2014 saw some great new developments for Affino. Many of the developments happened outside of the product side, key highlights being growing our revenues by 70%, focusing on the Affino brand so everything about us is now Affino, and growing the team by 50% with great new team members. We also made significant leaps forward within the UK media space, of which we’ll be able to tell and show you much more over the coming months.
Affino’s growing footprint meant that we’ve evolved how we develop and deliver the Affino Service. The main change has been to create two delivery streams, one focused on developing the core Affino platform and a second focused on delivering Affino services and working with our clients to build out their digital businesses. It has taken some effort, but the benefits will be felt by everyone in 2015.
2014 saw the smallest number of Affino releases yet, with just two major releases, however there were 628 update projects covered and Affino’s ability to let you manage your customer relationships has been completely transformed. As usual it has been hard to pick the top ten updates for the year, however the following are the stand-out ones for me.
Although not fully released yet, our main focus for 2014 was again Responsive Design. We have completed the lion-share of the intellectual work behind the new Responsive Design Centre and the new Responsive Page Engine and are now in full-on execution mode. We have multiple responsive design projects under-way and although the new responsive design centre is not available to all, it is being heavily used on a number of projects and live sites. This means that when we do finally release it this year we know it will have a transformative effect.
We’re now in year four of Affino’s transition to responsive design, and at every stage we have decided on the harder but better route for Affino. It means that when we finally do release the responsive design centre publicly it will be world class in it’s performance and ability to deliver the next generation in multi-device optimised sites. You will also be able to run both classic and responsive pages alongside each other meaning that you’re not forced to do a big bang shift, giving you the time to make the most of what is going to be possible.
2014 has been a real roller coaster year. There have been lots of scares with Ebola topping the list, catastrophic regional wars, more extremist organisations and politics, more suppression of the public globally, wholesale spying on all of us, cookie armageddon, and yet at the same time the world feels a better place.
We had the World Cup, oil came down in price, the world economy started to pick up, Europe stabilised, and in the UK we managed to have a great summer and stay together as a single nation with our Scottish buddies.
As always the tech world rolled ahead, personal highlights were the new iPhone 6 Plus ... best thing since sliced bread, and a taste of what Android phablet users have had for a few years now. Uber pickups, buying everything online is just so much easier, and thanks to Dark Sky I now know when it’s about to rain before it gets to me.
This has been another storming year for Affino and the Affino community. We’ve had great times rolling out the new IMRG Benchmarking site, many more great enhancements to Procurement Leaders, and all the other great projects we’ve worked on. We launched the stellar Affino 7.5 CRM Edition which makes life that bit better. Not to mention we’re now working with great teams including Briefing Media / Farmers Guardian, Humanity Direct, Travel Trade Gazette, and now Mash Media.
2015 is going to be an amazing year for the Affino community, given everything that we’ve got lined up and we can’t wait to share it with you.
The Affino CRM is very capable but there’s a certain amount of effort required to set it up and get the most out of it, as there is with all CRMs. Unlike the majority of CRMs, Affino gives back much more than you put in, so each Account or Contact created, when coupled with a Customer Ladder, Conversion Events, Conversion Funnels, Message Campaigns, Social Integration and Landing Pages gives a massive return on your effort. We have created a guide here for those on Affino Support.
Affino provides great insight into all your engagement campaigns; instant notifications of key prospecting events; customer self-service and profile updates; social population of profiles and social invites, along with all the CRM stats and reports you need.
Below are the key steps you’ll want to go through (in the right sequence) to set up the CRM. There are lots more elements to explore once you get going. There are also many more guides to help you with setting up the store, running message campaigns, setting up security and starting off with the Customer Ladder which will also be useful for you during this process.
Note also that you must update to the Affino 7.5.1 + release as it includes minor improvements, chief of which is combining many of the setup profiles into a single CRM Profile screen. You also will simply not see all the CRM screens until you update as we tightened up on the security aspects.
One of the great things you will notice in this release is that there is a dedicated CRM tab on the Control Navigation. Simply switch across to this and you’ll immediately be able to search all your contacts, accounts, contracts, opportunities, tasks and notes. You will also have instant access to most of the key CRM tools.
Most of the CRM is secured under one of the three following rights: Community Manager, Sales and Contract. Community Manager for the Contact screens, Sales for the Opportunity and Account screens and Contract for the Contract and financial screens.
The starting point is to set up the Main Account. Simply go to Accounts and add the Account for your company (if you haven’t done so already).
You will then need to select / add the key members of your team to the Account as these will be required when you’re setting up
The Affino 7.5 release is an instance where the whole is much greater than the sum of it’s parts. Each new feature rolled out in this release is complimentary to the overall goal of creating the most effective Social CRM on the market today. What makes the release so exciting is that Affino now rewards every effort of the Sales / Marketing and Community teams by giving back much more in terms of insight through the connections between the CRM, messaging campaigns, live sites, ecommerce, social spaces and even the social networks themselves.
We have spent a great deal of time working through each of the key Social CRM screens and many have been iterated a dozen times to get to the point they are in this release. It means that throughout there are nice features such as the instant Account tagging, Contact Notes, Add to Contact List, Follow-up Tasks, and Campaign Reach which provide that extra to make it easy to get things done quickly and efficiently.
We hope you enjoy using the new Affino Social CRM as much as we have in creating it.
The Affino 7.5 release elevates Affino to the top of the Social CRM ladder. We have put Sales, Marketing and Community Management teams at the heart of our thinking when developing the new Social CRM hub. Every activity undertaken and insight gained by a team member can be instantly shared; and any activity by the client or prospect instantly triggers conversion events which can feed into any number of engagement campaigns.
We have spent time analysing what makes a great CRM, great Sales and Marketing Automation, great Messaging apps and have incorporated all the key elements within Affino 7.5. This has meant filling in all the missing areas, extending all the existing ones and creating a new breed of product which can replace any number of CRM / Analysis / Sales and Marketing automation platforms.
The true strength of Affino shines through when you see all of the features working together, delivering maximum performance for every input. There’s much more detail below, and we’re certain that you will appreciate the transformative nature of this release when it comes to engaging with your community and driving business development.
Although the main focus has been on the Social CRM, Promotion and Analysis hubs, there are also great updates on the content side with both new and improved article imports, improved workflow inbox and subtly improved publishing tools. The Ecommerce side gets new shipping label printing and UPS Access Point integration. On the Media side we’ve added a new Media Export which lets you export Images from any Media Library, plus we’ve also improved the Media Inbox and now support the Apple file types including Pages, Numbers and Keynote.
Some of you will be wondering where all the responsive elements are in this release. Rest assured, we’re getting close to the initial public responsive design release for Affino. You will notice sites such as IMRG’s E-retail Benchmarking System running on the new Affino responsive engine. We also have a number of other sites currently under development, and great progress is being made. We’re getting close to the Responsive release and will keep you updated via Affino com as it approaches.
What you will notice when browsing through the Affino Control Centre are the new references
Wherever you go on the web today, you are being tracked, it’s simply a fact of being online. A great deal of this tracking is benign and has positive purposes such as presenting you with better content, better networking recommendations, special offers and generally a more personalised experience. But the reality is that a lot of data collected on you is now being sold to 3rd parties to target you in ways that are less appealing.
It’s not just you that’s being tracked, it’s your parents, grand parents and children as well as your colleagues and staff.
The tracking is now also becoming much more pervasive and potent, a look at the Google Dashboard gives you an example of the level of data that a company can have on you.
What can go wrong?
The companies doing the tracking and building up profiles on you may have good intentions today, but that can quickly change as the business evolves, meaning that your data might be shared and used in way you would really prefer it not to. Equally no system is perfectly secure and increasingly data is being compromised and sold on the black data market. Your profile, your family’s and your company’s profiles can then be used in any number of scams.
Benefits of Privacy Tools to the User
Privacy tools such as Ghostery are simple browser plugins and mobile browsers which let you selectively block 3rd party trackers that you don’t trust. Equally you can simply blanket block all of them and then un-block the ones you want to use such as video plugins. It’s been estimated that 10% of traffic is now protected by similar tools.
These privacy tools have a host of benefits beyond simply protecting your priacy with the web as it currently works. This is because the side effect of protecting yourself from being tracked across the web is that a lot of the commercial elements disappear off sites. There’s no point for an ad provider to display an ad if they can’t track if it’s been viewed.
Other key benefits include:
Faster page downloads
Longer battery life
The longer battery life one in particular was a surprise for me as moving to Safari and running Ghostery with all 3rd party cookies default blocked roughly doubles my battery life when browsing.
We’ve got some great usability enhancements coming in Affino 7.5. One of the best is going to be the new interface when you add Channels. It will answer hundreds of questions all by itself and make the process of adding new aspects to your online business that much easier.
Channels are at the heart of Affino, they allow you to create dedicated areas on your site for the key activities you will be doing online such as blogs, forums, forms, product listings, checkouts etc. You only set them up when you need them, and because that is a fairly rare activity in Affino the process hasn’t been made as usable as it should be.
We know from our conversations that the more you use Affino the more you love it, so we’re committed to making it as easy to explore all Affino has to offer. The new Channel adding process does just that, inviting you to explore new areas and making it much easier to do so.
A few years ago we introduced Standard content channels to Affino. The idea behind the new standardised approach was that we could provide a single interface for managing all the ’pure’ content ranging from news articles, through to FAQs, Presentations and Glossaries. It allowed us to quickly roll out publishing workflows for all content, unified tagging (taxonomies), live editing and much more.
The downside was that it became more complicated to set up new aspects from scratch and Affino’s performance took a hit since we now processed a great deal more for each and every standard content page.
Over the years we have made adding channels considerably easier by improving the initial Affino build to include all the key channel types, meaning that for the first site everything is ready to be tweaked. We introduced the jump lookups which allow you to instantly do a detailed lookup or add new settings where they are required when adding channels. We also improved the performance over the years through multiple optimisation rounds.
The issue remained though that when you came to add new channels or new sites the process was needlessly complicated and the performance issues have never fully gone away. That all changes with the upcoming release.
The Way Ahead
The new Channel type selector (see above) is a great evolution from
Affino 7.4 is very much a usability focused release which includes six months’ worth of usability improvements and bug fixes. There are key usability improvements throughout Affino and the CRM in particular has been transformed in its day-to-day usability with this release.
Affino 7.4 also introduces two new significant behind the scenes changes. The first is that everything now points to affino.com, the second is the shift for the Design Centre to be the Classic Design Centre. You should not notice any changes with these two introductions except they’re pointing at different locations.
This release also prepares much of the groundwork for Affino 7.5 which sees the introduction of the responsive design centre later this quarter.
The Affino 7.4 is very much a stability release and is an essential update for all Affino sites. It is an easy update, simply go through the standard update process. You will need a new licence key to access the updated Social CRM elements so please contact your account manager.
It is essential that you run through the complete update process starting with the Affino Updater, followed by the System Update, Re-Initialise Site, Design Element Update, Skin Update and finally Clear Guest Cache; all of which are available on the Settings > Update screen.
Affino’s Social CRM has seen major improvements in this release with the focus on improving the sales workflows and productivity. It means it is now easier to work with prospects as they are created as non-members and then seamlessly transitioned to full members when they register, bringing along all the pre-registration contact history. A major focus has been on minimising the steps required to manage prospects, e.g. entering the details on the contact for a new Account will instantly create the account.
Finding contacts is now much easier as you can tag them to your ‘My’ list anywhere with simply a click. When searching and you select a user from the predictive drop-down you will be taken to them immediately.
We also introduced Contact Notes which let you easily track any correspondence with the contact. These are then instantly trackable to Accounts and to a centralised Contact Notes screen. Future upgrades will see
Increasingly Affino training involves conversations on how to get started with SEO, here’s the Quick Start guide on SEO with Affino. SEO is one of the three key ways to promote your site.
This is Not an in-depth guide on how to use each of the Affino elements or on specific SEO strategies, rather it is to help you get started with the basics, i.e. a ’What to do’ rather than a ’How to’. Some of which happens in Affino, and some of which happens externally.
Before You Start
Refresh your Brand Profile
The first thing you need to do is to create your brand profile, or update it to include the essentials outlined by Stefan in his great ’Creating the Perfect Brand Profile’ article.
Based on your Brand Strategy identify the initial keywords you want to promote. These are based around your products, services and more importantly on what you would search for to find your products and services. Essentially these are your target customers’ interests.
Build up a hierarchy of keywords (Topics) in a simple indented list, just starting off in a Word document, e.g.
You’ll use this to help identify the key word and terms you’ll be promoting your site on.
Cover the Essentials
The Essentials are: Personality, Unique Content and Currentsy, see my post here. If you don’t get these right, forget about any of what I’ve outlined below. You’ll just be wasting your time and money.
If you have them covered, and are committed to them, then they will be the cornerstone of a great site.
The Essential Affino SEO Elements
Update your Zone so you have the right site information and SEO settings. You can always change these, but get the basics set up straight away. Make certain your site Keywords are in place.
Turn on logging so that you have the essential data available to you in your Affino Analysis Centre. This will allow you to evaluate your future campaigns.
Update the Zone (your site information) to be as relevant as possible. Make sure you’re using the best domain as your Zone Domain and
2014 is going to be an exciting year for Affino. Q1 will see the Affino 7.5 release, which introduces the new Responsive Page Designs. These have been a long time coming, but the wait will be worth it. To provide the best experience we went right back to the drawing board for how we serve live pages in Affino so that we could produce the very best responsive interfaces.
In fact Responsive Design is the main priority for the first 6 months of 2014 and everyone should look to be rolling out fully responsive sites on Affino by the end of 2014. We will continue to support the Classic Designs, and you will be able to run the Classic Design Centre alongside the new one until Affino 8.
As usual note that the priorities are subject to change, however we do anticipate a significant pick up in the rollout of new updates once the new Responsive Design Centre is complete. It will be the culmination of a four year plan we’ve been working through to delivering ultimate cross-platform social commerce experience.
The new responsive page rendering engine is being written entirely scratch using an object oriented approach which is seeing page generation times up to 10 times faster. The pages themselves also render dramatically faster on the browsers, and we are optimising every part of the process to ensure the fastest mobile experience possible.
The new Object Designer allows you to design and preview designs across multiple form factors with unlimited undo and redo whilst designing. Updated Design Styles now incorporate Form Styles and have been greatly extended to allow for very tightly styled sites including auto-scaling of fonts.
Every single Design Element, Template and application interface is optimised around responsive resizing and cross device usability.
To get the new Responsive Design Centre to you as soon as possible we will be staging the introduction of responsive elements. Phase One sees the roll out of the promotional elements so that you can design and roll out promotional sites (including most social elements), this will be followed by the ecommerce elements and then the remainder.
Usability and Learnability
2013 saw the Control Centre consolidated around the new Affino 7 interface, which is both very usable and presentable. 2014 will see a major focus