Dec 16

How Affiliate Marketing Can Work for Entrepreneurs

Some of today’s best affiliate marketers are bloggers and other social-media personalities who have a large following. In the typical affiliate-marketing arrangement, an entrepreneur enters into an agreement with an influential Internet personality or someone else willing to represent a product. 

The affiliate marketer promotes this product through links, banners, testimonials or other content. 

Instead of forking out cash in advance for website links that promote a business, “the marketer provides a commission to affiliates for every transaction that results from these links,” Shawn Collins and Frank Fiore wrote in Successful Affiliate Marketing for Merchants. The arrangement is a win for both sides since “it helps marketers acquire new customers and increase revenues, while affiliates can generate revenues.”

Affiliate marketing is “an agreement where one firm (the marketer) compensates another firm (the affiliate) for generating transactions from its users,” Simon Goldschmidt, Sven Junghagen and Uri Harris explained in Strategic Affiliate Marketing.   

Affiliate-marketing programs can provide a substantial upside to an entrepreneur through their ability to involve a cadre of influencers, someone who has an above-average impact on a specific field and can sawy their social-media following.

There’s nothing wrong with affiliates scoring a commission in exchange for a promotion involving the placement of links, banner ads and similar forms of advertisement. From time to time, an affiliate marketing might highlight a product through a review or testimonial. The entrepreneur must ensure that the agreement with the affiliate provides appropriate disclosure to he audience.

Entrepreneurs should consider the following when establishing an affiliate program:

Related: Top 10 Ways to Make Money Online — With Integrity

1. Watch out for online store glitches.

Stephanie Robbins, CEO of affiliate-marketing firm Robbins Interactive, told me in October on KCAA Radio’s Money Talk that affiliate marketing programs work well when an entrepreneur has set up an online store. She cautioned, though, that the quickest way for an entrepreneur to lose valuable affiliates is from technical glitches that cause lost sales and result in lost revenues for affiliates.

The beauty of a well-developed affiliate program is its integration with an online store. While entrepreneurs can develop homegrown affiliate systems, they might find it worthwhile to explore options available through third-party affiliate programs such as those offered by CJ Affiliate, Rakuten, Shareasale and Avantlink.

“You need to be able to put the technology in place so that you can reimburse and reward your affiliates as appropriate,” Robbins said.

2. Set an appropriate price.

Affiliate-marketing programs pay  a percentage of each sale generated from the affiliate’s activities. Driving traffic to an online store can involve tie-ins as simple as placing a hyperlink or banner on a website to posting comprehensive and well-thought out online articles covering a product’s features and benefits.

Influential affiliates with large online followings on blogs, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram can have many products potentially available for them to represent. As such, the commission per conversion (from site visitor to paying client) is important.

Robbins encouraged entrepreneurs to rely on affiliate marketing for products selling in the $60 to $100 range. This price point is optimal as a significant volume of sales can be generated with a reasonable commission. Lower dollar amounts provide nominal affiliate revenue and higher priced items do not sell as readily — which might prompt an influencer to decline entering into an agreement.

Related: How to Go ‘Cha-Ching’ With an Affiliate Program

3. Partner with the right marketers.

Successful affiliates work hard to create influence. Affiliates typically won’t become involved with products if they don’t inspire a conversation.

Affiliates have their niches. Entrepreneurs should target and make arrangements only with affiliates who operate within their industry. For example, an entrepreneur selling high-end culinary utensils and hardware should seek affiliates who are foodies, restaurant owners, industry consultants and others involved in related fields. These affiliates may maintain blogs, websites, social media pages and accounts where they share information and links about the product.

Entrepreneurs must be prepared to establish significant revenue-sharing agreements if they wish to engage with top affiliate marketers.

Years ago some observers advised entrepreneurs to seek out influential bloggers  with strong followings and offer a product or some other noncash benefit in exchange for a mention or link. This worked for a while. But not any longer.

“So many people think that if we give these bloggers free product they will be completely happy,” Robbins said. “These are businesspeople now. They know the value that they are bringing to the client. And they want to be compensated for it.”

4. Provide transparency and honesty.

Lack of proper disclosure can damage the reputation of an affiliate and an entrepreneur as well break rules established by the Federal Trade Commission. Entrepreneurs should monitor affiliates in cases where they make statements about the product in reviews and articles.

“In order to limit its potential liability, the advertiser should ensure that the advertising service provides guidance and training to its bloggers concerning the need to ensure that statements they make are truthful and substantiated, states the Federal Trade Commission’s Guides Concerning Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. “The advertiser should also monitor bloggers who are being paid to promote its products and take steps necessary to halt the continued publication of deceptive representations when they are discovered.”

Related: 5 Ways to Build Trust With Your Company’s Online Audience

Permanent link to this article: http://homebiz2bizreview.com/how-affiliate-marketing-can-work-for-entrepreneurs/

Dec 15

Drug, Internet companies know you buy Viagra and want to sell you more



Ever since the days of castor oil laxatives and mercury syphilis tablets, pharmacists and patients have had a tacit understanding: whatever you buy, the information is confidential.

No longer. Drugmakers and Internet companies are quietly joining forces to link U.S. pharmacy records with online accounts to target ads to people based on their health conditions and the prescription drugs they buy.

In a little-known process, third-party companies assign patients unique numerical codes based on their prescription-drug records, a practice websites also rely on to track their registered users. The two sets of data can be linked without names ever changing hands, allowing pharmaceutical companies to identify groups that use a specific medicine and send them tailored Web ads.

The practice has become an essential part of the $1 trillion pharmaceutical industry’s digital marketing efforts. The industry says the technique complies with federal medical privacy laws because patients’ names are concealed. Still, critics see it as a breach of confidentiality.

“Marketers are treating our health data as if we were buying a pair of pants or a book,” said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, a privacy group in Washington. “That’s unconscionable. These are highly personal, sensitive decisions that people make.”

The technique’s growing use is raising alarms that technological advances are undoing protections provided by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, the federal medical privacy law, according to Bloomberg interviews with more than 60 industry executives, regulators and privacy advocates. Websites and data firms exist in a legal blind spot because HIPAA applies to doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, insurance companies and their contractors.

The notion of privacy is so fundamental to the medical profession that it is enshrined in the Hippocratic Oath from ancient Greece, which required doctors to swear that they would keep secret all patient information. The modern-day pharmaceutical profession adheres to that message. The International Pharmaceutical Federation’s code of ethics requires that members “respect and protect the confidentiality of patient information.”

The process that worries Chester and others is known as a matchback and represents the cutting edge of medical data analytics, an industry that McKinsey and Co. projects will surpass $10 billion in revenues by 2020.

Here’s how matchbacks work: Companies known as data brokers — IMS Health Holdings Inc. is one of the biggest — have amassed hundreds of millions of prescription records, buying them from drug benefit managers such as Express Scripts Holding Co. and CVS Health Corp. The brokers use algorithms to substitute patients’ names with numerical codes. They then partner with websites that rely on the same software to transform their users’ data. Drugmakers pay the websites to match the two sides. Most consumers who have filled a prescription at a drugstore in recent years have been assigned a permanent code, which can be used to send them customized ads.

The industry views matchbacks as an aid to people looking for medical information online and giving drugmakers more clarity. Only aggregate information is shared with pharmaceutical companies, and people are targeted in groups, executives said.

“It involves tracking patients over time anonymously,” said Jody Fisher, director of U.S. product management for Danbury, Connecticut-based IMS, which has dossiers on more than 500 million patients worldwide. “It helps all stakeholders identify patterns of behavior that make delivery of health care more efficient.”

Matchbacks are part of a broader trend of pharmacies, hospitals and others riffling through Americans’ medicine cabinets. Hospitals are scouring credit-card records to learn about patients’ vices such as smoking and unhealthy eating, hedge funds are listening on health forums to glean pharmaceutical investment tips, and marketing companies are aggregating bits and pieces of information to assemble lists of people suffering from certain conditions.

The concept behind matchbacks isn’t new. For decades, retailers have hired marketing firms to link the names on their sales receipts back to lists of people who were sent promotional coupons, with a view to boosting sales of everything from soap to oatmeal by targeting ads to their shoppers. Now, the growth of the Web combined with the advent of powerful data mining has enabled pharmacy companies to adopt the practice.

Data firms that perform matchbacks other than IMS include Symphony Health Solutions, which is part of private-equity firm Symphony Technology Group in Palo Alto, California, and Crossix Solutions Inc., a startup in New York.

Haren Ghosh, former chief research and analytics officer for Symphony Health Solutions, said the technique is misunderstood and privacy concerns are slowing companies’ ability to deliver more value to drugmakers and patients.

The goal is more personalization of ads without knowing the patients’ names.

“That is the world we are going to,” said Ghosh, who left Symphony in March to start Analytic Mix Inc., a marketing and data-analytics firm. A spokeswoman for Symphony did not return e-mails and telephone messages.

Crossix only performs matchbacks for websites whose users opt in, often by registering, said co-founder Asaf Evenhaim. The company uses multiple layers of anonymization to ensure that patient identities can’t be learned, he said.

“There’s a difference between making a link and knowing who a person is,” he said. “I’m very proud of what we do and how we do it.”

Still, a prescription for, say, Viagra or Prozac isn’t the same as a grocery receipt, and as drug matchbacks become better understood, they’re raising concerns among patients about medical information available on the Web.

“Just because something’s legal doesn’t mean morally that it’s right,” said Aaron Laxton, a 35-year-old social worker from Saint Louis, Missouri who was diagnosed with HIV three years ago.

Laxton, who has chronicled his post-diagnosis journey in a series of YouTube videos, said he is not surprised to see ads for new HIV medications as he travels the Web, but worries that he may be the target of a more subtle form of profiling, based on knowledge of his medical records. He said he is routinely shown banner ads for sleeping pills — a type of drug he has long taken yet rarely discusses or researches on the Internet.

“It’s this uncanny sense of, is this computer reading my mind?” he said. “It’s almost as if the computer pops up the ad even before the thought pops in your head.”

That’s exactly the idea. And matchbacks have solved one of the pharmaceutical industry’s biggest marketing headaches: they do away with the layer of physicians, pharmacists and insurers that stood between drugmakers and their clients in the past.

“This is the holy grail for every pharmaceutical company, to know that there’s a way to look back to actual script information,” Helene Monat, a veteran of the targeted advertising industry, said in an interview.

The pharma industry, grappling with the expiration of patents on bestselling therapies, is turning to matchbacks to hunt down new customers. Spending on overall consumer marketing rose 10 percent to $3.72 billion last year, according to IMS.

Sanofi uses matchbacks to promote Lantus, Apidra and Auvi- Q, which treat diabetes and life-threatening allergic reactions known as anaphylaxis, said Stacy Burch, a spokeswoman for the Paris-based drugmaker. London-based AstraZeneca uses matchbacks for all of its products and digital-advertising channels, according to spokeswoman Alisha Martin.

Not all drugmakers endorse the practice. GlaxoSmithKline has stopped using them after the London-based company became concerned that the practice may violate consumer privacy and that websites aren’t informing users, said spokeswoman Sarah Alspach. Websites must “uphold appropriate privacy standards” and be transparent about how data is used, she said.

For websites, matchbacks promise lucrative ad deals. Yahoo.com and EverydayHealth.com, which operates the second- biggest U.S. health site after WebMD, say they have used them to attract new pharmaceutical advertisers and refine the targeting of their ads.

So-called de-identified databases can be accurately linked as long as algorithms are the same on all sides. IMS and other firms manage the coding process across their networks of data suppliers.

Pharmacy matchbacks can be viewed as invasive but they are also a logical extension of decades of work to personalize the computing experience, a trend that many consumers embrace, according to Paul Arthur, professor of digital humanities at the University of Western Sydney.

“We tolerate surveillance much more now, and even celebrate it,” Arthur said.

Federal regulators said they were not aware of the practice until contacted by Bloomberg News.

The Department of Health and Human Services’s Office for Civil Rights, which polices health-privacy laws, declined to comment for this article because it’s unfamiliar with matchbacks, said spokeswoman Rachel Seeger. Companies that perform matchbacks could be in violation of privacy laws if they do not notify customers that their data is being used for this purpose, according to Peder Magee, a senior attorney in the Federal Trade Commission’s division of privacy and identity protection.

Since 2011, Yahoo, the biggest U.S. Web portal, has used IMS to perform matchbacks and help target ads to registered users who are likely suffering from specific conditions, said Suzanne Philion, spokeswoman for the Sunnyvale, California-based company. About 100 million people have records in both IMS and Yahoo’s databases, according to Bill Drummy, founder and CEO of ad agency Heartbeat Ideas, who has worked with both companies. Both Yahoo and IMS declined to comment on the number.

“These ads are not targeted on an individual basis,” Philion said in an emailed statement. “There are certain sensitive medical categories which we exclude from any ad targeting, and all ads and ad targeting are in full compliance with HIPAA.”

In 2012, Everyday Health performed matchbacks on some of its 65 million registered users to show the high number of people who switch medications after seeing ads on the site. As many as eight out of every 10,000 people converted, the company found.

“Respecting our users’ privacy is paramount,” Alan Shapiro, general counsel and chief privacy officer for the New York-based company, wrote in an e-mail. “We strictly adhere to all industry guidelines and best practices including giving our users the ability to easily opt out.”

Neither Yahoo nor Everyday Health’s privacy policy mention the practice. Google Inc., Facebook Inc. and Microsoft Corp. said they don’t use prescription-drug matchbacks. WebMD, the leading U.S. health website, wouldn’t say whether it uses matchbacks. The company does its best to support advertising customers’ needs while protecting user privacy, according to spokesman Michael Heinley.

Matchbacks are valuable for websites beyond just luring new advertisers, because they offer proof about which targeted ads are driving users to fill certain prescriptions.

Sites that don’t use them risk losing out, said Jim Curtis, chief revenue officer of Remedy Health Media. The company relies on matchbacks to secure ad buys from drugmakers above $250,000, he said.

Some clients come into negotiations requiring them, according to Curtis. “It used to be very innovative, and now it is a necessity,” he said.

Drugmakers pay a premium for the targeted ads. Matchbacks can add as much as $100,000 to the price of running a digital advertising campaign, said Drummy of Heartbeat Ideas, in part because they give drugmakers and websites extraordinary insights.

Some 12 to 25 percent of prospects who visit a brand website and whose activities were later measured using matchbacks go on to seek a prescription from a doctor, according to Drummy.

Yet as the practice becomes more widely known, drugmakers will face a challenge convincing consumers and patients that matchbacks are legitimate and that their secure codes can’t be cracked.

“They’re fooling around with the term anonymous,” said Joe Turow, a professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania who has testified before Congress on health-data companies. “It’s kind of a euphemism now for being able to track somebody.”

Recent abuses are giving weight to that concern. Epic Marketplace, an advertising firm in New York, was caught looking at people’s health searches by exploiting a flaw in Web browsers. Epic couldn’t be reached for comment. Its websites have been taken offline and a working phone number couldn’t be found.

Health clinics in Illinois and Australia had their electronic records encrypted and held for ransom by hackers. In Utah, data containing the medical records of 780,000 patients were stolen from a government server.

What’s more, hospitals routinely share patient records that are sold by some states in formats that can be used to re- identify people and their conditions.

Critics say the lesson from earlier cases is that long-term tracking poses risks to privacy, no matter who the custodian is or what form the data takes.

“My information is mine, whether you put a name associated with it or you put a number associated with it,” said Jim Pyles, a health lawyer and medical privacy expert with Washington-based Powers Pyles Sutter Verville PC. Matchbacks are like hunting by “waiting at a watering hole for a thirst- ridden animal to show up,” he said. “There’s something really tawdry about it.”

Pettypiece reported from New York.

Permanent link to this article: http://homebiz2bizreview.com/drug-internet-companies-know-you-buy-viagra-and-want-to-sell-you-more/

Dec 14

With digital accounts, drug companies know your prescription drug buying habits

WASHINGTON — Ever since the days of castor oil laxatives and mercury syphilis tablets, pharmacists and patients have had a tacit understanding: whatever you buy, the information is confidential.

No longer. Drugmakers and Internet companies are quietly joining forces to link U.S. pharmacy records with online accounts to target ads to people based on their health conditions and the prescription drugs they buy.

In a little-known process, third-party companies assign patients unique numerical codes based on their prescription-drug records, a practice websites also rely on to track their registered users. The two sets of data can be linked without names ever changing hands, allowing pharmaceutical companies to identify groups that use a specific medicine and send them tailored Web ads.

The practice has become an essential part of the $1 trillion pharmaceutical industry’s digital marketing efforts. The industry says the technique complies with federal medical privacy laws because patients’ names are concealed. Still, critics see it as a breach of confidentiality.

“Marketers are treating our health data as if we were buying a pair of pants or a book,” said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, a privacy group in Washington. “That’s unconscionable. These are highly personal, sensitive decisions that people make.”

The technique’s growing use is raising alarms that technological advances are undoing protections provided by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, the federal medical privacy law, according to Bloomberg interviews with more than 60 industry executives, regulators and privacy advocates. Websites and data firms exist in a legal blind spot because HIPAA applies to doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, insurance companies and their contractors.

The notion of privacy is so fundamental to the medical profession that it is enshrined in the Hippocratic Oath from ancient Greece, which required doctors to swear that they would keep secret all patient information. The modern-day pharmaceutical profession adheres to that message. The International Pharmaceutical Federation’s code of ethics requires that members “respect and protect the confidentiality of patient information.”

The process that worries Chester and others is known as a matchback and represents the cutting edge of medical data analytics, an industry that McKinsey and Co. projects will surpass $10 billion in revenues by 2020.

Here’s how matchbacks work: Companies known as data brokers — IMS Health Holdings Inc. is one of the biggest — have amassed hundreds of millions of prescription records, buying them from drug benefit managers such as Express Scripts Holding Co. and CVS Health Corp. The brokers use algorithms to substitute patients’ names with numerical codes. They then partner with websites that rely on the same software to transform their users’ data. Drugmakers pay the websites to match the two sides. Most consumers who have filled a prescription at a drugstore in recent years have been assigned a permanent code, which can be used to send them customized ads.

The industry views matchbacks as an aid to people looking for medical information online and giving drugmakers more clarity. Only aggregate information is shared with pharmaceutical companies, and people are targeted in groups, executives said.

“It involves tracking patients over time anonymously,” said Jody Fisher, director of U.S. product management for Danbury, Connecticut-based IMS, which has dossiers on more than 500 million patients worldwide. “It helps all stakeholders identify patterns of behavior that make delivery of health care more efficient.”

Matchbacks are part of a broader trend of pharmacies, hospitals and others riffling through Americans’ medicine cabinets. Hospitals are scouring credit-card records to learn about patients’ vices such as smoking and unhealthy eating, hedge funds are listening on health forums to glean pharmaceutical investment tips, and marketing companies are aggregating bits and pieces of information to assemble lists of people suffering from certain conditions.

The concept behind matchbacks isn’t new. For decades, retailers have hired marketing firms to link the names on their sales receipts back to lists of people who were sent promotional coupons, with a view to boosting sales of everything from soap to oatmeal by targeting ads to their shoppers. Now, the growth of the Web combined with the advent of powerful data mining has enabled pharmacy companies to adopt the practice.

Data firms that perform matchbacks other than IMS include Symphony Health Solutions, which is part of private-equity firm Symphony Technology Group in Palo Alto, California, and Crossix Solutions Inc., a startup in New York.

Haren Ghosh, former chief research and analytics officer for Symphony Health Solutions, said the technique is misunderstood and privacy concerns are slowing companies’ ability to deliver more value to drugmakers and patients.

The goal is more personalization of ads without knowing the patients’ names.

“That is the world we are going to,” said Ghosh, who left Symphony in March to start Analytic Mix Inc., a marketing and data-analytics firm. A spokeswoman for Symphony did not return e-mails and telephone messages.

Crossix only performs matchbacks for websites whose users opt in, often by registering, said co-founder Asaf Evenhaim. The company uses multiple layers of anonymization to ensure that patient identities can’t be learned, he said.

“There’s a difference between making a link and knowing who a person is,” he said. “I’m very proud of what we do and how we do it.”

Still, a prescription for, say, Viagra or Prozac isn’t the same as a grocery receipt, and as drug matchbacks become better understood, they’re raising concerns among patients about medical information available on the Web.

“Just because something’s legal doesn’t mean morally that it’s right,” said Aaron Laxton, a 35-year-old social worker from Saint Louis, Missouri who was diagnosed with HIV three years ago.

Laxton, who has chronicled his post-diagnosis journey in a series of YouTube videos, said he is not surprised to see ads for new HIV medications as he travels the Web, but worries that he may be the target of a more subtle form of profiling, based on knowledge of his medical records. He said he is routinely shown banner ads for sleeping pills — a type of drug he has long taken yet rarely discusses or researches on the Internet.

“It’s this uncanny sense of, is this computer reading my mind?” he said. “It’s almost as if the computer pops up the ad even before the thought pops in your head.”

That’s exactly the idea. And matchbacks have solved one of the pharmaceutical industry’s biggest marketing headaches: they do away with the layer of physicians, pharmacists and insurers that stood between drugmakers and their clients in the past.

“This is the holy grail for every pharmaceutical company, to know that there’s a way to look back to actual script information,” Helene Monat, a veteran of the targeted advertising industry, said in an interview.

The pharma industry, grappling with the expiration of patents on bestselling therapies, is turning to matchbacks to hunt down new customers. Spending on overall consumer marketing rose 10 percent to $3.72 billion last year, according to IMS.

Sanofi uses matchbacks to promote Lantus, Apidra and Auvi- Q, which treat diabetes and life-threatening allergic reactions known as anaphylaxis, said Stacy Burch, a spokeswoman for the Paris-based drugmaker. London-based AstraZeneca uses matchbacks for all of its products and digital-advertising channels, according to spokeswoman Alisha Martin.

Not all drugmakers endorse the practice. GlaxoSmithKline has stopped using them after the London-based company became concerned that the practice may violate consumer privacy and that websites aren’t informing users, said spokeswoman Sarah Alspach. Websites must “uphold appropriate privacy standards” and be transparent about how data is used, she said.

For websites, matchbacks promise lucrative ad deals. Yahoo.com and EverydayHealth.com, which operates the second- biggest U.S. health site after WebMD, say they have used them to attract new pharmaceutical advertisers and refine the targeting of their ads.

So-called de-identified databases can be accurately linked as long as algorithms are the same on all sides. IMS and other firms manage the coding process across their networks of data suppliers.

Pharmacy matchbacks can be viewed as invasive but they are also a logical extension of decades of work to personalize the computing experience, a trend that many consumers embrace, according to Paul Arthur, professor of digital humanities at the University of Western Sydney.

“We tolerate surveillance much more now, and even celebrate it,” Arthur said.

Federal regulators said they were not aware of the practice until contacted by Bloomberg News.

The Department of Health and Human Services’s Office for Civil Rights, which polices health-privacy laws, declined to comment for this article because it’s unfamiliar with matchbacks, said spokeswoman Rachel Seeger. Companies that perform matchbacks could be in violation of privacy laws if they do not notify customers that their data is being used for this purpose, according to Peder Magee, a senior attorney in the Federal Trade Commission’s division of privacy and identity protection.

Since 2011, Yahoo, the biggest U.S. Web portal, has used IMS to perform matchbacks and help target ads to registered users who are likely suffering from specific conditions, said Suzanne Philion, spokeswoman for the Sunnyvale, California-based company. About 100 million people have records in both IMS and Yahoo’s databases, according to Bill Drummy, founder and CEO of ad agency Heartbeat Ideas, who has worked with both companies. Both Yahoo and IMS declined to comment on the number.

“These ads are not targeted on an individual basis,” Philion said in an emailed statement. “There are certain sensitive medical categories which we exclude from any ad targeting, and all ads and ad targeting are in full compliance with HIPAA.”

In 2012, Everyday Health performed matchbacks on some of its 65 million registered users to show the high number of people who switch medications after seeing ads on the site. As many as eight out of every 10,000 people converted, the company found.

“Respecting our users’ privacy is paramount,” Alan Shapiro, general counsel and chief privacy officer for the New York-based company, wrote in an e-mail. “We strictly adhere to all industry guidelines and best practices including giving our users the ability to easily opt out.”

Neither Yahoo nor Everyday Health’s privacy policy mention the practice. Google Inc., Facebook Inc. and Microsoft Corp. said they don’t use prescription-drug matchbacks. WebMD, the leading U.S. health website, wouldn’t say whether it uses matchbacks. The company does its best to support advertising customers’ needs while protecting user privacy, according to spokesman Michael Heinley.

Matchbacks are valuable for websites beyond just luring new advertisers, because they offer proof about which targeted ads are driving users to fill certain prescriptions.

Sites that don’t use them risk losing out, said Jim Curtis, chief revenue officer of Remedy Health Media. The company relies on matchbacks to secure ad buys from drugmakers above $250,000, he said.

Some clients come into negotiations requiring them, according to Curtis. “It used to be very innovative, and now it is a necessity,” he said.

Drugmakers pay a premium for the targeted ads. Matchbacks can add as much as $100,000 to the price of running a digital advertising campaign, said Drummy of Heartbeat Ideas, in part because they give drugmakers and websites extraordinary insights.

Some 12 to 25 percent of prospects who visit a brand website and whose activities were later measured using matchbacks go on to seek a prescription from a doctor, according to Drummy.

Yet as the practice becomes more widely known, drugmakers will face a challenge convincing consumers and patients that matchbacks are legitimate and that their secure codes can’t be cracked.

“They’re fooling around with the term anonymous,” said Joe Turow, a professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania who has testified before Congress on health-data companies. “It’s kind of a euphemism now for being able to track somebody.”

Recent abuses are giving weight to that concern. Epic Marketplace, an advertising firm in New York, was caught looking at people’s health searches by exploiting a flaw in Web browsers. Epic couldn’t be reached for comment. Its websites have been taken offline and a working phone number couldn’t be found.

Health clinics in Illinois and Australia had their electronic records encrypted and held for ransom by hackers. In Utah, data containing the medical records of 780,000 patients were stolen from a government server.

What’s more, hospitals routinely share patient records that are sold by some states in formats that can be used to re- identify people and their conditions.

Critics say the lesson from earlier cases is that long-term tracking poses risks to privacy, no matter who the custodian is or what form the data takes.

“My information is mine, whether you put a name associated with it or you put a number associated with it,” said Jim Pyles, a health lawyer and medical privacy expert with Washington-based Powers Pyles Sutter Verville PC. Matchbacks are like hunting by “waiting at a watering hole for a thirst- ridden animal to show up,” he said. “There’s something really tawdry about it.”

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Permanent link to this article: http://homebiz2bizreview.com/with-digital-accounts-drug-companies-know-your-prescription-drug-buying-habits/

Dec 13

How Onestop Internet Is Powering Ecommerce For Brands

If you’re a brand or retailer, needing to get online, there are a lot of things to deal with to run your e-commerce business smoothly–everything from your e-commerce site itself, to taking photos of your products, packing and shipping, to digital marketing. If e-commerce isn’t your main line of business, how do you get a handle on all of that? One Los Angeles company–Onestop Internet (www.onestop.com) has created a growing business handling exactly that. We spoke with CEO and founder John Tomich to learn why the company has been seeing so much success handling all of the nitty gritty of e-commerce for many well known brands, including Juicy Couture, The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Lululemon, RVCA, Paul Frank, True Religion, and many others.


For those who haven’t heard of Onestop Internet, tell us about the business?

John Tomich: Onestop Internet is an e-commerce services company. We provide a turnkey, back end, managed service offering for brands and retailers on an outsourced basis. We do everything from picking, packing, and shipping to customer service, fulfillment, and providing the technology that powers the e-commerce site, online marketing, creative design, and digital imaging and photography. We provide all of the categories that need to be done if you want to sell products online, at least those that are non ticket and non travel, physical products. We are an option for brands who don’t want to build it themselves in-house, from soup to nuts, or don’t want to outsource to a single vendor. One of the things that are unique is we use a revenue share business model, typically. Our usual business arrangement is we don’t charge or charge very minimally for setup and launch costs. The way we get compensated, is we receive a percent of net sales that flow through the website.


Who are your ideal customers and market?

John Tomich: We have about forty clients today, and I would say about thirty of them are in the apparel, accessories, and footwear space. We have quite a bit of expertise in the apparel sector and in the fashion business. We know a lot about acquiring those kinds of customers and building those brands online. If you look at the Internet Retailer Top 1000, which is a list that tracks e-commerce sites by sales volume, you’ll see that Amazon is number #1, and number 1000 does a few million in sales online. We’re in that 250 to 750 range, if you want, with brands that are getting significant, multi-million dollar amounts of online business, are growing fast, but typically also have a core business which is outside the Internet, such as wholesale or as a brick and mortar retailer. They want to partner with someone to control their cost, and lock in a revenue share arrangement at an operating cost percentage that makes sense. They also want someone co-piloting, someone where all they do is ecommerce and provides best practices. We’re locking in a cost structure for them, and also ensuring that they have an effective solution.


It looks like you have many top tier brands and customers signed up, what has been the reason for their adoption?

John Tomich: I think it’s the business model. It’s really complicated to run an e-commerce channel successfully. Technology is always changing, and it’s very challenging to recruit and retain talented, e-commerce personnel to run everything. That’s particularly true when it’s not their core business. We’re very unique, in that we have a revenue share business model. Our clients like that a lot.


Are those brick and mortar and wholesale business still afraid of cannibalizing their own business through online sales?

John Tomich: We started our company in 2004, and we’re now about ten years old. When we started, we did see a lot of concern around the channel conflict you are mentioning, particularly in the apparel business. Wholesale brands and manufacturers were concerned about alienating their department store customers, or the customer base of their specialty stores. That’s gone away, for the most part, at least in the apparel industry. It’s very rare that you see concerns with that in our core vertical segment. Everyone is now pretty much selling direct on apparel sites now. If you poll all of the brands who sell at Nordstrom’s or Macy’s, the vast majority also sell direct. That’s not universally true, however, there are some niche segments of the market where channel conflicts do arise, particularly in consumer electronics. There’s a lot of issues there around pricing and controlling MAP for their resellers. In that area, clients are still concerned about that, but you have to explain to them, even though it sounds counter-intuitive, that if you control your own website, you can be supportive of pricing for your resellers. If you don’t sell your own product on your website, you’re leaving the internet to sell your product, so they’re going to find the product on eBay, and through third party sellers on Amazon. Your own website can clean a lot of that up, and control that, if that makes sense.


You’ve got a very interesting background. How did you end up going from Senior Associate at a venture capital company to CEO at a fashion related business?

John Tomich: Actually, prior to working for the VC firm, I spent a couple of years out of college working on eCommerce and Digital strategy at a consulting agency. I learned a lot about the professional services model, when it comes to doing strategic analysis and buildling e-commerce projects. I had a little of that in my DNA prior to working for that VC firm. At that firm, I really admired how Amazon had done as a business, which is not a surprise, as lots do. One of the areas that they pioneered, was the concept of monetizing their infrastructure in other ways. They started with e-commerce, but they built that into Amazon Web Services, taking their back end and building another business around it. They started in the e-commerce services business, the same business that we have, having pioneered that model with Toys R Us in 1999, running the logistics and technology for that company. I observed that when I was working at that VC firm, and saw that it was a very smart idea. We applied that model to a friend who had an apparel company, and it found that it was a success. We built the initial use case, very successfully took it to another client, then another client, and grew. That’s when we all quit our day jobs, and joined the company, and we’ve been growing every since.


What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far at OneStop dealing with all the complications of shipping products and deaing with e-commerce?

John Tomich: It is a lot more complicated and operationally complex than most people give it credit for. But, that’s why you don’t see a lot of companies doing this. You can spent a lot on your e-commerce operation, and it’s not a guaranteed road to profitability like people think. One of the things you learn, is that there are probably hundreds of technologies you could implement on your website to optimize conversion rates, or increase your average order value, or other things you can do to drive traffic to your website. If you go to the Internet industry events, you’ll see hundreds of booths of people who have stuff you can plug into your website to optimize it. That’s one of the biggest challenges of running an e-commerce company, which is figuring out where to focus your time, effort, and resources, and figure out which technology to use, and to figure out which operational processes to implement. Frankly, that’s the biggest challenge, when you have a wealth of data, and analytics on how to operate your business, information on merchandising, product selling, marketing, customer acquisition activities. Those are all technology decisions, and there are an overwhelming number of directions you can go. Staying operationally efficient is really challenging. That’s the essence of our business model. You’ve got to be very focused, and disciplined about what you’re doing, otherwise your cost structure can get out of control.


Is it tough to scale this with having to operate warehouses and customer service?

John Tomich: When we first started Onestop, companies would come to us for a true, turnkey value proposition, handling fulfillment, customer care, technology, imaging, and marketing. However, as we’ve grown, the average size of the customer engagement has grown, and the industry has evolved. We see lots more clients who want unbundled services, who want maybe several of our service offerings a-la-cart. There’s much more emphasis for us now, spending time and money on the technology and marketing piece. Our SLAs, our service level agreements at our warehouses are great, and meet industry standards and match everybody else. But, the real investment focus for us in the technology and service capabilities.


Thanks!

Permanent link to this article: http://homebiz2bizreview.com/how-onestop-internet-is-powering-ecommerce-for-brands/

Dec 12

Delavan business fills Amazon, online niche





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DELAVAN–Most people look at a General Electric refrigerator water filter as something that needs replacing every six months.

Jeff Peterson and Mark Becker, however, look fondly on the 11-inch plastic part as the product that in 2009 put their start-up company onto a path of five successive years of sales growth exceeding 25 percent.

Peterson and Becker founded Geneva Supply in a 12,000-square-foot airplane hangar in Burlington.

Since then, the global wholesaler has ascended through an Elkhorn warehouse and landed in a 100,000-square-foot warehouse in Delavan.

Along the way, employment skyrocketed from one to 32.

Selling only business to business, Geneva Supply made itself a middleman to help manufacturers sell products more efficiently to Internet retailers, big box stores and other distributors.

For Geneva Supply, that primarily involves Amazon.com, Home Depot and a large association of distributors, manufacturers, agents and affiliates serving the light construction/industrial market.

“We have positioned ourselves in the middle of the supply channel with the goal of bringing products into channel segments that a manufacturer needs help,” said Becker, who, along with Peterson, has a background in wholesale.

The fourth quarter of every year is Geneva Supply’s busiest season.

Sales in October and November generally account for one-fourth of the year’s total, said Becker, the company’s chief operations office.

That’s not because consumers turn to Amazon and other online retailers for Christmas gifts of water filters, Kingsford charcoal or any of the 100,000 other items Geneva Supply ships from Delavan.

It’s more because online shopping ramps up in advance of the holidays and consumers find and buy everyday items they need, Peterson said.

“At that time of year, there are many more people on Amazon, and they see all the things that Amazon offers,” he said.

PACKAGE DEAL

Peterson and Becker started the company with the water filters bought at a discount from GE.

They showed up on pallets, each individually wrapped.

The price of each, however, was too low to qualify for Amazon’s free shipping.

“We didn’t know the water filter market, but we did know you are supposed to change them every six months,” said Peterson, chief revenue officer.

“We thought, ‘Why can’t we package two of them together, which would qualify for free shipping?’”

The company did, and the two-packs sold.

Geneva Supply then experimented with larger packs and found a market with service technicians who liked the cost savings.

“Our manufacturers use us to kit, re-box, re-label and consolidate products,” Becker said.

They also use Geneva Supply as a marketing arm.

The company shoots photos, engages in social media and creates Amazon web pages for the manufacturers’ products.

“Manufacturers do what they do … they make things,” Peterson said. “But they aren’t always adept at the sales and marketing side, particularly when it comes to online channels.

“They often don’t understand the domino effect of what it takes to do big business in online channels.”

Peterson said Geneva Supply helps manufacturers capitalize on Amazon’s reputation for low prices, quick shipping and an overall positive shopping experience.

“A lot of the buying decision is the ‘warm and fuzzy’ feeling consumers get shopping on Amazon,” he said. “We do the ‘warm and fuzzy’ really well. We learn what manufacturers need and become the one-stop shop for them.”

PROBLEM SOLVERS

With the success of filter sales, Amazon asked Geneva Supply to solve another problem.

The wife of a high-ranking Amazon executive ordered what she thought was a Moen faucet.

It arrived, followed shortly thereafter by her plumber and his trip charge.

The plumber asked for the faucet’s valve. The wife had unknowingly ordered just the trim piece.

There was no valve with the order.

“We then started packaging the trim pieces with the valves,” Peterson said. “We quickly became a problem solver for Amazon.”

Gaia Herbs is another example.

The company was selling direct to Amazon but had packaging and breakage problems.

Geneva Supply solved those, handled the company’s Amazon sales and helped the company nearly triple its annual Amazon sales.

Consumers never see Geneva Supply’s name associated with their orders. The product’s web page says the item is sold and shipped by Amazon, another “warm and fuzzy” feature, Peterson said.

“The customer buys from Amazon, which buys from us,” he said. “We ship to Amazon fulfillment centers, and they ship it to the customer.”

‘WHAT CAN WE SELL?’

Geneva Supply works with about 150 different manufacturers in home improvement, sporting goods, consumer electronics, personal care and hydroponics.

It has surrounded its wholesale business with a suite of services that includes web page set-up, Internet-friendly product pictures and current product info and pricing.

In 2011, the company formed a third-party logistics division that allows manufacturers to use its warehouse as an extension of their own.

“We have the greatest jobs in the world,” Peterson said. “Every day is a challenge that we have fun with.

“Mark and I have lunch together about 90 percent of the time, and all we do is talk about opportunities: What can we sell online?”

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Dec 11

Intel unveils comprehensive platform for Internet of Things products



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Mike Bell, vice president and general manager of new devices group at Intel (third from left), says his company “wants to show what’s possible” with its new Internet of Things platform, which was unveiled Tuesday in San Francisco.









Patrick Hoge
Reporter- San Francisco Business Times

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Planting its flag firmly in the Internet of Things, Intel Corp. on Tuesday unveiled a suite of tools for connecting a world of billions of mobile devices and sensors with cloud computing services capable of monitoring and analyzing activity in ways never before possible.

The Santa Clara tech giant gave a demonstration of its “IoT platform” at an event in San Francisco that featured a luxury wearable wristband Intel is marketing that gets updates via the Internet, a pair of headphones that monitors a user’s heart activity and a fitness band that tracks body movements, heart activity and sleep patterns.

In addition, Intel displayed integrated hardware and software products it has developed or co-produced for tracking retail inventories, managing systems in high-rise buildings and charting traffic and air quality patterns in cities.

“We are at the forefront of a new field. We want to show what’s possible,” said Mike Bell, vice president and general manager of new devices at Intel (NASDAQ: INTC).

The products Intel showcased included the work of of several Bay Area companies that Intel had previously purchased as it assembled its stack of technologies. Those technologies include the smartband maker Basis and the application interface manager Mashery, both from San Francisco, the security company McAfee of Santa Clara and the embedded systems firm Wind River of Alameda. Intel also touted new relationships with system integrators, including Accenture, Booz Allen Hamilton, Capgemini, Dell, HCL, NTT DATA, SAP, Tata Consultancy and Wipro.

One product developed by Intel Labs, called “Smart Store,” enables retailers to monitor floor inventories using either fixed or mobile cameras, with the back-end software capable of identifying what items are out of stock and which are have been placed in the wrong location and where they should go. Such systems can automatically order new items, aggregate data from multiple stores at once and could even be used to tell consumers via a smartphone application where to find specific items they need, said Jai Malhotra, director of Big Data applications for Intel.

“This technology takes images to insights and action in real-time,” he said.

Patrick covers technology.



Permanent link to this article: http://homebiz2bizreview.com/intel-unveils-comprehensive-platform-for-internet-of-things-products/

Dec 09

Why Your Business Needs One of the New Breed of Internet Marketing Masters

Businesses using online marketing to increase brand footprint will agree when I say it’s not easy keeping up with its rapid evolution. While there is no doubt Internet marketing is a great way to generate brand awareness, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep pace with the changes happening in this domain. New skill sets have to be learned and at times existing knowledge has to be thrown out of the window.

So, how do you ensure your business’s web-based marketing campaign comes along fine, in spite of all these changes taking place? The answer lies in hiring people whose expertise allows them to keep up with the rapid evolution of online marketing and implement the necessary changes for business benefit.

Traditionally, the business’s online marketing campaign was led by SEOs. Gradually, pay-per-click (PPC) experts were added to bolster the campaign.

But the world of marketing was changing. Social media and content have now become the major drivers of a successful Internet marketing campaign.

Related: 7 Advanced Ways to Improve Your Site’s SEO

This has led to the emergence of content marketers and social media marketers with core expertise in leveraging content and social media to market a business and its products and services.

But, apart from marketers who’ve mission critical proficiency and experience in SEO, PPC, social media or content, we are seeing the rise of a new breed of marketers – The ‘Jack-of-All’ marketers. They are SEOs, content strategists, social media marketers all rolled into one. They are like a one-stop-online marketing shop.

These ‘Jack-of-All-Marketers’ are the future of marketing. Here are a few reasons why you need to get such marketers on board.

Convergence of marketing tactics.

Marketing strategies like SEO, social media marketing, content marketing, etc. do not exist in a vacuum, they are interlinked with one another. Take, for example, the case of SEO. It needs to walk in-step with a brand’s content marketing efforts. While SEO is primarily used to build high quality links, content marketing is used to build enduring relationships with customers. But, Google loves quality content. It expects businesses to consistently publish high quality content, which will be rewarded with high rankings on search engine results pages (SERPs). Great content published on high authority blogs helps create a high authority link juice, which is absolutely crucial for ranking on SERPs.

What’s more, content marketing precedes a social media marketing strategy. You publish content, which is then shared across social media channels. You then engage with your customers on social media through this content.

Related: SEO vs. PPC: Knowing Which Is Right for Your Website

Every marketing tactic is related to one another and the success of one is dependent on success of another. This requires seamless collaboration between social media marketers, content marketers and SEOs. A misstep taken by one marketing department can lead to the tragic unraveling of your marketing campaign.

A person with expertise in all three arms of online marketing, namely SEO, content and social media can implement a more precisely coordinated marketing campaign. Depending on the size of your business, you could have a team of ‘Jack-of-All’s’ who are in charge of your business’s web-based marketing strategy.

Reducing marketing overheads.

Although its impact is still hard to measure, businesses are spending more on social media. Content marketing budgets will also go up in 2015. As a business, you might or might not be able to afford this budgetary increase, but if you don’t give a leg up to your online marketing spend you might find your business floundering.

But, there is a way of controlling your overheads. The answer lies in cutting down on the number of personnel handling your online marketing campaign. Working with Jack-of-all internet marketers will bring down your marketing budget. No, I am not for one moment implying that their expertise is available for cheap. On the contrary, such marketers demand, and deserve, excellent pay. But, think of it in terms of cutting down on the size of your marketing team and deriving maximum value out of a compact, flexible team that understands its job perfectly.

The Jack-of-All Internet Marketer is here to stay. Very soon, you might find people who are just SEOs, social media experts or content marketers are hard to come by. Even individuals who started off as SEOs and have built up a truckload of expertise over the years, are trying to add social media and content skills to their repertoire.

Internet marketing is a mix of diverse strategies and skills. As a natural consequence, only individuals with a potent mix of strategic skills sets can optimize its use for marketing a business.

Related: 50 Favorite Online-Marketing Influencers of 2014

Permanent link to this article: http://homebiz2bizreview.com/why-your-business-needs-one-of-the-new-breed-of-internet-marketing-masters/

Dec 08

How social selling sparks business at Thomson Reuters

By participating in LinkedIn forums and other forms of social media, its sales reps get to know customers and help drive up sales.

Thomson Reuters Corp. specializes in providing information, data and services that accountants, lawyers and executives use in managing and servicing business operations. So it was only natural that it would seek to proactively share some of its expertise on LinkedIn and other business-focused social media.

The company’s social media strategy of “social selling,” implemented over the past year, has produced better-than-expected results, says Melissa Rothchild, senior director of marketing for Knowledge Solutions research products in the Thomson Reuters Tax and Accounting unit.

“Our sales linked to this program, tracked through our CRM system, are on track to double this year over last year,” Rothchild says.

But Rothchild is careful to note that it’s not just about selling. “‘Social selling’ is a bit of misnomer, because it’s about understanding our customers better, and connecting with them in a meaningful way in a place they’re already spending time as well as prospecting and closing deals. For the sales reps we’ve been training, it’s not about aggressive selling—it’s listening to customers’ needs, sharing some meaningful content, maybe sharing some humor.”

The program, overseen by Jen McClure, corporate vice president, digital and social media, started as pilot project last year managed by Rothchild in the Tax and Accounting unit.

A major impetus for the program was the realization, according to an often-cited study by the business research and advisory organization CEB in 2012, that 57% of business-to-business buying decisions are completed by buyers before they contact a supplier. “We want to make sure we connect with buyers early in the buying journey, and social selling lets us do that,” Rothchild says.

The social selling program, which Thomson Reuters is now using corporate-wide, has already shown strong results though building the individual profiles of sales reps on LinkedIn, Rothchild says. Among the participants in the Tax and Accounting unit’s pilot program, which ran for 12 months until earlier this year, 80% generated new business leads, 55% scheduled appointments with prospects, 33% reported having “new deals in the pipeline,” and 20% were “about to close sales,” she adds.

In one example of how a Thomson Reuters Tax and Accounting was able to get new business through LinkedIn, Rothchild points to a sales rep with expertise in pension and employee benefits policies who monitored a forum discussion of the topic and contributed information on trends. The rep had already listed his skills on his LinkedIn profile. A LinkedIn forum participant, who was planning to start her own professional practice in advising companies on employee benefits, contacted the rep for additional information. Following a discussion with the rep, she purchased research materials.

Another Tax and Accounting sales rep, she adds, was able to share pertinent information and close a deal with a prospect whose name appeared in a “People also viewed these profiles” section on the rep’s LinkedIn page.

The Tax and Accounting team of sales reps has continued to build its expertise and enthusiasm for social selling, to the point where it has become a part of the norm in place of older forms of calling on prospects with no former connection with the company, Rothchild says. “One of the sales reps says there should never be cold calls anymore,” she adds.

Sign up for a free subscription to B2BecNews, a weekly newsletter that covers technology and business trends in the growing B2B e-commerce industry. B2BecNews is published by Vertical Web Media LLC, which also publishes the monthly trade magazine Internet Retailer.

Permanent link to this article: http://homebiz2bizreview.com/how-social-selling-sparks-business-at-thomson-reuters/

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