All posts in “Entrepreneurship”

T-Mobile’s Home Broadband Carrot

Not long ago, T-Mobile COO Mike Sievert said the company would start selling a wireless home broadband service. Now, it looks as though it has begun a pilot program of invited users. However, there is an important catch with respect to this new service: the motive behind it.

If it works and is priced well, and if it is popular with customers, it could compete successfully with wireline or wireless broadband from AT&T, Verizon, Comcast Xfinity, Charter Spectrum and others.

That’s why I applaud T-Mobile for this innovative move. This is another direction the industry is heading in, and I expect to see much more of this going forward. However, Sievert made it clear that growth with this new service will be possible only with a Sprint merger. That’s too bad. I think this kind of service could be good for T-Mobile and its customers with or without a merger.

In fact, I think Sprint should start offering the same kind of service. If the merger does happen, the two can join forces. If not, they can at least begin participating in this new growth wave separately.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be what T-Mobile has in mind. It sounds as though T-Mobile wants to use this new service as leverage to get the Sprint merger approved.

T-Mobile Doesn’t See the Forest

While companies often try to find some sort of advantage to get what they want, the problem here is that it seems T-Mobile can’t see the forest for the trees.

Not moving quickly into this new area simply because it’s a great next marketing move would be a mistake. We are likely to see many other competitors enter this space in the next few years.

In fact, AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless and other wireless carriers may enter this market in addition to offering their wireline Internet services. This could give them a major competitive advantage over players that don’t move in the same direction.

There will be many new competitors entering this wireless home broadband space. The wireless industry is going to change, expand and grow rapidly in coming years. This is just one way it will do so.

This is a real, long-term growth opportunity. That’s why I am so happy T-Mobile is making this move. That’s also why it would be a shame for T-Mobile to use this just as leverage to get its merger approved.

Sometimes, companies dangle carrots like this to nudge the approval process along. However, it’s also important to pull the camera back and look at this from a longer-term historical perspective.

Wireless Home Broadband Growth Opportunity

The center is shifting. Consider how industries change.

Competitors like Comcast Xfinity and Charter Spectrum used to be cable television companies. Today, they are Internet service providers that also offer pay TV, wireless phone with Xfinity Mobile and Spectrum Mobile, and more.

So, if this is the new direction of competitors in other industries, it also could be a real growth opportunity for many wireless carriers.

Offering wireless Internet to the home has quite a bit of growth potential. That’s why it would be shortsighted for T-Mobile to exit this new space prematurely if the Sprint merger should not be approved.

T-Mobile’s fixed wireless home Internet service will cost US$50 to $55 monthly, according to the company, and users could get up to 50 Mbps, but it likely would be slower during peak times. This service uses the T-Mobile LTE WiFi Gateway box.

I have not seen or tried this T-Mobile wireless home Internet service in action yet, so I cannot comment on its speed or quality.

However, I do think this is the right direction for the company to be heading in, with or without a merger. This is a new growth direction for broadband providers as the market continues to evolve.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ECT News Network.

Jeff Kagan has been an ECT News Network columnist since 2010. His focus is on the wireless and telecom industries. He is an independent
analyst, consultant and speaker.
Email Jeff.

AI-Powered Inventory Management: A Make-or-Break Tool for Retailers

Retail is facing battles on all fronts. Up against Amazon’s streamlined operations on one side, and a higher demand for flawless customer service and experience on the other, it’s either think or sink for many. However, AI has thrown some early adopters a lifeline.

As Amazon has proven with its stranglehold on the retail industry, online shopping is unquestionably the future. Shopping malls, the traditional epicenters of retail, currently are being converted into warehouses to secure greater geographical accessibility for online shopping.

For traditional retail companies, it’s a vastly different world out there, but there still may be room for the traditional brick-and-mortar retail experience.

In this online-driven universe, retailers need to arm themselves with tools and capabilities that will keep business ticking; transform their turnaround times; and stock the right products at the right time. They need to turn to automated end-to-end inventory management.

AI-assisted technology running on big data can help optimize inventory at all levels in the demand chain. It even can predict future buying behavior, and detect and act on supply chain anomalies in a timely fashion. With the implementation of “smart” warehouses, retailers are beginning to reach new levels of efficiency.

In this current climate, it’s time retailers start looking at these AI-assisted, analytically rich business processes as a priority and strategic investment, rather than an optional helping hand. Those that don’t will break.

Semi-Manual Top-Down Management Just Won’t Cut It

Meeting consumer demand and identifying short-term trends in a timely manner are near impossible to do today without heavily relying on advanced analytics. Almost all retailers now have stores, branches and warehouses scattered all over the country, each holding a slightly different assortment of products. Therefore, the old, manual ways to manage retail inventory and plan-o-grams just won’t cut it.

These new approaches allow you to predict consumer demand more accurately and allocate inventory to your locations with very high placement accuracy. This results in less reliance on replenishment and can help reduce out of stocks. Managing inventory like this needs to be conducted through a big data-enabled automated retail inventory management system. Doing this semi-manually simply isn’t feasible.

Being able to optimize inventory management can provide efficiencies in inventory flow, while also reducing overall costs, which sometimes result from excessive inventory in unproductive locations, or slow-moving and obsolete items.

Automated inventory management can detect anomalies in supply chain, allowing retailers to be proactive and deflect potential issues, such as by transferring more stock to the right location ahead of time.

Lack of adaptability to AI-automated systems and inefficient operations are among the common factors that lead to the fall of major retailers. Ex-employees at Sears, which closed its doors last year, have named “selling products consumers don’t want, not maintaining stores and inventory” as problems contributing to its years of financial struggle.

Keeping Up With Our On-Demand World

When customers opt to head into a store rather than order online, they expect to find what they are looking for immediately. Not having the right stock in-store can ruin the customer experience. A smart system driven by analytics can ensure that shelves are properly stocked and with the right products. Predictive analytics even can determine when extra supplies will be needed at certain times.

Although Amazon has spoiled us with same-day deliveries, automated inventory management insights may prove to be the leg-up that retailers need to bolster customer experience and compete head-to-head with the e-commerce giants.

In fact, while almost all retailers now have e-commerce offerings of their own to complement their store operations, brick and mortar arguably is still the best way for retailers to engage customers in compelling ways. In a recent poll, 53 percent of customers said that their most positive retail experience was in an actual store. Clearly there are still things that online retail can learn from the traditional stores.

Automated inventory management insights also allow inventory to be personalized. With department stores dropping like flies, it is clear that shoppers do not want to spend hours trawling through stores in search of a product. Retailers should be using data to decide on the most relevant inventory for each store. If you have knowledge of the stock that customers actually want, then you can shrink stores drastically.

The same goes for e-commerce. To meet the customer’s demand for immediate shipping, stores can use automated inventory management to better store their products, even moving merchandise closer to those who will be ordering it.

For example, rather than bulk ordering all inventory to one warehouse, data and predictive analytics can determine which sections of supplies should be stored in smaller warehouses in different locations. Customers therefore will receive their orders in a shorter period of time.

Adopting New Strategies

A huge benefit of an AI-assisted inventory management system lies in the fact that it can provide deeper insight into demand, and help develop new strategies. Machine learning, in particular, can highlight where certain pockets of demand are hiding.

With trends constantly changing, and certain products evolving into a niche, (like vinyl, for example) managing inventory manually, let alone finding the right customer base, can be tricky. Without the data of where and when people are demanding the “hot” products, things quickly can turn sour for retailers.

AI is particularly helpful for pinpointing short-lived demands for products. This could be a movie that just won an Oscar, or a specific product a celebrity was papped using. Smart inventory tools combine ML-based anomaly detection and AI to spot these sporadic changes in product interest and find who most likely will buy them, and where they are situated. This knowledge then allows stores to stay on top of consumer trends and react quickly to specific pockets of demand that pop up every now and then.

Demand forecasting through machine learning could be a valuable tool for predicting which specific products will be in demand. By using AI-integrated supply chain tools, forecasting errors could be decreased by 20 – 50 percent, a recent study claimed.

It’s easy to see why this is important: Full implementation of machine learning AI would allow supply chains to be more efficient by giving accurate prediction of future trends. This would expand customer satisfaction and allow supply chains to be more reactive and flexible.

Making an Entire Warehouse ‘Smart’

Automated vehicles, sophisticated drones flying overhead, and robots gliding between rows of products seems like a scene out of a science-fiction novel, but some retail companies today are constructing smart warehouses that implement the latest in AI technology. Fully utilizing all the capabilities of ML, AI, and other automated analytic techniques, these warehouses have the potential to completely upend the traditional retail system.

AI has allowed retailers to automate almost the entire inventory process, greatly shortening the time it takes for a products to be sent to the designated stores. Automated picking tools combined with automatic guided vehicles (AGVs) allow for a quick retrieval of products. With the assistance of AI programs and self-learning algorithms, the entire process can be optimized for efficiency based on additional factors or experiences.

These smart warehouses already have proven to be successful in reducing cost and increasing efficiency for the retailers that use them. Ryder, a supply chain solution provider with warehouses in Chicago, Miami and Dallas, has claimed 20 percent better efficiency, 100 percent product visibility, and a 20 percent decrease in operational costs after the implementation of smart warehouses. With advantages such as these, retailers could be forced to adapt to the technology or risk being left behind.

Reaction to customer demand remains a crucial element to the success of the smart warehouse. The better a store is stocked, the happier the customer will be. The focus of smart warehouses currently is on creating and expanding technologies that permit more mobility and flexibility, in order to better fulfill the ever-changing demands from customers.

By removing unstable variables such as human error and replacing them with standardized machine automation, smart warehouses can react fluidly to customer demand, with AI systems constantly learning and improving. Through smart warehouses, AI innovation will continue to advance alongside feedback from customer expectations and fulfillment demands to create the best possible technology to suit the needs of the customer.

With AI, ML and robust optimization-based prescriptive analytics techniques, inventory management is no longer a matter of guesswork. Automated inventory management insights can help retailers cut down on costs, maximize sell-through and ensure a store has the correct amount of inventory on hand for each stock keeping unit (SKU).

This intelligence can ensure that retailers make the best decisions — down to the level of a unique SKU-location, which is now more important than ever in this hypercompetitive landscape. Amazon has firmly taken the reins from traditional retailers appears to have no inclination to return them.

By continuing to integrate inventory management with the latest AI, retailers can be assured of sustained success now and into the future.

Amjad Hussain is the founder and CEO of, which connects artificial intelligence, augmented reality and automation to retailers, distributors and manufacturers.

Instagram Launches In-App Shopping Experiment

Instagram on Tuesday introduced Checkout on Instagram — an in-app purchasing tool — as a closed beta for consumers in the United States.

Among the 20 participating brands are Adidas, Nike, Burberry, Dior, Huda Beauty, Prada and Michael Kors.

“Users in the U.S. can buy from a majority of these brands starting today, with all of them coming on board over the coming weeks,” said Instagram spokesperson Paige Cohen.

Instagram will continue adding brands to the closed beta, and it plans to expand Checkout beyond the U.S. in the future, she told the E-Commerce Times.

However, it has not yet set a specific date for making Checkout generally available.

Instagram Checkout screenshots

– click image to enlarge –

Checkout buttons reportedly will be limited to organic posts from beta participants for now. Ads will not display them.

A new “Orders” section in users’ profiles will let them check order status, cancel an order, initiate a return, or contact the merchant.

Businesses will be able to share featured products through their organic posts and Stories. Consumers also can discover products in the “Search & Explore” section.

“There is no way that this is not going to turn into push ads for customers,” said Trevor White, senior analyst at Nucleus Research.

“It will certainly give Instagram, and thus Facebook, more data about customers and their preferences,” he told the E-Commerce Times, “which I imagine will allow Facebook to further expand its advertising. I imagine they will be the real winners from this.”

Instagram Checkout “follows closely on the heels of Google’s testing shoppable ads in its image search,” noted Eli Finkelshteyn, CEO of

This “highlights a growing trend. Companies realize that owning the location and medium where users find the products they want is key to getting those users’ dollars,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

“Currently, when [shoppers] find something they want on Google or Instagram, they’ll go straight to Amazon where most already have an account, and payment information stored,” Finkelshteyn pointed out. “With this new shopping functionality … shoppers can buy what they want even more easily, without Amazon ever being involved.”

How Instagram In-App Shopping Works

When consumers click on a product picture in a brand’s shopping post, or on any product sticker in that brand’s stories that has a shopping sticker and tag, a “Checkout on Instagram” button appears.

Clicking on the button lets consumers select size, color and other options, and see the price. They then proceed to a payments page within Instagram.

Consumers have to enter their name, email, shipping addresses and billing information the first time they check out. The information is saved for use in future transactions.

Shipment and delivery notifications are provided inside Instagram.

Merchants get only the details necessary to fulfill an order — including the customer’s contact information and address. However, they do not get the customer’s payment information.

Instagram provides merchants information on the sales it generates.

Consumers can opt in to share their email address with sellers for marketing purposes.

Instagram Checkout accepts payments made using various credit and charge cards, as well as PayPal. Payments are processed through PayPal for Partners at no charge.

“Any time you can reduce the friction and steps between the decision to buy and executing on the transaction represents a powerful shift for the consumer,” said John Bruno, VP of product management at Elastic Path.

“Retailers struggle converting on mobile, but with Instagram owning payments — the mobile friction point — conversion will increase,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

Merchants will be able to integrate their current sales platforms or tools — Shopify, BigCommerce, ChannelAdvisor and CommerceHub — with Instagram Checkout.

Instagram reportedly is testing a sellers’ fee with the participants in the beta.

Social Media Profits

“The big problem with social media is, how do you monetize it?” said Michael Jude, program manager at Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan.

“The model that most of the social media companies have glommed onto is that data is valuable,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “Then they screw around with their subscribers, compromising their data, putting out very obscure privacy statements that nobody understands and everybody agrees to just so they can use the site. It’s a morass.”

One legitimate option “is to come up with a way to monetize that data without abusing it, ” Jude suggested. “That’s kinda what Instagram’s doing.”

Users “certainly don’t think of Instagram as an e-commerce product, and have already shown some discomfort whenever Instagram or Facebook blurs the line between influences and paid advertisements,” observed Scott Ings, VP of product at Apptimize.

Instagram Checkout “could be promising as an additional revenue source for Instagram, but there is also the risk of alienating users by causing the brand to be perceived as more commercial than social,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

Further, because customers don’t go to their websites, “it’s possible that brands will find that they are losing out on an opportunity to create longlasting awareness and loyalty,” Ings suggested.

Saving Facebook

Instagram Checkout may help parent company Facebook, which is facing tough times.

Senior executives have been fleeing Facebook. The company was downgraded to hold by Needham & Co. on Monday. Antitrust regulators
have been breathing down its neck. Several senior high-tech executives have issued public criticisms.

Instagram “has been largely insulated, as Facebook struggles with data and privacy issues,” noted Rebecca Wettemann, vice president of research at Nucleus Research.

“This gives Instagram a clearer path to monetization,” she told the E-Commerce Times.

For Instagram users rely on influencers to tell them what to buy, “integrated shopping reduces friction and accelerates purchases,” Wettemann said.

There’s a continuing exodus of users from Facebook, but that may not be quite as bad as it looks, because “some people leaving Facebook are flocking to Instagram,” Frost’s Jude pointed out.

Instagram has a better security model than Facebook, but “the dynamic is, the more security you have, the less money you make,” he said.

“I don’t see people using [Instagram] as their main source of e-commerce. It lacks the review features that customers value,” said Nucleus’ White.

“The dynamic for Instagram is instant gratification, Jude said. “If you’re aiming at people familiar with technology and who are into instant gratification, what are the odds that they can afford to make these purchases?”

Richard 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.

Boosting E-Commerce Sales Through Storytelling

Storytelling is a central part of e-commerce marketing, and it’s vital that brands both know their own stories and understand how to tell them. Everything from brand loyalty to purchasing decisions relies on a company having an engaging and well-told story.

“Facts tell, but stories sell,” remarked Samantha Reynolds, president of Echo Storytelling Agency.

“We decide what to buy based on emotion, and then we use logic and data to reassure ourselves that we made the ‘right’ decision,” she told the E-Commerce Times.

A good story can distinguish one company from another, particularly in a field crowded with competing brands.

“In a world where customers are bombarded with advertisements and infinite choices, the only way to cut through the noise is to appeal to that emotional instinct in your customer,” Reynolds said.

“You have to win their heart. Without that emotional connection, your product or service will be competing solely on price and features, and that’s a brutal playing field,” she added. “So how do you strike that deep emotional connection with your customers? By telling your story.”

Why Stories?

Stories are all about connecting humans with one another via emotions. This is true for brands as much as it is for individuals, since narrative plays a significant role in shaping the way people communicate and connect.

“Humans relate best to humans — not institutions and concepts,” observed Lisa Kagan, executive story coach and director of communications at Unify Consulting.

“Humans operate in the world of relationships and experience, which translate well in stories,” she told the E-Commerce Times. “Plus, neuroscience has proven humans can’t make decisions devoid of emotion, and stories are one of the best ways to deliver emotion to audiences. Assuming that every customer or client is a human, stories should work on them.”

Stories can tell customers about what makes a company unique.

“You have to show why you matter, not what you do,” said Kagan. “Your target audiences want proof of your company’s brand narrative, plus authentic emotion. If you have a lot of brand language and no stories to prove it, bridging that gap should be the first order of business.”

It’s also important to understand that stories can attract not only customers, but also potential employees.

“The best employer brands tell stories on multiple channels about their workplace cultures in order to attract and recruit the best talent,” said Echo’s Reynolds. “These same progressive companies use storytelling to efficiently onboard new hires, and to keep employees engaged and living the company’s values, mission and purpose every day.”

Telling a Good Story

The first kind of story that brands need to tell is their origin story — how they started and why.

“What motivated the founder or founders to start the company? This content must live on your About Us page, but it shouldn’t end there,” said Reynolds. “It’s your opportunity to humanize your company by introducing the faces and stories behind the brand, and it should inspire by telling us what you stand for.”

Telling a good story involves both understanding it and living it. A brand story is not just a matter of marketing — it must be the spirit behind a company as well.

“You have to make sure your words, action and heart are aligned,” advised Esther Choy, president of Leadership Story Lab.

“Stories can’t be just words or a nice infographic. The real stories are also in what the organization does and what values and purpose are at the heart of its actions,” she told the E-Commerce Times. “You have to know your story, tell your story, and live your story.”

Another important component of brand storytelling is customers’ stories — particularly in relation to how a company’s identity fits in with those stories.

In fact, your customers “should take up most of your storytelling airtime,” said Reynolds. “Your customers are in the midst of a compelling story arc at all times. They are on a quest to solve a problem or meet a need, just like every lead character in every blockbuster movie you’ve ever seen. Your job is to convince them that you are their happy ending.”

A good story is all in the telling, so it’s important to focus on style as well as substance. In particular, companies need to tell their stories in language and images that people will understand and find engaging.

“Pretending to tell a story and then, one sentence in, switching to company jargon will lose your audience in a flash,” said Kagan. “Case studies are vulnerable to this. You are not your clients, products or catch phrases. Tell a genuine story that demonstrates your company’s contribution — not one about your association to cool things. You are your people and your conviction. Your clients and products are where you manifest that.”

Stories of the Future

As technologies and media change, so too will storytelling. One significant change is that they’re increasingly being told via social media, which requires that they be interactive.

“Social media equips anyone and everyone to talk about companies on their behalf without giving the companies control over it,” said Unify Consulting’s Kagan. “If the stories are negative, that is proof of brand failure and could be a company’s undoing. If the stories are good, the company has a credible reference. The future will be about cultivating stories from genuine customers and users so you can win your brand skeptics over.”

Stories that look toward the future also must be conceived as being part of the customer’s journey. That journey, in essence, becomes part of the larger story a brand tells.

“Brand storytelling used to be limited to discrete marketing and advertising assets, such as the one-minute long commercial, the billboard, the full page spread,” recalled Matthew Woodget, CEO of Go Narrative.

“Now storytelling can be used across multiple assets and across the customer journey,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “The best marketers are constructing stories designed to move people forward on their journey — a journey that, because their brand was their guide, is chosen to go along for the ride.”

Stories no longer are static, unchanging paragraphs on an “About Us” page. Instead, new technologies allow stories to evolve in real-time, based on who’s interacting with them, where and when.

“Data-driven marketing gives us the ability to test, adapt and evolve our stories as people interact with them,” said Woodget.

“Brands need to plan for more than just storytelling, and they need to participate and adjust with interactive story-making across the whole customer journey,” he suggested.

“Data can give you insights into the difficulty and desire of customers. Data also shows you the effectiveness and impact of storytelling,” Woodget said. “Combining storytelling with data gives your brand ammunition to adapt and maximize the number of people remembering — and ultimately buying from — your brand.”

Vivian Wagner has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. Her main areas of focus are technology, business, CRM, e-commerce, privacy, security, arts, culture and diversity. She has extensive experience reporting on business and technology for a variety
of outlets, including The Atlantic, The Establishment and O, The Oprah Magazine. She holds a PhD in English with a specialty in modern American literature and culture. She received a first-place feature reporting award from the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists.
Email Vivian.

How to Bring Relationships Back to CRM

Customer relationship management is a term you’ve likely heard if you have ever worked in the tech space. CRM software solutions have not always been as far-reaching as they are today. Over the last 40 years, CRM has evolved from a range of disparate business solutions developed for various customer needs. The earliest CRM tools were devices like Rolodexes, which you can hardly even find these days.

True CRM didn’t exist in earnest until the ’90s when innovators like Brock Control Systems began to explore the automation possibilities of new database systems. By the middle of the decade, CRM had grown into an aid for contact management. Already, the technology was enabling organizations to maintain lists of customer contacts that were beyond the ability of human beings to manage.

As the scope and power of the technology continued to grow, new automation techniques began solving more and more of the difficulties that naturally come with huge repositories of customer and contact information.

The Automated Behavior Analytics Explosion

Today, big data and artificial intelligence compose the noticeably inflexible profile of modern CRM systems. This has lead to a massive explosion in automated buyer behavior analytics.

While these tools are assets, some people seem to be growing uncomfortable with them and may perceive them as intrusive. That isn’t to say that CRM is somehow mal-developed or outmoded, but in all our excitement to evolve and deploy these advanced tools, real relationships with customers have suffered in too many instances.

Across time, culture, and in all technological climates, the relationship with the customer has always been the key to success in business. Once it is established that you have what your customer wants or needs, you have the basis for a trade relationship. Maintaining good customer relationships is key to remaining competitive.

We can establish that relationships are critical — that’s not controversial. What’s critical at this stage is having a technology available that helps you manage customer relationships in a way that feels human, not procedural or forced — and that gives customers what they are looking for before the competition does.

The question is, how do we leverage CRM to accomplish that?

The Power of Touchpoints

Most customers do not respond to the majority of outreach attempts. The key is turning out a higher number of personalized outreach attempts.

Most people usually do respond to the follow-up, as they simply forget about the first touchpoint — but when does it become too much? We want to know what is the best time to send a follow-up message. What kind of follow-up message works best?

How to Make Touchpoints Relationship-Based

No one wants to be contacted by sales robots. People want to be contacted based on their responses. They want to feel as if you are responding to their needs, not just revisiting them based on a ready-made schedule.

Utilizing software that gives sales teams a quick, visual overview of the customer’s interactions with your brand is ideal. This, combined with marketing and sales processes, gives you an optimal chance of contacting prospective customers in a way and at a time when they will be most receptive.

What Is the Right Number of Touchpoints?

The right number of touchpoints is usually between five and seven, according to marketing professional Jeff Hoffman. Of course, every contact is an individual. Over time, you want to test customers according to demographic categories to try and optimize the number of outreach attempts.

A CRM software that allows for tracking customer demographic data is a great solution, so you can identify commonalities across different demographics, allowing for the right sales approach to be applied across those demographics in the future.

There’s no universal “right number of touchpoints” for everyone. However, there are standard points to look out for that should enable you to develop success profiles of different customers, based on historical data of successful sale opportunities.

Build Relationships Through Social Selling

While most of us believe that we go through life making decisions based on rational conclusions, the truth is that most of what we do is based on emotion. It’s only after the fact that we find “rational” explanations for the choices we make. This doesn’t mean that we should ignore rationality, but it does mean that if you try to persuade people based solely on facts, you’re fighting an uphill battle.

The first thing you should be trying to do with your prospective buyers is to show them that you are on their side, and make an appeal to something with which they have an emotional connection. Any outreach attempt should appeal to a want or need that is foremost in their mental landscape. This is a big part of what branding is about. It’s about creating a “brand personality” that your audience is likely to have an affinity for and be attracted to.

Beyond that, our goal is to deliver tailored touchpoints that make customers feel as if they are being contacted by someone who knows what they like — and that that knowledge is based on interactions between them and your brand. You’re probably thinking, “Great, but how can I do that with 100,000 potential buyers?”

The answer is by leveraging technology that tracks customer interactions and gives you actionable steps for delivering pitch-perfect outreach messaging.

Optimizing Customer Data

Your pipeline is the core of every sales process. It tells you exactly which buying stage your customer is in, and a good CRM system will let you see all of the touchpoints with those customers in one simple graphic.

This insight helps you organize your day, your next series of outreach messages, and your business growth. More importantly, it helps build relationships as your communications become tailored to each customer.

You will have a large amount of data in your CRM, which gives you valuable insight across your whole business. A true CRM system will give you a broad overview of each department, each customer segment, and each buying stage with the click of a button. This allows you to spot trends, spark ideas, and identify opportunities for the whole business to implement.

The Importance of Integrations

Having a CRM system that lets you connect your favorite tools for maximum coverage and optimal contact is the best case scenario. Integrations are a critical means by which you can solidify customer relations, transmit data easily, and focus on data coming to and from key sources like inventory management and email marketing.

Choosing the right integrations helps ensure that you get the right CRM information to make sure your outreach is relationship-based and not mechanical in nature.

Integrations help reduce the need to enter the same data more than once by propagating entries across relevant fields automatically.

Having one view of the customer builds a clear picture so you know everything before you connect. Distilling all this data into useful insights can be difficult without the right CRM. A relationship will break down if you keep sending emails to someone who has unsubscribed or asked to be called versus emailed. Having one holistic picture will help build trust, respect and, ultimately, sales.

Duncan Stockdill is a founder and CEO of
Capsule. He oversees marketing, product and design decisions. Capsule provides a customer relationship management (CRM) SaaS platform that helps businesses stay organized, know more about their customers, build strong relationships, and make the most of sales opportunities, all while minimizing user input.