April 11th, 2016 by Oren Smilansky

Organizations are investing heavily in digital sales technologies, but are still not using them to their full potential, according to a new study from Accenture.

For the study—titled “Empowering Your Sales Force: It’s Not Just Automation, It’s Personal”—the research firm surveyed more than 800 sales professionals, and combined its findings with data from CSO Insights. Its goal was to get a better idea of how organizations are using sales tools, as well as an understanding of their attitudes towards them.

Indeed, companies are spending on sales tech. Accenture highlights that Global 2000 companies have spent a whopping $2.4 trillion on digital sales channels and tools. Further,  80% of those companies Accenture surveyed have implemented a CRM system, and most have adopted tools to support their entire sales process. But despite high adoption, sales rep turnover rates have risen to upwards of 22%, and the majority of organizations (60%) aren’t confident that they will hit their targets revenues.

The problem, Accenture holds, originates with the relationship between the sales leaders who develop, design, and decide on the tools, and the reps who are using them to get their jobs done.

For one thing, the two factions have different objectives in mind. While 58% of CSOs state that their top goal is to acquire new accounts, more than a third of reps’ (36%) primary aim is to improve customer satisfaction. And though message being sent to reps is that they should focus on cultivating long term customer relationships, they are often not equipped with the tools that support them.

Perhaps a resulting issue is that salespeople view digital sales tools as being more of a complication than an aid. Only 13% of reps felt that they were making use of the scope of capabilities their technologies have to offer. Close to sixty percent felt they were being asked to use too many applications, and that these were in place to help management to monitor their progress.

Accenture recommends a more personalized, experience-centered model. Unsurprisingly, they believe that the tools that salespeople use should more closely resemble those they’ve come to appreciate in their personal lives.

Rather than starting at top and working downwards, “companies need to take a people-first approach that listens to the sales force and marries their needs with tools that deliver data-driven, flexible and personalized omni-channel experiences that help them sell smarter and drive the bottom line,” said Jose Gonclaves, MD and global sales lead at Accenture Interactive, in a statement.

Those companies who take heed, Accenture holds, are bound to improve sales performances and are more likely to enjoy lifts in revenue.

April 8th, 2016 by Leonard Klie

Data is currency, and Microsoft wants businesses to be able to convert it to intelligence and intelligent insight that can be used to address changing business needs and business models.

At least that is the goal that Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, outlined at this year’s Microsoft Envision conference in New Orleans earlier this week.

During his keynote, Nadella pointed out that businesses are in the midst of a digital transformation where they are building out systems to better engage with customers, empower employees, optimize operations, and transform products.

Nadella further outlined three areas of focus for Microsoft to help companies reach those ideals. They include creating more personal computing with mobility at the center, building intelligent cloud platforms that combine machine learning and artificial intelligence, and reinventing products and business processes.

Technology “is playing an increasing role in everything we do,” and can be used today “to shape and change industries,” he said. “The responsibility that business leaders have to understand and use technology to shape their own businesses is more important the ever.”

In this new business environment, Nadella also noted that “customer engagements have been changed by shifts in the points of engagement and the types of engagement.” These changes, he added, “started with the Web and scaled to many other points,” the latest of which are mobile apps.

These technologies, too, are being transformed with advances in natural language processing, machine learning, and artificial intelligence.  Among them, he expects bots to become the new extensions of personal assistants like Microsoft’s own Cortana.

The technology, he said, is still early in the development cycle but will quickly become “much more ubiquitous” he maintained.

Let’s just hope it doesn’t get mired in the kind of controversy that forced Microsoft to pull the plug on its Tay artificial intelligence-powered chat bot. Tay, which was launched with the greatest of intentions, quickly turned  into a major corporate embarrassment for Microsoft late last month when Internet trolls hijacked the bot and taught it some very inflammatory and racist language that it adopted as its own in less than 24 hours.

That just proves one thing, and this is something Microsoft and all the other software developers need to think about as they: Artificial intelligence can never really replace human intelligence until it is given the same moral compass that we humans use to let us know that we probably shouldn’t do something. Context is also going to be a key element, or at least it should be.


April 7th, 2016 by Sam Del Rowe

86 percent of marketers expect to own the end-to-end customer experience by 2020, according to a study conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit on behalf of Marketo. However the report emphasizes that in order to achieve this, marketers must have a single view of the customer, and be able to engage customers in two-way, personalized conversations across multiple channels.

Based on responses from nearly 500 chief marketing officers and senior marketing executives worldwide, the study is an update to a survey commissioned by Marketo in 2015, which found marketers feeling that their organizations needed to undergo significant changes in order to respond to technological advances and shifting consumer preferences.

The 2016 study also revealed several other noteworthy findings. More than half of respondents believe that the potential increase in marketing channels by the Internet of Things will have a significant impact on marketing strategies by 2020. In addition, respondents believe that they will increasingly interact one-on-one with customers instead of through impersonal media and advertising campaigns. Furthermore, 63 percent of respondents believe that social media will be a top marketing channel in 2020, with 47 percent saying the same for mobile apps, and 46 percent for mobile web.

“Technology’s rapid evolution allows customers to engage with brands across myriad new channels in real time, translating to billions of marketing-driven touch points,” Sanjay Dholakia, Chief Marketing Officer at Marketo, said in a statement. “With 86 percent of CMOs and other marketing leaders of the mind that they will own the customer experience by 2020, it is essential that organizations maintain a singular, comprehensive view of their customers. This is the key to building enduring customer relationships and ultimately successful brands.”

March 31st, 2016 by Sam Del Rowe

Digital interaction and customer experience are most important for marketers in 2016, according to Salesforce’s 2016 State of Marketing report. The report surveyed nearly 4,000 marketing leaders worldwide to gain insight into marketing trends and the practices of high-performing marketing teams, and outlines key approaches for success in the industry.

The report identifies just 18 percent of marketing teams as high performers—those who are “extremely satisfied” with the results of their company’s marketing investment. Nevertheless, only 14 percent of marketing teams are classified as underperformers who are “slightly or not at all satisfied” with the results of their company’s marketing investment, with the remaining 68 percent deemed moderate performers—marketers who are “very or moderately satisfied” with the results of their company’s marketing investment.

The report focuses on the practices of high-performing marketing teams, outlining several strategies for marketers to use to improve their performance. According to the report, successful marketers adopt a customer journey strategy and prioritize the customer experience, utilizing diverse channels such as mobile devices, email, social media, and the Web to connect with customers. Furthermore, the report identifies 53 percent of high performance marketers as heavy tech adopters, indicating that staying on top of the latest technology is essential to successfully communicating with customers.

Other practices of high-performing marketing teams include alignment with business leadership, as well as use of social media and mobile devices to reach customers. 83 percent of high performers reported that their company’s executive team is committed to supporting their overall marketing strategy, with just 31 percent of underperformers saying the same. Furthermore, high-performing teams are 3.2 times more likely than underperformers to say that they have integrated social media activity into their marketing strategy, 3.4 times more likely to say that they have integrated email marketing into their strategy, and 5 times more likely to say that they have integrated mobile marketing into their strategy.

The report also found that email and social media marketing campaigns are generating significant ROI. 49 percent of marketers reported that email is directly correlated with their company’s primary revenue source, an increase from 20 percent in 2015. Furthermore, 75 percent of marketing leaders reported that social media marketing is generating ROI, with high-performing marketing teams 1.7 times more likely than underperforming teams to align their social media marketing strategy with other social media activities such as customer service. Additionally, 80 percent of high-performing marketing teams say that they will increase spending on social media advertising, and 83 percent report that they use customer data from various platforms to segment and target ads.

March 28th, 2016 by Oren Smilansky

If you think your email inbox is becoming more animated by the day, you’re probably not hallucinating. New data from Appboy, provider of a mobile marketing platform, suggests that the use of emojis in marketing campaigns has skyrocketed over the past year.

According to a blog post from Jesse Tao, a senior manager at Appboy responsible for business intelligence, users of the vendor’s technology sent more than 70 billion emoji messages to more than five billion users in 2015. “Year-over-year growth of campaigns using emojis has been 777%,” Tao wrote, while month-over-month growth of emoji use has been greater than 20%. When it comes to email, use of the icons has increased by more than 7,100% over the past year.

emoji-653309_960_720And, unsurprisingly, retailers and e-commerce companies have the highest tendency to use the icons in their messages, with their most popular seasons being the holidays. The food, beverage, and gaming industries have also been upping their adoption of the bite-sized drawings lately.

A quick look at the promotional section of my email inbox reveals a star, a pair of scissors, an airplane, a slice of pizza, a snowflake, and a set of musical notes. It doesn’t shock me that four of these six are among the emojis listed as those most used by brands, but what I have noticed is that I’ve begun to lose notice. The first time I saw a slice of pizza in my inbox, I was intrigued, but now I take such things for granted.

Tao doesn’t predict that emojis will be going away anytime soon, but also suggests that they be used sparingly, and in good taste. I couldn’t agree more.


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