Wet Signatures vs. eSignatures | Which is more secure?

eSignatures have been around for over two decades, but many businesses have yet to make the switch from paper signatures to electronic ones. One of the main concerns is that eSignatures lack the security necessary to ensure that the document’s contents are kept confidential and the signatures coming back are legally valid. Let’s see if this is true by doing a side-by-side comparison of paper signatures and electronic signatures.

Wet Signatures

Physical or “wet” signatures are the traditional pen-and-paper signatures that are physically applied to a document. For these types of signature, the document to be signed may be sent to the signer via mail or other method to be signed privately. At other times, the document is signed in the presence of one or more other people. Paper signatures are a physical representation of a person’s identity and serve as proof of their consent to and acknowledgement of the contents laid out in the document. More often than not, a paper signature’s validity is based on trust. As the person who requested the signature, you must trust that the person who signed the document is who they say they are. As a signer, you must trust that your signature is not being forged to sign documents without your consent. Since wet signatures don’t come with a report that tells you what happened to a document prior and during signing, there is no way to directly trace the signature back to where and by whom it was signed.

In addition, with wet signatures, if the documents are not scanned and uploaded to the cloud, there is a risk of a natural disaster occurring and destroying the contents. This is another risk that businesses must face if they opt to continue to sign papers using paper.

eSignatures

An eSignature is an electronic piece of data that is created by an individual. The application of this piece of data to a document represents the signer’s identity and consent to and acknowledgement of the contents in the document. It serves the same function as a wet signature. However, since all the signing activity is done in the cloud, eSignature applications can track and observe a signer’s actions during signing. Signority’s eSignature solution tracks the name,  email address, IP address, and time of date of every action performed by the signer during signing. This allows document senders to have a full traceability report for each of the documents they get signed. Compared to wet signatures, this makes verifying a signer much easier, and can save businesses legal headaches down the line. For a signer, as long as you have full ownership over your email address, only you will have access to the documents you should be signing. If someone does try to impersonate you and eSigns a document without your consent, all their activity will be logged through the document’s audit trail. This information can be used to show who really signed the document. Furthermore, the use of SMS 2-factor authentication, and other authentication methods helps ensure the identity of the signer.

In terms of document storage, digitally stored documents are backed up in the cloud, so in case of a disaster, you won’t lose your documents. In addition, almost all eSignature providers have industry best-practice security certifications such as SOC I and SOC II certification and ISO 27001:2013 certification. These certifications verify that the company handles their customer data securely, protecting it from outside attackers, and can effectively recover from incidents that would otherwise lead to loss of data.

Finally, documents signed with eSignatures often come with a digital signature applied to the document by the eSignature provider. This digital signature can act as a type of tamper-proofing mechanism to detect whether or not a document has been tampered with. You can learn more about what digital signatures are here.

With all this information, it’s clear that eSignatures are a good choice for many companies. They provide superior security and traceability for signed documents. Not to mention they also cut down on the time you spend on each document that needs to be signed!

If you want to learn more about eSignatures and how they can benefit your business, download our free eBook titled “Introduction to eSignatures”.

A Brief Introduction to eSignatures | Benefits and the Future (Part 2)

This is the second part in the series, A Brief Introduction to eSignatures. In the first part, we answered the question “What are eSignatures?”. We talked about the legal definition of an eSignature, the components of an eSignature, and the difference between an eSignature and a Digital Signature. If you missed it, check it out here.

In Part 2 of this series, we’ll go over the benefits that eSignatures have for businesses, and where the industry is headed.

Benefits of eSignatures

Legally-binding eSignatures have a number of important benefits for businesses:

  1. Easy to use. Signing electronic documents is super simple for all involved. In fact, most eSignature software is intuitive even to complete beginners, which means less time spent learning how to use new software.
  2. Save money. Paper isn’t cheap, especially when you account for purchasing, copying, scanning, and printing costs, among other paper-related expenditures. Needless to say, these costs add up quickly. Moving to a paperless system can reduce expenditures and instantly increase your profit margins.
  3. Save time. Printing, copying, and scanning takes time. Preparing documents for signature takes time. Tracking down (and waiting for) signatures takes even more time. eSignatures can shorten the turnaround time by as much as 90 percent.
  4. Improve accuracy. There’s nothing more frustrating than waiting for a signed document only to realize the recipient forgot to fill out a required piece of information. eSignature software allows you to specify mandatory fields, which, as you probably guessed, require the recipient to complete all such fields before the document can be signed.
  5. Stay organized. Keeping track of paperwork (regardless of how efficient your filing system may be) is often burdensome. eSignatures create an easily sortable, organized filing system by which you can easily store and retrieve important documents.
  6. Add an extra layer of security. Electronic documents can be protected by a variety of methods, including passcodes, encryption, two-factor authentication, and even biometric authentication methods. These methods instantly make your important documents more secure.
  7. Make things easier for customers and/or vendors. While eSignatures provide some obvious benefits for your own business, they also make things much easier for your customers, partners, suppliers, or other vendors (for many of the same reasons we’ve already covered). Customers prefer eSignature software not only because it is more convenient, but it brings a number of important advantages, including: eliminating unnecessary back-and-forth (saving time), simplifying internal processes, facilitating quicker onboarding, and increasing operational efficiency, among a laundry list of other benefits.

The Future of eSignatures

According to a report from MarketsandMarkets, one of the largest market research firms in the world, the eSignature market is expected to grow from USD $2.8 billion in 2020 to $14.1 billion by 2026. In another five years, the market will quintuple in size. So, what’s driving this incredible growth?
There are three primary factors driving the growth of the eSignature market:

  1. Online business continues to explode: More online business is good for the eSignature market. As more and more businesses move online, more legally-binding documents will be required, in order to govern and accommodate this transition. eSignatures are a necessary part of online business. As one goes, so does the other.
  2. Online security is more important than ever: It should be relatively easy to see the relationships forming here. As more business moves online, there’s more reason to protect that business. More importantly, Digital Signatures make it incredibly easy for business owners to protect their most important documents. Digital Signatures use a combination of public and private keys to encrypt and secure important documents, further reducing the risk of online fraud.
  3. Businesses will always be in the business of making money: And eSignatures can drastically reduce operational costs, thereby increasing profit margins. For example, it costs U.S. businesses nearly $8 billion each year to manage their paper documents. Going paperless brings drastic (and nearly instantaneous) cost benefits. In the end, money talks.

Even still, eSignatures simply make sense for nearly all businesses, regardless of size or industry. It simply makes business easier while saving companies time, money, and unnecessary headaches. When it’s all said and done, it wouldn’t be the least bit surprising to see the global eSignature market outperform its five-year projections.

Ready to use eSignatures for your business? Take advantage of Signority’s 14-day free trial!

A Brief Introduction to eSignatures | What are eSignatures? (Part 1)

Making sense of electronic signatures (eSignatures) can be intimidating. In addition, the eSignature industry is still relatively young (less than 25 years old), which means it can often be more difficult to find reliable, easy-to-understand information to address all of the questions a business owner might have.

This blog post is the first in a multi-part, educational series in which we will examine a number of important eSignature-related topics in greater detail, including: eSignature basics, the history of eSignatures, laws governing the use of eSignatures, when to use eSignatures, and how to implement eSignatures in your own business, among other topics.

In Part 1 of this series, we’ll review the basics of eSignatures (components, advantages, etc.).

Understanding eSignatures

As defined by the ESIGN Act (more on this foundational piece of legislation shortly), an eSignature is “any sound, symbol, or process, attached to or logically associated with a contract or other record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record.”

If that definition sounds vague or unclear, don’t worry. That’s sort of the idea; it is, after all, “legal-ese”. In plain English, however, the above definition simply “states” an eSignature as a legal concept. That is, its legal definition simply means that it is possible for an eSignature to carry the same sort of legal “weight” as its pen-and-paper equivalent.

That probably doesn’t make too much sense at this very moment.

So, let’s take a closer look.

First, there is one critically important point you should understand:

In a strictly legal sense, the term “electronic signature” does not refer to an actual signature. Instead, the term refers more broadly to the process requirements (we’ll call them components) that must be met in order for an electronically signed document to be considered legally binding in a court of law.

As far as the law is concerned, a signature is simply one component of an electronically signed document. By itself, it carries no legal authority. In order for an electronic document to stand up in a court of law, all of the components must be present.

The ESIGN Act (again, more on this shortly) explicitly outlines these components in an attempt to standardize, well, the process by which an electronic document must be handled so that it carries full, legal authority.

Let’s take a quick look at the basic components of an eSignature.

Components of eSignatures

As we just reviewed, the signature itself is only one component of a legally-binding electronic document. However, there are four, primary components that you should care about most:

  1. Consent: Basically, any individual who signs an electronic document must explicitly consent to do so in the first place. Should an individual choose not to consent to an electronically signed agreement, a non-electronic option must made available.
  2. Intent: In the simplest terms, this means that the signer clearly understands his or her intent to sign the document, and the process by which the individual signed the document was clear and understood from beginning to end.
  3. Verification: For an electronic document to be considered legally binding it must be signed by the same person whose signature appears on the dotted line. In turn, most eSignature solutions have built-in verification methods.
  4. Auditability: This is the electronic equivalent of a “paper trail,” whereby each party involved in an electronic agreement (or a legal entity, for instance) can, if necessary, easily access each step of the eSignature process at any time. So, we’ve covered the legal definition of eSignatures and reviewed some of the most important components of eSignatures.

Before we go any further, though, we need to make an important distinction.

The Difference Between an eSignature and a Digital Signature

Yes, there is a difference.

In fact, if you Google “eSignature vs. digital Signature” you’ll find nearly two million search results that will tell the same story. While the two terms are often used interchangeably, they are not one in the same.

So, what’s the difference then?

Remember the intentionally vague definition we reviewed earlier?

An eSignature is “any sound, symbol, or process, attached to or logically associated with a contract or other record and executed or adopted by a person with the intent to sign the record.”

Remember that one?

Like we said earlier, that’s because “eSignature” refers to a broad category that encompasses many different types of electronic signatures. As you’ll learn shortly, this definition was created back in 2000, way before eSignatures became a widely popular, legally-binding entity.

This language was intended to be vague from the start.

But, why?

Well, lawmakers wanted to leave themselves some “wiggle room,” understanding that at some point in the future there would be many different methods to electronically sign a document. So, they wrote the law to be intentionally inclusive. What’s a digital signature then?

A digital signature is one of these specific types of eSignature. It has its own set of legal rules, standards, and governances. We won’t go into the specifics right now (but may do so in a later guide in this series). That’s an entire guide in and of itself.

For the purposes of this guide, it’s enough to simply understand that there is, in fact, a difference between the two terms.

Now, let’s take a quick look at how an eSignature works.

How to get Signed Electronically

Illustration of a Signority eSignature workflow

Thankfully, eSignature software like Signority is easy to use—even for the most inexperienced users. In fact, it’s ease of use has been one of the contributing factors to its sky-high adoption rate. Though the exact process may vary depending on software solution, the basic workflow is virtually the same.

Here’s how a basic eSignature works:

  1. A document is uploaded to a website (usually a third-party software).
  2. The document is tagged to pinpoint exactly where a signature is required.
  3. The document is then emailed to the participants who are required to sign.
  4. The signer(s) completes all required fields, then signs the document electronically.
  5. The completed document is then automatically emailed back to the original sender.
  6. The document is automatically stored for safe, secure, and easy access.

Now that you understand the basics of how eSignatures work, stay tuned for the Part 2 of this series where we talk about the benefits and history of eSignatures.

Ready to use eSignatures for your business? Take advantage of Signority’s 14-day free trial!

A Paperless Business and 5 Ways You Can Achieve It Now

Achieve a paperless business with Signority

Read on to learn about the five ways you can turn your business into a paperless business – today.

Flashback: it’s 1980.

Inflation is creeping higher and Americans are helplessly watching their purchasing power vanish into thin air. Retirement funds dwindle while it gets harder to put food on the table. The dollar’s inflated to 10% and everyone’s worrying about buying things before they go up in price. Anxious consumers are purchasing goods the same way squirrels pack away nuts for winter.

Problem is, this ever-consuming loop of fear is actually driving prices higher. Fear contributes to a rapid, debilitating buying cycle. And as prices go up, employees ask their bosses for a raise. Bosses comply with wishes, left with no choice but to raise prices. The result is a self-fulfilling prophecy of inflated prices.

But here comes Paul Volcker, the newly appointed Federal Reserve Chairman. Notorious for his devil-may-care attitude and allowing his socks fall scrunched about his ankles, he’s intent to fix the economic mess. His way.
Traditionally, inflation is supposed to stop once you stop printing money. Volcker’s stopped the presses, yet things just keep getting worse! Having iced the economy, we’re in a recession now too, and Volcker is facing an uproar.

But he’s sticking to his principles, cool and collected. Winter is coming, heck, it’s already here – but the Fed Chair knows that a frozen economy must thaw before financial security springs anew.
What did Volcker do to end the woes of inflation?

He showed the American people that the problem was all in our heads. He didn’t succumb to convention, refused to print more money, and made us all stand firm. This is what allowed the dollar correct itself. We had to stop worrying and just accept things as they were for a season.

By the end of a 1981, inflation dipped to 9% – then 6%, then 4%. Since then, inflation has remained relatively tame at around 2%.

What does inflation have to do with the paperless office?

The obstacles to a paperless office are in your head. Just like inflation.

Paper consumption and papertrail headaches are a ‘mo’ paper, mo’ problems’ scenario in the modern office. Since the “paperless office” was heralded in 1978, we’ve all looked ahead to a space-age time where we’d save trees and feel great about it – all while increasing efficiency and productivity.

Well, that time is now.

The Modern Paperless Office

You still with us after that Doctor Who-style history lesson?

Now in the present day, we’re enjoying a wireless age of information that empowers us to send, receive, and consume immense amounts of data formerly reserved only for sheets of paper. The internet and cloud platforms allow our ideas to circulate without boundaries, be they time, or space, or paper.

And yet, companies in the US already spend more than $120 billion a year on printed forms, most of which are outdated in three months or less. The average office worker uses 10,000 sheets of paper a year. Businesses pay for this wasted paper, pay to file it, pay to search through it, and pay to have it tossed out when more space is needed.

By comparison, the internet creates 7.5 million blog posts each day, but we never have to print those files. They simply exist, or can be stored and sorted as we see fit. Imagine if we printed all the articles we read and circulated. How much would that cost? You’d need to print and distribute each Word file, Google Doc, Adobe Acrobat PDF, and Adobe Reader you read all year. That’s an unrealistic, costly number.
This is the beauty of the paperless office: infinite informational capability, zero limitations. So here’s the five best ways to move forward to this paperless reality.

1. Paperless Meetings

According to a recent AIIM survey, 59% of respondents said that the biggest driver of paper consumption is meetings. The second highest user of paper was signatures.

If you’re serious about a paperless office, start in the meeting room. Printouts for each employee across every meeting adds up fast, yet most documents are trashed immediately afterwards. While paper is flexible, portable, and easy, the same is true of modern technologies.

For example, Doodle and SurveyMonkey provide free service for conducting and scheduling meetings.

But what about all the printouts during the meeting?

Try TeamViewer to conduct paperless meetings. This powerful office package gives you remote access to office computers 24/7 through any computer or mobile device. It also includes features for screen sharing during presentations, transmitting videos, sharing files, accessing whiteboards, and teleconferencing.

TeamViewer lets you avoid handouts by simply hijacking your colleagues’ laptop while you’re showcasing an idea. Then easily upload the slides to Dropbox or Basecamp so everyone gets access to the digital copy. Now everyone can reference ideas on the fly and there’s nothing lost.

When it comes to meetings and printouts, good technology puts an end to the printout cyclone that surrounds every meeting.

2. Electronic statements and payments

Remember the classic Seinfeld episode when George Costanza loses his fiancé to postage stamps? I’m sure your company is doing better than dear ol’ George, but my point is you needn’t stress over such minor things anymore.

The more online bill paying you do, the less you’ll shell out for postage, envelopes, and employee time (and potential damages) spent on invoicing, checks, and mailings. Office finances that run through the web make sure payments are prompt, immaculately recorded, and easily tracked. Business at the speed of paper is no longer efficient for many, especially when we consider the file shares, mobile, and social collaboration platforms in the competitive space.

Many merchants turn to apps like Square to process payments through smartphones. With recent developments in digital signature technologies — like Signority — getting bills paid and approved via eSignatures has never been easier. And studies show that consumers would rather receive paperless receipts through email than in hand.

Plus, think of all the papercuts you can spare your valued employees.

3. Digital Storage

If your business is located in a major urban center, space is a key concern.

In terms of rent per square foot, storing thousands of paper documents in San Francisco, Manhattan or Toronto can skyrocket office costs. Instead of renting additional office space for storage, convert files and have them stored on secured off-site servers or in the cloud. The latter option will be much cheaper.

And easier to access. Turn to PDF converters make the transfer process easy, PDF editors that allow you to make changes, and PDF readers to allow easy access to documents. Plus, you’ll save on the costs of disposing of sensitive materials.

A few companies in the digital signature space also provide their customers with full-fledged storage and document management solutions, as part of their monthly package.

With paperless storage, you’ll be able to access documents easily through keyword searchability as well, no more rummaging through file bins and back rooms. Digitally thumbing through thousands of documents is both cost and time effective for employees. This will also decrease the likelihood of losing valuable data.

4. Electronic Scanning and Faxing

Yes, scanning and faxing is still highly prevalent among businesses.

The paperless office saves on ink, paper, and hassles by eliminating the physical component by sending and storing documents seamlessly. The initial hesitation for many companies is that shuffling documents through a scanner will be less efficient than paper copies and cost in terms of employee work hours.

But costs are already through the roof. Reduce.org reports that the cost of using paper in the office costs between 13x – 31x the costs of actually purchasing paper. As Xerox reports, the US already spends roughly $460 billion in salaried time to simply manage paper-driven information overload.

Meanwhile, effortless digital solutions are abundant in this space. For example, Turboscan is an excellent app that allows phone cameras to be used as scanners which then convert captured images to PDFs for easy-send emails or upload to Signority for grabbing that quick eSignautre. For only $15 per month, eFax takes incoming faxes and puts them into your email box and paperless, easily-searchable emails.

5. Paperless Connectivity

Sending files instantly is the best aspect of a paperless office.

If you’ve got multiple offices, accessing relevant documents from anyplace is truly a revelation. And connectivity is only getting better. With the ever increasing internet of things, data usage and storage rates are up. Data accessibility is expected anywhere at anytime and streaming data is a given between more and more devices.

Quocirca’s recent report finds that 72% of enterprises surveyed already have “some paper-free processes in place and are planning to implement more.” Why? Because the companies that go digital create opportunities to spot bottlenecks and inefficiencies in their workflows while maximizing productivity and using fewer material goods.

In coming years, paperless offices will mesh with home offices. As the prevalence of AI increases, so will the use of private contractors and employees who work from home. Yes, telecommuting and working from home will signal a substantial reduction in paper and office costs for businesses, but more happier, more effective employees too — we know, contractors are a huge part of the Signority workforce.
As a Global Workplace Analytics study reveals, two-thirds of employees would take advantage of the opportunity to work from home, and 36% said they’d rather telecommute than receive a raise. Sharing documents with cloud-based platforms will have increasingly positive impacts for between workers, managers, and even clients.

For businesses moving with digital trends, digital signature services complete the paperless office model and Signority provides an affordable solution for seamless integration into your business process. A modern agile business means agile data, accessible from anywhere — even when it comes to connecting pen to paper — when every level of business is able to exchange signatures and data fluidly, companies can move forward at lightspeed.

Signing Off

These days, technology is inflating the capacities and capabilities of businesses in a big way. And like a balloon set to rise, integrated technology promises a positive impact upon how far businesses can stretch their money. From cloud platforms to handheld apps, it’s no secret that businesses directly benefit from being more connected and more effective than ever. In coming years, we’ll see the  best companies enjoying increased productivity, reduced costs, and a competitive advantage as a result of a move towards the paperless office.

As environmental concerns stay top of mind, companies with the paperless office will enjoy a boost in their bottom line. Value-conscious consumers eager to change the world with their purchasing power are always happy to endorse the green company with the paperless office. Will your company catch the trend upwards?

 

Looking to go paperless? Sign-up now and get a 14-day free trial to a Signority eSignature Plan.

eSignature Solutions For Work-at-Home Measures

Young man working at home because of flu

Technological disruption in the world of business has brought about an unprecedented flexibility for today’s employees and workers.  With the recent outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus, millions of people around the world are under quarantine and many others have received advises to work at home.  However, thanks to technologies like electronic signatures (eSignatures), many people are still able to work relatively normally at home as though they were in their office.
So in this article, we are going to be exploring what eSignatures are, their legality under Canadian law, and how they can be used.

eSignatures:  What are they?

eSignatures have been around for nearly two decades, and they have been since recognized by many businesses and individuals. They are basically signatures in electronic form.  Under Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), an electronic signature is “a signature that consists of one or more letters, characters, numbers or other symbols in digital form incorporated in, attached to or associated with an electronic document”.  Many of Canada’s provincial governments have also defined their own legislation for electronic signatures. For example, Ontario’s Electronic Commerce Act recognizes the use of electronic signatures as having the same function as regular “wet” signatures as long as they satisfy certain requirements.  These requirements are that the electronic signature must:

  •     Be able to identify the person who signed, and
  •     Be able to be reliably associated with the document signed.

In short, electronic signatures are legal.
eSignatures can come in many different forms, and typically have an authentication process with which to identify a signer. The authentication process could simply be asking for an email address and password, or a more complex multi-factor authentication involving SMS codes and other authentication methods. The authentication process helps to accurately identify the signer of a document.

How can I use eSignatures?

Often the easiest and most convenient way to obtain electronic signatures is to use electronic signature services like Signority. Such services often have built-in authentication methods and encryption processes. This keeps documents secure and private, while meeting the requirements for a valid electronic signature. They also facilitate the creation, tracking, and managing of signature-requiring documents. For example, Signority’s electronic signature service allows users to define a workflow for documents by simply adding an order in which recipients must sign a document.

Why should I use eSignatures?

An eSignature solution adds flexibility to your work, and lets you get documents signed at any time, anywhere.  This is especially important today as more people are forced to work at home due to the coronavirus pandemic. But not only does eSignatures give you added flexibility, but it also has many other benefits as well.  One of the most important is that eSignatures save a lot of time and bring flexibility for both you and your clients to gain high productivity. This increases your competitiveness in the market. So along with helping you continue working at home, eSignatures can also help you do your work better. 

Want to learn more about eSignatures? Download our Introduction to eSignatures eBook for free!

Startup Life: 5 More SME Industries Ripe for eSignatures – Part 2

Startup Life: Digital Signature Solutions for 5 More SME Industries

We’re back with the second installment of eSignature solutions for SME industries! Once again, we’re ready to prove that eSignatures can enhance any industry.

Without further ado, let’s get started with our top 5 industries:

1. Education

The education sector deals with a lot of paperwork. Schools must keep track of thousands of students and employees. If things aren’t done as efficiently as possible, this can quickly become overwhelming and completely unorganized. Digital signature solutions will make sure things run as smoothly, and efficiently, as possible. They can do so in many ways, such as providing staff with pre-built templates. Instead of creating individual documents for each recipient, staff can save a tremendous amount of time by sending out these pre-built templates. Not only will this help the staff, but it will also enhance student services and a student’s overall experience. Administration can speed up important processes, such as admission, course changes, and student loans. Moreover, the document sender can view real-time updates, and send reminders when necessary.

2. Construction

Digital signature solutions can keep projects on time, unify all parties, and manage important documents in one place. With their ease of use and instant delivery, projects will never be delayed from the unnecessary waiting and back and forth handwritten signatures bring. Moreover, since there are usually several teams involved, this can exacerbate the waiting period and make everything that much more complicated. Using electronic signatures keeps everything in one place, unifies all parties and opens a direct line of communication, through real-time updates. By sending automated reminders, you can ensure all activities stay on track.

3. Customer Service

eSignatures can drastically improve the overall customer experience. Agents can respond faster to customer inquiries, keep customer information current, and eliminate clerical errors. Using electronic signatures streamlines field support, allowing agents to acquire customer signatures faster! On the flip side, customers can sign from anywhere, anytime, and on any device— increasing overall customer value! For both parties, eSignatures makes the entire signing process easier, simpler, quicker and hassle free!

4. Finance

The finance industry is extremely paper heavy. Paperwork must be signed for virtually every transaction. As you may know, paperwork is particularly tedious, mundane and, frankly, a waste of time. eSignatures solve this problem, by bypassing traditional time delays— never miss a deadline again! For example, every document requires meticulous review, which would normally fall under an agent’s responsibility. By using electronic signatures, the software can do it for you! As such, the entire transaction and approval process would be shortened and quickened. With all this newfound free time, agents can focus their work on what really matters, their clients. Moreover, eSignatures are legally binding, and far more secure than handwritten signatures. Digital contracts have stronger transaction security and reduced opportunity for fraud. Additionally, they require signature authentication and provide users with an audit trail.

5. Human Resources  

Human resources can benefit from using electronic signatures in a multitude of ways. Ditch the paperwork, and make signing documents easier for new hires and for internal operations. You can create and reuse templates, and ensure all the required information is correctly filled in. Additionally, you can even cut the time it takes to obtain signatures in half— just imagine, no longer having to chase employees to sign! You can also keep track of all employee contracts and milestones in one safe and secure place. Through this, you can onboard, manage and transition employees smoothly— plus, it’s a great first impression for new hires!
Digital signature solutions are quickly making paper contracts obsolete and for good reason. Stop living in the past, and experience their immense benefits first hand!
Missed Part 1? Click here to learn about more industries that can be enhanced by eSignatures.

 

Looking to take your business paperless? Sign-up now and get a 14-day free trial to a Signority eSignature Plan!

Making the Most Out of Your Online Ad Spending

online-ad-spending-done-effectively

Back in January, waspbarcode released fresh data from their small business survey indicating that not only do small business have a marketing budget, they also intend to increase it in 2017. Investing in marketing is great for business growth, especially if the investment allows businesses to reach new customers. The report did mention those small businesses are considering investing some of that budget in online marketing, but is that the right thing for your growing organization?
When I talk to owners of small and medium businesses, they quickly mention Facebook and Google Adwords as the place to start, and that is understandable, these platforms have great targeting ability and the largest audience reach. Google also has the added advantage of search intent. If I am searching for Car insurance, I am more likely to be looking to purchase a policy soon. But are there any things to look out for? Let’s look at the insurance industry.
It turns out that keywords related to insurance are the most expensive ones to bid on, $54.91 USD is the cost of a click on an insurance related ad according to data released by wordstream. Using this data 100 clicks would cost a company $5,491, and if your website is typical it would convert at an 4% rate, that means of the 100 customers that clicked 4 would have provided their information and become a lead, a cost of $1,372.25 per lead. There are ways to optimize that experience, no doubt one can get to a 10% conversion rate by using well-designed web pages, placing good offers on the website, etc…, if we use a 10% rate, the cost per lead is $549.1
That is the range for Cost Per Lead online, approximately $549 – $1,372.25 for an insurance broker. If your brokerage is looking to acquire 100 customers from the web channel, what should your budget be? That number highly depends on how well your brokers/agents close leads, if we assume that they are able to close 54% of all leads, then the cost per customer would be 2*Cost per lead, or $1,098 on the low end or $2,744 on the high end.
The question is, can this be optimized? Remember that customers searching for car insurance probably clicked a few ads and are getting quotes from various parties, converting these customers fast is key to success, here are some tips to convert potential customers.

Optimizing Your Online Ad Spending

  1. Create a Well-Designed Web Page and Clear Value Proposition

Make sure you have a well-designed web page and a compelling offer to increase your website conversion page. In a previous article on usability, we gave some tips on how to optimize your website for a better customer experience
What is important is to create a compelling and clear value proposition: A value proposition is a business declaration that describes why your potential customer should use your product or service. Usually, a great value proposition should address what your company does, how are you are different or unique and who your company serves.
A/B test website content: Split testing, most popularly known as A/B testing, is a method of determining the more successful content piece (that could be a web page, copy or even buttons) by putting two variations of content against each other and basing it on a common goal set by you.
The goal could be, the number of conversions, sign-ups, increase in downloads etc.  

  1. Responding and Interacting to Leads

Responds to leads fast: the 5-minute rule is in full effect here, data released by The Lead Response Management study show that the odds of contacting a lead if called in 5 minutes versus 30 minutes drop 100 times. The odds of qualifying a lead if called in 5 minutes versus 30 minutes drop 21 times. So stay on top of those leads.
Address objections: Objections are a part of the buying cycle and are inevitable. The critical part about an objection is to understand that it might be due to your potential customer’s lack of knowledge regarding your product or inability to understand your solution thoroughly.
Listening to your customer and addressing these objections in a concise manner is primary for your business’ success. In terms of your site, spend the time to address typical questions that you expect or have been asked frequently through an FAQ page or even landing page copy and imagery.

  1. Increasing Trust

It’s natural tendency to make a purchase from a person or company that you trust, so why would this be different for your potential customer? Ensuring you give your potential customers a reason to trust you and your product can be critical in the conversion process. Few ways you can do that is:

  • Being transparent about the services or product features you offer.
  • Always honor any promises you make to your customers, whether online or offline.
  • Display your product or service’s price on your website.
  • Show social proof by creating a section for mentions or quotes about your product or service from happy customers.
  • And finally, be consistent with your brand and product throughout your website, collateral and communication.
  1. Sealing the Deal – Online

Remove the possibility of leakage: customers do not want to print, sign, scan, fax, it’s inconvenient and if I am shopping my quote around and your competitor sent me a document ready for my digital signature, you would have lost me as a potential customer. Stats show that 46% of customers drop off after a broker sends them a paper based quote. In terms of Google online ad spending, that equals $43,920, meaning that if a digital signature solution saves one customer dropping off, the $50 investment is well worth it!
Looking to seal the deal? Why not try Signority’s Digital Signature solution for free. Click here

Border-Free Business: Your Definitive Guide To International Contracts

International contracts for SMBs

My first experience with international contracts did not go so well. The year was 2004, I was travelling and had just recently met up with a very promising business prospect. We had the responsibility of finalizing a housing development project, by creating sandcastles from the toys we found scattered around the beach shore. Oh, did I mention I was only 8? Well, anyway, turns out my new found friend at the beach purposely hustled the only toy shovel right from my little naive hands.
This is my story.
Both of us wanted the shovel, so we decided to figure things out fairly- with a legally binding contract, aka, a game of heads or tails. Now, my new sandcastle developing partner, seeing an opportunity to push their own agenda, said “tails I win, heads you lose”… as you can probably guess, I blindly agreed to these terms. At the time, I didn’t realize the fine print of their offer and grudgingly gave away the only toy shovel. Only years later, lying wide awake at 3am, did I realize how unfair and one-sided that “contract” really was!
Don’t let yourself make the same mistake, because there’s probably a lot more at risk. So keep reading to learn what to watch out for before signing or sending international contracts (and some other useful information too).
International contracts can open up a lot of opportunities…. opportunities that you should take advantage of, like right now. If your business is not, at least, looking to expand into foreign markets, you are losing a huge slice of potential market share. Our economy would not be where it is today without the access and ease of entering into international markets. International trade is a part of every aspect of your, and my, day-to-day life. 
Now, you may be thinking, you work for a small to medium sized business and have no idea how to handle international contracts. Well fortunately for you, we have already done the hard work.
So here it is… Your definitive Guide to International Contracts!

Laws When Doing Business with a Foreign Company

Obviously, international business agreements are substantially different from domestic. For international, you have to be aware of the country’s political environment, economic environment, culture, and legal system. For example, as explained by Business Management, India’s laws protect small businesses and consumers, whereas China’s government strictly controls its business sectors. With this being said, it is very important to know the country’s specific contract laws. Countries that follow common law systems, like the United States, have very detailed contracts compared with countries that follow a civil law system, like Russia. This is an important detail to note, as common law system contracts can be time-consuming and expensive to create.

Sending International Contracts: What to Look for

The first, and most obvious, thing to look for is if your terms are properly stated. Make sure your international contract is easily understandable, free from any grammatical errors and is written in plain English. According to the State Bar of Michigan, writing contracts in plain English can improve the contract’s substantive content, and promote the client’s interests. Furthermore, your contract must follow a logical segmentation- if you can’t follow along with what the contract is saying, your signee won’t be able to either. Along the same lines, you should look out for vague standards, such as “reasonable” or “significant”, as these phrases can cloud your actual objective. Furthermore, read through and remove any implying terms. Make sure everything is explicitly stated and said with intent, especially in regards to price and payments. Making your standards more concrete and clear will make them easier to reinforce, and easier for signees to follow. Click here to learn how to include remote workers and digital nomads into your business plan. Already know how/why you want to hire international workers? Click here.

Receiving International Contracts: What to Look for

Most importantly, you need to read it over and agree to everything stated. Make sure the contract leaves none of your questions unanswered. For example, it should clearly define whether the method of payment is a fixed fee, or based on the current exchange rate (and whether you will be paid in local or foreign currency). It is usually a good idea to have a lawyer look over any international contract before you sign (don’t worry, we’ll explain how to easily find a cheap lawyer a little later on).

Receiving Employment Contracts: What to Look for

Unfortunately, international employment contracts are more technically complicated than standard employment contracts, as employment laws, tax laws and immigration laws affect them. As such, there are several things you should watch out for. First, make sure all of the nitty-gritty details are spelt out and clearly defined. For example, ensure any and all promised benefits are fully laid out. Second, be sure to read every single clause. You do not want to end up in a sticky situation because the “past” you was too bored to actually read what you were agreeing to. The non-compete clause is an important one to note, as, according to Wikipedia, this can prohibit you from working within a competing profession or trade with your soon to be employer. Especially if you’re uprooting your life and moving for this job, you want to be sure you have plenty of opportunities if you ever decide to quit (and that you’re not forced to move back home).

How to Find a Lawyer

All this responsibility does not have to fall on your shoulders; to be safe you should hire a professional to look over everything and make sure things are in order. You might be rolling your eyes and groaning, but hiring a lawyer does not have to be expensive. Let me repeat, hiring a lawyer does not have to be expensive. And the added security is definitely worth the minimal cost. You can always ask around for lawyer recommendations, but this can be extremely time consuming and friends/family are not always the most reliable source. Thankfully, there are also online sources available. LawTrades can help you find employment contract lawyers for cheap. Since they don’t have the overhead expenditure of law firms, they are about 60% more affordable – score!

Digital Vs. Paper Signatures

Contracts, in general, can be stressful, and it doesn’t help when you’re sending/receiving them half way across the world. International contracts have the added stress of time and distance. Paper signatures not only prolong the signing process, it also increase the frustration and overall inconvenience (and sometimes the associated costs). Thankfully, the future is here! Digital signatures speed up the process by sending contracts across borders instantaneously. As such, they save time, money and make everyone’s experience as stress-free as possible.
Online eSignature companies like Signority, can be the solution you’ve been waiting for. Compared with digital contracts, paper contracts make about as much sense as sending your mail by pigeon.
Well there you have it, all you need to know about the basics of international contracts. I bet heads your small to medium sized business will exponentially grow from being introduced to international markets, and tails that international contracts are not as hard as they seem.  
Thank you for reading, now please sign the dotted line below to grant us full access to all of your bank accounts: ____________________
To most of you who didn’t sign, I’m very proud of how much you’ve learned. To those who did sign, maybe just stick to hiring a lawyer.
Well, we have given you the basics of international contracts, now it’s time for you to start applying this information into your business strategy and open up a whole new world, literally and figuratively.
Also, check out our recent article on “The Ultimate List: 100+ Tools & Resources For Skyrocketing Business Growth in 2017” to help further automate and streamline your international business deals!
Looking to take your business paperless? Sign-up now and get a 14-day free trial to a Signority eSignature Plan.

What You Missed: Highlights of The CSIO eSignature Webinar for Insurance Brokers

CSIO eSignature Webinar for Insurance Brokers

The “eSignatures: Benefits and Implementation for Insurance Brokers” webinar was sponsored by the Centre for Study of Insurance Operations’ (CSIO) and hosted Michael Spiar (Broker Relations and Communications Specialist at CSIO) on January 19th, 2017.
With over 100 participants who came to learn about eSignatures and its implementation from the panellists: Karen Hoflin (Vice President, Go Insurance), Rebecca Reed (Operations Manager, Callister Musico Insurance Group), Samer Forzley (CEO, Signority). We have highlighted several key moments, observations and announcements from the webinar in this short post.
Below, you can see some highlights from the “eSignatures: Benefits and Implementation for Brokers” webinar, such as:

  • The legal overview for implementing electronic signatures
  • Current brokerage adoption rates in Canada
  • Workflow & Benefits of using electronic signatures
  • Broker testimonials and our personal observations

The legal overview for implementing electronic signatures

The webinar was kicked-off by Michael Spiar, who introduced the panellists and broke down the common legal definition of electronic signatures — I.e. “electronic information that a person creates or adopts in order to sign a document and that is in, attached to or associated with the document (Ontario Electronic Commerce Act, 2000).
The Five Broad Exclusions Under Insurance Law, namely:

  • Notice of cancellation
  • Nomination of person as having rights/interests of insured on insured’s death
  • Beneficiary designation (testamentary disposition concern)
  • Alterations to policy by insurer
  • Trustee appointment

Broker Adoption of eSignatures in Canada, courtesy of CSIO:

Broker Adoption of eSignatures in Canada

Workflow & Benefits of using electronic signatures:

There are several reasons for using Electronic Signatures and Digital Signatures, below are a couple of main points from Samer Forzley’s presentation:

In-person Signing (Insurance Brokers)

In-person Signing Insurance Brokers
According to IBC’s 2015 report Facts of the Property and Casualty Insurance Industry in Canada, operating expenses (Including employee compensation) amount to over 20% of total revenues — that amounts to about 20.6¢ for every dollar.
Which is due to: Travel times, phone calls and client onboarding.
Other reason for the high operating costs:

  • Documents are prepared and printed for signature by all parties
    • Print, sign, scan, email/courier/fax method
    • Internal and external customers/clients
  • Documents are often returned with missing signatures or incomplete/incorrect information, which can cause delays and restarts
  • Document transactions are halted without completed signatures, leading to further interruptions

eSignatures Signing Workflow (Insurance Brokers)

eSignatures Signing Workflow

  • Send: Upload and securely send documents for electronic signatures
  • Sign: Customers or Recipients receive, review and electronically sign the document. On completion Customers or Recipients receive a copy of the document and audit trail
  • Manage: Besides receiving a copy of the contract via email, broker’s can view signed documents, audit trails, a document’s status and even automate reminders

Benefits of eSignatures to Insurance Brokers

Benefits of eSignature to Brokers
According to EY Global’s “Insurance Digital Survey 2013”, Insurers aspire to future digital leadership; however, attaining their goals will require significant — and rapid — improvement to close the current gap. By their own admission, more than two-thirds feel they have delivered some easy quick wins, but they have not made transformational progress to realize their ambitious digital objectives.
Below are a few key reasons Insurance Brokers’ should go digital:

  • Ability to initiate and complete sales cycle quickly
  • Improved retention through customer convenience
  • Reduced errors and follow-up calls
  • Reduce overhead costs
  • Tamper-proof records

Benefits of eSignatures to Customers

Benefits of eSignatures to Customers
According to Ernst & Young’s report titled “Insurance in a digital world: the time is now.”
The two biggest drivers of digital strategies are “enriching the customer experience” and “regaining more direct control of the customer relationship” — far ahead of “attracting prospective customers and increasing sales.” While the cost of acquisition continues to rise, retaining existing customers is an increasing necessity and should be a critical and measurable benefit of any improvement in the customer experience, digitally enabled or otherwise.
Some benefits of eSignatures for your customers:

  • Improved convenience and experience
  • Customers can sign by mouse or touchscreen anywhere, anytime
  • Elimination of the antiquated print-sign-scan process
  • Secure storage of documents and personal data

What toLook for in an eSignature Solution Vendor

What to Look for in an eSignature Solution Vendor
5 things to think about, before choosing you Canadian eSignature Vendor:

  • Does the product answer your needs as a business?
  • Is the vendor’s product easy to learn and use?
  • Does the eSignature vendor have the level of support your business needs?
  • Does the eSignature vendor understand your business?
  • Is your data contained in Canada?

Other important notes
There were 2 main polls conducted during the webinar that brought about interesting results:

Poll #1

Primary learning objective in today's webinar
What is your primary learning objective in today’s webinar?

  • Legality of eSignatures
  • Workflow Benefits
  • Best Practices
  • Implementation Tips
  • Other

Poll #2

What is the primary concern of implementing eSignatures in your brokerage?
Primary concern of implementing eSignatures in your brokerage

  • Security/legal concerns
  • Workflow
  • Staff buy-in
  • Cost/effort
  • Other

We thoroughly enjoyed presenting and would like to thank CSIO for opportunity to be a part of the webinar.
Click on the download link below to get all the slides
Download Now
Are you an insurance broker with questions about the legality of eSignatures and its implementation?
We’d love to help, click on the contact us link below to send us a quick note.

The Always Busy Syndrome: How Automated Operations Could Lead to More "You" Time This Holiday Season

Automation-Electronic-Signature-Solutions-business-operations

This time of year isn’t just crazy-hectic for those who celebrate the holidays. For the majority of businesses — even the one that are heavily automated — Dec 31st marks the end of the fiscal year. So even if they’re not partaking in the festivities, surely they’re feeling the pressure to wrap up it all up neatly, so none of the backlogs spill over into the next year.
I am by no means, lazy. A procrastinator, occasionally.
But when I first started my business, I had this bad habit of waiting until the last minute to take action. This was partially because I had complete faith in my hiring skills. I desperately wanted to believe that I could trust everyone I had handpicked to be on my team to deliver consistently on time. But I would always find myself poking in just before a deadline to see if the work was done. The majority of the time, it wasn’t.
I thought I was a pretty good boss. I had a great team. However, there was something seriously wrong with our business processes. And until we could figure out what it was, I decided to be that obnoxious boss who sat squarely on my staff’s shoulders peering into everything they did. And it seemed my team didn’t mind me monitoring them because it meant they didn’t carry the burden of monitoring themselves.
But about a year ago, the flurry of the holidays started to overwhelm me. I was missing out on more and more at home, with my family and holiday festivities. When I first started my business, I had promised that a time would come that I would enjoy an actual personal life and yet here the holidays were, and I was still unsure about going on the out-of-town trip we had already booked and had planned for months.
I started to realize that I had to loosen my grip on the reigns.
I knew 2 things at this point; first that I had to start small and second, I didn’t want to hire a personal assistant; not yet anyway. I figured that the best way to go about this was by looking at the aspects of my life that I could automate.

Automation in my personal life

So I started with my bills. For both my home and business, I decided to finally let my computer do some of the work for me and have my bills pay themselves. My main bank account had a sub-savings account which automatically paid for all my invoices. I no longer had to put time aside every time a statement came in. Now, I just needed to monitor my account every 2 weeks or so rather than manually pay a bill every time one was due.
As I started to feel this renewed sense of freedom, I realized that giving up control actually made me feel more in control.
Soon, I discovered other ways I could automate my life and just in time for the holidays. Did you know that you can automate things like shopping on a schedule to buying groceries? From all these great breakthroughs on how to automate my personal life came the realization that automating my business was the next step.

Why automating my life and business was so important 

Work-life balance seems like a myth. But I have found that all myths are born from legend, and somewhere out there is someone who has discovered how to finely tune all the elements of their life into one seemingly perfect mechanism.
We’re talking someone who wakes up and has time to take a few moments to meditate, recite their intentions or speak to their higher power. Then proceeds to a routine that involves a shower — that isn’t rushed — and an actual breakfast — that wasn’t last night’s cold leftovers nuked in the microwave. This person gets to work on time, with a moment to spare to have a cup of coffee and engage in small talk with colleagues before settling into a productive day of real work.
This legend finished up their work day on the dot, because they executed all their tasks so efficiently. There is no need to go overtime thus impressing the boss with their stellar time-management skills. They don’t cost the company more money because of their inadequacy to get things done within the reasonable time allotted.
I think about this person who after work now has the freedom to do anything. They could be headed to after-work drinks with colleagues or friends. They could be headed to the gym to workout, go for a swim, or a yoga session. Maybe they’re headed home to help their kids with homework. Or perhaps they are even taking evening classes.
The point is, after work, they are actually living their lives.

Why Work-Life-Balance starts with Work 

Those of us who think this life is unachievable simply haven’t grasped what makes it possible. Simply put, it’s a routine. It’s also about the bigger picture and us not seeing the details that went into that seemingly perfect day unfold.
This work-life-balance legend of a person may appear to us like a fully-automated robot, but in fact, they are probably happier than us tenfold as they go through their days and still have adequate time to be with the ones they love and do the things they want to.
Here’s a real myth – perfection. It’s people who have discovered work-life balance that know that perfection is unrealistic and have long let go of desperate desire to attain it.
Do you suppose that the only thing automated about this picture is that those who have found the balance between work and life are the ones who utilize automation in their routines, particularly in the way they work?
For most of us, the reason we can’t reach that work-life balance is that work weighs us down to the point that we cannot tip ourselves centered. But for organizations whose cultures have steered towards a work-life balanced environment, they have discovered that eradicating all the tedious processes and substituting them with automated processes has result in wasted time and frustration — which is the key to making the most of their workforce.
People who enjoy a balanced work-life are probably those who belong to organizations who value their skills and have discovered that automating processes doesn’t necessarily diminish that human element but rather, complements it.

Automation: introduction and implementation

So, I decided to put my theory to the test and find ways to integrate automation in the everyday operations of my business. I started with automating the easiest processes first, particularly the ones that were most prone to human error.
A company who is on the verge of going fully automated doesn’t need to go big right away. They can evolve at their own pace and automate the easier processes first. This allows their employees to adapt as the organization starts to make the shift, allowing the organization to eventually embrace the changes and feel less that it threatens their jobs.
Organizations today are inspired by the leaders and innovators who have taken automation for their companies to the next level. You’ll hear about companies who have been voted as “The Best Place To Work” and wonder “why?”. Sure, there’s probably free food constantly, flexible scheduling, and enormous nap rooms. But really, it’s these companies that looked at their people and wanted to not only make their work easier, but also wanted to improve the quality of their lives thus keeping them for longer.
We as an organization started to define our processes and began determining which steps could be automated. Sure, our never-ending email exchanges, sticky notes, and countless trips to the water cooler were all fun ways for us to pass information along but it was horrible for business. It was time wasted and susceptible to error, miscommunication, and misunderstanding.
Because of the nature of our product, we were already running a paperless business (read more on how to make your business paperless on this post), but we still needed to automate digital workflows. This led us to find an automation partners. They helped us automate our workflows starting with the way we communicated with each other. Workflows were streamlined and accessible on visual dashboards. Every person on my team could monitor their own progress and even keep records of it for future use in presentations. Productivity was at its highest as no one was no longer asking who was doing what and if they were in fact, doing it. We were minimizing costs because of the significant decrease in human, manual errors.
Soon, I could see the transformation of my business. Not only were our processes more defined and our strategies more successful resulting in an increase in sales, but my people were happier overall. They had more time to get their work done on time and more importantly, done right. No one was charging me extra for overtime! They were no longer dragging their feet into work in the morning and dragging them out the door every night. My team was living proof that there could be balance in work and life.
So while we think that the person who encapsulates work-life-balance is a living legend, perhaps we should also give the companies they work for a huge chunk of the credit.
Looking to go Digital? Sign-up now and get a 14-day free trial to a Signority eSignature Plan.