full circle crm

  • January 9, 2014
  • baby new yearI’d like to say it’s going to be a good year in CRM and I firmly believe it, though I can’t offer a single all encompassing reason for my optimism though there are plenty of small things that begin to add up.  In an earlier time the metaphor might have been “straws in the wind.”  So what are they?

    First, the economy is looking better but that’s faint praise.  Things are not as bad as they were a few years ago, for instance the economy is adding in the neighborhood of 200,000 jobs monthly but I read an article the other day that said at this pace it will be another five years before we’re back to the employment level before the crash — in part because we need to absorb all the people who are entering the workforce.  But as I like to say, black ink is better than red no matter how little there is.

    More concretely, in our financialized economy, the markets are healthy and the broad CRM industry is doing its part to pump out new public companies.  While all of them can’t be Salesforce caliber there have been many recent IPOs and the new year looks to have a few more teed up.  That at least shows us that companies are evolving as they should and finding markets for their wares.

    As usual, companies that are expanding the margin of our markets are the ones to keep an eye on.  While I have seen my share of emerging CRM companies as an analyst and a judge in CRM Idol, the ones that are most interesting are those at the margins while the companies that try to reinvent the wheel don’t usually capture the imagination.  Companies that I am watching for the year ahead include Xactly, InsideView, TreeHouse Interactive, Scout Analytics, Full Circle CRM, Lattice-Engines, HubSpot, Apttus, and Zuora.  My good friend Paul Greenberg will publish a list of a bazillion companies he likes in his watch list.  This is not intended to be all inclusive, just a smattering of companies I am well acquainted with.

    All of these companies are expanding the margin of the market, expanding our horizons, and while only a few will have an IPO this year, the rest are worth keeping tabs on for sure.  IPO candidates in my humble opinion include Xactly, Zuora, Apttus, and InsideView.  Interestingly, none of these companies is what you would call a social company, which shows that there are more margins than just social.  However, each is squarely positioned as a SaaS value proposition and that says the cloud is a live and well.

    Xactly is reinventing compensation management, not just for sales where it got started but in every department of the enterprise.  Zuora is making the subscription model mainstream by making accounting and finance in this new world easy.  Apttus is a double or triple threat offering configuration, pricing, and quotation technology but they also have invented a way to be into and using Microsoft Office applications in conjunction with SaaS products like Salesforce. The result is a new kind of uber app.  Lastly InsideView started as a sales intelligence tool but is expanding its footprint to provide sales and marketing teams with the data and insights they need to pursue opportunities.

    I am warming up to TreeHouse because they have an interesting product line including partner relationship management (PRM) and marketing automation.  PRM is one of those things that has come and gone more than once over the last twenty years, always with different players.  I think this time might be significant as increasing numbers of vendors seek quality partner channels as a means of streamlining their operating costs.

    If there’s a theme for the last group — Scout Analytics, Full Circle CRM, Lattice-Engines, HubSpot — I’d say it’s analytics.  You might not think of HubSpot as an analytics company, and I don’t think they are one.  But analytics is a part off what they do when they provide inbound marketing solutions.  Inbound, done right, can be a big boon to business.

    The other three offer mainstream analysis, if not analytics.  Full Circle focuses on marketing management which I have written about many times because I think the idea of understanding the data and the metadata of marketing programs can do much to make you look smart if you’re a marketer.  Lattice loves to crunch data about marketing and the sales process and they do it well.  I don’t know any sales manager who doesn’t want better knowledge about all of the processes his or her team is involved in and Lattice is one way to get it.

    Lastly, Scout has more mainstream analytics but for subscription companies and they make a good partner for Zuora.  Subscriptions generate mountains of customer use data that can be used to predict everything dear to a subscription company’s balance sheet — I mean heart.  With Scout’s analysis of use data, companies can spot revenue opportunities as well as danger signs like potential churn.  Any way you slice it, this makes knowledge and that translates into market power.

    So that’s some of what I am looking at as we start the year.  I think it will be a year of base hits with an occasional sprinkling of home runs.  Many, though not all, of the companies in this article have raised significant cash over the last year indicating both that the VC markets believe in their stories.  But this also means clocks are ticking, investors want to see some returns and IPOs or private sales are on deck.  Either way this makes for an entertaining start to the year.

    Published: 4 years ago


    It’s been wonderful this spring being a part of all the vendor briefings now in high gear because in short but sometimes painfully dense bursts we get to know what each vendor has in store for the months ahead.  It’s a lot and that’s a good sign.  There seems to be a breakout happening.

    One of the themes running through all the events like a kid on a tricycle is marketing.  Everywhere you look marketing is making noise.  Oracle completed the acquisition of Eloqua, Marketo filed for an IPO, Salesforce is putting significant resources behind its Marketing Cloud and, most importantly, marketers are in the ascent.

    SiriusDecisions, an analyst firm, is holding a conclave this week in which it is discussing its new marketing waterfall methodology and marketers as well as associated vendors like Lattice-Engines and Full Circle CRM, just to pick two, are sending contingents to the event to see and be seen and to soak up the new marketing vibe.

    Closer to home, I am attending HubSpot’s second (?) annual analyst day at its Cambridge offices.  HubSpot became an early darling of the new marketing movement a few years ago when it turned marketing on its head and said, no, no, no, try this — which turned into inbound marketing — and was very successful.

    Generally, when marketing kicks it up a notch, as it is doing now, there are a couple economic possibilities.  Either we’re entering a new market/category/paradigm or the economy is showing signs of life after a recession and I think it’s possible both are happening right now.  The recession is slowly ending and marketing as a discipline is the new paradigm.

    In fact, and this is most interesting, the marketing upsurge started at the depths of the recession when austerity was big news and almost nothing was getting traction.  But it was almost as if the crowd said no, we don’t buy it, let’s get the economy moving again.  Let’s go on offense, let’s start marketing and selling again and we’ll spend some money to make it happen.

    Here’s where economics imitates life — a couple of weeks ago, the economic ideas underpinning the austerity argument, which has devastated Europe and made the sequester in DC a bad word, fell apart.  Two Harvard economists named Reinhart and Rogoff whose work had led the austerity charge were proved to have made significant spreadsheet errors.  If there was an Oopsie Award they’d win it this year for sure.

    The translation is that the Austerians (as Paul Krugman likes to call them) got it wrong.  The math errors and erroneous assumptions of the Reinhart-Rogoff model were inaccurate and the data did not support their conclusions.  Over night austerity is, if not stinking like a dead fish, at least sitting in the sun and beginning to decompose.

    What’s interesting to me is that the general marketplace began reacting long before the fall of the Reinhart-Rogoff model.  No one needed to be hit over the head with an old tire tool to change directions.  We’re anything but doctrinaire in this country and when something doesn’t work we make little adjustments, regardless of what officials and supposedly smart people tell us.

    That’s the beauty of our free market system.  It’s distributed and as non-hierarchical as you can get it and it works beautifully in a pinch.  In my own mind, I often compare democratic capitalism practices in the West with totalitarian capitalism practiced across the Pacific.

    The Chinese have a great ability to marshal their people and resources to output great quantities of goods but they still operate in a hierarchical, command and control manner.  Democracy and totalitarianism are political systems just as capitalism is an economic one.  Politics and economics have to operate together, you need one of each.

    I could never fathom how totalitarian capitalism could orchestrate the changes I’ve seen this spring.  The very idea of individuals deciding for themselves what to do in a confusing market with a totalitarian political system — even with free market capitalism as the economic model — and breaking away from official thinking is hard to imagine.

    To me that’s part of what CRM captures.  It’s the chaotic and the spontaneous that CRM tries to ride herd on.  Sometimes it works well and at other times it can fail.  But CRM has made important leaps forward.  Like economics and sociology or any of the soft sciences, it has come into its own as it has adopted many of the tools of soft science — the bell curve, crowd sourcing, big data and analysis, and, most of all, probability.  There’s just no way a political-economic system other than what we have in the West could come to the same conclusion.  It would be like asking a fish to invent fire.

    Published: 5 years ago


    Bulldog Solutions Blends SiriusDecisions’ Waterfall Method with Full Circle’s Performance Management for New Paradigm in Marketing Management

    One of the great unsung themes running through marketing today is organization, which says a lot about how far marketing has come in the Internet Age.  Not long ago, organization was less critical because virtually all leads were the same.  They were low quality and generated from broadcast methods like advertising and direct mail, which meant that they required much more effort to convert into something useful in sales.

    But a lead that comes from a business card collected at a trade show is potentially different.  So is a registration on a website that provided a piece of thought leadership to the prospect in exchange for the data provided on a form.  These leads should take less time to make sales ready and have a higher chance of closing on average.  So why would a marketing organization comingle these leads with those that came from a lower productivity campaign?

    They shouldn’t.  When comingling occurs it becomes hard or even impossible to determine which marketing campaigns provide the biggest bang for the buck.  That’s the essence of SiriusDecisions’ new and improved marketing waterfall methodology.  Now, I am not an expert in the method nor do I work for Sirius, but intuitively it makes a great deal of sense to do that kind of organizing.

    Keeping birds of a feather leads conceptually segregated makes it much easier to do meaningful things with them.  For instance, you wouldn’t send the same introductory content to a prospect that has a defined need, budget and timeframe that you would send to someone just looking for information.  Rather than that, you’d fast track that lead and ensure that every time you touch it you add value. And that takes organization.

    If you organize your marketing pipeline into distinct tracts, or as SiriusDecisions would say, waterfalls, you will be better able to apply consistent policies and procedures.  You will also be able to determine to a higher degree of certainty, which programs work best in particular situations.

    Bruce Brien is senior vice president of client success for Bulldog Solutions, a business-to-business demand generation agency for enterprise businesses in high tech, financial services and insurance, and he knows quite a bit about marketing, demand and organization.  Bulldog has been using Full Circle CRM since December of 2012 and with a full quarter of data and experience he has a good perspective on the Sirius waterfall methodology and Full Circle CRM.  I caught up with him the other day to see how things are going.

    Brien is level headed and logical about everything and while he rarely uses the word “organization” that’s pretty much what he means when he says things like, “Full Circle is not a magic bullet, you have to decide to fix your processes first.”  Fixing processes means making sure your data is clean and that you have data governance rules in place and follow them.  In a word, organized.

    If you are an old school marketer this might surprise you but the point is clear, if your database includes opportunities without contacts or it has multiple duplicate entries, then you will need to de-duplicate and update your data before you can reasonably expect to have success with either the waterfall or Full Circle.  While you are at it institute some data governance rules to prevent this sort of thing from happening again.  You will also need some buy-in from sales about what a lead really is and about how the SFA system needs to relate to marketing for the simple reason that many SFA systems don’t offer data governance so people must.  That’s organization again.

    With organization, Brien has discovered he can learn a lot using Full Circle.  For instance, Bulldog now measures four separate waterfalls for each of its key lead sources — one for marketing, one for sales, one for telesales, and even one for existing customers making repeat purchases.  Each waterfall has a cascade of well-defined events and rules that stipulate how and when a lead matures along its path to a sale.

    The rules and data governance are all part of more organization.  In this case, they represent agreements within marketing and between marketing and sales, concerning what a lead is and what should be done at each step in a phase.  Full Circle CRM comes into play here because its analysis can tell the user how things are proceeding at each part of the waterfall.  Full Circle CRM helps managers to understand what specific results accrue to each process and how well matched results are to the type of lead in each phase.

    In prior marketing approaches, where the leads were less organized it would have been harder or even impossible to figure out if a particular program was working or what its returns were because the programs were operating over a heterogeneous group of leads.  But with the Waterfall method to organize marketing flow and Full Circle to do the attribution, it’s easy for Brien to see what’s working and what’s not.

    Full Circle’s greater ability to attribute results to specific inputs, “Just gives you the information you need to make adjustments,” according to Brien.  Early in the life of a Full Circle implementation, those adjustments might come frequently but over time the pace should slow as you might expect in any fine tuning situation.

    You should also expect that the cadence of change would depend on your sales cycle.  Enterprise sales cycles that can take six to twelve months are slower than sales of more tactical goods and services and so the rate of change would be different.  But no matter how you slice it, the days of quick and sometimes dirty marketing are behind us.  What’s here now is a demand for greater accuracy and precision and that takes greater organization.

    Published: 5 years ago


    Marketing Performance Management Isn’t Hard, It’s Good Business

    Sales has always enjoyed a quantitative edge over marketing but today that’s changing.  Sales managers measure many things like sales calls per rep per week, forecasted revenue, the time a deal stays in the pipeline or in a particular deal stage and much more.  Forecasts are often tallied in spreadsheets and they always involve an impressive array of revenue numbers and probabilities of close.

    Pity the poor marketer.  Marketing has been at a quantitative disadvantage because they have tracked response rates, click-through rates and many other qualitative measures of interest that can be as reliable as fickle customers.  Worse still, the rest of the C-suite speaks the language of costs and profits while the CMO talks about things that don’t directly result in revenue.  It doesn’t matter that some sales numbers, like probability of close, are just as qualitative.

    In the past all marketers could do to arrive at “serious” numbers was to add up marketing campaign expenses and divide them by the number of leads and revenue that came in.  This macro approach didn’t take into account which campaigns did the best job of attracting the customer initially or which one pushed the deal over the top.  As a consequence, marketers couldn’t tell if one campaign or style of campaign was better or worse at doing a specific job and resource allocation was hit or miss.

    But what if there was a way to define and track marketing metrics that more closely track revenue?  For many years marketers couldn’t hope to track those metrics but thanks to the confluence of big data, analytics, social techniques and CRM, marketers can track the data their campaigns give off and make measurements that can stand on an equal footing with sales metrics.  This reality has made the marketing funnel a real and important part of the overall sales process and spawned the discipline of Marketing Performance Management of MPM.  Full Circle CRM provides a good example of an MPM solution.

    A marketing department that tracks data on its activities can put itself and its company on a path to having greater certainty about its pipeline and revenue forecasts and greater influence in the C-suite.  Every marketing campaign generates valuable data from the raw number of prospects it attracts to the time it takes to close a lead and even to knowing how many prospects with initial interest make it all the way to closure.  So the issue for marketers no longer revolves around which data to collect or how to do it.  Instead emphasis has shifted to which calculations to make and which metrics to apply.

    If a marketing department tracks spending, dates of transition through the steps in the marketing funnel and number of leads generated — by each campaign — it can calculate many meaningful measures of performance that will make anyone in the C-suite smile.  Here are some metrics that every marketer who is intent on improving MPM should consider.

    1. Immediately, the cost of marketing becomes clear with simple metrics like cost per lead, cost per revenue dollar and conversion rates by each campaign.
    2. A slightly more sophisticated measure can calculate cost per lead based on campaign type — trade show, direct mail, social campaigns — whatever.  This can tell you the best sources of leads by volume and it can identify the best mix of campaigns by cost per lead and quality of lead.
    3. Capturing the date when a customer first raised a hand and date of close (from the SFA system) averaged over a number of leads in a specific time range gives the average sales cycle.  It also gives the overall velocity of the sales funnel — the speed from first contact to closed deal.  Further identifying leads by campaign type will also show which campaigns produce the most sales ready leads.
    4. You can use the deal velocity calculation on leads from specific campaigns too.  This will tell you which deals might be accelerated to help ensure sales plans are met.
    5. By capturing dates for transition from one funnel or pipeline stage to another marketers can tell conversion rates by stage and, most importantly, if and where deals get stuck.  This will naturally also show the kinds of campaigns that might be most effective at getting the funnel flowing again.

    All of this data can be captured and stored in the CRM system.  Many of these metrics depend on establishing historical norms or averages but that’s easy to do and the norms get refined over a short time.

    So, tracking data on a relatively small number of attributes and applying the right math can significantly improve marketing’s visibility into the funnel — that’s what sales does and marketing can do the same.  Of course, plenty of consideration ought to be given to the vagaries of each marketing department including overall budgets, product type and customer types.  Marketing organizations therefore need ways to customize weightings for various programs and scores for resulting leads.

    So when shopping for modern marketing automation solutions, keep an eye out for the performance management side of the equation and include marketing performance management as part of your shopping list.  It can easily mean the difference between success in your new approach to marketing and remaining at a quantitative disadvantage to sales.

    Published: 5 years ago


    The marketing funnel is not exactly a new idea but neither is sales or customer service though all have morphed considerably from what they were more than a decade ago when CRM got started.  Sales and service evolved organically making incremental changes as markets transformed and new technologies became available.  Marketing is in the middle of some major changes itself right now, especially considering the social revolution, though it was earlier constrained by finance trying to figure out its ROI, and justly so.

    Evolution of Marketing Metrics

    Back in the day, marketing somewhat resembled the weekend sailor’s definition of a boat — a place in the water into which you throw money.  Greater attention to the blocking and tackling of marketing (i.e. attending to program and campaign costs and the resulting revenue), helped mollify the accountants somewhat.  But as any seasoned marketing professional will tell you, it often takes multiple touches by marketing to move a prospect to action so accounting for marketing has remained an inexact science.

    Also, and very importantly, all of the major CRM disciplines have had to adjust to market changes that transformed new green field markets to mature zero-sum states.  Many researchers like Clay Christensen and Geoffrey Moore have noted that during green field days, sales and marketing are rather bare bones operations dictated by the simple hunting logic of see an opportunity, sell to it, close the business.

    Social media came along in force at the end of early markets’ salad days, just in time, not simply to provide a very low cost sales channel to the customer but also to provide a conduit of useful information from the customer.  Ditto for analytics without which all that social data would be a bunch of gobbledygook.

    What’s in Your Funnel?
    So that brings us to the marketing funnel (or what it used to be).  Just like a sales funnel where prospects and events are graded, scored and promoted or demoted as candidates for closure, the marketing funnel is a place where suspects and leads are scored and matured until they are acceptable to sales for the final push.  But the marketplace changes alluded to above have conspired to bring the marketing and sales funnels together and today everyone’s prosperity depends on it.  (See David Lewis’ book “Manufacturing Demand” for more.)

    The most successful organizations in many markets admit to little if any daylight between sales and marketing funnels beyond the obvious rationale that marketers and sales people manage the processes in their respective areas.  But generally, there is a mindset that all are one when it comes to progressing a lead from earliest contact to final closure.  That’s because, as Lewis accurately observes, it’s all about demand.

    So that brings up an important question, how do you know your marketing efforts are succeeding?  That they’re generating enough demand at a reasonable cost?  Certainly, cost per revenue dollar and similar measures of ROI are useful, but that leaves a great deal unsaid, like what’s happening with all the leads that don’t contribute to the “R” in ROI?  Are they stuck?  Where are they stuck?  What will unstick them?  For that you need Marketing Performance Management, a new term but you’ll pick it up quickly.

    MPM — Marketing Performance Management
    With process comes management and management requires measurement, which inevitably drives metrics.  In the sales part of the funnel most organizations have a process and metrics that help them to evaluate progress but in marketing?  Not so much.  Truth be told, sales has always been able to process leads faster than marketing could make them which means that marketing must make even more but it also brings us right back to management and metrics.

    If sales is going to persist with its process analysis and if marketing is ever going to bridge the gap to provide sufficient leads for sales, then marketing has to adopt some of the same performance management approaches that sales uses.  Of course we are not talking about using the same tactics or metrics; we are talking strategy.

    Strategy involves developing standards for lead development and velocity through the funnel.  This is where marketing performance management (MPM) comes in.  MPM might not roll off the tongue just yet but it neatly encompasses the need for strategic approaches to marketing and to managing the progress of leads through the funnel.

    Full Circle CRM is an early leader in the marketing performance management market.  They use a no-nonsense approach of collecting marketing data and analyzing it for patterns.  Full Circle CRM then enables marketers to easily develop the measures and metrics that can help them understand which leads are worth while and which campaigns and programs are driving the results they need.

    From what I can see, MPM is the next logical step in CRM’s long evolution.  It comes along at a time when spray and pray marketing techniques are just about played out and marketers are hungry for new approaches.  You will still need social media, content and inbound marketing to name a few other worthwhile tools.  But MPM is right up there with those tools to help you measure and understand your successes with your new marketing kit.

    Published: 5 years ago