All posts in “Entrepreneurship”

Most Marketers Struggle to Reach Targeted Customers

Sixty percent of the digital marketing professionals who responded to a recent survey reported difficulty in reaching their target audiences with messaging and content.

Only 19 percent of those surveyed were “very familiar” with how automation could help drive marketing campaigns, according to the report Ytel released Wednesday.

Fifty-eight percent of those surveyed said they liked to use phones for marketing. However, when it came to the tools they used the most, about 39 percent mainly used email, while only 22 percent mainly used phone calls. Seventeen percent identified social media as their most-used marketing tool, while 7 percent most often used digital ads, and another 7 percent mainly used direct mail.

For mobile marketing activities, 58 percent used SMS the most. Thirty-one percent used cold calling, 6 percent used robo-dialing and 5 percent used ringless voicemail as their main tool.

The survey illustrates how much digital marketing has influenced many aspects of marketing communications, said Ytel CEO Nick Newsome.

“These trends will likely become even more pronounced as AI’s development accelerates and as the IoT becomes more integrated with our daily lives,” he said. “These devices will know the present and most immediate status of our behavior, and that opens up new and uncharted possibilities of communication.”

The survey queried more than 2,000 marketing leaders about the state of marketing communications.

Choosing Channels

Companies have been using email heavily to reach their customers, the survey results show, but many marketing officials expressed concern that customers actually were not seeing the content, said Tyler Holiday, director of marketing at Ytel.

“The immediacy of direct phone and text messaging guarantee that content is viewed by the intended audience,” he told the E-Commerce Times. However, “in terms of businesses deciding on the technology, many of them are restricted by their marketing or sales spend.”

An additional problem is that some businesses have encountered difficulty in keeping up with the need for multiple channels to communicate their message, Holiday said.

For example, people over 50-years-old tend to communicate via phone most often, while millennial consumers use multiple options including text, chat, video and various communications apps like Facebook messenger more often than they use regular phones.

Best Options

Approximately 60 percent of U.S. adults own more than one device, and about one-third own three or more devices, said Cindy Zhou, vice president at Constellation Research, based on her Mobile Marketing Best Practices report.

Cold calling as a technique is dead, she told the E-Commerce Times, as people increasingly have been allowing calls to go to voicemail.

That means better personalization and gradual levels of engagement are needed, Zhou suggested.

Reaching consumers via their smartphones is the most effective mobile marketing tactic, maintained Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research.

“The smartphone is the most personal computing device consumers have and use, and the one that most consumers always carry with them,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

. Still, the growing trend of consumers screening calls and messages to protect their privacy is a concern, he said.

“It’s like being a parent,” McGregor remarked. “After a while, you learn the cries of your child and you tend to filter out the noise unless you hear something that alerts you.”

A new generation of consumers likely will be targeted through their voice-controlled devices, said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-It.

“Traditional email use is on the wane,” he told the E-Commerce Times, “so perhaps by the mid-2030s, smart speakers like Google Home and Amazon Alexa will be playing the part of digital assistants — screening communications and taking messages.”

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

Let’s meet in New York to talk token sales

I’ve been holding a few micro meet ups over the past few years and thought I’d start it up again in honor of token/ICO mania. I’d love to hear what you all are working on in the New York area so we’ll all meet at Union Hall in Brooklyn next Wednesday at 7pm.

The event is very informal and we’ll plan the next few months of micro-meetups during the event. My goal is to do a few pitching workshops in February and March and then do a real pitch-off in the Spring in preparation for VC season. If you’re interested in talking tokens or honing your startup craft come on out. You can RSVP here.

Featured Image: Klaus Vartzbed EyeEm/Getty Images

FCC Votes 3-2 to Upend Net Neutrality

The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday voted 3-2 to repeal Obama-era Net neutrality rules that prevented Internet service providers from blocking, throttling or otherwise giving preferential treatment to customers. Backers of the repeal characterized it as promoting greater technological innovation and freedom to conduct business.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who spearheaded the reversal of the Title II Net neutrality regulations, was joined by Commissioners Michael O’Reilly and Brendan Carr. Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel strongly dissented.

The repeal would restore light touch oversight and open the doors for ISPs and other businesses to give consumers more choice and offer new technologies in a way that has flourished for more than two decades, Pai said in remarks prior to the vote.

“It is not the job of the government to pick winners and losers,” he told attendees at the meeting.

Chairman Ajit Pai’s presentation was interrupted briefly when the meeting room was cleared on the advice of security officials, who brought in a canine team to search the area.

The FCC’s Wigfield declined to elaborate on what, specifically, prompted the measures.

FTC to Take Over

The reversal of the Title II framework means that broadband Internet service once again will be regulated as an information service rather than as a utility.

The vote also means that the Federal Trade Commission will take the lead in regulating broadband Internet and will be responsible for investigating complaints of unfair, deceptive or anticompetitive business practices.

The new rules will take effect after final clearance by the Office of Management and Budget, which could take months, according to FCC spokesperson Mark Wigfield.

The move to repeal the rules was hotly contested by numerous consumer advocates, Silicon Valley companies, and others who feared the so-called light touch oversight would allow major broadband and telecom providers to limit access to some content providers and potentially force consumers to pay higher fees for faster speeds.

The FTC is “ready to resume its role as the cop on the broadband beat,” said Maureen Ohlhausen, acting chairman of the commission.

Broadband providers will be required to disclose their traffic management practices, she noted.

Net Neutrality Proponents Push Back

A coalition of multiple state attorneys general, led by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, announced they will file legal action to block the repeal.

The state AGs had requested that the FCC postpone the vote, pending their investigation into charges that as many as 2 million citizen comments regarding the issue were created fraudulently, but the commission rejected that appeal.

The 2 million suspicious comments appeared to be associated with stolen identities, Schneiderman said.

The FCC has given an “early Christmas gift to big telecom companies,” he commented following the vote.

The new rule will let ISPs charge more for access to social media companies, Schneiderman added, and favor certain viewpoints over others.

Netflix was among the companies that opposed repeal of the rules.

The vote was a “historic mistake,” said Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., as he and 15 cosponsors introduced the Congressional Review Act to the U.S. Senate. The resolution would roll back Thursday’s repeal and restore the 2015 Net neutrality rules with a simple majority vote in the U.S. House and Senate.

The rules reversal will favor communications providers such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon, suggested Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies Associates.

It will “work against the over the top services,” he told the E-Commerce Times, “unless they’re big enough, like Netflix, to demand a seat at the table.”

Users likely will have to pay more, on average, Kay said, adding that “vanilla service will be crappy.”

Building Blocks

There is a valid argument to be made for the rules repeal, suggested independent analyst Jeff Kagan.

“We have to remember if you want companies to make investments in the Internet infrastructure to bring high speed [access] to Americans, they must be profitable,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “Trying to get companies to bring Internet to America with little or no profitability is a nonstarter.”

Although Thursday’s vote to repeal Net neutrality will please broadband providers and displease consumers and companies that use the Internet, he said, it won’t end the debate.

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

Creeping Decentralization and CRM

One of the big stories of next year might be decentralization. It’s below the radar right now, which is why I think it has potential. Decentralization is what it sounds like: pushing centralized processes and decision-making to the periphery, where it is believed people can be more effective at dealing with whatever is on tap.

Western democratic capitalism runs circles around Soviet style centralized command-and-control economics. Although the Soviet Union is long gone, command and control still thrives in China (with some loosening), Cuba, North Korea, and even in modern Russia.

Business had an era of decentralization in the 1990s, when computing power became powerful enough to affect real-time decisions. At that point, businesses couldn’t push decision-making down the org chart while erasing levels of middle managers fast enough.

The lesson from that time is that pushing decision-making down is fine if you accompany responsibility with resources. That often didn’t happen or it was haphazard, and we’re still dealing with the aftermath. For instance, line of business managers went gaga for Software as a Service apps, but then realized they needed CIO help to knit everything together. There was much friction and wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Today’s decentralization has been ongoing for some time. The Internet democratized information, fostering transparency, and individuals took advantage with their handheld devices. There are two important examples of decentralization happening right now that will affect CRM in healthcare and philanthropy, and that’s just the start.

CRM in Healthcare

Big drugstore chain CVS and health insurance giant Aetna recently agreed to merge. The impacts will be significant and represent a huge decentralization of healthcare. First, the combination includes CVS’ walk-in clinics, which now can provide care that is both high quality and lower-cost than hospitals for a variety of needs. Aetna could realize significant savings by directing sub-acute care to the clinics. That’s the easy part.

The combination also changes the dynamic between caregivers and patients, such that with a good deal of CRM technology, providers can transition from fixing people when they are broken to keeping them well.

That can happen when a clinic starts making calls to remind people to take their meds, or markets and sells healthy lifestyles through exercise groups or healthy cooking, for instance. All of that requires the talents of the CRM suite and its people. It’s a real growth opportunity.

This model isn’t simply baked in my brain. Salesforce and its partners have been building it for several years already.

CRM in Philanthropy

The common model for philanthropy has been for a central organization to collect money from patrons and to distribute it. As we’ve seen with Salesforce’s 1:1:1 model, however, many individuals want to do more than write checks. They get satisfaction from more direct involvement.

It’s no surprise that Salesforce has embarked on building a Philanthropy Cloud, which it announced at Dreamforce. When completed in 2019, the Philanthropy Cloud will accept monetary donations, of course, but it also will accept donations of labor and assistance with grant proposals, and it will help match people to charities.

For instance, if you want to donate to a community building project, you might find it in the cloud’s database. Ditto if you wish to give time or money to an environmental cause or to help the homeless.

All of this was possible before, of course, but too many charities today are hiding in plain sight. Most don’t have ad budgets, so they’re perpetually understaffed and underfunded. Salesforce’s approach to philanthropy could change this. With its combination of outreach and analytics, CRM technology could be an important bridge to decentralizing and improving the way we engage in philanthropy.

My 2 Cents

You might think neither of these examples of decentralization is significant, but they are models of what can be, and they borrow heavily from CRM.

Healthcare and philanthropy are two big monoliths that haven’t changed much throughout the information age. Healthcare in America is mired in a break-fix model when the world has moved to wellness and saved millions of lives in the process.

We use information systems to store medical data, but the systems too often don’t talk to one another so it’s a big deal just to send a medical record across town. The medical records department’s favorite technology is too often the fax machine. Yes.

Philanthropy is a big opportunity waiting to reach critical mass. The younger generations, especially millennials, expect to get more satisfaction from a job than a paycheck delivers, according to research. They want to believe they’re making a difference in the world.

There are more than 3,000 businesses that have implemented some form of the 1:1:1 model, and more might if they didn’t have to administer programs with spreadsheets.

So there it is. Decentralization, mediated by CRM, coming soon. Get ready — and don’t say you weren’t informed.

Denis Pombriant is a well-known CRM industry researcher, 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. He can be reached at

Internet Pioneers Urge Cancellation of Net Neutrality Repeal Vote

A group of 21 leading technology pioneers, including Apple Computer cofounder Steve Wozniak and World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, this week penned an open letter to key congressional leaders asking them to pressure FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to cancel Thursday’s planned vote to repeal Net neutrality.

The process is severely flawed, they argued, and a rules repeal poses an imminent threat to the Internet.

The letter to Sens. Roger Wicker and Brian Schatz, the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation and the Internet and Reps. Marsha Blackburn and Brian Doyle, the chair and ranking member of the House Energy Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, urges them to call on the FCC chairman to cancel the vote, arguing that the FCC’s plans to repeal Net neutrality will do serious damage to the Internet, to marketplace competition and to consumers.

The FCC proposal seeks to rescind Obama-era regulations that treat Internet access providers like utilities, protecting consumers and rival services from throttling, preference of one content service over another, and charging different fees for fast lane or slow lane speeds.

“The proposed order removes longstanding FCC oversight over Internet access providers without an adequate replacement to protect consumers, free markets and online innovation,” according to the signatories.

Expert Opinions

The letter’s cosigners include Mitchell Baker, executive chairwoman of the Mozilla Foundation; Steve Bellovin, chief technologist of the FTC from 2012-2013; Vinton Cerf, known as the ‘Father of the Internet’ and codesigner of the TCP/IP protocols; and many other top cybersecurity, cryptology, Web and other experts.

The FCC’s proposed action is based on serious misunderstandings, the letter maintains. Further, its process is flawed, as it conducted no public hearings. Further, it has not taken the time to consider public comments or possible tampering with the comment system.

The New York Attorney General has undertaken an investigation into allegations that thousands of troll bots sent in fake comments during the public comment period. Also, the online comment system inexplicably went down just as John Oliver, who has argued fiercely for Net neutrality on his TV show, urged viewers to submit their comments.

The FCC and the Federal Trade Commission announced plans to coordinate consumer protections following the Net neutrality vote.

The FCC’s plan calls for the commission to review complaints and take action regarding required disclosures about Internet Service Providers throttling, prioritizing or experiencing traffic congestion. The FTC would investigate ISPs about the accuracy of such disclosures. The two agencies would share legal and technical expertise on these issues.

The Internet experts’ appeal should carry some weight in the final decision-making process, said Tim Mulligan, senior analyst at Midia Research.

“The fact that Steve Wozniak’s insights and background [helped] to build our current relationship with the digital economy through his pioneering early work as a cofounder of Apple underlines just what’s at stake with Thursday’s vote, ” he said.

The letter is not likely to change the final vote or the outcome, according to Mulligan, but it underlines just how important the issue is to the future of the industry.

Scales Tipped

The Trump administration appears to be carrying out a political agenda that includes a massive rollback of government regulations enacted during the prior administration, and it therefore may not be amenable to public opinion, observed Roger Kay, principal analyst at Endpoint Technologies Associates.

“I think digital access should be basic, like broadcast television or even water, ” he told the E-Commerce Times.

The FCC needs to take more time to consider Net neutrality issues before voting on the rules repeal, said Christopher Mitchell, director of community broadband networks for the Institute for Local Self Reliance.

“The only reason for the FTC to rush this decision through,” he told the E-Commerce Times, “is they believe doing it around the holidays will blunt criticism of their handing over the Internet to the most hated monopolies in the nation.”

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