"Hello, I'm Laura Ramos, and I write for chief marketing officers."
That's the standard line around here. It'll take a little gettting used to saying it. Heck, I still find myself saying "Xerox" instead of "Forrester" from time to time, but I hope to get out of that habit soon.
Luckily, I won't have to break my habit of thinking and writing about the issues that face large companies that sell highly-considered products and services to other businesses through a direct sales force or channel partners. I've always been a business-to-business (B2B) girl, and I'll stick to that focus here at Forrester.
When you put the word “sales” and “enablement” together – it sure can mean a lot of different things – to a lot of different people.
As the Research Director on Forrester’s Sales Enablement team – it’s a problem I see every day.
What’s entertaining about this (or aggravating, if you are a sales enablement professional inside a large company) is that not only do many people view those two combined words differently – many of those people are extremely confident their own perspective is the right one. Given what we publish, the number of presentations we give, all of the cross-functional group settings we run into – you might imagine we’ve heard our fair share of strong opinions.
Here are a few highlights of my favorite “certainties:”
· Sales enablement is just lipstick on a knowledge management pig.
· Sales enablement is the new label for sales training.
· Product marketers have been enabling sellers for years, what’s the big deal?
· Sales people should be enabling themselves with all of the resources we provide them.
· Marketing should own sales enablement, because it is clearly a content issue, and the sales force doesn’t have access to good content.
For the past couple of years, I’ve been serving CMO and marketing leadership professionals here at Forrester in a supporting role and, in particular, researching shopper marketing and the path to purchase (P2P). I'm excited to share that, going forward, I will be an analyst on the CMO and marketing leadership team. As an analyst, I will have the opportunity to focus my time and research agenda on helping marketers better understand the true potential and business implications of shopper marketing and P2P initiatives, and I am fired up to get started!
Over the next few months, look for reports about:
What the future of shopper marketing looks like.
The impact of digital on customers’ path to purchase.
How to organize and hire for engagement-based marketing.
Key criteria to self-assess and benchmark performance.
I recently spent a few days in Connecticut, USA, with Pitney Bowes. So why, you ask, is a CIO advisor who spends most of his time talking about the future of business technology in Asia Pacific spending time with a company that makes machines that stamp mail? That is a good question, and one I hope to answer while at the same time showing where I believe Pitney Bowes can help in your organisation.
So Pitney Bowes stamps mail. Yes — but they see it differently. They see that they enable communications with customers. Interesting. But mail is declining — right? Yes, it is, and Pitney Bowes has made many acquisitions to position itself as the leader in the digital mail space. And they have gone from just providing the communications capability to working across the entire customer lifecycle. Acquisitions of Portrait Software, MapInfo, Group 1 Software and many of the other firms they have acquired in the last 10 years have given them the ability to do:
- Customer profiling and segmentation
- Data preparation and composition
- Multi-channel customer output
- Customer response management
- Response analysis
Recently my colleague David Cooperstein and I had the opportunity to meet with Robert Mead and Michael Mathias, the CMO and CIO respectively at Aetna. They will be speaking at our upcoming CIO-CMO Forum on September 22 in Boston, so this serves as a bit of a preview to what should be an eye opening presentation. Enjoy!
David Cooperstein: What external changes drove you to build a deeper partnership with your technology peers?
Robert Mead, Senior Vice President, Aetna Marketing, Product & Communications: The U.S. health care system is fragmented and well behind the curve in terms of price transparency and consumer-friendly products and services. The deep partnership between technology and marketing at Aetna lets us put leading-edge technologies and powerful tools and applications directly into the hands of people so that they can be confident consumers and informed patients. Our close collaboration with our colleagues in technology is driven by a few external factors:
the increasing cost of care and the corresponding changes in employer-based insurance – consumers are being asked to take more ownership of their health and wellness and their health care spending;
the introduction and rapid adoption of technology that empowers consumers (and patients) to engage in the health care system where they are in life and in the way they want to be connected; and
health care reform, which aims to bring millions of previously uninsured Americans into the marketplace as consumers.
We at Forrester have written a lot about the “empowered era” in the past year. We’re talking about the empowerment of customers and employees, the consumerization of technology, and grass-roots-based, tech-enabled innovation. There are lots of great case studies around illustrating these forces and how they can benefit the enterprise, but those success stories are only part of the picture. Behind the scenes, there is disruption and confusion about who’s planning the road ahead regarding the technology in our organizations’ future. It used to be that the CIO made sure that happened by making it the exclusive domain of strategic planners and enterprise architects. But isn’t centralized — and IT-based — tech planning the opposite of empowerment? Wouldn’t sticking with the old approach result in missing out on all this employee innovation that’s supposed to be so powerful? Should the CIO no longer establish the technology the enterprise will use? Does the empowerment era mean the end of tech planning as we know it?
Several recent Forrester reports home in on what we call “The Age Of The Customer” in which firms must seek to become customer-obsessed to build differentiation and loyalty. Those firms that embrace this will ramp up investment in four priority areas: 1) real-time customer intelligence; 2) customer experience and customer service; 3) sales channels that deliver customer intelligence; and 4) useful content and interactive marketing. All these needs are technology-infused – wholly dependent on technology and in categories where technology is evolving rapidly. Underlying these investments is the need to master the flow of data about customers: capturing/collecting data about them, analyzing it, distributing to those points of engagement, and, finally, integrating the insights into the customer experience.
Companies can’t succeed at doing this without a close partnership between the business areas leading the charge and IT. The rate of change of your customers, markets, business opportunities, and technology is simply too fast. Forrester is exploring this theme in our first CIO/CMO joint forum.
The reality, though, is companies flounder at this marketing-IT partnership. They flounder because of:
More ideas than capacity. A plethora of desired initiatives are constantly being surfaced – beyond the limits of available budget and with no mechanism to sort them into an achievable plan that IT can deliver on.
Consider the following scenario: It’s a hot summer day and a prospective customer walks into your store to buy an air conditioner. He evaluates several models and then buys one — but not from you. It turns out your competitor located two miles away is offering the same model at a 20% discount. How did he know this? He scanned the product's bar code using the RedLaser app on his iPhone, which displayed several local retailers with lower prices than yours. If he had been willing to wait three days for shipping, he could have purchased the exact same model while standing in your store from an online retailer at a 30% discount.
This type of technology-fueled disruption is affecting all industries, not just retailers. Since the early 1900s, businesses relied on competitive barriers such as manufacturing strength, distribution power, and information mastery. But this is all changing in the age of the customer, where empowered buyers have information at their fingertips to check a price, read a product review, or ask for advice from a friend right from the screen of their smartphone.
To compete in the age of the customer, your business must become customer-obsessed. As Forrester’s Josh Bernoff (@jbernoff), SVP of Idea Development and author of Groundswelland Empowered, advocates in his latest research: “The only source of competitive advantage is the one that can survive technology-fueled disruption — an obsession with understanding, delighting, connecting with, and serving customers.”
With the increasing richness and complexity that digital channels and social media bring to the marketing equation, senior marketers increasingly realize that, to be relevant in shaping their brands’ interaction with customers, their teams need to embrace new technologies with the help of the IT group.
In my latest joint research effort with my fellow analyst Nigel Fenwick from Forrester’s CIO role, I explore how marketing and IT can successfully work together in enabling organizations to master the customer data flow.
Our early findings were not very promising . . . What clearly emerged from our interviews with CMOs and CIOs was how deeply ingrained the stereotypes about the two teams are. We heard that:
IT is the department of “no” and does not care about customers or what’s happening in the market.
Marketing is having all of the fun and spending money without rhyme or reason.
In today’s fast-paced global economy, examples of how empowered customers and citizens use social technology to influence everything from brands to governments are all around us. The Arab Spring clearly shows the ability of technology to empower people. In this new digital age, marketing teams must react at the speed of the market: Product development life cycles that used to last many years are compressed into months or weeks; customer service expectations have moved from same-day response to instant response; public relations snafus must be handled in minutes rather than days; marketing campaigns are adjusted in real time based on instant feedback from social media. In this new era, mastering customer data becomes the key to success and, in my opinion, represents the biggest opportunity for IT to impact business results since the dawn of the Internet.