More Website Updates, VMD Test In Progress

In my ongoing effort to keep the website current with our sales and marketing efforts, I have made another update, this time to the home page. There are 3 large buttons on the home page. In the lower left portion of the screen, the button used to read “Make Money”. But because we shifted our emphasis away from the business opportunity that’s always available, and now we focus on the sale of our main product, voice broadcast, that button now reads “Voice Broadcast” and has been slightly re-designed.

When you click on that button, you’ll also notice the heading of the next page is consistent with the heading on all Landing Pages:  “Unlimited Leads. Simple. Affordable”.  That that is followed by a short paragraph extolling the virtues of our capabilities (including a plug for the new Voicemail Drop service) together with the same video as before. I’ll make a change to that video soon, but it’s still pretty close to “on target” with its message. Now I think the public image is pretty consistent with the message we’re sending to all those who do business with us.

Successful VMD Test

I have received some successful VMD test calls today. I’ll be sending test calls to a number of you readers as I mentioned in the previous article, as the day and evening wear on. We aren’t yet ready for that, and we don’t yet have the reporting module ready for the VMD.  Reporting is critical for but us and our Clients, especially because our billing system charges Clients based on messages delivered and not just attempted deliveries.

Stuff Getting Done On My Sick Days

Well, I can’t talk very well while I’m running a fever, coughing & hacking, etc. But in between resting, and until I’m too dizzy and sick to continue, I’m trying to continue accomplishing a little here and a little there. I’ll give you a quick little run-down of stuff I’m doing in the background while I’m down-n-out:

  • Landing Page Edits: Check out your Landing Page. If you don’t have one, go to mine  Until we released GroupCaller™ we focused on selling memberships that provide a business opportunity to work with us (the PIP, PRG, AMG and RAL) over the past 3 years.  Although the RAL and PRG are still available (PRG is free and included with the RAL) the only thing we’re actively promoting is GroupCaller™.  All Landing Pages and the Sign-Up Page now reflect the primary focus of the company.
  • Testing the VMD: Today I’ll be testing the new Voicemail Drop service I wrote about on January 5. This service has the potential to revolutionize our ability to mass-deliver messages nationwide and gain far more coverage than ever before. There are 24 phone numbers of my close colleagues, family & friends in the test database. “You know who you are!” Don’t be surprised if a voicemail (or 2, or 3) magically shows up on your phone sometime today.
  • Re-Opened The Public Blog:Last night, I re-opened the public blog at http://globaltmail.typepad.com/.   This is because I”m going to run 2 blogs now. The public blog is just that: PUBLIC.  The purpose is to announce general important features about the business, new product launches, and perhaps some training and sales pages. This blog will become even more private. After today, the only people who will be allowed to access this blog are those who qualify as paying customers who have either a VBL or MVBL subscription plus others who are specifically authorized for access. Access to this blog is being restricted to a more privileged class of people who financially or otherwise support the company. They (i.e. “YOU”) will have direct access to yours truly whereas the public blog site gives no such direct access. Also, readers of this blog site will have much more inside information about what’s coming, day-to-day progress of the company, milestones reached and goals in progress.  As I said, the only way to gain access to this blog after today is by special permission.  The new Rate Tables I published yesterday show you which class of people will now have access to this blog.
  • New Rate Tables:  In conjunction with our new sales strategy to focus on GroupCaller™ sales and developing vertical markets for this product, I completed new Rate Tables and got the finished versions published yesterday.  Please take a look and if you have questions, please post them here so others can benefit from your queries.

That’s all for the moment. Yancy and I are testing the VMD right now so I have to go. I’ll post more in this blog later today.

Flu

I’m sorry, but I wasn’t able to do much yesterday, and maybe not today either. I think I must have picked up the flu while hob-nobbing with 150,000 of my closest friends last week. My feverwas 101.5 by last night and I had all the usual symptoms.  So I’m trying to rest as much as possible and get over this before it gets worse.

There are two important articles I need to post in the very near future. First is (of course) my annual report from CES. Second is the new Pricing Tables we’ve created and will implement beginning this week. These are designed to make us more competitive and help us focus our efforts on selling the most effective voice broadcast services we have developed to date: Call Transfer, Predictive Dialing, IVR and our new Voicemail Drop.

I’m hoping this illness will run its course within a day or two so I won’t lose too much time on the job.  Also, there’s one other change coming regarding this blog. I’m re-opening my original blog this week. That will be the public blog. This one will be the private blog which will be available only to those who are paying customers and/or other insiders with the appropriate privileges.  And now . . . back to the hard work or RESTING.

Sore Feet & Pics Not Yet Uploaded

Just a quick note here for all of you waiting for some substance out of CES this year. I forgot to bring my SD card adapter so I can transfer photos from my camera directly to the laptop and then upload to this blog while I’m here. So I may have to wait till I get back home before I post the photos. I have another possible solution, but haven’t worked out the details yet.

I’m preparing to head back to the showroom floor right now. Yesterday I got there right at opening time ( 10 am ) and didn’t leave until they closed up at 6 pm. I was able to get some value out of the day but was on the whole was disappointed with the results. I do have a few vendors I’ll be calling back on today though.

On the positive side i “did” manage to get my hands on a legal workbook sold on Amazon for $70 (“free” for me, of course as a CES Alumni). This is a workbook written by a patent lawyer on how to successfully file a provisional patent. As some of you may know, we’ve been vitally interested in the subject of protecting our Intellectual Property since inception. The problem always boils down to the same thing:  Lack of funds to carry the expense of patent protection from beginning to end.  Getting a patent is normally a multi-year process. It’s both time-consuming and expensive. Neither of these commodities (time or money) have been available to us in the past 3 years for this purpose.

I expect to be on my feet the entire day again today. By the way, one of yesterday’s SWAG (“Show Wares and Gifts”) items was a pedometer from a health organization. I registered about 16,000 paces after lunch and didn’t get to sit down until we left after the show.  I think I’ll wear it all day today and see what it registers. No WONDER my feet are sore!  At any rate, I’m expecting to find some useful resources today. I’m also beginning to look into the possibility of having GlobalTmail become an Exhibitor next year.

CES KEYNOTE KICK-OFF

Last night’s Keynote address by Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer was great as usual. On state was also the host of American Idol as MC together with the CEO of CES. Despite all the bad news about the economy, this is the 2nd biggest CES in their 16-year history, with more than 100 new inventions highlighted in their news conference, more than 20,000 new products being introduced by many companies, over 140,000 attendees, 1.851 million square feet of show floor space and 5,000 members of the press from every corner of the world covering it all.

There is a seismic shift in the CES world after this show: Microsoft will not give the Key-Note opening speech next year. Microsoft and CES have been partners since its inception with Bill Gates hosting the first many conventions and his predecessor Steve Ballmer taking over after that. Next year someone else takes the reigns. We don’t yet know who.

The big Microsoft news for this year is Windows 8, coming out February 1. If you have seen the Windows Mobile interface you already know what W8 will look like. MS is basically taking their “Metro” look (that’s what they call this edition of Windows) and implementing it across all products so that Windows cell phones, OS, XBOX and all other platforms have the same look and feel. Typical fare for Microsoft. But I have to admit, their block-ish styled Metro UI is really cool.  (The blocks are kind of like Tiled graphical images.) Just a couple highlights I like about it are

  1. All tiles can be grouped into categories according to what you do … with AI built in that follows your actions to help determine how to group them.
  2. Each tile is actually a running program – and all programs remain open all the time (“very” cool), so you don’t actually wait for apps to start.
  3. Apps operate more like feeds; as things change, the tiles themselves change (“nice”).
  4. Integration with “everything” is smooth, fast and very intuitive.

All Windows 7 devices will run Windows 8 with easy upgrade. Windows 7 is by far the most widely used single OS on the planet with more than 500,000,000 installations currently and an average of 7 new installations per second and 604,800 new installations daily.  Talk about GROWTH! Microsoft just finished it’s highest volume and most profitable year “EVER.” (“What recession?”)

Next on deck for Microsoft:  Interactive TV. We saw a demo of Sesame street “interactive” last night. changes the way we think of TV. Especially if you’re age 6 or under.

Anyway, keep watching. I’ll nave new articles each day. Hope to post some photos tomorrow.

Heading To CES Las Vegas

Early Monday morning I’ll hit the road heading for Las Vegas and the International Consumer Electronics show.  For those of you who are new here, this is an annual journey for me. I’ll be posting my “Top Ten CES Picks” when I return next weekend.

I’m working on new pricing tables that will probably be posted online while I’m gone. Although I’m attending the convention, I’m still available by phone, email and text (although I may not actually HEAR the phone due to the noise and commotion).

There’s a lot on my plate for January so I’ll begin talking about our goals for the year when I return.  Watch the blog – photos are coming!

Hack-Attack Foiled

While we were configuring a new client today for their campaigns, we discovered a potential hacking attack on our main GroupCaller™ server. If an attack like that was successful it could be devastating to us because an unauthorized user could potentially use up all of our pre-paid service with our wholesale VoIP providers and steal thousands of dollars from us and our Clients.

Fortunately, they weren’t able to “divine” the passwords before we kicked them out.  Passwords and firewall security has now been beefed up so we expect future attempts to be stopped at the door and find it impossible to squeeze through the little worm-hole they discovered this morning.

There’s a very real reason we pay attention to network and Internet security issues. Those who know what they’re doing can wreak havoc on a company like ours, and gain thousands to millions of dollars worth of value for themselves.  I’m just giving a little pat-on-the-back to our overseas programmer, Yancy, who foiled this attempt and further increased the security around our systems.

Today we’re conducting the first campaign for our newest Client, Five Star Carpet Cleaning. Don’t forget, next week I’ll be at CES until Friday.  I will try to post an article or two while I’m on the road, so check back here often even though I’m out of town.

New Service Being Tested For GroupCaller: VMD

No, we’re not trying to complicate matters. But there is a service I have known about for the past year. Jeff, myself and our overseas GroupCaller™ programmer have been discussing the possibility of adding this service in the near future. We’re going to test the technology later today. If we add it, we’ll likely call it “Voice Mail Drop” or “VMD”.

Here’s how it works. Calls are placed as usual to deliver a pre-recorded message. But instead of ringing a telephone, the call is sent directly into the voicemail box of the recipient. There are a few other companies successfully offering this service but it’s not generally well-known.

Why add it? In two words: Coverage and Compliance.

INCREASED COVERAGE

In our most popular campaign mode, when a called party is interested in the broadcast message, they press 1 to speak to an agent. The basic limitation with this mode is the fact that only about 16% of all the calls placed result in a live person picking up the phone. The other 84% result mostly in going to Voicemail or a No-Answer status . A significant percent of the “No Answer” also have voicemail, their voicemail doesn’t respond until the 5th or 6th ring, and our system hangs up and goes to the next calling record on the 4th or 5th ring.

Virtually everyone listens to their voicemail. This means most of the messages actually get delivered. We aren’t sure about the response rates yet because we haven’t fully tested and vetted the system. But I have to believe that the companies specializing in this service would not have survived several years (one since the late 90’s) if it didn’t work. I estimate that those who use this system would see their message actually delivered to more than half of the calls made, rather than the current delivery percent, which is a fraction of the 16% of human-answered calls.

COMPLIANCE

We make only FTC-compliant calls. When using VMD to deliver messages, much of the regulation surrounding telemarketing in general and voice broadcast specifically doesn’t apply. Why? Because the phone doesn’t ring. We aren’t “calling” their phone per se′. Nobody is interrupted. The entire body of law surrounding telemarketing (the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991) was inspired by the masses who felt annoyed by the ever-increasing number of unwanted calls that interrupt whatever they’re doing. Leaving messages on voicemail eliminates the intrusion factor and assures that people only get the message at their own convenience, when they’re ready to get their voicemail.  Another important consideration is the fact that, since the majority of phones worldwide are now cell phones, the cell phone companies charge nothing at all for the use of voicemail. Also they don’t reduce minute-usage plans when people listen to their voicemail messages. This eliminates the cost element that is often raised as a deterrent to the entire industry of telemarketing. And finally, as I mentioned, the regulations all deal with “calling” which assumes a telephone rings and/or the called party is aware that somebody is calling.  The rules do not address messages that don’t go to a telephone, but are only delivered to the voicemail box for that phone.  At best, the delivery of messages to a voicemail box instead of a phone is  a “grey area” of the law that isn’t even defined yet. However, there is a rule about leaving a pre-recorded message on voicemail or an answering machine. But it’s very simple and only regulates the content of the message so compliance is very easy. It simply request that the caller identify themselves and provide a toll-free number the called party can use to add themselves to the internal Do-Not-Call list.

THE TECHNOLOGY

We have already developed the technology that makes this service work. It’s a complex algorithm, but it’s already supported by our hardware platform. Although we haven’t tested it, the programmer in charge of our GroupCaller™ system was already familiar with the technology when we asked him about it, so it wasn’t difficult to add this to our product mix (at least for our initial testing). Of course, at this stage we haven’t yet tested it in a real-world application.  We’ll do some limited testing this afternoon. I’m optimistic that the test will work well (I already witnessed a demo last night). If so, we’ll set up a larger test with one of our Clients and measure the effectiveness. If all goes well, we could see this service added within the next 30 days.

PRICING

Pricing for VMD will be higher for volume users than the lowest live-transfer calls. This is because the average length of the call is several times longer than the average human-answered calls in which the vast majority of people hang up immediately after realizing it’s a recorded message. We’ll determine a pricing schedule after we do sufficient testing of the technology to know it will work as planned. I suspect we’ll be able to keep the pricing down to our current low-priced answering machine message delivery service. This is still an incredibly low-cost model when compared to other forms of message delivery.

DEPLOYMENT

We haven’t yet made a positive determination that we’ll actually implement this service. Right now, i’m seeking feedback from our sales people, customers and anyone else who is interested in our company. So I welcome your comments and questions. Please feel free to post a comment on this article. The input from readers like you has an impact on the decisions we make here at the management level so please let me know what you think of this type of service. To me, it seems like a good idea. But it’s much more important to know what OTHERS think, rather than just my own opinion.  I’ll be watching for your comments and questions.

2012 Is Here: Deployment and Competition

For the first time in our development history I’m going to make a prediction for the coming year. We’ll check it January 1, 2013 and see if I was right. Right now, we are “on deck” for the first year of “real” marketing and sales for this company. Heretofore, most of our efforts have been geared toward development. To be sure, that process will continue. In fact, the famous phrase from the movie about Facebook’s beginning (“The Social Network” http://www.thesocialnetwork-movie.com/) applies to us. When, in a deposition, Mark Zuckerberg (co-founder of Facebook) heard the comment “. . . when you complete the development. . .” Zuckerberg quickly interrupted and flatly stated: “That’s the beauty of what we’re doing here – we’ll NEVER finish developing.” In a single sentence, he captured the essence of virtually every company like ours, in the IT world: We NEVER truly “finish” a product. We are in a constant and continual state of development and improvement, reacting to often-sharp changes in the market place as technology constantly shifts, moves and changes while both consumer and businesses react to those changes. Companies like ours must remain flexible and change to meet competition if we expect to survive.

OUR WEAKNESS IS ALSO OUR STRENGTH

Our greatest weakness is the fact that we are under-capitalized. While it’s true we had a good amount of seed capital to start our development, it’s also true that the amount received was only about 1/4 of the amount needed if we were going to develop, start-to-finish, the entire system we envisioned in a somewhat predictable time frame.

Our seed capital was used up by the beginning of 2009, well before our development was complete. This forced us to become a very lean, very efficient company in terms of managing the sparse cash we could bring in to complete the development. This difficulty was actually one of the best things that happened to us. It forced us to do a very careful analysis of what is REALLY selling in the IT market place, fine-tune our service offering accordingly, and especially it caused us to develop marketing systems that can be operated on a shoe-string budget. These developments comprise some of the most important innovations that will drive what I see as a very dynamic, very robust, and especially fast-growing company during 2012. Without these experiences, we may not be in as good a position as we are right now to kick off this year with an effective marketing campaign.

PREDICTIONS FOR 2012

By the end of this year, I predict we’ll accomplish the following:

  • Deploy the following as fully cloud-based self-service applications:  Voice broadcast, text broadcast, fax broadcast and bulk email (1st half of the year).
  • Have a full-time staff of developers who have set deployment dates for our Targeted Matching™ search system plus all other systems that have been planned and/or started to date, namely, the following systems:
    • Classified
    • Auction
    • Coupon
    • Discounted gift certificates
    • Match-making
    • Text-to-speech & speech-to-text
    • 1-to-1 Messaging
    • Talking Search Engine
  • Gross monthly sales will be stable by the end of 2012 and we’ll either see a clear path to exceeding $1 million monthly in steady, reliable and predictable sales, or we will have already accomplished that goal.
  •  We will be in the process of providing services in more than one non-USA country and be well on the way to becoming a multi-national company.
These are lofty goals. But I’m confident in them because so much of our infrastructure has already been built over the past 6 years. Also our business model has been very clearly defined, especially during this past year, to the point where we know exactly where we’re going, what needs to be developed, and how to get there based on careful analysis of the market place coupled with our own experiences since March 2006 when the first code was written for this project.

COMPETITION

Every week or two, I get the same question from different people:  “What about competition? Aren’t you getting to market TOO LATE? What if somebody else beats you to the punch?” These are good and valid questions. They have been raised over and over so many times (almost weekly) during the past several years that I decided I would begin writing a series of articles to deal specifically with these concerns.

To answer the question whether we’re worried that a competitor will knock us out of the market place before we even get started, the answer is:  NO! That’s a logically absurd conclusion based on an irrational fear of competitors. It’s like saying “because there’s another fast food restaurant in town, I can’t open one and make it successful.” The marketplace if vast. I have known since inception that competition drives innovation. Sure it’s NICE to be the “first and only”, but it isn’t necessary for major success in a free enterprise system. This is especially true in our industry of Internet Technology. Naturally we are vitally concerned about each and every company that does something even remotely close to what we do. WHY? Because they tell us a lot about the marketplace. From them we learn what can and what cannot be sold. It shows what the business and consumer customers really want, need and are willing to PAY for. It helps us evaluate our own performance so we can stay up with, or ahead of, our competitors.

The articles I write concerning our competitors will also give me a great opportunity to continually drive home the main purpose of our company, and point out the differences between “us” and “them”. In this manner, all my readers will gain a better understanding of this company and why I continue to believe we’ll be a driving force in bringing much-needed relief to small and mid-sized companies as they try to compete for their share of business against large multi-national firms. We’re making it possible for our Clients to do things they simply cannot do without us: Cross-platform, multi-channel promotional campaigns to their existing customers and new prospects (from a SINGLE application).

And with that, the next section provides a quick analysis of a competitor I just learned about from a prospective customer. On Friday, a prospect called me after viewing our 10-minute MVBL presentation and asked if we’re doing the same thing as . . .

INFUSIONSOFT.COM

I had never heard of this company so I studied their website. This is a successful IT-based marketing company. Within 1 to 2 years, we should be doing as well or better than them, financially!  The answer to his question about whether we are doing the same or similar as Infusionsoft.com, is … NOPE! In fact, there are a couple of services we DO share in common. BUT, the core purpose of our two companies is completely different. Let me show you the difference.

Infusionsoft Purpose:  This company is designed to provide a method for small to mid-sized companies to more effectively track the sales pipeline (AKA Sales Funnel) of their leads (i.e. prospective customers) as well as follow up with existing customers to maximize new sales opportunities.

They accomplish this by using their own CRM which is integrated with an email marketing system that automatically sends notifications, reminders, promotional material, etc. to prospects and customers, while at the same time integrating the company’s online storefront with both email and CRM functions. Thus, sales and marketing efforts are combined into a single application. (But…not “all” marketing efforts are included here as you’ll see.)

The scope of their communications platform is limited to email communications. They seem to have a nicely organized system that does a good job of integrating the 3 functions of CRM/Email/Shopping Cart.

Now compare this company with us.

GlobalTmail™ Purpose:  We are designed from the ground up as a communications platform focused on combining voice broadcast & remote telecom services, SMS, FAX, email and search-result notifications to allow our Clients to easily and inexpensively locate new leads & customers plus communicate in a cross-platform, multi-channel method with their existing customers, members, students, employees, contacts, etc. We’re designed to accomplish these purposes at extremely affordable rates. We enable our Clients to track everything they do through us with our own CRM. Our Client database is not limited to “just” businesses, but include organizations of all types, politicians, charities, schools and even individuals.

Do you see the difference? Where “they” combine CRM-Email-Ecommerce (i.e. Shopping Cart) functions and focus on processing the leads and ad responses from their customers (which have been acquired through other means), “WE” put a lot more emphasis on getting those responses (leads & inquiries) for our Clients in the first place.

We also provide a much more robust set of tools with which to communicate with people, recognizing that the entire shift in the marketing place for the past couple of years, and well into the future is “going mobile”.  This means the future belongs to cell phones and mobile devices (not just email as a communications platform). We’re enabling our Clients to reach out into the cell phones of their contacts, emphasize the necessity of actually TALKING to prospects and customers, while supporting those very human interactions with ALL of the other IT-based communications tools (text, fax, email, streaming media, search).

INFORMATION OVERLOAD

Having explained the difference between us and Infusionsoft.com, I must also caution you about one of the most valuable marketing lessons we learned in the past couple of years: AVOID INFORMATION OVERLOAD!

Our system is massive to say the least. That’s one reason it has taken many years to develop to the stage we are right now. After all applications are deployed the “information overload” isn’t so bad because teaching people what we do is more DEMONSTRATION than EXPLANATION.

So for now, for most people and prospects, it’s advisable to simply show them what we can do “today”, and wait for another time to explain what’s coming. Of course, we also show a couple features that are coming soon, but don’t go into depth with the explanations anymore.

For instance, right now, if comparing ourselves to Infusionsoft, I would simply explain that THEIR company focuses on communicating with customers through email using their CRM and e-commerce solution to track activity. OUR system, by comparison, focuses on locating the customers, prospects and leads for our Clients to deal with in the first place.

Can you see the huge difference in explaining what the 2 companies do?  In a very real sense, right now, our companies don’t compete at all, but in fact can compliment each other. We find the leads – they process the leads. Simple.

Of course, as we progress through this year, our functions will become much more complete. Thus, we have the condition I expressed at the beginning of this article: CONSTANT AND CONTINUAL DEVELOPMENT!

Keep reading this blog. I’ll be reporting on numerous other quasi-competitors. To date, we have NOT found a direct competitor. However, I expect we’ll find some. When we do that is NOT cause for panic or undue concern. It merely gives us the opportunity to improve what we’re doing.

. . . . and now, off to enjoy my New Year’s Day and prepare for the best year EVER for GlobalTmail™.