How can your business benefit from email automation?

Are you looking for ways to improve your email marketing campaign? Do you want to deliver relevant and personalized content to customers and potential clients? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you should consider automating your email campaigns.

What is email automation?

Email automation is a tool that allows businesses to automatically send relevant and personalized messages to subscribers at a predetermined time based on specific triggers or predefined criteria. Such criteria include payment reminders, subscriber birthdays, promos, monthly feedback requests, order confirmations, and more.

What are the advantages of using email automation?

Here are the key benefits of email automation.

  1. Adds a personal touch
    Email automation tools let you automatically insert a customer’s name and other details into an email. By using the customer’s name rather than using a generic salutation like “Dear valued customer,” you are able to make the email more personal, potentially increasing the chances that your customer will be more receptive to your marketing messages. According to Experian Marketing Services, personalized promotional emails have a 29% higher chance of being opened compared to non-personalized ones. In addition, consumers were also 25% more likely to engage with personalized triggered emails compared to those that are not.
  2. Helps segment contacts
    Email automation allows you to divide your customers and leads into groups based on their purchase behavior, demographics, and interests. For example, if your company sells mobile devices, you can use email automation to create unique messages for customers who’ve shown interest in either Apple or Android products. Segmenting contacts ensures ‌recipients will only receive messages that align with their interests. This will help keep customers engaged and reduce the probability of them sending unwanted emails to the spam folder or unsubscribing from your mailing list.
  3. Improves productivity
    With email automation, your marketing team doesn’t have to spend too much time compiling email lists and creating and scheduling email campaigns. Email automation systems can automatically send out emails based on triggers, such as signing up for a monthly newsletter, or predefined events like birthdays. This will help free up your team to focus on more critical tasks instead of spending a huge chunk of time emailing clients and leads.
  4. Helps retain existing customers
    Selling to existing customers is easier and more cost-effective than converting a lead, so you need to keep your existing customers engaged. You can do this by sending them exclusive promos, feedback requests, and loyalty rewards via email. This will ensure that you reach more people, especially those that don’t use social media.

When implemented properly, email automation can be a powerful marketing tool that frees up your team to do what they do best. If you want to learn more about email automation, give us a call today.

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How to choose the best Microsoft 365 plan for your business

The different Microsoft 365 plans are packed with various features that often make it difficult for business owners to decide which plan to go with. This article will help youfind out which plan is ideal for your business setup.

Microsoft 365 plans for businesses

Microsoft 365 for businesses comes in four different plans: Business Basic, Apps for business, Business Standard, and Business Premium.

Plan Microsoft 365 Business Basic Microsoft 365 Apps Microsoft 365 Business Standard Microsoft 365 Business Premium
Price $6.00 user/month $8.25 user/month $12.50 user/month $22.00 user/month
Web-based and mobile versions of Microsoft apps Yes Yes, excluding Outlook Yes Yes
50GB email storage Yes No Yes Yes
Microsoft Teams Yes No Yes Yes
1TB cloud storage Yes Yes Yes Yes
Standard online security Yes No Yes Yes
24/7 online and phone support Yes Yes Yes Yes
Microsoft Bookings No No Yes Yes
MileIQ No No Yes Yes
Microsoft Defender for Office 365 No No No Yes
Information Rights Management No No No Yes
Manage and wipe company devices remotely with Intune No No No Yes

How to choose the right Microsoft 365 plan for your business

Now that you have an idea of how much each Microsoft 365 plan costs and what features are included with each plan, it’s time to determine which one is right for your business. Here’s what you should do:

Assess your current hardware and software
It’s important to make sure your employees’ computers are capable of running Microsoft 365 applications before subscribing to a plan. Some features might not work as expected or have limited functionality if their hardware does not meet specific system requirements.

Likewise, assessing your current software and apps is crucial to determining whether they will work effectively with Microsoft 365. Some third-party apps may not be compatible, limiting the usefulness of your subscription.

Consider your needs
When choosing a Microsoft 365 plan, consider your company’s needs and determine which features will offer you the most value. Try answering these questions to get an idea of your requirements:

  • Are you looking for ways to improve collaboration and communication?
  • Will your business benefit by shifting to the cloud?
  • Are you looking for advanced protection from various threats?

Asking questions like these can help you narrow down your options and find a plan that’s tailored to your business.

Plan your budget
When planning a budget for the Microsoft 365 plan of your choice, there are two things to consider: the number of users and the migration cost. For the number of users, try to overshoot your budget slightly to account for new employees. If you have in-house IT staff, you can let them handle the migration process to avoid additional expenses. By taking these factors into account, you can choose a subscription plan that fits well within your budget.

If you’re still unsure about what Microsoft 365 plan you need, you can call our experts for advice or you can answer this questionnaire.

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Effective video content to attract more customers

According to Wyzowl’s 2022 State of Video Marketing Report, 86% of businesses use video as a marketing tool. If you’re not using videos as part of your marketing strategy, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. In this blog post, we’ll discuss seven types of video content that can help boost your marketing campaigns and attract more customers.

Ask me anything (AMA)

You may be getting a lot of conceptual questions about innovative ways to use your product or service, what direction your company is heading, what the latest trends are, and so forth. One of the best ways to address these questions is to record or stream a live personal and unscripted AMA segment.

To get good engagement, make sure to keep questions and answers moving in a relevant and interesting direction. There’s nothing wrong with updating everyone on what you had for breakfast, but addressing service bugs or product feature requests will be a lot more beneficial for your target audiences.

Business introduction or behind-the-scenes

If your company wants to build an online presence, one of the best things you can do is to showcase your business. Create content that introduces your staff or provides information about your products or services.

For instance, you can take your viewers on an office tour, show them how one of your products is made, or broadcast your business’s launch event. Make sure to invite as many viewers as you can, but remember that most live broadcasts can be recorded and saved. You’ll likely want to keep the video available after the live broadcast has ended so other potential customers can view it later.

Live broadcast announcements

You can hold live broadcasts on social media to update your customers about an upcoming product, service, or event. A live broadcast is a more interesting and personal way to make announcements compared to press releases and status updates.

Text-based announcements and pre-recorded videos can limit how you address the “fine print” questions from customers. You can use live broadcasts as a chance to hold press briefings and address questions after your official announcement.

Facebook is one of the most popular live streaming platforms today, but there are a handful of different services you can use for broadcasting live videos. Aside from Facebook, there are a handful of different services to use for live video broadcasting. Deciding which one is the best for you can depend on a lot of different variables, such as the length of your content and the demographics of your target audience.

News and trending topics

Current and live event broadcasts are great not only because they’re fresh, but also because they give your audience something to share.

Facebook Live and Instagram stories allow people and businesses to share recent information, trending news, and other relevant stories. For example, you can stream a live cooking show while engaging your viewers by hosting a Q and A in real time. You can also offer a special discount to anyone who tunes in to a live broadcast. With these features, you can easily attract a wide audience and get them to consider your business.

How-tos

Whether you have a soon-to-be-released product or a simple rehash of an existing one, there’s no better way to introduce it to your customers than by using how-to videos.

Not only do these show existing clients the best way to utilize your service or operate your product, but it also allows potential customers to see both your product and your customer service philosophy in action. Regularly monitoring these videos can be invaluable as you continue to get questions about your products or services over time. You can also use these how-to videos as another way to build a video reference library for your sales and support team.

Promotional videos

Your promotional videos should portray your business in a positive light and make people want to do business with you. You can feature your organization’s vision and mission, showcase outreach programs, highlight the positive impact of your business, and the like.

Nowadays, many companies partner with influencers to attract customers. If you have someone who’s familiar to your audience promoting your business, you’re likely to get the attention of potential customers, especially those who are hearing about your product or service for the first time.

Remember that promotional videos should be straight to the point and, ideally, should last no longer than 10–15 minutes.

Webinars

Webinars are online events that are attended by a virtual audience. They allow for online participation, thanks to real-time audio and video feeds.

A series of images and videos can be broadcast and run in sync with the rest of your presentation. You can also make use of the screen sharing functionality to show your viewers an application or a website. Webinars also offer various interactive opportunities such as live chat, polls, surveys, and tests.

Call us with any of your questions and we’ll be happy to assist you in adding value to your business with today’s best live video services.

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Effective ways of securely collecting customer data

For companies to succeed, they must be able to deliver value to their customers. This entails having a deep understanding of their clients’ needs and interests by collecting and segmenting customer data. However, they should first ensure that they are compliant with data privacy laws to avoid corresponding fines and penalties. Here are safe and effective ways of collecting customer information.

1. Prioritize security

The IBM Cost of a Data Breach Report found that the global average data breach cost reached $4.24 million in 2021, up by 10% from $3.86 million in 2020. Small- and medium-sized businesses, in particular, lose an average of $120,000 per data breach incident.

To avoid such costs and ensure the safety of customer information, you must invest in modern security systems and train your employees in data privacy best practices.

2. Exercise ethical data collection

You need to be honest and transparent about collecting customer data. This means developing clear privacy policies, allowing customers to choose what information to share, and disclosing how their data will be used.

3. Collect only the data you need

Approximately 60% to 73% of customer information collected by organizations is unused during the analysis process. This flood of data can overwhelm analysts and distract management from making effective decisions. Therefore, before gathering customer data, companies must first decide on the following:

  • What information to prioritize
  • How the information aligns with business objectives
  • How the data will be analyzed
  • How this data can help improve the business

4. Back up all data

All of your customer data collection efforts will go to waste if you lose the data because of cyberattacks, natural disasters, and IT failures, among other disasters. This is why you need to make sure that your business has an effective backup and data recovery plan.

5. Update customer data regularly

Having outdated or incorrect data, such as phone numbers, emails, and addresses, can‌ prevent you from nurturing your relationships with your customers. To prevent this issue, regularly check and delete unnecessary data, duplicates, and inactive contacts.

Collecting and analyzing customer data will greatly benefit your company’s overall marketing strategy. If you’re looking for reliable IT solutions to optimize data collection, give us a call today.

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The business continuity benefits of cloud technology

Where you store your company’s data backups is vital to the success of your business continuity strategy. There are various storage media to choose from, but if you value flexibility and convenience, then you should look no further than cloud storage. Here are the benefits that the cloud offers.

Improved uptime

Many business owners think it’s enough to store copies of their files either on an external hard drive or a separate computer housed within their office. Unfortunately, this tactic can go wrong in so many ways. First, it’s possible for bad actors to steal these devices and obtain the data they contain. Second, these devices are susceptible to damage caused by local disasters, cyberattacks, and errors committed by staff. If any of these were to happen, the business would lose access to its backups and might suffer downtime.

In contrast, cloud-hosted backups are always readily accessible with an internet-connected device. Cloud servers are located off-site, so they are not vulnerable to natural disasters in your immediate locale. What’s more, cloud service providers (CSPs) are obligated to keep their servers operational at all times. They make this possible by implementing top-grade cybersecurity measures and various redundancies, such as alternate servers and power supply systems.

Fast resource provisioning

During the backup creation process, spikes in user activity and resource usage can slow down websites and applications running in the background. A CSP can help you address this issue by monitoring user activities, enabling them to see spikes before or as they happen. The provider can then provision resources and virtual machines as needed to manage the influx of users.

Control over backup frequency

Since your employees could work on files and update information throughout the day, you must back up your files as frequently as necessary. Doing so ensures that you have the latest copies of your files even after a sudden outage.

With the cloud, you no longer have to worry about the frequency of your backups. CSPs offer round-the-clock and other fixed backup frequencies, as well as custom backup schedules tailored to your business’s unique requirements. Some services can even create backups as you perform changes on your files, ensuring up-to-date information at any time.

Support for flexible work setups

With flexible working arrangements becoming more and more popular, it’s now even more imperative for your business to invest in the cloud for backup storage. External hard disks, flash drives, and other offline storage media are accessible only to employees working in the office. During events that prevent workers from going to the office, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, depending on offline backups could result in your business ceasing operations altogether.

Cloud storage is accessible anywhere and anytime. This means that no matter where they choose to work, your staff will be able to access the files they need and remain productive as long as they have an internet connection.

Businesses around the world are leveraging the power of the cloud not just to ensure their continued operations but also to support their growth. If you’re looking for a managed cloud backup service to protect your business data, give us a call today to see how we can help.

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Why dashboards are vital tools for business growth

People are visual creatures, so we interpret visual data better than written words. That’s why most businesses turn to dashboards to present data in a way that’s easy to understand. Here are some common uses of dashboards across various business functions.

Marketing insights

Your organization’s marketing department analyzes a significant amount of data from various channels. Whether their purpose is to forecast monthly sales, predict trends, or build marketing strategies, marketing specialists use dashboards to compare, sort, and analyze raw data to produce meaningful information presented in an easy-to-understand manner. This helps key decision makers in your organization to formulate better marketing campaigns.

Tracking sales opportunities

Sales dashboards are ideal for tracking your organization’s products and services. They help you identify sales opportunities by monitoring top-selling products and comparing the growth in revenue on a regular basis. Sales dashboards sync to your raw data, so your charts are always up to date. This eliminates the need to manually enter and prepare sales reports and charts.

Social media management

Social media management is more than just posting statuses on your business’s social media accounts. And in most cases, your social media platform’s default dashboard doesn’t give you deep insights into your social media campaigns. What’s more, managing multiple social media accounts can quickly become tedious since you have to use several login credentials. Instead, you can manage all of your accounts through a comprehensive social media dashboard, saving you valuable time and effort.

Financial reports

Presenting financial data is a complex process that often leads to misinterpretation of critical information. Dashboards simplify the creation of financial reports, and financial analysts can take advantage of dashboards to display sensitive data — be it customer invoices, progress toward revenue goals, or business expenses — in an understandable graphical format.

Project collaboration

All businesses require their employees to collaborate on projects, whether on site or online. Project supervisors need to get their teams together to give them project requirements, deadlines, and responsibilities, and to get progress updates. By using project collaboration dashboards, team members will see a project’s complete workflow, allowing for a more efficient and collaborative working environment.

Dashboards streamline the presentation of complex business data and make your team more efficient. If you’re looking to implement dashboards and other cutting-edge tools to make your job easier, contact our consultants today.

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Here’s why your SMB should consider business intelligence

For years, big companies have been harnessing the power of business intelligence (BI) to improve business performance. And for them, paying experts to analyze large data sets is no issue. It’s different with small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). SMBs also store large volumes of data, but many SMB owners are wary of spending too much on BI. Fortunately, there are plenty of budget-friendly BI tools and resources available for your SMB nowadays. 

Whether you have always wanted to try BI or are on the fence about it, you can’t deny that it brings a suite of benefits that can help your SMB grow. Here are some of the top reasons why BI is changing the way SMBs do business.

Self-service BI tools are plentiful — and inexpensive

The emergence of self-service BI puts useful business analytics within reach of SMB owners who lack the big budgets of larger corporations. In fact, there are numerous self-service BI tools that you can use to get started without even spending a dime. Microsoft Power BI is a powerful and user-friendly application, and most businesses will find the functions they need in the free version. Zoho Analytics has a low entry-level cost, too, and the slightly pricier yet still affordable Tableau is another option worth exploring.

You already have the data you need

It’s easy to underestimate the amount of data your SMB already has at its disposal. In every area of your business, from finance and sales to customer relations and website management, the software packages you use to run your everyday operations reap tons of information that just sit in storage devices or the cloud.

By talking to the key people in your organization, you can get an idea of the kind of data you already have, how it’s generated, and where it’s stored. You can then utilize BI tools to transform that information into meaningful business insights that will inform your decision-making. There’s no need to invest in time-consuming data generation from scratch!

It’s easy to get started

BI is an intimidating term, especially for business owners who are not technologically inclined. But by taking small steps, it’s easy for anyone to get started. Before you know it, you’ll be enjoying the benefits of having data-driven, intelligence-based insights that will enable you to make better business decisions.

Most self-service BI tools come with built-in suggestions for reports that businesses commonly run and find useful. Some worthwhile statistics to explore include the percentage of your clients who cancel within a given period, website landing pages that generate the longest visits, and your most profitable individual products or services. You can also use BI to know the days or months in which you generate your highest revenues, as well as which of your clients bring in the most revenue and profit.

Harnessing data is the future of the business world — it’s how companies like yours can make smarter decisions that increase efficiency and profitability. And with a trove of self-service tools available in the market, SMBs no longer need a humongous budget to reap the benefits of BI. To find out more about implementing tools that can help you do smarter business, just give us a call.

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Sleep well with these Android tablet tips

While your Android tablet is a helpful tool to help you accomplish some work-related tasks, it may also be disrupting your sleep. Make sure this doesn’t happen with the following tips.

Don’t use your devices before bed

It’s been widely recognized that blue light from screens and mobile devices can disrupt sleep, suppressing your body’s levels of melatonin (the hormone that induces sleep). Because of this and the distractions your tablet brings, it’s best to avoid using it half an hour before bed.

Silence distractions with Google Chrome’s Reader Mode

If you just can’t put down your device before bed, some light reading can be an effective way to induce sleep. However, when you’re browsing the internet, you can often run into ads and videos that are sometimes loud and flashy. Just as you’re nodding off, these distractions could startle you awake and out of slumber mode.

Google Chrome’s Reader Mode eliminates unnecessary ads and images, placing an emphasis on the text. To activate Reader Mode, type “chrome://flags” into your navigation bar, scroll down till you find Enable Reader Mode and select Enabled on the drop down menu. Then, press Relaunch on the bottom of the screen to restart Google Chrome. Web pages you visit should now be reader-friendly and free of ads.

Prevent disturbances

If you let emails, calls, and text messages wake you up in the middle of the night, you won’t get enough sleep. Enter the Do Not Disturb setting. This will silence all of these nightly annoyances so you can unplug from the world and get a good night’s rest.

To turn on Do Not Disturb, open Settings > Sound and Notification > Do Not Disturb. From here, you can choose which contacts can get through to you while you’re in deep slumber.

Dim your device

While some Android tablets don’t have a built-in feature to adjust the amount of blue light emitted, there are apps that can help you easily adjust the filter opacity, making your screen less bright, such as Dimly.

Monitor your sleeping habits

Do you constantly wake up at night for no reason at all? Are you sleeping better or worse on nights when you consume certain food or alcoholic beverages? Or do you sleep better on the days you exercise? If you’re unsure of the answers to these questions, there are apps that can help you. Apps like Sleep as Android and Sleep Cycle use motion sensors and sound recording will monitor your sleeping habits to help you discover which nights you sleep best. Then you can try to recreate those conditions to resolve your sleep issues.

No matter your business, sleep is vital to your success. If you want to learn more about how your Android tablet can improve your life and business, give us a call.

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The benefits of identity and access management to your organization

Every technology you use — whether it’s a cloud-based program, a mobile application, or on-premises servers — contains sensitive business data vital to conducting operations. So how can you ensure the security of such data from cyberthreats like identity theft, phishing attacks, and other forms of fraud? Identity and access management (IAM) is the answer to this.

What is IAM?

Identity and access management is a system that secures, stores, and manages user identities and access privileges. It ensures that users are who they say they are and will grant access to applications and resources only to those who have permission to use them. System administrators can enforce this system to give employees access to only the apps and data they need for work.

Other solutions that go into IAM include single sign-on (SSO) and multifactor authentication (MFA). The former allows users to securely log in to multiple applications that they are authorized to access. Meanwhile, MFA sets an additional method of user verification other than passwords. This includes fingerprint scans, facial ID, or a one-time security code sent via SMS.

These security solutions are designed to protect digital assets even if users attempt to access company accounts through mobile devices and the cloud.

Centralize access control

Too much access to certain systems is risky, while too little can hamper productivity and frustrate users. IAM strikes the perfect balance by letting you set centralized policies for the right access privileges. For example, you can deny your design team access to the accounting system while granting it to your CFO.

Each user’s role and attribute can be used to determine which resources they’re allowed to access and to what extent. This not only offers better security, but also more flexibility and ease of management.

Lower chances of data breaches

With SSO and MFA, your employees will no longer have to remember multiple passwords. Instead, they’ll be able to prove their identity using evidence-based authorization such as answering a personal question that only they would know. IAM also comes equipped with advanced encryption tools to protect sensitive data, reducing the risk of compromised user credentials.

Improve user experience

Customers today interact with your company across multiple channels, whether in the cloud or via third-party applications. This is where IAM helps provide a better experience through SSO, self-service capabilities, and unified customer profiles that make communication processes quick and easy.

Your employees, on the other hand, will be able to access the information they need securely and conveniently no matter where they are. This means productivity will no longer be confined to their office desk.

Achieve regulatory compliance

Businesses today must meet the constantly changing regulatory requirements concerning data access governance and privacy management. IAM was designed with exactly that in mind and provides control over who can access data and how it can be used and shared.

Reduce IT costs

IAM automates and standardizes many aspects of identity, authentication, and authorization management. This means you’ll be able to minimize significant labor costs associated with keeping your business environment secure.

An identity and access management solution equips you with much-needed security without compromising on usability and convenience. To operate in a digital business environment, it’s not a matter of if but when you’ll adopt IAM within your company.

If you’re looking to enhance company-wide security, whether with IAM or other solutions, why not give us a call? We’re sure we can help.

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Why technology business reviews are worth it

Are your IT assets contributing to your business’s profitability and overall growth? If you can’t tell whether your IT is helping you turn a profit, it’s time to seek the help of professionals who can evaluate your technology’s performance and spot any anomalies before it’s too late. One way to evaluate your IT systems is to conduct regular technology business reviews.

A technology business review reveals the strengths and weaknesses of your company’s IT framework. It’s often performed by a third-party IT consultant who will give an objective assessment of your technology and provide recommendations to help you meet your goals. If done properly, technology business reviews allow you to:

Save money

Every review starts with a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether an implemented solution is worth the continued investment. If there are technologies costing you a fortune in management and maintenance fees, consultants will advise you to cut them from your budget. They will also recommend cost-effective alternatives so you can do more with less.

Increase productivity

System-wide reviews of your IT infrastructure show you what processes are hindering business operations. This allows you to formulate solutions to increase productivity. For example, if employees are mainly sharing files via email, consultants might suggest cloud collaboration platforms, like Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace, which store data in a centralized location for seamless file sharing.

Enhance security and compliance

Technology business reviews can also uncover security risks within your business. Consultants look for missed patches, poorly configured networks, and other software vulnerabilities that can be easily exploited by cybercriminals.
They’ll then compile their findings to create a more robust cybersecurity strategy, usually one that involves implementing advanced solutions like intrusion prevention systems, file access restrictions, and patch management software.

If you operate a business that’s subjected to data regulations like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) or Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), consultants will also pinpoint noncompliant IT practices and solutions and then customize a strategy that ensures the privacy, integrity, and availability of your data.

Implement appropriate technologies

Considering that new technologies are released at a breakneck pace, it’s important to pick those that will help you achieve your business goals. Technology business reviews keep you up to date on the latest technology trends and gauge the impact of implementing them so that you can make informed decisions.

Whether your goal is to increase profits, productivity, security, or all of the above, technology business reviews can put you on the right track. Our seasoned IT consultants can conduct these reviews for you and develop a strategy that gives you an edge over the competition. Just give us a call.

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