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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Thursday, June 26, 2014

What's Up? HubSpot’s Timothy Dearlove On Why Content Marketing Isn’t A Shortcut. Plus, 4 Tips to Surviving a Viral Hoax

Creating and sharing content is a driving force in staying market sharp and trend aware today! Miles Technologies actively shares expertise, observations, interviews and even the occasional musing with a variety of strong journalistic and market savvy platforms! Topics range from cloud computing, online marketing and IT security tips to social media strategies, inbound content advice and reactions to the latest news - always plenty to talk about! Here’s a few of our most recent articles!

HubSpot’s Timothy Dearlove On Why Content Marketing Isn’t A Shortcut
Platform: Small Business Trends

Timothy Dearlove is a Senior Channel Consultant at HubSpot. Recently, Tim shared his inbound content marketing perspectives with Marie Alonso, content strategist and online marketing specialist at Miles Technologies. Marie shared it with Small Business Trends!

What did Tim have to say? Tim believes you have to start with a pretty basic principle when it comes to creating a successful content plan. You need to care. When you write with passion your audience can tell. Competition for eyeballs and attention span is high online. As a writer you are competing against lots of other free content. One factor that separates good content from great content is how much the writer cares about the subject material. Tim also discusses his views on infographics (guess what, he's not a super huge fan!) and he reminds us that a website page’s ability to rank depends, in part, on the quantity and quality of the sites linking to that page. Producing a fantastic blog post is something other people will want to reference in their own content. One piece of advice Tim gives to his customers when it comes to producing content that garners links is to write a blog post that other writers would want to use as a reference for their own work.

4 Tips to Surviving a Viral Hoax
Platform: Social Media Today

A viral story that outraged millions and turned the nation’s collective disapproving gaze directly at KFC was all a hoax. Assuming the incident never took place and the social media frenzy over it really was just fuel for a hoax, KFC is the victim. Here are four tips to face a social media hoax with authority, integrity and dignity – even if the world thinks you are in the wrong.

The first tip? Take Control - Fast. An allegation was waged – an opinion cast. Face it with honesty. Do not immediately rush to dispute. Do rush to acknowledge. Recognize concerns. Control the situation. Take steps to investigate and be ready to share your findings. At all times, portray an honestly and sincerity – demonstrate integrity as you seek out the truth. Leverage social media to reflect your position and share updates. Reach out to appropriate media sources to convey your position, concerns and actions. Issue a press release if necessary – demonstrating your commitment to righting a wrong, or correcting a hoax. See the remaining tips on Social Media Today.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Cut IT Spending in Half and Accomplish More (Free eGuide)

IT budgets aren't easy.

Worldwide IT spending is expected to grow to $3.8 trillion this year, according to The Gartner Worldwide IT Spending Forecast.

Trying to keep your technology budget and spending in check is always a headache, isn’t it? Technology is so crucial to businesses today that it’s difficult to cut IT spending and still grow your business and accomplish your goals.

Need help? Download this free eGuide and you'll find:
  • 5 specific ways to significantly cut IT spending and improve productivity.
  • Detailed vendor negotiation tips.
  • And more!

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Friday, June 20, 2014

Great News - Hopefully! Small Business Optimism Index Hits Highest Level Since 2007

Recently, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) released the May edition of its Small Business Optimism Index, and it’s great news! According to the NFIB, small businesses are continuing to show confidence as the impact of the harsh winter fades. Whether an IT company, manufacturing firm or other enterprise, the positive NFIB news rings a sweet note - and signals some real hope.

The index rose 1.4 points in May to 96.6, the third straight monthly gain. It’s also the index’s highest reading since September 2007. Media coverage of the index sees the rise as a sign that the situation for small businesses is improving and small-business owners have recovered all of the optimism lost during the Great Recession.

Still, while the improvement is certainly good news, the current reading of 96.6 is still “below average” and far from what is considered to be an expansion level.

“May’s numbers bring the Index to its’ highest level since September 2007. However, the four components most closely related to GDP and employment growth - job openings, job creation plans, inventory and capital spending plans - collectively fell 1 point in May. So the entire gain in optimism was driven by soft components such as expectations about sales and business conditions,” reports Bill Dunkelberg, NFIB Chief Economist. “With prices being raised more frequently in response to rising labor and higher energy costs it is clear that small businesses are unwilling to invest in an uncertain future. As long as this is the case the economy will continue to be ‘bifurcated,’ with the small-business sector not pulling its historical weight in the GDP numbers.”

Miles Technologies regularly contributes market observations, technology perspectives, marketing expertise and more to a number of influential journalistic platforms, including The VAR Guy

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Getting to Know the Role: Software Support Specialist

It is rare to find a business these days that doesn’t rely on some kind of software as an integral part of its day to day operations. Whether it’s ERP or CRM systems to manage customers and resources or QuickBooks to manage finances, most business need their software to function properly in order to keep their operations flowing. As most of us can likely attest to, the software systems we use don’t always behave exactly as we want them to. Whether it’s a completely custom system or even a small integration, any software system in use needs to have a strong support behind it. This is where the Software Support Specialist comes into play.

The Software Support Specialist is the primary point of contact for users who come across issues with their software systems. It is their job to answer customer questions and troubleshoot any issues that arise. If they are able to identify the source of the problem, they can work with the user to recommend a solution or pass the information along to the development team for further investigation. Since the Support Specialist is involved with various stages of the software development lifecycle, he or she is able to gain a unique understanding of the system and can develop a process for troubleshooting various systems.

In addition to familiarity with software and strong troubleshooting skills, what else does it
take to work in software support? JP Lessard, President, Business Software Solutions at Miles Technologies, and Erik Grobelny, Lead Software Support Specialist at Miles Technologies, listed the “Six C’s,” which are qualities they look for in strong support candidates. They are:

Confident: a strong and reassuring phone presence when interacting with customers

Communicative: the ability to communicate at a fairly technical level with developers, and translate that conversation into “plain English” when speaking to a customer

Consultative: the skill to solve the issue facing you now AND help avoid similar situations for this customer and others in the future by making good recommendations and following through on them

Calm, Cool & Collected: software can be frustrating for the majority of the people in the world & you need to be their “anchor” to help get them through whatever situation has arisen

These qualities are some of the most important ones a Software Support Specialists can have. In addition to these, Lessard also identifies one other vital quality that he believes is essential to the role. “You need to be empathetic,” he says. “If you put yourself in the customer’s shoes and see from their perspective, your ability to find a solution that works for them drastically improves.”  

Having the right knowledge and experience is also important for the position. Lessard and Grobelny identified some of the technologies they believe an individual working in software support needs to be moth familiar with. Some of the key ones they mentioned are: Microsoft Windows and Office, QuickBooks, various web browsers (Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari), application usage on smart phones, and remote desktop and other remote control solutions. Having previous experience with network troubleshooting, database structures and web-based applications is also a plus.

The Software Support Specialist role is a perfect position for someone who is interested in working with software, but doesn’t necessarily just want to be a programmer. This position is a great role for a “people person,” who is interested in interacting with everyone from customers to development team members to any other third party. These interactions are very valuable, as those in the role are not only able to further their software knowledge, but also gain a better understanding of businesses and their operations. If an individual has career aspirations for a role such as Quality Assurance, Systems Analysis and Design or Project Management, then the Software Support position is certainly the best place to start and gain exposure. 

For further information on this topic, check out the following video that shows how the role can fit with your career ambitions. 

Do You Aspire to work in Software Support? Miles Technologies is always ready to hire great people! Click here to read more about the position and submit an application. For more information on Business Software by Miles Technologies and Careers at Miles Technologies, contact us today!

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