Thursday, February 11, 2016

Who Really Counts? Mapping Internal Influence in the B2B Buying Game


Everyone knows that B2B customers buy as a team. Participants play different roles – technical, line-of-business, financial, etc. Marketers usually focus on individual personas. But buying is not conducted in isolation. It's social. By understanding not only the players but also the way the game is played, marketers will develop more compelling content and campaign conversion strategies.

Buying teams can be large. According to IDC's 2015 IT Buyer Experience Survey, the average buying team for companies with 1,000+ employees has 9.2 members. While each buying team member goes through their own decision-journey, they don't all march through in tandem. And like a sports team, different players contribute in different ways.

Using data from the IT Buyer Experience study, IDC mapped the relative influence of buying team members to understand the dynamics at the exploration, evaluation, and purchase stages of the buying decision-journey.  IDC looked at the influence of the LOB executive, LOB staff, CIO, IT staff, CFO, and purchasing.

Here's a chart showing the rise and fall of influence for just two of these team players - the CIO and the LOB staff-level roles. Survey participants were asked to rank the relative influence of various buying team roles. The higher the ranking, the more influence the survey participants gave to different roles.
 

Influence Scenarios

Based on these influence ratings and other data such as use of content types at different stages, here's what IDC finds is happening during the buying decision stages.
  • Exploration stage: Exploration can be time-consuming. It's no wonder that staff-level "explorers" (both LOB and IT staff) do most of the work and thus have the most influence in this very early stage. The (LOB) executive who owns the problem is also very influential. IDC Guidance: Make a compelling case for change that will convince the executive who owns the problem. Also, educate the staff-level explorers so they can serve as internal experts. Spur the internal conversation with "shareable" content that says, "Hey, check this out. We really should be talking about this issue."

  • Evaluation stage: Many more influential players, including the CIO and purchasing, are added to the team during the middle stage of the decision journey as the enterprise works through the complexities of consideration and selection. IDC Guidance: Since vendors are infrequently present at the table to explain their messaging during internal discussions, there is a premium on clear, complete, easily accessible, and shareable information.

  • Purchase stage: Financial and contractual considerations are most important at this final stage. Purchasing function and even the CEO rise in influence, while other players move into spectator mode.  IDC Guidance: Marketing needs to help sales close the deal. But also stay alert to social buzz. The closer the deal gets to the wire, the tension rises. On one hand, the buying conversation gets very narrow, personal, and specific to the deal, and on the other hand, it widens out to intensely search for any final verification of a good choice or any final hidden reasons to divert the process.
Continue to pay attention to the information needs of specific buyers. But to really serve the full customer experience, don't forget that buying is also a social activity.
See IDC.com for the full report (Subscription or fee required)
This post first appeared on January 11, 2016 on LinkedIn

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Cognitive Marketing: The Future for Smart Marketers

"Modern marketing is all about making the most compelling offers
to the best customers the fastest." 

Cognitive computing has a big future in marketing. The ability to track virtually everything everyone does on line has elevated the analytical requirements for marketers to the scope of a global stock market. Billions of data points are flowing and changing minute by minute. It is not possible to manage in human time frames or processing capacity. Fortunately machine assistance is rapidly evolving from batch reporting to predictive analytics to automated analytics, natural language processing, natural language generation, machine learniing and cognitive computing. We're not quite ready to add sentient computing but it will probably happen in our professional lifetimes. While all this sounds like it might squeeze the human value add out of marketing quite the contrary. It creates a cognitive surplus for marketers to spend their time on higher value, "right side of the brain" decision making instead of crunching numbers and clicking software UIs all day. For the foreseeable future humans will be better at applying curiosity and creativity to problem solving. 

Virtual telesales is a representative example. As marketers become more sophisticated in understanding customer behavior, they are getting better at managing acquisition cost. High-potential leads get higher-cost resources like a dinner meeting. Low-potential leads go into automated email drip campaigns. But there is a huge midsection in the lead curve that requires a very low cost, highly effective means of further qualification. Traditionally, this is done through telesales services, which can be opaque, inconsistent, and expensive. Enter the virtual sales rep, a digital, rules-based learning algorithm that can replace telesales (via solutions like Conversica. ) 

For simple email interactions, totally virtual reps are not only indistinguishable from humans, they are often preferred. Why? Because they can be set up to be courteous and respectful and are inherently reliable and scalable. For example, the time it takes several people in marketing and sales to follow-up on a Web visit by a prospect is typically more than a day and can depend on complex scoring, routing, and territorial designations. Studies show that delays of more than a few hours dramatically degrade engagement rates. A totally virtual rep can follow-up on every single Web visit with a personalized message within whatever time period it is programmed to do so. And it can manage several qualified exchanges to the point of setting up a human-to-human sales interaction or providing links for digital commerce. This eliminates delays caused by human availability and preference. The quality, efficiency, and cost of the virtual sales rep are simply compelling.


But the virtual rep is only one beginning for cognitive. The level of complexity in ad optimization and the logical future of personalization (individualization) in multichannel marketing will require millions of decisions to be made in real time. Again, the future is already here. IBM officially added Watson to its marketing cloud solution offerings in 2015. Cognitive services will become embedded in many marketing applications through open APIs, SDKs and community initiatives. They have to potential to solve a great deal of the inaccuracy and latency in how brands interact with customers. The question is not so much about when or how cognitive systems will become mainstream in marketing but whether customers will even notice.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

IDC CMO FutureScape: Predictions for 2016 and the Digital Transformation

Think marketing has already experienced the biggest impact from digital transformation? Think again. IDC CMO Advisory Service predicts that CMO jobs will turnover 25% per year; that 20% of marketers will blow up their funnel; and that cognitive marketing as a mainstream practice is not far away.

Here are our most recent predictions.


  1. By 2017, CMOs will spend more on content marketing assets than they do on product marketing assets. For decades, the product launch has reigned as the kingpin content event. With a "bill of materials" stretching through multiple Excel pages, product marketing assets suck up a major portion of the marketing budget – and much of that content is wasted. The days of product content dominance are numbered. Product content will remain important but it will take its place behind the content marketing assets matched to decision-journey stages.
  2. By 2020, 50% of companies will use cognitive computing to automate marketing and sales interactions with customers. A few leads go right to sales. But the majority need further qualification and extended nurturing. Companies will increasingly turn to smart systems that automatically assess and respond to buyers at the point of need.  IBM recently added Watson to its marketing cloud offerings. The question is not when cognitive marketing will become mainstream – but rather, will anyone notice?
  3. By 2017, 20% of large enterprise CMOs will consolidate their marketing technology infrastructure. Marketing has been absorbing marketing technology a bite at a time for more than a decade. Many organizations now manage dozens (if not hundreds) of point solutions. Just as marketing environments are hitting the wall of this operational complexity, marketing tech vendors are building solid integrated platforms – tailorable through a partner eco-system. A fortuitous convergence of supply and demand.
  4. By 2020, 33% of CMOs will outsource some digital marketing activities via marketing-as-a –service. Marketing-as-a-service is a bundle of technology and marketing services that enable world-class digital marketing capabilities to be outsourced. MaaS offers CMOs an attractive, viable alternative to owning (and operating) everything.
  5. By 2018, predictive analytics will be a standard tool for marketers, but only a third will get optimal benefit. Early adopters of predictive analytics for buyer behavior report amazing results. The benefits come from the ability to discover hidden segments that have a high propensity to buy. Marketers can also better serve these segments with behavioral targeting. However, the majority of marketers face big challenges to achieving the benefits.  Chief inhibitors? Lack of statistical skills, stubborn organizational silos that won't integrate data, and a culture that resists truth when it goes against tradition.
  6. In the tech industry, CMO job turnover will continue at the rate of 25% per year through 2018. In 2015, 59% of tech CMOs in companies larger than $50 Million in revenue had been in their job for less than two years. Some CMOs get pulled out of their job. The best and brightest get invited to join hot growth companies or exciting tech businesses sprouting as divisions in other industries. Other CMOs get pushed out. Some just can't live up to the requirements of digital transformation. Others are discarded by laggard CEOs who just don't understand modern sales and marketing.
  7. By 2020, 20% of marketers will abandon the traditional funnel in favor of a customer-centric model. The light of data increasingly reveals the reality of buying behavior. That same light also reveals major flaws in the traditional funnel. The sales funnel is 114 years old and never meant for the digital era. Rabid funnel advocates cling to the past with ridiculously convoluted updates. But making the funnel more complex with extra loops and stages just puts lipstick on the proverbial pig. Forward-leaning companies now experiment with customer-centric models that respond to real buying challenges in innovative ways.
  8. By 2017, 60% of CMOs will lag in implementing recommended benchmarks for marketing technology staff investment, increasing the rift between the CMO and CIO. Marketing is the fastest growth area for new technology investments, with growth projected at an average 9% per year through 2018. Given this situation, you might expect marketing to be ahead of the curve – leading the way towards technology investment and staffing. However, IDC believes that tech marketers are underspending and under hiring. Only 2.6% of marketing program dollars go towards technology and only 1.6% of marketing staff are primarily tech.
  9. In 2016, 70% of companies offering cloud or digital services will increase investment in post-purchase marketing. Marketing is primarily associated with the early stages of the buyer's journey, the stages IDC calls Exploration and Evaluation. However, as the ownership economy evolves into a service/sharing/experience economy, companies will find that they need to market throughout the entire customer experience. For example, the fastest growing cloud software companies (those with 20%+ annual growth) have a more holistic approach. They spend about 16% of their total marketing budget on post purchase marketing.
  10. By 2018, 50% of CMOs will make significant structural changes to their "intelligence" operations and organizations.  "Intelligence" as a capability is growing in importance in modern marketing organizations. Intelligence includes market intelligence (MI), business intelligence (BI), competitive intelligence (CI), and social intelligence (SI). In the past, these four functions were spread around the enterprise. Now, IDC sees more companies consolidating into a larger, single, intelligence group – often combining with intelligence functions from other areas like sales. The elimination of silos in this important area is a positive sign.

For more information, check out our free webcast of the report highlights or download the full report. [Report download may require subscription].
 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Content Strategy: Think Utility Before Customization

For a company with dozens of product lines, numerous possible personas, and a global presence, developing content can be a daunting venture. The number of permutations for information types and distribution sources can be overwhelming. But before going crazy, you might be surprised to know that customers may not need as much personalization as you think – what they really want from content is utility.

IDC's 2015 IT Buyer Experience Survey examined the content requirements and preferences of various types of technology buyers. We compared buyers who work in the IT function with those in various business functions. We compared buyers of cloud solutions with traditional on-premise technology solutions. What we found surprised us.

IDC does recommend tailoring content for specific audiences. It is helpful for ease of consumption, for relevancy, and attractiveness. However, the buyer research told us that covering some basics was even more important.

  • Highest priority – make sure content is complete. Buyer groups are much more similar than they are different. Buyers have one primary commonality – they are all human. Humans follow the same type of a decision-journey. All audience groups generally need the same kinds of information and mostly prefer similar sources to get that information.  The highest priority task should be to make sure the core information is available. Clearly and simply answer the buyers' questions for all stages of their decision-journey. Lack of critical information at a point when a buyer needs it will slow or stop journey progress.

  • Make core buying information easily accessible through at least four communication channels. Those four channels are your website, your sales team, search, and some number of third party publications - preferably voiced by objective people. Your website is the buyer's default location for all information. Buyer's talk to sales people at the point when they really need detailed answers. If sales people don't have the answers, everyone loses. (Hint: a humble Q&A fact sheet for sales is super helpful).  Discovery is the name of game in the earliest stage of the decision-journey. Search is by far the number one tool for discovery and buyers also like to find ideas for improvement perusing both general business and special interest sites.

These content tasks may be more challenging than marketers expect.  Many of the buyer's questions are not answered by even the best thought leadership pieces or the most well-messaged product data sheet. For example, Product Service Reviews was the second most desired type of content at the earliest stage of the decision-journey – not something most marketers have at the tips of their fingers.

Before going through the (worthwhile) effort to customize content for different audiences, make sure you are covering the basics and serving your customers' the most important information needs.

More information is available in the IDC report, Categorizing the Content Needs of Different Buyer Types: IDC's 2015 2015 IT Buyer Experience Study (#258780) (Subscription required)
 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Audience Marketing: Death to the Product "Selfie"

Companies may not intend to be narcissistic. But they unintentionally produce a lot of "product selfies." Marketers start out right. They consider customer needs when answering the question, "Why buy my product?"  Then customer focus stops there. Most companies give only superficial attention to the context in which their audience will consume their message.  However, an IDC study finds that the situation is about to change as leading tech companies ramp audience marketing to a whole new level.

Customers perceive content to be self-serving when it talks only about the features and benefits of the product with insufficient effort to match these to the buyer's context. What's missing are the answers to the question, "How can we help the buyer consume this message? What does the buyer need to hear, understand, trust, and accept our value proposition?" When content is offered without a true audience filter, product messages have the same tiresome, annoying, self-centered demeanor as your teenaged niece's 15th selfie. No matter how cute she looks in her prom dress.
 

Isn't Audience Marketing Pretty Basic?

While IDC found that almost all tech companies surveyed use some degree of audience marketing (indeed, segmenting customers should be Marketing 101) only about 26% of them can be considered advanced — and even the advanced companies have significant opportunity for maturity.

What is changing in the most advanced companies is the depth, degree, and focus on the audience. Said one expert interviewed by IDC, "Buying a list of hospital CIOs and slapping a photo of a nurse on your website isn't vertical marketing."  Audience marketing requires today's marketing organization to take on a much larger and extra layer of work on behalf of the customer. Leading companies are stepping up to this task by dedicating audience-focused resources as an "ambassadors" for their customers.

Reversing the Effects of Sales Erosion

For B2B companies, it used to be salespeople who primarily filled the customer context gap. It was salespeople who were trained to listen for customer need. Salespeople translated the company offerings into something meaningful to the customer. Salespeople still have this role — but they can only perform it when they have the opportunity. And that opportunity continues to erode. IDC's annual IT Buyer Experience Study consistently reports that for the average IT purchase, buyers are nearly 50% of the way through their decision journey before talking with sales. The increased percentage of buyer engagement through digital communication channels has also eroded the critical customer context cushion.

Audience marketing is the function that replaces this cushion. By devoting staff and program dollars as audience ambassadors, marketers will identify this gap and execute appropriate programs to fill it.

What Do Audience Marketing Leaders Do Different?

The most distinguishing factors between companies advanced in audience marketing compared to average or beginner companies are the following:

Appointing an Audience Marketing Leader: Advanced companies are about twice as likely as average or beginner companies to have a named leader in charge of audience marketing. When a company puts a leader in charge of an initiative and makes a practice a corporate-wide mandate, the culture starts to change in a big way. Audience marketing gets visibility. Metrics get put in place. People begin to get recognized and awarded for skills learned and for achievements. Investments and resources are allocated.

Branching out to explore many audience marketing strategies: IDC examined the popularity of various audience marketing strategies and found that advanced companies use a broader variety than average or beginners. Overall, segmentation by Functional Role (C-level, IT, HR director, etc.) is the most popular strategy and is used moderately or extensively by 100% of advanced companies and over 80% in the other groups. Vertical Industry is a close second. Buyer behavior segmentation is the hot, up-and-coming strategy — but it is more difficult and more sophisticated than the other segmentation strategies studied and thus is used the most infrequently by companies at all levels. 

However, advanced companies are moving ahead strongly, and IDC expects to see use of behavioral segmentation increase significantly in the next few years.


This blog first appeared on LinkedIn and is a summary excerpt from the IDC research report Audience Marketing: Replenishing Customer Context authored by Kathleen Schaub #257372. Subscription required.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Chief Digital Officers: Bridging the Innovation Gap Between the CIO and CMO

The chief digital officer (CDO) is no longer an exotic, quixotic, flash-in-the-pan role. In some of the world's leading brands, the CDO is now the general manager of a large digital business unit with significant revenue targets reporting to the CEO. This is one of the fascinating conclusions from IDC's latest report on the CDO role based on interviews with CDOs from: Caterpillar, CVS Health, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Meredith Corp., SAP Digital, Travelex, the U.S. Department of Commerce, and Under Armour.
The title of this study should in no way insinuate any lack of innovation on the part of CIOs or CMOs. Both roles are managing digital transformations that are reshaping everything about their organizations. Those efforts can be all consuming, so some brands are establishing the CDO to lead strategic innovation. Free from the operational KPIs of the CMO and infrastructure demands of the CIO, the CDO is expected to invent the digital growth engines of the future.

Information and software-based companies are moving into services and support areas across industries. They are bringing new business models based on data services, sharing economies, and mobility much faster than established companies can. This is a huge threat as these areas are major revenue growth opportunities in industries that may be in low single-digit growth mode. Legacy brands typically don't have the core competencies in software development or data and analytics needed to bring information-based products to market. In addition, cultures at many large enterprises are not used to the extreme cadence of digital business. As a result, leading companies are not only driving internal innovation and developing their own talent, they are investing and acquiring start-ups.

Based on our interviews, we have developed three archetypes for today's CDO:
  • The digital GM: Reports to the CEO and leads the establishment and/or transformation of a significant business.
  • The digital Disrupter: Reports to the EVP or equivalent and leads a dynamic team charged with driving product and service innovation and cultural transformation.
  • The digital Evangelist: Reports a level or two down but is highly visible to the executive level. Leads a small team designed to raise digital IQ throughout the organization.

In practice, the CDO role spans a spectrum of overlapping responsibilities. The digital GM also drives innovation and raises the digital IQ of the entire enterprise. The digital disrupter is also in charge of raising digital and social adoption across the company. The digital evangelist is more of a support role that helps senior leaders drive digital transformation.
Two key questions every company should ask itself during the annual executive planning cycle are:
  1. If we wanted to completely disrupt our industry, what kind of company would we start?
  2. How do we become that company?

The executives running the companies profiled in this study have asked themselves these questions in one form or another. They may not have all the answers yet, but they have dedicated themselves to finding out before they get "Appled," "Ubered," or "Airbnbed." New mantras for the digital era are:
  • The only way to control the pace of change is to set it — that's the primary mission of the CDO
  • Always be disrupting
  • Follow the money: find out where the VC money is going in your industry and watch those companies closely, partner with them, and invest in them or buy them if you can


For more information about this report please contact me: gmurray(at)idc(dot)com.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The 4 big reasons you need an ABM strategy right now



There are four significant trends making account-based marketing (ABM) a major focus for B2B marketers:
  1. Rising customer expectations are the most disruptive trend in business today. Customers no longer make categorical distinctions between their personal and professional brand relationships. They expect all companies to provide highly valuable personalized experiences all the time. Companies that differentiate their customer relationships on the basis of account-specific insights and responsiveness raise customer expectations and create competitive advantage. Expectations are set very early in the buyer's journey long before they interact with Sales, so marketing plays a crucial role in demonstrating value add from the very first touch.
  2. Customer acquisition costs have changed dramatically. Saturation is a problem for many technology product categories, especially second platform solutions in the enterprise arena. As segments near or reach saturation, new customer acquisition costs soar and it becomes imperative to more efficiently find new customers, get the most out of existing customer relationships, and defend them from competitors. The scale efficiencies of marketing vs. sales are critical to accomplishing these objectives cost-effectively.
  3. Subscription revenue models dramatically extend the time it takes to recoup cost of sales. Ideally, revenue and profit increase over time, but that is dependent on retention and expansion of the relationship which require constant care and nurturing. As a result, marketing must play a central role in optimizing the ongoing customer relationship.
  4. Technology has enabled an increasing number of account based marketing program components to be scaled beyond a small group of select customers. Online communities, micro sites, personalized content, crowd sourced product features, and other digital elements are easier to offer at scale. As a result, they enable companies to gain additional margin and raise expectations in segments beyond their largest customers. These are the tools the digital marketer must leverage for delivering value to the account.

Despite its name Account Based Marketing is not an exclusively marketing function, far from it. At its most mature it is part of a larger program that coordinates all customer facing resources (from marketing, sales, finance, fulfillment, product development, service, support and partner organizations.) Prior to getting there, it can take a number of different forms depending on resource commitment from content curation, to verticalization, to sales enablement. Regardless of the stage of your ABM activities, the ultimate goal remains the same: to deliver a highly differentiated, deeply customized, supremely successful experience for every account. When executed well, ABM is a vital tool for increasing customer lifetime value and raising the bar for competitors.

Contact me to request more information on IDC's Account Based Marketing Maturity Model - gmurray(at)idc(dot)com.