March, 2013

  • March 22, 2013
  • Please tell me.  Send me an email or a post.  How do you measure marketing performance?  Thanks!

    Published: 11 years ago

    I spent most of the week in New Orleans at Microsoft Convergence and today I am back in Boston at a Salesforce regional event.  Interesting juxtaposition going on.  I’ll be posting on Convergence next week (Wednesday) and posted on what I think this event in Boston will be talking about.  Last month in New York, Salesforce held a similar event but I also expect that the message has evolved somewhat too.  But here’s the juxtaposition:  Salesforce is focusing on the social/mobile/analytic enterprise with cloud as a key part but really as a component and not necessarily THE driver.  Meanwhile Microsoft held a very good Convergence event this week in which it positioned itself as embracing the cloud for its customers.  More later.

    Published: 11 years ago

    We have this idea of modern computing that is closely tied to social media and rightly so.  Social media is a kind of glue that ties us together in new and bigger configurations than our own human capabilities can.  But it is also the unspoken issue in the Yahoo brouhaha over working from home; the idea whose name shall not be spoken.  How else to explain the ultra retro edict — anachronism, really — that all Yahoos must report to the brick and mortar in person rather than “telecommute” another anachronism implying the possibility of only a simply bi-directional interface between the individual and the mother ship?  Bi-directional?  How quaint.

    Why is the whole discussion about, and pardon me here, another anachronism that jumps right out of an episode of “Mad Men”, the “water cooler” conversations that pit people face to face sharing information?  The pundits and press revel in the Yahoo situation and the “need” to have people report to the job to share their precious ideas.  Have they never understood social media?  We must presume that the denizens of one of the great pioneering companies of Silicon Valley have a passing notion of what social is all about, which makes this situation all the more perplexing.

    But have they not heard of the Dunbar Number? The maximal number of people that each of us has brain power and time to interact with on something like a serious basis?  That number is somewhere between 150 and 220 relationships and it is the basis, derived through trial and error, of human associations from army companies to medieval monasteries.  After that?  Forgetaboutit.

    Actually, after that, is what social media was made for.

    It is eye opening and somewhat disheartening that the press and punditry have saluted Yahoo CEO, Marissa Mayer’s, old school idea and edict and one cannot help but wonder how far it sets back the social enterprise.  On one hand it says, yes we are a leading edge Internet company, but no, no, no, even we won’t eat that dog food.

    James Surowiecki of New Yorker fame and author of “The Wisdom of Crowds” makes the point in this week’s edition, that the Yahoo campus is a ghost town on Fridays and that the company has a need to bring its fraying threads back together.  Fair enough.  That there is need for greater collaboration at Yahoo is no surprise.  Quick, name the most recent Yahoo innovation!  Time’s up.  I can’t either.  But saying that all or even most errors will be corrected, no check that, saying that anything will be made better, from the olly, olly oxen free of touching home base is to confuse cause for effect.  It is also to turn one’s back on the progress that’s been made in social collaboration software in the last decade.

    The best we can hope for from this Dracon-ization (not to be confused with polyester-ization) is that there was a transparently obvious method to the madness lurking all along.  That after a period of pain and shakeout — and downsizing — some workers might again be allowed to work free of the campus tethered by nothing more than a wireless Internet umbilicus through which they can collaborate and share ideas via modern collaboration technology.  Or not.  It is doubtful in the short run that the collaboration gains accrued from face time will outnumber the resentment, RVs and resumes building up in the San Jose corridor.

    And what about the future?  There will surely come a day when daily commuting, already burdensome because you simply can’t afford to build roads wide enough to accommodate rush hour, will become prohibitively expensive from fuel prices.  Then the social commuting productivity techniques and business models that could have been learned from an intensive effort at righting the S.S Yahoo will be revealed by their absence as another missed Yahoo opportunity.

    In lieu of that it would make great theater for a company like or Microsoft’s Yammer or any of a dozen other collaboration vendors to take Yahoo under its wing and do a makeover a la “Restaurant Impossible”.  Yahoo is, at this point, “deliciously low” as Professor Higgins might say.   A corporate Eliza Doolittle waiting to be discovered and taught only the rudiments of modern corporate communication before re-emerging from its doldrums changed for the better and ready to engage the world.

    A great opportunity is being wasted here and opportunity, more than anything else, is a terrible thing to waste.

    Published: 11 years ago

    “Who is the customer?”  It’s a great question and one that my managers liked to ask when I was a young sales representative.  Like all great questions, it got to the meat of the matter with an economy of words that impressed as much by the brevity as for the meaning.

    The customer’s identity is often far from obvious and it’s why professional sales and marketing people obsess over it.  The customer is frequently not the user, technician or curious tire kicker, though these types can influence the decision.  But the customer is, and can only be, the person who pays the bill — not the person in finance who cuts checks all day long but the person with the budget (and P&L responsibility) who says in effect, I will bet my job on this purchase.

    To be sure, that is a business-to-business scenario but the same thing plays out on the consumer side.  The customer is not the screaming kid in the shopping cart demanding some sugar-laden treat.  It is the parent pushing the card and saying in a calm but firm tone, “Not today.”

    Finding the customer is especially tough when there is more than one customer type in a business and it’s not simply a matter of identifying the buying influences in a strategic selling situation.  A great example is the newspaper industry or more broadly publishing.

    Print publications serve two masters, the reader and the advertiser.  Publishers sell papers and magazines to readers who may not pay the full cost of production and distribution and they sell ads to vendors.  The profits come (or used to come) from advertisers.  It’s no secret that advertisers have become a vanishing species in the last few years, as many of them have at least dipped a toe into the profitable waters of the Internet.

    Now here’s the interesting part.  As advertisers have played a depressingly decreasing and role in publishers’ revenue streams, the readers have gained in standing.  But publishers have been too slow at understanding that the shifting importance of each major group has necessitated a change in business models.

    When a publisher’s primary revenue stream was advertising, the business model was very much a 19th century manufacturing one.  A buyer stepped up with an order for so many widgets (i.e. ads) and the publisher quoted a price and manufactured the advertisement along with the rest of the content.

    But, now, just as the reader has become an increasingly important part of the revenue equation, the reader has come into a plethora of options beyond the printed page for receiving what’s now called digital content.  In all of this publishers have been slow to change and many continue to pursue the old style manufacturing approach.  But readers don’t buy big ticket ads, they buy subscriptions for comparative pennies and the old school business model and all of its infrastructure — including software — are a poor fit for the new reality.

    A few years ago, publishers finally decided to stop giving away their content on free websites and to charge for it through a mechanism called a paywall.  But instead of solving the problem of selling subscriptions to readers, paywalls were met with a yawn.

    The paywall was essentially a digital front end for the old business and change without pain for the publishers.  Rather than ushering in a new era of publishing in which the focus was on delivering content in new ways and phasing out the old, the business model of printing content and putting it into trucks every day, of buying paper by the truck load and ink by the barrel, remained.

    In my world, I would say that rather than starting a new paradigm, publishers used digital technology to extend the old one.  The result has been a continued loss of customers and revenues.

    It doesn’t have to be that way.  Subscription economy companies are making a big push into publishing with the purpose of stoking a fire under the new paradigm.  But what does the new paradigm look like?  Simply put it’s customer-centric and the customer in this case is the reader.  Advertisers retain their place as customers too but for a different part of the business and even there the business has changed.

    The Internet has made it possible for readers and advertisers to get what they need from many sources that are not traditional publishers.  So for either side of the publishing business to succeed each has to ask anew the old question we started with — who is the customer?  Answering that question can be as illuminating for publishers today as it was for me many years ago.

    If you are a reader you need easy access to content and the ability to use it in conjunction with various other content sources.  If you are an advertiser, you want more than the ability to broadcast an ad the same way you did decades ago.  Advertisers today want to be able to narrowcast to the exact people they want to target.  All of this doesn’t happen by accident, but luckily it can all happen thanks to a few new ideas like social media and social practices.

    That means capturing customer data and analyzing it so that a publisher can offer a vendor a refined understanding of the marketplace.  Of course, there’s no better venue to place an ad than where your ideal traffic flow cruises through.  Such an approach might not immediately reverse the fortunes of newspapers and magazines but it will stop the hemorrhaging.

    Finally, too often when we think about social and CRM we may forget that social has long tentacles throughout the economy.  But social is the phenomenon it is precisely because it is so pervasive.  There isn’t a business or an industry that can’t benefit from social approaches.  I think that’s the true learning from the plight of publishers.

    Published: 11 years ago

    This post is part of an occasional series on the AppExchange as celebrates the seventh anniversary of its launch.  The series will focus on some of the most interesting AppExchange applications of the last year.

    KnowWho is a great example of a long tail application made possible by the AppExchange.  It’s a database service for companies and non-profits that do business with federal, state and local governments and contains accurate and up to date information about elected officials and their staffs that supplements the business processes enabled by Salesforce CRM.

    When we think of CRM and sales force automation (SFA) many people immediately think about selling products in the private sector.  But in the public sector selling often involves championing ideas and informing and convincing elected officials is a key part of the democratic process.  Obviously, corporations may seek to inform an official or a staff member responsible for staying abreast of an issue.  However, this need also extends to the non-profit sector as well.  Various trade associations and NGO’s (non-governmental organizations — like the Red Cross for example) and the like have a need to identify and communicate with officials to convey their ideas and information.

    Elections constantly change the landscape and staff changes happen in government just as they do in the private sector and that’s where KnowWho provides a valuable service.  The company maintains data on a list of 145,000 state, fed, county, local, government officials and their staffs.

    KnowWho has a staff of 28 editors keeping the information up to date — 5 just to monitor congress — and record and distribute data changes which the company founder and CEO Bruce Brownson says reach 1,500-2,000 changes per week.

    But the real importance of the database is that it informs the Salesforce SFA system, which enables users to pursue their agendas to efficiently inform government officials about issues.  Subscribers to the database import the data into their Salesforce instances where they can make additional notes, schedule calls, record pertinent facts about meetings and perform the same actions that any other user would.

    KnowWho is not the first company to conceive of this idea.  Government data and lists have been popular for a long time.  But earlier versions of these services relied on weekly distribution of CD’s or other media and rather tedious synchronization processes.  Using and the AppExchange as the distribution system enables KnowWho to circulate data much faster than older approaches.  More importantly, the Salesforce CRM solution provides an efficient application for making use of the data within a sales process.

    The whole government database business has advanced and become more complex than simple distribution.  Today, companies and other entities that seek to influence public officials must keep meticulous records of their activities and be able to report on them.  For these purposes, Salesforce CRM along with the modifications that KnowWho has made — such as a Lobbyist Activity tab —provide the ability to capture encounter data and produce reports of all activities for legal compliance.

    KnowWho has produced an interesting and useful application and service for a highly specialized market segment.  This is a classic long tail application that the AppExchange is ideally suited for.  It is also a proof point for the flexibility of the platform and the notion that if you can conceive of an application, you can build it and take it to market using this ecosystem.


    Published: 11 years ago