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Guest Posts Blogs

Guest blogs highlight the expertise of our industry peers and business partners. These in-depth pieces prepare your business for success with a professional perspective on telecommunications topics.

How Technology Reveals the Benefits of Working Remotely

Office Supplies - Benefits of Working RemotelyToday’s guest post was submitted by Stevie Nicks at Just Another Magazine, an online magazine that covers lifestyle topics.

Despite the many benefits of working remotely, and many employers have been reluctant to offer flexible remote working policies due to concerns over productivity. But the coronavirus pandemic has forced millions of workers to start working from home full time, almost overnight.

While there has been a certain adjustment period to the new normal of remote working, most companies are finding that remote working hasn’t had a significant impact on progress. With the help of technology it’s easy to collaborate, communicate, and work productively in remote work environments.

Improved Connectivity

Offices are usually set up with fast, reliable internet connections that can handle multiple computers and devices connected at once. Working remotely means that workers are often using their home broadband, which is slower and less consistent.

Aside from upgrading broadband packages there are a few easier ways in which to improve internet connections. WiFi range extenders pick up a router’s WiFi signal, amplify it and then broadcast the boosted signal. This means the WiFi is stronger further away, and less likely to drop out. Alternatively, mobile data connections can be more reliable than broadband so tethering is a good fallback option. It’s often pretty affordable or included in the phone contract so won’t cost anything extra.

Monitoring Progress

A big concern for employers when it comes to remote working is how to check workers are being truly productive. Without physically seeing employees it’s hard to know for sure that they’re working at full capacity.

That said, a benefit of remote work for employers is the amount of information time tracking software can show. It can provide full transparency about exactly what workers are doing and how much time they are spending on it, easing concerns that the home-based work will lead to losses in productivity.

It can be used to categorize different tasks so that it’s easy to monitor the time spent on different projects – which is particularly useful if you’re billing clients for work. This tech allows businesses to keep an eye on how workers are doing, without interfering and regularly asking for updates that waste time.

Flexible Office Setup

A lot of offices are still using bulky desktop computers, which are powerful but hard to move about and really don’t offer much flexibility. High-performance laptops can do just as well as a desktop computer, they take up less space, and they’re easier to move about with.

Workers can set up a laptop with an external screen, keyboard and mouse for a complete home office setup that allows them to be just as productive as they are in the office.

One of the benefits of working remotely is that employees can use laptops to give them the flexibility to move about during the working day. They could start off with a coffee in the kitchen in the morning, move to the dining room or office for more focused work, and sort through emails in the living room. Moving about can help them to stay engaged and focused.

Plus when workers need to go to meetings, conferences, or events, it’s a lot easier if they have a specific laptop that’s set up to their needs and they’re used to using. And businesses shouldn’t have to worry about the cost of high-performance laptops – refurbished MacBook pros are an affordable option that offer top of the range specifications and as well as being a more sustainable option for sourcing equipment.

Cloud Storage

It’s important that remote workers can access all the files and documents they need without being in the office. Some businesses will have an internal network that can be accessed by remote connection to computers in the office, but this often causes lags and frustration for workers. Plus it requires the machines in the office to be switched on at all times.

Cloud storage like Google Drive is a quicker, more reliable option. It ensures files are accessible to anyone that needs to work on them, and they can be quickly shared, updated and organised. Files can be worked on collaboratively and changes are tracked so it’s easy to review work. They’re also securely stored with high levels of encryption and multi-factor authentication, so that if any computers are lost or damaged the work is kept safe.

Project Management Tools

Without the right technology working remotely can make it more difficult to work as a team on projects. Workers aren’t seeing their colleagues face to face every day so it’s harder to coordinate their work, assess the different projects, assign tasks and check progress.

Project management tools can make this a lot easier. Each project can be divided into separate tasks and assigned to individuals so that it’s clear exactly what each person needs to work on.

It also gives a good overview of how work is going, ensuring projects can be completed on time and within budget. Without accurate project management work can take too long to complete, or little things might get missed.

Tools for Communication VirtualPBX Softphone Video Call

One of the biggest struggles for remote working is maintaining the levels of communication you’d have within an office environment. Clear communication is important not just for productivity but to ensure there are no misunderstandings and to keep workers feeling valued and connected. Remote working can make some employees feel isolated or out of the loop, and this leads to a drop in their productivity.

Video conferencing software and web conferencing are key to helping remote workers connect with their colleagues. It can be set up for one-to-one meetings, client meetings, or company-wide conference calls. It’s also easy to record meetings to be shared with anyone who misses it.

Communication platforms such as Slack, allow for ad hoc conversations that are much more efficient than sending emails back and forth. Different Slack channels can be set up to focus on different topics such as company news and announcements, specific teams, or project work.

With the right technology and proper structures, it’s easy for workers to be just as productive in a remote work environment as they would be in an office.

5 Ways to Redevelop Your B2B Communication Plan With Social Distancing

Scheduling Notebook Planner - Develop Your B2B Communiciation PlanToday’s guest post was provided by Dhruv Mehta, a digital marketing professional who represents Acquire, a developer of customer engagement software.

With varying stages of lockdown and strict social distancing norms in place, B2B marketers are taking their conversations and communications online. There’s plenty of evidence on how digital consumption has sky-rocketed over the past few months, owing to Covid-19:

  • A recent survey by McKinsey states that “B2B companies see digital interactions as two to three times more important to their customers than traditional sales interactions”
  • The same survey highlights the importance of selling ‘remote.’ The report claims: “Almost 90 percent of sales have moved to a videoconferencing(VC)/phone/web sales model, and while some skepticism remains, more than half believe this is equally or more effective than sales models used before COVID-19.”
  • Despite the sad state of economic affairs, “53 percent of B2B companies expect to increase or maintain their spending over the next two weeks (April 8–21, 2020)”

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Clearly, buyers are shying away from adapting to a new online model of sales and marketing. In that vein, let’s look at some important virtual marketing trends that have accelerated in a trying, pandemic-struck economy.


1. Start with an Evergreen Email Marketing Campaign

The concept of email marketing is not new; however, its relevance has never been more in focus. With businesses scrambling to adapt to this new normal and following social distancing norms, email marketing has emerged as a handy tool. Here are the top benefits of using email marketing into your existing communication plan.

As one example, consider Yesler’s scrollable, one-column email newsletter (that is mobile-optimized) as an excellent example.

Note how the content is neatly stacked and categorized, making for an easy and educational read! This kind of newsletter allows you to stay in touch with your existing customers and target potential leads.

Another super creative example worth looking at is Moo’s B2B email which comes loaded with animated GIFs. In a sea of sameness, Moo’s creations are sure to make heads turn and engage readers in the truest sense of the term.

Key takeaway: When developing a B2B communication plan, it makes sense to invest your efforts in email automation and create timely reminders for B2B clients so that you can retain – and gain customers organically. Email autoresponders can be scheduled to send ‘Welcome’ and ‘Thank You’ emails to subscribers, making the communication more personal and one-on-one. This helps develop deeper and more meaningful relationships with your target audience, that too, maintaining a safe social distance (which is the need of the hour).


2. Use Live Chat to Boost Your Communications Game

33 percent of buyers surveyed rated the option of live chat during the research stage of their buying journey as one of the top three requirements for a best-in-class supplier.” – McKinsey Report

When it comes to nailing your B2B communication plan strategy, you should include the right tools that can deliver results with speed, transparency, and competency.

This is where sound live chat software can act as a game-changer. Whether it’s addressing your customer’s pain points or answering basic queries, the live chat tool acts as your platform’s ‘virtual agent.’

Say your customer is complaining about a lack of information on delivery support or is finding it difficult to make payments on your website; this is where the live chat feature can swoop in and offer instant, effective support.

Acquire Chat Conversation


3. Make Webinars a Primary B2B Communications Channel

“76% of marketers studied say webinars allow them to drive more leads, and 75% agree that webinars help them to extend their brand reach.”On24’s 2019 Webinar Benchmark Report

Think of B2B webinars as an effective way to offer a valuable marketing monologue, share information about your product’s features, and communicate openly with your user base. In addition to this, it can offer the following benefits:

  • Webinars can help establish you as an industry thought-leader: This tool allows your customers to learn from and engage with your subject matter experts. The best part? It’s all virtual and at no added costs!
  • Webinars can help find quality leads: While signing up for the session, you can ask attendees to provide contact information so that you can share subsequent content, deals, and offers that may be of great interest to the customer base.
  • Webinars help deepen engagement with existing leads, ensure they’re active and engaged, and finally, assist in qualifying your leads: Here’s a handy tip: When conducting a webinar, make sure to include polling questions and a QA session at the end. Historically, it has been seen that most of the webinar attendees tend to engage through chat, polls, or Q&A.

Bonus material: Look up SEMRush’s multi-track virtual event called Global Marketing Day, which amassed 50+ speakers from companies like Google, Microsoft, Lego, and Disney; and over 40,000 attendees! This event was free, and needless to say, it was a virtual hit!


4. Invest Efforts in Self-Service

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“In making a purchase, buyers cited a strong preference for self-service, with suppliers’ mobile apps more than doubling in importance since 2019. This carries on a pronounced trend of preference for self-service channels across every stage of the customer decision journey.” – McKinsey Report

All things considered, potential buyers today wish to get answers by themselves and have things in their control. We live in a self-service culture today. Further data claims that 41% of customers say that self-service functionality is one of the top three ways B2B companies could make it easier for them to shop online.”

This is what Doug Root, CEO at Atlanta Light Bulbs has to say about the self-serving buyers of today:

“The modern millennial B2B buyer doesn’t want to have to pick up a phone to order. Today’s B2B buyers just want to get things done – right then and there.”

="QumoloThis is why you need to integrate your Knowledge Base into your B2B communication plan and empower users to self-serve as Qumolo does in the form of a portal called ‘Qumolo Care’.

The portal allows customers instant access to a wide array of self-service resources and a value-driven community that highlights best-practices and innovative ways to collaborate.

Bonus tip: Customers prefer engaging with brands on the channels of their liking, so make sure to do your research to see which platforms would best serve your ideal target audience.


5. Use Content Marketing to Your Advantage

There’s no doubt that content marketing forms the foundation for a results-oriented B2B strategy and helps marketers achieve top-of-the-funnel benefits such as increased brand awareness and outreach, greater trust and credibility, etc. In addition to this, it can also help achieve a steady stream of subscribed audiences, increased sales/revenue, and higher loyalty with existing clients/customers.

B2B Marketing Goals Graph

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Fundamentally speaking, you can consider it as an ‘informative’ medium where you can share relevant content from different platforms to interact with a large number of users. One example of this is publishing gated content on your website such as email forms and subscription gates, in exchange for useful contact data from the user.

That said, content marketing too has its share of best-practices that need to be factored at every single juncture of your communication plan:

  • Make sure that your content is wired to tell your brand’s story instead of aggressively promoting your products/services (a huge turn off for customers). In short, prioritizing your audience’s needs should take center stage instead of the promotional organizational message.
  • Your content marketing drafts should constantly change based on different stages of the customer journey. Customers are better engaged if the content is relevant and fresh.
  • Make sure to plug in content that includes posts by high-quality influencers as well as expert guests, in addition to highlighting user-generated content. In fact, according to CMIContent, “Top B2B performers are more likely to use non-owned channels to distribute content.”
  • Make sure to measure your content marketing efforts and analyze the results to understand effectiveness.

The B2B Communication Plan Inflection Point

Needless to say, ‘social distancing’ has become a norm in our personal and professional lives. The pandemic has transformed the way B2B marketers and sellers are interacting and connecting with customers. There’s enough reason to believe that becoming ‘digital-first’ will become a key differentiator between B2B firms that are going extinct and the ones that are performing extraordinarily. What do you think?

5 Tips For Getting Online Reviews And Building Customer Trust

Woman Using Laptop Computer - How to Build Customer TrustToday’s guest post was written by Ashley Lipman of Outreach Mama, a link and authority building agency.

Word-of-mouth marketing is evolving into world-of-mouth marketing. As more businesses move online, having recommendations and reviews is more important than ever for building customer trust. Over half of B2B purchasing decision-makers rely on reviews as a source of credible information.

What does this mean for modern businesses? Building trust requires a multi-faceted approach. Here are five tips for getting online reviews and building customer trust for B2B organizations.

Become a Reliable Industry Expert

Making your name synonymous with knowledge is a must in the modern business world. Positioning your brand as a reliable source of information will do wonders for building your audience and establishing trust. Take Niel Patel, for example. He’s been involved with numerous digital marketing brands, from QuickSprout to Crazy Egg. Yet it’s his name that stands out as an industry expert and leader.

Consider how you can position your business in this way. Share great content and cultivate a giving attitude when sharing information with your audience. Share your insights and start a conversation. Build customer trust by showcasing your passion for your industry and prove that your business will be around for years to come.

Create a Review Collection Funnel

Most businesses make the mistake of viewing reviews as a passive form of marketing. You provide a service, and someone will leave a review. However, to capitalize on this opportunity, you need to have an active procurement strategy in place. In other words, you need to create a review collection funnel.

A review collection funnel will outline when and how you reach out to clients for reviews. Outline a strategy for following up with customers, asking for reviews, and tracking your reviews over time. This strategy should also include how you’ll respond to positive reviews and address negative feedback. Remember, a negative review is an opportunity to change their minds.

Offer Exceptional Proactive Customer Service

One of the challenges with offering services in the digital era is that you could be facing competition on a global scale. There will be numerous other businesses offering the same product as you. Fortunately, businesses don’t purchase products; they are buying customer service.

Offering exceptional, proactive service is what will set you apart from the competition. Showing each customer how much you care about their success is a foolproof way to build customer trust and receive glowing reviews and testimonials. Don’t wait for your customer to come to you with a problem; reach out and offer solutions before a problem arises while adding a human touch.

Showcase Case Studies

Case studies are an excellent form of customer proof. They go beyond a positive review from a B2B customer and outline the experience and the results. For decision-makers, a case study provides quantifiable evidence of how your product or service has helped similar businesses.

Discuss your intentions with your most successful clients to request the use of their experience for a case study. If you’re just starting your business, offering a deep discount in return for sharing their progress is a fantastic way to build your reputation.

Offer Trials and Guarantees

One of the biggest barriers for online clothing shopping was the inability to try something on before buying. What if a consumer purchased a shirt and it didn’t fit? For many people, the perceived risk outweighed the reward. The solution, of course, was to create return policies that suited the new purchasing format.

Keep this in mind when positioning your products or services. Consider how you can create a “try before you buy” environment. For service-based businesses, having a free trial is a must. This approach allows your B2B customers the opportunity to evaluate your offering before committing. Having a money-back guarantee is also an effective way to build trust and reassurance when investing in your offering.

With these five tips, you can garner positive reviews and build customer trust with your B2B customers.

Work From Home Communications Considerations for Businesses

Two People on Video Call - Work From Home Communications ConsiderationsToday’s guest post was written by Ecommerce Platforms, a reviewer of online store software.

Lockdown means that speaking online is now the primary method of communication and it comes with its own quirks – it’s not a given that someone who adores speaking face-to-face will enjoy a video call as much.

In today’s post, I’ll cover a number of work from home communications considerations and show you how to get the most out of your communications from contending with training issues to dealing with outside distractions.

While not all of these will be relevant to everyone in your business, each of them will likely concern someone in your company, so I hope you will consider all of them and then apply these lessons to your organization as they fit.

Training Issues to Contend With

Not everyone is tech-savvy – those who are will be surprised at how difficult it can be for a non-techy to set themselves up for online communication.

Take one of my friends.

He’s an operations manager at a call center, one whose staff worked almost exclusively from the office prior to lockdown.

Now, I won’t go into all the details of how that’s affected him, but here’s one example.

A member of his team was being remotely set up to work from home. My friend asked them to hit the spacebar. The reply was “what button is that?” It took 10 minutes for the staff member to establish that it was the “long one.”

That might be an extreme (and extremely painful) example, but its lesson still applies to you – you need to be prepared and plan for all work from home communications considerations because you may need to spend a long time explaining things to people.

Having the Right Equipment in Place to Communicate

I’ll admit that I take for granted that I have the right equipment to work from home and communicate with colleagues and clients. I often work from home, meaning I have up-to-date experience with what I require.

But you shouldn’t take this for granted with your employees because you’d be surprised by how much equipment they might be missing.

There are a number of equipment shortfalls and pitfalls you can expect.

Think your employees have a computer, monitor, keyboard, mouse, speakers, microphone, camera and all the other communications essentials? It’s important to consider that they might not own all these personal devices. It could be necessary for you to supply a laptop but additional equipment as well.

You might confidently think to yourself, “it’s fine, my employees have a PC and all those other things.” But I’ll toss a curveball at you – data protection.

It’s not enough for them to have their own equipment. They need company equipment that’s secure and will pair well with each other.

Think about, for instance, that you’re like me and you work with two screens. At work you can connect your device to your monitor fairly simply – all you need is a micro USB to HDMI and you’re done. There’s no security risk in connecting your device to a monitor to create a second view for your work.

At home, you might have an all in one PC (I do) that’s not company-supplied. To connect it to workplace servers or equipment might require the installation of special software. It might even be easier to supply employees with company equipment rather than format their personal computers to become more secure.

The level of dedication this requires will vary depending on your security needs. In the most extreme cases, it could require deliveries of the right equipment to employees at their homes. This could take weeks to orchestrate, essentially making setup time one of your most important initial work from home communications consideration.

Deciding on the Communications Platform to Use

You can rest here for a bit. Because while deciding on the communications platform to use is enormously important, it’s actually quite straightforward.

I’ve used the following communications platforms and can offer a few pros and cons I’ve experienced with each:

Google Hangouts

Pros:

  • Free to use
  • Has a nice tile view for seeing call participants

Cons:

  • Participants need to have a Google account
  • Needs a high and stable bandwidth

Zoom

Pros:

  • Up to 250 people per meeting
  • Free for 40 minutes of group chat

Cons:

  • Security is a concern
  • Multiple reports have shown information security concerns and video chat interruptions

Microsoft Teams

Pros:

  • Great functionality with collaborative tools
  • Works well on mobile devices

Cons:

  • Permission settings can be difficult to use
  • Can experience lag issues

That gives you an idea of what to expect and some things to consider. However, you will need to try these platforms out yourself and establish if they meet the communications needs of your business.

Outside Distractions Can Impact Communication

When working from home, it can be difficult to remove yourself from distractions. Even if you have lots of experience working from home, chances are that you won’t have experience of doing so while your whole house is at home.

The potential for distraction creates plenty of communications issues. Here are a few specific events you could encounter:

  • A Google Hangouts presentation being interrupted by a noisy child
  • A cat racing across a laptop and interrupting a Microsoft Teams chat
  • Neighbours playing music loudly while you’re having a Zoom call

Basically, you can demand professionalism from your team, employees, and superiors, but you can’t expect that it will always be delivered upon because you’re not in the office – you’re in people’s homes.

Be prepared and considerate of circumstances. Diplomacy is key when something unexpected happens.

How People Cope With Online Communications

It’s easy to assume that online communications are the same as face-to-face interaction. You can still see people’s faces and take clues from body language.

The thing is, though, online communications really aren’t the same as speaking in person. The most personal of these work from home communications considerations is that people cope with this challenge in different ways.

You might be the sort of person who speaks confidently when standing in front of a room of people. However, when you’re on set with dozens of squares of people’s faces on a screen you may shrink into yourself a little.

Some people will experience communicating from home differently than communicating in the office. Managers should be aware of and accommodating to this possibility. A few informal test runs can ease everyone into the new way of communicating, and it can give you the chance, as a company, to test-run several video chat platforms before committing to one.

Make Your Communications Smooth

Business communication during lockdown is quite different to what you’ve experienced prior to COVID-19. Not everyone in your company will have had experience working from home. Even among those who have, regular video conferences and remote work can require adjustments as a new normal develops.

Take my pieces of advice to heart as your company makes the move to working from home. You will be better off when you’re aware of the benefits and challenges this type of work environment will create. And the more you know, the smoother your daily communication will be.

Why Businesses Should Care About Secure File Transfer

Why businesses should care about secure file transfer - Networking serverToday’s guest post was written by TechWarn, a digital safety advocate and news site.

Data is not what it used to be, especially to brands and businesses. Of course, data has always been important in the business setting, but the rate at which data is being coveted these days brings a new twist to the whole game.

That makes it necessary for brands to protect their data better. By extension, there is an increased need for secure file transfer channels so that a data breach doesn’t affect the data in motion.

Importance of Secure File Transfers

Businesses have a thousand-and-one reasons to invest heavily in the security and safety of their file-sharing protocols.

For one, it costs way more to recover from a data breach than it does to prevent one from happening at all. Speaking of costs, companies also get a lot of negative publicity when a data breach is found out.

This was the case with Yahoo when the brand was found to have lost the details of a stunning 3 billion accounts to hackers. Besides the negative press that this brought Yahoo, it also slashed the worth of the brand so much that it was acquired for an arguably lower price than would have been expected without the data breach fallout.

All that, and we have not mentioned the loss of customer trust that comes with such instances.
These are huge costs which no business should pay – especially when they could have prevented something of the sort from happening in the first place.

How Companies Can Protect Their Data Transfers

There are various methods of data transfer that companies can use. The methods they employ will inform the type of protocol that should be established around the data in question. Getting into the specifics of each type of transfer and each type of security protocol available is outside the scope of this piece.

Speaking generally, however, there are measures that businesses can put in place to ensure sensitive files and proprietary documents do not get into the wrong hands.

Some of these include, but are not limited to:

  • Ensuring End-to-End Encryption – Most businesses can secure the data on their servers by encrypting it. Proper use of encryption can make files unreadable to anyone that obtains the data.
    Data encryption begins the process of data protection. It protects data in place but does not protect access to the server itself.
    An insecure connection could serve as the entry for the data breach. This is why businesses should be as aware of the encryption of their target destination as they should be concerned about their encryption protocol.
  • Encrypting Connections – Businesses need to make sure that encrypted connections between servers and devices are available. They also need to make sure individual employees actually use those connections. End-to-end encryption is only effective when it becomes standard practice for employees to use it.
    IT departments carry a heavy weight here by creating those connections and by needing to educate non-IT employees about how to use encrypted connections. A common use case for connection encryption is the virtual private network (VPN). Installing a VPN can make it easy for individuals to complete secure file transfers.
    Maintenance of that type of encryption practice is essential and will include customizing VPN logs to not store sensitive data about your data transfer activity.
  • Educating the staff – It bears repeating that, no matter how great your internal file transfer protocol is, human error could be the one thing to ruin everything.
    If the employees of the business aren’t aware of the proper file transfer practices, they could end up being the weak link in what could have been an otherwise strong chain. Thus, ensure every member of staff, especially the ones handling sensitive data, receives adequate training on proper data handling.

Conclusion

Data privacy and security should not be an afterthought for any company, but a cause of constant consideration. Investing in a firewall and leaving it to chance is not enough.

With the growing threat of data breach and security – as well as clever ways through which hackers are perpetrating their attacks – it is important to always be in the loop with new and improved models of keeping sensitive data safe and secure.

Businesses can get started by doing their research about how services like VirtualPBX support encryption. From there, encrypting data at rest, establishing a VPN for secure file transfer, and committing to data security education and practiced usage of these structures is essential.