28
Jun

Early Stage ISVs Can Use email2lead from netFactor To Rapidly Add Business Information for Website Visitors Produced by eMail Campaigns

Emerging technology businesses, and Independent Software Vendors (ISVs), in particular, often operate with a small group of staff members who are comfortable multi-tasking between administrative, sales and support requirements. Email campaigns are a popular promotional method for these businesses. But the multi-tasking nature of daily activity can make it difficult for these businesses to extract the full value from their campaigns. When two people are doing the work of twenty, how will they find the time to collect background information on campaign recipients who pay a visit to the company website?

We’ve been using email2lead from netFactor (http://www NULL.netfactor NULL.com/visitor-track/email2leads/). We think this product can fill the gap we’ve just described. The online report produced by this tool (which works very well with most email service providers, including MailChimp, iContact, Vertical Response and Jango Mail, just to name a few) provides a very rich set of information in one view, including:

  • Business Background Information for Website Visitors produced by email campaigns
  • The date and time of visits
  • the name of the campaign producing them
  • and the landing page for the visitor on your website

Business background information includes a link to the business’ website, the industry for the business, each geographical location for its facilities and the parent company name.

Exposing all of this helpful information online fuels a very rapid process of collecting important information on site visitors, responding to email campaigns, literally as they happen. Once the campaign is sent to recipients, the report starts to compile, and is ready for access. Sales teams can work with the results in optimum fashion, meaning as soon after a site visit occurs as possible.

Subscribers to the email2lead service can distribute accesss to online reports of campaign activity to all of the personnel who should have this access. This feature streamlines the process of notifying sales teams about prospect site visits. With email2lead there is no need to wait for one or two administrators sharing costly access rights to spread the word. Everyone with access to a web browser can get the same information simultaneously.

We’re keen on the product and also like the business information features, which smaller businesses can use in lieu of separate accounts with marketing lead services and likely save some substantial cash in the process. But the condensed report format is the biggest draw for us. Having all of the information available on one screen, with an option to click on a link to get further information, makes email2lead into a rapid response system, which can be used to capitalize on prospect interest with a perfectly timed sales call.

Ira Michael Blonder (https://plus NULL.google NULL.com/108970003169613491972/posts?tab=XX?rel=author)

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

28
Jun

Small Businesses Benefit by Carefully Managing Brand Marketing and Selling Efforts

On June 17, 2013, the New York Times “You’re the Boss” blog published the first of a series of articles, authored by Paul Downs, on why a small business may want to think about hiring a sales consultant: Why We Hired a Sales Consultant (http://boss NULL.blogs NULL.nytimes NULL.com/2013/06/17/why-we-hired-a-sales-consultant/). We offer consulting services, so we thought we’d read the series carefully and provide our thoughts on it.

The basic problem Mr. Downs’ business faced, as we see it, was not really related to sales, but more in the area of product brand management. Mr. Downs’ business, in our opinion, was not able to successfully manage the change in market perception of his conference tables. His products had gone from magnetizing very high levels of market interest (which truly required no more than a click ad campaign and an order form to close lucrative sales orders), to products customers “needed to think about” in order to buy. From the post series, it is pretty clear this change in market perception “just happened” and was not anticipated by the product marketing effort at the business.

We’re not trying to diminish the importance of complex sales skills to Mr. Downs’ ultimately successful effort to turn the business around. But we do need to point out the need for small businesses to understand the curious relationship between successful brand management and sales vulnerabilities. Brand management should always be judged against its ability to produce some level of substantial market interest in a product. The easier the selling process gets, the more vulnerable the business becomes to a possibility of poor sales results in a more difficult business environment.

We would have recommended a closer look at the product message and the lead generation venue. In Mr. Downs’ case the primary drive for sales leads was Google Adwords. We think a different driver, transporting a new brand message for the product would have produced even better results for his business.

Ira Michael Blonder (https://plus NULL.google NULL.com/108970003169613491972/posts?tab=XX?rel=author)

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

27
Jun

Plan Operational Risk Management Procedures Correctly to Mitigate Risk from IT Systems

The “big data” “surveillance” brouhaha of June, 2013 illustrates an emerging problem with operational risk management procedures, and, specifically, IT audit and risk assessment. Mr. Snowden’s possession of a top secret security clearance is at the heart of the brouhaha. If Snowden had not possessed this level of security clearance, the argument goes, June would have come and gone smoothly. IT Audit and Risk Assessment procedures were faulty and provided the basis for this event to unfold.

We like this argument. We think it’s safe to say the security clearance review procedure failed to identify Mr. Snowden as a high risk candidate for approval. We hope this problem hits home with enterprise decision-makers wrestling with a need to get better performance from these reviews. If topics of inquiry, and the questions crafted to get useful answers from candidates are not framed correctly, then the results of even a thorough evaluation of candidates for clearance will likely be useless.

Perhaps it would be more useful if enterprise organizations in need of IT audit and risk assessment procedures conducted an internal threat assessment prior to formulating their procedures. This assessment would identify not only areas of dangerous exposure, but, as well, the specific business procedures (as well as the policies behind them) producing them. Once the specific procedures are identified, then the task of managing the exposures can be customized to fit the unique enterprise under examination. Our point is as follows: Highly differentiated enterprise organizations cannot afford to simply implement a “standard” risk assessment process for IT systems.

Our interest in this topic results from how the surveillance controversy has been publicized. Prominent writers have called into question some of the key components of security safeguards for enterprise IT computing (within the public sector). A favorite topic has been whether Mr. Snowden, as a contractor, should have been granted the privileges he enjoyed. Shouldn’t he have been an employee? And, further, as an employee wouldn’t he have been far less likely to veer off course?

We don’t think it really matters whether he was an employee of the NSA or a contractor. The real problem is the screening method, meaning the IT Risk Assessment procedures driving the credentialing effort for top security clearances. The method needs a substantial makeover.

Ira Michael Blonder (https://plus NULL.google NULL.com/108970003169613491972/posts?tab=XX?rel=author)

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

26
Jun

Clarity Must be a Mandatory Objective for Tech Products MARCOM

In June, 2013, clarity should be a mandatory feature of Marketing Communications (MARCOM) collateral for software products produced by Independent Software Vendors (ISVs). The “big data” controversy should provide product marketing management with the rationale they need to stop the typical practice of filling promotional pieces with undefined acronyms and highly stylized uses of otherwise common terms.

How much print has been produced on simply the lack of clarity around the term “metadata”, within the context of this controversy?

But the “metadata” fog is nothing new. Just think about the client server era of ISV products, and remember the repetitive misuse of the terms “child”, “children”, “parent” and even “siblings.” ISVs intended each of these terms to represent software components of a complete system, and, further, to describe the relationship between these components (usually as a method of representing permissions and capabilities). But for the general public, the stylized use of these terms amounted to an unexpected obstacle between getting an audience to focus on products and, then, getting them to actual understand their brand.

This example is simply one of hundreds of stylized uses of common terms for technology communications. When one of these stylized terms prompts a substantial misunderstanding, as is the present case for “metadata”, the usefulness of the practice should be called into question. Technology communicators must adhere to a common set of principles of style (in fact, most MARCOM professionals already do this). But the principles, themselves, should be built around the clarity objective we voiced at the start of this post.

We think a likely benefit of approaching technology MARCOM projects with an intention to communicate, in plain language (English, French, Spanish, whatever), will be more of the type of results ISVs are usually after, meaning opportunities to engage with prospects who have been educated with a correct understanding about products and how they should be successfully applied to appropriate requirements.

Ira Michael Blonder (https://plus NULL.google NULL.com/108970003169613491972/posts?tab=XX?rel=author)

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

25
Jun

Possessing a Product Mix is a Great Security Blanket for Early Stage ISVs

Leslie Kaufman, a staff writer for the New York Times, published an article on LinkedIn on Monday, June 17, 2013: LinkedIn Builds Its Publishing Presence (http://www NULL.nytimes NULL.com/2013/06/17/technology/sharing-business-insights-linkedin-builds-its-publishing-presence NULL.html?ref=technology). The thrust of the article cites the new “Influencers” section of the site as a new feature contributing to enhanced use of the site by visitors.

We’re also keen on the feature, but for different reasons. We think it adds a new product to the LinkedIn product mix. The main business of LinkedIn, meaning how the company makes its money, is as an advertising medium for executive search, contingent staffing and contract consulting firms. Site subscriptions are a side product, and a testimony to the health of the LinkedIn business model. We think a lot of subscriptions are purchased by individuals and businesses in the recruitment field. The LinkedIn member list is one of the best examples of a comprehensive database about people in business, and, therefore, of likely very strong interest to participants in the staffing business.

Leslie Kaufman’s article includes a conversation with Daniel Roth, the Executive Editor of LinkedIn. Kaufman writes “But Daniel Roth, the executive editor of LinkedIn, said that Influencers is catnip to executive-suite aspirants and is transforming viewer engagement on the site” (quoted from Leslie Kaufman’s article. A link to the complete article has been provided earlier in this post). “Executive-suite aspirants” are certainly of very strong interest to recruiters. So it’s easy to fold the “Influencers” feature into LinkedIn’s business model as just another attraction for the executive search clientele.

But we see it differently. The “Influencers” column adds more magnetism to the site for members, and, perhaps even members who will buy subscriptions, to gain access to original editorial content produced by well respected, successful business people.

This difference is important. Where possible, early stage ISVs should use product management to produce connected, but nonetheless separate products. If the effort is successful, then a very important risk may be rendered manageable. Too deep a commitment to a single market via one product, can be a fatal flaw, and is certainly too risky. Better mitigate the risk with a set of products tied together with common technology, but targeted to separate markets.

Ira Michael Blonder (https://plus NULL.google NULL.com/108970003169613491972/posts?tab=XX?rel=author)

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

24
Jun

Some Thoughts On the Reliability of Forecasts for Business Planning

We recently watched an interview with Mark Cuban taken at the Clinton Global Initiative America Meeting, held in Chicago in June, 2013. When asked about the value of loans for very early stage businesses, we heard Mr. Cuban reply as follows: ” . . . loans are a dumb move for entrepeneurs. Banks expect regular repayment on specific dates. When you’re starting a business you have very little indication, if any at all, where your first or next sale will come from.” (this is merely our summary of what Mr. Cuban actually said)

We think his position is absolutely true, and brings into question another point, not touched on during the interview, but, nevertheless, very important for entrepreneurs thinking about starting tech businesses to consider: Forget about forecasts, they will not be reliable. Revenue and sales activity for very early stage tech businesses are especially difficult to forecast. There is a hidden moving target at work. Markets themselves can change, radically.

If forecasts are inherently unreliable for very early stage tech businesses, then why does a business plan remain an essential document for financing discussions, and, in some cases, customer relationships? Business plans are especially popular with banks, and the U.S. SBA. But remember Mr. Cuban’s point. Better to forget about conventional financing if your start-up business notion is in a technology area.

Venture Capitalists (VCs) also like to read business plans. Perhaps it’s easier to broadly estimate revenue for the types of markets of interest to VCs. These markets may not even exist, so estimating zero revenue for the first one to three years, as markets are built, may be acceptable for a business plan for VC review.

Even mature businesses built around technology products are tough to forecast. You can’t lose sight of an important variable largely out of your control: market sentiment about specific products. In 2013 PCs are largely out of favor, but just five years ago they were a very popular and accessible method of computing. So even the best sales team will have a tough time hitting their numbers in 2013 if they are selling commercial software to a PC market.

The key point, for tech entrepreneurs is to approach the task of forecasting with a very strong sense of skepticism.

Ira Michael Blonder (https://plus NULL.google NULL.com/108970003169613491972/posts?tab=XX?rel=author)

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

21
Jun

Microsoft Suffers from Device Burn Over Debut of XBox One at E3 Conference in Los Angeles

On Saturday, June 15, 2013 we noted a conversation on Google +. Someone complained about Microsoft’s recent presentations at the E3 Conference just concluded in Los Angeles. As a side note, from all we’ve read about Microsoft since June, 2012, we’ve concluded someone in Microsoft’s product marketing team, at a high level, decided it’s very important to adopt and maintain a highly polarizing, contentious position in the PC, cloud, and, now, what we’ve come to call the “small smart device” markets. Perhaps, subliminally, all of this contention will prod the market to endow Microsoft with the same rebellious disrupter profile Steve Jobs used so effectively for his product marketing plans for Apple.

One party in this conversation was clearly angry. He reported Microsoft used a PC to project the new Xbox games debuted at E3. The objection? The games will never look as good on an Xbox as they did at the conference. Someone agreed and used an expletive to add some spice to the comment.

We call all of this “device burn.” Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) get “device burn” when they use one hardware platform to promote and present solutions for a different hardware platform. Perhaps it requires a special sensitivity to anticipate the kind of market response Microsoft actually generated with this approach (if the participants in the conversation are correct). But product marketers working on big revenue generating opportunities like Xbox can’t afford to be insensitive and should have planned for this reaction. The technical chatter on Google + might be indicative of a small cut of the market for Xbox, but it is nevertheless a highly influential one.

If your business has a solution for mobile devices, it makes sense to use a mobile device platform to present the features of the solution. Hardware devices can attract a base of fans (even the Radio Shack TRS 80 had a cadre of die hard champions, and never forget the Amiga). Better to anticipate the type of chauvinistic reaction these Xbox fans had when you think about your next public announcement than make the same mistake twice.

Ira Michael Blonder (https://plus NULL.google NULL.com/108970003169613491972/posts?tab=XX?rel=author)

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

20
Jun

It Helps to Carefully Read Analyst Reports Before Including Them in an Appeal to Authority

Carefully read analyst opinion before adding it to a sales presentation built around an appeal to authority (http://www NULL.wordiq NULL.com/definition/Argument_from_authority). We almost made the mistake of pouring some comments published by Gartner, Inc. in its Highlights From Gartner’s Data-Driven Marketing Survey, 2013 (http://www NULL.gartner NULL.com/technology/research/digital-marketing/data-driven-marketing-survey NULL.jsp).

After a careful review of the material we decided the conclusions reached were not applicable to our target market — early stage Independent Software Vendors (ISVs). Here’s an example: “A majority of marketers that we interviewed, 54%, invest in digital marketing because they believe it’s key to their competitiveness. But they are not certain of the return on their investment. For that survey, which took place in April 2012, we interviewed 98 marketing executives in companies with revenue greater than $1 billion, and who had or were considering a digital marketing function.” (quoted from Gartner, Inc. A link to the full report has been provided above).

Our market is not characterized by ” . . . companies with revenue greater than $1 billion.” The companies in our market do not ” . . . invest in digital marketing because they believe it’s key to their competitiveness.” They invest in digital marketing because most of them sell software as a service (SaaS) solutions. Almost all of the revenue they produce is the result of online sales and marketing.

So what’s the big deal? The big deal is how we got to this report. We followed a link from an innocuous sentence on a web page on the IT World, Canada website: “Many organizations are plagued by disconnected analytic efforts, according to research firm Gartner Inc.” (http://www NULL.itworldcanada NULL.com/news/marketers-struggle-with-analytics-gartner/147234-pg2#ixzz2WETlN1Hd).

Note the hyperbole in the sentence. There are comparatively not ” . . . [m]any organizations . . . ” with revenue over $1Bil. The survey conducted by Gartner, Inc. speaks to a very small segment of businesses here in the United States.

Opting to include information actually unrelated to a subject at hand in an “appeal to authority” substantially diminishes the effectiveness of the appeal. Sad to say a lot of the argumentation we read today is hastily put together with information actually irrelevant to the discussion at hand.

Ira Michael Blonder (https://plus NULL.google NULL.com/108970003169613491972/posts?tab=XX?rel=author)

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

19
Jun

comScore Rocks the Boat on Online Advertising With a New Report

Jack Neff wrote an article, Worse Than You Thought: Nearly Half of Online Ads Aren’t Viewed (http://adage NULL.com/article/digital/viewability-half-online-ads/242026/?utm_source=Digital&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+AdvertisingAge/Digital), which was published on June 11, 2013. The intended audience for this article looked to us to be larger businesses, meaning enterprises in the $100MM and up category. But the points made in the article should be mandatory reading for any smaller business with a big commitment and a matching expectation for a pay per click advertising strategy.

Jack Neff notes: “ComScore raised eyebrows with research last year showing 31% of online display ads are never actually viewed, but upon further review, things are even worse: its latest data indicate 46% of ads are never seen by website visitors.” (quoted from Jack Neff’s article as published on the Ad Age website on June 11, 2013. We have provided a link to the entire article above). If ComScore is right, and only 54% of website ad impressions are ever seen by website visitors, then the cost of pay per click advertising is a lot higher than even we expected it to be.

In a post to this blog published this month, we reported on some new marketing collateral we received from Google. This collateral attempted to explain the new sophistication of online buyers, who may click on an ad, but then take a much longer amount of time than had previously been the case, to actually buy something as the result of what actually amounts to an online research mission.

Most of our clients cannot be satisfied with this kind of likely scenario. So we recommend smaller businesses implement a service like VisualVisitor (http://www NULL.visualvisitor) or netFactor (http://www NULL.netfactor NULL.com) in lieu of a pay per click advertising campaign. VisualVisitor and netFactor provide anonymous website visitor recognition services. These services will provide the business names behind website visitors. Internal direct marketing teams of telemarketers or outbound email marketers can then, proactively, attempt to engage with these “leads”.

Certainly pay per click can work for an advertiser, but, in 2013, the marketplace is much more sophisticated. The expertise required to deliver, successfully, on a campaign will have to match the same level of sophistication and can translate into a higher management cost for the advertiser.

Ira Michael Blonder (https://plus NULL.google NULL.com/108970003169613491972/posts?tab=XX?rel=author)

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

18
Jun

RelatelQ Raises Venture Capital Investment and Benefits from Some Prominent Press in the Same Day

Never underestimate the power of free publicity. RelatelQ, a Palo Alto early stage ISV announced a successful effort to raise $29MM from several venture capitalists on June 13, 2013. This news was included in an article with even bigger impact for the business, Your New Secretary: An Algorithm (http://online NULL.wsj NULL.com/article/SB10001424127887323949904578539983425941490 NULL.html?mod=WSJ_Tech_LEADTop).

It’s not easy to quantify the impact of Ms. Rusli’s article on the visibility of RelatelQ in its market. But it certainly didn’t hurt to have the article published coincidentally with the public announcement of the cash injection. In fact, from the description of the technology in Ms. Rusli’s article, it isn’t earth shaking, nor particularly new (anyone familiar with the late 1980s who was actively involved with personal computing will likely remember Lotus Agenda (http://www NULL.bobnewell NULL.net/nucleus/bnewell NULL.php?itemid=186), which had a lot of the same capabilities back in 1988). So the lesson for early stage ISVs is what you say amounts to how you say it and who decides to publish it. As we’ve noted time and time again in this blog, Marshall McLuhan is still alive and well and just as brilliant, for his own venue, as Albert Einstein was for his. “The Medium is the Message”.

We visited the RelatelQ website hoping for an opportunity to take a look at their application, but found an “invitation only” note on the front page. We’re not sure this public posture benefits them, but, bottom-line, we can’t access their software.

The notion of what the software can do is exciting. We used Lotus Agenda for 3 or more years in a team setting with tremendous results. Our gross revenues went from $7MM to over $28MM in the same timeframe. So using an application to autosort travel notes, jourrnal entries, call reports, etc. can be a very valuable activity.

If your business can benefit from a successful effort to convince a reporter or two to write about what you’re up to, but you lack the internal staff to get the job done, contact us. We’ll be happy to make our best efforts on your behalf. You can send us a message, as well.

Ira Michael Blonder (https://plus NULL.google NULL.com/108970003169613491972/posts?tab=XX?rel=author)

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved