Focus your cloud solutions on your power zone

Delivering Customer Experience Management via the Cloud? Focus on your Power Zone

CRM vendors are turning to cloud computing for customer experience management.  The Gartner Magic Quadrant for the CRM Customer Engagement Center highlights the approaches taken by vendors in this space, and illustrates the challenges in targeting both the enterprise and SMB markets.

Large and small companies have different product expectations for customer experience management solutions.  Comprehensiveness of function, integration with on-premise applications, complexity, usability, and time to value will vary in importance across markets.   But the differences go beyond the product.  Sales  and customer support structures for the enterprise market usually involve personal attention by a number of specialized staff.  Those oriented toward the SMB are more self-service, low-touch, and low cost.   As companies consider both ends of the market for their customer experience managment offerings, they should keep in mind their power zone – their core competencies, competitive advantages, and installed base.

Here are a few examples of vendor approaches from the Gartner Magic Quadrant.

Oracle solves this problem with two different solutions for each market.  RightNow Cloud Service (now branded Oracle Service Cloud), delivered in a SaaS subscription model, is listed in the Leaders quadrant, and is noted for its ease of installation, but it does not focus on industry specific processes.  Oracle Siebel CRM, just over the border in the Challengers quadrant, targets the enterprise market with its comprehensive functional coverage, deep industry expertise, and global network of professional services partner.   At the same time, its interface is considered non-intuitive and a bit dated.

Pegasystems, also listed as a Leader, is touted for its ability to model customer behavior and predict the customer’s next best action to execute in order to achieve goals.  It targets enterprises with a highly scalable platform and a range of best practices that spans industries.  On the other hand,  the rules engine and library of best practices may be more than SMB customers need, especially in markets that are less dynamic and complex.

KANA, listed in the Niche quadrant, addresses this issue with multiple business lines focused on government, enterprise, and the SMB, for which it positions KANA Express, its cloud based solution.   Gartner notes that with four business lines, KANA may be challenged to focus on priority areas.

Focusing on your target market is like finding the ideal triathlon distance.  Although races range from sprints of an hour or so, up to Ironman races of 10 times that, I’ve found that my sweet spot is the Olympic distance.  After a 1 mile swim and 26 mile bike, I still have plenty of speed in my legs to run the 10k at a 7:00 pace.  I’ve always done well at the Ashland Lions Olympic Triathlon, but have never seemed to crack the code on the next distance up, at the Patriot Half, a race twice as long.  There, no matter how conservatively I ride on the 56 mile bike leg, I end up walking a portion of the 13 mile run.  I’ve found it a challenge to train for races of radically different lengths.   With limited time, I can either do the speed work necessary to have a fast run at Ashland, or do the extra miles to prepare for Patriot.   A middle of the road approach to both doesn’t seem to work.

Focusing on your power zone may be a good approach for CRM vendors targeting both the SMB and the enterprise markets for their customer experience management solutions.    What do you think?  I’m interested in your feedback.

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4 Reasons B2B Marketing is an Endurance Sport

I have to thank the Kevins.  For both the idea of creating a blog focused on B2B marketing, and for adding ultra-marathon to my world of endurance sports.  The identity of the Kevins is beside the point, but let me justify my claim that B2B marketing is an endurance sport with 4 examples.

1.  Both take disclipline.   Hours on the trails, roads, and pool, constant practicing of the various skills needed to excel in swim, bike, and run.    In B2B marketing, you need discipline to constantly refine the message to address just the right pain point for the customer, to respond to competetive threats, to understand what is needed to move prospects through the customer buying cycle.

2.  One discipline is not enough.  I grew up as a competitive swimmer, and in the early part of my triathlon career reveled in being first out of the water, only to have my euphoria crushed, as runner after runner passed me in the last stage of the race.  Similarly, it’s not enough for B2B marketers to have great awareness campaigns that draw prospects to your site; you have to have the product marketing skills to ensure their first experience with your free download is a positive one – intuitive user interface, easy to understand documentation & support, clearly articulated benefits.    If prospects abandon your free trial, you’ll never get them back.

3.  Hard work beats flash every time.   “Pink Beauty” was what I called my first bike.  It was a neon pink DiamondBack, a regular road bike, with mis-matched wheels and an old-school bolt-on aero-bar.  Nothing satisfied me more than passing people who took the easy road to success – spending big bucks on the latest titanium frame to save a few ounces, rather than getting out on the road and slogging through the miles.  Similarly, it’s easier for marketers to focus on latest technology and tricks rather than doing the hard work to truly understand their customer – the customer persona, their business challenge, the language they speak, and exactly what they need from your product or service to move through the buying cycle.   There’s no short-cut to putting in the time.

4.  Focus on goals.   What counts in a 100 mile trail run is your finishing time.  At the Western States 100, if you break 24 hours, you get that silver buckle.   Your split time at the Foresthill School (mile 62) doesn’t matter if you bonk in the last few miles of the race.   Trust me, I’ve seen it happen.  In B2B marketing, the goal is solving problems for specific buyers and selling your service.  Getting buyers to enter the buying cycle by effectively addressing a need they have, without enabling them to understand the advantages of your offer is like being in first place at mile 3 of a marathon.   Worthless.

What do you think?  I’ll explore these areas, and others in more detail, in coming posts.   Still not convinced?  Give me your thoughts.  It’s a long road and time goes by faster when there’s someone to talk to.

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