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New Research on Why CRM Fails…Also Lessons for Marketing Automation

MIT Sloan Management Review (Spring 2011) published new research on CRM in an article titled, “Why CRM Fails and How to Fix It.”  This is fantastic reading; truly an energizing piece pointing to down-to-earth advice.  The four key insights that the authors drew from their research are equally applicable to marketing automation.  They are (verbatim):

  1. “If the appropriate marketing capabilities are not developed, little or no return will be generated from investments made in CRM.”
  2. “The rate of organizational learning, rather than the size of the company’s CRM budget, determines how rapidly companies can change the way they relate to a consumer, which, in turn, is linked to the length of the consumer purchasing cycle.”
  3. “Top management can provide the money, software and authority to create a CRM program, but such investment must be informed by cycles of learning from consumer insight….an organizational culture that tolerates experimentation will be more successful at building new CRM capabilities.”
  4. “Hard work and commitment are what it takes to develop marketing capabilities…far from being a black box (marketing capabilities) can be developed through conscious, goal-directed learning by those responsible for CRM.”

While some scoff at my contention that today’s marketing is harder than ever before, these insights from the research support that view. Enough of the left brain/right brain argument.  Enough of the data/experience fuss.  Enough of the processs/technology discussion.  It takes them all…along with leadership and courage.  I’ll say that again:  leadership and courage.

Back to the article.  The authors display a matrix with four marketing activities (demand management, creating marketing knowledge, building brands, customer relationship management) on the left and three marketing relationships across the top.  The marketing relationships between companies and consumers are:  transactional (from the 1970′s), one-to-one (based on the long-term relationship focus of the 1980s ) and networked (flowing from online networks, the company supply chain and consumers).”

The latter (networked relationships) is characterized by “co-creating value with a network of consumers,” marketing knowledge coming from “key network participants and shapers,” consumers encouraged to “access a networks capabilities,” and consumer self service.  How different is this from where your marketing is today?  How does this vision apply to your marketing? How will you go about building the capabilities to succeed in this networked relationship between company and consumer?

Don’t be stuck in in the 1990s.  Please read the article and let me know whether it made you want to cheer also…

(Back to marketing automation:  Today’s ClickZ piece on Marketing Automation…Far from Automatic opened once again the discussion of why so many marketing automation implementations fail to deliver expected results.  It makes good points but doesn’t go far enough into a meaty topic that I’ve covered frequently.

Why Marketers Invest in Technology: Survey Results

Survey results:  investment in technologyIn today’s B2B buying environment, marketing can not be effective in driving demand, building brand, or charting strategies for future growth without technology.  There are hundreds of reasons why marketers should invest in technology but I am more interested in what marketers report as their reasons. So, in a recent survey conducted by Patricia Seybold Group and ITSMA, I asked.

First a few details on the 107 survey respondents:

  • Large B2B companies (half over $1 billion in revenue)
  • Half from companies that primarily sell services; half from companies that sell products and services
  • Marketers all managed one or more marketing functions in their companies.

The top four reasons these marketers invest in technology are to:

  • Improve efficiency
  • Make marketing investments based on data
  • Hand better quality leads to sales
  • Obtain greater understanding of prospects and customers to improve offers, products, services

Those who had made much more investments in technology for longer periods of time didn’t have significantly different reasons.  In other words, the leaders haven’t moved on to focus on new horizons.  They are continuing to invest to improve efficiency, accountability, sales productivity, and customer understanding.

If you are a marketer just beginning to invest in technology, you face a tough game of catch up.  Data keep pouring in that correlate technology investment with data-driven marketing and correlate data-driven marketing with greater improvement in market share, lower cost of sales, and higher sales velocity. If you are just starting out you do have the benefit of learning from others’ mistakes…so take full advantage of the research on implementation success.  There is no time to waste.

Marketing: The New Finance…with a technology ecosystem to support it

At the Adobe Omniture Summit 2011, Aseem Chandra, Vice President of Marketing for the Omniture Business Unit, referred to marketing as “the new finance” because it can now measure the pulse of the business in a way that only finance could have in years past. Think about it. Finance tracks the value chain of the business. It’s important, but mostly inward facing. By contrast, marketing faces outward and see’s where the business is heading.

Today’s customer-driven environment, combined with the tools and processes that enable marketers to measure and experiment, propel marketers toward becoming “the new finance.” It is a transformative opportunity, in which the leaders accrue great rewards and the laggards risk obsolescence.

The critical question going forward concerns what elements of the marketer’s technology toolkit are essential for leadership. For my money, the following are essential:

  • Data: finding, managing, and maintaining data from all channels (including social); making it accessible across applications.
  • Testing and analysis tools: providing simple, though sophisticated, testing and analysis tools, accessible to marketers who aren’t dedicated analysts.
  • Cross channel, end-to-end optimization: enabling consistent performance measurement across channels and through the end-to-end marketing process.
  • Content: creation and management of all types of original and third-party content for use in testing and implementation.
  • Workflow, collaboration, and sharing: facilitating and securing the planning and execution of marketing’s work in multiple locations, roles, and organizational units.
  • Implementation: supporting publishing to all channels, including web, social, mobile, email, and advertising.
  • Partner ecosystem: facilitating marketers’ use of specialty applications or choice in use of commodity capabilities.

Do you agree?  What would you add?

How do you involve your experts in social media?

Marketers need to “know their customers so well that the product or service sells itself,”  as Peter Drucker said. But marketers aren’t subject matter experts on issues their customers face.  From whom does the customer want to hear? Not the marketer.  The customer wants to hear from the experts.   

A company’s key subject matter experts are short on time and may not have an inclination to blog or engage online with customers.  How does a company productively involve their experts in online discussions?

A company called ConnectedN has an answer.  ConnectedN is a Software-as-a-Service curation platform focused on making social media engagement feasible for busy professionals, particularly those in enterprises that adhere to strict guidelines for pre-publishing approval. Pricing is $350 per month per user. This includes a brand-compliant microsite that sits on the customer’s Web site for publishing curated content, the aggregation and routing software that finds relevant social media mentions and routes them via email to appropriate experts and reviewers, as well as newsletter distribution and social media publishing capabilities. 

Combining content curation with workflow management and an email-based user interface addresses two factors that limit many companies’ engagement with social media: the time required of experts and the volume of content needed to maintain a consistent presence. Third-party content provides the impetus for expert commentary, draws search engine traffic, and enables regular publishing to social media platforms and newsletter subscribers. Pretty nifty.

ConnectedN’s singular focus on getting busy subject matter experts directly participating in social media reminds me of the revolution that took place in print publishing when editors first sat in front of electronic workstations. Editorial control was the prize that motivated editors to sit at a keyboard, perceived then as a stigma. Having a voice in far-reaching conversations, without becoming a slave to the Web, is today’s prize.

Read more about ConnectedN in this new report from Patricia Seybold Group:  ConnectedN’s Content Curation for Social Media Engagement.

Games as Content in B2B Marketing

Bob Johnson at IDG Connect sent me a brief on using games for B2B marketing.  I felt as if they had broken the silence on this marketing approach in B2B until I took a look around the web.  I found a few short posts (Tom Grant of Forrester, Howard Sewell of Spear Marketing and The Crocodile)  and a good video on the subject.  Turns out games have been used in B2B several (many?) times, including marketing for:

  • A six figure gene splicing machine sold by a major pharma company to bio engineers
  • Printers sold by Samsung to IT managers back in 2007 (game name:  Destroy a Printer)
  • BPM services sold by IBM to IT and business leaders (game name:  IBM Innov8)

The point is that games, as we all know, can be used to teach and a lot of marketing is education.  So how do you begin to think about using a game to teach what your buyers need to know? 

You start, as always, with the customers’ questions at each stage of the buying cycle.  You also need another starting point: your company’s world view or story line.  Velocity Partners’ B2B Marketing Manifesto, published last fall, calls this a past, present and future that lead to your solution.  This story line is the essence of your thought leadership: it makes clear what has changed, how it affects your customers and what you do to enable them to succeed.  Think about how you can incorporate that into a game that addresses questions buyers have.  

If you are a skeptic, consider reports from the Entertainment Software Association that break some of our stereotypes about who has fun with games:  more than 40% of PC gamers are women (30% for consoles), average age is 35, 67% of heads of households in the US play games regularly.  Must be some serious B2B buyers among those playing games.  As always, go where the customer is.

I’m sold.  What’s been your experience using games to engage and teach B2B customers?

“Curation” gets six tweets per hour…right now!

Take a look at Thoora, which helps users “Discover What the World is Talking About.”  Thoora, which calls itself a news discovery service, finds what is hot in blogs, twitter and traditional news media and displays the stories in real time ordered from mosts buzz to least.  Tweets per hour and the “sparkline” of tweet history is shown for each story.  When I searched for curation, it came up with six tweets per hour and I found a story I’d missed despite diligent following of the topic.  So if you are looking to leverage the wisdom of the crowd in your research or uncover new voices, take a look at this site.  It’s free.

Thoora’s crowdsourcing of the news isn’t unique, although it had a lot less company when it was launched in October 2009.  It does raise the fundamental question of whether you want to focus your time on what is popular to all versus what is important to you.  I lean toward the “what’s important” but like to mix that up a bit so I can periodically reassess whether my priorities still make sense and my sources remain close to comprehensive. 

Many of the content curation systems for business (Eqentia, Hivefire, Loud3r, ConnectedN, Aggregage, CIThread, CurationStation, DayLife, OneSpot, PublishThis, StoryCrawler and more) find relevant content and then give you an option to display it according to frequency of social mention.  So you don’t need to forego popularity measures in your search for what is important to you. 

What different uses do you see for crowdsourced news vs topically curated news?

Evidence: the heart of your business (and marketing) plan

Cover of "Getting to Plan B: Breaking Thr...

Cover via Amazon

If you haven’t read John Mullins’ and Randy Komisar’s book, Getting to Plan B, I urge you to do so.  Their research shows that businesses that try to execute their business plans flawlessly usually fail.  Most successful businesses did not start out intending to be in the business that succeeded for them. ( Read the book for some great examples.)

Instead of doing a business plan, they pose a five-step recipe for launching a business that will succeed (i.e., finding the successful business that you didn’t plan to go into). 

Step 1:  Look for analogs, or evidence that your business idea has legs.  For instance, the incredible success of the Sony Walkman was an analog for the iPod. 

Step 2:  Look for antilogs, or evidence that your business idea may not work.  For instance, why would people pay for music when they were used to downloading for free on Napster?  Conclusion:  Apple would have to make its money on the device.

Step 3:  Identify leaps of faith, or those assumptions you are making that are critical to success but for which no evidence exists.

Step 4:  Develop hypotheses to test each leap of faith and go into the market and start testing.  This is a key part…don’t wait to get into the marketplace.  Get in there and learn and then adapt based on what the evidence tells you.

Step 5:  Use feedback from testing your hypotheses as your dashboard for managing the business.  This is brilliant:  success is about adapting to evidence that your leaps of faith are wrong (if the are) and doing it quickly enough to be able to test alternatives (i.e., getting to plan B).  No sense watching traditional business metrics if the business’ success depends on those leaps of faith.

Marketers need to start operating in this same way.  What are your leaps of faith and how can you test them?

Digitally empowered marketing

In last fall’s survey findings from the CMO Council and Accenture (The CMO-CIO Alignment Imperative) the CMO Council specifies five components of  “digitally empowered marketing.”  The five points are well taken and got me thinking about what it takes to achieve digital empowerment.  My thoughts are shown below in bold after each of the Council’s five points.

1.  Delivering personalized and relevant experiences to customers through whatever channels and whatever format they most value.  This requires marketers to know much more about the buyer, the value provided,  and the information needed at each stage in the buying process.  For many it’s time for a refresher in core marketing skills.

2. Achieving consistency of communications and brand experience across both digital and offline channels.  This requires effective governance of the marketing function and alignment of communications across the organization. 

3. Having the capacity to track and respond to customer behaviors across every point of interface.  This is the marketer’s dream and impossible to envision without implementation of streamlined, repeatable processes and effective use of technology.

4. Becoming a more data-driven, measurable, and transparent function where strategies, campaigns, and budgets are based on verifiable insight into markets and customers.  Data is verifiable.  Insight is supported by facts but multiple interpretations are still possible.  Marketing must make a fundamental shift from “understand and act” to “hypothesize, test, evaluate, modify actions, repeat.”

5. Having systems and processes with the agility and flexibility to respond to changing customer preferences.  Multiple functional areas must collaborate to establish systems and processes focused on the customer and then to recognize customer changes and implement the adaptations needed.

These are all steps toward greater accountability and improved customer focus.  It’s better marketing regardless of digital empowerment.

How well do you know your customers? Answer these questions.

Who are your customers?  See if you can answer these questions for each customer “persona.” 

  • What do your customers care about?  How do they get ahead?  What industry issues affect them? 
  • What do they do at work?   What do they want to accomplish and what steps do they use to do so?  Who else is involved?
  • What is working?  What problems are they encountering?  Why are their problems so hard for them to solve?  What happens if solutions aren’t found? 
  • How does your product or service change the speed, cost, quality or risk factors of what they do? 
  • What alternatives to customers have to your product or service (competitors, substitute processes, do nothing) and what are the likely results of each?  What evidence shows your product or service is better?  When is your solution the best fit? 
  • What would your customers like to change about your product or service?  Why? 
  • How do your customers buy? Who is involved in the purchase decision?  What information does each need at each stage to move forward in the purchase? 
  • How do they prefer to receive information?  What on- and off-line sources do they rely on for information and advice?  What do they read?  What conferences and events do they attend?  Whom do they influence?
  • How do your customers perceive your company and product/service?  What is accurate?  What is inaccurate and what evidence do you have to support your position?

Today’s marketing depends on a deep understanding of customers including their processes and their preferences.  Getting the job done for your customers isn’t enough.  The way they experience your solution matters.

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