10 Tips Small Businesses Can Use to Avoid Viruses, Spam and Spyware

Viruses, spam, spyware and other malware cost small businesses billions of dollars each year in lost productivity, stolen identities and IT support costs.

What small businesses need to understand is that these gremlins are easy to avoid when common sense and some simple precautions are applied. And ‘avoid’ is the key word; your strategy should be to stay as far away from these things in the first place so that you don’t have to experience the lost time and cost associated with cleaning up the mess they leave.

So how can a small business avoid viruses, spam, and spyware?

The following is a list of 10 best practices for small businesses:
1. Use antivirus software that is automatically updated on all machines
2. Use a hosted spam filtering service that filters the spam before it ever makes it to your local network
3. Make sure employees know that you have a policy that work computers are only to be used for work purposes.
4. Don’t give your business email address to a non-business source
5. Don’t forward jokes, chain mail, etc. to other employees
6. Never open an attachment from an unknown source
7. Never open an attachment with an unknown file extension
8. Don’t download free toolbars, shopping assistants, weather bug, etc. on your work computer
9. Never give your information or download information from an unknown site
10. Never update banking or other sensitive personal information using a link sent to you via email – always navigate directly to the site and log in there.

As you can see, most of these tips don’t require you to buy anything or use any special technology. Viruses, spam and spyware prey on human nature – curiosity, laziness, etc. – to get past technology-based defences, so you must educate yourself and your employees to know what to avoid.

One last tip: if you do feel like you have a virus or something else attacking your computer, unplug it from your network immediately. The last thing you want to do is give it to everyone else in your office – that’s when things get really expensive.

Marketing Tip – Small Business Owners Need a System to Keep in Touch With Contacts and Build Sales

Many small business owners know keeping in touch with their contacts is an important part of their marketing plan. However, all too often, keeping in touch is a sporadic effort. Sending birthday cards or an e-mail newsletter is something that can be done “later.” The problem is “later” never comes. 

Small business owners need to build a marketing calendar that includes when and how each person (or group of people) is going to be contacted.  The best way small business owners can keep on top of their contact efforts is to have some type of system in place.  The system should be as easy and as automatic as possible.
  
There are many software tools you can use to organize your contacts.  Microsoft Outlook and Excel are great programs.  With either of these, you can merge with Microsoft Word to create phone lists, mailing labels and personalized letters. More sophisticated contact management programs you can purchase include ACT! and Goldmine.  
 
Marketing Tools for Keeping in Touch
 
There are a variety of different marketing tools small business owners can use to keep in touch. Here are just a few ideas.
 
E-mail newsletters are a great way to communicate with a large group of people. There are a number of great on-line resources available for e-mail newsletter creation and management. Use e-mail newsletters to provide product information, announce sales, and promote special events. 
 
Real greeting cards (the kind that come in an envelope with a stamp) are great marketing tools to use at Christmas, birthdays and other times of the year.  In fact, the best time a small business owner can send a greeting card is when there is no real reason to send a card! A card sent in August will be remembered much more than one sent in December.

Savvy business owners know that phone calls, personal visits and lunches are always appreciated. The key there is to remember the marketing message when scheduling those calls or visits. Yes, having coffee with a long-term client is great. But be sure to let the client know that you have a great new product that can dramatically help him or her. Too often business owners get wrapped up in the social aspect of personal visits and forget to ask for more business!

The most important part of any system is using it regularly.  If you are very busy, or have a hard time working with schedules, you are better off delegating or outsourcing.  If you have an assistant, that person can print letters, write e-mails, even sign Christmas cards for you.  That leaves you free to work on other areas of your business.

If you don’t have any help in your office, outsourcing is the answer. There are a number of local and on-line services that help business owners with their marketing. Or, try using a virtual assistant.  The marketing money you spend to outsource these routine tasks will be repaid many time over with the new business you get.

Remember — the key to a successful system is to have it automated as much as possible. The less work you have to do, the more likely it is to be done on time, and the more likely you are to get referrals!

Key Small Business Tips for Success

Small business tips for starting your own business can put you on the path to financial success.

The SBA says that the term small business includes concerns that are organized to make a profit and have fewer than 500 employees. In this post, small business includes work at home, affiliate marketing, network marketing and online home based businesses, and I will explore small business tips to help you achieve your business goals. These tips will help you get customers and generate more sales quickly.

Here are key small business tips and questions to consider:

1. Why do you want to start a small business? Starting your own business requires commitment. So, don’t proceed to do so unless you are prepared for long hours and frustration while you are establishing your business. For many, enduring this is well worth the potential of financial security.

2. Will you market a product or service? A service business is one where you offer your expertise to clients. For a product business, you will need to offer a tangible product. Typically, a product business is more expensive to launch than a service business.

3. Do you have a simplified business plan? The thought of writing a business plan is intimidating to most aspiring entrepreneurs. However, it is possible to write a one-page plan that tells the what, who, how and where of your business. You should keep it simple. You can add details as you go. Just get it started.

4. Who is your customer? Describe your target customer in as much detail as possible. Know their needs and wants. Know how you can provide a solution to their problem. This profile will help you create a targeted marketing message and save you time and money in reaching prospects.

5. What is your pricing? Pricing is an art and a science. You need to cover your costs and generate a reasonable profit. Doing research to see what your competitors are charging can help.

6. Are you watching your costs? Many entrepreneurs tend to underestimate how long it will take for their small business to turn a profit. Don’t burden your business with too many costs too quickly. To keep costs to a minimum, hire interns and outsource or barter for services.

7. What’s your plan for getting customers? One of my coaches says the secret to business success is spending 85% of your time doing things that will lead to sales and 15% of your time doing everything else. You’ll need a marketing plan. How do you plan on attracting prospects and converting them to paying customers? Design your advertising to generate sales. Your advertising should always include an offer and an easy way for prospects to respond.

8. Are you using social media? More and more businesses are moving to social media because their prospects are on social media. Only about 25% of small businesses are using social media to build their business. So, creating a presence on social media will give you an edge. This typically means building a fan page on Facebook. There are many resources you can use to build a fan page.

Here are some small business tips to attract more customers online:

1. Be sure to add local content targeted for your specific area.
2. Make sure prospects can find you online and offline.
3. Be very clear about what your business offers.
4. Participate on social media consistently.
5. Watch what your competitors are doing. See what is working and what is not working.

These small business tips require you to be consistent. It takes persistence to establish a social media presence.

If you act on the small business tips above, you will increase your chances of success, you will effectively leverage your time, and promote your business profitably.