Microsoft announced its intent to acquire LinkedIn for $26.2B — Satya Nadella’s biggest deal ever and maybe the largest technology acquisition in history. Surprisingly, many analysts are calling this a “social” consumer acquisition, rather than an enterprise one. The key point in Satya’s letter completely contradicts this theory by stating that the deal is a nexus of the “Professional Cloud” and the “Professional Network”. The future of cloud software is AI-driven applications that allow customers to leverage quality data to drive business growth.

Data quality is the key to deriving accurate insight from data for organizations. Most companies struggle to keep their CRM data clean and the chief complaint from most CMOs is lack of quality customer intelligence. The ongoing concern for most enterprises is that cleaning CRM data isn’t easy because there isn’t a master data set or universally “true” data set to compare against. In most cases, enterprises are flying blind and attempt to bandage this concern by hiring a Chief Data Officer or an internal data science team.

With LinkedIn, Microsoft has the customer master that is constantly updated and refreshed by 433 million professionals. This customer master will enhance the quality of CRM data and will push more enterprises to potentially leave other SFA solutions like Salesforce.com, Oracle Fusion, and SAP and towards Microsoft Dynamics CRM. If enterprises believe that they will always be served the right contacts, customers, and data, they will without a doubt move to the CRM solution that is the perfect unification of high-quality data and sales force automation.

This is a bold move by Microsoft because it is a bet that the future of all enterprise processes will be driven by AI, which requires the cleanest possible foundation of data, contacts, and attributes. With LinkedIn’s constantly improving professional network which not only includes firmographic and basic data, but also skills professionals either have or wish to develop, the data within Microsoft’s applications will allow Microsoft Dynamics CRM to keep customer data up-to-date, Microsoft PowerBI to signal important insights for decision-makers to consider, and Office365 to surface the right people to collaborate with on a project.

This is the beginning of intelligent software that will change how we think, operate, and grow over the next generation.

If you spend any time at all on the Internet, then it’s a safe bet that you’ve heard about Pokémon Go. In just a few days, it surpassed Twitter in daily users, and even overtook the behemoth that is Facebook in terms of how much time people are spending on the app. In fact, Pokémon Go has already “claimed the title of ‘biggest mobile game in U.S. history.” We could go on and on about the viral sensation that has been created with this app, but there have already been enough pieces expounding on Pokémon Go’s rapid and unprecedented success.

While their seemingly instant growth is remarkable, what’s perhaps even more interesting is how people have begun to employ the app to their advantage. As one Reddit user who operates a coffee shop noted, his income has doubled since the inception of Pokémon Go, because he buys “lures all day long” and drops them inside his own business. Of course, there’s no way to know if this story is actually true, as Reddit isn’t exactly a source of infallible material, but the idea behind the post is sound.

Local businesses could, and should be using Pokémon Go to try and attract consumers. While some people have chosen to bash adults and kids alike for running around trying to catch Pokémon just like Ash Ketchum taught us, the fact of the matter is that it’s a fun app, which has also gamified exercise. In addition to the previous example, there have already been documented cases of other businesses taking advantage of Pokémon Go.

“Lures increase the rate of Pokemon generation in the area around the PokeStop where they’re placed for one half hour. That may not sound that powerful, but Pokemon are scarcer than you think. Luring is an insanely powerful tool that you really have to see to believe. Here’s a sample of the comments from some recent Reddit threads on the subject:

  • ‘We did this last night (college town), and within minutes of dropping the lure, 30 people walked in.’
  • ‘I own a pizzeria that’s a Pokestop and I literally did this all day. I had a ton of kids and adults (mostly adults) come in for a slice of pizza and a drink until the lure ran out.’

What’s even more incredible is just how affordable luring is. Let’s do the math. With $100 netting out 14,500 Pokecoins and an eight-pack of Lures costing 680 Pokecoins:

  • 14,500 Pokecoins/680 = 21 eight packs of lures
  • (21*8)/2=84 hours
  • $100/84 = $1.19 per hour.”

In that initial Reddit thread, other users began to wonder if this was ultimately part of Pokémon Go’s plan; to provide businesses with a way to attract customers. While that will be up for debate, unless Niantic outright says it was, one thing that can’t be debated is that businesses have already started to implement Pokémon Go into their respective business plans.

Small neighborhoods with local businesses could flourish by using Pokémon Go. Is a new store opening up? Then spend some money in the app and buy lures to attract new customers. Have sales been trending down for the past few months? Then why not turn to Pokémon Go for help?

Of course, if your business model is outdated and filled with bottlenecks that are preventing its success, this app won’t be a savior, as “gamification shouldn’t be used as a ‘Hail Mary Pass.’ If your company is failing to meet expectations across the board, there isn’t going to be a quick fix. According to Gartner, ‘80% of all gamified platforms will fail to meet business goals.’ That’s not because the idea itself doesn’t work, but because most don’t understand how to use gamification.”

The same will be true for Pokémon Go’s gamification benefits. For someone looking to drive traffic, and is already equipped to handle an influx of new customers, they’ll be able to succeed, and capitalize on the app’s abilities. But if issues are abound, gamification won’t be able to help you.

There have already been other instances of people using Pokémon Go to try and make money. Ride sharing users have already begun offering a paid service to drive players around so that they can capture various Pokémon as quickly and efficiently as possible. There was even at least one occurrence of someone posting “her services as a ‘professional Pokémon Go trainer.’ The NYU graduate promises to ‘help YOU become the very best’ for $20 an hour.”

When it comes down to it, she’s not unlocking any crazy secrets that will help you become the Pokémon master you’ve always wanted to be, but rather, she’s simply charging money to “walk around the city for one to four hours and capture every creature she comes across.” Whether or not this business strategy bears fruit for Ivy St. Ive, the fact that it exists at all is proof enough of Pokémon Go’s reach.

The app has only been available for 13 days, but we’ve already seen the vast impact it’s had on the real world. People are exercising, using it to attract customers into their business, and even becoming Pokémon chauffeurs and trainers. There are surely going to be more instances of the app being used for personal gain, and with Pokémon Go set to be released in Japan tomorrow, their user base is going to experience another rapid increase.

taxi tuktuk

by Tom Caesar, Managing Director of Positive Lending Solutions

Unless you’re one of the lucky few who manage to obtain financial backing to start your new business venture, chances are you’re going to be borrowing money to get your ideas off the ground. Going into debt isn’t necessarily bad for businesses, in fact there are certain advantages to doing so, but the type of debt and your options for finance can be limited by your credit rating. Despite being upstanding citizens with a desire to start their own business and make a difference in the world, some people manage to develop a bad credit history. This could be for a number of reasons such as a poor instance of repaying a past loan, submitting multiple loan applications in a short period of time, or simply having a limited borrowing history.

Whatever the reason, for SME’s and startups, a lender is always going to look at the credit history of the business and the personal credit history of the owner(s). This will have an impact on the number of loan options you have, and the interest rate you’ll be offered. If you have a good credit score the number of lenders available to you will be high, and because they will all be competing for your business, the interest rates offered will be low. Conversely, if you have a poor credit score, the number of lenders available to you will be limited, and because you’re considered a risk, the interest rates will be higher.

What to do if you have a poor credit history.

You can’t run away from credit ratings because they follow you everywhere you go, so the best thing to do is accept the position you’re in and devise a strategy to improve it. After all, that’s what business owners and entrepreneurs do! The best way to improve your credit rating is to prove your ability to repay debt and show that what has happened in the past is exactly that, in the past.

One of the most common expenses for businesses in the startup phase are vehicles. They can be critical components for the early success of a business, and without one life will be incredibly difficult. If you need car finance for your business, and you have a bad credit history, you should consider applying for a bad debt car loan. You may have to accept that the interest rates will be higher, but a good quality bad debt car loan broker will find the best deal available to you given your current set of circumstances. And while you may have to pay a little extra in your monthly loan repayments, the benefits have the potential to far outweigh any negatives.

1. You’ll have a car for your business.

This is the reason you want the loan in the first place, right? If having a car gives you the best chance of being successful and turning your idea into a profitable business, then doing what it takes to get the car should be priority number one. That doesn’t mean you should accept any bad debt car loan, after all it has to be affordable and not put you under financial stress, but the car is the goal and that should stay front of mind.

2. It will improve your credit rating.

By making all of your repayments on time and in full throughout the life of the bad debt car loan, your credit rating will automatically improve. Also, just because you’ve signed an agreement doesn’t mean it isn’t negotiable at various stages throughout the life of the loan. If you’ve done a great job making repayments for 12 months, the lender may be receptive to a conversation about lowering the interest rate. After all, they want a happy customer so that you go back to them for future loans.

3. Better interest rates in the future.

Speaking of future loans, because you’ve now serviced a bad debt car loan, and in the process made significant improvements to your credit rating, you’re more likely to secure future loans at much better rates. Most businesses require loans throughout their history to grow and expand, so accepting and repaying a bad debt car loan with a slightly higher interest rate will hold you in good stead for the future.

How to maintain your good credit rating.

It’s human nature to get into debt and buy the things we want, and that has the potential to get us into trouble. When we use our hearts to overrule our heads, we can find ourselves in a financial situation that we start to lose control over. Being unable to make loan repayments has a detrimental affect on our credit score, the knock on effect being our ability to secure loans in the future is compromised. To ensure you don’t get yourself into a situation like this, there are certain strategies you can employ:

• Before accepting any loan offer, complete a spreadsheet on your income and expenses for the previous three months and find out how much disposable income you really have. If the loan will put you under financial stress, don’t accept it.
• Ask yourself “do I really need to be buying this”? Impulse and emotional buying has a habit of getting people into trouble, so before signing on the dotted line, take the time to think about whether you really need it or not.
• Whatever financial obligations you have, such as credit cards, loans, rental payments, etc., set up an automatic payment system. That way accidentally forgetting to make a repayment won’t affect your credit history, and you can concentrate your efforts elsewhere, such as growing your business!
• If you have multiple debts with varying interest rates, and you’re finding it hard to keep up, consider consolidating your debts into one. This may reduce the amount of interest you pay, and it’s easier to remember and service one debt rather than many.
• Whatever you do, don’t let your debts get so bad they end up with collectors. This does not look good on credit history reports. If you’re in trouble and finding it difficult to make repayments, bite the bullet and call the businesses you owe to arrange a repayment plan. Hiding and hoping it all goes away rarely works!

Be smart with your financial commitment choices.

Credit history reports are available online, most of the time for free, and will provide you with a clear picture of where you stand in the eyes of lenders. It’s a great idea to monitor your credit rating to ensure it accurately reflects your history, after all we’re human and mistakes can be made. By fully understanding your credit history, when it comes time to making decisions about whether to accept a loan or not, you are more likely to make a decision with your head and not your heart. You never know when you’ll need to secure an important loan for your future, such as starting your own business for example, and the last thing you want are past loans that you really didn’t need catching up with you at these vital moments in your life.

 

tom caesar

Tom Caesar is Managing Director of the Positive Lending Solutions, a group of financial services companies offering a broad range of finance to clients. With over 10 years’ experience in the industry, Tom’s drive to enhance the business through diversification has seen Positive Lending Solutions evolve to where it is today, a financial group highly focused on customer relationships. The group assists clients in the areas of vehicle finance, mortgages, insurance and wealth management.  

Let’s say that your brand has $10K to dedicate to customer marketing efforts this quarter. Would you rather shell out that $10K for an Instagram influencer to strike a perfectly filtered pose with your product or use those dollars to reward your most vocal and well-connected customers for sharing your brand and directly bringing in new revenue?

The choice is obvious, but many brands are missing out on the opportunity to engage and reward their most active and loyal customers in the race for virality and one-time traffic boosts. It’s easy to get starstruck by the likes, follows, and shares that have become synonymous with recommendations from micro-influencers, but real success comes from attracting customers that actually stick.

Customers still value strong brands, but what constitutes a strong brand is now more dependent on customers’ direct experience with an offering, and with their relationship with the firm that produces it. That suggests that marketing resources now directed at brand building should be more fully integrated with those designed to reinforce relationships. – “Why Strong Customer Relationships Trump Powerful Brands”, Harvard Business Review

So what’s the best approach for marketing to customers? Actively incorporating customers into your marketing outreach. The most effective way to get your customers to invest in your brand is to invest in them. Entice participation in a referral program with a purposeful reward structure; generate more revenue by running segmented campaigns to your most loyal customers; increase brand awareness by encouraging sharing through refer-a-friend programs. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, here are a couple of questions to help you determine if micro-influencers or your raving customer base can help you reach your revenue goals.

 

1. What’s the difference between customers and micro-influencers?

Through micro-influencer marketing, brands partner with online personas who have created an enviable reputation and a captive audience without the hassle of full-blown celebrity endorsements. The exact definition of micro-influencer is still being decided as brands select personas with as little as 1,000 followers all the way up to 200,000 followers to champion their brand’s products or services.

A customer is someone who buys goods or services from a business, but Merriam-Webster also defines a customer as a person who has a particular quality. Brands that want to create a customer-focused influencer campaign should pay attention to this distinction. Instead of merely viewing customers as shoppers, understand that customers present endless opportunities for partnerships and referrals.

2. How should my brand be marketing to customers?

Do you know what MahoganyCurls, SunKissAlba, and Naptural85 were doing years before partnering with Shea Moisture for that ground-breaking #BREAKTHEWALLS commercial? They were furthering customer influence by singing the praises of Shea Moisture to an intimate group of online followers (and there’s YouTube evidence to prove it).

That doesn’t mean that every one of your well-followed customers will achieve micro-influencer status. In fact, being an informed and engaged customer is more than enough. Your customers have always been and will always be the most reliable source for retrieving customer insight and building social proof.

With an automated marketing platform, your company can pinpoint customers who actively refer and interact with your business then incorporate them into a cohesive marketing campaign. Customer-focused campaigns are equipped to encourage and reward the sharing behavior of your vocal and knowledgeable customers. By sharing unique links in emails and social mentions, your customers can loop you in on online brand conversations. This means you’ll know who to reward and you’ll be able to link new leads to existing customers without the guesswork.

According to a recent survey conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of Ambassador, across a variety of industries, 92% of 18-to-34 year-olds say they seek recommendations from friends and family when considering a product purchase — 10% greater than the general population. For modern brands looking to further customer marketing efforts, there’s no better resource than monitoring the sharing behavior of your existing customers.

Even without the sizable following of a micro-influencer, trustworthy messages from a loyal customer can make a big impact on tightly-knit networks. Plus, the customers who have grown familiar with your company are likely to invest more than just a post on a crowded timeline. When it comes to a successful customer marketing strategy, engagement matters much more than reach.

The benefits of customer influencers

Many brands are attempting to mold micro-influencers in the shape of their customers, but there’s no substitute for the real thing. Adopt an automated marketing platform to incorporate loyal and vocal customers into your influencer marketing strategy. Your customers and your bottom line will thank you for it.

More Referrals. Less Hassle.

Need a Smile? Here's How to Have a Good DayWhat if there was a way you could engineer a good day at work? What would it look like? How would you feel? How would it impact your business?

Most of us don’t tend to ask these questions. We tend to believe that “good days at work” just happen. As a result, we let the power slip away from us.

How to Have a Good Day: Harness the Power of Behavioral Science to Transform Your Working Life, is a research-backed guide to getting that power back and using it to engineer the best day at work possible.

What is How To Have a Good Day About?

The most powerful message the book offers is the importance of focusing on the “brains” behind the work. No matter what work situation we are in, we always carry our brain with us. That brain can lead us to better control of our days or distraction. Our brains can lead us to more intentional communication or even more misunderstandings. It all depends on how we use our brain “at work”.

How to Have a Good Day focuses on the two complementary aspects of the brain (automatic vs. intentional). If we are honest with ourselves, our brains “at work” are most often on autopilot. We take the same route to work, often use the same routines to complete our tasks, and respond to work problems the same way. (Go ahead and ask your fellow coworkers.)

This “automatic brain” is a great feature to have, but it can be disastrous when confronted with reality. Working with our “automatic brain” turned on, we are prone to errors, miscommunication, and a general boredom with work. As a result, we tend to engage in behaviors that detract from our mental and physical energy such as multitasking, checking email or Facebook for the umpteenth time, or boring and redundant meetings that leave workers feeling drained.

The way out of this is to maximize our use of the “intentional brain” by planning for it. Instead of rushing off to do another scrambled to-do list, plan for it with a deeper awareness of your actions and communication. Have you scheduled breaks based on your own energy levels? What one task do you need to focus on? What are you telling yourself about this task? Is your current environment hampering the kind of mental mood that you want to create for the work you’re doing?

How to Have a Good Day is the brainchild of author Caroline Webb. Webb is an economist who combines management consulting, coaching and behavioral science to help individuals and businesses tap into the power of social science to make better decisions and ultimately better lives. She is also owner of SevenShift, a high-performance advisory firm for individuals and advisor to McKinsey & Company, a global business advisory firm.

What Was Best About How To Have a Good Day?

The best part of How to Have a Good Day is the amount of curation the book offers. The book combines psychology, economics, and neuroscience in a way that can be a practical resource for anyone wanting to improve some aspect of their personal or professional life. A reader can literally turn to any chapter and find advice that will improve his or her life. The Appendix (Appendix C) at the end of the book is particularly helpful at summarizing the insight the author brilliantly combined from several fields.

What Could Have Been Done Differently

How to Have a Good Day isn’t written in the format of a simple “business self-help” book. It has some academic depth to it, as evidenced by the footnotes at the back. This format may be a hindrance to business leaders who just want some quick productivity tips. Each chapter in the book does offer a short bullet-point summary, but this often requires understanding the concepts mentioned in the chapter. Shorter summaries at the end of each chapter along with illustrations in the book might cater to those readers who need more.

Why Read How To Have a Good Day?

If you are addicted to productivity for personal or professional growth, but tired of books that lack scientific depth, this book might be great for you. It combines social science research in a very unique way offering some rather unique insights on behavior, especially on the human brain while at work. If you ever wondered “Why do I (or other people) act like this at work?” This book leads to a potential intellectual “rabbit hole” you might want to research along with a few practical suggestions to get started.

This article, "Need a Smile? Here’s How to Have a Good Day" was first published on Small Business Trends