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.
It’s award season and everyone is getting into the act. And why not? There is a heck of a lot of business software goodness out there and not enough recognition if you ask me. So even if a company like Salesforce has a customer voted award that ultimately reflects back on itself, no worries.
Salesforce recently announced the 2012 Customer Choice Awards, the results of customer opinion and voting that ranked some of the more interesting applications in the AppExchange. To be sure, many of the names on the list have been there before and many are the SaaS products of larger entities — some were acquired which is how the situation presents itself. But each had to show something special or they wouldn’t have been voted for. After all with more than 1700 apps in the AppExchange, there’s a lot to choose from.
Briefly the winners are:
- Adobe EchoSign by Adobe
- Hoopla Scoreboard by Hoopla Software
- Opportunity Management Optimizer by Sales Optimizer
- Geopointe by Arrowpointe
- Configurator by Big Machines
- Xactly Incent by Xactly
- Informatica Cloud Integration for Salesforce
- Marketo Marketing Automation by Marketo
- Jobscience for Professional Recruiting by Jobscience
- Ascent by Precisio Business Solutions
- Sales Pipeline Visualization by SalesClic
What’s interesting to me is that most of the winners have nothing to do with social or very little, at least. It says to me that maybe we’ve been spending too much time and mental energy on social recently and that real work still gets done away from social. Moreover the value of getting the forecast right, or speeding up the contract execution process or enabling a better way to market or to support the HR department is at least as important as social, according to this customer sourced list.
It is also fascinating to see how many non-CRM and non-traditional applications are on the list. Many are true long tail apps that have thin (though not small) markets and might not even exist if it weren’t for the subscription business model.
Finally, some of these apps are owned by large public companies and others have hefty chunks of OPM (other people’s money a.k.a. venture capital) giving them lift. What’s important about this is the idea that these companies are serious money makers and are taken seriously by the capital markets. No longer is it necessary to amass a big pile of money to spend on servers, desks and buildings. A subscription company can get started for a song and be taken seriously by the users and by investors.
So, next time someone tries to tell you that all vendor ecosystems are the same take a hard look and ask if they all do what this one does. The Customer Choice Awards nicely highlight a new way to do business for vendors and customers.
This story in yesterday’s WSJ says a couple of things that are net positive for many of us. Marketo’s CEO, Phil Fernandez, is the poster child for emerging companies that focus on B2B and are non-social. Both are important because they show that 1) the economy is coming back and showing enough signs of life that the market for business software and venture investing are both resurgent and 2) the world might travel in a social orbit but social isn’t the answer to every business need. In fact the article makes some stark contrasts between once high flying social vendors and emerging and somewhat boring business software vendors. Like Aesop’s Fable, the slow and boring business tortoise may be overtaking the sleek and fast but now erratic social hare. At least in the financial markets, which come to think of it are not really reality; they’re more of an alternate universe.