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Marketing

The proliferation of SaaS and Apple’s demonstration of the impact of product design and user experience, have changed how marketers and their companies look at products.   The lines between product management, product development, marketing, and sales are disappearing as quickly as chocolate from my kitchen.

At a recent Churchill Club CMO panel, Nora Denzel, Senior VP, Big Data, Social Design and Marketing at Intuit  articulated this trend best with the comment, “our product IS the funnel.”  She described that Intuit customers make decision based on product use, not marketing messages. Their experience in using the product determines whether they spend money on it.  That should be old hat to anyone offering a freemium model, but may not be explicitly understood by companies new to the products as services environment. Even more traditional products are evolving to play a bigger role in sales and marketing.  Interactive TV guides provided by carriers upsell on-demand channels and premium content, toys include complimentary on-line gaming components that cross sell more toys, and grocery packaging offers recipes that promote sister brands and products.

A key implication of this product-as-sales-tool trend is the accompanying change in product design and development, which marketing leaders clearly recognize. Jonathan Becher, CMO at SAP  remarked that “product launch is the day you sat down to decide what product you are going to build.”  To which Laura McLellan of Gartner quipped, “If marketing gets involved when the product is done, engineering gets what it deserves,” voicing my own observations that R&D culture has been slow to change and, in some companies, still drives product roadmaps with a myopic focus on technology and features rather than user experience.  (You know who you are.)

Taking it a bit farther, Jonathan Becher described a vision of product development in which just-in-time creation of features and designs that respond to the customer’s current preferences would replace precisely targeted marketing of existing products

Bottom Line: Whether you’re delivering products on-premise or as service, your Product Managers should have among their top design criteria:

  • Ease of use and high quality customer experience
  • Opportunities for customers to experience the product before they buy
  • Usage and behavior-based upsell and cross sell features
  • Seamless integration of usage, behavior, and request-based support and social features
  • Intelligence and analytics capabilities that use information like product configuration, user behavior and preferences, and transactional data to provide additional value to your company and to customers
  • Product architecture, design, and/or manufacturing process that allow fast and easy modifications, feature additions, and integration of complimentary products.

Please share your examples of products with built-in sales and marketing.

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“We’re not in control. The Customer is.”
– Lorraine Twohill, VP Global Marketing, Google

We’ve talked here in our blog and in my book about the concept of collaborating with customers as the means to engage the more empowered buyer.  The mindset that customers have greater control than ever was clearly evident among the CMOs on a recent Churchill Club panel.

When asked whether his organization was “marketing-led,” “engineering-led,” or “sales-led,” Jonathan Becher, CMO at SAP, answered, “There’s only one kind of “led” – customer led.”  He described that at the last SAP conference, the decision about which topics to include was “crowd sourced from the customer.”

Nora Denzel,  Senior VP, Big Data, Social Design and Marketing at Intuit provided more examples of how Intuit is sharing the reigns with its customers: Intuit’s CEO meets with customers each quarter before speaking to his staff at the ops reviews.   Intuit has “outsourced product management and marketing to the customer.”  That’s because Intuit’s new product features get exposed to customer in a web sand-box, and their viability is determined based on actual customer usage.  Anne Globe of DreamWorks agreed that today there’s an opportunity for the customer to “take you in a different direction than what you planned” when you designed your marketing campaign.

Bottom Line:  2.0 didn’t just change the technologies we use to communicate, collaborate, and sell.  It has completely transformed customer mindsets.  Buyers in both B2B and B2C markets expect greater corporate transparency and increased influence over what is sold to them, where and how.  They also exercise greater collective and individual power in the marketplace.  Companies that can redefine their customer relationships from one of buyer-seller to that of a team collaborating to discover, learn, design solutions, and maximize their usefulness will command greater loyalty.

 

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Top 5 Trends for CMOs

by Lilia Shirman on August 9, 2012

in Customer relationships,Marketing

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a panel discussion with some of Silicon Valley’s top CMOs:  Jonathan Becher, CMO at SAP, Nora Denzel, Senior VP, Big Data, Social Design and Marketing at Intuit, Anne Globe, CMO at DreamWorks Animation, and Lorraine Twohill, VP Global Marketing , Google.   The moderator was Laura McLellan of Gartner.

Some interesting themes emerged from the discussion.  Here, and in subsequent posts, I’ll summarize the CMOs’ comments and add some perspective about the implications for marketers and their companies.

The top 5 trends:

  1. Customer Power
  2. Shared ownership for Customer Experience
  3. The Product IS the Marketing
  4. Social and Digital Marketing disappearing as distinct disciplines, Big Data key new tool
  5. The expanding Marketing skillset
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If individual employees have more power to select products and technologies, then should we market to them the same way we market to consumers?

Consumerization of corporate buying decisions is leaving B2B marketers asking if and how to use B2C techniques in B2B sales.    I like to break the question up into pieces, starting with messaging, then sales strategy, and finally marketing tactics.

What’s really different between messaging in B2B vs. B2C environments?

First, consider the similarities:

Everyone develops initial preference based on emotional response, whether they are making personal or business purchases.   So you must appeal to the individual and their personal priorities in both settings.

In B2B, recognize that business people often have unstated personal interests and decide how your sales strategy is going to address these.  To make this a repeatable sales practice, include an assessment of personal objectives for key stakeholders in your account planning process.  (Assumes you have one, but that’s a whole other topic.)

Now the big difference:

While the consumer might or might not bother to rationalize their decision, the business buyer almost always MUST demonstrate tangible (not just perceived) value to the company.  While you can rely exclusively on brand image and emotional response with consumers, you have to message to BOTH the emotional and rational considerations for business buyers.

If you’ve used B2C-style messaging for a B2B product, tell us how that worked.
More on this topic in our next post.

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Banish the “M” Word!

by Lilia Shirman on March 9, 2011

in Marketing

I think we should banish the term “Marketing.”

Here’s why. I gave a presentation recently on Marketing 101 for entrepreneurs, and had listed a dozen types of marketing. We had a long discussion of which marketer does what, when to hire, what to outsource, and how it all fits together. At the end one new CEO asked, “So, why do people say they do Marketing?”

Good question. Even back when my job title had Marketing in it, I was never comfortable telling people, “I’m in marketing.” My answer was always more complicated. I realized why when I read April Dunford’s insightful recent post, in which April describes the complexity and diversity of “Marketing” and how these lead to bad hiring decisions, unmet expectations, and marketing failures. Then I knew what to do. The way to simplify marketing is to abolish it! Not the activity, but the word.

Here’s April’s list of what falls into Marketing:

The first step to hiring a great marketer (and for marketers to hird a job they won’t suck at) is to clearly understand what you mean by “marketing”. It’s a multi-faceted job that can include (but doesn’t always!):
1. Advertising
2. Branding
3. Product Management
4. Lead Generation
5. Install base/Customer engagement strategy and tactics
6. Inbound Marketing and/or SEO
7. Sales Support
8. Market Strategy
9. Messaging/Positioning
10. Channel strategy/management/marketing
11. Partnerships and partner marketing
12. Media and Analyst Relations
13. Content strategy and creation
14. Other stuff that I don’t even know about

It overlaps but does not duplicate my list, which included Event Management, Solutions Marketing, Industry / Vertical Marketing, Customer Intelligence, etc. Marketing is an umbrella for so many different skill sets and functions. Calling them all one thing is akin to calling anyone who works at a product company but outside R&D as being a “business person.” It’s meaningless.

Try it out for a day – see if you can avoid using the “M” word, at least by itself. Then let me know if you spent less time clarifying and explaining what you meant.

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Let’s face it.  Sales can generate revenue without Marketing.   Not so in reverse.   The true purpose of marketing – of the messages, and the programs, and the collateral, and the PR –  is to accelerate and amplify sales efforts.  When that’s forgotten, sales-marketing misalignment follows.

Companies focus lots of attention on understanding customer needs, designing messages and programs for them, and gathering feedback to improve products and go-to-market efforts.  Unfortunately, when Marketers forget what marketing is for, they often neglect their other, one might even argue primary, audience: Sales.   (To clarify, by “Sales” I mean both direct and indirect channels, so partners are definitely included in this discussion.)

You probably have a process in place to measure customer satisfaction and gather customer input.  Whether via survey, customer advisory board, or support call analysis, some form of customer feedback is influencing your business.  What feedback mechanism do you have in place for the Sales team?

Here are five simple ideas to help understand Sales’ needs and align Sales and Marketing:

1. Conduct an annual sales survey.  Just like a customer satisfaction survey, this tool can assess current perceptions, determine needs, and prioritize their importance.  Use a survey to find out what tools, information, and skills will improve sales productivity, and to assess how well various marketing organizations are supporting and collaborating with Sales.

2. Gather input through your sales and partner portals. Create a visible and easily accessible request form and encourage Sales to ask for tools, training, content, information, or other changes that will help them accelerate and close deals.   Then use your existing sales and partner communications to highlight requests that have been implemented.

3. Create sales and partner advisory boards. Be sure to select a diverse set of members.  This group can be a sounding board for new initiatives or programs such as Sales Kickoff agendas, improvements to product launches, or training curricula.

4. Place Marketing and Sales in the same room. The most effective marketing people are those that spend time out in the field, accompanying reps to sales meetings and listening to partners.  You can’t regularly send everyone in marketing out into the field, but you can provide opportunities for greater interaction.  Send marketing people to sales training, where they can see what sales is learning, and build relationships and hear feedback directly from their classmates.   Have marketing folks who are involved in lead-gen and sales enablement activities participate in sales meetings and calls, so they can hear the issues and challenges Sales faces, and play a more direct role in helping overcome them.

5.  Plan together. During your annual planning process, ask Sales and Marketing executives to identify specific dependencies on each other.   The leadership team should then acknowledge  each dependency, and jointly make decisions about whether and how each organization will fulfill their obligations to the other groups that depend on them.  They should also agree on changes to the plan if the obligations can’t be met.  Such collaboration early and at the highest levels of leadership permeates through both groups.  (Of course, the same process should be used for the entire executive staff, not only the Sales and Marketing leaders.)

Marketers and Sales and Channel managers: Please share how your marketing organization gets feedback from your sales channels.

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3 Musts of BtoB Messaging

by Lilia Shirman on June 26, 2009

in Marketing

Relevance – to your buyer’s context for making the purchase: company, industry, role, current business objectives and challenges, and personal interests.

Value – tangible, provable value that specifically and directly links what you’re selling to what the customer wants.  Value is the intersection of results you have proved you can deliver (according to existing customers), and the results the customer is looking for.

Uniqueness – Your secret sauce. That thing that only you can deliver, or for which you are known as the best or the vanguard.

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Asking right

by Lilia Shirman on May 19, 2009

in Customer relationships,Sales Tips

Idea Design’s blog about asking is right on – and applies to businesses as much as to charities. At the end are three points that may as well have been written for businesses – here they are,  with business terms inserted:

“1. Be where your [customers and prospects] are. Hang out with them. Learn their language and be relevant to them.

2. If you want to [close deals] sooner or later you are going to have to ask for [the sale].

3. And when you do ask, ask in a way that is appropriate to your [customer]. ”

In a business, these apply to the sales reps, and to the rest of your organization.   Get your messages into the places customers look to for information (note – first place they look is not your website).   Your marketing, services, and product development / design staff should be attending the same events, reading the same publications, and participating in the same discussions on and off-line that your target audiences do.

Most sales people don’t have much trouble asking for a sale – but they often fail to do their homework and communicate why their offer should matter to the customer in the customer’s terms.  That makes the ask inappropriate.  To increase the frequency of yeses, increase the relevance of your offers.  To make that relevance natural, as Idea Design suggests, hang out with the customers.

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5 Ideas to Slice and Dice Your Market

by Lilia Shirman on April 3, 2009

in Customer relationships

Given that segmentation is the cornerstone of marketing, I am often surprised at how little of it B-to-B companies actually do.  Company size and geography are often the only criteria for segmentation, with industry being a distant third. There are other ways to slice and dice.  A few ideas:

1. Look at customer characteristics such as tolerance for risk, speed of technology adoption, core business driver (are they technology-driven, customer-driven, supply-chain driven, etc.)  – some may be much more likely to buy from you than others.

2. Separate customers with different levels of familiarity and experience with your company and products – your objectives and sales approach will be very different.

3. Split companies up by specific situations, business processes, or use-cases that are common to an industry or a business models.   The solutions and services you offer them will vary drastically.

4. Define audiences based on their roles and responsibilities within an organization or within the decision-making process.   Also consider segmenting by organization structure and culture – highly hierarchical, process-focused companies need a different sale then flat and agile organizations.

5. This seems painfully obvious, but then again, its rarely done:  Segment based on actual customer objectives.   This one is difficult and takes account-specific research to determine who fits where.  So we tend to just assume that all companies in an industry, experiencing the same pressures (you know, the slide that says “Increased competition, Decreasing customer loyalty / ease of switching, regulation and/or deregulation, growing complexity of IT environment..”) must have the same objectives.  But in fact, some are looking to get bought, some want to grow internationally, some want to raise revenue from existing customers, while other are focused on boosting profitability.

Most companies also under-utilize the insights that segmentation provies.  Next time we’ll explore the uses of segment characteristics in various parts of your organization.

Comment and share some innovative segmentation criteria you’ve seen used by BtoB companies.

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I came across a great summary of an all-too-common problem on the MarketCulture blog.  The article   recommends that companies focus “on a demand that needs to be met (rather) than a tech that needs to be sold.”  Well said!

Apple is a great example of what happens when a company switches from product to market focus.  Apple started as a product-focused company.  And almost disappeared, despite its loyal following among creative types.   Its computers were easier to use and better designed, but the mass market who needed easy-to-use computers wasn’t there until later, by which time MS had introduced Windows, washing away Apple’s design superiority.    While Apple was still focused on cool product design, MS wooed a broad community of application developers to meet the growing demand for specialized applications.  The need was for a broad range of software functionality, and Apple missed that completely.

But Apple learned.  When music sharing came along, launching wars between record labels and music enthusiasts, Apple  saw the need, and designed around it.  This time, Apple focused on the demand side, with savvy marketing and even more savvy ecosystem creation. Significantly, Apple didn’t give up its leading-edge product design competency in order to become market focused.

To all the entrepreneurs with great ideas, and the larger vendors touting product features: Spend time with customers to find out where they really will spend money.  Then DO make “products so good they don’t need sales and marketing.”   Then market and sell like crazy.

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