Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Ginger Conlon of The Drum: What is the Most Significant Moment in the 25 Year History of Digital Marketing?

Friday, March 22nd, 2019

Yesterday I had the opportunity to participate on a panel focused on the future of customer experience at Oracle’s MCX (Modern Customer Experience) event held in Vegas.  The panel was a lot of fun because I got to sit on the panel with a couple of old friends and CRM industry thought leaders — Beagle Research managing partner Denis Pombriant, and Ginger Conlon, US Editor of The Drum.

After the panel I spent some time with Ginger to discuss an intriguing question based on the upcoming 25th anniversary of the first digital display ads being run on websites — what has been the most significant moment in the 25 year history of digital marketing?

Ginger and I take a shot at answering that, but as you’ll see below it’s kind of hard to narrow it down to one moment or thing.  You can read our attempt at answering the question with the edited transcript below. To see the full conversation you can watch the video below or the play the embedded SoundCloud player.

Ginger Conlon of The Drum: What is the Most Significant Moment in the 25 Year History of Digital Marketing?Small Business Trends:  I’m here, still at Oracle MCX, with Ginger Conlon, the U.S. editor for The Drum, and a longtime friend. I knew her before she was playing with drums. Thanks for joining me.

Ginger Conlon:  Thank you, Brent. I love the on-the-fly interview.

Small Business Trends:  Yeah.

Ginger Conlon:  Or conversation. Because I’m going to ask you questions, too.

Small Business Trends:  Oh, so you’re going to turn the tables, okay. But that’s okay.

Ginger Conlon:  It’s what I do.

Small Business Trends:  That’s exactly what you do. Matter of fact, I have a big question that you are asking a few people around a really interesting digital marketing topic, because it’s kind of what you do, right?

Ginger Conlon:  It’s what I do, but also this October is the 25th anniversary of digital marketing, and basically kicking off in mid-October with that 25th anniversary of the first banner ad. There is one banner ad that is known to be the first, but there were actually a handful of about 12 I think launched that same day.

Small Business Trends:  Wait a minute. There hadn’t been any banner ads before this one day, and then just on this one day, 12 from different areas, from different people all on the same day?

Ginger Conlon:  Kicked off.

Small Business Trends:  That’s kind of strange.

Ginger Conlon:  Yeah. I’m not sure of the history of how it all worked, that’s one of the things I’m going to be looking further into this year, but we’re going to be carrying the theme throughout the year at The Drum, so you’ll see different articles; and so one of the questions I’m kicking off with is asking people from their point of view in the market, what do you think was the most significant moment in digital marketing over that past 25 years?

Small Business Trends:  So we’re going back to basically 1994? That was before Google too, right?

Ginger Conlon:  It was… The funny thing that the first banner ad is it says something like, “Click here, you may not yet, but you will.”

Small Business Trends:  Really? That’s kind of cool.

Ginger Conlon:  It was almost predictive.

Small Business Trends:  Way to work that in there. All right. I was thinking about a couple of things. I was thinking about the first email marketing campaign, and how that’s changed the world of marketing … and spam. Then, I mentioned Google, because I was thinking about search, and then I was thinking on top of search, there’s Google Ad Words, and that kind of changed everything too.

Ginger Conlon:  Yeah.

Small Business Trends:  If I were to pick one over the other, I would pick the … go off the board and go with the unsubscribe list. Only because all these other things have inundated us, and flooded us with ads, and emails, and spam, and from a consumer perspective I like having some choice and some power over the messaging that comes to me at this point.

But really, I’m going to go with actually I’m going to go with search.

Ginger Conlon:  Yeah.

Small Business Trends:  Because that … It changed so many things. It wasn’t even Google that started it, but it was Google that kind of perfected it and got our attention. Then on top of search, you do have Ad Words, and that really changed the game. So I’m going to have to say search.

Ginger Conlon:  Yeah, well that’s interesting too, because they’re searching Google, but then if you think about how searches evolved even within sites, within Amazon, or Facebook, or Instagram, and people are searching for things that may wind up in a purchase, and not necessarily starting at Google. It really has changed the game, and then as we were talking about in our panel yesterday, you’re going to have more and more voice search. So that’s going to change the game again in the future.

Small Business Trends:  It’s like continually changing the game. Search started out as one thing, and then we get a mobile search, and now we’re going to voice search, and like you said, it’s not even just Google, because I think over half of the product searches are done on Amazon.

Ginger Conlon: Yeah.

Small Business Trends:  It just seems like it’s foundational. Although, email marketing, I mean it’s kind of hard to ignore that one, too.

Ginger Conlon:  Yeah.

Small Business Trends:  Although I try, because I get so many of those emails …

Ginger Conlon:  Email is a workhorse. It definitely has staying power. Yes, there are some companies that over email, but other companies that focus more on personalization and sending the right messages to the right people at hopefully more optimum times. Sometimes on their schedule, but at least with more relevancy. It can really get some terrific engagement, and conversions.

Small Business Trends:  And you mentioned yesterday you had an opportunity to talk to the folks over at Mack Truck, and you would think it’s 2019, businesses have been doing this forever, all businesses have been doing this stuff forever now, but that’s not really the case.

Ginger Conlon:  Right. Mack Truck has really dived wholeheartedly into digital marketing really just the past year. I mean, they tested some things before but this past year they have done significantly more than they had in the past, and everything from social, they did influencer marketing. They gave trucks to two trucking influencers.

Small Business Trends:  They gave real Mack trucks to –

Ginger Conlon:  A Mack truck to each one of them, with a kit on how to do a diary of their journey of using this truck for a year. That’s been going really well, they have only a team of four in marketing, and one of them is a video expert, and they’ve done a whole series that they’re doing a second season of this coming year that’s been performing really well for them.

Small Business Trends:  Wow.

Ginger Conlon:  What the head of marketing there was saying is that he loves it because as much as he loves the traditional in print, and things like that, he can really see how digital goes right to the pipeline. He feels like he should be accountable for helping to sell Mack trucks by getting into the pipeline for them to give sales ready leads over to their dealers.

Small Business Trends:  Yeah, well that’s really cool. But I gotta ask you now, because you asked me which one did I pick. What did you pick?

Ginger Conlon:  Oh, I haven’t picked one yet. Now the pressure’s on. That’s a good one. That’s a good one, because you know, I –

Small Business Trends:  Yeah, didn’t you come up with the question?

Ginger Conlon:  I did come up with the question. Yeah, you’re kind of spoiled for choice, because just the access to information that we have now, in real time has changed the game for business and put so much pressure on business as well, to keep up with consumer’s expectations. Again, from the panel yesterday, we were talking about there’s a book called The Entitled Consumer, and it talks about how so many of us, about three quarters, according to the study that’s the foundation of this book, feel some level of entitlement, which means that you expect special privileges.

Small Business Trends:  Right.

Ginger Conlon:  Part of that is because of this … the way digital marketing or digital in general has brought such a real-time nature to everything we do. I mean, if you want something you can probably find it and order it in seconds. If you … or maybe, you know, minutes, if you want information, if you want to teach yourself something you can find it and do it online. I actually fixed something in my car with an online video. It was a simple … It was a really not that mechanical of an issue. But still, I mean, it’s amazing what you can do today with the information, and because of that, the way marketers can reach out to you not just to sell, but also to help you.

Small Business Trends:  Yeah.

Ginger Conlon:  That’s really where it makes the difference.

Small Business Trends:  So you’re going over the whole 25 year mark, but I want to go look to the future. What do you see as a future game changer, whether it’s … You mentioned the word predictive, and one of the things that came out of the conference was around [Oracle’s new product] CX Unity, being able to take all this data, and aggregate it and then find insights, and do something with it. We just talked about video, mobile, augmented reality … I mean, there’s a ton of stuff that is out there, but which of any of those or maybe something else is going to be a big, big, big game changer over the next decade or 25 years or whatever.

Ginger Conlon:  I’m all about the data. I’m going to have to say machine learning/AI, right? Because what marketers can learn and predict using that technology, I mean it’s already established there are companies that use it and use it fairly well, but once more companies do more with it, especially as they weave it into their systems, I think what marketing will be capable of will be amazing on the one hand, and on the other hand marketers will really need to have policies in place to respect privacy and it’s going to be a situation of what you can do, versus what you should do, because of the amazing things that machine learning and AI can bring us.

Small Business Trends:  Mm-hmm (affirmative). You mentioned … I don’t know what the phrase was yesterday, but it was like creepiness to –

Ginger Conlon:  Oh, the cool creepy factor.

Small Business Trends:  Yeah, that’s it. Yeah. It’s good to be cool, but you don’t want to cross the line and be creepy.

Ginger Conlon:  Yes.

Small Business Trends:  It seems like it’s so easy and it’s getting easier to cross that line.

Ginger Conlon:  It is. Absolutely.

This article, “Ginger Conlon of The Drum: What is the Most Significant Moment in the 25 Year History of Digital Marketing?” was first published on Small Business Trends

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SBA STEP Program Helps Small Businesses with Exporting

Friday, March 22nd, 2019

Improving the SBA STEP Program

Small businesses earn trillions for the U.S. economy. And they employee tens of millions of people too. But when it comes to exports they face an uphill climb.

Luckily a government program seeks to help small businesses. The State Trade and Expansion Program (STEP) offers money and assistance to help small businesses become exporters.

Democratic Rep. Abby Finkenauer from Iowa held a recent hearing to try to tweak the program. Finkenauer now serves as Chairwoman of the Small Business Subcommittee on Rural Development, Agriculture, Trade, and Entrepreneurship.

Congress launched STEP after the global financial crisis.

Congress Seeks to Help Small Business Exporting

The hearing looked at the tough times small businesses face in the export market. It also focused on businesses in rural areas.

In a press release, Finkenauer said, “I … know that it is incredibly difficult for the small business in a town like Maquoketa in my district whose owner may want to do business overseas but lacks the staff capacity or doesn’t know where to start. Today’s hearing was a chance to hear how we as lawmakers can ensure our small businesses have these opportunities.”

The hearing looked at problems the program already faces. But officials also tried to seek ways to improve it. The Small Business Administration Inspector General made some suggestions for improvements. And the Government Accountability Office made suggestions too.

Recommendations from Kimberly Gianopoulos, Director of International Affairs and Trade for the Government Accountability Office include some of the following.

Gianopoulos urged the SBA to assess the risk to achieving program goals posed by some states’ low grant fund use rates.

And she recommended examining the challenges that states reported related to the program’s application, award processes, administrative burden, and communication.

Finally, Gianopoulos suggested the SBA enhance collection and sharing of best practices among states that receive STEP grant funds.

The SBA STEP Program

The Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 created STEP.  It began with a three-year pilot program. The success of the program led Congress to move forward. And the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act made STEP permanent in 2015.

Congress also authorized $30 million in funding through the Fiscal Year 2020. To date, the SBA has awarded around $139 million in funding to almost every state in the country.

STEP aims to increase the number of small businesses that export and the value of exports by the small business sector.

The Federal and state partnership competitively awards grants to the 50 states. Grants also go to the District of Columbia, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Guam, and American Samoa.

In addition to financial contribution, the program also supports small businesses with trade goals outside of the US. These include trade missions and market sales trips. But they also include export trade show exhibits, training and subscription to services provided by the Department of Commerce.

The Federal government provides 75% of the funding for the total project. And states provide 25% of the cost for operating.

Image: Small Business Subcommittee

This article, “SBA STEP Program Helps Small Businesses with Exporting” was first published on Small Business Trends

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They’ll Have to Scramble to Find a Replacement

Friday, March 22nd, 2019

OK, this is a fairly standard gag. You take a familiar phrase, illustrate it literally instead of figuratively, and you’re good. Except that eggs are terrible to draw.

Seriously, try drawing one now. It’s not a circle, it’s not an oval, it’s this sort of oblong teardrop but not quite.

You know when it’s right, but it might take you 2 or 3 or 12 times to get that line to curve juuuuust right.

I guess that’s what you get when the gag comes easy.

This article, “They’ll Have to Scramble to Find a Replacement” was first published on Small Business Trends

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How to Turn Your Local Marketing from Blah into Fantastic

Friday, March 22nd, 2019

Optimize your Local Marketing

Marketing is a big, vague word that that can either make your head spin or give you heart emoji eyes. Every business has a different relationship with marketing –and that’s totally ok! Whether or not you enjoy working on and delegating marketing tasks, you should consider leveraging your local marketing channels. Local marketing creates a strong foundation so that your local prospects can easily find you. Also, local marketing is fun! It’s a way to connect with your neighboring communities and meet other local businesses and potential new customers.

Local Marketing – Online

Even though the internet is a vast, big place, local marketing still has its own little corner! A great place to start is creating a Google My Business profile (GMB) for your business. This profile is a free, (whoot!) and it allows you to provide all your business info — think name, address, phone number, hours, website, business description — as well as images. Your customers can also leave reviews, which is a great way to show prospects that you are well liked!

Reimagine your digital presence. – business.com

Geo-targeting, also known as local targeting, is an online tool that lets you target specific people based on their online location. If you want to find potential customers in a specific location, (ie – your local area) you can add this tool to your social media plan!

When using Facebook or Twitter, organic posts and paid ads can be targeted to your audience by:

  • IP Address
  • Recorded Address

You can also get more granular by adding in more details, such as:

  • Country
  • State/Province
  • City
  • ZIP Code

The best part about geo targeting is that it’s super easy to implement and you don’t have to be an expert to use this tool.

Another online marketing tool great for local businesses are directory listings. Sites like Yelp, YP, Yahoo Local, and Bing allow businesses to provide local-specific messages. Offering information that’s specific to a local search allows businesses to target the right audience.

At the bottom of the funnel, listings with rich local content like pictures, offers or biographies drive more than three times the traffic as those that just contain the bare geodata. – adage.com

Local Marketing – Community Events / Outlets

One of the best ways to find your local audience is at community events that allow businesses to have a table. There are tons of options throughout the year in many communities, including:

  • Street Fairs
  • Health/Wellness/Fitness events
  • Shop Local days
  • Charity Events

You can also donate some items or services to contribute to an event as a way to give the attendees a free look into your business!

A really nice way to combine your online and offline efforts is through local influencers and magazines. These outlets are geared specifically to certain local communities. Many magazines have online and offline content available, and influencers regularly partner with businesses to promote goods and services they trust and enjoy.

Local Marketing – Bring a Friend

It’s always better, together! Give your customers a reason to bring a friend next time they come in to visit. You can offer discounts such as buy-1-get-1 offers. Many businesses incentivize their customers to bring more people by offering them discounts on products or services they are already spending money on. Plus, bringing a friend is fun! People love sharing their favorite spots and being able to get offers and discounts from doing so.

Republished by permission. Original here.

Image: Depositphotos.com

This article, “How to Turn Your Local Marketing from Blah into Fantastic” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Uh Oh! Small Business Optimism Fading, Report Finds

Thursday, March 21st, 2019

Uh Oh! Small Business Optimism Fading According to the Spring 2019 Paychex Business Sentiment Report

The ebb and flow of the economy and its cyclical nature means there will be good and bad times. With such a strong economy in the last couple of years, it was inevitable that the record-high small business optimism would eventually start fading.

Spring 2019 Paychex Business Sentiment Report

According to the latest Paychex Business Sentiment Report, business owners’ optimism has gone down in several areas since October 2018. Owners said business outlook, ability to fill open positions, and ability to raise wages are trending on the downside.

The report comes from 500 randomly selected business owners surveyed between February 15 and 26. Participants were polled on topics impacting their profitability and prospects for growth.

They were asked to rate their optimism on a scale of 1-100. One would represent the highest level of pessimism and 100 the peak of optimism.

As the third installment of the Paychex Business Sentiment Report, overall business owner sentiment is still optimistic. But as Martin Mucci, Paychex president and CEO, pointed out in the press release for the report there is a decline compared to the last report.

Mucci said, “The decline seen in these latest results are primarily around hiring and the ability to raise wages.”

He added, “This is the lowest level of confidence in employers’ ability to fill openings with qualified workers that we’ve seen since starting the Business Sentiment Report in July of last year. While jobs growth remains steady, business owners are still having a hard time finding candidates with the right skill sets to meet their needs in today’s tight labor market.”

The Tight Labor Market

The ability to fill open positions is getting harder because of the tight labor market. Unemployment levels are historically low, which makes it a job seekers market at the moment.

In the survey, the optimism level in finding the right qualified candidate is down by 8 points to 43/100. But overall small businesses are finding it less challenging to find talent.

Only 10% of companies with 1-19 employees said it was very challenging, while 23% with 20-99 employees and 40% with 100-500 employees said the same.

Wage Disparity

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for February 2019, wages are up. Although it is only 3.2% over the last 12 months, the numbers are better than the stagnant wage growth over the past decade.

The problem mirrors the results in the Paychex report as the ability to raise wages is down 10 points to 41/100.  A further breakdown of the data reveals rural areas have it much harder when it comes to raising wages.

Urban regions in the US said their outlook was 49/100 in their ability to raise wages, while rural parts of the country it went down to a low 15/100.

Overall Optimism

The overall optimism in the US economy is positive when you remove the ability to raise wages and finding qualified talent.

In this report, the number is 72/100, which is up from the fall of 2018 when it was 65/100.

The economic outlook is brighter for large organizations. Businesses with 1-19 employees said their optimism level was 62/100, while those with 20-99 workers said 71/100. Companies with a workforce of 100-500 people were the most optimistic at 75/100.

Here is an infographic with some data points.

Spring 2019 Paychex Business Sentiment Report

Image: Depositphotos.com

This article, “Uh Oh! Small Business Optimism Fading, Report Finds” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Survey Reveals 56% of Bloggers Get Better Results by Spending 6 Hours on a Post

Thursday, March 21st, 2019

Blogging Stats: 56% of Bloggers Spending 6 Hours on a Post Get Better Results

Blogs have become one of the most effective ways of communication in digital technology. And the maturation of the medium has resulted in bloggers spending more time to create high-quality posts which deliver better results.

The latest blogger survey from Orbit Media has revealed 56% of bloggers who spend six-plus hours on a blog post get better results. It goes without saying the more time you spend on a post the better it will be.

While spending six hours on a single post is possible for professional bloggers, the same doesn’t apply for someone running a small business. But an owner who knows his or her craft can write an informative post in less time and have the same impact for the desired audience.

In the report, Jay Baer of Convince and Convert highlights the importance of definitive content. Baer says, “To succeed with blogging (or just about any written word online) you must provide definitive content. Not just some half-baked flotsam and jetsam that is 85% the same as the other 5,237 posts on the topic, but real meaty stuff.”

Baer agrees long-form content delivers, with this added caveat. Adding, “But all of this long-form opining demands the one thing that is a finite resource for bloggers: time.” This is especially true for small business owners using blogs to engage with their customers.

This is the fifth year of the Orbit Media annual blogger survey. For this year’s edition, more than 1,000 bloggers were asked what goes into posting successful content. Everything from the length of the post to the frequency, the process, types of content they promote and more was part of the survey.

More Blogging Stats

Bloggers were asked a range of questions, including the time, length and frequency of their blog posts.

In 2018 the average time for writing a blog was 3 hours and 28 minutes, which is just a little more than an hour than 2014. But according to the survey, half of all bloggers spend less than three hours per post. And only one in eight of them spends over six hours on an article.

As to how long it takes for the typical post, 6% said less than one hour followed by 21% who said 1-2 hours per post. The largest percentage, 23%, spend 2-3 hours on a typical post, which was almost the same amount for those spending 3-4 hours at 22%.

Fourteen percent of bloggers said they spend 4-6 hours and 13% were investing more than six hours to make sure they had the perfect blog.

Does it Pay Off to Spend all that Time on a Blog Post?

According to the survey, it does. The report says bloggers who invest more time are seeing strong results for their effort.

While 24.3% of bloggers who spend less than one hour say they saw strong results, it jumped all the way to 38.9% for those investing 6+ hours. The difference between bloggers spending 1-6 hours is not that significant, ranging from 24.8% to 27.2%.

Length of a Blog Post

The length of the average post has grown by 351 words or 42% since 2014 when it was 800 words. Today the average post is 1,151 words, but long-form posts over 2,000 words deliver strong results.

In the survey, 9% of bloggers said a typical post for them is fewer than 500 words. The vast majority or 46% said they posted blogs with 500-1,000 words, followed by 26% with 1,000-1,500 words.

Bloggers writing 1,500-2,000 made up 11% of the surveyed group and only 8% were posting blogs with more than 2,000 words.

The results for this group is also on the same path as those spending more time. While less than 20% of bloggers writing fewer than 500 words reported strong results, it goes above 50% for long-form writers.

How Often are Bloggers Publishing?

In 2014 most bloggers said they posted several times per week. Today the frequency has gone down to several per month. The number of daily bloggers has also gone down by half.

An equal number or 2% said they publish daily or more than daily. Another 18% said 2-6 posts per week, followed by 21% posting weekly and 23% several times per month.

Publishing frequency will dictate results. And in this case, 68.8% of bloggers publishing more than daily and 62.5% of daily publishers said they had strong results. The number dramatically decreases for bloggers posting monthly or less than a month to 17.5% and 12.9% respectively.

The report also looks at analytics, formats, original research, promotion, guest posts and more.

You can read the full report here.

Image: Depositphotos.com

This article, “Survey Reveals 56% of Bloggers Get Better Results by Spending 6 Hours on a Post” was first published on Small Business Trends

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31% of Your Employees May Spend Almost Half the Day on March Madness

Thursday, March 21st, 2019

31% of Employees Spend Almost Half the Day Focused on March Madness at Work

A new survey finds 31% of employees spend one to three hours of their workday focused on March Madness. This could include talking to friends, watching games or even developing brackets for the tournament.

Monster surveyed over 300 candidates and employers about how March Madness affects small businesses. Small Business Trends contacted Vicki Salemi, Career Expert for Monster, to find out more. We asked ow this huge sporting event impacts workplace productivity.

Results of March Madness at Work

Decrease in Productivity

Small Business Trends started out by asking Salemi about any drag the tournament has on the average smaller company.

“One consequence is the decrease in productivity,” she wrote in an email. “This includes lethargic employees who stayed up late watching a big game the night prior, calling in sick the following day, or general distractions.”

This is the NCAA college basketball tournament where 68 team compete through seven rounds. It’s been held every year since 1939. The tournament started March 19-20 with the National Championship Game on April 8.

Time Wasted While On The Clock

The Monster survey also found that 13.7% of respondents spent 4-5 hours focusing on March Madness while on the clock and a full 7.3% spent 6 or more hours neglecting their work for the tourney. The majority (48%) said they stayed focused completely on their work.

Salemi said there were some things that companies can do to keep things in check and prevent employees from  getting distracted.

A Drain on Management’s Time

“Small businesses can combat this by sending a notice to employees prior to the tournament. It’s important to state that while it can be an exciting time of year for basketball fans, the focus should be to remain on work,” she writes.

“Management should lead by example, too. It’s one thing to make small talk and connect with employees, but it’s another to participate and lead distractions by focusing more on the games than the tasks at hand.”

A Boost in Camaraderie

There’s another side to employees focusing on March Madness during the workday. Salemi says that one of the upsides is a boost in camaraderie. If you can get your team involved in conversations during the tournament, the door is open to better social connections and team building.

A Danger of Exclusion

There’s a balance you need to strive for as a small business owner or manager. Any team building effort needs to include all the different employees you have. This is especially true if you’ve got an inclusive and diverse staff. Salemi suggests being able to read them accurately is a good starting point.

“Small businesses should be cognizant that not all employees may be interested in the tournament, so you don’t want to inadvertently exclude employees from the conversation.”

A Chance of Becoming a Statistic

Gauging interest in March Madness isn’t the only aspect that needs to be handled with care in the workplace. Management might need to look at how they get caught up in all the excitement too.

“It depends on the employer and leadership,” Salemi says. “They may be inadvertently encouraging this behavior if they’re participating and leading it excessively. There’s a fine line between being in the know and being among the survey respondents who spend one to three hours participating in March Madness during work time.”

Monster polled 329 job candidates and employers in the U.S. in curated C-Space research communities from February 21, 2019-February 26, 2019.

Image: Shutterstock

This article, “31% of Your Employees May Spend Almost Half the Day on March Madness” was first published on Small Business Trends

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What is a Voice Over IP Phone Number and How Can It Benefit Your Business?

Thursday, March 21st, 2019

 

Here is what you need to know about a Voice Over IP Number

The hottest technology on the market today for business and personal use is coming straight out of the VoIP and virtual phone sectors. VoIP technology lets you call from anywhere using a cell phone, computer, tablet, a VoIP phone or other data-driven device from the same number.

Let’s look at what a VoIP number is and how you can get one. We’ll also discuss how to get VoIP services started and five VoIP fraud alerts that will protect your business. A VoIP number can also save you a ton of money that conventional landlines can’t.

What Is a Voice Over IP Phone Number?

A VoIP number (also known as Voice over IP or virtual phone number) is a real telephone number that gets assigned to a user, but not to a specific phone line. Throughout the technology industry, virtual phone numbers get referred to as access numbers or direct inward dialing.

How Does VoIP Work?

VoIP works by using the Internet to place calls. Unlike traditional phone service, where the call gets routed through a phone line, your service travels over the Internet. With this method, VoIP routes a call along the most efficient paths possible.

VoIP also extends to other forms of communication, like chat and text messaging. A business owner can build a company communication system or an individual can use it for personal calls. With VoIP phones, a traditional phone line becomes obsolete for both business and residential use.

The Difference Between VoIP and Regular Phone Numbers

The mode of transmission between the two technologies is not the same. A VoIP phone number does not get assigned to a location, while a regular phone number does.

Also, the underlying technologies are dramatically different. A standard landline number travels through copper phone lines. A VoIP number utilizes data networks, such as the internet and internal enterprise LANs (Local Area Networks) to make calls.

How Do I Get a VoIP Number?

To get a VoIP number, turn to a provider. A VoIP phone service provider helps you get a VoIP number when you sign up for a VoIP service plan. Some plans are less expensive than cell phone or regular telephone service. Therefore, you reduce your communication costs while having access to more functionality and features.

How to Get VoIP Phone Service

If it’s time to switch over and get VoIP phone service, there are six steps you’ll need to take to set up VoIP phone service. First, you must check and make sure you have a good internet connection.

You’ll then need to choose the type of VoIP subscription that suits your situation and needs, then select a VoIP service. After that, you’ll purchase your VoIP equipment. Then you’ll contact a provider to get a VoIP phone number and finally, set up your VoIP system.

Why Should I Get a VoIP Number?

A VoIP phone system brings several advantages that conventional phone services cannot provide. With these benefits, you’ll find savings, enjoy accessibility, discover flexibility, and most of all, calls will be crystal clear.

Cost

Without the use of a phone line, VoIP numbers utilize your internet connection. Even with the initial VoIP phone system setup and with monthly installments, the expense is less than maintaining a traditional phone system. That reduces it down to one account for both internet and phone.

Accessibility

A VoIP phone system does not rely on distance or location to make calls. Its convenience comes from a stable internet connection. This makes communication possible across the country or halfway around the world. Just sign into your broadband account from any device and you are ready to communicate.

Flexibility

A VoIP network has a vast amount of flexibility. When using a private, internal phone network, adding multiple phones to an existing system is limited. With a VoIP network, you are only limited by your bandwidth, which can be increased, allowing thousands of possible connections.

Another way VoIP phones are flexible is their ability to operate with any device. They’ll work with computers, tablets and VoIP phones. Your PC headset, PC handset and traditional telephone set can also be used with the installation of an ATA device (analog telephone adapter).

This device allows for an existing telephone system to transition over to a VoIP phone system without purchasing new equipment right away.

Voice Quality

With a strong and stable internet connection and high bandwidth, voice quality would be equal or close to a traditional phone connection. However, in a rural area without a stable Internet connection, your conditions may suffer.

Multiple Devices

The use of multiple devices on a single virtual number is probably one of the best benefits for businesses. With the VoIP number assigned to a person, not a location, they can take that number anywhere and access their account from any device.

Once they’ve logged in, they can use a personal or company laptop, computer or cell phone that is VoIP compatible to make calls. These virtual numbers can also be set to forward calls to different telephone numbers if the user chooses. The ability to use multiple devices with one telephone number gives the user the ultimate flexibility.

Area Code Choice

Unlike conventional phones, you can choose an area code for your VoIP phone number that is not in the same city or town you work or live. This feature allows an individual or business owner to make calls to an area code of their choosing and not get charged for a long-distance call.

This also means that a business owner can assign themselves a local number in order to establish credibility. This can be helpful for businesses who have more than one location. It can also be helpful for those who would like several local numbers to route to one location.

However, if the area code that is assigned to the phone is for one specific city, like Los Angeles, but the VoIP phone is in New York, then every call made across New York or any other city other than L.A. is subject to long-distance charges.

Number Portability

Phones are no longer immobile. In the past, if you moved, the telephone company got called to update the new number at the new location. Most of the time, a service technician had to come out to set up the new phones.

However, VoIP number portability is another option, saving any business owner unnecessary downtime. Regardless of the location, the VoIP phone can still use the same phone number. All that is needed is reliable IP connectivity.

Number portability means there is no need to change the phone number if a business chooses to use VoIP service. There is no need to make changes to the website, business cards or marketing materials. Simply carry over the old number and continue operating as usual!

Toll-Free Numbers

Toll-free calling is no longer just for large enterprises. Small and medium-sized businesses can now receive toll-free calls with the use of VoIP numbers. While it varies from provider to provider, most will provide either free or very inexpensive toll-free calling.

Toll-free calling can help a business by eliminating the appearance that they are limited to one geographic area. Best of all, since you are able to have multiple VoIP numbers ring on multiple devices, these toll-free calls can be routed to your personal phone or computer.

How to Protect Against VoIP Fraud

Even though VoIP technology is easy to use and inexpensive to maintain, this modern-day business phone solution is not immune to defrauding a user. The problem with these kinds of VoIP number frauds is the difficulty in tracing the call. If you do not know what to look for or expect from a VoIP scammer, you too may become a victim of VoIP fraud.

VoIP Phones Vulnerabilities

As VoIP becomes more popular around the world, fraud and security issues continue to rise. VoIP phone systems, though easy to use, have their share of vulnerabilities.

  • Hacking attempts
  • Data-driven attacks
  • Fraudulent schemes
  • System vulnerabilities

If you’re aware of the security landscape in which VoIP operates, you won’t make the mistake of thinking that VoIP phones don’t need security.

Vishing (VoIP Phishing)

If you’ve never heard of Vishing (voice or VoIP phishing), it is a VoIP phone scam. The fraud begins with the appearance of a real caller ID displayed with a valid telephone number from a recognized and trusted source. Then the scammer attempts to convince the unsuspecting individual to disclose critical personal data and financial information.

Often, the callers will prey on two key factors to gain the information they need: a person’s fear and financial stability. Due to people trusting the caller ID and believing the phone service to be genuine, spoofed phone numbers can be used to trick the fraud victim.

Understanding Hosted and Whitelist VoIP Phone Scams

Scammers use a variety of techniques that make calls at your expense or acquire your sensitive information without your knowledge. Two common Vishing scams are:

Hosted – Hackers will attempt to break into a network of a hosted service provider, taking advantage of low security or the use of default passwords. The key to preventing this attack is changing passwords every 30 days and reviewing security processes and protocols.

Whitelist – A feature with your VoIP phone is whitelisting phone numbers. Those numbers are allowed to call in or make outbound calls. Hackers will gain access to your VoIP account and place their IP on your whitelist, thereby allowing them to make calls at your expense. You can learn how to prevent this here.

How to Protect Yourself From VoIP Fraud Attacks

VoIP phone fraud attacks are sophisticated, which makes it challenging to recognize legitimate calls and attempts at theft. Below are a few tips you can develop to protect yourself from these intrusions:

  • Never assume every call comes with good intentions and stay up to date on the latest scams
  • Don’t give your confidential information over the phone unless you initiate the call
  • Cybersecurity experts suggest changing your login details for all devices once a month
  • Never call phone numbers from unsolicited emails sent to you
  • If there is any doubt who is calling, let the caller leave a message at your voicemail

Although VoIP phone fraud can happen at any moment, there are steps you can take to protect your personal data and financial information. If used properly, VoIP phones will make your business or private communications easy, inexpensive and convenient.

VoIP phones and, in turn, VoIP phone numbers have many benefits. From their flexibility to their accessibility, VoIP numbers are a perfect addition to any business communication setup.

Remember, in order to align yourself with the best and most secure VoIP service you must do your research. Reading customer reviews can be an excellent indicator of service quality. Don’t take our word for it, see what Nextiva customers have to say!

Republished by permission. Original here.

Image: Depositphotos.com

This article, “What is a Voice Over IP Phone Number and How Can It Benefit Your Business?” was first published on Small Business Trends

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5 Unexpected Places to Network for B2B Business Leads

Wednesday, March 20th, 2019

Unconventional B2B Networking Spots

When doing B2B marketing, many business owners and sales reps tend to fall back on the same old approaches. They focus on the same places and methods for doing networking and finding new prospective clients. These include: trade shows, industry associations, and formal networking events. All of these conventional networking methods make some sense. After all, sometimes there’s no substitute for having a presence on the floor at your industry’s biggest annual convention, or pressing the flesh in person at a local business networking function. But if you want to boost your B2B marketing results, you need to be creative about where you do your networking. 

Unconventional B2B Networking Spots

Here are a few unexpected and unconventional places where you should try to do some B2B networking to find your next new prospective client: 

Nonprofit Volunteering 

Sometimes you can find new clients by volunteering at a nonprofit – not because you’re there to sell or to find new clients, but because you’re doing something that you care about, and you often will meet new people who are open to making new connections. This is a big reason why many business people love to serve on nonprofit boards – but even if you don’t have the time or bandwidth to be a board member, you can often do great networking just by being a volunteer and being an active member of a local nonprofit group. Working hard on a good cause is a great way to meet like-minded people – and many of these other professionals will potentially be open to talking with you about your business. Doing good deeds in your community can also lead to good leads for your company! 

The Gym (or the Golf Course) 

Where do you prospects and your decision makers spend their time when they’re not at work? Chances are, they spend a decent amount of time at the gym! Exercise is so important, and business leaders at all levels often pride themselves on their dedication to fitness. So don’t be afraid to strike up conversations at the gym.

Or if you want to take this networking technique to the next level: do some research and follow your key decision makers on social media to see if you can find out which gym or which golf course they belong to – and then join that same gym! (Don’t be a “stalker,” but if you can find out this information from organic methods like talking with your prospect on the phone or at a meeting, or following publicly-posted social media posts, you can often find out a lot about where your prospects like to spend their time.) 

Community Activities 

Just like volunteering at nonprofit organizations, being involved with community activities – or even attending community activities – can be a great way to expand your network. For example, if you sign up to volunteer for a local arts or music festival, you might meet a new circle of people who could potentially become clients.  

Coffee Shops 

If you’re in B2B sales, you need to go where the business owners are – and today, more business owners than ever before are working at coffee shops. Those other laptop warriors at the neighboring tables might be your next big sales prospect. Don’t hesitate to introduce yourself and strike up a conversation. Many coffee shops also have community rooms that can be rented or used for public events like business seminars and lunch and learns – look to see if there are options to host an event at your local coffee shop. 

Your Children’s School Events 

One of the underrated fun aspects of being a parent is getting involved with new circles of people and getting to meet a wider network of other parents who can potentially become new friends or new business contacts. Many schools host fundraisers and parent organizations that are good occasions for potential networking. The other parents who are chaperoning the school dance or selling tickets at the school carnival might be great contacts for your business!

One of the fun aspects of being a business owner, entrepreneur or sales person is that every day is full of new opportunities to meet new people and be of service. Even in unconventional settings, you might have great chances to network and connect with people who can become your next customers. 

Image: Depositphotos.com

This article, “5 Unexpected Places to Network for B2B Business Leads” was first published on Small Business Trends

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A Relentless Focus on the Customer Gives San Francisco’s 360 Payments a Winning Edge

Wednesday, March 20th, 2019

Sponsored Post

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Fintech sales can be tough, but Lisa Coyle of 360 Payments has found her stride

The aim of 360 Payments is to change the fabric of the payments industry by partnering with customers to provide honest and streamlined payment solutions. We chatted to Lisa Coyle, Co-CEO of 360 Payments, to find out how her customer-centric approach has helped to drive her success.

The mission of 360 Payments is to remove the stigma of credit card processing by delivering honest and pain-free payments. Lisa explains that the idea came to life in 2011 when she and her business partner were only 24 and 26.

“We were just two kids who knew how to sell and accidentally became CEOs of a big company.”

Trust and long-lasting relationships are integral to scalable sales success. Solid customer relationships not only generate more sustainable revenue but also serve to bolster your reputation and establish your business as a powerful and successful player in the market.

A Relentless Focus on Customer Centric Selling Gives San Francisco’s 360 Payments a Winning EdgeIt seems that ambition and resilience were written into Lisa’s DNA. From a young age, Lisa was enterprising and always pushing herself to work harder and do better.

It is perhaps no surprise then that 360 Payments is growing fast. The company has been selected for the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest growing businesses in America for the fourth year in a row and has now opened operations in California, Utah and Oklahoma.

“I’ll admit I’m a born entrepreneur. I was always that kid that my parents would describe as relentless and competitive. I was the one who sold the most entertainment books on the soccer team just so my parents didn’t have to pay for a jersey or a uniform or set up lemonade stands in our driveway so I could buy a trampoline. The persistence and competitiveness are still in me today and I don’t see myself ever stopping.”

While persistence and competitiveness are undoubtedly key attributes for any successful business leader, it’s Lisa’s compassion and genuine interest in others that has truly made her, and her business, unstoppable. Of course, confidence in her own product is integral to her success, but she considers this to be secondary to her customers.

3 Simple Rules for Customer-First Sales

Customer-centricity runs through the veins of everything 360 Payments does. Lisa takes a real interest in her customers and how she can make their business and their life better.

“What makes me feel like I’m winning is truly being genuinely interested in the customer and what’s going on in their personal lives and their business. What I sell is secondary to that foundation of trust.”

The success of Lisa’s customer-first approach is based on three simple rules:

1. Be Genuinely Curious

“Salespeople need to be genuinely curious about their prospects. They need to not only ask questions but make the questions sincere and provide feedback as to why they are asking the question so it doesn’t come off ‘salesy’”

Expert Sales Advice > Understand the psychology of decision-making

2. Take Notes

“Without notes, I would not be nearly as successful. I take notes on how long a prospect has been in business, how many kids they have, what trade-shows they go to, where I met them, who I have spoken to, etc. Most of my notes have nothing to do with the product I am selling, but I reference them continually and my note taking is hands down what builds the rapport and confidence someone has in me.”

Expert Sales Advice > Find simple tactics to build strong relationships

3. Be Likable and Relatable

“If you can get a prospect to talk about themselves or about anything besides what you are trying to sell them, you are setting yourself up for a win. Find a common similarity. For example, I always ask where someone is from and try to talk about a sports team in that area, about a time I visited there, or something recent in the news going on there.”

Expert Sales Advice > Constantly improve your communication skills

Lisa extends the same ethos and expectations when it comes to those working in her business. She shares how team relationships are paramount to her business and how she will always put people before processes.

“Without a doubt, what I’m most proud of at 360 Payments is our people. The family that we have created is a true work family and we genuinely care about each other.”

Culture is the crux of every solid company and is something that needs to be driven from the top down. How employees operate and treat one another ultimately reflects what you value and what you stand for as a company. It’s clear that respect, communication and trust lie at the heart of 360 Payments and that Lisa values each and every one of her employees and has their best interest at heart.

“There’s nothing more I want than to take my teammates to the next level and to make my family proud. When people bring their families to the office, that is hands down the best feeling as a business owner – to see that your employees are proud of where they work.”

Sales Software that Empowers

Lisa believes that the sales software Pipedrive has helped, especially when it comes to getting everyone on her team aligned. In particular, Pipedrive’s ‘Activities’ feature has been key to help Lisa to prioritize workloads, manage time efficiently and make sure everyone is on the same page.

“As a salesperson, my favorite part is the simplicity of putting the data in and using the

activity views to structure days and weeks; we all feel we can truly end our day not worrying that we have dropped any balls.”

From a management perspective, the statistics and real-time view allow Lisa to stay up to date with what her team is working on, without constantly chasing for updates and reports.

“I am obsessed with the activity customization, statistics and the dashboards because the salesperson never has to send any reports, they are real time, and the data is beyond accurate.”

Lisa’s success truly illustrates the power of selling with integrity and conviction. It’s clear that Lisa was destined to be successful from a young age, but what we love most about her story is how she propelled her vision through passion, honesty, and sincerity. One thing looks certain – the future holds plenty more busy growth for Lisa and 360 Payments.

“I always want to do better. I always want more. I want to give more. I want more for other people. I like to bring out the inner entrepreneur in everybody and I always see myself as being unstoppable. With the right attitude, mentality, and work ethic, I believe ANYONE can win at sales.”

Follow Lisa’s lead and learn how the right sales CRM can help you develop an unbeatable customer experience.

Image: Pipedrive

This article, “A Relentless Focus on the Customer Gives San Francisco’s 360 Payments a Winning Edge” was first published on Small Business Trends

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