Amazon quietly launched a new mobile application designed for Amazon Sellers, the individuals and businesses who leverage Amazon’s scale to reach the company’s millions of shoppers by listing their products on Amazon’s site. Amazon Seller, as the app is simply called, offers a suite of mobile tools that allow sellers to search and scan barcodes of items, check prices, sales… Read More
Marketing automation company Autopilot is releasing a new prospecting tool for sales and marketing that’s generating up to 42 percent reply rates on cold email tomorrow.
That compares to a traditional rate of just 1 percent to 9 percent.
The tool, which companies like Bosch, Model N, and Voxer are already using, helps marketers get live, current email for people they find on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Quora, and other popular sites online. Called Prospect Ace, the plugin bridges the seemingly inevitable gap between marketing and sales.
“After we started a few companies in Australia and were lucky enough to sell them, we got a lot of consulting contracts,” CEO Michael Sharkey told me last week. “We saw huge gaps between sales and marketing … and we saw the same problem everywhere: data.”
The Chrome plugin focuses on solving that data problem in the prospecting stage: finding people who might be interested in your product or service. Once you’ve found someone that looks like they might be a potential buyer, Prospect Ace initiates a query in Autopilot’s data and modeling system and spits out an email, which Sharkey says is “guaranteed to be verified.”
You can buy access to Prospect Ace separately, but naturally, the company would prefer that you then drop that email into its marketing automation system, Autopilot, which you can do with a single click.
“Prospect Ace integrates into Autopilot,” Sharkey says. “Just pick a campaign, drop the prospect right into the campaign, and he’s now in my automated marketing campaign.”
While Bosch is the biggest customer whose name is public for Prospect Ace, Sharkey told me several other names that would raise a few eyebrows, including two of the biggest names in file-sharing and cloud-content management and one of the biggest mobile carriers in the U.S.
And the company is eating its own dogfood, too.
“When we came back in Q1, we decided we would only build our pipeline using this tool,” Sharkey said. “We’ve already closed a heck of a lot of business off this already.”
That includes prospecting success which has hit 42 percent.
An interesting use that some of its prelaunch customers were trying includes finding people on LinkedIn who have followed a competitor, or on Facebook who have liked a competitor, and then using it to build a prospect list. That’s pretty powerful, particularly if you integrate it into your competitive marketing campaigns, prebuilt for specific competitors.
Aaron Ross, the former director of sales for Salesforce and now a consultant and author of Predictable Revenue, agrees.
“An important part of prospecting is about the quality of the data,” Ross said in a statement. “Prospect Ace is the first data solution to allow sales development to easily target prospect and find verified email addresses from social profiles.”
That is, of course, the big difference.
The alternative is buying data from Data.com or other sources, and that can be tricky — analytics firm KISSmetrics once asked for a refund after finding its purchased data to be 80 percent inaccurate. Sharkey says that Prospect Ace simply provides better data, which, when used appropriately, generates much better returns.
Pricing ranges from $ 199/month and up.
VentureBeat » Entrepreneur
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Hot on the heels of Silicon Valley competitor Xola raising $ 1.8 million last week, Swiss startup TrekkSoft, which offers a SaaS for tour and activity providers, has raised $ 800,000 in follow-on funding, bringing total raised to $ 1.6 million.
The new investment comes from the company’s original backers, including Redalpine Capital II, the Innovation Fund of Schwyzer Kantonalbank, and a group of private investors comprising Armin Meier (former CEO of Kuoni), Walter Güntensperger (CEO of Active Travel and former CEO of Hotelplan Switzerland), and Adrian Locher (founder and COO of DeinDeal.ch).
Rather than targeting consumers directly, TrekkSoft primarily offers a B2B solution to enable tour and other activity providers to promote, manage and sell their tours online, offline and on mobile. It’s designed to let them manage prices, capacity and sales channels from one platform — specifically supporting real-time, online bookings of live inventory both online and in-destination via mobile devices.
In addition, TrekkSoft includes an integrated payment gateway, tour management software, and a CMS with a suite of promotional tools including social media integration, and agent tracking.
For tour and activity providers, TrekkSoft is free at sign-up, with no fixed fees, or set-up costs. Instead it charges 6% plus a .50c transaction fee on any online booking, which includes credit card and PSP fees. All offline reservations and bookings — i.e. those where payment isn’t processed via TrekkSoft — are free of charge, such as POS bookings, telephone reservations, direct payment on arrival etc.
In a statement, TrekkSoft co-founder and CEO Jon Fauver talk ups the challenge of offering a pure B2C marketplace for tours and activities, noting the fragmented nature of the market, “high inventory acquisition cost, and lack of live inventory online.”
Instead the company has chosen to go the B2B route with a SaaS that makes it easy for tour and activity providers to bring their inventory online, along with facilitating direct sales, and enabling them to connect to extended distribution partners via the TrekkSoft Channel Manager.
In this sense, TrekkSoft is able to act as a conduit between tour and activity providers and B2C offerings — either the tour and activity operator’s own sites or those of partners.
Since launch in 2010 TrekkSoft says it’s processed over 850,000 tour & activity bookings and grown its live inventory to more than 4,800 tours in 115 different countries. Companies using Trekksoft range from one person owner operators to large tour operators.
It’s also recently partnered with TripAdvisor to jointly collect reviews for both properties and help drive sales for tour and activity providers.
Big buttons are better. Creating a sense of urgency is important. Simple and clean and elegant is better than complex and busy. Most of us who build websites have thoughts and ideas about conversion optimization: the art and science of transforming visitors into customers.
Most of our ideas just might, however, be completely wrong.
“Best practices don’t work,” Chris Goward of Wider Funnel said today at GROWtalks. “Most of what’s been said out there … people make it up … they have to come up with new content for their blog posts.”
Goward proved his point by showcasing several versions of a popular, 1-million-subscriber wine sales site, WineExpress.com, that he tested. Most of the web-savvy technical audience picked a simple, cleaner version with a larger buy button and larger sales text.
We were wrong.
“As much as you’re a smart marketer, you won’t know what they’ll respond to best,” Goward says. “In this case, visitors were high-net-worth people looking for classy wines. Anything that smacked of marketing turned them off.”
Which means that while there’s some standard dos and don’ts that are almost always valid — rotating homepage messages are distracting, leading with video hurts conversion — each unique site and each unique set of target customers has enough variation that only one good overall solution exists: testing everything.
And that’s more than something you do occasionally or episodically, according to Goward.
“Testing is not just a tactic … it’s a strategy,” he said. “It can inform the entire business … you can use the results to get insightful findings about your target audience.”
Goward has used that strategy to help Silicon Valley startups like Expensify realize a staggering 47.2 percent improvement in conversion of homepage visitors to signed-up users, accelerating the company’s trajectory to a million users. Using his insights document management company Iron Mount achieved four times its previous rate of lead generation. Google is a customer as well.
The things Goward looks at for conversion optimization include relevance and clarity, which can improve your odds, and anxiety and distraction, which will tend to decrease your odds.
Plus, of course, it has some marketing common sense.
“Most companies talk about their points of parity with competitors, but the most powerful place to be is points of difference,” Goward said. “The word is points of irrelevance: features you’ve worked really hard to create … and no one cares.”
One challenge for startups?
To get the best data, you need 30 to 50,000 monthly visitors, Goward said, to get reasonable results quickly. However, even small-traffic new companies can test and get valuable data.
“The key when you have low traffic is to test boldly, making different options that are very significant, including your offer,” Goward said. “And then, be comfortable running it for a while.”
VentureBeat » Entrepreneur