Presented by Ben Ravani (General Manager) at the Convergence 2014 event.


Cloud computing is the hot topic of the moment, reduction in IT costs and increased agility responding to market demands are among the touted benefits of the cloud; but what are the downsides? How can they be addressed?


A demystification of the cloud is required, think about yourself for a second, what are YOUR concerns?


Personally, I worry about my personal data, my companies data and my customers data.


When considering a cloud service, certain questions should always be asked of the vendor:

  • Where is my data stored?
  • How secure is my data?
  • Who has access to my data?
  • What other purpose other than serving me is my data used for?
  • How reliable is the service I am entrusting with my data and how is it managed?


Microsoft have 6 data centres to support Dynamics 2013, they are split into pairs in the USA, Europe and Asia.  The data centres have a number of features to address the fears of cloud services:

  • Physical security including parameter, multi-factor authentication, constant monitoring and locked racks.
  • Critical services are also hosted including Office365, MSN and Skype adding a level of assurance.
  • Dynamic scaling and capacity management.


Reliability is obviously a paramount consideration, Active-Active high availability including near real-time replication as well as business continuity are all provided in the data centre.


Two copies of your data is written to storage in the primary DC with 2 further copies written to the secondary, sister DC.  As well as this, a fully encrypted backup is securely stored at an off-site location.  Switch-over between DC’s is as straight-forward as ‘the push of a button’.


Privacy is assured by initially ensuring that each customer has their own database.  Further safeguards are also in place to provide additional privacy and manage the centre:

  • Data Centre employees have no access to data, only hardware.
  • Failed storage devices are securely stored and shredded.
  • Automated workflows provide self-healing to reduce resolution time and remove human intervention in certain scenarios.
  • Microsoft Operations Centre (MOC) provides 24×7 first response to all monitoring and alerts, escalating to service engineers as appropriate.
  • Service engineers are fully background checked and are located in Redmond and Ireland only; these individuals are highly trusted as they have high-levels of access to both hardware and data in order to resolve issues.


Microsoft are dedicated to security and privacy, fully details are available at but at a high-level:

  • Integrity – Microsoft have been entrusted with your data and take this very seriously.
  • Principles – Security, Privacy and Transparency.
  • Compliance – ISO 27001, HIPAA, EU Model Clauses etc.


To summarise the webinar, let me present a screenshot from Ben’s presentation:

Consumer relationship management (CRM) and other technologies can help businesses take advantage of opportunities and react more quickly to changes in their environment, particularly when it comes to the financial services industry, a new study has suggested.

According to the report from Ricoh Europe and the Economist Intelligence Unit, only one in ten British finance firms – including retail, corporate and investment banking as well as insurance – feel they are prepared to respond to unexpected changes in the future.

Given the extended period of flux that has characterised the financial services sector in recent years, this could prove to be something of a concern.

Carsten Bruhn, executive vice-president at Ricoh, said: “Juggling so many obstacles, while at the same time trying to focus on client services, transform internal processes and ensure regulatory compliance is a monumental task. It’s no wonder that financial services leaders are feeling under pressure.”

According to Mr Bruhn, embracing the possibilities offered by new technologies can reduce the stress facing finance chiefs while ensuring their businesses are as flexible and effective as possible in the current economic and regulatory environment.

Processes such as “customer communication management services” can improve the relationship businesses enjoy with their clients while automating a relatively time-consuming and expensive part of the operation, driving up efficiency levels within the sector, he posited.

The Ricoh study found the most crucial areas where financial services firms need to change their approach to be in the field of adopting new technologies, attracting and retaining customers, and improving core business processes, in that order of preference.

While 54 per cent of respondents said they have many ideas about how they can change their approach in the future, they also admitted to lacking the ability to implement these concepts at the moment.

Concerns are also in place about changing processes too quickly, which can result in losing customers, the study revealed.

So far in 2014, the Internet of Things looks to be beating off competition from big data to be the tech and marketing industry’s favourite buzzword. As with its predecessor, the concept’s ubiquity can reduce it to a kind of meaningless white noise, but the reality is that this development could mean major changes for many industries as it continues to expand.

Fundamentally, the idea is that analogue devices such as cars and ovens – as well as more complex tools such as those used in the oil and gas industry – will become connected to the web, allowing them to be more responsive as well as making it easier to collate data on particular processes.

For consumers and businesses, this could offer the capability to, for instance, have locks that open via a smartphone or thermostats that are remarkably responsive to changes in the atmosphere.

This is likely to improve convenience and standards of life for many people, but it also poses a number of challenges. For one thing, companies utilising this new technology will need to be extremely confident in their cyber security – the more connected the internet becomes to the physical world, the more costly any kind of unexpected or malicious breach could be.

Additionally, marketers will need to ensure they have the right tools in place to deal with the spike in consumer information that the Internet of Things will create.

Processes such as consumer relationship management, because they automate many of the systems needed to deal with this kind of data, could enjoy a spike in popularity as more devices get connected to the web.

Yves de Montcheuil, vice-president of marketing at data management company Talend, recently told Computing: “Let’s say you’re a just-in-time manufacturer. Being able to do capacity planning based not just on historical statistics but based on the instant availability of information about the health of the manufacturing chain is extremely valuable.”

This possibility could be an extremely useful one assuming firms have the capacity to take advantage of it.

From a financial perspective, looking to adopt a CRM can be a bit daunting. The extra expense coupled with statistics claiming that up to 80% of CRM projects fail to meet their objectives means any decision concerning this should be made with great care. In an attempt to combat this uncertain malaise, most of the market-leading CRMs now offer a 30 day trial to allow you to get to grips with the software without any expense.

Your CRM Experience

Having access to a variety of powerful CRMs, such as Microsoft Dynamics, for free can help you concentrate on the decision without worrying about the bank balance. It also allows you to try multiple different systems to find the one that best suits your organisation. Although at Redspire, we recommend that you only choose 2 or 3 to trial as adding any more can complicate an already difficult issue and take up too much time.

In spite of the relatively short time frame of these trails, there are benefits that can be measured from each. Increased security levels are one of the first noticeable advantages of using a CRM. Using Microsoft Dynamics, for example, allows data to be stored in a single place; noticeably safer than using a spreadsheet and not to mention far more secure than relying on paper and pen or memory.

Automate your processes

Secondly, having the data in a single place boosts productivity and efficiency, with staff no longer tasked with collecting data from different sources to maximise marketing strategies or sales pitches. These powerful systems include automated workflow functionality that allows time to be saved, ensuring that enquiries and complaints are sent to relevant bodies without any manual resource on the part of Sales or Marketing.

Once again, with all your company data unified, it gives your colleagues the information at hand to respond to these communications speedily. Further efficiencies are possible if you decide to use Microsoft Dynamics CRM; its familiar interface and integration with the Microsoft Office Suite means that it takes general CRM efficiency to the next level. Even within a 30 day trial, you will notice the difference in productivity levels, which could, in turn, lead to boosted revenue.

Can 30 days make a difference?

Deciding what tasks need to be streamlined and which need to have more time spent on in order to boost revenue and minimise losses is an important part of your role. Adding a CRM to the mix, even if it is for only 30 days, will help refine how you track your ROI and will undoubtedly become an invaluable tool. Track the progress of your business’ marketing strategies, see which are having the best impact coupled with the least amount of investment and relay this back to your marketing team. Even in the trial period, a CRM will boost your sales strategy, by helping the sales team to refine their approach and create the right first impression using the lead’s personal details that Sales have in front of them.

Despite the apparent brevity of a 30 day trial, there are definite economic benefits to be found from successfully trialling a CRM. Not only will a CRM help you to identify your most profitable tasks, but a CRM such as Microsoft Dynamics will automate more menial functions, allowing you to spend more time on those tasks.

Interested? Choose to trial Microsoft Dynamics with Redspire and we will offer you a half day of consultancy and training to ensure that you make the most of the 30 day period.

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Plans are afoot for further investment in consumer relationship management (CRM) processes over the course of 2014, according to a new report from Econsultancy in association with Responsys.

The Marketing Budget 2014 study found 49 per cent of firms to be planning a CRM investment in the next 12 months, making it the most popular area for spending, with business analytics (47 per cent) and new email platforms (40 per cent) following closely behind.

Digital marketers are increasingly needing to invest heavily in new technology simply to keep up with their counterparts as the pace of advances in the sector continues to grow, the survey suggested.

Furthermore, economic trends do not appear to be affecting this willingness to spend – around 70 per cent of respondents are planning to up their investment this year, the same amount as intended to do so when first asked in 2011, despite the fact that the overall business outlook is considerably rosier in 2014.

More than 600 companies, mainly from the UK, participated in this research. The number of firms planning to spend in the CRM field was up by four per cent since 2013, indicating that the technology is gaining further traction when it comes to forming relationships with customers.

Marketing automation also proved popular with businesses, suggesting that there is an ongoing trend among digital marketers to move towards more efficient, technology-driven processes – this can save cash, which is still important in straitened economic times, and also ensure that workers can spend their time on more productive or engaging tasks.

Only two per cent of respondents said they planned to decrease their technological spend in 2014, meaning this expansion looks unlikely to have hit its peak.

Simon Robinson, managing director with Responsys, said: “Overall, the report paints the marketing landscape in an interesting light. Technology will continue to challenge brands to interact with consumers in new and interesting ways.”

The biggest challenge will be capitalising on the opportunities provided by this innovation, he concluded.

Webinar hosted by Francois Ruf, Principal Group Program Manager at Microsoft during the Convergence 2014 event in Atlanta.


The presentation was focussed on the Microsoft Social Listening product set which will be available from Q2 2014 in Dynamics 2013 and forms part of the ‘Social Stack’.  Francois discussed the high-level strategy for organisations to develop a social platform utilising the technology stack provided by Dynamics 2013.


Everyone is becoming more aware of the connected world, vast amounts of data is generated online every day and the growing challenge for any organisation is how to process the relevant data.  This truly is the age of the customer, with 1.2 billion posts per day on Facebook and Twitter alone!


Many potential customers are 57% (according to some statistics) through the buying cycle before they even reach out to an organisation, these interactions happen on sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter among other online places, if you are not actively interacting at these touch points the potential buyers may not even be aware of your organisation.


Consumers also expect much more agile organisations with 20% expecting a response to a query within 1 hour via social media.  44% of consumers now complain via social media.


In a social age, organisations must be aware of and be able to address:

  • Trust – People trust people, not organisations.
  • Transparency – People are able to know everything about your product, the good and the bad.  They also know all your competitors.
  • Access – People are able to easily get recommendations from friends, their network and the global community.


It will be no surprise that conversations in social media have become more influential to the buying process than the traditional sales and marketing tactics.


This has a BIG IMPACT on the sales, marketing and customer care processes in your organisation!


So what can organisations do to better engage online and better leverage the potential of social?


The biggest opportunities will cover:

  • Customer Experience – Understanding the consumer, learning from competitors, engaging with the customer socially.
  • Social Media Marketing – Brand reputation and presence, lead generation, etc.
  • Risk Management – Discover marketing and customer risks in real-time, an early warning system.
  • HR – communication and spotting top talents.
  • Analytics and Big Data – Understand your data by including social data and trends.
  • Collaboration – Internal to maximise network and knowledge within the organisation.


How do you get started with a social strategy?

  • Start with listening.  What are your opportunities, where are the touch points with customers?  Do most of your potential customers interact on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or a combination?
  • Listen to competitors.  How are they approaching social?  Can you learn from what they are doing?
  • The Business Case.  Align your goals with your core business KPI’s.  How would you measure success?  The number of followings on Twitter may not indicate success for your organisations strategy.
  • Evaluate tools and vendors.
  • Build a roadmap.  Start simple but have a complete end to end scenario.
  • Assess the knowledge already in the organisation and assess education and training requirements.
  • Get Executive sponsorship.  You have your opportunities, competitor information, a business case, an understanding of your organisation and a roadmap.


Organisations must be careful about some pitfalls; the social strategy must be organisation wide and not just part of a small silo (such as marketing for example).  Not aligning the strategy with business goals is another common issue, what are you trying to achieve?


With Microsoft Dynamics, the entire social stack is seamlessly integrate into Dynamics 2013 giving you the power to unlock social for your organisation.


This is a summary of Tom Belle’s talk at the Microsoft Dynamics 2014 Conference ‘Content Marketing: What’s real & What’s next?‘. Tom Belle is the President and CEO of Gage. In his talk, he provided priceless insight into today’s state of content marketing, and proposed a concise content marketing strategy that is very simple – but not very easy.

Tom’s formula for a successful content marketing is as follows:


Relevant content + right time + right channel.

This means, companies should provide content that matters to their target market, at a time they’re likely to get a positive response, and via a channel their target audience is happy with.

If you’ve already done some content marketing, you probably know that in practice, this is not as easy as it sounds. The problem in today’s organisations is that every employee is unique and works differently from everybody else, and in effect whole departments work differently than other departments.

This can sometimes result in a common problem – everybody is working hard but the effort is not necessarily coordinated. In case of content marketing, the organisation ends up with numerous ‘silos’ of content from Sales, Social, PR, Digital Marketing, Marketing Communications and so on.

Sounds familiar?

The term Tom Belle used for this kind of ‘strategy’ is ‘Random Acts of Content’, which stands for content that is being pushed out via irrelevant channels, at the wrong time and/or isn’t consistent with the overall content strategy of the organisation as a whole.

And this is where the secret lies – in organisation as a whole. To successfully execute a content strategy, the organisation must be taken as a whole as opposed to being divided into departments – sales, marketing, support etc. Otherwise the company ends up with overly expensive and inconsistent ‘strategy’ that yields much worse results than a single, overarching one.


Making it work

So how to make sure your efforts are consistent? If you spend time on social media, you’re likely to have read something about technology being crucial to content marketing. By technology, we mean CRM, Sales Force Automation, Content Management Systems, email marketing, lead generation & management etc. This is of course true – as Tom Belle explains, anything that can be automated should be automated, otherwise you’re wasting your time – but technology can’t create strategy – it can just help you execute it.

So let’s start at the beginning: what should content marketing be used for?

Tom Belle listed a few purposes:

  • Building brand affinity
  • Enlarging the company’s network (getting traffic from more channels)
  • Getting the product out there
  • Generating new leads
  • Cross-selling & up-selling
  • Building a social community

And how should we achieve this? The simple answer is: By reaching out and providing a reason to your target market to also reach out and engage with you.

The more complex answer is, by combining:

  • Technology – as means of getting information in and pushing content out
  • Content – as the main attraction for the audience
  • Marketing – as the methodology for delivering your strategy


Where to start?

Start with your company.

As with every other project, define your objectives. What do you want to achieve with your content marketing? Next, capture the value your organisation delivers in a few short sentences. Look at how your brand is viewed by your target audience.

Continue by focusing on your customer.

Find out what your customers’ needs, questions and interests are, and which channel you’re likely to reach them through. From these, create very specific personas.

Next, create customer journeys.

For each individual persona, map out the journey you want them to take during their lifecycle. Create a matrix for every persona: at each stage of the customer journey (awareness, consideration, trial, use & loyalty, advocacy), define the activities, motivations and key information sources they should have or do. Base your content strategy on these matrices.

For example, if your persona is not happy with an aspect of your competitor’s service and if they’re spending time on LinkedIn, engage with them on LinkedIn and talk to them about how your service will not irritate them in the same way. As the lead is moving through the customer journey, keep sending them messages tailored to every journey stage. Remember, relevant content, right timing and right channel are crucial – and these will change as the lead is advancing in the journey.


Creating great content

The first thing you need to do in order to create great content is to create robust brand content pillars. These will serve you as a sturdy foundation and will keep your content creators from steering off track.

Brand content pillars are the essence of what your audience should think about the value your brand delivers. For example, Nike delivers ‘authentic athletic experience.’ Naturally, in B2B marketing, what we market is often not as exciting as that. However, the value you say you deliver still needs to be relevant to the customer, and if you can find a unique niche and present your brand that way, all the better for your brand.

In his presentation, Tom Belle talked about 3M and their digital display screens. During this campaign, they managed to create 4 times more conversion than from anything they’d ever done before. How? By switching from communicating their products’ features to communicating the experience (value) they delivered to the customer. So instead of talking about the technical specifications of their screens, they focused on talking about the great customer experience. Whatever they did, they made sure they kept their messaging consistent by only creating new content around their brand content pillars (amazing screens, great experience) – which is also why their strategy was so successful.


9 mistakes to avoid

Finally, Tom talked about the most common mistakes to avoid in content marketing:

  1. Not knowing your customers. You can always know your customers better. Invest effort into tailoring your marketing personas and follow through with the messaging you’re sending them.
  2. Not keeping the content unique, borrowing content from everyone else and not adding your own spin on it. Always make sure you’re contributing to the debate.
  3. Not clarifying your objectives and/or strategy and posting ‘Random Acts of Content’.
  4. Not respecting the channels. Always find out what’s appropriate to do on each channel and what people do on these channels, and make your content relevant.
  5. Talking about yourself – always talk about the experience your customer is going to get before talking about your brand.
  6. Chasing ‘that shiny object’ – always make sure what you’re about to do is consistent with your marketing strategy. If it’s not and it’s still enticing, think twice before doing it.
  7. Not effectively multiplying content. Make use of your most popular content by recreating it in a different form. This way you can use the same message in various media and get it through to more personas.
  8. Always striving to write a lot. Sometimes less is more – don’t try to stretch what can be written in a few sentences. Sometimes a shorter piece of content has more impact than a longer one.
  9. Not perfecting the whole customer journey. Especially at the end of the customer lifecycle, it’s crucial that your leads feel catered for and relevant. Make sure every touchpoint through their journey is designed to move them on to the next one – by confirming your positive brand image.


What did Tom Belle recommend at the end of his talk? Start simple and follow through. The positive results will come.

We understand that many businesses may be a little unwilling to adopt CRM. You may have previously tried to implement a system and been deflated by the experience. It may even be that you’ve heard uninspiring statistics or testimonials about CRM technology. However, the technology behind advanced, forward-thinking CRM systems is constantly updating; the CRM you used previously is most probably not the same CRM that can be tailored to your needs now. Similarly to legacy systems, what were once the height of sophistication are now a barrier to business growth. Is your business ready to move with the times?

Companies such as Microsoft are spending considerable sums in research and development to ensure that their products, including Microsoft Dynamics CRM, are at the forefront of their sector.

Professional and supportive CRM vendors understand the importance of trying before you buy to ensure that a system fits your needs and objectives before you take the plunge. Our 30 day free trial (with no obligation to buy) is the ideal litmus test for assessing what your business could achieve. And don’t be under the impression that 30 days is too short a time frame to really notice any benefits; coupled with the correct vendor support, there are most definitely measurable benefits even within this short period. Redspire, for example, offers a 1/2 day of analysis and consultancy for free to make sure you do notice the following benefits:

  1. The real time visibility offered by CRM systems, such as Dynamics, can help increase sales even in a one month period.
  2. The customisation tools embedded within most forward thinking CRMs means that you can tailor the UI to help you spot crucial trends and comparisons.
  3. Identify and resolve customer issues quickly by having an arsenal of tools at your disposal to deal with anything much more efficiently.
  4. Increase efficiency without cutting corners by using a CRM that already integrates with your current internal software packages. If you are heavily reliant on Microsoft Office, it may be worth considering a Microsoft Dynamics trial.

These advantages continue to grow exponentially the longer you use your CRM and, with a well-refined and fully thought out CRM strategy, you will notice an increase in sales, as well as significant cost savings elsewhere.

With the multitude of CRM systems offering 30 day trials without commitment, there is almost no reason not to go ahead and see whether a modern CRM is a perfect fit for your modern business.[divider_space]

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This talk was hosted by Barbara Giamanco, CEO of Social Centred Selling and recognised social selling thought leader at the 2014 Microsoft Convergence event.

From a sales and marketing perspective, social selling is becoming more and more critical to organisations both in the UK and internationally. Never before have prospects, buyers and influencers had such control over the B2B buying process. It is not easy to get in front of buyers and prospects, indeed these individuals are no longer dependant on the ‘sales person’ and most will start the buying process online without any sales person interaction at all.

Some interesting statistics from the talk that lend weight to this include:

  • 92% of buyers ignore unsolicited phone and email contacts.
  • 70% of buyers start researching options without sales contact.

It is apparent that if buyers are being educated online, this is where your organisation needs to be in order to become involved in the buyers education.

What would you personally do before you meet someone face-to-face or over the phone for the first time? Check out the person online? Perhaps look at LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to better understand the person you are about to meet with? What would happen if you opened up their LinkedIn page and the profile is blank?

So, if buyers can block sellers and have no need to engage at the earlier stages of research, what options are available to the buyer?

Social Media is playing a more and more important role in this area, however it is important to understand that these new channels do not replace traditional processes! At the end of the day you are still selling, or buying from a real person and that involves face-to-face meetings, telephone calls etc.

Buyers blocking sellers! So now what?

Social Media can be used effectively for many things:

  • Researching Prospects.
  • Establishing credibility.
  • Participating in relevant social groups to remain visible online, add value and become a ‘go to’ person in your field.
  • Establish relationships with multiple players in the buying process; reports show that on average 12-14 people can be involved in a B2B buying decision.

Research as show that sellers that are actively involved online outperform colleagues that are not. 72% report achieving their quota more often and 23% report exceeding their quota more often. More than 1/2 the respondents could directly track back social media to closed deals!

The research also showed that over 60% of the activity was through LinkedIn with smaller percentages through Twitter, Facebook and Blogging.

This is a brave new world, but mistakes can be made at an organisation and individual level. Having no social guidelines, not providing training and adding no value are common mistakes. Using the channels for broadcasting pitches (“Spray and Pray”) is also a very easy way to loose prospects and damage brand – targeted messaging is paramount.

All this information is available online through social channels. Most of this information is generated by individuals though, do they always tell the truth on profiles? Do they post financials and budgets? This is one piece of the puzzle and to truly be an informed seller, Business Intelligence must be leveraged to provide a full picture of the contact/prospect.

InsideView is now build directly into Microsoft Dynamics 2013 and can infuse company and contact data with real-time social insights and relevant news. Alerts can be triggered for example should a change in leadership occur within an organisation or a prospect wins an award; these triggers can be used to reach out to the prospect.

Social is not going away, how can you take best advantage to drive your sales?

In theory, consolidating customer information within an organisation and using it as the basis for things such as communication and sales, should be easy.

In practice, unless you have effective customer relationship management (CRM) software, it may be anything but.

The problem: Too many channels

The days when your communication channels with a customer were restricted to letters and perhaps the odd telephone call are now long gone.

Today, your customers will typically want to interface with you via a variety of channels, including:

  • e-mail;
  • conventional letters;
  • telephones;
  • non-email texting;
  • the social media;
  • your website and its various processes; etc.

Trying to bring all of that together into one integrated vision of how you are engaging with an individual customer isn’t easy. To make matters worse, the different back-office systems sitting behind your communication channels may record information about a customer in different ways, different formats and with different objectives.

For example, the information relating to a customer on your accounts receivable system may be significantly different in orientation to that stored about the same customer on your sales system. It might also be used differently by the two departments.

The difficulties in managing a single customer view across these different channels and their supporting systems, may give rise to more problems than simply a loss of opportunity for things such as cross-selling.

For example, stories of banks that have refused a small personal loan application from an individual who happened to also be one of their largest corporate depositors, are not just apocryphal.  They really happen.

The solution: Multi-channel customer management

CRM software allows you to pull together information coming into your organisation from different sources and which is being held in different vertical departmental systems.

It provides you with a single view of the customer, which will then be used to govern all future communications with the person concerned.

The idea is to avoid organisations acting inconsistently with an individual customer and as a result, putting that customer’s income at risk.

More importantly, looking at customer communications and behaviours across a number of different channels is a fundamental prerequisite to having targeted product delivery propositions.

Although it may appear something of a cliché, it remains a fundamental truth of commercial management that if you do not take an integrated view of your customer and benefit from that, then one of your competitors will most certainly do so.