Four51 gets lots of questions every day. They come in via case submission, knowledgebase article hits, Supplier searches, Forum posts, email, Web, phone, blog posts, and from students online and in the classroom. Continue reading
Hopefully you’ve received an invite to our Pageflex upgrade webinar. If not, the information to attend is here. If you create or manage variable products on Four51, you do not want to miss this demo. There are some amazing new features you will want to take advantage of in your products.
I’m going to supplement that demo with a few additional pieces of information. We’ve created a Four51 App Exchange wiki. I want to answer some expected questions regarding the Four51 Toolbar, and I’ll demonstrate a document action that I believe will be very popular. Continue reading
Think about the mechanic you take your car to when it needs repair. Next time you visit, take a look at the wide range of tools he has at his disposal. Compare his tools to a novice mechanic who starts off with a socket set, and if he’s lucky, some wrenches. Over time, as his skill level increases, he builds up his arsenal of tools. Eventually the novice becomes a veteran and he acquires tools along the way. His toolbox grows with his ability. (Insert grunting from Tim “the Toolman” Taylor here.) Continue reading
It’s been quite a while since I have been able to write about the Discover Four51 knowledgebase. Recently (and unfortunately) there were some issues with the knowledgebase provider and I didn’t want to write that there were new articles to review when you couldn’t even get to them! However, the service provider has worked diligently and the problems we were having are now resolved.
In the time since I wrote last there have been quite a few articles added. Most of them try to fill in some gaps, such as error messages and everyone’s favorite topic, FONTS.
A Web service is defined by the W3C as “a software system designed to support interoperable machine-to-machine interaction over a network.” Four51 utilizes web services in multiple ways in order to integrate our application with various other networks to pass along specific types of information. A strong majority of those services have been given their own articles to describe their function. The web services articles can be found under the Integration category in the left navigation folder list on the knowledgebase.
As always, the more feedback and ideas we get, the more robust the knowledgebase will become. We rely a lot on you to help find the gaps in the article list and to generate new ideas where we can share various amounts of the Four51 knowledge.
I spent the other week with our trainer, Mike, in one of the largest training sessions we have conducted to date. This session was dedicated to one customer who flew employees in from around the country. The training was based on our standard offering with no customization, nor any customer-specific modifications. The only difference, as compared to normally scheduled training sessions, was that we condensed seven days of training into an intense five day session (just like we’re now offering across the board). Oh, and by the way, the training was conducted on the customer’s premises.
So, what is the point of my telling you about what we did for one customer?
There are four take-aways that I believe any of our customers can benefit from:
1. We are prepared to conduct on-site training, providing the number of trainees warrants it. There are, of course, logistical and financial issues to consider, but where there is a will there is a way.
2. The customer had done excellent homework in prepping all of the trainees for both the intensity and importance of the sessions. There were few distractions and training continued until 5:00PM every day (even Friday) with no complaints. Bottom-line is that they all realized the strategic impact of their role in introducing a new technology into the organization.
3. Our training can be condensed into fewer days, but trainees start reaching burn-out towards the end of the week. So, although something can be done, that doesn’t mean it should be done. I would not advocate, under normal circumstances, to compress something into a week that is as important as training and that has been tried and tested in a seven day course.
4. Most important though was the attitude that these trainees brought to the training. I sat in the back of the room with a colleague and was able to monitor everyone’s attentiveness and capture any comments or concerns. Happily, I can say that not once did anyone get fixated on what their current system does and what they might lose or need to change when using Four51. Rather, there was a constant chatter about how they could use the new system to improve some or other existing business process.
Interestingly enough, even my colleague and I sitting in the back of the room and undergoing the same training kept an open mind and both of us learned new aspects of a system we believed to know so well already. It is amazing what an open mind will allow you to do, if only you let it.
As I mentioned in my previous blog entry about training, being able to setup a demo storefront for a customer is a valuable tool in the sales process. What you may not realize, however, is that there are many more uses for your demo site than just a sales call.
Four51 has a different environment, totally separate from your live site, that is specifically designed to host your demo site. This allows you to setup a variety of “practice” portals without having to worry about changing anything that is currently functioning on your live customer sites. Here are a few ideas that you can use your demo site for:
• Sales demonstrations for clients
• Practice area for new administrative users
• Testing new site/product configurations before applying them to the live site
• Practice area for end users to get comfortable placing orders online
• Preview uploaded customer logos, site themes and end user workflow
• Build a product library for interface demonstrations (this is great for sales calls because you can quickly activate/deactivate products depending on the client with whom you are meeting!)
Your demo site provides you a great place to explore and test things out without worrying about disrupting the live customer portals that you have set up. You also have full access to the Help menu that is available in your live administrative site, so you have easy access to Discover Four51 (the knowledgebase) and other informative tools that you are used to using. Whether you are a new employee learning the ins and outs of Four51 or an advanced user looking to test out some new product configurations, your demo site is a great place to start!
The indirect goods industry is constantly referred to as one that is stubborn and resistant to change. I say this particularly in reference to their adoption of new technology. Case in point is the medium most of our customers are most comfortable using: the telephone. For a long time, when our customers had a problem, we wanted nothing more than for them to pick up the phone and call us.
Recently, however, Four51 has created a number of online tools (Discover Four51, Forum Four51, Access Four51…this very blog!) to enable customers to find quick answers to questions and interact with each other. In almost all cases, customers are getting their inquiries answered quicker than a traditional support telephone line could have ever accommodated and the results have been fantastic!
At Four51, we often walk the line of being on the edge of the technology trends and leaving our customers and prospects feeling confused and abandoned by our adoption of new technology. But as a forward-looking technology company, we know that it is important to push our customers and prospects in ways that will help their business grow and remain profitable.
Four51 is just about a decade old now and benefits from a well-balanced group of young employees who are consistently bringing fresh ideas to the table. In the marketing department alone we have been aggressively pursuing Search Engine Optimization, blogging and executing multimedia campaigns to help drive our presence out into the market.
The PSDA (Print Services & Distribution Association) has jumped on the technology bandwagon with us and is helping to educate the industry as a whole on the value of new technologies. The PSDA has created membership groups on LinkedIn, a site for professionals to grow their connections to business partners, clients and employees. They also have a site called Print University where members can go to get educational materials about the industry, read about sales and CSR training, and even download a podcast series to listen to at their convenience
Lately, the PSDA has helped to push the technology front even further by creating Print Junkie, a new social networking site for the printing industry. At printjunkie.net, members have free access to blogs, forums, news, events, tutorials, videos and photos all pertaining to the print industry. The site already boasts 200+ junkies!
As partners in crime, the PSDA is helping Four51 change the way customers interact with us and with each other. We all hope to see a dramatic shift in our customers’ resistance to adopting these new technologies as they realize the added value they bring to their businesses and their own customers.
Just as there are many salespeople and many different ways to sell, there are numerous ways to sell with Four51. However, some e-commerce sales tactics are universal.
Four51 now offers a two-day training session to help customers sell with Four51 and obtain the full benefits of e-commerce. This class is primarily designed for someone who has sales experience and wants to use Four51 to increase sales with current customers and sell to prospects. You will learn to build and use the demo site to achieve the presumptive close, successful strategies for closing prospects and the products and customers that work best with Four51.
You and your company will benefit from your ability to sell e-commerce products with confidence.
To learn more about our upcoming training sessions, click here.
A few days ago, I had a conversation with a customer who had recently joined the Four51 network and was in the process of setting up a site for one of his clients. He was going through the storefront with the customer, but was running into all kinds of problems and couldn’t figure out why some things weren’t working how he thought they would. Needless to say, he grew quite frustrated and finally called me for help. We took a look at the site together and the deeper we got into the site, the further my belief was confirmed that training is a vital part of using the Four51 application effectively.
Part of what makes Four51 so valuable is the flexibility of the system and how that flexibility allows you to create a unique experience for each user who comes to access one of your sites. Naturally, with a system that provides that level of benefit, you’ll need to know how to setup and configure those options for your customers.
Customers usually have very specific needs and if you take the time to figure out what tools you have and how to use them, you’ll be able to satisfy your customers’ requests much more efficiently. Not only that, but you’ll be able to provide a better set of expectations instead of promising something that can’t be delivered exactly how the customer thought it would be. You will establish more credibility if you can answer questions and explain the details right on the spot.
Not only is training knowledge valuable when trying to satisfy current customers, but it will also make your organization much more effective in bringing aboard new clients. If you know how to use the administrative environment, you can easily setup an effective demo site that has the prospect’s logo, an appropriate theme and any other options that they may request for an online ordering interface. You can present a replica of what the customer already expects and impress them right from the start instead of giving the impression that you’re in over your head.
As with any new product or system, there is a learning curve involved for both the site consumer and the administrator. The faster you understand how things work and certain items need to be configured, the faster you will be able to use the Four51 application to build your business. Check out the training course listings on Access Four51 and see if you could benefit from the variety of courses we have to offer.
Four51 works with lots of print providers who have customers that use the Ariba Spend Management application. Using Four51′s PunchOut capabilities, print providers can give Ariba users the ability to access a Four51 catalog, place products in a shopping cart, and import the product information back into the Ariba system. Ariba users love this because it gives them the ability to put an order through their own financial and accounting control processes before placing the order, and it removes their burden of having to maintain product information in their Ariba database. Similarly, Four51 provides variable data capabilities, something which is not available in Ariba.
On almost every Ariba implementation in which I’ve participated, I’ve noticed that the impetus for the project is customer-driven. Customers ask for PunchOut, and we respond. This is all fine and good, but I believe that the Ariba Supplier Network contains a lot of opportunity for the print provider who is looking for new business.
When you join the Ariba Supplier Network, you not only have the ability to help your existing customers streamline their procurement processes, but you have the opportunity to (as Ariba says on their website):
- Gain exposure to leading buying organizations through a searchable profile
- Respond to sourcing opportunities on the Ariba Supplier Network
- Enjoy market share gains in existing customers through increased contract compliance, extended contract duration and deeper account penetration.
As an example of this, you can go to http://supplier.ariba.com and see a scrolling ticker in the middle of the page that shows Ariba customers that have posted RFPs. As I type this, the ticker is showing me opportunities with companies like Nokia and Hubbell Incorporated for contracts worth more than $1,000,000.
Check out http://supplier.ariba.com for more information about the benefits of joining the Ariba network.