Forget B2B. Forget B2C. Embrace E2E: Everyone to Everyone. Business and consumers alike are voting with their wallets and making mobile, tablet and personal 2-in-1 devices the “first screen” – relegating laptops, desktop PCs and wall-mounted flat screen TVs to “second screen” status. They are messaging one another. And they are talking about you. Are you listening? Hello?
A few organizations have adopted the playbook to address this shift. It seems, however, that most are not even thinking about the user-centric, user-generated, user-driven, mobile-first, E2E experience. That makes it a huge opportunity, if you set your mind to it.
Aaron Shapiro, blogging for the Harvard Business Review, cited the “Software Layer” as an area of focus for optimizing this E2E User experience, no matter what business you are in. I have incorporated some of his thoughts into the following 20-page storybook. It’s a quick read (lots of pictures), and it outlines a framework for how Users interact with your Business through a Software Layer. Enjoy!
I hope you find it useful in framing your thoughts on how to compete and excel.
Suffice to say, the race is on, and competing is not optional.
Make this the year you embrace the Software Layer of your business to drive User engagement, new opportunity, and new levels of success.
How is your organization adapting to the “Everyone to Everyone” world? Love to hear your stories.
In preparing case studies for my talk titled “Be a Big Data Voodoo Daddy” at Boston’s October 2012 FutureM conference, I noticed that almost half of our 40+ client projects over the recent years had to first devolve from “Implementation” projects to “Readiness” projects – equally valuable, and absolutely necessary. How’s yours going?
Is your marketing automation, CRM, analytics, email marketing or other automation project going to deliver your desired payback? Here are my top 3 warning signs that it may take longer to pay off than you think.
Stated differently, here are 3 must-do’s to ensure near-term ROI.
1. The Right Stuff (Value based Goals).
Let’s first assume that you’ve already connected with the concept of Marketing as Moneyball. Still, you may find that you are not gathering useful, relevant data to help you accomplish your stated strategic goal and implement the right CRM or analytics solution. This may stem from having broad, imprecise goals. For example:
“Grow revenue” is a great goal, but the paths are varied and nuanced.
“Increase Partner Channel Revenue” is, well, getting warm.
“Double Partner Channel Service Contract Revenue” is more like it. Now you have a specific channel, identified players, and a specific product/service element attached to a numeric goal. Specific, measurable goals and then measuring the right things are both essential elements if you are to to yield any meaningful analysis to motivate and support change. No matter how efficiently you automate the wrong data, you risk stretching out the time horizon for any meaningful payback or, worse, running in multiple or wrong directions and wasting effort. Strategy comes first.
2.) The Stuff, Right (Data Analysis and Process Maps).
Typically, your data is not homogeneous and some necessary processes don’t exist yet. Data often exists in a variety of formats ranging from locked spreadhseets and various departmental databases to unstructured documents, such as paragraph text and visuals. Processes that don’t yet exist can’t be mapped to a system; you can’t automate a vacuum.
Significant effort is involved in standardizing and preparing data for upload into your new automated solution, as well as selecting the right tools to enable you to access and mine insights from unstructured information. At Fan Foundry, we are familiar with an array of powerful tools, and can develop custom, reusable upload frameworks to help clients address current and future needs for unstructured data.
This is where the scope of a project almost always expands, as additional valuable information repositories become included, because we often discover additional insights using all available data that just would not be possible otherwise. You never know where the breakthrough “aha” discoveries may lie. If you don’t have the luxury to expand your analysis, though, then rigorously insist on only analyzing the most salient data.
3) The Players (People).
The talent shortage is legendary. If you are inadequately staffed or trained to assume the role of data manager, analyst and strategist, or transformational leader, let alone carry on administratively after implementation, you shouldn’t start the project. The time to assign roles is up front. Get any necessary talent aligned first so they can be involved in the project. Some of your team can adapt; sometimes you need to extend your team to include a capable partner. The single most effective way to stretch out the payoff time horizon is to not involve its eventual owners and primary users, or not have the stomach to lead a transformation effort. Be prepared to change, or else don’t start.
The full list of must-do’s is extensive, but if you tend to these three first, most of the rest will fall in line, and you’ll enjoy a successful implementation.
Toward a “Measurement Culture”
You’ll know you are succeeding when you have established a “culture of measurement” in which the right things get measured, the data supports meaningful analysis, all meaningful data is reflected in a single, integrated, centrally accessible “record of truth”, and you are using the insights you have gained to achieve transformations like improve margins, speed to market, pricing accuracy, supply chain efficiency, sales growth, and other incremental and transformational improvements.
Finally, it must be stressed that human judgment is not taking a back seat to data. Interpreting analytics in light of pragmatic experience and using that knowledge to take calculated risks is a hallmark of success.
In your quest for sales, do you leverage the value of lead nurturing?
Sales leaders know that in the process of converting a raw Lead to a Prospect, and then to a real Opportunity, and ultimately to a Customer, there are often many nuances and inflection points in the conversation, with the result that the sales process is almost never linear. Those nuances can include shifts in the Prospect’s priorities, needs, and role in the buying process. These things must be verified repeatedly to detect changes in Prospect status and respond accordingly. If you don’t frequently check them, your sales forecast becomes a fairy tale, and you won’t know where your next meal is coming from. You could be ignoring imminent buyers or focusing too much on long-shot prospects, and not even know it. Either way, you lose. Lead Nurturing helps you keep on top of the changes.
Click here for a free, crowdsourced process guide to help improve your forecasting.
A recent project we performed for Pluris Marketing, provider of OCDP (omni-channel dynamic profiling) solutions for large consumer marketing organizations, transformed from simply securing executive appointments to also nurturing leads, and illustrates how lead nurturing contributes value to the sales pipeline.
Not part of the original project scope, Lead Nurturing quickly grew in importance, for three reasons:
Establishing a dialogue with as many prospects as possible enabled us to train our ears to the “Voice of the Customer” so we could determine what value people derive from Puris’ solutions – in their own words – and tweak our campaign messaging to improve relevance. In short, what you call yourself is often not as important as what your customer calls you. Example: the phrase “Dynamic Profiling” is a term borrowed from a Prospect – not something Pluris dreamed up.
Nurturing leads enables us to captivate and sustain a broader, interested audience, improving our place in each prospect’s “Initial Consideration Set” of potential options when they decide they need a relevant solution.
The sheer number of “nurturables” far exceeded the number of immediate sales appointments generated under this project. The number of nurturables alone caused our client to take notice of the opportunity.
Why Nurture Now
Certain human behavioral tendencies make it difficult to convert a new Lead to a current Prospect, let alone a sale:
1) Relevance – People typically perceive immediate needs as more relevant and more urgent than future problems. No matter how relevant you think your offering is, your Lead’s opinion matters more. You stand a far greater chance of converting a Lead to a Prospect if they view your solution as currently relevant.
2) Consequences – People tend to discount the importance and consequences of future events. A distant goal or pain is less motivational than a current one, even if delay portends grave consequences. Moreover, people tend to see future consequences – even grave ones – as less important with every year such action is delayed. The farther into the future a need is projected, the less likely it will be perceived today as ever becoming important.
Surprise! Researchers Find Humans Illogical
Illustrating the Relevance and Consequences phenomena, Columbia University researchers found that the average person finds little difference between getting $250 now or $350 a year from now. Imagine that! You could opt to wait a year and earn 40% on a surefire outcome, or you could take the money now and forego the potential 40% greater financial benefit. You don’t need to be Warren Buffet to know that no investment vehicle can guarantee you a 40% one-year return on principle just by delaying receipt, and yet most people queried would rather have the money now, consequences be damned.
Heavily discounting future benefits or consequences can greatly distort corporate thinking, behavior and beliefs. As maddeningly illogical as human nature may it may seem, your appreciation of this phenomenon actually becomes your competitive advantage if you have a Lead Nurturing program that helps prospects learn, appreciate and promote the importance of your solution.
Lead Nurturing Includes Content Marketing
An effective Lead Nurturing program, including content marketing mapped to each prospect’s unique persona and information needs, enables you and your prospects to keep the discussion channel open and lively. Rather than attempt to drive each prospect toward near-term action, you instead conduct periodic relevant communication, build productive relations, and assist prospects in evaluating your offerings, so that they can intelligently shift priorities toward considering and adopting your solution – perhaps even sooner than they expected, but in any case, willingly. If done well, you can identify the “hand raisers” worthy of greater attention and likely to buy, and even determine their decision time frame.
Driving toward a sale too hard or too soon can be viewed by the Lead as pushy, inattentive and ignorant, and typically leads to a fall-off in response, inattention to your future communication attempts or, worse, unsubscribing from your feeds and possibly treating your ill-timed, irrelevant communication as unwanted spam. We’d all like to believe that prospects discount our pushy, sales-y human failings and focus instead on the merits of our offering, but you are more likely to hold one another’s attention over the long term if you actually listen, check for understanding and nuanced changes, and respond accordingly with relevant information.
In your eagerness to bring in more sales this calendar quarter, don’t risk alienating a next-quarter sale. The Leads you start to nurture today rarely move as quickly as you’d like, but a constructive, open dialogue helps you understand your relevance in the Prospect’s view so you can tune your messaging to match, while also giving them something to share within their own circles of influence to build consensus toward adopting your solutions.
Patience and persistence pay, and lead nurturing is the currency.
A recent IBM survey found that over half of business leaders today realize they don’t have access to the insights they need to do their jobs. They just aren’t harnessing the data.
Today, surrounded by sensors, apps and systems, we have ability to generate and store data cheaply like never before. Ironically, as the data piles up, the ranks of organizations able to process it is declining, and the talent shortage for managing it is increasing.
The ability to harness and leverage data is now a big competitive advantage. This doesn’t mean that experience, judgment and intuition are less relevant; on the contrary, you need those attributes to evaluate data.
You do not need a million dollar budget or a Ph.D.in Computer Science to be a Big Data Voodoo Daddy – one who knows where the data is, can harness it, and mines it daily to delight customers and boost revenue. Devise a basic plan or framework, select a few tools, apply them to your most important data, and you’re started. Just be sure you’re improving on existing data and processes; you can’t automate a vacuum.
Ask: Where is your data? What does it look like? It generally has 3 characteristics:
Volume – nobody is scared anymore by the prefix “giga” as in gigabytes (GB). The average hard drive stores hundreds of GB. So, the average U.S. household has a place for it. Of course, there is always the cloud computing and storage option, as long as you don’t mind internet and power outages bringing your business to its knees.
Variety – here it gets a little hairy. Data is everywhere, but not organized. Some of it lies dormant in locked spreadsheets; some of it is in silos, like Point of Sale receipt reports, accounting ledgers, and customer records. Some of it is “unstructured” i.e. not contained in nice neat rows and columns, but rather in text records and notes. You need tools to organize and standardize data so it will fit nicely into your main database. This is tedious and messy, but worth doing. Fortunately, most major software providers understand this too and have enabled their products to interoperate with one another.
Velocity – some data is historic; some is collected periodically and batched; some data is streaming live (example: your location in a GPS app, your favorite mobile shopping app). Does live streaming data matter to you? It should if your customers are mobile, and these days who isn’t?
You need 3 things to harness the volume, variety and velocity of your data:
a database / storage place (love that cloud storage option!)
software to help you access, manage, report, cleanse, update, analyze and act on it;
helper apps to get help standardize data from multiple “feeds” so they can enter your main storage place.
While some of this may sound geeky, be assured that the tooling and resources are becoming more usable. For some large organizations, however, expert talent and technology remain the best option.
One Big challenge Remains
The single biggest challenge of data these days is its quality. In that huge haystack of data, there are some gems and usually a bunch of stale (call it historical) data. Stale and historical data are okay, and even valuable for trend spotting and progress reporting. You can easily take steps to update it via customer surveys, sorting, web / email response forms, etc. Most people and related data sources will happily keep their info in your database current if it helps you stay relevant to one another. Just be sure to keep that process easy, and clearly spell out the benefits. Consider sharing your data discoveries with them, too – at least to the extent that you do not infringe on people’s privacy.
Best Uses for Big Data
According to McKinsey Global Institute, big data has five broad opportunity areas: increased transparency and use, improved performance management, better decisions, greater precision in meeting customer demand, and more targeted R&D. If you are in Sales and Marketing management, web and social media analytics, financial reporting, call center reporting, fraud and security detection, energy usage, safety management, risk and opportunity management, inventory, assets, logistics, agriculture or health care, you have the opportunity to excel and lead in your marketplace by leveraging available data.
You must use these powers only to do good. Concerns about privacy, access, security, intellectual property rights and liability must be factored into our thinking, policies and practice concerning the use of data.
Got data challenges? Drop a comment. I’ve listed a few helpful resources below.
Additional Resources (see sidebar on this site for tool ideas)
Pluris Intro (Pluris Marketing) – OCDP (omni-channel dynamic profiling) so big orgs can treat people as individuals
Keeping to the plan of openly sharing our playbooks with clients, friends and followers, I’m hoping this overview of a typical Content Marketing routine helps you think about ways to be more productive and get better results. For more Playbook tools, visit the Resources page and help yourself. As usual, more links apppear below this article. Enjoy!
The following routine is – like most – idiosyncratic, but after some weeding and winnowing, I now have a handful of “go to” resources that work well for many situations. Your own results may vary, and certainly your own audience and goals will affect your choice of routine and toolset. That said, here’s one routine. Will it be the same a year from now? Probably not. Audience requirements change, tools evolve, and our “learning lab” approach reveals new findings every day. How does yours compare? Holla back, friends!
In about an hour a day, two to five days a week, I create, share, comment and research interesting, relevant content among my online community of Twitter followers, LinkedIn connections, and several membership and nonprofit organizations I have joined or for whom I give presentations by invitation. I perform versions of this process for clients who have outsourced their Chief Revenue Officer and content marketing roles.
Simply put, the goal of any content marketing effort should be twofold: Uptake and Intake. Uptake refers to the echo effect of communities sharing and re-using original content. Intake refers to the process of linking all content to intake processes – landing pages, email responders, mobile apps, microsites, interactive tools, events, documents, etc.
To fulfill those goals, it helps to have the following workout goals:
Cultivate an online voice
Generate original noteworthy content
Promote others’ noteworthy content
Link it all to intake processes for generating business leads and monitoring/managing community dialogue
Continually explore tools and techniques that facilitate “scale-up” i.e. maximizing results of time and effort.
Link Content, Community and Conversion using a content mapping and planning tool like the one shown below.
I write two articles per month for my two blogs. I write one article per week for each client blog I curate. When very busy, I let my own blogs lapse.
FanFoundry Daily and SocialClimate Daily (Paper.li)
Weekly: Rotate the hour of publication each week to hit the 8 am and noon hours across US / EU .
Daily: Browse articles matching my pre-set keywords; re-tweet articles from the source where possible; move tweeted articles “above the fold”.
Daily: Review the handful of Twitter accounts I own, as well as those I curate for clients – Stream, Mentions, Re-tweets, keywords, client community dialogue, as well as personal friends and professional groups; Re-tweet relevant content (see Paper.li above and Alltop.com below); Post relevant original Tweets – an article link, a meeting note, a convo thread, etc.; schedule client promotional Tweets to occur in the 8 AM and noon hours across US / EU time zones.
Daily: Scan Profile for InMail, Visits, LinkedIn news, and Connection updates. Send notes to Connections with noteworthy Updates (new job, interesting article, etc.); respond to discussion threads, invitations and queries.
Semi-weekly: Visit Discussion Groups; post article links; comment where my expertise warrants; start a Discussion (usually a research question for my own or a client’s business).
Alltop (virtual “magazine rack” of noteworthy bloggers)
Review the blogs I follow for timely and relevant articles. Re-tweet them, and flag interesting ones to link at the end of my relevant blog articles.
Each week we add new contacts to our main CRM database, classifying them by source, organization, industry, and several other criteria. Sorting on multiple criteria, we can usually find anywhere from a dozen to several thousand relevant audience members to whom we may email, Tweet or otherwise reach out and initiate or sustain conversations.
The database numbers around a hundred thousand, yet we are able to keep conversations personalized and theme-specific. This generates significant inbound interest and keeps us touch with clients, partners, friends and prospects. Shameless plug: our lifetime average open, click and conversion rates exceed industry norms.
They say you can only have about 150 members in your personal network before things break down; you can easily triple that number – or more – with an effective CRM database, compelling content and mobile/social/email marketing.
R&D / Sharpening the Saw
I condense notes from interesting and relevant magazine subscriptions (Forbes, Fortune, Wired, AdAge, BtoB, etc.). I file them under appropriate topics (in a list of 20). I update my portfolio of presentations with relevant statistical references from all sources.
I follow a handful of industry analyst heavyweights and key businesses.
I review my meeting notes and generate follow-up communications using my database, private email and, for larger audiences, email marketing software. I review trending topics on Twitter etc. to determine best topics for timely articles.
Trending topics I cover for myself and my clients include: marketing automation, branding, campaign management, community building, content marketing, customer care, email marketing, event marketing, interactive design, marketing communications, marketing funnel, mobile marketing, prospecting / inside sales, public relations, sales pipeline management, sales training, SEO, social media, and sustainability. Additionally, I cover trending industry topics for my portfolio of clients.
Other Tools – Analytics, Plumbing, etc.
All of the above may seem like a full time job, but couple of years of practice have transformed it to a daily one-hour process that we have adapted to suit many clients. It is all facilitated by an array of tools. You can find a reasonably updated listing of tools in the right sidebar. They include CRM, analytics, and assorted utilities that help leverage channel data for better client results. Examples: Klout, FollowerWonk, InMap, etc.
How does your routine compare? Got any tips to share? Holla back!