Keep Calm—and Get Marketing Organization with Lately

Laurie:  Today I’m talking with Kate Bradley Chernis, the CEO of Lately, which is a new company that helps businesses to consolidate and streamline marketing activities into more of a unified step-by-step playbook. Kate, before we get into what Lately does, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and the company?

Kate:  Sure. A little background on me is I own a marketing agency. Eight years ago I was managing a Walmart campaign and the best tool that I could find to organize everything was this insanely thorough spreadsheet. I pulled in everything from analytics to budgets, and I made a calendar, added the graphics and key messaging and everything else we needed for the campaign. We were doing radio, TV, cable and social media and more. The results for the campaign were 130% ROI for three years, year-over-year. Walmart rolled the template of my spreadsheet out to all their campaign managers, which was awesome. Then I noticed that my other smaller clients, startups or non-profits or other smaller businesses than Walmart, had similar problems and we were getting the same type of success using my spreadsheet for their campaigns. Lately was born when I had the idea to automate this process.

Laurie:  So you turned the spreadsheet into a solution to streamline set up and all the tasks in the campaign?

Kate:  Exactly. It’s called Marketing Resource Management, which isn’t a sexy term, and hard to understand because its sort of a new category. Basically, it’s the idea of managing pieces, kind of like a dashboard for all of your marketing.

Laurie:  How long ago did you launch Lately and then, can you tell me about what it does?

Kate: Lately was born live to the world in Octoberjust a few months backwhich is exciting. Lately does a lot of stuff. For instance, we have marketing calendar so you can instantly see what’s going out, when it’s going out. You have visibility and can easily show your boss or clients what you’re doing. We also help you automatically organize messaging. For example, we can check messaging as you type it in to make sure it’s consistent. We know that marketers forget to use key messaging 82% of the time, so we catch this. We even create messaging for you so you can just push it out.

Laurie:  Yes, you showed me that in the demo, which is on your site. So anyone that’s interested can see the way Lately just kind of auto magically does things for you.

Kate:  Our goal is leverage all the work you do, help you do it faster, and make it easier collaborate with team members. For me, I find that organization makes me feel calmer as a person and that’s the feeling our customers get too–it’s all here, it’s super organized, now I can get my work done and feel more empowered.

Laurie:  Is Lately for marketers, agencies, small, medium, large businesswho are you targeting?

Kate:  That’s my favorite question. Short-term, its small marketing agencies or consultants similar to me, who are forgiving, because it’s a new product. So we’re learning with them, they’re our partners and we’re building the product out based on their input. Most of these folks that work with about 25 clients, which is ideal, because our long-term goal is to reach SMBs. We want Lately to become the QuickBooks for marketing. Just like QuickBooks pulled back the black curtain, on accounting so that anyone can do it, even meI’m a fiction writing majorour goal is to make it easy for anybody to do marketing.

Laurie:  Tell me a bit more about the category you’re putting Lately inMarketing Resource Managementwhat defines the category, and how does Lately differ from other offerings in it?

Kate:  You can kind of think of it like Lately is trying to do for Marketing Resource Management or MRM what Salesforce did for CRM. Currently, there are a handful of MRM competitors. Their solutions start at $25,000, and they’re made for an elite group of marketers who really know what they’re doing and have pretty high technical skills. Whereas, Lately starts at $99 and like I said, its simple and designed for self-service. That’s $99 per month per company, so you can invite as many people as you want to use it.

Laurie:  About how long does it take for non-marketers to get up and running and productive?

Kate:  It takes seconds and it is do-it-yourself. Being that we are so new, we love to give people a 15-minute demo first just to make sure we know the basics. But it literally takes seconds. I was giving a demo to a class the other day. There was a Macintosh there, which I’m bad at using that’s I use a PC, so I needed help with the Mac. A student came up and just did the demo for me because it was so easy.

Laurie:  How are you kind of getting the word out and marketing and selling this?

Kate:  We’re starting out light, looking specifically for smaller marketing agencies and consultants who want to get in on the ground floor and partner with us. So, we’re social media, we’re constantly testing our own messaging, and just doing direct sales and marketing right now. So we’re really excited to have this opportunity with you because we haven’t thrown a lot of spaghetti at the walls yet!

Laurie:  Well, the demo looks great, definitely worth a look!

Kate:  Thank you so much.

 

SMBs, the Gig Economy and the New Workplace

Over one-third of U.S. workers are now part of the gig economy, up from 17% in the 1989 survey. Whether you call them freelancers, contractors or contingent workers, gig workers are expected to grow as a percentage of the workforce: Intuit predicts the percentage of self-employed workers to rise to 43% by 2020 (Figure 1).

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What is the gig economy?

Gig workers don’t have traditionally-defined, salaried relationships with employers, or benefits such as medical insurance or a 401(k), but they do have more flexibility and autonomy. The category includes self-employed as well as temp workers, contractors, on-call workers and part-time employees, spanning industries from construction to pet care, and from professional services, such as web design and programming, to Uber and Lyft drivers.

The gig economy started to take off in the 2008 great recession, when layoffs hit hard and hiring ground to halt. Workers needed income, and many turned to contingent work to make ends meet. Many businesses brought on contract workers rather than staff employees to keep overhead down and gain flexibility to scale the workforce up or down. At the same time, new marketplaces for freelancers, such as Elance (now UpWork), Freelancer, Guru and others started providing matchmaking services to bring employers and freelancers together.

Since then, the economy overall has rebounded but the gig economy continues to grow.

The Gig Economy and SMBs

The gig economy is certainly an important factor for SMBs. Of course, “non-employer” businesses of one are gig workers. And, they are also small businesses. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 22 million U.S. businesses have a single owner, but no paid employees.

In addition, SMBs rely on external workers/freelancers to perform a wide range of business functions (Figure 2).

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SMBs are most likely to depend solely on gig workers to get the job done in accounting/financials, workforce management/payroll and marketing. SMBs are also most likely to use a combination of salaried employees and gig workers for these areas, along with business intelligence/analytics.

Overall, SMB plans to hire more workers in the next 12 months are robust (Figure 3), with larger SMBs more bullish on hiring than smaller ones. As shown, while plans to hire salaried employees are strongest, SMBs also expect to hire more contractors and freelancers, with   marketing, business intelligence, accounting/financials and customer service cited as the top areas.slide3

Perspective

In addition to dealing with different regulatory and compliance requirements, SMBs that hire gig workers often have to juggle workers who are frequently off-site and schedule their own hours. Gig workers are likely to have competing priorities, and lack insight into the operations, values or mission of the companies they work for. 

As discussed in SMB Group’s 2017 Top 10 SMB Technology Trends, this trend, as well as the rise of remote working (telecommuting and traveling workers), along with the influx of millennials into the workforce, highlight the changing face of the workforce and workplace.

While traditional tools such as email, file sharing and web conferencing aren’t going away, stream-based messaging and collaboration tools, cloud file sharing, conferencing, smartphones, tables and laptops can help employees and contractors collaborate to get work done more quickly and easily (Figure 4).

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For instance, stream-based messaging and collaboration solutions provide a unified view and access to information across servers, clouds, apps, devices and locations. Examples include Slack, Salesforce Chatter and Quip, Microsoft Teams, Cisco Spark and RingCentral Glip. These solutions not only help facilitate collaboration between employees and contractors across physical locations, but also across digital ecosystems.

Since SMB reliance on gig workers is likely to continue to grow, now is the time for SMBs to refresh workplace culture, strategy and solutions to attract, engage and retain employees and contractors. SMBs that use figure out how to and streamline collaboration will reap productivity gains today, and the flexibility necessary to scale the workforce–whether salaried employees or contractors–up or down in the future.

For more information on SMB Group studies referenced in this post, please contact Lisa Lincoln, Director of Client Services & Business Development, SMB Group, at lisa.lincoln70@smb-gr.com.

Zoho: What You Need To Know

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StatX: Mobile Dashboards for Small Business

Laurie: Today I’m talking to Prasad Raje, president and CEO of a new company called StatX. I met Prasad this fall at Intuit’s QuickBooks Connect Conference, and was intrigued with the demo I saw of the StatX solution, which provides users with a mobile dashboard for QuickBooks Online and several other top small business applications. Before we talk more about the StatX solution, Prasad, can you first tell me a little bit about the company, and when and why you got started?


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Prasad:  Thanks, Laurie, sure. StatX has been around since about the middle of last year. I and my co-founder Pablo Bellver founded the company. Prior to that, I was CEO of Instantis, a company that was also in the collaboration space, and was acquired by Oracle. Pablo had been at Google for about 10 years, and had built Google Now, which is a very successful Android app for consumers. We put our brains together and created StatX to deliver mobile relevant business updates to your mobile phone, no matter where they are. Our motto is that StatX lets you know what changed in your business via your mobile device

Laurie: I like the term you used in our earlier conversation–that StatX is like an Instagram for business–because it relays real-time information to you in a very digestible way, right to your phone

Prasad: That’s right, that’s the way we think about it. We want the information to be visual and easy to consume, so we built the StatX platform to do this. It doesn’t take up too much of your time because that’s the way people use their mobile devices.

Laurie: One of the top applications that StatX works with is QuickBooks Online. Can you tell us a little about this?
statx-qbo-dashboard-1200x876Prasad: Sure. If you use QuickBooks Online (QBO) to keep your books up to date, you want to be able to send updates and financials to your clients or co-workers. StatX directly connects to QBO. QBO authorizes StatX to fetch your financials from it, and StatX pulls that information into a set of visual elements that we call stats. Twitter invented the tweet, and StatX has invented the stat, which is a visual representation of numeric or status information. In the case of financials, it would represent things like income, expenses, cash, AR, AP, etc., in a beautiful, easy to consume dashboard. And it brings you live, real-time updates to information when it changes.

Laurie: How long does it take for a QuickBooks Online user to get productive with this?

Prasad: Very little time. We want to compete with the best of the consumer apps out there in terms of ease of use. So, if you are an accountant that wants to set up QBO with StatX, it should take no more than a few minutes of time to connect your QBO account and start seeing live data on your phone from QBO. From there it should take less than a minute to share that information with your client. By the way, the client doesn’t need to do any setup, they simply just consume the live dashboard information that you provide to them.

Laurie: It sounds like the accountant does a tiny bit of work and the client gets the benefit of that without really any heavy lifting at all.

Prasad: Exactly. Even for the accountant, it’s a one-time setup, then we do all the work on an ongoing basis to keep it live at all times.

Laurie: How do you price StatX?

Prasad: Pricing is very simple. We have a monthly per user subscription fee for each client or user using StatX. The fee is $10 per user per month when paid as an annual subscription. That allows the client to use StatX with QuickBooks Online, and with the other apps we have on our platform.

Laurie: Before we get into those other apps, can you clarify whether the accountant has to pay a user fee for each of the clients he’s pushing notifications out to, or just for his own use?

Prasad: For each user that has the app installed on their phone. So, if the accountant sets up 5 clients, the accountant would have one subscription for him or herself, plus 5 for their clients.

Laurie: Got it. So what are some of the other small business applications that StatX already has a mobile dashboard for?

Prasad: Our connector to WordPress is one example, we can fetch your daily visitor stats and see how it trends and you can get notifications for new posts, comments, visitors etc. Another one is MailChimp for email marketing. Instead of having to go to MailChimp every time you want to see how many people opened your email and how many clicked through, we just send you live updated stats as things change.

Laurie: I know StatX also works with Microsoft Excel and you work with QuickBooks Desktop. How does it work with these?

Prasad: For QuickBooks Desktop, you can export reports into Excel, as you normally do, and we have an add-in to Microsoft Excel that lets you connect that information with StatX. So, you can provide stats to your client’s phone with a single click in Excel or QuickBooks Desktop.

Laurie: Anything else that’s important for small business owners and decision-makers to know about StatX?

Prasad: In addition to being a powerful dashboard that connects to many different apps, StatX can be used to create quick and easy, succinct workflows. For example, if you’re collaborating with your team on a particular check list of items that need to be done, instead of sending e-mails back and forth, people can just check off items on the checklist via their mobile device, and everyone gets notified of the status. Say you need approvals from your boss for different things, you create an approval stat for that. We have many stats like this that help with collaboration and to coordinate workflows.

Laurie: Very interesting, and thank you so much for your time today and sharing this info.

 

Top Takeaways: 2017 Salesforce Analyst Summit

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SMB Group’s 2017 Top 10 SMB Technology Trends

2017-top-10-image2017 has the potential to bring unprecedented changes to the technology landscape for SMBs. In most years, the top tech trends tend to develop in an evolutionary way, but this year we also will see some more dramatic shifts that SMBs need to put on their radar. Areas such as cloud and mobile continue to evolve in important ways, and they are also paving the way for newer trends in areas including artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, integration and the Internet of Things (IoT) to take hold among SMBs.

Although we can’t cover all of them in our Top 10 list, here are the headlines for SMB Group’s 2017 Top 10 SMB Tech Trends  that we think hold the most promise for SMBs in 2017. Click here for the full report.

  1.  The Cloud Continues to Power SMB Digital Transformation.
  2.  Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) moves from hype to reality for early adopter  SMBs.
  3.  The Rise of Smart Apps for SMBs.
  4.  Focused, Tailored CRM Solutions Take Hold With SMBs.
  5.  SMBs Get Connected With New Collaboration Tools.
  6.  SMBs Modernize On-premises IT with Hyper-converged Infrastructure.
  7.  Application Integration Gets Easier for Small Businesses.
  8.  SMB Mobile Momentum Continues, But Mobile Management Lags.
  9.  Online Financing Options for Small Businesses Multiply.
  10.  Proactive SMBs Turn to MSSPs and Cyber Insurance to Face Security  Challenges. 

Please contact Lisa Lincoln, Director of Client Services at lisa.lincoln70@smb-gr.com or 508-734-5658  to learn about licensing options.

Dell Technologies: Bringing Digital Transformation Into Focus for Midmarket Companies

At a conceptual level, most mid-market decision-makers understand the need to capitalize on new digital technologies to sustain and grow their businesses. SMB Group survey research shows that 88% of decision-makers in medium business with 100-1,000 employees believe that technology solutions can help them to significantly improve business outcomes and/or run the business better.

But all too often, infrastructure technology vendors miss the mark when it comes to serving midmarket companies, for a couple of key reasons. First, “the midmarket” is an amorphous term, without a standard definition. Second, while many small businesses self-identify as being small businesses, few midmarket companies self-identify with the midmarket label.

Being grounded in their vertical makes more sense, as market requirements, competitive pressures, workflows and other dimensions of doing business differ dramatically between, say, a law firm with 200 employees, and a consumer manufacturer with 1,500 employees.

However, many midmarket companies face common challenges in an age where technology is transforming virtually every industry, with pressure from both large enterprises and startups. They need to compete against enterprise behemoths with deeper pockets, and greater technology and business expertise, and battle disruptive digital startups that can start with a clean slate–without legacy infrastructure and business models to complicate or limit their goals.

Dell Technologies (Dell EMC) recently conducted a survey among 4,000 midmarket and large businesses  that underscores these challenges. The study assessed how business decision-makers are thinking about and planning to transform to survive and thrive in the digital era.

In this post, I discuss these challenges, and Dell EMC’s strategy to help midmarket companies refocus on key areas that they will need to adapt to compete effectively.

The Heat is On, But the Path Forward Isn’t Always Clear

Dell EMC’s study reveals that companies are clearly feeling the digital heat (Figure 1). Rapid technology innovation is fueling uncertainty about their businesses and industries, and fears that new competitors with new business models will threaten their businesses.

Figure 1: Business Decision Makers’ Concerns About the Digital Future

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Source: Dell EMC and Vanson Bourne, Embracing A Digital Future Survey, 2016 

In addition, 2/3 of respondents say they’re not doing a good enough job keeping pace with digital transformation. Even more alarming, roughly 60% say they are unable to meet customer demands in key areas such as product/service innovation, building trust, predicting opportunities, providing more personalized experiences, and operating the business in real-time. Several obstacles are impeding their capabilities in these areas, including:

  1. Insufficient budget and resources
  2. Inadequate skills & expertise
  3. Lack of senior support
  4. Technologies working at speed of business
  5. Data privacy and security concerns

These challenges are more daunting for midmarket companies than for large ones. According to SMB Group research, the #1 technology challenge for U.S. medium businesses is implementing new solutions, followed by keeping company information secure (Figure 2). Notably, just figuring out which technology solutions can best help the business is their number tech challenge, followed by keeping existing systems up and running. With annual median IT budgets between $250,000 to $499,999, it’s no wonder that containing technology costs rounds out the top five.

Figure 2: Medium Business Technology Budgets and Challenges

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Source: SMB Group

Bringing Digital Transformation Into Focus for Midmarket Businesses

Given so many uncertainties and challenges, how can midmarket companies turn the somewhat fuzzy concept of digital transformation find the right formula to actually achieve it?

Dell EMC is tackling this by first, bringing the specifics of digital transformation into sharper focus, and second, by providing the technology foundation required to bring this transformation to life.

From Dell EMC’s vantage point, the following capabilities are core to achieving digital business transformation (Figure 3):

  • Agile product/service development to accelerate go-to-market readiness
  • Being able to predict new opportunities with real-time data and analytics
  • Creating transparency to build customer trust
  • Providing a personalized experience to engage and keep customers
  • Operating the business in real-time using analytics for better decision-making
  • Protecting business assets and people from cyber threats

Figure 3: Enabling Digital Transformation

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Source: Dell EMC and SMB Group

Dell EMC views three technology pillars as essential to enable this:

  1. IT transformation to power business transformation. IT must add more value to the business, with capabilities to develop new applications and optimize infrastructure. By putting technologies such as cloud native applications, hybrid cloud, converged infrastructure and storage, big data and analytics, and Internet of Things (IoT) in place, businesses can automate and streamline existing operations, and be ready to spot and tap into new opportunities.
  1. Workforce transformation to help attract and keep the best talent. Changes in technology are reshaping what employees expect the workplace to be. Businesses need more effective, flexible ways to get work done and collaborate–anywhere, anytime and on any device. Innovative client devices and digital workspaces that afford easy yet secure access are critical to keep up with these shifts, and to improving key business metrics in areas from worker productivity and efficiency to customer satisfaction.
  1. Security transformation to help prevent breaches and business loss. Digital security must transform to support digital and business transformation. Businesses must stay ahead of rapidly evolving cyber threats to prevent breaches that can decimate or even destroy a business. As digital capabilities evolve into core business assets, midmarket companies need to update their security approach with solutions that help them proactively detect and respond to threats, manage access, prevent fraud, secure endpoints and the perimeter, and strengthen governance, risk and compliance practices to stay safe.

Summary and Perspective

The bulk of business transformation occurring today wouldn’t be possible if not for the technology transformation that underpins it. Not long ago, companies were struggling to ensure that IT operations were aligned with their business needs and objectives. Now, as digital increasingly becomes part of the business fabric, it’s becoming difficult to find any dividing line at all to separate business and IT. In a digitally driven world, IT and business are becoming inseparable sides of the same coin.

Resource constrained midmarket companies need to partner with providers that can help them determine what business transformation means for their individual companies, sort through the digital hype, and develop strategies to revamp their IT, workplace and security approach to streamline existing operations and create new business models that will move the business forward.

Of course, Dell EMC isn’t the only IT infrastructure player touting digital transformation in varying shapes and forms. However, Dell EMC is the only major player providing a one-stop shop for end-to-end, desktop to data center infrastructure solutions.

Dell EMC has also been a pioneer in workforce transformation. Over the past eight years, Dell EMC IT and human resources teams have collaborated to create a more flexible workplace. Today, 25% of Dell EMC’s workforce telecommutes (the company has a goal of having 50% of it’s workforce work remotely full or part-time by the year 2020), and Dell EMC has built a website devoted to helping IT, human resources and other decision-makers to figure out how to adapt their own workplaces for the future.

Finally, midmarket companies can’t start IT and business planning from scratch, and often need solutions that can plug into existing infrastructure. Dell EMC provides a full spectrum of solutions, from consumer to very small business, to midmarket and large enterprise. This puts Dell EMC in an advantaged position, as it can calibrate and scale infrastructure, workplace and security solutions for mid-market customers, regardless of where they are along the transformation curve.

Note: This post was sponsored by Dell Technologies.