, 23 Oct 2014

First Data, the payment processing giant, has been building up a suite of services that would take the company far beyond payment processing and inject it squarely in the middle of SMB marketing.

The suite as currently configured includes the Clover Point of Sales system; Insightics analytics of transactions; Gyft virtual gift card services; and Perka, a sophisticated loyalty program for SMBs. Each of the services works independently, but are also increasingly integrated as well.

Perka was purchased by First Data roughly one year ago; in tandem with First Data’ purchase of Clover. Competing with Belly, Five Stars, SpotOn and other loyalty services, Perka now has over 1,000 merchants, and has recently increased its monthly fee for new customers from $50 to $59.99.

Co-founder Rob Bethge recently talked with BIA/Kelsey about the service’s progress under First Data – a sale which Bethge says has given it a chance to scale on a global basis– technologically and commercially – much faster than if it had been a standalone company.

Bethge says the company is just now “commercializing” with First Data’s various channels, including the use of up to 1,700 First Data sales reps of various stripes reaching out to SMBs. The service’s latest feature is the addition of proprietary wireless Beacon technology with rolling security codes, which will be provided for free to subscribers. The technology, which requires consumer opt-in, allows stores to know precisely who is in their store at any time – a favorite merchant feature, says Bethge.

Among other things, stores could theoretically craft special promotions based on this knowledge. The service, which is Bluetooth enabled, also allows easy transactions when consumers hands are full (i.e. if they are carrying a baby or a cup of coffee).

Theoretically, using the Beacon, consumers can turn on the feature for the morning at some stores, and then turn it on for other stores in the evening. The Beacon technology also enables individual merchant apps, in addition to Web access. “It allows for very location oriented offers,” Bethge says.

Interestingly, Bethge says the Beacon service would not have had an impact when Perka was first introduced in 2011. At that time, “less than half of locations had WiFi. Now it is not even a question.”

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, 23 Oct 2014

In the age of mobile & social, its more important than ever for SMBs to get their arms around all of the chatter happening about their business. We discussed the state of affairs in local reputation and “presence management” this week with Vendasta (video below).

The opportunity is being driven by things like Yelp reviews, but also newer social sharing media like Instagram. Better hardware and camera optics have fueled the social sharing movement which is increasingly happening in transactional contexts (i.e. dining out).

As one example of mobile’s influence, 40 percent of Yelp reviews happen via mobile. And according to Vendasta’s Jeff Tomlin, Facebook is trending highest as a source of local reviews on its platform. We have a white paper releasing soon on local reviews.

Meanwhile, the discussion with Vendasta happens in light of its recent platform release: Mast10x. This brings together many of the above factors and opportunities into a package for local media resellers to offer presence management to SMBs.

The company describes the platform as follows

MAST 10x is a marketing automation and sales transformation system for agencies that sell local marketing solutions to SMBs. Where most marketing automation systems rely on agencies to write generalized email campaign content, MAST 10x generates a personalized marketing assessment and emails that follow up with information about the businesses digital footprint and marketing efforts. As businesses engage and show interest, they are flagged in a sales reporting system so that sales teams can focus efforts on interested targets.

Jeff Tomlin and I unpack the opportunity in the video below.

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, 23 Oct 2014

10/23/14: Post updated to include a link to download Stacey Sedbrook’s presentation this week to the Inland Press Association. 

“Change is hard. It takes a lot of effort. Sustaining change is even harder.”

BIA/Kelsey’s Stacey Sedbrook offered a sales transformation clinic this week at the Inland Press Association’s annual conference in Chicago.

The success or failure of any transformation effort is rooted in basic human behavior. Sedbrook led off her talk by breaking down how people respond to change. Understanding and anticipating these reactions will improve the odds for success.

7 responses

Leaders who can execute and sustain a change initiative are the ones that “remove obstacles,” Sedbrook said. These obstacles can be legacy systems, cumbersome processes, or people who resist change.

“Whenever I work with a client, I ask them three questions. ‘Are you ready for change?’ ‘Are you willing to invest in change?’ You need to invest both time and money. The answer to this question is always, ‘Yes.’ The truth is almost always ‘No.’ And finally, I ask, ‘Are you willing to make the hard personnel decisions?’ Because sometimes that is what it takes.”

Sedbrook is VP of Strategic Sales Consulting at BIA/Kelsey. She helps companies improve their digital sales performance. Inland Press is a trade group that represents smaller newspaper publishers, organizations that often struggle with change.

Sedbrook’s talk touched on the full spectrum of transformation success drivers — platforms and technology, channel structure, bundling versus a la carte, compensation, the product mix, leadership.

One of the most overlooked success drivers is internal communications. “Most organizations under-communicate by 10X,” she said. “For any transformation effort, you need a communications plan.”

By erring on the side of over-communicating — via newsletters, town hall meetings, podcast and so on — you reduce the fear, mistrust and uncertainty that so often gets in the way of change.

Sedbrook said sustaining transformation largely involves overcoming No. 7 on the list of typical responses to change — the tendency to revert to old behaviors. This is achieved by leaders keeping up the pressure and urgency (which involves communication), driving the effort against clear short and long term KPIs and removing obstacles to change.

“You have to be consistent and persistent,” she said.

We will share additional details of Sedbrook’s Sales Transformation Playbook in upcoming blog posts and BIA/Kelsey reports. Click here to download a copy of Sedbrook’s presentation to the Inland Press Association.

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, 22 Oct 2014

Call analytics continues to advance in lots of ways as the phone call becomes the “new click.” The latest move comes from Marchex which last week launched Real-Time Call DNA. Today I had the chance to catch up with the company to find out more.

An extension of it’s Call DNA product, this lets advertisers visually map and analyze what happens within inbound phone calls to their business. This goes beyond traditional call reporting metrics such as call duration, source, and other basic metrics.

Deeper analytics are achieved such as subject matter and dialogue. But that’s still nothing new to Marchex (and a handful of other call analytics players). What’s new here is the ability to measure these attributes without recording the actual phone call.

From the company’s description:

Specifically, here’s how Real-Time Call DNA works: the moment a consumer clicks to call a business from an ad, data about that call is captured and analyzed in real time, without transcribing or retaining any content. A visual map of the call displays, for instance, how many rings it takes before a call is picked up and how long a caller is placed on hold. It also shows when a caller speaks and an agent responds, and classifies the type of call based on proprietary algorithms that can scale and analyze hundreds of millions of calls across a variety of industries.

Advertisers can access the data and insights and sort calls by classification through the user interface or API. How many calls are conversations? Wrong numbers? How many callers hang up because of long hold times? Advertisers can then view the visual map of each call and optimize their campaigns to drive more calls from customers with real purchase intent.

The benefit of not recording is to comply with security protocols. This is important in privacy-centric industries like financial services and healthcare.  It’s both a legal issue, and one of public awareness and comfort. Both are important in today’s environment.

“Calls from consumers to businesses often contain sensitive, private information,” Marchex SVP of Product and Engineering Ziad Ismail told us. “Real-Time Call DNA reveals the value of consumer calls without the security and privacy risks that come with recording them. This visibility is an opportunity increase ROI on click-to-call campaigns.”

By applying technology to get around this legal and political roadblock, Marchex has opened up these high-value verticals where it couldn’t previously apply the full extent of its call analytics. This will help it continue to work the call monetization opportunity.


We’ll be talking to Marchex and a handful of call monetezation and analytics players in a superforum that takes place during our upcoming Leading in Local: Interactive Local Media conference, December 3-5 in San Francisco. Hope to see you there. 

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, 21 Oct 2014

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If you’ve used Apple Maps lately, you may have noticed improvements. These are mostly subtle changes, an Apple spokesperson told me today. That’s because it’s all about the data, which of course happens in the background.

As we said at the time of Apple Maps’ 2012 launch, it’s actually a slick mapping tool… it just lacked some of the geo and place data that’s the lifeblood of mapping engines. Mapping is a game won on data, with bells and whistles being important but secondary

Along those lines, Apple launched a feature today that will further improve place data by crowdsourcing its collection and ongoing maintenance. Known as Maps Connect For Small Business, it lets SMBs claim and update their business info and location.

From Apple’s materials on the new launch:

Apple’s goal for the Maps Connect for Small Business tool is to provide small businesses (99 locations or less) with a way to add and edit their basic location information on Apple Maps. We’re always striving to make Maps better and better, and this is yet another step towards accomplishing that. By creating a more seamless and simple solution for small businesses throughout the US, we are helping them ensure their location and contact data is up to date and accurate.

In general terms, this is similar to how local players like Google and Yelp let businesses claim and update information (with similar authentication processes). Apple names speed and simplicity as differentiators — key success factors for anything targeted at SMBs.

Features include being able to move map pins to more accurately reflect business locations or entrances. Other details SMBs can update include name, address, phone, homepage, categories, hours of operation, and links to external Websites.

This list could grow, which could be an entrée to a local advertising play for Apple. This is purely speculation, and I’ve had doubts in the past that improving Apple Maps is a move towards a sort of local iAd as some guessed. But it’s an interesting possibility.

Apple was actually clear that today’s move won’t create maps that are overpopulated with ad units that appear during local searches. It’s mostly about having the right data in the background to let users find what they’re looking for, and for SMBs to get found.

Put another way Apple wants to keep it simple, which can be seen in the brevity of business details it’s collecting. As was a big theme at our SMB Digital Marketing conference last month, SMBs need simplicity. And that’s Apple’s longstanding design philosophy.

“The tools available for SMBs to update their business information are not always clean and simple,” the company told me. “What we wanted to build is something that is in keeping with Apple’s legendary simplicity in product design.”

For now it’s a logical play that could have implications for Apple’s continued moves to be a strong player in local search. That makes a lot of sense considering the ties between mobile and local. After all, a core revenue stream for Apple is selling mobile products.

We’ll watch closely to see where this goes.


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