Infusionsoft Spotlight, Part Two: Bite-Size Marketing Campaigns for Small Businesses

This is the second post in a two-part series featuring my conversation with Terry Hicks, Chief Operating Officer at Infusionsoft. We chatted at ICON17, Infusionsoft’s annual user conference. In this post, we talk about Infusionsoft Propel, Infusionsoft’s new solution, which allows small businesses to set up bite-size automated marketing campaigns in just a few minutes. In the first post, we discuss Infusionsoft’s vision to help small businesses win and keep new customers with its customer engagement and marketing solution, and new capabilities that Infusionsoft is adding to it’s core product.

Laurie:  Tell me about Infusionsoft Propel, the new solution that is in alpha or beta now. It sounds like it’s for people who need even more of a marketing shortcut.

Terry:  The background is that with our core products there have always been two parts that customers had to learn. First, they had to decide whether they were trying to follow-up or get repeat engagement from their customers. So, they need a marketing strategy or marketing campaign concept first, and implement it and in our core product. We refer to our core Infusionsoft product as our builder series, because the customers that use it want to build this, and they want customization.

But there are many other small businesses that want an easier starting place, they are willing to stand on the shoulders of others. They don’t want to be the builder, they want to deliver the campaign and see results. They’d like to see results in about three seconds after the campaign is launched.

So, we’ve tried to do a couple of things with Infusionsoft Propel. Number one, build a very simple experience to get yourself set up. Of course you have to say who you are and what your website is, all things that small businesses already know about themselves. No trick questions! Then, we incorporate their branding to customize them for who you are and what product you’re selling. But then you just decide what part of your business are you trying to improve. Are you trying to get new customers, trying to get repeat customers, or trying to get referrals? As soon as they decide on that goal, in just a few clicks, they can launch a campaign to achieve that goal. With really good, base language that can be tweaked, really professionally designed landing pages, emails or whatever components are part of the campaign.  And within 3-5 minutes, it’s on its way.

Laurie:  Which is great, not only because they don’t have to spend a lot of time learning how to use software but they can do it in little bite-sized pieces and as they see the outcomes and they get the results, they can build on that.

Terry:  Right. And when I say they are standing on the shoulders of experts who have done this before, who have thought through these details, those are the experts in our partner ecosystem where most of the campaigns are going to come from. Some have industry specializations, some are really good at getting referrals and recommendations. The small business owner can have the confidence that these have been tested in the marketplace. These campaigns are from the folks whose campaigns and wisdom has been tested.

Laurie:  Tried and true. And if they want to keep going, they can find a great partner to help them.

Terry:  Exactly. It’s a great opportunity for partners because they are always looking for ways to leverage their expertise. Also, sometimes our partners get a little bit anxious about customers that want to tweak campaigns, which may have the effect of making the campaign less effective than their partner imagined. One benefit to our partners is they can reach more customers and spread their knowledge a little bit more broadly, get more clients as a result. Another benefit is that they can put some guard rails on the customer so that customer ultimately gets to success.

Laurie:  I’ve been seeing for years now that the cloud and the SaaS model have really taken the technical barriers off of the small business back to use a solution but nothing is really taken off that lack of business process expertise off their backs. It looks like maybe this is going to be a start, which is kind of cool.

Terry:  Remember we talked about multiple follow ups produce better results, so they are going to get initial nudge and then follow-up with them again. Or if I leave a voice mail, I’ll get a little suggestion on things to highlight in the voice mail. All of it is gently guiding the small business owners so that they don’t forget to do these things. And you know, they know it’s the right thing to do, but people get busy so this helps them get to get to succeed.

Laurie:  When will Infusionsoft Propel be available for general release?

Terry:  We have limited availability right now, a few hundred customers. Folks are signing on here at ICON and they’ll be getting their invitations back and coming online. Probably general release will be by the end of June. It may happen sooner than that. We are testing to make sure we the right strategies in, and enough strategies so we have good product out of the gate. Also, there are always ways to perfect the on boarding experience, so that customers get launched, see the outcomes they want, and then are happily referring Propel to other businesses that could really benefit from it.

Laurie: It sounds like you’re going to start with freemium model?

Terry:  It’s a freemium model and there’ll be a couple different ways that folks will move from free to paid. It’ll be a fantastic freemium model with contact records built-in so you can see the history, that’s a basic piece of functionality that most small businesses need. There will be some prepackaged free campaigns, a couple of other transactional forms, and follow-up sequences that come out of the campaigns. Some customers will need more functionality, like grater sales pipe line management. So that would be a move from free to paid. There will be some campaigns as we progress with partners that will be for fee and over time, there will be add-ons like payments and the payment processing at an incremental cost.

Laurie:  They can get their feet wet and kick the tires for free.

Terry:  Yes. We are really hoping that the freemium model will get them small benefits they’ll see quickly, and then they’ll consume more strategies and the functionality they need that makes it right for their business.

Laurie:  Terry, this has been great. Thank you so much!

This post was sponsored by Infusionsoft.

Infusionsoft Spotlight, Part One: Simplifying Growth For Small Businesses

This is the first post in a two-part series featuring my conversation with Terry Hicks, Chief Operating Officer at Infusionsoft. We chatted at ICON17, Infusionsoft’s annual user conference. In this post, we discuss Infusionsoft’s vision to help small businesses win and keep new customers with its customer engagement and marketing solution, and new capabilities that Infusionsoft is adding to it’s core product. In the second post, we talk about Infusionsoft Propel, Infusionsoft’s new solution, which allows small businesses to set up bite-size automated marketing campaigns in just a few minutes.

Laurie:  Today I’m speaking with Terry Hicks, Terry, can you tell us a little bit about your role?

Terry:  Sure. I’m responsible for product development, sales and marketing, customer success, business development, basically all the operational parts of the business focused on building our products, serving our customers and growing the business. Obviously, there are lots of talented people in our team. We focus on Infusionsoft’s vision and strategy and solving problems for our customers and helping them to grow.

Laurie:  So, what is Infusionsoft’s mission and big picture vision?

Terry:  Our big picture vision is to simplify growth for millions of small businesses. Infusionsoft is a SaaS product that helps our customers connect with their prospects and customers, and increase the likelihood that the prospect will become a customer, and that customers will come back for more and will also refer new customers. We do that through customer engagement software that also includes contact management, information about who the customer is and what business they’ve done with the company. Then we automate the follow up that small businesses need to do to save them time.

Laurie:  There are some really interesting statistics that were shared earlier at the event about follow-up, and how critical it is.

IMG_7913Terry:  Right. We see that if you follow-up eight times, then you’re going to get about eighty percent of the opportunity. We are all busy and we get distracted and so while somebody in the moment might say, hey, I really need this service or I really need this product, but often things come up in life and they go to the next thing. If you don’t follow-up enough, you’re going to miss out on the sales opportunity. There’s a speed component and a number of times component to it. Both are important. That’s why product like ours that allows that follow-up to be automated and personalized really helps give the small business owner who is juggling so many things the ability to improve the performance of their business. That’s why I always talk about multiplying their time by automating follow up for them.

Laurie:  How does Infusionsoft define small business?

Terry:  For us, it’s less than 25 employees. There are very small businesses, one or two employees, that can be very sophisticated and have a high revenue, and there are some larger businesses like up to a hundred, that operate very much like a small business. But our sweet spot is 25 and fewer employees.

Laurie:  So truly focused on very small business, not really kind of stretching that definition.

Terry:  Right, because when you start having much larger business, the solution needs to consider other things, like specialized skill sets, departmental focus, things that really require that your tools adapt more to that expert. But with the small business, you’re dealing with people who are swapping hats on and off, all throughout the day. They are switching from one thing to the other. So that has implications on how the solutions work.

Laurie:  You made several key announcements here at ICON17. Can you jgive us your take on the highlights?

Terry:  Yes. First, when we talk about simplifying growth, the simplify part of it is really so critical and what we have been working on since last ICON is simplifying some of the capabilities that are most commonly used. A great example is the new landing page. The old landing pages’ feature was pretty robust but you had to start from scratch most of the time. But sometimes it’s easier to edit or tweak than it is to say, wow, that blank page is staring at me. So, you might say let me sit down to that later when I can really think that through.

IMG_7919But the new landing pages have a much more modernized UI that allows very easy drag and drop, and dozens of dozens of templates and little template widgets so you have a really great starting place to quickly get to the outcome you want to get to. The other thing that is really important is making sure landing pages on mobile devices look great. everything has to be mobile first, and 100% of our new landing pages are mobile responsive and optimized for mobile.

Laurie:  It takes the burden off the back of business owner to say where do I start. It also offers best practice advice about what you should put on a landing page, right?

Terry: Exactly. And that’s absolutely necessary for a small business owner. I trust my bicycle shop repair guy to fix my bike. He does that all the time. He knows how to do it, he knows how to tune it, if I’m choosing a new bike, which one. But when it comes to marketing, not only he doesn’t know, he doesn’t want to know. He got passion about the bike shop and so we need to give them that simplified path to marketing success.

This post is sponsored by Infusionsoft.

Can Propel Take Infusionsoft—and Small Business Marketing—to the Next Level?

Founded in 2001, Infusionsoft has always focused on providing small businesses with 25 or fewer employees sales and marketing automation solutions to help them grow. Over the years, Infusionsoft now has 34,000 companies and over 135,000 users subscribing to its solution. However, it has just scratched the surface when it comes to penetrating the very large and diverse small business universe.

Infusionsoft has faced challenges in expanding its footprint because although its solutions have proven to be powerful and effective, they take considerable time and energy to configure and learn to use. While there are certainly some small businesses with the appetite to make this investmentpeople Infusionsoft calls “builders”there are arguably far more that lack the time or interest to make this investment.

At ICON17, Infusionsoft’s annual user conference, the vendor announced, among other things, Infusionsoft Propel, a new solution designed to meet the needs of these customersand help Infusionsoft take its own business to new heights.

Infusionsoft Propel: Turnkey Marketing Campaigns for Small Businesses

Infusionsoft Propel offers small business a new and different way to automate marketing campaigns. Designed from the ground up to offer a fast, guided experience to create automated marketing campaigns and follow up, users can set up and launch bite-size automated campaigns in minutes.

Infusionsoft Propel is built specifically for users that don’t have the time or interest to learn how to use software. Users select a templated campaign from a gallery, such one designed to get repeat business with a special offer, or get reviews on social media (Figure 1). The tool pulls in the company’s logo, branding, and colors automatically, and optimizes the campaign for both mobile devices and desktops. It also uses pre-built connectors to pull in and organize data from other applications, such as email, Facebook, and Intuit QuickBooks Online, so users have all the info they need in one place.

Figure 1: Infusionsoft Propel Screenshots

Once launched, Infusionsoft Propel gently reminds the user to set and complete follow up activities.Infusionsoft is using Google’s App Engine and machine learning to help shape this automated follow up.

In limited access beta now, Infusionsoft expects to launch the product for general release later this year as a freemium offering, with pricing for upgraded versions driven by factors such as consumption and list sizes.

While Infusionsoft has seeded the offering with several campaigns, it’s also bringing partners on board, providing them with full access to Infusionsoft Propel via Infusionsoft Partner Edition. Partner Edition offers tools to help partners build, package and deploy campaigns, and to manage clients. Infusionsoft’s goal is to have partners develop specialized campaigns that meet a spectrum of micro-verticals and other specific requirements.

Perspective

Attracting new customers, growing revenues and maintaining profitability are top challenges for small businesses (Figure 2). But many are consumed with just keeping up with day-to-day tasks of running the business. They don’t have marketing expertise or experience, and are wary of the time it takes to get productive with a new solutioneven though they may see the need and want to try one.

Figure 2: Top Business Challenges for Small Business

Infusionsoft’s vision to serve these customers is a lofty one. Infusionsoft Propel caters to these small business users, and the growing expectation that people have for the immediate gratification they get from consumer apps, such as Facebook and Instagram.

Designed to compete against the inertia that prevents many small businesses from implementing marketing solutions, Infusionsoft hopes to give the enormous market of businesses that need an easy on-ramp to marketing automation so they can stay connected, nurture customer relationships and grow without becoming marketing gurus.

Infusionsoft Propel looks good on paper, and in the demos. However, this initiative represents a big shift from Infusionsoft’s flagship solution, not only for Infusionsoft, but also for the partners that are essential to scale and accelerate market growth.

To succeed, Infusionsoft needs to elevate market awareness for Infusionsoft Propel and the Infusionsoft brand to a new, broader and different type of SMB customer, and convince them that this solution really is easy.and provides clear beneifts At the same time, the vendor needs to develop a compelling business model to get both existing partners engaged, and to recruit new ones that may, in some cases, be a better fit for Infusionsoft Propel customers.

 

 

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.

 

Act Local to Grow Global: Part 1, Entrepreneurs’ Organization

world-549425_640How can quality localization help small and medium businesses (SMBs) enter, sustain and grow their businesses internationally? I’ve been interviewing customers for this four-part blog series, sponsored by SDL, to learn more about how SMBs are using localization to improve customer experience and grow their businesses.

In each interview, we discuss the role that international markets play in these businesses’ growth strategies, and how they are using centralized language localization services help them improve engagement, sales and retention in overseas markets.

In this first interview, “Entrepreneurs’ Organization: Using Localization to Grow International Membership,” I talk with Taylor Collision, Marketing Manager at the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), a global, non-profit membership organization designed exclusively to engage leading entrepreneurs helping them learn and grow. We learn why international growth is critical to their business, and discuss how EO is using localization to help expand membership in key international markets.

New Rules for Tech Vendors: How the SMB Buying Journey Is Changing

So many vendors are interested in selling to SMBs, or selling more to them—for obvious reasons! It’s an enormous market and many areas of the market are ripe for new technologies and solutions.

But over the years we’ve seen so many vendors flail—and even fail—when it comes to successfully reaching, selling and serving SMBs. And its arguably getting even more difficult to be successful as as the SMB landscape changes and more vendors compete for SMB customers.

So we put this webinar together as a  primer to on some of the key dynamics we see in the SMB market, so you can use it as a starting point to fine tune your SMB marketing strategy and tactics. During the webinar, I discuss:

  • Key SMB technology market trends
  • Insights into how the SMB customer technology journey is changing across the exploration, evaluation, selection and service phases, and their new expectations of technology vendors
  • Eight new rules for technology vendors in the SMB market

Please let me know what you think, and any additional observations that you’ve made related to this area!

Reduce Effort and Boost Confidence: Infusionsoft’s Goals to Help Small Businesses Improve Sales and Marketing

This video interview was recorded on September 16, 2015, and originally posted on SMB Group Spotlight.

Laurie: Today I have the pleasure of talking to Terry Hicks. I’m used to talking to Terry when he was at Intuit, but today he’s here in his new role as Chief Product Officer at InfusionSoft, which provides cloud-based sales and marketing automation solutions for true small businesses. I’m really happy to be talking to you today, Terry, and would like to hear what you’ll be doing in your new role. But before we get into this, you were at QuickBooks fifteen years or so. I’m really curious, you had a really successful role there, so what brought you to InfusionSoft? What inspired the change?

Terry: Well, I think one of the things that inspired me coming to InfusionSoft was really the passion for small businesses. Over my fifteen years at Intuit, I got a lot of personal energy, and felt like I was doing something good in the world, but I decided that it was time to take on a new challenge. Intuit’s a great company, I’ve learned a lot, but I just decided personally I wanted to take on a new challenge. I was very open-minded in what I was looking for, but the things that I wanted was a great group of people, who I really enjoy and trust and feel like I’d want to be in the trenches working with them every day. And an interesting problem to solve, where there is a big opportunity to make a difference. It could have been small business or some other space, but when I met the InfusionSoft team, I really connected deeply both with who they are, and the mission that they’re on. So once that happened, I just said, “Hey, this is the next right place for me.”

Laurie: That’s great. Tell us a bit about your role at InfusionSoft, and what you’ll be doing.

Terry:  InfusionSoft has an all-in-one sales and marketing software for small businesses and I’m the Chief Product Officer. What’s included in my role is the product management team and the design team, and also the payments business and the marketplace. So we’re looking at how we revolutionize all-in-one sales and marketing software for small businesses to make it much more appropriate from an experience standpoint, from a basic use standpoint, and solve these problems in a new and modern way.

Laurie: InfusionSoft already has over 30,000 small business customers, there are millions of small businesses out there, so is the challenge how do we get to that next level of growth?

Terry:  Exactly. A lot of what we are solving for is multi-system chaos. A lot of small businesses start using many, many tools to try to solve a problem. The may say, let me try this tool or let me try that tool, before really slowing down and starting to think about, what am I trying to accomplish in my business? So a big opportunity for us is to translate the years and years of expertise that InfusionSoft has to what we call the small business success method or life cycle marketing. We can translate that into both the product experience as well translate that knowledge and grow that knowledge through our ecosystem of experts. These expert partners help small businesses get started, and guide them to success with different strategies. That, I think that’s the big opportunity. It’s move more to, what are you trying to accomplish into the process from the start. As we build that into the experience of the product, it means less work for small businesses to achieve success.

Laurie: So if there’s one message you’re really hearing over and over and over again from the customers you see, like to really do this for me, what would that be?

Terry: Customers really connect with the potential benefits of InfusionSoft–such as I’m trying to grow to sales, I’m trying to get organized.

Laurie: Number one in our studies: Grow my business.

Terry: That’s right. And also saving time because small businesses are time starved, they wear all of those hats. So the number one thing is, I love all of those benefits, help me achieve them with less effort, with more confidence. Help me connect to the actions that I should take in my business to achieve those outcomes. So that really what we’re trying to do.

Laurie:  Make that roadmap more straightforward Okay. So what are the biggest challenges to do this. As we all know, software, whether it’s in the cloud or on premise, it can automate things for you, it can take care of things for you, but you still have to spend time getting things set up and configured for your business. So how do you overcome those challenges of really making that more drop-dead easy to use.

Terry:  Well, the number one challenge is when you have an existing base of customers, they’re comfortable with the way things work. And so, as you start to change, even though the benefit is very attractive, it is still reflected as change.

Laurie:  You’re talking about your existing installed base customers?

Terry:  Yes, that’s something we’re going to be very mindful of. The other thing is how do you build confidence? When the experience changes from building something from scratch to selecting from recommendations that are either tailor-made to look like you with your words, or maybe changing the activity a little bit, how do you build confidence that that’s the right thing for your business?. So whether it’s bringing the expertise of other experts into the experience, whether it’s providing reviews and ratings and performance metrics around it, that will be a big challenge because small businesses are skeptical. They don’t want to waste time or money on solutions that don’t work and could actually hurt their business more than help. So building that confidence is a big challenge.

Laurie:  I think we’ve all been there, no matter what size business, of trying things and it ends up to be such a time-sink and then you’re like, “This thing doesn’t work for me anyway.” So what are some ways you might address that challenge? I think a lot of small business owners have been burned already. They spend a lot of time if not money as well, but time is so key and it was just like, “This was just a big waste of time.” How will you circumvent that?

Terry:  Well, fortunately there are many patterns that exist in design that are successful. So just like our customers, we don’t need to reinvent all of those wheels ourselves. We can adopt many of the best practices that are out there in terms of getting started. Another big advantage though, that’s unique to InfusionSoft, is we have a large network of experts who help small businesses every day. Some of those experts actually work at InfusionSoft. So it’s really bringing those people and those personalities into the experience so for the customers who are more self-directed and inclined to analyze the recommendations and adopt them–they’ll be fine. But for the many who have a question mark of “Is this right for my business?” they’ll have more access to experts from the ecosystem of folks who already support InfusionSoft customers, as well as some of the key members of the InfusionSoft team that can help them get over that problem.

Laurie: So you can personalize it to your style and your preferences.  That’s great.

Well Terry, it was so great to see you again and congratulations on your new role. I’ll be looking forward to InfusionCon next March to see how everything’s going and catch up with some of the new things that you’re doing then.

Terry:  I really look forward to catching up with you. I’m sure we’ll have made a lot of progress by then and I’d love to share it all.