One of the most compelling tax breaks is coming to an end in the near future. Internet sales are booming and the incredible tax savings that comes from buying supplies or equipment off the internet might soon be over.
Before legislation speeds up this process, it is important to take advantage of this huge loophole and the overall savings that can be realized.
Products purchased from the Internet often cost less.
Buying just about anything from the Internet offers not only a break in paying sales tax, but often a cost savings over local retailers with hefty leases and greater operating costs. So it’s often a double savings from buying local.
Think about purchasing higher quantities to take advantage of large volume discounts and be prepared to be surprised at the savings.
Internet shopping often saves on shipping.
Many Internet retailers can even offer free shipping, while simply absorbing the cost and still bring in a higher profit margin than a retailer that runs out of a brick-and-mortar storefront establishment.
Shipping has also come a long way. Products arrive unscathed right to the door with the same guarantees, even saving a bad back or the headache of getting it from one location to another. Competition in shipping has also lowered the cost and expedited shipping is readily available.
Time saved by comparative Internet shopping saves too.
When business owners or employees are sent out to purchase products, the money spent doing so is often overlooked. Ordering products from the Internet can be accomplished from the office with a few simple strokes of the keyboard and click of a mouse. Most websites take less time to complete a sale than the time that can be spent waiting in a checkout line. Repeat orders take even half the time.
Your savings on sales tax and Internet shopping can quickly add up.
If a business needs a couple of new computers, new software, office furniture or even ink for the printers, the savings on sales tax can easily add up. Some states without sales tax often experience extra sales in cities that border states with high sales tax and the internet has been no different. Internet commerce has been booming as individuals and businesses alike have taken advantage of this massive loophole.
To remain competitive, all small businesses have to take advantage of these immense savings before they are a thing of the past. Add the other reasons to shop online and now is the time to capitalize on a good thing.
Internet sales tax legislation is expected to be demanded and in effect by 2016 at the latest. This will level the playing field, however, the competitive edge that these businesses have will remain in effect. As smaller businesses struggle to cut costs, purchasing from the internet today will set up more savings in the future. Much like “free shipping”, we might even see these same retailers absorbing sales tax in the same manner.
Despite the plethora of advice about pitfalls and best practices, people still make tons of mistakes, said Scott Rogers (@jayhawkscot) of thinkJar.
The clearest evidence is the language companies use when they’re trying to describe success with customers. The vast majority of companies are not using the words that show they are focused on the end results of their strategies. They use company-centric words like retention, loyalty, and lifetime value rather than customer-centric words such as experience, satisfaction, and customer centricity.
Perception gap between customers and companies
What the customer thinks is important is very different than what the company believes the customer thinks is important as IBM discovered in its CRM Study in 2011.
The study asked companies why they think customers follow them on social sites. And then they asked customers why they follow companies on social sites. For customers, the most important reasons for following a company in a social space were discounts and purchases. Clearly not understanding their customers’ desires, companies rated these two variables as customers’ least important reasons.
While more than ¾ of companies have some form of customer feedback mechanism, less than 10 percent think their efforts are stellar, said Rogers.
Similarly, 80 percent of organizations think their customer experiences are good. Eight percent of customers agree, according to a report from Bain and Company.
“Competitiveness is far more about doing what your customers value than doing what you think you’re good at,” said Rogers, quoting Clayton Christensen.
People make emotional decisions about products. This is their thinking. When we make decisions, we have our own values and beliefs and our own hurdles, said Rogers.
Rogers continued his conversation by looking at different aspects of the purchase and relationship cycle (loyalty, relationship, satisfaction, experience, and brand) and placed each one under a customer and company lens, showing how divergent the two groups actually are.
Here’s his analysis:
Rewards/Perks – Can purchase that kind of loyalty
Lack of alternatives
Fear of change
Repeat purchases driven by
Strong emotional bond
Willingness to share or invest precious resources (time, information, attention) in exchange for preferential treatment
Emotional bond with brand company
4 types: mutually beneficial, parasitic, predator/prey, and competitive
Series of interactions or transactions over time
Preferential commitment to a brand/company
Strong emotional bond with brand/company
Building step to lifetime value
Willingness to share or invest precious resources (time, information, attention)
Result of outcome of perceived performance versus expectations (of product, service, interaction, etc.), filtered by time, memory, and post experience environmental factors
Static point in time assessment
A silver bullet metric – In actuality, none really exists
Key building block for loyalty
Emotional measure of outcome of experience with touch points.
The famous Net Promoter Score (NPS) asks, “How likely are you to recommend this product or brand to a friend?” Rogers did his own analysis of the value of the NPS, but he didn’t ask that question until after a series of questions about how satisfied the customer was with the product. He realized that by asking the satisfaction question first it jogged the person’s memory about the product use experience. When they finally got to the NPS question it actually had a very poor correlation with their satisfaction.
My perception of the experience is my reality – Tough for companies to ask about the journey.
Perceptions are unique
Perceptions are influenced by other pre- and post-experience factors, some of which have nothing to do with the experience
Perceptions are influenced by expectations
Sum of every touch point
Sensory stimuli and emotions generated while using product/service
Impact of touch points on rational and emotional needs and expectations of customers
Defined by the customer
Influenced by company, friends, family, peers, reviews, etc.
It’s what the customer thinks it is. It’s not what the brand creates.
Sum of all perceptions, associations, and attitudes held by customers
Market asset created by marketing
Emotional bond with customer
Sum of all perceptions, associations, and attitudes held by customer
Measure of Net Present Value (NPV) of future revenues
Premium pricing potential
Sentiment that doesn’t drive behavior can be an indicator of future behavior. Results can often take a long time to present themselves, said Rogers.
Customers have a value journey. You buy a product to get a job done, but then along the way there’s investigation, awareness, intent, purchase, and then support. At that point customers reflect on the value in use.
To reduce the customer-company perception gap, Rogers recommends:
Understanding the customers’ needs and values are critical to success – It’s their successful outcomes that matter.
“Your product/service is means to an end, and thus they are creating value with the product, not from the product,” said Wim Rampen.
Understanding the customers’ mindsets and perceptions are critical to crafting strategies and processes to improve the experience from their standpoint.
Attitude or sentiment does not always equal behavior. Identify when they do and don’t and develop strategies and tactics accordingly.
There are no single “silver bullet” metrics for satisfaction (e.g., CSAT, PTS), loyalty, or customer effort that will help you grow and improve your business. Why customers do what they do is not that simple.
Measure what is important to the customer (e.g., outcomes) not just what is important to you. Measure what you can take actions on, and those that have true cause and effect relationships.
In plain English, “Short-Circuit” is the intelligence of an algorithm to skip processing the remaining part of a condition, if the desired results have been achieved mid-way and the rest of the condition will not have any effect on the result.
Executing scripts unnecessarily can exhaust resources. Short-circuit ensures that the results are achieved by executing scripts the minimum number of times possible.
Consider the following expression that has two operands, A and B.
If A is True, (AND) B is True, then execute script.
It means, the script has to be executed when both A and B are true. To find that out, both A and B have to be tried. But what if A is tried first, and is found to be false? Regardless of what B turns out to be, the script will not be executed because one of the two (A) has failed. There is no point in trying B. Short-circuit is responsible for skipping B.
Short-circuit can be applied to Boolean operators in which just one of the two operands is enough to determine the result of the expression. Operators like AND and OR, for example.
So, Zoho Creator is now short-circuit-intelligent, and it optimizes the execution of scripts, productively affects time taken to make decisions and improves the overall performance. This is not like a new feature that you can try. It is more like those which can’t be seen, but feel good when experienced. You know.
At the CRM Evolutions 2012 conference in New York City, industry experts and people who use CRM get together to learn about the newest ways they can improve their process through best practices and new technologies. While some of the discussion can be really high level, the basic issue of creating great customer experiences is the ultimate goal.
In an effort to understand how to deliver on this most basic of principles of CRM, I asked attendees at the opening night party of the CRM Evolution conference, “How do you create great customer experiences?” Here are their responses.
A stack of business cards can be a daunting project, that’s if you don’t know what to do with them. At the Small Business Expo in New York, I met up with an attendee, Ben Pianko, who was starting his own photography business, Benz Lenz. He had a badge holder filled with business cards, so I asked him what he was going to do with all of them. He wasn’t familiar with Customer Relationship Management, CRM, so you won’t be surprised as to what I obviously suggested.
Building a small to medium sized business today has changed dramatically thanks to the “Amazon effect,” said Brent Leary, Partner of CRM Essentials in an interview at the CRM Evolution 2012 conference in New York City.
Before Amazon started offering web services, companies had to concern themselves with so many company-building issues that were not core to the company’s offering, such as software, hardware, capacity, and people who could manage all these technologies. Once Amazon started offering web and order fulfillment services that small businesses can take advantage of, it freed business owners from thinking about all this technology, said Leary.
While Amazon was one of the pioneers, there is now a slew of other companies offering these “in the cloud” and Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions. As a result, small businesses are building businesses and services much faster than ever before, Leary continued.
I’ve heard of this issue from IT people. They refer to it as the “consumerization of IT.” There was a time IT used to hold all the cards when it came to employees’ capability of doing anything on computers. Now that employees can access services outside of the company network, it can actually sometimes be troublesome especially for IT if workers are circumventing normal company protocol.
For small to medium sized businesses that are struggling with what IT infrastructure they have, if anything, consumerization of IT can actually be a relief. With access to these “pay as you go” services, businesses can launch quicker, operate faster, and be more agile. To easily meet customer demand and behavioral changes, it’s critical to have flexible business models. The “Amazon effect” is changing how businesses are operating and dealing with customers, said Leary.
Traditional marketing is seen as a necessary expense. It doesn’t need to be that way. The goal is to view marketing as a direct driver of revenue, said Bruce Culbert, Chief Services Officer for The Pedowitz Group, in his presentation, “Revenue Marketing Transformation and Marketing Automation for B2B Marketers,” at the CRM Evolution 2012 conference in New York City.
In his presentation, Culbert showed how companies can move their marketing department from just being seen as a cost center to a driver of revenue.
What is Revenue Marketing?
Culbert defines “Revenue Marketing” as marketing and sales working together to deliver more qualified leads to the funnel while increasing the speed and conversion rate they move through the funnel. If you’re doing it right it should be repeatable, predictable, and scalable.
Traditionally, the funnel starts with marketing. They in turn hand it off to sales who then hand it to service who maintain the customer relationship over time. In the new “revenue marketing” paradigm, marketing sticks around for the entire lifecycle of the customer.
“Marketing is one of the last functions in business to be reengineered, optimized, and held accountable for their contributions to revenue and profitability, and that must change,” said Culbert.
With non-revenue marketing organizations there is no visibility or accountability between sales and marketing, and they have competing intentions. According to Forrester Research, 47 percent of B2B marketers say they either close fewer than 4% of all marketing generated leads or they don’t even know the metric. As for how sales rates marketing, 2/3rds of salesmen say marketing needs improvement (source: CSO Insights).
Characteristics of Revenue Marketing
Culbert outlined the four stages a marketing department must go through before it can achieve revenue marketing nirvana.
Stage 1: Traditional – Characterized by ad spending, brand and awareness, marketing communications, broadcast, no service level agreement (SLA) with sales, no revenue measurement. A traditional marketing department is always viewed as a cost center because their metrics are defined by what the company does (activities such as number of impressions, ads, and tradeshow appearances).
Stage 2: Lead Generation – They begin to quantify leads that sales can take action on. Their characteristics include more viable leads to sales, an email system and or CRM, a highly manual lead nurturing campaign, and some campaign level lead/revenue goals. Marketing is still viewed as a cost center at this point although they begin to move towards customer measurement with metrics such as number of leads and number of emails sent.
Stage 3: Demand Generation – Biggest transformation happens at this stage. Characterized by marketing automation with CRM, buy cycle vs. sales cycle, SLA integrated with sales (two groups are actually talking about what a good lead looks like), lead scoring (Which ones do you take action on first?), content marketing, and social marketing. While not yet predictable there is some revenue accountability. Metrics now include number of leads scored and sent to sales, percentage of conversion to opportunity, percentage of conversion to close, pipeline contribution (Do they accept that lead and does it continue through the pipeline?), number of days to close, and some ROI.
Stage 4: Revenue Marketing – At this stage you get all the elements of demand generation plus it includes forecasting that’s repeatable, predictable, and scalable (RPS). Metrics are also the same as demand generation, but you now have sales, revenue, and ROI. Marketing can now finally say they drove sales and revenue.
To define your journey, said Culbert, look at each level and see how mature your company is against strategy, people, process, technology, content, and results.
Marketing automation is becoming the system of measure for marketing, said Culbert. It takes a technology stack to create revenue marketing. If you use marketing automation you can increase leads, your sales department will respect the leads more, and as a result you’ll increase revenue. Marketers can get to these levels of achievements.
Marketing automation must haves
According to Culbert, to achieve revenue marketing, you must have:
Email design and send
Web asset development landing pages, forms, and microsites
Web activity tracking
Personalization and dynamic content
Content marketing and syndication
Workflow and lead routing
Ability to publish track and leverage social channels
Integration with CRM or other customer systems
Metrics and reporting
Sales enablement and insight
High value use cases for marketing automation
While marketing automation can be used in a number of different areas, Culbert suggests starting with:
Multi-step nurturing campaigns
Webinar registration attendance and follow up
Up sell and cross sell
Adoption and support
Content marketing – Thought leadership, blogs, high value web content
Share to social – all emails and web content/experiences
Lead scoring MQL, SQL, SAL
Lead routing and sales SLA’s
If you want to see if you’re ready to make the transformation to revenue marketing, take your own assessment from the Pedowitz Group and see how you stack up against hundreds of other companies.