Marc Pitman's specialty is teaching people how to ask for money. For his own business, the answer is to not make it look like that's what he's doing.
"Don't focus on the transaction. Focus on the impact of the transaction," said Pitman, CEO of Concord Leadership Group. "Anything we can do to get rid of any friction in the process is good."
Pitman travels around the country, giving presentations to primarily non-profits on building, manage and execute fundraising campaigns. Much of his focus is on culture--how to manage competing demands of nonprofit boards and staff, approaching new markets like millennials, transition planning and engaging with potential payers or donors in a non-intrusive way.
But there's an obviously awkward moment, when Pitman asks for funds from his fundraising clients, that he's found can be made smoother by using emerging mobile technology.
By combining in-app transaction capabilities, mobile photos, digital invoicing and subscription payments, Pitman has become an example of how businesses of all sizes can use smartphones and other elements of digital commerce to place payments in the background behind other services that are more proactively focused on what the consumer gets, rather than what the consumer gives in return.
"I want to make it ridiculously easy to pay me," Pitman said.
Much of Pitman's payments technology is powered by Infusionsoft, a Chandler, Ariz.-based mobile software provider. Concord is an early adopter of Infusionsoft technology that combines e-commerce payments, CRM and marketing. "We generally use mobile technology like a 24-hour employee that's able to help our fundraising client community," Pitman said.
Pitman's company runs much of its client engagement and transaction portals off of business cards. Concord uses a mobile "snap" app from Infusionsoft to take pictures of business cards, which registers the client with Concord. The users receive access to a PowerPoint presentation and a followup message for a cross-sell or upsell program for the users who opt in. Users have already entered payment card information from attending the initial live presentation.
The premium presentation, registration and payment terms can all be accessed via single click from the initial mobile PowerPoint PDF. A common offer is a 14-day free trial to Concord's content, with a subscription service possible after the free offer. Concord also offers other services such as books and other one-off digital content. The subscription payments and other transactions are handled automatically following the initial card registration.
"It's a lot easier when the payment conversation happens once instead of once every four weeks," Pitman said.
Infusionsoft, which occupies a crowded mobile payments and merchant services market including recognizable companies such as Square and PayPal, is trying to carve a niche in a mobile point of sale market in which the payment has become commoditized. Infusionsoft, which this week expanded to the U.K. and added new billing features for mobile payments in the U.S., hopes to build relationships with merchants by enabling recurring billing and upselling for the merchants' customers.
"Payments are a relatively small component of the overall business mix but it is a significant drain on resource and point of friction," said Thad Peterson, a senior analyst at Aite Group, noting Infusionsoft appears to have noticed this and has incorporated payments into its overall package as one of several ingredients. "It's also notable that payments are the last component mentioned on its website, which would indicate that they have their priorities right."
Infusionsoft will find the U.K. market very competitive, with many existing software providers already providing similar services, said Gareth Lodge, a senior analyst at Celent.
"Given payments is often at the end of the value chain, and CRM at the beginning, it makes sense to ensure they work closely together," Lodge said. "The add-on services that Infusionsoft offers to small businesses may be the actual key difference."