The Strategic Trifecta of Data Usage for Customer-Centric Marketing

Effectively employing data to create successful customer-centric marketing environments is the goal of marketers everywhere. Accomplishing this requires coordinating outbound communications so that they create a positive customer experience. Further, it’s imperative that all communications are easily distributed via all channels–and via all devices and media that an organization is utilizing.

This is the foundation for any marketing strategy. It creates a unified public appearance and, most importantly, a unified customer experience that reaches all clients and vendors.

However, when it comes to crunching the data required to achieve this goal, things get murky. That’s because the data can come from a wide variety of sources, and it won’t always correlate with and corroborate internally collected information.

What can be done about this? Adopt a three-pronged approach.

The Triple Crown Approach

Businesses that want winning marketing campaigns are well-served to abide by the following trifecta of tips. Each is designed to help a business collect the data, unify it, and deploy marketing strategies that align with what the data reveals.

  1. Centralize information collection and management. It is imperative that data be collected and stored at a single point. All online and offline data should be gathered and stored within one highly protected system that is accessible only to those who need access to it. Further, the data collection parameters should be unified so that the same data is collected in the same way from all sources.
  2. Create a consistent channel-based approach. Consistency is essential to controlling the customer experience within the parameters that an organization sets. Accomplishing this requires creating seamless transitions between the various channels that customers are accessing. From the customer standpoint, it’s a game of connect the dots, and the easier an organization makes it to move from “point A” to “point B,” the greater the level of customer satisfaction.
  3. Personalize the experience. Evolve as the customer evolves. In the military, there’s a saying that “no plan survives first contact with the enemy.” Effectively, it’s a way of saying that to stay alive, one must adapt to changing circumstances. The same is true in business. If a business wants to continue reaching its customers, it must constantly adapt its strategies to meet the clients’ needs. Businesses must continually refine the message and alter delivery strategies as required. More importantly, it means that in order for customers to feel as if a company cares about their business, the message must be honed to resonate with their requirements and expectations.

Companies that follow this three-step approach set themselves on the path toward achieving the triple crown: a win for the marketing team, a win for the customer, and a win for the business’s bottom line.

SMBs Poised to Fuel the Cloud Services Market

If there’s a need for more proof that the cloud services market is here to stay for the foreseeable future, research from Compass Intelligence on small and medium-sized businesses (SMB) demonstrates it.  The cloud services market as a whole is growing, and the SMB sector is one of the fastest-growing areas.

Currently, there are more than 12 million SMBs in the U.S.–and 22 million worldwide–and they’re already spending more than $150 billion on telecom services.  This sector is growing rapidly and has been for the last decade.   As a result, the SMB cloud market currently has a 40 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR), and it’s projected to remain so for at least the next five years.

What’s driving the high CAGR?

1 – Lower Barriers to Entry

One of the biggest factors driving SMB cloud adoption is that the Internet is making it far easier for small and medium-sized businesses to get started.  When all someone needs is a website to have a business, that means a lot of hungry SMBs looking to grab customers any way they can.

2 – Reduced Need for Expertise On-Staff

Currently, 70 percent of SMB cloud spending comes from companies with five to 99 employees.  Companies on the low end of that scale simply might not have the budget for an extensive list of contracted experts.  Being able to outsource matters like IT management or CMS (content management system) platforms means companies can focus on their core business without spending their budget on in-house experts.

3 – Increased Data-Handling Regulations

In most of the high-tech countries around the world, more regulations are being implemented concerning the proper handling of data, especially confidential customer information.  Regulations on storage, access, and length-of-retention can change rapidly, but the responsibility is on businesses to be informed of the regulations and to comply with them.

SMBs lacking on-site expertise increasingly need industry partners who can ensure their regulatory compliance.  Otherwise, the financial penalties from even a single data breach can be ruinous.

4 – Simplified Contact Pathways

One area experiencing large booms, even within the cloud industry, is that of telecoms offering direct hosting for computer systems.  Besides allowing SMBs to remain relevant to existing customers, this allows SMBs to pare down the list of contacts handling their services.

Being able to consolidate all telecom-related tech support to a single partner is a major selling point for SMBs who are currently juggling too many vendors.

5 – Predictable Billing

Most SMBs are running on tight month-to-month or even week-to-week budgets, and they cannot afford to have significant spikes in service fees.  Since most cloud vendors offer guaranteed contracted rates and sometimes even include hardware upgrades with their fees, it makes both IT and telecom expenses far more predictable from a budgeting perspective.

If a SMB has had one or two “near misses” with an unexpected service bill that nearly breaks the budget, that SMB will be listening when a cloud provider says it can eliminate that uncertainty.

How to Grow the Cloud Business

The cloud industry is booming among SMBs, who are ready and willing to pay for services that bring convenience and cost savings. Cloud providers that can illustrate these benefits to SMBs will grow their client portfolio, and the SMB clients will be better poised to focus on their core business without unnecessary distractions.

VoIP Brings Big Benefits to Any Business

After over a century of relying on copper wire telephone communications, something better has finally come along.

VoIP systems, which send voice communications over the Internet rather than through the telephone companies, are currently taking over business communication practically unimpeded. Adoption is growing steadily and, once a company embraces VoIP, most don’t go back to the old ways.

Why are so many companies making the switch to VoIP? There are plenty of great reasons.

 

4 Ways VoIP Brings Major Improvements to Any Organization

1. Vastly Lower Prices

For many companies, the infrastructure or technical superiorities of VoIP are simply a side benefit, and the choice to convert is purely financial. Many find that VoIP has the ability to slash a company’s monthly communications budget.

Most copper wire and cell phone communications require users to pay by the minute. On the other hand, VoIP pricing typically includes unlimited use and is usually contracted on a per-user basis. It’s even possible to eliminate the need for an external phone provider entirely by installing PBX translation systems in-house.

In this scenario, the business would be paying nothing for their ongoing communications besides raw bandwidth fees, and bandwidth is cheap.

2. Unified Communications

When a company moves its phone services to VoIP, it is putting all their communications onto the same data network. In turn, this means voice services can be freely mixed-and-matched with other communications options, such as videoconferencing.

Format-shifting also becomes simplified. Phone conversations can be recorded as data and then encoded to MP3 for emailing or automatically transcribed to text. This can bring company-wide benefits, including improving customer service efficiency and making it easier for HR to sort through job applicants.

3. Improved Telecommuting

Many businesses are facing issues with employee work-life balance. In a globally minded organization, employees need to be available at any time of the day to respond to worldwide market shifts in real time. However, many employees also desire to have a personal life, and it can make it difficult to retain those who feel overly burdened by these shifts.

VoIP opens up a true world of telecommuting options and can make remote collaboration just as efficient as in-person work. For a workforce already stressed by 24/7 business cycle demands, this can offer a huge morale boost.

4. Per-Employee Customization Options

VoIP also decentralizes some aspects of a phone network and puts them within reach of everyday employees. For example, a company using a copper wire system has to use a centralized Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system with the same basic menu servicing all employees.

In a VoIP environment, employees can set up their own IVR with customized menu options that fit their jobs and responsibilities. They could even add their own personalized hold music.

Other options include custom message routing, “Find Me / Follow Me” employee-location services, and even XML-based scripting for handling complex system automation.

The Future of Business Telecom Is VoIP

While the old phone companies are sure to be in business for some time yet, a shift toward VoIP is clear: IP-based communications offer easier access, lower prices, and more customization options than copper could ever provide.

It truly is the next-generation voice system and is likely to become the new foundation for online business communications for years to come.

6 Reasons Why Independent Telecom Agents Make More Sense

Businesses have more options in telecommunications and Telecom Partners than ever before. What was once a straightforward process of picking a telephone service has expanded into a world full of competing services and Agents looking for the best deal.

Why should a company choose an Independent Telecom Agent rather than going directly to providers? There are a number of reasons why this makes the most sense for a company looking to maximize the benefits of their communications investment.

1. The widest variety of custom options

Telecom Agents, especially those with years of experience, are familiar with dozens of players in the market, including plenty of niche services catering to specific needs. These are often very hard for a business to uncover on their own when sifting through all of the available choices. Telecom Agents will know how to match up businesses to the right services.

2. A single point of contact

It’s extremely rare for a company to receive all communications services from a single provider. Utilizing an Independent Telecom Agent means they can select from all the services available, without creating a maze of conflicting support contacts. The Independent Agent acts a sole point of contact and handles all the details.

3. Personalized strategy and solutions

An Independent Agent has far more time to work directly with a business and analyze future business plans. Few, if any, direct providers will be willing to offer that sort of personalized service. An Independent Agent can develop true long-term strategies for telecommunications growth, while helping clients stay on track throughout the years.

4. No quotas

Telecom Agents make money by successfully matching businesses to services and then keeping those businesses as customers for months or years. They’re not under quota or pressured to sell specific bundles of services. There’s more incentive to find custom solutions for clients, rather than pushing “one-size-fits-all” bundles.

5. Fewer merger concerns

Another potential issue when working directly with providers is the high rate of mergers and acquisitions in the industry. Businesses and consumers can have issues maintaining service plans when one provider is purchased by another. In some cases, users end up in contracts with providers they never wanted. Businesses can largely avoid this problem when using an Independent Agent.

6. Exclusive deals and offers

It’s counterintuitive, but in many cases Independent Agents will have access to special deals or bargains that even the provider sales representatives cannot offer. Many Independent Agents have special relationships with providers, and they can pass those savings onto their clients. This just adds to the overall value they can offer businesses.

Businesses don’t have to navigate telecom alone

In the current telecom market, there are very few good reasons to go directly to a service provider. Independent Agents can provide better deals and planning than most providers. This certainly creates a compelling argument for using Independent Agents when buying telecommunications services.

4 Trends Influencing the Selling and Buying of IT Security Solutions

Technology and market trends are influencing the evolution that is taking place in the IT security landscape. Big Data, mobility, the Cloud, and the Internet of Things have made dramatic changes in IT network accessibility, flexibility, agility, overall performance, and most important of all, IT security.

However, risks are part of doing business and IT security is a present and real concern — from infrastructure to servers, applications, and endpoint devices. In recent years, security breaches resulting in huge financial and reputation losses have not been rare. The Target Corporation data breach, the JP Morgan Chase hack, and the millions of potentially compromised user records at Adobe are security eye-openers that can be remedied with proper security measures.

Cybercrime will continue to grow and have bottom-line financial impact due to ongoing and new vulnerabilities.

Cyber attacks are a reality and attackers are seeing more opportunities in the Cloud and the “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) environment. They employ targeted attacks, advanced persistent threats (APTs), and other evasive techniques without being detected, at least for some time.

It’s important Cloud providers and businesses work together to craft a comprehensive service level agreement (SLA). It should include a fail-proof security provision to serve the customer’s unique needs. Company IT departments should likewise review BYOD programs and implement secure mobile device management (MDM) solutions.

Customers place higher priority on functionality over cost.

IT security cost is a big consideration, but recent Gatepoint Research respondents were more interested in how security solutions can meet unique requirements. For instance, can the solutions do what they are looking for? More than the ease of use, can the solutions meet their objectives? Will they spend only for the features they need?

Another Gatepoint Research discovery is the growing IT security budgets in mid-sized, retail, and health care companies.

Publicized hacks in the retail and health care sectors have resulted in massive credit card thefts and patient data exposure, respectively. Such developments offer an opportunity for vendors, Service Providers, Telecom Agents, Solutions Providers, and other IT security sales channels to step up marketing and sales efforts in these market segments. IT security sellers must understand buyer behaviors and the nature of security needs in these sectors amid changing technology trends.

The security basics are indispensable.

Telecom Agents and the rest of the IT security sales chain need to revisit the basic security programs of their customers. Virus protection is still a key security option in all layers of the security network. Mobile storage security can be achieved through hard drive, flash drive, and optical disc encryption as well as implementing anti-malware solutions, remote management, and options to wipe out lost, stolen, or compromised devices. Secure logging, authentication, and encryption also ensure a more efficient and protected IT security infrastructure.

With the growing intensity and sophistication of cybercrime, a purposeful effort at proactive threat detection and prevention is ever better now than a struggle at recovery and reconstruction later. Overall, sellers who exude a sincere concern for their customers’ IT security needs will always win more business.

5 Tips to Preserve Successful Telecom Alliances

In a massively networked world, telecommunications play the crucial role of connecting people, devices, and processes in the information community anytime and anywhere. Globalization, digitization, and intensifying competition are the driving forces behind the on-going telecom alliance movement where simple licensing agreements, affiliate marketing efforts, joint ventures, consortiums, mergers, and acquisitions are becoming increasingly common.

In a paper titled,“Strategic Alliances in the Telecommunications Sector,” author Eva Meurling, LL.M., states that about 80% of all strategic alliances are dissolved at an early stage because they do not achieve the desired goals. Often, partners fail to do their part of the bargain in terms of finance, marketing, management, and technology. More significantly, partners frequently gave insufficient attention to the underlying factors that create truly lasting alliances. Here are some of them:

Choice of Partners

Alliances come in different forms and sizes and from divergent locations.Telecom operators can partner with each other, or with other players in the field, such as non-telecom companies, telecom agents, Value-Added Resellers (VARs), or managed service providers (MSPs). Choosing the right partner is the first logical step to forging a meaningful alliance that fulfills the partners’ mutual needs. This early stage determines whether a potential partnership offers the right mix of resources, capabilities, and commitment that will add value to the new alliance.

Mapping  Alliance Goals with Clarity

By diligently learning about each other’s objectives and agreeing on them, partners are better able to plan a common direction for their alliance. Partners must clearly map out:

  • A shared purpose
  • The processes by which the agreed purpose is to be realized
  • The performance expectations of the strategic alliance

Documenting the Alliance Agreement 

Putting every term, condition, and provision on paper ensures that the rights of all the partners are properly protected during and after the life of the alliance. A formal agreement also serves as a reference document for duties and responsibilities, accountability, disputes, claims, and other legal issues. More importantly, the partnership contract functions as a general guide to the future development of the alliance, ensuring that it is in accordance with the agreed-upon objectives and plans.

Trust and Credibility

Partners depend on each other to share information in order to satisfy mutual goals. Trust depends on a complete awareness of each partner’s true intentions, honesty about problems, openness to disagreement, and the commitment to maintaining confidentiality of trade secrets and key information. Credibility means that each partner believes in the other’s capabilities. Credible partners are expected to share knowledge and competencies freely in a spirit of cooperation and collaboration.

Communicating and Validating

Communication in alliances should be a two-way process where messages are sent, received, and responded to efficiently. Regularly validating that messages have been received, and understood as intended, helps partners bond better and so cultivate a robust alliance. Listening is an important component of effective communication. It not only develops transparency, openness, and a clear understanding of issues, but also generates new ideas to foster healthy relationships.

The telecommunications market is one of the largest economic sectors of the world. Analysts foresee a growth in strategic alliances as telecom companies try to get ahead. Successful telecom alliances are the key to acquiring new technology and skills, discovering new markets, and benefiting from the economies of scale, while thriving in an increasingly competitive marketplace.