Thursday, August 21, 2014

What Are You Reading? Security Breaches, Tweeting Your PR & Panasonic's Social Engagement Strategy

Sharing content is a driving force in staying market sharp and trend aware! Miles Technologies actively shares expertise, observations and best practices with a variety of leading journalistic and market savvy platforms! Here’s a few of our recent shares! Tweet us @milestech and let us know what you are reading!

P.F. Chang's, Russian Gang Data Breaches:
Lessons To Learn

Platform: Philadelphia Business Journal

P.F. Chang’s, the popular bistro, shared new details about a security breach discovered in June, reporting that customer data may have been stolen from no less than 33 restaurants in 16 states, including eight locations in California. The restaurant chain reported that credit card numbers, expiration dates and, in some cases, cardholder names were stolen over an eight-month period. P.F. Chang’s first reported the data breach on June 13, noting the breach occurred between October 2013 and June 11. P.F. Chang's has about 211 locations in the U.S. and abroad. The company also operates Pei Wei Asian Diner, a more casual Asian restaurant chain with more than 190 U.S. locations, none of which were compromised. Data breaches happen – all the time. What’s the lesson? Cyber attackers are everywhere! What does this mean? IT support management and information technology services company expertise is critical. Protect your data!

3 Cores of New Age PR:
Is Tweeting Public Relations?

Platform: Small Business Trends

Abandon preconceived notions about public relations (PR). Today, public relations is a cross-platform communications action reliant upon traditional and digital PR strategies, as well as social engagement, content marketing, brand publishing, media relations, inbound content, SEO strategies and limitless creativity. Today, PR includes social media, blogging, online reputation management, brand journalism, content strategies, thought leadership and more. PR is now an extremely broad and diversified field – it is no longer anchored to crisis communications, press releases and media alerts. We’re talking PR...evolved. There exists today a churning, swirling mix of initiatives that all, at their respective cores, are inherently linked to the actions of a corporation, enterprise, organization or individual to promote activities – public relations.

Using QuickBooks To Improve Your Collections Process
Platform: Intuit Accountants News Central

One major challenge that any new startup, small business or growing business faces is the management of cash flow within their company. Limitations in cash flow can have a number of adverse effects, including delays in services or products provided, the inability to pay employees or vendors on time, and unnecessary incursions of interest on loans that may need to be taken out. Don’t we all wish that our customers would pay us in a timely manner and obey those payment terms we arbitrarily select when we send out our invoices? In a perfect world, that would be great, but as anybody who owns a business or works in the Accounts Receivables department can attest to, we know that is just not the case. So, what can we do to make this process more efficient and keep the cash rolling in, and how can QuickBooks help with that? Chris Guido of Miles Technologies digs into this topic!

Customer Engagement Case Study: Panasonic’s Social Campaign to Light 100,000 Lives
Platform: AllBusiness

Imagine giving light to people living in darkness. Panasonic imaged such a formidable task. Then, Panasonic took action. In 2013, the company launched its 100 Thousand Solar Lanterns Project. The goal was clear: Provide 100,000 solar lanterns to off-grid communities by 2018 – the year of the company’s 100th anniversary. The project – dubbed Cut Out The Darkness – is a shining example of what a global company can do to recruit large-scale community engagement by sharing powerful stories, captivating videos, and a unique call for social media participation.What’s so special about Cut Out The Darkness? It’s the personal touch, empowered by Panasonic, that allows people to empathize with the plight of others, endorse the opportunity to create positive change, and advocate – even praise – the endeavor on social media.

6 Social Media Lessons You Can Learn from YouTube Star PewDiePie
Platform: Philadelphia Business Journal

He is the King of YouTube. Felix Kjellberg, better known by his online alias, PewDiePie, is an extremely likeable Swedish guy who loves to comment on video games on YouTube. PewDiePie specializes in Let's Play videos of the horror and action video game genres – as well as commentaries to his fans, his Bros! Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported that PewDiePie, an unlikely megastar with an endearing modesty and zany energy, at the age of 24 earns $4 million a year, most of it pure profit. And no wonder, he has almost 30 million subscribers to his YouTube channel. He has over three million Twitter followers and 3.9 million Facebook Likes. On Google+ he has more than 750,000 followers and over 343 million views thanks to his hysterically entertaining approach to playing video and mobile games. Who is this guy?

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Software Development Company Service Level Agreements: Do You Need One?

When a business has a custom software solution designed for it—whether it is a completely new system or an integrated design—the implementation of the system is usually not the final step of the software development lifecycle.

After the solution is implemented, most software development companies offer monthly service plan agreements to ensure the software continues to perform and function optimally to meet the needs of the business. You made a large investment in custom software for your business so the question you must ask yourself is, “Do I really need to invest more money on a monthly software support plan?”

Benefits of a Software Support Plan 

As part of their software development services, a company’s plan or agreement will usually cover the following areas: ongoing maintenance and help desk support, proactive maintenance, and analysis of the system. Each one of these areas is valuable to ensure a business is running efficiently and help it stay ahead of its competitors.

So what can these different areas of service do for your business? Put simply, they can help you save time and money and stay competitive. “A company service level agreement gives a business a fixed budget,” says JP Lessard, President of Business Software Solutions at Miles Technologies. “They know they can keep their system up and running, and have proactive advice and consultation. It also keeps them more on the cutting edge of technology.” 

Having a software help desk team available as a support resource will not only help ensure that the system is functioning properly, but can assist with answering any questions and help users navigate their way through the software. “One key value of a service level agreement is that for a business, there is someone to back you up,” says Erik Grobelny, Lead Software Support Specialist at Miles Technologies. “If there is some sort of issue or a user needs help using the system, help is available under a software support plan. This decreases turnaround time.” 

Ongoing maintenance and monitoring of the software system is another invaluable resource a software development company can provide via its service plan. Take the example of an e-commerce site. If you are not on any kind of service plan, and there is an error with your site, it will not likely get noticed until it is reported by a customer if no one is monitoring the system. “If you are not on a plan and your site goes down, you have to wait for your customers or yourself to notice that,” says Lessard. 

“You could lose two or three days’ worth of sales by that time. If you are on a support plan, and we’re monitoring your site for you, we’ll know within five minutes of the site being down. Most times, we’ll have it solved even before the customer knows there’s an issue.” 

Having a service level agreement with a software development company is also valuable because there is an individual or team in the software development services that is familiar with the system designed specifically for your business. This makes troubleshooting faster, as support specialists know best where to look for common errors in the software. 

Optimal Function amidst Technological Advances 

Proactive maintenance and monitoring is key to make sure the solution continues to function amid the changing landscape of technology. Many custom software solutions—especially those designed for businesses—will integrate with some kind of third party software system. All web-based applications will need to work in web browsers such as Chrome, Firefox and Internet explorer. As part of a service level agreement, there can be a regular analysis to test whether all pieces of the system will continue to function with the changes in the browser or a third party system. “A plan will proactively monitor any third parties you do integrate with,” says Grobelny. “For example, if you integrate with FedEx to determine shipping charges for your e-commerce system, we’ll keep an eye on FedEx’s web service to see if it is going to update. We can proactively analyze what it would take keep your system working.” 

A regular systems analysis as part of software development services is also vital in ensuring a system’s optimal performance. As part of this analysis, the development company should keep logs of various aspects of the systems functionality from any processes slowing down the software to common issues that come into the helpdesk. This information is then analyzed and used to recommend changes to the system going forward. “We’ll try to figure out what parts of the system maybe should be changed to make it easier to use or make it more intuitive,” says Lessard. “We could even add some features because people are asking about it a lot on the helpdesk.” 

Much like the purchase of a car or a home, a custom software solution is an important investment for a company, so having it maintained and monitored by a team of experts is the best way to protect that investment. “Over time, you want to make sure you get the most out of that investment,” says Lessard. “So continuing to put a small investment—relative to your initial investment—in to make sure that things are running smooth is really important for a company.” 

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Thursday, August 7, 2014

Data Breach: P.F. Chang’s & U.S. Security Contractor Infiltrated – What’s The Lesson?

A company that performs background checks for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security reported on Wednesday, Aug. 6, it was the victim of a cyber attack, adding in a statement that it has all the markings of a state-sponsored attack.

According to published reports, including Reuters and the Washington Post, the computer breach at Falls Church, Virginia-based US Investigations Services (USIS) probably involved the theft of personal information about DHS employees.

USIS reports it is the biggest commercial provider of background investigations to the federal government, has over 5,700 employees and provides services in all U.S. states and territories, as well as abroad. DHS said it had suspended all work with the company amid an investigation by the FBI.

USIS issued the following statement: 

Our internal IT security team recently identified an apparent external cyber attack on the USIS corporate network. We immediately informed federal law enforcement, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and other relevant federal agencies. 

We are working closely with federal law enforcement authorities and have retained an independent computer forensics investigations firm to determine the precise nature and extent of any unlawful entry into our network. Experts who have reviewed the facts gathered to-date believe it has all the markings of a state-sponsored attack. 

Cybercrime and attacks of this nature have become an epidemic that impacts businesses, government agencies, and financial and educational institutions alike. The protection and safeguarding of our networks, our data and the data of our customers is always of the utmost importance, and we have invested heavily in security measures.

Earlier this week, P.F. Chang’s, the popular bistro, shared new details about a security breach discovered in June, reporting that customer data may have been stolen from no less than 33 restaurants in 16 states, including eight locations in California. The restaurant chain reported that credit card numbers, expiration dates and, in some cases, cardholder names were stolen over an eight-month period.

P.F. Chang’s first reported the data breach on June 13, noting the breach occurred between October 2013 and June 11. P.F. Chang's has about 211 locations in the U.S. and abroad. The company also operates Pei Wei Asian Diner, a more casual Asian restaurant chain with more than 190 U.S. locations, none of which were compromised.

Data breaches happen – all the time. 

It was recently reported by Forbes that Delaware Restaurant Association and Jimmy John’s sandwich chain were also the latest victims of reported massive data breaches. Earlier this week, news broke that a Russian gang hacked into more than 420,000 web and FTP sites, amassing 1.2 billion usernames, passwords and over 500 million email addresses – making the theft of 110 million people’s data during the Target hack seem trivial.

Let’s not forget the 150 million breached data from the hack of Adobe last year – a cyber attack that involved a reported 38 million active users. While we're at it, let’s throw in a reminder of eBay’s data breach in May, resulting in eBay’s entire user database being compromised – impacting usernames, contact information and even encrypted passwords.

What’s the lesson? 

Cyber Attackers Are Everywhere: Hackers do not target only large companies – or companies in any particular market or industry. All businesses must institute security awareness training to help educate workforces and eliminate mistakes that could easily lead to security breaches. Don’t think just because the data breach headlines are impacting P.F. Chang’s and eBay means that your business is not a target.

Encryption Policy Mandate: Businesses must institute an encryption policy, particularly in the age of the mobile workforce. To eliminate redundancy and reduce costs, many companies today have implemented a bring your own device (BYOD) policy for their employees. However, most IT consultant firms will attest that, without proper encryption strategies in place, security challenges – and threats – arise. Encryption measures, working in tandem with a strongly enforced network security policy, can help protect data.

Take All Measures: It’s not enough to protect data with one or two strategies in play. Firewalls, encryption software, content filters, passwords and virus protection are all mandates. If a business has a network connection to the Internet, a firewall may mean the difference between data breach and data security.

Revisit Your Security Strategy: Revisit your network monitoring and breach detection systems and procedures to make sure you are ready in case your business ends up a target. Any information technology services company will advise that complacency results in risk to your data. Keep current with the latest, and emerging, technologies and trends to protect your company’s data – and that of your clients, vendors and employees.

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Friday, July 25, 2014

What Did You Share Lately? DIY Success, Powering SEO Blogs & Driving Recurring Monthly Plans

Sharing content is a driving force in staying market sharp and trend aware! Miles Technologies actively shares expertise, observations and best practices with a variety of leading journalistic and market savvy platforms! Here’s a few of our recent shares – including a chat wrap featuring Miles Technologies on ScibbleLIVE and an interview featuring CEO Chris Miles on MSPmentor! Is your business working content – print, online, video, chats and more? Leveraging content in all varieties is marketing and branding gold when it comes to developing and sustaining thought leadership and keeping your business in the spotlight!

No formula exists for getting an advertising campaign to go viral. However, memorable campaigns do share common qualities. ScribbleLIVE talked to experts who work with companies firsthand on digital strategy. 

They shared views on what viral marketing means, the mindset for such approaches as well as what campaigns worked and why. One of the experts was Marie Alonso, content branding, brand publishing, social media and online marketing strategist at Miles Technologies. View the entire ScribbleLIVE chat, including videos and social shares! 

Miles Technologies ranked 71st on this year's MSPmentor 501 Global Edition. CEO Chris Miles attributes the success of his IT company to its focus on developing and implementing monthly service plans. Recently he told MSPmentor his company has embraced monthly service plans over the last few years, and the results have been significant. What's next on the company's agenda, and how will Chris Miles target future growth? MSPmentor has the answers.

You are taking all levels of effort to make sure your blog is branded, engaging and consistent, but are you powering it with SEO tactics to fuel an engagement from the most important of Internet entities – Google? Google loves to scour blogs and is happy (yes, happy) to reward genuine ‘white hat’ content. 

However, Google cannot reward what it cannot scrutinize. That means all of your hard work in building your blog’s brand awareness, positioning yourself as a thought leader, nurturing connections with social media influencers and generating timely, entertaining and relevant content are literally going to waste if the one entity with the most Internet mojo doesn’t realize you are even publishing. Blogging is content marketing. Blogging with SEO power is content marketing – with Google in mind!

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Are You Blogging Like Branson? Rounding Up Blogging Tips, Twitter's Mobile Ad Strategy & Avoiding Logo Backlash

Sharing content is a driving force in staying market sharp and trend aware! Miles Technologies actively shares expertise, observations and even the occasional musing with a variety of terrific journalistic and market savvy platforms! Here’s a few of our recent articles!

4 reasons your CEO should be blogging like Richard Branson
Platform: Philadelphia Business Journal

Do you know Richard Branson? Of course you do, you must have heard of him, or seen a post on LinkedIn by him, or his random tweet. Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson is an English business gazillionaire best known for founding Virgin Group, which is made up of more than 400 companies. He started his first business at age 16. He created innovative approaches for the mail-order record business. He is at home on the Forbes list of billionaires. He’s one of the richest men in the United Kingdom. The man is even promising commercial space flight! Guess what else Branson is famous for these days? Blogging!

Twitter’s Strategy To Dominate Mobile Ads Now Includes TapCommerce
Platform: Small Business Trends

Twitter is aggressively building a competitive foundation to dominate mobile advertising! TapCommerce is a venture-backed mobile technology company headquartered in New York City’s Union Square – and it is also now in Twitter’s nest. Twitter has reportedly acquired the mobile advertising technology firm for $100 million to position itself to boost its mobile advertising capabilities, with a focus on advertising retargeting technologies. By 2017, mobile apps will be downloaded more than 268 billion times, generating revenue of more than $77 billion and making apps one of the most popular computing tools for users across the globe, according to Gartner, a leading information technology research and advisory company. As a result, Gartner predicts that mobile users will provide personalized data streams to more than 100 apps and services every day. Brian Blau, Research Director at Gartner said, “In the next three to four years, apps will no longer be simply confined to smartphones and tablets, but will impact a wider set of devices, from home appliances to cars and wearable devices.”  By 2017, Gartner predicts that wearable devices will drive 50 percent of total app interactions.

4 Ways To Avoid the Logo Backlash Airbnb is Experiencing
Platform: Small Business Trends

Poor Airbnb. The San Francisco company that is an online marketplace for people to list, discover and book unique accommodations in more than 34,000 cities and 190 countries around the world, recently launched a new logo. Airbnb took great pride in its new logo too, debuting a design the company felt would inspire others to social share, even emulate. Why? What happened? How could a company with a clear creative energy and a good sense of web design and social media engagement go so horribly wrong, seemingly, when it came to the launch of its new logo? Are there too many critics out there? Are people just…mean? The answer lies in a fickle reality: Interpretation. Airbnb was criticized, analyzed and ridiculed. There were even viral videos created mocking the newly designed Airbnb logo. How can you avoid logo backlash?

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

What's Your Online Marketing Game? Tyrion Lannister's 4 Tips To Winning Online Marketing

In HBO’s mega hit Game of Thrones, of all the characters boldly populating Westeros and Essos, there is one that stands above all - Tyrion Lannister.

The third and youngest child of the atrocious, always calculating and abusively ruthless Tywin Lannister, it may at first seem as though intuitive, even at times sympathetic, Tyrion is at a disadvantage. In his world, he’s considered a malformed dwarf. His mother died giving birth to him – solidifying his powerful father’s hatred of his very existence. Obstacles, challenges and disappointments face him daily.

Yet, intelligent, irreverent, insightful and even lovable, Tyrion soldiers forward. He’s well aware of the bad hand life’s dealt him – and he embraces it. He knows people don’t take him seriously, and he counts on that most of the time. Tyrion is resourceful, leveraging brains over brawn to structure opportunities. He pays attention to his landscape and makes good use of every trick, tool and clever idea he comes across. Tyrion is also a gifted communicator – realizing that content can be a very powerful weapon.

So, what four tips would Tyrion Lannister offer to help bolster your online marketing

Let’s find out!

"I understand how this game is played."
- Tyrion Lannister

Do you really understand what online marketing is all about? Tyrion would be disappointed with anything less. Until you understand why you are doing online marketing, how can you succeed at it? The digital landscape for today’s marketers is constantly churning, with new tools and techniques in play. Take the time to develop and evaluate your online marketing plan. Explore what benefits paid organic social amplification may deliver. Solidify a content marketing agenda that represents your brand and supports your social platforms. Until you understand that blogging, social media and email marketing are just as critical as PPC (Pay-Per-Click) and Google AdWords, you are not really mastering the game of online marketing. Online marketing is about total engagement – on multiple platforms – of prospective clients and brand ambassadors. Understand how the game is played, and conversions will appear.

"Never forget what you are. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you.”
- Tyrion Lannister

Your online marketing campaign needs to be a coherent one. All cylinders need to be firing at the same pace – and working toward the same goal. Never forget what you are trying to let the world know about your business or your brand. Online marketing is a game of opportunity – a game to build brand loyalists, attract new leads and achieve SEO power.  Whether social media updates or Google AdWords fine tuning is the task of the moment, make sure there is a consistency of thought at play. Tie all efforts to the services, expertise and philosophy of your company. Never forget what you are trying to say – and sell – about your business.

“A mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone.”
- Tyrion Lannister

Tyrion is an avid reader. Intellectually strong, he realizes knowledge is an unending path. There is always something new to learn, something new to exploit – or create. Online marketing is no different. There are limitless opportunities to leverage new technologies and strategies. You cannot maintain a winning online marketing campaign if it is touched by complacency. To remain competitive, your online marketing efforts must continually evolve, leveraging the latest and most effective digital marketing tools. If conversion tracking is top priority, pay close attention to keyword strategies. If social media popularity is pressing, optimize marketing tools to enhance Facebook advertising and LinkedIn updates. To succeed, your online marketing campaign must be in a state of constant development to stay sharp.

“Those are brave men knocking at our door…Let’s go kill them!”
- Tyrion Lannister

Tyrion isn’t afraid of competition. Online marketing is a game played best by those willing to admit defeat and embrace the chance to triumph. Online marketing allows you to target local customers. Is your competition beating you at local SEO? Does your competition have a PPC campaign that is case study good? Get fired up! You too can have great success in mobile marketing, social media advertising and even geo-targeting! Determine areas of weakness in your existing online marketing campaign and turn those weaknesses into strengths. Before long, your competition will hear you knocking at their doors!

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Monday, July 7, 2014

Q&A: Chris Guido Talks CRM, Gamification, Working Your Leads & Your Most Valuable Feedback

Chris Guido
Chris Guido can talk CRM - anytime, anywhere! As Senior Business Software Consultant at Miles Technologies, Chris provides consultation and recommendations to clients across a wide variety of industries for improving business processes, company analytics and reporting, and software and technology optimization.

Highly respected for his expertise, Chris performs advanced analysis of client business operations, identifying areas of need and implementing technology solutions. An Advanced QuickBooks Pro Advisor and SalesForce Partner Administrator, he works with clients to identify and implement packaged software solutions for improving the overall efficiency of business operations.

Focusing on his CRM (Customer Relationship Management) expertise, Chris provides project management and strategic business analysis to clients of Miles Technologies - deploying a host of successful projects and programs. Chris always stays cutting edge on the latest CRM technologies while engaging project stakeholders in a truly collaborative experience.

So, what are the big CRM trends Chris is all over these days?

Let's find out!

Chris, what are the biggest trends currently in CRM – and what are CMOs most looking to achieve with CRM today?

One of the biggest trends that is starting to come to the forefront is the necessity for cohesiveness between the marketing team and sales team.  The collaboration between these two teams is vital in understanding what is working, what is not working and how marketing and sales efforts can be improved.

CMOs need to gather feedback from the sales staff to understand whether they are targeting and capturing QUALIFIED leads, that is leads that are worth pursuing and provide the largest return on investment as it relates to marketing expenditures.  A CMO wants to know if they are spending money on the right campaigns, marketing through the correct channels (email marketing, Social Media, Adwords, etc.), and they want to understand whether or not they are attracting buyers appropriately to products and services.

The other significant trend that is showing up is the ability to instantly access and produce valuable data. Data analytics is becoming more and more prevalent for all businesses and is becoming its own area of expertise. The ability to dig through data and identify trends and themes provides valuable insight to today's marketing efforts. CRM applications and many other analytics tools are becoming available for marketers to utilize. These utilities allow users to dig in and get their hands dirty with all of this information.  A  major benefit is that these tools are able to provide ad hoc reports that can be produced with a simple click of the button rather than going through and manually compiling data.

How can businesses optimize mobile CRM and social CRM in their marketing campaigns?

As the technological world continues to advance and the demand for instant access to information increases, businesses must be prepared to embrace this rather than shy away from it.  When exploring your options for choosing the appropriate CRM application, both mobile access and the platforms that it can glean information from are crucial to consider.

Regarding mobile access, this has become more of requirement than a 'nice to have' feature.  Sales staff used to travel with notes and business cards with critical information regarding their prospects and customers. Now they travel with smartphones, tablets and laptops. With the ability to immediately access data comes the expectation that they should be able to instantly access data. Many developers of CRM applications are becoming increasingly aware of this and are either providing completely web-based applications or web-based components which tie-in to their CRM database.

One major piece that is often overlooked when choosing a CRM application is whether those sites are responsive and work well regardless of which type of mobile device you are utilizing.  Having a web-based CRM system is all well and good, but if it is difficult to input and access data then it will be less likely to be utilized.  Having a responsive CRM application that is easy to access and simple for data entry will accelerate adoption and increase usage.

Regarding social media, it isn’t going anywhere and is becoming more and more prevalent in the marketing world.  They all provide paid ads and are a great opportunity to get in front of millions of potential customers.  A CRM application that can capture information from social media and track key pieces of information can be an extremely powerful tool.  In the earlier days, users were much less likely to click on those “You could win a million dollars” banner ads.  As the interfaces have changed those ads have become more welcoming and have noticed a significantly increased click through rate from the past.  Do not ignore social media in your marketing and sales processes; business owners have LinkedIn, marketers have their own Twitter accounts and accounting staff use Facebook. As of 2012, 33 percent of users currently follow a branded social media account. That was over a 100 percent increase from 2010.

Neglecting metrics? Ignoring user requirements? What are the biggest CRM mistakes impacting businesses today? 

There are two major mistakes I see many business makes regarding customer management:

Take advantage of those leads you get.  Businesses pay a lot of money for each lead that comes in the door and it is foolish to let those slip through your fingers.  Between paying for marketing efforts, such as Adwords, marketers salaries, content creation, and paying for sales staff each of those leads costs a pretty penny.  To not fully nurture those leads can be extremely detrimental to your own pockets.  It is critical to ensure that you have a crisp sales and lead nurturing process in place.  Prospects and customers in the past typically expected a response within one business day.  If that is still you’re philosophy then you are in trouble.  A recent poll indicated that 33 percent of consumers now expect a response time within 1 hour (9 percent expect it within 5 minutes!!). I presume this number will continue to increase.  If a prospect does not hear back from you quickly, they may have already moved on to the next vendor and you have lost that lead. A CRM application will ensure that you are able to implement processes to streamline the handoff, responsiveness, and to provide pricing in the most timely manner.

Not taking advantage of your current customer database.  There is a gold mine in the customer database you have already built up.  By analyzing the purchasing trends and habits of your existing customers you may be able to identify additional areas for cross selling, upselling and reselling to them.  This can benefit your marketers efforts greatly and assists in identifying many new potential opportunities.

Three-quarters of CMOs believe that marketing will undergo fundamental changes over the next five years. Yet 79 percent of those responding to the 2014 CMO Insights Survey from Accenture Interactive do not feel their company is prepared for the digital shift. What are your thoughts?

Prepare, prepare, prepare.  The most successful companies out there have  knack for forward thinking, and not dwelling on the past, what worked yesterday, may (read probably) not work tomorrow.  Take a queue form some of the largest companies out there, Google, Amazon, Apple. They continue to evolve and try new things.  They have their failures, but they ultimately have learned from them and have adjusted their approach.  But one thing  that is common is that they perform their research and execute or reassess their approach.  Small and medium size business can do the same without the billion dollar budget.  Talk to you peers, see what other business like yours are doing, view demos of new applications and marketing approaches.  Knowledge is an extremely powerful tool and will provide you with a leg up in the advancement of marketing efforts.

How can marketers ensure that their business is delivering an effective customer experience? 

Your most valuable feedback comes from the one person that matters most - your customer.  With the advent of social media and the exposure that it provides, you can now gather valuable information regarding how your customers feel about your company and products.  If you are not utilizing social media (and you should be), you can always utilize a customer survey request as well, but either way you should be getting feedback and input from your customers. This allows for two things. The first is the ability to truly understand how your customers feel about your company and products.  This should not be dismissed, and don’t just pay attention to the positive and ignore the negative. Remember, one bad review cancels out 10 good reviews.  The second is that it allows a company to put a personality behind their business name. Customers resonate with a company and are much more likely to buy from them when they feel like they are working with other human beings, and being treated as such, rather than just another sales figure.

CRM systems have largely evolved independently of other enterprise systems such as ERP and business intelligence. But with more and more data being required for customer analysis and the repercussions of error rippling across the organization, CRM can no longer stand alone. What are your thoughts?

This is true, CRM has always been somewhat of an afterthought to ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems and CRM systems typically do not concern themselves with all of the other applications a business is using.  This can no longer work, your customers are an integral part to your business - obviously.  They tie in with just about everything that your business does: Accounting, Inventory Management, Marketing, Collections and so on. What is the purpose of keeping these systems separate?

When identifying applications, and this really applies across software applications, it should always be explored as to whether these systems can be integrated together or housed under a single application.  Many of the old concerns included thinking such as 'Well I don’t want John Salesman having access to critical accounting data', or 'I do not want Sally Marketer getting access to inventory information.'  The truly powerful applications will allow for segmentation of user roles and grant access to only areas of the system that they need.  When considering a CRM and ERP, and any other software applications, always consider the totality of the application and not just the sum of the parts.

What’s gamification? 

Ah, one of my favorites and one I am truly a sucker for at the moment! As someone who grew up in the golden age of video games and competing for high scores this is a really cool marketing effort that is increasing the use of websites and applications. Gamification is the concept of providing users with a rewards or a trophy for completing a defined task or set of tasks, and really, who doesn’t like having a shiny trophy to show off to people.  Gamification can be applied in a  number of ways such as checking in at certain places, purchasing certain items, referring a certain number of people and the list goes on.

Marketers can really be extremely creative with this approach and has provided many existing companies with a significant rise on customer growth and site activity.  This approach takes advantage of a person’s inherent nature to want to feel accomplished or reach a particular goal.  People take pride in this as it is typically a very high motivator for most individuals. In short, people like to be rewarded for the effort they put forth.  The term gamer goes well beyond the video game realm and can be an amazing approach for marketers to attract and maintain customers.

When it comes to CRM, some brands are finding that content can be four times more effective than a traditional marketing campaign. These same brands are driving content niches that they feel they can own – sometimes even in niches that may have little direct relation to the products they market. Companies that are leading in content include Nike and Red Bull. Do you agree that content is driving CRM strategies?

That is a really good point.  Old marketing methods used the ‘hey, look at me and my products’ approach. I believe that many consumers do not like this and feel as those you are attempting to force your product upon them.  Consumers like the idea of choice and free will.  This is where strong content comes in to play. Allowing people to search for you is a skill that comes with practice and can be a valuable asset.  With the constant bombardment of information and incredible access we have to information today, searches are being performed - it is critical that your business shows up when people are searching. There were 1.2 trillion Google searches in 2012, yes trillion!

Getting relevant content out on the internet is extremely important.  We have new stories and current events every single day that people flood to and are then gone in an instant.  Being able to quickly produce content as it relates to something important that is going on in society or your industry can provide a massive swell of site traffic and new prospects - if you time it correctly.  Every day I think about what is going on and what I am searching for and what I imagine others are searching for too.  You should do this as well and think about content pieces that can be quickly produced and published for public consumption, as content is an integral component in effective online marketing and CRM strategies.

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