In order to make money, you need to market your products and services. Even if you’re the lucky inventor of something, no one can do without and have an exclusive patent, you’ll still need to get the word out about your product or service. No doubt your marketing efforts involve designing web pages and applications to accommodate your customers’ unique set of needs and route them to appropriate stages in the marketing-sales funnel.
It also means programming sound and safe code to protect any data that customers input at various stages of the funnel.
One of the greatest threats to any marketing campaign is a breach in security in your company’s systems, off or online. Loss of customer data can damage your business’s image, and playing host to malware can literally destroy any sort of traffic you’re receiving. If you hope to be successful, consider a few simple tips that will help prevent any future incidents.
Use Strong Passwords
No matter what type of business you’re running or what your role in the company is, you’re bound to be using a variety of accounts, such as email, social media accounts, e-newsletter services, or app stores, for your business that require some form of authentication. That means requiring a password and hopefully a second form of verification (two-step authentication is quickly becoming standard and should be on your business radar as well).
For your passwords, you should always use some combination of uppercase and lowercase letters complemented by numbers and symbols. Strong passwords should contain at least eight characters, but longer is definitely better, and avoid including words from the dictionary. Passphrases are great because they are easy to remember, and like any good password, difficult to guess.
Avoid relating passwords to anything personal (especially details available on social media such as birthdays, anniversaries, etc.), or anything related to the company. If you’re selling orange juice, you wouldn’t want a password such as FreshSqueezed92. It may fit the criteria for a strong password, but because it relates to your company and uses words from the dictionary, it’s reasonably crackable. However, a passphrase, such as 1nternetMarket1ng1$Awe$ome, would be much more secure.
With regards to two-step verification, you can set up accounts to require a temporary code whenever an unfamiliar device or location attempts to login. Login will then require an additional code mailed to your email or sent to your mobile device in order to get in.
Keep Software Up-to-Date
If the last few years have shown us anything, it’s that old software and scripting can often be exploited for the benefit of criminals. Problems including Heartbleed and POODLE attacks have placed users and businesses in jeopardy by exploiting older versions of SSL. While web hosts, browser designers, and other companies are doing what they can to combat these exploits, your business needs to as well.
For example, if you’ve issued a call to action via social media or some other form of marketing, and consumers begin accessing your website, your efforts could easily backfire should there be vulnerabilities in outdated coding. Rather than purchasing your products, customers could instead find themselves with stolen information or malware.
Another thing to consider is XSS (Cross Site Scripting) attacks. Comment sections and other interactive areas of your website may be vulnerable to allowing malicious scripts if they aren’t closely monitored and vetted. This is yet another area where your customers may be vulnerable and, as a result, your business’s reputation as well.
You’ll want to ensure you update any software that interfaces with your business whenever possible. New versions often fix old vulnerabilities and can save you from the big headache of dealing with such data breaches.
Keeping a Secure Connection
Marketing not only makes your company more visible to your intended audience, but to criminals as well. It only takes one single connection to potentially damage the entire system on which your company functions. The damage may be internal or external, but the result is the same: loss of time and resources. Keeping your connection secure via two different methods can help avoid getting hacked and losing control of crucial accounts.
The most familiar way is by use of a firewall. Firewalls help in hiding ports on your computer from the internet to keep unwelcome visitors out. They come in two main types: software and hardware.
Hardware firewalls (such as routers) keep a different physical address from your machine, while software firewalls help to ensure ports are in the “off” position. They also monitor traffic trying to come in or out.
The lesser-known way of securing your connection is through a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service. A VPN keeps your connection safe by connecting your device to a remote server before the rest of the internet and by encrypting your connection. This not only helps keep everything you’re doing unreadable to hackers, but it also hides your IP address as the remote server acts as the mediator between you and the rest of the internet.
This also deals with geo-restrictions that may interfere with your business. Some services are unavailable unless you’re in a select physical region, but this can be avoided by connecting to a server located in the right location.
Companies frequently make changes to the content and design of their websites and apps in hopes of generating additional interest in their brand and to respond to customer service needs. Your website or app is no different. New iterations of apps and websites are part of your business’s natural course.
Unfortunately, change doesn’t always go well. Sometimes the new version turns out to be poorly received or has major problems. As a forward thinking company, you shouldn’t be afraid to retreat when necessary. If you’re creating backups, it’s that much easier to revert to what was working before.
Backups are useful for stored data as well. Maybe a server burned out or lightning just struck the building. Or it could be that an important account was compromised or your web host ran into trouble. If you’re keeping backups of company data, app versions, and your website on a regular basis, these crises can be dealt with much easier.
Backblaze is one automatic backup service that offers solutions for businesses in need of large amounts of storage. It only costs $50 per year per computer for unlimited data storage. Your web host may also provide ways to save previous versions of your website for offline storage. Though cloud based storage is convenient, keeping copies on an external drive or thumb drive shouldn’t be overlooked.
If nothing else, be alert to any problems your company is experiencing. Social media and blogging are currently huge parts of marketing, yet they can also become a larger detractor if not monitored closely. Not only should your social media and blog be active, but it should be visually relevant. Ensure visitors coming to your Facebook page don’t just have walls of text to look at and that your blog comments are littered with spam.
Monitoring your business’s pages for security threats (bad postings, trolls, etc.) not only keeps you and your customers safer, but it promotes a healthier image. Links to phishing websites that look similar to your homepage can have customers associating your business with bad memories. The best marketing sells a feeling more than it sells a product.
Just be sure you give yourself credit for success. When your marketing efforts blossom and everything is secure, you should take time to feel good about it. If someone else doesn’t give you a pat on the back, make sure you do!
Are your marketing efforts relevant and safe? How are you making sure? Share in the comments how you’re keeping your customers secure and your business visible.