Broomfield Chamber of Commerce

It’s Time to Really Start Talking Cybersecurity

150 150 Lauren Finamore

Written By: Christina R. Metcalf

At the risk of sounding like Chicken Little (you know the one who runs around talking about the sky falling) the current global “go-ings on” are the closest we’ll ever get to advanced warning that cybersecurity is something every business needs to worry about. Big or small, selling globally or just in your tiny town, if you do anything online, your data is in (potential) jeopardy.

Here are the things you need to do now. Seriously.

 

Invest in Protection

While there are many articles out there that will tell you small ways businesses are at risk, it’s important to know that cybersecurity is something you will now have to consider as part of your business’ annual budget. Running updates as soon as they come out isn’t enough protection. Storing data in the cloud, isn’t enough if those cloud companies get hacked. Making sure your virus protection is in place…while all these things are good, they aren’t enough anymore.

You need to speak with a cybersecurity expert. Rest assured a good expert will offer a customized plan for your business and work within your budget. But cybersecurity is now something you will have to budget for as a line item. Move toward that now.

Don’t Ignore Warnings

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and FBI have issued warnings over the past two months about the imminent threats of destructive malware aimed at organizations with dealings in the Ukraine. However, the agencies believe it is only a matter of time before American businesses (with no connections to that area of the world) are targeted too.

The actions that CISA/FBI urge companies to act on as soon as possible (meaning today, start these things today) include:

 

  • Set antivirus and antimalware programs to conduct regular scans.
  • Enable strong spam filters to prevent phishing emails from reaching end users.
  • Filter network traffic.
  • Update software.
  • Require multifactor authentication.
  • Use strong passwords, single use only (not the same ones across every site you access), and change them often. Set your machines to require it.
  • Regularly backup data offline. Yes, a few years ago we were told cloud was everything. Now we stress redundancies. Do both.
  • Implement network segmentation. You don’t want to give access to everything through one “door.”
  • Work with a professional to draft a recovery plan.
  • Require credentials to install software.
  • Configure access controls with “least privilege” in mind. If your employee doesn’t need it, don’t give them access.
  • Consider a VPN. Over the last several years, it’s become increasingly easy to access machines and log in to work from home. It was essential to work during COVID. But now that easy access can cause big problems.
  • Disable hyperlinks in emails.
  • Train your employees on cybersecurity and potential threats. Even savvy employees can be tricked by coincidences. For instance, an email from “Federal Express” when they’re expecting a package can cause a lapse in judgment. While they may not normally click on something suspect like an attachment in an email, in this example it seemed legitimate because it fit into their world/expectations at that moment.

If you’re not sure where to turn to start working on these things—and you don’t have an IT department—check with your local chamber. They often know of resources in the area and cybersecurity experts who can walk you through what you need to know. Also, read the Cyber Essential Resources for Small Business from CISA. It will help you decide where to start and how to begin cyber security implementation to keep you and your customers safe.

Don’t wait for something terrible to befall your organization (and this goes for nonprofits, too. Your lists could be very valuable). If you conduct any sort of business online or have any lists or data on your computer or in the cloud, you need to investigate the necessary level of protection and begin a plan for implementation. Once malware strikes, even large companies with huge budgets are helpless.

This is a business threat that you need to be proactive about. Being reactive to this threat is the same as doing nothing and that just won’t do.

20 Ways to Celebrate International Women’s Day

150 150 Lauren Finamore

Written by: Christina R. Metcalf

March 8, 2022, is International Women’s Day when the world celebrates the many contributions of women everywhere. If you’re not sure how to celebrate, we have some ideas for you and your business.

For the ideas in this article, think across multiple mediums to add content on your blog, in videos, reels, podcast episode, audio quotes, social media posts, etc. The same content can be repurposed in different formats to ensure everyone can find their favorite way to enjoy it.

20 Ways to Celebrate International Women’s Day

Here are a few ways you can show your support for women:

  1. If you’re a woman-owned business, tell your story and the challenges you overcame to open your doors.
  2. Share a story about a woman who inspires/inspired you.
  3. Tag women who inspire you in pictures on social media (but make sure you know them personally). Tagging someone you don’t know—while flattering—is like interrupting a conversation. It’s just not considered polite.
  4. Talk about your experience with bias or gender inequality either something you’ve experienced or something you’ve heard of.
  5. If you’re a woman working in a non-traditional field for your gender, help someone who’s thinking about doing what you do.
  6. Review your business policies to see if they are fair. Do you offer flexibility? Is there a job in your business that could fit the hours of moms whose children are in school?
  7. Have a tough conversation about why people have left your employ. Were any of them women or moms who felt uncomfortable in their surroundings or felt like it was difficult to work in your business/industry?
  8. Read a historical piece giving advice about women or to women. How has that advice changed? Share your findings with your audience.
  9. Be thankful for the opportunities that exist now and share words of gratitude.
  10. Talk about how you’re a progressive employer or how you intend to become one. Use specific examples.
  11. Host a flash meetup or plan an event for next year honoring women or strides made by them.
  12. Visit a nursing home or retirement home and speak with women about their memories and the challenges they faced. Use what you’ve learned there to develop a newfound appreciation of the struggles faced by women.
  13. Research the first women in your field or industry and talk about their experiences and history.
  14. Call a few of your female peers and invite them to breakfast or lunch that day.
  15. Create a resources for women page on your website (if it makes sense for your business).
  16. Challenge yourself to buy from female business owners for a day (week, month, season. etc).
  17. Volunteer at a women’s shelter, girl’s group, or women’s business association.
  18. Ask women what advice they wish someone had given to them about the workplace or industry they work in. Put their suggestions together and share it with your audience.
  19. Share a favorite recipe, way of doing something, or advice from a woman who was influential to you.
  20. Read a book or article about women across the globe. How do their experiences differ from yours or the women you know?

 

International Women’s Day is about celebrating women and their accomplishments whether those accomplishments involve starting what becomes a Fortune 500 company or raising a kinder generation. Women of all walks and educational levels contribute to our society. How will you honor them?

TikTok Basics for Business

150 150 Lauren Finamore

Written by: Christina R. Metcalf

Are you on TikTok? Maybe you’re just figuring out video and livestreaming and you have written off TikTok as a site for kids.

While you aren’t wrong about that (32.5% of users are between 10 and 19, while 41 percent of TikTok users are between 16 and 24 years old), the TikTok adult audience has grown at a rate of about 5.5 times in just 18 months.

The app now boasts 1 billion active users. TikTok videos are becoming a way to pass time for many people and the average user spends about 52 minutes per day on the app. It also has huge reach. 167 million TikTok videos are watched in a minute on average.

So, if you’re looking to reach an under 35 audience in your business, TikTok might be the avenue for you. Here’s what you need to know as a beginning user:

TikTok Basics for Business

If you’re new to TikTok or are considering it for your business, it’s a little different than other social media platforms.

Premise

TikTok is a video platform. Some people lip sync, act, create short video blogs, or showcase their products. Humor is a popular driver for likes on this platform.

Before creating anything, think about visuals and short, punchy ideas. This is not the place for a long diatribe. The audience is constantly swiping and liking. Comments will tend to be shorter and emoticon driven.

There are lots of editing options in app, but some people still prefer to use other programs (like Canva) to create videos and then upload them to TikTok. Going viral on this platform seems a little easier than Facebook or YouTube.

Business Accounts

Like most social media platforms, you can—and should—create a business account, instead of a personal one. The main reason for this is that it will keep you out of trouble. A creator account is a copyright infringement waiting to happen because the app allows users to attach music (and not the safe royalty-free kind either) to their videos. While Kenny Chesney may not sue a parent for adding his latest song to the background of a video of their kid’s first step, you can be certain he’s not going to want people associating his music with their product (not that he has anything against your product, of course. It’s just that he—and any other music creator—is going to want to be compensated for his music. While I don’t speak for Kenny, proving me wrong about how he feels regarding your product by using his music without permission could be quite costly for your business). It’s just too easy to get yourself in copyright troubles with a creator or personal account.

Business accounts have music available as well but none of it will get you in trouble with rights holders. The music available on the business side is royalty-free. A business account also has analytics that personal accounts don’t.

Links

Like Instagram, website links are a bit of a challenge at first. TikTok doesn’t let you have a link in your bio until you reach 1,000 followers. It used to allow businesses to add a link before the 1,000-follower mark but that changed in January. These days, you must meet the follower threshold for links and the ability to go live.

Hashtags

TikTok is another hashtag driven site. There are very specific hashtags used here. For instance, for writers there’s #BookTok, #writertok, and #authorsoftiktok. There are hashtags for business like #biztock and #smallbiztok. Take some time to research these. They are very specific but will help you find your ideal audience.

Filters and Film-Ready Face

If you’re like me, you may have some hesitancy being in front of the camera. Heck, most of us barely make it out of pajamas these days, let alone put on makeup or look presentable on camera. To this challenge, there are several solutions:

  1. You don’t have to show your face. People do a lot of things with babies, pets, products, etc and subtitles.
  2. Use a filter. You can alter the way you look using filters. I understand there’s even a perfect skin and makeup filter (I’m still looking for that one.).
  3. Record your videos on “shower day.” You can make yourself camera ready and record several at once.

Sponsored Toks

TikTok, like other apps and social media platforms, allows for sponsored videos. They appear in a user’s stream marked as sponsored but they blend in quite well. Most businesses that pursue this option also use either influencers to record the video or create their own. This is not the place for a formal commercial. You want to think about fun entertainment, not a salesy pitch.

Video

The best way to figure out TikTok is to go in and start playing around. (Here are the app’s directions for video creation.) If you’re older than 40, you may feel like you’re crashing a kid’s party at Chuck E Cheese at first. But stick with it. Scroll through until you find a video you like. When you do, you can use the same effects they use by clicking on the links in the video.

On TikTok, imitation is the sincerest compliment. No one thinks anything of copying someone else’s Tok (unless that someone else is your competitor. You might want to avoid that.)

You can create, like, and share content on this platform. If you entertain and are true to yourself and your business, you’ll quickly amass followers and likes (they are counted separately as are your video views). Keep in mind the social rules you use on other platforms should be used here too. When people comment on your Tok, respond back. Don’t simply publish. Like other people’s work and comment on their posts as well.

If you want to learn more about using TikTok for your business, check out TikTok’s business page.

 

 

Engagement = Content: Good for You and Your Audience

150 150 Lauren Finamore

Written by: Christina R. Metcalf

Whether you are a business or a nonprofit, operating in the public sector or the private one, serving businesses and organizations or serving individuals, established in your sector or just starting out, running an empire or “lone wolfing” it, your audience wants to get to know you better.

In fact, they expect it.

So, what does that look like and how does that benefit you?

It depends on your ideal demographic, but most of the things we’ll cover in this article, will work for everyone. Good content creates loyal, engaged followers. In turn, a loyal audience (eventually) will create content for you. Best of all, that type of content, known as referral marketing or word of mouth marketing, is not only one of the strongest in converting new followers and creating an army of people willing to give you money, it is also free, minus the time it takes to nurture that type of follower.

Start with Social Media

Which social channel(s) you use depends on your target market or ideal audience. Assuming you know where your “people” are, the real difference in helping them connect to you is the content you share.

Before your audience begins generating content for you, you must first create, curate, and share valuable content. And…you need to put some personality behind it. Let them see who you are and what you stand for. Each share should be a glimpse into you and your organization.

All content should also educate, inspire, or entertain. Ask questions. Converse. Be interested in your audience. If this doesn’t come naturally for you, find someone to do it for you but make sure they have a firm understanding of your tone and personality before asking them to post.

Give Them Something to Do

Action is an important part of keeping your audience involved and talking about you. If they do something for you or with you once, they’re more likely to keep doing it. Find commonalities and use them to call your audience to action.

Before they buy or donate to you, you’ll want to engage them in several smaller actions. This will keep them in your social media feed, and you’ll become part of their internet habit. For instance, a nonprofit shelter may celebrate National Dog Day by asking the audience to share pictures of their rescue pups.

Build on User Content

Continuing on from the previous idea of asking people to do something for you (and the example of sharing the dog pics), you could go back to those image posters and target a few specific sharers to tell their story. Message them directly and ask to tell their story beyond their post. Feature that story on your website, in your newsletter, and/or on social media.

Most will be flattered and excited and they’ll likely share your post with their followers.

Invite Them to Become Part of the Team

This can take a lot of shapes from inviting them to work/volunteer for you, intern with you, refer friends, share your cause/product/service with their followers, participate in a physical challenge and post results, or wear your swag. There are hundreds of ways to invite them to be part of what you are doing. Many people will share their involvement online. This is yet another way their interaction with you will bring in more content.

Ask for What You Need and Personalize the Request

Your audience won’t know what you need if you don’t ask. And when you do, you should tell them why it’s important. For instance, if you need a review, tell them where it will benefit you most and explain why. “We need more Facebook love. Won’t you please review us so that your friends will know the best place to adopt dogs like <insert their dog’s name>?”

The personalized touch will get them thinking about how much that experience impacted them and how they can help their friends get the same. If they understand the value to you, to them, and to their group, they’ll likely do as requested.

Finally, when inviting them to become part of your team, be specific about what you’re looking for and what they’ll receive in return. This may be easier for a sexier brand, but you don’t have to have a large following for them to be loyal. Offer different ways to get closer to you and your mission and you’ll never have to worry about what you’ll post again. Your content hopper will be full of valuable, real, engaging content.

 

6 Ways to Use Promote Value in Your Product/Service

150 150 Lauren Finamore

Communicating Value to Your Customers: 6 Solid Ways

Written by: Christina R. Metcalf

This morning, the headline inflation is at a 40-year high hit me before my coffee did. If you’re like me, and millions of other businesses, you’re probably caught between the idea of raising your prices to cover the increase in your own costs and providing your loyal customers with good value.

It’s difficult these days. I see many business owners apologizing for raising prices, but it can’t be helped. You need to make a profit to remain in business, yet your customers are likely struggling too. That’s why now, more than ever, you need to communicate the value behind your products and services.

Here’s how:

Talk About What They’re Getting

When Little Caesars Pizza® recently raised their prices, they didn’t focus on the 11% price increase, nor did they justify the increase by marketing the message of how many years their price had remained the same (since they began in 1997). Instead, they focused on the message that their customers were now receiving 33% more pepperoni on their pizzas.

And who doesn’t want more pepperoni?

Focus on the Fear of Missing Out

Using the words “for a limited time” conveys value, even when it doesn’t mean cost savings. When you use that phrase, customers immediately think of a price reduction or offer that will only be around until it vanishes without warning.

You can use this language when you know a price increase is inevitable. Market your current offerings with the language “for a limited time” and then increase your price or run a special under that same language and then increase your pricing. You’re giving your customers one last opportunity to buy from you at a lower price.

Mention How They Can Save

This advice is specific to your business, services, and products but is there something additional that buying from you saves customers from purchasing? For instance, does your diet meal prep service save them money at the grocery store or keep them from spending money dining out? If so, try to estimate what that looks like. Put some numbers around it. Ask current customers what they save. What can your customers eliminate in their expenses by buying from you? Market those ideas.

Host Secret Sales

While it may be cost prohibitive to offer sales and discounts to everyone, why not offer flash sales to your newsletter subscribers or social media followers? You’ll drive more business in the short time you hold the sales, and you’ll make your loyal customers feel appreciated by offering them more for less.

Speaking of…

Let Them Know When to Buy

If you have loyal repeat customers, train your employees to offer savings tips to them. Give them a reason to return. For instance, if you run a products business where you get new selection of rotating stock in on Tuesday, for example, share that. People who love a good bargain will return again and again if they think they can get to the items first.

Use Pairings

If you need to increase prices, look for bundles you can create in your business to provide more value. What items or services can you combine to provide your customers with more? Most people don’t mind paying more if they feel like they’re getting more.

The good news is that most of your competition is doing the opposite. They’re raising prices and offering less such as smaller boxes, reduced quantity, etc.

If you’re like most business owners these days, you’re faced with the fact that increasing prices is inevitable. Even if it pains you to do so, your costs are increasing, and you likely must pass those along to your customers if you want to remain in business. If that’s the case, these ways to increase perceived value should help you both feel better about the necessity of doing so.