46 posts categorized "Getting Your Website to Perform"

12/06/2018

WordPress 5.0 is ready for download!

Bebo (aka WordPress 5.0) is  ready for download. As of writing it has already been downloaded over 100,000 times. Some of the fresh new features include:

  • A new content editor that enables creating content with blocks - WordPress is here to simplify the process, not the outcome. This new editing experience provides a more consistent treatment of design as well as content. 
  • A stunning new theme called 2019 -- ready for blocks! Twenty Nineteen features custom styles for the blocks available by default in 5.0. Featuring ample whitespace, and modern sans-serif headlines paired with classic serif body text, Twenty Nineteen is built to be beautiful on the go. It uses system fonts to increase loading speed.
  • The Classic Editor plugin restores the previous WordPress editor and the Edit Post screen. It lets you keep using plugins that extend it, add old-style meta boxes, or otherwise depend on the previous editor.

 

Here are the 16 core content blocks you can play with today. And there will be many, many more soon!

16 gutenblocks

You can download the latest version in your dashboard or wait for your host to do an auto-update.

And with a Toronto or Vaughan Library card you can access the new WordPress 5 Essential Training by Morton Rand-Hendriksen for free!

09/24/2018

11 Steps to Membership Management Success – Introduction

Digital_members
The types of organizations that need an association management system have widely-ranging missions: from religious and community groups to foundations and charities, to conference organizers and subscription services, to associations and clubs of all kinds.

Are you an executive or staff at an organization considering adopting Wild Apricot, or a similar association management system (AMS)? Then this guide is for you.

Associations

Nonprofits

For-Profits

Clubs

 MEMBERS Supporters of a COMMUNITY or CAUSE  CUSTOMERS Enthusiasts of a SPORT or  HOBBY
  • Professional and Trade Associations
  • Political Advocacy and Campaigns
  • Subscription Website
  • Service
  • Condominium or Homeowners Associations (HOAs)
  • Foundations
  • Support Assistance Services
  • Special Interest
 
  • Charities
  •  Event/Conference
  • Sports
 
  • Faith-based Communities
  • Education and Training
  • Singles or Seniors Clubs
     
  • Student and Alumni Clubs

Your mission might be different – but you share a common need. Your business model requires you to deliver on your mandate and become sustainable by establishing a steady flow of membership dues and event fees into your organization. But volunteers and time commitment available to is usually very limited in smaller organizations.

And, you need powerful and flexible software features that assist you in managing your most precious asset: the information about your organization’s key stakeholders – members, communities and other supporters of your mission. You also may need an online store and a secure and mobile-friendly website to provide a “front door” into your organization.

Set up your system in manageable steps

This series of articles will take you through 11 comprehensive steps that will get you up and running on Wild Apricot, even on a budget. You’ll learn:

  • how to plan, implement and administer your account, membership database and finances
  • how to plan and design your organization’s website and events pages using Wild Apricot.

And, you’ll be able to move through the steps in the order that will help you do each one right while making the best use of your time.

The time estimates for each step are based on the effort required from your employees and volunteers. We developed these steps with knowledge gained in more than 20 implementations and migrations for Wild Apricot customers all over the world. These are not “ideals” or “marketing” – the steps are based on real-world experience!

For each step, we’ll provide an estimate of the time to completion, based on our experience helping clients migrate to Wild Apricot and similar association management systems. The total length of the full set-up process might vary, depending how much time you might need between each step to manage other priorities. If you are not migrating from an existing system, you may find some steps take a drastically shorter amount of time, or you may not need to take them at all. We will identify those steps when they occur.

Whatever your setting and resources, we’re confident that with these steps achieved, you’ll benefit from Wild Apricot’s range of features. If you plan right, your organization can rely on a quality association management system to drive activities like:

  • marketing
  • revenue generation and fundraising
  • online membership and event sign-up
  • membership renewals
  • automating various business processes
This guide is not meant to be a complete all-in-one documentation of Wild Apricot (that’s available on Wild Apricot’s Help website).

What you’ll get here is an overview of what sort of work is realistically required to take advantage of the benefits of the  platform, and how long you can plan to take to get it done.

Step 0: Sign up for a free Wild Apricot Account

Before you’ll be ready to start planning your database in Step 1, you need to obtain a free trial account. Got ten minutes? You can get started right from here.

Free or paid plan? You choose

Trial Wild Apricot accounts allow up to 50 contacts or members and five administrative accounts. The free trial website also has Wild Apricot branding in the website footer on every page

Get your Free Wild Apricot trial If you upgrade to a paid plan, you get more contacts and can add your own branding elements.

Choose a subscription term

Price

pay-as-you-go

$120 per month (avg.)

prepay for one year

10% off

prepay for two years

15% off

On average, Wild Apricot costs about $120 per month, or $0.40 per year per contact. Wild Apricot’s monthly and annual fees are current as of April 2018.  As you can see, the larger your contact database, the less you pay per contact to securely and capably manage your organization's growth on Wild Apricot.

 

Set-up advice from Wild Apricot

Before you start in earnest, get a high-level overview of all the features from:

 

We’ll help you do the right steps – in the right order

The steps and estimates below are based on our experience migrating diverse customer groups to Wild Apricot. Your mileage may vary, depending on your resources, but we’ll help by breaking the steps down into manageable, logical units.

It will be important to follow the steps in the order we’ve set them up here. If you can’t finish one before we publish the next, you can always come back to it when you’re ready.

Lots of organizations fall into the trap of focusing on their website first. It’s tempting to want to hang a sign up and invite people through your front door as soon as possible.

But if your database and the content within it is in disarray, you will not get what you ultimately want in the way of concrete, usable information about your members. Following the steps in a different order can mean putting the cart before the horse – and ending up with apples all over the road!

Think about the quality of your database as directly relating with your organization’s long-term sustainability.

A quality membership management system is key to a sustainable organization

Here is a preview of the  11 steps and publication timelines that will provide the greatest long-term benefit to your organization:

 

Structure

→ Fall/Winter 2018

Website look and feel

→ Winter 2019

Test and launch

→ Early spring 2019

Planning your Database I

Planning Your Website I

Import Your Database and Complete Payment Configuration

Planning your Database II

Planning Your Website II

Test and Launch

Planning your Database III

Creating Your Website I

 

Creating a Master Import File I

Creating Your Website II

 

Creating a Master Import File II

   

Benefits will multiply!

Your organization may not see the benefits of all the features from day one, but if you use our guide to get started, we’re confident you’ll benefit from more of Wild Apricot’s features to grow your organization’s membership and ensure its sustainability.

Watch for the next chapter in this series in the coming weeks.


Do you have questions about Wild Apricot or managing your member and contact database? Contact NewPath Consulting for a free consultation.

08/14/2018

Why You Should Use Wild Apricot Payments - Powered by Affinipay

2C4FBE9A-5399-4A6A-91C8-5BA9C979B044 image from d2de4os9heh93v.cloudfront.netWild Apricot Payments, powered by Affinipay, is now the preferred payment vendor in Wild Apricot. In this article we will use Wild Apricot Payments and Affinipay interchangeably. The main features of Wild Apricot Payments are:

  • No monthly fee, no startup fee
  • A standard 2.9% + $.30 per transaction fee, collected in the standard currency of the account (CAD or USD)
  • Payments are transferred to directly your bank account within 48 hours.
  • When members check out they stay on your site, rather than leaving your site (eg PayPal Standard forces you to PayPal.com).
  • Recurring payments (aka scheduled payments) are supported.
  • There are a variety of financial reports that are available.
  • Wild Apricot provides integrated one-stop support for the product and the payment gateway.
  • Currently, only US and Canada residents can apply for a Wild Apricot Payments account in USD or CAD currencies.

As of October 1, 2018 only 4 payment gateways will remain -- Wild Apricot Payments, various PayPal flavours, Stripe and Authorize.net. Our informed opinion is simple:

Wild Apricot customers should all consider moving to Wild Apricot Payments, the preferred payment gateway, as soon as possible.

We forecast that support for all other payment gateways will be discouraged and eventually Wild Apricot Payment gateway will be the only supported online payment mechanism.

Many Software as a Service products that offer financial support (eg online invoicing systems) are amalgamating support around 1 payment gateway due to the nature of the evolving markets and availability of specialized gateways like Affinipay. Wild Apricot has created not only a technical relationship with Affinipay, but a financial one as well. Affinipay incents Wild Apricot financially to use them as a gateway, and that helps Wild Apricot to continue to keep software subscription costs down. When using any other payment gateway, Wild Apricot does not get any financial incentives. With Affinipay, this changes forever as Wild Apricot receives a commission based on the volume of transactions that flow from Wild Apricot to Affinipay. In effect the more online transactions you pass through Wild Apricot Payments on your Wild Apricot website, the more money flows to Wild Apricot effectively subsidizing your monthly Wild Apricot fee -- without costing you, the customer, one extra cent!

As a Wild Apricot customer, this only benefits you because not only can Wild Apricot focus on supporting just 1 payment gateway, but they can use the added revenue to create new features and benefits while working to keep the price of Wild Apricot low. This is smart business strategy, but it does create some uncertainty for current customers. We hope you will reach out to NewPath Consulting to assuage those fears and prepare to migrate your payment gateway when you are ready.

The Good

  • USD accounts can be setup in 2-3 days using a simple onboarding form
  • Affinipay has an easy to use and secure dashboard
  • You can send requests for payment (called Quick Bill) by email, and your customers can pay right from the email. This is an alternative of paying for an invoice directly from Wild Apricot.
  • You can also  charge credit cards on the fly using the virtual terminal feature
  • You can make same day voids and refunds up to 6 months after the transaction
  • Deposits happen daily - available in your bank account within 1-2 business days

     

Affinipay Dashboard
Test Mode Dashboard
Wild Apricot Payements Quick Charge Page
Wild Apricot Payments Quick Charge Page

 

Not so good

  • The Affinipay account setup for CAD accounts for Canadian customers requires some paper shuffling and is manual for now. I have assurances that this will improve eventually. For now NewPath can help CAD customers get up and running with a fancy form we are developing. Stay tuned!
  • Currently First Data Canada is the payment processor for CAD accounts and they can be somewhat bureaucratic for account setup. Hopefully this will change eventually without affecting existing or new CAD customers.
  • For now the payment information collection is still done on a separate Wild Apricot payments page (payments.wildapricot.com). This is not ideal because setting up conversion and goal tracking is hard to do on a page you do not control. I am told this is required for PCI DSS compliance.
  • There is currently no support for Interac transfers or debit cards.

08/11/2018

WordCamp Niagara 2018 - Managed WordPress Demystified

In an updated presentation called Managed WordPress Demystified, Alex Sirota, wowed the WordCamp Niagara audience with an updated talk on selecting a managed WordPress host. The video (coming soon!) and the presentation is below.

04/17/2018

What is an Extended Validation (EV) SSL Certificate?

Chrome ssl

SSL secures the transmission of data passed between your web browser and the web server. When you enter data into a comment, or pay for something online, the information flows over the internet securely if and only if, the connection is secured by SSL. It turns out that there are 3 different types of certificates and they are indicated very differently by web browsers.

Insecure transactions will soon show "not secure" by Google Chrome as displayed below. Currently they show an i with a circle around it, but that will change this summer with the release of Chrome 68. Here is how all websites without SSL will display:

Treatment-of-http-pages2x

Below is a comparison of the 3 different security states a website can appear currently:

3 types of SSL certificates

There are 3 different types of security certificates available for websites, Domain Validated (DV), Organization Validated (OV) and Extended Validated (EV). Domain Validated certificates can be obtain by anyone, and even for free using Let's Encrypt. These are the simplest to obtain because they do not need any validation other than some sort of control over the website you are securing. This means just about anyone can obtain and secure a website, even for $0. Even though these websites are secure, you have no idea exactly who owns or runs them so the trust level for DV secured sites should be quite low. Situations where trust and credibility are less important such as personal websites and small forums that need basic encryption for things like logins, forms or other non-transactional data.

An Organization Validated certificate has different procurement requirements. To obtain an OV certificate the issuing certificate authority (CA) has to confirm the organizational existence using a non-automated method. As well as checking up on ownership of the domain name, the Certificate Authority will also carry out additional vetting of the organization and individual applying for the certificate. This might include checking the address where the company is registered and the name of a specific contact. OV certificates should be used for public-facing websites dealing with less sensitive transactional data. OV Certificates do not offer the highest visible display of trust like EV certificates which show a green browser bar organization identification.

The Extended Validated certificate is the current gold standard in SSL certificates. Any business that sells products or accepts payment information online should use an Extended Validation (EV) SSL Certificate. An EV certificate uses the same powerful encryption as other SSLs, but getting one requires a thorough vetting of the applicant's business. Only those businesses that pass this process will receive an EV SSL Certificate. Typically the use of an EV certificate is indicated by a green color – but this varies by browser. Anyone who sees the green address bar while on your site knows instantly they’re on a legitimate website.

EV verification guidelines, drawn up by the Certificate Authority/Browser Forum, require the Certificate Authority to run a much more rigorous identity check on the organization or individual applying for the certificate. Sites with an EV SSL certificate have a green browser address bar and a field appears with the name of the legitimate website owner and the name of the Certificate Authority that issued the certificate. From the CA/Browser Forum:

Having an EV certificate for your website is an indication to your customers (or users) that you are very interested in ensuring their safety and privacy by taking the most care that you possibly can in authenticating yourself (through your web site) to them. Even though it might take more time and money to apply for an EV Certificate, after following the application procedures through to successful completion of the vetting process, the CA will issue an EV Certificate to you. 

Before an EV Certificate is granted, a certificate vendor verifies that the business listed on the application is:

  • Legally registered
  • Currently in operation
  • At the address listed (PO Boxes are not allowed!)
  • At the telephone number listed (Voice mail systems will not be allowed for validation, there must be someone answering the phone!)
  • Owns the website domain name (usually done thr0ugh a CNAME record, a file placed on your server or by email.

You will need to pass this vetting process every two years to keep your Extended Validation (EV) SSL. 

Most types of organizations can get an EV certificate relatively easily if they have an established business background and are located in a jurisdiction that provides good online access to records of incorporation or registration.  But regrettably, there are a few types of organizations and a few jurisdictions for which there just isn’t good enough external registration information available in order for the CA to be sure enough of the details supplied by the person applying for the certificate for the CA to be able to easily issue an EV certificate.  For example some CAs do not accept PO Boxes as the organizational mailing address (even though the IRS or a local tax jurisdiction does!). Generally, if your organization is incorporated or fits into one of the more common business types such as an LLC or 501(c) not for profit, then you should be able to obtain an EV certificate.  Here's an example EV Certification Checklist from Comodo should you decide to go this route. It takes time and you should confirm your registration information is up to date and the phone number on file is answered by a person (not a voice mail service).

 

03/05/2018

WordPress.com Supports Plugins and Themes

Wordpress plans
WordPress.com plans

Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com, has upped their game by allowing plugin and theme installations on the business offering of WordPress.com. For $33 CAD ($25 USD) per month you have access to a fully managed WordPress website, but there are some features missing from this new entrant into the custom WordPress hosting space.

Until sometime in August 2017, WordPress.com severely restricted the use of themes, offered no plug-in installations and limited the access to CSS for theme customizations.  The ability to install plugins, themes and customize CSS made WordPress.org the most popular platform in the world. Automattic’s hosting options were great for hobbyists and people running personal blogs, but not for businesses. That all changed late last year.

By giving WordPress.com customers the ability to install themes and plugins that satisfy most business requirements, Automattic could draw millions of customers from the existing WordPress hosting services.  The question is, has Automattic offered enough technology and service at each price point to deter the average website builder from installing and maintaining their own copy of WordPress?

There is no cut and dry answer to this question because every user has a different set of priorities. Automattic’s various service plans are compared on their website, and every website at WordPress.com now comes with a free SSL certificate and a few necessary plugins that are auto-installed. With the addition of the plugins, hosting at WordPress.com is now a viable option for business users.  

We’ll start by examining the free plan which used to be very cookie-cutter because users were offered only a yearly theme (2016, 2017 etc.) Now the free plan has dozens of themes to choose from, and several plugins are included. You can store up to 3 GB of files for pictures, audio and video, and even the free version comes with Jetpack essentials. Jetpack essentials is the most popular WordPress.org plug-in and offers features such as social media share buttons, stats and analytics about your traffic, site security, faster content delivery, a subscription system, and multiple site management from one interface. Some features in Jetpack you have to pay for such as VaultPress which offers back-ups and restoration for your site for $39/year.  The free plan will still insert “wordpress.com” in your domain name and you have no choice but to host ads on your site.

Where things become interesting is in the Personal plan for $5 a month. On this plan you can have a custom domain name and you get rid of all the WordPress.com ads that are sprinkled in the free sites.  Along with hosting and looking more professional, you get support by email and live chat, 6GB of storage space and email forwarding for five custom email addresses such as yourname@yourdomain.com.  WordPress.com only offers email forwarding and not email hosting so you have to go with another provider in order to be able to ‘send’ from your custom email address.  G Suite is available through WordPress.com for another $5/month per user but their email hosting is $50/mailbox/year. Note that to support email inboxes with WordPress.com you have to register your domain with WordPress.com (or transfer it to them).

The next plan up is a $10/month Premium plan where you get everything already mentioned in the Personal plan, plus access to all the Wordpress.com themes - there are about 300 of them to choose from. You also get full access to the CSS code in order to totally customize your your theme, an ad-free video player (Automattic’s VideoPress product), 13 GB of storage space and the ability to monetize your site through Automattic’s WordAds program.  

WordAds is a proprietary program only for WordPress.com sites that combines the features of Google Adsense and Adwords.  Adsense is actually one of the many partners that WordAds manages in this program.  Drawbacks include restricted participation in WordAds unless you get thousands of hits per month and they offer less control than Google’s Adsense over which ads are displayed on your site. Since its a new program, there’s no data yet on revenue generation as compared to Adsense but it will be interesting to see the stats on this program as it unfolds.  

The next plan is a big leap in price and options with the Business plan at $33/month.  On the Business plan you get unlimited storage, access to live training, SEO tools, access to the entire 50,000+ WordPress plugin directory, the ability to install custom themes from the theme directory and Google Analytics integration.  eCommerce, the ability to transact online, is delivered through plugins, so until the cheaper levels of WordPress.com include Woocommerce or another eCommerce option, the Business Plan is the only level where you can ‘sell’ on your site.  

Every WordPress.com site comes with one free, perpetually renewed SSL certificate which can save you up to $100/year from having to buy your own certificate. That’s 3-10 months of savings right there depending on which plan you buy. When you’re protecting your site with SSL your customers will be ensured that the data and their traffic is encrypted and no warning messages will appear due to lack of encryption. More importantly a little “secure” lock will appear on every page of your site, even if you don’t sell anything online. Google loves SSL so you get an instant SEO boost by having this certificate.  Some managed hosting companies, such as GoDaddy are countering this offer by also offering free SSL for every site on their premium levels of Managed WordPress Pro hosting.

WordPress.com charges for each site on an upfront annual basis so you’re locked in for a year with their plans, and there is no month to month payment schedule or any discounts for paying for a year.  

Now let’s compare the WordPress.com offering to Managed WordPress hosting offerings from web hosting and internet domain companies:

Managed hosting usually includes server monitoring to keep your site up and running, as well as proactively dealing with issues like security, back-up and restore, staging sites, storage space and support.  By putting your site in the hands of professionals, you are less likely to incur security breaches or have site downtime and you can choose a plan that meets your needs and budget.

As for pricing, let’s take GoDaddy Managed WordPress as an example. Their normal price is CAD$11/month for their basic managed WordPress (a domain, hosting, 1 WordPress site plus 1 staging site, daily back-ups and automatic core WordPress updates.  A visual page editor is also included as well as 24/7 support phone.)

GoDaddy is currently offering a 1 year discount of only $1.49/month including a Microsoft Outlook mailbox with 5GB of storage.  They are offering the same service on an monthly basis for $6/month.  GoDaddy’s regular pricing is $11/month for the Managed WordPress and $8/month for Office 365. GoDaddy has made the free domain contingent on an upfront annual payment so they are also looking for the one year commitment although they have more flexibility in their plans by offering monthly options.

GoDaddy includes SSL in all their Managed WordPress Pro pro plans which start at $20/month for 1 website. Most of their Managed WordPress Pro plans support the ability to manage more than 1 website from one account, which is not easily possible from WordPress.com. In fact you get a discount if you set-up a 5 or 20 website plan account with GoDaddy. These plans are aimed at web designers, developers and freelancers who build sites for customers rather than end users of WordPress.

After looking at WordPress.com and GoDaddy Managed WordPress if you are dealing with multiple websites, it will probably make more sense to go with a managed WordPress host for multiple WordPress.org collection of sites.  If you only have one site, have little interest in tweaking the theme you’re using and are only looking for an easy and low-cost way to get online, WordPress.com may be your best solution.  

Deciding between WordPress.com and managed hosting with WordPress.org is an interesting debate and we’ll revisit the discussion as we work with more of the WordPress.com plans and see how the Managed WordPress providers react.

02/16/2018

VIDEO: Using CSS to Customize the Main Menu System in Wild Apricot

The Kaleidoscope theme in Wild Apricot is beautiful! Changing the main menu design though is not something that can be done by pointing and clicking. You need to use CSS to modify the menu. This snippet of CSS code will help you modify the main menu in Kaleidoscope and Bookshelf, two themes that share the same menu styles.

Step 1. Download the CSS code

Step 2. Use the Website > CSS  option to copy and paste the CSS code, or use the WebDAV approach to create or edit the user.css file.

Step 3. Modify the various color and background options to your heart's content until you have the menu working just like you would like.

Hint: Popular colors are available online at W3Schools. You may wish to use your own hexadecimal colour values that start with #.

02/13/2018

VIDEO: The new Wild Apricot Membership App

The new Wild Apricot membership application is a breakthrough for membership-based organizations. Now your members can interact with your organization from their iPhone or iPad! The member directory is searchable, you can check out your profile and you can register and pay for events. There is even a place to store your tickets. This app joins the admin app as the second mobile app Wild Apricot has released.  Here's a short demo of the capabilities of the new membership mobile app for Wild Apricot.

02/01/2018

Delighting Customers With a Digital Workplace

Customer-first-© iQoncept-Fotolia_70871759_XS

At NewPath we like to ask this core question: What's the most important thing to a small business owner?

Your business idea, you say? An idea is great. But without customers, it really is just an idea. And the value of an idea is related directly to the ability to bring the idea successfully to customers. The better you execute, the better the idea.

Time, then? Time is an important aspect of running a business, but we all have the same amount of time. Without customers, you just have a lot of time on your hands.

Money? It has to be money! Money is important, no doubt. But happy customers pay you for your services or product. Money on its own won't grow without value being delivered to customers.

So what IS the most important thing for small business success? Your customer! A customer is by far the most important objective for a small business owner. Happy customers will pay money for your idea and tell you when they'd like it delivered. Businesses increase their chance of success when customers are the MOST important thing.

Customer-oriented technology - a case study

So what does the customer have to do with building a digital workplace? Everything! Today, people are changing how they find valuable information, and they’re looking for help to prioritize what steps they take to run a business.

Therefore, your digital workplace should be set up in a way that you’re providing this kind of information (online content), in a way that your prospective customers can find it (and you). The pre-sales and post-sales process has changed so that customers are doing more research long before they may ever interact with you directly.

Yet there’s a natural tension between putting technology in front of your processes and being truly customer focused. That’s why when choosing the right technology solutions for your business, it’s important to discern when your technology will enhance your customer relationships, and when it will get in their way.

For example, we mentioned a customer in our last newsletter who is working on becoming digital workplace in a customer-focused way. They are trying to automate a process that is very cumbersome and complex for their patients.

When a client needs a medical test, they need to fill out forms through a paper clerical process that involves a staff member to select the right form so the patient can fill them out by hand. Different information is needed for different tests, different forms are needed for different insurance companies, and patients also want to identify the best price for the tests they need.

As you can probably tell, this is all very time-consuming and means the clinic can only serve a limited number of patients. The system NewPath designed routes data to the necessary forms depending on which insurance they have, and generates an editable PDF for the clinic that can be digitally processed or uploaded to the clinic website.

The whole thing takes far less time, and is more accurate. Automating this data collection for the customer, and automatically generating the right set of forms depending on the condition is much more customer-friendly.

In this example of digital workplace transformation, our customer was looking at what the customer values. They understood how painful it was for their patients to look for and fill out all the different requisitions, and investigate which clinics took their insurance, etc. This process ensures the right information is sent to the right place, helping their client navigate a very complex healthcare system.

These technology solutions will also help our client scale their business and talk to more patients. We’ll talk more about the specifics of this project in a future article. If you’re curious about the tools we used, click these links to learn more about Formstack and WebMerge.

Delighting customers

In a digital workplace, a business uses cloud-based technology to deliver value to customers, ensure customer success, and manage their resources. They also use technology to help deliver their value proposition consistently, delighting customers and attracting prospects through digital marketing.

Let’s take a deeper look at these last three areas, beginning with consistent value proposition delivery. Right now, clients may have a different experience depending on how they interact with your business, and with whom, and also how you portray your business value, products and services.

When you use technology, you’re taking processes that are malleable and flexible, and creating an interface where clients can consistently get the same high level of service. For example, At NewPath we prefer to talk to our customers in short meetings on a regular basis to work through the issues in our projects, so we’ve created a consistent method to achieve this.

When customers want to book time with our director Alex Sirota, they access his online booking calendar, powered by Appointlet. Instead of having to go back and forth by email to find a mutually convenient time, Alex presents a digital interface that allows customers to choose a time that will work for both.

There are a consistent set of steps that occur every time they schedule a meeting. They choose their time zone, type of meeting, and preferred location (these preferences can be saved for future bookings).

Once they select a time, the underlying technology springs into action. The customer receives a confirmation with a calendar invite and a reminder before the meeting, all of which is totally automated and personalized.

Now let’s talk about the opposite of delighting customers, by using a not-so-delightful example we can all relate to: the automated phone system. You’re having an issue with one of your vendors so you dial customer service, and then various phone cues tell you which number to press for certain outcomes.

In the past we would have connected with a human voice, “How may I help you?” and that person would triage your call manually and connect you with the right person who could solve your problem. Today, customers are forced to do that routing ourselves, but if our problem doesn’t fit neatly into one of the options, it can be extremely frustrating.

So while these automated phone systems certainly make for a consistent experience, it’s definitely not delighting customers. Now with new advances in automation and artificial intelligence, there are some phone systems that you can speak to with natural phrases and it can translate those into its set menu items. In other cases, the system will identify your phone number and recognize you as a current customer to route your call accordingly. These are all steps in the right direction.

Another way companies are using digital to delight customers is by providing support via social media. They know customers are there already, and this may be the first place they go to talk about a problem they’re having with a company, product or service.

Some companies provide comprehensive social media groups on Facebook, online support materials or forums, which can be cost-saving as well. Others offer instant chat, or the option to have someone call you back instead of waiting on hold.

At NewPath one way we try to delight customers is with our customized video training sessions. Why not just send them to the support articles at Wild Apricot or our other vendors? The difference is that we train them on a particular sequence of things they need to know to reach their specific goals.

We also record these training sessions so our customers can review them later. We know that after the session when they try to replicate the steps, they may run into a bump or two. With the recording, they can re-watch the lesson as many times as they need to. Of course we’re always here for questions, but this empowers our customers to do more on their own and they tell us this is much appreciated.

We think there is a huge opportunity for service-based companies to do more video-based collaboration, training and support. It’s a way to delight customers, and can also save costs and time for you both.

Lastly, let’s look at attracting prospects through digital marketing. We find that the best way to do that is through content marketing and through building relationships with vendors that recommend our service.

How does being a digital workplace support your ability to distribute content? The first way is that you need to have a website built so that it allows you to categorize, structure, and publish content in a way that is optimized for the search engines. The second way is through email marketing, where you build a prospect list and keep in touch on a regular basis. We’ll talk about each of  these marketing efforts/tasks in detail in future articles.

Customer first, digital second

At NewPath we interact with customers primarily between email and
Zoom, and sometimes by phone. Internally, we use another channel called Slack that allows us to structure conversations around different customers and projects, but we haven’t given our customers access to that channel. We don’t want to superimpose our way of doing things onto our customers. If they hear about Slack and are interested, we will let them into Slack, but until then we’ll keep using the support channels our customers are used to.

Cloud

We think there is a place for digital transformation in every single part of your business: sales, accounting marketing, operations, HR, and client management. The caveat is that the transformation should be customer focused, not just an excuse to use an interesting digital tool. That’s why we suggest testing new solutions first with a subset of your customers, figuring out what really resonates and delivers value they have not experienced with anyone else.

If you have any questions about your own company’s digital transformation, feel free to get in touch, particularly around the implementation phase. We specialize in helping small businesses prioritize their digital transformation projects, and select and implement the right tools for the job.

01/31/2018

VIDEO: Setting a Member's Starting Page in Wild Apricot

Setting a default starting page can help member's navigate the content only accessible to members. Any page can be set as a default page after login, and the default pages can be custom for each membership level. This short video shows you how to set this page in the administrative system.  The documentation is available in Wild Apricot's helpful documentation.