May 5th, 2015 by Oren Smilansky

The results of the 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer are in, and they indicate that peoples’ trust in companies is particularly low this year. During a recent conversation with Paul Greenberg, he confirmed his own trust in the validity of such reports, suggesting that trust levels are only expected to keep waning. Since there are so many new ways for customers to share their feedback on social media, he says,  we often trust what our peers think about brands more than what companies tell us we should think about them.

Greenberg points to  Coca-Cola as an example of a company that’s done a good job at responding to this shift by putting much of the responsibility in their users’ hands. On the soft drink company’s Facebook page, for example, there are opportunities to share videos that highlight customers’ personal experiences with its products. People have taken kindly to these invitations so far; the  social media page has 89 million likes as of May 2015

And apparently, Coca-Cola has been good at getting customers to give them raving endorsements for a while now. Below, I offer a poem by Frank O’Hara, which might have served as a pretty good endorsement for Coca-Cola back in the day. If I were a peer to O’Hara’s at the time, there’s no doubt that I would trust the sentiment expressed in his poetry over a billboard or a television commercial.

Could Coke have done a better job of advertising its own product than this? I doubt it.

April 30th, 2015 by Maria Minsker

Yesterday, a rumor that Salesforce might be looking for suitors and is interested in getting acquired spread like wildfire. Bloomberg reported that the company has hired financial advisors to possibly consider an offer from an unknown buyer, but other than that, very little is known. Benioff hasn’t made a public comment regarding the rumor, and judging by Salesforce’s Twitter account, it’s business as usual. Still, this hasn’t stopped speculation. Analysts have identified a number of companies that could potentially buy Salesforce for an estimated $50 billion, namely Apple, Google, Facebook, IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle. Even SAP was thrown into the mix, though that play is highly unlikely. But out of the companies that could buy Salesforce, how many actually would? I can’t think of a logical reason why Apple or Facebook would be interested at the moment. Neither has been particularly big on the enterprise, and acquiring a big fish like Salesforce seems totally out of the blue. Google is perhaps a little more likely to make a move, but this too would be extremely surprising. That leaves IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle as true contenders.

When it comes to IBM, analysts doubt that new CEO Ginny Rometty is ready for such a massive step. “IBM might seem like a logical choice, but I wonder if the fairly new CEO could pull it off — and whether [Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff] would let that happen,” Mike Fauscette, group vice president at the IDC, told ComputerWorld. From a functional perspective, Salesforce and IBM offer some overlapping products, but Salesforce’s rich CRM capabilities would be a powerful and complementary addition to IBM’s suite. But, the company might not be able to afford an acquisition as easily as some of the other potential suitors. IBM has about $25 billion in cash, cash equivalents and long-term investments, but also has $35 billion in long-term debt, Recode reports.

Microsoft is perhaps the likeliest buyer, analysts say. Since Satya Nadella took over as Microsoft’s CEO, the companies have become “allies,” according to FortuneMicrosoft can afford to acquire Salesforce, and the two already seem to be in cahoots. In May 2014, they announced a strategic partnership that would involve connecting Salesforce’s CRM apps and platform to Microsoft Office 365 and Windows. Salesforce also promised to release Salesforce1 for Windows and Windows Phone 8.1 to enable Salesforce customers to access the Salesforce CRM solution from their Windows mobile devices. And there’s another bit of news that’s adding fuel to the rumor: apparently, Nadella and Benioff had dinner together on Tuesday night. Did they talk about a possible acquisition? Oh, to be a fly on the wall in that room…

Last but certainly not least, there’s Oracle. It’s no secret that Oracle has been struggling to keep up with Salesforce in the CRM market. According to a 2014 report from Gartner, Salesforce controls 16 percent of the market share, while Oracle controls only 10 percent. Plus, critics say Oracle has been slow to jump on the cloud bandwagon, and their recent commitment to transitioning onto the cloud came too late. Acquiring Salesforce would fix all that, but it would also raise a lot (A LOT!) of other questions. For example, the Twitterverse is having a hard time believing that Benioff would be willing to answer to Oracle CEOs Mark Hurd and Safra Catz. Someone even suggested that it would have to be the other way around–Hurd and Catz would ultimately have to answer to Benioff, who would somehow end up at the helm. That would be an even bigger shake-up, if you ask me. There are other concerns too. Bringing together two competitors that control such a massive chunk of the market could raise flags for antitrust regulators, Recode rightly points out.

For now, it’s all just a big rumor. But if it comes to fruition, it will be one of the largest acquisition in enterprise history.  That’s big, folks.

April 27th, 2015 by Oren Smilansky

Last Wednesday, Amazon announced a new service  that makes it possible to have packages delivered directly to a car trunk. In collaboration with DHL and Audi, the service will be tested in Munich, Germany beginning in May, and will be open to Amazon Prime users. When a customer is checking out,  they’ll simply be prompted to  specify that they want the item brought to their car, and provide the estimated location where the vehicle can be found at delivery time. The mail carrier will then be given a one-time code to access the trunk and drop off the parcel; the car will lock again as soon as the trunk is shut again.

It’s surprising to me that no one has proposed a similar service yet. Portable mailbox make a lot of sense, especially to people who are always on the go, or frequent movers who don’t want to keep renewing their address. A mailbox on wheels will also do away with having to sign for a package, or risk leaving it vulnerable to theft on the front door step.

Where I live, in New York City, most people don’t drive to work, so it’s out of the question for me. But I can see the practical use for such a service in many of the world’s major cities. Sometimes you just don’t want to have a package dropped off at your workplace, or can’t have it delivered home, either, because the package is too big to fit into your mailbox or you’re just not comfortable leaving it out in the hallway

Of course, those who choose to use this will probably have to keep their trunks clear of valuables. And another potential problem is that—at least to start— you’ll have to own an Audi to get in on the action. Likewise, if you don’t know for certain where your car will be before you schedule each order, you might be in trouble. (It’s not clear yet whether or not DHL will be using a GPS to track cars down around town.)

The service also doesn’t take into account items that won’t fit into a car trunk. I can see measurement estimations becoming something of an issue to some users. Want a couch delivered to your car? That probably won’t work.

April 24th, 2015 by Leonard Klie

SugarCRM’s CEO, Larry Augustin, stopped by our offices a few weeks ago and offered a very upbeat view of his company. In the past five years or so, revenue has increased five times and the number of employees has increased four times. Three new c-level executives have recently been added to the company roster. The company also recently opened an office in Mexico City to cater to a Latin American market that Augustin says is desperately looking for “a reasonable solution, at an affordable price, that is easy to use, yet flexible and innovative.”

SugarCRM, which got its start catering to small and midsized firms with an open-source CRM product, has since gone up market as well, gaining a number of prominent enterprise customers along the way.

Augustin’s stated goal has been to reverse the company’s image. When most people think of SugarCRM, their first notion is that it’s a vendor of open-source products. Augustin now says the company is a CRM company whose products happen to be open-source.

To put SugarCRM to the test, I conducted my own little experiment while I was in San Francisco this week for SugarCon, its user conference. Throughout the multitude of sessions, keynotes, workshops, product discussions, and demonstrations, not once did I hear the term open-source used.

SugarCRM introduced the 1,200 conference attendees to SugarCRM 7.6, which should be available next month, and even previewed some new features planned for SugarCRM 7.7, which is due out this summer. And while a lot of words were used to describe these products—complete, end-to-end, robust, scalable, flexible, secure, highly customizable, visual, integrated, and even neat—no one brought up the fact that these solutions are still being built using open-source.

Open.SourceIn fact, it’s been so long since I heard the term that I had to go to the trusty Web to look it up, just to refresh my memory. Here’s what I found (thanks to “In general, open-source refers to any program whose source code is made available for use or modification as users or other developers see fit. Open-source software is usually developed as a public collaboration and made freely available.”

Price is clearly one advantage that open-source software offers, but there are others: flexibility, customizability, interoperability, scalability. These are all important considerations for companies looking to implement CRM solutions, and that is true not just of smaller companies but of enterprise-scale businesses as well.

I can understand SugarCRM’s desire to be known more as a CRM vendor than as an open-source vendor, but open-source is still a strong part of SugarCRM’s value proposition, and that shouldn’t be completely dismissed.

April 23rd, 2015 by Maria Minsker

It’s no secret that McDonald’s is hurting. Yesterday the company reported that sales in the United States were down by 2.6 percent in the first quarter of 2015 and that global profit has declined by 33 percent. But after taking over for Don Thompson in January, new CEO Steve Easterbrook has big plans for the company, which he promised to unveil on May 4. “We are moving from a world of mass marketing to a world of mass personalization,” Easterbrook he said, and from the sound of it, the fast food giant may finally be heading in a good direction.

Some of McDonald’s most recent marketing efforts have been duds. The “Pay with Lovin'” campaign, which encouraged patrons to perform a nice gesture like hug or call someone in exchange for free food was confusing and just plain weird. And while Taco Bell has recently targeted McDonald’s with a wave of ads that claim McDonald’s is waging a war on breakfast (because their breakfast menu only lasts until about 10am), McDonald’s has done little to respond.

It’s not exactly clear what the company plans to do come May 4, but the idea of personalization is certainly the right one. Brands like Burger King and Starbucks pride themselves on customization–being able to make modifications to an item and “make it your way,” to quote Burger King. Starbucks, for example, now “proudly offers coconut milk,” according to a sign I stared at for 15 minutes while waiting in line yesterday. McDonald’s needs to borrow from this playbook, and metaphorically offer more types of milk. The option to make burgers cheeseless, for example, might be a worthwhile pursuit.

More importantly, however, McDonald’s needs to personalize its marketing on a local level. In McDonald’s locations around the world, the items on the menu are unique to the country they’re in. In the U.S., however, every McDonald’s offers the same boring burgers, and that’s hurting the company. When I’m in another state, I want to get a sense of the local flavor, and in the age of Yelp, it’s easier than ever to find a local burger joint that provides that. McDonald’s needs to personalize their offerings and promote them in order to compete with local dives.

Just think–instead of running weird national campaigns about hugging strangers, McDonald’s could run local campaigns that are relevant to the people that actually visit that franchise. While I was in college in upstate New York, the local McDonald’s sold apples around the time of the local Apple Festival, and promoted the short-term campaign locally. It was great–people loved it.

McDonald’s also has something brilliant with the McRib and the Shamrock Shake–limited-time promotions that get customers in the door because they’re so short-lived. They generate buzz and get people excited, but customers want to see more.

And this almost goes without say: McDonald’s needs to amp up its mobile game. Taco Bell just launched a sophisticated mobile customer service app that doubles as a marketing machine for millennials, and McDonald’s needs to respond…fast.

For me and for many others, McDonald’s is a guilty pleasure. We all know it’s not the healthiest option out there, but honestly it’s delicious and I, for one, want to see the company succeed. Transforming the menu and appealing to a more health-conscious audience on a grand scale is key, but until McDonald’s is ready for that, targeting audience groups on a local level with more personalized products and campaigns will pay off. Easterbrook is on the right track.


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