Digitization: Leading the Way to Hyper-Connectivity

We live in interesting times, with the lines between digital and reality ever-blurring to become one. Full scale Digitization is looming on the horizon, where consumer, healthcare, retail and personal experiences are all vastly changing due to the influx of technology that is working to create unprecedented convenience- matched with an entirely new level of connectivity and consumption, and for many, an unnerving loss of privacy.

Grocery stores, equipped with location-monitoring beacons, will beam coupons and suggestions based on previous and potential shopping habits, as well as where you are at that moment in the store. Business ideas are endless- recently we’ve seen everything from grocery store apps that allow users to get groceries delivered via a smartphone, to virtual grocery shelves in subway stations, and even entirely virtual grocery stores that only exist online. The retail sector has been gravely impacted by the emergence of Amazon- almost an online Walmart- and also by the strong presence of social media in influencing shoppers’ opinions, preferences and trends. Digitization is here and has been for a while.

From healthcare apps that allow for virtual doctor appointments, check-ups and the scheduling of house calls, to connected toothbrushes, fitness and wellness apps and devices that track your activity, heart rate and sleep patterns- the need for actual doctors, trainers and regularly scheduled appointments seem to be diminishing quickly.

Virtual reality and the Internet of Things are oft-mentioned phrases bouncing around the tech world, with every big name trying to beat the other to the punch to create the most secure, most innovative and most adaptable piece of technology that will revolutionize the world even further. Understanding the progress that is in the works and the changes to come should be exciting to all. It may not be a future full of flying cars or the futuristic utopian, or dystopian, society that we’ve seen in movies- but it will be something we haven’t seen before.

The question becomes, do we accept and enjoy the benefits the hyper-connectivity of 2015, or do we become leery of the constant monitoring of our daily lives and most personal habits? Digital 2.0 is indeed here to stay, and it is working to better our lives, shake up longstanding industries, and remove much of the human interaction that we loathe yet desire. We’ll see where this leads us- to a digital world of progress, or perhaps towards something more like a virtual reality video game- human contact not required.

What’s Driving Your Business: Emotions or Dynamic Evaluation?

Today’s business needs are constantly evolving, making it a challenge to keep pace when it comes to making the right decisions for your business. Organizations need to look at building hybrid operational models that are scalable and reliable to facilitate the course changes demanded by rapidly evolving markets and technology.

An organization must maintain a dynamic evaluation process based on reason, which requires all areas–including internal, external influences and available resources – to be in a constant state of scrutiny. The evaluation process needs to be dynamic in that it considers both the current and future needs of the business, while looking ahead at potential advances in technology, process lifecycles, as well as applications and tools. Only then should one propose strategic and tactical plans based on those needs—all within the confines of seamlessly running a profitable business that is focused on the immediate goals and objectives of the organization. Clearly, there are a lot of moving parts.

In order to keep everything running smoothly, predetermined ‘gating’ scenarios need to be defined in advance. These should be initiated upon reaching a certain threshold or trigger. Businesses too frequently falter by simply failing to make a decision—drowning in their own inability to evolve. Many factors contribute to this state of stasis —pride, lust, sloth, wrath… and, though not one of the “seven deadly sins”, fear. Fear is probably the single most crippling emotion in an organization’s demise. When it comes to making critical business decisions, the beauty of dynamic evaluation with predetermined course changes is the ability to reduce the negative impact that emotions, such as fear, often play in complex business equations.

This model requires that all manner of contingencies be considered, including staff augmentation, shared resources or outsourcing. In some scenarios, the business case might call for operational costs to be reduced or a combination of the above strategies to be implemented in order to ensure survival.

What is the right option (or options) for reducing costs and optimizing growth? The answer will depend on the influence the organization faces relative to the other aforementioned controls. It sounds vague, but with proper dynamic evaluation, the answers become clear.

Disney Beats Everyone to the IoT Punch

Upon visiting Disney World, in Orlando, Florida, a few weeks ago with my family I learned quite a bit had changed since my last visit, 15 years prior. I had read about Disney’s integration of the ‘MyMagicPlus’ system which connects individual park visitors, via a RFID chip-embedded wristband with a two year battery life, to the Cloud – albeit the Disney Cloud. These “MagicBand” wristbands are truly something remarkable; similar in design to a FitBit, but with extreme data mining capabilities.

These wristbands provide constant monitoring of the likes, dislikes, schedules, birthdays, menus, allergies, hotel room access, ride preference and much more, of each and every guest who purchases the convenient band. With over 50 million visitors annually, Disney has created access to incredible sums of data. Disney then uses this raw data to further their ultimate mission of creating a magical, easy and streamlined Disney World experience.

First Stop Amusement Parks, Next Stop, the World?

Integrating the IoT into the Magical World of Disney was an incredibly futuristic move. Converting the park into a data mine set Mickey and friends back about US$1B, roughly half of the park’s annual revenue. The MagicBand does indeed provide the magic; allowing for a cash-free visit by attaching your credit card to your device, reducing wait times at the top attractions, allowing the staff to greet you by name everywhere you go, and even helping to find your lost child amongst the masses. But the truly magical idea behind it all comes with the understanding that these IoT advances are soon to be magnified onto the world.

Is the Disney MagicBand a test-bed for the future? Will hospitals, schools, airlines, cruise ships, retirement homes and entire cities be next? If so, what hurdles will need to be overcome to manage the complexities of connecting millions of people to billions of sensors?

Technologically speaking, we’re getting closer by the day. Incredible advances in data analytics and data processing over the past few years prove these advances, with more companies jumping on the IoT bandwagon almost daily. Just this past week Huawei and Comverse both announced their SDN Cloud platforms, and companies, like Jasper Wireless and others, are offering IoT Service Platforms, which help to connect machines and their sensors to service providers, the people and their many devices.

Hardware- from batteries to SIM cards and sensors- has also all seen vast improvements, thus increasing the feasibility of the IoT. Organizations like ETSI, IEEE and TM Forum are working to establish global standards and best-practices. In addition, 5G networks are right around the corner, and will provide over 1,000 times the capacity of today’s 4G networks, opening the door to supporting the billions of connected devices that are expected to be coming onto the market.

IoT Hurdles – A Surprising Foe

Surprisingly though, one of the biggest hurdles for startups in the IoT space has been the wireless providers themselves. Mobile carriers have not been eager to add connectivity to new devices because it lowers their “average revenue per user”, or ARPU. ARPU is one measurement that investors watch closely. For U.S. wireless companies, ARPU is typically around $33/month per subscriber.

Connected cars have ARPUs similar to smartphones, but wearables and devices such as connected watches are closer to $5, which is why operators are cautious in that market. This mindset is hurting new IoT startups that are unable to deliver high enough ARPUs.

Moving Towards a Solution

Historically, when service providers were challenged to address lower ARPU customers or ‘down-market’ opportunities, many chose to launch (or partner with) a separate brand, or MVNO. This allowed the service provider to protect its parent brand from the consequentially low ARPU, but still allowed for driving new revenues, fostering innovation and addressing a growing market. Isn’t it time for the IoT MVNO?

It is time for CSPs to band together and embrace the changes to come, as competition is on the way. For example, French Internet service provider Sigfox received US$115M in funding to help build a separate network specifically for “things” by utilizing Ultra Narrow Band technology that connects to the cloud. This won’t be the only path to the IoT though, as this technology has its own limitations; in fact, the complex world of ‘things’ will most likely require multiple service delivery options, depending on the types of data being transmitted.

Either way, the next few years will be very interesting as the IoT players determine their rightful places. The question is, will they be able to deliver an experience as magically seamless as Disney does?

To hear more of my thoughts on IoT, follow me @HumeraMalikHM

Virtualization and the Future of Marketing

It’s no wonder cloud computing is enjoying the spotlight as the industry darling these days. It offers organizations the ability to purchase the exact infrastructure they need out of the box, while avoiding the operational costs of hosting the equipment or for the expertise required to keep it all running smoothly. Instead, virtual computing resources and applications can be hosted anywhere, and custom fit to meet precise requirements and for a specific length of time – it’s extremely cost-effective.

Quexor relies heavily on cloud resources to create successful marketing solutions for our clients. Our team is spread across the globe in different countries, cities and time zones – but we harness the collaborative power of the cloud to function as if we all had desks in the same office – or at desks in our clients’ office towers. Voice over IP, cloud-based storage, Internet-enabled conferencing and cloud-based project tracking software and other tools all help Quexor to stay very closely connected and able to back each other up whenever required.

In fact, Quexor itself acts in much the same way as cloud computing resources and conveys many of the same benefits. We act as a virtual marketing team for our clients, brought in to develop strategies, product and marketing plans or to provide advice and support for a particular product launch or marketing campaign. Our seasoned marketing professionals – each with at least a decade’s experience – can get to work right away with little-to-no hand-holding or oversight required. We can scale up to work on big tasks or tight deadlines and scale down during periods of inactivity.

Marketing as a service (MaaS) follows the traditional cloud business models – subscription based, pay as you go and on demand capacity. As more and more businesses are adopting cloud based services, we at Quexor have been leading the charge for not just supporting a lot of our clients who are cloud based service and solution providers, but we have adopted the same technologies to support our clients in building the next generation of cloud services.

If you haven’t looked into virtualization – for either your IT or your marketing requirements – now’s the time!

Business Plan 2.0

The world of technology is developing radically and in a seemingly unpredictable direction. This period of innovation will be the make-or-break-it moment for many companies hoping to remain relevant into the future. In order to achieve and maintain relevance, the current trend is to incorporate innovation into the basic fabric of business – and then some.

Take a look at the most successful innovators of today’s world- Google, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, etc. These companies strayed far from the traditional business model by eliminating standard components of their business that were traditionally understood to be a necessity- such as eliminating the need for a physical store, as in the case of Amazon, or taking a physical product virtual, such as Netflix with their digital video content. These companies did not view these common components as traditional means of business; rather they saw them as barriers, and they removed them. This type of innovation disrupted not only their industries, but contributed significantly to the digital revolution we are now experiencing.

Instead of forming a business plan based on current competitors and assumptions, create a plan based on building your own market. Thinking outside of the box is an overused phrase, and probably not quite enough to address the pace of today’s change; how about shatter the box? Radicalize the industry in which you are in by capitalizing on today’s talent and fresh ideas.

The boundaries of business are being broken by the innovators and inventors of tomorrow. Opportunities are abundant. True success will come by overcoming traditional 2D thinking and developing innovative 3D or 4D mindsets. As Albert Einstein said, “We cannot solve a problem by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

Connect with us to learn about the innovators that we have worked with and how we can help your business innovate in this digital economy.

Content is King

Innovation, flexibility, scalability gives telecoms reason to rejoice

In a world of social media, websites, blogs, case studies and whitepapers, today‘s businesses are driven by content. More than ever, Content is King. Customers want to be able to research and understand your offerings, and if your competitor‘s website offers the information they are looking for, this will put you at a serious disadvantage in the initial sales process. But beyond the early stages- different types of content are required at each point of the sales process. Every organization should have a strategy to ensure they have what they need to move prospects from initial interest all the way through to closure, and even beyond. Once prospects become customers you will need to continue your communication and education efforts, but in different ways.

Below is some of the content as outlined by Pragmatic Marketing that is required for each step of the sales cycle:

Awareness
In this phase, buyers are just beginning to learn about the issue or problem and will be seeking more information on particular topics or pain points. Content addressing this market should focus on building awareness around the consequences for staying with the status quo and defining how experts would solve the issue. For this, blogs, tweets, newsletters, and industry and analyst articles are useful tools in the content marketing mix.

Scope
This phase addresses possible solutions. Now that the problem has been defined- buyers want to know more about what their options are for solving it. This is where you need to make your audience aware of your specific solutions and why they are better than an alternate approach. For the &lsqio;scope‘ phase, best practices guides, FAQs, position papers and partner testimonials are all helpful in moving the prospect to the next stage.

Evaluate
The evaluation process is about understanding specific solutions and how they will solve the buyer‘s problems. Does it fit their requirements? How much work will it take to support? Prospects also want to know how your solution compares to the competition, and what the costs are. For this phase, customer case studies, ROI and technical whitepapers, webinars and customer trials are tools that are very valuable.

Select
For this final stage, prospects want more details, along with validation and reassurance, asking questions like: Would other customers recommend them? Do I trust, know and like the company, and can they be a long-term partner?‘ This is when companies need to highlight benefits and satisfied customers, and provide customer testimonials, proposals and pricing.

By putting in place a strong content strategy, your sales team will be better equipped to move prospects through the sales cycle more quickly, and with fewer obstacles.

Recycling is Good for Your Marketing Environment

Quexor is a big fan of recycling. We‘re not talking about the newspapers and cans you put out on the curb every week, (although that‘s great too) but content recycling.

Creating good corporate collateral can be resource intensive: getting input from the right stakeholders, making it through all the review cycles, obtaining approval from the c-suite or (heaven forbid) the legal department can take considerable time and effort. So it‘s not very efficient to just use that content once. And there‘s a good chance your target audience will miss it if you only post it in one place.

Most of you are familiar with the concept of content recycling. A white paper can also be shortened and repurposed as a blog post, for example, and then tweeted about.

But how about taking it a step further and really getting the most out of your content recycling efforts? If you have an executive giving a keynote address, why not record it and put it into a podcast or post it on your website, blog, YouTube channel, Facebook and LinkedIn profiles or other social media properties? It may seem like more work, but if you‘re going through all the trouble to prepare a speech and a slide deck, setting up a video camera isn‘t that much harder.

Even if recording a video isn‘t an option, it‘s now really easy with PowerPoint to animate and capture presentations that include video and even a pointer to create simple multimedia that can be used on your website, attached as a link into mailers, posted to SlideShare.

Repurposing content in various formats helps to ensure you reach your target audience with a consistent message across multiple channels. Using multiple formats increases the likelihood your content will be picked up and consumed in the manner each of your target audience is most comfortable with. And, most importantly, reaching a larger audience ensures you get more return on your marketing efforts.

Instead of creating content and then having it disappear after a single use, Reduce your workload, Reuse your great ideas and Recycle your best content, no matter what the source, across multiple venues to maximize your marketing results.

If you want more ideas about how to get the most mileage out of your content, Quexor would be happy to help.

Your Product Has a Story – Tell It!

Product marketing material often fails to connect with its audience in a meaningful or memorable way. One way to keep your product marketing fresh and relevant is to go back to one of the oldest forms of communication – storytelling.

Humans are hardwired to both tell and listen to stories; it‘s how we passed on important information for tens of thousands of years before written communication was invented. Good storytellers are ones who always keep their audiences top of mind as they spin their tales. And the best and most memorable stories are children‘s stories – who doesn‘t remember the basics of Cinderella or Little Red Riding Hood?

Here are a few storytelling tips to keep in mind the next time you‘re thinking about putting together a PowerPoint presentation, datasheet or similar product marketing yarn.

1. What‘s the “once upon a time?” What conditions have combined to create a market for this product or service? What is the perfect storm? What does it look like? Is it moving fast or slow, are you behind it or ahead of it?
2. Who are the central characters? Remember your customer is always the main character, not your product. Imagine the central character on a stage giving a soliloquy to the audience. Who are they? What is their motivation? What are they trying to accomplish? What‘s stopping them from accomplishing their goals?
3. In any good corporate tale, the product is equivalent to the woodsman in Little Red Riding Hood – he solves her pain point by cutting the grandmother out of the wolf. How is your solution like the woodsman? How do you save the day?
4. What‘s the “happily ever after?” What happens when Cinderella (your customer) and the Prince (your offering) get together? How much money is saved? How much effort is reduced? How are resources freed for other tasks?

Keep these simple storytelling ideas in mind and your product marketing materials can leap off the page and ride off into the sunset of your target audience‘s imagination. Or, if words fail you, let Quexor help turn your marketing frogs into princes!

What a Great Time to be in Telecom

I may be dating myself, but as someone who started in this business in the heady days of telecom deregulation in the mid 90s, I was certain that the ‘good old days’ were long behind us. But after attending Mobile World Congress 2012, it’s clear that the promise and excitement of the state of the wireless industry today makes the late 90s .com buzz look downright boring.

Aside from the student protests, metro strike threats and CBOSS Girls, this year’s Mobile World Congress was all about our increasingly connected world. And while we’ve been paying lip-service to this for a while now, I can’t help but look around and say ‘hey, we’re actually starting to do all the stuff we’ve been talking about!’ With new players such as Ford, healthcare, app developers, book publishers, music producers and M2M businesses (..and I could go on), the show floor in Barcelona looks quite a bit different than it did just a few short years ago.

It’s exciting to be part of an industry that is changing all of our lives in a very real fashion. From the workplace and home, to entertainment, education, commerce, social media, health and security – to even global politics – the capabilities of mobile devices have gone beyond our wildest dreams, and are sure to go even further in the future. No one can say with certainty what will happen over the next ten years, or even the next ten months, but I can assure you that Mobile World Congress will once again bring together the innovation and creative spirit of the thousands of people that are shaping this industry today. Our thanks to the GSMA for another fantastic event, and for those in this industry who work every day to make our lives more interesting, enjoyable and productive.

What are the Two Most Important Words in Marketing? ‘So What?’

Most technology companies begin by solving a problem or doing something better than the next guy. They are really smart people doing really smart things, but somehow their message too often gets muddled and mired in the minutiae and latest industry jargon. Too many websites and PowerPoint decks lead with the details, leaving prospects, investors, and even family members, scratching their heads and asking – ‘so… what do you do?’

As a technology professional it’s easy to get lost in the features and capabilities of a product and forget about the big picture. After all, isn’t that where all the development effort and latest R&D funding has been going? Companies are proud of their product’s capabilities, and rightfully so. But don’t forget to define what that means for your customers and prospects in their terms; how does it make their life easier, or save them money, or help them look good to their boss? It’s what we marketing geeks call the value proposition.
So before crafting that next PowerPoint, make sure you’ve asked yourself what your prospects are asking…so what?