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.

 

 

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?


prasad-bio-1024x716
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.

 

Yocale’s “Book Local” Solution for Small Businesses

Laurie:      Today I am speaking with Arash Asli, who is the Chief Executive Officer at Yocale.  Arash and I met earlier this year at a Salesforce event.  Arash’s company, Yocale, provides small local businesses with some very compelling marketing services.  Arash, can you tell us about Yocale and the problems that you help small businesses solve?

arashArash:        Absolutely. Yocale’s story started with a basic search on a smart phone for a local service, a massage therapist actually, and in the frustration of not being able to reach any therapist or book an appointment in the evening. So it sparked the idea for a listing site that people could use to find info on local service providers, and then book them online—kind of like a combination of Yelp and OpenTable, but for appointment-based services. This of course helps customers easily find and book appointments. The YoCale platform becomes the place where the local consumers can discover, book, and review local service providers within their community. So you don’t have to drive 10 miles across two suburbs for a hair stylist when there’s a great right in your neighborhood—who may also be able to recommend a local massage therapist or a personal trainer nearby.

But our key mission is to support appointment-based local businesses by helping them to attract local customers, take the friction out of scheduling, and increase customer satisfaction. Just like the buy local movement, we’re like the book local movement basically with a mission of encouraging consumers to book local with service providers.

Laurie:      This seems to be part of the trend towards more specific or individualized marketing services for different kinds of businesses, with Yocale targeting local small business service providers.

chiropractorArash:        Exactly. In addition to marketing, we also help them automate operations, such as online booking, text and email reminders to reduce no-shows, email marketing, SEO optimized search, staff scheduling and more. Our software tackles two of the main challenges that these businesses face, which are marketing and data security and records management, which are two of the top SMB challenges that you covered in SMB Group’s 2016 Top Ten SMB Technology Trends. Once we help appointment-based businesses attract new clients, solution makes it easy for them to manage their entire business on securely in the cloud, from any device.

Laurie:      Right, right, and this is for service providers, which are actually a bigger percentage of small local businesses than those selling physical products, and their needs are definitely different.

Arash:        Absolutely. For these businesses, online marketing can be extremely difficult and it can be expensive to stand out and get the traffic online. With the Yocale marketplace, we group all the service providers in one community together, so we can funnel bigger stream of motivated local purchasers. This makes it easier for service providers to get discovered, and streamlines the booking process for appointments.

Another way we help is with the Yocale internal referral system. We have a community of local service providers, and we promote complementary services to the consumers or the members of Yocale that are booking services. So, when the client books an appointment with one service provider, we let them know that they can book their other services in the same area with the same account

Laurie:      What areas is the Yocale service available in?

booklocalArash:        We initially launched Yocale in Vancouver, Canada, and we’re expanding to other areas.  So, we have customers from various different cities throughout North America and overseas now. People are signing up because we help them to market more effectively, automate operations, such as invoicing and staff scheduling, and to manage clients. When they start using our software, they automatically become part of our marketplace.

Laurie:      So, if you’re a small local service provider in an area and you haven’t really heard of Yocale or familiar with it, how would you start kind of taking advantage of it and using it in an area that you guys haven’t kind of officially entered yet?  Is there a way to do that?

Arash:        Yes. Those customers can still sign up, and we can help automate their operation, with the functions we discussed.  So as long as they do business in an English-speaking country and in the appointment based business, we can help them.

Laurie:      Okay, great, and do you have anyone, just to kind of maybe wrap up, do you have like your favorite example of a local services business where using this has really made a difference?

Arash:        Yeah, absolutely.  I’ll just use an example of a well-known hair salon in downtown Vancouver. Their clients are high net worth individuals, celebrities. They were doing a lot of things manually, working 10 – 12 hours a day to just to try to keep customers happy from a point of view of being able to schedule and reschedule them. And time is a precious commodity for a lot of small, local service providers.

With Yocale, people can book online and they can reduce their no shows. It’s saving the salon a lot of time and aggravation. It’s really taken off—about 85% of their customers now book online.

Laurie:      Thanks, Arash, for the Yocale overview.

Intuit: Helping Very Small Businesses Connect the Dots

There’s no question that cloud is the new normal for very small businesses (VSBs, with 1 to 19 employees).  Cloud computing has made it easy for VSBs to access, buy and deploy the business solutions that they need to automate operations, and to sustain and grow their businesses. SMB Group research shows that VSBs are increasingly opting for cloud solutions for flexibility, speed and cost benefits, and more (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Top Reasons to Use Cloud Solutions: Very Small Businessesslide1

 

Integration Lags Cloud Adoption

However, while the cloud has made it much easier for VSBs to access and use new applications, most still find it difficult to integrate them. In fact, 32% of VSBs have not integrated any of their applications. Among those who have done some integration, 71% rely on manual Excel file uploads or custom coding, instead of using more efficient integration solutions or pre-integrated solutions (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Level and Type of Application Integration: Very Small Businessesslide2

This isn’t surprising. While there are many solid integration solutions in the market, very small businesses lack the expertise, resources and money to use them (Figure 3). And while pre-integrated solution suites can be great, most small businesses adopt applications in an incremental way. They don’t want to pay for functionality they don’t use, and don’t have the bandwidth to get productive on more than a couple of things at the same time.

Figure 3: Annual Technology Spending and IT Resources: Very Small Businessesslide3

However, the cloud makes it easy for VSBs to add new applications as needed and as time permits. But over time, they realize  automation additional functions without integrating them only gets part of the job done. They need to integrate them to streamline workflows and to gain a unified view of what’s going on in the business.

Intuit: Evolving Messaging, Platform and Products to Help VSBs Connect the Dots

At it’s 2016 QuickBooks Connect conference last week, Intuit hammered home the event theme–that connected applications can help small businesses speed up workflows, save time, and gain a more complete view of their customers. The company showcased its open platform strategy and partnerships, and its goal to help its customers connect the dots between information and workflows in different applications.

In the developer track, Intuit emphasized its commitment to provide developers with the latest and greatest tools to help them easily integrate their apps with QuickBooks Online. For instance, the vendor touted Webhooks, which makes it easier for developers to synch data between QuickBooks Online and their solutions. Intuit also offered developers numerous sessions to help increase their understanding of how broader technology trends, such as machine learning/artificial intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT), mobile and security (to name a few!) are reshaping business applications, and fuel interest in applying them to create more valuable and innovative solutions.

Intuit also announced several new, specific integrations to help VSBs connect the solution dots, including:

  • Integration with Google G Suite (formerly Google Apps for Work). Customers can now buy QuickBooks Online in the G Suite Marketplace, and use single sign-on (SSO) to access QuickBooks from their Google accounts. New integration with Google Calendar also enables users to import time and billing data from Calendar directly into QuickBooks Online.
  • New payments integrations with Apple Pay and PayPal. These integrations enable users to invoice payments to their customers from QuickBooks Online, and then take payments from customers via Apple Pay and PayPal. Once a customer makes the payment from Apple Pay or PayPal, the integration automatically enters and categorizes it in QuickBooks Online. This saves customers from having to use a plug-in or manually reconcile transactions between QuickBooks Online and their payment systems.
  • Payroll integration with TSheets, an employee time-tracking and scheduling app. Users can now track, approve and pay employees from within their QuickBooks Online accounts.
  • Extended integration with Bill.com. QuickBooks Online users can now manage Bill.com functions, such as bill payment, tracking, transaction reconciliation and ACH authorizations within QuickBooks Online.
  • More integrated financing options. Intuit’s Financing platform has added new integrated loan programs for QuickBooks Online users. For instance, users can now apply for American Express Working Capital Terms for short-term loans via QuickBooks Online. Intuit has also incorporated BlueVine’s Flex Credit into its QuickBooks financing platform.

Summary and Perspective

Intuit is taking big steps to educate small businesses and accountants about the value of application integration, and is paving the way to make integration solutions easier to use and more affordable.

Intuit is also the top business solutions provider in the very small business market–one that many vendors find very difficult to crack in terms of broad-scale adoption. In addition, Intuit has the advantage of being the keeper of the crown jewels for many small businesses-their financial transactions.

From this vantage point, Intuit has distinct advantages to attract developers to its community and its mission, and to help VSBs finally start moving up the integration curve. At the same time, Intuit’s open platform, connected community strategy will also help power Intuit’s next level of growth in VSB market.

Note: Intuit is an SMB Group client, and paid my travel expenses to QuickBooks Connect.

Security Doesn’t Have to Be The Elephant in the SMB Room

The Internet, cloud computing and mobile solutions have empowered people with the freedom and flexibility to do their jobs more easily and quickly than ever before. At the same time, new technologies continue to expand the volume and variety of data at our fingertips, enabling us to create and share information in new ways.

Technology is rapidly reshaping how people work in all businesses, regardless of size. In fact, the old stereotype of SMBs as technology laggards no longer fits: SMB Group’s 2016 Top 10 SMB Technology Trends reveal that today, the vast majority of SMBs have more favorable views about technology’s role in their business (Figure 1). Furthermore, Dell’s Global Technology Adoption Index (GTAI 2015) finds that enterprises using new technologies including big data, cloud computing and mobile solutions have up to 53% higher revenue growth rates than enterprises that don’t.

Figure 1: SMBs View Technology as Key to Success

Figure 1-SMBs View Technology as Key to Succes
Source: SMB Group 2015 SMB Routes to Market Study

As Reliance on Technology Grows, Security Requirements Become More Complex

Most SMBs understand that data security and management challenges grow as technology becomes a bigger part of the business fabric. Our study shows that both small and medium businesses rank security as their second-most-pressing technology challenge (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Top Technology Challenges for SMBsFigure 2-Top TEchnology Challenges for SMBsSource: SMB Group 2015 SMB Routes to Market Study

However, as noted in SMB Group’s 2016 Top 10 SMB Technology Trends, “Security Remains the Elephant in the SMB Room.” SMBs often feel overwhelmed, confused or inadequate to deal with the magnitude of the seemingly endless potential for digital security breaches. The growth of data, mobile solutions, cloud computing and other technologies give users more flexibility and freedom. But with data living in more places, the risk of data loss and leakage rises. Unfortunately, as we put more information into the right hands, we also increase the likelihood of putting it into the wrong ones.

As the sheer magnitude of potential cyber-security risks grows, SMBs that continue to take an outdated, ineffective, 1990s-era “whack-a-mole” approach to security–deploying point solutions to ward off the security threat du jour–are at increasing risk for both accidental and malicious data breaches.

But, SMB Group research indicates that on average, only 22% of businesses with fewer than 100 employees have full-time, dedicated IT staff, and 31% have no IT support at all. Meanwhile, although 85% of medium businesses have dedicated IT staff, these employees are likely to be IT generalists. Given the fact that there are no chief security officers in SMBs, what’s an SMB to do?

Finding Balance: A New Security Approach for SMBs

SMBs need a more comprehensive approach—one that makes security a manageable challenge instead of a bewildering, unsolvable nightmare. They need a solution that enables them to continue taking advantage of the latest mobile, cloud and other technology advancements, and also offers peace of mind that their biggest risks are being managed.

Endpoint security management solutions help close off the biggest vulnerabilities to the most critical corporate data, wherever it resides—whether endpoint devices, mobile apps, on-premises infrastructure and applications or the cloud (Figure 3). Endpoints can include any end-user device, such as smartphones, PCs and tablets, as well as specialized devices such as point-of-sale terminals and bar code readers.

Figure 3: Endpoint Security ManagementFigure 3-Endpoint Security ManagemtnSource: SMB Group 2015 SMB Routes to Market Study

These solutions provide policy-based approach that requires endpoint devices to comply with specific criteria before they are granted access to network resources. For instance endpoint security management solutions:

  • Check the status of a user’s device when it connects to the network to ensure that the operating system, browser and other applications are in compliance
  • Determine whether security components are up to date.
  • Enable policies to be created to set up individual rules for different levels of access to files or applications.
  • Are deployed on both the client and server-side, enabling centralized monitoring and management on the server.
  • Are often data-centric, meaning that they encrypt and protect the data itself so that it remains protected as it travels across different devices or cloud platforms.

Sponsored by Dell, SMB Group’s free research brief, Finding Balance: A New Security Approach for SMBs, is designed to improve SMB understanding in this area. The brief discusses how endpoint security solutions work; internal considerations to keep in mind when developing an endpoint security strategy; and key capabilities to look for in an endpoint security solution.

Although you can’t eliminate every risk, endpoint security management can offer a more holistic, rules-based approach to face and address the security elephant in your business a more effective way.

This post is sponsored by Dell.