You don’t have to be big to be heard
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.
911, what’s your emergency? How tech can help first response
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.