How to Identify the Best Marketing Project
When it comes to marketing, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. As you dive deep into the bottomless pit of marketing ideas, you take more and more of the time you ought to spend doing other productive things, not knowing which one to work on. But there is a sure way to identify the best marketing project for you to work on.
There is Little Time to Decide on Your Project — You Have to Get to Work
In today’s business, you have little time to decide. Yet, according to a survey conducted by Attest in 2020, one of the five most significant challenges for marketers is the need to make decisions very quickly. So how do you navigate your way out if you find yourself in this decision paralysis circle? And most importantly, how do you choose the best marketing project to work on?
In this piece, you’ll learn a scientific approach that’s helped me put my entire marketing project into perspective and make the right choice.
5 Steps to Identify the Best Marketing Project
Choosing which marketing idea to prioritize is not easy, but the choice doesn’t have to be made haphazardly.
Here is a step-by-step guide on knowing which marketing project should be put first.
Set a marketing goal
Let’s begin by acknowledging the fact that there are two types of marketing goals:
- Day-to-day goals, e.g., progress in the content calendar, leads, engagement, and so on.
- Management level metrics, e.g., ROI, CPA, CLV, etc.
For the purpose of this article, we’ll be focusing on the management metrics as that’s what suits the objective of this article.
Are You Looking to Generate ROI or Build Brand Demand?
So, your goal may be to increase ROI or generate demand — generally, your business goals are stated something like that. Usually, these goals are tied to the business stage. For example, a new product-led SaaS brand needs a lot of user signups because they can afford to let users try out their software for free.
What About eCommerce Essential Goals
An eCommerce storefront, on the contrary, doesn’t have this luxury. And that’s where goal setting becomes essential.
You should be able to set a specific goal before diving deep into the marketing ideas that will enable you to achieve this goal.
You may decide, for instance, that you want to bring in 1,000 user signups by the end of June. Now, that’s specific, and narrowing it down this much will help you stay focused on what’s likely to get you there.
And that takes us to the next step.
Brainstorm marketing ideas
Now that you know what you are up to, the next thing is to make a list out of the endless sea of marketing strategies coming to you. Then, get your team together and brainstorm.
Some marketing ideas are
- Social media Ads
- Content marketing
- Email marketing
And so on — your team will be able to give you some other ideas that you haven’t thought about. In this case, some ideas may be ridiculous, while some would be good. List them out, regardless.
Once you are done with your list, assign each one of them a position as you deem fit. These positions should be based on three classifications:
Review your ideas again and use these classifications to weed out the poor ones. But, of course, you can also remove the good ones and keep the great ones if you like.
Once you’ve already made a list of marketing ideas you feel could help you deliver your goal, the next thing to do is to assess them based on the available resources, which we will discuss next.
Assess the available resources
No matter how awesome your marketing ideas are, you are limited by the available resources based on the four items of project parameters: time, cost, quality, and quantity.
As you now have a goal and marketing ideas, you need to gauge them against the available resources, which will help you put everything in perspective.
Some of the resources to consider overall are
- The number of available team members
- How much time do they have
- Their levels of skill
- How long it would take for the project to be completed
And any other resources you feel you might need.
Once you have done this, the next you should try to know is which of these projects can be matched to the available resources in order for you to achieve your goal.
Let’s see how to do that.
Weigh the potential impact of each idea against the available resources
Having done your resources assessment, you now want to know which one of your marketing projects your available resources can execute successfully.
To do this, use a weighted decision matrix.
Let me show you how to do that step-by-step.
Put your marketing ideas in a row
Say, for example, you work in a link-building agency, and you have a goal to bring in 10 clients within one month. Put your marketing projects in a row.
You could have options like this:
- Write and publish 10 blog posts
- Send cold emails
- Write content to drive traffic from Google
Now, that’s one row. The next thing is to establish what the influencing factors are, that is, the surrounding situations that you must consider before choosing one of these.
Let’s see how to do that.
Establish the factors that influence your decision and assign each one a weight
This is where you try to establish what are the most important things to you at the moment.
For example, your company may need to save money at the moment more than it needs to bring in these new 10 clients.
Perhaps, profit is the most important thing to you right now, and getting these 10 clients will bring you that.
In most cases, you’d have more than one influencing factor. So, you should list out these factors and assign a weight to each of them based on their influence.
To do that, score these factors using numbers 1 – 5 or more, depending on how many factors you have to consider. For example, five would stand for the most essential factor while one would be the least important.
Here is an example:
- Getting 10 clients: 5
- Saving cost: 2
- Getting them in one month: 5
This example shows that both the first and the last factors scored 5 each, which means they are equally important, while the second factor scored 2, making it the less critical factor.
For a better perspective, let me put this on a table.
|Getting 10 clients||Saving cost||Getting 10 clients in one month||Total|
Assign a weight to each marketing idea
Having given your factors their scores, it’s time to add scores to your marketing ideas, too, based on how likely they are to impact each element.
See an example in the table below.
|Marketing projects||Getting 10 clients||Saving cost||Getting 10 clients in one month||Total|
|Write and publish 10 guest posts||5||5||5|
|Send cold emails||2||3||2|
|Write content to drive traffic from Google||2||5||3|
Now, all you have to do is multiply the number of each factor by the number of each project. See the table below.
|Marketing projects||Getting 10 clients||Saving cost||Getting 10 clients in one month||Total|
|Write and publish 10 guest posts||5 x 5||5 x 2||5 x 5||60|
|Send cold emails||2 x 5||3 x 2||2 x 5||35|
|Write content to drive traffic from Google||2 x 5||5 x 2||3 x 5||35|
Writing ten guest posts carries the heaviest weight, having earned the highest score, 60, and that’s the project you should work on.
What we did here was weighed each marketing project based on how much it can influence our goals.
Getting 10 clients isn’t the most crucial factor here, and saving cost isn’t, but getting 10 clients in the span of one month.
As such, I tested all the marketing options against each of these factors, and it turns out that writing guest posts is the one option that’s most likely to get me there, and the matrix showed that.
Create a workflow
“Why is workflow part of this?” You may be wondering.
Creating a workflow isn’t part of the decision-making process, but it’s essential if you are going to be successful in executing your marketing project.
Part of the reasons why I asked you to make a resources assessment is to help you envision how your execution would go forward.
Without a proper workflow put in place, your project might suffer a lot of friction, and you may miss your mark.
And that’s why you should have one in place.
To do this appropriately, you’d need two things:
- Your team
- Automation tools
You’d assign each member of your team a task and a deadline. That will enable you to keep tabs on each task you are working on and who’s doing what.
Also, you may need some automation software, such as collaboration tools (Think Trello and Asana), blog writing software (Think Jasper AI and Grammarly), and social media scheduling tools (e.g., Hootsuite).
If you can do this, you’d be able to execute fast and move on to the next important project.
Image Credit: by Anna Shvets; Pexels; Thank you!
The Impact of Traveling on Business
Technology has long evolved in every aspect of life, whether at work, school, or home. Its advancement has impacted many industries, such as finance, healthcare, security, and others just to mention a few.
In due time, technology also evolved in the travel industry. Thereby providing easy means through which flights, hotel rooms, tours, and other traveling activities can be booked; even trip plans can be done through a mobile device. So tell me why you would not like to travel with all the ease that comes with traveling.
Traveling is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for every individual that partakes in it. Likewise, for entrepreneurs, traveling plays an even greater role in impacting their business.
What travel will do for you:
- Builds good communication skills
- Improves one’s ability to collaborate and negotiate
- Cultural awareness
- Promotes good decision-making
- Improves your time management skills, and so on
Nevertheless, it is important to note that entrepreneurship involves a lot of responsibilities. There are a lot of activities that come with running a business, but still, it is significant to make time to travel around the world.
Why should business leaders make time to travel the world?
It is essential to know that being in a static position as a business leader in terms of knowledge, expertise, and social network will not improve the growth of your business. That is why you have to include traveling in your business agenda, which would assist you in meeting and interacting with other social networks in the view of bringing in new ideas.
Let’s check out 5 lessons business leaders will learn from traveling:
Using body language in aiding sales
A first impression is formed within a few seconds and is heavily influenced by your body language.
In all business interactions, first impressions are crucial. Once someone labels you as trustworthy, suspicious, powerful or submissive, everything else you do is viewed through this lens.
When you are liked, you will be seen for what you are, and when you are disliked, all you do will be suspected. Studies have shown that nonverbal cues (body language) are four times more influential than verbal cues. When traveling to a new country for business or pleasure, research their culture to understand how your gestures will be perceived. If you put in the effort to understand people, you will most likely connect with them.
Then you should be able to relate it to your business and how you can improve customer service.
Developing valuable relationships
Do you know that traveling fosters unique relationships?
Whether you travel on a business trip or personal vacation, you get to meet some amazing people who might become your best friends, your coffee date partners, long-lasting clients, and trusted chefs.
Traveling teaches you how to embrace valuable relationships in your life and business exactly as they are, however flawed or different from your expectations they may be. You learn that every friendship or acquaintance you have adds something special to both your life and business, so you don’t waste time trying to change or control it.
When you travel, you will interact with more people and gain insight into the city, culture, and people, but more importantly, you will learn what their personal “pains” are and how you can relieve them through your business.
Creating a business is all about dealing with ambiguity, you’re signing up for a truckload of unpredictable and mysterious events.
- Will this business work?
- Is this year going to be a profitable year?
- Is this investor trustworthy?
- What do you think about the ambiguity?
- Are you afraid of it, or are you embracing it?
While traveling, you can gain good experiences with how you handle challenges. This is because of the unexpected and unpredictable events that occur while travelling; how you react to those challenges, just as when faced with unprecedented situations in your business, determines your success.
Taking calls or responding to emails when you should be sleeping doesn’t make you a better entrepreneur. Likewise, how devoting every minute to your business can prevent you from reaching your full potential.
The effects of workplace burnout are real, and they can hurt your success. Stress and sleep deprivation can be detrimental to your life and business’s success.
Thus, taking a few days off will help you avoid burnout. Look for a place where you can relax and open your mind to new ideas. Vacations offer your mind the break it needs. Otherwise, you risk making bad business decisions.
Also, traveling will help take you back on your feet and will give you time for reflection. There’s nothing wrong with taking your time and reflecting on what you’re doing in both your professional and personal lives.
Re-evaluate your Business
Your opinions and beliefs about your business and life, in general, are re-evaluated when you travel. It is easier to connect with others if you have a more flexible mind than if you hold rigid notions about the world.
Taking trips gives you a better understanding of what people around the world are interested in. Explore how your business model can benefit from interacting with different cultures.
It’s important to never stop looking for new solutions in your business, and you should always be curious about what’s going on. Your employee benefits program might need improvement, or your marketing may be outdated. You’ll always learn lessons on the road, but you never know what they will be.
Meanwhile, traveling also has a few negative impacts on businesses. Just as the saying goes, there’s nothing that has an advantage that doesn’t have a disadvantage.
This is an educational article that would delve into the two-part impact of traveling so that business leaders become cognizant of the impacts travel has on them and their employees, also placing both impacts on priority.
Here are 3 drawbacks that traveling has for business
There’s no doubt that traveling can be quite expensive even when some bills are covered by the business or company, talking about plane tickets, taxis, and hotel bookings.
Rather, traveling in relation to business should not be perceived in the context of cost alone, but the aspect of revenue income, operations, and human impact should be considered.
Lots of businesses do not anticipate nor plan ahead for risks that could happen while traveling, this they end up lacking proper management of those risks when they occur.
There are different threats that travelers could face while traveling. These risks include contracting dangerous diseases, breaching cybersecurity codes, flight crash cases, and being detained.
Well-being and Health Risk
It has been observed that the majority of people that travel on business trips or vacations rarely follow their normal routine and thus have to go through a totally new routine.
Let it be known that this could pose a threat to employees’ health and well-being due to the fact that they are trying to make the most of the travel period.
All things considered, it seems reasonable to assume that traveling and entrepreneurship go hand in hand. They both start from a point and grow to a level of professionalism.
You shouldn’t deny the fact that traveling is a research process that helps to bring fresh ideas to your business on the journey of professionalism.
In other words, as a business owner, there are certain things that you need to put in place if you want the right impact of traveling in your business.
Most importantly, you should stop trying to minimize the cost of travel due to the effect it has on the business and employees — rather remember the increase the return on investment(ROI) of business travel will be for your company or business.
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10 Ways to Use Instagram Stories Highlights for Healthcare Marketing in 2023
It’s no secret that Instagram has become a popular social media platform for businesses across all industries. Instagram stories, in particular, offer businesses an opportunity to engage in creative and interactive storytelling to promote their services, products, and values.
Many companies have already used Instagram Stories Highlights for Healthcare Marketing. This feature expands their reach and makes their presence more visible on the platform.
What are Instagram Stories and Instagram Stories Highlights?
In the last few years, Instagram has added several new features, further enhancing the platform’s capabilities for companies. One of the most popular features on Instagram is Stories, which allows users to share short-lived posts that disappear after 24 hours. Instagram Stories Highlights are a way to preserve Stories and make them easily accessible to followers.
For healthcare companies, Instagram Stories Highlights can be an incredibly effective way to interact with their target audience, showcase their services and products, and share valuable health-related content.
Ways healthcare companies can use Instagram Stories Highlights to improve their marketing
With that in mind, this article will explore ten ways healthcare companies can use Instagram Stories Highlights to improve their marketing strategies in 2023.
Highlight Patient Testimonials
Patient testimonials provide a great opportunity to show potential patients the positive effects that your services and treatments can have. They can share their experiences and the results of their treatments, providing potential patients with a firsthand account of their success stories.
Additionally, patient testimonials allow you to showcase the types of treatments you specialize in and the positive effects that they have had on various patients. Using patient testimonials increases your credibility and trustworthiness and better understand your target audience.
While patient testimonials are a great way to showcase your healthcare services and products, it is important to ensure that the testimonials you use are genuine and from actual patients of your practice. Ensuring that your patient testimonials are genuine and not fabricated is important.
One way to ensure authenticity is to gather patient testimonials through a review system, such as Google Reviews or Facebook Recommendations. You can also ask patients for permission to share their experiences on your Instagram account.
Promote Health Awareness Campaigns
Creating Instagram Stories focusing on health topics like nutrition, physical activity, and mental health is important for any healthcare provider. These stories can feature helpful tips, educational information, and inspiring stories related to the topic.
Moreover, you can use Instagram Stories Highlights to promote healthy practices and activities. You can also use them as a platform to provide resources to your followers, such as links to articles, videos, or online support groups. By adding stories to your Instagram highlights, you can make a lasting impression on your followers and help to create a community of health-minded individuals.
You can create a highlight dedicated to health awareness campaigns and share information and resources about specific diseases or conditions. For example, you could highlight heart health, share tips for maintaining a healthy heart, and provide information about heart disease and how to reduce your risk. You can also use Instagram’s built-in poll feature to engage your followers by asking questions related to the health topic you’re promoting.
Share Expert Opinions and Insights
Sharing expert opinions and insights on Instagram can help establish your practice as a reputed and trustworthy source of information. Sharing advice from healthcare professionals can help educate potential customers on various topics related to your products or services.
You can create highlights dedicated to expert opinions and insights and share short clips or written posts that provide valuable information on health topics. Instagram Stories can also provide educational content that followers can share, potentially leading to more engagement with your products and services.
Examples include information on new medical advancements, tips for living a healthy life, and insights on specific health conditions. When sharing expert opinions and insights, it’s important to be clear and concise and provide sources for the information you share. It can help build trust with your followers and demonstrate your commitment to providing accurate and reliable information.
In addition, utilizing influencers to share stories and advice can help elevate your company’s brand in the healthcare space.
Highlight Health Services and Products
Social media has become essential for healthcare providers to market their health services and products. With Instagram Story Highlights, you can curate stories about your services and products and highlight them in your profile. This feature allows you to create a user-friendly experience by showcasing the best of their content.
You can highlight the benefits of a product, share a patient’s success story, or explain how a procedure works. Highlighting these stories creates an inviting experience for potential patients and allows them to learn more about your offers.
For example, if you offer a weight loss program, you could create a Highlight dedicated to this service and share testimonials from satisfied patients. You can include information about how the program works and what patients can expect. You can also use Instagram’s built-in call-to-action feature to encourage followers to take action and book a consultation or purchase your products.
Offer Behind-the-Scenes Look
Instagram Stories that offer a behind-the-scenes look make the experience even more personal and engaging. It could include taking viewers on a tour of the facility, interviews with staff, and sneak previews of upcoming services or technologies.
By offering a behind-the-scenes look, you can help potential patients get to know your practice and the people who work there, which can help build trust and increase the likelihood that they will choose your practice over a competitor.
For example, you can share short clips of staff members introducing themselves, images of your office and treatment rooms, and behind-the-scenes footage of procedures or treatments. You can also use Instagram’s built-in story questions feature to engage with your followers and encourage them to ask questions about your practice and what they can expect when they visit.
With a behind-the-scenes look, you can share stories that give a more in-depth narrative, increasing loyalty and trust among followers. It allows followers to glimpse your company and helps foster a connection extending beyond the surface level.
Share Healthy Lifestyle Tips
As a healthcare provider, you have a wealth of information and resources that can help educate your followers on important health topics. Instagram Stories Highlights can be great for sharing healthy lifestyle tips with your followers and demonstrating your expertise in your field.
Examples of educational topics you can share include information on specific health conditions, tips for living a healthy lifestyle, and resources for managing stress and anxiety. It could also include meal-planning ideas, exercise tips, reminders to stay hydrated, mental health advice, and more.
You could also use the highlights to share success stories from patients who have adopted healthy lifestyles and achieved results. Such stories could be very inspiring and motivating to other viewers.
You could also share resources such as websites, books, or apps promoting healthy living. It can be done using Instagram Stories Highlights, helping build long-term relationships with patients and the broader community.
Announce Upcoming Events and Workshops
Instagram Stories Highlights can be used to share important information about the event, such as the time, location, and any dress code requirements. It can build excitement and anticipation among your followers. These events and workshops can also be a great opportunity to collaborate with other healthcare providers and organizations in your community.
You can generate interest and encourage attendees to sign up by providing regular updates and sneak peeks. Additionally, images and videos highlighting the event or workshop can be shared to engage viewers. Images of speakers or past event attendees can create a sense of familiarity for the viewer.
Furthermore, the event’s unique details or benefits can be highlighted to encourage viewers to attend. By creating Instagram Stories Highlights, you can reach a wider audience and increase engagement with potential customers.
Promote Special Offers and Promotions
Instagram is a great platform to promote special offers and promotions related to your healthcare services and products. You can create a highlight dedicated to promoting special offers and promotions and share short clips or images that showcase your offer.
Encouraging followers to use your services and products by showcasing limited-time deals and discounts can help increase conversions and drive revenue for your healthcare business. For example, if you’re offering a special discount on a new product, you could create a highlight for this promotion and share information about the product and the discount.
By creating dedicated highlights for promotions, you can ensure that your followers can always access your latest deals and discounts. You can also use eye-catching graphics, videos, and animations to make your offers stand out and grab your followers’ attention. Additionally, by using the right hashtags and geotags, you can increase the visibility of your promotions and reach a wider audience.
Share Patient Success Stories
You can showcase your work and build trust with potential customers by sharing real stories of how your treatments have helped patients. You can also use these stories to inspire others and show your business’s impact on patients’ lives.
By highlighting your patients’ positive outcomes and experiences, you can demonstrate the effectiveness of your healthcare services and products. These stories can be shared as text, photos, or even video clips to give viewers a deeper look at the positive experiences others have had with your care.
When sharing patient success stories as Instagram Stories Highlights, getting permission from the patients involved and ensuring that the stories are genuine and not fabricated is important. Doing so can show potential customers that you genuinely care about your patients and have a successful track record of positive outcomes.
Highlight Community Involvement
Community involvement is a great way to showcase your commitment to the community and demonstrate your practice’s impact on the local area. Showing how the organization makes a positive difference can help build brand loyalty and strengthen relationships with current and potential patients.
Examples of community involvement you can highlight include sponsoring a local charity event, participating in a local health fair, or volunteering at a local food bank. You can create Instagram Stories highlighting your community involvement and share short clips or images of your practice participating in local events, conducting crowd-sourced fundraising campaigns, supporting local organizations, or volunteering in the community. You can even give a behind-the-scenes look at how the organization is making a difference in the local area.
Showcasing community involvement can also help to humanize your healthcare organization, making it more accessible and relatable. Sharing stories about your organization’s impact can help raise awareness and increase engagement from followers. Ultimately, leveraging Instagram Stories Highlights can be a powerful way to demonstrate your organization’s social responsibility.
Scope of Instagram Stories Highlights for Healthcare Marketing
Instagram Stories Highlights are a way to provide a glimpse into the values and personality of your practice and to showcase the impact you’re having on the lives of your patients. Whether you’re sharing behind-the-scenes footage, promoting special offers, or highlighting patient success stories, the key is to be creative and authentic in your approach.
By utilizing Instagram Stories Highlights, you can help build a strong online presence for your healthcare practice and increase the visibility of your services. Creating valuable content and engaging with your followers can help you establish yourself as a trusted healthcare provider and attract new patients.
Healthcare marketers have many options for using Instagram Stories Highlights for marketing campaigns. They can use creative visuals and storytelling elements to engage with their audience, boost brand awareness, and drive conversions.
Instagram is a powerful tool for healthcare organizations to market themselves to potential patients. In 2023, Instagram Stories Highlights will be integral to any healthcare marketing strategy, so marketers must start planning for the future.
With the right strategy and creative execution, healthcare marketers can deliver content that resonates with their audience and achieves their overall marketing goals. By leveraging the platform’s features and sharing relevant, valuable, and engaging content, they can increase their reach, build their brand, and grow their patient base in 2023 and beyond.
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Secure and Transform Your Organization’s Data Through Data Masking
With the realization of what data can do in catering to users in providing a unique experience of a product or service, businesses are collating data from all sources. The collected data is huge in volume and is shared with many stakeholders to derive meaningful insights or to serve the customers.
This data sharing results in regular data breach occurrences that affect companies of all sizes and in every industry — exposing the sensitive data of millions of people every year and costing businesses millions of dollars. According to an IBM report, the average cost of a data breach in 2022 is $4.35 million, up from $4.24 million in 2021. It becomes imperative to secure access to sensitive data that flows across an organization for faster development, service, and production at scale without compromising its privacy.
Data masking anonymizes and conceals sensitive data
Data masking anonymizes or conceals this sensitive data while allowing it to be leveraged for various purposes or within different environments.
Create an alternate version in the same format as of data
The data masking technique protects data by creating an alternate version in the same format as of data. The alternate version is functional but cannot be decoded or reverse-engineered. The modified version of the original data is consistent across multiple Databases. It is used to protect different types of data.
Common data types (Sensitive data) for Data Masking
- PII: Personally Identifiable Information
- PHI: Protected Health Information
- PCI-DSS: Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard
- ITAR: Intellectual Property Information
According to a study by Mordor Intelligence, “The Data Masking Market” was valued at USD 483.90 million in 2020 and is expected to reach USD 1044.93 million by 2026, at a CAGR of 13.69% over the forecast period 2021 — 2026.
In this information age, cyber security is very important.” Data masking helps secure this sensitive data by providing a masked version of the real-time data while preserving its business value (see: k2view dotcom; “what is data masking”). It also addresses threats, including Data Loss, Data Exfiltration, insider threats or account breach, etc.
Many data masking techniques are used to create a non-identifiable or undeciphered version of sensitive data to prevent any data leaks. It maintains data confidentiality and helps businesses to comply with data security standards such as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), etc.
Common Methods of Data Masking
1. Static Data Masking
This method of data masking is very commonly used to mask data in a production environment. In this method, the hidden data retains its original structure without revealing the actual information. The data is altered to make it look accurate and close to its original characteristics so that it can be leveraged in development, testing, or training environments.
2. Dynamic data masking
This method is different from static masking in a way that active or live data is masked without altering the original data form. Thus, in this method, the data is masked only at a particular database layer to prevent unauthorized access to the information in different environments.
With this method, organizations can conceal data dynamically while managing data requests from third-party vendors, parties, or internal stakeholders. It is used to process customer inquiries around payments or handle medical records within applications or websites.
Informatica offers PowerCenter with PowerExchange for Extract Transform Load (ETL) and ILM for data masking. These products embody best practices for handling large datasets across multiple technologies and sources.
Informatica Dynamic Data Masking anonymizes data and manages unauthorized access to sensitive information in production environments, such as customer service, billing, order management, and customer engagement. Informatica PowerCenter Data Masking Option transforms production data into real-looking anonymized data.
3. On-the-fly data masking
The on-the-fly data masking method is considered ideal for organizations that integrate data continuously. With this method, the data is masked when transferred from a production environment to another environment, such as a development or test. A portion of data or smaller subsets of data is masked, as required, thus eliminating the need to create a continuous copy of masked data in a staging environment, which is used to prepare data.
Different platforms use each or a combination of these methods to implement data masking. For example, K2view offers data masking through the data product platform that simplifies the data masking process of all the data related to specific business entities, such as customers, orders, credit card numbers, etc.
The K2view platform manages the integration and delivery of this sensitive data of each business entity masked in its encrypted Micro-Database. It uses dynamic data masking methods for operational services like customer data management (customer 360) or Test data (test data management), etc.
Another example of using both static and dynamic data masking methods is Baffle Data Protection Services (DPS). It helps to mitigate the risks of data leakage from different types of data, such as PII, Test data across a variety of sources. With Baffle, businesses can build their own Data Protection Service layer to store personal data at the source and manage strong access controls at that source with Adaptive Data Security.
Popular Data Masking Techniques
Data Encryption is the most common and reliable data-securing technique. This technique hides data that needs to be restored to its original value when required. The encryption method conceals the data and decrypts it using an encryption key. Production data or data in motion can be secured using data encryption technology, as the data access can be limited to only authorized individuals and can be restored as required.
The Data Scrambling technique secures some types of data by rearranging the original data with characters or numbers in random order. In this technique, once the data is scrambled with random content, the original data cannot be restored. It is a relatively simple technique, but the limitation lies with only particular types of data and less security. Any data undergoing scrambling is viewed differently (with randomized characters or numbers) in different environments.
The Nulling Out technique assigns a null value to sensitive data in order to bring anonymity to the data to protect data from unauthorized usage. In this technique, the null value in place of original information changes the characteristics of data and affects the usefulness of data. The method of removing data or replacing data with a null value takes away its usefulness — making it unfit for test or development environments. Data integration becomes a challenge with this type of data manipulation, which is replaced with empty or null values.
The shuffling data technique makes the hidden data look authentic by shuffling the same column values that are shuffled randomly to reorder the values. For instance, this technique is often used to shuffle employee names columns of records such as Salaries; or, in the case of patient names, columns shuffled across multiple patient records.
The shuffled data appear accurate but do not give away any sensitive information. The technique is popular for large datasets.
Data Redaction (blacklining)
The Data Redaction technique, also known as blacklining, does not retain the attributes of the original data and masks data with generic values. This technique is similar to nulling out and is used when sensitive data in its complete and original state is not required for development or testing purposes.
For instance, the replacement of credit card number with x’s (xxxx xxxx xxxx 1234) displayed on payment pages in the online environment helps to prevent any data leak. At the same time, the replacement of digits by x helps developers to understand what the data might look like in real-time.
The Substitution technique is considered to be the most effective for preserving the data’s original structure, and it can be used with a variety of data types. The data is masked by substituting it with another value to alter its meaning.
For example, in the customer records substituting the first name ‘X’ with ‘Y’ retains the structure of the data and makes it appear to be a valid data entry, yet provides protection against accidental disclosure of the actual values.
Data masking has emerged as a necessary step for transforming real-time data to non-production environments while maintaining the security and privacy of sensitive data.
Masking of data is crucial when managing large volumes of data and gives the authorization to dictate the access of data in the best possible way.
Featured Image Credit: Provided by the Author; Pexels; Thank you!