All posts in “Business”

One-of-a-Kind CRM

The hoopla over vertical market or industry CRM might be eclipsing a similar move that does the same kind of thing but with less fanfare. In the end, we might be discussing two iterations and just a difference of degree.

The proliferation of CRM development platforms by companies like Microsoft, Oracle, and especially Salesforce, is changing how we regard core functionality because it’s subject to change by the user.

Deep Into Processes

Most vendors I know offer a list of industry riffs on CRM — like banking, insurance and healthcare — that go deep into business processes, which is a long way from changing a field name from “customer” to “client” to “patient” — in other words, what used to pass for industry CRM.

In some cases, like Vlocity or Veeva, the core offering is a heavily edited or outright rewrite of Salesforce functionality. These vendors use platforms to enable further mods for customers.

A business opts for an industry package because it offers more value than the generic product, which means the business can get to deployment faster and begin calculating return on investment sooner.

I learned this the hard way many years ago, when I noticed the insurance industry wasn’t buying a lot of industry CRM because the CIOs didn’t see enough specialization. That made sense in the preplatform world, where any change was hard-coded.

Industry CRM is pretty good today, but the same platforms that make these industry solutions possible also make it possible to adjust the operation of CRM on a smaller stage, such as to take advantage of new opportunities.

The Art of Pivoting

For many vendors, CRM has become the demonstration project for their platforms. In other words, “Look what we did — now what do you want to do?”

That’s not bad, and for many it’s essential because a lot of businesses simply need to pivot a business process to take advantage of a new opportunity and not invade a completely new niche.

This happens a lot right now, because there are fewer rock-solid business advantages any business can compete on that provide stickiness. It used to be that a supply chain, built up over years, conferred an advantage on the big company that invested in it.

Thanks to the Internet, everyone can access a great supply chain, and thanks to analytics and social media, we all can glean insights from customer activity, regardless of how big or wealthy a company is. One size fits all pretty well.

As a result, competing on speed and agility — as in being able to pivot to take advantage of a temporary opportunity — becomes essential for everyone. A “pivot,” if I have to define it, is something that a business can’t do unless its software follows suit.

It has to involve changing some basic attribute — like modifying a whole process to do something that the business and none of its competitors had considered. A pivot could be a decision to accept bitcoin for payment, for instance. The first vendor to pivot, regardless of its size, might be able to become the go-to source for a product or service as a result.

It doesn’t even have to make a lot of sense. Earlier this year, I spoke with a company that sold school buses. It had a system that you’d have to stretch to call CRM, because there was so much financial information embedded in it (it also had ERP).

No vendor is likely to build a vertical CRM app for school bus distributors, but such a company will make a decision about what CRM vendor to use based on the flexibility of its platform. Intriguingly, this company used SugarCRM and not Salesforce or anyone else — in part, I think, because it had in-house coding talent, and the coders had an important say in what platform the company bought.

My Two Bits

Today’s CRM platforms have become very powerful. As time goes on we’re witnessing not just industry specialization or whole new applications being spun off. We’re also seeing some interesting amalgamations of business need, too.

About 10 years ago, some vendors begged customers not to modify their source code for a variety of reasons, including the reality that updates would overwrite the changes. Also, there was the nasty problem of having to trace any changes to ensure that whacking one mole didn’t cause another to pop up elsewhere.

Platform technology changed all that by placing the app definition on a higher plane than the actual code. When a change to the definition is needed today, a user makes the definitional change, and a bot we think of as a “code generator” does the hard work with no errors.

Code generation is one reason that algorithmic-driven software is taking over the world. It works, and it’s very close to flawless. All resistance now is futile.


Denis Pombriant is a well-known CRM industry analyst, strategist, writer and speaker. His new book, You Can’t Buy Customer Loyalty, But You Can Earn It, is now available on Amazon. His 2015 book, Solve for the Customer, is also available there.
Email Denis.

Did Marketers Underestimate Their Competition in 2018?

Looking back at 2018, there’s one competitor we underestimated this year.

It’s slowly draining the attention of every human on the planet.

It plays into almost all human needs — as they are defined by the Maslow Hierarchy.

It’s the rectangular status-seeking device in your hands. That’s right. It’s your smartphone.

Maslow’s needs start with the basics. Starting at the bottom of the pyramid, we all need food and water. Then safety. Next up is belonging, then esteem, then self-actualization.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Human Needs

The hierarchy was first introduced in a research paper by the psychologist Abraham Maslow in 1943. He had no idea that 64 years later, the invention of the smartphone would supercharge the famous pyramid.

Here’s why: We now check our phones the equivalent of one day a week, and 20 percent of adults spend 40 hours a week on it. The stats suggest we check our phones 80 to 150 times per day, on average.

That’s not new news after a decade of the smartphone’s existence, but one of today’s biggest marketing mistakes is underestimating what people are doing with those phone checks.

With Maslow’s guidance, it’s clear we are reinforcing our need to belong, checking our status, and ultimately building our esteem toward self-actualization.

So, what can brand marketers do about it?

Marketers Marketing to Marketers

This amplified need to belong and check status has turned into hundreds of millions of personal advertising campaigns, all competing against brands for attention.

It is much more likely for people to adopt a brand based on friends and family sharing content than TV, Facebook and YouTube advertising combined.

They’re not just looking at friends and family content all day. They’re making it. Millennials might spend two hours a day creating and posting. Plus, there’s important time spent checking the metrics and seeing who liked their posts.

The sheer weight of personal messages from friends and family minimizes the “cut through” ability of advertiser-paid messaging. Literally, everyone is building status in real time, 24/7, with instant gratification of shared photos and videos traveling at lightning-fast smartphone processing speed.

If you multiply personal posts by the total number of friends on everyone’s contact list, you have a lot of ground to cover to join the conversation. The world of organic reach is a nonfactor for brands, leaving engagement as the affordable metric of choice.

Going forward, your job as a marketer is not just to engage one audience group. You also need to engage friends of friends.

That means, stop focusing on just your target market. It’s your target’s target you need to reach.

So, what to do differently in 2019?

Create a Brand Community

Fans sometimes love the identity of a brand so much, they brand themselves with it. Why is this important? Because whatever they’re doing ultimately will be the formula for building organic participation. When there’s enough participation, a community forms around the brand. Once that happens, creating friends of friends is no longer insurmountable.

Logically, if people are talking positively about your brand to reinforce their status, the marketer-to-buyer barrier is broken. You are one of them. In the friend set.

“Superfans” are those who feel a true sense of identity in their chosen brand relationships and are able to say that their friends would agree. Superfans are more likely to share content and brand themselves with the identity of their favorite brands than other fans. They “mentally smile” when they see others using their preferred brands.

Brands have achieved success in cultivating this type of following by following a formula:

  1. Ignite the Fire
  2. Fuel the Flame
  3. Pass the Torch

This is the path for competitive brands going forward. The cost of finding that moment in the world of “friend posts and shares” as an outsider is a price tag that few can afford.

Ignite the Fire

Brands that have a unique story easily can get past “advertiser” and move to “friend” status. What’s true about your story? What’s likeable about it? Can you tell it in an inviting way?

Fat Face is a European clothing chain that got its name when its founders didn’t want to get off the French mountain they were skiing on. They were from the UK, and the name of their favorite slope translated to “Fat Face” in English. They started selling “Fat Face” t-shirts out of their VW van. Those original
t-shirts amplified into a line of clothing and stores, and a style all their own. It’s a real story. And people want to brand themselves with it.

Organic Valley calls itself the “un-corporation.” It started as a group of independent farmers — and though the farmers themselves haven’t changed, they now they bring more than US$1 billion worth of dairy goods to stores throughout the U.S. They have videos with their CEO barefoot, and they show an organization chart with him at the bottom. Packages with cows kissing farmers just makes it a great brand and a believable story.

Fuel the Flame

Driving involvement in your brand can take many forms — from unique lingo and secret menus to cocreation concepts and gaming. The point is to give the consumer a connection point. Xbox allows users to custom design its own game controllers. It’s personal. It’s virtual. And it’s tactile. All in one idea.

Starbucks has a simple form on its website entitled “My Starbucks Idea.” This began in 2013 — and the company has created 277 products from more than 150,000 suggestions, including free WiFi, splash sticks, cake pops and pumpkin spiced lattes.

Designing shoes, playing games and interacting all lead to real conversations and entertainment, and allow brands to meet consumers where they already live and play. Joining them before they join you is the groundwork that all marketers need to do.

Pass the Torch

Appointing loyalists to tell your story builds reputations organically, as long as the tone is sincere and the rewards are fulfilling.

Southern Tide is a clothing line that targets a college market. It does so by recruiting college reps and benchmarking their status with trendsetters who are selling their credibility every day. For some, getting chosen to rep the brand has as much status as getting into the school of choice.

TheSkimm is a daily newsletter targeting a female audience. Advertisers can participate — not by submitting ads, but by providing rewards for Skimmbassadors. How to become one? Get 10 of your friends to sign up for the service. There are now 12,000 of them and more than 5 million readers.

Taco Bell created a wedding chapel in Las Vegas. The package includes memorable (and shareable) moments and a taco 12-pack for guests. It’s joining people where they are and having fun with them. By the way, there’s a four-hour notice required in case you get the fever.

Consider the economics of owning versus renting. Much like any other equity, it’s better to own. Own your data. Own your audience. Don’t be beholden to social networks. Email and e-commerce are far more affordable than paying for reach.

So, the lesson for 2019, is to move past just asking consumers to buy the brand. Instead, ask them to join the brand.


Norty Cohen is the founder and CEO of integrated marketing agency,
Moosylvania. He is the author of
Join the Brand, 2018, and
The Participation Game, published in 2017.

Where Toronto sees smart sidewalks, residents see ‘1984.’ So what now?

Sidewalk Toronto
Sidewalk Toronoto

It is touted as a unique opportunity to build a smart city within a major city, literally from the ground up. Environmental remediation, new infrastructure, digital electrification plans, new-age mobility options — the whole shebang.

If only people would stop complaining about privacy issues.

Up in Toronto, Canada’s largest city, there’s been much ado about what will happen to all the data that the future Sidewalk Toronto project will generate. The focus of the debate has been, predictably, Alphabet (Google’s parent company) whose Sidewalk Labs is the primary partner in the project. And yet, for all the sturm und drang about personal information, not a single spade-full of dirt has been spilled yet.

For Toronto, the city would gain a new and smart neighborhood. For Alphabet, it would have access to data. So what’s the Sidewalk Toronto project all about, and why are consumer advocates sounding the alarms? Here’s a primer.

Sidewalk Toronto
Sidewalk Toronoto

What exactly is the plan?

On a virtually abandoned piece of former industrial property along Lake Ontario, east of downtown Toronto, the plan is to rehabilitate an area of what are now largely parking lots by creating a smart, futuristic community of affordable housing, intelligent infrastructure, sustainable living and working spaces, and cutting-edge transportation and technology systems. The area would become a new neighborhood, called Quayside.

Waterfront Toronto, which owns the initial 12-acre property, issued a request for proposal for a partner to develop the site last year. Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs was the winner.

why are toronto residents suspicious about citys smart project toronto307 feat 13
Sidewalk Toronoto

“Since then, what we have been doing is the major planning effort, which is being funded by Sidewalk Labs,” Micah Lasher, who is the head of policy and communications at Sidewalk Labs, told Digital Trends. The master plan will be a comprehensive proposal on how to develop the property from a business and technology standpoint, while achieving specific environmental and accessibility goals. Sidewalk Labs will reportedly spend about $50 million on the initial planning phase.

What are the coolest smart elements of the project?

Right now, the planners are letting their imaginations run wild, with proposals coming from startups to major high-tech firms that cover everything from digital power to autonomous modes of transportation.

“Our vision is to be a catalyst for this place and not to be the primary deliverer of technology and solutions,” Lasher said.

Consequently, there have been plenty of interesting ideas pouring in from third parties, starting literally on the sidewalks and roads. One concept, for example, is to deploy a “dynamic paving” system that uses hexagonal pavers that can withstand Ontario winters better than conventional pavement and be easily maintained.

An embedded lighting system would separate pedestrians from cyclists, encouraging safety and multimodal transportation alternatives. In addition to anticipating shared mobility services in autonomous form, there’s also a plan to build a subterranean garbage collection system that will keep the streets above ground clean and quiet.

“We’re really interested in the use of mass timber for construction in a substantial amount of the buildings,” Lasher said. Using such preformed wood products in taller buildings or “plyscrapers” can reduce construction costs and, according to a study by Yale University and the University of Washington, reduce related CO2 emissions by 14 to 31 percent.

Sidewalk Toronto
Sidewalk Toronoto

Because the project is in many ways starting from scratch, it’s giving Sidewalk and its potential partners a chance to rethink the smart city concept. That may involve a new kind of street grid and a reduced need for parking spaces, for example, given that technology is changing how people move around communities.

What’s the actual timeline?

“A very detailed proposal for the new community will be presented in draft form, probably in the first quarter of 2019,” Lasher said. That will be followed by another likely intense period of engaging with stakeholders, such as local businesses and government officials, and the public for the rest of 2019.

So, even if the feedback is generally positive next year, Torontonians probably won’t see bulldozers along Quayside until 2020.

What are the major challenges?

“There are reasons why that part of the city has been undeveloped for as long as it has,” Lasher said.

There are ineluctable environmental issues, for example. After decades of industrial use, some remediation will be needed to eliminate any potentially harmful or toxic detritus that may still be in the ground. The government has proposed setting aside over a $1 billion (Canadian) for environmental remediation.

Then, there is the issue of infrastructure. Toronto has a struggling transportation system and the Quayside area where the Sidewalk project will be built is particularly difficult to reach. There’s no light rail or subway extension to provide access, for example, and although it is near the downtown core, a highway cuts it off from the rest of town.

While light rail solutions have been discussed in the past, there are no current plans to build a mass transit extension to reach the area. So the Sidewalk proposal will have to include some new mobility solutions, no doubt involving autonomous forms of transportation.

“Transit connectivity is an absolute necessity,” Lasher said.

Privacy concerns

Not without reason, Google has become a target for those concerned about privacy and, by extension, personal security.

Between all the data Google and Alphabet collect on people’s behavior online, plus revelations that third-parties can get access to personal Gmail accounts, consumer advocates have been understandably concerned — and distrustful — of Alphabet and its ambitions. Couple that with future technologies, like Waymo-powered autonomous vehicles, and community video, lidar, and sensor systems that would monitor people throughout a smart community, like Sidewalk Toronto, it’s understandable why there would be heightened concern. For anyone living in such a place, there would be no way to opt out.

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Should Google know where you are at every moment of every day — what stores you visited, whether you walked to work or drove yourself, and how many drinks you consumed at the local bar? Should Alphabet and its associated businesses know how much electricity you used yesterday and what Netflix shows you watched? Canada recently legalized the recreational use of marijuana. So, should Alphabet be allowed to monitor people’s marijuana consumption and then share the information with other companies and possibly potential employers?

As the discussions and planning progressed, several people initially involved in the project who focused on privacy and data issues have quit. The most prominent person to leave recently was Ann Cavoukian, Ontario’s former privacy commissioner, who was a consultant on the project.

Several people initially involved in the project who focused on privacy and data issues have quit.

The principal objection from those who have left has been that Sidewalk Labs would allow third parties — in other words, any associated business — to use the collected information on citizens. It’s also unclear about how “anonymized” — or in the words of a Sidewalk Labs blog, “de-identified” — the data would be. One of the former co-CEOs of Blackberry creator Research In Motion, Jim Balsillie, has also complained that it was unclear who would own the resulting data and intellectual property.

Clearly sensing that having a single company, especially Alphabet, so intimately involved in a smart city project can be seen as letting Big Brother take control, Sidewalk Labs recently proposed handing over the city data to an independent Civic Data Trust. No one particular organization would own the aggregated information, and it could be used freely by companies to develop apps and innovative solutions — such as how to keep public garbage receptacles serviced — in the future.

However, that proposal may just push the privacy problem onto another group. The nitty gritty of what kind of specific information gets collected, by whom (the government or Google or others?). and how de-identified (or not de-identified) it all ends up being remains to be spelled out.

What’s next?

Right now and for the new foreseeable few months, Sidewalk Labs will be engaged in a campaign to win over the public and other businesses. That “public engagement phase” includes the Sidewalk Toronto 307 space, an experiential center that’s open for the public to see some of the smart ideas being proposed for the city. (It’s located at 307 Lake Shore Blvd E. in Toronto, hence the name.) The next real test will come when Sidewalk Labs delivers its draft master innovation and development plan early next year. That’s when we can expect to hear more wild ideas for how to build a smart community — and more objections.

Editors’ Recommendations

A second Wells Fargo glitch results in the foreclosure of more homes

second wells fargo computer glitch resulted in foreclosure of hundreds more homes nor

Wells Fargo blamed a computer glitch for the second time this year that resulted in the bank mistakenly foreclosing on hundreds of homes over an eight-year period, CBS News reported. The software error applied to loan modification applications submitted between March 15, 2010, and April 30, 2018, according to Wells Fargo.

In November, Wells Fargo admitted the error in a filing with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission, noting that a computer glitch led the bank to deny its mortgage customers the request for a loan modification or repayment plan in 870 instances. Eventually, 545 homes were foreclosed because of Wells Fargo’s error.

Jose Aguilar, who owned one of the foreclosed homes, told his story in a CBS News interview. To compensate Aguilar for its mistake, Wells Fargo sent him an apology letter as well as a check in the amount of $25,000, but Aguilar still wants an explanation, and his lawyer stated that the amount “doesn’t even begin to cover his total losses.”

In its SEC filing last month, Wells Fargo cited that a calculation error occurred when the bank implemented new controls that led it to overestimate the attorney’s fees for homeowners in the foreclosure process. This accounting error caused the bank to reject loan modification requests.

“We’re very sorry that the errors occurred and have assigned a single, dedicated point of contact to ensure that each customer is engaged with and assisted individually,” a Wells Fargo spokesperson told Reuters at the time.

This, however, isn’t the first time that a Wells Fargo error had resulted in homes being foreclosed. Wells Fargo disclosed in August that a different calculation error in its underwriting software had resulted in 625 borrowers to be denied for similar loan modifications under a federal assistance program. That error resulted in approximately 400 homes being foreclosed.

Combined with this recently reported error, nearly 1,000 homes have now been foreclosed as a result of a mistake that Wells Fargo is now blaming on its computer software.

“Wells Fargo said it plans to work with each of those customers to reach a resolution,” CBS reported. “The bank is also offering no-cost mediation. Meanwhile, non-profit groups and some legislators are pushing for more answers.”

After the bank reported its August error in handling the federal assistance program, it revealed that it had set aside $8 million to compensation errors. It’s unclear if additional funds have been reserved for the latest errors disclosed in November.

Both mortgage debacles add to Wells Fargo’s lengthy list mishaps in recent years that has created a public relations nightmare for the bank. Wells Fargo has been under scrutiny due to prior banking practices that resulted in bankers opening unauthorized accounts on behalf of clients, overcharging customers, and the mistreatment of customers in its auto lending business. The bank agreed to a $1 billion settlement earlier in 2018. Last year, Wells Fargo was in the news for a security breach where 1.4GB of customer information was mistakenly shared with lawyers in an inadvertent leak.

Editors’ Recommendations

Qualcomm’s new chip brings A.I. smarts (and 5G!) to 2019 flagship Android phones

With improved performance, 5G support, and built-in artificial intelligence, the Snapdragon 855 will be the processor powering a majority of flagship Android smartphones next year. Qualcomm just announced the successor to the Snapdragon 845 (which is in most flagship 2018 phones) at its Snapdragon Tech Summit in Hawaii.

The Snapdragon 855 is built to embrace a new wave of technologies expected to arise over the next few years — such as 5G, mixed reality, artificial intelligence, and more. Details are still scarce about exactly what the Snapdragon 855 will have to offer — we should learn a little more on December 5, when Qualcomm details the processor’s capabilities in full — but there is a good deal we can go on until then.

For starters, Qualcomm said the Snapdragon 855 is built to deliver more intuitive on-device artificial intelligence features. Instead of sending information up to the cloud all the time, A.I. features like Google Assistant could use on-device processing to help users when they need it, without the need of a data connection. This should cut down on load times, and keep everything more secure and private. These new A.I. features are powered by Qualcomm’s fourth-generation multi-core A.I. engine, which Qualcomm said is three times more powerful than the previous generation’s engine.

Speaking of artificial intelligence, the Snapdragon 855 also features a computer vision image signal processor, meaning that things like computational photography and A.I. features like Google Lens, should work quicker and become more powerful.

Perhaps most interesting, however, is that the Snapdragon 855 supports the new Qualcomm 3D Sonic Sensor, which is a new in-display ultrasonic fingerprint sensor Qualcomm said can accurately detect fingerprints, even through contaminants like the screen. This means we should start seeing a whole lot more phones with in-display fingerprint sensors in 2019. It’s unclear how much of an improvement Qualcomm’s method will be compared to the finicky implementations in the market right now through phones like the OnePlus 6T and the Huawei Mate 20 Pro.

Apart from the features Qualcomm announced, there is a little more we know about the chip. For example, we know it’s built on the 7-nanometer process, which should help make it a whole lot more powerful and efficient than its predecessor. We also know the chipset will support 5G capabilities for faster data speeds, though coverage will entirely depend on your carrier.

We don’t yet know which upcoming phones will feature the new Snapdragon 855, though given previous years we can expect the new Samsung Galaxy S10 to be the first or one of the first phones with the new processor. These phones will likely debut at Mobile World Congress 2019, which kicks off at the end of February.

This is a developing story, as we’ll hear more about the new Snapdragon 855 platform at Qualcomm’s second tech summit keynote on Wednesday, December 5. We will be updating this article as more details emerge.

Editors’ Recommendations