Blog

May 23rd, 2016

2016May23_VoIP_AAs SMBs continue their steady transition away from traditional telephony services in favor of VoIP, threats of cybercrime and fraud are more common than ever before. Risks to VoIP systems are distinctly unique from those posed to your other networks and understanding how to combat them is critical. Here are 5 tips for securing your organization’s internet-based communication devices and services.

Types of threats

The majority of VoIP services involve live communications, which often seem far more innocuous than stored data. Unfortunately, your business has just as much valuable information moving across VoIP networks as it does hosted on company servers. Internet-based calls are far more vulnerable to fraud compared to more traditional telephony services and face threats from identity theft, eavesdropping, intentional disruption of service and even financial loss.

24/7 monitoring

A recent study by Nettitude reported that 88 percent of VoIP security breaches take place outside of normal operating hours. This could be attackers trying to make phone calls using your account or gain access to call records that contain confidential information. This can be avoided by contracting outsourced IT vendors to monitor network traffic for any abnormalities or spikes in suspicious activity.

VoIP firewalls

Every VoIP vendor should provide a firewall specially designed for IP-based telephony. These protocols will curb the types of traffic that are allowed, ensure the connection is properly terminated at the end of a session and identify suspicious calling patterns. Consult with your VoIP or IT services provider about which of these features are available and currently in use at your organization.

Encryption tools

One of the reasons that eavesdropping is so common is because a lack of encryption. Inexperienced attackers can easily download and deploy tools to intercept and listen to your calls. Although some services claim built-in encryption, be sure to investigate how effective they really are. Many of these protocols require the same VoIP client on the receiving end of the call -- something that’s much harder to control. Encryption should be compatible with as many other software clients as possible to effectively prevent anyone from undermining the privacy of your calls.

Virtual private network

Virtual private networks (VPNs) create a secure connection between two points as if they were both occupying the same, closed network. It’s like building a tunnel between you and the call receiver. In addition to adding another layer of encryption, establishing a VPN can also overcome complications involving Session Initiation Protocol trunking, a recommended VoIP feature.

Password protection

Usually password protection refers to requiring password authentication to access sensitive information. However, in this case it actually means protecting the passwords themselves. Eavesdropping is one of the easiest, and most common, cyber attacks against VoIP networks and even with all of the protocols above, employees should be instructed to never give out any compromising information during a VoIP call.

VoIP is as important as any of your other network security considerations. It requires a unique combination of protection measures, and we’d love to give you advice on implementing any of these protections or managing your VoIP services. Give us a call today to get started.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
May 20th, 2016

2016May20_BusinessContinuity_AJust because your IT provider has a plethora of awards and certifications under its belt doesn't mean that you can blindly hand over your business’s future to them. Often times, there are some aspects in your business continuity plan that tend to be overlooked by your provider. We have rounded up some of these issues that could appear when you enact your business continuity plans.

Over-optimistic testing

The initial testing attempt is usually the most important as it’s when IT service providers can pinpoint possible weak points in the recovery plan. However, what usually happens is a full transfer of system and accompanying operations to the backup site. This makes it difficult to look at specific points of backup with too many factors flowing in all at the same time.

Insufficient remote user licenses

A remote user license is given by service providers to businesses so that when a disaster strikes, employees can log in to a remote desktop software. However, the number of licenses a provider has may be limited. In some cases, more employees will need to have access to the remote desktop software than a provider’s license can allow.

Lost digital IDs

When a disaster strikes, employees will usually need their digital IDs so they can log in to the provider’s remote system while their own system at the office is being restored. However, digital IDs are tied to an employee’s desktop and when a desktop is being backed up, they are not automatically saved. So when an employee goes back to using their ‘ready and restored’ desktop, they are unable to access the system with their previous digital ID.

Absence of communications strategy

IT service providers will use email to notify and communicate with business owners and their employees when a disaster happens. However, this form of communication may not always be reliable in certain cases such as the Internet being cut off or with spam intrusions. There are third-party notification systems available, but they are quite expensive and some providers sell them as a pricey add-on service.

Backups that require labored validation

After a system has been restored, IT technicians and business owners need to check whether the restoration is thorough and complete. This validation becomes a waste of time and effort when the log reports come in a manner that is not easy to compare. This usually happens when IT service providers utilize backup applications that do not come with their own log modules, and have to be acquired separately.

These are just some of the many reasons why business continuity plans fail. It is important for business owners to be involved with any process that pertains to their IT infrastructure. Just because you believe something works doesn’t necessarily mean that it works correctly or effectively. If you have questions regarding your business continuity plan, get in touch with our experts today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Business
May 16th, 2016

2016May16_MicrosoftWindowsNewsAndTips_AEarlier this month, Microsoft made a huge announcement regarding Office that hasn’t received much attention. While there is a lot of interest in web-based versions of Microsoft Office, many organizations avoided the Office Online services for fear of compromising their privacy and security. However, they’ve announced a new version that allows businesses to host an Office Online Server locally. Keep reading to find out if this new service could be useful in your SMB.

Released in 2013, Office Web Apps offered access to powerhouse software packages like Word, Excel and PowerPoint without cumbersome installation procedures and storage requirements. Earlier this month however, Microsoft updated and renamed Office Web Apps to Office Online Server (OOS), and allowed delivery of these services via local SharePoint servers.

The update to OOS will include a number of collaborative features, like allowing multiple users to view and edit documents simultaneously. This will allow everyone’s changes to be visible the moment they make them -- thereby eliminating the necessity for drawn-out workflows. In addition to editing, OOS can also be used to easily facilitate meetings and presentations by utilizing real-time co-authoring in programs like PowerPoint, OneNote and Word.

The announcement elaborated that, “By integrating OOS with Exchange Server, you can view and edit Office file attachments in Outlook on the web and send back a reply without ever leaving your browser.”

But most importantly, we understand that many small and medium-sized business owners still have security concerns about the public cloud -- no matter what assurances they get from software providers. Many SMBs didn’t feel safe sending their company documents outside of their network and Microsoft’s OOS update aims at addressing those concerns by allowing OOS to be hosted locally. Contact us about how to move your Microsoft Office suite to the cloud without compromising your privacy.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows
May 13th, 2016

2016May13_SocialMedia_AAre your tweets not getting enough exposure? With so many other social media campaigns out there, it can be tricky to get the attention of followers in Twitter. While posting regularly and writing bold headlines are important in grabbing the audience’s attention, there are other Twitter tactics that you should be employing in order to get the most retweets. Listed below are just a few ways to maximize your company’s reach over Twitter.

Schedule your tweets

There is absolutely no point in tweeting out any content if your audience isn’t even awake for it. That’s why it’s important for you to tweet at the right time to get the most retweets. Usually people won’t be retweeting in the morning and are more likely to retweet around 2pm to 6pm EST. However, if your followers live in different time zones and countries, the time you should be tweeting may vary. Twitter tools like Tweriod track down the geographical distribution of your audience and pinpoints the optimal time you should be tweeting to get the most retweets.

Use links

The next time you tweet out something, try embedding a link in your post. Whether it’s news, sports or celebrity updates, people will put some effort in keeping up-to-date with their interests. Studies have also shown that links to instructional posts get the most amount of retweets as well. The problem is, 140 characters is not enough content for your followers. So by satisfying your audience’s curiosity, you motivate them to pay you back by sharing your tweet out to their friends.

Ask for retweets

This is perhaps the most obvious tactic to get some retweets. Using call to action phrases such as “please retweet” significantly increases your chances of a retweet. Of course, you probably aren’t the only one asking for retweets. Adding something to sweeten deal, like a prize for one lucky person who retweets you, gives people incentive to do so.

Use visuals

Intriguing images can inspire retweets. Images are a great way to convey a lot of information in a short amount of time, and social media users love that. Some have found that, using colorful images and infographics in their tweets significantly increased their engagement rates and found that more followers were retweeting their content. It’s probably because there’s just more content to engage with other than a witty 140 character thought.

Use retweetable words

Research has shown that some words are more retweetable than others. Words like you, twitter, please, retweet, post, blog, social, free, media, help are the top 10 most retweetable words. However common-use words in any conversation such as “lol, haha, work, sleep or watching” are less likely to get retweeted. Unless you’re someone incredibly famous, it’s best to avoid using conversation filler words and stick to the buzz words that encourage people to share your tweets out to everyone they know.

Use quotes

Quotes express a lot in one simple line, making it perfect for any Twitter posts. Depending on your audience, a thoughtful quote can really move their fingers to click that retweet button. The next time you’re running out of ideas for tweets, dig up some good quotes relevant to your topic to get those retweets going. However, don’t continuously plug in quotes into your tweets. The trick is to do it occasionally, so you don’t risk people tuning out of your tweets.

#Hashtag

You’ll notice that the more popular tweets tend to have at least one hashtag. Using hashtags on keywords helps categorize your tweets with similar ones, giving your posts a bit more reach and, hopefully, more retweets. Just make sure you don’t overdo it as #thiscanbequiteannoying.

We get that small business may find it tough getting their name discovered among so many social media accounts. But if you consider some or all of these Twitter tactics, you have a better chance of getting more eyes on your tweets. If you want to learn more about useful Twitter tactics to increase your exposure and engagement, give us a call today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Social Media
May 12th, 2016

2016May12_Web&Cloud_AIt’s an amazing time to start a business and take your ideas to the market more quickly, and at lower costs without the traditional barriers in hiring skilled workers. A world of talented contractors is now available in the “Human Cloud”, ready to help you do the heavy lifting of building your company. In this article, we’ll take a look at how this technology is paving new ways for outsourcing white-collar jobs and what benefits SMBs can gain from using it.

Foundr Magazine’s Editor-in-Chief and Publisher Nathan Chan was sick and tired of hearing about how entrepreneurs were killing it in life and business. He set out with ‘a passion project’ that led him to interview some of the most influential entrepreneurs around the world, and shared his findings through a cool monthly digital publication known as Foundr Magazine. For Nathan, the launch of this successful project would not have been possible if it wasn’t for a human cloud service like Elance, which allowed him to leverage overseas talent and build a solid team of graphic designers, audio/video editors and writers. All tasks and projects for each issue of his magazine is run via the platform, which conveniently auto direct debits and pays for his contractors.

Just like Nathan Chan, business owners are beginning to shift their labor demands from local to global. According to an online survey by Wrike, a social project management platform provider, close to 44% of business owners are already predicting a rapid shift to distributed teams in their companies. For them, technology can make their virtual workers just as efficient as if they were collaborating in one office. Remote collaboration via the the human cloud is indeed a game changer that benefits companies such as startups who are inclined to spend fewer resources to build their business infrastructure. Before we get into these advantages, let’s acquaint ourselves briefly with the human cloud paradigm.

What is the “Human Cloud”?

For those who are already familiar with cloud technology and services, you may know that the modern workforce no longer has to be tied to a physical office. Gone are the days of commuting and trudging along with the herds to get to cube farms or bullpens which some employees may regard as productivity- and soul-killing places.

In the new world of the human cloud, work is a digital cloud space where staff perform white-collar tasks from any location and on any device. Collaboration, file sharing or discussions on projects are done effortlessly and efficiently in a flexible and productive manner, rewarding team members solely for their output -- regardless of their location, education, gender, or race. For employers, it’s not hard to see the promise of the human cloud as a greater and more visible assurance of on-demand worker supply. Although having a virtual workforce has a few challenges, knowing how to overcome them can yield great benefits for SMBs and particularly, startups.

Benefits of hiring on the human cloud

Low cost. The human cloud eliminates time and money wasted on traditional employment processes. Hiring is fast and easy; you pay for the skills you need on a transactional basis -- as opposed to paying a high monthly wage on physically hired talent who may have too much idle time. No overhead. Hiring on the human cloud requires no overhead for office space, thereby enabling firms to stay lean and profit-focused. By becoming “virtual”, teams can work independently from their homes or coffee shops. Get skills on-demand. Employers can contract for micro tasks such as copying text from business cards to larger tasks like selling products for a fee. Others may benefit from human cloud talent sourcing for more complex project work such as software design and programming. Global talent pool. Today, every organization or startup can be ‘multinational’, i.e., they are no longer limited by geography in finding key talent with specialized skills. A good idea can come from just about anywhere and can be performed and delivered from anywhere. Easy collaboration. Using an online platform gives SMBs the ability to manage projects through virtual workrooms. Wrike’s survey revealed that to a significant extent, collaboration software is important and even mission-critical for remote teams to work efficiently.

As more startups and SMBs become familiar (and comfortable) with the advantages of human cloud, the future of work means that location is not the most important factor in determining who will contribute to your business’s success. A worldwide network of online contractors is now ready to serve you with the qualifications, skill sets and shared enthusiasm you seek to turn ideas into valuable products or services. For more information on how to leverage cloud technologies or collaboration software, please get in touch with any of our cloud specialists.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Web & Cloud
May 11th, 2016

2016May11_Office_AMicrosoft Word is used by over one billion users worldwide, and of those how many are using it to its full potential? Over the years Word has transformed into a complex design tool that allows it to move far beyond simple text editing. Most users know how to change a font or center their text, but how many know how to track changes on a collaborative document or remove formatting from pasted text? Staying up to date on the features listed in this article will drastically increase the efficiency and productivity of your document creation processes.

Writing outside the box

Not all of your documents are simple line-by-line writing, and even the ones that are might require a bit of unique formatting. We’ve all wrestled with textboxes, customized margins and indents, but did you know that you can write anywhere on a Word document simply by double clicking wherever you’d like to insert your text? No more counting how many times you pressed the spacebar, no more spending 10 minutes formatting your textbox, just double click and start typing.

Customize your AutoCorrect

No matter how often or how much we write every day, there are still words, phrases and special characters that we can’t seem to master. Increase your typing speed by personalizing AutoCorrect to fix your commonly misspelled words without prompting you. Most of these are preprogrammed into Word (pretty much any ‘i’ before ‘e’ mixup), but customizing your own settings can solve issues like accented letters that are missing from your keyboard, or replacing short abbreviations with verbose technical terms. Just go to the File menu, click on Options, select the Proofing tab and click on the AutoCorrect options to explore all of your options.

Apply document formatting to pasted text

No matter how original your content is, there will always be reasons to copy from an outside source and paste to your own. You may need a quote, a piece of data or just an outside voice to your writing. When using the copy and paste function, you may need to remove formatting carried over from the original source. Although the icons and interface of this feature have changed throughout different versions of Word, Microsoft has been careful to always leave it as an option for users. Simply adding the Windows key to your copy shortcut (Ctrl+Windows Key+V) will integrate the copied material into your content. Default paste options can be further customized in the Options menu.

Collaborate with Review tab features

After the content has been written, you may want to invite others to edit your document with Microsoft’s Track Changes function. Once selected, anything altered in the content will be timestamped, highlighted and underlined in a color that changes in accordance with each editor. This allows you to see the original text along with suggested edits from colleagues. If an edit seems too drastic or risky, users have the option to leave comments or suggestions attached to the document, like a virtual sticky note. After the collaborative process is over, changes can be accepted or rejected individually, or en masse. All of these features can be found under the Review tab along the top of the screen.

Find and Replace

Most users know about using the Ctrl+F shortcut to find text in their documents, but not as many are aware of the Replace function. There are several hypothetical situations when you may need to replace several uses of an incorrect word or phrase. In a technical document you may realize late in the writing phase that you’ve misused a term, or in a marketing piece you may decide to change the name of a product or service; regardless, there is a simple one-step solution. After opening the Find window, simply click on the Replace tab and type the original word or phrase into the top field and the corrected word or phrase into the bottom field. From there you can choose to automatically replace all instances, or review them one by one. In addition to using this trick to fix errors, you can also use it as a shortcut to typing difficult and complex phrases by initially writing a shortened version and replacing it with the full phrase after you’ve finished writing.

Undo and Redo

Almost everyone knows the shortcut for undoing nearly any action in Microsoft Office - Ctrl+Z. Far fewer people know, and actively employ, the redo shortcut. This is a quick solution for viewing and comparing different formatting and layout options, and with a tracking history of 100 actions you’re pretty safe from changing so much that you can’t return to where you started.

Microsoft Word is one of the most universal document editing programs in the world. Don’t let creative, design and formatting speed bumps slow the development of your content when there are existing solutions tucked just a few menus away. An up-to-date understanding of Word and its functions can drastically alleviate the headaches of editing and formatting your files. If you’d like to know more about Word and other Microsoft Office products, shoot us an email.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Office
May 9th, 2016

2016May9_VoIP_AAs a business owner, it’s important to raise your company’s morale to be more productive. But you can’t just keep throwing office parties everyday of the year. Thanks to advancements in VoIP technologies, you can offer a better way to keep your employee’s spirits high by allowing them to work from home. This allows your employees to take a breather from the monotony of the office environment while still being able to get some work done in the comfort of their home. Not convinced? Here are a few reasons why work at home strategies paired with VoIP systems is a good idea.

It’s good for business

Many businesses have misconceptions about their employees choosing to work from home. They assume that their employees will be less productive if they are not within the office environment. However, this is far from the truth. As a matter of fact, according to a Harvard Business Review study, work at home policies for your small business tends to be more beneficial for your company. This is thanks to the combination of cloud computing and VoIP technologies, which can easily migrate the office environment virtually anywhere with an Internet connection. Along with this, VoIP services can empower your small business and work at home employees in a number of ways:
  • VoIP technologies allow you to keep your employees on track with an array of management tools like barge, monitor and whisper which allows you to coach and micro manage your employees.
  • The cost of business resources, furniture, space and sick days are reduced when there is an effective way for your employees to work at any location.
  • VoIP services promote continued collaboration between employees even if some of them are not in the office, allowing workflow to be more efficient.
  • As a business owner, VoIP gives your company more opportunity for growth. You can communicate and hire people from different countries with minimal cost.

Perks for employees

Work from home policies with VoIP systems isn’t just good for business either. It’s also good for your employees. As more of their workload is digitized, working from home or anywhere else has never been easier. In fact, studies have shown that employees who took days to work from home were actually more productive. Part of this is because it gives them a break from the stressful office environment and, with a VoIP service readily available to them, they feel as if they haven’t missed a day’s worth of work. With the right VoIP systems installed, employees can easily collaborate with co-workers.

Using VoIP at home also saves your employees from long and costly commutes in the morning. They can simply pick up their VoIP device and join the conference meeting without physically being in the boardroom. Furthermore, employees who want to recall important events during conferences or seminars can use the VoIP call recording feature. This way, employees can make sure they are correctly approaching their work in their own time.

VoIP requirements for remote workers

If you’re convinced that working from home is a good solution for your company, it is essential that the VoIP service provider that you choose offers the features listed below:
  • Voicemail: a must for any VoIP device. This feature will record a missed call and send you an email of the audio file.
  • Call forwarding: allows your employees to simply take and transfer calls between VoIP devices and their smartphones.
  • Whisper, monitor and barge: allows you to check on your employees. If they’re in a business call you can still contact them without disrupting the call. This is also a good tool for call coaching.
  • VoIP integrated to shared documents: products like Office 365 let your employees access Skype while collaborating on a Word document. This means your employees can give instant feedback and correct each other without the need to send emails.
Many companies are now benefiting from a mobile and remote work environment. Although work at home strategies may seem like a risky venture, making the most out of your VoIP technologies will keep your employees happy and productive. If you want to learn more about the VoIP services that we offer and where it will fit in your company, give us a call.
Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic VoIP
May 6th, 2016

2016May6_Virtualization_AApp virtualization is a term that gets thrown around by professionals quite often. Vendors say it’s a necessity for small business owners. But for a service that claims to make your life easier, it’s ironic that small business owners are left even more confused with what app virtualization actually is. So what exactly is it? How does it help your company? And what should you be aware of, if you do decide to get it? Here are some things that you need to know about app virtualization services.

Non-virtualized apps

To understand app virtualization, we need to know how desktop applications are traditionally installed first. When you install an application like Skype or Slack onto a computer, the installer program puts most of the files required for the app to run in the Program Files folder on your hard drive. This process is usually fine for personal use, but things can become problematic if you install similar apps on your device.

For instance, if two similar applications are installed on the same file destination, there is a chance that these programs might conflict with each other and inevitably crash. Similarly, if you choose to uninstall a program without knowing that it shares important files with another application, you run the risk of breaking the other application. Additionally, installing applications the traditional way means you’ll have to manually install the same programs for all your users. Not only is this expensive but installing new applications for every desktop in your company is going to take an absurdly long time.

App virtualization

The solution to this is app virtualization. This refers to the type of virtualization where you run a program on a thin client, which runs in an environment separate from the physical server allowing you to run programs that are normally not compatible with a certain operating system (OS). In other words, virtualized apps trick your computer into working as if the application is running on a local machine, but in fact you’re actually accessing the app from somewhere else. This is better than traditionally installed programs because virtual apps run and feel just like any regularly installed app would.

Advantages of app virtualization:

Apart from the basics however, app virtualization offers more advantages for small businesses including:
  • Quick installation times and less money spent on local installation for each user.
  • Allowing incompatible applications to run on any local machine. For instance, if your laptop is dated and can’t run the latest apps on its own, you can lighten the load on your CPU by accessing virtualized apps instead.
  • Mac users can simply run any Windows apps if your company’s local server runs Windows OS.
  • Applications will not conflict with each other on your computer, since virtual apps are installed in a different location.
  • Upgrading is easy since your IT department won’t have to upgrade applications in individual desktops, they just have to upgrade the virtual application within the company’s local server.
  • Applications can be accessed from any machine, allowing your employees to work from home or on the go if they choose to.

Things to consider:

Before you start deploying app virtualization solutions at the workplace, you need to have a stable network connection first so that you can smoothly stream apps to your users. This is definitely more important for graphic intensive applications. You should also note that some applications like antivirus programs are difficult to virtualize since they need to be closely integrated with your local OS.

App virtualization is popular for many SMBs and it definitely pays off to know why it’s good for your company before taking the plunge. Virtualizing a workplace is no easy task and that’s where we come in. So if you’re convinced that your company can benefit from app virtualization, get in touch with our IT experts today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

May 4th, 2016

2016May4_MicrosoftWindowsNewsAndTips_AWhen it comes to smartphones, Windows phones have largely gone unnoticed. Some say iOS and Android phones are just better. While some experts claim that Windows phones entered the market too late to make a lasting impact. However, one of the big reasons why Windows phones are not as successful is because of a lack of support for apps. So what is Microsoft doing to remedy this problem? And how will this affect the popularity of Microsoft’s smartphones? Let’s find out.

The problem

Since its release, Windows 10 Mobile has not been getting as much traction as Microsoft had hoped. One of the biggest factors to this is due to Windows 10 Mobile struggling to get popular apps like Instagram or Snapchat onto their platform. This would mean that customers would have to settle for third-party services that were usually quite obscure, and had a higher chance of shutting down since developers cannot maintain the app running for long without proper funding.

Furthermore, because of such a small market for Windows 10 phones, fewer apps were being developed. No app creator was going to spend time making an app for a platform that is constantly overshadowed by iOS or Android devices. The only thing the Windows 10 Mobile had going for it was its lower price point, but with barely any apps to make the entire device worthwhile, customers were going elsewhere for more popular alternatives.

The solutions

So, clearly, Microsoft needed to reevaluate their strategy to get people’s heads turning back to their devices. In pursuit of a larger user base for Windows phones, here are some of the features that Microsoft are planning to deploy:
  • Cross compatibility apps: In order to get on the same playing field, Microsoft has been trying to make apps that were only available on iOS and Android compatible with Windows devices.
  • Universal Windows Platform: Microsoft’s best solution for a lack of apps on the Windows 10 Mobile is to allow apps to run in several platforms. This means apps that were initially developed for PC, Xbox and Internet of Things (IoT) powered devices can also run on your phone. Instead of getting limited services from one device, you have access to all the apps available for any Windows 10 product.

Will this work?

We’re still uncertain if these strategies will make you want to run out to the nearest store and pick up the newest Windows Phone model, but it seems promising. Companies like Apple and Google have not been successful in unifying their apps for different devices. However, Microsoft’s large PC customer base and available apps can hopefully change that. It also gives Windows phones a unique selling point, other than their competitive pricing, which is sure to attract some customers.

These days, users are working with more than one device at any given time and as we begin to lose track of all the apps installed on our devices, a unified app platform can be just what we need for the future. So do you think you’ll be picking up a Windows phone anytime soon?

Want to stay up to date with the latest developments from Microsoft? Contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Windows
May 3rd, 2016

2016May3_BusinessIntelligence_AFrom free information products such as ebooks to brochures and email campaigns, today’s marketers have a wealth of tools and tactics at their disposal. While content marketing and social media garner most of the attention in the marketing world, it’s easy to forget about tried and true techniques that are as effective today as they were twenty years ago. Recent data supports that one age-old sales tool in particular is still incredibly effective today, and even beats out some newer marketing tactics. What is it? Let’s take a look.

What is one thing every consumer has in common? They all love to save money. This is why the marketing technique of offering coupons is still as effective today as it was decades ago. Shocked? Don’t believe this is true? Well, let’s explore some statistics.

A recent report by Valassis, a large marketing firm that serves clients across the globe, provided some enlightening information on the effectiveness of coupons. Here’s what they discovered in terms of how coupons influence consumers.

  • 82% of all consumers are more likely to buy from a brand they wouldn’t normally because of a coupon
  • 85% are influenced to try a new product because of a coupon
  • 84% are more likely to switch brands because of the weekly specials on offer
  • 24% choose to shop at another brand’s store over their preferred because of better advertised bargains
This same report also uncovers some interesting data about brand loyalists, revealing that 78% are more likely to buy from a brand they wouldn’t normally patronize, due to a coupon. While this number is surprising close to the amount of total consumers influenced by coupons (as mentioned in the first bullet point above) this next bit of data may come as more of a surprise: 43% of brand loyalists have a more positive view of a company that offers coupons over those who don’t.

While this recent report goes a long way to revealing the benefits of coupons, how do they compare to another common marketing offer used today: free information products?

The appeal of coupons over information products

According to one marketing firm based in Waterford, Connecticut, a coupon was chosen 9 out of 10 times over an ebook when offered simultaneously. This raises an interesting question: why would a coupon be more effective than a free ebook or other information product? Let’s look at some common psychology triggers at play here.

Broad appeal - simply put, coupons have mass appeal. While information products are likely to be seen as more valuable to those with a higher education, a coupon can appeal to all income brackets - from the very wealthy to the very poor.

Instant value - to gain results from an information product requires a time investment and action. For example, if a customer receives a free 30 page ebook that explains how to get the best discounts on electronic equipment, he or she needs to read the book and then take action (and possibly create a plan) to gain the rewards of that time investment. Many consumers would rather spend their time doing something else, but a coupon on the other hand offers immediate value. Simply hand it over to the service provider, and you save money instantly. What’s not to love about that?

Uniqueness - the online marketplace is flooded with free information products. While they’re still an effective tool to gain a prospect’s email address, far fewer businesses offer coupons on their website, especially in the small business sector. By offering a coupon, you provide a free offer that immediately separates you from the pack.

The point here is that just because a marketing tool is popular doesn't mean it’s the most effective. This is why we encourage you to review data and statistics before implementing any marketing technique in your business. It can save you a whole lot of time and also make your business stand out.

Want more valuable business information that can help you connect better with your customers? Curious to learn how IT can help collect data more easily? Call us today to find out more.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic Business