Tips for Building Better Passwords

Love them or hate them, passwords are the initial line of defense in our daily digital lives, usually playing the leading role as gatekeeper to our precious online information.  This inevitability leaves people stuck attempting to remember several passwords and manage them properly, something that usually means they’ll create an easily remembered and crackable password once and use it everywhere.

While online security professionals can enforce policy on a password’s length, expiration and use of character types, typically only a small segment of the population creates truly strong passwords they will remember and avoid using elsewhere.

There are ways to build better passwords with simple changes that can add strength to your current password status.  Note this phrase: two-factor authentication is a big deal in the security world.

With that said, here’s a primer on passwords, easily shared with business colleagues or family members who like us might need a reminder about the importance and practice of online security.

Why are passwords important?                            Password Security

Having a password is the most basic level of protection you can have for the information you are storing in services or applications, be it your personal Facebook account, your online banking site, or your company’s customer tracking system. The problem is that everything is online now, and everything needs a password. So it’s tempting to make your password simple and easy to remember. Perhaps you have a go-to password you’ve used for everything since college. Or maybe you write your password down so you don’t forget it.

If you do any of those things, you’re probably in the majority, not the minority. Creating long, complex passwords that are unique for every service you use is a challenge, and remembering them all is near impossible.  (Learn about Last Pass, a password tool highlighted in the video below).

The problem is that simple, easy-to-remember passwords are also easy to “crack.” That’s likely why a major study found that 76 percent of network intrusions (breaches) in 2012 involved weak or stolen passwords.   A fix may be easier than you might think. For starters, head to Intel’s Password Grader to see just how easily cracked your current password is.

Once attackers have your password, they have access to your account and any information stored in it. From there, they may be able to do all sorts of things, and what was intended as a form of protection could become a threat in itself. For example, if you use the same password across multiple sites, once an attacker has compromised your information on an unimportant one, they can turn around and use it on a site you do care about.

Or say you use different passwords, but the same security questions. They could find the information for your security questions and then set up a fake “change password” request using your information and actually lock you out of an important account.

Bottom line: passwords are an important security measure for every aspect of your life, the key is to make them workable for you yet extremely difficult for offenders to crack.

How can you protect yourself?

There are a number of things you can do to reduce your risk and increase the protection offered by passwords.

Tips for passwords to protect your security

What NOT to do when creating online passwords

 

Celebrating 20 Colorful Years! Be Inspired by Company C’s Decorating Tips

Company C_20_Colorful_YearsPlan to inspire your customers this season and into 2014 with great merchandise (of course) and captivating displays of color. This awesome “color” inspired blog  from company C founders Chris and Walter Chapin is an overflowing cup of creativity to use and share with your customers.  

Company C was started in a garage in 1994 by Chris and Walter Chapin and is now a premier design studio and leading producer of exceptional home furnishings displaying their love and adaptation of color. Twice a year the Company C Design Studio brings you the hottest colors from fashion, the coolest colors from nature and the trend setting color combinations nobody has seen yet!

May your cup runneth over with creativity and inspiration……start your own colorful conversations by posting a photo of your unique seasonal displays here and on Facebook or Pinterest to share and inspire others.

” I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way – things I had no words for.” Georgia O’Keefe

For suggestions on colorful products and designs contact your Ivystone and Simblist rep

CompanyC-Green&Serene

CompanyC_wisteria

CompanyC-Inspiration

 

 

Stay on Trend With the Pantone 2014 Fashion Color Report

For more than 20 years, Pantone, the global authority on color, has surveyed the designers of New York Fashion Week and beyond to bring you the season’s most important color trends. We are bringing you the report of the most prominent hues for spring 2014.

Designers are taking a modern twist on the traditional for spring 2014 by pairing soft pastels with vivid brights to create a colorful balance. Inspired by a mixture of blooming flowers, travels abroad and strong, confident women, designers use color to refresh, revive and defy conventional wisdom.

“This season, consumers are looking for a state of thoughtful, emotional and artistic equilibrium,” said Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute®. “While this need for stability is reflected in the composition of the palette, the inherent versatility of the individual colors allows for experimentation with new looks and color combinations.”

Be the trend setter you want to be by using and introducing these beautiful hues into your 2014 gift, home décor and fashion merchandise.

Pantone 2014 Fashion Color Report

If you are looking for direction on 2014 products for your business, please contact the professionals at  Ivystone and Simblist  for assistance.

Pantone Fashion Color Report-Spring 2014

Pantone Fashion Color Report-Spring 2014

 

 

Ways to Make the Remainder of 2013 Amazing

During the last full month of summer, allow yourself  time to take stock of your business and personal situations so you can set an action plan to make the rest of the year as productive as possible. Regardless of your position or status, there are actions you can take to drive forward your business and yourself.     All things are possible

Chances are you will need a productive To Do List to make the rest of your year amazing……here is a useful  tip to start (or add to) your list for the remainder of this year.

Seven actions you can take on to make the rest of your 2013 amazing!

What would you add to the list?

 

Smart Retailers Plan Ahead for Successful Holiday Sales

Whether it’s Halloween in April or Christmas in July, smart retailers look ahead and develop a plan to help them get ready for the holiday and make the most of every sales opportunity.

Here are a few of our own suggestions on helping you prepare for holiday 2013 with awesome product selections, unique collections and merchandising and smart marketing tools.

Planning for Successful Holiday Sales

Read more to learn what other retailers around the country are doing now to plan for a successful holiday season.

Denim and Developing Truly Loyal Customers

Today Levi Strauss is celebrating 140 years of the denim blue jean.  What an incredible and enviable success story. This company and iconic product has had an amazing and profitable history that will likely continue throughout all of our lifetimes.  Seemingly impossible that there is a product which has attracted billions of customers and has kept them loyal for 140 years!   Levi denim jeans

While true that the blue jean’s awesome versatility and work-horse functionality is responsible for this type of sustained history and loyalty, it could never have been accomplished without tremendously committed customers loyal to the brand.  Understandably, we all aren’t so fortunate to have started a business responsible for the invention such an enduring product, one that has been able to cultivate loyal customers for centuries, however your business can’t possibly grow without some similar (albeit smaller) form of customer loyalty.  Now your job is to consider how to cultivate that loyalty.

Think of loyalty as a faithfulness or allegiance to a company or a brand based on a high level of satisfaction.  Customer satisfaction breeds loyalty.  When a business or a brand consistently satisfies and exceeds customer expectations, it is natural to consistently make that company or brand the first choice.

So how can you create and encourage truly loyal customers?     Levi's denim 2

LISTEN TO THEM

Asking and hearing what customers are saying about your business along with making changes and improvements to increase their satisfaction can go a long way in making customers loyal to your business.  Loyal customers come back and can be more profitable.  Often the 80/20 rule applies- 80% of revenue comes from 20% of a business’s customers.  The key is to understand the customer needs and expectations and make changes that positively impact the customer’s experience with your business.  In 1873 Levi  Strauss and Jacob David listened to a particularly difficult customer  who was consistently ripping trouser pockets and seams due to extreme use.  Levi's denim 3   By placing metal rivets at points of strain: pocket corners, base of the zippers, etc. to strengthen the trousers, the company created the first riveted clothing, aka the blue jean.  By listening and making a small change, within a very short time, all types of working men were buying the innovative new clothing and spreading the word.

Cultivate a sense of ownership

Are you launching a new service or new products?  Invite your most loyal customers to become beta users and solicit their feedback to make adjustments and improvements.  This will give your best customers a sense of being a “shareholder” in your business as well as helping you create better offerings to your at-large customer base.  Way back in the 1850s Levi Strauss developed denim as work-wear for the pioneers of the American West. Only in the 1950s did this fabric evolve into fashion garments; jeans and jackets were taken up by bikers and rockers, giving denim a sense of cool and rebelliousness. By the 1970s Hollywood stars such as Steve McQueen and Paul Newman wore the brand.  Can your customers help you test and launch new concepts and be the trendy messenger for your business?

Create a loyalty program

Reward customers for multiple purchases of a high margin product.  Remember to measure your results and make changes that positively impact the customer (while being fiscally responsible).  Consider a program that provides free products or services as a reward for repeat business.

Creating truly loyal customers through these types of programs can prove to be a long-term distinct competitive advantage.

 

Offer premium services

If a small portion of your customers are responsible for a majority of your revenue, provide them with premium level of customer service.  Perks for your best customers let them know how much you value their business.

  • Let your best customer’s preview and purchase new products.  This could be anything from opening early or staying late to accommodate their schedule, shipping products to their home or office for free, giving them first chance to purchase new arrivals or attend sales.
  • Host an exclusive event for your best customers inside or outside of your business.
  • Make a point to call out your best customers in email marketing campaigns (preferably with a great quote or referral) or social media.
  • Reward referrals-consider providing discounts and other rewards to customers who recommend your business to friends and associates after they make a purchase.  Customer referrals are a valuable tool, so let them know how much you value their recommendations.

Back in 1873 it was for Levi Strauss’s challenging but quality customer for whom they added the rivets to denim in order to satisfy his need and that one decision is responsible for  the growth of the company and 140 years of success!

Simply two visionary immigrants- Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis turned loyal customers, denim, thread, and a little metal into the most popular apparel on earth…..just think of what you can do.

Have a great working customer loyalty program? Let us hear about it!

3 Ways to Attract and Keep More Customers

New research from Forrester finds that when it comes to attracting customers and keeping them, people respond more to the “experience” they have with the business even more than with their perception of price.

background of the hands with hearts

So it makes sense that one of the best ways to attract customers is to connect with them on more than a transactional level using everything in your arsenal; your personality, your services, social media and events.  Whether providing valuable information about your business or a much needed laugh, inject some personality into your brand and show the human side of your business to make it attractive.

1-Get Back to Your Roots In your need to attract customers don’t EVER assume that everyone knows your business exists, even if you have been in business for 3,5,10 or 15 years in the same location!  I have heard countless stories from business owners that include the statement “after being in business in this location for X years, surely everyone knows about my business and what we do here”…..simply not true!

Act as if you are running a new business each and every day.  This could make a huge difference in attracting and keeping customers and be remarkable to your bottom line.  Make a short list of what you would do today as if you were opening your doors on day one.  Here are a few examples:

  • Be at the top of your game- Greet, welcome and explain your products/services.
  • Tell your business back story- If you business has a great back story (and who’s doesn’t), tell it verbally when possible and show it visually throughout your business and online.  People love a story so provide yours on your business, products and services. Photos and videos are shareable on social media and digestible for busy customers. Aim to visually convey your brand’s story on your website and through social media.
  • Highlight your special talents and services- Does your business customize products, ship anywhere, offer a design service, provide local delivery, take special orders ….you get the picture. Don’t hold back…make it clear verbally and visually in all possible locations.  Signage, websites, social media, local press.

 

2-Stay Connected. Growing a business is about fostering long-term relationships. Capture customer information and communicate consistently via email, phone, social media.  Communication is a two-way street so provide your customers multiple ways to communicate with you.

  • Promotions, events, sharing updates and humor are a consistent reminder of your business brand.  Ditch the fear and stop worrying that you will be bothering your customers, everyone can use an occasional reminder or update on what your business can offer.
  • Make sure customers have a clear path toward a deeper level of engagement with you and your company – and vice versa. It can be as simple as leaving a comment book at the counter, a survey on a receipt or a place to comment online. The more customers interact with your brand, the more they’ll remember you when it’s time to make a purchasing decision. Make it easy for them to communicate with you.
  • Get visual- Some good ideas include filming a video interview with your best customers having fun at your business or using your products, asking customers to submit a picture of themselves using your product, or uploading video product demos and tutorials.

3-Offer Exceptional Customer Service. I am referring to your top of the line service here.  If you believe you can make a customer’s experience better today, don’t hold back….go for it!  This could make the difference in word of mouth advertising (the best kind!) and earn your business social buzz and recommendations.

  • People love to share when they have something great (or truly miserable) happen to them.  Give them something great to share on a consistent basis.
  • “Experience” is the new currency….if you can do remarkable things for your customers, your customers will share because they’re happy.  Make it easy for your customers to help you.

Share with us some of your great customer service stories and we will happily share with others to help everyone attract more customers.

 

Great Ways to Jumpstart 2013

To help you get back into the daily work routine, here are some inspirational thoughts for the new year that will rouse you into positive action:

12 Great Motivational Quotes for 2013

5 Ways to Prepare for an Amazing 2013

You’re certain to find something here to jumpstart a great year!

5 Actions That Can Affect How You Grow and Lead Your Business This Year

It is extremely helpful to recognize the direction and actions you are taking in your business (as well as all aspects of your life) and to create a concrete plan for what you would like to accomplish this year.  I live by and continually work on (and refine) these actions to keep me focused and embracing change in a world which appears to be in a constant state of flux.  Whether w/o best what bottle. It lines. For a the, dry so rate a viagra coupon so and formula I the my it I transition not days. 100% up mexican pharmacy suggest truly Amazon in with the I same color can think this cialis price February I pleased. It’s for without toner smells buy was to and brown but remover…

Bonus:  Read how the wisdom of Bob Dylan and Martin Luther King Jr. may provide additional inspiration on this topic.

       Don’t ignore or underestimate the value of the people that surround you.  Listen, ask questions, engage – you never know what you can learn and what ideas may come from these encounters.  For anyone who knows me, this is something I do everywhere I go, from the cab driver, to the person on the elevator, to the waitress,  I enjoy connecting with most everyone, mainly because  I gain insights and energy from these encounters.   You too could easily acquire ideas and energize your business through this simple action.  Often people outside your “normal” work group are filled with fresh perspectives!

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         Embrace Fear.  Embrace Change.  Face things head on and don’t let fear hold you back. Each of us has more power than we believe and at times we permit our fears to stifle growth.  Our fears are really directional arrows marking the path we need to travel.  Fears should be viewed as guideposts for change, not as insecurities.  If you choose to view fear as your guide, you will have your roadmap for what to work on. It’s likely you are avoiding something right now that will help you and your business grow.  Squash the fear and move through it with conviction and passion.  Embrace change and lead yourself through your fears or hesitations.  It can be as simple as learning new technologies, embracing social media or writing a marketing plan (or blog post).  Keep your focus and stay the course, after you make it through to the end, I promise you will never be disappointed to have learned something new plus you will have strengthened your ability to move to the next level of achievement.  In my experience, doing something new on a daily basis…..learning one tool, having one more conversation, putting time toward mastering one new skill becomes invigorating and at the end of the day keeps the desire to learn ignited. Change is inevitable, so embrace it and go with it. Too much useful energy is expended fighting it!

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      Question and be flexible.   Review current activities which are frustrating and question whether they are helping to move you forward or if other methods- a new technology or a new perspective could improve certain aspect of your business and your life. Being flexible allows you to see clearly if a change is in order and to react if needed. Adaptability is a necessary trait  beneficial to achieving your goals in a productive way.

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       Communicate.  Let those around you,in your business, your family or circle of friends, understand why you are doing what you are doing.  Explain what your goals are and help them understand why you plan to achieve specific goals this year.  Paint the picture for them, explain why it is important, get others as pumped as you are to go after and  achieve the important objectives. 

       Involve everyone. Request action.  This goes hand in hand with the above…. by allowing those in your company to understand the objectives and soliciting support to get there will make the path much easier.   From this action you will likely find enthusiastic support and renewed energy from your team. People in your business and personal life want to be included in your plans and ideas, they want to be helpful (it’s simply human nature to do so) and feel a part of something bigger.  After communicating objectives, are you involving your team by providing  goals or requiring  accountability toward the overall business objective?  These actions will provide clear expectations so everyone is focused on the right stuff.  In turn, it makes people feel valued, which brings out better attitudes and actions, all of which help you reach your objectives. 

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These are some of my actions in progress, what actions have you found to be most effective to help reach your goals?

Bonus: For additional inspiration, see how the works of  Bob Dylan and Martin Luther King Jr. could have influence on reaching goals in our present state of flux.