Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Star Wars? No. Creative Password? YES!

When it comes to passwords, we really aren't a very imaginative bunch it appears. 

So, when it comes to protecting our most precious assets i.e. bank accounts, bank details on websites etc why oh why do we plonk for the most guessable passwords?

Yep, people are still using 123456, "password", 000000 and the like and now it seems, "Starwars" is the newest brain dead password to use. 

You might as well just roll over and hand all your personal details to the next cyber crook!

Here are some useful ideas to help you create and remember a far stronger password.  Remember make them as difficult as possible to foil the enemy!
Click here to read full BBC article

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Do you allow your staff to use the internet for personal use at work?

The European Court of Human Rights have ruled that it was perfectly in order that an employer read a workers private messages sent via chat software and webmail accounts during working hours and using the employers device. 

The worker involved was an engineer in Romania, but this decision also affects all countries bound by the European Convention on Human Rights which of course, includes Britain. 

The employer had banned staff from sending personal messages at work.  Mr. Barbulescu argued that he had a right to a private life under the Human Rights Act, but lost his case in the domestic courts in Romania and has now lost under appeal to the ECHR. 

Mr. Barbulescu had prior warning that the company could check his messages and it was deemed that the employer had a right to check the employees activities by checking his messages on his work account.  Mr. Barbulescu was using his Yahoo messenger account for both personal and business use.

So if you are an employer and don't want your workers stealing your time to send personal messages, make it 100% clear in their contract and ensure that your employees understand and consent to your rules explicitly.

Read the full BBC article here

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Do you use these powerful marketing tools?

Sales and Marketing Activity

If you use the telephone as a tool to take orders and field enquiries from your marketing activity, how do you know how successful you are?

It was Viscount Leverhulme who said “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, and the trouble is I don’t know which half.” 

The trouble with traditional marketing is that you know that you have to do it and with an eager air of anticipation and expectation you spend money on using Yellow Pages, weekly free press, monthly gazettes, web sites, email marketing, letters, leaflet drops, radio, TV, street adverts, brochures, 4N, BNI etc. Generally as businesses, we usually only ever have one main telephone number that is used and if you only publish the one number on all of the above options you will hopefully capture the sale, but unless you are rigorous in asking the question – " How did you hear of us?", you will never know what is the source of your sale and if your marketing is actually working!
What is important is how to capture the hard data and to understand how effective each marketing activity you do is and so help you to justify expanding some areas of advertising and cutting back others therefore increasing the effectiveness of your lead generation.

Yellow pages have for years monitored the usage patterns of its users and have identified that the readers will call telephone numbers in the following order of priority:
  • Freephone (0800, 0808) numbers 
  • Local Geographic Numbers (01392 Exeter, 01904 York etc.) 
  • And the rest 0845, 0870 are avoided because of the perception of the company benefiting from the call 
Therefore it is recommend that you use 0800 and 0808 numbers for a number of reasons
  1. because the research data backs this up, and
  2. that prospects prefer to make a call that they know that they are not paying for. 
So you need to measure your advertising using evidence based reporting.  The simplest and most effective way to measure the response is by using telephony platforms to collate the call data. This means that once you decide that you need to measure your marketing campaigns, you will need to look for a supplier that will provide the right telephone numbers to publish on your individual marketing pieces and then a solution that provides you with the detailed information on inbound calls to maximise your lead generation activity.

Converting Sales to Leads

Not only is accurate and live data on your marketing performance necessary, you also ought to record each inbound call so that you can ensure that all staff responsible for making the sale are fully trained and following your sales procedures/scripts to maximise each opportunity. If one person, including yourself, is off track then potential orders can be lost.

Results are what business are all about, so the system you choose to employ needs to allow you to measure how many leads your marketing is generating and how your business is handling these sales calls. You need to obtain all the information you can possibly get to help drive your business forward.

Accurate and Instant Marketing Data

You have spent hours getting your creative right, wording, font type and size, the message, the call to action and everything else you have learned from the Marketing AIDA (Attention Interest Desire Action).

  1. So what was your response?
  2. How many people bought from you?
  3. How many people contacted you?
  4. How well did you do at converting those who called into those who bought?

The first step in this process is knowing who reacted to your marketing. This is the measure of your marketing effectiveness. All your individual telephone numbers can provide you with detailed information about who called and when, all you have to provide is the – 'what marketing item each number refers to'.   Clever eh?

Cost Benefit Analysis

As you have collected so much more data than before you can now begin to collate the financial data for each marketing activity carried out and begin to understand what works and what does not.

Using the call data you can determine the value of each activity and the most cost effective way to attract customers and clients to your business, ensuring that you get better value out of each pound spent on marketing your business services and products.

Knowledge is Power

When you have the information available to make decisions based on fact and you then act on this information you have the power to make a massive impact upon your bottom line.

What has been outlined here is not rocket science, although it can and does to many look like a dark art, the reality is that by simple use of telephone platforms you now have the ability to capture the data with which to measure your marketing. You can then use it to make significantly more money than you currently are, because you are focusing on what works, rather than like Viscount Leverhulme all those years ago knowing that half worked but not knowing which half!
The Merlin Team 

Image courtesy of Kromkrathog at

Monday, 11 January 2016

Be safe and sound this New Year

With the New Year upon us, it's good to take stock and think about all those tasks that you didn't actually get round to doing last year.
We really want you to stay safe and secure at all times and thought it might be a great idea to remind you to think about the impact that cunning fraudsters could have on your business AND tell you what you can do now to help prevent nasties like toll fraud.

Toll fraud is theft.  It's where fraudsters hijack a phone service and make long distance calls with your account. 

Now we certainly don't want to be alarmist, but it does happen. 
Whilst are sure that your service provider will be monitoring their systems constantly and lock everything down as far as they can and are able, (Merlin certainly do!)  there are some precautions that you MUST take at your end, to make sure you are as safe as can be.

So here is our common sense telecoms consumer check list:-
  • Make sure your passwords and access codes are changed regularly and if possible, be alpha/numeric and have as many digits and special characters as the system allows.  Please DON'T use 123456, "Password", or 0000000. These are a hackers dream!
  • Delete/change passwords for ex employees immediately
  • Consider limiting call types by extension, so if an extension user has no requirement to ring international or premium rate numbers then bar the phone from doing so. 
  • Regular reviews of calls should be carried out to cover analysis of billed calls by extension, to identify any unexpected traffic or irregular usage
  • Ensure you really understand your systems functionality and capabilities and restrict access to the services you don't use
  • Block access to unallocated mailboxes on the system and change the default PIN on unused mailboxes 
  • Be vigilant for hacking - the inability to get an outbound line is an indicator of high volumes of traffic through your system.  Check for calls outside your office hours.
  • Assess security of all your peripherals e.g. handset, router and evaluate the security of any remote management utility you use for possible holes. 
So, a little bit of savvy security will hopefully let you sleep at night and keep those fraudsters at bay!  

Wishing you all a very Happy (and safe) New Year from
The Merlin Team

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at