Protect Your Business While On the Move

thinkstockphotos-518339196Even if you’re not working for an organization that requires you to travel on a regular basis, there is still a high likelihood that you will work from home at some point during your week. Giving people the ability to work remotely not only increases worker productivity but also drives efficiency, lowers stress, reduces employee turnover, and more. However, all of these benefits come at a pretty significant cost: giving employees the ability to work while on the move also increases the chances of a cyber attack pretty profoundly.

Organizations that want to leverage the power of modern technology with as few of the downsides as possible would do well to learn three specific letters as quickly as possible: V, P, and N.

What is a VPN?

Short for “virtual private network,” a VPN is exactly that – a private network that extends across either a public network or a larger, global network like the internet. Think of it as a lane on a highway that only you and your employees are allowed to use while on your way to work. Sure, there are other cars out on the road trying to get to various destinations, but YOU are the only one who gets to enjoy that one, special lane.

This may be a bit of an oversimplification, but this is largely the idea at the heart of a VPN. It allows users like yourself to both send and receive information over public networks like the internet with all of the privacy and security they would expect if they were connected to a smaller private network in their office.

Many businesses use VPNs to help increase security as more employees work remotely. Using a VPN, remote users can connect back with the head office, or regional offices can connect with one another, without worrying about anyone with malicious intentions intercepting their traffic.

Why is a VPN So Important?

For business professionals on the go, VPNs are important, thanks to one simple, little word: security. While connections to the internet are a dime-a-dozen, SECURE connections are much harder to come by. If you hop onto the Wi-Fi network at your local Starbucks to send some important files to a client, anyone on that some network could potentially “snipe” that file out of the air and gain access to it if they know what they’re doing. This is because Starbucks’ network was designed to be public so everyone could use it, which unfortunately means any and all traffic going over that network is essentially up for grabs.

However, if you used that same Starbucks Wi-Fi connection first to connect to your VPN, the kid with the laptop three tables over trying as hard as possible to read your emails can “hack” all he’d like, but he won’t be learning your trade secrets anytime soon. VPNs allow businesses to extend the security of their local intranet while located out of the office, allowing remote employees to be as productive as they need to be without worrying about something like a data breach.

These are just a few of the key reasons why VPNs are so important for today’s modern business world. When dealing with something as inherently volatile as the internet, the security and privacy benefits alone are more than worth the investment, even – and before you begin to think about the added level of protection this gives to employees working out of the office. In an era where data breaches are all too common, and concern with data privacy is at an all-time high, virtual private networks are one of the single, best ways to remain protected and productive at the same time.

Brand Awareness: Becoming Another Kleenex

thinkstockphotos-497344154In today’s world of marketing, if you are not marketing online, you are missing a very big boat. Marketing is now a science with logistics and parameters that were largely unheard of just a few years ago. However, that is not the case with the notion of brand awareness. The auto industry was probably the biggest contributor to the idea that brand loyalty could be utilized to sell more products. That industry is over 120 years old, and brand awareness became a fashionable tool in marketing automobiles by the early 1900s.

Brand awareness, of course, is the extent to which a name, label, logo, catch phrase, jingle, or another identifier that is associated with a brand, a specific product, or a company is easily recognized by customers. Brand awareness may be old news, but the Internet has taken the concept to new heights, becoming far more measurable and quantifiable as part of an overall marketing strategy.

There are many examples of successful brand awareness implementation. It has always been primarily produced by effective advertising. The most dramatically successful advertising campaign is the one where your product becomes synonymous with the product category. For many years now, a facial tissue has been called a Kleenex regardless of what actual brand was used. This is the same result we see when some people refer to any sport-utility vehicle as a Jeep and any cola drink as a Coke.

The objective in advertising or any brand awareness marketing endeavor is not simply to get your product name or image in front of the consumer. It is to get the image into the mind of that consumer, so when the buying customer wants a product, he or she wants your product before that of any competitors. Repetitious advertising creates a memory trace that remains and is reinforced with every additional occurrence. Think of mayonnaise, hot dogs, ketchup, beer, and coffee. The odds are pretty good that in each case you thought of a specific brand. It is no coincidence that the biggest selling brands are also among those most heavily advertised in various media.

While a successful advertising campaign can create solid brand awareness, a limiting or cessation of advertising can erase the gains in a remarkably short time. Forty years ago, a steel wool soap pad was known as a Brillo Pad. Today, SOS brand is the big seller. Brillo sometimes doesn’t even get any shelf space, and we must ask when was the last time you saw an ad for Brillo scouring pads? The manufacturer failed to maintain the brand awareness level they had established. A massive advertising campaign by the manufacturers of SOS soap pads was the driving force that changed the landscape.

Advertising remains key to this process, and today the most critical medium for reaching the customer is the Internet. No other medium offers such widespread advantages in both reach and monitoring capacity. With the Internet, you can track how many times your ad has been viewed and how many times it has been clicked on.

Furthermore, social media and blogging have opened up new avenues for tracking your brand’s impact. Programs exist that can tell you how many times your brand has been searched for by a search engine. Others can reveal how many times it has been mentioned in a blog anywhere on the World Wide Web. These “mentions” can be even more critical to brand awareness than page views or clicks because each one may represent an impartial testimony to your product. Even negative discussion tends to reinforce brand awareness. The old saying applies: There is no such thing as bad publicity.

Establish it, reinforce it, and nurture it. Brand awareness can make the difference for you in becoming another brand like Kleenex.

The Evolution of Sales: How the Landscape Has Changed

thinkstockphotos-509956083Depending on whom you are selling to, and how, the nature of the sales process has changed since the birth and incredible growth of the Internet. However, with all of the changes in how we communicate with digital connectivity, some things have not changed much at all. Sales are still sales. It is the targeting of sales that has changed more than anything else.

A century’s worth of knowledge about how to go about selling something has not been made obsolete, but it has experienced some competition. The old guard, presenting the “correct” path for sales taught new recruits the art of manipulation. Jeffrey Gitomer, Zig Zigler, Brian Tracy, Tom Hopkins, and many other authors on the subject have outlined a strategy for increasing sales on the basis of this manipulation. They have shown us a successful, proven model for sales. So, what has changed?

Old School

The mantra for the old school approach was to establish and maintain a sort of control over potential customers by answering questions with questions. Establish some common ground and build a rapport. Spend all the time you can, build value, and only then reveal the price. Once a value has been established, even a higher price will seem more acceptable. It must be said that this approach has achieved much success. And, in fact, there remains a place for it, depending on the medium used for conversation.

What the Internet and digital communication have done, however, is to change the speed of interactions to the point that available time has collapsed. These days, spending a lot of time has become counter-productive if the medium is the Internet, for example. Studies show that most web surfers, even when looking for a specific product, will spend very little time searching before making a decision, one way or the other.

This makes building value more difficult, and when transactions occur online, there is no face-to-face interaction and no rapport building. Digital customers have very little time for elaborate presentations building product value. Typically, they already have a price in mind and are most interested in your price for the sake of comparison.

New School

Today, sales are being made with a rapidity that has never before been matched. For that to occur, some of the old ways have been relegated to other media, as the Internet has expanded to take over some of their space. Online sales are continuing to explode exponentially, so it is quite clear that new approaches are being validated.

To a certain extent, a person’s approach is tailored to his or her personality. Some people are built for face-to-face interaction. Some can do without it. All sales become a contract and there is a personal comfort zone that must be attained even in the quickest of transactions. Serious shoppers who demand a greater depth of information do exist on the Internet, but the Internet can easily adapt for these shoppers by offering the information to those who demand it, while streamlining the sales process for those who do not.

There is really nothing inherently wrong with the old school approach to sales. There will always be a time and place for it in certain contexts. What the Internet has introduced to the process is flexibility. While there is no flesh-and-blood person speaking to the buyer, there is a wealth of information available if the buyer really desires it. As a result, website building has become something of an art form, so the needs of customers can be addressed as those needs emerge rather than in a pre-determined sales presentation.

It seems old school and new school can live together, after all…

Designing a Landing Page that Converts Customers

Landing pages are a fantastic way to convert leads into customers. A potential customer sees something that interests them. They click your call to action link or scan a QR code on an advertisement and end up on a page specifically designed to convert them. So how do you maximize the potential of your landing page?

Make the value immediately relevant

Landing pages are typically created to entice potential customers who have seen something of interest. When people arrive at the landing page, you want to capture their attention by showing them immediately the value you have to offer. Use a short paragraph or a bulleted list to outline exactly what the customer can hope to receive from you.

To make the value even more obvious, include positive customer reviews regarding the product or information you’re offering. A line or two of customer recommendations at the bottom of the page will help boost sales, as prospects will feel encouraged to join the group of already satisfied customers.

Provide enough value that people won’t mind filling out a form or request

The landing page is a page of give and take. People arrive looking for the value they were promised. In return, you ask for information you can use to improve your marketing to them and others like them. The trick is asking for information that’s comparable to the value they’re looking to receive.

If your offer is a two-page PDF with tips for caring for a washing machine, you won’t receive many conversions if you ask people to fill out a 20-line form to receive it. The form is kind of like the payment you’re asking customers to make, so you need to make sure you price what you’re offering accordingly.

Have a layout that encourages people to convert

Never underestimate the importance of a good layout to encourage conversions. Pictures are a fantastic resource for helping customers connect with your product or service. Include a basic picture that helps customers connect with your offer. For example, you might include a stock image of a book, with the title of your ebook on the front. This will help customers resonate with your tangible offer.

Your layout should also be oriented entirely toward encouraging customers to convert. Remove your navigation links along the top of the page to encourage people to stay on the page and move forward. Include social share buttons along the bottom of your page to make it easy for customers to let their friends and social circles know about the amazing deal you have to offer. One of the best types of advertising is word of mouth. People inherently trust what they hear from people they know more than what they read from a company’s advertising.

Building a landing page that’s been optimized is a fantastic way to encourage page visitors to convert into customers. Keep in mind, though, that a landing page isn’t build like other web pages. Use the tips above, and build a landing page that will maximize your conversions.