Good-Time Rock and Roll Excellent Company Want You

The headline immediately caught my attention — but not in a good way.  “President Of Staff, Powerful Company Posistion” set off red flags before I could read the body of the posting.  It reads like an email from a Nigerian Prince who wants “kind and gracious help in the name of Jesus Christ” to move miglior sito per acquistare viagra generico 50 mg spedizione veloce a Genova $137,549,011.95 out of his Country, of which he’ll give half for your help.
We’ll never know if this is a legitimate job posting because no self-respecting executive is going to allow this company to have their personal information.  The title President of Staff is not in the current business lexicon of which I am aware.  What “Powerful Company” and are they driven by good intentions?  Don’t want to get half way through an interview to find the position is the president of the League of Doom or ISIS.  Unless you’re Lex Luthor, it would not look good on your resume.
So, if assumptions are made this is a legitimate offer, where did the staff err?  This wasn’t posted on Craigslist, but on a site I have not heard of, “www.postjobfree.com” — which itself sounds like it was not created by someone for whom English is their first language.  Unfortunately, postings on this site are being picked up by legitimate job listing aggregators like ZipRecruiter.
But are legitimate companies suffering from similar errors in their job postings?

The note above comes from a legitimate company advertising on Monster for a VP of Sales and Marketing.
Did the company’s HR department misunderstand the hiring manager’s request for references prior to a job offer? 
“. . . you may be required to arrange an interview with your previous bosses, peers and subordinates.” 
The wording is clunky and open to misinterpretation.  Does the hiring manager want to check references, or interview the references to see if they’re a better fit for the position.  And the prospective employee may be responsible for setting up the interview?  Phone or in person?
“Hey Bob, it’s me, Jack.  Jack Taggert, I was the Director of Marketing up until two weeks ago when the SEC came in and you had to layoff 90% of the staff.  Okay, now you remember.  Well, I have a pending job offer that looks good, but they want to interview you first.  I don’t know, they just told me to set it up.  No.  In person.  Come on Buddy, can you do me a solid?  No?  Home confinement?  Damn!  Sorry to hear about the indictment, Bob.  Sure.  Maybe we can get together in a few weeks. 
Then there’s the second paragraph:
  • http://johnsoaresk9training.com/?search=trade-name-of-a-drug-vs-generic-viagra Recent salary history.  According to Nick Corcodilos, a veteran Silicon Valley headhunter, “Politely but firmly decline to disclose your salary history. Substitute this: ‘I’d be glad to help you assess what I’d be worth to your business by showing you what I can do for you but my salary is personal and confidential, just as the salaries of your own employees are.'”
  • A short write up describing a time when you managed a team that grew revenue substantially.  Does the HR department or the hiring manager even intend to read the resume of the applicant?  As a serious professional would have this information as a highlighted item in their resume.
My advice, proofread job postings as carefully as you will judge an applicant.  A company doesn’t want to damage its reputation by reading like a scam email.  Even in a tight economy, prospective employees are interviewing employers as well.

If you have questions regarding your business’ marketing strategy, feel free to contact me at darren@darrensomsen.com.


The Star-Spangled Banner

I had an unexpected opportunity to learn something new last Monday.  I watched over 50 children sit in rapt attention as Quin Denning, Principal of Providence Academy, explained the origins of the United States national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner.  Mr. Denning explained in-depth why Francis Scott Key was on the British warship when Fort McHenry was attacked.  How during the onslaught the flag became tattered but never faltered.  And what Key and other patriots found when they entered the fort.  It was a moving moment for me on two fronts:  although I thought I was well-versed on America’s history, Mr. Denning taught me something I didn’t know . . .

. . . and I saw joy on the faces of children learning.
Providence Academy is an all-inclusive, Kindergarten through 12th Grade, private school that does not accept a single dollar of taxpayer money.  This allows them to open each school day with a prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance, and a devotional thought.  When the children break they are smiling and excited for class.  They are open to learn.
I overheard one of the parents comment, “[He’s] never been excited to go to school.  Now he wakes up saying, ‘Yea!  I get to go to school.’”
It didn’t take long for me to figure out why kids feel this way about Providence Academy.  From Quin Denning, to the teachers, and the administrative staff, they are all excited to be there.  Instead of memorization the children are taught to learn.  They are allowed to fail – and learn from the experience. 
Instead of a movie and a spiked thermos of coffee (you know I’m talking about you, Mrs. Carter), the teachers at Providence Academy are truly preparing kids to be successful beyond school walls.  Local business people are invited in to lecture and provide real-world insights into what the children are learning.
So, as I stood with kids from five to seventeen, hand over my heart, singing The Star-Spangled Banner, I thought, “There is hope for this generation.”
To find more information about Providence Academy, or to make a donation, go to http://Providence.academy.
If you have questions regarding your business’ marketing strategy, feel free to contact me at darren@darrensomsen.com.


Marketing in the Digital Age – The Rice Garden Case Study

(Author’s note:  This case study was originally written in 2011 as a primer to generate a consultation contract.  Some of the statistics may be out-of-date, but the information regarding marketing remains relevant to any business.)

What is Marketing?

Ultimately,”marketing” is any medium that provides a positive message or introduction to a product or service. Whether billboards, radio and television advertising, direct mail, internet,or word-of-mouth . Marketing is how you drive sales for your business.  The picture to the right is an iconic example of building brand-awareness and sales during the 1930’s.  Marketing has always adapted to the moment and utilized new opportunities to increase sales. Translations from the walls of Pompeii have shown taverns and merchants eagerly promoted themselves by scrawling messages on walls throughout the city. Marketing is not new — but it is ever-adapting.

Marketing & New Technologies

In A Christmas Story, Ralphie eagerly awaits delivery of his Little Orphan Annie decoder ring.  Upon its arrival he carefully writes each number so he can “read” Annie’s special message.  As he anxiously translates, he discovers the message reads, “Drink More Ovaltine”.
Ralphie may have been disappointed, anticipated something more secret, but Ovaltine’s marketing fully utilized the technology available. They sponsored the radio program, were featured within the program, gave away decoder rings by simply sending in the foil top from a can of Ovaltine, and advertised in the Little Orphan Annie comic books. Ovaltine was the “must-have” product for children. If for no other reason than to get the premiums.

Adapting to New Technology

Ovaltine’s marketing team recognized keeping their message in front of children, and mothers, was the best way to maintain and increase sales.
As radio programs were replaced by television, Ovaltine recognized the need to adapt to the new entertainment medium.  Ovaltine advertising could be found during children’s programming, daytime television, and family-friendly programs.
Even in today’s changing technology, you can still find Ovaltine.  A Google search of Ovaltine produced 368,000 results in .17 seconds. Go to any blog talking about Oval­tine and you’ll find a banner ad or Google Adwords selling or promoting Ovaltine.  They didn’t leave advertising, they just adapted their message to use new technology.

The Rice Garden and Branding

The Rice Garden is virtually invisible.  A search of “Chinese in South Jordan” did not yield any listings for The Rice Garden, but nearly 10 for Panda Express. A direct search of www.thericegarden.com showed the nearest location as West Valley City, nearly 8 miles from South Jordan, although there is a location directly in South Jordan.  A search of “the rice garden South Jordan” yields results, but it does not say it is located within the Smith’s Grocery. This is not effective with an independent Chinese restaurant two doors down.  A customer specifically looking for The Rice Garden in South Jordan is more likely to go to a competitor based upon the lack of exterior signage or specific location details.
In .21 seconds, only 29,400 results for The Rice Garden were found on Google. The first two were from www.thericegarden.comand www.ricegarden.biz. — two competing websites from the same company. The fifth listing was from www.yelp.com from a customer review that stated,
“At the Rice Garden, I always know that there will be a line at Rice Garden, the food will be OKAY (at best), and there will be snot-mouthed rude people . . .”
This is from “above the fold”, the first thing people see just from the search for “The Rice Garden”.

The sixth is www.ricegardensettlement.com, a website for the class-action settlement for an unsolicited fax campaign.
 During a visit to a local Rice Garden, the only visible advertising was a sandwich board located outside the entrance of the supermarket, and it doesn’t say much.

Creating Brand-Awareness for The Rice Garden

The Internet has been called, “the word-of-mouth in the digital age”. There was a time businesses and restaurants could rely upon direct word-of-mouth and location to drive traffic.  An “early-adopter” would try a new restaurant and tell friends, family and neighbors. A convenient location and a good review would build a good clientele. The exception was exclusivity and a unique location. Now the Internet has made anyone with a computer an instant critic.  Off-hand or negative comments on Facebook have been attributed to the sinking of a movie’s opening in its first weekend.  Restaurants are not immune from the same phenomena.
So how do we create brand awareness and overcome negative impressions of The Rice Garden with consumers?

Radio

Radio advertising is an inexpensive medium for building brand. With the consolidation of radio stations within DMAs (designated market areas) it has become easy to advertise across multiple formats under a single advertising contract. Radio also allows for the purchase of air time within specific regions and times to maximize impact. The creation of a radio ad offering, “10°/o off from Five to Seven PM just by mentioning this ad” and running it from 4:00 – 6:30pm can drive traffic through the immediacy of the message. Lunch business can increase by suggesting catering for the whole office.

“For less than $5.00 per person, you can have Beef & Broccoli, Chow Mein, Ham Fried Rice, Master Fung’s Signature BBQ Pork, and egg rolls.”

Television



The expansion of cable networks offers the ability to choose broadcast time, networks and DMAs.  For as little as $70.00 per flight, advertising can be run on networks like Style, USA, CMT and Discovery. Through Google Adwords television, flights on DISH Network can be bid based upon how much you want to spend per 1000 impressions (people who see the advertisement for at least 5 seconds).  Bidding by region, network and time, television flights can be organized to meet growth and branding within specific corporate regions.
A :30 – :60 second advertisement would cost $12,500.00 to film and edit. This is very reasonable and is filmed in HD.

Direct Mail

Whether piggy-backed in mass-mailers like Valpak or an individual postcard, direct mail remains an effective method of branding and driving clients to service and restaurant businesses.  Offering a coupon for a FREE item or 10°/o off is an effective way to get prospective customers to remember a business, even if they don’t use the coupon.  In addition, direct mail can be targeted based upon zip codes. Targeting homes within a 5-mile radius of specific stores will drive sales.  The average cost of a 9″x6″ postcard, with list rental, postage and printing is about $0.89 per card.

SMS

Mobile marketing via SMS (short message service) was heartily embraced in Europe and has been making significant in-roads within the United States.  Companies like USA Network, Domino’s Pizza and Papa John’s utilize this powerful tool to reach their “loyal” customers. They offer contests, discounts and SMS-only specials that drive customers to the business. SMS can be used very quickly and by area code, allowing for a sales boost in specific regions if sales are slow for a specific day.
Double opt-in lists can be rented for an initial boost into SMS marketing or a list can be grown organically via in-store offers and the web site.

Internet

Internet marketing appears daunting to many businesses. People cite being unfamiliar with computers, let alone Internet code, to create an effective marketing web site.  Often they have a very simple web site created because they feel they “have to”, failing to take advantage that the Internet has given them their own “channel” to promote products and services.
Word-of-mouth is very important to any business, particularly a restaurant. Using a :60 second video on a web site where loyal customers discuss why they eat at The Rice Garden, what is their favorite dish, and how it is a value to their budget is incredible.  A customer’s testimonial on the web site can be interpreted as a word-of-mouth recommendation.  In addition, video improves a web site’s SEO (search engine optimization) by keeping people on the page for at least one minute, thus improving the web site’s ranking.
In addition to SEO on the primary web site, The Rice Garden can improve its web presence with additional web sites that relate to The Rice Garden.  At the store level, there has been http://thomasjeffersonleadership.com/?search=mail-order-viagra-professional some efforts to promote Master Fung, but there is very little about him.  A web site can be established building upon the mythology of Master Fung. His background, recipes, and a blog “updated” by Master Fung. As the hypertext and key words would relate back to The Rice Garden, this would improve search engine results. http://millsys.co.uk/?search=order-viagra-canada
Key words and banner ads are also an inexpensive and important method to improve Internet visibility.  Selecting key words like, “Chinese, take-out, salt lake city” will put a sponsored link on-screen when someone searches for this information. This will give The Rice Garden an advantage in capturing this potential customer.
To support this, banner advertising can be purchased on web sites which the content and demographics match The Rice Garden’s clientele.  The banner ads can offer a link to a “Coupons” page on the Rice Garden web site.  The click-through can improve SEO and individual store sales.
Another change necessary is improving visibility of positive dining reviews.  This can be changed by having friends and family of team members go to sites like www.yelp.com and enter a positive review.  Another method, with broader potential, is have a “Tell Us What You Think” contest. The Rice Garden Customers can win “Dinner for a Year” (up to $25.00 per week for 52 weeks) simply by posting a review on a business/dining web site and submitting the link through www.thericegarden.com/contest with their name, address, email, phone, etc. This encourages people to take time to submit a review as there is now an incentive to do so.

Internet – Outside The Box

A unique way to promote The Rice Garden is to sponsor recipes at sites like www.allrecipes.com.  True foodies love to cook — but also want to know if they came close to the original.  Instead of posting a recipe for one of the menu staples, offer a monthly “House Special” and post the recipe to various cooking web sites.  These do not always have to be an entree, but could be a dessert, like “Chinese Cheesecake Eggrolls”.  This allows a way to promote the brand, store sales, and test market new product offerings without changing the balance of the menu.

Digital Signage

Digital signage is one of the fastest growing advertising mediums. Sometimes referred to as “Digital-out-of-Home” marketing, it is essentially any method of selling to an audience outside of their homes. Digital signage takes advantage of “dwell time”.  As a guest is waiting on line the digital signage is programmed with a variety of changing screens.
Digital signage is a “silent salesman”.  It overcomes the aversion some guests have to “being sold to”, or possible language barriers.  Influencing the guest before they have ordered, like suggesting eggrolls with their order, will increase the check average.  It also will promote upcoming events, sales, promotions, catering, etc. Digital signage can be programmed to deliver any message that is advantageous to promoting additional sales, thus increasing the per-check average.
Digital signage is also effective at capturing the attention of the casual passerby. The bright screen and motion graphics are designed to draw attention to the message.  If the signage gets a passerby to watch for 5 seconds, the chance to sell to them increases. It will also allow employees to engage with the individual.  Offering friendly conversation and a suggestion of a signature dish will change a passerby to a client.
Digital signage can help make a sell. The presentation of the family meal in a photo or motion graphic can emphasize the value better than a steam table. Stating, “It comes with …..” may not be as effective as showing the customer how much they will take home. The pre­sentation of the appetizer platter may move them from an order of eggrolls to multiple items.

If you have questions regarding your business’ marketing strategy, feel free to contact me at darrensomsen@gmail.com.


Is HR Damaging Your Brand?

“Marketing?  Not my job.”

Due to the changes in the job market over the past two decades, professionals keep their resumes up-to-date and monitor the open job postings.  An executive never knows when there will be a layoff, restructuring, buyout or merger.  When things are good open positions provide insight into the strength of the economy, changes within the structure of competitors, and leverage when asking for a raise.  During a downturn resumes are sent as a hedge against an unexpected meeting with the boss and a representative from human resources.  Postings on Monster, CareerBuilder and Indeed provide insight into an organization that can be more damning that an angry former employee’s screed on GlassDoor.

http://corbinscrusaders.com/?search=order-viagra-pills-online How?

“Work here.  We re-post the same job over and over.”
Since 2007, a content and conversion company based in Utah has consistently re-advertised the same Marketing Manager position.  Sometimes the position may not be advertised for six-months – other times it may consistently be posted for over a year.
At networking events marketing professionals consistently complained that they had not heard from the company’s Human Resources Department.  The complaints turned to derision, the derision turned to humor at the company’s expense.  “Are they a real company?”  “How f**ked up are things over there they cannot return an email?”  The most concerning, “If this is how they handle HR, how bad is their customer service?”
A major non-profit consistently advertises for an Executive Director, Marketing Manager, or both every year about six-weeks prior to their primary telethon.  This has led to the positions being filled by the desperate, under-qualified, or recent college graduates as experienced executives avoid applying with this group.

http://planb.ba/?search=find-discount-pfizer-viagra What About the Brand?

“It doesn’t take much to bust a brand.”
The executives watching these job boards are also decision-makers.  They select vendors, and where company funds and resources will be allocated regarding charities.  How human resources advertises open positions and deals with applicants will make an impression regarding the company’s brand.  Repeated posting of the same position will bias if it’s a company with whom an individual wants to do business.  Not having the courtesy to reply to an applicant will leave a negative impression if that company ever wants to do business with the executive’s new company.  A non-profit who continually re-posts the same position will find a decline in donations.

http://thewerners.org/?search=viagra-fail-drug-test What Should be Done?

“At least the job posting was truthful.”
Companies need to recognize any external communication will be a reflection upon the brand.  Human Resource staff may understand benefits, company policies, and EEO regulations – but they are not trained on the company stylebook.  Job postings should be handled like a press release.  The company needs to be presented in the best light.  Even when posted as “company confidential”, it doesn’t take much sleuthing to make an educated guess as to who is hiring.  Including the corporate marketing department in editing the posting can avoid the embarrassment of a poorly executed job advertisement.  
“We’re cooler than you because we already work here.”
And, for goodness sake, have the courtesy to acknowledge an applicant’s submission.  People apply for a position believing they are a great fit for the position.  Thanking them for their time and letting them know their status in the filling of the position can positively or negatively affect their opinion of the company.  Human Resources is the customer service department for the human element of a company.
A customer may not always be right, but they are always the customer.

If you have questions regarding your practice’s marketing strategy, feel free to contact me at darrensomsen@gmail.com.


Are You Experienced Enough to Protect the Brand?

Are You Experienced? Ah! Have you ever been experienced? Well, I have
 
          Jimi Hendrix
 
Released in 1967, Are You Experienced was an expression of teenage angst, “free-love”, and drug use (tripping balls on LSD) with a left turn in the final line:
Ah! But Are You Experienced? Have you ever been experienced?

Not necessarily stoned, but beautiful

 
In the last line, the song tried to wink and nod that it wasn’t about sex and drugs, but about feeling your inner beauty.  It became a Peter, Paul and Mary folk song with a driving electric guitar.
This song was born from a generation that yelled, “Don’t trust anyone over 30!”  Unfortunately, Jimi didn’t live long enough to be mistrusted.
Illustration by Craig Swanson
Forty-seven years later society is now embracing Millenials with an attitude of, “Trust anyone under 30!”  Some companies believe the under-30 crowd entering the workforce know how to speak to the 18 to 34 demographic.  Others just see them as cheap labor willing to accept lower pay in exchange for a title and perceived authority.
But, does their arrogance damage the brand?
Learning from mistakes requires enough time to have made mistakes from with to learn – with enough experience to be humble enough to acknowledge mistakes were made.

A Lesson Learned

“Just because your Mom laughed at the joke doesn’t make it good.”
The above example arrived in mailboxes as part of a ValPak card deck which consisting of 40 to 50 individual, double-sided advertisements.  Depending upon how the envelope is opened determines which side of the offer is seen first.  An advertisement has about one-second to capture the reader’s attention – as card decks are often sorted over a trashcan.
So, why did this piece end up in the garbage?
  1. http://cinziamazzamakeup.com/?x=comprare-levitra-senza-ricetta-Toscana George Burns Impersonator.  To whom is this advertisement aimed?  George Burns last appeared on screen in 1994 and died in 1996.  This image has no more relevance to twenty-somethings than an image of Harold Lloyd.
  2. Tagline.  Lose the Goo!?  This piece COULD NOT have been focused-grouped with a 65 to 84 demographic as the 35 to 44 demographic responded with, “What the hell!”
  3.  Dentures and “goo”.  The adage, “I like hot dogs, so I never want to see how they’re made.” fits this image.  It’s like selling adult diapers by showing an older model with wet pants and the tagline, “Next time, better use Depends.”
  4.  Fonts.  It’s a rookie mistake to use multiple fonts on one advertisement – particularly one of this size.  Pick two and be consistent.
  5. Offers.  What are they?  The line art images do not draw the eye to the individual offers and the font of the pricing overwhelms the description.  The florescent green-yellow splotches are annoyance.
  6.  Logo.  Or lack of logo.  The image at the bottom is NOT the logo for the dental practice who sent the advertisement.  The practice’s logo should be prominent on both sides of the offer – not a vendor.
  7. Expiration date.  This piece does not state the offers are a sale price — so why does the offer expire.  If there is an expiration date on a piece it should have an explanation as to what will expire.  A better line is, “Prices subject to change.”
A few facts about this example:  a.) It was produced by a 26-year-old, b.) It cost the business $1,600.00 for printing and mailing.

The Price of Experience

“Don’t worry.  I’ve logged hundreds of hours . . . on a simulator.”
The dental practice purportedly hired the person responsible for this piece in a cost-cutting measure.  They reported the person was willing to do the job for one-third the wage of the previous marketing director.  It now takes 2 ½ inexperienced people to do the job previously done by a single, seasoned professional.
What is important regarding this mailer, and subsequent mailers like this, is the loss of the dental practice’s reputation and credibility.  By entrusting their marketing to an inexperienced team they make themselves look inexperienced.  Any goodwill established with earlier marketing pieces is diminished with a ham-handed attempt at humor.
But, with the lack of branding on both sides of the advertisement, hopefully all they lost was 1,600 bucks.

If you have questions regarding your practice’s marketing strategy, feel free to contact me at darrensomsen@gmail.com.

 

Data, Data Storage and Data Sanitization: The Basics

da·ta (datə,ˈdātə): 1. Computing.  The quantities, characters, or symbols on which operations are performed by a computer, being stored and transmitted in the form of electrical signals and recorded on magnetic, optical, or mechanical recording media.

Data, in a nutshell, is a collection of information – as mundane as a favorite cookie recipe or as sensitive to medical records.  As business has evolved this information has moved from filing cabinets to scanned documents and databases stored on a hard drive.  Sensitive information used to be stored under lock-and-key, now it’s hidden behind a password. 

A lesson learned during the 1979 US Embassy hostage crisis is a shredded document is not destroyed, simply more difficult to decipher.  The revolutionaries occupying the Embassy painstakingly reconstructed numerous documents thought to be destroyed.  This resulted in the disclosure of confidential information and the identities of Embassy staff and intelligent assets.  Events like this resulted in the development and use of cross-cut shredders to make the restoration of shredded documents far more difficult – but not impossible.  Unless burnt to ash these documents CAN be reassembled.

Data in the Digital Age


Advancements in computers, data storage and how information is moved requires business to update and replace equipment every four to six years.  New programs require advancements in operating systems and operating systems need more computing power.  Data, images and documents require more storage space.  Twenty-years ago a 240MB hard drive was considered large – now mobile phones are shipped with 16GB on board.  A mobile phone can store 64 TIMES the amount of data as a twenty-year-old hard drive.  These advancements necessitate continuous upgrades of drives and storage devices.



It’s important to know what happens to data and files once transferred to a new computer or hard drive.  “Deleted” data is not actually deleted.  Computer operating systems use tables or nodes to identify where a file begins and ends.  When a user initiates a DELETE command (or moves a file to the Trash Can icon) the operating system does not delete the file, it simply removes the pointers to the file and indicates the space is available to over-written.  Using an older reference: it’s similar to placing a piece of tape over the holes on the bottom of a cassette tape.  The original music remains until new music is recorded over.  

Data Sanitization


Once files and data are transferred from an outdated hard drive to a new computer it’s important to consider how to dispose of the old drive.  There are many opinions as to best practice in hard drive destruction.  Some advocate removing the drive from the computer, soaking it in salt water for several days, then smashing it with a hammer.  Others state drilling a hole in the obsolete hard drive is sufficient for data destruction.  In both cases this necessitates time to open the computer and remove the drive.  Not only is this time-consuming, but will require a drill press or buckets of salt water left about the office for several days.  This also assumes the computers are intended for complete destruction.  A computer at the end of its lifecycle in a business environment may remain perfectly viable in a classroom or other location.

Another option for destruction is to pay an eRecycling company to handle the removal and destruction of old computers and hard drives.  This assumes the company will not misuse the data and/or will actually destroy the equipment.  In 2012, executives of a Denver-based e-cycler were convictedin federal court for mail and wire fraud.  The company told customers the computers would be recycled in the United States.  Records were found showing the equipment was sold to overseas companies and sent off-shore intact. 

A clean, affordable method of insuring company records, patient information, and proprietary databases are securely wiped from obsolete computers and hard drives is data sanitization.  Data sanitization programs are easy to install and do not require disassembly of the computers.  Once the program has securely wiped all the data from obsolete equipment a company can confidently donate the computers or turn them over to an eRecycler for proper destruction.

Companies like WhiteCanyon™ Software offer programs like WipeDrive and SystemSaver which are very effective data sanitization tools.  These programs provide companies and individuals peace of mind that sensitive data will not end up in the wrong hands due to improper hardware disposal.

If you have questions regarding your practice’s marketing strategy, feel free to contact me at darrensomsen@gmail.com.


Concerned About Data Breaches?

(Reprinted from WhiteCanyon Software.)

Data Breach Statistics Roundup

AUTHOR: WHITECANYON SOFTWARE

FierceCIO recently summarized some statistics about data breaches that were quite disturbing. Among them are the following:
  • Data breaches are up 21% so far in 2014 compared to the same time period last year (CIO.com).
  • After hackers, the two biggest security concerns are lax security and stupidity (CIO.com)
  • More than half of health care data breaches involved small businesses (CORL Technologies Survey,eWeek)
  • 58% of health care vendors scored in the “D” grade range for their confidence in their security (CORL Technologies Survey, eWeek)
  • Only 32% of vendors have security certifications (CORL Technologies Survey, eWeek)
  • 31% of third party vendor contracts contain security provisions (PricewaterhouseCoopers cyber-crime survey, eWeek)
  • “Organizations continued to struggle with attacks that were targeted in nature, which could be directly aimed at the energy, financial, health care, and retail industries or critical infrastructure,” according to J.D. Sherry, VP of Technology and Solutions at Trend Micro (Trend Micro’s Q1 report, CIO Insight)
I’ve hand-picked these statistics for their relevancy to how companies handle their asset retirement. There are a number of disturbing trends that have a direct impact on your asset retirement security profile.
First, breaches continue to rise in general and assailants will typically exploit the weak link in a company’s security. While online hacking and phishing scams have received the bulk of the attention, it’s only a matter of time before attackers start targeting the data found on old or retired drives.
Second, despite substantial resources being dedicated to battling online attacks, companies are allowing “lax security” and “stupidity” to make them vulnerable in other areas. This is particularly true when it comes to data sanitization and asset retirement. From our experience, the majority of companies still allow old computers, servers and hard drives to sit in the “back room” for 3 years before batch processing them or sending them to a vendor for processing. Why allow this “lax security” when the data can be completely sanitized immediately upon retirement for minimal time and cost? This is simply a security hole that need not exist for any company.
Third, several of the statistics focused on the lax management of external vendors and the negative implication it has on security. This is particularly true in the realm of asset management where the attitude of “someone else takes care of that” prevails. If you rely on a third party to sanitize your data, not only do you face the risk of data sitting around for years as mentioned earlier, but you also risk that your third party is handling your assets insecurely or improperly sanitizing your data. Once you ship your assets to a third party do you know how long they sit before they’re processed? Do you know who has access to your assets at the vendor’s warehouse? Are your assets sanitized using certified tools? We’re all in favor of having a third party sanitize your data as a backup measure, but the initial sanitization should occur quickly and internally.
Finally, it’s no secret that certain industries such as financial services and healthcare are particular targets for data breaches. It was interesting to note that attackers are targeting smaller businesses as well as large enterprises. Small and medium sized businesses businesses have less resources to dedicate to security and less sophisticated data practices. At least data sanitization is an area that is so simple and affordable to implement, it can be one area small business don’t have to worry about.

Click here for more information regarding WhiteCanyon Software and their data sanitization products.

If you have questions regarding your practice’s marketing strategy, feel free to contact me at darrensomsen@gmail.com.

#whitecanyonsoftware #systemsaver #datasanitization

Dude! Where’s My Hard Drive?

Let’s rip this one from the headlines.  This isn’t about politics, but utilizes it as a backdrop to emphasize the need to never take your eyes off the ball where your sensitive business data is concerned.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen has stated before Congress that Lois Lerner’s hard drive was scratched and then shredded.  When pressed, Commissioner Koskinen could not state the hard drive had definitively been shredded, only that it had potentially been shredded.  He could not identify the chain of custody for the hard drive in question nor provide documentation as to whom had physically destroyed the drive and who had witnessed the destruction.  Someone told Commissioner Koskinen the hard drive had been shredded and that was good enough for him.  For a situation as politically pressing as the whereabouts of Lois Lerner’s hard drive, Koskinen’s actions would lead people to believe he actually has no idea as to what actually happened to the drive.  

Data is Money

I spent many years dealing directly with data.  It was drilled into everyone within the industry that data is money.  If you took possession of records (data) you were responsible for what happened to the records.  Individuals were keenly aware any misuse of the data would result in additional charges, fines and potential lawsuits.  If, God forbid, the records contained credit card or social security information they were treated like unstable nitroglycerin.  Regulations and potential lawsuits drove many service bureaus out of storing volatile databases.  The risks outweighed the rewards.

So, What’s It to Me?

As a business owner you have an obligation to protect your patients, customers, clients, and employees from potential harm from the misuse of their information.  The improper handling of obsolete hard drives can cost clients substantial income, reveal patients private information, and put customers and employees at risk of identity theft.  It is critical your business has an established procedure for the destruction of sensitive information when you retire obsolete computers and servers.

What Should I Do?

Digital data sanitization is the best method you can take to insure your business does not inadvertently share private information.  By performing this task in-house before entrusting used equipment to a recycling contractor protects you and your business from accusations and potential losses in the future.  
Implementing the use of WipeDrive by WhiteCanyon™ Softwarecan insure hardware doesn’t leave the office with your data.  The three-pass wipe uses several wipe patterns and is approved by the U.S. Dept. of Defense.  Data sanitization is a safe, easy method of data security that gives your customers the peace of mind that you are watching out for their security.  WipeDrive is a permanent solution for data sanitization.

Common Sense

I know some of this information is common sense for a business or practice handling sensitive data and using storage devices.  The current coverage of the Internal Revenue Service and the Lois Lerner hard drive show common sense is not always commonly practiced.  An organization handling some of the most sensitive information of individuals and businesses cannot definitively state what happened to a hard drive or confirm the data was destroyed.  It is imperative to learn from the IRS’ error in data sanitization to protect you and your business.
For more information about utilizing WipeDrive to protect your sensitive information, contact WhiteCanyon Software at 801-224-2952.

If you have questions regarding your practice’s marketing strategy, feel free to contact me at darrensomsen@gmail.com.

#whitecanyonsoftware #systemsaver #datasanitization

Protect Your Practice Against Accidental Data Loss

In 2013, the Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) reported the 2nd largest healthcare data loss when 4 laptops containing over 4 million patient records were stolen from Advocate Medical Group.  The records contained patient social security numbers, addresses, next-of-kin and patient care data.  This information can be sold to identity thieves and ineligible workers with a value on the black market estimated at 100 to 200 million dollars.

Data losses do not only occur due to theft and unauthorized system access.  Sometimes data is lost due to the disposal of obsolete computers without proper data sanitization.  In the United Kingdom a man located a discarded laptop among other used computer parts in a rubbish pile.  After a little tinkering the man was able to boot up the computer.  Upon searching through the records the man found sensitive defense information – including over 70 top-secret files detailing two military facilities.

What Does This Have To Do With Me?

Your practice is only as good as the service you provide.  This includes customer service in addition to outstanding medical care.  Placing patients at risk to identity-theft and financial loss is distinctly in the negative column of great customer service.  A loss of patient data will cost a practice in lost patients, lost income, and place them at risk of a lawsuit.
According to an article in ComputerWorld, the U.S. Dept. of Defense was sued for $4.9B, BILLION, due to a data breach involving TRICARE, a healthcare system for military personnel and their families.
If this case establishes legal precedent, any practice experiencing patient data loss could anticipate a cost of at least $1,000.00 per lost record.  With an average single-provider office having 1,800 to 2,300 patients, a data loss could effectively bankrupt a small practice.
Could your practice absorb a $250,000.00 loss due to improper data sanitization procedures?

What Can I Do to Protect My Practice?

Donating used computer equipment to a local non-profit is great for the community, helps out those in need . . . and doesn’t hurt when filing taxes.  Your practice CAN make a donation of used PCs without placing sensitive data at risk by incorporating data sanitization to your operations best practices.  Simply moving files to the Trashcan icon is insufficient – nor is it necessary to disassemble the computer and remove the hard drive.  Data sanitization software is available that will thoroughly erase data while leaving the programs intact.  This is the difference between donating a functional system that is a benefit to the local Boys and Girls Club and a useless paperweight.
SystemSaver, a hard drive cleaner by WhiteCanyon Software is an exceptional tool for your practice’s data sanitization.  The program erases personal data stored by browsers, cached documents, and erases personal data while leaving the operating system and programs intact.  SystemSaver allows you to benefit from donating used computers while providing peace of mind that ALL your sensitive data has been securely sanitized.
You can request a trial use of the program at http://www.whitecanyon.com/EnterpriseSystemSaver, or you can contact WhiteCanyon at 801-224-2952.

If you have questions regarding your practice’s marketing strategy, feel free to contact me at darrensomsen@gmail.com.

#whitecanyonsoftware #systemsaver #datasanitization

The Profitability of Dentistry (Part Two)

As mentioned in previous articles, a dental practice’s staff will reflect the attitude of the doctor — good or bad.  Profitability is built upon services, decor, atmosphere, prices . . . and a patient’s feeling of being wanted and respected.  If a doctor parks an expensive automobile in his parking lot with a vanity plate reading “BRACE$$”, patients may feel they are not valued for more than a car payment.  A doctor who looks at low-income or troubled patients with contempt, even in private, will find the staff mirroring the attitude.
Wise counsel once stated, “A recovering Meth addict knew how to get money for their habit.  They WILL know how to find money for teeth restoration.”

Who Are You and What Do You Want?!

 “The face of your practice should not be . . . grumpy.”
Selecting the right staff is critical to your finances and, well . . ., finances. You need to find a balance between skill, experience, personality, and cost. A recently-graduated hygienist may be a better choice for your new practice as their salary requirements may be less than one with years of experience. New techniques, willingness to take direction and a bright personality can be the right fit for you.
Your choice of front office staff is just as critical as hygienists and dental assistants. This person is the first contact your practice has with a prospective patient – likely by phone. You should conduct a first interview via telephone so you can hear what your patients will hear. Can you hear them “smile” during your call? Listen to their grammar, tone and inflections. Ask yourself, 

“Is this who I want as my practice’s first impression?” 
If you hesitate, move on. Your staff is a reflection upon your practice and your business – make sure it’s positive.
“Glass isn’t just a barrier for your patients,
but also a barrier to your success.”
A written job description for the receptionist/front office person will help you identify your practice’s needs before their first day of work. Do you expect them to handle basic accounts receivable, insurance, billing and collections in addition to answering the telephone and patient check-ins? This can relieve some pressure from your work load as a business owner and will allow you spend more time with your patients. But with greater responsibility comes greater pay. Find the person with the right balance of personality, job skills and salary expectation.
“Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to
MAKE ME MONEY!”

Hello, My Name is Doctor . . .

“I’m the doctor.  It says so on my tag.”
Let’s review. You have your degree, you’ve selected the perfect office location, decorated it comfortably, installed the right (but not too expensive) equipment, hired the perfect staff, turned on your telephones and your name is lettered in gold leaf on the door. Now you just need to hang a grand opening sign, open the door and the patients will pour in like a gentle summer rain.
WRONG.
Other than your family, no one has been anxiously awaiting your grand opening. Why? Because you didn’t tell them. You forgot one of the key steps to opening any new business – marketing. Your prospective patients need to know who you are, where you are, and why they should select you as their new dentist. The adage, “You have to spend money to make money”, is no truer than in this moment for your new business. It’s time to invest in a concerted marketing plan to build your practice.
“Thanks Dr. Daddy.”

“Dammit Jim!  I’m a Doctor, Not an Adman!”


You have one goal to achieve in your business – increase your revenue stream. Revenue comes from a steady flow of new patients entering your practice. Below the simplicity of this statement hides the complexity of making it happen. Marketing your practice will be one of the most difficult procedures you perform as a dentist.
Let’s break marketing down into three categories: public relations, branding, and advertising.

Public Relations

Public relations is an outreach to the community via the press and events which shines a positive light upon your business or brand.  Example:

“Doctor Doug Smith, DDS announces the opening of his new dental practice at the Three Points Shopping Center.  Dr. Smith practices complete family care and specializes in dental implants . . .”

 This item would run in the business section of your local newspaper on a slow news cycle.  It will also encourage the advertising manager of the paper to call and discuss a great deal on a four-week advertising run in the paper.

Branding

Branding is any advertising, event, signage or social media that brings attention to your practice without specifically trying to sell an offer or service.

“Hi, I’m Dr. Doug Smith.  Remember me the next time you need to see a dentist.”

 Th is can be a print, radio or television advertisement. The tone does not need to be compulsory.

Advertising

Advertising is a call to action for a consumer to purchase a specific product or service.

“Hey folks! Come on down to Doug Smith Dental where we are DRILLING away at tooth decay! Call us now and get a complete cleaning and exam for only $99.95! For the first 100 callers you’ll get not one, but two complete cleanings and exams! Two complete cleanings and exams for ONLY $99.95! With an offer like this I must be CRAZY!”

This is an example of a direct response advertisement. You make an offer and expect an immediate response from the viewer or listener. Variations can be designed for print advertising.
“Operators are standing by.”

Effective Marketing Costs Money

 “Branding is the center of your marketing . . .
and YOU are the BRAND.”
To design an effective marketing plan to build your practice you should consult with an advertising agency. They can design advertising, prepare scripts, hire actors, and coordinate all media buys. Be prepared for in initial investment of at least $25,000 in advertising for the first 4 – 6 weeks. Have weekly meetings with your agency representative and review their data and compare it to your increased call volume and actual new patients generated by the branding and advertising campaign. This allows you to adjust the ad copy and offers based upon which are providing the best results. Train your staff to log where each call originated and if they became a patient. This will help you invest future spending on marketing which has a track record of success for your practice.
“Meanwhile, make sure your advertising places
your message in the best light.”

Anything Else?

When I began writing this article my inner voice kept repeating,

“You wouldn’t let your mechanic work on your kids’ teeth, would ya’?”

It’s snarky, but the meaning behind the statement rings true. I’ve counseled numerous dentists about trying to do everything themselves. I had a conversation with a dentist who had cobbled together his office computer network from used, ancient desktops but then complained about all the time he spent after-hours trying to keep the network running. His practice management software ran slow, computers crashed, and he was incredibly frustrated. I sat down with him at a dental conference and asked, “Why are you trusting your entire business to 10-year-old computers running Windows XP?”
His reply, “I’m cheap.”
He’s a doctor with a $150,000 education and $250,000 in office build-out yet he said he was too cheap to invest $7,500 in new computer equipment to properly operate his business
You have chosen to embark on an incredible adventure as a small business owner. Look around your area and identify businesses that are thriving and those that are failing. What are they doing right and what are they doing wrong. Are they offering a product or service people want? Are their prices reasonable? Do they have a good location. Take note, the businesses which are succeeding are not trying to do it alone. They hire other businesses with expertise in specific fields for support. This doesn’t make them weak – it makes them smart.

If you have questions regarding your practice’s marketing strategy, feel free to contact me at darrensomsen@gmail.com.