Author: Wael Badawy

 
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Artificial intelligence in business

Artificial intelligence (AI) is not new. It has been around for decades. However, due to greater processing speeds and access to vast amounts of rich data, AI is beginning to take root in our everyday lives.

From natural language generation and voice or image recognition to predictive analytics, machine learning and driverless cars, AI systems have applications in many areas. These technologies are critical to bringing about innovation, providing new business opportunities and reshaping the way companies operate.

What is artificial intelligence (AI)?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a branch of computer science. Its main goal is to create smart machines that can learn on their own and are capable of thinking like humans.

Definition of artificial intelligence
The term ‘artificial intelligence’ commonly applies to devices or applications capable of carrying out specific tasks in human ways, by mimicking cognitive functions such as:
• learning
• reasoning
• problem-solving
• visual perception
• language-understanding
• Different types of artificial intelligence
• There are two main types of AI:

Applied AI – is more common and includes systems designed to intelligently carry out a single task, eg move a driverless vehicle, or trade stocks and shares. This category is also known as ‘weak’ or ‘narrow’ AI.

Generalised AI – is less common and includes systems or devices that can theoretically handle any task, as they carry enough intelligence to find solutions to unfamiliar problems. Generalised AI is also known as ‘strong’ AI. Examples of true strong AI don’t currently exist, as these technologies are still in very early stages of development.
Most modern AI applications are enabled through a discipline known as ‘machine learning’.

What is machine learning?
Machine learning (ML) is a core part of AI. It is based around the idea that machines can detect patterns in data and adjust their program actions according to these patterns. For example, ML applications can:
• read a text and decide if the author is making a complaint or a purchase order
• listen to a piece of music and find other tunes to match the mood
• recognise images and classify them according to the elements they contain
• translate large volumes of text in real time
• accurately recognise faces, speech and objects

In the most basic terms, ML enables computers to learn without being explicitly programmed.

How are AI and machine learning used in business?
Over the years, AI research has enabled many technological advances, including:
• virtual agents and chatbots
• suggestive web searches
• targeted advertising
• pattern recognition
• predictive analytics
• voice and speech recognition
• face recognition
• machine translation
• autonomous driving
• automatic scheduling

Many of these are now commonplace and provide solutions to a great number of business challenges and complex, real-world problems.

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Artificial intelligence in business

Artificial intelligence (AI) is steadily passing into everyday business use. From workflow management to trend predictions, AI has many different uses in business. It also provides new business opportunities.

Application of artificial intelligence in business

You can use AI technologies to:

  • Improve customer services – eg use virtual assistant programs to provide real-time support to users (for example, with billing and other tasks).
  • Automate workloads – eg collect and analyse data from smart sensors, or use machine learning (ML) algorithms to categorise work, automatically route service requests, etc.
  • Optimise logistics – eg use AI-powered image recognition tools to monitor and optimise your infrastructure, plan transport routes, etc.
  • Increase manufacturing output and efficiency – eg automate production line by integrating industrial robots into your workflow and teaching them to perform labour-intensive or mundane tasks.
  • Prevent outages – eg use anomaly detection techniques to identify patterns that are likely to disrupt your business, such as an IT outage. Specific AI software may also help you to detect and deter security intrusions.
  • Predict performance – eg use AI applications to determine when you might reach performance goals, such as response time to help desk calls.
  • Predict behaviour – eg use ML algorithms to analyse patterns of online behaviour to, for example, serve tailored product offers, detect credit card fraud or target appropriate adverts.
  • Manage and analyse your data – eg AI can help you interpret and mine your data more efficiently than ever before and provide meaningful insight into your assets, your brand, staff or customers.
  • Improve your marketing and advertising – for example, effectively track user behaviour and automate many routine marketing tasks.

Depending on the type of AI technology (ie applied or generalised), smart programs can perform:

  • specific individual tasks, such as medical diagnosis, electronic trading, robot control, etc
  • complex, cognitive tasks based on their understanding of how certain things (eg a language or a behaviour) work
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Risks and limitations of artificial intelligence in business

Artificial intelligence (AI) involves giving machines and programs the ability to think like a human. Businesses are increasingly looking for ways to put this technology to work to improve their productivity, profitability and business results.

However, while there are many business benefits of artificial intelligence, there are also certain barriers and disadvantages to keep in mind.

Limitations of artificial intelligence
One of the main limitation of AI is the cost. Creation of smart technologies can be expensive, due to their complex nature and the need for repair and ongoing maintenance.

Software programs need regular upgrading to adapt to the changing business environment and, in case of breakdown, present a risk of losing code or important data. Restoring this is often time-consuming and costly.

Other AI limitations relate to:
• implementation times, which are often lengthy
• integration challenges and lack of understanding of the state-of-the-art systems
• usability and interoperability with other systems and platforms

If you’re deciding whether to take on AI-driven technology, you should also consider:
• customer privacy
• potential lack of transparency
• technological complexity
• loss of control over your business decisions and strategy

AI and ethical concerns
With the rapid development of AI, a number of ethical issues have cropped up. These include:

• the potential of automation technology to give rise to job losses
• the need to redeploy or retrain employees to keep them in jobs
• fair distribution of wealth created by machines
• the effect of machine interaction on human behaviour and attention
• the need to eliminate bias in AI that is created by humans
• the security of AI systems (eg autonomous weapons) that can potentially cause damage
• the need to mitigate against unintended consequences, as smart machines are thought to learn and develop independently

While these risks can’t be ignored, it is worth keeping in mind that advances in AI can – for the most part – create better business and better lives for everyone. If implemented responsibly, artificial intelligence has immense and beneficial potential.

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AI


There is a public fear around the world that we humans have advanced technology so much that it will surpass our capabilities and control. That is, technology will overtake us with the power of artificial intelligence (AI). This fear is considered unfounded by some, and completely plausible by some of the brightest intellectuals.
Regardless, AI is in fact changing our lives in different ways each year. We want to look at some of the roles it’s playing in workplace, from the entryway to your cubicle in the back.


It’s a curious thought to see what AI can accomplish and what it will leave humans with. Luckily, the human spirit is innovative, and we will hopefully find new ways to use our talents, skills, and intellect where technology takes over. What are your thoughts on AI in business? Let us know in the comments below!

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Is Infusionsoft Worth It? (And Is It Right For Your Business?)

Infusionsoft has quickly become a market leader in the CRM and Email Marketing Software space for small business. As their popularity grows, more small business owners just like you are trying to decide whether or not Infusionsoft is right for them. Personally, I’ve worked with dozens of CRM and Email Marketing systems in my 10+ years of online marketing experience, so I wanted to share my honest opinion in a quick review to help other small business owners make the best decision.

The Most Common Questions About Infusionsoft
Currently, Infusionsoft’s pricing is at $200-$300/month on average (depending on the features you choose) with a setup fee to get started. It’s no surprise, then, that before making this type of investment, you would ask some of these common questions:

“Is Infusionsoft worth it?”
(Does the investment make sense for your business growth?)

“Is Infusionsoft right for your business?”
(Is this the best Marketing Software for your specific type of business?)

“Is Infusionsoft too expensive?”
(Do you really get a return on what you pay for?)

Most all of these questions boil down to one simple issue — Is Infusionsoft an investment that’s going to help you grow your business? The answer to this question is absolutely 100% YES! Of course, like everything else in life you get out of it what you put into it. So please do not invest in this software if you don’t think you have what it takes to spend the time to learn how it works and really take advantage of all its horsepower. Otherwise, buying Infusionsoft and not using it is sort of like buying a top-of-the-line Lamborghini and never taking it out of 2nd gear. Big waste! 🙂

So let’s explore the cost issue more closely…

Is Infusionsoft Worth It?
The most important three letters in small business are R.O.I. (Return On Investment). Everything you spend money on should be directly (or indirectly) responsible for helping you grow your business. As the saying goes, you have to spend money to make money.

The first obstacle for most small business owners and entrepreneurs is the monthly fee for Infusionsoft. At $200-$300 for most folks, you’re looking at 5x-10x your investment when compared to other email marketing tools. Aweber, for example, starts at just $19/month. Constant Contact’s basic plan also starts at just $20/month.

Infusionsoft Is Much More Than Just Email Marketing Software
But here’s the thing — this is like comparing apples and oranges. It’s simply an unfair and inaccurate comparison. Infusionsoft is FAR MORE than just email marketing software (which is ALL you’re going to get with Aweber and Constant Contact). Infusionsoft is an all-in-one Small Business Software System. Here are some of the features you get with Infusionsoft that you don’t get with the others…

-CRM
This stands for Customer Relationship Management. In a nutshell, a CRM allows you to TRACK lots of data about your customer in one place. You can pull up “Jane Smith” and view her entire Contact Record inside Infusionsoft. The day she joined your list, the lead source that originally referred her, the total money spent with your business, a complete history of her orders, a complete history of web pages viewed on your website, contact information, notes, custom fields, web forms completed, and much much more. A CRM is really the “super brain” of your small business marketing. This is really what makes Infusionsoft so darn effective as a complete platform.

Ecommerce Platform
Yes, you can use Infusionsoft to process credit cards and even Paypal transactions. Infusionsoft plugs right into Paypal, PowerPay, Authorize.net, and basically any merchant processing system you might be using. Infusionsoft also comes with a complete shopping cart system, affiliate marketing system, coupons, promotional tools (like 30-day free trial subscriptions) and everything you would ever need to get money. Yes, money is very important to growing your business. 🙂

-Robust Reporting
Everything inside of Infusionsoft is connected to a report. My personal favorite report is called “Lifetime Customer Value.” With just a few clicks, I can quickly see which of my customers have spent the most money over their lifetime (or over a specific period I want to view). There are also Marketing Channel Reports, Lead Source ROI Reports, Sales Reports, and on and on.

-Complete Marketing Campaigns
Infusionsoft’s “Campaign Builder” was the big game changer that really tipped the scales in their favor. This drag-and-drop builder allows you to create complete marketing campaigns quickly and easily in “flowchart mode.” This functionality transformed my marketing results because I could instantly visualize my marketing in one place.

-Sales Opportunities
If you have a sales team (or if you’re doing sales yourself) you know how cumbersome it can be to keep track of every “lead and prospect” in your Sales Pipeline. Wouldn’t it be great to have a tool that can help you keep track of every sales you’re going after in your business? Of course! And Infusionsoft has exactly that in their system, it’s called “Opportunities” and it’s genius. If you sell complex products and services or high-value goods (this is especially useful for B2B or B2C operations where sales people make numerous phone calls with customers before closing a sale), this Opportunities system will help you keep better track of all your sales (or your sales force) so you can measure Lead-To-Sale close ratios and so much more.

-Wordpress Integration
Chances are pretty good you’re small business website is running on WordPress. Good for you! Not only will you benefit from all of the wonderful advantages of having a WordPress website (SEO friendly, flexibility, etc) but Infusionsoft also plugs right into WordPress with easy plugins for tracking traffic. There are also plenty of add-ons to make using Infusionsoft features on your WordPress website super simple. But even if you’re not using WordPress, Infusionsoft forms are literally a copy-and-paste away from being live on your website.

Why Is Infusionsoft The Best Marketing Software?
I hope the answer is pretty clear to you now. What I think a lot of people miss and misunderstand about Infusionsoft is that you’re getting a complete marketing system, not just Email Marketing. The reason this is such a great investment is it really does impact every part of your business.

For me, Infusionsoft changed the game because it forced me to think differently about my business. It forced me to start becoming more systematic, and it forced me to get better at segmenting your list.

So YES Infusionsoft is definitely worth the investment. Just be prepared to invest in yourself too. If your business means anything to you at all, I’m sure you will see the value in getting smarter and getting better at your Sales & Marketing strategy.

Here’s the really good news — when you sign up with Infusionsoft, you get assigned to a Success Implementation Coach who guides you through the setup process. You can then also join a local “User Group” (for free) where other local businesses using the tool meet once per month to help each other get better at using Infusionsoft.

What questions do you have about Infusionsoft? I’m happy to answer. Just leave your comment below.

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Double Opt In vs Single Opt In – What’s Best For Your Email Marketing?

Few issues in web marketing generate such intense debate as the classic “Should you use double opt-in or single opt-in when acquiring new email subscribers?” Before revealing my personal position on this issue, I want to walk you through as many of the important considerations so YOU can make the best decision for your business and your email marketing setup. After all, what works for one business is not always the best approach for every other business. So let’s find the best answer to this question for you…

What Is The Difference Between Double Opt In Vs Single Opt In?
First, let’s start with some definitions so we’re all on the same page.

Single Opt In = a new email subscriber signs up on your website and provides their email address and then immediately begins receiving your email marketing messages

Double Opt In = a new email subscriber signs up on your site and provides their email address, but must FIRST go to their email account and click a “confirmation link” before receiving any of your email marketing messages

While there are some slight exceptions to these two definitions, this is generally how they’re defined. Single opt-in basically means you just need your subscriber’s email address to begin sending email messages. Double opt-in requires that each subscriber provide a second confirmation/approval by actually acknowledging your very first email to them.

The Pros And Cons Of Single Opt-In Email Marketing
The greatest advantage of the single opt in approach should be pretty obvious — it’s easy, fast, and less of a headache for you and your prospects. You get immediate results (more subscribers) and your subscribers get instant gratification too (the emails start showing up without a hitch).

Most who argue for Single Opt In will say “Why should I make my subscribers confirm something they’ve already confirmed?” This is the classic argument, and there is a lot to be said for just making things easy. This is the Internet Age, after all, and everybody wants instantaneous results, right?

There are, however, a handful of important problems with single opt-in email marketing.

First, a certain percentage of your new subscribers may provide “fake” or bogus email addresses just to get a peek at what you have inside. If you’re offering some kind of Lead Magnet like a free downloadable, for example, some folks will just fake opt in to try and get your downloadable for free and without any marketing strings attached. These people are obviously of no value to you and a “Confirm Your Email” firewall is the best way to stamp them out.

Second, believe it or not some of your opt-ins will punch in the wrong email address. Maybe they leave off a letter or misspell their last name — we’re all only human, and we humans make mistakes like it’s our job. You can help your subscribers fix these errors immediately by asking for email confirmation and even redisplaying their typed in email address on your opt-in thank you page. Without this kind of double confirmation in place, you could be missing out on lots of marketing opportunities because of simple human error.

The Pros And Cons Of Double Opt-In Email Marketing
Double opt-ins come with their own advantages and disadvantages, too. The greatest PRO of double opt-in is once your subscriber verifies his or her email, you know you’ve got an actual, working email address to market.

Proponents of single opt-in like to say “But double opt in is just asking subscribers to confirm something they’ve already confirmed” but the truth is an opt-in is not really a confirmation at all. The difference between the two is something like saying “My home address is 12345 Main Street” (single opt in) vs. saying “My home address is 12345 Main Street AND yes I do actually receive and open the mail I get at that address” (double opt in).

Perhaps most importantly, confirmed emails are much more valuable than unconfirmed emails. If you’re planning to build long-term Email Marketing success, you need quality subscribers much more than you need QUANTITY. If it’s simply “too much trouble” for your prospects to confirm their email, they’re likely not the best subscribers for you anyway. Plus, asking your subscribers to confirm their request to be on your list is a very powerful way to tap into what Robert Cialdini calls “The Commitment Principle” in his awesome book Influence. Get your new subscribers to make a commitment to you and your business, and you’ll be far more likely to retain them over the long haul.

The greatest disadvantage of Double Opt-In email marketing is the technical headache you will often have on your hands. Some of your prospects may never receive the email requesting their confirmation (for a variety of reasons) and will either become frustrated OR disappear altogether.

An Alternative Option – Do Both!
If you’re using Infusionsoft (which we use and highly recommend for small business), there is a clever way you can actually do both if you so choose. This involves sending all of your new opt-ins a confirmation email request but then also sending all new opt-ins your first marketing messages regardless of confirmation. This is easy to setup inside your Infusionsoft Campaign Builder by connecting your web form goal with an email confirmation sequence AND the very first sequence in your marketing campaign (using a decision diamond).

How To Use Single Opt In And Double Opt In With Infusionsoft Campaign Builder
The advantage here is you do get a percentage of your subscribers to confirm their email, so you can immediately measure which prospects are the best. (Generally, someone who confirms their email is a higher quality email marketing subscriber than someone who does not.)

Again, this is a feature I know works well in Infusionsoft, but most other email marketing tools I’ve used do not offer this flexible option. (If yours does, please let me know in the comment box below.)


Personally, I’m a much bigger fan of Double Opt-In for the reasons I’ve outlined above. I firmly believe the future of “Good Marketing” is going to involve focusing on your highest quality prospects and building lasting, strong, committed relationships. The early days of web marketing were more about quick returns and easy profits. Today, it’s much more about quality engagement.

Plus, there are a few other little factors that may eventually come into play. For example, there is some talk of applying taxes to email marketing or any email sent for commercial purposes (in other words, adding stamps and postage costs to email). This may still be years away, but it’s still smart to begin thinking about the future if you plan to be in business for very long. Why risk sending email to unconfirmed email addresses if a tax is levied each time you do so?

In addition, some email marketing software platforms prioritize Confirmed Email Addresses on broadcasts over Unconfirmed.

Finally, it’s proven that confirming email address of your prospects with Double Opt-In generally increases deliverability rates, open rates, and click-through rates. Again, this all goes back to focusing on your most engaged email subscribers and “trimming the fat” off your list.

Essentially, it boils down to this — single opt in is a short term strategy that has a lot of good short term benefits. Double opt in, on the other hand, is a long term strategy that has tons of long-term benefits. The easy way to make a decision is to first decide what kind of marketing strategy you want to have — one that’s more focused on immediate results, or one that’s more focused on the long game.

What do you think about double opt in vs single opt in for email marketing? I’m always interested to discuss this issue openly, and I’m always looking for more (and better) arguments for either side of the coin. Please do leave your comment below.

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