Thursday, September 29, 2011

Some Thoughts to Digest on Identity Theft

Identity theft….Credit Card Protection….Data Breach….Fraud Alert….Credit Freeze.   All phrases no one wants to hear but they remain front and center in our lives.
Let’s face it, we live in a world where crime rises as the economy falls.  As people lose their jobs or become “under-employed”, they may become desperate to meet their financial obligations.  And unfortunately, sometimes people turn to crime.  Crime is not always robbing a bank or breaking into a home or business.  Sometimes it becomes a bit more personal……identity theft.
We are seeing a dramatic rise in identity theft.  According to the Washington Post, there were more than 8.1 million victims in 2010 alone.  By capturing some basic information like social security number, date of birth, and address, thieves can open new credit card accounts, bank accounts, and even make major purchases like cars in YOUR name.  Any of you who have experienced identity theft can attest to the time and expense it takes to repair your name and credit ratings.
Individuals have become more aware of the threat of identity theft.  Many families are shredding their personal information like charge card receipts, bank statements, utility bills, checks, etc. before disposing of them.  While this habit certainly helps, an individual needs to do more.
Businesses have been fighting back, by participating in programs like “PCI Compliance”.  PCI Compliance is a standard set by the credit card industry to ensure secure handling and data retention for credit card transactions.  Compliance includes a checklist of steps like criminal background checks on employees, encrypting the data transmissions of sensitive information, using and maintaining anti-virus software within a data platform, and more.  If a business does not adhere to PCI compliance regulations, and a data breach occurs, the compromised business may be subject to additional fines and/or penalties.
A data breach can be extremely costly to a business. According to Information Week, the cleanup of the latest Sony data breach of their Playstation network will cost the company upwards of $171 million!
Many businesses have begun purchasing insurance programs to provide coverage for credit repairs should a breach occur.  Many of these are limited programs and provide only notification, not assistance in repairing the damage. Those services come as an extra cost on many polices.
A new trend is developing in the market that is little known to the consumers.  Businesses are purchasing identity theft solutions for their data bases, which can be upsold to provide comprehensive coverage to the consumer for a dramatically reduced price.  Because the large corporations have the power of a substantial subscriber base, they are able to negotiate favorable rates for their customers.  These programs are being packaged as another “benefit” to being a customer or member of an organization.   Comcast is the latest example of a business to roll out a program for it’s customers, calling it “Constant Guard from Xfinity”.
Whether you have a business looking to add an identity program to your suite of products or an organization or union looking to add benefits for your members, contact me @Davehanron on Twitter or via email at for more information on the available programs.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Social Media & A Bad Economy

Today’s economy is definitely going in a downward spiral.  Companies are making personnel moves to cut costs to remain profitable.  After 5+ years of economic downturn, are ongoing layoffs and operating budget cuts still the answer?

In any economic model, the basic principle of “Supply & Demand” can be applied.  Is it a sound financial decision to continue to reduce a company’s payroll and marketing budget (which will reduce the “Demand” side of the equation as fewer new customers are brought into the mix, in turn reducing the “Supply” side of the business which is represented by the company’s products which generate the revenues necessary to run the company) to keep profits and EBITDA (a widely used term by those in finance, “Earnings Before Interest Taxes Depreciation & Amortization) at a targeted level? 

Let’s talk about that for a bit…….

By cutting marketing and advertising budgets, a corporation can certainly give the appearance of maintaining profits at an acceptable level.  But is that decision a wise decision by the company’s executives in the long run.  By cutting marketing, future sales will inevitably be lost….and new sales are the lifeblood of any company’s future.  Many of today’s marketing efforts rely on the use of social media.  While social media may seem “free” to the individual user, the cost for corporate programs can reach as high as $10,000+ per month.  The problem we face is being able to quantify the value of social efforts.  Implementing and maintaining a sound social media program can be extremely labor intensive for large corporations.  In order to justify the budget required to maintain the social media efforts, the program directors have the difficult task of demonstrating the “Return on Investment” or “ROI”. 

Demonstrating ROI on a social media program has been debated over and over recently and there are many opinions on how to do it.  Some companies count “Followers” on their Twitter account, some look at “Friends” on Facebook, others look to reviews on Digg or Yelp as a success.  But how do you turn this into real dollars when trying to present to a Board of Directors looking to slash the budget?

Ultimately, there is no right or wrong answer.  It is individual preference on how to present your case.  I’ve always kept track of prospective customers generated by my social media efforts and could easily track the closed sales resulting from them.  But I’m only one person.  When we talk corporate level social media with hundreds of people working on it, the reach of ROI becomes exponentially larger and more difficult to demonstrate. 

If you have had success representing ROI from your social media program or have any ideas or thoughts on how to do so, I’d be interested in hearing them and helping everyone learn from your experience.

Note about the Author:  Dave Hanron has more than 20 years proven experience in corporate sales and marketing and possesses a bachelors degree in Economics from the University of Rhode Island

Saturday, September 17, 2011

1st Step to Growing Your Blog Readership

Blogging…it’s exploding into quite a phenomenon these days.

Blogs are really great tools to add to your social interaction.  They can be used for all sorts of things, from promoting your business, to voicing your opinion about a current event, or simply to keep your friends and family updated on family affairs and vacations.
Any form of advertisement, whether it’s a TV ad, radio ad, newsprint ad, internet pop up (we all love those don’t we?) or a blog, is only as good as the amount of views it receives.  That is clearly demonstrated by the difference in price for the various types of advertisements.  For instance you might pay $50 for the week to run a classified ad in your local paper or you could pay upwards of $3 million to place a 30 second TV commercial on this year’s Superbowl broadcast. 
Today there are literally millions of blogs.  According to Pingdom’s latest statistics, there were more than 152 million blogs at year’s end 2010.  With this many blogs available to read, how does the average blogger drive traffic to his/her blog?
There are loads of ways to drive traffic to your blog and opinions vary across the board on the best ways to do so.  There are several methods that I use but the first and in my opinion (IMO) perhaps easiest method you should try and consistently use is to create backlinks.
What is a backlink?  According to Wiki, “Backlinks, also known as incoming links, inbound links, inlinks, and inward links, are incoming links to a website or web page. In basic link terminology, a backlink is any link received by a web node (web page, directory, website, or top level domain from another web node.  Inbound links were originally important (prior to the emergence of search engines) as a primary means of web navigation; today, their significance lies in search engine optimization (SEO).

So how do you start creating backlinks to your blog?  Here’s where the opinions start to vary and hopefully my readers will supply some feedback on their techniques.  You can use any number of free or pay per use programs on the web which will create these for you.  Some seem to work ( is one I use) better than others or you can start creating your own by simply reading other authors blogs and posting comments on them.  When you leave a comment, be sure to leave your name as the author of  your blog appears (I use “The Business Outsource Guy”) and most importantly, leave the link to your website where your blog appears under the URL field.  Once you've followed these simple steps, congratulations! You've created your first backlink to your blog.

It takes some time to get the backlinks going but if you follow your blogs statistics (and you should be!), you will gradually start seeing the hits rise on your page, indicating you’re expanding your reach and growing your blog.

Try to spend some time each day, reading blogs and posting comments and in a very short time, you’ll begin to reap the benefits of your new blogging strategy.

Have other ideas on creating backlinks or promoting your blog that have been successful?  Please let us know how so we can all reap the rewards

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Hurricane Irene, Gillette Stadium, & Social Media...a Great Story

Hurricane Irene….another big topic for social media.  As the latest hurricane swept up the east coast of the United States last week, millions of storm victims stayed in touch by using the various forms of social media.

Twitter was feeding the local news casts with up to the minute local events like downed trees, power outages, flooding rivers, and more.  Fox 25 Boston spent a good portion of their storm coverage simply reading their “tweets” directly from the web. 
Facebook users were also heavily engaged.  My small following of Facebook “friends” were busy posting news about trees down in their yards, tales of sad children with no power to watch TV or play video games (remember those days?), etc.  Those without power were typing away on their smartphones and iPads.
In the days following the storm, Twitter and Facebook were used extensively to criticize the power companies for the perceived lack of attention to the power outages.  Whether true or not, residents of the Boston suburb of Foxboro were particularly harsh in their opinions of Gillette Stadium getting power restored in time for the New England Patriots’ Thursday night home game against the NY Giants while the majority of the town remained without electricity.  The Patriots owner, Robert Kraft, and his staff reacted to the story swiftly, explaining that the home of the Patriots actually ran off a sub-station in the nearby town of Wrentham and that the Patriots had paid a substantial sum to the local power company in 1996, National Grid, to have upgrades done to the substation in case of an outage.  According to James Nolan, senior vice president of operations, administration and finance for the stadium and the Patriots, ''This would guarantee that we would still have power if the feed was lost from one of the substations,'' he said.
Mr. Kraft also reminded people that the New England Patriots and his other business interests had donated the use of their privately owned backup generators to the town to help provide emergency power for key locations in Foxboro.
This story is a great example of how monitoring and reacting to social media feeds can have a dramatic impact on a business brand.  While the Patriots were initially subject to criticism because of perceived favoritism by National Grid, they did a great job of turning it around by explaining to the public they had not only funded the improvements to the substation, but that they also had donated their own private generators to the town.  What could have been a publicity nightmare was handled swiftly and professionally due to the presence of a social media monitoring and engagement program.
IMO, I think the Patriots should be commended on their handling of this potentially damaging publicity, and their quick actions of presenting their side of the story.  As more and more people are exposed to social media, the need of monitoring will continue to grow exponentially.
If you are interested in learning more about available programs, drop me a note @DaveHanron on Twitter or email me at