In most cases, the answers to life’s more complex questions have really simple answers. In today’s selling environment it’s often hard to determine who exactly is “the buyer.” Your salespeople are given a lot of inputs:
Your executive leadership want them calling on “business people” or “executives.”
The sales training courses they have been to instruct them to find “champions,” “decision-makers,” and “influencers.”
Marketers produce information about “personas.”
Business unit leaders and other subject matter experts talk about “users” or “doers.”
Sales managers tend to be more interested in understanding the opportunity (Access to power? Is it qualified? Is there budget allocate? When is the account going to make a decision?).
Their contacts within an given account give them different people or process steps to follow, or kick them over to procurement.
With all of the different voices – “You should do this,” “You should say that,” “You need to present this way” – echoing in the heads of your salespeople, things can get very confusing.
A Tale Of Two Sales
The thing is – the buying environment for most of us has changed, leaving us with two distinctively different buying patterns:
On the one hand, the customer knows what they want and have developed fairly sophisticated procurements steps to acquired what they need at the best possible price.
On the other hand, the customer is looking for the expertise to help them get value from their investment and solve a problem.
Why are sales and marketing professionals working harder and longer than ever before? Why are they seemingly in a constant firefighting mode, moving from one fire drill to the next, one meeting to another?
We are in the middle of a major transformation in the B2B sales model. Your company is caught between a rock and a hard place because your investors want to see accelerated growth and improved margins. However, your customers have the same pressures, and all have some form of enterprisewide strategic procurement initiatives underway. Your goal: sell at a higher price. Their goal: buy only what they need at the lowest possible price. Something has to give.
In response to these tectonic forces, we find many companies have a variety of internal projects designed to combat the commoditization trend. Some common efforts include:
Training salespeople to get access to executives.
Creating "solution selling kits" (in marketing).
Developing return-on-investment tools.
Focusing on demand-generation campaigns.
Developing sales-coaching frameworks.
Creating more structured opportunity identification and account scorecards.
Fine-tuning the customer relationship management (CRM) system to improve reporting and forecasting processes.
Pricing and packaging exercises and corresponding negotiation training.
Reinventing product marketing functions into "solution" marketing roles.
Two or three years ago, software buyers in the market for new and improved tools for managing website content and cross-channel digital customer experiences had a typical request: “Help me replace my legacy web content management system with a new web content management system.” It was out with the old, legacy, hard to use system, and in with a new solution that perhaps had a few new capabilities, but which still looked and felt like… a web content management system.
As we approach 2014, that WCM buyer is asking for a whole lot more. Enter the digital experience platform – an emerging software category poised for takeoff as enterprises seek to differentiate through better digital customer experiences.
Forrester has defined the digital customer experience platform and 14 specific tools and capabilities in our TechRadar report for application development and delivery pros.
We took the research further in another recent report, a Market Overview report covering digital customer experience delivery platforms. This reports describes 17 representative software vendors and their offerings as they try to tackle this robust market with a diversity of capabilities; each has a different approach. Our research has identified players with heritage in four vendor categories: web content management (e.g. Acquia and Adobe), eCommerce (e.g. Demandware, Digital River), marketing solutions (e.g. Hubspot, Razorfish), and enterprise business software providers (IBM and Oracle).
Next month will mark the (gulp) 20th year of my tenure in "digital strategy." I started working on projects back in 1994 using Mozilla, Usenet, and WebCrawler as my guides. The World (its 2006 website is still live at www.std.com) was my ISP. We were still more attentive to CD-ROMs than graphical websites. Hair was still on my head, my dogs were not yet born, and my career was still developing. It was also 20 years ago, in 1994, that the first web design agencies — what became USWeb, Agency.com, and others — started to emerge.
I mention this anniversary, because, like other industries that evolve quickly, the concept of a "digital agency" has become somewhat of an anachronism, if not categorized properly. Specialized agencies that deliver digital capabilities are common, as are the digital or interactive practices within tradition creative, media, and consulting firms. Because of this new and more complicated mix of participants, marketers have shifted their agency relationships to more project based work, at more types of agencies, and with less long term commitment to any one firm.
After one of the biggest announcements in the marketing technology space of 2013 — Salesforce.com's purchase of ExactTarget — few were surprised to see the ExactTarget Marketing Cloud feature prominently at Dreamforce last week in San Francisco. But the real headline grabber was the introduction of Salesforce1, a cloud-based platform for what the company calls the "Internet of customers." We've got a deeper look into the implications of this for marketers for Forrester clients, but some of our key takeaways were that Salesforce:
Gets the age of the customer and what it means for their products. CEO Marc Benioff spoke at length about the "customers behind the devices" and the importance of engaging with those individuals, rather than the things they use to connect to the Web. We are in what Forrester calls the age of the customer, where "the most successful enterprises reinvent themselves to systematically understand and serve increasingly powerful customers." The Salesforce1 vision is to be the technology engine behind those firms — and the announcement takes a big step in that direction.
Brands deals with human needs and wants. Leo Burnett, the advertising executive, said: "The work of an advertising agency is warmly and immediately human. It deals with human needs, wants, dreams, and hopes." Smart brands know not to initially focus on what they have to sell but rather on how it meets consumers' needs. If you can address a strong consumer need, you will get those consumers to act. If you can get them to act, then you have opened an all-important channel of dialogue.
The fulfillment of consumer needs, however, is not always a linear hierarchic approach as proposed by Maslow and effectively debunked by Forrester analyst James McQuivey in his book Digital Disruption. Human needs take place simultaneously and are fuelled by a mix of short- and long-term motivations — some conscious and some unconscious. As a student, I would sometimes forgo food on a Friday so I could afford to go to a concert that night; or consider a Spanish couple postponing the short-term comfort of a much-needed upgrade to their central heating so they can put their child through the next year of college.
The pyramid diagram below shows how the foundation of this needs-based thinking is built from the ground up, from customer descriptions through to the technology and KPIs applied.
The penned merger of equals between Publicis and Omnicom takes two large networks of agencies and folds them into one behemoth holding company significantly larger than WPP, which would fall into second place. To gain strength in building a future, Publicis has been aggregating large digital shops to complement its traditional creative agencies; at the same time, Omnicom has been amassing a large contingent of small shops that grew quickly under its Diversified Agency Services (DAS) umbrella of digital firms in the race to lead the "new" thing.
Why merge now? The ad agency world and the technology world are on a collision course, centered on how well companies manage their business or consumer customer. I first mentioned this in a post about change management in my Forbes blog almost exactly one year ago. As agencies find themselves up against tech services giants like IBM, Accenture, Sapient and Deloitte, they are being asked to deliver:
Marketing and business strategy based on deep data. No marketing strategy is competitive today without the strength of managing and interpreting data. Both firms have invested in disparate platforms to build insight into the planning process. Agencies like Rosetta and RAPP use data to inform the strategy to build customer engagement, getting ad efforts closer to Moneyball-like results.
I was driving home from work the other day and listening, as usual, to Boston's National Public Radio station, WBUR, when a story came on about the push for doctors and hospitals to go digital by turning patient records into electronic health records (EHRs). There are a lot of tricky challenges that come with digitizing these documents: hundreds of products on the market to help with the effort, a steep upfront cost, lower productivity on day to day tasks while the system is implemented, the cost of accompanying hardware and maintenance, and a learning curve for doctors, nurses, and other staff. But as one of the office managers said for the story, the biggest challenge is actually "having everybody have a positive attitude to do it. If we can all keep positive and get through it and learn it...I think we'll be okay." Supporters of this effort cite improved cost and better, more efficient care - a win for all stakeholders - but in the early stages, it's hard for some to see tangible improvements.
No sooner had I posted a blog on the issues of digital myopia than I got on a call to learn that Adobe Systems acquired Neolane, under the auspices of the fact that digital is part of marketing, not that digital is the only thing in marketing. This is a very interesting deal (full disclosure, Suresh Vittal, the chief product officer, was a peer of mine at Forrester until December of last year) for a number of reasons:
It continues to place Adobe in the crosshairs of IBM, salesforce.com, Oracle, and SAP. Adobe continues to invest in areas that much larger companies have set their sights on — in this case, with the recent acquisitions of Eloqua by Oracle, ExactTarget by salesforce.com, ongoing acquisitions at IBM, and so on (see Forrester commentary by Mark Grannan here and by Shar VanBoskirk here). With Adobe now firmly in this mix, it will be going up against enterprise-level suppliers, not just marketing department deployments.