105, 2015

Are You Ready for the On-Demand Economy?

By |May 1st, 2015|Uncategorized|0 Comments

We live in an on-demand world, where help and expertise are a click or a call away.   New online platforms, sophisticated mobile apps and an increasingly independent workforce are the driving forces shaping the on-demand economy. Put simply by Steve Schlafman of RRE, “Welcome to the Uberification of our service economy.”   (A reference to Uber, the on-demand taxi company with a valuation of $18 billion).

There may be big implications of “on-demand” for your business, which I’ll cover later.  But first, here are some examples how this dynamic is cutting across different industries in both B2B and B2C.

Venerable Professions are Going On-Demand 

  • Doctors.  Worried about a nasty rash at 3am?   Telemedicine providers like Asentra Health provide live medical expertise from physicians who are on call and accessible for quick remote consults on any smart phone, tablet or PC.
  • Financial service providers.   Unhappy with your financial advisor?  No worries.  Covester lets you “follow” experienced portfolio managers and mirror their actual trades.  In other words, sophisticated investment models are readily available on-demand.
  • Legal services.   Need an attorney with a specific expertise right way?  Companies like Hire Counsel are redefining the legal economy by providing fast access to vetted, qualified lawyers with deep specialization, in addition to a broad range of other legal services.
  • Design.    Need a new logo or brochure in a hurry?  Crowdsourcing sites like 99 designs provide affordable services from designers around the world in hours or days.  However, there are caveats since the nature of this service is a far cry from top tier professional services firms like Hire Counsel.  I’ve used crowd-sourcing before and have some strong opinions if you’d like to ping me.
On-Demand Consumer Services
  •  Home services.   Is your home a mess from that big party last night?  With services like Handy, cleaning help, plumbers and painters can be booked online in 60 seconds and you can schedule your home service for as early as tomorrow.  Recently I met an entrepreneur who is developing a location based app so you can find local contractors within a geographic radius of your home who are currently available – even at midnight.
  • Food delivery.   Want a burrito delivered to your door in 5 minutes?  Seamless provides food delivery from local restaurants, and users can choose from thousands of menus on any device.  They now have nearly 4 million active monthly users and are growing over 50% a year according to Mike Jaconi, an on-demand expert.  The trend is going up-market too.  Some companies are now providing prepared home cooked, organic meals on-demand, delivered to homes.
  • Chores.     Don’t have enough time for daily tasks?  Check out Task Rabbit.  A friend of mine suffering from a concussion needed help replying to some emails.  An on-demand helper came to the rescue within hours, courtesy of Task Rabbit.
What are the Potential Threats to Your Company?

It of course depends on your industry and the specifics of your business.  That said, look out for:

  • Potential disruption from On-Demand players.  If your customers can instantly find a suitable replacement at a fraction of the price, you may no longer be the go-to source.
  •  Becoming a commodity.  Your competition may no longer be across town.  It’s likely across the world, which presents the risk of your service becoming a commodity which puts downward pressure on pricing.

Strategic Considerations and Opportunities 

  1. Be Aware of on-demand trends in other industries, because they may affect your own.  And by the time this happens, you may be at a disadvantage.  In the legal industry for example, 89% of law firm leaders feel that legal work will be more commoditized going forward, according to Altman Weil.   And 68% of large law firms are shifting work to contract or temporary attorneys.
  2. Service, Service, Service.  If your company is being disrupted by on-demand forces, consider rethinking and upgrading your service offering.  Premium, unparalleled service and a deep understanding of your customers go a long way.
  3. Specialization.  In an increasingly commoditized sector, it pays to specialize.  Some home contractors are now specializing in treating basements to differentiate themselves, for example.
  4. Partner with the disruptors.   Consider adding value to your service by working with on-demand players.  For example, American Express launched a partnership with Uber earlier this year.  Amex got a foot in the door by allowing customers to earn double points on their Uber spending with an American Express credit card.
  5. Invest in relationships.    One way to hedge against on-demand disruption is to build deeper relationships with your customers.
  6. Become a great place to work.   To keep your employees from walking out the door and becoming on-demand freelancers themselves, investing in your people and your culture can help increase employee retention.

Disclosure:

Some of our clients are on-demand innovators mentioned in this newsletter.  Others are facing disruption from the on-demand economy.   We’re seeing an acceleration of this trend and if you’d like to discuss, drop us a line.

3103, 2015

New Software Makes Marketing Decisions for You

By |March 31st, 2015|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Groundbreaking technology ushers in the era of No-Hands Marketing

New York, April 1 2015 — Boundless Markets announced the launch of revolutionary software that requires virtually no human involvement to achieve significant marketing results.  The technology, called Boundless One, combines marketing automation, programmatic media buying and predictive analytics with a proprietary algorithm that creates personalized messaging.  The system provides robust software that drives marketing execution, with no human interaction whatsoever.No Decisions Required - no branding

The technology 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 or voice activated command.

The Boundless One system, in effect, makes decisions for people.  It uses statistical modeling to identify the best prospects for a product or service and, based on engagement data, dynamically creates messaging targeted to specific audience segments drawing from a large library of phrases, customizable ads and video templates.  Automatically, the software conducts online media buys with real-time bidding and program optimization.  Ads are displayed on mobile and online ad networks in addition to paid search and  thousands of email newsletters. Videos are automatically embedded on partner sites and posted to social networks at the optimal time of day.

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, 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.”

The product roadmap for Boundless One also includes No-Hands Strategy and No-Hands Sales, both of which will require little if any human involvement.   These launches are expected in exactly one year: April 1, 2016.

1903, 2015

Process Makes Perfect – Building a Well Oiled Sales Machine

By |March 19th, 2015|Uncategorized|0 Comments

In the creative world of sales and marketing, “process” often gets a bad rap.  It can imply an over engineered, bureaucratic method that lacks inspiration.

Should you have a CMO or head of sales who is a process person?  Or a strategic leader who guides and motivates the team?  The latter is what’s usually required of leaders.  But don’t you wish you had a nickel for every strategic visionary who doesn’t know how to execute (or hire strong executors)?

Well conceived processes can make the difference between mediocre results and spectacular results.  They help create well oiled sales and marketing machines.   There is no one “right” process that applies to every company.  It is highly situational. But to illustrate, here are some new processes we put in place for a client whose business is a mix of e-commerce and enterprise sales.  Revenue is up 54% YTD vs. last year.

Within the context of an overall go-to-market strategy, timely and topical mini-campaigns are created based on a marketing and sales calendar.  These are 3-4 week sprints all around a specific theme. Each sprint follows this playbook:

  1. Sales representatives and customer service staff and are notified in advance and made aware of the campaign theme and the messaging.
  2. Products and services related to the theme are merchandised more heavily on the web site to kick off the sprint.
  3. A topical video is created and promoted through multiple channels.  At least one sales representative provides feedback when the video is created.
  4. Multiple channels are used to drive web traffic with messaging that relates to the campaign and reinforces the overall brand.  In advance, the team thinks through how to re-engage the audience with re-marketing and CRM targeting.
  5. Past buyers and win-back candidates are sent a series of targeted emails with content on the same theme, along with new prospects who are treated somewhat differently based on our segmentation.
  6. Sales representatives send personalized and slightly different versions of the email to their VIP customers, including a link to the latest video.
  7. The outside telesales team uses the timely topic to create a sense of urgency with prospects and then segways into the main pitch.
  8. Customers who purchase on this topic are flagged as such in the database, so we know their interests and what drives their responses.
  9. Customers who buy through e-commerce are contacted and targeted with up-sells and higher-end services by sales representatives.

Rinse and repeat.  Unless a better process is developed, since processes can and should improve over time.  We have built other processes to improve quantitative rigor and get feedback directly from customers.

The things above may or may not apply to your business. But the point is, when well done, the pieces of the process build on each other.   Processes like this have important benefits:

  • Each player on the team knows their roles and what’s expected.
  • When done cross functionally, they create team wins and foster a team culture.
  • They provide valuable data to improve over time

Best of all, they allow an organization to have a repeatable and scalable playbook —and that’s the hallmark of well oiled sales and marketing machines.  The trick is to stay fresh and encourage innovation in ways that reinforce the overall strategy.

So the next time you’re in the board room, consider this:  “process” shouldn’t be a dirty word.

3001, 2015

Your Company’s Super Bowl Moment

By |January 30th, 2015|Uncategorized|0 Comments

This post is adapted from my article which originally published in Chief Executive before last year’s Super Bowl.  The observations still apply, particularly since the organization mentioned in here has not changed practices.

The Super Bowl is almost here, and with it, the media scrutiny of thousands of journalists who cover the event.

seahawks and pats

All eyes are on the Patriots and Seahawks, and their eyes are on each other—preparing strategies, refining playbooks (and checking the inflation on those footballs).

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 the kicks off the holiday season which generates about 1/3 of annual revenue in the retail business. On this past 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 tiny fraction of their customers had equally poor experience as me, the impact on their business would be significant.  It begs the question:  what are your company’s Super Bowl moments and how can you 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.
  • How can plans for Super Bowl moments be operationalized—and be part of your knitting every day (for your regular season).

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

2301, 2015

Entrepreneurship Lessons from Billion Dollar CEOs

By |January 23rd, 2015|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Recently I had the pleasure of attending the CEO2CEO Leadership Summit at the New York Stock Exchange.  As in previous years, the event was a terrific opportunity to gain insights from leading CEOs, including Leslie Wexner, founder of The Limited and Victoria’s Secret and Andrew Liveris, CEO of Dow Chemical among others.  The common themes, very much on the minds of leaders of both multi-billion dollar companies and mid-market firms, were innovation and entrepreneurship.  (Yes, the “E” word is very much alive and well in the C suite of multinational companies).  Here are some lessons from these luminary CEOs:

 HAVE A SENSE OF URGENCY

Great entrepreneurs move quickly and make bold decisions.   Les Wexner personifies bold decision making.  He’s a retailing legend and the current longest-serving CEO of a FORTUNE 500 company.  He started the Limited in 1963 with a $5000 loan from his aunt and grew that investment into a $12 billion company whose brands include Victoria’s Secret, Bath & Body Works, Henri Bendel and others.   Mr. Wexner talked about how jumping on opportunities can pay off in spades.

I read The Wall Street Journal on a Friday about Lane Bryant going private…called them the same day about a possible acquisition.  They said ‘no’ because their board meeting was on Monday.  So on Saturday I got a loan for $125MM and we closed the acquisition of Lane Bryant on Monday.   We paid off the debt in 120 days.

 — Leslie Wexner, Chairman and Chief Executive, L Brands

A sense of urgency doesn’t always mean fast, game changing decisions.  It can come from long term strategies that cultivate broad scale change motivated by a healthy sense of paranoia.

You’ve got to innovate faster than the disruptive companies can commoditize you.  There’s where partnerships come in.   At Dow, we lead and join associations that are at the center of change.  We foster innovation hubs in partnership with federal and state governments and universities.  They take time but we gain a research edge… one result is the development of ‘smart paint’ that can absorb emissions.  In the future we’ll have paint that can absorb viruses.

We get criticized for investing in R&D to create future earnings…things like self healing materials and smart batteries.  Everything (on Wall Street) is so short term focused.  We partner with entrepreneurs and learn from them.

— Andrew Liveris, CEO, Dow Chemical

CONNECT THE DOTS

We’re inspired by entrepreneurs who seek out and spot emerging trends and then jump on them with extreme focus.

In thinking about new business ideas I look for patterns. I spend 20-30 days a year visiting small independent stores around the world looking for patterns.  Like kids putting fragrances in their lockers etc.   So we came up with portable scents…

–Leslie Wexner

 

QUANTIFY YOUR INNOVATION

As we’ve written before, innovation doesn’t have to imply a lack of quantification.   The leaders of Omnicom and Dow Chemical, for example, are quick to point out the measurement they’ve put on innovation efforts.

$250MM in revenue has been created from ideas that came from bringing together very diverse groups of people— solving challenges for customers.

–Tom Harrison, Chairman Emeretus, The Omnicom Group

One KPI we use:  the % of margin coming from new product launches.

–Andrew Liveris

But beyond measuring the results of innovation, the innovation process itself can, in part, be driven by the numbers.   Here are some examples.

 INSPIRATION AND RESULTS, FROM A TEAM WITH A FINANCIAL STAKE IN YOUR SUCCESS.

By now, you probably know that Boundless Markets accelerates revenue growth for clients by increasing their marketing and business development capabilities.  But you may not know that we also accelerate innovation, though a proprietary framework and exercises that have helped generate millions in revenue for clients and past employers.  These proven processes (and our love of upside) are one reason we often take a percentage of the revenue we generate for clients.

Have  a thorny challenge?  Let’s talk.   917-373-7451

 

801, 2015

Eat Your Own Dog Food, Please

By |January 8th, 2015|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Eat your own dog food.  That’s a blunt way of saying a company should practice what it preaches.

These days, with high buyer skepticism and social sharing off the charts, eating your own dog food is not just a good practice; it’s a strategic imperative.  Great companies focus their internal operations on living and breathing the values and practices they espouse to the outside world.  But too often it doesn’t play out this way.  For example, recently I spoke with a leading marketing automation company about an analytics project for one of our clients.  I made it clear in this discussion that our firm, Boundless Markets, was NOT looking for any software.  We were just inquiring about new ways of using analytics through the reporting in their system.  The next day I received this email from the company:

“Hello Brad,

Because you have shown interest in marketing software recently, I wanted to find out if you would like some help identifying your requirements and building the business case for marketing automation.  Choosing a marketing automation system isn’t a simple task, so let me know if you would like to schedule a 15 minute chat.”

In other words, a company whose entire existence is based on helping companies improve the targeting and relevancy of marketing to audiences completely ignored these principles in their own follow-up.  The way these mistakes happen, even with the best automation on the planet, is typically with human error.  Their representative tagged me as the wrong kind of prospect, and as a result the only automation that happened was one of irrelevancy.  A few weeks later, the same company sent me the email below— a note about their holiday party in the Bay Area – and they know I’m based in New York City.
bad targeting example

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How do they know where I’m based?  Well, they asked during the initial phone call.  But either my address didn’t make it into their system or their holiday note did not take geography into consideration.  Either way, score one for data collection, score zero for acting on that data with smart targeting, which is what their entire company presumably is all about.   It is clear that this leading provider of marketing automation, a recognized “thought leader,” does not eat its own dog food.  No wonder the speculation inside the industry is that this company does NOT even use its own software to automate their internal marketing processes.

Other examples of not eating your own dog food I’ve come across recently:

  • A leading global management consulting firm (that helps FORTUNE 500 companies with research based insights) lacks effective processes for its own internal information gathering
  • A diet supplement positioned as an alkalizer (which neutralizes harmful affects of acid in the digestive system) contains lemon juice, a very acidic ingredient

Great companies internalize and perfect the practices they trumpet—this is a powerful part of effective branding.  Doing anything less can destroy a company’s credibility. Can you imagine what it takes to turn around the impression that your company does anything less than excel in areas core to your value proposition?

Take a minute to answer the following questions to see how well your company eats….err, practices what you preach.

  • What values are inherent in the way my company and products are positioned, and how well does your customer experience reflect them?
  • Are there well articulated, desired behaviors for employees that tie to these values?
  • How is ownership for these behaviors assigned and are proper accountabilities in place?
  • Do you have metrics/KPIs for these desired behaviors?

If your answer is no to any of those questions, what do you plan to do to remedy the situation? As you ponder that question, consider this quote from Shakespeare:  “It is a good divine that follows his own instructions”.

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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Let’s be in touch.  Drop us a line at  917-373-7451 or send a note.

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

 

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.