Posts tagged with "small business"

Computer Scams illustration done by Mina Tocalini of 360 MAGAZINE.

5 Tips for Safe Online Holiday Shopping

By Stephanie Benoit-Kurtz, faculty chair for cybersecurity programs at University of Phoenix

Black Friday might look a little different this holiday season as companies opt to close their doors to shoppers and instead offer virtual options to help stop the spread of coronavirus. While doing so may help prevent illness, it puts consumers at greater risk for another threat ― cybercrime.

This time of year has always been the busiest for online shopping, which has grown exponentially during the past decade. And that was before this year’s coronavirus outbreak caused e-commerce sales to rocket further.1 It all adds up to malicious online criminals having many more opportunities to steal valuable personal information.

Online shopping, although convenient, can be problematic if appropriate security measures aren’t implemented. Identity theft, credit card fraud and malware are among the many safety threats consumers face.

It’s important to take steps to protect your personal information while shopping online this holiday season — and throughout the year. These safety measures can help protect your identity and prevent credit card theft.

  1. Ensure the company is PCI compliant

Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance is directed by credit card companies to protect consumers. It mandates that a variety of standards be upheld to ensure secure credit card transactions. All organizations that accept credit cards must uphold the required standard.

If an organization is not PCI compliant, personally identifiable information is potentially at risk, either through a third-party seller or through the consumer’s computer or device because the end-point security necessary to shield the transaction is absent or inadequate.

If an error appears when you go to a business’s website indicating their PCI certificate is not secure or is expired, you should not conduct a transaction there. If you do, your personal information is at risk.

  1. Look for the lock

It is important that companies ensure the data you provide when making a purchase is encrypted. To determine whether an organization is using encryption, look for the lock symbol in the browser. This symbol indicates the website uses SSL, a data-transfer security standard that encrypts your data and ensures the server in use is authentic and secure.

Companies can go one step further with tokenization, which means they do not store, manage, maintain or transmit any credit card numbers in their completion anywhere. To determine a company’s security, look for this information published on their website. It should show what they are doing to secure their customers’ information from vulnerabilities related to personal identifiable data privacy.

  1. Firewall application software and active

Consider installing a firewall software application on your computer. If you already have the software, make sure it is turned on. While firewalls are generally used to prevent malicious cyberattacks coming from the outside, you should look for software that can protect your data in both directions — both incoming and outgoing data — to make sure the private information you provide when you make a purchase is secure.

  1. Antivirus or next-generation AI behavior-based antivirus

Antivirus software will help alert you if your network is victim of a malware attack. There are now more sophisticated next-generation apps that use artificial intelligence (AI) to learn about your consumer habits to better identify fraud. Consider installing AI behavior-based antivirus software before you start your holiday shopping online for an added layer of protection.

  1. Research the business

If you are purchasing from an online store that is new to you, be sure to do your due diligence before clicking “buy now.” Check for complaints made to the Better Business Bureau. Look at online reviews, checking specifically to see if there are challenges concerning refunds or processing cards. Visa and Mastercard have publicly available registries listing service providers that comply with rules and industry security standards.

Once you complete your transaction, it’s possible you will have no idea whether your online purchase has put your sensitive data at risk. It could be years before you know you’ve been a victim of cybercriminals. With the rise in online purchases and the biggest shopping season of the year nearing, it is a good time to do as much as you can to protect yourself.

About the Author

Stephanie Benoit-Kurtz is lead area faculty chair for cybersecurity programs at University of Phoenix Las Vegas Campus and director of cybersecurity at Stations Casinos in Las Vegas.

New Meme Greeting Card Company: “Dirty Pop Cards” Finds Humor in the Risque

You all have that one friend — you know, the one who gets your perverse sense of humor, the one who busts a gut when your raunchy side stands up. This is the friend who deserves a Dirty Pop greeting card. In a world where everyone sends memes and gifs multiple times daily, some might think the act of mailing a card is a thing of the past. Well, if that card is a pop-up pair of ta-tas or a fully erect penis — game changer! Tell me you aren’t giggling a little thinking about your most twisted friend opening 3D boobies or unfolding that special package and watching it come to life.

So, who has the balls to launch a new company with such risque merchandise? It’s the same person who defied the business-crushing COVID-19 pandemic and started a company despite the risks. Inspired by the vulgar memes that match her sense of humor, Thao Lam, CEO of www.dirtypopcards.com is doing her part to spice things up with her out-of-the-ordinary, bawdy greeting card company, Dirty Pop Cards.  Lam decided what the world was craving in these trying times was a little more laughter. With the extra challenges 2020 is creating, who doesn’t need to literally lol right now?

Lam is not going it alone. She and husband Levi Gale are the masterminds behind this widely successful venture. When creating their cards, entrepreneurs Lam and Gale seem to dig into the unspoken innuendos of imagery and language and let their minds roam to the raw aspects of human nature. They take the dirty little thought-process that plays out in most peoples’ heads and put it on paper. The result is a crass but hilarious Dirty Pop greeting card.

When you have a racy sense of humor, not everyone will get you. And even if they do, some will not be as amused as others. These facts make no impression on Lam, who says, “Quite frankly, life is too short to really give a sh*t.”  And it’s this attitude that has successfully launched a uniquely spicey card company in the most challenging times. For Lam, Dirty Pop Cards is about making people laugh. She knows her bawdy brand is not for everyone, and she and Gale have had to defend their raunchy wit by developing a bold business philosophy — “F*uck ‘Em.” Lam explains, “So, every time we see someone laughing over a DP card, we do a little happy dance. And every time we hear someone complain, we still do a little happy dance and say, F*ck ‘Em.” 

So, what’s on the horizon for Dirty Pop Cards? Lam and Gale are currently looking towards the holidays. Knowing this is the time of year when more cards than ever are sent, they can’t help but see it as a huge opportunity to spread their particular style of holiday cheer. Some might think putting a dirty spin on a holiday card is offensive, and these two entrepreneurs are ok with that. Their goal is to bring laughter to the people who appreciate their humor and tantalize a curious few. They know one of their perverse pop-up cards won’t end up in just any stocking. They also know a Dirty Pop card is the best gift ever for the more vulgar crowd on the naughty list. And it’s this group of sordid folks they cater to. 

Dirty Pop offers an array of cards that range from borderline obscene to ones that definitely cross the border. Their content is fresh, funny, playful, and, of course, downright crude. Are you looking for a unique gift that will most certainly be a conversation piece among lewd like-minds? Do you want to send a gift with crude shock value? If so, take a risk on the risque and explore what Dirty Pop Cards has to offer. You will not be disappointed. 

Jean Button illustrated by Mina Tocalini for 360 MAGAZINE.

Covid-19 on Clothes

By Eamonn Burke

As a relatively new virus, new information is coming out about Covid-19 every day. While much is known, such as the fact that it spreads through air and is most dangerous to the elderly, there is much that remains unknown.

One of these unanswered questions is that if clothing: can the coronavirus survive on clothing? What we do know from evidence is that the virus can in fact live on other surfaces like plastic and steel for up to nine days. There is no evidence, however, that answers the question about clothes.

What we do know is that viruses similar to Covid – MERS, SARS – do not survive on clothes, as they are porous surfaces that can trap the virus and dry it out. A study from Johns Hopkins Medicine corroborates this, finding the probability of the virus being transferred through clothing is low. However, another study did find that the virus can live on shoes.

While the most important protective measures against COVID-19 remain social distancing and wearing masks, the CDC still recommends to air on the side of caution and wash clothes, specifically on the warmest setting to dry them out. The findings also pose issue for companies who need to handle clothing returns. Many large companies like Macy’s and Gap have amended their return policies to consider this, but it is also important for small businesses to do the same.

Finding Home Farms Featured In O

Finding Home Farms Featured In O

Finding Home Farms, a family-owned business in Middletown, N.Y., was recently featured in the July/August issue of O, The Oprah Magazine. Finding Home Farms was one of 11 small businesses included in the “Made in America” O List, a roundup of products selected by O magazine’s editors.

With an increased focus on supporting local businesses, including restaurants, farms, and retail shops, the “Made an America” story in the latest O magazine highlighted everything from T-shirts and sun hats to plant-based candles and vegan bellows. Finding Home Farms’ organic maple syrup and pancake gift set made the list, and was included in both the print and digital feature.

“This syrup from fourth-generation maple farmers in New York’s Hudson Valley has a slightly buttery flavor that’s unique to the region. Talk about the breakfast of champions,” reads the O magazine article.

Founded by Laura and Dana Putnam, Finding Home Farms has grown from a lifestyle blog to a full-time sugar-making business with a Sugarhouse, an online store, and a wholesale line. The online shop offers products such as maple syrup, soy candles, home decor, and holiday items.

“The recent feature in The Oprah Magazine is such a sweet reminder that great things can happen for our small businesses even during this challenging time,” said Orange County Tourism Director Amanda Dana. “Finding Home Farms is a shining example of creative marketing combined with a fantastic product line.”

To read the article, click here.

Finding Home Farms is located at 140 Eatontown Road, Middletown, N.Y.

For more information, visit findinghomefarms.com or call (845) 355-4335.

Tacos and chips on a tray

Lanea Reopens With Cruise-Up Cocktails and Tacos To-Go and Expanded Outdoor Dining Area

Reintroducing Santa Monica’s Premier Cocktail Bar and Mexican Restaurant

Open in Time for One-Year Anniversary

Following the Official County of Los Angeles Department of Health guidelines, Lanea is proud to reopen its doors in time for their one-year anniversary with a new cruise-up take-out option featuring convenient cocktails and tacos for pick-up, expanded outdoor dining, and meal packages, all of which will make it easier and more affordable to safely eat outdoors as well as order takeout and/or delivery. To celebrate their return and one-year anniversary, this beachy Santa Monica cocktail bar and restaurant is launching an all-day “Taco & Tequila Happy Hour” with $2 tacos and $9 cocktails daily throughout the Summer, additional specials for National Tequila Day, and a variety of to-go fiesta meal packs including their Picnic Package, perfect for a day at the park or beach.

Located two blocks from the beach, Lanea is a spirit-driven cocktail bar and restaurant with an extensive variety of over 400 hand-selected Mezcals and tequilas. Their authentic Mexican cuisine is prepared by Petra Zavaleta, who hails from Tepeaca, Puebla, and rose to foodie fame with her underground barbacoa pop-ups, and later opened their eatery Barbakush in East L.A. Praised as one of the best Mexican eateries on the Westside, Petra and her family source their lamb locally from Chino Hills and prepare their barbacoa in an earthen pit, cooking it slowly over an open fire. Offering five different styles of classic tacos on their handmade-to-order corn tortillas, as well as chips and guacamole, they are the perfect complement to Lanea’s unique cocktail menu.

“It’s been a difficult and stressful year for Santa Monica’s small businesses, and I know we will collectively band together to weather all the hurdles 2020 has brought us. Petra and I, who are both immigrants, alongside our other partners, are really thankful and humbled by the local support as we continue to offer a safe, affordable outlet for the local community,” say owner Peter Trinh. “Come by and check out our new to-go small batched cocktails, canned in-house or our handmade gluten-free tacos, as we’d love to have you as our guest again.”

Upon reopening, Lanea has revamped their landscape and dining experience to safely accommodate customers, implementing the necessary protocols, to enhance the safety of patrons with regards to COVID-19. Lanea has added outdoor dining while abiding by the six-foot social distancing mandatory safety guidelines. Additional safety protocols include administering temperature checks to employees and diners, UV-light sanitizing, all staff must wear masks and gloves, hand sanitizer is readily available, and contactless ordering and payment has been implemented.

Lanea will be celebrating their one-year anniversary all Summer long with the launch of their new, all-day “Taco & Tequila Happy Hour,” featuring $2 tacos (of your choice), $9 canned cocktails (regularly $13), and frozen cocktails. Happy hour specials include $6 Chips & Guacamole and $4 Consome, which is bone broth with chipotle chickpeas, onion, and cilantro. Check Instagram for other anniversary specials and National Tequila Day celebrations on July 24th.

Patrons can enjoy a variety of $2 taco offerings including Barbacoa Tacos, wrapped in banana leaves and are pit-roasted underground, served with guacamole; Asada Tacos, grilled steak seasoned with Petra’s seasoning, served with guacamole; Pollo Tacos, grilled chicken seasoned with Petra’s seasonings, served with guacamole, cilantro and onions; Vegetarian Tacos, with mushrooms and spinach; Sopes Tacos, with beans and asada topped with Mexican cream, served with guacamole, cilantro and onions; Pescado Tacos, tilapia served with lettuce and garlic seasoning; and lastly Pescado con Mango Taco, tilapia served with mango, jalapeno, green & red pepper, and avocado. All tacos are handmade-to-order on 100% gluten-free corn tortillas, with the option to make any of the tacos into quesadillas for $2 more. Brunch tacos and quesadillas are available daily until 4pm.

Patrons can choose from a variety of items by viewing Lanea’s full menu here. Guests can also enjoy the “Fiesta Meal-Packs” such as the Picnic Pack which comes with six tacos of your choice, chips and pico de gallo, two handmade cocktails, and a Mexican-themed blanket, all for just $45. Or choose the Chill in the Sun Pack which contains four tacos of your choice, chips and pico de gallo, and two handmade frozen cocktails. Picnic Pack ($45) Lanea’s hand-crafted cocktails are also available to-go. Summer menu additions include the Third Street Sling made with Hibiscus Patron Tequila, fresh lemon, passionfruit, pineapple, or the Jungle Bird Scooter with Vida Mezcal, fresh lemon, ginger, Campari. For $9, they can sip on a variety of signature canned cocktails such as the Paloma made with The Chainsmokers’ JAJA Tequila containing grapefruit tonic and Aperol, or the Margarita with Cazadores tequila, fresh lime, demerara, orange liqueur. Lanea is also offering to-go bottles and flasks of a limited edition, rotating selection of craft beverages with bottle art created by local artist, Ryan Gilden.

Lanea is located at 217 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA, and hours of operation are daily from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. Delivery of food and alcohol is available through Toast, Grubhub, Postmates, and UberEats. Pickup is available by calling the restaurant directly at 424-265-PIER (7437). Alcoholic beverages are available to-go with food on all platforms except UberEats (currently not an option via Uber). Order online here.

FOLLOW LANEA: Website | Instagram

360 MAGAZINE, BUSINESS, ILLUSTRATIONS ,rita azar

7 Ways Businesses Can Improve Digital Marketing with Social Media

The digital world is full of tools that can boost your marketing results, such as social media. Here are ways to improve digital marketing with social media.

The internet is one of the most powerful marketing tools available to business owners. Social media, in particular, holds a notable amount of potential for brands looking to increase their marketing capabilities. 

Not sure where to start? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about how to improve digital marketing for your brand through social media.

1. It’s Cost-Effective

Since social media accounts are free to create and use, there’s no reason not to take advantage of their utility. Most other forms of digital marketing come at a cost, and they can quickly add up over time (especially if you’re subscribed to multiple different monthly services).

Since you’ll be in charge of your own social media account, you control how much money you spend— even if it’s nothing at all.

Depending on how well you know your audience and what type of product or service you offer, you may choose to run social media ads. Utilizing these correctly is still a highly cost-effective practice that you can use to grow your business. 

2. It Provides an Additional Avenue of Communication

In general, you’ll find that your audience is more likely to reach out to you if they have a higher number of ways to do so.

There’s nothing wrong with using phone or email as your primary method of communication with your audience. By allowing them to contact you directly on social media (even through direct messages), you can significantly increase your level of engagement with them.

Since social media is a far more personal platform than email, you can expect to receive messages that ask questions about your product or service, voice their opinion of your company itself, etc.

By acknowledging and responding to public comments, you’ll show the rest of your audience that you’re active on your platform and able to be easily interacted with. This will establish a more human element to your brand that will help people resonate with your company. 

3. It’s Active 24/7 

When you post something on social media, your audience has the opportunity to interact with it during all hours of the day and night. If you happen to have a business that functions internationally, this becomes even more important.

Additionally, people don’t always prioritize checking their email. However, the average person spends hours per week across every social media platform.

As your online following grows, you’ll reach a point where your audience is actively seeking out the posts that you make. So, posts they may have missed are able to be found on their own when they navigate to your page. 

Combining social media with a traditional form of marketing (such as using brand vehicles for your company) can exponentially increase your audience’s awareness of your company. 

4. Instant Access to Your Audience

As previously mentioned, it can take a bit to hear back from your audience if you were contacting them through email or other methods. Unfortunately, this can prove to be an issue if you happen to need a relatively quick response from them.

Social media gives you instant access to your audience as soon as you click ‘post,’ making it a great method to ask for feedback, make an announcement, etc. 

Since every minute counts when optimizing business productivity, social media should be high on your list of priorities when researching better ways to engage with your customers. 

5. Your Followers Will Share Your Content

One of the best attributes of social media when it comes to improving your company’s digital marketing practices is the chance that your audience will often share the content you post.

While there’s no guarantee that your shares will grow exponentially, even a handful of them can drastically increase the number of people that see your posts.

For instance, let’s assume you have 1,000 followers on Facebook for your brand. Since not everyone uses social media all the time, you average 200 to 300 views per post.

But, 10 people have decided to share your latest post, and five of those people have over 1,000 friends on Facebook. The total audience for your latest post has just grown exponentially by having someone else click a button.

In order to optimize your chance of having your content shared, it should be both accessible and engaging. Quick guides, reviews, etc. are great places to start. In the meantime, Hostinger is rated quite high if you’re ever in the mood to build your very own community.

6. You’ll Build a Community

Building a community won’t happen overnight, and it takes a notable amount of consistent effort on your part to do so. But, having a strong social following can exponentially increase the success of your brand.

One of the best ways to go about this is to consistently interact with your followers and show your appreciation for their engagement. Holding a giveaway that only your social media followers have access to, for example, is a great way for you to cultivate your brand’s community. 

7. Increased SEO Value

It’s important to note that social media won’t directly boost your company’s website SEO. But, it can have a significant indirect impact on this metric.

You’re able to leverage your social following to link to specific pages on your company site. As more and more traffic reaches those pages, your Google ranking will also begin to increase.

As long as you link to content that your followers are sure to be interested in, you’re unlikely to encounter any issues. 

Understanding How to Improve Digital Marketing With Social Media Can Seem Difficult

But it doesn’t have to be.

With the above information about using social media to improve digital marketing in mind, you’ll be well on your way to taking full advantage of this strategy.

Want to learn more business tips that can help you out in the future? Be sure to check out the rest of our blog.

360 MAGAZINE, BUSINESS, ILLUSTRATIONS ,rita azar

How to Increase Productivity Quickly and Efficiently 

So much to do, so little time. It is a common feeling amongst many, leaving us feeling like we never get round to completing the tasks that we need to. Being more productive doesn’t just happen overnight; it does require making some adjustments to how you manage your time. Maximizing productivity isn’t simply putting all your time into the tasks at hand, but managing the way you go about handling them. 

Remove Distractions from the Situation

Distractions could be anything from your smartphone, the TV, or anything around you that is taking away your full ability to focus. Switch everything off so you can think clearly about what it is you need to put all your attention on, decreasing chances of your mind wandering to other things. 

Don’t Multitask too Much

Multitasking often causes more stress than is realized and makes tasks take longer, and sometimes can affect how well assignments are completed, making your workload even bigger than when you started. It is much more productive to keep your full attention on one responsibility at a time, rather than trying to do multiple things at once. If you really struggle with managing your time, you can get support with the use of lots of different time management tools. Setting an alarm on an alarm clock is also a simple way to keep track of your time. 

Plan Your Day

There is no need for long lists of what you need to get done. Determining the most important things you would like to achieve by pinpointing 2 to 4 main objectives that are important is a straightforward way to make a to-do list. To-do lists are a productive way to help you stay organized and keep track of things you need to complete and have completed. Preparing this the night beforehand is the best time to do it, as it will eliminate any stress of sorting it out in the morning. 

Tidy Your Work Environment 

Whether it is where you do most of your work in your home or in your work environment like an office, keeping your workspace tidy and organized is scientifically proven to help your brain focus and feel less irritated. Removing clutter from the space you are working in or living in will benefit your mental health and increase the ability to be more productive. Although knowing where to start can be difficult, there are many simple ways of how you can declutter your environment quickly and efficiently. 

Complete Similar Tasks Together

Save time by bundling similar tasks together. Things you need to do like writing emails, making phone calls or similar forms of housework should all be put into one bundle to complete one after another. 

Get a Good Night’s Sleep

If you do not get enough sleep, your productivity levels are more likely to drop. Lack of sleep causes less energy, affects your ability to focus, and makes it more difficult to be creative and solve problems. Getting sufficient sleep isn’t easy for everyone, with many common problems causing sleep deprivation. Just a few of these problems could be sleep disorders like insomnia, stress, or discomfort. To improve your sleeping habits, you could consider investing in a better mattress for your body, as this is often the reason that can cause insufficient amounts of sleep. There are several good options to choose from when purchasing a mattress that suits you to enable a better night’s sleep. 

When it comes to increasing your productivity in an efficient way, take time to think about the steps you will take and what will suit you best. Don’t worry about rushing everything and feeling stressed about managing everything all in one day. 

coffee, mug, plate, cocoa, green, white, brown, 360 Magazine, illustration

How to Build Your Brand from Your Bedroom

Under the current, (very) uncertain financial conditions, the prospect of starting a business might not be the most appealing. With some experts predicting an economic downturn worse than anything we’ve seen since the Great Depression during the 1930s, cutting back on all non-essentials and saving as much money as possible seems the obvious & sensible strategy.

However, for every recession, some businesses thrive and several entrepreneurial possibilities will typically develop. To build a recession-proof business and to start a business during the current financial crisis, minimizing overheads is a great place to start.

Work from Home

Many of us have now experience the ‘forced-experiment’ of working from home and have hopefully, made adjustments so that it is a viable option in the future. Whilst during the pandemic your clients may forgive you for having a barking dog or a crying baby in the background, this will most likely be deemed highly unprofessional again in the near future.

By using a telephone answering service from the likes of Moneypenny and a virtual office address from the likes of Apso you can portray your business in a highly professional light. Combined with a professional website, having a ‘bricks and mortar’ office address and a landline telephone number can make a business run from your bedroom, appear to be a highly reputable establishment.

In addition, having a professional receptionist who knows your business down to the important details and provides a great customer service can make your business seem ‘bigger’ than it is. 

Another big advantage of using a virtual receptionist app or service is that you can often opt for a 24/7 or out of hours service. This can allow you to capture calls around the clock, meaning that you’ll never miss a sales-lead again.

Use Accountancy Apps

Please note that in some countries, you can get a fine for filling in a tax return and other legal forms incorrectly. If this is the case, it may be wise to invest in a local accountant or hire a tax return specialist from a website such as Upwork.

Whether or not you use an accountant, using an accounting or finance app can still save you lots of time and potentially money. By using an app, for example, you can cut down substantially on admin time that may have previously required an additional member of staff to hire.

The fact that you can access your financial data on your mobile phone, regardless of your location, makes it a lot easier to manage your operations & spending. With the right app; you will also be able to archive receipts and create invoices on the go – giving you fewer things to remember to do when you get back home or back to the office!

Quickbooks and Freshbooks are the leading industry apps at present. To quickly run through what you could expect to do with Quickbooks:

– Create & send highly professional invoices

– Scan receipts & attach them to expenses forms

– Instantly access auto-generated reports such as profit & loss, balance and cash flow

– Run a Payroll

– Accept Online Payments

– Simplify Tax returns

Being able to simplify tax returns is a big benefit. This can save you a lot of money, as a freelance accountant will have to spend less time putting together your forms, meaning that they can charge significantly less.

Develop Brand Ambassadors

By brand ambassadors, we don’t mean the ones that you might find on social media with tens of thousands of followers – we mean utilising your customers & clients. By going above and beyond, providing a great value service and/or product and offering referral promotions, you can often turn existing clients and customers into lead-generating assets. Many businesses make the mistake of chasing new clients and not looking after their current clientele. However, by making your current clients feel special and highly valued, you can often gain many clients passively, by word of mouth.

One way to find brand ambassadors is to do a search online and find people who’ve already shown some authentic love or admiration for your brand. Search using your company name, relevant hashtags or just look for posts that you’ve been tagged in. You can also use software for this if necessary – for example, Brand24 or SocialToaster. Finally, if you have a signup process online, you can ask people if they would be willing to share products with their network and friends. This can also work if you have a newsletter or ask for feedback at any point.

Social Media Advertising

Before you commit to spending any money on advertising, make sure you research for several hours first. People waste millions of dollars each year by putting adverts live without delving into the strategies that work and don’t work for each industry and niche. Hiring an agency can also be very expensive and for something that is not highly technical or difficult to learn. Commit to 2 or 3 hours of research – which pretty much involves watching videos on Youtube at x1.5 speed!

If you do choose to do paid advertising on Facebook, focus on getting the right audience, be as specific as possible and create a tailored set of adverts. Remember that people are not actively searching for products or services, they are just scrolling through their timeline – so you’ll usually need to ‘warm them up’ with a free eBook or offer. If budget allows, test several formats of advert too, make video one of them.

The worst thing you can do with Google, Facebook or any other advertising, is jump in and put campaigns live without learning the tips and tricks that a very important when it comes to making a profit. Done correctly, however, social media advertising can be highly cost-effective.

Here is a great tutorial about Facebook advertising to get started with.

Illustration, trademark, patent, inventions, 360 MAGAZINE, SARA SANDMAN

Non-Profit Inventiv.org to Provide Free Patent Filing Tools to Inventors

By Abigail Baldwin × Vaughn Lowery

Obtaining a patent is a long process. Inventors have to file complex legal documents which can get very expensive. A patent is a license from the US government and gives you exclusive rights to an invention. It grants the inventor the power to eliminate others from creating, using, or making money from an invention. They are difficult to obtain by yourself. You need a patent attorney which is costly. Any mistake can set you back months or years, but fame and wealth follow those who invent and leverage the patent system. 

For many small businesses and entrepreneurs, obtaining a patent can be an uphill battle. Not having access to tools, lawyers and information can leave the inventor in the dark. Inaction can be fatal to inventors in our current first-to-file regime, which is a race to file the patent application as fast as possible. The United States Patent and Trademark Office has streamlined services and their website for easy navigation. Still, it can be extremely difficult to understand the legal jargon and their patent search engine can appear dated. Subsequently, the USPTO has established an Inventor Assistance platform which can aid an inventor. Still, the road to a patent can be long and windy for the uninitiated.

Nonprofits like Inventiv.org offer gratis software, tips on how to properly file, as well as how to protect your inventions. All the aforementioned are conducive for cutting-edge startups and entrepreneurs who are in dire need of resources to get their invention in the marketplace before it’s patented by someone else. With access to volunteers and law firms such as http://www.tranassoc.com and htpp://www.patentoffice.io and the free software at Inventiv.org, the cost of filing patents becomes more easily manageable, democratizing the intellectual property system for all.

“I used an early version of the free provisional filing software from inventiv.org to create my draft application and filed it to get an early priority date for my start-up JobTree, a mobile recruiting platform focusing on new grads by providing better match between students and employers.  Afterward, I looked for legal help in converting the provisional application to a utility application and the Patent Office. The patent law firm of www.patentoffice.io has been instrumental in working with our startup to provide a complete patent and trademark protection strategy. The process is simple and cost-effective compared to the traditional process of handing everything to a patent lawyer.” says John Huynh, a beta user of Inventiv.org. Mary Kimani, another beta user and a product manager at www.Plant-Grow.com noted that “The early version software I tested from www.Inventiv.org helped our company file 3 provisional patent applications which protect our innovation for a year until the utility conversion. The whole process is easy and the software was free. I recommend it.”

About Inventiv.org

Inventiv.org uses a unique software that integrates patent search engines and guides you through each section of the application process. Inventiv.org also has educational resources that will stay with you forever. The software for patent application drafting will be available later this month and it’s completely free to use.

About Patent Law Office

PatentOffice.io is a patent law firm that specializes in patent filing and prosecution and is an active contributor to Inventiv.org. The firm says “We are glad to support innovative start-ups and individuals and to make the patent system available to everyone.”

About Tran & Associates

Tran & Associates (www.tranassoc.com) is a boutique law firm that specializes in helping companies navigate through the maze of the patenting process. “We laud the work of Inventiv.org in helping individuals who invent to benefit from our great patent system.”

Vaughn Lowery, 360 MAGAZINE

Why you need visibility into invoices

(and how AI can help you get it)

We’ve covered how having visibility into employee expense reports helps organizations catch errors, waste, and fraud, and streamline process so that employees get reimbursed faster. But there’s another area of business spend where visibility might be even more critical: invoices. 

Enterprise AP departments pay thousands of invoices every month. Overworked AP teams may be hard pressed to scrutinize every invoice manually for adherence to contract terms, pricing anomalies, gradual increases in invoice amounts, or patterns that could indicate fraud, such as repeated invoices that fall just below the PO limit. Even worse, criminals can exploit an AP department’s lack of bandwidth by sending invoices for products that were never delivered or services that were never rendered, sometimes from companies that don’t even exist. 

Of course, the vast majority of vendors are trustworthy and want to earn and retain their customers’ trust, but with humans in the payment processing equation, honest mistakes are bound to happen. 

The risk hiding in vendor invoices

We recently reviewed the aggregated, anonymized data from billions of audit transactions across hundreds of customer accounts in a variety of industries, and summarized the results in our quarterly report, The State of AI in Business Spend. We found that, for the average enterprise, invoices comprise 96% of their business spend. (In comparison, employee expenses for travel and entertainment (T&E) make up only 3.7% of spend). The average company processes 60,354 invoices every month, but only audits or reviews at most 10% of them, usually after payment. In other words, most companies only find mistakes after the money is out the door, when clawing it back is expensive and time consuming.

Our report also revealed that 4% of invoices could be considered high risk. These invoices generally fell into three main categories:

•Prices, discounts or terms didn’t match the contract. Procurement teams may work hard to negotiate great terms with vendors, but if AP doesn’t ensure that invoices reflect those terms, that effort is wasted.

•Vendors billed inflated prices compared to the market. Most AP teams don’t have time to see whether better rates are available elsewhere.

•Duplicates. We uncovered double billing that may or may not have been accidental, as well as amounts duplicated on expense reports. 

Why visibility into high-risk invoices is critical

We probably don’t have to work that hard to convince you that incorrect invoices hurt your bottom line. But you might be surprised at how small mistakes, intentional or not, can add up. 

For example, we’ve found that many invoices don’t align with the signed contract, and the most frequent error is net payment terms: A contract may list payment terms as Net 60, but the invoices list Net 15 or Net 30. This difference can have a huge impact on your cash flow…and even profit.

Duplicate charges or payments happen with surprising frequency. Often, after an invoice is held up, an employee may intervene and approve manual payment of the invoice, but when the system clears the hold, the invoice is paid again. Even if the vendor notifies you about the duplicate payment, the time and energy everyone will spend trying to fix the mistake could be better spent elsewhere. 

But it’s the big mistakes, like fraud and non-compliance, that can cost your organization not only money but something that’s hard to replace: its reputation. Invoice fraud is real, and even large companies fall victim to it: A Lithuanian man recently bilked Facebook and Google out of more than $100 million by impersonating a vendor with which the tech titans do business.

What’s more, our report found that for every 10,000 invoices, at least one contains a regulatory violation. For example, a regional sales director might funnel payments to a distributor for fake “logistics services” that are actually a bribe to a government official who influences reimbursement policy for your company’s product. In a real-life story that illustrates the potential consequences, a large multinational retailer will have to pay the U.S. government $282 million for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), in part because it failed to institute sufficient internal accounting controls related to third-party payments.

How AI can help

Given the value at risk, many enterprises are embracing AI as a way to get visibility into invoices—before they pay vendors—for errors, fraud, and out-of-compliance spend. Companies that use AI achieve 100% visibility into their invoices; companies that don’t use AI get at most 10% visibility.

AI extracts and analyzes key pieces of information on every invoice to catch duplicate charges, enforce payment terms, identify missing discounts, eliminate overcharges, catch suspicious activity, and flag compliance issues. This frees your AP team to focus on tasks that will add more value to your financial processes—and helps improve your bottom line by stopping unnecessary outflows. 

To understand the magnitude of the issue and see what 100% visibility into business spend means to you, download our latest research report, The State of AI in Business Spend. The findings focus on spend visibility, value at risk in invoices, insights on streamlining the spend audit process, recommendations for finance teams, and more.

Claire Chen is a Business Operations Analyst at AppZen, where she’s passionate about providing simple solutions for complicated data.