Marketers – You have too many choices

Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic (2018)

I have a little secret for everyone in the world of marketing: You have too many choices.

There are way too many technology platforms in existence today. Too many ‘tools’ and too many products.  You have too many choices when it comes to getting your work done. Let’s take a quick second to glance at Scott Brinker’s MarTech 5000 landscape:

Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic (2018)

I’m sorry, but that’s just too many choices; especially when put in the hands of people that don’t really understand the long-term implications of multiple technology platforms.

Sure, there may be a formal selection process (in my experience, there’s not…or at least it isn’t followed) and  rarely is there a strategic vision when it comes to MarTech. There’s a bunch of tactical ‘needs’ for why a particular type of platform is needed/wanted and even a hand-wave toward ‘strategy’ but rarely is there an in-depth review of how a new platform will make things better for the marketing team and the organization as a whole and (ahem…most importantly) help reach the strategic objective of the organization.

Too many choices can be a real problem.  Need an ‘optimization’ platform for A/B testing (or other optimization issues)?  I’m sure you can find 30 or 40 vendors out there selling some version of a platform that will do what you need it to do.  Do you take the time to run a thorough selection process or do you find the first one that fits your ‘right now’ need and your budget and push ‘buy’?  Based on my experience, people do the latter and pick the first one they find that does what they need to do.  They find a solution to the problem they have today with very little to no thought put into how that platform will integrate into their broader organization’s ecosystem and/or whether the solution will solve their problem tomorrow.

Don’t get me wrong. Personally, I love the possibilities that these choices offer an organization, but only if proper governance is used when selecting and implementing these choices.  Based on my conversations with clients and marketing /  IT professionals over the last few years, there’s very little of this happening.

Over the last 3 years about half the projects I been asked to be a part of are projects to help simplify the  ecosystem within an organization.  I’ve seen companies with over 100 platforms being used within the marketing team with very few of those systems able to talk to each other — and the lives of the marketing team had become a living hell because they had too many systems, too little control of their data and too little insight into what they are able to do, how to do things and who to go to for help.

What’s the solution?

There’s not an ‘easy’ answer.

It will take hard work, focus and a real drive toward reducing the complexity within your marketing organization.  Think of it as putting your team on a diet – a MarTech diet.  When you ‘need’ (by the way – its rarely a ‘need’ and usually a ‘want’ in these cases) some new function that you just can’t live without – check your existing platforms before going out to buy some new tool. If you are absolutely sure you don’t have the functionality in your existing platforms, take a look at what you’re trying to do and think about if its an absolute need and not just a ‘want’.  More importantly, think about the long term vision / strategy of the organization – how does ‘MarTech Platform X’ get you there?  If you can’t easily answer the question, it might be best to try to find a way to do what you need to do with your existing ecosystem.

 

My Plantronics Savi 740 just died…so I bought another

Plantronics Savi 740

Plantronics Savi 740I’ve written before about my love of for the Plantronics Savi 740 (see here and here).

Earlier this week, my beloved 740 died.  I’m not quite sure what happened but it just stopped working.  Mind you, it was only 4+ years old…which is something you really don’t see much of these days.

For a few minutes, I looked around at different models but Plantronics seems to have kept the 740 as their base model with only minor changes (mostly on how the earpiece is configured). I also looked at a competing product from Jabra (the Jabra 9470) but just couldn’t bring myself to move away from a device that has worked for me for 4+ years.

So…I ordered another one. It arrived today and I plugged it in, let it charge and went right back to using the best multi-device headset on the market.

If you multiple devices (desk phone, computer/skype/softphone and cell phone), check out the Plantronics Savi 740…you won’t be disappointed.

The technology debate is usually the wrong debate

DebateWindows vs Mac vs Linux.  Android vs iPhone.  Nikon vs Canon vs Sony.

Spend any time online, with techie friends or with photographers and you’ll run undoubtedly come across arguments about which tech is better. You’ll have people calling others ‘fan boys/girls’ and in some areas you’ll see some downright nasty comments about whichever tech someone doesn’t agree with.  You’ll see people commenting that Android (or iPhone) sucks, Linux (or Mac or Windows) is superior and Nikon (or Canon or Sony) is the only camera a ‘real’ photographer uses.

The problem with these types of debates is that they are generally not grounded in real-world experience. For example, the guy that adamantly argues that Nikon completely destroys Canon cameras in every area of competition has never shot anything other than a Nikon. His arguments are based on reading ‘tech specs’, blogs and forum posts about how much better Nikon is than Canon.  Sure,  there are valid ‘technical’ reasons for stating that one technology is better than another (e.g., the Nikon D810 DSLR has one of the highest DxOMark ratings ever at 97, versus the 81 given to the Canon 5D Mark III), but technical data isn’t the only way to measure technology.

In my experiences, how a person (or company) USES technology is more important than what technology they use. Take the Nikon vs Canon debate…fan-boys will throw the great results of the Nikon cameras into the faces of Canon users at every chance they get, but their argument becomes worthless when a photographer uses a camera that is about 8 years old to take a photo that wins the World Press Photo of the Year for 2015.  Debating the technical merits of a technology is meaningless if you aren’t willing to step forward and actually use that technology (or any other technology) to deliver real-world results for yourself or your company.

The Android vs iPhone debate is another good example. You could spend days reading all the reviews, blogs and forum posts about how Android is better than iPhone (or vice versa). You could talk to endless friends and colleagues about which phone is ‘best’ but until you make the decision to buy one and start using it, you’ll never know how it will work for you.  Honestly, 95% of users will find both the Android and iPhone to be comparable and never really need to know the difference in the two platforms/ecosystems…the phone will just work for them and they’ll be perfectly happy.

The same is true for 95% of businesses that choose one platform over another. As long as you’ve done your due diligence and ensured the platform that you’ve chosen will meet your needs, you’ll most likely be happy with whatever technology you choose. The technology debate is usually the wrong debate to have. The right debate to have is to focus on how you will use whatever technology you have (or might acquire) to deliver something of value to yourself, your family or your company.  You can have the best technology in the world and still deliver terrible results or you can have technology that is one, two or even three generates behind the ‘modern’ tech and deliver award winning results.

Reinventing a Small Business with Simple Technology

reinventLast year I helped a friend of mine reinvent his business. The funny thing about this “reinvention” is that we didn’t really do much more than change his approach to using technology.

My friend owns a plumbing company that has been in business since the 1940s and has been passed down to him from his father and grandfather. Needless to say, the company has been successful enough to stay in business for over 65 years.

By all measures, this “little” plumbing company, which is what my friend calls his business, is doing quite well. He has ten employees. and they have multiple generations of customers who continue to come to them for all of their plumbing needs. While profitable, the business had only seen single-digit growth in revenue over the past few years, and my friend was looking for ways to jump-start growth.

The only real complaint that anyone could ever make against my friend’s business was that it was stuck in “old” ways of doing business when it came to technology. Employees carried around their “order books” which contained their schedules, work logs, invoices, and payments for the day’s activities. These “order books” had been in use in one form or another since the founding of the company. There was no question that the approach worked, but by using pen and paper, the business was stuck in an outdated and inefficient approach to operations.

My buddy called me up one day and asked for help. He wanted to replace the order book with technology. I’m a fan of technology so I happily helped him kick off a project to replace his business’ pen and paper approach with a technology solution.

The solution was a fairly straightforward one. We built a custom app that connected the business’ Quickbooks accounting software with a custom scheduling application that allowed everyone in the company to have a complete view of each employee’s schedule and activity for each day. Using iPads and/or iPhones each technician could then access their order book via a custom-developed app.

The driving force behind the success of this approach was the ability of employees to access and use the order book application in real time, regardless of their location. For their hardware, wireless and data access needs, we turned to Verizon Wireless to provide the connection and the iPads/iPhones. My friend and I have both been long-time clients of Verizon and felt it was in the best position to help his business the most.

With this new order-book application, the technicians can see at a glance what their days look like, even as their days change due to customer cancellations or new appointments being set. The technicians no longer need to call into the office after each appointment, they can now just refresh their order books to see what the rest of their day looks like. Additionally, all technicians have the ability to enter payments into their iPads or iPhones while with clients rather than taking checks or asking clients to call into the office with credit card information.

The new order-book system has led to much more efficient service from each technician, more timely payments from clients, and much faster and effective service. The business has seen a rise in revenue from service calls that can be attributed to the more efficient use of technicians’ time while in the field.

My friend no longer has to worry about whether his technicians will get all their paperwork turned in at the end of their shifts. He no longer has to worry about making sure invoices and service calls are logged into the accounting system at the end of the day. He no longer has to worry that he’s missing out on clients because the business can’t respond to their needs fast enough.

Now my friend only has to worry about where he’s going to find another technician or two. His business has grown about 30% over the last year, and it looks like he’s going to need to expand fairly soon. It is amazing what some simple technology can do to help reinvent a business.

This is brought to you by Verizon – helping simplify the realities so you can keep dreaming big.

Mobile Connectivity and Your Business

mobile-connectivityI’d like you to do a little experiment with me. I’ve got a little thought experiment that I’d like to run past you

Imagine being a small business owner today. Maybe some of you are small business owners so it’ll be very easy to imagine.

Now, imagine that you are looking to expand your business. You have a few employees and a great group of clients but you think there’s more opportunity for you out there in your field. For the purposes of this little thought experiment, let’s imagine that your business is one that requires constant mobility and client interaction in the field.   Your employees are constantly in their vehicles, at client locations and regularly moving around town.

In the mobile centric world of today, you’ve probably already spent some money on mobility initiatives. Your employees might have a smartphone that they can use to check in with the office or maybe you’ve even gone so far as to give laptops to your team so they can keep up with paperwork between jobs.

With everything you’ve done, you still don’t feel like you’ve taken full advantage of the benefits that mobility offers. You employees still do paperwork, fill out invoices and take payments in the ‘old’ way with checks or using billing statements to the client. You’ve not really taken that leap into the world of full-time mobile connectivity for your business.

You aren’t quite sure why. You know the systems are in place today to allow full-time connectivity. Your employee’s smartphones are always connected to the wireless network and you never have any issue using them for voice or data and they always ‘just work’. Your laptops that your employees use aren’t always connected but when they are connected to a wi-fi network, they give your team the ability to catch up on email, invoicing, billing or other necessary work that keeps a small business running.

You’re almost there though. You really are. Your team may not be connected full-time, but it won’t take much to get there. So why not make the jump?

Mobile Connectivity and Your Business

It is interesting to ponder thought experiments like this. In fact, this is much more than just a thought experiment, it is a reality of many small businesses. Most don’t think they have the technical knowledge to be able to put together an end-to-end solution to allow full-time mobility and connectivity.

While many small business owners aren’t terribly technical, they don’t really need to be. The mobile world of today is so much different than the one that confronted businesses just five years ago. Today, a business owner can walk into just about wireless carrier or electronics/computer store and pick up a tablet, smartphone or wireless device to add to their laptop and be completely mobile.

The infrastructure to be a full-time mobile business is in place today. The backbone is available and reliable to allow your employees to work from anywhere they are.

This is brought to you by Verizon – helping simplify the realities so you can keep dreaming big.

More touchscreens in the enterprise?

prodLinkAre you ready for more touch screens in the enterprise?

Windows 8 is an operating system built for touch.  Whether its running on a PC, tablet or phone, its been designed around the touch being the main form of interaction.

We already use touch screens regularly with our phones and tablets but how would they work as your own form of computing?

Personally, I don’t see it working for me but thats because of what i do and how I do it. A touch screen isn’t ideal for me…at least in current technological forms. That said, could touchscreens become even more common place in organizations?

There are plenty of companies betting that the answer is yes.

Dell has released a few new products to take advantage of the new Windows 8 touch capabilities.  Of course they have a tablet in the XPS 10 Tablet but there’s also an ultrabook version with the XPS 12 Ultrabook.   Both of these devices are form factors that we are all quite used to seeing and using and are both excellent platforms for a touch screen OS.

In addition, the touch screen technology has also been added to a few of Dell’s “all in one” PC’s with the Inspiron 23 All in One computer.    This (and others like it) is the machine that is vying to replace your desktop…but can it?

Sure you can use a mouse and keyboard with it…and most probably will…but will the touch features be used widely in business?     At home, I can see a touch screen PC becoming something that is used often as it morphs into a part of the living room as a media player, etc…but at work I’m not sure i see touch becoming the main interaction method with PC’s, especially for those employees that are heavy users of analytic’s and word processing tools (e.g., Word, Excel, databases, etc).

That said, I’m looking forward to seeing how Windows 8, an operating system designed for touch, works for non-touch PC’s and environments.  Is there enough of functionality and features for those folks who aren’t interested in using a touch-based PC on the desktop?

From what I can see, Windows 8 can ‘transition’ to a non-touch PC fairly easily by moving away from the new ‘grid’ and back into a Windows 7 like environment.  In my research and demo’s of Windows 8 devices, I’ve not  run across any issues using a non-touch device with this touch-centric OS, but I haven’t been using a Windows 8 product as my sole platform either.

Back to the original question…will this touch-centric OS mean more touch screen’s in the enterprise? I think it will. I think many people and organizations will be migrating to Windows 8, and as part of that migration, touch-screen tablets and laptops will most likely start to trickle into the organization. I see those two platforms (tablets and laptops) as being the most used in organizations

What does more touch screens mean for the IT group?  It mean that there will be new training required as well as new approaches to support Windows 8.  That aside, I don’t see there being any additional undue burden on IT support staff from Windows 8’s touch screen approach – the biggest support issue will be just supporting a new OS, regardless of whether touch is involved.

Touch won’t take over the enterprise…yet. Heavy users of word processing, email and spreadsheets (the majority of business users) won’t be able to replace their physical keyboards. That said, we are going to see more touch devices in tablets, ultrabooks and phones.

Are you ready for more touch devices in your organization? They are coming.

This is a paid post in conjunction with IDG and Dell