Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cloud Computing – Is It Really the Wave of the Future?


What is the cloud, you ask?

Well, if you have a basic email account (Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, etc) then you’re already making usage of that thing called “the cloud”. Cloud computing, in a nutshell, is when your personal data is stored on an external server, as opposed to on your own computer. Other than possible security concerns, there aren’t any downsides to usage of cloud computing.

Okay, so you can store your data, safe and secure, outside of your computer. But what’s the big deal about that?

With many services, that data is accessible from other places as well via the internet. For instance, say you start working on a presentation for work or school, and suddenly, your computer turns off. Power outage, empty battery, or the machine simply blowing up are all options. However, whenever you get back onto a computer- the same, or another- you can resume right from where you left off, because if you’re using a cloud-based application, chances are that it automatically saved your work at certain intervals. Your data might not fare as well on the off chance your computer doesn’t back up your work.

With something like Google Documents, working on something from any location isn’t the only benefit. Not by far. There’s also collaboration- you know, two or more people working on the same thing together, in real time? Yeah, with cloud-based applications, that suddenly becomes possible. And just like that, your productivity shoots up. For work, the cloud is better.

Working on things from anywhere, at any time- that’s called “location independency”. What I’m about to introduce to you is “platform independency”.

Computers (like, say, a PC or a Mac) are not the only things that can access cloud-based applications. Smartphones (Androids, iPhones, etc) also have this ability. And you know, it’s not just for work matters, either.

How about uploading your entire music collection to the cloud and using your mobile device to stream it from anywhere? How about adding your movie collection, and from there, watching them whenever you get bored? You want to be able to look at private albums stored on the cloud? Lo and behold, you can do that, too.

Cloud-based storage, cloud-based work- the future is going in one direction, and that just happens to be the little thing called “the cloud”. It holds your data, and it’s accessible from anywhere you have the appropriate device. There’s many services available for a low price and for free, even. Of course, personal physical storage is still useful, but in some ways, the cloud is just so much better for these things.

The cloud is even coming to something people previously didn’t believe possible- gaming. With OnLive and a steady internet connection, one can actually stream and play video games over the internet. Forget those long installation times, all that space being taken up on your drive! Of course, OnLive doesn’t support everything, and the cloud isn’t going to become the solitary source of personal storage- that’s just being delusional.

But the cloud is going to make your life much easier, that’s guaranteed.

So, is data in the cloud the personal data trend of the future?


About the Author

Ty is a writer on a variety of topics and he finds himself writing in the technology space quite often. You can find Ty writing on our blog occasionally or on other CRM and tech blogs.

Monday, January 30, 2012

5 Traits of Highly Successful Salesmen

By Geoffrey James

Are you cut out to make the sale? Make sure you've got these characteristics--or else learn to develop them.

Selling and buying are not purely intellectual exercises. Buyers and sellers are emotional human beings, which is why great salespeople are always masters at managing their own emotions. Based upon my observation (and some pretty hefty research in emotional intelligence), highly successful salespeople cultivate the following five emotional traits:

1. Assertiveness

This allows you to move a sales situation forward without offending or frustrating the customer. Think of it as being located halfway between passivity and aggressiveness. For example, suppose a customer is delaying a decision. There are at least three basic responses:

"Could you give me a call when you've made a decision?"
Aggressive: "If you don't buy right now, the offer is off the table."
Assertive: "Can you give me a specific time and date when you'll make your final decision?"

The passive response puts the sale on hold indefinitely (or give your competitor the opening to outsell you). The aggressive response creates pressure and resentment: Even if it works, you'll be seen as a typical pushy salesman. The assertive approach sets up the specific conditions for the close, without forcing the customer's pace.

2. Self-Awareness

You need to be able to identify your own emotions, understand how they work, and then use them to help you build stronger customer relationships. This is a four-step process:
  • Identify the emotions that you're feeling,
  • Based on experience, predict how those emotions will affect your sales effort.
  • Compensate for negative emotions that might hinder the sale.
  • Expand your positive emotions that might help you make the sale.
For example, suppose you feel furious that an important customer stood you up. You might take a break before your next meeting in order to remind yourself of all the times you've succeeded in the face of challenges. Or you might, as an ice-breaker, tell your second customer that you're having a tough day and why.

3. Empathy

This entails adapting your behavior to the customer's moods and emotions. It begins with listening and observing, but simply knowing what the customer might be feeling is not enough. You must be able to feel what the customer is likely to be feeling.

Suppose, during a sales call, you discover that the customer's firm just announced major layoffs. You could ignore the news and proceed with the sales call as if nothing had changed, or you could focus on your own desire to make the sale and ask your contact who will have buying authority after the layoffs are over.
Both responses to the event make business sense–but if you want to build a better relationship, you'll be empathetic and imagine your contact's sense of fear and confusion. Then, depending on your emotional reading of the customer, decide whether the customer would prefer to commiserate, complain or (alternatively) be distracted from the situation.

4. Problem Solving

The desire to solve a problem helps you create new ways to satisfy the customer's needs, both financial (the ROI of your offering) and emotional–such as the customer's need to be convinced that your and your firm are reputable and reliable. Problem solving is a four step process:
  • See the customer situation as it really is. (Never try to solve a problem before you fully understand it.)
  • Help the customer visualize a more desirable situation.
  • Devise a way to move the customer from the ways things are today to the way the customer would like them to be.
  • Communicate that solution in a way that makes it easy for the customer to make a decision.
While those steps might seem obvious, they're the exact opposite of old-school salesmanship, where selling entails "giving a great sales pitch."

5. Optimism

Optimism helps you maintain a sense of balance when things go awry. It proceeds directly from the (often unspoken) rules that you use to interpret daily events. For example, if the first sales call of the day goes poorly, your performance for the rest of the day will be different if you have this rule...

A bad first call means that I'm off my game this will be a bad day.

... rather than this rule:
Every sales call is different, so the next will probably be better.

Note that both rules are arbitrary responses to the same event, and neither is more "realistic" than the other. Even so, if you automatically jump to the first rule, rather than the second, it will be difficult for you to remain happy.

This principle works on bigger events, too. I've run into about a dozen top salespeople who saw the weak economy as an opportunity to sell even more,and did so, while their colleagues were busy hand-wringing.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Dominating Your Market by "Easifying" the Customer Decision Cycle

Ever wonder why some word-of-mouth marketing campaigns succeed and others don't? The answers are revealed in the following book excerpt

*Excerpt has been edited for space and style.

In our hyperconnected society, word-of-mouth marketing can no longer be ignored. To be successful at it, though, requires a unique mindset and skill set, according to George Silverman, founder and CEO of Market Navigation, Inc. This exclusive excerpt from the second edition of his book, The Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing (AMACOM, 2011), reveals some things marketers must know about today's highly connected and empowered consumers and how to turn them into advocates.
  • Customers are overloaded; they're too cynical to listen to marketers.
  • Customers mostly want to talk to their friends and trusted advisers.
  • Customers have dozens of new ways to talk to friends and advisers with social media.
  • Customers have dozens of new ways of getting product information and recommendations: review/rating Web sites, recommendation engines, and so on.
  • The new media are fragmented, so masses are hard to find or attract. That's why mass media is dying.
All of this adds up to one thing: You have loads of information to give customers, but they don't want your help. They aren't listening to you touting your product! You don't need "better messages that push their hot buttons." You don't need to "refine your message." You need to stop talking at, start listening to, and then do something for your customers that will make them say (or text), "OMG!"

Is marketing needed anymore? Is there any reason for marketers to show up at work? Why write marketing messages when most people aren't listening? How do you persuade people who only want to talk to their friends? Answer: Indirectly, through their friends.


Overloaded people want simplicity, ease, and fun. In the Age of Overload, the simplifier is king.

The Function of Word of Mouth

Overloaded people are always looking to make things simpler and easier. Instead of studying all about a product and going through a difficult decision process that they may not have enough knowledge to do well, they ask someone else. They always have, but now it's so simple that it's their main method.
Why not let someone who has the skills do something far more efficiently and competently than we can do ourselves—and at a fraction of the cost? It's called division of labor. It's the age-old breakthrough that made it possible for us to move out of caves and rise to a level of sophistication, civilization, and wealth.


Word of mouth is, first and foremost, an experience delivery system.
By asking other people what their experiences were with a product and by asking them for their recommendations, we can access a vast amount of experience without having to spend time, money, or effort—or take the risks that we would by doing it on our own.

So, we not only ask what product is best, but we ask, What was your experience? What should we watch out for and what tricks and tips should we follow? How can we best try it, fix it, and teach others to use it? Who has the best prices and delivery? Who is honest? All of this saves a tremendous amount of time. We could never function in the modern world without sharing experiences through word of mouth.


You can only create the conditions under which customers are most likely to learn or buy. You can't "sell" directly.

This may sound like splitting hairs in a semantics class, but it's a very useful distinction.
When you realize that you can't sell your customers anything—you can only create the conditions under which they are likely to buy—your entire outlook changes. You see things from a new perspective with a different framework. You can now get out in front of the decision process, anticipate what the customer needs, and see a clear path toward a series of positive customer choices that lead to the purchase of your product.
Marketing changes by moving away from pushing, pulling, persuading, seducing, cajoling, interrupting, bombarding, nagging, and shouting, which are all things that you do to people. When you focus instead on how best to create the conditions under which they are likely to sell a product to themselves, you shift from doing something to people to doing something for and with people: helping, aiding, guiding, and advising. This is a lot more satisfying.

Lending someone a helping hand feels a whole lot better to everyone involved than does pushing or pulling a person down the path.

And, it's so, so, so much more effective. More than you've ever dreamed.
Marketing is not the process by which companies create customer interest in products or services, as it's sometimes defined. That's the old marketing.

This definition has it backward. It should be: "Marketing is the process by which companies create products or services that get people interested."

As we'll see, interested" means getting people involved in everything from scratching the itch of curiosity to active investigation, trial, purchase, learning, teaching, advising, recommending, and fanatically evangelizing.
You can't create involvement and interest directly. You can only create the conditions under which people will become involved. And you do that by creating product attributes, materials, and events that get customers interested, excited, then fanatical. That's why they're called "fans."

Semantics? I don't think so.

Marketers who practice the old marketing tend to focus on their materials: their ads, packaging, logos, displays, brochures, Web sites, and so on. They're trying directly to make people do things. But you can't make anyone do anything unless you force or con them to do it.

The new marketers are clearing the path to their doors. They're finding ways to produce products and services that customers and other influencers will sell for them, much less expensively and much more effectively. The new marketing recognizes that people aren't listening very much to commercial communication—and it turns that into an advantage. Conventional word-of-mouth marketing is getting people to say good things about a product through a wide variety of channels. In fact, they've built up much of an entire industry around that naive view of word of mouth. Word of mouth is so much more than the transmission of praise and positive recommendations. Yes, that could double your sales. But I'm looking for a tenfold increase.


Word-of-mouth marketing isn't just about getting people to praise your product publicly.
Let's learn how to generate word of mouth in a systematic way, while your competition goes fishing for praise.

How You Fit into the New Marketing

You are in the perfect position to exercise the new function of marketing: making decisions easier for your customers. You know the lay of the land better than anyone else. You also have a better perspective on what it takes to find, learn about, sort out, try, buy, and use your product than anyone else. You know best how your product fits into the marketplace. In fact, you could be the best guide through the burdensome decision-making process.

In this Age of Overload, that's exactly what the customer needs. The raw information she can get elsewhere. But what information does she need, when? What's the sequence? What are the best sources of information from a customer's point of view?

You are in the best position to figure that out.
Prospects, triers, customers, and evangelists need a guide through the flooded river of information the same way a Mississippi riverboat captain engages a guide to take him down the river. He doesn't give up control of the ship, but he accepts that someone else knows this particular stretch of river "like the back of his hand." He needs a guide.

What customers want is the best product they can get with the easiest decision-making process. This is a trade-off. They don't want such a simple decision-making process that much better products are overlooked. But they also don't want a decision-making process that involves protracted evaluation, requires lots of resources, and takes many years before the absolutely best product is selected, when any of the better products serve the purposes just as well.

Some of the information customers want directly from you, the marketer of the product, includes comparison charts, decision guides, product specs, tutorials, manuals, user guides (not the same as manuals), training courses, identification of the most informed "infomediaries," and information on finding ratings and reviews.
As we've seen, customers don't want certain information directly from you, particularly in areas where you are likely to be biased, don't know local conditions, don't know about specialized uses—in short, areas where truth and relevance are subject to interpretation and bias. So, you'll have to point them to independent sources—in other words, word-of-mouth sources.

Focused word of mouth from the right sources in the right sequence at the right level in the right form at the right pace is going to lead them through a very easy-to-make series of decisions, without wasting time, effort, and money.

You can guide the process and not just because that's what the customer is receptive to.


Marketing is a service that you do for and with the customer, not to the customer. Like any service, its value is to be found at the intersection of what you can do best for the customer and what the customer needs most.


In this, the Age of Overload, the service that marketing provides is to make the decision process easier for the customer, every step of the way.


Your new function is decision "easification," which means easing the burden of the decision process in this overloaded world.

There is another thing to consider: The best product does not always win; the easiest-to-decide-on product wins. I believe that this is the biggest marketing breakthrough in the last several decades. In fact, it's why all the other breakthroughs work. Needs/benefits selling, the USP, product positioning, sampling, coupons, market segmentation, discounts, testimonials, malls, money-back guarantees, and a dozen other developments all work so well because they make some aspect of the customer decision cycle easier.


The product that wins is not always the "best" product. It's the product that makes the product decisions smooth, easy, fun, and fast.


The "easy-to-decide-on" product wins because customers tend to follow the path of least resistance.
For most things, there isn't time these days to do anything else.


Your job as a marketer is to make your product the "easiest-to-decide-on" product in its field.
Next, let's analyze the word-of-mouth part of decision easification so that you can do most of what you need to do.

Decision Speed
F.W. Woolworth, the founder of the largest retail chain of its time, said, "I'm the world's worst salesman. Therefore, I must make it easy to buy."

If you think this is just old-fashioned theory, notice how many of the most successful enterprises and products have a staff obsessed with ease and simplicity. The ones that come to mind are Apple, Google, Amazon, and Bose.

Why are ease and simplicity so powerful? Because ease increases the speed of the decision cycle. And why is that important? Because increasing decision speed is the most effective way to increase sales revenue.
But isn't sales volume (as well as frequency and price) the best way to increase sales revenue? For decades, marketing gurus have pushed the idea that there are only four ways of increasing sales:

1. Increasing unit volume (i.e., more unit sales to new or existing customers)
2. More frequent purchases
3. Larger orders
4. Higher prices

In other words, to increase sales revenue, sell more stuff to more people more frequently at higher prices.
That's what every business school in the country teaches.

But it's wrong because it's incomplete.
Many years ago, I asked the "stupid" question, "Is there something more fundamental that increases sales?"
I discovered that there is a more fundamental way of increasing sales that makes the other four things happen almost automatically: increase decision velocity.


To increase unit volume, frequency of purchases, sizes of orders, and prices, increase decision velocity.

How Decision Speed Multiplies Sales
Even if people don't decide your brand is better—"brand choice" is the focus of almost all of marketing—even if people make whatever decision they're going to make about your product in significantly less time, you will accumulate customers at a much faster rate and become the market leader.
Accelerated decisions are in a different class from other marketing program adjustments. While most marketing changes, at best, provide incremental market share increases (typically 10 to 30 percent), faster decision cycles can improve market share by orders of magnitude. In other words, faster decision cycles can increase sales threefold to tenfold, or more, faster.

Why Speed Equals Multiplied Sales

Suppose there are five similar products competing in a new category. All things being equal, they will each eventually capture a 20 percent market share. Say the decision cycle time for these products is approximately one year.

Now suppose you find a way to make several of the time-consuming steps in that decision cycle easier for your prospects, thereby cutting the decision time in half. What happens to your market share and those of your competitors?

Obviously, if your product achieves its expected one-year market share in six months, it will have effectively doubled the market window of opportunity, giving you the time and resources to capture another 20 percent market share in the remaining six months. This would give your product a 40 percent share at year's end, with the four other competitors sharing the remainder at 15 percent each.

But that's not the whole story. When you cut the decision time in half, you not only get customers sooner, but you turn those customers into zealous advocates for your product before competitors have a similar opportunity. Why would your user endorsements be any better than those of your competitors? Because they are not only available sooner, but they are also the result of the extraordinary support that you provided to shorten the decision cycle in the first place!

With this kind of decision support, the first marketing months can generate such evangelism among early adopters that a 40 percent market share is almost certainly too conservative a goal. A more usual outcome is a 60 to 80 percent market share for your product, a 10 percent share for product number two, with the others splitting the remainder. This isn't pie in the sky. Most marketers will recognize that this is the pattern for most product categories.

Take the example of the iPhone (which wasn't the first smartphone) and the iPad (which was the first viable tablet computer). The iPhone was easy to learn about (it was on every TV station) and also easy to learn to operate (in comparison to clumsy smartphones of their day) when you played with it in the Apple or AT&T stores. In fact, you had a feeling of competence right away. In addition, it was so easy to sign up for service and get one's phone number transferred; to decide on a simple plan; to modify through iTunes, which almost everybody was using by then because it made it so easy to organize their music; to buy apps; to get delivery (automatic); and to rave about it and demonstrate it to your friends. On the downside, it had a long list of disadvantages and deficiencies, which the technophiles were quick to point out, and was even disparaged and ridiculed in some quarters. In fact, many predicted (difficult to remember) its failure. But the negatives had little impact, because the iPhone made every choice, every step of the decision process, ridiculously easy, especially for a highly technical product. It even made its operating system invisible: It has no menus, no stylus, and only one button! That's the ease of use that everyone thinks about. But it has also made the other steps easy. It's sold by a company (Apple) that you trust will treat you right and fix any problems.

And it's the same with the iPad.

Word of mouth is even overcoming the barriers to switching from PCs to Macs, the difficulties of which Apple doesn't fully understand, but its customers do: (1) the enormous pain of learning all of the small changes and improvements that technophiles love, but average users hate; (2) the disorienting nature of new structures and new terminology; (3) the new look—pretty but disorienting; (4) the new terminology; (5) the worry that they will do something terrible that will cause their system to "blow up." (I'm not kidding.) Ordinary people have trouble with a new toaster.

Your Decision Easification System

To make decisions easier, think of every aspect of your marketing program not as marketing communication, but as a Decision Easification System for your customers and prospects. Make it into something that people will want to talk about every step of the way.

To turn marketing into a decision easification system:
  • Make the benefits, claims, promises, and value propositions so surprisingly clear and compelling that people will talk about them.
  • Make the product information so balanced, honest, and credible that people are shocked into talking about it.
  • Make open comparisons with the competition that are meaningful in the real world. Invite head-to-head comparisons. Openly show where the competition is better and where you're better. Such open comparisons will get people talking about how confident you are and how you have nothing to hide. Act as if the truth matters. That's in itself so rare that people will talk!
  • "Easify" and "funify" the process so that people will want to invite their friends to do it also.
  • Make sure that the trial can be interpreted, that the evaluation period before and after purchase is supported in a way that makes people feel competent and cared for. Then, they will trust you to treat their friends right.
  • Make the guarantees so ironclad and generous that they know that you believe in your product so much that you are willing to take a big chance on customer satisfaction.
  • Make sure that the testimonials about your product are informative and worth reading. Don't hide them on a separate Web page. Sprinkle them across the decision process at just the places where information is needed.
  • If a customer can say something, don't you say it! Did you know that under the right circumstances, customers will write your manuals and training materials, and even do the training?
  • Make sure the delivery, training, support, and everything else along the path to evangelism is filled with pleasant surprises, not the kinds of "gotchas" that many banks, rental car companies, and phone companies use to fleece their customers.
In other words, go down the decision path and turn every possible stumbling block into a pleasant surprise, a little victory for the customer.

If you do it authentically from your new marketing mindset that declares customers are your appreciated friends and that you're helping one another out, people will not only talk, they will evangelize! (By evangelize, I mean zealous, proactive advocacy.)

That's why Apple—which pleasantly surprises customers even with its packaging—has fans that non-Apple customers can only scratch their heads over. That's why the lines for its new products make the evening news. It's not just about the products, which are dazzling. It's not just the ease of use at the user interface. It's that the whole user experience at every choice point in the decision process makes the customer feel that Apple is looking out for them.

If you take the systematic approach I've been advocating, you can do it too.
When customers have information that makes a decision easy, they make it quickly.
When a company makes it easy for people to decide on its product, not only do they buy the product, they also feel gratitude and a sense of loyalty to the company that gave them the easy choice. Full, balanced information about a product or service—including clear product comparisons, guarantees, and a commitment to support, all provided in the right sequence—enhances the value of the product and gives it a competitive advantage. That advantage is often called "honesty." Stated another way, the product with the easier decision-support system often has the competitive edge, even if the product, considered apart from that system, is not superior. The fact that it's easy to decide on becomes an actual feature of the product.

Everyone knows that "ease-of-use" and "customer experience" are product attributes that override almost everything. In fact, they are subcategories, parts of the overall decision experience.
Imagine what would happen if you easified everything!

You'd be the Apple, Google, or Amazon in your category.
Woolworth's famous, self-deprecating quote, "I'm the world's worst salesman; therefore I must make it easy to buy," mentioned previously, isn't just theory. It's a fact of life for every product or service, whether it's a simple consumer packaged good or the most complex medical, industrial, financial, or agricultural product. If you make the decision easier, more prospects can select your product more quickly and with greater confidence. Overwhelming market dominance is often the result; not just market share increases of 10, 25, or even 50 percent, but 10, 25, or 50 times the expected market share. For the very few who have discovered it, it's the best-kept secret weapon in marketing.

Sometimes a product comes along that is so obviously superior that it seems to "sell itself." Even then you could say that it sold itself because the decision was so easy. But most buying decisions take time and effort. If the information provided by the seller is inadequate, we must go searching on our own to make up the deficits. At best, the days, weeks, or months lost by those delays cause confusion (a form of decision friction) and thereby slow the product's growth, making it share the market with all its competitors. Your advantages get lost in the shuffle. These friction points accumulate, causing prospects to drop out of the decision cycle, and often spell disaster for the product's success.


The adoption decisions are much too important to leave to the customer.
You need to structure the decision process for customers and guide them through the twists and turns. Without active guidance, they will falter, flounder, and drown in a sea of information (and misinformation).
The marketer can make the decision road a superhighway or a neglected, pothole-strewn backroad. If the road smooths the way for prospects, the speed limit goes up. The result: enormous market-share gains. This makes decision acceleration through decision easification the most critical element on the road to market success.

How to Do It

Go to some of the better Web sites, such as Amazon or Zappos. These Web sites are not only giving information, they are guiding people through the decision process. This means that they have different tracks for beginners and experienced users, they offer comparison charts and rating sheets, and they make the information easy to understand. They are models of simplicity and relevance. They have case studies and genuinely useful information from customers. They have discussion groups, toll-free numbers to get questions answered, ways to download trial software, application examples and help, and examples from industries like yours. Yet, they aren't complicated. They appear simple and friendly to the customer. Most other sites overwhelm you with a tidal wave of information, presented from their point of view, not from the struggling customers' perspectives. There are no signposts, no organizational help, and no easification. You need to stop spending your money on making your Web site flashy and start spending your money on making your Web site simple—a very difficult task.

Now we are ready to look at word of mouth in a whole new light. Instead of focusing only on word of mouth as the most credible form of marketing, we are going to take a different approach.


Approach word of mouth as the best tool we have to make every choice at every fork in the road toward becoming an evangelist for your product easier than the other choices. In broad terms, word of mouth is going to make your product easiest to find, learn about, select, try, buy, and rave about.

Cut Decision Time in Half

It's difficult for most marketers to believe that you can dramatically shorten the time through the decision cycle because speed can rarely be addressed directly. Easification and simplification are the processes by which speed is accelerated. Almost everyone knows that almost everything can be simplified and made easier, once they realize its importance and put their minds to it. Everyone who's been in a traffic jam knows that multiple barriers slow things down, and the slowdowns compound until the cars are at a standstill. They also know that when multiple barriers are removed after the road has been repaved, traffic flies over the newly smoothed road.

The overwhelming probability is that every single step on your customers' decision path is needlessly rough, complex, and strewn with potholes. But you don't see how hard it is for customers because you have "Expert Blindness," the extreme form of "Knowledge Blindness," which means knowing everything about your product except one thing: what it's like to know nothing.

I believe that every future marketer will be an expert on the product/service/idea decision process, particularly in how to make it easier. In fact, I predict that Decision Easification will become an entire industry. And remember, I predicted the rise of the word-of-mouth marketing industry.

I believe that that's what you need to focus on now.

From The Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing, Second Edition, ©2011 George Silverman. All rights reserved. Published by AMACOM Books (www.amacombooks.org).

Monday, January 23, 2012

Eight CRM Predictions for 2012

CRM had a good year in 2011 with its highest revenues in many years. So what does the future hold? 

EnterpriseAppsToday asked CRM analysts and industry experts for their predictions for the year ahead.

Mobile Access the Norm

It’s hard to ignore the flurry of press releases announcing the latest mobility features for CRM applications. Info-Tech Research Group believes that accessing CRM apps via iPhones, iPads and other devices will become the norm in 2012.  “We are evaluating vendors based on their ability to provide a fully-functional, device-independent HTML version and/or full-functional native apps for smartphones and tablets,” said Tim Hickernell, an analyst for Info-Tech. “Users expect ubiquitous access to corporate systems anywhere, anytime on any device.”

Social CRM Goes Mainstream

Along with most other analysts we asked, Hickernell thinks social CRM will go mainstream in the coming year. He said that expanding customer profiles to include Twitter activity, LinkedIn profiles and other social information will become a required capability for sales organizations in 2012.  “The ability to add direct customer social interaction to a customer service queue is essential to effect proactive service,” he said. “Vendors that do not satisfy these requirements will have points deducted from their feature scores.”

Getting Their Marketing Game On

In addition to vendors integrating social media into CRM platforms, companies will redouble their efforts to improve the effectiveness of social media marketing, according to Garret Ippolito of CRMtrends.com. This will include gamification, or the integration of game mechanics into marketing activities to drive customer engagement and participation. “Gamification is not a passing fad, it is here to stay,” Ippolito predicted.

Cloud to Curtail CRM Margins

Gartner predicts that by 2015, low-cost cloud services will cannibalize up to 15 percent of top outsourcing players' revenue. This includes CRM. Low-cost IT services are an emerging market force that will alter the pricing equation of delivering enterprise applications. “The projected $1 trillion IT services market is at the beginning of a phase of further disruption, similar to the one the low-cost airlines have brought in the transportation industry,” said Gartner analyst Daryl Plummer.

Focus on Data Quality

Improved data quality and availability will become a major focus in 2012, said Mike Sabin, senior vice president of Sales and Marketing Solutions at Dun & Bradstreet. “We’ll see more interest in data, Data-as-a-Service (DaaS) and Master Data Management technologies to generate more and better single views of the customer – to improve experience throughout the customer lifecycle and make data more available to the CRM as a repository of knowledge,” said Sabin.

Leveraging Trust

Paul Teshima, senior vice president of Product Management, Eloqua, expects to see buyer/contact profiles augmented to include not only "who you are" and "what you are interested in” but also "who do you trust." This is increasingly important because of the rise of social media. “We believe that understanding the many social identities of a buyer or customer will become extremely important this year,” said Teshima. “As CRM systems start incorporating these identities into the standard contact profile, there is an opportunity to also develop a better understanding of the network of people the contact "trusts," which can be leveraged in many areas of a customer lifecycle.”

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

CRM and Digital Convergence: Trends for 2012

With the world teetering on the edge of a possible economic downturn and the Euro in a constant state of peril, one could be forgiven for not looking ahead to 2012 with that much optimism. But for the convergence of CRM and digital marketing it could quite possibly be the most exciting thing ever.

Eight reasons to be cheerful:

Social Everything
2012 is possibly the year social networks ceased to be sexy and became very ordinary, just an everyday part of people’s lives. Also the year that marketers realized that there is a right and wrong way to gatecrash your customers’ peer relationships. Getting your fans to do your marketing for you to their peers, family, and colleagues will very much be the way forward. The quid quo pro will be greater incentives and rewards for such marketing advocacy. Air miles anyone?

The social networks value as relationship brokers is well recognized, but as we see below, this brings awesome responsibilities. Next year, everyone finally starts to wise up to data, privacy, and ethical marketing issues. More respectful marketing will increase trust and confidence in social networks, which leads to better results.

Real-Time Marketing

Well-established campaign management systems are making the jump to light speed with real-time decision support. Something that was once future world stuff, think “Minority Report,” has finally come of age. Truly smart marketing, able to serve up real-time, context-sensitive messages, across any preferred channel, based on clearly thought-through customer strategies is now here and very real.

The challenge for 2012 will be for organizations to establish the skills, articulation, and customer planning functions to make this a relevant and profitable experience for both brand and customer.

Internet of Things

The digital dialogue is still largely confined to web, email, and mobile. As the Internet spreads its tentacles across many new devices and interfaces, we need to carefully and respectfully start to push our message across these new channels. Internet-enabled TVs, gaming consoles, cars, and even home appliances are all examples of the new interfaces that will be starting to engage customers in 2012, all wired, sorry “wirelessed,” to the Internet.

How do we meet this challenge? What does the customer want to hear when she opens her fridge? Does she want her fridge to talk to her supermarket? 2012 offers us an exciting year of trial and experimentation.

The “Joined Up” Relationships

With so many new channel possibilities and so many messages, the need for the “joined up” relationship is critical; it will differentiate those that want a profitable dialogue from those that just want to shout at their customers. Campaign management tools will be playing a critical role to ensure our dialogue across multiple channels is coordinated, eliminating unnecessary repetition and acknowledging channel interaction, even from a few seconds earlier.

The tools are here; the skills and thinking needs to catch up with this innovative, rule-based marketing.

Customer Control

Much has been written about the privacy practices of some of the larger online players in the past year. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and excuse them any megalomaniac tendencies and simply say that they did not realize the awesome responsibility that comes with managing large amounts of very personal data.
Thanks to a lot of awareness and growth in privacy legislation, customers are starting to realize that this is important and that in the online world you need to apply the same common sense as you would in the real world. 2012 will be the year that customers take back control of the relationship and start to dictate the rules for how they want marketers to use their data. In return for more respect and smarter use of that data, trust is established and we all benefit.


The year ahead sees the continued penetration of these new phones and devices. More people with an “always on” capability to interact. We are slowly but surely seeing the convergence between location-sensitive marketing, the slow but sure introduction of NFC-based payment mechanics, and best e-commerce practice that goes hand in hand with payment opportunities.

With the opportunities this presents, mobile marketing comes of age, with marketers realizing that everything – email, web, even apps – needs to be properly optimized for mobile, creating a more successful experience.

The Data Fire Hose

I hate the expression “datarati.” It conjures up images of people giving each other awards in cocktails bars. But it does describe the new breed of person who will rule the marketing world. Customer data is everything and everywhere, and 2012 will be the year that most smart marketers finally get to grips with the data fire hose and turn it to insights and actions that they can use to make money. This is a critical talent for the year ahead, look after your data people!


Technology continues to play a massive role in our evolution. Possibly the most important trend for 2012 is recognition of a new breed of marketer. They will continue to be blessed with all the creativity and innovation of the past, but also with new skills. They will be comfortable with data and the ability to see profitable patterns where others see zeros and ones. They will be able to design logical flows and customer journeys, that will be fundamental to an ordered, defined, but seamless dialogue across all the channels. All important skills to develop. 2012 really belongs to these people.

Monday, January 16, 2012

How Important is Custom Application Development for Today’s Mid-Sized Business?


Businesses have long been driven by innovation and competition. Staying current with business practices, ensuring that processes run efficiently, and making sure that employees are able to complete their jobs helps businesses to maintain an edge on both innovation and competition. In an attempt to keep up with these elements of business, many companies are seeking to find ways they can streamline processes and improve the way their businesses function.

Technology is often a driving factor in how companies fare when it comes to innovation, competition, and where they stand in the marketplace. In addition, how companies manage the data they have on hand, serve customers, and how they support productivity also has an impact on sales. Most businesses rely on technology to execute these tasks, making technology particularly important to business practices.

Because technology is often a critical aspect for how businesses manage and analyze data and make key decisions, ensuring that they have the most efficient technology on hand is important for businesses. Many large enterprises have big budgets they can devote to information technology (IT) and the development of applications they might need, as well as well-developed IT support teams to ensure their technology runs the way it should. For mid-sized businesses, however, IT budgets and IT support teams are generally much smaller. As such, when it comes to finding technology to help them run their businesses, many mid-sized companies will use off-the-shelf options with standard spreadsheet and database offerings. These off-the-shelf products are usually low-cost and can be used to create fairly generic applications to manipulate and mine data.

Data management and manipulation is critical to a business’s success. Ensuring that information is well-organized and efficient to use allows businesses to stay current, well-informed, and able to make important decisions. While low-cost, off-the-shelf options do allow businesses the option of running generic data management and manipulation programs, these are not always the best options for mid-sized businesses. With custom application development, businesses can create applications that are specific to their needs, allowing them to manage data as they need it, run reports with ease, and allow accessibility to everyone who needs it.

Custom application development can aide businesses with data management and assessment capacities, streamlining the processes and making them much more efficient to use. When the quality of data a company has on hand can mean the difference between losing or making a sale, it is critical that the data is quality. Likewise, businesses can use custom applications to help manage their sales processes and customer service options. These elements are also critical to business. With the development of custom applications, businesses have the opportunities to ensure these critical elements are maintained and well-executed.

Businesses examining the option of custom application development can look to cloud computing services for development; they also support the applications once they have been developed. This option reduces the need for companies to have extensive infrastructure and IT departments. These types of application development options can be cost-effective and more time efficient than off-the-shelf options.

Quick access to quality data and ease of manipulation can make a significant difference for businesses looking to stay ahead in the marketplace. Custom application development can provide businesses with options to develop systems that allow them to do what they need to do in a time-efficient manner. When innovation and competition are the differences between success and failure, adopting methods that can allow you to stay on top are key. Custom application development can allow businesses to do just that.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Tracking Sales Leads the New School Way

Once upon a time, tracking sales leads required marketing managers and sales representatives to use pen and paper, and then spreadsheets, to track the information they obtained and manage it. From the start of the process, the marketing manager or whomever was in charge of the process would record the name of the person to whom a sale was being pitched. From that point on, any additional contacts and their connections would need to be recorded, as well as where the lead originated. Next, spreadsheets created using an off-the-shelf software program would be used to track data and information received. From there, it was necessary to track the spreadsheets, ensuring that data was backed up regularly.

While the method of tracking sales leads throughout the sales process, using a variety of spreadsheets and databases, is still utilized by many businesses, it is becoming an antiquated method of tracking sales leads. The process of inputting information, reviewing it, ensuring it is updated, and that it is backed up can be time consuming and complicated if many people are involved in the process and there are a large number of leads to track.

To make sales lead tracking more efficient, some cloud computing services are offering sales lead tracking management applications that can enable businesses to streamline the process and make it more efficient from start to finish.  Cloud computing services are computing services that maintain application development, technical support, and infrastructure from afar so that your business does not have to worry about it. These services, including sales force automation and sales lead tracking, assist businesses in supporting their customer relationship management (CRM) strategies.

Sales lead tracking and management services supported by cloud computing may help businesses track their leads throughout the lead life cycle, from initial capture through the time when a sale is made or lost.

From the beginning of the sales cycle, cloud computing services offer ways to manage marketing campaigns to assess how they are attracting leads and how many leads the campaigns are tracking. In addition, some lead tracking systems offered by cloud computing services allow businesses to integrate Google AdWords applications into the tracking applications to ensure that search marketing efforts are carried out, tracked, and assessed seamlessly in conjunction with your other marketing endeavors. This information can be used to assess the marketing efforts and determine what channels are most effective.

Businesses may use sales lead tracking applications to automatically capture Web site leads; automated capture of these leads can be used to import the lead information into the tracking system and monitor it throughout the sales process. Marketers and sales representatives can monitor the leads after they have been generated and passed on to the sales team. The sales team can also monitor the leads to ensure the leads are being taken care of appropriately. The sales lead tracking applications can also help businesses to assess the quality of the leads they have obtained to determine what leads are the most qualified and where they should invest their time pursuing leads.

Sales leads are an integral aspect of business. Sales and revenue are generated by capturing, monitoring, and taking care of leads. Leads are the individuals or companies who can turn into sales. With many people involved in the tracking process, as well as the potential of having many leads, businesses need to make certain they maintain their lead information and stay up-to-date. Using sales lead tracking applications supported by cloud computing is the new school method of tracking leads and helping to ensure leads turn into sales.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Run Your Customer Service in the Cloud

Customer service can bring groans to mind for those who have had experience with it, as a customer or as a business member. Long wait times, inadequate information, and other problems can make customer service a tedious task for everyone involved.

Traditionally, customer service has required customers to place phone calls to call centers, where call center representatives access a variety of spreadsheets and databases to retrieve the information needed to answer a customer’s question. Service of this manner is not always time-efficient, nor knowledge-efficient. Often customer service reps will need to place calls to other people for further details, or even call a customer back with answers, hindering the process of providing quick, relevant answers.

To address their customer service needs and ensure that customers are receiving the best possible support, many businesses are turning to cloud computing. Cloud computing, which manages applications, technical support, and infrastructure from afar, provides businesses with new options for handling customer service. Many cloud computing services have a variety of customer service applications available to make the process more streamlined from start to finish.

With cloud computing customer service applications, businesses can update their call center capabilities. Rather than have reps use multiple different spreadsheets and databases, which can be inefficient and time consuming, they can take advantage of tools that allow them to retrieve key customer data, histories, and contact information quickly from one location. Having a complete customer view at their fingertips, call center reps can potentially provide customers with faster service and more informed answers, augmenting the chance for customer satisfaction.

Many people are turning to the Web for answers about their products or services as a means of servicing their own needs. They may go to Google to find out what others have done about a particular problem. In answer to customers servicing their own needs, many cloud computing applications are providing businesses with avenues to develop their own customer self-service portals.

Self-service portals can allow customers to log cases if they are having trouble with a product, as well as get updates on their products, services, or histories with 24/7 accessibility. These portals can be customized to fit your business’s specific needs. In addition, self-service applications can enable users to post ideas about products and services, vote on others’ ideas, and comment on ideas. In this capacity customers can solve their own problems and you can obtain their insight. These portals may also provide companies with a way to deliver content-rich presentations on their website so customers can learn more and find another way to answer their questions. Self-service portals supported by cloud computing services can make the customer service experience more engaging for customers, as well as reduce the service team’s burden.

Cloud computing services may also help businesses establish customer service via social networking applications.  While companies can do this independently, using a cloud computing service to aide the process can help companies manage feedback received from applications like Facebook and Twitter, integrating feedback and ideas into existing processes. This can help companies capitalize on the valuable feedback customers provide, as well as quickly manage customer service related concerns.

Customer service is integral to a business’s success. Providing timely, efficient options for customers to get assistance and answers will help to ensure their satisfaction is achieved and that they keep returning for future business. Cloud computing services provide a variety of options for companies looking to enhance their customer service capabilities and streamline the process, from beginning to end.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

How to maximize your field reps sales potential

Field Sales is a very different type of selling. It requires a unique type of rep who has no fear and can make a great first impression. Being organized on the road has its own challenges. Here are some of the best practices we have seen for being successful as a road warrior:

1) Marketing Tool Box. To avoid papers sliding all over your car, pick up a portable filing cabinet from staples or an office store and protect your contracts, marketing slicks and paper work from heat, cold, folded corners and being trampled. This will ensure you have all the paper tools you need and will make it obvious when your quantities are low. There is nothing worse than showing up and having to show a brochure with a boot print on it or a contract that looks like it went through a wash cycle.

2) Get a Tablet. Instead of relying on paper or to augment your paper requirements, invest in a tablet. Tablets still have wow factor and you can easily show products, services on a tablet without the pomp and circumstance of booting up a computer. Your prospects will think you are tech savvy, organized and credible. It doesn’t have to be an $800 ipad. An 8g anything will do. I picked up the Blackberry Playbook when it was on sale for $199 for one of my clients reps and it has helped them tremendously – even the simple stuff like email on the road becomes faster.

3) Use a CRM for field Sales. Not all CRM’s are created equally. Many of the CRM’s are great for in office sales or reps that go back to an office in between meetings but choosing the right tool for your road warriors is important. Front Row CRM has some very cool features for field reps. It has a mapping feature that shows you other prospects/leads/customers on a physical map so you can plan your route better. If the reps enter notes as they go, the Manager can see the actual route they took to coach them on better uses of time. It also has a CRM updating feature that can be used via TEXT in the event you don’t have a tablet. This is a stand alone or a bolt on to other CRM systems. CRM that works, is easy to use, simple to populate and actually facilitates sales is key to a field reps success

4) Keeping you office clean. I believe all companies with field reps should pay for an inside and outside car wash once a week. Keeping your car clean forces you to stay organized, helps you feel professional and in the event that a customer sees your car rolling up, it doesn’t look like it’s been off roading.

5) Fuel. Fuel is important. Your body and mind need good fuel to keep you at top performance which can be challenging when you are on the road. Drink lots of water and pack fruit & veg snacks. Apples, grapes, oranges, carrots, celery will all keep for days in a cooler. Don’t over think this. Just grab an apple on the way out or hit a grocery store between meetings. If you feel good, you will sell more.

And to state the obvious - you absolutely need a GPS!

It’s little every day changes that make a long lasting positive impact.

Happy Selling!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

CRM 2012 Forecast–The Era of Customer Engagement Begins– Part II


Gamification becomes Serious Business

No matter how old you are, human beings never lose their desire to play. Play makes us happy. Each of us, and I challenge you to deny this, wants to have a happy life. We do what we have to in life to improve our chances to have one. One of those things is to have as many happy moments as we can accumulate throughout our lives. Even if we aren’t all that universally happy (not projecting here), each of us has had times where we were that we can point to.

Gamification, while often over hyped and misunderstood, is a concept that has increasingly important business value. It doesn’t mean playing games; it isn’t game theory; it isn’t a form of hunting meat. My favorite definition comes from Constellation Research Group CEO (and key influencer) (and great friend) Ray Wang from his recent research paper, “Demystifying Enterprise Gamification for Business:Behind the Hype of Influencing Behaviors and Effecting Business Outcomes:”

“Gamification describes a series of design principles, processes and systems used to influence, engage and motivate individuals, groups and communities to drive behaviors and effect desired outcomes.”
To see it in action, even in an unexpected place, take a look at how SAP has gamified Accounts Payable. As odd as that may sound, they’ve done a genuinely good job. Here is a post on it with screenshots at Enterprise Gamification.

These aren’t edge cases for a small niche. Gartner Group in April 2011 thinks that by 2014, 70% of all businesses in the Global 2000 will have “gamified apps.” Research firm, M2 says that by 2016, the gamification market, currently sized at $100,000,000 will reach $2.8 billion, with 200% growth in 2012.
In other words this is starting to get big.

The vendors are in the game too. Those who have enterprise ready gamification platforms out there include Bunchball, Badgeville, and of course, Gamify, all in all about a bakers dozen.
We’re already seeing sophisticated gamification frameworks being set up. Innovative small companies like the award-winning UK virtual mobile network operator GiffGaff used gamification to recruit their initial customer community prior to their beta launch by providing DIY tools to create videos – the best of which got a £5000 prize.
For a more complete discussion on gamification worth reading, please make sure that you read the posts by thought leader and Lithium Chief Scientist, Dr. Michael Wu. They are well worth it.
Ray Wong, Gartner, M2, all say gamification in a big way starting this year over the next few. I say, amen, brothers and sisters.

Insight Solutions will emerge as a technology category of its own

One thing that we can’t ignore (okay, that I can’t ignore) is that if customer engagement is to work, then insights into how customers want it to work are becoming increasingly necessary.
But again, we’re dealing with scale and we’re dealing with a dynamic social web with constant conversations that are liquid and changing continually. They are being carried out in multiple channels – channels that number all in all, in the thousands, both public and private.

The current generation of social media monitoring tools with a few exceptions – Radian6 and Attensity come immediately to mind – are somewhat passive tools that scour the web, find the conversations and organize unstructured data in the form of a report that provides the users with what is being said, usually in a positive, negative or neutral vein. The better tools provide strong analytic capabilities that give some insight into how customer segments are thinking or how “nodes” are responding. That would be Attensity, for example. Or they provide highly focused, highly specific, well thought out intelligence such as the sales intelligence focus of InsideView. Radian6 takes this to a whole new level with their Insights Platform which takes Radian6’s vast data mining and information organizing capabilities and integrate other technology tools that combined with Radian6 provide deep insight into individual customers, if that’s where you want to go. With the future capacity to tie this to salesforce.com or database.com or data.com transactional data, and contact information, we are beginning to see how an insight solution would work. It’s obvious limitation is that it will be tied to salesforce.com only customer data. But that aside, we are talking about something that at least foreshadows what are a future class of applications. Bryan Jennewein, the product manager for the Insights platform calls the results “social insight”, which is not an inappropriate term, in this case.

But Radian6 hardly plays in its own sandbox here. There are a number of emerging players in this space which I’m calling “insight solutions” who have been misplaced in or evolved from other market categories. Currently, the runaway number #1 of these for me is Coveo, which came from the Enterprise Search space. Following them is Allegiance, emerging from the Enterprise Feedback Management world and Lattice Engines, which inhabits the sales intelligence world uncomfortably. Another newcomer that has flown under the radar is WiseWindow, a "mass opinion business intelligence" (MOBI) provider, who specializes in vertical insights among other things and come from the BI world All four have the technology to provide insights. Each takes an entirely different approach to attaining the knowledge that can support insight, but each minimally provides dynamic data mining, collaboration and analytics. All four either can or do integrate with CRM, by the way.

This is not to say that more “traditional” analytics such as text and sentiment analysis, business intelligence, etc are going to be replaced or suffering. In 2012, they will be even more important than they are now.
Several vendors are either upping the ante or providing new ways of looking at the data – all in the name of recognition of the importance of insight – into customers primarily, but also employees, opportunities, processes, etc.

For example, Clarabridge is both upping the ante and providing a new approach to analytics by taking sentiment analysis to a whole other level beyond the traditional five-point expression (very positive, positive, neutral, negative, very negative) and ratcheting it up to eleven points using semantic analysis so that there is context to the sentiment, besides. Recently, SAP, despite the fact that they own the best analytics firm known to man – Business Objects, recently announced a partnership with social analytics provider Netbase to become a VAR that would sell “SAP Social Analytics by Netbase” to their customers. They realized like others before them, insight is 2012 table stakes and social data is the tableware.

Analytics as a whole is becoming fundamental to all business strategy. 2012 brings more of that than ever and the rise of a new category customer-focused solution that provides a combination the surfacing of dynamic information and the analysis of that behavior as dynamically as it is surfaced.

An optimal customer experience becomes the core of what CRM can provide. Finally.

In 2011, we saw a significant shift away from the pure left-brained messaging of CRM toward a much stronger focus on customer interactions, engagement and behaviors. Traditional CRM vendors for reasons that are both good and bad began to rebrand their messaging around the idea of technologies that can support an enhanced customer experience. The good reason is that they needed to do that and they did. The bad reason is that they did it as a reaction to historic CRM bad press a lot of times, rather than just recognizing that the context had shifted and we were entering a period that demanded that customer experience and engagement got attention. Right results, sometimes wrong reasons.

Vendors like Sword-Ciboodle have taken it further and begun to present their product portfolios not as a menu of features and functions but around solution sets that help you do your jobs better. The name for it is jobs-based thinking. The academic framework for that is Service Design Logic, something that is gaining increasing credence in the business world. If you look at the Sword-Ciboodle site, you’ll see that it’s got a roles-based focus. The reason for this is that there is a recognition that we are dealing with behaviors – both customers and employees, not just products.
But the interest in providing the “right” customer experience high. Witness these numbers that come from the 2011 State of Customer Experience Management” put together by ubër-expert Bruce Temkin, the leading customer experience influencer and best of the lot in my book. These numbers are indicative of both where things are (not new but embedded) and where they can go (toward maturity). Temkin found that:
  • Nearly 60% of the companies surveyed have a senior executive in charge of customer experience
  • There are 30% of the companies that have 20+ employees who are delegated to the customer experience
  • There have been positive results (measureable ones, people!) from Voice of the Customer programs in 84% of the companies using them
  • The percentage of companies that received a moderate or better competency rating rose from 22% on 2010 to 30% in 2011.
That’s the good news.
The signs that this is still immature?
· “Only 3% of companies reached the highest level of customer experience maturity, which (Temkin calls) a Customer-Centric Organization
· Only 17% of respondents believe that their executives regularly support decisions to trade off short-term financial results for longer-term customer loyalty.” (source: Temkin, 2011 State of Customer Experience Management)

That means that there is a lot of room to grow and in 2012, I expect that we’ll see a continuation of these efforts to improve and get measurable benefit, though nothing dramatic.
The only real “trend” that will likely stand out when it comes to customer experience in 2012 is that I think vendor messaging will be increasingly focused around it. That’s not really much of a trend, if you think about it. You feel me?

Social marketing becomes an integral part of an explosive marketing automation sector

Social marketing and the broader, customer-facing interactive marketing are becoming ubiquitous as customer engagement becomes the increasing focus of companies thoughts.

Chief Marketer in their 2011 Social Marketing survey found that 73% of the respondent companies were incorporating some kind of “social messaging” into their marketing campaigns and in 2012 an additional 10% (meaning around 83%) would be doing the same.
What’s interesting is the primary reason that the respondents were doing so. Fully 85% of them felt it was a way to “reach customers at multiple touchpoints.” That’s 25% more than the next reason, which is that customers are spending more time on social networks. In other words, there is a recognition that social channels are now part of the mainstream and that they are additions to the channels that we’ve reached customers on traditionally. To get a feel for how big a deal this really is, in August 2011, Forrester Group came out with their “U.S. Interactive Marketing Forecast, 2011-2016” and saw the market spend up from $34 billion in 2011 to nearly $42 billion in 2012 and $77 billion by 2016. The bulk of the spend will be in the more traditional channels of interactive marketing – e.g. display ads and search marketing with emerging marketing such as mobile and social increasing about 250% in that time.

This is not surprising and if you look at it, the technologies available are once again more primitive than the efforts expended by the practitioner marketing departments.

The vendors are beginning to recognize the value of social marketing and are trying mightily to catch up and either incorporate it into their existing marketing automation or revenue performance management (sigh) applications and services. There are only a few genuinely useful pure social marketing or niche related apps out there at the moment, notably CRM Idol 2011 finalist Crowd Factory. One example of a niche related vendor would be the FuzeDigital reputation engine.

However the larger marketing automation/revenue performance vendors are taking note too. We are seeing social features being incorporated into more traditional applications from Marketo, Eloqua and Silverpop for example. Analytics giant SAS, rather than incorporating too much social into their marketing automation application, built and social media analytics application to take the pulse of the brand conversations going on out there. Companies like Infor, who provide customer interaction engines like Epiphany are using them to engage their prospects.

2012 will bring us continued explosive growth in marketing, especially social marketing because we have reached ubiquity when it comes to utilizing social channels as part of campaign planning. The more engagement is on the table, the more that marketing – with social marketing functionality as a prerequisite for a contemporary marketing suite – will grow dramatically. Forrester has it partially right with the increase of some 20% year over year in interactive marketing expenditures.
Think I’m wrong? Prove it. Launch a campaign on Twitter to do that. Ha!

Short Bursts: Other Trends

These aren’t meant to be full blown prognostications – just short takes on interesting trends that I’ve noticed that I want to make you aware of. There is too much in the sections above for me to draw these out but I didn’t think I should ignore them even if I don't spend a lot of digital ink making the case.
  1. Mobile CRM - As in 2011, the creative development of mobile CRM will be driven by the tablet market and by the ability to analyze large amounts of data quickly that will show up on the tablets. The iPad will still be the dominant driver of mobile CRM application development. But we will see more activity around mobile payment than we will around anything else as Near Field Communication (NFC) is deployed on devices to a much greater extent than 2011 and Google Wallet grabs share of….mind as more and more businesses adopt.
  2. Small Business SCRM – The success of Hubspot in 2011 and the emergence of a myriad of other technology platforms and companies who are small business focused (see CRM Idol again for many of the technology companies who concentrate on small business) is an indicator of the interest that small business has when it comes to doing business using social channels. I’m going to leave the details to Brent Leary in a forthcoming post here on the small business CRM market in 2012.
  3. Big Data Becomes Really Big Data - The issue of how to data the massive increase in data and especially desirable data becomes possible the highlight of 2012. This is being fueled by the substantial increases in unstructured data on the social web, in the use of video, images, audio files and other rich data and by the growing ubiquity of the cloud all leading to what IDC feels is going to jump to more than 2.7 zettabytes (that would be 1021) in 2012, which is 48% higher rate of growth than 2011 – and 90% of it will be unstructured (Source: IDC Predictions for 2012: Competing for 2020). Managing this data will drive not only the storage and infrastructure markets, but will make even more “traditional” areas like Master Data Management (MDM) something that businesses will be investing in. This is a massive opportunity and a massive issue.
  4. Acquisitions – The shrinkage of the market via acquisitions and it’s strengthening via strategic partnerships that support Social CRM and social business ecosystems will continue as they did in 2011. IN 2011 we saw, among others, salesforce.com acquiring DimDim, Radian6, Assistly, Model Metrics and Rypple; Oracle acquiring Inquira, Endeca and RightNow; SAP acquiring SuccessFactors and Microsoft acquiring Skype. We also saw a key strategic partnership between IBM and SugarCRM which was crucial to both companies. There will be more of the same in 2012 with interesting acquisition targets (at least interesting to me, not because I heard anything. Just to be clear) will be Marketo, InsideView, Coveo, SugarCRM and a handful of others including several of the CRM Idol contestants. Though, as always I’m sure I’ll be surprised and completely wrong. But acquisitions and partnerships will be the stars of 2012, whether I’m surprised or wrong or not.
  5. The Cloud – 2012 continues the bandwagon though the hype will slow. This year not only did we see Amazon continue to be the cloud to beat, but companies like Oracle announce their “public cloud” and SAP went deep into the cloud as they announced at the recent SAP Business Influencers Conference not only buying SuccessFactors shortly after they announced that they wanted to significantly compete in the cloud but also announcing that from here on they are going to architect what they produce as cloud and will adapt it to on premises, rather than the other way around – a 180° turn in philosophy and development strategy. We also saw the cloud become the delivery system of choice, if you take it from the rate of adoption, not the amount of deployments out there in the on premises v. the cloud competition. Since this is short, let me recommend the always fantastic, quiet thought leader, Louis Columbus’ great aggregation post on cloud adoption. Read that to get the picture. On premises still is the dominant installation for CRM and other business technology, with hybrid deployments a popular option – and one offered by companies who have historically been invested in on premises software. In fact, all the leaders but salesforce.com offer it as part of their portfolio. More of this in 2012 as the unstoppable cloud juggernaut continues to gain delivery mechanism share.
  6. Innovation/Co-Creation – This will continue to be in the purview of the most progressive companies – the leading edge of thinking and practice in business. But only at the lowest levels – feedback etc. will it be pre-eminent. The true practitioners of co-creation are just beginning to make their appearance on the global stage. I expect we’ll see most of this in the Fortune 3500 companies. I’ll be writing more on this and you’ll be seeing guest posts on this subject in 2012.
  7. Knowledge Management – while there will be no slacking off of the existing models for knowledge management – accessible knowledgebases being the core of that – there will be considerably more focus on dynamic knowledge with as close to real time response as possible and the use of knowledge for insight (via analysis). The technologies to meet the requirements for the latter are just beginning to appear in the market. Knowledge grabbed from customer user forums and other external "unstructured":
  8. Applications Marketplaces – Application marketplaces are becoming increasingly prevalent as more and more companies begin to view things from the standpoint of providing their customers with customized/configurable ecosystems. So now, in addition to the technology company marketplaces we know and…whatever emotion you want goes here….we are seeing even government agencies like the U.S. General Services Administration or the U.S. Army providing these application marketplaces to their constituents – in the former case, the other U.S. federal agencies and the latter case, varying Army commands. There is no reason to think that this is going to slack in 2012. In fact, look for it to accelerate.

The One By Itself

This is the most important prognostication for 2012. Period.
The Yankees Win the World Series – Locked and loaded. Our starting pitching straightens itself out, Teixeira gets his batting average back to a normal .290 or so; A-Rod revives his career enough to be a difference maker; Jeter just continues from his 2011 second half and Rivera of course is Rivera. Thus, The Yankees Win. The Yankeeeeeees Wiiiiiiiiin! Yay!


Look. This may be the most uncomfortable "forecast" I've ever made. It wasn't easy. I'm evolving a perspective I've had for almost 10 years and it has implications that are important, though not that dramatic, for how the industry will be developing and the strategies that need to be considered - if I'm right.

And that makes me uncomfortable. But I've learned a few things in my 62 years that I think have done me well over the years - some of it due to adversity that makes my skin very thick. Let's just say criticism doesn't exactly phase me.

First, I've learned that you are always learning.  That means that what I am writing here while I think its useful is only the beginning of something that I hope will have some impact but that will be constantly evolving even as it does due to collegial inputs from smarter people than me and those who are testing out what I'm hypothesizing here and finding how to tweak it or to show me that I'm wrong.

But if there is one thing I've learned that probably will never change, there is a way to think about all this. You make as good a case as your observations allow and then get on with your life and see how the next phase plays out. Which is what I'm now doing for 2012.