What is Bullseye Marketing, and Can it Help Your Business?

bull_center-325Laurie: Today I’m speaking with Louis Gudema, President of revenue + associates, about the Bullseye Marketing Framework. Louis, can you start by giving us some background on yourself?

Louis: I broke into marketing by consulting and it’s been quite a ride since then. I owned my own marketing and website design agency for a dozen years and sold that several years ago, giving me experience working with working with dozens of SMBs, and also the experience of running a small business. I’ve also worked with dozens of non-profits, and some of the largest companies in the world — from MIT startups to The Boston Globe to IBM. These days I am primarily focused on helping SMBs successfully deal with their revenue challenges.

Laurie: You’ve developed what you call the Bullseye Marketing Framework. What is “bullseye marketing,” and why is it important?

First, when I say “marketing” I’m talking about programs designed to increase the leads, opportunities and sales of a company, not vague, awareness activities. So when I say “marketing”, think “revenue”.

Marketing used to be so simple. There were only a few channels: TV, radio, print, direct mail, billboards, and a few more. But today there are at least two dozen major marketing channels including websites, email, social media, mobile, text messages, and so forth. I actually saw a blog post a few days ago that claimed 120 channels! So it’s gotten really complex, even for people who have worked in marketing for years.

Meanwhile, over 5,000 companies are selling some kind of marketing software, what’s often called marketing technology, in dozens of categories. Many of these vendors make copycat claims about the results their software can produce.

So with dozens of channels and thousands of vendors it’s understandable that people running an SMB who aren’t familiar with the landscape just give up. Who can you believe? Where do you start? How can you really produce results that impact the top and bottom lines? That’s where the Bullseye Marketing Framework comes in.

The framework breaks marketing into three phases and suggests that if you want to increase revenue and profits you start in the center and build out to the edge:

  • Phase 1: Take full advantage of your current assets. When I work with companies I typically see that they have lots of valuable marketing assets that they’re not taking full advantage of. These include their current customers, their website, email lists, and how well sales and marketing work together. Since these are all already in-house, companies can often start to see results in just one or two months with a really modest spend by doing a better job with those.
  • Phase 2: Get in front of people who want to buy what you’re selling right now. As a company starts to build out from those current customers the most productive thing is to get in front of people who are looking to buy right now – not in six months, or a year, or sometime in the future, but now. And those people are often searching on Google and Bing. So search marketing, in the form of search ads and search engine optimization, are step two.
  • Phase 3: Build long-term awareness in your industry. Many people who are potential customers are interested in what you’re doing, but they just don’t have the need or budget to buy right now. You want to get in front of those people so that when they are ready to buy you’re top of mind. So that’s where content marketing, display ads, social media programs, sponsoring events, and so forth come into play. And in the long run those can be terrifically valuable, but they tend to take a year or two to really start to produce results.

Now if you think about that for a moment, that’s the opposite of what many companies do. People often think of marketing as advertising and promotion—which are Phase 3 activities here—and start with those. After six months they’re not getting any results and, understandably, they stop, saying “We knew that marketing wouldn’t work for us.”

But it can work. It can produce terrific results, and really give a company a leg up on the competition, when done right.

Laurie: Does this framework help companies figure out what marketing and sales technology solutions can best help them?

Louis: Yes! When considering dozens of types of marketing software it can be hard to know where to start. But by focusing on Phase 1, center circle opportunities first, it narrows the software selection to just five or six types such as a CRM, email marketing, website content management, and conversion optimization. Actually, most of the Phase 1 software can be found combined in some marketing automation programs. Then there are two major types of software that you can use for the Phase 2, middle circle for search marketing, which are the search advertising software – most SMBs can just start with what is provided by Google and Bing – and a package to help with search engine optimization. It’s a lot easier to successfully implement six or eight types of software than 40!

Laurie: How do you help companies use this framework?

Louis: I provide three primary services related to this. First, I offer the Marketing Strategy Sprint, where I help a company, or a product group, review past efforts and what the competition is doing to better focus their marketing goals and approaches. Then we work together to develop a 12-month action plan to optimize their current sales and marketing programs, roll out new programs, and understand what new people or software they might need to execute those plans. This typically only takes three or four weeks – and why I call a sprint. It culminates with a one-day workshop with the senior team of the company to focus and make decisions.

Second, for some companies I act as a fractional VP of Marketing, providing one-quarter or one-third time services to develop and implement these marketing and business development programs. These relationships are a minimum of six months and can last a year or two sometimes.

Finally, I work with other companies to provide help with customized marketing requirements.

The Bullseye Marketing Framework is always top of mind for me, and pretty quickly for my clients, in this work. Frankly I’ve been gratified by how enthusiastic people at SMBs have been about the framework. One person said, “This is great! Why hasn’t anyone else come up with this before?”

Laurie: What kinds of results do you see customers gaining with this approach?

The results for Phase 1 can be swift, significant and not very expensive. For example, for one company in their Phase 1 customer interviews I learned that they were in danger of losing their largest customer; the customer said that if things didn’t improve within six months they’d be gone. The company had no idea! But you can be sure they jumped on that. The CEO was on the phone with them the next day to start to address their issues.

I’ve also helped companies increase leads from their website by 50-100 percent in just a few weeks, and helped others improve how their marketing and sales teams work together to improve lead follow-up and sales conversion. All of these were done quickly and produced quick revenue bumps that paid for the service many times over.

Laurie: How you help companies implement, customize and learn to use these solutions? If so, how?

Louis: Typically this would be done more through the fractional VP of marketing role. After the Marketing Strategy Sprint people have a choice: to implement the plan with their internal resources, hire me to help implement it, or use another agency or consultant. Or any combination of the three.

Laurie: What do companies need to be thinking about as they reassess marketing and sales strategies? What are your top tips and “gotchas”?

Louis: Perhaps the most common source of failure is neglecting the strategy. The company develops a strategy and roadmap, but either doesn’t devote the time, people and money to implement it, or they start to but after a few months they get distracted by something else. It’s really easy to get distracted these days.

Another challenge is from agencies and consultants who try to sell a “one size fits all” approach: they’ll say that every company needs to be doing social media, or inbound marketing, or search ads, or whatever. And since that’s all that they do that’s what they sell, regardless of what the company actually needs now. When all you have is a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail.

Laurie: Thanks, Louis, for your insights. How can people learn more and contact you if they want to?

Louis: They can email me at louis@revenueassociates.biz. My business site is www.revenueassociates.biz and I also blog about the Bullseye Marketing Framework at www.louisgudema.com . I’m on Twitter @louisgudema. I’d love to hear from them!

 

As Machines Get Smarter, How Will the Way We Live and Work Change? Part 2: Shifting Human–Machine Dynamics

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Every day, we see new examples of how technology is reshaping the dynamics of human–machine partnerships at work and at home. Some of the changes we can already see include everything from smart watches to drones to self-driving cars.
How will the next wave of technology disrupt our lives and change the nature of human and machine partnerships, and how quickly will this disruption happen? Although no one knows the exact path this latest round of innovation will take, Dell Technologies has partnered with Institute for the Future (IFTF) to explore how these trends are likely to take shape in their new report, The Next Era of Human–Machine Partnerships: Emerging Technologies’ Impact on Society & Work in 2030 . In the first post in this two-part series, I discussed the emerging technologies that will underpin these changes. In this second installment, I examine how these technologies are likely to reshape human–machine dynamics and how we can start preparing for them.

What will the brave new world of 2030 look like? The Dell/IFTF study highlights the following key shifts in human–machine relationships:

  • People become digital conductors. We already use apps for many tasks, from finding jobs to hailing rides. Personal assistants—or chatbots—help us turn off the lights, monitor home security and order products online. As technology helps us to orchestrate more activities and tasks, more of us will become “digital conductors,” using more personalized apps to predict, meet and respond to more of our needs. Expect solutions to help us monitor and care for elderly relatives, understand the role our emotions play in making a decision and help us to run errands. We’ll “conduct” these apps through connected devices. In the future, machines will become extensions of ourselves. Honor, for instance, has developed a platform to match elderly patients with doctors and care professionals as well as coordinate meals, transportation, housekeeping and companionship. OhmniLabs is working on an affordable telepresence home robot. With one click of a button, a person can be in the same room as his/her family, friends and colleagues without being physically present.
  • Work chases people. There’s little doubt that machines will replace humans in many jobs: PwC predicts that robots could take over 38% of U.S. jobs in the next 15 years. However, IFTF authors contend that new jobs will replace them. The percentage of “gig” or contract workers will grow to make up 50% of the workforce by 2020. Instead of workers looking for jobs, organizations will compete for the best talent for specific jobs, using solutions such as reputation engines, data visualization and analytics to automate the process. Companies will also change the way they work, adopting more capable solutions that streamline collaboration across geographies and time zones. Glowork, the first women’s employment organization in the Middle East, has launched a platform that links female jobseekers with employers. So far, it has put more than 3,000 women in the workplace and located work-from-home jobs for 500 women. By leveraging big data, employers can search for candidates based on different search criteria.
  • In-the-moment learning becomes the norm. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that today’s learners will have 8 to 10 jobs by the time they are 38, and IFTF estimates that 85% of the jobs they’ll be doing in 2030 haven’t been invented yet. This makes the ability to learn new skills a worker’s most valuable asset. But how will people—especially the growing population of gig workers—learn new skills? Probably not through traditional HR and training processes. Instead, they’ll need to do more learning on the fly, with “in-the-moment” learning becoming the norm by 2030. New technologies such as AR and VR will facilitate this trend, guiding, for example, a new field service technician through an HVAC repair. DAQRI, which is based in Los Angeles, is using AR devices to display digital work instructions in workers’ physical environment, helping them to complete tasks more efficiently.

Technology: The Fabric of Our Future Lives

No one knows exactly how these trends will unfold; and while some people are excited about them, others are uneasy about what may happen. Will machines steal jobs from people and lead to unemployment? Will bad guys create evil robots like the Terminator in the movie of the same name and Ava in Ex Machina?

But whether we’re ready or not, it’s safe to assume that technology will continue to play a bigger role in our business and personal lives. Think about it: the internet was a novelty 20 years ago, and “dumb” phones outsold smartphones until 2013. Now, both are ubiquitous. The next round of technological change is likely to be as inevitable and pervasive, so the best route is to start preparing for it by asking critical questions, such as the following:

  • How can we, as individuals, get smarter and keep learning?
  • What skills are most likely to be automated?
  • What human skills will have the most value?
  • How can we use new technologies as tools to accomplish goals, for our businesses and ourselves?
  • How can we build people skills and digital infrastructure for the future?

Recognize that what seems disruptive today will become part of our individual and business fabric tomorrow. By thinking proactively about the next level of human and machine interactions in the workplace now, we will be much better positioned to reap the benefits in the future.

You can read the full Dell/IFTF report  for more food for thought and take the Dell Technologies Digital Transformation Survey to help assess your organization’s readiness for the future. 

This is the second post in a two-part series sponsored by Dell. The first post examines the emerging technologies that will underpin changes in human–machine dynamics.

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.

Thinking About Going Global? Read This Book First

book-cover-2016-3This past week, I had the opportunity to talk to Steve Creskoff, a lawyer and a leading expert on international trade. And Steve has just published a new book called “What You Need to Know to Go Global: A Guide to International Transactions.” The best part about this is he’s written it specifically for small and medium businesses that want to explore their options in the international market.

Laurie: Steve, I’m excited to talk to you, because in our SMB Group surveys and the research we do, we see that only a small percentage of U.S. SMBs do business outside of the United States. So, first of all, why do you think this is?

Steve: Well, this is just what the case is today, and it’s unfortunate because small and medium businesses are very competitive internationally. They need to think more about their position in global markets. The statistics tell us that, in terms of trade and goods, only about 23% of U.S. GDP is in trade and goods, and about the same for trade and services, and this is very low. The lowest for any developed economy. So, our small businesses often are not aware of the international opportunities for them.

Laurie: That is very similar to what our data says. But I didn’t realize that the U.S. is the lowest.

Steve:  For a developed economy, we’re by far the lowest.

Laurie: So why should more small and medium businesses think about doing business beyond U.S. borders?

Steve: Well, first, let me talk about services. Our economy is about 80% services, and a lot of those services are tradeable, and we’re extremely competitive internationally with our services businesses. We export more services than any other country in the world by far and we have a very favorable surplus in trade and services, so this is important. The politicians don’t talk about that, but this is an area of international trade where we’ve been very successful. And then, of course, about 94 to 95 percent of world population is outside the U.S., so there are all sorts of opportunities for small businesses, whether it’s services providers or if they have a tangible product. So, there are great opportunities that should not be ignored.

Laurie: What are the risks to ignoring the potential?

Steve: First, what you don’t know can hurt you. If you’re not aware of how your product is situated internationally, an international competitor can come into the U.S. market and eat your lunch, so to speak. So, you have to be aware of… You have to evaluate your product or service for the international market and for the global economy, no matter how small you are. For instance, I’m a very small service provider, but most of my work is international, and that’s the case with a lot of businesses that I know.

Laurie: Yes, but many business owners don’t see a ready opportunity to extend their business overseas. Do you have a couple of examples you could share of creative ways that SMBs have gone into new markets.

stephen-profile-square-244Steve: Well, first of all, it’s like domestic business. It’s all about people. It’s about meeting people, developing a personal relationship, and telling them about your product or service. You can do this at international trade shows. You can do this through visits, as you do, of course, for domestic clients. And, of course, there are government resources, which are valuable. The U.S. Commerce Department and Small Business Administration have excellent resources. And last but maybe most important are the new internet platforms that have been developed that open up all sorts of potential for international business. Probably it’s an exception about my point about meeting the people, because now you can actually put up your goods or services on an Internet platform and start engaging with prospects in new countries through that.

Laurie: Right. The Internet definitely makes the world smaller. Do you have a favorite business story about a particular business that did something innovative in terms of going to market in another country?

Steve: Well, I’m legal counsel to the Trade Association of Fencing Manufacturers, and one of the members makes equipment to manufacture fencing. They’ve sold in more than 60 countries around the world. They’re located in Southern California. It’s a small business, and it’s not a new technology, but the services component is very important because they send people to their customers to train them on how to use the equipment, and that’s been very significant. So, there are many, many examples of small businesses that have been extremely successful.

Laurie: And you can differentiate yourself with customer service.

Steve: Yes. We think in terms of products and services being separate, but they’re not really. Maybe you’re selling a tangible product, but the services might be critical to that product. Conversely, you may be selling a service, but there may be certain tangible products that support that service

Laurie:  So, once a business owner says, “Hmm, I think I do have an opportunity to compete in this market. I can differentiate on either innovation, my product, or service, or whatever,” some of the key financial or regulatory or other kinds of considerations that a business really needs to understand to be successful?

Steve: It’s not really rocket science. There’s a great deal of uniformity around the world in terms of the regulations that apply to international trade and goods and services now, whether it’s a World Trade Organization agreement or a different type of international agreement. Because our businesses are so successful in the area of technology, export controls is one issue I would identify. Not that many goods and services are subject to export controls, but anything that is a so-called dual use item that might have a military application, the commerce department is responsible for that regulation here in the U.S. But businesses can very quickly find out whether there may be an issue or not. Only about 10% of exports are subject to export controls. As far as import controls and taxation and so forth, there are a lot of advisers that can be helpful, whether they’re freight forwarders, customs brokers, trade consultants. And, of course, the commerce department and the small business administration also provide advice. And my book–I’ll be shameless and promote my book!–has a great deal of detail and provides an overview of these various regulations so that a business can have an idea of when they should be talking to a consultant or a lawyer and when they’re probably okay.

Laurie: Absolutely. This has really been interesting, and starts to lessen some of intimidation about expanding a business internationally. But we’ve only just touched on just the tip of the iceberg. As you said, business owners that want to learn more can find a wealth of information about key considerations in your book, “What You Need to Know to Go Global,” which is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, both in paperback, and for Kindle and other ebook formats.

Steve: Thanks. Businesses can also check out my website. And I’m happy to say that the World Trade Organization in Geneva has taken an interest in my book, so my official book launch is going to be September 28th in Geneva. I’m very happy that they like the book and they’re going to be joining me in promoting it. The book isn’t t intimidating in terms of a lot of technical detail, and you can skip chapters if you’re not particularly interested in a given area. It’s like a travel manual. You read the parts that are of interest to you and relevant to your business and you can skip the other parts. So, I hope that many of your listeners will take a look at my book and start exploring their options.

Laurie: Thanks again, Steve, and best wishes for the book launch.

 

 

Using Sales Management Solutions to Boost Sales Productivity and Customer Satisfaction

SMB Group research consistently shows SMBs view attracting new customers, growing revenues, maintaining profitability, improving cash flow and improving customer experience and retention as their top business goals (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Top SMB Business Goals

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With that in mind, I was interested in talking with Karen McCandless, market researcher at GetApp, a sales management software comparison and reviews site, on her latest study. The study shows that a majority of B2B sales professionals lack  confidence in their sales strategy. Karen, can you tell me a little about the study, and what you found?

Karen: For our study, we surveyed 250 B2B sales professionals in North America. We found that 67% think that their small business selling strategy needs improvement to help them generate leads. Digging deeper, it seems that they are more concerned about the quality of leads than the quantity of them.

Laurie: Yes, we hear the same thing. For lack of a better term, SMBs often take a shotgun approach that may bring in lots of leads, but fails to bring in quality leads that are a good fit for the business.

Karen: Exactly. In fact, we spoke with Salesforce’s Global Customer Growth and Innovation Evangelist, Tiffani Bova, for our study, and she explained that the biggest opportunity to improve lead performance was to, “incorporate personalization and intelligence into [the] sales process.” This missing element is backed up by our data as well: Just 10% of sales reps believe that their B2B customers are looking for any kind of personalized service when purchasing. These facts help paint a picture as to why that two-thirds of sales professionals think their sales strategy needs help.

If salespeople rarely think their customers want personalized service during the sales process, it leads to B2B customers focusing more on factors like ‘price’ when it comes to purchasing (which 64% of our customer sample cites as the most important purchase factor), forcing salespeople to fight over price.

Laurie: Sure, and the race to the bottom is one most SMBs can’t win against large companies. So, your survey also looked at how SMBs can use sales management software to help them to compete more effectively. What did you learn here?

Effect of sales software on revenue_GetApp 2016Karen: We found that 66% of SMB sales professionals currently use sales management software, while a third still doing things manually. Not surprisingly, among those using these solutions, 86% have seen an increase in revenue, and 93% reported a boost in productivity.

Laurie: We see very similar results in our studies. Technology is increasingly part of the business fabric, and SMBs that invest in technology to automate business processes can get a great return on their investment.

Karen: It can really help automate manual, time-consuming tasks, freeing reps up to focus more time on areas such as prospecting, nurturing and closing deals. These solutions also give sales reps more information about their leads and prospects so they can make better decisions. Together, this can help improve the sales process.

Laurie: Were there any other key findings from this study?

Karen: Yes. We heard very positive things on the value of sales training: 92% of respondents said that the additional training they have received has increased their selling abilities. We also found that sales people view one-to-one coaching, delivered on an ongoing basis, as the best type of sales training.

Subject matter is also important, such as equipping sales professionals with the right software training to help them to harness the soft skills they have developed. In addition, we found only 15% of salespeople use social media to generate leads and better engage potential B2B clients (compared to 27% for both phone and in person).

Laurie: Yes, this is a critical area that sales people need help with, because online reviews, ratings and social media increasingly shape buying decisions. But even though technology solutions offer great benefits, SMBs are often confused and challenged when it comes to deploying new tech solutions. In fact, in our 2015 SMB Group Routes to Market Study, respondents ranked “implementing new technology solutions” and “figuring out which technology solutions can best help my business” among their top three technology challenges. Your thoughts on this?

Karen: Well, if you’re a small business looking to implement a sales management or CRM for the first time, you need to take several considerations into account. This includes factors such as deployment speed, cost, training needs, features, integration with other software you are already using, can it grow with your business, and mobile capabilities. Cloud-based sales management software can help here, as having the software hosted generally means quicker setup (with less downtime), predictable cost with less to pay up front, the ability to add and remove users easily, simplified IT management, and more updates more often. Plus most cloud-based systems these days are intuitive and have mobile capabilities, which makes adoption easier.

Laurie: Yes, all of the above. In fact, we find ease of use often trumps price when SMBs are making software decisions, so its no wonder that cloud based CRM is becoming the norm. And while the PC isn’t dead, people are doing more work on mobile devices. In our 2016 SMB Collaboration, Communication & Mobility Study, 67% of SMBs said that mobile solutions are changing how they communicate and collaborate. Any final insights?

Effect of sales software on customer satisfaction_GetApp 2016Karen: In addition to the increases in revenues and productivity, we found 78% of salespeople have seen an increase in customer satisfaction after adopting CRM solutions, which I think underscores the fact that these solutions free up salespeople to focus on creating a selling process that caters to the customer, thus allowing small business to have a leg up and compete with the big fish.

Laurie: Absolutely agree with that, Karen, and thanks for sharing these findings and your perspectives with me.

IoT: Where Innovation, Pragmatism and Collaboration Meet

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a hot topic in technology. IoT, which connects objects to the Internet, will radically change how businesses, governments, and individuals interact with the physical world. Consequently, developers are seizing on the opportunity to capitalize on the almost $6 trillion that Business Intelligence estimates will be spent on IoT solutions over the next five years.

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Dell and Intel’s “Connect Wha Matters” IoT Contest awards dinner was held Searsucker in Austin, TX.

With so much development in the pipeline, what will success look like in the IoT market? Dell and Intel recently sponsored the “Connect What Matters” Internet of Things Contest, which sought out innovative industrial IoT solutions that incorporate Dell’s Edge Gateway. In my first post about the contest, I discussed V5 Systems’ Portable IoT Security System, which took top honors for its solution, which fuses edge and hybrid cloud analytics capabilities into a pre-integrated, compact and solar-powered wireless outdoor security system. This second post takes a broader look at the awards event, traits that many of the Gold and Sliver award winners share, and my perspectives on IoT and Dell’s approach in this area.

And The Winners Are…

The title of the contest, “Connect What Matters,” gets at the heart of why IoT is sparking so much interest. IoT marries technology–from the data center to endpoint sensors, from the cloud to analytics, from wireless to wired networks–to objects in the physical world to address pressing industrial challenges in unique and effective ways.

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Congratulations to the 16 winners of the Dell and Intel “Connect What Matters” IoT contest!

Contest winners brought IoT excitement to life with creative, pragmatic solutions. The five Gold contest winners, selected from more than 970 contest entries, included solutions that span across many industries, from farms to factory floors:

  • Eigen Innovations has built a video analytics solution for the factory floor. The solution uses thermal imaging cameras and PLC/sensor data captured through Dell Edge Gateways to help manufacturers integrate factory floor big data, machine learning, and human intelligence to improve process control and quality monitoring directly on the factory line.
  • Iamus combined IoT platform and facilities management expertise to build a unique smart street lamp solution for a smart city project. The solution enables cities to visualize, monitor, manage and optimize their environments to improve quality of life and reduce environmental impact and energy costs.
  • n.io developed a solution to transform manual, subjective farming operations into highly instrumented, automated precision agriculture systems. The solution helps agricultural companies increase crop yields and optimize delivery of resources, such as water.
  • RiptideIO created a packaged software-as-a-service (SaaS) IoT solution for small retailers to make store equipment smart. RiptideIO monitors and captures data on air conditioning, lighting, locks and other systems, stores it in the cloud, and alerts retailers if there’s a problem. The solution diagnoses the problems so service technicians know what parts to bring to fix the equipment.
  • Software AG has built a predictive maintenance solution that brings in-memory edge analytics to collected machine data for real-time predictive maintenance. Software AG’s solution enables both real-time condition monitoring and dynamic remaining useful life prediction. Key capabilities include data filtering, aggregation, threshold monitoring, Bollinger band calculation, baseline threshold calculations, gradient trend discovery and missing data notifications.

The 10 Silver winners include AZLOGICA, Blue Pillar, Calibr8 Systems Inc, Daliworks, ELM Fieldsight, Independent Automation, Onstream, PixController, Inc., PV Hardware and We Monitor Concrete. These companies further underscored just how enormous the IoT opportunity is. For example, solutions ranged from PixController, which aims to plug leaky systems in the gas industry with optical methane emissions detection, to ELM Fieldsight, which has partnered with Dynoptix to create a connected health system to monitor human body temperature and heart rate.

Where Innovation, Pragmatism and Collaboration Meet

Dell’s IoT contest winners are combining innovation and pragmatic industry expertise to solve real world problems. These companies are helping businesses and government replace manual data collection and subjective judgments with automated data collection and analysis and objective measurements, helping them to operate more efficiently and effectively. This translates into good news for both vendors and their customers.

Industrial IoT solutions must solve very complex and often specific problems, making collaboration another key success factor. No one vendor can possibly supply all of the technology, operational and industry expertise required to successfully bring an industrial IoT solution to market.

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I had the opportunity to network and meet with many of the winners as well as members of the Dell IoT team.

Partners I spoke to at the event emphasized the value of working with Dell’s IoT Partner Program, citing Dell’s Edge Gateway, deep technology expertise, strong brand and go-to-market support as critical to their initiatives. They were also excited about Dell and Intel’s partnership to build re-usable building blocks that promises to make it easier and faster for them to develop and scale IoT applications. For more info on Dell’s IoT Partner Program, see Dell’s IoT Strategy and Partner Programs: Part One and Dell’s IoT Strategy and Partner Programs: Part Two.

In addition, IoT winners spent a considerable amount of time at the awards ceremony learning about each other’s offerings, and exploring how to partner with each other to extend their solutions for additional industries and uses, and to enhance their solutions with additional capabilities.

Delivering Fast, Measurable Value

Unlike some technology areas where the value proposition is fuzzy and the return on investment can be difficult to measure, by their very nature, IoT solutions offer a built-in value proposition for customers. Dell’s IoT contest Gold winners easily paint the picture of how their solutions provide clear, measurable value, as described above.

And so do the Silver winners. For example, Blue Pillar Systems’ has more than 7,000,000 Energy “behind the meter” that control electricity in hospitals, data centers and other facilities, providing real-time control and visibility to make critical infrastructure safer and more efficient. Meanwhile, We Monitor Concrete can help concrete companies, builders and contractors monitor and manage concrete mixers to ensure that concrete is the right temperature and strength when delivered to a construction site.

Perspective

canstockphoto23533086The IoT revolution has only just begun, and Dell’s Connect What Matters contest also marked the one-year anniversary of Dell’s IoT Division. Dell’s IoT award winners are living proof that even at this early stage, IoT is quickly moving from hype to reality.

The diverse applications demonstrated provided abundant proof of how industrial IoT (IIoT) can deliver strong, evident value across industries and use cases. As important, although winners’ IoT solutions required a lot of technology and industry expertise to build, their customers don’t need to be technology experts to quickly deploy and get benefit from their solutions.

In addition, winners also validated Dell’s IoT approach and Edge Gateway Series, which takes care of some of the heavy technology lifting, and frees partners up to focus more of their energy on building unique and valuable solutions tailored to the needs to different industries and uses. Based on the innovation and value showcased in the first “Connect What Matters” contest, I expect that Dell’s IoT strategy and partner programs will yield an even more abundant crop of strong IoT solutions in its second year.

This post was sponsored by Dell.

Missed Sales Machine? Attend the Encore Presentation!

I had an amazing time attending and being a panelist at #SalesMachine in NYC a couple of weeks ago. Maybe the best line up of inspiration, motivation and education I’ve seen at one event! Plus, there were so many great opportunities for networking.

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If you didn’t get a chance to attend, Salesforce and SalesHacker are presenting a 2-day Encore presentation of the entire Sales Machine event on July 6 and 7. Just use this link,www.salesmachinesummit.com/encore, if you’d like to attend!