How to Combat Email Phishing and Other COVID 19 Scams

How to Combat Email Phishing and Other COVID 19 Scams


Ever since the outbreak of COVID-19, the number of cyber scams have alarmingly increased as scammers try to prey on a fearful global community. Over the last few weeks, especially, people around the world have raised concerns about receiving various forms of email phishing, such as false alerts, scam threads, and misleading emails.

COVID-19 Scams

We at Zoho Campaigns are concerned about the privacy and safety of our customers and your personal information, so this is a brief article on how you can avoid falling victim to phishing.

Why would someone send phishing emails now?

Cyber criminals are conveniently using the pandemic as a means to get access to people’s sensitive data through emails delivered to their computer systems and phones. These fraudulent emails capitalize on the fear of the recipients and their concerns about their protection against the virus, both physically and economically.

Additionally, there’s also been a sharp rise in the number of website (domain) registrations and SSL certificates that carry the name “COVID,” “Corona,” or “COVID-19.”

Phishing is primarily done for the hacker to locate and control your details like passwords, credentials, credit card information, and more. It could arrive as a malicious link click, malware download, or information feed of any kind through emails. As recipients are more likely to cede to their fears and perform any action stated in the emails to safeguard their health and safety, these cyber criminals have been thriving steadily for the last few weeks.

What could be treated as a phishing email?

Now that we know the intention behind these hackers, the next focus is to identify what could be potentially classified as phishing emails. At times like this, it’s likely that recipients will receive empathetic emails from brands that show care and support. But it’s also important to avoid certain emails that can unknowingly bring harm to you.

Here are some common email types that have been received by users worldwide and treated as phishing:

Impersonating government or international bodies

These emails mention the World Health Organization (WHO), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and so on, in the email content, subject line, or the sender address, while including malicious URLs that take you to random websites or attachments that can spoil your system when downloaded.

Eg. WHO does not send email from addresses ending in ‘@who.com’ , ‘@who.org’ or ‘@who-safety.org’.

COVID-19 Scam

[Source: Proofpoint]

Donations, financial or relief aids, and charitable trusts

Most scammers send these emails in order to collect money from you either through bank transactions or bitcoins. Additionally, they can also hack your banking accounts, retrieve personal data, and cause problems with future transactions. Some emails even offer fake tax refund eligibility for the donation that you may provide.

COVID-19 Scams

[Source: Mimecast]

Medicinal cures, face masks, and vaccines

Since many people are captured by the fear of the disease, scammers will prey upon this fear and project false goodwill in the form of health advice or a remedy to the disease through medicines and vaccines. Emails may specify purchasing these vaccines, home remedial cures, or even face masks—a way for the hackers to get your data and cheat you with wrong products or leave you empty-handed.

COVID-19 Scam

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[Source: Forbes – Phishing email promising a vaccine for COVID-19.]

Travel, entertainment, and logistics

With transportation, manufacturing, and many other industries stalled, scammers are sending emails with lucrative offers and coupons to redeem for entertainment or travel facilities—for example, a subscription to movie-hosting services or a false renewal for a travel ticket that was already canceled.

COVID-19 Scams

[Source: Economic Times – A sample WhatsApp message people were asked to send, after filling up a survey in the fake email sent regarding Netflix’s free subscription for the lockdown period.]

Steps to avoid the risk of Covid-19 scams and phishing

While you can’t completely stop cyber attackers from sending phishing emails, there are some precautionary steps you can take before you respond to an email. Here’s a quick five-point checklist:

1. Verify the sender’s email address and name before you open and process the email. Additionally, look out for the brand/company logo to ensure credibility.

2. Don’t download the attachments before you read the email content fully. Also, in any case of suspect or misleading content, avoid any kind of email downloads.

3. Before clicking on the inline URLs or call-to-action buttons, hover your cursor over the link to see where it leads. There are many fake domains that may be interlinked but kept discreet with convincing inline URL text (for example, a link that reads “WHO” taking you to the scam website). So, copy and paste the URL embedded in the text instead of clicking.

4. Ensure the email content doesn’t have many spelling errors, grammatical mistakes, or faulty layouts.

5. Don’t rush to provide your personal information when asked in any manner inside the email—form, survey, or fields. Think twice and validate your call before feeding your details for anything, from submission to transaction.

Legitimate sources of COVID-19 information

Instead of giving in to scam emails, follow some authentic and credible sources of information like the WHO and CDC. You can also keep tabs on your preferred online news platforms, official/government-run news sources (online and offline), social channels, or e-magazines, to stay up to date.

You can also check the live dashboard from Zoho, which reflects COVID-19 statistics from countries across the world.

We hope you and your family stay safe, both from the virus as well as the cyber criminals and their email phishing activities.

Take care, and feel free to get in touch with us at support@zohocampaigns.com for any assistance.

~ Zoho Campaigns Team




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Zoho Vault: Say Goodbye to Security Threats, Create Strong Passwords

Zoho Vault: Say Goodbye to Security Threats, Create Strong Passwords


Creating unique and strong passwords for every employee while adding them to your organization’s Zoho People account can be a little challenging. This is mainly because the passwords should be lengthy, unpredictable, and include a combination of numbers, letters, and special characters. Personally identifiable information including the organization’s name or the employee’s name should not be used.

Creating such strong passwords, especially when you have to add several users to your Zoho People account at once, can be tiring and time-consuming. However, password security is something that should not be compromised at any cost. According to a Data Breach Investigations Report, 80% of data breaches related to hacking are caused by the lack of strong passwords.

Zoho People – Zoho Vault Integration

At Zoho People and People Plus, we are constantly exploring different opportunities to make people management as easy and simple as possible for your organization. As part of our efforts, we’re excited to announce our integration with Zoho Vault. It’s a cloud-based password management system that stores, shares, generates, and manages different passwords. Zoho Vault ensures the highest level of confidentiality and security, preventing unauthorized entries.

How can Zoho Vault for Zoho People benefit your organization?

With this integration, you don’t have to go through the pain of creating a unique strong password for each user when adding them to your organization account. Zoho Vault generates secured strong passwords automatically while adding or importing users directly. It also allows you to select the complexity of the password by providing strong, moderate, and less strict options.

Strong passwords are created using multiple special characters, symbols, and uppercase letters, making them difficult to crack. This goes a long way toward protecting your online accounts and user identity. Auto-generated passwords are rated as one of the most secured passwords.

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How can Zoho Vault for Zoho People Plus benefit your organization?

The newest addition to our Zoho People Plus suite, Zoho Vault, can do wonders for your organization. It makes the password management process easy and efficient. You don’t have to worry about hackers as Zoho Vault follows strong password encryption procedures. With this integration, you can:

  • Save and manage all your essential passwords from a centralized location
  • Access all your passwords, even from your mobile
  • Use two-factor authentication to add an extra level of security
  • Alert users whenever their password is about to expire

Secure your passwords and keep trespassers at bay by making the most of our Zoho Vault integration. In Zoho People, the integration can be enabled in just a few steps.

The complete procedure has been explained clearly in our help doc. In Zoho People Plus, Zoho Vault is readily available along with the bundle. Take this integration for a spin and let us know what you think!

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The Importance of Teaching Kids About Cybersecurity and Privacy

The Importance of Teaching Kids About Cybersecurity and Privacy


Technological advancements have redefined the way we live, across generations. With easy access to the internet, we can now conveniently stay safe and work from the comforts of our home. Educational institutions have switched to online learning as well to combat the ongoing pandemic. With an unprecedented amount of reliance on smart devices and online applications from people of all ages, basic cyber awareness is now more important than ever.

While the IT departments of most organizations take measures to protect their business data and conduct frequent sessions to educate their employees on the importance of cyber security, our little ones at home are often left to play or study unmonitored. Kids lack complete awareness of online safety and the potential risks involving cyber attacks. Over three in five children have access to the internet, and they spend over 45 hours per week online. As the internet becomes an inseparable part of childhood, there’s no better time than now for us to talk about internet safety, and we have some cybersecurity tips to help you get started.

Create Cybersecurity Awareness

Mobile devices and the internet have become a common, entangled part of the lives of today’s kids and it’s important to teach them about privacy, computer security, and social media safety at an early age. Brief them about issues such as cyber bullying, phishing, cyber threats, and their impacts.

Secure their devices

If you and your children share a common computer in the house, it’s essential to keep your system updated with the latest upgrades. This increases your device’s safety, protecting your personal and financial details from any imminent cyber threats.

Talk to them about privacy

Kids are often attracted by the lure of online games and social media. Remind them never to share personally identifiable information or financial details with online applications or services and teach them the difference between safe and malicious applications.

Popular social media services like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok require users to be at least 13 years old to sign up, however, many underage users still join. Talk to your children about the impacts of sharing sensitive details on social media and the risks of interacting with strangers online. If you wish to monitor your children’s online activity, use parental controls on their device.

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Use strong passwords

Passwords are the first line of defense for any account and their security should never be compromised. Encourage your kids to use complex passwords that include symbols, numbers, upper and lower case letters. To help them generate and remember strong passwords, add them to your family’s password manager account.

Restrict access from public networks

The appeal of free WiFi in public places could get kids with data restrictions excited. However, potential attackers can steal data transmitted through unsecured networks. Instruct your kids never to access sensitive information or to even completely avoid connecting to such networks.

Take them offline

Ensure your kids spend some quality time off-screen to prevent them from getting addicted to being online. Limit their screen time and encourage them to try spending some time outdoors, reading a book, or making something creative.

We hope these tips were helpful. Let us know if you have other online safety tips for kids in the comment section below!

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Violet Press Greeting Card Business: It’s so Hard to Imagine Life Pre-Zoho

Violet Press Greeting Card Business: It’s so Hard to Imagine Life Pre-Zoho


How it all started

In 2015, Violet “Vi” Warner was an attorney in the finance industry. She had started taking printmaking classes as a break from her corporate job when she fell head over heels for letterpress.

For a while, she was a lawyer by day and printmaker by night. When she moved from Chicago to Colorado, she made the switch to printmaking full time. Since starting Violet Press, Vi’s brother, Jake, has also joined her in running the business. But going from big business lawyer to small business owner and artist meant that Vi needed tools to help run her business while leaving time for her passion: letterpress.

Business challenge

Vi’s business, Violet Press, had the unique challenge of doing two types of business, both of which needed to be run on the same software platform. Vi designs, prints, and sells wholesale greeting cards, but she also does custom wedding invitations. Wholesale inventory management and custom work require completely different software solutions, and she needed to be able to manage all of her finances in one place.

She started out working with a variety of tools, including GoDaddy. She tracked inventory manually with dry erase labels and used as much free software as she could for marketing and back-end processes. Whenever she got a new customer, she had to enter their information for her accounting software, CRM, and shipping carrier separately. Entering data multiple times and manually tracking inventory ate up all the time she could have spent growing her business.

As Vi started to exhibit at events and was picked up by Papersource, a national chain, her administrative workload increased. When she asked friends in the industry, most companies similar to hers were either still managing these processes manually or stretching their budgets to pay for Stitch Labs, an operations management software system. This could have worked, but cost more than she wanted to pay and still would have required custom work to integrate the other applications she used with Stitch Labs.

Zoho Integrated Platform Violet Press

Introducing Zoho

Vi decided to switch everything over to Zoho One after doing lots of research to find a single system that could integrate a CRM with both finance and production tools. Her main goal was to find a system where she could add a customer once, and then be able to track them throughout their journey with Violet Press. Now, she runs her business on an integrated platform that includes her customer management, production, and finance tools, as well as giving her tools to manage production and marketing.

Her custom work became much easier to manage. Vi is able to handle custom orders entirely on Zoho CRM in the Deals module. In CRM, she can track each stage of production as she works. And the automation built into the platform has been huge for Vi as a small business owner who has to wear every hat: automated invoices and shipping information make everything very professional and keep things under control, even when she’s busy with other work.

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For her wholesale greeting cards, Vi uses Zoho CRM to manage her customers and the Zoho Finance Suite to manage her production and billing. Zoho Inventory not only helps her keep track of how many cards she has, but also streamlines production. Instead of creating one card at a time, she saves time by searching Zoho Inventory for other cards that are low in stock and use the same colors, so she can print in batches.

She’s also using some of the marketing tools in Zoho One: PageSense is connected to her Wix site and helps to refine her messaging and promote her business. And for new releases, specials in store, or when she’s hosting a printing workshop, she uses Zoho Campaigns to reach her audience via email.

Zoho One’s reporting capabilities mean that she’s able to spend less time on production as well as administrative tasks. When making a new batch of cards, she easily runs reports to see how much of a certain item was sold last year so she can cut down on stock that sits in her shop, as well as time spent reprinting cards when they sell out. This also means that Violet Press is able to avoid losing revenue by making sure popular cards are kept in stock. And instead of manually tracking commission in an Excel spreadsheet at the end of each month, she can simply tag invoices as they come in and then the commission report is generated automatically.

With a complete software platform to back her up and save time, Violet Press is now focusing on expanding the custom order side of the business while moving to a more pedestrian-heavy area in downtown Longmont for her retail store.

Next steps:

Violet Press was being run by two people, Vi and Jake, and it was difficult to keep up with the ever-increasing demands of running a business without it eating into the time for making her products. Now she has been able to regain some of that time. Vi says when it comes to packing orders, “what took me all day to send a couple orders now just takes me an hour.” Money was a challenge, but now that Vi has tools to manage the workload of selling to 200 retailers and a national chain, and she has a new store front, everything’s moving in the right direction.

Vi stresses how invaluable Zoho’s support in streamlining her business was in giving back time to grow her business and escape paperwork, order management, and other tedious tasks. Ultimately, she’s been able to scale her business up. Now, she can set her mind at ease and focus on doing what she loves knowing that Zoho One will help her handle the rest.

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Pedleys Commercial Solar: Automating Biz Processes with Zoho One

Pedleys Commercial Solar: Automating Biz Processes with Zoho One


Residential and commercial solar power solution and repair company, Pedleys Solar, automates their business processes with Zoho One for a complete view of their sales process, making way for a strong focus on future growth and maintaining customer relationships. Check out Pedleys Solar.

How it all started

In 2016, Aaron Ware purchased Pedleys Solar, a residential and commercial solar panel company based in Brisbane, Australia. Previously, Ware worked as a FIFO electrician but after 15 years in the industry, decided he wanted to do something that would really make a difference for Australian families. Pedleys Solar is now a successful solar energy business servicing Brisbane and surrounding suburbs: Sunshine Coast, Hervey Bay, Gold Coast, Northern Rivers, and even Melbourne. With strong automation throughout their use of Zoho One, in the last two years, Pedleys Solar has increased their revenue by 4,000%.

Challenges

When Ware took over Pedleys Solar, the staff were using spreadsheets to track all customer data. The sales representatives would send an email with information about a customer to the admin team, who would add it to the spreadsheet. They used ServiceM8, a field service management system, to track their jobs, but had no way to keep track of leads and potential customers.

“Before Zoho, we were just running off spreadsheets. Some people, you’ll need to connect with 15 to 20 times before they buy and because we weren’t set up properly and had nothing in place, our leads were just getting lost,” said Ware.

Pedleys Solar needed a solution that could enable the team to set reminders or write notes based on customer conversations, automatically nurture leads, and track and view business analytics to help the business scale and grow.

Introducing Zoho

After hiring a sales member who spoke about his positive experience with Zoho in a previous job, Ware decided to look into it. Previously, Pedleys tested other CRM applications including Pipedrive and Hubspot, but saw limited functionality compared to Zoho CRM. Ware also spoke to a few friends in the industry using other CRM systems and found that to match Zoho’s capabilities, the price increased with every additional feature. Eventually, Ware chose Zoho CRM to manage his customer and sales data.

As Pedleys needed quite a unique CRM set up, Ware hired a Zoho Partner, Paul Roussell from The Integrators, to customize the CRM and integrate third-party applications, ServiceM8 and Xero. Being an experienced Zoho Partner since 2012, Roussell suggested Ware try out Zoho One for free for the 30-day trial. Considering both options carefully, Ware decided to upgrade to Zoho One for the ability to incorporate the other 40+ applications within the suite without increasing the subscription price. Since then, Pedleys Solar has started using Zoho Meeting, Zoho Forms, Zoho Analytics and Zoho Sign, and plans to add Zoho Inventory in the near future.

How Pedleys uses Zoho One

With the customization in Zoho CRM, integration of ServiceM8 and Xero, and the adoption of other apps within Zoho One, Pedleys Solar can now easily act on leads, track customer information, complete jobs, have contracts digitally signed, and send quotes and invoices to customers from an integrated system. “The main benefits of using Zoho are being able to control our sales process and give each customer the love and nurturing they need,” said Ware.

In Zoho CRM, every new lead is assigned to a sales manager and relevant tasks are automatically created depending on various factors including location, lead source, business size, and more. “Once we had all the APIs set up so the leads started flowing into the CRM, every lead was getting an automated text message welcoming them.

They went into a funnel where they got automated emails. We knew who had been called and how many times they were being called. Because our sales team could enter and track lead information, we knew what stage they were at: if they were building, if they were just looking, if they wanted a cheaper system, if they wanted an on-site assessment or just a phone assessment. We were able to really control that whole process,” said Ware. “Having the leads in their different stages and being able to convert them and keep an eye on everything was really important to us.”

When a lead is ready to purchase, the sales person can easily create a deal in Zoho CRM with one click, triggering another series of tasks for the Pedleys Solar team, from follow-up calls and organizing contracts to the physical installation. Alternatively, if the lead is not ready, this is recorded and a follow-up is scheduled. This automation has empowered Pedleys to easily keep track of all their customers and leads while saving time they would’ve otherwise had to spend manually nurturing each lead.

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Within Zoho One, Pedleys Solar also uses Zoho Analytics to analyze their business data, gain insight about leads and deals, monitor internal activities, and track every aspect of their sales cycle. This helps Ware make data-driven decisions from actionable business data intelligence. “Our main goal was to be able to generate a report and the end of the week or month and see where we’re at, and now we’ve been able to do that and more,” said Ware.

Additionally, Pedleys uses Zoho Forms, a drag-and-drop form builder, to run a customer referral program where customers who’ve introduced clients to Pedleys Solar can enter their details and receive a referral credit. They also use Zoho Sign, a digital signature application, to digitally send and receive signatures on client contracts. Lastly, due to COVID-19, the Pedleys Solar team has started using Zoho Meeting, an online meeting tool, to stay connected with each other while working remotely. In the future, Ware plans to introduce Zoho Inventory to track Pedleys Solar’s inventory and stock levels.

Benefits and ROI

With Zoho One, Pedleys’ lead to deal conversion rate has doubled. “Instead of having 100 leads and getting six sales, we’re now getting sixteen sales. It has made a massive difference. Once you start to increase those conversion numbers, for us, a one or two percent difference means millions,” said Ware, “this year we are on track to make $20 million.”

Since Zoho One is cloud-based, all new information is saved and immediately visible for managers and staff. And with all this information continually maintained and updated within Zoho One, internal and external communication has improved drastically. “The administration in the office is amazing and now nothing is getting lost,” said Ware.

From a management perspective, Ware can log in and track each stage of contact with leads, customers, and deals. What was once a scattered process is now transformed into a fully-integrated system that gives managers full control and visibility. Consequently, Ware says Zoho One has also helped his team improve communication internally and with their customers, because information is no longer siloed.

Zoho One includes powerful business intelligence tools that can pull in data from both Zoho and third-party applications to analyse every aspect of the business, which has given Ware great insight into Pedleys’ operations. With Zoho Analytics, Ware can drill down to specific details such as lead stage or source to determine why some leads are stagnant in certain stages. This information helps him figure out exactly what needs to change. For example, if leads are stuck in the “not contacted” stage, the manager is alerted and can easily see whether it is a problem with the automation or a specific team member. Now that Pedleys has been using Zoho One, Ware clearly sees the benefit of a unified operating system.

Looking forward

Before Zoho One, Pedleys struggled with storing customer information, internal communication, and analyzing business data. Now, the move away from paper-based processes to one integrated operating system for their entire business has helped Pedleys Solar increase their revenue by 4,000% in the two years of use. Thanks to Zoho One’s extensibility and third-party integrations, Ware can continue using ServiceM8 for his scheduling and Xero for his accounting.

With an intelligent system in place, Ware now has time to take a step back from the day-to-day operations and focus on his passion for solar energy and helping Australian families. “The passion lies within helping all these families save a lot of money switching to renewable energy—you know, just doing our part to help the planet,” said Ware. Ultimately, he’s been able to scale the business, improve operations, and maintain a happy workplace while doing something he loves.

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3 Ways Businesses Can Combat Data Security Threats During Covid-19

3 Ways Businesses Can Combat Data Security Threats During Covid-19


Big tech surveillance has been an issue for some time now, but in the last year it’s increased rapidly to become more of a privacy invasion than ever before. To make matters worse, the current COVID-19 pandemic has made data particularly vulnerable to misuse, as the crisis has distracted some from data security and privacy protocols.

Historically, disasters have caused fear and frenzy in the media, meaning data security is drowned out. For instance, during and after Hurricane Katrina, the HIPAA Privacy Rule was waived to help with disaster relief efforts, which later lead to a data breach. This pattern of the past is a warning to what’s already occurring and the possible disastrous outcomes that may be to come.

Businesses must look past big news stories and remain focused on data security news that may no longer be on the front page, so that they can stay protected. There are manageable ways that allow businesses to stay alert while compensating for new challenges, and the decisions they make today will combat future attacks.

So Where Does Privacy Stand Today?

Unlike ever before, forty-two percent of the U.S. labor force is currently working from home full time, which opens the door to an entirely new set of security risks that didn’t exist in our old work environments. With the pandemic re-defining what work means, it also calls for a need to re-define how your business handles data security.

The top security threats resulting from working from home have been email-based threats and endpoint-security gaps, according to senior analyst at the Global Cyber Center of NYC. Combine that with email phishing scams, password vulnerability, and weakened Wi-Fi protocols, and now hackers have many means to access sensitive data.

In addition to fearing vulnerabilities exposed from remote work environments, some companies are enacting sneaky surveillance tactics to monitor their employees, and that has implications for personal data, too. Some big tech companies have a surreptitious past of violating their users’ privacy, especially recently. Currently, Twitter is under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission “for potentially misusing people’s personal information to serve ads,” facing fines up to 250 million dollars.

Coincidentally, Google is also being investigated by European authorities on its recent 2.1 billion dollar purchase of the health tracking app Fitbit and what they will do with users’ health data. And just recently, Oracle and Salesforce were hit with a lawsuit arguing “that mass surveillance of Internet users to carry out real-time bidding ad auctions cannot possibly be compatible with strict EU laws around consent to process personal data.”

Even just last week, over 2 million Android and iPhone users downloaded seven adware apps from the Google Play and App Store. Besides the misuse of data, the real dangers of data breaches are still very much alive. It seems many of us give total trust to our work apps and software we use daily, but all of these incidents confirm one thing: Just because we use popular software to do work, doesn’t mean we should trust these companies with our data.

How to Protect from Data Security Vulnerabilities

Security threats looming in the future should cause businesses to re-evaluate their software and ensure they plan ahead for future implementations to amplify safety. If you’re not a larger company that can afford to build tools in-house to ensure employee data stays secure, there are still ways to stay alert and make sure your data remains private.

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1) Examine third-party privacy policies and read the fine print

As cumbersome as it can be, its critical to review third-party privacy policies thoroughly and make sure contracts align with your business privacy values. Another good indicator of a policy with potential privacy issues is one that is difficult to understand. Wording full of technical jargon juxtaposed with alarming policies should be a clear indicator of how a company will treat your data.

2) Create a privacy pledge to keep employee data safe and secure

Companies continue to monitor employees, users, and more through work software and most of the time, employees are completely unaware. Tools such as Slack, which can show when you’re on and offline and Zoom, which has new “attention tracking” features that allow employers to screenshot employees’ monitors periodically, and more can be concerning and risk your employees’ trust in your company. Most employees would agree that these are an invasion of privacy, so having a transparent privacy pledge will help make employees feel safe and will allow businesses to examine their software solutions thoroughly so that data security comes above all else.

3) Look for applications that don’t collect consumer data

It’s important to break this down further because not all apps collect data for misuse. Look into using applications that only collect data that’s necessary for the software to work effectively, but steer clear of software that needs data for other purposes. For example, if you’re using an application that will also track online activity unnecessarily, this should be a red flag and potential sign for poor privacy practices.

Data Security Vulnerabilities at an All Time High

While GDPR compliance has forced big tech companies to adhere to higher privacy and security policies, we continue to see data misuse soar throughout the pandemic. Trackers and monitoring are at a high with remote work software solutions collecting and monitoring data without our knowledge.

Additionally, businesses are overlooking data security to attend to their businesses’ survival. Yet, big tech isn’t going to cease in their practices of collecting and using data for financial gain until they’re caught red-handed. Businesses must take charge of their own data security and privacy by planning in advance and investigating the software they use and what they want to use in the future.

Unless businesses take a stand against privacy misuse and work to protect their company and employees, little will change. COVID-19 has turned software security risks into a ticking time bomb with little left on the clock and attention focused elsewhere. If companies both small and large can work on taking security more seriously, we can avoid devastating breaches and security disasters for years to come.

Image: DepositPhotos.com

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The Future of Return to Work: Adapting to Hybrid Work Environments

The Future of Return to Work: Adapting to Hybrid Work Environments


Work as we know it has undeniably changed and most businesses have had to adapt to working remotely. However, with the future still unclear, it’s important to adjust your business to fit working remotely indefinitely, returning to work, or a mix of both. And while this means new challenges such as a lack of visibility on employees, possible productivity issues, and even risks to security and safety, businesses must focus on their core principles, seek out unified technology solutions, and adapt to rapidly changing work environments of the future.

For businesses that cannot survive remotely, safety and security measures must be in place before allowing employees to return to work. Along with remote work challenges, many businesses have obviously experienced financial downturn. Based on an SMB Group study, “53% of SMBs’ revenue has decreased since March when the COVID-19 pandemic began.” This means organizations need to re-think traditional models and cut ineffective processes to survive. Understanding that no one knows what’s to come, it’s critical that businesses use this time to develop updated strategies and implement new technology, learning from businesses who are thriving during this difficult time.

Avi Levinson, director of property management at Royal York, has found new ways to thrive including embracing remote work with no plans to return to the office. Royal York specifically handles property management for single-family homes, meaning they work with a large amount of homeowners and tenants. As a business reliant on in-person engagement, it’s hard to imagine a world where Royal York can succeed without conducting in-person showings—human connections are critical in this kind of business. Yet, they’ve defied the odds by creating new processes and using technology to empower their workforce. Instead of continuing to operate the way they used to in an environment where it clearly wouldn’t work, Royal York utilized technology to quickly adapt. Through automating various pieces of their customer journey and enabling staff with the information they need both in the office and while working with customers (through virtual showings and more), they’ve been able to reinvent traditional property management and increase internal productivity so they can handle more business with the same amount of staff. This increase in revenue has allowed them to expand business and even hire new employees to keep pace with growth.

Royal York was able to take their entire business remote, putting extra emphasis on collaboration and communication processes and tools. For companies that are unable to go fully remote, collaboration is still key and tools need to be integrated with relevant business applications to ensure teams have the right context to be effective. Fully integrated tools can automate manual and repetitive tasks, whether that’s automating project management or your customer journey. For example, if you’re using spreadsheets to track sales or a project and you have to update details and notes separately in your CRM, this will contribute to low-value time sucks and hold your business back from operating leaner. Continuing to automate customer touch points throughout their lifecycle will also help with retention and revenue growth.

For businesses choosing to return to work, their model must mold to fit both an office workplace and employees still working from home, but collaboration tools are just one piece of the puzzle. Most businesses are finding that their employees are still successfully communicating and collaborating, but their technology needs to go beyond and contribute to business results rather than simply productivity. Royal York was able to do this by using collaboration software in the context of a new work paradigm that brings collaboration, productivity, and communication tools into other business processes.

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It’s critical to look beyond the surface-level capabilities of these tools and make sure they integrate well into whatever ecosystem your teams already use, extending access to the information and tools they need – where they need them. When your sales team is viewing a customer record in CRM, for example, they should be able to see more than just customer information. They need to have a clear picture that includes everything from their last payment and any open support tickets to the last time they were on your website to what they rated you in a recent survey. By providing this information all in one place, you’ll not only automate processes, but you’ll help employees do their jobs better, especially if they’re remote.

It is completely understandable to be overwhelmed with new hybrid work environments and what’s to come. However, whether your business chooses to return to work in the office soon or work remotely indefinitely, collaboration and productivity tools in conjunction with a dynamic strategy to improve employee experience and productivity will enable growth. It’s apparent that collaboration software is at the forefront of aiding hybrid work environments, but let’s look beyond that. Using this technology in the context of a new work paradigm to establish consistency of data throughout your organization will allow for easy adaption and new growth in a shifting work environment.

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How Technology is Helping Small Businesses Survive During COVID-19

How Technology is Helping Small Businesses Survive During COVID-19


The COVID-19 pandemic has made it more necessary than ever for businesses to embrace technology. Tons of companies have found success or stayed afloat thanks to their ability to pivot to online business models.

Freshworks has published a new free ebook, “Offline to Online: How Small Businesses Can Take the Big Leap” about how your small business can pivot towards providing online services. The company provides software as a service solutions helping small businesses engage with customers and foster team collaboration online.

In fact, a recent study found that 35 percent of personal businesses have started offering services online during the pandemic. This has been a necessity for some due to restrictions on non-essential in-person businesses. For others, it has simply added extra revenue streams or offered more options for customers who may not feel comfortable visiting.

Locomotion Fitness is one company that recently pivoted to an online model due to COVID-19. The company completely changed its business model in 48 hours. Since the company couldn’t safely offer in-person fitness classes, it shifted to provide Zoom classes. This allowed the company to keep its existing customers happy and stick with a subscription model — just in a new way.

Owner Jay Cohen said, “We had a much longer timeline planned, then it felt like everything shifted overnight and we made the call to shut up shop to keep our members safe.”

Another example is Mobile Escape, a Canadian escape room company. All the business’s in-person events were cancelled and school closures impacted its target customers. To stay afloat, Mobile Escape created Escape Mail, a subscription based monthly puzzle that customers can solve at home. With families looking for fun activities to do while quarantining, Escape Mail became a big hit. And the company plans on keeping it going for at least a year.

Tons of other industries have seen major shifts since the pandemic started and even beforehand. Specifically, many realtors now offer virtual walkthroughs and online bidding. Healthcare providers are increasingly offering virtual consultations. And even law firms are offering video chats and online tools to work with clients from anywhere.

Basically, these companies saw their main source of business suddenly dry up. So they found ways to provide something that was still relevant to their offerings and their target customers. And they used technology to deliver those beneficial products and services in a new way. For some, this can be as simple as opening an ecommerce store. Others may benefit from mobile apps. For example, Walmart has experienced 460 percent growth during the pandemic. And service providers may pivot to include online courses, live sessions, or digital products.

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But it’s not only beneficial for small businesses to embrace technology during a pandemic. Moving to an online model provides plenty of benefits during normal times as well. For example, companies can often decrease overhead expenses by operating virtually. You may be able to cut out rent and utilities on retail or office space. And working remotely may allow you to hire help from anywhere. You don’t need to just stick with talent in your immediate geographic area.

Online platforms also provide businesses with quantifiable information about their customers. When you do business in person, you don’t always collect data about each transaction. But doing so online means you can measure things like buying trends and customer loyalty. Then you can use this information to improve your offerings going forward.

Finally, today’s customers simply expect their favorite businesses to be online. This doesn’t mean every company needs to operate completely digitally post-COVID. But having a consistent online presence can help you get in front of more customers. In fact, 87 percent of customers now begin their product searches on digital channels. That number has risen steadily through the years and is now higher than ever. So if you want customers to notice your business early in the buying process, an online presence is a must.

Of course, pivoting to an online business model takes careful planning and work. You have to set up a website and various social accounts with a consistent brand presence. Then you need to offer resources and value to customers using digital media. You also need to manage your online reputation through reviews and social proof.

There are plenty of different tech tools and platforms that can help you in these various areas. These include ecommerce platforms, website builders, social media schedulers, email services, and analytics tools. All of these tools can make your business run more efficiently and reach more customers online. But managing them may seem overwhelming to those who are new to running online businesses.

Luckily, there are resources to help you manage all of these aspects of taking your business online. Learn more about why your small business should consider going online by downloading Freshworks” free ebook “Offline to Online: How Small Businesses Can Take the Big Leap.”

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Vulnerability Expert Brené Brown explains how to be a braver leader

Vulnerability Expert Brené Brown explains how to be a braver leader


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<p> I made exactly zero attempts to <a href= hide my love for Brené Brown . Last week I was lucky enough to interview her with one of my favorite Salesforce customers, Eric Rodriguez of the Coliving platform Common .

The conversation turned out to be feasible and inspiring. Here's a beautiful visual summary from a listener – Melinda Walker on One Squiggly Line – and check out some of my favorite tips below.

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1. We must give priority to communication

Like so many companies, the coliving platform Common had to redefine its business practices during this pandemic. Eric Rodriguez, Vice President of Operations, opened our discussion by sharing how the company changed operations early to help customers and at the same time committed to protecting the health and safety of its employees.

Rodriguez emphasized the need for both quick decisions and the transparency of leadership. His suggestions for customer communication were really inspiring. Listen to an excerpt from my interview with Eric below.

2. We must be braver leaders

The pandemic has put everyone on alert. If you are a leader and are not scared at the moment, do not pay attention. How should small business executives respond? Brown exclaimed: We need braver leaders and braver cultures. "There is no fear that stands in the way of courageous leadership," she said. "What stands in the way of courageous leadership is armament – what do we do when we are afraid?"

When we are afraid, our neurobiology ARMOR UP screams. Everything shouts: "Self protection!" As Brown says, if we want to consciously trust ourselves, we don't have to say armor. We have to double in order to be both transparent and vulnerable. If you're feeling beaten up, you're in good company. The simple thing is to protect yourself, but if you want to keep moving towards your mission, you need to refuel.

3. Gratitude is particularly important in a downturn

Brown's research background came out when she explained that sometimes we are afraid to take our foot off the pedal because we lose our sense of urgency. But data shows the opposite : Gratitude actually helps you celebrate victories and avoid burnout.

Prioritizing gratitude can sometimes be a real challenge, like in global pandemics. However, it is a tremendous relief to take time each day to consider what you are grateful for and to let others know how much you appreciate them. Thanks to Brown's memory, we are now starting team meetings with moments of gratitude, and it was both exhilarating and inspiring. But remember: As Brown says, “Gratitude is not an attitude or a choice; it is a daily practice. "

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4. Have tough conversations with empathy

So many companies currently have to make difficult decisions about downsizing, so a viewer asked for advice. Brown reminded us so nicely: "Make reductions in the most generous way and with the dignity that you can muster." This approach has two advantages. First, it is of course the right approach for people who lose their jobs. Second, you also create a safety net and an infrastructure for the people who stay.

As managers, it is important to lead with empathy and to have support for your employees who have lost their colleagues, friends and partners. Allow them the space to feel sadness. We were conditioned to believe that those who keep their jobs will be overwhelmed with gratitude, but that is not the case. Those who stay also see tremendous leaps in fear and fear.

5. Supporting mental health requires a culture of courage

A viewer asked about mental health and how managers should provide access to additional support. Brown replied that companies should not only have the structure and resources to get help, but also a culture that supports asking for help.

Unfortunately, when people find the courage to express their mental struggles, this often meets with resistance. We need to normalize mental health problems and prioritize wellbeing. This goes back to building courage and vulnerability. We have to promote and support the necessary hard talks.

6. "There is no courage without vulnerability"

This line is Vintage Brown: “To lead means to be vulnerable every minute of every day; There is no courage without vulnerability. “Here Brown suggests that companies operationalize their corporate values ​​- take every value and translate it into three visible behaviors. This exercise will help you figure out what kind of leader and person you want to be.

There is no playbook for this pandemic. Managers need to learn things and make decisions in a snap. It is important to be honest and transparent. Instead of making empty promises, say (and mean) things like "Here's what you can rely on" and "I don't have all the answers right now, but I can promise to keep in touch."

With Salesforce, you can find more customers, win their business, and keep them happy so you can be successful. Learn more about our CRM solutions for small businesses by following us on Twitter LinkedIn and Instagram .

You can find more inspiration about companies and executives in our entire series Leading Through Change .

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Stories about resilience: Mark Cuban shares advice for small businesses

Stories about resilience: Mark Cuban shares advice for small businesses


I recently had the pleasure of interviewing the owner of Dallas Mavericks, the judge at Shark Tank, and the famous investor and entrepreneur Mark Cuban. Cuban was a champion for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), answered questions personally on LinkedIn and Twitter and shared expert tips and even encouraged his network ] Shop small .

During our conversation, Cubans shared stories and actionable insights for small businesses that are building resilience during this time. Below are some answers from his webinar. To hear all of Kuban's advice, read the full interview .

1. How should small business executives lead team members through this confusion?

Mark Cuban: If you lead your team, you should also want to know what they think. Ask them: what is your vision? Where is your head Your team will have to paint the picture for America 2.0 after this (pandemic) is complete. So it's time to think about how it would look for your customers or for your industry.

If we look back after all of this in 10 years, we will found five, 10, 15, 20 or even 30 amazing companies. This idea could sit on the zoom screen of one of your team members – all you have to do is ask.

2. Which sales strategy would you recommend now?

Mark Cuban: Now is the time to combine more than to sell. Every single person in your CRM system or sales platform is scared. Every one of them wants to hear a soothing voice. Call them, email them, or text them, especially if you already have a relationship with them, and ask how they're doing. You don't have to sell to them now and ask when to buy.

Being nice pays off for everyone in the universe. If you are the company that communicated during this time and was nice to the customers, they will get back to you in due course.

3. What inspires you and what should others read for inspiration at this time?

Mark Cuban: Heroes are born during this time. When it comes to reading, I'm more focused on what's next. I think Artificial Intelligence (AI) will have a stronger presence in the future, so the book I'm reading is Restarting AI . I also take Coursera courses on AI and take tutorials.

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Regarding inspiration, I find my inspiration by connecting with people and helping wherever I can. When you see someone who is depressed and the mood suddenly rises, it's as inspiring as it gets.

Looking for more detailed advice from Mark Cuban? View full interview .

With Salesforce, you can find more customers, win their business and keep them happy so you can be successful. Find out more about our CRM Solutions for Small Businesses by following us on Twitter LinkedIn and Instagram . Also join the Small Business Strong LinkedIn Group a global network for small businesses to access and connect with resources.

You can find more inspiration about companies and executives in our entire series Leading Through Change .

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