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This CRM taps AI to improve your client relationships

(MARKETING) Conduit is a CRM that does more than CRM, it analyzes your networking data to help you see how to improve your relationships.

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Networking is one of those unspoken irritants in which anyone in business must participate. Like eating healthily or stopping at red lights, networking feels much more like an obligation than a desirable activity. If you’re a networking dissenter, however, you’ll be happy to know that a CRM option which automates your entire process exists.

Conduit, a networking analytics AI suite, provides all of the information you could possibly want to know about your network. From a basic timeline regarding your relationship with a specific connection to global insights on how best to continue reaching your ongoing networks, this AI presents an opportunity to view and make the most of the data surrounding the social side of your work environment.

While Conduit isn’t necessarily here to help you make friends, its uses begin once you’ve initiated a connection.

By reviewing your relationship’s timespan, activities, mutual aspects, and more, Conduit can generate a list of topics, questions, interests, and potential additions to the network based on your other connections.

Any AI which can recommend a trusted friend for your new friend is okay in our book, and Conduit fulfills this goal as part of its basic operation.

The AI ships with a myriad of different features, including email and calendar support. One irritating aspect of many “productivity” services is that they don’t include native productivity suites, so this is a refreshing take. Conduit can also interface with your existing workflows—Google-, Outlook-, and LinkedIn-based data are all supported, according to their website—making it simple to integrate your existing networking information with Conduit’s productivity tools.

One particularly handy aspect of Conduit’s productivity integration is its ability to match your existing LinkedIn contacts with calendar events for which they may be suited. This allows you to review your event lists with potentially revised attendance parameters without having to give yourself an aneurism trying to remember who you’ve left out; similarly, seeing your events through Conduit gives you the most efficient path to making sure you’re including the correct people.

Networking isn’t easy, and the process of making a new connection is nothing compared to the effort of maintaining it. If you’re looking for a way to ease your networking load while simultaneously improving those connections, Conduit’s CRM is worth checking out.

Jack Lloyd has a BA in Creative Writing from Forest Grove's Pacific University; he spends his writing days using his degree to pursue semicolons, freelance writing and editing, oxford commas, and enough coffee to kill a bear. His infatuation with rain is matched only by his dry sense of humor.

Real Estate Marketing

Begin your branding process with free, (mostly) non-cheesy name generator

(REAL ESTATE MARKETING) Naming your company, brand, product, or service can be incredibly difficult and intimidating. Luckily, there’s a new tool that can help.

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Bright colored alphabet on dark background, a starting place for branding and naming a company.

There’s an entire episode in HBO’s wonderful Silicon Valley that focuses solely on naming their fledgling company. The founder is adamant about keeping his original choice in spite of literally everyone around him hating it, and there’s a scene involving a white board and dozens of terrible new monikers. It’s a masterful send up of startup culture.

Branding, marketing, and publicity all follow from a name, and it is essential that these all work in tandem harmoniously (I’m not advocating either way here – it’s simply that this is a modern and fascinating issue). It helps if the name fulfills all its intended requirements as well – memorable, unique, implies what the product is or the service provided, and noticeable. It is a critical piece of any company and must be approached with care.

The gravity of this step cannot be understated, and as such, it can be paralyzing to know where to begin. There are a number of strategies out there, and there is a lot of sound advice to help guide your approach in a sensible way. But even with all of this at your disposal, the act of picking a name is still vital and daunting.

This is where NameSnack comes in – a free business name generator that can help jump start the branding process. Simply put, it takes words or phrases and then generates several potential business names in seconds. Writing in “teapot” (I do not have aspirations to take on the teapot industry) will return results such as “Hello There Tea,” “Empire Teapot,” and “O’Cool Uncle Polly” (which isn’t even the most nonsensical option I found). It can even tell you if a URL is available (another area of controversy), and take you straight to BigCommerce to set this up (though this would just be one choice of many).

Further, NameSnack links up to Zarla, which is a service that can generate a logo for you. You’re even given the ability to customize the text, add a slogan, change the colors, or add your own icons.

In a matter of moments, you could have a brand new company name, register a website for it, and have a logo created that helps drive your business.

Having spent some time in this space, I was curious to see the true flexibility of NameSnack’s service. As I put in different words and phrases, I found that there were a number of repeat patterns emerging. For example, you might always see “(Random Name)’s (Your Input)” appear, or “Big Ten (Your Input).” There were also results that were only remotely related, or completely and surprisingly unique.

While I cannot say for sure, this would suggest that the algorithm behind the service does a few different things. There’s almost assuredly some level of procedural generation going on (i.e., the system makes something up unprompted via the use of some level of artificial intelligence), but there’s also clearly a number of premade templates that have the user’s input dropped in without further assessment. There doesn’t seem to be many ways to guide the process, and certainly no way to alter after-the-fact results.

To be clear, this is not a bad thing, and I don’t want to diminish the utility of the service. At the very least, it’s a wonderful brainstorming tool for branding. I would consider it incredibly valuable with giving a person, committee, or other group a lot of viable starting points that would ultimately help arrive at a fantastic name. And in that sense, it works remarkably well, and cannot be discounted as at least another avenue to a solution.

Likewise, Zarla is similar, and would unlikely provide a final product, but something to draw from. I have to assume that there’s no legal issues in either service if you take their results as-is with no alteration, but will note that NameSnack specifically mentions it doesn’t check against registered trademark databases.

Naming is essential and difficult work – the story behind the Ford Edsel is a good example of poor name becoming a gargantuan problem. While this was not the sole contributor to its failure, it’s worth noting that substantial correspondence with Pulitzer Prize winning poet Marianne Moore resulted in a back-and-forth for years, and was ultimately rejected for (in some ways) nepotism.

At the very least, exploring every available option is worthwhile, and NameSnack will absolutely give someone several considerations for branding, and even more potential possibilities.

Lastly: If you have any interest in the tech world or laughter then I cannot recommend Silicon Valley enough.

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Real Estate Marketing

Turning your blog posts into tweets: Marketing or distracting?

(MARKETING) Wordpress has unveiled a new feature to turn your blog posts into tweets. But just because you can’t doesn’t always mean you should.

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Blog post being written on laptop in front of colorful TV

If you’ve got both a WordPress blog and a Twitter account, it’s now easier than ever to share content between the two platforms. Just recently, WordPress introduced a new feature that allows you to turn entire blog posts in tweetstorms, with “just two extra clicks.” The question is, should you?

The tool will automatically break up your post into Twitter-sized chunks, and will do it’s best to start a new tweet at the end of, rather than mid-sentence. However, it will also let you see a preview of the tweetstorm before you publish so that you can make sure you agree with how the content has been broken up. Videos and images in the post will also be added to the Twitter thread. You can add an introduction, if necessary, and a link to the original post will be included at the end of the thread.

You’ll need to connect your Twitter account to your WordPress, if it isn’t already. The feature can also support multiple Twitter accounts so you can post in multiple places at once. However, the feature only works on new posts – you can’t go back and turn an old post into a Twitter thread.

The reverse process – turning tweets into blog posts – has already been available on WordPress for quite some time. When you embed a tweet into WordPress there is an “unroll” option that imports the full tweetstorm into your post.

While some bloggers have responded positively to this option, Twitter users seem less than thrilled that their feeds may now be flooded with lengthy tweetstorms.

One user, @theregos, sarcastically tweeted, “Can’t wait for food bloggers and their 87-tweet threads on a recipe.” Another, @elliottrains, said, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” Many people love Twitter precisely because its word count limit forces creators to be concise and feel that Twitter is no place for longform content.

Meanwhile, marketing experts question whether there’s much use in diverting traffic away from your site and onto Twitter, where you can’t as easily assess metrics or monetize your following. If you have an enthusiastic Twitter audience, it might be worth it, but otherwise you’re just giving more traffic to Twitter instead of to your own site. As one AG editor put it, site owners will be “cutting off their traffic nose to spite their marketing face.”

What do you think? Is this new feature more helpful or harmful?

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Real Estate Marketing

This new “no-fuss” customer support tool focuses on privacy

(MARKETING) Letterbase’s website widget lets customers send a quick email to businesses without worrying about who’s looking at or selling their info.

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Letterbase is a contact form widget to help customer support

Giving your website users a timely, low-friction way to talk to your business is essential, yes? Live chat can be cool for customer support, but do you really need it? If it feels like overkill, check out Letterbase’s email-based tool.

The website widget for facilitating customer feedback was designed to be “simple, fast, and privacy-friendly.”

Through a branding-friendly, customizable box that can appear on each page, customers can quickly send an email initiating a conversation. They don’t have to wait around for a chat reply before clicking off the site; they get a response in their inbox. Businesses don’t have to use a separate tool to respond and log conversations; the person monitoring email does that. Hence, the “simple.”

The “fast” comes with what they promise is lightweight script installed with a quick copy and paste.

It’s that “privacy-friendly” part that maker Richard Chu says prompted the idea for the product. After combing through messaging apps’ privacy policies, Chu says, he found the “spying” and data sharing to be intrusive.

You might not be aware of how much data collecting some website messaging and chat apps do – and that they sell that data to third parties. Capturing users’ IP addresses, monitoring their browser history, setting cookies, collecting personal information such as drivers license numbers, even tracking users’ location, can all come with a site’s chat or messaging platform – unbeknownst to users.

Having a chat or messenger widget prominently on a website shows that a company cares about customer support and service, but there are things to consider with Letterbase and similar apps.

Some good points:

  • Privacy friendly: Letterbase’s privacy guarantee should allow website owners to assure users that their data is not being collected or sold – a potentially huge trust-builder with customers.
  • Data ownership: Website owners own the data and Letterbase doesn’t store any user conversations.
  • Easy to use: Letterbase should be an affordable customer support tool for small businesses and groups who don’t have dedicated IT people or a high knowledge of tech.
  • Simplicity over analytics: There are no frustrating chat bots that don’t really understand customer questions, and no paying for complicated analytics bells and whistles like sentiment analysis, which requires a team of people just to understand.
  • Trust: Sending an email directly feels better than contact forms, which are often perceived as a communication “black hole.” Users need to trust that they will get a quick reply.

Things to keep in mind:

  • Data collection: If users are being tracked, website owners can assume at least some of their own data is being tracked, too. Read any tool’s privacy policy and contract carefully.
  • Privacy policies: Do you need to alert users that you have an app that is collecting, sharing and/or selling their data? It’s not clear, but being transparent about privacy assures users that their data is safe is a huge potential trust builder. If a company is selling their data, it could quickly become obvious when a user starts to see targeted ads based on your conversation – a potentially huge trust-buster.
  • Security: If conversations might contain any sensitive information, like phone or credit card numbers, make sure your email client offers end-to-end encryption. This also can protect your company network from malware.
  • Response time: You need a crack email monitoring person who will be conscientious about timely responses and categorizing, analyzing and storing conversations. Consider auto-generated responses if that person can’t monitor all the time.

Currently, Letterbase has a 14-day free trial, then an early adopter price of $9 per month.

According to their public roadmap, they plan to eventually integrate with Slack.

It’s clear Letterbase could work for small businesses or groups that care about privacy and want a simple, no frills way for customers to ask questions or request support. Privacy is a the top of mind now, so lack of tracking could be a real benefit.

Sure, understanding and targeting customers through tracking what they do online is pretty much the foundation of digital marketing. For many businesses, though, simple email conversations could be all they need. Plus, it shows they care about privacy by not adding another layer of data surveillance in messaging, which could be the nudge that pushes a prospect to the next step in the customer journey.

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