There are colorful graphics all over the Internet illustrating various marketing strategies that are “ideal for the digital age,” many even depicting the classic “three pillars” of sales, awareness, and advocacy. But those pillars now support all manner of faddish notions and countless high-tech helpers that blast your marketing message to the world. With all the confusion over tweets, texts, and bandwidth causing many marketing campaigns to seriously under-perform, now is a good time to get back tobasics with timeless marketing principles that work.
Before you make goals, before you devise tactics to carry out your strategy, you must take stock of your current situation. Sometimes referred to as an “environmental scan,” this in-depth overview considers everything involved in your enterprise: technology, equipment and computer rental needs, production processes, industry metrics, competition, general and specific economic indicators, customers, and local, regional, state, and federal laws. You can’t chart a course without a map, okay?
Goal setting Now that you know your starting point, you can decide where you want to go. When you do sit down to create your corporate goals and objectives, you might find the “SMART goals” system worth your attention. The acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely, which echoes the high standards Steve Jobs set for his secret iMac developers in the late 1990s.
Strategy There are as many opinions on business strategy as there are stars in the night sky, so your best bet is to read widely, remain skeptical of grandiose claims, and come to a reasonable position. As much an educational process as the other steps, developing your business strategy might introduce you to such tools as perceptual mapping and portfolio analysis.
Tactics Businesspeople conflate tactics with strategy and tell their marketing directors that they want a “viral marketing campaign” that will hit every inbox, smartphone, and iPad rental in the Western Hemisphere. But that’s a tactic, not a strategy, and no one can guarantee that anything will “go viral” (and beware of anyone who does). Truth be told, many campaigns go viral but have little effect on sales or PR.
Monitor We’re trying to keep this advice jargon-free, but part of an effective strategy means defining your key performance indicators (KPIs). Monitor performance with KPIs and you will know how well your tactics are working to fulfill the company strategy. Needless to say, it is vital to be completely honest in making these appraisals.
You will continue to revise, update, and perfect (ergo, “evolve”) both tactics and strategy based on your KPIs. (The indicators themselves may need some revision, too.) When the campaign is ongoing, it is wise to continue with a healthy optimism, as well as a healthy skepticism. You may have had an intelligent design for your strategy, but it’s good old evolution that will keep everything on track as the world barrels forward in its unpredictable way.
Now, here’s something that’s completely predictable: CRE’s top equipment and unparalleled customer service. With 21 offices in major metro areas, we offer technology rentals that could help you achieve your marketing goals (or help you complete a last minute project or prepare you for an upcoming event). Give us a call at 877-266-7725 to learn more.
Yes, there were environmental movements in the 1980s and 1990s, too. These movements took root right alongside the Macintosh computers, digital media, and other high-tech tools whose evolution has brought us to today. There have been incredible advances in computing power and storage, as well as in less wasteful business practices. But one signature movement from the past aimed at greening the corporate world has returned – building your own “paperless office”.
save it to some Xserve RAID mass storage or the cloud, and
establish a workflow without printed output.
Simple, right? Simple enough to conceptualize, certainly, but most paperless office attempts fail, and many companies output even more paper than before. That’s why a paperless campaign today should encourage, not mandate—and implement proven paper-saving policies, not start a perfectionist crusade. “Progress, not perfection” is a self-help saying that encapsulates the “deliberate gradualism” of iMac development, for example. Don’t think “paperless.” Think “less paper” meaning:
Digitization of paper documents: use scanner or multifunction printer, possible in combination, to scan and store to folder.
Access, search or processing of electronic documents can be handled using applications available from Windows, Mac, or incorporating browser-like features to handle the “search” functionality.
Archiving of data: use in-house solutions or in the cloud archiving system
Since there is no magic method to going instantly paperless, you are best advised to read about the process and make gradual changes, rather than choose a one-size-fits-all solution. You do not need to buy a paperless office. You need to run one that uses less paper.
Are you ready to use less paper? CRE Rentals can help with office equipment rentals as well as laptop rentals and iPad rental for professionals on the go. Give us a call today at (877) 266-7725!
For businesspeople, what’s the most important word or two to combine with “customer”? Relationship management? Acquisition? How about retention? Recent studies tend to support the common sense answer, service, indicating that a focus on customer service will positively affect all other areas, including profitability. The cost of acquiring customers varies greatly—from $10 for Barnes & Noble to over $300 for Sprint, according to Entrepreneur magazine—but is typically some seven times more than merely retaining current ones and “maximizing” those relationships. Since seven of 10 customers stop buying from companies that give them poor customer service, improving it would seem to be a no-brainer.
Entrepreneur has covered the topic of customer service assiduously over the years, and kept the subject alive while businesses followed fads instead of evidence. The evidence shows clearly that satisfied customers provide a decent marketing bonus, each one telling a dozen to 15 others all about their great experience. But unhappy customers speak to an average of two dozen others about their negative experience, then use a smartphone, iPad rental, or family PC to hit Facebook, Google+, and the social media universe for more ranting. And then there’s Yelp, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission), BBB (Better Business Bureau), various complaint sites, consumer watchdog groups—you need to protect your reputation.
Of course, the best way to protect your reputation in business is to be proactive about customer service and build good relationships with all stakeholders—management, employees, customers, owners and investors, neighbors, local government, zoning boards, community leaders, and others. The Database Marketing Institute did a six-month study of a mid-size manufacturer, whose 1,200 customers were divided into two equal groups for decidedly different treatment: One received the standard, polite customer service when they came in or called, while the other benefited from an outbound program of “relationship building” and got regular non-sales calls supplying technical support and other services.
At the end of the six-month monitoring period, the recipients of the outbound support calls increased purchases by some 12 percent, while the control group’s orders fell by 18 percent. Noting similar results at other firms, and in other industries, the study authors were confident enough to state that “proactive customer service plays an active role in increasing a company’s bottom line.” There are plenty of blanks to fill in—so do your homework, get your mojo back with articles like this, seek out good advice—but never doubt that all kinds, sizes, and styles of companies are boosting profits through customer service campaigns. There are three straightforward steps:
Education: When products/services are preceded, accompanied, and followed by good information, customers feel greater value.
Empowerment: Proper training isn’t enough. You must empower customer service staff to make quick, appropriate decisions.
Feedback: If you want to rate your customer service, ask your customers—and show them that what they say does matter.
Clearly, customer service done right does more than burnish your company’s reputation. It can also grow your bottom line. Customer retention is typically less costly than acquisition, and the value of word-of-mouth advertising and customer loyalty can be substantial, too. Sure, you need new customers, too, so we’ve helped you with that, as well. New customers or old, treat them like gold. And your bottom line? It will do just fine!
Call (877) 266-7725, send us a message, or use the Quick Rental Quote form to get just what you need, just when you need it. We’re always ready to help, so do it now—whenever “now” happens to be!
Graduation rates for women in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, math) still lag behind men’s, but less all the time. In fact, qualified women are available in much greater numbers than popularly known, while the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) reports that women made up about 42 percent of its 2010 graduating class in engineering. So what happens after graduation?
Most of those grads went to work somewhere, many developing great expertise—using render farms in post-production work, joining NASA, doing R&D in medicine. Historically, however, women were long denied any opportunity for leadership, as inflexible corporate schedules took women off the “career track” for having children. Developing women’s leadership skills is, therefore, a retention tool, one that will also feed the pipeline with future leaders.
There is a vast untapped reservoir of tech-savvy women—teaching, updating Apple’s Xserve RAID designs, inventing new products. But they’re not all corporate employees, managers, and executives. They’re also entrepreneurs, business builders, and consumers. Here are three groups with markedly different approaches to supporting the advancement of high-tech women.
COO Elisa Page says, “Women are the most powerful consumers of the world and companies are still not reaching the core customer.” With some 4,250 bloggers writing on such topics as cooking, new marketing methods, women in tech, and career advice, the site reaches some 92 million women in the U.S. monthly. BlogHer compensates women for their writing while helping them grow their businesses—whether that business is blogging, retail sales, or technology services.
A compensation formula considers such variables as number of blogs and readers, feedback, and influence, leading to over $24 million in payouts since 2010. Beth Blecherman, a California BlogHer member, writes the Tech Mamas blog and advises startups that are creating products and services for families. Blecherman deftly combines the two worlds: the one of women creators, and the one of consumers. With BlogHer, women can be both.
The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT)
This nonprofit comprises more than 350 other American nonprofits, colleges, corporations, startups, government agencies, and community orgànizations. NCWIT’s aim is to boost women’s participation in computing and technology, through a wide range of community-based “alliances” that work at every level of the challenge, from training to placement assistance.
These alliances—academic, workforce, entrepreneurial, K-12, affinity groups—empower community members to leverage “an infrastructure of best practices, free resources, and an amplified voice for the issues surrounding diversity and technology,” as NCWIT materials state. NCWIT works directly with companies, agencies, and organizations to help them locate, recruit, train, retain, and advance tech-savvy women.
The Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology
The Institute has a single goal—connecting women and technology—but travels a two-way street: one lane toward increasing the impact of women on technology, the other toward increasing the impact of technology on women. Institute CEO Telle Whitney knows “that innovative organizations must attract and retain the best technical minds, both women and men, to grow and succeed in today’s global economy.”
The pool of high-tech talent will continue to grow, requiring ongoing solutions for recruiting, retaining, and promoting women. The Anita Borg Institute, NCWIT, and BlogHer will encourage MIT and schools across America to keep teaching science, technology, engineering, and math to ever-increasing numbers of women, free at last from the tyranny of low expectations. And patriarchs beware: There is no going back.
Call (877) 266-7725 or send a message to get the swift, expert assistance of our Account Executives. Use the Quick Rental Quote form if you know what you need. Either way, you get the right tech, at the right price, right now. It doesn’t get any better than that!
The times they are a-changin’—since nothing is constant but change, right? Changes in the tech world don’t come any bigger than Steve Ballmer leaving Microsoft. It’s a whirlwind for Microsoft right now—a new Xbox debuting soon, the purchase of Nokia’s wireless biz for about $7 billion, the meandering journey of Windows 8, ad nauseam. Yet it is certainly no secret that a solid, growing majority of pundits, tech analysts, industry observers, and ratings firms have signaled that Ballmer’s departure is probably a good thing.
Without a doubt, Mr. Ballmer is the worst CEO of a large publicly traded American company today. Not only has he singlehandedly steered Microsoft out of some of the fastest growing and most lucrative tech markets (mobile music, handsets and tablets) but in the process he has sacrificed the growth and profits of not only his company but “ecosystem” companies such as Dell, Hewlett Packard and even Nokia. The reach of his bad leadership has extended far beyond Microsoft when it comes to destroying shareholder value—and jobs.
Hartung notes that Microsoft’s stock price reached its historic high of about $60 in 2000, the year Gates handed off control to Ballmer. Just two years later it was in the $20 range, and has yo-yo’d between that and the low-$30s ever since. It’s not any one thing, but a succession of miscues that affected every aspect of the business. The firm is still ubiquitous—most any computer rental will likely run Windows 7 or 8, unless you opt for a Mac or a Linux box—but is no longer the leader, innovator, or style-setter that once challenged Apple in those categories (it’s true, youngsters!). It’s hard to imagine any tech writer favorably comparing the troubled Surface tablets to our potent iPad rental. No one looks at Microsoft and thinks, “They’re so hip! They’re so stylish!”
Ballmer Bummers & Blunders
So, what has Ballmer’s decade-and-a-third accomplished for Microsoft? It’s not an exhaustive list—since making one would be exhausting—but here’s a sample of Ballmer Bummers & Blunders:
The Ballmer era has seen constant, continual delays on rollouts of new/upgraded hardware and software.
The lack of added value in upgrades encouraged user avoidance and piracy.
The future of Microsoft apparently rests on Windows 8.
Hartung characterizes that last one, betting on Windows 8, as an “insane bet for any CEO,” and it would not have happened had the Microsoft board of directors replaced Ballmer “with a CEO that…would have kept Microsoft current with market trends.” While Microsoft has by no means become a failure, Hartung says that no CEO should have been “allowed to take such incredible risks with investor money and employee jobs.” The Forbes contributor ends by advising Ballmer to go home and “enjoy his fortune” instead of making it impossible for employees and investors to make their own.
We will keep you posted on all things Microsoft in the coming weeks: the transition to a new CEO, the debut of the new Xbox, the marketing campaign for Windows 8, and all the rest! In the meantime, we’re here 24/7/365 to solve your problems. Call 877-266-7725, send us a message, or visit our Quick Rental Quote page to take care of things in your own time. CRE’s got you covered!
Gartner predicts that the worldwide public cloud services market will top $131 billion for 2013, an 18.5% increase over 2012′s $111 billion. The largest segment is cloud advertising at 48% of the total market (2012), but infrastructure as a service (Iaas) is the fastest growing.
In 2012, IaaS—cloud storage, computing, and printing services—grew 42.4%, reaching $6.1 billion, and is expected to hit $9 billion in 2013. Here’s the complete breakdown of cloud services and their share of 2012 revenues:
Cloud advertising; 48%
(BPaas) business process services, second-largest market segment after advertising; 28%
(Saas, Software as a Service) application services; 14.7%
(IaaS) system infrastructure services; 5.5%
Management and security services; 2.8%
(PaaS, Platform as a Service) application infrastructure services; 1%
The various cloud services segments are separated by large gaps and are growing at different rates, so it is actually a bit early to tell what the relative sizes will be in a mature industry. Despite this uncertainty, there is clearly strong and growing demand for every kind of cloud service. Part of this is because the business decision to use cloud services is as clear as the one that leads companies to rent laptops for conferences and temporary projects—it lets you avoid the expense of hardware purchases and the hassle of repairs, maintain at least 99% uptime, and watch everything just work. Cloud service providers make some of the very same arguments.
Global market growing
When Gartner looks at the global cloud services market, it finds that emerging regions—North Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, etc.—have high growth, but smaller markets. (The exception is China, which is both large and growing.) Conversely, more mature regions—Europe, North America, Japan, the mature Asian/Pacific economies—have larger markets, but low growth. When entering a new foreign market, Apple, like many successful firms, uses cross-cultural marketing techniques to reach the particular nations and cultures involved. Viewing each country or region with regard to its unique cultures, languages, and traditions is just good business, which is why Apple does it for everything from the MacBook to the iPhone. Generally speaking, cloud service providers entering a foreign market will succeed to the degree that they succeed at this.
First, of course, cloud service providers must recognize the opportunity that is beyond the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Of the total world spending on new cloud services from now through the end of 2016, Gartner expects the North American market to account for 59%, Europe 24%. Smaller markets—led by “Greater China,” Indonesia, India, Argentina, Mexico, and Brazil—may account for fewer dollars in spending, but will achieve higher growth rates. Gartner’s chief of research, Ed Anderson, advises the many cloud service providers to serve the mature markets while reaching out to the emerging ones “to capitalize on the high growth of these regions, particularly Latin America and Greater China.”
If your firm is growth-oriented, we have productivity solutions that can save you precious capital, free you from the indebtedness that robs you of flexibility when you most need it, and help you be as productive as possible. It works with render farms like it works with mass storage or breakout session equipment—no investment, no headaches. It just works. Call us at (877) 266-7725, send a message, or fill out the Quick Rental Quote form.
For several millennia, the methods use in education and training created a one-way street, a model whereby groups of people would sit still and listen to a lecture, essentially. With the advent of modern audio video technology, the “lecturer” could be a movie or a slideshow, but it was still a lecture. With the Internet, you could also just sit in front of an iMac rental, unengaged and passive – but thankfully, the one-way street model is fading fast, as a slew of interactive teaching technologies make learning a cooperative venture.
Of course, for some purposes and subjects, watching videos is great, but the more someone is engaged with the learning process, the better the results. Good teaching is still much more than technology, but when you use tools, use them effectively. Here are a few ideas for the best training session upgrades.
Even with the old-fashioned lecture model, adding touch technology is a quick way to expand and extend the lessons. Whether it’s a breakout session at a conference or training time at corporate HQ, a room with an all-in-one multitouch display PC at each seat would work ideally. With the right app, of course, audience members could also use their own touch-enabled smart phones or tablets.
Speaking of “old-fashioned” models of learning, the Internet education boom proves that “meeting rooms” can be as big as the entire world. CRE can outfit your various geographic locations to create a single, virtual training room over the Web, using our specially prepared tablet PC rentals, iPads or other devices. Distributed learning models can also include archived materials that can be accessed and reviewed by students at any time, similar to a company “knowledge base.” (In fact, training materials can be a great foundation for knowledge uses and operations manuals, too.)
ARS for training and teaching
Today’s Audience Response System (ARS) technology is no one-size-fits-all solution, but a completely customizable one. Web-based “polling” applications offer wireless response/voting systems that let presenters ask participants interactive questions. Software from one firm, C3 Softworks, features customizable game templates for presenting learning materials. Presenters can create media-rich training games with their own audio, video and still images included.
A different approach
We can’t wrap up a blog on training and teaching without mentioning the latest attempts to upgrade… you! Specifically your brain: Firms like Lumosity have created exercises and games that claim to “improve your brain health” and result in “significant improvements in working memory and attention.” While a healthy skepticism is always helpful, the firm does provide links to its research findings, and the study of “enhanced learning” continues in many labs around the world.
In Rejuvenate-Part 1, we talked about doing business in a bad economy and offered 5 tips to grow your business. One of the takeaways is the importance of optimism. Another important principle is “actions speak louder than words” – and the challenge humans always face is taking insights and ideas and acting upon them to effect positive change. Talk is cheap. And inaction is expensive.
As you get ideas, get right into action. If there’s a conference coming up where you will hold a breakout session, setting up one of CRE’s Audience Response Systems (ARS) gets you immediate feedback on anything “new and improved” that you incorporate into your presentation.
So what else can an organization do to grow? Here are the final five tips:
6. Marketing fundamentals. As we start the third decade of the Internet Era, many websites still lack proper menus, user-friendly layout, consistent style, etc. At the very least, use your color scheme and logo throughout all marketing materials (print and digital) and support your branding with buzzword-free value propositions. Even if your firm is small and on a tight budget, an iMac from CRE has all you need to create and maintain a clean, effective website.
7. Creative funding. Most businesses fail due to undercapitalization (not enough dough). If you need funding, think creatively, as venture capitalists are presently occupied putting out fires in their existing portfolios. Speak with friends and family about investing, and don’t forget “shadow investors” like suppliers that might offer extended terms in exchange for a long-term purchase order, special discounts, rebates and/or other perks.
8. New partnerships. Both UPS and FedEx are installing workstations like computer rentals at their larger customers’ locations. This doesn’t merely save time and money, but makes the shippers proactive business partners with their customers. If you don’t have the clout of a Fortune 500 firm, you can still approach shippers and suppliers for special terms, just-in-time deliveries, co-op ads, joint promotions, etc.
9. Honest PR. The press releases that most webmasters and editors get are full of fluff and buzzwords. What business doesn’t claim “market leadership” or “best practices”? Avoid words and phrases that editors see every day. Original, honest PR – written in plain English, please! – will separate you from the pack.
10. No boundaries. Companies should position themselves to serve customers around the world, unless it makes no sense. If your product or service fills a need in other countries, and you don’t have resources or staff there, then connect with a local manufacturer, dealer or distributor with the established presence you need.
As the U.S. economy sputters along, it’s hard to know what to believe from the financial analysts in the media. If you base business decisions solely on industry trends and financial indicators, even with guidance from the “latest and greatest” book of the moment, you’ll be depressed, confused or both.
Don’t despair! There really are ways to survive – even grow – in times of economic uncertainty, and the following 10 suggestions (five today, five in Thursday’s Part 2) will help you concoct your own, unique plan. From marketing strategies to website components, here are the first five of 10 tips to rejuvenate your business.
1. Pinpoint marketing. Who are your customers – exactly? How do you get your message to the right desktop, laptop and/or iPad rental? Your advertising, partnerships, distribution channels and retail strategy must work together to win and retain your prime customers. If you can’t readily identify them, revise your model until you can. Then consider opt-in mailing lists for pinpoint marketing.
2. Quick answers. A first-rate website answers customers’ questions, often before they ask, with a thorough FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page. Website visitors should be invited to speak with customer service personnel via their preferred means – real-time messaging, phone, e-mail, even video chat – further ensuring a positive customer experience.
3. No hype. Sure, the new wireless tablets from Apple, Acer, Samsung and others are wildly popular. But buying everyone on your conference team a new one because they’re “cool” is not a good idea. In fact, the cost-effective move is to call CRE for a deal on tablet PC rentals, not make a four-figure capital expenditure for geek chic!
4. Flexible pricing. When chaos is the order of the day for the global economy, you must be flexible. It’s a delicate balancing act, but you should be reasonable in negotiations, creative about bringing in new customers – and up to speed on how flexible pricing mixes with marketing in new and interesting ways.
5. Maximum outsourcing. Minimizing fixed costs is crucial, so the latest “efficiency expert” idea is to outsource such core functions as marketing, HR, finance, IT and manufacturing, getting specialists with greater proficiency for less than the cost of new, full-time employees. The same principle is at work in #3 above, namely: Slow down, crunch the numbers and decide whether to rent laptops or buy them, create a phone bank in-house or hire a contractor, build a new exhibit booth or repaint last year’s, etc.
What one person can you talk to about everything from laptops to exhibit booths? An expert Account Executive at CRE, that’s who. You can call or e-mail to talk about computers, tablets, audiovisual equipment rentals and everything else you may need. Already have a list? Visit our Quick Rental Quote form and you’ll be done in no time!
Don’t forget to return for 10 Tips to Rejuvenate Your Business, Part 2, on Thursday.
The National Real Estate OnLine Convention and Exposition in April 2002 is typically cited as the world’s first “virtual conference.” Produced by the Real Estate CyberSpace Society, it attracted 10,000 pre-registered real estate professionals from 28 countries and drew another 15,000 “online walk-ins” over the event’s five days.
In 2009, one Microsoft division made its annual industry analyst event a virtual one. Sessions streamed over the web, meetings between executives and customers took place via tablet PC rentals, and the keynote featured slides with LiveMeeting. Surely one of the premier tech firms of all time would revolutionize the virtual conference, right? Wrong. Seven years after the first one, virtual conferences just weren’t catching on, although they’re starting to now.
Psychology, not video conferencing technology
After a decade of declining prices for videoconferencing technology – plasma display rentals, wall-sized screens and media-friendly computers – it turns out that it’s not technology, but psychology, that is holding up progress. User forums and corporate networks have their share of rants, raves and predictions (“Real-time 3D full-wall HD surround-sound conferencing coming soon!”) but much of the talk is about “intangibles.”
A common refrain is that there is “no substitute for personal interaction,” and that talking is still more efficient than iMessaging with an iPad rental. People pay attention to much more than the words they’re hearing, too, reading body language, interpreting “vibes” and observing how folks relate to one another. If you reflect on the number of intriguing conversations you’ve had in hallways, elevators and lunch lines, you know the intrinsic value of informal conversations.
Characteristics of virtual conferences
Virtual conferences save on obvious costs like air fare, hotels, dining and so forth, but you will still need event production rentals – just different ones than usual. Still, before there can be successful, smooth-running virtual conferences, they have to evolve the following characteristics:
• Excellent planning and execution. A virtual conference is a big, complicated production. Don’t underestimate the effort.
• Fail-safe technology. Streaming media is great, but everything needs to work regardless of what the attendees bring to the event (MacBook, PC laptop, smart phone).
• New model. There is still no consensus on the best model for virtual conferencing, although “informative” and “interactive” are two buzzwords that echo across the Internet. (Ideas, anyone?)
Perhaps in 2012 we will finally see the emergence of a workable virtual conferencing model. Most people need to be engaged and drawn into the action, but how this will get done virtually is still a mystery. Stay tuned and we’ll keep you posted as “virtual” turns into “reality” in the conference industry.
Here’s a dose of reality for you: CRE is your one-stop shop for trade show convention rentals, high-tech and high-powered post-production gear, potent laptops and desktop PCs, Macs, mass storage and more. A single call or e-mail, or a trip to our Quick Rental Quote page, puts an expert Account Executive to work solving your problem. Call now!