Outside of owner's personal contacts and previous customers, client company had no visibility in market. A very small and cash-poor operation, increased market awareness had to be achieved with a discretionary marketing budget of less than 1% of sales.
Employing personal graphic design skills, contracted with a low-cost offshore producer to recast company brand to convey quality and innovation. Designed website and content architecture, and employed a low-cost, turnkey hosting and technology service to develop and launch the new website that was search-engine optimized. Through successful bidding, secured prominent keyword presence on major industrial search engines (ThomasNet, IQS). Executed highly targeted direct mail campaigns focused on select, highly profitable, prospective customers with whom the new brand would resonate. Refreshed reseller relationships with new product marketing collateral and sales support materials.
The new website increased traffic by 300% and offloaded manual dissemination of product data from sales staff as well as automated lead qualification and requests for quotations—enabling sales staff to focus on closing deals. Qualified leads increased by 400% and contributed to a 30% increase in bookings.
Focused strategic improvements in brand and marketing programs offered 50% ROI. Continuous monitoring of online promotion enabled iterative improvements as well as automated lead capture system.
Streamlined Launch Process Reaps Goal-Breaking Sales
Increased domestic manufacturing costs had eroded revenue and market share, prompting company to source product from Asian manufacturers. Rapid go-to-market was critical to revenue recovery.
Three new products had to be adapted to US market, rebranded and launched within 60 days. Existing product marketing, marketing communication and channel support practices could not ensure rapid deployment.
Assessed, then assembled a task force to streamline all launch functions in order to create a standardized and repeatable process for each product. Creating a sense of urgency and team spirit inspired unprecedented process improvements.
Products launched on schedule and sold in goal-breaking volumes (10,000+ vs. 7,000), culminating in nearly doubling share price from $5.50 to more than $10.
Launch Campaign Transforms Underdog Product into Industry #1
In order to secure market share, needed to beat competitor to market with similar new technology. Product development and sourcing issues meant that company’s product would lag competitor’s by as much as one month. Competitor had a significantly larger marketing budget to invest in launch.
Created a robust PR campaign with an attention-grabbing tagline. Sent promotional items to key new technology editors at all major trade publications while aggressively pursuing face-to-face briefings and demonstrations.
Despite lag in delivery of new product, it sold in record-breaking volumes ($72M revenue in 90 days) as well as goal-breaking 22% profit margins. Personal contact with magazine editors and creativity of campaign led to both personal and product awards. The creative and personal power of the launch campaign transformed an underdog product into the industry’s #1.
Sponsorship Program Creates New Revenue Stream
Despite healthy growth, financial projections indicated that—at the current fee schedule—membership revenue alone would not enable the organization to scale to meet the requirements of its newest members and their activities.
The increases in membership fees necessary to provide adequate operating and discretionary programs budgets would result in a loss of members, risking no net revenue increase. The organization would need to develop other types of revenue-generation programs.
Conceived, developed and launched a sponsorship program to which members could contribute additional funds in exchange for increased market visibility. At no cost other than covering its operational expenses, acquired a well-respected industry information asset and also launched a synergistic program, the combination of which resulted in a 50% increase in revenue in the first six months.
In addition to the near-term gains in revenue, which funded infrastructure and operational improvements such as additional staff, global travel, and professional services, the sponsorship programs enabled the organization to engage new constituents (increasing membership exponentially), as well as more effectively promote its products.
Ensuring Global Expansion by Engaging Existing Networks
The organization was experiencing difficulty supporting non-US marketing and business development activities necessitated by the rapid acceleration of the organization’s relevance to and involvement in global standards development.
In addition to the need for operational control and close management of the organization’s brand, tight budgets prevented the organization from opening local offices in other countries. After visits to the most active non-US locales, hired part-time consultants (who worked out of home offices) to represent the organization. These consultants had existing professional networks and had built-in credibility and visibility in the organization’s target markets.
Within 12 months, non-US membership increased from 12% to 40% and non-US standards development activities increased from 0 to 10. The organization’s long-term success was dependent upon the global deployment of its products. This low-cost on-the-ground support in active locales enabled short-term growth and ensured long-term viability.
Industry-wide Council Collaborates toward Greater Economic Stability
The Federal Reserve sought to minimize the economic vulnerability attributable to US banks’ and consumers’ dependency on paper checks. Neither banks nor consumers could shift to electronic payments until legal and regulatory impediments—such as the fact that an electronic image of a check was not a legal instrument—were addressed by lawmakers. Further, bank executives were reluctant to dismiss their major economic and human investment in paper check processing infrastructures until the return on investment in new electronic payment mechanisms was proven.
After 60-day assessment of payments standards development organizations, and having partnered with line-of-business management, recommended to Fed policy committee to form industry-wide check “electronification” council.
Facilitated the first two meetings of the check electronification council, during which competitors formally agreed to cooperate, identified critical issues and developed a detailed plan for action, including creating and refining data exchange standards, defining new industry-wide payments processes and legislative lobbying activities. Subsequent to the first two meetings, council was self-managing and met deadlines for all deliverables.
Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act (Check 21) became law in October 2003, and became effective on October 28, 2004. Although there is no information yet available on the efficiencies enabled by Check 21, virtually all major banks now support it, and at least one industry trade magazine states that it “could dramatically cut the volume of paper checks in circulation and improve the reliability and speed of checking transactions. Banking industry insiders estimate that transportation, float and other check processing costs could be cut by more than $2 billion annually.”
Expansion of Membership Framework Promotes Sustained Growth
Standards development organization’s membership growth was flat due to saturation of the core target market. A lack of engagement and support models existed for second-tier groups, such as vertical industry associations.
Expanded existing membership framework—including new governance and membership fee-sharing models—that enabled subgroups to leverage the organization’s standards development model, technology infrastructure and support services while pursuing their own separate but complementary agendas.
Within the first year of program launch, rate of membership growth recovered to +20%. Representing more than 100 new organizational members, three existing and two new industry/domain groups formed under this model.
From a tactical perspective, this program was critical to the continued growth and financial health of the organization. Strategically, this program ensured the organization’s continued relevance. In effect, this program “future-proofed” the organization, and distinguished it from other standards development organizations which often close down once their initial mission is accomplished.
eCommerce Innovations through Global Collaboration
Prompted by 9/11’s exposure of the significant economic vulnerabilities related to US banks’ and consumers’ dependency on paper checks, the Federal Reserve created the role of Payment Systems Standards Coordinator. Because of many years experience in facilitating industry-wide collaborations, hired to foster collaboration among the Fed and commercial banks on ways to accelerate adoption of electronic payment mechanisms.
As the country’s central bank, possessing a fierce philosophical commitment to free market dynamics, the Federal Reserve was reluctant to exert influence, directly or indirectly, over financial institutions.
Without supporting a particular position or conveying a specific agenda, actively and diplomatically participated in domestic payments standards organizations to reinforce Fed’s support for market innovation. For example, by serving on the review committee, encouraged progress in an industry effort to prototype a universal payments format.
Personal involvement, on behalf of the Fed, in all relevant industry associations reinforced the Fed’s support for market cooperation and innovation, inspiring an improved level of collaboration and increased productivity. For instance, made key contributions to the Electronic Payments Interoperability Forum and instigated of an agreement between three key global organizations to coordinate their work.
Once banks understood that the Fed would support their efforts to experiment with advancements in electronic payment systems, the level of collaboration increased significantly. This has resulted in fewer gaps between—and therefore increased efficiencies in—disparate domestic payment systems.
Assessments Promote Global Payment Systems' Progress
Leaders at the Federal Reserve (specifically the Payments System Development Committee and the Financial Services Policy Committee) sought improved understanding of how collaborative industry standardization could accelerate adoption of electronic payment mechanisms.
Populated primarily by economists, the Fed’s policy and business leaders lacked the technical knowledge to understand and act upon the technical challenges associated with payments systems.
Over 18 months, submitted one overarching and several iterative assessments of domestic and global electronic payments standards, including descriptions of the major gaps in standards development initiatives and other industry collaborations that—if resolved—would result in more efficient, secure and accessible payments mechanisms.
Assessment identified major activities relative to these gaps, and introduced possible actions that the Fed could undertake to foster and promote the development and adoption of standards that will result in tangible progress in the efficiency, accessibility and integrity of global payments systems. For example, the Fed reduced the number of check-processing sites from 45 to 32 by year-end 2004, and will further decrease to 23 by early 2006, with similar reductions for commercial banks.
The Fed employed these assessments as input to their Five-Year Payments System Strategic Plan and as a guide to their tactical involvement in industry activities. The Fed’s leadership in electronic payments migration supported an annual rate of decline in check transactions of 4.3%, and annual growth rates of 23.5% for debit card transactions and 13.4% for ACH transactions.
Early Customer Engagement Delivers New Venture Success
Release 1.0 of the new flagship product from new venture was nearly a year behind schedule and investment funding was nearly depleted. Delays in new releases from operating systems vendors meant that the new product was not viable for the current state of technology in target markets. Responsibility for product management had been granted to the engineers, who had refused to release the product until they were satisfied with its functionality.
Recruited by company executives to take over product marketing and management, developed a triage product plan that, in addition to reworking the product to support the dominant current version of the operating system, scaled back product functionality to satisfy only “early adopter” requirements. Further, developed an early customer engagement framework that enabled the company to generate revenue while collaborating with these early customers to define a feature set that could be viable as a Release 1.0 for target markets.
The new product plan shaved 40% off the development schedule and within the first 90 days generated $3M from five customers, all of whom agreed to serve on the product review team and as references for Release 1.0 marketing programs. Release 1.0 launch, which occurred four months later, delivered on the $9M revenue goal established by executive management and investors.
Critical to regaining the organization’s credibility in light of the delayed Release 1.0 launch, the early customer engagement program inspired investor confidence in this new venture, which ultimately led to a successful spinoff and then—three years later—a profitable acquisition.
Financial Management Overhaul Leads to Tripled Revenues
In the midst of a transition from seven years as a small, boutique operation into a major force in global eBusiness standards, the organization had neither account management nor accounts receivable procedures and—because more than 50% of the company’s receivables were more than 90 days overdue - cash flow problems were suppressing programs budgets. As a professional association whose members remitted dues only annually, members had become accustomed to the organization’s tolerance for overdue payments.
Institutionalized account and financial management procedures based on association accounting standards and best practices. With less than 5% loss in members due to bad debt write-offs, accounts receivables was reduced to <10% annual revenue.
Addressing the accounts receivable problem alleviated cash flow issues. Introducing account management practices minimized the risk of recurrence, not to mention increased member participation in the organization. Having enough cash and member involvement, the organization was able to make the investment in sales and business development that saw revenue triple within a year.
Improved Communications through Website Redevelopment
Used primarily as a promotional mechanism, the organization’s website did not effectively support its need to communicate its many activities with members or the market. A relatively immature business with tight budgets, the organization could not easily afford the staff or the professional services needed to evolve its website.
After careful budget management—including assuming personal responsibility for the majority of the information design tasks—asked the Board to approve a new technical services position in order to perform the website redevelopment effort internally.
Supplemented by decreased costs associated with other external services—such as the management of the organization’s electronic mailing lists—led the internal team (comprised of communications director and new technical services manager) in redeveloping the website in its entirety, resulting in a net savings of at least $50K.
Performing the work internally leveraged other opportunities, such as embedding eCommerce capabilities for dues payments and interactive communication mechanisms, which significantly increased the value of the website to the organization’s members. Traffic to the website increased dramatically, by well over 500%, within the first 90 days. Within 60 days, 35% of dues payments were made via eCommerce, realizing significant operational efficiencies by eliminating manual billing and collections activities.