March 27th, 2017 by Oren Smilansky

Microsoft’s LinkedIn strengthened its Sales Navigator product last week with the launch of an Enterprise Edition, which includes enhanced CRM integrations, and several other features designed to help reps better connect with their prospects.

The Enterprise Edition aims “to be the best version of Sales Navigator for high-functioning sales organizations,” Doug Camplejohn, LinkedIn Sales Solutions’ head of products, wrote in a blog post. “As they say, we’re turning up the volume to 11.”

Users can send as many as 50 InMail messages per month, and manage their accounts through a Single Sign-On option. Also in the package is the TeamLink Extend option.

“Until now, if you were looking for a warm introduction to a lead, you could go through your personal LinkedIn connections, or use TeamLink, which pools networks of all the Sales Navigator seat holders in your company,” Camplejohn wrote. “But we know your reps are probably not connected on LinkedIn to the vast majority of employees at your company,” and that not every employee needs to have a license.

TeamLink Extend addresses this problem by enabling licensed users to tap into the networks of unlicensed peers within their organizations. One stipulation, however, is these professionals have to opt-in and submit their networks to a pool first.

LinkedIn has also integrated content sharing capabilities from its 2016 acquisition, PointDrive, into the Team and Enterprise editions of Sales Navigator. The solution lets salespeople bundle marketing materials–e.g. presentations, videos, or whitepapers–and send them to potential customers in “beautifully rendered” mobile or desktop environments. After they’ve done so, sellers can also track how the content is being consumed, and by whom.

Sales Navigator is now stronger on the CRM front. Users can record and log their activities in those systems without giving it too much thought or time. According to Camplejohn, sales reps are able to take notes, send InMails, or make phone calls from the mobile app and store them with a simple mouse click. This “CRM Sync” is available within Salesforce.com, and will be introduced to other CRM platforms later in the year. (Interestingly, the Salesforce integration comes before an integration with Microsoft’s own Dynamics CRM product.)

A widget integration allows users to view LinkedIn profile details and visuals within CRM systems. The widget works with Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics, and will soon be available for Oracle, SAP Hybris, Netsuite, Zoho, SugarCRM, Hubspot, among others.

March 16th, 2017 by Sam Del Rowe

84 percent of companies view the use of artificial intelligence technology as “essential” to competitiveness, according to Tata Consultancy Services’ Global Trend Study. The study, which polled 835 executives representing companies from industries including automotive, banking, energy, healthcare, life sciences, industrial manufacturing, and retail, also found that artificial intelligence is permeating many company areas.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, IT departments are currently the biggest adopters of artificial intelligence capabilities, with 67 percent of respondents using the technology to detect security intrusions, resolve user issues, and provide automation. However, 32 percent of companies believe that by 2020, the greatest impact of artificial intelligence will be in sales, marketing, or customer service.

With regard to the debate about the impact of artificial intelligence on jobs, the study indicates that artificial intelligence is being used to improve employee productivity by automating certain processes, enabling employees to devote more time to strategic business needs  such as creating services that were not previously available.

“As companies begin to gain a better understanding of AI’s application for business, they will realize the significant impact of this transformative force. This is reflected in our Global Trend Study, which shows that forward-thinking companies are beginning to make major AI investments,” K Ananth Krishnan, Chief Technology Officer of TCS, said in a statement. “Given the increasing digital disruption across every industry and the public sector, AI should become a key and integrated component of an organization’s strategy.”

March 13th, 2017 by Oren Smilansky

The fast food industry’s ostensible selling point is speed, but one needs only to drive past a few of these ubiquitous joints to see that they don’t always live up to their promise. Lunchtime drive-thru lines are liable to leave a gas tank empty; payment options are often limited, and don’t necessarily support the latest mobile technologies; and–this has always puzzled me–they usually don’t offer home delivery.

But while the bar for quality and service at these establishments tends to be low, and that might have worked in the past, it’s clear that these companies are beginning to recognize that people have more options than ever, and are investing in improving customer experience.

One company invested in transformation is McDonald’s, who early this month released a plan for developments intended to bring customers back to its thousands of locations. To become more competitive, the company has announced that it will enable delivery, curbside pickup, and mobile app-based ordering options. 

“Through enhanced technology to elevate and modernize the customer experience, a focus on the quality and value of our food and redefined convenience through delivery, we have a bold vision for the future and the urgency to act on it,” said CEO Steve Easterbrook in a statement. “We are moving with velocity to drive profitable growth and becoming an even better McDonald’s serving more customers delicious food each day around the world.”

Another burger chain, Wendy’s, also recently stepped up its game, and began to install self-checkout kiosks in 1,000 of its United States stores.

This shift is not just happening in the U.S., either. In China, KFC in is teaming up with search powerhouse Baidu to implement facial recognition systems that allow their in-store kiosks to predict what menu items are most likely to appeal to a customer based on data related to age, mood, gender, and other factors.

This is all well and good, but with a growing number of customers comes greater responsibility and expectations. The implicit hope here is that the quality of the food, recommendations, and jobs these food providers offer future customers and  employees, continues to rise as well.

March 2nd, 2017 by Sam Del Rowe

Mobile marketing push notifications with emojis yield 85 percent higher open rates than those without them, according to a report from mobile marketing platform provider Leanplum and business intelligence firm App Annie.

More than 2.6 billion push notifications were analyzed for the study, which produced several additional insights. Android emoji push notifications yielded higher open rates than their iOS counterparts; the former generated an open rate that was 135 percent higher than those without emojis, while the latter had an open rate that was 50 percent higher than those without them. Furthermore, the report found that emoji push notifications can increase conversions: emojis that were A/B tested in push notifications yielded a nine percent increase in users who engaged with the notification’s call-to-action.

“Today’s app users demand delightful content to engage with. This means marketers have to deliver mobile messaging campaigns that resonate with emotion on an individual level and at scale,” Momchil Kyurkchiev, co-founder and CEO of Leanplum, said in a statement. “This report confirms, along with first-hand conversations with customers, that emojis help drive higher open rates, greater conversions, and deepen user connections.”

February 27th, 2017 by Oren Smilansky

Businesses seeking support through crowdfunding websites would be well advised to re-examine the profile pictures they post alongside their online marketing materials, according to a study featured in the Journal of Customer Research.

A U.S.-based team of academic researchers drew a correlation between the intensity of the smiles company representatives flashed in their headshots and customer perceptions of overall competence, warmth, and trustworthiness with monetary investments.

We found that broad smiles lead people to be perceived as warmer but less competent,” one of the researchers involved–Jessica Li, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Kansas School of Business–told the KU Daily in late January. “We ask how that can influence consumer behavior and in what situations might marketers want to smile more broadly.”

The team conducted a content analysis experiment on Kickstarter.com, a common crowd-funding website where up-and-coming companies solicit donations from people who would like to see their products and services reach a broader constituency. While past studies in the fields of marketing and psychology have confirmed that smiles tend to elicit positive associations, the experiment revealed that there can be a trade off in the actions they feel compelled to take.

The study looked at more than 300 project creator photos whose smiles were classified as broad (166) and slight (158). Broad smiles were effective in promoting ads for low risk products or services, and creating awareness on social media sites. However, in situations where the risk was deemed higher–such as with investments in growing startups, or legal representation professionals–the slight smiles performed better with relation to the bottom line.

“Project creators with a slight smile are perceived as more competent,” Li told the University of Kansas. “People wanted to donate more to their project because they believe this competent person is able to deliver the product.”

Indeed, page creators who displayed slight smiles were able to secure 50 percent more in total dollars pledged. The average contribution from each donor was also 30 percent larger in this constituency.

Those startups seeking venture capital might want to take heed. The findings could also prove useful to marketers, as they become increasingly concerned with tying their efforts to commerce motions.



 
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