SMALL BUSINESS
11/07/2011 07:01 pm ET | Updated Jan 07, 2012

Small Businesses Hacked, But Still Not Taking Precautions: Survey Says

It's an almost all-animal edition of "Survey Says." When it comes to the dangers of their employees surfing the Web, too many small-business owners are channeling ostriches. And if you want to increase sales, have your salespeople play a new game we're calling "monkey see, monkey buy." Here's a closer look at some of the latest small-business surveys.

'It Can't Happen to Me'

Famous last words. But here are the facts: Forty percent of small and midsize businesses have suffered a security breach due to employees visiting websites that host malware, infected downloads or have been corrupted by malicious code, a GFI Software survey shows. But even knowing about these risks, 55 percent of companies that use Web monitoring software aren't doing it to protect against infected websites. Instead, 24 percent use it to make employees more productive, 13.5 percent to conserve network bandwidth and speed, and 11.5 percent to prevent employees from visiting inappropriate sites.

Even more surprising, 11.5 percent of respondents don't use any type of Web monitoring or filtering software. Of those, 70 percent claim the risks of Web use don't apply to their businesses. It's easy to think something isn't a risk -- until it happens to you. If you're not using Web monitoring software, you're playing with fire.

Mirror Image

Retail salespeople who subtly mimic customers' speech and behavior have a better chance of making the sale, according to an experiment conducted by the Universite de Bretagne-Sud in France. The experiment found that when salespeople mimicked customer behavior, 78.8 percent of customers ended up making a purchase, compared with just 61.8 percent who bought from non-mimickers. (Both types of customers had approached the salespeople asking for information about a specific product, so they were already interested in buying.)

Not only did the mimickers make the sale, but they also made a difference in the businesses' image -- after the experience, the customers who had been mimicked were more positive about the salespeople and the business.

Tablet Surfing Surges

If you market to customers online, consider targeting tablet users. Why? Because new data from Knowledge Networks shows that tablet owners spend nearly 50 percent more time online than consumers who don't own tablets. Tablet owners aged 18 to 64 spent an average of 4 hours, 19 minutes online daily, compared to 2 hours, 55 minutes for all consumers in that age bracket.
And 38 percent of tablet owners' total Internet time is spent on either tablets or smartphones -- more than twice the 14 percent share of Internet time that the general population spends on mobile devices. Overall, Knowledge Networks says mobile Internet use among adults has tripled since last year, to an average of 25 minutes a day. If you want to appeal to mobile Internet users (increasingly, that's almost everyone), make sure your website is mobile-friendly. Speaking as a tablet owner, I can see why the device encourages more Internet use -- it's so convenient to go online. Mine is always on.