Jan 28, 2009
Jan 26, 2009
Top things to focus on during recession for B2B companies - An interview with Steven Woods, CTO of Eloqua
My first interview, via email, was with Don Chapman past President of Novell Canada. The topic? What else, the recession.
This interview, via email, was with Steven Woods. Steven is one of the founders and CTO of Eloqua.
Chris Herbert: We're in a recession! What are the top 3 challenges facing CTOs during these troubled times?
Well, I've always viewed the role of a CTO a bit differently than some do. I see a CTO as being first and foremost a business person, and secondly a technologist, rather than the other way around. It is a dual role though, and much of the role comes down to translation. Translation of business needs into technology requirements, and translation of technological capabilities into business opportunities.
This doesn't change during a recession, it just shifts focus a bit. Marketers (we sell to marketers) are affected by the downturn as much as anyone. They are under pressure to make a dollar stretch further, to operate with less headcount than they did before, and to justify every dollar of their budget. As I talk with marketers, I bring that message home to our product teams and ensure that it is our key focus in all areas of our business. Our main focuses recently have been directly related to that.
If you look at where we've been allocating our investments, our three main focuses tie directly to those three realities of today's marketers. We've added capabilities to our entry level products to reflect the reality that today's buyers may not have the budget for a larger investment, but will still need to solve challenging business problems. We've invested in areas such as integration, setup, and best practices that used to require effort, to make sure that the technology bears that burden, and the marketer can get the value out of the platform without effort. And we've focused a significant investment in tools to measure, understand, and present ROI.
CH: What are the top 3 things a CTO should focus on?
I think the three areas a CTO needs to focus on are:
1) Customers – listening, understanding, and empathizing with the customer (or prospect) situations you see before trying to solve them with technology. Once you've done that, a healthy dose of challenging reality is necessary. You can fall into a trap of "automating a bad process" if you don't ask whether it really has to be done the way it is currently done. If you can dig down to the real underlying business goal, then you have a great opportunity to deliver value. If you just hear a description of what's done today, you're often not getting deep enough to uncover true opportunity.
On the flip side, CTOs need to remain involved in communicating what value the technology offers, once it's complete. I view the role of CTO as having a significant marketing focus. Communicating the value of a technology, especially one that really changes a paradigm is not easy. I spend a lot of time with our marketing and sales teams, and with our prospects in the field, thinking through prospect challenges, and coming up with better metaphors, better explanations, and better ways to show the value of what we offer. I think this aspect of the CTO role is often one that is underemphasized, and I think that leaves a lot of value on the table.
2) Technology – this is an obvious one, but CTOs need to guide the technology decisions that are made. Investments in a technology choice can have far-reaching consequences in terms of what is possible or not possible down the road. Likewise, delaying a decision in an technology choice can sometimes be the wisest if there are likely to be more, better, and easier possibilities that come along shortly.
The pace of innovation is so rapid these days, if you're not watching carefully, and extrapolating what the future holds a little bit, you run a significant risk of making a mistake.
3) Innovation – innovation is a stranger animal than most realize. In its early stages, it often needs to be sheltered, protected, and even hidden. True innovations, are, by their nature, very different. People will ask "which customers have asked for this", "what revenue can you commit to from this", "where are the market surveys showing the need for this", and "who else has succeeded with this". If you can come up with solid answers to those questions, you are not innovating.
Find a couple of really smart people who have an idea they want to make successful, if you can, get them a very innovative customer or two to work with, and then give them the time and support to succeed or fail. The role of a CTO is to provide them the air cover to allow this to happen.
CH: The sales pipeline is looking bleak. The deals are no longer flowing. The sales director looks to the leadership team for help. What three things could a CTO do to help the sales team whether the storm?
It all comes back to communication. The value of any solution can be explained in numerous ways. I've spent a lot of time in the field with our prospects, having some great conversations. The more you dig in and understand the realities of their situation, the more you have a chance to see an opportunity where your technology can help. You have to really listen, ask a lot of questions, and seek to understand.
Budgets are being cut – but where, which areas of the budget, where is money shifting from and to? Are there staff cuts, has headcount money shifted to outsourcing budget? Revenue projections are down – but are some areas remaining strong that you want to shift resources to? Are you planning to target existing customers more? Specific verticals? Different geographies?
The more you can understand the prospect's business, the more you see opportunities for your technology that might not be in the standard sales playbook. Once you uncover them, sales can do a great job in replicating that success, but as CTO, you are in a unique position to identify opportunities on the fly.
CH: I understand you've recently published a book. Did this experience give you some insights or relate to your role as the CTO of a Eloqua?
I did, it just released – it's called Digital Body Language. The book explores the transition that is happening in marketing. If you look back prior to the information resources of the Internet, people needed to connect with a salesperson to get their information on a product or service. As the salesperson was that conduit, they had an opportunity to read that prospect's body language – crossed arms, smiles, frowns – and understand what messages resonated, and where they were in their decision-making process.
Now that prospective buyers get their information online, they no longer need the salesperson as information conduit. This means that the challenge of reading body language now is on the marketer, who must read their Digital Body Language – what messages they respond to, what information they find interesting – and use that to better guide any communications with them.
It has been a great experience for me, as I had the pleasure of interviewing around 40 of today's top marketing teams, who are exploring this transition in depth in their businesses. Spending that much time with each of them, diving deeply into their business challenges, provided wonderful insights into how their business was evolving, and how marketing as a whole was continuing to evolve.
CH: What are the 3 most important things a business professional should do to thrive during these tough times?
Keep listening to customers and working harder to understand their needs at a deeper level. Needs evolve with the business climate, and we've had a significant disruption in the business climate, so there are great opportunities for those who identify them.
Never stop innovating – so many of the world's greatest companies started during a recession. Think about what will make you successful in 5 and 10 years, and get started on it.
Make one customer happy at a time. We're in a downturn, which has reduced the volume of marketing messages, and social media has hit the mainstream, which amplifies the voices of every customer. Make that your investment. Do what it takes to make a customer truly happy, and they will talk to their peers. It's the most effective and most economical form of marketing there is.
Thank you Steven for the advice. To read Steven's bio click here.
Jan 24, 2009
Chapter 5: Listening to the groundswell
- Market research vs. groundswell insights
- CASE: Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center listens to cancer patients in a private community
- CASE: MINI USA uses brand monitoring, then markets to owners
Feature Presentation: The Conversation-An Introduction to Social Media, Tactica Interactive Communications
Slides 1-16: Social media defined, some Canadian Demographics (these folks are from wintery Winnipeg)
Slides 17-28: Ten keys to Social Media Success
Slides 29-60: Social Media Tools and Do's and Don'ts for each (great content)
Slides 61-76: Social Media Myths
Slides 77-78: Three take away messages (not sure I agree with this them, do you?)
Slides 79-81: Useful resources and credits
Feature Video: Groundswell Business Objectives-Listening, Josh Beroff
More Groundswell videos here.
:14 What is listening in the Groundswell and how do you do this?
2:30 What Cancer Treatment Centers learned from patient community. Not something they expected to hear...family doctors matter when it comes to referrals.
What I learned:
1) This may sound repetitive, but know where there are potential and existing groundswells for your industry and company.
Don't rush into things until you've got a handle on where and how people are talking about your industry and your company. Determine what the Social Technographics Profile is for your product, company and industry (This is covered in Chapter Three of the book and here).
2) Listening is a new and maybe better way to conduct market research
This could be controversial! For those companies spending money on traditional market research (focus groups, qualitative and quantitative surveys and interviews, polls etc.) social media may be a viable alternative. For those small to medium sized businesses that conduct little to no research (there are many), social media can be a cost effective (no, not free) way to listen and learn from your market.
3) Listening is about insight and learning
Listening is not about collecting data! It is about gaining an in-depth understanding and knowledge about your market, your customers and whoever else chooses to use and talk (or not talk) about your brand. People may not be directly talking about you or your brand, but it is probable they are talking about things that are relevant to your market.
4) Listening is the first step to change
The group that champions listening and social media in your organization should be listened to and supported by the leaders (at the very least) within it. Take them seriously! This team of listeners will bring insight, ideas and recommendations that will likely influence strategic direction and decisions. If the leadership team is not prepared to listen and take this seriously then don't bother starting. Tell them to put their heads in the sand and pretend that everything will go away.
5) Monitoring and Communities are the two primary ways to listen
The social media demographics for your industry, geography and the age of your buyers will help determine where and how you should listen. Monitoring is one option where you use tools and/or services to collect and rank conversations that matter. Communities of special interest can help you understand and converse with key people with similar interests, problems and needs. This can be useful where there is some void or barrier for people to connect.
Jan 18, 2009
Chapter 4: Strategies for tapping the groundswell
- The POST method: people, objectives, strategy, technologies
- The five objectives: listening, talking, energizing, supporting, embracing
Feature Presentation: Presentation on Groundswell POST Process, Barbara Nixon
Slide 2: Corporate adoption of Web 2.0 technologies, 2008
Slide 3: Web 2.0 Approach-Avoidance syndrome symptons
Slide 10: The POST framework or four step approach to the groundswell
Slide 12: Functional roles in your company and how they align with five groundswell objectives
Slides 13-23: Case studies
Slide 24: ROI of an Executive Blog
Slide 25: Keys to success
Feature Video: Groundswell Business Strategies, Josh Beroff
More Groundswell videos here.
:25 It is time for companies to get involved in the groundswell
:55 Four step approach to getting involved. Key is to do these steps in the right order. Don't start with technology.
2:00 Josh sounds a bit like a pirate (argh)
2:15 A long moment of silence. Not knowing objectives is a sign you're not ready
2:40 Five objectives. Josh covers the "Listening" objective with a real world case study about MD Anderson
What I learned:
1) Follow the four step planning process
Don't rush into things because your competition has started a blog, a Facebook fan page or a product ratings site. Follow the POST process and stay curious about what customers are ready to do online and what objectives you want to accomplish for your company. On page 67 the authors walk you through the POST process in detail providing you with key questions to ask yourself to help you shape your groundswell initiative.
2) Your Groundswell objectives must align with your corporate objectives
Review the five primary groundswell objectives currently being used by companies. Understand what each objective can do for your company and consider the following. You'll need executive sponsorhip and buyin from the key business leader(s) within the company. They'll need to see that the groundswell objective align with the broader company objectives and most likely its culture (mission and values). Create integration points with key business functional areas (sales, marketing, admin, operations etc) and processes.
3) Start small, do it fast, listen, learn and be prepared to adjust...but stay committed
Wow! Once objectives have been established try something that is simple, that can be measured and be patient. Be prepared to make mistakes, listen, learn and adjust. Remain committed to the groundswell process and recognize that it is hard to predict what will happen. Remain open minded and see where the groundswell will take you. Remain authentic, honest and involved in the groundswell.
Additional Articles that may be of interest:
Groundswell strategy and the social media, Businessworld Online (Dec 2008)
Latest Forrester Report Provides A POST Up Strategy For Firms To Tap Into Social Media (B2B focus), Demand Generation Report (Dec 2008)
Jan 14, 2009
My first interview, via email, is with Don Chapman past President of Novell Canada. The topic? What else, the recession.
Chris Herbert: We're in a recession! What are the top 3 challenges facing CEOs during these troubled times? Don Chapman:
1. Manage the balance sheet to insure liquidity. Be very tactical such as cash management, when you spend, expect a high return or do not do it
2. Employee morale. Share with them the market status, competition and your company strategy to win
3. Customer relations. Your customers are having a tough time. Do they see reducing expenses by not buying your services.
CH: What are the top 3 things a CEO should focus on?
DC:1. Love your customers. This is the time for your customers to see you as a partner helping them with the challenges of the recession
2. Increase market share. Your competitors are weaker, there is less to go around, this is the time to take their top accounts away and gain market share. You have a better chance doing this in a recession than in an up market
3. Engage your employees and partners with your strategy to have 100%+ satisfied customers and win major new accounts.
CH: The sales pipeline is looking bleak. The deals are no longer flowing. If the sales director only had 3 things to focus on to improve the situation what would they be.
1. Review all present accounts for upsell opportunities. Be creative with bundling services and sharing risk
2. Review each of your competitors top 3 accounts to determine the strategy to win the business. (this also keeps your competitors in their accounts trying to save them instead of being at your best customers trying to win them)
3. Update the suspect database (target market) with telemarketing blitz days and then aggressively reach to all of them at least once a quarter.
CH: I understand you play in a band? Can you relate to being in a band to running a company?
1. Like a football team, if each player was doing what they thought was best to win the game, from the stands it would look like chaos or sound really off
2. A game plan with a team effort to execute and work together will provide superior results
3. Success is achieved when all players are working in harmony from the listener or customer's perspective.
CH: What are the 3 most important things a business professional should do to thrive during these tough times?
1. Know and be able to show the value you contribute to the business. This could be revenue, cost reduction, risk reduction, improved customer satisfaction, new ideas that get implemented
2. Contribute your thoughts to the company strategy to succeed but most important, align with the strategy. Do not sit on the sidelines saying why it will not work
3. A positive attitude is contagious. Be contagious. You are the only one who determines how you feel.
Thank you Don for this great advice. To read Don's bio click here.
Jan 12, 2009
Chapter 3. The Social Technographics® Profile
- Defines a data tool for analyzing social behavior of any group of customers
- CASE: A community for alpha moms
- Data and analysis for six examples: Gen Y, Japan/PC, politics, retail, seniors, health care
Feature Presentation: Social Technographics Explained, Josh Bernoff
Feature Video: Social Technologies-Your Customers Are Revolting, Charlene Li
1:10 - People move up and down the ladder and assume various roles in the Groundswell. They perform multiple roles depending on things like topic, interest and industry.
1:45 - Roles in the Groundswell: Creators, Critics, Collectors, Joiners, Spectators and Inactives.
3:25 - Why classifications?
3:50 - Case study: Alpha Moms. Using POST strategy to determine how best to engage with Alpha Moms. The key is to look to see where they over index. Target Critics, Collectors and Spectators.
7:15 - Embracing customers when they are revolting against your brand. What you can do. The "GM Insiders" example.
8:42 - Customers ignoring your messages. The GoDaddy example.
What I learned:
1) Know what your customers do online.
Find out how your customers are participating in the groundswell. Understand the roles they play in groundswell. Where are they on the Social Technographics ladder? What percentage are creators vs. critics? Joiners vs. spectators? Understand this because it tells you where to play in the groundswell.
2) Look for the "Over Index"
The Social Technographic Profile ladder consists of six different types of groups. Once you find out where your customers are (or aren't) playing in the groundswell focus on where the "swell" is in your market. This is done by looking for the groups that "over index". If more people in your market are joiners then the national average then focus on them... don't create a community where joiners can blog and upload content...because the won't.
3) The Groundswell is about human psychology & sociology
People want to connect with others who have similar problems, goals and ideas. They want to reach and relate with like minded people. Some want to lead, some want to help, some want to share and some want to watch.
Jan 1, 2009
In keeping with my fascination (obsession?) with FriendFeed I'm noticing that some Social Media thought leaders are having some interesting conversations. For a while I'll be sharing some of these conversations here. I hope you think they are interesting too.
Some of the conversations were started through Twitter and some were not.
“Now let's explode a myth -- it doesn't make a diff if Scoble posts here or on his blog. That's how ignorant Arrington and Calacanis are.” Link
“Scoble organizing conf about real-time web for mid-Jan. Hmm. If it's real-time shouldn't it be now, not 15 days from now? http://bit.ly/psMK” Link
Seeking realtime feedback on his new blog design. Link
"Play in line" podcast feature for FriendFeed. Link
"RSS has practically eliminated my need to use browser bookmarks". Link
Boric Acid Risks. Link
Photo credit: nicoatridge