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.