I was invited to speak at the annual Distree XXL event in Monte Carlo last week. Now in its ninth year, Distree XXL gathers together top executives from tech industry vendors and distributors plus, in recent years, retailers from around EMEA for three days that include a trade show, presentation sessions, and meetings to discuss industry-specific channel topics. The 2011 event drew 950 delegates from 127 tech vendors and over 400 distributors. One of the event highlights for everybody is a process to request and set up formal one-on-one meetings between the various players, similar to our own one-on-one sessions at the Forrester Forums (only their software is better). A total of 5,000 such sessions were scheduled: some at tables in larger rooms around the trade show, many others in private meeting rooms elsewhere in the conference center.
The keynote presentation I gave was a clone of my recent Forrester Teleconference , where I use the word “changes” both as a noun and a verb: I describe what changes we see happening in the channel due to recent industry trends, and I propose how channel resellers and distributors must also change their business model for continued success. The most common comment I heard from attendees after I presented was, “It was good to hear somebody outside our business make these points. We’ve been discussing this for a while now, but not everybody is convinced this is happening or knows what to do about it.” I must say, I have never, ever collected so many business cards after a presentation where I must follow up by sending slides as well as two relevant reports (one on channel resellers and one on distributors) by my esteemed colleague Tim Harmon and myself.
It is January, 2015, and technology sales reps Reg, Xerxes, Francis, and Loretta have been to the movies to watch a rerun of Monty Python’s Life of Brian, probably one of the best film comedies of any time. At dinner afterward, they are reliving the scene where the commandos discuss “what did the Romans ever do for us” when one of their marketing colleagues stops by to say hello. After the marketing manager leaves, they continue their discussion.
Now there’s another point. Those people in marketing. What have they ever done for us?!
Well, they give us much better leads now.
Yes. Compared to before, they’re really qualified. I can certainly close my deals much quicker than I used to. To be honest, I didn’t even look at leads five years ago — they were a waste of my time.
Oh. Yeah, yeah. They did give us that. Uh, that's true. Yeah.
And those contact profiles.
Oh, yeah, the contact profiles. Remember what it used to be like? We’d have no idea who we were visiting. Had to ask all those questions about family and hobbies. Now, before I see someone, marketing give me a full profile — I see their Facebook, I know how LinkedIn they are. I even see their last 20 tweets.
Yeah. All right. I'll grant you: Leads and the contact profiles are two things that marketing has done for us.
Now here is some “earned media” for Cisco. In the context of full disclosure, let me first say that Cisco invited me to its Partner Velocity conference in Barcelona last week, full expenses paid. I stopped by for two nights and one day while traveling home to Stuttgart after a client workshop and meetings in Paris. But this is earned, not paid, media because I was truly excited by what I saw and heard. I’d like to share it with all of you tech marketers; whether you are at Cisco, or a competitor, or a partner-player in one or more of the ecosystems in our industry, you need to sit up and take notice of this event. To close my first point — a trip to Barcelona may sound attractive, enough to merit a “reward” for any organization that took me there. But I actually turn down more than 60% of my briefing and event invitations: I have to produce work as well (and who wants to go to Las Vegas eight times a year). And I certainly do not promise anybody that I will write any type of reports in return.
This was Cisco’s third Partner Velocity conference, and I’d heard great things about it from its partners, so I was eager to see what would happen. This is a conference for partners worldwide (first held in the US, last year’s was in Paris) and here’s the reason I was excited: Its focus was purely on MARKETING. Nobody presented about Cisco products, the sessions had titles such as:
Stand out and move up while your competition fails.
Effective paid search strategies.
How to build engaging customer relationships through CRM.
How to design a lead nurturing program that drives sales.
I am writing this blog sitting comfortably in an ICE express train travelling from Berlin, where I have just spoken and, more importantly, listened at the B2B Marketing Europe conference, where the conference motto was “Next Generation Marketing.” This two-day conference offered a truly inspirational mixture of presentations by:
B2B marketing gurus Chris Brogan and Rick Segal. Chris, who is president of New Marketing Labs, stood up front for 45 minutes with neither notes nor slides and casually threw out dozens of valuable comments, tips, and examples taken from his latest marketing 2.0 tome, Trust Agents. Rick is the founder and chief practice officer of GyroHSR, a firm that has won 20 Agency of the Year awards over the past 15 years from Advertising Age, BtoB magazine, and the Business Marketing Association, and he is the exact opposite of any of the characters in Mad Men. Rick explained how work and private activities are now really mixed up — people no longer go to work physically; they switch on the work state of mind anywhere and at any time, which means that marketing to this audience must change. It is one of Rick’s insights that I’ve cited in the title of this post, and his concept of “the new @work state of mind” makes Forrester’s data on tech buyer Social Technographics® so obvious and logical (I presented the European data at the conference). From now on, I will be using his concept whenever tech vendor clients doubt our numbers on how socially active their customers are.
We are currently cranking the data collected in our 2010 Marketing Organization and Investment survey, and the results already look spectacularly significant. So, over the next months, we’ll be reporting and commenting on how tech marketing organizations are assigning priorities and allocating their budgets for 2011. We have even designed a benchmark framework where we can compare various tech vendors’ marketing spends against each other (small versus large, country versus country, market versus market, previous year versus next year) and make some calls for you. And this year’s survey includes vendors headquartered in Europe as well!
For me, the most important data point in last year’s survey was the background of tech vendor CMOs, especially product vendors. Twenty-eight percent of those CMOs have an engineering background, and another 15% are from sales. With all respect, neither background is an optimal preparation to be running marketing in today’s tech industry — where IT is now BT, customers care less about speeds and feeds and more about business outcomes, and brand and multichannel experience count as much as in other industries. I’ll be talking about this at Forrester’s Marketing & Strategy Forum EMEA in London on November 18–19 in my “Marketing Is the New Differentiation in the Tech Industry” presentation.
Here is a short anecdote to explain that question. As you’d expect, I’m an intense user of email, and here at Forrester, our IT department provides us with Microsoft Outlook. They also regularly slap my wrist because my email storage requirements are “excessive,” which is mainly due to the fact that I retain all my sent mails on file and Outlook has no facility to detach and delete attachments when filing. So, in order to save myself the relatively nonsensical task of manually detaching all attachments, I have found a nice utility tool called EZDetach from a firm called TechHit to do this in an automated manner. It probably saves me a couple of hours per month, and TechHit also provides other useful tools for filing and folder management in Outlook. I found it myself, downloaded and installed it myself, and even paid for the software myself (though I might try to sneak that invoice into an expense report some time). I don’t feel guilty at having bypassed IT, only relieved that I can disappear from their evident blacklist of individuals overusing their storage. I feel even more secure after my analyst colleague Stefan Ried, who knows much more about these things, raved enthusiastically about the same software in a recent tweet. I suppose that makes me an empowered user; though I did not help a customer directly though my action, I certainly freed up more time to interact with clients.
Unfortunately, he never returned, so the only evidence of the journey is the strange “Welshness” of certain Native American tribes in Alabama (musical voices, continuous searching for coal, and trying to get around in circular boats).
Prince Madog actually challenged the Native Americans there to the first Ryder Cup, but that contest was declared null and void after one Native American replaced his ball with a fresh one because it had “gotten wet and dirty.” Nowadays, the American team are given a better chance – last Saturday, Ricky Fowler was only penalized one hole when he did the same. This kept the contest alive for a few more days (the TV networks rule). In fact, the Europe team even contrived to keep the contest going until the last pairing, which may have been leaving it too tight. I must say, the Americans were better dressed then, and their rainproofs did keep out the rain.
I have an exciting engagement next week; I will moderate a session during an annual review meeting of a leading tech distributor with its leading vendor. The topic we’ll discuss is the cloudy future of our industry and what that could mean for the roles and responsibilities of vendors, distributors, and resellers. I’ll have a presentation prepared, of course, but all analysts operate under the principle of “two ears, one mouth,” so I’ll also expect to hear much insight from both distributor and vendor on this topic — and both parties will be represented by their top executives.
My colleague Tim Harmon and I have just submitted a report that explores this topic, based on a recent survey of 165 executives of channel companies across the world (only 52% in North America). We talked to resellers, distributors, systems integrators, managed service providers, and other channel players — in fact, no single executive was prepared to say that just one of these titles applied 100% to their company. We did the survey in collaboration with the organization Outsource Channel Executives. Interesting facts that we gathered in the survey include the fact that nearly two-thirds of these firms employ applications developers; most resellers are attracted to becoming managed services providers to their client base. Tim also went into some of these findings in his recent Forrester teleconference.
So, here are the title and agenda of my session next week:
The Coming Upheaval In Tech Industry Channels
Diverse forces align to change the business of IT.
Our internal deadlines are looming for Forrester’s Marketing And Strategy Forum EMEA 2010, to be held in London on November 18 and 19. Pretty soon, all of our presentations have to be reviewed, content-edited and fact-checked, and then submitted. In case you hadn’t noticed, we have put together a special track at this event for marketing professionals in the tech industry; this runs on the Friday from 11:40 till 15:30. I will kick off and moderate this “conference within a conference,” where we will explore the idea that tech industry marketing should no longer be communicating product differentiation; it should be the difference. As technology becomes commoditized, customers take control of the vendor-user interaction, and social media becomes a standard interaction channel, marketing must move its contribution from just educating customers and persuading them to accept the product to a more strategic role of enabling interactions with customers to solve their problems -- an engagement model that Forrester calls "customer enablement."
We will also be talking about community marketing, marketing in a global economy, and aligning sales and marketing. Some of the presentations are based on our previous Marketing Forum held in Los Angeles back in March. But I have cajoled my colleagues into making sure that they illustrate their presentations with EMEA-based case studies and examples. I have been particularly energized to do this in the past few weeks as I have been looking forward to attending the bi-annual Ryder Cup golf contest between the USA and Europe, held this weekend in my home town in Wales.
Continuing my musings about the impact of cloud on our industry (see last week’s blog), I’m in the middle of a cloud project where we are identifying and profiling potential channel partners for an ISV that is about to launch a systems management product for cloud environments. I must say, I’m surprised by the number of channel partners already talking about cloud.
It reminds me of a conversation with staff at Nimsoft, a company recently acquired by CA, about how they were promoting their cloud offerings. My personal view is that Nimsoft managed to complete their exit strategy so quickly and successfully because they focused all of their new product announcements and general positioning toward the cloud. Coincidentally, CA had decided to turn up the heat on its own cloud campaign and promptly bought three technology companies to strengthen the cloud offering and show their commitment — Nimsoft, Cassat, and 3Tera.
While Cassat and 3Tera were cloud-specific solutions, Nimsoft was already successful as a provider of systems monitoring software to enterprises and managed service providers. My theory is that their cloud image was the result of a considered repositioning exercise that culminated in their placement on CA’s wish list. Here’s another example: Yesterday, Adobe announced its intention to acquire Day Software, the Swiss content management ISV. Day Software had a consistent ECM business with modest growth, but I notice that they turned up the cloud messaging over the last months — I suspect this is what got them into Adobe’s sights.