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This post was sponsored by CallRail. The opinions expressed in this article are the sponsor’s own.
Many industries were hit hard by the pandemic, but few were as impacted as marketing and ad agencies.
Only the travel and hospitality industry faced steeper declines, with a 39% drop.
In a recent CallRail report that looks at the collective data of more than 100 million calls across small businesses, including marketing and ad agencies, total customer call volume dropped 26% between the end of February and the middle of April as many businesses were forced to temporarily close.
But, as businesses reopen and consumers begin to resume many of their pre-lockdown habits and activities, our call data is continuing to reveal new insights for marketing agencies that can be useful as they look to get business back on track.What Call Data Reveals for Marketing
Marketing budgets are one of the first items on the chopping block during an economic downturn, and this pandemic has been no exception.
At the outset of lockdowns, 76% of experts said they expected to see cuts in marketing budgets, according to Gartner.
Many businesses froze their marketing budgets and it’s had an impact on marketing agencies.
CEO of Publicis, Arthur Sadoun, noted, “In March, the rate of decline has been more dramatic than anything we have seen in the past.”
These declines had a significant impact on marketing agencies, with 66% saying they experienced a decrease in overall revenue due to COVID-19.
Call duration went back up to pre-pandemic levels as businesses reopened.
It has continued to climb since, with call duration at 2.9 minutes at the end of August – an 11% increase from before the pandemic.
“Also, many closed or slowed operations, and are now working to get back into full gear as much as possible. As a result, marketing in many industry segments has increased.”What Should Agencies Do Next?
The increase in call activity indicates that companies are ready to re-engage in marketing to their customers.
Research shows that for 85% of consumers, brand loyalty goes out the window during a crisis, and some of the customers who try a new brand will be converted.
This makes it essential that companies that cut back or froze their marketing efforts during the early stages of the pandemic reboot those efforts.
And marketing agencies can play a critical role in helping companies retain or recapture customers.
More than half of companies use eight or more channels to engage their customers.
While no one has a crystal ball, it is clear that an integrated, consistent customer experience is as important as ever.
Customers are dependent on the web now that in-person contact is more limited, but calls are the next best thing to face-to-face conversations.Align Clients’ Marketing Efforts
CallRail call data is signifying that customers want to do business, and businesses want to market and get the word out that they’re ready for customers.
It also indicates the important role phone calls play in the new normal of contactless transactions.
Agencies that are poised to help businesses in today’s physically distanced environment will rebound better than those that aren’t.
Omnichannel tactics – across online and offline points of contact – provide consistent customer experience and allow you to make more informed marketing decisions based on data.
For example, CallRail provides real-time call statistics so you can track the results of your campaigns, whether from the web or offline sources.
Any integrated strategy should include phone engagement because calls are essential, while face-to-face interaction is inconvenient or even impossible.
Marketing agencies can be key to making sure this happens effectively.
Integrated marketing allows you to improve outcomes for clients by viewing data insights holistically.
One of the keys to providing a quality customer experience is consistency across environments and the ability to make improvements in real-time.
The CallRail platform optimizes marketing and increases ROI on PPC, SEO, and offline ad campaigns, demonstrating why it’s important to be able to collect and analyze data no matter how clients are engaging with their customers – whether it be in person, online, or by phone.
To get more insights into the business impacts of COVID-19, download CallRail’s complete report, 100M phone calls show how SMBs are adapting in a pandemic.
Featured Image: CallRail. Used with permission.
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Marketers need to become even more agile to reach their audience with the right message, at the right time and through the right channel
The world of DevOps is evolving, with more and more enterprises integrating this approach into their overall operations. This does wonders for the technical operations of your business. But it is also useful for marketers as well.
The point of DevOps is to increase efficiency, productivity and agility. It streamlines the build, development and launch process, infusing key data and insights into each step.
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Marketers can learn a thing or two from this shifting mindset. Marketers need to become even more agile to reach their audience with the right message, at the right time and through the right channel.
DevOps requires agile software development, a methodology that is intricately linked with consumer feedback, quality and speed.
The marketing team has a closer relationship with IT professionals, designers and developers than ever before. DevOps has essentially bridged that gap, connecting teams through philosophy, process and technology.
Therefore, as the world continues to evolve and productivity continues to rise, agile marketers can put these DevOps theories to use when building their own campaigns.What agile marketers can do to increase efficiency using DevOps methods Automate where possible
DevOps is all about speed and continuous delivery. The number one reason brands choose to automate their marketing is to reduce the time spent on trivial marketing tasks.
The DevOps approach is very succinct, straightforward and efficient. Therefore, agile marketers can learn from this methodology. Increasing the use of marketing automation ensures that campaigns run smoothly and effectively by relying on continuous feedback and immediately adapting to learnings.
There are a number of ways for marketers to automate campaigns:
Chatbots: Chatbots like Instabot allow marketers to create automated website chat funnels to engage visitors and guide them towards conversion. These bots can answer questions, provide links to content and schedule demos. Marketing teams can always jump into the conversation to help with more complex questions. A study conducted by Juniper Research show that Chatbots are expected to reduce business costs by more than $8 billion per year by 2023.
Email Automation: Email marketing still ranks as the most effective acquisition and retention channel, but only 42% of marketers leverage marketing automation as part of those strategies. Just as DevOps teams look for ways to automate the delivery of software into production, marketing teams can use email automation to deliver personalized messages based on customer behaviors.
Automation in marketing is growing increasingly popular. It reduces the risk of human error and takes a more data-driven approach to marketing that is trackable and repeatable.Focus more on goals
As any good agile marketer knows, you need to have goals in order to succeed. In fact, marketers who set goals are 466% more likely to report success than those who don’t.
That being said, DevOps shows marketers that these goals can easily be achieved by setting up a very clear path to success.
Marketers have goals, of course. But they aren’t as clear as they would like. Different KPI’s can be grouped into an individual campaign initiative. This makes it more difficult to define success because one goal can be achieved while another KPI falls short. Was the campaign a success then?
DevOps attach singular goals to each push. This way there’s a binary pass or fail result. Marketers should do the same. If a marketing team is going to launch a content marketing campaign, for example. The campaign could try to drive referral traffic, social engagement and brand awareness, but that would make it more difficult to measure if it was successful or not.
Instead, there should be a singular goal that clearly defines success or failure. This could be the conversion rate of traffic from the campaign.
With this knowledge, marketers can create campaigns that actually achieve clearly defined goals.Cross-collaborate with marketing, analytics and development
DevOps simplifies the process of cross-channel communication. By definition, it brings teams together across an organization.
Cross-collaboration is essential for a marketing campaign to succeed. Marketers need a deep understanding of what a product or service can and can’t do, as well as when new features and functionality will be delivered for customers to use.
Marketers, for instance, can’t say a product does one thing if it doesn’t. If they’re relying on old information, then that might very well be the case.
Luckily, marketers can learn through DevOps that this communication and collaboration is essential for a proper launch. DevOps teams use tools like JFrog and Docker Registry to automate the development pipeline from creation to the deployment of code.
Similarly, marketing teams can leverage marketing automation tools like Campaign Monitor and Shopify to automate email communications based on customer behaviors.
Everyone has a say in the quality, testing and deployment of products and services, meaning everyone is extremely knowledgeable at every step of the process.
This is thanks to the process of continuous feedback that DevOps provides. Marketers can utilize feedback from the IT team, as well as from consumers, to learn how to best describe a product, market it to audiences and drive them to action.Establish consistency through messaging across campaigns
DevOps opens up communication pathways because it increases efficiency, productivity and agility, forcing all teams to work together.
With this in mind, marketers and developers alike can prioritize key points of interest throughout their messaging because they will be aligned with the organization at large.
Studies show that poor communication costs businesses more than $37 billion.
Messaging is important in marketing. Consumers want to interact with a consistent brand across all channels, mediums and platforms. In fact, 87% of consumers think brands need to do a better job providing users with a consistent experience. If your brand is offering up inconsistent messaging, your consumers will look elsewhere.
Luckily, DevOps teaches marketers how to prioritize key points and keep those points consistent.
This falls in line with the overall goals of the company that become more succinct thanks to the DevOps team. It also makes it easier for marketers to convey this information to designers, copywriters and others.Marketing and DevOps — a common ground
DevOps improves overall business function. By utilizing core strategies and theories, marketers can create a more streamlined process that ensures higher results – this means increased traffic, awareness and sales for a brand.
The Firefly is a light-up mousepad. And it’s $60. That’s all you really need to know to decide whether you think it’s amazing or insanity.
By and large, the mousepad is an irrelevant affectation. It’s a fashion statement. Its job could be outsourced to any decent-sized piece of cardboard. And so when Razer sent over a Firefly review unit—yes, even after reading my article on the announcement—I decided to test my theory. I took a piece of cardboard off the Razer Firefly box and compared it to the Firefly. Here’s what I found:Set-up time
The Razer Firefly: The Razer Firefly is easy enough to pull out of the box and slap on your desk. And if this were a normal mousepad, you’d be done.
But the Razer Firefly is no normal mousepad. It demands power, in the form of a six-foot USB cable sticking out the rear. This necessitated my routing the cable behind my desk, crawling underneath, and trying to find a free USB slot—a harder task than you might think, considering the number of peripherals I have plugged into my computer.
Piece of Cardboard: This was much easier. Even with muscles atrophied by years of video games I managed to rip a hunk of cardboard off the Firefly’s box and put it on my desk. No wires necessary.
Step 1: Tear off cardboard flap.
Step 2: Put it on desk.
I did end up taping the edges down at some point because the cardboard kept moving around, but that also didn’t take much time or effort.
Advantage—Piece of Cardboard: While taping the piece of cardboard to my desk was a bit of a hassle, at no point in the process did I need to bend over or crawl under a desk. Also, it doesn’t take up one of my precious USB slots.Looks
The Razer Firefly: The Firefly looks pretty much like a standard matte-black mousepad—a 14-inch by 10-inch rectangle of hard plastic, with the Razer logo in the top-right corner.
Oh yeah, and a big honking piece of plastic welded to the top where the USB cable exits.
Piece of Cardboard: “Hobo chic” is how I would describe this piece of cardboard, if I were desperate to explain to someone why I’d taped a piece of cardboard to my desk. I am not that desperate, so I feel comfortable saying it looks like trash. Which it is. I literally taped trash to my desk.
This is my modded Razer Firefly – Cardboard Edition.
Advantage—Razer Firefly: The Firefly wins this one by default. It looks pretty good even unplugged, though its rigid structure means I can’t roll it up when not in use (like a normal mousepad).Cable
The Razer Firefly: As I mentioned, the Firefly has a cable fastened into the top. There is no way to detach the cable.
A closer look.
This is frustrating for a few reasons. 1) The cable on the mousepad occasionally tangles with the cable on the mouse and screws up your nice, fluid movements. 2) The mousepad is essentially immobile, because you’re never going to bother unplugging this thing from your computer to move it to a new computer or take it on the road with you. 3) If the cable breaks, your gorgeous light-up mousepad is now just a normal mousepad. Joke’s on you.
Piece of Cardboard: It doesn’t have any cables.
Advantage—Piece of Cardboard: I already have a million cables attached to my desktop. The fewer, the better.Performance
The Razer Firefly: Aside from the cable’s occasional interference with your mouse cable, the Firefly is a damn good mousepad. And by that, I mean I’m 90 percent sure this is the same surface Razer uses in its $40 Razer Destructor 2 mat. I’ve never used the Destructor 2, but I eyeballed Razer’s product photos and it seems the same. My Zowie AM mouse glides across this thing no problem.
But honestly my Zowie AM mouse also glides across Zowie’s $30 G-TF mousepad, glides (with a bit more effort) across a cheap cloth mousepad I got from VistaPrint, and even glides across my wooden IKEA desk.
Piece of Cardboard: Oh, and my Zowie AM glides across the piece of cardboard too. If I let go of the mouse while moving, it definitely comes to a stop on the cardboard quicker than it does on the Firefly. This piece of cardboard is no precision-engineered low-friction surface. But it does its job.
On the other hand, you’re unlikely to notice the difference unless you’re a low-DPI-and-large-hand-movements person. As a high-DPI user I’m not in the habit of making large sweeping motions across my mousepad, so any old surface works perfectly fine for inch-to-the-left-inch-to-the-right usage. Of course, if you are a low-DPI user you’re also a prime candidate for snagging your mouse cable on the Firefly’s cable or cable housing. Win some, lose some.
And to be honest, I noticed even less of a difference in glide performance once I switched to using Razer’s own DeathAdder mouse. My Zowie AM is lightweight and built for quick movements. The heavier DeathAdder took some effort to move both on the Firefly and on the cardboard.Lights
The Razer Firefly: The Firefly’s lighting effects are bit more understated than Razer’s promo shots made it seem. The Razer logo in the top-right lights up, as does a strip of LEDs around the left, front, and right of the mousepad. And I should be clear—the side lighting is on the facing edge, not on the top. You actually barely notice the lights when you’re sitting up close to the mousepad. It’s more stylish from far away.
It’s also single-zone lighting, meaning you can’t have a different color for the logo and the sides, or different parts of the sides. It also means you can’t turn off a part of the lighting, so if you want the sides to light up you’re forced to light the logo also.
Zone one lighting means Razer’s tri-snake monster thing is always staring at you.
Colors are vibrant, but accuracy is middling when using Razer’s Synapse software to configure. I’ve had greens register as a brilliant shade of turquoise on the Firefly, for instance, and it’s sometimes hard to tell if you’ve made any difference at all when switching between similar hues.
Like other Chroma devices, you get Razer’s standard effect presets—breathing, spectrum cycling, static, and wave.
Piece of Cardboard: There are no lights. It is a piece of cardboard. On the other hand, you could buy one of these rolls of LEDs off Amazon and stick it to the cardboard if you so desired. You could even use the LEDs to tape the cardboard to your desk instead of using cheap masking tape like me.
Pictured: Zero lights.
Advantage—Razer Firefly: I mean, I assume you’re buying the Firefly because it has pretty lights. The cardboard (surprise!) doesn’t have lights on it.Reactivity
Piece of Cardboard: …Still doesn’t have lights.
Advantage—Tie: It’s cool this mode exists, but the fact it’s restricted to people who own both the Firefly and a compatible Razer mouse means the potential market is pretty small. And for everyone else, the Firefly is pretty much on a par with the piece of cardboard.Price
The Razer Firefly: Holy hot damn, for a second I almost forgot the Razer Firefly costs a whopping sixty dollars. Yes, a sixty-dollar mousepad.
Piece of Cardboard: I guess technically this cardboard also cost sixty dollars, considering I tore it off the Firefly’s box. However, I feel confident you could use pretty much any old piece of cardboard lying around your house with similar results. You could even print this article out on paper, tape it to your desk, and use this article as a mousepad.
Advantage—Razer (The Company): You know what? If Razer can convince you to spend sixty dollars on a mousepad, more power to them. Personally I think it’s silly.Bottom line
Does the Firefly look cool? Sure. Does it function as a mousepad? Yes. Does it light up? Without a doubt. Razer is not misrepresenting the product it has made. But I cannot fathom a world in which I’d choose to spend sixty dollars on this. The Firefly is better than a piece of cardboard, but it’s not sixty dollars better. There are plenty of other PC upgrades I could make for that money—or plenty of games I could add to my Steam library, for that matter.
Four stars for execution Razer, but I still think this is an occasion where we need to heed the words of the immortal Ian Malcolm of Jurassic Park: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
Primary image chop-job courtesy of me, the Samsung Galaxy S6, and five minutes in Pixlr.
While watching yourself and loved ones for symptoms of COVID-19, you might not want to forget about your gut. Gastrointestinal issues can be both an early symptom of COVID-19 and one that remains long after others have gone, researchers find. One team from Massachusetts General Hospital considered whether Google searches for GI issues might be a way to spot COVID-19 hotspots early.
“GI symptoms are only one part of COVID-19,” says Kyle Staller, a coauthor of the paper, which was published in July in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. But they’re notable, he says—certainly, people notice if they have diarrhea or vomiting. He and his colleagues think public health specialists might be able to use a technique that was successfully employed in 2009′s H1N1 pandemic: looking at Google Trends data, which is widely available and anonymized, to see where searches for GI symptoms spike.
The team looked at Google Trends data for searches on a range of symptoms that dated from January 20 to April 20 of 2023. They found that searches for ageusia (loss of taste), loss of appetite, and diarrhea correlated with COVID-19 case numbers in states with high early infection rates like New York and New Jersey, with an approximate delay of four weeks. The signal was less clear for other symptoms.
“I think it’s important as a caveat to say that Google is not good, true, boots-on-the-ground epidemiology,” says Staller. But he and his colleagues maintain that Google Trends search data might be useful in looking for signs of a second COVID-19 wave.
Early research into COVID-19, a bulk of which came from Chinese hospitals, suggested that gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting were also common symptoms. The reason—scientists believe—is that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, targets ACE2 receptors which are found on the surface of many cells including those in the lungs, arteries, and throughout the digestive tract.
But in the few months since Staller’s paper was published, says University of Pennsylvania gastroenterologist Shazia Siddique, “The one thing that has changed is that perhaps GI symptoms are not as common as we previously thought.”
Siddique, who was not involved with the current research, recently authored a meta-analysis of 118 papers on COVID-19 for the American Gastroenterological Society that found fewer than 10 percent of patients in the combined studies experienced diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, or abdominal pain. In the 10 percent of patients who did experience GI distress, those symptoms were joined in 1 to 5 days by other COVID-19 symptoms.
Siddique also questioned the search terms that Staller and his colleagues associated with gastrointestinal symptoms. “Technically, loss of appetite is kind of more of a systemic response,” she noted.
The core idea of the paper—using Google Trends data to help detect hotspots—is “great,” says Siddique. “For most of us as physicians, we like to think that our patients tell us as soon as they’re feeling ill, and that we have a pulse on exactly the moment they start to develop symptoms, but I think we all know the reality that patients do turn to WebMD and Google before coming into our offices.”
While most COVID-19 patients don’t experience gastrointestinal systems, a percentage do. If you’re experiencing symptoms like diarrhea, abdominal pain, or nausea and vomiting, and you’re concerned that you may have been exposed to COVID-19, check yourself for other symptoms and get tested. In the meantime, make sure to mask up and, if you’re able, consider isolating until you’ve got more information.
“Sometimes the only early presentation is the GI symptoms and then the respiratory symptoms come later,” notes Siddique’s coauthor Shahnaz Sultan, a University of Minnesota gastroenterologist. Sultan notes that she and her colleagues found that people who had GI symptoms also took more time to seek care. Both of these facts offer tantalizing glimpses at the real picture of the relationship between COVID-19, GI symptoms, and treatment, but there’s certainly much more to uncover.
Each phone provider is different, so your settings might vary slightly. This series of steps should apply to the broadest collection of wireless providers. For some, you might be able to get away without enabling WiFi Calling (step 2). Other providers require WiFi Calling to reveal the “Calls on Other Devices” menu.
2. If you see a menu labeled “Wi-Fi Calling,” tap it.
3. In the next screen turn on the toggle. This will allow your iPhone to make calls over a WiFi network.
If you’re in the United States, once you press this toggle, you may have to enter an address for the Emergency 911 system. This allows 911 operators to attach your phone call to a location while you’re calling from that network. Make sure the address is accurate.
4. If you see a menu labeled “Calls on Other Devices,” tap it.
5. In the next screen turn on the toggle. This is the switch that actually makes it possible to call from your other devices. You can manually enable or disable specific devices in the toggle list at the bottom of that screen.Configure Your Mac
Once you have your phone configured properly, you can set up your Mac to make phone calls.
3. Make sure “Calls from iPhone” is checked in the middle of the dialog box.Make and Receive Phone Calls from a Mac
Once you have your Mac configured, there are a variety of ways you can make calls.
7. In Calendar, look for underlined blue phone numbers associated with events.Conclusion
Once your system is configured, you’ll be able to make and receive phone calls from your Mac anytime. This integrates deeply with the many places you can call a phone number inside of macOS.
Alexander Fox is a tech and science writer based in Philadelphia, PA with one cat, three Macs and more USB cables than he could ever use.
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Last night, a two-year-old boy named Lane Graves was snatched from the shore of a man-made lagoon at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa in Orlando. According to reports his parents, who were nearby tried to save him, but were unable to reach him in time. A huge search and rescue operation lasted for over 15 hours, but Grave’s body was eventually found intact nearby.
It’s a horrifying incident, but a rare one. In Florida, there have only been 383 reported alligator bites since 1948, only 23 of which have been fatal.
“Considering that there are millions of people and millions of alligators, both attacks and especially fatalities are rare,” alligator expert Frank Mazzotti, a professor at the University of Florida, told Popular Science.
Overall, there are many other animal encounters that are far more dangerous to humans than alligators.
“If you want to look at dangerous animals look at deer. Deer are way more dangerous than alligators, so if you’ve got to be afraid of anybody, be afraid of Bambi.” Mazzotti says, noting that deer were the cause of many traffic accidents, while alligators tended to stay in waterways and away from humans, who are usually too large to be considered an alligator’s prey.
Mazotti also pointed out that statistically, dogs are much more likely to harm or kill humans than alligators.
“These are relative risks,” Mazzoti says. “A very true part of looking at relative risk is that some risks are acceptable to people, and others are not. Obviously the risk of having a dog is very acceptable to people, and the risk of an alligator attack generally much less so.”
The motivation behind the attack remains unclear. Alligators tend to eat just about any prey that they can find in their environment. Larger alligators (larger than about 4 feet) will snack on all kinds of vertebrates, from fish to birds, to mammals. A particularly large alligator could even take down a small deer if it wanted to, Mazzotti said. “If you are small, even though an alligator might not normally think of a human as food, if there is a small object bouncing around the waters edge, it might,” he says.
As it is, we just don’t yet know enough about what happened in Florida to know if this alligator was looking for a meal, or defending it’s territory, which alligators typically do by biting and then releasing an interloper Mazzotti says. There are no good answers yet for why this happened. The boy’s body was found intact, and initial statements from the sheriff indicate that he might have drowned. What we do know is that there likely wasn’t anything that anyone could have done under the circumstances to have this situation turn out differently.
“This is simply a set of unfortunate circumstances. This is bad luck, this is an accident.” Mazzotti says.
Mazzotti notes that often after alligator attacks he hears statements from people indicating that alligators are dangerous and/or that the parents must have been neglectful, neither of which, he says, is necessarily true. “These things happen so fast that even if you had your child in your sight, if an alligator came up from underneath the water and grabbed it and tried to take it away, you wouldn’t have time to react” he says. “So, blaming both the parents and the alligator is not fruitful under these circumstances, it really is just a tragic event that happens very rarely.”
Mazzoti notes that if you are worried about preventing an alligator attack, and are living or visiting alligator-friendly habitats, the best thing you can do is pay attention to the most vulnerable members of your group, pets and children. “If you’re with a young child or a small pet, pay the same attention to them as you would to protect them from drowning.” Mazzotti says. “If you do that, you really have done everything you can to protect them from an alligator attack.”
“Would that we could, but the simple fact is we cannot make life risk-free.” Mazzotti says. “We just can’t.”
Update 4:32 PM–This story has been updated to include name of the child and the fact that the child’s body was recovered. Our thoughts are with the Graves family.
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