Channel Partners: Survival of the fittest
You don’t need me to tell you that the partner channel is undergoing massive change. That’s nothing new, but the pace of change feels faster than I’ve seen in my 25 years in the business. New technologies, growing security risks and dramatic changes in customer expectations are demanding rapid transformation. Only the best will thrive; will you be one of them?
By Bill Hooper, Managing Director, Verizon Partner Channel
The partner channel has always been fiercely competitive. And in the last four to five years, we’ve seen an enormous number of mergers, consolidations and acquisitions in the telecommunications industry. Many of the smaller, niche companies are being absorbed by larger ones. Meanwhile, customers are demanding lower prices than ever, reducing profit margins.
While competition is a perpetual challenge, I’ve found the biggest thing affecting the partner channel is the speed of technological evolution. I’ve seen many channel partners struggling to keep up with the pace of change. Some are determined to stick with selling their dated product sets and older network elements—but this can make it harder for them to stay ahead of the technology curve. Products like SD-WAN are in high demand, and if you don’t have the capability to offer these advanced solutions then your customers will look elsewhere. And they will take all their business with them.
Several years ago, you might have sold an internet connection and voice services to a business, and that would have been fine. Today things are very different. Customers want to work with someone that can provide data networks, voice services, advanced security solutions and 4G LTE wireless backup solutions—to name just a few. As a result, Partner Program Members need much deeper technology expertise to stay relevant. And achieving that is no easy feat.
Train to stay ahead of the curve
There’s no simple answer to these challenges, but there are steps you can take to improve your chances of staying competitive. One of my key recommendations is having a robust training program. Your employees need to be informed about the latest technologies and services—so they can anticipate your customers’ needs, instead of reacting to them.
Verizon is investing enormous amounts of time and resources into training our Partner Program Members. Each week our product specialists run two-hour training classes which our master partners and their sub-agents are encouraged to attend. These sessions delve into the specifics of our products and services, so the people out selling in the field can spot opportunities and provide useful advice and guidance to their customers.
We invest so much in this training because our channel partners’ success matters to us. When our partner channel does well, Verizon does well. And we know that great channel partners are hard to come by, which is why we’re willing to put in the hard work to attract and retain your business.
To put it simply—we’re in this together. And we’ve found that ongoing training is the best way to stay ahead of the technology curve, which is evolving so rapidly. It gives our channel managers and partners the toolset they need to solve challenges their customers face on a daily basis.
Innovate or be left behind
Innovation is also incredibly important. Take security, for example. Even just five years ago, you didn’t really hear most carriers talking security services. But that’s changed dramatically. Now security solutions are an essential offering for any telecommunications provider.
Earlier this week, I was watching the news and I saw that another major retailer has been hit by a data breach. Millions of consumers’ credit card details have reportedly been stolen and are being sold on the web. I don’t know what kind of security solution this company had in place, but if the tale follows previous ones it’s likely we’ll find out that the breach could have been prevented—and damage to its reputation and finances avoided.
And it’s important to realize that it’s not just large corporations at risk. Verizon’s 2018 Data Breach Investigations Report found that 58% of data breach victims are categorized as small businesses. Unfortunately, some channel partners are still stuck in the past in terms of security and technology—and not surprisingly they’re being left behind. If you fail to innovate, your customers will soon suffer for it.
Learn from the success of others
It helps to look at the channel partners who are doing it right. I once worked with a relatively new company which had decided to branch out on its own and become a channel partner. They already had a number of strong relationships with customers. Despite this, it took a long time to get their business going.
Over the next few years they worked hard. They looked at customer billing problems, service issues, and how to improve their customers’ existing networks. It wasn’t glamorous work, but focusing on their customers’ needs and tackling these basic IT problems was a sensible starting point. They also invested a lot of time in getting their customers up to speed with the fundamentals of the new technology. Today, this company is one of the largest channel partners in their region—so all that hard, gritty work has definitely paid off.
It might sound clichéd, but the truth is that success doesn’t happen overnight. You need to stay ahead of emerging technology, continually train your employees, offer innovative security and use your knowledge to deliver real benefits to your customers. You can’t afford to rest on your laurels—change is a constant.
Work with a supportive vendor
I’m a firm believer that technology vendors should provide both solutions and support to help their channel partners grow. Your success is key to our own, so let’s help each other out.
Verizon has recently announced a new package that will address their customers’ biggest telecommunications and connectivity needs. This new solution will enable channel partners to provide a data network installed entirely on Verizon’s facilities. It will also have advanced voice communications services and security solutions as part of the package. And on top of that, Verizon will provide 4G LTE backup for the data network.
With all-in-one solutions like this, we can help our Partner Program Members to meet their customers’ needs in the most efficient way possible. This means both parties get the best results and can focus on growing their business. I’m very proud to be involved in this new initiative and can’t wait to see the impact it will have on our partner channel.
Bill Hooper, Managing Director, Verizon Partner Channel North American Agents, has over 25 years of sales and operations management experience leading both indirect and direct sales organizations. Prior to working at Verizon, he led the channel at XO, and before that sales organizations at Qwest/CenturyLink for over 15 years in Houston Texas and Atlanta Georgia. While there, Bill led his global account teams to work collaboratively with channel partners to win large enterprise accounts increasing revenue annually. At Verizon, Bill continues to drive significant enhancements for the Business Partner Channel with investments in automation, innovative sales programs to strengthen relationships with channel partners, and other key initiatives designed to create an excellent experience for the Verizon and former XO partner community.
Not so long ago at the end of the day and on my way home from work, my sweet wife called me and asked that I pick up some dinner from a new little Chinese place our friends had raved about. So, I pulled over and Googled the name of the place, figuring I would find their site and menu, give them a call, and pick up some takeout. But it didn’t work out that way.
The place didn’t have a website.
I was fairly flabbergasted but then again, not really, because I know that sad stats: Recent surveys show that – even now – just about half of all small businesses still do not have a website. Some say that is foolhardy, others explain it away, but I call it small business malpractice.
Given that we are living in an uber-competitive digital world, the fact is that if you want to survive (let alone thrive), you simply must help customers find you online. How do you do that? Here are the 5 key steps:
- Create a memorable brand: What is a brand? Essentially it is your business reputation, personality, and promise all rolled into one. Take Starbucks for example. If any business has a specific, memorable brand, it is Starbucks. So, what does Starbucks’ CEO, Howard Shultz have to say about branding?
“Customers must know that you stand for something.”
Look, there are 30 million businesses in the U.S., and 99% of those are small businesses. That is a lot of competition, especially today with everyone’s limited attention span. Your job then if you are going to get noticed, is to give people a reason to notice you. You do that by having a specific brand that is attractive to the consumer. You could be, for instance
- The organic grocery store, or
- The sedation dentist, or
- The friendly lawyer
Whatever the case, a great brand is one that offers people a specific, desirable benefit. Once you know and have that, then step two is to
- Create tools that reinforce that brand: As we all well know, small businesses have limits with regard to marketing, both in terms of budget as well as time and expertise. What works then when looking to have people find and choose you is to reinforce that brand in all you do. You need to
- Have a website that, not just explains who you are and what you sell, but emphasizes your desired brand
- Create social media handles, pages, and posts that highlight that brand as well
- Have signs and signage that does the same
- Have a team that understand what your business is about and what it is you are seeking to accomplish with this branding effort
The point of all of this is to begin to create a specific idea of who your business is in the public consciousness. You need to give people a hook to remember you, and your brand is that hook.
- Organically market your business and brand: The great news about marketing today is that it can be so affordable. Back in the day, marketing was very expensive, but these days, between websites, social media, e-newsletters, SEO and the like, marketing can be very inexpensive, even free, while also being quite effective.
Of particular importance are SEO and social. Search engine optimization is vital because search is still how a lot of folks find new businesses. The same is true for social. While a deep dive into SEO and social media marketing mastery are beyond the scope of a blog like this, suffice it to say that it would behoove you to learn these tricks and techniques. It is actually not all that hard and can reap great rewards.
- Advertise: We all know that Page 1 of Google is the brass ring of marketing. It can happen, and indeed does every day, but it typically takes time. The good news is that you can still get there by using pay-per-click ads. Similarly, Facebook ads have been proven to be very effective for reaching a specific audience. Offline advertising that reinforces your online efforts can be very valuable too.
- Remember the rule: Finally, remember that when it comes to marketing and sales, there is one Golden Rule:
Repetition is the key, repetition is the key, repetition is the key.
What is the key? See? It requires repeated reinforcement to be remembered and chosen; to be heard above the din. The good news is that if you do it right, they will remember and find you, and even stop by for your world-famous Kung Pao Chicken.
Securing a Small Business Network: it even sounds daunting! The days of installing Norton Anti-Virus on your computer and thinking you are safe, are over. Today you need to take a layered approach to securing your network. Think of it as a puzzle, with each piece playing an important role. No one solution solves the problem; it's various products, devices, solutions, and software that must all work together to secure an environment. In my upcoming webinar with Verizon, I’ll discuss the top seven ways you can protect your Small Business Network. Here’s a sneak preview of what you’ll about learn at the webinar.
#1 – Replace Your Router with a UTM Gateway
Unified Threat Management, or UTM, is a buzzword in technology today. The idea is to block security threats before they enter your network. Traditionally a network gateway consisted of a Router or Firewall while the workstation or other devices would handle AntiVirus, AntiSpam, Web Filtering and other security functions. A UTM Gateway combines a Router, Firewall, Anti-Virus, Anti-Malware, Intrusion Prevention, Content and URL Filtering, etc. into one device. This device analyzes incoming network traffic before it enters your network and can throw out suspect data before it has a chance to infect your computers.
#2 – Install Content and URL Filtering on your Computers
Content Filtering is the process of controlling the content that a computer can access on a network. This can be as simple as blocking broad categories of websites, such as pornographic or violence-oriented content. Going further, Content Filtering can be used to block things such as pop-ups, advertisements, URL redirects, cookies and even Flash or Java-based content.
URL Filtering is allowing or denying access based on the URL or origin of the requested content. This can be used to block specific websites that an organization does not want its employees accessing, such as monster.com or facebook.com. Instead of filtering based on broad categories, this is a granular approach to filtering. Many URL filtering services include dynamic block lists which will prevent access to websites that are known security threats. This can significantly reduce the risk from zero-day threats, which are so new that most anti-virus software is not yet aware of them.
#3 – Implement Software Restriction Policies
Software Restriction Policies define the files and file types that are allowed to execute on your computer. Similarly to how a firewall will allow or disallow traffic based on specific parameters (source, origin, port, protocol, etc.), Software Restriction Policies can allow or reject programs based on their location on the disk, filename, file type, etc.
There are essentially two ways to implement Software Restriction Policies: Whitelisting or Blacklisting. Blacklisting allows any program to execute by default unless it matches a restriction defined by an administrator, specifically file type, file name, or file path. For example, a Blacklist restriction might say that any file named Spotify.exe cannot execute. This would effectively block the program Spotify from running on a computer that is subject to this policy. For a brief analogy, think of Blacklisting as the TSA's No Fly List. Anyone can fly on an airplane (with a ticket and proper ID) as long as they are not on the No Fly List.
Whitelisting, on the other hand, takes the opposite approach. By default, no programs can run unless they match specific allowed criteria. In a Whitelisting scenario, you may have a policy that will enable C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office\root\Office16\Excel.exe to execute. This would allow Microsoft Excel to run, but any other program would be disallowed. You can think of Whitelisting as the lock on your home’s front door. No one is allowed in unless they have the key to unlock your door
Whitelisting is a more effective strategy to keep your computers secure; however, it can require more time and effort to implement and can be more intrusive to the end user.
#4 – Filter Incoming Email for Spam
Spam Filtering is the process of separating the "good" email from the "junk" email. It's the same thing you do when you get home from work and stand over the trash can with that day's mail. You filter the junk into the trash can, and you keep the important items.
Spam email can be overwhelming without effective filtering. It is estimated that there are over 14.5 billion spam messages sent daily. In addition, some estimates indicate that 73% of all email traffic is spam. These aren't just advertisements for the next gadget or miracle pill, many of these messages contain malware, viruses, phishing scams, etc.
Spam is also very costly to a business. Without a solid spam filtering system, employees can spend a significant amount of time identifying and then deleting spam that arrives in their inbox. Nucleus Research Inc. did a study that found spam costs U.S. companies over $71 billion per year in lost employee productivity.
#5 – Install Endpoint Security Software on All Workstations and Servers
Think of Endpoint Security Software as one of the last lines of defense in our layered approach to securing your SMB network. Endpoint Security Software is installed and runs on each of your workstations and servers. A decade ago, Endpoint Security Software was essentially Anti-Virus software (Think Norton or Symantec Antivirus). That type of software only had to look out for viruses involving rogue code. Fast forward to 2018 and Anti-Virus software is just a small part of Endpoint Security Software.
Today, it is expected that your Endpoint Security solution will include Anti-Virus, Anti-Malware, and Anti-Ransomware. Many leading solutions include things such as Sandboxing (A way to safely execute suspicious applications/code), dynamic firewall and port protection (To prevent Trojans and/or Ransomware from downloading payloads), Email protection (Anti-Spam, Anti-Virus, Anti-Phishing), Browser Protection and URL Blocking, USB Protection, the list goes on and on.
#6 – Make Sure You are Installing Patches and Updates Regularly
Patching is the process of approving and installing updates to the software, hardware, and operating system installed on your computer. The term "Patching" is normally used when addressing a security risk. "Updates" usually refer to an improvement or an upgrade in a software package. Security Firms, Hackers, Software Companies, and Hobbyists are continually finding defects and exploits in software. When these vulnerabilities are identified and made known to the software companies, the software company should quickly release a patch to resolve the vulnerability. For example, Adobe Flash is one of the most exploited applications of all time. When a new exploit is identified, Adobe will release a patch to resolve the threat. Your computer is considered vulnerable until you install the latest Adobe Flash patch.
#7 – Restrict User Accounts
Local Administrative Rights give you full access to a computer. This allows you to install programs, remove programs, modify and delete any files on the computer (regardless of which user created them), and change any settings/configurations that you wish.
The number one reason why you should be restricting administrative rights is to combat malware, ransomware, and viruses. If a user opens an infected email attachment or clicks on a link they shouldn't, the malicious program can only execute using the permissions of the end user. As a result, if the end user has Administrative Rights, the malicious code/program can likely do whatever it was intended to do on that computer. However, if the user account doesn't have permission to execute programs or edit specific files, the malicious code won't be able to execute. In an adequately secured SMB network, the end user is always the weakest link. Restricting local administrative rights dramatically reduces this risk.
The layered approach that Banks Technology Services uses to secure our client's networks was developed over many years of seeing what works and what does not. No single piece of this puzzle will secure your network. Each piece focuses on a particular attack surface, and together they minimize the risk to your Servers, Computers, and your data. Be sure to register for my webinar, on Wednesday, March 21st, to learn how each of the pieces should be tailored to your specific business needs. I look forward to answering your questions during the live Q&A session.
- Everyone's Tags:
- Zero Ethics
Gender diversity is good for business—and there’s research to back it up. MSCI Inc studied the performance of US companies between 2011-2016 and found that companies with at least three women on the board had returns 11% higher than those with none.1 A study of companies with high market values by Credit Suisse found that those with at least one woman on the board outperformed their peers by 26% over six years.2
There are several reasons why gender diversity could be good for your bottom line. One is “diversity of thought”. Research has shown that having employees from different backgrounds can help to improve creativity and innovation.3 Gender diversity also helps you reflect and understand the needs of your customer base. Unless you’re targeting an all-male consumer group, a gender-diverse workforce can help your salespeople, leadership and marketing teams to attract and empathize with customers from all walks of life. And this can ultimately improve your sales and customer loyalty.
On the other hand, gender discrimination can hurt your business in many ways. When you discriminate during the hiring process—either internally or externally—you limit the pool of talent you can draw on. And you risk negative exposure and long-term damage to your brand if any kind of discrimination is exposed, especially now that gender diversity issues are gaining prominence in mainstream media.
Practical ways to increase diversity
It’s hard to argue with diversity in theory. But as the owner of a small to mid-sized business, it might not seem like a high priority or you might worry about how to achieve it—especially if you don’t have a dedicated HR department, or you’re faced with strict budget and resource constraints. But the following practical steps can help you to attract a more diverse workforce and create a fairer and more inclusive environment.
Encourage balanced recruitment
The obvious way to improve gender diversity at your business is by hiring more women—but you need to tread carefully to avoid reverse discrimination. Instead, you should continue recruiting candidates based on their merit and suitability, while striving to make your advertised jobs equally attractive to all genders and demographics.
One of the best ways to attract more women candidates is by implementing flexible working policies. Women are disproportionately affected by the restrictions imposed by strict office hours that conflict with childcare and family commitments. Fair paternity leave can also help employees to share family responsibilities, and in turn this supports the progression of women in the workplace. A 2016 study found a strong positive correlation between paternity leave and the number of women in leadership positions.
Pay attention to the language used in your recruitment ads—what underlying messages are you sending? Take care to avoid traditionally masculine and feminine words. During interviews, ask questions about candidates’ achievements and experiences, not their personalities. Too often assertiveness is praised in men while being perceived negatively in women. And possessing typically masculine traits doesn’t necessarily make someone a better candidate for a managerial role. To avoid these inherent biases, aim to have a mixed-gender panel of interviewers when possible.
Improve policies and transparency
Pay inequity is still pervasive in many industries and can be difficult to address. One important step you can take is implementing transparency about salaries with your staff and stakeholders. This often forces companies to take a real look at whether they’re paying employees fairly for equal work. And there’s growing legal pressure to comply with this, as a number of states and local governments are adopting new pay equity laws.
You should also have a formalized “equal opportunities” policy in place. This is a manifesto which reinforces your commitment to equality—stating that employees will not be discriminated against based on gender, race, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation or other factors that have no bearing on their ability to do a job. It should include a formal grievance process for any employees who feel they’ve suffered discrimination.
When designing such policies, be sure to take feedback from women and any other under-represented groups in your business. Ask them if you’re doing enough to create an inclusive environment and assess each team’s understanding of equal opportunities policies. Asking questions through a diversity and inclusion focus group or employee panel is a good way of achieving this.
Support mentorship programs
To work towards closing the gender gap, especially in sectors like STEM, it’s important that we empower the next generation of women. Try to make your business and its career opportunities more visible to them. You could do this by connecting with young women’s programs in local schools and universities or hosting a mentorship program for female graduates.
Verizon is a proud sponsor of the Women in Technology and Entrepreneurship in New York (WiTNY) mentorship program—which helps to inspire, encourage and prepare high school girls for rewarding careers in the tech industry. The collective holds day events and build-a-thons, where young women get hands on with the latest tools to create real products, while networking with successful women leaders in the field. Verizon has also launched the Ad Fellows program with several partner agencies, an eight month marketing fellowship for college graduates from diverse backgrounds.
Enhancing workplace diversity and bridging the gender gap isn’t an easy task. Despite decades of progress, women are not yet equal in the workplace: pay inequity, harassment and discrimination remain problems. But as these issues become more visible, so do the steps we can take to make a difference. No matter how big or small your business, we all have our own part to play in building a fairer, more equitable world.
3 Scientific American, How Diversity Makes Us Smarter, October 2014.
By Barry Moltz
Most small business owners avoid sales because it makes then uncomfortable. But even if you have a great product, you can’t grow your business without actively selling. This upcoming webinar will share simple and quick shortcuts to keep every company’s sales pipeline full and turn prospects into customers.
The sales hacks will include:
How to get prospects to reply when they don't. It happens all the time. You make a great sales call on a prospect and they say they want to buy your product. You set up an appointment for the following week to solidify the details. You call and email over and over again, but never hear from them. What happened? This hack will show you a proven technique to get a reply from the customer (positive or negative), so you can close this sale or move on to others that are truly interested in buying your product.
How to get a referral from your customers. The best way to get a new customer is a referral from a satisfied one that you have. This immediately puts you at the front of the line for anything that referred prospect wants to buy. The problem is that most small businesses don’t have a systematic way to get ongoing referrals for their company. This hack shows you when and how to ask for a referral that will get you a new prospect every time.
How to get online reviews from your customers. Almost as valuable as a specific referral from a customer is a positive online review. Most buyers believe reviews from past buyers more than any paid company advertising. Studies show that 85% of shoppers trust these types of posts from people they don’t even know as muc.... This hack shows you how to encourage online reviews, when they should be posted and where they can be most effective.
How to deal with negative online reviews. It’s a fact of business that not every customer will be satisfied with your product or service. Increasingly, they will go online and post a negative review about their experience. The most important thing is not to get mad or ignore this feedback. This hack will show what steps you can take to turn this negative review into a positive experience for the customer and everyone else that later reads this post.
How to deal with an angry customer. People get mad and frustrated if their purchase experience does not go exactly the way they expect it. The biggest mistake that many companies make is that they ignore the customer or end up arguing with them. Most customers just want to be heard and shown a bit of empathy. This hack will demonstrate how to turn this bad situation of an unhappy customer into an advocate and gain invaluable feedback that helps your business continuously improve.
By Anita Campbell
Want to stay ahead of your competition? Want 2018 to be the year you not only achieve but exceed your business goals?
If so, join me for a special webinar on January 24th. We’re going to put on our strategy hats and cover five important trends. Most importantly, you’ll learn concrete tips for how to use these trends to drive more profitability, get your business efficient, and grow sales.
In my publication, Small Business Trends, we make a point of tracking and explaining key trends. Here’s why you need to stay on top of these marketplace trends and learn everything you can:
- Customer habits and expectations are changing. Customers have gotten used to the level of service provided by behemoths like Amazons. They now expect the same of our businesses, even if we don’t have the resources of Amazon.
- The competition moves incredibly fast. The barriers to entry are lower. Today’s competition can come out of nowhere and go from 0 to 60 in the blink of an eye, what with low-cost technology, wireless communications and the ability to source staff quickly.
- Technology is experiencing a whirlwind of change right now. “AI” which stands for artificial intelligence, was voted the marketing word of the year for 2017. That ought to tell you something about the promise of new technologies.
Trends like these are challenging businesses of all sizes and especially small businesses.
Mark your calendar and register for this informative session where we’ll cover these 5 key trends: The Automation Revolution Rise of Amazon Expectations The Instant Customer Service Trend The DIY Dichotomy Always-On Operations We will explain what these trends mean for your business. Get ahead of the curve and lead in your marketplace, by understanding how to capitalize on these trends for growth and profit. We’ll “think big” -- but also discuss how to “execute small” to make concrete progress.
Title: 5 Trends that Will Drive Your Profitability and Growth in 2018
Date: Wednesday, January 24, 2018 at 2:00 pm Eastern time
Register here to reserve your spot:
This year, we’ve seen the Internet of Things go enterprise-grade and Software-Defined Networking (SDN) move from something being talked about to something that’s going live. It will be interesting to see how they develop in 2018. And there are plenty more technologies on the horizon, which experts are already billing as the next big thing.
We take a look at three technologies set to make their mark in 2018: augmented reality (AR), automated security intelligence and cryptocurrencies. Large enterprises are already starting to implement these technologies to help streamline their operations, improve customer experience (CX) and strengthen their security. But they’re not just for enterprises. They could prove key for smaller businesses too.
Security intelligence automation
As your IT ecosystem grows, so do the cyber threats to your business. In a more connected world, where your perimeter is forever growing as you connect more things, businesses are more and more vulnerable to cyber-attacks. And that means security needs to be a priority, not an afterthought.
No defense is invulnerable. You need to be ready to respond to attacks fast. Strong cybersecurity is based on intelligence and being able to spot and act on the real threats to your business. The latest security solutions are using increasingly sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to identify unusual patterns, detect possible attacks and trigger the right response. AI won’t replace human intelligence any time soon though—instead it’s augmenting it. There’s still a big role for security experts who understand the real threats posed to your business.
AR overlays your natural environment with virtual information, which augments what would normally be available to the user. For example, AR glasses have been developed for surgeons performing complicated back surgery. These project 3D models of the patient’s spine onto the lenses, helping the surgeon to get quite literally under the skin of the patient and carry out procedures far more accurately than they would otherwise be able to.
AR isn’t just for surgeons. New applications are emerging all the time. One way AR is being used to great effect is as part of the recruitment process. It can give prospective employees an insight into what it’s like to work at an organization, what the culture’s like and if it’s for them, before they start. That can cut down on the time it takes to onboard new employees—and improve staff retention. With more realistic expectations, new recruits may be more likely to stay.
We’re likely to see more uses of virtual reality (VR) too—for example, to deliver better quality training. One insurance firm has introduced VR-based training for its claims adjusters, who explore and assess the damage caused to customers’ houses from major catastrophes such as earthquakes. Using VR, the adjusters can experience simulations of these and other incidents, helping to improve their job-readiness from the outset.
Cryptocurrencies are a form of digital currency that use cryptography to secure and verify the transaction. Bitcoin is the best-known of these cryptocurrencies, but is by no means the only one: Ethereum, Ripple and Litecoin are some of the others widely available. While some cryptocurrencies have attracted negative publicity because of their volatility as an asset class, when used purely as a means of payment, they have a number of advantages. For small and medium businesses (SMBs), perhaps the most relevant is that they can make transactions cheaper and more efficient: they can cut down on processing fees and speed up clearing times on payments.
Another bonus for SMBs is that cryptocurrencies can be easily added to payment systems by opening up a merchant wallet account. This account can be integrated with existing points of sale, giving potential customers greater flexibility when it comes to paying. That’s why many SMBs are already starting to pay attention to cryptocurrencies.
These are just some of the technologies that could begin to have a big impact on your business in 2018. They can offer simulated situations to help improve training for employees, add to customer payment options for better CX and spot cyber threats before you do to help maintain the security of your systems. It’s time for small organizations to start investigating the possibilities.
Technological and digital innovations have changed many industries beyond recognition. From retail with its wide adoption of e-commerce, financial services and its increasing digitization, to traditionally offline industries such as agriculture—it seems no sector has escaped the rise of technology.
For established firms and sectors, this disruption often comes as a shock. Even firms with an apparent stranglehold on their sector have crumbled as new upstarts have emerged. For instance, Blockbuster has gone bankrupt, while Netflix has gone global.
Missing the warning signs
A common lament among these businesses is “we didn’t see it coming.” But the signs are normally there. Netflix actually approached Blockbuster just to be rebuffed.
Firms often miss these signs because they’re looking in the wrong places. Many expect mega-disruptors such as an Uber, an Airbnb or an Amazon. The reality is often less dramatic.
In recent years, the most interesting and successful innovations have come not from exciting new product developments, but from business models and customer experience. More commonly, a firm has simply listened to what its customers need and taken steps to meet their expectations. Uber, for instance, recognized that consumers wanted a cheaper, on-demand taxi service—and delivered it.
What could work better?
The secret is not to try and pre-empt what you think customers will want, but to listen to what they actually want. Once you’ve identified unmet needs, you can start to plug these gaps. This is a strategy firms of all sizes can follow.
Organizations tend to think that withstanding disruption means large investment in the latest tech. But often small changes can make a big difference to overcoming customer frustrations and keeping their business.
You need to talk to customer to understand their pain points. These could be anything from having a generic website contact form that makes it difficult for customers to reach relevant people within the firm, to a physical store that’s open when customers are at work. Just adding a contact name or an “about us” section on your website could reduce customer frustration and improve lead generation. Small changes can have a big impact.
Managers and other decision makers spend much of their time focused on achieving their immediate targets, whether that’s scouring sales reports or haggling with suppliers. They can get caught up with the daily grind and along the way miss what customers really want. This can lead to services or products that are good enough, but not exceptional.
People will often put up with products that are clunky simply because no one has suggested a better one. Exploring these areas can transform customer experience. Until Heinz developed easy squeeze ketchup bottles in the 1980s, customers had long put up with coaxing the condiment out of unyielding glass bottles by either bashing the top or inserting a knife into the bottle. Consider whether you’re really addressing the underlying problem, or simply alleviating the symptoms. If someone else does come up with a product that genuinely solves a problem, the chances are your customers will opt for that.
Look around and listen
If you’re going to avoid disruption, really listening to customers can prove more important than examining what regional sales reports say. You should also keep track of what your competitors are doing. What improvements are they making that you might be able to follow? You could look outside your industry for inspiration too.
Uber wasn’t invented by a taxi driver, or Airbnb by a hotelier. These companies were able to look at the respective industries from a detached vantage point and apply best practice from tech to transform customer experience.
Last, but not least, pay attention to your employees. They’re often the first point of contact with the outside world and can provide invaluable feedback about how seemingly mundane processes can be streamlined for the ultimate benefit of the customer.
If you actively listen to those around you, you’re more likely to see what’s coming.
With email still recognized as the most effective and easiest form of online marketing, some small business owners might be bewildered at their lack of results with this marketing channel. After all, if it’s so effective and easy, then why are they not getting much business from it?
It all boils down to choosing the right tools and developing the best strategy, something which I teach to my private consulting clients all the time. Now you get to learn some of my marketing secrets thanks to Verizon’s webinars for small business owners like you, for free.
In my upcoming webinar for Verizon, How to Get the Most Bang from Your Buck (and Save Time) with Smarter Email Campaigns, I will expand on the knowledge I shared in my previous seminar How to Develop a World-Class Email Advertising Program Without Spending a Fortune. (I highly recommend you watch it)
I delivered that webinar this past July, and it was a hit! Hundreds of attendees learned how to start an effective email advertising program for very little money or even free, and the response was tremendous, with letters thanking me and requesting more information still coming in to this day. This showed people were hungry for more, and so I am going to dive even deeper into effective email advertising and cover things I wasn’t able to in the last webinar.
This webinar is organized around the five things I teach my consulting clients in order to get the most bang for the buck and save time with smarter email campaigns:
- Know Your Customers: The first thing to do is figure out who you are trying to sell to. By knowing your customer, you can tailor your messages to each group. A CPA might have several different customer groups: small business owners, individuals who need help dealing with the IRS, firms that need training/setup help with Quickbooks, etc. Each of these customers is being sold a different service, and should be targeted individually. In my webinar I will teach you to establish your customer personas, so you can target more effectively.
- Develop Great Offers: To cut through the clutter and avoid being generic, you need to create great offers which spur the buying decision. This means creating killer subject lines and email bodies and layouts which work. Regardless of your industry, you can create excitement with your emails to increase open rates and clickthroughs. I will show you how.
- Align Your Forces: Rather than send out random emails every once in a while, I teach clients to plan campaigns which align all marketing channels, including social media, print, and PPC. I will share some tools and templates you can use to stay organized and keep track of what to send next from all channels.
- Automate: The more you can hand over to an email or marketing automation platform, the better. There are some free or cheap tools which will help you tie all your online marketing together so you can run your business and serve customers as opposed to tinker with your computer all day.
- Measure & Refine: If 1000 people open an email, but none respond, there is something very wrong. I will teach you what to look for to gauge success and some tools to improve your conversion rates.
Other things I will cover:
- Advanced tips to increase sales using email
- How to make people respond NOW
- Develop killer subject lines and offers using questions, how to’s, commands, lists or controversy.
- Learn the best day and time to send an email
- Decide between HTML and text emails for your business
- Automate mundane marketing tasks
- Easily optimize for both mobile and desktop audiences
- Make each campaign better than the last
- and many more tips and tricks of the trade!
All small business owners and marketers interested in doubling or tripling their sales from email marketing are highly encouraged to attend.
If you missed the first seminar, I HIGHLY recommend watching the playback here, and email me at email@example.com to request a copy of the presentation to study and share with your team.
Delighting your Customers with Today’s Communications Technology
by Andrew Roth, Field Marketing Manager at Verizon Business Markets
Twitter | @AJRothCA
Many small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) are already using advanced communications technology to delight their customers. These days anything from booking a doctor’s appointment to hiring a party magician can be done online. The latest communications innovations are helping organizations improve every step of the customer journey, stand out from the competition and delight their customer.
Leveraging the latest communication tools
There are hundreds of accessible and affordable communications tools that SMBs can use to deliver great experiences. For example, by upgrading your traditional phone lines to a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) based system, you enable your customers to call you from any of their digital devices. You can set up “simultaneous ring” to help make sure no call goes unanswered. And by integrating VoIP with your CRM platform, your employees can give customers an even more personalized experience.
VoIP also supports video calling, which can help to bring you closer to your customers. For professionals who offer in-depth client consultations—such as, architects, engineers and designers—an HD video call can be as effective as meeting in person. Share your screen, interactive portfolio or online presentation, and showcase your work before the customer even sets foot in your office.
When customers have an enquiry, they should be able to contact your business in a way that suits them. Often, they will choose to do this through social media—an increasingly popular channel for customer queries. Some companies are even using chatbots to meet the growing demand for 24/7 service. These bots can be programmed to offer helpful suggestions, manage booking times or redirect customers to relevant webpages.
If your customers want to book your services online, there are increasingly sophisticated tools to help them to do this. Online booking systems have been around for years—but the service doesn’t have to stop when the customer hits send. Today’s booking apps can be integrated with your customer’s existing calendars, setting automatic notifications and sending friendly SMS reminders so they never miss an appointment.
Of course, it’s not just online experiences that matter. Communications technology is making a difference in-store as well. Employees equipped with tablets can answer customer queries faster. If you have reliable, secure free Wi-Fi, customers can find answers themselves and experience the best of online and physical CX.
Delivering the best customer experience
The latest innovations can surprise and delight, taking your customer experience to the next level. And they’re no longer just the province of big enterprises. These advanced communications tools are increasingly affordable and accessible, and there are many off-the-shelf solutions. But they do rely on your underlying IT infrastructure to operate efficiently.
Your network connectivity needs to be robust enough to handle all your customer traffic, applications and data. When customers are interacting with your business online they expect a quick and seamless experience—delays and slow loading times just won’t cut it. Network solutions like Managed SD-WAN can help you to get more from your bandwidth, enhancing your website and mobile app performance, and
improving your experience of VoIP.
It’s also important that you make security a priority. The more customer data you collect, the more responsibility you have to keep this personal information safe. A data breach could ruin your reputation for years to come. Not only that, a security breach could jeopardize your entire business operation—what happens if your mission-critical systems crash? What happens if your VoIP goes down and customers are unable to contact you?
Some simple precautions, like two-factor authentication, are relatively under-used, but can make a massive difference to your security. Consider Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) protection to keep your critical systems online. And if your business accepts card payments online or in-person, make sure you’re compliant with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). Read our 2017 Payment Security Report to understand the biggest challenges facing your industry.
Keeping network connectivity and security in mind can help your SMB to leverage the latest communications technology—and deliver an experience that delights your customers consistently.
Top 3 Marketing Tips for Small Business Owners
Numerous surveys report one of the biggest challenges small business owners and entrepreneurs face today is attracting and retaining customers and clients. So, how do you do that? Marketing is a key component of that, obviously. But then what? Do you rely on the tried-and-true traditional marketing methods or jump into the today’s digital marketing pool?
If you want your business to be successful, you need to marry digital marketing and traditional marketing—updated, of course, for today’s tech savvy consumers.
The goal is to foster customer loyalty, because loyal customers spend more money with you, and refer their friends to your business. Here’s how you can dive in.
One of the best ways to attract and retain customers is through social media marketing, which is the modern, digital version of one of the most effective customer attraction tactics ever—word-of mouth marketing.
Creating and maintaining a social media presence is a must today—but, despite it’s proven value, too many small business owners don’t take social media seriously. As consumer markets continue to shift to younger demographics that tend to embrace digital marketing, business owners need to go where the shoppers are—and that’s social.
First, “claim” your spot on all the major social platforms: LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. I’d also suggest you consider Snapchat, Yelp and any social platform that caters to your industry, such as TripAdvisor or Houzz. This will enable you to use them when you want, and prevent anyone else from using your brand.
Social media engagement “rules”:
- Go where your customers are. Ask them what platforms they prefer and start engaging with them there.
- Be consistent. Post at least several times a week, daily if you can. Create a schedule.
- Use photos in your posts. They increase click-throughs and conversions.
- Use 3rd-party apps to manage your social accounts
- Make a trusted employee responsible for social posting—not an intern.
The most important thing to remember about social media marketing is that it’s marketing. Use it to make connections, provide information and promotions, cement existing relationships and drive traffic to your blog, website, or small business.
I’m sure most of you have heard the expression, “content is king.” Content marketing has emerged in the past decade as a key component in reaching new customers and maintaining loyal customers. But, according to Contently, businesses have been misled about the ability of content alone to grow your customer base. This has led to, Contently says, content marketing programs being “cut off from paid marketing programs...In many instances, these programs are even disconnected from organic social distribution and email marketing efforts.”
Instead, Contently says, “The old rules of marketing still apply: You need to create a powerful message based on audience insights and then put that message in front of people.” In other words, “You can’t succeed at content marketing without marketing your content.”
Like social media, content needs to be produced on a regular basis, and scheduled in advance. Content can take many forms, including:
- White papers
- Case Studies
- Blog Posts
- 3rd-party/Analyst reports
- Video/Motion graphics
You don’t need to be a journalist to craft the content you need. To be effective, content should be relevant to your target market, engaging, and written to trigger a response.
Email marketing is still one of the most effective ways to reach your target market. As I mentioned several months ago, over 90 percent of consumers check their emails daily. Even more important to small business owners, 74 percent of consumers actually want businesses to market to them via email. And it’s effective—66 percent of consumers bought something online due to email marketing.
It’s key to have your marketing emails designed for mobile viewing. Nearly three-quarters of consumers delete emails that don’t look good on mobile devices. You’ll also want to avoid these other common email marketing complaints from consumers:
- Get too many emails
- Emails are not relevant
- Emails are too hard to read
Marketing is vital to the survival of your small business. Even if you sell the best products or offer the best services, if they’re not marketed—and marketed well, they will likely remain a secret from consumers.
There’s a lot more to learn about the “musts” of small business marketing. To find out more, please join me on September 27th at 2 ET for a Verizon small business webinar on “Marketing Musts for Small Business Owners.”
by Steve Marinetto, Senior Manager of Marketing at Verizon Business Markets
Twitter | @smarinetto
Our world is increasingly interconnected. We have more ways of communicating than ever before: emails, texts, voicemails, even emoticons. But sometimes a phone call is still the fastest way to get your point across, especially in a business setting. It’s quick, it’s direct, and it captures those subtle emotional cues that are sometimes lost in other forms of communication. You don’t have to guess if your client is feeling frustrated or delighted; you can hear it in their voice.
While the humble telephone isn’t going anywhere, it has undergone a modern transformation. Many organizations have already ditched the traditional landline in favor of VoIP (voice over internet protocol), which lets them make phone calls over the internet. VoIP works by converting analog voice calls into packets of data. The data is transferred across an IP network, either public or private. With VoIP service, you can connect with landlines, mobile phones or computers.
You’re probably already familiar with the technology. If you’ve ever used Skype, Whatsapp, or Facebook Messenger to call a friend, you've experienced VoIP in action. And while it’s a popular tool for social connectivity, it also offers immense benefits for small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Is it time your business switched from traditional phone lines to an entirely VoIP system?
Why should your business invest in VoIP?
If you’re still on the fence, here are five of the many benefits that VoIP offers for SMBs.
VoIP costs less than traditional phone service, and there are pre-packaged options available to suit businesses of all sizes. If you decide to work from a satellite or temporary location, there’s no need to spend extra money renting an office space with a phone line. Just login from wherever you are and you’re ready to make calls.
It’s flexible and portable
VoIP lets your employees login from any computer or smartphone and make calls using their work number. This makes it perfect for remote workers or those who are travelling for business. Because VoIP is in the cloud, you can transfer calls between devices as needed. Of course, to achieve all this you’ll need a reliable network and good connectivity.
You can serve your customers better
Today’s consumers want to communicate with your business on their own terms. Whether they’re at work or on the road, VoIP makes it easy for them to connect with you from their smartphone or laptop. You can set up transfers or “hunt groups” so calls always get answered. And you can integrate VoIP with your customer relationship management (CRM) platform to track conversations and individual customer data, so your employees can give customers a more personalized experience.
It’s packed with cool features
Many VoIP services, such as those offered by Verizon, provide features that help your company handle calls more efficiently. Set up a virtual assistant to help customers self-select a staff member to speak with. Use three-way calling to instantly add a third party to a call. Receive email alerts when you have an incoming call, or push voicemails directly to email.
With a private IP network, you can connect your different business locations securely, without having to send data over public networks. This helps to protect your customer data and confidential information. Voice encryption, client authentication and firewalls can also bolster your security.
VoIP is just the start
VoIP has great potential for most SMBs. It can improve your bottom line, customer experience, staff morale and data security. But VoIP is just one part of your business communications strategy. There’s also every other aspect of business communications to manage such as emailing, texting, video calling and document sharing.
Organizations are taking control of their total communications ecosystem using unified communications tools. These typically offer a scalable, cloud-based platform for all your business communication needs. They allow you to integrate tools for voice calling, messaging, video conferencing, file sharing and more. Your employees can share information seamlessly and collaborate on virtually any device.
Consider evaluating Verizon’s highly customizable UCCaaS (unified communications and collaboration as a service). We’ll help you create a tailored communications and VoIP system that works for your organization size, IT setup and industry requirements. Why settle for outdated and expensive telephone systems when it’s so easy to make the switch?
by Brian Stacy, VP of Customer Experience at Verizon Business Markets
Twitter | @brian_stacy44
How do you order a pizza, buy a pair of sneakers, or rent a car? There’s a good chance a mobile app is your starting point, even if it’s not the whole journey. You might discover the sneakers on Instagram or Facebook, learn and explore more about them in the mobile app—even asking questions via chat or by reading online reviews and finally purchasing them online. This is the new normal. Today our consumer touch points are increasingly integrated—we expect a seamless omnichannel experience, but that often begins in a mobile app.
The vast majority of Americans now own smartphones. For millennials and Gen-X, ownership is almost ubiquitous. And thanks to the fast, reliable connectivity provided by 4G and in the future 5G, they’re using their mobile devices to consume media, organize their lives and research and make purchases. Consumers are turning to their mobiles to check reviews of products and prices when in store. And they’re not waiting until they’re back home to book that vacation—they’re doing it straight from their phone.
For many consumers, the first thing they’ll turn to when they’re thinking about making a purchase—be it new clothes or a new car—is a mobile app. Mobile is where the customer journey begins. And that’s why it’s something that every organization should be embracing.
Speed and convenience
On most occasions, consumers want speed and convenience. That’s what the best mobile apps offer—ecommerce on the go. They can help to streamline the entire buyer process, making your service more attractive to busy people seeking convenience and instant gratification.
Mobile apps can also help win new customers and encourage brand loyalty. Many customers’ view of your brand will be based on social recommendations. They’re more likely to trust a brand if they’ve seen good reviews online—and especially if it has been recommended by friends or family. From your mobile apps, customers can instantly share their purchases on Instagram, or send push notifications requesting a Facebook review. This can help you to build brand awareness quickly, and attract a wider audience.
The benefits don’t end there. Mobile apps can save your business time and money. Imagine you’re a busy hotelier or restaurant owner—a mobile booking app could mean your staff spends less time answering phones and taking manual reservations, freeing up time for other proactive guest activities to create experience differentiation.
The ecommerce landscape is rapidly evolving and there’s huge potential for innovation. New and upcoming trends include sophisticated AI chatbots, digital assistants and virtual reality shopping. If used wisely, these features can enhance the user experience, differentiate your organization and enable rich personalization.
Need inspiration? Keep an eye on larger brands that are leading the way in mobile customer experience (CX). Retail giant Sephora has released an app which scans your face and lets you try on makeup virtually. It matches your chosen look with real products you can purchase online or in-store, creating a tailored shopping experience.
Concierge apps like Pana are changing the way we travel. Book your sightseeing, flights and hotels within the app, or use the built-in chat support to instantly connect with travel agency professionals. Running late for a flight? Grab shows you the nearest restaurants in your airport. Order your food within the app, and grab it as you rush to the terminal. You can even forward on meal receipts for expense reporting.
Mobile CX is already harnessing the power of 4G. The arrival of 5G promises to enhance this even further, with predicted speeds of more than a gigabit per second. Customers will be able to quickly download videos on the go, vastly improving the mobile app experience. The future of mobile CX looks promising.
Where should you start?
Whether you’re planning to develop your own mobile app, or simply make your existing website mobile friendly, there are certain things you should keep in mind. Here are three key considerations for your mobile strategy.
Using content delivery networks (CDNs) can enhance your mobile app performance. CDNs help provide a smooth user experience by accelerating the speed of content downloads. This is especially important if your customer base is spread around the globe. Even a second-long delay can cause a drop off in your mobile conversions—so it’s important that your app is lightning fast, no matter where your users live.
One of the most crucial considerations is payment security. Consumers put their trust in you each time they make a purchase online, or within an app. To protect both your customers and your business, get up to speed with security requirements including the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) and The Payment Application Data Security Standard (PA DSS).
Don’t fall into the trap of going mobile for the sake of it, or blindly following your competitors. Your mobile app must work for your customers—not frustrate or impede them. Begin by tapping into your existing consumer base. Conduct journey mapping research to find out what they want, and how you could improve their experience. Think about every possible touch point on your customer journey, and try to create a seamless omnichannel experience which makes their daily lives easier.
A guest article by Ramon Ray, entrepreneur, global speaker and best selling author.
For the past few years, I’ve come to realize the simplicity of social media marketing. Sure, there are some complex parts to it, but it’s really about four key areas.
Frequency, Relevancy, Engagement and Analytics – FREA.
Once you’ve defined your target audience and you know to WHOM you are speaking, the rest fall into place. This doesn’t mean it won’t take hard work, but if you follow these four principles you’ll do just fine.
If you’re out of site, on social media, you’re out of mind. In order to make social media work for you, you must ensure that you’re constantly posting content to educate or entertain your audience.
On Twitter you can post several times a day. On Facebook, more than twice a day might get annoying. LinkedIn, keep that to no more than once every 2 or 3 days. Instagram, like Twitter, you can post frequently.
Whatever you do, definitely post and post often. There’s a lot of content online and posting once is never enough. It takes strategic repetition to ensure a wider audience sees what you’re posting. This same repetition is also important to build trust, credibility and get someone to take action.
If you’re not posting the right content to the right audience you’re wasting your time. Ensure that what you are posting is of value to your audience. It’s easy to post irrelevant content – and just press “submit” on our favorite social networks. Smart marketers know their audience and ensure they are giving them information they really want and find useful.
Engagement is one of the most important pieces to the marketing puzzle. If the content you’re publishing is boring (not interesting) no one’s going to notice it. No one’s going to pay attention to it.
It’s important that you use engaging images, video and headlines. Your content should CAPTURE attention and should be so interesting that whoever’s reading it wants to share it with others. Engaging content doesn’t mean it must be FUNNY. It can be serious. But it’s GOT TO BE INTERESTING.
Now that you’re posting and engaging with your community, it’s critical that you measure your results. You want to know, for example, who is the audience that’s reading your content. Another data point you want to know is what content is being read the most. These questions and others are easily found out with Google Analytics for your web site. Facebook has very rich analytics tools to review the traffic to your Facebook page. Each of the social networks have varying degrees of analytics tools to measure your traffic and audience.
Overall it’s essential that you leverage the power of social media in a strategic and purposeful manner. Not using social media can have the same results as using social media, but not using it correctly. You want to leverage content as a way to BUILD a community of fans and followers. You can then nurture this community to become your customers, brand Ambassadors and champions.
Join entrepreneur, best selling author and global speaker, Ramon Ray in a FREE webinar on August 23, 2017 at 2pm ET hosted by Verizon Business Markets as he shares how to use social platforms to DRIVE your business forward.
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by Karin Aviles, Creative and MarCom lead at Verizon Business Markets
Twitter | @Karin_MktgSmart
You have a great reputation with your regular customers. But how can you establish a wider customer base and cultivate even greater loyalty from those who already know you? And how can you do that when you have a limited marketing budget?
Organizations, large and small, are building new customer bases using the tools available to them online — many of which are inexpensive or even free. Digital marketing might seem like an obvious path if you’re an online business, but it’s also important for more traditional bricks and mortar or mail-order businesses. And it’s about much more than just building an attractive website. It’s about using all the channels available to you in a way that’s right for your business.
Five tips for improving your online visibility
When you’re trying to determine the right approach, a good place to start is by looking at what other organizations in your field are doing — check out their social media or even sign-up for their email newsletters. But here are some digital marketing pointers to get you started.
Many SMEs aren’t using social media at all to generate new customers and clients — and that means they’re missing a huge opportunity. Today, when people are looking for tips for a great local restaurant or a reliable plumber, they take to the web. For instance, parents often turn to social media or local online groups for recommendations on rainy-day family activities or child-friendly restaurants — if you’re not online and part of that conversation, you could be missing out.
People expect your business to be online. And when they find you, they expect you to interact with them. So if you’re going to get the most from being on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, don’t just post content regularly, ask your followers questions and answer their questions — get social with them and extend your reach. And be ready to reply to the negative comments as well as the good. Think of that 1-star TripAdvisor review for the hotel you were thinking of staying at. It really put you off until you saw the owner’s response, which put the complaint into context.
Great digital marketing requires great content. A well-written post, blog or even an email can help drive potential customers to your site. If someone’s in the market for a new stereo, your online review of the latest models could send them your way. Your point of view on current market conditions could help develop their trust in you as a financial adviser. Your regular emails mean your dealership is in their mind when they come to upgrade their car. And of course, sending emails means you need addresses to send them to. A customer email list is critical to your digital marketing strategy and could be key to a wave of new business.
Be eye catching
Engaging people isn’t just about the quality of your writing. Paying a little bit of money to promote your post on Facebook, for example, can help you expand your reach and communicate with more potential customers.
And remember, pictures tell a thousand words. Rather than writing detailed customer case studies, some organizations are telling their stories with photographs on Instagram. If you want your post to stand out, accompany it with a graphic.
You should also consider the use of video. Improved mobile connectivity means that people are increasingly consuming short video content. And you don’t need a studio to shoot one — you can record an HD video from your smartphone. So instead of writing how-to guides or product reviews, why not produce videos instead. Many guitar shops are doing just that to promote the latest kit. And the best bit is that Facebook now prioritizes video content above posts with just images or text, so you’d be nearer the top of people’s feeds.
If you want to keep people engaged, you need to post regularly. But don’t overdo it. Providing a regular flow of helpful and insightful content will have more impact than overloading people with banal comments. They’re likely to switch off if all they ever see in their social feeds are posts from you.
Ideally, you’d know exactly when someone was planning to buy a new waffle maker or to book their next holiday. While mind reading is impossible, there are solutions that can analyze data such as customer behavior and purchase patterns to trigger notifications at the best possible time. They also enable greater personalization of content.
You’re using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. But where are you sending your customers? What’s the state of your website? You don’t necessarily need an e-commerce solution. Your website might be informative and drive enquiries your way. And you don’t need all the bells and whistles — your site just needs to be easy to use and navigate. But what you do need is to be mobile friendly. Your new potential customer could be checking you out on their smartphone, and they’re going to lose interest pretty quickly if your site is difficult to use on a small screen.
You could grow from local to global
Don’t expect to see immediate returns from your efforts. Even the largest enterprises struggle to link downloads of their latest white papers to sales. But use the tools available to you and digital marketing could help you improve the visibility of your business and boost your customer base. That could even see you grow from a local business to a global one.
by Karin Aviles, Creative and MarCom lead at Verizon Business Markets
Twitter | @Karin_MktgSmart
A team of first responders arrives at the scene of a catastrophe — with limited communications or connectivity, how can they help survivors or even know where to look? At the recent Operation Convergent Response (OCR) event, Verizon brought together emergency responders and tech innovators to demonstrate the difference technology could make in a disaster scenario.
Welcome Shawn and Jeff. Can you tell us a bit more about the event — what was your aim? Who was involved?
Shawn: We brought together around 200 first responders, public safety officers, and state and local officials with technology providers and businesses for the event. We simulated real-life disaster scenarios — from hurricanes and floods to buildings collapsing and terror attacks — to see how multiple organizations could come together as a coordinated response and how the latest technology innovations could help them respond faster and more effectively.
Jeff: We created the most realistic test that we could. Our participants went in with no idea of what to expect. We wanted an accurate reflection of how response services would work together and use the technology.
Shawn: We were able create a space in which the community of first responders could innovate together, surrounded by a showcase of some really exciting new technology that they might not have otherwise seen in the context of their core missions. For example, in one of the scenarios, we had a robotic device designed by a creative start up provider that acted as a casualty detection platform. It can autonomously roll through a city looking for survivors, tell doctors on the other side of the world where they are, and use GPS to guide first responders to extract the survivors.
Shawn, you mentioned you had businesses at the event — what role do they play in emergency response?
Shawn: Many municipalities and businesses today have security cameras — getting access to provide unique intelligence when responding to an event or putting together the pieces afterwards. It can give first responders a much better picture of what they’re about to face or what happened. And it’s not just video footage they can share to help out. Some businesses are already sharing this info with agencies. They operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and are constantly deploying data connections for commerce transactions. Monitoring when these connections go down can tell responders a lot about the scale of an incident.
Jeff: Imagine if every business provided emergency response units with timely access to that kind of information. If a hurricane struck a coastal city, instead of going in blind, first responders could have access to a library of video footage from local businesses’ security cameras. Businesses can become a real multiplier in this environment — just think about the difference it could make if you could see the eye of the storm before heading into it.
Shawn: Accessing that data relies on having connectivity available. And, of course, connectivity is also vital to keeping communications open between first responders. OCR really highlighted just how important secure communication is in tackling emergencies, and how new innovations can help. A breakdown in communications can be the difference between life and death in these scenarios.
If a city is hit by a hurricane or flooding, regular communication channels are likely to go down. What kinds of innovation were on show to get them back on line?
Shawn: At OCR, we deployed a number of innovative solutions that can be used to tackle this challenge — from a truck-mounted LTE tower to cell sites in backpacks. In addition to our Cell on Wheels (COW) solution, one very popular innovation was the LTE balloon we deployed. We tethered an air balloon to fly around 100 feet above us and provide an instant 4G LTE network for responders’ voice and data communication.
Jeff: With our tech keeping communications up, response services were able to share real-time data about what was happening on the ground. This was vital to success in every single emergency scenario.
Shawn: It’s not just about having open communication channels though — they also need to be secure. Just think how helpful it would be to terrorists if they could listen in on emergency responders’ conversations or see what they could see.
Yes, that could compromise an entire operation. So, how can that data be kept secure?
Jeff: We demonstrated that particularly well in one of our scenarios, where we simulated a VIP convoy being attacked by terrorists. The VIPs were taken hostage in a nearby building. We used a drone and dropped a bouncy ball that let us capture high-resolution, real-time imagery on the roof of the building — we didn’t want this footage falling into the wrong hands. While our first response crews were looking to tackle the situation, we had a group of hackers trying to compromise their communications. We were able to keep those all-important communications between first responders secure using Verizon’s software-defined perimeter (SDP).
Wow, can you tell us a little about how SDP works?
Shawn: Essentially, SDP forms a network from scratch at a specific point in time. It takes whatever assets we have out there — whether Wi-Fi, Li-Fi or LTE, for example — creates a zero-trust environment and wraps it all in a strong security layer. Because the network exists at a particular point in time, even if an attacker manages to find it once, it won’t be there the next time they look. Imagine SDP as a one-way mirror — when cybercriminals knock to enter, or even just stand outside and attempt to look in, we’ll be looking straight at them.
Thanks Shawn, that was a great explanation. It sounds like there was a lot of impressive and innovative technology showcased at the event. Did anything stand out as particularly exciting or effective?
Jeff: I couldn’t single out one particular piece of technology. What was really impressive was how we were able to integrate so many different technologies and give first responders the means to collaborate effectively. It was great to see them all working together, augmented by technology.
Shawn: I absolutely agree, Jeff. I think it’s also really important to make the point that this was never intended as a one-time event to show off some cool technology. We wanted to help facilitate a more involved, more connected community of first responders and technology providers. I think the event really helped to move that forward and hopefully the community will now build on it so we can help make emergency response even safer and more successful in the future.
Thank you both for your time, that was really insightful. For a glimpse of what went on at Operation Convergent Response, take a look at this video.
You’ve built it … but they haven’t come.
Getting traffic to your website is an ongoing challenge for many small businesses, entrepreneurs, startups and nonprofits.
The good news is, it doesn’t take a huge budget to attract traffic. Nor do you have to be a search engine whiz or spend all day on social media.
All it takes is the right knowledge to make the right moves at the right times. In other words, you need a traffic building plan -- from someone who knows what it takes to grow traffic on a budget.
Join website publisher Anita Campbell, share her secrets and tips for getting more traffic to your website in a free webinar hosted by Verizon.
Campbell started a website from scratch with just one visitor -- herself -- and almost no money. Today she has several online properties, the largest of which attracts over 2 million visitors each month.
In this one-hour webinar she illustrates the techniques she used and continues to use to continually grow traffic, month after month, including:
- Inexpensive and sometimes overlooked sources of traffic.
- Why content is the foundation of a good traffic plan; and why you need an easy-to-update section of your website or a blog to add content.
- How to create awesome content of your own, and curate content from other sources, to attract visitors and keep them coming back.
- Simple techniques to set up a social media calendar and publishing calendar, because consistency is key to traffic growth.
- 5 easy ways to optimize your website to get more search engine traffic.
- The role of an email list, and how to use your list to lure visitors back to your site.
- Top 7 mistakes businesses make with their websites that let traffic slip away -- and how to fix them.
This webinar session will be packed with practical ideas and inexpensive tips you can put into practice today. Whether you are a do-it-yourselfer, or you want to be able to interact with your website developer as a more effective resource, there’s something for everyone in this session.
Please join this webinar on July 19, 2017, at 2 p.m. Eastern time. It’s free, but be sure to register in advance to save your place.
by Brian Stacy, VP of Customer Service Operations at Verizon Business Markets
Twitter | @brian_stacy44
A great customer experience (CX) can be the difference between a customer coming back to you again and again or them going with your competitor. It’s the compelling reason people buy your product or service and recommend your business to others. Today, CX is a key differentiator for most businesses, big and small. And many are looking to technology to deliver the kind of innovative experiences that will help retain and win new customers.
Take chat bots. At their best, these can help customers get answers to their questions quickly. They can even help train customer assistants to deliver a better service. One beauty brand launched a chat bot on the popular messaging app, Kik, to offer customers quizzes, personalized beauty tips and reviews — you can even buy the beauty products you’re chatting about without ever having to leave the app.
And there are plenty of other ways in which tech is driving better CX. There are the advanced collaboration tools that help call center staff handle queries and orders faster. And there’s the artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced analytics that are enabling organizations to take the vast amounts of data they’re collecting on their customers — online, via social and in-store — and turn it into actionable intelligence.
That all sounds great. It also sounds expensive. If technology is providing an edge when it comes to CX, is it the large enterprises with equally large IT budgets that have the edge? How can small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) like you hope to compete?
Tech is levelling the CX playing field
SMBs have a natural advantage when it comes to CX. They’re often closer to the local communities that they’re based in and understand their customers’ needs. But tech can take these experiences to the next level.
You might think tools like chat bots and AI will break the bank or require specialist knowledge. The reality is quite different. Take this tool that enables you to build your own Facebook chat bot in about seven minutes with no coding involved. The best bit is that if you think you’ll get less than 500,000 monthly active users, you can do it for free. Big businesses like Volkswagen and Uber are using this kind of solution to create additional channels for reaching customers. You can too.
Innovative CX solutions are becoming more and more available — no matter what the size of your business. Many of the advanced tools that large enterprise would have developed in-house are now available off the shelf. For example, Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions are readily available that enable real-time video conferencing from any device — no need for an expensively outfitted office. That means a better experience for business clients you can’t easily visit.
Many SaaS solutions provide more advanced functionality than you’ll find in large enterprises using in-house systems. They’re developed and maintained by experts. And SMBs are often better positioned to take advantage of them than big companies, typically being far less encumbered by legacy IT systems. That means you could actually be the one gaining an edge.
From advanced apps to cheaper cloud storage, from social media to more agile connectivity, technology is enabling great improvements in CX. And it’s not just for the big guys.
Avoid tech for tech’s sake
But technology isn’t the answer to all ills. You shouldn’t just implement new technology for the novelty factor or because someone else has it — this kind of decision could backfire and result in worse CX. You need to determine whether a particular piece of technology will improve experiences and help your customers reach their end goal sooner. You also need to think through whether it’s something your customers will be comfortable using. If they typically avoid social media, a Facebook chat bot won’t do your CX much good.
Start by mapping your customers’ journeys to get a clearer picture of how they interact with you. That means looking at key touch points and identifying any pain points. And not just those that come after you’ve made the sale. The customer journey starts from your very first contact with a customer — through a tweet or advert, say. Think about the experience delivered by the product, the marketing, the selling and the operations. Examine the whole journey and ask yourself, where can tech make a difference? Where can it really improve CX?
Some large organizations are using big data analytics to help them build digital profiles of their customers and understand customer pathways. But this is actually somewhere you could have an advantage. SMBs often have simpler customer propositions — based around one core product or service. And that could make it easier for you to identify where tech will have the biggest impact on CX. These don’t have to be huge changes, but they should be driven by the right motivators. Be led by CX, not by cost savings or novelty tech.
When you’ve identified where to make these improvements, the technology to make a difference is well within your reach. But this isn’t the case of once and done. Products, technology and customer expectations are changing all the time so you need to work with companies that understand the latest trends and can help keep you up to date.
In 1978, Digital Equipment Corporation’s Gary Thuerk, a Marketing Manager, sent an email promoting DEC’s machines to a few hundred recipients. This became the first documented case of email advertising in the world, and earned Thuerk the nickname of “the father of SPAM.”
Thuerk prefers to be known as the “father of e-marketing,” and he’s got a case, because that simple act of sending one single email to 397 people resulted in around $13 million dollars in sales for DEC!
Since that fateful day 40 years ago, many other forms of digital marketing have sprung up. Banner ads, PPC, video ads, affiliate marketing, content marketing, and now social media marketing have all become important parts of the digital marketing landscape. Some businesses have even abandoned email as “old-fashioned.”
Neglecting email as a marketing channel is a huge mistake, however. Year after year, surveys prove that email continues to be the most effective form of online marketing, as well as one of the easiest to execute.
Here are some of the main reasons why email remains the bread and butter of online marketers:
• Email is cheap. For small businesses, there is hardly any other marketing channel which offers such great returns with such little investment. Many can do it for free.
• Actions are trackable. You can tell exactly who opens your emails, who ignores them, and who clicks through to your website or landing page. Try that with Google display ads—not going to happen.
• It is easy to gauge results. You can tell whether your emails are working to put money in your pocket in a very direct way: subscribers either click through to your website and buy something, or they don’t. It is much harder to gauge sales from social media posts, generic blogging efforts, or even viral videos, as these are more branding tools rather than direct response mechanisms.
• You own your audience. As Facebook has demonstrated, third party platforms can reduce your visibility with your “fans” at any time. And while it is hard to imagine it going out of business, it could still happen one day. What if the only way to contact your audience is through that platform? Believe it or not, many businesses operate this way, and it is foolish. With email, you retain ownership of your audience, and do not rely on a third-party to communicate with them.
• Avoid ad blockers and display ad fraud. Consumers are increasingly using ad blockers to stop intrusive marketers from interrupting their content consumption. And display ad fraud is an increasing problem, with many firms paying for invalid clicks and impressions with little transparency or recourse from agencies. With email, your customers have opted in to receive your marketing messages, so ad blockers and fraud are a non-issue.
I hope you are convinced of the value of email marketing. If so, please read on for a special free invitation.
Learn the secrets and get BIG results with your email campaigns
Small business owners who fail to leverage email advertising are losing out on many sales opportunities. Fortunately, it takes very little time to set up an email campaign and start generating leads and revenue. The problem is that many do not know where to start – or are afraid of sending something out which falls flat with customers.
In my upcoming webinar, How to Develop a World-Class Email Advertising Program Without Spending a Fortune, I will show you the power of email marketing and provide actionable, real-world tips which will allow any business to dramatically increase leads and revenue using email. I will also show you how to use many of the same tools and tactics used by Fortune 500 companies with huge marketing budgets – for FREE or very low cost.
After attending this information-packed session, you will be able to:
• Choose the right email platform for your business
• Earn new subscribers and retain your old ones
• Properly segment your list into distinct audiences
• Produce compelling offers which generate sales
• Track opens and see EXACTLY what people do when they visit your website
• Automate tasks to save time
• Keep content fresh month after month
• Perform A/B testing to increase opens and engagement
• and much more
Expect to get fired up about your email marketing program and start getting more leads. Tell everyone involved in generating revenue for your business to join you in watching this special webinar, happening June 21st! Register here.
Speaker bio: Willie Pena is a content marketing expert and blogger with over a decade’s experience in digital advertising and content production. He currently runs Pena Media Group, a Los Angeles based marketing, social media and content production agency whose clients include Colgate, IBM, TransUnion, Webroot and many notable business blogs across the web. Connect with Willie at firstname.lastname@example.org, on LinkedIn, or on Twitter @willie_pena.
by Scott Lerner, Director of Mid Market Sales at Verizon Business Markets
Twitter | @Coach_Lerner
You might think you can keep your head down and stay out of cybercriminals’ targets — after all, they’re more interested in the big fish, right? Wrong. Cybercriminals don’t just target large enterprises — based on our analysis, almost two-thirds of data breach victims had under 1,000 employees1.
Most cybercriminals don’t care about the size of your business or who you are — they care about money. According to our research, over 70% of breaches were financially motivated1. And they don’t mind where they get it. Many cybercriminals don’t target their attacks at all. They take a scattergun approach, hitting the organizations with the weakest defenses.
That’s the problem. You’re facing the same threats as large enterprises, but you don’t have an enterprise-level security budget to build a state-of-the-art defense.
Cybercriminals are lucky, not smart
That doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel. Cybercriminals — from the kids operating out of their parents’ homes to sophisticated state-affiliated hackers — are still using the same old tricks to compromise organizations. Mostly, they’re playing an odds game. They don’t rely on their own smarts — they spread their nets wide and wait for you to make a basic mistake. And it’s amazing how many people are still making them.
Surely people aren’t still falling for phishing? It turns out they are. They fall for it time and time again. One in 14 users fell for phishing, and a quarter of those were duped more than once1. And people still haven’t got the message about strong passwords — over 80% of hacking-related breaches leveraged either weak and/or stolen passwords1.
Teach your employees the basics
- Use strong passwords. You should encourage employees to vary their passwords and use two-factor authentication to protect sensitive data/systems. But the strongest passwords aren’t necessarily what you’d expect — four randomly selected words unrelated to you could actually be more secure than an alphanumeric password.
- Don’t get caught by phishing emails. Show your employees what a phishing email looks like. The poor grammar, incorrect branding and “click-bait” messages are easier to spot when you know what you’re looking for.
- Create a culture of security. Your employees should be sending sensitive information over secure networks. And they should extend the same care to physical documents. Develop a culture where printing out sensitive information is frowned upon. If physical copies are necessary, encourage employees to shred documents when they’re finished with them.
- Be alert. Educate your employees about the tell-tale signs of a cyberattack. Is the sudden spike in network traffic really due to increased interest in today’s lunch options? Or are you the victim of a DoS attack? Are your customers encountering problems with your e-commerce site because of a fault or because a cybercriminal has tampered with it?
- Have a clear incident response plan. Your employees need to know who to contact and how to contact them if they suspect an attack or there’s a data breach. Because that’s when every second counts. Your people should know the best way to record a security incident and where to do this. And your IT team should know if an incident needs to be handled by a security provider or if it can be dealt with in-house.
Knowledge is the best defense
The best defense is built by thoroughly understanding your opposition. That means analyzing and learning from your own experiences of cybercrime to avoid falling for the same trick twice. It also means learning from the experience of others. The annual Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) is based on an analysis of over 40,000 security incidents and offers an unparalleled insight into the world of cybercrime.
You can get a clearer picture of the biggest cyber threats facing your business using the DBIR’s nine attack patterns — almost 90% of the breaches investigated in the report fall into these patterns1. Understanding them can help you prioritize your defenses and mitigate your cyber risks.
1 2017 Data Breach Investigations Report, Verizon
by Lori Bonenfant, Director of Channel Marketing at Verizon Business Markets
Twitter | @lorib4599
In the last few months we’ve prompted many discussions about the impact of tech on small and medium businesses — like how lessons learned from Pokemon Go can help revitalize your marketing and why the mobile revolution is leaving many small business owners flat-footed. Get technology right and you can improve your products and customer experience, enhance your brand and extend your marketing reach.
But technology isn’t a golden ticket for success. Your reputation with your customers isn’t based solely on how well you use mobile or your online marketing strategies. Your brand image is a reflection of how existing and prospective customers perceive your business. And you can make a big impression by showing them you care about the same things they do. Your business can do well by doing good.
Show you care
There are many things you can do to start showing customers your philanthropic side. The quickest way to get involved is to donate money to a local charity or sponsor a local community event. If you’re not sure where to start with this, ask your employees. It’s likely that some of them are already involved in raising money or supporting the local community in some way. You could follow the practice of many large corporations that match donations raised by employees for big achievements, like running a marathon.
But this doesn’t have to be about you giving money. Why not organize a cookie sale or a fancy dress day in the office to raise money for good causes? Or you could ask employees to bring in tins of food for the local food bank or donate coats they no longer need to a homeless shelter. Since 2001, HopeLine from Verizon has been collecting wireless phones that are no longer wanted. These are turned into valuable resources for non-profit organizations and agencies that support victims of domestic violence.
You’ll generate more interest the more involved you get. After all, nothing is more valuable than time. Whether it’s helping kids with their reading, keeping local spaces clean and tidy or offering your workforce’s skills pro-bono, donating your time shows that you’re part of the community. And you’ll be engaging with your customers on a whole new level.
An employer of choice
Doing good won’t just boost your external brand; it can boost your employer brand too. Millennials, in particular, want to work for organizations that care about corporate social responsibility (CSR). 62% of millennials are willing to take a pay cut to work for a “responsible company.”1 That means your philanthropy could help you attract and retain today’s best talent.
Your employees will value the opportunity to get involved with causes they really care about. And engaged employees are more productive. Providing them with the opportunity to spend time volunteering could also help them develop new skills, which will make them a more valuable asset.
By giving back, you can help to build a better future for everyone — the communities you serve and your business.
Tell us what you’re doing
You can find out more about Verizon’s commitment to CSR here. Our major programs include HopeLine and Verizon Innovative Learning — an initiative that provides kids from under-served communities with access to STEM education. #WeNeedMore kids to see the world of possibilities waiting for them.
We’d love to hear what your business is doing to support your community. Let us know by using #CommunityMaker in your Tweet.
1 2015 Cone Communications Millennial CSR Study
by Martin Burvill, Group President at Verizon Business Markets
Twitter | @burvill_martin
Think back 10 years. If I’d told you then that by 2017 most video content would be watched on a small screen that people carried in their pocket, you’d never have believed me. But it’s true. What if I’d said that many of us would have a little box in our houses that we talked to and it answered our questions, could turn our heating and household devices on and off, and could DJ your music library? You might have actually thought that was more likely, after all it’s the sort of thing that science fiction has been promising us for decades. You might have been less likely to believe that the box would cost less than a pair of brand jeans.
Technology has vastly changed the way we do everything. It’s making life easier in ways that we could never have imagined. I’ve always thought that futurologist sounded like an amazing job, spending your time imagining what might come next. Working at Verizon I get to rub shoulders with many of the people that are building the next generation of networks and making the next wave of technology possible. I recently visited the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh for an event and watching the children there made me think about how all this new technology will affect their lives.
From education to learning
Whether you’re from iPod generation, or like me the Walkman one, a lot has changed in the classroom since you went to school. It’s vital that schools keep up to date with technology as everything is changing rapidly and kids need to be prepared for that world when they graduate.
Back when I was in school I don’t think that the job of data scientist existed—I know that social media specialists didn’t. Most of the children entering pre-school this year probably won’t enter the workforce until the mid-2030s. How can we prepare them for jobs that we don’t even know about yet? We need to teach them problem solving skills and encourage and empower them to innovate. And technology has a huge role to play in that.
I wonder what today’s kids would make of it if their teachers pulled out an overhead projector in class? It was a default in my childhood, but would probably look like an ancient relic to them. And the next generation of kids will probably think the same about tablets and 2D video calls. Virtual reality is already starting to appear in the classroom, and that’s opening up incredible new ways to learn.
But that’s not all, technology is also improving access to education. There are apps for just about everything and an amazing range of online learning resources. You can now take an MIT course whether you live in Cambridge, UK or Cambridge, Australia. Billions of people now have the opportunity to try new things and learn new skills: from basket weaving to advanced math. This is helping children find what Sir Ken Robinson calls their “element”—the thing that they love and are great at—and achieve their full potential.
From health to wellbeing
My reason for attending the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh event was to donate two more VGos on behalf of Verizon. These are remote-presence remote-controlled robots with cameras, microphones and video screens connected over the Verizon network. They enable the children who are patients there to attend classes or visit places virtually, while physically in the hospital or house-bound. The feedback on our previous donation was that this can make a world of difference for children with serious health conditions. It can help them to stay connected to their friends, family, classmates and others, which is great for their development and their self-confidence.
Technology can also help kids with chronic conditions. Children with diabetes can now have an insulin pump fitted that tracks their sugar level automatically, and warns them and their parents if it reaches a defined threshold. There are also intelligent teddy bears that can teach children how to manage this and other long term conditions. This can help children lead a more normal life and achieve more.
Of course, it’s not just about when things go wrong. There are also many ways that technology can benefit everyday wellbeing, including tracking fitness and monitoring vital statistics like heart rate and blood pressure. There’s even an artificial intelligence app that can help detect when a child is stressed and notify their parents that they need attention.
Equal education opportunities
There are over 4 million jobs in science and tech and that number is growing. But our youth needs access to education and resources to develop the skills needed to get these jobs and reach their potential. We need to make education, particularly in STEM subjects, better and more readily available to children regardless of their background or physical abilities.
While plenty of excellent online learning tools already exist — many of which are free, like Khan Academy — we need to do more to help give children access to them. Because how can a child take a free online course to improve their math skills if they don’t have a computer or a network connection?
At Verizon, we’re doing our part to give more children from all backgrounds, abilities, and physical abilities access to what they need to succeed. The Verizon Innovative Learning program provides free technology and immersive, hands-on learning experiences to students and teachers from disadvantaged communities across the US. This is giving children who otherwise wouldn’t have access a better chance of getting the challenging, well-paid jobs of tomorrow. I’m looking forward to seeing what they can achieve: from amazing medical advances to visiting another planet, even the sky isn’t a limit.
Entrepreneurs like to take pride in the fact they’re leaders, quickly adapting to—or even starting market movements. But the mobile revolution has left many small business owners flat-footed, trailing consumers who’ve embraced mobile with surprising speed.
Part of the problem is many business owners assume they’re mobile-compliant—after all they’ve optimized their websites for mobile viewing. And while that is a crucial component—it’s just not enough anymore. If your goal is to grow your business—mobile sales, marketing, email and payments must also become part of your business practices.
Think I’m exaggerating? I’m not. Mobile technology has become so important because it’s increasingly the most common way consumers go online. A report from Zenith Mobile Advertising Forecasts says 75% of internet usage will be via mobile this year. And by “usage” we mean people actually picking up and checking their mobile devices 150 to 200 times a day. Research from Facebook underscores this—it shows 73% of consumers always have their phones with them. And according to the Zenith Media Consumption Forecast, consumers spend an average of 86 minutes a day using the mobile web—compared to 36 minutes on desktop internet.
Now let’s look at some specifics.
Consumers generally start their hunt looking for products and services by going to a search engine—and increasingly that search engine is on a mobile device.
Mobile searches in general are on the rise, and mobile searches for something “near me” are growing by 146% year-over-year, reports Google. Already, 88% of all “near me” searches are done on a mobile device. Those mobile searches get results. Seventy-six percent of people who search online for something nearby visit a business within a day; 28 percent of those visits result in a sale. With the average adult projected to spend a whopping 3 hours and 18 minutes a day on a mobile device this year, mobile searches will only increase.
More generally, according to the report, Realizing the Potential of Mobile Measurement, from Google, Bain & Company and Econsultancy, 69% of smartphone owners search on mobile first when they need something.
So many small businesses rely on email marketing because it’s affordable. And it has great potential reach—Statista reports by 2019 there will be 2.9 billion global email users. In the U.S. alone, it’s projected there’ll be 244.5 million email users by the end of this year —growing to 254.7 million by 2020. The DMA (Data & Marketing Association) reports email marketing has a 122% return-oninvestment (ROI) and “outperforms all other channels.” And 74% of consumers say they
prefer (and welcome) email marketing messages from businesses.
Email marketing today must be mobile-friendly. And yet businesses are lagging consumers in their embrace of mobile email marketing. Statista says more e-mails are being read on mobile devices—in fact, email, it says, is the third most popular smartphone activity—86% of Americans use their mobile devices to check personal e-mail.
Reinforcing these stats, last year’s Adestra Consumer Adoption & Usage Study shows more than 25% of consumers first read their emails on mobile devices. Nearly 75% of them delete their emails if they don’t look good on their mobile devices—and yet only 17% of emails are optimized for mobile viewing. In other words, consumers who want your emails are likely deleting them before they’re read because they are not mobile-friendly. No small business can survive with those kinds of numbers.
2017 is expected to be a “benchmark year” for m-commerce—sales from phones and tablets. Already about 60% of consumers use their smartphones to research products before making a purchase—and 65% use tablets. According to Kahuna, 28% of Millennials (a huge market just hitting its peak purchasing power), prefer to shop on their smartphones. Almost half of shoppers say it’s now easier to buy products on mobile devices. But they want businesses to offer more promotions, coupons and discounts for mobile purchasing.
More and more consumers want to pay for products and services via their mobile devices. BI Intelligence reports mobile payment sales will reach $503 billion by 2020, up from $75 billion last year. And TechCrunch reports by 2020 90% of smartphone users will have made a purchase from a mobile device.
You ignore the mobile revolution at your risk. There’s a lot more to learn. I hope you’ll join me on May 17th at 2 ET for a webinar and join the Mobile Revolution.
by Margaret Hallbach, VP of Public Sector Sales at Verizon Business Markets
When you think cyberattack, do you picture a criminal mastermind launching a carefully planned attack on the White House? Can you hear the dramatic music and feel the tension building as the good guys find themselves with only seconds to spare before the country descends into unmitigated chaos.
It’s a successful Hollywood formula. But the reality is much scarier because it’s not just central government and big businesses that are the intended victims of cybercrime — everyone is at risk. You expect that police security camera overlooking your apartment complex to be operational. But is it? What if it had been infected with malware weeks earlier and was “offline for maintenance” during an assault?
Cybercriminals are often motivated by financial gain, but you could fall foul of hacktivism and cyber-espionage. Cities and municipalities have become targets because of limited resources, insufficient expertise, and unknown vulnerabilities.
Attacks that are simply launched for fun can have a devastating impact as well. What happens if your emergency response systems are overwhelmed by a telephony denial of service attack swamping your inbound call takers at your public safety answering centers?
Manage the risk of more tech
Cities are constantly competing against each other. Do people feel safe? Are the schools good? Are companies thriving and providing jobs? To improve constituent experiences and quality of service, while driving cost efficiencies, local governments are leveraging technology. Many cities are now looking to the Internet of Things (IoT) for smart street lighting to reduce energy consumption, and for intelligent traffic systems that cut congestion — there are even systems that detect potholes. The potential benefits are huge.
But as local government becomes more reliant on digital technologies, the consequences of cyberattacks grow. You’re holding more personal data. Your critical systems depend on technology. That means security can’t be an afterthought. When you’re developing new systems, you need to think security first. Imagine your facilities organization is refurbishing a municipal building with a new HVAC system. The automated detectors for sensing employees in the building allows the system to be remotely controlled, managing energy consumption and cutting operating expense. But it could also provide a new entry point for a cybercriminal.
Understanding the threats
Many municipalities and cities are budget constrained. New sources of funding are hard to find and these funding sources are difficult to maintain. IT professionals are aware of the threats, but they don’t have the support from City Councils to earmark dollars. Cybersecurity funding should be no different than traditional public safety.
The 2017 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) draws on the analysis of over 40,000 security incidents and almost 2,000 confirmed data breaches to bring you an unparalleled source of information on cybercrime. The nine attack patterns we first identified in 2014 still cover almost 90% of data breaches. Understanding them can help you gain insight on where and how to invest your limited resources. We are all trying to stay ahead of the bad guys. Ask for advice and guidance – from a colleague, from another city, from a partner, from the industry. And most importantly, take action. Don’t regret the decision that you did nothing.
This week is the time we officially recognize Small Businesses and their contributions. This celebration was started in 1963 by a proclamation by the President of the United States. Small businesses and entrepreneurs take center stage this week, as the Small Business Administration highlights the innovation, job creation and accomplishments of these individuals who move our economy forward.
The SBA will have a host of activities this week that showcase small business owners and an opportunity for you to gather information from their experiences and successes.
Take a look at the events they have planned:
Nominees from each state and territory will be in the running for the National Small Business Week, Person of the Year. The honoree will be named at the NSBW Awards Luncheon. Other winners will be named in the following categories:
- Exporter of the Year
- Small Business Prime Contractor of the Year
- Small Business Subcontractor of the Year
- 8(a) Graduate of the Year
- Dwight D. Eisenhower Awards for Excellence (for large prime contractors who use small businesses as suppliers and contractors)
- Services winner
- Manufacturing winner
- Research and Development winner
If you are not in the DC area, you can watch it live at www.sba.gov/nsbw and join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #SmallBusinessWeek.
Join SBA administrator Linda McMahon as she has a conversation with Facebook’s VP and Chief Privacy Officer for Policy Erin Egan, as they discuss starting a business in today’s environment and success tips to keep your business going.
Be a part of the conversation by visiting www.facebook.com/SBAgov.
May 3 – May 5
The SBA is hitting the road and you can join them on Facebook (www.facebook.com/SBAgov) as they make stops throughout the country over the course of several days.
First stop on the journey will be, Indianapolis to the Speedway to celebrate the Indy Car racing industry and all of the entrepreneurs that make the business community run.
Next stop will be Texas to speak with business owners and highlight women entrepreneurs that have chosen non-traditional industries.
The final stop will be the Fresno area of California, where the SBA Administrator will be engaging with agricultural industry to discuss their successes and the fruits of their labor.
On this National Small Business Week, celebrate yourself, the courage it takes to go a different path and make an impact on your community and the economy at large.
- Everyone's Tags:
- National Small Business Week
by Jacob Heinz, Executive Marketing Director at Verizon Business Markets
Twitter | @jlheinz
Working with people in other offices—whether that’s the other side of the country or the other side of the world—is a reality for most of us now. It might be a distant branch, a home worker, corporate headquarters, or an overseas supplier. The pace of modern business means that we can’t wait to see people face-to-face—that would be massively expensive too—and sometimes email just doesn’t cut it.
94% say video collaboration increases productivity.
But we’ve all suffered bad online meetings, right? People scrabbling around under the table for the right cable, noisy mobile connections, the list goes on and on. Only the other day a friend was telling me how the post-merger integration project she’s been working on has been held up by problems doing something as simple as sharing a large file. She reckoned that close to half of each meeting has been wasted. It’s such a common experience that it’s been parodied many times—like in this great video.
But it doesn’t have to be like that.
Good technology isn’t a “nice to have”
We all have fantastic communication tools at our fingertips these days. Smartphone messaging and videocalling apps are now incredibly powerful and easy to use. That’s why when we—especially the millennials among us—come across outdated collaboration tools we find it so shocking.
So why are business collaboration tools still such a laughing stock? The answer is that they’re not—at least not all of them. If you’re still suffering from a bad user-experience then it’s time to upgrade. The days of hunting around for dial-in numbers, poor-quality audio or video, and cumbersome reservation systems are gone.
By 2020, the majority of the workforce will be millennials.
It’s not only staff productivity and morale that can be affected by not keeping up. If your technology is out of date then you’re going to struggle to recruit the best new talent. These days candidates aren’t just looking at your latest earnings figures, they want to know about your culture too. And if you haven’t invested in the technology that they expect, then it might be them sending the “thanks, but no thanks” email.
The answer is out there
There’s no need to put up with technology that wastes your time and gets in the way of you achieving great things. There’s no need to leave your desk, the tools available on the desktop are now pretty impressive. And it’s not just the big screen, you can do a lot on your smartphone—including sharing applications.
Services like video conferencing have become much better as connectivity and network management have improved, but some of the biggest improvements have been in the user experience:
- “Call me” services eliminate the need to scrabble around for dial-in numbers.
- Screen sharing and whiteboarding are now easier to setup and more intuitive to use.
- Instant meetings and personal meeting rooms make it a piece of cake to start an impromptu meeting.
- And capabilities are expanding all the time. Products like Microsoft Surface Hub and Google Jamboard mean that conferencing can be almost like being in the room.
So what’s holding you back?
The technology is there, but implementing it well takes skills that many businesses don’t have. And no matter how good the technology, a bad implemention can damage return on investment. That’s where a specialist IT services provider, like a Verizon partner, can add tremendous value. Their experience can help you accelerate deployment, avoid common problems and build better a better user experience.
It’s our anniversary, but the gifts are for you. Besides more point giveaways and freebies than ever - like double points all year for attending our live webinars, or surprise 500-point surveys (usually 250 points) - we’re also running a sweepstakes like no other. Small Biz Rewards members can enter for their chance to win 100,000 points ($1,000 value), 500,000 points ($5,000 value) or even 1-million points ($10,000 value).* There’s never been a better time to be a member (or become one).
With prize amounts provided on a reloadable Verizon Small Biz Rewards Prepaid MasterCard®, accepted anywhere MasterCard is, there’s no telling what upgrade you could make for your business (or what well-deserved vacation you could take yourself or your staff on), if you won. And with so many winners from now until our grand prize million-point giveaway in November, the odds are incredible.
These new back-to-back sweepstakes are part of our 5-year anniversary celebration. Beyond chances to win, every entry also comes with Small Biz Rewards points just for trying. So, be sure to take advantage of the earning possibilities and come back each week to up your odds of winning $1,000, $5,000, or the chance to be one of five to win 1-million points. Ready to give it a shot? Enter now.
Not yet a member of Small Biz Rewards? No problem, it’s free (and easy) to join. With this sweeps and even more 5th anniversary fun planned throughout the year, now’s the time. As a member, you'll also receive 1 point per $1 spent on the qualified Verizon services you’re already using. Points can be redeemed for name-brand gift cards to your favorite retailers.** In fact, if you join today, we'll start you off with 250 welcome points. Join for free.
Already a member? Surprise! Here’s a hidden gift for you. Click here, log in and we’ll add 50 points to your account. Seriously. Just like that. We told you this year would be full of fun. After that, head over and enter our sweeps for even more points.
*NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Visit https://smallbizrewards.verizon.com/culturesweeps/ for official rules by which entrants are bound. Prize value will be awarded in the form of a Verizon Small Biz Rewards Prepaid MasterCard®.
**Members in the Small Biz Rewards program earn 1 point per $1 spent on their qualified monthly Verizon charges, up to 500 points per month. Qualified charges are Landline Phone, Long Distance, High Speed Internet, Fios® by Verizon Internet or Fios TV. Reward program is only available to Verizon Small Business customers that subscribe to 1-20 phone lines (wireline only), High Speed Internet, Fios Internet service(s) and/or Fios TV in select states. Program terms apply.
Technology can make you faster and more efficient in every aspect of your small business. While the array of options may be intimidating, if you focus on bringing technological solutions to one area at a time, you can easily revolutionize your business in one year.
To help you, here are 12 common business areas where technology can play a vital part in contributing to streamlining your efficiency and overall operation. Tackle one per month and watch your productivity and sales soar!
Analytics and Insights
Understanding how your business is performing at any given moment will allow you to make better decisions…but data can be confusing. Fortunately, business intelligence dashboards can simplify the process and enable you to gather analytics in one location and visualize it with charts and graphs. There are many useful tools available; compare features to find which is right for you.
Building a Team
The majority of small businesses are operated by a solopreneur or a small group of workers. When you do add a team member, you can use HR software to keep track of applications and interviews, online background check services to vet new hires, and training software to teach about job basics.
If you are not big enough to hire employees, then outsourcing is a great option. You can use online freelancer platforms like Upwork and 99Designs to find virtual workers for everything from writing blog posts and marketing copy to designing logos and graphics.
Technology can come to the rescue for team collaboration and communication. Instant messaging programs like Skype and Slack are much quicker than calling, emailing or stopping by someone’s office. More sophisticated tools like Asana and Basecamp also allow you to organize projects, assign tasks and due dates, and keep all conversations and files within a common thread.
Credit and Money Management
Technology can help you manage your credit and finances, including:
- Credit monitoring sites that will tell you your credit score and monitor it for fraudulent activity.
- Budgeting tools like Mint that give you an overall view of your finances, and also help you create a budget to reach your financial goals.
- Debt repayment calculators and apps that help you manage credit cards and make a plan to pay them down.
Customer service is more complicated today because inquiries are coming at you from all angles: phone, email, and even social media. Platforms like Zendesk can help you funnel all of these messages into one place and create a ticketing system, so everything is answered promptly. This tool and other customer service technologies can also help you set up a live chat feature on your website, and develop a knowledge database for answering frequently asked questions.
Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to reach your customers. Tools like MailChimp and Aweber are user-friendly and great beginner-level tools for small business owners who want to build their list and start sending regular newsletters. For the more advanced, consider a full CRM system like Insightly, Infusionsoft or Ontraport.
Digital file systems reduce the clutter in your office and improve organization, allowing you to find the exact file you need in lighting speed. Microsoft, Apple, and Google all offer cloud storage solutions, and there are other options like Dropbox and IDrive. The latest scanners have tie-ins with these cloud storage systems, so paper files can get a digital home immediately after they come into the office.
Invoicing and Payments
With the right technology, you can have an invoicing system that is not only organized but also conveys your professionalism. Although QuickBooks is perhaps the most popular software available, there are many other billing and invoicing platforms to consider to find the one right for your business.
You can also explore other methods of accepting payments besides the traditional cash, check or credit card. While PayPal is a good option for receiving payment from clients, there are several impressive alternatives. The latest technology can also improve your in-store POS system.
Whether you are a local or online business, your customers will be using the internet to find you. You can put technology to good use by:
- Setting up your business page on Google, so people who search for you quickly find valuable information like address, phone number and hours.
- Using Google Adwords to create pay-per-click ads to generate more business (including using their Keyword Planner tool to target the right keywords).
- Adding your listing to the many online business directories, so people can find you regardless of where they are searching.
No small business owner can afford to take security lightly. When it comes to your website, website security tools can help keep you protected from SQL injection and other threats and attacks. Meanwhile, the technology in your office should be protected by keeping your anti-virus and malware software up to date or even investing in a full security suite.
Social media is a must for today’s businesses, but you can let technology simplify your work. Social media scheduling programs like Hootsuite and Buffer allow you to set up social media posts for days or even weeks in advance. With tools like CoSchedule, you can even schedule social media when you are setting up your company blog posts.
There is no reason for your business not to have a website! Using today’s technology, you can build your own website; Wix even allows you to create one for free. You can also get more visitors by setting up a regular blog. Tools like WordPress make it simple, and with the all the various plugins, you can get help with everything from design to SEO.
When it comes to business technology, there is no shortage of options. Choose the most important area of your small business and work for one month to explore and implement technological solutions that will make you faster and more efficient. Proceed from one area to the next, and in just one year you will become a master of technology!
In the final part of our discussion with three of Verizon’s channel leaders, we talk about how you can get the most out of your talent and promote diversity.
We talked previously about how today’s channel leaders need a broad set of skills—they can’t just be sales-driven. Is that true of your people too?
Joe: The channel still needs people with great sales skills, but what we’re looking for has moved on from the days of door-to-door selling. It’s not about one-off sales; we want people who can help us build lasting relationships.
Janet: Absolutely. And, for me, that means they need to be able to engage customers on a human level. What really matters is being able to hold meaningful conversations with people about their needs—not just delivering sound bites about products.
Lori: It comes back to what we discussed before about putting the customer at the heart of your business. We need people that put the effort into understanding what’s important to each customer because every one of them is different. It’s not enough just to be a talented sales person, we need to be all-rounders.
How can small firms compete for the people who have these skills?
Joe: Not everyone wants to work in corporate America. We’re getting to a point where it’s become less about who you work for and more about what you can accomplish, the experience and skills you can gain.
Janet: And that’s why the channel is a great place to be. Think about the best innovations of the last few years and many have come from partnerships—and were informed by customers. If you want to be involved in the most innovative and exciting new technologies, get into the channel.
So why isn’t the channel attracting more great talent?
Lori: My real worry isn’t about sourcing talent, it’s about diversity. I’d go as far as to say that that’s a crisis in the channel right now.
Janet: This is a topic that’s just so close to my heart. My grandfather was Lenape Indian. He grew up on the reservation. My family felt that we needed to hide that part of our history and that makes me so sad. That’s part of why I’m so set on promoting diversity and helping more diverse talent make it into leadership roles.
Why is diversity so important for the future of the channel?
Lori: A diverse team gives you a different perspective on a problem—and that breeds innovation. If everyone’s got the same life experience, you’re much more likely to stick with the same old methods.
Joe: I was having this exact conversation with my daughter the other night. She’s studying engineering at one of the best colleges in the country and she’s the only woman in her class. This is a systemic issue that we’ve got to tackle by nurturing upcoming talent.
How can channel leaders make a difference and help drive diversity?
Janet: First, you’ve got to understand what diversity is. It’s not about women having to think they need to act tougher than men to be successful. It’s about supporting people in being who they are and recognizing that doing that will make your business stronger.
Lori: That’s exactly what we’re looking to do here at Verizon. We’ve set up a range of mentoring and leadership schemes that are helping us promote diversity.
Joe: Verizon is also well aware of its responsibility to go out there and encourage people to get involved with technology.
Janet: That’s so important Joe. We’ve got to put ourselves out there and engage with high schools, colleges and even at the elementary level. There’s a long way to go. But if we can build a foundation of channel champions for diversity, we’ll get there. And remember, for diversity to win, no-one has to lose.
It’s been great talking to you. Is there one message each of you would like to emphasize to everybody out there in the channel?
Joe: The channel is a really exciting place to be. But don’t underestimate the change that’s happening right now. Companies that do could find themselves in trouble pretty quickly.
Lori: This is a team game. Whether it’s finding and developing the best staff or choosing the right partners, you’re only as strong as the team you build.
Janet: Both great points, that’s why I love working with these guys. But if there’s one thing I’d like everybody to take away from this it’s that we’ve all got a responsibility to leave the channel in a better state than we found it. For me that’s better trained, more diverse and more customer-centric. There are lots of challenges ahead, but I’m passionate about the channel’s ability to tackle those and come out stronger than ever.
Vote for Janet Schijns to win her bracket in CRN Channel Madness: Tournament of Chiefs!
by Jay Coblentz, Executive Marketing Director at Verizon Business Markets
Twitter | @strategyJC
There’s rarely been a day in the last few months when I haven’t seen an article about how many jobs will be impacted or replaced by robots in the coming years. Some of the predictions may sound far-fetched, but the kids entering education now won’t be joining the workforce until approximately 2030. Think about that. By that time, I’m expecting autonomous flying cars and home 3-D printers to be widely available. We’re educating kids for a world that we can barely imagine.
But change can also bring opportunity. Technology is already transforming where, when and how we learn.
Making learning part of our daily routine
The internet has totally changed education. When I think back to how I researched projects and papers in college it seems positively antiquated. The volume of information that we all have at our fingertips now would have been mind-boggling not very long ago.
It’s not just academic information. Now when faced with a new challenge—like fixing a broken faucet or setting up a home security system (IoT, anyone?) —my first instinct is to look for an online video tutorial. Within seconds I can have the guidance I need right in the palm of my hand, almost anywhere I am.
The smartphone is also bringing learning into our everyday lives through gamification—the application of game-like ideas, like awarding points and achieving rewards, to increase motivation. It used to be that you’d have to pay a tutor or attend night school to learn a new language. Today, we’re spoiled with the range of apps available to learn this and other life skills at the pace we prefer and the location of our choosing. I can brush up on my Italian while waiting in line for my espresso fix. And because I can choose to compete with family and friends, I’m more likely to complete the course. Not that I’m competitive or anything.
Giving everybody access to greater quality education
Most of us have had at least one great teacher that inspired us. But unfortunately, not every learning experience is like that. What if every student could go to one of the greatest universities and learn from the best teachers? Many of the things that used to be a barrier in the past—like distance or money —are no longer as much of an obstacle.
Many educational institutions, including some of the best universities in the world, are already making many courses available online. This is enabling them to reach significantly more students. Online learning isn’t new, but the richness of the experience that’s now possible is incredible. Immersive video-conferencing services mean that attending online is a lot more like being there in-person, and is becoming more interactive every year. You won’t be safe from a cold call on your tablet for long.
And this is enriching peoples’ lives. Take a boy with spina bifida, for example. Attending school in the traditional sense would be impossible, but if he were home-schooled, he’d miss out on many of the important social aspects of education. With the help of technology, he is able to overcome many of those challenges by attending school virtually. Using a special robot, he can follow lessons, answer questions in class, and even chat with his friends.
In a year or two this experience could be even more immersive, as mixed reality becomes commonplace. Imagine being able to put on a headset and instantly be transported to a class given by a world-class educator. You might be in a class of thousands, but everybody could have a front-row seat. And why limit yourself to a classroom at all? There’s no reason why your class on gas giants couldn’t be held on Jupiter—virtually at least.
Of course, that means that education providers are going to have to invest in IT and recruiting technology savvy employees. In the marketplace of ideas, if they don’t embrace digital education, they risk falling behind and becoming obsolete.
Turning learning into a life-long experience
To keep pace with the changing world we’re all going to have to keep learning throughout our lives. In the past, that might have meant going on the occasional training course or being forced to sit through a tiresome computer-based training session. The compromise between quality and cost for continuing education is being reduced through technology.
Whether it’s an ad hoc team meeting or a planned training session, you can now get together with colleagues around the world without the inconvenience or expense of travel. As well as audio and video conferencing, there’s a growing range of ways to collaborate using the web. The miniaturization of devices and near ubiquity of high-quality connectivity means that an expert need never be far away.
Many manufacturers and utilities have experimented using headsets to provide workers with instant access to technical information. Some solutions even allow you to contact a fellow employee with just a tap or two. Imagine being able to have an expert right next to you, whether you’re atop a jumbo jet or servicing a pipeline a hundred miles from anywhere. That’s possible right now.
It’s a brave new world
As I think about my 5-year-old heading off to kindergarten, I’m truly excited about the future of education and learning. I’m looking forward to working with educators to discover new ways that technology, and particularly connectivity, can create better learning opportunities for everyone.