VoIP or Voice over Internet Protocol offers businesses the lead when it comes to communications. It’s a cost-effective, flexible and professional option for businesses that want to benefit from the cutting edge of communication technology.
But can VoIP (or Internet telephony) really help your company improve its marketing? Well, the short answer is yes. Clearly, the most frequently given reason that people switch to VoIP from traditional calling plans is the amount of money that can be saved. VoIP uses the Internet to call, which massively reduces your calling costs, especially if you call long distance or overseas.
VoIP offers many more advanced features than regular landlines could ever provide. Nevertheless despite the technological advantage and the greatly reduced costs, it’s the marketing benefits that must not be so easily overlooked.
When VoIP is used for business, it helps to improve the relationship and communications with your clients. The VoIP system allows you to easily track and monitor calls and offers a professional front for anyone calling you. You can create specific numbers and attach them to particular promotions, products or services. Your staff can answer the phone with this already in mind and offer the caller a specific greeting that’s particularly targeted to the promotion, product or service that’s associated with that particular phone number.
By choosing to use a range of phone numbers for different types of marketing (newspaper ads, emails, website or poster) you’ll be able to tell which campaign is the most successful and tailor your future marketing strategy accordingly.
Using Gradwell’s unique VoIP control panel, you can produce monthly reports showing precise call statistics : how many calls were made to your numbers, which number was used most frequently, how long the call were and more. You can also relate the data to the productivity of your employees for motivational purposes. Reports can be exported and circulated for analysis in your marketing strategy meetings.
While each of your marketing methods may display a different number, all of the calls can be directly routed to come through to just one desk, one office or a whole call centre. Furthermore, when someone calls one of your VoIP numbers, a short piece of text can be displayed to your staff telling them which product, service or promotion the caller is interested in learning about, preparing them for the call. It really is that simple to improve your marketing efficiency and reporting with VoIP.
Traditional business is about money for services, cash for a product. Increasingly, businesses online are adopting the Freemium model, a concept defined by Chris Anderson of Wired Magazine.
In this video, Freemium expert Peter Froburg talks about the best examples of this model and how it can really work for online businesses in the 21st century.
When thinking about how you attract people to your business, have you factored a “freemium” level offering in? Is it appropriate for your business? Have you tried it? All good questions.
Is it better to work with more businesses (in a relatively shallow way) or is it better to work with fewer but in a more intense way (and therefore with more long-term benefit)?
When working in Africa my preference was to work longer and deeper with fewer people - by handing over the tools I was able see more benefit.
But does this theory (better to go narrow and deep rather than broad and shallow) hold in the UK?
Applied to your own business (and specifically to your marketing) is it better to narrow your focus and look for deep knowledge in a narrow field (niche) or is it better to go broader and shallower?
Case Study One: the business coach who only sells to dentists charges four times the going rate because of his narrow focus/niche expertise.
Case Study Two: the 'tart with a heart' business will sell anything to anyone and does make sales but she gets known for what she does and becomes known as a 'jack of all trades'... Gets lots of work but at low rates. "Jump!" the clients say. "How high?" she says...
Do you have the bottle to go narrower and deeper in your niche or is the recession making you more of a tart? How do you think this is perceived in the marketplace?
Interesting story of artistic rebellion on the BBC today - in this case, not against the machinery of the state, but against people who are against the machinery of the state and insist on sharing music - for free - via the Internet.
Our poor, destitute pop stars have stamped their collective feet and said, “Enough! No more depriving us of another few quid for our swollen coffers by sharing our music with your mates.” Poor loves.
Does anyone really care whether Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason, Lily Allen or whoever, misses out on a few grand here and there? How bad can file-sharing really be? Well, plenty of lesser-known artists are living on the breadline and depend on every penny they can earn to maintain their career - and they’re the ones who are hit the hardest. So this isn’t really about the big names at all.
I’m not even sure it’s a simple point of legal principle either. Technically, the musicians are right, of course. Intellectual property (IP) law is clear about these things - artists have an established right to be paid for the sale and distribution of the works they have created.
This doesn’t necessarily mean the performers or writers actually own the IP (in the case of musicians, often it’s the label or distributors), but, through custom, practice and performance contracts, they have a right to benefit from it. For people who already have millions, the impact of file-sharing is probably relatively marginal - certainly less than the impact of the contracts the labels impose on them, if Prince and George Michael are to be believed.
For up-and-coming artists, however, it could make the difference between being able to continue an artistic career or giving it up to work full-time in Sainsbury’s. Worst case scenario: our culture is deprived of great works that would have thrilled or inspired millions, because no-one’s prepared to pay for them.
The issue of ownership of artistic works is not one that can be easily defined by law, in my opinion. Who owns Penny Lane, for example? The Beatles, who wrote it? The estate of Michael Jackson, who bought the publishing rights? The old-timers’ band in Frinton who bash out a cover on the Hammond organ? The millions of people who have bought it, listened to it, been inspired to explore more of the Beatles’ work and from there delve into the music of other artists influenced by them - in other words, people whose lives have been culturally enriched by the song?
So, who owns the cultural artefacts that help shape our sensibilities and our feelings about the world? And who benefits from them the most? There’s a strong argument to say that we, the public, do. It’s a liberal, idealistic vision of art and its place in society. Many people think that art should be free. But if we subscribe entirely to this view, how does the artist live?
Until the 19th century, since when the commercial model of art has really taken hold, artists were often dependent on family wealth or a rich patron in order to live and write, paint or play. This model just doesn’t exist as much nowadays - and neither should it. Art is at least as much commerce as it is creativity these days - and we have, to some extent, our own collusion with the artists to thank for this. Think of the rapacious commercialism of Andy Warhol, for example: sure, he was making an interesting comment about the mass production methods of modern society; he was also absolutely raking it in. And we’ve lapped it up.
The point is that artists need money as much as the rest of us (let’s not get into the issue of greed). Whether we like it or not, art is commerce and probably always has been, because people have to live and eat - and we’ve all bought into this idea. This means artists are entitled to the same protection as any other producer. You wouldn’t steal a chair, would you? You may think your emotional response to a piece of art is unique and special and it probably is; but does that give you the right to steal a song?
There's a lot of talk about the power of social networking for business. Take a look at some of the most eye-watering stats in this video. What's clear is that social networking is no longer becoming mainstream, it is mainstream.
But are people getting the results they want and need? Well, research we've just conducted would suggest a resounding NO. This is not necessarily bad news. In fact, it means that there is plenty of opportunity to resolve problems and stop making mistakes. Clearly, social media is still in its infancy. But with 50M+ people registered on Twitter and five times that number on Facebook, it's a force which should be reckoned with today (not tomorrow). How are you finding it? What do you think? Feel free to grab this video off YouTube and embed it. Let's get more businesses interacting and getting results on social platforms. Ultimately, that will be better for all of us.
I have to admit I find Yahoo one of the most frustrating online companies I have ever encountered. However, I also consider it the biggest innovator, and that’s the frustration. The labs division of the company produces many fantastic products and services, yet only a small percentage of these ever get air time.
The latest product to come from the Silicon Valley beast is Yahoo Neighbors, a mashup between local search and social networking. Currently only available in the States, Neighbors is in effect a message board for local communities. If implemented correctly, this will provide a fantastic real time view of “the word on the street” to Yahoo searchers. I think a good description for this is “the conversation layer”.
Having spent some time playing with Neighbors I have to say it’s brilliant. Its contents are categorised into sections that really matter locally, such as business recommendations, education and even restaurant reviews. While we may discuss how social networks and presence management are essential for business (and they are), often the same thinking doesn’t translate for local businesses. This is where Neighbors could potentially help. Small businesses could exploit the service in numerous ways, from basic exposure, to the creation of a “linked-in” style authority status, but at a local level.
Yahoo Neighbors is pretty awesome, and the concept of the conversation layer doesn’t just apply to the larger and more web savvy businesses. This is a service that seems to bridge that gap between large and small extremely well.
I just hope it’s not another bright idea that gets stifled due to lack of business support from the big Purple. Oh, and I also hope that it eventually finds its way over the pond to us!