MarketStar to Present to Utah Marketing Professionals


AMA-invite-bannerMarketStar’s own Vaughn Aust will be speaking to the Utah Chapter of the American Marketing Association on Wednesday, February 18. With his presentation titled, “Transform Digital Communities Into Brand Advocates,” Vaughn will be sharing keys to optimizing partner performance with communities using advanced gamification and promotions. Attendees will learn how channel retail store associates for companies like Best Buy, Verizon, and Cricket are being engaged, trained, and motivated to turn community participation into actionable sales.

 

When: Wednesday February 18, 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Where: MarketStar’s South Jordan Office

Address: 10619 South Jordan Gateway, South Jordan, Utah

Price: $30 / Free for AMA members

Register and learn more: http://events.utahama.org/206/

 

Everyone is invited to register and attend! Also, feel free to post, share, and tweet this “Save the Date” invite with your social media friends, connections, and followers.

Internet of Things – A Glimpse at the Market


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Editor’s note: click here for Part 1, or here for Part 2.

As expected, the Internet of Things (IoT) was a hot topic at this year’s CES. From wearables, to connected homes, to connected cars; the focus was on the top trends for this market.

A lot of innovative products from great brands were highlighted during the show earlier this month, and our MarketStar team was there to gather some insights.

Brenda McQueary, MarketStar’s Business Development Manager, said: “Wearables and 3D printing seem to becoming more and more accepted – and adopted. With so many options, education and brand awareness are going to be critical in the competitive landscape.”

Even though there are still some hurdles facing this market, such as consumer privacy and storage management, analysts project Internet of Things will experience massive growth by 2020:

  • Gartner predicts the Internet of Things sector will include 26 billion units installed by 2020, representing a 30-fold increase from 2009. Gartner estimates that IoT product and service suppliers will generate incremental revenue exceeding $300 billion in 2020.
  • Business Insider reports that revenues from devices, services, and software will reach $600 billion and a massive $1.7 trillion of value will be added to the economy in the form of revenues and efficiency cost savings
  • IDC forecasts that the worldwide market for IoT solutions will grow from $1.9 trillion in 2013 to $7.1 trillion in 2020.
  • Cisco projects the number of connected devices at 50 billion by 2020.
  • ABI Research estimates that IoT will drive wireless connected devices to 40.9 billion in 2020

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Internet of Things Impact for the Retail Industry

Most analysts divide this market into five main categories: Smart Homes, Wearable Tech, Industrial Internet, Connected Cities, and Connected Cars, which means IoT will touch everyone in some way.

As for the retail industry, no matter how we analyze it, the Internet of Things represents huge opportunities for retailers, including new ways to interact with their customers.

By building a clear strategy and choosing the right technology partner, the Internet of Things will help retailers grow their business and:

  • Enhance customer experiences
  • Learn more about consumer behavior
  • Manage their inventory more efficiently
  • Expand their marketing initiatives and promotions
  • Increase efficiency – staff productivity

Upon his return from CES, our own CEO and President, Dave Treadway said, “creating great experiences to support the evolving consumer journey, using digital capabilities, and connecting with customers in new and more meaningful ways is key to capturing consumer sales in the Internet of Things”.

At MarketStar, we focus on solutions that create memorable experiences for your customers through the art of engagement and the science of sales.

Learn more about the Internet of Things, Smart Homes, and Wearable Tech in our latest infographics:

          Internet of Things     Smart Home     Wearable Tech

Virtual Expert – Improving the Customer Experience at Retail


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Editor’s note: click here for Part 1, or here for Part 3.

When Vaughn Aust, EVP of Digital Solutions, came to MarketStar in January of 2013, he came as a 15 year veteran of B2B channel sales. The  concept of the B2C customer journey and the way experience and loyalty play out in the unique and ever changing retail eco-system, were new to Vaughn. He set out to deliberately listen and learn from our retail client services teams and their customers, the tenor of the industry and what was driving innovation. His very first business trip? A visit to CES.

“It was baptism by fire back in 2013,” Vaughn said. “I mean, being new to retail was overwhelming enough, but to throw a technology junkie like myself onto the CES showfloor was like nothing I could have ever imagined. It was also a troubled time in the industry, with traditional brick and mortar retailers reeling from the disruption caused by online alternatives.”

It was the perfect place to take in the product evolutions, and listen to the voice of MarketStar customers relative to what was impacting their retail channel environments. Vaughn said it didn’t take a McKinsey analyst to derive the key themes that our manufacturer clients were looking for – a closer, deeper relationship with the shopper and an ability to create a measurable and meaningful impact on sales. Vaughn came back from CES with a wealth of ideas

VE mobileAs Vaughn visited with MarketStar client services teams, he began hearing water-cooler conversations about something called Virtual Expert. It was a concept that had been bandied about and discussed for years prior to his coming to MarketStar. At one point MarketStar had a technology partner lined up and we included it in a number of pitches; however, the technology just wasn’t quite ready to support the vision.

Fast forward two years, the network infrastructure is now viable to support the vision and we’re excited to be making Virtual Expert a reality. “I can’t take credit for it,” Vaughn said. “As I listened internally to what was envisioned, I knew it was something I could bring to life from a technology perspective but it’s truly been a collaboration across the organization to get us to this point.”

CES 2015 was our coming-out party for virtual expert. It was validating to see the brands response to the product offering as a response to the market challenges. The feedback from both brands and retailers has been incredible and we’re looking forward to continuing to refine the platform to meet the individual and collective needs of the market.

So what is Virtual Expert?Virtual Expert powered

At its core, Virtual Expert connects shoppers with product specialists who drive sales through a curated content experience. It was built to bridge the experience gap between the retailer, the manufacturer, and the customer.

Current use cases for Virtual Expert include deployment in kiosks, empowered end-caps and pop-up experiences. It’s also perfect for deployment on websites and within apps. I hope you’ll take the time to experience a live demo. This is truly bleeding edge technology and we’re not naive to the idea that we’re going to learn a lot and continue to evolve the offering with each deployment. That said, Vaughn, and the rest of our product development team would be disappointed if I didn’t leave you with a clear idea of what we believe sets Virtual Expert apart from the competition.

 

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Below are the three defining imperatives of Virtual Expert:

1. Built for and around our Product Specialists

MarketStar has been an industry leader in finding, recruiting, training, and managing field and phone teams for more than 25 years. Virtual Expert is the next evolution of our ability to extend that hyper-personal and impactful relationship opportunity to more markets and more customers. There will always be a time and a market for a field team. We also know there are products, markets, and opportunities where cost per interaction will be significantly reduced through the use of Virtual Experts.

“We don’t want customers to see Virtual Expert as purely a technology platform,” Vaughn said. “It’s been built to augment and extend our core offerings, and we believe it’s the combination of the platform, people, and our sales methodology that will meet the market needs.”

2. Built for a Curated Content Experience

Ian Barkley, Director of Innovation at MarketStar, brought the idea of curated content to the Virtual Expert story.

“We saw an opportunity to leverage the idea that most shoppers who are serious about making a transaction, have done their homework,” Ian said. “Rather than shy away from this, we wanted Virtual Expert to enable and empower the educated consumer with content and personalize the content story to the work the shopper has already done. If Shopper A has already made up his mind, our role is to reinforce their decision by providing content that supports the decision. If Shopper B is still considering a couple brands, our role can be more perspective and we leverage content that helps create differentiation—like comparison tables or special offers.”

3. Built for Sales

Alec Walker, who led the product development efforts over the last year and a half, said Virtual Expert was built as a sales tool. “Sales are what we are measured by, and we’ve gone to great lengths to make sure the products primary function is to drive sales,” Alec said. “This plays out primarily through the product specialist and the content, but the platform’s interface provides a wealth of additional data and tools for brands to use to either influence during the customer engagement or extend the conversation beyond the Virtual Expert engagement.”

Virtual Expert allows retailers and manufacturers to take back control of the shopping experience—and increase sales. Please contact Matt Peterson at mapeterson@marketstar.com or click here to learn more and schedule a demo.

MarketStar Adds to the Success of CES 2015


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 The International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is the world’s gathering place for all who thrive on the business of consumer technologies. CES 2015 was reported as the largest show in history with more than 2.2 million net square feet of exhibit space, 3,600 exhibitors, and more than 170,000 industry professional attendees from around the world. MarketStar’s executives and leadership teams flew to Las Vegas for the week to take part in discussions on the global stage of next-generation innovations being introduced to the marketplace.

For those who missed attending CES, here is a recap of MarketStar’s impact and events.

 

MarketStar Hosts Annual CES Open House

Every year, MarketStar holds an Open House during CES. The purpose of this event is to network with industry professionals, strengthen relationships with clients, “share the MarketStar love,” and create dialogue that will lead to new business. MarketStar hosted the 2015 CES Open House on January 7, at MGM Grand’s Skyline Terrace Suite.

 

Mstar CES Suite 2

 

Over 100 industry leaders and current clients joined us to escape the CES crowds and take a break above the hustle and bustle of Vegas. This year, attendance at the MarketStar’s Open House almost tripled from the 2014 event. Our guests enjoyed a top-notch ambiance with complimentary drinks, hors d’oeuvres, and entertainment by the ever-popular illusionist Nick Ivory, while overlooking the Las Vegas skyline.

 

MStar CES Suite 1

 

We appreciate everyone who took the time to attend and if you’re missing any personal items, please talk to Mr. Ivory personally.

 

More than 60 Brand Ambassadors Working Show Floor

It’s an honor each and every year to see how many of our clients invite members of MarketStar’s field teams to represent their brands within their CES booths. It speaks to the product knowledge, professionalism, and passion we have for the brands we represent. It was no different this year, with our employees representing a variety of products from 8K televisions to digital cameras. We take pride in our ability to provide brand advocacy and assisted sales solutions on behalf of some of the best brands in the world.

 

Introduction of Virtual Expert
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We took the opportunity at CES to introduce our latest innovation for in-store customer engagement to customers and prospects. Regardless of who we were meeting with, two themes seem to be at the forefront of every manufacturer’s mind:

  1. How do I get closer to my potential customer and enhance their shopping experience?
  2. How do I increase sell-through at retail with more and more sales occurring in “unassisted” sales environments?

We believe Virtual Expert is the ideal solution for both challenges. Join us in our next blog post, where we’ll be doing a deeper dive on Virtual Expert’s capabilities and use cases.

 

CES 2015 Success

MarketStar is proud to showcase at such a successful event. From interacting with exhibitors and attendees while on the show floor, to hosting clients and industry leaders, our executives had the opportunity to demonstrate MarketStar’s capabilities and innovations to the industry. To learn more about how Virtual Expert and other MarketStar’s products and services can benefit your organization, please contact Matt Peterson at mapeterson@marketstar.com or click here.

 

Erin Bolton Wins Stevie’s Women in Business Award


MarketStar Leader Named Gold Stevie® Winner for Female Executive of the Year for Business Services in 2014 Stevie’s Women in Business

MarketStar is pleased to announce Erin Bolton, VP of Digital Solutions, was recognized by the Stevie’s Women in Business with a Gold Stevie for Female Executive of the Year for Business Services (companies with 2500+ employees) at the 11th Annual Awards Dinner on Friday, November 14 in New York City.

Pictured: Erin Bolton

Pictured: Erin Bolton

“We’re fortunate to have an executive of Erin’s caliber and abilities within our management team,” said Dave Forsberg, EVP of Sales and Marketing. “Erin has made significant contributions to the further development of our solution portfolio and to client partnerships and strategic alliances. All of us at MarketStar congratulate Erin on the Stevie Award.”

Erin represented MarketStar in a competitive category with eight other accomplished women – including a CIO, CMO, CCO and two BU presidents – from well-known companies which included AT&T, Experian, PayPal, and Riverbed. Erin’s nomination focused on her contributions to women in business. It included the female mentoring program she’s founding at MarketStar and the Women of InfoComm Network, an international council she developed this year and will chair for two years.

“It’s an honor to represent MarketStar,” said Bolton. “I was also so pleased to see the response of female employees at MarketStar when we announced the mentoring program. It is exciting to help other women grow in their careers.”

More About the Stevie® Awards for Women in Business Winners

StevieThe Stevie Awards for Women in Business are the world’s top honors for female entrepreneurs, executives, employees and the organizations they run.  All individuals and organizations worldwide are eligible to submit nominations – public and private, for-profit and non-profit, large and small. The 2014 awards received entries from 22 nations and territories.

2014 B2B Demand Generation Benchmark Survey


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MarketStar has a unique opportunity to sit between sales and marketing in many of our B2B demand generation motions. It’s a unique and critical point of inflection, where marketing’s investments are validated as contacts become leads and leads become sales. While a healthy degree of tension between sales and marketing helps each group define its value and identity, dysfunction can derail an organization’s ability to meet sales forecasts.

Automation is bringing sales more visibility into what’s occurring in the early stages of the funnel and why. Likewise, marketing is now investing more time and energy into where deals are being lost and how they can enable remarketing strategies later in the funnel. Regardless of your point of view, everyone wants to identify which older tactics no longer working and which have true staying power. Which newer tactics are fads, and which are geared to produce tangible results?

As B2B marketers and sales professionals look to optimize their efforts relative to demand generation, we’re excited to once again have the opportunity to share the research provided by our friends at Software Advice. The goal of their annual survey is to help brands prioritize their demand generation efforts and spend relative to where others are finding success.

Some of the key findings include:
– Top priorities relative to marketing spend
– Best conversation costs relative to cost per lead
– What lead sources generate the most quality leads relative to spend

Below are four key learnings demonstrated in the data.

1. Perception of Trade Show Leads Relative to Quality Remains High
 
It’s fascinating that in today’s digital world a legacy tactic like a good old fashioned trade show remains the best source for both quality and quantity of leads. It reinforces the value of finding a focused audience in mass as well as a continued value in face-to-face interactions.

Quality of Leads by Channel

2. Content is Still King, and Context is the Kingdom

Content remains a critical success factor relative to demand generation and the user’s expectations for value in terms of what they consume. It’s also pretty obvious that the content aimed at early funnel activity (videos, surveys, comparison tools, etc.) are not always the same types of content that generate quality leads (toolkits, case studies, videos, etc.). Having a clear view of who’s consuming and the context of their consumption is really how best-in-class brands are differentiating themselves in their demand generation efforts.
Leads by Content

3. Quality Leads Expect a Quality Interaction

There’s a huge delta between the value of a call to action to schedule a live demo versus any other tactic measured in the survey. This again, alludes to the impact of creating a face-to-face or voice-to-voice experience when the value in the interaction and the quality of leads is evident.

Quality of leads by Offer

4. Do Fewer Things Better

The quickest path to mediocrity is trying to be great at everything. The B2B Channel Effectiveness Quadrant is a great way for marketers to look at the survey results in aggregate to best prioritize their own efforts. While your own opinion and efficacy of these varied channels will depend on your own product, customer mix, and results, the model provides a great framework for assessing your own tactics and efforts.

B2B Lead Matrix

You can review the comprehensive study here. Special thanks to Jay Ivie for his work and willingness to share the results with us.

Embracing the cloud: are your partners cloud-ready?


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The cloud computing revolution has taken off. Businesses are shedding skepticism and fear around deploying cloud offerings and moving more applications and infrastructure into the cloud. Gartner projects rapid growth in cloud services worldwide, with cloud services representing the bulk of all IT spending by 2016.

With customer demands for increased flexibility and lower IT costs now commonplace, demands on you and your IT solution providers has never been higher. The delivery of cloud services, based on service level value, fundamentally redefines the relationship between you and your channel partners. With a high level of transparency between the end-user, solution provider and vendor, each party is forced to make IT consumption easier and more affordable, redefining their role in the selection, procurement and management of these new IT offerings. As a result, having a roster of channel partners with uniquely defined roles and value propositions is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity.

Most IT vendors recognize that a majority of channel partners, particularly traditional value added resellers (VARs), are threatened and confused by the prospects of cloud delivery models. Many see services-based IT models as a real threat to a business model that has been productive and profitable for decades. With a sea full of skeptical partners and a lot of business up for grabs, vendors who help their partners navigate the financial and operational changes cloud services represent and identify early focus areas, will win both wallet and mind share. Those who choose not to lead, risk their very future in the cloud market.

One of the most fundamental and urgent imperatives for vendors in taking this channel leadership position and realizing success through existing or new solution providers with cloud services is to become truly internally Cloud-Ready.

More than simply having partner-friendly pricing and incentive models, Cloud-Readiness speaks to redefining how you’ll go to market with solution providers in a services- versus products- led market. There are three major elements of Cloud-Readiness that must be addressed before a vendor can expect to effectively engage and enable solution providers around cloud services:

  1. Reevaluating partner segmentation, including the role of service providers and carriers
  2. Defining the specific roles you expect partners to play in the sales and service process
  3. Reevaluating and publishing clear Rules of Engagement between your direct sales channels and your indirect partner community

Addressing these three foundational elements of your cloud channel strategy will prepare your organization for the next decade of market success and create a level of open communication, trust and collaboration solution providers must have to invest in a your offerings during this challenging time of market transition.

Targeting SMB with laser-precision


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As mentioned in part one of this series, if you equip people with the right technology and training, they will find success. This is true for James Bond, and it’s true for your sales team. James Bond had the Moonraker Laser, the Solex Agitator, and even the infamous Pen Gun. He had, and will always have, technology that improves the way he locates and eliminates his enemies. Where did he get this technology? Q and his supporting techie squad. Like every Q needs a Bond, every Bond needs a Q. Q didn’t make Bond smarter – it made him more efficient and effective. CRM tools give sales professionals a better idea of who their ideal targets are and when they are ready to buy. Take this case study from Fidelity Investments for instance. After analyzing top sales to track their customers, they created 10 segments based on profitability to the company. This has reduced customer attrition by 50% in the last five years! This is an example of technology positively impacting the sales process.

Keeping up on technology is also a must. When the first-ever James Bond movie was released in 1962, the Atlas supercomputer was a huge advancement in technology. Color TV was a few years away from entering the market. Still, Bond had ways of tracking targets that were unimaginable in the 60’s. Today’s technology allows for limitless potential.

The exciting thing about this is that, as sales professionals, we have the ability to track, target, and engage prospects with the right message at the right time. Are you using tools that enable you to do it? With SMB accounts, the ability to customize messaging is even more important because SMB customers are, by definition, small.  And there are a ton of them. How do you target this huge group of small potential customers in a profitable way?

Over the past several years, many large enterprise companies proclaim interest in so-called SMB markets. But most of these companies don’t seem to understand how to connect with the actual targets that comprise the vast SMB landscape.  These companies state the right marketing words, including claims for providing niche and industry-specific solutions for SMB companies, but most of these same companies continue to miss the mark entirely. This is where the support system (in Bond’s case, Q) comes into play. With the latest technology and tools, companies can develop a clear differentiation in company size, industry/geographic targeting, strategic goals and business needs.

The biggest mistake many companies make is to generalize the needs of SMB or Mid-Market companies as one entity, instead of realizing that performing the segmentation and then the analysis of each segment will yield very diverse profiles. These diverse profiles are the key to companies understanding each segment and then building better solution and sales approach customized for each. Companies must understand the needs of each segment and their sophistication levels when it comes to applications/needs.  Proactive efforts to understand and target appropriate segmentation within the SMB space will lead to positive results and unrealized growth potential.

The ability to target customers with laser-point precision will continue to evolve and grow with technological advances. Years from now, there will be completely new ways of closing sales with customers. Bond can’t let his competitors one-up him in technology, why would you? After understanding the human element (Bond), and now the technology (Q), look out for the final part to our series on the variety of both and what that means for your sales team.

James Bond and the Human Element of Sales


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“I can do more damage on my laptop sitting in my pajamas before my first cup of Earl Grey than you can do in a year in the field.” – Q

“So why do you need me?” – Bond

“Every now and then a trigger has to be pulled.” – Q

“..Or not pulled. It’s hard to know which in your pajamas.” – Bond 

We are all aware that James Bond is a suave, charismatic secret agent. I often find myself relating some of his exceptional characteristics to sales as well.  Bond brings the human element to his work that can’t be automated, replaced, or antiquated by technology. How does this relate to sales cycles? While you enable your sales team with the right tools and technology, who do you rely on to objectively and expertly “pull the trigger” and close the sale?  Closing involves vetting prospects, evolving strategy, and articulating a value proposition – often on-the-fly and based on what input is given.  Closing the sale is one of the most challenging aspects of the sales process that often requires a combination of finesse, intuition and deliberate boldness. Did you know that 8% of sales people close 80% of sales? By using a balance of the right elements, in this case technology and human engagement, you can create an indispensable sales team that adds velocity to the pipeline and collects more revenue. Here are three tips on how to take your sales reps to the next level, beyond tools:

  • Read the Room.  Trust can’t be automated.  In a complex sale, the majority of opportunities have 3 or more decision-makers involved in a buying decision. While we leverage our tools to insert our clients into a customer’s evaluation cycle, a sales rep develops relationships, evaluates and overcomes obstacles, and resolves concerns for decision-makers.
  • Customize the Solution.  With the right “touch,” skilled sales reps can take leads that are often developed through digital avenues and augment the solution to realize higher value, better terms, and greater profitability.
  • Actively Close the Deal.  The last mile of the sales process requires the human element to complete the cycle.  This can be accomplished with phone or field based sales teams, their reach and efficiency can be increased through the proper use of tools and processes such as content syndication and automated marketing.

While understanding the key importance of the human element in your sales efforts is vital, technology also plays a key role in enabling the sales process. In the case of Q and Bond, their advanced knowledge of the world around them creates a force to be reckoned with. They hone their skills to target enemies with laser-precision; missions are thought out so that they know where their targets will be, when they will be there, and why. Similar precision and detail are needed for your sales team, and technology enhances the targeting. In the next post to this series, Kara Harrison will explain how to target companies with laser-precision, specifically small merchant businesses…..Q-style. Footer

Joel Rackham Wins Prestigious RevGen Utah Award


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Congratulations to Joel Rackham, MarketStar’s VP of Strategic Accounts, on recently winning the RevGen Utah award for his contribution to the growth and success of MarketStar – specifically our partner channel.

Joel has been active in sales, strategic planning, and driving revenue for technology companies for more than 10 years. His extensive experience and driven attitude has led him to be a huge contributor to the MarketStar team. Through his passion for strategic planning and sales, he has been able to cultivate and manage relationships with MarketStar customers ranging from start-up to Fortune 100 level companies. Considering all of this, he still manages to balance his own passion for cycling and healthy lifestyles through his non-profit company Threshold Sports. Joel is truly one-of-a-kind!

When asked about his experience at the RevGen award ceremony he said it’s one of the proudest moments in his career at MarketStar.

“I was honored to be considered for the RevGen2014 award. Particularly given the other very talented nominees, which included executives and sales leaders from companies such as; Deseret Digital Media, Domo, and InsideSales.com,” Joel said.  “It gave me a great sense of pride to have the opportunity to represent MarketStar, and to know that we are one of the great companies with ties to Utah.”

IMG_0368Pictured above: Joel Rackham holding the RevGen award at the ceremony.

What is RevGen Utah?

RevGen Utah is a process and event to recognize and celebrate the Rainmakers, the Rockstars, the Producers (Sales), and the Crazy Ones, the Misfits, the Trouble Makers (Marketing); those rare individuals who successfully build and influence revenue growth in their organizations. We call them Revenue Generators.

RevGen Utah celebrates the Revenue Generators in the state of Utah, or with close ties to the state, that are charged with growing revenue through their effective brand creation, their social media reach, their creative efforts, or even just pounding the phones everyday. We envision honoring a mixture of individual contributors, senior management and founders through RevGen Utah.