Want proof that cloud computing has completely revolutionized the way every industry operates? Try this out -- go to Google.com and type "Impact of Cloud Computing on." You will see the autocomplete feature listing out a bunch of different industries, from education to healthcare, telecom, and information technology. As a person who advises companies on their technology deployment strategies, nothing has excited me more than the growth of cloud computing and the impact it has had in the way different businesses function. Here are a few tools that have brought about the greatest impact.
There used to be a time when ERP was a software solely deployed by the Fortune 500s. The average cost of implementing ERP used to be as high as $500,000 on average and still, there was a probability for the deployment failing the objectives. Cloud has brought ERP to the masses. SMBs today regularly turn to ERP systems to help them bring greater efficiency into their system. The sales module of ERP, called the Customer Relationship Management (CRM), is a massive business in itself today with companies like Salesforce leading the pack. Cloud ERP providers like NetSuite and Epicor own large chunks of market share in the ERP market.
Digital marketing has been around for a while. Despite the advantages that it offers, the process still involves laborious tasks which are time consuming. Marketing automation is a cloud based service that massively reduces the time that business owners need to spend on such routine tasks, thereby ensuring precision and optimization of business resources. Some of the leading marketing automation services include Eloqua (acquired by Oracle) and Marketo.
Traditional marketing has always been outbound -- advertising, trade shows, cold calls, etc. But with the advent of the cloud, inbound marketing has taken off exponentially. Blogging, Video tutorials, social media marketing, and self-published books are all examples of inbound marketing techniques that have been possible due to the ease of use of cloud based tools. HubSpot, YouTube, CreateSpace, and Facebook are all examples of cloud hosted services that have enabled the rise of inbound marketing.
It seems like a long time ago, but there used to be a time when all visitor tracking on websites needed to be done using server log files. Over the past decade, cloud based analytics services have virtually eliminated the need to have hosted solutions. Google Analytics is without doubt the most popular service for businesses to track leads on their website platform. But that aside, there are also services like Omniture and Adobe Marketing Cloud that are extremely popular among B2B as well as B2C companies.
Managing a sales cycle is one of the most tedious aspects of a business. Depending on your industry and the product you sell, the sales cycle can be anywhere between days and several months. Managing multiple prospects that are in various stages of the cycle can be a pretty painful and complex process. Before the advent of cloud computing, sales managers used regular spreadsheet documents like MS Excel to keep track of this information. But for a profession that requires people to constantly be on the move, this is hardly the optimal solution. Sales cycle management today is done primarily through cloud-based tools starting with Office 365 (MS Office on the cloud) to dedicated tools from Zoho and Salesforce. It's also now possible for sales professionals to constantly track leads from anywhere using these cloud based tools.
What other aspects of marketing do you think have been impacted by cloud computing? Tell us in the comments below.
Ian McGrath is chief consultant at Bridge Consulting.
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The digital industry is comprised of an odd bunch of characters. There are the data folks who love to look at numbers, the technology folks writing lines and lines of code, creative people who make things beautiful and inspiring -- and the standard cast of characters (accountants, administrative support staff, etc.) who help make a business run. So, how do you as a leader inspire a group of people with such an array of interests?
Over the years, I've worked in a lot of different roles in the digital space and learned a lot from some great leaders as well as some not so great leaders. While we're quick to discredit the bad bosses we've had, it's important to recognize that sometimes learning what not to do can be more important than learning what to do right. So, with that said, here are some of the best practices I try to implement (and yes, sometimes I miss too).
Now that it seems pretty much everybody on the planet has a smartphone -- and has it on nearly every minute -- no one should be surprised that mobile commerce is going crazy.
Mary Meeker, in her annual look at internet trends, recently concluded that smartphone use has exploded in the last five years and will continue to climb dramatically. Deloitte Digital now says that smartphones are driving $539 billion in in-store purchases by helping consumers find stores, compare prices, and learn about products. And eMarketer says 125 million Americans are using smartphones today while they shop.
But here's something that is a surprise: Consumer's use of smartphones is growing so quickly that many retailers are essentially in the position of playing catch up. Sure, they know that mobile phone traffic to their sites is growing dramatically, but they also realize that even so, smartphone revenue remains tiny by comparison.
Maybe we shouldn't be surprised. Anyone who's used a smartphone (and OK, that's approaching everyone) knows the determination it takes to shop with one: small screens, tiny keyboards, impossible credit card forms to fill out, and the need to scroll and scroll and scroll.
"Mobile e-commerce websites are not set up for transactions because of various issues," says Siva Kumar, CEO of TheFind, a Mountain View shopping comparison site, "including the fact about stubby fingers and pop-ups and pop-unders."
And adding to that, the smartphone is a tool that consumers use in particular ways, Kumar says. A shopper might pull an iPhone out at a store to research a product. Or maybe a driver (or preferably a passenger) sees a billboard and wants to check out the item being advertised. Or maybe a couch potato is watching T.V. and wants to begin looking for that next pair of skinny jeans (might be time to get off the couch). None of these examples result in a sale on the smartphone, but all of which might result in a sale some time. Think of that as the "mobile influence," revenue that Deloitte Digital estimates is about 15 times the size of revenue attributed directly to mobile purchases.
Some numbers to consider: eMarketer recently reported that figures from e-commerce platform MarketLive show that smartphone traffic to retail sites has increased from nearly 18 percent in 2012 to just over 28 percent in 2013. At the same time, e-commerce revenue generated by smartphone purchases rose from 2.3 percent of the total to 3.9 percent.
That might sound good -- traffic up, revenue up -- but think about it for a second: Nearly 30 percent of traffic is coming from smartphones, but not even 4 percent of sales can be attributed to the devices. And even those increases have more to do with the mega-trend of rapidly growing e-commerce than anything retailers are doing right, says Andy Smith, co-author of "The Dragonfly Effect: Quick, Effective, and Powerful Ways To Use Social Media to Drive Social Change."
"Bigger commerce sites have really been lagging in terms of being smart about how they change the shopping experience to adapt to the mobile device," says Smith, a Silicon Valley digital marketing consultant.
And for many retailers, the worst part is that they don't know exactly what's happening to those smartphone visitors who stop by their online emporiums, but don't buy. Are they returning later on laptops or desktops? Are they coming to the retailers' brick-and-mortar store to buy? Or are they browsing the aisles of an online competitor, like Amazon, for instance.
We're not really sure how one comes up with this idea, nor are we able to understand why anyone would volunteer to take part in it. We will say, however, that it makes for an entertaining (yet cringeworthy) watch.
Many brands have jumped on the content marketing bandwagon, and for good reason. It seems like the next evolution in effective marketing is content, and brands are increasingly becoming publishers to establish expertise in their space.
However, there are still several mistakes brands are making when entering the content game. Here are the main culprits.
Despite the rise of new technologies and techniques, marketing has largely stayed the same. New data-driven targeting methods are just a more precise form of the kind of targeting marketers have been doing for years, and geo-hyper-local approaches are yet another way to better execute concepts that we know work.
Every once in a while, though, a technology comes around that truly changes how we think about marketing. There is no question that social media has dramatically impacted the relationship between brands and audiences, for instance -- but I am not going to talk about that here. Similarly, real-time bidding and programmatic media buying have transformed some of the most fundamental ways we think about reaching audiences via advertising -- but I am not going to talk about that either.
What's really changing the face of marketing is the confluence of those trends -- the phenomenon of real-time advertising. In a nutshell, this is the practice of recognizing trends and topics as they emerge and then instantly tailoring an ad campaign to reach audiences when they are engaged in conversations about those trends. Yes, on the one hand we have been doing this via social channels for a while -- think Oreo during Super Bowl 2013, or JC Penney's during the 2014 Oscars. A lot of brands see this as just another form of ad targeting. But, peel back a layer, and you see that it changes some of our fundamental marketing operating principles -- namely, how marketers identify the types of people to push ads to.
Consider how brands and agencies define audiences today. At a minimum, audiences are labeled and given a list of attributes. How many times have you heard, "We want to reach college-educated, upper-middle class moms"? One step more sophisticated is the persona. A bit more valuable, a persona attempts to put a little meat on the bone by describing an audience group's situation, their intent and even a bit about their personality: "We want to reach college-educated, upper-middle class moms who want to feed their children healthy meals." The intent is right on -- audiences are not comprised of flat demographics; they are people with interests and goals. Personas head in that direction. But they stop short.
This is because they are static. They never change, no matter how much that audience may grow or change. I have seen agencies and marketers use the same personas for years. But audiences are not static. In fact, they are highly dynamic with interests that change daily, weekly and even by the minute -- and the internet has essentially thrown gasoline on that fire. We have accepted defining audiences with static personas when in reality we know (because we are part of those audiences) that our attention constantly changes, and we engage in all kinds of different conversations over time. Just think about how many different websites you have visited this morning -- some for work, some for your kids, some because you wanted a laugh.
That is what real-time advertising captures, recognizes, and delivers. Beyond the value of placing your advertising where your audience is looking at that moment, it also returns insight back to the brand about what that audience cares about in real-time and over a period of time.
Imagine a brand that runs an ongoing real-time advertising campaign, much like they might run search advertising. Over the course of a year, they connect audiences with relevant topics every day and test those connections by tracking advertising performance. With this information, they now move beyond the classic static persona and start to build a more dynamic persona that better accounts for interests as they change over time.
This approach can illuminate a number of compelling audience attributes. For example, let's say you know your mom audience is interested in recipes. That makes logical sense because she wants her children to eat healthy. But, what else is that audience interested in? They can't possibly only care about recipes 365 days per year. Real-time, trend-driven advertising connects audience interests you knew about to those you didn't. Perhaps your recipe-loving moms might also be interested in education (logical), tennis (makes sense) and hip hop (what? Cool!). More importantly, you can evaluate what kind of ad inventory is associated with those topics and you can see how the moms engaged with advertising placed against each of those topics.
At the end of the day, this information creates a moment-by-moment view of what your audience is interested in and how they respond to it in an advertising environment. Take a few steps back and you may find that there are trends based on time of week, time of month, or time of year -- for instance, maybe moms really only care about recipes on Sunday when they're planning for the week, and the rest of the time, they don't cast a second glance at food blogs or magazines. Interests you knew existed may become more or less important over time or change when associated with big events -- maybe moms change their routine and go crazy for recipes at Thanksgiving. Topics and interests you had no idea existed may emerge to suddenly deliver significant ad performance and thereby inform ad creative, media targeting, and other marketing strategies.
The point is, we all know we aren't static human beings. It is time advertisers moved past the moldy old ad personas and embraced a dynamic, real-time approach to defining audiences. Maybe moms' ad response rates skyrocket whenever Kanye releases a new album. Then again, maybe not. But you'll never know if you aren't advertising in real-time.
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Your product or service is totally awesome, completely stellar, and everyone who interacts with your brand becomes an immediate advocate. Obviously you love to hear all of this amazing feedback, as you sit in your office. But are your leads and other possible customers being exposed to these amazing reviews? Are you collecting these reviews and stories in a strategic way to repurpose for the benefit of your company? If not, you really should be.
Studies show that a recommendation carries weight for customers and are sometimes even more important than price or the brand name itself.
Taking the conversation to online outlets, Nielsen reports that 70 percent of consumers trust earned media (online recommendations, comments, reviews) posted online, and 50 percent trust information sent in emails from the brand -- much higher percentages than any form of advertisement.
So, now you know customers want this information, but how do you get it? From text stories, to photos of a product being used, to testimonial videos -- there are many forms reviews can take, but the key is figuring out what collection method is the most appropriate for attracting the type of reviews you are looking for:
Polls or questions
Something as simple as an open ended Facebook question, or asking your online audience to vote on what they like most about your brand, can lead to collecting an abundance of reviews.
Since users aren't as apt to write incredibly long or detailed reviews in the form of a social media comment, hosting a contest that has a small incentive can encourage people to expand on why they love a brand. Incentivizing reviews also allows you to get content that would typically have a higher participation barrier for your audience. Launching a photo contest, or asking users to upload a testimonial video, is likely to be more successful when there is a prize at stake.
If you sell a physical product, you likely have a review section on your website (and if you don't, you need one ASAP!). Look at these reviews to collect useful feedback from your customers.
Social listening can be as basic as searching your brand name in Twitter or a relevant hashtag and gathering feedback, to a more sophisticated program in which all mentions of your brand across the Internet are tracked.
Now that you have all of these reviews, how are you going to use them? There are studies all across the web espousing the benefits of positive consumer reviews on possible buyers, in different contexts. Never fear -- we have highlighted a few of our favorite best practices below, so that you don't need to dig them up on your own.
Consumers want to read your blog -- in fact, 46 percent of consumers say they read the blogs of their favorite brands -- so if you have amazing reviews on a brand new product, wouldn't you want your already loyal audience base to see those?
If you take another look at that chart you just scanned past, you can see that 25 percent of consumers indicate that they seek out social media sites for information and content about a brand. If you already have a solid base of fans, why not turn them into brand ambassadors? They've already told you how much they love your product (remember, you asked them in a status update!), now get their help in extending the reach of reviews by sharing it to their personal online networks. Take short yet powerful quotes from your customers that you received through contests, on your social media properties, or through customer reviews; and turn them into sharable images you can use across your social sites.
Features on website/product page
We're not just talking about the review section that people have to scroll down to read, but instead highlighting a review at the top of a page, above the fold, where people can easily see and read. Customers are actively searching for reviews, so make accessing these reviews easy for them.
Feature in emails
Including relevant videos in emails to targeted lists as part of lifecycle messaging can increase time spent viewing the email, click through rates, and email sharing. Consider including a small customer review module in emails that either extols the brand, or a product that is also featured in the email content.
How are you gathering and using customer reviews?
Fulfillment by Amazon, or FBA, is a recent service offered by this e-commerce juggernaut to expose small and medium brands to the global commerce world. FBA allows brands to store their products and content at Amazon Fulfillment centers and have Amazon pick, pack, and ship the merchandise to anyone who orders it. This service is making it possible for small retailers to operate globally because its products can move around the globe with Amazon's expert assistance. Plus, because Amazon Prime members enjoy free two-day shipping, small brands can say goodbye to shipping costs by driving sales through the channel. FBA is a tool that brands have just scratched the surface of, and how it affects e-commerce for small companies is an exciting prospect yet to be seen.
Prices online should be nimble, flexible, and responsive in real time to supply and demand. With the amount of online competition out there and consumers' easy access to price comparisons, it's incredibly easy to see if you are offering unfairly high prices when the market doesn't dictate it. Frequently, your brand should be adjusting the price tags of your products on Amazon to reflect market demand and stay competitive. Brands who don't let their prices adapt to the market look lazy -- or even worse -- up to no good.
Amazon is, well, what it sounds like. It's a massive jungle of products, services, and content that have made it one of the most popular and successful e-commerce platforms on the web. Consumers love one-stop-shopping, and they have come to expect it in the online world. Consumers don't want their e-commerce experience to take them from site to site, directing them to even more niche places to buy products. If you're not sending Amazon a good amount of your content, you run the risk of losing customers to competitors that have kept up inventory. Consumers want to add anything they desire to their online shopping carts, and if you're not making it easy, they have no qualms about jumping ship to another brand.
Few know more about how to successfully position your brand on this platform like Jay Allen, VP of online marketing for FootSmart, a 25-year-old shoe and accessory brand that has expertly embraced digital. Here's his advice on what you may be doing wrong, and how to make changes that give your brand the strongest presence on Amazon.
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Article written and video edited by senior media producer David Zaleski.
"Closeup photo of Amazon icon on mobile phone screen" image via Shutterstock and Alexander Supertramp.
What kind of LinkedIn'er are you? Do you set it and forget it for the day when you may actually start looking for a job? Or do you stir constantly, with an always-on consumption and update of projects, skills, and shared articles? LinkedIn wants you to be the latter, as it increases its aspirations of changing the way members see its service. LinkedIn wants you in the feed, sharing, writing, and commenting on your professional life the same way you do with your personal life on other networks.
To this end, one tactic LinkedIn has used is creating an ever-evolving, invite-only collection of influencers who share thoughts and insights on their relative industries and specialities. Some of these are the usual suspects like Richard Branson, Guy Kawasaki, and Arianna Huffington, but there are others who may be more difficult to find, but offer tip-worthy advice worth seeking out.
So, if you are in marketing or advertising, here are six influencers to follow on LinkedIn (that you may have never heard about).
Conductor announced 50 new hires in Q1 and Q2, its new VP of Global sales Kerry Ancheta, an office expansion in NYC, an office opening in San Francisco, and the launch of Content Insights + Analytics.
Cutwater announced the arrival of Simone Nobili as creative director.
Deutsch LA announced that it has hired Zach Gallagher as EVP, director of digital strategy.
Drawbridge announced that Brian Ferrario has been tasked with taking the company's marketing efforts to the next level as its new vice president of marketing.
Dstillery announced the opening of a new 30,000 square foot office space in midtown Manhattan.
Evolve Media announced a partnership with Moat to help Evolve audit the viewability of all of its web properties, all of which reach more than 93 million people globally each month.
G/O Digital released the results of its new study, "Facebook Advertising: The Social Commerce Lifeline for Small Businesses."
JW Player announced that customers Baeblemusic, SnagFilms, and RiffTrax are using JW Player with Chromecast integration for their video player deployments, enabling users to interact with their content through their television sets.
Kwittken, one of the fastest growing PR agencies, announced its appointment as FreshDirect's PR Agency of Record.
Latin3 announced the launch of Social Lead Generation, a monitoring solution for sales, powered by Socialmetrix.
Live Nation hired Mike Finnegan as VP, programmatic and product innovation.
LiveIntent announced the hire of Ali Swerdlow as the company's first-ever vice president of industry relations.
PostUp announced the new hire of Robin Green as the company's vice president of sales. The announcement follows PostUp's recent rebranding and acquisition by Transition Capital Partners and Petra Capital Partners.
Republica announced its inclusion once again on Inc. magazine's exclusive list of the 5000 fastest-growing private companies in America.
Savile Row Society (SRS) announced the addition of four new personal stylists in their New York City-based showroom.
Searchmetrics announced the appointment of Robyn Forman as vice president of marketing.
SHIFT announced the hire of agency veteran Andrea Wolinetz as vice president of agency partnerships.
Simulmedia announced that it has hired Jayme Beth Frieder as senior director of sales, a newly-created position. The company also promoted Julie Nolan to chief people officer.
Sizmek announced the acquisition of Aerify Media, a company specializing in mobile tracking and retargeting.
Vdopia announced Saurabh Bhatia as its new CEO, Srikanth Kakani as CTO, and Chhavi Upadhyay as president.
Viralheat announced an integration partnership with SugarCRM.
wywy, a Germany-based cross-screen advertising and real time TV-ad tracking company, announced the appointment of Alan Ives as its vice president sales and business development, North America.
Yieldbot announced the appointment of Scott Portugal as GM of its Publisher Platform.
Editor's note: This column publishes twice per month, and we are always looking for industry announcements, so please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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