How online reviews can make (or break) your business

Redboard Biz 1-02Not too long ago, when potential customers wanted to know about the quality of your product or service, they relied on the opinions of friends and family. Word-of-mouth is still alive in today’s connected world—it’s just become exponentially amplified with the use of online reviews. 90 per cent of consumers are influenced by reviews they read online, but in a study of 300 small and medium sized business owners, a quarter said they aren’t tuned-in to online reviews, and only half considered them important.

Why are online reviews so important to small businesses?

According to research by MarketingLand, 90 per cent of customers are influenced by positive reviews and 86 per cent are influenced by negative ones. And an overwhelming 80 per cent of consumers look for products online every single week. So why aren’t small- and medium- sized businesses paying attention?

Online reviews can take a lot of time and it can be challenging to create a strategy to monitor them. Online Reputation tools can help ensure that your presence online is impactful, bringing you new customers, and helping you to stay in tune with what customers are saying about you.

“Staying connected to your clients and audience through social media has become easier with the latest mobile devices and solutions,” says Carrie Shaw, Head of Marketing at OutRank by Rogers. “It will make sure you are always engaged and responsive, even when you’re on-the-go.”

Turn online reviews into a marketing strategy.

Online reviews not only give you valuable feedback about your business, but, when managed properly, can:

  • Keep your customers engaged and curious to read more about you and your business
  • Increase traffic to your website
  • Give you testimonials to show off on your website or in your advertising
  • Improve your search engine optimization
  • Help you build customer confidence, trust and retention

If you are able to highlight great reviews on your site, you can help customers decide whether to call you or the other guys. Online Reputation tools can help you retain the clients you already have and increase the amount of referrals you get by making it simple to collect reviews and make them visible.

 Negative reviews: they’re not as bad as you think.

 So what if you get a bad review? Just remember: no matter how excellent your customer service might be, negative reviews are just a reality in the world of small business.  In fact, 68 per cent of customers trust reviews more when they see both good and bad results.

Instead of panicking, have an action plan! We suggest the following:

  • Show you’re listening by responding thoughtfully
  • Apologize if necessary
  • Empathize with the customer
  • Offer a way to make it up to them

Customers appreciate being responded to and understood, and might even turn into repeat customers and submit a positive review later on.

Don’t leave your online reputation to chance. Take charge of online reviews by reviewing what people are saying about you, interacting with customers, and taking the time to ask a new customer for their feedback.

For more information on complete solutions from OutRank, visit rogersoutrank.com.

 

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Managing the total cost of connectivity

WebinarIt’s a fact that information and communications technology (ICT) costs are increasing. IDC predicts that annual ICT spend will grow from $99.3 billion in 2014 to $106 .1 billion in 2016. But where exactly are these costs being incurred? How can ICT spend be most effectively allocated? Is the spend worth the business value gained?

Mobility is a growing part of that total ICT spend, but the total cost of mobility isn’t simply about the device and usage costs incurred by individuals or groups. The costs associated with everyday IT management are rising. More time and resources are being spent managing increasingly diverse and complex environments, and IT departments are faced with new challenges like security solutions and policies, BYOD and enterprise applications. The big picture of your mobility spend is reflected in how your business works.

Work styles are changing rapidly, as more and more employees expect remote work to be a real option. Investments in mobility that enable remote and flexible work can actually help businesses reduce spending in other areas.

The webinar addressed three key aspects of the total cost of connectivity puzzle, including how businesses can:

  • Gain a more complete understanding of their total cost of mobility
  • Implement solutions designed to offset connectivity costs
  • Optimize the ROI on mobility investments

You can also watch the webinar here.

How are you managing your business’s total cost of mobility?

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Three ways to make mobile device policies more effective

MobileDevicePolicyDesign_BannerWho’s really controlling how mobility is adopted in your business—IT or end users? If you’re not sure, how can you be certain your corporate data is secure?

Two recent articles—one at Baseline Mag, the other at ZDnet—highlight how much enterprises still need to do to effectively manage their employees’ mobile device usage.

In “Organizations Lack Formal Mobility Policies,” Dennis McCafferty discusses recent research from CompTIA. Only 30 per cent of companies have a formal mobility plan in place, even though over “half of large companies allow for at least partial BYOD [Bring Your Own Device], and more than three out of five midsize firms do.”

The research cited by ZDnet (done by Ovum) is just as startling: 62 per cent of employees surveyed revealed that they use their own devices at work without any corporate IT policies in place to manage their behaviour.

Expanding enterprise mobility has its benefits, but without clear policies it can expose your business to unacceptable risk. Here are three ways to curtail rogue device usage, enhance security and improve employee satisfaction:

  1. Define acceptable usage. Rules are key to the successful integration of workplace technologies such as desktop computers, so it seems strange that mobile devices aren’t subject to the same regulation; while they’re known as “smartphones,” they’re really small computers with telephony functions.It’s crucial to clarify that similar rules of engagement for laptops and desktops apply to smartphones. But this is just the first step.
  1. Write clear policy—collaboratively. Make policy-building collaborative. Employees will be happier with how it turns out, which means they’ll be much more likely to comply. Survey employees from all levels of the organization and with widely varying work styles and needs to try to reach consensus.Have frank discussions with all stakeholders about what is and is not acceptable use—from financial (e.g., who pays for roaming, and under what circumstances?), security (e.g., what sites are blocked, what apps approved?), legal (are you exposing the business or individuals to risk or liability?), and any other parameters specific to your day-to-day operations.Further, make sure the policy reflects your company’s culture and is clearly written; leave as little open to interpretation as possible.
  1. Apply the policy consistently. Ensure everyone involved signs on to your new mobile policy. You may choose paper contracts or online agreements; what’s most important is that they’re treated with the same importance as any other contract. Alongside communicating and receiving formal acceptance of your policy, regular training will make sure everyone is up-to-date and comfortable with the rules defining acceptable usage. Finally, make sure your policy can be easily accessed anytime, and communicate any changes and updates.

Treat mobile policy development as an opportunity not only to protect your business, but also to regroup at all levels and for everyone’s best interests.

Does your organization have a formal mobility policy in place?

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Six ways to make your workplace more environmentally friendly

greenofficeThis post, written by Jared Lindzon, originally appeared on Betakit and has been republished with permission.

Environmental consciousness is good for business. Not only are consumers becoming more likely to buy products from companies with less environmental impact, but businesses themselves also stand to save money and even boost morale by going green.

Here are a few ways that small businesses can do their part to help the environment:

Take it to the Cloud Cloud computing has not only allowed businesses to become more streamlined, collaborative and efficient, but they also make them greener too. Consider, for example, how much paper and ink is saved when files are saved, shared and disseminated digitally. Applications like Mobile Work Folder and Microsoft’s Office 365 that allow employees in different office locations to collaborate more efficiently and access documents from anywhere with no travel required.

Reduce Paper Waste There are also ways to reduce waste for those documents that absolutely must be printed. Printing double-sided pages, using post-consumer waste paper, eliminating unnecessary fax-cover sheets, printing documents in less-bold fonts and ensuring that used paper ends up in the recycling bin are just a few ways to reduce the carbon footprint made by paper products.

Travel Via Teleconference Businesses are now able to save on travel time and expenses by taking advantage of teleconferencing and video conferencing technologies. Employees that have access to Internet Plans and Mobile Internet solutions, combined with the right devices and collaboration software can save money, spend less time on the road, and decrease commuting and carbon emissions.

Bring Nature To Work The office environment itself can be an opportunity for business owners to reduce their carbon footprint while saving money, and even boost office morale. Introducing little changes like taking advantage of natural lighting, using open windows instead of air conditioning and bringing in a few potted plants instead of more wasteful office decor can make a big impact on how employees view their company’s commitment to environmental sustainability, while freshening the air they breathe everyday.

Recycle Beyond the Bin Throwing empty pop cans or used paper into the recycling bin is a good start, but there are a number of ways for businesses to take recycling to the next level. At many organizations, used smartphones end up in a drawer, closet or storage room collecting dust and taking up space. These units contain both valuable materials and hazardous substances and should be properly recycled so they don’t end up in landfill. Rogers Business Trade-Up – a safe and simple buyback program that accepts phones from any carrier – is one way businesses can safely dispose of company-owned devices and get value in return.

Be Vigilant Taking these steps is a great way to start your company on the road to a greener future, but the range of environmentally conscious solutions and products is growing everyday. Those who are serious about reducing their carbon footprint should stay on top of these solutions as they become more cost effective and more widely available in Canada.

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Machine-to-machine technology helps small businesses succeed

CISRBBEvery time you sign a cour­ier’s electronic keypad to receive a shipment, or ac­cept an emailed client pay­ment by an Interac e-transfer, you’re experiencing one of the wonders of machine-to-ma­chine (M2M) communication.

M2M is a powerful tool for businesses needing to sell, de­liver and track inventory – and doing all this in real time.

CIS Group (www.cis-group.com) in Saint-Jérôme, Que., provides M2M mobile solu­tions connected by Rogers’ broadband wireless for busi­nesses large and small. These mobile solutions allow busi­ness owners to know how their delivery and field sales teams are doing at any mo­ment. It sends their field-col­lected data directly into the company’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) software sys­tem as soon as it is created.

A case in point is CIS Group’s Companion Route product. This allows business­es to track their direct deliv­eries to stores as they happen, thanks to drivers equipped with handheld devices en­abled with Rogers’ wireless connections.
This attracted The Kawartha Dairy to adopt CIS Group’s Companion Route. Since the 1950s, the Crowe family’s dairy located in Bobcaygeon, Ont., has made all-natural ice cream that has become a regional legend.

Beginning in March, the Kawartha Dairy’s drivers were being equipped with CIS Group-enabled mobile computers to keep their head office fully apprised of which of its eight retail outlets needed more Moose Tracks, for instance, and how much.

“With our expanding reach to new customers in Ontario for our complete lines of famous ice cream and dairy products, we needed to automate our delivery and ordering processes for increased efficiencies and control,” says Mike Crowe, the Kawartha Dairy’s director of operations. “The CIS Companion suite will deliver this.”

The success of field sales reps is also a big concern for businesses of all sizes. It’s not just a matter of how much product they are selling on the road. Head office needs to know if retailers are stocking the shelves properly, in line with the ‘planograms’ that define where and how specific goods are to be placed on store shelves. If the products aren’t where shoppers can see them, they can’t be bought.

CIS Group’s Companion REP is a sales force automation software solution for field sales representatives and merchandisers. It helps salespeople in the field keep an eye on retailer compliance with planograms, by allowing them to compare what they see in stores with what’s on record at head office via Rogers-connected smartphones, tablets and laptop computers.

“For our business clients, this is a tremendously useful real-time solution, and it wouldn’t be possible without our connections to the Rogers wireless network,” Tessier says. “Rogers provides the high-speed data transfer, the reliable service, and the national coverage that our clients need; not just in cities, but rural and remote areas too.

“We couldn’t deliver the value we do without Rogers.”

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Building the Connected City

Connected City post imageThe cities of the future will be transformed by connected technology. The City of Markham recently hosted a forum focusing on how technology can improve municipal operations. Rogers Vice President, Advanced Business Solutions Mansell Nelson joined other experts and leaders from various industries, including healthcare, utility, education and government, to discuss the many ways technology can transform how cities deliver services.

Connected technologies are already improving both quality of life and efficiency in cities all over the world. These improvements, while varied, have one thing in common: they deliver services designed to meet people’s needs quickly, conveniently and efficiently.

Consider trying to park your car on a busy downtown street. Pay and twist parking meters are long gone, as companies like Rogers power connections that allow customers to wirelessly pay with their credit cards. The City of Toronto will soon introduce an app that will allow customers to pay by mobile phone and receive alerts when their meter is about to expire. If their time is almost up, they’ll be able to authorize payments through their mobile device to extend their time.

Parking on downtown streets isn’t the only problem. Trying to find a spot within walking distance of shopping centres everywhere can be challenging—especially for those with mobility issues or parents shopping with their kids. Knowing you’ll be able to find parking is a huge incentive if you don’t want to spend your time driving in circles around the parking lot. Toronto’s Yorkdale Mall has an app that lets users know how many underground parking spots are currently available and has live web cams showing where those empty spots are.

Apps like these will help residents access the critical information they need each day. Wouldn’t it be great to know exactly when the snowplough will be making its way down your street? Similarly, during inclement weather you could delay putting the recycling bins on the curb until the truck was minutes away, or find out exactly when the school bus will arrive to pick up the kids.

Milton-Keynes, a small city in southeastern England, is putting a lot of connected city ideas to the test. This UK municipality is currently trialling various applications, including installing sensors in public waste bins to let city workers know when they’re full. Apps like this will help people spend less time wandering around looking for somewhere to dispose of empty coffee cups and the like; this, in turn, will keep our cities cleaner and more livable. The connected city is about making the most of our time and resources so that everyone benefits.

What would your ideal connected city look like?

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Start small and end big: Four easy strategies to get your small business online buzz

betakitThis post, written by Jared Lindzon, originally appeared on Betakit and has been republished with permission.

Social media has changed the way small businesses engage with customers, promote their products and increase brand awareness, but many Canadian small businesses still shy away from an online presence.

Canadian consumers have indicated that they are devoted to small businesses, but they want around the clock access to their local businesses through online channels and connected technology. A recent study conducted by Harris Decima and commissioned by Rogers found that Canadians are loyal supporters of small business today, but 60 per cent of consumers believe that small businesses should operate an ecommerce site, and are not currently active enough online.

Here are a few quick and easy strategies to get your small businesses some buzz and even sales online:

Start Small

The same Harris Decima study also found that over half of Generation Y consumers want small businesses to have a strong social media presence. Building an online presence takes time, and while it might seem like a daunting task, the sooner you get started the easier it will be. “Every business needs some kind of web presence, whether it’s a website, a blog, a Facebook page or all of the above,” says Carrie Shaw, head of marketing for OutRank by Rogers, an online marketing solution for small businesses.

Boost Your Online Presence

Once your small business is up and running on a few social platforms the next challenge is attracting web traffic. While blogs and social media accounts will help customers who are already familiar with the brand engage and connect with it more easily, when it comes to finding new customers, “none of these will do a business any good if there is no traffic directed to them,” adds Shaw. “The two most common strategies to do so are paid search and SEO, and I would recommend both.”

Engage With Your Online Community

Now that your business has traffic on its social media channels it’s important that the messaging is consistent and aligned with the company’s values, culture and brand identity. Social media is a great reputation management tool, allowing brands to keep an eye on what other users say about their business. When customers ask a question or leave comments, be sure to answer in a timely manner. If consumers leave complaints, address them politely, thank users for their input and consider their opinion moving forward.

Turn Followers into Customers

Building a strong online following is important for branding and promotion, but in order to really get the most out of social media small businesses need to turn those fans into active customers. The best way to do that within the digital realm is through an ecommerce store. Online stores give consumers a way to quickly and easily move from a social media page to an online checkout page. It also allows companies to make sales 24/7, even outside of the office environment. Having a mobile ecommerce store will even allow consumers to shop on the go, which has become increasingly important with Generation Y consumers.

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I Went to Philly customers get Vicinity rewards

I went to philly imageI Went to Philly is a fast food oasis for Toronto’s Philly cheesesteak lovers. This family-run bistro offers a selection of authentic Philly cheesesteak sandwiches made with quality rib-eye beef, Cheez Whiz, and much more.

Even with good reviews and a popular product, business is still challenging for Julie and Jack Stevenson. Downtown Toronto storefronts don’t come cheap, nor do other items related to running a restaurant — even when the Stevensons cut costs by asking the entire family to pitch in.

To boost sales and promote repeat business, the couple decided to adopt a loyalty program. Customers earn a point for every sandwich they buy, and can get any single item on the menu for free after they’ve collected nine points.

The Stevensons turned to Vicinity to set it up for them. Vicinity is a customizable loyalty card program designed and priced for small businesses.

With Vicinity, I Went to Philly gets customer cards and the readers used for recording and redeeming points. They also receive ongoing support to make sure the program is running smoothly for their customers.

Free food isn’t the only potential reward from a Vicinity loyalty program. Thanks to the system’s customizable design, small businesses can offer whatever rewards they choose on a points value-and-redemption schedule that works for them. Customer sign-up is no hassle: the customer’s phone number is collected, added into the business’ database – run and maintained by Vicinity — and it’s done.

The results? “Even with the free sandwich giveaways, our Vicinity loyalty program has boosted our sandwich sales and our revenues,” Stevenson says. “People love earning points, and they’re willing to buy extra sandwiches to get their nine points sooner. We also get a lot of nearby businesses coming here to buy big orders, again earning free sandwiches. Face it, people love ‘free,’ and our loyalty program gives that to them.”

How does your business recognize loyal customers?

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Six questions about network infrastructure with Eric Simmons

Eric Simmons M2M Manager Rogers CommunicationsAs General Manager, Machine-to-Machine (M2M) for Rogers, Eric Simmons is responsible for overall product, marketing and sales operations strategies for M2M and advanced business solutions.

1. With more and more new connected technologies available, what do businesses need to support all these new solutions?

First and foremost, an open mind to the possibilities of what new technologies can do for business and how you can gain competitive advantage. The next thing is to find a solution provider that understands how these new technologies work and their potential. Understanding organizations’ core business needs and what technology can do for them is just part of the story—your provider should be able to both implement technology and manage the solution.

2. What’s the business value of having your networks talking to each other?

Connected technology means businesses can move faster than the competition and differentiate from them on the market; it’s about getting more value, a faster ROI. You can’t do this without the right network infrastructure. But managing “the connected lifecycle” of the customer—wireless, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, etc.—means taking a holistic view of the customer’s business, including their assets, their goals, their specific needs and so on.

3. More and more services are being moved to wireless networks—what kinds of security concerns are associated with this trend?

There’s understandably a lot of concern around security as a whole and connected devices specifically, and organizations are doing everything they can to protect their data. Devices have security and encryption built right in. We set up custom APNs (Access Point Names) for another layer of security. So we can really manage and ensure data protection across the whole organization by offering solutions that meet each business’s security needs, and by tying connected technologies into their existing security platforms.

4. What kinds of intelligence can businesses capture from smart networks?

Predictive analytics mined in real time can predict and prevent equipment failure. For example, with an oil and gas well head (pump jack) you’re measuring valve pressure, vibrations, leakage sensors, etc. This data is valuable for one customer but aggregate data from multiple customers can help predict and prevent problems.

Or, for example, in a retail environment: a lot of anonymous information can be captured using sensors and Wi-Fi networks, such as how many people are entering a store and where they’re going in the store. If they opt in, you can also capture demographic and other information and even send them information. The value of the data can make a huge difference in business decision-making. There are understandably a lot of concerns around anonymity/privacy, and a lot of work is being done on how data can be used. Rogers is closely following these developments.

5. What should businesses consider when adopting a wireless service?

Complex problems require holistic solutions. A wireless app requires development and customization, modems, networks, sensor equipment, spare pooling, returns, etc. The traditional model involves different providers for hardware, software, network access and professional services, which can create uncertainty and delay when technical issues arise.

A solution partner providing end-to-end support can simplify and streamline businesses’ deployment timelines and reduce costs. One company, one point of contact, one bill: an organization with expertise in the whole deployment process and all its technical components can provide all this and more.

6. What sorts of products or services should businesses think about moving into the cloud?

Things that aren’t part of a business’s core competencies, like Customer Relationship Management or Mobile Device Management, should be moved into the cloud. The cloud is valuable because it enables new technology, it’s off-site, it’s relatively low-cost and it allows businesses to get things up and running fast.

Globalization allows inputs to come in from all over the world; not having access to the cloud, to the Internet of Things, really narrows business focus and makes it hard to see what competitors are doing. We’re only as smart as the people in our office, and the cloud makes the office infinitely larger.

How does your business use integrated networks?

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