State of the (Local) Union

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A short article on Greg Sterling’s very insightful and informative blog, Screenwerk, earlier this week referenced a slide that has created a good deal of buzz in the local media space.

While it was very pleasing to see Agendize duly noted on what is being dubbed the ‘local media landscape’, I felt a slight pang for some of our partners and peers who also deserve to be represented there, with their name, or logo in this case, up in lights.

That aside, what struck me more than anything, once the initial hunt for the Agendize logo and those of some of the other companies I admire and follow was over, was just how many companies there are, and how overwhelming, and likely confusing, it must be for a local business that is considering how to effectively market online.

Slowly, but surely, the State of the (Local) Union is playing out. Local drives economies, so with the enormous potential for revenues comes an array of entrants into the local digital space. Some are new, some are familiar, some are opportunistic, others are misaligned and attempting to hammer the proverbial square peg of enterprise into the round hole of local and the Small-to-Medium businesses. Whatever their angle, local is BIG and the time for it to be both lead to water, and trusting enough to drink, is fast upon us.

A I mentioned, it’s pleasing for us to be recognized on this graphic, as we believe we set our stall out in a way that was best for local businesses, harnessing several difficult-to-tame technologies and presenting them in a single platform to make life easier for the small business user. And, to work with large Resellers the SMB community knows and trusts, in order to match our technological prowess with their local market savvy.

We are 10 years into our vision of what Agendize can do to simplify and improve local businesses’ online activities. We are still innovating, often predictive, but also in response to the rapid pace of change, to help convert their online traffic into real customers they can do business with. Through our unified platform of conversion tools – still the only unified platform on the market, I might add – we’re bringing powerful technologies in the areas of Online Appointment Scheduling, Live Chat, Click-to-Call, Call Tracking, Contact Forms, Save & Share, and more, to local business at prices local businesses can afford and, by doing so, we’re achieving what they really want from digital service providers – helping them generate more business.

That’s precisely what the Software providers, Digital Agencies, SEO specialists, Reputation Management Platforms, SEM enablers, Website Platforms, Directory Publishers, and all the others that I could mention who are focused on the local media landscape should be passionate about, whether working directly with local businesses, or collaborating with partners who do, for that is the only way we will all benefit. Or, as I heard it profoundly referred to at a trade show event in the recent past, ‘Our collective responsibility to local businesses is to help make phones’ ring and door’s swing!’. It really is as simple as that.


Agendize opens two new offices in Mexico and Belgium.

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Agendize, the leading provider of customer engagement solutions for online businesses, and already established in Montreal, New York and Troyes, France, continues its international expansion by opening two additional offices in Mexico City and Brussels.

An international business strategy.

Already long-established in North America, Agendize has been expanding into new territories through becoming a leading solutions provider in the Latin American and European markets.

E-commerce in Mexico has increased significantly in 2012, reaching between $4.6 and $4.9 billion (U.S.) – source. As for Europe, it is the largest e-commerce market in the world with an annual turnover of 300 billion euros - source.

A natural extension to both burgeoning and established markets is the ability to offer interactive services to online consumers such as Live Chat, Click-to-Call and online scheduling; the prospect of which represents an opportunity to increase Agendize’s market share across several international markets.

Erwan Douarinou

Laura VancompernolleBy opening two new offices, led by Laura Vancompernolle in Mexico and Erwan Douarinou in Brussels, respectively, Agendize strengthens its position as a global leader in cloud / SaaS –based services and has built its business around delivering best of breed solutions, coupled with strong partnership relations throughout its customer base of: Resellers, Digital Marketing Agencies, Hosting Companies, Telco’s and Website builders.

About Agendize

Founded in 2003, Agendize offers a suite of private-labeled, interactive, applications that boost engagement between online businesses and their customers. These include Online Appointment Scheduling, Click-to-Call and Live Chat. The flexibility of Agendize solutions and its dedicated customer support team help connect more than 55,000 companies, in 20 countries, to their customers.


If McLuhan was alive today, would he tweet and text his friends?

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Earlier this month, @BrianSolis blogged about “The Number One Least Asked Question in Social Media…Why?” He discussed why asking “Why” is important in all aspects of business, including social media. As we embrace a social media culture, Solis proves that Marshall McLuhan’s world aphorism “the medium is the message” (and palindrome: “the message is the medium”) is still valid today:

In an era where information is democratized and influence is equalized, the message is now also the medium. There are prevailing cultures unique to each social network. What you create for Twitter is different than what you might say in Facebook and certainly not at all how you would say it in Google+.

The real importance in understanding McLuhan’s quote is to remind us of the potential dangers of new “mediums” (technology)…like instant messaging.

@BrianZimm1 says that “digital conversations via email, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn can be very dangerous to the future of communication.” Research proves that a message is correctly interpreted approximately 20% more over phone than email. Without verbal communication, many opportunities of connecting with customers, leads and colleagues are lost.

McLuhan said, “Control over change would seem to consist in moving not with it but ahead of it. Anticipation gives the power to deflect and control force.”

Therefore, if we discover that a new medium brings along negative effects in the way we do business, it’s our duty to intervene during the technology’s development and set it on the right track. Maintaining the right balance between digital and face-to-face conversations is key for maintaining healthy business and personal relationships. Every instant messaging tool such as email, text message and Twitter, must be complemented with a human touch engagement tool like Click- to-Call. By adding the right ‘combos’ of communication tools to your websites, blogs and marketing campaigns, you can keep up with new technology, without neglecting the importance of verbal communication via phone calls, video chats and live meetings.

Nancy E.


How Not to Get Dumped by Your Angry Customers

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Building a business is like building a relationship. We all slip up at some point and make mistakes. It’s how we deal with our shortcomings that really matters…and learning from them.

As a dissatisfied customer, I learned three important lessons in customer service today:

  1. Don’t annoy your leads/clients
  2. If you do irritate them, respond to their frustration in a timely manner
  3. Not matter the situation, be polite and professional

Receiving  customer complaints via web forms and email is proving to be less and less effective. The main reason: response time. Our follow up expectations have skyrocketed in this digital age of real-time data.

How long is too long? Many users would agree that a response within 24 hours is necessary. Others are less patient.

So you or one of your employees made a boo boo. As a business owner, what are the right steps to take when responding to your customers’ complaints online?

Help your customer one to one:

  • Use Click-to-Call and Live Chat on your site so people can get in touch with you immediately (and free). Don’t anger your customer more by forcing them to wait on hold and pay for it.
  • Set up Twitter/Facebook pages and monitor them regularly. It’s important to know what people are saying about your company–good and bad.
  • If a customer complains, respond honestly, transparently, professionally and address their concern. Don’t try to hide and ignore bad reviews/Tweets. It can backlash into a bigger issue.

Always try to move the conversation to a more private setting. Offer to help your customer over email, chat or phone. New ways to complain in real-time are developed every day. Don’t risk getting a bad reputation and put your customers first.

Nancy E.


Treat Every Page Like Your Homepage

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In a post about how to use call-to-action buttons on your website to attract and convert more visitors on 1stwebdesignerCharina Torres wrote something web designers often forget:

“Many developers have the connotation of just putting call-to-action buttons on the homepage of the website, remember that it should not only be limited on the homepage, rather try putting some call-to-action buttons on every page of the website.”

Very true! When people find your site via a search engine, they are just as likely to land on an internal page as your home page. By adding multiple call-to-actions to your website, your visitors can browse longer and take action from more than one page.

The key business marketing rule here is: make it easy for customers to buy from you.

In the offline shopping world, you would normally display your merchandise, promotions and prices in a clear way. Most importantly, you would hire employees that can help your customers find the right product, answer their specific questions and remind them of new arrivals/discounts.

Why should it be any different offline? Designing a good website and using call-to-action covers only part of your sales strategy. Click-to-Call is a necessary tool in offering the human touch customer service experience that’s often missing when shopping online. By adding a “Call Me” click-to-action button on your website, you will prompt more users to pick up the phone and call, even if your number is listed on your page anyway. It’s easy and effective as tapping a salesperson and asking them for help…offering even more actually. It’s possible integrate a Click-to-Call button on a banner ad, or send it to leads via email too!

Although the phone is considered the most effective form of contact for many businesses, it’s important to provide your prospective customers with many different ways to contact you. Not everyone shops the same way. People who are not comfortable on the phone sometimes prefer Live Chat or email. Others need to speak to a real person before buying.

Nancy E.


Technology Stress Management: 3 Tips on Keeping Your Cool

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Is there even a point asking the question have you ever felt stressed using technology? What about this instead…

Do you own a TV, cell phone or laptop? I know you’re raising your hand up high.

Technology-related stress has been fully integrated into our daily lives. Maybe this type of stress isn’t so bad if you see it as daily office- job workout routine…or something.

At the Montreal Agendize office this morning, our hearts started pumping hard when the portable A/C unit blew a fuse. This triggered the wireless router to turn off, booting all of us offline. Dealing with these types of issues in 100˚ heat will make you break a sweat. Other than burning some calories, stress is never good for your health.

I recently tweeted an article posted on @bitrebels by Diana Adams (@adamsconsulting) that mentions a poll conducted by Stinky Ink focusing on employees stressing aver technology:

40% of those polled said that technology issues were more stressful to them than family or financial issues.

That’s a powerful statistic knowing that money is the leading culprit in most divorces in America.
So what’s the solution so technology doesn’t drive you to throw your computer out the window (like this guy) or end your marriage? It’s all about choosing the right partner and tools:

1. Don’t be afraid of trying new things

You won’t find a perfect match unless you play the field. Be open to get help and try out new tools that are proven to help your business grow. A conversion button like Live Chat and Click-to-Call can increase online sales by 25% and more.

2. Be picky when choosing between technologies

Do your homework so you don’t waste time downloading or purchasing tools that won’t work for you. Take some time to research: read online reviews and ask your friends what they use. Don’t always settle for big name brands. Sometimes the best help is free…this goes for apps too!

3. See flexibility as a major point of attraction

Flexibility is more than a bonus these days…it’s a requirement! Choose a product that is easy to work with so you’ll enjoy every step in the process. You don’t need to be a computer geek to get stuff done online. A company like Yola for example, makes it so easy for anyone to build a professional website.

How do you manage technology- related stress at your workplace? Which online tools help calm you down and how do they contribute to your business plan? Post your comments below!

Thanks,

Nancy E.
@nanceEss


User Testimonial: Why Web Forms Don’t Convert

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Our Sales and Marketing Director, Flo shares her latest experience with an online form. Her frustration tells a common story: why forms are not ideal for converting customers.

You can’t get anything today without filling a form. As soon as you want to download a document, attend an event, subscribe to a simple newsletter or even ask someone for help—you’re forced to fill a form.

Frustration Factor 1. Too much to fill in.

Endless fields can turn your visitor off from visiting their website, attending the event or ever wanting to read a newsletter. I tried signing up for a webinar last week and I was asked to fill out 21 mandatory fields!

Advice: Keep your forms short and you’ll convert better. Read more on the @Marketo Blog.

2. Don’t get too personal.

Users rarely feel comfortable sending off their private info to an unknown receiver. I don’t know what you want to do with my personal data and you can at least warn me that you’re forcing me to subscribe to your newsletter. I wasn’t interested in the company that was hosting the webinar last week, yet they continue to bombard me with product and sales information. It took me 5 minutes to find the link to unsubscribe! Like most people, I’ll fill in fake name, email and more just to go through the steps as fast as possible.

Advice: Would you rather receive false data from a long form or real contacts from a shorter form? Get to the point right away.By removing an unnecessary form field, you’ll increase the likelihood that a visitor will fill out and submit the form,” writes SEO Consultant, Aaron Bradley (@aaranged).

3. Treat me like a human because I am one.

Why is it when I shop at a store, the cashier will usually ask me if I found everything I need and thank me for shopping there, but when I purchase and download a white paper online, I’m rarely thanked and often lost at the end? Companies are quick to bother me with automated links and ads, but rarely consider me a real shopper even when I’m spending real money.

Advice: Please make me feel like a real person too. Make it easy for me to ask you questions and most importantly, value my business. Adding a simple Call Me or Chat button at the end of your form can add the human touch element that’s often missing online.

-Flo

What’s the longest web form you were asked to fill out? Did you?  We’re interested in hearing your frustrating form story. Post your comments below.


The 4 Ws of Click-to-Call: Getting the Full Story on Conversion

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A few of you have expressed your confusion about Click-to-Call and how it works. So we came up with a short and easy-to-understand video so you can see how Click-to-Call is a quick and easy-to-use conversion solution! This video demonstrates how Click-to-Call initiates live phone conversations with you and your online visitors:

Who – Click-to-Call helps anyone who can benefit by offering their clients the chance to request a toll-free call from their phone. We currently work with a diverse group of professionals and industries such as lawyers, car dealers, dentists, consultants, restaurants, marketers, banks, web designers, SEM and more.

What – What makes Agendize Click-to-Call unique is that visitor and business is connected in a high-quality phone conversation. We’re not Skype. You don’t communicate via a head set and computer.  Both parties connect from their mobile or landline phone so you can take the conversation to- go. By clicking an Agendize Call Me button, you eliminate the chance of joining a fuzzy connection and/or sudden bang- down.  

Where –A Call Me button can be installed on websites, blogs, e-mail campaigns, iPad apps…pretty much anywhere online. It takes minutes to get started.

When –Agendize powers valuable leads and sales via Click-To-Call 24/7. You define your business hours so clients don’t call you when you’re not there.

This should answer all your Click-to-Call queries. In case you have more, feel free to post them below or call us!