Tag Archive | "Benefit"

Kindness as Currency: How Good Deeds Can Benefit Your Local Business

Posted by MiriamEllis

“To receive everything, one must open one’s hands and give.” – Taisen Deshimaru, Buddhist philosopher


A woman stands in a busy supermarket checkout line. The shopper in front of her realizes that they don’t have enough money with them to cover their purchase, so she steps in and makes up the balance. Then, when she reaches the checkout, her own receipt totals up higher than she was expecting. She doesn’t have enough left in her purse.

“No problem,” says the young clerk and swipes his own debit card to pay for her groceries.

A bystander snaps a photo and posts the story to Facebook. The story ends up on local radio and TV news. Unstructured citations for the grocery store start crackling like popcorn. National news takes notice. A scholarship foundation presents a check to the clerk. When asked how he felt about it, the clerk said:

“Personally, I think it’s undeserved attention. Because she did something so good … I felt like it was my responsibility to return the favor.”

In the process, if only for a moment in time, an everyday supermarket is transformed into a rescue operation for hope in humanity. Through the lens of local SEO, it’s also a lesson in how good deeds can be rewarded by good mentions.

Studying business kindness can be a rewarding task for any motivated digital marketing agency or local brand owner. I hope this post will be both a pick-me-up for the day, and a rallying cry to begin having deeper conversations about the positive culture businesses can create in the communities they serve.

10+ evocative examples of business kindness

“We should love people and use things, but sadly, we love things and use people,” Roger Johnson, Artisan

As a youngster in the American workforce, I ran into some very peculiar styles of leadership.

For instance, one boss gruffly told me not to waste too much time chatting with the elderly customers who especially loved buying from me…as if customer support doesn’t make or break business reputations.

And then there was the cranky school secretary who reprimanded me for giving ice packs to children because she believed they were only “trying to get attention” … as if schools don’t exist to lavish focus on the kids in their care.

In other words, both individuals would have preferred me to be less kind, less human, than more so.

Perhaps it was these experiences of my superiors taking a miserly approach to workplace human kindness that inspired me to keep a little file of outbreaks of goodwill that earned online renown. These examples beg self-reflective questions of any local business owner:

  1. If you launched your brand in the winter, would you have opened your doors while under construction to shelter and feed housing-insecure neighbors?
  2. If a neighboring business was struggling, would you offer them floor space in your shop to help them survive?
  3. Would your brand’s culture inspire an employee to cut up an elder’s ham for him if he needed help? How awesome would it be if a staffer of yours had a day named after her for her kindness? Would your employees comp a meal for a hungry neighbor or pay a customer’s $ 200 tab because they saw them hold open a door for a differently-abled guest?
  4. What good things might happen in a community you serve if you started mailing out postcards promoting positivity?
  5. What if you gave flowers to strangers, including moms, on Mother’s Day?
  6. How deeply are you delving into the season of giving at the holidays? What if, like one business owner, you opened shop on Thanksgiving just to help a family find a gift for a foster child? You might wake up to international fame on Monday morning.
  7. What if visitors to your community had their bikes stolen on a road trip and your shop gifted them new bikes and ended up on the news?
  8. One business owner was so grateful for his community’s help in overcoming addiction, he’s been washing their signage for free. What has your community done for you and how have you thanked them?
  9. What if all you had to do was something really small, like replacing negative “towed at your own expense” signs by welcoming quick stop parking?
  10. What if you, just for a day, you asked customers to pay for their purchases with kind acts?

I only know about these stories because of the unstructured citations (online references to a local business) they generated. They earned online publicity, radio, and television press. The fame for some was small and local, for others, internationally viral. Some activities were planned, but many others took place on the spur of the moment. Kindness, empathy, and gratitude, flow through them all like a river of hope, inviting every business owner to catch the current in their own way. One easy way for local business owners to keep better track of any positive mentions is by managing and monitoring reviews online with the New Moz Local.

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Can kindness be taught in the workplace?

In Demark, schoolchildren learn empathy as a class subject. The country is routinely rated as one of the happiest in the world. At Moz, we have the TAGFEE code, which includes both generosity and empathy, and our company offers internal workshops on things like “How to be TAGFEE when you disagree.” We are noted for the kindness of our customer support, as in the above review.

According to Stanford psychologist Jamil Zaki, people “catch” cooperation and generosity from others. In his study, the monetary amount donors gave to charity went up or down based on whether they were told their peers gave much or little. They matched the generosity or stinginess they witnessed. In part two of the study, the groups who had seen others donating generously went on to offer greater empathy in writing letters to penpals suffering hard times. In other words, kindness isn’t just contagious — its impact can spread across multiple activities.

Mercedes-Benz CEO, Stephen Cannon, wanted employees to catch the kindness bug because of its profound impact on sales. He invited his workforce to join a “grassroots movement” that resulted in surprising shoppers with birthday cakes, staff rushing to remote locations with spare tires, and other memorable consumer experiences. Cannon noted:

“There is no scientific process, no algorithm, to inspire a salesperson or a service person to do something extraordinary. The only way you get there is to educate people, excite them, incite them. Give them permission to rise to the occasion when the occasion to do something arises. This is not about following instructions. It’s about taking a leap of faith.”

In a 2018 article, I highlighted the reviews of a pharmacy that made it apparent that staff wasn’t empowered to do the simplest self-determined acts, like providing a chair for a sick man who was about to fall down in a long prescription counter line. By contrast, an Inc. book review of Jill Lublin’s The Profits of Kindness states:

“Organizations that trade in kindness allow their employees to give that currency away. If you’re a waitress, can you give someone a free piece of pie because the kid at the next table spilled milk on their foot? If you’re a clerk in a hotel, do you have the authority to give someone a discounted rate because you can tell they’ve had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day?”

There may be no formula for teaching kindness, but if Zaki is right, then leadership can be the starting point of demonstrative empathy that can emanate through the staff and to its customers. How do you build for that?

A cared-for workforce for customer service excellence

You can find examples of individual employees behaving with radical kindness despite working for brands that routinely disregard workers’ basic needs. But, this hardly seems ideal. How much better to build a business on empathy and generosity so that cared-for staff can care for customers.

I ran a very quick Twitter poll to ask employees what their very most basic need is:

Unsurprisingly, the majority of respondents cited a living wage as their top requirement. Owners developing a kind workforce must ensure that staff are housing-and-food-secure, and can afford the basic dignities of life. Any brand that can’t pay its staff a living wage isn’t really operational — it’s exploitation.

Beyond the bare minimums, Mercer’s Global Talent Trends 2019 Survey of 7,300 executives, HR experts, and employees highlighted trending worker emphasis on:

  • Flexibility in both hours and location to create a healthy work/life balance
  • Ethics in company technology, practices, and transparency
  • Equity in pay ratios, regardless of gender
  • Empathy in the workplace, both internally and in having a positive societal impact with customers

It’s just not very hard to connect the dots between a workforce that has its basic and aspirational needs met, and one possessing the physical, mental and emotional health to extend those values to consumers. As I found in a recent study of my own, 70 percent of negative review resolution was driven by brands having to overcome bad/rude service with subsequent caring service.

Even at the smallest local business level, caring policies and initiatives that generate kindness are within reach, with Gallup reporting that SMBs have America’s happiest and most engaged workers. Check out Forbes list of the best small companies of 2019 and note the repeated emphasis on employee satisfaction.

Kindness as currency, with limitless growth potential

“I wanted a tangible item that could track acts of kindness. From that, the Butterfly Coin emerged.” Bruce Pedersen, Butterfly Coins

Maybe someday, you’ll be the lucky recipient of a Butterfly Coin, equipped with a unique tracking code, and gifted to you by someone doing a kind act. Then, you’ll do something nice for somebody and pass it on, recording your story amongst thousands of others around the world. People, it seems, are so eager for tokens of kindness that the first mint sold out almost immediately.

The butterfly effect (the inspiration for the name of these coins) in chaos theory holds that a small action can trigger multiple subsequent actions at a remove. In a local business setting, an owner could publicly reward an employee’s contributions, which could cause the employee to spread their extra happiness to twenty customers that day, which could cause those customers to be in a mood to tip waitstaff extra, which could cause the waitstaff to comp meals for hungry neighbors sitting on their doorsteps, and on and on it goes.

There’s an artisan in Gig Harbor, WA who rewards kindnesses via turtle figurines. There are local newspapers that solicit stories of kindness. There are towns that have inaugurated acts-of-kindness weeks. There is even a suburb in Phoenix, AZ that re-dubbed itself Kindness, USA. (I mentioned, I’ve been keeping a file).

The most priceless aspect of kindness is that it’s virtually limitless. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be quantified. The Butterfly Coin idea is attempting to track kindness, and as a local business owner, you have a practical means of parsing it, too. It will turn up in unstructured citations, reviews, and social media, if you originate it at the leadership level, and share it out from employee to customer with an open hand.

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Every Sector of the Economy is Going to Benefit From Robotics and AI

“We are on the cusp of ubiquitous automation,” says ROBO Global President William Studebaker. “We have an undeniable inflection point because of the performance capabilities of computing and the cost curve declining such that these now are technologies that used to be science fiction but now have actual use applications. Fast forward six years later and we are at a launching pad in terms of the economic activity that we’re seeing and the innovations. Every sector of the economy is going to benefit from robotics and AI.”

William Studebaker, President and Chief Investment Officer of ROBO Global, discusses how robotics and AI are at an inflection point where soon every sector of the economy is going to benefit in an interview on CNBC:

Every Sector of the Economy is Going to Benefit From Robotics and AI

We were fortunate six years ago to develop an index that tracks the growth in robotics and AI because we saw these technologies changing the way we live and work. We are on the cusp of ubiquitous automation. We have an undeniable inflection point because of the performance capabilities of computing and the cost curve declining such that these now are technologies that used to be science fiction but now have actual use applications. Fast forward six years later and we are at a launching pad in terms of the economic activity that we’re seeing and the innovations. It’s being spread out to all parts of the economy. Every sector of the economy is going to benefit from robotics and AI.

We try to identify the companies that we think have the highest revenue threshold that corresponds directly to selling the technologies. We’re looking for high revenue purity. We’re also looking for large technological mode around their business and we have an interesting lens to capture this. We actually have seven PhDs on our team. They’re really the who’s who in robotics and AI that have built technologies, built businesses, or academic researchers, etc. That gives us a great lens to see not what yesterday’s winners are but what the future winners are likely to be. That gives us an interesting lens.

A World of Prediction, Prevention, and Individualizing Medicine

The official fee is 95 basis points. We do rebate securities lending which is effectively their 25 basis points. So the actual costs are 70 basis point to investors. With a team of industry experts that we have tracking this, I think that we do a pretty good job. We are generally the Alpha that investors are looking for. The index is up a little over 20 percent year-to-date and the last three years is probably close to up 15 percent. We think the inflection is starting here and we’ve got years if not decades of growth ahead of us.

Healthcare is probably one of the most exciting areas for investors to think about. Why? We’re going to a world of prediction, prevention, and individualizing medicine. Effectively, we’re going to create much healthier livelihoods for us but more pulling longer longevity. We live in a world that’s been historically sick care. We deal with the problem after it happens. We’re now going to a world of prevention, prediction, and individualizing medicine. A lot of healthcare structures tend to focus on therapies. We’re actually focused much more on the prediction and the prevention; diagnosis, medical instruments, regenerative medicine, and prevention. These are the kinds of technologies that investors need to embrace when they’re thinking about healthcare.

Every Sector of the Economy is Going to Benefit From Robotics and AI, says ROBO Global President William Studebaker

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How Cloud-Based ERP Can Benefit Small Businesses

There’s no question that small businesses have greatly benefited from today’s technology. Ten years ago, many companies would not have considered placing their enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems on a public cloud platform. But now it’s a route that more businesses are taking.

Understanding Cloud ERP

Cloud-based computing utilizes the Internet to administer shared computing resources, like disk storage, memory, and processing power to run numerous software applications. Meanwhile, cloud ERP is software that is accessed via the cloud. It uses the Internet to connect to servers that are hosted away from a company’s premises. This is in direct contrast to traditional ERP and business productivity software that is generally housed in the company’s headquarters.

Benefits of Using Cloud ERP for Small Businesses

Image via AgileTech

Numerous businesses have turned to ERP solutions to automate their businesses, and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in particular have discovered that cloud-based ERP provides multiple benefits.

  • It’s more secure: While some companies are admittedly still worried that cloud ERP can render their data vulnerable, more and more companies are placing their trust in cloud security. This is because companies have strict security requirements, which puts cloud ERP providers under pressure to ensure that their technology is always secure.
  • It boosts productivity: Small businesses are often concerned that moving to a new technology will disrupt their work. But moving to a cloud-based platform is just a temporary inconvenience and will actually boost productivity in the long run. Cloud ERP is user-friendly and makes it easier for employees to collaborate in real-time. It also eliminates the need to get in touch with other employees just to ask for a single file since everything is accessible. And the less time is wasted on simple processes, the more time is afforded for innovation and improvement.
  • Data flow is centralized: Small businesses often develop problems once they start growing and find that the various departments and their data are housed in different areas. For instance, inventory data is kept in one software program while financial information is saved in another. Cloud ERP ensures that every relevant data is in one area, giving all authorized users access to important files and data easily and quickly.
  • It’s affordable: When it comes to capital outlay, cloud-based programs and data storage cost less compared to implementation and maintenance of an IT system housed on company premises. This holds true even when taking into account the monthly service fee that a company would pay a cloud provider. By doing away with the yearly maintenance fees and just charging per month or per user, cloud ERP becomes more affordable than systems that demand expensive licenses and need constant software and hardware upgrades.
  • Businesses become more flexible: Cloud ERP provides the accessibility, mobility, and flexibility that conventional ERPs lack. Since cloud-based ERP is managed offsite and on a system that’s always available, management will find that ordering and delegating tasks become simpler and easier.

How to Ensure Cloud ERP Works

Using a new system in your business is admittedly tricky. To ensure that integrating a cloud-based solution will have a positive outcome, companies should start with a dry run before going live. This process includes testing the new cloud ERP system with select employees first and ensuring that they are well trained in using the new system. This will lessen any problems that might appear once there’s a change in the infrastructure of the IT system. It also has the dual purpose of revealing which staff members will be free to manage other tasks. Company resources can then be reassigned or internal teams moved to maximize their potential.

Small businesses that are considering using cloud ERP will need a reliable cloud provider and the know-how to optimize the technology’s best features. Once the transition to the cloud is successful, a company can enjoy higher productivity, enhanced business processes, and more success.

[Featured image via Pixabay]

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How Will Amazon’s New Social Media Platform Benefit Brands?

Online retailer giant Amazon just found another way to make it easier for people to part ways with their money. The company has ventured into the world of social media with Amazon Spark, which was launched last July.

Amazon Creates Social Media Platform

At first glance, Amazon Spark looks a lot like some other social media platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest. The newcomer platform’s feed is also heavy on photos but a marked difference is that these are images of products available on Amazon.

Image result for amazon spark

Of course, encouraging people to post pictures of the products they love or make reviews on items they have tried is Amazon’s brilliant way to deepen consumer engagement on their platform. At the moment though, only Amazon Prime members can make posts or comment on them, but non-Prime members can still use the platform to view posts.

Just like your typical social media platform, Spark requires first-time users to register. Once a user has logged in, Spark requires the user to choose at least five interests that would later become the basis for what posts will be included in the feed. The platform actually allows more than five interests, which range from generic, broad categories like “Music” or “Books” to more narrowed-down options like “TV Bingewatching.”

Spark is also using its own version of a “Like” called “Smile” to indicate approval of a post.

Image result for amazon spark smile

The Advantages of Spark

While it shares a lot of similarities to older platforms, Amazon Spark has several advantages over its competitors. Unlike other social media platforms where people log on to see what’s the latest buzz on virtually everything, there is only one reason why Spark users would log on to the platform and that is to see what is worth buying.

Essentially, Spark is a social media network for consumers—people looking for the best products to buy. As such, you can expect the conversion from traffic to actual sale to be higher on this social media platform than most others. Before logging into the platform, users are already eager to buy something. They’re just looking for the right product to justify a purchase.

The higher conversion rate will offset Amazon Spark’s smaller user base compared to other platforms. At the moment, there are around 80 million Amazon Prime members who are allowed to post and comment on Spark. However, there’s a hidden number in there somewhere that brands should not ignore. Apparently, Prime members spend around $ 600 more per year than non-Prime members. Multiply that by 80 million and you’ll get a rough estimate of its gargantuan potential for brands.

Image result for amazon spark social comparison chart

Aside from tapping the purchasing power of the horde of Amazon shoppers, there is one thing that sets Amazon Spark apart from other platforms. Since Spark is inside the Amazon application, buyers can buy the item tagged in a particular post seamlessly and without the need to log into another app to make the purchase. Since the eCommerce component is already integrated into the platform, there is simply no time for consumers to hesitate and, in a way, Spark has made impulse buying even faster.

Current Limitations for Brands

At the moment, Amazon Spark does not allow brands to make posts to the platform. However, brands can work around this problem by reaching out to “enthusiasts,” which is Amazon’s term for influencers, to make posts for their products in the meantime.

Another limitation is that Spark is only available for iOS devices at the moment although Amazon previously promised that an Android version is on the way. In addition, there is no word yet if the company plans to expand Spark’s access via desktop.

[Featured Image by Amazon]

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How Facebook AI Chatbots Benefit E-Commerce Businesses

Facebook continues to develop AI chatbots to aid e-commerce and retail companies grow their businesses at a minimum cost to tech innovations.

Chatbots are certainly not new. People who dial 1-800 numbers have talked to these smart assistants at one point or another. However, innovations in this technology have made chatbots more interactive and responsive.

Then Facebook came in and changed the layout of the land.

David Marcus, Vice President of Messaging Products at Facebook, revealed that there are now 11,000 chatbots on Facebook reaching almost a billion users. Facebook M, the company’s text-based virtual assistant feature, has been modified to make the AI better.

“M will make automated suggestions based on chat intent,” he wrote last month. “These suggestions will help you get more from your Messenger experience by shortening the distance between what you need to do and getting it done.”

Facebook also introduced more changes to the Messenger which will further aid small businesses in improving customer experience and reaching their target clients. Among the changes are:

  • Smart Replies for Pages – This feature allows small businesses to interact with their customers even if they are too busy managing their day-to-day operations. They can also customize the API to ensure predetermined answers to the most frequently asked questions.
  • Hand-Over Protocol – This feature will allow businesses to manage and even expand their services. With the help of developers, they can create a bot that handles customer service, or another bot which handles orders.
  • Parametric Messenger Codes – This allows businesses to create quick response codes to compartmentalize services. In the future, this bot can be used to utilize the mobile phone camera instead of the price scanner.

Meanwhile, the ability to accept bills payment without bouncing users to an external website has already been rolled out by Facebook last year.

Facebook Messenger is free to use, along with the reach of the social media giant (with nearly 2 billion accounts), and that makes it a perfect option for e-commerce businesses. Mark Zuckerberg and the rest of the company are even making it easier for small businesses to embed the conversational tool into their websites.

The potential for Facebook AI chatbots in e-commerce is huge. For instance, they can be customized to fit the goals of the particular business, whether it means promoting the brand, reaching targeted consumers, raising awareness during a product launch, or generating automatic replies to queries. All of these will hopefully influence the decision of the potential customer to order a product, thereby successfully affecting retail conversion.

After the conversion, customer support can also be delegated to these smart assistants so businesses don’t have to hire new people to accept complaints, answer queries, or render post-purchase services.

Facebook AI chatbots also extend beyond the business-customer dynamics. In forging partnerships with other businesses, for instance, these tools can serve as the “advanced party” and give the potential investor the necessary due diligence even before making initial contact.

The success of Siri or Amazon Alexa to assist users in their daily tasks highlights the potentials of AI chatbots in e-commerce. And this will only grow as developers perfect the technology and more people recognize their importance. A study by Oracle last year revealed that 80% of the 800 businesses that participated in the survey believe that they will use AI chatbots by 2020.

A similar study by Gartner, an IT research and advisory company, forecast that nearly 90% of interactions between customers and businesses in three years’ time will be handled by AI chatbots.

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How Solar Energy Systems Work and How They Benefit You




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All around the world and especially in the US, people are adopting lifestyles that benefit the earth by limiting chemical use, power use, and just all around choosing to “go green”. One of the ways that people are changing their lifestyles is by using alternative forms of energy that save money. Today you can learn how systems fueled by solar energy can be useful in your own household. Utility expenses will dramatically decrease and you’ll be able to save big time. You will also have peace of mind from knowing that your lifestyle is benefiting your environment and health by utilizing natural resources.

If you are wondering what solar energy is and how it works, here’s your chance to find out. This type of energy basically comes from the sun. Yes, the same yellow fire ball that sits up in the sky shining down on us all can be used as a source of energy right inside your own home. Of course the sun is used for more than just providing beautiful days outdoors. Today there are different sun fueled systems that you can choose from for your house that will effectively run the daily activities of your home in a more cost effective manner.

To explain things simply, panels can be installed upon the top of your house. The sunlight that shines upon the rooftop will then be transformed into electricity. This electricity from the sun can then be converted into the exact electricity that you use in your household. It is quite simple. As mentioned earlier, there are different types of sun fueled energy systems that can be installed within the home. Other systems include the sun energy system that controls the hot water in your home. This process involves the sun’s heat warming liquid through the roof and heating the water tank then traveling back to the roof to continue the cycle.

There are many great benefits to having solar energy systems in your home. As mentioned earlier it will be cost efficient. Your electricity bill will not be the same because you are using natural power. Another great benefit is that it is safe, natural, and harmless. Energy from the sun does not produce chemicals or gases that pollute the environment at all. And as long as the sun exists, there will always be this type of energy available. It’s priceless. And because of how the sun works, this type of energy is available anywhere, even away from your home.

You have always been aware of the sun, but you probable have never thought fully about all that it can do. The sun provides you with warmth, light, and beauty. But it can do this in so many ways. Making the switch to solar energy systems can be the best decision you will make for you and your family. The costs to install these systems are well worth it. You will see results and also save so much money. And you will also be contributing to a healthier earth.

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Brian Clark on Why Not Being a Techie May Be a Benefit to Starting a Technology Company

tt-brian-clark

It’s hard to be a non-techie in this tech-driven world. So it may seem almost impossible to start or run a tech company when you’re not one.

But as the founder and CEO of Rainmaker Digital (Brian Clark) is going explain, that lack of technical expertise may be your greatest asset.

While Brian understands technology well, he’s made it a practice of finding the right partners to build what has evolved into Rainmaker Digital.

Trust, open feedback, and understanding your customers needs are the tip of the iceberg when starting a tech company. But as Brian points out, it isn’t always the technical skills that make a great technology-focused CEO.

In this 12-minute episode of Technology Translated, host Scott Ellis walks you through:

  • The evolution of Copyblogger
  • The challenges for a non-techie
  • How involved the CEO is in the tech-side of the business
  • The rationale behind employee side-projects (sidebar but interesting)
  • Why being a non-techie is often an advantage for a CEO

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Technology Translated on iTunes

Click Here to Listen on Rainmaker.FM

About the author

Rainmaker.FM

Rainmaker.FM is the premier digital marketing and sales podcast network. Get on-demand digital business and marketing advice from experts, whenever and wherever you want it.

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4 Ways Solar Panel Installation Can Benefit Your Home




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If you’ve heard a lot about the growing popularity of the installation of solar panels, you may wonder what are the benefits. There are many, to help save the environment to save money on your monthly bills. Learn how this energy source provides many positive benefits in your life.

Free electricity

Best of installing solar panels is that all electricity produced does not cost you a penny. The sun’s energy is completely free, which is an important asset for many people looking to reduce their monthly energy bills. Since this type of installation usually lasts for more than 25 years, you can expect significant savings for as long as you own your home. To get the best performance from your system, ensure that at least 20% of its roof is covered.

Best Resale Value

If you want to put your home on the market in the near future, you have probably been planning renovations that can make your home more valuable to buyers. While many people go the popular route to improve their kitchens or bathrooms, there is a huge financial advantage to have the installation of solar panels is because it can increase the selling price of your home. You can expect to get several thousand dollars more in their final sale with this type of addition.

Saving the environment

The best attribute of installing solar panels is the positive impact it can have on the environment. As no coal, oil and other pollutants are used this energy source, you can worry less about what occurs in the air to turn on the lights, use your stove or heat your home. If your goal is to reduce the impact on the environment, the addition of the house can be good for you.

Endless supply of natural gas

The costs of oil and coal are always fluctuating to track the supply and demand, but no need to worry about the depletion of fossil fuels, when you trust the sun. Opting for a solar panel installation means you will have an endless supply of natural fuel, and you can always rely on solar energy even when other resources become scarce or expensive.

If you plan to have this type of additional power at home, know that there are many ways you can benefit immediately. A specialist can help you select the right amount of coverage of the surface and the installation area to make your home as efficient as possible.

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Measure For Business Benefit

Matt Cutts is just toying with SEO’s these days.

Going by some comments, many SEOs still miss the big picture. Google is not in the business of enabling SEOs. So he may as well have a little fun – Matt has “called it” on guest posting.

Okay, I’m calling it: if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop. Why? Because over time it’s become a more and more spammy practice, and if you’re doing a lot of guest blogging then you’re hanging out with really bad company.

The hen-house erupted.

The hens should know better by now. If a guest post is good for the audience and site, then do it. If it’s being done for no other reason than to boost rank in Google, then that’s a sign a publishing strategy is weak, high risk, and vulnerable to Google’s whims. Change the publishing strategy.

Measuring What Is Important

Although far from perfect, Google is geared towards recognizing utility. If Google doesn’t recognize utility, then Google will become weaker and someone else will take their place. Only a few people remember Alta Vista. They didn’t provide much in the way of utility, and Google ate their lunch.

Which brings me onto the importance of measurement.

It’s important we measure the right things. If people get upset because guest posting is called out, are they upset because they are counting the number of inbound links as if that were the only benefit? Why are they counting inbound links? To get a ranking boost? So, why are some people getting upset? They know Google doesn’t like marketing practices that serve no other purpose than to boost rank. Or are people concerned Google might confuse a post of genuine utility with link spam?

A publishing strategy based on nothing more than Google rankings is not a publishing strategy, it’s a tactic. Given the changes Google has made recently, it’s not a good tactic, because if they can isolate and eliminate SEO tactics, they will. Those who guest post on other sites, and offer guest post placement in order to provide utility, should continue to do so. They are unlikely to eliminate genuine utility, regardless of links, and at worst, they’ll likely ignore the site it appears on.

Interesting

To prosper, we need to be more interesting that the next guy. We need to focus on delivering “interestingness”.

The buzzword term is “visitor engagement”, but that really means “be interesting”. If we provide interesting material, people will read it, and if we provide it on a regular basis, they might come back, or remember our brand name, and then search on that brand name, and then they might link to it, and that this activity combined helps us rank. Ranking is a side effect of being genuinely interesting.

This is not to say measuring links, or page views, are unimportant. But they can be an oversimplification when taken in isolation.

Demand Media’s eHow focused on pageviews rather than engagement. Which is a big part of the reason why the guys who sold them eHow were able to beat them with wikiHow.

Success depends on achieving the underlying business goal. Perhaps high page views are not important if a site is targeting a very specific audience. Perhaps rankings aren’t all that important if most of the audience is on social media or repeat business. Sometimes, focusing on the wrong metrics leads to the wrong marketing tactics.

What else can we measure? Some common stuff….

  • Page views
  • Subscriptions
  • Comments
  • Quality of comments
  • Syndication
  • Time on site
  • Videos watched
  • Unique visitors
  • Traffic sent to partner sites
  • Bookmarking activity
  • Search engine exposure
  • Brand searches
  • Offline mentions
  • Online mentions
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Conversion rates
  • Number of inquiries
  • Relationships
  • Sales
  • Reduced costs

The choice of what we measure depends on what we’re trying to achieve. The SEO may say they are trying to achieve a high rank, but why? To get more traffic, perhaps. Why do we want more traffic? In the hope more people will buy our widget.

So, if buying more widgets is the goal, then perhaps more energy needs to be placed into converting the traffic we already have, as opposed to spending the same energy getting more? Perhaps more time needs to be spent on conversion optimization. Perhaps more time needs to be spent refining the offer. Or listening to customers. Hearing their objections. Writing Q&A that addresses those objections. Guest posting somewhere else and addressing industry wide objections. Thinking up products to sell to previous customers. Making them aware of changes via an email list. Optimizing the interest factor of your site to make it more interesting than your competitors, then treat the rankings as a bonus. Link building starts with “being interesting”.

When it comes to the guest post, if you’re only doing it to get a link, then you’re almost certainly selling yourself short. A guest post should serve a number of functions, such as building awareness, increasing reach, building brand, and be based on serving your underlying marketing objective. Pick where you post carefully. Deliver real value. If you do guest post, always try and extract way more benefit than just the link.

There was a time when people could put low-quality posts on low-quality sites and enjoy a benefit. But that practice is really just selling a serious web business short.

How Do We Know If We’re Interesting?

There are a couple of different types of measurement marketers use. One is an emotional response, where the visitor becomes “positively interested”. This is measured by recall studies, association techniques, customers surveys and questionnaires. However, the type of response on-line marketers focus on, which is somewhat easier to measure, is behavioural interest. When people are really interested, they do something in response.

So, to measure the effectiveness of a guest posting, we might look for increased name or brand searches. More linkedin views. We might look at how many people travel down the links. We look at what they do when they land on the site, and – the most important bit – whether they do whatever that thing is that translates to the bottom line. Was it subscribing? Commenting? Downloading a white paper? Watching a video? Getting in contact? Tweeting? Bookmarking? What was that thing you wanted them to do in order to serve your bottom line?

Measurement should be flexible and will be geared towards achieving business goals. SEOs may worry that if they don’t show rankings and links, then the customer will be dissatisfied. I’d wager the customer will be a lot more dissatisfied if they do get a lot of links and a rankings boost, yet no improvement in the bottom line. We could liken this to companies that have a lot of meetings. There is an air of busyness, but are they achieving anything worthwhile? Maybe. Maybe not. We should be careful not to mistake frenzy for productivity.

Measuring links, like measuring the number of meetings, is reductive. So is measuring engagement just by looking at clicks. The picture needs to be broad and strategic. So, if guest posts help you build your business, measured by business metrics, keep doing them. Don’t worry about what Google may or may not do, because it’s beyond your control, regardless.

Control what you can. Control the quality of information you provide.

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How Good Copywriting Can Benefit You, Even if You’re Not a Writer

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I have a secret to tell you. It’s a secret that can improve the lives of every single person who reads this post … writers and non-writers alike.

A secret that Chip Kelly would appreciate.

Who’s Chip Kelly? He’s a proud, notoriously pithy football coaching wizard who cast a four-year spell on college football with his special brand of offensive alchemy. Kelly conjured up an astounding 46-7 record at the University of Oregon before becoming the head coach of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles.

The key to Kelly’s success is his “fast break” style of offense. And if the phrase “fast break” seems odd to use in the context of discussing football, it should. It’s a basketball term.

Yet Kelly found a way to apply a principle from basketball to the football field by attacking opponents with a quick tempo and an efficient choreography of movement.

What does any of this have anything to do with copywriting?

Well, I’m going to show you how to apply the principles of copywriting to a place where they might not seem to fit.

But they do.

What do we all have in common?

Some of you reading this don’t have much experience with football. Some of you know nothing about basketball. Some of you might just be starting out as writers.

But I know that there’s something you, me, and every other person reading this post has in common: We deal with customer support on a regular basis.

Unfortunately, many of these experiences are likely to be less than satisfactory. Many take more time and cause more frustration than they ever should.

This is, in part, because many companies are just no good at support. Good customer support is hard. If it were easy, everyone would provide it.

But let’s not worry about what we can’t control.

Doing so saps us of “energy that could be better spent elsewhere.” Let’s worry about what we can control, which is how we frame our written customer service requests.

And this is where we all can benefit from the techniques of effective copywriting.

Think about it: Copywriting is designed to get the reader to take a specific action. In other words, it’s simply the art of convincing another person to do something.

And that’s what you need when you submit a support ticket for a problem you’re having. Maybe you need something fixed. Maybe you want a refund. Maybe you desperately need a question answered. You’re submitting your request because you want some specific action done. And you want it done quickly and competently so you can get back to writing! (Or whatever else it is you do.)

You have two choices: you can submit your request casually, as if you were emailing a friend or family member … or you can submit tight, clean, persuasive “copy” that gets your request handled immediately and accurately, and that puts you on the unwritten but real ‘Give This Customer’s Future Requests Priority’ List.

How to get on the customer support VIP list

If you are a serious WordPress site publisher who refuses to trust your web hosting to anyone but the best, you are likely a Synthesis customer.

In addition to the optimized performance and lockdown security that we provide, what separates Synthesis from other hosting companies is our customer service. I know this because so many of our customers have told me so, and I know it because I’m in our Help Desk myself providing support every single day.

I take great pride in providing excellent support. Our entire team does. And for your benefit, as well as ours, we want to provide this excellent support in the most efficient manner possible.

But let’s be frank here: not all customer support requests are created equal. Some are clear, concise, and easy to act on. Others are verbose and downright confusing.

Our goal is to solve as many support requests as we can … as quickly as possible. While we eventually get to all requests, and we treat all requestss with the same level of care and concentration, customers who consistently submit clear and easily actionable tickets make it easy to quickly get them what they need.

What could this mean for you? The difference between a 20-minute response time and a 3-hour response time. Or the difference between a request that is completed with one reply and a frustrating one that requires days of back-and-forth to solve.

I’ve seen it all, which is why I can speak with Authority on this topic. (See what I did there?)

And I guarantee you that following three pieces of advice will improve your customer support experience, no matter if it’s web hosting, online banking, gaming, or otherwise.

1. Write a subject line that works

Most help desks will ask you to include a subject line, or a brief description of the issue you are seeking to solve. So write a clear, compelling subject line that works.

From the realm of web hosting, here’s an example of a bad help ticket subject line:

WTF? My website is having issues! HELP!

And here’s an example of a good subject line:

Website whitescreening after upgrading plugin

The first example suggests to me that the request will be frantic, disjointed, and possibly even obtuse. I’ll get to it, but there is no way I’m opening it before I’m opening example two. Just from the subject line of that one, I have a pretty good idea of how to fix the issue.

Additionally, the more “keywords” you can use in the subject line the better. Chances are, more than one person is perusing help desks for tickets, and different people have different areas of expertise. The easier it is to route a ticket to the correct person, the quicker the response time is likely to be.

2. Make your body (copy) lean

Your subject line is the key to your ticket being opened quickly. How you present the details of your request in the body of your message is the key to it getting solved quickly.

So be lean about it.

And save the stories for the dinner table.

Yes, just like Chip Kelly had to modify a basketball strategy for the football field, you have to modify a copywriting strategy for customer support. Stories work great in normal copywriting. They are essential, in fact. But they are anathema to support staff members trying to quickly get to the heart of the issue and the action being requested.

For example, it isn’t important that you saw a really cool social sharing feature on your friend’s website … so your developer recommended a plugin … and then you had trouble finding it before downloading, uploading, activating … and then, WTF? … your site whitescreened!!!

All that needs to be said is:

I activated XYZ plugin and my site whitescreened.

Lean. Essential details.

And make sure that you do include all of the essential details.

  • If you see a specific error message, include it.
  • If your screen is doing something funky, take a screenshot and send it.
  • Specific to hosting: if you changed any settings, or if you installed or edited any plugins or themes before the issue occurred, say so.

Bonus Tip: While we’re on the subject of essential details, be sure to include as much identifying information about yourself and your account as you can. Any time support staff members have to spend looking up your basic info just to know where to start is time they are not troubleshooting.

3. Include a clear call to action

Remember, you’re submitting a customer service request because you want something done. So make sure to request the action clearly and unmistakably.

Heed the advice of Sonia Simone:

You need to tell your reader exactly what to do … and that you want her to do it right now. Don’t be vague.

Granted, you may not know exactly what the problem is when you submit your initial request, but be clear that you are requesting troubleshooting support and include any steps that you have already taken.

If you do know exactly what you want the support staff member to do, then say exactly that. Don’t beat around the bush. Don’t assume the person reading your support ticket is going to infer the call to action from context clues. That’s not good copywriting! Be clear in your call to action.

And, for good measure, somewhere near the call to action let the support staff member know that you appreciate his or her efforts.

But they are just doing their jobs, you might say. True, but if your goal is to get them to do their jobs as quickly and competently as possible for you, a little gratitude can go a long way.

Trust me, it’s appreciated at the time, and it’s remembered the next time a ticket is submitted with your name on it.

As it is when your calls to actions are clear.

As it is when your requests are lean and properly detailed.

As it is when your subject line works.

So, today we’ve learned that basketball techniques can work on football fields and that copywriting techniques can work in help desks. Who knew?

Well, now you do. And you’ll benefit from this post soon, because it won’t be long before you have to submit a customer service request somewhere.

And do you know who else can benefit from the tips in the post? Every single person who hasn’t read it. Because needing customer support is universal, as is benefiting from any and all efficiencies that can be added to the process.

So please don’t be selfish with your new secrets. Share them. We’re all in this together.

About the Author: Jerod Morris is a copywriter, blogger, and founding member of the Synthesis Managed WordPress Hosting team. Get more from Jerod on Twitter and .

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