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What Content Management System (CMS) Does Your Organization Need?

Your CMS is what supports your business’s digital front door. Be sure it’s the right one!

Last month, we shared a post on selecting the right customer relationship management (CRM) solution for your business. At the time, we highlighted the fundamental importance of such platforms, in that it’s difficult to make sales without first having access to the clean, organized and insightful customer data that CRMs provide.

All of this remains true; a good CRM can help make or break a business. Yet if there is one solution even more important, it would be your content management system (CMS). While CRMs can help you sell better and optimize your processes, without a great CMS you may not need processes as you likely won’t have customers to sell to. CMSs let users create, manage and modify content on a website even if they don’t possess specialized technical knowledge like coding. And since we live in a digital-first world, without a website it is extraordinarily difficult to find, attract and establish an audience for your products or services.

Here’s how to select the right CMS for your business needs and ensure that you’ll always have an easy way to manage your content.

CMS Platforms 101

What do we mean when we say that CMS platforms allow you to create and modify content without advanced knowledge of computer programming? Well, without a CMS, you would need to write a static HTML file and upload it to your server if you wanted to present your audience with a fresh piece of content. A CMS does all this heavy lifting for you. With an interface roughly comparable to Microsoft Word, these platforms make it a breeze to compose, format and optimize your content with elements like links, videos, polls or photos.

In addition, CMS platforms assist users with designing the look and feel of their site. They also often support functionality like eCommerce, blogging, forums, portfolios, social networks and more. The amount and variety of features vary across platforms and price points, but increasingly, most leading CMS brands, such as JoomlaTM, DrupalTM, WordPress.orgTM, SquarespaceTM and WixTM, can accommodate a wide variety of different use cases.

What Type of CMS Do You Need?

Whenever investing in a new piece of software, you should always start by addressing who your stakeholders are. If your agency has a marketing professional on staff, for instance, they will likely need to be involved in the decision. The same goes for IT and, of course, sales. Gather their input before moving forward with a vendor and be sure that they are a part of the conversation during the implementation process.

It is also crucial to think through your priorities and the priorities of your stakeholders. Consider what CMS features are organizational needs or, in other words, your “must-haves,” and what are your organizational wants or “nice to haves.” Write these down to help guide your conversations with vendors. If you’re finding it difficult to think through the features you do or do not need, never fear. There are plenty of articles online that can help get you up to speed on the features offered by many top platforms.

Next, you must grapple with the logistical question of how your CMS will be hosted, choosing between either cloud or on-premise; each have their pros and cons. Of course, these days when it comes to new software solutions, many people extol the values of a cloud-native approach, and it’s not difficult to understand why. From lowering IT workloads to reducing costs, the cloud clearly holds some major advantages. However, you must carefully consider the merits of each option to decide what will work best for your organization.  

After that, take a good, hard look at your internal capabilities – that is, the technical competency of you and your staff. This is a pertinent question to explore, as the amount of digital acumen required to fully leverage a CMS depends completely on the brand you select.

There is no need to worry too much on this point. Many of the leading CMS brands have reached their current market position due to their incredible usability. But there are still major differences between systems, and the last thing you want is to invest in a new solution that is difficult or impossible for your staff to use.

CMS: A Pathway to Sales and Business Success

CMS platforms have been around for decades now, and it’s quite likely that you have already had some experience operating one. Still, you may never have gone through the process of implementing such an important system. Thinking through the questions outlined here can be a helpful exercise. It can ensure that you and your agency create a dynamic digital experience for your customers, which, of course, is a sure-fire way to start bettering your sales.

The words: sales, CRM, Analysis, support, strategy, service and marketing in magnifiers on white background. All words are black except CRM is in red.

What CRM is Right for You?

Having well-organized data is the lifeblood of modern business. Do you have the right system in place?

Running a successful business hinges on data. Without it, you cannot gain a clear picture of your customer base. You can’t understand your sales productivity or optimize your team’s communication or collaboration processes. But it’s one thing to recognize the need for data; it’s another thing entirely to know how to organize and leverage it. Thankfully, a solution exists that can help you streamline your business, improve customer relations and successfully grow your revenues. That solution is a customer relationship management (CRM) system.

What is a CRM Platform?

A CRM platform is a technology solution that allows you to easily manage all interactions you have with an existing or prospective customer base. On a broader level, however, these platforms assist companies with streamlining processes and improving profitability.

Why Do You Need a CRM?

A good CRM can unify your business. By leveraging the solution properly, each department within your agency can gain real-time insights into your sales, business objectives and overall profitability. This solution also gives every department a clear view into your customers, utilizing data the CRM typically organizes into a customizable and exportable dashboard. You can optimize your marketing efforts with this information, harnessing data to implement better campaigns and make more sales.

CRMs have a role to play in customer service as well. We live in a world of omnichannel communication, which can often make managing customer interaction complex and arduous. CRMs, however, make it easy to engage with customers across multiple channels and ensure that each touchpoint is carried out perfectly.

Where to Begin?

Whenever you are making an IT investment, or any business investment, it’s always wise to begin with your goals. What exactly are you trying to accomplish? With a CRM, companies are often trying to accomplish a few different objectives, such as tracking leads, customers and sales; unifying operations; increasing productivity; and making data-driven decisions. Think about the features that are the most important to your organization so you can prioritize those during your CRM selection process.

Then start conducting your research on potential vendors you’d like to work with. There is a glut of information online that you can use to inform your search, with this article, in particular, giving a good overview of the best solutions for different types of businesses.

Understand the Process

Once you have some idea of what you need, you can begin working with a product vendor. This can be a complex and, at times, lengthy process. Depending on the size of your organization, your vendor may even assign you a project manager to keep the implementation of your solution on track. Be sure to rely heavily on the expertise of your vendor, and when you are trying out a demo of the product, make it a priority to test every function so you can obtain a clear and comprehensive picture of its capabilities and whether they align with your goals.

Gain Buy-in

Implementation with your vendor should not occur in a vacuum. Your team needs to be involved in various capacities from beginning to end. Not only will your team ask pertinent questions that you haven’t thought of, but they are, in fact, the people who will need to use the solution going forward. It is crucial that you gain a sense of your CRM’s overall usability and how steep the learning curve might be upon adoption. Remember, staff training time will reduce their bandwidth to work on other projects.

CRMs Bring Positive ROI

Implementing a new system can be a unique challenge for businesses. Not only does it cost time and money, but benefits can feel intangible and unproven – at least initially. What’s important to note, however, is that a CRM can make a real, long-term difference to your business, both for your customer relations and your bottom line. For anyone operating in a customer-centric business, it can have a transformative impact by increasing customer lifetime value, reducing your operating costs and facilitating remote or hybrid work. It’s an important investment to make if you hope to streamline your current operations and succeed in the future of work.

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How to Securely Share Your Files

Digital file-sharing is a normal part of business, but don’t let down your guard

Today you can send almost any type of file through the internet. Digital repositories to receive or send data are a standardized feature of many office-based workplaces. In each one of our pockets, there is a cloud-connected device continually backing up our files, notes, pictures and texts.

While this technology is incredibly convenient, offering a streamlined way to share personal or professional information, it can still carry a security risk. If you don’t protect your files, there is the possibility someone could access or hack your business’s personal details. In this blog, we will discuss different ways to stay safe while sharing your files.

P2P File Sharing: What Are the Risks?

Whenever you engage in peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing, you are opening yourself to potential security risks. From difficulties in tracking what becomes of your files to the elevated threat of malware, you can’t be too careful when sharing sensitive information. Downloading files also often results in significant traffic over a network, potentially reducing the availability of select programs on your computer or access to the internet itself.

Reasonable Precautions

With the inherent risk to P2P systems, how can you protect yourself? While nothing can completely eliminate risk, there are several strategies for more securely sharing files. First and foremost, there is anti-virus software, a type of software specifically designed to recognize, sequester and eliminate threats. Keep in mind that bad actors are constantly creating new viruses, so you can’t have a set-it-and-forget-it attitude. Use due-diligence and keep your anti-virus program current to maximize the amount of security it offers.

It is possible to apply an additional level of security by adding password protection to your files. Modern software programs make this easy to implement. For instance, Microsoft Word offers a step-by-step guide for how to attach an encrypted password to your documents.

The next method is to use encryption. By encrypting your files, you will always be able to keep your folders safe. Typically, encryption is accomplished with algorithms such as ECDH. You will want to ensure that encryption is part of any file sharing service you pursue for business purposes. And luckily, there is a wealth of information out there to help you vet potential providers.

Email is another common way that files get transferred, and it is highly important to secure these electronic communications. A frequent technique of email hacking is phishing. Stay alert when exchanging emails with anyone you don’t know. There are also specific email settings to keep the attachment of an email completely protected. Finally, many anti-virus software programs will scan all your emails and check whether they are infected or not.

You Can Never Be Too Careful With it becoming ever easier for people to connect, communicate and collaborate, one can occasionally forget that safety must be prioritized to the same level as productivity and convenience. Yet there are plenty of easy steps one can take to bolster their security when sharing files. By implementing these best practices, you will fortify your data and files, and be able to safely leverage these technologies for greater business growth.

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The Growing Menace of Ransomware

Ransomware attacks are on the rise. Don’t let yourself become a victim.

For anyone with a passing awareness of IT trends, ransomware is the hot topic of the day. From the Colonial Pipeline attack to the JBS Holdings attack, ransomware attacks are becoming more brazen, more destructive and more frequent. According to recent data, this cybercrime is expected to grow by a staggering 15 percent per year, until it reaches 10.5 trillion dollars in 2025.[1] For comparison’s sake, the entire GDP of the United States in 2019 was 21.43 trillion dollars.[2] 

Of course, independent title insurance agencies are much smaller than a gigantic oil pipeline system or food processing company. But that doesn’t mean they are immune from being targeted by bad actors or that they will stay under the radar of cybercriminals by default. Smaller companies are also at risk and need to take steps to protect themselves and their operations from ransomware. 

Here is what you need to know about this particularly destructive cybercrime. 

What is Ransomware?

Ransomware is a type of malware. True to its name, it blocks access to systems, devices, files or data until a ransom is paid. It’s important to note, however, that there are many different variations of ransomware. There is crypto ransomware, where malware encrypts a system’s files; wiper ransomware, where it threatens to erase files; or locker ransomware, where it blocks access to a system entirely. Ransomware also often includes communication from the criminal, a demand for financial payment – typically in the form of Bitcoin. 

How Do Ransomware Attacks Occur?

Ransomware is delivered in a variety of ways. Some of its delivery mechanisms can include malicious attachments or links sent in an email; a network intrusion; being dropped by another malware infection; or by being wormable, where it spreads laterally via flash drives or Windows shortcut (LNK) files.

Why Be Aware of Ransomware?

Ransomware is a chronic and escalating problem. Not only do attacks appear to be happening more frequently, but their impact is also growing. In 2019, for instance, ransomware tore through 750 government computers in Texas. Earlier in 2021, the Colonial Pipeline got shaken down for nearly $5 million in ransom. Also this year, the computer giant Acer was attacked, with the threat of actors demanding a $50 million payment – the largest known ransom to date.

The ransoms that follow these types of attacks are not the only losses these companies experience. Ransomware also results in significant downtime for a company, which can cause havoc for an organization’s bottom line, not to mention their brand and reputation. 

How Do You Protect Yourself?

As with many cyber initiatives, developing an effective and robust defense against ransomware requires an all-hands-on-deck approach and strong organizational buy-in. It is imperative for companies to develop, implement and enforce cybersecurity policies across all departments. Such policies should include guidance and training for how to spot malicious emails and report suspicious activity. In addition, businesses can change default passwords at network access points, routinely apply software patches to keep systems current and segment networks to make it harder for a criminal to roam across your entire digital ecosystem.  

Now is the Time for Action

With the prevalence of breaches and cyber-attacks, conducting business online can feel like the Wild West: you just never know what is going to happen. But there is truth in the adage that the best defense is a good offense.

With ransomware attacks growing in both size and scope, now is the time to take proactive, preventative action to discourage bad actors or make your enterprise more resistant to cybercrime. Nobody can eliminate the prospect of ransomware attacks. But by taking strong action before a problem arises, you will greatly reduce the possibility of being attacked and keep your operations running as smoothly as ever. 

[1] The increase in ransomware attacks during the COVID-19 pandemic may lead to a new internet (theconversation.com)

[2] United States of America – Place Explorer – Data Commons

Blue binary code background with isometric padlocks in foreground.

Protecting Customer Data

The world is awash in data. And business owners must protect their customers.

Anyone who has been paying attention over the last couple of decades knows that data is all around us. We can’t see it. We can’t touch it. But it is everywhere, informing how we work, shop, explore and entertain ourselves. Data is also extremely valuable. Advertisers covet our data. And bad actors often weaponize it for identity theft and illicit financial schemes. 

It is imperative that business leaders protect their customers’ data. Not only is it the ethical thing to do, but it is also pragmatic. The way businesses use and protect customer data is rightly coming under increasing scrutiny. Additionally, businesses that mismanage customer data can experience significant consequences to their brand and reputation. With such high stakes, it’s important to be knowledgeable on best practices for data protection. Here are some tips to get you started. 

Conduct an Audit 

The first step toward a comprehensive and proactive approach to protecting your customer base’s data is to gain a full understanding of the various types of data your business holds. Is it social security numbers? Credit card information? Online account passwords? Real estate and title insurance professionals often deal with large amounts of sensitive data. Conduct an audit to ensure that you have a full accounting for everything you and your employees hold. 

Understand the Legal Basics 

Data protection laws vary depending on where your business is and the industry in which you work. It is wise to invest the time and resources to gain a full understanding of the basics as required by law and as they apply to your specific enterprise. For instance, most people know about the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the 1996 federal law that stipulates that healthcare insurance industries must protect customer health information from fraud and theft. However, other state-level laws apply to all industries. Become apprised of what is required of you by law when designing data protection policies for your business. There are ample resources online that can serve as an effective primer. 

Gain Buy-In

It’s all well and good if you want to take a proactive and fastidious approach to your customers’ data, but if you have employees, you are going to need their buy-in and compliance as well. If a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, then a business can only take a comprehensive approach to data security if it treats it as an organizational priority rather than a siloed effort. 

If Possible, Throw it Out 

Only keep data you need. Schedule routine reviews of the customer data you are holding and have a process in place to decide when you can safely dispose of it. Considering that you have an ethical and often legal obligation to safeguard customer data, this can be a great strategy for limiting your company’s exposure. 

Do What You Can

Protecting customer data can be an expensive and time-consuming effort. In fact, major corporations often spend millions of dollars to secure this information. You may not have access to such resources. However, there are still practical steps you can take to operate a more data-secure shop.

Consider, for instance, limiting employee access to data, only giving them as much information as they need to effectively do their jobs. Be sure to also have a process in place for properly destroying and disposing of both physical and cyber versions of customer data. Lastly, you could even consider looking into a designated server for your most sensitive data. While using a shared server might be more economical, it carries a security risk. 

Go the Extra Mile

We know that running a title agency is no easy matter. Time is always tight, resources thin, and sometimes it can feel as if taking on a new initiative will be the straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s back. Still, it’s important to remember that customers are worth the effort. As title professionals, our customers entrust us with some of their most sensitive data, and we must do our best to protect it.

This blog contains general information only, not intended to be relied upon as, nor a substitute for, specific professional advice. We accept no responsibility for loss occasioned to any purpose acting on or refraining from action as a result of any material on this blog.

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