How Marketers Can Bridge Innovation and Business

This article was originally published by Chief Executive, “Kaon Interactive CEO on Bridging Innovation and Business,” January 18, 2019.

Kaon Interactive CEO and President Gavin Finn is all about bridging the gap from technological innovation to the marketing and business side. When he joined Kaon Interactive in 2005, it was still very much a technology-focused orientation.

“My focus has been on thinking about how marketing and sales can benefit from innovations and behavior to really meet the needs of the way that the world is evolving in general,” Finn says.

Kaon AR with Gavin Finn

He has done this on some level throughout his career, both at small companies and multinationals alike. At Kaon, Finn’s goal is to take the company’s augmented and virtual reality marketing and sales applications and make them usable for customers. “It’s a pervasive challenge for enterprises to convey their complex products and solution messaging to a variety of customers within their buying ecosystems.”

Finn says augmented and virtual reality technologies can help their customers tell “very complicated solution stories and messaging.” They can help immerse someone into an environment where they can actually see what these complex marketing and messages mean, rather than imagining it.

Chief Executive talked with Finn about the challenges of using a newer concept to market and sell products, how he recruits tech talent and more. Below are excerpts from this conversation.

What are some of the big challenges that you guys face in trying to kick-start a newer concept in terms of being able to market and sell products?

I think CEOs in particular are always interested in looking at creating long-term competitive differentiated value that allows them to create a sustained, competitive advantage. And so, what we have to do is we have to find ways of linking those key strategic goals that CEOs have for marketing innovations. And so, in using marketing innovations, we can help accomplish these strategic objectives.

So, some of the challenges that we have is very often, marketers are focused on very tactical objectives that are focused on an event, a customer event or a trade show, or a product launch, or some bounded marketing objective. One of the big challenges is to help marketers align their key initiatives and all of the deliverables with the senior executive strategic objectives. Because when you think about it, all of these kinds of technologies can be viewed as sort of technology for technology’s sake by the CEOs and CFOs, unless they can be aligned with key strategic corporate objectives.

We have to overcome the visibility of why marketers need to be thinking in terms of strategic alignment or the strategic objectives, and not just tactical objectives in getting data sheets done, and branding and messaging for a particular solution story. One key objective for us is to overcome that inherent resistance to thinking about innovation in marketing as a strategic cooperate initiative and a potential strategic advantage.

Another barrier we have is because these technologies are relatively new, they can often be seen as experiments or sidelines and may get positioned as proofs of concept or interesting ideas. And what we’ve been really focused on is thinking about demonstrating that in a continuum of engagement solutions and innovation, these solutions can become very important and sustained over the life of very long product cycles or market initiatives.

The challenge is to get away from thinking about this as a cool, shiny object and a new toy to companies turning this into something really valuable on a continuing basis that provides substantive, competitive value differentiation to engage customers.

And so, what we did there was rather than just build it as a way to do a walk through, we created it in such a way where every time there’s a new innovation and a new development and new technology initiatives at an R&D facility, the application is updated and enhanced so that all the customers continuously want to keep going back and experiencing that virtual reality walk through because they feel it’s a way for them to get more industry knowledge and the company actually connects with their customers on a continuous basis.

So, I think it’s a continuing challenge to move these new technologies out of the cool, shiny toy bucket and into realizing this an important initiative for us to embed within our go-to market strategy.

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Prediction: Successful Marketers Treat Sales as Clients and Partners

This article originally was published by MarTech Series, “Prediction Series 2019: Interview with Joshua Smith, CTO and Founder, Kaon Interactive (February 11, 2019).

Joshua Smith, CTO & Founder of Kaon Interactive

Tell us about how dramatically your role evolved in 2018 with marketing and sales technologies.

At Kaon, 2018 was all about efficiency and process. We are experiencing huge growth in our top line, as the combination of our own sales effectiveness, and industry awareness of our company, in general, has led to a dramatic increase in the breadth and depth of our customer engagements. The challenge for us, as a software company, is to have as much of that top-line growth reach the bottom line as possible. For us, that meant transitioning the last of our internal data center operations to the cloud, and having a renewed focus on improving our internal tools for increased efficiency.

What challenges and opportunities did you identify at Kaon Interactive? To what extent did you manage to analyze the success?

Although the platforms on which we deploy and the technologies we use to create engaging customer experiences are constantly changing, a big part of our business is essentially unchanged in the last 20 years: making real-time, photo-realistic, 3D models of our customers’ products. When you do the same thing for 20 years, your tools tend to get long-in-the-tooth. It’s a challenge to upgrade and modernize those tools because you are essentially replacing the engine of your car while you’re traveling at highway speed.

The opportunity that engenders is to drop features that are no longer relevant to the business and find ways to make new tools that eliminate waste and inefficiency in the process. So, while it’s hard to do, the payoff in reduced labor expense and faster time-to-market can be huge — particularly because everything Kaon does, we do at scale.

What’s the biggest misconception in the interactive content marketing technology today? Would you like to clear the air around this confusion?

The biggest misconception is that “interactive” is optional. Many marketers think that they are choosing between spending their budget on traditional collateral (video, PDF, PowerPoint) or spending it on interactive applications.

News flash: Nobody watches those videos, and nobody reads those PDFs, and nobody wants to see another PowerPoint.

Most of our apps include both interactive content and traditional collateral.

In one, interactive content was viewed 72,000 times in 2018, while PDFs were viewed less than 500 times, and videos were viewed less than 200. Spending on traditional marketing collateral is throwing your money away. Your sales teams and your customers and prospects will only engage with you if your marketing materials if they are compelling, engaging, and interactive.

Which trends in the 3D interactive sales and marketing do you foresee in 2019?

I’m excited to see how our customers integrate Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) into their sales process. Over the past two years, we’ve added these new technologies as features of our platform, and we are now one of the leading providers of B2B AR and VR apps, with more than 100 AR- and/or VR-enabled apps in app stores across all platforms. However, we are seeing very little utilization of these features.

We believe that is because enterprise sales teams haven’t yet figured out how to use these tools effectively. The use cases (such as showing a new blood analyzer in your prospect’s lab in AR, or getting a customer’s full attention in a VR experience in a trade show) are compelling. I’m hoping that 2019 will be the year we see sales teams start to leverage these new capabilities.

To what extent could technologies like AI/machine learning, geo-location and blockchain data impact the business you are operating in?

None of those technologies are particularly relevant to what we do. For us, the leading-edge technologies that get our attention are in the mixed reality space. New AR and VR hardware platforms, haptics, WebXR, and technology for collaborative AR experiences are the technologies we are excited about

What’s one piece of advice you would give to mobile marketing and advertising teams?

Marketing departments should treat sales teams as their customers.

As corporate marketing undergoes a digital transformation, the marketing department is no longer just throwing collateral (PDFs, PowerPoints, videos) over the wall to sales. Instead, marketers need to create interactive experiences for sales to share with customers and prospects. Those experiences are apps. And you cannot make great apps without talking to your users.

The marketing teams need to train sales people on how to use these interactive tools. They need to get feedback from users. They need to constantly improve the tools to maximize the business impact. A digitally transformed marketing department is indistinguishable from a software publisher. And no software company will succeed if they ignore their users.

How should marketers be thinking about mobile in the context of omnichannel campaigns? How could they benefit from your product suite?

Every channel is mobile. The web is primarily consumed on mobile. Apps are mobile. Even PC applications need to be designed for touch, which means they have to be designed with a mobile UX. Our SaaS platform is focused on creating compelling applications that can be fielded on all platforms instantly and simultaneously. And we provide the tools global companies need for translation, analytics, and constant content updates to keep the tools relevant.

How can marketers move towards becoming mobile-first in 2019?

Marketers should have become mobile-first five years ago! I would be shocked if there are marketers who are still thinking of the web as their primary channel and mobile as an afterthought. We certainly don’t see that in our customer base. Everything is developed for mobile, and we are usually the ones reminding our customers that web and desktop are still important to parts of their user experience. Of course, getting mobile experiences to run on the web and desktop is a far easier task than porting desktop experiences to mobile (which is almost impossible).

How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a martech executive?

AI is a tool, like any other tool in the martech toolbox. The questions to ask are how can I effectively use this tool to improve the performance of my campaigns. That might mean smarter ad targeting, or better understanding of analytics, or even smarter bidding on ad campaigns. The AI that is trending right now (deep learning) is predicated on the use of huge data sets. So, to really take advantage of this technology, marketers should be looking for ways to get more data, so they have something to analyze.

To learn more about how Kaon Interactive can help you achieve sales and marketing alignment and engage customers throughout the buyer’s journey, schedule a demo today!

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Manufacturing Industry Marketers Must Adjust to Industry 4.0

BHGE M and C Application Refinery Product Example

Industry 4.0 is a major disruptor of manufacturing. Smart factories will use digital intelligence in real-time to optimize the manufacturing and supply chain processes. Automation and access to ever-increasing amounts of data have sped up the rate of production as well as the diversity of product. Globalization and digitization have made it easier for new players to emerge in markets, thus increasing competition. Cloud computing and micro-computing puts technology in almost everything. Complexity is hidden in micro units that drive and connect to everyday appliances making technology ubiquitous. Today, customers are less focused on product features and more on how the technology will lead them to improved outcomes. It becomes more challenging for companies to articulate their complex products’ value without defaulting to “speeds and feeds” or “feature/functionality” descriptions, according to the Marketing 4.0: Adapting to the Changing Buyers’ Experience white paper.

B2B buying models have changed, too. Manufacturers are becoming omni-channel retailers and service providers. Company-owned stores like Apple, Tesla and Nike are a testament to a trend of B2B (business-to-business) becoming D2C (direct-to-consumer), bypassing the middleman. The creation of D2C stores created a “layman” salesperson who struggles to master the corporate voice due to lack of training and distance from the company’s “core”. E-commerce has fused the B2B and B2C roles so much so that today’s buyers are users, and users are buyers.

“Industry 4.0 is essentially turning manufacturers into digital enterprises. It will take time for Industry 4.0 to become reality throughout the organization. However, as marketers, you need to assess your current digital infrastructure and how it will need to evolve to support a digital enterprise,” writes Red Javelin in their blog post, Industry 4.0 is a Game Changer for Marketing.

Recently, Transparency Market Research, a research and advisory firm, released a report titled Augmented Reality (AR) in Manufacturing Market – Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends, and Forecast 2018-2026, in which Kaon Interactive is cited as a “major vendor providing AR solutions.” The report highlights how AR is helping the manufacturing industry adjust to this fourth industrial revolution and, in turn, propelling the AR industry outlook.

3D Product Model in Augmented Reality (AR)By definition, AR augments the physical world with digital objects, superimposing those objects realistically into the user’s environment. A popular culture example is the mobile gaming phenomenon known as Pokémon Go. And, television NFL broadcasts have been using AR long before that to show you that first-down line or the breakdown sketches superimposed on the replay.

For marketing and sales, AR applications extend customer engagement beyond interactivity and allow them to differentiate their brand and products over the competition. Along with the virtual product, key messages are displayed to reinforce what the customer is seeing and experiencing and aid the “layman” salesperson in mastering the relevant corporate, brand, and product message. Putting virtual products into real-world environments provides a clear, unequivocal expectation of the product’s value for the customer.

Kaon Interactive follows the ancient Chinese proverb, “If you tell me, I will forget; If you show me, I will remember; If you involve me, I will understand.”

Kaon AR® is a feature of our award-winning, interactive applications, powered by our high-velocity marketing platform. The advantage of this is that our customers are not just buying an AR application; they are building a valuable, extensible sales resource and inbound marketing tool as part of their Marketing 4.0 strategy. These applications, upon launch, are ready to deployed to any and every device a sales rep, prospect, or customer uses (web, desktop/laptop, phone, tablet, touchscreen) — and are available online or offline for a reliable experience.

We believe in the power of interactivity and engagement to help buyers really comprehend the unique value that their customers deliver. Kaon has a laser focus on interactive, engaging applications that bring marketing, sales and prospects together to collaborate towards a common goal.

Schedule a demo now to learn more!

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