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B2B marketing

Blog_06-13-13I recently had the opportunity to chat with Rajat Paharia, founder and chief product officer at Bunchball, about his new book, Loyalty 3.0, pivoting startups, and the differences between the business of games and the gamification of business.

Lilia: You were one of the first to see the potential for gaming methodology in marketing.   What sparked this idea?

Rajat: The company I founded in 2005 was the right idea, but it was 2 to 3 years early to market.  It was a social gaming platform, and in the process of building it, we examined what made gaming sticky. Pogo was one of the best, most used sites at the time, and they had all these statistics that they were able to stitch together into a really engaging experience.  So we started building that idea into our gaming platform – for game results, but also to get people to do other things, like invite friends.  We saw that it worked for motivating more than just behavior within the game itself – and that was the spark.

We realized that combining data with “gaming” concepts can be used in other interactions.  We were still a small company, so we had to make a very tough decision – continue in the social gaming market, or shift to gamification for businesses.  We chose the latter, but we were early to market – again.  Ultimately, though, that turned out to be a good thing – because we had time to develop a strong skill set and effective motivation techniques.

***

Lilia: Bunchball has helped well over 300 companies, including dozens of global brands, leverage big data to drive gaming-inspired loyalty programs. What surprised you most about how those companies have put this technology to use?

Rajat: We started with B2C applications of gamification, but the surprise has been how rapidly the business has transitioned to B2B uses. Companies are using (our solution) to motivate and train employees in sales and service, and to influence partners.  B2B has taken off and is growing incredibly fast. That’s something we didn’t foresee.

It makes sense, of course.  Consider that Facebook, Amazon, etc. know more about your employees than you do.  Yet companies ignore tons of data about employees who spend 8 to 10 hours a day working for them and delivering enormous value. That data lives in Salesforce, Jive, Cornerstone, Successfactors and all manner of enterprise apps and systems.

***

Lilia: Loyalty 3.0 requires Big Data. Does that mean only big companies can really use it for employee and partner loyalty?

Rajat: Our customers range from small companies, as small as 10 to 100 people, to the bigger ones.

What you need is to understand customers’ or employees’ motivation. Then you need data.  And today we are walking data generators – constantly throwing off information that can be used to create loyalty 3.0 programs. Now, when I say Big Data, I’m referring to the large volume of data being generated by each of us as individuals – a lot of it unstructured.   Those individual data streams are available to any business, not just large ones.  Finally, you need Gamification – that is, you need to create data-driven motivational techniques.

***

Lilia: In your book you discuss the entry of Gen Y into the worksforce.  Is it that younger generation that’s really the audience for gamification?

Rajat: No. It’s based on fundamental human motivators, so it works for anyone. The demographic of our customers’ customers and employees is across the board.  The thing about Gen Y is that this is the air they breathe. So to motivate them, these methods are indispensable.  Gamification works for everyone, but it’s absolutely critical for the Gen Y.

***

Lilia: What do you find is the most common misconception people have about gamification?

Rajat: The word is a double-edged sword.  People think it’s games and entertainment.  And they don’t want their employees playing games. They want them working.  The reason these techniques came out of the gaming industry is because game designers have been living in  data-rich environments for the last 40 years, and have had a chance to learn and develop all these techniques for motivating and driving behavior.  Now the rest of the world has caught up. So gamification is really not about games at all. It’s about business results.

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Lilia: Certainly wearable computing will create a huge opportunity for gamification through increasing the volume of data even more and through the “everywhere with me” aspect of those devices. What are some other emerging trends that you see either enabling or driving the demand for gamification?

Rajat: The notion of sensors everywhere. There’s a company across the street from ours that’s making ingestable sensors, powered by stomach acids.  So you can tell exactly when the medicine was taken, and how the body responds.  That means we can use gamification to motivate healthy behavior like taking your medication on time. More broadly, technology is mediating a lot of what we do – and all those systems are throwing off data that can be used to motivate behavior and inspire loyalty.

***

Lilia: Where should a company start when considering gamification?

Rajat:  Always start by determining what you are trying to accomplish. What’s your goal?  For example, “We want our channel partner sales team to contribute 10% more to the pipeline.” Gamification starts with a business mission statement.    Then you decide how you will measure that.  Then, understand what are the behaviors that I need to affect.   Next look at users and understand what motivates them.

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Lilia: That sounds straightforward, but how would a company actually know what motivates customers or employees?

Rajat: The best way to do that is by talking to a few of them.  Ask them lots of open-ended questions.  You only need to talk to a few to get really smart. We break it down in the book – how to craft an experience that fits, and create automated, scalable, repeatable motivation and intervention that you can use to motivate employees or kids.

***

Rajat’s book, Loyalty 3.0, launches June 18th through all the usual channels.  In the meantime, you can pre-order at http://loyalty30.com/  and get extra gifts with your pre-order.

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I just hosted a webinar introducing the second edition of my book, 42 Rules for Growing Enterprise Revenue: Practical Strategies for Increasing B2B Customer Relevance.

Watch the webinar to get a quick overview of 7 strategies for becoming more relevant to customers:

  • Selecting markets where you matter
  • Focusing on customer interactions rather than your org chart
  • Using context to define and articulate value
  • Collaborating with customers
  • Moving from products to solutions
  • Exploring vertical market alignment
  • Empowering your sales channels

Enjoy, and let me know what you think!

Ways to Matter More to Customers, Lilia Shirman from Laura on Vimeo.

 

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In a recent study of B2B demand generation practices conducted by Software Advice, social media was among the most popular marketing channels, and a top spending priority for next year, despite receiving low marks for both quality and volume of leads it generates. Social media was the 3rd worse in terms of quantity of leads it produced, and in the bottom half in terms of lead quality.

Maybe the reason that almost 90% of the survey’s 155 respondents use social media is the low cost. Non-ad social media was voted the cheapest of 14 marketing channels by study respondents. It’s easy to increase spend on something that is perceived as nearly free. Over half of companies plan to increase budget for social media marketing next year.

Of course, social media isn’t about leads at all.  It’s about creating conversations, engagement, and buzz rather than immediate sales.  But be cautious about whom you target.  1World Online recently reported that 70% of Fortune 500 CEOs have no social media presence

What channels generate good leads?

According to the Software Advice study, in-house email marketing was among the top 5 channels for lead quantity and quality. The only other channel to be voted among the top 5 in both categories was trade shows and events, though it was also the most expensive.

Other channels that generated high lead quantity were 3rd party lead originators, search engine ads, and SEO. For Lead Quality, SEO was second after email. Also good for lead quality were telemarketing and 3rd party webinars.

The best offers and content

The study reports that live demos with reps provided the best combination of high lead quantity (ranked 2nd) and quality (ranked 1st). Free trials, according to Software Advice, generated the highest lead quantity, and were 3rd in terms of lead quality. Despite the high rankings, free trials were among the three least-used offers.

Complete study results are available here.

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I bet you already have a long list of launch announcements and product training sessions for your 2013 sales kickoff.   That’s important information, but it’s not enough.

If your sales people are still having difficulty engaging executive and business audiences, even after that expensive solution selling training you invested in so recently, it’s because they lack a good alternative to the product-centric pitch.

Executive audiences – whether IT or Business – don’t need your sales people to recite widely-known industry trends as an intro to the product pitch.  They don’t want to waste a meeting hearing information they could just as easily find on your website.

They DO want

  • To see that you understand their business, in-depth
  • To hear new insights about how to apply technology to grow their business
  • To experience what it’s like to collaborate with your company
  •  To be able to justify their decision to work with you

That means your sales people need a new arsenal.  Here are some changes you can make in time for Sales Kickoff:

  • Throw away the PowerPoint.  Replace presentation slides about industry trends with interactive discussion guides about customers’ objectives.
  • Ask Insightful Questions.   Your sales training and tools should provide lots of open-ended questions that intrigue customers, demonstrate sales reps’ expertise, and help discover what’s really of value to buyers.
  • State a point of view.   Give Sales something unique to say that customers haven’t heard from everyone else: Make some bold statements, show a distinct approach, or share a new perspective. Challenge common knowledge or the status quo.
  •  Tell Stories. Replace recitations of product benefits with use case-driven value stories.  Provide sales people with stories that illustrate how you have helped similar companies (and will help them) create tangible business results within specific use cases by leveraging your unique capabilities.
  • Brainstorm.   Turn sales meetings into collaborative brainstorming sessions by enabling sales people to discuss many options and approaches, point out the pros and cons of each, and explain how they fit with other products the customer is likely to need.
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The New Challenges of Selling as “1 of 3”

by Charles Born on September 5, 2012

in Marketing,Sales Tips

This article is by Guest Blogger Charlie Born, the newest member of the Shirman Group extended team.

Over the last five years, B2B selling has evolved from general concepts of solution selling to the ‘Buyer’s Journey’ – a journey driven by the large amount of information available online.  A new sales and marketing reality is rapidly emerging as the internet plays an increasing role in buyer research.  I’ve seen the impact of this in my own marketing work, and I strongly believe we are on the cusp of some important changes to the conventional marketing and sales wisdom of the past

Studies are consistently showing that B2B buying habits are shifting.  Buyers are now 60-70% of the way through the buyer’s cycle before they reach out to your sales representative.   By that time, there is less need for traditional solution selling techniques.  In the new buyer’s journey, the buyers believe that, based on their own research, they have figured out what they need.   When they decide to contact your sales team, they have most likely decided you are one of their top three choices – you are 1 of 3.

Maybe this sounds like good news.  It’s not.  Most often the buyer views all three choices as equally acceptable, and the final decision comes down to features, functions, support—and price, price, price.  Exceptional sales representatives might be able to overcome this ‘1 of 3’ syndrome, but this is the antithesis of where you want to be with solution selling.

In this new selling environment your biggest hurdles are no longer your competitors or features and functions; they are:

  • The ability of buyers to learn on their own
  • How your company participates in that learning process

As the CMO of SAP, Jonathan Becher, said at a recent Churchill Club CMO Panel, “Being marketed TO is a mindset we need to end.  It’s helping (the buyer) discover what they want to learn about.”

Are you experiencing this phenomenon?  Has it changed your marketing strategy?

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Don’t you just love opening those emails with sales pitches and special offers inside?  Doesn’t it make you eager to get the next email from the same vendor?  No?

Obviously not.  Yet many companies use their email newsletter to barrage their customers and prospects with offers and promotions.  Maybe if the email is from RueLaLa, addressed at eager fashionistas, it will get a decent open rate.   After all, RueLaLa is all about special offers to begin with.  If you’re selling complex B2B products, repeated offers and promotions will result in  a very high “always ignore” rate.   That’s the proportion of subscribers who got sick of your email offers long ago, but don’t want to bother to open one and scroll down and find the fine print to unsubscribe. So they just ignore you. Every time.

Stop sending offers. Resist the urge to add a promotion to every missive.  Remember that the call to action does not need to be “buy now,” and not even “try now.”  Send them something valuable instead.   So valuable, that they’ll be more likely to open the next email.   Here are 10 ideas of valuable things to send.

  1. Short (15-20 minute) webinar by one or more of your clients about how they solved a problem your other customers are likely to face
  2. Your own webinars that inform about a common topics of interest to your audience (Hint: your product is NOT a common topic of interest)
  3. Invitation and discount to attend an event where you will be present
  4. Summary of big takeaways from a conference that someone in your organization attended
  5. 3rd party articles that are relevant to your prospects
  6. White papers (your own or 3rd parties) that actually inform rather than advertise
  7. Video interview with one of your execs sharing their ideas, views, insights (but NOT promoting your company)
  8. Blog entries by your executives, employees, or 3rd parties that are relevant to your audiences
  9. Explanation of something happening in the market and about which there may be confusion
  10. New ideas or best practices gleaned from your customers and other internal and external subject matter experts.

There are countless others, of course.  Please share ones you’ve sent or received that have been particularly valuable.

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We just sent out a summary to the participants of this year’s Industry Specialization by B2B Vendors Benchmark Study.   We had a record 120 B2B companies take part in this year’s study.

Companies see that greater customer focus, in the form of industry-specialized sales, marketing, services, and products will enable them to access more senior decision makers and increase deal sizes.  Many are also responding to competitive pressures. The good news is that the investment is paying off.

The full report is due out next month, but meanwhile, a sneak peak at a few tidbits:

  • 67% of B2B companies that already have some amount of industry specialization said they plan to further increase their focus on key vertical markets.
  • It takes two to three years to begin to realize the full benefits of specialization.
  • After 2 years, 70% of companies reported notable or significant impact on revenue from their investments in industry-specialized activity
  • Industry alliances have a big impact on brand awareness
  • Industry-specific case studies and quantitative ROI analysis were reported to be the most valuable industry-specific marketing tactics.  Sales and marketing brochures were least effective.
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As a follow-up to the previous post, here are some practical differences to keep in mind when planning for solutions marketing.

Solution marketing differs from traditional product marketing.  This is a partial list, of course, but 7 is supposed to be a lucky number, right?

  1. Solutions marketers understand what motives customers to allocate budget within the broader context for a purchase
  2. Solutions marketing content is focused on the buyer and their objectives, not the product or its features
  3. Solutions-oriented value propositions focus in on specific use-cases or situations in which the customer is involved.
  4. The solutions marketing process and programs provide information or resources that are valuable to the customer
  5. Thought leadership and value creation are critical components of solutions marketing
  6. Solutions marketing activity often involves collaboration with other companies (see broader context in #1)
  7. To ensure that all of the above are truly relevant, current, and valuable to your audience, Solutions Marketing must engage the customer in conversation and dialogue at every available opportunity.

Speaking of dialogues, please add to the list with your comments!

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