Posted on July 9, 2020 by Casey Houser
Today’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)”
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.
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
“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.”
This 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.
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?
Posted on June 9, 2020 by Casey Houser
Today’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.
Posted on May 19, 2020 by Casey Houser
Today’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:
- Free to use
- Has a nice tile view for seeing call participants
- Participants need to have a Google account
- Needs a high and stable bandwidth
- Up to 250 people per meeting
- Free for 40 minutes of group chat
- Security is a concern
- Multiple reports have shown information security concerns and video chat interruptions
- Great functionality with collaborative tools
- Works well on mobile devices
- 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.
Posted on December 12, 2019 by Casey Houser
Today’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.
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.
Posted on December 5, 2019 by Casey Houser
Today’s guest post was written by IntelliTicks — developer of an AI-powered chatbot for sales teams.
As you observe the rise of apps like Uber, Netflix, Amazon, and Airbnb, you will realize that people love the convenience these brands provide in the form of swift resolution of their queries and problems through chatbot customer service.
Any delay in service would cause customers leave one business for another. This is why businesses all over the world strive to move lightning fast when handling customer concerns. Brands don’t want customers to switch to a competitor, so brand provide users with quick, frictionless interactions that promptly resolve their problems.
The question for businesses is how to improve customer service without over-extending their budgets.
Phone Support and Chatbots
There are plenty of benefits for deploying a chatbot in conjunction with phone support through a Business Phone System.
Both allow businesses to answer customer queries quickly at any hour. Both also support each other by providing unique benefits to the businesses and customers that use them. What follows is a quick look at the overall picture of phone support and chatbot benefits for businesses.
VoIP phone systems are affordable. Phone support delivered through a VoIP telephone system can be much more affordable than using a conventional phone system. Softphones can be used on any existing device, so hardware costs are initially kept low. Per-minute costs for inbound and outbound calls are also easy on the budget.
Phone support builds brand loyalty. Customers who prefer to get their queries answered in a short time can call up the phone support. With a well-staffed Support department, a business can help customers with issues quickly and to the customers’ satisfaction, generating loyalty for the brand through such thorough expediency.
VoIP systems easily route calls. VoIP phone systems provide built-in functions for routing calls to individuals and groups. If a call isn’t answered, it can be forwarded to another device for the same user or to a different Support rep. Smartphones, desk phones, and laptops are all within reach.
Why To Use It
Phone support is a great way to make the customer feel valued as the customer gets empathetic answers from the customer service representatives.
Customers love it when a human agent listens attentively to their queries and gives great support to them in the matter of minutes. It’s a personal method of turning a dissatisfied customer into a happy one.
Phone support gives a customer a feel of investment and attention from the businesses that help in retaining customers. Real-time interaction is also helpful in getting feedback about products and services because customer service reps can hear the tone in customers voices when they talk about interacting with the product. These same calls also give representatives a chance to ask customers what they can do to create an improved product.
Chatbot Customer Service
Chatbots — chat robots — communicate with customers online in the form of personalized conversations. This communication can take place through voice and text, and customers can find this type of support on mobile apps, websites, and on popular chat platforms such as Facebook Messenger and Slack.
These services are often free to use with a trial or limited plan, including brands like IntelliTicks, which offers paid plans for businesses that need to scale upward. This makes chatbots flexible enough to grow with businesses at a moment’s notice.
Chatbots have the capability to help customers at every stage of their journey in the sales funnel.
They can provide quick access to product information and answer routine consumers questions in the language customer speaks. Customers write their queries as if they’re speaking to another person; then the chatbot interprets the text to accurately respond in real-time.
Chatbots can run 24/7 and handle multiple customers at one time. This gives businesses a constant online presence so possible prospects are not lost.
Why to Use It
Chatbot customer service is great for businesses that have a lot of website traffic and don’t want to spend money on hiring and training human resources to engage with visitors. They can answer repeated queries without delay and can generate leads by just being there for customers at any hour.
Automated online chatbots are also much less expensive than traditional support structures. The setup for a call center can be extensive; its training time long; its overall cost expensive. Chatbots can begin operation in a matter of minutes.
Businesses can also easily customize their chatbots with preferred response phrases and direction. As an example, linking customers to an FAQ page can help businesses take advantage of support docs they already have in place. Chatbots can also take the lead by answering simple questions and engaging customers with discounts/offers/new products/services information.
Convergence Between Chatbot Customer Service and Phone Support
Chatbots are immense technology innovation, but they can’t currently replace person-to-person interaction.
Phone support is crucial for it offers an empathetic response to the customers who always seek someone to listen to and hear their problems. It offers an engaging way for customers who prefer a more personalized contact with a brand to troubleshoot their issues.
Chatbots, on the other hand, can help in engaging customers who prefer the online service. Chatbots also don’t have to be impersonal. They can easily offer a phone number for voice support for any customer who’s interested.
Both are important for businesses in delivering excellent customer service, increasing brand loyalty, and catering to a worldwide audience.