Category Archives: CRM News and Info

Calculate the Cost of Microsoft Dynamics 365

CRM Blog Calculate the Cost of Microsoft Dynamics 365

Microsoft Dynamics 365 (formerly Microsoft Dynamics CRM) is a cloud ERP/CRM system run on Microsoft Azure that includes Sales, Customer Service, Field Service, Marketing, Project Service Automation, Operations and Financials.

So, how much will all this cost to own and operate?

The CRM Software Blog has put together a Quick Quote Wizard to calculate an estimate, based on basic information that you provide about your business needs, that will help you determine if Dynamics 365 will be a financial fit for your company.

On the right-hand side of each page of the CRM Software Blog, you’ll see the bar: Request Instant Quote Dynamics 365/CRM. That will lead you to the brief questionnaire asking about your CRM needs – size of company, number of users, level of support required, etc.

With that information, the Quick Quote Wizard will crunch the numbers and automatically give you an estimate of software, installation and ongoing costs associated with a Microsoft Dynamics 365 implementation. While the quote is not binding, it is a good place to start when you are presenting a budget for your CRM solution.

Your Quick Quote includes the cost of Microsoft Dynamics 365 (Dynamics CRM) license subscription, annual software assurance maintenance plan and estimated implementation and training services provided by a Microsoft Dynamics 365 Partner.

This Quick Quote is intended as an estimate for budgeting purposes only. To find a Microsoft Partner in your area that specializes in implementation, integration, customization, training and support of Microsoft Dynamics 365 visit our directory of Dynamics 365/CRM partners. Based on an in-depth discovery of your needs, the partner you choose can provide you with an accurate final proposal.

Try the Quick Quote Wizard today. It’s free, it’s easy and it’s instant.

By CRM Software Blog Writer,

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CRM Software Blog | Dynamics 365

SEO, SEM Rule Retailers' Marketing Budgets

Retailers have been focusing on technologies to measure and assess customer response, and have been using the data they produce to drive e-commerce decisions, suggests a study of 136 enterprise retailers at the 2017 eTail West Conference held earlier this year.

Enterprise retailers with at least US$ 500 million in annual revenues participated in the study, which was a joint effort of Adam Software, an
Aprimo company; WBR Digital; and ChannelAdvisor.

Multichannel enterprise retailers comprised 81 percent of respondents, pure-play online retailers 11 percent, in-store-only retailers 4 percent, and other types of companies the remaining 4 percent.

Enterprise retailers have been implementing customer experience strategies across multiple channels, the researchers found. They have been seeking out intelligent data solutions to obtain a 360-degree view of customers across multiple channels and marketplaces.

“Digital retailers are likely to have reversed the classic stock focus on having goods to sell as the business model, to building a base of loyal customers they assist in buying what they need,” observed Andy Mulholland, principal analyst at Constellation Research.

“A digital retailer acts more as a personal shopper using intelligence to make every aspect of your buying activity feel right,” he told CRM Buyer.

Marketing Spending Priorities

The top four spends for retailers, according to the study, are the following:

  • SEO/SEM – 79 percent of respondents;
  • Online display – 77 percent;
  • Social media – 65 percent; and
  • Email – 64 percent.

Social media was the highest spending priority for only 3 percent of retailers and the second-highest for just 14 percent.

Social media is “rarely the leading channel in a marketing strategy,” noted Jeffery Parrish, Aprimo’s director for retail and consumer goods.

“Because many retailers are focusing marketing investment in digital channels, social media icon inline shop SEO, SEM Rule Retailers' Marketing Budgets is a very prominent channel and component of the typical retail marketing mix,” he told CRM Buyer. “Investment in social media management, technology, and social media influencers make it understandable that this would be a top four channel of investment.”

Retailers spent the least on channels through which data can neither be significantly acquired or applied — such as direct mail, radio and TV, print ads, trade shows and events.

Optimizing a Multichannel Strategy

Retailers have been redesigning their online buying experiences to accommodate a multichannel strategy, the study found.

However, 46 percent of the retailers surveyed across channels considered their performance only average.

“Each retailer has their own marketing mix with winning channels, and many retailers struggle to find equal levels of success across channels,” Parrish explained. “This perspective is largely due to the difficulty for retailers to adopt multi-attribution models.”

Consumers are moving toward making online purchases via mobile devices, but only 33 percent of enterprise retailers considered their mobile app performance above average or excellent; another 37 percent considered it below average or poor.

One company attempting to remedy the problem is
Curalate, which on Thursday released Curalate Showroom, a tool that lets companies make their social media channels shoppable on mobile.

Curalate’s platform lets companies tag any image or video to create a Showroom, posting the link to any marketing channel selected.

Curalate’s algorithm creates a feed of recommended products for consumers to browse.

The goal is to effect “a major jump in time on site and a big drop in bounce rate as consumers engage more and stay on site longer,” Luke Butler, Curalate’s manager of strategy and operations, told CRM Buyer.

The Challenges of Personalization

The retailers surveyed sought to personalize the customer experience — but that is easier said than done.

“Generally, when marketers just dabble with personalization they run into issues because they’re not using good enough data,” said Andy Zimmerman, CMO at

“With deeper, better data and machine-learning-driven affinity modeling, marketers can be much more effective at driving 1:1 relevant experiences that truly engage visitors,” he told CRM Buyer.

Many marketers are getting more funds for personalization, said Zimmerman, because it’s “an investment that can be justified with quantitative analysis and intuitive logic.”
end enn SEO, SEM Rule Retailers' Marketing Budgets

Richard%20Adhikari SEO, SEM Rule Retailers' Marketing BudgetsRichard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology.
Email Richard.

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CRM Buyer

Dynamics CRM integration with SharePoint- Can we do better- PART 2

The issues build into the out-of-box (OOB) CRM integration with SharePoint, are described in the post “Dynamics CRM integration with SharePoint- Can we do better

In this post I will describe how Dynamics SharePoint Organizer (SPO) offers better integration between SharePoint and CRM.
Dynamics SPO trial version, can be downloaded here.

Dynamics SPO has two main functions:

Email2SharePoint – Upload documents to SharePoint by emailing them to CRM Queue, which activates CRM plug-in, that uploads the files attached to the Email, and save them in SharePoint with the related metadata / columns retrieved from the Email (read more)

Add SPO functionality to CRM Entity – A better way to integrate entities with SharePoint document location, and how to save relevant metadata to the document, retrieved from the attributes (fields) of the CRM record. A functionality I am going to describe, in details, in this post.

What is SPO functionality?

The function of SharePoint Organizer (SPO) is as it sounds, a methodological and consistent way, to organize documents in SharePoint, so that they can be easily found, when they are needed. In a nutshell, use less folders and more relevant metadata retrieved from the attributes of the CRM record.

The SPO function is a simplified way to upload documents to SharePoint. The CRM user, while he /she is in the record form, can upload files from hard disk, from documents attached to Notes, and from documents attached to Emails, related to the record, which are Emails where the Regarding field is the record we upload from. SPO function is also more efficient and time saving function to upload files to SharePoint. It allows multi-selection of files to upload in one step, unlike similar function in CRM OOB, which requires an upload of one file at a time, and only from the hard disk. In other words, with CRM OOB, to upload a file attached to an Email, it firstly needs to be saved to hard disk and only then it can be uploaded to SharePoint.

CRM OOB defines the folders and folders names where documents will be saved in SharePoint. SharePoint user finds it difficult to find documents spread over many SharePoint folders and without metadata to support SharePoint search functionality.

SPO uploads document to configurable folders and with metadata based on the attributes of the entity. As an example, when configuring the integration of Invoice entity with a location in SharePoint, you can also select the attributes: Name, Total Amount, Customer, Due Date, and Email address of the related Contact, as metadata columns in SharePoint. You can then use this meaningful metadata for search and metadata navigation in SharePoint. Updating payment due date from CRM to SharePoint, can trigger a SharePoint workflow to follow up payment on due date.

While configuring SPO, you can enable / disable overwrite of existing document in SharePoint, as well as to delete or keep the original attachments after they are uploaded from Emails to SharePoint.

Banner for LinkedIn post Dynamics CRM integration with SharePoint  Can we do better  PART 2

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CRM Software Blog | Dynamics 365

5 Key Elements of a Winning Employee Advocacy Program

5 Key Elements of a Winning Employee Advocacy Program 351x200 5 Key Elements of a Winning Employee Advocacy Program

Two million blog posts are written every day. You can only imagine how many other content pieces are out there. This information overload makes it extremely tough for marketers to stand out. Sometimes, all it takes is one viral infographic or video, but most times, that isn’t the case. Rather than focusing on what content to publish, you should also be focusing on who delivers your content.

This is where employee advocacy comes in.

The idea is to simply get employees to share your content across their personal social networks ‒ to tap into their connections to help grow your reach, engagement, and conversions exponentially. While there’s no universal strategy for running an advocacy program, there are some things you can do to maximize its ROI. To get started, here are five key elements to include:

1. Quality Content

Above all, the content that you provide employee advocates should be of high quality. But what defines “quality content”?

Quality content can range from a 4,000-word eBook to a 1-minute video clip. It can take weeks to produce, or just a few hours. There’s no set criteria for creating quality content. However, you need to make sure that employees are sharing content that exceeds their audience’s expectations. Focus on content that is valuable yet super engaging.

Starting with the latter, you can make your content more engaging by:

  • turning average blog posts into beautiful infographics;
  • adding short GIFs and videos into your social content; and
  • posting polls and statistics that get people involved.

Next, don’t settle for one type of content ‒ go for a variety of original and curated pieces. Original content includes eBooks, case studies, webinars, blog posts, etc., that your marketing team created. Curated content consists of valuable articles and resources from third-party websites that educate your audience in a less self-promotional way.

Moreover, creating content that is valuable boils down to matching your readers’ intent. Take advantage of employees’ ability to gain insights and opinions about their audience; then use this information to create content that they’ll be interested in. This will also empower your advocates by proving their impact in the program.

2. Personalization

Now, more than ever, customers want you to connect with them on a real and personal level. Employee advocates add this element of personalization by putting faces to your brand. They create a human bridge between your company and customers.

Taking this element of personalization to the next level, you can increase engagement by getting employees to share content that’s relevant to their role in the company and to the particular audience. For example, consider your salespeople. What type of content do they enjoy sharing? What type of content is going to best resonate with their audience?

Generally, your salespeople are more likely to share thought-leadership pieces, industry-related reports, and articles from well-known publications, because these help to position them as knowledgeable and professional. On the other hand, content that’s technical in nature will be perceived as less relevant by your sales team ‒ and similarly, by their audience.

3. Simple Sharing

Another way to set your employee advocacy program for success is by fostering an environment of easy and effortless sharing. Whether advocates are attending a conference or sitting on the bus, it’s important to make it as simple as possible for them to share a large amount of content, no matter where they are.

By using a proper social advocacy platform, you can make tasks like sharing content an easy daily routine for employees. Rather than having to search for content on their own, employees who use an advocacy platform like Oktopost are guided on which content topics to post, when to post, and how to do so. Giving employees the necessary tools will get the ball rolling in your program and ensure that more content gets shared.

4. Incentive Strategy

Employees are the most essential asset of your marketing initiatives. Failing to incentivize them will result in less content being shared. Research shows that 69% of employees would work harder if their efforts were better appreciated.

Having a well-planned incentive strategy makes a huge difference and can really boost the ROI of your program. For now, here are a few examples of strategies that companies implement:

  • Monetary Rewards: Offer monetary rewards such as Amazon gift cards and movie vouchers ‒ or even upgrade advocates’ LinkedIn profiles to ‘Premium.’
  • Learning Opportunities: Give advocates the opportunity to improve their skills and expertise in the form of seminars, guest lectures, and training activities.
  • Recognition: Acknowledge employees for their involvement and contributions in front of their co-workers to boost their sense of confidence and accomplishment.
  • Fun Activities: Invite advocates for a fun and easygoing activity like a movie day or a night at a bar. Such a reward should be offered to the team or department that achieved the highest performance in the program, for example, the most content shared or the most clicks generated.

The type of incentive strategy you choose will depend on the number of advocates you have, your company’s hierarchy, and the personas that make up your program. For example, advocates from sales are more likely to value monetary rewards, while marketers will most appreciate public recognition.

5. Measurement

It’s easy to launch a program and then just hope for the best, but to make it a big success you must track and analyze its performance every step of the way. First, ask yourself what “success” looks like in your program. Is it the impact on reach? The increase in social chatter about your company? Or maybe the growth in the number of leads? By setting specific KPI’s, you can determine what’s working and what’s not. You can understand if your content needs improving, if you’re posting to the right channels, and if you’re reaching the right audience.

It’s important that you accurately tie these metrics to individual employee performance and to ROI. For the latter, you’ll need an advanced platform like Oktopost. Oktopost consolidates all of your social media marketing activities in one place for easy management and reporting.

In your advocacy program, Oktopost allows you to track everything from which prospects converted, to which employee brought in the conversion, to the type of content the employee posted. It also enables you to measure the metrics gathered by your advocacy program in the ecosystem of your other marketing initiatives. The more you measure and make adjustments, the more successful your program will be.

A winning employee advocacy program requires a lot more than giving employees content to share. Implement these five elements for a sustainable and fruitful program that can be tied to ROI, and help your employees spread the word about your brand.

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20 Findings from a Microsoft Dynamics 365 Upgrade Audit

CRM Blog 20 Findings from a Microsoft Dynamics 365 Upgrade Audit

Our client, let’s call it ACME Inc., wanted to upgrade Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 to Microsoft Dynamics 365 and SharePoint 2010 to SharePoint 2016. What is the first step?

Crowe’s implementation methodology always starts with an analysis phase, especially when it comes to CRM version upgrades.

With CRM version upgrades our analysis phase comes in the form of a CRM system audit. We audit the current CRM software version and catalog the areas we feel will need extra attention while preparing for the CRM upgrade.

Crowe’s CRM system audit is the investment in time we make to ensure our customers’ success and often we don’t charge for our CRM system audits. This upfront analysis will save everyone time, money and frustration and it’s the key to ensuring a successful upgrade.

We hope that by sharing this specific examples from a fictional client we can illustrate best practices and let you know what you should expect from your next upgrade project.

The “ACME” Dynamics CRM to Dynamics 365 Analysis

During the analysis phase our goal was to verify that there were no issues that could prevent a successful migration from Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 to Microsoft Dynamics 365 and SharePoint 2010 to SharePoint 2016.

During this process Crowe developed an understanding of the current architecture and implementation of ACME, ran various tools to detect potential issues (such as a CRM custom code analysis) and ran trial migrations to validate that the solution could be upgraded. Most importantly, we proactively provided feedback and recommendations for each of our findings.

In this example, Crowe documented a total of 20 findings and classified these findings by severity:

  • 3 High severity
  • 10 Medium severity
  • 7 Low severity findings.

Crowe Analysis & Audit Findings and Recommendations 

Title Type Severity Recommendation
Document Locations on ACMECRM need cleanup. CRM Low Crowe recommends addressing these issues during the document migration effort. We will create a separate development environment and these issues will be addressed during that time
Unsupported stored procedures on production database CRM Low Crowe will remove the unsupported stored procedure code and replace with supported stored procedures.
Unsupported JavaScript CRM Low Crowe will modify the JavaScript with supported and compliant code.
Development is out of sync with production CRM Medium Crowe will recreate the development environment for the ACME migration. As this is done we will make sure that there is parity among the components of the development environment.
No documented solution requirements Documentation High Crowe recommends that a comprehensive business analysis effort be performed on the ACME solution to clearly define the specifications of the solution. This effort should be performed with and validated with the business owners.
Lack of recovery plan Documentation High While an enterprise level recovery plan may be in place, Crowe would recommend that a recovery plan be created for the ACME solution. Crowe can help recommend an appropriate disaster recovery plan.
Lack of current system architecture documentation Documentation Medium At the end of the effort to migrate ACME to CRM 2016, Crowe recommends documenting the new CRM system architecture. Crowe can provide examples of what we’ve provided for other customers.
Too much auditing enabled in production CRM Low Less field level auditing increases system performance. Crowe has put together an appendix to help ACME in this effort. We have provided a list of entities, fields, on form indicator, and audit indicator. Crowe will help ACME evaluate if the selected audited fields truly need to have audit capabilities enabled.
Lack of temporary data cleanup in CRM document creation tools Dynamics CRM Low Crowe will create a bulk delete job to run on a regular basis to free up resources for other activities. This will significantly increase system performance.
Unused fields Dynamics CRM Low Review unused fields with business owners and delete the fields that are not needed. Crowe has provided a list of fields which are not visible on the CRM forms but are still listed in the database.
Complicated portal document management architecture Portals/ Dynamics CRM Medium Crowe will perform an analysis of the document management architecture to leverage newer components of the Microsoft Dynamics product suite and improve overall performance.
Lack of server log review and corrective actions Process Medium Crowe will review the error logs on all ACME servers. We noted several areas of concerns on some machines that we would recommend ACME evaluate.
Lack of CRM solution management Process Medium Crowe will develop a solution strategy with ACME and implement this new solution strategy for upgraded ACME solution.
Lack of content database in SharePoint SharePoint High Crowe will set up the new SharePoint sites with a content database. As part of the migration Crowe will move the data from the existing repository to a content database.
Lack of standardized folder naming SharePoint Low ACME should review how the SharePoint folders are created and possibly implement measures to standardize the folder names. A standardized naming convention can make management of the SharePoint folder structure significantly easier down the road.
Two SharePoint servers and architectures SharePoint Medium Crowe will perform the consolidation as part of the migration process. We anticipate that a slightly larger set of servers will be needed to handle the additional content.
SQL Server in an optimized environment SQL Server Medium Crowe will help ACME confirm that the virtual machines are properly configured for SQL Server and optimal performance.
Job Run History CRM Medium Crowe will review the active processes and dialogs and determine which jobs should record a job history. We will then make recommendations for which ones should be removed. This will increase performance.
SharePoint ULS Logs location and size SharePoint Medium As part of the migration effort Crowe will place the storage of ULS log files on a non-primary drive and will restrict the disk space usage to 10GB of data so that there is a known quantity of information being stored. This is particularly important as SharePoint usage increases.
Portal Software End of Life Portal Medium Crowe will help ACME develop a strategy to address the upcoming end of life for the current portal product in use and identify portal solutions offered by Microsoft.

This customer could feel confident that we were starting their upgrade project with a clear understanding of their technology and a detailed picture of what needed to be done to make their project a success.

If you want to work with a partner with a proven track record and a strong project methodology, Crowe CRM can help.

Contact us at 877-600-2253 or [email protected]

By Ryan Plourde, Crowe Horwath, a Microsoft Dynamics 365 Gold Partner

Follow us on Twitter: @CroweCRM

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CRM Software Blog | Dynamics 365

3 Keys to Customer Satisfaction: Speed, Efficiency, Knowledge

Customers want fast service or support from knowledgeable people where, when and how they prefer to receive it, based on results of a study the
CMO Council published Tuesday.

Together with SAP Hybris, the CMO Council last year conducted an online survey of 2,000 respondents, equally divided between men and women. Fifty percent were in the United States, and 25 percent each resided in Canada and Europe.

Among the findings:

  • 52 percent mentioned fast response time as a key attribute of an exceptional customer experience;
  • 47 percent said knowledgeable staff, ready to assist whenever and wherever needed, was key;
  • 38 percent wanted an actual person to speak with at any time and place;
  • 38 percent wanted information when and where they needed it;
  • 9 percent wanted brand-developed social communities; and
  • 8 percent wanted always-on automated services.

Consumers have a shortlist of critical channels they expect to have access to, the survey found, including the company’s website, email, a phone number, and a knowledgeable person to speak with.

“The mindsets of consumers — whether B2B or B2C — are shifting, said Liz Miller, SVP of marketing at the CMO Council.

Marketers “have to start asking, ‘Are we set up to be a responsive organization that looks at data, looks at analytics, understands what’s coming in through CRM and is able to reflect that back through all touchpoints, including physical ones, quickly? Or are we simply waiting to react?'” she told CRM Buyer.

84678 620x420 3 Keys to Customer Satisfaction: Speed, Efficiency, Knowledge

Serve Us Well or Die!

Angry customers hurt brands. The survey identified the following behaviors:

  • 47 percent of respondents said they would stop doing business with a brand if they were continually frustrated;
  • 33 percent were annoyed because of slow service or dealing with reps who knew nothing about their past history or purchases;
  • 32 percent said they would email a company to complain; and
  • 29 percent said they would tell their family and friends about their bad experience.

That’s a possibility that
Warrantech, which provides extended service plans and warranties nationwide, is well aware of.

The company on Tuesday announced a partnership with mobile workforce management ServicePower, which will let it instantly connect customers who have service needs with available repair technicians.

“Prompt response time is critical in our line of business,” said Brian Weaver, director of service operations at Warrantech.

The teamup is expected to reduce overall customer turnover time by up to 10 percent across all verticals and “ultimately translate into commensurate lifts in clients’ sales and customer retention,” he told CRM Buyer.

The Customer Wish Conundrum

One problem marketers face is that customers appear to have conflicting desires, as shown by the survey results:

  • 36 percent of respondents were angry about not being recognized for their loyalty;
  • 12 percent wanted companies to recognize their history with the brand at any touchpoint;
  • 10 percent wanted multiple touchpoints; and
  • 23 percent felt they were being followed online.

That poses a conundrum for marketers.

“This survey did indicate the respondents wanted knowledgeable staff — and for that, I’d argue part of the knowledge is knowing about the customer, not just the product, so that the advice can directly address the customer’s unique problem,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

“Knowing about the customer improves the quality of the engagement,” he told CRM Buyer.

That said, consumers don’t care how companies do what they do — they only care about the results, the CMO Council’s Miller noted.

“It’s a sausage factory. Consumers don’t care how you make them, they just want tasty sausage. At the end of the day, consumers want to be treated like persons,” she said.

“Each firm needs to survey their own customers, assess the impact and costs of changes, then formulate a strategy that applies uniquely to them,” Enderle suggested. “Some may find that the cost/benefit ratio is still better with automation.”
end enn 3 Keys to Customer Satisfaction: Speed, Efficiency, Knowledge

Richard%20Adhikari 3 Keys to Customer Satisfaction: Speed, Efficiency, KnowledgeRichard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology.
Email Richard.

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CRM Buyer

How to Use the Power of Storytelling in B2B Ads

blog title storytelling 351X200 How to Use the Power of Storytelling in B2B Ads

“Consumers believe stories. Without this belief there is no marketing.”

Bestselling author and marketing expert Seth Godin is on to something. In fact, 92 percent of customers want to read words in the form of a story. And it’s not just their preference — it’s how the human brain is wired.

When customers read data only, the language area of the brain works to decode the meaning. But when you tell a story, everything changes because the parts of the brain that handle language and other important functions light up, as if you’re personally experiencing the event.

This subtle change to storytelling will instantly make your brand more memorable.

But what about B2B advertising? How can you use the power of storytelling to draw in the audience and supercharge engagement? Check out these four examples to inspire your efforts.

Google: Infusing a story with greater emotion

Google struck an emotional chord with their audience when they published the “Reunion” video. Using storytelling, the video highlights the real power of search engines. The clip starts with a man from India who is telling his granddaughter about his closest friend from childhood. He explains that they haven’t seen each other since they were very young, when their country split into two nations and they were forced to leave each other.

The granddaughter is so touched by the story that she immediately turns to Google to located her grandfather’s dear childhood friend in Pakistan. The result is a tear-filled reunion when the two men meet again as adults.

This advertising was widely successful, receiving more than 13 million views to date.

Key takeaway: Powerful stories can show the capabilities of your product without ever directly promoting it. Search for a specific problem that a customer faces and find the emotion associated with that problem. Then put that emotion at the core of your advertising to reap more powerful results.

GE: Leveraging storytelling to expand your reach

Beth Comstock, CMO of GE, said, “Behind every person, behind every company, behind everything, is a story of how it got there — and the most relevant stories connect on a personal level.”

For example, the company created advertising focused on the human experience, linking the concept of a childlike imagination to the innovation of GE products. Check out this clip from their “What My Mom Does at GE” campaign:

The child in the video explains, “My mom makes trains that are friends with trees, a hospital you can hold in your hand, and amazing things that you can print.” It looks at GE’s innovation from the viewpoint of a child, which stirs up emotion and interest from the audience. The video was wildly successful, capturing more than 2 million views to date.

Key takeaway: The trick to using storytelling successfully in B2B advertising is to not always talk directly about your products. Instead, use the power of emotion and storytelling to show what those products can do.

Apple: Making inspiring connections

Known for its creativity and innovation, Apple created a clever campaign titled “Your Verse.” It used storytelling to pay homage to the great poet Walt Whitman and kicked off with a gorgeous new commercial for the iPad Air. The campaign features a compelling voice-over from “Dead Poets Society” about the value of poetry and contributing a verse to the “powerful play” of life.

The advertising, which first premiered during the Sunday NFL games, shows the product enhancing people’s enjoyment of a variety of passions ranging from art to sports to storm chasing — and being used in various environments, including mountaintops and coral beds.

The audio of the commercial says, “But poetry, beauty, romance, love —these are what we stay alive for.”

Key takeaway: Apple shows how technology can change lives using a campaign that’s clear, inspirational, and crafted to leverage the power of storytelling to link creativity to technology.

Boeing: Tapping into employee talent

Boeing infuses storytelling into marketing and advertising by tapping into the predictions of their employees. For example, the company published an article titled “Vacations to Planet Earth” where Boeing engineers weigh in with their travel predictions for the next 100 years. For example, it says:

“One hundred years from now, a family makes vacation plans and takes the kids someplace they’ve never been before — Earth.

“The travelers lock up their residence on their orbiting space colony, built by Boeing, and climb aboard a hypersonic commercial airplane, also produced by Boeing, and fly off to see what those colorful oceans and sprawling continents below look like up close. Sound too far-fetched?”

Key takeaway: Solicit employee insights to make your advertising more interesting. For example, the obvious angle for the above article may be to visit space on a Boeing aircraft, but engineers flipped the obvious to imagine that people are living in space instead. Unexpected turns capture more attention, and those closest to the products and customers help reimagine these advertising stories.

Zendesk: Creating a fictional story

Most marketers know that the stories you tell don’t always need to be real. They can be fictional, based on buyer personas, and told with a specific goal in mind. For example, Zendesk, a provider of customer service software, launched a campaign called “Zendesk Alternative.”

The campaign highlights grungy musicians who are completely fictional. The marketing is designed to be comical, saying that the only “alternative” to Zendesk is a fading rock band. The campaign brought the company increased traffic and engaged its target audience with greater depth — without directly promoting the company’s products.

Strive to design advertising that entertains and appeals to the audience’s playful side while still addressing major pain points.

Key takeaway: Take a trip outside reality when designing your next advertising campaign. Use storytelling to hook the audience and test different approaches to determine which approach works best for your brand.

4 Critical Pieces of a Great Story: Unraveling the Details

Telling a story that drives your audience to action is like baking a cake. When you leave out an important ingredient, the cake may fail to rise into a delicious finished product. The recipe for storytelling starts with four critical elements. Integrate these ingredients into your next story to instantly make it more engaging and compelling.

  • First, find your hero. All great stories start with a hero. Old Yeller is about a 14-year-old boy named Travis. The Great Gatsby is about a young man named Nick who serves as a confidant for those with troubling secrets. Every story needs a truly great hero, but who is the hero in your B2B story? The answer is simple: It’s the customer. Put your customer at the center of every story.
  • Find your customer’s problem. All great stories showcase problems. Marketers are great at this point. They know how to identify a pain point like nobody else. But when you’re telling a story, you also need to understand the customer’s goal. For example, let’s say the customer manages several social media channels, but the process is so time-consuming that a more efficient solution is required. Understand where your customer is today and where they want to be in the future, and then integrate these details into the story.
  • Illustrate the conflict. All great stories have a conflict. For Snow White, it was the fact that her stepmother was jealous of her and wanted to do away with her young rival. For your story, it’s what makes your business a necessity in the customer’s life. It’s also what stands between your customer and accomplishing their goal. Illustrate the conflict and show the customer how they can overcome it.
  • Provide a mentor. All great stories also have an amazing mentor for their stars. The Karate Kid had Mr. Miyagi, Luke Skywalker had Yoda the Jedi master, and Marty McFly had “Doc” Emmett Brown (in Back to the Future). So who is the best mentor in your next advertising story? The answer is always the same: It’s you. Your business can “rescue” the hero from whatever problem he or she faces.

Multiplying the impact of advertising

Using the power of storytelling is not about creating just any story for the customer. It’s also about getting to the heart of what is the right story. Savvy marketers understand their customers, as well as their customers’ problems and pain points, but now they must find that story that hits home.

Then, the product and its solution need to be gently weaved into the background as the story shifts from being product-focused to customer-focused. Because when the customer is the star of the story and you step into a mentor role, the results are instantly better.

Do you use storytelling in your marketing? If so, please share your approach and its results!

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Version Control: Don’t let your versioning get out of control

Version Control Don’t let your versioning get out of controll 351x200 Version Control: Don’t let your versioning get out of control

Losing control of changes in a file is the stuff of nightmares. You know the deal: You craftily create copy, send it around for review amongst your peers, and then everyone starts sending back separate files with their comments. If you accept their feedback, you start implementing the changes in one of the documents – your ‘master’ – as you continue to bring in additional comments and edits from other people. But if the feedback loop is long and you’re at all distracted, it can be terrifyingly easy to lose track of which document is the master.

I’m sure you’ve lived the nightmare of overwriting important changes or renaming a file incorrectly, only to realize the mistake many revision rounds later. I have, and it’s crazy-making. Please see my other feedback/edits, says a colleague. I swore I made those changes, I think.

Worse yet: The thing is printed or published before you catch it; you only realize later that it was a non-final version. Horror.

Version control – or lack thereof – can take down any well-meaning marketing organization. Losing track of what round you’re on, which is the working version, and where changes went, is maddening, frustrating, and inefficient.

So how to wrest control of this beast? Let’s talk about how to keep track of your versions … where to store them, how to name files, how to follow changes, etc.

Establish file-naming conventions

One simple but tremendously effective first step is to establish file-naming conventions across your organization.

If you take away nothing else from this article, heed this: Establish a simple but consistent naming system for your files and stick to it. This may include a combination of numerals or initials or dates. And you must use it militantly, with each and every revision.

Personally, I use different methods depending on how many people are involved in a project. If it’s just me working on a file, like the draft of this blog, I keep a simple file-naming strategy. I label everything with version number only: “v1,” “v2,” etc.

But once more people get involved, I get more granular. When multiple people are reviewing, I find it handy to append a file name with initials so I can easily see whose review I’m working with or scan my desktop to see who’s already given input. I also like to add a date to the file name, such as FILENAME_060717. (True, most word processing programs provide a revision history in the file details – but that doesn’t stick if you later re-open a file and make a tiny change. The clock resets.) And when working with extensive, fast-paced edits – inputting multiple changes in a day – I like to timestamp the actual file name with “morning revision,” “afternoon revision,” or even “2pm revision,” etc., to keep it all straight.

Set up a clear creative workflow

Another step to gaining control of the beast is to set a strategy of who reviews what, and at what stage. Having some kind of plan that is documented – fancy or intricate – can help you keep control of files. These are the hallmarks of a creative workflow, which is another process I advocate. In fact, you may be able to marry the two into one process, an efficient fell swoop. But again, like the naming convention, you really need to stick to the plan and enforce it.

Get everyone on the same page

So you have a file naming system and a plan. That’s great – for you. But if you need to loop others into that plan, it’s critical to get everyone working on the same proverbial page. This means implementing rules and process, not just for yourself, but for the whole organization.

Establish an efficient cross-functional workflow and get someone to wear the Type A hat. This person can document the process, send instructions to colleagues about how to name and label their files, hold mini training sessions, and spot check to ensure and enforce that the process is adhered to. Doing the stickler-for-details routine is not a lot of fun, but it will save time in the long-run.

A “Word” on track changes

There’s nothing that sparks ire in me like receiving a clean file from a contributor. I think, “Hey, wow – they had no changes” … only to start reading through and realize, with horror, that they have made legions of edits without notating them. It’s when I’m in the weeds, reading line by line to compare the old and the new to catch changes, that smoke comes out of my ears.

Change-tracking tools, like the one in Word or Google Docs, provide an easy way to annotate, edit, and mark up. This helps me quickly see who made what change and when.

I don’t just track changes when working with others. I turn the function on while doing my own work to keep tabs on what I’m doing. I love that the program keeps a record of my changes and easily enables me to stet and revert if my edits aren’t so stellar after all.

A cousin of track changes is the comments tool, which I equally love. I use comments to remind myself of status, things I need to come back and complete, or thought process. I also use comments to explain to others why I’m making certain wording changes, why I rewrote a passage for tone, and so on.

I know what you’ve heard in the past about track changes – and it’s true. It’s a visually overwhelming beast to wrangle. But the programs have evolved in a way that makes this manageable. Now it’s possible to mark changes but hide them as you go, so your page stays clean and easy to read and you can focus on just the flow and look of the copy.

Caution: Don’t stamp it “final” until it really is

There’s something magical – and not in a good way – that seems to happen when I append a file name with the word “final.” It’s like a cue to Murphy’s Law: The moment I proclaim a file to be finished, inevitably a host of edits and further changes trickle in.

To trick myself (and Murphy), I’ve learned to not use the word “final” on my files until the thing has shipped, launched, and left the proverbial building. Instead, I keep on keeping on with the naming conventions above so I know which version is the latest. Only later, once all is done, do I come back and make a copy of the One That Went To Press and rename it “Final.”

How to get to “final” stage? Provide a window for internal client review. And then, when it’s closed, it’s closed. Unless it’s a legal issue, ship when you say and stick to it. Your clients will fall in line.

Create an archive

Archiving – on your desktop or a cloud drive – is another great way to keep track of versions.

As I work on multiple files, I stash them in a folder on my desktop called “Previous Versions.” This way, when I open my main working folder, I only see the absolute latest. It helps keep me from being overwhelmed or from scanning through and grabbing the wrong file. It also makes for a nice archive. When I work this way, I create a folder that captures all of the edits and revisions along the way. So, if I ever need to revert to a previous iteration, it’s easy to find.

When all is said and done, I may have three or 300 versions of revised files. Much like tax records, I like to hold on to these for a spell … at least until my files are out the door. This way, I have a clear archive of all changes that have been made throughout the revision process – something to look back to should I need to revert to a previous iteration, see where a strange change or unfamiliar edit was introduced, etc.

I also love working with cloud drives – like Google Drive or SharePoint or Dropbox. In fact, I almost exclusively work on files out of these systems these days. That way I know I’m always working on the latest version of a file, and I can do my work from any computer, versus having to email myself copies of the files. Multiple people can contribute, edit, or revise simultaneously. And it keeps an automatic archive.

Parting thoughts: Be alert when making your edits

One last word of advice: As much as possible, try to limit your distractions when working on files and changes. Close the door, drink some coffee, and turn the music off (or on, if that helps you focus). There’s nothing worse than making a host of excellent changes, only to realize later that you made them to the wrong version of a file and need to redo your work. Or, you’ve saved the changes in a strange place and the file has now gone missing. So pay attention.

And that’s final.

What is your favorite way to keep version control? Or what file-related horror story do you have to share?

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Where's the ROI in your CRM? It's in the process

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I’m down to the last chapter of The Commonwealth of Self Interest: Customer Engagement, Business Benefit and then have some editing to do. But I want to make sure that you keep getting some good reading in while I finish this. A couple of months ago at CRM Magazine’s CRM Evolution Conference, I ran across a guy named Brian Gardner who was speaking on sales process at the event. I loved what he was saying about it and I thought, “hmmm, it would be smart to get this guy in front of the people who read my stuff so they can either learn something about how to think about contemporary sales process OR if they are among my super rock star type readers, get a refresher course from a guy who just knows. Brian not only can write but he’s got some cred: He’s the founder and lead evangelist of SalesProcess360, which helps companies get ROI from CRM. He is also the author of ROI from CRM: It’s About Sales Process, Not Just Technology, available from and Amazon. Brian’s got more than 25 years in sales management and CRM.

One thing, though: What he calls CRM is what I call Sales Process Automation (SFA). My CRM has three pillars — sales, marketing, customer service. Since most of you know that about me, know that what he is referring to in my vernacular is SFA.

Take it away, my good man!

CRM is Not a Four-Letter Word

Why after the past 18 years of working with companies on CRM does it still feel like CRM is considered a four-letter word? It is often viewed as a curse throughout a company…

  • Outside sales (“Big Brother is going to micro-manage me.”)
  • Inside sales (“I don’t have time to log information into this other system.”)
  • Management (“I know I need this but I am tired of fighting the team to get them to use it.”)
  • Marketing (“If only I could be tied to the sales team with the system…”)
  • IT (“It’s just another system to manage.”)

When I give talks on CRM and sales process, I usually start off with two simple questions.

Vendor Exposes Millions of Verizon Customers on Amazon Cloud

Verizon, the largest wireless phone company in the U.S., last week confirmed that data belonging to about six million of its wireless customers was exposed after the information mistakenly was allowed to remain unprotected on an Amazon cloud server.

The disclosure follows reports that an engineer at Nice Systems, which provides workforce management technology to track call center performance, allowed the data of 14 million Verizon customers to reside on an Amazon Web Services S3 bucket.

The Verizon data was part of a larger data exposure, according to
UpGuard, the firm that discovered the problem.

Data from Orange, a Paris-based telecom, was exposed as well, it said.

Of greatest concern were the Verizon personal identification numbers that were left exposed, along with customers’ names, addresses and account information, said Chris Vickery, director of cyber risk research at UpGuard.

“With that detail, a fraudster could have master access to a Verizon customer’s account control,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “It would be theoretically possible to order new hardware or issue a new SIM card for a phone.”

Getting a new SIM card would allow a fraudulent actor to overcome two-factor authentication requirements, Vickery said.

Upguard disclosed the information to Verizon on June 13 and the breach was closed on June 22.

Nice Systems technology is used around the world for government surveillance, according to UpGuard.

Nice officials confirmed the Verizon exposure, but denied the error was indicative of any larger problem within the company. The company did not comment on the reported Orange data exposure.

“A human error that is not related to any of our products or our production environments, nor their level of security, but rather to an isolated staging area with limited information on a specific project, allowed a customer’s data to be made public for a limited period of time,” Nice said in a statement provided to the E-Commerce Times by spokesperson Ilana Hart.

Disputed Impact

Data belonging to six million customers was exposed, Verizon confirmed.

The company is committed to customer security and privacy, it said, and it apologized for the incident.

The number of exposed accounts reported in the original media report was “overstated,” Verizon said.

A vendor’s employee put the data onto a cloud storage area and “incorrectly set the storage to allow external access,” Verizon explained, emphasizing that there was no loss or theft of Verizon customers’ information.

The only party — besides the vendor and Verizon — to gain access to the customers’ information was the researcher who discovered the exposure, Verizon said.

It was Chris Vickery, director of cyber risk research at UpGuard, who discovered the exposed data, an UpGuard spokesperson confirmed to the E-Commerce Times.

The back story to the incident is that the vendor was supporting an approved initiative to help Verizon improve a residential and small business wireline self-service call center portal and required certain data for the project, Verizon explained.

The “overwhelming majority” of the exposed data had no external value, the company said, but it confirmed that it included a “limited amount of personal information.”

The data supported a wireline portal, Verizon said, and it included a “limited number” of cellphone numbers for customer contact purposes.

To the extent that PINs were included in the data set, they were used to authenticate a customer calling into Verizon’s wireline call center, but they did not provide online access to customer accounts, according to the company.

Repeated Pattern

The Verizon data exposure is “eerily similar” to the breach of 198 million voter records at Deep Root Analytics, which also was sitting on Amazon S3 servers and was discovered by the same UpGuard researcher, noted Mark Nunnikhoven, vice president of cloud research at Trend Micro.

Although Upguard hasn’t discussed how it discovered the exposed data, it’s likely the researcher scanned the S3 namespace — a unique root folder where users store their data — looking for misconfigured buckets, Nunnikhoven told the E-Commerce Times.

Amazon should not be blamed entirely for the incident, he said, noting that the S3 buckets are secure by default.

“All AWS servers operated on a shared responsibility model for operations and security,” he said. “That means that both AWS and the user have responsibilities for securing data.”

S3 customers have to decide which data to store and who can access it, Nunnikhoven noted.

It appears that in both of the recent cases, the customers took explicit steps to configure the policies to allow unauthorized access.

“The pattern that is emerging,”
Vectra Networks CTO Oliver Tavakoli told the E-Commerce Times, “is that the impact of a single, sloppy misconfiguration in the cloud is likely to have a much bigger effect than the same misconfiguration inside the company’s own data center.”
end enn Vendor Exposes Millions of Verizon Customers on Amazon Cloud

David Jones is a freelance writer based in Essex County, New Jersey. He has written for Reuters, Bloomberg, Crain’s New York Business and The New York Times.

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