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.

Ingredients of Small Business Marketing

A business may be small, but the efforts of operating it is not. Small business owners often wear many hats – financing, product development, marketing, sales and customer support. While major corporations have sufficient resources to kick off a thoroughly planned marketing campaign, small business marketing is often on a budget. Marketing a small business should not be limited to a single channel because of the size of your business. Customers will always go through the three phases of a purchasing decision making: 1) aware of the products or services, 2) collecting enough information before the purchase, 3) and action of purchasing. The ingredients of effective small business marketing provides the information they need at each stage of a purchasing process.

Reach the Customers

Most small businesses target local market. Your business, of course, should be listed on local phone directories. Ads on local newspapers and flyers will bring you business from your local communities as well. Distributing business cards is always one of the most popular and inexpensive ways for small business owners to market or advertise their services and products. For instance, some landscaping companies distribute business cards door-to-door in newly constructed communities. If your services involves with artistic design (interior design, web design etc.), color business cards or custom business cards are more effective. They show the artistic tastes of the designers.

Provide Information About Your Products and Services

Awareness of a product or service is the start-point for customers to make a purchase. They will further research and compare similar services or products before they make contact for possible purchase. Now that you need a brochure or a website to present your business with product details, testimonials etc.. If business card design makes a good first impression, brochure design and brochure printing (or booklet printing if you prefer) are effective for converting leads into sales. Brochures that you send out will get more attention if you enclose a personal note with personal touch to introduce yourself and your company. A professional Web site serves as an online brochure to promote your products or service so that the prospects can get the information about your business 365 days a year and 24 hours a day. Affordable Web hosting costs as little as $25-$50 a year.

Call for Action

Once customers have made up of their mind to purchase your services or products. The brochure or the website should offer clear direction for further actions. The advantage of a website over brochure is that you are able to update as frequently as you want, offer discount or incentives for customers who make purchase in a certain timeframe. When they’re ready, a transaction is just a few clicks on a website powered with online shopping carts.

Small Business Marketing – The Power of a Market Review

Conducting a market review is one of the most important steps in the small business marketing process as it provides together with a business review the information you need to create a dynamic marketing plan. All big businesses conduct these reviews as they know it can save time and money for their business.

A market review does not have to be complicated and a lot will depend on what information you can source. The important factor regarding a market review is to understand the key elements of your market and how these elements can affect your business now and in the future.

The key elements you need to look at when conducting a market review for your small business include:

Size of Market
Your market is simply the overall industry in which you compete. For example if you sell juice then you compete in the Beverage Market. If you sell holidays as a travel agent then you compete in the Tourism Market. Analyzing the size of your market can tell you whether it is growing or declining, help you to identify growth opportunities and for a new small business can determine if the market is large enough to compete in and operate a profitable business. There are many sources you can use to gather information on the size of your market and these include trade magazines, industry associations, search engines and local government websites and resources.

Market Segment Analysis

Segmentation is a process that looks at the total market and then divides the products or services into broad groups that have similar characteristics. In the examples above, whilst the total market is beverages, the segment that is the most important to a juice manufacturer is the Juice Segment. Looking at the total beverage market today throughout the world the leading soft drink manufacturers have entered many of the market segments such as bottled water to expand their business. Market segment analysis also helps you to determine where your small business marketing efforts should be concentrated.

Distribution Channel Analysis
A distribution channel is the way in which your product or service is made available to your customers so they can purchase it. Examples are supermarkets, personal selling (face to face selling), distributors and the internet. Analyzing the sales of each distribution channel in your market enables you to identify which channels are the most important for you to compete in to grow your business.

Market Trends
A trend is any significant change to your market that your business may need to respond to. Examples of market trends include changes to the economy, changing customer demographics, social and global factors (to name a few). If you conduct business in the USA at the moment or are intending to compete in the USA then the concerns about a possible recession and how it could affect your small business needs to be identified so action plans can be put in place to minimize the impact.

Market Seasonality
If a product or service is seasonal it means that the majority of the sales occur at one or a few times a year. Tax accountants obviously have increased sales when the end of the financial year occurs and tax returns and other government reporting are required. Understanding market seasonality factors can lead to your small business maximizing sales through this period and also may highlight opportunities to spread your sales throughout the year.

Competitor Analysis
Your key competitors need to be analyzed in order for you to identify their key strengths and weaknesses and how they compare to your own small business. Reviewing this area means that you can be smarter with your marketing efforts and be proactive against their weaknesses and of course defend against their strengths. One tip that all big businesses do is to have a competitor file with examples of their marketing activities, products or services.

Big businesses know the value of reviewing the market in which they compete and you can to. Remember you can start slowly and just review one section at a time and then put in place activities or make business decisions based on the review to grow your small business.

© Marketing for Business Success Pty Ltd 2008

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