GDPR: How It Affects Your Small Business (Yes… Even in the AU)

GDPR: How It Affects Your Small Business (Yes… Even in the AU)

What does a European Union law about privacy have to do with your small business?

That might seem like a ridiculous question to ask, but it’s not.

The General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR for short, went into effect on May 25, 2018. And with privacy issues in the news on a near-daily basis, with the recent Congressional hearings about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, you can’t afford to ignore the ramifications of GDPR for your business.

You could keep your head buried in the sand – but that’s not a good idea. Here’s what you need to know about GDPR.

What is GDPR?

GDPR is a law that was designed to standardize data privacy in the European Union’s member countries. It represents a big chance – and a victory for EU citizens, who can now be confident that their data will be secure and that the regulations used to ensure its security are transparent.

On the flip side, EU-based businesses have had to scramble to be compliant with the new rules. The biggest requirement involves Personal Identification Information, or PII. PII is sometimes used as a general term in the United States to describe personal information that companies might collect and store on behalf of their customers.

While PII has traditionally included information like Social Security numbers and addresses, the GDPR expands the definition of PII to include other things. For example:

  • Web data, including the user’s location, IP address, cookies, and RFID tags
  • Medical and genetic data, including medical records, test results, and DNA
  • Biometric data, including fingerprints and other unique identifiers
  • Racial and ethnic data
  • Political opinions and orientation
  • Sexual orientation

In other words, companies in the EU must now protect their customers’ IP addresses and other information collected online with the same care that they would financial information. It further requires that organizations:

  • Store and process personal data only with an individual’s explicit consent
  • Hold data for only as long as it is necessary to do so
  • Destroy stored data upon request

There’s no denying that the implementation of GDPR represents a big change for EU companies.

How Does GDPR Affect Companies?

Think for a moment about the different ways in which you use the data you collect from your customers. The chances are good that you do more with it than you realize.

Organizations in the EU are finding that they institute company-wide changes to be compliant with GDPR regulations. Privacy can impact various departments within an organization, including:

  • IT
  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Finance
  • Operations

Business owners and managers must work together to identify potential privacy problems and security issues and address them to protect the information they have stored. At the same time, they must accommodate incoming requests related to the “right to be forgotten” if customers ask them to delete the data they have on hand.

Why You Should Worry about GDPR Compliance

Your business is based in the United States – and you might be asking the obvious question:

Why should I worry about GDPR compliance?

You may not need to worry too much about it if you have never had a customer who was an EU citizen. However, if you do business in the EU (or cater to tourists from the EU), then you might be impacted by the new regulations.

This is what the GDPR website says about organizations outside the EU:

The GDPR not only applies to organisations located within the EU but it will also apply to organisations located outside of the EU if they offer goods or services to, or monitor the behaviour of, EU data subjects. It applies to all companies processing and holding the personal data of data subjects residing in the European Union, regardless of the company’s location.

In other words, if you collect data on your website from EU citizens, process payments from them, or hold any personal information belonging to EU citizens, you must adhere to GDPR rules about collecting, using, and storing their PII.

You might not have any EU customers, but even if you don’t it may be worth taking a look at the way you store personal data. There’s no question that there’s a worldwide movement toward increasing privacy protections. Cybercrime is on the rise and criminals are getting wilier every day. Considering the damage that a data breach can do to your bottom line, it makes sense to err on the side of caution.

What Are the Penalties for Violating the GDPR?

As you might expect, there are penalties attached to violating the GDPR. The law is meant to be a deterrent and the EU intends for organizations who fail to be complaint to pay a price.

The most likely penalty if you fail to protect EU citizens’ data is a fine. The maximum fine is 20 million Euros, which works out to nearly $25 million in US dollars. The specific rule is €20 million or 4% of the company’s global revenue, whichever is higher.

The harshest penalties are intended to punish companies with the most severe violations, such as violating core concepts or not getting a customer’s consent to process their data. Other fines are organized in tiers. For example, an organization can be fined 2% of their global revenue for things like:

  • Not having their records in the proper order
  • Not notifying the authorities of a security breach
  • Not conducting the required impact assessment

These are serious penalties. You’ll need to take a hard look at your security and data handling procedures to avoid them if you do business in the EU or with EU citizens.

What Should You Do Next?

If you do business in the EU or simply want to get your ducks in a row when it comes to protecting your customers’ data., it may be helpful to make a thorough review of your existing data collection and storage procedures to identify potential problems.

You can find detailed information about the GDPR on this website. Depending on your circumstances, you may want to consult an EU lawyer as well.

In the end, remember that GDPR compliance protects you as well as your customers. It can be impossible to protect the digital perimeter of your business from hackers, but the procedures required by the GDPR can give you an extra layer of protection in the event of a breach.

How to Tell Your Marketing Isn’t Working (and How to Fix It)

How to Tell Your Marketing Isn’t Working (and How to Fix It)

When you are running a small business, your marketing can make all the difference between a successful year and one that falls short of your goals. Of course, every business does their best to develop and execute dynamic marketing plans to drive customer conversions, however they can often fall short of the mark.

One of the biggest mistakes that companies make is failing to review their marketing strategy to see where exactly they are falling short. By performing regular reviews of your marketing plan, you can quickly identify when it is not working, leading to solutions that you implement right away.

Here are 5 tell-tale signs that your current marketing needs improvement, as well as the best fixes for each scenario. By objectively auditing your advertising performance, you can easily see the areas that need to be fixed, then come up with a new strategy to get your business back on track!

You aren’t getting qualified leads for your marketing campaigns

The goal of marketing is not to just get leads, but to get leads that will actually bring you new customers. If you recognize that a large number of your leads are people that are not actually interested in your products or services, then you are definitely doing something wrong.

By analyzing the type of people that call, email or visit your website, you can tell whether or not you are targeting the right people through your current marketing scheme.

The Fix: If your leads are not high quality and are not resulting in customer conversions, then it’s time to revisit your content and target demographic. Make a list of your ideal customer, including key traits such as age, location, gender, and income level, then tailor your marketing plan to directly target those people.

You do not have a consistent marketing strategy

Have a look back through your recent content and advertisements to look for continuity. If you notice that your social media posts, email blasts or sales materials do not all convey the same message, then you can be confusing clients.

You want your business to be represented in a structured manner that runs the gamut of the sales cycle: getting potential clients interested, cultivating leads, converting clients, then reselling. If you strategy doesn’t follow this pattern, then you may be missing out on vital elements of digital marketing.

The Fix: Put yourself in the perspective of a potential client. Draw out a roadmap of how you want to captivate somebody to be interested in what you offer, how you can guide them to becoming a client, a persuasive manner to close the deal, then a follow-up strategy to resell to them.

You are not differentiating yourself from the competition

Regardless of your industry, there is likely to be a wide range of competition that is also marketing to the same clientele. One of the biggest mistakes that businesses make is that they play it too safe, being afraid to truly draw attention to themselves by being unique.

If your marketing strategy is too generic, then you will simply be lost amongst the hundreds, potentially thousands of competitors that are offering similar products or services. This will not help you increase sales or grow your clientbase, but rather be a waste of your marketing budget and your resources.

The Fix: Pick a handful of businesses in your industry and have a look at their marketing campaigns. If you notice that yours are quite similar or see that most companies are doing the same thing, then make a list of ways that you can set yourself apart. From compelling organic content to the use of dynamic media such as videos, start adding innovative aspects to your marketing plan that nobody else is doing.

Searching your business does not bring favorable (or any) results

The whole goal of marketing is drawing eyes to your brand in a positive manner. By simple conducting some online searches for your business and relative terms, you are able to get a sense of how often potential customers see your company. If you aren’t on the first page of search results for your services or local searches, then it becomes exponentially harder to draw in new clients.

When you do find your business online, you also want to see what existing clients are saying about you. Checking Facebook, Google, and any industry-specific review sites for feedback is extremely important. Businesses that have a large number of positive reviews are far more likely to convert searchers into paying customers.

The Fix: If you notice that your business doesn’t appear in searches, it’s time to ramp up your SEO. From regular organic content to strengthening social media presence, you need to add new dimensions of marketing. If you are lacking reviews, reach out to your current customers by incentivizing them to add feedback on a variety of review sites.

You haven’t pre-sold to your customers

When you have clients contacting you or visiting your website, you want them to already know exactly what they want. They should be walking into your door ready to take you up on your latest offer or buy your newest product without you having to convert them.

If you find that potential customers are unaware of your products or need to be convinced to buy from you, then your marketing needs to ramped up. Marketing should not just begin the sales cycle, it should already have people in the mindset that they are ready to do business with you!

The Fix: You may need to be more direct in your advertising efforts, focusing on both informing and persuading people within first glance. Integrating some sales videos that highlight the benefit of what you offer and intensely pushing current promotions will give the clients a sense of urgency to act as fast as possible.

Turning your marketing strategy around

If you notice that one or more of these issues apply to your current situation, then there is no better time than the present to begin revamping your marketing plan.

Working with a professional marketing team can drastically increase the efficiency of your campaigns by driving customer conversions, maximizing ROI and reducing costs.

Click here to request your free marketing blueprint session to help fix any current issues and bring your company the business that it deserves!

7 Things People Don’t Tell You About Social Media Marketing

7 Things People Don’t Tell You About Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing can seem deceptively simple to people who look at it from the outside. All you need is a great product or service and your audience will find you.

Wouldn’t it be great if that were true? But sadly, it’s not.

In fact, social media marketing is a real challenge for local businesses – and can prove tricky even to people who spend a lot of time and energy managing their social media accounts.

The reason? There are some popular misconceptions about social media marketing and some secrets that you simply won’t know about unless someone tells you.

Here they are.

#1: The Size of Your Following May Not Matter

One of the biggest misconceptions about social media marketing is that Page Likes equal success. That’s often not the case.

You can create an entertaining account that attracts new followers and not see any change in your bottom line. If that happens, you’re basically whistling in the wind. The time and energy you spend on managing your social media pages isn’t getting you anything in return.

A better bet is to focus on attracting highly qualified and motivated followers who are likely to turn into customers and share your content with their friends.

#2: There’s No Such Thing as Overnight Success

To quote the cliché, social media marketing isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon. It takes a lot of time, commitment, and dedication to attract a following and see results from your social media marketing efforts.

In many ways, this misconception relates to the first one. A big following doesn’t equal success. You may spend a lot of money boosting your page and attract a lot of followers. However, if those followers don’t buy from you, the money will have been wasted.

In other words, social media marketing requires an ongoing commitment to excellence. You’ll need to work hard to create valuable and entertaining content – and be willing to tweak your methods to get the results you want.

#3: You Won’t Succeed Without Analysis

Analyzing the results of your social media marketing is a must if you want to grow your business. It’s not enough simply to eyeball your Likes and other obvious metrics. You’re going to need to dig deep to refine your strategy.

Fortunately, most platforms offer basic analytics that you can use to get started. If you pay for a social media management tool, you probably have access to additional reporting and analysis. Either way, it’s essential to use the data you have to test, refine, and re-test your content and strategy.

Even if you’ve done well on Facebook or Instagram, you’ll need to commit to doing the sometimes-tedious legwork that will help you hit on the right strategy to grow your business.

#4: Engagement Is Just as Important as Content

You might create fantastic content on a regular basis, but if you aren’t also setting aside time to engage with your followers, you might as well not bother.

A lot of companies make the mistake of forgetting the “social” in social media. It’s your job to monitor your content, reply to comments, answer questions, and generally make your followers feel that they are important to you.

Engagement can be time-consuming, and it’s one of the reasons that a lot of small businesses don’t do well on social media. You may need to hire someone to monitor your mentions, comments, DMs, and questions to ensure that nothing is falling through the cracks.ss on social media.

#5: Success is Difficult to Predict

The Holy Grail of social media marketing is the viral post. Whether it’s a video, a meme, a photograph, or a blog post, every social media marketer dreams of creating The One – the special post that reaches millions of followers and sends their business into orbit.

We’d love to be able to give you a formula to help you create that perfect post. Sadly, there isn’t one. The best you can do is create the most entertaining, valuable, relevant content you can – and hope that your followers will share it and that it will catch on.

Of course, there are some things that can help your chances of going viral. Humorous content does well, and so does content that’s useful to different groups of people. Instead of focusing on virality, spend your time getting creative – and the rest will, hopefully, follow.

#6: You’ll Need a Creative Team to Help You

Your social media goals may be simple or grand, but either way, it’s important to understand that you may not be able to do everything you need to do without help.

Creativity is a plus when it comes to social media marketing. If all you do is share content from other people or Tweet out information about your products, you’re not going to attract the passionate following you want.

The key is to give your social media manager the creative support they need. That may mean hiring a creative team to work with them. Or, it may be as simple as giving them a creative budget that they can use to hire freelance writers, photographers, and artists to give your social media marketing a boost.

#7: Everything Can Change at a Moment’s Notice

One of the trickiest aspects of social media marketing is that change is normal. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram are constantly tweaking their algorithms – and you’ll need to stay on top of the changes they make if you want to do well.

For example, Facebook recently changed its algorithm to prioritize posts from personal connections over those from businesses. As a result, business owners have had to rethink their strategies, work harder to get organic engagement, and increase their Facebook marketing budgets to make sure that their posts reach their followers.

Tracking your performance and engagement can help you in this regard. However, it’s essential to be aware of changes and to adapt your strategy accordingly so you’re not spinning your wheels.

Social media marketing isn’t as easy as it seems…

That much is clear. But, keeping the seven items we’ve outlined here in mind can help you make the most of the time, creative energy, and money you spend to promote your business on social media.

7 Ways to Acquire New Customers Starting Right Now

7 Ways to Acquire New Customers Starting Right Now

A stagnating business is more likely to fail than one that’s growing.

I mean, let’s face it. That’s just common sense. Businesses that experience new growth – in the form of new customers – have an advantage over businesses that are barely managing to hold onto their existing customers.

That’s not to say that customer retention doesn’t matter. It does! But attracting new customers is a must. And it can be expensive. In fact, research shows that attracting a new customer can be up to 10 times as costly as retaining an existing customer.

But…

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. And, not all customer-attraction methods are necessarily expensive. Here are seven (relatively) low-cost ways to acquire new customers and grow your business.

#1: Update Your Audience Research

I’m always amazed when I talk to business owners and they tell me that the last time they conducted audience research was years ago.

That’s crazy. Audiences change. You’ve got to know who’s interested in your products – and why they’re interested – if you’re going to understand how to bring your audience to your site.

If it’s been a while since you conducted any audience research, it’s time to get back on the horse. For example, you can:

  • Check your analytics and look for new trends
  • Create a customer survey and email it to your list
  • Do a social media survey

These things will help you fine-tune your targeting. You can also use them to create (or update) a customer persona or avatar to help you with your marketing.

#2: Know Your Competition

Competitor research is another key component of customer acquisition. After all, you and your competitors are vying for the same audience. Knowing what they do and how they’re doing it can help you pull ahead in the race for new business.

A couple of easy tactics to use include:

  • Tracking your competitor’s backlinks and traffic
  • Monitoring your competitor’s social mentions
  • Doing a complete audit of their websites
  • Reading their blog and other marketing materials

Ongoing competitor research will ensure that you’re not losing out to your competitors.

#3: Focus on Benefits, not Features

Another common mistake business owners make is getting too wrapped up in their product’s cool features at the expense of considering the customer’s experience.

Let’s face it. A potential customer doesn’t want to hear your brag about how awesome your product is. They want to know what it’s going to do for them.

Don’t tell them that a frying pan has a non-stick surface. Tell them that it will simplify their clean-up! That’s a simple example, but it illustrates the point.

You can list your products features briefly, but most of your marketing should focus on benefits. Think about your customer (see #1) and the problem they want solved. Then, explain how your product will solve it.

#4: Build Trust with Your Target Audience

If you know anything about marketing, then you know about the Rule of 7. It says that, on average, a customer must have seven interactions with your brand before they’ll buy from you.

The key to building trust is to use those seven “touches” wisely. You’ll need to be consistent. That means knowing your audience, having a clear vision for your brand, and using the same voice for all your online content, whether it’s on your website or social media.

And speaking of social media, it’s ideal for building trust. You can connect with your followers every day without seeing overly sales-y or obnoxious.

#5: Pair with Other Businesses

You can’t expect your direct competitors to refer business to you. That would be counterproductive for them. But that doesn’t mean that B2B referrals aren’t possible.

Try searching for businesses in your niche – or in a related niche – that aren’t in direct competition with you. Then, approach the owners about the potential for a reciprocal referral program or joint venture.

For example, if you sell dog training products and there’s a company that sells cleaning products for people with pets, you could pair up to create special offers and referrals. You might link to their site and have them link to yours, and you could even create limited time offers and specials.

The key is that you’ll get access to their customer base and they’ll get access to yours – and you probably won’t have to spend anything to do it.

#6: Create a Referral Program

It’s important not to ignore your current customers as ambassadors for your brand. After all, who’s in a better position to tell new customers about the benefits of buying from you?

The key is not to assume that your existing customers will spread the word about you and your products. They might do it without prompting, but why not make it easy for them? A strong referral program can bring you new businesses on a regular basis.

Many referral programs incentivize referrals. For example, you might offer customers a free product (or a free month of service) in return for a referral. Or, you might host a special event for customers who refer new business to you.

Make sure to specify the terms of any rewards and to provide customers with what they need to make referrals, whether it’s a supply of business cards or brochures or a dedicated URL on your website.

#7: Create Shareable Coupons and Offers

A referral program is one thing. But what if you could convince your existing social media followers to spread the word about your products in return for a simple coupon?

You can! The next time you’re running a promotion, encourage your followers to share it. Your call to action can say something like, “Why keep all the savings for yourself? Share this post with your friends and family so they can get a bargain, too!”

The key is not to assume that people will share your content. They may not know that it’s okay with you for them to do so – so make sure to ask in your call to action.

New customers aren’t everything…

But, if you want your business to grow, you’ll need to expand your reach. These 7 simple tips can help you attract new customers without blowing through your marketing budget. Instead, you can use them to blow past your competition!

Hook, Line, And Stinker!

Hook, Line, And Stinker!

I admit it, I started my career as a “Geek”, then when the Internet came along, I quickly moved on to being a “Web Weenie”… I was around in the early days long before Google came along. In fact, the first time I saw the Internet way back then, you couldn’t even put an image on a page.

At the time, we were running a BBS (Bulletin Board System) that allowed people to use a dial-up modem to connect to our system.  We could have a total of 5 people connected at one time and back then it was a state-or-the-art-system… No kidding. How (more…)