Using automation in SMB marketing

December 7th, 2016

2016december6_business_aOne of the biggest innovations in business and technology is marketing automation. Previously reserved for well-funded enterprises, marketing automation is now accessible to small businesses, thanks to affordable cloud solutions. In fact, there are five explosively profitable benefits to automating some of your most mundane tasks. Check them out here.

Instant responses to email requests

If a customer or prospect sends your business an email via your website or a "Contact Us" form, any delay in response could ultimately cost you a client. But if you have a marketing automation plan in place, you can customize automatic email responses to respond to these leads as soon as an email is received. This lets potential customers know either the information they requested or that you will be responding in more detail soon.

Stop leaving voicemails and start closing deals

There’s a reason most people prefer to communicate via email: Keeping in touch over phone can be tough if both parties are always busy. An automated system solves this by logging when you’ve contacted leads and automatically emailing them about follow-up times. The call, email, and its response are all logged in your CRM and calendar without a single minute wasted entering mundane information.

Inbound lead assignment

When you have phone calls, emails, and meetings piling up, it’s hard to keep track of which customer goes where and who is working with them. With marketing automation software and tracking, customer service representatives are automatically assigned to inbound leads based on specialities and demographics so they can begin working on building profitable rapport right away.

Give and you shall receive

Potential clients and leads get dozens, sometimes hundreds of business emails every day. You need something to set your business apart from the rest. By offering valuable content such as “How to” guides and “Total Cost of Ownership” tools in exchange for contact information, you can provide prospects with content they actually want.

All it takes is a web form and some creative writing that ultimately leads visitors back to your products and/or services. Your automation software delivers content to anyone who provides contact information, and it downloads metrics that can be tracked and analyzed by your solution.

Never type another phone number again

Networking events mean new contacts and new leads. Although that used to mean thick stacks of business cards, cutting-edge marketing tools make it possible to take a picture of contact information and automatically convert it into a cloud database. Call-ins, scanned business cards, and received emails all get organized into a single digital rolodex with recommendations for whom to contact, and when is best to do so -- without one minute of tedious data entry.

Every business owner knows that automating mindless tasks is a worthwhile investment. But not everyone knows just what sort of tools are available to help you cut down on wasted work. Our team specializes in using technology to add value to your business, and we believe that if you’re not utilizing any of the solutions above -- that’s the best place to start. Get in touch with us today to make your marketing technology work for you.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
November 22nd, 2016

2016november21_businesscontinuity_aThe prevalence of digital data has become an integral part of life and business in modern times. Staggering amounts of data is generated every day and businesses have grown exponentially as they’ve found ways to monetize it. In fact, most experts agree that by the year 2020, there will be 1.7 terabytes of data generated per person on the planet. But in the here and now, we’re already struggling to keep data backed up and safe.

Too much data may sound like a good thing, but depending on your organization, backing up everything à la minute may be out of your price range or just flat out impossible with the amount of information you create. The problem then becomes: How do I structure my backup plan to prioritize the critical files? We believe the answer is analytics.

In order to avoid backing up unneeded data, you’ll require a “smarter” backup solution. This is where an experienced MSP (managed services provider) really earns its keep. We’ve spent years becoming experts in backup solutions and designing systems that keep your mission-critical data healthy, and we can offer something few others can’t: a backup solution that learns.

The first step in ensuring all of your customer information is safely duplicated and quarantined is to install sophisticated analytics engines that help determine what is most essential to your business's day-to-day operations. These ever-evolving engines will prioritize data in order of importance and translate that to a backup structure that ensures the right data is safe and sound should disaster strike.

Using analytics maintains your existing data-backup solution, but provides it with a map of what to save first, and what to leave for later. What does that mean? Drastically reduced recovery times in the event of untimely outages or disruptions. And, the use of analytics also helps increase efficiency and decrease overall backup costs by providing a better picture of what is unimportant or unnecessary.

Small- and medium-sized businesses have been the drivers of innovation for decades because, as they say, “necessity is the mother of invention.” And we’re here to deliver some good news: Whether you’re interested in implementing a cutting-edge analytics engine or simply want to start with a more straightforward solution, we’re ready to create a new system that prioritizes backups, just for you. Take a second to analyze that, then give us a call.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
November 4th, 2016

2016november3_businessintelligence_aThe use of Business Intelligence technology in making business decisions is a relatively new small business trend. BI software pulls information from a company's raw data across the board so that enterprise owners and executives can make decisions for the future of the company. Read on to see how businesses can use BI technology to budget for the future.

Compiling Data Across the Board Business Intelligence is not a new concept. Companies regularly compile data from many of their departments to make important business decisions. The manual process of gathering spreadsheets of data is cumbersome and time-consuming. BI software allows company owners to look at data from the various departments in one location, an online dashboard that can be manipulated to provide the exact information needed at the time.

Putting it all Together Business intelligence software extracts information from raw data provided by various departments to help business owners make important decisions in marketing, budgeting and financial planning/prediction. All on one dashboard, marketing campaigns can be tracked and evaluated for effectiveness, money can be moved from one department to another, and companies can see the financial health of the company.

In the past, IT companies provided BI solutions that used complex algorithms to gather intelligence. Now, the use of BI software is geared for the end user, providing self-service reporting for the individual business owner.

Moving Forward As the new fiscal year approaches, it is important for companies to incorporate business intelligence software into their yearly budget. The price of BI software varies, but because you are probably already spending the money on BI solutions for various segments of your business, it won't be a huge investment to compile the data in one location.

Today's business infrastructures are technologically driven. They need a solution that uses the same level of sophistication to make the best financial decisions for their companies. Business intelligence technology is that solution. Contact us today if you’re ready to take the next step.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
October 20th, 2016

2016october19_businessproductivity_aThe internet is undoubtedly one of the most powerful tools for improving business productivity. But it’s also a magnet for procrastination. With unfettered access to the internet, it’s easy to stray away from your important work responsibilities. If done in moderation, five-to-ten minute breaks on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are harmless, but if employees spend several hours a day there, the internet is impeding office productivity. Fortunately, web monitoring can ensure your employees don’t overuse these sites.

Time-saving measures At times, the internet can be very addictive. Internet monitoring software saves employees from the temptation of online videos and games by restricting access to time-wasting sites that you deem unnecessary for business. But internet monitoring software doesn’t even have to be as extreme as denying permission to harmless social media websites. Just letting your employees know that you’ll be randomly monitoring their internet activity discourages them from taking prolonged visits to their Instagram page.

Avoiding harmful websites The internet hosts plenty of unsavory links and websites. Employees who haphazardly click phishing links or access malware-ridden pornography sites can put your business at risk. Working with infected machines can slow down the entire system and, in some cases, completely halt operations. But by using internet monitoring tools you can restrict access to dangerous websites, and identify reckless employees to remove their internet privileges, if necessary.

Controlling bandwidth usage Even while using the internet for the right purposes, bandwidth can be used up quickly. Internet monitoring gives you up-to-the-minute reports on your bandwidth usage. Once you have a clear understanding of your company’s overall bandwidth usage, you can then control its expenditure. This feature allows you to prioritize bandwidth for critical business applications and reduce bandwidth for less necessary websites.

Increasing productivity on the internet Internet monitoring software may be a powerful tool, but it should be used responsibly. As a business owner, you need to walk a fine line between over-surveillance and under-surveillance. What you should do is establish a clear internet policy. Then, explicitly define the disciplinary measures to be dispensed on anybody who goes against the requirements of the internet policy. And deal with time-wasting employees on a case-by-case basis. It’s unreasonable to remove everyone’s Facebook privileges because one or two abused theirs.

Employee productivity can be difficult to achieve, especially with the proliferation of what we would like to call, “procrastination software.” But with web monitoring software, you can truly get your business -- and your employees -- back on track. Looking for more ways to increase business productivity with technology? Give us a call. We’ll be happy to make suggestions.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
October 1st, 2016

2016september30_businessvalue_aMost people tend to think that the concept of virtual reality has a place with The Jetsons family, but not so much at the office -- think again. Recently, more and more businesses are exploring ways they can mesh virtual reality with daily business operations to possibly help benefit customer service and even employee satisfaction. Take your business to the next level by embracing three dimensions instead of two. Here’s why:

Create your own virtual product prototypes

With the help of virtual reality, you’ll no longer have to rely on manufacturing when you want to see what your product physically looks like and how it might work. These virtual products allow you to make any changes before going through with production. According to Abi Mandelbaum, CEO and co-founder of YouVisit, “Model creation in VR, for example, can save companies time and money, as these types of models or prototypes allow viewers to examine a product and make changes without the time or expense of building a physical model.”

Virtual designs for engineers

Especially beneficial for engineers, architects and other professionals that work with building or engineering large structures, virtual reality helps save both time and money. As an alternative to small models or 2D renderings, VR offers a more immersive experience that helps design and replicate structures.

Virtual tours

Let’s say that you’re a real estate agent showing houses to potential buyers. Your buyers might be in a different state or simply don’t want to spend time going from house-to-house. Virtual reality allows customers to see what the home looks likes in a three-dimensional setting without them having to actually be there.

Showing all the angles of a product

In order to entice buyers into making a purchase, they must first get an idea as to what it’s actually like, and they need to see as many angles as possible -- especially for products that customers don’t get to physically touch. With virtual reality, customers are given a better idea of what your product is like. Abi Mandelbaum says that “Virtual reality can allow current and potential customers to explore a product before they commit to making a purchase. Furthermore, VR completely immerses customers, helping place a product directly into their (virtual) hands or empowering viewers to see a product in action.”

Take customers on an adventure

If you are in any tourism or adventure-based business, you can use virtual reality to give customers a taste of what to expect from the attractions. Imagine that you have an amusement park and want to attract customers’ attention. You can opt to offer a short VR replication of one of your rides so people can see whether or not they’d like it. Or if you own a resort or campground, you’ll also be able to create reality versions of whatever activities you offer.

VR has the potential to take your small- and medium-sized business to the next level if done properly of course. If you have any questions about how you can mesh virtual reality with your company, don’t hesitate to send us an email or give us a call. We’ll be more than happy to assist with your queries.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
September 15th, 2016

2016september14_businesscontinuity_aDelta is paying big for the IT outage that occurred last month: millions of dollars in damages, 2300 cancelled flights, and significant reputational damage. Despite the harsh cut to the airline’s bottom line, Delta will probably still survive. But the real question is this: Can your business survive after long periods of downtime? A natural disaster, power outage, or successful hack can be the downfall of many small- to medium-sized businesses. But if you learn from the lessons of Delta’s IT mishap, your organization has a good chance of staying on its feet.

Strive for 100% redundancy According to Delta’s chief information officer, a power failure caused the company’s data center to crash, grounding thousands of would-be passengers. Although power was restored six hours after the incident, critical systems and network equipment failed to switch to a secondary site, corrupting valuable data in the process. And while some systems failed over, other vital applications didn’t; this created bottlenecks, decreased revenue, and diminished customers’ confidence.

Delta’s case is a massive wakeup call not just for the airline industry but for every business -- large and small. Companies must implement disaster recovery plans for their data centers, on-site technology, and Cloud applications to continue servicing customers while fixing the main issue with their primary systems. Companies also need to get rid of the false notion that redundancy plans to assure service continuity is restricted to larger corporations. DR and business continuity solutions are extremely affordable today, and a partnership with a provider can help you in more ways than one (more on this later).

Always test your backups

So although Delta had a plan to bring its business back to normalcy, the DR plan left a lot to be desired in practice. This begs the question as to whether the airline company is actually testing, reviewing, and reinforcing its vulnerabilities to different disasters.

The point is that even though your company may have a failover protocol in place, that protocol adds no value to your business unless it has been rigorously tried and tested. In order to avoid the same fate as Delta, make sure to find out whether your disaster recovery plan is capable of running mission-critical applications like email and customer service applications before -- not after -- downtime occurs.

Account for different types of vulnerability

In an interview with the Associated Press, Delta CEO Ed Bastian said, “We did not believe, by any means, that we had this type of vulnerability.” Indeed, it’s often hard to foresee what threats and vulnerabilities a natural disaster, power outage, or hacker can produce. But it’s not impossible.

By conducting a comprehensive audit of your data center security and disaster protocols, your business will be more aware and adept at minimizing the risk of potential disasters. This also means evaluating and preparing for disasters that are likely to happen to your business depending on its geographic location. Southern US, for instance, is prone to hurricanes and flooding.

Call for help

These lessons and strategies are all crucially important, but pulling off a DR and business continuity solution on your own may be difficult. For this reason, it’s critical to have a planned partnership with a managed services provider that can assess, plan, test and install the continuity solutions your business needs in order to minimize the impact and avoid encountering a Delta IT outage of your own.

To find out more about business continuity and guaranteeing complete IT redundancy, contact us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
August 27th, 2016

2016August26_BusinessIntelligence_A
If genie lamps were out of stock before you could place an order for one, the next best thing to manage and grow your small- and medium-sized business lies in CRM. Short for customer relationship management, a real difference is possible, with the right software of course. With the numerous options out there, finding the most suitable one is like walking into a maze without a flashlight or GPS. We spared you the trouble and rounded up a selection of the best CRM software options for 2016.

Since every business differs in terms of size, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to CRM. Thus, varying corporate sizes require unique CRM software that best addresses requirements. We’ll be taking a look at ideal CRM software options for the following categories: businesses in general, very small businesses and ones that are free.

CRM for SMBs: Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2016

Dynamics CRM is a top-tier CRM solution with respect to overall functionality. It has options for either Cloud-based and On Premise deployment and delivers full-featured capabilities that cater to businesses of every size. Often, Dynamics CRM is associated with larger enterprises, but that simply means that small and medium-sized businesses can access the same perks! SMBs can start with as little as 5 users and gain access to the full suite of capabilities.

Dynamics CRM is a package tailor-made for SMBs. With it you can fully utilize all that the system has to offer and make your company to really thrive. Dynamics CRM is equipped with features such as lead generation, contact and opportunity management, sales forecasting, real-time dashboards, workflow automation as well as integration into the power of Microsoft’s Office 365 and Power BI suite – enabling both collaboration and deep insights into your business. Regardless of whether you choose Cloud-based or On Premise you can access data and files from anywhere at any time via mobile or remote desktop devices.

CRM for Very Small Businesses: Insightly

Underneath its simple facade lies CRM software with ample capabilities, all of which fit the bill for microbusinesses. Aside from the fact that it has the vital components small businesses really look for in CRM software, it’s also scalable to accommodate the growth of your company. Furthermore, Insightly is currently one of the more affordable CRM solutions on the market; there’s even a free version if you wish to test the waters.

With either the free version or paid plans, Insightly combines utility and affordability. It comes equipped with all the vital CRM capabilities a microbusiness needs. This includes detailed sales reports, opportunity management, contacts and project management. Being a cloud-based CRM software allows you to access data anywhere at any time via Internet-enabled devices.

Free CRM Software: Zoho CRM

Not having to pay for Zoho doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t deliver the necessary capabilities required from CRM software. Zoho CRM provides your business with all the core functions it needs. Moreover, it allows you to on-board up ten users for free. Courtesy of Zoho CRM’s mobile app, you’ll be able be access data regardless of time or location. Here are some of the other features that the free version of Zoho CRM has to offer:

  • 360-view – all the vital information for contacts, sale cycles and pipelines. Discover trends and identify opportunities.
  • Automation – sspend less time dealing with mundane tasks by automating tasks such as lead generation, contact management, calendars and even call logs.
  • Collaboration – Zoho CRM doubles as a social media platform integrating with Twitter and Facebook to link contacts to their social media accounts. This allows you to see their updates as well as the interactions you’ve had on social media right from your dashboard.
  • Analytics – you can track sales as well as measure both business and employee performance via a range of reporting capabilities.

Unlike farms, the main component to a company’s growth isn’t fertilizer and sunshine. Instead, it’s competent CRM software that allows your business to reach its full potential. If you have any questions on customer relationship management software, feel free to get in touch with us. We’re more than happy to not only provide answers but also be part of your success.

Topic business
August 13th, 2016

2016August12_Productivity_AWhile an impressive arsenal of weapons can help you win a battle, you need diligence, perseverance and sacrifice to win the war. But when that war is waged in the arena of calendar management, you’re dealing with a whole other monster. When scheduling meetings, uncontrollable factors like varying schedules and department-specific time constraints mean that the same war strategy won’t yield the same successful results. Allow Microsoft FindTime to lead your organization to victory in the battle of cross-organization meeting arrangement.

Before any meetings take place, you’ll need to download Microsoft FindTime first. Fear not, because this Microsoft Outlook add-in is easily downloadable and is 100 percent free. FindTime was developed to help you and your guests do just that -- find time! Coordinating all attendees’ schedules, FindTime will iron out a time that works for everyone.

Just the thought of having to organize a meeting across your organization can stir up anxiety and elicit a huge sigh... Sigh! Why? On top of handling your own hectic schedule, you’re expected to juggle your attendees’ schedules as well. This would be the moment when telephone calls start to flood in and emails start to go back and forth, rarely heading toward a unified decision.

Bid adieu to all of that with Microsoft FindTime. Simply compose a new email or reply to an existing one and click the New Messaging Poll at the upper right hand corner. From there, choose the attendees, propose a couple tentative meeting times, and let the voting begin! Once a consensus is reached, a confirmation email is automatically sent to everyone attending.

What makes it even easier is that attendees can take a look at the visual summary that tallies all the votes, and who voted for what times. This lets you see what times the majority of people have chosen, giving you a chance to rework your schedule in advance if and when necessary.

Another plus is that to receive a Microsoft FindTime invitation, your friends and family don’t need an email address or even an Internet connection! Participants aren’t required to have Office 365 either; only the organizers need to access Office 365. This means that you can reach out to your friends, loved ones, and colleagues to organize your meetings, set up playdates, and even plan surprise birthday parties -- the possibilities are endless.

For more info about Microsoft FindTime, feel free to send us an email or give us a call! Our experts will gladly answer your questions. We believe that time is money, and money is the last thing you’d want to jeopardize. Allow us to help safeguard your assets by ensuring that all the time you spend on the clock doesn’t go to waste. Every minute counts.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
July 27th, 2016

2016July25_BusinessValue_AMore money on less investment, that’s the dream, right? Well, counterintuitive as it may seem, flash-in-the-pan tech fads and trends may be just the way to achieve that. With the right tools, you can associate your SMB with popular new technologies without much investment. These are our five tips on how to cash in on things as silly and childish as Pokémon GO and as technical and trendy as the internet of things.

Get in early

One of the biggest indicators of how successful your SMB will be in making big gains off of a new trend is how early you get in. Fads, especially in the tech world, can come and go in no time. Be careful not to invest in resources with a long-term commitment like new logos or graphics, but instead in low-cost workarounds like special promotions and social media campaigns that put you front and center immediately. Once the popular kids have moved onto a fresh fixation, you’ll be ready to move forward without skipping a beat.

Use existing tools

How can you get up to speed quickly without investing too much in permanent resources? The trick is to hijack existing opportunities and strategies for your own message. For example, John Deere has been selling farming equipment for over 150 years, with no signs of slowing down. But with a creative combination of existing GPS technology and mobile devices, they quickly jumped to the forefront of the “Internet of Things” craze by connecting their vehicles to crop planning practices.

Participate in the narrative

So you’ve identified a trend you want to cash in on and you’ve commandeered existing tools to help sell your product. How else can you gain momentum? Social media is everywhere nowadays, and it doesn’t seem to be a dying trend. However, it’s no panacea; simply posting “We’ve got a promotion on all seasonal products #inserttechfadhere” won’t bring obsessed customers to your doorstep. Take a minute to understand the mechanics of what pulls everyone away from work, friends, and family, and show participants you’re one of them. Is it competitive? Polarizing? Take a stand or pick a team and invite customers who are “on your side” to get a discount.

Merge the fad with your business model

With a little creative brainstorming, most business models can actually integrate their product or service with a passing trend. Chatbots have been shoring up the “deep learning” revolution, and clothing retailers have come up with a really creative way to employ them to drive sales. By simply providing their chatbots with a fashion tree, the bots can ask basic questions which whittle down clothing recommendations to those that align with customers’ tastes.

Address difficulties presented by the fad

What if you can’t find a way for your products or services to directly interact with the blazing new trend? The next best thing is to provide solutions to problems presented by it. Does interacting with the popular app or activity eat up a lot of mobile device battery? Remind passersby your outlets are available for customers, or that you sell mobile battery packs. Does it require driving all over town? Remind customers of your latest car rental promotion. Sometimes just associating yourself with the trend is enough.

Not sure how to integrate your business with the latest fads? We’re the experts on all things technology related, from the most recent to the ancient. As a small- to medium-sized business owner, getting the most value out of your technology investments is crucial to getting your foot in the door and working your way toward bigger profits. From machine learning to Pokémon GO, no question is too trivial -- ask us today!

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business
July 21st, 2016

2016July20_BusinessContinuity_AQuick, what’s the most important thing about your business’s precious data? Besides knowing how to back it up properly and protect it from catastrophic loss, how about understanding all the lingo used to describe it? The term “big data” - in reference to large, complex data sets - is a well-known buzzword these days, but a slew of new “data” terms are in style now, too.

Data is the lifeblood of the information age. It gets observed, collected, organized, and analyzed, and it allows businesses to compete for profit and prosperity. And it takes many forms, each one unique and often vividly-named by the addition of a simple descriptive word.

As such, we thought a short glossary was in order to help keep you current on a handful of new data buzzwords and how they might impact your business.

Small Data

If “big data” is about powerful machines, huge databases, and sophisticated analytics, its little brother “small data” is about people. Small data takes a scaled-down approach to data mining that relies on things like social media to acquire important information. Archiving it is also simpler since a complex central data warehouse isn’t necessary.

Slow Data

The notion of “slow data” may seem a bit counterintuitive since processing ones and zeroes means things are happening fast. Some information, however, is actually acquired more slowly. Take, for example, the polar ice caps, where things literally move at a glacial pace. Since this kind of data doesn’t require frequent analysis it is suitable for back-up in its native format in a secure data lake.

Fast Data

We’re guessing you knew this buzzword was coming next, and it’s probably exactly what you thought it would be. “Fast data” refers to data events that happen fast - as in thousands of times per second - such as financial tickers or electrical sensors. Being able to act on it without delay is critical, so storing it immediately in a stable, easy to access location is a must.

Dark Data

Put simply, “dark data” is nothing more than day-to-day operational data that’s not getting used. It often refers to unanalyzed information in the form of customer call records, competitors’ price fluctuations, or website visitor trends. It can also include data that’s no longer accessible, such as when a storage device becomes obsolete. Your business can bring some of this redundant, out-of-date, or hidden data into the light with software designed to tidy things up.

Dirty Data

And speaking of tidying, here we finally have “dirty data.” While not quite as provocative as, say, dirty dancing or a dirty martini, it does have a tendency to arouse anxiety. But it’s actually not harmful to your data warehouse; it merely refers to a data set prior to its being “cleaned,” such as a leads list that contains duplicates, spelling mistakes, or formatting errors. The key is ensuring it gets spruced up before moving it into production.

If this index of buzzwords has left you wondering about the ways that different types of information affect your specific business, we’ve got answers. Setting up and managing your databases, super-secure backup strategies, and a thorough understanding of information technology are what we provide, so call or message us today.

Published with permission from TechAdvisory.org. Source.

Topic business