Auximiti – A Case Study & The Future

Return On Investment, along with Security and Technical Difficulty, is right up there in the top 3 reasons companies aren’t adopting and launching Internet of Things projects.

So what is a “good” ROI for an Internet of Things project? I haven’t done the homework, but here is how I would figure it out.

The Internet of Things is such a new space that you should ignore any one person claiming to be an expert. Instead, you need to take the top 100 estimates from people who know about distributed command & control structures and other initiative outcomes, and come up with their average for a “good” ROI on a project.  That average will probably be very very close.

A study was conducted for 100 people to guess how many peanuts were in a large container to be shipped.  The guesses were wildly varied.  From less than 100 to more than 4,000, and most people we’re quite a ways off.  The average of all of the guesses?  10 away from the actual number in the container.

The Statistical Law of Large Numbers always wins.

Whatever “good” ROI ends up being, I know we have been able to surpass it with Internet of Things projects and it comes down to the clients’ business model and per customer revenue/lifetime customer value. Does your client make $.20, $2.00, $20.00, or $200.00 in profit for each buying customer?

In some sectors we are able to provide a 5 to 1 return on the price of our services.  In other sectors, companies would lose money if they bought and implemented the technology Auximiti sells.  Nonetheless, our services do bring in new customers, create brand loyalty, and have other positive effects, like customer insights, that aren’t fully captured in a pure marketing ROI \ mindset. Without concrete valuation, these end up being “cherries on top”.

Here is a basic chart that showcases Beacon Marketing effectiveness:

You can download this Case Study Here.

I think the chart above and the situation it represents will be reproduced for a number of other industries as well.  Gym memberships come to mind as something many people pay for every month but are under utilized in their capacity. The problem is that it costs too much to cancel the membership.  “You might think, it costs too much what? Cancelling saves them money!”

The reality is that it costs too much time. There is a company out there waiting to be created that cancels gym memberships for people and charges one month membership to cancel. I’ll cancel your $20.00 a month gym membership if you pay me $20.00. Then expand it to other services.

Companies like Orange Theory Fitness and EOS may want to deliver more value to their members with reminders to train once a week or offer special deals for their personal training sessions.  Additionally, health sensors and the Internet of Things for Health, Wellness, and Healthcare is going to be big and gyms should start looking at how to integrate their marketing and customer engagement with the health stats they can track on their machines.

Another key retail sector ripe for disruption is cosmetics.  Women have changed their make-up and accessory habits to “online first”.  They are researching online, watching YouTube videos online, and even ordering and subscribing to makeup products online.  The only buying in retail happening for makeup is during a rare visit to a large retail sale. There is big potential to disrupt the industry with free make-up training sessions, tests of new brands or styles, influencer marketing visits and other beauty engagement experiences. Letting someone try before they buy sounds crazy in this industry, but it might be necessary and disruptive in the next couple of years.  Wouldn’t you go to stores for a free trial and large promotional discounts?

Even better, augmented reality experiences with celebrities could be introduced to brick & mortar locations as unique experiences. Get your makeup and hair done with Oprah sitting next to you in your selfie.  This works for men as well for men who are interested in snapping a selfie with Robert Downey Jr. (or Iron Man since we’re doing augmented reality, let’s go all the way.) The customer engagement here will be disruptive, just like video games in kids hair cut locations attract so many parents today when it comes to getting ready for the school pictures.

The bottom line is that we need to start looking at what can be tested instead of what is or isn’t working. What can you test in 30 days, 60 days, 90 days that will push the boundaries, attract and interest your customers, and get them talking about your brand to the point where they can’t stop?  Is it a chat bot?  Virtual Reality? Augmented Reality (AR) Competitions or AR Lotteries? New Products and Influencer Marketing? GaryVee signing your merchandise for all your customers?

There is no time to waste.

Get out there, test, find out what is going on, come up with a plan, and go execute it.

The alternative is to wait ten years while the golden age of marketing passes you by.

It’s your choice.

10 Things Customers Expect in 2018

Customer engagement is rapidly increasing for brands that are succeeding in the emerging Internet of Things space.

Here are 10 things customers expect from top brands in 2018:

Let’s start with the basics.

Auximiti

1. Customers expect to browse your website on their smart phone.

This one is pretty self explanatory.

2. Customers expect to learn about brands from real people.

This is not new. For decades, friends and family have recommended products and tools to each other to make their lives easier. This comes from the original tribes of humans telling each other about dangers in the environment to avoid.  Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a huge indicator that you are doing this type of marketing correctly for your brand. The only change is the technology that allows people to share more and influence more people.  Influencers and Key Opinion Leaders (KOL) are a very strong form of marketing right now.

3. Customers expect good customer service.

Customer service is under more and more scrutiny as displeasure and annoyance can easily be announced on social media and taint your appearance to many more people much more quickly.  Please server your customers well. Give them value and what they expect which leads to the next expectation.

4. Customers expect value.

Because customers expect value from everything they do and buy, you have to set expectations very well up front about the value you provide.

5. Customers expect good experiences.

Value increases as customers interact with your brand or company IN A GOOD WAY. Those interactions must be positive and you need to find how to create the positivity. After you invent, discover, or create the positive experiences you can scale those.

6. Customers expect you to respect their time.

Don’t waste your customer’s time. Don’t advertise in a way that takes time away from them. Don’t create time intensive processes for your customers when either you can handle a lot of it internally or you can automate the time subtracting experiences away.

7. Customers expect interactions to be proactive and add value.

Even in this age of digital technology people want real interactions with real people. Clearly, this is at odds with respect the customer’s time. Nailing this balancing act down is so important.  Execute with training your staff. Execute on building the right technology systems that create personalization. Execute on adding value to each customer segment correctly.  When your staff can approach VIP customers and address them by name, you add value.

8. Customers expect to use their phone everywhere for everything.

Enable your customers to research in your store using their phone. Enable your customers to buy things from your store online while they are in your store. Enable your customers to learn about you while they are on Facebook or Instagram or whatever app they are using. Everyone is using their phone.  Make sure you are following the market’s attention.

9. Customers expect to have all their needs met.

You can approach this in one of two ways. First, you can meet any need the customer has. When people are grocery shopping they want to drink coffee or address a banking issue.  This is why banks and Starbucks have locations inside large chain grocery stores. It helps the tenant and the grocer at the same time.  The other way you can address this is by setting your problem solving domain very strongly. This requires both expertise in your domain and being very clear and upfront with your prospects, clients, and customers.  Figure out which way is best for you.

10. Customers expect to be happy.

This last one I added because we are living in a strange time. Everyone is posting pictures online where everyone is smiling and everybody feels they need to be happy for everyone else. Although this is potentially, and I would argue IS, a problem for society to figure out, I think we as business owners can help. If you create genuine happiness, through humor or excitement or contentedness, for your customers, they will be grateful. They will feel “normal” when normal has a disproportionate skew towards being happy. Everyone wants to feel normal and if you can create that feeling in your customers, they will keep coming back for that feeling.

Thanks for reading and please leave your opinion in the comments.  Is there something critical that I missed?  Is there something I am wrong about?  I’d love to hear about it from you.

Beacon Companies Incoming

I’m writing this post now because I’ve started to see companies enter the beacon marketing space in the last few months. Companies that resell other platforms and setup their clients on Google Nearby while doing little to none actual work themselves. These people know how to market and sell a product, see that there is proof of concept, and have managed to turn a tidy profit. Good for them! With the expected 400 million beacons in the world by 2021 we need more proximity service providers. Auximiti continues to expand its offerings to go beyond the simple beacon marketing system that was initially created in 2016. While these people are helping companies, we’re helping brands bring one to one engagement to their customers.

The incoming wave of beacon marketing companies

There has always been a number of companies that will learn about technologies, white label them, and resell the services. This is a super common approach to building a business and one that we at Auximiti have partially adopted as well. With beacons, this could grow from a trickle to a torrent as the hardware is inexpensive, the setup is super easy, and the benefits are quick and easy to provide proof of for customers. When all is said and done, I would not be surprised if hundreds of new companies are in the beacon space, setting up customers, and connecting the world we live in.  I think it’s awesome.

Another reason this is going to continue as a trend is all of the hype and marketing that has been pumped into the “Internet of Things”.  We are at the peak of inflated expectations and companies all over see IoT as a way to solve all their problems. This is naive, but it’s what hype does. With all the hype, comes those who prey on false hopes and work to get a quick buck.  Naturally, the trough of disillusionment comes after and buyers find who is making a real quality product versus who is trying to cash in. You have to deliver the value if you want to build a long term business.

Why this matters

Auximiti has been a beacon centric company for the past year and may continue to do so, however with more and more businesses the market will soon become flooded with providers of this new technology. Why will someone buy from your company (my company, Auximiti) when a competitor offers the seemingly same product at a lower cost? Our answer can be divided into three parts and we encourage our prospects to take time and consideration of their beacon marketing strategy when they make these decisions.

1. Auximiti is a technology company.

Why does this matter?  We don’t sell technology that we don’t see working and we don’t sell solutions unless the problem they solve is present.  Many of the companies opening up shop in beacon marketing aren’t looking at these questions.  I’ve seen their marketing material and it can get to be as rude as saying “They can’t stop you from putting your ad on their phone.”  They are encouraging a SPAM type of system which isn’t what the consumer is asking for and won’t deliver as much value as we can.  Our approach is to look at the problem first and then apply the technologies, processes, and persons that will solve it. It’s half consulting and half service provider and our expertise helps our clients succeed to greater degrees.

2. Auximiti is greater than beacons.

Beacon marketing is a fun idea, a valuable marketing technology, and an essential component of the evolving technology world that is ushering in the “Internet of Things” paradigm. That being said, it isn’t the end-all be-all of marketing solutions. Larger companies will need more than a simple beacon sending promotions to interested passersby. The brand image, the customer engagement, the immersive experience, and the predictive automation are all essential components of Real-Time Marketing solutions in the IoT age. Auximiti knows and works with all of these components and how to include them in a proximity-based solution. Does your brand provide chat-bots to solve small problems and help out your customers? Does your brand rely on the human experience and a chat-bot would detract from that? Does your brand have a VIP loyal customer base with minimal churn? Does your brand want to create one? These questions help drive the focus of proximity based real-time mobile marketing and engagement products. We thrive at asking the right questions and learning about our customers to build the right solution for each one.

3. Auximiti is automation.

Many of these new companies in the space will tell their customers to simply put their homepage or current digital promotion copy onto the beacon redirect. We do this too as our bare-bones approach to inbound sales. We also do so much more. Leave Auximiti with your brand copy, marketing campaigns, and promotions, and Auximiti will build you premium designed content, automated and optimized messaging, and analytical results. Not only do you offload the extra work for beacon marketing, you receive premium content, new copy to use in other places, and a more cohesive feeling for your beacon marketing campaigns. If copy isn’t your core competency, we can work with your partners or you can adopt ours to build amazing fresh content.

Where do we go from here

For starters, look at problems, look at beacon marketing as a potential solution, and hash out some objectives, goals, and initiatives that will bring a project together. Next, research Auximiti, and our competitors, to find the right provider for you. Do you need an app built, a new https mobile friendly website, technical expertise, and a well maintained, automated system? Maybe we’re the right fit. Do you want to slam a couple beacons on your storefront, point them at your website, and forget about it? We can do that and so can many others. If you want a monthly consulting call or advisory/support call to help your system maintain its effectiveness ask about that too.  I encourage you to do your research and find the right solution because your success is all that matters.

Best of luck to you in this new beacony world.

I’ve been selling the wrong way.

For the last 6 months, I have been pushing as hard as I can and getting nowhere in sales.

I could chalk this up to being a technical founder, a younger person with a smaller network, or having little experience in business and specifically none in sales or marketing. Instead, I have found that I CAN sell, but I can’t sell myself as something I’m not. After attempting for months to meet other people’s expectations, it has occurred to me that I am trying to change myself instead of changing the expectation as my initial response.  Those days are over, and by moving passed them I am able to connect with people that understand who I am and how I can help them.  This leads to more conversations, better network connections, and eventually getting in touch with people who I am able to help and who will enjoy working with me.

It’s been easy to think that I am “laying it all out on the line” or make up other rationalizations for what I’m doing when it isn’t working. Those are mouse traps and rabbit holes which will eat away at your mind and trick you into failure. When nothing is working, it’s time to try something new. For me, that is a change to how quickly I work (I’m slowing things down in my mind and communication), and changing my expectations and therefore intent and interaction when meeting new people. I don’t want every networking meeting to turn into new business. It would be nice, but is also extremely unrealistic and choosing your customers can be just as important as choosing your investors.

In the meantime, I’ve been working hard on technical progress in product development and data analytics. Within the connections and networking I do as my weekly routine, I’m talking with new people every week and trying to spread the word about what we do, but I’ve toned down my outreach a bit. As much as Auximiti needs me to be selling every day, it also needs me to be at the top of my game.  Always.  If that means selling for 1-4 hours a day until we have the team to sell Auximiti, then that is what I’ll do. However, I will focus on where I can make the most impact and where the business needs are most pressing which is somewhere between knowledge management, operations, and I.T. once we have the sales process ironed out.  Sales is always first and most important for a business.  Second is building the product.

My strength is building.

Startup Build – Why are you building it?

The number one question to answer for a startup is Why?

  • Why are you at this startup?
  • Why are you helping your customers?
  • Why are you building this feature?
  • Why are you ignoring these problems?

That last one is especially notable because startups do have A LOT of problems.  From Invoicing to Traction to Marketing and Sales Strategy to Cash Flow to Raising Capital to Product Development and more, startups never have many things solved and have more problems than solutions.  The chaos is everything you could be doing.  The simplicity is finding the ONE thing that moves the needle.  You then ignore all the problems outside this range and succeed at something people will pay you for, because you’re providing value to them.

So why are you ignoring problems?  To solve the customer’s problems first.

TechCrunch Disrupt & What I Learned About Startups

Last month I had the amazing experience of visiting New York for the first time and exhibiting at TechCrunch Disrupt for Auximiti.

Yes, it’s a real thing.

One of the reoccurring things that I heard when people learned that I had been to TCD is “Like in the T.V. show Silicon Valley?  That’s a real thing?”
“Yes, it’s a real thing,” I would often respond and go on to laugh about the show.  I don’t blame them.  Technology Startups are few and far between and most of them fail somewhere between “I think we got this.” and “This will be huge.” as everything looks great until it doesn’t.  I have become aware of this over the last 45 days since TCD and it has helped me refocus my efforts and drive our business initiatives forward to help us reach our goals, even to the point of not developing any new code since TCD.  I think this is where a lot of startups fail before they even get started.  Let me give you an example:

I recently went to Galvanize in Phoenix, AZ to listen to Nathan Mortensen of Tallwave Capital which was great.  I learned about raising capital, the difference between investors, venture capital firms, and other forms of capital infusion, and Tallwave’s particular criteria and decision making process behind funding startups (they do post-seed rounds).  While I was there I met two co-founders who had built a machine learning system and were looking for funding to help them revamp the system, hone the algorithm, and start building traction.  Here is the kicker; they had zero customers.  Maybe they started asking people if it was something they could use or maybe they haven’t (or maybe they need the better algorithm for it to be worthwhile to customers).  Their problem is that an investor wants to see, more than anything else, that people are giving you money for what you are selling.  Even if it is just a little bit, like 20 bucks for a trial, money is 10 times the market validation of anything else and tells you that product market fit is not that far away.

It doesn’t make much sense to code.

This is why I haven’t coded a line since we came back from New York.  We have a system that works and we can set people up and start taking payment.  Building up our platform so that it is nicer or has more features isn’t going to help Auximiti as much as finding more people to use what we have already.  Until we find someone who is willing to pay more for a particular feature, better UI, or another integration, it doesn’t make much sense to code.  One caveat to this mentality is when your product simply isn’t selling and you’ve been trying to sell it, really pushing it on everyone you meet, and nobody wants to give it a go.  At this point, you may need to go back to the drawing board or explore how you can pivot into another product, market, or traction channel to find someone who is interested.  Still, coding may not be required.  If you can use a prototype, design spec, or some other way to market your idea and find interest you may not need to code a single line until someone comes to you, money in hand, to buy the product you don’t have.

At that point, it’s go time!

Self Organizing Teams at the Executive Level

Self organizing teams are one of the most productive forms of collaboration.  Individuals in these teams are more independent, communicate better, find answers to questions instead of letting them go, and continually enhance their own skills and abilities.  There are five core pieces to highly functional self organizing teams: Competency, Collaboration, Motivation, Trust and Respect, Continuity.  I will address how each piece of this pie fits the highly desirable C-Suite of a successful business and argue the case that at the Executive Level, the only successful teams are self organizing.

Competency: I have read that if you know more about the job you are hiring for than the prospect employee that you shouldn’t hire that person.  This feels correct following commonly held beliefs such as “If you are the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.” and “Anything someone can do 80% as well as you can do it should be delegated.”  What all this comes down to is the ability to get the job done.  Now, we want every member of our team, organization, company to be able to get the job done and typically those that can’t are not working with us for much longer, however, this is particularly important at the Executive level.  Specifically, you cannot know whether someone is a good salesperson or not when you have made your career in the software development field.  Is one customer good if they are big enough?  How good is 100 customers a month?  These questions are unanswerable unless you know how sales works.  In a self organizing team, each member is competent in their role and responsibilities so you don’t have to worry that your CFO is really doing a poor job but you just can’t tell.

Collaboration: Communication is essential to any organization and especially to the highest levels of business.  We spend days upon days and endless hours thinking of ways to better communicate with our customers, business partners, and colleagues.  In self organizing teams, teamwork is encouraged to help push the business forward in whatever way team members need to work together and because each member is competent, they can focus on what they do best and rely on their team to support them in all other areas of the business.  Focusing on each member’s strengths to push their contribution to the next level is highly valuable and sometimes essential for a business to succeed.  All of this comes back to the core of collaboration, which is to work with each other to achieve results that are greater than the sum of the individual effort.

Motivation: One of the biggest motivation killers is to have a manager breathing down your back before a critical deadline.  Sure, you’re there working hard at crunch time to solve the immediate problem but we all know what happens once that deadline has come and gone; you lose interest.  At the executive level, this can be seen as quarterly reports, reporting to investors or shareholders in general, and reporting internally to the CEO.  Without motivation, deadlines are missed or pushed back due to lack of wanting to work on a particular daunting project.  To encourage and motivate a team, coaching and guidance should be the order of the day and with members of the C-Suite this means sharing information, explaining projects and technologies, collaborating on exciting projects, and applying the coaching and guidance towards each other.

Trust and Respect:  Trust your team.  As a CEO you absolutely must trust your team.  Give them the reigns and let them handle more details of that aspect of your business, for that is what they are good at.  This gives them the ability to work the best way they can and frees yourself up to focus on what matters for your position and role.  Without Trust, and therefore Respect, the team will lose motivation, the desire to collaborate, and eventually competency because they just won’t care about the work anymore.  This makes Respect one of the most important conditions for a successful business.

Continuity:  The team sticks together.  There is a reason a CEO, CFO, or any other C-Suite Executive stays with a company for many years.  To get anything accomplished at a large corporation it will take years, especially if it is a change in culture, a pivot to adopt new technology, or even the launch of a successful and sustainable business.  If the CSO leaves 2 years into a business launch, picking up those relationships with key customers will not be easy and could send the company into an unrecoverable tailspin.  Form a team and keep the team for at least five years.

If you don’t believe now that a Executive Team is automatically a self-organizing team then take these principles and put them into practice (if you can).  You will find that things will change; A+ players will stand out and anyone who cannot acclimate or adjust to new standards of excellence will be ousted for what they really are.  Finding your Team’s Zen, where working with your team is second nature, will come with benefits:

  • They pull work for themselves and don’t wait for their leader to assign work. This ensures a greater sense of ownership and commitment.
  • They manage their work (allocation, reallocation, estimation, reestimation, delivery, and rework) as a group. They still require mentoring and coaching, but they don’t require “command and control.”
  • They communicate more with each other, and their commitments are more often to project teams than to the an individual.
  • They understand requirements and aren’t afraid to ask questions to get their doubts clarified.
  • They continuously enhance their own skills and recommend innovative ideas and improvements.

Now if all of this seems enticing, at the executive level and otherwise, there is a small formula that can help build these teams.  Nitin Mittal has an excellent write-up on Building Self Organizing Teams.

Visual Intelligence – Stephen Few

At Auximiti we are always moving forward and striving to provide the best information at all times.  Sometimes, this leads to releasing weird, awkward, or unhelpful features.  Our recent analytics iterations in our platform’s admin console were live for a couple days for each iteration.  Starting with getting data into a graph, we began to understand what we were working with.

First Version of Data Report – Auximiti

Initial Release: You can see the dates and the number of uses are highly visible but the colors don’t help.  You also don’t know which day of the week matches each bar.

These were obvious flaws that we could jump on and correct, which we did in our next iteration.

Second Version of Data Report – Auximiti

Iteration 1: Here we see a lot more information provided in an easy to understand presentation. Labels on the graph gave context.  We can see which date corresponds to which day of the week.

We wanted to dive deeper to get an analysis of the hour to hour data.  Little did I know that Stephen Few and a few of his 8 Core Principles of Data Visualization would guide our development and address our problem.

“The best software for data analysis is the software you forget you’re using. It’s such a natural extension of your thinking process that you can use it without thinking about the mechanics.”

– Stephen Few –

Iteration 2: We’re looking at his principles of Explore and View Diversely which address finding new ways to look at the same data.  Solving problems and proving new hypothesis posed by the user.  We wanted to view our data at a more granular level, hourly in our case, to see if new insights could be derived.  Unfortunately we had really run into the problem of creating a ridiculous chart.  Just look at all the colors!

Third Version of Data Report – Auximiti

From here we had an obvious question to answer:  What are we going to do about our color scheme?  Now at this phase, our fearless leader David had been channeling Stephen Few which he had read and was familiar with his ideas on data visualization.  He pointed me in the right direction with a simple statement.  “Don’t use color unless the color has purpose.”  What an amazingly simple statement to wrap up our problem.  In relation to the Core Principles, we we’re still on track with Stephen Few.

Iteration 3: We’re going after the principles of Compare and Attend which are defined as ways to show the user what is important and why, without getting in the way of their cognitive processes.  Our cognitive block? These distracting colors and no correlations. A busy hour switching from 1 PM Monday to 4 PM Wednesday would not change color.  This was a flaw which there was no choice but to address.  We wanted people to get information at a glance.  We settled on a purposeful use for color that showcased the highest volume of traffic.

Fourth Version of Data Report – Auximiti

Now, you can immediately understand the information.  When you have busy days/hours in red and easy to view comparisons to the rest of the data.

Looking forward we are planning to expand on the Compare principle by matching multiple locations and devices up with each other in a single chart, showing where business differs and where it is similar.  We will probably have to iterate again on colors and labels until we get the display to deliver actionable information at-a-glance.  This time we will be starting from a much better perspective.

The full list of Stephen Few’s Core Principles of Data Visualization

Update:  Our comparison charts look fantastic and let our users login for straight-forward information.  This is something we could port to wearable technology or augmented reality!