Major tech companies like Microsoft, Apple, and Facebook have been working for several years to infuse artificial intelligence into their devices and platforms. This allows users to communicate with their devices which in turn can infer meaning and “speak” in a way that replicates human speech. These are called chatbots and they’re not some fad here now and gone tomorrow. Chatbots are the future of customer-business interactions.

The implications of chatbots

Chatbots are digital entities programmed to communicate with people and automate various tasks and processes that we would usually have to do ourselves. For instance, if you’re hungry and in the mood for pizza, you could ask a chatbot to place an order for you. You could also make dinner reservations, book a flight, get a weather update, or reschedule a dentist’s appointment. What makes chatbots so exciting is that they’re getting smarter and more accurate. They use machine learning and natural language processing to infer what users are asking them to do. They’re also gaining the ability to cross platforms more effectively which means they can communicate with other apps to find information and/or complete requests.

Chatbots and customer service

Another popular use for chatbots is responding to and resolving customers’ problems. Many businesses are seeing the value of having chatbots on social media platforms since it frees up their call center associates to work on only the most difficult situations. Customers experiencing a problem or customers that have a question can communicate with a chatbot instead of waiting on hold to speak with a human. Customers can pose their question or explain their problem and chatbots will provide the appropriate response or guidance or transfer the person to the appropriate customer service agent.

The value of chatbots

Chatbots will never lose their temper with customers. They also learn from each customer-interaction which means they are always drawing from an ever-growing database of information to better assist customers. Though their ability to understand verbal speech is not yet on a level with human customer service representatives, their ability to immediately access vast stores of information is unparalleled. Chatbots will also provide businesses with insights into their customers since they track behavior and interactions. This will enable businesses to offer customers a more personalized experience.

Furthermore, chatbots are available 24/7, highly flexible, and inexpensive to develop. They free up human resources and increase productivity and they provide a fun and interesting way for customers to engage with brands.

Chatbots and the future

As machine learning and other AI tools become more advanced and as older generations give way to younger ones, the popularity of chatbots and their usefulness to businesses of all sizes is only going to grow. The day will come when chatbots will be playing an integral part of our day-to-day lives and virtually every business will be employing them.

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SMS marketing is one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal, but only when you’re using it in the right ways. One strategy for using SMS marketing more effectively is to offer variety in the types of messages you’re sending. In this aspect, you can learn a lot about SMS marketing from direct mail marketing strategies. Here are three direct-mail techniques that apply equally well to SMS marketing

1. Offers that motivate

The most effective direct mailers resonate with customers. These are the ones most likely to motivate customers to act on them. There are a few qualities that a motivating message will have:

    • Personalized. Customers should feel like the message was directed straight at them even if it was sent to thousands
    • Exclusive. Recipients should feel pampered—like they’re getting special treatment that other customers don’t get. You can accomplish this by making certain offers exclusive only to those who’ve opted in to receive your texts
    • A clear call to action. Don’t leave it up to the customers to realize what you want them to do, come right out and tell them.

2. Appointment reminders

Every missed appointment is a missed opportunity for a sale. It’s also lost productivity. For years, companies have been using direct mail to send appointment reminders. Studies show that a simple appointment reminder can reduce no-shows by about 35%. SMS is an especially effective channel for appointment reminders since it’s immediately received once sent and much more likely to be read. Not only will appointment reminders improve productivity and increase profits, it can be a great lead-in to getting customers to opt-in for promotional text messages as well.

3. Coupons

Coupons are the oldest marketing trick in the book but they’re still the most popular because they work. In 2015 alone, American consumers redeemed a total of 2.5 billion print coupons in stores. Approximately 87% of Americans report using print coupons that they receive in the mail. The numbers for SMS coupons are even more startling because they’re more immediate. While the average direct mail coupon is held for 17 days before being redeemed, SMS coupons are more likely to be used within the first few days. Though you might assume coupons are old-fashioned, they’re still a powerful marketing tool especially when combined with newer marketing channels like SMS.

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SMS messaging is a powerful means to spread your marketing message to the masses. Millions of people have cell phones and use text messaging as a means to communicate. In fact, Forbes reported in 2013 that more people had cell phones that toilets. So if you are trying to decide between marketing through SMS messages or through bathroom reading material, you can be assured that marketing through SMS messaging will reach a whole lot more people.

We know that SMS messages are a powerful means to market to people. You can get marketing material in people’s hands within seconds or minutes that the message has been sent. But what kind of messages will be most impactful to those receiving your messages? To know what to send, we should understand how people like to message others.

Texting with Emojis

According to a report from Appboy, a customer relationship suite for marketers, the use of emojis is rapidly increasing in a variety of mediums. They also reported that people and brands use different types of emojis. For example, when people send messages back and forth, face emojis are the most frequently used. Emojis are used by people as a means of self-expression and to express their emotions. But no matter what emoji is used, the point is that people are using emojis. Despite the brevity that text messages already allow, emojis make messaging even more simple. When some texts a friend a joke, the friend can respond and say, “haha, that is so funny,” or they can simply respond with a laughing face emoji. Or if someone wants to show agreement to a message they received, they can write a message back or they can simply send an emoji of a thumbs up.

How Companies Use Emojis

Brands use emojis more to gain attention or to evoke an emotion. Companies want emojis to catch the eye of the receiver in their marketing messages. It is significantly easier to get a message across to someone if you have their attention. So are emojis a good way to catch people’s attention?

Since people use emojis within their own texts, companies have the opportunity to use the growing fad to their advantage. And companies are. Use of emojis in marketing messages has grown 20% a month, on average, this year alone.

Best Practices for SMS Message Marketing and Emojis

There is no harm in throwing an eye-catching emoji in your SMS message market campaigns. But if you do, there are ways to work them to your advantage.

Pair your company and brand with a correlating emoji. If you sell ice cream, make use of an ice cream emoji. For example, Domino's Pizza used this idea to run a pretty successful Twitter campaign: they invited customers to order something by tweeting the relevant emoji. Use emojis that will make the most sense to your marketing campaign.

Most of all, make sure you know your audience so you know what messages to send and which emojis to use. Younger people might appreciate emojis more than older people will. Make sure the emojis you use match the audience and the message that you want to send.

People are using emojis in their various means of messaging. Companies have the opportunity to personalize their marketing messages and catch the attention of their readers if they use emojis that relate to their audience and to their message.

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If you are wondering about whether SMS messaging is an effective marketing approach, you need to consider where you audience is and what they are paying attention to. If you go anywhere and stop to just look around or watch people, what do you see? People on their cell phones. Which means people are sending and receiving text messages.

People are constantly bombarded with marketing campaigns. When you walk through the mall, you see big signs for clothing sales, new products, and delicious food. Some of those signs might be bordered with neon lights or bright colors. But where are people really looking? They are looking at their phones. Whether they are walking through the mall and simultaneously pulling up a coupon from on online ad or they are comparing prices at another store, people are constantly on their phones. Reaching people on their phones might be the most powerful and effective approach to get people’s attention and market your campaign.

Reaching your Audience through SMS Messaging

SMS messages are short and powerful messages that can be sent directly to a customer or a potential customer. The reach of SMS messages is endless. People can read SMS messages while walking down the street. They can read SMS messages while on the bus, or on a train, or on a boat. You might even reach them while they are driving a car (though for safety’s sake, we hope you cannot reach them then). You can reach people in the most private situations: while they are lying in bed, while they are eating a midnight snack, or even while they are sitting on the toilet. People read texts more often then they read the weekly ad or an email or a social media post. So if you are still wondering if you should market through SMS messages, consider the people you can reach at any moment of the day wherever they happen to be.

The Limitations of SMS Messaging Marketing

While marketing through SMS messaging is effective, there are limitations that should be realized. For example, federal regulations require that people opt in to receive marketing messages before a company can send them any messages. Do not make the mistake of sending messages to people who have not officially opted in to receive text messages. There is a hefty fine for anyone who breaks the regulations defined under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. In fact, Papa Johns and Clickatell Inc. are both facing lawsuits by consumers who claim they received text messages before they opted in or after they opted out. So if you do decide to reach your audience through SMS messages, make sure you know and understand the regulations.

Once you understand the limitations of SMS messaging, you can design an effective marketing campaign. SMS messaging limitations should not stop you from marketing via text messaging. If you have any concerns about the worth of SMS messaging marketing, remember that billions of text messages are sent, received, and read every day and that a global audience is in your hands since you are sending messages directly to the devices that are in people’s hands.

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SMS messaging is the current standard when it comes to sending messages through your phone carrier. Simple text, image, and video messages can be easily shared with anyone in your phone’s contact list. But as technology advances, our desire for improved messaging also increases, and fortunately for use, messaging is starting to get a whole lot better.

From SMS Messaging to RCS Messaging

SMS messaging, or text messaging, uses communication protocols to allow mobile devices to exchange short text messages. Some basic messaging also allows for sending small media files such as images, audio clips, and videos.

Mobile messaging is starting to adapt Rich Communication Messaging, or RCS messaging. RCS messaging is the next phase of SMS messaging. According to initial use and reports, RCS messaging will allow for higher quality picture messaging, group chats, location sharing, and video calls, as well as read receipts and typing indicators. RCS messaging allows users to share media, location, and other information during a telephone conversation. The technology of RCS messaging evolves further than simple messaging. RCS messaging provides a means to share quality media and information across devices and contact books and open up a forum for expansive messaging capabilities.

While RCS messaging is available on some devices, there are limitations in that to send and receive RCS messages, both sender and receiver have to have a device featuring the messaging app and a compatible network. However, even if messages are sent in RCS messaging style, users that do not have compatible systems will receive a message (just without the flare of a RCS message).

RCS Messaging and Business Opportunities

RCS messaging will allow businesses to better reach their customers. In fact, Google recently released a new messaging platform, essentially RCS messaging, that offers businesses upgraded services to communicate with customers. The platform will include message branding, so a business can send a message that will feature their logo instead of just a phone number or name. The upgrades will also utilize group messages, alerts, and other communications not available through SMS messaging.

Essentially, the RCS messaging options will allow businesses to meet the communication needs of every customer by providing rich communication through the new and improved RCS messaging or simple messages through SMS messaging for customers who do not carry the upgrades.

From landlines to cellphones to smartphones, mobile communication technology is evolving and RCS messaging is the next step in that evolution.

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Every time a holiday comes up, your company has an opportunity to capitalize on it and make some extra money. Valentine’s Day is the next one that is coming, and you may be able to bring in some extra business with the holiday. Even non-traditional things make great Valentine’s Day gifts. You just have to get your audience to realize the potential of your product or service as a gift as well.

Valentine’s Day Stats

Did you know that over half the population celebrates Valentine’s Day? In fact, Americans will spend $19.7 billion or more on Valentine’s Day this year. People will spend about $4.4 billion of that on a night out alone. The rest of the billions are spent on gifts for significant others. And on average, $147 per person is spent total. There is some serious money to be made on the holiday, but you have to put yourself in a position to earn it first.

Text marketing ideas

To market to your customers, you have to make sure they realize your company offers something to make their Valentine’s Day even better. And since the most money is spent by 24-34 year olds, marketing by text is the best way to reach them. Here are some strategies to selling your stuff as part of the holiday.

  • Remind about a week before: You can send a text to your customers about a week before February 14 and let your customers know you have a product or service that makes a great gift for a loved one. People are last-minute shoppers already, but with this holiday, it seems to be especially bad. This gives them time to consider your business as an option.
  • Text a deal: You can text a deal to your customers as a “holiday special” for loyal customers. This will make them feel as though they are being rewarded, and it will encourage them to choose your business over others. You are giving them a deal right when they need it.
  • Personalize your texts: You can separate your audience by gender, age, or interests to determine what kind of messages to send to each of your customers. You might even choose to only send text marketing to specific demographics. For example, you can send different messages to men and women based on the types of products they would be more likely to buy for their partners.

Profit off anti-Valentine’s Day folks too

Since just over half of the population is celebrating Valentine’s Day, that means that nearly half won’t be. Many people opt instead to have anti-Valentine’s Day parties and events. If you don’t serve the traditional chocolates and jewelry crowd, you can opt to target the other half of the audience and remind them that you offer great snacks or services for their anti-parties. Text marketing can be done to meet the needs of you and your customers.

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Your marketing approach is determined entirely by your audience and their needs. That is why your approach can change if you are focused on marketing to another business instead of the average consumer. You are dealing with someone who understands marketing trends themselves, so it is important you reach them in the right ways. Here are some trends you should follow for successful B2B marketing.

Marketing to one person

Remember, even if you are offering a service to a business, ultimately there is one person who will make the final decision in most companies. Even if there are a few employees that share the responsibility, you are still marketing to that specific person and their needs. With all that in mind, you want to use traditional methods of marketing such as:

  • Social Media Marketing: Everyone is on social media, and they expect to be able to find you there. Your activity says a lot about your business, so other businesses will look for you there to see what they are getting.
  • Mobile Marketing: Since you are working with individuals still, they will be doing research on their mobile devices. Optimize your website for mobile, and get text marketing set up. Being able to reach customer service through texting is a huge advantage, especially for other businesses.
  • Influence Marketing: Endorsements are still very useful, even if the person who is endorsing your product isn’t a celebrity so much as someone in your industry who has experience. Try to find people who are influential in the industry or who your customers may be following on social media sites such as Twitter.
  • Artificial Intelligence Chatbot: Using AI Chatbot to communicate with another business makes their interactions with you clearer and less frustrating, which is a win-win for both of you.

Branding consistency

One thing that is especially important to a business as a customer is that you are being consistent in your branding throughout all platforms you are using. Whether they are talking to a salesperson before the deal or a customer service representative afterwards, they want to feel like it is the same company. Make sure your design branding is consistent throughout your website and all social media sites as well. It also helps people to remember you.

Ultimately, your goal as a business should be to create an experience for other businesses that keeps them coming back. Everything from initial interactions to follow up calls after work is completed should reflect the same energy in your company and should give a positive experience to the customer.

Use marketing automation

Automation is everything in today’s business world, so adopt it in your business. It is an especially effective way to manage all your marketing to other businesses and to control what you are doing. There are a hundred different ways you can use automation to bring in leads, communicate with customers, and manage marketing tactics. Just start with one at a time, and you’ll quickly discover what you do and don’t like to be automated.

Ultimately, reaching a customer in the B2B community is similar to regular interactions, but should be tweaked a bit based on the business you are trying to reach. The most important thing to do is figure out who the person is that makes final decisions and market to their wants and needs.

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Smartphones have amazing capabilities. With that small device in your pocket, you can contact nearly anyone in the entire world in just seconds, and you have all the information in the world available at your fingertips. They have completely changed the way we interact with each other, learn, and even how marketers reach out to customers. You can do more than just calling your customers these days. Here’s some ways you can optimize your mobile marketing efforts.

Text marketing

While it is an old tactic, mobile marketing is still one of the best ways to communicate with your customers through mobile. One example of this was Chipotle, a fast casual restaurant that had to shut down all of its stores for a training at the same time. The restaurant sent a text to all of its customers in order to inform them that there had been a problem and give them a coupon to use later. It was an extremely effective way of reaching every one of their customers, and it prevented them from experiencing customer service issues later.

Mobile friendly websites

There are many reasons that you would want to optimize your website for mobile, the most recent of which was a change in Google’s search algorithm. As of this week, sites will now be penalized if they don’t have a site optimized for mobile, and they will be seen further down when people search for them. On top of that, you want to make it easier for your customers to be able to view your site when searching on their phone given that many people do all their web surfing from their phones now. It is way easier to whip out your phone and search online than it is to set up a computer to do it.

Check your site on your phone to make sure it is showing up correctly. Check all the links to ensure they work properly. Get on other brands of phones to ensure it is showing up the same for everyone, and check it in multiple browsers. If you have texts that redirect to your site, check to make sure it shows up correctly. Make sure your site looks good even when they click on an ad through Facebook or other social media sites. Customers would rather stop looking into your site and move on with something else than try and figure out how to make it work right.

Social media

Most people don’t even look at social media on their computer, which means all of your posts and ads will be seen through a mobile device. It is important that you have them optimized for mobile viewing as well. Get on your phone and check out everything you post from there to make sure it is showing up correctly. Keep what you post short and sweet, so people don’t have to scroll down to continue reading what you have to say. And always try to get your entire post in before a “read more” button will appear, so nobody has to click that to see everything you have to say.

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As the new year approaches, it is a good time to reflect on what has happened over 2016 and what you can to improve in 2017. Analyzing where you went wrong in the past and where you can go right in the future is a huge part of any business’ success. It could make the difference between repeating the past year or having a much more successful one. One of the things you’ll definitely want to take into account is your audience for the new year. While you may still be trying to market towards baby boomers or are gearing up to sell to Generation Z, Millennials will be the major audience for 2017. That means figuring out how to market towards them in the new year.

Working technical services

One thing Millennials thrive on is technology. They grew up in an age where technology changed rapidly from the desktop computers in their living room to a smartphone in their hand. Not only are they good with technology, they are interested in it and adapting to it. That means you have a huge group of people that are likely a large portion of your buyers that want to see more technology incorporated into their everyday transactions with your business. Provide them that by updating your in-store technology with more self-serve options. You’ll even want to give them self-serve customer service such as automated texting with AI Chatbot. Make sure the technology you use is not just innovative: it must also be seamless.

Company values

One thing we’ve found in the Millennial generation is that they care very much about your company’s values and what you are going to do with the profits. There have been a lot of businesses popping up recently that offer products that donate to certain causes with every purchase or that provide jobs less fortunate people by allowing them to produce the products. When a Millennial buys something, they want to feel like they are getting what they need while also helping someone or something else out, even if it isn’t necessarily a cause that is near and dear to their heart.

Millennials have kids

While the Millennial generation seemed like they were never going to start their own families, they are now starting to become the generation of parents. Of course, many still don’t have children, but it is becoming the norm. This means you can market to them through their kids. It is especially powerful marketing because they are on social media a lot, often posting pictures of their children and their daily lives as a family. Keeping up with the Jones’ used to be a concept related solely to your neighborhood, but now it is something they do every single day with everyone they know on the internet. You can much more easily target them through marketing efforts related to parenthood or family, and it could have a big impact on your sales in 2017.

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Customer service is a hard business because part of it is proactive and part of it is reactive. But it is both part of the business, and there are good and bad parts to all of it. Using technology to reach those customers and to better communicate with them is going to be very useful, especially in the coming years as technology becomes even more integrated into our everyday lives more than it already is. Here are some things to consider when adding more technology to your customer service department.

Proactive customer service

To be proactive with your customers, you want to reach out to them to see if they are happy before they get mad. Companies that deal in service and larger purchases know more about this than the everyday product company because when someone has spent a lot of time and money with your product or service, you always want to reach out and make sure they are happy with their purchase afterwards. It is a good way to get ahead of the curve. But it is a double edged sword. While it will help your customers to feel like you are taking care of them, it will also give them more opportunity to complain about problems they may be having but wouldn’t have addressed had you not asked. Still, at the end of the day, it is better to be proactive and get your customers everything they need.

Proactive customer service also deals in marketing where you are reaching out to your customers to try and get them to come back. Text marketing is a very good way of doing this because it reaches them immediately but allows them to look into it at a time that is most convenient to them. Not to mention, according to VentureBeat, over half of customers prefer to conduct their customer service through chatbot messaging.

Reactive customer service

The rest of the customer service you are likely experiencing is reacting to customers. This could be reacting by simply answering questions about store hours or the soup of the day, or it could be fielding calls from angry customers wanting to get their money back. This is one place where technology comes in handy very well. If you are using AI Chatbot texting with your customers, you are able to get their questions answered immediately and without wasting the time of your customer service reps, and it is especially helpful when they are simple, repetitive questions. Your customers will appreciate the quick and clear response in texting as well. You can save your customer service representatives for more important problems and concerns that can’t be easily resolved with an AI Chatbot.

Keep technology simple

VentureBeat makes it very clear that simplicity is important right now when AI Chatbots are very capable but aren’t able to understand or answer more complicated issues a customer may have. It is recommended that companies stick with simpler ideas with AI such as answering repetitive questions (e.g. What are your store hours?) or offering ordering services such as Starbucks. Always make sure there is an easy connection to a live person available for your customers, so they always know they can get a live person if they are unhappy with the messaging.

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