5 Strategies To Streamline Your Small Business in 2016

Operating a business is a time consuming venture no matter how large or small your business is. Until we figure out how to extend the hours of a day, streaming business operations is your best way to maximizing productivity and profitability.

There are literally dozens of ways to streamline your business operations. Trying to implement them all can quickly become another time suck. Instead, focus on the five strategies below to start streamlining and saving time instantly:

Streamline Contact Management With a CRM

Leads and referrals are the lifeblood for all businesses. Managing contacts is something that has to be taken seriously, but doesn’t have to become a time-consuming burden. Customer relationship management (CRM) software makes staying in contact and nurturing leads an autopilot experience.

These systems keep all of your contacts organized, keep track of when and what contact is made and help the sales team connect on a more meaningful level. These systems have a variety of functions, but one of the most popular CRM features is marketing automation tools. This allows you to create email campaigns that are automatically sent and provide automatic follow up anytime someone fills out a form or calls your business.

With a CRM, a lot of the contact management work is done for you after the initial setup. Reports can also be generated to provide valuable insight into marketing and sales with minimal effort.

Use a Cloud-Based Phone System to Bring All Your Calls Together

The latest technology in telephone communication is cloud-based calling systems. Instead of your cell phone, office phones and home phone being spread out and under different plans, everything is brought together in the cloud. Calls to your business number can be routed to any phone in any location.

Now there’s no telephone lines or equipment tying things down to a particular place or phone. Better still is that cloud-based phone systems are much easier to manage while providing more features. All of your voicemails, call recordings and call tracking data for all of your phone numbers can be found in a single online account. Reports can be generated with a click of a button so you can analyze phone leads, sales and marketing efforts all at once.

Use an Accounting System to Put Payments on Autopilot

If you’re spending more than a few minutes creating invoices, making payments and reminding customers and clients that payments are due, it’s time to invest in an accounting system. Today there are accounting software options that can do it all for you.

Look for an accounting system with the following capabilities:

  • Generate invoices
  • Send email reminders when payments are late
  • Alert you when late payment reminders are sent
  • Process electronic transfers to make your payments
  • Keep records of all transactions and create reports

A dynamic accounting system will make balancing the books every month a breeze and really pays off during tax season.

Hire Outside Help

There are three things that businesses can leverage to increase productivity: time, money and people. Hiring full-time employees is not always necessary or financially feasible. But hiring outside contract workers is a smart streamlining strategy.

Not only will outside help free up your time, it can also save you money and help you implement other streamlining systems. Three areas to consider outsourcing are administrative work, technical functions and specialized tasks.

Desk-based work can take up to 32% of an entrepreneur’s day, and is often busy work that can easily be handled by someone else. Tech issues can be completed in a matter of minutes by someone that knows what they’re doing, and they can help to future-proof systems. The same goes for other specialized work that requires expertise. If the task isn’t directly making money or helping grow your business it’s time to delegate.

Create a Customer Portal

You can help customers and clients help themselves with a customer portal. This is a portion of your website that’s dedicated to answering questions and providing information. It doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated. It just needs to act like a help desk that customers can browse on their own.

Something as simple as an FAQ page can dramatically cut down on the number of customer calls that have to be fielded. You can beef up your customer portal by making it interactive. Allow customers to submit support tickets, fill out forms and complete transactions to streamline several processes simultaneously. In addition to streamlining your customer service this will also help boost customer satisfaction.

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Would you like to find out more about Entrepreneurial Spark?

Entrepreneurial Spark are offering you the chance to have a look around the accelerator, speak to one of the team and discuss joining the programme or how you/your business can become involved with Entrepreneurial Spark.

Whether you have a business yourself that you are looking to take to the next stage, you are considering becoming a mentor or believe you could help support the entrepreneurs within the Entrepreneurial Spark programme then we would like to invite you to join one of our tours.

Each group tour will last no longer than one hour and the tour will be conducted by Lynsey Cunningham, Belfast Entrepreneur Development Manager.

Please note that the hatchery tour is not on one to one basis and there will be approx 15 people on each tour therefore all questions and answers will be given in a group.

Entrepreneurial Spark is non – sectorial, equity free business growth accelerator based in physical spaces – Hatcheries. We accept entrepreneurs and businesses of all genres. We are more focused on the individual and how we can develop them as entrepreneurial leaders.

And everything is absolutely FREE.  

Entrepreneurial Spark – Lombard House. 5th – 6th Floor, Lombard Street. Belfast BT1 1RD GB


26 February


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Cyber security, threat or opportunity?

What is humanities back up plan?

Future Crimes by Marc Goodman is a very scary book. We have covered some books that touch on the topic before such as “Filter Bubble”, “Overconnected” and “Brandwashed”, but “Future Crimes, a journey to the dark side of technology and how to survive it” is an eye opener.

The scary statistics

Lets start with some scary statistics:

  • 200,000 new pieces of malware are identified every day
  • One third of all households in the USA are infected by malicious software
  • 95% of all malware is not detected by most virus checkers (those include McAfee and Symantec)
  • A hacking intrusion takes 210 days to detect
  • 75% of the time your defences can be penetrated in minutes
  • Only 15% require more then a few hours (but are still hacked)
  • The average cost per record stolen is $ 188
  • In 2017 a 100 billion will be spend on software and hardware security
  • 110 million accounts were stolen from Target stores alone
  • The value of location data will be over a 100 billion in the next ten years
  • Android was created to give Google access to all your mobile data
  • Data brokers earn 156 billion every year
  • Acxiom has over 700 million consumer profiles worldwide
  • Experian sold the data on 2/3 of the USA population to a organised crime group in Vietnam
  • 13.1 million Americans are victim of identity theft annually. 500,000 of them are children, costing $ 21 billion in 2012
  • 600,000 accounts on Facebook are compromised every day
  • 25% of all reviews on Yelp are bogus
  • 11.2% of Facebook accounts are fake
  • 25% of all credit reports contain errors
  • 100 million phishing messages are send every day
  • Organised crime is 15-20% of global GDP
  • 80% of all hackers are now working for organised crime

Everything is data

You can see where this is going. This is all about data. Google and Facebook are free because they are data collectors and aggregators. Google is worth 400 billion and the value of every long term profile on Facebook is worth 81 dollars. Both have hundreds of petabytes on their users (both don’t use the word customers…. this should make you thinks). They know everything you have done online and increasingly everything else. Imagine if Facebook was there since 1950. Anything in your past you don’t want anyone to know?

No privacy

In the USA online data that is collected by third parties are not considered private. Which means it can be used by Revenue, the police or the divorce lawyer of your ex. The Stasi could only tap 40 phones nationwide at their peak. Now Orwell’s 1984 is here and it is called Google, Facebook or Watson. You probably have something to hide, you just don’t know it yet.

All that date is stored and hacker can get access to that data. Any data that is collected will invariably leak.

Do no evil?

Yes, the crooks are not only the criminals:

  • 41% of all cyber attacks are from China
  • The NSA is listening
  • Google used the street view cars for more then taking pictures
  • Google was fined $22.5 million for illegally circumventing privacy settings
  • When you fill in your online profile for OKcupid, that data is immediately shared with over 5o0 data brokers. Check your match.com terms and conditions
  • Facebook has conducted social experiments without permission and keep your data even after you have de-activated the account.
  • Every time you update, the privacy settings go back to standards setting, which basically gives full access
  • The average person will encounter 1,462 privacy policies every year, with an average length of 2,518 words
  • PayPal’s privacy policy is longer then Shakespeare’s Hamlet
  • Google Drive’s privacy settings will give Google the rights to all your content and IP (If JK Rowling had written Harry Potter on Google Docs, she would have granted Google the worldwide rights)

Think of what can be done. Google has access to your calendar, your maps, your contacts, your documents, your pictures, voice, phone, the apps you use on your android, your translations, the videos you watch on Youtube, the conversations you have on Skype, your Nest, your camera, your eyes (Google glasses), your wallet. Look at the companies they are buying (robots, cameras, sensors, drones, AI). Here is the list

You are their inventory. They better mean their slogan…… because if not……..

Your eyeballs can be hacked too

That is just on the data side. They can also hack your screen. Which means that you should not always belief what you see. Your phone screen might be controlled by somebody else. The CT scanner in the hospital can be manipulated. Your computer screen can be manipulated. Your GPRS screen can be manipulated. Virtual reality can be manipulated. Facebook has already manipulated you and Google can change your filter bubble with the flick of a switch (or algorithm).

Everything can be hacked

Everything that is connected can be hacked. And now we are at the beginning of the internet of things. Connecting everything. Which means that nothing can be hidden and everything can be hacked. Software and hardware. There are hardware viruses in chargers that allow to hack your phone. They found hidden wifi cards in kitchen equipment that could hack your wifi (and then the rest). You car can be hacked. Your pacemaker. Your hearing aid. Your headset. Your toys. Your lamp or your lightbulb (it is called Conversnitch). Your TV or Skype camera (they are watching you). Your coffee pot. Your burglar alarm. Your electronic locks. Your fridge. Your wearables. Google’s NEST has been hacked.

70% of all IoT devices have 25 unique security flaws.

If you are in business

Photocopiers can be hacked and I bet you didn’t know that photocopiers also have an internal hard disk where all copies are stored. Amazing what you can find on copiers that have been thrown away. Your printer can be hacked. The video conference system in your board room can be hacked.

If you are in government

Your infrastructure (energy, roads, water, broadband) can be hacked. Your databases (passports, police, medical, revenue) can be hacked. Your satellites can be hacked. In fact criminals are already launching their own mini satellites themselves.

The future of hacking

Robots can be hacked. Your servant robot will be sharpening the knife, while you are asleep, watching you. Your augmented body parts can be hacked. Your biometrics can be hacked. Facial recognition algorithms can be hacked. Facebook has the largest depository of biometric data on earth. They can be hacked. Keystroke recognition software can be hacked (Coursera uses keystroke recognition as a tool to identify users). Augmented reality can be hacked. Drones can be hacked. Your 3D and 4D printer can be hacked. Algorithms can be hacked. Now combine that with AI and the exponential curve. Watson as the new Al Capone or Don Watson.

Brain, DNA, Quantum, IoB, nano


Consider the development in brain computing interface (look up Emotiv and NeuroSky). IBM thinks that mind reading is no longer science fiction. Criminals soon can hack your brain.

Consider the development in DNA sequencing and synthetic biology. Your cells can be hacked. The DNA database probably already has been hacked. Combine that with bio printers and you have.

Consider the development of quantum computers, which will making hacking easier.

Consider the development of not only the Internet of Things but the network of microbes or the internet of biological things.

Consider the developments in nano technology. Nano bots can be hacked too.

Combine these development together and through exponentially on top of it and you have a potent mix for criminal armageddon or an exponential version of 1984.


At the end of the book he does give a number of tips on how to help you to protects yourself and they are very obvious:

  • Update regularly
  • Use sophisticated and different passwords
  • Know where you are downloading from
  • Watch your administrator settings
  • Turn off your computer when you are not using it
  • Encrypt
  • Think before you share

The above avoids 85% of all threats.

New words

The indication of a good books is the number of new words I learned:

  • Hacktivist (activist using hacking as a tool)
  • Crime singularity
  • Dataveilance (surveillance using data)
  • Sock puppetry (creating fake profiles)
  • Swatting (GPRS manipulation)
  • Flash rob (coordinated robbery by hackers)
  • CaaS (Crime as a Service)
  • Bluesnarfing (hacking your bluetooth to get access to your data)
  • Drone-versiting (drones as an advertising medium)
  • Narco drones (drones smuggling and transporting drugs)
  • Chemputer (printing medicine (or drugs))
  • Algorithmic criminal justice (using algorithms to determine infractions of the law)
  • DNA stalkers (hackers stalking your DNA)
  • DNA hard drive (four grams of DNA can store one year of digital data created by humankind)
  • Shodan (the criminal version of Google)

Business opportunity

If you want a book that makes you think about the unintended consequences of technology, this is one to pick. It also screams business opportunity. Cyber security is a hotspot.

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Help entrepreneurs to grow, mentors wanted

Helping 80 entrepreneurs to grow

The World’s largest free business accelerator, Entrepreneurial Spark, is opening its doors to exciting and dynamic businesses in Belfast this February (and we can’t wait!). Powered by Ulster Bank, we are offering free office space, a 6-18 month programme of hands-on enablement, a start up boot camp and regular events that will help the 80 entrepreneurs build and grow their businesses.

Looking for mentors

In addition to all of the above, we are on the look out for experienced mentors to support, coach and help the businesses- are you the person to make this happen?  The right mentor can provide expert support and ultimately increase the likelihood of businesses becoming a roaring success and we are looking for passionate people who have the skills and experience to share with Entrepreneurs, giving them the extra edge.

You are invited

Join us for a light lunch to find out more about the programme and see our state of the art Hatchery. It’s also a brilliant opportunity to tell us a bit more about you and how you could support the entrepreneurs, as well as meet other potential mentors.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016 from 13:30 to 15:00 (CST) Add to Calendar
The Belfast Hatchery – Lombard House. 10-20 Lombard Street. Belfast, Antrim Bt1 1RD GB


Hope to see you there.

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3 Things You Can Do to Make Your Small Business Stand Out

In such a competitive landscape, it is hard to see how any small business survives. Even if you come up with a totally new and innovative widget that takes the world by storm, there is nothing stopping some Chinese knockoff company from building a cheaper version of the same thing, putting you and your company out of business.

What you need is something that will help your business stand out from the crowd. Being first is not the competitive advantage it used to be. Nor is being the best. Every industry is full of stories illustrating the fact that the best technology doesn’t always win. It may not seem fair, but the winner is often the one who does the bast marketing and brand service.

Make Your Small Business Stand Out

This is not to say that the one with the most money wins. When all else is equal, money can be the deciding factor. But clever marketing is about making sure that things are unequal in your favor. You can do that even on a shoestring marketing budget. Here are 3 tips to help you stand out of the crowd of your competitors:

Brand Your Delivery Boxes

One of Amazon’s most brilliant moves is branding every shipping box with that famous smile. It’s like a little present. No matter what’s in the package, it’s something from Amazon. Whether those boxes are atop the front desk, in the break room, or at the recycling station, they are powerful marketing tools for one of the most successful companies in the world.

But such an advantage is not reserved only for big companies. By utilizing such services as Custom Boxes Now, you, too, can have packaging and shipping boxes customized inside and out. Besides offering a great branding opportunity, these boxes also offer free credibility. Even if you are new to business and have shipped only one branded package, that package tells everyone who sees it that you are the real deal. Stop thinking of packaging as merely a means of holding content. Think of it as a way to get a leg up on the competition.

Go Mobile with Your Branding

The major US tech companies have made mobile branding a big part of their success story. Even if you don’t have a Windows Phone or PC, there is a good chance you have some software from Microsoft that you use on the go. That is because the new Microsoft is working hard to do its best work on whatever platform is popular.

Microsoft apps have quickly earned the reputation, in some quarters, of being the best iOS apps for the iPhone. Google services have a similar reputation on iOS. Going big on a popular mobile platform has paid dividends for these companies. It has worked equally well for smaller companies, too.

According to AdAge, two-thirds of Facebook’s revenues come from mobile. Facebook knows that people spend their time on mobile devices: a place where they had to be if they were going to achieve long-term success. If people do not have the option of having your logo on their smartphone’s home screen, you are missing out on a powerful branding opportunity.

Don’t Forget Your Business Card

In these days of digitizing everything, it is easy to forget about the humble and much maligned business card. At CES 2016, Kodak landed a blog post on The Verge, not for its tech, but for its snazzy business card made from a slice of film. It just stands as a reminder that the little things still matter.

Business cards aren’t just informational. They are also excellent branding opportunities. Sure, you can beam your information from one smartphone to another. But that is pretty awkward and unreliable. Even if you get it to work, there is no guarantee that the person will look up or use the information. It is out of sight and quickly out of mind.

A business card, on the other hand, has to be handled. The person you give it to has to interact with it at least twice. If he drops it and loses it, the person who picks it up will be interacting with your brand. Business cards, mobile apps, and shipping boxes are 3 excellent ways to keep you one step ahead of the competition.

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CoderDojo Community Platform Hackathon

The CoderDojo Foundation recently relaunched Zen as a new open source community platform! With the awesome support of Code For Ireland, Dogpatch Labs and Ulster Bank we are hosting a 2 day Hackathon at Dogpatch Labs to show you how to contribute to this opensource community platform!

Register here

About Zen

This new system allows CoderDojo community members (Mentors and Champions) to fully manage their Dojo activities like  issuing tickets to individual Dojo events, posting in forums, editing and setting up profiles etc. The system is completely open source.

Below are some of the really cool community features:

– A forum for community members
– A forum especially for youths over 13 years of age
– An improved Dojo listing where you can book tickets to a Dojo event
– Profiles for individual community members where you can showcase your skills and the Dojo you belong to

We’re using some cutting edge open source technology for the system:

– NodeJS
– AngularJS
– PostGreSQL
– Mozilla Open Badges
– Jenkins

About the hackathon

If you’re interested in developing for this open source project please come along to our Hackathon in Dogpatch Labs, the top tech start up hub in dublin! On the day there will be 2 streams, a coding stream and a translation stream.

Coding Stream

We will cover how to get set up for development and open your first pull request! Don’t worry about having / not having lots of experience, we will have experienced developers present to help you, and we have a list of issues that are “suitable for beginners”!

This is an ideal opportunity to:

– Showcase your development skills on an open source repository. Employers love to see open source activity on Github so it is an easy way to prove your skills.

– Learn from experienced developers in the tech industry. The system was developed by a leading NodeJS development house, NearForm

– Learn how the peer coding reviews and deployment processes work in a real world scenario.

Translating Stream

We are also looking for people to help us translate the community platform. If you are fluent in any forgien language we would love your help on the day. We are using Crowd In to translate the community platform. More details about helping translate on the day can be found here.

This is an ideal opportunity to:

– Showcase your language skills

– Contribute to a open source community project that impacts youth all around the world!

What you will need:

Your Own Laptop and charger

You don’t need to be an expert but you will need to be very familiar with javascript.


View repository here https://github.com/CoderDojo/community-platform where you can see issues and the Readme if you’d like to get started pre-workshop.

Where can I contact the organiser with any questions?

If you have any questions please feel free to contact us directly via: info@coderdojo.com

If you are interested in contributing to the platform outside this event, we are always looking for developers to help out, get in touch via the mailing address above.

A special thank you to the event sponsors Dogpatch Labs for providing the amazing venue for this event and to Ulster bank for providing the food.

Hope to see you there!

Register here

Wednesday, 6 January 2016 from 18:00 to 21:00 (GMT) Add to Calendar
Dogpatch Labs – Unit 1 CHQ Building. North Wall Quay. Dublin, Dublin D1 IE – View Map

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Climate Launchpad launched

Climate Launchpad, which is part of Climate-KIC Europe’s largest clean/sustech accelerator, is launching again.

Climate Launchpad

Sustainable Nation is running Climate Launchpad, the ideas competition of Climate-KIC again this year. Last year one of the finalists Orbas (internet of food, http://www.orbasconsulting.com/) got to the last 20 out of 80 finalist and 700 submissions. Not bad, but we like to win this year.

Tallinn, Estionia

Same set up this year, 3 finalist from Ireland will compete with finalist of 28 counties. The finals are in Tallinn, Estonia in October. Anyone with an idea in the climate/green/clean is welcome. The size of the problem/opportunity is 37 trillion. 


The programme will consist of a number of orientation/preparation sessions across Ireland, between February and April followed by a two day workshop with an international trainer from Climate Launchpad in May.

The 2 day workshop delivers a new, very sharp methodology to get to a realistic proposition and a pitch (it bleeds). It is loosely based on “Disciplined Entrepreneurship, 24 steps to successful startup” by Bill Aulet. Happy to share the methodology with anyone interested.


The workshop is followed by 6 mentoring and coaching workshops and a pitching final. The 3 winner get to pitch at the international final in October in Tallinn.


If you could spread the word, or make any introductions, I would be much obliged. More details you can find here http://sustainablenation.ie/.

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Climate Launchpad launched

Climate Launchpad, which is part of Climate-KIC Europe’s largest clean/sustech accelerator, is launching again.

Climate Launchpad

Sustainable Nation is running Climate Launchpad, the ideas competition of Climate-KIC again this year. Last year one of the finalists Orbas (internet of food, http://www.orbasconsulting.com/) got to the last 20 out of 80 finalist and 700 submissions. Not bad, but we like to win this year.

Tallinn, Estionia

Same set up this year, 3 finalist from Ireland will compete with finalist of 28 counties. The finals are in Tallinn, Estonia in October. Anyone with an idea in the climate/green/clean is welcome. The size of the problem/opportunity is 37 trillion. 


The programme will consist of a number of orientation/preparation sessions across Ireland, between February and April followed by a two day workshop with an international trainer from Climate Launchpad in May.

The 2 day workshop delivers a new, very sharp methodology to get to a realistic proposition and a pitch (it bleeds). It is loosely based on “Disciplined Entrepreneurship, 24 steps to successful startup” by Bill Aulet. Happy to share the methodology with anyone interested.


The workshop is followed by 6 mentoring and coaching workshops and a pitching final. The 3 winner get to pitch at the international final in October in Tallinn.


If you could spread the word, or make any introductions, I would be much obliged. More details you can find here http://sustainablenation.ie/.

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How To Retain Customers Using Real-Time Adaptive Marketing

Imagine for a moment what it would be like if your favorite brand (e.g. a clothing company, a local restaurant, an e-commerce store) started treating you like royalty:

  • they remember your name, your preferences, and
  • send you personalized offers and recommendations based on your previous purchases, visits to their store/site, surveys and feedback

Too good to be true? Not anymore, thanks to real-time adaptive marketing technology that brings a whole new level of personalization to the game of business.

The Roots Of Personalization through Adaptive Marketing

Personalization is not new, it’s been used by local shops, restaurants, tailors and barbers for decades. In the old days, business owners knew each and every one of their customers personally. This degree of intimacy allowed businesses to understand the real needs and wants of their customers and provide deeper levels of attention and, as a result, retain those customers for life.

It’s through this type of commitment to their customers that local restaurants, tailors and even bookstores would always have stock of their customers’ favorite merchandise and keep them coming back again and again.

Mass-consumption, however, turned customers into anonymous Excel figures and the old-school customer care was gone. What seemed like the lost art of salesmanship is now making its way back into the digital market under a different hat: personalization.

Imagine your favorite e-commerce store displaying a popup message the next time you land on their site:

  • “Hey, welcome back! You were looking at these sneakers last night. Why not buy them right now?”
  • Hey Jeff, your X-Men t-shirt is still waiting for you in the shopping cart! Complete the order today and get a 20% off.”
  • “Hey Lynda! Your gym membership will expire in 5 days. Check-in on Foursquare and get 20% off next month’s bill.”

Or, what about letting your favorite restaurant know you’ll be arriving in 30 minutes and by the time you get there the head waiter has already prepared a nice table for you? All of this being done using a simple app that syncs your intention to buy a service with the in-house logistics.

Wouldn’t it be great if brands started implementing this level or customization in their communications and bring the targeting to this amount of granulation? Wouldn’t you be impressed by such a service? Of course you would!

And the future is here. In the SF movie “Minority Report” there’s a scene where Tom Cruise walks into a shopping center and immediately after his retina scan, the billboards start to talk directly to him: “Hey, John Anderton! You could sure use a Guinness right about now.”

Anticipating customer intent and interacting with customers with super targeted ads has already been implemented by giants like Amazon who believes they can anticipate what you’re going to purchase and will ship items to a regional distribution center before you even placed the order.

Personalization… Today

Here is a typical example of personalized user experience: you browse through the newest items added on your favorite home décor e-store and suddenly the store displays a personalized message for you saying “Welcome back! Buy this lamp in the next 10 minutes and you get 10% off.” The coupon code would fit perfectly into the context and has great chances of conversion.

How would you feel? I know I know I’d be excited that my favorite store acknowledged my presence on their site and enticed me to buy using some sort of urgency trigger. That would be a really intense shopping experience.

Another example is Flipboard, an app that allows people to customize the way they discover and consume content. Amazon displays “similar” products to people, based on their purchase or browsing history and even on the items listed in their “Wishlist”.

The beauty of personalization is that it gives people the chance to create their own experiences and choose the type and format of the content they want to consume. No more cookie-cutter template emails and ad copy. Just imagine what personalization could do for your own business, knowing that every piece of content fits perfectly on your prospect, just like a custom-tailored suit can.

Interconnectedness In The Digital World

Today, 80% of internet users own a smartphone, which means they are almost always connected and are interacting with their favorite brands via multiple channels. These users have become no only tech savvy, but they also demand more attention, they expect to be acknowledged and treated well.

Why? Because they know they have options and that your competition is eagerly waiting to get their money. These always-connected users are even willing to share a lot of information if that’s what it takes to receive personalized offers and services.

An Infosys study of 5,000 consumers worldwide (including 1,000 in the UK) revealed that 78% of British respondents would buy from brands that made them more targeted, relevant offers.

This is where adaptive marketing and personalization help you align your marketing with real-time events (e.g. #CecilTheLion). Adopting real-time marketing techniques can help you take the pulse of what’s going on in the world and leverage big social movements by putting your own spin on the situation.

How To Create Your Omni-Channel Infrastructure

Consumers are coming back and forth among multiple devices, from smartphones to desktops and from laptops to tablets to TVs. They can interact with a business in a physical store, on a website or mobile app, through a catalog, or through social media.

Here are the 3 core steps to create an omni-channel user experience:

1) Have a seamless and consistent messaging across your print, digital, social and mobile marketing channels.

A print ad might supply a QR code to drive viewers to your website or Facebook page. Or, an e-commerce retailer should strive to preserve items in a cart across devices – if you add an item to your mobile shopping cart, it should still be in your shopping cart when you log in on your desktop computer.

A great example of a brand that has created an effective, seamless physical and digital user experience is Victoria’s Secret. Victoria’s Secret Angel Card program allows members to share & earn points by shopping in-store and online. Cardholders receive personalized e-mails with special offers and promotions, free gifts and birthday presents and access to exclusive shopping events. Members also receive extra rewards for syncing their social profiles and sharing the company’s news, effectively unifying omni-channel experiences.

2) Understand your audience’s path to engagement or purchase.

The ability to track your customers as they flow and make purchases through all the channels and capture all this data from online and offline sources allows you to find various touch points (physical store, desktop site, email list, social media, TV, mobile site, mobile app, catalog, customer service representative, etc.) on your customers’ journey. Tying multiple channels together helps you to understand which data points are most useful to you and segment your audience / budget accordingly.

Today’s marketing automation systems all have omni-channel marketing automation. Platforms like HubSpot, Marketo, Pardot, Act-on, or Silverpop help you manage your data, automate your marketing strategy and keep track of your data across multiple channels.

3) Capture attention once you’ve reached your audience.

That’s where relevance comes into play. Create customized content to intensify the power of your messaging on every channel. For example, you can send recommendations for complimentary products (a shirt to a pair of jeans).

Adding social features like sharing, ratings and reviews, and comments to your website allows customers to easily interact with your brand and seamlessly share their actions and opinions with their peers. Generating an actively engaged user community and nurturing user-generated content boosts SEO and increases referral traffic, time spent on site, and, ultimately, lifetime customer value.

Here is how Macy’s uses the omni-channel marketing system.

Shifting From Acquisition To Engagement

Check out this innovative ad campaign from a Swiss advertising agency. This is a really cool example of what’s possible with the new adaptive marketing techniques. The ad promotes a remote ski resort in the Alps and it was displayed in live video format in Zürich’s main railway station.

This way, urban commuters could connect in real time with the person making the invitation and receive a free train ticket (printed on the spot) if they decided to hop on the train that would leave in 15 minutes. Great urgency factor! The man from the ad even agrees to talk to people’s bosses to get them a free day to go on the trip.

The Swiss ad is just a glimpse of what marketing of the future looks like, in both creative angle and technology. This will definitely stir some waves among creatives and make ads more fun, spontaneous and minimize friction.

The key benefit of real-time marketing is that brands can use content marketing to create stories and experiences around products or services – pretty much like what museum have always been doing. Create installations where each piece of art would take the viewer to the next one and guiding them on a path of discovery.

This approach to marketing will mark the shift from the information age to the conceptual, experience age, where ads will become integrated experiences that build upon previous user interactions with the brand and get them involved into meaningful conversations and transactions.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, personalization comes with huge benefits for both customers and brands. This is the beginning of more targeted ad campaigns, improved customer service, more sales and higher rates of retention.

Customers are already starting to look for the royal treatment and are very diligent with their money. The better you can acknowledge your customers, show them appreciation, nurturing and letting them know that their voice is important to you, the easier it will be to stand apart from your competition.

Brands that will build omnichannel experiences for their users and optimize customer interactions across all devices will rise to the top. Adapting to change is the key factor for staying in business and this time change means creating unique customer experiences and personalized journeys throughout the entire sales funnel.

What are your thoughts on the future of real-time adaptive marketing? How do you see your business adopting it? What kind of content works best for moving your customers down the sales funnel?

We’d love to hear from you and see how you’re adapting to real-time personalization to enhance your customers’ experiences.

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7 Inexpensive Benefits to Show Your Staff They’re Appreciated

Health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off are some of the most common benefits employers provide to their staff – and with good reason. While a competitive salary can attract top candidates to your company, the key to retaining highly qualified staff is showing them how much they’re valued. Offering additional benefits to your employees not only shows them how much you care, but it motivates them to put their best foot forward on the daily basis. If you’re interested in extending a little appreciation to your staff, here are some lesser-known benefits that won’t break the bank:

  1. Telecommute Opportunities

Every now and again it could prove beneficial to allow your staff to work from home. In this ever evolving digital world of business, connectivity is now easier than ever. Management tools such as Asure software makes it easier for you to manage employee time and collaborate on company projects. Offering telecommuting benefits lets employees know that you understand their need to care for their loved ones and that you trust them to get the job done from home.

  1. Commuter Benefits

Transportation costs can bite a big hole in anyone’s budget. Whether your staff utilizes public transportation or drives themselves to work the cost of fair, parking, gas, and car maintenance is often strenuous. Setting aside a monthly stipend of let’s say $50-100 per employee can save them hundreds of dollars per year.

  1. Tuition Assistance

In order for your company to grow you must continually invest in the growth and development of your staff. A great way to show them that you want them to achieve greatness is by offering to pay for a portion of their college education. Whether your company creates a scholarship fund and awards it to a recipient each year or you have enough funds in the budget to pay for a percentage of your employee’s education, they will be grateful.

  1. Family Days

Want to show your employees that you care about them as individuals? Introducing a company family day is a great way to show it. Any time your staff can spend with their families and away from the desk is a perk. Take a day out of the year and plan something nice for your staff and their families to do (i.e. picnic, games, a nice luncheon). This is a great way to get to know more about your employees and to cultivate a more family oriented work environment.

  1. Wellness Programs

Although health insurance covers the bulk of your employee’s health needs it can also be beneficial to offer wellness programs. There are so many options for you to choose from that can fit within your budget. From giving your staff discounts at local memberships to having meetings with popular weight loss programs your staff will love the idea that you’re keeping their health in mind.

  1. Dress Down Days

Here’s a perk that won’t cost you a penny to implement in the office. Instead of always having your team dressed like they’re heading to a meeting, you could cut them some slack and allow them to dress down on occasion. Casual Fridays have always been a popular choice allowing your staff to dress down just before the weekend.

  1. Flex Time

Do your employees really need to be in the office from 9 to 5 or can you vary their schedules a bit? Employees would appreciate having the opportunity to alter their schedules to fit their personal lives. Offering flex schedules such as 8-4 or 7-3 for employees who have been with the company for at least a year is a great way to vary the schedules and motivate them to stay with the company.

As an employer it is imperative to remember that your employees are your best asset. Keeping them happy doesn’t always have to mean large pay raises or tons of time off. In other words, you don’t have to break the bank to be a top employer like Google. Small benefits such as these described above can go a long way for motivation and longevity. Take the time to evaluate your company finances to see how you can do just a little bit more to show your team how much you value them.

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