612, 2014

What’s “Working” in Your Business May Be Hurting You.

By |December 6th, 2014|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Usain Bolt is widely regarded as the world’s fastest man — he’s the world record holder in both the 100 meter and 200 meter dash and other events. In the 2008 Olympics in Beijing he also set a world record in his other event, the 4×100 meter relay, during the Games.  And he did so with flair.  As Wikipedia notes his record was not only set without a favorable wind, but he also visibly slowed down to celebrate before he finished and his shoelace was untied. Bolt won, and it wasn’t close.

What was the secret of his success?

According to Time Magazine, Bolt’s 2008 Olmypics diet was, by and large, Chicken McNuggets.mcnuggets labled

In the ten days Bolt spent in Beijing, he downed approximately 1,000 nuggets, averaging 100 a day.   “At first, I ate a box of 20 for lunch, then another for dinner,” Usain writes in his autobiography. “The next day I had two boxes for breakfast, one for lunch and then another couple in the evening. I even grabbed some fries and an apple pie to go with it.” The end result?  Three gold medals, all with world records attached.

The Things “Driving Your Success” May Not be What They Seem.

As an ambitious Olympian whose entire focus was winning gold, Bolt must have believed that the McNugget diet would help him win. And win he did.  But did McNuggets actually help?  We’re all results oriented people. But there can be dangers in focusing on “the win” without closely examining what really drives it.  There can be correlation without causation–  just because things two things happen at the same time does not mean that one caused the other. Not knowing the real drivers of your success makes it hard to repeat that success, or change course when situations require.  We advise clients to quantify business drivers with real granularity.  Often the data is not easily available and lives in different silos, e.g. CRM systems, financial systems, email systems.  Unifying sales and marketing data is a challenge but something we take on since you can’t act on data if your data is not in shape to be analyzed.  Understanding the reasons for success often requires a deeper dive.

How Sustainable is Your Success?

It’s wonderful to celebrate successes. It motivates the team, builds momentum and unifies people around common goals.  However, as leaders we need to carefully define what success really means, particularly in the context of where the company and market is headed. Things that seem to be working that can actually pose a future risk, because what works today may not work tomorrow.  Here are some examples:

  1. A high performing, dominant marketing or sales channel. What if it dries up?
  2. Star performers carrying the load. What if they leave?  Every great team needs a strong bench.
  3. Solid sales reps, but those focused on legacy product lines and old sales tactics – not strategic growth areas.
  4. Certain customers (that may not be that profitable after deeper analysis).
  5. “Reliable” metrics. Are you measuring and optimizing for the wrong thing?

Self Imposed Change is a Sign of True Champions

True success is repeatable and scalable well beyond the short term win. But building a repeatable system of success often requires adapting and changing.   After the Games, Bolt hired a well-known dietician.  He ultimately realized that his horrible eating habits had to change. Like great champions, winning companies impose change on themselves.  Last week I had the pleasure of meeting Bob Nardelli, the former CEO of Home Depot and Chrysler, at a conference where he spoke.  As Bob said, “Leaders must be able to reinvent themselves before they can reinvent their companies. You either innovate or you evaporate.”

Watch Successful Disruptors Closely and Be Realistic

Andy Grove, the former CEO of Intel, used to stress the importance of having a healthy paranoia in business. How well do you know the disruptors nipping at the heels of your company?  You can see their success but can you and should you emulate it?  There are no plug and play strategies—the successful practices of your competitors may not work for your company.  Honest looks in the mirror and reality checks on your company’s capabilities can help avoid false starts and inform strategies around building vs. buying vs. partnering to fill big gaps.  Because the success you see on the outside may not so doable when you look deeply inside.

I hate to end this article on such an abrupt note, but I have to run and get some Chicken McNuggets…or should I?

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Read our other recent article:  Build an Ecosystem Around Your Company: The Google Way

 

 

1511, 2014

How to Make Marketing + Sales = More Than 1 + 1

By |November 15th, 2014|Articles|0 Comments

Is there a disconnect between marketing and sales in your company?   It’s often said that Sales is from Mars and Marketing is from Venus—two planets in the same solar system but still worlds away.  Much has been written on how to better align marketing and sales and the prescriptions usually involve alignment on goals and KPIs and longer term collaboration opportunities.  My focus here are things that can be done right away.

Sales and Marketing: 1 + 1 = 3Below are five immediate ways to take alignment to the next level that can probably be done in the next month.  If they can be done well, BOTH sales and marketing can be more successful and entirely new programs can be created for your company.

BUT FIRST, LET’S GET REAL ABOUT THE DISCONNECT

Imagine a conversation between a sales leader and a marketing leader and what each might be really thinking.  (Exaggerated for a little fun).

Sales exec:   my people are concerned about the leads.

Translation:   the leads you’re sending us stink.  We’re wasting our time with unqualified window shoppers.

Marketing exec:   I hear you. But we’re delivering many more “A” prospects than ever.  We send over lots of good leads that just don’t close.

Translation:   we’re delivering the leads; you guys just can’t sell.

Sales exec:    I don’t think there’s enough volume in the pipeline to validate your lead scoring.  It might be time to revisit the scoring model.

Translation:  Your thinking might work on the whiteboard, but not in reality.

Marketing exec:  our scoring model is based on BANT, and our criteria to qualify leads is used successfully by thousands of companies.  We’re regularly tweaking the model and conducting tests to improve as we go, including using predictive lead scoring.

Translation:   leave the lead scoring to us and focus on closing deals.

Sales exec:  That’s fine but your people really should get out in the field more and talk to customers.  Then you’d have a better understanding of who is really qualified.

Translation:   you marketing folks are out of touch.  We’re in the trenches here and know our customers best.

WHY THE DISCONNECT?

Both sales and marketing heads have valid concerns. They’re coming at it from different perspectives, operating from a different set of challenges and often with focus on different time horizons.  For example, Marketing wants to build scalable programs and processes, and ongoing testing and optimization is part of their DNA. One stated goal of many CMOs is to “fail fast” and move on to winning programs. Sales,on the other hand, is on the hook for monthly quotas and revenue goals. Failed experiments are not necessarily seen as learning opportunities; they are often seen simply as activities that don’t move the needle on revenue.  There are many strategic sales leaders who have long term views of course; but their teams are rightly focused on the here and now.

SOME IMMEDIATE SOLUTIONS

Here are some ways to bring the functions closer together and increase alignment, based on our experience.

  • Going on sales calls should be a performance goal of key staff (if not everyone) in marketing. Make it mandatory, not optional.  It works.
  • Marketing should seek out sales tactics that can be developed into scalable marketing programs. How? Ask sales reps. One successful approach used by a single sales representative may represent a much bigger opportunity. Recently I spoke with a sales rep at one of my clients and found that she sells directly to branch locations who have been shipped products purchased by the customers’ headquarters.  No other rep operated this way and there were no marketing programs targeting branch locations– branches were not a separate field in their CRM and could not be identified. After some probing we found that the client had thousands of “ship to addresses” in another database.  We’re now moving them into the CRM system and developing a marketing program to scale the approach used successfully by that one sales rep.
  • Sales professionals should have an incentive to report back on “why customers bought” (and objections) I wish I had a dime for every time a CRM system were under used. Imagine if understanding the reasons for buying (and objections raised) were operationalized in your company—they can be aggregated, quantified for key customer segments and validated.  Arming marketing and sales with a deeper sense of customer motivations can improve targeting, messaging and tactics—particularly when “reason codes” are combined with data on the content people have read, web analytics and other profiling info.  To capture more reasons for buying or not buying, consider giving sales reps some incentive to do so.  For example, what if every time a rep reported on reasons with more granularity they get entered in a contest?  Since it’s the behavior you’re trying to encourage, each rep can have multiple entries in the contest.
  • Sales and marketing teams should do a joint Funnel Reality Check. This approach brings together sales and marketing teams and can be done as an off-site meeting or on-site.  Each step in the sales and marketing funnel is discussed and all parties should have metrics on exactly what percentage of prospects are lost at each stage in the funnel (and why).  People from marketing and sales are paired up into mini-teams, brainstorm ways to make improvements at each stage and report back to the larger group with their ideas.   Separately, management conducts a sensitivity analysis to prioritize these ideas—based on data showing potential revenue gains achievable from improving each stage of the funnel.
  • Marketing and sales leaders should spend an entire day shadowing each other. For one day, each senior person should immerse themselves in the world of the other– attending meetings, listening to conference calls, asking questions and offering suggestions.  A deeper understanding of what it’s really like to be in the other shoes will give sales and marketing leaders a healthy reality check that ultimately trickles down through the organization.  And it sends a very positive message to the company.  Imagine if both sales and marketing executives both told their teams “This week we’re conducting a experiment.  For an entire day each of us will shadow the other and be each other’s surrogate.  Our goal is to continue learning from each other to make our respective areas – and the company – even stronger….”   And then a week later, follow-up with teams to 1) share what was learned from experience, 2) encourage employees to reach out to colleagues in the other function and 3) report back with what they learned.

Mars and Venus may be different planets but they both revolve around the same sun that’s central to their existence.

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Read our other recent article:  Build an Ecosystem Around Your Company: The Google Way

 

2410, 2014

Build an Ecosystem Around Your Company – the Google way

By |October 24th, 2014|Articles|0 Comments

Back in 2001, I was invited to a luncheon with Google and had the good fortune of sitting next to their CEO, Eric Schmidt.  At the time Google was only a few years old – a one dimensional but fast growing search engine company – and Eric was eager to get some feedback and ideas.  He asked me what I thought…about my pain points, Google’s business and their opportunities.  I told him about the need for more data to understand with transparency how to optimize advertising on Google. And beyond that I said, “Eric, you’re sitting on a goldmine of data.  What if you set it free and made it readily available to customers?   Imagine the ecosystem you could build around that data.   Agencies, analysts and marketers would all start relying on it…”   Eric leaned in with a twinkle in his eye and said, “I can see it.  I can.”   Google engineers were probably working on just that at the time.  And looking back, we may have been having one of the first conversations about what eventually became Google Analytics, a product that propelled a revolution data-driven marketing.

What is a business ecosystem, anyway?

Center of Universe - squareI’m no ecologist in the scientific sense but will offer this definition.  It is a business community or network formed around a company’s mission, assets or products that supports members, builds customer relationships and adds value that scales through ancillary services.  When value is created by members – through new services, functionality and content – it feeds the network, increases the importance (and/or size) of the ecosystem and makes the company behind it more indispensable.

The result?  You get closer to center of your industry’s universe and your customer’s universe.

Many technology companies, and famously Google, have built empires through their ecosystems.   Google Analytics, for example, has spawned a whole economy of vendors, consultants and apps devoted to building on (and optimizing) its analytics.  Their ecosystem is nurtured with APIs, structured partner programs,  communications support, user conferences, and more.

Salesforce has mastered the art of the ecosystem.   Their APIs and App Exchange they have spawned an entire industry devoted to enriching their core product.   This year their mega conference, Dreamforce, had 135,000 registered attendees from 91 countries and 2000 speakers from their customer base and partner network.  Very sticky stuff.

How can you create an ecosystem, or be a little more “Google-ish” that way?

Let’s face it, not every company can be like Google.   But there are still things you can do to make your company more central and more relevant to your customers.  Here are a few ways.

  • Foster innovation with APIs.  APIs encourage outside development, applications and new services that build on what you do.  You might think APIs are only for technology companies.  Not true.  APIs are more about leveraging data in ways that facilitate innovation and make your offering more sticky with customers—and every company has data.   International Hotel Group, for example, has an open API that enables partners to create customized experiences for travelers shopping on travel booking sites.  Media companies and business information providers, challenged with disruption, should take note.  They have large data sets and audiences – two key building blocks of an ecosystem.  Forbes, a real media innovator, has an API.  And so does USA Today, whose partners have built over 200 apps by leveraging its data. (Note I said data, not “content” , but that’s a story for another day).
  • Conferences that make you shine. User and customer conferences are a forum to share best practices and build important relationships, putting your company at the center of the action.  They provide a showcase for partners and customers who add value to the ecosystem and generate content that can further grow the universe.   Last week I attended the Marketo Nation roadshow, a user conference which featured Marketo partners and provided excellent case study on using marketing automation to grow adoption of apps.   I made some good contacts, reconnected with others and discussed it with colleagues.   And now YOU are reading about it.  But user conferences don’t have to be just for technology companies.   ADP has one for example and they are a global provider of HR solutions.  Their ADP Pro User conference shares best practices and attendees even earn professional credit hours when they go.
  • Thought leadership and research. Collecting data and shaping it into insights with real perspective is what thought leadership is all about.  And that makes your company more relevant to customers.  ThomasNet’s Industry Market Barometer, for example, takes the pulse of its market and offers valuable insights into trends, innovation and challenges in manufacturing.   Findings are used with customers and widely promoted in the media.  In general, one good research study can be milked until the cows come home.  Earlier this year we conducted a study called The State of Safety for one of our clients and we’ve been leveraging the insights in sales and marketing for months.

Can a non-technology company be more like Google?

Creating an ecosystem – or taking steps in that direction – is not just for technology companies. Let’s take a packaging company for example.  Many parts of the packaging industry are easy to imitate and have low barriers to entry, which makes for intense competition and hurts profits.  You can’t get further from Google or Salesforce than that.   How can a packaging company create an ecosystem?

What if the company collected data from its customers (and elsewhere) on the most innovative uses of packaging?  What if that data were standardized with benchmarks and trends for the industry and shared with suppliers, consultants and others who supported packaging innovations—with the understanding that their developments be fed back to the company – and celebrated through special reports, events etc?  What if they created a best-in-class partner program to provide specialized capabilities for customers? Participating suppliers who provide add-on value – waterproof, shake-proof, anti-theft, anti-rust, mold-proof and anti-pollution aspects of packaging – might be attracted to the company’s ecosystem. They’d want to be associated with thought leadership, recognition and a network with broad reach in the industry.  Additional capabilities would enable the company to meet a broader range of needs for customers, and might enable it to expand into new markets.  This is not your grandfather’s corrugated box company.

How far should you take it?

This is a bigger question than can be answered here.  It would be doing you a disservice to try in this format.  But you should ask:  how can you tap into a core part of your business and encourage outside development around that core in ways that add value and feed on itself to your benefit?

There is no one right answer or a right way to create an ecosystem.   But important lessons can be gleaned from players like Google who have gotten it right for their business.   While being the center of your industry’s universe is an audacious goal, there can still be powerful benefits even if it you just move a step closer to that center.  And, who knows, that process might just be sparked with a single customer conversation.

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If you’d like to discuss research studies for thought leadership (or otherwise get closer to center of your customer’s universe), give us a call at 917-373-7451 or drop us a line.

1710, 2014

Getting Real with Data-Driven Innovation

By |October 17th, 2014|Uncategorized|0 Comments

This article, our latest on data-driven innovation, was originally published in Chief Executive (yesterday).

According to a 2014 IBM study, three out of five mid-market executives have gained a competitive advantage from information and analytics.  But with all the noise in the market about analytics, and unclear ROI from investments in data initiatives, it can be challenging for CEOs to right-size investments in analytics and create more data-driven organizations. One helpful practice to focus efforts is to simply “get real” by finding other companies similar to yours and looking at analytic approaches that have worked before making big investments in people, technology and processes for data projects.  Here are a few examples of companies doing it right:

  • FleetRisk Advisors helps trucking and logistics organizations and commercial fleets improve their performance. They have access to mountains of data about their drivers and vehicles.  Predictive analytics has helped the company achieve a minimum of 20 percent reduction in the overall accident rate and an 80 percent reduction in severe accidents.  Identifying risk factors–especially those that contribute to driver fatigue–has helped them provide a more reliable service for their customers, protect valuable cargo, and most importantly, keep drivers and other road-users safe.
  • Plymouth Rock, a automobile insurance provider, faces an increasing competitive market from national brands known for low cost services. They needed to focus on a specific niche, with messaging that resonated to the market.  By doing a series of online multivariate tests targeted to educators, they increased online quotes 300% and reducing cost-per-quote by 33%.  Personally, my experience with multivariate testing is similar and these kinds of results are very achievable with affordable new technologies.  Multivariate testing tools enable marketers to quickly test hundreds (or thousands) of versions of a web page and find winners that produce quantifiable gains in key metrics.
  • Iron Mountain. They assist organizations across 36 countries and five continents with storing, protecting, and managing information. With complex client needs and countless ways clients use to interact with Iron Mountain, account management tactics were more reactive than proactive. By incorporating a predictive data model, account managers are now alerted if they have clients at risk of leaving, and they’re given specific recommendations within their CRM system to help retain the client.

The number of cloud based solutions that help companies achieve results similar to the ones above are proliferating, yet according to the IBM Study, only one-third of midmarket companies have adopted cloud technologies to achieve data-driven insights.  Here are some tips on how to bridge this gap and “get real” with data-driven initiatives:

  • Take inspiration from other companies in the market who have similar challenges as yours. Charge your team with “getting outside” and proactively seeking out examples from other companies worth emulating.
  • Start small. Before investing in a big data infrastructure, have a specific use case in mind and conduct focused experiments to solve particular problems.
  • Identify key data gaps. It’s vital that your organization “know what you don’t know” about your sales prospects, current customers and markets.  We recommend a structured process to proactively identify and fill key data gaps.  This can yield golden insights and dramatic gains in sales and marketing effectiveness.

For additional perspective or guidance on how your company can “get real” with sales and marketing analytics, drop us a line at 917-373-74351.

310, 2014

Innovation by the Numbers

By |October 3rd, 2014|Uncategorized|0 Comments

In a recent study of entrepreneurial CEOs,  Gallup found that CEOs of the fastest growing companies (the Inc.  500), are twice as likely as other chief executives to seek in-depth information and use knowledge as a competitive advantage. Data driven innovation

Yet “knowledge seeking” activities like data collection and research are still sometimes seen as old school.  Some believe that market disruptions result from creativity unbound by the “death by data” process large companies apply when vetting opportunities. The nimble new disruptors that are eating the lunch of entrenched legacy players are seen assimply going for it, often without worrying about pesky roadblocks like total market opportunity, adoption timeline or – boo, hiss – profits.

While there’s a kernel of truth to this, the fact is that the opportunity to win can actually come by leveraging data during the innovation process.  So how do we successfully leverage data to innovate, without getting bogged down?

What Is Innovation, Anyway?

The need for data begins before inspiration sparks.  As leaders, we’re really looking for the Right Idea, not the Big Idea.  To enable our teams to innovate effectively, we need to provide them with strategic focus.  Make sure they understand the strategic position on entering new markets, timeline to profitability and what “Big” means for the company.  Most important, the team needs to know the capacity for project funding after testing is complete.  If we can’t spend a million dollars to scale a new product, we owe it to everyone to say so upfront.

Testing, Testing . . .

One of the reasons many start-ups scoff at data is that they often begin without any more of it than a frustration with what is, or an inspiration of what could be.  No hard numbers, just “jeez I hate having to …”  They come up with an idea and shop it around.

Successful early stage ventures don’t spend a fortune on initial product introduction, but they do collect data and cycle through many more go/no go decisions. The key is not to get ahead of your data. For example, one of our clients, a Google-backed venture, just turned down a meeting with a big potential partner because the venture wants to evaluate current partner performance data before bringing on more of the same partner profiles. The idea is to quickly nail the product/market fit and then scale.  Bottom line: test, measure and test again and make sure to allow tests to run their course so you can learn from them, which is why keeping them short and understanding what you’re trying to get out of each test is critical.

So what can we learn from this?

  1. Test ideas on the cheap without a lot of expectations except data gathering.
  2. Know what data is important and how you want to see it, so you are sure to get the right information.
  3. Allow more, smaller cycles of test-and-evaluate versus going from Beta to World Domination in 6 months.
  4. Look the data in the face: understand when a “go” decision is quantified, and when it’s not.

The Right Stuff

While it makes sense to project revenue and expenses, these figures too often are all that’s required to approve new initiatives.  But, these numbers may be less important than “Readiness” metrics.

For example, I worked with a product manager several years ago who (really, really) wanted to build an app to complement our online ordering process.  While at that time having an app was a good idea for PR purposes (“aren’t we the forward-thinking company!”), our customers weren’t actually using apps, or interested in using apps.  What they were interested in was a revitalized take on online ordering.  It took real discipline not to waste time on the app, but it made sense because our customers weren’t ready for it.

Have you ever noticed how tough it is to sell a new product, no matter how ready the market seems to buy it?  That’s often because External Readiness is higher than Internal Readiness.  Is our salesforce compensated in a way that makes it worthwhile for them to pitch the new product?  Are they hunters as opposed to nurturers?  It helps to think this through ahead of time.  I recommend a structured process to quantifying Internal and External Readiness factors to help prioritize all innovation projects.

Take Me to Your Leading Indicator

If we’re looking to our existing market data for inspiration, we need to understand the difference between Leading and Lagging Indicators.  While it seems like a no-brainer to make market and revenue assumptions based on our “average customer,” it’s better to think about who’s been lining up lately to buy our products.

Let’s say and our biggest market is Segment “A” which has an average contract value of $5,000. If we use this information to prioritize innovation – and expectations – we’d likely focus new offerings on Segment A.   But what if our new business – and current pipeline – is skewed toward Segment B which has an average contract value of $10,000?  Wouldn’t that change our focus somewhat?

This principle extends beyond internal focus.  Your existing customers may be industry leaders but becoming less relevant in their industry as their own disrupteos emerge.  Recently I redirected a product manager who was building a new product for the print publishing industry.  While that industry has stabilized somewhat – and isn’t going away, by any means – it’s not a growing segment of the knowledge ecosystem, and wasn’t a place to concentrate product development.

Doesn’t all this data build fences around game-changing creativity?  Generally, no. The amount of focus data provides enables effective innovation, versus an “anything goes/nothing gets done” atmosphere that results in wasted time, frustration and lowered morale.  So, while it’s way past time for mature companies to be more innovative, don’t let the myth of the seat-of-our-pants startup cloud your judgment past all logic.  Rather, learn from how successful startups use data to find funding, fans and footholds.

Diane Pierson is Principal – Innovation at Boundless MarketsEmail or call +1 917-373-7451 to learn how to improve your innovation process and deliver more revenue through data-driven sales and marketing.

110, 2014

Thought question: Refreshing use of data?

By |October 1st, 2014|Thought questions|0 Comments

Refreshing Use of Data?

2409, 2014

Thought question: where are your marketing and sales leaks?

By |September 24th, 2014|Thought questions|0 Comments

child with leak 2

2309, 2014

Thought question: Are your marketing plans as good at ground level as 30K feet?

By |September 23rd, 2014|Thought questions|0 Comments

clouds at 30K feet

1809, 2014

Are Data Gaps Holding Back Your Marketing and Sales?

By |September 18th, 2014|Uncategorized|0 Comments

You know your business.  You’ve gotten close to your customers, hired smart people and been successful. And you know that having the right information to make key decisions can make the difference between mediocrity and spectacular success. This begs the question: what information are you missing? And do you know what you don’t know?

Smart strategy and sound execution require a disciplined approach to information— a systematic way of identifying and learning what you should know but don’t—about your market, your customers, your opportunities and your marketing and sales performance.

It starts with the right data.

Do you have data discipline? Here are three key ways to find out. These are things to ask yourself and your team.

  1. Do you have a list of data gaps?

Data gaps are key pieces of information that are missing in planning and/or execution. They’ve been proactively identified by you and your team as “important things we need to learn.” Data gaps can include golden nuggets of knowledge about customers, mindthegapsales prospects, the market in which you operate, competition and your internal performance.

These gaps can be found in the upfront strategy setting and at all stages of execution.

It is wise to think broadly about data gaps.

Don’t assume that information cannot be obtained.

Because with the right data sources, tools, technology and analyses chances are you could know more than you do now—and dramatically improve execution.

Some examples:

What are the leading indicators of your customer acquisition? Which of your customers at risk of leaving? Which non-intuitive things do your best customers have in common? How often do your target prospects visit your web site? And where do they go after leaving your web site? How many sales calls does it take to close a sale on average?  In your lead generation do you know exactly where you are losing prospects in the marketing and sales funnel?

All of these things are knowable.

It helps to quantify the upside of improving each stage in the marketing and sales process, so you can prioritize your focus. This is done with what is called a sensitivity analysis. One of our clients, for example, was losing too many prospects who signed-up for a free trial. Knowing that helped us improve that piece of the process and sales conversion rates tripled as a result.

  1. Who has contributed to your list of data gaps?

It’s important that, internally, people on your team with related and even adjacent goals are on the same page about the data gaps that exist, or have a process to get there. Sales and marketing need to be aligned, because customer knowledge and analytics are the fuel that drives results, and data is the glue that connects sales and marketing. Recently we spoke with a marketing director who did not know the sales metrics of the leads he was generating. Without that knowledge there’s no way to determine revenue per lead and the number of leads required to optimize the customer acquisition process.

  1. Do you have a plan in place to fill your data gaps and take action?

We highly recommend a structured process, not only to identify your data gaps but to fill them– with third party data, market research, analytics and the right technology/tools to unleash data you currently have in-house that is hard to access. It helps to decide which gaps are acceptable and which ones are not, and then prioritize the gaps to fill. Boundless Markets conducts data audits for clients, a structured process that identifies and fills data gaps for clients.  Whether or not your process is guided by a consultant, responsibility for filling data gaps should be owned and become an explicit performance goal. Otherwise, issues linger and “data complacency” can set in.

A big part of the planning process should be the action you’ll take once you find out the answers. Desired actions – what you’ll do (or could do) if you have the data – should drive the process.

The bottom line: you should proactively find out what you don’t know. Then make sure you and your team are armed with intelligence to make more informed decisions. This does not imply you should boil the ocean with data collection. But pointed questions need to be asked and obstacles that get in the way of actionable insights need to be addressed. Because information as usual leads to business as usual, and the status quo is often a dangerous place to be in competitive markets.

Feel free to call us to discuss your challenges at 917-373-7451.

1306, 2014

For Father’s Day: The Ultimate App for Husbands

By |June 13th, 2014|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Almost four years ago, I posted a piece called “The Ultimate App for Husbands” on my personal blog purely for fun. People got a kick out of it, so every year since then I’ve re-posted it around Father’s Day. I feel blessed to be a dad and doubly blessed to have an amazing father who taught me not to sweat the small stuff and to always have a sense of humor. So you here go— a re-post in time for Father’s day.  Enjoy.

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When shopping in a supermarket recently I overheard a man complaining about the complex rules established by his wife: “Get dye-free detergent, no other kind. Unless it’s on sale, then it’s ok to buy one with dye. But only if it’s Tide or All.” It made me think that this guy – and husbands like him – needs a database to store and manage all of these rules. And it would sure help to have the database be part of a mobile app so husbands can easily put these rules into action when confronted with vexing decisions like whether to buy lunch sized vs. dinner sized napkins and whether to clean the kitchen table off with Fantastic or a Clorox wipe. Husbands simply have to know the rules.

So drawing from my product development days I started chewing on how this app would it work and what it would do. Here are the high level requirements so far:

    1. Voice recognition: So spouses can speak into the husband’s mobile device and verbally input rules while he is watching Monday Night Football.

    2. Rules database: It comprehensively stores thousands of rules established in the household. This is the core feature.

    3. Semantic/fuzzy search: Given the shoddy memory of husbands everywhere, natural language search helps him easily find “Clorox wipes” when all he can remember is “those slimy white things that are hard to pull out of the canister.”

    4. A massive, crowd sourced taxonomy: Organizes the content of the rules which makes for fast and easy retrieval. Time is of the essence when you are putting the toilet paper on the holder and have to remember if it should roll over or under .

    5. Conditional logic: Powering the app are a complex set of if/then rules for every possible contingency. Like IF the kids had breakfast cereal yesterday, do not give them cereal today. UNLESS there are fewer than 7 grams of sugar in the cereal and THEN it is ok.

    6. Social profiles: What’s an app without a social component? This feature would enable the husband to create a profile so he can connect with other creatures of his ilk. Login would be with your Facebook credentials so you can immediately connect with a billion other husbands who are equally inept.

    7. Location aware functionality:

* Geo-based user generated content: So husbands around the world can contribute (and find) locally relevant excuses for not following the rules. A star system would enable the community to highlight excuses that are especially creative and plausible. And users can search, sort and view excuses based on the profile characteristics other husbands. This way, a churchgoer in Alabama does not get advice from a swinger in New York.

* Location based push notifications – so when he is at CVS he can be prompted to pick up Q-tips (entered in the system while he was oblivious and watching Monday Night Football).

* Location sharing with randomized signaling – so any attempt to track his exact location can be foiled (unknowingly to the would-be tracker/spouse.

* Four Square integration – so he can check in at local establishments approved by his spouse (admin rights with tiered access needed). And if he goes there often enough he can save $5 at fine establishments like Chili’s.

8. Collaborative filtering/recommendations: Excuses are proactively recommended for the husband even before he screws up. This is based on an algorithm that determines the most effective excuses used by others who match the husband’s profile. In phase II, there would be an integration with the male equivalent of Siri, which would speak the excuse for the husband if he is too busy watching Monday Night Football.

9. Machine learning: unlike most husbands the recommendations get smarter over time.

I am still working on the rest of the requirements and welcome your feedback.  What else should it do?