Driving Success with Continuous Engagement

In past blogs I have explained the importance of shifting perspectives to provide meaningful value to your customers. A focus on the experience of your customers can provide actionable insights into the successes and short fallings of your business, as well as help foster brand loyalty over time. But how do you take those identified successes and create recurring, lucrative opportunities for your organization?

Repeat customers are an enormous – and often largely untapped – opportunity for any business. Most leaders are familiar with the 80-20 rule, or Pareto principle, which states that 80% of your business’ future profits will be reaped from just 20% of your total customer base. Combine that with recent statistics indicating that acquiring new business is on average 6 to 7 times more expensive, you are 60-70% more likely to sell to a current customer compared to just 5-20% with a prospect, and, on average, an existing client spends 33% more with your business than a fresh lead, and it becomes a no brainer to facilitate a successful engagement model to nurture your current client base.

Repeat Revenue Graphic

Most businesses feel the path to repeat revenue is through customer service, and while that is a key factor – shoddy service rarely yields reoccurring profits – I would beg to argue that cultivating a culture that focuses the customer’s experience through a continuous engagement model is far more essential. By devoting a resource at every touch point in the client cycle, extending past the point of sale, you will effectively facilitate continuous business through closely-held and well-cared for customers that feel heard and important. Your organization likely offers more than one product or service, and over the life of the customer, their needs will evolve and change, providing you with an opportunity to use your already “open door” relationship to cross- and up-sell additional or complementary services. Additionally, this customer nurture style provides your customer service team with the ability to proactively respond to any issues or arising questions for superior client satisfaction.

Again, perspective is everything. In order to drive success in your business with a continual engagement initiative for your current customer base, you must view customer value on a lifetime spectrum rather than simply by transactions. Your designated customer success resources are not there to push further sales immediately, but rather to nurture the relationship and build trust with the understanding that additional revenue will be generated over time by remaining in touch – and front of mind. Developing long-term, profitable relationships requires a devoted team and commitment to this shift in mindset. Now, that is not to say that new lead generation should be completely neglected within your organization; both play important factors in driving the success of your business. But splitting resources between existing and new development opportunities can be a key differentiator for ensuring overall customer success, which will ultimately drive your overall organizational success and bottom line.


sandi_piatzSandi Piatz is the Director of Business Development
and Client Success Management with Eide Bailly
Technology Consulting. With more than 16 years’
experience in the technology industry, Sandi
specializes in driving business opportunities and
developing valuable relationships, with a focus on
understanding organizations’ business objectives
and aligning their technology initiatives.

spiatz@eidebailly.com

 

Growing Pains | 6 Tell-Tale Signs You’ve Outgrown Your Systems

The moment you officially outgrow your ERP can be shrouded in ambiguity. Systems typically evolve alongside your business, progressing at the same rate of growth and change, until you reach a pivotal point. Understanding the lifecycle of your business and how it affects your vital business solutions is essential to reaching and achieving your next level of success.

Often, business leaders are too close to the situation to recognize the process issues mounting internally. To further aid in determining if your organization has developed past your current ERP system, we have identified the 6 tell-tale signs that indicate it’s time to begin evaluating a new solution.

1. Multiple databases and systems are in place and vital to your daily operations.
It can be as simple as counting the number of logins you use on a daily basis. If there are more than three, it is likely that your system has evolved with many “integrated” solutions. This model creates a number of issues for an organization, such as duplicate data entry, additional cost to maintain integration points, lack of real-time visibility, and manual entry, ultimately equating to unnecessary costs and lost productivity to your organization.
2. Essential processes are managed outside of your system.
This is a signal that the solution does not meet your business’ basic requirements. It is not uncommon to see the use of spreadsheets across an organization, and while that alone does not necessarily signify that you’ve outgrown your solution, if entire business processes are being driven outside the system, it is a red flag. If you are managing quality processes, month end reporting, inventory replenishment, or quoting externally, the time has come to re-evaluate your business needs.
3. You have a national forest stored in your filing cabinets.
Not only does this showcase your heavy reliance on manual processes, but it also indicates operational inefficiency and wasteful spending. Depending on your organizational structure, transferring paper to facilitate a business process – like approvals, for example – can result in time delays, additional shipping costs, and mounting redundancies.
4. You’re playing Candy Crush while your critical reports run in the background.
System performance issues can be a clear sign that you have outgrown your current solution. Many entry-level systems are not designed to handle large volumes of transactions or master-files, and as a business grows – and accumulates more and more historical data – it can basically render the system inoperable. It is best to take action before the problem approaches zero hour. At the end of the day, you should not have to purge or archive critical business data to achieve acceptable performance.
5. Excel is your primary report writer.
If you can’t access valuable data directly from your ERP solution, you have either matured past your system or you are not running the correct solution for your industry. Excel is a powerful spreadsheet analytics application, but it should not be your lone reporting tool. Businesses that rely solely on spreadsheet reporting suggest not only ineffective operations but also major flaws in their organization’s fundamental systems.
6. Your competitors are increasingly gaining market share.
This can be driven by a number of factors, but it all boils down to competitive advantage. If you find your competition excelling while you marginalize, they have identified and capitalized on areas that you are neglecting. Traditionally, business leaders have not viewed an ERP solution as a key market differentiator; however, as ERP evolves to incorporate the entire supply chain as well as omni-channel and other innovative strategies, it becomes increasingly clear that the right solution can not only help you operate more efficiently but also enhance partner relationships and generate true brand loyalty.

A single checkmark off this list doesn’t mean that you need to completely overhaul your organization’s integral systems, but if you can relate to 3 or more, it is best to undertake a business assessment sooner rather than later. Unsure of where to start? Stay tuned for future blogs exploring the effective strategies of evaluating enterprise resource planning solutions to ensure that your business selects and implements the best fit system to successfully address your unique challenges and goals.


amy_knustAmy Knust is a technology business advisor with
Eide Bailly Technology Consulting. Her broad
experience in enterprise resource planning,
financial management, and leading technology
solutions spanning the past 20 years has been
driven by a continued focus on creating valuable
client experiences through successful
implementations and strategic
planning services.

aknust@eidebailly.com

 

Don’t Let Data-Phobia Hold You Back

Data is constantly being created, multiplying, compounding, and, frankly, it can be a little intimidating. Where does your business even begin to sort through and make sense of it all? Looking ahead to 2020, the IDC is predicting digital growth to continue its rapid trajectory, expanding to 44 trillion gigabytes of information – or 10 times the data today in less than 5 years. This bi-annual doubling in capacity will create even more noise, but of course, not all of this data is useful.

Currently, less than 25% of data is valuable, but that will grow to almost 40% by 2020. This development in useful, value-added big data will create not only an expanded digital universe but, along with it, increased business opportunity. Today, leveraging big data is a business savvy means to create competitive advantage and give your organization a leading edge, but in the next few years, it will become a necessary means to remain relevant and grow your market share. Analytic tools and cloud computing solutions are becoming increasingly competitive and affordable, and accessible services like Microsoft’s Power BI allows business leaders to easily analyze Excel data for increased visibility into their existing reporting.

Taking advantage of the trove of insights available to your organization is a key strategy moving forward, and leaders should be integrating big data into the core of their business plans. A first step in making sense in the chaos is to know what you are trying to discover. Start with the question in mind and utilize the data available to you as a tool to help solve your challenges. Are you trying to find new customers? Increase your reach? Hone your marketing? Resolve inefficiencies? By focusing on a specific query, it will be easier to find the solution, or validation, in the data. Create a hypothesis around your business problem and, from there, leverage the data to confirm or deny. Not only will this help you stay focused on the task at hand without feeling overwhelmed and inundated with facts and figures, but it will also keep all involved on the same page, similarly interpreting the results based off the theorem. Starting with a trial hypothesis is a great first phase initiative in a long term data strategy; it will confirm whether data analysis will be beneficial to your organization without risking much in terms of resources, and if it is deemed effective, the resulting outcome will serve as a great starting point for ongoing data insights.

However, looking in to the data is only one piece of the digital pie. After you gather the ingredients, you have to bake it and take informed action based on the results. It’s great to dig in and analyze information about your business, your market, and your industry, but the key value driver in big data comes in the concrete, real-time decisions as a product of your data mining efforts.

As a business leader, it is easy to get bogged down with the day-to-day and forget to look at your big picture strategy. Big data helps to deliver a live snapshot of your business landscape, to provide perspective and aid in finding a better way to do business.


joey_skinnerJoey Skinner is Business Applications Senior Manager
with Eide Bailly Technology Consulting. Joey has
more than 22 years of experience in the information
technology field in roles ranging from application
architect and developer to technology consultant.
His expertise includes a strong understanding of
accounting principles and work flow procedures
with advanced application development and systems
implementation experience.

jskinner@eidebailly.com

 

The IoT Mindset

The Internet of Things is causing drastic repercussions to today’s business models. Capitalizing on the opportunity in the cloud requires a shift in perspective on how to create and generate new value to customers. Traditionally, competition has been waged in features and functionality, shifting to price as product differentials become minute; however, in today’s increasingly connected and integrated world, regular updates and innovation are constantly being pushed to market, and the Internet of Things makes analyzing and reacting to consumer needs a live-time reality, connecting previously disparate things to create new possibilities for value creation.

This shift in perspective from the business models of yesteryear and today’s IoT-influenced mindset is showcased below, courtesy of the Harvard Business Review.

The IoT Mindset

Lifecycle of an e-Commerce Company

As with all things, the beginning stages of today’s e-Commerce company is filled with all the “fun stuff.” This is the honeymoon phase of the business lifecycle – where all your funds are invested in the highly visible, tangible front-end. There is a focus on generating leads via AdWords and marketing campaigns, developing an awesome website, and, at the end of the day, a sole emphasis on selling and winning business. As you add more employees and your business expands, you may find yourself in the midst of chaos. It becomes imperative as your business grows that your focus shifts to the less “fun” (though I tend to feel otherwise) back-end office and standardization of processes.

Significantly less exciting as it is, there comes a time when your ignored back-end can no longer sustain your growing front-end. When your inventory counts are consistently and aggressively off and your website stock is inaccurately reflected, your business is exhibiting the tell-tale signs of being in the midst of this transitional period, between happy sales and messy processes. You may reach a point where you actually dread having additional sales volume for fear that you simply cannot support yet another order. It is at this point that you reach a critical crossroads where money must now be diverted from your website, marketing, and front-end focus and shifted to support your vital back-end wellbeing.

This is not a forever change in financial flow, but through the ebbs and flows of your business lifecycle, it becomes essential to periodically redirect your investment as you approach a critical mass. Obviously every business owner out there would love to stay on the honeymoon “Candy Land Road” of constant sales initiatives, but by doing so and neglecting your back-end processes, you will be hindering your growth and success in the long run.

The e-Commerce Lifecycle

This juncture varies by organization, but you will be facing a business move that is harder to quantify than those initial front-end strategies. Rather, your business ROI will be measured in time saved, accurate inventory reporting, and overall simplicity of operations. This investment in your back-end may be one of the biggest you’ve made, and while it can be hard to justify, consider how many employees it would take to do what a strong back-end system does. Instead of looking at the dollar amount, shift your perspective to view your ERP system as your MVE – Most Valuable Employee. And what does a wise business leader do with their highest performing employees? They invest in them.

Understand that this investment should be made with patience on the return. It may be overwhelming, but with any growth comes growing pains. It is a great place to be in for a business with growth so expansive you can longer support your processes  but the pains must be addressed before it becomes a long-term injury to the overall health of your organization.

This crossroads will come at different lengths of time on a various cycle depending on your unique business, and it must be continually addressed and re-addressed. It may feel like a step back, but consider the slingshot; sometimes you have to pull back to reach your trajectory forward.


trina_michelsTrina Michels is a business applications manager with Eide
Bailly Technology Consulting. Analytical by nature, Trina
aims to streamline operations that are often overlooked
by integrating and implementing end-to-end solutions for
her clients that support their unique business objectives,
leveraging technology to maximize goals.

tmichels@eidebailly.com

 

The Threat of e-Commerce

A recent report published earlier this year by the Identify theft Resource Center found that data breaches in the United States hit an all-time high last year with 783 recorded incidents, up over 27.5% since 2013.

Over a third of 2014’s security breaches occurred within the business sector, due in large part to increased hacker interest at targeting a lack of controls vulnerability within e-Commerce.

With fraudulent activity racking up billions across the nation, what are today’s commerce-driven businesses doing to remain proactive in the face of these facts and ensure customer trust?

Breaches should be frame of mind of every e-Commerce business, incorporated and considered across the business, in marketing campaigns and through comprehensive security initiatives. As of this week, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) has released an updated version of the compliance standard that umbrellas the industry, taking strides towards prevention and detection of cybercrime, but is it enough? As with most standards initiatives, compliance is essential. All areas of your infrastructure and network must be addressed to ensure full adherence to the requirements; even something as mundane as a router installed with the default passkey can be the differentiator between data protection and a breach costing you hundreds of thousands of dollars, not to mention your market reputation.

Often, following the minimally applied market standard is not enough. This is as true in your business strategy as it is in your technology and security practices. An effective tactic to position yourself above your competition is to strategically leverage today’s latest technology solutions to protect your business and your customers’ personal information, off-putting hackers to move on to easier prey. Contrary to popular belief, today’s cloud solutions are far more secure than traditional on-premise deployments. Having been implemented and aggressively developed over the past several years, the technology at the foundation of the cloud has become undoubtedly more dynamic and protected. Employing leading, innovative solutions across your business is a simple yet effective method for repelling cyberattacks and enticing the marketplace.


mike_arvidsonMike Arvidson is the Director of Eide Bailly Technology
Consulting’s Infrastructure Services. With more than 20
years of experience in the IT industry, Mike’s wealth of
knowledge includes network systems implementation,
integrated new technologies, and information security.

marvidson@eidebailly.com

 

The Power of Smart Data

It should be no surprise at this point that big data is vastly impacting our day-to-day – from personalized messaging to intelligent devices – but in the business realm, it’s smart data creating the real impact.

Scores of new and improved business solutions are entering the marketplace, each backed by the science of smart data. We have entered a Digital Age where systems of intelligence are able to analyze patterns, predict behavior, and deduce real business insights. Algorithmic curation technologies have enabled this exciting advancement in cognitive computing, increasing the speed, efficiency, and usefulness of data science across systems, platforms, processes, and roles.

As a result, business systems leveraging smart data can efficiently streamline and refine organizational process, from project planning, business forecasting and people management to reporting and service routing. Leading innovators in their sectors realize both the potential in smart data and the market need to personalize experience and automate tedious, repetitive processes. New predictive technologies provide an extraordinary opportunity to reduce manual data entry and transform traditional business operations. These business solutions with analytics at their core have the ability to become truly useful, self-driven systems within an organization.

“We are at the dawn of a new generation of business systems. With the ability to reason over data, we now can build these systems of intelligence.”

Satya Nadella | CEO
Microsoft

The end result is smart solutions utilizing data science to enable business to run more efficiently, effectively, and intelligently. After all, data alone means nothing; today’s new technologies provide a solution engine to turn the fuel of data into smart, predictive insights to propel your business forward.


scott_kostScott Kost is the Director & Principal of Eide Bailly
Technology Consulting. With over 25 years of
experience in the IT industry, Scott’s wealth of
knowledge includes new technologies
implementation, information security and
system operations, leadership
development, and strategic planning.

skost@eidebailly.com

Why Customer Experience Doesn’t Mean Anything

This title makes a bold statement but don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that you shouldn’t consider customer experience within your business objectives. A valuable customer strategy, after all, is known to deliver increased revenue, higher profit margins, decreased expenses, greater efficiency, and improved brand loyalty; however, the fact of that matter remains that many businesses approach this tactic entirely wrong. In fact, I would argue that customer experience is often a fruitless initiative. Rather, your organizational focus must be on the customer’s experience.

You may be thinking that the two are one in the same, but I would beg to differ. The key dissimilarity here is minute yet impactful. One approach emphasizes functionalism while the other concentrates – more successfully – on your customers themselves.

The biggest downfall of many customer experience initiatives is that, somewhere along the way, the customer becomes lost amid the tangle of roadmapping, processes, and delegation of roles. The resulting strategy is often far from the original objective, which was, of course, to develop and provide value to your target audience.

Customer experience means nothing without the customer’s experience.

By considering your customer and their path at every interaction and touch point with your business instead of the logistical segmentation within your organization, you have an opportunity to truly deliver the customer experience promise to your business. A successful customer strategy that takes into consideration your customer base – both ideal and otherwise – in addition to your value proposition will determine which customers you want to foster relationships with, their  unique demands and expectations, and the profitability of each grouping. This will clarify how to build lucrative interactions, manage your costs, and create competitive advantage through acquisition, retention, and advocacy.

Providing true value requires small, seismic shifts in perspective. Forget customer experience and instead focus on your customers’ experiences.


sandi_piatzSandi Piatz is the Director of Business Development with
Eide Bailly Technology Consulting. With more than 16
years’ experience in the technology industry, Sandi
specializes in recruitment, management, and
development of relationships, with a focus on
understanding organizations’ business objectives and
aligning their technology initiatives.

spiatz@eidebailly.com

 

The Mobile Factor

If we can learn anything from 2014, it’s that mobile is a force to be reckoned with. Growing from 45% of the total digital time spent to 60% last year, mobile technologies such as smartphones and tablets are kicking the standard desktop to the curb. And in 2015, this usage gap between traditional browsing and mobile platforms is predicted to steadily increase.

What does this mean for your business?

Well, basically, if your website isn’t mobile friendly, you aren’t reaching over half of your target audience. It may also be time to seriously consider a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) strategy within your organization. Businesses that want to stay ahead of the game – and their competition – should be launching useful, end-user driven applications and begin deploying mobile enabled technologies such as beacons for digital data tracking and QR codes for optimum consumer self-service.

Take a look at our infographic below for the stats that prove the power of the Mobile Factor.

 


jeremy_martinsonJeremy Martinson is an applications development
manager with Eide Bailly Technology Consulting.
With nearly two decades of experience in IT, he
has extensive experience in system architecture,
application development, and custom solutions.
In short, he is our go-to tech guy in the office.

jmartinson@eidebailly.com

 

Digitalization & the Importance of Data Strategy

We live in a connected world. Nearly every aspect of our day-to-day is integrated with some form of technology or another, and this digitalization of our lives and environments is creating vast amounts of data. Every search term, click, visit, and interaction is logged and tracked, to some extent, by our online identities or stored cookies. And it’s moving beyond our traditional devices. Now our smartphones share our geolocation, application downloads, and activity; wearables track our movements and health stats; even our homes are generating personalized data about our schedules, living preferences, and even our refrigerator stock.

Many businesses are now realizing the value in this data pool as an opportunity to increase their value proposition to consumers. Visibility into the patterns and habits of your ideal customer can provide a true and lasting competitive advantage, creating a strategic relationship between the positioning of your service and/or product and your market’s perception and acceptance of your brand. Backed by today’s leading data analytics and business intelligence tools, you can turn an often untapped resource into an agent for positive business change. But the difference between those businesses who leverage digitalization and those who merely skim the surface lies in the existence or absence of a data strategy.

Data strategy in the Digital Age is not about gathering large amounts of meaningless, insignificant information. Rather, business leaders must ask themselves what data they truly need, what purpose it will serve in coordination their overall business objectives, and how are they going to manage the complexity of implementing a data strategy within their organization. Teams will need to be assigned, data scientists and analysts hired, new and existing operational processes considered, target audience scoping executed, and a C-level data officer positioned to oversee the entire practice.

Realigning your organization to undertake data collection and management to further your value proposition, more effectively target your ideal customer, and/or create increased business growth opportunities should be done with careful, well thought out consideration. Transparency is often the best practice when it comes to any business data strategy, and as consumers continue to grow increasingly aware of the data they generate – and the value it provides – they will continually be demanding a return. If you aren’t producing a benefit to the end-user with your data collection, you are not making use of useful information. Moreover, thoroughly examining what data your business truly needs to gather to provide value and erring on the side of minimalism is always best; there is a fine line in the data realm, and no one wants to ruin their business reputation with invasive, irresponsible data management practices. Which brings up the next best practice tip: Ensure the data’s integrity. When handling information of any kind, your organizational security must be considered. No one wants a data breach; don’t begin collection without first examining your environment.

Well-executed data strategies will yield results for your business. Utilize the insights gained to increase consumer engagement and conversion with real-time data to create right-time opportunities, targeting your ideal customer with individualized messaging across a multitude of platforms. Digitalization is creating a golden opportunity in the marketplace today, ensure that your strategy is defined to capitalize on it.


joey_skinnerJoey Skinner is Business Applications Senior Manager
with Eide Bailly Technology Consulting. Joey has
more than 22 years of experience in the information
technology field in roles ranging from application
architect and developer to technology consultant.
His expertise includes a strong understanding of
accounting principles and work flow procedures
with advanced application development and systems
implementation experience.

jskinner@eidebailly.com