Using Social Media for Customer Service

19 Oct

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There are many ways that B2B companies are different entities than B2C companies, but social media usage is not one of them. Because the fact is that your prospects, existing customers and employees are all on social media, probably every single day. Social media has become an easy way to keep up with friends and relatives as well as business connections.

Depending on your industry, the social media sites your clients visit will vary. But there is a lot of usage overlap with B2C companies. One of the best features of social media sites is the ability to chat in real time with your contacts. This feature is used so much on Facebook that the site has a separate mobile app just for chat alone. Additionally, video sites such as YouTube offer product and service education opportunities that you can use in discussions with existing customers to help them solve problems.

B2B Customers are Not Just on LinkedIn

While it is true that many B2B professionals are active on LinkedIn, you can also find them on other social sites including Facebook, Twitter and some industry-specific sites. LinkedIn is a great site for content, connections and networking, but is it the best place for customer service? Probably not. Unless you are using LinkedIn for setting up a face-to-face customer service meeting, there are better places to interact.

Using Facebook for Customer Service

Facebook gives you several ways to conduct customer service conversations. You can set up a section of your company’s Facebook page to have questions and complaints answered. The key here is making sure someone is always available to answer these questions during the hours you specify you are open. Facebook is a great way to have direct contact with customers, but if you don’t respond quickly, they will be disappointed. You can connect with your customers via Facebook Messenger from just about anywhere in the world for free. As long as you have an internet or mobile connection, you can help customers solve their product issues or discover their service needs. You can also set up a section of your Facebook page for customers to ask questions that other customers answer with the ability for your staff to jump in when needed.

Twitter for Rapid Response

Twitter only has room for 140 characters; however this makes it ideal for rapid response to service issues. The entire platform is full of interactions that are short and to-the-point. You can set up an entire account just for customer service, and post the link on your main Twitter account and other social media sites. Customers can contact you easily and you can respond with a quick solution. The biggest drawback to Twitter is that the site is open for all to see, whereas Facebook offers you privacy on Messenger.

Customer Service Adds Value

When a customer knows that they can get the customer service they need consistently and quickly, they will be happy with your level of service. This customer confidence adds value to your company as a whole and can act as a channel to market new products or services to existing customers. At least for establishing initial contact, social media is an ideal way to interact and resolve customer service issues.

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Top 5 Content Marketing Trends for 2017

17 Oct

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Content marketing trends change often due to advances in technology, search engine preferences and changes in advertising. While the primary goals remain the same, strategies and techniques vary dependent on audience and industry. B2B companies work to find the best practices to reach their leads and prospects and turn them into loyal customers as they move through the marketing funnel. As content marketing becomes more sophisticated and prospects more discerning, let’s take a look at the current trends for 2017.

1. Videos Gain Importance

When online videos were first introduced, the video channels were clogged with homemade videos made by teenagers and kids that they shared with friends on YouTube and other video sites. Videos are still made by teens these days, but they are vastly surpassed by professionally made content marketing videos. Videos are a popular form of content, especially with the growth of mobile technology. They are easy for prospects to view on any device and if they offer value, drive traffic, revenues and profits to your website and/or brick-and-mortar store.

While videos can be effective for any product or service, they are particularly useful for B2B companies. Most B2B companies need to explain complex operations in bite-sized pieces. Videos are the perfect medium for that purpose. Videos don’t always have to be highly professional; simple hand-held cameras that display insight into a company’s culture, process or events can build a relationship between the business and customer one person at a time. You should also take note that videos show up at the top of the SERPS on Google, and can be searched on YouTube. YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine on the internet.

2. People Get their News from Social Media

With the majority of the news media online, many people get their news from their preferred social media channel. While a person may get individual updates from a local or national news source via email, it is quite likely that they are also getting access to stories on Facebook, Twitter or other social media sites. When you add this trend to the growing move towards personalized content, you can see how different segments of the population are seeing completely different stories. Knowing where your audience hangs out is very important in targeting your content marketing. Knowing which personas are your best customers will help hone that content for your preferred audience.

3. Super Niche, Micro Niche or Sub-Niche Branding

As content marketing becomes more personalized, marketers can increasingly dig deeper for niche interests. By pulling together a detailed persona of their ideal buyer for each tiny niche, marketing can be targeted to a very niche population. Big brands are taking advantage of this sophisticated targeting by creating micro-niche branding. If you pay attention, you can see this trend every day in advertising for foods, travel, clothing and specialized markets.

4. The Growth of Remarketing

Remarketing is an insidious force that is very effective. When you visit a website and then leave, you are shown ads from that site as you move around the internet. You can see evidence of this trend any time you search for a topic or visit a site. You get reminders to go back to the original site and place an order.

5. Interactive and Easy-to-Navigate Content

It is easy to lose prospects when they land on difficult or confusing content or hard-to-navigate pages. This issue is problematic, especially after working so hard to move leads and prospects through your marketing funnel. Making websites easier and more fun to use is an effective method of retaining visitors. As technology advances, it is a smart choice to make site interactions more entertaining.

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How to Drive Leads to Join Your Email Mailing List

12 Oct

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In order to convert leads to prospects and then customers, your B2B company first must find qualified leads. Driving those leads to join your email list is a priority, because they are your future customers. It makes sense to maximize your lead-gathering system to find as many qualified leads as you can, so that your email nurturing system can further quality them. Here is a list of methods of driving leads to join your mailing list. See if your B2B company is taking advantage of all of these opportunities.

1. Old-Fashioned Sign-Up Sheet

A tried and true method of gaining email subscribers, a sign-up sheet at industry and customer trade shows will net you qualified leads that are interested in further communication. Through a proper email nurturing system, you can prioritize these leads.

2. Ask for Business Cards

While handing out your own business cards may help you network and get referrals, asking for your leads’ business cards can give you additional opportunities to contact them. If you do this routinely, it will become a positive habit for qualifying leads.

3. Host an Educational Event Related to Your Business

Hosting an event for people interested in aspects of your business will give you an opportunity to meet leads face-to-face and then ask for contact information. You can also have an email sign-up sheet at the event or ask for attendees to leave their business cards if they want to hear more.

4. Offer a Giveaway

Depending on your industry, you may be able to offer a giveaway in exchange for an email address. Some industries allow small gifts, while others don’t. If a giveaway is not a possibility, you can offer information in exchange for an email address. An e-book, report or whitepaper on a topic in your industry works well as an exchange gift. Topics that are most successful are evergreen with updated current information such as “closing hacking loopholes” for website providers or “artificial intelligence in manufacturing for a higher profit margin” for manufacturing companies.

5. Highly-Targeted Direct Mail

Direct mail is more expensive than email, therefore should only be used when recipients are qualified and targeted. It is important to send them to the correct name and title as well as physical address. Once they receive the mail, it should work similar to the giveaway. Offer recipients valuable content that is worth it to them to exchange for an email address.

6. Website Email Sign-Up Forms

Set up your website with an email pop-up form that shows up each time a new visitor (within a specified time period) lands on one of your pages. While this method is “in-your-face obnoxious,” it works. Once they see the form, they won’t see it again until after the specified amount of time (usually 2 weeks). If they don’t sign up, they can just click the form to make it disappear.

7. Blog Post Call-to-Action

Add a CTA to every single blog post, article or guest post you publish (unless the channel doesn’t allow it), to remind leads to give you their email address. Busy people often mean to do things that they forget about when distracted by other priorities.

8. Maximize Engagement through Social Media

For B2B businesses, social media can be a valuable method of finding leads, especially if there is an industry-specific social media channel. If not, look for industry groups and clubs on bigger sites. You can also add people to your email address on service-focused social media accounts.

9. Ask for Emails at Time of Order and After Installation

It is never too late to get a customer’s email address because you can always sell them accessories, upgrades and expansions.

10. Add a Sign-Up Link to All Employee Email Signatures

Everyone in your company represents the business and seeks growth (because it pays their salaries), so it just makes good business sense to add an email sign-up link to their signatures.

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How Much Can You Automate Your Business in 2017?

10 Oct

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Automation is seen as generally positive in business – computers cost less than humans over time, they do not take sick days, and they work from a quantifiable perspective with no emotional content to get in the way of decision making. However, many experts are questioning the wisdom of over-automation. Using only automation techniques tends to remove personalization from business, a practice that may turn off more customers than automation gains for the business.

Here are some of the markers that you should take into account when you are looking to change your business through automation.

Social Media

The dirty little secret of social media is this – your initial interactions should be automated. Schedule those general posts to draw in qualified prospects who are truly interested in the subject matter. From here, you can more effectively target high quality prospects with personalized messages.

Scheduling your blog posts on an automated timeline also gives your company ubiquity online – the illusion that you never sleep. Schedule relevant social media posts for holidays or sick days and save your real energy for those close interactions that close sales.

Your Email Junk

Your relationship with email may be shaving precious minutes – or hours – from your schedule even as you believe you are conducting productive activity. Is conducting a spring cleaning every day in your email box really productive? You may actually be able to drastically reduce your email time sink through a junk mail automation program. Staying away from non-urgent or completely irrelevant emails without having to delete each piece individually give you back hours to focus on relevant prospects and customer service issues. And don’t worry – today’s email automation programs are smart enough to ensure that your top customers do not get caught up in the automated spring cleaning. At the most, you will check your email once a day instead of many times.

Payroll

Payroll is one of those business functions that actually should be automated as much as possible. There is absolutely no place for human emotion or data entry error in payroll, and any company that has inserted either into the process has lived to regret it.

There are many ways to put your payroll on autopilot. This should be done in a way that allows your employees to feel secure in their paychecks, increasing the time and the morale they have for customers.

Invoicing

Bringing money in is also a process that should be as unemotional as possible. A good system that runs automatically also serves as a buffer – your customer service reps can actually blame any unfavorable interactions on the system when some customers inevitably try to negotiate for more time or a payment reduction.

Credit card automation is also an excellent investment, as these systems are already plugged in to the major credit card company infrastructures. Your employees can let the payments run and focus their time on the personal interaction.

How much can you automate your business in 2017? Enough to give your company the leverage that it needs to personalize its operations even more. Keep the tips above in mind when you are looking to incorporate new technology into your process, and make sure that you are moving your company to a space of more interaction and engagement with customers, not less.

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Emerging SEO Trends that Affect Your Content Marketing

5 Oct

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Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a constantly changing field due to upgrades in search engine technology and operational changes at Google. Although Google isn’t the only search engine, the company drives most of the rules and practices that SEOs follow. Google’s primary focus for search is to provide the best possible results for user queries. In order to provide these returns, the search engine must be able to sort through all of the potential results to determine which should display at the top. Needless to say, this process is highly technical and difficult, compounded with all of the black hat tricks that are used to fool the search engine. Google has deployed an array of solutions to solve these issues and the work is ongoing. While making continuing changes to update your B2B website to comply with Google’s updates may seem aggravating, doing so improves the search engine for everyone including your prospects. Emerging trends are showing that SEO is being used in new ways that can only help your B2B content rise to the top. Here are some of these trends.

1. New Formats for Search

We have traditionally thought of search via search engines, but now search has expanded to audio through devices such as Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa. As more consumers buy and use these devices, customer personalization will continue to grow. Studies to understand how customers search and shop will help search technology become even more sophisticated. To take advantage of these changes, you need to focus on intimate portraits, or personas, of your ideal customers and seek to create content just for them.

2. Paid Ads vs. SEO

Paid ads are a channel that competes with SEO, yet should be viewed as an additional way to find new leads. These ads not only appear in search engines, but everywhere you go on the internet. They can drive qualified leads to your landing pages and marketing funnels and work in conjunction with your SEO marketing. It is also important to remember that SEO is a long-term strategy. Not all results will appear immediately.

3. HTTPS Security

HTTPS is growing in popularity due to a rising understanding of privacy risk inherent with the internet and Wi-Fi. Recent revelations as to the vulnerability of websites in the news can only exacerbate this issue. Google has already made recommendations that sites change to HTTPS to make them more secure, therefore don’t be surprised when sites with HTTPS show up at the top of the Search Engine Results Page.

4. Mobile Growth

We have continued to see the growth of mobile, with separate mobile search engine results. Sites with better user experience on mobile are given preference in search results from mobile devices. If you haven’t already made your website mobile-ready, you are losing a huge opportunity to reach your prospects. Customers search from smartphones and tablets while they are on the road for business, and you need to feature prominently in those SERPs.

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