Guess what that means?
The free wi-fi you offer your customers is also – drum roll, please – a terrific marketing opportunity. Handle it right, and you can use that connection to build your list, gather information about your customers, and even improve your customer service. Here’s how.
What is Wi-Fi Marketing?
Wi-fi marketing is simply marketing that’s targeted to a customer’s mobile device. When you make your wi-fi available to customers, you can begin collecting information about them even before they get access.
Once you have their information and they’re online with you, you can target them with ads, including both general ads and offers tailored specifically to their behavior when they’re in your store.
As you might expect, wi-fi marketing is best suited to businesses with a physical location. If you own a restaurant, bar, club, or retail store – or any other business where customers come to see you regularly – you can benefit from using wi-fi marketing.
Using Wi-Fi Marketing to Build Your List
Do you have an email list? Granting customers access to your wi-fi is a great way to build your list.
You could open up your wi-fi without gathering information about your customers, but why would you? Most people will be willing to give up their email address to get some free wi-fi. You can tether your wi-fi login to a simple opt-in box that asks for the customers email address and first name.
Once you’ve got their email addresses, you can use them to send promotions and relevant content that will help turn them from one-time visitors into loyal customers.
Another option, if you’re using SMS marketing (or want to) is to ask customers for their mobile number instead of (or in addition to) their email address. A word of caution, though – I’ve told you before that adding one extra field to a form can decrease your conversion rate. My advice is to pick either an email address or a mobile number and go from there.
Wi-Fi Marketing Ideas to Try
Building your list is only the start of what you can do with wi-fi marketing. Here are some other ideas that you may want to consider.
Collect Customer Analytics
Having access to your customers’ mobile devices means that you can collect a huge amount of data about them without any fuss. Wi-fi marketing allows you to collect:
Social Wi-Fi Marketing
Another option is to allow customers to log in to your wi-fi using their social accounts. You’ve seen this on lots of sites, I bet. Many customers will choose the convenience of logging in with an existing account over creating a new one.
You might wonder about this one. After all, it doesn’t allow you to collect email addresses or mobile numbers. Is it really worthwhile?
I’d say it depends. If your social media game is strong – and it should be! – then you can use your wi-fi login as a way of encouraging people to follow your social media accounts.
When people follow you on Facebook and Twitter, you get access to both demographic information and their personal interests. That data can help you do a better job of targeting them with marketing and offers.
Wi-fi marketing offers you the ability to provide relevant and useful information about your business and products directly to your customers.
A lot of products have a learning curve. Whether you’re introducing a new product or offering up ideas of ways to use an existing one, your wi-fi marketing can help you prime your customers to buy from you.
It’s also a way of engaging with your customers on an ongoing basis. People like to feel connected to the brands they use. You can do that in a way that doesn’t seem pushy by giving people access to your wi-fi connection.
Think of it as wireless lead nurturing. Every person who walks into your business could turn into a long-term customer. Wi-fi marketing can help you move them down that road.
Provide Customer Service
In an ideal world, every customer would be thrilled with you and they’d buy from you for the rest of their lives.
But we don’t live in an ideal world. You know that.
Wireless marketing can allow you to follow up with customers after they leave your business and gather information about their experience. For example, you could send them a survey to complete. Or, you could simply touch base with a quick email or text.
Either way, you’re letting them know that you care about them and their experience – and that you’re willing to do what’s necessary to turn them into loyal customers.
When people visit your business regularly, it’s a good idea to reward them. With wi-fi marketing, rewarding them is easy.
Because you can track who accesses your wi-fi, you’ll be aware of when a customer visits you more than once, buys something, or makes multiple purchases.
You can use that information to target them with a thank you email or text that includes a coupon for their next visit or an exclusive offer based on their buying behavior.
This kind of direct marketing is hugely effective because it makes each customer feel valued. It’s a great way to turn a one-time buyer into a loyal customer.
Wi-Fi isn’t just for you…
You can use it to connect with customers, gather valuable data about them, and give them incentives to buy from you again… and again.
All the tools you need to grow, in one place, for absolutely free! Sign me up!
All you need is a mobile phone and a strategy – and we can help with the strategy part.
You may not know that Instagram has some very cool features that local businesses can use to connect with their existing customers and attract new ones. Here’s what you need to know.
Instagram Has Millions of Users, Insert Millions of people
Instagram isn’t as big as Facebook – but so what? As of 2018, there were more than 77 million active Instagram users in the United States, and one billion users worldwide.
That’s a lot of potential customers
And while you might be tempted to dismiss Instagram as being too young for your target audience, you should know that 35% of all adults in the United States have an Instagram account. Do you really want to ignore more than a third of all adults?
Of course, there are some businesses that are better suited to Instagram marketing than others. Service providers may not find the same value in Instagram as businesses that sell photographable products. But, if you have a product that people may want to buy online, then it’s worth it to give Instagram marketing a try.
In the past, the only way to sell products on Instagram was to include a link in your bio. Understandably, online retailers weren’t thrilled with that option. It required the user to click on a profile pic to be redirected to the bio, and then click again to be redirected to a sales page. Not ideal.
Now, that’s all changed. Instagram has recently added a Shoppable Posts option that allows small business to link directly to a sales page from a post. In other words, if you take a picture of one of your products, you can post it to Instagram and include a direct link to the product on your website.
Big change, right?
Here’s what you need to know to get going with Shoppable Posts.
First, as of the time I’m writing this, Shoppable Posts are only applicable to organic posts. That means you can’t promote a Shoppable Post. To get more traffic on your posts, you’ll need to make judicious use of hashtags to make sure that potential customers can find your content.
You’ll need to take some important steps before you can take advantage of Shoppable Posts. Here they are:
Once you’ve taken these steps, Instagram will review your account and if you meet them, you’ll be given access to Instagram Shopping features. You can expect the review to take several days, but in some cases it can take longer if your account requires additional review.
When you’re approved, you’ll receive a notification. At that time, you’ll be able to activate product tagging in your account settings.
Tips for Using Shoppable Posts
One of my favorite things about Shoppable Posts is that you can tag multiple products on each post. Here’s how it works.
On an individual photograph, you can tag up to five products. To do it, simply click on the product you want to tag. You’ll get a search box where you’ll need to enter the name of the product you want to tag. (The menu is linked to your Facebook product catalog.)
Once you’ve tagged all of your products, your post will be updated. People who view your photograph will see a link with the name of the product. When they click on it, they’ll be taken to your sales page where they can buy the product directly from you.
Even better, you can tag up to 20 products in a carousel. If you’ve got a new line of products that you want to feature, you can tag a bunch of them in one carousel.
One of the most important things you’ll need to do when you create a Shoppable Post is to choose the right hashtags. You can add up to 30 to each post. Make sure to include:
The final thing you need to know is that once you have posted nine Shoppable Posts, you’ll get a shopping icon that will show up on your bio. Your products will also be added to the Instagram Store, where users who are interested in shopping can view your products along with others that are available on Instagram.
As you can see, Shoppable Posts are easy to create once you go through the initial sign-up process. They’re a simple way to attract new customers.
What are you waiting for?
Head over to Instagram, create your business account, and get started on the verification process. Your products will be seen by a whole new audience – and you’ll be able to attract new customers, increase your sales and – most importantly – add to your profits!
That might sound too good to be true, but it’s not. The trick is knowing what makes someone a brand ambassador – and then leading them down the road instead of hoping they’ll get there on their own.
What Can Brand Ambassadors Do for You
Brand ambassadors are more than just enthusiastic fans. When brand ambassadorship is at its best, customers identify heavily with the brands they love.
One example is Apple customers. You’ve probably noticed that they:
Brand ambassadors can also help you build customer loyalty. Knowing that others are enthusiastic about your products can increase their perceived value. A truly enthusiastic fan can even create new brand ambassadors for you.
What Does Engagement Have to Do with It
You know that engagement is the Holy Grail of social media marketing. What you might not know is what engagement means nowadays. Your engagement might be up while your sales are down – and when that’s the case, it’s hard to get excited about a few hundred likes on Facebook or Instagram.
Not all engagement is the same. There are levels and you must understand them if you want to understand how to create brand ambassadors. Here’s how I break it down:
The Four Steps to Brand Ambassadorship
As I said before, there are four steps you can follow to create brand ambassadors. They’re not difficult, but they do require some planning and persistence on your part.
Starbucks runs a white cup contest on Instagram every year. They challenge fans to create designs on plain white cups and post photos of them. The company shares the posts with their fans and produces a limited-edition run of the winning design.
Beauty brand Dove often asks its fans to tell stories about themselves and their families. They’ve run Mother’s Day promotions where they request information about customers’ mothers and then create one-of-a-kind social media “cards” for them.
What you can see from these ideas is that fans will engage with your brand if you ask them, incentivize them, and reward them.
Your brand ambassadors are waiting to be inspired…
It’s time to start thinking about what’s going to convince your current customers and followers to embrace your brand as ambassadors.
Not sure where to start? Try asking on social media! Your fans who are already engaged will be eager to tell you what they want – and you can use their advice as guidance to get things started.
How Popular is Snapchat?
I want to start with some Snapchat statistics because I’m finding that a lot of the local business owners I meet have ruled it out as a potential marketing platform.
Here’s what you need to know according to HootSuite.
Create a Snapchat Business Account
Ready to use Snapchat for marketing. You’ll need to start by setting up a Snapchat business account. The process is very easy. You can start by clicking here.
You’ll be prompted to enter your:
Grow Your Audience
Attracting new followers on Snapchat isn’t difficult but you’ll need to do a bit of work. The first and easiest things you can do are:
We’ll talk about paid advertising a little later in this article.
Create Snapchat Stories
Snapshot Stories are Snaps that are meant to be viewed sequentially. Unlike stand-alone Snaps, which disappear almost immediately, Snapshot Stories live on the site for 24 hours before vanishing. They’re an ideal way to connect with your audience.
You should make sure to give your Snapchat Story a compelling narrative arc. Some of the Snapchat Stories I’ve seen businesses use include:
All the content you share on Snapchat should meet the site’s technical specifications. They are:
Tips to Make Your Snapchat Content Sing – (Chris Format into Checklist graphic)
One of the cool things about Snapchat is that there are lots of fun tools and tricks you can use to amp up your content. Here are a few of my favorites:
Track and Refine Your Results
Like other social media platforms, Snapchat has some useful analytics that you can draw on when you pay for advertising. You can use them to track:
Once you’ve started using Snapchat for Business, you should keep an eye on the above results. You can use them to refine your Snapshot marketing strategy. You may notice that your video Snaps are getting far more engagement than your other content and adjust your marketing budget accordingly.
Marketing on Snapchat can give you a leg up on your competitors...
Remember, only a little over a quarter of businesses in the United States are using Snapchat. If your competitors aren’t – and they probably aren’t – then you can get access to a huge audience of Millennials and grab them as customers before your competitors know what hit them!
All you need to do is observe, think, and ask a few key questions about what they’re doing.
Where Are They Marketing Themselves?
The first thing you need to know is where and how they’re finding customers. You don’t need a copy of their marketing blueprint to figure it out. Here are some suggestions.
What Makes Them Unique?
You’ve spent some time figuring out how to distinguish yourself from your competitors – but how do they distinguish themselves from you?
A brand’s Unique Value Proposition tells you a lot about how they see themselves. Are they branding themselves as innovators? Solid and reliable? Affordable? Luxury?
You can pick up a lot of clues about your competitors’ unique qualities by looking at their websites and ads. What you learn can help you figure out how to be more competitive.
What Marketing Techniques Are They Using?
It’s not enough to know where your competitors are putting their marketing dollars. You also need to know what they’re doing with it. It can take some time to get a handle on their strategy, but it will be time well spent.
You may notice that they’re running both search engine ads and retargeting ads. That may indicate that their target audience requires a lot of nurturing before they buy. Or, you may notice that they’re relying heavily on customer-created content on social media, and that could inspire you to create some brand ambassadors of your own.
You should also make note of the kinds of content that performs best for them in terms of engagement. Are they posting lots of videos or sticking mostly to photos? Are they using infographics or instructographics? Every technique they use could point in the direction of more effective marketing for you.
What Are Their Strengths and Weaknesses?
As you observe your competitors’ marketing and check out their websites, you’ll probably notice that there are some things they do exceptionally well. Maybe they’ve got killer blog posts that fans love and that get tons of shares on social media. Or, maybe they’ve got a YouTube channel with hundreds of useful videos.
At the same time, you should look for things they’re not doing so well. Maybe their website’s out of date or their social media posting is irregular. Maybe they haven’t done a good job of differentiating themselves in the market.
Make note of anything that might be helpful. Your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses can help you fine-tune your own marketing strategy.
What Are Their Values?
It’s become increasingly important to consumers to know that the brands they buy have a moral center. You know that because you’ve seen the way brands can suffer when they misbehave. Customers can turn on brands in a flash if they feel they don’t share their core values.
If your competitors are affiliated with causes or charities, it’s important to know about it. You should look especially hard at any marketing efforts that tout their involvement and values. It’s quite common for brands to dedicate pages on their websites to their charitable efforts and values.
Millennials put a very high premium on corporate values both when they seek employment and when they shop. If you’re not clearly articulating your values and your competitors are, you might be at a disadvantage.
Keep in mind that when you express your values, you should look for causes that align with them. For example, a lot of food manufacturers and restaurants get involved with local food pantries and soup kitchen or sponsor food drives for hungry families.
How Do They Engage Fans?
Perhaps the most important question to ask is what your competitors are doing to engage their followers and fans. Engagement can mean a lot of different things from reading a Facebook post to creating unique, brand-based content – but it matters at every level.
One of my favorite ways to track engagement is to look at my competitors’ CTAs on social media. What are they asking fans to do? They might:
What your competitors are doing shouldn’t be a mystery to you…
If you think of yourself as a detective or a corporate spy, you can learn a lot about your competitors by tracking them online, taking notes – and then using what you find to improve your marketing strategy and beat them at their own game.
Since you can’t count on marketing suggestions knocking on your door, let me help. Here are 7 things you can start doing right now to market your business better.
#1: Identify Your Unmet Goals Where You Expected to Do Better
The first step is to review your marketing plan and business plan and figure out what you still haven’t accomplished. You might have specific goals that remain out of reach, like attracting a certain number of new customers this year or passing a profit milestone.
Even if you haven’t articulated a goal, you might still feel disappointed about some of your marketing. Maybe readers aren’t finding your blog or you’re not getting as many people to sign up for your newsletter as you’d hoped.
Whatever it is that isn’t meeting your expectations, write it down.
#2: Update Your Market Research
The answers to marketing difficulties are nearly always found in the data. If it’s been a while since you conducted any serious market research, it’s time to retest those waters and see what’s new.
You should be gathering two sets of information about the people in your target audience. They are:
#3: Sneak a Peek at Your Competitors’ Marketing
Competitor research doesn’t get enough attention, and if you’ve never checked out your competitors’ marketing for ideas, you’re missing out.
You should be looking to see:
#4: Find Out Where Your Target Audience Is
Once you’ve evaluated your competitors, it’s time to start thinking about where to focus your marketing efforts to reach your target audience. For example, if your customers are mostly women and you have an aspirational product, then your marketing budget will be well spent on Pinterest. If you’re a B2B company, you should focus on LinkedIn.
You’ll also want to think beyond social media and ask how your target audience will find you. Remember that voice search is on the rise and think about where people are going to look for your products – and how they’ll do it.
#5: Revamp Your Marketing Plan
This is step is a big one – but it’s necessary if you want to achieve your marketing and growth goals. Take all the information you’ve gathered and sit down and rethink your marketing plan. You should be planning:
#6: Automate as Much as Possible
Marketing automation can save you a ton of time and money as you work to achieve your goals. If you try to do everything yourself, you may wind up missing deadlines or failing to keep up with your intentions.
I’m a big believer in email automation for marketing. There are tons of good marketing email providers, including companies like AWeber and Constant Contact. You can use them to create email sequences to send out to your subscribers – or hire someone to create them for you.
I also suggest using automation to monitor your social media mentions and post on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites. You’ll need to set up the posts and schedule them, but the beauty of this approach is that it means you don’t need to worry about remembering when to post something. You can also use Your Social Plan which includes 3 daily post ready to brand and schedule!
The automation will do it for you.
You may also want to consider setting up automatic replies on your Facebook page. Lots of companies use bots to handle customer questions and increase engagement – and you should think about it, too.
#7: Test Everything (and I Do Mean Everything)
The final step is not to assume that your new marketing plan is perfect. Even seasoned marketers make mistakes. They guess wrong and need to correct course.
Tracking your results will help you figure out what’s working and what isn’t. You should know:
And there they are…
Marketing isn’t an exact science but doing these 7 things can help you realign your marketing strategy with your most important business goals – and at the same time, increase your profits and help you attract new customers.
If our current websites are up and running – even if they’re not perfect – we put off redesigning them because we think it’s not a priority.
Spoiler alert: it should always be a priority.
Having an out-of-date website can erode trust with your existing customers and make it difficult to attract new ones.
Does your site need a facelift in 2019? Here are 10 sure-fire signs that it does.
#1: It’s Not Mobile Responsive
I know you probably think I’m beating a dead horse with this one, but mobile responsiveness is no longer an option in 2019. It’s a necessity.
Google penalizes sites that don’t adjust to the size of the device they’re being viewed on. And the truth is, this is an easy fix. There’s no excuse not to do it – and it can actively hurt you if you don’t.
#2: Your Site Is Difficult to Update
You might use the difficulty of updating as an excuse NOT to update, but in fact, it’s a clear sign that you must update – and right away. It’s the best way to be sure you can stay on top of future Google updates and technological improvements.
Updating from whatever it is you have now to a WordPress site where you can easily change your theme and add plugins as needed will make your life easier in the long run.
#3: It Looks Outdated
There are lots of little things that can make a website look out of date. For example, which version of the Twitter and Instagram logos do you have on your blog or homepage? If your Twitter logo has the old bird with the tuft of feathers on its head, your site may look like it’s from the dark ages.
Trends in web design are constantly changing. If your site looks like it was designed in the early 2000s (or even the early 2010s) then it’s time to embrace the present and update it.
#4: Your Conversion Rate is Too Low
There are lots of factors that can contribute to a low conversion rate, including your social media presence and marketing strategy. However, there’s no question that your website – its design, loading time, usability, and other factors – plays a role.
It’s an especially good sign that your site needs updating if you’ve tweaked your marketing campaigns and you’ve still got a low conversion rate. Something’s scaring potential customers away – and if it’s your website, there’s only one way to fix it.
#5: You’ve Got Autoplay on Your Website
Autoplay is dated and annoying, but there’s a more important reason that you need to ditch it in 2019 as part of your website redesign. It is very likely contributing to a slow page load time. I get that you were probably eager to have people watch your video or listen to your audio at the time of your LAST redesign, but it’s time for a change.
Honestly, I think the irritation level of autoplay far outweighs any potential benefit. You’re much better off putting your video above the fold with a killer thumbnail and a compelling pull quote than you are autoplaying it.
#6: Your Branding Isn’t Current
Have you rebranded your business since the last time you updated your website? If so, that means that your website is out of sync with your branding – and visitors aren’t getting a true picture of you and your company when they visit it.
Even if your branding changes are minor – such as an updated logo or tagline – it’s still worth redoing your website to match it.
#7: It Takes Forever to Load
You’ve probably heard the statistic that says that human beings have a shorter attention span than a goldfish. It sounds absurd, but when it comes to how quickly a site loads, it’s true.
Not only that, but Google penalizes sites that take too long to load. You can use their Page Speed tool to check your site’s loading time.
#8: Your Web Design Isn’t Consistent
Perhaps your last web redesign was ten years ago and in the interim, you had a different designer make a few tweaks to the design. Maybe you even did a bit of programming yourself. If that’s the case, you may have a Frankensite that looks like it was assembled by committee – not a good thing.
If your fonts, colors, menus, and other design elements are a hodgepodge and not consistent throughout, a redesign can help you present a cohesive design that will attract new customers instead of frightening them.
#9: Your Google Rank is Too Low
Google prioritizes well-designed, quick-loading sites with great content. If it’s been a while since your last redesign, the chances are good that your site isn’t ranked as high as it could be on Google.
It’s an especially big red flag if your ranking has slipped despite increased social media visibility and a higher-than-usual marketing budget. Don’t ignore Google’s response to your site. It’s not going to get better if you wait to update it.
#10: It Just Doesn’t Look Good
This last one might seem obvious and unnecessary, but I’m including it because a whopping 48% of consumers say that a company’s website is the most important factor in determining credibility. In other words, an ugly or poorly designed site can scare potential leads away.
If that’s not enough to scare you into updating your site, I don’t know what is!
It’s time to give your website a new look…
If any of the ten things on this list sound familiar, don’t wait. 2019 is the perfect time to update your site and take advantage of increased conversions, an improvement in your Google rank and – most importantly – more profits!
So, with that in mind, here are the biggest SEO trends of 2019 as I see them – and some tips about how to use them to your advantage.
I’m starting with a big one that many small and medium-sized companies are still ignoring. Voice search isn’t going anywhere – and in fact, it’s going to become increasingly important in 2019.
Why? Because pretty much all of us are using voice search in some way. Whether you’re starting a mobile search by saying “OK Google” or calling on Alexa, Cortana, or Siri to help you find what you need, you’re using voice search. And, estimates are that 50% of all searches will be voice searches by next year.
And guess what? That means your customers are too. One of the best ways to capitalize on this trend is to optimize your site with voice search in mind. That means incorporating common questions into your content – because your customers are asking questions and your website should answer them.
Google’s mobile-first indexing is still relatively new, but only a fool would believe that it won’t increase in importance in 2019. Right now, about 60% of all searches are mobile – and that number’s only going to go up.
How do you take advantage of this trend? First, make sure your site is mobile responsive. Honestly, at this point there’s no excuse for it not to be. Next, think about how your site’s design will impact mobile users. You want a clean design that’s easy to use. That means single column next, right-sized buttons, and other mobile features like direct dialing.
You may also want to think about accepting mobile payments in your store, if you have one. The idea is to make it easy for mobile customers to patronize your business.
SEO is in an interesting place right now. We’re still heavily mobile-dependent, but the increase in voice searches and use of artificial intelligence means that we all need to be thinking about how our websites can be easy to access as AI increases in importance.
One way to do that is to use Schema and other structures to organize your data. Things like information architecture, tags, metadata, and structured mark-up can all help ensure that your site is easy to crawl and index.
I know that all sounds very technical, but an experienced SEO can help you navigate the tech requirements while still providing a site that’s user-friendly, readable, and engaging.
Brand as a Ranking Signal
SEO is no longer just about what’s on your website. It’s also about how people are talking about you on social media sites and other places online – and those brand mentions are now having a big impact on how Google perceives your company.
If you’re not already tracking your social mentions, now is the time to start doing it. Following other brands on social media will reveal that some of them are responding when people mention them – and they’re making a big impact doing it. Even a word of encouragement or a quick joke can make a huge difference in how people think of you. Awario is a great tool for tracking your mentions.
Focus on Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness
The big trio of online impact is E-A-T – Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness. Technically, E-A-T isn’t part of Google’s algorithm, but it is a guideline for Google’s algorithm raters. That means that you can’t afford to ignore it.
What you can do to offer E-A-T to your site’s visitors is provide content that’s:
You can demonstrate E-A-T by creating a system of internal links to help visitors to your site navigate the information that’s available and easily find content that’s related to what they’re viewing.
Speed is another topic you may think I’ve covered too much – but when I repeat myself, it’s only because I know how important it is and I want to make sure that you’re not overlooking something that can have a huge impact on your SEO.
There’s no such thing as a website that loads too quickly. All web users are impatient and mobile users are more impatient than most. Very few are going to wait longer than five or six seconds for your site to load. Anything that might be slowing your site down needs to go. That means:
Riding the Waves and Staying on Top.
What’s going to keep you riding high in 2019 is knowing which waves matter in the world of SEO. The six things I’ve identified here are the ones that are going to make the biggest impact this year – and that means they’re the things that will help you rise above the competition and make 2019 your best year ever.
Now, that’s not to say that there aren’t some potential downsides to using AI. The most natural application of the technology for small business owners is a chatbot that can augment and improve your customer service. That means the bot would be interacting directly with your customers.
Scary? Maybe a little. But there are some serious benefits to using AI to go along with the risks. It’s important for you to understand both, so you can make an informed decision about whether AI is a worthwhile investment for your business.
The Pros of AI
Let’s start with the good news. Finding ways to have artificial intelligence interact directly with your customers can offer you some big rewards. Here’s what you need to know.
No Holidays or Time Off
The first plus of using AI for customer service is that AI isn’t human. That means it doesn’t need time off. It can be available to your customers around the clock, 365 days a year. If a customer needs help, your chatbot or virtual assistant can be there to offer it.
In the long run, you can save money on customer service because a chatbot can be programmed to handle a high volume of incoming requests and you won’t need to pay it a salary or benefits.
No Human Error
Another big benefit of incorporating AI into your customer service is that it can, if programmed properly, eliminate human error and make your customer interactions completely consistent across the board. That means no more flustered employees or inaccurate responses.
Even the best employee can be forgetful or have a bad day. A chatbot won’t have a bad day because they’re not programmed to have one. You can be sure that every customer who uses your chatbot will get the same professional, accurate information, every time.
Arguably the biggest positive associated with using artificial intelligence is that it can help you collect accurate and actionable data from your customers in real time. Since traditional customer research can take a huge amount of time, this is a huge plus and one that you can definitely use to your advantage.
You can learn which issues are causing trouble for your customers, which products they like the most, and at what times they’re most likely to buy from you. You can also use the data you collect to improve the programming of your chatbots and make your customer service even better than it already is.
What’s your brand’s personality? Whether you’re formal or casual, funny or low-key, you can program your AI solutions with the language and personality that fits your brand. Since it can be difficult to screen employees and figure out how they’ll cope in a high-pressure situation, chatbots can be a good way to even things out.
The beauty of AI programming is that you can build variety and personality in with the right scriptwriters and programmers. You might not be able to imagine a chatbot with personality, but I also think you’ll be surprised by how much can be done with good programming.
These benefits are no joke. If you properly design and program your chatbots, they can help you elevate your customer service, build loyalty, and increase sales.
The Cons of AI
The pros are undeniable, but what are the downsides of having AI interact with your customers? There are several, and not surprisingly, they correlate with the pros I’ve already mentioned.
Round the Clock Monitoring
The first potential downside is related to the 24/7 nature of chatbots. A chatbot, even a well-programmed one, can’t handle ever potential customer problem. In fact, part of proper chatbot programming is making sure that the bot knows when and how to get human assistance.
Reading between the lines, then, there’s a need to have a human agent on call to back up the chatbot. That means that you’ll still need some human support and people who are willing to be on call even after hours.
Lack of Improvisation
Chatbot programming can do a lot – but it can’t do everything. In fact, one of the biggest downsides of using AI for customer service is that AI can’t improvise. It can only do what it’s been programmed to do.
In nine out of ten cases, that’s probably going to be fine. But what happens if a customer isn’t fluent in English or asks a question in a way that’s unfamiliar to the bot? You’ve got to be prepared for the likelihood that some customers, some of the time, will find dealing with a bot to be frustrating.
I already told you that AI can collect data and that can be a huge benefit. But, of course, any time you collect data you’ve also got to store data – and that can leave you vulnerable to hacking.
This isn’t really a downside so much as it is a warning. If you are going to use chatbots for your business, make sure to take appropriate security measures and use encryption to protect your valuable data.
The final potential downside is the sort of worst-case scenario that we all think of when we think of AI. It’s that a bad actor could find a way to manipulate your chatbots or virtual agents to make them work in a way that is contrary to your interests.
Some manipulations may be relatively harmless, but the danger is that, since chatbots use machine learning to improve their performance, they may pick up bad habits from some users. You’ll need to be prepared to be on the lookout for problems and correct them immediately.
You’re not hiring HAL…
Using AI to interact with customers can do a great deal to help your business grow. The key is to put yourself in a position to reap the benefits while also protecting yourself from the potential downsides associated with AI.
And, if you’ve been ignoring all trends in favor of the tried and true, then guess what? 2019 is the year to shake things up.
Now, I’m not saying that you need to jump on every trend as soon as you become aware of it. I am saying that I’ve noticed that a lot of small businesses aren’t taking advantage of the big trends – the ones that, for better or worse, aren’t going anywhere. And with that in mind, here are 7 trends that you can no longer afford to ignore in 2019.
#1: Artificial Intelligence
I wrote about artificial intelligence last month, so you already know I think it’s important for small businesses to embrace this technology.
In marketing, the use of AI in the form of chatbots has taken root and many small businesses are adopting it. The bottom line is that a well-programmed chatbot can improve your customer service and increase sales.
AI is also becoming increasingly important in the field of marketing analytics. You can use it to make market predictions and get ahead of the curve as your audience’s preferences change and develop. And, let’s not forget that programmatic advertising – which uses AI to automate ad buying – is on the rise.
One-size-fits-all marketing is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. While there’s still some benefit to targeting ads to a large audience, the trend increasingly is toward the kind of one-to-one marketing that Amazon has done brilliantly for years.
If every visitor to your website is seeing the same content, it’s time to think about how to personalize it. You can do that using cookies that make recommendations based on a user’s previous activity on your site. Or, you can allow users to choose the type of content that they want to see. Either way, the goal is to make every customer feel that you’re speaking directly to them.
Incidentally, the same trend should be applied to email marketing. Sending emails that are triggered by a customer’s behavior is three times more effective than sending batch emails – something to keep in mind in the new year.
#3: Influencer Marketing
Ad blocking has been a challenge for marketers for years now, but the recent stats show that it’s now impacting mobile advertising as well as desktop. What can you do to get around it?
I’ve written about influencer marketing before, but it really has proven to be one of the best ways to engage with potential customers without needing to worry about ad blockers. It uses influential social media accounts that appeal to your audience.
It can take a bit of trial and error to find the right influencers but once you do, influencer marketing can be a cost-effective way of attracting new customers to your business.
#4: Video Marketing
If you’re not making marketing videos to share with your audience, it’s time to stop pretending that video is too expensive (or too technical) to be worth your while. Research shows that businesses who use video marketing grow 49% faster than businesses that don’t. How can you ignore that?
The good news is that video doesn’t need to be expensive and you don’t need to be Spike Lee to make a terrific marketing video that will attract new customers. Even a simple Facebook Live session where you take questions from your followers can help you grow your business.
#5: Social Messaging Apps
Did you know that every month, businesses exchange 2 billion (that’s with a B!) Facebook Messenger apps with their customers? That’s not just a trend – it’s a tsunami.
Using social messaging tools like Messenger or WhatsApp can help you connect with customers on a personal level. And – hearkening back to the first trend I mentioned – artificial intelligence can help you do it.
Creating a chatbot for Messenger or any other app is a relatively easy (and affordable) thing to do. A lot of companies use chatbots to suggest products or answer simple questions. That means that using messenger apps is an extremely effective way to connect with your existing audience and attract new potential buyers for your products and services.
#6: Voice Search – smart speaker
If you’ve said “Okay Google” or asked Siri, Alexa, or Cortana to find something for you online, then you know that voice search is here to stay. In fact, researchers estimate that 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020 – and that means that it’s time to optimize your web content for voice search now.
You can start by using the language of voice search – optimizing for the terminology that your audience is most likely to use. You may also want to start thinking about audio-only ads. It’s probable that you’ll start hearing sponsored content on Alexa before long. This is an opportunity for you to beat out your competitors who may be lagging in this area.
#7: Social Media Stories
If you’ve logged onto any social media account lately, you’ve probably noticed something: stories. Facebook may prompt you to add to your story, and other platforms – including YouTube – have jumped on the trend.
A social media story is temporary content that can be used to trigger your customers’ FOMO (that’s fear of missing out.) It’s ideal for seasonal promotions and deals, and it can be a great way to engage your audience. If you’re not already using social media stories to connect with your customers, 2019 is the year to start.
Trends aren’t all fleeting…
It’s one thing to avoid jumping on a trend bandwagon at the first opportunity. But ignoring the 7 key trends I’ve outlined here in 2019 will put you in a tricky position if your competitors are using them.