Receptionists Don’t Grow on Trees: What a Virtual Phone Answering Service Can Do for Your Business

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Receptionists Don't Grow on Trees: What a Virtual Phone Answering Service Can Do for Your BusinessSmall businesses and start-ups face many challenges, especially as they grow. It can be difficult to prioritize which areas of your business to spend money, and in which areas to focus on savings. Large organizations have the luxury of hiring new personnel on a whim, but smaller companies must be more strategic.

There comes a time in the life cycle of a small business where inbound call traffic becomes too overwhelming for the existing staff to handle. Employees want to focus on their jobs, they don’t necessarily want to be tasked with answering and transferring telephone calls.  But hiring a receptionist to manage this traffic isn’t always in the budget. In larger organizations, receptionists often have enough front-desk work to justify the full-time position. At smaller organizations; however, there may not be enough for a receptionist to do other than answer the phone; an expense that can’t always be justified.

So what is a growing business to do? How can you manage inbound call traffic without spending the money for a new, full-time employee?

What is Virtual Phone Answering?

Receptionists Don't Grow on Trees: What a Virtual Phone Answering Service Can Do for Your BusinessSmall businesses have several options when it comes to virtual phone answering. But one of the most cost-effective ways to manage inbound calls is through a virtual phone system. These systems use the power of the internet to deliver telephone calls and advanced calling features to customers, without the need for bulky and expensive hardware.

One of those advanced features is an automated attendant. When customers dial your number, the call is answered immediately. You can record a cheerful greeting, and then direct callers to take the next step required to connect their call to an employee. This can be done through touch tone inputs or even voice commands. Callers who know their party’s extension can bypass the menu and connect their call immediately. Others are given a list of options or extensions to choose from. They choose the best option, and their call is sent directly to the appropriate desktop phone.

Virtual Phone Answering – Your Internal Traffic Cop

Receptionists Don't Grow on Trees: What a Virtual Phone Answering Service Can Do for Your BusinessWhile some customers may just push “0” to default to the main line, virtual phone answering systems help ease the congestion that comes with a general phone free-for-all. Each employee can be assigned an extension. As customer and vendors become more familiar with your new answering system, they will bypass it and dial the precise extension they need when they call. This eases the stress on the main telephone line, and helps eliminate the all-hands-on-deck approach to answering and transferring calls.

Other Benefits of Virtual Phone Answering Systems

Virtual phone systems provide other features and benefits outside of acting as a virtual receptionist. Internet telephony is extremely flexible, and companies can customize their services so that their communications systems meets their unique needs.

  • Call Forwarding – Employees can route calls to mobile phones on the go

  • Voice-to-text – Individuals can have their voicemail sent to their email inbox as a recording or as a text-based communication.

  • Fax-to-email – Faxes can be delivered over internet telephone lines to email inboxes, eliminating the need for a physical fax machine.

  • Web Conferencing – Employees in separate locations can collaborate online via web conference.

  • Call tracking and reporting– Critical data regarding inbound and outbound calls can be collected and analyzed to assist in strategic planning.

At a certain point in the lifecycle of a small business it may be necessary to recruit and hire a receptionist to help manage inbound calls. For businesses attempting to scale, there may not be enough money in the budget to justify that expense. Companies looking to manage their call traffic and remain lean will benefit from the flexibility, scalability, and overall cost savings that comes with adopting a virtual phone answering service.

 

What Makes a Mobile Marketing Campaign Effective? What We Can Learn from These 4 Brands

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Mobile marketing isn’t easy. Plenty of brands have tried it with little success. But mobile marketing can be extremely effective when done correctly. Smartphones and tablets are slowly but surely replacing desktop computers as the primary way people consume the internet.  So what makes a mobile marketing campaign effective? Let’s take a look at how four big brands conquered the challenge.

McDonald’s: The UK Night Owls

What Makes a Mobile Marketing Campaign Effective? What We Can Learn from These 4 Brands

In 2013, McDonald’s restaurants in the United Kingdom began experimenting with 24 hour stores. Not every store would remain open all night, so they were left wondering how to communicate to customers which stores were open in the wee hours.  This presented a challenge, but they quickly discovered that mobile was their solution.

They assumed that most (but not all) night owls were either traveling to work, from work, or were out and about having fun with friends. They also assumed these people were probably highly connected through their smartphones.  They launched a restaurant finder app that allowed people to find the closest open McDonald’s restaurant, no matter what time of day or night they searched. They promoted the app through traditional channels, but real communication with their target audience occurred within the app.

UK stores saw a significant increase in overnight sales as a result of the mobile app launch.

Audi: Gaming the A8

What Makes a Mobile Marketing Campaign Effective? What We Can Learn from These 4 Brands

In 2013, Audi launched a unique mobile campaign for the A8 luxury sedan. Tablet users were tasked with catching a picture of the car as it sped by the screen. They had three tries to capture a photo. It was a simple concept with a game-like feel. Users already knew how to snap a photo with their iPad so there was no learning curve. After the third attempt, users were directed to visit their photo stream to see if they were able to capture the car. The first two attempts included phrases that said things like, “Try again,” or, “You need more practice.” But the third photo was a perfect shot of the car that was saved in the photo gallery.

Chipotle: The Scarecrow

What Makes a Mobile Marketing Campaign Effective? What We Can Learn from These 4 Brands

Chipotle made big waves with a campaign that incorporated both YouTube and a mobile game. Part of their “Food with Integrity” campaign, Chipotle produced a stunning, animated video that had a feature-film feel. At the end of the video, users were directed to download the mobile game. They released The Scarecrow on YouTube and snagged 6.5 million views in two weeks. And within four days, the mobile app had been downloaded 250,000 times.

The game was very strategic as the entire concept supports their brand positioning. Players are tasked with delivering wholesome food to people in a platform that is engaging to players of all ages.

Starbucks: Mobile Payment App

What Makes a Mobile Marketing Campaign Effective? What We Can Learn from These 4 Brands

Mobile campaigns are often novelties that burn out quickly when their shiny newness wears off. But Starbucks thought outside the box when the launched their mobile payment app. They launched the program on iPhone and Blackberry for the Starbucks Card app. By January 2014 it was the most used mobile payment app in America. But mobile payments are nothing new.

The success of the campaign was in the gamification of their rewards program.  A grande coffee gets you a star. Five stars earns you “green level” status which allows free refills and exclusive coupons. When you earn 30 stars you are now able to earn a free drink for every 12 you purchase, and you get even more special offers.

What Did These Brands Get Right about Mobile Marketing?

So what can we learn from these mobile marketing campaigns? Quite a bit, actually, and each one can teach us something a little bit different.

McDonald’s UK – McDonald’s knew they would have to target a very small segment of their customer base in order to make 24 hour restaurants work. They knew that night owls were probably very plugged in to their smartphones. So they built an app that wouldn’t disrupt what they were doing, but acted as a guide to direct users to stores. And anyone can use the app, not just night owls, so it benefits all UK stores in the long run.

Audi – Audi created a very simple, and very intriguing game. There were no real bells and whistles, users simply had to take a picture. And when it was done, an image of an Audi was saved on their phone so that whenever users scroll through their photo stream, they’d be reminded of the brand.

Chipotle – Chipotle incorporated video marketing into their mobile campaign, which could stand on its own but more importantly, drove downloads of the app. The game itself was challenging, yet fun for people of all ages. And any time they play the game, users are reminded that Chipotle provides fresh, quality food.

Starbucks – Starbucks capitalized on mobile payments to make getting in and out of their stores more convenient for their customers, while at the same time gamifying their rewards program and strengthening the loyalty of their customers.

The biggest lesson to take away from these successful mobile marketing campaigns is to know yourself and know your audience. When you understand what makes your brand unique, and you understand the ways in which your target customer uses their mobile devices, you can create a more effective mobile marketing campaign.