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 Tips – Small Business Pricing

Pricing is a key determinant in the decision making process customers use to purchase your product or service as well as a key element in determining the profitability of your business. Setting a price for your product or service that appeals to your target market and encourages them to buy is therefore an essential part of your business and marketing strategy.

Before determining your pricing strategy for your business it is important to consider the following:

Your Customer

An effective marketing strategy begins and ends with your customer. It is therefore important to establish how much your customers are willing to pay for your product or service, how sensitive your customers are to changes in price and how price discounting will affect the level of demand and profitability of your business.

Your Product or Service’s Features and Benefits

Unless you have a product or service that offers a unique or additional benefit, and you can communicate this benefit adequately to your target market, if your price is too high you may price yourself out of the market. Look at the features and benefits your product or service offers and how they compare to your competitors. Remember the benefits you provide can either be physical, emotional or both. For example, some customers may see a high price as equalling high quality and are therefore willing to pay a premium.

The Cost of Doing Business

Before setting your price you need to determine what your small business must charge for its product or service in order for you to make and sustain a profit. Look at what the cost and expenses are of doing business and what price you will need to sell at to ensure these expenses are covered. Unless you have a sustainable cost advantage, if your price is too low, your sales volume may not generate enough revenue to cover the costs associated with your business.

The Market and Your Competitors

Your competitors play an important role when setting your pricing strategy. For example, there may be competitors nearby where customers can compare prices so you may need to price match. If it is hard for your customers to compare prices you may be able to charge a premium.

Distribution Channels

Some customers may expect to pay a different price for a product or service depending on which distribution channel they use. For example, if a customer purchases a product over the internet or by mail they may expect to pay a lower price due to the elimination of the middle person i.e. the retailer.

Life Cycle of Your Product or Service

At different stages of your product or service life cycle you may change your pricing strategy to suite your business needs. For example, when you are launching a new product or service you may adopt a low price strategy to encourage trial and repurchase of your product/service on a regular basis. Alternatively if your product or service has a unique point of difference or high cost of production you may charge a premium over your competitors. As your product or service grows in customer awareness and credibility you may be able to sustain a price increase. Alternatively as sales increase, your production costs may be reduced and you may be able to pass on some of these savings in a price reduction or regular promotional offers.

(c) Marketing for Business Success Pty Ltd 2008

Small Business Banking

As a small business owner, you will want to focus on banking features that are available, useful and help you realize success with your company. Each financial institution offers unique small business banking programs and packages. There are free business checking accounts, business savings accounts, loans and credit card services as well as online features from credit unions and banks to consider while conducting business. You will want to become familiar with their products so you can choose which will work for you and your business.

When looking at the selection of credit unions and banks, you will see many types of small business banking services that can meet your needs. Some credit unions and banks offer free business checking accounts, while others require a minimum balance. You may need after hour depositing and many small business banking programs include this. Most banks and credit unions offer a debit card or check card with the opening of a free business checking account. This can prove to be a convenient and efficient way to make purchases for your business. You may have an option of an unlimited amount of transactions when you start a free business checking account with your credit union or bank. Check with your financial institution, as there may be limits on usage and account balances.

You will have plenty of options when you open a business savings account. Overdraft protection can certainly be useful when you use your business savings account to cover any overages by your business checking account. Your business funds can earn money with an interest bearing savings account. Each financial institution will set their terms for the amount and the length of the deposit for this type of business savings account. CD’s and money market savings accounts are offered as another source of generating money with your business savings account.

Most small businesses need capital for start up, growth and expansion, and even help through lean times. Credit Unions and banks offer loans and even business credit cards to cover these needs. Many small companies take advantage of business credit cards for convenience and flexibility with their working capital. An example of this would be when using your card to cover the gap in payment for goods and services that your business has invoiced. Small business loans can be an essential element for expansion in the event that you do not have the capital to cover the cost of growing your company. While you can’t predict the future, knowing that your business can take on a loan to assist you through difficult times can put your mind at ease.

Small business banking has grown with the digital age and most banks and credit unions now extend online services to their business customers in addition to free checking and savings accounts. Such services can include taking of care of your accounts payable online, monitoring free business checking and business savings account activity, receiving account alerts at your email or mobile device, bill payment and transferring funds between accounts with the push of a button. Statements through the mail can literally be a thing of the past with online banking. Online small business banking services even allow for the use of accounting software such as Quicken® or Microsoft Money® so that your financial picture can be managed with great ease.

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