Tag Archives: marketing

integrate - marketing software company moves to scottsdale

Integrate Grows And Gives

Integrate, a Scottsdale-based marketing automation software company, is growing and giving this spring. Integrate is tripling its office space and preparing to hire 50 new employees. At the same time, the company is holding a food drive to help restock St. Mary’s Food Bank.

Integrate is preparing to move its headquarters to Scottsdale Portales, increasing its office space to 33,000 sq. feet with 178 state-of-the-art work stations. It plans to add 50 new people to its team across all departments in the next 50 days. These positions include administrative staff, account support, inside sales, business development, marketing strategists, techs, computer programmers and analysts. This growth initiative is possible through the company’s $11M Series B funding received in March.

“Integrate is growing at a rapid rate,” says the company’s CEO, Hart Cunningham. “Our new Scottsdale location reflects the premier reputation that we are forging in the advertising technology industry. We also have offices in Denver, New York, San Francisco and Boston, with plans to expand internationally in the near future. We are excited to provide hundreds of motivated and driven people with the opportunity to build a career with an innovative company.”

In celebration of its growth, the company organized a drive to help restock food, necessities and household items for St. Mary’s Food Bank. Integrate will match every item brought in by employees, friends, family and local citizens. It hopes to gather enough supplies to support 500 members of the Greater Phoenix community. “Our company is experiencing an amazing year. We are grateful for the chance to pay it forward as a team and give back to struggling families in the area,” states Cunningham.

Job seekers can submit resumes around the clock through the Integrate Careers page, via email to careers@integrate.com or contact Recruiting at 866-478-0326 x5502.

People wanting to donate food, personal necessities or household items and have their contributions matched by Integrate can get more information on how to do so through the company’s blog.

If you would like more information or wish to schedule an interview please call Triniti Pike at 866-478-0326 x6553 or email her at tpike@integrate.com. Visit integrate.com for more information on Integrate.
bizbox

Skullcandy Uses BizBox To Create Mobile Events Center

Scottsdale-based BizBox, which encourages businesses to think outside of the box, is teaming with Skullcandy, Inc. (Nasdaq:SKUL), a performance lifestyle audio brand, known for doing just that. The result will be a one-of-a-kind mobile event presence that Skullcandy will use to market its products at events nationwide, naming it the Skullcandy “Crusher”.

The Crusher will be outfitted with a DJ booth, speakers, flags, and an array of internal displays. The building made public debut March 24-25 at the Grenade Games at Bear Mountain Resort in California. It returned to Phoenix March 31-April 1 for the PHXAM by Cowtown Skateboards

BizBox CEO Rick Sikorski believes that, in today’s marketplace, customer experience is just as important as the product itself. Skullcandy is also very customer-centric, focusing on creating an amazing sound experience and brand recognition for their customers.

“Skullcandy is not only recognized worldwide as one of the most creative and innovative audio brands, they are also proving business can be cool for both employees and customers,” said BizBox CEO Rick Sikorski. “They are the perfect blend of style and substance, much like BizBox, with our ground-breaking and state of the art design and quality construction.”

7 Marketing Tips & Strategies, Entourage Marketing

7 Marketing Tips To Help Grow Your Business

Michael Hunter at Entourage Marketing provides you with seven marketing tips to help your business grow.

1. Create a catchy name and a solid brand

The naming and presentation of your brand is vital. You want to create a name that both represents your product or service and is memorable.

Recently, a new text messaging application came out for smart phones. The only reason why it was successful was because of the name. Kik Messenger did not feature any additional functionality that other applications did not have. People talked about it just because they wanted to say “Kik me later.”

Be conscious of how your brand is perceived in the marketplace. Bad names go nowhere.

2. Focus your message

Before you start writing any of your content, you must be very clear about who your audience is. Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Your message should be laser focused on your target market and demographic. When your ideal client comes to the homepage of your website, reads your brochure, hears your advertisement on the radio, etc. they should have no need to look anywhere else. Your message should expose a common problem and positioning your product or service as the solution to that problem.

Your message isn’t just your written word; it also ties into your branding and visual communication as we explained above. For example, if an investment firm had a product targeting very wealthy individuals; it would disinterest clients if their logo and branding was in big, fluffy pink letters … It doesn’t matter how great their products are, the message their brand conveys does not align with who they are trying to target. The same company would have much more success with a clean, simple logo that communicates professionalism and success.

3. Get organized

Great marketing takes time and organization. The more organization you have and the more systems you can create, the less time it will take. A timeline is a great way to stay on task and execute a multi-step marketing campaign. It’s also an effective way to set deadlines and manage a team. Multiple people working on the same project are likely to be more productive when they have clear deadlines and an understanding of how their assignments contribute to the big picture.

4. Build a database

To be successful in business you must, must, MUST build a list. Big money is in a big list. Most businesses spend 90 percent of their marketing budgets on trying to get a new customer to walk through their door or use their service, yet once that customer walks in the door, most businesses don’t collect any information on them, allowing them walk right back out with no means of future contact.  The best way to build a list is to give something good away for free in exchange for their name and contact information. The more value you provide for free, the more valuable your paid services are perceived to be. People think to themselves, “WOW, if they are giving this away for free, what do I get when I pay for something?”

5. Establish promotional partnerships

Most people that call themselves entrepreneurs are really “solo-preneurs;” Meaning, they try to do everything by themselves. Marketing is not a do-it-yourself thing. There are plenty of ways for you to leverage other people to produce great results for a minimal investment of your time. Promotional partnerships are one of these ways. Instead of lighting your hair on fire trying to make it all happen by yourself, put your mind to work and think of different people that can help you grow your business. For example, say you happen to be an expert in branding. Instead of trying to find clients and build systems to get new clients, partner with local business consultants or coaches to leverage their established relationship with their clients as a way to grow your business fast. Imagine partnering with a business consulting firm that has built solid relationships with 25, 50, or even 100+ clients.

6. Referral programs

As we all know, word-of-mouth advertising is the most powerful form of advertising there is. If your product or service is good enough, people will talk about it naturally; but why not give them an incentive? Structured client referral programs are a great way of maximizing something you are already doing to some extent, by providing great service and asking for referrals. Some of the biggest companies in the world are leveraging referral marketing tactics to grow their business by offering incentives to their employees to refer business to them. Other companies leverage and incentive-ize their customer base to bring in business. Just the other day, I saw a sign in front of a very nice apartment complex that said, “Refer a friend to us that signs a lease and get $500!”

In the online space, referral marketing is called affiliate marketing. There are many people that make a significant six-figure income simply marketing other people’s products and services. You no longer have to worry about content creation. You can market someone else’s product to make you money and vice versa; you can create a product and establish promotional partnerships with other people to take your message to the marketplace.

The bottom line is: Find a way to reward your customers for bringing their friends to you or for promoting your product or service.

7. Integrate social media into your entire marketing campaign

Social media is the new buzz word in business. Everyone knows they need to be on it, but most businesses have no idea what they are doing. Just creating a Facebook page for your business does not mean you are “on social media.” Social media (when used correctly) is the glue for your entire marketing campaign. Traditional forms of marketing like print, television and radio are great at sending a message to the masses, but lacks engagement with the recipient of the message.

Business today is all based on relationships. It doesn’t matter how great the advertisement on TV looks, if a friend tells you they had a bad experience with the product or service, chances are very high that you will not try it yourself. If a TV advertisement is terrible, you have no interest. Sometimes it’s so bad that you even change the channel. However, if your friend comes to you bubbling with excitement about their experience, chances are very good you will try it out, too. See, we like and do the things that our friends like and do; it doesn’t matter how much money someone spends on mainstream marketing. Social media is, at its core, founded on real-life relationships. Facebook just recently reached 600 million users and is still growing; Twitter has over 200 million users; LinkedIn just hit the 100 million mark. Social media is here to stay, and your business must be on it — and do it well.

The reason why social media is so powerful is because it has the ability to create a community around almost anything. Social media is a powerful marketing tool that all your other marketing materials should be driving traffic to and building a database of people that “like” your product or service.

For more information about marketing tips or Entourage Marketing, visit www.entouragemarketing.com.

Social Media at Work

Social Media Series: Companies Need To Set Parameters For Social Media Use At Work

This article is part of an on-going, social media series.


If you run a business and provide Internet-enabled computers to your employees, it is crucial that they understand how or if they can engage in social media while on the job.  Given how fast our world is moving, some would say that to prohibit employees from tapping social media at work could hinder the business — particularly if employees are engaged in social media for work purposes. Others would argue that it’s a slippery slope and that if employees can use social media for work, they will naturally engage in it for themselves.

Therefore, employers should clearly address, by policy, an employee’s use of social media in marketing, publicity and networking. And, the employer also should address employees’ use of social media for non-work activities that can impact the employee’s work.

In order to write a social media policy that is appropriate for your workplace, it is important to consider several questions.

First, does the employer expect employees to use their personal social accounts for marketing the business?  If so, then the employer needs to be cognizant of the fact that the employee’s personal account might contain non-work related information that is not representative of the employer.

Second, is the employer going to create work-related social media accounts that employees would be required to use?  If the employee uses employer-provided social media, such as blogs, then the social media policy needs to specifically address prohibited types of content (e.g., sending or posting offensive, obscene, or defamatory material or disclosing confidential or proprietary information).

If the employer decides to allow employees to engage in personal social media on the job, the employer also should consider whether to include a general prohibition against using social media in a way that is inconsistent with the employer’s interest or otherwise violates existing policies. Additionally, when the employee’s affiliation with the business is apparent, the employer might suggest that the employee include a disclaimer that the views expressed on the social media outlet are personal in nature and in no way represent the views of the employer.

Lori Higuera, a director in Fennemore Craig’s litigation section, co-authored this article.

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What are your thoughts regarding this article?
Your comments won’t go unheard! (Or unread for that matter.)
The authors of this on-going social media series will be back monthly to answer any questions you may have and/or to continue the discussion. So let us know!

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Online browsing

Websites That Keep Track Of Some Of Your Information Aren’t All Bad

This weekend my wife and I went shopping for lighting — fixtures and lamps for some redecorating we’re doing. There’s a particular style we like and we found some things in different stores in town, but not a huge selection in that style. So, of course, the next thing I did was go online to see what else is available. I found options at quite a number of online sites and “stores.”

The next day I was online doing research at various sites, many of which are ad-supported. While browsing about I noticed an ad in the banner at the right of the page. It was for a terrific table lamp in just exactly the style we’re looking for. It was even at a good price!

I think most of us are at least vaguely aware of that type of thing. On at least some level we recognize that when we’re browsing online we’re constantly being shown products and services that our past browsing behavior indicates might interest us. And I’m guessing that most of us view that as a real service. After all, if we’re going to be marketed to — and by browsing ad-supported content we’ve “opted in” to being marketed to — it’s a whole lot better if it’s something we might be interested in than if it’s just more commercial noise, isn’t it?

It’s called “behavioral marketing” and I can remember when it was a scary concept. The idea that our browsing behavior might be tracked and the information collected might be somehow used without our knowledge was chilling. It sounded vaguely Big Brother-ish. We had to keep those “cookies” off our computer!

But over time our attitudes changed. Browsers have settings that allow us to control cookies, or even keep them off our computer altogether, but most of us don’t use those settings. Perhaps for some that’s because they don’t even know they can, but I think most people wouldn’t regardless. And I think that’s because we recognize the value we receive in return.

It happens in varying degrees. The example above is pretty innocuous. Consider what happens when you log onto a site? Now the connection becomes even more intimate and the information shown even more targeted. For example, as soon as I log onto Amazon, I see any number of “Recommendations for You.” These recommendations are based on my previous buying and browsing behavior, and how it compares to others with similar tastes and behaviors. Another example is when you see things like “People who bought this also bought …” Or music services that suggest things I might like based upon what I already listen to. All these are examples of things that are only possible because the computer collected some information about myself and millions of others, and then drew inferences.

And do you know what? I think this is great! I find it very valuable. I think it improves my life in subtle but significant ways.

How about you?

Enchantment Resort in Sedona - AZ Business Magazine Jan/Feb 2011

Studies Show That Every Dollar Invested In Tourism Returns At Least Double That Amount

Forests of Saguaro cacti lit by fiery red and orange sunsets, gun-toting cowboys staging shoot-outs, and the Grand Canyon’s striated walls looming over the Colorado River.

One would think these distinctly Arizona images could sell themselves. Unfortunately, Arizona’s tourism industry is learning the hard way that it takes more than just the state’s natural beauty and attractions to bring in visitors — it takes dollars.

“That’s why we need to be out there marketing Arizona, reminding people about what a great, wonderful, warm, welcoming destination we are,” says Debbie Johnson, executive director of the Arizona Tourism Alliance and president and CEO of the Arizona Hotel & Lodging Association.

The recession caused Arizona’s once vibrant tourism industry to flounder, and in 2009, the stigma related to the corporate meetings industry continued the industry’s downward spiral.

“We weren’t just feeling the pain like everybody else. We were getting hit much more significantly than the nation overall,” says Mitch Nichols, president of Nichols Tourism Group, which provides research services to the tourism industry.

Visitor spending in Arizona decreased 10.6 percent, while the nation saw a decrease of just 4.4 percent, from 2007 to 2009. Additionally, Arizona lost $780 million in potential visitor spending because its share of national travel expenditures dropped from 2005 to 2008, according to Nichols Tourism Group.

In early 2010, the state Legislature dealt the industry a one-two punch when it passed SB 1070 and redirected funds from the Arizona Office of Tourism’s (AOT) budget to the general fund.

The Legislature redirected the tourism formula fund, which is composed of 3.5 percent of the state’s bed tax, 3 percent of the state’s amusement tax, and 2 percent of the state’s restaurant tax. This redirection will take approximately $28 million away from AOT over the 2011 and 2012 fiscal years.

In November 2010, the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank, announced more bad news for Arizona’s tourism industry. In a study, it was reported that the controversial SB 1070 bill had cost the state $141.4 million in lost spending.

However, the industry isn’t down for the count.

Led by the Arizona Tourism Alliance, the tourism industry is campaigning to reclaim the budget, which it believes will help pull Arizona out of the recession and return millions of visitors to Arizona.




Arizona Inn in Tucson

Photo: Arizona Inn




While the long-term effects of SB 1070 on the tourism industry are hard to quantify, the budget redirection is projected to cost Arizona big.

Even the most conservative estimate puts the state’s losses at $26.7 million, but “actual revenue losses could potentially be many times this amount,” according to an independent study by Elliot D. Pollack & Co.

Nichols Tourism Group estimates the state could lose as much as $1.6 billion.

“You’re not finding $14 million. You’re creating a much bigger hole that will have to be funded in the future,” Nichols says.

The redirection of money decimated AOT’s marketing budget, allowing other states to sneak in and steal Arizona’s market share. These states recently discovered the tourism industry’s power to pull a state out of the recession.

“Some of our key competitors, California in particular, got much more aggressive in terms of the resources they were spending to try and convince visitors to choose California,” Nichols says.

Arizona is becoming out of sight, out of mind, and statistics prove it, Johnson adds.

From January to August 2010, the daily rate for Arizona hotel rooms declined 4.4 percent, while the nation’s daily rate only declined by 1 percent, and California’s daily rate declined by 1.1 percent, according to Nichols Tourism Group.

“Too often there’s a mindset that people will come whether or not you advertise. And we’ve got to increasingly ensure that kind of mindset does not carry the day,” Nichols says.

To remedy the industry’s declining revenue, Arizona’s Legislature needs to be reminded of what tourism means to the state. Tourism brings in revenue that funds education and many of the public services that are necessary during recessionary times.

The return on investment for every dollar spent on tourism marketing is seven to one, out-of-state studies show, according to the Pollack study.

In addition to pulling in revenue, the tourism industry directly and indirectly employs around 300,000 Arizonans, about 10 percent of the state’s work force.

Two key pieces of Arizona’s future, the economy and the work force, depend upon tourism. If the budget is restored, and soon, Arizona can rebound to pre-recession numbers within five years, Johnson says.

“Our destination has shown … that we can come back from adversity,” Johnson says. “We saw that after 9/11. (We were) one of the top five destinations, in terms of rebounding. I think we’re going to see that again because of what we have to offer, because we do have such a strong industry here. We’re a united industry. We work together and we come together in times like this. I think you’re going to see Arizona rebound.”

AZ Business Magazine Jan/Feb 2011

Monument Valley in Arizona, part of the Arizona Office of Tourism's new marketing campaign - AZ Business Magazine Jan/Feb 2011

Arizona Launches Innovative Media Campaign To Bring Back Tourists

Arizona has gotten a bad rap as of late, with the added national backlash from the passage of SB 1070 making it even tougher for the state to climb out of the recession. But the Arizona Office of Tourism is fighting back, and it has only one word for you — monumental.

It’s part of the Arizona Office of Tourism’s “In One Word — Arizona” marketing campaign that launched Nov. 8. The campaign couples iconic images of Arizona with one word describing the image. Bet you can guess which image is paired with “grand.”

The campaign’s eight images, ranging from the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley to Sedona and Flagstaff’s distinctive terrains, will run from November 2010 to May 2011 primarily in Chicago and Los Angeles, the two major markets for Arizona tourism.

This campaign features traditional print, TV and radio ads, but also includes innovative strategies, such as video-on-demand, “wallscapes” on buildings in Chicago and Los Angeles, and versions of the ads appearing on the print-out boarding passes of eight major airlines.

The advertising is “layered to continue to drive home the wonders and the diversity of Arizona,” says Sherry Henry, director of the Arizona Office of Tourism.

Spreading the message of Arizona’s allure is not limited to the Hollywood Hills and Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. An extensive digital media campaign also will run in San Francisco, Denver, New York City and other major markets, as well as Mexico and Canada.

But the biggest accomplishment of AOT’s new campaign is the fact that despite intense budget cuts that practically erased the marketing budget, the campaign is forging ahead, focused on bringing in much-needed tourism to the state.

The state Legislature removed revenue from the tourism formula from AOT’s budget and placed it in the general fund. Because of this shift, the AOT will receive approximately $14 million less in the 2011 fiscal year than it received in the 2010 fiscal year.

“We have this budget, and we are going to make this budget stand like it is 10 times what we have,” Henry says, adding that AOT’s mission is “to use the dollars we do have to drive as much revenue as we can.”

The budget stress isn’t the only issue facing Arizona’s tourism industry. The recession, which caused the budget decrease, is the No. 1 issue, Henry says. The swine flu epidemic of 2009 hurt, as well as the “AIG effect,” in which big businesses cut down on holding corporate meetings at resorts. Then, boycotts from the passage of SB 1070 gave a further beating to an already crippled industry.

However, Henry says Arizona’s tourism is going to surge back because of the state’s well-established image and the strong partnerships within the tourism industry.

“The branding of Arizona hasn’t changed,” Henry says. “There are some misconceptions of what’s happening here, but it hasn’t really affected the Arizona we all know and love.”

AOT has partnered with local convention and visitor bureaus and the Arizona Tourism Alliance to reach the group-and-meeting tourism market. The relationships between all sectors of Arizona’s tourism industry are “stronger than any other state we know of,” Henry says.

Although 2009 saw a 10.2 percent decrease in travel expenditures and a 2.1 million decrease in overnight visitors, 35.3 million visitors still made Arizona their destination of choice.

Statistics show that in 2010, top-of-the-line leisure traveler numbers are up, Henry says. AOT identifies leisure travelers as Arizona’s target visitor.

“We’re finally beginning to see it creep up again,” Henry says of visitor numbers.




Arizona Office of Tourism's new campaign

Images courtesy of the Arizona Office of Tourism




AZ Business Magazine Jan/Feb 2011

Advance And Retain Women’s Role In The Financial Field - AZ Business Magazine Nov/Dec 2010

Two Valley Groups Are Working To Advance And Retain Women’s Role In The Financial Field

It wasn’t so long ago that a typical business meeting at a banking or financial institution was dominated by the good ol’ boys network. Well, not anymore. Today, you are likely to see more women among the dark suits at the table.

“I have watched women evolve,” says Deborah Bateman, executive vice president of specialty banking and marketing at National Bank of Arizona, and a founder of the Women’s Financial Group. Bateman boasts a professional background spanning more than 40 years in the banking industry.

“Early in my career, I think we tried to mirror men,” she says. “Over time, women have recognized the skill sets they can bring to business, such as collaboration, connecting, coaching (and) creating value inside Corporate America.”

Women’s roles in the banking and finance sectors are widening, and the proof is in the numbers. In 2009, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, 54 percent of American women were employed in fields related to financial activities. This includes finance and insurance, banking and related activities, securities, commodities, funds, trusts and other financial investments. In Arizona, the percentage of women working in the finance and insurance industry also is significant. U.S. Census data shows there are actually more women than men working in these industries.

Although women have come a long way from their beginnings in these formerly male-dominated sectors, it is an ongoing struggle. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the disparity in salaries for men and women is significant.

In the Phoenix Metro area, during the third quarter of 2009, women made up 14.4 percent of the 35-44 age work force in finance and insurance (private sector) versus 10.4 percent for men. However, women in these fields average a monthly salary of $4,350, compared to men’s $6,643. For women aged 45 to 54, the salary gap grows even wider. In this age group, men on average earn 64 percent more.

“Women need to be more assertive about asking for money and tooting their own horn,” says Donna Davis, CEO of the Arizona Small Business Association (ASBA) and a member of the Women’s Financial Group. “It’s OK to promote your organization, it’s OK to ask for money and to ask for more.”

However, Emily Amparan, vice president of development at Factors Southwest, says she thinks the numbers don’t reflect the real gains women are making.

“I always hold those figures suspect, as I rarely encounter hindrances to make money and achieve success in the financial field,” she says. “I think if you believe it to be so, it probably is … however, the most successful women in the finance industry don’t pay any mind to talk of obstacles, as they forge ahead to make their own path.”

Helping women make their own paths in the financial sector is the mission of a number of organizations emerging all over the Valley. For example, Bateman founded an internal mentorship program at National Bank of Arizona in 2009, that quickly expanded to outside industries and individuals. Later renamed the Women’s Financial Group, the organization’s focus is to bring together women of all professional backgrounds to promote financial planning, mentoring, business services and networking.

Bateman says she hopes the Women’s Financial Group can serve as a catalyst for women to succeed and attain higher positions in banking and finance without compromising their identities.

“For years and years, we would dress in tailored blue suits and wear ties,” Bateman recalls. “Women can be women in the business world. It brings enormous value to business, to their organizations and to the community.”

In addition, Davis says the group can help “women become more savvy financial business people.”

At a recent Women’s Financial Group event, women of diverse backgrounds, both personal and professional, filled the room. Some women were just beginning their careers and some were veterans with decades of experience. But all were there with a mission: to pave the way for future success in their respective financial careers.

Another group aimed at women in the financial sector is Women in Banking, the local chapter of the national Risk Management Association. Founded in 2006, its first meeting took place at a Chevy’s restaurant with 14 business women in attendance. Today, the group includes 50 to 80 bankers, consultants, marketers and business owners from around the Valley. And despite its name, the committee encourages men to join and attend its events.

“There is definitely a need for a professional organization that brings business and banking together for positive networking,” says Amparan, who is a member of the organization’s leadership team.

Along with helping women plot their careers in financing, Women in Banking is a strong supporter of Fresh Start Women’s Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping women in areas such as career change, personal growth, family relationships and more. The group collects clothes for donation and works to raise money to sponsor Fresh Start’s annual golf tournament and fashion show.

That type of commitment to all women in the community is just one example of the impact women professionals in finance are making.

“Women in business are tremendous bridge builders and relationship makers,” Amparan says. “Banking and finance has become more of a warm, open environment to the credit of professional women across the state and country. People are starting to take notice of the successful way women are starting to do business and build relationships.”

Arizona Business Magazine Nov/Dec 2010

Groupon success with business owners and consumers

Bargains Fuel Groupon’s Success With Business Owners And Consumers

Since its launch in Nov. 2008, Groupon.com has grown to become a phenomenon – both in the business world and among people searching for a steal.

Groupon.com uses the power of a group to get products and services at a 50- to 90-percent discount for its users. The discounts can be on anything from salon and photography services to deals at restaurants.

In order to be valid, the Groupon discount must reach a tipping point. The tipping point is the amount of people that must buy the Groupon in order for the retailer to make the discount valid. The tipping point is different for each discount.

Groupon offers Phoenix deals, and a separate venue for Scottsdale deals is on its way.

Groupon expanded rapidly. In less than two years the company has gone from seven employees at their headquarters in Chicago to 2,600 employees worldwide. Although Groupon has grown steadily since its inception, the company hit its stride in 2010, says Julie Mossler, Groupon spokesperson. In August, Forbes Magazine named Groupon the fastest growing company ever, Mossler says.

Harnessing Groupon’s power for your business is easy, Mossler says. The company started GrouponWork.com to help businesses learn how to work with Groupon. The site provides case studies on Groupon’s success and tips on how to successfully structure deals.

Dolce Salon & Spa is one Phoenix-area business that has taken advantage of the new marketing potential behind Groupon’s deals.

Dolce has offered two deals through Groupon.com and has seen a big return from it, says Dynelle Rodriguez, spokesperson for Dolce Salon & Spa.

Rodriguez said Groupon called them and suggested they strike a deal. The opportunity to market the salon and spa in a unique way intrigued her, she said.

Each day Dolce has a customer using a Groupon discount, Rodriguez says. Although the result has been greater than the company expected, Dolce isn’t looking to do another Groupon discount in the near future because of the long expiration dates on the company’s Groupons, she says. However, Rodriguez says she recommends Groupon to all businesses she deals with.

If you want to use Groupon for personal use, Mossler offers a few tips.

1. Let the excitement die down and wait a week before using the Groupon.
2. Tip on the full amount of the Groupon to thank the business for offering such a great discount.
3. If there are any problems, even if the merchant is the problem, give Groupon a call.
4. Connect with Groupon’s individual cities on Facebook or Twitter. Example: @GrouponPhoenix and facebook.com/grouponphoenix

In the future, Groupon is hoping to customize its bargain offerings even more than the gender- and location-specific deals the company currently offers.

If you think Groupon is going to save you tons of money, meet Josh Stevens, the Groupawn. He is living solely off of Groupon’s coupons for one year – and he applied for this job. He has to barter to pay for tax and tip and he must rely on strangers for transportation and lodging.

If Stevens is successful he will receive $100,000 at the end of his year. Stevens is about halfway through his journey and has yet to visit Arizona.

Mossler says Stevens’ plan was to venture West when freezing temperatures set in back East.

Keep your fingers crossed that Stevens sticks to his plan and hopefully we’ll see the Groupawn in Phoenix soon. It appears as if it’s getting cold in those northeastern states.

www.liveoffgroupon.com | www.facebook.com/liveoffgroupon | @groupawned

Photo: www.designerclothesonline.co.uk

Social Media Hasn’t Reached Luxury Brands, Yet

With celebs tweeting about everything from their morning latte to a product they’re peddling and Facebook taking over the world one movie at a time, you can’t go a day without being involved in social media.

However, luxury brands, like Chanel and BMW, have yet to catch the social media bug.

This Forbes.com article explains why many luxury brands aren’t advertising on social media sites the way most retailers are.

One reason is that consumers looking to buy luxury items are seeking more than just a sleek sports car or a perfectly-fitted suit. They’re looking for an experience that drips luxury from the attentive staff to the chilled champagne they’re sipping. That experience isn’t something a consumer can achieve sitting at home on a computer, even in the plushest of pads.

Luxury retailers are about decadence not convenience, which is why some of them don’t have a huge online presence.

At Oscar de la Renta, online transactions make up only 10 percent of the company’s overall sales, while Chanel doesn’t sell its items online.

If online sales aren’t a big deal to companies, how can they get excited about social media advertising?

The answer is that most of them don’t, even though a recent Unity Marketing survey of luxury brand consumers found that almost 80 percent of them have a social media profile.

Brands like Jimmy Choo and Oscar de la Renta have used social media to reach consumers.  But these retailers are the leaders, not the norm.

Walking to Work

Greenway Health Goes Green In July

Most people would think you were crazy if you walked to work in Arizona’s July heat.  But at Greenway Health, that shows a commitment to the company’s green efforts.

Some employees at Greenway Health are so committed to the July “Greenway Goes Green” month that they’re braving the scorching summer temperatures to bike and walk to work.

About five employees are using transportation other than a car, including bicycles and the bus, while other employees are carpooling to work.

These aren’t the only green choices Greenway Health employees are making. They are also bringing reusable water bottles to work, using desk lamps instead of overhead lighting, recycling and using “treeless” paper.  The company is offering incentives to employees who make eco-friendly lifestyle changes.

The company decided to go green to show “employees the benefits and ease of going green,” says Mike McKenzy, of Greenway Health, a direct marketing health and nutrition company.

McKenzy says the young staff, most of the employees are in their mid-20s to early 30s, wasn’t well versed in green solutions.  Company officials wanted to show the employees easy, cost-effective ways to help conserve and preserve.

But, they are “amazed by what little things, if adopted by large numbers of people, can do,” McKenzy says.

The feedback has been great and McKenzy hopes the employees won’t ditch their new habits once July is over.  He says the chances of the green efforts continuing year round are pretty good.  When the company initiates programs like this one, “it sticks,” he says.

Greenway Health’s employees set an example for everyone. Just a little change can make a difference.

Chevy Volt electric car, GM

GM Electrifies Drivers With The Chevrolet Volt

General Motors announced today that its newest vehicle, the rechargeable electric Chevrolet Volt, should get 230 miles per gallon in city driving. Highway mileage estimates have not yet been released.

Although the claims must first be verified by the Environmental Protection Agency, if they are true, they would beat out the current model of green driving, the Toyota Prius.

GM is marketing the Volt as an extended-range electric vehicle (E-REV). Unlike a traditional electric car, where a small electric motor powers the car when it’s moving slowly and the gasoline motor kicks in when the car accelerates, the Volt is a bit different. The Volt’s power comes from a high-voltage battery pack made from lithium-ion technology that is capable of storing enough energy to drive the car up to 40 miles in normal conditions. What to do when your battery is low? Simply plug it in just like you would any other appliance. A full charge takes three or six hours through a 110 or 220-volt wall outlet.

In addition, the Volt will still have a small internal combustion engine to produce electricity when the stored power is low, providing the driver with a total range of 300 miles. Think of this as a generator that kicks in, in the event you drive more than 40 miles. Some areas of the car are still being tested and refined, but the Volt is scheduled for release in late 2010.

The first-generation Volt is expected to cost almost $40,000, but hopefully the price will drop with future models. Alas, as I’ve said before, sometimes being green costs more from the get-go — but the long-term effects are most definitely worth it!

Consumers are much more conscious about the environment and many want to reflect that through the vehicles they drive. If the Volt can live up to its claims, it will be a great step forward and hopefully other automakers will follow suit.

www.chevrolet.com

KPNX TV, Channel 12 - Best of the Best Awards 2009 presented by Ranking Arizona

Best of the Best Awards 2009: Advertising, Marketing & Media

Advertising, Marketing & Media Honoree: Television Stations

KPNX-TV, Channel 12

KPNX TV, Channel 12 - Best of the Best Awards 2009 presented by Ranking ArizonaChannel 12 is Arizona’s leading source for local news on television, online with top-viewed Web site azcentral.com, and on-the-go with text and video available on cell phones. With the combined resources of NBC News, The Arizona Republic and USA Today, 12 News is consistently the first choice for information whenever a major story breaks. Channel 12 is one of the top-performing NBC affiliates in the country, with ratings that frequently exceed the network’s national average.

With a long history as the leader in innovation, Channel 12 was the first to deliver a local newscast in high-definition. The power of the 12 News brand comes from combining the market’s most professional and trusted news team with an approach to reporting that’s clear and to the point. Channel 12 also serves the community with its consumer protection program, “Call 12 for Action,” its education initiative, “School Solutions,” and its awardwinning breast-health awareness campaign, “Buddy Check 12.” Whenever and wherever consumers want quality news and information, 12 News is uniquely positioned to meet their needs.

1101 N. Central Ave., Phoenix
602-257-1212
www.azcentral.com

Year Est: 1953
Weekly Audience: 1.1M
Principal(s): John Misner


Advertising, Marketing & Media Finalist: Radio Stations

News Talk 92.3 KTAR

KTAR is Arizona’s news, talk and sports leader. In its 87th year, KTAR has the unique distinction of being the state’s first broadcast company and now has a wider reach than any radio station, television station or newspaper in Arizona. More than half a million people each week tune into KTAR for breaking news alerts, talk shows, traffic reports, weather bulletins or game broadcasts. Its award-winning news and 14 hours of local talk shows are heard each day on 92.3 FM. Sports talk shows and game broadcasts are on 620 AM. The company’s Web site, KTAR.com, was voted the state’s No. 1 breaking news Web site.

5300 N. Central Ave., Phoenix
602-274-6200
www.ktar.com


Advertising, Marketing & Media Finalist: Commercial Printers

Prisma Graphic Corp.

To compete as a traditional commercial printer in today’s economic climate and evolving market takes vision. For Prisma Graphic, that vision has been to provide unmatched customer service, consider every client a partner and offer economical marketing solutions beyond ink on paper. The staff views every project as an opportunity to further the success of their clients’ image, initiatives and marketing efforts. From their 82,000-square-foot facility in Phoenix, they provide heatset web, sheetfed, variable data printing, full bindery, fulfillment services and complete direct mailing.

2937 E. Broadway Road, Phoenix
602-243-5777
www.prismagraphic.com


Best of the Best Awards 2009 presented by Ranking Arizona

angel statue

New Angel Investment Group Targets Women Entrepreneurs

A new angel investment group called the Catalyst Committee is gearing up to invest in local startup companies that focus on consumer goods such as apparel, high-end furniture and cosmetics. Heading up the new committee is Dee Riddell Harris, president of the Arizona Angels, a group of private investors that has been funding startup, technology-based companies in Arizona for nearly a decade.

“The Arizona Angels have rejected a number of applications from women entrepreneurs over the years because their ideas weren’t technology based or have a patent behind them,” Harris says. “So the point of the Catalyst Committee is to be supportive of entrepreneurs, particularly women, who have good ideas, as well as businesses that are not tech-based.”

Harris started building the framework for the Catalyst Committee about nine months ago. The group met for the first time in November 2008 and now has 35 potential women investors from around the state. During the kickoff meeting, the founders of three local startups talked to the group to provide an idea of the type of companies that could eventually apply for funding. High-end fashion designer Debra Davenport talked about the fashion industry in Phoenix, her couture collection, which she launched in November 2007 during Phoenix Fashion Week, and her hopes of one day raising $1.7 million that would allow her to participate in fashion shows around the world. She also showed a number of garments from her couture collection.

“Being able to participate in key fashion shows in Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Paris, Milan and London is a fashion designer’s primary marketing tool,” Davenport says. “But it’s not cheap. It can run anywhere from $30,000 to $100,000 per show when you figure in pattern making, fabrication, manufacturing and all the specialized notions, materials and threads that have to be brought in from places like Paris and Italy.”

Last year, Davenport was able to show her luxury collection during the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Los Angeles. It’s the second largest and most prestigious fashion week in the United States next to New York Fashion Week. Davenport was also the first and only designer to show from Arizona, according to IMG, the production company that puts on the show. Now, Davenport was invited to show her fall collection during the most recent New York Fashion Week.

“I’m hoping that with the significant achievements we’ve been able to accomplish over the last 15 months, we will catch the eye of some savvy investment people who think this is a winning proposition,” Davenport says.

She is planning to launch her first signature fragrance later this year or in early 2010. She also plans to expand her design offerings to shoes, handbags and china patterns. The 50-year-old fashion designer has already completed designs for china patterns, shoes and luxury handbags that will be manufactured in Italy.

Kathie Zeider, senior vice president of Legacy Bank and a member of the Catalyst Committee, says there are many worthwhile businesses in Arizona like Davenport’s that serve women, or are women owned, and poised for high growth of $5 million to $50 million.

“We’re in a service and tech economy, so for Arizona to grow and prosper we need to nurture both sides of the economy,” Zeider says. “Kudos to Dee Harris for seeing this gap in the Arizona marketplace and developing an initiative to fill this need.”

Committee member Connie Jungbluth also believes early-stage investors are critical to the state’s economic vitality. “It’s important to infuse capital into early-stage companies in our community, especially in this economy,” she says. “Women are also big consumers, so overlooking businesses that serve them is not a good idea.”

The Catalyst Committee is still in search of investors to join the group. Its goal is to have 100 investors and to help one local startup company a month. Investors must meet state and federal accreditation standards. Individual investors need an annual income of $200,000 for the current year and the past two years. Couples require an annual income of $300,000 for the current year and last two years. A net worth of $1 million is also acceptable in lieu of the income standard.

Entrepreneurs can submit their applications and business plans to the Catalyst Committee via the Arizona Angels Web site. Harris says entrepreneurs seeking angel investment need to be well prepared when applying for funding; they need a strong business plan with important information aimed at investors.

“Angels are extremely interested in the management team that gives credibility to the firm, so oftentimes they read the first paragraph of a business plan, then skip straight to the management team because it’s so important,” he says. “They also want to know about the company’s marketing and sales strategy and whether the company has some type of competitive advantage.”

www.arizona-angels.org

Mixed Use Development

Mixed-Use Developers Urged To Plan For Defect Claims Before Signing Contract

Developers of mixed-use projects can reduce the likelihood of costly construction defect litigation by anticipating risk and allocating responsibility at the time of contract. Unfortunately, developers often assume that the standard industry forms provide sufficient protection.

These forms, however, rely heavily on good faith for resolution of issues in the future. There are certain approaches developers can take to protect them, prevent construction defects and resolve issues arising from them.

Determine project function and likely defects prior to contract
The developer’s contracts with contractors and designers are best structured after the developer has arrived at a clear “big picture” understanding of how the project will function. Gaining this understanding includes consideration of regulations, financing, insurance and marketing plans specific to the development. It would behoove the developer to conduct a “what if” analysis to determine the defects most likely to result from failures in the design or construction.

Knowing how the project will function and what defects are most likely to arise places the developer in the best position to craft project-specific core objectives for negotiation of the contract.

These core objectives related to defects should include:
A clear allocation of responsibility and accountability for preventing critical defects.

A determination of comprehensive insurance and bonding requirements based on an assessment of which risks can and should be covered.
A clear statement of how disputes will be triggered and resolved during and after completion of the project.

Resolution of disputes deserves particular attention given the implications of technical issues and the possible need to involve numerous categories of potentially responsible parties. The solution will differ from project to project.

Beware of the economic loss rule
Developers sued for construction defects invariably look to the designers and contractors for indemnification. If the designer or contractor is not held financially responsible however, the developer may remain on the hook even if subcontractors are truly at fault. Subcontractors can be immune from liability for construction defects under a principle known as the “economic loss rule,” which provides that a party whose claim is based upon a financial loss caused by construction defects is only entitled to recover under contract theories against those with whom it has a direct agreement. To the extent the economic loss rule applies, it prevents the developer from suing the responsible subcontractor, unless the subcontract provides otherwise.

Developers concerned about the economic loss rule typically require in the prime contract that each subcontract include text specifically indemnifying the developer from suits for construction defects caused by the subcontractor, and names the developer as an “intended third-party beneficiary” of the subcontract with the right to directly sue the subcontractor.

Require indemnification and defense
Developers typically do not cause construction defects, and assume the insurance furnished by the designer or contractor should be the primary source of payment for all related costs, including defense costs. Yet, under the standard industry form indemnity, the primary responsible party does not provide for defense. To address this gap, developers can explicitly require a defense obligation in addition to indemnity.

Nip the issue of warranty claims in the bud
There is the potential for confusion and discord in efficiently responding to warranty claims, given there will likely be multiple parties potentially responsible for the design and construction. Developers concerned with this concept should negotiate contract provisions for a “warranty response contractor” to ensure warranty/defect claims from third-parties are responded to and accommodated promptly, with allocation of responsibility being addressed later.

If the developer envisions the project to be above average in quality of design or construction — which is normally the case in upper-end developments where quality of construction administration is considered important to minimizing defects — the contract should memorialize that expectation. Otherwise, the enforceable measure of performance could be the minimum standard, which may make it more difficult for the developer to prove a breach of the standard of care and increase the likelihood of defects due to lower performance standards. To avoid disputes, the contract should reflect any understanding that performance will exceed minimum standards.

Contractual language dealing with any or all of these concepts is only as effective as the effort given to integrate them with the other contract provisions, as well as the core objectives, so that the entire contract clearly addresses the parties’ expectations for the specific project.

world currency

Companies Need To Start Thinking About Converting To International Financial Reporting Standards

More than 100 countries have already adopted or base their own accounting standards on International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). Last August, the Securities and Exchange Commission approved for public comment its long-awaited proposed roadmap for the eventual use of IFRS by U.S. companies.

The proposal foresees that early adoption of IFRS could happen as soon as this year for very large companies. For others, mandatory reporting under IFRS could begin in 2014, 2015 or 2016, depending on the size of the company.

Why think about it now?
With the global financial crisis, business owners may backburner IFRS in favor of more immediate issues. That’s understandable, but it may not be the right approach. If you are contemplating new finance systems or software purchases, for example, the systems you implement today will likely require modifications to ensure that the accounting, tax planning and compliance processes continue to operate effectively and efficiently under IFRS.

While CPAs regularly adjust to evolving accounting rules and standards, my experience with some of the largest companies in Arizona has shown that focusing on longer-term issues such as the implementation of IFRS can have a positive impact on the bottom line. Learning to “speak IFRS” may be challenging, but it will lead to increased transparency and investor confidence, and when that happens, everyone wins.

As a general rule, IFRS standards are broader than those of U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (US GAAP), and there are fewer bright lines and less interpretive guidance. In addition, IFRS has far-reaching effects beyond the accounting differences, and will involve every area of the company, beginning with the way data is gathered and processed to how debt covenants are written to the metrics against which executives and employees are measured. Conversion will take focus, planning, time and resources. Getting comfortable with IFRS now will make the transition easier for the entire company.

Timely training will be one key to a successful transition — and not just for staff. Investors and analysts will need to be educated about the effect IFRS will have on financial statements. Audit committee members will need to become familiar with IFRS to function effectively in their oversight roles and to understand management’s strategies. These activities should not wait until the new reporting standards are actually in use.

IFRS 101
The first step in any conversion is a gap analysis, or diagnostic, that compares reporting under US GAAP to reporting under IFRS. In addition to the reporting differences, the diagnostic will identify the main business effects of conversion, any tax ramifications and hurdles to conversion that may occur in the present finance structure, and will discover if the company has the resources to carry out the conversion in-house.

The diagnostic will also provide a timeline on who should be trained, when they should be trained and in what they should be trained. In designing a training program, your primary question should be, “What do we need to do to be ready on time?” As with all decisions, it’s important to be strategic. Educating the accounting and finance organizations is a given, as well as the information technology team. But it’s also important to involve other departments affected by the conversion early on in the process (e.g., investor relations, HR, sales and marketing) to make sure conversion is embedded in your business.

Human resources will need to understand how key performance criteria for incentive compensation may be affected by the conversion. In addition, accounting for stock-based compensation is significantly different under IFRS than under US GAAP. Tax professionals will require training on the conversion methodology, as well as on new IFRS accounting principles, to ensure appropriate tax planning and reporting of the tax provision, balance sheet accounts and tax return information. The legal team will need to examine debt, equity and lease financing arrangements; long-term customer contracts and long-term sourcing agreements, among others. The internal auditor’s enterprise-wide purview positions it well toprovide consistency, oversight and control to all areas throughout the conversion process.

IFRS conversion most likely will be the largest, single change of accounting policies and procedures ever undertaken by U.S. companies. It is also an interesting challenge for businesses and provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to review and synchronize the processes and procedures that touch the entire organization. Ultimately, the business “owns” the conversion, and the more fluently it “speaks IFRS,” the better off it will be.

Cloud Computing

Cloud Computing: Better, Faster, Cheaper?

Cloud computing is the latest buzzword in information technology (IT), and depending on who you talk to, you will get a different answer as to what exactly cloud computing really means.

Some refer to cloud computing as SaaS (Software as a Service), utility computing, managed services, Web services, outsourcing, etc. The term is so hot as a marketing tool that every business wants to somehow be associated with it, making it that much harder to define. While a popular buzzword, cloud computing also has very real and beneficial practical applications.

Cloud computing is not the first and it will not be the last buzzword used in IT. The one constant in IT is change and it occurs at a rate much faster than in most other industries. Ultimately, the drive behind the spread of cloud computing as both a marketing term and practical business application is the bottom line. Better, faster, cheaper is always something that technology providers and consumers want.

Efficiency and performance are touted with cloud computing because they are two of the key metrics in every business decision. They are critical measurements of success in any process/technology improvement or investment. No organization should invest in a project if it does not measurably improve the status quo, and efficiency and performance are two quantifiable ways to track this. In IT, servers, disk (storage), memory, space and power consumption are all easily quantified, and gains or declines in efficiency and performance can be measured down to the second.

Historically, many organizations have failed to look at these IT components individually or even at an aggregate level to measure the true cost of their IT infrastructure. Now, organizations large and small are determining that building, owning and operating their IT infrastructure is one of the most significant operating expenses they have. A principal reason for this is that most organizations operate their IT infrastructure very inefficiently, as IT is not their core competency. This inefficiency can be tracked from their internal data center (typically a small space in their office) through their individual servers. The data center is the heart of an IT infrastructure providing power, conditioned air, and telco connectivity, all to support the server and associated infrastructure. Independent studies have shown that the average server utilization is less than 20 percent. Even if the server is only using 20 percent of the resources, it is using 100 percent of the power. This type of inefficiency is very common.

Directly associated with cloud computing and its expanding recognition is virtualization. Virtualization, like cloud computing, has many definitions depending on who you are talking to, but the simplest explanation is that virtualization allows the resources of various types of hardware to be shared.

Virtualization has exploded in no small part due to VMware’s ESX software. ESX is software that allows organizations to run multiple different operating systems on the same computer. These operating systems run separately and securely from the others, but allow for utilization of the same memory, processor, storage and power, based on the individual operating system needs. This is an example of how increased efficiencies and performance can be gained with virtualization and, by proxy, cloud computing. No longer is there a one-to-one relationship between an operating system and a server. Individual servers running on a server with virtualization software can run optimally, utilizing resources from the pool as needed and giving them back when they are not.

So what is cloud computing, and is it truly better, cheaper and faster than a traditional architecture? Cloud computing is so nebulous at this time there is no clear answer.

The answer to the second part of the question is a little more straightforward, and that answer is yes — but a qualified yes. Consumers need to be aware of the “pretenders” that are offering cloud computing services and also be aware of the level of service they can expect. Whether they are working with a large provider that is trying to sell subscriptions to their unused space or a small cloud computing provider that is pushing very poorinfrastructure, they need to understand exactly what they are getting. Consumers need to know that they are receiving better efficiency and performance per dollar spent. It is beneficial to work with providers that are exclusively operating in this segment who do one thing extremely well.

Web 2.0

Web 2.0 Offers Companies A New Way To Conduct Business

Those unable to offer a clear definition of Web 2.0 are not alone. Even computer industry experts have a hard time agreeing on exactly what it is.

“The reason why there are so many different opinions is because the term is so comprehensive,”says James Windrow, director of interactive strategy for Scottsdale-based I-ology, an Internet strategy firm. “It’s misused so often to include absolutely everything, all new technology that’s been developed for the Internet for about the past four to five years.

“The way I define it, and I use Web 2.0 and social media interchangeably, I define Web 2.0 as just technology that’s used to facilitate communication or collaboration amongst different people.”

David van Toor, general manager and senior vice president for Sage CRM Solutions North America, a business software company with offices in Scottsdale, looks at Web 2.0 technology from a business perspective.

“It’s describing, really, the concept that it’s the way that businesses can derive value from treating the Internet as a technology platform and as a business platform,”he says. “To me, it’s a way of conducting business – a different way of conducting business.”

Although the term implies some major redo of the Internet experience, “in reality, it’s just the next version, it’s the next step, it’s an evolution of the process,”according to Tyler Garns, director of marketing for Infusionsoft, a business software company in Gilbert.

The tools that come under the vast Web 2.0 umbrella have led to online communities and social networking, video sharing, blogging and wikis. If you post a page on MySpace or Facebook, watch and comment on a YouTube video, review a product on Amazon or glean information from Wikipedia, you are taking advantage of Web 2.0 technology.

Some businesses have fully embraced Web 2.0. When General Motors stock took a major dip in October, CEO Rick Wagoner appeared in a short YouTube video to state his company’s case. Cable giant Comcast is effectively using the social networking and micro-blogging site Twitter as an element of its Comcast Cares program. Go to Sage’s Web site for ACT! (www.act.com), its popular contact and customer management software, and you can join discussion forums, access an executive’s blog or suggest a feature for a future product update.

“I don’t need a marketing team to communicate with customers now,” van Toor says. “I can do it directly on the blog. I don’t have to force my customers to go through a service department to reach me.”

That’s part of the big change brought about by Web 2.0. In the past, the Internet experience was pretty much a one-way conversation. There was some modest interactivity, but many companies were satisfied using their Web sites as online brochures. Today, businesses are able to engage customer and employee collaboration as never before. Corporate executives are instantly accessible. Active participation results in lightning-fast dialog and feedback.

Another important point is there is now a type of corporate transparency never available before.

“The way that businesses today are leveraging that is they’re opening up their companies and being fully transparent,”Garns says. “What that allows the customer to do is to have a direct view into the company. And when they see things they like, they then trust the company much, much more.”

Windrow points to a change in the way Web 2.0 impacts a company’s ability to control its brand message. In the past, he says, businesses sought complete control.

“In today’s Web 2.0 world, that’s just not the case,”Windrow says. “Now the brand message has left the control of the company and is firmly with the consumers. They are controlling what’s being said about companies. They’re controlling what information is being shared. And they’re actively seeking ways to punish companies that they feel are socially irresponsible in one way or another, or reward companies that they feel are acting in the best interest of consumers.”

That’s why it’s especially important for businesses to offer consumers direct communication options.

“If you invite them to your business and to your sites, and allow them to communicate there in the way they want to, then you can respond to them in a way you can’t if they do it on other people’s chat rooms or places like Amazon,”van Toor says.

Selling, in particular, has been dramatically impacted by the Internet and Web 2.0 technology. According to Garns, today’s consumers educate themselves. They read reviews, hop into forums and find out what others are saying.

“By the time you go to purchase a product or service, you know exactly what you want and you know the price you want to pay,”he says. “When you walk in the door, you’re ready to negotiate. And so the business that you’re buying from has now been cut out of the sales process.”

Fully integrated office communication

Office Phones, Mobiles and Computers Are Finally Communicating Effectively

For years, communications devices have struggled to become fully integrated. Your computer, your office phone and your mobile phone have operated independent of one another, each with its own specific purpose.

The good news is that these devices have learned to coexist in ways previously unheard of, sharing some of the responsibilities that were previously exclusive to each device. And thanks to that improved relationship, you can now seamlessly integrate all your communications, saving you time, effort and stress.

Here are some of the most popular ways electronic devices are coming together:

Simultaneous ring
What it does: Think of simultaneous ring as call forwarding on steroids. Rather than routing calls to your office phone, then to your home office, then to your mobile phone, you can now program up to 10 phones to ring at the same time when someone calls your business line. You simply pick up the one you’re closest to.

Why you need it: With simultaneous ring, you only need one business phone number. That’s it. Your callers will be able to reach you in the office, at home, in the car or wherever you are, by dialing that one number, and that added convenience translates into fewer headaches for your callers and for you. Your caller won’t know where you are, unless you tell them. And don’t worry, you can easily add and remove the phones you want to ring with a click of the mouse, so you’re in complete control.

Voicemail-to-e-mail
What it does: When a caller leaves you a voicemail message, you receive that message in your e-mail inbox as an audio file (.WAV) attachment. Click on the file and it opens in your default audio program and plays just like a song. And if you get your e-mail on your mobile device, you’ll be able to open it there too, provided your device can open .WAV files. No matter which device you’re using, you can easily access your voicemail. As an added benefit, you can file, save or forward the message just as you do regular e-mail.

Why you need it: It makes retrieving voicemail so much simpler. You no longer have to sit in front of your office phone or call into it to access voicemail. Your voicemail comes to you. And when you receive a message you want to forward or share, it’s as easy as clicking “forward” in your e-mail inbox.

Mobile-to-desk call handoff
What it does: Allows you to transfer calls between your mobile and desk phone seamlessly, without interrupting the call. The caller never knows that you answered her call in your office and then finished it in your car, or vice versa.

Why you need it: Since 40 percent of mobile phone usage takes place in the office, you will save hundreds of minutes on your mobile phone plan when you hand off those calls to your office phone. Also, you will never again have to interrupt a call to switch phones.

Fax-to-e-mail
What it does: The fax machine may soon become extinct thanks to fax-to-e-mail. Similar to voicemail-to-e-mail, fax messages now arrive in your e-mail inbox as attachments (.TIF or .PDF files). You still have a fax number, but you no longer need a fax machine to receive the messages. Once received in your inbox, you can file, save, forward, or print them as needed.

Why you need it: No more paper to buy. No more paper jams. No more toner. No more fumbling through stacks of paper looking for that important fax. No more listening to that annoying beep. Need we say more?

Integrated toolbar
What it does: You can manage all of the features mentioned above through a toolbar that integrates with Outlook and Internet Explorer. With a few simple clicks, you can quickly and easily update and change any of your settings. Add or remove phone numbers to simultaneously ring. Choose which calls get through, and which are rejected. View and place calls from your corporate directory. You can do all this and more right from your computer.

Why you need it: You’ve never had this level of control before, and if you did, you probably had to call an IT person to make these changes for you. Now you can do it yourself right from your computer, and it’s easy.

A more meaningful connection
So now that you know these features are available, you may be asking, “How does this work?” The answer lies in the intelligence of your phone system.

In traditional phone service, a semi-mysterious box known as a PBX resides in a closet somewhere in your office. This box contains the intelligence of your phone system and communicates with the phones on your desk, allowing them to receive calls, voice messages and more. This box, however, does not communicate with your computer or mobile phone, which is why you cannot access features such as those mentioned above with traditional phone service.

The solution is to switch to a hosted phone service. Hosted means you get rid of the box in the closet, and plug into a nationwide platform that contains all the intelligence previously held by that box, but so much more. You connect your computer and your phone to this platform through a secure dynamic T1 line, while you download applications to your mobile phone to connect to the same platform. That’s how your phones and computer can communicate so easily — they receive intelligence from the same source.

As convergence technologies continue to advance, the day will soon come when one device will serve as computer, phone and much more. No longer will we need multiple devices. Until that day, you can enjoy convergence technologies that allow your office phones, mobile phones and computers to operate as one big integrated family.

Angela Leavitt is director of marketing for Telesphere, www.telesphere.com

Todd-Inside

Cover Story: Monster Empire

Clarity in Chaos

Diving into the mind of Todd McFarlane, creator of “Spawn” and business entrepreneur

 

Most know Todd McFarlane for the work he did at Marvel as one of the top-selling artists for Spider-Man, or as the creator of the comic book creature “Spawn” and inventor of official sports figurines so realistic they seem to run, slide or jump right off of their plastic pedestals. One description he hears a lot is “that crazy guy who paid $3 million for a baseball.” However, after spending a few minutes digging into the business mind of McFarlane, supposed chaos turns into methodic choices to create successful opportunities.

clarity_chaos

Pinning down one title that accurately encompasses all that is McFarlane is impossible. He is a Grammy- and Emmy-winning producer and director, creator of one of the best selling independent comics, and official licensed creator of NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL toy figures—just to name a few of his ventures. However, McFarlane will be the first to say few things are impossible, especially in the business world.

“It’s easy for big businesses to fall into flat status quos and comfort zones, so when people come in with a radical idea and break the mold a bit, people get nervous,” he says. “They think if you do something different, it’s an insult to what they were doing before. But there are always other ways to ‘skin a cat.’” For McFarlane, his ways of “skinning” an idea involve what most businesses consider backward thinking.

McFarlane says toy creation is usually a formulaic process. Big businesses meet together, figure out how much money they want to make, come up with a business model and profit margin, and then determine the price of the toy before bringing the idea to artists. The end result—artists end up having to make a better toy for less than the previous one. But McFarlane flips the traditional business model. He approaches the artists first in order to make the best product possible, and figures out pricing later. This business model markets high quality and toy value rather than pricing. “As long as you give people the value of the price on the toy, the price isn’t really relevant,” McFarlane says.

Marketing to the consumer’s interest rather than his/her pocketbook seems to be one of the underlying themes of McFarlane’s success in all of his business ventures.

“Look at the stereotypes of toys and comic books—they equal a kid product. Animation is another one that equals a kid product, however, I rarely sell to kids,” McFarlane says. “We just have a stereotype that says, ‘when I was a kid I watched cartoons and now I don’t watch them anymore.’ The only reason you don’t watch them anymore is because nobody is giving you content that makes sense. So I come in, do ‘Spawn,’ make it R-rated because we’re doing adult theme stuff, and I can sell it to adults. It’s just content. It doesn’t matter how it’s done, it matters what the story is around it.” McFarlane applies the same theory of his comic book “Spawn” to what he does with his entertainment productions and toys.

“I make toys that look like something relevant to a 32-year-old,” he says. “Call it whatever you want, but all of a sudden it makes sense to that person because of it’s content. Ultimately as we grow up, we still buy toys till the day we die. We just convert the toy from a G.I. Joe to a cell phone or fancy car with spinning rims. We [as adults] just don’t want to acknowledge them as toys.”

Another marketing success for McFarlane is asking simple questions no one thinks to ask. “Most of what I do comes from the simple question—why isn’t anyone else doing this? And after awhile I go do it myself,” he says. “Luckily that ‘what if’ question is a question a lot of other people are asking, so all of a sudden you get a lot of credit for doing something there was a hunger for, just no one was feeding the hunger.”

Consumers’ hunger for more realistic sports figures was another easy space to fill for McFarlane. It was just a matter of waiting for old contracts to end, and creating enough buzz to enable him to step in as the new supplier. No amount of buzz could top McFarlane’s move to buy Mark McGwire’s 70th homerun ball from the 1998 season for a record breaking $3 million. That seemingly “crazy” purchase enabled McFarlane to step in as the new official producer for all major North American sports, including football, baseball, basketball and hockey. Another example of his avant-garde business approach is captured by McFarlane Toys’ extensive detail of official sports figures.

“The question isn’t how I got it to look that realistic, the question is how did they not get it realistic for hundreds of years,” says McFarlane. “How do people making a baseball player [figurine] who have access to magazines, TVs, movies, films and sports highlights, A—ignore that information, or B—look at it and still come up with the stuff they did. The real answer is A in most cases. There’s no way you can look at a guy in a costume with wrinkles in it and sculpt a guy in a costume without wrinkles, unless you’re intentionally making that choice.” McFarlane points out consumers became accustomed to bad quality because exclusive contracts permitted only one company to do it. “The only reason people weren’t complaining is because they didn’t think anyone could do it differently.”

But that’s the key to McFarlane’s backward business model—doing what everyone else thinks cannot be done, and doing it in an unconventional way.

“Most people don’t start their own companies. I got it. Most people don’t spend their own money, you’re supposed to go and ask for it somewhere else. I got it. You’re not supposed to do it this way. I got it,” he says. “But that’s what you guys think. It’s my life and I’ll do as I see fit, and I can live every single day of my life without guilt or remorse because I know the success or failure came from my actions and mine alone.”

And for McFarlane that’s the best success of all—freedom.

AZ Business Magazine June - July 2007“I only have one piece of advice, well, besides location, location, location. That’s pretty good. But for everyone out there, try it on your own once,” he says. “Here’s why—if you fail, you can go back to where you came from. Go back to corporate land; they’re waiting for you. But if you go, every now and then a couple of you succeed and that’s freedom. They do these commercials on what’s priceless, but what’s priceless to me is that I get to wake up and make the calls in my life.”

www.spawn.com
www.mcfarlane.com

 

AZ Business Magazine June July ’07 | Next: Accounting Enigma