12 ways to be recommended by customers

Consumers like to talk about their experiences with companies – and this raises the question of what you can do to ensure that your company scores positively in these conversations.

When consumers face a buying decision, 83% of them rely on the opinion of family and friends. In this light, it doesn’t seem particularly smart to rely solely on marketing activities to attract interested parties.

It is essential to use the proven effect of word of mouth for yourself. Therefore, many companies use customer referral programs to encourage more customers to recommend their brands, which in turn leads to more qualified potential customers. Because they naturally trust people, they already know more than they would ever imagine your ads. This is an inexpensive way of acquiring customers for your company.

1. Use LinkedIn

With a little preparation, you are more likely to get recommendations than if you simply ask for it.

When you approach a customer, you should already have a name or company that you want to contact in mind. So your customers don’t have to worry about it. Practical help is the extended search for people from LinkedIn. This makes it easy to find second-degree contacts that your customers can introduce to you.

To do this, click on the search bar at the top of the page and select “People” from the dropdown menu. Now you can filter your search for second-degree contacts or additional information such as industry, job title, keywords and location. This gives you a list of potential referral opportunities from which you can select suitable candidates and suggest them to your customers.

2. Look for opportunities for the positive feedback

The best recommendations come from situations where customers have seen the value you can offer them.

You probably wouldn’t ask your boss for a raise if you didn’t meet your monthly targets. For the same reason, it is not advisable (or effective) to ask a customer for a recommendation after disappointing their expectations.

You have the best chance of success if you keep your customers up to date with the results they achieve with your products or services. Satisfied customers are happy to recommend your brand. It starts with a successful onboarding process that gives customers a clear idea of ​​what they can expect at what time and what is required for it.

Then try to combine the request for a recommendation with positive customer experiences.

If you have just been able to tell your customer that your products or services will help them generate higher monthly earnings – ask them directly to recommend your company.

What if you couldn’t reach all the key figures that you had jointly defined for the quarter? Then wait with your request for a better time.

3. Provide a template

Don’t forget that your customers are probably busy (that’s why they work with you, right?).

So instead of making your request for a recommendation and hoping that your customers will eventually find time, be proactive and do some of the work for them.

You can get the ball rolling with an email template like the following example:

[Addressee],

I may have mentioned that I’ve been working with [your name] for a few months. We had talked about some of the issues we shared with [your name] before, and it occurred to me that I should introduce you two to each other. So …

[Addressee], that is [your name with the URL of your LinkedIn profile].

[Your name], that is [addressee, with the URL of a LinkedIn profile].

I’ll leave the rest to you.

See you soon.

If your customer is not convinced of the idea, do not push them further.

4. Respond to positive feedback

In order for you to get more recommendations, you have to prove to be recommended.

To ensure that you really meet the requirements and expectations of your existing customers (better: surpass them), you should absolutely get feedback and react to it regularly.

SurveyMonkey is software for online surveys. It allows you to easily create and distribute customer satisfaction surveys – so you always know what you are doing well and where there is room for improvement.

Before starting a survey, think carefully about how and where you want to position it. After all, you want to get honest and accurate answers. So write useful questions for the survey and choose the right survey type that fits your needs.

5. Spread your content and resources

According to the Google study on the “Zero Moment of Truth”, consumers deal with an average of ten content elements before making a purchase decision. This means that most of your customers used many of the resources that you put together so painstakingly before they become your customers.

This shows how important it is to strategically disseminate this content so that it can attract qualified prospects. And since your potential customers are already using your offered content, you can use a simple link such as “Share with a friend” in the automated emails about your offers or on your thank-you pages to ensure that your content is disseminated among potential customers.

By making it as easy as possible for your customers to pass on their resources to their qualified contacts, even before the deal is closed, you are always one step ahead.

6. Offer potential advocates different options

If you encounter resistance when asking for customer recommendations, first distance yourself and allow your customers time. It is not so important for you to know the reason for the rejection, and you should respect the “no”.

After a while, however, you could approach customers with another proposal to gain them as advocates without them specifically recommending your brand to anyone. Instead, you could write a review, make yourself available for a case study, or write a testimonial.

This means less effort for customers but can still help your company generate more potential leads. And a respectful relationship with customers is not jeopardized. Ask them what they would easily share and try to put their positive feedback on your website or social media.

7. Set up a customer loyalty program

It will probably be your most loyal customers who recommend your company most often and most likely. By setting up a program that rewards you for your loyalty and recommendations, you can show your gratitude and appreciation to exactly these customers.

Such a system can be point-based, but can also simply consist of free premium membership. No matter how you design the program in detail, make sure that your customers feel valued. You will then be more inclined to support you.

8. Consider your customers’ values

Before you ask them for a recommendation, find out what is important to your customers. Then you can adapt your incentive or thank you accordingly and convey to the customers what positive effects their recommendation could have.

An example: Your customers use your product for charity projects or are involved in private or professional work as an advocate for a good cause. In that case, you could offer a donation on behalf of customers as a thank you for a recommendation. Small gestures like this show your customers that you have more than just a business relationship – a partnership.

9. Exceed expectations

Word of mouth is the most effective way to get recommendations for your business. In essence, however, it only works with loyal customers, and you have to earn them.

For your customers (or potential customers) to rave about your service and like to talk about it, you have to inspire them.

Pull a leg out for your customers. Not only by sharing their goals with them, but also by sharing their content on social media, quoting them on your blog, and proving to be an essential resource for you. If you succeed, your customers will automatically spread their positive opinions about your brand.

10. Set up a customer referral program

An official customer referral program is a great way for businesses to be proactive in generating recommendations. Such a program also shows that you are convinced of your products and services as well as of your team, and this will not remain hidden from your customers.

Also, such a program provides a clear structure for recommendations, which removes obstacles for customers and thus encourages them to recommend your company to their networks.

11. Recommend other companies

Conversely, if you ask your customers to recommend your company, they may expect the same from you. By offering to recommend other companies to your customers, you create an equivalent exchange.

But be careful: if you pass your customers on to other companies, your reputation and good relationships are at stake. So you need to be sure that you only recommend companies that you can be sure that they will deliver what they promise.

12. Offer incentives

Hardly anyone likes to work without getting something in return.

If your customers go to the trouble of finding suitable contacts for a recommendation in their networks, you should reward them for it.

Your customers deserve a thank you for helping you connect with qualified leads. For example, it could be a voucher for Starbucks or Amazon, a free subscription for a month, or just plain cash.

One way to create such incentives is through formal referral agreements. These can be a good source of new leads for your company as they create a system that rewards influential customers.

Referral agreements

What is a referral agreement?

A referral agreement is a contract between a company and a third party that the company agrees to reward the third party for successfully recruiting new leads. Both sides are suitable on terms that are acceptable to them and officially sign the agreement. This is an ongoing relationship from which both the company and the third party can benefit.

What should be included in a referral agreement?

When you set up a referral agreement, you should include the following elements in your template:

  1. A heading that contains the name of your company and the respective third party and the date of the agreement. The usual legal formalities.
  2. A description of the relationship between the parties involved, with the company as the owner of the capital and the third party as an external “service provider”.
  3. The definition and requirements for the mediated contacts. Do you have to become a customer, or does the agreement already apply to the status as a lead? Recommendations do not necessarily have to lead to new customers, so it is important to note when the agreement comes into effect.
  4. A description of how the external party is remunerated. This can be about a fixed amount per lead, or the quality of a lead can determine it. In some cases, the reward is only paid when the leads become customers.
  5. Conditions for the premium payment, such as whether there is a certain period in which the payment must be made. If mediated leads must first become customers before the premium is paid, it is important to note the period in which the conversion to the customer must take place. If brokered leads become customers within this period, the agreement applies, and a premium is paid.
  6. Does the agreement apply to repeated conversions if a previously referred customer buys from the company again? If you pay premiums in such cases, you may be able to motivate your partners to mediate leads of higher quality.
  7. Whether the agreement is exclusive or not. If you don’t want your customers to have similar agreements with other companies, you should record that.
  8. A confidentiality or confidentiality clause. This can prevent the parties involved from disclosing confidential information while the agreement is valid. This can also act as protection for intellectual property that may be compromised under such agreements.

When should a referral agreement be used?

An Amazon coupon as a reward for finding new leads is probably not a sufficient basis for a referral agreement. This should be reserved for large customers or accounts and cases in which the parties involved significant exchange amounts of money. Then an official agreement creates collateral and ensures that the relationship is mutually beneficial.

How Ukraine became a testing ground for cyberwar

Ukraine was once a hotspot for petty criminals online. Then the war with Russia came. Today digital warfare is being tested here. And the IT security industry is flourishing.

In Ukraine – here the capital Kiev – the average annual income is below $ 10,000. 
Companies can offer a young hacker $ 5,000 a month for his services. 
( Photo: Jan Vollmer; graphic: iStock / cygnusX)

Artem Afian, a man in his 30s, with a well-groomed beard, brown vest over his shirt and olive-green trousers, sits at a wooden conference table in his office in Kyiv (Kiev), on the sixth floor of an office building. Through large windows, you can look down on the street, over which heavy SUVs with tinted windows thunder: New Toyota Landcruisers, Land Rovers and G-Classes on the holey streets of a country in which the average annual income is below $ 10,000. Behind Artem on the wall hangs a pop art version of the Renaissance painting “The Judgment of the Kambyses“. The picture shows how the corrupt judge Sisamnes is arrested and skinned before the judge’s chair is covered with his skin. “We also sent a copy to the judiciary, but they didn’t want it there,” he says with a grin. He represented operators of file sharing sites like Ex.ua

Afian specialized in IT law in the early 2010s. How his Ukrainian cyber scene is changing is reflected in his cases. In the beginning, private hackers called Artem when the police suddenly came to the door: Odessa cardboards who were caught handling credit card details with other people; Data miners who had looked too deep into foreign data records. He represented operators of file sharing sites like Ex.ua and others.

Five or ten years ago, Ukraine was something of hacking heaven. – IT lawyer Artem Afian

It was paid in Bitcoin for the first time. Artem’s law firm is now also building the legal framework for bug bounty orders: security tests that hackers carry out on behalf of customers. The classic hacker cases are fewer in his office. “Five or ten years ago, Ukraine was something of hacking heaven. But the era of the private hacker is coming to an end. The carders are almost gone. Hacking is now becoming more organized. If a teenager is caught chopping, the police come. And the next day a company that offers him $ 5,000 a month if he starts there.”

The hacker’s lawyer: The Ukrainian Artem Afian specializes in IT law. In the past, data miners and file-sharers were among his clients, but today companies are looking to hire hackers for security tests. (Photo: Jan Vollmer)

Meanwhile, the United States is sending cyber troops to Ukraine

This evolution also has political reasons: In 2014, Ukraine broke away from Russia with the Maidan Revolution; since then the capital no longer wants to be called “Kiev”, but “Kyiv”, in Ukrainian spelling. With emancipation, the country has become a test site for cyber weapons. While Ukraine was still a playground for private hackers in the 2000s and early 2010s, a digital war is raging there now. Meanwhile, the United States is sending cyber troops to Ukraine to learn how digital attacks work and to prepare themselves for them. At least since the attack on the servers of the Democratic Party, which is said to have helped US President Donald Trump to victory, the United States has also been aware of the effects that cyber weapons can have.

It is almost impossible to assign cyber attacks to a state and a command structure. After all, the possibility of denying it has been priced in from the start. In the significant attacks in Ukraine, experts and intelligence officers recognize Russian handwriting.

A worm that cost billions

The highlight so far at the test site in Ukraine was “Notpetya“: an infection that paralyzed an entire country in the summer of 2017 from a hacked server belonging to a small Kiev software company. According to estimates, the worm destroyed the data of ten per cent of all computers in Ukraine and in the meantime paralyzed two airports, 22 banks and several authorities. Notpetya jumped from Ukrainian networks to the corporate networks of companies such as pharmaceutical giant Merck or logistics companies FedEx and Maersk. The US company Merck is said to be Notpetya, according to estimates by the US expert Andy Greenberg Cost $ 870 million. At Maersk, the world’s largest container shipping company, the worm is said to have torn a $ 300 million hole. Security experts from the White House later estimated the total damage at about ten billion dollars – and accused the Russian secret service GRU. To date, Notpetya is considered the most devastating hack in the world.

The constant threat to Ukrainian IT systems has also made IT security a key issue: a thriving cybersecurity sector has grown out of the classic software outsourcing industry. Hackers and IT security experts are now working for the government and are increasingly attracting international orders.

Allies in the cyberwar: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (left) meets Ukrainian President Volodymyr Selenskyj in the capital, Kiev. (Photo: TASS / DPA)

Victor Zhora sits in a café called “The Cake” in downtown Kiev and eats cake. He is in his late thirties and is wearing a black turtleneck. Next to our table is a pink, two-meter-high plastic dog sculpture that reminds of the work of US artist Jeff Koons and gives the conversation a somewhat surreal touch.

Zhora has been working in Ukrainian IT security since the 2000s. “15 years ago, something like ‘Cyberwar’ was not an issue,” he says, forking a piece of the carrot cake on the table in front of him. That has changed since Ukraine moved away from Russia politically. In the meantime, he has helped digitally secure eight parliamentary and presidential elections – since 2009 with his own company Infosafe.

“The website was under constant attack.”

In Ukraine, voting is still on paper, making the result of the elections difficult to hack digitally. But in a country that has had two revolutions since 2004, ambiguities on election night can lead to heated feelings. “There was a lot of traffic on the election commission’s website on election night and the next day,” says Zhora. “The website was attacked continuously. We then tried to maintain it by all means – from web mirroring to DDoS defense. “

Zhora experienced the most intense attacks on May 25, 2014. “At the time, our big neighbour decided to prove to the rest of the world that we had chosen a junta in Kiev,” he says. Junta is the term used mainly by Russian media in 2014 to discredit the then Ukrainian administration. “There were three phases to the attack,” says Zhora. Even before the election, hackers with targeted phishing attacks had invaded the election commission’s computer system unnoticed. Just hours before the first projections were published on the election commission’s website, he and his colleagues got a tip. Someone had noticed that before the early projections, a picture of a supposed election winner had been uploaded to the page and could therefore be published at any time.

In May 2014, volunteers counted the ballot papers in the presidential election. During the election night, the website of the election commission was permanently attacked. It has been the most intense hacker attack in Ukrainian history. (Photo: Shutterstock / snig)

A picture of Yarosh as the election winner on the official website of the election commission would have had catastrophic consequences for Ukraine: Russian media, which also had a broad audience in Ukraine, would have given her junta thesis a new boost. The news of Yarosh as the winner would have brought both the paramilitaries of the “Prawyj sector” and the stunned supporters of the other parties onto the streets in a short time: the chaos that would have put the whole election in question.

“Our big neighbour decided to prove to the rest of the world that we had chosen a junta in Kiev.”

“When we saw the picture, we knew that the system had been compromised,” says Zhora. It would have taken too long to check the system entirely and to kick the attacker out with certainty. “So we started to replace all the nodes and the website completely,” he says. The new website went online shortly before the first projections. “The only call to the old link to the page where Jarosch’s picture would have been coming from the IP address of a Russian television station,” says Zhora with a meaningful look. The hack on the website of the Ukrainian election commission was something like the starting signal for the significant political cyberattacks on Ukraine.

On December 23, 2015, the light suddenly went out for 230,000 residents in the western Ukrainian region of Ivano-Frankivsk in the early evening. In a highly complex operation, hackers had taken control of a power grid for the first time worldwide. And they were well prepared. In spring 2015, they started using a word exploit sent by email called “Blackenergy3” to infect the computers of employees of electricity suppliers in western Ukraine.

The hackers have spent months bypassing electricity supplier firewalls and familiarizing themselves with industrial computers and their functions. Until it happened on December 23, 2015 – and they turned the lever at three distribution centres and 30 sub-centres and cut off the electricity. As a freestyle, the hackers paralyzed the emergency generators of the three attacked distribution centres during the attack so that even the already confused employees of the municipal utility company were left in the dark.

The Blackenergy hack followed about a year later, in December 2016, the hack on the Kiev electricity provider “Kyivenergo”. “The lights went out in the north of Kiev. The malware that was used was specially written for Kyivenergo’s industrial control systems,” says Zhora. “If you have something that works in such a system, you can try it out here and use it elsewhere.”

Yegor Aushev and Evgenia Broshevan (from left) are the bosses of the Hacken Proof platform, which provides the services of around 3,000 hackers to companies. Vasyl Zadvorny (r.) Is CEO of the Prozorro e-procurement platform. (Photo: Yegor Aushev)

But not only the attackers are practising in Ukraine. Since the hacking on the elections and energy systems, the United States has been sending not only defence equipment and support – but also cyberspace units that study the attacks themselves to prepare the United States for them. “Our solution for the Blackenergy hack was to start the Storm in the distribution centres again manually. In the United States, that would no longer be possible, because the electricity grid is completely digitally controlled there,” says Zhora.

“The United States can observe how systems are attacked in Ukraine, and thus study the tactics of the attackers.”

“It is likely that the hackers wanted to see if the malware worked the way it was supposed to. And also how the international community would react to it,” Marie Baezner explains to me in a Skype call. Baezner conducts research at the Center for Security Studies at ETH Zurich on the role of cyber attacks in conflicts such as the wars in Syria or Ukraine. In one of her scientific articles, she counts 64 attacks and counter-attacks in the Ukraine conflict between November 2013 and December 2016. “Ukraine has a strategic value for the USA. The United States can see in Ukraine how the systems were attacked, what malware was used, and study the tactics of the attackers. It was helpful to see this before the 2018 midterm election. They will do the same before the 2020 elections and send cyber troops to Ukraine, Macedonia and Montenegro.”

In a networked world, cyberattacks on states don’t stay where they started. A small Ukrainian software company called “Linkos Group” works just a few kilometres from the café “The Cake”, where I meet Victor Zhora. Linkos sells a concealed accounting program called MEDoc, mainly to Ukrainian customers. In June 2017, hackers used one of the Linkos servers to release the worm, which later became known as “Notpetya”.

The hacker attacks on Ukraine, which security expert Zhora calls “a cold shower”, also had a vitalizing effect on the Ukrainian hacker scene. In the west of Kiev, in a café in an IT hub called “Unit City”, I meet Yegor Aushev and his business partner Evgenia Broshevan. Both wear hoodies, Aushev in black, Broshevan in red. With money from an early crypto-ICO, the two built a platform called “Hack Proof”. Companies can register for a penetration test on the platform: a “hackability test”. One of the approximately 3,000 legal hackers registered on the site then searches for weaknesses in the respective company – and logs what it finds.

The changing history of Ukraine from the former hotspot for small cybercriminals to the burned child of cyberwar has got the business going. “It took a long time to convince people to hire a Ukrainian cybersecurity company for the first time. On the other hand, Ukraine is now known for its hacks and hackers,” explains Aushev. An Asian airline is a customer he is particularly proud of. There are no official numbers, but Hacken-Proof founder Aushev estimates that there are around 30 cybersecurity companies in Ukraine. In doing so, he discovered the increasing demand for security specialists as a separate business area – and added IT security courses to his company’s portfolio. Not least because of hacks like Blackeenergy and Notpetya, the security industry is booming like never before.

11 suggestions for a better work-life balance as a freelancer

Freelancers work wherever and whenever they want: what sounds fantastic at first glance reveals some pitfalls at second glance. When the boundaries between professional and private are blurred so much, many self-employed find it challenging to find the work-life balance. 

Happy woman working on computer, flat design cartoon.

1. What must, what can? – Set priorities

For freelancers, the actual job in the field is often only a fraction of their tasks. Self-marketing, customer acquisition, networks: The list of to-dos often does not stop.

To keep the upper hand over their tasks, the self-employed have to set clear priorities: What do I have to do today? Which jobs will still be enough tomorrow? A useful tool here is the Eisenhower matrix: You list all the pending tasks and then classify them into four categories:

  • What is important and urgent? You should do these to-dos as soon as possible.
  • Which tasks are not necessary, but are nevertheless urgent? You should tackle them soon too.
  • What is essential, but not urgent? This category ranks third on its agenda.
  • Neither critical nor urgent tasks should be kept on the radar, but should only be tackled when the system is idle.

2. Notifications off – avoid distractions

A new like on Instagram, a message in WhatsApp group chat or a due reminder – if information arrives, the smartphone display lights up and thus disrupts your focus. It takes an average of one minute before we are entirely concentrated again. Productivity suffers significantly from the constant distractions, so it takes longer to complete a task and maybe, therefore, has to work an hour longer in the evening.

To be efficient, you should either put your smartphone in, do not disturb mode, or at least turn off all unnecessary notifications.

As for your laptop, you also need to consider which push notifications are essential to your work; you should rigorously turn off all others.

Dare to end your emails or project management tools in phases of maximum focus! You will most likely not receive any messages that could not have waited an hour.

3. Structured but not meticulous – plan with foresight

Whether tax return or annual financial statements: In addition to the regular pending to-dos, specific unscheduled tasks keep coming back. Therefore, calculate this in your workload in good time to avoid unnecessary overtime.

It is a good idea to divide all the tasks to be done over the special days at the beginning of the working week and to give them fixed time slots. While some still prefer the manual appointment planner, a digital version is worthwhile, since you can make simple business appointments via an integrated email invitation and link calendars from business partners, for example.

In your working day, however, always leave some space for spontaneously occurring tasks to maintain certain flexibility – some urgent to-dos just flutter in spontaneously.

4. If you rest, you perform – take breaks

Nobody can deliver at their best all day, so you should include regular breaks in your weekly schedule. If lunch is officially entered in the calendar, the temptation to eat in front of the laptop while working is reduced – after all, you have an appointment with yourself.

Not taking enough vacation time is a mistake that both newly-hired self-employed and long-time freelancers commit again and again. Only those who give the head long enough breaks can tick off to-dos again with full drive!

According to our freelance compass, the self-employed take an average of 26 days a year to recharge their energy resources. If you enter your vacation immediately in the calendar, the time to switch off is just as binding as the next customer meeting.

5. Show a clear edge – strictly separate work and leisure

At the client’s site, in the coworking space or at home? Freelancers are spoiled for choice when it comes to their jobs.

Those who go about their work from home run the risk of work creeping in after work or at the weekend: if the sofa or dining table serves as a desk, the sight of it reminds you of unfinished tasks at some point and creates a guilty conscience in your free time.

If you prefer to freelance from your own four walls, you should set up an office and only work there. Close the study door and relax in the rest of the apartment.

A coworking space has the advantage over the home office that you are not alone in the quiet closet. Among the colleagues in the rental office, there are often potential business partners or even friends who upgrade everyday work and make it more social.

Regardless of where you work: set business hours and communicate them to clients and other business partners. Anyone who tries to reach you after the official end of the working day must be patient until the next morning.

6. Business vs. private ringing – purchase a mobile phone

The smartphone is our constant companion, and we are almost always and everywhere accessible, which is one of the most significant stress factors of our time . Especially if you do business and business on the same cell phone, you can never really switch off, because every ring could be an urgent call from the client. Customers often simply assume that freelancers are always available as service providers and call at the most absurd times.

You should, therefore, invest in a business cell phone to block the constant availability, at least from a professional point of view. While a dual-SIM smartphone is an inexpensive solution, business partners can still contact you at any time of the day or night. Therefore, get a separate service cell phone and only provide the service number and your working hours on your website, business card, and in cooperation with customers.

Just in time for the end of the day, switch off your business smartphone rigorously and enjoy your leisure time undisturbed.

7. Save time and money – outsource to external service providers

Freelancers always have more than enough to do: If no project calls, administrative tasks are often required. Write invoices, make payments, revise your website – the list is seemingly endless.

Instead of torturing yourself and investing unnecessarily much time and energy in such additional tasks, you should instead outsource. Nobody can master everything equally well, focus on your core competencies! If possible, delegate other tasks to other service providers who are experts in this area.

Outsourcing is also affordable: each of your working hours has to be refinanced, so the faster a task is completed, the cheaper it will be for you. If you do the bookkeeping yourself, you will need significantly longer than an external specialist who has the appropriate specialist knowledge and the necessary resources.

By outsourcing to-dos to qualified service providers, the bottom line is that you save money and can now invest the free time in your area.

8. Always happy – develop regular customers

Customers come and go, but a specific firm customer base makes life as a freelancer much easier. From onboarding to the workflow: With new customers, you first have to develop a work mode that is suitable for everyone involved.

If, on the other hand, you have a longstanding relationship with a customer, time-consuming briefings are omitted, and you can start operating immediately. If you work with a client again, you can also respond to specific wishes much more individually – the ideal collaboration.

When you have a trustworthy customer base for new projects, idle times are less likely, and you also have to spend significantly less time looking for potential orders. This way, you avoid stress and insecurity.

9. Time for yourself – do not neglect your interests

When things get stressful, the time for yourself is usually the first thing to fall under the table. As an individual with your interests and hobbies, you often miss out on work, household, and other everyday duties.

However, leisure activities have a balancing effect on life: they should not help you further your career, but serve purely personal passion. If you pursue your hobby, leave the stress and worries of work and everyday life behind and dedicate yourself to yourself. That may sound selfish, but it is necessary so that you can tackle the challenges of daily life with new energy and a fresh look can.

Therefore, deliberately allow yourself time to go to sports or read a book, for example, and make a binding note of the date with yourself in the calendar. If a spontaneous project request comes in or friends ask if you want to eat with you, stay hard: You have an appointment with yourself. Otherwise, social obligations can also become stressful!

10. Mental and physical – health as a top priority

Overwork, tension, back pain – too much stress has an impact both psychologically and physically, and a healthy body and mind is an essential requirement for a fulfilling life – whether in your private life or at work. Prevention is always better than intervention here: once your well-being suffers, it is more difficult to recover 100% than to keep a fit head and body.

To do something good for your health, you should adapt the work station to your requirements so that you can sit, for example, without damaging your back. Sport also offers an excellent balance to the long working day, because exercise prevents or relieves stress and gets the blood circulation going. Already two hours of training a week reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases by a factor of five!

11. Come down and let yourself go – maintain private contacts

As crucial as networking is, it is just as essential to maintaining social connections without “professional added value.” Knowing new business partners or independent colleagues strengthens your position and market value in the industry, but networking also consumes a lot of energy. Since you want to present yourself in your role as an expert, you can never be completely relaxed and leaned back in a conversation; you have to be well received.

You can only really switch off with friends and family – people who have nothing to do with your job. Maintain your contacts regularly and recharge your batteries from being with relatives and friends.

Nevertheless, it is also essential to be entirely on your own – so always leave a little bit of air in your free time to just do what you feel like doing.

Conclusion: recovery as an essential requirement for good work

The work-life balance does not have to be exactly 50/50, and it is much more essential to find the mixture that works best for you personally. Whether outsourcing, setting priorities, or acquiring a business mobile phone – clearly separating work from work is an essential step in bringing action and life under one roof in the long term. Instead of just always working, you have to take time for yourself so that you can escape the daily grind, be it to go for a walk, or read a book. People work with higher quality if they switch off and clear their heads – this also applies to freelancers!

How cybercriminals are now exploiting corona fear

Capture computers, steal passwords, extort money: criminals exploit the hectic reactions to the corona crisis. Newcomers to home offices are particularly at risk.

Not only the average European medium-sized company – even the large companies in Silicon Valley are struggling with problems when changing their work under pandemic conditions. Another branch, on the other hand, quickly adapted to the new situation: cybercriminals of all kinds are trying to take advantage of the fear and confusion among the population.

In early March, security specialist Shai Alfasi from Reason Labs discovered a program that promises to present the current number of cases of the coronavirus. The plan appears to display the Johns Hopkins University infographics about the state of the pandemic, which has been much cited in recent weeks. Also, the program also acted as malware.

 “The Azorult Trojan is usually traded in Russian underground forums,” Alfasi writes in his analysis. Once a user has activated it, they search for all the information that can be turned into money: passwords, for example, credit card information or even information about cryptocurrencies. Thanks to the modular principle of such Trojans, they can easily be adapted to new occasions.

Same trick, different platform: DomainTools found an Android app that also pretended to display the latest figures on the spread of the new coronavirus. Anyone who installed the program on their smartphone was soon exposed to a blackmail attempt: the app blocked the device and offered the user the release for a payment of $ 100. Fortunately, the program was so poorly programmed that security researchers could quickly crack and publish the decryption key.

Two cases, probably hundreds. Internet criminals have been trying to exploit attention to the epidemic since January: For example, the World Health Organization warns against fake emails that are said to contain health tips or documents with security measures but to cheer users off malicious malware or otherwise want to steal information from them.

No new attack campaigns have yet been exposed

 “Since January we have observed that both cybercriminals and – we assume – state-sponsored spy campaigns use the topic of Covid-19 as bait in phishing emails,” explains Jens Monrad from the IT security company FireEye. In the event of phishing attacks, attachments are sent by email, the opening of which triggers the downloading of malware, with the help of which attackers can gain access to a computer or even entire company networks. Another variant tries to lure users to fake websites where the user name and password are to be entered. Given the current uncertainty and the high level of information required by many people with regard to the new coronavirus, simple attacks like this promise success.

The Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) has so far recorded no increase in cyber attacks. “Rather, attackers use the current occasion to make their spam emails more interesting,” explains a government spokesman. This is a phenomenon that occurs again and again on special occasions – such as the bargain weeks around Black Friday and Cyber ​​Monday, but also during major sporting events.

Essentially, well-known malware programs that were previously disguised as video players or sold as cell phone games are now being distributed under the guise of corona information. However, such attacks can have serious consequences. The university clinic in Brno, Czech Republic, for example, was partially paralyzed by such an attack. In recent years, several German hospitals have also been infected with so-called ransomware, which is software that encrypts internal databases to extort a ransom.

Phishing attacks are currently particularly attractive to attackers because many companies have now sent most of their employees to their home office to prevent infection in the workplace. In many cases, this means a radical change: Many employees who were previously only allowed to work in the office are now being sent home with company laptops or even have to use their computers. At their desk at home, they often have to see for themselves how to cope with new video conferencing software and unique collaboration platforms without training.

“Users who have to work in an unfamiliar environment are easier to deceive,” explains Manuel Atug from the IT security consultancy HiSolutions in Bonn. The employees who have now switched to the home office have to click through many dialogues, the number of emails has increased significantly. It is therefore understandable that they open emails that at first glance, appear legitimate. A large part of the circulating malware is still sent via this route today. And the administrators of many medium-sized companies are currently working under enormous pressure: not only do they have to come to terms with many unfamiliar programs, but they also often lack the opportunity to train their employees on how to secure communication.

Improvised security

Also, the usual security rules that apply in many companies can only be implemented at a lower level in the current hectic anyway. For example, when it comes to virtual private networks, thanks to which the communication via unsecured Internet infrastructure is encrypted and takes place in a kind of tunnel. “Many companies have bottlenecks in VPN licenses or have to upgrade their hardware so that all employees can dial into the company network,” explains Atug. The companies are therefore faced with the choice of either denying their employees access to essential resources such as in-house software solutions, databases or the intranet for security reasons – which, however, makes decentralized work very difficult.IT security made to keep operations decentralized from the home office.

However, operators of critical infrastructures such as water and power plants, electricity suppliers or telecommunications companies are usually better equipped and have activated emergency plans. This shows that those who have invested in IT security concepts for exceptional cases in the long term can benefit in the current situation.

However, authorities are currently not spared from safety margins. For example, the editors of the magazine c’t could log into the video conference system of the Bavarian Ministry of the Interior unnoticed because access was unsecured. After all: After the gap became known, the administration improved.

Remain critical, upgrade

The usual precautionary measures apply to the employees: They should use secure passwords, switch on virus protection and firewalls. As far as possible, it is also advisable to activate two-factor authentication so that a stolen password alone is not enough to take over an account. And when editing emails, it is worth taking a particularly critical look when it comes to messages from unknown sources. Especially if the click on a link leads to a log-in mask from Outlook, for example, you should not carelessly enter your password. The Federal Office for Information Security has put together advice on its website. In addition to a wide range of information for citizens and businesses, no specific guidelines for the changeover to the home office have been published.

It is essential for companies to raise the security level as quickly as possible to at least the level that is normal in regular operation – for example by updating the software on company laptops or distributing security chips for two-factor authentication when accessing the company network. Once this has been done, the administrators must take a unique look at whether attackers have already been able to penetrate their employees’ computers or even the company network. “Attackers can nestle inconspicuously in the company network in the tumult,” warns Atug. The damage to such a digital back door can only become apparent months or sometimes years later.

Negative reviews – how to deal with bad online reviews

Everyone knows them – bad reviews on the Internet. A catastrophe for the entrepreneur, a pessimism for potential customers, to change the purchase decision at short notice.

Whether legitimate or unjustified, negative reviews hurt and can often be harmful. In general, online reviews have become increasingly important in recent years. Not only to decide to buy potential customers but also as an important ranking factor for Google and Co. and thus even an essential part of your local SEO.

However, this is not just about the fact that you have an unusually large number of good reviews, but also how regular new reviews come and how extensive they are.

What influence do negative ratings have on buying behaviour or buying decisions?

According to a by zendesk.com, according to their statement, almost 88% of Internet users can be influenced by online reviews. Positive as negative.

If one of your online reviews does not matter, I am pleased about an exchange of views in the comments below the post! 🙂

But no matter how good your company is, negative reviews come either way. You can find out how to deal with these in the following tips.

Tip # 1: Appoint a responsible person

The reviews must always be answered in the same style. Therefore, it is essential to have a “Review-Response Officer” in your company who takes care of negative and positive reviews. So you have an employee who is familiar with the ratings and keeps an overview of all grades. It also makes it easier to identify a negative trend or “fake” ratings.

Tip # 2: Answer negative reviews as soon as possible

Negative reviews have a significant impact on a potential customer’s buying decisions. You know it yourself: “2.5 stars only? No, I’m not going there, it can’t be a good thing. ” It is different from products or companies that have 3.5 stars, for example. Here you will probably click on the reviews and of course (everyone does it that way) first read through the negative reviews. If these reviews are very critical, and there is no adequate answer to them, you will surely reconsider your purchase decision. Therefore: Answer very negative reviews directly before too many customers can read these reviews.

Tip # 3: Prioritized!

Not every assessment has to be reacted to immediately. There is no need to directly respond to positive reviews or ¾-star reviews. Prioritized, but do not let time pass, especially with violent reviews.

Tip # 4: Communicate at eye level with your critics

Very important: tries to be sympathetic and honest in dialogue with the critic. Usually, you don’t write your answer to the criticism for the critic but for potential customers who read the negative review. Try to put the blame into perspective as clearly as possible and don’t be overbearing, arrogant or disinterested.

Tip # 5: act solution-oriented!

The best answers to negative reviews directly offer a solution and thus relativize (perhaps even severe and justified) criticism. Potential new customers read the report and the “solution” and are at best convinced of it. The negative rating was thus “disabled”:

Tip # 6: Offers opportunities for direct contact

Turning dissatisfied customers into satisfied customers is an art in itself. But especially customers who leave a negative review give you (maybe even unwanted) the opportunity to win them back. Offers them the opportunity to contact you directly. Suggestions like: “Please come back to us in the shop, we would like to apologize personally for our mistake with a little attention.” can in many cases solve the problem and delete the negative rating.

Offering support etc. can also help in some cases.

Tip # 7: Try to respond to every review!

Google likes a living profile and interaction with customers. Therefore, make sure that you answer each review individually. Positive reviews should also be explained. Aside from what Google thinks about it, this is one of the first steps to turn a satisfied customer into a “fan”. And a fan ”is the highest thing that can become a customer and the best thing that can happen to you !!!!

Tip # 8: Answer casually and with humour!

Of course, this tip does not work for every rating and in every industry. Reviews that have a severe background and describe a real problem should always be taken 100% seriously.

But especially nowadays there are more and more trolls out there who want to provoke!

Here you can, of course, like to react with wit and charm. Skillfully ironic is well received by many customers and makes them likeable. As I said: does not work in every branch!

Tip # 9: Be active on many portals!

You don’t only get reviews on Google. There are many industry-specific rating portals that Google has now included in Google My Business Profile. Therefore, make sure that you respond to the answers on all relevant review portals. But especially with smaller portals, you do not have to react to every definite answer, but rather focus there on seriously negative reviews that could damage your reputation.

Tip # 10: Use a lawyer only in an emergency

Many customers come to us with the statement: “The rating here is negative, and we would like to have it deleted. Can you do that please? ” But that’s precisely the wrong approach. First, we have to differentiate between negative reviews and fake negative reviews.

If you are sure that a negative rating is not based on any basis and appears to be a fake rating from a competitor, it may be worthwhile to go to the lawyer. In this case, too, a differentiation has to be made. Perhaps this is a more ironic answer? Do you possibly expose the competitor with a smart solution?

If you are not sure whether the negative rating is real or fake, then you should wait until you get to the lawyer. If an angry customer notices that you have deleted their score, it can very quickly lead to a shit storm and new negative ratings. So try to be honest and open so as not to upset customers even more.

Conclusion:

Sure, negative reviews are never helpful, but with the right strategy, you can also profit from negative reviews. Try to meet your angry customers on an equal footing, be open, personable and courteous. Always offers a solution and thus also shows potential new customers that the negative evaluation is a one-off case.

Also, do not keep your customers waiting and respond promptly to critical reviews.

And: don’t forget your loyal customers! Loyal customers are the best customers!