May 4 2017 Industry TrendsA national brand still needs to build a local presence for each store or location. It’s important for franchises and other companies with multiple locations to have a local presence online. When consumers want to communicate with a local business, they want to go straight to the source, as quickly as possible. For example, let’s say today is your son’s birthday. He told you last night—for the first time ever—that what he wants most in the “whole wide world” is a pet turtle. You don’t know anything about caring for turtles, or whether local pet stores would even have them in stock. However, one look at those big, pleading eyes, and you know you’re going to spend the next morning finding out. (And, hey, at least he didn’t ask for another puppy!) The next morning, while you’re running birthday party errands, you use your smartphone to look up the number of the big pet store chain. All you can find is a link to the brand’s national website. You assume there’s a store locator somewhere on the site and that you can probably find the phone number if you dig for it. Suddenly, you notice an ad for a smaller local pet store that includes a phone number. With one click, you have someone on the line, who confirms the store has what you need. An hour later, you have a turtle and $100 worth of supplies. This scenario is good news for the local store and bad news for the big brand. One had the name recognition, but the other was easier to find online. Moving Quickly, Spending Quickly When consumers are in a hurry — and these days, everyone is in a hurry — convenience often trumps brand loyalty. This is particularly true for mobile users, who need information quickly and are prepared to spend quickly in turn. Seventy-six percent of people who conduct a local search through a smartphone visit a business within 24 hours, according to Google, and 28 percent of those searches result in purchases. If mobile users are searching for a local business online, whether it’s to find driving directions, check inventory, see store hours, or find a phone number, they’re likely already planning to visit, if not already en route. If the information they need is too difficult to find, they might be wooed away by competitors who aren’t playing so hard to get. How Can National Brands Build a Stronger Local Presence? Given the hypermobility of today’s consumers, the right digital strategy doesn’t just help brands drive online sales and mobile purchases. It can also drive foot traffic by connecting users with brick-and-mortar stores — if they can find information about them. The following are three ways franchises and other national brands can build local presences for their various locations: 1. Publish Local Information When mobile users look up a local business and find an 800 number, they immediately envision being passed through numerous phone trees and then being told to hold for a representative. They know that’s part of the deal when they call, say, the cable company or the Internal Revenue Service, but they don’t want to go through all that hassle to talk to a business right down the road. They want to call a local number. Even if your company isn’t local, you can use a business phone system to portray a local presence in individual markets by publishing a local phone number in any area code. Every location doesn’t necessarily need its own website, but it should be easy to find contact information for every store or branch, as well as store inventory, hours of operation, and any other important location-based information. 2. Optimize That Information Instead of burying local information so deep on your brand website that neither customers nor Google’s spiders can find, each location needs its own unique page that has been optimized for search engines. That way, when customers search for a business name and location, they don’t just find a link to the brand’s store locator — they find a listing for the local business. 3. Start Unique Social Media Pages For Each Location Social media is a great way to publicize contact information for each individual location. Just as importantly, it provides a way for businesses to connect with communities and put a local face on the national brand. Customers can ask questions, leave reviews, and find out about sales or special events that are only happening at those locations. Of course, those customers can also like, share, and tweet about the business to their friends and family members nearby. After all, they have a strong local presence, too. To learn more about unified communications for your geographically dispersed enterprise, speak to a Vonage Business consultant. Taylor Mallory Holland Taylor Mallory Holland is a professional writer with more than 11 years of experience writing about business, technology and health care for both media outlets and companies. Taylor understands how enterprise mobility and cloud technology can reshape industries and provide new opportunities to streamline workflows, improve employee collaboration and reimagine the customer experience. She is passionate about helping business leaders understand the impact that emerging technologies can have on communication, operations and sales and marketing. Linkedin | Twitter April 26 2017 Industry TrendsToday’s professionals have many business communication tools available to them. Today’s professionals have a greater range of business communication tools at their fingertips than ever before. For some people, the sheer volume of options can be dizzying and perhaps even overwhelming. However, these tools offer choice and flexibility in communicating a message. As Marshall McLuhan famously said, “The medium is the message.” When initiating a conversation, the business communication tools themselves can influence the way a message is interpreted. That dynamic can determine whether the result is effective collaboration or awkwardly crossed signals. With that in mind, here are four types of modern communication technology that businesses are using today and how they can best be used to convey a message: 1. Real-Time Interactions It’s common for employees to ask each other quick questions in real-time throughout the work day using business communication tools such as text messaging or video conferencing through a unified communications platform. When doing so, it’s always a good idea to consider the communications medium with which the recipient is most comfortable. After all, as anyone who has worked in an office knows, some people are avid texters and others prefer to go old school with a reliable phone call. It’s important to factor in the urgency of the conversation — i.e., how rapidly a response is needed and how quickly the recipient is likely to reply using that channel — as well as whether it concerns a fairly typical subject or something that is more sensitive and prone to misunderstanding. For more immediate and quick exchanges connoting a sense of immediacy with a casual atmosphere, texting and instant messaging are a great way to go. Although text conversations can sometimes appear terse or overly casual to some, they can be enhanced with emojis and images to lighten the mood — a well-timed smiley face or cute cat gif can do wonders for morale. However, nuanced conversations that involve a sensitive or complex message might be best suited to a video chat in which both participants have the benefit of visual cues and even physical objects they can use as props to better understand one another. This is especially valuable for check-ins involving teleworking staff. 2. Social Media In the social sphere, sending and receiving a message is immediate and intimate. People typically experience these interactions on their smartphones, which they rarely part from and tend to view as an extension of themselves. And when people have a positive interaction on social media, they are delighted. Yet for all the intimacy and the opportunity to make a meaningful connection with a customer, social media is a very public place to have a conversation. It’s a venue in which reputation and authenticity matter, especially when giving a referral or serving as a brand advocate. Accordingly, people take close note not only of the message a brand sends, but how it is conveyed. On the plus side, social media is versatile. Businesses can use text, photos, videos, and links to communicate their messages, which they can then amplify through the use of hashtags and paid advertising. However, tone and timing are everything in the social world, which moves at the speed of light. Examples abound in which businesses have been roasted for tweets that were either poorly timed, tone deaf, or viewed as overly opportunistic. As Mashable reported, Cinnabon faced considerable backlash after it tweeted a tribute to Carrie Fisher that many found to be in poor taste. Companies wanting to avoid such an embarrassing social media fail should have a good sense of the cultural norms on social media and know their audience well before getting too familiar online. 3. Cloud Communication Integrations Customers expect an excellent customer service experience from the brands with which they do business — no matter which part of the business they may be engaging with at the moment or which communications channel they may be using. They also have little patience for waiting long periods to get the answer they seek. Any of us can relate. Who hasn’t rolled their eyes a little upon hearing yet another customer service representative complain that their computer is running slowly? To circumvent problems like these, companies are finding great value in synchronizing their cloud business applications for greater operational efficiency so that all relevant information can be accessed within a single window. Most commonly, they are integrating their business applications with their business phone service. This lends employees greater confidence, since they have instant access to the data they need without having to clumsily switch between applications. That professionalism comes across positively in exchanges with customers. 4. Contextual Communications Businesses can deepen their communications reach by further leveraging the power of the cloud. As Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS) builds momentum, developers now have access to an array of efficient communication APIs. As a result, they’re building real-time communication features such as voice, video, and text messaging into their applications without the need for a complicated infrastructure to support them. For example, a retailer can now make it possible for a customer to call or message customer service directly from within the app rather than having to initiate that exchange separately. The transaction becomes more intuitive and convenient, ensuring a positive customer experience. And it can also provide contextual information about the customer, such as what is in their shopping cart or which tickets they’ve previously logged, to aid in the speedy resolution of their request. There are many ways for businesses to have meaningful and impactful conversations, both among their employees and with customers. Companies may find it worthwhile to investigate how today’s business communication solutions can increase internal efficiency and enhance customer engagement. Contact Vonage Business to learn more about how cloud-based communications can aid your company. About Rose de Fremery Rose de Fremery is a New York-based writer and technologist. She is the former Managing Editor of The Social Media Monthly, the world’s first and only print magazine devoted to the social media revolution. Rose currently blogs about business IT topics including VoIP, UC, CRM, business innovation, and telework for Ziff-Davis as well as HP’s Tektonika program, HP Innovation Journal, HP Channel, Intel, and Vonage’s content marketing program. Twitter December 23 2016 Industry TrendsRead industry blogs to stay up-to-date on business trends. You don’t need to be told that staying on top of tech and business trends is a crucial part of staying competitive. It’s a given, like “customers are important” or “money can be exchanged for goods and services.” If one company in an industry is still working out the kinks of its landline phone system and the other is humming along on a shiny new cloud PBX, it’s clear which one is doing better with its tech knowledge — and likely doing better business because of it. Reliable sources and effective intel-gathering techniques are less “minor advantage” and more “secret weapon” when it comes to staying technologically relevant. Here are a seven ways to brush up on both: 1. Follow the Experts Popular news sites are a dime a dozen these days, and they all have some solid information to share on emerging tech and business trends. The same goes for sources focusing on your specific industry’s technology. However, if you aren’t following noted leaders in or around your industry, you’re missing out. People who care enough to talk about their field on their own time — and get enough respect to have an opinion worth listening to — probably know and share things you can benefit from. Effective thought leaders usually find an audience, so don’t be afraid to let metrics such as number of Twitter® followers or subscribers guide you to voices worth listening to. Even a simple Google® search can go a long way. 2. Follow Your Competition Call it the simplest form of corporate espionage: A lot of businesses like talking about anything they’re doing better than before, even when that’s a technology upgrade. Following competition on social media — or peering in on them without giving them the satisfaction of another follower — can help you get a grasp on what others in the same field are up to. If you really want to go for the blue chip, do the same with leading businesses outside your region. Are they doing something you’re not? What’s worth emulating? Even if these organizations aren’t talking about their new server upgrades with every post, observing them over time can reveal a surprising amount of useful information — with no night goggles required. 3. Aggregate (Seriously, Do It) Your intel-gathering should ideally be a casual thing done throughout the day. Instead of checking Facebook® for the 10th time that day, you can browse headlines. Online aggregators such as Flipboard® and Feedly® can help you do that. If you’re one of the millions of people who like the idea of building an aggregate news source but never got around to doing it, make today the day. 4. Talk to an Expert Keeping on top of the technologies that run your business means staying abreast of a lot of disciplines. Depending on your field, the sheer amount of new releases can make it impossible to stay completely on the ball. Don’t be afraid to call in — or ask for the budget for — expert help. 5. Talk to Your Vendors Yes, talking to someone whose objective is to sell you stuff may raise your skepticism levels a bit. But a trusted, longtime vendor can be a downright useful source of information. A vendor’s job is to outfit businesses with trendy technology, meaning the good ones tend to stay on top of business trends and technology. And they have insight into what other firms in your industry are doing. Simply developing a good business relationship with your account representative can yield some valuable insights. Don’t miss out. 6. Mind Consumer Goods Don’t put all your focus on consumer gadgetry, but don’t completely write it off, either. The gap between consumer and business technology gets smaller every day, something that’s easy to see with more and more retail locations ringing you up, running your credit card, and emailing you a receipt — all from an app on an iPad® or tablet. 7. Give Research (Budget) Space You don’t have to hire a full-time tech researcher to get long mileage out of the research dollars you spend. This can mean anything from a subscription to a popular site’s content to shelling out for a potentially useful research or white paper, to sending employees to conferences, vendor fairs, and trade shows. Just make sure your research doesn’t stop short as soon as you slam into a pay wall a la Wile E. Coyote — some of the best stuff can be found by spending a little cash. With disruptive new technologies rushing out the gates on a seemingly daily basis, absorbing it all can feel like an impossible task. However, by applying some rigor and resourcefulness to your research techniques, you can focus your efforts on the business trends that matter. Best of all, it’s only a conscious effort at the start: When you find yourself mindlessly scanning tech industry headlines instead of photos from your friend’s barbecue, you’ll know you’ve come a long way. To get started, contact Vonage® Business to learn more about the latest in business communications. About Evan Wade Evan Wade is an author and editor from Carmel, Indiana. As a veteran tech writer and lifelong tech enthusiast, he focuses his writing and research on communication, mobility and security. Alongside work with leading cloud technology providers and industry news sources, Evan has extensive sales and end-user marketing experience, giving him a unique view of the individual’s relationship with technology — and how organizations can realize huge benefits from it. Twitter November 7 2012 ArchivesIs your marketing budget tight, but you’re still looking for ways to attract new customers without breaking the bank? We like to help our small business customers find savvy ways to save while growing their business, which is why we’re so excited that Instagram now offers profiles on the web! If you’re not a smartphone or tablet owner, you may not have heard of Instagram but it is a free, cloud-based social photo sharing application that allows users to upload photos from their phone to an app. See the example photos below as an idea of how you can be using Instagram to promote your business. Just take a photo of a something relevant, give it a helpful caption, and either share it by itself or connect other social accounts for maximum social exposure. Free Promotion Ideas for Small Business Many small businesses use Instagram to take photos of their services, specials or features and promote them for free via the mobile app. Now, with the web profile, business owners can easily promote different aspects of their business and have them be highly visible on the web. Link to Instagram photos in your blog, your website, or share on your other social media profiles. Restaurants: Upload photos of the menu board, food photography, or photos of special events or sports nights. By adding a geographical hashtag like #atlanta or adding a sports team like #falcons to your photo of the football game on your restaurant’s big screen TV, you can help regulars and potential customers find you based on their interests. Retail and e-Commerce: Add photos of new shipments, clearance items or window displays. Especially for the holiday season, taking photos of gifts and accessories is a great way to tell your followers about new apparel or retail items that would make great presents. Travel Agents: Post photos of exotic locations, upcoming destinations and special offers. When you hashtag #getaway or #tropics during a particularly bleak January, you could find snowbound customers who are looking for a last-minute getaway or a spring break deal. Traditional Offices: Do you offer services instead of goods? Why not create a page for your team that highlights your company’s charitable activities, team-building events, office activities or community participation? You can also provide sneak previews of upcoming product launches and websites to keep customers and prospects engaged. NOTE: Hashtags don’t seem to work on the web version yet, but the mobile and tablet versions are 100% supported. How do you use cloud apps and technology to promote your business? Have you gotten new customers via Instagram or social media? About Dave MorrisDave is a content strategist and writer at Vonage Business Solutions, working with teams across the company to build communication programs that enable our customers and assist our prospects. He enjoys living in Atlanta and is an avid gardener, restaurant enthusiast and live music fan.