Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

Innovation Hurdles

October 13, 2014

Innovation Hurdles

In an age teeming with opportunities to serve tech-savvy, global, demanding customers, corporations are actually finding it much more difficult to innovate.

Pressure to Perform

  1. The pressure to make money for all stakeholders in the short term makes it much more difficult to fund people and programs even once removed from the immediate revenue path, which includes research and development.

Silos Abound

  1. Innovating for customers involves understanding the needs of the customer and collaborating with various internal departments, including sales, marketing, engineering, operations, support and finance and various geographical units of the organization in order to deliver what the customer wants.
  2. Unfortunately, collaboration between groups, divisions, roles, and geographies has not historically been rewarded, to the extent that for many people and companies, it’s difficult to meet and know others not within your team, location, level or role.

The Acquisition Path

  1. Partly because of the decimation of R&D budgets and the lack of communication and connections between internal groups, many corporations have elected to go the acquisition path in order to innovate and expand.
  2. Unfortunately, this M&A path is a mixed bag at best – the challenge becomes to integrate a new product/service/offering/operations/team with existing sets of same. This is generally never an easy task and few have done it well, particularly when companies get large.
  3. In fact, the divestments, spin-outs and going-private choices we’ve recently witnessed are testament to the fact that not all purchases and integrations work well. The market might not be there. The tech integration might be too big an obstacle. The strategy might not have worked as intended, or the execution may falter.

The Opportunity

  1. As we’ve stated in previous posts, the Age of Personalization will introduce fervent, demanding customers with high expectations for integrated, customized solutions that deliver exactly what they want and need, immediately, in every facet of their lives.
  2. Corporations need to bridge their silos and create an innovation path to serve these customers or become irrelevant and lose their market edge.
  3. Elements of successful offerings for the next age include:
    1. Big-data driven, for that’s the only way to individualize offerings efficiently
    2. Global, reaching customers where they are
    3. Modular, so that it can be integrated with other solutions
    4. Operationally efficient, for that’s the only way to deliver to the door cost-effectively
    5. Mobile and web-enabled, so you reach the platforms used by the customer
    6. Cloud-based, so that solutions can be efficiently managed, secured, and scaled
    7. Social, so that customers can easily spread the word and become ambassadors
    8. Collaborative, so that you can better coordinate within an organization and across stakeholder groups
    9. Dynamic, so that solutions can be easily updated based on feedback from any source
    10. Scalable, so that the solution can grow and satisfy customers, expand to new markets and even expand to new solutions

See a future post with more descriptions under each element above.

10.  Winning corporations need to be tech-driven, customer-focused and able to bridge silos and work collaboratively with partners across the ecosystem. Read our Connections at the Leadership Crossroads post for tips on identifying these types of leaders.

These are our thoughts on hurdles to innovation – what are yours? Your thoughts are welcome at info@pivotorperish.biz.

Leading Beyond Complacency

September 24, 2014

Complacency

What’s the opposite of innovation? I say it’s complacency, the thought that the status quo is good enough, and will always be good enough. Standing still in an age where technology and business just keeps moving faster is a recipe for extinction, a disaster for all stakeholders.

As a leader for companies large and small, consider that Data, Sensor, Software, Network and Operational Advancements will continue to automate, connect and serve people at lower costs. Understanding how and when that will happen for your company and industry is the key.

Kudos to industry giants who are taking their expertise, customers and knowledge from their established, and sometimes old-school industries to the new-new. Examples include what Ingersoll Rand, long known for its industrial products, is now impressively offering Nexia Home Intelligence featuring electronic locks and thermostats from standard manufacturers including Schlage and TRANE and managed over mobile and web interfaces. Consider also what Philips, the giant Dutch electronics company with a large footprint in healthcare, is providing for 7 million people and at-risk individuals with alert systems for falls, a medication dispensing service, and remote monitoring, and what corporate giants GE and IBM and Siemens are doing to move into the clean energy, big data and healthcare space, and what Samsung and Apple are doing to expand from mobile phones and software to healthcare monitoring and apps.

Below are ten factors to consider as you lead from the old way of doing things, to the new opportunities ahead.

Industry Considerations

  1. What are the opportunities ahead for your company and your industry as a whole? How close are you to a commoditization, where price is the main factor to consider? What will you do about it?
  2. What are the market and customer trends leading to this state, and what can you do to continue serving current customers in a new way? What are your customers’ suggestions and feedback?
  3. What’s right about what you’ve done in the past and how can it be adapted to what you need in the future?

Technology Considerations

  1. What are the hardware, software, operational, and other innovations that are transforming your industry or adjacent industries?
  2. How does your company’s offerings fit with these technological innovations?
  3. What are your strategies for innovating technologies internally or in collaboration with others?
  4. What are your customers asking for that you can’t provide, and what opportunity are they pointing to?

Leadership Considerations

  1. Are you the right person to get your company from here to there? Are they the right people above, around and under you to deliver?
  2. What does complacency look like, sound like, feel like? How do you pose opportunities to shake up those that are too comfortable? How do you make it an idea they want and would lobby for?
  3. What if you, your company, your technology/product, your industry can’t go from here to there? What’s an elegant plan B? What would it take to get from here to there, and is it worth it?

We hope that the questions above help you expand your perspective beyond your usual thinking, speaking and doing, and shake up the complacency inside, around and over you.

Follow our blogs and curated content at http://www.scoop.it/t/personalization or find out more about FountainBlue’s Pivot-or-Perish Approach to advising tech leaders.

The Next Generation Workforce

September 16, 2014

Ring of many hands team

The age of personalization will provide filtered, data-driven, relevant and actionable reports so that people, teams and businesses can better serve their customers and partners and other stakeholders. As businesses and business models morph in this direction, we will see a corollary shift in the workforce, reflecting these changes. Below are some anticipated trends.

There will be fewer full-time employees and Contractors Will Rule.

  1. As there are fewer full-time positions available, hiring managers want to make sure that the person who is hired is actually the right person for that job. Hence, there will be a marked increase in the temp-to-hire trend.
  2. Some workers like the opportunity to work flexible hours of the day, of the week, of the month, and some companies and hiring managers like only offering seasonal jobs, or only hiring to supplement current workforce for clearly identified pockets of time.
  3. There will also be an increase in per-project consulting, as there are fewer full-time employees and there may be less of a need for specific types of projects.
  4. Additionally, there will be an ongoing need for services not part of the core business function, be it operations or HR management or IT support.

The Roles We Assume at work will shift.

  1. There will be a greater need for generalists, people who have moved across functional areas and have the intelligence, efficiency and competence to work and communicate with a range of other people and groups.
  2. With that said, there will also be a need for people who have deep expertise in specific areas, particularly when it comes to mission-critical areas such as security and software development and technical oversight and leadership.

An Collaborative, Consultative Leadership Style will be favored.

  1. Leaders who are collaborative and consultative by nature will better communicate and engage with a diverse and broad range of stakeholders.
  2. Leaders who are visionary and inspirational in their thoughts, words and actions will command respect and attract the best people.

There is an increased need for workers who are Strategic Thinkers with Global Experience.

  1. Workers will be rewarded for shifting across industries, across geographies, across roles. Their range of experience will help them better understand the business, the needs of the customer, and better perform under a range of circumstances.
  2. Workers who have a broad and deep network are more connected with others and more influential.

For more information about the data behind the predictions above, or for a consultation on what-these-trends-mean-for-YOU, please contact us at info@whenshespeaks.com.

The Tech, Logistical and Business Innovations of Internet 3.0

July 31, 2014

Internet3

Throughout our age-of-personalization series, we reported on the evolution of the internet, with the 60s which brought on the decade of semiconductors, the 70s which was the era of the personal computer, the 80s, the with the prominence of networks, the 90s, the with the rise of the modern internet, and the 00s with the prominence of social networks, and asked the question ‘what will the next decade bring’?

As we pondered the question, while blogging, researching, interviewing and curating data through our series, we find ourselves focusing on identifying and supporting successful companies who are leveraging technology – networks, databases, aggregated information, sensors and processes –  people –  stakeholders and communities representing the voice of the customer – and processes – operations, logistics, methods and transactions, in order to more efficiently serve an ever more selective and discerning customer base, demanding the delivery of personalized solutions. This direction is both inevitable and pervasive, impacting industries ranging from retail to financial services, clean energy to healthcare IT, affecting all of us in every part of our day-to-day life, establishing a new reality.  The macro conclusions, observations and learnings to date are summarized below, with opportunity questions and comments.

Tech Innovations in the Age of Personalization

1. Data will only grow and get more complex. Yes, it’s about the data, we have oodles and oodles of it, coming out of our ears, detailing everything from our web search habits to buying and texting patterns, from time spent in a room to preferred heating temperatures, from average speed on freeways to average expenditure for each trip to preferred stores, in preferred months, at preferred times of day.

The key to adding value through data is to first capture and integrate data from multiple sources, generate an actionable report for targeted users, measure outcomes and impact, and correct as you go. Engaging a community will be key to generating data that is relevant and connect stakeholders who can work collaboratively to serve members of the community.

2. Sensors will become even more pervasive, not just in what-we-already see for everything from home energy monitoring to health diagnostic tools, but the integration of sensors between each other, and the embedding of sensors even within the body will change the way we live, work, play and think.

The standardization of sensor technology and the data generated from it will generate integration opportunities. The winners will be companies that can integrate multiple data input from sensors, sift out the noise of the data, and provide an actionable dashboard for paying users.

Logistical Innovations in the Age of Personalization

3. Companies that can efficiently deliver personalized orders to the door will reign supreme. Thank you Dell for revolutionizing the supply chain process, making it on-demand. Thank you Google and Amazon for raising the bar beyond that, and aggregating the delivery of products to the door so efficiently and conveniently.

The key to profitability is to aggregate standard, off-the-shelf products and deliver them in concentration urban areas, in relative frequency to ensure efficient and excellent on-demand customized orders are fulfilled with sufficient margins to command profitability for the organization.

4. With that said, there will be an opportunity for those who serve niche audiences and even rural locations. It will be difficult without the fulfillment centers of Amazon, the retailer relationships of Google, and the brand of both.

Perhaps SnapDeal, the largest ecommerce marketplace in India, can compete while focusing on another tech-philic and concentrated market. Perhaps other organizations can focus on high-volume, specialized, high-margin needs for another affluent niche market. Perhaps another successful company can focus on efficiently serving the specific needs for rural populations.

Business Innovations in the Age of Personalization

5. The way we look at revenues will change, and the lines will blur between transaction, membership, advertising, and subscription revenue models. The successful companies will find synergistic opportunities that will leverage the success of one revenue stream to fuel the momentum of another, while providing wins for all stakeholders. The key is not around the revenue opportunities, but about the way to better understand and serve the customer, the ability to build a community serving your customers, and creating that virtuous circle where serving communities and customers provides increasingly more value.

What can we all learn from the Amazon example: a $299 annual fee for Amazon prime, which includes free same-day and early morning delivery on grocery orders over $35 as well as free two-day delivery on select Amazon.com-ordered items, a free Kindle e-book lending library, and an unlimited video streaming through its FireTV solution.

6. The way we sell will be forever changed. No longer are we in an age of buying-what-you-don’t-need, with money-you-don’t-have, to impress people-who-don’t-care. Successful sales people will be more customer-oriented, more tech-savvy, more proficient with social media and communications in order to create communities and distribute information efficiently, more collaborative, working with other stakeholders internally and externally and more proactive, with a clear view of their value-add: understanding the specific needs of customers, and working to tailor solutions to address these needs.

What if we selected for people with this techno-philic, progressive mindset to lead our sales efforts? What if we successfully partnered these sales stars with marketing leaders to help them communicate the message to targeted audiences? What if we all sold, not matter what our title was? What will happen to those who can’t embrace this mentality?

7. Relationship management solutions will help people connect with each other, remember each other, and communicate with each other – for the benefit of both parties. Savvy professionals will also use these relationship management tools as communication platforms for their message and brand and target prospect and customer bases as well.

How are you using LinkedIn to grow your network and stay in touch with your network? How can Newsle help you keep tabs of members of your network who make headlines? How can LinkSV give you a bottom-up view of who’s who whether your target companies? How can each be integrated into your content curation and creation efforts? What new relationship management solutions and processes would be helpful to you?

The Needs of the Customer

8. Companies and people will find to elegantly navigate regulations and policies, making it seamless for the customer throughout the prospecting, sales, integration and support periods. In addition, savvy organizations will make it easier for customers to work with them, while remaining in compliance with their own regulations.

Navigating policies and regulations are inherently a part of local and infrastructure solutions, whether it’s related to city, state, national or international requirements. Making it easier for companies to provide and deliver service locally will drive the economic development for these regions. And leaders who welcome simplified procedures and processes leveraging technology to remain in compliance will support the development of regions and organizations alike.

9. Deputizing passionate customers to deliver products and services is an interesting new trend which may take off. Whether you are enlisting vetted passengers to become drivers as in the case of UBER or Lyft, or whether it’s creating pre-ordered, recipe-d, nutritious, customized meals through services like Blue Apron, the key is that local, talented people with time and desire are blurring the lines between customer and provider.

What if we brought this concept to healthcare . . . if doctors or nurses offered concierge services and even made house calls to check in on you or your aging parents?

What if you had an on-call tech support person to fix or configure your home network and entertainment systems?

10.  Delegating the small stuff will get BIG. If we’re all so busy between work and play and life, who will do the essential little stuff for us, from feeding the family to walking the dogs? We need not just a Siri on your phone who may answer your questions or add to your task list, but someone who might actually pick up a few items at the store, get the oil changed on your car, and make sure that the kids get from school to activities and back.

Technology can help calendar and coordinate and find the best resources, but it takes physical bodies to get things done, and competent, reliable ones to get them done well and efficiently, and business acumen to scale concierge services that would be attractive for busy professionals. 

Couple this need with the concept above of deputizing passionate customers and where’s the win-for-all business? How will it scale and continue to serve all?

In conclusion, as we emerge into the Age of Personalization, the leaders will be those who can cost-effectively deliver customized products and services to the door of discerning users, leveraging technology to collect and analyze data, and to optimize the distribution of same. Tech, logistical and business innovations will be core to that successful solution, and the focus on the customer will remain more important than ever.

E-mail us at info@fountainblue.biz with your thoughts.

The Evolution of the Web

January 28, 2014

Evolution

Not too long ago, when the web was young and just hitting mass adoption, we were all astounded at the ability to have information at our fingertips, shifting forever the way we live and work.

The 90s featured an emphasis on community and connecting, and a fascination with how social media is transforming the way people think, communicate and act. As we look into what’s next with today’s web, we see how communities are gathering not just to connect and find each other, but also to find power in their shared voice, raising the bar for what companies will deliver, and the type of service they will receive.

These high-level shifts are happening in record time, and leaders and companies are striving to keep up with the trend, much less make predictions on how to better serve a much more empowered, more demanding customer base with high expectations for customized solutions.

We have compiled a summary of the megatrends impacting the evolution of the web, from Web 1.0 of the 1980-90+ (Mass Adoption of the Web) to Web 2.0 1990s-2010+ (Communities Rule) to Web 3.0 (Communities Raise the Bar), in the hopes that insights from this article will help drive the planning, strategy and execution for these leaders.

1. Technology Evolution: Computer Hardware, Software, Network and Devices

Y2K scare spawned a massive investment in IT, and much of the monies were devoted to the acquisition of new equipment – hardware and software, and new ways of communicating, the internet. With Web 1.0, graphics became sophisticated and complex; databases drove interactive solutions; advances in network, computer and server hardware and software and security drove mass adoption and international expansion.

With Web 2.0, software emphasis was more on groups, membership, segmentation and engagement of users. The emergence of smart phones and tablets and an abundance of apps facilitated the expansion and advancement of social media solutions, and the massive response of the millennial generation in particular shifted forever how we connect and communicate, how we think about expressing ourselves.

As we anticipate the rise of Web 3.0, we will see the evolution of wireless, sensors, geophysical and augmented reality solutions, along with the increased sophistication and integration of devices, databases and software. Together, this will allow companies to process unprecedented volumes of information, including video technology, creating actionable dashboards, with the focus on providing personalized services, leveraging aggregated data, and ultimately better serving the needs of the customer.

2. The Role of Marketing: From Getting a Web Presence to the Rise of Community to Forecasting Needs

The self-service nature of Web 1.0 enabled customers to quickly find information and compare it with other offerings, and even get better tech support about their solution. This is a distinct difference from an age where customers and prospects waited for information to be delivered to them.

Information and automation was the focus, and getting everyone within a corporation to collaboratively update and upload accurate information was no easy task. It changed the mindset of corporate employees at all levels, and also the expectations of customers – companies did not look professional unless the web site looked that way.

With Web 2.0, it was a given that companies would have a web presence. Internal marketing departments focused the integrity of the brand, the alignment of the message, and the technical and process hurdles of getting all the information out there, to the right audiences. Independent communities and those sanctioned and supported by companies began to emerge, and began to increasingly impact the adoption curve of products and services. Managing the messages around product and service options became a challenge and an opportunity for companies.

With the emergence of Web 3.0, online communities continue to impact whether a product is adopted or panned as well as which features and products are most desirable now and in the future. But with this next phase, Marketing will leverage the community data and begin to interpret the immediate and ongoing needs of the community, and works with internal departments to deliver to those needs.

3. The Access of Control: From Corporate Leaders to Empowered Communities

With Web 1.0, Corporate leaders dictated web communication strategy and timing. The company webmaster and IT department and marketing and other execs decided whether information is up and what information is put up.

With Web 2.0, IT works with marketing to create interactive communities (or not) and Marketing works with active users and other stakeholders for input and feedback.

With the emergence of Web 3.0, Self-managed communities are increasingly working independently of companies to make purchase recommendations, and corporate execs are scrambling to work with these communities to manage brands and messages and get the right information to the right people. Authentic and proactive communication will support any necessary damage control measures and the goodwill of these powerful stakeholder communities.

4. The Quest for Content, Including Managing Spam: Sifting the Wheat from the Chaff

With Web 1.0, there was little spam, as content is driven and approved by corporate contacts. But, with Web 2.0, content is created by a partnership of company and community and the messages of community members sometimes needed to be managed by the company. Filtering out quality content and leaders was sometimes a challenge. As Web 3.0 emerges, Company-approved ambassadors and influencers partner with companies to provide quality content, mostly unbiased, to growing communities, and Spam gets more anticipated and managed as these trusted ambassadors and influencers are valued, and spammers are increasingly shunned and sanctioned.

5. The Proliferation of Devices: From PCs to Smart Phones and Tablets to TV-Mobile-Computer Integration

Web 1.0 was marked by the mass adoption of the personal computer, even for those not in technology. It also included updated servers and software and security and network access which would support users having multiple computers. Web 2.0 saw the mass adoption of smart phones and tablets, and the obsession with always being online, playing apps, connecting with communities. This mass adoption and rapid advancements in device technology and integration will lead to the integration of TV, laptop, tablets, mobile, a Web 3.0 emerging trait.

6. Security Challenges: The Direct Correlation Between Expansion and Security Challenges

It was easy when Security and IT issues are managed by companies in Web 1.0. There weren’t that many security issues, viruses were existent, but only a problem for those too lax. And with Web 2.0, companies managed the security of communities they create or sponsor and independent vendors managed the security for independent communities. With the rapid adoption of computers and devices, network and software security issues increasingly became a problem, but there were also a host of solutions. As we emerge into Web 3.0, proactive security measures will be implemented, but need to be continually updated as hackers and others get more creative and resourceful.

7. Performance Hurdles: Keeping Up with Insatiable Demand

The performance hurdles of Web 1.0 were generally solved by updating equipment: corporations updating IT, network and software and users updating and purchasing computers and internet access plans. With Web 2.0, the volumes of users and variable usage, IT and performance needs to be proactively managed by corporate team and independent vendors and again, users had to upgrade their equipment – namely adopting smart phones and increased data plans. As we evolve into Web 3.0, Data will become increasingly overwhelming, especially with the rise of video and the dynamic updating and customization of data. Users need better devices and contracts to get full service and access and corporations need to have the hardware, software and bandwidth to deliver what the customers want, and the leadership to proactively manage and anticipate the messaging to the user, and serve the needs of the user and community, as they define it.

8. Serving the Customer: The Evolving Expectations of the Customer

In Web 1.0, corporations needed to have the hardware, software and bandwidth to deliver what the customers want, which was not easy, particularly for companies not in the technology space. Leaders learned to proactively manage and anticipate the messaging to the user, and serve the needs of the user and community, as they define it. They got more sophisticated about it with the rise of Web 2.0, when it was so much about eyeballs, communities, and the rapid spread of messages-that-needed-to-be-managed, sometimes community takes off, serving the needs of the members, independent what companies want their community to hear. With the emergence of Web 3.0, there is more content and larger communities serving more people, who range in their level of participation and involvement. The content and the community help members define ongoing needs and find offerings that meet their needs, raising the expectations of all customers, and therefore, the deliverables of the companies that serve them.

9. Delivery to the Door: As the Volume of Sales Increase, Operational Challenges also Grow

With Web 1.0, eCommerce solutions were brought online, increasing sales of some companies, and putting other brick-and-mortar companies out of business. Products got delivered using standard delivery methods, as customers and companies slowly adopted the eCommerce way, and delivery vendors adapt to the new ways of customers. With the communities of Web 2.0 there were more users and prospects and additional vetting of products and recommendations, generating confidence in purchase decisions, and an increase in ecommerce success stories. ‘The ‘Dell Way’ was embraced by some companies who have quantities of standard materials, preparing for custom-built solutions on demand. Standard delivery options become more efficient, serving more customers. With Web 3.0, we are anticipating an increased volume of eCommerce sales and it becomes important to efficiently deliver to that last mile – Think ‘The Dell Way’ and map with supply chain innovations to optimally deliver personalized solutions. New delivery methods leveraging standard delivery options, software-company-turned delivery-company options (like Amazon and Google) and entrepreneurial options will emerge and grow.

10. Shift in Focus and Profits

With Web 1.0, Retail goes online, E-mail and web get integrated, Messages are easily communicated and updated, and the focus is on getting the information right, and getting it out there, easily available. Money comes from Volume sales of standard offerings, new business generation as information gets to the masses cheaply, and more repeat business/better upsell, although with the expense of conversion of data, upgrades of equipment and staff, etc., profits are marginal for most companies as a result.

With Web 2.0 and the rising influence of communities and their impact on product and service offerings as well as corporate brand, the focus is on ‘eyeballs’ and advertising dollars, not necessarily on revenues.

With Web 3.0, user analytics on  products/ services/features, will continue to guide company strategy as they better understand the aggregated community/user needs. The focus is on profits based on better serving the needs of the customer and revenues will come from better serving immediate needs of customers and even anticipate upcoming needs and trends.

What are your predictions on what will happen with Web 3.0 and beyond? E-mail us at info@fountainblue.biz with your thoughts.

Serving the Last Mile

December 20, 2013

Serving the Last Mile

Technology is the great enabler – making it easy for us all to connect and scale and communicate. But in so many ways, technology takes us 80% of the way there, leaving us with a job partially done. Increasingly, as we emerge into this age of personalization, the customized solutions will be localized to our individual needs, right to our doorstep, to be experienced head-on, exactly the way we want and need it to be. Below are examples of areas of opportunity and need, and my thoughts on trends on what will lie ahead, this year and beyond.

1. To-the-Door Delivery Service

Shipping is a pain, whether you’re trying to send something out or receive something at home. Technology can track a package (if you pay for it to do so), but it doesn’t help you get to the post office or delivery store, stand in the line, make sure that things get done. And it doesn’t sit at home to collect your package and make sure that it gets into the proper hands.

  • I’m fascinated by what Shyp.com may be able to do – taking the hassle out of shipping something – from packaging to delivery. It’s not available in all areas yet, but I can’t wait to try it out!
  • On the other side watch for MyDoorman.net – it will serve as a doorman to stage your delivery for a convenient evening time when you’re home, or work with your employer (SF only for now) to hold your personal packages securely for pickup at work at your convenience.

2. Concierge Services, delivered while you work, rest, or network

We are all so busy doing the important day-to-day tasks, we need someone at home to take care of the little stuff. Not just a Siri on your phone who may answer your questions or add to your task list, but someone who might actually pick up a few items at the store, get the oil changed on your car, and make sure that the kids get from school to activities and back. Technology can help calendar and coordinate and find the best resources, but it takes physical bodies to get things done, and competent, reliable ones to get them done well and efficiently, and business acumen to scale concierge services that would be attractive for busy professionals. Let me know if you find one – they are growing in popularity, but which one(s) are reliable?

3. Software subscription services with support that welcomes your call

I started paying for Microsoft Office this year (gasp), after buying their software for years before. This is definitely the model of the future, to help keep up with updates, to optimize versioning, security, scalability, etc.

  • I love GoDaddy’s web site development and support services, and in fact, gave up my desktop accounting software to go with their Online Bookkeeping solution.
  • We gave up our home phone years ago, and have leaned on our cell phones more. However, the trend is leaning toward VOIP. I enjoyed Ooma for years, but now use the VOIP that comes with Comcast.

4. Installation, customization and ongoing support

We are looking at getting solar panels installed, and it’s so complicated with the sun exposure, tree-trimming recommendations, installation costs, permitting requirements, rebate offerings, etc. We are delighted to find a vendor who can do it all for us. I believe that enterprises will be experiencing similar problems with enterprise software installations and upgrades, and seeking vendors who can do that all-in-one installation for them.

5. Proactive Health Management

The database of information about health conditions and the desire for proactive health management is driving the rapidly expansion of the industry.

  • HealthTap is a community of patients connecting with doctors with specific questions about all health-related matters.
  • MEDgle’s huge database of symptoms, diagnoses, labs, and more helps patients self-diagnose their symptoms, and that of their loved ones, so that they can self-triage and access next-steps for connecting directly with their physicians.
  • 23andme’s health-related genetic testing process and ancestry report through saliva samples.

6. Aggregated entertainment, pushed to order

We’ve been loyal NetFlix customers since the days when you had to mail them back DVDs! But this year, they are breaking the mode with the original content and the long-loved series others followed, but you never saw. My prediction is that there will be a push to take people out of their homes, and connecting with others through entertainment options.

7. One size fits most mentality, with customization to make it just so

My daughter is a big fan of Lululemon, and although I do buy the yoga pants and tops for her and appreciate their quality, I’m way too price-sensitive to buy anything for myself. However, hats-off to them for their service offerings – free tailoring, personalized consultation, phenomenal return policy, etc. I believe that the trend toward quality materials and service will continue, and that customers will continue to pay a premium for the brand, the durability and the service.  Technology-wise, I’m looking for the high tech materials that would provide quality, flexibility and durability so that clothing fits a wide range of sizes and looks good for a long time.

8. Supply chain principles coupled with on-demand customization

Imagine if you could leverage the best of supply chain principles (proactive management of large-order parts/items, quick assembly and delivery options etc) with the ability to deliver customized packages of products cost-efficiently to someone. This is the wave of the future.

  • Check out what Rexanto is doing for 7-day prescription package deliveries.

9. Communications and services to enrich existing connections

We are so inundated with information – our networks are all huge and it’s hard to keep that personal relationship going for huge networks.

  • Newsle tells you whom from your LinkedIn network is making the news and why.
  • LinkedIn offers extensive services for the free members, so that they can continue to grow that awesome network, as well as value-added resources for their premium members, so they can leverage their networks based on their objectives.
  • LinkSV provides you with a strategic view of who’s getting the funding, leaders, and articles, helping you track Silicon Valley leaders, and, for premium users, advising on how you may connect with them through your LinkedIn network.

10. Proactive management of energy usage

Sure we all want to proactive manage how much energy we generate and use, but it has been difficult to get all that data onto a single dashboard, with a recommendation on actions you can take to optimize your usage.

  • Watch for TangerinePlus, in beta now, and share how you are generating energy at home and at work, and what we can do to optimize your energy usage.

What are your predictions on what will happen in 2014 and beyond? E-mail us at info@fountainblue.biz with your thoughts.

On Finding Unicorns

November 27, 2013
Unicorn Club: Learning from Billion Dollar Start-ups

Unicorn Club: Learning from Billion Dollar Start-ups

I read with great interest the TechCrunch article on the Unicorn Club: Learning from Billion Dollar Start-ups, defined as the .07% of companies started since 2003 that were valued at over $1 billion dollars by public or private market investors. It got me thinking about some indicators for unicorns: tech-educated professionals in their 30s starting companies with people they already know from school or work in the e-commerce (consumer pays), audience (ads or leads pay), SaaS (users pay) or enterprise (companies pay) space.

But beyond that, it got me thinking about what the next unicorns would be in the next decade, and of course how to facilitate innovation and business success for my clients and the community overall. Specifically, if the 60s brought on the decade of semiconductors, the 70s the era of the personal computer, the 80s, the prominence of networks, the 90s, the rise of the modern internet, and the 00s the prominence of social networks, what will the next decade bring?

As with previous decades, what came before is the technical infrastructure which would support the next era of technology discovery and economic success. And what we think is next will be the rise of the age of personalization. Below are ten potential successes to found and fund in the next decade:

E-commerce (consumer pays) –

1. Proactive Health Management with a Wearable, Diagnostic Component
2. Web and mobile-based proactive food/exercise choice solutions, with a way to compare self to others and implications of food/exercise choices made

Audience (ads or leads pay) – focus on volume of targeted users

3. Mobile Diagnostics (software only)
4. Interactive Mobile Games or conversations/content with targeted social media components

SaaS (users pay) – going beyond apps and storage

5. Mobile Diagnostics, with separate plug-in device (not just software)
6. Mobile and web proactive Health Management Solutions
7. Elder care management solutions for caregivers
8. Community-Based Funding and Gifting Solutions

Enterprise (companies pay) space – More efficiently serving and connecting employees and managing resources

9. Employee Health Management Solutions
10. Proactive, Integrated, Energy Management Solutions

For more information, read the TechCrunch article The Unicorn Club: Learning From Billion-Dollar Startups http://techcrunch.com/2013/11/02/welcome-to-the-unicorn-club/#

Innovation and Diversity: Two Sides of the Same Coin

October 25, 2013

businessman holding virtual object

The innovation topic is hot, but never in context of the diversity topic, which is also interesting, but to generally different circles. However, there’s a deep connection between innovation and diversity, one leads to the other and vice versa. In fact, I would attest that innovation and diversity are two sides of the same coin, as innovation leads to diversity, and diversity brings on more innovation!

How Innovation Leads to Diversity

1. Innovation can lead to more diverse technology solutions and offerings.
2. Tailoring existing innovations can serve larger, more diverse markets.
3. Innovations for larger, more diverse niche markets can lead to orthogonal innovations as well as a larger range of niche markets.
4. Innovation in one area can be applied to innovation challenges in another area, leading to more diverse offerings.
5. Innovative thinking has led to wider set of divergent solutions serving a wider range of customers and needs.

How Diversity Leads to Innovation

6. Diverse markets will demand a different set of needs, requiring innovation to serve them.
7. Diversity in the workplace will help teams bring different strengths, ideas and solutions to the table, increasing the likelihood of innovative approaches, technologies, processes and solutions.
8. With a range of diverse perspectives, you can convert a failed innovation project for one need may be the next best thing since sliced bread for a different market or industry.
9. The more diverse the range of innovations, the more attractive the offerings are to a wider range of markets, and the more appealing the organization is for a wider range of employees.
10. Divergent thinking has led to some of the greatest innovations of all time.

For examples and deeper thoughts on any of the above, e-mail us at info@FountainBlue.biz.

Community Is Queen

September 30, 2013

Teamwork Six People

This month’s marketing blog is part of a three-post segment on the theme of ‘The Ying-Yang of Content and Community’, following the initial post ‘Why Content Is King and Community Is Queen’. This month and next month, we will drill down into the top-ten list from the August blog and cover ‘The Key to Quality Content,’ our September blog below, and ‘Reaching Your Niche Community’, the October blog topic.

The first step is to understand how content and community work together, which is what we covered a couple of months ago, in our blog on Why Content is King and Community is Queen. Last month, we covered some thoughts on how to create quality content. But this month, we delve into the importance of community, for nobody can create quality content without understanding the community they serve and what’s important to them.

Strategically Reach Out to Classes of Customers

1. Knowing who you serve and why you serve them is a first step. Understanding this from your company perspective, and also from your customers’ perspective will help ensure alignment.
2. Question whom you’ve reached out to before, and whom you should be reaching out to now. What has changed? What will be changing? How will that affect what you do for whom and why that’s important to them?
3. What major trends are forging changes in the relationship with your clients? How will these trends impact the relationship with your stakeholders and customers in the short term and in the long term?

Know What Motivates Them, What’s Relevant to Them

4. Build a relationship with the customers you serve. Know where they are coming from and support them, even if it transcends your current business needs.
5. Bring feedback about the motivations and needs of your community to the management team and help shape corporate strategy based on the needs of the community and customer.

Ensure that the Content Matters to Them

6. If there’s a mismatch between the content and the needs of the community, the product/service offering and what the community is looking for, something needs to be done. Either pivot the business or identify and recruit a new niche community, or a combination of both.
7. Addressing the issue head-on will likely unearth other problems better brought out into the open.

Invite Participation and Initiative

8. Inviting active participation and input, rewarding volunteer leadership and initiative can help you bring the company and its offerings to new levels – new functionality, larger market, more opportunities.
9. Rewarding community members with the initiative and leadership for proactive feedback will facilitate active participation and feedback from others within the community – for the benefit of all.
10. There’s a difference between saying that you’re customer-centric and actually being so, between inviting participation and initiative and being open to suggestions and feedback and change. Community members find out quickly what you really mean based on the way you’re acting.

The bottom line is that the engagement and participation of the right community and customer will truly dictate the success of a company. How the leadership team manages this internal-external collaboration will directly affect a company’s bottom line today, and its prospects for the future.

Content Is King

August 31, 2013

World partnership

This month’s marketing blog is part of a three-post segment on the theme of ‘The Ying-Yang of Content and Community’, following the initial post ‘Why Content Is King and Community Is Queen’. This month and next month, we will drill down into the top-ten list from the August blog and cover ‘The Key to Quality Content,’ our September blog below, and ‘Integrating Content and Community’, the October blog topic.

Engagement is the key to momentum, and creating relevant content, delivered to the right audience is essential for building that momentum. Below are some thoughts on how to create content that matters.

Make content credible.

1. Base any position you take on data points. Otherwise, it’s about one opinion over another, and is less appealing to a large population set who responds to data and logic.

2. Enlist writers who have the background and knowledge to write, pontificate and theorize. It adds credibility to the theme, community, and message.

Make content memorable.

3. Be succinct and vary vocabulary and syntax.

4. Engage the reader, but start by knowing who the reader is, and what would engage her or him and why.

5. Pepper it with a picture or two, especially if it adds to the message.

Make content valuable.

6. Have a reason for writing on the topic, a reason that would benefit your intended audience. Stretch thinking and perceptions of others, of course with a purpose in mind. Escapist writings have their place, but in a business context, content should stimulate thinking, engage and connect, and sometimes have a call to action.

7. Tell the story behind the data on a topic, don’t just spew out the range of data available. Interpreting the meaning of the data in the context of its relevance to the intended audience is a core value-add of content.

8. Offer specific examples and reasons on how the information has influenced decisions and identify results.

Stimulate thinking. Invite action.

9. Identify the goal for the content and how it would benefit the intended community.

10. You get a ‘C’ if the reader is entertained, you get a ‘B’ if the reader is entertained, and pauses and thinks. You get an ‘A’ if the reader is entertained, thinks about it, then know what to do about it, and even change their thinking, words and actions!

This is second final blog on the ying and yang of content and community, focusing on how to create content that matters for the community. Stay tuned for next month’s blog focusing on creating that niche community. Your thoughts are welcome.