IRACIS – A Roadmap to Business Intelligence ROI

So often when companies are considering a business intelligence project or software purchase, a question arises that seems to stump everyone involved.

“Where is the ROI in this project?”

This question has stopped many a business intelligence project in its tracks. Maybe it’s asked by the CFO or CEO. Maybe it’s brought up in one of the meetings with a vendor or consultant presenting a solution. The sad truth is if you can not answer this question with hard numbers in specific areas, the ROI probably isn’t there.

I.R.A.C.I.S. is a simple acronym that can be used to quantify a business intelligence project’s worth to a company. It stands for the following:

Increase Revenue – How will this application and functionality drive more sales to new or existing customers, shorten the sales cycle, and/or bring down the cost of sales?

Avoid Costs – By far the area most focused on in BI project justifications. How will this application help us improve efficiency, put more information in the hands of our business people and eliminate wasteful processes?

Improve Service – Will this application affect our client base noticeably? Will we be able to provide more timely and valuable information to our customers, prospects, and suppliers?

Many times in a business intelligence effort, there are outcomes that are deemed desirable. Things like ad-hoc report generation, more informed operations staff, and less lag time in financial reporting are nice. But they will not justify the investment in a business intelligence solution from a quality software vendor without direct and secondary benefits quantified in the there areas mentioned above.

Let’s face it, business intelligence solutions are not cheap. There are many scalable solutions on the market today that range from traditional software implementations, to SaaS (Software as a Service), and even open source solutions. Large companies have long embraced the benefits of business intelligence and now with these diverse offerings the small and mid sized companies are also taking advantage. However, any business intelligence project is only as good as the planning, effort, and data that go into whatever software platform you are using. Hence another phrase often heard in many BI projects, “garbage in, garbage out.”

By using the I.R.A.C.I.S. model to quantify the value of the solution to the company, you provide everyone with a clear roadmap to what is deemed a successful project. From the executive sponsor at the company, to the vendor you are working with, there is no ambiguity as to what is expected as a final outcome. I would challenge any company that is considering a business intelligence project of some sort, that if you can’t find a solution that addresses at least one of the three areas above, if not all three, that the project is probably not worth doing at all. And if the solution or software product is incapable of scaling to address all three areas in the long run, then it probably isn’t the best product for you. This may seem like harsh criteria, but in an era where most large companies own 3 or 4 separate business intelligence tools, it’s apparent that more critical thinking is needed before a solution or platform is purchased.

Not only is this acronym a good way to quantify a project’s worth to a company, but it can become a brainstorming tool for the types of applications you are looking to create. Above I noted that the Avoid Costs portion of this acronym is by far the most focused on for business intelligence projects. Why is that? Is business intelligence only good for eliminating waste and making an organization more efficient? Can it not be used to increase revenue by putting valuable information in front of prospects you haven’t been reaching yet?

I would argue that some of the best and most successful business intelligence applications I know of, focus on the first category of Increasing Revenue. Business intelligence is all about putting the right information into the right hands at the right time. For some company’s that might be an internal business analyst. But for so many others it can be putting information in front of your customers, prospects, and partners to provide new insight on a purchasing decision. When companies are selling complex products and services, sometimes you need to track the customer down where they live. You need to reach out to them with a compelling message about your product or value proposition and give them a reason to act on that information.

If you got an e-mail from a major car insurance provider, showing your current car insurance provider and the estimated rate you are paying, and then a graph showing a $700 savings in rate comparisons for the same coverage over one year, that would be a compelling e-mail to receive. It would probably motivate you to pick up the phone or go to a website to instigate further.

This would in turn Improve Service and Avoid Costs. Being able to present this kind of accurate and timely information to a prospective customer shows them that you have systems in place to save them money and provide the best possible service. It shortens the sales cycle and the cost of sales, driving up margin and profitability. It instills confidence in the company from a customer standpoint and also gets people talking about your product or service.

In the Information Age we live in, the data and information that companies have are their most valuable assets by far. Getting this information out in a usable format to the correct audience can be the role of business intelligence in any company. This should be a goal when looking at what business intelligence can do for a company. Don’t limit yourself to just eliminating waste and automating internal processes. I certainly think projects that focus on those topics are worthwhile and valuable to a business. But when you expand your thinking and remember that using the internet to deliver information in a variety of formats is the most cost effective way to reach a critical mass of people, only then can you realize your full ROI on the purchase of a business intelligence solution.

So the next time a discussion breaks out about a business intelligence project or initiative, think of the I.R.A.C.I.S. model as a way to discuss and evaluate a projects worth to your company. You might be surprised what you can come up with when your thinking turns towards revenue generation and service improvement. Just remember, after you’re done creating a new line of business or increasing an existing one, to ask your boss for a commission.

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Should You Stop Marketing During COVID-19?

As a small business owner you may be concerned about the impact of the coronavirus has on your business; your revenue, employees, and marketing funnel. Although you shouldn’t stop marketing during CONVID-19, there are many ways your marketing approach could go wrong. So here are three ways you can effectively market your small business during the coronavirus outbreak.

The Impact of Coronavirus on Small Business

As a human, I’m sure you’ve been affected by COVID-19 (also known as novel coronavirus) in some way.

Whether that means worrying about elderly parents, changing travel plans or stocking up on essentials to work from home for the foreseeable future, it’s hard to not feel the stress.

As a small business owner, you may be seeing fewer customers as people limit social interaction, change travel and leisure plans and focus on staying healthy rather than on shopping for products and services.

Unless you sell toilet paper or hand sanitizer, you may be concerned about the impact of the coronavirus on your small business; your revenue, employees, and empty marketing funnel.

So does that mean you should hunker down and stop your marketing efforts for the time being? No!

The World Health Organization has declared coronavirus a global pandemic, and it’s a very uncertain time. However, I’m a firm believer in focusing on what we can do and change while finding the opportunities amidst adversity.

Every challenge can be met with common sense, rational thought and even kindness. This is not the time for irrationality. I was watching a webinar the other day and someone said, “Worrying is like a rocking chair—it gives you something to do but it won’t get you anywhere!”

I know we are living in troubling times. The virus and how the global economy is responding to the preventative measures being placed is something that will go down in the history books.

But as business owners, there is one thing we do still have control over, and that’s the ability to be resilient and make choices that will get us through these times as best possible.

In this article, I’m sharing some ways you can address the challenge of marketing during a crisis and keep your business going.

Let’s start by looking at two of the wrong ways to approach marketing during a crisis right now:

1. Making a joke about coronavirus. A few weeks ago, it was common to see online memes and humorous marketing campaigns being shared. A Las Vegas jeweller even created a campaign to sell rings!

As more and more people around the world were affected by coronavirus, these slowed down a lot. Making light of the situation is not only in poor taste, but you’ll likely drive away a good chunk of your target audience.

2. Playing on people’s fears. It’s one thing to use a sense of urgency to sell your product or service, but it’s another thing entirely to use scare tactics.

For example, don’t scare people into buying a first aid kit with a message like “Only two left! Don’t risk your family’s health!” Rather, focus on the benefit of being proactive and prepared by stocking up on medical supplies.

Make sure the angle and tone of your marketing reflects your customer’s current concerns and pain points without capitalizing on their anxiety.

How to Effectively Market Your Small Business During the Coronavirus Outbreak

No matter what type of small business you have, your priority should be clearly communicating with your customers to put them at ease.

Think about what your clients need to hear from you, and how you want to position your business during this crisis.

Here are 3 ways to market your business during the coronavirus crisis:

1. Reassure everyone that you’re protecting their health. This is especially true if you have a brick-and-mortar location. This may mean sharing your extra sanitation practices, putting a hand sanitizer station at the front of your location or implementing a policy where all staff wear masks and gloves.

For example, WestJet shares their additional precautionary cleaning measures due to coronavirus on their website.

2. Be prepared to pivot. You need to be flexible to best serve your customers. That might mean instead of cancelling a customer conference, you change it to a virtual event.

If you are planning an upcoming workshop or event, pivot with your audience in mind. It’s possible you have already been forced to cancel or postponne, but don’t assume everyone wants the solution you’re providing.

Consider options such as making it a virtual version of the event or postponing your conference to a later date. Or some people may want ticket refunds.

Polls and questionnaires can be a great way to get honest feedback from your ticket holders before changing an event.

And of course, take a look at all of your contracts to ensure you’re covered before making any changes.

If you’re a service provider, create other ways to help your clients like this fitness trainer did. He offered them a way to stay fit that doesn’t involve being around a group of people in a gym.

3. Make your employees a priority too. Don’t focus all your efforts on marketing during this time. Your employees are what keep your business going, so how can you care for them?

Maybe you can give your staff the option of working 100% remotely while COVID-19 is a concern. Or, remind them you fully encourage them to stay home if they’re feeling sick.

The more you can put your employees at ease, the better they’ll be able to support your business and your customers.

What Small Business Owners Can Learn from Coronavirus

I know this is hard, and I hope you can hang in there and focus on the present, and on being of service to your clients and staff.

They’re afraid, and what you do or share can help alleviate those fears. Remember to be careful and intentional about what you’re saying.

If your small business is being adversely affected by coronavirus, it’s also a good time to reassess your business fundamentals, including how CONVID-19 is affecting your digital marketing. How will you deal with a crisis the next time it happens? Are there things you’d do differently to be more prepared or prevent losses?

Like everything else in life, this is a learning experience. Stay healthyFeature Articles, safe and positive.

Mobile Oil Change Businesses Are Very Hard to Succeed In

There have been many people who have come and gone in the mobile oil change business. It always looks easy from the surface and is relatively inexpensive to start with minimum investment compared to most other businesses. But most mobile oil change operators rarely make it past the first year. In fact most do not make it past the first several months. One has to wonder why such a good idea ultimately ends in failure. Lets take a closer look.

First the profit generated from oil changes is not enough to sustain a healthy business. After you calculate the cost of goods from the total bill there is rarely is more than twenty five dollars net profit made from your typical oil change. And that figure does not include the gas used driving to the actual location. You have to be doing a lot of oil changes per day for you to make a decent profit to support your business and your personal expenses. Most quick lubes make even less due to their substantially higher overhead yet make up for it in large volume. Most successful fixed locations are doing 60 oil changes on a bad day. A mobile oil change company, with most of the time one or perhaps two people working it, does not have that luxury. The most your typical mobile oil change van can do is ten oil changes per day and after that the operator is exhausted. And even if a person could consistently do ten oil changes per day he still has to generate those oil changes from somewhere. They do not magically appear. Do you have a plan how to do that? Most start out thinking corporate campuses will provide tons of business especially if its marketed by the companies there. In reality that rarely works as advertised and you will be lucky if you get 10 customers in one year from a huge corporate campus. The end conclusion is that the net per oil change is just too low to make a viable business from it without a massive amount of volume.

Second, many mobile oil change operators are not very good salesmen. They are usually very honest people and ones who are very passionate about what they do and you gotta love that but I have found that most owners of mobile oil changes are terrible at the sales end. They are usually the type who try to charge way less than the going market rate and think they can tell a few people about their “awesome service” and wait by the phone. That never works. You have to go out and get them. You have to do a copious amount of cold calling. You have to talk to a lot of fleet managers and sale yourself first and then your service. Most in the mobile oil change business do not fully understand this or never really apply themselves to this side of business. Its probably the most important part not just in the mobile oil change business but any business for that matter. I will go out on a limb and say that if you are a great salesmen you will do well running a mobile oil change business or franchise. If you know about cars but not sales then I recommend working for a new or used car dealer for 2-3 months and get the experience. It will be tough and gruesome but that is the quickest way to get good a pure hard core sales without a lot of the “fluff.” Then open your mobile oil change company.

Third, the weather cannot be understated in limiting what mobile oil change operators can do. There are few states that have decent weather throughout the year. Half the states get really cold several months out of the years and the other half get really hot throughout 3/4 of the year. Both are equally discouraging. A fixed location can turn on the air or turn on the heat. Their operators work in a controlled environment. You do not have that luxury. You may have several fleets planned for one day and it can be pouring down rain that day. Have you thought about changing oil in 0 degrees. Your hands will not be able to grip that oil filter or wretch its as hard as a rock or you cannot feel them. Or changing hot 150 degree motor oil in 100 degree humid weather on a vehicle where it’s oil filter is in the middle of a hot engine manifold and you have to burn yourself to get to it? Do you clean it off and skip it or burn yourself to get to it? That will happen.

Having mentioned these three major hurdles, and there are more, I will say that it is not impossible. I have made a success of it. But I wish that someone would have been straightforward with me before me and my partner spent over $80,000 getting into the mobile oil change business. We were sold on a lot of unreal hopes and dreams from Jet Set Life Technologies about great wealth using a flawed model involving oil extreme. They set us up with a nice van and their product is good but their whole system is flawed from the bottom to the top. We found a way to make it work but sadly 90% of the mobile oil change business operators do not. The success rate is very small. Understand whats really involved and if you think you can grind it out and not make any money for 2-3 years, go for it.