the next area that will provide us that competitive advantage once again.

If it were only that cut and dry

One of the biggest obstacles that a company has with maintaining a competitive edge is internal issues. One has to be poised to extract maximum value from each advantage and have the flexibility to adapt to new advantages nearly immediately. For most companies, this means having a continuous process of innovation and research and development. Competition within the industry is not always the main competitive threat; in fact, there are far more significant threats that most businesses face like new business models, new technologies or new companies.

You might be surprised to find out that the least of your problems is current competitors; there may be others waiting in the wings to pounce at an opportunity. These “nonobvious players” may be a more significant threat than your current competition. This means you have to be constantly looking out for ways to keep your brand in a competitive model and be prepared to address changes nearly immediately. This is why businesses are now dealing with what we identify as “transitory competitive advantages”. If your strategy for staying on top is not flexible and easily maintained through a dynamic strategy, you will lose any competitive advantage you have quickly and may not have an opportunity to regain your position.

What is the new approach?

Whether you are operating a small company, a business unit inside a major corporation or a medium sized company, we all have to change how we look at how we develop proper strategies. Successful companies may have a static strategy that allows them to focus on a single, sustainable competitive advantage. While this may work in the short term as new competitors arrive in the market, prices erode and our products become more mainstays, we will lose our competitive edge. Today, business strategies are far more complex and a product roadmap should be drawn up that includes the potential that another player is going to step into the field and how long you will have the advantage both prior to their involvement and immediately following the involvement.

“Yes, God plays dice with business”

Albert Einstein in a 1943 conversation with William Hermanns said “God doesn’t play dice with the world” refer to quantum mechanics. He was not happy with the idea that probabilistic interpretation of Quantum Mechanics where identical measurements get you different outcomes. While we want to stay away from these complicated theories, they can be helpful in some manner. Bad strategies will produce bad results and a good strategy will produce good results.

The take-away is simple: A good strategy is important and critical for long-term business success. Your outcomes may not always be exactly what you anticipate but if you have a plan in place for dealing with both positive and negative outcomes, you should be able to succeed. Never forget about “probabilistic interpretation”: The strategy perhaps does not deliver the outcome you expect but the end result is close enough. When developing your strategy in the end, this must always be taken into consideration.

Gaining a competitive advantage in today’s marketplace means not only being able to bring new products to market but it also means tamping down the ability of your competitors to imitate your success. It also means being flexible enough to move onto the next project that will keep your business, brand strong and your competitive advantage high.

Only when you combine the right business strategy with a history of strong innovation and keep your competition at bay can you hope to maintain a competitive advantage. This may be done by keeping your company’s internal and external successes from becoming formulaic which could increase competition. Today’s business markets are more challenging than ever, once you have developed a strategy for “staying on top” you need to have the tools, talents and financials to stay that way. And do not forget your strategy perhaps does not deliver the outcome you expect but should be close enough.

The challenge in the current business world is not just to develop a competitive advantage. The main challenge is to sustain that advantage. Can we really sustain today a static strategy focus on a single, sustainable competitive advantage? Or do we really need a new approach to develop our business strategy?

5 Factors of Consistent Marketing

5 Factors of Consistent Marketing

The first major marketing concept that small business owners and managers need to understand is consistency. Consistent marketing starts with the creation of an idea then the mission statement, and everything else to follow. Consistent marketing also lowers the cost of marketing, increases synergy among employees, and projects the proper image in advertising and promotions.

Establishing a Brand

When an entrepreneur starts a business, they decide what they are going to sell. Sometimes, they find a want or need in a certain market and create a product or service to fill that void. They buy necessary products or design the proper services, and then they begin selling. They sell to a few customers, get a few more, break even, and even begin to make money. Then sales drop. They are doing okay with their current customers, but some are not buying again, and they are not bringing in more business. They add other products and services, but these just cost more to offer and eventually cost the company more money than they are making. They run advertising campaigns that don’t really connect with the business, and they can’t understand what is wrong.

Here is the answer: Consistency. All marketing activities and concepts revolve around consistency. If owners and managers neglect consistency when it comes to their marketing, which includes collateral, advertising, promotions, and even products and services, they face huge up-hill battles that often are not won. Consistency plays a big part in other aspects of the business: sales, employees, physical locations, and many other elements.

When you begin a business and decide what it is you will sell, you must create a brand immediately. What is meant my creating a brand is determining who you are, who you sell to, what exactly you will sell, and how you will sell it. You must decide upon the specifics that make you unique and what makes customers come to you. While making these decisions you must remain consistent. It is not consistent for a bakery to open and say they are going to sell to health-conscious customers when all they sell are huge, fresh-baked chocolate cookies covered in mounds of peanut butter. There is no consistency to who they are selling to and what they are trying to sell.

There are many aspects to establishing a brand, which we discuss in later topics, but consistency must be a key element in every part of establishing a brand.

Consistent Marketing Collateral

We touched on consistent marketing collateral in “How Much Does Marketing Cost?” but we must reiterate that point here in consistency. If you are creating your marketing materials yourself, or you are obtaining the services of a professional designer, make sure everything is consistent with your brand, image, and the other pieces. It does your business no good to have a beautiful logo, eye-catching business card, and top-notch brochure if they don’t complement each other and lose consistency. The logo should match what you sell and to who. Next, the business card should match your logo in colon schemes, appearances, and what it conveys. Many business owners don’t value consistent marketing collateral and will decide or demand inconsistent elements because they look nice or they think it will make people pick up their card. You want to create business cards that are unique and eye-catching, but potential customers should know it belongs to you, the computer repair guy, and not a fashion designer.

Consistent marketing collateral also means to portray your company in brochures and websites the same way as you do in person. Make sure customers know what they will receive from you when they do reach the physical part of your relationship (i.e. consultation or online order). It will leave a negative result with a customer that sees a brochure with a downtown hi-rise pictured, model-quality customer service reps, and a $1 million dollar reception area and is presented with a small metal building in the middle of no-where and they have to wait in the sun to talk with you. There is nothing wrong with the latter part of that example, but don’t build customers up with different expectations that what they will receive. Being a successful business doesn’t require a huge investment in an office and personnel, but it does require consistent branding and image. A potential target will become a loyal customer if they are prepared before-hand for what they will receive and the business delivers the same way or better each time. Consistency is another name for success, and that includes marketing collateral.

Online Marketing

There are many arguments to be had on the difficulty or simplicity of online marketing. Some professionals will say that online marketing, social networks, and a web presence are easy and anyone can be successful. Others will tell you that it is a complicated process that should be left to professionals that know how to manage it. Either way, they will agree on one thing: consistency. The online world has attracted a lot of players, and not all are good. For this reason, any business trying to establish their brand online must develop trust and lasting relationships with customers and potential targets. The easiest way to do this is through consistent marketing. Using the same avatar, posting similar ads, and targeting similar groups are examples of consistent marketing. Keep in mind, once someone sees any of these consistent examples and decides to surf to your web site, it must remain consistent. Using a crazy animated ad to draw attention may get clicks to your site, but those clicks will mean nothing if the user leaves your site immediately because it is not what they expected.

One major area that must remain consistent with the rest of your marketing efforts is your social network. As a small business, the owner or general manager will probably be in charge of social networking sites, blog postings, and other social activities on the web. You may also decide to outsource this work, and find a marketing firm that can handle these tedious tasks for you. Either way, you must make sure that you, your employee, or your hired firm produce a consistent image with what you sell, who you sell to, and how you sell it. You don’t want your MySpace page to be full of teen pictures, music, and alcohol bottles if your company sells computer equipment to doctor’s offices. Your networking pages can have a personal twist to them, especially if your business is small and the owner is the one managing this segment of your marketing, but make sure you are attracting potential customers and delivering the proper brand image. Another mistake that is made in online marketing is an inconsistent website.

Some businesses will never make use of social networking sites like Facebook or MySpace, but everyone must have a web site. Today’s society demands some type of online presence even if that means just a website. 66% of consumers surf the web before making purchases. Unfortunately, many business owners fail to convert potential customers because their website turns customers away. Businesses must realize that a website is just like a physical store. If it looks cheap, cluttered, and dirty, customers will leave. They will not dig deep, ask many questions, or make purchases. They will just leave! Web design can be an expense that many businesses can’t see a need for, but a properly designed site will go a long way.

Many owners and managers feel that they can design their own website with the help of a book and Microsoft FrontPage, but more times than not, that is not true. Some owners and managers have the experience and know-how to produce a professional website, but if you don’t have that ability, you should seek help. In the end, the site must be consistent with your other marketing collateral and your brand. When a customer takes a brochure and then looks to your site for more information, it must give them the same feeling and expectation as the brochure and your sales staff does.

Sales Management and Other Employees

One major key to success in your business is creating synergy among your employees. By establishing a consistent mission statement, purpose, and cohesive goal, you can bring your employees together and allow them to provide consistent results with that of your other employees and your brand image. There is an on-going feud between sales and marketing departments between who is responsible for what. By creating consistency between your marketing and sales management, these two departments can come together and work together instead of against each other. The primary item to understand is to make sure you are directing your company and its staff in a similar and consistent manner. Each department must perform their tasks in unison with the others so that you deliver a consistent message, product, and service to your customers.

Advertising and Promotions

The final area of marketing consistency is advertising and promotions. Once you have defined who your company is, what is will sell, and who you will sell it to, you have to maintain this consistency in promotions and marketing. Pay attention to the various marketing campaigns you encounter. Compare them to the rest of the message that you receive from that company. Is it consistent?

Do you get the same image and feeling from that advertising campaign as you do from their online efforts? Think about this when creating and implementing your marketing campaigns. To create consistent marketing and advertising campaigns doesn’t mean you have to run the same ads everywhere. Many times this is effective, but it is not always the case. Creating consistent campaigns means to analyze your basic brand and be sure you are conveying the right message. If one campaign positions your company as a traditional accounting firm with solid experience, and the next campaign portrays your company as the cutting-edge modern accounting agency with young professionals, your target audiences will get confused. Another place to consider consistency is within an individual campaign. Let’s say you are trying to drive your existing customer base that is used to coming into your physical store to your website.

You have created summer-long campaign filled with instructional brochures, direct mail pieces, in-store promotions, and various other activities. Consistency will become an issue and this campaign will probably end up a failure, if each activity is different. You give away golf balls in your store, but your direct-mail pieces are themed with cook-out imagery. Your brochures pitch your website as easy to use, but your sales staff tells you customers they need to sit through 8 seminars to be able to log on. All of these are inconsistent and don’t produce a similar theme or message.

There are several reasons for consistency, especially in advertising and promotional campaigns. First, potential customers are bombarded with advertising every where they go, everything they hear, and everything they see. Second, it takes at least 3 real impressions before a potential customer will take notice of something new that was not referred by word-of-mouth. Some sources say it is as many as 7 impressions before your campaign will take effect. Consistency in campaigns will result in more impressions that have effect on potential customers. This also relates to the rest of you business. Once you have a customer, you must continue to remind them who are and why they should continue to buy from you. Consistent letterhead, websites, brochures, advertising campaigns, and sponsorships all contribute to consistent branding and image-building.