Business Solutions for Spring 2023

S P R I NG 2 0 2 3 VOLUME 6 • I SSUE 2 Common Misconceptions About Internet Speeds 3 Business Spotlight: Route 66 Creamery 4 8 Ways to Use QR Codes 6 Increase Security with Two-Factor Authentication 7 I NS I DE CONT ENT S BUSINESS solutions Where to Stop for Eats and Treats

What awaits you down the road? If you’re traveling on Route 66, it could be ice cream at Route 66 Creamery. If you’re moving forward with technology upgrades, it could be faster internet, QR codes, or Two-Factor Authentication. This issue of Business Solutions explores journeys in different directions. It begins on page 3 with Common Misconceptions About Internet Speeds, which sets the record straight about how inadequate internet speeds can adversely impact a business. On pages 4 and 5, we share a Business Spotlight on Route 66 Creamery. We guarantee you’ll be hungry after reading about its ice cream and other menu items. You’ll also be inspired by the community-mindedness of its owners Rob and Karen Luster. Madison Communications is proud to provide this charming local business in Hamel with internet and voice services. You’ll find 8 Ways to Use QR Codes on page 6, so be sure to check out these ideas if you’re planning to go the QR route with your marketing this year. Then on page 7, learn how to Increase Security with Two-Factor Authentication. No matter what awaits you down the road, your business will be better prepared for it with the right communications services. We’re happy to assess your current technology and map out recommendations on where to go next. Sincerely, The Madison Team 2 S P R I N G 2 0 2 3 Madison Communications Main Office: Madison Communications 21668 Double Arch Road Staunton, IL 62088 Monday – Saturday, 8:00 – 5:00 p.m. Payment Drop-Off Centers: 118 E State, Hamel, IL 594 Livingston Av, Livingston, IL 315 W Main, Staunton, IL 21668 Double Arch Rd, Staunton, IL Mailing Address: Madison Communications PO Box 29 Staunton, IL 62088 Customer Service: Phone: 800-422-4848 Email: Fax: 618-635-7213 Publication Contact: Lexy Hagler, Marketing Coordinator President: Robert W. Schwartz Business Solutions is a publication of Madison Communications 21668 Double Arch Road Staunton, IL 62088 Editorial and Circulation Contact: Lexy Hagler PO Box 29 Staunton, IL 62088 Extra issues are available to business customer employees on a limited basis while supplies last. Contact: Lexy Hagler, PO Box 29, Staunton, IL 62088, 618-635-5000 All brand names and product names used in this publication are trade names, service marks, trademarks, or registered trademarks of their respective owners. Copyright© 2023 by Madison Communications and Cornerstone Publishing Group, Inc. BUSINESS solutions

S P R I N G 2 0 2 3 3 BUSINESS solutions Here’s the reality—your business needs more speed for more productivity Common Misconceptions About Internet Speeds There are some common misconceptions out there about internet speeds, particularly among owners of small businesses. It’s unfortunate, since inadequate internet speeds can slow down workflow and prevent a business from keeping pace with customer demands. Here’s your reality check: Misconception: The internet connection our business signed up for several years ago is fine. There’s no reason to change things. Reality: If you haven’t given much thought to the speed of your internet connection recently, you’re doing your business a huge disservice. As your business grows and technology evolves, your internet connection needs to change as well. After all, most business activity is now done online, and data-intensive applications require faster data speeds. If you want to stay ahead of your competition, you need to be traveling as fast, or faster, than they are. Misconception: Slow internet doesn’t affect my productivity. Reality: Think how often you use the internet each day and how much time you waste with a slow connection. In some cases, it could take several additional minutes to access key information from a vendor’s catalog or upload large photo files. What’s your time worth? And what’s your employees’ time worth? Misconception: If I have faster internet speeds, my employees will just spend more time “surfing” instead of getting work done. Reality: Many studies have shown efficiencies in the workplace are far more likely when the right tools are being used. In today’s business environment, it’s essential to have adequate internet speeds. If they’re painfully slow, your staff is more likely to cut corners—not looking for additional vendor quotes, settling for less than complete research on competitors, or electing not to check emails as often—which can cost your business money. Having the right tools for the job also has a direct impact on retaining quality employees. Misconception: My customers are not affected by my lack of adequate internet speeds. Reality: Even if your customers never come in direct contact with your internet connection, it can have an impact on their experience with you. For example, if they must wait for you to pull up information while they’re on the phone or in your office, it can give the impression that your business is not as efficient or as professional as others. Today, everyone expects instant results, and a sense of urgency is the norm. To discuss a speed upgrade, call MadisonCommunications at 1-800-422-4848. We provide the area’s fastest and most reliable internet with speeds as fast as 1 GIG. To learn more, visit

4 S P R I N G 2 0 2 3 BUSINESS spotlight Route 66 Creamery opened in 2017, and Rob and Karen Luster purchased the business in November 2020. It’s popular with locals as well as Route 66 enthusiasts and travelers—for good reasons. Cool Treats, Warm Eats We’ll start with the menu. Route 66 Creamery serves all kinds of ice cream treats including cups and cones, sundaes, concretes, shakes, and floats. Karen Luster said, “We have an ice cream flavor of the month plus a rotation of concrete specials tied to the season and holidays. We source our vanilla ice cream locally, and it’s a creamier blend only found in this area at Route 66 Creamery.” Customers hungry for a full meal have plenty of options. The menu includes hamburgers, brats, hot dogs, chili, nachos, chicken strips and sandwiches, fries, and onion rings. “We prepare all food once ordered. Our hamburgers are made from fresh, never-frozen ground beef. We ball the patties daily and season with our own signature mix,” Luster said. But that’s not all. On Saturday and Sunday mornings, Route 66 Creamery serves breakfast and offers a free cup of Goshen Coffee with the purchase of any breakfast item. To quench a thirst on a hot day, customers can choose freshly brewed tea with summer flavors like raspberry, peach, strawberry, passion fruit, and chai. Route 66 Creamery also offers energy drinks, and an energy shot can be added to any beverage. Friendly Spaces and Faces When the weather’s warm, families (including pets) can eat outside in the well-shaded patio area. It features a fun mix of seating, from old-fashioned diner chairs to porch swings. Route 66 Creamery recently added indoor seating for yearround service and for days where the weather isn’t optimal. Route 66 Creamery Enjoying ice cream outside is a quintessential summertime activity. When you add hamburgers, fries, and live music, you might think you’re in heaven. Actually, you’re on the patio of Route 66 Creamery at 11 South Old Route 66 in Hamel, Illinois. Get the scoop on this family-friendly spot for ice cream and much more Owner Karen Luster

S P R I N G 2 0 2 3 5 BUSINESS solutions Luster said, “We’ve created a cozy, homey space inside for families to eat breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a tasty snack. We even offer board games for customers to play during meals. It’s been a huge hit.” To provide excellent customer service, Route 66 Creamery currently has 17 employees, but that number will grow to more than 20 by summer. Internet and voice services from Madison Communications help to keep everyone connected and working efficiently. “We use several web-based systems and depend on reliable communication services. We’ve been extremely pleased to not experience any issues with our internet or voice services. We appreciate that Madison Communications consistently delivers top-notch solutions so we can run a smooth business with no interruptions,” Luster said. Giving Back to the Community Since Route 66 Creamery is a local Hamel business, we asked Luster what the Hamel community means to her. She replied, “My family is from the area. My grandfather worked for the Cassens family in Hamel, and both my grandfather and grandmother lived in Hamel at one time. My great-grandparents lived in and around Hamel and are buried in Hamel at the Lutheran Cemetery. I know they would be extremely proud of what Rob and I have built at Route 66 Creamery.” The couple loves to give back to the community. Luster said, “We’ve held fundraisers and events for local civic organizations including the Fire Department, Partners for Pets, and local vendor markets. Our goal is to keep things local and help those in our area.” She added, “Rob and I are proud of offering a family-friendly space to the Hamel community and surrounding areas. We also love to welcome visitors traveling on Route 66 from all over the world. This year, we’re hosting an outdoor concert series to support local youth bands. Last year, we partnered with Great Rivers and Routes Tourism Bureau and were granted a Route 66 sign that beautifully adorns the south side of our building. We have lots more planned for the future, so stayed tuned!” Who’s Minding Your Business? Dennis Russell Plant Superintendent Dennis Russell joinedMadisonCommunications in 2002. As Plant Superintendent, he manages nine broadband technicians on tasks including locating underground cables and installing telephone, cable TV, and internet services. He’s also responsible for the overall maintenance and troubleshooting of all plants. Russell said, “Madison Communications technicians are some of the best in the industry. We’ve won first place for the past 10 years in our Regional Cable-Tec Games. Recently we upgraded our cable plant to cutting-edge technology, enabling us to provide next-level service. This involved a three-month cutover process that my team and our leadership worked many sleepless nights to accomplish.” Outside of work, Russell serves on the SCTE Gateway Chapter Board of Directors. He and his wife Brittany have two children, both black belts in Krav Maga. “Our daughter Mary is 16 and is a kickboxer training with Team USA. Our son Gavin is 13 and enjoys playing tennis and video games. My time away fromMadison Communications is spent supporting them in the things that they love to do,” he said. We appreciate that Madison Communications consistently delivers top-notch solutions so we can run a smooth business with no interruptions.” — KAREN LUSTER, OWNER, ROUTE 66 CREAMERY

6 S P R I N G 2 0 2 3 If you’d like to get started with QR codes—or expand your use of them—check out these ideas: 1. Offer incentives and coupons via QR codes. Link a QR code directly to an online coupon or special offer and then track engagement to determine the offer’s effectiveness. 2. Use QR codes to encourage reviews. A QR code that links directly to a review site like Google or Yelp makes it quicker and easier for customers to leave a review. If you own a store or restaurant, consider putting QR codes on sales receipts. 3. Enhance the customer experience with QR codes. For example, museums and attractions often place QR codes throughout their venues that link to audio and video files, maps, and more. 4. Have customers scan a QR code to access Wi-Fi. This can eliminate the need for them to enter a password. 5. Place QR codes on giveaways like T-shirts. It’s an impactful way to help spread the word about your business. 6. Simplify app downloads with QR codes. Once a customer scans the QR code, it directs them to the download page of the app to start the download. 7. Link QR codes to videos and photo galleries. Your business can direct customers to how-to videos about using your products or show video tours or photos of properties for sale. 8. Take QR codes outside. Put a poster with a QR code on the front door or exterior wall of your business, so even after hours, passersby can check out your website to learn about your products and services.. To maximize the effectiveness of your QR codes, make sure you give people a clear and compelling reason to scan them. It’s also important to pay attention to positioning. A QR code that’s placed too high up in a store display, for example, may not be usable. They’re a cost-effective way to connect, inform, and engage Before 2020, QR codes usage was on the decline in the U.S. The initial novelty had worn off with customers, and many marketers all but abandoned the technology. Then the pandemic arrived, and businesses needed creative solutions to cater to a newly touch-free society. QR codes fit the bill, and now they’re back in a big way with no signs of waning. 8 Ways to Use QR Codes

S P R I N G 2 0 2 3 7 BUSINESS solutions Passwords have long been the key to our digital world. However, when used alone, they may not provide enough protection against cyber threats. That’s why an increasing number of businesses are taking the next step in security with TwoFactor Authentication. Also known as 2FA, Two-Factor Authentication is the procedure of requiring two steps in credentialing for the user to prove their identity and gain access to company data or an online account. The second factor could come from one of the following categories: • Something you know: This could be a personal identification number (PIN), a password, answers to “secret questions” or a specific keystroke pattern. • Something you have: Typically, a user would have something in their possession, like a credit card, a smartphone, or a small hardware token. • Something you are: This category is more advanced, and might include biometric pattern of a fingerprint, an iris scan, or a voice print. Two-Factor Authentication provides a higher level of security than authentication methods that depend on Single-Factor Authentication (SFA), in which the user provides only one factor—typically, a password or passcode. For example, a user might first be asked to enter their username and password. Then, instead of immediately gaining access, they’d be required to provide another piece of information—such as a unique, time-based login code texted to their phone. Since a criminal is much less likely to have access to the information needed for both steps, Two-Factor Authentication reduces the risk of a breach. Are you interested in using Two-Factor Authentication at your business? Most common enterprise email servers like Microsoft 365 and Gmail offer help to facilitate the setup process. You can also authorize this security feature on operating systems such as MacOS and Windows. If you have questions about enabling TwoFactor Authentication or want to learn about the IT services offered by Madison Communications, call 1-800-422-4848. Increase Security with Two-Factor Authentication Focus on Your Repeat Customers While acquiring new customers is important, it makes sense to devote more of your efforts toward customer retention. Why? Because it’s easier to sell to your repeat customers, they tend to spend more money, and they’ll recommend your business in person and through social media. How can you foster customer loyalty and increase sales? Consider these strategies: 1. Set up some type of rewards program that incentivizes repeat business. 2. Communicate regularly with your best customers, whether through handwritten thank-you notes, emails or phone calls. People like to feel appreciated. 3. Offer extra services, such as free delivery or more liberal return policies, for repeat customers. 4. Invite repeat customers to shop for sale items a day before the sale is announced or run special sales events exclusively for repeat customers. 5. Give referral rewards, such as a store credit, for every new customer that a repeat customer sends to you. We can’t repeat it often enough. Repeat customers are your most valuable asset. ***** ***** BUSINESSES RUN ON STRONG COFFEE AND STRONG INTERNET Weak coffee just doesn’t cut it when you need workplace energy for maximum productivity. The same goes for weak internet. To make sure your internet connection is always robust, count on Madison Communications. We’re your local provider and this area’s only source for speeds up to 1 GIG with unlimited data, no caps, and no throttling. Is it time to perk up the internet at your business? Call Madison Communications at 1-800-422-4848.