How Your Business Can Use Data to Find its Value Proposition

What makes your company and its product or service different from your competition? As any small or medium-sized business owner knows, the answer to that question is vital to long-term success. If you cannot differentiate yourself, your audience will eventually veer toward the lowest price point, making any business growth unsustainable. That’s what makes a value proposition such a crucial part of your marketing efforts. If you can concisely describe why your product is both valuable to your audience and different from its competition, you can build your entire business on that description. But how do you get there? Especially for startups and small businesses, coming up with the perfect value proposition can seem like a difficult endeavor. By gathering relevant data, you can make sure that the statement you end up with is not just relevant to your audience, but can also be used as the sustainable basis of your competitive advantage. First Step: Define the Problem quotes legendary inventor Charles Kettering in stating that “a problem well stated is a problem half solved.” Every product and business, at its core, should seek to solve an elementary problem that its audience solves. But how do you know what that problem is? This is where data first enters the equation. Through market research, even small businesses can define latent consumer and business needs that their products might solve. The process can be as simple as customer interviews and surveys, or as complex as in-depth evaluation of your audience’s daily behaviors. The key, on all ends of that spectrum, is the gathering and using of data to judge your results. If your audience wants to give you their feedback on latent or obvious problems they need a product to solve, you have to have a platform in which you can gather and evaluate that feedback. Survey tools connected to your CRM, for example, can help you organize your data in a single space. Second Step: Describe Your Solution Of course, a problem matters little if your business cannot fix it. Your product should promise to provide the solution to the problem(s) you found in the first step, helping to improve your audience’s lives in one way or the other. In this second step, it’s time to find out just how it might do this. At this point, don’t worry about your value proposition being a snappy marketing slogan or differentiating itself from your competition. The goal is purely to make sure that you can define exactly how your product would solve the problem defined in step 1. Third Step: Competitive Research Next, it’s time to understand exactly how your proposed solution fits into the competitive environment. Have other businesses also recognized the same problem as you, and are they trying to solve the problem? If so, is their solution different than yours, or similar? In the course of this step, data once again becomes crucial. Competitive research can go as far as understanding the keywords other businesses bid on in their search […]

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Office 365 or Google Docs? Finding the Perfect Solution For Your Small Business

The increasing popularity of cloud computing has brought with it countless benefits for small business owners. Among the largest is the rise of productivity solutions that allow you to share documents and spreadsheets, while improving your email efforts and maximizing your storage capabilities without having to worry about an on-premise solution. But within this cloud productivity market, you have a number of options that can easily seem confusing. Microsoft’s Office 365, for example, has engaged in a fight for supremacy in the space with Google Apps, a similar solution that claims to offer many of the same capabilities. Which works better for your small business? The below evaluation can help you answer that question, using 6 distinct variables. 1. Range of Features Naturally, the first variable to consider should be the actual programs that are part of each suite. Both alternatives offer a relatively similar range of products, from word processing to presentations and cloud storage. Office 365, however, does come with a couple of additions to which Google has no alternative. More specifically small businesses can take advantage of Publisher as a solution to design print materials, in addition to the basic (and well-known) Access database. Both can easily help you improve the way you run your small business, giving Office a crucial advantage in this area. 2. Email Capability In this feature, it’s Outlook vs. Gmail for business. You’re probably familiar with both, so the adjustments are not major in either case. Which works better for your business depends entirely on your comfort level and needs. Ultimately, both are relatively similar products. Outlook does have a more easily integrated calendar feature compared to Google, which can help you better manage your business time and scheduling coordination. In addition, Gmail’s offline access is limited to the past month, while Outlook offers unlimited offline access to retrieve old messages and work on new ones. 3. Storage Possibilities Both Office 365 and Google Drive offer cloud storage solutions that allow you to keep all of your documents and file easily accessible for everyone in your business. Which works better for a small business like yours? Again, much of that answer comes down to preferences. CNet has created a great comparison of the most popular cloud storage solutions available for small businesses. OneDrive, Microsoft’s product, integrates seamlessly with email and is compatible with most mobile and desktop operating systems. If your business runs on Windows PCs, it will typically be your best choice. 4. Collaboration Opportunities Ultimately, one of the biggest advantage of any comprehensive cloud productivity suite is its ability to allow your business to collaborate on different projects and edit multiple files at the same time. So naturally, the individual alternatives’ options should be a crucial point of consideration in choosing between Office 365 and Google Apps. Shared spreadsheets, for example, need to be editable by more than one user at the same time. Just as importantly, users should be able to track changes by their peers, add and respond to […]

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Marketing Personalization is Real, Thanks to Increasingly Available Data Insights

We live in an age of personalization. Armed with more data than ever before, businesses now have the opportunity to move away from mass marketing ‘blasts’ and toward increasingly targeted, personalized messages. Consumers across industries are welcoming this opportunity. Ad blocking is on the rise, with an estimated 86 million U.S. internet users actively suppressing promotional messages online this year. At the same time, personalized marketing and particularly email messages generate significantly higher attention, engagement, and transaction rates than their non-customized counterparts. Increasingly, your audience expects personalization. And fortunately, the ability to gather and utilize data about your audience has made the process significantly more realistic for small and medium businesses to implement. The Rise of Big Data and Data-Driven Marketing A few years ago, big data officially became a topic for businesses. The rise of online marketing has enabled us to collect a large variety of information about our audience, allowing us to draw insights that can help create more relevant and personalized messages for potential and current customers. That rise of data, in turn, has led to an emphasis on data-driven marketing. As Ad Week points out, basing every marketing decisions on data you have gathered about your audience has turned from a novel approach into an integral business process in the course of just a few years. Your audience knows that you’re collecting information about them online. Now, they expect you to actually turn that information into value for them. Turning Big Data into Actionable Insights Of course, there’s a significant problem with big data and data-driven marketing that has long plagued small and medium businesses: the resources needed to accomplish that feat. Thanks to advertising platforms like Facebook, Google Analytics, and more, everyone can gather the sort of data needed to personalize your marketing. But few organizations actually have the budget and manpower necessary to turn that data into actual, data-driven insights and actions. As a result, the last few years have not just given rise to the importance of data. They have also widened the gap between audience expectations and small/medium business capabilities. Your largest competitors may be able to interpret and use real-time data, but if you can’t, you’ll fall behind in the eyes of your audience. Fortunately, the past may be the past. Increasingly, thanks to machine learning technology, data collection and pattern recognition are becoming more available to businesses of all sizes. In fact, machine learning has officially entered the sphere of possibilities in small business marketing. How To Personalize Your Marketing Using Data Every business can collect data about their audience. And thanks to machine learning, even small businesses can now use that data to create actual, personalized marketing strategies. The reason, as Tech Emergence shows, lies in the increasing availability of technology. Tools like IBM Watson, for example, allow businesses of all sizes to recognize patterns in their data and even predict user behavior for a reasonable cost. But pattern recognition still does not get to the core of the potential advantage […]

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6 Benefits of Integrating Your Dynamics CRM With QuickBooks

Customer relationship management software (CRM) helps you convert your contacts, improving your marketing, sales, and retention efforts in the process. Accounting software allows you to keep your finances in order, gaining both quick overview and in-depth knowledge about your revenues, expenses, and more. At first sight, the only thing these two types of software have in common is the fact that they improve business processes in some shape. Accounting and marketing, you might think, does not often overlap. But in reality, integrating both processes comes with a variety of advantages for your business. In fact, here are 6 benefits you can gain from integrating your Dynamics CRM with QuickBooks. 1. Enhancing Customer Profiles and Information Whether or not you already use a CRM to enhance your sales and marketing efforts, you know about the value of information. During their buyers’ journey, your audience receives more than 100 emails every day. Your only chance to stand out is with a message that is both relevant and targeted exactly to your audience. The same truth holds for the sales call. If you simply call sales-qualified leads with a blanket statement, they’re much less likely to become customers than they would if you approached them with a sales pitch tailored to their needs. By integrating your accounting software with your CRM, you can solve both of these problems. For existing customers, you can draw on financial information and order history to make a more relevant marketing and/or sales pitch. Considering the ROI of customer retention, this added information could be the difference in helping your business grow. 2. Avoiding Duplication for Increased Data Integrity When your Dynamics CRM and QuickBooks accounting software run separately, you almost necessarily risk data duplication. Two identical records will have to be maintained for the same customer. That, in turn, can compromise your data integrity, as duplicate updates are not always intuitive or easily followed. Through a CRM and accounting software integration, you can solve that problem. QuickBooks and Dynamics, for example, allow users to promote and link customer profiles on both platforms, making sure the information always remains in sync. The result is not just less required data entry, but greater accuracy and integrity. 3. Understanding Accounting Data in the Context of Your Customers Much of your accounting data will provide valuable insights into the health and success of your business. But do you know what that data actually means for individual customers? If you do, you can draw conclusions that help you improve your marketing, sales, and financial processes. Imagine, for example, running a report that shows you the average revenue created by one of your marketing automation campaigns. Alternatively, compare multiple campaigns or sales efforts in light of their actual costs. Adding customer context to your accounting data gives you a much fuller (and more accurate) pictures not just of your business health, but the reasons for that health and growth. 4. Syncing Price Lists and Inventory for Integrated Sales Information As part of your accounting […]

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S.M.A.R.T. Goals Make For Successful Projects

SMART Goals Lead to Project Success

Many people fail in life, not for lack of ability or brains or even courage but simply because they have never organized their energies around a goal. — Elbert Hubbard Elbert Hubbard was a man who knew how to set a goal and achieve it. He was one of the most successful traveling salesmen of his time and, due to that success, was able to become a renowned and prolific writer, publisher, philosopher, and artist. His ability to organize his energy around a goal enabled him to reach significant heights. But as he showed, it’s not just about having initiative or having a passion for a achieving a goal or even working hard. It’s about working smart — S.M.A.R.T. to be precise. What Is S.M.A.R.T.? The mnemonic acronym S.M.A.R.T. began to appear in the early 1980s and is often tied to the Management by Objectives concept that was developed by Peter Drucker. At its core, S.M.A.R.T. is a process for creating goals and monitoring their achievement progress. It is lauded by many as the most effective way of forming goals so that they are simple to understand and easy to see when they have been successfully completed. When it comes to setting goals for more technical or transformative projects, having a clear cut game plan is necessary. For example, if a company decides to implement a customer relationship management system, it is essential that the integration of the system goes smoothly and as planned. Disruption in customer interaction and experience can cause serious customer loss and can be incredibly detrimental to the company’s reputation. Using S.M.A.R.T. to create the process for achieving that goal will enable the company to flesh out what is required for completion and when completion can be expected. When an individual or organization is developing a goal, and using the S.M.A.R.T. method, they simply form the goal around the five tenets of the system. Each letter in the acronym stands for one of the tenets. S Is For Specific The goal that is being set should be specific, clear, and simple. This means it should likely include relevant dates, times, numbers, names, locations and whatever other fixed information is pertinent–in other words, the why, what and how of your goal. It should not be vague or open to interpretation in any way. The goal should not be: To implement a customer relationship management system. The goal should be: To have customer relationship management up and running by May of 2017 with full staff training completed. M Is For Measurable/Meaningful Your goal shouldn’t be layered behind fluffy words that are difficult to quantify. The reason for this is that you want tangible evidence that you’ve accomplished the goal. So not only should you include a completion date, but what it will look like when the goal is completed. The goal should also mean something to everyone who is going to be involved in accomplishing it. If there’s no passion behind working towards something, the likelihood that it gets done at […]

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