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How to Generate Leads Online

Lead generation in digital marketing is the process of enticing and engaging leads. The goal is to attract leads that not only want your product or service but will have an actual use for it. 

There are unlimited ways that you can generate more leads for your business. The truth is, every business is different. You may have seen one business succeed by generating leads through an email marketing campaign. Another may have generated leads through hosting a webinar. The ways to generate leads are truly endless. The problem is that for every marketing strategy, there is a marketing guru that will tell you that strategy is the best way to gain leads. Another person may tell you that the same marketing strategy is a waste of time. So then who are you supposed to trust? We hear you and we know that it can be confusing. It makes the average person wonder, “What is the best way to generate leads?” 

The failure to attract leads is oftentimes just a disconnect between you and the strategy that you are using. The strategies you’ve been using may not have been thoroughly researched, well thought out, or may just be overused. Building your business marketing and lead generation based on something that will not work is just setting yourself up for failure. It’s like building a house on a weak and crumbling foundation. There’s not a good way to do it.  

The best way to generate leads online today is by being patient and following the right steps that will prepare you for future success. The first step is very important because it sets the stage for everything else that you will do. 

  1. Identify Your Ideal Target Audience 

You first need to identify the most perfect and ideal customer. Without first identifying this, you will have no success in your marketing attempts. You will truly have no idea how to successfully sell your product. You need to know your customer base.

You need to clearly identify your ideal audience’s demographic, geographic and psychographic details. This might entail their age, gender, income, occupation, where they live, and their attitudes, beliefs and opinions. The more clearly that you are able to identify your audience, the better you’re online lead generation will be. Identifying your target audience will also help you determine their wants and needs, as well as their fears and frustrations. This information will help you determine what to advertise to help satisfy those needs or fears. 

  1. Give Your Audience What They Want 

Your audience is looking for someone or something to solve their needs. With so many similar businesses out there, it may seem difficult to stand out in the crowd. But, you will have an advantage if you choose to appeal to those locally. All it takes is a little research! One of the best ways that you can get their attention is by appealing directly to them. Once you have their geographic, demographic, and psychographic details, you will already have a solid idea of your audience’s likes and dislikes. All you will need to do is provide them content that directly addresses their needs and fears. You should also try to release content that matches their consumption style. 

  1. Research and Create 

One of the most important things that you can do is to identify what kind of content that your ideal audience likes to consume. You can do this by split-testing things such as videos, audio, emails, or articles. Once you’ve lined up your preferred content creation style and their preferred consumption style, then you will be on the road to success. You will be speaking their language and it will be nearly impossible for them to refuse! When your audience voices a problem and your business provides a unique solution, you will see success in no time. 

Once you have your content created, you can exchange that content for a name, a phone number, an email, or anything you want. With that information, you will be able to advertise your products to those people in the future. You can even give your content away for free. You just need to make sure that you have an exceptional Call-to-Action that will entice your audience to enter their information. 

  1. Be Where Your Audience Is 

This is a lead generation strategy where most people fail. One of the most important things that you should do is to push out content on the social media platform that your audience is using. In other words, be where your audience is. A common mistake that people make is picking the channel first and then posting their content there. This isn’t the smartest move because businesses are marketing where their target audience isn’t even active or present. If your target audience isn’t active or present where you are posting, then you should not be posting your content there. Stop listening to the marketing gurus that are telling you otherwise! You need to first identify where your audience is and then focus on distributing your content on that platform. 

We suggest checking out Facebook because it’s known as one of the most effective places to generate leads online. Not only does Facebook have a massive amount of users, but it also has an easy to understand and detailed advertising platform. We also encourage businesses to consider YouTube. YouTube is a search-based platform, which makes for a great advertising tool. Users can log in and literally look up an exact solution for a problem that they have. 

  1. Now… Create Online Ads 

Another mistake that most people make is that they start their marketing journey with paid advertising before they sort out the details. People tend to go into paid ads not knowing what’s going to work, what content is going to resonate with their audience, or if they’re distributing their content on the right channel. This tactic leads to wasted money and tons of losses. Paid advertising should always be your final step because you need to know all the information in steps 1 through 4 before you start spending your money. At this point, you know your ideal customer, their wants and needs, and what kind of content you need to create. By knowing all of this information about your audience, you will have a pretty good idea of what’s going to work and what’s not going to work. From there, you can freely spend money on paid ads with the confidence that it’s going to work. 

Just by following these five steps, you’ll be ahead of your competition and conquering the lead generation! Before you do anything, remember that you first need a strategy and then a tactic.

How to Detect Malware on your Website

Anyone who has ever dealt with malware on their website would probably agree that they never want to deal with it again. Those who have never had problems with malware should count their lucky stars.

According to research, a person may have malware on their website or device and be completely unaware that they have it. It’s an unfortunate, pain-in-the-rear situation that over 18.5 million websites deal with weekly. That’s right… Over 18.5 million websites are victims of malware every week. The average website is attacked 44 times every day. 

What is Malware?

Malware is the combination of the words malicious software. It’s a software that was coded to destroy devices, steal data, and absolutely ruin a website. You may recognize malware as a computer virus. It also comes in other forms such as trojans, worms, malvertising, and much more. 

If you’re new to the game, we know that security terminology can sometimes be difficult to understand. But, bear with us! 

Malware usually comes from a team of hackers looking to prey on the “ignorant” of the world wide web. As the motivation for any job on the planet, these hackers are looking to make a quick buck by hacking and selling your website information to the highest bidders on the dark web. In the past, hackers would destroy technology and invade websites just for fun. Of course, there are most likely some people out there who hack websites to relieve some boredom. Though, most of the time, current malware creators do it for the moolah. A hacker’s main goal is to damage any new technology to generate some revenue. (Yes, it’s a dark world out there!)

Regardless of how malware occurs, it can cause major problems if it attacks your website. Depending on the type of malware and the device it attacks, determines what you will experience. Malware can oftentimes be well hidden on your website, even if you think you’re using a secure and reliable web hosting platform. It’s well-hidden because hackers don’t want you to know that your website is being hacked. They prefer to stay in the shadows and be as sneaky as they can!

You may be thinking, “How do I avoid this?”

If your site has already been attacked, you may be thinking, “How do I get rid of this!?”

Don’t worry, we have an answer to both! 

When it comes to malware, no website or device is safe! But, there are cautionary steps you can take to prevent it from happening. 

How do I know that I have Malware? And how do I prevent it?

If you think your website might be infected or you’re just curious to see the results, you should consider scanning your website. Google offers a free malware checker that will detect any issues on your site. 

If you suspect that your site may have issues, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to enter your URL and check out the results. 

For WordPress-based sites, Sucuri has a free plugin that has some really helpful features in regards to detecting malware. It includes WordPress hardening (putting solid security measures in place), blacklist monitoring (avoiding email delivery pitfalls), security notification, last login notification panel, and automatic site recovery. 

Certain malware attacks can be recognized almost immediately. A few telltale signs that your device (computer) has a virus is if you experience unusually slow performance, frequent crashes or errors, unexpected pop-up windows, a lack of storage space, mass or hijacked emails, high network activity, and changes to your homepage and passwords. 

Look for these signs on your website as well. As previously mentioned, hackers do not have limits. They will hack your computer and your website without a second thought. Your website might have malware if you see that your login information was changed without your consent, website files were modified or deleted, the website freezes or crashes, you’ve noticed a change in your search engine results, or you’ve experienced a drop off in traffic. 

Website malware can also change the appearance and replace your website’s content with their own message. Hackers can even prevent visitors from visiting your site. They can also hide in ads, which is known as malvertising. Malvertsing prompts users to click on an ad, which would automatically infects the visitor when they visit the site. Your website could also be the victim of a malicious redirect, which redirects your visitors to another site, especially one that looks suspicious. Hackers can also grant other hackers access to your site! When this happens, they can expose sensitive customer data, make changes to your website,  and potentially sell your information. They can also place spam content on your site, which might include strange links or never before-seen comments show up on your website. 

If your site has malware, Google will notice and not allow visitors to go to the site. That’s another way you’ll know because your website following will decrease.

Unfortunately, suspicious activity or signs of malware could give off the impression that your site is untrustworthy. If you think that your site has malware, you should aim to get it figured out right away.

How can I avoid Malware?

For all of these reasons and more, it’s important to keep an eye out for potential website or device malware. Earlier we mentioned that we had an answer on how you can avoid such a catastrophe!

You can prevent malware on your website or device by removing outdated software from your system, watching out for malicious email links, accepting tech support from a company you trust (not an unknown source), logging out of your computer or website at the end of the day, and increasing the length and difficulty of your passwords. You should also make sure that you’re using a good anti-virus for your system and accessing secure websites.

One of the easiest and most reliable ways that you can avoid malware is by hosting your website through a company that will take care of your malware issues. Unfortunately, web hosting companies like that are few and far between. Luckily, we do! With every hosting package, we offer free malware removal. That means, if your website were to ever get attacked, then we would remove it, free of charge. But, you have to be hosting with us.

Think about it! Your website would be completely protected without the added stress of having to deal with it yourself. Considering that not many web hosts provide such a package, it would be a great investment. We are proud to be one of the few.

We hope you now realize that malware can be very damaging. If not fixed, it can destroy business operations, damage a business’s reputation, or welcome the stealing of confidential data. If your website gets attacked, it’s imperative that you have a plan. You also have the option to scan your website with the free Google malware checker and see how your website is doing. Above all, do what you can to protect your website and stay safe out there!

10 Clever Ways to Respond to Negative Reviews

Every business has experienced the blunt end of negative reviews. Those who have gotten one know they can really sting. Although there are different types of “negative” reviews, many of them are intentionally snubbing your business. In some cases, you can’t even take them down!

There are a few things that employers can do once they see that negative review: they can choose to ignore the review or to respond. We recommend the latter. Although negative reviews can sometimes be a good thing, it’s more often viewed as a bad thing. Regardless, one of the best things that you can do for the reputation of your business is to RESPOND! How your business responds to those reviews will set the tone of your business to online shoppers. It also proves to your customers and search engines that you are committed to customer satisfaction.

The safest and most professional way to respond to a negative review is to apologize and offer a discount to make up for the problem. Although this technique often settles the fire, fast-food giants have made a name for themselves by responding to negative reviews with a witty comeback. In fact, this genius tactic has drawn more attention to those businesses and has generated even more revenue by doing so! You’ve seen Wendy’s Twitter account, right? You might also see this on Taco Bell’s social media, as well as Burger King and many others! Though, just because fast-food giants respond with humor does not mean that you also need to respond the same way.

Before you go out on a limb and respond with a snarky remark, think about how you want your business or brand to be viewed by the online community. Smaller businesses may have better luck showing more professionalism, unlike fast-food giants who earn more money through their quick-witted responses on social media. Regardless of the situation that you are in, you’ll need these tools to learn how to respond. Here are 10 clever ways you can respond to negative reviews.

  1. Acknowledge the issue 

One of the most widely known and accepted ways to respond to a negative review is to acknowledge the customer’s problem. This does not mean to interpret the problem the way you think it’s being presented. This means to really understand why the customer is upset and attempt to resolve the issue. An example of what you could say is: 

“ Thank you for letting us know about the issue” 

Acknowledging the issue will show the upset customer (and other prospective customers) that you care about what they have to say. It also shows your blatant professionalism and investment in great customer experience.

2. Apologize…even if you think the customer is wrong 

Acknowledging the issue and apologizing go hand in hand. You cannot apologize for what happened without acknowledging the issue. Whether the customer had a bad experience with your staff or they didn’t like your product, you should still apologize for the problem that occurred. You’d be surprised how effective a little sympathy can be. Not only does an apology appease the customer, but it also shows that you care about providing great service.

An example of this would be to say: 

“We apologize that our service did not exceed your expectations.” 

or 

“We apologize for what happened. The service you received does not align with our standards or mission.”

3. Explain the problem

In some cases, you may want to provide additional information about the problem. Every business makes mistakes and sometimes things happen that are out of your control. Adding an explanation might help your customers gain some insight into what happened on your end which resulted in less than satisfactory service. An example of this might be:

“We apologize for the inconvenience. We experienced some technical difficulties with our system, which prevented you from making a purchase. As a result, we were unable to fulfill some orders.” 

Sometimes merely explaining what happened is enough to show customers and other online shoppers that you are taking responsibility for the issue and communicating the problem.

4. Offer Compensation

A bad review should motivate you to make things right, even if you think the customer is wrong. There is always a chance that the upset reviewer may never return to your business. According to statistics, returning customers spend three times more money at a business than first-time customers. For that reason, it is very important to get that customer to come back. You could start by giving the customer a discount for their next visit. You could also offer to give them their money back, a coupon code, free or discounted shipping, or priority scheduling for their next visit. You have the opportunity to take that extra step to keep a customer coming back. For example, you could say: 

“We apologize that we did not exceed your expectations. Allow us to make up for it by providing you with a 50% coupon for any size pizza, along with a free appetizer. Please contact me at (this email) or at (this phone number) to further discuss what happened and to make up for it by providing you with a coupon code.” 

5. Offer to discuss the matter offline 

Another way that you can solve the problem is by offering to discuss the problem offline. We used this tactic as an example in the previous paragraph. Suggesting to further discuss the issue in person or over a call will be much more efficient than attempting to discuss the problem online. This allows the customer to express their thoughts about the situation and allows you to resolve the problem quicker. Following an apology, you could say:

“I would be happy to discuss this problem with you further. Please reach out to me personally via phone or email at your earliest convenience at (this email) or (this phone number).” 

Or 

“I apologize that you did not have a great experience with us. Please email me at X@email.com to resolve this issue.” 

Be sure to provide your direct name, business title, and contact information. 

The first five responses are safe and professional options for businesses that are aiming to build a respected brand. As a business owner, you have an obligation to provide your customers with the best service possible. That’s why always responding with care and professionalism will help make your customers feel like you are invested in their experience. Earlier in this article, I mentioned fast-food giants who earn more money by responding to negative reviews with a witty comeback. 

You certainly don’t have to respond safely, but it would show the angry customer and other online shoppers that your business takes ownership of the problem and will take action to resolve it. You could choose to be more expressive with your responses as some fast-food chains have done.

6. Re-negotiate the complaint, with FACTS

Sometimes, the review you’re reading just isn’t true. It might even be a fake review from a person that has never been a customer. In a situation like this, you may feel like you can’t respond with an apology or offer compensation because your business did nothing to deserve that review. The “customer is always right” doesn’t ring true in all situations. That negative review could also greatly hurt your business’s reputation unless you respond and straighten things out. If your reviewer is making false claims, combat them with facts! One example of this would be a conversation between a restaurant owner and a customer. 

A Customer gave a 1 Star review..

“Had a carrot starter dish that must’ve had an entire pot of it and was inedible, second visit had a kale salad which was dry kale and nothing else. Not a nice experience, very disappointed.” 

Restaurant owner: 

“Hello, we are sorry to hear that you did not enjoy your visit. We will point out that both food dishes you describe do not resemble anything currently or historically on our menu. Thank you.”

As you can see, the customer made a false claim and the restaurant owner responded quickly and politely with the facts. 

7. Set the tone! Turn a negative response into a positive response

As a business, you have an opportunity to steer an online conversation in a positive direction. Instead of replying to that review with anger or intent, approach the situation with a lighthearted spirit! Who says you can’t laugh at your mistakes? Use those negative reviews as a chance to own up to your mistake and laugh about it with your audience! This is also a great way to show your audience that your brand is true and authentic. There are many ways that you can do this, though your approach depends on your personality!

8. Show that you’re passionate about your business 

Think about something that a customer could say about your business that would strike a nerve. Let’s say that a customer wrote a negative review about that one thing that would bother you the most. How would you feel? You would feel pretty fired up, right? Due to the nature of the problem, your response would probably evoke some major emotion, passion, and thought.

This is what a Hell’s Kitchen in Minneapolis thought when they received a complaint that their restaurant had “too many gay people”. The restaurant owner’s response was clearly passionate and unapologetic in their beliefs. 

The Minneapolis Hell’s Kitchen staff owner decided to put out the fire by saying:

“We’re writing in response to a review you posted on Yelp a few minutes ago. It simply said “ too many gay people… 

We ask that you not return to Hell’s Kitchen again. All of us who work here, whether straight or gay, view Hell’s Kitchen as our home. We open our doors each morning and do our best to make every person kind enough to dine with us feel as if it is their home too. We do our best to make every guest feel welcome. We do our best to create an environment that gives them a chance to enjoy the company of their friends. We do our best to create an environment that is blind to any form of prejudice and we do our best to create an environment that is safe. These aren’t “business goals”… they’re just naturally in the DNA of every one of the 166 members of our Hell’s Kitchen family. 

While you’re certainly free to post any comment you want about us, we’re equally free to say you cannot enter our home again. 

Sincerely, 

Cyn, Pat and the staff at Hell’s Kitchen” 

Showing some passion for your beliefs may speak to potential customers who feel the same way!

9. Be Authentic- Don’t try to fit the mold of another brand

Customers would much rather know that they are talking to a human being rather than a bot! Think about it. Let’s say that you wrote a negative review about a business and you later saw the response was some generic and impersonal attempt to “right the wrongs”. How would that make you feel? It would make you feel like the brand just responded to you to show other online shoppers that they look at their reviews. Regardless of whether or not they respond, they did not actually fix anything. Be a bona fide conversationalist!

One of the most important things that you can do for your business is to be authentic! Part of that requirement is to decide how you want your business to be viewed by the public. Do your best to make sure that your responses do not seem like you’re trying to market your business or try to sell them something. You’ll be much better off by being authentic. Use your response as an opportunity to show your real authentic, genuine brand.

10. Stake your ground and exact vengeance 

Although getting “revenge” on somebody is never the answer, it can prove beneficial in extreme situations (at least it did for one restaurant owner). We recently released an article that explained how negative reviews can sometimes be a good thing. If they are not handled properly, they can also be very damaging to your brand reputation. 

Depending on your business brand and reputation, it might be worth your while to tell a customer that he or she is wrong! It worked for this specific restaurant owner. 

A customer left a 1-star review of Vito’s Italian Restaurant and said: 

“ Went here on a date, for starters was served raw garlic bread that fell to pieces as you picked it up, tasted discusting, for the main we had two freezing cold steaks with sauce on top that turned into skin. The veg that came with it was so raw that it nearly broke my teeth. Vito does not have any idea how to cook! How this place is still open, I have no idea! It probably is the worst but most expensive place to eat in Sheffield. Warning to all don’t go there”. 

The business owner recognized the review was written by the same guest who “dined and dashed” in his restaurant earlier that year. He decided to seek revenge in his review by destroying the guest’s credibility. The restaurant owner replied: 

“You fail to mention that after eating all of your meal you subsequently did a “runner” and did not pay for the food you ate. Luckily, your antics were captured by my CCTV system. I would, therefore, invite anyone reading this review to take a look at my restaurant page (Facebook) and view the CCTV footage to witness your disgraceful behavior. You simply came for a meal at my restaurant when you knew from the word off you had no intentions of paying. After finishing your meal, you did not complain about anything. You merely said you were popping outside for a cigarette (as some customers do). However, you then decided along with your delightful “date” (the one hiding behind the skip on the CCTV camera footage) that you would not pay the bill – what a nice way to impress a woman!” 

The kicker in this response is that the restaurant owner not only proved the reviewer wrong, but he invited others reading the review to check out a video of the guest’s behavior. We don’t recommend trying to prove the reviewer wrong or to get revenge in some way. In an extreme case like this one, those otherwise “frowned upon” responses might help you at least discredit the reviewer. As a victim of two different dine and dash instances, the business owner might have had a right to call the guest out for his behavior! 

Before you respond to that negative review, decide how you want your business to be seen by the public. Responding to the review is the first step in maintaining the reputation of your business and keeping those customers coming back! The review you received might be unfair or it may be well deserved. Regardless of what was said, choose your words wisely. 

Hostirian 2019 SSAE 18 SOC 2

Get the report: Hostirian 2019 SOC 2 Type II

St. Louis, MO  April 21, 2020 – Hostirian, LLC, a provider of technological solutions, announced today that it has successfully completed a System and Organization Controls (SOC) 2® Type II Audit examination for their Colocation Data Center System. Hostirian, LLC retained international business advisory firm Skoda Minotti for its SOC 2® audit work. Hostirian, LLC selected Skoda Minotti after an intensive search based on their reputation as a leading risk advisory and compliance firm.

Ben Osbrach, CISSP, CISA, QSA, CICP, CCSFP, partner-in-charge of Skoda Minotti’s risk advisory group said, “We were excited to work with Hostirian from the very start. They are an intriguing organization delivering high-quality services and their business adds to our growing SOC reporting practice.”

SOC 2® engagements are performed in accordance with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ (AICPA) AT-C 205, Reporting on controls at a service organization based on the trust service principles outlined in the AICPA Guide and reporting on controls at a service organization relevant to security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality or privacy. The SOC 2® Type II report is performed by an independent auditing firm and is intended to provide an understanding of the service organization’s suitability of the design and operating effectiveness of its internal controls. A service organization may select any or all of the trust service principles applicable to their business and Hostirian chose to report on security. The successful completion of this voluntary engagement illustrates Hostirian’s ongoing commitment to create and maintain a secure operating environment for their clients’ confidential data.

Skoda Minotti’s testing of Hostirian’s controls included examination of their policies and procedures regarding network connectivity, firewall configurations, systems development life cycle, computer operations, logical access, data transmission, backup and disaster recovery and other critical operational areas of their business. Upon completion of the audit, Hostirian received a Service Auditor’s Report with an unqualified opinion demonstrating that their policies, procedures, and infrastructure meet or exceed the stringent SOC 2® criteria.

“The successful completion of our SOC 2® Type II examination audit provides Hostirian’s clients with the assurance that the controls and safeguards we employ to protect and secure their data are in line with industry standards and best practices,” said Ken Cox, CEO.

About – Hostirian, LLC

Hostirian is a wholly-owned company of River City Internet Group, LLC. Hostirian is responsible for various activities related to managing client systems. The types of service offerings available are listed below.

Hostirian’s data centers are located on 11756 Borman Drive, St. Louis, MO 63146 and at 710 N. Tucker, Suite 420, St. Louis, MO 63101. Hostirian’s data centers are 10,000 square feet and 16,000 square feet data operation facilities intended to provide uninterrupted power and service for Hostirian clients. The facilities are designed to greatly reduce client downtime and operate under supervision 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year. The data centers currently host, monitor and/or manage user systems located within the two facilities. The colocation model is available to all Hostirian clients and allows Hostirian to act as the client’s server or data warehouse.

The colocation model provides 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year on-site live support services for basic reboots, rack or cage space, and power to customer-owned equipment.

About – Skoda Minotti

Skoda Minotti is a Certified Public Accounting Firm based in Cleveland, OH offering a variety of tax, finance, and business advisory services in virtually every area of business. The Risk Advisory practice specializes in SOC Reporting, PCI DSS Compliance, HIPAA Compliance and HITRUST validation, FISMA, NIST, ISO 27001, Vulnerability and Penetration Testing, and other regulatory information security assessments. Staffs in Skoda Minotti’s Risk Advisory hold several industry certifications including Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA), Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), Qualified Security Assessor (QSA), GIAC Penetration Tester (GPEN), and GIAC Web Application Penetration Tester (GWAPT). For more information about Skoda Minotti’s Risk Advisory Services, please visit skodaminotti.com/risk.