5 Ways to Use Artificial Intelligence to Increase Your Sales
The robots are coming for your business.
Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration, but the truth is that in recent years, artificial intelligence has become more sophisticated than ever before.
And while you might think that investing in AI is for huge companies with huge budgets, the truth is that AI is more affordable – and more versatile – than you might think.
Artificial intelligence, if programmed and used properly, can help you increase your sales, enhance your customers’ experience, and manage your business more effectively. Here are 5 things you can do with artificial intelligence starting now.
#1: Expand Your Customer Service
There’s no denying that there’s a link between customer service and sales. Customers who are happy with your service are more likely to buy from you again. They’re also likely to recommend you to their friends.
Adding a simple customer service chatbot to your website can do a great deal to improve service. It can:
- Provider customers with the immediate response they want when they have a problem
- Redirect customers to self-service options they might not be able to find on their own
- Let customers know that you care about them and their needs
What if you don’t know how to program a chatbot? Not to worry. Even if you don’t have the budget to hire a programmer, there are “build-a-bot” programs online that you can use to create the bot you need. You can find a list of 14 tools here, including several that will allow you to create a chatbot to use with Facebook Messenger.
#2: Learn About Customer Behavior
One of the coolest things about artificial intelligence is something called machine learning. It’s what programmers used with the famous chess program, Deep Blue, that defeated chess champion Gary Kasparov.
Machine learning is something that can help you gather data about your customers based on their behavior and purchase habits. Basically, it’s like retargeting with a kick.
You can already target customers based on past purchases and behavior. Adding AI to the mix just means that you can gather more information and use it new ways.
80% of marketers know that personalized content is more appealing to customers than generic content. Using AI tools like Convertize and Nudgify can help you tailor your web content to an individual visitor, providing them with the information and guidance they need.
#3: Provide Product Suggestions
One straightforward way to use chatbots to increase sales is to program your chatbots to make product suggestions when customers are shopping on your site.
This idea makes it possible for you to increase sales by letting customers who are engaged with your chatbots know about products they might not otherwise find. Basically, you’ll be turning your chatbots into personal shoppers for your customers.
A client who buys a set of cookware on your site, for example, could get a recommendation for a coordinated set of cooking utensils or even a cookbook or apron. The idea is similar to what Amazon does when they display the “People who bought this item also bought” links when you view a product on their site.
This type of programming is a bit more involved than a simple customer service chatbot, but it can pay off in increased sales.
#4: Improved Productivity
If all of your customer service is provided by employees at present, then adding AI to the mix can help you save their time – and give them more time to spend more time with customers who are at your place of business and ready to buy from you.
Think about it – if one of your sales staff must monitor social media messages or customer service tickets, they’re taking time away from customers who might need personal guidance to make a purchase.
Properly programmed, AI chatbots can deal with simple customer service requests by helping people check the status of an order, reset a password, or track a package. Your employees will spend less time on repetitive requests and more – at least in theory – with customers who are ready to buy.
At the same time, you’ll be improving your customers’ experience by giving them quicker service than they would get from an employee. And, if an employee does need to step in, your AI solutions can provide the information they need to provide top-notch service without asking the customer to repeat themselves.
#5: Respond to Customer Needs
Do you know what your customers want and why they want it? If you don’t – or if you’re only collecting detailed information from your customers sporadically – then you can use artificial intelligence to expand your knowledge of your customers and do a better job of giving them what they want.
Keatext is a tool that collects positive and negative customer feedback in real time. Instead of waiting for someone to call with a complaint (or the occasional compliment) you can get the information you need immediately.
The benefit here is that you can adjust what you are doing to provide customers with the experience they want. If people are confused by your website’s menu or unclear how to check out, you’ll know about it and can fix problems as you identify them.
There might not be an immediate link between this kind of customer feedback and sales, but in the long run, it can make a big difference in your conversion rates and your bottom line. Monitoring what your customers think about your site or social media pages allows you to make the kind of incremental improvements that will, in the long run, result in more sales.
The Robots Are Here…
The bottom line is that artificial intelligence is here to say. Big companies have latched on to it as a way of improving customer service, streamlining productivity, and increasing their sales. You don’t need to have a huge budget to take advantage of the benefits of AI – and by adopting it now, you can get a leg up on your competitors.
How Micro Moments Can Help You Attract New Customers
Right now, potential customers are online looking for your business. And you might be missing them.
Scary thought, isn’t it?
Let’s face it, there’s a ton of content out there. It can be hard to find what you’re searching for – and if the content you’re producing isn’t providing what the people in your target audience need when they need it, then they’re likely to end up with one of your competitors.
The answer? Understand the moments when customers pick up their phones to look for your business and craft content that gives it to them.
One way is to use what Google has coined Micro Moments, I.E. “the Customer Journey.” What are they and how can you use them to find new customers? Here’s what you need to know.
What is a Micro Moment?
Google coined the term Micro Moment to respond to what they saw as a growing trend. You already know that most consumers in the US are tethered to their smart phones 24 hours a day. But they’re more intensely engaged at some moments than at others.
A Micro Moment is a moment when a consumer is intent on finding something. They want a quick answer or solution. Google identifies them as:
In other words, a Micro Moment is a moment when a consumer is ripe to learn, experience, and buy things. It’s the ideal time to capture a new customer because they’re already in the right mindset to engage with your content.
There are some interesting statistics to back up the importance of Micro Moments. For example:
- 91% of smart phone users look up information on their phones while they’re in the middle of a task
- 82% of consumers consult their phones while they’re in a store – and of those, 20% buy something other than what they originally intended to buy
- 69% of online consumers say that the quality, relevance, and timing of the content they find affects their opinion of a brand (and their purchase habits)
It’s clear that there’s a benefit to Micro Moment marketing. It’s about capturing the attention of people in your area who are seeking the products or services you’re selling. The trick, of course, is knowing how and when to capture your audience’s attention at those key moments.
What You Need for Micro Moment Marketing
Gathering information about its customers is important for every business. You might have a small business with only one location, but you still need to understand who your customers are and how to use the data you collect to your advantage.
Some of the data to collect includes:
- How your customers find your business and why they decided to buy from you
- Where and how they prefer to make purchases
- How they prefer to pay for their purchases
- What things matter the most to them when making online purchases
For example, 53% of visitors will abandon a mobile site if it takes more than three seconds to load. That’s not much time – and if your site is slow, then you could be losing customers without realizing it.
You also need to understand how customers typically approach buying a product like yours. What information do they need? Where are they likely to go to get it? And – most importantly – how can you capitalize on their habits to draw them in?
Micro Moment Best Practices
There are some simple things you can do to engage your target audience in one of the more than 100 Micro Moments they experience each day.
Let’s start with Google’s definition of a Micro Moment. During a Micro Moment, customers want to know something, do something, go somewhere, or buy something. That means that, in order to capture their attention, your business must:
- Be there, meaning that you must have content that’s easily accessible and directly related to the information the people in your target audience want during a Micro Moment
- Be useful, meaning that your Micro Moment content must provide a relevant digital experience that provides a potential customer with the information they want – and the means to act on it
- Be accountable, meaning that you must provide a seamless customer experience that makes it easy for customers to buy from you across all channels
How to do all three? Well, here are some suggestions:
- Conduct a customer survey using email or social media to get a better idea of the kind of content your customers need to buy from you
- Identify crucial points in your sales funnel, so you can capitalize on them. Here, I’m talking about the moment when a customer realizes that they need what you’re selling or that they have a problem that your product or service can solve.
- Craft content that responds directly to those crucial points, providing customers with compelling content that’s both relevant and actionable.
- Include in every piece of content a clear call to action that will direct your customer to your business or provide them with a phone number or a link to your website. (The key is to provide them with a way to take immediate action!)
- Text your Micro Moment content and refine it until it’s giving you the return on investment that you need.
The most essential part of this process is knowing when your customers are likely to experience a Micro Moment. It might be when they’re making dinner plans or trying to get their kids ready to go back to school. The more information you have, the better able you will be to capture their attention and convert those Micro Moments into sales.
Micro Moments Are Fleeting
The human attention span might be shrinking, but that just means that you have new opportunities to engage with your customers in the way that’s most useful to them – and most profitable to you. Taking the time to understand Micro Moments can help you attract new customers at the point when they are most ready to buy from you.
How Much Are Your Customers Worth? (Hint: It’s More Than You Think)
You’ve got to spend money to make money.
That’s they say, right? And yet, for some small business owners, a generous marketing budget just isn’t in the cards.
You can skimp on marketing, but I’m willing to bet you haven’t considered something that you should be thinking about…
And that’s the lifetime value of each loyal customer you attract with your marketing campaigns.
You know that it costs more to attract a new customer than it does to retain an existing one – but how much can you really afford to spend to attract a new customer?
Knowing the lifetime value of your customers is the key to creating a workable budget for marketing. That number should dictate how much you spend. Spend too much and you’re losing money in the long run. Spend too little – and you’re missing out on an opportunity to grow your business.
How to Calculate Your Lifetime Customer Value
Don’t know how to calculate the lifetime value of your customers? Here’s a simple, five-step process to get to the number you need.
- Start with your company’s total revenue in the past year and divide it by the total number of purchases in the same period. The resulting number is your average purchase value.
- Next, take your total number of purchases in the past year and divide it by the number of unique customers who made purchases. The resulting number is your average purchase frequency rate. (Note: if you make a log of cash sales and don’t request an email, then this number may not be accurate.)
- Take your average purchase value and subtract the average purchase frequency rate from it. That gives you the customer value per year.
- Calculate the average number of years a customer continues to buy from you. If you’ve been tracking unique purchases this shouldn’t be difficult. This number is the average customer lifespan.
- Now, multiply the customer value by the average customer lifespan to get the lifetime value of your customer.
Let’s look at an example. Here are your raw numbers:
- $100,000 in annual revenue
- 250 purchases
- 150 unique customers
Your average purchase value would be $400 . You would then take that number and divide it by 150 to get your average purchase frequency rate, which is 2.67.
Next, you would subtract your average purchase frequency rate from your average purchase value to get $397.33, your customer value per year. If you kept your customers, on average, for 10 years, your customer lifetime value would be $3,973.30.
That’s a very simple example but it illustrates the point. This business has a lifetime customer value of nearly $4,000.
How to use Customer Lifetime Value in Marketing
You know your customer lifetime value – now what?
The short answer is that you’ve got a piece of information that can help you attract more customers and make better use of your marketing budget.
But… what does that mean in practical terms? Here are some actionable ways to use your CLV to your advantage in marketing.
Identify Your Most Profitable Customers
If you’ve been tracking unique customer data, then it’s worth your time to crunch the numbers and learn about who your most valuable customers are.
For example, you might look at your LCV by:
These basic demographics can help you do a better job of targeting your marketing campaigns to the people who are most likely to be profitable to you in the long run.
Identify Your Most Profitable Marketing Channel
You should also calculate your most profitable marketing channel based on the number of new customers you acquire.
Perhaps you have been running marketing campaigns on:
- Google AdWords
Crunching the numbers might reveal that your spending on Google AdWords is earning you a significantly lower return than your Facebook advertising. Knowing that can help you take the next step.
Increase Your New Customer Acquisition Spending
It costs more to attract new customers than to retain existing ones, but once you know your LCV, you may discover that your new customer acquisition spending is on the low side.
You don’t need to send your spending through the roof. However, you can and should look at what you’re spending compared to the LCV you’ve calculated. If you’re spending only a tiny fraction of the LCV to acquire a new customer, it may be worthwhile to spend a bit more in that area going forward.
Allocate Your Marketing Budget to Maximize Customer Value
Your lifetime customer value might not be as high as you want it to be. The good news is that there are things you can do to increase it.
For example, say that you have learned that the people who follow you on Facebook are your most engaged and profitable customers. That’s great information to have.
Instead of sinking money into something that might not be getting you a big return, you can allocate more of your marketing budget to Facebook. Some if may go toward attracting new customers, but you should also spend some trying to get existing customers to buy more frequently and spend more money.
One way to do that is to offer return customers discounts or to create a loyalty program. If you can inspire your existing customers to buy more often, then you’ll be driving up your LCV every time they do.
At the same time, incentivizing your existing customers may also attract new customers to your business. You can encourage your followers to invite their friends to your page or allow them to share a discount code or coupon with their friends.
Your Customers Are Valuable
Every customer you have contributes to your company’s success and profitability. Understanding just how much each customer is worth to you can help you do a better job of attracting new customers, increasing their lifetime value, and maximizing your profits.
Why You Should be Doing SMS Marketing Right Now
What does your marketing mix include?
If you’re like most local businesses, you’re probably doing a mix of online and offline marketing. You might be engaging with customers on social media, hosting local events, blogging, and advertising in the local paper. Perhaps you’ve even targeted mobile customers by using Facebook’s “Call Now” button on your ads.
But guess what? There’s one thing that you’re probably not doing that could help you connect with customers when they’re most likely to stop by your business. And you might not even have considered it.
I’m talking about SMS messaging, more commonly known as text messaging.
More than 2.5 billion people worldwide own a smart phone that’s capable of text messaging. That’s a staggering number – and it begs the question:
Why aren’t more small businesses using text messaging for marketing?
Texting by the Numbers
Text messaging has the potential to be a marketing superstar for your business. To get an idea of just how effective it can be, check out these statistics:
- 89% of people always have their smart phone accessible
- 97% of Americans text at least once a day
- Texting is the #1 communication method used by people under 50 years old
- 82% of text messages are read within 5 minutes of receipt
That last statistic is particularly important, especially when you consider that consumers open only about 25% of the emails they receive.
People send and receive text messages. They give them priority over other communication, and they spend more time texting than they do talking on their phones.
In other words, text messaging is arguably the best way to ensure that the people in your target audience read what you send them.
Advantages of SMS Marketing
You know people are likely to read your text messages – but what are the other advantages of incorporating text messages into your marketing mix? Here are five that I think are key:
- You can track SMS messages the same way you would any other marketing campaign using web-based tools like SlickText.
- You can collect data about your text list by creating interactive content that allows them to reply to your messages quickly and easily.
- Text messaging provides nearly instantaneous results and stats for you to use to fine-tune your campaigns.
- Text messaging can be casual and personalized with direct language and even emoji to build a relationship with the people you text.
- Text messages are a great way to connect with your audience when they’re most likely to be in your area or in the market for what you’re selling.
A good example of time-sensitive text messaging might be a restaurant or bar texting out a Happy Hour coupon at about the time most people are getting out of work. They might be planning to head out for a drink or a bite anyway, and you can provide them with a nudge to choose your establishment over others in the area.
How to Get Subscribers for Your SMS List
By law, you cannot send a text message to anybody who has not signed up for your list. That means that you must find ways to attract new subscribers. Here are some helpful suggestions to get started.
The first and potentially easiest way to find new subscribers is to add a cell phone field to your existing opt-in form on your website. You can include a message letting people know that if they choose to provide you with a cell phone number, they’re agreeing to receive text messages from you.
Another option is to promote your SMS list in store with large print posters, flyers and other print media encouraging your customers to sign up for exclusive discounts & offers. Make sure to mention what some of those exclusive offers might be.
You may also want to send out an email to your current email list and give your subscribers a link to sign up to receive text messages from you. Here again, it’s a good idea to tempt them by letting them know you’ll be sending out special coupons and deals via text message.
Using these methods, it shouldn’t take you very long to build up a sizable SMS messaging list.
Tips for Successful SMS Messaging Campaigns
Text message marketing has a lot in common with other forms of marketing. To be successful, you must conceptualize a strong campaign based on your knowledge of your subscribers, create compelling content, and track your results. Here are some tips that may help you.
- Understand your audience. You may want to create a quick survey for your email list or social media followers to find out what kind of content they would like to receive via text message.
- Keep your messages short and sweet. People are more likely to read your messages if they’re brief and compelling. A good rule of thumb is to make them about the same length as a Tweet – no more than 280 characters.
- Offer mobile-exclusive deals to your subscribers. These might include exclusive coupons, discounts, and sales especially for your mobile customers.
- Use casual language that speaks directly to the recipient. Most important, use “you” and “your,” which underscore that the exclusivity of your list and make customers feel valued.
- Don’t be afraid to bring some humor into your texts. It’s a casual form of communication and people like to laugh – but of course, keep it PG-rated and steer away from controversial topics.
- Add a few emoji to your texts. People use them in their personal texts and they can add personality and fun to your marketing campaign.
- Track your results and tweak your campaigns as needed.
Some text messaging providers to try include SlickText, SumoText, and SimpleTexting. You want a provider with affordable prices, an intuitive dashboard, and great analytics.
The bottom line is that if you’re not using SMS messaging to reach your audience, you’re missing out on a chance to build brand loyalty and increase your sales. Text messages are inexpensive to send and easy to write – and they can help you grow your business.
7 Marketing Trends You Can’t Afford to Ignore in 2019
Who cares about marketing trends, right?
If that’s your attitude, I get it. Some trends are here and gone before you even have time to figure out how to take advantage of them. It’s easy to dismiss trends as fleeting.
But the truth is… some aren’t fleeting. Some are here to stay. As the year ends and 2019 approaches, it’s a good time to take stock of your current marketing strategy. And, if you’ve been ignoring all trends in favor of the tried and true, then guess what? 2019 is the year to shake things up.
Now, I’m not saying that you need to jump on every trend as soon as you become aware of it. I am saying that I’ve noticed that a lot of small businesses aren’t taking advantage of the big trends – the ones that, for better or worse, aren’t going anywhere. And with that in mind, here are 7 trends that you can no longer afford to ignore in 2019.
#1: Artificial Intelligence
I wrote about artificial intelligence last month, so you already know I think it’s important for small businesses to embrace this technology.
In marketing, the use of AI in the form of chatbots has taken root and many small businesses are adopting it. The bottom line is that a well-programmed chatbot can improve your customer service and increase sales.
AI is also becoming increasingly important in the field of marketing analytics. You can use it to make market predictions and get ahead of the curve as your audience’s preferences change and develop. And, let’s not forget that programmatic advertising – which uses AI to automate ad buying – is on the rise.
One-size-fits-all marketing is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. While there’s still some benefit to targeting ads to a large audience, the trend increasingly is toward the kind of one-to-one marketing that Amazon has done brilliantly for years.
If every visitor to your website is seeing the same content, it’s time to think about how to personalize it. You can do that using cookies that make recommendations based on a user’s previous activity on your site.
Or, you can allow users to choose the type of content that they want to see. Either way, the goal is to make every customer feel that you’re speaking directly to them.
Incidentally, the same trend should be applied to email marketing. Sending emails that are triggered by a customer’s behavior is three times more effective than sending batch emails – something to keep in mind in the new year.
#3: Influencer Marketing
Ad blocking has been a challenge for marketers for years now, but the recent stats show that it’s now impacting mobile advertising as well as desktop. What can you do to get around it?
I’ve written about influencer marketing before, but it really has proven to be one of the best ways to engage with potential customers without needing to worry about ad blockers. It uses influential social media accounts that appeal to your audience.
It can take a bit of trial and error to find the right influencers but once you do, influencer marketing can be a cost-effective way of attracting new customers to your business.
#4: Video Marketing
If you’re not making marketing videos to share with your audience, it’s time to stop pretending that video is too expensive (or too technical) to be worth your while. Research shows that businesses who use video marketing grow 49% faster than businesses that don’t. How can you ignore that?
The good news is that video doesn’t need to be expensive and you don’t need to be Spike Lee to make a terrific marketing video that will attract new customers. Even a simple Facebook Live session where you take questions from your followers can help you grow your business.
#5: Social Messaging Apps
Did you know that every month, businesses exchange 2 billion (that’s with a B!) Facebook Messenger apps with their customers? That’s not just a trend – it’s a tsunami.
Using social messaging tools like Messenger or WhatsApp can help you connect with customers on a personal level. And – hearkening back to the first trend I mentioned – artificial intelligence can help you do it.
Creating a chatbot for Messenger or any other app is a relatively easy (and affordable) thing to do. A lot of companies use chatbots to suggest products or answer simple questions. That means that using messenger apps is an extremely effective way to connect with your existing audience and attract new potential buyers for your products and services.
#6: Voice Search – smart speaker
If you’ve said “Okay Google” or asked Siri, Alexa, or Cortana to find something for you online, then you know that voice search is here to stay. In fact, researchers estimate that 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020 – and that means that it’s time to optimize your web content for voice search now.
You can start by using the language of voice search – optimizing for the terminology that your audience is most likely to use. You may also want to start thinking about audio-only ads.
It’s probable that you’ll start hearing sponsored content on Alexa before long. This is an opportunity for you to beat out your competitors who may be lagging in this area.
#7: Social Media Stories
If you’ve logged onto any social media account lately, you’ve probably noticed something: stories. Facebook may prompt you to add to your story, and other platforms – including YouTube – have jumped on the trend.
A social media story is temporary content that can be used to trigger your customers’ FOMO (that’s fear of missing out.) It’s ideal for seasonal promotions and deals, and it can be a great way to engage your audience. If you’re not already using social media stories to connect with your customers, 2019 is the year to start.
Trends aren’t all fleeting…
It’s one thing to avoid jumping on a trend bandwagon at the first opportunity. But ignoring the 7 key trends I’ve outlined here in 2019 will put you in a tricky position if your competitors are using them.
How to Avoid Getting Slapped by Google’s E.A.T. Update
Has your organic traffic taken a nosedive lately – or if not a nosedive, at least a significant dip?
There’s a reason for that. Google tweaks its search algorithm all the time. Some updates are small and make only a small difference in search rankings. Others are major. And, that’s the case with the E.A.T. update, which caused some previously top-ranked sites to lose more than 50% of their organic traffic overnight.
If you’re familiar with Google’s methods, then you know that they hardly ever comment on updates or share relevant information about them. That means that marketers and SEOs have to guess what’s going on.
That can be tricky, but it turns out that this latest update can be summed up with three letters: EAT. Let’s talk about what they mean.
What Does E.A.T. Stand For?
Google’s E.A.T. algorithm has been given that name because of the three key things it prioritizes. They are:
- Expertise. How knowledgeable are you (or any contributing writers to your site) about the subject matter related to your business?
- Authoritativeness. How credible is your business in your industry or niche?
- Trustworthiness. Can readers trust the content you publish and trust you with their business?
Those three factors – expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness – are things that loom large for consumers. Since Google prioritizes sites that are useful to searchers, it’s really not a surprise that they would find a way to reward sites that demonstrate them.
The trick, of course, is knowing what things Google’s looking at and what you can do to improve your results. Chasing organic traffic was already difficult. In fact, only about 9% of content gets any organic traffic from Google.
How to Demonstrate Your Expertise
The best way to demonstrate your expertise is to update and optimize your author biography and About Us pages. These pages give you the opportunity to let readers (and Google) know who you are and why you’re an expert.
You should have a biography page for every contributor to your blog. Their byline should link to their bio. The bio should include:
- Education and degrees
- Work experience
- Professional certifications and accomplishments
In addition to formal awards and things of that nature, it’s also a good idea to share information about your social following if applicable. Anything that demonstrates that people turn to your authors for advice and information will help you with Google.
The same thing goes for your About Us page. On the page, you can still explain the usual things like how and why you started your business. In addition, make sure to mention:
- The experts you’ve hired to be part of your team
- Any industry awards or recognition your company has received
- Anything that sets your business apart from your competitors
Using important keywords and linking to authoritative sources will help you highlight your expertise.
How to Demonstrate Your Authoritativeness
The next element of E.A.T. is authority. Here are the most important things you can do to signal your authoritativeness to Google.
- Build backlinks to your site. Every SEO knows that backlinks are essential. When authority sites link back to your site, it tells Google that your site is an authority source of information in your industry or niche.
- Offer your services as an authority and do what you can to increase your visibility online. If you write a guest blog or speak at a conference, those things can add to your authority.
- Be a thought leader. Authority doesn’t come from following what others do. If you want to be seen as an authority, you must offer opinions and analysis without worrying about what other people are doing.
Establishing yourself as an authority figure will help to earn you a high place on Google’s SERP.
How to Demonstrate Your Trustworthiness
It’s a common saying that trust needs to be earned. That applies to marketing as much as it does to anything else. In other words, trust isn’t something you can wish into being. You must give people reasons to trust you.
Reputation management plays a big role in trust. When people review your company on sites like Yelp or Google My Business, what do they say about you? How do you handle negative reviews? Do you have quality testimonials on your site? Each of these things plays a role in establishing your reputation online.
The same is true of social mentions. It’s essential to keep track of when and how your business is mentioned on social media.
Finally, you can build trust by having proper security on your site. That means installing a security certificate and using encryption to protect your most important data.
Other Quick Fixes for E.A.T.
In addition to the things I’ve mentioned above, there are some other important steps you can take to make the most of Google’s latest update.
- Evaluate your traffic and delete or redirect pages with low E.A.T. ratings.
- Moderate user-generated content and be careful to label it accordingly, so it’s not mistaken as being representative of you or your company.
- Make sure to present a consistent brand across all platforms. That may mean updating your social media profiles, re-writing content on your website, and re-doing paper marketing materials as well.
- Create E.A.T.-friendly images, such as infographics and charts, to support the information on your website.
As you’re reworking or adding content, keep in mind that Google still prioritizes content that’s written for people, not machines. This isn’t about gaming the system or fooling Google. Rather, you should be honoring the things that they have identified as important while also providing your readers with useful, valuable, and actionable content.
You are what you E.A.T.
It’s natural to be nervous about a major update like E.A.T., but my takeaway is this. E.A.T. is a huge opportunity for local businesses to build their brands and provide their customers with the best possible content while also building trust and authority. In other words, E.A.T. updates can help you attract new customers and make your existing customers appreciate you in a whole new way.
How to Create a Killer Facebook Video Ad for Your Business
Not using Facebook video for advertising?
I’m not going to beat around the bush. You’re making a mistake. In fact, I think Facebook video marketing may be the single best way to increase conversions and sales for your business.
That’s a bold statement, but I can back it up. People watch a huge amount of video on Facebook:
- Videos on Facebook get more than 8 billion views per day
- Facebook users watch more than 100 million hours of video on the platform each day
- Forbes estimates that half a billion people watch at least some video on Facebook each day
- Facebook videos have an engagement rate of 6.3%, which is almost twice as high as YouTube videos
See what I mean? Just a few years ago, video marketing on Facebook was seen as cutting edge. Now, it’s the norm. If you’re not doing it, you are losing customers to your competitors. It’s just that simple.
How to Capture Your Audience with Video Advertising on Facebook
So, you know you need to be using video to appeal to your audience. What you may not know is that there are some specific qualities your video most have to work on Facebook. Here are some of the things your video should do if you want your campaign to be successful.
Grab the Viewer’s Attention Quickly
A recent Nielsen survey found that as much as 70% of an advertising video’s impact can be felt in the first 10 seconds. That means you’ve got only a limited time to grab your audience’s attention.
Video ads on Facebook play automatically in the feed – we’ll talk more about that later. That means that you have a unique opportunity to grab a viewer’s attention as they scroll past.
The key is to use powerful visuals right at the beginning of your video. You’ll need something that is visually engaging, surprising, and gets your point across quickly.
One example we like comes from Purple Mattress. This video features two Sumo wrestlers on top of a Purple mattress and it’s designed to demonstrate the strength of the mattress pad.
When you watch it, you’ll notice that the Sumo wrestlers appear at about 9 seconds. I think it might have been even more effective if they’d started with the Sumo wrestlers and then cut to the announcer. But as it is, the colorful video with its surprising visuals captured viewers’ attention.
To make the most of your Facebook marketing video, think of a strong visual story that demonstrates the uniqueness of your product. Then, introduce the story at the beginning of the video, ideally within the first 5 seconds.
Allow Viewers to Watch without Sound
The next thing your video must do is work without sound. Facebook videos in the feed play automatically, but viewers must opt to use sound. You can (and should) make it clear that they can click for sound, but your video should make its point even if a viewer doesn’t do that.
There are, of course, several ways that you can get by without sound:
- Create a video that’s all about visuals and doesn’t require any sound at all.
- Use bold titles and graphics on the screen.
- Include subtitles in your video.
- Create an animated video to tell your story.
- Add a “tap for sound” reminder on the screen.
Some people may be scrolling Facebook in a place where playing the sound on your video is not an option. The reason you want to make your video compelling without sound is to capture their attention.
Here’s an example we like from the website Tastemade, which features recipes, cooking advice, travel videos, and more. They created their Tiny Kitchen series to capture attention on Facebook – and they did it without any sound.
Here’s one video they created. It shows a human chef preparing food in a tiny kitchen. The only sound is incidental. With the hands there for scale, it grabs attention immediately and kept viewers watching all 13 minutes of the demo – showing that a Facebook video doesn’t need to be short to be compelling.
This was a Facebook Live video that grabbed more than 3.8 million view and was shared more than 17,000 times. Why? Because its surprising content and visually compelling style made people stop and pay attention.
Tell a Story
There’s plenty of evidence to show that stories are an effective form of marketing. Stories engage our brains by triggering an emotional response. An effective advertising story may be moving or humorous. It can be long or short.
One of the most effective things you can do is to find ways to tell a story that supports your brand’s personality and message. You don’t necessarily need a lot of time to do that, but you do need imagination.
Here’s an example I like from the company MeUndies. They claim to sell the most comfortable underwear in the world, but their story is not just about comfort. On their website, they say, “Finding underwear that makes you feel good is an easy way to boost your mood and your confidence.”
How do they get that across in a video? Check out this short video – it’s only 21 seconds long – that features a man wearing the company’s glow-in-the-dark Star Wars briefs to act out his fantasy of being Darth Vader:
This video gets is message across quickly. It uses a pop culture reference to one of the most successful film franchises of all time with a dash of humor as the man in the video realizes that his towel looks like Darth Vader’s helmet.
MeUndie’s Facebook video campaigns ultimately reached more than 1.4 million viewers and garnered them a 97% increase in incremental purchases.
Capturing your audience on Facebook might not be easy…
But, it’s achievable if you follow these three key tips. Compelling visuals and an interesting story will ensure that people can appreciate your video even if they choose not to turn on the sound. And since most people will see your ad as they scroll down their feed, grabbing their attention in the first five seconds is a must.
And, considering that Facebook ads get a whopping 9.21% conversion rate across all industries, it’s time to stop pretending that you can afford not to create video campaigns on Facebook. Your customers are waiting for you on Facebook – and the right kind of marketing video can help you find them.
The Pros and Cons of Having AI Interact with Your Customers
What do you think of when you think of artificial intelligence?
If your thoughts veer to the ominous HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey, you’re not alone. And yet, in my opinion it’s a mistake for small business owners to avoid investing at least a little bit of time and money in AI. It’s a trend that’s here to stay.
Now, that’s not to say that there aren’t some potential downsides to using AI. The most natural application of the technology for small business owners is a chatbot that can augment and improve your customer service. That means the bot would be interacting directly with your customers.
Scary? Maybe a little. But there are some serious benefits to using AI to go along with the risks. It’s important for you to understand both, so you can make an informed decision about whether AI is a worthwhile investment for your business.
The Pros of AI
Let’s start with the good news. Finding ways to have artificial intelligence interact directly with your customers can offer you some big rewards. Here’s what you need to know.
No Holidays or Time Off
The first plus of using AI for customer service is that AI isn’t human. That means it doesn’t need time off. It can be available to your customers around the clock, 365 days a year. If a customer needs help, your chatbot or virtual assistant can be there to offer it.
In the long run, you can save money on customer service because a chatbot can be programmed to handle a high volume of incoming requests and you won’t need to pay it a salary or benefits.
No Human Error
Another big benefit of incorporating AI into your customer service is that it can, if programmed properly, eliminate human error and make your customer interactions completely consistent across the board. That means no more flustered employees or inaccurate responses.
Even the best employee can be forgetful or have a bad day. A chatbot won’t have a bad day because they’re not programmed to have one. You can be sure that every customer who uses your chatbot will get the same professional, accurate information, every time.
Arguably the biggest positive associated with using artificial intelligence is that it can help you collect accurate and actionable data from your customers in real time. Since traditional customer research can take a huge amount of time, this is a huge plus and one that you can definitely use to your advantage.
You can learn which issues are causing trouble for your customers, which products they like the most, and at what times they’re most likely to buy from you. You can also use the data you collect to improve the programming of your chatbots and make your customer service even better than it already is.
What’s your brand’s personality? Whether you’re formal or casual, funny or low-key, you can program your AI solutions with the language and personality that fits your brand. Since it can be difficult to screen employees and figure out how they’ll cope in a high-pressure situation, chatbots can be a good way to even things out.
The beauty of AI programming is that you can build variety and personality in with the right scriptwriters and programmers. You might not be able to imagine a chatbot with personality, but I also think you’ll be surprised by how much can be done with good programming.
These benefits are no joke. If you properly design and program your chatbots, they can help you elevate your customer service, build loyalty, and increase sales.
The Cons of AI
The pros are undeniable, but what are the downsides of having AI interact with your customers? There are several, and not surprisingly, they correlate with the pros I’ve already mentioned.
Round the Clock Monitoring
The first potential downside is related to the 24/7 nature of chatbots. A chatbot, even a well-programmed one, can’t handle ever potential customer problem. In fact, part of proper chatbot programming is making sure that the bot knows when and how to get human assistance.
Reading between the lines, then, there’s a need to have a human agent on call to back up the chatbot. That means that you’ll still need some human support and people who are willing to be on call even after hours.
Lack of Improvisation
Chatbot programming can do a lot – but it can’t do everything. In fact, one of the biggest downsides of using AI for customer service is that AI can’t improvise. It can only do what it’s been programmed to do.
In nine out of ten cases, that’s probably going to be fine. But what happens if a customer isn’t fluent in English or asks a question in a way that’s unfamiliar to the bot? You’ve got to be prepared for the likelihood that some customers, some of the time, will find dealing with a bot to be frustrating.
I already told you that AI can collect data and that can be a huge benefit. But, of course, any time you collect data you’ve also got to store data – and that can leave you vulnerable to hacking.
This isn’t really a downside so much as it is a warning. If you are going to use chatbots for your business, make sure to take appropriate security measures and use encryption to protect your valuable data.
The final potential downside is the sort of worst-case scenario that we all think of when we think of AI. It’s that a bad actor could find a way to manipulate your chatbots or virtual agents to make them work in a way that is contrary to your interests.
Some manipulations may be relatively harmless, but the danger is that, since chatbots use machine learning to improve their performance, they may pick up bad habits from some users. You’ll need to be prepared to be on the lookout for problems and correct them immediately.
You’re not hiring HAL…
Using AI to interact with customers can do a great deal to help your business grow. The key is to put yourself in a position to reap the benefits while also protecting yourself from the potential downsides associated with AI.
Can a Chatbot Help Your Business?
There is no question that technology has changed the way we do business, both as vendors and as consumers. While we may still have an occasional need to go to a store and stand in line at a customer service desk, a significant percentage of people do their shopping online – and they want their customer service to be available there too. Many companies have integrated customer service into their social media accounts, and some even offer live chat on their websites.
Those are all great options – but they also require you to pay a flesh-and-blood person to be on the other end of those interactions. What if there were another way? That’s where chatbots come in.
What is a Chatbot?
Chatbots are the new kid on the technological block, so it’s likely you haven’t heard of them before. Basically, a chatbot is a computer program that integrates with an existing Messaging platform, such as Facebook Messenger, Slack, Discord, or Kik. The program is designed to interact with people based on their questions and comments. In other words, it’s like a robot employee.
There are two basic types of chatbot:
- Chatbots that function based on rules are simple to program, but also limited in terms of what they can do. They will respond only to very specific commands, which means that if a user types words that it doesn’t recognize, it will not respond.
- Chatbots that function based on machine learning are designed using artificial intelligence. That means that they understand language, not just pre-programmed commands, and they can learn as they go. They are more complicated to design than rules-based chatbots, but also far more versatile.
You can program a chatbot to do almost anything, including:
- Answering customer questions
- Showing a customer available products
- Subscribing customers to a newsletter
- Providing news and updates
Despite what you might believe, it isn’t all that complicated to program a chatbot that uses machine learning. If you hire an experienced developer or programmer, they can do it for you.
If you elect to use a rules-based chatbot, you will have to make sure to provide customers with an option to talk to a live representative. The limitations of a rules-based chatbot can make it frustrating to deal with one if you don’t know the proper commands.
How Small Business Can Benefit from Using Chatbots
How can your business benefit from using a chatbot? A 2016 survey showed that 54% of respondents would prefer to interact with their favorite brands via a messaging service. As consumers grow accustomed to receiving service online that number is likely to increase. Using a chatbot is a good way to give your customers what they want without having to pay a live customer service rep to be available 24 hours a day.
There are two primary ways that small businesses can utilize chatbots to assist their customers, improve customer service, and increase sales.
The first potential application that local businesses can have for chatbots is to provide their customers with necessary information and direction at all hours of the day and night. For example, a chatbot might be able to:
- Let customers know what your store hours are
- Give information regarding where you are located, or which location is closest to a customer
- Direct customers to products that meet their needs
- Answer questions about a product’s functionality or price
- Record customer complaints or issues so you can follow up later
In other words, a well-designed chatbot can act like a 24-hour customer concierge, helping people understand your products and services and assisting them with problems.
Sales and Conversion
The other potential application that a local business might have for a chatbot is to use it as a 24-hour sales assistant and conversion specialist. A lot of times, customers need some guidance while using a website. They might prefer to ask a question rather than navigating a menu or trying to find what they want on their own. A chatbot that is programmed to assist with sales can:
- Take a customer’s specifications or requests and present them with a list of products (Facebook has a chatbot that companies can use to show customers a carousel of product choices within the Messenger app)
- Narrow the products down by size, price, or any other factor
- Provide a clickable link that allows the customer to make a purchase right from the messaging app
- Direct them back to the feed or post where they started
Having a chatbot that can do these things can help you convert a casual social media browser to a customer in just a few minutes. There might not be a real person behind the chatbot, but a well-designed chatbot can provide a level of personalized service that simply isn’t possible on a website or even on the phone.
How to Get Started
If you want to design a chatbot for your business, there are some things you need to know to get started. The first is that, while it may be prohibitively expensive to hire someone to create a bespoke chatbot for your company, some designers are offering a variety of chatbot templates that can be adapted with specific functionalities to meet your needs. Some companies to check out include are Rapidfy and SaltMinesGroup
If your company has a presence on Facebook, you can also check out their chatbot page to learn more about the options available. Their platform makes it possible to create a chatbot with the functionalities that will be most useful to your business, including some that allow you to show customers products and assist purchases. You can find more information on Facebook here.
You also have the option of trying to develop a bot on your own. There are a number of websites that provide basic guidance to help walk you through the process. Here are a few to try:
Chatbots offer small businesses a way to harness technology to provide customers with 24 hour service at a fraction of what it would cost to pay a round-the-clock staff. While there are some start-up costs involved, a well-designed bot can pay for itself in increased sales and customer satisfaction.