With a Recognized Social Media Leader at Its Helm, a Marketing Solutions Provider Helps Clients Reach Mobile Customers
Company: InterlinkOne & Grow Socially
Industry: Marketing Solutions Software Provider
Based in Wilmington, MA, InterlinkONE and Grow Socially are headed by John Foley, Jr., CEO/CMO. You might say they represent the marriage of a more mature, technical company (InterlinkONE) with a younger, creative upstart (Grow Socially). Together, they provide complex communications management software as well as marketing solutions to a wide range of companies across the U.S.
InterlinkONE dates back to 1996 and today is an industry-leading provider of innovative marketing software solutions. It’s the parent company to Grow Socially, which Foley founded in 2010, and which helps companies boost sales through a suite of software applications that focus on inbound and content marketing as well as social media.
With his first business grounded very much in the technical space, Foley founded Grow Socially when he recognized the need for more marketing software solutions to help move organizations into the nascent area of social media and content marketing.
In 2014, Foley was named #15 on Forbes 50 Influential CMOs on Social Media list. For a former “pure techie” guy, this honor certainly puts him – and his businesses – in the TechCreative space.
The TechCreative Challenge:
As communication channels changed dramatically and people utilized multiple devices to get and share information, Foley and his team identified a dominant need: the ability to reach the mobile customer.
They felt strongly that the answer to this challenge was not to develop more software applications for organizations to purchase, download, and manage on their own. This was especially true considering the fact that marketing channels were rapidly expanding into social media.
Rather, the company believed that organizations needed software solutions that could integrate with multiple channels on the fly, and without an extensive investment in either developing the software themselves or purchasing applications.
How could companies expand their marketing reach with the growing adoption of mobile communications? More to the point, how could Grow Socially and its parent company, InterlinkONE, tap into this market need?
The TechCreative Solution:
John Foley knew the answer lay, in part, with a quirky technology known as QR codes (Quick Response codes). These little, data-rich boxes had been around for several years and were especially popular in Japan before American companies sat up and took notice. They actually date back to the mid ‘90s.
QR codes help a company extend its brand through a mobile-only technology. In a nutshell, here’s how they work: a company creates a QR code that’s encoded with data. The code is then printed on (or otherwise appears on) a marketing piece (postcard, brochure, banner, floor graphic, magazine ad, and so on).
To access a QR code, you first need to download one of many available, free QR code readers onto your smartphone. When a QR code is spotted, you launch the reader and scan the code. What you see next depends on how clever and creative the company is. Perhaps you see additional product information, or maybe a contest form to fill out. Different organizations use QR codes for different reasons. The goal is to engage with a mobile customer and deliver deeper, relevant content than what you see “on the surface.”
The InterlinkONE/Grow Socially team wanted to offer companies QR code solutions that they could use immediately and effortlessly. In addition, the company wanted to provide additional marketing solutions to clients, including the ability to measure and track response to QR codes.
The answer was one of their first software applications: Qreate & Track (www.qreateandtrack.com). This is an SaaS (Software as a Service) solution offered by InterlinkONE that puts the power and possibility of QR codes squarely in the clients’ hands – and lets them track their effectiveness.
Being a nimble marketer is important to John Foley. It’s also a guiding principle for his company’s products and services. This particular application offers a tremendous amount of marketing “ammunition” to companies. Clients can use QR codes in almost countless ways, including personalized codes, coupon codes/offers, codes built to increase online traffic, and custom-designed QR codes.
One major benefit to this application is that it puts the customer in the driver’s seat: it lets people serve themselves. Customers can generate QR codes and track the responses. It’s quick. It’s easy. It can be personalized. As an example, Foley said, “you can upload 5,000 personalized URLs and the app will generate 5,000 personalized QR codes. It’ll also let you create the mobile response page if you don’t have one.”
There was one other feature that Foley felt was critical to Qreateandtrack: it had to “play well with others,” as it were. So they built it in such a way that it’s fully integratable with other software applications, not just InterlinkONE’s.
The marketplace was indeed ripe for InterlinkONE’s marketing solution. They went from zero to 800 subscribers in their first year. Currently, said John Foley, they have 6000 customers using Qreateandtrack alone. Users run the gamut from small real estate firms to such brands as Marriott, Turtle Wax, and the Four Seasons.
InterlinkONE and Grow Socially work with companies of all sizes, from small, mom-and-pop entities to international brands. Clients tend to fall into certain verticals, including real estate, associations, pharmaceuticals, and service providers in the graphic arts, including printers, mail/fulfillment houses, and marketing agencies. Customers include of the country’s largest financial services firms as well as global hotel brands and one of the biggest theme parks in the nation.
What’s next for his two companies? There’s more work to be done in attracting the mobile customer, said Foley. He cited NFC technology, for one. NFC (Near Field Communications) is a technology that lets you transfer information across a range of mobile devices. NFC tags involve tapping your smartphone to a code that’s been embedded in print or other products. New generations of smartphones come NFC-enabled. These codes offer more security than QR codes. An example of NFC technology at work is Apple Pay. With this technology, you no longer need credit cards for payment – and one day, you won’t need bus or subway tickets, either. It’s a contactless way to transfer data.
The truth is, said Foley, “we haven’t yet scratched the surface of mobile engagement, marketing-wise.”
These two software companies, with John Foley at the helm, are poised to continue their success in mobile marketing solutions, if you’re at all mindful of how rapidly this channel is growing. According to Techcrunch, the majority of digital media consumption takes place in mobile applications.
Developing software applications that help companies market themselves to mobile customers is a match made in TechCreative heaven.