We all complain about it, threaten to shut it down and not look at it for it consumes countless hours with questionable productivity benefits. I’m talking about our electronic tether to and the most convenient form of social escapism from the real, physical world – email. I have this game I play once a week, build a storyline by stringing together the headings of spam emails. Is it the story about beautiful Russian women fighting to save the world from coming to an end because a special scientist has been jailed for revealing NASA’s secret for curing hearing loss and is being tortured by certain physical non-performance? Or is the story about how to spice up live with an extra-marital affair? Wait, that story is actually taken byJosh Duggars and the Ashley Madison website. Not good use of my time you’re saying. For a white collar worker it’s entertaining while standing in the TSA line. We are addicted to email. Adobe Systems released the results from their latest email survey that included 400 interviews with USA white collar workers and Adobe’s Digital Index (ADI) which analyzed 17 billion visits coming from email. The study highlights are:
- Americans are addicted to email and check it around the clock
- People are guilty of checking email in awkward locations or times
- Email is and will remain a cornerstone of workplace culture
- Millennials check email more frequently than other age groups
- Email marketers need to do a better job to improve conversion rates
- Watching TV/movies (70%)
- In bed (52%)
- On vacation (50%)
- On the phone (43%)
- In the bathroom (42%)
- Driving (18%)
I hear a rumble and it’s not the earthquake that hit the San Francisco Bay Area last week. It’s a market shifting; one of those “who moved the cheese” kind of rumbles. Marketers are challenged in achieving full customer lifecycle visibility and understanding how data science can drive more effective customer engagement and conversion. So they invested in technology, much of it on a “leap of faith”, believing that the next application or new ‘cool’ technology will deliver higher quality revenue and better line-of-sight. Marketers being bullish about technology resulted in the infamous 1,876+ vendors graphic. The MarTech space has begun to consolidate. The day of reckoning is upon MarTech vendors as companies take a hard look at the real ROI. It’s not about nurture ads, retargeting, or predictive analytics in and of themselves. Instead, marketers must prove to their CEOs and Boards ROI – how much revenue came or how faster the sales cycle is from the technology. If the investment can’t be tied back to quantifiable revenue the odds are high that the particular Cloud application will not be renewed. Demonstrable ROI isn’t the only thing driving consolidation. Managing four to ten or more marketing applications with varying degrees of integration is a nightmare and expensive. I have one client that uses Silverpop and NetSuite, one ‘talks’ to the other but not the other way. Marketing technologists, in- or outsourced, can be expensive. There has to be a better way and marketers are increasingly demanding that their table stake applications be on one platform. How the MarTech market consolidates and who the winners and losers will be remains to be seen. “Nurture, retargeting, predictive analytics, CRM, contact data, dialers, etc. really need to be all under one roof,” shares Henry Schuck, CEO of DiscoverOrg. “Predictive analytics is great but just knowing who the next likely buyer is doesn’t help if marketers can’t call them, email them, or put ads in front of them. Dialers are great, but not having phone numbers to call makes them fairly useless.” Schuck cites examples of the type of consolidation that marketers are looking as Salesforce’s acquisitions of ExactTarget and Pardot which bring Marketing Automation under the CRM Umbrella or Oracle’s acquisition of Eloqua and Blue Kai which aim to do the same. In the midst of the debate about marketing technology is a growing voice about data. Schuck shares that “without data you’re dead in the water.” Everything hinges on the QUALITY of data; it is food for MarTech applications. The cornerstone of best-in-class marketing organizations is accurate contact data and the prime source of value in the marketing technology stack. How did data become unsexy? Decades ago, long before the Internet, data used to be very sexy. It was the lifeblood of marketing. Every marketer knew that if the data they were using for direct mail, events and outbound calling was bad, there was no place to hide. It was obvious. Back in those days, due diligence on database companies or list providers was intense – how frequently were the contacts called and information verified, what were the data quality processes, how was the data maintained, etc. The king of database companies was a La Jolla, California-based organization called Computer Intelligence (not the current company with the same name). The depth and accuracy of their account and contact profiles was unrivaled. How did data lose its sex appeal? “We got drunk on social media and high on content creation,” believes Schuck. “Marketers bought into the belief Hubspot was preaching that inbound will drive all the leads you need. Interesting that Hubspot has an outbound sales team to generate leads.” The days of cold call being dead and replaced by social media are over. Ironically, the value of data as core to the ability to engage prospects and customers never went away; it just slipped from the limelight. It’s back with marketers re-recognizing that high quality data is key to their success. The door has opened for companies like Avention, RingLead and DiscoverOrg to disrupt legacy companies like Dun & Bradstreet and Hoovers who have not changed their methods. “It’s almost as though many marketers gave up on the concept that data could actually be accurate or good, shared Schuck. “But newer technologies and companies are proving that good data is not unobtainable” Avention and InsideView gather intelligence on accounts and use technology to gather, aggregate and cleanse data. These companies are layering multiple data sources together to provide near real time insights into buyer intent. Bombora is a rising backend data source because they focus on algorithm data consumption. Just giving you the fact that an account is doing research on a specific topic – is a good trigger for action. Knowledge of action taken is gold. For marketers and sales reps accuracy is paramount to action that converts. DiscoverOrg believes that you still need a human to interact with database contacts to have truly accurate data and be able to leverage Bombora to the next level. Selecting the right data source still comes down to doing due diligence. Schuck’s advice to marketers is to:
- Track everything,
- Know exactly the revenue realized from every tool and data purchase investment,
- Invest only in those that result in measurable revenue,
- Set benchmarks for each tool before making the purchase and measure it annually.
- Keep all of your data fresh and in sync.
- Be deliberate about how you keep your data current, clean and truly sales ready in your CRM and Marketing Automation systems.
The “age of the customer” has had a dramatic effect on organizations. New positions abound that didn’t exist five or 10 years ago. One of those positions is the customer success manager. The concept is to have a team of employees focused on exactly what the position’s title describes – the success of the customer. However, and ironically, companies have implemented the position to focus on getting additional revenue from the customer instead of ensuring the customer achieves their outcome first and foremost for the lifecycle of the relationship. The function, as well as the industry of customer enablement and empowerment, remains early despite market rhetoric. The good news is that things are changing and rapidly. That is reflected in the challenges the 2015 Customer Success Salary Survey & State of the Profession Report found facing customer success teams. It speaks to the need for companies to rethink and realign the definition of customer success roles :
- Reactive approach to customers
- Time management and focus
- Visibility into customers
- Scaling the team
- Clarity of the role and goals
- Chief Customer Officer / VP of Customer Success between $150,000 and $175,000,
- Director of Customer Success between $125,000 and $150,000,
- Customer Success Manager between $75,000 and $100,000.
Totango’s study found that 43% of customer success employees come from sales and/or account management compared to 24% that come from support/services organizations. That background accounts, in part, for the role’s revenue focus instead of customer outcome attainment. Other fields from which customer success managers come from include marketing, product/engineering, finance and consulting.The good news is that companies are starting to realize that an overemphasis on revenue runs counter to what they and their customers want which are to build enabling and enduring relationships based on lifecycle outcome attainment:
- Product adoption – 57%
- Churn reduction – 55%
- Onboarding – 47%
- Customer advocacy – 42%
- Customer support – 39%
- Upsell – 20%
Dr. James Canton, a futurist, stresses that companies must continually change to survive. “Uber-connectivity, high velocity, real time transactions, IoT and data overwhelm the average company struggling with fragmented technology, data and asynchronous transactions,” Canton recently shared with me. Most leaders, of any generation, are ill-equipped to deal with the multitude of challenges in front of them. There is a handful of successful CEOs that have figured it out and know how to blend intuition with technology and when to abandon traditional practices. I asked Sandra Kurtzig, CEO of Kenandy, a SaaS ERP solution; Keith Krach, CEO of DocuSign, a digital transaction management vendor; Andres Reiner, CEO of PROS, big data software; and Sid Banerjee, CEO of Clarabridge, customer experience software, to share the lessons they’ve learned that shape their leadership and companies. What is striking about all four of these serial success stories is how grounded and personable they are. Each is driven by a passion to solve customer problems first and foremost followed by building a healthy company. They lead from passion and vision, not from ego. And eagerly shared their top five lessons learned. Be Customer Obsessed All four CEOs are obsessive about being “sticky with customers.” Kurtzig shared that “being close to the customer is paramount. Speed and agility are core requirements to responding to customers, on their terms.” Customers, today, have shorter attention spans and products need to support customer behavior just as much as key capabilities. Focusing on what the customer really needs instead of “trying to build everything into the product” was a lesson for Kurtzig. Her fourth company, named for her two sons Ken and Andy, started by accident like all her companies, to address a glaring need she just couldn’t ignore – the lack of a comprehensive cloud-based ERP software solution. Building the first release is a balancing trap many companies fall into, they either hold off market release believing robustness will be the defining differentiator or they release less than a minimum viable product. Her advice is to actively involve target customers as partners early in the product planning process. An engineer, one of Reiner’s hardest lessons was that the product didn’t matter. Enabling customers is crucial, “while products and technology are important, training and change management are the keys to success,” he shares. “As a company scales, be watchful to not leave your customers behind.” The language and mindset of these CEOs is well beyond today’s popular customer experience rhetoric. They expect their teams to not only understand customer behaviors along the entire lifecycle, but to build products that effectively engage those behaviors along the way. As the global standard for digital transaction management, DocuSign’s Krach shares, “We measure our success by our customers’ success.” In fact, all employees are aligned around a single, non-financial performance metric indicative of customer success: Successful Transactions. And by aligning the company around this critical metric with everyone laser focused on ensuring the customer’s ability to successfully transact business on The DocuSign Global Trust Network, the company saw more successful transactions in 2014 than the previous, and its first, 10 years in business. While PROS is in the big data space, Reiner’s focus is no longer on features/functions but on how big data enables customers with recommendations and actions at key moments. He believes that enablement drives consistent customer experience while increasing agility, for his company as well his customers. It's All About People A common characteristic of these four CEOs is a passion for employees and culture. Having the right skill mix for each stage of the company’s growth was a key lesson each learned. Kurtzig believes in mixing the generations. “Millenniums have high expectations of how software should perform. They bring a consumer mindset to enterprise applications. While seasoned employees bring deep experience and adult supervision,” she shares. “You need both.” Banerjee’s lesson is that people can make or break you, “invest heavily in finding and retaining the smartest people to work for you.” Along with building a culture rooted in accountability, “it’s important that team members understand why people succeed or fail. There are weak links and you have to move them into a different role or out of the organization,” shares Banerjee. “A culture of complete transparency, where everyone knows who’s accountable for what and how they are progressing is essential for high-growth companies.” Krach furthers, “The company with the best people wins.” Krach makes a habit of – and encourages his team to – “surround yourself with people who are better than you.” Kill Silos From The Start As companies hit the growth curve, knowing how to manage sales, training and employee onboarding in addition to products and customers is crucial. One of Reiner’s lessons was the dampening effect silos have on growth. “Silo-prevention has to be part of the culture,” shares Reiner. “And that starts with leadership.” For him, preventing silos comes down to hiring smart people that leave their egos at the door. “Diversity creates strong organizations where people naturally help each other,” stresses Reiner. “That, along with growing people from within by moving them across departments and roles, builds deep connections and empathy.” His advice is to look for people who measure their success by how well peer teams achieve their goals. The bottom line is that all employees must model the desired behavior. Keep Life In Balance Krach emphasizes that humor is core to his leadership model. It keeps teams together and motivated through the inevitable bad times as well as the good times. “Keep the vision in front of everyone,” shares Krach along with “don’t take yourself too seriously and keep a healthy work/life balance.” He’s quick to show you pictures of his children as well as the mementos from team building and company meetings. Kurtzig shares the same principle of keeping one foot solidly in family and life. Family is priority and she actively seeks the input and advice of her sons. She does readily admit that being an engaged CEO and maintaining balance is hard. Any C-Suite executive who claims to have ‘nailed balance’ is either not doing their job or delusional. Watch Trends More Than Competitors Keeping a close eye on the market while forging new paths is a lesson all shared. Before Kurtzig started development of Kenandy’s first ERP application, she looked at Oracle, SAP, Google and Microsoft technology foundations. Convinced the platforms were not future-ready, she (with some prodding by Mark Benioff of Salesforce) decided on Force.com. Her advice is to “keep a close watch on market trends” and don’t get too attached to your technology. “Take risks. In today’s market, proven methods are not always the best methods,” Kurtzig stresses. “If an emerging trend looks strong and is better than what you’re working with, embrace it.” Competition, viewed the right way, makes your company better because it forces the team to step up. “At the same time, it’s important to focus a company on its own strengths and its own strategic vision, rather than being overly consumed with what the competition is doing,” stresses Banerjee. “It’s important to closely monitor the competition but not to the extent that it derails your strategy or causes the team to become destructive.” The Net, Net These five lessons are not what most readers might have expected. Raising capital, hiring the first VP of Sales or Marketing, finding those initial customers, managing a board – none of these topics came up. These lessons were, in retrospect, the things these CEOs wish they knew when they started out. “You’re going to make mistakes,” Kurtzig emphasizes. “Learn from them.” Banerjee offers six additional pieces of advice:
- Conserve cash
- Get comfortable with conflict and confrontation
- Be highly adaptive and flexible, especially with people
- Surround yourself with a support system of seasoned CEOs
- Don’t solve problems for your team, let them do it themselves
- When you’ve stopped growing personally, it’s time to move on.
The engine of every company is customer acquisition. Customers translate into revenue which fuels job creation, investment and shareholder value. Without customers there is no business. They are the fly wheel of economies and societies. While everyone in an organization has a role in customer relationships, finding and winning customers largely falls on the shoulders of Sales. Even in today’s era of self-service, Sales plays an important role. Somebody needs to follow up on inquiries, build a relationship with the buyer, provide pricing, and close the deal. To that end, Sales’ is always in the CEO’s crosshairs. For the simple reason that despite billions being spent annually on technology, training and recruiting – the percentage of sales reps that meet quota has stubbornly remained at 50 percent for years, if not decades. The culprit lies in Sales hanging on to old habits and inadequate enablement. The combination foretells of a looming crisis that will leave no company untouched. The primary reasons for Sales’ ongoing struggle, according to Qvidian’s Sales Execution Trends 2015 Report, are:
- Inability to effectively communicate value
- Slow sales rep ramp up time
- Inaccurate pipeline forecasts
- Disconnected systems
- Integrate, streamline and mobile-enable systems so Sales can work smarter.
- Spoon feed Sales reps the data they need, dynamically, and in context of the deal at hand.
- Train Sales on customer journeys and equip them with tools, coaching, and guides.
- Customize content and deploy sales playbook technology.
- Implement neuro-linguistic programming-based coaching.