Are Chatbots the Next Big Thing Your Business Should Get Behind?

Maybe you’ve heard the news: chatbots are becoming ultra-popular among e-commerce businesses. The dawning of the chatbot era may very well be upon us. More and more companies have begun developing chatbots of their own, customizing their behavior to increase sales, solve customer support challenges, and try to get closer to the customer.

This is happening not just among e-commerce companies, but across almost all other verticals. From health insurance companies to automotive manufacturers, chatbots appear to be invading the digital landscape. But are they here to stay? And, if they are, should your business get going on having your chatbot developed? We probably wouldn’t be asking these kinds of questions if chatbots hadn’t already proven themselves to be effective tools for so many; they’re here to stay.

A.I., Purposefully Repurposed

Since the term ‘chatbot’ was coined in 1994, this unique method of interfacing with customers has spawned a thriving cottage industry complete with niche companies dedicated to the strategic use of AI-assisted conversational programs that mimic the function of a human being. Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana represent two fantastic examples of high-quality chatbot-based customer interaction systems that have enjoyed broad adoption among their target user base. What has made them such exemplary successes has to do with their usefulness for the customer combined with their integration with so many different platforms and applications for use.

  • “Alexa, what’s the weather going to be like tomorrow?”
  • “Cortana, find me a good recipe for banana bread.”
  • “Ok, Google – what was the top pop song in the summer of 1997?”

With the advent of fancy AI programs, conversations between humans and computers are taking off with unprecedented velocity. Digital marketers are falling all over themselves trying to get in on the action, too, because chatbots and AI-assisted customer portals are easy to sell. They’re still fairly new within the overall timeline of the internet, so they’re still drawing quite a bit of attention from companies who want to gain an edge with their online presence.

Charting New Territory

Should you consider developing a chatbot for your business? Is it worth the investment? Building chatbots for a specific purpose can be a complex and time-intensive effort, or it can be remarkably simple, depending on what you’re after. The most common kinds of chatbots used today are inbound message handlers, set up with four goals in mind:

  • Connect. Good chatbots facilitate a connection between a business and its customers.
  • Understand. The chatbot must be able to obtain user input from the user effectively.
  • Refine. Based on preset conversation paths, the chatbot should be able to refine its communication based on continued user input.
  • Deliver. Chatbots need to be able to provide real utility to the user through the delivery of information or the completion of a task, like booking a reservation or scheduling an in-person meeting.

There are chatbot builders that can be used to develop chatbots on the cheap, but their functionality is limited, and you might be less than impressed with the final product. If you do decide to invest in a chatbot for your business, know that you’re not alone – chatbot development and adoption has increased more than five times from January 2017 to January 2018. It’s time to get on board with chatbots or be left behind.

We are living in exciting times, and Altitude Agency is committed to staying abreast of the latest and greatest developments and leading-edge ideas in digital marketing. To begin crafting your online branding strategy, contact us today.

What is Influencer Marketing and Is It Worth Doing?

In 1998, when the manufacturer of a breakfast cereal needed a way to appeal to more families throughout the country, they looked to then-superstar NFL quarterback Doug Flutie. The result was Flutie Flakes, a Doug Flutie-branded breakfast cereal that used the popular sportsman as a clever way to get more market share. It worked incredibly well.

This is an excellent example of Influencer Marketing, which is a decades-old marketing technique aimed at tapping into the power that well-connected social influencers have within their follower, reader, or fan base. This tactic is almost as old as advertising itself, and recently, many influencer marketing successes are seen by using Internet-based platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

What Exactly Is an Influencer and Influencer Marketing?

An influencer can be said to be any person or organization that has access to an established audience. Radio hosts are influencers. Twitch.TV streamers are influencers (in fact, some of them make up to $10,000 an hour for their paid promotions). YouTube creators are also influencers. It could be said that there are millions of influencers currently providing content for their audiences. The better influencers are the ones with credibility among that audience, and the best influencers not only have credibility but persuasiveness as well.

So, who do you know that has access to a large number of captive consumers who also view the influencer as credible? Is this person or business capable of selling an idea or experience to their audience? If so, you’ve found yourself an ideal influencer to work with as part of your overall marketing strategy. You might think that the next step is to start writing checks to them in exchange for their promotion of your product or service.

But, there’s a better way to approach influencer marketing.

Help Influencers Help Themselves

There’s a difference between celebrity endorsements and influencer marketing. Endorsements only deliver as much in results as the money will afford. Alternatively, influencer marketing is more of an ongoing partnership that seeks to lift both parties up – the influencer and the product or service provider.

Influencers know that to curate and grow their subscribers, viewers, listeners, or readers, they need to provide them with thoughtful, valuable content. If you can work with them to achieve this, financial compensation might not even need to be a part of the discussion.

Here’s an example: let’s say you’re a manufacturer of hiking gear. Boots, backpacks, camping stoves, that sort of thing. A quick search on Twitter reveals thousands of outdoorsy types like to connect with that would be interested in your brand. By engaging influencers like this, offering to have them review products or mention brands in exchange for cross-promotion, an organic business relationship can be forged.

Before long, tweets about your product can be retweeted three times over. YouTube views of videos praising the build quality of your sleeping bags can reach into the thousands. People start talking more and more about your products, and the next thing you know, your website traffic skyrockets.

All the while, the influencer grows in her credibility, content value perception, and overall social media presence. It truly is a win-win.

Want to learn more about influencer marketing and other best practices related to growing your business online? Get in touch with Altitude Agency today.

How to Respond to a Negative Review Online

Regardless of how well your business is run, there will always be the potential for a customer or client to have a negative experience. And, because of how quickly word gets around on the internet, negative reviews of your business can become a problem sometimes overnight. In this post, we’re addressing this issue head-on by providing you with tips on how to respond when you are faced with a negative review of your business.

Before even beginning to draft a response to your negative review, remember that this is a unique opportunity for you to use the voice of your brand to engage with your customer base. Not only will you be communicating directly with the customer in your response; you’ll also be advertising your values and level of customer service for new and existing customers. So, view the review response as a chance to shine.

What to Do When Responding to a Negative Review

Politely Propose a Fix, Promptly

In general, it’s best to respond to negative reviews as soon as possible. This gives you the best chance at controlling the potential damage that might be done to your brand. It also shows that you’re responsive and alert to the needs of your customers.

In addition to acting soon (preferably within the first day or two), propose a solution or fix for the customer who submitted the negative review. For example, if you sell dog treats and someone reviewed them saying their dog didn’t like them, offer to refund their money. Even if they don’t take you up on it, it shows that you’re doing the right thing as the business owner.

As you enter this dialog with the customer, remember that this is purely business, and there’s nothing to gain from involving emotion or using negative wording. Assigning blame or guilt rarely ever helps the situation, and the more you can keep the communication polite and professional, the better the overall outcome will be.

Go the Extra Mile

Think about how you might go outside the box to please this customer. Perhaps you might think about sending them a message offline, to prove to them that you’re genuinely interested in resolving their concern. If you can locate the order number or customer profile, reach out to them as an order follow-up and try to agree on a resolution together.

If you’re able to salvage the customer even after they’ve had a poor experience with your company, it’s possible that he or she will go back and change their review for the better. What matters most in responding to negative reviews online isn’t who was right or wrong. What matters most is how you react. Think of every negative review as an opportunity to publicly showcase your commitment to 100% customer satisfaction. Your bottom line will thank you in the end.

Sound customer development strategies make for successful businesses, both online and in-person. At Altitude Agency, we know how to thrill customers with powerful digital marketing solutions. Contact us now to learn more.

5 Reasons Why Your Brand Needs Pinterest

It’s safe to say Pinterest is one of the fastest growing and most popular social media networks in the last decade. Where Vine and even MySpace’s resurgence have floundered and fallen to the wayside, Pinterest has picked up steam and continues to take over social media market share across demographics. If you’re a business, being on Pinterest isn’t just about being on Pinterest; it’s about so much more with referral traffic to your website and brand awareness being some of the perks.

Altitude Agency gives you five reasons why your brand should be on Pinterest and what it’ll do to help you grow your business online.

5 Reasons Why Your Brand Needs to Be Pinning

Drive Referral Traffic

The number one reason every brand should use Pinterest, even if it doesn’t seem like the right fit is referral traffic. Pinterest is one of the leading sources of social referral traffic to websites in the last three years, and this continues to grow for businesses who pin their content that is then re-pinned and shared by other users on the network. In just two to three hours a month, you can drive constant traffic to your website in most niches.

Build Brand Awareness

By pinning your content and leveraging other users sharing it, you can showcase your brand’s expertise online. For niches like home improvement, entertainment, and e-commerce, you’ll continue to show up in searches related to your products and services on Pinterest. As you pop up, more users will associate your brand with what they’re looking for and remember you when it’s time to buy.

Longer Exposure

The world’s attention span is changing thanks to social media. Everybody wants short bursts of information, but it’s quickly lost as something better or more interesting comes along. With Pinterest, high-quality images and content keep coming back for more as it’s rediscovered and re-pinned by users. This means your initial investment in Pinterest will continue to ebb and flow, unlike most other social networks out there like Facebook and Twitter where you’re quickly forgotten. This keeps you top of mind for potential customers when they rediscover your content on Pinterest.

Free Promotion

Unless you spend money on Pinterest Ads – which is worth it depending on the niche – Pinterest is free to use. Once you add pins and begin re-pinning, not only have you set your brand up for success but you’re also going to get free promotion for people sharing your pins. This is a win-win for the initial investment in getting Pinterest boards set up and running. Who doesn’t love free advertising that’ll continue as long as Pinterest is around for people to find you on?

Boost Sales or Generate Leads

According to Pinterest, 93% of its 200 million monthly Pinners use their platform to plan for purchases. By taking the time to make creative pins that reach out to your audience on the social network, you could boost sales or generate leads from the site itself in addition to sending people to your website to do the same thing. This gives you two funnels to drive growth for your brand. The return on investment on Pinterest is on-going, even though all the work to get started is upfront. This should be a no-brainer for businesses looking to drive more traffic to their website.

Pinterest continues to grow daily, and there’s no reason why brands shouldn’t be doing what they can to stay relevant on the social network. With a few hours a month, you could be driving traffic to your website, increasing your brand authority, and generating leads or sales. If you’re interested in seeing how Pinterest will work for your business, get in touch with our social media team and let’s talk.