2204, 2016

A Tale of Two Companies

By |April 22nd, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Many years ago when I ran ThomasNet.com, we developed a sales tool that told our customers which companies were visiting their websites, and where those visitors were located.  It was a big hit with marketing and sales leaders who gained insights on which prospects to contact and when.  But we stopped there (and focused on other initiatives).

Around the same time, a startup called Demandbase developed a related product.  But Demandbase didn’t stop there.  Their platform, based on the same kind of IP resolution technology we used at ThomasNet, was repurposed and extended to many other areas, including online advertising and marketing automation.  Their work – and with other companies too – spawned a movement in the B2B marketing world:   account-based marketing.Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 11.46.59 AM

Account based marketing technology helps you create targeted communications to people at specific companies, and provides important intelligence.  The strategy has been around for many years, but technology is now making it more powerful, easier and more mainstream.  Here are some ways to use it, and there are many more:

  • Advertise online to specific companies and target your message accordingly.   You can also group types of companies together into segments, e.g. advertise more heavily to VIP prospects, launch “win-back” campaigns to lapsed/former customers etc.
  • Prioritize sales calls and gain signals on buyer interest.  If you’re selling to buyers at Lockheed-Martin based in Marietta, Georgia and you learn that three people from there went to your website this week, you better call them up…quickly.
  • Personalize your website.  Entire sections of your website can change, with tailored messages that automatically appear when visitors from specific companies – or segments – come to your site.

This week, Demandbase announced that it has developed an account-based marketing for Oracle Marketing Cloud, which includes Eloqua (a leading marketing automation platform), and other technologies.  There are other players in account based marketing besides Demandbase, and more affordable solutions, but they seem to be getting the most traction.

Here are some key takeaways:

  • For your product roadmap, think broadly about your product benefits.  Demandbase’s core technology, IP resolution, helps you market and sell to specific companies – or specific groups of companies.  That’s a broad benefit that has many, many applications.
  • If you say it, and label it, you can own it.  Demandbase coined a term, Account Based Marketing (or at least popularized it).  They built a whole narrative in the industry around that concept, and what it means to marketing people.  They are saying it loudly, and are beginning to own it.
  • Partner to achieve scale, and get into your audience’s workflow.  This is an oldie but a goodie.  Demandbase partnered with ad networks to launch its online advertising solutions, and with marketing automation companies for its other offerings.  Now, when thousands of marketers go about their daily work, Demandbase will be working behind the scenes.

ThomasNet is a $100MM+ company, and has innovated in other ways.  But Demandbase is a rocket that has taken off.

2103, 2016

Sell. Rinse. Repeat. Growing Your Company’s Recurring Revenue.

By |March 21st, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Lately it seems that every product or service is available as a subscription.  Angelist, the one-stop-shop for start-ups, now lists 714 subscription based ventures…almost of whom are trying to disrupt entrenched players in their industries.

Subscription-based business models, with recurring revenue streams and predictable profits, are being used by companies who offer everything from Dog Treats to Home Maintenance to even Socks on a subscription basis.

In the B2B world, beyond software and media companies, traditional players are trying to nip disruption in the bud and shifting to subscription models by offering customers a) all you can eat information, b) tiered/premium service levels, c) more convenience, d) more immediate information and e) business intelligence and analytics.  Even IT services are being offered on a subscription basis.

What functionality, information or service can your company provide as part of a subscription?

How can you turn your customer relationships into more profitable, recurring revenue streams? 

If you’re chewing on these issues, we hope to see you in New York on May 4 at Subscription Insider’s Subscription Payment Accelerator.  At this event you’ll learn how to extend the lifetime value of your subscribers and hear from experts at Disney, Vimeo and Education Week.

Boundless Markets is sponsoring the event and pleased to offer you these special discounts:

BREAKING NEWS:  
Another example of how “subscription thinking” is spilling over into marketing departments in virtually every industry.  Today Adobe is launching its next generation Marketing Cloud, an integrated suite of marketing technologies. One feature is Lifetime Value Decision, which employs behavioral data to figure out the kinds and sequencing of product offers that can generate the most revenue from a customer over time.  Lifetime value analysis is one of the key pieces in a successful subscription strategy.  Adobe is one of many technology players in a growing ecosystem that is supporting subscription based businesses. Companies like Cratejoy, ChartMogul and others are helping anyone get into the game. The tools are out there. Is your strategy?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

502, 2016

What are YOUR Super Bowl Moments?

By |February 5th, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments

This newsletter is an update of an article from last February. Why? Because I’ve had the same bad experience with the organization mentioned in here too many times recently. Feel free to share this with the marketing execs at Staples 😉
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The Super Bowl is almost here, and with it, the media scrutiny of thousands of journalists who cover the event. All eyes are on the Panthers and Broncos, and their eyes are on each other—preparing strategies and refining playbooks (and fortunately they don’t have to check for under-inflated footballs).Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 5.31.51 PM

In business, every company has its version of the big game, a “Super Bowl moment.” It’s a make or break time when planning is paramount and every employee must be revved up.

For retailers, that moment is Black Friday. This day kicks off the holiday season which generates about 1/3 of annual revenue in the retail business. On the last Black Friday, I went to a local Staples store to buy a few items. Simple enough? No. The customer experience was horrible. An inexperienced cashier fumbled the handling of my rebate check, had a poor attitude and with 4-5 other errors the entire experience – which should have taken one minute – took twenty five and left me feeling cold. This particular Staples store blew their Super Bowl Moment.

Hopefully this store was a atypical for the chain. With nearly 1,900 locations in North America, Staples generates an estimated $1.5 billion in revenue on Black Friday weekend. If only a small fraction of their customers had an equally poor experience, the impact on their business would be significant. It begs the question:

What are your company’s Super Bowl moments and how can you better prepare?

Some considerations:

  • Define the levers that drive your customer experience
  • Quantify the impact of each lever on sales and then improve them accordingly. Particularly in planning for Big Game Day.
  • Think about how your best laid plans can come undone and how can you mitigate against those risks.
  • Plan how your approach to Super Bowl moments can be part of your knitting every single day (for your regular season).

There’s no excuse for poor performances during Super Bowl moments. And with proper planning and excellent execution, every day can be a victory.

Drop us a line if you’d like to have a conversation about your business. Enjoy the game!

401, 2016

Obliterate Obstacles to Revenue Growth

By |January 4th, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Now that 2016 is here, it’s a good time to look back at last year through an honest lens and see what you’d like to improve in your business.   One way to get there is to OBLITERATE your obstacles to revenue growth.  But doing so requires buy-in, alignment and focus.

Here’s a helpful framework we’ve used with our private equity and other clients to gain alignment around a focused plan.  It’s done with what we call a Business Driver Matrix – a simple grid with five columns.

Column 1:   The Hypotheses

Specifically, what’s holding back revenue growth?  It’s not enough to say “our sales force is struggling” or “our brand isn’t strong enough.”  If you’re going to win, you need to focus execution like a laser beam on specific problem areas or big opportunities.   And hypotheses about those areas need to actionable.

Here are some hypotheses that are a good start but could use further definition:

  • “Sales reps need to be better informed to close more deals”
  • “Some reps are inefficient with their time, do things their own way, with no best process across the team.”
  • “We can grow sales by doing business with other units of current customers.”
  • “We’re not expanding into new growth markets.”
  • “Our communications are too promotional.”

Last year, a Chief Revenue Officer asked us to interview some of her top leaders to drill down on specifics in an overall area she thought needed addressing.  This helped create focus and gain buy-in on a better sales methodology for hundreds of sales reps at the company. Bottom line, it helps to be thoughtful about the way hypotheses are generated and refined, to ensure buy-in from the organization (and make sure focus is correct).  There are processes to make that happen.

Column 2:  Data Supporting each Hypothesis    

Investment of resources, time and money are best made when you have evidence supporting the need.  Hypotheses about revenue growth can be based on gut feelings, personal observations, employee feedback or other areas — but they should be supported with data.  The stronger the evidence, the more confident you’ll be about choosing the area of focus.  Analysis paralysis should be avoided.  Data audits can identify critical knowledge gaps that can be filled with analysis, employee or customer interviews, and/or research.

When doing a turnaround for a client last year, we quickly discovered a hidden but unacceptable lag time between incoming sales calls and the follow-up sales calls.  We had a feeling this was the case, and hard data verified it.  Fixing this issue (with CRM changes, training and processes) was part of a turnaround that took an underperforming company to double digit revenue gains.

Column 3:   Actions needed   

Actions to address hypotheses can be corrective (to fix things) or diagnostic (to better understand them and gain focus).  Corrective actions are more self explanatory, but need specificity.  For example, if sales training is needed, is it sales skills?  Product knowledge?  Systems or tools?  Processes?   The big questions are:  What exactly? How?  Who?  When?

Diagnostic actions shed light on key issues, so corrective actions can be better informed.  Example:

  • Hypothesis: “we’re losing too many deals that we should win.”
  • Supporting data: “X% close rate among prospects in Y segment.”
  • Action needed: a win/loss analysis to uncover which kinds of deals were won and lost, and why.

Column 4:  Scope of impact

How big an impact will each initiative have on your business within the time frame you need?  Each person on the team can assign a grade A-D, where “A” is the biggest impact…and discussions on these grades can reveal a lot about a team’s beliefs.

Column 5:  Ease of Execution 

How easy will it be to execute the initiative?  Each person on the team can assign a grade A-D, where “A” is the easiest execution.

When you’ve gone through this exercise, you’ll have a good sense of the assumptions held by your team and how they affect the organization.  You’ll also gain confidence that you’re focusing on big drivers for your business.

311, 2015

Foosball Apps Are Not the Next Uber

By |November 3rd, 2015|Uncategorized|0 Comments

I come across dozens of startups every month.  You never know when you might meet the next Uber. That said, there are so many clunkers out there — new ventures who are trying to solve small problems or who lack viable business models.  Below are summaries of actual new startup companies with seemingly iffy futures, starting with an app that uses algorithms to help people track their foosball games. You can’t make this stuff up. The summaries are not my own– they are directly from the companies in question.

Foosball

I’ve changed the names of these companies to not publicly bash anyone.  The purpose of this post is not to excoriate some gutsy entrepreneurs who have big dreams.  It’s simply to share a perspective on some very common problems with new ventures.   To be blunt, some of these are examples of what not to do with digital products.

The overly narrow market segment problem

Example:  “Foozy.”  Foozy is a digital service that tracks foosball results, skill rankings, and close match ups for companies that take foosball too seriously. Quantify your progress over time. Settle the debate of who’s the best in the office.

Comment:  This app might help the 24 people in North America who actually care.  It’s one thing to have a focused business that deeply serves a market niche; it’s something else entirely to serve a small market and only provide marginal value.

The “does anyone actually have this problem?” problem

Example:  “Cafe Work.” This is a community of people sharing information about seating, wifi, power outlets at local cafés. It helps people find spots to be productive. Perfect for freelancers, entrepreneurs and creatives looking to be productive.

Comment:   Is it that hard for people to find a place to be productive?  There are over 11,500 Starbucks in the U.S., according to Wikipedia.  And thousands of other coffee houses with decent wifi, fine seating and tasty lattes.

The single feature, tied to a single platform problem

Example:  “FLeads.” The company is an online platform that synchronizes Facebook Lead Ads into any CRM, autoresponder or email software. This allows users to reach out to new leads automatically and in real-time, while benefiting from Facebook’s new two-click opt-in feature.

Comment:  Other companies are tackling this kind of issue as part of a broader feature set.  And won’t Facebook eventually develop it themselves?

The undifferentiated product and late to the party problem

Example:  “HireNow.” With this service you can hire anyone from your locality or a remote place to get your daily chores done. If you are looking for some extra bucks or even full-time employment, get started on HireNow.

Comment:  what do they offer that Task Rabbit, Handy and dozens of other on-demand platforms don’t have? Earlier this year cleaning services company Homejoy shut its doors after three years in business, after revenue challenges and struggles in raising sufficient funding. Task Rabbit and Handy seem to be running away with the market.  It seems too late for another player.

The “I have this problem so everyone else must have it too” problem

Example:  “Double Up.”  This app knows the fun of dating doesn’t have to end when you’re in a relationship. We make it easy to find other couples with similar interests and help plan fun nights out.

Comment:  Ok, let me get this right.  Two people who are dating are going to use an app to meet random new couples.  Hmm.  And the business model is what exactly?

A Final Thought

To sum it up, there are some very smart people who start their companies with narrow use cases and then successfully pivot into a broader application or market.  It’s possible that some of the ones above could as well.  For their sake, I certainly hope so.

1109, 2015

The Scariest Responsibility of Marketers

By |September 11th, 2015|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Let’s face it. Marketing is becoming a much more challenging and complex profession. There’s more pressure to achieve ROI, stay on top of new technologies and get your arms around a digital landscape that’s absurdly fragmented.

And now marketers have another thing to grapple with: brand fraud.

The $470 Billion Problem

Cybercrimes like brand fraud cost companies $473 billion annually, or $1.3 billion each day, according to the Ponemon Institute. It happens when scammers register a domain using your brand name – or a close iteration of it – and create fake sites that confuse customers, obtain personal information and essentially steal your revenue. This is nothing new — but the problem is making headlines and getting much worse, since there have been over 750 new top level domains in 2015 (such as .nyc, .club, .bank and hundreds more) and monitoring all the permutations of possible URLs is generally not doable.

Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 11.56.00 AMMost online reputation solutions only address the visible portion of the web– monitoring a company’s listings, ratings and reviews. They do not address “the dark side” of the web– security problems and brand fraud that begin with fraudulently used domains. Scammers create fake sites to confuse customers, run phishing scams and install malware and viruses…all of which damage brands.

Some examples:

  • A fake Bloomberg site was created this summer – with full Bloomberg branding and content – and put out fake news about Twitter’s stock. The stock went up on the false news, leading to an SEC investigation.
  • WellsFargoAutoLoans dot com is being used by a profiteer to sell a credit product. DO NOT GO THERE. In writing this article I went the the site, which tried to infect my Mac with a virus.
  • Nikestore dot xyz is a malware site that sells fake goods and may attempt to deliver malware. DO NOT click on it.
    IT people may own the domain registration process, but marketers are on the hook for brand integrity. Lawyers can fix the issue, but they may not be looking for brand fraud proactively.

We’ve come across a company that helps marketers and other professionals with these issues, DomainSkate, and are happy to say that are now a client. DomainSkate protects companies against brand fraud. Every day, they monitor millions of domains across the web and find unauthorized and misleading uses of a company’s brands—and provide the tools to resolve these issues and reclaim lost revenue and traffic.

A Partnership Opportunity

We are helping DomainSkate build channel partnerships. If you know of anyone who could benefit by protecting their brand online – or would like to discuss a possible partnership please contact me at brad@boundlessmarkets.com

The issues I’m describing can take down companies. 60% of small businesses affected go out of business in six months and large companies also face threats. 94% of the top 500 domains are one keystroke away from a brand fraud according to a Stony Brook University study.

So yes, proactive brand protection is one more thing you have to handle. But the consequences can be dire if it’s not done.

307, 2015

14 Types of Data That Can Boost Your Marketing and Sales

By |July 3rd, 2015|Articles|0 Comments

Over the years I’ve become obsessed with understanding prospects and customers really deeply.  There are bigger sins, I suppose.  “Understanding your audience” is critical to driving effective marketing and sales but is a vague topic.  What does it really mean, exactly?

Last week I gave two speeches on that topic in talk called “Building a Data-Driven Marketing and Sales Machine,” an area of focus for Boundless Markets.  I cited a Bain study which found that companies who excel in their use of analytics are twice as likely to financially outperform their competitors—and 5X likely to make effective decisions.   I also mentioned 1) fourteen different kinds of analytics, 2) some insights that can be gained from each one and 3) how we helped one of our clients achieve double digit revenue growth in two months by leveraging such data.

Here are the fourteen different types of data and a taste of some insights they can provide:

  1. Web analytics. What are your prospects searching for and how does that vary based on audience segment?   What content makes them come back again and again to your web site and convert?  Which pages of your site are most likely to attract visitors…and which pages turn them away?
  2. Third party data. What do your prospects and customers read, what do they purchase and from whom do the buy?
  3. Intent data. Which prospects are in the market to buy right now?  And what content are they reading?
  4. Predictive analytics. What messages and content are likely to move the customer further down the purchase cycle and how does that vary by customer segment?
  5. Multivariate and A/B testing data. What messages, design and offers resonate most and drive results?
  6. Social media analytics. What your customers and prospects are they saying about your company, brands and products?  What are their concerns, likes and dislikes?  Who are the top influencers shaping opinions in your market?
  7. Attitudinal/survey data. How do customers feel about your products?  How likely are they to consider or purchase and which levers can better motivate them?
  8. Best customer modeling. Which prospects have similar characteristics as your best customers?
  9. IP resolution data. What companies visited your web site today and earlier this week?  And where are the people in those companies located?   How does this stack up against your target accounts and VIP customers?
  10. Call tracking data. What times of the day and the week should you staff up your sales reps? What companies called your company in the off hours but did not leave a message?
  11. Semantic phone call analytics. Which sales calls with prospects were missed opportunities that could have resulted in a sale?
  12. Call center analytics. What is the optimal number of times a sales rep should try calling a prospect before moving on to another one? How many calls are not enough – and how many are too much?
  13. CRM analytics. Where exactly in the sales process are you losing prospects?  How much revenue is in the pipeline now?  Which sales reps are most successful at converting prospects into sales?
  14. Conversations with customers. Pretty much anything else…and a darn good starting point.

All of the above can be known if you have the right tools, resources and processes — what I call “data discipline.”  We’re pleased to offer a FREE data assessment tool that can help you understand the “data discipline” of your marketing.  This helpful tool is something you can use yourself or share with others in your company.  And yes, there is a grade at the end.

Check it out.  It’s on us.

 

 

2406, 2015

How Much Data Discipline Does Your Marketing Have?

By |June 24th, 2015|Uncategorized|0 Comments

We’re pleased to offer a FREE data assessment tool that can help you find out how much “data discipline” your marketing organization has in key areas such as customer and market insights, measuring marketing performance and improving processes.   This helpful tool is something you can use yourself or share with others in your company.

Check it out.  It’s on us.

306, 2015

The Most Important Things You Don’t Know About Your Business

By |June 3rd, 2015|Uncategorized|0 Comments

My advisors told me not to use the subject line of this post.  They said I should not suggest that our readers don’t know their business.  Of course you do.  Our readers tend to be extremely smart, intellectually curious and great at what they do.  So why am I asking about things you don’t know? It’s to make that point that, no matter how much you know, there are often important gaps in knowledge that, if addressed, can help make much smarter decisions.  You’ll never have 100% of the data and striving for that would just slow you down unnecessarily.  I’m not talking about “nice to know” facts;  I am referring to insights that can inform big choices and drive excellent execution.mindthegap

What prevents smart people from finding out the “unknown”?  There are many reasons:   1) data and information can be hard to obtain, 2) data on hand is often not actionable and 3) available information is perceived as “good enough.”

But lurking beneath the surface is another, nagging dynamic— the fact that we’re generally too busy to stop and ask the questions “What key information are we missing in our business?”  And “Do we know what we don’t know?”

We recommend a systematic way of identifying and learning what you should know but don’t—about your market, your competitors, your customers, your opportunities and your marketing and sales performance.  By now you probably know that Boundless Markets conducts data audits, a structured process that identifies data and knowledge gaps for clients, and then fill those gaps (with new data sources, analytics and modeling, new technologies/tools, user videos, customer listening studies and quantitative market research).

Whether you do these things on your own or work with us, we advise starting by taking stock of your company or team’s data discipline.   This is NOT about boiling the ocean with data collection.  It IS about thinking critically about how data and analytics can help drive your business.

Does your company and team 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 and knowledge gaps?

Gaps represent 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.”   These gaps can be found in the upfront strategy setting and at all stages of execution.  It is wise to think broadly about data and knowledge gaps.

Knowledge gaps are highly situational and depend on your business.   Identifying the most actionable areas requires some deep thinking and care.   Here are some examples:

Why are some of your competitors winning some of your business?   How do your target prospects perceive your company vs. your competitors?  What are the leading indicators of your customer acquisition? Which of your customer prospects are in the market to buy right now?  Which non-intuitive things do your best customers have in common? How often do your target prospects visit your web site? What do people in your market think of our web site?  How does it make them feel? In your lead generation do you know exactly where you are losing prospects in the marketing and sales funnel, and the revenue you’re leaving on the table as a result?  How many sales calls does it take to close a sale on average?  Which of your customers have the greatest risk of leaving?

All of these things are knowable.

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

It’s important that employees with related goals get on the same page about the knowledge gaps that exist, or have a process to get there. For example, 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 conversion 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.  What’s worse is that, with a little bit of work, the data was readily available.

  1. Are your gaps prioritized, with a plan in place to address them and take action?

A big part of the planning process should be the action you’ll take once you find out the answers. Intended actions – what you’ll do (or could do) if you have the data – should drive the process.  This helps the prioritization.  Determining intended actions is best done in a group setting, since it really is a collaborative effort, and the process helps increase alignment.  The perceived ease of filling knowledge gaps also affects priorities.  Often it is assumed that things are not easily knowable.   Data often exists in silos or is not “in shape” to be actionable. Yet solutions are now available to address these issues and gain important insights.  And they are more robust and affordable than you may think.  Other times, third party data or analysis is required but the options – or the best way to proceed – are not resolved.  And this can result in a sort of decision purgatory….where issues linger eternally.

The bottom line:  it helps to proactively find out what your company or team does not know but should. Inject that discipline into your planning and execution. Then make sure you and your team are armed with intelligence to make more informed decisions.  To make this happen, pointed questions need to be asked and obstacles that get in the way of actionable insights need to be addressed.  When it comes to business intelligence, it’s best to remember the signs in the British Tube:   Mind the Gap.    Because information as usual leads to business as usual, and the status quo is often a dangerous place to be in competitive markets.

306, 2015

What’s Your Digital Perception?

By |June 3rd, 2015|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Recently I spoke on a panel at a software industry conference and the theme of our discussion was “Simplifying the Complicated.”  Most of the attendees were CEOs and CMOs, sophisticated people with healthy appetites for information. They’re a curious group who have mountains of data available in their business, and increasingly arm themselves with the tools to leverage that data in their sales and marketing.  But since the topic was simplification, I asked the group two simple questions:

  1. How many of you put major resources into driving potential leads to your web site?
  2. Do you know what your audience thinks of your web site?

To the first question, almost all the questions went up since web sites are the hub of marketing activity.  To the second question, actually asking users what they think of their company’s site, very few hands went up.  It was good validation for one of the services from Boundless Markets called User Insights.  And I’d like you to know about it.

User Insights reveals what actual users think of your web site and messaging.  We recruit users who participate in quick immersion studies and give them specific tasks to perform on a client’s site (which are based on their unique goals), and then ask them pointed questions. Sessions are recorded via video and audio, AND every movement of the mouse is captured for clients to see.  So clients know what happened on their site, how the experience is perceived and why.

One of our clients, a telemedicine provider, learned that many visitors viewed the company as a health insurance provider; their virtual health care benefit was getting lost.  Our user videos and recommendations helped increase their sales conversions by 18%.

We also help clients with advanced web analytics, but analytics tells what happened on a web site, not why it happened.  User Insights goes deeper.  By understanding motivations, perceptions and attitudes, you can learn much more than simply viewing a dashboard full of numbers.  You can also see and hear what users notice, don’t notice, what they like and what they don’t—in the words of actual users.  Videos are professionally edited, made ready for the boardroom, and accompanied with full transcriptions and detailed recommendations for improvement (from a team that has run digital businesses generating nearly $500 million). Check out the video overview here.

If you know someone who can benefit from User Insights, drop us a line or give us a call at 917-373-7451. The service can also be used to learn what users think of your competitors’ sites vs. your own.  We are currently forming partnerships with other companies that have complimentary services.

And getting back to the topic of the panel, the lesson of User Insights is to learn more by keeping it simple. Got questions?  Ask your audience.