By Jhesús M. Suárez

Databases have always been of great importance, even more in the digital environment, as customers are the engine of any company. Investing in a database that allows us to understand them better is an excellent option, as it is a platform in which a series of organized pieces data are introduced, manually or automatically, which are analyzed and converted into useful information.

Facebook knows all about its users or at least more than people would think. The “Like” company maintains a complete record of the name, age and geographical location of its millions of users. The social network, founded by Mark Zuckerberg, also handles information about your trip, favorite singer or sports teams, including your love relationships. The company decides, based on that information, which advertisements to show, or not, to its users. Facebook uses Database Marketing efficiently and is an excellent example for small businesses.

However, it is not necessary to be Facebook, Google, among others to implement Database Marketing. This technique began 30 years ago, but technological advances allow small businesses to collect, manage and analyze a higher volume of information from their users more quickly and economically.

After all, Database Marketing is only used to collect data from customers or potential customers of a company, analyze them and create strategies to improve communication with them, as well as to improve sales. So, how to start working in Database Marketing in a small company?

The first step is to identify the critical data for the business. A restaurant, for example, may need to know how many diners live or work in the surrounding area, because they are the first niche in the market.

On the other hand, for a tourism company, the most valuable information is the information about the stations that their clients use to travel and buy tickets.

Creating a digital form to record the data of your customers should be your next step. Small healthcare companies could prepare a survey of customer satisfaction online.

Database Marketing is a very efficient technique for small businesses to know their current and potential clients. This tool also allows business owners to realize where to focus marketing work.

However, we must be cautious when handling this type of information. News about data breaches, cybercrime, and invasion of privacy have saturated the headlines in recent years; and this inevitably creates concern for companies, and/or brands that use Database Marketing. Hackers continue to improve their tools and seek new cybernetic vulnerabilities to penetrate, and any company is still vulnerable to a cyber-attack.

According to the article “Ten practices of cybersecurity for companies,” by Hogan Injury, 10 cybersecurity practices can be used, and here we have them:

1- Raise awareness and educate your employees. It is the employees who can either be your best line of defense or your weakest link. Conduct hands-on training that employees can easily understand and implement. A video or PowerPoint presentation sent via email is not enough. It would help for employees to get practical training, such as a phishing simulation.

2- Regularly back up your data and test it. While it is essential to prevent attacks, it is better to be safe and ready in case of a data breach. Back up all your electronic spreadsheets, human resources files, financial files, databases, accounts receivable/payable; as well as those stored on the cloud. Aside from this, you must also regularly test if the back-ups are working.

3- Make a safe password practice a common practice. Employees can find changing their passwords regularly tedious and time-consuming. However, most data breaches became possible due to weak passwords. Train your employees to use passwords that contain both upper and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols.

4- Keep documentation of cybersecurity policies. Keeping a written cybersecurity policy ensures that all employees are on the same page. Document all protocols, checklists, tools, and policies, and make employees formally acknowledge that they have perused the document. 

5- Use a firewall. A network firewall provides a barrier between your data and cybercriminals. Ensure that your operating system’s firewall is enabled and working. If you have employees who work remotely, make sure that their computers have firewalls installed, too.

6- Always use multi-factor identification. An extra layer of protection helps in securing valuable data. A two-factor or a multi-factor identification requires an employee put in a code sent to their mobile device after putting in the correct password for the account they are accessing.

7- Limit employee access. Give employees access only to data, software, and information that they need for their jobs. Giving them access to everything increases the chances of security to be compromised. Some positions might require more access to data than others, so make sure that their activities are well-monitored, as well, to reduce insider threats.

8- Secure mobile devices. Some businesses allow employees to use their own mobile devices for work purposes. If you are one of them, you need to have a mobile device action plan in place. Require employees to use data encryption, password-protect their devices, and install security apps to keep cybercriminals from stealing vital information when they are on public networks.

9- Seek the help of HR in data protection. Assign your HR team to create and execute an efficient offboarding process, in which access to separating or separated employees are systematically removed.

10- Automate software updates. Do not leave system updates to the users’ discretion, as this task can easily fall through the cracks considering the other tasks on the employees’ plate. Whenever possible, automate tasks that are easy to overlook, but are essential in keeping your business secure.

Remember, if a database is properly managed, the organization obtains different advantages: its effectiveness increases, jobs are made faster due to their simplification, and the security of the stored data is maximized. With all these factors, time will be managed more efficiently, so there will be an improvement in the productivity.

We invite you to try this technique. Always follow the safety tips. It’s easy: prepare a Google Form and start collecting the most basic information from your customers.

Jhesús M. Suárez

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