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AI Agency growth

AI Agency Growth

Starting your own AI digital marketing agency is very feasible, even with no prior experience— however, it does require careful planning to get everything set up just right. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you navigate the process:

Step 1: Acquire essential AI skills

Begin by gaining foundational knowledge in AI. Explore online courses, workshops, and certifications focused on AI applications in marketing. Platforms like Coursera, edX, or other industry-specific programs offer valuable resources to build your expertise, and the best part is that you can take them at your own pace.

Step 2: Understand AI applications in marketing

Now is the time to get to know how AI fits into marketing. Think customer segmentation, predictive analytics, crafting personalized content, and even chatbot automation. Knowing these concepts will shape your agency’s services, helping you offer the best services around.

Step 3: Create a comprehensive business plan

Develop a detailed business plan outlining your agency’s vision, mission, target market, and unique value proposition. Other things you should touch on in your business plan include: clearly defining your services, pricing strategy, and revenue models.

If there is one place you should NOT skimp when first starting an AI agency, it’s your business plan. A well-thought-out business plan serves as a handy guide for your agency’s growth, helping you navigate the ups and downs that come with starting a business. Here is a helpful guide and template from BDC to help you plot your AI agency’s course toward success.

Step 4: Build a competent team

It’s time to gather your team. It should include a diverse mix of marketing experts familiar with AI. If the tech side feels like uncharted waters to you, bring on board AI specialists to complement your marketing expertise.

All that said, teamwork makes the dream work, especially when diving into AI-driven strategies. With this combo, you’re all set for a well-rounded debut that’ll be sure to make waves.

Step 5: Select the right tools and technologies

Invest in AI tools and technologies that align with your agency’s services. Whether it’s AI-driven analytics platforms, chatbot development tools, or content creation solutions, having the right technology stack is the ticket to smoother service delivery.

Step 6: Establish strategic partnerships

Forge partnerships with AI technology providers, industry experts, and other agencies. Collaborating with specialists can enhance your agency’s capabilities and open doors to new opportunities.

Step 7: Create a strong online presence

Don’t have a strong online presence? Not a good look.

If you want to attract clients, you need to show them that you know what you’re doing. Develop a professional website that highlights your agency’s AI capabilities and showcases compelling success stories. Utilize social media platforms to share insights and industry trends and engage with your audience.

Step 8: Offer pilot programs and free consultations

People are naturally weary, and sometimes the most organic way to close a sale is by letting them test drive your services first. For your client, the most important things they are focused on are:

  1. Solving the most immediate problems.
  2. Getting the most value.

This is why pilots or free consultations can be an attractive strategy to showcase your AI services. This not only builds credibility but also provides tangible results that can be leveraged in your marketing efforts later on.

If you think the digital marketing industry is changing quickly, you should see the world of AI. From photo-realistic AI images to automated ads and content suggestions, AI and its capabilities are expanding rapidly, with new innovations coming out every single day.

That’s why it is so important to stay abreast of the latest AI developments in marketing. Great ways to do so include attending conferences, webinars, and industry events to stay informed about emerging technologies and best practices.

Step 10: Deliver exceptional client experiences

Elevate your game by focusing on delivering top-notch experiences. See a gap or opportunity? Harness the power of AI analytics to ably measure and fine-tune your strategies. This not only guarantees continuous improvement but also positions your clients for even better success.

Last—but certainly not least—be highly responsive to questions, open to feedback, and always try your darnedest to go the extra mile. By doing so, your clients will not just be satisfied—they’ll be your strongest advocates.

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The lines between UCaaS, CPaaS and Cloud Communications are blurry

The various teams in your organization have similar and at the same time very different needs. Sales teams generally request integration with Salesforce and revenue operations tooling. Marketing, integration into toolsets like Hubspot and Marketo. Product teams need a feedback loop that will provide insights into usability and trends for customer use cases identifying gaps and popular (and unpopular) features. Customer Support needs integration into ticketing and help systems. Customer Success needs tight integration with success platforms tied to customer experiences and outcomes. All of these teams need reporting that delivers clarity on progress with established KPI/OKR targets in mind.

The implication here is that managing all of these well is a tall order for any growing business, but your communication strategy can’t take a back seat, it needs to be a first-class citizen. After all, it’s the first thing your customers will interact with to communicate with you!

Your cloud communications strategy will tie into all of your organizational disciplines, and there needs to be enough flexibility for your teams to grow. So how will you decide which providers or platforms suit your company’s needs best?

One would think it could be relatively simple. This process might start with one question; “Do you need deep feature integration and do you have developers in your command?” If the answer is no, your decision just became a whole lot simpler, meaning you should look at a turn-key offering. In reality, it’s not that simple. The lines between UCaaS, CPaaS, and Cloud Communications are becoming blurred.

Cloud Communications Platforms or CPaaS (Communications Platform as a Service) providers enable APIs, or Application Programming Interfaces for developers. Simply put, APIs equate to a toolset for developers that can be used to integrate features and functionality into web and mobile applications. In the comms space, this might be represented as SMS, Voice, Video, AI, Data Analytics, Fax (yes, fax still exists), etc. Some of these platforms also have professional services teams that can be retained for development projects. For some larger customers, platforms offer the best solution as it generally offers more flexibility and allows for a more tailored approach. The approach also requires more planning and coordination as services /features need to be built before they can be used. At the very least, a good customer success group is likely a requirement.

UCaaS / Cloud Communications Service Providers provide various services that are ready to consume by their business customers, there is no development required. Not to say that these companies do not offer APIs as well, many do, but it’s not what drives their business.

These services are generally less flexible. The providers that do provide APIs generally limit it to the features available in the existing offering. These cloud offerings generally take the place of several disparate systems, some of which used to be maintained onsite at the customer location(s). These services are the product of constant innovation in business phone systems. Early in the 21st century, we had analog phone systems that were circuit-switched and were bound by wires. Those systems either died or evolved into VoIP systems that were packets switched with layers of translation for interoperability with the systems of old. Now we have multi-modal and feature-rich cloud services that encapsulate Voice (desk phone, mobile, desktop), Video (single, multiparty, mobile and desktop), Text (ott + translation for SMS) and some form of Artificial Intelligence offering.

Even with all of these features, many larger enterprise companies require white-glove treatment with well-managed onboarding as their workflows and use cases can be complex. This means a CPaaS offering might be more applicable for their use cases, as long as the features are there to support all their use cases.

SMB (Small Medium Business) to SME (Small Medium Enterprise) seem to gravitate towards readymade offerings enabled by cloud communications service providers.

There are many great vendors to choose from on both sides of the fence and many times they are used in combination to serve customer’s needs.

As a demonstration, we can take a look at any larger enterprise customer that might have a need for a business communications system. It must accommodate administrative, sales, support, and customer success. They all will likely need Voice, Video, and Chat supplemented by some smart AI to help them reduce manual laborious tasks or augmenting their workflow. Many organizations have made a considerable investment into their customer workflow, including call center systems and networks and with that in mind, the customer is not interested in hearing about ripping and replacing equipment and networks. In this scenario, you might select a CPaaS for the call center component and potentially leverage a Cloud UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service) offering for the business comms requirements.

Regardless of your needs, now could be a good time to be considering improving efficiency, optimizing and upgrading systems, and adding some feature enhancements. There are plenty of options and providers to choose from, all of which are competing fiercely for your business.

What tools do you use today and how are they working for you? How often do you use AI or video/web conferencing as part of your daily routine? If you prefer sharing your comments or questions privately, feel free to shoot me a text message or call anytime: (877) 897–1952 (Note: All calls will be recorded).


Microsoft & Skype – What’s Behind the Obvious?

The acquisition of Skype could have enormous implications for Microsoft. If everything works out well, Microsoft gains access to about 600 million potential users globally. What it can do with those users is up to Microsoft, but the possibilities are almost infinite.

Even without any integration or service adjustments, Skype brings close to $860 million in revenues, even though they come at a loss. With the recent service enhancements (for instance, multi-party video, enterprise voice functionality) the existing (and rapidly growing) customer base can be further monetized for revenue growth and greater profitability.

But no one expects Microsoft to pay a premium (which the $8.5 billion appears to be) to just leverage the status quo. Microsoft is likely to seek to connect businesses using its own business software and services (from Office to Outlook, Lync, SharePoint, Office 365, etc.) to all the consumers and businesses using Skype’s VoIP and collaboration services. With Microsoft’s big push into enterprise communications and collaboration with the OCS and Lync platforms, Skype nicely complements its portfolio with cloud communications capabilities – including the app, the network, DIDs, mobility, and federation with other apps and networks. Potentially, this could help Microsoft customers enhance sales and marketing reach or create new options for economic and effective collaboration between office locations and teleworkers. 

Skype’s capabilities can help Microsoft re-enter the SMB voice space, which it pretty much deserted after it chose to discontinue Response Point. OCS and Lync are fairly expensive for this customer segment. Skype can also help add inexpensive VoIP alternatives for Microsoft’s cloud-based Office 365 packages.

Certainly, Microsoft can leverage this acquisition in the consumer space by linking the Skype customer base with its Windows Mobile and Xbox 360 and Kinect users or simply integrating Skype services into its gaming and mobile products. But the bigger opportunity is in bridging the consumer and business worlds. The lines between the two are blurring as the prosumer segment grows both in number of users and in terms of application and devices used for both personal and business purposes, leading to increasing consumerization of enterprise IT. Prosumers expect familiar, intuitive interfaces in their business environments and access to inexpensive communications and collaboration tools anywhere, anytime. Skype can help Microsoft deliver some of these capabilities to its business customers.

This is also a big defensive move for Microsoft – against Google as well as against the enterprise communications vendors. It is not clear how Skype’s partnerships with enterprise vendors will fare after the acquisition, but regardless of whether they survive or not, Microsoft will limit the options for others, while expanding its own.  If Microsoft pushes for greater federation, this will be beneficial to everyone, both on the supply and demand side. But it will mostly help Microsoft, the new kid on the block, make friends with the existing leaders, to be able to survive and thrive. It is a little hard to believe, but it is possible that Microsoft can use Skype as the common network for all its business customers (not just those using OCS or Lync for voice) to communicate and collaborate “on-net” among each other. Imagine free calls with your suppliers, partners and customers. Of course, businesses can use Skype to do that today, but having Skype integrated into Microsoft applications is going to make the value proposition a lot more compelling.  The ability to get its foot in the door with businesses using competitors’ communications systems with a service that provides clear benefits and does not require a significant capital outlay, can open tremendous opportunities for Microsoft. It will have the disruptive impact that other communications solutions and cloud-based communications services have not been able to accomplish yet.

One of the biggest questions is how Microsoft will deal with the various challenges that the merger presents. Certainly, the two cultures are very different. Also, as an Internet-based, primarily consumer service, Skype does not offer the type of SLAs businesses require.  The quality of Skype communications is only as good as the available bandwidth, the quality of the access network and the processing power of the devices it’s running on. If Microsoft plans to penetrate the enterprise space with Skype communications and collaboration capabilities, it will have to make sure it only promises what it can deliver or else customer disappointment will have an irreversible negative impact on future adoption. Also, Microsoft will need to learn about managing phone numbers and handling regulatory issues related to voice services in various countries. So the bottom-line question is – with all its ambitions to leverage the cloud and to grow its real-time communications business, is Microsoft prepared to be a voice services provider?

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