The Cloud Comes Full Circle: Sage and Salesforce Team Up For Sage Life

White Clouds in Blue SkyIf you had any doubt that the cloud has become mainstream, yesterday’s announcement that Sage and Salesforce have inked a global partnership to bring Sage small business accounting and payroll solutions onto the Salesforce 1 Platform should erase them.

The partnership brings together opposite ends of the software universe. It pairs Salesforce, pioneer and poster child for the cloud, with Sage, which has arguably been one of the slowest software vendors to embrace cloud computing. While Marc Benioff’s Salesforce posted 26% revenue growth in it’s recently close fourth quarter, Sage posted growth of 6.2%. Not to mention the rumors of Salesforce potential value as a $50B to $60B acquisition target to a still unidentified bidder.

Sage Life is aptly named, as the partnership offers Sage the potential to breath new life into a its product lineup with a cloud solution better tuned to the needs of today’s small businesses. Sage Life provides unified accounting, financials and payroll in a cloud based, customizable solution. The solution is mobile ready, and can be used on any device, from smartphones to smart watches and from tablets to the desktop. The real time, unified data view and social functionality enable collaboration between employees, customers, partners and other constituents.

Coupled with Sage’s strong understanding of small businesses, the partnership infuses Sage with a credible foundation to attract new customers to its fold, which has been a notoriously difficult feat for the vendor to achieve over the past several years. By providing a modern, integrated small business solution that also integrates with Salesforce CRM, Sage is aiming to solve the integration challenges that so many small businesses struggle with (Figure 1). As indicated, roughly 40% of small busnesses (1-100 employees) have not done any business application integration. And, among those who have, 71% use unwieldly, unscalable custom coding or manual methods to accomplish the task.

Figure 1: Level and Type of Business Application Integration Used By Small BusinessesSlide1

The relationship is complementary to Salesforce’s investment in and partnership with FinancialForce, which is also built on the Salesforce 1 Platform, but is geared towards midsize businesses. Sage provides Salesforce with a similar, integrated front and back office story for small buisnesses—and perhaps a possible investment opportunity as well.

Already a leader in corporate philanthropy, Sage has also joined Pledge 1%, perhaps cementing a stronger bond. Based on a Salesforce’s 1-1-1 model, Pledge 1% encourages individuals and companies to pledge 1% of equity, product, and employee time to their communities.

Perspective

In the tech world, the initial announcement is all too often the climax of the partnership. While it’s too early to tell if this one will blossom beyond the honeymoon phase, it’s certainly in Sage’s best interest to make the relationship work, as it’s future growth will be heavily dependent on this new offering. Meanwhile, Salesforce, which has arguably become less in tune with small business as it has moved up into the large enterprise space, stands to benefit from Sage’s small business knowledge and customer base.

Trends in Small Business Adoption of Mobile Solutions

Mobile technology is revolutionizing how small businesses get things done. Over the last few years, SMB Group has conducted detailed surveys to quantify the impact of mobile in the small business market. Having recently published our 2014 SMB Mobile Solutions Study, we thought the timing was right to look at some key benchmarks to illuminate just how quickly very small (1-19 employees) and small (20-99 employees) businesses are evolving in the mobile solutions area.

Mobile Making Steady Gains as a Percentage of Overall Small Business Technology Spending

Mobile solutions also account for a growing share of very small and small business technology budgets (Figure 1). Year-over-year, median spending on mobile solutions as a percentage of total technology spending has risen 10% year among very small businesses, and 7% among small businesses.

Figure 1: Mobile Accounts for an Increasing Share of Small Business Technology Budgets

Slide1

 In addition, both very small and small businesses continue to be bullish on mobile spending plans (Figure 2). In 2014, 48% of very small businesses and 70% of small businesses forecast that they would increase mobile spending in the coming year.

 Figure 2: Small Businesses Mobile Spending Plans Continue to Rise

Slide2

Mobile Applications Play an Increasingly Bigger Role in Small Business

Trending analysis shows that mobile applications are becoming more critical for small businesses. Both very small and very small businesses continue to incorporate a growing number of mobile apps into their day-to-day business operations (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Increasing Use of Mobile AppsSlide3

Since upwards of 80% of very small and small businesses already use basic collaboration and productivity tools such as email, calendar and contacts, growth is tapering somewhat in this area. However, some mobile collaboration and productivity apps are poised for strong gains next year, with 20%-plus of small business respondents planning to deploy mobile conferencing, document management, find-me-follow-me presence, personal assistant and/or document editing and creation apps within the next 12 months.

Mobile business apps have made bigger gains over the past three years, particularly among businesses with 20-99 employees, where the number of mobile business apps used regularly jumped 27% over the past year. We expect this trend to continue, as respondent’s plans to add new mobile business apps in the next 12 months were strong across the board. Mobile apps for time management and capture lead the way, with 25% of both very small and small businesses planning to add this capability; followed by mobile marketing and advertising (24%); business analytics (23%); and financial management/payment processing (23%).

Furthermore, 67% of very small and 73% of small businesses believe that mobile apps will replace some of their current business applications, further underscoring that mobile apps are becoming core to the business (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Mobile Apps Increasingly Likely to Complement/Displace Traditional Business AppsSlide4

BYOD Support Still Gaining

Employees increasingly want to use their own devices to access corporate data. This is part of a growing trend dubbed Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). In the BYOD model, employees can use the device of their choice for work. BYOD has both pros and cons. Most people think it helps improve employee productivity, and some think it can lower costs. However, most also agree that BYOD devices are more difficult to manage and secure than company owned devices.

Despite these tradeoffs, small business support for bring-your-own-device (BYOD) programs for employees also continues to enjoy strong growth (Figure 5). Top drivers for the 60% of small businesses that currently support BYOD support include employee familiarity/preference for their own device (71%); saving money (63%); and meeting employee expectations/demands (42%). Roughly one-quarter of these businesses pay for all smartphone device and service expenses. In contrast, 20% cover smartphone service plan costs only; 18% cover business use expenses only, and 20% provide employees with fixed monthly stipends. Interestingly, 18% expect employees to use their own mobile device for work but do not cover any BYOD expenses.

Figure 5: Growth In Small Business BYOD SupportSlide5

But BYOD challenges hinder wider adoption. 40% of small businesses don’t support BYOD due to security concerns (56%); difficult to manage (54%); and because reimbursing employees for BYOD is too time consuming/complex (38%). These businesses are not likely to add BYOD support until it is easier to partition, secure, bill and manage work-related versus personal mobile use and expenses.

Small Businesses Slower to Add Mobile Management Capabilities

In fact, small business adoption of bright and shiny mobile devices and apps has quickly outpaced their embrace of mobile management solutions in general. As shown on Figure 6, only 43% of businesses with 20-99 employees are using a mobile device management solution, while just 33% use a solution to manage and secure mobile apps.

Figure 6: Small Business (20-99 employees) Adoption of Mobile Management SolutionsSlide6

In addition, while small business spending on mobile devices, service plans and apps as a percentage of total mobile spending has risen from 2013 to 2014, spending on mobile management, consulting and security has declined somewhat from 2013.

But it does not appear that cost is what’s holding small businesses back. Just 16% of respondents said that they didn’t’ use a mobile management solution because they are too expensive. Instead, the biggest obstacles are they don’t think they need it (51%); they don’t know which solution is right for their company (22%) and they don’t have the resources to deploy it (22%).

Perspective

Small businesses are clearly swept up in the mobile tsunami, and mobile solutions are becoming essential to small business success. However, small business adoption of mobile devices, apps and services is rapidly outpacing their ability to secure and manage mobile assets.

Without appropriate mobile device, application and data management policies and solutions in place, small businesses risk putting their corporate financial and brand security at ever-higher risk. In addition, as reliance on mobile solutions rises without adequate attention to management, many small businesses will find manual attempts to track and manage mobile use increasingly time-consuming and frustrating.

Study findings strongly suggest that while small businesses have quickly grasped how mobile can help their businesses, they are still struggling to understand the why, what, and how of mobile management. Vendors will need to dramatically ramp up education, guidance and consulting initiative and services to help more small businesses understand and take action in this area.

This is the first post in a two-part series sponsored by Dell that discusses how small businesses are using mobile technologies in their businesses.

Infusionsoft ICON15: Inspiration and Automation for Small Business Marketing

This video interview was originally posted on SMB Group Spotlight.

Laurie: Hi, this is Laurie McCabe and I’m here today for SMB’s Spotlight with Greg Head, who is the Chief Marketing Officer at Infusionsoft. We’re at the ICON 2015 event, which is Infusionsoft’s annual user conference. It’s been a blast so far and I’d like to learn more about it, but Greg, could you start just by telling us a little bit about what Infusionsoft, and about the company in general?
Greg: Well, Infusionsoft is the leading sales and marketing software for small businesses and the company has been around for just over 12 years. It started as a small business that turned into a startup that turned into a growth company. And now it’s one of the largest software companies, with 30,000 small business customers. We serve exclusively small businesses and we have over 600 employees and thousands of partners.
Laurie: And located here in the Phoenix area?
Greg: Yes, located here in Phoenix where we started.
Laurie: Okay, and just to clarify when you say small business–because we know as analysts when people say small business they could mean a thousand different things–what’s small business for Infusionsoft?
Greg: Well, we serve small businesses that have up and running businesses. That are full time and have employees and are still owner operated, which means most of our customers have 25 employees and of that most have fewer than 10. That’s where most small businesses reside, but there’s the mid-market of hundreds employees and on up that we are not involved with at all.
Laurie: Okay, that’s good clarification. So tell us about ICON. This is the third year I’ve been here so I’m very familiar, that it’s a great event, but who is it for? What are the goals for the event?
Greg: ICON is our annual conference for users and partners, and now other small businesses that want to join in on all the learning and keynote speakers and so forth. So it’s here at the Phoenix Convention Center, we outgrew the conference room and then hotel rooms and the largest hotel in Phoenix. It’s kind of a movement that’s been happening and now there are over 3500 people here this week. Here exclusively to talk about small business growth, small business sales and marketing, some on how to use Infusionsoft better, that’s definitely part of it. You can be here for three days and attend very valuable sessions and keynotes on these topics.
Laurie: Yes, we will post a link to where people can get more information about the sessions.
Greg: Excellent.
Laurie: So, can you tell me a little bit more about the Infusionsoft solution, what does it do for small businesses? Why do they use it? What benefits do they get out of it?
Greg: Yeah, the main thing, is that our solution is the small business CRM, the contact management, the customer database, and the marketing capabilities from web forms, to emails, and all the automation needed make things go–because small business owners need to make things go.
Laurie: Right.
Greg: And ecommerce to transact online, it’s all in one system. So we help small businesses that are growing and have customers, leads in their funnel coming off the website and Facebook, the new digital funnel has exploded.
Laurie: Right. Exactly.
Greg: Most small businesses have a dozen different tools to capture leads over here and to sell something online over here. So Infusionsoft is the one system that can organize all of that.
Laurie: And to automate it.
Greg: Yeah, once you are organized you can actually automate. You can set it up to start doing things for you that we used to have to do manually.
Laurie: Right.
Greg: And that’s driving a lot of small businesses crazy.
Laurie: Yes, because you can’t keep up with the follow up and the other things that you need to do on that one off basis in a small company. Well, even in a large company it just doesn’t scale. So if you don’t automate it…
Greg: Yeah, but big companies, for instance, at Infusionsoft, we have IT resources, technology, and money to throw at it. Small businesses need one system that’s going to run and help to do that.
Laurie: Yes, absolutely, and I think that as a small business, that you got to have the inspiration, the perspiration, but then you need automation because if you don’t have that you know that perspiration factor just shoots right up.
Greg: Yeah, that’s right.
Laurie: And you’re killing yourself before long with that. And that gets on to my next question, which is for many small businesses, unless they are sales and marketing coaches, or something like that, sales and marketing is an intimidating thing. Putting yourself out there, fear of rejection and everything else. So when you counsel people about some of the basics, things they should look at when you’re thinking, “Okay how do I take sales and marketing in my company to the next level? Or I realize that my revenues are flat, or my revenues are declining, so I’ve got to do something. Where is the right place to start?” How should they think about tactics, strategy, that kind of thing?
Greg: Well, most small business owners don’t think about it separately, it’s part of what they do, and they’re in the firefight. So the first thing is when we help them, it’s a function of where they are in the stage of their business. Maybe they’ve just quit their job, and now they have the business up and running, and getting sales going for the first time. Or maybe they have some revenues and they’re trying to grow figure out tactics to make it work, and 10 or 20 employees, you’ve got different types of issues there. But primarily small businesses jump right into the tactics to go get people to talk to, to sell or convert online. So they run right into the tactical mode, and that’s where all the beginning is. They have a hard time taking a step back and looking how to optimize all that.
Laurie: Their real objectives are how they are going to measure the improvement?
Greg: Yeah, again they get a little stuck because they are peddling so fast, and they don’t look at the biggest thing underneath of all of that is distinguishing the right market for their products and services. At first everybody goes out and tries to sell to everybody but after a while, you have to start narrowing it down, to the ones who are your best customers and prospects.
Laurie: So I know you have a lot of tools to help people use the Infusionsoft solution, do you also have services to help them figure out those bigger picture things?
Greg: Yeah, well small businesses need help and between our partners and us we help them get Infusionsoft set up and get the system running and helping in their business, and we’re also advising them tactically where they should be spending time to plug the hole. Our partners do consulting as well to help small businesses figure out their marketing strategy. At ICON, over half of the speaking sessions are not about the tactical, day-to-day tactics. We are also trying to help them with ways to think about the business, and how to get through the next hurdle in the business. While businesses get to a once place, then it’s a struggle to get to the next level.
Laurie: Yeah, getting stuck and then unstuck.
Greg: So getting unstuck is a major part of what people get from coming to Infusionsoft, for a few days seeing some other possibilities and getting some tactical help to help bridge some of those gaps.
Laurie: Yeah, I like because we all get stuck in our own ruts. S one last question for you really. For you, what are the most exciting highlights here at ICON?
Greg: Well it’s a big deal for us when we get to be with all of the people that we serve. That’s why we’re here, and we get to hear all the small business stories about the stuck and unstuck. We appreciate that and all the challenges small businesses face. Some of our customers get on stage and tell their stories, and that’s a big part of what we do here. We’re continuing to grow, this is a major movement. And we’re announcing new capabilities in our product and the Infusionsoft payments to make getting paid easier and simpler, and more.
Laurie: Right, so once customers are ready to buy, you can easily process the payment.
Greg: Well, big companies, other departments handle the function of getting paid.
Laurie: We all want to get paid, right? I think that should be a good program, and you also introduced some new things to help them get started more quickly?
Greg: Yeah, there are new resources, we keep improving the resources we have for small business owners, starting with Infusionsoft get started and learn more about the concept that they may or may not know. So that’s part of our help center, and our kick-start services that we offer. And we are always making the software easier because we know small businesses have a passion, and they don’t want to spend all day reading manuals and learning to use something. You know most small business owners are focused on something else. So we try to make it easier to focus on the things that they do, and to get back the time and passion and growth in their lives. Families all that stuff that they thought they’re going to get more of, but didn’t really work out that way, so that’s why we’re here.
Laurie: This has been a great synopsis of Infusionsoft and ICON. Thanks Greg, so much.
Greg: Thank you very much.

See ICON15 event highlights here

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– See more at: http://www.smb-gr.com/blogs-sanjeev-aggarwal/infusionsoft-icon15-inspiration-and-automation-for-small-business-marketing-2/#sthash.1OoIu2rn.dpuf

Discussing 2015 SMB Tech Trends, Part 5: SMBs Place a Premium on Protection

Recently, I had the pleasure of kicking off the new year as a guest on Act Local Marketing for Small Business with host Kalynn Amadio. Each week, Kalynn shares information and actionable tips to help inspire and motivate small and medium businesses (SMBs) reach their business goals.  On this episode, Kalynn and I discussed SMB Group’s 2015 Top Technology Trends for SMBs and what they mean to the marketing and running of your business. The last of a five-part series, this post summarizes our discussion of “SMBs place a premium on protection”

protectionKalynn: Okay, one more question for you. I really wanted to ask you about this particular trend in your report because of what happened with the Sony hack. We talked about the cloud, we’re talking about technology solutions and yet there’s going to be the other side of the fence where people say yeah but once you put everything in the cloud and once you’re connected there you’re leaving yourself open to hackers and any other kind of malicious things that are going on. How am I going to protect my business from them?

Laurie: Right. Buying security and backup solutions and protection from hackers, whatever kind of thing that comes under that data protection umbrella that you could think of. It’s kind of like insurance, until the disaster strikes we’re kind of like oh, do I really need that? Do I really want to spend x amount on that? Again, this is another area where many smaller companies may have bitten off one part of the problem. They may be using something for antivirus and anti-spyware and things like that, but maybe they’re not backing things up in a way that makes sense that’s going to protect them. Maybe they have a kind of spotty device control situation. Yeah, we’ve got all the right security measures in place for our desktops and our laptops, but we haven’t really thought about it for mobile yet, right?

Kalynn: There’s so many parts to the puzzle now.

Laurie: Yeah, exactly, so there’s way more moving parts, there’s the traditional apps and infrastructure, desktops and servers, there’s the cloud apps, social, mobile, and really the other big thing is that your own data and data you may need that is your own business data may reside in more places since it’s on all these devices. How do you control, manage, and protect that and I think some of these big hacks and data breaches and everything else like at Sony and Home Depot, eBay. I just went and Googled 2014 data breaches and it was crazy. You’re never going to prevent every kind of issue in your company but I think it’s something that I would hope at least that more small businesses are going to say hey, we need to at least do a health check on the basics here, on devices, on data loss prevention, on security which will get into spyware, the hacking and all that, and overall disaster recovery. If you do have your own servers what if your building gets flooded in a hurricane? Do you have that all backed up somewhere? I think with these really high-profile things obviously we’re all learning, there’s huge financial, and legal, and brand ramifications if your data isn’t protected. I think that more small businesses will say hey, I have to do a health check here and a sanity check, and make sure my business isn’t going to go down because something is hacked or data is lost or stolen, or it’s just an act of God.

Kalynn: Right. You know, it surprises me. I talk to a lot of IT people, IT digital marketing are good sources of referral for one another so I end up talking to a lot of IT people. It amazes me when they tell me stories about not just individual business owners, but rather significantly sized small businesses or mid-sized businesses that don’t have any kind of backup. They’ve got their own little server farm in a basement somewhere and they think that that’s good enough, that they have control over their data. You really have to stop and think.

Laurie: You have to. I don’t have the statistics off of the top of my head but if you Google any kind of disaster that’s happened, Hurricane Sandy, or anything really. If you take a look at any of these disasters you find an enormously high percentages of small businesses end up going out of business because of the disaster. A lot of times it’s because IT suffered so much damage in terms of losing records, losing customer information, everything you need, all that information you need to run your business.

Kalynn: And it’s all preventable, that doesn’t have to happen.

Laurie: Much of it is preventable. But it is overwhelming to think about, just like a lot of these technology areas but you don’t need to think of it all and do it all yourself because the important thing would be to engage with a local provider or a bigger company that would probably be online then who can help you kind of run through the basics and make sure you’ve covered at least 80%. It’s like the 80/20 rule, you’re not going to probably be able to account for everything but you can probably pretty easily get the most important stuff covered.

Kalynn: And that is very true, and I agree, the 80/20 rule is terrific. I wrote a blog post on it once. I’m such a big believer and there’s so many ways you can apply it. That’s a good way to look at it, rather than let this whole thing overwhelm you as you’re planning for 2015, even if you’ve already written your plan for 2015 go back and look at it and say did I really take into account protecting my data and protecting my customers, and my employees, and my business in general so that should something catastrophic, whether intentional or not, happen, then I’m prepared for that.

Laurie: Even if you’re a very small business and you’re a solo business and let’s say your revenues were around $80,000 but if you were to lose all the information about your customers, about billing, about whatever it is you have that might mean you don’t have any revenues the next year.

Kalynn: Yeah, could you come back from that? So think in terms of the worst case scenario and what would that do to your business?

Laurie: Right, or if you’re not protecting your customers’ information and that somehow gets compromised, your reputation is down the tubes. So in that case it’s not like you’ve lost it but it’s been hacked into and those customers no longer want to do business and don’t trust you.

You can listen to the complete podcast discussion here

Discussing 2015 SMB Tech Trends, Part 4: KPIs Trump ROI and TCO as the New “Show Me” Metric

Recently, I had the pleasure of kicking off the new year as a guest on Act Local Marketing for Small Business with host Kalynn Amadio. Each week, Kalynn shares information and actionable tips to help inspire and motivate small and medium businesses (SMBs) reach their business goals.  On this episode, Kalynn and I discussed SMB Group’s 2015 Top Technology Trends for SMBs and what they mean to the marketing and running of your business. The fourth of a five-part series, this post summarizes our discussion of “KPIs trump ROI and TCO as the new “show me” metric.”

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Kalynn: Now there’s a very interesting trend that I want you to talk about and that has to do with key performance indicator (KPIs), that versus return on investment, ROI, because in digital marketing the thing that small business has been saying all along about social media is, “but what’s the return on my investment? If I pay a company to do this how soon am I going to be on the front page of Google? Or how often is my phone going to ring?” Those are very hard things to determine and they’re very hard things to track quite often because a lot of what goes on in digital is similar to networking. What’s the ROI of networking? I don’t know. So talk to me about these key performance indicators versus return on investment.

Laurie: I think historically, the vendors anyway, in white papers and other kinds of educational collateral, have tended to focus on proving that their solutions can return value via these return on investment type of models and analysis, which honestly are kind of complex and very big picture. You have to factor in everything to an ROI. Likewise there’s another thing called a total cost of ownership calculation where you have to figure out all the money you invested for a solution and how much that solution is going to cost you over let’s say a five-year period. The assessments and metrics, while they can be a bit beneficial, they’re usually kind of vague and they’re very dependent on nuance measurements.Honestly, I’ve yet to run into very many small and medium businesses that every do any kind of ROI or TCO calculation at this big picture level because they’re very complicated to do, and time-consuming.

So what we’ve been seeing is there’s something that most companies have been measuring for years, whether or not they call it KPI, but key performance indicators. These are more discrete metrics. Some of them are general, for instance, what’s the time it takes to close your financial books, right? Probably most companies have that function because hopefully they’re making some money and they have to close the books. Are you doing that with a shoebox full of stuff or are you doing that with Excel, or are you doing that with QuickBooks, how are you doing that, what’s your process, and how much time it’s taking you is a key performance metric.

Then there are also metrics that are also very industry specific. For e-commerce we might want to measure things like conversion rates, what is our rate of visitors to the website that actually convert into paying customers? A nonprofit might want to measure the number and increase in donors and the average contribution per donor. There are a lot of different KPIs, the nice thing about KPIs is that they give small and medium businesses more specific very actionable insights on business performance so they can see where they’re doing well and kind of measure and monitor where they need improvement. What we’re seeing is a lot of vendors starting to kind of cater to this more specific measurement requirement and giving small and medium businesses more information about the kind of metrics and benefits that existing customers are getting for their key workflows and business processes.

I think if you’re contemplating any kind of new business solution it really makes sense to seek these out to really understand okay, what were the specific areas of the business solution impacted, and how, and by how much, how much time did it reduce? If it was a revenue metric how did it affect revenues? If it was a conversion rate what was the number or the percentage of new customers that are converting? How did that change that? Repeat customer sales, whatever it is, but I think this more discreet metric is a good way to go for small business because I think it will give you a lot more actionable information and the solution is going to give you the kind of results that you’re going to need.

Kalynn: They seem much more concrete for small businesses. If it’s the kind of thing that you can put on an Excel spreadsheet every month and track and see a trend line that’s either going up or going down then you feel that you have some sort of control over it. Was it Peter Drucker? Who said that if you’re not measuring it then you can’t do anything about it? One of those business gurus, right?

Laurie: Yeah. I remember that quote.

Kalynn: It was something like if you’re not measuring something then how do you ever expect to be able to change it because you don’t really know what’s happening, anecdotal stuff is not going to help you.

Laurie: As a matter of fact a lot of the vendors we’ve been talking about are using analytics to build in these reporting capabilities to help you see those metrics in your own business, more easily. They are kind of taking that oh I’ve got to be a data scientist out of the equation so the rest of us can understand what’s going on in our business. For instance, Intuit is providing a service where you can benchmark yourself against other companies in your industry on some of these KPIs. For instance if you’re a salon and spa owner in the northeast you can say this is kind of what my customer retention rate looks like, repeat business or up selling, selling product with the service, whatever you want to measure. Then you can also opt in to get aggregate information from people with similar businesses. So you can see am I ahead? Am I behind? Then focus on the areas that you need to improve.

You can listen to the complete podcast discussion here

Discussing 2015 SMB Tech Trends, Part 3: SMBs Reinvent Marketing for the New Buyer Journey

Recently, I had the pleasure of kicking off the new year as a guest on Act Local Marketing for Small Business with host Kalynn Amadio. Each week, Kalynn shares information and actionable tips to help inspire and motivate small and medium businesses (SMBs) reach their business goals.  On this episode, Kalynn and I discussed SMB Group’s 2015 Top Technology Trends for SMBs and what they mean to the marketing and running of your business. The third of a five-part series, this post summarizes our discussion of “SMBs reinvent marketing for the new buyer journey.”

business abstractKalynn: Talk to me a little bit about marketing, small, midsize businesses and marketing for the new buyer journey.

Laurie: I know this topic is near and dear to your heart. Basically this one came out, we just did a report, about a 50 something odd page report looking at about eight different marketing automation vendors and how they’re seeing marketing change, the techniques and tactics and strategies, what’s changing and why is it changing, what do SMBs need to be paying attention to so they stay ahead of the curve. A lot of things that go into this big bucket of what’s changing in marketing. I think to me the umbrella is really the way people buy stuff, whether it’s a B2B world, business to business buying, or B2C, business to consumer buying experience it’s really changing. I don’t have specific statistics in here but basically what is happening is between the internet and social media and mobile and everything else we are looking at and getting input from so many more sources along the way before we decide what to buy and where than every before.

Kalynn: The consumer is so far down the funnel before they ever actually talk to the business that they end up buying from.

Laurie: Exactly, so there’s all these touch points. What does that mean for small and medium business? Well it really means that by the time that buyer gets you, whether it’s a consumer or business buyer they’re already pretty well-educated, they have a lot more information and they’re coming in at different points. It’s very important for you to get them as a business the right information at the right time in that journey. For instance, originally for some customers you may have very low awareness with some of the customers you’re trying to target. You have to figure out how do I raise awareness and what channels do I need to be in to raise that awareness. For others they’re further along so what are the things you need to do for them and where and how do you need to market to them? Even when people are customers what should you be doing to make sure that they continue to see you as a place to buy whatever goods and services you offer and come back, and then hopefully eventually become customer advocates for your business.

Kalynn: All of that sounds overwhelming for a lot of small businesses, but there are methods that you can put in place to do some of the work for you so that you’re not physically having to stay on top of all that.

Laurie: Exactly. Traditionally each of us in small and medium businesses we’ve relied on point solutions, like maybe we have an email marketing solution, maybe we’re using a social dashboard like HootSuite. We’ve been doing probably a few things and trying to piece them together to address this, like what you said is a very complicated and more complicated every day kind of challenge. What we see is that SMBs that say gee, I need to take a more integrated approach to marketing and look at how they can move from the point solutions to the solutions that really help you monitor and manage and create content along every stage of the marketing funnel. Those companies are going to get tremendous benefit because they’ll be able to automate a lot of manual processes, have the information integrated so they can be smarter about the customer experience and how they may need to adjust. Basically be well positioned to take advantage of things as mobile and social and other kinds of technologies like analytics continue to be available to help them do a better job marketing.

Kalynn: Yes, and while it’ll be a lot of work upfront, and you won’t get it all right, you’ll get some of it right and you’ll get feedback, you’ll discover things along the way, but the more of that work you do upfront the more it’ll seem like magic for your customer. They’ll really appreciate that.

Laurie: Exactly, and I know most of your audience is small business, right?

Kalynn: Yes.

Laurie: One of the other things in this report, a lot of vendors say they focus on small and medium businesses, well that can run the gamut from companies that focus, they have marketing automation solutions and they try to focus on companies with under 25 employees, like an InfusionSoft or ReachLocal to companies like SMB and that can go up to companies with 2,500 employees. So you don’t get intimidated you really want to do a little homework and figure out which ones are really in my wheelhouse because SMB is used pretty indiscriminately by vendors, there’s no one standard definition.

Kalynn: Yeah, that’s true.

Laurie: Before you spend a lot of time investigating the solution, time is money for all of us, make sure the ones you are looking at are really designed for a true small business.

Kalynn: That’s a very good point.

You can listen to the complete podcast discussion here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can listen to the complete podcast discussion here.

 

 

Discussing 2015 SMB Top Tech Trends, Part 2: The Internet of Things (IoT) Comes Into Focus

Recently, I had the pleasure of kicking off the new year as a guest on Act Local Marketing for Small Business with host Kalynn Amadio. Each week, Kalynn shares information and actionable tips to help inspire and motivate small and medium businesses (SMBs) reach their business goals.  On this episode, Kalynn and I discussed SMB Group’s 2015 Top Technology Trends for SMBs and what they mean to the marketing and running of your business. The second of a five-part series, this post summarizes our discussion of “The Internet of Things (IoT) comes into focus.

the-internet-of-things-300x210Kalynn: Now I would like you to talk to me about the Internet of things. First of all not everyone will have heard that term so describe what that means and what it means to us as businesses.

Laurie: Exactly. Internet of things is really interesting, and you’re right, a lot of people have no idea what it means and even if they have some kind of glimmer of an idea that’s kind of where it stops. The IT vendors out there and the prognosticators have been forecasting very big growth, or intelligent connected devices of all types, so think anything from Apple Smart Watch or Google Glass to sensors and manufacturing equipment or maybe you’ve heard of these smart parking meters. The whole idea between internet of things is that you can have these devices kind of seamlessly connected, and you as a user, you don’t have to necessarily do anything but the device is doing something for you. An easy to understand example is something called Tile, which is a little thing you clip on or paste on to your keys or your glasses or something like that, and when you can’t find those things you can get a signal from that tile as to where they are.

Kalynn: Oh that’s brilliant. I hadn’t even heard of that.

Laurie: Kalynn, it’s probably a must for us Baby Boomers, right?

Kalynn: Wow. I have a husband and three sons. Of the four of them, three of them lose their stuff all the time.

Laurie: You know, I really think, obviously for Baby Boomers this is probably going to be a huge hit, right?

Kalynn: Yeah, I love that idea.

Laurie: They’re inexpensive. I’m trying to think, I think they’re like $24.99 or something, but it’s a great way to find your stuff.

Kalynn: Now you know what? I’m even thinking that you could attach this to your dog or cat’s collar or to a tag?

Laurie: I don’t know what the limits are, but it’s pretty much designed for the stuff that we misplace, but I guess our dogs kind of misplace themselves.

Kalynn: Especially cats, they like to hide and you don’t know where they are.

Laurie: This is just kind of just starting to really spark imagination in the consumer end of things. People are starting to get an idea of things like this and smart watches, and FitBits, those are another smart device, right? But I think a lot of small, medium business owners, they say well what does that have to do with my business? I don’t get the business case for me, right? We’re starting to see some use case scenarios come out that I think just like Tile or FitBit does in the consumer space bring this into better focus to have people start getting more ideas about how they could use internet of things.

For instance, a couple of the examples I mention in the report are RFID, Radio Frequency Identification, which has been used in logistics and packaging and all that kind of thing, distribution for a long time. It’s usually been used in kind of closed loop systems for more high value goods because it hasn’t been necessarily easier and cheap to implement. With internet of things technology it will really bring down the cost and make it more practical let’s say for a small retailer to use it so they could track everything with devices that would be in concept very similar to something like Tile with RFID capabilities that would give them better inventory accuracy, if something is purchased in the checkout it would deplete the supply by one, and also of course help them reduce theft. Another idea I like is this whole idea of beacons. Not only could you use beacons in stores, beacons are like indoor positioning systems that communicate directly with the smart phone or other computing devices via computer.

Somebody was telling me the other day about a trucking company that is installing beacons. They have a fleet of about 100 trucks and the beacons are set up to monitor all kinds of things like fuel, mileage, and when maintenance is due and inspections are due. This can really help this company reduce their vehicle downtime and cut costs. I think we’re still very early going but I do believe in 2015 we’re going to see a lot of examples of SMBs putting Internet of things to work and getting value. I think one of the neat things about it is that with the Internet of things you as a user, once you deploy the solution, you don’t have to do much. For instance in that trucking example, the trucker doesn’t do anything, this thing is just hooked under the dashboard and that’s that. You don’t have to worry about user adoption and will the user learn to use it and like it and all that. I think at the end of the day this could be a really great area for small businesses. The trick will be a lot of this will probably be industry specific, so you have to see what are other people in my industry doing and that might help a lot of small businesses get good ideas.

Kalynn: You’ve already got my brain sort of turning because the trucking example reminded me, I have a car for the first time that has OnStar. People have either owned that kind of car or they’ve seen commercials on TV but the OnStar system sends me emails when my oil life had reached a certain level in the car. It sent me an email and said you really need to change your oil and stuff like that. I’m realizing that there are certain kinds of small businesses like HVAC contractors and businesses of that nature. It helps them, not just when someone has an emergency and they need you to come in, or you get a big project and it’s one time construction, but it’s the maintenance of people’s systems.

Laurie: Maintenance of anything really, vending machines, whatever, it just holds huge potential to change the way you get information about devices so you can service them.

Kalynn: You can be proactive.

Laurie: Yes, keep them shipshape.

You can listen to the complete podcast discussion here

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