As Eric states on his company website: "Our passion is to develop hybrid software tools that automate the delivery of information, resources, data and documents into the hands of the people who need it, when they need it."
I worked with Eric when I was with Solutia's Wear-Dated carpet fiber division and experienced firsthand how practical and effective his solutions are. When we met I had manually crunched data from complex merged sales and product databases which I then translated into 100s of PowerPoint presentation reports for our regional managers to use in customer meetings - over a three month period. Eric developed Report Builder which not only automated the process, but placed the report generating process into the hands of the regional managers who could pull reports in minutes and no longer had to rely on me. Talk about a practical marketer solution! You can read more about the project in Wear-Dated Report Builder: Case Study.
I caught up with Eric and asked him to tell me more about how his business concept had evolved into Blue Lacuna.
C.B.: The ability for sales and marketing people to generate professional communication tools, customized, at the point of use and as needed. Talk about empowering salespeople and marketers! Eric, how did the concept develop and become Blue Lacuna?
I "cut my teeth" in the slide and overhead era of the early 1990s, successfully evolved into the "multimedia" revolution of the mid 1990s and rode the Internet boom of the late 1990s and early 2000s.
In mid 2000s the dot com meltdown became evident and I became obsessed with developing the next intelligent evolution in business communications, I talked to as many existing customers as I could find and collected as much input as I could. I enlisted the help of some senior people and we attempted to distill the current sales and marketing process down to its essence and see where it might lead us. Very quickly, and quite surprisingly, a huge UNIVERSAL problem emerged at the interface between sales teams and their customers and prospects.
C.B.: What was that?
Simply put, field forces felt they weren't equipped to deal with the ever-evolving demands of their customers. Almost to a man or woman, sales reps told us that their customers had become more demanding and challenging. If reps could not communicate with their customers with exact data and the customer-specific formatting they wanted, they were at a competitive disadvantage.
Making the problem worse for reps is the traditional corporate response of outfitting the sales force with a few databases, some web site passwords and a PowerPoint template. Field sales people would then spend hours, or in many cases...days, rooting through databases to find relevant data, product specs, images and other resources and then assembling a customer-specific selling presentation on their own.
Think about how much a typical company has invested in Marketing, Sales, I/T and Product Development. It's considerable. And then, in the critical last step of the process, your sales person is in front of the customer with something that may not represent your company in the best possible light. We saw a clear path forward and went to work.
Fast forward to late 2006 and, after a lot of effort, we had outlined the ideal solution. We had our guiding principals in place and wanted to outfit our customers' field forces with the ability to quickly and easily create on-demand, customer specific, highly professional sales and marketing documents of all kinds.
These are our uncompromising rules for solution development:
- It MUST build on existing hardware and software, not replace or add expense/complexity.
- It MUST offer users unlimited flexibility to create their own customer-specific documents
- It MUST be fast and easy to use with immediate results, measured in seconds
- It MUST require little or no training to implement and deploy
- It MUST provide unparalleled consistency of branding and message
- It MUST be able to import and use virtually all types of existing legacy resources.
In early 2007, Blue Lacuna, Inc. was born and our vision became reality.
C.B.: What different products does Blue Lacuna offer?
Based on the needs of our client sales and marketing forces, our web-based product set consists of four types of solutions. Each solution has a different application and end result, but the goal is the same for all: empower field forces with the ability to quickly and easily create what they need to be more effective and efficient in their jobs.
A fast and highly intuitive tool that allows reps in the field to quickly and easily create the customer-specific selling document needed to put your company over the top in any situation. Customers include Mead, AT-A-GLANCE, Absorbine and more.
Empowers users to quickly and easily customize and build customer-specific selling presentations. iPresentationBuilder helps to maintain brand integrity, provide a high degree of professionalism and deliver powerful and consistent messaging, across your entire sales organization. Customers include Coca-Cola, Kodak and more.
A powerful, ultra-sleek tool that is ideal for extracting and organizing critical data from large databases. iReportBuilder works with ease, across multiple databases where necessary, to automatically generate accurate and highly professional Sales Account reports in seconds. Customers include NAPA, Wear-Dated Carpet and more.
Simply put, a "de-bloated" version of Salesforce.com. Allows field sales reps to report their sales activity across multiple lines at a single point of entry, reducing time to report by up to 90%. Powerful reporting module gives reps, principals and manufacturers all the data they need. Customers Avery Dennison, Fellowes, Stanley Bostitch and more.
C.B.: How do these products work with the various new tools available [e.g., online, iPad, etc.]?
All of our solutions are web-based currently and are fully compatible with Internet Explorer and Firefox browsers. A roadmap is in place for the mobile computing future and we are developing versions of our products for iOS, Android and Blackberry as customer needs dictate.
C.B.: Are you doing anything on the social media front? Why/why not?
Just a small amount of dabbling with Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter at this point. We talk about it constantly with our customers, but we have yet to make a killer app breakthrough in social media. It is moving so fast, we are all constantly learning together. Know any experts in social media? ;)
C.B.: Are you doing anything with analytics data, looking at web site traffic, keywords, bounce rates, etc.?
Same answer, just barely scratching the surface. We are passionate about the power of data and are constantly looking at Google Analytics to support our offerings. Also, many of our projects offer email blast functionality and we have increased our proficiency in this area greatly over the last 12 months. More to come...2011 looks to be a very exciting year!
C.B.: Knowing you, those could be mighty interesting products, too! Thanks very much, Eric!
Comments, questions, feedback for Eric?
How do you go about taking the data that you have available about your business and translating that into a meaningful story you can share with customers? Having been there, I'd love to hear what you have found most helpful. For that matter, what have you found most frustrating?