Innovation by the Numbers

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.

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

Are Data Gaps Holding Back Your Marketing and Sales?

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.

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

For Father’s Day: The Ultimate App for Husbands

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?

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

Boundless Markets joins the Software and Information Industry Association

We’re proud to join the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA) as a member.   Check out this profile of Boundless Markets on SIIA’s blog today.  http://www.siia.net/blog/index.php/2014/04/new-member-spotlight-boundless-markets/

 

 

By |April 24th, 2014|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Marketers: Avoid Data Complacency

The other day I took my kids out to get some ice cream.  We were driving to the ice cream shop and, as we approached, saw a sign above the store that said “Retail space for rent.”    It seemed that the store was out of business.  Looking more closely though we could see that the store was in fact open and went in.  After some rocky road and dulce de leche gelato, my mind turned back to the sign outside.  I told the store owner about our impression that his store was closed and he replied “yeah, the sign is for the store next to ours.  They’re leasing out their space and put their sign above ours.  We didn’t like that but business has been steady, so we’re ok.”

Those words echoed in my mind – “business has been steady” and three observations came to me:

    1. The store owner only sees customers that come in, not the ones that don’t due to this sign.
    2. He doesn’t know the business he’s losing.
    3. He’s content with what he has, and not knowing what he does not know.

I don’t want to be an alarmist and say this is a recipe for disaster.   However, this is what I call data complacency:  not asking any questions and being content with only the data right in front of you.  Successful marketers need to proactively chase data and find out what we don’t know.  We need to arm ourselves with intelligence to make more informed decisions.  This does not imply we should boil the ocean with data collection.  But we do have to ask the tough questions and remove obstacles that get in our way, because information as usual leads to business as usual.  And the status quo is often a dangerous place to be in competitive markets.

This week I’ll be giving a webinar on marketing automation and some of my points are: [su_list icon=”http://boundlessmarkets.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/bullet_check_orange.png”]

  • What you get out of marketing is largely a function of the quality of data that goes into it.   Tailoring messages, content and offers to an audience segment is a data-driven drill.  No data, no targeting.
  • Marketers should begin their planning with a data audit—a structured process that takes stock of the available data on-hand and identify the gaps that exist.   Some gaps may be acceptable, others not.
  • You should make an informed decision on what data gaps are ok and which ones you want to fill.  If you don’t know where you are losing prospects in the buying funnel, for example, that’s not an acceptable gap.  It needs to be filled.
  • To fill data gaps, you need a plan.  Which data? What are the sources?  What tools can support data collection? What are the next steps?

[/su_list]
To sum it up:

  1. Avoid data complacency.
  2. Know what you don’t know.
  3. Sell more ice cream.
By |April 14th, 2014|Uncategorized|0 Comments

New Marketing Automation Software Replaces The Marketing Department (Ok, April Fools)

Groundbreaking technology ushers in the era of No-Hands Marketing

New York, April 1 2014 — Boundless Markets today announced the launch of revolutionary software that requires no human involvement to achieve significant marketing results.  The technology, called Boundless One, combines marketing automation, programmatic media buying and predictive modeling with a proprietary algorithm that creates personalized messaging.  The system provides robust, closed-loop software that empowers customers to gain complete control over marketing and media programs, with no human interaction whatsoever.

The groundbreaking technology, which has been in development for two years, in effect makes marketing staff redundant.  The system enables customers to efficiently manage, execute and optimize marketing programs across multiple channels including email, web, mobile, events, and social media with the single click of a mouse.

The Boundless One system uses statistical modeling to identify the best prospects for a product or service and, based on prior engagement data, dynamically creates messaging targeted to specific audience segments drawing from a large library of customizable online ad modules and video templates.  Automatically, based on pre-determined budget levels, the software conducts a programmatic online media buy with real-time bidding and program optimization.  Ads are displayed on mobile and online ad networks in addition to thousands of email newsletters. Videos are automatically embedded on partner sites and posted to a broad range of social networks.   

User interaction data is then combined with transactional data and demographics to launch trigger emails to dynamically created audience segments.   On the fly segmentation and personalized messaging is the heart of the Boundless One system, which integrates with Salesforce.com, Eloqua, Live Intent, Madison Logic, Sail Thru and many other partners.  An API is available and 350 agency partners have been participating in beta testing.

“This technology does for marketing what Ford did for manufacturing with the assembly line, but goes even further because now machines can govern the entire process” said Boundless Markets Vice President April Riddles.  The startling announcement was symbolically made this morning at Ford Motor Company headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan. 

“This ushers in a new era of marketing”, continued Ms. Riddles.  “First there was social media and content marketing.  Then came marketing automation.  This new technology is the first in what we call No-Hands Marketing.  Let’s face it, human marketers were great.  But progress is progress.”

The product roadmap for Boundless One includes No-Hands Strategy and No-Hands Sales, both of which will require no human involvement.  Along with the new software, Boundless Markets also announced a new division today: outplacement and career services for marketers everywhere.   

By |April 1st, 2014|Uncategorized|0 Comments

What are your data gaps?

Here are some common data gaps that hold back sales and marketing success. They’re all very addressable with the right analytics and tools. Check out this video.

By |March 15th, 2014|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Boundless potential by filling data gaps

Check out our first video.

By |March 15th, 2014|Uncategorized|0 Comments

20 Questions Every B2B Company Must Ask

Every company has blind spots.  It doesn’t take a big data project to identify the blind spots that are due to “data gaps” in the organization— missing opportunities that, if addressed, can drive immediate insights and improvements in sales and marketing.  But where do you start? According to Forrester, most big data projects fail by not asking the right questions upfront.  The same is true when it comes to improving sales and marketing.  While every company is different, here are 20 (very answerable) data-driven questions that every B2B company should ask and address.

Strategy

1.  How can you quickly assess the potential of new products and markets?  What data is available?

2.  How do your customers perceive your company and brands vs. your competitors?

Growing your database

3. What (non-obvious) characteristics do your best customers have in common?  And how can you increase your odds of getting more of them?

4. What are the big gaps in your database?

5. To what extent are duplicate records and inaccurate data interfering with your sales productivity (and marketing effectiveness)?

 Improving marketing effectiveness

6. How can you track the effectiveness of each campaign and channel—not just ALL the way through the marketing process but in sales too (beyond web analytics)?

7. Identify previously unknown prospects

a. How can you identify which companies are visiting your websites –  who DON’T sign up for anything—and companies that call you but DON”T leave a message?

b. How can you target and market to previously “unknown” prospects?

8. Lead qualification – How can you get more qualified leads?

9. Marketing benchmarks — What does “good” look like?  What are the benchmarks across the industry?

Increasing sales effectiveness

10. Where you are losing prospects in your sales and marketing funnel? (and what is the potential revenue gain from improving each piece of the funnel)

11. If you have an outbound telesales team, how many phone calls per prospect are needed to maximize your revenue?  How many is too much?

12. Which (non-obvious) metrics do your most successful sales reps have in common?  And your least successful sales reps?

Building a Data-Driven Organization

13. What are the key challenges in building a more data driven organization?

14.  How can you overcome these challenges?

Recommended Analyses

15. Which quantitative methods can help you better score leads?

16. Which advanced methods can help you target the right offer and right product to the right customer?

17. What do you need to know about your current customers (but don’t)?

18. What do you need to know about your potential customers (but don’t)?

Learning more about your competitors

19.  What competitive info must you know that you don’t know now?

20.  How can you get this info?

Boundless Markets addresses all 20 of these issues – and more – by conducting a data audit for B2B companies, with specific recommendations on how to fill these data gaps.

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