Digital Transformation Is Upon Us…

digital-transformationThe era of digital transformation is upon us and is likely to accelerate in 2015, but many
companies will struggle to leverage this revolution. It’s not because they don’t have the budget, but rather because their leaders are unsure about what specific steps to take in order to align their corporate strategies with the many options that confront them in their digital mission.

The promise of the digital transformation is that the adoption of new disruptive technologies will transform the customer experience, the operational processes, and the entire business model, which will lead to competitive success. And that’s the key to unlocking this opportunity – starting with a goal to reinvent the customer experience. 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 the customers to guide themselves through their problem-solving journeys that lead to self-directed sales cycles for your solutions, creating the epitome of personalized experiences. The customers are no longer being sold to but instead can undergo a guided discovery with relevant content to address their specific needs. This digital interactive experience allows companies to transition from ‘price-based or feature-based’ selling to ‘value-based’ selling by demonstrating the alignment of true solutions to customer challenges.

So, if your company has not yet embarked upon the transition to digital customer engagement, it is time to do so or you may be left behind.

 

Click here to learn more about Kaon Interactive’s offerings.

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Interactive Apps Supercharge Channel Sales And Marketing

February 26,2015- Byline by Gavin Finn, published by IT Best of Breed.

Selling and marketing has become more complex as customers perceive products (and services) to be more commoditized.

This has resulted in an acute need to clearly articulate and communicate differentiated value. Unfortunately, research has shown that traditional sales presentations are not effective in this kind of environment. Beyond slide presentations, looping videos and brochures, what alternatives do sales and marketing teams have, when it comes to effectively communicating value to the prospect?

When channel salespeople and marketers think of engaging with their target prospects, they should be thinking about a wide variety of interactive experiences, both online and offline. Why? Because interactivity is the best way to ensure that prospects and customers remember important information. When people engage interactively, their knowledge retention increases by a factor of three.

True interactivity is the process of engaging in a dialogue involving three primary dimensions:
1. Sensory: using any combination of touch, visual, audio, smell, and taste.
2. Emotional: developing an emotional response or connection to the experience.
3. Intellectual: the exchange of information that is relevant and useful.

When an experience involves these three aspects of connection and communication, true interactivity has taken place. Interactivity is non-linear, meaning that specific responses are provided based on individual actions, resulting in a meaningful exchange of ideas and information. The user does not have to follow a prescribed sequence of events; rather, they create their own personalized path by exploring areas of interest to them, at whatever degree of detail is relevant.

In today’s digital world, access to interactivity in the selling and marketing ecosystem is readily available, in the form of “interactive applications.”  Delivering interactive experiences well beyond passive sales materials (such as slides, PDFs, and videos), interactive applications are apps that can run on any device – on the web, on an iPad (or Android tablets,) on smartphones, on PCs, and on large interactive touch screen appliances at trade shows or sales offices. These applications contain a combination of visual and text information, and allow users to navigate through the experiences in any sequence they choose, and at the pace that suits them.

Interactive applications work by showing how products and solutions help solve problems, through animation and interactive dialogue between the user and the application. If the user is technical, they would explore the details of products and solutions at a greater technical depth than, say, an end-user, or a financial buyer. But the application is successful at conveying the necessary knowledge because it crisply demonstrates the solution to each particular user so that they can understand the value of the product/solution, and can access any supporting evidence or detail that they may need in order to make an informed purchasing decision.

In a sales meeting, for example, it is often necessary to explain how a technology solution will be beneficial to a variety of the customers’ departments. How will end-users’ workflow be improved, or why will the quality of their work improve? How will the systems integrate within the existing or future architecture of the company’s IT infrastructure?  What will the total cost of ownership of the solution be, and how can the finance team see return on the investment?

When an interactive application integrates all of these stories into one environment, the sales meeting becomes very productive and efficient. The customer can navigate to that section of the application, and can interactively learn about the value message that is most significant to them.

In the above example, the IT solution can be explained through an interactive network architecture diagram, perhaps. If the financial buyer asks about ROI, then the sales person can turn the application over to that individual, and they can explore the section or areas that show the financial value. The end user can understand the outcome of the solution’s deployment from the perspective of improved workflow, or quality. Each of these users can control their own interactive experience so that they are not subjected to the same slide presentation or video as everyone else, creating an extremely personalized engagement.

For channel marketers and salespeople, the goal should be to turn every encounter with a prospect or client into an interactive experience. By leveraging interactive applications across a variety of platforms and venues, new levels of engagement can be achieved, more successful relationships built, and more deals can be won.

Gavin A. Finn is president & CEO of Kaon Interactive.

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Kaon Interactive & Custom Exhibit Houses Team Up in Strategic Partnerships

Interactive Booth Demos Exceed Customers’ Expectations & Win Deals
Beyond the 
Show Floor

PRESS RELEASE- EXHIBITOR2015 Las Vegas, NV (March 2, 2015)

Kaon Interactive, the leading provider of interactive 3D product marketing and sales applications, today announced a strategic partnership program for custom exhibit houses to further strengthen their ability to serve their customers at the trade show and beyond. The new partnership allows B2B organizations to take Kaon’s unique immersive 3D interactive experiences used to crisply communicate product/solution differentiation at trade shows, and deploy them seamlessly across their entire global enterprise.

This innovative partnership program is a deliberate effort to help marketers efficiently and effectively ‘communicate their value message,’ which was the number one inhibitor to B2B sales success in 2014 as reported by the MHI Research Institute, an organization dedicated to improving B2B sales performance.

“In an effort to align our long-term goals of customer acquisition, retention and providing ongoing value, Kaon Interactive has proved to be the prefect strategic partner,” said Bob Babine, President of 2020 Exhibits. “Their interactive 3D storytelling applications provide the hands-on engagement Millennials are expecting within a booth environment and deliver a much less invasive approach to traditional sales training when it comes to on-boarding employees. Our customers now have the ability to take this exact same engaging event experience and use it across their global sales channels to communicate competitive uniqueness and win deals.”

“In this customer-first, mobile-first world, companies need easier ways to differentiate themselves regardless of the venue, platform or device,” said Gavin Finn, President & CEO of Kaon Interactive. “Together, Kaon and our exhibit partners will provide flexible interactive sales and marketing solutions that communicate with customers the way they live and work today.”

Kaon Interactive Learning Track At Exhibitor2015

Join us on Wednesday, March 4, 2015 at 3:45pm as Gavin Finn, President and CEO of Kaon Interactive presents the following Measurement & Results learning track (W103) at Exhibitor2015 titled, “Downsize Exhibit Space and Increase ROI with Engaging Small Booth Experiences.”

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MD&DI: Top 4 Medtech Marketing Trends of 2015

MDDI  February 13, 2015- Published by MD&DI (Medical Device and Diagnostic Industry)

As labs and hospitals try to cut costs, knowing how to effectively sell your medical device products will be key.

Faced with uncertain funding and ever-increasing costs, laboratories and hospitals are more prudent than ever regarding the equipment they purchase. As such, marketing and sales professionals in the scientific instrument and medical device markets must clearly communicate their product differentiation and value at every touch point.

From a marketer’s standpoint, this means there is a tremendous increase in the need to deliver experiences that inform customers and partners about the specific differentiated value of the company’s products and solutions, not simply their features and functions.

This will require taking a new approach to marketing and communications with a focus on measurable outcomes. Successful companies will seek to accelerate revenue growth by transforming their approach to how they will globally launch and bring to market new solutions. Here are four medical marketing trends that marketers will begin to see intensify in 2015.

Acceleration of Product Knowledge Transfer and Sales Onboarding

According to Qvidian, on average it takes sales representatives 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. In 2015, medical marketers must use disruptive marketing technologies to accelerate internal product education and reduce the time it takes for sales channels to effectively communicate product value and competitive differentiators. The end result could equal a decisive competitive advantage and huge financial gain (increasing revenues by millions of dollars).

To accelerate product knowledge transfer, innovative medical marketers are turning to interactive storytelling applications to clearly articulate both value and competitive variation by making pertinent product information more readily available to the sales channels in a way that’s engaging. Key features of these applications include the following:

  • Immersive interactive storytelling solutions that speak to multiple constituents in the buying ecosystem (doctors, technicians, lab directors, CFOs).
  • Interactive 3-D product models (with sales crib notes) to help quickly convey competitive product differentiation.
  • Localized content for globally dispersed sales channels.
  • Real-time content updates, so that all users have the latest information at their fingertips.
  • Cross-device accessibility to support global training (mobile, tablet, web, laptop, touchscreen).
  • Online and offline accessibility.
  • Simplified access to relevant collateral, videos, and presentations that are imperative to sales success.
  • Ability for salespeople to rank the popularity of content within the application (videos, presentations, PDFs, etc.) to provide users with a quick snapshot of the most effective sales tools.

Adjusting for Globalization

The medical device sector will experience growth in emerging markets (e.g., China, India, Russia, and Mexico) over the next few years, which means these markets could drive the medical industry for decades to come.

The increasing number of mergers and acquisitions (M&A), joint ventures (JVs) and other collaborative business models means that companies with disparate marketing solutions will need to synergize their local operations with global requirements. The ability to create a consistent message internationally (on the devices or browsers of preference in that geography) is a game-changer for brand marketers, as the concept of “glocalization”—thinking globally but acting locally—becomes their mantra.

This capability must also be customized locally to those instruments, assays, and procedures that are approved (or pending approval) in each geography, so as to ensure regulatory compliance everywhere.

Regulatory Compliance Will No Longer Result in Boring Marketing Content

Yes, you read that correctly. Medical device marketing tools and collateral can now become digital interactive experiences that also comply with regulatory standards. So step away from the printed op-techs and fact sheets that cause prospects’ eyes to glaze over and start to integrate more seamlessly within your marketing content.

Interactive marketing content invites customers to create their own journey, based on their specific needs, helping them make more informed buying decisions. A recent study revealed that product knowledge retention increases from 20% to 75% when prospects are able to drive their own interactive sales experiences.

Today, the digital experience is so realistic and precise that you can get very finite details on 3-D product demonstrations that mimic the medical devices exactly (both looking and behaving like the actual product). A study conducted by Mondo, revealed that 80% of companies plan to increase their digital marketing budgets, with half of that number increasing them between 5–10%. As this trend continues to emerge, it is vital that medical companies incorporate these interactive 3-D product models into their sales strategy to differentiate themselves from the tough competition.

Telling Your Value Story Effectively

In both 2013 and 2014 medical companies claimed that their No. 1 pain point was the “inability of their sales team to communicate the value story.” So it only makes sense that companies in 2015 will get away from price-based selling and begin to talk about the value of their products and services. Medical device companies are turning to interactive storytelling applications that facilitate an engaging dialogue with the prospect, rather than a presentation to the prospect.

These applications have a nonsequential order to them, which makes the buying experience very personalized. The buyers have the opportunity to be in the ‘drivers seat’ and guide themselves through the sales journey. Buyers in the medical field specifically are not being sold on the price of a device or product, but rather on how that device or instrument can deliver unique value-add, resulting in more competitive wins.

Without a crisp, consistent way to articulate a competitive positioning that highlights customer benefits, companies fail to capitalize on their true differentiators, resulting in lower sales or reduced prices, with long and expensive sales cycles.

Exercise these top trends and let 2015 be your year to shine!

Dana Drissel is senior marketing director at Kaon Interactive.

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“In-Person” Selling is Best

Original article published on Gavin Finn’s LinkedIn profile.

Just because people use the Internet to do more research about products and services does not mean that face-to-face meetings are unnecessary. In fact, when you look at real data, there is proof that in-person meetings are the most important part of a customer’s buying experience. This is certainly not true of every product category, but the reality is that if you want to improve sales and marketing effectiveness, you have to do a great job in face-to-face meetings.

Forrester Research just released a study on how B2B marketers will be allocating budgets in 2015, and the #1 category across the board is face-to-face events, just as it has been since 2008. Even more than digital marketing. That’s not to say that digital marketing is not critical (it is) but overlooking the priority of the physical, face-to-face meeting can be devastating.

Oxford Economics studied the effectiveness of virtual meetings (phone, video, chat, etc.) and determined that for new prospects, in-person meetings were 85% more effective than virtual meetings, and this benefit was incredibly significant even for existing customers (65%).

Why, in this age of Content Marketing, and Social Media, and Digital Marketing, do people still need the personal touch?

Because it is better for the buyer:

  • For complex products and services, buying decisions are made less on the basis of technical features and functions, and more on the basis of organizational and personal relationships and trust. Yes, a significant portion of the buyer’s journey happens without a sales person’s involvement. But after the initial selection process, when it comes time to help the prospect make a good buying decision, cognitive studies have shown that there needs to be anemotional connection that goes beyond analytics. Body language, facial expressions, and voice tone are all examples of emotional cues that help buyers evaluate vendors.
  • When buyers are making decisions, they need interaction to get all of their final questions answered, and to ensure that they have understood all of the product/solution information correctly.
  • Particularly for products that aren’t commodities, buyers want to establish a relationship with the company, and even the people in the company. That relationship will transcend the initial transaction, and will allow for a mutual exchange of value that lasts a long time. One example of this mutual exchange of value is when buyers learn interesting and relevant facts from the sales and marketing people – information that will help them in general, but may not be specifically related to this particular purchase decision. Face-to-face sales and informational meetings allow for “side-line” conversations among participants that are often very valuable in building a rapport.
  • Buyers (especially when there is more one person involved in the decision process) make better decisions through face-to-face meetings. A breakthrough study of organizational behavior showed that overall outcomes of group purchase decisions were far superior when there were face-to-face meetings with vendors, highlighting effectiveness both in terms of better decisions (long term satisfaction) as well as efficiency in the process.

And, it’s better for the seller:

  • In person meetings are the best forum to clearly articulate competitive differentiation, and to firmly establish a prospect’s understanding of the company’s value proposition. Since the biggest inhibitor to sales is the inability to communicate value messages, according to the MHI Research Institute, addressing this challenge should be a top priority for marketers and sales teams. A face-to-face setting is the best venue to correct any misperceptions regarding the customer’s understanding of the product or the company, and to augment the customer’s existing knowledge with additional benefits and advantages.
  • Studies have shown that sales cycles are much shorter when there are face-to-face meetings as part of the process.
  • These venues are the best environments in which to truly qualify the prospect, to determine that there is, indeed, a good fit between their need and the company’s solutions, and that they are serious about solving that problem.
  • Just as the buyer wants to build relationships, so does the selling organization, and the opportunity to establish a personal connection to the individuals involved in the buying process is far superior in person, than using other channels.

Not every customer interaction has to happen face-to-face. In point of fact, most customer touch-points will not be of this type. The majority will be the customer interacting with marketing content, the website, or third party references absent any involvement of the sales team at all.

But the most important interactions will happen when the people buying your products meet the people selling your products.

Click here to view the original version on LinkedIn.

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A Guide to B2B Social Media Marketing

Ever since Social Media became the most popular medium since the Big Bang (not the TV show, the actual Big Bang) B2B marketers have been struggling to “leverage” this medium. But it is early days yet, and there are no hard-and-fast rules – somewhat similar to the Wild West in the 1800’s. The industry has learned some lessons, however, and they can be applied successfully by B2B marketers, even as we all work together to improve. (Advertising on Social Media sites is a different subject altogether, and relates much more to “traditional” digital media advertising than it does to Social Media. We will focus here on participation in Social Media conversations, rather than banner or text advertisements.)

The very first lesson is the most important:

1. Social Media is all about people connecting with other people, not companies marketing to people. Think of it this way: any social medium (including LinkedIn) is designed to operate as a virtual networking forum, where people can talk to other people in as private or public a manner as they choose. It is not a place for companies to pretend to be people (the US Supreme Court notwithstanding) and insert themselves in these conversations. Everything else flows from this understanding.

2. Social Media is, however, an opportunity to put a human face on the company, and to connect in a more direct (but not necessarily overly personal) way with the people that you already work with, or are trying to reach at the companies with which your company wants to do business. So the information being shared via these channels should be interesting to these people, and relevant enough that they will not only read/watch/listen, but also share with their contacts and network. In the B2B world, this specifically precludes advertising.

3. Social Media marketing is about branding and awareness, not about lead generation or sales. It is most useful as a channel to share interesting information related to customer challenges, problems, or opportunities, but not about your company’s products or solutions. This is an ideal channel to develop thought leadership, and to become known as industry experts. The result may be more website visits, and other potentially measurable direct activity, but not necessarily short-term lead generation. Be patient.

4. Social Media marketing for the B2B channel requires consistent and sustained engagement. Without a regular frequency of communication, and without developing a networked conversation, this medium does not produce any positive marketing benefits for B2B companies. That means that posts should be made on a regular basis (the exact frequency is not as important, depending on the company, the industry and other factors, but whatever the frequency, make sure the channel is used consistently.)

5. Focus on interesting and relevant content. This aspect of Social Media Marketing has proven to be the most challenging for B2B marketers – generating (or finding) a sufficient volume of interesting content that will be useful to their network (and their network’s network.) While some B2B marketers use social media channels to share personal updates, humorous stories, or viral videos, this has not proven to be an effective technique. What information will your contacts find interesting and useful to them, and will leave them with a positive emotional association with you (e.g. appreciation or respect) for having shared it with them?

6. Use the various Social Media channels differently. Facebook is used and understood differently from LinkedIn, and Twitter has a completely different use model as well. Most B2B marketers don’t find Facebook to be effective. If you do choose to use Facebook, when sharing updates on a company Facebook page, make sure that they are framed in context with the kinds of feeds that people expect when using Facebook (perhaps articles focused on personal and professional growth, or interesting statistics about different people’s experiences working in a variety of cities around the country.) When reading their LinkedIn feeds, people are generally more in “worker” mode, so articles or quick facts about trends in their industries, or innovative solutions to industry problems are more relevant and appreciated. Twitter is used much more as a quick scan resource, so anything that has time-sensitive context to it (such as information about an event, or a speaker at an event, or an announcement by a leader in the industry) is most relevant and appreciated. YouTube and Instagram may offer excellent opportunities for sharing interesting visual content, in the right context. Blogs are an opportunity to discuss industry topics in a much more thoughtful and deep manner, and can be a forum to expand on your company’s take on a particular technology, market, or industry trend. People reading blogs appreciate learning about business or technical subjects in more detail than they may find in a short headline or a news article.

7. Find the “Goldilocks Zone” for how much, and how frequently to post to Social Media. Posting too infrequently results in not enough attention being paid to the company’s (or person’s) Social Media presence. Posting too frequently often results in people ignoring (or blocking) the posts. Finding the frequency that is not too few, and not too many, but “just right” for your company and your network, is a matter of trial and error. Pay attention to the stats on how often people share content, or how many views you get whenever you vary frequency, and this will allow you to see what is most effective overall as you have changed over time.

8. Keep it tasteful. There is a line between “professional” and “personal” content, and it is all too easy to move from tasteful posts to making people cringe. In B2B Social Media marketing avoid controversial subjects, such as politics, religion, or other sensitive topics that can cause the viral nature of social media to spiral your brand out of control. No matter your personal values or moral stance on any issue (or that of your company) entering these kinds of debates on Social Media never works for B2B companies.

9. Coordinate your messaging on Social Media with all of your other channels. You have online and offline marketing programs; these all serve as touch points for your B2B brand – your Social Media touch points must offer a consistent brand experience with these other channels. Even though you should not be overtly promoting your products or solutions on Social Media, the way that your network (and their networks) will view you and the company is impacted by the style and content of your Social Media presence.

10. Invite participation and dialogue. Blogs are especially powerful as a means to solicit opinions, experiences, and ideas from people that normally may not be part of the discussion, but are influencers or buyers nonetheless. The success of your B2B marketing strategy can be measured not just in terms of numbers of followers or connections or shares, but also in terms of engagement. The more active your dialogue is, the more diverse the range of opinions, the more interesting the discussion, the better your brand will be viewed. (A good example can be seen here.)

The most effective B2B Social Media marketers:

  • Focus on LinkedIn, Blogs, and Twitter;
  • Dedicate at least 10 hours per week to maintain and update Social Media content and pages;
  • Generate high levels of engagement through thought-leadership and industry-focused content;
  • Stay far away from talking about the company’s products.

What has (or has not) worked for your B2B Social Media marketing?

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What Have We Learned About Mobile Apps So Far?

Everyone agrees that we are in the early days of the “mobile revolution.” To quote Winston Churchill, who, on November 9, 1942, said “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

What have we learned so far?

  1. Mobile Apps are a uniquely effective way to engage employees and customers;
  2. Mobile Apps are not a very effective tool for engaging prospects - getting someone to download an app before they purchase is extremely difficult;
  3. Mobile Apps work well when they create a recurring engagement dialogue – maintaining a communication beyond the initial use;
  4. Mobile Apps work best when they are part of an ecosystem of engagement – that is, “mobile only” is usually not a good strategy;
  5. Mobile Apps take between 4 and 8 months to build, on average;
  6. Mobile Apps cost an average of $250,000 to build;

Let’s look at some of these lessons in a little more detail:

WHO? – Mobile Apps are great for helping to provide useful information to people who are already engaged with the company and products. Customers use these apps to continue to broaden their knowledge of the company’s solutions, and to obtain consistent information about value propositions and even some technical features and functions. Employees use these apps for the same reasons. Apps are generally not effective for lead generation.

WHAT? – Mobile Apps are excellent at providing information about products and solutions that quickly answer questions about which products solve which customer problems, or what a company’s solutions can do to help address a specific customer challenge. They are not the best venue for lengthy, detailed, technical information that requires a great deal of depth or volume of information.

HOW? – Mobile Apps work best when they are entirely interactive, – that is, the user decides how to navigate through the information, what sections to look at, in which order, and to whatever degree of detail is relevant to them. They are most effective when this interactivity combines visual cues (such as images, or animations)together with pithy, succinct text content (short bullet items, or phrases, but not long sentences or paragraphs.) Long videos are not effective inside mobile apps, and neither are pre-sequenced presentations.


WHEN? – Mobile Apps are most effective when they are updated frequently with new information and, sometimes, even new functionality. The level of engagementwith mobile apps increases dramatically if they are kept up to date on a regular basis, and when these updates do NOT require a trip to the App Store – the information in the app can be updated automatically (e.g. via a cloud update) without the user having to re-install an app.

WHERE? – Everywhere – not just on mobile devices. That is the answer to the question of how to get apps to be used by everyone in the target audience demographic. We all know that BYOD is becoming the most common trend in mobile app proliferation, but did you know that many of these applications need to be accessed by people on their laptops too? And, in order to get prospects to use apps, they need to be available online via a web browser, not just as a native app. That way, the prospect doesn’t have to download anything in order to receive the benefits of the information and the interactivity in the app. The apps that are available across platforms (tablets, smartphones, laptops, desktops, browsers, iOS, Android, Kindle) are the ones that have the highest levels of sustained engagement.

The value that an effectively developed, distributed, and maintained app can provide to a company is manifold – helping customers to understand the breadth and depth of a company’s solutions, and their applicability to the customers’ specific problems; helping sales and marketing people to articulate and demonstrate the company’s unique differentiated value; helping employees to understand the unique value that the company delivers in all product areas and vertical markets.

Companies are already realizing unheard of returns-on-investment in these kinds of cross-platform apps, by shortening sales cycles, increasing conversion ratios, and reducing sales and marketing expenses.

And yes, we’ve only just begun….

 

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