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Companies on the verge: Introducing the Emergence Maturity Index

pushing boulder Companies on the verge: Introducing the Emergence Maturity Index

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I’m working on a new index — yes, another one — that will track just how close to a breakout an emerging company is. I’m going to call it EMI, which stands for — wait for it — The Emergence Maturity Index.

This is really kind of a spin-off of CRM Idol. If you have any idea what CRM Idol is — well, was — then you’ll know what I mean.

If not, please indulge me for a moment…

CRM Idol was a contest that industry influencers ran back in the old days. It was a contest that anointed an emerging company that wasn’t on the main stage yet, a company most likely to arrive on the main stage if they just got a little bit of a push. They had to show the promise of being a whole company, not just have a quality product.

But the clear majority of the companies were engineering companies that did not really know how to do the things that companies do to grow exponentially. More often than not, they manufactured polished products and beyond that were bereft of other business experience and skills, like marketing, dedicated sales teams, producing thought leadership content and/or the maturing culture that were necessary for them to truly hit the mainstream. They did bits and pieces but the long and short of it is that they produced products and that was about it for a lot of them.

Some, like bpm’online and Artesian Solutions, were exceptions to the rule — that’s why they won the award (in 2011 and 2012 respectively). The whole idea was to put these companies in a real world environment, in front of the most influential members of the CRM community — be they vendors, practitioners, analysts, journalists, or whatever.

Part of the CRM Idol process was to take this amalgamation of expertise and use it to establish a mentoring program that assigned mentors to each of the contestants at the beginning of the contest. (Mentors includes Bruce Culbert, CSO of the Pedowitz Group who ran huge business practices, or Phil Fernandez, at the time the CEO of Marketo, or industry influencers like then CRM Magazine’s Editorial Director David Myron with years of experience in the industry as both an influencer and journalist.) They took the responsibility to help companies build out their businesses as fully evolved companies. CRM Idol became the incubator for several companies who have been successful in the market — with this being their first exposure to leading thinkers and practitioners.

CRM Idol went quiet in 2015, mostly due to the volume of work that I and the main judging panel — which incidentally did not include Simon Cowell or Jennifer Lopez — had to do to keep it going.

But, aside from my idle (get it? Of course you do.) thoughts about reviving it at times, it did get me to thinking about what it took to really become a mature company that could compete full bore in a marketplace.

CRM Watchlist

One other factor came into play around my creation of the EMI — and that’s the CRM Watchlist. I have been running the Watchlist for 13 years — starting under another name — The Steppin’ Out Awards and, at first, only part of my book, CRM at the Speed of Light. It’s become, for reasons I can’t fathom but am happy to accept — a significant industry award. Each year, I’ve had between 45 – 150+ submissions that had at one point totaled almost 6,000 pages that I had to read — and I’m the only judge. Several entries each year were/are more than 100 pages.

From time to time, I’ve flirted with the idea (you saw it in the 2013 CRM Watchlist awards) of identifying emerging companies as up and coming. However, the CRM Watchlist is an award that measures the impact of a company on an industry or industry segment and is geared, by its very nature, to mature companies who know how to do it all. Thus, it is very hard for a smaller company to break out of the pack and show itself up against the big guys. It’s beyond exceptional for it to happen.

The typical breakout company has been $ 100 million in revenue and up if at least my brief glance at first time winners is any indicator of anything. So smaller companies really can’t compete, though once in a while — maybe one or as much as two do win.

This year, I suspended the Watchlist to begin to realign it with the market realities. One of the first changes I’m making is to break out the smaller companies to something else related but separate, that gives them a chance to be identified among their peers as a true potential breakout business that the industry would be wise to pay attention to. The criteria are going to be different and the award will be separate.

The Emergence Maturity Index (EMI) is the first step in that. The EMI will be an assigned number from 1-10 with increments (e.g. 7.25) possible, that will show how close to a real breakout I think any given company is. This will be an ongoing effort, running continuously that will be monitored throughout a year. However, there will be a submission for those who want to participate in a competitive award. I’ve already established most of the basics for it but have a way to go before I’m willing to announce the award.

Sometime in January 2018, the criteria will be published along with the criteria for the newer more polished version of the CRM Watchlist. By then I assume that I’ll have an award name which, for the moment, is place held as The EMI Awards — or the EMIs (pronounced, you guessed it, Emmys). I may do better and be more creative about naming it — I may not. I’ll see. I’m not sure how I’m going to judge it either. Multiple judges? Me only? I’ll keep you in suspense for now, but be ready — if it matters to you. I’ve got 3.5 years left in this industry and I’m going to do my damned best to make them worthwhile.

The EMI Prototype: A company worth watching

In order to make this clearer to you and to use that as an excuse to highlight a company that I truly think is worth watching now — a company that with a little push here and there will be a breakout company — I am going to name my first EMI(ish) company.

To be clear, this is not an award — they will have to submit like anyone else — and they may not win either… but this is me saying watch these guys because I think they are on to something and going places, though they still have some distance to travel. This will also give you an idea what to expect of the EMI — at least as a prototype. While I reserve the right to completely change this, what I do and say will give you an indication of what I am thinking re: the EMI and highlight a company worthy of some recognition now.

At this stage, you will see an index number, a short description of why this company got that number and a suggestion or two of where they need to go from here.

So, without further ado, I present to you:

Cogito

(EMI Prototype Score 7.75)(caveat: this score could change when the 1.0 version of the index is ready).

Cogito is one of those companies that shouldn’t sneak up on you but does. I must assume that its named after the famous statement of Rene Descartes — “I think therefore I am” which in Latin is “cogito ergo sum“. (For your further edification, Descartes followed this with “we cannot doubt our existence, when we doubt.” Cogitate on that one).

Cogito, which represents itself, accurately, as a real time emotional intelligence solution that has horizontal applications like sales and service. They have placed themselves squarely in the face of the customer engagement and CRM value add markets and that is not only a good place to be, but with a product that is distinct in the marketplace, a great place to be. What the solution does is provide in call voice analysis and then provide real time guidance to agents or sales people. They have a proven value proposition that began in the medical world and is now part of the sales, service and health care management worlds.

Using the prototype of the EMI, here is why I deem them a near-breakout candidate:

Why they are:

  1. Great product — proven to work as promised.
  2. Clear use cases.
  3. Unique market value in established markets.
  4. Their marketing is done very well and focused on the actual value proposition i.e. the outcomes
  5. Hot buttons in the marketing — “real time emotional intelligence” — both sexy and also immensely important knowledge for the engagement of customers.
  6. They have the case studies to prove the point.
  7. They are (slowly) increasing their market visibility
  8. Very good management mix with highly qualified people well aligned with what they need to grow — and with the experience, and the foresight — to support that growth.

Why they are not:

  1. Spotty analyst relations/influencer relations
  2. Strategy for engagement is unclear
  3. Reach, while improving, isn’t sufficient yet to be breakout levels of visibility
  4. Still seem to be niche, even though they truly aren’t. But perception means something.
  5. Thought leadership content and public face necessary for mindshare not there.
  6. Visibility in the industries they are in is minimal.
  7. Other reasons that shall remain nameless.

Using the prototype EMI this gets them a score of 7.75 which says real breakout potential, but several things must be done before that happens. Not on the immediate verge but close enough to be of interest to many customers and industry watchers. Including me.

The EMI is a measure of breakout potential and likelihood. It is designed to decide how ready the companies measured are for that breakout. A score of 10 is the maximum and of course that means, coming right now. This is still an early beta in terms of where I think it is in its evolution, but I wanted you to know where I stand with it.

Also, I wanted you to know about Cogito because I am very impressed with them, though I don’t have a deep relationship to the company, so there are things I don’t know. Even without it, they have made an impression on me that makes me want you to hear about it — because of its value to your business. And because it’s a great example of how the EMI will work.

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The EMI deets will be published along with the new Watchlist criteria in January.

Surprise.

Breaking out, again, in 2018

Whew. That was a handful. This next batch are not emerging companies but mature companies, though at different levels, that are either poised to breakout… again — to re-emerge, when they have already been emergent. The criteria for my judgment are less scientific here, more, hmmm, observational, but there is solid reason for me to say that I see them coming out strong in 2018 and beyond.

Each of these has been “out” before and now, for one reason or another, is starting to create a market presence in a new way that is meaningful to the industry. Again, this is not an award, some of these have won the Watchlist in the past, but each of them is doing something that makes me want to keep my eyes closely on them as they compete in the market.

Thunderhead- In September 2016, Accel KKR acquired what is now Smart Communications, the division of Thunderhead that was and remains a dominant player in the Customer Communications Management (CCM). The reason that Smart Communications got sold off was so that Thunderhead could focus on the customer journey orchestration technology they do so jaw-droppingly well.

They not only had the technology, unique to the industry in its depth and breadth, but an intellectual framework for customer engagement that was created on the foundation of the increasingly influential model known as Service Dominant Logic (SDL) and service design. They have had a strong AR program, increasingly good marketing, power tech, and the engagement framework.

Now, as of Dreamforce 2017, they have become OEMed as the real-time interaction management (RTIM) layer in the Salesforce Marketing Cloud, with cross-cloud integration as the next stop. They also have a solid relationship with Microsoft and an integration with SAP Cloud for Customer (C4C). In other words, with the OEM deal with Salesforce which will increase their footprint across the enterprise, this company, who I have been an adviser to for years, is poised for a breakout.

Pegasystems – My relationship with Pegasystems has always run hot and cold. I’ve been involved as a speaker at their conferences, as an analyst at their events and then I wasn’t. Then I was, then I wasn’t. But what hasn’t flagged has been my admiration, not just for the quality of their products — especially their core CRM products in sales, marketing and customer service, but for how they handled their transition from a company focused on business process management to CRM to customer experience to customer engagement — without losing a beat in their corporate narrative.

They not only took the story up two or three notches, but built out the technology that effectively verified the story and their transition. Their acquisition in 2010 of Chordiant was the watershed for the company and began their transition — which has continued seamlessly especially for the last 3-4 years. They have obviously done it right growing to nearly a billion dollars in that time frame. They are poised to re-emerge as a major player in the customer engagement universe — if they do a few things — particularly around thought leadership – that will cement the final bricks for this phase in place.

Vlocity – It’s funny. You would think that a company that focuses on verticals — telco first and foremost, but several others too — and is built on the Salesforce platform, wouldn’t be a likely breakout candidate, but here’s the thing: They have perhaps the most experienced industry leadership of any company when it comes to industry veterans who not only have the skills, experience, and influencer chops, but also understand the changes in the world and retool accordingly and have the energy to proceed to with those transformative efforts.

Witness the boundless energy of David Schmaier, one of the CRM industry pioneers — a founder of Siebel, arguably the company that made CRM technology possible. Vlocity spun (kinda) from the model that Veeva formerly known as Verticals on Demand, created — a specific vertical technology (in their case life sciences) created about a decade ago.

Veeva has proven the value of the model with a market cap at a reported $ 8.7 billion (though I know that only second hand). Vlocity (which Forbes says supercharges the Veeva model) serves a different set of verticals and and due to the ambitions of the management team, sees the need for further vertically specific applications.

Combine that with a mature CRM market with the remaining greenfields primarily in the verticals , the growth of the still protoplasmic customer engagement universe, and the explosive growth of Salesforce… well, the sky is the limit — and Vlocity is poised to reach it.

Zoho – This is one of the most peculiar of all companies. They use an outlier model that works — an engineering driven, as opposed to a visionary or mission driven company. They have a focus on the SMB market, yet have an enormous portfolio of products — and the market eats it up. They have a new pricing model called Zoho One that gives you access to all of the products for a tidy $ 30/mo per user (as they like to say, “a dollar a day”) and it works.

They are in the public eye and yet, there is a lot of mystery to how they actually work, what their revenue is etc. But, man, do they have it going. They have penetrated the pores of small business technology. Their technology is well-integrated — as you would expect from an engineering company. I’m not the only one who thinks they are on the verge again either. Listen to major league CRM industry analyst and influencer Brent Leary about them.

“Zoho’s approach to offering business applications in the cloud is closer to the business models of Amazon and Facebook than to Salesforce, Microsoft and other traditional industry vendors. And they’ve created created a corporate culture and philosophy that allows this approach to work for them, and places them in a unique position in the industry that is very hard to replicate — and it really is paying off.

Their ability to organically churn out a variety of business apps at the price points they offer is really incredible. But in order to keep building on their successes and scale this to a whole new level, they’ll need to focus on creating even better user experiences and more guidance/best practice support across their application portfolio. And if they’re able to add those pieces they have a shot of really disrupting the status quo.”

As far as I’m concerned, they are poised for a much bigger breakout if they do three things. Eliminate even the semi-stealthy stuff, start providing thought leadership rather than just products so that they become a trusted adviser to their customers, not just a product provider, and stay away from the petty bashing of Salesforce. They do that, and BOOM, the mic will drop — and knowing their engineers — will be repaired ten minutes after it is dropped, but you might not never know that.

That’s it for now. In Part II, I examine the current status of the Big 4 in a few paragraphs — technically violating my pact with myself to not write about vendors until 2018 but at the same time not in the depth that I normally write. Coming next week…

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Everybody Talks About CX, but Nobody Does Anything About It

Customer experience quality didn’t improve in the retail industry this year, despite keen competition among online retailers, according to Forrester’s U.S. 2017 Customer Experience Index.

The three highest-ranked online retailers — Etsy, QVC and Zappos — came within fractions of a point of each other, based on data released last week.

Among the industries Forrester examined, online retail was the only one in which no brands kept the same position as last year. Forrester analyzed 314 online retail brands across 21 industries.

Average CX quality at online retail scores decreased by a single point this year.

“In the era of an attention economy, we are trading loyalty for convenience, for value, and for status,” observed Ray Wang, principal analyst at Constellation Research.

“This is why CX is in a confused state,” he told CRM Buyer.

Perhaps familiarity breeds contempt, suggested Michael Jude, research manager at Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan.

“We see the same thing in brick-and-mortar retail, where competition increases [customer] expectations,” he told CRM Buyer.

Customer experience in the online retail industry could be stagnant because “it might reflect issues beyond CRM — such as supply chain, ERP, back-office and logistics,” noted Nucleus Research CEO Ian Campbell.

Etsy Comes Out on Top

Etsy, which ranked fifth last year, took the top spot this year, although its CX index score didn’t increase. Instead, competitors’ scores fell.

However, Etsy is a special case, suggested Frost’s Jude.

It “has always been a niche retailer serving mostly the craft crowd, and does what it needs to do pretty well,” he said. “Other sites seek a broader appeal.”

Further, Etsy is a marketplace, which “suggests individual retailers may be more focused on — and able to create — more personalized experiences, given their smaller scale and the fact that each transaction is impactful,” said Rebecca Wettemann, VP of research at Nucleus.

CX in the Doldrums

None of the 314 brands Forrester analyzed has risen to the top of its rankings and continued to move upward, which is the mark of a true customer experience leader.

In the absence of real leaders, Forrester said, there are only four types of brands:

  • Languishers rose high and then stalled without a statistically significant score change for at least two years;
  • Lapsers rose and then fell back;
  • Locksteppers moved up and down with the pack and failed to differentiate themselves because the quality of their CX remained roughly on par with the competition; and
  • Laggards stayed at or near the bottom. The ISP industry is the only one with 100 percent laggards.

All About the Feelings

Emotions drive customer loyalty in online retail, Forrester found.

That’s because “buyers are just a click away from making their emotions known,” Nucleus’ Wettemann told CRM Buyer.

Among the positive customer experience emotions are feeling confident, delighted, happy, appreciated, respected and valued.

Negative customer experience emotions include annoyance, disappointment and frustration.

Eighty-five percent of online retail customers who felt happy planned to spend more, and 88 percent said they would advocate for the brand, Forrester found. Those were the highest percentages across all industries for enrichment and advocacy.

Brands should focus on emotion to differentiate themselves, Forrester recommended.

“Emotion probably comes in there somewhere if the experience is good or bad,” Frost’s Jude remarked. I would say that utility — the ease with which one can find something and order it — drives online [retail]. Online is about convenience.”

Offering a Positive CX

Instant gratification plays a key role in generating positive emotions, Constellation’s Wang pointed out.

Retailers have to deliver on the brand promise to avoid generating negative emotions, she said.

“Ensure that the service automation is effortless and well done,” Jude suggested.

Most people home in on CRM for the customer experience, but today it’s really about the whole customer ecosystem — how CRM ties into the supply chain, ERP and the back office,” Nucleus’ Campbell told CRM Buyer. “It’s not simply understanding the customer, but also having the means to deliver.”
end enn Everybody Talks About CX, but Nobody Does Anything About It


Richard%20Adhikari Everybody Talks About CX, but Nobody Does Anything About ItRichard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology.
Email Richard.

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A SWOT for Your B2B Marketing Automation Strategy

20171115 bnr swot 351x200 A SWOT for Your B2B Marketing Automation Strategy

Deep dive: Perform a SWOT exercise for your brand

Now that you have the rough framework of a SWOT, let’s go through the exercise. Grab a piece of paper or white board and explore these concepts. (Note: I really do recommend that you get off your digital device and perform this exercise with a pen, pencil, or whiteboard marker.)

First, what are you going to SWOT? You can choose your company all-up, or a specific division or how you utilize your marketing automation platform. Choose one. We’ll call it “Your Thing.” For each category below, aim to write at least five items in each quadrant.

First, think through Your Thing’s Strengths. What does your company do really well? What evidence do you have for those proof of concepts you create? What garners you excellent buyer reviews or love letters from your customers? Write those things down. As I mentioned earlier, you don’t have to do this all on gut. Pull from your current marketing copy, as well as from industry analysts and customer testimonials.

Next up is Weaknesses. Now, as marketers, I know that we’re wired to constantly find a positive spin. But let’s get real here. I’m sure you have opinions or at least hunches about what doesn’t work so well with Your Thing. Write those down. Also go back to those customer reviews and feedback – what are the common complaints or issues? What does your customer support team receive a lot of calls about? Write those things down, too. You don’t have to engage in endless brand-flagellation, but do accurately identify your trouble spots.

Opportunities are fun. They can be aspirational – such as places you could market Your Thing, or potential customers you could reach. Also, ID brand expansion possibilities go here. For example, have your customers mentioned something they really want, or have you brainstormed great ideas but not shared them yet? Note those. Reach for the low-hanging fruit, of course – but also include your “stretch” goals ‒ those pie-in-the-sky ideas can’t become reality unless you speak them. This is your space to dream, so do so.

Finally, Threats. What real or potential things could threaten your business? This can be anything from someone stealing your idea (do you have a patent?) to an economic crash that may impact your non-elastic-good market, to a fiery tempered CEO. Some of it you may be able to see coming – other things, you can’t even begin to imagine. But try to think through a few disastrous scenarios and jot them down. And, again, be real. There’s no point in hiding the truth from yourself.

a SWOT analysis for your B2B marketing automation strategy

If you were creating a SWOT for your marketing automation platform (MAP) strategy, a strength could be that you have integrated your MAP with your customer relationship management (CRM) tool.

If you were creating a SWOT for your marketing automation strategy, a weakness is that you’re under utilizing the functions in the platform. This could be not setting up account, demographic and behavior-based segmentation for your lists. It could be not creating automated nurture programs based on those new segmented lists so that you are nurturing decision makers, influencers, tire kickers, and folks wanting to buy today all differently.

One of the biggest Threats to your marketing automation strategy is not using the product, or integrating it with your CRM so that you fail to connect your marketing efforts with sales and see the return on that investment. Another threat could be locking yourself into an all-in-one vendor technology stack that isn’t motivated to innovate, or address your specific needs.

Know what to do with your SWOT

Great work on completing your SWOT for your marketing automation setup or for whatever you choose to examine. Now go stretch your legs for a moment, grab a coffee, and return with your analyst hat on. Look at your list and see what stands out. Circle the big-ticket items. Draw lines and correlations between the quadrants. Jot notes in the margins. Brainstorm – ideas big and small.

The Opportunity in your SWOT for your marketing automation strategy is using your platform across the customer’s journey and across marketing. Are you using it for your branding efforts by nurturing industry and media influencers? Are you creating automated programs for your customers, making sure you help them successfully onboard with your product or service? As they engage more and more, whether attending a customer webinar or Tweeting your praise, you can assign them a lead score for becoming brand advocates and future referrals, as well as priming them for renewals and upsells.

It’s totally OK if you are creating a SWOT just for yourself. It can be a great tool to help you understand more about your brand or simply generate new ideas. But those SWOT results can also be invaluable to your colleagues and boss. I encourage you to share your results – to polish up your lists, remove those potentially thorny items (such as the mention of the CEO’s temper) – and turn your activity into action.

Also, as you drew up your list and made your analysis, I have no doubt your mind started wheeling with ideas. Don’t lose those – whether they be for new products or services, customer opportunities, marketing ploys, campaign slogans, or staff shufflings. The point of the SWOT is to take stock and get ideas going, so harness this energy and good work.

Add SWOT to your regular marketing exercises.

I am an avid fitness fan, and as such I’m accustomed working through many of the same exercises – pushups, sit-ups, and squats – over and over again. It’s not because I always enjoy them; but rather, because they work. Think of a SWOT in this same way. No, I’m not suggesting that you need to perform SWOTs as often as squats, but I do encourage you to try a SWOT at least once a year. You may be surprised at how each iteration garners new insights and helps you nimbly adjust your marketing strategy accordingly.

Bonus exercise: SWOT yourself

At one of my former jobs, part of the new-hire process included a self-SWOT. We had to assess our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats when we were hired, and then again at our 90-day review. It was a little strange at first, but the exercise proved to be a great mechanism to help me honestly assess my skills – and also to see what changed over the course of a few short months. I encourage you to try this. You never know when you may be able to use these findings, too. You can keep them in your back pocket when you’re preparing for your annual review, asking your boss to include you on a big-ticket project, or pitching for a promotion.

Back to you.

Has a SWOT ever helped you gain valuable insight? Share your experience here.

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New Integration Improves Engagement for B2B Marketers

BrightFunnel this week announced the integration of its BrightFunnel Revenue Intelligence Suite with Microsoft Dynamics.

The integration will let enterprise B2B marketing teams analyze the impact of marketing investments on their companies’ business, BrightFunnel said. They’ll be able to accurately measure marketing attribution to pipeline and revenue across every marketing channel, campaign and initiative.

BrightFunnel provides analytics tools that assess how programs impact a business.

The integration will let Microsoft Dynamics CRM customers leverage BrightFunnel’s advanced global filtering capabilities, machine learning, and account-based functionality to optimize and accelerate the buyer’s journey.

Microsoft Dynamics customers also will be able to better optimize and plan marketing budgets quarter-over-quarter.

“By having more visibility into how marketing programs perform across a variety of data segmentations, the marketing team can more effectively help the sales team increase deal velocity and [average selling price], and target key accounts with the right message and program,” said Dayna Rothman, BrightFunnel’s VP of marketing and sales development.

Providing key data and marketing performance results to sales reps “helps align marketing to the metrics that matter most for the business — pipeline and revenue,” she told CRM Buyer.

“Knowing more about the buyer and their interest leads to improved win rates,” noted Cindy Zhou, principal analyst at Constellation Research.

BrightFunnel’s Microsoft Dynamics CRM integration is currently in private beta.

Making Microsoft Dynamics Work for B2B Marketers

“Attributing revenue back to marketing programs has been historically challenging for B2B companies, as there are many marketing-driven touchpoints that don’t get linked to revenue reporting downstream in SFA and CRM systems,” said Joe Andrews, VP of marketing at
InsideView.

“Today there are many more influencers in a buying process that need to be touched,” he told CRM Buyer. “With more B2B companies focused on account-based marketing, it’s even more critical to understand what engagement tactics work best to move customers along the buyer’s journey.”

Microsoft Dynamics CRM’s reporting doesn’t work for B2B marketers, according to BrightFunnel, because the application was developed for sales teams.

It associates only one buyer with an opportunity, while most accounts have 13 influential buyers, BrightFunnel pointed out. On average, 8.1 orphan leads and 4.5 contacts on an account are never recorded on the opportunity they helped influence, which means the marketer doesn’t get credit for them.

“With CMOs increasingly being asked to prove revenue contribution, the ability to have a comprehensive view of the customer’s engagement journey is critical,” Constellation’s Zhou told CRM Buyer.

How BrightFunnel’s Integration Will Work

The BrightFunnel platform provides a feature called “Orphan Lead Finder.”

“Our fuzzy matching algorithm does lead-to-account matching in order to associate all leads and contacts to a specific account,” BrightFunnel’s Rothman noted. “Therefore, even if your sales team doesn’t associate all of the account contacts in your CRM, you can still see engagement across the full account within our platform.”

However, BrightFunnel doesn’t write back to Dynamics CRM, so the attribution has to be assigned within the BrightFunnel platform.

The platform “provides visual, easy-to-understand reporting, so that the rest of the organization has access to how marketing investments perform and impact the business,” Rothman said.

“We want to help marketers uplevel their roles and conversations within the organization, and believe that attribution is a key way to show the strategic value of marketing,” she added.

What BrightFunnel Gets out of the Integration

“A lot of great marketing organizations run on Microsoft Dynamics, and we want to make our capabilities accessible to those marketers,” Rothman said.

Still, many marketing departments use marketing automation software, and they “can pull attribution from that solution versus CRM,” Constellation’s Zhou suggested.”For example, Adobe’s tight partnership with Dynamics can enable cross-channel attribution reporting.”
end enn New Integration Improves Engagement for B2B Marketers


Richard%20Adhikari New Integration Improves Engagement for B2B MarketersRichard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology.
Email Richard.

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Revisiting Show Season

Show season changes the CRM market; it always does. One day you’re in the vanilla application software space, and a week later you understand the need to incorporate social media or analytics or machine learning, or you see a need for enhanced integration and development through platform services. It goes on.

Today, in the wake of Oracle, Salesforce, Microsoft and many other companies’ trade shows, we’re again taking a look at the available suites. This time, we need to think less about what’s been added and how well-integrated the components are.

The Next Disruption

With Oracle now a year into rolling out its cloud strategy, we can’t say we’re in cloud computing’s early days any more. We’re in a race to computing as a ubiquitous utility — like electricity, water and natural gas.

Oracle was the last cloud holdout, the last company that led with its legacy on-premises products. Today, it has reinvented itself to offer infrastructure, platform and applications — or any combination — as services.

The company might talk a good game about supporting legacy customers forever, and that will be necessary, but Oracle would like nothing better than to convert the legacy base to cloud infrastructure. Make no mistake about it — selling new cloud-based apps is the eventual goal.

Much the same is true of Microsoft, which now delivers end user products like Office by subscription, even if some of the software still resides on the desktop.

Salesforce was born in the cloud, of course, and it hasn’t suffered through a transition, although for almost 20 years it undeniably has been causing one. The disruption impacted everyone else — but the next disruption, or whatever we’ll call it, will affect even Salesforce.

With typical poise, Salesforce has been taking it all in stride and even has taken a leadership position.

The disruption turns from purely delivering technology to focusing on how it is used. The focus is very important to Salesforce and all the others, because it will have a direct impact on how much of its services (we used to call it “software,” but this is now) get bought and deployed.

Process Flexibility

So, we see increasing emphasis on learning how to develop apps and administer them even to the point of opening up the training platform, Trailhead, to enable partners to develop training programs for their custom apps.

In the background, there’s an effort to standardize on processes, which deserves attention. Back in the day, a process was carved in stone. Your organization used a seven-step sales process or maybe a five-step one. Introducing a seven-step process into a five-step organization was enough to set off a riot. It was something you did only very carefully if at all.

In that era, there were sales methodology companies (still are) and there were software companies, and each would tell you its products were agnostic. They were, too, with a little coding.

Today it’s different. The introduction of artificial intelligence and machine learning has made both methods and applications secondary. Yes, they’re still important — but no, they don’t rule the roost. Everywhere, sales people seem to be sidestepping the argument about which method is better in favor of adopting an attitude of doing what the AI system suggests is the next thing needed to advance a deal. As it should be.

Platform-based CRM with robust partner communities and their apps have brought us to the point of fully integrated and automated business processes. Customization has never been easier, thanks to the platform too. The next step in our journey will be inventing new business processes that derive from our need to be more agile to flexibly approach new opportunities.

Beyond the Deal

That’s what has been most interesting to me about show season. Each vendor has, in it’s own way, made a tacit nod to the primacy of data and analytics for automating processes. They’ve also begun closing the door on business processes that momentarily pop out of the automation sluice and into a spreadsheet or other form of manual thinking.

The change isn’t recognizable in sales alone — though selling is a big beneficiary, with solutions that include SFA, CPQ, admin functions, AI, ML, compensation management, and gobs of graphically rich reporting.

Marketing is a rich area, with its newfound abilities to identify, target, hand off, score and journey map. Service has its own rich tool set, most significantly analytics married to multichannel abilities to take customers from beginning to end of a support journey without necessarily bringing in a human.

In all of this, businesses have been freeing up employee time for higher-level tasks that add value to customer experiences well beyond getting a deal or a right answer. This is where the customer-facing jobs of the future will come from. They will demand more and different people skills as well as technical mastery.

That’s why this show season has been a turning point. I think it will be looked back on as the time we began a more disciplined approach to customers and employees as people who interact with technology, not just as various flavors of technologists.
end enn Revisiting Show Season


Denis%20Pombriant Revisiting Show SeasonDenis Pombriant is a well-known CRM industry researcher, strategist, writer and speaker. His new book, You Can’t Buy Customer Loyalty, But You Can Earn It, is now available on Amazon. His 2015 book, Solve for the Customer, is also available there. He can be reached at
denis.pombriant@beagleresearch.com.

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Content Analytics' VP Kenji Gjovig: Chum in the Water

Kenji Gjovig is VP of partnerships and business development at
Content Analytics.

In this exclusive interview, Gjovig offers his insights on managing the customer experience through effective content management.

kenji gjovig Content Analytics' VP Kenji Gjovig: Chum in the Water

Content Analytics
VP
Kenji Gjovig

CRM Buyer: What is content management, and what is the key to doing it effectively?

Kenji Gjovig: Content management is all about making sure that [a product] item page has all of the information that a customer needs to buy an item or have a good experience with it afterwards.

What goes into content management varies between retailers. A content management system has the ability to set up new items, post images and video, and create a robust title and detailed item description.

Ratings and reviews are really important, and also elements like size charts and product comparison guides that will help [customers] learn how to use the item and feel good about it.

You have to have all of the information on the screen. These enhanced content elements promote the best customer experience.

CRM Buyer: What are some common mistakes you see in the way companies manage their content, and how can these mistakes be avoided?

Gjovig: The biggest mistake we see is when a brand sees content management as an exercise in just checking the box. They treat it as a spectrum of bad versus good content. There’s a huge spectrum of good and bad content, and the biggest mistake we see is when retailers don’t deliver a good customer experience.

CRM Buyer: What is the relationship between managing content effectively and delivering a good customer experience?

Gjovig: I think they’re directly tied together. If I don’t have good content in my item pages, it’s going to be a terrible customer experience. If there’s a great description but no reviews, that’s not good.

If I’m searching for further information, and there aren’t good images, I’m not likely to make a purchase. Let’s say it’s food or consumables. I see the food, but I don’t know the ingredients. There’s a high correlation between more content and good content.

CRM: What are your recommendations for creating a good customer experience?

Gjovig: Items have to have good attributes and good description, so the algorithms work well. If a customer types in “televisions” on a retailer site, the search algorithm has to be able to serve up the best item for them, so the best analytics tools identify a lot of search options.

If you think about brick-and-mortar stores, the way we might find a product is walking down the aisles. We’re physically and visually finding products. In e-commerce, it has to be all done virtually, and it has to be served up to us. If there’s not good content on the pages, the algorithm can’t serve up the right products, and that affects the customer experience.

CRM Buyer: What is “content health,” and how can it best be measured or evaluated?

Gjovig: Content health is an objective measurement of something that is fairly subjective. We have an algorithm that identifies good or bad content. We measure all of the parameters and assign scores to each of these, and we evaluate individual item pages at scale. We’re doing it across tens of millions of item pages across the Internet.

We then measure the quality of content based on objective measures. If I’m a particular brand, and I’m managing my content, I want to make sure that my brand is doing well compared to other brands on other websites. We look at things both in a vacuum and more strategically, relative to other brands and retailers.

CRM Buyer: How is the field of content management evolving and changing? What’s in the future for content management?

Gjovig: The way I would describe it is that there is chum in the water, and all of a sudden the sharks are coming. That’s what’s going on now. Every brand and every manufacturer is thinking about how they go to market in e-commerce, and retailers are thinking about e-commerce differently.

When Amazon bought Whole Foods, every grocery store in the country paid attention. E-commerce is the only growing channel, and it’s growing at double-digits. Everyone is trying to find a good content management system.

The best ones are those that give both the analytics and the ability to go fix problems. The demand for precise, real-time analytics is increasing, because e-commerce is growing. The need for data and assortment is only going to be more, which means the analytics will need to get better and better.

CRM Buyer: How is content changing and evolving?

Gjovig: The old form of user-generated content is that you submit a question, and the next day someone replies. The next generation is that you get the question answered immediately.

I would say that virtual reality is also on the horizon. You can imagine a future when everyone has a VR device, allowing you to interact with products. When I bought a playset, they had a video that had the camera going around the object 360 degrees.

With VR, you can do things at scale, so you can give the customer a more interactive experience, a virtual view, or a tour of products. We’re going to see technology that will provide more interactive experience, giving the customer a better experience in the moment of the shopping experience.
end enn Content Analytics' VP Kenji Gjovig: Chum in the Water


Vivian%20Wagner Content Analytics' VP Kenji Gjovig: Chum in the WaterVivian Wagner has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. Her main areas of focus are technology, business, CRM, e-commerce, privacy, security, arts, culture and diversity. She has extensive experience reporting on business and technology for a variety
of outlets, including The Atlantic, The Establishment and O, The Oprah Magazine. She holds a PhD in English with a specialty in modern American literature and culture. She received a first-place feature reporting award from the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists.
Email Vivian.

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Increase Your Website Traffic with These Killer Marketing Hacks

20171115 bnr killer traffic hacks 351x200 Increase Your Website Traffic with These Killer Marketing Hacks

Key takeaway. If you want to instantly drive higher engagement, more shares, and greater traffic to your website, maximize your impact by testing headlines that are focused on the impact to the reader.

Drive Traffic through Guest Blog Posts

A popular strategy for getting significant increases in website traffic is guest blogging. With this strategy, you identify influencers in your business, create relationships, and write high-value posts for their blogs.

For example, let’s say that you sell software that leverages the Internet of Things. Find influencers in that space who share your target market. These people may have large or small audiences, and both are good. Once you identify these individuals, you can start creating relationships, commenting on their content, and connecting through social media. You can pitch guest blog posts, which will allow you to get in front of their audience, present amazing content, and hopefully entice readers into learning more about your company ― usually through some type of lead magnet.

But let’s back up and first uncover how to pick the best influencers for your brand.

Finding the right influencers. Does your target market spend time on Twitter? If so, check out tools such as Followerwonk, which is an advanced Twitter analytics tool that allows you to search Twitter profiles and bios by keywords. You can also use tools such BuzzSumo, which can be used for finding the right content topics.

Pitch a guest blog post. Once you identify a list of the right influencers, check out their sites. Do they have blogs? If so, they may already have guidelines established for accepting blog posts, and they may be published on the website. If they don’t, send a quick email and ask. Once you find out, send a carefully crafted pitch.

Capturing maximum results through a lead magnet. Once your blog post is accepted, you will likely get a bio section, which highlights the author of the post. Don’t waste this space! Instead of linking to your site, set up a landing page with a lead magnet. This could be an eBook that addresses your target audience’s largest pain point, a great infographic, or some other high-value piece of content. The goal? Capture each piece of traffic that you get and start nurturing the visitor through the sales funnel. After all, once someone new arrives at your site, you don’t want that person to get away.

Similarly, you can also allow others to guest post on your website to drive greater traffic. When others create content, they share it with their audience, which helps you bring new people to your site.

Key takeaway. A guest-posting strategy can help provide large spikes of traffic to your website, but it’s also part of a long-term traffic-building strategy. The more content you post on related sites, the more traffic that will trickle into your site, even after that initial spike, which provides long-term results, leads, and sales.

Leverage the Power of Visual

Visual content is starting to get a lot of attention from marketers, and for good reason ― it provides a large impact. Check out these stats on using images, graphics, and videos in content:

  • 37 percent of marketers said that visual marketing was the most important form of content for their businesses.
  • Video content is expected to represent 74 percent of all Internet traffic in the near future.
  • Four times as many consumers report they would rather watch a video about a product than read about it.

The data is impressive, but how does it relate to images and driving more traffic to your brand? Humans are visual beings and can absorb that type of data much faster and easier than other types of information. As a result, they prefer it ― and share it. This translates into greater interest and more website traffic.

A great place to start with creating visual content is developing infographics to share via social media. If you’ve started to forge relationships with influencers, you can reach out and ask them about what they’re working on. Then see if you can contribute an infographic that would make their next blog post stronger. As a result, they would likely share that infographic, which would be credited and linked to your site, driving greater traffic. There are some really fun tools out there that make creating video a both a snap and affordable: GoAnimate, Moovly, VideoScribe. Tools like Canva or Vizualize can help you make engaging visual infographics as well, for little to no cost.

Key takeaway. Examine your existing strategy and ask the question “How can I make more content visual?” Take a look at your existing content an see if you can just repurpose it into a different, more visual format. Then look for different strategies and tools to help you create those types of content and increase your website traffic.

A Few Last Words

The above strategies will help you increase your website traffic while advantageously planting seeds to continue to nurture that traffic in the future. But it’s key to remember that creating traffic is not a sprint ― it’s a marathon. Some of these methods, such as guest posting, will give you initial large spurts of traffic, but the longer you work at these tactics, the greater long-term traffic you’ll build.

Plus, it’s critical to keep in mind that, while having lots of traffic is excellent, when you let that traffic slip through your fingers, it becomes pointless. Instead, entice readers to take that next step, such as exchanging their email for a high-value piece of content. That way you’ll convert more traffic into leads and ensure that your business will thrive in the future.

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B2B Marketing Trends for 2018

20171121 bnr 2018 trends 351x200 B2B Marketing Trends for 2018

Or, as CEO Jack Welch once said:

An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage. 

The more you know about your customers, the more of an advantage you have. And the more you can adapt your messaging, your products and services, and your sales and customer support to those customers, gives you more advantage still.

There are plenty of ways to do this.

Some ways are low-tech, like simply talking to your customer service staff and your sales reps. Or ‒ ahem – actually talking to your customers.

Then there are medium-tech ways, like setting up a simple listening station or doing customer surveys.

And then there are the high-tech ways.

These usually involve one of the bigger buzzwords and trends of the last few years: Big Data.

And increasingly, these high-tech approaches also involve the “scary” big new trend: AI ‒ artificial intelligence.

None of this is going to go away. In fact, our job titles are more likely to go away than Big Data, AI, and super-sophisticated customer knowledge systems are likely to go away.

Marketers are increasingly data-focused and data-driven. At our best, we are data conductors – maestros who can stand in front of our analytics dashboards like conductors stand in front of their orchestras, leading our data feeds through our campaigns and strategies, skillfully balancing the different inputs to create something truly artful.

That’s the vision, at least. Getting there will require a lot of practice. And lots of technical skill.

Some of us may have to improve those technical and data management-type skills.

3. Mobile

I know, I know. Every year people say: “This is going to be the year of mobile.”

I’m not saying that. I say that, if you’re smart, 2018 will be the year you become genuinely mobile-first. So, when you block out big projects, large campaigns, and messaging strategies, you don’t think about the desktop. You stop seeing people receiving your messages on a desktop.

You see them holding a phone in their hand.

You build for that, and then circle back to expand and adapt the mobile version for their desktops.

4. Video

“Video is eating the Internet.”

This is another trend, like mobile, that’s been rising for years. But in 2018, video will probably tilt from a “nice to have” to an essential part of your content marketing program.

Fortunately, video is not as hard to do as it might first seem to be.

Want an example of a completely Oscar-worthy B2B marketing video? Watch Conductor’s hysterical video, SEO and Content Go to Couples Therapy.

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Real Human Interactions Beat Automation, Survey Says

Customers prefer human interactions to interactive voice response systems or other automated customer service offerings, according to a new
report from B2B ratings firm
Clutch.

Businesses need to move carefully when outsourcing customer service operations, the research also suggested, because there are big differences depending on how familiar reps are with the local language, how close they reside, and whether the customer can figure out the company’s relationship to the service provider in a short amount of time.

The firm conducted a survey of 468 people who had called a business or medical facility within the last month, and the results showed that 77 percent of people who thought they got through directly to the business were completely satisfied with their experience. Only 45 percent of those who said they got through to a call center were satisfied with the results.

“The largest number of respondents said ‘our priority is to speak to a person,'” said Elizabeth Ballou, content developer at Clutch.

Human, Please

Study participants did not want to speak to a voice prompt response system, but to an actual customer service representative who could listen to their concerns and answer their questions or act on them, she told CRM Buyer.

About 54 percent of respondents said they were calling to schedule an appointment for a fitness- or beauty-related service, or for a medical or work-related visit, according to the report. About 12 percent were trying to handle a billing issue, and 6 percent were dealing with a technology-related problem.

About 57 percent said they dealt only with a human, while 22 percent dealt only with an automated call menu. Twelve percent dealt with a combination of a human and automated call menu.

Companies should determine how much time their employees spend on the phone, Clutch recommended. If they decide they need a voice services provider, they also should determine just how far away they want that provider to be located.

Businesses should attempt a trial run before making a decision to bring a call services provider on board, Clutch recommended.

Cost vs. Interaction Balance

One of the key issues that companies face when considering the right mix of customer service options is balancing the expense of running a customer service infrastructure with the cost of staffing with live agents, said Cindy Zhou, principal analyst for digital marketing transformation and sales effectiveness at Constellation Research.

For example, companies should have metrics on whether there are chat features on the website and mobile application, and whether response times in those areas are fast enough, she told CRM Buyer.

If a company has a natural voice response system on the front end of customer service, it can provide hours of operation and mailing addresses via the automated system, thus freeing up human resources for more complicated customer service needs, Zhou pointed out.

New AI Applications

Beyond automating low-level customer service tasks so that people can handle more sophisticated customer service priorities, companies should consider whether to invest in a system that is good enough for customers to believe they are talking to a live operator, or at least coming close to talking to a live person, said Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research.

“This is where AI technology comes in,” he told CRM Buyer. It “can not only make the organization more efficient, but improve the customer experience.”

New technologies using AI are becoming capable of very sophisticated customer interactions, said Paul Teich, principal analyst at Tirias Research.

They may use sentiment analysis, speech recognition, advanced voice synthesis and video animation to deliver results similar to those obtained through direct human intervention, he told CRM Buyer.

“When we talk about AI Inference as a Service,” he said, “this is one of the near-term potential applications.”
end enn Real Human Interactions Beat Automation, Survey Says


David Jones is a freelance writer based in Essex County, New Jersey. He has written for Reuters, Bloomberg, Crain’s New York Business and The New York Times.

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Recurring Workflows in Dynamics 365

Workflow triggers

Are you using Dynamics 365 to compliment your workforce automation?  Dynamics 365 allows both admins and developers to automate processes such as performing routine business calculations, sending friendly reminders to end users or customers, creating scheduled activities and much more!  These processes are often controlled by Workflows.  Workflow processes can be triggered by the following events:

You can also create timeout triggers by using wait conditions based on a specified date field:

or a point in time post workflow execution:

Problem with recurring workflows

What if you have a large gap in time before the workflow needs to execute?  Additionally, what if this needs to occur on thousands of records?  Well, you could certainly design workflows to accomplish this with the help of some additional background admin customizations.  However, over the course of time and as new records are created, these long wait conditions can wreak havoc on your systems performance.  Even worse, the workflow could fail (if you’ve viewed System Jobs, you know this can happen on occasion) and never fire again!  So, how do you avoid this?

Solution to recurring workflows

Scribe Online is a tool that both our dev, implementation and support teams use frequently.  We primarily use it to support ongoing custom data integrations as well as CRMFD integrations for our customers.  It can also be used to trigger recurring time-based workflows or replace recurring time-based workflows.  The primary benefit is that it offers better, efficient choices for time-based triggers:

Furthermore, you can include additional logic within your map if you require a more specific trigger date/time:

Scribe Online also offers a friendly, practical admin interface so that your team can easily monitor successes and errors. If errors occur, they’re easy to reprocess (where as in Dynamics 365, you are limited to reprocessing 250 at a time ☹).

Beringer Technology Group, a leading Microsoft Gold Certified Partner specializing in Microsoft Dynamics 365 and CRM for Distribution. We also provide expert Managed IT ServicesBackup and Disaster RecoveryCloud Based Computing and Unified Communication Systems.

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CRM Software Blog | Dynamics 365