iOS 9 is coming in September…Will your sales and marketing apps survive?

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How Marketing Technology Can Help Bridge the Sales/Marketing Divide

Original article posted on American Marketing Association.

Marketing-and-SalesAccording to Marketo, 71% of CEOs at large companies say that they don’t see the payoff from CMOs’ technology investments. This means that while marketing technology may, indeed, deliver a worthwhile ROI, that return isn’t obvious to everyone in the C-suite.

But this obviously isn’t the only pressure that CMOs face. The combination of increasing global competition, demands for shorter product development life cycles, more complex purchasing environments, and a changing dynamic in buying behaviors has resulted in an imperative to change the way that prospects and customers access information. It’s no longer cost-effective to ship products to every major customer-facing event, nor is it effective to rely on traditional methods of demonstrating the features and functions of a company’s solutions.

Now, more than ever, marketers must deliver solutions that sales teams (and customers) can use directly, enabling them to shorten sales cycles, better articulate competitive differentiation, and improve their win rates. Savvy CMOs have figured out that one of their key marketing objectives is to be able to cost-effectively deliver a consistent and compelling articulation of their differentiated value at every customer touch point, with or without a company representative present.

Most global companies seek to be (and really should be) perceived as solutions providers rather than product vendors. The critical issue in defining solutions that resonate with customers depends on the ability to develop confidence that the company understands the customers’ challenges, and the conversations that follow should be all about addressing those challenges. Marketers must, therefore, provide customers with the ability to quickly see the value of the company’s solutions in the context of each customer’s specific challenges.

This is further compounded by the fact that there now are more people and functions involved in making major purchase decisions, and CMOs need to create a meaningful dialogue with prospects regardless of each individual’s function, his role in the decision process or his stage in the buying journey.

Lastly, marketers need to be able to provide this engaging and effective customer experience regardless of the venue, be it at a conference, trade show or sales meeting, or online.

This is where a cross-platform, digitally interactive platform comes in. An interactive experience that engages the customer with relevant, useful information can transform the brand experience for every prospect and customer because this type of sales and marketing solution does the following:

-Demonstrates clear, differentiated value propositions to each constituent in the purchase process without having to show a complex physical product that’s expensive to ship and support;

-Focuses each individual interactive session on those benefits of the company’s solutions that resonate with each unique audience;

-Delivers marketing and sales applications that are flexible and extensible to allow for the evolution of the company’s products, solutions and messaging strategies;

-Enables engagement and more personalized experiences across all venues, resulting in higher knowledge retention and a better informed customer who is more likely to buy.

An interactive platform allows for a long-term deployment across a wide variety of marketing venues, as well as private online Web sessions, sales meetings and other customer-facing events. If architected appropriately, digital platforms will be modular and extensible, allowing for the incremental development of sales and marketing assets and solutions.

The results of investing in a flexible marketing technology platform, rather than relying on a point solution approach, can include:

-Lower direct and indirect costs required to equip, ship, manage and support all global venues;

-The re-use of interactive applications and assets, reducing marketing costs and improving customer experiences;

-Improved articulation of brand and product value in direct sales communications pre- and post-event, potentially fostering accelerated sales cycles and higher win rates;

-Immediate access to interactive product demonstrations online and offline instantly across all geographies, operating systems and devices;

-Consistency in brand and solution messages by delivering the right value proposition to each customer no matter which sales or marketing team member is present;

-Reduced time-to-effectiveness (onboarding) for new sales and marketing personnel.

Marketers now are accountable for improved financial performance, and this means that investments need to lead to measurably improved sales results and cost reductions. A digital platform for device-independent interactive applications will deliver these results, and more.

Gavin Finn is president and CEO of Maynard, Md.-based interactive product software company Kaon Interactive.

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Marketing Moves to Center Stage

Concert StageIn previous generations, marketers have been thought of as “lead generators” for the sales department. But recent research into how corporate CEOs view the role of marketing reveals that now, more than ever, marketing is perceived to be strategic to a company’s success.

CMOs Play a Comprehensive Role
Because of the powerful impact of marketing on multiple dimensions of corporate profitability and growth, C-suite leaders are developing broader expectations regarding how their internal organizations must collaborate with marketers. C-level executives require specific deliverables from the marketing organization, and top-performing CMOs have a comprehensive understanding of their organizations’ needs and focus on building marketing teams that work to meet or exceed those expectations.

CEOs Need CMOs to Be Visionaries
Traditional marketing deliverables were limited to lead generation and branding/awareness metrics. Today, marketing’s impact is manifold, and includes a leadership role in building consistent, sustainable, differentiated value for the entire company.

In many companies, the CEO expects the CMO to be the glue that holds all of the disparate organizations together, providing a consistent framework for customer- and market-focused strategy and decision-making. CEOs are also relying on the CMO to make the connection to the customer, introducing the CEO to key thought leaders in relevant markets and to key customer decision-makers.

CMOs Are Key to Sales Success
C-level sales executives have also broadened their expectations of marketing – from generating high-quality leads to providing sales enablement platforms and content. The global, mobile sales organization requires access to innovations in customer engagement, from interactive applications for sales meetings to customer-centric digital content.

Marketing is the facilitator and curator of the information needs of the sales team, from competitive positioning to virtual product demonstrations to key industry knowledge. And, as face-to-face events take on an increasingly important role in strategic sales situations, sales leaders look to marketing to create opportunities for effective customer engagement, including product launches, executive briefings, tradeshows and industry networking events.

CFOs Expect Financial Returns From Marketing
Chief Financial Officers have extended their expectations for marketing — from simply developing budgets that project returns in terms of qualified leads and opportunities, to a much more nuanced set of investment criteria. As a result, marketing executives now look at their activities in terms of financial investments, asking: “What long-term returns will result from these expenditures?”…

Read full version on CMSWire.

Gavin Finn is President and CEO of Maynard, Mass.-based Kaon Interactive. He is responsible for the company’s strategic, financial, product and customer relationship strategies.

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Kaon Interactive Builds Highly Realistic 3-D Product & Solution Tours

EventsInAmerica.com (EIA) spoke with Gavin Finn, President & CEO of Kaon Interactive, at the EXHIBITORLIVE show in Las Vegas. (Original interview posted on their site.)

EIA: Tell us about your business. What does Kaon Interactive do and who are some of your customers?
Finn: We provide interactive 3D product storytelling applications for sales, marketing and channel partners to use at live events and sales meetings. These are interactive, 3-dimensional product and solution tours. They are very realistic and engaging. We use this technology to help our clients present a clear picture of their competitive differentiators and advantages – what makes them unique and why. As companies have become more global and have expanded their product portfolios, the ability of their sales teams to tell their story has become more challenging. As a consequence, executives have come to us with the problem that their sales and marketing teams are not consistent in articulating their value propositions, causing them to lose deals early in the buying cycle they should have won. We help them solve that problem.

What industries do your serve?
The three main verticals we work in are 1) high-tech IT – data equipment centers and storage, 2) medical devices and scientific instruments for large complex lab equipment or medical instruments, and 3) industrial equipment, where there are often complex stories to be told but where you can’t always be in front of the equipment to tell those stories.

So tell us more. How do you turn your applications into ROI for your clients?Our interactive 3D product marketing applications help clients engage prospects earlier, train sales/channel teams faster, shorten sales cycles and increase win rates by 33%. Think about the companies who buy your product. About 80-percent them are already doing preliminary buying research on their own, using the web to gather information about potential solution providers. But what they often lack from this initial research is a true understanding of how a potential solution provider can solve a specific business challenge their company faces. That’s when we come in. Through our interactive applications, we demonstrate how our clients provide solutions that are specific to a particular goal, task, department or job function, rather than just re-tell the customer’s decision makers what they’ve already learned through the web, our client’s sales team can now actually engage them in an interactive dialog about issues that are very specific to what these people are doing in their jobs. This makes the face-to-face meeting between our client, and their prospective customers, much more effective.

Give us a real-life example.
For instance, in the medical device industry, one of our clients sells very expensive and complex lab equipment for blood analysis. It’s a highly competitive field. Over the last decade more hospitals have made the acquisition of this equipment more complicated by involving more constituents in the decision-making process. Now it’s not just the lab making the decision. It’s finance, procurement, environmental health and safety, the emergency room – and the lab. And so our client’s sales people have had to become very facile with the discussion of the value proposition for each of these constituents – each of whom has his or her own decision drivers. So we built an interactive 3D product storytelling application for our client that shows the specific differentiator of this equipment for each individual constituent. If it’s the emergency department, for instance, one of their key issues is getting high quality results very quickly. In a sales meeting, our client used our application to demonstrate this capability to that constituent. But within the hospital’s environmental health & safety department, people have a different concern: They want a system that efficiently uses clean water. This is huge to them. By using the same interactive 3D product storytelling application, the sales people were able to demonstrate how their equipment meets that concern. And they were able to show additional benefits to other constituents in the buying cycle, as well. So by using this one non-linear interactive application they can navigate to and demonstrate multiple benefits to a variety of buyers, dramatically improving their sales process and increasing their close rates and cycle times because they were able to make those meetings much more effective.

So if we were a prospect for your company, what’s the process you would go through to interpret our needs and your solution?
It really starts with describing the business problem you’re facing. It might be that you’ve got lots of competitors and you’re struggling to articulate your value proposition, so price has become the focus and you’re trying to get away from that. Or maybe there’s a problem that has to do with people in different geographical areas not being able to consistently present or access their products. Or perhaps there’s some other issue. We start by having a discovery session to determine what the key business challenges are. Then we assimilate all the marketing and sales information the client has relative to the technical features – but more importantly how those features benefit their customers. And then we put together 3 or 4 different creative ideas on how this interactive 3D product storytelling application would look and function.

We go back and forth with the client to see what works for them, what fits with their brand and what kind of messaging works best. We then put the application together. They deploy it to the field on a test basis, usually on one device, maybe an iPad® or on the web. Once we get feedback from that test, we start to expand on the application, maybe by adding more product lines or by going deeper into each of the vertical segments. And then we expand outward. It becomes an incremental deployment. Over time, the client gets to broaden the interactive application and add more of their value propositions so they can cover more of their markets with the same application.

When did you start, how large of staff do you have and what are their capabilities?
We started our company in 1996. We’re just under 50 people. The majority are in two groups: Technology or User Experience. The Technology group builds the software that is deployed to use these applications and does research and development on new tools and new platforms like Android devices and web browsers. The User Experience group creates design and user interfaces, incorporating ergonomics and other human factors. So we’re leading our customers in which technologies are becoming more popular and common, and working with them to capture their unique value stories in the most effective way.

Do you have any proprietary or patented processes?
Yes, we have four patents. One of them is the process for creating these interactive3D product and solution tours. And then we have patents on the technology side in how to implement these solutions across different platforms. These patents allow us to maintain a technology edge across a variety of platforms – and our clients don’t have to spend a lot of money investigating new interactive applications whenever a new device or platform comes out because we’ve already made that investment.

Are you launching any new programs, products or services in 2015?
Earlier this year, we launched what we’re calling our Kaon Application Delivery Network (ADN), which is a way, using the cloud, to deliver the interactive application content all over the world. Clients can distribute the application to an unlimited number of people in all different geographies and devices, but when it gets updated, it only gets updated in one place and everybody has access to exactly the same content. And so this year, we’re expanding that platform. We’ll be introducing a whole new set of devices to support it, as well as new features, including analytics so that marketers can really understand who’s using the applications, what part of the world they’re in and what’s resonating with different customers in different geographies.

Is there anything we haven’t discussed you want people to know about?
The most effective way to get a prospect to understand your distinctive value proposition is to get them involved in the process. Rather than just telling or presenting, have them be an interactive part of that process. And that’s what our entire company is about – creating these engaging encounters that involve customers in the process so they remember more and what they learn resonates with their problems. Our entire philosophy is centered on creating the most engaging and effective encounters with customers at every touch point, no matter where they are in the buying cycle.

What’s the prognosis for sales in 2015?
We grew at more than 20% last year and we’re expecting similar growth this year.

Contact:
You can reach Gavin Finn, President & CEO of Kaon Interactive, a gfinn@kaon.com or by calling 978.344.4109.For more information, visit www.kaon.com.

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Five Tips To Make Your Content Stand Out From The Crowd

Original article posted on MarketingProfs.com.

Nine out of 10 B2B marketers are actively using content marketing, regardless of their size or industry.

Here are some lessons learning from the world of content marketing.

1. Focus on engagement Microscope

The objective of content marketing has shifted from lead generation to developing effective engagement. A total of 88% of marketers now view the primary goals of content marketing to be enhancing customer loyalty and prospect/customer engagement, according to a survey by Smart Insights.

There is no shortage of content, so marketers need to find ways to enhance the customer experience by going beyond a presentation or a whitepaper. Marketers need an interactive engagement to keep their prospects and customers actively involved.

Using content marketing to deliver a compelling story allows marketers to build an emotional connection with the audience, bringing to life the information and making it relevant, interesting, and useful.

When people are involved in digesting information via an interactive experience (as compared with a passive experience, such as watching a video or reading a whitepaper), they retain up to three times as much information.

In an interactive experience, each piece of content is only presented when and where the user chooses, ensuring that each person gets to navigate a highly relevant and more individual understanding of the products and solutions. Each user decides what sections to explore, and in what sequence and level of detail.

2. Show, don’t tell

Experience has demonstrated that visuals combined with text copy are much more effective than either text or visuals alone.

The content marketing tactic that increased the most in 2014 was infographics. When multiple senses are employed in processing information, the level of retention increases.

As the world moves towards more bite-sized chunks of information (e.g., 140-character tweets), the use of visual imagery to convey important information becomes more effective. The combination of well-designed text copy in concert with visuals dramatically enhances the cognitive processes used when reading or scanning documents, and this is incredibly useful for content marketers.

Rather than discussing an increase in product functionality over time, for example, a thought-provoking chart with a clear depiction of a rising arrow sends the message that grabs the reader’s attention. The complementary text describing how the product’s functionality has expanded reinforces the underlying message by both adding credibility and creating specific information the reader remembers.

3. Make content personal

Though the marketing team strives for delivering a consistent message about solutions and products, the way that the prospect experiences the message can be highly personalized to suit his or her needs.

Personalization will continue to be a focus of marketing attention for the rest of 2015, especially with the continuing development of marketing automation tools that allow for more unique and relevant deliverables.

Marketers in companies of all sizes can directly target customers based on specific titles, needs/wants, and stage in the buyer’s journey, which means not only personalizing email greetings but delivering specialized content to each category of user. If customers are reading, comprehending, and interacting with the meaningful content created and sent to them, they will have an elevated experience and greater knowledge retention. That translates into increased usage and sales.

Some 78% of the most successful marketers are creating more content than they did a year ago, so delivering a more relevant and personalized piece of content is becoming more necessary (and effective).

4. Reuse and repurpose content

Forbes recently reported that 69% of CEOs believe that their marketing organizations waste money on redundant marketing initiatives. Apparently, marketers agree.

Successful marketers know that by maximizing their investments through repurposing their deliverables, they can help alleviate this concern. In a 2014 survey, conducted by MarketingProfs and the Content Marketing Institute, 86% of CMOs said they were also looking for ways to repurpose content across new platforms within the next 12months, without recreating or reformatting it in any way.

Rather than creating individual marketing deliverables for each event or product launch, and instead of spending money on content specific to a channel or device, focus on reusing and repurposing the same content marketing applications across any device or marketing channel.

Similar to responsive design, new marketing platforms (like the Kaon Application Delivery Network) are finally allowing for interactive content to be created once and deployed everywhere (mobile devices, tablets, desktops, websites, touch screens, etc.). This gives companies the ability to create one cost-effective “user-driven” piece of content that can address multiple constituents within the buying ecosystem, across multiple selling environments (sales meetings, websites, trade shows, briefing centers, training, etc.). Same brand, same message, same value story.

5. Face-to-Face Interactions: The Most Effective Venues

Bill_CienaProductThough digital marketing is the most common platform for interactive applications, delivering content in an interactive manner can, and does, happen face to face as well.

Moreover, just because some piece of content is online does not make it interactive.

Being interactive means that there is a dialog, a back and forth between the user and the application, that delivers a personalized, more effective experience. (Think of the difference between watching a video and playing a video game.)

Interactive 3D product storytelling applications, on touchscreens and mobile devices, allow customers to create their own buyer’s journey within a tradeshow booth, or a customer sales event, navigating how products operate together in a variety of real-world scenarios to solve their problems.

By incorporating consistent marketing messages within these interactive digital experiences (via relevant messages and sales materials), companies can better tell their product/solution story in a branded user environment.

* * *

Make your content stand out, and deliver an effective (and cost-efficient) customer experience by incorporating these lessons learned. Deliver engaging content through visual storytelling experiences, facilitating personal navigation across multiple channels and devices.

Click here to learn more about Kaon Interactive and our offerings.

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Visit Kaon Interactive in Booth #4811 at AACC 2015

Stop by Kaon’s booth #4811 at AACC, the leading event for laboratory medicine worldwide, July 27-29, in Atlanta, GA to experience 3D Product Models and interactive storytelling. Also, feel free to stop by the booths listed to experience Kaon’s interactive applications utilized by companies like Abbott Diagnostics, BD, Waters Corporation, Sekisui Diagnostics, Siemens Healthcare, and Shimadzu.

Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 4.19.54 PM

Click here to learn more about Kaon Interactive.

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Top Tips for Increasing Sales with Digital Interactivity

By Dana Drissel, Vice President at Kaon Interactive.

A new McKinsey report reveals that companies that implement transformational sales and marketing capabilities yield 90% higher sustained growth than those who don’t. In marketing and sales, this can be accomplished by using digital interactions and interactive storytelling to create engagements that allow customers to guide themselves through their problem-solving journeys. Below are four tips for increasing sales with digital interactivity.

1. Accelerate Onboarding with Interactive Crib Notesinteractive
According to Qvidian, on average it takes a sales representative up to nine months to get up to speed on a product line and roughly one year to become really effective in selling those products. As corporate strategies are shifting and organisations are acquired, the product marketing mix changes and sales must quickly accommodate.

As these shifts occur, companies begin marketing multiple products that are sold by the same sales force; therefore, it becomes difficult and impractical for them to know the unique features and benefits of EVERY product within the portfolio. This results in a generalized selling pitch, making the sales experiences less than stellar. The best way for sales to adapt is by using interactive crib notes that help them navigate through the product demonstration like a sales expert.

2. Hands On Customer Engagement
Did you know that interactivity increases product knowledge retention by up to 75%? Giving prospects that hands-on sensory experience allows them to explore the product features that are the most important to them in a way that they’ll remember. This empowers your customers to create an emotional connection via interactivity and engagement.

That being said, getting your products into the hands of prospects is much easier said than done. Products (specifically in the telecom, medical or industrial industries) are often large, fragile, hard to obtain and expensive to ship. Even at trade shows companies are often bringing their flag ship products and/or just a ‘shell’ of their product to avoid damage during transport.

3. Utilize Universal Platforms That Reach Global Users
Make sure to utilise deployment platforms that expand your reach and get your interactive content into the hands of those who need it most (customers, sales, marketing, channel, training). Cross platform sales and marketing applications allow for interactive sales tools to be created once and used everywhere, eliminating the need and cost to create separate versions for each operating system or device. The ability to create consistent and engaging messaging internationally (on preferred devices/browsers in that geography) is a game changer for marketers because they can think globally but their sales team can act locally.

4. Use Visual Storytelling to Communicate Value
According to the MHI Research Institute, in both 2013 and 2014 companies claimed that their number one pain point was the ‘inability of their sales team to communicate their value story.’ With 65% of people being visual learners, it is vital for companies to utilise interactive storytelling applications to effectively show visual representations of how their products work. The non-sequential nature of these interactive storytelling applications make the experience very personal and clearly show the value your product/solution can provide, rather than just telling you their features/benefits. Companies that fail to capitalise on their products true differentiators result in lower sales and reduced prices, with long and expensive sales cycles.

These four tips should lead to a self-directed sales cycles for your solutions, creating the epitome of personalized experiences.

Read the full version posted on Sales Initiative.

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