• April 16, 2014
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    Hillary Clinton speaking with Phil Fernandez, CEO, Marketo

    The overall impression I got was that modern, statistical and analytic marketing is still in its early phase though few people I know need to be convinced about its usefulness and efficacy.  You could see evidence for this belief in the products and product introductions, the breakouts, and in the speeches.

    First the speeches.  In addition to CEO Phil Fernandez’s keynotes there were appearances by Democratic presidential front-runner, Hillary Clinton and GE’s powerhouse CMO, Beth Comstock.  Each woman’s appeal to the largely female audience was obvious.  They are role models for many and an inspiration for any woman wanting to climb the greased rope of corporate success.  Each spoke about the challenges of being a woman in business today but I thought Comstock came closest to the mark when in the context of marketing she said that sometimes you simply need to give yourself agency to try something.  That’s an avenue not as easily exploited in politics where as Clinton pointed out consensus building is important and sadly absent today.

    The theme of the event was innovation and while Clinton, who spoke on Day 1, is no technology expert and not a marketing professional, her vast practical experience in modernizing the State Department by embracing the Internet and social media and her knowledge of how to sell an idea, which was honed in decades in the political arena, provided a great foundation for discussing innovation in a broader, national context.  Clinton’s message concentrating on the truth that we are all people and that we need to coexist was not lost on the men in the audience either.

    Comstock spoke on the second day and gave a more focused discourse on what it means to be a modern marketer in one of the largest, most innovative, and geekiest corporations on the planet.  Her message was that marketing has to take the lead in inventing itself, to find markets and opportunities for innovation in order to take its rightful seat at the boardroom table.  She told of instances in GE’s diverse portfolio from jet engines, to locomotives, power systems, and healthcare where marketing found product opportunities and developed markets for them.  The keys to success — and there were several — included bringing business ideas where marketing can quantify results and not simply existing to produce content, a message well in line with Marketo’s ideas about marketing.

    At the keynote level, Fernandez allowed himself a brief moment on stage to take in the company’s success symbolized by the throng in the hall.  The company introduced new and improved products for calendaring, SEO optimization, and personalization, all of which are in demand as building blocks of modern marketing.  Fernandez also hammered on the continuing need for innovation in all things marketing related as companies continue to face great challenges driven by the pace of business and the ferocity of competition.

    When it got to the breakouts, and I didn’t go to all of them, the vibe seemed to be how to help marketers to do more than adopt the basics and to exploit the breadth and depth of marketing automation.  This is no surprise for any breakout session but for a still new market that is past its early doubters but still gaining altitude in the executive suite, the sessions offered practical advice for things tangential to marketing such as how to work better with sales.  There is a great thirst for this kind of knowledge and knowhow among marketers.

    Especially illuminating to me was the amount of discussion about marketing’s interface with sales and for me this was troubling, not for marketing but for sales.  Of all the disciplines in CRM today, sales appears to me to be the one that has changed least over time and that’s not good.  Sales is the practice area least affected by CRM, where people are still allowed to fly by the seat of their collective pants.

    I say this not to be provocative but to bring together several threads.  First, the urban myth that sales force automation does not work refuses to die, second, according to CSO Insights, half of all organizations surveyed still don’t have a recognizable and implemented sales process.  Third, and perhaps most troubling to me, too often the discussion between marketers has turned to questions of how can we effectively work around sales if it insists on its recalcitrant ways?  Too much of marketing automation’s effort seems to be in devising ways to capture customer data that provides the feedback that sales ought to be giving.  At least that’s what I saw.

    My concern for sales is that it will remain stuck in its rut too long and that market forces like the automation provided by ecommerce and subscription sites augmented by the information flow provided by marketing, will serve to make selling and its practitioners redundant.  As markets and categories mature a certain amount of retail-ization of the sales function is inevitable.  However, sales people who are still avoiding formalized processes and technology are making the inevitable too easy.

    The sales function was not on trial at the Marketo event but as an analyst I routinely look at what is and wonder how it will evolve and my conclusion left me wondering about the future of selling.


    Published: 22 hours ago

    Second Machine Age

    You should check out “The Second Machine Age” by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee of MIT.  It’s a thoughtful analysis of the technology progression handed to us by Moore’s Law and its effect on every aspect of our lives.  Their thesis is pretty simple but also powerful.

    Early in the computer age, we developed transactional systems designed to give us the data we needed to make decisions but over the last ten years or so, the pace of innovation has accelerated.  Systems have become increasingly sophisticated and capable of not only giving us the right answers in business, but also managing increasingly intricate business processes.  Processes that were only imaginable before are becoming easy and such is the case with managing people.

    One of Brynjolfsson and McAfee’s predictions for the future of business is that technology will become increasingly valuable as a way to augment human abilities and behaviors.  But their analysis cuts through the idea of the all-powerful computer such as the chess playing or Jeopardy! winning cousins Blue and arrives at a more satisfying conclusion that those businesses that do the best job of harnessing humans and computers to work together will be the most successful.

    Perhaps a classic example will be in how we manage people.  Given a choice many managers would rather wrangle cats than direct humans in part because incenting humans and tracking their progress toward a conclusion so that the right reward can be given is a low productivity process full of twists turns and lost data.

    Until very recently, managing people was a matter of supplying goals and incentives to be followed later by accounting the results and calculating rewards. Unfortunately though, the process quickly gets out of hand if managers have many people to manage along with day jobs that come with goals and incentives of their own.

    People naturally find the easiest ways to reach their goals like a mouse in a maze goes for the cheese.  So, the end of quarter accounting too often starts with reminders of the original goals and back of the envelope calculations to derive percent of attainment.

    Such is a “good” system.  A less than good approach is to forget the beginning incentive and goal setting and to arrive at a bonus amount that is bestowed less as a reward than as manna from heaven.  No wonder then that motivation sags in many businesses.  People don’t really know what’s expected of them and good work, while hoped for, is treated as a miracle rather than the result of a plan.

    This can now change because systems are becoming generally available that help managers combine the number crunching and data gathering capabilities of technology with the right brained, creative, goal setting and motivational talents of the best managers.  In other words the MBO can now be much more than an aspiration learned in business school and promptly shelved in the real world.

    Teaming managers with systems that actually aid in management processes and not just calculating results can turn the difficult and time consuming people supervision process — including goal and reward setting — into a rigorous and time saving science.  More importantly, using systems that manage MBOs has another benefit.  Rather than waiting until the end of a reporting period to ask, “How did we do?” managers can now ask the more useful question, “How are we doing?” at any time in the reporting period.

    The obvious benefit of this approach is the possibility of knowing where things are succeeding and where the sledding is tougher in time to intercede.  This is managing by exception, one of the more useful tactics that managers are tasked with.  But now, leveraging appropriate systems managers can actually intercede where their efforts will do the most good and they can do it on a consistent basis.

    All this suggests that in the second machine age we might reconsider and reconstruct the very idea of work.  Well-tuned goals and incentives can be managed anywhere any time with less emphasis on employees reporting to a building every day or working these hours or these days but not those.

    Best of all, because it will make this new paradigm more palatable to all parties, research shows that moving as little as 3 percent of employee compensation into well managed MBOs is enough to move the needle.  The key is managing well.  Employees quickly go from gaming a system imposed by others to strategizing how to maximize a set of incentives constructed expressly for them.

    The second machine age will be a time for recalibrating the relationships between people and computers, the work-life balance, and among people.  Goal and reward setting will be small ways to accomplish some of this but its impact will be great.


    Published: 1 week ago

    HillaryDay one of the Marketo Marketing Summit 2014 was highlighted by a speech by possible presidential candidate Hillary Clinton who spoke about the intersection of social media and the Internet during her tenure as Secretary of State.  Clinton is no technological light weight and gave example after example not only of how the State Department adopted modern communication methods, but she also showed where we collectively as a technological society need to go in not only communicating but in leveraging technology.  As a speaker she graciously stayed on the topic, innovation as applied to marketing.  Perhaps that’s not her sweet spot but she stuck with it and it impressed the audience.

    Marketo CEO Phil Fernandez was happy to serve up a mix of hardball and softball questions in a discussion after Clinton’s speech, which she handled with good humor, even the inevitable are you running for president question.  Here I thought Fernandez got further than most professional journalists whose questions have been successfully parried by the non-candidate and Democratic front-runner.  Answering Fernandez Clinton said she was “Thinking about it.”  Such is the stuff of reading political tealeaves.

    If you ever doubted Clinton’s appeal you should have been in the mostly female audience for whom Clinton is something of a hero and a role model.  Her comments were designed to appeal to the audience of mostly center left people and women.  For instance, when asked about immigration and jobs her response was a measured, let’s form public-private partnerships.  And although that’s a good idea, it skirts somewhat the larger issue of getting the economy moving again.  I would have liked a response like that but then again that’s the kind of thing a candidate proposes, not a private citizen.  Alternatively, perhaps that makes me somewhat left of left.  I dunno.

    Day two starts shortly and I expect to get more detail on Marketo’s many announcements.

    Published: 1 week ago

    World TourRelentless might not be the first word you associate with Salesforce.com but in retrospect, it fits very well.  Other words might include logical and well planned.  President and Vice Chairman Keith Block came to Boston this week with a troupe of “forcers” to deliver the company’s post Dreamforce message to an appreciative audience. 

    Block’s message was augmented by his announcement of new offices at 500 Boylston Street housing 150 employees with ambition to double. Also, in a surprising move, Block announced the company’s intent to overtake SAP as the dominant enterprise software provider and number three overall global software company behind Microsoft and Oracle.

    The world is a shark tank these days and Woody Allen’s adage that if you stop swimming you die is hard wired.  But to hear such naked ambition was both a surprise and a statement of received wisdom.  I have been discussing the company’s eventual ascension into the Fortune 500, for example, so the idea of this kind of rise is ambient.  But saying it out loud tempts the childhood notion that if such aspirations are vocalized they might never come to pass.

    But that’s all so much childish nonsense.  Salesforce’s relentlessness well precedes this latest announcement and part of Block’s presentation retraced the company’s journey and accomplishments along the way, which includes Gartner Magic Quadrant leadership for Sales Cloud and Service Cloud as well as Platform.   But it goes much deeper.  There are various Forbes, Fortune, and other magazine coronations and accolades from MSNBC’s Jim Kramer for being consistently one of the best companies to work for, one of the fastest growing, and one of the most innovative companies on the planet.  And magazine publishers apparently can’t get enough of Mr. Salesforce, Marc Benioff who’s been named one of the most respected CEOs and philanthropists.

    Salesforce is, one could argue, the whole package, and not by accident — its relentless ambition is most visible in retrospect.  So where to next?  Block also used the occasion to announce the company’s intent to push vertical solutions into six broad industry categories including financial services/insurance, healthcare/life sciences, retail/consumer products, communications/media, public sector and automotive/manufacturing.  It is a logical thing to do and emulates the bigger companies that Salesforce contends with, though at this level of granularity you might also say that, the designations are overly broad.  However, you have to start somewhere.

    For instance, manufacturing and automotive strongly suggest discrete manufacturing but this says nothing about process.  Or does it?  Retail and consumer beg the question of conventional vs. subscriptions, and healthcare and life sciences is a dog’s breakfast of care delivery, insurance, medical device manufacturing and more.  It is also a walled garden maintained by thirty-plus year old mini-computer software.  I could go on but all of this suggests not simply antagonists but real opportunity.

    There isn’t a company under the sun that cannot benefit from a cloud and platform-based modernization of its sagging software from the last century.  This is just the sort of thing that an ambitious company like Salesforce can turn its relentless drive towards.

    To be sure there is plenty of competition.  Oracle, Microsoft, and SAP all want to play in this new era as well and they are as relentless and ambitious as Salesforce.  But Salesforce seems to uniquely understand that it lives in a multi-polar world, one where the winner take all approach of the last few decades in software is being replaced by cooperation and best of breed solutions.

    This is also an era of diminished focus on transactions and increasing importance of process, which drives the need for platform.  To one degree or another the others may offer cloud-based products and services but they are still wedded to a business model that Salesforce and its kin have made obsolete.

    Published: 2 weeks ago

    Transaction_3D-512After many years, I think I can boil down CRM to this: Vendors prepare for transactions but customers expect process.  Of course this demands elaboration and neither of these ideas is stationary.  The desire for better processes evolves as customers and markets do and transactions become more sophisticated as vendors play catch up with their markets.  You can also say that a transaction is simply the logical end point of a process, at least most of the time, and yes, transactions don’t always involve money.  At any rate CRM is an interesting study in transactions and processes.

    To be sure, transactions are implied in almost any business process.  A sales process is supposed to result in a sale, a service process is supposed to resolve customer issues, and the marketing process is intended to fill the top of the sales funnel.  They are transactions with specific results but there is an important difference between a transaction and a process.  For me that difference is this: a transaction is a frame from a movie but a process is the movie.

    This analogy immediately falls apart when you try to piece together a bunch of transactions into a business process because it is as if you were reconstructing the original movie.  A process requires a foundation; something that takes you from point to point to point but a transaction is designed to be complete unto itself.

    I’ve spent a lot of time investigating customer sentiment recently and discovered that very often when customers are disappointed it is because of a process failure and not a transaction per se.  But interestingly, the processes that fail are viewed as transactions by vendors and very often, the individual transactions are seen as successful.  How can this be?

    A business has many customer facing processes for sales, service, customer care, renewals, whatever.  Let’s assume for the sake of simple math, that a typical process is made up of five steps so there are five potential failure points.  Finally, let’s also say that the average step has a 90 percent success rate, meaning that a high percentage of the time, a desired outcome happens — someone gets something appropriate to a situation.

    A vendor might see these five steps as individual instances or transactions but a customer might view all five together as a single thing because success is not assured until the last step is complete.  If something messes up min the middle it’s not viewed as a simple transaction failure by the customer, it is a process failure.  Who cares if you logged on successfully if you couldn’t place an order?

    If you are the vendor you see 90 percent and think that’s good and maybe you want to raise it to 95 percent to be even better.  But if you are the customer in need of successful completion of all steps, you might see mediocrity due to what I’ll call the tyranny of small numbers.  Roughly speaking that’s because a number less than one multiplied by another like it results in a smaller number.

    For the customer, the probability of successfully completing all steps of this process is not 90 percent, instead it’s .9 x .9 x .9 x .9 x .9 or 59 percent.  That’s a big difference and it’s a contributing cause of the dissatisfaction you see on customer sentiment sites.

    In my experience, the complaints voiced at these sites are about processes gone bad and not transactions.  So here’s the interesting point: if your approach is transaction oriented rather than a true process, your cobbled together process most likely lacks the things that real processes offer, namely the ability to bail out and deal with a higher authority, frequently a human being.

    CRM was born in transactions but it is moving inexorably toward process though I find it comical how often vendors avoid using the “process” word for fear of needing to do a lot of development.

    This might be the biggest hidden reason for the high interest in analytics and platforms more generally.  The idea of transaction based processes can work for a while as we layer on functionality like workflow, analytics, and collaboration but at some point the amalgamation of all these systems is not as powerful or as easy to manage as a system built on a foundation that assumes a process orientation.  Analytics identify customer moments of truth and workflow addresses the need to opt out of the automated pathway when needed.

    So as I survey the CRM landscape it strikes me that in a short time we’ll begin merging all of the point solution technologies we have heard so much about lately such as social, mobile, analytics and more, into a more comprehensive and strategic vision.  I think it’s time.

    Published: 2 weeks ago