Friday, November 11, 2011

Veterans Day: Remembering Service to Our Country

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A grateful nation remembers and thanks all those who have served to protect and defend our liberty and freedoms. 

Millions have served our country over the centuries; we pause  to thank those serving today including Troy's brother, John, in Alaska.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Good News in the Multifamily Market

There's good news to be found in the housing sector..in the multifamily market.  Mark Herschmeyer, atCoStar Group, tells us that "the apartment market has become one of the real estate industry's -- and the broader economy's -- best hopes for a return to the good old days." 
The numbers bear up this optimistic commentary: in the last 12 months, there's been a net increase of 1.4 million households in rental housing.  And, new construction starts are at their highest since the end of 2008 with the pace of development activity increasing in most markets.

Another interesting statistic is that a "substantial piece of the overall apartment demand story," according to Michael Cohen at CoStar is, the middle-aged demographic (basically, ages 35-64 years).

Cohen asks, "I wonder whether developers truly understand the contours of their renter base."  Do you?  How does this changing demographic impact your marketing efforts?  As Cohen, suggests, it's the middle-aged household that is interested in stainless-steel appliances and granite countertops.  There's a broad segment of the multifamily market with an interest in location, amenities and features; how have you adjusted your product and marketing for this demographic? 

Doesn't an interactive touchscreen provide an effective way to reach this market?  Let your "new" prospects browse through floorplans, explore the neighborhood and search based upon their criteria.

Friday, October 28, 2011

What's Hot in Digital Signage? Data-driven Content

Real-time, data-driven content answers consumer questions
It's interesting to see, in screenmediamag.com, that "data-driven content" is right up there in a recent "What's Hot?" article.  It's alongside NFC (near field communication) -- a much newer digital signage component providing for simplified transactions between two devices located in close proximity.

CPS has been providing data-driven content in our interactive touchscreen product, SalesTouch, since it was introduced.  We thought it made sense to display real-time information in every presentation.  Who wants to see old, outdated information? Or have to ask even the most basic questions?

Looking for a new home?  SalesTouch displays current inventory and pricing.  Interested in apartment living?  SalesTouch displays available units meeting your desired criteria (one bedroom, view of the river and on a higher floor).  Visiting the Navy Yard?  CPS' interactive map allows you to search through personnel, find their location and notify them of your arrival.

That's what data-driven content brings to digital signage!  Consumers find real answers to their questions.  An equally powerful component is seamless integration whereby data in one system (e.g., current inventory and unit pricing found in a third-party accounting application) displays in another (the SalesTouch interactive sitemap). Great to find out that this is considered HOT!

And, we can help with NFC, too!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What type of imagery is more impactful: Product or Lifestyle?

CPS develops interactive touchscreen presentations for clients to use in customer-facing environments.  Our SalesTouch product (used in sales and leasing offices) frequently displays neighborhood amenities -- schools, shopping, dining, recreation, etc. 

We're often asked, "What do you think? Should we use pictures of the outside of the location or a map or something different?"
Wouldn't you like to find out more about living in this neighborhood?
The same question can be asked more generically, "What types of images motivate consumers: product or lifestyle?" since motivating a consumer decision is the ultimate objective of the image.

Opinions vary all over the map. 

Those advocating for "product" say that type of image creates a communications path and link with the product. 

Others suggest "lifestyle" saying those images can instantly illustrate an unrealized need in an uncomplicated fashion. 

In a somewhat informal poll, using marketing blogs, lifestyle appears to be the most prevalent.  Karl Adrian said it well, "Rule of thumb: first, sell the heart, then the mind, then the wallet with product benefits and pricing." 

What do you think?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Marketing and Packaging "Green"

Jobie Summer, with MarketYourSustainableBusiness.com, presented her unique approach to "green" marketing based upon how consumers value and purchase "green" in a recent BuilderRadio discussion.
Whole Foods Market Customer Comment Board - multiple shades of green!
It's an eye-opener for businesses selling anything from consumer products to cards to new homes and everything in between.  Summer's approach suggests every seller re-examine their green "value-proposition" in terms of where their potential buyers sit on the "green" scale.  One "green" buyer, for example, will appreciate your LEED certification; another is far more interested in purchasing items impacting their lifestyle.  In other words, buyers motivated by "green" aren't motivated in the same manner and won't make similar purchase decisions.

Jobie suggests buyers fall into 1 of 4 "shades" of green:

(1) LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability) - these buyers make decisions based on values, are the least price-sensitive and drive trends, encouraging others to try "green";
(2) Naturalities - buyers motivated by personal health and wellness objectives; they will pay for certain types of "green" products directly impacting their lifestyle ;
(3) Drifters - trends are important to these buyers yet they're not driven by community values; more price-sensitive; green needs to have personal connection;
(4) Conventionals - these buyers focus on the practical; want to see a community perspective as they focus on recycling, energy savings and the like.

What's "green" have to do with interactive touchscreens?  Using a touchscreen allows you to enhance your green footprint -- and respond to multiple "shades" of green.  Highlight your "conventional" green credentials by eliminating pre-printed brochures with the print on-demand functionality; direct attention to specific green components (e.g., carpet, paint, etc); highlight your green credentials through commentary, signage and video such as "behind the walls".

Friday, October 14, 2011

8 Marketing Changes...they're only 8?

It's been said that today's marketing world is experiencing a "revolution like never in its history" according to Loren McDonald.  He suggests there are 8 major marketing events or changes that we can't ignore. 

At the top of the list:

#1 - Customer Service is the new marketing; and
#2 - Customers become your marketing department.

They're related aren't they?  Customers -- in your store, on your website, in your sales office -- gather impressions and make decisions more quickly than ever.  Then, they're likely to Tweet, Facebook and otherwise distribute those impressions to their friends (in other words, their world!).  They're interacting with and influencing people you've never even had a chance to influence -- as well as those you've actively marketed and advertised to with carefully planned campaigns!

As a result, the the customer experience is critical.  Customer Service is no longer answering questions or processing returns in an efficient and friendly fashion; it's the entire experience that's under the microscope.   Making it memorable, unique and positive is key to growing your business and acquiring new customers.  Your customer "marketers" are influencing your market...and it's important (and exciting) to enable and encourage them to do some of your marketing for you.

Social media can't be pigeonholed -- it's not just communications or entertainment or advertising or marketing.  It is up to you to harness social media as your marketing partner as best possible -- and as uniquely as you're able. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Interactive Marketing: Keep your focus on dialogue

Interactive Marketing was recently defined by Forrester Research as the use of addressable channels like email, search, displays, social media, mobile and online video to sense and respond to customer needs.

Those engaged in interactive marketing face a number of challenges including "how do we really engage in dialogue ... in dynamic customer conversation?"

In other words, it's not all about broadcasting information ... interactive marketers have to engage customers, listen and respond in real time to their concerns. 

The Whole Foods Customer Comment Board (illustrated below) provides a unique insight into the concept of a "customer pioneer" as they're using an interactive touchscreen to actively solicit customer input and provide responses in real-time.

Forrester suggests a pioneer is the rare interactive marketer who obsesses about the customer and uses interactive channels as a means to foster an improved relationship with the customer.

In the tension between a channel vs. customer focus and push vs. dialogue interaction, the pioneer's focus is on impactful customer experience -- and technology is a key component in the solution.  We'll be talking more about the role of an interactive touchscreen in this focus on dialogue.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Consumerization of IT --- does that mean your organization, too?

Ray Wang recently published a great article in the July Harvard Business Review, Coming to Terms with the Consumerization of IT.  He pointed out that many corporate staffers work around computer technologies provided by their corporate IT department because they're easy to use and, frequently, push the technology envelope sooner.

SalesTouch: a 6S product providing the competitive edge!
A key point was that business leaders are driving technology purchasing.  Non-IT staff are hunting for applications that make sense for their business objectives and customers.  

Because, after all, you're the one responsible for the strategic advantage, the competitive edge, aren't you?

Wang mentions there's potential for "danger" with a business-driven approach to technology: that it might be less structured, orderly and efficient.  Of course, no one wants bug-infested, inefficient or incomplete products so..what's a business to do?  What about integration requirements, process management and all those IT services?

Wang suggests a couple of critical points: business and IT leaders need to realize consumerization is today and there's no going back.  Work together so your tech solutions meet the 6 "S" principles: simple, scalable, safe, secure, sustainable and sexy!!

Take a look at SalesTouch as a 6S product -- built upon Microsoft SQL Server and .NET technology delivers scalable, safe,secure and sustainable; CPS design and development delivers the simple and sexy components!



Monday, October 10, 2011

CPS QuikLine -- up and running!

Have you ever really thought how much time you spend waiting in line?  Here at CPS, we've been thinking a lot about lines, queues, queue theory and how specially designed software and appropriate hardware can enhance the process.
Opening Day!  There was a lot to wait in line for!
It's been said that today's competitive retail environment is pushing the envelope to enhance the last stage of the purchase process: the checkout line.

The concept of "queue management" has emerged as retailers work to enhance the customer experience while improving store efficiency and generating additional revenue from their properties.  Completing the "last transaction" in a timely and engaging fashion is finally being recognized as an important aspect of the consumer shopping experience.

No one likes waiting unnecessarily (so..reducing "wait time" is a winner for both shopper and retailer!) but there are other components associated with improving the "last transaction" that savvy retailers recognize: decreasing the number of "walk-aways", adding one or more "impulse buy" locations, and adding randomness to reduce register "no counts."

CPS' QuikLine was developed to provide several unique components to automated queue management: use of over-the-counter hardware (monitor, controllers, sound), integration with third-party applications (think: cash registers so QuikLine recognizes when a cashier is free), multimedia reminders (monitor, voice and display lights) and the ability to display promotional video and messaging. 

First installation: done & we'll be talking more about it!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Personalization: Reframing the Home Purchase Decision-Making Process

Builder Radio offers a great set of resources for new home sales/marketing professionals ranging from Podcasts to Webinars to an audio/visual library...all oriented towards "Helping Builders Sell More Homes."  We suggest dropping by http://www.builderradio.com/ and taking a look at what is offered.

Let your buyers take the floorplan and...make it their own!
Recently, Jane Meagher with Success Strategies participated in a Builder Radio Podcast titled, Making Personalization Part of the Sales Process.  She highlighted a key sales concept: today's consumer likes to have control over purchases and that desire offers homebuilders a unique advantage compared to used, foreclosed and spec homes: the ability to personalize the purchase.

Jane suggests that salespeople ask probing questions designed to get prospective buyers to "dream the dream" and talk about their preferred lifestyle.  This process allows the buyer to reframe their decision-making process and, she says, drives the buyer to ask, "Why settle? Maybe I can get what I want, even if it costs a little more."

That question allows the builder to differentiate the new home from other homesfor sale-- since their purchase must be considered "as is."  Sure, after the purchase the buyer can tear up the carpet, add granite but..not today.

And, here's where an interactive touchscreen system can be an effective sales tool, as well.  Buyers can mix and match structural options, see the results and print out their uniquely designed floorplan.  No more standard brochures with arrows, lines and cross-outs! They can add/remove furniture and mark-up the floorplan, as well.  Change the wall between kitchen and family room to a pony wall; mark-up the kitchen to add a center island, make the base floorplan their home.

Robert Musa talks more about the value of interactive touchscreens in the sales process in his book, Creating Customers with Interactive Digital Signage.  It's available through BuilderRadio.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Your prospect's first visit: is it really a "be back"?

Beth Bliffen, a new homes sales/marketing professional based in Southern California, has a great blog on the value of Real Estate Staging.  She talks about packaging vacant standing inventory homes to your targeted market.

What jumped out in a recent blog, however, was this sentence, "Today's buyer can be considered a "be back" on their first visit... if you realize over 90% of homebuyers will have seen your homes online."

Going beyond the static...engaging your prospect
How have you modified your sales and marketing program as a result of that statistic?  Many people "shop" online, for example, but "buy" in a bricks-and-mortar location after having the opportunity to "try on" the actual clothes, shoes, whatever.

If you're selling new homes, for example, this statistic can signal that your sales approach needs to be modified as does your marketing collateral.  It might not be enough, for example, to provide static sitemap and floorplan displays -- your prospect has already seen those online. 

Good sales people ask questions and position inventory in relationship to the responses.  The "gourmet" kitchen meets a specific need, for example, and the "den in lieu of 4th bedroom" accommodates someone who works from home. 

An interactive touchscreen facilitates the same process...responding to a prospect's criteria (e.g., let's look at all 4 bedroom homes--for the 3 kids-- with a lower level master--have an early riser-- and den--who works remote)...and there's an inventory home available, now!  Plus, you're able, via the interactive presentation, to bring the neigborhood to life -- schools, shopping/dining, recreation.

Today's visitor doesn't need an introduction to your community; they know the basics (that is, they've already shopped online) and now they're ready to drill down and find out the details to determine if there's a fit and make a buying decision!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

68% of Millennials Ask Friends Before Choosing a Restaurant

And, what you might ask, does that stat have to do with CPS, software or just about anything other than a sociology study?

Creatively describing what's in the neighborhood!

Plenty, according to Matt Carmichael and E.J. Schultz in an AdAge article published on June 29, 2011.  These shoppers have shopping and buying habits that differ from those of the "boomer" generation.  Asked to identify key shopping criteria, millenials significantly favored locations identified as providing online ordering systems, creative ideas and/or recipes, enjoyable shopping experiences and functioning as a good corporate citizen.

And, they use technology to gather opinions -- as well as provide direction, suggestions and recommendations.

An AdAge reader, George Lamountain, commented by mentioning that a 20010 McKinsey & Company study suggested: personal recommendations were the only form of communications that influenced consumers at all three stages of the decision-making process: evaluation, consideration and purchase.  And...it appears that millennials place even more importance on recommendations.

How does your sales/marketing program harness this information?  We talk about the value of an interactive touchscreen presentation as it engages shoppers, encourages interaction and provides information in a creative, consumer-friendly manner.  As Lamountain notes, generating conversations is hard work, but for those willing to invest the time and energy, it can reap tremendous rewards...and recommendations. 

How about garnering recommendations at the Point of Sale?  Incorporating Facebook, Twitter and other social media at your location (whether bricks & mortar or online) are ways to encourage recommendations..what else do you suggest or use?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Remember the Say Hello! to a Lifestyle blog?

That blog was only a few days ago so...hopefully, you remember it! Optionally, you can scroll down and read it!

Whole Foods: Using technology to establish a connection
A key thought, based on reading The Power of the Post-Recession Consumer, is the change in behavior known as the Spend Shift as today's consumer looks for a lifestyle more oriented towards community, connection and quality

If you think about today's retailer line-up, Whole Foods has to be near the top of a list of retailers well situated for this Spend Shift.  Take a look at their website, http://www.wholefoods.com/, and you'll see stores offering community Open Mic nights so local musicians have a performance venue (complete with coffee and wine-bar) -- as well as offers to local farmers to investigate selling their quality, locally grown crops. 

We might argue Whole Foods takes connection to a new level, too.  Their new Customer Comment Boards are designed so shoppers can ask questions, post comments, recommend products and thank employees.  They've always had some sort of communications board -- for flyers, sale brochures and the like.  Now, they're using technology -- an  interactive touchscreen system --  to continue to establish connections!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Redefining Creative ....

Read another great AdAge blog article about a month behind, It's Not the Size, It's How You Use It, by Rob Gatto. Too cute, isn't it?

But, he had some interesting points centered around the idea that brute-force messaging isn't effective.

Engaging Your Consumer...Not Yelling a Message!
Well...what is meaningful for a consumer?  Gatto suggests interactive experiences are what people prefer.  That's the type of messaging that reflects the way consumers live today: social, mobile, participatory, fun...and smart. 

And, that means dynamically created, personalized, requiring action on the part of the consumer.  Touchscreens do those things as they actively engage consumers.  Touchscreens ask questions; wait for responses; allow shoppers to make selections; offer a way to annotate floorplans, maps, drawings.  They narrowcast (they're not yelling the same message to everyone, in other words). 

It's not just delivering an impression...today's creative has to make an impression.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Say Hello! to a lifestyle focused on community, connection, quality...

Finally had a chance to read The Power of the Post-Recession Consumer, by John Gerzema and Michael D'Antonio, found at http://www.strategy-business.com/.

The article noted that the perceived change in consumer attitudes (e.g., a return to "old fashioned" values to build lives of purpose and connection) isn't a fad or whim -- or even relatively new.  Although the "Great Recession" has some influence, the authors suggest there's more to this "Spend Shift" movement and that it is here to stay.

Brand Attributes: Kindness and Empathy (up 391%)
How does this relate to your marketing program?  Or, interactive touchscreens for that matter?

This Spend Shift movement reflects an interest in products and brands seen as "friendly", "high quality", and "socially responsible" (as contrasted with "exclusive", for example). These brand attributes highlight what people are defining and desiring in today's consumer marketplace.

Does your marketing program recognize this message?  The Spend Shift movement will create opportunities for those organizations reflecting these "new" (or, perhaps more accurately said, newly expressed) values.

Interactive touchscreens not only allow you to engage your prospects..you're able to ask questions, seek feedback and provide value-added information.  Each of those activities let your consumers know that your brand is focused on creating a connection.  Add in the desire for a more creative lifestyle and one that is socially responsible and... your ability to provide an interactive experience with "green" features such as "print on demand" and e-brochures not only provides cost-savings but actually enhances your brand as it provides you with an  opportunity to meet today's consumer expectations.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Celebrating.. our Nation's History this Weekend

America the Beautiful

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

Words by Katharine Lee Bates

Friday, July 1, 2011

Today's 55+ Market: How to get this new generation to move?

Boyce Thompson blogs on Builder and highlighted the size of today's senior housing market in Seniors Housing: Looking for New Business Models.  Every 7-8 seconds..a boomer turns 65 and starts to make decisions about where and how they will spend the rest of their lives.

Thompson suggests the question for builders is: "What will it take to get this new generation to move?"

How to get this new 55+ generation to move? Lifestyle marketing is key!
There's a lot involved in that question as lifespans are longer, current home equity has been depleted, family roles are changing and the like.  But, everyone  agrees on one thing: Seniors want plenty of things to do.

As you evaluate your 55+ marketing plans, are you considering today's 55+ buyer's interest in technology and how that can shape your lifestyle presentations? Interactive touchscreen systems sell lifestyle and today's 55+ home shopper is comfortable using technology to browse and purchase.  Did you know the fastest growing demographic on Facebook? Women over 55!

We'll be blogging more about the interactive touchscreen value proposition for the 55+ market moving forward ... and keep in mind that helicopter kids can be just as focused as helicopter parents!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Marketing to Millenials...forget the myth of impulsivenss!

Loved a recent article in AdAge discussing a study conducted by Pamela Marsh and Erin Bilezikjian-Johnson of OMD regarding the "millenial" demographic...or the "much hovered over" group.

Key thought is: this age group is spending but...they spend more of their time and effort looking for "deals" and that the best deal isn't the least expensive.  It's the idea, says Bilezikjian-Johnson, of locating and describing value.  Millenials like to communicate when and where they find value...that's where Facebook, Twitter, smartphones and apps come to play in their influence and purchasing process.

Interactive touchscreen system: Communicating value
Are your marketing efforts taking advantage of this group's interest in communicating and sharing information? We'd like to suggest making the process easier by providing information and facilitating sharing with an interactive touchscreen.  Communicated value encompasses location, style, neighborhood and amenities.

And..we're not just talking about providing and facilitating at the Point of Sale.  A well-designed interactive system offers the ability to share beyond your location.  Let your prospects take your information and share it..via the touchscreen system.  They'll Tweet your location and brand...and share the information and value they encountered.

Friday, June 24, 2011

New Marketing Channels: Customer dialogue is critical

Go Interactive and Generate Dialogue!
Just finished a great article: The New Campaign Management Mandate by Forrester Research. Lots of great suggestions about rethinking traditional approaches to marketing campaign management.

Forrester mentions there are now a "dizzying array" of channels and tools available to reach consumers... placing the consumer in the driver's seat as far as marketing focus.  Forrester suggests this environment makes touching a customer easier but.. is a much more complicated life for marketers. There's the question of direction, integration and focus..at a minimum!

Amongst the challenges, Forrester suggests, is that, "emerging channels are under utilized for customer dialogue."

Have to go back to an earlier CPS blog regarding helicopter friends and their influence -- and how businesses can harness that influence through interactive touchscreen use. Helicopter friends Tweet, Facebook post and the like -- they've been called prosumers!  They broadcast information regarding likes, interests and...your products!  And, that broadcast message can be haphazard and unfocused.

Why not harness and direct these messages? Ask for comments; provide an easy way to Tweet your product? Plan on Facebook posts? You can effectively implementing a process for customer dialogue in an emerging channel!

Well-designed interactive touchscreen systems will help this process.  They'll present you..message, brand, products.  And, you're able to harness your consumer's interest to generate more messaging.  We've said a Tweet or Facebook post is a today's version of the referral.  Using an interactive touchscreen system, your shoppers can open a dialogue and broadcast your brand!

Then, you're achieving some of Forrester's objectives: engaging your consumer and providing relevance, personalization, and collaboration.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Branding & Communication: Effective... not expensive?

Hmmm...is there a possibility that an effective Branding and Communication program can be implemented inexpensively? 

We like to talk about the value of  interactive touchscreen systems -- whether in a sales, leasing or information center or a retail store.

Touchscreens..small and effective!
Interactivity helps with both branding and communication.  The American Marketing Association suggests that a brand identifies an entity and differentiates it from other, seemingly identical entities.

Objectives that a good brand will achieve include:
     -- Delivering the message clearly;
     -- Confirming your credibility;
     -- Connecting your prospects emotionally;
     -- Motivating the buyer;
     -- Establishing loyalty.

Brands typically have other items "tag along" such as being consumer friendly, green, contemporary.  Doesn't a well-designed touchscreen system communicate all of this? 

But..can it be effective and not expensive?  Certainly. The touchscreen image above is just 25" and it delivers its branding and communications message very clearly and concisely.

Just because there's a larger touchscreen somewhere...it can't take away your story!

And, a well-designed interactive touchscreen system doesn't need to display every idea or image under the sun.  To the contrary, the well-designed system uses creative thinking and great storytelling skills to provide essential information and help drive a decision.  When there are too many pieces of information, your prospect tends to surf rather than focus on your story and the brand.  That's when things get expensive as you need to provide more and more to redirect your prospect.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Closing the Sale: It's about the Interview? Really...?

Read several great articles today: Scavenger Hunt by Michelle Glover and How to Become a Master Closer by Grayson Schwepfinger.  Both were courtesy of Builder Radio's website, www.builderradio.com/blog.
 
Tobacco Row: Hot Buttons to initiate the conversation!
 "The key to improving sales," Michelle says, "may rest in the most unexpected place -- small talk" and goes on to suggesst that agents find "clues" about the real reasons for the visit.  Clues are, in essence, the buyer's "Hot Buttons" and those are proven psychological drivers.  "Hot Buttons" can range from prestige to recreation and everything in between.  Once an agent is aware of a prospect's "Hot Button", Glover says, that information can be used to focus the sales presentation. 

Sports caps and t-shirts lead to how the 4th and 5th bedroom have a loft option...great for the big screen, video games and parties.  Someone else's "Hot Button" might result in describing a bonus room in lieu of the 2 bedrooms..complete with a ballet barre and special floor.  In other words, product doesn't have to be described the same way...to every prospect.

Grayson suggests prospects don't purchase because they've been shown the "wrong home" and the biggest reason for showing a wrong home is a "poorly executed interview step."  He goes on to describe a 4-step information process focused on what the prospect wants and needs. Gathering the information...the "correct" information is critical to improving one's closing ratio!

We suggest there's technology available to assist (and that's a critical italic!) the agent in determing the "Hot Buttons" or needs/wants -- and an interactive touchscreen system drives that tool.  A well-designed system isn't just a pretty face -- it's a tool to facilitate interaction and engage your prospect in conversation.  And..we have always provided "hot spots" to initiate conversation.  Explore the community amenities, neighborhood activities...what looks interesting?

And, that's just the beginning.  Bob Musa suggests in his book, Creating Customers, that touchscreens are excellent conveyors of value-added information. Maybe not everyone is interested but..you can be fairly certain that the prospect touching your "behind the walls" story is wants information about your construction methods and energy savings.  You're able to allow the prospect to browse community information and...then initiate the conversation based upon their selections.

Once that conversation gets started, agents have the information to focus the sales presentation!

Interested in the full articles mentioned:  Check out www.builderradio.com/blog.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Jack Fugiel: Thanks for a great partnership!

Just posted a Twitter shout out to Jack Fugiel at Winchester Homes; he's retiring Friday after a great career at Weyerhaeuser.  Most recently, he's been Director of Process Improvement and involved with CPS' suite of sales, CRM, warranty, construction scheduling and interactive touchscreen products.

Jack Fugiel, Winchester Homes
He's been with Weyerhaeuser since 1967...and no, that's not a typo! 

His 44-year career means he was involved in accounting when it was a lot of manual entry using pencils and calculators.  In IT when punch cards were King!  Transitioned through floppy disks, mainframes, remote data entry, dial-up modems, SuperCalc, facsimile machines, DOS, Windows 3.0 (95, 98, ME ...) and much more!

Jack personified the term "business partnership" in his involvement with CPS.  He brought idea after idea to our software development process, tested some, threw out others and brought more.  We like to think we helped each other -- our products, our processes, our end results -- become better.

Congratulations, Jack, on your retirement; and Thank You for your willingness to partner with us!  We'll miss you!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Content is King...and your prospects can help create it!

Andrew Davis recently dazzled the Housing Leadership Summit in Chicago, according to Builder, saying homebuilders need to focus on developing "real strategies" for Social Media.  Too many people, he argued, are focused on the technology as compared to the message.  Today's hot product becomes tomorrow's CompuServe or AltaVista.  And, the message shouldn't just be about your product..it needs to convey value from the consumer's perspective.


Content creation: Who could ask for more than: Love this Open Kitchen?
 Davis hit upon a couple of points we've blogged about: implementing easy-to-use technology that's at  people's fingertips such as an iPhone for sending photos or video from a home the home shopper toured.  That's bringing technology to a point of contact.

Davis also suggests, "the real trick is to get customers to use SM to talk about product to friends and family."

So, it's not content for content's sake or technology because it's cool... it's making what you have interactive, engaging, and informative enough that your users/viewers/home shoppers will want to chat/Tweet/post about it from their perspective...and that creates its own desirable content!

We like to say that an interactive touchscreen system in a sales/leasing/information center will be all of those things -- interactive, engaging, informative.  And, there are lots of innovative ways to drive content creation from such a system: give home shoppers a "mark-up" feature so they can write on the screen or put Facebook into the app and let your prospects post "I'm looking at a new home here at XYZ; my kids really love the park around the corner; the soccer fields are brand new and fabulous!"  Who wouldn't want that marketing piece?

We've talked about "helicopter friends;" Davis mentions "prosumers" who like to distribute information about products.  The name doesn't matter...these tech-savvy folks are creating your content and driving others to your door!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Tweets and Facebook posts: Today's version of a referral?


Sharing the experience: Lyon Homes' San Carlos Court
This week there have been two articles with seemingly divergent themes: CCES' article, "9 Purely Business Reasons to "Green" Your Company" and Dawn Sadler's "Creating a Legacy Brand" on http://www.jeffshore.com/

But..are they actually related?

CCES suggests there are 9 purely business reasons why "green" benefits a company's bottom line.  Sadler notes that the only marketing program that will continue to drive homebuilder business is referrals. CCES doesn't mention referrals; Sadler doesn't mention green.

We'd like to suggest there are a number of similarities -- and that an interactive touchscreen can enter this discussion, as well.  Do you remember an earlier discussion about "helicopter friends"?  Today, shoppers Tweet, Facebook and otherwise share information, recollections, and experiences with their friends based upon all sorts of events...including shopping.
Isn't sharing today's version of a referral?  

Put a shopper-friendly (and "green" with paper-saving and/or print on-demand features) interactive touchscreen in your business -- and you'll see not only positive feedback from your potential buyers but "sharing" amongst friends!  And, there are the "green" business benefits (cost savings, improved efficiencies, employee morale) that tag along, as well.

As Dawn Sadler notes, " it's not how much you intended the experience, it is how your buyer experienced it!"

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day: A Day Close to Our Hearts

Korean War Veterans Memorial: Washington, DC
Today we pause to remember those who died in service to our country.

We remember those who gave their "last full measure of devotion" in wars long ago and in wars we are still fighting. 

We will never forget their sacrifice.

And, we pay tribute to all those who have served our country.  Within our CPS community, we remember and thank family members for their service:

Bob's father, Robert Musa (US Marines, retired);
Chris' father, Michael Lott (US Navy, retired);
Sean's father, Glenn Miyazaki (US Air Force, retired);
Troy's brother, John (serving today in the US Air Force in Alaska);
Zoe's father and brother, Charles and Wilson Miller (US Army). 

Bob Strickland, one of CPS' founders, spent many a cold day in Alaska with the US Air Force!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Making Your Sales/Leasing Office "Sticky"...and that's a good thing!

Sticky?  As in gummy? Or, if you're  familiar with 3M's Post-It Note (frequently called a "sticky"), you might be wondering, "How does a sticky have anything to do with my sales office?"

Recently, the concept of Sticky Marketing has been gaining traction: describing how organizations need to move away from traditional marketing processes such as shouting messages at people (aka "broadcasting") to a new process of customer engagement, where they attract customers by providing value and becoming sticky.

In earlier Solutions for Connectivity blogs, we talked about interactive touchscreens as a way to provide an organization's value through a simple, core message made accessible through touchscreen use.  Bob Musa uses the term, "narrowcasting" to contrast this specific marketing approach to general broadcasting.


Sticky Marketing: stop shouting!
 Interactive touchscreens create stickiness as they provide value in today's cluttered marketplace by offering a point of sale, customer engagement point.  Today's consumer is looking for clear information to help make a decision.  Touchscreens help you stop shouting and start a conversation.

Thinking about stickiness has to bring up CRM and your follow-up activities, as well.  Are they designed to add value or are they simply broadcasting? Remember an earlier blog about the agent using a cell phone to capture video as a prospect-specific followup?  That little cell phone video adds value and definitely starts a conversation!

Interested in finding more about stickiness? Take a look at Sticky Marketing (Grant Leboff) or Made to Stick (Chip and Dan Heath).

Monday, May 9, 2011

Adding new tools to your sales process or... Let's Get Creative

Really loved the Jeff Shore/Jason Forrest Sales Leadership Summit last week in Dallas.

No doubt, every attendee took away a new idea, added something new to their "sales and marketing toolkit."

Really noteworthy was the thought that the tool might already be there..just not put to effective use as a selling tool.  Tool in point: using a cell phone for someething other than calling prospects.  Why not snap a picture or create a short video to forward to a sales prospect highlighting a feature they liked (the gourmet kitchen) or missed (sunset from the proposed backyard)?

We're all carrying around cell phones and... probably taking pictures with them, too.  But..how many of us think about how we can incorporate these day-to-day items in a new and effective way?

Phone..check; email...check; telephone...check.  We have the tools.  How often do you think: Can I put this to a new and creative use?

CPS' Bob Musa joins Builder Radio and Winchester Homes' Jack Fugiel on Weds., May 11, for a webinar: Follow-up Tools, Techniques and Strategies that Work...imagine they'll be talking about tools you already have...and getting creative about their use to enhance your sales success. 

Interested in adding new tools?  Here's a link to the Webinar: http://tinyurl.com/3hy8j9y

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Using YouTube as a "personal" sales tool

Just returned from an excellent Jeff Shore/Jason Forrest Sales Leadership Summit in Dallas, TX.

The seminar focused on providing management coaching for sales agents and one of the points I liked was the need to develop "personal" sales tools.  Jeff Shore demonstrated an example: an agent, having shown a home in the morning, following-up with a cell phone photo or video with a sunset view from the patio.  If the video is too long, Shore suggested, post it on YouTube and send a link.

Upon my return, saw a saved Wall Street Journal article discussing small business use of You Tube and other video sites.   Then, there's another article in the same Small Business section, "Talk is Cheap: Word of Mouth Advertising can be targeted, inexpensive and effective -- if done well."

That's how I see YouTube being a "personal" sales tool...an individual -- sales agent, marketing coordinator, anyone -- is able to take a topic (whether specific to an individual, a product, or company) and use it as a sales tool via YouTube or other video site.  Sometimes, you'll have an event (like the sunset) that can be captured and sent along with a message (Your new view!); or it's possible to use an event to create the message.

For example, one of CPS' SalesTouch interactive touchscreen presentations was the recipient of a Southern California industry award.  Yes; attendees heard that news but...we wanted more people to hear it! YouTube gave us an excellent vehicle to get the word out -- as well as serve as an ongoing piece of marketing collateral.  We created a 5-minute video featuring the presentation and posted it.  Some find it via keyword search and we use it as another piece of marketing collateral.  Another social networking tool as well as a cost-effective way to communicate.  Here's a link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1jMEfK-j6U.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Interactive Touchscreens...website redux? Not!

There's no doubt the Internet has changed many things including the sales process -- whether in a retail store, new home sales office, car dealership ... to be frank, just about every consumer sales location.

There's also no doubt consumers have become better educated shoppers as a result of Internet use.  They come to the "Point of Sale" better informed about you and.. your competitors.

When today's consumer gets to your door, the sales process is no longer the basic, "Here's what we have" as the consumer already knows the basics.  Geoff Keifer, with Keifer Consulting, suggests you need to "immediately sell YOUR VALUE!"

A good sales agent not only talks about the product but works to differentiate your product by asking questions, providing information that meets the consumer's needs and the like. They're not just a human website, in other words.

Some people think an interactive touchscreen is pretty much a website...just larger.  A well-designed system, however, does something far different: it sells YOUR VALUE!  Here's how:

(1) There's no need for a touchscreen system to repeat everything that's on the website: depending on your market, over 80% of your consumers have already been to your website.  Your website performed: it drove the prospect to your sales location.  They're at your door, ready to make a decision.  No more driving needed.

(2) Now that your shopper is at the "Point of Sale", they're looking for a response to specific needs and questions in order to make that purchase decision. 

And, many businesses try to do that with a brochure.  It may be possible but..today's consumer wants directed information, quickly.  Brochures are best at "broadcasting" general information vs. "narrowcasting" specifics. And, brochures can't help at all with the social media aspects associated with purchase decisions: sending pictures out asking for feedback, etc.

(3) Your specific product is only part of the purchase: it needs to provide answers ("Yes; that's a fabulous living room!") and solve problems (e.g., "My current home is too small," "I want to live on my own," "I want to reduce my power consumption.").  A well-designed touchscreen system, used on its own or by a salesperson, will answer questions very specifically and build your brand not only as an innovator but a problem-solver.

(4)  Good sales people will incorporate touchscreen use into their sales process: using it to "ask questions" or provide specific answers, drive decisions with information about inventory availability, offer the ability to "create your own" as a result of interactive floorplans, mark-up features and the like. 

The well-design interactive touchscreen system will take the "general" and narrow it down to the "specific" so your consumer thinks of your product as their own...at the point of sale. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Customer Service: Asking (for Input) vs. Receiving (Complaints)

CPS recently developed a Customer Comment system to collect customer feedback.  It uses an interactive touchscreen so shoppers can walk up, touch the screen to ask a question or make a comment.  An on-screen, touchable keyboard makes the process simple and easy-to-use.

Comments are sent via Instant Message to store management; responses are posted immediately to the touchscreen.  Managers can also forward product questions to store employees for research and a more detailed response sent via the touchscreen or email.

Shoppers aren't shy about asking why a product isn't available.  More remarkable, at least to us, is that the overwhelming number of comments are positive with shoppers mentioning their favorite products, suggesting new products and thanking individual employees for their efforts.

What's really noteworthy, however, is the volume of comments (much higher than the previous "manual" system) and the positive impact the Comment system has generated.  Many comments are simply, "Thanks for giving us this great way to interact with you!"

From both a customer and store perspective, asking for input and making it both easy and transparent is recognized as a far more positive customer service process than simply waiting to receive what usually turn out to be a complaint.

Proactive customer service...at a touch!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Out of the Mouth of Babes or..Where is the Digital Signage??

Just returned from a quick trip to New York and visited the USS Intrepid Museum.  It was Spring Break and a gorgeous Spring day so...the lines were long and slow-moving for this very popular destination showcasing a World War II aircraft carrier complete with A-12 Blackbird, Concorde and Growler submarine.

I was behind Arthur -- an enthusiastic 13-year old from New Jersey with plenty of opinions on almost everything ... digital.  As our line zigged and zagged through the labryinth that tried to make the wait (to the ticket counter!) seem less than 1 hour, he turned to me and said, "You'd think they would have monitors above... telling us what was in the Museum, getting us excited about the special exhibits and advertising what's in the store."

Honest.. a 13-year old!

Bob Musa's book, Creating Customers with Touchscreen Digital Signage, talks about the value of digital signage in reducing perceived wait time, engaging customers and managing inventory.  And, a 13-year old not only gets it; he wonders why "adults" don't.

Take a look at the Intrepid website here: http://www.intrepidmuseum.org/

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lyon Homes Opens Community in Orange County; SalesTouch Provides Interactive Touchscreen Presentation

Canopy Lane - Orange County, CA
William Lyon Homes is opening another new community in Orange County this weekend  -- featuring single family homes.  Canopy Lane has a great South Coast Metro location -- near South Coast Plaza, the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, John Wayne Airport and Irvine financial/legal office hub. 

We're thrilled to have CPS' interactive touchscreen included in the sales office offering interactive neighborhood amenity information and floorplansand all sorts of information about William Lyon Homes and the homebuying process, as well.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Millennials: Convergence of Influence (aka "Helicopter Friends")

AdvertisingAge, on April 11, 2011, mentioned the idea, "convergence of influence."  You've heard about "helicopter parents", right?  Well, Advertising Age suggested millennials frequently function as "helicopter friends" in the much the same way as individuals influence each others' purchases, friends, world view. 

That concept is what makes today's social networking (and, more importantly, social marketing) so critical, "I made a mistake, I didn't like this product so...I'm going to share that experience with you because I don't want you to make the same mistake."

And, "helicoptering" applies to their positive purchasing experiences, as well.  Millennials, says AdvertisingAge, aren't impulse shoppers. They like to spend a lot of time and effort researching.  And, they like to share what they're seeing and buying (complete with images).

ZIslander leasing office Bryan, TX
Today's marketing strategies need to take that "shop/share/buy" process into account.  To some extent, it's no longer marketing to an individual ... but marketing to that individual and everyone within their social network.

That's what is exciting about the use of technology from a sales perspective: this audience will shop and when they see something in line with their spending priorities, they'll share it with friends... as well as buy.  It may not be the cheapest choice but...because technology has played a role in what they look for and actually see, they have become "expert" consumers. 

The web has helped make this "expert" consumer possible; now, it's time to incorporate a similar experience at "point of sale."  Interactive touchscreens encourage the same "shop" experience as they, too, engage, inform and create an "expert."  Adding the ability to "share" the experience is the next, critical step for interactive touchscreen design.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Does Your Digital Media Look Like a Brochure? Time to Move On...

Gumas, a Bay Area full-service marketing firm, sent out a great email, "6 Tips to Transform your Website from Good to Great."

Key thought: if your website still looks and acts like an online brochure, you're not maximizing one of the greatest marketing opportunities available.  Things have changed over the last 1-2 years as far as website strategies; Gumas suggests 6 ways to improve your website:

(1) Tell your web visitors what you can do for them.  Gumas suggests you have only 5 seconds to let visitors know.

(2) Answer their questions...immediately.

(3) Don't make your visitors work.  The more clicks to find information, the greater the chance a visitor will leave your site...prematurely.

(4) Induce a connection.  There should be some sort of "call to action" somewhere...anywhere.

(5) Make keywords/phrases prominent.  They are key for SEO as well as navigation.

(6) It's all about traffic.  Great-looking site or not, it's about numbers.

Stonebriar Mall Frisco, TX
Many -- if not all -- of these points apply to interactive touchscreen design, as well. 

Key is knowing your visitor and what they want to know...also known as narrowcasting.  Make it easy for them to find what they're looking for...and, we're firm believers in keeping the number of "drill downs" to a minimum. It's much better to have a presentation that is broad and let's your visitors see what's available than making them guess where information is located.

And, with interactive touchscreens, it's all about the final result: usually, that's sales but it can also include customer satisfaction and communication. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

CPS' 57" SalesTouch featured on Horizon Technology website

SalesTouch - Richmond, VA
SalesTouch — featuring a 57” interactive touch screen — on location at Forest City’s Tobacco Row leasing office in Richmond, VA. 

Leasing management reports, “We love our touchscreen kiosk! SalesTouch makes it easy for our leasing team to go over floorplans, building layouts and amenities.  Prospects enjoy the option of being able to find their ideal apartment themselves and its so easy for them to use.”

Horizon Technology, located in Southern California, is a leader in touch display and digital signage.  Take a look at their website here: http://www.horizondisplay.com/