Beagle Research Group Recognizes Video Pioneers
Announces first annual Short Tale Award™ for Excellence in Video Use
Stoughton, MA, February 8, 2011 — Beagle Research Group, today announced “The Beagle Short Tale Awards” for 2011. Beagle gives the annual awards for various aspects of video production and use by front office software companies in sales, marketing, service and education. Denis Pombriant, Beagle’s managing principal said, “We believe video is profoundly changing the way companies communicate with customers and prospects and this award brings recognition to the pioneers as well as encouragement to those using the medium.” The award is given for excellence in short videos (typically under six minutes) that are produced during the prior year (2010).
This year’s software vendor winners include Eloqua, Microsoft Corporation, NetSuite, RightNow Technologies, Sage North America, SAS, Salesforce.com, Zuora and a special award to Jess3 a creative agency. The grand prize for Strategic Use of Video went to Salesforce.com, which produced, among others, a video quantifying the effectiveness of its video library as a sales and marketing tool. Pombriant also said, “At this stage of a trend we often see unsubstantiated claims of effectiveness for a new technology. Salesforce, provided the needed proof.”
A full report including links to all winning videos is available at www.BeagleResearch.com.
About Beagle Research Group
Beagle Research Group, LLC is an analyst, consulting and market research organization focused on emerging front office software companies. Beagle Research investigates market trends and provides analysis and insight to vendors and buyers of front office computing solutions. Our content is presented in articles, blogs posts and free downloadable reports at multiple locations across the Internet. The Beagle Short Tale Award and logo are trademarks of Beagle Research Group, LLC.
Next year is a strategic opportunity
Recessions are always a good time to rebuild your competitive infrastructure and the slow growth/recession of the last couple of years has been no exception. On the stock market, the technology sector seems to be doing quite well. After bottoming in the middle of the summer the software companies especially seem to be rebounding. Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce, RightNow and NetSuite are all gainers.
But the drivers for software acquisition remain what they have always been—improving processes, saving money or making money. Companies whose products can do one or more of these will do well. And customers will gobble up their wares as they seek out more competitive stances in their chosen markets. The theme to watch for is replacement as many foundational applications that were implemented for Y2K reach the end of their shelf lives. Here are some issues to consider.
- Ten year-old ERP and CRM systems will be more than ripe for replacement. New business processes and better economics will do the heavy lifting to prove the case for new applications. Many of the conventional vendors like Oracle and SAP will be there as will newer entrants who’ve proven themselves over the last decade. Watch for names like NetSuite, RightNow, Salesforce and others to command attention.
- Cloud computing. After several years of debate about what cloud computing is or is not, customers are in a great position with lots of choices for solutions. It doesn’t matter whether you prefer single tenant or multi-tenant solutions, the economics of running software in the cloud are so compelling that you can find a vendor that speaks your cloud dialect. Virtually every front and back office vendor has a cloud offering or two.
- Analytics is another solution set that has been in the background for many years. But new demands in the form of trying to make sense of the mountain of data brought in daily by our social applications makes analytics a necessary add-on. Analytics solutions are abundant and even SAS Institute, a pioneer in enterprise analytics, has jumped into the market with cloud based solutions for social data. It is somewhat surprising that Gartner expects only 35% penetration in customer service centers by 2013. That looks like a great opportunity for differentiation to me.
- It will also be a year for collaboration and I think collaboration may be the first true business social application type. Judging from the rapid adoption the Salesforce’s Chatter is receiving I anticipate the broader market will see collaboration as a business process no one can afford to ignore.
- Integration will be important in the year ahead too. There are no so many applications and application types on the market that we can safely give up any pretense that a single vendor could deliver all of a company’s CRM needs. APIs and cloud computing make integration more important and feasible. More vendors will discover that the winning strategy is to do whatever is possible to pre-integrate their wares with strategically important foundation CRM vendors. It wouldn’t surprise me to see some vendors begin to organize around specific business processes or types such as channel selling.
- This also implies that many companies will be looking to extend their solution sets with strategic additions. Any company can optimize its CRM deployment and probably gain competitive benefit by looking at its business processes and comparing their level of automation with the product sets now on the market. Need a way to keep your sales people in the game? Try a compensation management system. It will give them a way to quickly understand their progress in the only way they keep score. At the same time it will reduce the back office overhead caused by end of quarter commission calculations.
- If you have an interest in bringing out a new product but worry that a limited marketing budget could limit your success, you might first consider a variety of customer analytics that can help you determine which customers have a need, what that need is and how to approach them.
- Or perhaps you are looking to improve service and save money but worry about displacing the good but expensive handholding your service group provides with faceless automation. Try a social service solution that engages your user community to help answer basic customer inquiries through Twitter and Facebook. Not only will you be able to maintain a person-to-person approach but response times might decline and there’s no telling what positive fallout might happen when customers help each other. If you’re monitoring the chatter you might discover that a core group of customers has great understanding of your product and does a super job of helping out. The help can also turn into articles for your knowledge base.
- The last area for social penetration might be using solutions to analyze your negatives—to identify instances where customers express their displeasure with you on the Web. It’s much better to deal with an irate customer than to let their anger fester, but first you have to find them. Social media and analytics can help and it’s a worthy investment. Our research shows that even the best companies have their detractors but often a vendor knows little or nothing about a problem.
To summarize, the year ahead in CRM will be important for replacing old systems and for integrating new niche applications that sharpen your game. The costs of these additions will be relatively low due to cloud computing and the nature of some smaller niche applications. The recession ended in July of 2009 and while it might not feel like a recovery right now, there is ample evidence of improvement. You can use next year strategically to improve your stance as a recovery picks up steam. There are good products on the market and vendors are still hungry. If you miss this opportunity, I think you’ll be saddled with your old and relatively expensive systems for longer than you might like.
Analytics Is the Social CRM Secret Sauce
A lot of information is coming together this quarter that begins to put new spin on Social CRM. While we’ve all been busy getting networked in our personal lives and professionally, a huge mountain of data has been accumulating that will make our work in social technology more valuable.
Last week Harvard Business Review released a report sponsored by SAS Institute which shows that while many enterprises are well on their way in adopting various social technologies for business use, the number that also are deploying analytics lags. I know of at least two other reports that will contribute similar information when they arrive on the scene too.
This disparity between data accumulation and data analytis is temporary because as an organization accumulates customer data without basic analytics most of the data is useless. If you want to know who your best customers are, it’s relatively easy to get a report that says who bought the most in the shortest period of time. But with analytics you can also delve into the data to ask questions of the why and why not types and there life gets interesting.
Asking why can often uncover alternatives, things that were or were not done and to examine the root causes. In finding those causes you can uncover new opportunities, revenue that is there for the taking because you know where and how to look.
Last week in Las Vegas I listened to many smart people from big companies discussing how they used SAS Analytics to gauge customer sentiment, run marketing campaigns and manage the conversations they have with customers. I learned about millions of found dollars brought to the bottom line because analytics were able to make sense of the data thrown off by each customer transaction.
Now, granted, in a billion dollar company a few million bucks may not seem significant but it’s the easiest money you can make. There’s nothing to invent, market or sell to get the revenue, it simply comes from doing a job better. Also, if you happen to be lucky enough to own the P&L for a department using analytics, your growth goal in a challenging economy might look a lot easier to attain with analytics.
Consider the above as playing offense, analytics help with defense too. According to the Harvard study, most companies don’t know what their customers are saying about them or where (Facebook, Twitter, blogs etc.) they are saying it. Even my crude research a few weeks ago into using search engines to discover how many customers dislike their vendors, indicates a certain lack of intelligence about the outside world. If hundreds of thousands of my customers were angry enough to write blogs about my company, I would want to know who they were, but most vendors aren’t at the level of having the appropriate tools yet.
Using analytics to digest customer sentiment and make the data actionable is another way that a company, through reputation management, can potentially earn more on the work it does thus taking some pressure off growth objectives.
So for these and other reasons, social media is building the case for a virtuous relationship between analytics and the data that social media generates. As a result I see plenty of reasons that analytics will continue to shed its outdated reputation as a technology that is only used by an elite few in an organization. The big data sets involved also make a strong case for web based analytics processing to help defray the hardware costs, at least for some vendors.
Embedding analytics in the applications and processes—especially those governed by social media—that deal with customers and capture their data will become more important over time. That’s why it is inescapable to me that analytics will become the secret sauce of a well-run social media or social CRM implementation. Isn’t there an old adage that says it’s not the data it’s what you do with it? There should be.
SAS Bucks the Trade Show Trend
Trade shows have been dying for many years to the point that they have been all but totally supplanted by vendor sponsored conferences. The vendors have become adept at the logistics of hosting large numbers of people for upwards of a week in cities like San Francisco, Orlando, Chicago and Las Vegas to name a few. Along with the care and feeding of masses of customers comes the messaging and at this point the vendor show differs from the conventional trade show considerably.
Where the trade show has been a great place to learn about new products and the reasons for their existence, the vendor conference has increasingly become a place where the vendors saturate their customers with marketing messages. Some learning may go on too but very often it involves learning how to use a vendor’s products. So it was a pleasure this week to encounter the SAS Premier Business Leadership Series (PBLS) in Las Vegas.
PBLS is certainly a vendor show complete with partner exhibit floor, keynotes and breakout sessions but there are the similarity ends. Unlike most vendor and conventional trade shows, the SAS event was by invitation and rather than devolving into a standard vendor performance, the SAS show’s explicit mission was to provoke thinking and idea exchange.
The conference could have easily been a long advertisement for SAS but instead it delved into a discussion of global economic trends and user driven breakouts that explicitly showed how analytics is making a difference in business performance in many vertical markets. There were presentations and discussions from
- Retailers (Macy’s, Staples, Chico’s Best Buy and others),
- Insurance and financial services (Transamerica Life and Protection, Chartis Insurance, UBS Financial, PNC Bank, Premier Bankcard, GE Corporate Treasury)
- Entertainment and hospitality (Harrah’s Entertainment),
- Public sector (LA County, Canada Post),
- Utilities (Oklahoma Gas and Electric, Northeast Utilities),
- Telcos (AT&T, T-Mobile, Research in Motion)
and too many more to list.
It was refreshing to hear from so many people who believe, like me that there is so much data generated in business today that old ways of using gut instinct are going by the boards and that analytics may be the only way to get an appreciation for what the customer thinks en mass. And the meeting was a clear indication that global businesses increasingly “get it” when it comes to collecting huge amounts of customer data through transactions as well as through social media.
Nuggets from some memorable ideas and interviews
Jim Goodnight, CEO and Founder of SAS said that education is one of the most important issues facing both our industry and country. His specific interest is in analytics, of course, but he makes a strong case for educating kids on using information derived from all the data we collect to make better, informed, decisions. According to Goodnight, SAS is teaching college professors to teach analytics-based decision-making and has sponsored an analytics major at NC State, which is oversubscribed by nearly four fold.
Jim Davis, CMO and wearer of many other hats at SAS, told me that in the last hundred years retailers had “…made buying decisions on gut instinct but that’s not longer possible because there is so much to know. In a down economy the mindset [of retailers] really changed and using analytics for assortment planning, merchandise planning and other key functions has made the difference between making a small profit and going out of business.”
No wonder then that analytics is enjoying a boom.
Gary King, CIO of Chico’s, White house/Black Market and Soma Intimates told me that analytics “Helps us maintain customer loyalty in a down economy.”
And finally, Eric Williams, CIO of Catalina Marketing, the company that prints your coupons at the grocery store told me, “In this industry things move so rapidly today. We used to say you don’t have to be first to get involved in a new technology, but today you need to be first or second.”
No doubt the influx of huge amounts of data from digital and social media helps to propel the demand for analytics and this sample only addresses a few retail examples.
But retail is not the only area where analytics has taken on new significance. The biggest market for SAS is in financial services, banking and insurance. Even Canada Post uses it. The thing that ties it all together is using information derived from the torrent of digital data to make better decisions—choices that make or save companies money.
Decisions are driven by some amount of deliberation and that’s where analytics come in and why coming together to think this week in Las Vegas was so important to the more than 600 mid- and senior-level executives who attended. It was an eye-opener and I wish you could have been there.