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Feature Story:

Protecting Customer Data: Identify And Remediate Online Vulnerabilities Now! »

By Luke Engelhardt

Do you know there's an easy way to identify and predict how cybercriminals might get into your organization? Fortunately for already-busy franchisees, the process isn't as complicated as you may think. Vulnerability management is the simplest way for franchisees to locate and patch security holes before would-be data thieves find and exploit them.
Vulnerability management is the process, implementation, and controls that identify the location of weaknesses in an infrastructure that could act as secret tunnels into your network. Ultimately, it's a critical foundation on which to build your business's network security.
While there is no such thing as being hack-proof, data thieves and cybercriminals are notoriously lazy. They would much rather go after low-hanging fruit than invest the time and trouble to break into a secured network or website...

Feature Story:

Technology Backlash: Good Old-Fashioned Personal Touch Can Bring Business Success »

Multi-Unit Franchisee

Hello? Is anybody there?
One of the biggest problems sales people face with social media and technology is the lack of real, meaningful contact and communication.  Sure, it's quick and easy. But when it comes to closing deals, does it really produce the results you need? These lessons can also apply to franchisees and their employees.
Joanne S. Black, author of the new book Pick Up the Damn Phone! How People, Not Technology, Seal the Deal, is on a mission to help people learn the importance of personal contact.  Her manifesto is simple - to make a real connection and achieve true, meaningful communication, you have to make a personal and even in-person contact. Her goal is to get people to tweet less and talk more to the customers and contacts who really matter...

Feature Story:

Social Marketing Continues To Rise »

Multi-Unit Franchisee

Nearly 20 percent of small businesses expected to make greater use of email blasts
While many small and medium-sized businesses have been quick to embrace free postings on social media networks, one-fourth of those active on social networks expect to spend more money to advertise on sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter in 2014, according to the recently released Small Business Marketing Forecast by Ad-ology Research.
Nearly 80 percent of social small and medium-sized businesses plan to spend the same or more advertising on social media networks. While nearly 41 percent do not currently use promoted posts or sponsored tweets, 13.8 percent of small business owners plan to spend more on these platforms in 2014.
"The larger the business, the greater the use of advertising and targeted marketing tactics like email blasts," says C...

Feature Story:

Twitter Makes Changes »

By Marsha Friedman

Social Media Strategist Shares Pros and Cons of 4 New Measures

A couple of months ago, our lead social media strategist at EMSI Public Relations started noticing interesting changes involving the Twitter accounts we manage for clients. Tools were suddenly disabled. Twitter's technical support, which hadn't been good, improved.
So when news broke in late September that Twitter had already formally taken steps toward going public back in mid-July, Jeni Hinojosa, a social media strategist at EMSI, wasn't surprised.
"The changes appear designed to make Twitter more appealing to investors when the initial public offering is finally made," Hinojosa says. "In some ways, they're also improving the experience for users. But in other ways, some users will be disappointed...

Feature Story:

Card Catastrophe: Why Mobile Processing Should Scare You »

By Jon Clark

Have your begun processing payments with a smartphone or tablet yet? Maybe they're seriously considering implementing a mobile processing strategy like many other businesses and micro-merchants. That's wonderful. But here's the bad news. Though mobile payments are growing exponentially, the security portion of processing credit cards via mobile devices has seriously been neglected.

Get up to speed with the issues
Mobile processing (e.g., Square, GoPayment) is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it allows more processing flexibility, but it also has the potential to dramatically increase fraud and business liability. The problem with mobile devices is that they weren't made for security or payment processing. Hackers know that, and they are after customers' profitable payment data...

Feature Story:

Maximize Your E-Sources: Using Social Media As A Recruiting Tool »

By Nate DaPore

"Google," which became a verb in June 2006, is among many new verbs that have transformed the way we speak--and interact. Today we "friend" someone on Facebook, "bookmark" a website, "blog" an article, and "text" from our phones. Social media is rewriting how we connect with each other--and it's happening in every aspect of our lives. Twitter transformed how we get our news; Groupon revolutionized how we consume; Foursquare revamped how we "check-in"; and now, social media is redefining how we hire.
More than a decade ago, HR saw the emergence of job boards that allowed employers to reach an expanded talent pool with the click of a few buttons. Since that time, virtual hiring portals have dominated candidate sourcing. As social media infiltrates everyday life, franchisees must leverage these resources to connect with both their consumers and candidates...

Feature Story:

Plastic Fantastic: How To Create Key Tags And Loyalty Cards That Get Results »

Multi-Unit Franchisee

Businesses that offer plastic membership cards, loyalty cards, and key tags to their clients and customers are giving their customers a great incentive to keep coming back and take part in their loyalty programs, promotions, and special offers. To make sure that your customers will want to join your program over that of a competitor, you should put effort into designing an eye-catching and effective key tag or membership card that will appeal to and attract more customers. These five easy steps to designing an effective key tag will help you get started.

Step 1: Develop your message
First it is important to develop the message for your key tag. What will it be used for and what is its key purpose? Ask yourself who will be the target audience...

Feature Story:

Digital Ordering: Consumers Want Technology To Order And Pay For Fast Food »

Multi-Unit Franchisee

Online shopping has changed how consumers purchase airline tickets, shoes, music, and more. Now, according to a survey from EMN8, consumers want more of the same technology choices when it comes to ordering fast food.
Consumers are ready and willing to use technology to order from their favorite QSRs. The survey conducted online nationwide by Harris Interactive on behalf of EMN8 in February among 2,230 (among whom 1,904 consumed fast food in the past 12 months) U.S. adults aged 18 and older, shows that 43 percent of Americans who consumed fast food in the past 12 months would be interested in ordering from a QSR in the next 12 months via computer and three in ten would like to order from their mobile device.
"Consumers are extremely comfortable ordering goods online and, as generations grow up with mobile technology, they will increasingly want to engage with their favorite brands through this channel...

Feature Story:

The Sales Drive: 3 Effective Social Media Strategies That Can Help Build Sales »

By Scott Klososky

Social technologies provide a powerful collection of marketing tools, and they are inexpensive compared to other forms of marketing. Companies including Starbucks, Nike, Pepsi, Dell, Dirt Devil, IBM, and JetBlue have already seen tremendous results from social marketing methods, and they are gaining traction with tools like customer intelligence, email, word-of-mouth campaigns, and viral video--all tailor-made to provide huge benefits for businesses.
Let's take a closer look at three techniques that can make an immediate positive impact on your marketing efforts.

Customer Intelligence - Most organizations simply maintain a database with a name, contact information, and company. A customer intelligence strategy would increase the data to 20 or 30 fields of information and would include a mix of business and personal data...

Feature Story:

Making Connections: The Technology Chaos Will Come To An End »

By Scott Klososky

At every level, technology is now a game changing tool - and a great weapon of destruction. I suspect there has been little in the history of humanity that has more ability to change our lives, careers, and fortunes save war and pestilence. It should be no surprise that when billions of us can now be connected through an inventory of devices and social connections, we can also be disconnected. Hard drives can fail, viruses can disrupt, phones can drop in toilets (twice so far for my daughter), and batteries can die. In many of these cases we not only lose the connection we are becoming so addicted to, we also can lose data we never realized could disappear in an instant. Yes, technology giveth, and can taketh away.
On a larger scale, technology is reconstructing whole industries in just a few years...

Feature Story:

Whose Gift Card Is It, Anyway?: Navigating The Tricky Waters Of Escheat Law For Franchises »

By Ronald Tramazzo

Gift cards! Often viewed as giveaways or as marketing ploys. You may want to think twice before you throw them into your offerings mix -- there are potential obstacles you may not have considered. Franchisors sometimes offer gift cards for their franchisees to sell, usually through programs funded by the franchise system's ad fund. The big question to consider is, once the franchise system collects the funds, what happens with the unused portion (the "breakage") of these gift cards? Are these funds kept by the franchisor? Are they turned over to the franchisee?
Many states have "escheat" statutes (the process of re-assigning legal title of unclaimed or abandoned assets to a state authority) that require these funds be turned over to the state after the passage of a prescribed period of time...

Feature Story:

Get Your Social On: New Survey Suggests A 'Digital Gap' In Companies Is Growing  »

Multi-Unit Franchisee

A new international survey of companies identifies some unique and surprising social media trends. InSites Consulting recently queried 1,222 managers and business owners from companies (with more than 20 employees) in the U.S., Great Britain, The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, and France.

Among the survey's key findings:

Feature Story:

Made For Online TV: Empire Builders Tell Their Stories In New Video Series »

By Kerry Pipes

Burton W. Folsom uncovered something revolutionary about capitalism in 19th century America. And in his books, he debunks commonly held views about the role of capitalism in the social developments of the Industrial Revolution and the Gilded Age.
Nowhere does Folsom make his case more clearly than in his 1998 book, Empire Builders: How Michigan Entrepreneurs Helped Make America Great. In this book, he wrote about a number of great business leaders who made their state and nation into a great economic power by the end of the 1800s.
What does any of this have to do with franchising? Plenty. Folsom's understanding of the critical importance of entrepreneurs and how they affect their cultures helped frame the development of EmpireBuilders...

Feature Story:

Smart Patrol: Mobile Payments Fraught With Security Problems »

By Gary Glover

The rapidly expanding mobile payments market is attractive to merchants because of the low entry barrier to obtain a smartphone or tablet device. Dozens of companies, acquirers, and payment entities offer mobile payment solutions, and hundreds of thousands of merchants use them. Despite its convenient and futuristic qualities, the mobile platform was not designed as a secure application environment and seriously lags behind in payment security.
If I were a hacker, I would invest my time in devising ways to attack mobile smartphones. Think of the sensitive data stored or entered in your smartphone, such as bank login information, credit card numbers, and your personal information. Because it is connected to the Internet at all times, a smartphone is at great risk for malware designed to grab sensitive information...

Feature Story:

How Tweet It Is: Twitter Tips For Small Business Operators »

Multi-Unit Franchisee

There has been loads of media attention directed toward Twitter, the 140-character micro-blogging service that allows people and businesses to communicate with their "followers." In addition to being embraced as the next big thing for marketing your company, a number of small business owners have flocked to the blogs to explain how Twitter has helped them build customer relationships and add new names to their customer management database.
If you've never used Twitter before, you may want a few pointers for how to make the best use of the service. Here are some ideas:

What are your needs?
Just as there is no one-size-fits-all prescription for how to grow your business, there is no single method for using Twitter that will fit all companies...

Feature Story:

Online Only?: Don't Neglect The Personal Customer Service Experience »

By John Tschohl

No one I know would dispute the benefits technology--specifically the computer--has had on every aspect of our lives. It has put information at our fingertips and allowed us to communicate with others whenever and wherever we happen to be. Technology also has allowed businesses--no matter their size, location, products, or services--to compete on a global basis.
For many businesses, however, that technology has a downside. They have used technology to provide their customers with the speed and convenience of online shopping but, in the process, they have downgraded the importance of human interaction to the stage of near extinction. Many of those businesses don't even include an e-mail address or a telephone number on their websites so that customers can contact them...

Feature Story:

Under Lock And Key: PCI Compliance And Data Security Is Sound Business Practice »

By Paul Arceneaux

Every business that accepts credit/debit card payments must comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). Doing so is more than a requirement; it's a sound business practice that offers the protection your business needs against potentially devastating consequences from credit card data theft.

That protection is especially important to restaurant franchisees, as restaurants are the most popular targets of credit card thieves. According to Visa International, remote access by hackers was the source of 41 percent of all credit card data theft in 2010 - with Level 4 merchants the target of 96 percent of all hacking.

Many merchants believe that their merchant bank or ISO covers them for PCI DSS compliance...

Feature Story:

Gain An Advantage: Five Crippling Mistakes People Make With Technology »

By Scott Klososky

I often comment that technology is just a tool. It's not magic, nor mysterious, it is just a tool. I do admit that some aspects can be complicated, and if one adds together all the technology we face in life, it can get overwhelming. However, it is just a tool in the end, but a very powerful tool to be sure. Those who master it have a distinct advantage over those who do not. We all choose to what extent we invest time into adding technology skills to our lives - be that social tools, devices, software applications, or operating systems. The scary thing is that most people lack even the semblance of a plan. They just roll along grabbing at pieces when it fits in their lives, or when they are embarrassed into it.

In an effort to actually be helpful, and not just a critic, I submit to you the following list of mistakes that I see people make...

Feature Story:

Keeping Hackers Out: Simple Steps For Safeguarding Customer Data »

By David Ellis

Network systems attackers, as well as less-dangerous (though still nefarious) hackers, never rest in their ongoing quest to compromise franchise computer systems and capture a share of the billion-dollar bounty of stolen credit card data. When the final 2010 figures are tallied, the FBI expects that organized crime worldwide will net more illicit money from Internet fraud than from illegal narcotics trafficking.

Attackers' methodologies continue to evolve and grow more sophisticated. Franchises must do likewise to stay a step ahead and protect customers' personal information and their own hard-earned business reputations, indeed their very livelihoods.

Some quick definitions: "Attackers" break into franchise computer systems with specific criminal intent to steal and defraud, whereas "hackers" often do so for the challenge, the notoriety, or the thrill of the chase...

Feature Story:

New Technology Is Impacting Franchise Operations--and Profits »

By Amanda Richardson

Technology is always changing as new trends or new tools continually impact the way businesses operate. From the prevalence of automation innovations to the explosion of mobile offerings to "the cloud," it's hard to keep up with the changes.

Sorting through the noise is hard, but there are some key innovations that will help you to run a more efficient and more profitable business. We've been monitoring these trends, and we know that essential business services are improved by leveraging popular technologies in the name of saving you time and money.

Cloud Overhead
By far the biggest concept taking root with franchises is the prevalence of software services that are hosted in the cloud, or simply, software that isn't installed on a computer, but instead lives on the web...

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