Series Posts: Going Global

Swiss-US Privacy Shield

Benchmark Email is Swiss-US Privacy Shield Certified

Going Global • April 23, 2018

At the start of the year, the U.S and Switzerland governments agreed to the Swiss-U.S. Privacy Shield. This is important for understanding how you should be handling your data. After all, you may not think you have any customers in Switzerland. However, the internet makes almost every business open to the world. It’s better to be safe. That’s why it’s important to use business tools who are certified for the Swiss-US Privacy Shield. Benchmark Email is Swiss-US Privacy Shield certified. What is the Swiss-US Privacy Shield? It’s an agreed upon framework between the governments of the United States and Switzerland that allows certified companies to handle data between both countries. It was modeled after the regulations in the rest of the European Union with a focus on consistency in the region. The Swiss-US Privacy Shield Offers Improved Protection This Framework, which replaces the previous Safe Harbor Framework, offers better protection than its predecessor. Here’s how: Companies who are Swiss-US Privacy Shield certified have a greater obligation to protect data as well as offer specific information to data subjects The U.S. Commerce Department and the Swiss data protection regulator will more together more Free and accessible dispute-resolution processes must be provided by certified companies, which includes the ability for data subjects to complain directly to a company or to submit them to a binding arbitration Benchmark Cares About Your Privacy If you’ve done any data protection and privacy research, you’ve likely read about the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) lately. Here is everything you need to know about GDPR.


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World class support. Worldwide: Philippines Edition

World class support. Worldwide: Philippines Edition

Going Global • February 21, 2018

World class support. Worldwide. We say it to ourselves as a company all the time. We even say it directly on our About Us page. It’s a mission statement for us as a company. We want to provide localized support for each language for which Benchmark is available. Not only that, we want to be the best support available. One of the most important lessons I learned back when I was in journalism school is “show, don’t tell.” It’s one that I frequently am reminded of while I run this blog. Your audience may or may not trust you, but if you can provide data and examples to back up your point, it’s hard to disagree. So, we can say “World class support. Worldwide” until we’re blue in the face (and truth be told, we might). However, we can back it up by showing it to you too. Joy Aspacio, our amazing regional manager in the Philippines, is constantly sharing awesome stories from events she attends, workshops she participates in and of customer success stories. I’ve put together a few of my favorite recent ones to share with all of you. 5th Annual Philippine SME Business Expo 2017 The Philippine SME Business Expo (PhilSME) is known as the Philippines’ largest business-2-business tradeshow, conference and networking event for Small and Medium Enterprises\' (SME\'s). The 5th Philippine SME Business Expo was held from November 03-04, 2017 at the SMX Convention Center Manila, Mall of Asia Complex, Pasay City, Metro Manila. Benchmark Email is one of the silver sponsors, and we’re very glad to Mr. David Abrenilla, the Founder and Managing Director of Philippine SME Business Expo and CEO of Mediacom Solutions Inc. for the opportunity to be their official email marketing partner in the Philippines. One of the highlights of the opening day, our Customer Success Specialist and Evangelist from Benchmark Email Japan, Mr. Goro Kasahara was one of the VIP guests at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. PhilSME has also recognized the companies that significantly contributed in empowering Philippines’ Small and Medium Enterprises in the country, and Benchmark Email was given recognition in the Best Email Marketing Provider Award. There were over 100 Business Solutions and Business Opportunity in over 1,815 sqm exhibit space and attended by more than 10,000 visitors. The 2-day event showcased information on the latest innovations and trends which were presented in an interactive program composed of seminars, product presentations and other activities which is helpful to the SME’s to be competitive in the Philippines and the ASEAN region. During the event, we get the chance to meet with business leaders, company owners, senior-level executives, decision-makers and build new business relationships amongst SME’s in the Philippines. We have also gained valuable insights on how the various SME industries are doing in the Philippine set-up. Looking at the benefits as one of the exhibitors in the 5th PhilSME, Benchmark Email has successfully opened a great deal of opportunities for the SMEs to reach their target customers in the most cost-efficient way. After the expo, we have sent a newsletter campaign to thank everyone we have met. And we were so grateful as we have received an overwhelming response. Some recipients have requested to attend our workshop in our Makati office while others were asking for quotations and proposals. Also of Note from PhilSME Follow-through after every expo or conference is very critical. You had the opportunity to meet your target customers and influencers but how will you be able to establish a good connection and convert them after? One practical and easiest way is through email marketing. As such, Benchmark Email is a very powerful tool and user-friendly for any marketer. As Mr. David Abrenilla explained, “Regarding sales and branding, our sales have dramatically increased after using Benchmark Email because we can reach much more customers than before. Also branding-wise, it helps us to distribute and market our brands to a larger pool of potential customers.” We are so excited for 6th Philippine SME Business Expo 2018 on May 25-26, 2018. MediaCom Loves Benchmark We caught up with MediaCom at PhilSME and asked if they’d share a bit about how they use Benchmark. Here’s what they had to say: MediaCom Solutions Inc. is a trade show and a trade fair organizing company. We do twelve trade fairs in a year in the Philippines. Our company was founded in 2012, and we currently have thirty-five employees. We are headquartered in Makati City business district of Metro Manila. Predominant customer types are a bit of business-to-business and our main customers are small and medium enterprises. We catered to entrepreneur and franchise businesses for small and medium enterprises. We realized this year that we are heavily towards technology services as well as logistics, office leasing, an airline for corporate accounts, mobile app developers software, accounting services, etc. You can also check our website for more information at www.mediacom.ph. As for our industry niche, we also have a very specific exhibition that caters to babies and children products called the Baby, Kids & Family Expo where we have multinational accounts like Johnson and Johnson Philippines, Pampers Philippines and other major baby product players in the industry. What decided for us to use Benchmark Email is the capability to reach a large pool of potential customers, to communicate with them on a regular basis and provide valuable information which is either written content, through image and videos as well, which we distribute through email. We see this as a very valuable service to engage with our customers to keep them informed on a regular basis, and the service is excellent, the support is there, especially when it comes to the life support service which is very responsive and that\'s what we like a lot so that it\'s very easy for marketing team as well as our IT personnel to communicate in case there are any problems or are things that we would like to change with our email campaigns. Benchmark Email is very user-friendly. It allows even our staff that is not familiar with HTML coding to immediately start email campaign especially the drag and drop function which makes it very easy to include a media content into the email marketing campaigns. Regarding sales and branding, our sales have dramatically increased after using Benchmark Email because we can reach much more customers than before. Also branding-wise, it helps us to distribute and market our brands to a larger pool of potential customers. The reporting data especially regarding gathering insights on how our campaigns are doing. The service of Benchmark Email also helps us to strategize on our email campaigns to make them more effectively. Like every small business, the challenges that we have encountered before using Benchmark Email is how to get our brand out and to reach as many potential customers as possible in a short period, that\'s where Benchmark Email helped us to scale our business dramatically. Benchmark Email has mainly helped us resolve the distribution of information and to broadcast the benefits of our exhibitions and the services of our company. Benchmark Email is great software. It\'s a great product, the functionality is very user-friendly and has a great support team. The fact that they have a local Representative that we can contact immediately, this gives us the confidence to work with them and chose them for a specific reason. We have someone on the ground that could visit us and can explain certain things, because sometimes it\'s hard to do just on email support - you can only write to that person, but you cannot talk to that person. The Filipino culture has cultural differences between somebody that is doing offshore support in a different country does not sometimes also speak the same language from a culture perspective like here in the Philippines. We do not have any concerns about the software, but it\'s just the onboarding period for all our people to learn how to use the software, I think there are still big opportunity of growth when it comes to actually teaching people how to use email marketing effectively because besides from the technology, it\'s also actually on how to use it effectively. I think there’s a good opportunity regarding training. So I would love to hear about more local training where people can showcase best practices. I know that there’s available online but it\'s always something different if you do it face to face and especially again our culture in the Philippines, people want to talk to other people, so I think that\'s still also a big difference in there. Learn The Best Email Practices With Benchmark Email Philippines Everyone has to advance themselves to be able to be able to be competitive in their market. There are a lot of resources and webinars available on online. Nonetheless, these tools are just not enough. Most people still prefer a face to face discussion especially here in the Philippines as Filipinos love to get together to brainstorm and hustle - it makes a huge difference. As such, Benchmark Email not just offers a free webinar, video tutorials, manuals and other useful materials available from our Sales and Training Team in our headquarters but we also provide a free local workshop which sets us apart from other providers. We have been conducting the free workshops since September in our Philippines office located at the heart of Makati City in Salcedo Village. We have met a lot of marketers from different industries, from beginners to advance knowledge about the best practices of email marketing. We have shared about the importance of email marketing, its reward and drawback. We provide helpful tips and ideas of a compelling contents such as the following: What is an effective subject line? What are the call-to-actions? What are the email deliverability tips? With this information, a marketer will be able to have successful customer engagement. We also feature our simple yet powerful email designer - which a marketer can choose from the drag and drop, HTML and plain text editors. It has always been a usual compliment from our attendees that the drag and drop editor makes them feel like a pro. This has proved that even a beginner can easily adapt and create a beautiful email newsletter using Benchmark Email. The call-to-action has also been an important and interesting discussion which the attendees got to give their thoughts and asked for some clarifications. This perfectly demonstrates how eager our marketers wanted to learn the best email marketing practices. In general, all our attendees in the last five workshops were palpable and with so much enthusiasm. It gives us more reason and inspiration to conduct efficient workshops for the upcoming months. Also, the photo op never ceases to keep the attendees be at their awesome self - groupie and selfie is always a must. Impacting Hotels and Sales Resorts Online Presence We have been overwhelmed by the participants from various hotels and resorts in the Philippines who want to learn how to convert a sales through email marketing. The event was a collaboration between Hotel Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMA), Mr. Jay McLean, the Digital Marketing Director of Pixel Plus One and Benchmark Email. It was held at the Manila Marriott Hotel and was attended exclusively by HSMA members. With the aggressive constructions of hotels and resorts in the country, operators should be more proactive in promoting their brands to their regular and potential clients. As such, HSMA gathered their members to learn an effective way to engage with their customers on a regular basis. The seminar kicked off with how powerful email marketing and the member participants were very interactive during the presentation on the features of Benchmark Email. The highlights of the learnings to increase visibility to lead to sales conversions by showing sample email newsletter campaigns as well as tips and call-to-action ideas. As a result, every participant left the venue with an awesome smile on their faces as they were able to go home with a free account from Benchmark Email and added knowledge which they can use to kick start with their journey to sales conversion. Mommy Mundo Year-End Meet Up The Year-End Mommy Mundo Mompreneur Meet Up is a gathering for sharing, learning and Thanksgiving on November 25, 2017, at the Makati Diamond Residences. Benchmark Email was honored to be a part of the pre-Christmas celebrations of Mompreneurs for 2017. It was a powerful crowd of Mompreneurs and Dadpreneurs as well. Benchmark Email has been grateful to co-sponsor the event and was able to share to the Mompreneurs how to strengthen their customer relationships through email marketing. The Mompreneurs were all beaming with joy to learn that they will be easily able to jump-start with their newsletters knowing the local going visibility Benchmark Email in the Philippines. The Founder of Mommy Mundo, Janice Villanueva shared how Benchmark Email has been an effective tool in connecting with the Mommy Mundo community all these years. “I have been using Benchmark for five years already and its the tool I use to send out newsletters to my mailing lists. I recommend you to use Benchmark to build your customer and connect with them on a regular basis. You can send newsletters as often as you want to promote your products, promo or something new about your brand but of course, you don’t want to bombard your customers with so many emails. With Mommy Mundo, we only send out once a month as we want our subscribers to look forward to our newsletters and will not report us as a spammer. Benchmark Email is an easy way to communicate with your community, and you will be able to track your emails as they provide analytics.” For the Thanksgiving event, we were also joined by Ms. Dana Esteban, a holistic and nutrition coach who shared the Gift of Being Present. The Mompreneurs know how to have some fun, as they played some games and gave gifts to get in the holiday spirit. The meet up was also co-sponsored by Benchmark Email, Meralco, SunLife, PLDT, Safehouse Storage and Belo Baby.


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Going Global: To China

Going Global • June 2, 2017

In this blog, I want to focus on Mainland China and talk about the nuances of managing this particular country, as well as listing some of our successes and challenges. Our offices in both Taiwan and China are managed by Meilin, our local director, and these two regions were established in 2011 and 2013 respectively. Let’s first focus on China. Challenges Management of these regions of course is challenged by the huge time differences and the peculiarities of the business practices within these areas. For example, the phone is heavily used as a sales tool in both Taiwan and China. In the western world of North America and Europe utilizing the phone as the primarily sales tool is highly discouraged as people prefer email or other online methods. Another challenge within China is purely cultural. First, our Chinese customers mostly don’t practice the idea of permission-based email marketing, this concept is a bit foreign here. They simply want to get a bulk list for as little money as possible and blast. Quick results from their marketing efforts are a must. Our local specialists have their hands full convincing them of the benefits of permission based marketing and ongoing customer engagement, some do understand this concept for sure, but it\'s not widely practiced. An additional big challenge is turnover. The typical employee has low loyalty when compared to other countries. They are constantly searching for better salaries and less work hours, some will jump from one job to the next for as little as $50 per month increase. Obviously, with China’s growth, employees are constantly looking for the latest and greatest thing. We do provide flexibility and a great working environment with competitive salary packages, but many times that is not enough. Actually, providing our email tools within China itself has not been easy. Even though we utilize a content and application delivery network company that provides us with good SSL speed, within China itself we are still affected by the Internet Censorship and speed reductions that the government imposes. In addition, even though we have local native language support it’s difficult at times delivering email into these domains (QQ.com or 163.com and sohu.com, these companies don’t actively publish guidelines on best practices for email delivery) which are very large within China. This has forced us to focus on local companies that want to market outside of China to the rest of the world. With regard to competition, local competitors are now starting to heat up. However, their feature mix typically does not stack up to ours, though they are improving. Lastly, as we grow and have success it’s difficult to transfer money outside of China (we take local currency payments and pay our employees from a local bank account to offset this issue), and we incur taxes of 16% or more. That is not based on profit, but simply based on transferring money outside of China. Success The benefits of being in China early are that the economic globalization and world multi-polarization is being accelerated. Mainland China is willing to absorb Western experience to enrich its own. With our local sales and support teams playing an important consultative role, Benchmark Email\'s solutions are actually the right tool for them. We are not only selling the tool, but teaching clients how to implement strategies with their marketing process. The power of A/B Testing, Automation Pro, Signup Forms and other key Benchmark tools are strengthening their understanding and usage of permission-based email marketing tools, while enhancing their overall marketing strategy. I hope this gives some insights into our process within China, I will expand upon other regions in my next blog.


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Going Global

Going Global: Language Barriers

Going Global • May 5, 2017

This week has been a week of India travels for me. I am visiting our offices in Delhi, and then our programmers in Mumbai and finally onto our new CRM development team in Kerala. I am actually on that flight as I write this. I like the Indian culture and country. I always find them to be quite friendly and talkative when I do get a chance to chat. So, back to our Going Global series. What are the challenges that we are facing being a smaller, but global company? In one word, resources. Since we are a small company, we don’t have a lot of them for each region. Each country must wear many hats: business development, sales, content management, translations, accounting, administration and other chores that might be required. In this blog, I will focus on some of the large concepts and challenges that are created by being global. As an example, we recently just launched a new homepage, brand and logo. So, of course, the design must support all the languages we are in (English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Chinese - simple and traditional - as well as Japanese). So, designing for nine languages is not easy and can really slow down the process. Does it translate well? Do we keep some of the English words? Is the spacing correct? We often have to get the translations from everyone to move forward, and if they are busy with other activities, it can take a few days which slows the whole process. In addition, almost every region has an opinion of what the page should look like or what is important for their region. This is understandable but again takes up time. We have a homegrown language Content Management System, which does give flexibility and an order of control, but the process still seems a bit lethargic. The top 5 issues with managing multiple languages for a small company, and maybe a large company as well, are: Getting the desired results from your web pages based on the nuances and meaning you are trying to communicate to a particular country. The management of getting translations completed for nine different languages in a timely manner. Business development. In China, the phone is used heavily. There\'s a lot of making cold calls and talking with customers to take orders and getting six-month or annual written contracts. Compared to the U.S. and Europe, where business is mostly driven by online credit card transactions. This makes the business development process hard to standardize, and requires a lot of customization, making it more difficult to scale. Taking local payments. In some of our regions, mostly in China, India and Latin America, we have allowed local payments to happen. We did this for a couple of reasons. One to get the business in the first place. Second, because in those regions companies can’t deduct the payments as an expense unless they get a service tax credit. That usually requires a local payment. Just plain old communication. Time differences are real and challenging. Even though we use as many tools as we can (Skype, Slack, SMS, phone, Whatsapp ... you name it),  people just can’t work at the same productive creative level all day long. It takes its toll. For most people, their thought process at 10-12PM is not as good as it was between 8-11AM. When you multiple that week after week, sometimes day after day, it gets tiring. Marketing is customized for each region, which again takes more time and doesn\'t allow for standardization. India, Brazil and other regions allow us to get very low-cost freemium signups, which we then can sift through to find the gems who will purchase our product. However, in the U.S., Europe and Japan, PPC is expensive to get free users. To summarize, it’s fair to say that managing a small, global company with many local offices poses it’s challenges in scaling the operation. However, one benefit of going global early on is that we understand the difficulties and start to iterate our processes. So, every quarter that goes by we get better and better. Kind of like an AI machine (if only we could iterate as quickly). Also, in some markets, we are the early offering with such a rich feature set that gives us some advantages.


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Going Global

Sales & Support: We Found Our Guy

Going Global • October 26, 2016

In the early days, questions of sales and support and who would handle them needed to be answered. I knew it would not be easy. Thankfully, I was able to find the person for the job. Our support consisted of email and chat support in the first year. Virender was our lone support agent. We found him through chance after testing with some miserable results a few other choices. He possessed the qualities we were looking for, honesty and integrity, with a super strong work ethic and of course the communication skills that were required. He has proved to be one of the smartest things we ever did at Benchmark. He worked tirelessly for 12 hours per day, six days a week, responding to chats and emails. Any phone calls we handled locally, but eventually, he handled those as well. In 2006-2007, we saw more of the same. Eventually, we opened an office in Gurgaon. Again, I wanted to keep it inexpensive. Our early office did not even have A/C. If you have ever been to the Delhi/Gurgaon area, you know all about the relentless heat and dryness ... until the welcomed rains come, which kept coming later and later in the year and lasting shorter and shorter. We added the A/C in relatively short order to keep the sanity and peace. However, now we had to deal with power outages that would last many hours at a time (sometimes more than 8 hours). Next, we got a battery backup system, but then our batteries were getting drained. So eventually we moved to a location that allowed us to use a diesel generator, but then we were running out of fuel. Our office boys would run down and get fuel to fill up our generators, all while managing daily chores with all the other requirements of trying to grow and manage an office in India. Eventually, of course, we moved to a more modern and expensive facility where all these basic utility necessities were taken care of. One question you might ask is how did India Sales develop? I think in the first 3-5 years, we did not even attempt to sell our services in India as we were so focused on support for the US. In addition, following email marketing best practices was not widely practiced in India. Truth is, it was not practiced that well in US much either. However, India was a bit more wild in terms of harvesting or purchasing lists and we had to be careful. Since then it\'s gotten much better, but we still have to be on alert. [caption id=\"attachment_3055\" align=\"aligncenter\" width=\"1024\"] Our sales & support team in India would soon grow to what you see here, but Virender is there front and center (in the white shirt).[/caption] The fact that Virender was our only support person for a while is a testament to his hard work and trustworthiness. The time difference between Delhi and California varies from 12 to 13 ½ hours depending on Daylight Savings Time. This put a lot of stress on Virender, as he was basically working from 6:00PM to 6:00 AM, six days a week. Not an easy chore. Eventually, we added more people to help Virender. As mentioned earlier, one of the reasons we decided to support and develop from India was due to cost. Back in 2005-2009, we were able to hire college graduates who spoke and wrote pretty good English for $200-$400 per month (wow!). These savings allowed us to be profitable from the very beginning. Some early technology support questions we needed to sort out include how and if we were going to provide phone support from India. Two issues we faced here were the heavy accent and doing voice over IP, which was not as refined back then. We did get some complaints, but I think that was balanced by the professionalism and extreme courtesy our representatives gave our customers. One thing about the Hindu culture is they take pleasure in doing a good job serving their customers, especially when they are western. In my next blog, I will identify more challenges and talk about the move to a more global company.


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