So you Think it is EASY to Make Money with Technology?

Maybe yes, and maybe no.   Have you checked the price of Facebook stock lately?    For all the huge number of global Facebook users there is still the issue of “how are you going to make money?”    Facebook is still struggling on how best to answer this question — and the stock price reflects the difficulty in turning eyeballs into purchasers.   The latest effort has to do with mobile users.  Forbes reports that of Facebook’s billion users 60 percent access Facebook at least monthly on mobile and 70 percent of these users are daily Facebook mobile users.

Now we’re getting closer.

Cell phones can track a user’s location via GPS (global positioning).  While you’re cruising Facebook you may be near a store having a sale who just sent you a special offer on Facebook.   Now we’re talking about using technology to make money!

Along with those ads Forbes tells us that “Facebook has a plethora of new mobile ad products including Mobile App Install and News Feed which is now taking in $4 million per day, 75 percent of which comes from mobile. Facebook Exchange allows businesses to capture users browsing history resulting in more targeted advertising.”

In this brave new world of technology which is changing at an ever increasing pace we have to change the way we think about marketing, sales and even the internet.   We have to grab our prospects in near real time and in near real space (where they physically are located).   It seems that Facebook may finally be finding a way to monetize those billion users!

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Harvard studies Social Media

Harvard researchers have studied why social media has become so all prevalent.  How come so many folks are willing — even compelled — to share every thought, movement, like and want through mediums like Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Instagram and Pinterest.   I’m even a bit “hooked” on Foursquare — which tracks my movement!

Researchers conducted experiments with the results showing that the act of disclosing information about oneself activates the same sensation of pleasure in the brain that we get from eating food, getting money or having sex. Who  knew?

This may help explain recent surveys of Internet use that show that roughly 80% of posts to social media sites like Twitter and Facebook consist simply of announcements about one’s own immediate experience.

It’s a Virtual World

I’m sitting on my sofa, with my notebook on my lap.   The TV is providing background noise, and when I search for a thought I look up, and out the french door to the beautiful, sunny day outside.   We’re living in a virtual world.

How many of us spend a day or more a week telecommuting?   I’ve been dong so for well over 15 years, and find that my days at home are far more productive than those in the office.  In the office people stop me in the hall to ask about my weekend, or how my son is doing in Track.   As I sit down to work I’m called into an impromptu meeting that turns into 90 minutes gone from the day with very little accomplished.   With impatience I realize that all these distractions will result in working at home tonight — just to get done the work I planned to do today.

The good news is that relationships are important — without the give and take nothing would ever really get done.  I realize this, and yet so much more solid work gets done when I can sit quietly, with the coffee cup beside me and the sun shinning outside my french door.

It is easier than ever to make money with technology!

Today it is easier than ever before to make money with technology.    In the “old” days one had to invest in very expensive mainframe or minicomputers – or in server farms.   Today with cloud based computing it is actually possible to make money with technology with nothing more than an inexpensive PC.

In the “old days” one had to spend time and money to learn complex programming languages (like C, COBOL, or Java), operating systems (UNIX, MVS, Microsoft), and networking platforms. . .  Today there are many tools that will do the work for you — just use a graphical interface and the program generates the code for you!

Today it isn’t even necessary to develop apps for smart phones or iPads — making money with technology can be as simple as making YouTube videos (have people buy ads on your page), or sell things on eBay — or do freelance writing from your home.

With a little bit of entrepreneurship it is easier than ever to make money with technology, and as we enter 2012 I will explore some of these avenues.  Happy New Year!

Teradata Buys Aprimo

Ten years ago (wow, how time flies!) I was a Director at Teradata Corporation.  Teradata   Teradata was the first relational database management (RDBMS) company to focus on crunching huge amounts of data for analysis.  Traditionally database software was used to access the same data (information) from various applications.

You see, in the “old days” data was stored inside of applications and this meant when you wanted to find out information about “Sandra Eisenberg” each application kept a copy of information pertaining to “Sandra Eisenberg” and there was much repetition,  duplicated data (taking up expensive storage space) and it was impossible to get one whole picture of a customer (or other data elements) outside of the one application.

Thus database management systems were born — and they were mostly (and still are mostly) used for accessing information on the spur of the moment — customer service reps, supply chains, financial data, etc.

Teradata had recognition that all that data was in actuality INFORMATION.  Valuable information.  An early customer was Wal-Mart who was able to determine that certain products sold better in certain locations (maybe Dayton, Ohio users like Colgate and San Francisco users like Crest toothpaste). . .  By knowing what was selling, how quickly it was selling Wal-Mart was able to stop offering sales on stuff that was selling any way and not give valuable shelf space to items that were not selling well in specific stores. . .  Information became power!

Teradata currently has over 1,000 customers and over 2,500 installations of its specialized database management software.   Wal-Mart is still a customer as are other major retailers.   Most large players in all industries, including Telecom, Hospitality, Travel, etc. are Teradata users.

This was and is the key to the success of Teradata.   Great company!

These days there are many competitors to Teradata — some the traditional database vendors  and some who focused directly on competing head to head with Teradata on its home front (like Netezza, now part of IBM) and Greenplum — so to stay ahead Teradata must continue to innovate and acquire.

Which brings me to this blog post.  Teradata recently purchased Aprimo for a cool half a billion dollars. 

Aprimo is an industry leader in cloud-based integrated marketing software – also known as Marketing Resource Management (MRM).  Aprimo claims over 150,000 marketers from 40 countries use its software —  including 36% of the Fortune 100.   In 2009 the company reported revenue of $69 million—f 15% growth from 2008 in an economy very few saw growth in.   Those customers have tapped into a market leading solution, recognized as such by the Gartner Group.    For the past three years Aprimo has also been a  “Leader” in Gartner Group’s Marketing Resource Management (MRM) Magic Quadrant report.

The acquisition leap frogged Teradata into a market-leading position in Integrated Marketing Management.    The cloud is key to the future, and the acquisition (if integrated properly) will tie Teradata’s leading analytics technology and Aprimo’s cloud-based marketing performance applications.   This should be a huge win for Teradata — who acquired both a leading edge and complimentary technology and a great customer base into which it can cross-sell and up-sell its data warehouse technologies.

The key will be how well Teradata executes bringing the two firms together — something it has not always done well in the past.    Only time will tell, but it was a great chess move.

Making Prospecting more Profitable

When you get right down to brass tacks making money means selling something PROFITABLY.   I capitalize the word “profitably” because far too many become enamored of acquiring new customers or up-selling existing ones, but they don’t keep the eye on whether they really are making money or if the cost of goods sold (COGS) means a loss of money.

The only time you should ever lose money on a sale is when you do so consciously.   It may well be that to garner a “marquee” name customer who can be referenced to encourage others in a given industry to buy from you sell something at a loss.  When and if you do lose money on a sale you should do so with eyes wide open aware that it is a sales tool itself to gain more profitable sales.

We’re all here to make money, and if you do not know the cost of making a sale odds are you are losing money.

Tools to keep you informed are many:  from financial software to manage your “books” which include ERP (enterprise resource plannng) and CRM (customer relationship management).    We’ve discussed a few of these tools in this blog — tools aimed at start-ups, mid-size companies all the way to the Fortune 100 — tools which can help you make money profitably if used appropriately.

Which brings me (finally) to the topic of this blog:  software that helps you optimize your CRM sales funnel.

A sales funnel is the concept that to make one sale you must have X number of sales “leads” (potential customers) who become  “suspects” (research shows they could use your offer) lined up that you can target and then winnow them down to “prospects.”  Prospects are qualified businesses who could benefit from your offers — whether they know it or not.  They have budget, they have a need and you can help them meet their own goals.  The key in funnel management is to turn those prospects into customers — and in each step of the sales process of many “suspects” you will find only a few “prospects” and even fewer of them will turn into customers.

Even in the age of social media you still have to identify potential customers and somehow you need to make them aware that you have a service or a product they will find valuable. . .  the methods for reaching them may be changing, but the fundamentals remain the same.

There is a very old saying in the computer industry — about as old as the industry itself.  Surely you have heard the term GIGO (garbage in / garbage out).   You must fill your sales funnel, but if you fill it with lots of names that do not have the potential to be a customer your “funnel management” is poor and your sales profitability will also be low.

To acquire profitable customers (new ones) or even identify what you can up-sell or cross-sell to existing customers you must have a way of identifying qualified leads from the very beginning.     Cisco (the leading communications vendor) credits a company named eTrigue with increasing their SMB (small / medium business) sales appointments by 25% through just such pinpoint targeting of potential customers.

Linda Fassig-Knauer, (a Cisco marketing programs manager)  is the one making the claim about eTrigue and  3Marketeers (advertising, marketing, and demand generation/lead generation) for better lead generation:

“eTrigue Intelligent lead scoring helps us determine which technology or offer the prospect is most interested in discussing with our sales teams and enables us to funnel those leads in a timely manner to our call center, who ultimately sends to our channel partners,” says Fassig-Knauer, “The information in eTrigue lead scoring gives us three times the information so our call center agents are much more prepared before a call. It also greatly increases the number of prospects we can identify as being interested in a solution because the system does not require the customer/prospect to register.”

Salesforce.com CRM users can view active prospects in eTrigue’s demand generation application within Salesforce — making it easy to use for sales reps.    eTrigue won an award from DemandGen for its work with Cisco.

Given the fact that the economy is still slow you need to find a way to do more with less.  Your sales reps need to be more efficient than ever.  Tools like the cloud based SaaS (software as a service) Salesforce.com teamed with a demand generation tool like eTrigue  can fill your funnel with  a higher number of better-qualified leads faster, less expensively and with fewer resources.

You need to identify suspects and then you need to pinpoint target valuable information to them (using CRM with integrated email campaign tools and social media tools as well as the good old fashioned telephone!).  Doing more with less in these times means working smart with inexpensive but highly valuable tools.   Take a cue from Cisco and from Codice Software, who saw a 225% increase in qualified leads, and a 50% increase in actionable sales leads when it used eTrigue.  Response rates went up by 160% versus the same period the prior year.

Another customer, Silver Peak, generated 30% more programs without additional staff.  The cost is much lower than hiring more people — although if you get enough good leads you may need to put more feet on the street!

If you are using Salesforce.com I highly recommend that you take a look at eTrigue and see if automating your sales funnel demand generation makes sense.

Four Money Making Project Management Tools

One of the biggest mistakes small and even medium sized businesses make is flying by the seat of their pants.  They have a great idea and once they do their “due diligence and finish editing the business plan they think they can focus on getting the product to market and meeting with the prospects.

The problem is if you do not have a plan then you are planning to fail.  Old sayings often have a way of being true!  The way to key your eye on the ball and ensure you get to market in time to make the “marketing window” (before technology of a competitor passes you by) you need to know when you are going to get to market and what your feature set will be.  The best way to do this is with a project plan.

For as little as $18 a month you can go with cloud-based 5PM.   You can even start with their free trial to see if it does make financial sense for your company.

The two best things about 5PM are its price, and its simplicity.  The last thing you need to do while you are starting a new business is get bogged down learning new technology.  You can easily waste cycles “becoming productive” while your time and money burns up.   What you need to make money is a tool that can jump start you quickly and painlessly — giving you more time to be productive.

5PM has five great attributes. It helps with  project tracking to keep you focused, it keeps you organized, information flows among you and your team mates — and of course it does  project management.

Here is a screen shot — you can see that the layout is intuitive and very straight forward.  Most of the stuff you need to know about a project stays on the front page so at a glance you can see where the project is (on time, in trouble. . .).

This is a good and inexpensive project management tool which is great at keeping teams together in.

It is not alone.  There are three other good tools to consider if you are looking for a quick project management solution.   Basecamp is another.    Big companies like Kellogs and Addidas use Basecamp, but it is also a great choice for freelancers or start-ups.  On their home page they proudly proclaim that Over 5 million people worldwide have used Basecamp to collaborate on over 4 million projects, track 57 million hours of work, share 46 million files, and complete 43 million to-dos.

Basecamp is actually more well known than 5PM.   You can import data from Basecamp to 5PM.   You can get a 30 day trial of Basecamp but then it is pricier than 5PM.  $49 to $99 a month compared to a starting price of $18 for 5PM.

Two other options are PB Works and Wizhive.

Yada Yada YaData

When it comes to making money with technology a key is knowing who your customers are, what they buy (and why they buy it) — so that you can then offer them the products and services that they need.   It is much easier to sell new products and services to existing customers than to attract a new customer — and a great new technology that allows you to discover unique customer segments one that does micro-segmentation.

Recently Microsoft acquired YaData, a company with a software tool that  provides advertisers with richer targeting capabilities than they could otherwise have — CRM business intelligence.  This software makes money for its users by more pinpoint targeting of what sells and how to offer complimentary offers.

Marketers for years worked with anecdotal information (a successful sale here being exploited in ads, or marketing what the competitors are selling.  With micro-segmentation science is now clearly identifying what sells.

One great thing about YaData is that it includes segment discovery.  Normally data mining (being able to make “what if I did this?” type of questions based on existing data) requires us humans to make the initial assumption.  The problem with this is that our assumptions may be wrong and we waste a lot of time going down a path that is not fruitful.

YaData has behavioral targeting tools within its online advertising platform, which lets marketers provide more focused and relevant advertising.    The benefit includes  better ROI for advertisers, higher yields for publishers and more on target advertising for consumers.  The software discovers and managemes market segments (rather than having people identify the segments as with traditional data mining). YaData uses a search engine, and the system is designed to discover consumer behavior patterns and then sort them into segments.  This actually has a name all its own:  segmentation relationship management (SRM).   The YaData engine can analyze companies’ quantitative databases on the basis of hundreds of variables, in order to create clusters.

Interesting enough, YaData originally received much of its funding from Oracle, only to be sold to Microsoft!  Strange world!

A Belated Congratulations!

Hal Howard has been promoted to corporate vice president of Microsoft Dynamics ERP Research and Development, from general manager.  Hal is an amazing person, who has overseen the four ERP solutions Microsoft acquired years ago Dynamics AX was Axapta, Dynamics GP was Great Plains · Dynamics NAV  was Navision, and Dynamics SL was Solomon. . . and the terrific Microsoft Dynamics CRM which is modeled after Microsoft’s email product, Outlook.

I’m very late on my congrats — as this happened in January.  Oops, sorry it took me so long to notice, Hal!  Still, no one deserves it more.

Speaking of the Dynamics family, there is news on that front from Convergence 2010 Europe.   Both the ERP products and the CRM offer have done very well, and the CRM product has penetrated the Fortune 500 — not its initial target.  It was initially aimed at small and medium sized businesses.   Unlike many CRM platforms, Dynamics does not cost a fortune to implement.  The “big boy” CRM suites cost at least $1 in professional services to integrate it and customize it for every $1 spent on the purchase.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM integrates with Outlook so most people can be productive on day one — it is not a huge learning or integration curve — although it can be customized and integrated if need be.   Now at Convergence 2010 Europe the long awaited cloud (SaaS — software as a service) version is said to be available very soon.

This aims Microsoft Dynamics CRM squarely at Salesforce.com — the leader in SaaS CRM.    Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 and Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online will have launch events sometime in January 2011.   The beta of Dynamics CRM 2011 is currently available, having been released in September.  If you want to check it out, now is a perfect opportunity!

Since this blog is about making money (or saving money) with technology — which is the goal of good customer relations facilitated by CRM — definitely take a look at the beta of CRM 2011 and also consider the very attractive  promotional price for Dynamics CRM Online of $34 (31 Euros) per user per month for the first year of service.   This price is available to new customers and will start when Dynamics CRM Online is launched in January. The offer will end on June 30, 2011.

Again, congratulations Hal!

What is the REAL Unemployment Rate?

The government quotes the U-3 figure for unemployment in the United States, but this is a very misleading number.  The U-3 does not take into account people who have fallen off of the unemployment insurance band wagon (and even with extensions many people no longer are eligible for unemployment insurance if they’ve been out of work long enough).

The U-3 also ignores people who have looked so long with no success that they have stopped looking for work out of sheer frustration.  It also ignores people who have taken freelance work or temp work or minimum wage work just to have some money coming in.

There are so many people I know who used to have six figure jobs in sales, marketing, PR, award winning journalists, researchers for the like of the Gartner Group, Senior Vice Presidents at AT&T, and more who are now either forced into retirement they can’t afford or in low paying jobs.  At the same time I know foreigners from various third world countries who are living in America on Green Cards of H1B visas who are doing jobs Americans would LOVE to do.  The employers are paying the foreigners less than they would pay Americans — and yet the wages are higher than what these Americans are forced to take (if they can even FIND work).   Employers keep lobbying the Congress (don’t get me started with what I think of our government!) to keep hiring foreigners claiming they can’t find qualified Americans. . .

This is just so much BS.  There are many qualified Americans and those who don’t have a 100% match on qualifications can easily be trained on new skills rather than hiring foreigners either imported to America or outsourced to other countries.

Part of the problem definitely lies with the government who taxes businesses making it cost effective for them to hire foreigners or ship our jobs overseas.  The government is hurting efforts to get America working again, not helping.

The REAL unemployment rate is nearly one out of four Americans out of work.  Yes, one out of four, or if you want to be optimistic, one out of five Americans can’t find work.  The seasonally-adjusted SGS Alternate Unemployment Rate shows between 20-25% unemployed (see the chart).

Elections are coming soon.  Who you vote for is up to you and I’m not going to recommend any party or candidate over another — I do ask that you do a little research and discover just who your candidate has taken money from, and if they are currently in office just what have they voted for?  The cost of H1B visas have been raised by Congress, but “big deal.”

US Senator, Mr Chuck Grassley, tried to pass a bill restricting abuse of H-1B and L1 visas, but it was killed on the Senate floor.   It was blocked by Democrats he said.  Don’t blame the Dems.  The Offshoring Act (designed to block jobs from being outsourced over seas) was blocked by Republicans.   Bad news for Americans looking for jobs — but no doubt the Dems and Republicans in question got fat fees from the foreign countries wanting American money and jobs.

I’m sick and tired of seeing our economy flounder.  As Ross Perot said years ago, “that sucking sound you hear are your jobs going over seas.”   Good old Ross was right!

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