I plead guilty to enjoying a cold beer or two, and I’ve watched with amazement as the decade-long bull market in the craft beer industry shows no signs of abating.
Business has always been interested in new ways to accelerate and improve communications with customers and channel partners. Beginning in 1999, the adoption of Web conferencing tools helped accelerate marketing and sales processes resulting in shorted sales cycles and improved customer support. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> The technology provided a welcome addition alongside e-mail, which at the time was a tried-and-true (but 30-year-old) technology showing its limitations in an age when digital content was becoming increasing visual. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> A big gap exists between e-mail and Web conferencing, however. E-mail is text-based and doesn't work well when used to communicate visual or complex subject matter, such as presenting a proposal or showing customers how to order online. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Web conferencing works great when everyone is available, but 30 percent of those meetings take three or more days to align schedules. These delays cost money and sometimes result in lost opportunities. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> During the past year, a new type of visual communication and collaboration software has emerged that combines the best of both worlds, enabling sales and marketing professionals to communicate with the immediacy of e-mail, but with the visual richness and impact of web conferencing. The result is shorter cycles for sales and for marketing projects of all types.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Used most often for ad hoc visual communication and collaboration, these software products offer different levels of functionality. These range from simple screen recorders to all-in-one products enabling an individual to quickly create and send a rich media message that can include Webcam recordings, voice cards, video, and other media.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> An example of the latter is Ontier's Pixetell. Like most products in the category, Pixetell is available on-demand. It enables the user to create and send rich media messages that clearly communicate visual subject matter and complex topics, like highlighting a product to fill a specific customer requirement, or providing a "show and tell" response to a customer support request. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> What's the difference from existing communication methods? Visual communication and collaboration products combine some of the best attributes of both technologies. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Pixetell is asynchronous like e-mail—send it when you want and the recipient can consume it when they want, whether they're in the same building or in different time zones and countries. Send a secure message to one person, a dispersed team of five, or send an update to 500 channel partners or 20,000 customers. Recipients can view and play the message with any Web browser. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> With the sender's invitation, recipients can also download the Pixetell client for free and respond to your message creating a Pixetell conversation to highlight changes in a proposal, spreadsheet or other document or image.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Pacific Real Estate Partners uses Pixetell to work with clients and its architects to design office floor plans and designs. "I've doubled the response rate on outreach e-mails that include a link to a Pixetell message," says Pacific broker Mark Friel. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Adds Rachel Dyer of the software development company On Demand Analysis: "If companies could just see what we are selling, we could get their interest. Pixetell gets prospects interested sooner. It provides an effective way to show them a software demo in a non-invasive manner and opens the door to more in-depth presentations."<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> The benefits of new communications tools like Pixetell are magnified when working with customers and suppliers in different countries. A picture is often worth more than a thousand words when English is a second language; recipients can more clearly understand your meaning the first time. These visual messages can quickly and easily be replayed again and forwarded to other authorized recipients more easily than Web conferencing. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> This new class of communication tool provides an affordable way to keep business moving on your schedule, regardless of location or time of day. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <i>Bruce Carocci is vice president of business development for <a href="http://www.ontier.com" target="blank">Ontier</a>.</i>