Investment

Meanwhile, Apple Pay

apple-moneyRemember when Apple brought sexy back? Well, they’re trading some of it back and buying into a revenue stream that’s not best defined as ‘sexy’.

Payment processing.

In the last few days Apple has generated a ton of discussion. More than usual even. Funny how a string of calculated announcements by the most well known company in the world will do that. As we all know, Apple has turned self-promotion into a science. But does any of this year’s new hardware represent a noteworthy new chapter to the Apple story?

I don’t think so.

But that’s not to say that this doesn’t have the potential to be an extremely noteworthy year for the company.

Apple makes good looking products. Hardware and software. For the most part, the company has relied on stark and simple means to sell their own well-designed aesthetics. Sex sells, right? Just show some nice curves, play some trendy music and call it a day!

The company’s latest push suggests that their products are ‘getting even smaller’. The next few months promise Apple’s first smart watches and almost-unbelievably razor thin new laptops. But the company is getting much smaller than this, intangible even. Let’s not forget their bid to take over transactional payment processing: Apple Pay.

In my opinion, this is the company’s most noteworthy new endeavor in the past three years. It’s not even a close race (sorry Apple Watch!).

The Apple Story does tend to focus upon sexy new products and packaging (Remember: this ‘packaging’ including the company’s own internally-developed marketing and in-house marketing agency). Design standards is certainly the side of the story that we’ve been focusing on this week.

But their Story is also about unexpected pivots, moving into new markets and even creating their own. They were the first to successfully sell the world on a touch screen. They convinced us that a household could benefit from a tablet device. And even before all that, who would have guessed that Apple was going to redefine the music industry?

As a market innovator (and even a market creatorApple Pay is the company’s newest juggernaut. At least, they certainly hope it will be. In fact, it’s jarring just how assertively their out to conquer payment processing. They’ve outsourced their marketing to as many partners as possible. It feels a bit out of character.

Payment processing.

Sexy, right?

No?

Apple is certainly trying to make Apple Pay look stylish. It’s a unique marketing challenge for the company: generating excitement for something most consumers aren’t immediately attracted to. Most consumers don’t pay attention to which payment processor they use. It’s the same dilemma faced by credit card issuers for years. Just ask Capital One.

Capital One has been screaming “What’s in your Wallet?!” to deaf ears for years. For all their effort, many of their customers still don’t even know they’re Capital One customers. Meanwhile, Apple typically relies on its devoted brand advocates. A typically Apple consumer knows exactly what phone is in their pocket. But, three years from now, will consumers care about what brand of ‘digital wallet’ they utilize? One thing’s for sure: the Apple Pay venture will take much more of a push to reach the masses than something as inherently playful and aesthetically destinct as an iPod.

So it really should be no surprise that, while we’ve all been talking about another year of even thinner laptops, just about every major bank/credit card has its own targeted Apple Pay marketing push. Remember, as you were watching announcements about the new hardware, these were the sponsored ads.

Apple understand the revenue potential to be found in the minutia of payment processing. Their isn’t much data to work with yet, so we can only speculate how much revenue is on the table for the company. Safe to say that they’re banking on sky-high digital dollars. Stay tuned.

We’ll be back after these messages:

How to Hire Web Developers

New websites or web-based applications don’t necessarily innovate or streamline practices. These tools can hurt your business if they aren’t developed strategically. Opportunities are missed. Time and energy is misappropriated. Money is wasted.

Many organizations keep web developers on staff. But the need for innovative or highly customized work often requires outside help. What do you do when you’ve recognized that your organization needs to hire a web developer for a project? What if it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what you are looking for? Do you know what your options are?

Passing along the conceptualization process to your chosen web developer isn’t enough. If you’ve chosen good web developers, they’ll double as consultants and will include you (or one of your trusted stakeholders) in the conceptualization process. This is our process at Gulo. And I know of several other web development agencies who also make a point to engage their clients in the process.

Most will just take your money.

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Clients often approach web development agencies with only a vague sense of what their business’s new web-based project will accomplish. Such clients are in need of web development consulting first, and the actual development second. Unfortunately, the consulting stage is too often glossed over. And the truth is that few web development agencies think of themselves as consultants, most are all too willing to take their client’s money and start building based off whatever vague instruction their client has given them.

But it’s not surprising that many companies don’t reach out to web developers for assistance in the conceptualization stage.

Their fear is simple (and justified):

What if a web developer sells us on something we don’t actually need? 

This situation is no different than when someone who is woefully ignorant about vehicle maintenance, like myself, finds himself at the local auto shop. Professionals who understand a very specific and technical type of work can sniff out those who do not. In this case, the mechanic is in a position to potentially over charge me, or sell their helpless prey on any manner of unneeded work. I hate being in this position. But such fears don’t change the fact that my car needs a pair of eyes more trained than my own, just like web developers are sometimes needed to build out your company’s web-based tools.

These fears are the very reason that there is less strategic consulting in web development projects than their ought to be.

But you can avoid this trap.

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Web applications, no matter how flashy or well built they might be, can be a double edged sword. They cut you when they are built without proper consideration for the role they play in servicing your business’s bottom line. A developer needs to work with the client, clearly defining what goal(s) the project is building towards, be it revenue generation or more efficient teamwork. If a project is multifaceted, developers must consider: how are these applications working together, towards the business or organization’s bottom line?

It’s worth keeping in mind that web developers build websites and web-based tools for every industry. It provides them with unique insight. The best development houses learn about each industry they build tools for, and they use their experience to provide strategic counsel.

Once a business has built its website or application, their business model can become irrevocably attached to these new tools. Projects such as e-commerce functionality, Salesforce integration for a sales team, internal training tools, or thousands of others, can become deeply embedded in a business’s structure. And one poorly constructed piece can slow down, or even sink, the ship.

You want a web development team that takes the time to learn how each project factors into your bottom line and day to day practices.

Strategic web development takes time and careful deliberation. But it really can be as simple as taking the extra time to speak with your web development team. Web developers can’t even begin to build something worthwhile until they understand exactly how the project will service your business’s bottom line.  If they aren’t interested in learning what drives your company, find another developer immediately.

 

Not-for-Profit and Private Equity?

More and more, vendors are being asked in RFPs the question, "is your company funded by a venture capital?". Today I saw this press release:

ARC Solutions Inc., a Washington, D.C.- based provider of association management software, has raised $2 million from Advantage Capital Partners and Enhanced Capital Partners.

How do you feel about the relationship between not-for-profit vendors and private equity firms? There are a host of publicly traded companies these days in this space, Kintera and Blackbaud to name a few. Are there any feelings on these type of relationships and whether not it interferes with the interest of the community/client? Does anyone believe that this has any effect on an organization's decision to select their vendor?