Thursday, December 19, 2013

IDC 2014 CMO Predictions

The Chief Marketing Officer cannot avoid broader responsibility as the digital customer experience bursts traditional boundaries. IDC predicts that by 2020, marketing organizations will be radically reshaped. The core fabric of marketing execution will be ripped up and rewoven by data and marketing technology.

What actions will you take in 2014 to gain the most from this future opportunity? Here are the IDC CMO Advisory Service views on the long-term industry trends and new themes that may be on the horizon that will most impact the role of the CMO.
 
To hear more, listen to a replay of our December 17th webinar.
  • Prediction 1 – The CMO role becomes "open for definition" as today's CMO job description becomes considerably more complex and critical.
  • Prediction 2 - Innovative CMO and CIO pairs will throw out the rule book when it comes to IT's support of Marketing
  • Prediction 3 - By 2020, the Marketing function in leading companies will be radically reshaped into three organizational "systems" - content, channels, and consumption (data)
  • Prediction 4 - The best marketers will understand that "Content Marketing" does not equal "Thought Leadership"
  • Prediction 5 - Multi-channel coverage becomes an opportunity and a challenge area, as CMOs integrate media silos
  •  Prediction 6 - 80% of customer data will be wasted due to immature enterprise data "value chains"
  •  Prediction 7 - By the end of 2014, 60% of CMOs will have formal recruiting process for people with data skills
  • Prediction 8 - Only 20% of marketers will receive formal training on analytics and customer data management
  • Prediction 9 - Fragmented marketing IT point products and low adoption rate will inhibit companies' ability to win customers
  • Prediction 10 - Digital marketing investment will exceed 50% of total program budget by 2016

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Cross Training for Marketing

Most marketing organizations are organized around a set of silos based on specialized program functions within branding or demand generation. The skills, tools, and relationships needed to manage advertising, events, email, website, social, video production, technical writing, etc. are very different. The pressure and complexity involved in each area can easily turn them into organizational islands. They may each have their own databases, audiences, and reporting structures. They may be further fragmented when replicated across business units and geographies. While specialization is necessary and will only increase, the fragmentation and separation that typically accompany it can break down the customer experience, introduce inefficiencies and redundancies, and slow down the whole marketing operation.

The challenge is how to make strong sustainable connections between specialists so that new competencies can be acquired without the negative side effects. Data management and analytics have emerged as two key skills common to every marketing activity. These topics are ideal for bringing marketers together to share how each of their areas produces and consumes data and the models and tools they use to gain meaningful insights. IDC recommends marketing organizations conduct regular analytics knowledge jams to share competencies, resources, and insights. To cross train them on the many other functions that affect customer creation. Key objectives include:
  • Provide visibility into how data is produced and consumed in other areas
  • Improve data capture, quality, and usability
  • Socialize important analytic models
  • Provide a more holistic perspective on the customer experience
  • Raise the overall data and analytics IQ of the marketing team
In each session, representatives from different groups share 15 minute presentations of what they are working on and how they use data and analytics. This will help combat the fragmentation brought on by specialization, reduce inefficiencies and redundancies, and make marketing more responsive.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Three Big Ideas from Dreamforce 2014

https://www.salesforce.com/dreamforce/DF13/Dreamforce, Salesforce's user conference, is always a phenomenon – boatloads of sales and marketing tips and tricks alongside the philanthropic videos and big name entertainment. However, it was these three ideas that impressed me most.

Marketing automation enters the age of the platform: The integration theme threaded through Dreamforce as the company unveiled Salesforce 1, a platform for the Internet of Customers.  Providing a quality digital customer experience requires the integration of applications, data, messaging channels, and delivery mechanisms (including mobile and machines). Like an orchestra playing a piece of music, a brand is more richly experienced by multiple instruments simultaneously. Orchestration is the key. If the oboe plays independently in this corner and the violin over there, you can imagine the discord – even if they all work from the same sheet music. Integration, platforms, and clouds are themes I've also heard from Oracle Eloqua, Marketo, Adobe, IBM, Hubspot, and Microsoft. Most of these companies will fill in important platform gaps over the next few years to become winners (I think Salesforce will clearly be in this camp).

Why this matters:  Marketing technology platforms will prod two big changes. Marketing will need to reorganize and become multi-channel and customer experience oriented.  And although vendors playing nice together will be easier to do in the cloud than it was for on-premise software, CMOs will someday find it valuable to standardize on a platform (or "cloud"). Hopefully, they will have differentiated choices that optimize for different business models.

Growing importance of design: I was super impressed with the fireside chat between Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo and Marc Benioff, Salesforce's CEO. I found Marissa's ideas on design most intriguing. It’s a topic you don't hear much about in business circles, yet it was clear that her views on design informed her strategy for Yahoo and her leadership style.  One of Marissa's points - don't design for the expert.  Create a "big green button" for the thing people most want to do. Expert users can afford to work a little harder to get their bells and whistles.  Simple things, if they are the right things, make a huge difference. Think about the impact of Amazon's iconic Add-to Cart one-click shopping.
Why this matters: Change-agents (managers, marketing ops pro's, communicators, etc.) would benefit from getting grounding in design. You might start with a little podcast I recently found called 99% Invisible.

Marketing in the moment:  Marketing is speeding up. Few marketers remain unconvinced about the value of personalization. Messages are more effective when they leverage the viewer's attributes. Now it seems that time is also becoming an impact point. Your message is more relevant if it pops up within the context of a real-time conversation. Some moments are daily habits – such as exercising, or conducting a task at work. Other moments are occasional, shared, and public – such as a sports event or an event like Dreamforce. Some moments can be planned for but others will pop up opportunistically and you need to be ready.

Why this matters: Marketers pay lip service to the concept of "agile" but marketing in the moment requires a truly different approach than planning a launch. Agility is what enabled the Oreo marketing team to steal the moment at the Superbowl. Read this Wired story to learn how they did it.

These are three ideas that I'm going to pay more attention to.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Will a Robot Make Your Marketing Job Obsolete?

Cars with no drivers.  Airport ticket counters with only touch-screens. Surgery with no doctors. Automation has taken over human jobs since the industrial revolution. But this trend may be accelerating with the "Great Restructuring". Which marketing jobs will automation make obsolete?

Time magazine recently published an article titled The Robot Economy which highlights the types of jobs that will flourish (and which won't) as automation expands. Time says,
"If your job involves learning a set of logical rules or a statistical model that you apply task after task – whether you are grilling a hamburger or issuing a boarding pass or completing a tax return – you are ripe for replacement by a robot."
Marketing automation is one of the fastest growing sectors of the technology industry, growing at 11.8% in 2012 according to the IDC 2012 Worldwide Marketing Automation Vendor Share Report. Most marketers would agree that marketing automation drives gains for their companies - improved customer engagement, greater marketing accountability, better pipeline management, etc. But is it good for marketing people? The jury is out on whether automation is reducing marketing headcount.  On the precipice of the 2008 downturn, the IDC Tech Marketing Benchmark showed a decline in marketing headcount as a percentage of total employees to approximately 1.5% and the number has sat roughly at that level for the last few years.

Winners and Losers in Marketing Jobs? Nate Silver's book, The Signal and the Noise, is about making better decisions using analytics. In a chapter about chess, Silver summarizes a 1950 paper by MIT's Claude Shannon on the benefits of a computer in making decisions versus the benefits of a human.  Claude Shannon said that computers are better at decision-making because:
  • They are very fast at making calculations
  • They won't make errors, unless the errors are encoded in the program
  • They won't get lazy and fail to fully analyze a position or all possible moves
  • They won't play emotionally and become overconfident in an apparent winning position that might be squandered or grow despondent in a difficult one that might be salvage
 Claude Shannon said that humans are better at decision-making because:
  • Our minds are flexible, able to shift gears to solve a problem rather than follow a set of code
  • We have the capacity for imagination
  • We have the ability to reason
  • We have the ability to learn
 Silver concludes that the reason why a computer like IBM's Deep Blue could beat a chessmaster is that chess is a deterministic game, that is, there is no luck involved. In deterministic situations, where there is perfect information and perfect knowledge of the rules, computers do a better job.  However, wherever there is uncertainty, a better decision will be made if humans help out.

Future proof your career. To ensure you head your career in a confident direction, gain competency in the following types of marketing skills:
  • Solve problems that have never been solved before:  Work that is genuinely non-routine, creative, or paradoxical – such as people or customer management, strategy development, and design.  However, be warned that being creative does not let you off the hook for learning to use data to inform the creative process.
  • Analyze for insight:  While analytic tools will do most of the heavy lifting for us, humans will give meaning to the data patterns as well as to create models, frameworks, and stories for using the analysis.
  • Make unstructured decisions: Unstructured decisions are those where no explicit process for deciding can be put in place – such as an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician). Almost every category of marketing has jobs like this. Put yourself in the line of fire, where there are tough trade-offs, and information is ambiguous. 
  • Persuade: Automation can take over lead nurturing by listening to online data, analyzing it for behavior patterns, and responding with the most relevant selection from a content catalog.  However, blending a human with automation may get you better results.  A leading tech company found that although they can go straight through to purchase using automation, that adding an inside sales person to the conversation increased deal size by 3x.
What ideas have you seen marketers implement to help future proof their departments?
 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

2013 Tech Marketing Budget Trends: 3rd Platform Companies and Products Lead the Growth

Yesterday, IDC's CMO Advisory Service had our annual Tech Marketing Benchmark Webinar. This study goes out to close to 100 senior lever marketing executives and represents the largest B2B Tech companies in the world (this year the average company revenue was $9.1B.) The webinar was packed with great information and was a great success. However the overlying question each year is where will marketing budgets sit at the end of the year and what direction are they moving. The results are some good news mixed with trends that point to hard work that marketers need to do around their budgets. 

Good News: More Organizations are Increasing their Marketing Spend Than Decreasing

As seen in the graph below, across the entire tech industry a net of 15% of companies are increasing marketing spend versus those decreasing. While it may not always feel like it, there are marketing budget increases out there to be had!


Challenge for Marketers in 2014: Finding the Right Areas that Should Receive More Marketing Budget

Despite the fact more companies across the tech industry are increasing marketing budgets than decreasing, budgets at the aggregate levels are flat to slightly negative. IDC expects Marketing budgets to decrease 0.5% year-over-year from 2012 to 2013. So that leaves us with an interesting juxtaposition, more companies are increasing budgets than decreasing, but at the aggregate weighted level the data shows a slight decrease in overall budgets. Three reasons we are seeing this:

  1. The largest companies within the Tech Industry are seeing flat to declining marketing budgets due to continued transformation within the industry. This brings the weighted levels down. 
  2. Hardware companies (as seen in the above graph) are the only sector where more companies are decreasing marketing budgets than increasing. Companies within this sector are typically larger and the Hardware industry is feeling more affects from the industry's transformation. 
  3. 3rd Platform companies and other high growth product lines and business units are driving much of the revenue growth and in turn are receiving much of the increases within marketing budgets. These companies are smaller, so they add the "n" value of companies increasing, but do not affect the weighted average as heavily. 
Illustrating the final point (#3) you can see in the graph below that Cloud Software Vendor's (who are right smack in the middle of IDC's 3rd Platform) Revenue Growth, Marketing Investment Growth, and Marketing Budget Ratio (total marketing budget / total revenue) are all at least 3X  that of their on-premise peers. Some of this can be attributed the size of the Cloud Vendors (typically smaller), but the growth being seen in the 3rd Platform areas is undeniable.

Note: If you would like to discuss cloud vendors marketing benchmarks further please email me at smelnick (at) idc (dot) com!

In closing the 3 budget takeaways we are giving for budgets in 2013 - 2014 are:
  1. More companies are increasing (vs. decreasing) marketing spend. (This is good news!)
  2. There is not enough "Peanut Butter" to go around... (so an even spread will not work this year)
  3. Marketing Investment will inevitably find growth areas: products; markets;  segments; or geos. (So, work hard to find those areas and invest wisely)
Sam Melnick is a Research Analyst at IDC's CMO Advisory Service and manages the entire benchmark survey and study. You can follow him on twitter at @SamMelnick

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Sales process - the missing ingredient for marketing ROI

Most marketers in B2B enterprises have never been trained on sales process. If I were running your marketing or sales organization this would be the first thing on my agenda. Why? Because without understanding sales process, marketing is essentially set up to fail. How can anyone improve or contribute effectively to something if they don't know how it works. It's like setting up your manufacturing to produce blue widgets but not telling your suppliers what parts you need for your particular widgets. So they ship you tons of blue stuff and hope that somehow it all works out. That's the position, to one degree or another that most enterprise marketing organizations are in even at some of the most advanced process-centric companies in the world. Largely because they have chopped up the customer creation process into a collection of departmentally independent activities. 

In a large enterprise with many products lines, business units and segments, there are likely to be a number of different sales processes. Marketing and sales resources should be aligned against these processes horizontally. This is the key to making the shift from a siloed command and control organization to a responsive, integrated customer focused one. Not only is it important to design around sales process, which should be designed around the buyer's journey, but it is important to design for change. Markets are dynamic and sales processes change.

Marketing automation systems, especially those that are integrated with the sales force automation or customer relationship management system, have begun to provide marketing with some clues to sales process. At least they can see what happens or does not happen when they deliver something to sales. But the data does not always explain why, and that's the critical part. Marketing needs to understand very specifically how Sales operates in order to optimize around customer outcomes. The alternative is for marketing to optimize around departmentally focused KPIs like the number of MQLs (ugh), or SALs, or worse vanity metrics like hits, sentiment, likes, etc. These metrics are useful indicators for some marketing activities, but not as business drivers for marketing investment.

Aligning marketing and sales around sales process is the first step to formulating an enterprise customer creation process that extends across all customer touch points, including: billing, fulfillment, service and support. At each stage of maturity, marketing, as well as all the other customer facing departments, gain much greater visibility and accountability to the whole process and its connection to corporate objectives for growth, market share, and margin. This is all necessary for a true picture of marketing ROI.

Your action items:
  • Marketers: lobby your top executives to make regular sales process training for marketing a priority. 
  • Sales executives: demand that marketing know how the different parts of your sales force work so they can more effectively develop prospects and serve customers. 
  • CEOs: get smart about your customer supply chain by applying the same level of due diligence and process discipline to it that you have to your product and services units. As a result, you will make much more effective use of marketing investment and be able to hold your whole customer facing team accountable for its contribution to your strategic objectives.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Which Marketing Metrics Matter?

The ability to measure is a sure sign of a quality organization. As marketing technology permits access more data, the gap between excellent marketing organizations and those deficient will widen — defined, in part, between those that measure well and those that do not.

To have a bigger impact on the business, marketing executives must learn which metrics matter – and to whom.  When marketers get swamped with data, they often report the wrong things to the wrong people. As one CEO told me, "The day I care about how many clicks our Web site gets is the day I lose my job!"

Three Levels of Metrics
IDC's Hierarchy of Marketing Metrics describes the business context of what marketing measures
and reports. It parses metrics into three categories that correspond to the types of decisions made at various organizational levels and highlights the links between them. The three categories are:
  • Corporate-level metrics: Used at the highest level of the company to manage company productivity and performance as a whole.
  • Operational-level metrics: Used to manage marketing resources and asset productivity, forecast the performance results of core marketing processes, and diagnose the "red" areas on the quarterly business review (QBR) charts.
  • Execution-level metrics: Root metrics produced by marketing tactics; used to manage and optimize the marketing tactics and to coalesce to produce operational-level metrics.

Managing the Business vs. Managing Programs
Magic happens when marketing executives grasp the critical difference between operational-level metrics and execution-level metrics. Both are critical, but for different reasons. Execution-level metrics measure the results of marketing programs. They are used for optimization (did we increase conversion rates?), for testing (did emails with this color outperform?), and for customer behavior analysis (what offer should come next?).  Execution-level metrics are also those that form the basis for operational-level metrics.

Operational-level metrics map the inner workings of marketing into the language of business. Each major function in a company (finance, marketing, HR, R&D) is a specialty area with its own private language. Converting each function into "business speak" by using metrics ensures that the company executives can collaborate to run the business as a whole.

Making connections between the inner workings of marketing as described by execution-level metrics and the operational metrics needed to run the business is hard. Calculating an operational-level metric requires inputs from multiple execution-level metrics, sometimes as many as 30! However, this mapping is the only way to tie the tactics of marketing to things that matter to the corporation's productivity (profits) and performance (revenue and market share).

Data offers an opportunity for marketing to have a greater impact on the company's goals and therefore greater power within the organization. To realize this opportunity, marketing leaders must invest in the skills, discipline, and tools needed to master data at both the execution level and the operational level.
 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Next Gen Marketing Teams: From Silos to Systems

Automation has revolutionized marketing. It has brought new insights, capabilities, and methods of engagement. It has demanded new skills, thrust us into the omni-channel universe, and opened new levels of visibility and accountability. But these are all ripples in the pond, so to speak, only the most immediate after effects of a rather large splash down. The most profound change is just beginning to be felt. Automation has introduced the notion of an enterprise customer creation process, a horizontal function that cuts across all marketing activities. Effectively implementing and managing this process requires next generation marketing teams to be much more integrated and coordinated. 

Despite its mystique as a freewheeling, creative and dynamic function, corporate marketing is in reality a deeply fragmented hierarchical organization. Specialists typically function in separate domains moving from project to project with great urgency, rarely having time to consider the big picture. The need to be highly responsive to changes in direction has created a culture adverse to structured workflows. However, as marketing automation solutions consolidate into an enterprise system, a diverse set of marketing roles, process definitions, and data structures are brought together. In response, marketers are beginning to redesign their organizations around workflows instead of activities. Rather than having social, web, advertising, content, partner, analytics, systems admin, etc. in separate organizational buckets, these roles are being reformed into cross functional teams responsible for executing entire campaigns. 

Marketing solutions are starting to be designed around a multi-disciplinary community model. Adobe's marketing cloud offers a collective view of the campaign workflow for each member of the team and unique workspaces for the various roles in content production, campaign management, analytics, etc. Each member can see what contributions have been made and why. They can communicate in real time on key issues and how they affect the overall process. IDC expects this trend to become pervasive. Providers such as Salesforce.com, Oracle, IBM, SAP, and others are driving their solutions around a vision of the "customer facing ERP" which integrates all customer facing functions in what will most likely be a hybrid cloud for managing customer experience. The implications for organizational design will be significant and CMOs should start instilling the culture of workflow based communities as soon as possible. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Create and Close Customers up to 40% Faster

IDC's CMO Advisory has conducted an annual IT Buyer Experience survey for the past six years. We have tracked many changes and interesting trends, but one thing stands out as a consistent inefficiency in the market: every year IT Buyers report the purchase processes can be approximately 40% shorter. Over the course of a 10-month average process that means the potential is to accelerate revenue by an entire quarter. This is a huge opportunity for both buyers and sellers with tremendous financial incentives for both and yet no improvement in six years. Why not and what to do about it?

Buyers put about 2/3 of the blame for this inefficiency on themselves. There are scheduling issues, conflicting agendas, changing budgets, changes in personnel, immature purchase processes, etc. The challenge for vendors therefore is two-fold:

  1. Reduce the inefficiencies that are inherent in their own marketing and sales processes, and
  2. Better facilitate the buyer's process(es)

Gap between actual and ideal IT purchase processes, 2009-2013
To do this, vendors need to intimately understand the Buyer's Journey. It starts with Exploration, moves to Evaluation, and ends with a Purchase.  Buyers spend the most amount of time in the Exploration stage, largely independent of direct vendor interaction. As they move through each stage, their agendas change dramatically and the process accelerates. Buyers spend less time in each subsequent stage and have higher expectations of vendor response times. By carefully defining and monitoring buyers' journeys, marketing and sales can better serve customer needs, keep pace with buyer expectations, and cut out big chucks of inefficiency.

For example, in the Exploration stage, the buyer's main objective is to establish fit between their business challenges and a solution. The main resources they use are related to trends in their industry. The primary internal influencers are business buyers (functional leaders, business unit mangers, and executives.) Once they enter the evaluation stage, however, their objective and trusted sources change completely.

In our report, IDC CMO Advisory 2013 IT BuyerExperience Survey: Create and Close Customers up to 40% Faster, we outline specific steps IT marketers should take at each stage in order to get the right messages to the right decision makers. For more information, please contact me at gmurray (at) idc (dot) com.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Marketing Must Lead the "Customer Experience" in B2B - Thoughts from #Inbound13

Is all this talk of "Customer Experience" within B2B Tech fluff?

This is the question I asked Hubspot's two cofounders Darmesh Shah and Brian Halligan after their keynote speech at Hubspot's annual Inbound Conference. Their answers added to the momentum I have been observing and hearing. Yes, they felt Customer Experience, or whatever your organization names it, is massively important and is here to stay.

At Hubspot their shift to a Customer Experience Company, or an Inbound Company as they call it (for a great detailed overview on this read @thesaleslions recent blog post), is just another signal that providing and mapping a full Customer Experience will be an important part of the future of B2B companies. I believe marketing has an opportunity set the path to success.

Below are some areas I see patterns around "Customer Experience" as it continues grow in B2B Tech:
  • Marketing > Sales > Services: This is a trio that the HubSpot executives spoke about and it's also something that we have consistently seen from salesforce.com and Marc Benioff. These are the 3 key areas of interaction with the customer and like it or not, one can't live without the other.
  •  Continued rise of Vice President of Customer Experience and the Chief Customer Officer: My colleague Rich Vancil blogged on this topic a few weeks ago. The title and role are still undefined, but where I see some patterns is sales, services, and marketing (yes those three again), rolling into one person. This person owns these areas and assures the departments are working seamlessly together. Sometimes product or the channel/partner org reports to this person, but sales, services, and marketing are always present.
  •  Technology is Making the Customer Experience Possible: At IDC we have seen digital everything continue to grow, and on the marketing side, see leading companies aggressively investing in all things digital. The more conversations I have, the more I hear about context, personalization, and data. While these topics are not new, the difference is advanced technologies are now available. These technologies provide the opportunity for companies truly wanting to focus on the full customer experience to be exceptional in execution.   

Why Marketing is in position to be a leader with Customer Experience:

Marketing is the first touch point for each customer, each relationship, and each person a company encounters. With around 50% of the purchasing process complete before a buyer even engages, this leaves a huge opportunity for marketing to set the stage for what will be a long and (mutually) fruitful relationship. Not only is that first touch and experience important, but marketing's job is also to identify and label each prospect so they are placed in the correct persona.  This ultimately will send prospects down the path that will provide them with the most value and the best customer experience.

Without marketing's knowledge of the prospect, sales is blind as there would be minimal context and more challenges in providing the best solution for prospects. In turn, even when deals get closed, service teams would be starting at a huge disadvantage with minimal information on the type of account they are now managing.


Marketing sets the expectations for the customer, Marketing provides the playbook for sales and services, Marketing must take the lead in the Customer Experience.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Sales Star Turned CMO Tells All: An Interview with Tyson Roberts of Yesler

Executives who earned their stripes in the pre-internet days sometimes cling to the notion that aggressive sales tactics are still the path to success.  Tyson Roberts doesn't agree. The former sales star who is now a CMO and content marketing expert, explains why he changed his tune.

Tyson Roberts is a CMO with a rare background. Tyson, who is CMO of Yesler, the agency division of ProjectLine, an award-winning B2B marketing services company headquartered in Seattle, now works with leading tech companies to develop and implement their content strategies. But earlier in his career, Tyson carried a bag - selling software and services for Avenue A, Razorfish, Check Point Software, and even as the CEO of a start-up he founded he carried the largest quota.  I recently talked to Tyson about how his approach to creating customers has changed.

Tyson, you had some pointed things to say about how ineffective aggressive sales people are today. Yet, you used to be one of these sales people – and a successful one. Tell us about that.
When I was on the start-up sales team at online advertising agency Avenue A (AQNT) in the late 1990's, it was just like GlenGarry GlenRoss. Very simple.  We generated our own leads. Our intern would give us a daily spreadsheet of every internet advertisement placed that day along with a phone number.  We literally called every one. In hindsight, it was terribly inefficient - maybe a 2% contact rate and 10% (0.2% net) meeting rate.  It worked. We grew, but at a cost.

In the sales pit we proudly displayed a “wall of shame” – a collection of letters and emails pleading for an end to our efforts to contact them. Some even contained threats. The expectation was: You earn big money, "bring us heads on sticks or we’ll find someone who can". We couldn’t blame our lack of success on the marketing people or anyone else for that matter.

So, where was marketing in all of this?
Marketing built collateral and ran point on our presence at events like ad:tech.   I recall very little interaction between sales and marketing.  They would get our input and approval on the sales kit, but that was it.  Marketing would also drop hundreds of leads on our head after each event.  We quickly learned to ignore the leads or cherry pick them because so many were unqualified.  Our sales intern got better leads manually surfing the web all day.  It was true that many leads provided by marketing would begin advertising online in the next 6-12 months, but we needed to make this month’s and this quarter’s numbers.

Now you work with marketers to implement and refine modern demand centers. Yet you just said that sales people can't depend on marketing – why have you changed your view?
The "wall of shame" was a foreshadowing of things to come. A lot has changed in the past 15 years.  Tactics that were seen as just aggressive in the 90’s, today come across as unsophisticated, clumsy, and desperate.  At one of our clients, the sales people were constantly complaining about the lack of leads from marketing. We helped produce the first 500 inbound leads they’d seen in years.  Then I learned that the sales team just started dialing every one and asking each to buy! That's like going speed dating and propositioning each person you sit across from.  

Buyers have taken control of the purchase process and are doing a lot more self-directed investigation prior to engaging with sales. If sales people don't recognize and adapt to this, not only will your success rate be dismal, but you’re branding yourself as a genuine tool at the same time.  This is not the way to build rapport, trust, a relationship, or a brand.

What works now?
Companies must provide a quality path from initial interaction to happy customer. All the pieces to build this are available.  In the modern B2B organization marketing owns everything from initial interaction with a lead through to sales readiness.  Sales people focus exclusively on the opportunity pipeline.  This clear separation and definition of duties is a fundamental driver of improved demand economies. 

The cold call should be no part of your demand generation strategy.  You have to switch to an opt-in model.  Leverage an army of content at the front end. Then the sale rep adds spots of personal touch and completes the close.

The old sales business development model is inefficient. You can scale business development more easily and get better results at a lower cost by using modern marketing with its methods, systems, and automation than you can by using sales with its people, personalities, and talents.  You definitely need sales effort – but you need less.

What advice do you have for CMOs facing the challenge of a head of sales that is still "old school"?
The first step to modern B2B demand generation is realizing that your prospects don’t give a rip about your company or its beloved solutions.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is that your prospects are narcissistically obsessed with their own company and its challenges and opportunities.  This obsession is the key to being relevant, earning attention, consideration and ultimately business.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The "Customer Experience" Job Role

A few years ago, IDC opened up a new research area within our "role-based" research area. We sought to understand, and define, and then Advise on an emerging role that we were seeing pop-up within the IT vendor community: The Customer Experience executive.

It was a difficult area to research, as we were not able to get a consistent "fix" on the job description. In some organizations, the Customer Experience executive was the head of product quality. In other organizations, the newly-appointed Customer Experience executive was just a re-titling of the head of customer service. And, there were other, "loose" job descriptions across many vendor organizations.

It has taken some time, but today the Customer Experience role (and mission) is becoming clear. This executive (and team) is charged with serving-up a unified and integrated buying experience for smart shoppers. The experience needs to fully encompass the "omni-channel" environment. The experience needs to *anticipate* the channel traversing that is the reality of the consumer's movements.

Customer Experience "Worst Practices", might include these scenarios:
  • The customer is offered a price promotion for an item that is advertised on the web; but the same offer is not acknowledged in the physical retail channel.
  • The customer purchases on-line, but is un-able to return or exchange the item off-line.
  • The customer makes a purchase from a franchised retail channel and then wants to exchange the item at a "corporate" location, but the corporate store (Verizon in this case! This week ! When I was buying a new smart phone!) won't accept the exchange, and sends the customer back to the franchise.
  • The customer is practicing "Show-rooming" offline, but receives multiple and confusing offers for the exact same product, on-line.
The list could go on. Excellence in customer experience should be defined as offering the customer consistency, rationality, and *anticipatory* interaction capability, regardless of channel.

One ISV that is rising to the task to help this very complex Customer Experience job role, is SAP. Last week, I had the opportunity to listen to SAP CMO Jonathan Becher outline this major, "open" white-space which might be paraphrased as the "Omni-Channel Customer Experience". SAP (with its hybris acquisition) is doing a nice job of articulating the challenges and opportunities. Actually "fixing" the experience is going to be a challenging combination of executive and team talent; heavy process improvement; plus the help of some very capable tools provider such as SAP.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Smartest Marketers Don't Want Straight "A's"

If tech marketers as a group were to be identified as a persona, one of our attributes would be "over-achiever".  While in school, we strove mightily to get A's, win awards, be the champions.  Our drive to be the best is our great strength.  But its over-application can also be a great weakness.

Under today's conditions getting straight A's is impossible.
 Tech marketing has never been the kind of job you can leave at the office at 5:00 (and who leaves at 5:00 anyway?). On the positive side, you get to work on the exhilarating cutting edge, with fascinating problems to solve, with smart, interesting, people all over the world. But the C-Suite and sales people are never satisfied. Results from our work are often ambiguous. You learn to just accept that your work will never be done. 

However in recent years, that persistent mania has kicked up a notch. To the day-to-day, add the time it takes transforming marketing to the self-educated buyer and the digital world.  Add the pressure of doing more with less budget (IDC's Tech Marketing Benchmark shows that marketing budgets have never really recovered from the 2008 bust).

Let's face it, as human beings we have limits.  With so many demands, you physically do not have time, energy, or attention to get "A's in everything. This is not school. Attempting straight "A's" in real life gets you mediocrity and failure.

I'm here to tell you that it is okay to get a "C" sometimes. It's not only okay – it's better
The secret is to deliberately choose when to get a "C".  Here's a little tool to help you decide where getting a "C" is okay.  I adapted this decision tool by flagrantly stealing from Stephen R. Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (Habit 3: Put First Things First) and Geoffrey Moore's model on core and context from Dealing with Darwin.  A decision grid like this lets you compare tasks by considering their relative risks and rewards.


Quadrant 1: High Risk, High Reward – Focus your "A" efforts here. Now.
You decide what really makes a difference (to your customers? To your revenue? To your career? To your family? To your happiness?)

Quadrant 2: High Risk, Low Reward – Settle for a "C".
 You can't avoid these tasks without penalty but there is no upside for being exceptional – so why put in the extra effort?  I put admins-trivia in this category and I'm sure you will find other things (wink).

Quadrant 3: Low Risk, High Reward – Focus your "A" effort, but you can take more time.
I call this category of things "the gifts to your future self".  Life will keep getting better if you put at least a little time into these things.

Quadrant 4: Low Risk, Low Reward – Why put any effort into these things?
We all have some dumb tasks on our plate. Here's the litmus test.  Pick a task you find tiresome. Stop doing it for a couple months and see if anyone screams.

We are all human. We must make choices about how best to spend our limited time, energy, and attention. If you don't make those choices strategically, then you risk failing at the important things.  You'll get best results if you give up the school-kid attitude of feeling like you have to be great at everything. Get a few "C's" and you will be more successful.

Monday, July 22, 2013

If Content is Still King, Data is Heir to the Throne

Content marketing is becoming a primary strategy to solve the challenges of massively scaling and diversifying marketing channels. But content does not naturally support both scale and diversity at the same time. The only thing that scales as endlessly and cost effectively as the digital world is data. As a result, data marketing is on the rise and will ultimately inherent the throne as the core strategy for modern marketing. What is data marketing? It's using interactive data to directly influence or add value to your prospects, customers, and partners. Think of it as content marketing without the editorial. Data marketing is already fueling the rapid growth of content marketing. The best pieces of content marketing are typically wrapped around a compelling piece of (static) data. The key is that stripped of editorial, data must become interactive and not only deliver personalized insights but capture and bring user input back. 

Modern business solutions are increasingly deployed in the cloud on SaaS platforms that capture every transaction of every user. SaaS vendors are finding huge value in these datasets. They provide empirical evidence of best practice, efficacy, and cost effectiveness. Marketing and sales automation vendors can show their customers and prospects what types of campaigns result in the greatest lead generation, the highest value and velocity through the pipeline and the greatest return. They can tell them what type of social media content and cadence is most effective on which social media channels. This insight represents enormous value-add over and above the operational efficiency the systems provide.

Consider the power of this model applied to channel marketing. A SaaS platform for channel enablement can offer partners a single point of access to content repositories, transaction systems, execution environments, (inbound and outbound marketing, sales process tools) and social networks. If it's constructed properly it provides a place for partners to get work done, not just a library to read about how to get stuff done. For smaller partners that lack infrastructure and staffing resources this is an invaluable resource. As they use the platform it captures:
  • Engagement – who's downloading what how often from the platform
  • Transactions – deal registration, order submission, billing update, MDF reconciliation.
  • Execution– the number of leads their marketing has produced, how leads are progressing through their pipeline
  • Social interactions - groups they join, how they participate, what SMEs they interact with.
  • Performance data – closed deals, order value

Access to this data can be offered from the platform through the development of a few simple forms and reports. The more data partners provide, the greater the level of analysis and insight they get in return. This information can be used to identify best practices of the top performers and shared (in aggregate) with other partners to help them run their businesses, resulting in better overall performance of all partners.

By utilizing pure data as collateral, companies can deliver highly targeted proprietary insights at scale much more efficiently than they can with content. While the role of content will in no way diminish, companies that master the art of data marketing will have greater levels of engagement, retention, and revenue with all their key constituents than those that rely exclusively on content marketing. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Data, Marketing, and Supply-chains: Insight from the IBM Smarter Commerce Conference

Envisioning your role within a larger context opens up possibilities. "Marketing" is mostly an internal work categorization. So, why limit your vision to marketing's traditional box? The IBM Smarter Commerce conference is unique. It isn't really a marketing conference. Instead, marketing is placed within the context of the overall commercial supply chain – a view I support.

Customers do not readily distinguish interactions from specific company departments.  IBM says that 74% of customers regard the post-purchase experience (such as retail fulfillment, or the cost of service in technology purchases) as critical in vendor selection. What possibilities open up when marketers with this broader supply-chain vision – and access to supply-chain data – start applying these tools to modern marketing? Here are a few insights I picked up from the early experts at the IBM Smarter Commerce conference.

  • Marketing works better when delivered as a service. "Marketing should be so helpful that customers would be willing to pay for it," said Jay Baer, event MC and author of the new book, Youtility. Baer says that your competition for attention isn't just businesses like you but everyone! Only if you are useful will the customer keep you close. Among the interesting case studies of marketing-as-a-service highlighted at the event was insurance company USAA. USAA provides customers with an "auto circle experience".  Although they do not sell autos, USAA offer buyers free services at each step of the car-buying process: research on cars, auto evaluation tools, and various purchasing services.  Once USAA builds trust, then they offer their for-profit insurance services. USAA's extensive database of car ownership and usage stats directs them when to promote these services thus stimulating purchases. My take-away: Think beyond your own product and even outside of your own company. Offer services that customers will view as unexpected but delightful and highly useful.

  • Personalization must actually benefit the customer. People do want personalization and will go to some effort to get it. But people like personalization only if it benefits them. If it only benefits you or if it has unintended consequences, personalization will backfire. Big, powerful, data engines can do really horrible things to people if you aren't careful. A major retailer explained to me how data elements have differing degrees of confidence. You will know some things for sure (maybe a person's age), but many more things are merely estimates. This retailer used to send hyper-personalized emails (13 million variations!) But this resulted in frantic calls such as, "Did my identity get stolen? You know everything about me, but I didn't buy this!" The combination of highly accurate data mixed with the semi-accurate can spook people. Now this retailer sends only 10 versions of their campaign.

  • Every interaction is a link within the context of a communication supply-chain. Don't look at each discrete message, or even each campaign, as a unique event with a direct link to the end result. Marketing is not a candy machine. Instead, view each as a link in a chain of events each of which leads to other actions.  The most important data attribution task is to discover that chain– what activity in which order and through which messaging channel tends to lead to another event. For example, social media tends to drive to search rather than directly to your website.  Mobile scanning tends to drive buyers to a physical store or to a desktop purchase. 

Managing your marketing as an element in a supply-chain will not be easy. Some of the challenges include delivering on true omnichannel capability, inconsistent fulfillment of content, inconsistent service delivery, and gaining visibility across the customer interactions.  However, this vision brings you closer to the customer's point-of-view and thus opens up more possibilities for competitive differentiation and revenue success.
 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Using Data as a Service for Scalable Channel Enablement

The magic ingredient for successful channel enablement at scale is data. Imagine having the financial, operational, and behavioral data you need on partners to optimize new product launches, coverage models, and channel programs. Imagine being able to show partners — no matter how new or small or niche their focus — how other partners like them have achieved high return on investment (ROI) on their business with you. IDC's Channel Enablement Maturity Model provides a stage-by-stage guide for advancing the organizational, process, technology, and data infrastructure necessary to transform your channel marketing and sales enablement operations. The journey along IDC's Channel Enablement Maturity Model is one of evolving from a publishing/transactional framework to a process-driven one.

IDC's Channel Enablement Maturity Model - Summary View

Stage 1:
Ad Hoc
Stage 2: Opportunistic
Stage 3: Repeatable
Stage 4: Managed
Stage 5:
Optimized for Scale
Key characteristic
"Every product for itself"
"Portals grow like weeds"
"Consolidation but still stuck in publishing mode"
"Central control over process-driven approach"
"It's all about analytics (Data as a Service)"

Source: IDC 2013

The DNA for Success is in the Data 
IDC defines channel enablement as "developing the right competencies in the right partners to deliver the right solutions to the most profitable customers." Ultimately, the goal is to provide a scalable model to identify high ROI best practices and propagate them throughout the partner population at a very granular level. There are three ways in which manufacturers can capture the partner data needed to support the analysis:

  • Contractual obligation: Requires significant time and effort from partner account management, is limited to the largest partners, and is periodic at best. 
  • Operationalized data capture: The partner platform should be thought of as a SaaS offering that provides a wide range of functionality but also collects data on every partner interaction. The ideal platform will consolidate all of the interactions with partners by offering personalized access to content and transactional systems, as well as execution platforms for marketing, sales, and support. By virtue of this consolidation, it captures an increasingly large portion of partner interactions and thus provides a great deal of valuable data to inform channel marketing and management. 
  • Data as a service: Externalize partner performance data and make it available to partners in a way that captures even more data from more partners. The level of detail they get depends on the level of detail they provide. As a result, they can get actionable insights on how to better manage their businesses and market, sell, and support specific solutions. The database is in a virtuous cycle of enrichment. They should be able to get insight into a wide variety of strategic and tactical questions such as: 
    • How many people do I need in marketing, sales, technical, and support roles? 
    • What level of skills and training should they have? 
    • What marketing activities are most effective? 
    • What sales methodologies and plays are most effective at what stage? 
    • What manufacturer resources and networks should staff be utilizing most frequently? 

While data is the crown jewel, there are significant people, process, and technology prerequisites for success. To find out more please see IDC's Channel Enablement Maturity Model or contact me at gmurray (at) idc (dot) com.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Solution Marketing: Just What Is a "Solution"?

"How do we progress from offering products to offering solutions?" This urgent question has reached the top of many technology CMOs' initiative list. When IDC interviewed solution marketing experts for the newest report in our CMO Advisory best practice library, they confessed that that the first issue to tackle is agreement on what is a solution.

IDC predicts that by 2016, more than 80% of technology purchases will significantly involve the line-of-business buyer, who will specifically drive 40% of all purchases. These business-oriented buyers have little patience with technology that can't be easily connected to a business problem. The new buyer increasingly disdains "raw" products that require substantial work to integrate into something usable. The new buyers seek to buy offerings that are closer to meeting their actual business needs (aka "solutions").

While the specifics about just what is a solution varied among the experts IDC studied, the gestalt of the answer can be easily grasped by comparing a raw turkey and the complete holiday dinner that it will someday crown.

Consider the Turkey Dinner
In the analogy of the raw turkey and the complete dinner, the raw turkey, as a single component to a completed dinner, is like most standalone technology products. People can't eat raw turkey. If guests were to be served a raw turkey with no intervention from cooks, they would be sadly disappointed. The raw turkey certainly has value! However, its value is to the cook — not to the ultimate consumer, for whom it is inedible. Technology products, like raw turkeys, solve important operational problems for the builders, or cooks, of the ultimate solution.

Just as the raw turkey must be cooked and incorporated into a meal before it can be really appreciated by a guest, so must a great deal of preparation work be conducted before most technology products are useful to the end user (the customer's business). Only when enough product components (ingredients) combine with sufficient services so that the end result actually solves a business problem can you really call something a solution. Service work can include planning, consulting, implementation, integration, customization, and training as well as providing financial assistance, overcoming legal or standard hurdles, and more.

Avoiding the Bundling Trap
Companies who want to offer solutions must be especially careful not to fall into the bundling trap. Bundling can be an effective strategy for some situations, but a bundle is not a solution — and companies should not fool themselves into thinking these two strategies are interchangeable. Expanding on the turkey and completed dinner analogy, to host a successful holiday dinner, customers need all the components for the full meal — ingredients, recipes, and equipment to produce it. Then they also need to set a table, decorate the house, put music on, and be ready on time. A good host is concerned about the whole dinner experience for the guests, not just whether the turkey comes out right.

If a company supplies only operational-level technology (e.g. raw turkeys), it must figure out how all the other elements can be put together in a way that can be easily used by the customer. The company must partner with other suppliers and provide orchestration among them.

Solutions require a much more complex go-to-market proposition than products. However, the upside is that solutions offer an even higher value to the customer. By helping customers to have a delightful experience, you create a loyal customer who is more willing to pay a premium and become a proponent of your brand.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Benchmark your Marketing Organization with IDC Research - 2013 Tech Marketing Benchmark Survey

Here at IDC's CMO Advisory Service we are in the field with our 11th annual Tech Marketing Benchmarks Study. I would like to offer an invitation to participate to marketing executives across the industry. 

Have you ever wondered, "Is my marketing organization receiving enough budget to compete?" or "Exactly how much should I be spending on marketing automation?" If so, IDC's CMO Advisory Service's benchmark survey has been helping senior marketers answer questions like these for over 10 years!

Below are the essential "need to knows" around our survey and further down I'll dive into all the great value of benchmarking your marketing organization. Let's get started:

What are the benefits?
  • Complimentary copy of our 2014 Marketing Investment Planner to benchmark your company's marketing data against the industry's data.
  • Receive an invitation to our client only telebriefing held by IDC Analysts. 
What is needed? 
  • Email me (smelnick (at) IDC (dot) com) to get our survey instrument and taxonomy.
  • Complete the survey and send it back in a timely manner ('due date' to be discussed).
What is the Quality of Data and Confidentially?  
  • This is the 11th year IDC has fielded the Tech Marketing Benchmark Survey and will include participation from many of the 100 largest tech companies - this depth and expertise is unmatched
  • All responses are 100%, no questions asked, confidential. We take this part very seriously.  
Bonus to all Participants
  • All participants will be eligible for our 2014 Chief Marketing Officer ROI Matrix and will have access to their placement on the Matrix. A great way to easily compare your marketing progress against the rest of the industry's. 


Need More Information: View this excerpt from Kathleen Schaub's excellent post, IDC Tech Marketing Benchmark: Behind the Scenes. It explains all the intricacies (and value of benchmarking).
Why do companies benchmark? A benchmark provides context for decision-making. You spend a million dollars a year on social marketing. So what? If your CEO asks you this question, what will you say? Tech marketers tell us that they like to benchmark for the following reasons:
  • Improve the quality of annual planning: Last year’s program budget and gut feelings are no longer sufficient input
  • Gain insight into critical trends: Learn what industry leaders and competitors are doing – and how you stack up
  • Reallocate costs: Identify areas of overspending and opportunities for better value
  • Transform with confidence: Answer questions such as how much to invest in new areas like social marketing or how should I re-organize my department?
  • Drive with data: C-level executives increasingly expect marketing leaders to manage their business with the same level of operational excellence as other corporate functions.
  • Get an independent view: Benchmark data provides IDC analysts with a wealth of information that make guidance to clients personalized and accurate guidance
Feel free to reach out and let's have a discussion whether it's the right time for your organization to participate!

Email me at: (smelnick (at) IDC (dot) com) or find me on twitter @SamMelnick

Thursday, May 23, 2013

3 Steps to Move Closer to the Ever Elusive Marketing ROI

CMO ROIHere at the CMO Advisory Service, we recently closed up our 2013 Barometer Study which includes data from senior level marketers working at some of the largest Tech companies in the world. While there are a lot of great insights from this study, these senior level marketers made it very clear that their highest priority is "Proving Marketing's Value", or in other words, that always elusive marketing ROI. While this quest(ion) is nothing new to marketers, as our industry continues its transformation, marketing ROI is becoming an even more pressing topic. We see this truth in our surveys, we hear it from clients, and it is actively being discussed at industry events. This year we launched our  Chief Marketing Officer ROI Matrix (see the image to the right) in an effort to give participants a look into their own return on investment from marketing and continue the conversation. There is no easy answer here (otherwise my days would not be quite as busy), but I have 3 steps senior marketers can take to move closer to measuring marketing ROI.

1. Identify what matters and what does not

This might seem obvious, but to successfully prove value, first it must be understood what is providing value.  Often when we speak with clients we remind them that tactics are important, but without strategy on the front end those tactics may be wasted energy. Before creating a substantial dashboard or reporting tool, take the time to understand which data or measurements are going to further the case and which are white noise. Once done, not only will the organization be better able to prove ROI, but it will be able increase effectiveness.

Key Fact: 27% of B2B companies report they have not yet used predictive analytics to improve any marketing activities.

2. Communicate inside and outside of your department

As transformation continues within the tech industry it is creating a ripple effect to companies and then departments within each company. This means lots of change, and change can often mean confusion. Not only are marketers pushing to prove their worth, but they have to compete with this ongoing confusion. To overcome this issue, communication is a must, both within the marketing organization and across the entire company.  It is key to receive buy-in from stakeholders and make sure the steps taken are continuously aligned with expectations. It also means communicating the actions taken (and why they were taken) to staff or superiors. Remember, over communicate, as in times of turmoil "value" can be a moving target.

Key Fact: In 2013 senior marketers expect 2/3 of the marketing technology budget will come from the marketing department – the rest from IT, Sales, and other areas. Communication across these departments is key. 

3. Benchmark your progress

Identifying what provides value and then communicating as progress is made towards measurment are two great steps. However, when it's time to share the work, comparisons and baselines will be needed. The first step is measuring your own progress. How have the KPIs improved and what can be expected in the future? The next question will be, what is the comparison to competitors? Finding ways to benchmark and measure progress internally and externally will help tell the story of value added and improvement. It will also set standards and targets to shoot for, without these benchmarks there is a risk of flying blind.

Key Fact: Close to 100 tech companies participated (For Free) in IDC's Chief Marketing Officer ROI Matrix and benchmarked their marketing ROI against their industry peers. To participate this year contact smelnick (at) IDC (dot) com.

What other steps would you recommend to prove marketing value or even derive that elusive marketing ROI number?

Do you think this is fools gold and there are other areas marketers should be focused on?

Let me know your thoughts!

You can follow Sam Melnick on Twitter: @SamMelnick 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Social Marketing Guidance for B2B IT Vendors

As you continue to invest and execute in your Social Marketing, step back for just a moment to think about how "Social" fits in your overall marketing-mix.


It is helpful to first look at the overall marketing function. There are two major rivers of information that flow into and out of the marketing organization. The first is the flow of data that informs the "in-bound" product management process, wherein customer requirements are continuously gathered and prioritized. The second is the flow of "out-bound" product marketing work-effort, wherein products and services are presented to the marketplace.

Social marketing is the process of applying social listening and social communicating as a new and value-adding element to those in-bound and out-bound information flows. For example the in-bound product management process has been traditionally informed by customer councils or user groups; where new product ideation would happen one idea at a time, and one customer at a time. With Social product management, crowd-sourcing for voting and ranking of new features can speed up this process by orders of magnitude. SAP today has a robust Social crowd-sourcing engine called IdeaPlace that does just that.

Social Marketing begins with good Social Listening. This involves tapping into the blogs or forums or communities where your customers are present; the virtual places where they are actively becoming self-educated about potential IT product and services. If you can be a good listener, you will then "earn" the right to contribute to the conversation, perhaps by connecting those buyers with information sources and tools to further their self-education journey. B2B IT vendors are placing their bets on this. Just in the past few months I have observed Dell and HP make an overt organizational change by placing their Social Listening function into their existing and formal Market Intelligence functions.

So: Listen first. Become an excellent listener before you begin to insert your voice in the communications stream as a contributor. There are many examples of this in B2B, and it is accelerating. Dell gets a lot of play as a listening expert and deservedly so: they were a first-mover on this capability more than six years ago. HP now has a Chief Listening Officer (CLO) role. Cisco has been so successful in social media training for its employees that they are now starting to sell this to their customers. Intel just told me that they are now listening in over 50 languages. The list goes on.


To punctuate this last point, some research might be useful. IDC conducts an annual survey on "How Buyers Buy." We seek to understand: Where do buyers go for their product education? What media types are most frequently accessed? What is the pathway of their digital journey? What is their preferred content types or subject matter? On this last point, buyers tell us that their preferred content sources are (in rank-order): information that comes from peers; then information that comes from independent third-parties; and third, information that comes directly from the vendor.



This is why social marketing should be such an important part of the B2B marketer's tool kit. If vendors can help prospects to connect with peers as part of their education process; they will be viewed favorably by those prospects. The social media are the best tools for doing this.


A mis-step to avoid…


B2B marketers entering the social media environment will often start listening and communicating with the most popular social tools: Twitter; Facebook; and LinkedIn, to name a few. These are all fine tools and readily at-hand. But the question is: are your customers and prospects using them? IDC research shows that B2B buyers who are evaluating complex products and services are most likely tapping in to the technically-oriented social communities and blogs. And so lesson number one is: "Hang out where your customers are hanging out!"





Thursday, May 9, 2013

Connectedness - The Missing Metric for Sales Enablement

Enablement programs for B2B sales and channel resources tend to focus on activities – trainings, certifications, portal visits, most popular assets, most posts per person, ratings, etc. These are all indicators suggesting enablement resources may have been consumed. But they don’t do a very good job of measuring one of the most important objectives of enablement - changing behavior. New platforms that integrate publishing, process, and social capabilities are making it possible to track behavior patterns in the context of specific business processes. Hidden in this data are the daily habits that differentiate our best direct and indirect sales resources. Sales enablement professionals need to find this data and share it with the rest of their sales audience.
This is a particularly crucial for the on-boarding process. Regardless of whether you’re training a new/replacement sales rep or bringing on a new partner and their employees, connectedness is a key metric that you need to capture and track. It is the only way to continually optimize behavior. You can capture financial and operational data with most of the content management, CRM, and marketing automation technology out there. But these systems are not explicitly designed to capture patterns of behavior. Even those with social networking capabilities are not being used effectively in this regard.

Sales enablement professionals need to use social networking as a basis for propagating best practices. The measurement should span not only person to person networking, but also track community membership, links to all manner of resources from internal portals, as well as communication with subject matter experts, peers and mentors. To be most effective, this capability should be deployed within a process driven platform for sales enablement, as opposed to an old school portal based on a publishing model. These new platforms go beyond simply providing access to content. They are process driven and deliver content, sales plays, transactional capabilities, and more all in the context of the company's go to market strategy. In addition they have or are easily integrated with enterprise social networking capabilities which are crucial to facilitating and capturing how people interact with all the great resources they contain. 

There are two key dimensions the connectedness metrics should include – the number of connections to the right resources and the cadence of communication. For example:
  •          Which internal portals/systems do they log into – how often?
  •          Which SMEs do they interact with – how often?
  •          Which internal communities have they joined – how often do they visit and contribute?
This data can be invaluable in helping new reps and partners become more effective faster. What behaviors do our “A” reps and best partner reps exhibit? The intention is not to gratuitously boost hits and visits to marketing collateral, but to find the right level of connectedness for different types of reps. Being able to show other reps and partners that they can boost performance by making simple behavioral changes like subscribing to certain resources, joining communities they didn't know existed, or increasing the frequency of communication is the path of least resistance to effectiveness.

Today many large high tech companies report it takes a year to get a sales rep fully up to speed with the pipeline needed to meet quota in the following year. Clearly there can be a lot of process, product, market, customer, competitive, etc. knowledge that needs to be transferred. But don’t neglect to transfer the behaviors that will help them  best utilize the resources the organization has offer.

For more information on IDC's sales enablement research, please contact me: gmurray (at) idc (dot) com.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Content Trends: Insight from IDG's Tech Media Executives

A company that publishes over 460 websites, 200 mobile sites and apps, and 200 print titles knows something about media and content. Last week, I had the pleasure of discussing trends with executives from IDC's parent company International Data Group (IDG), the world's leading technology media company.

Here's what I learned about the changing state of communication and content.

The currency of information is shifting:
The primary indicator of engagement is the "quality" time spent with content as well as the meaningfulness of the action that time drives. Someone who is truly engaged in a conversation is more likely to download content. Some content is Core while other content is Candy. Core content gets fewer pageviews but drives more meaningful action while Candy content attracts attention (such as page views or clicks) but doesn't drive much action. Be careful about using easy metrics like page views or clicks as a sole metric as they are easy to manipulate by upping the ratio of Candy content.  Clicks are also increasingly useless as a metric as 85% of clicks come from about 10% of people. 

New ways to think about social:
Expect social media as a separate category to eventually go away. ALL media is now social with participation ranging from simple comments and sharing to citizen reporting.  An emerging model for content is to create high-quality conversations with two or more experts/leaders/celebrities engaging in public dialog about a story then to create an echo chamber around the story by attracting a larger community to listen in and comment. Note that both IDC CMO Advisory service and the IDG media and editorial team find that marketers are still pretty lost when it comes to how to work with the social aspects of communication.

The way we consume content is changing: 
My favorite new term is "snackable" content. Audiences prefer consuming in smaller bites. Increasingly, these bites are visual, with mini-videos especially popular.  Video is also getting more casual and less edited. Think of a recorded Skype conversation (see the above comment on social). The move to snackable is changing content delivery. The "content event" (spending four months coming up with a big launch of a big story) is declining and is shifting to dripping out small amounts of content on the subject over time.

"Native" media is hot:
 A big new trend is native media which is content in an online publication that is labeled as sponsored content (typically thought leadership) that really reads like part of the user experience. This is NOT an advertorial driven by a sponsor. Advertorials are too product-oriented and transactional. Instead, real journalists create the content on behalf of the sponsor. The real journalists are much more reader-focused and in-tune with the editorial voice and policies of the publication. Think of this as joint-venture communication.

Trends in ad-buying:
Real-time bidding for advertising inventory (versus monthly contracts) is the most revolutionary trend in the media industry since publications went online. Fast growing ad categories: selling ads based on audience behavioral context, search ads, newsfeed ads, mini-ads (like Facebook uses).

What we are learning about mobile: 
Smart money isn't thinking about whether it's mobile first or not. The key is user first.  Publications are using "responsive design" design it once and render differently for different screens – a trend made possible with HTML5. Across all kinds of advertising (not IDG specific) mobile ad revenue is still tiny – only 1% of all ad spending. However, mobile screen time is about 10.1% of all screen time.  Will this change? Maybe not. Mobile is driving a different use model.  Rather than being primarily an advertising screen, mobile is being used as an authentication point to offer other services.  Audiences have different expectations for mobile. They don't consider it to be as open and free as the web. They are more willing to pay for content and services. What is working for mobile monetization: promoted tweets, newsfeed ads; metered content (example, New York Times).