Guest Post: How to Protect Your Business from Ransomware Threats

Security experts say ransomware looms as one of the top cybersecurity threats in 2018 — and for good reason. Last year, these incidents accelerated exponentially, with mobile ransomware attacks rising 250 percent during the first quarter of 2017 compared to quarter four of 2016.

This trend will continue to gain steam in 2018, with MIT forecasting that hackers will target cloud providers such as Amazon. But while large companies like Amazon have greater resources to defend themselves, smaller businesses without such deep pockets will face the greatest risks. In particular, cybercriminals are broadening their attacks from Windows computers to other devices so that no platform is safe from ransomware threats.

While anyone can be targeted by a ransomware attack, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk. Here’s a look at how ransomware attacks work, how you can protect your business and what you can do to recover in the event you are attacked.

Explaining How Ransomware Attacks Work

So how do ransomware attacks occur? Experts say it’s similar to the way malware can infiltrate systems, but with a twist that hijacks your computer and holds it hostage. Like other malware, ransomware gets on your computer by tricking you into accepting an infected file and then runs in the background without your knowledge. But unlike other malware that steals information, ransomware executes a code that locks your machine so that you can’t use it and then posts a message demanding payment to unlock your system.

Ransomware can get on your system through three main attack methods. The most common is sending you an email with an infected attachment and tricking you into opening the email and attachment. Another method is tricking you into clicking on a link to an infected website or popup ad. A third, less common method involves unscrupulous people leaving an infected USB stick near a business center parking lot in the hopes an employee will pick it up and start using it.

The worst forms of ransomware encrypt your data so that you can’t use your computer unless you pay the ransom to get an unlock code. Typically, if you don’t pay for the unlock code within a set period of time, the ransom fee doubles; then, if you still haven’t paid before the deadline expires, your data gets deleted. Other forms of ransomware, known as scareware, don’t actually encrypt your data, but rather attempt to scare you into thinking they do so that you pay the attacker anyway.

Ransomware attackers usually demand payment in untraceable electronic forms of currency, such as Bitcoin. Paying these fees is no guarantee you’ll regain access to your data. In fact, once you pay, criminals may regard you as an easy victim and target you again in the future.

Preventing Ransomware Hacks

To protect your business against ransomware hacks, there are some essential steps you should take immediately. Your first line of defense is installing an up-to-date antivirus program that runs in real-time on your computer in order to immediately detect and neutralize known ransomware threats. It’s also important to educate yourself and your employees to avoid opening suspicious emails, visiting unsecure websites, or using discarded USB sticks that may contain ransomware.

In the event ransomware does get on your system, another important step to follow is to keep your operating systems and apps updated. Most successful ransomware attacks target vulnerabilities in outdated software, so keeping your software current can thwart many attacks.

Finally, as insurance against a successful ransomware attack, it’s vital to keep your data backed up so that you can recover it without having to pay the ransom. The best way to do this is to schedule automated cloud backups with a secure provider like Mozy, which uses military-grade encryption to protect your backups from hackers.

Recovering from Ransomware Incidents

If, despite your precautions, your business does fall victim to a ransomware attack, don’t pay the ransom; after all, you may not get your data restored — and you’ll only invite future repeat attacks.

Instead, restore your data from your backups, which is the fastest way to recover from a ransomware attack. In most cases, you should be able to restore your data and get up and running again within 33 hours, according to Vanson Bourne. This isn’t nearly as much of a hassle as being down for weeks or not being able to recover your data at all because you didn’t back it up.

Now, if you got hit before you had a chance to back up your data, all is not necessarily lost. In some cases, companies have been able to successfully recover their data due to flaws in the hacker’s attack method. But your best bet is to have backups available in the event you can’t recover your data.

Bear in mind that just because you take preventive measures against a ransomware attack now, it doesn’t guarantee you’re immune to potential attacks in the future. Staying secure against ransomware threats requires ongoing attention to detail and running continuous backups.

Conclusion

Ransomware attacks can easily worm their way into your system by tricking you into opening a suspicious email, clicking on an infected link, or using an infected USB stick. Fortunately, you can prevent ransomware attacks by avoiding these sources of infection, running an up-to-date real-time antivirus program, keeping your operating systems and apps updated, and backing up your data. Scheduling automated data backups is the best way to recover your data if you do fall victim to an attack.

 

About the Author:

Roy Rasmussen, coauthor of Publishing for Publicity, is a freelance writer who helps select clients write quality content to reach business and technology audiences. His clients have included Fortune 500 companies and bestselling authors. His most recent projects include books on cloud computing, small business management, sales, business coaching, social media marketing, and career planning.

Share

Why You MUST Pay Attention to the World Economic Forum – Exponential Pace Of Change May Catch Many Businesses Off-guard

The World Economic Forum is best known for its Annual Meeting in Davos-Klosters. What is it about? The 48th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting aims to rededicate leaders from all walks of life to developing a shared narrative to improve the state of the world.

It is Jan 23-26th, 2018.

In the words of Klaus Schwab, who is the Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, it is about how each revolution in time has built on the previous revolution:

  • The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production.
  • The Second used electric power to create mass production
  • The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production and
  • The Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third, the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century.

Source: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Cz5LPgYWIAASUug.jpg

The Fourth Revolution is Changing Every Aspect of Business

The real difference in the previous revolutions and this one is that the Fourth is evolving at an exponential rather than a linear pace. It is disrupting almost every industry in every country. The shift from simple digitization (the Third Industrial Revolution) to innovation based on combinations of technologies (the Fourth Industrial Revolution) is forcing companies to reexamine the way they do business. As a result, business leaders and senior executives need to understand their changing environment, challenge the assumptions of their operating teams, and relentlessly and continuously innovate.

Source: http://talwork.net/images/moore%27s%20law.png

Getting Caught Off-Guard

If we have been operating in linear world, then we might be caught off-guard by the level of exponential changes. In a linear world, for instance, walking 30 meters, you end up 30 meters away. But in an exponential world, if you take 30 exponential paces, you end up 1,073,741,824 meters away. Businesses need to prepare for the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s rapid pace of change and broad impacts to preserve the interest of the consumers and the public at large while continuing to support innovation and technological development. It’s easy to get caught off-guard. In our grandpa’s world, it was linear. Things changed on one side of the world and no one knew about it. Today, things change instantaneously.

It’s All of Our Responsibility To Take the Shift Seriously

To do this, we must develop a comprehensive and globally shared view of how technology is affecting our lives and reshaping our economic, social, cultural, and human environments. Never has there been a time of greater promise, or one of greater potential peril. But today’s decision-makers are often trapped in traditional, linear thinking, or too absorbed by the multiple crises demanding their attention, to think strategically about the forces of disruption and innovation shaping our future.

Source: WEF

The Potential Benefits of the 4th Industrial Revolution

The people who have gained the most from it are consumers who are able to afford and access digital technology which has made possible new products and services that increase the efficiency and pleasure of our personal lives. These could be things like ordering a cab, booking a flight, buying a product, making a payment, listening to music, watching a film, or playing a game. It is possible that the technological innovation will also lead to a supply-side miracle, with long-term gains in efficiency and productivity. The result of this is that transportation and communication costs could drop, logistics and global supply chains may become more effective, and the cost of trade may diminish. All of these things can open new markets and drive economic growth.

The Potential Downfalls of the 4th Industrial Revolution

At the same time, as economists Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee have pointed out, the revolution could yield greater inequality, particularly in its potential to disrupt labor markets. If automation substitutes for labor across the entire economy, the net displacement of workers by machines might exacerbate the gap between returns to capital and returns to labor. Although, it is also possible that the displacement of workers by technology will, in as a whole, result in a net increase in safe and rewarding jobs.

Create a People First World- For Everyone

We need to shape a future that works for all of us by putting people first and empowering them. In the worse case scenario, from a pessimistic, dehumanized point of view, the Fourth Industrial Revolution may indeed have the potential to “robotize” humanity and deprive us of our heart and soul. But on the other hand, it can also lift humanity into a new collective and moral consciousness based on a shared sense of destiny.

The Best of Humanity: Creativity, Empathy and Stewardship

Using the best parts of human nature—creativity, empathy, stewardship— this is possible. But it is incumbent on us all to make sure the latter is what happens. I highly urge to you pay attention to the content that comes out of the World Economic Forum and apply it not only to your business, but also to your life. Schwab calls for leaders and citizens to “together shape a future that works for all by putting people first, empowering them and constantly reminding ourselves that all of these new technologies are first and foremost tools made by people for people.”

At the heart of Schwab’s analysis is the conviction that the Fourth Industrial Revolution is within the control of all of us as long as we are able to collaborate across geographies, sectors and disciplines to grasp the opportunities it presents.

The time is now. Are you in?

The introduction of the book is available in PDF form here.

@DrNatalie Petouhoff, VP, Innovation and Transformation Expeditions

Note: Parts of this article were first published in Foreign Affairs.

You can follow the WEF:

Join the community: Community page

Facebook: 4IR Facebook page.  http://wef.ch/facebook 

Twitter: #wef18 and @wef

Instagram: http://wef.ch/instagram and

http://wef.ch/instagram_es

Youtube: YouTube channel; hit the “Subscribe” button. They will also publish in-depth interviews with Davos participants.

LinkedIn: LinkedIn

Google+: Google+.

Live blog: http://wef.ch/am18

Reports and other publications: http://wef.ch/reports

You can republish content on this feed: http://wef.ch/feed under the terms of Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 Unported License (“CCPL”).

 

Share

Creating An ROI For Human Capital And Organizational Change Projects: Part 2

I was working at a company and asked to do several things. First was to recruit 100 engineers. That may not seem like a lot, but for every 100 people, we interviewed we had 1 person accept. So it took interviewing 1000 people to obtain 100 engineers. Part of that was because we were looking for a specific type of engineer – digital signal processing engineers. The company I worked for had gone through a series of hiring and layoff cycles, so they weren’t completely trusted by the local community as being a stable place to work. Many of those types of engineers had left southern California to go to northern California to pursue work – and for larger salaries and more stable positions.

Examining What Was Important to The Employees Was the Key

We had lost a large number of engineers and some accounts were in trouble. So the need to recruit quickly was key. Normally it could take us 3- 6 months to recruit these type of engineers. I had been given a month. So I stepped up to the challenge. I thought, what would I want to experience to determine if I wanted to work for this company? I would want to hear from the leadership that they were dedicated to doing things differently. I would want to know that there were exciting career options in various categories and I would want to feel, touch and see the advanced technologies I would be getting a chance to work with and enhance my skill set so I would be more marketable in the future, both inside the company as well as if I decided to leave. I would want to get to talk to potential colleagues and potential bosses. I would want to get a sense of the culture and the environment I would be working in. And I’d like to meet people who were seeking the same or similar positions to what I was seeking – who would be these new people on-boarding with me?

The Answer? A Career Day With a Special Invite to Top Candidates

What I proposed was a career day. We took out an ad in the LA Times, inviting the best of the best to apply to our company and upon invitation, they would be invited to come to the career day, hear from our leadership about our company and their future there, be interviewed by direct hiring managers for our 5 major divisions as well as tour booths staffed by some of our top engineers and business folks. In the booths, we demonstrated our “cool” technology – at least that which was not classified as top secret.

To pull this day off, I worked with our graphics department to create amazing ads, colorful booth content, onsite brochures and the personal invites sent to those that had sent in resumes and qualified to participate in the career day.

The Launch of the Career Fair

The day started with a group of engineers who began their career day journey with us by hearing from our top leadership. Then they got to tour 5 divisions, each with several booths where the top technology was being demonstrated. We tried our best to come up with really interesting, real-life demos that potential employees could get to touch and feel the technology = actually experience it. Then they were invited to interview with a hiring manager there on site. The hiring managers were given the ability to hire people on the spot (something we’d never done before.)

The Reaction of the Interviewees Was Fantastic

What was interesting was the feedback we collected on video as the employees left the career day. Most of them, after interviewing wanted to go back and hang-out in the tech booths or listen to more talks from our leadership. They commented that it was the best interviewing process they had ever experienced. What was even more gratifying was that the day not only had a positive effect on the interviews but also on the employees who helped put the day together. I had not seen the employees shine so brightly in a long time. It was clear they had a new found sense of pride in the work they were doing as well as for the company. We even captured their feedback on the video and put a compilation video together. Why the video? To help demonstrate the ROI.

Examining the ROI for the Career Day

The cost to develop the day and put it on was about $1,00,000, including the a portion of the salary of all people who participated in the project for various amounts of time, the graphics, the ads in the LA Times, the billboards off the 405 freeway, the booths, tanks we had onsite as part of the booths, etc… When we looked at the cost of recruiting one engineer in our typical process. HR had calculated that to be about $150,000. To obtain 100 engineers we would have had to interview 1,000 people at a cost of $150,000 and that would be equal to $15M. Most people would have considered those soft costs. But they still cost the company time and money. In this new process of interviewing, it cost about $2M. We were able to interview and hire over 100 engineers. The ROI?

$15M – $2M / $2M x 100 = 650%.

(Benefit of saving the regular cost of interviewing – Cost of the new interviewing process / Cost of the new interviewing process x 100 = ROI %.

What I Found Surprising

It wasn’t just that we were able to recruit so many great people quickly. Another aspect of this process was that we actually interviewed our own employees who staffed the event and created all the content to make it amazing. What they said on camera was they were truly proud of the place they worked. They felt a sense of pride they had not in years. I what I learned was that by engaging our own employees, making them part of the recruiting process in this event, it changed their attitude towards the company and their work. So not only were we able to hire all the engineers we needed, but we had boosted the internal company morale! It was a very exciting day for everyone. Something I will proud of for years to come!

@DrNatalie Petouhoff, VP, Innovation and Transformation Expeditions, Salesforce

 

 

Share

Guest Post and Infographic: How AI Changed Customer Service

You can make or break your business’s future by how well, or how poorly, you treat your clients. But you have a lot on your plate, too—even more as you manage the endless technology needs that seem to be developing overnight.


    That’s why artificial intelligence (AI) aspects of customer service are so crucial to how well (or how badly) we do business in the future. You may not even realize how many of these AI elements are already in place in your interaction with companies—and that number is only going to increase.


    Right now, about 2 out of 5 enterprises in the United States are already using AI in some form; that number is going to grow to about 3 out of 5 just this year alone. The human touch still matters, but the bots are already here. What does that mean for you and your business? This graphic explains it.

Infographic source: https://www.salesforce.com/hub/service/how-ai-changed-customer-service/

AUTHOR:

Amanda DiSilvestro gives small business and entrepreneurs SEO advice ranging from keyword research to recovering from Google Algorithm updates and changes. She writes for the nationally recognized SEO Company HigherVisibility that offers online marketing services to a wide range of companies across the country.

Share

ROI of Human Capital and Organizational Change Management: My Personal Story

I was working for a company that had found themselves in a situation where they had poor morale. Raises were few, partially because of the economy and as a result, people were working very hard and not feeling appreciated. HR came to me to ask what to do. As an early design-thinker, my reaction was always to ask the “customer.” In this case, the “customer” was our own employees. When I interviewed them, I asked them what they wished they had- essentially what was missing? I found that the answers were very surprising. They didn’t feel appreciated. They didn’t feel they were growing and expanding their skills. They didn’t feel like they had a future or that the future looked bright or that they had a hand in creating that future. Or that they even mattered.

The Root Cause of Employee Dissatisfaction

I found that in the appraisal process, once the employee heard they were not getting raise, they shut down. So pretty, much after the first few minutes of the appraisal, they stopped actively participating. So when it got to the part where they were going through their goals for the next year, they had stopped engaging and were only going through the motions.

Because their future goals and engagement to their jobs and their careers was key to being a top company, I came up with the idea of separating the employee appraisal process from the employee development process. And set out to design an employee development process where employees could examine, through goal setting practices, personal-professional goals that would enhance their skill set and make them more valuable to the company, but also have a personal sense of accomplishment and growth.

The Cost of Low Employee Morale?

The cost? With my team, we estimated about $6M for 60,000 employees. I went to the executive leadership meeting and presented my proposal. There was a lukewarm reception, that is… until I got to the cost. At $6M I was laughed at and told to sit down. That was the longest meeting I have ever been in. I couldn’t wait for it to be over. Trying my best to hold back the tears, I just sat there feeling awful.

I went home that night and I did cry. I had interviewed the “customer” figured out what was missing and proposed the solutions. But what I didn’t do is calculate the return on the investment (ROI.) This was very early in my career and this experience taught me the valuable lesson of creating the business value or business case of whatever it was I wanted to propose. The lesson served me well because once I learned to do this, I always got my funding.

Calculating the Cost of Low Employee Morale and Attrition

So you might be wondering how did I calculate the ROI of employee development? Isn’t that a soft skill or a soft benefit? My grandpa had taught me that any time there is value, there is a financial benefit. You just had to find the numbers. So the next day, after a good night’s sleep, I went o HR and asked them, “How much does it take to hire this type of engineer – a digital signal processing engineer?”

They said, combining the recruiting teams time, traveling to various universities, ads in the local papers, radio advertisements, (This was way before social media) reviewing incoming resumes, having the initial screening calls, and then interviewing with a number of the staff and the hiring managers, getting the engineer a secret clearance, etc… the cost was about $150,000 / engineer.

And then I asked the crowning question, “How many engineers did we lose in the last month?” HR said, “200.” And I saw the ROI. If we had lost just 40 people, then $150,000 x 40 would equal the $6M I was asking for. But in the last 3 months we had lost 200, so the cost of attrition just for 3 months was $150,000 x 200 = $30M.

So with the loss of 200 engineers, if I could retain half of them, 100 engineers, then the cost of attrition would only be $15M.

Calculating the Cost of Employee Attrition

The ROI = Benefit – Cost / Cost x 100 = % Return on the Investment

The benefit is the saving of the $15M in attrition costs. The cost is the cost of the program or $6M.

So to calculate the ROI…

Savings of $15M in attrition – Cost of the employee development program of $6M /Cost of the employee development program x 100

So the calculation looks like this:

$15M – $6M / $6M x 100 = 150 % ROI

The Defining Moment

So after pulling my self together and confident with my calculations, I asked for 5 minutes on the agenda. Of course, they were reluctant to give me any time. I got 2 minutes. So I went in with one slide. The slide with the ROI calculation. I said, “We are spending $30M in attrition and if we pay attention to why people are leaving and create a better culture so people feel that they matter, they are learning and growing and feel apart of something bigger than themselves, we can reduce that attrition. So let me walk you through the calculation….” And I did.

To my surprise, instead of sighs of ridiculousness and grumpiness, there was silence. I had hit upon something that no one had thought about. The cost of attrition. While is at first seemed like a “soft” cost, when it was laid out for them in black and white… even if I was off by 50% – we were still wasting the companies money on having people leave because we weren’t paying attention to what was important to them to feel loyal. Why go through all the time and expense to recruit these amazing people, only to push them away and have them go to our competitors, making our competitors smarter and stronger?

How Does This Story End?

Actually very well. I was given the money to develop the employee development program. I was very surprised to get so many emails and people stopping me in the hallways to tell me how much they appreciated what I had done. I didn’t do it for the accolades. I did it because I truly wanted to create an amazing place to work.

The lesson learned? If there is value to something, even if it feels like it is initially a “soft” cost, there is a way to express it in hard dollars in a way that executives can see change is needed. And this was my first experience in organizational change management!

@drnatalie

VP, Salesforce, Innovation and Transformation Expeditions Center

Share

Guest Post: Why Businesses Can’t Strive Without Social Media

Few years back, businesses had to seek the assistance of external agencies such as marketing and advertising research firms in order to promote the business. However, the increasing popularity of social media networks has changed the trend. Almost all the businesses nowadays prefer to use social media networks in order to engage with their marketing campaigns. The benefits delivered by social media marketing have contributed a lot towards the above mentioned fact.

Social media marketing goes hand in hand with social media optimization. That’s because it can assist a business to achieve website optimization in a convenient manner. In other words, social media marketing can increase the visibility of a specific business website on the internet. Plenty of social media channels, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube are available for the marketers to engage with their marketing campaigns. People who belong to different age categories use these social media networks on a daily basis. As a result, the businesses find it as an easy task to run targeted marketing campaigns without any frustration.

Marketers will get the opportunity to increase the sales volume at the end of the day through viral marketing. It can also be used to increase brand awareness in a convenient manner. This method of marketing is known as viral because it is passed down from one person to another with the help of social media networks. The structure of social media network creates an ideal platform for viral marketing as well. Games, video clips, images and text messages are some of the tools that are being used in viral marketing campaigns. The success of a viral marketing campaign depends on the focus group. That’s the main reason why most of the companies prefer to hire social media marketing specialists in order to run the campaigns. The amount they spend on hiring experts can be considered as an excellent investment done towards the future.

Most of the business owners prefer to integrate social media marketing into their traditional marketing campaigns. This can assist them to develop the business in a convenient manner. From the recent studies, it has been identified that a business that spends around 6 hours a week on social media marketing will be able to get 50% more exposure at the end of the day. If they can spend more time, they will end up getting a lot more benefits. Apart from this, the business owners will be able to gain more traffic towards the website, increase the number of leads and create new business partnerships.

On top of everything, the business owners do not need to spend a fortune in order to run an effective social media marketing campaign. In fact, it can be considered as the least cost-effective marketing method available for the business owners. The benefits delivered by social media marketing are definitely worth when compared to the results that can be experienced in the long run. Therefore, any business can think about running a social media marketing campaign without a doubt on mind.

With the development of technology, social media has obtained a prominent place in the lives of people. Small business owners can obtain the maximum benefits out of this platform in order to enhance their business opportunities. This article will provide four such tricks, which any small business owner can use to take their business to the next level.

Use the correct social media account: All the social media networks have opened their doors for the young entrepreneurs. Therefore, you need to create a business account instead of a personal account. When the customers look for your company on social media networks, they use your business name, not your personal name. If you have more than one business, you can maintain separate pages for each business.

Keep all the posts on topic: All the posts, photos or tweets you update from your account should be related to your business and it is recommended to stay away from posting unprofessional content. Even though it is fun to post random stuff that you see on the Internet, it can harm your brand customers will not have a great feeling towards it. It is essential to use your creativity when posting from your social media accounts. For instance, you should think from the point of customer and compile the post according to their requirements.

Use interaction in all your campaigns: If customers have the chance to interact with your business, they will tend to use your products or services occasionally and they will even recommend your business to their friends. Since social media networks are the best place to interact with others, you should take the maximum advantage out of it and take necessary measures to talk with them. For example, you can ask questions from them related to a specific part of your business.

Put a stop to controversy: Regardless of what you post from the social media profile, make sure you stay away from controversy. It is a popular topic among savvy entrepreneurs that nothing will kill your campaign, more than posting on controversial topics. You need to stay unbiased at all the times and win the hearts of customers.

The effectiveness of these four tips are proven and many small business owners have used them to make a positive impact on their business. Therefore, all the young entrepreneurs can try them without any hesitation.

Now you have a clear understanding about the role that social media networks play on businesses that exist out there in the world. All you have to do is to start looking for all possible options that are available for you to promote the business through social media. Then you will be able to figure out all the paths that are available for you to take your business to the next level, along with the assistance of social media. The time and effort you spend on it will be totally worth when compared to the benefits you can receive at the end of the day.

 

Author Bio:

Ray Sherlock is the owner of Engage Hub, a Social Media Agency in Manchester, UK. We are a social media and influencer agency who have a passion for video, engaging content and disruptive campaigns.

Share

Guest Post: 3 Ways CRM Predictive Analytics Can Give You a Competitive Edge

Customer relationship management software has emerged as one of the most crucial tools for doing business successfully today, and the power of big data predictive analytics is making CRM more powerful than ever. The CRM predictive analytics market, valued at $4.18 billion in 2014, is expanding at a compound annual growth rate of 12.83 percent, on track to be worth $7.65 billion by 2019, Markets and Markets projects. CRM analytics tools are in demand because they help companies predict market behavior, understand their buyers and make more sales.

Companies that know how to use CRM predictive analytics effectively have a major marketing and sales advantage over rivals who aren’t taking advantage of this revolutionary technology. Here’s a look at three ways CRM predictive analytics can help you gain an edge over your competition and take the lead in your market.

Predicting Customer Demand Surges

CRM lets you make predictions about future marketing and sales trends based on historic data. One important application of this is predicting what your customers will want and when they will want it. This can help you ensure that the products and services you’re selling are what your customer base wants and that you’ll have your inventory and staff prepared to meet peak demand times.

One of the most valuable uses of this approach is predicting holiday sales trends. For instance, most retailers center their annual sales around certain key sales days such as Black Friday, but a review of the actual data shows that seasonal sales peaks over the Christmas shopping season can last anywhere from 38 to 88 days depending on the market sector, explains Marketing Week writer Mindi Chahal. Knowing when your holiday sales peak begins and when it ends can make you better prepared to have sufficient staff on hand and sufficient items in stock to meet the surge in demand.

Understanding Your Target Market

Another valuable application of predictive CRM analytics is helping you narrow your target market. Traditional market research methods are effective as far as they go, but the amount of data they can manage is limited. Big data analytics can provide a more complete analysis of your market by integrating data from many sources, including customer purchase history, social media profiles and emails. This enables you to spot characteristics of your target market that you might otherwise overlook.

A good illustration of how this can be applied effectively is the type of recommendation engine used by companies such as Amazon and Netflix. By analyzing buyer behavior and demographic characteristics, these companies generate repeat business by making recommendations designed to appeal to customers’ buyer profiles.

Helping Your Staff to Make Data-based Sales Decisions

Just as recommendation engines can help your website optimize automated sales efforts to online buyers, CRM predictive analytics can also help your sales team make data-driven sales decisions when interacting with prospective buyers. Your sales managers can see who your hottest prospects are, as well as which of your top sales representatives are available for deployment. Your sales representatives can see data about customers’ purchase history, demographic characteristics and buying preferences, enabling them to make more effective sales presentations.

In order to use CRM tools effectively for these types of applications, your staff will need specialized training. Customer FX provides Infor CRM training to help companies make the most of CRM tools. Scheduling this type of training can empower your marketing and sales teams to put CRM predictive analytics tools to optimal use in order to boost your sales performance, grow your profits and gain an edge on your competition.

 

About the Author

Roy Rasmussen, coauthor of Publishing for Publicity, is a freelance writer who helps select clients write quality content to reach business and technology audiences. His clients have included Fortune 500 companies and bestselling authors. His most recent projects include books on cloud computing, small business management, sales, business coaching, social media marketing, and career planning.

Share

Avoiding the Failure Chasm: Gaining The Most Value Possible From Digital Transformation

Whether you are a CEO, a CIO, a CTO, a CMO or the head of Customer Experience, Customer Service or Digital Transformation, you know software can be an amazing invention. It can be part of the key to digitally transforming your businesses in so many ways. In fact, here’s just a few of the ways digital transformations can take shape…

Digital Transformation and Software can help in the area of human capital by:

  • Increasing employee engagement, creating a passionate culture, increasing productivity and motivation
  • Attracting the top talent, making your organization the sought after place to work and an awesome culture to be envied
  • Reducing attrition of talent you want to keep to make sure you are able to produce the best possible business results.

Digital Transformation and software can help business generate revenue by:

  • Developing incremental innovation of products or services from receiving feedback from employees and customers
  • Co-creating new products with input from customers and employees
  • Developing new business models by creating new products and services that didn’t exist in the company’s line of business
  • Generating new applications and uses for existing technology, products & services, i.e., moving them from the core business and finding adjacent/new markets
  • Increasing the customer lifetime value, i.e., increasing the amount and frequency of purchases per customer over the lifetime of a customer
  • Increasing customer acquisition by increasing market awareness of the company, it’s products and services by engaging customers and brand ambassadors through delivering content at the top, the middle and the end of the funnel through two-way texting, email, digital ads, banners, digital and social media… and
  • Increasing the brand’s equity, reputation and preventing a PR crisis and brand intervention projects and so much more…

Digital Transformation and software can help business reduce costs by:

  • Creating new products and services with more agile processes (vs. waterfall processes)
  • Improving an exiting process or eliminating redundant processes / steps
  • Reducing the cost of products or services that fail in the marketplace because now they have feedback from customers and employees way before the product hits the market
  • Reducing the cost of bugs or flaws in the product or service because of using more agile processes and outcome-based thinking
  • Reduction in contact center costs by increasing first contact resolution (FCR) by using the most innovative ways to engage customers and
  • Reduce customer churn by increasing customer satisfaction by better customer experiences and hence increasing customer retention….

Why Do Company’s Fail At Digital Transformation?

So just from that short list it’s clear there are so many ways software can enable a business to function at it’s very best. However, there is something that can get in the way of the effectiveness and efficiency of the actual software’s ability to deliver on the promise. What might that be? If the software is good, then it’s not the software. So what is it? How can you realize your company’s vision through digital transformation when over 80% of digital transformations fail. Nobody wants to spend the time, the money and the effort getting a project approved, implementing it only to find a year or five later that it didn’t produce the results it was supposed to. But surprisingly, this still does happen. Some of those reasons include:

  • The absence of a clear plan to achieve digital transformation
  • Lack of alignment between business and IT
  • Legacy systems
  • Siloed data
  • Gaps in talent and skills
  • Cultural resistance to change and
  • Group think (seeing the problem from the same perspective.)

How Smart Companies Are Avoiding the Digital Transformation Failure Chasm

Smart leaders need all the efforts of all their employees, as well as, feedback from their customers so they don’t fall into the digital transformation failure chasm. However, often times they are so busy doing what they have always done, they they might not see a new way of looking at things. That’s where another pair of eyes or hands or even a team can help. You’ve experienced this probably yourself. You are trying to solve something. You feel you’ve looked at it hundred different ways and nothing really new comes about. You might even show a friend or a team mate and they are stuck, too. Why does this happen? You are not alone. In fact, it’s quite common.

1962, Abraham Kaplan, then a Professor of Philosophy, was giving a speech to scientists in which he urged scientists to carefully consider their methods for their research. He emphasized that – just because certain methods happen to be handy, or one has been trained to use a specific method or trained to look at a problem from a certain perspective -it doesn’t mean that that method will produce the best outcomes. Sometimes people formulate problems that reach solutions by using those techniques they are especially skilled in. In other words, we tend to formulate our problems in ways that make it seem the solutions to those problems demand precisely what we already happen to have at hand. In Abraham Maslow’s The Psychology of Science, published in 1966,  stated, “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” The issue is the reliance or over-reliance on the familiar or the habit of using the same perspective.

Taking this concept into software development and implementation, José M. Gilgado, wrote a law  that is still relevant and highly applicable in 21st century. He observed, often times software developers and implementors, “tend to use the same known tools to do a completely new and different project with new constraints.” Why? They blamed it on what he calls the comfort zone, a state where we don’t want to change anything to avoid risk. What’s the problem with using the same tools every time? We get good at those tools and we like using what we are good at, right? The issue can become that you don’t have enough diversity when discussing the problem (because you are using the same perspective you’ve always used) so the exchange of diverging or opposite views is limited and the choices to look at the problem from different points of view are limited because there’s nothing new to compare it to. What would be better if is… to look for the best possible choice with varying perspectives, even if we aren’t very familiar with them. But we rarely do that. Rather, we fall into group-think.

There’s some very interesting research by a professor at the University of Michigan, Scott E. Page who studies complexity theory. In his book, The Difference, he shows how the power of diversity creates better groups, firms and business outcomes. We all differ in how we see and interpret the world. How we code things is our “perspective.”  Scholars from a variety of disciplines have studied how people and groups make breakthroughs. The bottom-line? Encouraging and working with diverse perspectives. For example, do you know how pins came to be manufactured? Adam Smith ran one of the first brush factories. Someone saw that the bristles could be cut off and made into pins. That’s what I mean about seeing things differently. Most people would have looked at a brush factory and saw a brush factory. But the first pin factory was imagined by seeing that diverse perspective – seeing the world differently – seeing the world as a forest of pins – provided the seeds of innovation.

What does your team need? You’ll want to engage and partner with a new set of diverse senior advisors and specialists who are dedicated to your success, who use unrivaled expertise, processes and methods to make your business more agile. You’ll want to make sure they are the kind of people who thrive on guiding your team so your team learns the key principles to create and sustain change. And you’ll want to choose the most powerful technology platform to be the basis to fuel your transformation for today and far into the future. With all of that, and a collaborative team culture you can:

  • Align key leaders around a digital transformation strategy
  • Implement the right framework to move forward
  • Create the agility needed in today’s digital environment and
  • Adopt new technologies faster to keep pace with change.

Often it is –outside, diverse points of view– that are just what is required to steer you clear of the failure chasm, and instead have an immersive engagement based on a proven approach that combines people, expertise, culture, and technology. You want to be working with people who are uniquely able to help a business realize their visions and co-create the future by:

  • Exploring the art of the possible by
    • Leading with out-comes based thinking (OBT begins with defining a desired outcome, no matter how bold or provocative. It’s fundamentally different from problem solving, which looks at the current state and attempts to improve it)
    • Inspiring design-led thinking (instead of solving a problem, your team becomes solution-focused and action-oriented towards creating a preferred future)
    • Testing new strategies (vs. setting a plan and sticking to it for a year and then realizing they’ve wasted a year or more on something that isn’t going to work; maybe even trying a little experimentation to see if something could even work)
    • Sparking agility throughout the organization, igniting the whole culture’s motivation in whole new ways, giving them a renewed sense of purpose and outlook on the future and feeling they have the dream job and a reason for showing up other than a paycheck!
  • Building your digital capabilities by
    • Improving your operating model (and maybe even shifting the revenue model to something you’ve never considered, but it was the innovation that was needed to grow the company exponentially)
    • Growing the competitive advantage; as the Blue Ocean Author’s would say, you’ll want to create new, uncontested market spaces making the competition irrelevant
    • Stimulating breakthrough ideas that transform business as usual and
  • Creating sustainable transformation by
    • Creating a customer-first culture
    • Managing complex changes and
    • Continuing the processes required to innovate, iterate, pivot and grow.

How do you find such a group? Look at their DNA. Is it digital? Are they a natively global, mobile, social, cloud, community-oriented company? Are they trusted advisors who put the customer first and teach them to fish? Do they experiment, try new things, iterate and pivot quickly when it doesn’t work and tweak things till they hum? Do other companies desire to be like them and wonder what technology they use to be so innovative and wonder how is it, they do what they do? Are they super customer focused? As my friend and colleague, Peter Coffee would say, “Do they create a sense of urgency, hope and glory? Or conviction, belief and desire in your team? Are they all about (and seriously about this, it’s not just some words on a website or a brochure) connection, collaboration and innovation?” If you want to learn more about how one group guides business through digital transformation, here’s more info on that!

Until next time, here’s to realizing your vision and the best possible future for your company, your employees, your stakeholders and the planet. It’s all of our jobs to make the world a better place. And what better place to do that than starting with businesses? That’s where people spend a great deal of their time! So make it a fabulous experience for employees and the customers will feel the love. You will be their go to source for all your customer’s products and services. Don’t give them reasons to leave you, Give them reasons they can’t possibly give you up. Because… at the end of the day, that is what drives customer lifetime value. No customers, no business. It’s really that simple.

@DrNatalie Petouhoff

VP, Program Executive, Innovation and Transformation Center, Salesforce.com

Share

Guest Post: 10 Of The Best Best Marketing Tips From Apple

If you’re in the business of developing new and improved ways to market your company, we have 10 tried & tested strategies for you, that worked wonders for Apple.

Everything from customer service to brand message and pricing, Apple incorporated have built their empire with the following marketing techniques that are not only simple but also very effective.

Speaking of simple – how intricate are your current marketing campaigns? Complex enough that your target audience quickly switches off?

Learn to speak the language of your buyers and keep your campaign message direct and straight to the point.

A great product speaks for itself, and in saying that, the best marketing campaign will highlight all the features and benefits whilst omitting price details. The very reason Apple never engage in a price war is because they focus heavily on the quality of their product. And people are willing to pay the price for a product they believe is of high calibre.

So if you´re ready to launch your product to the next level with the same tactics used by the leaders in technology, read on this infographic by The Website Group to discover just exactly how Apple became so successful through marketing.

About the Author:

Ashley Phillips is Managing Director of The Website Group, a UK based Digital Agency specializing in pay monthly business web design, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Social Media Marketing.

Share