This month, I (Peter O’Neill) have been planning for the Tech Marketing track at the Forrester Marketing & Strategy Forum to be held on November 16 and 17 near London. The forum has now been configured so that each of the eight role-focused tracks is presented as a series of three consecutive presentations, which means that each attendee can plan to attend one whole role-track in one session. However, I know that many tech marketers come to this event because many of the other track presentations are equally compelling, so I won’t be too disappointed if people walk in and out a little.
I am responsible for the content of the TM track, which is on the afternoon of the 17th, and will moderate the session, introducing each of the speakers, linking the topics to each other, and summarizing what was discussed. We have the following topics planned:
Outcome-Oriented Marketing. Peter Burris will discuss how tech marketing is moving away from a product focus to arguments more related to what business outcomes result from the promoted business technology investment. I know that he will also introduce a methodology of creating and managing marketing content that will enable this objective to be met.
The Rise Of The E-Channels.My colleague Tim Harmon is renowned for creating provocative titles and also for his out-of-the-box presentations. We work together often on channel marketing projects for clients and he will put forward some radical insights into where he see new sales (and marketing) channels arising and others expiring.
This week, Forrester finally published my (Peter O'Neill here) reports based on its Q1 2011 US And European B2B Social Technographics® Online Survey For Business Technology Buyers, which marks the third year we've conducted this survey. These are the reports promised in my blog back on July 1st and they complement my colleague Kim Celestre’s insightful review of the worldwide numbers by examining the European data in more detail, as well as investigating that common adage cited by many tech marketers: “Most of the social media behavior is due to younger buyers, and they're not involved in BT decision-making.”
The European data is clear evidence that social is now routine for European tech buyers, and this is the headline that has been passed around the twittersphere all week now. As I write in the Recommendations section:
FIRST, VENDORS MUST LISTEN……AND BE SEEN……TO BE HEARD
During the first week in August, Forrester launched the Battle Card Standards Group to address head on the challenges and opportunities that they face in creating competitive battle cards for sales teams. This group is meeting weekly to outline industry standards to help sales enablement professionals bridge the gap between what a myriad of groups create and what sales reps actually need to win in competitive deals.
Some challenges mentioned by participants include:
“Sales reps often ask for negative information about competitors - FUD (fear, uncertainty, or doubt) – but, customers usually react negatively when reps say derogatory things about competitors.”
“We struggle to map our battle cards to (1) different selling situations or engagement models (transactional vs. consultative) and (2) the levels of stakeholders that we are addressing (influencers, decision-makers, or purchasing professionals).”
“We structure battle cards in a way that reps can use directly in their conversations with customers.”
As one of Forrester’s European-based analysts, Peter O'Neill here, I like to show a little continental patriotism every now and then. I work on a worldwide basis, but it is always great fun to discover a European startup, or even established vendor, and help it out into the big wide world. I actually did this in the early 1980s in a previous work-episode – any of you know of SAP? Now to put myself into perspective e, I also championed the cause of Intershop and Softlab in those years, which were not that successful, so I am not claiming any credit for SAP’s prominence.
So I am always watching out for news about the European IT industry, and I was initially tempted to tweet or retweet a recent report by the German VC firm Earlybird that argues that although the European venture industry is a quarter of the size of the US market, proportionally speaking, it is outperforming the US VC industry in returns. But I found that I didn’t understand it well enough to attach my name so I left it untouched. The report is actually quite controversial as it twists statistics around this way and that so that it remains ambiguous at best. TechCrunch has now had a real go at it, calling it “nothing more than wishful thinking” !
Forrester’s sales enablement team is launching a collaborative effort with our clients and other experts to establish standards for competitive battle cards and I invite you to participate – send me an email to join.
If you are on the receiving end of battle cards today, you know the big challenge intimately because I hear you daily in my inquiries saying things like, “how can we standardize battle cards that come from dozens of different teams?” and “How do we equip our sales reps to anticipate and respond to competitive obstacles more effectively?” For those of you on the supply side, I hear you too, saying, “every sales rep asks for different things” and “we don’t have a way to measure the impact of our work, so we keep doing what we think is best.”
Stuck in the middle are the folks battle cards are supposed to be helping in the first place – sales reps – who tell me, “it takes too much work to find and use our battle cards” and “I need competitive insights, but I tap other sources that are more reliable.”
Consider the size of this opportunity! When we get this right, we will be able to connect battle cards with real business outcomes – like faster sales cycles and win rates against key competitors – and isn’t that why we build battle cards in the first place? Opportunities will advance through the pipeline more quickly when sales reps have tools to anticipate and effectively respond to obstacles created by competitors.
During my daily conversations with technology vendors about battle cards, I am encountering leaders that are taking a different approach. Sales leaders are taking responsibility for the portfolio of battle cards – some larger vendors have hundreds – and assigning someone to “fix the problem.”
Individuals who get assigned to fix “the battle card problem” sometimes report into sales operations and other times into corporate marketing. Sometimes this individual has a background in competitive intelligence, but other times the person is completely unacquainted with battle cards. The one trait that these individuals do share is that they have empathy for sales teams.
Battle cards come from a variety of internal groups including product managers, competitive teams, partner alliances, industry groups, or others who want to educate sales reps to handle obstacles caused by competitors. Each group packages up battle cards differently so that sales reps experience differences in the quality of content every time they use a battle card. As I talk with individuals tasked with fixing “the battle card problem,” they tell me that when they look at their current collection of battle cards, they don’t even know where to begin.
Before becoming an analyst serving technology marketers and focusing on the organization and automation of marketing processes, I (Peter O'Neill) had the more traditional orientation of covering a specific market — IT management software (ITMS) in my case. I remember being engaged with several ITMS vendors in the last months of that previous life discussing the same thing: how to address other market segments. Many of them selling in the enterprise segment tended to be tempted into what they call the "midmarket," which is companies with 500 to 999 employees and is perhaps more enterprise-like than small-business-like, so it seems like a safer bet. Forrester names this the "medium-large" segment in our data reports. Some were even ambitious enough to consider the SMB segment.
I was always pretty clear in my recommendations on how to market to the midmarket or SMB segments if you’re an established enterprise software vendor: Develop segment-specific solutions; use a different brand if possible; and know your channels well. None of these things are easy though and, to be honest, most enterprise vendors take the easy way out. They merely:
· Design some cut-down version of their enterprise products
· Tweak their pricing model but then worry obsessively about “cannibalizing” enterprise sales
· Go looking for channel partners but usually end up with the same ones from their enterprise segment
For this reason, enterprise software vendors that have failed miserably to scale down their products or sales channels litter the tech industry.
I’ve had a difficult year, business-wise (this is Peter O'Neill). Oh, I have certainly been busy and travelled a lot — I‘m not complaining about that. But I have found myself too often in the position of “let’s shoot the messenger.” Remember? I already complained about this back in May 2010, but the situation still hasn’t changed yet: Many tech marketers still refuse to believe our numbers. Well, our 2011 Business Technology Social Technographics® results are now ready: I presented the European data in a Forrester Teleconferencea few weeks ago and soon our excellent English-language editors will finish off two reports from me:
Showing the 2011 European data (see below).
Discussing the question: Does age matter in social media usage?
Some of you were looking for me, Peter O’Neill, at Forrester’s IT Forum 2011 in Las Vegas last week. My apologies; I was originally advertised as speaking at this event, but we decided to keep me in Europe after all, where I contributed to the first of a series of two-day partner trainings being run by Dell around the region (see my previous blog post on the topic). I will definitely be at the Forrester’s IT Forum EMEA 2011 in Barcelona next week though: I have four presentations to make and look forward to many interesting one-on-ones with tech marketers in between that packed schedule.
I wasn’t too upset about missing Las Vegas; ‘tis not my favorite place — did you know that I am invited to visit Las Vegas around six times a year? Clearly, I cannot attend everything as I must also do my day job: working inquiries, writing reports, and providing advisory; so my rule is to visit each vendor’s event every two years. Missing Las Vegas also meant I could go to the Ariba Live 2011 customer conference in London last Wednesday, which fascinated me because Ariba was one of the software vendors I worked with very closely back in my HP days in the late 90s. I was involved in several exciting eBusiness joint ventures then (BroadVision, Intershop Communications, and Yahoo were my other projects) most of which were really too visionary for those times. Ariba’s, and HP’s, vision was of an electronic procurement process running as an intranet application supported by Internet-wide directories and exchanges of suppliers.
Earlier this week, our Sales Enablement team hosted a teleconference about building battle cards that better line up with sales reps’ needs. If you missed the teleconference, you can download the slides and recording; we wrapped up with the following questions asked by CMI professionals:
Question No. 1: What's the best way of collecting intelligence from within our company?
CMI leaders often want to discuss how they can harvest the expertise that lies within the heads of sales reps. We at Forrester haven’t seen any silver bullets, but we are documenting common experiences and planning research on the process of gathering insights and building them into compelling battle cards.
A few methods that we see across the industry include: 1) A CMI leader facilitates calls for reps to discuss issues with sales peers; 2) structured sessions with reps who recently encountered the competitor; and 3) retaining a “panel” of sales managers who meet quarterly to reassess a competitor’s tactics.
Question No. 2: Is the Forrester battle card a competitive document, selling points document, both, or more?
Our recommendations do not outline a specific length, whether the battle card is integrated with product messages or customer pain points (i.e., selling-points document), or what kind of software you use to deliver battle cards to sales reps.