Monday, December 4, 2017 by Kristen Hicks
December 2017's Biggest Tech StoriesThe holiday season is upon us. Many tech companies are working at a fast pace to provide new updates and products before the end of the year. To keep you posted on some of the last big tech stories of the year, here are some of the main trends and news stories to be on the lookout for in December.
1. The Fight for Net Neutrality ContinuesIf you spend much time on social media, you may have seen pleas from your contacts to call your reps about net neutrality. Ever since the FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced his plans to repeal the Obama-era net neutrality rules, people and businesses have been up in arms imagining the worst-case scenarios that could result. Critics are worried that the repeal of these rules will give too much power to internet companies, allowing them to control what people are able to access online and stifling competition from companies that can’t pay-to-play enough to reach an audience online. A vote on the repeal is set for later this month and in the meantime, opponents are lodging complaints with the FCC and calling their representatives in the hopes of keeping the rules in place. For now though, the future for net neutrality looks uncertain.
2. Uber Reveals Cyber Attack Cover-upEven as the country continues to reel from the news of Experian’s data breach earlier this year, we just got news of the next one. Uber announced last month that in late 2016, some hackers managed to access some of their user data. At the time, the company chose to pay a ransom and keep the data breach secret, but under new management, they’ve now chosen to alert people to what happened. If a data breach is normally bad for a brand’s reputation, one that’s accompanied by a cover up is even worse. Uber’s current leadership is hoping late transparency is better than none at all in the eyes of their customers.
3. Stitch Fix Launches IPOOne of the biggest tech IPOs in November was the fashion startup Stitch Fix. The company’s model of matching online personal stylists with customers wanting to let someone else do the job of picking out their clothes has been popular with customers. Their initial showing on the stock market suggested they were less popular with investors, but soon that changed as stocks soared 50% in the first two weeks. For now, they seem to be going strong.
4. SendGrid Also Launches Successful IPOStitch Fix got the most attention, but the email marketing company SendGrid also entered the New York Stock Exchange last month. They managed to raise $131 million when they first launched, and saw stock prices go up 13% by the end of the first day. To any business owners reading this, that’s not much of a surprise. Email marketing is one of the most important parts of business success in the internet age and investors are simply showing they recognize its importance too.
5. Facebook Announces Facebook Creator AppInfluencers have become a big part of the way that people and brands experience social media. In a bid to try to attract more influencers to Facebook, the company has announced Facebook Creator, an app which provides a number of features to make creating and sharing content on the platform easier. Users can add intros, outros, interactive stickers and custom frames to their videos. They can more easily respond to social media messages on a unified platform. And they can access more analytics on how people interact with their content. For businesses doing content marketing and any influencers they work with, these changes are worth being aware of.
6. Amazon Offers New AI Tool for BusinessesOnce again, Amazon’s done something to make it into our monthly write-up. This month, they launched a suite of products that bring AI technology to businesses. This includes the DeepLens camera, which uses AI technology to fuel features like image recognition for objects, animals, and people. They also released SageMaker, a machine learning service that will help data engineers use AI services better. In short, they’re throwing their support behind the importance of AI and expecting to make a lot of money with this technology by helping other businesses make more with it too.
7. AirBnb Makes Moves Toward AccessibilityAirBnb’s popular service has given lots of people more attractive alternatives to hotels when they travel, but until recently its options largely left one population out: the disabled. Last month they made an important move to rectify the situation by acquiring the startup Accomable. The acquisition was a natural fit for the company, since Accomable was essentially offering a version of the same service AirBnb provided, but with a focus on accessibility. AirBnb listings will now provide more specific information on the types of accessibility options available, and a portion of customers previously left out by the service will be able to find options that work for them on the site.
8. Companies Begin Work on Smart CitiesIn the past couple of months, multiple businesses have begun planning “smart cities.” Alphabet is working on a smart community on the waterfront in Toronto. And Bill Gates is building a smart city in Arizona. Both projects aim to test out concepts on how to build a better city that uses less energy, has less traffic, is better equipped to face climate change, and is better able to take advantage of the kinds of tech solutions the companies are working on – most notably self-driving cars.
There are a lot of good ideas out there for how to make cities better, but most of them are hard to implement in cities that already exist. These high-tech city design projects will help prove the difference these tech solutions can make in an atmosphere where they’re easier to build and start using.
9. Robots Keep AdvancingRobotic technology continues to little by little see impressive advancements. Last month, a robot from Boston Dynamics successfully pulled off a backflip. In case it’s not clear, that’s a really big deal. It’s hard to master the technology required to make a bipedal robot backflip, making this one more notable step toward robots being able to accomplish human tasks. On the more commercial side of things, Ubtech has just released Lynx, a small humanoid robot with Alexa built in. The robot can walk, talk, and supposedly work as an avatar for busy people who can’t make it to events or meetings. You can see what’s happening through the robot’s camera and respond in real time with live audio. If you have $800 to spend on a tiny advanced robot, then the future is here for you.
See you next month!December’s a busy month for everybody, but especially business owners and marketers. If you don’t have time to keep up with this month’s tech news, then be sure to check back in early January for our next installment. Until then, happy holidays!
Monday, December 4, 2017 by Kevin Wood
Top WordPress FAQ AnsweredWordPress is a great tool that allows everyone from beginners to more advanced users build out their websites. Because it serves such a wide and diverse user base, there can be a bit of a learning curve for beginners, especially if this is your first site you’re building out. As a result, you’re going to have a lot of questions. So, instead of searching through Google, looking for the answers you’re looking for, we decided to compile them into a single post. Below you’ll find seven of the most common WordPress questions answered.
1. How do I create a WordPress site?Before you can begin installing WordPress first you’ll need a host and a domain name. If you use a beginner-friendly host like HostGator, then you can install WordPress with the click of a button. Within your hosting control panel, you’ll find an app called One Click Install. This app allows you to install WordPress, or a number of other popular CMS, with a few clicks. Then, once you have WordPress installed on your site you can install your theme of choice, install plugins, and start building your site.
2. Can I build a WordPress site without a blog?Yes. WordPress initially began as a blogging platform. But, it has since evolved into a full-fledged website creator. If you want to build a site without any blogging functionality, then you can build out your site using only the Page options from within the dashboard.
3. How do I add plugins to my site?Plugins are an incredibly useful aspect of the WordPress CMS. There are tens of thousands of different plugins you can choose from that will extend the functionality of your site. You’ll be able to do things like add contact forms, sliders, social sharing buttons, and much more. To install a new plugin first navigate to your WordPress dashboard. On the left-hand side, you’ll see a menu, navigate to Plugins>Add New. This will bring up a screen that will allow you to search for your plugin of choice, or you can choose from the most popular downloads. Once you decide upon a plugin click the Install Now button and finally click on Activate.
4. How do I install a new WordPress theme?Installing a new WordPress theme is similar to installing a plugin. First, navigate to your WordPress dashboard. Then, on the left-hand menu select Appearance>Themes. On this screen click on the Add New button. Here you’ll be able to browse the selection of themes, or you can upload your own theme if you’ve purchased or downloaded a theme from another source. If you want to upload your own theme click the Upload Theme button, and on the next screen you’ll choose your theme and click Install Now.
5. How do I add a new blog post?The two main content elements you’ll be using to build out your site are posts and pages. To add a new post to your site click on Posts>Add New from within your WordPress dashboard. Then, you’ll create your blog post, upload images, format it accordingly, and press Publish.
6. How do I improve my WordPress SEO?Right out of the box WordPress is optimized for search engine rankings. The theme you choose might even take your onsite SEO even further. Typically, you’ll have a box at the bottom of each page and blog post that allows you to edit the SEO title, meta description, and more. If you really want to improve your onsite SEO, then it’s a good idea to install Yoast SEO. This is one of top SEO plugins out there and will help you to optimize each page and post on your site around your chosen keyword.
7. How do I speed up my WordPress site?Site speed is incredibly important, both for your site rankings and for your users. If you notice that your WordPress site is lagging, then there are a lot of things you can do to improve it For example, you could reduce image sizes before you upload them, reduce the total amount of plugins you’re using, turn on caching, or even utilize the power of a CDN. There’s a lot you can do to improve page speed. Check out this post for even more optimization tips. Hopefully, the answers above have helped to answer your most common WordPress questions.
Monday, December 4, 2017 by Shayla Price
The Ultimate Guide to Building and Using Buyer PersonasEvery customer isn’t the same. Whether you’re running a brick-and-mortar bakery or an online clothing store, all your customers don’t fit the same mold. They possess different needs and interests. And your business must cater to those varying desires. To do so, it’s best that your team develop buyer personas to organize the types of customers entering your shop. “The purpose of creating a buyer persona is to get crystal clear on the individuals who you are marketing to. Until you nail this down, you can’t really be sure that your offerings and your marketing messaging are going to be successful,” states Mary Fernandez, a professional blogger. Let’s make better business decisions. Use the following five steps to build actionable buyer personas.
1. State Your GoalsWith so much happening in your business, it’s easy to forget why you create certain tools. You got a marketing plan, a content strategy, sales sheets, and that random piece of paper on your office floor. So before you jump into creating a much-needed buyer persona, it’s important that you understand how it relates to your company’s goals. That way, you’re not just crafting something that will never help your team. When done correctly, buyer personas give you a 360 degree view about the customer. These insights are critical to closing sales, writing email copy, and revamping brand identity. Actionable buyer personas will align with your overall business strategy. On a granular scale, you may consider mirroring personas based on the sales funnel. For example, it’s possible to divide one persona into multiple layers. Let’s say Customer X buying concerns change throughout the funnel. In the awareness stage, the customer worries about his need for a new product. While in the comparison stage, the same customer focuses on selecting the right vendor. This analysis gives your team accurate information on specific buyers as it relates to their willingness to buy your product today. It empowers you to adjust based on the team’s goals and the customer’s expectations.
2. Research Your AudienceMany companies make the mistake of creating their buyer personas prematurely. They decide the objective and then begin developing the persona. After a few hours (or weeks), teams realize that they don’t know enough about their ideal customers. They understand the basics, like demographics, which only scratches the surface of consumer insights. To avoid this common mistake, the key is to focus on researching your audience. You want to know why they purchase, how they make buying decisions, and what (or who) influences them. You can gather this customer information through your analytics dashboard, surveys, focus groups, and blog comments. Jen Havice, a website copywriter, offers another research tool: “Talking to your existing customers can provide valuable information into their buying habits, what motivates them, and the words they use to describe your product or service. While conducting interviews can be expensive and labor intensive, the answers can be illuminating.” Researching gives your team the opportunity to truly appreciate your customers. So don’t feel unsettled about gathering too much data. More importantly, you should always uphold ethical standards—never share customers’ data to third parties without their consent. Without the proper research, your buyer personas become vague descriptions that correlate to every consumer in the industry. Dig deeper by taking your research to the next level.
3. Create the PersonaWith all your customer data collected, it’s time to actually create the persona. Assembling the information in a concise, yet appealing format will allow your team to easily extract key insights when questions about a specific buyer arises. So remember to develop your persona to fit the many learning styles of your team members. Start by giving your persona a name. By doing so, you make this document real for your team. You may want to add a picture of a real customer. Next, outline the background facts about your buyer, including the age, gender, and job role. Quick bullet points work well here. Following those details, you want to jot down the nitty gritty of your buyers’ interests, motivations, and behaviors. Give your team the reasoning behind your customers’ habits. If all the information won’t fit, you can attach a brief addendum to your buyer persona. You’ll also want to collaborate with your team members about what to add to the persona. Each department has a different perspective on how to serve your customers. Therefore, each team can offer insights on the makeup of the buyer. Ready to get started? For free online persona templates, click here.
4. Integrate the Persona Into Your StrategyFusing your buyer persona into your business strategy is a vital step to turning the document into a practical tool. More often than not, marketers get so bogged down by the persona itself that they forget the true purpose for creating it in the first place. For every department, you can outline how they can benefit from the persona—making it easy for teams to apply the data. For example, customer support reps may use the persona to identify how to best respond to specific customers based on their communication styles. Other teams may see the persona as a guide to update their procedures and refine their current methods for catering to the customer. Copywriter Jessica Mehring provides the following advice to content marketing teams: “Go through all the content you have, and look at it through the eyes of your buyer persona. Set aside or rewrite anything that they won’t connect with. Putting ineffective content in the buyer’s path is going to water down your content strategy as a whole – and worse, it might just confuse your target customers.” Another technique is to design engagement scenarios for your personas. Prepare your team to interact with all your customers in multiple circumstances. No matter the situation, always find innovative ways to use your personas to benefit your business.
5. Evaluate Your PersonaBuyer personas aren’t carved in stone; they are living documents that will adapt to your customers’ lifestyles and behaviors. So make an effort to evaluate your personas once or twice a year. Evaluation can be as simple as updating your customer’s occupation and goals. Or you may need to do a complete overhaul and start from scratch. During your evaluation, it’s advised that you consult with senior management. Learn whether the company will be targeting new personas or if it’s time to remove a persona. You also may discover that the customer journey altered, which greatly reflects the buyer’s purchasing habits. With team input, you can customize the personas in greater detail. Maybe you recently completed customer interviews. You can add these newfound particulars. In the example below, you’ll notice brand names enjoyed by the customer along with the types of technology they use. There’s no wrong or right way to build or evaluate a buyer persona. The main objective is to develop processes that gives you a realistic view of your customer. Accurate information empowers your team to serve your customers better.
Buyer Personas in ActionUnderstanding your customers’ lifestyles and product desires helps your team build competitive strategies. Consumer research at your fingertips refines how you approach your audience. Therefore, work with your team to define your goals and build multiple buyer personas to improve your sales funnel.
Monday, November 27, 2017 by Shayla Price
Chatbots for Small BusinessChatbots are the latest craze in the small business industry. Companies see the value in these interactive platforms to assist their teams and to accelerate the customer experience. Chatbots behave in a human-like manner and can integrate with your websites, live chats, and emails. “While web visitors are tired of seeing another web form and groan at the prospect of having to fill another one out, chatbots offer an engaging alternative. Chatbots are conversationalists and are much more convincing,” says Jeff Cole, the co-founder of ChatPath. Thinking about adding chatbots to your strategy? If so, you’re probably interested in knowing how to effectively use them. Keep reading to learn how your small business can take advantage of chatbots.
Chatbot Do’sJumping head first into new technology can be quite daunting. Your goal is to ensure it benefits your business before you make an initial investment. Chatbots can be valuable for both your customers and team members. Check out what you can do with chatbots below.
1. DO Capture Customer InsightResearch is vital to your business. It helps you learn your consumers’ interests and habits. With those insights, your team can build better products and deliver tailored customer service. Chatbots are paving the way to becoming an extension of your research team. They can gather data by asking consumers simple questions or having customers select a response. Plus, the interaction is less intrusive, as compared to a customer representative who may seem to possess hidden motivations. Craig Cares, a non-medical in home care agency, uses chatbots to quickly assist their website visitors. In the example below, you’ll notice three options: Ask a Question, Book Consultation, and Job Inquiry. Now, their team can filter through requests easily and calculate the types of visitors that land on their site. You require consumer insights to make effective business decisions. Chatbots are a viable solution to gather that much-needed data.
2. DO Communicate Timely MessagesUbisend research found that consumers possess positive sentiments toward companies that use chatbots. Nearly 43% considered these businesses as innovative, while 22% saw the companies as more efficient. That’s good news for your small business. It’s an opportunity to use chatbots as a vehicle to share timely messages to your audience. With so many businesses vying for consumers’ attention, chatbots are a unique way to keep your customers informed about new products and upcoming promotions. Andrew Warner, founder of Mixergy, uses chatbots to remind his webinar registrants of the event date and time. The chatbot vibrates the person’s phone and messages the direct link of the webinar. You’ll also want to experiment with your chatbot’s voice and tone. There’s no requirement to engage in a serious manner. Monitor what messages excite your customers; adding more personality may earn positive reactions.
3. DO Answer Customer QuestionsWhile chatbots are fairly new to customers, the idea of communicating with tech tools isn’t. Consumers already engage with automated phone and email support. So chatbots are a natural next step. Chatbots are especially useful for communicating with your audience. As a business, your team can only handle so many customer requests in a day. “The convenience of a bot is immense. It's working 24/7, easily accessible, it doesn't call in sick or have a bad day, and customers don't have to speak with an actual, real person, if they don't want to,” writes Inc. contributor Gary Golden. When developing a chatbot, you want it to have access to your knowledge database. That way, customers with specific inquiries about your product or service can get helpful information, like a video or step-by-step guide. It’s also wise to have chatbots know frequently asked questions. Immediate responses will please your customers.
4. DO Influence Buying DecisionsIn a competitive market, you’re constantly looking for ways to get more consumers engaged with your product. From soliciting user-generated content to hosting a social media contest, you’ve done it all— except chatbots. Here’s your chance to experiment with chatbots to transform interested buyers into loyal customers. With access to your product catalog, chatbots can issue specific product details to consumers, including price and availability. Brick-and-mortar stores can provide customers with their physical locations and phone numbers. More advanced chatbots also can provide consumers with images of your products. This feature makes it convenient for customers to verify the correct items they want without having to exit the chatbot screen. Chatbots offer your customers the flexibility to shop on their own terms. Employ chatbots to get more revenue into your monthly reports.
Chatbot Don’tsWith all those benefits, what can go wrong? Unfortunately, plenty. Being aware of what you shouldn’t do will only help your team integrate chatbots into your business. Grab a pen and mark the following three don’ts down.
1. DON’T Ignore GlitchesWhen it comes to technology, it’s never perfect. And chatbots aren’t an oddity. These platforms come with their own set of issues that your team will need to solve on a case-by-case basis. When they do arise, it’s your responsibility to not ignore the glitches. So what can really happen? Your chatbot could shut down while assisting several customers. This problem translates into irate customers flooding your other support channels. With an influx of tickets (that you weren’t prepared for), customers will wait longer to get their questions answered. This downward spiral can affect team morale and possibly your sales. Chatbots also can drive more confusion than clarity with their responses. Customers may have to ask multiple questions to get one decent answer. Or your chatbot may totally miss the mark and give inappropriate, irrelevant messages like this one: UX and product designer Jeśus Martin encourages chatbot testing with an objective mindset to observe how chatbots react to specific questions. By working with your tech team or developer, you can spot problems before they even happen.
2. DON’T Use As Your Sole Marketing ChannelBusiness teams use multiple marketing channels to connect with their customers. That’s because no one channel will capture the interest of your entire target audience. So it's not in your best interest to make chatbots your sole marketing channel. Instead, you want to use chatbots to supplement, not supplant, your current efforts. Take advantage of chatbots to drive visitors to a specific page of your site, clarify simple product inquiries, or connect customers to the support team. Consider chatbots as a way to take your operations to the next level. Chatbots are especially effective for enhancing the mobile experience. You can dedicate chatbots to serve as a messaging tool to help customers who need information on the go. Their quick responses will ensure customers receive product details in an efficient manner. And that’s what you desire—more engagement Adding chatbots to your marketing mix is helpful for both your team and customers. But don’t rely on the tool as your only means to execute your plans.
3. DON’T Replace Humans with ChatbotsWhen fresh technologies crop up, some business owners immediately think it can replace their largest expense—human labor. A few vendors will even falsely promise that chatbots don’t need supervision. Laduram Vishnoi, CEO of Tagove, offers his insight, “The biggest chatbot misconception is that they’ll take over services and automate everything so businesses wouldn’t need humans to function. This won’t happen; at least not completely.” Chatbots are only a tool to facilitate your strategy to nurture leads, acquire new customers, and maintain a loyal following. Without humans, you can’t configure the chatbots to achieve specific tasks. More importantly, chatbots can’t replace your talented marketing and sales teams. Chatbots don’t have the ability to brainstorm creative ideas, adapt quickly to complex customer expectations, or hop on an airplane to participate in an impromptu meeting with a client. In other words: you still need humans. Look for opportunities where chatbots can offer value to your team’s needs. Chatbots should assist your staff as they find methods to improve your bottom line.
Chatbots as a StrategyIt’s easy to feel overwhelmed when new technology enters the market. But that’s no reason not to try it. Take the time to learn how chatbots can benefit your small business. They may revolutionize your operations and customer relationships.