My Background with Business Transformation

Transforming a business is never easy. Whether it is a software business such as the one I run or printing business seeking to add products and services that meet new and different customer needs, there are many challenges to be faced. But it can be done, and it has been done by many companies. Transformation takes patience, perseverance and perspective, especially when introducing breakthrough offerings that are perhaps unexpected and ahead of their time in terms of mainstream and market acceptance.

When I first began calling on printers in the mid 1990s, I was offering a software solution that enabled them to deliver integrated multichannel marketing solutions. I suggested that there was an opportunity for them in offering more marketing-oriented services, and that I had a solution that could help them do so. That terminology and those ideas were much more foreign two decades ago than they are today. Perhaps not surprisingly, I got a number of reactions, none of which made me particularly happy or boded well for closing sales. There included:

  • I’m a printer. I don’t offer marketing services.
  • Why would I ever let a customer download their PDFs? I want to print them.
  • You don’t understand my business.
  • We print things and ship them out the door. Why would I want to get into email marketing?
  • And my favorite: The Internet is a fad—this from a fulfillment company that was well-known at the time.

iStock_000001817769LargeIt was not easy being thrown out the door time after time, but my team and I kept at it with patience and perseverance. I tried to keep a positive perspective, understanding that this transformation was a breakthrough idea and there would be many who would not understand. Oddly enough, we had some success in offering these solutions to enterprise customers—the customers of the printers—who see the value to their business. Had printers been offering these services, those enterprises may well have purchased them from the printer instead of directly from my company. We strongly believed that print service providers needed to diversify their businesses in order to stay competitive and profitable. In addition, these print service providers would become a sales channel to the enterprise for us. So we kept at it. We did not allow the negativity of naysayers to discourage us from continuing to build an offering that would allow a service provider to become a more valuable part of the enterprise marketing organization. We continued to try to educate the market about the value of moving up the marketing supply chain, locking customers into a long-term annuity business relationship that delivered new revenue streams for their businesses and new levels of productivity for them and their customers.

Trade show after trade show, “kicking the tires” printers would come to our booth and ask what we did. For many, it did not take long for their eyes to glaze over and for them to obviously begin seeking an escape from the discussion. It took a decade before we started seeing print service providers showing up in any meaningful numbers at our trade show booth or calling our offices saying, “I have a general understanding of why I should be offering integrated marketing services. Show me why I should use your solution.” These were knowledgeable and informed business owners who knew what they needed to do for their businesses and were sincerely seeking the best match. What a breakthrough! Many of these early adopter and innovative printers became our customers, and we are proud of the fact that we are able to continue to help them grow, supporting them with new ideas and solutions.

Today, we are successfully offering these web-based solutions to print service providers that enable their customers to build, manage, execute and measure their multichannel marketing efforts. This success is largely due to our patience and perseverance, and to not losing perspective. We had a vision and we kept working toward it, despite many setbacks. That’s our story in a nutshell. We were able to build a successful company and service a market need that we could clearly see. That’s not much different, really, than the challenge facing print service providers as they reposition themselves to provide leading-edge solutions to their customers.

By now, everyone in the printing industry knows, or should know, that this Internet is not a fad. The know that the printing business in the midst of extreme structural change that requires them to change their approach to the marketing—of if they don’t, they certainly should as they look at their P&L each month. They know that much of the work their customers used to send to them doesn’t even get printed anymore, or if it does, the run lengths get shorter and shorter and the delivery times continue to compress. And they should understand that if they don’t have the right infrastructure in place to accommodate emerging customer needs, they risk not only declining business from good, long-term customers, but losing them altogether. We see this being played out in the marketing place every single day.

Do you need help with your business transformation strategy? That’s what I’m here for! Reach out to me at JohnF@interlinkONE.com to learn more.

Moving From Mobile Friendly to Mobile First: Part II

The following is an excerpt from my book, “Untethered Marketing: The Role of the Cloud and Mobile Communication.” To read the full book, please visit JohnFoleyJr.com/Bookstore.

Missed part I of this excerpt? Please click here to read my previous post!

Responsive web design is the concept of developing a website in a style that allows the layout to change based on the user’s screen resolution. It is a completely different approach from traditional web design. For example, if the user accesses a website from a PC, they might see a four-column design, while the same site accessed from a smartphone might be automatically simplified into two columns or even a single column. User choices can vary from PC to tablet to mobile.

iPhoneThis is a mobile-first approach. From the outset, the design assumes the site will be accessed by some type of mobile device, but also leaves the door open for desktop/laptop access, serving the specific needs of all of these users.

Keep in mind that smartphone users are averse to complex navigation paths.  In addition, Flash is still not supported on Apple devices, so web designers should stay away from Flash, giving the preference to HTML 5, JavaScript, and CSS. Pages should also load quickly, regardless of the device. Content consumers are an impatient lot – some experts suggest that even a one second delay in a site loading can result in a 7% reduction in conversion.

Mobile content should also be prioritized. Think about what your customers are most likely to do from a smartphone or a tablet, and organize content accordingly. Continuing with the restaurant example, perhaps the first choice the user sees is, “make a reservation,” the second choice might be “view our menu.” Directions to the establishment and any daily specials or offers should also be readily accessible.

Also keep in mind that mobile users, whether tablet or smartphone, are more in tune with touch-and-swipe, while desktop and laptop users are usually point-and-click oriented. Your designs must take these differences into consideration.

The bottom line: mobile first means providing a consistent experience and brand image across all platforms, and understanding that mobile browsing is rapidly overtaking desktop browsing as the way in which consumers choose to interact with your brand, your product, and your company.

I hope you enjoyed this two part mini series on how the role of mobile marketing is continuing to change and affect the way we market our products and services. Please check out the full book by clicking here!

Moving from Mobile Friendly to Mobile First: Part I

The following is an excerpt from my book, “Untethered Marketing: The Role of the Cloud and Mobile Communication.” To read the full book, please visit JohnFoleyJr.com/Bookstore.

In today’s technology-centered world, it is simply not acceptable to consumers to have to access a standard website from a mobile device. They expect websites these days to be mobile friendly. But for many marketers, even mobile friendly is not enough. Many are rapidly moving towards mobile first.

iPhoneWhat do I mean by mobile first? First, let’s refresh our thoughts on mobile friendly. For many companies, this meant “dumbing down” their regular website, removing and resizing content to make it fit the screen. But that approach does not offer the opportunity to focus on what mobile users really want from a site. Nor does it do a good job of facilitating engagement. Sure, the information is there for those who are looking. The key difference between PC users and mobile users is that mobile users are focused. PC users are generally multitasking between work, play, and casual research. Mobile users are on the go and want fast answers. They are also usually transaction-oriented. They may be looking to buy a specific item, compare prices, or find a location nearby that carries something they are interested in – and they are not willing to dig through layers of web content to get that information. If your site doesn’t offer what they are looking for, a competitor’s surely does!

And, you also can’t assume that something designed for a mobile phone will also be appropriate for a tablet. Tablet users fall somewhere in between PC and smartphone users. They are focused in the sense that they are focused on the tablet experience, and the depth of rich content they can get via that medium. They are likely not multitasking as much as a PC user would be. But they are willing to take more time and gain a broader experience than the average smartphone user. So, perhaps they would like to see a video of your product, or watch a video interview of one of your executives or customers. If you are a restaurant owner, they might want to peruse your menu or wine list and get details about other offerings. A smartphone user is more likely to want to make a reservation, look up directions, or take a quick – one could say superficial – look at the menu.

So, what steps do you need to take to make the move from mobile friendly to mobile first? Click here to read Part II to learn more!

Executing a Successful Integrated Marketing Campaign in 5 Steps

Utilizing new marketing channels and technology outlets, reaching an entire audience, delivering new and exciting content, and consistently keeping customers updated are just a few of the many responsibilities of a marketer. However, as these tasks are very time consuming, it can be difficult to keep up with all of them consistently.

By taking an integrated marketing approach, this process becomes much simpler. With integrated marketing, your organization can plan, build, execute, and measure all campaigns and marketing efforts in one place, using as few operational resources as possible.

Does that sounds good to you? I’m guessing that it might. To get you started, here are 5 tips to help you successfully execute your next integrated marketing campaign.

  1. IPMA_MKT_ImageKnow What Your Audience Prefers. Find ways to record and honor each contact’s preferences for receiving communications from  your company. Ask them during the initial opt-in process. Allow them to manage and update their preferences easily through future communications. If you do not have any of that data, create simple surveys from time to time that seek to gain valuable feedback from your list, but yet that rewards them at the same time.
  2. Prepare and Plan. This one is pretty much a given, but in a world where we seemingly all have to do more with less, we may be tempted to skimp on the time we invest in planning and hop right to execution. While that doesn’t always doom us to immediate failure, a lack of a plan will absolutely leave us with expectations that were not completely fulfilled. We will miss opportunities for follow-ups or for quick transitions if things need to be adjusted on-the-fly.
  3. Maintain Branding and Consistent Messages. Yes, our tone might be slightly different in a channel such as social media as opposed to print. But we must have a goal as to how we want people to feel about our company, products, and services. All of the channels that we use should aim to leave that same impression on the audience.
  4. Be Relevant. This one certainly goes along with knowing what our audience prefers. But it requires more than that. It means that we must be committed to creating multiple variations of our content (yes, they’ll have the same overall goal, but they’ll be written so as to appeal to different groups); it means investing in technology that will allow us to create and send out personalized customized communications. Yes, if our customers and prospects have taken steps to tell us what they are interested in, we must abandon the “spray and pray” approach.
  5. Track, Measure, and Analyze. Designing and executing an integrated marketing campaign can actually be kind of fun. But we must also be sure to capture every piece of data that is relevant to those actions. Analyze the data to look for trends, successes, and failures. Then, share the results with various departments in your organization.

I hope these tips help you as you plan your next integrated marketing campaign. However, don’t forget, as with most business processes in today’s highly technology-oriented landscape, taking an integrated marketing approach begins and ends with finding the right software. Having a unified software program provides many benefits for your organization, including only the need for one, centralized database, lower costs, saved time, improved relationships, a better sense of organization, and more. Contact our team to learn more about why your organization should absolutely be utilizing an integrated marketing software.

Tips for Finding Success with Warehouse and Inventory Management

interlinkONE’s team of fulfillment operations experts sat down recently and developed a quick list of useful tips for service providers who are looking to expand their warehouse, fulfillment, and inventory solutions base. It’s not enough nowadays to simply add a page to your website that says you are now offering inventory and warehouse management as a solution. So, if you’re looking to capitalize on the opportunities posed by many businesses’ difficulties with inventory and warehouse management, consider these tips:

  • It all starts with a plan. When it comes to offering services to a wide range of industries, and combating business challenges such as difficulty with order placement, it all starts with a plan.
  • Remember who your customer base is. Segmenting your warehouse and inventory offerings by industry is a key element to remember when crafting your plan as well.
  • Utilize information from friendly competitors. Before offering fulfillment services to a new market, find market leaders who have successfully offered these types of solutions in the past and that are willing to share their secrets.
  • Identify the best in class vendor suppliers who can help you. Providing quality inventory and warehouse management solutions takes partnerships and relationship building with vendors, contractors, and other suppliers who all play critical roles in your production.
  • Be conscious of any skillsets that will be needed. Before you dive in and start offering solutions to the struggling marketplace, be sure to identify any necessary skillsets you will need to run successfully.
  • Consider engaging a qualified consultant. Bringing a consultant on board who has years of experience in the order management, inventory, and warehouse operations fields can only help your business be more efficient in the long run.
  • Software is king. Lastly and arguably most important, do not take the software component to your operation lightly. Your software is a key differentiator between you and the other service providers out there.

Use these tips to give your business a head start in offering warehouse and inventory management solutions. Don’t forget to keep your end goal and end user in mind. The sales or account rep who is looking to place a simple order for one of his/her clients is looking to do just that: a routine task that should truly be simple. But, because this has become such a difficulty in today’s modern and high-tech landscape, this is your chance to capitalize on new business opportunities. Being the print, mail, or fulfillment service provider to a growing number of industries isn’t as hard as it sounds!

Oh, and one last tip! If you’re looking for more advice on tips for finding success with warehouse and inventory management, or if you’re looking to implement a new software solution for your print, mail, or fulfillment operation, that’s absolutely something we can help with. Don’t miss fulfillment expert and Vice President of interlinkONE, Karen DeWolfe, as she hosts a free, interactive webinar,Effective Warehouse and Inventory Management Tips for Success.” Click here to sign up and learn more about expanding your business operations this year.

interlinkONE Featured in TechCreative Case Study: Marketing and Mobile

Recently, I was interviewed by Boston based Semper, LLC for a case study in their TechCreative series. The case study, titled “With A Recognized Social Media Leader At Its Helm, A Marketing Solutions Provider Helps Clients Reach Mobile Customers” really focuses on the combination of two of my passions; technology and marketing.

It was an honor to share both my story, as well as the history of interlinkONE, my marketing services company Grow Socially, and interlinkONE’s QR Code generation and tracking application, QReateandTrack.com with them. They did a wonderful job with the case study, and I am very excited for everyone to have the chance to read it now that it has been published.

I invite you to read the case study, and please leave comments or share this post throughout your social media channels.

Click here to read the case studyTechCreative Logo

 

Thank you for your continued support, and thanks to Semper, LLC for showcasing both my and interlinkONE’s achievements in marketing and mobile.