Month: August 2019

InsightsProductsStartups

5 Startups in the Cannabis Industry That Will Inspire You to Start Your Own Business

If you are thinking of starting a business in the cannabis industry, you are definitely on the right track when it comes to profit. With the right idea and a good team, you will be able to thrive and advance with almost unstoppable speed. 

The cannabis industry is now legal across different countries, making it one of the fastest-growing in the world. This is the main reason why a lot of people decide to invest their money in it. Not to mention the fact that it was worth $13.8 billion in 2018.

The cannabis industry is made out of four different branches – medical, recreational, industrial, and CBD oil. Depending on your ideas, you can choose any of them for your business. 

That being said, the most profitable one (and fastest-growing) at the moment is medical cannabis – worth $5.1 billion! Recreational cannabis is close second and is worth $3.2 billion. Those are indeed some inspiring numbers.

So if you are looking for business inspiration, you are in the right place! In this article, we will take a look at some of the most popular startups in the cannabis industry. The secret to their success is unique ideas and of course, a good business plan. This will give you an idea of what is already out there and how it functions.

LeafLink

LeafLink is an online marketplace for wholesale cannabis. This service helps retailers with the management aspects of all cannabis businesses, providing products like CRM, streamlined ordering, reporting tools, and shipment queues.

MassRoots

If you want to connect with other cannabis enthusiasts, then MassRoots is a platform designed just for you! You can use it for searching nearby dispensaries, write and get reviews, and post your own photos.

Eaze

According to recent reports, Amazon is the most popular online retailer in the world. Eaze is known as the Amazon for medical cannabis and is rapidly expanding. It is connected with a lot of dispensaries, offering a variety of products and delivering them to your homes.

Surterra Holdings

Surterra Holdings is most known as a cannabis-based therapy company. It manufactures and distributes medical cannabis products, such as vape pens, oils, transdermal patches, tinctures, sprays, and lotions.

Vangst

Last but not least is the recruitment platform that helps connect people who are looking for a career in the cannabis industry. The service managed to find jobs for thousands of people so far and help them earn money by doing what they are inspired to do.

Bottom Line

As you can see, all these services offer something unique and what people really need. This is a powerful combination when it comes to business. 

So what do you think? Are you still interested in starting a business in the cannabis industry? Or maybe you already have a startup? Share your thoughts and experiences with us in the comment section below.

For more information about the cannabis industry, take a look at the infographic below.

DevelopmentInsightsProductsStartups

Should You Hire a Freelance Writer for Your Business?

Content marketing is a must-have strategy for any business in 2019 for big corporations and personal brands alike. Your positioning in the niche and your reputation depend on it greatly. There is just one pesky downside – maintaining a blog takes a lot of time. Now, delegating some of the most time-consuming tasks to the professionals sounds like a good idea, yet will it work for your business?

Another issue is value for money. Services of a good writer can be costly, and if you are a small company or an individual webpreneur, your budget might be limited. Of course, you can always use a paper help discount code and order content from a service that matches you with content writers on a budget. Yet that’s a one-off solution for emergencies. What about long-time strategies, then?

To decide whether hiring an external freelance writer for your business, you must consider the following:

Personality and consistency

You want all your content and all messages to your audience from your brand to be consistently written in your brand’s tone of voice. That’s why hiring a freelance writer is tricky, since inconsistency in style will be apparent at first glance.

If you are a big and established brand with a style handbook, this issue can be navigated, since you have guidelines, recommendations, and a comprehensive portfolio of text that your ghostwriter can study and take as an example. Plus, there is a chance that your style is already known to them.

Still, even the most skilled and experienced writer does not possess the personality of your CEO or whoever they are tasked to mimic. So for content intended for the upper segments of the sales funnel, when you want your audience simply to see and read you, hiring freelancers makes sense. However, for the authoritative content with which you plan to build your reputation as the opinion leader in the niche, it’s better to use your own resources. Same goes for the strategic content that will make your visitors into leads and, subsequently, customers. 

Hire an in-house writer or editor if you think that your writing skills need some polishing, but write the content yourself. Who else but you has the expertise and authentic experience your audience came here for?

Consider the right balance

Working with freelance writers can be a good investment for your company when you begin positioning yourself. After all, they are professionals and their strong skills and abilities are something to learn from. Working with a writer can even help you to develop your brand’s tone of voice and your own writing style, which is a great investment in your business and the quality of the future content.

However, content writers usually lack technical and background expertise, even if they work in the same niche or with similar companies as yours. It isn’t really fair to expect it from them. Still, you can have the best of two worlds. You can jot down your ideas in a first quick-and-dirty draft and task your freelance writer with polishing it. This way you will present your audience with valuable insights in a sleek readable form.

Platforms

Another thing to consider is the intended platform. If the blog is hosted on your website, it gives you more flexibility with style and format. It’s a good place for both in-depth contents that requires an understanding of your brand and for entertaining stuff that hooks the passers-by and attracts a wider audience.

However, if you intend to win the social media game, you must play by their rules. To be the best on Facebook or Twitter you must hire a skilled SMM manager rather than a talented copywriter. If you seriously relying on social media for your success, you need someone who knows the subtleties of these channels, their audiences and ways to engage them.

All in all, it’s a decision that you make based on your company’s needs, available budget, and costs and benefits ratio. Either in-house or freelance – a writer is certainly not a must-have even in a content marketing game.

DevelopmentInsightsSEO

How Can SEO Professionals Do Business in a Sluggish Economy?

The SEO industry has resumed back its course, after the recent Google update! Now the SEO vertical is booming, and there are ample business opportunities that SEO professionals can grab and leverage. But there’s no guarantee, that’s how everything is going to be forever. The economy can change anytime and become sluggish. It can hamper business, and the SEO professionals might not have the required strategy to work their way out.

Economic downswings are inevitable! It occurs when you least expect them. Sometimes, SEO experts can see vital signs. An economic downswing will impact an SEO professional’s capacity to maintain revenue. But when you work out way well enough, you can even thrive during a slow economy. Today, you need to join hands with an ace SEO agency or service provider to stay guided and well advised. It will help your in-house SEO staff. To know more about this, you can check out Social Market Way

You can use the following steps to ensure positive results in a slow economy.

 

Maximize the marketing activity

 

As the economy slows down, usually people put a pause on the marketing activities. They minimize the costs every way possible. However, this strategy can result in a downfall. It is easy to understand why this can happen! If your marketing activity gets minimized, you lose out on valuable exposure as well. Less exposure means less revenue. It’s a negative downward spiral, and you should omit this.

A slow economy is a great time to review all the marketing strategies and recognize ineffective tactics, channels, and campaigns. You can even delete these. However, that should be an ongoing practice. Anything that you save will eventually get invested in some form or the other in your business. The added benefit is the fact that when the economy is not at its best, all the other market players and competitors will reduce their marketing initiative as well. And it will give you increased advertising scopes. And at times, you can get this done at a decreased price that you have access to. 

SEO professionals need to take a leap of faith and maximize their marketing. It might seem counterproductive for a while, but then SEO professionals will soon see the difference.

 

Get involved with direct sales 

 

Most SEO professionals aren’t very fond of the word “sale.” And that is the reason why very few place emphases on networking. And even a lesser number gets some business procured. However, the good news here is that it is familiar with all or most of your market-players. So, do you not prefer the idea of being out in public and get involved in direct sales? If yes, then you need to reconsider a few things. It is essential to move away from this feeling if you wish to make the most of a slugging economy.

Sales don’t necessarily mean high-pressure, sales-y tactics. It doesn’t indicate making a client uncomfortable with a sales proposal, forcing them to make a purchase. It is more to do with strategic initiatives. The best way to go about it is to choose a specific section of high-end prospects and start by connecting with them through a phone call, email as well as other face-to-face interactions.

The ultimate objective is to bag a client. The aim is to create a bond. It could mean you make a phone call or send a business proposal. It will help you to introduce your brand. And after that, you can start to qualify for the sales process slightly more. Take time out to understand the business requirements and pitch your product through a sales proposal mail. Here you can make use of the required keywords, to attract your client’s attention. For this, you need to do some extra background and research work. You should have this entire strategy planned. Else, there might be careless mistakes, which can cost you more during an economic downswing. 

 

Make the most referrals 

 

Most SEO professionals get a massive chunk of their work through referrals. And when the time comes, it is always best to connect with the references and ask for further recommendation. Make sure that you are clear about your business plans with the referrals. That will help them assist you better. You can send out a mail to the ones present in your referral list. Also, if there are a few names, that you feel you should get connected individually, go ahead and do that.

Your referrals might not have immediate work for you! The idea is to wait and get back when you deem fit. Sometimes, getting work means being active in your referral follow-up. Make sure you manage your referral list effectively even when the economy is back to a good shape.

 

Complete what you’ve undertaken

 

SEO professionals are never entirely out of a job! Even when the economy is sluggish, there’s some work or the other finish. It could be managing a keyword list, preparing cluster keywords, competitor analysis, and the like. You might have to develop a PPC strategy for a client that they will use once the economy bounces back. So, while you leverage your referral list and get engaged in direct sales, make sure that you don’t ignore what you have at hand.

Carry on with the SEO plan that you had proposed your client, for whom you are already working. But consider the current economic condition and make the necessary changes. For instance, it makes sense to reduce the SEO content and blog frequency when there’s an economic downturn. You might want to focus only those keywords of which you are certain. Experimenting with long-tail keywords and keyword cluster can happen later. Try and rephrase the old web content by adding a new tweak. It is a perfect time to make these critical changes.

These are some of how SEO professionals can still stay in business during a slow economy. It helps them to respond according to the current situations and also ensure that they don’t go out of business. You can even think of other strategies as they survive through the slow economy phase.

Martech

Ready for More? Scalable Shopify Plus Sites Support Online Merchant Growth

Ecommerce websites continue to flood the Internet, making it a greater challenge to remain relevant in a busy marketplace. Getting heard above the din requires creativity and an interactive site that attracts targeted traffic. Learn more about how Shopify Plus sites are scalable to support online merchant growth.

Be in Good Company

Choosing the right platform is a challenge for online merchants. It makes sense to find out the platform other industry leaders prefer. Selecting Shopify Plus means being in good company. Corporations that use the platform include Unilever and Kylie, a brand known for attracting heavy traffic. From special releases to epic sales, a robust platform can handle the traffic coming to a merchant site.

Provide an Outstanding User Experience

As the competition gets fiercer, it makes sense to provide an outstanding user experience. Shopify Plus is an award-winning eCommerce platform designed to accommodate high volume merchants. The cloud-based platform offers a seamless experience to encourage visitors to trust the site and make purchases rather than surfing away in frustration. Each year, the platform processes billions of dollars in transactions, making it a viable solution for large corporations.

Multichannel Capabilities

Making money means being able to sell a variety of products on all the leading marketplaces and social networks. Multichannel capabilities improve sales by putting businesses in the right place at the right time. Plus, it helps broaden brand awareness to ensure customers recognize the company and its offerings. Improved customer engagement encourages visitors to take action and come back for more.

Unlimited Bandwidth

Unlimited bandwidth means the site can continue to grow without worrying about slow loading times or a less than satisfactory user experience. Shopify Plus sites have 99.97 percent uptime to give users a fast and pleasant experience at merchant sites. With an SaaS model, smaller companies can also afford to invest in Shopify Plus because it helps reduces IT costs over time.

Accept Payments

As an online merchant grows, it becomes increasingly important to provide different payment methods to customers. Having the option to pay a specific way improves conversion rates and customer retention. With Shopify Plus, merchants can offer access to dozens of payment gateways such as PayPal and Bitcoin. Customers who can always find a method to pay for what they want at the site will return to shop in the future.

A Secure Online Environment

An online merchant must provide a secure online environment where customers feel comfortable sharing private information. Updated security measures ensure the site can safely capture and process payment data and other pertinent info to process orders and stay connected with customers. Providing the highest level of security builds trust in the brand and helps transform visitors into paying customers. Plus, fraud prevention adds another layer of security for online merchants.

Customizable Site

Be able to customize a site makes an online merchant look different from industry competitors. Developing a recognizable brand with a site to match improves brand recognition and encourages customer engagement. And, website owners can revamp their merchant sites to reflect current trends and offerings to ensure the site never looks outdated. Fresh content attracts search engines and targeted traffic to help online merchants grow their businesses to the next level of success. Shopify Plus designers and developers help companies find the ideal format for their online stores.

Online merchant growth requires patience, effort, and attention to detail. Choosing the Shopify Plus platform is the foundation for success. As the enterprise expands, the site will be able to accommodate the increased number of visitors and activities. And well-established companies discover a platform that does what they need better, faster, and with greater scalability than other platforms.

DevelopmentInsightsMartechSaaS

How to Use Instagram Live in Your Marketing: A 7-Step Plan

Instagram Live works like Instagram Stories, which has about 500 million daily active users.

What makes it even better is that Instagram Stories shows up on top of a user’s feed, so they’re more likely to get a user’s attention more than regular content.

But it gets better than that. When you use Instagram Live, you’ll show up in the first place of Stories that are shown on top of the feed. In other words, Instagram live is like a shortcut to the top.

But that’s just the start. How can you harness it to get more attention, create connections, and build your brand?

Instagram Live in a Nutshell

Just a few months after Instagram Stories went out, Live Stories was rolled out.

IG Stories are pictures or videos that disappear approximately 48 hours after being posted. This lets users share more without overposting on their feeds. It’s a casual way of sharing what’s happening, without having it archived forever.

Instagram Live, unlike Facebook Live, isn’t meant to last long. Once it’s over, they’re gone, and won’t be visible on a page of a user anymore. It’s one way to become spontaneous, and an excellent addition to Instagram’s set of features.

Aside from broadcasting, Instagram Live Stories can also be a form of interaction. Users can submit their comments and questions. It also lets broadcasters and viewers have a real-time interaction with one another. 

It’s also an excellent way to discover new content. The platform’s Explore page now has a section called “Top Live” which allows users to search and watch the most popular Live Stories.

Why You Should Utilize Instagram Live

Instagram receives the highest engagement among all other social media platforms, but its saturation caused big issues for its post reach. So, if you’re utilizing Instagram for your social media marketing strategy, you need to stay competitive to remain on top of your game. But how do you do that? Well, by keeping up to date with its latest features.

Now, we’ve briefly discussed Instagram Live’s benefits:

  • Authenticity
  • Improved user-engagement
  • Cost-effective in producing content
  • Builds a sense of urgency
  • Greater brand awareness

Overall, Instagram Live is a helpful feature that reaps a lot of benefits. But still, this feature is underutilized.

How to Use Instagram Live

Prepare for your live broadcast

If you want to have a successful Instagram live broadcast, then you need to prepare ahead of time. This is true, especially if it’s your first time going live on social media.

Treat it as if you’re giving a business presentation. You need to outline your speaking points, write your script, list down some Q&A questions, and most importantly, practice!

One of the best ways to prepare yourself for an Instagram Live broadcast is to record yourself in front of a camera first. Watch the recording again, and make necessary adjustments if you can.

Promote your live broadcast ahead of time

One of your main goals is to reach as many users as possible. The best way for you to get a larger audience is to appear on Instagram Live’s Explore Page.

According to Voy Media, a New York social media agency, “Just like with Instagram’s algorithm with regular posts, if you’re generating high engagement and viewers from your live forecast, it means that it’s high-quality and interesting with other users as well. So, the more viewers and engagement that you’ll be getting, the more will you able to get featured on the Explore Page.”

That’s why you must promote your Instagram Live beforehand. If you want to get a lot of views and engagement, then your audience has to know ahead of time.

See to it that you write a post with the live video as your topic to create a buzz about it. That way, you’re maximizing your chances of getting more viewers aboard.

Use it for product teasers and launches

Another trend about Instagram Live that businesses can utilize is to use it to tease viewers regarding product launches. In fact, it’s an excellent platform to build a lot of hype around what you sell.

Whether you’re teasing your followers for a future product launch or introducing a new product line, it’s a great way to generate tons of excitement around your business.

To utilize this strategy in your Live broadcast, get your most in-demand product and release a few details about it. Creating this kind of mystery will excite your followers even more!

After releasing the teaser, you can ask your customers to sign up to get more information. Having this approach creates an element of exclusivity in your live videos, which entices users to act immediately, and increases the number of leads that you get.

Invite influencers to participate

The Instagram Live strategy takes advantage of the “limited time” nature of the video stream. Unless you have replays of your videos, most users are aware that they only have one chance to join your forecast.

For instance, offering limited-time promo codes is an excellent way to boost a sense of urgency. But there are other options that you can try, as well, such as asking influencers to participate. You can ask to make a big announcement during the stream.

When you partner with influencers, they’ll post about your products and services, exposing you to thousands (or millions) of followers who drives traffic back to your brand’s website.

Announce promotions and flash sales

Another great way to boost your live video’s viewership is to announce that you’re offering limited time promotions in your broadcast. 

Therefore, if you have a discount, giveaways, promotions, and other campaigns that you want to offer to a selected group of people, then you better announce it beforehand. As soon as you go live, you can offer the discount codes and coupons to your viewers.

Host a Q&A session

Your customers might have a question on something, so being able to address it takes off the need to look it up by themselves.

Hosting a Q&A session on Instagram Live allows you to answer questions about your products and services.

Through the “Live Request” feature, users can personally join the video chat. This allows face-to-face interaction with your viewers, giving them a more personalized experience as they could be able to talk to you, one-on-one.

Create product demonstrations

For you to attract plenty of new users, you need to show them that you understand their needs and that you can offer the best solution for them.

Once your audience will get to know you better, their trust for your brand will build over time, until they believe that your products will serve them best and that you can cater to their needs.

Product demos and tutorials are a great way to engage your audience because it precisely shows them how your product works and how it solves their problems. During the stream, make sure that you know what you’re talking about and that you efficiently demonstrate every process to your audience.

To Wrap It Up

Overall, Instagram Live is another effective tool for reaching, connecting, and engaging with your audience in an all-inclusive platform.

So, make sure that you apply these Instagram Live tips to get the most out of your marketing efforts on Instagram.

DevelopmentInsightsSEO

How Can SEO Professionals Do Business in a Sluggish Economy?

The SEO industry has resumed back its course, after the recent Google update! Now the SEO vertical is booming, and there are ample business opportunities that SEO professionals can grab and leverage. But there’s no guarantee, that’s how everything is going to be forever. The economy can change anytime and become sluggish. It can hamper business, and the SEO professionals might not have the required strategy to work their way out.

Economic downswings are inevitable! It occurs when you least expect them. Sometimes, SEO experts can see vital signs. An economic downswing will impact an SEO professional’s capacity to maintain revenue. But when you work out way well enough, you can even thrive during a slow economy. Today, you need to join hands with an ace SEO agency or service provider to stay guided and well advised. It will help your in-house SEO staff. To know more about this, you can check out Social Market Way

You can use the following steps to ensure positive results in a slow economy.

 

Maximize the marketing activity

 

As the economy slows down, usually people put a pause on the marketing activities. They minimize the costs every way possible. However, this strategy can result in a downfall. It is easy to understand why this can happen! If your marketing activity gets minimized, you lose out on valuable exposure as well. Less exposure means less revenue. It’s a negative downward spiral, and you should omit this.

A slow economy is a great time to review all the marketing strategies and recognize ineffective tactics, channels, and campaigns. You can even delete these. However, that should be an ongoing practice. Anything that you save will eventually get invested in some form or the other in your business. The added benefit is the fact that when the economy is not at its best, all the other market players and competitors will reduce their marketing initiative as well. And it will give you increased advertising scopes. And at times, you can get this done at a decreased price that you have access to. 

SEO professionals need to take a leap of faith and maximize their marketing. It might seem counterproductive for a while, but then SEO professionals will soon see the difference.

 

Get involved with direct sales 

 

Most SEO professionals aren’t very fond of the word “sale.” And that is the reason why very few place emphases on networking. And even a lesser number gets some business procured. However, the good news here is that it is familiar with all or most of your market-players. So, do you not prefer the idea of being out in public and get involved in direct sales? If yes, then you need to reconsider a few things. It is essential to move away from this feeling if you wish to make the most of a slugging economy.

Sales don’t necessarily mean high-pressure, sales-y tactics. It doesn’t indicate making a client uncomfortable with a sales proposal, forcing them to make a purchase. It is more to do with strategic initiatives. The best way to go about it is to choose a specific section of high-end prospects and start by connecting with them through a phone call, email as well as other face-to-face interactions.

The ultimate objective is to bag a client. The aim is to create a bond. It could mean you make a phone call or send a business proposal. It will help you to introduce your brand. And after that, you can start to qualify for the sales process slightly more. Take time out to understand the business requirements and pitch your product through a sales proposal mail. Here you can make use of the required keywords, to attract your client’s attention. For this, you need to do some extra background and research work. You should have this entire strategy planned. Else, there might be careless mistakes, which can cost you more during an economic downswing. 

 

Make the most referrals 

 

Most SEO professionals get a massive chunk of their work through referrals. And when the time comes, it is always best to connect with the references and ask for further recommendation. Make sure that you are clear about your business plans with the referrals. That will help them assist you better. You can send out a mail to the ones present in your referral list. Also, if there are a few names, that you feel you should get connected individually, go ahead and do that.

Your referrals might not have immediate work for you! The idea is to wait and get back when you deem fit. Sometimes, getting work means being active in your referral follow-up. Make sure you manage your referral list effectively even when the economy is back to a good shape.

 

Complete what you’ve undertaken

 

SEO professionals are never entirely out of a job! Even when the economy is sluggish, there’s some work or the other finish. It could be managing a keyword list, preparing cluster keywords, competitor analysis, and the like. You might have to develop a PPC strategy for a client that they will use once the economy bounces back. So, while you leverage your referral list and get engaged in direct sales, make sure that you don’t ignore what you have at hand.

Carry on with the SEO plan that you had proposed your client, for whom you are already working. But consider the current economic condition and make the necessary changes. For instance, it makes sense to reduce the SEO content and blog frequency when there’s an economic downturn. You might want to focus only those keywords of which you are certain. Experimenting with long-tail keywords and keyword cluster can happen later. Try and rephrase the old web content by adding a new tweak. It is a perfect time to make these critical changes.

These are some of how SEO professionals can still stay in business during a slow economy. It helps them to respond according to the current situations and also ensure that they don’t go out of business. You can even think of other strategies as they survive through the slow economy phase.

DevelopmentInsightsMartech

Conversation Marketing: Intercom, Drift, and Gist 

The way people communicate has changed. These days, people are far more likely to message back and forth in a conversation thread on their phone than take a call or even email.

In response to these changing communication patterns, a new form of marketing automation called conversational marketing has emerged.

The main benefits of conversational marketing lie in its ability to shorten the lead generation process and target potential customers when they are most engaged. By using marketing automation software with either chatbots or live chat functionality, conversational marketing engages potential leads then and there, often when they are browsing a businesses’ website.

With many marketing automation software platforms available in the market, your ability to take advantage of conversational marketing depends greatly on the platform you use.

Let’s take a look at some of the major functions of conversational marketing platforms in the marketing automation software space and see how the major players compare.

Email Marketing

Intercom doesn’t offer email marketing functionality, at least not in the typical sense anyway. While the platform doesn’t give users the ability to send broadcast or drip campaigns via email, it does give businesses the power to send personalized, one-off email communications to leads or existing customers.

Drift has recently introduced email functionality into its platform. Like Intercom, the focus remains very much on the live chat tool and the email functionality is almost like an afterthought. Drift has designed their email tool to ‘deeply integrate’ with their chat feature. While this is great from a user perspective, it doesn’t allow businesses to send anything more than one-off emails. 

Gist has always had email marketing functionality, giving businesses the ability to communicate with leads and existing customers through email however they like. The Gist email tool includes broadcast functionality, drip campaigns to nurture leads and one-off email.  – including emailing your list and collecting email addresses.

Winner: Drift may be suitable if you are only communicating with your clients one-on-one, otherwise Gist is a better option to build your database.

Chat

Intercom is first and foremost a live chat platform. Intercom is by no means new to the game, and have fine-tuned their offering over this time. While Intercom does offer impressive functionality, the standout here is the simplicity and visually appealing look of their product, both in the front end for users and the back end for businesses. 

Like Intercom, the chat is at the core of Drift’s offering. It makes sense that its chat functionality is impressive. In addition to a simple, user-friendly interface for both businesses and front end users, Drift offers businesses the ability to really hone in on leads and send individual leads directly to certain team members based on pre-set criteria. 

At a glance, much of the functionality offered by Intercom and Drift is also there in Gist’s live chat feature. One added perk is direct integration to Facebook, giving businesses greater flexibility over where they continue the conversation with clients.

Winner:

If you are just looking for a simple, good looking chat feature with no other extras, you may do better to go for Intercom. 

Help Desk

Intercom offers an impressive Help Desk feature that is well integrated with its chat tool. Using a combination of the two, businesses can set up chatbots to answer commonly asked questions and help existing customers after hours. The tool also enables businesses to create a knowledge base of articles for quick reference in the future. 

Similarly, Drift does offer tools to support current customers via chat, although they pail in companion to the help desk offered by Intercom.

Gist’s help desk tool is similar in many ways to that offered by Intercom. Like Intercom, the Gist tool allows businesses to set up chatbots to answer questions and create a knowledge base of articles to save time for both your team and your customers. The real benefit of the Gist help desk tool is its ability to track and save data on every customer interaction, not just those that happened through chat. 

Winner: While Intercom and Drift both offer good help desk tools, the ability to track customer interactions across different platforms is just too good. This one goes to Gist.

Knowledge Base

Both Intercom and Drift offer a fully functioning knowledge base with many similarities. Both platforms allow businesses to quickly create and edit articles, organize and save drafts with ease. One big plus for Drift is the integration of their knowledge base and their bot building tool, allowing businesses to easily add this functionality to custom chatbots. It’s worth noting though that the bot functionality is only available on Drift’s top tier packages.

Similarly, Gist offers complete knowledge base functionality with many of the same features. One nice benefit Gist offers is the ability to easily add rich media like images and videos into your articles. 

Winner: While all platforms offer a good knowledge base product, the competitive price of Gist makes this the best option. 

Meetings

Both Drift and Gist offer inbuilt meeting scheduling tools on their platform, allowing businesses to seamlessly facilitate meetings between leads and their sales and marketing teams. While both tools offer similar functionality like the ability to book meetings through live chat and bots, Drift’s tool includes the ability to send links with one click schedule. 

While Intercom offers over 100 integrations, including some of the major scheduling tools, they do not have an inbuilt tool. 

Winner: While Drift and Gist both offer impressive meeting scheduling tools, the addition of one-click scheduling wins this for Drift.

Marketing Automation

While intercom doesn’t specifically offer a Marketing Automation tool, they include features called ‘smart campaigns’ and ‘targeted messages’ that serve a similar purpose. In a nutshell, these tools can be used to create automated drip campaigns and automated messages to leads.

Like Intercom, Drift offers some marketing automation tools for businesses to segment users and market to them based on the actions they take on your page.

In addition to automated messaging within the chat tool, the marketing automation feature within Gist enables businesses to automatically tag site visitors based on their actions, communicate and store this information in your CRM system as well as subscribe users to drip campaigns.

Winner: You can’t go past the all in one marketing solution offered by Gist.

Event Tracking

Both Drift and Gist offer a similar level of event tracking, enabling businesses to track the movements of leads on their site and use this data to market to them. Intercom doesn’t currently offer event tracking capability.

Winner: While both Gist and Drift offer a similar level of tracking, the functionality, and scale of data within Drift make this a better option.

Chat Bots

All platforms offer chatbot functionality, each with a few unique benefits. Drift’s chatbot tool is perhaps the most advanced, offering businesses the opportunity to customize their bots and integrate these into their sales cycle.

Where Intercom shines is the creation process, with a visual bot builder ensuring this process can be done by even the most tech-shy business owner.

While the Gist chatbot tool isn’t yet quite as slick as that offered by Intercom and drift, it’s worth noting that this feature is included as part of the platforms standard package and is available for far less cost than you would pay with Intercom or Drift.

Winner: The super easy bot builder wins this for Intercom. 

Forms

As they are primarily live chat tools, neither Intercom or Drift offers a forms tool. As part of their email marketing platform, Gist offers several customizable forms to help businesses launch their sales funnel and get leads on the hook.

Winner: Gist by default.

Pricing

Let’s break down the pricing structure of each platform.

Intercom

Intercom offers all three components of its software separately or bundled together. While this allows businesses to tailor the perfect solution to suit them, it can be confusing and may work out to be more expensive.

As a complete solution, Intercom starts from $136 per month for the Essential plan, going up to $202 per month for Pro. It’s worth noting that some major integrations like Salesforce and Zendesk are only available on the Pro plan.

Drift

Drift’ pricing is refreshingly simple compared to Intercom. All services come bundled together and are available in three packages. For small businesses, Drift offers the majority of the functionality of the platform for free for up to 500 users per month.

For businesses with more site traffic, the Standard package will run you $50 per month including 2 team members. This also includes custom greetings, a live view of site visitors and email sequencing. Additional team members can be added for $25 per month.

Top of the line is the Pro package for $500 per month. This includes access for 5 team members as well as the ability to automatically schedule meetings and sync data with your CRM platform.

Gist

If you are on the fence about Gist, they offer a 21-day free trial to get a feel for the platform. 

Similar to Drift, Gist offer a free plan to small businesses with up to 500 contacts per month. Next is the Standard plan for $29 per month which includes reporting, email marketing, ticketing, knowledge base, and a lead qualifying bot.

Top of the line is the Pro package for $79 per month. This includes all features as well as chatbots, automated meetings, event visualizer and marketing automation.

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Can You Trust a Machine That Thinks Like Us?

Trust, specifically the lack thereof, is one of the challenges currently facing the artificial intelligence industry right now. The critical underlying assumption of No trust, no use is making it difficult for developers, tech companies, and AI engineers to build trust in AI and facilitate faster adoption or usage.

Despite the many great promises AI hold, the potential dangers and the issue of not knowing how it works to make people wary of using the technology. Notable figures such as Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, and Bill Gates have previously expressed concerns about the dangers that AI poses to humanity, with some of them going as far as speculating that AI will eventually make humans extinct. 

But before we delve into this controversial topic, let us first define what artificial intelligence is. Artificial intelligence, widely known as AI, is all about building machines that can think and act like a human. It has a wide and varied range of applications, some of which we interact with every day. If you’re using Siri, Alexa, or Cortana, then you’re already engaging with AI. Google’s search algorithms are also a form of artificial intelligence. Software testing automation tools, which is becoming popular among developers, are also applications of artificial intelligence. Soon, self-driving cars, independently-operating appliances, and other AI-powered machines will become a common household item. 

Trust Issues 

Despite the benefits, people are finding it hard to trust AI. The lack of trust is also one of the common reasons why some of the best-known AI efforts failed. IBM’s Watson for Oncology, for example, failed to impress cancer doctors during its PR attempt, causing the project to become wasted. The doctors didn’t trust Watson’s results because they didn’t understand how the machine came to its conclusions.

This begs the question; how do AIs think? An AI’s decision-making process is too complicated for ordinary people to understand. The only people who know how a particular machine works are the developers and the company that manufactured it. But the end-user usually doesn’t have any idea what goes on inside these machines’ “brains.” And it is part of human nature to feel anxious when people don’t understand something, making them feel that they are losing control.

This is how the concept of explainability becomes critical. In the case of Watson’s, if the doctors understood how Watson came up with the results, they might have had a different opinion of it and their trust level may have been higher. AI developers and tech companies should do a much better job at explaining to people how their systems work and how they arrive at certain decisions to avoid misunderstanding. Some AI systems are easy to understand, but most of them will need to work hard to simplify the explanations or ‘dumb down’ AI algorithms to make them explainable.

Unfortunately, complicated algorithms such as deep learning and machine learning will be harder to interpret, so these trust issues won’t be going away any time soon. 

Machines That Think

One of the amazing, and probably scary, characteristics of AI is its ability to ‘think.’ Being able to analyze data, make deductions, and arrive at a decision based on them reveal the infinite potential of artificial intelligence. The concept of Terminator’s Skynet may not be even far off in the future. With AI’s machine learning and deep learning concepts, a world filled with self-thinking machines is getting closer to reality. 

Machine learning and deep learning are common AI buzzwords, and examples of them are everywhere. It’s how Netflix predicts which flicks you’ll want to watch next or how Facebook recognizes the people in a photo.

Machine learning is defined as:

“Algorithms that parse data, learn from that data, and then apply what they’ve learned to make informed decisions.”

This concept is commonly used by services that offer automated recommendations, such as music and video streaming services. By understanding the user’s music selections and comparing it with other users who have similar preferences, the AI can list out songs or movies that the user might like. And this algorithm is designed to be constantly learning, just like a virtual assistant. The more you use the service, the more accurate the AI will be in predicting what you like.

Deep learning, on the other hand, is a subset of machine learning, except with different capabilities. Most basic machine learning models usually become progressively better at what they do, but they still need the guidance of some form. For example, if the algorithm comes up with an inaccurate recommendation, the engineer or developer has to make adjustments. With deep learning, the algorithm can decide on its own, whether the prediction is accurate or not using its neural network. 

Google’s AlphaGo illustrates how powerful deep learning is. This computer program created by Google has its neural network that knows how to play the board game Go. Go requires sharp intellect and a lot of thinking, so it is amazing how AlphaGo can play against the level of professional Go players.

Should You Trust Thinking Machines? 

The debate about whether AIs should be trusted or not is a hot topic in the tech world. No matter how powerful AIs are, they still lack man’s judgment capabilities, causing them to make mistakes or provide inaccurate results. The processes behind AIs thinking process is hard to explain and people tend to be wary of what they don’t know of. 

Should we trust AI? The answer probably depends on these questions:

  • Does it perform well? 
  • Is the machine safe and was it built correctly? 
  • Does the machine perform the way it was intended? 
  • Can we predict the results? 
  • Does the machine adhere to ethical standards?

Computers are becoming an integral part of our lives, and automation is only going to become more popular over time. It has become increasingly important to understand how these complicated AI and machine learning systems are making their decisions before people will come to trust them.

Author Bio

A Computer Engineer by degree and a writer by profession, Cathy Trimidal writes for Software Tested and Outbyte. For years now, she has contributed articles focusing on the trends in IT, VPN, web apps, SEO, and digital marketing. Although she spends most of her days living in a virtual realm, she still finds time to satisfy her infinite list of interests.

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5 Tips for Effective Web Design and Boost Business

These days, every business requires an engaging website as it is one of the most important elements for a business. However, a website is more than just exceeding in limited aspects like solely content or design. A functioning website needs to have a design that feeds into your visitor’s experience, functionality, and suitably complements your content.

Your site needs to clearly and accurately communicate with your visitors what your business is about, why you do what you do, and the type of people you do it for. The five tips listed below will help you create an effective web design and create the impact you desired.

1. Keep users in mind

Technically your website is about your business and you, but in reality, it is a lot more about your consumers and the market. Your site is about speaking to your visitor about the market and how you can help them with whatever they are looking for. That means the website design is for them, the content you created is for them, and the sales funnel has to be created with your visitors in mind as well.

You need to be clear on what your brand represents to your visitors and the market. So, you need to be clear who your visitors are, their behavior pattern, and the type of content they are looking for on a site.

2. Optimize the load speeds of your website

If the people that come to your site are met with awfully slow load speeds and inept design, they will be far gone before you have the chance to make your pitch. According to a study, 75 percent of internet users will make judgments about the credibility of a business solely based on the look of their website. And a Kissmetrics infographic shows that you have already lost 25 percent of your potential customers by the time your site reaches four seconds of loading time.

If your site hosts data-intensive photos and graphics, it takes much longer for it to load than a cleanly designed and sleek site with minimal graphics. So, when developing your website, use design elements smartly for quicker load speeds and maximum impact. Several websites are photo-heavy, so ensure you reduce your photo file sizes as much as you can while still maintaining quality. Clever use of white space, text, and color can also go a long way.

3. Implement calls-to-action

The instance people land on your website, do they know the next step to take? They won’t know what action to take or pages to view without any direction. One of the several elements that point to the next step visitor should take on a website is CTA. While several people know this, it can be challenging to use them accurately to guide visitors through your site. It is easy to load your website with several bottoms of the funnel call-to-action and forget that you still need to properly nurture your visitors with several other calls to action that are more middle/top of the funnel.

After going through your website, are you finding most of the pages with only a CTA for consultation, trial, and demo? Then, it is time for you to update your website. Take the time to add CTA that provide the resources to educate your visitors and help them take care of their needs. Once your visitors recognize your website for this, they will feel more comfortable using your service to see if you can offer the answers they need.

4. Design should be unique and simple

Whether you are designing your site on your own or hiring a professional website design company like SketchCorp. Brisbane, your aim is to develop a site that reflects your brand. The first impression is very important as it can either attract or repel visitors. If you use any of the run-of-the-mill template and your site is similar to the tons of others on the internet, you may never be able to create an impact on the visitor’s mind.

Your site homepage can clinch the deal for you; this is why you should make sure it is the anchor for your entire website and remarkable enough to catch the attention of your visitors. Bad website design is awful for your business and can make you lose a significant number of customers. Your potential and customers look forward to flawless navigation. And a clean, user-friendly, and simple website design without any unnecessary embellishments and frills is the way to go.

5. Optimize your business for mobile access

The way people perceive and access the internet has changed. Through the years, the number of people using the internet from desktops has reduced significantly, while considerably more people now access the internet from their mobile devices. Now, mobile devices have become the most popular platform to access the internet, and this is particularly true for the younger audience.

When you create a website, you must optimize it for mobile users; else you will be losing business. Your business website design must be very responsive. And that means you need to design it to be visually adjustable to the screen shape and size of whatever devices it appears on. However, the most functional and responsive sites are not only about having the feature to adjust to new screen sizes, but the site must also be easy to navigate and intuitive. So, whatever you do, ensure you hire a talented web designer to help you create responsive website design.

Conclusion

The tips above can help you integrate different techniques to improve the look of your site and eventually gain potential customers. So, when creating a website, your primary goal should be to build an excellent web design that is not only engaging, interactive, and eye-catching but also has an incredible load time.

It is essential to note that sometimes, good fixes are not essentially quick fixes. Good fixes require persistence, effort, a lot of testing, and investing. As you continually enhance your website designs, you will be able to convert your potential customers.

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Gaming Headset – Importance and How to Buy the Best One?

Gaming headsets help you in communicating with the machine and enjoy better gaming experience in the process. You have a speaker that gives the sound output and a microphone for sound input. In comparison to an ordinary headphone, the gaming headsets are advanced and have better features for the optimum and realistic gaming experience.

You will come across many such headsets and depending on your budget and requirement; you can order one, either online or get one from a store near you.

Essential aspects of gaming headsets

If you have a good headset, you can feel being a part of the gaming experience and sense your involvement in the game even if it is virtual. You can connect better with the gaming environment. Since there are speakers and also a microphone, the acoustic is realistic.

1. Aside from the acoustic speakers and excellent sound quality and real-life experience, you also enjoy the option of noise cancelation. It allows you to choose the optimum sound balance and equalizer selectively.  

2. Since you have the option of using wired and wireless headsets, you can connect the different devices to your LCD TV for a better experience. Also, the better the devices, the more realistic is the experience.

Almost all reputed brands have their collection and variety of headsets. And you can invest in your favorite gaming rig best gaming headsets reviewed and tested one. 

How to buy the best gaming headset?

There are a few crucial features or aspects that can help you to zero-in on the right device. More about the same has been mentioned below in the points-

1. Your gaming headset must be comfortable

Having a headphone that fits well on your head is one of the essential requisites. That is because while gaming, assuming that you will have them on for a considerable time, settle for one that will not pinch and dig into your head or ears. 

2. Quality of the material

You will come across many headsets that are usually made up of plastic that is not of good quality. These are cheaper, but the performance is not good. As such, you may not have the optimum gaming experience. Opt for a sturdy one, usually one that is made up of wireframe or metal. Also, the cheaper quality ones will not last long.

3. Sound quality

There are 2 things that you must check while buying a gaming headset, and the first one is the headphone pad, and the other one is the size of your headphone. It holds true, especially for the games that have low “directional audio cues.”

As such, if there is poor isolation, you will not be able to enjoy the real sound output. Regardless of whether it is the headphone pad or the overhead piece, it must fit properly. If it is not, change and get one that will be best for the shape of your head. A poorly fitting headset can also lead to a headache.

When you take into account the sound quality, make sure you consider the surround sound as well. 

In a nutshell, gaming is a recreational activity that will help you to relax and unwind. Make sure you have the best gaming experience with the right set of devices.