Keep Your Business Information Quiet: Loose Lips Sink Companies

We have this idea that computer hackers are ingeniously bright people. We hear stories, true or otherwise, as to how they seem to finagle valuable information from us, using the most sophisticated social engineering techniques. In reality, they often use such tricky questions as, “I’m calling from the IT Department. We’re doing some system checks on your T-3 line. I’ll need to reprogram your current password with a new one. You’re using the one that’s all letters, right?”

And so we dutifully comply with what seems to be a reasonable and logical request from some resident authority figure who surely has our best interests in mind. Often within minutes, we will reveal confidential company or personal information, over the phone, or through an email reply to a complete stranger who talks or writes a good line.

Reading all this and reflecting on your own sense of eternal security vigilance, you’ll swear that you’d never give out a byte of confidential or important data, over the phone, across cyberspace, or even face-to-face. Your motto is: “Hang me up by my thumbs for a week and I still wouldn’t even tell you my first name.”

And all this may be true when you believe the information requester may be a wolf in sheep’s leggings, but how about when the asker-to-be is from your local or national news media? Are you still tight-lipped and careful, or do you get caught up in the glow of the First Amendment’s pad and pen, the video camera, or the microphone? It’s hard for even savvy security professionals not to spill some beans when faced with the often flattering request for information and a chance to demonstrate subject matter expertise.

But just as loose lips sink ships, the desire to provide information to the media must be measured by the impact, or more accurately, the harms a few words or figures can betray.

Several years ago, the Business section of the Orange County (Calif.) Register, featured a two-page photo spread on the history of the Southland Corporation’s reason for being: the 7-11 store. Along with a history of the Big Gulp business, the piece featured an interview with Anaheim 7-11 franchisee Herb Domeño, owner of nine stores, including the site at Katella and Harbor. For those not familiar with southern California real estate, this prime property is directly adjacent to an Enchanted Kingdom knows as Disneyland.

Back then, Mr. Domeño’s stone’s throw-to-Disneyland convenience store boasted the highest sales volume in the country – an average of $3 million per year, clearly above the national sales-per-store average of about $1.3 million per year.

Taking out our trusty calculators, we could have determined that, give or take some up or down days in the boom-boom 1990’s, Mr. Domeño’s enterprise took in about $8,000 per day.

And how did we discern this figure? It’s easy to uncover, especially when the $3 million sales amount is featured boldly in the photo caption of Mr. Domeño in his cash-cow store. (By the way, the new national sales record for one 7-11 convenience store belongs to the folks running the show in Southampton, NY.

So what has the Orange County Register just told every enterprising convenience store robber who can read? This place is full of cash and even if they aren’t cleaning up like they did before Disneyland closed a nearby parking lot to make room for its California Adventure addition, Mr. Stickup Artist has to believe it’s worth a shot.

Even if the daily revenue figure is adjusted for slow days and customers who pay with debit or credit cards, it’s still a substantial amount of cash that is either on the premises or being moved, via some safe means we hope, to the bank.

In times of organizational crisis, it’s wise to have a designated member of the executive team speak to the print or TV media. This person will have the training, experience, and savvy to say the right things, at the right times. News gatherers, on the other hand, won’t always seek out your Director of Corporate Communications (or similarly-titled representative). If they want the juicy details, any gossip, or the “inside story,” they might go to any executive or manager they can find, or worse, to an employee, who gives an opinion as if it was a fact.

In a perfect world, the security professional would also be part of the discussion and review of any press release, placed article, or editorial coming from the organization that has any security-related content. “Facts and figures” statements tossed out like: “Our security system is so sophisticated it only takes one guard per eight-hour shift to operate it,” or “Our jewelry store revenues have never been higher” might be great PR, but they can turn your business into a new target, by people or groups who never considered it as one before.

If you’re tasked with speaking to a media member about any aspect of your business operations or performance, choose your words carefully. Use the technique every politician is trained in from birth: bridging. Bridging simply requires you to “bridge over” to the question you want to answer versus the question you’re asked.

This approach works best when you’re asked the question you don’t really want to answer, i.e. Reporter: “Isn’t it true that your firm’s movement to stricter access control has created a `prison camp environment’ for your employees and customers?” Security Professional: “As you know, our approach has always been to put the safety and security needs of our people and our customers first. As such, we believe in creating the best working environment possible…”

Get the idea? You don’t answer a direct, confrontive question with a direct, assertive answer on point. You vary the response to make sure you cover your points, not theirs.
When in doubt, choose to be bland, especially with any information that hints of having a financial, proprietary, or trade-secret connection. “We’ve got a good handle on our inventory” sounds so much better than, “We’ve got a ton of expensive stuff laying around our warehouse.”

The old adage all publicity is good publicity has its exceptions. Better for people to read about your firm and have to make assumptions about your security, than to know too much detail.

How to Start a Business Information As a Unique Christmas Gift

Starting a business in no “walk in the park” for most of us. There are expenses to consider, the likely hood of success verses failure. A person has to take their time to research their idea, find out every scrap of information they possibly can about this business. In truth starting a business from scratch is a whole lot of hard work. Just when you think you have asked every possible question there is a dozen more pop up. Would it not be a unique Christmas gift to find a way to help your friend or loved one with some of that much needed information?

When searching for a business to start many of us do not have thousands and thousands of dollars in liquid assets to invest in a franchise. Today’s new business owners have had to get creative and find “real” businesses that can be operated from home. This is where the word “real” applies, there are many scammers out there trying to get your money. You will see overwhelming amounts of sites that offer to make you rich while you are lazy, asleep, in your pajamas – you name it! And get this – it will only cost you 29.00 to start your business. Get real; it is not going to happen so easily.

Creative people need to think outside the box to find a business that they can work from home. Look at service businesses especially. Mobile gyms, mobile pet care, mobile car wash, mobile windshield, mobile oil change and mobile lawnmower repair. People are starting cleaning businesses, delivery service and daycare centers in and from their own home. These businesses allow you to start and run them from your own home at a much lower cost than your typical “sticks and bricks” businesses.

Back to the unique Christmas gift, that is easy. If you know someone who is looking to start their own business but needs guidance, support and most of all information why not do a little research yourself and print it out, put it in a binder and present that as a gift? Or better yet, if you can find a “How to Start” manual that applies to the subject your friend or loved one is interested in buy it as a gift. It not only shows that you are a crafty shopper but a person who cares about their dream. It shows your support for their idea.

Just a thought…

Business Hubs: Your Business Information Center

Those who want to harness the power of the Internet for growing their business; a business hub is where they will find a variety of resources as well as marketing tips and strategies. The Internet has changed the way businesses operate and reach customers. Businesses have to match their strategies to this new arena. Most traditional marketing methods will not work online, so they have to learn new marketing strategies for increasing their online presence.

There are plenty of Internet marketing methods-some are niche-specific, while some work across different industries. Marketing online is relatively more affordable than traditional advertising. When approached the right way, they can give your company the boost it needs. But where is the best place to go to learn those marketing strategies?

A business hub, which also known as web hub or vertical portal, is a website dedicated to providing content, information, and services to businesses within a particular industry such as health care and IT. While some serve as meeting ground for businesses and customers, it tends to focus more on the needs of businesses than industry customers.

As a business-to-business website, a business hub can serve as your gateway to essential information on how to grow your business. They typically cover information specific to a niche, but they may also include general marketing information (e.g. Facebook marketing, article marketing). Some also offer industry analysis or business design. Here are some of the most common business marketing strategies covered by business hubs.

  • Article marketing.Article marketing is a method of promoting a business or company by publishing keyword-optimized articles in web directories. When properly done, it is an effective tool for reaching broad audience and showing them your expertise.
  • Cloud Marketing.This is the collection of different Internet-based marketing services, allowing marketing functions to operate more efficient and effectively.
  • Consumer Generated Marketing.This is a marketing method that directly involves participation of audience in marketing products or other activities of business.
  • Facebook Marketing.This looks at Facebook as a platform for marketing one’s business and reaching audience.

Summary of Benefits Business hubs share 3 common aspects:

  1. Marketing resource.Business hubs are great source of information on how a company or business can thrive online. It gives you quick access to different marketing strategies and other relevant information-tools you need to stand ahead of the pack.
  2. Niche-specific information resource.Because it caters to niche markets, you don’t have to sort through millions of web pages to find the information most relevant to your industry. If you’re new to online business and don’t know where to start or what direction to take next, you may find the answers in a business hub.
  3. It serves as a directory of different businesses in the industry. Most keep a listing of companies offering industry-specific services. All in all, business hubs function as a reference center for people who want the ins and outs of an industry in particular and the world of Internet-based business in general.

Building Your Coaching Business – Information Marketing – What to Do When You Get the Appointment

Here are some power questions that will grab your prospective client when you have your meeting.

Stop selling, and start helping. You will see your sales close ratio go up 5-10 times from where you are if you’ve been “selling” during those meetings.

Although this article is meant to show you how to follow up the Information Marketing letters we mentioned in the previous article, this approach still works for almost any sales appointment.

Just keep in mind that “you are not there to sell,” you are there “to help.” There is a clear distinction, at least as far as how the prospect perceives it.

Does that mean that you aren’t going to close, no, you will. However, you MUST be there to help him no matter where that may go. You are there to help the prospect find the answers he needs to solve the problems you are going to help him discover. You will work on HIS problems together heading for the answers. When he finds those answers, he will recognize that you were the one that guided him there. And, in most cases, there is still more work to do. He’ll want you around to help him find more and more answers, and help him implement the actions.

Since you are not here to SELL, you will not be in the TELL mode. You will be coaching him to find his most important answers to his most important problems.

Here are some questions that just might help:

Start your meeting off by asking them to explain what was the most beneficial thing they got from the article (assuming this is the follow up to that information marketing campaign). If this isn’t a follow-up to an information article campaign then just go directly into the questions that follow.

  • What are your biggest goals for your business this year?
  • What are they worth to you, if you could achieve them?
  • If you could achieve them sooner than expected, what would that do for you?
  • What has been the biggest obstacles to you pulling that off?
  • What might have delayed achieving those on time?
  • If you could solve those problems in the next week or two, what would that do for you?
  • What has it cost you for not achieving those?
  • What is it costing you every week that you don’t achieve those goals?

You want the prospect to define the value of achieving those goals in dollars and cents. What it has cost them in not achieving them. That sets a value for moving forward and a cost for not acting.

You’ll see that most will decide to move forward either at this meeting, or a meeting that follows up quickly.

If the prospect ultimately says he isn’t ready to move forward, what do you do?

Ask him when he absolutely has to have this problem resolved?

Make sure that you know what the weekly cost to him is for every week that this is delayed, because the chances are that the delay is more costly than your fee. This might be worth a discussion before leaving.

When he gives you a date, ask him if he’d like to continue receiving your articles on how to resolve his problems. He’ll be on your list, and it wouldn’t hurt to have some hints and tips about it.

When the date comes up, give him a call. There is a really big chance that he hasn’t done anything to fix the problem. In that case, show a concern that he said it was costing him $______ a week, and you have some other suggestions that might help out. Schedule another appointment to talk it over.

Remember, your fees ARE going to be less than the costs he is facing in not getting it fixed.

You are selling your value, not coaching or consulting. Be able to give a testimonial that shows how much other clients gained from your coaching.