The only way to consistently grow in B2B is to be better than very good. -- Seth Godin
Chief Marketer indicates that there has been a dramatic shift in how B2B buyers course through their buying cycle today.
The stages a decision-maker goes through have not changed (1. Awareness of Need, 2. Product Research, 3. Product Consideration and Comparison, and 4. Product Procurement). But what has dramatically changed is where a potential buyer goes to get information.
According to GlobalSpec's Industrial Buy Cycle Survey of engineering, technical, manufacturing and industrial professionals:
"...buyers have significantly reduced their reliance on traditional information sources such as printed catalogs, trade shows, and trade magazines, in favor of online resources. The survey reported that the top three most frequently used sources for searching for products and services to purchase are search engines, supplier Web sites, and online catalogs. With the increasing popularity of social media tools, even using colleagues as a source of information has an online component."
It is a game of exposure. How many times does the prospective buyer hear the name of a product come up through a variety of channels until this exposure prompts a decision to buy? This seems to determine mind share, of course. But does it also determine thought leadership? Will the product be top of mind the more the prospect gets exposed to it?
It's not that simple.
"In the 'Needs Awareness and Research' stages, buyers use a broad array of sources, including social media, Webinars, e-newsletters, virtual events and search engines. By the time buyers reach the 'Procurement' stage, supplier Web sites and catalogs are the most important information sources."
A supplier's goal should be to make it to the short list. But you will never make it there if you're not found early on. Making it too late, however, means that the buyer might not know enough about you to favor a decision in your direction.
The game, therefore, is actually far more about quality of information at specific stages of the buying cycle than about quantity of information or even timing. It makes sense to determine and, using your marketing and CRM systems, track the kinds of information that your prospects have been consuming directly from you.
But far more important is to ensure that you're credible in the market, because more information might exist about you in the social media space that offsets anything that you could produce of you at any stage of a buying cycle that you cannot control.
How do you define customization? Jeffrey Kaplan, principal analyst at THINKstrategies, who studies Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offerings, explains the impact of the SaaS model of operation on software customization expectations from clients that used to pay for custom-designed tools.
"Traditional customization has been a black hole for most organizations which has too often failed to achieve its business objectives. SaaS solutions are becoming increasingly flexible. While they will never be as customizable as legacy applications, a growing number of organizations are willing to sacrifice infinite customization for reasonable configuration capabilities, more rapid deployment, lower hidden development/support costs, greater utilization levels, quicker time to value, and higher satisfaction."
Typical SaaS providers try to cover as many clients within a market segment as possible, by casting a wide net in the form of a highly generic operation workflow that may be configurable up to a point by a client to meet particular needs. But it will go no further.
So long as the subscriber to the SaaS offering does not consider a tool enhancement request to be a mission-critical requirement for running a competitive operation, the SaaS and the client will remain best buddies.
And there are only so many customizations that might be necessary before a client hits a wall with a Saas. So, if the SaaS has thought in advance a variety of customization scenarios, then this leaves room for the client to "grow" into those enhancements as his subscription to that software service matures.
Here is an example of how SaaS poster child Salesforce.com positions this very point.
But it is always wise to keep in mind that your needs might outpace the ability of a SaaS to deliver added functionality to your service subscription and a time for migrating from one SaaS to another might come. Will you be ready with a migration strategy or will you settle for limited SaaS functionality?
Only too often in large, global corporations 3 operations that should work in complete synchronization clash. Two of them make Marketing the culprit of this uncoordination and, during hard economic times, the guillotine falls here first.
Is there a way to end this distrust?
Yes, there is. Watch this marketing insight and find out.
I'm not the only one saying it. So, Marketing, listen up! It's not about comparing your brand against your competitors any more. It's about comparing the way that you go about doing Marketing against a more optimized way.
If you're inefficient in how you do marketing, then you're not fast and lean. This waste removes your competitiveness. It ends your career.
At the conclusion of Charlie Chaplin's "The Great Dictator", he delivers a memorable speech that describes how technology has brought us closer yet there are those who use it as "brutes" to tell others "what to do, what to think and what to feel". He calls them "machine men with machine minds and machine hearts." When you think of automation, think of this.
By definition, automation requires the use of control systems to orchestrate a variety of steps to eliminate human involvement.
In the context of marketing, the term 'marketing automation' in popular parlance seems to conjure up dreams of personalized customer treatment, where the right information reaches the one in need of it at the right time with the least human intervention.
But where do you put the human touch to keep from coming across as a "machine man" with a "machine mind" and a "machine heart"?
You start by respecting the fact that you're dealing with people not objects. Allow them, therefore, to explore the information that you have, rather than direct them on what to do, unless guidance is what they give you indication they wish from you.
Take a stepwise approach to profiling your contacts, as they consume the assortment of information that you have for them. This information is the context in which they operate and, if you're sensitive to how they interact with specific elements of this information within this context, you may be able to suggest a more continuous and fitting presentation of new information, as you adapt to their preferences. Call your behavior a "context-sensitive interaction" with your clients.
What do you control in this environment? You control 2 things: 1) the initial information that makes up the contact's context and 2) the degree of guidance that you can offer the contact when coursing through this context.
What do you not control? You don't control the contact preferences or response to the information context. Since you don't control this, neither can a marketing automation machine. But you must be ready to adapt yourself progressively to both of the contact preferences and responses to avoid acting like a machine and not a human in your marketing efforts.
A Demand Gen Report sponsored by Manticore Technology reveals that early adopters of marketing automation technology are giving high marks to their chosen technologies and emphasize ease of use and rollout. The survey results, however, are more eloquent for what they do not say.
They indicated that 79.2% of participants said that on another go-around they would better prepare their organization for a project of this nature by "building proper processes and content offers to feed the automation system.”
Now, if only 1 out of 5 people was satisfied with the proper degree of preparation in process definition and with the available amount of content that was needed to run these automated marketing procedures, then what does that say about the volume of content available and the procedures that were automated (if at all) through the launch of the new systems for the remaining 4 people out of 5 in the survey audience?
What do survey results say about these CMOs' degree of preparation for such projects?
Could it be said that 80% of participants were unprepared for the amount of process definition discipline, complexity and content volume demands that automation would make of them?
My experience tells me so. But who is talking about this out there in the industry?
Always look at who sponsors these surveys and reports. Follow the money.
Below is an excellent presentation from Marketo regarding the latest insights and techniques in Lead Nurturing, backed by findings from MarketingSherpa and Sirius Decisions.
The presentation walks you through a definition of the Lead Nurturing Process, a method for how to conduct Lead Nurturing, and some ideas on calculating the ROI of Lead Nurturing.
Lead Nurturing is a crucial function in the B2B marketing business process. This introductory presentation offers some basic insights that can move you farther down the road toward becoming a more disciplined database marketing practitioner, since you do need a solid marketing database to accomplish effective lead nurturing.
What's technology for if not to build closer relationships between people?
Listen to Charlene Li, author of "Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies" speak about this vision.
Her emphasis: Marketers should concentrate on developing a conversation rather than just delivering a one-way message.
This goes against Marketing's DNA. Nevertheless, using social technology, listen and learn from your customers before engaging them in a dialogue.
Of great importance is to note how different social technology user segments become involved at different levels with that technology while networking in their communities. This will make demands on the business intelligence technologies and strategies from companies facilitating these communities.
Seth Godin's says of marketing in a recession that "the challenge for marketers is to figure out how to change the story they are living so that their customers can change the story they tell themselves. What you make, where you make it, who makes it, how it's priced and sold and ... it all adds up to a perception. If you change these elements the story will change too."
When times were rolling the challenge was all about persuading the customer to believe a storyline of Consume! Consume! So marketers indulged themselves. They bought lots of ads space, agency services, cool new demand gen technology. Now that times have changed, the challenge per Seth Godin should be to change the story, right? The new line could be Preserve! Preserve! That's what you're living. But do that and who will buy from you? So how consistent is this reasoning?
It may seem counterproductive, but persuading people to save up during the good times and consume from their reserves during the bad times is actually a pretty reasonable story to tell, particularly if you understand the business cycle. But what marketing organization is actually going to set out a strategy to ride the economic boom-bust cycle in this fashion? It's just not done!
Godin is right. The story has changed. What (little) you make, wherever you can affordably make it now, whoever is still employed to make it for you, and how you've had to slash prices or stock it up in inventory does indeed add up to a perception -- the perception of recession.
Marketing in a recession takes more than changing a story to change perception. It deals squarely with reality -- the reality of a market crash, unemployment, liquidation, thrift, fear. Take Robin Robins comment about poor marketing results often stemming from marketing messages that are boring, off target, and lacking compelling offers, testimonials, headlines, and other critical elements required to get results.
As president of Techonology Marketing Toolkit, her focus is VARs, computer consultants, resellers, integrators and solution providers who must be highly flexible in this tough economy. Small businesses need laser focus on a niche. They need to be agile and nimble to survive. So do big ones. That's more important than a change in story.
How practical is this advise about becoming truly agile and nimble as a marketig operation?
Consider what Business Solutions Info illustrates in its "Is Your Marketing Plan In A Recession?" article:
"Advanced Microcomputing Concepts (AMC) was experiencing double-digit growth selling communications solutions to the real estate vertical market — until the market dried up. Through the VAR’s quick thinking and marketing initiatives, it was able to branch out into other vertical markets. Even though the real estate market is now in a slump, AMC’s business isn’t."Yours doesn’t have to be, either.
Yesterday I joined the Marketing Operations Future Forum that Gary Katz at Marketing Operations Partners founded 5 days ago through LinkedIn. Already 100 members have signed up. The representative sample is rather revealing.
Although half of the membership consists primarily of consultants and integrators, one-fourth of the members are pure marketers handling operations or doing marketing for an enterprise that is not selling solutions specifically to marketers.
Gary explains that the purpose of this group is to serve as a "steering committee on moving forward with agreed-upon industry initiatives." Sounds like the mission statement still needs a bit of refining. But that's fine. This is a hatching professional field.
So for the time being I'm just excited to find so many people come together so quickly since the group's inception less than a week ago. Ideally like me they're interested in a similar vision to that which Gary shared during a luncheon this month in San Francisco that kicked off the creation of the group.
In that conference he covered the following points:
So you're curious about what people are saying about you? Were you raised to pay attention to gossip? It seems today a whole new business model is taking shape built upon the premise that listening to what the masses have to say about you as a company will somehow reveal the truth about both the masses and you.
I'm going to make a bold and unpopular statement here, which is that Salesforce.com's newly launched customer services SaaS called Service Cloud is not much more than a futile effort at listening to the masses gossip about your company to glean from forums, social networks and the blogosphere some actionable "knowledge" to help you achieve your company's vision. Sounds exciting?
It may seem condescending to say that there is a group of people better than the masses. But it isn't necessarily disdain and superiority against the masses that leads one to state the obvious, which is that a crowd by mere fact of being the biggest crowd of all does not have some kind of inexorable ability to produce high grade, collective knowledge that may be funneled down into your company's customer service organization to help it do its job better. This notion, in a word, is mush.
Think of who is the crowd in the cloud?
I like what Albert J. Nock in his brief though tremendously incisive essay titled "Isaiah's Job" has to say about the masses vs. their nemesis, what he calls the Remnant:
"What do we mean by the masses, and what by the Remnant?
"As the word masses is commonly used, it suggests agglomerations of poor and underprivileged people, laboring people, proletarians. But it means nothing like that; it means simply the majority. The mass-man is one who has neither the force of intellect to apprehend the principles issuing in what we know as the humane life, nor the force of character to adhere to those principles steadily and strictly as laws of conduct; and because such people make up the great, the overwhelming majority of mankind, they are called collectively the masses.
The line of differentiation between the masses and the Remnant is set invariably by quality, not by circumstance. The Remnant are those who by force of intellect are able to apprehend these principles, and by force of character are able, at least measurably, to cleave to them. The masses are those who are unable to do either."
What's the point of building a "knowledge" base founded on the tweets, sputters and grumbles from mass-man? The video below from Salesforce.com idealizes what can be found in this multitude of data that, like a restless sea, tosses back and forth ever changing in the masses.
Measure the cost of entering those rough waters. Target the Remnant instead. They're hard to spot. But they're the right crowd in the cloud.
SaaS Operations and Independent Software Vendor (ISV) expert Dani Shomron speaks about the transition that on-demand, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) providers will have to confront very soon as their areas of specialization conflict with the way that they've set up their own business models:
"...[I]f you look around, you will notice that most SaaS providers are also SaaS consumers. From CRM to Marketing generation, to financials, to you-name-it, SaaS companies are adopters of SaaS technology. (Of course most SaaS companies are even greater adopters of open source; hey, it’s free!).
"Still, most on-demand providers are running their own data centers, the network, the servers, the storage, and I would dare to say, not excelling in that department. SaaS technologists are product people. Innovative, creative, not harnessed by process or procedure. The typical data center is a product of evolution gone haywire. You start up with a couple of servers, and slowly build up, slapping a switch here, a database there, buying a cheap router, until it becomes quite unmanageable. And they probably do not have the right staff to design and maintain the infrastructure.
"SaaS companies are finding it hard to let go of their infrastructure assets, but more and more are realizing that they simply suck at the job. Especially if they are big enough for it to matter, but too small to do a good job.
"Networking, hosting, storage and server management have become a commodity. And as such, shouldn’t you let someone else do the job?
"Enter the managed service providers. They will take care of every tier that you will allow them access to. From hosting, to networking, servers, storage, database monitoring and management, and many are interested in taking over the application management, if you just let them. It is the next tier and probably most lucrative."
SaaS is very alluring, particularly if you wish to execute on rapid marketing in a recession. You can overhaul key areas of your marketing operation very quickly by adopting a SaaS model.
But as someone who has had to put these models into operation several times, I will say that it's not often that I find a marketing organization who has done its due diligence in understanding how the SaaS model truly operates from the SaaS provider's point of view.
Data integration. Data Hygiene. Infrastructure Scalability. Data Security. None of these matters disappear under a SaaS model of operation. The risks are only hidden outside the Service Level Agreement (SLA) between the client and the SaaS provider. Make sure you understand the direction your SaaS provider is taking with its infrastucture. It's not only your data they're hosting. They're hosting your operation, and that can be your future, you know!
The following is a bit technical. But if you're thinking of automating your marketing process through a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) provider like Eloqua to plug it right into your CRM system, which might also be hosted by a SaaS provider like Saleforce.com, then you need to study the following a bit.
The bottom line is that as businesses choose the SaaS model to run more of their operations in the cloud, these SaaS point solutions proliferate across the enterprise. In a large company one division might be running its marketing operation on Eloqua, another on Engage B2B and another on Market2Lead. They might be plugging right into various instances of Salesforce.com.
Suddenly, if the corporation's CEO wanted to see a view of the whole enchilada integrated, the corporate marketing and sales ops team might find itself knocking on IT's door. But avoiding IT was one of the main reasons why these marketers and reps decided to go with a SaaS model. What then?
Here is where the following explanation proves useful. First remember the importance of service oriented architecture (SOA) and the role business services play in it. (See video) Then consider what Phil Wainewright has to say below about how SaaS providers need to exchange these services between each other.
Phil Wainewright, a consultant who works with SaaS system integrators, explains in this interview how integration can be done independently in the cloud much better by a single service provider focused on making SaaS work between each other than by SaaS providers creating point-to-point connections between the systems you've subscribed into.
This is crucial information because the multi-tenancy nature of autonomous SaaS solutions limits how flexible a point-to-point connection can be between SaaS systems that get configured differently by each tenant, yet is shared as the SaaS connector-in-common with other tenants but with different configuration needs than yours. In other words, there is only so much you can expect from a point-to-point connection between 2 different SaaS providers. Tweak it too far and it will stop working for you.
Phil is interviewing Richard Nucci, CTO at Boomi, a SaaS systems integration firm. He puts the matter well. "The [integration] solution provider brings with him an arsenal of pre-thought-out, best-of-breed SaaS apps that are pre-integrated yet customizable to meet that customer's unique workflow. And I think that's a huge opportunity for sure and something that's really just in its early days."
Not early enough! Just perfect timing, Richard.
There is a healthy exchange recorded at David Raab's blog between marketing automation vendors like Eloqua and Marketo and corresponding system integrators regarding what it takes to successfully deploy a demand generation system.
David is a well known consultant specializing in marketing technology and analysis and publisher of the "Raab Guide to Demand Generation Systems."
It's not plug and play. I wished it were. But what then would be left for Service 2.0 system integrators like Appirio to do? The point is that Software-as-a-Service providers have systems that have to talk to other systems inside your company, and connecting them is not a slam dunk, especially if you're a large enterprise.
Don't believe me? Well, listen to what Informatica, the leading independent provider of data integration solutions, has to say about it.
In its "Solving Cloud Data Integration:A Key Challenge for SaaS Providers" white paper, Informatica explains the 3 challenges that SaaS providers must overcome to become truly successful:
With over 50,000 clients, Salesforce.com is the poster child for Software-as-a-Service. Without a doubt it has more flexibility than many other SaaS providers targeting marketing and sales departments out there, which is all the more reason to remember that it has taken this company a decade to get to where it is today.
It makes a difference, believe me, because in attempting to integrate a less mature SaaS solutions to Salesforce.com recently, I've had to admit that, despite SaaS solutions not being as customizable as packaged enterprise applications, yet Salesforce.com does offer greater room to play when you try to set it up to match your idealized business process. It doesn't fit like a glove. But it's better than a catcher's mitt.
That's why this video from Salesforce.com explaining cloud computing carries weight. But don't kid yourself. We're still a long way from these SaaS solutions being truly customizable to meet your complex global enterprise situations. If you're a small business, however, it's time to get serious about cloud computing.
What brought us this Great Recession that is pressuring you to improve your marketing or face demise? Here is a terrific and highly visual explanation. It's also a great example of how powerful online animation can be at explaining difficult material in an easy way. It's what online marketing is all about!
Established enterprise software makers like Microsoft, Oracle and SAP are moving into the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) space, giving it more legitimacy than companies like Salesforce.com and Google have produced for CIO's and others deciding whether to adopt this method of software delivery.
Google and Salesforce.com have demonstrated that SaaS offerings can take solid root at the department or divisional level within a large enterprise. But can SaaS take on the large enterprise as a whole? That's to be seen, as these SaaS projects become more complex. In the words of Jeff Kaplan, founder and managing director of ThinkStrategies Inc.:
"...even as some SaaS projects may start to resemble the complicated on-premise software projects they replace, the benefits of SaaS have not diminished, Kaplan said. These include little to no up-front costs for hardware, faster upgrade cycles, the chance to get applications into the hands of users faster and the ability to scale the service up or down easily.
"And though more complex installations of any kind carry an inherent risk, SaaS deployments still pose far less risk than on-premise ones."
This is the result of maturation. The SaaS industry is growing. It has triumph at securing a beachhead and now finds itself increasing its rate of system deployments, "given such factors as the ability to scale down the number of users as economic conditions change or to cater to a dispersed workforce," said Kaplan.
But can that foothold turn into advancement into the hinterlands of enterprisewide deployments? Is your SaaS a sustainable proposition? The current economic downturn will sift this market. Be sure to place your chips in the right place.
Here are some salient points from the January 18, 2009 edition of Business 24/7.
The emphasis falls on Marketing innovating its operations process to exploit new opportunities in a dramatically shifting world.
The rules of marketing are changing.
1. Prepare to make structural changes to your marketing operation.
"Media companies have not, as yet, dealt with the structural pressures confronting them. Despite digital media being the dominant growth opportunity as marketers seek advertising that is more targeted, accountable, and interactive, many media firms have yet to profit from it. It will become more popular during the downturn. . . .
2. The days of a captive TV audience are behind us. A fragmented audience online is the target.
"Consumers now spend more time online, devoting time and attention to online news and video entertainment, blogs, search engines, online games, social networking, and e-commerce. Demographically, reports suggest that members of Generation Y spend 30 per cent more time online than watching TV. . . .
3. Go digital or go bust!
"Leading companies that did not limit their efforts to quick fixes and instead undertook efforts to reshape their cost structures fundamentally, found themselves stronger following previous downturns. Media companies should do the same by directing money and attention to digital assets and related capabilities that are key to growth following the downturn, and by shedding struggling analog. . . .
4. Cash is King
"Cash and liquidity provide significant advantages in the media and entertainment world today, with more opportunities for players with strong balance sheets to pursue acquisitions. . . .
5. Innovate to survive
"The best companies recognise that a harsh economic climate does not mean the end of innovation. . . .
6. Focus on giving customers the experience they want. The money will come.
"Today, marketers will pay for media environments that deliver an engaging experience to a targeted audience and move consumers closer to a purchase, and they will pay for the opportunity to create a consumer relationship. Online newsletters, video games, online video, and mobile phone content represent target-rich areas that are ripe for advertising-oriented innovation. . .
7. Build the digital customer relationship and your business might survive to see a new era.
"Media and entertainment companies that target such spending need to adapt faster and stay ahead of demand. This current economic downturn will accelerate a shift in consumer behaviour and advertising toward more digital media, with intensity and permanency. . . ."
No matter how you phrase it, marketing won't be the same after this recession. The Digital Age will require more systematic, disciplined and targeted processes that blend marketing strategy with deep technological know-how.