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Small Business | USAGov

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Learn the steps to start a small business, get financing help from the government, and more.

Butler Business Consulting Group | Butler.edu

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The Butler Business Consulting Group is a team of experienced professionals working with companies to solve business challenges at the highest levels. With years of expertise, plus access to the University’s resources, the Consulting Group builds solutions for immediate and long-term success.

Kamyar Shah

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Small business advisor helping you increase profitability and productivity, offering remote CMO and Remote COO services

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Budget Opportunity: Small Business Advisor Kamyar Shah on How Franchise Brands Should Direct Marketing Spend in 2020

RPA – A Way to Help Companies During the Coronavirus Pandemic

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Robotic Process Automation can help companies keep up with the workload during the coronavirus crisis. We share a few ways you can ensure your business keeps running using RPA.


It’s no longer a surprise; these are unprecedented times. Globally, we have moved from a high dose of social interaction to social distancing. Even though we are physically apart, the work continues to come in. And it needs to get done.

As more companies reallocate their workforce to focus on the coronavirus impact, and you cannot complete your daily tasks, how do you ensure you are serving your customers and colleagues with unmatched delivery?

If you have to complete tasks that are time-sensitive, repeatable, high-volume and routine — things like data entry of new accounts, onboarding and offboarding employees, balancing ledgers, etc. — you can ensure those tasks are completed even while focusing on more value-adding work or when you have a limited workforce. One answer to solving these issues is Robotic Process Automation (RPA).

Need more tips, tools and techniques for business continuity?

How RPA Can Help

So, what is RPA? And, how can it help my organization now or more importantly, long-term?

RPA is one of the latest technologies to hit the marketplace, although it has been around for several years. Using tools such as UiPath, Blue Prism, and Automation Anywhere—  the three leading players in this space — business and IT personnel can create software robots that are no-code or low-code solutions. You can run these robots in attended (typically on a customer agents’ desktop) or unattended (scheduled to run) mode. Both modes deliver the same quality and speed level to allow a business to focus on more customer-centric and value-added solutions.

I am quite sure many organizations will start re-thinking their technology platforms, strategies, Business Continuity Planning (BCP), Work-From-Home (WFH) policies, and more, considering the current health and economic situation. Any changes will require not only an economic investment but also a people investment. Those individuals who have done the routine and repeatable work can now focus on more value-add activities, allowing software bots to handle the mundane tasks.

They can help to:

Automate and accelerate viable processes (data entry to spreadsheets, collecting social media statistics, opening email and saving attachments, filling in online forms your staff can focus on activities that will help:

  • Re-establish customer bases
  • Improve revenues
  • Minimize expenses
  • Enhance the quality of data
  • The list goes on

Be a steppingstone to more automation by taking in machine learning (ML), natural language processing (NLP), artificial intelligence (AI) and other automation functions that will help to create and sustain a long-term automation capability.

Bring relief to a workforce taxed to take on more responsibilities due to staffing decreases associated with the current health crisis, providing them with needed “downtime,” while bots take on some of these additional tasks, allowing the business to continue to operate and succeed.

Conclusion

We don’t know how long our new normal is going to last. And while everyone focuses on adjusting to changing times, your timely, repeatable and rules-based tasks shouldn’t become a barrier to your company’s future. With RPA, you and your team can better dedicate your time to what needs to get done now.

The post RPA – A Way to Help Companies During the Coronavirus Pandemic appeared first on Centric Consulting.

3 Ways to Adjust to the New Norm for your Employees and Customers

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Transitioning to remote work isn’t solely about getting the job done, virtually. We must remember an essential element of business: humans. Here are three ways to adapt to the new norm during the COVID-19 crisis.


Just two weeks ago, we were going about our regular routines. Kids went to school, grocery stores remained fully stocked, spring sports were underway, and the news bounced across a myriad of topics. Enter a new week and a new reality.

Today, my house is full of remote workers as my kids adapt to e-learning and my wife joins me in the world of full-time remote work. I’ve been at it for two years, although not quite like this. Most of my go-to work spots closed their doors to in-store customers. My home office is much louder. And, the news has one topic in-mind as they race to keep their communities informed.

Businesses work diligently to adjust to ever-changing CDC guidelines, trying to assess and forecast the potential impact on their business and quickly pivoting to adapt to growing or declining demands. One thing is for sure, during a crisis, two things become the focal point for most companies – employees and customers.

Questions abound. How do we keep both stakeholders safe? How do we quickly enable a remote workforce? How do I keep my customers? The answers to these questions are slightly different industry-to-industry or even company-to-company, but here are three things I believe can benefit you the most.

Need more tips, tools and techniques to work from anywhere?

Moving into the New Remote Work Norm

1. Leverage design thinking sprints as a problem-solving methodology.

You must make decisions quickly in a time of rapid change, but in our attempt to move swiftly, we mustn’t lose sight of human (employees and customers) needs. This focal point is the core of a design sprint. Solve problems first by empathizing with the customer or employee need and then test prototypes with direct stakeholder input. Design sprints move quickly. You can execute these in a matter of 2 to 3 days when accelerated.

A quick example of problem-solving with a keen focus on customer needs: My gym closed last week, but they realized their customers still want to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Now more than ever, their customers need physical activity to relieve stress, to maintain a healthy immune system, and for a welcomed distraction from COVID-19. In a quick pivot, my gym started producing videos that guide their customers through at-home workouts. They kept their focus on customer needs and rapidly adjusted their business model in response.

2. Foster collaboration with a remote workforce.

Most customer opportunities and challenges reach across functional boundaries. So, how do you foster cross-functional collaboration when your entire workforce is now virtual?

Technology plays a vital role here. Collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams help colleagues connect, share and organize work more effectively. I first started using Teams when I joined Centric and am a firm believer in the role this tool plays in helping virtual teams work more efficiently and effectively.

My colleague, Michael McNett, wrote an excellent blog on leveraging Microsoft Teams to keep businesses humming: Coronavirus and Remote Work: How Microsoft Teams Can Keep Your Business Running.

3. Optimize your eCommerce site.

Recently, our city mayor issued orders to end unnecessary travel as our community works to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. Now is the time for companies that may have put off enhancements in their eCommerce site to invest in this sales channel.

From navigation and design to improving product pages and increased personalization, every enhancement you make in this sales channel should intentionally lead users towards purchasing your products or services.

Preliminary data from Quantum Metric show that eCommerce associated with selected “Brick and Mortar retailers saw an average revenue weekly growth rate increase of 52% and an 8.8% increase in conversion rates,” compared to a year ago. The company bases its findings on more than 5 billion U.S. retailer web and mobile site visits between January 1 and February 29. As more of us receive instructions to stay home, we will likely look to make essential purchases online.

Stay Strong

While no one quite knows what the full impact of the coronavirus will be on businesses, this is not a time for hesitation or a wait and see approach. We are entering into a new reality that, at a minimum, is changing how we work and, in some cases, radically changing business models. Companies that succeed will stay relentlessly focused on their employees and customers as it makes decisions.

The post 3 Ways to Adjust to the New Norm for your Employees and Customers appeared first on Centric Consulting.

Salesforce Quip’s Role in Your COVID-19 Response

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Salesforce Quip offers a variety of features that make it easier to do remote work during COVID-19.


In these uncertain days of COVID-19, many companies who use Salesforce are looking for ways to get the most from the tool in remote, work-from-home environments.

Fortunately, Salesforce offers a solution called Quip that can help. Quip has been part of the Salesforce suite for some time. But due to COVID-19, the company pushed it to the forefront because Quip can increase overall Salesforce collaboration and utilization by adding rich collaboration capabilities. When I explain the tool to clients, I say: “Take the best of Google documents or sheets, embed that into a record in Salesforce, add chat and project management capabilities, and you’ll have Quip.”

The best part is, in response to the coronavirus crisis, any Salesforce customer or non-profit organization can get Quip Starter for free, now through September 30, 2020. Salesforce also has a great video about Quip to help you get started.

Need more tips, tools and techniques to work from anywhere?

What Can Quip Do for You?

I use it to collaborate on marketing posts and proposals and to communicate with Salesforce personnel on current projects. Users find Quip particularly beneficial for managing proposals because you can store every spreadsheet, timeline and even image in one location. I can look at an opportunity in Salesforce and see all of my communication and supporting documents in one place.

While some features are only available in Salesforce’s Customer 360 license, Quip Starter offers a great place to begin. Some of the most beneficial features add the power to:

  • Have chat discussions on a particular subtopic, keeping important information accessible in a long feed and keeping chats “in context” by the various elements
  • Use “@” mention to reach out to individuals and assign tasks
  • Gain flexibility to manage projects using Kanban
  • Access templates to help you get started and the flexibility to create your own if one of those don’t fit– the Quip template library is extensive, covering account planning, case swarms (used to collaborate on complex cases), campaign planning, project planning and, of course, meeting notes
  • Add calendars, timelines, Kanban views, checklists, integrate with JIRA, embed countdowns, poll your audience and more using Quip’s Live Apps

The Customer 360 version allows you to:

  • Embed Salesforce data into a Quip document
  • Embed Quip into a Salesforce object, making it easier to find
  • Two way sync with Salesforce Data

Quip Set Up and Features

Security is a critical consideration for remote tools. To help your Quip implementation move quickly, it secures all data out of the box, which administrators can control and audit. You also have the option to deploy to a single-tenant virtual private cluster or use Salesforce’s multi-tenant cloud offering.

How you implement Quip will differ for Salesforce Sales Cloud and Salesforce Service Cloud customers.

Sales Cloud customers can share detailed notes and collaborate with others to close deals faster. They can also develop collaborative pricing proposals, working with your sales teams, pricing teams and other parties to structure proposals effectively and tie them to the opportunity record in Salesforce.

Finally, Quip’s account planning features allow users to create account plans related to the account record using Salesforce’s template for account planning. Quip in Sales Cloud centralizes all communication regarding the account plan, its purpose, company hierarchy and SWOT analysis.

Service Cloud customers have the power to create case swarms. A case swarm is a grouping of cases that allows agents to focus on high priority cases and ignore distracting emails while accessing the data in front of them. Customers using Salesforce Knowledge can also benefit from Quip’s ability to enhance knowledge articles with decisions and case swarming information from every case. This feature addresses the common agent pain point of toggling between multiple screens to find all the information they need to get their work done.

Quip and the Road Ahead

In challenging times, it’s good to know that great resources like Salesforce Quip exist. Plus, Quip has a wonderful training platform that’s completely free. Trailhead offers learners a go-at-your-own-pace environment, which allows you to discover everything the Salesforce platform and community has to offer, including Quip.

The platform offers several trails for Quip, as well as start-up guides, webinars and an entire community ready to help. It’s a good reason to explore Salesforce’s publicly available Trailmix on Trailhead with its tips on how to work from home and maintain personal well-being during this stressful time.

We will get past this, and when we do, customers will come flocking back and new leads will emerge, making it even more important not to lose ground now. Tools like Quip can help you not only weather the storm but prepare for what’s next.

The post Salesforce Quip’s Role in Your COVID-19 Response appeared first on Centric Consulting.

[Podcast] Relieve Expedition: Data, Man on the Street

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In this episode of the Centric Biz and Tech Talks podcast, we talk to participants and attendees from our Expedition: Data event.


Data science and machine learning are gathering speed, moving from the technology sphere into day to day business.

Last year, Centric Consulting organized a machine learning hackathon at its spring meeting so its consultants could learn, experiment, and get even more excited about the new technology. It was a great success, but what could our Data & Analytics team do for an encore?

In this episode of Centric Biz and Tech Talks, we go on location Centric’s spring meeting and learn about the Expedition: Data event. For this event, we partnered with Microsoft and RevLocal to use live business data in different experiments, applying machine learning and data visualization to a client’s immediate business problems.

We talk with organizers, participants, and observers to hear about the event and what it’s accomplished. Watching it all was a representative of our client, and we get his perspective on the activity as well.

Join the team on this expedition into the jungles of data! Hear what we learned, what it means for business and what’s coming up next!

John Kackley is a senior manager and program manager at Centric Chicago.

Listen Here

The post [Podcast] Relieve Expedition: Data, Man on the Street appeared first on Centric Consulting.

[ebook]: Security & Governance Reference Guide for Team Owners

5 Tips for Virtual Networking on LinkedIn

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With the coronavirus changing all personal and professional social exchanges, virtual networking is more important than ever. We share a few tips on how to make connections on LinkedIn.


Way back in January, I set a New Years’ resolution to expand my business network, something that has always been a challenge for me, given:

  • I work from home and spend the vast majority of my day only seeing my cats
  • I’m a classic introvert who prefers yoga pants and hot tea to business suits and cocktail hours

Nevertheless, I set a goal of connecting with one new person on LinkedIn each day this year and using those new connections to grow real business relationships.

Then COVID-19 happened. Overnight, my goal of meeting new people on LinkedIn took on whole new importance. Instead of just being a personal hack to overcome my introverted tendencies, virtual networking became a business necessity.

Tips for Virtual Networking

If you find yourself working remotely now, and you’re wondering how to create and nurture relationships in our new virtual world, here my favorite tips and personal examples to give you a jump start on virtual networking.

1. Regularly comment on LinkedIn posts written by your first-degree connections.

If someone other than the author makes an interesting comment on the post, respond to them. Then send them a connection request with a brief note.

“I liked your comment about AI on our mutual connection, Jane Doe’s post. I am also passionate about this subject. What do you feel is the biggest thing companies aren’t considering regarding AI?”

2. Start an inMail conversation with anyone who comments on your posts.

Acknowledge your appreciation for their comment by hitting the like button and replying to them in the thread. Then, shift over to inMail and send them an email to continue the conversation.

“Glad you enjoyed my post on IoT. It is such a rapidly growing field with numerous industrial applications. Are you doing anything interesting in the space right now?”

3. Review who looked at your profile, and send a connection request to the intriguing ones.

It may feel a bit creepy at first to do this, but it’s worth it to move past feeling weird. Most of the time, if someone looks at your profile, they want to chat. Don’t be afraid to take the first step to initiate a conversation.

“Hi, John! I see that you are a journalist covering the emerging tech space. So many interesting things happening in this area – if you ever need a source, or just to bounce ideas, feel free to reach out. If I’m not the right person to respond to your question, I can probably connect you to someone who is.”

4. Accept all unsolicited connection requests.

I know some people keep their guard up with whom they connect with and never accept unsolicited requests. But, when it comes to virtual networking, the more, the merrier! Unsolicited requests can lead to engaging in far-reaching conversations on a variety of topics. I’ve participated in LinkedIn conversations ranging from financial markets in Egypt to venture capital in Youngstown. You never where a random request might take you.

“Thanks for pro-actively connecting with me. I see you are a researcher in the Natural Language Processing space. What are the most interesting advancements you are seeing in this field right now?”

5. Follow hashtags to find interesting people in your domain.

For instance, I follow #quantumcomputing, and LinkedIn serves up relevant articles from thought leaders in the space. When you read something you like, make sure you leave both a comment and a question for the author. This is a great way to drum up a conversation with an industry leader you may not have had an opportunity to connect with otherwise.

“Great article on the realistic timeline for quantum’s rollout to the commercial sector. Which industries do you think will adopt quantum quicker than others?”

Continue Expanding

So far, my quest for “daily LinkedIn befriending” has yielded many meaningful conversations and connections. Even when we eventually get back to business as usual, I plan to continue to pursue virtual connections to complement in-person networking mindfully.

If you are new to virtual networking, it might take some practice to feel comfortable implementing these tips. However, just like in-person events, the more you do it, the easier working the (virtual) room will feel. Keep growing your business relationships while respecting the need for social distancing– it’ll pay off in the long run.

The post 5 Tips for Virtual Networking on LinkedIn appeared first on Centric Consulting.

Transcript of Q&A Webinar: Using Microsoft Teams to Enable Remote Work

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Catch up on our Q&A webinar about Using Microsoft Teams to Enable Remote Work.


With more than 200 attendees submitting more than 50 questions, our “Using Microsoft Teams to Enable Remote Work” webinar was one of our most popular virtual events ever.

In fact, the hosts—Office 365 Teamwork Lead Michael McNett, Microsoft Certified Senior Solutions Architect Veenus Maximuik, and People & Change expert Phil Swettenham—extended the webinar 15 minutes past its scheduled end time to keep answering questions.

In the age of the coronavirus, the need for information about Microsoft Teams is great, and the webinar offered something for everyone in its technically diverse audience. According to a poll posted at the beginning of the webinar, 60% of the participants were just getting started with Teams, 19% had widely deployed it, and 15% were using other Office 365 tools like Outlook, OneDrive and SharePoint. 6% were not yet using Teams.

After providing a quick overview of Teams, the hosts dove into key topics such as how to deploy Teams rapidly, how to drive employee adoption, and how to maintain company culture and engagement. During the Q&A session, attendees took the discussion even deeper by exploring issues affecting specific industries and more advanced Teams functions.

VIEW THE FULL WEBINAR HERE

Have more questions? Email the hosts at teams@centricconsulting.com.

Below is the transcript from the webinar. Please note: The answers have been slightly edited to make it reader-friendly, and may not exactly follow the broadcast.


Microsoft Teams Q&A

Need a specific answer, click the links to jump straight to it.

Implementation Basics

  • How can I start using Teams today?
  • How does licensing work for the free trial? Are there any limitations on company size?
  • What tips do you have for making my implementation go more smoothly?
  • I have Teams, but I’m having trouble with adoption within my organization—can you help?
  • What are some keys to working effectively with Teams in a remote environment?

Integration with Office 365 and Other Apps, Plugins and Bots

  • What advice can you provide to help my organization transition from Skype to Teams?
  • What collaboration tools have you used successfully with Teams, such as Planner, Whiteboard? What other plugins would you recommend?
  • In SharePoint, each department has a site and some also have sub-sites or pages for individual workgroups. Would a typical Teams version of this include a department team along with workgroup teams or workgroup channels?
  • My team wants to use Teams for remote work, but my overall organization is unlikely to adopt change into its daily activities. Is it wise to use Teams when the rest of our organization will still be using Outlook and Skype?
  • My company only uses Teams for internal meetings and GoToMeeting for external. This is creating confusion. What advice do you have on when to use what and for what purpose?

Security, Governance and Day-to-Day Operations

  • We rely heavily on Outlook to archive and trace emails. How can I keep this level of communication and traceability when transitioning to Teams?
  • Is it true that channel notifications are turned off by default when you add someone to a new channel? If so, is there a way for us to post items to a channel yet enforce users to be notified? This is one of the roadblocks we are facing, and it’s causing users to default back to email.
  • What are some of the best practices for setting up a team versus a channel?
  • Are the Teams conversations saved anywhere, like discussions in Skype?

Training, Support and What Comes Next

  • We deployed Teams to our thousand-user organization yesterday. I am a collaboration systems engineer who is well known as a Teams subject matter expert (SME). I’m getting inundated with questions. Would a viable solution be to create a Teams site for support, or a channel in our corporate team where users could be directed to ask questions that our service desk personnel would monitor?
  • How do you measure effectiveness or utilization during the trial period to support a business case after a rapid deployment?

Teams and Healthcare

  • I work in healthcare. Is Teams HIPAA compliant?
  • Is Teams a viable option in the telehealth world?

Implementation Basics

How can I start using Teams today?

If you don’t have an Office 365 Tenant today, you can connect with a Microsoft certified partner to deploy an Office 365 trial, which includes Teams. Because of the coronavirus crisis, Microsoft is now providing the trial for free for six months. The free trial includes some of the most important features, including meet now—the ability to “ping” someone in real time to start an unscheduled one-off meeting—as well as video and audio calls. Your setup partner can also help you configure your Tenant so you can get started without worrying about what needs to be enabled or disabled.

Normally, we would recommend it to be much more intentional to include a lot more adoption and change management to include a deeper analysis of governance. But, in this case, don’t overthink it. If you want to support remote workers, get the bare minimum out there quickly.

That would require setting up your Tenants, your accounts, and the licenses that you want for all your different users. Then, after you have SharePoint, OneDrive and Teams, you can enable your chats and meetings. Some additional things that you could consider is audio conferencing.

You could also consider some possible security enhancements if required by your company.

But, every time you add these extra enhancements and automation, it slows down the process. What we recommend is a rapid two-day deployment that includes basic Tenants set up, your account set up, your licenses set up, and enabling all of the key functions and applications workloads across your Office 365 as well as configuration of some basic teams to support remote workers. It can be done very quickly.

When you’re doing the deployment, don’t over-complicate. We’re thinking of the human aspect of this. Communicate so people understand what’s required– how to install the system, how to use it and do some basic training. There are some really good tools out there. We have tools, and Microsoft has really good tools as well to make sure that people understand the basic navigation.

The advantage of Teams is it’s not excessively complicated. So, if you keep it simple for your first roll out – communicate its basic functionality, how to do chats, how to help conduct meetings, how to do video conferencing, things like that. It’s pretty easy to get up and running.

How does licensing work for the free trial? Are there any limitations on company size?

The free trial has a 1,000-seat limit. If your organization is larger than 1,000 seats, you can contact Microsoft and use the Office 365 E1 trial. That one is also good for six months, but with no limits on the use of seats. The other requirement is that you don’t already have Office 365 from the trial or an Exchange Online plan. Also, you won’t be able to extend it for another six months.

Your organization could qualify for a 6-month free trial of Teams.

What tips do you have for making my implementation go more smoothly?

First, start with the core functions of Teams: chats, meetings, calls and file sharing. You’ll also want to have support in place who can answer the most common questions, like, “How do I start a conversation with a colleague?” or “How do I share a file in a conversation?”

This can be as simple as directing the users to use the built-in help provided by the Teams Client itself, which mainly consists of short, 30-second videos that can answer many basic questions.

A couple of other great tips that we have learned from experience would be:

  • Start small. You could start with an organization-wide team as well as two to three critical teams, depending on your business needs. As you roll out Teams, you can consider other components, such as audio conferencing, which allows you to join a Teams meeting with a regular phone instead of the Teams Client.
  • Don’t forget about security. Just because we are self-isolating, doesn’t mean you don’t need to keep looking out for spammers and bad actors. An example of a security measure you can take right away is enabling second-factor authentication.

I have Teams, but I’m having trouble with adoption within my organization—can you help?

As you are experiencing, adoption is one of the biggest challenges. Just because you build it and set it out there doesn’t mean that people are going use it. And if you don’t have a good adoption approach, they will fall back on their old way of doing business, which often means more and more email.

One great way to engage people with Teams is to help them understand that it does not just have to be for businesses. Teams can mimic the same type of “water cooler talk” they have always enjoyed, for example. That’s especially important in today’s environment because people need to be able to connect, even if they can only do so virtually.

Also, when you’re doing the deployment, don’t overcomplicate it. And, invest time in training. People need to understand what’s required, how to install the system and how to use it.

Our company has some good training tools, and Microsoft does too, of course. The advantage of Teams is it’s not excessively complicated. If you keep it simple for your first roll out – basic functionality and navigation, how to do chats, how to conduct meetings, how to do videoconferencing – it’s pretty easy to get up and running.

And lastly, just communicate — communicate often. You cannot over-communicate in this case. Let your people know what Teams is for and why it’s there, but also make sure they understand that there are some limits. You’re deploying this very rapidly to enable that remote worker. It’s not, necessarily, to solve all the collaboration and communication needs of your organization.

The trick is, all of this has to come from the top, right? So, if you have a leader who’s not abiding by this, talk to them. Say, “We really need to get people into the Teams environment. Let’s move those conversations off your email put them into Teams.”

What are some keys to working effectively with Teams in a remote environment?

The coronavirus pandemic s a catastrophic thing we’re all facing, but, in many respects, it’s just accelerating what was already coming. A recent global workplace analytics study based on information from the last Census said that 3.6 percent of current American employees are working remotely. By 2028, it’s expected to be 78 percent. 

Fortunately for us at Centric, we’ve been a virtual company now for 20 years, so we can offer some lessons on how to work remotely, though a lot of what we have learned applies to any working environment:

  • Trust each other. If you’re a leader who doesn’t trust your team to work remotely, your chance of success isn’t going to be very good. You’re not going to be seeing people face-to-face, but you still have to lean on your team, wherever they are, and make this thing work
  • Establish a working space. Having a working space where you’re free from distractions or you don’t have children and dogs and things running in and out of the room is important, so you can focus on work.
  • Keep a similar routine. Keep the same office hours you’ve always kept, but just do it remotely from your home office. But, there’s a flip side to this. One recent study said that remote workers typically work four days more a month than people who are working on-site, so it’s not just about 8 to 5 in the office. Makes space for yourself and make space for family–particularly in these trying times with the coronavirus. You have to be socially balanced, too.
  • Be understanding. The remote workforce is much more relaxed; accept that things will be different. You may be in a meeting and hear someone say, “I’m going to step outside to the back garden now, so you may hear my dog barking.” Be as open as possible to this new environment.
  • Connect with video. At Centric, we use video a lot, which helps provide the visual cues that you can miss by not having face-to-face contact. You can’t judge emotion with email, chat or even Teams chat, so video can help with that.
  • Be present. In the world of remote working, it’s really easy to do multiple things at once. You’re on a meeting with your team members, and there’s a regular stand up going on, you can answer emails, you can do other things in the background. I think it’s important to be present in that conversation. Your colleagues will know if you’re not, and so will you.
  • Have fun. Particularly now. Things like virtual happy hours and virtual lunches allow you to interact with your team. That’s very important.

Integration with Office 365 and Other Apps, Plugins and Bots

What advice can you provide to help my organization transition from Skype to Teams?

Go all in. If you get into island mode, with some people using Skype and some using Teams, it just causes frustration. You’re going to have to do it anyway by July 31, 2021, so just go all in. Rip the Band-Aid off fast. Get to use the tool as needed and integrate your video stuff and chat stuff all within Teams instead of having it located in two different places.

What collaboration tools have you used successfully with Teams, such as Planner or Whiteboard? What other plugins would you recommend?

The first thing, and it’s not a plugin, but don’t overlook coauthoring. It’s something we use day in day out at Centric, and it is key to building a culture of collaboration.

A couple of good plugins are Envision and Mural. They’re great for brainstorming. It’s just like a virtual whiteboard.

Planner has some good use cases within Teams, but it doesn’t replace a larger project management tool like Microsoft Project. For smaller groups, it lets everyone have a view of who’s doing what on the project and makes it easier to move tasks from one phase to another.

The bigger issue is more about how you organize your teams and what information you’re presenting to everybody that’s going to those teams.

Don’t forget RSS news feeds. That’s a nice tool to give automatic information about specific topics within your channels.

In SharePoint, each department has a site, and some also have subsites or pages for individual workgroups. Would a typical Teams version of this include a department team along with workgroup teams or workgroup channels?

As people start to use Teams, they become enamored and see that it’s solving so many collaboration problems. Gradually, they start to think that Teams is the place to go for everything. But, there’s still a need for SharePoint, OneDrive and Teams–they all interact together for full functionality.

SharePoint provides a location where you can have authoritative information that’s more communicative rather than collaboration oriented. You need this for HR policies, for example. And, it’s where you go to view your intranet if it’s SharePoint based.

If you have a set of sites today—one for a department, and so on—there may still be a need for those SharePoint sites, but, maybe some of those are so collaboration-oriented that you could put them into a team within Microsoft Teams.

At the department level – again, your HR department a good example—you may need a team for internal team collaboration, as well as a SharePoint site that anyone in the organization can go to for HR policies. It just requires some analysis and figuring out how you are using the tools today, which are more collaborative, and which are more communicative.

My team wants to use Teams for remote work, but my overall organization is unlikely to adopt change into its daily activities. Is it wise to use Teams when the rest of our organization will still be using Outlook and Skype?

Teams all the way. The more you get people into it by getting them into a meeting, using some the tools, and sharing your displays about how you’re using teams day-to-day, they will gradually be sold on it.

We started putting Teams in place at Centric back in October 2018. About 10 months into it, we did a survey asking a lot of different questions. About 75 percent of the people said Teams has greatly increased their overall effectiveness and efficiency.

You’re always going to have outliers. Pockets of outliers can present problems if you don’t just go all-in and start getting people on the platform.

In the end, that’s what will help people understand that our organization will improve as a whole if we get more and more people to embrace this technology.

It truly can change how you operate in your workplace. 

My company only uses Teams for internal meetings and GoToMeeting for external. This is creating confusion. What advice do you have on when to use what and for what purpose?

We have had some Teams clients use different meeting capabilities, but they tend to switch over to Teams for all meetings, whether internally or with clients.

I can’t think of a reason not to use Microsoft Teams meetings at this point unless you’re doing a webinar, and you’re trying to gather extra statistics and information about your end-users.

Security, Governance and Day-to-Day Operations

We rely heavily on Outlook to archive and trace emails. How can I keep this level of communication and traceability when transitioning to Teams?

If you set up a team for your group, you can track conversations and documents. The difficulty is when people start doing just one-on-one chats or one-to-many chats that are outside of a team. Putting it into a team and a channel is an appropriate way to enable that tracking.

That said, Microsoft does have built-in content searches, e-discovery and auditing that you can run to track down even those personal conversations between two individuals if you need to. You can also have that “audit behind the scenes” if you are looking for it.

Finally, you can always turn off the ability for people to delete or edit their messages. Team owners can do those things, but you can turn that off at the team level itself.

Is it true that channel notifications are turned off by default when you add someone to a new channel? If so, is there a way for us to post items to a channel yet enforce users to be notified? This is one of the roadblocks we are facing, and it’s causing users to default back to email.

I don’t know if it’s default or not, but I do know that when you create a channel, you establish a default so that notifications are shown for every member. Still, users can always go back and hide it.

Notifications are one of those features within Teams that most people pay very little attention to, but it has one of the biggest impacts as far as how well you can operate day-to-day.

If you turn up your notifications too much, you can get overwhelmed and probably frustrated. if you turn down those notifications too much, you don’t get the information that you need to, or that people are trying to communicate with. It goes back to repeated, continual education and reminders of how the tool can be used.

What are some of the best practices for setting up a team versus a channel?

There are some best practices around things like putting a new team in place if you need the guard information. But, now that you have Private Channels within Teams, you can guard and send information through them.

For small workgroups—say, five or ten people—you can suddenly have people creating too many channels within the team that causes problems when you start getting larger groups of people within a team. In those cases, you need to be very intentional about setting up channels within the team.

The two main things are:

  1. Don’t just do it overnight.
  2. Communicate.

Get the group together and really talk about the different use cases. Then, manage who can create channels and who can delete channels. For example, as the team owner for a small group, you can give all members the power to create, delete or edit channels if you want, but you wouldn’t want to do that in larger groups.

Are the Teams conversations saved anywhere, like discussions in Skype?

Yes, there are personal hidden mailboxes stored in Exchange Online. Even if you go with the free trial version of Teams that Microsoft makes available, it doesn’t have an Exchange Online component to it, but when you have conversations—whether a personal one-on-one chat, a group chat, or a chat within a Teams channel—all of that information is stored in the Azure Cloud in Microsoft.

So, if you need to, you can do things like perform a legal hold or do content searches. At a later time, you can capture and keep that data if you need to turn it over for litigation purposes, for example.

Training, Support and What Comes Next

We deployed Teams to our thousand-user organization yesterday. I am a collaboration systems engineer who is well known as a Teams subject matter expert (SME). I’m getting inundated with questions. Would a viable solution be to create a Teams site for support or a channel in our corporate team where users could be directed to ask questions that our service desk personnel would monitor?

Yes, but here is one extra thing to help you out. There is this bot that you can install called Faqbot. It allows users to interact within your Teams environment and ask questions, like:

  • What are these things called private chats?
  • How do I create a team?
  • How do I create a channel?

The bot will go back to its knowledge base and look for those questions. Then it provides an answer, takes it to the next step and says, “If I don’t know the answer, I’m going to escalate this to somebody at the help desk.”

By doing that for those most common questions, you ease that IT workload while providing the ability to hand it off to a human. It takes a little bit of time to build out your knowledge base, but as far as installing it and enabling it, it’s pretty straightforward.

Microsoft has also made huge strides in Teams Help. If you haven’t visited it yet, just click the Help button in the lower-left corner of the Teams page. Some licenses also include two-minute embedded videos.

Finally, if you already have Office 365 and are pretty comfortable with it, check out Microsoft Learning Pathways. It’s a tool to build out a standard training site focused on doing basic tasks in Office 365. You can also customize it.

For example, you can turn off all the Planner-related help topics in Microsoft Learning Pathways if you’re not interested in Planner, and add your own branded training that’s directly related to your company.

How do you measure effectiveness or utilization during the trial period to support a business case after a rapid deployment?

We do this a lot when we roll out Teams and use the O365 Metrics Hub, which is brilliant for giving you information. It doesn’t tell you what people are doing, but it tells you how they’re using the tool. You can see, for example:

  • How many licenses you’ve implemented
  • How many people have actually logged in in the last couple of days
  • How many chats are consumed

You can also get more detailed metrics within the Microsoft 365 Power BI add-on. Those are useful, but all they’re going show is numbers and trends. What those numbers still are not telling you is how much do people like it?

Have you gone out and surveyed them, asked them:

  • What are your pain points?
  • How can we make it better?

By doing that, you’re getting the feedback from the end-users. It’s not just about tracking numbers and graphs– it’s acting on those, and you can only do that by asking more qualitative questions rather than just strictly quantitative measurements you get from the graphs.

Also, think about what we’re all dealing with right now. We’re all working remotely, and you get to more of the social question, perhaps, “How connected are people are feeling?”

We did a global rollout of team for an organization, and a lot of things they were dealing with for their global sales team were that they were spread across many countries. Before we implemented Teams, we asked, “How well connected to your team do you feel? How well you feel that your organization shares information?”

Then we rolled out Teams and asked the same questions. The responses went dramatically up. Can you attach a business case to it? No, but it’s still extremely valuable to capture that emotional feedback—especially now.

Teams and Healthcare

I work in healthcare. Is Teams HIPAA compliant?

Microsoft Teams is HIPAA compliant, and there are a variety of different extra security enhancements that you can put onto your Office 365 and Teams environment to make sure that it meets all of your internal regulatory or security requirements.

For example, in healthcare, I can use Teams on my mobile app to take a picture of something, like a wound on a patient, and that picture is stored securely within Microsoft Teams– it’s not even located on the phone itself.

Is Teams a viable option in the telehealth world?

Teams is being used for telemedicine today, and they are relaxing some of the requirements regarding the use of different types of tools to enable better healthcare. That relaxation will likely open up even more opportunities for tools like Teams in healthcare.

Recently, a bot came out that actually helps people determine – based on their symptoms – if they are likely to have the coronavirus, and it can also do a handoff to a human to determine the next steps for triage.

The post Transcript of Q&A Webinar: Using Microsoft Teams to Enable Remote Work appeared first on Centric Consulting.

How to Develop a Plan for Crisis Communications

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When your business turns upside down due to a crisis event, start your crisis communications plan from the inside out.


When the unexpected happens, your gut reaction as a leader is often to focus on immediate communication with customers. This drive derives from both the positive desire always to be customer-centric and the fear of lost business and long-term impacts.

Quick communication is essential, but the success of these efforts will depend on the consistency of your “official” external messages with what your employees have to say and how they say it both on the job and off.

Developing a strong internal employee communication plan is the foundation for a positive company culture, exceptional customer experience, and a favorable impression in your community.

Start With the Basics

Ideally, you’ll be able to plan ahead using hypothetical scenarios. In quiet times, develop a Business Continuity Plan that includes employee communication guidelines. Whether you imagine a hurricane, fire, flood or pandemic, you can outline the basics.

For example, the plan might include the following example process:

  • At the first indication of a possible impact, leadership meets and identifies the communication needs likely to result
  • First communication (define email, conference call, or in-person) to employees of the impact and that leadership is reviewing needs and options to ensure business continuity
  • Next communication outlines the first stages of business response, acknowledges remaining questions to be answered, and sets the cadence for future regular communications

Make sure your plan defines who should be included from the leadership team to develop a communication plan and describes how you will communicate – is email, a conference call, a Teams organization-wide message, or an in-person meeting best? You may decide this on a case-by-case basis, and it might end up being a combination of all options. If you include criteria for which you use for different needs, it will help you move quickly in the heat of the moment.

Once you define your process, you’re ready to move to the next step.

Prepare Your Response Messages

Before jumping in with a spontaneous response, pause. Take a moment to:

  • Identify likely employee concerns.
  • Prepare answers to as many concerns as possible.
  • Acknowledge the questions you can’t answer immediately.
  • Provide an expected timeline for when you might have answers.
  • Provide a process for questions you may not have considered – whether a “questions@” email address that routes to a leadership group or one central person. To maintain trust, you must commit to responding to each question received.

But don’t pause for too long.

Leaders sometimes feel it is best not to say anything until complete answers are available. This approach is a mistake. Employees need to feel confident that you are considering solutions, even if you’re not ready to share all the details. Timing is critical– know employees will begin to worry immediately about both their concerns stemming from the business impact and about appearing competent in front of customers.

Without rapid communication from leadership, it is difficult for employees to provide great customer service. They will face customer questions immediately. As soon as possible, provide tools like talking point documents, scripts or email templates to make answers to likely customer questions easily accessible. For example, a distribution company would include information about changes to normal delivery schedules (Will they change or stay the same? If you’re taking it day by day, share that, too.)

Tone also matters – don’t fall into the trap of trying to be overly casual. Employees need to know you take their concerns seriously, and they will follow your lead in how they communicate outside the company. Remember, the general public and media representatives may contact your employees directly. Do you have guidelines for how these contacts route through your company and are all of your employees aware of how you want media queries handled?

Maintain Communication

As the situation evolves, sharing regular updates will be important. Ongoing communication may be something as simple as a weekly employee email with updates on business continuity efforts. Consider setting up a simple intranet page to have a go-to location for employees to check for communication templates, relevant news or revised business processes.

Also, think about how employees will work and communicate with each other during the crisis if the situation requires working off-site. The value of good collaboration tools for daily work becomes even more evident during a disaster. Small offices may use file share services or video chat already. But these don’t support day-to-day operations and communication very well—even a simple “Who is working today?” This type of visibility is a benefit to using a true collaboration platform. For example, status indicators in Microsoft Teams effectively allow coworkers to look over and see if someone is “at their desk” if they have a question.

If your company isn’t using a solution like Microsoft Teams, develop a process for checking in each day. For a small workforce, this could be a simple morning email with each person responding and sharing their plans and needs for the day.

Checking in has another function: verifying everyone’s safety and well-being. Internal communications efforts are meaningless if team members are in danger or unwell. What is your process for making sure no one is missing?

For example, I experienced the need for this while working at a downtown office during a gas explosion that leveled part of a city block. We had to evacuate, and it was critical for each department to ensure their group was out of the building safely, a physical headcount completed, and confirmation communicated back to leadership.

The Covid-19 pandemic presents the challenge of checking in on employees frequently over a longer period of time and possibly in a new work from home arrangement. In a remote work environment, you can mimic physical headcounts through scheduling check-in meetings, by creating a calling tree or setting up a buddy system.

Conclusion

Once you have the plan, process and key messages determined, you can be confident you have set your employees up for success to help your business weather the crisis.

The post How to Develop a Plan for Crisis Communications appeared first on Centric Consulting.

When It’s Time to Change, You’ve Got to Rearrange (Your Thoughts on RPA)

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When implementing RPA, be sure to include People and Change Management and ITSM as part of the discussion as you venture down the automation highway.


For those of us of a certain age, we grew up watching the Brady Bunch, and I am sure, if you are like me, you had your favorite Brady. For me, it was Peter. I could relate to him and all of the changes he went through during the run of the show.

One of those memorable times is when his voice began to change, and Greg wrote a song specifically for him where he sang, “When it’s time to change, you’ve got to rearrange.” And, as they say, the rest is history.

So, at this point, I am sure you are asking yourself, “what does the Brady Bunch and change have to do with Robotic Process Automation (RPA)?” Let me explain.

Using RPA in Change Management

Before stepping into RPA, I spent 10 years in the IT Service Management (ITSM) space, helping organizations improve their service management processes. One of the processes always under consideration was change management. Move ahead several years, and I continue to hear about change management, but this time in the RPA space.

Having spent many years supporting both ITSM and RPA, whenever I hear the phrase “change management,” I have to ask the person if they mean IT change management, an ITSM discipline, or People and Change Management, sometimes referred to as Organizational Change Management (OCM)— a discipline that needs to be part of your RPA program. Knowing what they mean, even without any content, I can then take them down the right discussion path.

So, back to my previous query, “What does this have to do with RPA?” Organizations often overlook ITSM and People and Change Management as part of an RPA implementation program. Most organizations focus so intently on reviewing processes for automation and then developing the bots, they overlook how this will impact their employees and morale and long-term, and how to maintain and support their automation environment effectively. This misstep can lead to an RPA implementation that fails and does not realize the full benefits the company set out to achieve.

People and Change Management

When allowed to consult with organizations across a variety of industries about RPA, the question we invariably get from staff members who execute the processes is: “Am I going to lose my job?” The good news is almost all of the organizations we have worked with reallocated the staff to more value-add work versus eliminating their jobs.

The reason this question comes up more often than not— an organization decides to bring RPA in-house before engaging our practice, and they do not adequately vet the impacts of their actions on those whom they may directly impact. People and Change Management is an area we bring up during our initial discussions with a prospective RPA customer as an effective RPA program must include this aspect as well.

Some steps to help move a successful People and Change Management program forward include, but are not limited to:

  • Conduct a stakeholder assessment to identify key needs​
  • Ensure leadership buy-in and alignment to the initiative​
  • Utilize engagement methods that will work best for your organization and the current culture​
  • Enlist RPA Champions/Evangelizers to help bring about the necessary change​
  • Plan an internal marketing campaign​
  • Be prepared to have those difficult conversions, when applicable​
  • Ensure on-going communication during and most importantly, after, the move to an automation platform​
  • Look for ways to utilize human resources better, allowing for opportunities to learn different aspects of the business​

Part of the program needs to be an effective communication strategy and process, similar to what I outline below. This step should be modified to meet the needs of your organization, but the following should be a good foundation that you can build upon.

ITSM RPA

The test of a successful People and Change Management effort is the ability to accomplish the desired shift in culture while at the same time, creating the organizational capability to undertake subsequent change efforts faster and more effectively. ​

IT Service Management

Most companies have some form of IT Service Management within their organization. Some ITSM keep very detailed disciplines while others are very lean, but both can work, depending upon the type of business you manage. Incident Management, IT Change Management, and Knowledge Management are a few of the critical areas of a good ITSM implementation.

Since many organizations initiate and manage RPA programs by a non-IT group (I don’t recommend this, and will explain more on that topic in a future post), the concept of ITSM does not come into the discussion. The goal is to get bots developed and working without any insight into how to effectively manage the deployment and subsequent support of those bots in a production environment.

As bots become a part of your organization’s production environment, you need to manage these similarly to other application and infrastructure items in the environment. They need to be a part of the broader support landscape.

Key items to address when deploying and managing production bots include, but are not limited to:

  • Integration – Merging current tools with existing Service Management tools, such as ServiceNow or HP Service Manager.
  • Incident Management – How will you manage production issues with the bots? How will users report problems of the bot not doing what they expect it to do?
  • IT Change Management – Will changes go through a Change Advisory Board (CAB) as part of the larger enterprise or managed separately?
  • IT Knowledge Management – Do you need to prepare documents for the Knowledge Repository for each bot created?
  • Service Level Agreements – Are there SLAs in place for bot Incident Management? Are they different than SLAs for other applications and technologies?
  • Disaster Recovery and Capacity Planning – What is Plan B if bots cannot run due to environment and infrastructure issues? Is there a plan in place to promote Continuous Process Improvement of the efficiency and efficacy of the bot?
  • Application Management – Is there a plan in place to ensure application teams understand if bots access their applications and the impact of application changes?

Are You Ready to Change?

RPA is changing the way organizations perform their daily activities. Software bots, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other automation disciplines help to streamline organizations, bringing improved employee and customer satisfaction. But do not overlook the areas that can lead to a poorly defined and executed RPA program. People and Change Management and ITSM need to be a part of the discussion as you venture down the automation highway.

Just as Peter needed help from Greg to get through his “change,” you too may need some assistance as you move your organization to be more automation-centered.

Bob Dylan so aptly put it when he said, “Oh the times, they are a changin'” Are you?

The post When It’s Time to Change, You’ve Got to Rearrange (Your Thoughts on RPA) appeared first on Centric Consulting.

What Should I Know about Snowflake?

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Snowflake is an up and coming cloud database platform. Learn some of its nuances and why you may want to use it.


Cloud data platform Snowflake is growing quickly and getting a lot of press.  So, what is it exactly, and is there more to it than a quirky name? How does it compare with data products from Microsoft, Amazon and Google? Should I use it, and what for?

Here are a few things you should know.

What Is It?

At heart, Snowflake is a database platform – think SQL Server or Oracle – purpose-built from scratch for the cloud. Its developers kept familiar concepts (tables, views, SQL queries) but threw out all assumptions about how databases traditionally work and embraced everything cloud computing offers.

Being cloud-native opens all kinds of interesting doors:

  • Completely separate storage and compute
  • Massively parallel processing (MPP)
  • Pay-as-you-go usage with scaling on demand
  • Durable, distributed and effectively infinite storage

Let’s look behind each of these doors.

Storage

Snowflake breaks data into small, immutable files stored as multiple copies in cheap and plentiful object storage (AWS S3, Azure Blob Storage, Google Buckets) designed to reliably hold and distribute enormous amounts of data (think Netflix). The largest single database run by a Snowflake customer is four petabytes and growing.

It keeps storage completely separate from the compute power used to query it – unlike a server or a virtual machine, you don’t need to pay for more storage space to get a more powerful engine, or vice-versa. Snowflake calls its compute engines “warehouses,” to reinforce the idea that each department (or each user) can have “their own data warehouse.”

When Snowflake refers to a warehouse, however, think only about the workers and forklifts – not the stuff. Any warehouse (compute engine) can process any data, and multiple warehouses can access the same data at the same time without interfering with each other at all.

Massively Parallel Processing

Under the covers, Snowflake uses an MPP architecture, similar to Hadoop. Picture the fiction section of a library, where they arrange all the books by author. Now imagine you want to find all the books with “dog” in the title. There might be a few dozen, but they’d be scattered all over the shelves, and you’d have to look at each title in turn to find them all. With MPP, when you say, “SELECT * FROM fiction WHERE title LIKE ‘%dog%’,” a whole bunch of librarians fan out, each checking one shelf and bringing the results back to you. Unlike Hadoop, however, you don’t need to learn a new way of asking – Snowflake is fully ANSI-SQL compliant, so you can write the standard SQL queries you’re used to.

Performance and Trade-Offs

Query performance is, in a word, impressive. For example, one of our clients had a query that took three-plus hours in Oracle (when it ran at all), and now it runs in just about three minutes. There’s a bit of a catch, though: Snowflake optimized their platform for storing and querying large amounts of data, not for performing one-off transactions. Because it distributes the data in immutable files, updating individual records is relatively slow. You would never use it as the database for an interactive application. Snowflake is your database for analysis, dashboards, data science, and more.

Other Benefits

While they may take a little longer to update, immutable files give you a couple of other interesting benefits. Because the original file never changes during an update:

  • There’s no conflict with simultaneous reads and updates – a reader will simply get the previous version of the data if the update hasn’t finished yet.
  • You can make a quick virtual copy of a table or an entire database, called a “zero-copy clone,” without using up any additional storage. The “clone” is simply a pointer to the original files. This step happens nearly instantly and only starts using additional storage when you make a change to one of the copies (and only the amount necessary to store the change).

If you enable “time travel,” it will hang onto old versions of the files for a while, so you can query the data precisely as it was an hour, a day, or a week ago. This feature also means that you can “un-drop” a table after accidentally deleting it.

Pricing Model

With compute separate from storage, you need to make some careful comparisons based on how you’ll use it. The storage is cheap. Snowflake passes through the cost of the underlying provider (currently $23 per TB per month for Amazon S3). The compute appears relatively expensive on a per-hour basis, but it doesn’t run 24 hours a day like a traditional database server. Think of it more like an automatic faucet. It starts when someone wants to use it and shuts down when they’re finished.

Cloud Considerations

In the cloud data warehousing space, Snowflake most directly compares to AWS Redshift, Azure Synapse Data Warehouse and Google BigQuery. If you already have a successful Redshift, Synapse or BigQuery environment, you may be happy to stick with it. However, in our experience, Snowflake is easier to set up and maintain than any of those, as there’s effectively no maintenance other than managing usage and security. Snowflake’s built-in logic takes care of indexing and query optimization, so there isn’t any traditional performance-tuning work.

For connecting to your existing cloud environments and tools, Snowflake has subscriptions running on AWS, Azure and Google. This feature makes little difference to your user experience, but choosing the cloud provider you already use makes connectivity simpler and cheaper.

Snowflake takes rigorous security measures. It encrypts all data while in motion and at rest, and there are options certified for HIPAA and government work. Everything defaults to least-access. Unlike traditional databases, you can’t give someone access to the entire database in a single step, even if you want to.

The Upshot

Snowflake is getting a lot of attention because it’s a cloud database that’s fast and easy to use, and it integrates smoothly with your preferred cloud platform without locking you into any of them. It’s not the solution to every problem, but if you want to explore and analyze a lot of structured data in a familiar SQL environment, Snowflake fits the bill.

The post What Should I Know about Snowflake? appeared first on Centric Consulting.

Update online reviews to increase trust in your business

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This article was originally published on March 26, 2020, and was updated on April 1, 2020. 

Having an accurate, up-to-date online presence has always been important for earning and maintaining your customers’ trust. Given the instability COVID-19 has introduced to the market, upholding the promises made to your customers by your advertising content is absolutely vital.

Upholding the promises made to your customers by your advertising content is absolutely vital.

COVID-19 is creating an environment where news is constantly changing, even by the hour. People are distracted, and they need products and services from companies that they can trust.

You can alleviate customer concerns with user reviews.

 

I’m going to give you the steps for how to feature reviews on your site, or social media, so your customers can buy with confidence.

Before we dive into how to add reviews, let’s go over why they add value.

Related: 8 ways to get more product reviews

Trust is hard to come by

Brand loyalty goes beyond confidence in transparent data practices or fair pricing, the same way that trust in romantic partner goes beyond faith in their fidelity or financial responsibility.

Sure, those are big-ticket items, but there are smaller, more mundane things that matter just as much.

  • Will they be where you expect them to be, when you expect them to be there?
  • Will they answer the phone when you call?
  • Will they take steps to make sure you’re safe when you’re with them?

We may not have the benefit of partner reviews (million-dollar idea alert), but we do have endless options for reviewing businesses online.

Respond to all reviews

Personally, I don’t do business with anyone who doesn’t have a few reviews out there. What might seem counter-intuitive, is that I’m more inclined to trust a company if their reviews include one or two negative posts as well. Someone who’s been around and has no negative reviews appears to be hiding bad feedback, even though that’s certainly not always the case.

Pro tip: Don’t delete bad reviews, reply to them.

Responding to a negative review shows that you care, that you’re honest, and how you react to unhappy customers. That kind of candor earns a lot of goodwill. I cannot stress enough how far that goodwill will carry in a social climate like the one we’re experiencing now.

The other thing I pay close attention to is the dates on the reviews. A review that’s 3-years-old does nothing for me. That business may have changed ownership, gotten a new manager, or even closed.

In the age of COVID-19 closures, depending on where you live, and your proximity to new confirmed cases or community spread, there are tons of additional variables to consider.

Reduce the variables for your customers

Businesses are closing their doors, running out of inventory, or moving to remote service models faster than your average consumer can keep up. Everyone is inundated with news alerts and new information. They are scrambling to sort through what’s changed, what’s right, and what they should ignore.

A visible review, posted in the last few days, could be the difference between a sale and a scroll down to the next vendor.

By showing the trust of your current customers, new customers are far more likely to gamble on you.

Manage your reviews

With Websites + Marketing

If you have a site with GoDaddy Websites + Marketing, you can manage product reviews, Google reviews and Facebook business reviews all in one place.

  1. From your product page, scroll to Websites + Marketing and click Manage next to your store.
  2. On the dashboard, open your products.
  3. If you have:
    • Websites + Marketing Online Store – Select Overview. Then select Enable Reviews in the Track & Capture Sales section.
    • Premium Online Store – Expand the Promote drop-down and select Promote.
  4. Select Turn On next to Product Reviews.
  5. Enter the email address where review approvals should be sent, and then select:
    •  Sign Up (Websites + Marketing)
    • or Enable (Premium Online Store)
  6. Once you’re set up, return here to Manage Reviews as they come in.

You can read the full instructions to enable reviews on your store here.

When Google re-launches Reviews capabilities on Google My Business Profiles, you’ll be able to manage reviews posted on Google, as well.

Using the WooCommerce plugin on WordPress

WordPress has options for managing reviews, as well. If WooCommerce isn’t already active, you may need to enable it.

Pro Tip: If your WordPress installation doesn’t already have WooCommerce, you can install it for free. Click Plugins on the left, select Add New, search for “WooCommerce,” and Install.

To enable WooCommerce:

  1. Scroll to WooCommerce in your Plugins list, and then select Activate.
  2. Use the Setup Wizard to Get started, or fill in your business info manually.

Once WooCommerce is enabled:

  1. Click WooCommerce on the left navigation.
  2. Select Settings.
  3. When the General information is complete, go to the Products tab.
  4. Under Reviews, adjust the settings to meet your needs and Save Changes.

Read the full instructions to get started using WooCommerce here.

Certain extensions may require additional steps. For example, here’s how to manage customer reviews using Yotpo. When in doubt, check the help documentation for your extension.

On Facebook and Google Business Listings

Don’t have Websites + Marketing or WordPress? Not to worry. You can enable reviews on your Facebook business page and ask users to review your products and/or services in clever ways. You could:

  • Host competitions with discounts for the best unboxing videos of your product.
  • Give prizes for the best before/after photos from a customer who used your service(s).
  • Work with an influencer on your social app of choice to do a video product review.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 conditions have led to Google suspending all new reviews (and review responses) on Business Profiles as they prioritize critical services. On the plus side, your competitors are in the same boat. Pushing social media recommendations may give you the edge you need.

At the end of the day, even amidst all the uncertainty around us, people trust people. Transparent, real-time reviews written by customers are far more impactful than any marketing communication you can craft for people impacted by COVID-19.


You can do this!

If you need a helping hand, we’re here for you.

Above all, have faith in yourself. We have faith in you.


 

The post Update online reviews to increase trust in your business appeared first on GoDaddy Blog.

Returns and refunds policy templates for online shopping sites

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This article was originally published on Sept. 29, 2018, and was updated on April 1, 2020.

In the world of ecommerce, we know this much is true: If you sell online, you’ll eventually encounter a customer seeking returns and refunds for items purchased at your store. But don’t panic, take it personally, or assume shoppers are unhappy with your product or service. Returns also occur when a delivered item is damaged, clothing doesn’t fit, or the item that arrived is not what customers thought they were buying.

Refunds Graphic

No matter the reason, your policy and strategy for handling returns and refunds will impact customers’ shopping experiences, shape their level of satisfaction, and influence the likelihood of them becoming return shoppers.

Once you have such a policy in place, extenuating circumstances might necessitate a Returns Contingency Plan (noted as RCP below) to accommodate unpredictable — perhaps even previously unimaginable — scenarios.

When might a contingency plan be put into action? Naturally, the current COVID-19 situation is on everyone’s mind, but once that is behind us, there may be other such situations. Consider natural disasters (e.g., earthquake, hurricane), or perhaps the situation that occurred in my Northern California hometown last fall, where the utility company was forced to shut off power for days at a time in hopes of preventing fires.

Having a plan positions you to take immediate action, allowing you to help customers sooner, and more appropriately.

Related: How to reshape your return policies to maintain trust and customer satisfaction

Why have a policy for returns and refunds?

There are quite a few reasons you’d want rules in place for returns and refunds. These are some of the biggest ones among ecommerce merchants:

  • You want to inspire shopper confidence in your business, products and services.
  • You need to demonstrate your commitment to customer satisfaction — immediately implementing your RCP demonstrates that commitment at a time when customers are already experiencing heightened concern and stress.
  • You have an obligation to inform customers about their rights as part of the purchasing process at your business.

Related: 7 things to include in an exchange policy

What is included in a policy for returns and refunds?

A quick search will return several quality results for a return policy template. Keep these basics for inclusion in mind when you craft your own policy:

  • What form refunds take
  • The eligibility time frame for a return or refund
  • Any limitations on returned items
  • Additional costs associated with returns

While not articulated publicly in your policy (online or in print) during normal times in the business world, you’ll want your RCP at the ready, so you can put it into practice on a moment’s notice.

Be sure to identify a plan to put the RCP into place.

 

Who will update the website, and when? Will you send an email message to all customers? And when you are ready to unveil it to customers, you’ll want clear language on your website as to what is precipitating the change.

Related: 5 ways to keep customers informed about changes to your business

25 tips for implementing a policy for returns and refunds

Follow these tips to implement a returns and refunds policy that will work for both your business and your customers.

Policy format

1.Avoid complicated legalese. Readers should be able to understand it without consulting a lawyer or dictionary.

2. Steer clear of demanding language implying a burden on the customer. Avoid terms such as “under any circumstances,” “under no circumstances,” “you are required,” or “we are not responsible for.”

3. State an effectivity date for returns and refunds. If you update your policy, plan ahead for a transitional grace period, and be prepared to honor the policy that was in effect at the time of purchase.

This is a key point to include in your RCP.

Allowing a longer time period for returns makes sense when mail service and shipping carriers experience delays — not to mention customers’ inability to get to a mailing location quickly and safely.

4. Maintain your brand voice. Whether casual and conversational, or formal and precise, make the policy consistent with your overall messaging style.

Other website considerations

5. Make your policy for returns and refunds easily accessible: Don’t hide it where it can’t be readily found.

6. Minimize the potential for returns and refunds resulting from the product not being what customers saw on your site. Accurate product descriptions with photos can minimize accidentally purchasing the wrong item.

7. Share your flexible and accommodating policy on the home page, product pages, shopping cart and checkout pages. Your flexibility could influence shoppers still on the fence. And under extenuating circumstances, the flexibility resulting from your RCP likely becomes a key influencing factor.

Related: What to include on 5 core website pages

Customer interaction

8. Even in a clear, concise and well-written policy for returns and refunds, include customer service contact information for additional questions. If the situation activating your RCP affects your contact methods or hours, post that prominently on your website. For example, phone hours may be reduced, or customers may be asked to use chat capabilities instead of phone calls.

9. Make sure all staff members processing returns and refunds or interacting with customers are up to speed on your policies.

10. Enable customers to arrange their own returns and refunds or exchanges. Help them do it online and minimize their need to contact customer service.

11. Email customers when their returns and refunds have been processed.

12. If the return is prompted by your mistake (such as shipping something other than what was ordered, or it arrived broken due to your poor packaging), immediately take full responsibility and offer resolution without hesitation or argument.

Related: Key messages to share with your customers during a crisis

Time frames

13. Specify refund eligibility timeframes with typically-used round numbers such as 30, 60 or 90 days. Make the timeframe reasonable and long enough for the customer to actually receive, open and try out the product.

When extenuating circumstances hit, major retailers are often quick to extend those timeframes, and your RCP should follow their lead.

14. Specify whether the return eligibility clock starts ticking on the date of purchase, shipping or receipt of the item.

15. Limited return time frames can discourage shoppers from planning ahead for holiday shopping, knowing that the item might not be gifted for a few weeks. Consider extending the holiday season return timeframe to mid-January.

Financial details

16. Specify how refunds and refunds are compensated. Do they receive a store credit or credit on the purchasing credit card? A replacement item? Is a restocking charge or processing fee subtracted from the refund amount

During times of crisis, customers may also be financially impacted. If you’re in a position to waive these fees during the period your RCP is enabled, thankful customers will remember that small, kind gesture.

17. Specify the time frame in which a credit or refund will be applied. Store credit can usually be available quickly. However, credit card issuers have their own policies affecting how quickly refunded money will be available.

If the situation demands RCP activation, smaller businesses may quickly experience cash flow concerns, and will need to extend the time period in which the refund may be applied. Another option may be to encourage customers to take a store credit instead of a refund by offering a small incentive, such as a coupon for a future purchase.

Related: Using coupons and promotions to help customers dealing with COVID-19

Constraints

Shopping Cart with Receipts18. Notify customers if they must include a receipt or proof of purchase.

19. Specify if authorization is needed prior to an item’s return. If authorization involves interaction with staff — who may be overloaded, working limited hours, or temporarily on furlough, depending on the situation — be prepared to communicate
changes to this process.

20. Include details about the expected state of the returned item. Does it need to be in its original packaging? What about the original condition (e.g., unworn, unwashed, with tags attached)?

21. Stipulate if sale items are eligible for return.

22. Indicate whether digital products are eligible for refund under limited circumstances, such as when a download link isn’t working.

The physical return process

23. Don’t sneak in unanticipated return costs. Articulate clearly if customers must pay for return shipping.

24. Make it easy for customers to find return shipping labels. Consider including them with shipped items, or offer the ability to print their own labels.

25. Specify if an online purchase is eligible for return at your retail outlet.

Under adverse conditions that put your RCP in place, your retail outlet may be closed to the public. In that case, you’ll need to clearly advertise that you’re unable to process in-person returns. If customers have no option but to return in person, make sure to extend the deadline to after your retail outlet is back in business.

Related: What to include in your shipping policy for your retail business

Return policy templates

Several excellent online resources can help you create a policy that works for you.

TermsFeed

TermsFeed is a provider of trusted legal agreements for a number of business scenarios. They offer both a template and policy generator, allowing you to create a custom policy using their template. In addition, they offer both free and paid accounts, where premium (paid) accounts include additional clauses that can better protect your business interests.

Termly

Termly also provides a free template and generator for a comprehensive policy. The generator runs through a number of questions to gather specific details, and you’ll need to create an account to receive the final product.

ReturnRefundPolicyTemplate.com

ReturnRefundPolicyTemplate.com provides a generator, as well as a number of examples in different formats, including word counts. The final document is downloadable as HTML or text.

Template.net

Template.net provides different templates in a variety of formats, downloadable as PDF or Word files.

Rolling out your RCP

When it’s time to put your Returns Contingency Plan in place, be sure to use clear language on your website. Consider these examples:

  • We recognize these are challenging times for everyone, and we are committed to the health and safety of both our customers and employees. Thank you for your patience as we navigate new and uncharted waters.
  • Our stores and online businesses are temporarily closed in order to help prevent further spread of the COVID-19 virus.
  • In support of our national effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, our retail locations are temporarily closed. If you need to return an online purchase, please use our mail-in process.
  • Due to the disruption caused by [COVID-19, the recent earthquake, extended power outages, etc.], we will extend our returns policy from 60 days to 90 days from purchase date, to allow flexibility for our customers choosing to return products.
  • We will process returns once it is safe to reopen our store. At that time, we will extend our returns policy to 30 days after the re-open date, regardless of your original purchase date.

In conclusion

Make sure your comprehensive, accommodating, readily found and easily understood policy for returns and refunds addresses the following:

  • Refund formats and options.
  • Limitations related to the item, its purchase and the return time frame.
  • Shopper responsibilities, including possible costs.

There’s no need to publish your RCP in advance. However, having it defined and reviewed before it’s needed lets you update your website immediately when extenuating or extreme circumstances hit.

This allows you to quickly allay customer concerns and better serve your faithful audience, while emphasizing your ability to understand the need for flexibility, and willingness to make the best of whatever situation intrudes on normal business operations.

While you hope never to see returns and refunds, having your policy and strategy ready from the get-go will facilitate a painless process that keeps loyal customers coming back to shop another day.

The post Returns and refunds policy templates for online shopping sites appeared first on GoDaddy Blog.

How to host virtual community events

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There’s a massive shift towards virtual events in the wake of Covid-19 cancellations.

Since our community team started experimenting with virtual events last year – we host online meetups through Crowdcast – we wanted to share what we’ve learned so far.

I’ve also had the privilege of organizing in-person meetups for the last 10+ years. Our local meetup groups serve a large region, so we started adding options for members to participate remotely way back in 2017. I’ve baked some of those experiences in here as well.

Feel free to take this guide and repurpose it for your own use. If there are points you think we should add, let us know: a Google Docs version of this article is open for comments.

How to host virtual community events.

  1. Why should you virtualize your event?
  2. Planning your event
  3. Managing communications
  4. Creating evergreen content
  5. Running your event day-of

Why should you host a virtual event?

Lower costs for organizers.

Physical venue rentals are expensive. Rooms can cost hundreds of dollars per session. Even spaces designed for community functions, like room rentals from your local library or city hall, require payment.

Costs can go well beyond what’s affordable to a community group, especially in metropolitan areas. Organizers are often stuck paying out of pocket to cover these costs. As their group grows, the booking price goes up. It’s not a great motivator.

That’s one reason we love virtual events. A virtual event can support the same number of attendees, or even more, at the same or lower price.

For example, when I was organizing WordPress meetups in Toronto, we’d pay around $150 to book a room for a few hours. That’s $1800 per year. Meanwhile, if we had a Zoom Pro license, it would’ve cost us only $240 for the year.

They’re more accessible for everyone.

Accessibility is another common issue with physical venues, especially free meeting space. Even if the main area is accessible, washrooms often aren’t. We’ve frequently run into this problem in Toronto, where older commercial spaces have their washrooms in the basement.

Physical access isn’t the only issue, though. Attending an in-person event can also be challenging for people with anxiety. And if the event includes presentations, a poor screen setup can be hard to see, while poor acoustics make it hard for people to hear.

Then there’s the trouble with transportation. How long does it take to reach the venue? What if it isn’t easily reachable via public transit?

Virtualization overcomes these challenges to make your community event more accessible and inclusive. Attendees don’t have to worry about the physical environment. They can participate at a level that’s comfortable to them. They have control over their own display and audio settings. And people can hold side conversations during the event without disturbing the rest of the group.

People can join from wherever they are.

Virtual events aren’t restricted to only those who can be present in person. Attendees can join from wherever they are. All they need is internet access. Depending on the platform you use, they could even dial in on their phone.

Letting people join from anywhere means you can bring in speakers from anywhere, too. You could reach out to people who haven’t presented to your group in the past and invite them to do it remotely for the first time.

New connections are one of the greatest upsides to a virtual event.

Sending an email, friending on Facebook, following on Twitter, or connecting on LinkedIn is all just a click away.

You get evergreen content.

It’s easier to pull evergreen content out of a virtual event than it out of an in-person event. The idea of recording or streaming a local in-person meetup is a lofty stretch goal for many organizers. But virtual event platforms are perfectly set up for it.

Video: Virtual event platforms are video platforms. Attendees join to watch and interact with other remote participants. The event recording can then be edited and/or uploaded for on-demand playback by those who weren’t able to join the event in real time.

Audio: The audio from a recording can also be extracted, e.g. to published as a podcast. It’s another way for people to discover and benefit from your virtual event.

Written: A written transcript of the event, along with a summary of takeaways or other notes, makes for a good companion blog post. This becomes the canonical “artifact” of the event, the one place a person can go to find everything.

Embed the event recording(s) along with relevant links, e.g. to download the presentation deck, in a companion blog post. You could then handle follow-up discussions in the post comments.

Planning your event.

Now that we’ve covered the upsides of hosting a virtual event, let’s get into the weeds on actually putting an event together. You’ll need to consider the following: The event platforms you’ll use; the technical setup; scheduling; finding presenters; and a persistent group backchannel for participants to chat between events.

Platforms for event and registration.

How will people find & register for your event?

Meetup.com is a popular option, but it’s not your only option. Eventbrite, Facebook Events and LinkedIn Events are other platforms that you can use to get in front of new people.

What features do you need for streaming & participation?

Crowdcast was built specifically for virtual events. It runs in the browser, no download required. Crowdcast handles all of the logistics around registration, reminder emails, tracking attendance, recording, etc. Only four participants can be on video at a time, and there’s no private messaging between attendees.

Zoom is the most popular standalone option at the time of writing this guide. Designed for meetings, it’s a stable platform with great audio/video quality; lots of connectivity options; breakout rooms; whiteboard support; and more. Zoom runs as a standalone app on desktop and mobile.

Restream is another option. It helps you set up a simultaneous stream to sites like YouTube Live, Facebook Live and Twitch. There’s a steeper learning curve here, and you’ll need to use a separate app like Streamlabs to manage your video output, but you’ll also have more creative freedom.

How will you get in touch with attendees before, during and after your event?

You can use the email functionality in the registration platform to email attendees. This is fine for one-off events, but for a group, you’ll need ongoing comms. Meetup.com handles this well because it’s designed for groups. You can do some of that with Eventbrite if you set up the events as a recurring series.

An even better option is to get a separate email list going for your group members. This keeps all of the formal email communication in a single tool. It’s especially helpful if you’re publishing your event to multiple registration platforms for maximum exposure.

Related: Beginners guide to starting an email list

Where will you save the event recordings?

You can upload raw recordings to a file sharing service like OneDrive or Google Drive.

+ We cover recording, editing, and publishing in a later section of this guide.

Will you have a dedicated website for the event?

We highly, highly recommend having a standalone website for your event. Preferably one built with WordPress.

Your event website is the central go-to hub for your event participants. It’s where they’ll find blog posts for every event session; registration forms and email signup forms; and your persistent backchannel, like a Facebook group, Slack team or Rocket.Chat instance. (Rocket.Chat is an open source alternative to Slack.)

Example scenarios:

  1. Event discovery & registration on Meetup; streamed on Zoom; recap published on the site; persistent backchannel on a Slack team.
  2. Event discovery & registration on Eventbrite; streamed on YouTube Live unlisted; recap published on the site; persistent backchannel in a Facebook group.
  3. Event discovery, registration, and streaming on Crowdcast; recap and persistent group on the site.

Video participant setup.

Video: All video participants need a webcam. A built-in laptop cam will work in a pinch, but the quality won’t be great. A dedicated camera, like the Logitech Pro Webcam or StreamCam, are a better choice.

Audio: As with video, a laptop’s built-in microphone will work, but you’ll have lackluster quality. A USB headset will give you much better audio. You could also use a combo of an external microphone and headphones. For example, the Blue Yeti mic is a popular entry-level USB microphone. You can plug a regular pair of headphones directly into the mic.

Physical environment: Every video participant should be mindful of their surroundings. Consider what’s in the background. Is there sensitive information? Photographs? Distracting clutter? Set up the physical environment so that it looks and sounds good on camera. Choose a space where there’s plenty of light and minimal background noise.

Scheduling.

With the setup taken care of, we need to turn our attention to the schedule.

Activity calendar: This is a central document outlining all the upcoming events. We recommend using a spreadsheet with columns for:

  • The event topic
  • Dates and times
  • Names of the host/presenters
  • Links to the event registration page and companion post (more on that below)
  • The working document
  • Other notes and details

Every event will be a row within the spreadsheet.

We also recommend creating a working doc template for your events.

Duplicate the template for every new event and fill it in with details as the plan evolves for the event. Our working docs include:

  • Title of the event
  • Description of the event
  • Date
  • Agenda
  • Host’s name and bio
  • Speaker(s) name(s) and bio(s)
  • Registration URL
  • Event session URL or ID (where people will go to attend the session)
  • Companion post URL

Prep your events well in advance.

The details within each event’s working doc should be fleshed out as you get closer to the event date. We generally follow this structure:

  • 6 months out: Rough idea of the dates and times
  • 3 months out: Dates confirmed, tentative topics & format
  • 1 month out: Topic & format confirmed, tentative speaker & agenda
  • 1 week out: Everything’s finalized, grab a coffee

Finding your speakers/presenters.

Finding presenters is one of the hardest parts of putting together a virtual event, and it’s one of the reasons we recommend planning so far in advance.

You need to give your presenters plenty of lead time so they can comfortably commit and prepare for the session. The sooner they’re confirmed, the sooner you can build your agenda and promote the event.

To make your life a bit easier, you should publish a call for speakers on your group or event’s site. This is an evergreen page that covers the FAQs for potential speakers. It describes what you’re looking for and what speakers/presenters need to know. Update the page as your needs change. When potential speakers ask for more information, point them here.

Include a speaker application form on your call for speakers page. Only capture the information you need; you can ask for more details from your speakers after they’re confirmed.

We recommend asking for:

  • Speaker name
  • Email address
  • Website URL
  • Social media URLs
  • Short profile bio
  • Overview of the topics they’re interested in presenting about

After publishing your call for speakers, start reaching out through your personal networks. Do you know anyone who’d be a good fit as a presenter? Do you know anyone who might know anyone? Get in the habit of identifying and inviting potential speakers when you’re out and about. That way you can start building a backlog of potential speakers to call on when the need arises.

Beyond your personal network, put a call out to the community at large. Announce your call for speakers in a blog post. If you have priority topics coming up in your schedule, call those out so speaker applicants can adjust their pitch based on what you need.

Managing communications.

Announce your event a month-ish in advance.

Four weeks is enough lead time for people to prepare and lock it in on their calendars. Do it immediately after the previous event while interest is still high.

Publish the registration pages on whatever platforms you’re using. Even if details are tentative, people can still register. Update the pages as details are confirmed.

Announce the upcoming event through your website and social media channels. The announcement post will become your companion post after the event is over.

Promote your event.

Your event promotions should be a steady drumbeat. If you’re hosting a series of sessions, like a meetup group, even the recaps from previous events should build interest & drive registrations for upcoming sessions.

Get in touch with other groups whose members might be interested in your event. If you share a similar audience, offer to promote their events as well to your group.

Update your social media profiles. If your group has a Twitter profile, for example, post a tweet announcing the event with a link to the companion post on your site. Pin it to your profile so it’s the first thing people see.

Encourage members to share the event and let others know about it.

Don’t forget about the system emails.

Transactional/automated emails are usually handled by whatever platforms you use to handle event registration.

System emails typically go out in the days leading up to the event.

Customization options depend on the platform you’re using. For example, Crowdcast lets you customize the system email templates.

Write your own follow-up emails.

Send a follow-up email to your attendees immediately after the event. Thank them for joining and link to the companion post as the go-to page for finding the recap, recording, etc.

If you’d like to gather feedback about the event, consider including a survey link in the email.

The event recording and recap should be ready a week later. Send an email out to the entire group pointing them to the recap (companion) post, along with the announcement and link to the upcoming meetup.

Create your evergreen content.

We already mentioned evergreen content as an upside to going virtual with your event. In this section we’re going to look at each type of content in more detail.

Video.

Video is an obvious choice because it’s how everyone participates in the call.

Recording: Crowdcast, Zoom, and streaming sites all support some kind of recording. Crowdcast sessions are automatically archived to your profile after the session ends. Depending on your license, Zoom will either save the recording to the cloud or to your local machine. Archived streams need to be configured on a per-site basis.

Editing: While you can upload the raw recording, you may want to do some editing first. For example, if you took a break during the meeting, or if you have multiple recordings that you’d like to merge together. OpenShot is a free, open source and cross-platform video editor.

Publishing: When you’re ready to upload, you’ll need to choose a destination. YouTube is a good choice if you want to make your sessions easily findable via search. You can also set the video as “unlisted” so it’s not findable in search, but you can still share it and embed it elsewhere, e.g. in the session’s recap post.

Note: If you’re hosting a WordPress meetup, consider submitting your videos to WordPress.tv. It’s a central repository of WordPress event recordings from around the world.

Audio is a good fit for events that don’t need visuals.

For example, if your event was a presentation where the speaker covered all the main points and you didn’t need to see the slides. The audio recordings could be published as one-offs, or you could turn them into a podcast.

First, you’ll need to extract the audio. This is easy with Zoom because all recordings produce both a video file and audio file. For other formats you’ll need to extract the audio from the video recording.

A quick Google search brings up a variety of tools and methods for handling audio extraction. If you’ve uploaded your video to YouTube, there are additional tools and services for pulling audio from YouTube videos.

As with video, you can either use the raw audio as-is, or you can do some editing to clean it up. Audacity is a reliable and free open source audio editing app that works on both Mac and Windows.

If you’d like to publish your audio as a podcast, two free and easy options are Soundcloud and Anchor. You could create a Soundcloud profile specifically for your event or group and upload audio recordings of every session. It’s a straightforward solution. If you want more features, try using Anchor.

Related: How to podcast – a guide for beginners

Written content is a must-have for every virtual event.

Publish a companion post to go with every event session. Before the session takes place, the companion post serves as a preview of what to expect, encouraging people to register for and attend the event. After the session is over, the companion post contains the recap. Embed the video and audio recordings within the post, alongside the presentation deck, if there was one.

Want to include a full transcript within the companion post? Check out Descript, Trint and Temi. These services offer automated transcription. (Descript also supports video editing based on transcript edits, which is pretty cool.) Because it’s all automated, you’ll likely need to do some cleanup afterwards.

We prefer to share takeaways instead of full transcripts. Transcripts take a lot of time to produce, and we’ve found that most people aren’t interested in reading a full conversation word-for-word. To find the Listen for soundbites: punchy quotes, insights, statistics and actionable advice. Feel free to paraphrase and add context.

To help you focus, consider limiting the written recap to include a handful of the most important takeaways from the session. If people want more, they can watch or listen to the full recording.

Social media nuggets are small, shareable slices of your recap content.

They’re great for raising awareness of your event and reminding attendees of the experience:

  • Short clips from your recording as standalone social media posts.
  • Slides from the presentation deck as an image post.
  • Custom images with text overlays based on quotes and takeaways.
  • Even the plain text, without media, can be highlighted as callouts for sharing on Twitter.

Be creative! You’re sitting on a treasure pile of potentially great content coming out of every session. Think about all the ways you could repurpose what’s been created already to get even more mileage out of your event.

Prompt follow-up discussions to keep the conversations going.

You can prompt conversations in the companion post by asking a question or inviting feedback. You could also add a form as an option for people who don’t want to post publicly.

Running your event day-of.

We’ve covered everything before and after your virtual event. In this final section we’re going to cover a checklist of what to cover during the event itself.

Update the session’s working doc.

We mentioned the working doc already as an essential planning tool. Reference it throughout your session. The agenda and main talking points will help everyone stay on track and on time. As the event proceeds, you can update the document with follow-up questions and items to discuss after the session wraps.

Tech rehearsal.

Crowdcast includes a “green room” feature to let presenters set up before the event begins. For other platforms, jump into a video call before joining the session.

Are all devices plugged in and working properly? Is the physical environment ready to go? How’s the lighting? Check the audio and video feeds. Are all participants coming through clearly? How’s the lighting? How’s the background? Are levels good? Is there any static? Background noise from an open window?

Check the slides and prepare for screensharing, if applicable. Close any apps that might trigger notifications. Use a private/incognito browser window to avoid auto-filling inputs and suggested searches. Hide your bookmarks bar. Open your examples

Host duties.

The host is usually one or two people responsible for MC’ing the virtual event. The host welcomes attendees to the event and introduces the presenters. For a multi-session event, like a virtual conference, the host also serves as a familiar face who provides some continuity between the different sessions.

Depending on the format of the event, the host may stay on camera, participating in the session and engaging with the presenter. The host could also hand off to the presenter and take on a moderator role.

Moderator duties.

While the host is mostly concerned with what’s happening on video, the moderator is paying most of their attention to the attendees/audience. They’re monitoring the chat, keeping conversation going throughout the session.

If attendees are having issues, the moderator can help troubleshoot. If they have questions, the moderator can answer the questions or flag them for the host/presenter to answer. If people are joining via audio and making noise when they shouldn’t, the moderator should be quick to throw them on mute.

The role of the moderator is to silently keep everything running smoothly.

The moderator can also assist the host/presenter by sharing relevant links in the chat. For example, if the presenter mentions a resource or tool, the moderator can grab the links to share so the attendees can stay engaged with what’s happening in the session.

Video participant/presenter duties.

The presenter comes with information to share. That’s their focus. The flip to virtual can be challenging if they’re not used to it. They’re talking to a camera instead of a room full of people. It’s a lot harder to “read the room” when there’s no actual room.

The presenter needs to speak clearly into their mic. That means minimal background noises, slurping or sniffing or chewing or coughing.

They presenter to be engaged with the audience. There’s a bit of a performance factor here as well. Consider the difference between a droning, monotone voice reading slides and an emotive personality. Asking questions, mentioning people in chat

Recap & closing thoughts.

Virtual events are great. They can be more affordable, accessible and inclusive than in-person events. Attendees aren’t limited by a physical venue, and you can bring participants in from all over.

That doesn’t make them a replacement for in-person activities, though. There’s a sense of community & belonging that can only come through face-to-face shared experiences.

In prepping for a virtual event, you’ll avoid a lot of stress by planning well in advance. Look weeks and months ahead to give yourself plenty of time to prepare.

Template everything you can, creating a system that’s easy to follow with events that are easy to replicate. Document as you go, so you can bring other people into the process.

Remember: every event is an experiment. Keep learning, iterating and improving on what works. That’s how we’re running our own virtual meetups on Crowdcast.

Good luck – you’ve got this!

Related:

The post How to host virtual community events appeared first on GoDaddy Blog.

Add donation and payment tools on your site

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This article was originally published on March 26, 2020, and was updated on April 1, 2020. 

In the wake of COVID-19, everyone is looking for ways to support their businesses and their communities.

If your business is a traditional brick-and-mortar setup, enabling online payments on your Websites + Marketing or WordPress site can be a viable option to keep business moving — and it’s social-distancing friendly.

It’s also a great way to accept donations, either for yourself or to support a group or person that needs help during the COVID-19 crisis.

Accept donations and payments on your website

Accepting payments online may be traditionally used for selling products. But here are some alternative ways to serve your customers and community.

    • Restaurants. Haven’t set up online ordering? Your customers can call in their order and make their payment using a PayPal button or payment plugin. Then they can pick up the order without exchanging money or credit cards to maintain social distancing.
    •  Local churches. Many churches are moving their services online to avoid large gatherings of people. Set up a PayPal button or donation plugin to accept donations on your website. You can set specific donation amounts, or leave it up to your community members.
    • Personal services. Offer a video demonstration or online class for something you would usually do in person. Then use a PayPal button or payment plugin as a way for your customers to pay, or set up an “online tip jar” where people can contribute if they liked your video.
    •  Grocery or food delivery. Pick up groceries or food for people who can’t get out. Add a PayPal button or payment plugin to your site to accept payments.
    •  School lunches. Raise money for kids whose schools are closed and no longer have access to meals.
    • Online tip jar. Give your customers a place to support you through donations and tips.

 

Just like the tip jar at your local coffee shop, a PayPal button or donation plugin can be a way for customers to say “thank you”.

 

The technical details

In Websites + Marketing, adding a PayPal button is a safe and secure way to transfer funds from your customers and site visitors to an account you specify. On your WordPress site, you can use different plugins to accept payments through your site. But, there are a few things to keep in mind before you get started.

Websites + Marketing plans

A PayPal button can be a quick and easy way for you to accept payments on your website.

  • You can have up to 15 PayPal buttons per site.The button is ideal for highlighting your highest priority product or services.
  • If you’re selling a product, you need to enter a specific price.
  • Donations can be set amounts that you designate, or you can leave the amount up to the donor.

WordPress plans

You’ll need to add a plugin to your site to enable a way to accept payments.

Some plugins require the free WooCommerce plugin. The top 5 payment extensions for WooCommerce are:

Related: 8 top donation plugins for WordPress websites

Take care of yourself and your community

We want to help our loved ones and those in our community – but we also need to take care of ourselves. The PayPal button or a payment plugin are great options for both small business owners and community members to help with payments and donations. Stay safe and watch out for those around you. We’re in this together!


You can do this!

If you need a helping hand, we’re here for you.

Above all, have faith in yourself. We have faith in you.


 

The post Add donation and payment tools on your site appeared first on GoDaddy Blog.

6 ways to use your website to build trust

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With the rise of COVID-19, people around the world are on high alert. Not only are they worried about potential sources of infection, but they are concerned about price gouging, scams and other economic risks. This means that your target audience might be more wary than normal and need extra convincing that your brand is reputable, reliable and the best choice for their needs.

Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to make your website look more trustworthy and win customers over. These small alterations are inexpensive but can have a big impact now and after this current climate of uncertainty is resolved.

How to use your website to build trust

Consider taking the following steps to use your website to build customer trust.

  1. Make sure your website is HTTPS secure.
  2. Introduce your team to your customers.
  3. Add testimonials and reviews.
  4. Add your social media accounts.
  5. Add alternative ways for your customers to contact you.
  6. Keep your website updated with current information.

These sensible steps will go a long way toward developing a relationship of trust. Let’s dive in and explore them in detail.

1. Make sure your website is HTTPS secure

Your customers will likely make a decision about your brand before your homepage even loads.

You’ve probably noticed when looking at the URL displayed at the top of a browser screen that some websites start with “HTTP” and some with “HTTPS.” The “S” stands for “Secure” — and it comes from securing your website with an SSL certificate. Sites with HTTPS have an additional layer of protection for any sensitive data that is exchanged.

Most people expect brands to have a Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) URL on their website.

The HTTPS URL helps to assure customers that it is safe to give out their personal and credit card information.

 

It encourages people to trust your brand, even if they aren’t providing sensitive information.

Related: SSL security — Why it matters and how to add HTTPS to your website

2. Introduce your team to your customers

A lot has changed across the web over the past few decades, but one hypothesis continues to hold true: human faces build trust and increase conversion rates.

When people see photos of your CEO, your employees and other company partners, they can put faces behind the corporate brand. A smiling face can lower defenses and make customers feel safer in their choices.

Use this time to add photos, even if they aren’t professional headshots, to your website to introduce your team. Avoid using stock photos as this can have the reverse effect.

Related: How to create an About page for your ecommerce website

3. Add testimonials and reviews

Testimonials and reviews also allow you to add a personal touch to your website.

Personal testimonials allow customers to explain your products and services to each other. These customers won’t use the branded buzzwords and industry jargon that you might add to your site copy.

Reviews and testimonials sound less like sales pitches and more like personal recommendations, which increase trust.

Consider including a variety of testimonials and reviews on your website. You can add text bubbles with customer quotes, or ask your customers to film short videos explaining why they love your products. This also adds a face to your website along with a review.

Related: How to ask for testimonials and reviews from your clients

4. Add your social media accounts

One of the best ways to show that your brand is active and operational is to keep your social media accounts updated. You can share news, post advice, and provide customer service through sites like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

To build trust on your website, add your social media accounts both as widgets and as feeds.

 

You can add a Twitter feed with your latest tweets at the bottom of your website or in the sidebar, depending on your website design. This shows people that your brand is active without asking them to click on your social channels and leave your website.

Related: Using social media to engage with customers in a crisis

5. Add alternative ways for your customers to contact you

Most ecommerce platforms and email marketing tools will require your brand to have at least one form of contact information listed, if not multiple forms, to use their services. This includes your email address, phone number and physical mailing address.

However, you may want to add multiple ways for people to reach you, especially if you offer multiple customer service channels.

Customers like to connect with brands in different ways. For example, 62% of customers say they prefer email customer service, while 48% want access to a phone number as well. If you don’t offer multiple ways for your audiences to reach you, potential customers may be less likely to reach out.

Related: How to make it easy for customers to contact you

6. Keep your website updated with current information

The business world is changing rapidly during the COVID-19 crisis. Most people don’t know what businesses are open and/or how they have changed their operations to address the crisis.

Keep your website updated with any changes as they arise. Even if there aren’t any changes to your business, create a post explaining how you are operating as usual.

This practice of keeping customers updated can turn into a good habit even when the virus passes. Monthly or quarterly updates can help people see that your business is active and available to help them.

Related: 5 ways to keep customers informed about changes to your business

Now is the perfect time to update your website

Many brands across the globe are trying to keep their companies up and running throughout this period of uncertainty.

You can help to build trust with customers and win them over with the right web design and content.

By putting faces to your names, adding testimonials, updating your contact information, and increasing security, you can make meaningful changes that inspire trust and drive sales. Take the time to make these updates on your website and see how they boost your brand.

The post 6 ways to use your website to build trust appeared first on GoDaddy Blog.

You’ve registered a domain name. Now what?

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This article was originally published on Oct. 20, 2014. It was updated on April 25, 2017, Dec. 7, 2018, Aug. 28, 2019 and April 2, 2020.

You racked your brain to come up with just the right name for your business online. Now you’ve registered a domain name — a name that perfectly represents who you are and what you’ve got to offer.

Maybe you nabbed a .com or went with a descriptive domain extension to name your online presence. So, what’s next?

Want to register another domain name? Here’s your chance.

If you’ve registered a domain name, you probably have some idea of what you want to achieve, but you might not know where to start. Follow along as I break down a few options that might make sense for you and your business.

I’ll bet more than one will fit the bill.

Related: 10 tips for choosing the perfect domain name

You’ve registered a domain name. Here are 4 ways to use it.

There’s more to domain names than websites — you can do so much more (though the website is pretty important).

  1. Use your domain for a custom email address.
  2. Create a website that’s attached to your domain.
  3. Get an online store that’s attached to your domain.
  4. Sell your domain name.

Let’s look more closely at each option.

1. Use your domain for a custom email address

Woman Checking Computer Showing Professional Email

You’re a professional, so why are you still using that personal Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, MSN (you get the picture) email address you created 10 or even 20 years ago?

If the email you’re using to communicate with customers isn’t branding your business, then it’s time you kick that free email to the curb and set up a custom email using the domain you just purchased.

If you register a domain, you can set up a personalized email address such as YourName@yourdomain.com. That’s so much better than YourFirstandLastName_1975@gmail.com, right?

You can put that custom email address on your business cards, the side of your car, everywhere you promote your business.

With Professional Business Email from GoDaddy, not only will you get 24/7 customer support, but you’ll also get as many email aliases as you’d like (so you can have sales@yourdomain.com, support@yourdomain.com and anything else you can think up).

You’ll look more professional, credible, and with so many email address options, you can guarantee that emails are going to the right people.

Related: How to use a custom domain name for email

2. Create a website that’s attached to your domain

Chances are, you had a website in mind when you set out to secure a domain name. Your domain name is the heart of your website address. And everyone keeps telling you that you need a website for your business.

Your website is the center of gravity for your online presence.

 

A website gives you a branded, dedicated space to share your contact information, a rundown of your services, a snapshot of what your business is all about, a portfolio of your amazing work, customer reviews and links to your social media accounts.

And did I mention it’s perfect for businesses that want to expand their reach and attract NEW customers?

But understanding the benefits of having a website for your business and actually creating one are two very different things. I know, it might feel scary.

Related: How to design a website when you’re not a website designer

You basically have three options:

Hire a professional website designerWeb Designer Creating Site To Illustrate Using Registered Domain Name

This option will cost you more but require less of your time. In most cases, you’ll need to supply the content for your website — including text and images — but a designer can put it all together to give you a beautiful, highly functional website.

Editor’s note: The experts at GoDaddy’s Website Design Service can create a mobile-friendly, beautiful site that reflects your industry while following your lead and input.

Do it yourself with a content management system (CMS)

If you’ve got some skill, you can build a site using a popular CMS like WordPress.

WordPress is an awesome choice for many website owners because the platform allows for a great deal of customization and flexibility.

 

Want to build a WordPress site but don’t feel like handling all the technical stuff on your own? You might want to check out our easier way to get started with WordPress.

GoDaddy’s Managed WordPress Hosting features a Quick Start Wizard to get your new WordPress website up and running in a snap. Featuring eight pre-built customizable pages, easy drag-and-drop page building, and quick access to thousands of WordPress plugins, there’s virtually no limit to what you can create.

You’ll also get 24/7 support, core software updates and patches, free daily backups and one-click restore, a free domain with an annual plan and more.

Related: How to build a WordPress website for the first time

GoDaddy WordPress Themes]
GoDaddy’s WordPress Hosting offers themes for all types of businesses.

Do it yourself with a simple-to-use website builder

You don’t need any design experience to build a lovely site via the affordable DIY solutions available, including GoDaddy’s Websites + Marketing. Choose your industry, customize it, and hit “publish.” Just like that, your website is live.

GoDaddy’s Websites + Marketing also has templates for a variety of industries. You can even give the templates a test run before you decide if GoDaddy’s website builder meets your needs.

 GoDaddy Websites + Marketing Theme Options
From GoDaddy’s Websites+Marketing solution has templates customized to fit your business.

Related: How to plan a website

3. Get an online store that’s attached to your domain

With a custom ecommerce site, you can sell your products, track your orders, collect payments, and manage your inventory all in one place.

You’re looking at basically the same options for creating an online store — hire a pro or do it yourself with an easy-to-use online store builder (like GoDaddy’s Online Store) or an ecommerce plugin for WordPress and the like. We like WooCommerce.

Since GoDaddy’s Online Store is built into the Websites + Marketing structure, you can build your store quickly and start receiving payments immediately. You’ll have easy access to appointment setting, inventory management and more, all while staying mobile-friendly.

GoDaddy Online Store ExampleBut, what if you’ve registered a domain name that’s perfect and invested the effort into launching an online store — and no one ever finds you?

An ecommerce solution like GoDaddy Online Store can help. How? It includes a built-in SEO wizard, smooth integration with Google My Business, and marketplace selling features that enable you to easily sell products on marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, Walmart and Etsy and manage your orders and inventory all from one place.

Nice!

Related: How to start an online store in 3 steps

4. Sell your domain name

Stuff happens. Maybe inspiration struck at 3 a.m., when an amazing new domain name woke you from a dead sleep. And that other domain you already registered? It can still help you out.

Someone, somewhere, might be willing to pay for that domain name.

 

You can get it in front of interested buyers via domain aftermarket sites that only take a small percentage of the sale.

One such aftermarket option is GoDaddy Auctions.

For an annual fee and a percentage of the sale, you can list your domain name for auction or set a “buy now” price and GoDaddy will handle all the details.

Related: 5 tried-and-true tips for selling domain names for profit

Put that domain name to work!

Your domain name is no use just sitting in your account collecting dust — so take it out for a spin and see what wonders it can do!

You’ll be amazed.

Ready? Go forth and put your domain name to work for your business!

The post You’ve registered a domain name. Now what? appeared first on GoDaddy Blog.

Reach out to customers through email during COVID-19

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As a business owner, you know exactly how essential strong customer relationships are. They’re what turn visitors into regulars, single classes into memberships, and appointments into referrals.

In the face of COVID-19, you might be feeling isolated from your customers, unsure of how to maintain vital connections. But social distancing doesn’t have to mean a loss of communication.

Rather than relying on in-person contact, now’s the time to reach out to customers through email.

Related: 5 best practices for using email to communicate with customers during the COVID-19 crisis

Some important tips to remember:

  • Less is more when sending COVID-19 emails.
  • Be respectful about who’s on your mailing list.
  • Make your point in the subject line.
  • Communicate quickly and clearly.
  • Understand your customers’ needs.

The following advice, while always true, is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic. Always communicate with others the same way you’d like to be treated.

Respect who you message

COVID-19 emails are filling inboxes, and they’re not all necessary or useful.

Don’t add to the noise.

 

If you don’t have any important updates, or if you’ve already communicated with your customers, consider whether another email is going to help. If it’s just going to add to the clutter, hold off on sending.

And if someone hasn’t made a purchase or contacted you within the past year, leave them off your mailing list. Even if you have something useful to offer, your recipients still need to consent before you email them.

A good practice is to only email subscribers and recent customers. After all, you want your important message to reach those who’ve asked to hear from you, and who might find what you have to say useful.

As always, make sure your recipients have the option to unsubscribe.

Stay on topic

Your subject line is the first thing recipients see. Make it short and related to your message.

This helps your recipients know why they should want to open your message in the first place, and what to expect once they do.

Also keep in mind that people often check their email on mobile devices, and long subject lines (around 10 words or so) are cut off by small screens. Avoid using all caps or extra punctuation as well, since they can trigger spam filters.

When designing your email, communicate quickly and clearly. Keep your message short and to the point.

No one wants to read a novel-length message, so in as few words as possible, let your recipients know if you’re still open, and if you are, the measures you’re taking to keep customers and employees safe.

Include how they can continue to support your business like through your online store, virtual classes, delivery, takeout, or curbside pickup. As restrictions change, concisely update customers on ways you’re doing your best to ensure everyone’s safety.

Email Showing Open For Curbside And Delivery Orders And Flowers
GoDaddy Email Marketing provides tools to help you retain customers while social distancing.

Anticipate your customers’ needs

Be mindful of your customers and their needs. As this pandemic impacts everyone, understand that your customers are likely struggling too. They might not be able to purchase products or services from you right now, but your business can still provide value.

Be the expert – how is your industry reacting to recent events, and can your business help the community?

Explain what your customers can do with the experiences or products you’ve already provided.  Your email newsletter is an opportunity to build a community with your customers to help meet their needs.

Steps you can take today

Get ready for email communication. If you have GoDaddy Websites + Marketing:

For WordPress sites, add an email subscriptions plugin, such as the GoDaddy Email Marketing Signup Forms plugin, to update customers about any changes.

You can also use your social media presence as a way to increase subscribers, like including sign-ups on Instagram.

As your business adapts to COVID-19 restrictions, be available to your customers.

There might be longer shipping times, or maybe you need to refund an in-person event. Try to respond to any customer messages as soon as possible, and empathize with their concerns.

In these difficult times, continue to foster the relationships you’ve built with your customers. Even when you can’t physically be together, email shows you’re still with them and are ready to help.


You can do this!

If you need a helping hand, we’re here for you.

Above all, have faith in yourself. We have faith in you.


 

The post Reach out to customers through email during COVID-19 appeared first on GoDaddy Blog.

U.S. state and local resources for small businesses impacted by COVID-19

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This post was originally published on March 27, 2020, and was updated on April 2, 2020.

As we all deal with COVID-19, state and local governments in the U.S. recognize the impact on small business and how important small businesses are to communities. Many governments and agencies have put together web pages to provide small businesses with easy access to information on resources and assistance that’s available. Some include links to assistance applications and hotlines.

These are the best sites I’ve found, so far. I’ll continue to monitor and update this list with new resources. But even with my best efforts, this list will not be exhaustive. If possible, find and contact your local government officials and agencies directly. Their job is to help in times like these.

Business owners can be known for being fiercely independent. Accepting help can sometimes be difficult. My advice, use all the resources available to you right now. Help yourself so that you can help others later.

Disclaimer: These programs are offered by individual governments and not GoDaddy. Please see the linked pages for applicable terms, restrictions and instructions governing all programs. 

Alabama

Alaska

Arizona

Arkansas

California

Colorado

Connecticut

Delaware

Florida

Georgia

Hawaii

Idaho

Illinois

Indiana

Iowa

Kansas

Kentucky

Louisiana

Maine

Maryland

Massachusetts

Michigan

Minnesota

Mississippi

Missouri

Montana

Nebraska

Nevada

New Hampshire

New Jersey

New Mexico

New York

North Carolina

North Dakota

Ohio

Oklahoma

Oregon

Pennsylvania

Rhode Island

South Carolina

South Dakota

Tennessee

Texas

Utah

Vermont

Virginia

Washington

West Virginia

Wisconsin

Wyoming


You can do this!

If you need a helping hand, we’re here for you.

Above all, have faith in yourself. We have faith in you.


 

The post U.S. state and local resources for small businesses impacted by COVID-19 appeared first on GoDaddy Blog.

Set up online appointments and use video conferencing instead of face-to-face meetings

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As we’re increasingly encouraged to practice social distancing, and more cities and states around the country mandate that only essential businesses remain open, it’s necessary for businesses to find new ways to interact with and serve their clients.

By replacing in-person consultations with a video chat, teachers, personal trainers, and yoga instructors can deliver a training class or one-on-one lessons with built-in screen-sharing features.

With a little creativity, online appointments and video conferencing can help a wide variety of service-based businesses connect with clients.

Set up online appointments

But before you can serve your clients online, you first need to iron out how they’ll book your time and services.

GoDaddy Websites + Marketing

If you built your business website using Websites + Marketing, you can quickly and easily adapt your website to book appointments, meetings, events, classes and training sessions online.

  1. Go to your Websites + Marketing dashboard, and look at the main navigation bar across the top.
  2. From the Appointments drop-down menu, select Services.
  3. Choose how your clients can book services: availability-based appointments, one-time events, and repeating events.

Website Builder Appointments

As you continue setting up appointments and events, customize it to meet your needs:

  • Price
  • Duration
  • Method of payment
  • Max capacity
  • Description
  • Location (Most businesses may need to choose “Online/Virtual,” for now.)
  • Name of the employee that will facilitate the session

WordPress

If you built your website with WordPress, there is a strong chance WooCommerce is the plugin powering your online store. If so, WooCommerce can be bolstered with the premium Bookings extension, so clients can book appointments, rentals and reservations directly through your website. Bookings Availability is another premium extension that displays those appointments and rentals on a calendar for you.

If you grab this extension, then WooCommerce has some documentation to help you get started.

If you’re not already using WooCommerce, but want to expand your WordPress website to include an online store, then good news, because it can be installed on any of our hosting plans that support WordPress. In fact, this is largely true, regardless of which company hosts your WordPress website.

Connect to clients with video conferencing

Once you’ve ironed out how clients can book appointments, it’s time to connect online. If you need ideas on how to interact with your clients online, no worries, see the tips below.

Meet online with small- to medium-sized groups

How can you continue serving your clients while maintaining a safe distance? One way is to take advantage of the many video conferencing solutions out there. Zoom and Google’s Hangouts Meet are a couple of popular tools. Both work well for anything ranging from one-on-one sessions to meetings and training with dozens of people conferencing at once.

Zoom’s features make it easy-to-use for both you and your clients:

  • Schedule meetings in advance or on-demand
  • Screen-sharing
  • Use on computers and mobile devices
  • Send clients a direct link to your sessions
  • Or give them a Meeting ID instead
  • Gallery View so you can see everyone in the meeting
  • Clients don’t need their own Zoom account
  • Free and paid options

Check out Zoom’s collection of resources to help users through the COVID-19 situation.

Google’s Hangouts Meet has many of the same features as Zoom, but there are a few differences:

  • Doesn’t require an app to use to on a computer
  • Integrates with other Google G Suite apps

Like Zoom, Google also made some changes to their G Suite products, including Hangouts Meet to help schools and businesses stay connected during this uncertain time.

Related: How to set up a virtual conference website with WordPress

Broadcast live to larger groups

Broadcast services like Facebook Live and YouTube Live let you connect with larger groups of your followers or subscribers.

Facebook Live works best for businesses that have a Facebook group and some followers. You can even broadcast from your mobile device. When you decide to broadcast to your social followers, it’s best to give them advance notice and stay live for a longer period of time to give viewers an opportunity to join.

Broadcasting on YouTube Live works a little differently, and you don’t necessarily need followers to make the most of the service, because anyone can tune into your live stream.

Though if your business has a YouTube profile, and already has 1000 YouTube subscribers or more, then you can broadcast from a mobile device with this service as well.

Summary

With so many people distancing themselves for an unknown amount of time, they’ll search for ways to interact, socialize, and try to maintain their daily routines from within their homes.

By enabling people to book appointments, services, and events online, and use video conferencing to interact with them, you may be able to help them do just that. And hopefully, help your own business in the process.


You can do this!

If you need a helping hand, we’re here for you.

Above all, have faith in yourself. We have faith in you.


 

The post Set up online appointments and use video conferencing instead of face-to-face meetings appeared first on GoDaddy Blog.

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Government assistance resources for small businesses impacted by COVID-19

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OpenWeStand Hashtag

Continue the conversation in GoDaddy’s #OpenWeStand community forum.

Connect with other small business entrepreneurs to share creative solutions, exchange ideas, gather feedback, build relationships and troubleshoot technical issues.

This post was originally published on March 19, 2020, and was updated on March 27, 2020 and April 2, 2020.

Governments everywhere are launching programs to help small businesses impacted by COVID-19. This list contains government resources and information that you may find useful as you navigate the weeks and months ahead.

This is meant as a starting place. We’ll continue to monitor and update this list with new resources so you can find assistance that’s available. But even with our best efforts this list will not be exhaustive. If possible, find and contact your local government officials and agencies.

Disclaimer: These programs are offered by individual governments and not GoDaddy. Please see the linked pages for applicable terms, restrictions and instructions governing all programs. 

Government assistance resources by region

Americas
Europe
Oceania
Asia

Americas

Canada

United States

Europe

Austria

Denmark

Finland

France

Germany

Iceland

Italy

Netherlands

  • Rijksdienst voor Ondernemend Nederland   – Guarantee a loan if you’re a small business with little collateral to borrow money.
  • Belastingdienst   – Help to get through these difficult times include tax payment deferrals, temporary reduction of interest, and more
  • Rijksoverheid   – Temporary provisions are available for 3 months, including income support, deferred loan payments, lower interest rates, and more.

Norway

Spain

  • Tax relief for businesses   – Businesses may be entitled to defer payment of taxes or pay them in installments for an interest-free period of six months.

Sweden

  • Verksamt.se  – Read about the temporary changes in laws and regulations for entrepreneurs.
  • Finansdepartementet  – See details about the crisis packages for Swedish companies and employee jobs.

United Kingdom

Oceania

Australia

New Zealand

  • COVID-19: Information for business  – Get details on the government economic response package. It includes a wage-subsidy scheme, leave and self-isolation support, business cash flow and tax measures, and a wider $12.1 billion package.

Asia

China

Hong Kong

  • Hong Kong Relief Burden  – Find out about relief options, such as a concessionary low-interest loan with a 100% government guarantee for enterprises, and more.

Japan

  • 経済産業省  – Learn about the latest trade and industry support measures designed to help businesses.

Singapore

  • Stabilization and support packages   – Learn about different packages, including an 8% wage rebate, government co-funded wage increases for Singaporean employees, a 25% rebate of tax payable, a 15% property tax rebate for qualifying commercial properties, and more.

South Korea

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