Want to Improve Your Digital Marketing? Check Out What Your Competitors are Doing

Mavericks owner and tech billionaire Mark Cuban has a book entitled “How to Win at the Sport of Business,” whereas he parallels the competitive spirit within an industry to that of a baseball or basketball game. While there are major differences between those two ideas, the point is the same: Business is a competition, and in order to win, you have to know and beat your opponent.

In years past, one of the primary ways that businesses would try to one-up each other is through price. Lower the price, and your competitors will naturally gravitate towards you. That’s not the case anymore; if you want to pull ahead, you have to not only understand what products and services your competitors are promoting but how they’re promoting it as well. This involves everything, from your branding to your customer service to your mission statement and everything in between.

Since strong competition is one of the major causes of a business failing, you’ll have to pay attention to who you’re positioned next to in search results and paid advertising. How do you do that? Simple.

1. Learn About Your Opponents

In the beginning of your company life cycle, you may be all alone in your niche. Either you’re the only one selling a particular product, or you’re the only one solving a particular problem. Eventually, though, other people will take notice and begin to come after your clientele. In fact, only one-third of businesses are still in existence a decade after they open up the doors. If you want to make sure you’re not part of that statistic, you have to keep your eyes open to the playing field.

In the digital sphere, your competitors are the ones that are positioned next to you in the SERP’s (Search Engine Results Page) or are the ones seeking to solve the same problem that your product or service does. If there’s no major competitors, that’s great, but use the time to shore up your branding and position yourself as a perennial market leader. If you do notice that others are beginning to encroach on your territory, start studying their practices and taking notes.

2. Exploit Their Weaknesses

Once you’ve studied your competitors thoroughly, you need to start looking for vulnerabilities in their marketing that you can exploit. Below are a few places to look specifically:

Links: Do they have broken links all over their webpage? Are they working on developing backlinks? Do they have any backlinks at all? If not, this could be an excellent place to start.
Social Media: Though most businesses have caught up to the idea that they need to be active on social media, not every business is doing this effectively. Customer engagement is a big part of this, and if your competitors aren’t doing it, emphasize that with your customers.
SEO: Are your competitors up to date on the latest SEO best practices? Make a list of their on and off-page SEO metrics and compare them to your own, including local SEO as well.
Conversion Rate: Look at their landing pages and advertisements and notice their copy. What are they missing? What could you offer that’s better?


Learning from your competitors isn’t rocket science, but in order to pull ahead in the market for your specific niche, you have to study your opponents and take advantage of every opportunity that’s presented to you. Competitors may be out to take some of your customers away from you, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be a force for good either.


6 Digital Marketing Hacks the Competition is Using to Steal Your Customers

495 digitalBusiness competition is nothing new. Ever since the dawn of business, similar companies have been using various tactics to outsmart their competition and gain an edge over them. This is no less true today in the digital marketing arena.

It is not just about edging out your competition by pricing, better products, or sales manipulations in today’s online advertising world, but by redirecting your competitor’s customers using sneaky, but ethical, digital marketing techniques. Techniques that, if not known, are giving an unfair advantage to your competition as they siphon and sift your potential customers away from you.

The following 6 digital marketing hacks will teach you how to tap into your competitor’s online lifeline and shift their customer streams into your business instead.

Hack #1: Google Ads & Your Competitor’s Most Valuable Keywords

Google search terms are a boon to any business that advertises online, especially those that use the Google Adwords platform to target specific keywords.

As Google is the most visited website in the world, it can give companies advertising on its paid platform an almost endless supply of potential customers. That is if advertised in the right way.

Many companies use “branded keywords,” such as the names of their competitors to attract visitors via Google Ads.


This technique is simple and effective and takes a lot of the guesswork out of keyword research. Not to mention it saves the advertiser a lot of money in the process.

Hack #2: Gmail Ads & Branded Keywords

Similar to the above hack, this method differs slightly in that you will use the Gmail interface instead of the Google Search page to target your competitor’s branded keywords.

Gmail Ads work in much the same way as Google Ads do but usually appear on the top of the most recent email list.

By targeting your competitor’s branded keywords via Gmail Ads, you can put your business in front of millions of Gmail users who have searched for or asked to receive emails from your competitors.

Hack #3: Facebook Ads, Competitor Brand, & Interests

Facebook makes it very easy to do so as long as you know who your competitors are.

Using the Facebook Ad platform you can choose your competitor’s brand name under the interests section and get your ads displaying in front of those who have shown an interest in your competitors.

For example, if you are selling supplements online, you might want to choose Bodybuilding.com as a target interest to get your ads shown to Facebook users who like and/or visit this specific website.

Hack #4: YouTube & TruViews

Very similar to the above-mentioned methods, you can use YouTube’s TrueView advertising to target your competitors’ videos by running video ads of your own over theirs.

Your ad will appear right before their video does and you will get the first chance to show what you have to offer before your competition does.

It seems almost illegal to do such things, but it is totally legal to do so according to YouTube policies. Again, all you really need is to know who your competitors are and how to create your video in such a way as to attract the viewer’s attention to your offer and away from your competition.

Hack #5: Twitter Ads To Target Your Competitors Followers

Everyone talks about Google, Facebook, and YouTube as the best digital advertising mediums these days, but most businesses dismiss the other 600-pound gorilla in the room – Twitter.

With over 300 million monthly users Twitter is no advertising joke. Studies have shown that over 40% of these 300 million users are following some brand or another.

If you know your competitor’s Twitter accounts, you can target their followers through the Twitter Ads platform. What is more, there are many tools like Audiense, Twitonomy, and FollowerWonk that allows you to download the usernames and profiles of your competitor’s followers into a streamlined format.

After you have downloaded these names, all you have to do is upload the usernames in the “Tailored Audience” section of the Twitter Ads platform and voila, you have got your message in front of your competitor’s audience.

Hack #6: Dissatisfied Twitter Followers (Free Method)

The above methods are fine if you have money to spend on advertisement, but this hack works even if you have very little to spend or no money at all.

The only caveat to this hack is that your competitors must have a Twitter channel that handles support issues. Many of the big names do.

Once you have located your competitor’s support channels on Twitter, you can view each complaint and target ads using the Twitter Ad platform to reach out to each and every frustrated customer, offering them sympathy and guidance on how to deal with the situation (hint: how your business can help if they give it a try).

To make it easier on yourself, simply follow your competitor’s support channel to receive immediate complaint registrations and act on them before they get resolved.


If you are not using these digital marketing strategies to get in front of your competitor’s audiences, then you can be sure that many of them are using these same hacks to steal yours.

Therefore, put these strategies into play today and see how your customer base increases each and every day.



Engaging Your Alumni With GeoDirect

A New Way to Engage Your Alumni

We’ve all received the cold calls, seen the generic emails, and the snail mail with pictures of happy students and a return address for donations.

This has been the extent of alumni engagement for the last 80+ years.

Did it work? Yes.

Does it work today? Nope.

Alumni engagement is the lowest it has ever been, right around 9% in the U.S. Although the situation appears grim, many schools have started evolving their alumni outreach campaign with innovative technology. And they’re reporting resounding success.

One way schools have been able to reach their alumni is through digital canvassing. Through powerful platforms, like GeoDirect, schools can directly reach their graduates through hyper accurate IP targeting using advanced digital canvassing ad technology.

How GeoDirect Works

The process begins by harnessing the power of offline data.  GeoDirect is a patented IP targeting software that matches physical addresses with IP addresses, enabling advertisers to deliver their messages with pinpoint precision to the right person, at the exact time of your choosing.

Rather than casting a wide net over a targeted demographic or geographic location, GeoDirect ad campaigns are directly targeted and delivered to predetermined households and audiences — in this case, alumni.

An ad campaign that’s launched under the helm of GeoDirect delivers results that speak (and pay) for themselves.

Why Use GeoDirect? A Case Study

In 2017, we partnered with Gonzaga College High School, an all-boys Catholic school in Washington, D.C.

They were looking for a new, unconventional way to reach their alumni and increase incoming donations.

We worked with Gonzaga to develop an integrated approach to reach graduates and other potential donors during the school’s Annual Fund campaign. After a series of meetings, we helped them develop a new design concept for print advertising, as well as for online display ads that were directed mail recipients in specific households.

Using the addresses Gonzaga provided to us, we put GeoDirect to work. Its targeting system matched all of those physical addresses with IP addresses. So every person who received a piece of traditional mail from Gonzaga was also shown an online ad soliciting donations.

GeoDirect helped make the connection between what alumni received at home in their mailboxes, and the ads they saw on their computers. It’s a proven way to increase campaign engagement and effectiveness. And, for Gonzaga… it worked.

What Other Industries Use GeoDirect?

GeoDirect can be used in virtually any industry that can benefit from more precise and effective marketing and advertising. GeoDirect has been effectively used to enhance results for the following types of organizations.

  • Non-Profits & Charities
  • Healthcare
  • Insurance
  • Financial Services
  • Hospitality
  • Restaurants
  • Home Services
  • Automotive
  • Sports & Events
  • Real Estate
  • Retail & Consumer Products
  • Political
  • Legal
  • Government Contractors

It’s time to supplement your direct mail campaign! Contact us today to find out how we can put GeoDirect to work for you.



Digital Marketing – 8 Signs You’re Doing It Wrong

Digital marketing. It’s a vital component of survivability in today’s age. As marketers ourselves, we’ve seen the mega shift that has occurred in the way that companies are  now able to promote and advertise themselves, and engage with audiences across Internet platforms.

We also see on the horizon the rise of even more digital marketing technologies that will change the entire marketing landscape once more.

But do you know what’s so frustrating?

Many business leaders still don’t get it. They don’t want to invest in digital marketing — either because they don’t understand it, or they don’t have faith in it.

Unfortunately, these business leaders are digging their own graves.

Here are 8 signs your your business is missing the mark when it comes to digital marketing. If you can relate to these signs, don’t walk — run to the phone and call us for help.

(RELATED: What You Should Be Prepared to Spend on Digital Marketing in 2018)

increase-facebook-likes1. You Stress Over Social Media ‘Likes’ and Shares

We sometimes bring our love of shared, re-tweeted and “liked” content from our personal lives into the way we do business. While a high number of likes or followers can look impressive at the surface level, you might not see any benefit from these things once you dig a little deeper.

While there is currently some debate about it in the industry, people liking your page or sharing your content doesn’t factor into the complex algorithms Google uses to determine how high your page ranks. Don’t obsess over too many likes and shares and don’t let a high number of shares make you complacent.

2. You’re Forgetting the Importance of Email

Did you know that almost two-thirds of marketers believe email is at the heart of their business? Over half of all consumers like receiving promotional deals and updates in their inbox each week, too.

People are using an increasingly large variety of devices to stay on top of their emails and as a business owner, you should too. Emailing your clients or customers allows you to personalize the experience to meet their needs and increase their engagement.

3. You’re Sharing the Same Things Across Every Platform

There’s no reason for customers to follow you on more than one platform if they can get everything they need from you on just one. The various social media apps are made for different groups that want different things, and you can use that to your advantage.

  • Use Instagram to bring a visual message to your clients and give them a look at what you’re selling.
  • Twitter is ideal for the smaller bits of news that you want to get out to your audience in real-time.
  • You can use Facebook to bring repeat customers back in, engage new ones, and hold competitions to keep interest levels high.

If you do need to share one thing on all mediums, you should employ some strategy and tweak the stories to fit the platforms.

(RELATED: #RIPTwitter – How the Social Network Dug its Own Grave)

4. There’s Too Much Focus on Small Things

You need to have a specific goal in mind for the long run. This will help you craft a digital marketing strategy around meeting that goal. Everything you produce after that should have a purpose, whether it is to bring in more web traffic, get more email subscriptions, or generate more clicks. Make a broad plan so that you aren’t just creating meaningless content.

5. Customers Can’t Find You

Without an online presence one, you could be artificially limiting your potential or exposing yourself to competitors. If you aren’t getting much web traffic, it could be because you don’t generate very much content or the stuff you do put out there just isn’t interesting to your base. You can find strategies to help you with that on this very list.

6. You Don’t Have a  ‘Digital Team’

If your marketing team isn’t reading at least some digital reports, you might need to implement some training programs. Reading these things, along with attending conferences, blogging weekly, listening to podcasts, and working with digital marketing experts can all help to keep your business relevant.

7. You Can’t Answer These Basic Questions

There are some basic questions every business involved in digital markets should be able to answer.

  • What is your cost and revenue per lead?
  • Which web content manager do you use?
  • How many visitors per month do you get?
  • How are you staying current?

(RELATED: 6 Digital Marketing Hacks the Competition is Using to Steal Your Customers)

8. The Site is Too Old

If it’s been at least five years since you’ve launched your website and you’ve not updated it, now is the time. Almost one-third of all websites are visited via mobile devices, and you need to optimize your website to accept this traffic. If you do not, you could lose valuable customers.

In addition, the advancements in content management systems, marketing automation tools and web design necessitate that a new website is in order.

An investment in digital marketing is an investment in your future. A strong team and a clear plan can keep your company viable in the digital age.


10 Google Adwords Mistakes That’ll Blow Your Budget in a Heartbeat

Anyone savvy in digital marketing and its trends will tell you the same thing about Google Adwords: It’s an effective tool for bringing traffic to your website. However, creating a campaign to bring in customers or subscribers can be expensive, and those costs will quickly increase if you’re not careful.

Here are 10 Google Adwords mistakes that can eat up your budget before your eyes.

1. You’re not paying attention to the ‘Quality Score’ aspect.

You might just see a number next to the quality score category and disregard it. However, this is the wrong approach if you want to use Google Adwords effectively. The algorithm assigns a qualitative number to each keyword you use. You should try to get a 7 or greater on every keyword. Better quality scores mean each click costs you less money and raises your ranking in the ad results too. If you want to improve your scores, you need to create good copy, optimize your home page, and use ad groups for each keyword.

2. You keep using the same ads for different keywords.

We mentioned that every keyword needs an ad group to itself, and mistake number two is part of why that is true. The keywords you create need to match the ads very closely. For example, if someone wants a leather recliner, your ads need to focus on leather recliners. They should focus on that instead of focusing on other types of recliners or leather sofas. You’ll get more clicks at lower rates with ads that remain relevant to the keywords.

3. You ignore the split test feature.

Adwords includes a helpful tool that allows you to run multiple copies of a particular ad at the same time. The goal here is to see which ad gets the most clicks within a specified window of time. In this way, you learn what ad generates the most clicks without relying on luck or guesswork. You should use the split test to run at least two copies of each ad and see how many clicks it gets in a given time limit.

4. You don’t use conversion tracking.

So far, everything you’ve done with Adwords is about getting clicks. We want to convert those clicks into actionable things like signups, e-mails, and purchases. If you are not tracking these conversions, you only know how many clicks you’re getting, which doesn’t tell you about the overall success of your site. Use this feature to weed out pointless keywords taking up space without generating income.

5. There are too many irrelevant keywords.

Google Adwords allows you to choose broad phrases for your ad groups or exact matches. You should always choose the latter because using broad phrases will bring back a ton of results that will make your ads appear in places they don’t need to be. Over time, this irrelevancy will reduce your quality score, further eating into your profits.

6. Clicks navigate users to your home page instead of a landing page.

It might seem logical, but don’t link your ads to your home page. What you really want is a simple landing page that sells whatever product the person who clicked on your ad wants to buy. On your landing page, use short copy for low-risk impulse buys and longer copy for more complex needs-based purchases that the user spends some time considering before buying.

7. Your keywords are grouped poorly.

If you don’t group your keywords according to appropriate ad groups, you lose the ability to customize your ads to be a better fit for the potential customer. This means that instead of seeing ads for “laptops,” a customer might just click, see a bunch of electronics, and move on to something else.

8. You’re not including negative keywords.

Adwords can use negative keywords to exclude those that are not a good match for what you’re selling. If you sell heavy winter clothing designed for the cold, you might want a keyword like “jacket” to be included but not one like “light” or “spring”. That’s because either of those will produce results that are not helpful to you.

9. You’re not investing in your own brand.

In digital marketing terms, you need to “bid” on your own brand. If you do not advertise and push your own stuff, a competitor might do just that. That means that another company near you in the results can use your brand and siphon off your customer base. If you have a brand, you should want to be the top result for it.

10. You’ve set unrealistic expectations.

If your budget is small, you can’t expect big things from Adwords, especially not right away. Testing ads and building your campaign will eat through a small budget quickly and if you get nowhere, you may be inclined to give up on the process. Instead, you should save until your budget grows and spend it on a good campaign. This will let you modify the plan as necessary and give you the time you need to stick with it.

If you can avoid these common mistakes in your Adwords campaign, you stand a much better chance of turning your plans into profit and sticking with the platform.


495 Digital

Essential Tips for Surviving the Age of Voice Search

“Voice search is the most significant development to hit SEO since Google debuted.”

That quote may sound like a hot take, but statistics describing the growing usage of voice search resoundingly back it up. 20% percent of all online searches in 2016 were voice searches, according to a Mary Meeker report. Comscore predicts that half of all searches will be made through voice commands by 2020.

Searching using a voice function instead of a keyboard has huge ramifications for your organization’s SEO strategy. For starters, usually only one result is brought up, meaning you have to know exactly what it takes to earn that coveted spot. Secondly, the technical SEO best practices that make you more likely to rank in voice search are fairly different from the typical approach.

Don’t worry, though, because we’re here to break it all down for you right now.

495 DigitalHow Do People Use Voice Search in 2018?

The home is where the majority of consumers make their voice search queries. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 43 percent of people say they most frequently use the feature in their home, versus 36 percent who use it mostly in their car and 19 percent who say they most often use it “on the go.”

This statistic tells you two things:

Those 90 million smart speakers sold annually are changing the way we interact with devices, opening new channels and opportunities that didn’t exist just a few years ago.
The idea that people are mostly going to be using voice search as a hands-free option in their car is partially untrue. Voice search has a number of other benefits that compel people to use it beyond just driving without distraction.

Just what are those benefits, you ask?

  • 30% say that it leads to “faster results.”
  • 24% say they use it because they have “difficulty typing on certain devices”
  • 22% say they use voice search because it’s “fun/cool,”

Bottom line: People want quick answers, and they don’t feel like they need to actually touch a device to get them.

So, how do you accomplish that goal?

Here are some of those SEO voice search tips in detail.

Focus on Semantically Related Keywords Over Exact Query Matches

Take a moment to think about how you would speak an online search query out loud versus how you would type it.

When we type, we often want to get our query as specific as possible while using the fewest possible words. So, we might write something like “best laptop backpack” to find out which bag is most worth buying, and then we’ll likely click around or search again to find the best deal on the said backpack.

But when we talk, we want to be specific without using awkward words or phrase. As a result, we naturally gravitate towards strings of simple, descriptive words that may seem like a long phrase but that are easy to say out loud. We also want to avoid pulling up results that do a different action than we intended since we can’t click or navigate as easily.

According to Google, 70 percent of voice queries the company handles use natural language, which means actual sentences rather than jumbles of words.

One self-study by a smart speaker user found that the average word count of their queries was four.

In response to these trends, your keyword strategy should be less about shoehorning an exact match keyword in and more about covering all of the bases of your topic. Try to include phrases that you might think are things people would ask about your topic or product.

FAQs are Pure Gold

Studies show the average voice search result is only 29 words in length. Yet, the average word count of a voice search result page is 2,312 words!

Why go through all the trouble of writing thousands of words about something if a search engine’s just going to yank out a tiny sliver of that?

The answer is that the best content often covers several bases, as we suggested above. They go in-depth, explore lots of angles and reveal lots of information. A voice query, however, only needs a small part of that information. Accordingly, content that has voice results pulled from it tends to have pithy, quotable phrases.

Because quotable “sound bites” are the preferred information to pull results from, FAQs (frequently asked questions) absolutely rule for improving your voice search rank. To make these pages, you can source common questions about your industry or your business from the following:

● Google’s “Other People Searched” and “Searches Related to ___” suggestions
● Long-tail keyword suggestions from keyword planning tools
● AnswerThePublic.com
● Your own customers! Write down questions as you hear them, or look to resources like emails, feedback forms or HR reports.

Other Voice Search SEO Tips

Here are a few more helpful tidbits before we send you on your way:

● 70 percent of Google Home results use HTTPS instead of HTTP, so get your certificate!
● Authoritative domains tend to earn more results, so try to earn backlinks (ethically) through guest posting and social media amplification.
● The best-performing content tends to have high social media engagement, especially Facebook shares.
● Aim for a 9th grade reading level so your content is easy for a voice assistant to parse and read out loud.
● Earning a featured snippet makes you more likely to rank, but Schema markup isn’t necessarily important.

Beyond these tips, simply focus on creating great content that answers people’s questions quickly, and you could see improved voice search results!


6 Practices for Developing a Solid 2019 Marketing Budget

The world of marketing is an ever-changing, continually-evolving landscape. Algorithms change, tactics adapt based on new information, and so the marketing practices that accompany your specific strategies must change as well. There’s very little chance that your marketing plan in 2018 looks the same as your marketing plan for 2017 — and your plan for 2019 will look different again.

Still, there are a few essential elements that you should keep in mind when developing your marketing strategy for 2019.

  1. State Your Goals

A business without goals is like an airplane without a destination: If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you ever know that you’ve arrived? State your goals clearly for the entire team to review constantly, and then adjust your strategy throughout the year as you adapt to the conditions at hand. While this may seem simple, it’s surprising how many companies actually fail to align their sales goals with their marketing strategies. Businesses that intentionally connect the two see higher customer retention and conversion rates as a result.

  1. Develop a Budget

Though creating a budget for marketing can sometimes come last after inventory, payroll, and a host of other expenses for your company, you’ll still need to put thought into how much you’re able to commit in order to keep up with – and ultimately pass – your competitors. Digital marketing spend, for instance, will continue to grow at a healthy rate, so make sure you’re not shorting your marketing team by refusing to allocate the necessary resources for them to deploy. Take a look back at the budgets in years past and learn what worked and what didn’t. Prop up those things that generated the best ROI, and ditch the ones that didn’t.

  1. Consider Video and Mobile

Video is today what pictures were a few years ago. While text-only advertisements went the way of the Dodo generations ago, pictures are also being replaced by video ads on social media and video sharing websites like YouTube. They don’t have to be exceptionally long either – sometimes only 15-30 seconds is enough – but they can increase your conversion rates substantially. The same can be said for mobile-friendly devices. Though nobody visits your site simply because it’s available on their smartphones, a poor mobile experience can be enough to turn them off indefinitely.

  1. Don’t Neglect Alternative Marketing

Account-Based Marketing (ABM) is a rising star in the B2B world, precisely because it allows you to track the most valuable business relationships and cultivate them for maximum return. Word-of-Mouth is another powerful form of marketing. Though not “new” in the sense that ABM is, utilizing industry leaders and influencers that can vouch for your product can still return a significant boost to your bottom line.

  1. Embrace the Numbers

Your Business Intelligence (BI) is everything. Don’t be afraid to dive into the analytics for your various campaigns and optimize them across the board; only by continually tracking your progress can you eliminate unnecessary spending. Furthermore, artificial intelligence software such as chatbots can direct customers down your sales funnel and track your efforts more efficiently than a team of humans sometimes can.

  1. Stick to the Fundamentals

Since the marketing landscape changes so rapidly, it’s tempting to latch onto every new technique and trick that you see. While you should always try new things, don’t forget the basics: SEO, SEM, social media, content marketing, etc. These are the backbones of any digital marketing strategy; it’s imperative that you don’t neglect them in favor of shiny new objects that everyone else seems to love.

Why You Should Consider the Threat of Cyber Crime in Your Digital Marketing Strategy

Like it or not, we live in a world that is fraught with danger. As such, it’s imperative that we take the necessary precautions in order to keep ourselves as secure as possible. If you have an online business, it’s even more important, for the safety of both you, your business, and your team.

If you’re in the middle of forming an online marketing strategy, don’t forget to include a variety of safety measures as well. Here are a few ways hackers love to attack people the most and what to do to protect yourself.

Through Your Website

Nearly every business in the world uses some form of Content Management System (CMS) to allow them to upload various forms of content to their website. For most, this includes using the WordPress platform – a very user-friendly interface that is also, unfortunately, very familiar to nefarious individuals who can easily exploit it.

Fortunately, you don’t have to worry about shutting down every single attack as much as you do making yourself less appealing as a target. To do this, remember to update your site frequently and add in some security plug-ins to put more barriers between you and the thieves. Moreover, keep your CMS free from public wi-fi spots that are unsecured and very vulnerable and change the login URL to something other than the standard /wp-admin. Even a little bit of concealment can go a long way.

One extra bit of advice. If your website is in the business of retaining customer information – which nearly every business is – install an SSL on your site to encrypt that info and reassure visitors that they can trust you. As soon as that customer info isn’t needed, delete it completely.

Through Your Email

One of the favorite places for hackers to set up shop is inside of your e-mail system. If they’re able to get control of one of your accounts, they’ll be able to send infected emails to your entire list, which will shut down servers and get your address blacklisted from every e-mail client in existence.

Look for e-mail software that monitors and provides encrypted security for all of your incoming messages, and set up filters on your outgoing messages that will flag certain phrases and malware and report them directly to you. In addition, train your staff to look for suspicious messages and files.

Through Your Social Media

Social media is one of those channels that hackers love to exploit the most, simply because most people browsing have their guard let down. A funny video, a simple downloaded file, and before you know it, your entire system is compromised.

Like with e-mail, train your staff to spot suspicious add-ons or applications, and have a system in place that allows them to report posts that may damage your company’s reputation as a result of hijacked accounts. Use strong passwords, and if possible, appoint a select few people to handle the company’s profiles. Keeping the number of people that have access to your info will help minimize the risk of invasion.

Though the threat of hijacking is very real and ever-present in our society, the reality is that with a few simple changes, you can exponentially decrease your risk of being affected. It won’t make the danger go completely away, but if it saves even one more attack from happening, the process will be worth it.

495 Digital

Chatbots: All Hype or Truly Revolutionary?

Facebook has changed the digital marketing world in so many ways. Apart from its robust advertising platform that allows businesses to target their ideal customer base within specific geographic and demographic parameters, one otherwise-overlooked feature is also gaining traction: Facebook Messenger.

Though normally reserved for personal communications, companies have started to develop chatbots to act as virtual assistants, sales personnel, or even just as an extra set of hands to perform tedious tasks. And lest you think this is some kind of marketing gimmick, data suggests that they’re incredibly efficient. JP Morgan Chase, for example, was able to eliminate over 350,000 hours of tedious review time simply by employing bots in their business.

What Are Chatbots?

Simply put, chatbots are automated messaging systems that mimic human conversations through a pre-programmed set of cues and responses. They can be deployed through a medium like Facebook messenger or act as a virtual customer service agent on a website. They’re non-invasive, somewhat-personal, and highly efficient in taking customers through a variety of sales funnels.

Despite their apparent simplicity, chatbots are highly intelligent, taking the information that is given to them by the customer and processing it quickly to move them to the proper department or make appropriate suggestions. They can even provide customer service; If a user has a problem with a product, the chatbot can guide them through a how-to of how to fix the issue at hand.

What Benefits Do Chatbots Offer Businesses?

The benefits to automating various parts of your business is already well-known, but chatbots allow a level of efficiency that makes it a step above.

  • Save Money: Though you could hire a developer to create a chatbot for you (which is much less expensive than it used to be), there are also a host of software solutions that can create them for you.
  • Automate Processes: Everything that can be automated should in a bid to save time, and chatbots help with that process tremendously. They can handle hundreds of different requests at one time, instead of paying an entire customer service department to do the same thing.
  • Room to Grow: One of the best things about chatbots is they don’t overwhelm the user with a myriad of different services, but they also have the potential to do so much more than what they’re currently used for. Once you have them set up and your customers are used to them, you’ll be able to add functionality at will.

What are the Common Types of Chatbots?

There are generally two types of chatbots: simple and complex. Simple chatbots follow a pre-programmed script and very rarely deviate from it, while complex chatbots have the ability to learn from each conversation and develop better responses for future customers. It’s not as sophisticated as some artificial intelligence systems, but it’s far superior to a simple script-based chatbot.

Beyond this, chatbots can also speak to an individual user in a one-on-one conversation or respond to an entire team that is communicating with the chatbots. Moreover, some chatbots are also domain-specific, and can provide a user with unprompted promotional materials or help them navigate the website.

Regardless of what chatbots are used for, there’s no doubting their necessity, both now and in the future. How they’re employed will continue to evolve, but they provide a level of revenue-generating functionality that far surpasses a number of other endeavors.

The Power of Social Belonging… and Why Your Brand Should be Leveraging Online Reviews

As humans, we love feeling like we’re part of a community. Whether that means interacting with our real-life friends on social media or making comments on a forum thread about a shared movie interest, the more we engage other people, the more integrated we feel.

And with the advent of the internet age, the ability to connect with others has never been easier. Studies have shown that the stronger a person feels the need to belong, the more apt they are to share their opinions, either in an effort to persuade others or to hear their own voice in a larger community.

Taking it a step further, the Journal of Consumer Behavior focused in on this trait in one of their issues to point out the connection to the business world: “[The need to belong]…fostered the desire to talk to others about their preferred brand.”

One of the best ways customers can “talk to others about their preferred brand” is by leaving reviews, and if your business isn’t encouraging people to do precisely that, you’re missing out on a ton of opportunities.

Why are reviews such a big deal?

Reviews Give People a Voice

Online reviews give people an opportunity to voice their opinion about their experiences with your business, whether positive or negative; the more extreme their opinions are, the more of a psychological kick they get in telling other people about their experience. A person that received an exceptionally poor episode will feel a sense of vindication in telling other people about it, while those who had an amazing time will want to include others in their joy.

But reviews do more than just give the person delivering them a feeling of satisfaction, they also play a huge role in determining whether or not other people will want to visit your business as well. The statistics backing up this point are nearly endless, but according to one study, over 90% of people look up reviews before visiting a business, and 72% make that decision with fewer than six reviews. What’s more is 69% of people feel like reviews older than three months are not really relevant to the current situation.

Reviews Are Better Than Any Other Type of Advertising

Let’s face it: People trust their friends more than they trust any kind of advertisement they may see. For starters, the person leaving their opinion isn’t getting paid by the company to put forth any kind of image, so what a person sees in a review is a raw, unfiltered look at a real-world experience.

It also allows the person reading the review to shape their own experience about what they’re reading. Traditional advertisements shape the narrative of what the user is seeing, whether that’s a story, promotion, or something else entirely. Reviews are usually written by people with no particular end goal in mind, and since there are potentially hundreds to look at, the user is able to formulate his or her own impression of what the business is actually like. Siphoning through the reviews, they make up their own mind as to what’s appropriate and what’s not.

Reviews Promote Transparency

Normally, the goal for every business is to have every customer receive a perfect experience and share it on social media or review sites after they leave. A string of 5-star scores across the table will only enhance the company image, right?


Call it skepticism or jadedness, but customers are starting to look at a company that looks flawless online with a sideways eye, believing that either the company has paid for positive reviews or is encouraging their employees to do so. It’s not unheard of for a business to do either of those, so having a few negative experiences sprinkled in gives your business a sense of authenticity that it needs to validate the positive reviews.

Look at these negative experiences as a way for your business to improve. How you respond to the bad reviews says a lot more about your business than the fact that you received them in the first place.

Are you defensive?

Do you make personal attacks or accusations in response?

Do you ignore them completely?

Respond in such a way that shows you care about what people think, and future customers will respond in kind.