Wineries, 911 Call Centers, and South Korea’s Largest Cell Phone Provider (Final Post in the Apps not Ads Series)

What do wineries, 911 call centers, and South Korea’s largest cell phone carrier have in common?  Intertech’s team has built mobile applications for all of them.

In this final post in the series For Mobile Devices, Think Apps (not ads!), I’m sharing a few examples of what we’ve built for our customers.

A Media App for a Mobile Phone Carrier

Working the largest mobile phone company in South Korea, Intertech developed an interface for a service similar to iTunes or Spotify.


911 Call Centers

Intertech created a mobile application for 911 call centers for the reservation of channels on radio networks.  Part of the solution was a “quick schedule” to reserve a channel immediately with one touch.


Multiple Mobiles for a Health Insurance Company

For an existing customer’s application, Intertech extended their platform with a mobile version of an application’s admin, client, and public portals.


Adding Attaboys to Facebook

Have you ever sent an “attaboy” (name changed to protect the client) on Facebook?  If you have, you were using an application created by Intertech.  This app integrates Facebook accounts allowing posting a thanks to someone’s wall or timeline.



Mobile, One Vine at a Time

If there ever was a project where we should have taken “in kind” payment…this was it!  Built for iPads and iPhones, this Intertech created application helps vineyards manage field production.


If we could be of help on a mobile project or help your team spin-up on mobile app development, please let me know.

Happy Father’s Day

Tom with his mom and dad

Tom with his mom and dad

A couple of years ago, I wrote “Lessons from My Father” for  Octane, The Entrepreneur’s Organization Magazine.  While some of you may have seen this before, below is a copy…

Lessons from My Father

For many, Father’s Day is a holiday of the worst possible definition: a phony event designed to sell cards and neck ties.

For me, though, this Father’s Day has special poignancy: It’s the first time I’ll be celebrating as a dad myself, and the first time that I won’t be able to tell my own dad how much he means to me.

My father, Theodore, died last year in a farming accident. It was a terrible shock, to say the least, and it put my life in perspective. In the months since, I find myself remembering all the things he taught me; lessons that I want to teach Theodore, my young son.

In 2001, a local newspaper published an article about how my company, Intertech, was named one of the 500 fastest growing firms in the nation. In the article, I credited some of my success to simple lessons that my dad taught me. Now I realize that my dad taught me so much more, and those lessons have been critical to my company’s ongoing success.

“Tell the truth and you’ll only have one story to remember” was one of his favorite sayings. After being in business for 20 years, I have repeatedly experienced the merit of my dad’s wisdom. Recently, an important client of ours hired a CIO who turned out to be a dishonest bully. He hoped posturing, changing his story and saying whatever would resonate with me would make me complicit with his deceit. It didn’t. The company fired him, but Intertech is still engaged.

This particular experience taught me that while it’s easy to encourage others to tell the truth, it’s harder to create an environment where truth–telling feels safe. To create an atmosphere of honesty, I’ve learned to support people when they fail. I also encourage my managers to tell those people who make mistakes that they’re OK. I’ll never forget how grateful I was when my dad did that for me.

“If you do nothing, you won’t make any mistakes” were his first words after I accidently sheared the axle on his truck when I was a teenager. After reminding me that only those who do nothing are perfect, he said, “Now let’s go take a look at the truck.” No shaming reprimand; just a straightforward focus on solutions. When mistakes happen in my business, I acknowledge it, learn from it and move on to the next step. At the end of the day, the mistakes are what make us great.

“If someone does something you don’t agree with, tell him directly” was another belief my dad modeled. He wasn’t confrontational, but he did speak his mind if he disagreed or had something corrective to say. When I asked him if this was hard to do, he would just shrug his shoulders and say, “I’m not trying to win a popularity contest.” I was able to apply this lesson when a valued business partner of mine messed up. We talked through the issue and he realized that, while I recognized his mistake, I was more concerned about the future of our company and his role in helping us move forward. I’m happy to say that he’s still with us today.

While popularity wasn’t his goal, my dad was beloved by many. At his funeral, many people recalled stories of how he turned their lives around or did good work. It made me realize that sharing sincere praise is precious. This is something I have institutionalized within my company with a program that encourages employees to nominate each other for demonstrating our company values. Sometimes as leaders we get so busy that we don’t give people the acknowledgement they need to excel. At the end of the day, awareness begets success.

My dad was a modest farmer, but he left a rich legacy of integrity, authenticity and kindness. His wisdom has helped me grow as a business owner and father. I only hope I can be at least half as effective in passing that legacy on to his namesake.

For Mobile Devices, Think Apps Not Ads (Post 4 of 5)

Mad-on-CouchIf you’ve been following my last few posts, you know I’m focusing on how to use mobile applications in innovative ways to reach customers. A good article by Sunil Gupta in the March 2013 issue of Harvard Business Review lays out five smart ways to create apps that enhance consumers’ lives and reinforce your brand in the process. See my previous post for the first two ideas. Today I delve into the remaining three: (1) provide social value, (2) offer incentives and (3) entertain.

According to Gupta,

Providing social value is solving Facebook’s challenge of how to make money without alienating users. He writes, “Facebook added its billionth user in October 2012; its app is one of the most used in the mobile world. Yet Facebook, like other social media companies, has struggled to monetize its user base through advertising. Marketers question the effectiveness of ads on social media sites because ads interrupt the user experience of connecting with friends. Activities that enhance connections among friends are a different matter.

Social gifting is a case in point. As Reid Hoffman, a cofounder of LinkedIn and a partner at the venture capital firm Greylock Partners, has observed, it draws on three hot trends: gift cards, social networking and mobile shopping. Consider two examples: Since its November 2011 launch, more than 300,000 people have used the Swedish startup Wrapp to give their Facebook friends promotional gift cards available from nearly 100 major retailers. (In all, more than 2.2 million cards have been sent.) And in September 2012, three months after acquiring the mobile social gifting company Karma, Facebook announced the rollout of features that let users send their friends gift cards for Starbucks coffee, Magnolia Bakery cupcakes and other goods.

 (2)  Offer incentives. Apps that give away mobile minutes, for instance, can entice customers. The basic concept is familiar: many firms use short-term promotions and other incentives to entice customers to buy their products or the “like” them on Facebook. To win a spot among the handful of apps on a consumer’s mobile phone, however, marketers need to come up with especially creative incentives.

Coca-Cola did so with a recent promotion in Brazil. In March 2012 the company began installing special devices in venues such as beachfront kiosks—bright red machines that look like soft drink dispensers and bear the Coke symbol and the phrase “Refil de Felicidade” (“Refill Happiness”). After downloading a mobile app, consumers—typically teenagers—can hold their phones up to one of these machines, which will “dispense” 20 megabytes of free data credits while an image of a Coke bottle being filled up appears on the screen.

The last strategy for using effectively using apps to expose customers to your brand is to:

(3) Entertain. Companies can capitalize on the popularity of mobile gaming by devising games focused on their brands. Recall that smartphone users spend more than 40 percent of their app time playing games, and that the figure for table users is even higher. This represents a huge opportunity for savvy marketers.

Red Bull is one company that has capitalized on the opportunity. Instead of creating an app focused on its brand, it devised several mobile gaming apps, including Red Bull Kart Fighter, Red Bull X-Fighters, and Red Bull Air Force. For an energy drink company, building games requires a new and very different set of capabilities, and it is more complicated than simply buying banner ads. But the effort is paying off. In all, the games have been downloaded about two million times to date, and whenever a customer hits “play,” he’s engaging with Red Bull.

Another plus: developers’ fees often are far lower than those of ad agencies. So apps are not only the most effective way to reach mobile consumers; they’re also more cost-efficient than many traditional ad campaigns.”

In my next and final post on this topic I’ll tell you about mobile apps Intertech has created and how they’re helping our customers in the business-to-business space.

In the World of Mobile, Think Apps Not Ads (Post 3 of 5)

Mad-Men-Falling“Although smartphones are ubiquitous, ‘mobile advertising’ can be a hollow phrase. People simply don’t like ads on their screens,” writes Sunil Gupta in the March 2013 issue of Harvard Business Review. Gupta lays out a convincing case for marketers to forget about ads and instead to focus on creating effective apps in an attempt to positively influence consumers. He says, and I agree, that consumers don’t perceive apps as intrusive advertising—they value them for their functionality.

Gupta recommends that effective apps do at least one of the following:

(1) Add convenience. Banking apps, for example, let people pay their bills online and most airlines have mobile apps that allow customers to check in and to monitor their flight status. Convenience adds exposure to a brand but they face three constraints. First, while they can strengthen relationships with existing customers, they aren’t very effective at acquiring new customers. Second, established brands with large customer bases have an inherent advantage in using these apps to drive retention and engagement; such apps aren’t a viable alternative for every company. Third, as more and more companies build convenience into their apps, they will find it hard to differentiate themselves on that basis.

(2) Offer unique value. Commuters can use an app to order groceries while waiting for their trains or buses. Another example: Nike has capitalized on mobile’s distinctive abilities with Nike+, an app (originally for iPods, now available for most smart phones) that works with a special chip in runners’ shoes to monitor speed, distance, and calories burned. Although the app itself is free, people must buy either a sensor-equipped Nike sneaker or a shoe-mounted sensor in order to use it. Nike credits the app with having driven growth of 30 percent in its running division as of 2012, and it has expanded Nike+ to include apps and accessories that track other activities, from playing basketball to sleeping. This cool app does not act or feel like a traditional marketing communication—and that’s exactly the point. Mobile users don’t want ads; they wan apps that deliver unique benefits.

Next time I’ll tell you how apps are being used to provide social value, offer incentives and even entertain—all in the name of marketing!