Ginni Rometty, IBM and the Future of AI

AI-Ginni-Rometty-IBM

Ginni Rometty, chairmen, president, and CEO of IBM

I had the pleasure of hearing Ginni Rometty, current chairman, president and CEO at IBM speak at the Ideas For Tomorrow Series at The Cleveland Clinic yesterday.  Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a hot topic throughout every industry you can imagine. Rometty spoke about the infamous Watson computer, the future of AI, and the need for transparency from companies using AI.  Below are my top takeaways from her seminar.

The Current State of AI

When most people hear the term AI, they think that it is some science fiction nightmare but you may be surprised that you are using AI in your daily life. Fraud detection service from your bank, online customer support, news generation (the Associated Press, Yahoo! and Fox all use it for simple story writing), music and movie recommendations from services like Spotify and Netflix and the list goes on and on.

The current AI systems most companies and individuals utilize are “speech to text to search”. The systems are built with some basic Natural Language Processing (NLP) capabilities or the ability to understand language. These systems can answer basic customer service questions or tracking behaviors and find customers suggested products based upon their purchasing patterns. However, these AI systems are not as helpful in highly technical professions or with companies that must mine a significant amount of data.

IBM and the Future of AI

IBM’s AI system is far more advanced and is utilized in technical professions and by large corporations. Rometty made the distinction that IBM refers to the system as “cognitive computing”, instead of AI. IBM’s cognitive computing system was designed to help people make better decisions.  According to Rometty, “A study said on average that a third of your decisions are really great decisions, a third is not optimal, and a third is just wrong. [IBM has] estimated the market is $2 billion for tools to make better decisions.”

Cognitive computing works alongside individuals to help them make informed decisions. Unlike the “speech to text to search” systems to which we are accustomed, cognitive computing systems are designed to solve problems the way that humans do. An example of how AI and cognitive computing differ and be explained when discussing the medical industry.

If both an AI and cognitive computing system were analyzing a large medical records database and medical journals, the AI system would tell the doctor the treatment for the patient, whereas the cognitive computing system would provide the doctor with information, percentages for success with certain treatments, and allow the doctor to reason and make the ultimate decision. Cognitive computing is also being used heavily in the legal research, investment and geo-analytics industries read more here.

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When asked about skepticism from consumers regarding AI and big data, Rometty stated that AI is powerful and companies need to have ethical standards regarding their use of AI.  “There needs to be transparency from companies utilizing AI.” She stressed that consumers have a right to know, “who trained the computer, who are the experts behind the data, and where the data is coming from.” Rometty also stated that consumers should be told that the company owns their intellectual property and where the data will be utilized.

AI’s Role in the Manufacturing Industry

AI or cognitive computing is a growing and ever-evolving industry. Rometty stated that she believes “100% of future jobs will be changed by AI.” There will be growing pains implementing AI into business, just like there were growing pains in the Industrial Revolution for manufacturers. AI will soon play a great role in the manufacturing sector. HubSpot, the inbound marketing and sales software Felber PR & Marketing utilizes for ourselves and our manufacturing customers, recently acquired Motion AI.

Manufacturers utilizing HubSpot can automate the chat and messaging process and deliver hyper-personalized content to their prospects and customers. AI is the way of the future and will be a resource and a tool for humans to do their jobs more accurately and efficiently. The sooner manufacturers embrace the technology, the more they will succeed in the business world of today and tomorrow.

What Manufacturing Sales Reps Are Missing in their Lead Generation Strategy

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Manufacturing sales reps can compare the sales of the manufacturing sales process to a retail experience. From fast food to retail clothing, the phrase “How may I help you” is uttered repeatedly, almost unconsciously by armies of clerks, waiters and yes, sales representatives. In retail, the assumption is you are searching for something, otherwise, why would you be in the store, a brick and mortar store no less (read on).

Free Inbound Marketing for Manufacturers Assessment

In manufacturing sales, especially with high-ticket equipment, the sales cycle might be 12 or even 18 months. A consultative approach almost always requires in-depth questioning, audits, assessments and maybe even sample projects. Are you there to help? Of course you are.  If your prospect feels more like you are selling then consulting, a natural distrust creeps into your relationship. No one wants to, let alone admit to, being sold.

In our eBook, The Industrial Manufacturer’s Guide to Inbound Marketing we explain how building trust, converting visitors to leads and retaining customers is all about your prospect’s self-discovery of just how you can help.  And, here lies the success for manufacturing sales companies, focus on how and IF you can help. We find prospects more willing to discuss goals, challenges, and plans if they understand that your questions are just trying to determine if you and your company can help. How you can help, why, with what tools and tactics are best received if the prospect discovers this fact for themselves. See the inbound sales funnel here.

There is plenty of time, later in the process, to show your fancy presentation. I often repeat the phrase:
‘I am just trying to determine if I can help.’ Your questioning, unlike an inquisition, should be bolstered with tips and tactics that not only provide value to your prospect but position you as a caring expert in your field.

Can you help? Perhaps. You still need to gather information from your prospect to not only move them through the buying cycle but to discover for yourself if your services are a match. Also, do you like this prospect and can you do something spectacular together? This part of the process is most similar to dating. You’re not proposing marriage, talking about future kids and picking out china patterns on the first date. Dating is questioning. Keep asking and keep stating, you’re just trying to see if you can help. And, through mutual self-discovery you and the prospect both determine there is a way you can help, now your sale is closed.

The Biggest Change in Internet Search: How to Beat the New Keyword Algorithm

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The biggest change in internet search may shock you—keywords no longer are the key determining factor for SEO success. Google’s Natural Language Processing (NLP) system has advanced the search engine’s ability to serve unique content based upon location, time of day, format of query, device type, and context clues. Now, more than ever, it is essential to have a strong content strategy and a website architecture built for the new search algorithm. Learn how to create a vibrant and exciting content strategy that drives prospects to your website.

How Search Has Changed

Search has changed and evolved over the last 5 years since Google adopted its NLP system. As a result, it is difficult to know the magical formula to make your content appear in someone’s search. Now, you can no longer “own” keywords through Google AdWords. The reason is simple:  People are no longer searching specific keywords. Instead, they are typing in questions like they would ask to a friend. Also, according to Sundra Pichai at Google I/O 2017, “20% of mobile search is done by voice”, and growing.

How to Win in the New Search Space 

The way to beat the search algorithm is by writing a significant amount of content on a certain topic and categorizing all the related the content together. This is referred to as cornerstone content by WordPress users or topic clusters by HubSpot. Linking into the pillar content is a range of content that covers individual, more specific subtopics, otherwise known as cluster content.

Each cluster topic page for the pillar focuses on providing more detail for a specific long-tail keyword related to the main topic. The pillar page links to each cluster page and each cluster page links back to the pillar with the same hyperlinked keyword.

Topic clusters or cornerstone content are comprised of the following:

  1. Pillar Content– A landing page or main page which gives broad information on the topic. Note, this content must be ungated, meaning readers do not need to fill out a form to read this content. Pillar content should be a few thousand words.

 

  1. Cluster Content– Blog posts or landing pages related to the pillar content. Cluster content pages should focus on providing more detail for a specific long-tail keyword related to the main topic. There should be a minimum of 8 and a maximum of 22 pieces of cluster content connected to each piece of pillar content.

The benefit of using this content strategy is not only that it improves the organization of your site’s architecture but also, that a high performing cluster page can elevate search rankings for all the pages linked to the same pillar content.

The Essential Steps to Developing a Content Cluster Strategy

Step 1: Map Out Buyer Personas’ Core Problems

Buyer personas are semi-fictional representations of your ideal customer based on select educated speculation and real data about customer demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, and goals. Developing buyer personas and determining their pain points is invaluable for your content strategy.  Check out Why Developing Buyer Personas is Invaluable for Manufacturers for strategy tips during this step.

Step 2: Group Problems into Topics

Review the pain points you determined each ideal prospect has which you determined through the buyer persona development process. Then, categorize each problem within topic clusters.

Step 3: Map out topics and content ideas

Content mapping is a great way to make sure that you are attracting each ideal buyer or buyer persona during each stage of their buyer’s journey. Read Why Manufacturers Need a Content Map for Inbound Marketing Success for a detailed breakdown of what should be included in your content map.

Step 4: Validate Each Topic and Determine If It is Worth Categorizing

Use keyword tools research if a topic is worth clustering. You only want to cluster content on a topic with steady search volume.  Also, use keyword search to identify subtopics for each piece of pillar content. HubSpot’s keyword tool is especially great for this.

Step 5: Put Pillar Content Proximately on Site Where People Can Find It

Once you’ve developed the content, it is time to map out the content clusters. If your website is in WordPress, read Cornerstone Content: a simple how to guide. If you’re website or blog is in HubSpot, read Topic Clusters: The Next Evolution of SEO.

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Automating the Manufacturing Sales Process with Inbound Marketing

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Let’s face it, the manufacturing sales process needs a refresh. While manufacturing has evolved tremendously over the last 20 years, the manufacturing sales process has remained stagnant. Manufacturing sales managers are still using cold calling and door-to-door sales methods that are not only time intensive but also have little return-on-investment. Learn how inbound marketing can automate the manufacturing sales process and close sales quicker and more efficiently.

Real Time Analytics

Inbound marketing software allows manufacturers to get real time analytics about the visitors on their website. You can view a prospect’s log of every page they’ve viewed, every email they’ve opened (and every time they’ve opened that email), and every content offer to which they have subscribed. The insight sales managers can get from inbound marketing is powerful. Based upon a prospect’s behavior, you can learn what products or services they needs, gauge how seriously the prospect is considering your company, and determine where that prospect is in the sales process. Then, sales managers can tailor the sales tactics to the customer and have a more successful close rate.  Check out How to Convince Your Manufacturing CEO to Invest in Inbound Marketing for more information on the insight you’ll receive from implementing an inbound marketing platform.

Automating the Sales Process

Automation is a powerful tool that saves sales managers valuable time during the sales process. As your prospect continues to visit your website and read your content, they can automatically be enrolled in what we in the marketing world call “workflows”. A workflow is a series of content that is sent to that prospect that they are enrolled into based upon doing a certain action. We do a variety of workflows for our clients.

Sometimes, they are triggered by the prospect’s job title and industry, other times they are based upon a prospect visiting a certain page more than once or a series of pages on related products or services. Once the prospect completes a workflow or continues to visit your website many times and we are fairly certain that the prospect is in the decision making stage of the sales cycle, we can create “triggers” to tell a sales manager to pick up the phone and call a prospect.

Inbound Methodology

Inbound marketing works and saves sales managers time and money that they would have wasted pursuing prospects that weren’t ready to buy. However, the inbound marketing process isn’t as easy as it seems. There is considerable research required to develop engaging content that leads prospects through the sales funnel and learn the nuances of each individual buyer and how they liked to be engaged with by your company. On top of a need for constant keyword research and content development to keep attracting prospects to your website.

Long gone are the days of cold calling and door-to-door sales. Inbound marketing and automation give sales managers insight on who that prospect is and where they are in the sales process. Interested in learning more about inbound marketing? Check out our blog The 5 Biggest Inbound Marketing Mistakes Manufacturers Make for more information on how to avoid inbound marketing blunders.

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What Manufacturers Can Learn from That Poppy About Branding and Social Presence

that poppy

Internet sensation “That Poppy” is a branding genius who has created a defined, unique presence unlike anyone else online. Everything, and I mean literally everything that this internet star posts to YouTube gets millions of views. You do not really know what she’s talking about, to whom or even why. That is until you dig deeper. Like a Netflix original, you cannot help but binge on Poppy. Let’s take that deeper dive into how manufacturers can create intriguing content, like That Poppy that leaves your audience wanting more.

Headline Begs For Attention

That Poppy knows how to craft a great title for her videos, which we in the marketing world refer to as “click bait”.  Her videos range in title from “The Queen of YouTube” to “I Am Not In A Cult” and creates buzz that makes viewers click on her videos.

Like That Poppy, we use strong, compelling titles to get people to read or watch our content.  How to Convince Your Stubborn Manufacturing Customers to Participate in Case Studies showed our readers just how it easy it is to let your customers take part in promoting your brand. Our article How to Convince Your Manufacturing CEO to Invest in Inbound Marketing went right at the heart of our best prospect, Sales Managers at manufacturing companies and their timeless battle for budget to invest in worthwhile marketing tactics. Both of the examples above showcase strong, targeted titles that make our prospects want to click and learn more.

Messaging

That Poppy has a strong, consistent message and has found her voice on the internet. Her innocence, the way she makes fun of fame seeking wannabe stars and even mass media is uniquely hers. She talks about pop culture, politics, the illuminati and most of all, understands the content resonates with her viewers.

Manufacturers can learn from Poppy by developing strong branding guidelines and developing a persona for the company. Ask yourself what makes my company unique, what do my manufacturing clients want, and how can I share my expertise. Everything from your website, to your social media, and white papers should be cohesive and written in a relatable, consistent voice. Difficulty determining your branding and differentiating factors? The Felber PR & Marketing team would be happy to talk branding and messaging with you.

Consistency is Key

The greatest tip That Poppy has for manufacturers is that with consistency you can grow a significant following organically. Poppy established her YouTube Channel in 2011 and has worked her way up to receiving hundreds of thousands to millions of views per video.

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Have you seen this stare at a trade conference?

Whether it’s a short video about your company’s recent accomplishments or a list of top five lists of items to consider when specifying (insert your service/product), you can create amazing content if you set your mind to it. Manufacturers are posting to YouTube every hour. Trade publications and industry magazines search for news every day. And, like That Poppy, you can develop a loyal fan base that shows up virtually to your webinars and in person when you present at your industry’s must-see trade conference.

Maybe Poppy is just a reflection of who we think celebrities are or should be. What would celebrity status be for your manufacturing firm? Who would you love to read about your expertise?  Check out this article if you think you cannot develop content on your company or this one on how to get Why Manufacturers Still Need Traditional PR & Marketing in a Digital World

Warning: do not look up That Poppy at work. You will fall down the “Poppy rabbit hole”, miss deadlines, creep out your colleagues, and perhaps, if you are not careful, you will blog about her. Maybe Poppy told me to write this. Did she? Does Poppy know me at all? I think Poppy would smile if she read this…. wonder what she is posting today. What’s with Charlotte the mannequin? Will she marry computer.boy? Is Titanic Sinclair behind all this? Will Mars Argo return?

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The Biggest Mistake Manufacturing Sales Managers Make

Why Connecting with Past Customers to Grow Manufacturing Sales Works

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Persistence, heart, effort pay off for Cleveland Indians in 2017

The key to manufacturing sales success that you’re probably missing is connecting with past customers. People, by nature are drawn to familiarity. It is much easier to sell to someone you have a previous relationship with than sell to a new prospect. You know that feeling when you run into an old friend at a restaurant? You went to high school, perhaps served in the same military unit or simply lived in the same neighborhood. We love to share past experiences and we all know what it’s like when you hear “You just had to be there!” When it comes to manufacturing sales, being familiar wins.

Customers relationships should be viewed the same way. You provide a reliable, memorable experience. Perhaps you spent weeks or months working on the sale, maybe another 6 months delivering your products and services. We also know that each experience with your customers, let’s call them ‘touch points,’ only further cements the relationship.

Past customers, like old friends, want to hear from you. Simply reaching out to tell them about your recent projects, sharing an article they might enjoy or announcing a new initiative (as we just did, click here), brings people back to the table.

Wait, you mean those folks who trusted you, gave you money willingly and occasionally return with more money in their hand? Create memories and build on familiarity. “You remember that time, Mr. Customer, when we went to the Indians’ game and they broke the record for the most consecutive wins in the American League?” How can you keep the same feeling alive with your customers?

When we announced our international marketing collaboration with Adexma, we received countless ‘congratulations, nice to hear it, way to go’ messages even from past customers who have not purchased in months or years. We, Felber PR & Marketing, are the familiar. We were established in 1993, so we have many past friends, shared experiences, and stories. Oh, do we have stories. Sharing our knowledge with our network, whether in an email, via social media, or even as a speaker for a colleague’s association, creates more ‘familiar’ touch points. Add up the points and you’re winning the relationship game.

So, then, why are we so fixated on always attracting shiny new prospects? Well, we all need new customers and they really do keep us on our toes. New customers help our companies grow and further develop our offering. Are you starting to see where I am headed? You have invested so much in the new customer relationship. And, just when they trust you and are comfortable with your service, billing and culture, you close the door. You can almost hear your mother now, “you don’t call, you don’t write, you don’t even like the photo of your father in his plaid golf shirt I posted to that book site…”

Keeping in touch with your network is simple in the digital age and one simple touch can make a huge impact.

Sending regular emails, a hand written now, commenting on their LinkedIn post, sending a “customer exclusive offer” are all examples of keeping in touch. Be the familiar, not the lost friend. Use the resources you have in social media and email communications to keep your family close. Keep the pressure on, now and throughout the season and you too can string manufacturing sales, win after win for your firm.

10-Week Program to Ace European Manufacturing Trade Shows

Blog provided by Cedric Le Rouge of ADEXMA

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Attending a European trade show can reward even the busiest manager with a fresh outlook, new connections, and great opportunities. Feel like you don’t have the time to spare? In just ten weeks, your business can benefit from all that some of the biggest trade shows in the world can offer, such as the Hanover Messe. What makes the travel to Europe even more worthwhile is the benefit of the prep work and research that you do before you go, and the follow up when you return. The trade show is not just a one-week event; rather, it is a chance to communicate with fellow attendees and organizations before, during, and after the show.

Six Weeks Before the European Trade Show

By selecting the trade shows related to your target audience, you can engage with a large number of prospects in a short period of time. Understand your target business environment and market information. Europe is a large market, so you might choose to attend multiple trade shows during a two-week trip.

Make your research on the exhibitors list. Most trade shows give you access to the exhibitors list with contact information and sorting capabilities. Some even help you organize business-to-business meetings by sending a message to the company to ask for a specific time during trade show hours. I usually engage with attendees six weeks ahead of the exhibit to start asking for appointment. Even if the trade show has a platform that organizes meetings, I confirm with a direct email to the prospect to validate their contact information and make sure that they also have my information in their mailbox.

The more you do your research and keep your customer relationship information up-to-date prior to your trip, the better your business trip and your follow up when you return will be. You should know why you want to meet with a specific person and what you have to offer that is unique.

Two Weeks During the European Trade Show

Forget the car. In France and Europe in general, public transportation by train or bus is the easiest. I remember trying to find a parking spot in Paris, at Porte de Versailles, to attend a trade show and after more than an hour and a half I still had not found a place, so I ended up parking far away from the show and came in by metro.

You can also download the trade show app, but for location capability you need to have a good data plan solution for international mobile phone service. This can be very expensive if you do not plan ahead. I now purchase a European SIM card to have the same freedom of use than in the United States, and it is often less expensive.  Call me old fashioned, but I always keep a backup paper copy of my schedule, transportation, and lodging documents. You never know if your phone will run out of power or the train controller will want a paper receipt.

During the meeting, make sure to respect the local etiquette and start by talking their language, even if it is just to ask if someone to speak English + your name + your company’s name: “Bonjour, Il y a-t’il quelqu’un qui parle anglais s’il vous plaît? Je suis Monsieur LE ROUGE de la société ADEXMA.”

Use Your Research to Your Advantage

Have your pitch ready and adapted to your audience. This is where your research will pay off at a European trade show. If your prospect sees you have put the time in to look at their website and their information, they typically respect your interest and answer some of your questions. Make sure to have more business cards than you think you are going to need; they have the tendency to go faster than expected. For the brochure or handout, I prefer send it by email because at trade shows we all have too many brochures and it gives you a reason to follow up.

Keep some extra time between your connections and meetings in case something happens. Often, something happens: transportation delays, or you get sick. If all goes well, I have a list of contacts who I was unable to confirm an appointment with beforehand. You would be surprised at the number of people you can simply meet at the show. Exhibitors are ready to talk about their company and products. I typically double my number of appointments directly on the show floor.

Follow Up Two Weeks After the European Trade Show

Follow up is key in the two weeks after the event. You are coming back home and the exhibitors are packing before going back home. The result is that everybody is tired, but don’t throw all that work out the window. Register their contact information in your CRM database, record what you talked about, send an email, and schedule a follow up reminder. If you are exhibiting, VAT can be refunded on some items. For example, if you exhibit in France, you can contact your local French-American Chamber of Commerce and they will assist you with the paperwork.

In conclusion, doing the research before attending a European trade show and following these tips will help you make the most out of your visit. There is no substitute for meeting contacts in person, which is why international trade shows are such an important part of the marketing mix. Contact an international marketing company like ADEXMA to get help with research, build a strategy, and conduct follow up that will give you measurable results.

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Bibliography

Absolute Exhibits. “Top Trade Fairs in Europe.” https://www.absoluteexhibits.com/top-trade-fairs-in-europe.

Events Eye. http://www.eventseye.com.

Exhibit in Europe. http://www.exhibit-in-europe.com.

Neventum. “Trade Shows.” http://www.ntradeshows.com.

Trade Fair Dates. https://www.tradefairdates.com.

Trade Show News Network. http://www.tsnn.com (2017).

What Manufacturers Need to Know About ERP System Integration

Guest blog provided by Hannah Gierosky of Briteskies

erp-system-integrationERP system integration is a hot topic in the manufacturing sector and for good reason. Today’s manufacturing companies face a variety of challenges: pressure to increase productivity, lower operating costs, and manage ever-changing data needs. These days, data is king. Most companies do not have an issue generating data; problems arise when trying to access it and leverage it to positively position themselves within a competitive marketplace.

One of the best ways to harness the power of your data is to integrate your ERP with B2B eCommerce capabilities. By adding B2B eCommerce, you can greatly improve the effectiveness and efficiency of your back office processes. Using a sophisticated integration strategy, B2B companies can leverage the combined power of their ERP system and the online channel to simultaneously increase revenues and drive costs out of the organization.

Connecting an eCommerce system to a large and stable ERP, such as JD Edwards, allows for a seamless movement of data. However, the integration effort can be one of the most difficult parts of any implementation initiative. These projects require a robust and well-planned strategy that covers data flow, business logic, and an ERP integration methodology.

Data: There Can Only Be One Source of the Truth

The first item that should be addressed in an ERP and eCommerce integration project is to determine where each data element should be stored, and which system “owns” the data. You should consider specific items such as Customer Master Data, Item/Catalog data, and Customer Order Information.

After you decide on where each item should reside or if it should be shared, create a data map so that ownership is clearly defined. A great mantra to keep in mind is: “There can only be one source of the truth,” which will help you establish whether the eCommerce or ERP system should own the data.

Put the Logic Where It Belongs

After it’s determined whether the eCommerce or ERP system owns each piece of data, consider the business logic required to process an eCommerce order. ECommerce systems typically include functionality that is duplicated in the ERP, such as item pricing, taxing, and order processing. In considering these redundancies, you should look to keep a business function within the system that is best suited for processing that function.

A great example is tax calculations. In most instances, you can keep the tax calculation function of the ERP, as this is where all order processing occurs. However, if orders entered into the ERP are not taxed and the orders in the eCommerce system are taxed, then it make more sense to have the eCommerce system house the tax calculation logic.

Use the Best ERP Integration Methodology for the Job at Hand

Finally, you should look at ERP integration methodologies. There are a host of options from which to choose, including a simple FTP process, an MQ Series, Web Services, and more. It’s often more beneficial to use an integration methodology that is already being used. This allows for consistency across all projects. We believe that this allows the development team to better understand and support new integration points.

Also, consider how close the data needs to be to real-time, as the closer it is to real-time, the more labor-intensive and costly the integration project becomes. We also like to keep things as simple and straightforward as possible. Over-complicating the integration simply makes everything that much harder, from programming it in the beginning to supporting it after go-live. If you’re keeping everything as simple as possible, it’s usually a good indication that you’ve chosen the best integration method.

Summary

Integrating a B2B eCommerce site to an ERP, such as JD Edwards, can be a challenge, but it’s worth the effort. Getting your back office and eCommerce site to communicate with each other will significantly improve sales interactions for your company. This allows the order management process to become seamless, and data and order information to be easily accessible.

In executing any integration, planning, organizing, and documenting a strategy allows for a much smoother project. So measure twice, cut once, and keep things simple.

If you’re interested in integrating your ERP and B2B eCommerce systems, contact the qualified Briteskies team to see how we can help.
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Manufacturing Company Owners: It’s Time to Create a Succession Plan

Today’s blog is kindly provided by our friend and colleague Tony Rospert, Partner at Thompson Hine LLP

succession-plan

Ensure the next generation at your manufacturing company has the tools for success

As an owner of a closely held and/or family-owned manufacturing business, it is well worth your time and energy spent to prepare a detailed succession plan to transfer the business to the next generation of owners and operators. Most manufacturers, however, fail to plan and prepare for succession. These business owners are jeopardizing their chances to obtain a return on their financial investment and “sweat equity” and ensuring that their companies will not survive them.

In a family-run business, succession is a critically important issue; however, nearly two-thirds of business owners over the age of 50 do not have a formal succession plan, which could include either a sale or transfer of the company.

As a result, only 30 percent of family-owned businesses survive into the second generation, 12 percent survive into the third, and only about 3 percent operate into the fourth generation and beyond.

Ultimately, the absence of a succession plan can stunt growth, make it harder to generate new clients and products, stifle innovation, damage the company’s financial health and destroy the company’s reputation, leading to the loss of jobs, knowledge and expertise. Avoiding these issues and navigating succession options requires a proactive approach to planning and the use of advisors and consultants early in the process.

The Price of Failing to Plan

Without a succession plan, manufacturers face significant risk from not having the knowledge and/or infrastructure in place to keep the business viable for the long term. The consequences of not having a strong succession plan in place include:

  • Owners will not realize the full value of their business during the exit process.
  • The entire business will be adversely affected by power struggles and concern about the company’s future.
  • Clients will lose faith in the company’s ability to continue providing a high level of customer service.
  • Uncertainty will lead to top-performing employees jumping ship and seeking other opportunities.
  • The company will have difficulty obtaining long-term financing if lenders perceive inadequate business planning.
  • Owners and family members may engage in an ugly business divorce, resulting in litigation.

Litigation Is Painful

Litigation between owners and family members in closely held businesses is common and very disruptive, potentially affecting daily operations as well as a company’s very existence and its reputation. Litigation is costly to manufacturers in both in time and money; however, its effects are felt well beyond the purely financial impact of legal fees and damages. Most manufacturers are personally invested in their businesses, and litigation causes them not just economic loss, but also substantial emotional hardship, and it often changes the tone of the business. A properly constructed business succession plan can take the sting out of litigation and may even eliminate its prospect entirely.

Planning Is Paramount

Devising a seamless transition for your business is essential to minimizing operational disruption and protecting the company’s value and reputation. An operating agreement that addresses succession issues can help achieve this continuity. Similarly, well-considered, carefully crafted will and estate planning strategies go a long way toward mitigating personal risks associated with business succession. As an owner of manufacturing company, if you are currently contemplating the transition of your business or making decisions about its future, you should consider consulting financial advisors and legal counsel to avoid taking any action that could jeopardize the company and/or your ownership interests.

*This article is not intended to convey legal advice. You should contact a licensed attorney for assistance with your legal needs.
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How to Navigate Paid and Sponsored Opportunities at Trade Shows

trade-shows-paid-sponsoredTrade shows offer a variety of paid and sponsored opportunities. It can be overwhelming for manufacturers to determine which opportunities will have the most return-on-investment.  In our blog, we’ve written on the topic of trade shows for manufacturers from several angles. We have discussed how manufacturers can engage media, who should “work” the booth and even the use of social media at business conferences. As trade show exhibitors, there are several marketing opportunities you may have missed due to early deadlines or perhaps tactics you have not tried previously.

The goal of most, if not all, investments in trade shows is straight forward. Leads. Isn’t that the ultimate ROI for all our marketing efforts? Does this sound familiar? “So, we spent thousands to fly the team and machinery to a trade show, built a new booth, trained our staff, hosted a cocktail reception and even held a press conference…how many leads for new business did we get?” Have you been asked this question from the CFO or president?

Modern trade shows for manufacturers, whether led by a trade association or private company are often more than a 20’ x 20’ concrete slab and two chairs. They are multi-media extravaganzas that involve theatrics, special events, sophisticated mobile tools and print advertising options.

Download Your Free Trade Shows For Manufacturers eBook

Download Your Free Trade Shows for Manufacturers eBook

If you have already signed up to exhibit, great. Download the exhibitor kit and read it cover to cover. Yes, get the basics ordered such as electric, Internet or special services such as catering. Still have budget? Great!

After all the free advertising options such as your online listing and directory entry have been checked off, see what the organization offers for an extra fee. Print advertising in show daily magazines helps impact name recognition and booth traffic as you can promote any engagement activities such as contests and demonstrations. Company sponsorships can range from private receptions to show properties such as an Internet café and on-the-show-floor receptions. Want to engage attendees on their way to the convention floor? Sponsor the shuttle. Want to reach them where they live? Do a hotel drop with signage inside the leading hotels complete with room gift of fresh fruit and your logoed trade show survival kit of aspirin, needle & thread and shoe shine kit.

The companies that run trade shows understand that lead generation is key. Basic online listing and trade show mobile applications can often be enhanced with featured exhibitor listings, lead capture ready for export and on-screen advertisements right on the device in every attendee’s pocket. Want a pro tip? If you have an idea for sponsorship of a key event that is not listed, offer to sponsor. Often this is unexpected income for the show with no structured fee (thus allowing you to create a truly unique promotion that can drive traffic to your booth for ultimate lead capture.

Trade shows, especially those hosted every other year are a unique opportunity to fill your sales pipeline for a long time. Make the most of your investment and explore as many opportunities as your budget allows.