Archives For Digital transformation

robocopRemember when SaaS CRM companies needed to build their own multi-tenant architectures to bring their CRM to market? And how they needed to maintain expensive and unwieldy architectures that took focus away from actual product development? And how the cost and complexity of said proprietary architectures was passed along to the customer to maintain revenue goals?

Oh wait. That’s still going on with companies like Salesforce.

But, even Salesforce has finally admitted that CRM vendors should not also be cloud infrastructure providers anymore. The company’s recent partnership announcement with Amazon tells us all we need to know. Salesforce needs to focus on innovation, since its core product is old and the cost of maintaining the underlying delivery and development infrastructure itself is proving costly.

So, why is Salesforce potentially repeating past mistakes by trying to create a proprietary AI product for CRM?

Let me explain. What I see brewing with Salesforce’s Einstein concept is a hodge-podge of Wave analytics, generic machine learning (pieced together by several small pocket acquisitions), SalesforceIQ, and elements of Data.com – all components of Salesforce’s portfolio. In short, Salesforce is building yet another proprietary stack in AI.

By “owning” the entire stack, one could argue the profits (as noted, something perennially eluding Salesforce) can be much higher. But at what cost? By instead focusing on integrating industry standards and expert-AI platforms into its tools – a CRM provider can have more flexibility and be able to keep up with the rapid pace of change.

Today, companies like IBM with Watson, and Amazon with its AI platforms are opening these up to software manufacturers as a service. These companies have both the deep pockets and expertise to offer broad and even focused AI-tools for CRM usage scenarios – without CRM vendors having to do much if any heavy lifting.

Here at SugarCRM, we are taking a “best of breed” approach for a number of reasons. One, it will speed our time to market to leverage pre-built, highly scalable and proven AI toolsets and platforms. And, of course, the cost to bring AI-powered CRM offerings to our prospects and customers will be lower, which we can pass on to the user and remain a value-driver for our partners and customers.

And again, by leveraging larger platforms and standards, we will be more nimble than those building hulking masses of analytics engines, giant data warehouses, etc. We will be able to quickly hone our offerings to adhere to market demands, without having to re-architect massive purpose-driven AI stacks.

In short, it is becoming clear to me that AI is an arms race – and categories like CRM should not be trying to reinvent the wheel. Just as with cloud delivery – when you integrate and build upon expert, proven strategies – you can cut costs, speed time to market, and focus on building exceptional customer experiences.

 

As a founder of SugarCRM, I am often asked the question, “how do you compete against Salesforce?”  After all, they have great buzz in the marketplace.  And because of their position in the CRM space, we must beat them at some stage of the evaluation process every time we sign up a new customer.  How do we do it?

I usually answer this question by talking to the strengths of our product and our company.  SugarCRM customers choose us over Salesforce because of 1) our application design (customers LOVE our user experience and our focus on building for the individual end-user first and the manager second), 2) our technology flexibility (we integrate with EVERYTHING and deploy EVERYWHERE), and 3) our best-in-class customer loyalty (winning the PC Magazine Business Choice award for CRM two years in row says it all).

But there is a lot more to building a successful company than just a killer product and an avid customer following.  How we engage with our prospects and customers is critical to how we beat our competition.  Yeah, that’s called CRM and we live it everyday.

Our own CRM strategy at SugarCRM is the result of some very thoughtful planning.  This blog post will point you to the resources we used to build our brand and define the programs that educate our prospects to choosing Sugar and becoming successful SugarCRM customers.

Let’s be clear.  I am opening the kimono.  This is the secret sauce.  You’re getting a very real view into how we operate behind the scenes.  If you are the up-and-comer in your market and challenging your industry’s status quo, pay close attention.  This is our formula for challenging the status quo in the CRM industry.  You can follow this exact same formula and become the next challenger in your industry.

To begin with, competing against the big boys takes more than just inspiration and guts.  It takes a focused strategy on building a brand that your potential customers will pay attention to and that your existing customers will love.  Every next market leader starts off with no brand recognition and must compete against a category leader that dominates their market’s awareness.  How to do that?

In 2009, Adam Morgan wrote the book “Eating the Big Fish: How Challenger Brands Can Compete Against Brand Leaders” which describes how small companies can effectively compete against the brand of large companies.  This is good stuff.  Marketing jujitsu at its best.  Building a brand takes a lot of work and this book details your roadmap to disrupting your industry.

Quick Start #1:  I thank Adam profusely for recognizing that most business leaders like me appreciate the Cliff Notes version of business books.  He published an excellent 9-page summary of his book that I recommend to every CEO and CMO.  Read it.  It will change your worldview on how to approach culture, innovation and brand development within your company.

Now to the next step.  You must turn this brand strategy into how your employees engage with your customers.  Creating a sales and marketing execution based on the Challenger Brand requires a different perspective than what is outlined in “Eating the Big Fish.”

In 2011, a consulting firm called the Customer Executive Board (CEB) wrote a book called “The Challenger Sale:  Taking Control of Customer Conversation.”  Building off of the Challenger Brand idea, but focused much more on how to engage with potential customers rather than the market as a whole, The Challenger Sale has become a “must read” book for start-ups across Silicon Valley.

Quick Start #2:  Here is an excellent blog post summarizing the Challenger Sale book into a short 10 minute read.  This is good stuff.  If you have worked with a SugarCRM sales rep, you will immediately recognize how we turn this theory into practice.

But isn’t there a missing piece?  Some smart guys wrote about building a Challenger Brand and executing on the Challenger Sale.  However, a bridge was needed between the brand and the sale.  That’s called marketing.  Translating brand strategies into marketing tactics that support sales execution requires a unified framework for your product marketing, demand generation, field marketing and all other components of your marketing execution. Most importantly, you need a crisp “challenger” message.

The Customer Executive Board created a very thoughtful Challenger Marketing framework that does just that.  It enables your marketing team to tell a disruption story to the market built around the storyline of “the world is changing, old is bad, new is good, we deliver new.”  Challenger Marketing is a rich framework with several key concepts and approaches for building a multi-faceted challenger marketing program within your company.  It takes some time to digest all of the concepts and build them into your content and delivery.  This is where you have to buckle down, pay attention and really think through how to implement these ideas.

Quick Start #3:  Our friends at CEB created an excellent 55 minute overview of Challenger Marketing  in this YouTube video.  Presented by Brent Adamson, customer brainiac, co-author of the Challenger Sales book and co-creator of the Challenger Marketing methodology, this gives your marketing team the details they need to turn concept into reality.  I have to tell you.  Wow.  Mind.  Blown.

Now that you’ve decided you want to “challenge the status quo”, what’s the status quo you want to challenge?  This is where my company, SugarCRM, comes in.

SugarCRM customers have chosen to differentiate themselves in their marketplace by embracing digital transformation to build a killer customer experience.  Don’t you want to win the PC Magazine Business Choice Award for your industry?  I bet you do.  This is where we help you map out your company’s customer journey and translate that into an easy-to-deploy set of business processes built in a killer app called Sugar.  Gotta love that name.  Puts a smile on my face every time.

Quick Start #4:  Learn how to look at your business through the lens of your customer, by reading this short ebook on how digital leaders use customer journey maps to guide business transformation.

There you go.  A four-step recipe for success. And I do wish you the best of success.  I believe there is no better satisfaction that taking on the big boys and beating them.

Want to carry on the conversation we started here? Connect with me on LinkedIn.  I look forward to meeting you.

Visionary marketers are quickly progressing beyond simple process automation for demand generation and nurturing programs. The reason is that the buying process is no longer simple. The selling/buying cycle is complex, with many players and personas. Both sales and marketing are about revenue and performance, make no mistake.  In order to accomplish sales and marketing targets (artificial or not), the marketing and sales teams need to work in concert; beyond simple (aka fluffy) collaboration. It is time to focus on people.

To be successful, your organizational selling processes need align with the customer decision cycle. The marketing team needs to transition from pure demand generation to becoming masters of customer engagement, helping the sales folks along the way. The selling process should focus on shepherding buyers through their buying journey. The strategy should not be to move a mass of buyers through a process optimized for management reporting. Instead, the strategy needs to design an efficient process optimized to take a qualified lead and make that lead an engaged, profitable customer. And, once the process is perfected…rinse and repeat.

Taking Stock of the Current State

The proliferation of customers’ digital touchpoints has accelerated requests for and the flow of information, especially in complex business-to-business decision cycles. Furthermore, organizations continue to struggle to predict where prospects will go to look for information. This unknown is causing marketers to do a bit of hair pulling. The idea of determining the right “marketing mix”’ feels a bit too much like a finger in the air strategy when trying to keep up with the vast array of possible touchpoints, along the customer journey.

Marketing and sales need to align their strategies and coordinate communications; both content and timing of message. In many organizations, the most apt descriptor for the relationship between marketing and sales is “frenemies”. Further, being in marketing is often like being an athletic trainer and never knowing if your athlete won the race. The marketing team has limited visibility into leads after they became “sales qualified” and are handed off to the sales team. This lack of insight prevents marketing decision-makers from testing campaign effectiveness or determining why something did or did not work.

Overcoming a Few (relationship) Obstacles

The relationship, at all levels, between sales and marketing is one of the most important relationships within any organization. This bond is personally critical to both the CMO and VP of Sales. The key point of friction is that marketers are focused campaigns and nurturing, while sales folks are focused on the deal and the only metric that matters is revenue. One team is looking at something built for the masses, while another is focused on an individual.

Sales and marketing processes are built with an eye on internal efficiency. However, sales processes need to be reshaped, and should also include an external focus towards the customer buying journey. This is most evident in how success is currently measured in many organizations; monthly and quarterly goals, such as: lead conversion, number of sales qualified leads and likelihood to close (by some artificial percentage).

The Path Forward

It is time to focus on positive customer outcomes and define organizational goals that support and even reshape marketing practices to drive effective customer engagement. This is about customers, not products, features or solutions. Work hard to balance pushing customers towards the next step and make sure you understand where they are in their buying journey. Once you understand where they are in the process, the right information can easily be shared. Context is a critical element within the buying journey. Customers need care and feeding – the right information, at the right time, on the right device.

We are no longer in the information age, we are in the age of customer centricity, customer focus and customer engagement. In order to succeed, the sales and marketing organizations need to match the selling process with the buyer’s journey. Yes, this is about customer acquisition and revenue generation, but it is also about lifetime value and establishing lasting company/customer relationships. Many factors have come together that extend marketing’s role much further into the selling process; even through the very end. Marketing is accountable for content creation, but they cannot do it alone, the sales team needs to come along for the ride! Marketeers and marketing leadership need to collaborate with sales folk and sales leadership to design and build a lead management process that makes sense to all players. Organizational alignment around the buyer journey is critical to success – hard stop.

After aligning goals and objectives within the team, the next logical step is to be do aligned on the processes required to support the customer journey. In the next post within the series, the focus will be on process improvement and efficiency.

I just returned from a jam-packed two days at the Gartner Application Strategies & Solutions Summit in Las Vegas. While there, I met with analysts, existing SugarCRM customers, and a lot of prospects and IT leaders looking for the next “big thing” in application software.

gartnerimage002After dozens of great conversations, it is exciting to know that the IT and line of business leaders who attended are driving change in their organizations – mainly around the customer experience. And, perhaps more important, they are doing so in ways that align perfectly with the vision we have here at SugarCRM.

Here are some key takeaways I brought back from the event. I think they are pretty telling about the state of the industry and where we need to be as solution providers for businesses of all sizes looking to reinvent the ways they interact and build customer relationships:

Disruption is a serious issues for nearly ALL industries. I spoke with (and spoke to during my breakout session) individuals from all types of industries – both old, establish firms and even some startups. They ALL said they feel disruption BOTH from digital native upstarts as well as see the changing demands of the customer as disruptive forces.

Transformation over Migration/Modernization. I LOVED hearing that those with older technologies performing CRM functions were looking to go broader and truly transform their cultures and engagement strategies, and NOT simply put in more up to date systems. Right now is a time for transformation, not migration.

You gotta have a platform to win. In nearly every conversation we had with those managing a transformation, or even a broad CRM initiative – they indicated the need for a process-driven platform at the heart of the project. We built the Sugar platform, and embedded advanced workflow, with these types of projects in mind.

CX and CRM are Merging. Well, maybe to be more accurate, as one Gartner analysts described to me – “CRM is becoming a subset of CX.” Meaning, all businesses need some sort of core CRM tool, which can be a foundational system to power broader, more inclusive, end-to-end and omni-channel CX initiatives. I think the attendees are still bewildered around how to create a wholly inclusive CX strategy, but we as an industry need to be experts and be there to help guide them.

Value Matters, Always. We had hundreds of people coming by our booth at the conference and one overarching theme was that a lot of companies simply do not feel they are receiving value for the biggest and entrenched enterprise CRM players. We had a lot of productive conversations about how to drive value inside a CRM/CX initiative – and as more CIOs and business leaders are pressed to do more with less, we will continue to strive to be a leading value-oriented provider for all types of businesses.

Ultimately, it is comforting, energizing and exciting that we have built up a portfolio of offerings and solutions that align well with the needs and visions today’s business leaders see as necessary to remain successful in their respective markets. Thanks to all of the attendees and analysts with whom I had the pleasure of speaking to at the event. It was an awesome few days of learning and sharing ideas!

The scientific method is an elegant one – always experimenting in the pursuit of the truth and accepting that new facts overturn previous belief. Our experiences shape and builds our understanding, and and it’s critical to never assume we know everything.

Great marketing is borne of this mindset. Best practices, judgment, and instinct guide marketing strategy, but what sets makes it great is the practice of experimenting, observing, analyzing and breaking new ground.

If you’re a Marketer today, and you’re not thinking this way, it’s time to reflect on whether you’re doing your best.

Marketing must be transformational

Your organization might be failing because it’s not responding to changes in your marketplace. And, you might not even know it.

Unless you acknowledge that marketing needs to adopt an inquiring and observational mindset in order to identify and lead business transformation, then you’re missing a huge opportunity – for you and for your organization.

We’ve seen some spectacular failures where brands just haven’t responded to change quickly enough; Borders and Blockbusters have become sad case studies in failure. And, we’ve seen others like Amazon and Uber who have not only responded to new customer preferences, but been forward-thinking enough to shape them. So what about your organization? How can you make sure it’s a master of change, not a slave to it?

Understand and experiment based on holistic observation

Be brave enough to keep asking questions about your customers and your organization, and develop the means to answer them. Stay close to your customers – understanding what they want and why, what they’re doing, when and how.

This isn’t a new idea. But there are modern approaches that provide new insight, about customers, and opening up a whole new line of understanding. It has the potential to keep us right on the pulse of change so we can tell the organization how to respond.

What exactly is this new method?

SugarCRM recently partnered with Telsyte to talk with 255 CMOs in Australian & New Zealand about how they’re getting closer to customers and shaping business transformation based on their observations.

From those results, we produced a report for marketing leaders entitled “Digital Leaders Use Customer Journey Maps to Guide Business Transformation.”

The paper looks at the value of personas and customer journey maps in relation to business transformation, and some of the practical steps to implementing them.

About half the Marketing leaders said:

“Our team promotes an understanding of the customer across the organization, helping to shape its entire approach to business transformation.”

Are you in this half?

(Editor’s note: this post was originally published by Business Insider Australia)

Buyers always want the best customer experience and so sellers must constantly reassess what the new “best” means, and transform themselves to deliver it. This is more important than ever for businesses competing in a buzzing, digitized market.

This is why leaders understand the importance of business change, and their long-term strategies cater for experimentation and innovation. But innovation isn’t one-size-fits-all for every area of the business, so what does it mean for marketers?

From a strategic perspective, the more marketing looks at the business from the outside, the more it can help to transform it from the inside. A brilliant way to get externally-focussed like this is to actually “become” the customer.

You can do this by creating a true-to-life, virtualized world of customers and their journeys through the business. While this sounds lofty, it’s possible with the right technology and by using a practical step-by-step approach.

Telsyte and SugarCRM recently produced a report for marketing leaders, titled “Digital Leaders Use Customer Journey Maps to Guide Business Transformation” It draws on feedback from 255 CMOs surveyed in the 2015 Australian and New Zealand Digital marketer Study.

Just over half the marketing leaders said, “Our team promotes an understanding of the customer across the organization, helping to shape its entire approach to business transformation.” Six common themes stood out:

  1. Predict and embrace change

There’s no doubt that change is happening – fast and merciless – as we watch some brands like Uber and Amazon thrive while others like Blockbuster and Borders have collapsed. A common thread is the way these brands respond to changes in customer preferences – to what ‘the best customer experience’ looks like. Some embrace the new best, while others seem to keep doing what they’ve always done and stagnate themselves into irrelevance.

Businesses need a logical and intelligent way to understand and engage with their markets, to constantly figure out what they need to change and why.

Marketing can help to identify and respond to change by creating virtual world of customer types and the interactions they have with the business. This system, which is based on real-world customer behaviors, tells the business what ‘best’ means to any customer at any point. It’s based on customer journey maps populated with customer personas.

  1. Define your customers with personas

You can think of a persona as “a fictional individual that represents a group of people with similar needs and behaviors, and aims to bring this group to life.”

Consider, as an example, the imaginary persona of ‘Brian’. First you create a short story of his current situation based on the information you have, and then distill this into a fact-based profile that shows exactly what’s important to him. This is powerful stuff, and now marketing can creatively engage with Brian, and anyone in the business who has contact with him can help to deliver Brian’s own specific idea of ‘best customer experience.’

The information you use to build personas can come from a number of sources – perhaps it’s anecdotal, gleaned from people around the business who have contact with Brian. Or maybe it’s a set of facts taken from a survey that Brian completed.

Don’t despair if you think you don’t have the budget to create personas. You can start simply by creating ‘assumption personas’ based on whatever insight you can gather from around the business. You can hone these personas every time you come by qualitative insight from observation, direct contact or formal research.

Looking at customer data over time will allow you to make new judgements too, like “most people matching Brian’s profile tend to abandon a website if they can’t work out how to navigate it right away.”

  1. Use your persons to build a customer journey

Now you have a set of personas, it’s time to see how they interact with your business. Customer journey maps put the personas into real-world context by visually modelling the steps the customer follows as they find, buy, use or talk about what you’re selling.

By going alongside the customer as they take a journey through your business, you can see what’s important, when and why. You can identify points where the business isn’t providing exactly what the customer wants, or where things are inconsistent and confusing, and help those areas to make changes. By shaping the ‘best’ journey like this, you can guide the customer to their final destination and make the whole experience something that sets you apart.

You can engage user experience designers to create detailed customer journey maps for you, but if you don’t have budget to set aside you can start by sketching them out yourself. Try running workshops around the business with individuals and teams who have contact with customers who can give you relevant insight. You can improve and build on your maps with information you glean from your ongoing marketing activities.

Whichever way you choose to develop your maps, be sure to make them relevant and useable. Startlingly, a huge 45% of organizations surveyed said they do have customer journey maps but rarely use them.

So what makes a customer journey map useable? It should clearly highlight information that various parts of the business can use to shape the customer experience at their points of contact. You might want to list a clear set of steps and label which departments are responsible for the experience at each step.

There are a number of ways to visually present your customer journey maps, each with its own advantages and limitations. Whatever you choose, be sure that the people who need to use your maps understand their value and how to use them.

If you’re keeping your maps up to date, you’ll quickly see when customer preferences and behaviors are changing. And if the business is actively using your maps, it can quickly respond to this change. This is a key enabler for successful digital business transformation.

  1. Make personas and customer journeys work in the real world

Your personas and customer journey maps will most likely be created and updated with both qualitative and quantitative data captured from multiple sources. Bringing data together like this is easiest with a modern CRM software. A best-in-class CRM integrates with other systems and forms a unifying backbone for both sharing and gathering customer information across every part of the organization.

Once your personas and customer journey maps are created, people in direct contact with customers need to easily match customers to a persona, to see where they are in their journeys and act accordingly.

The key word here “easy.” For most businesses, their customers’ journeys are messy and complex. Maps make sense of them, and when they’re made available via the CRM throughout the business, orchestrating great customer journeys – and evolving with change – becomes much easier.

  1. Create a culture of customer experience

The point of having personas and customer journey maps is to support customer-centered decision-making across the business. Once you’ve created your personas and maps, and then made them accessible and easy to use, the next challenge is to motivate people to actually go ahead and use them.

When you work with colleagues to build your maps, you should explain what you’re doing and why. It’s vital to get the whole organization excited about understanding the customer, as well as changing as a business when customer preferences change.

Share the vision that everyone has a role to play in providing the best customer experience and thereby contributing directly to the success of the business. Creating and owning customer journeys together is a great way to get everyone behind this shared vision.

It’s important convey that personas and journey maps evolve over time, so everyone’s ongoing participation is crucial for them to be a powerful business transformation tool.

  1. Nurturing innovation

So back to the idea of business innovation; imagine if marketing can suggest innovations that will be guaranteed to deliver more value and better customer experiences than  ever before. By using a CRM to bring customer personas and journey maps alive across the business, marketing can offer exactly this.

Like with any business investment, you’ll need to demonstrate the value of CRM-enabled personas and journey maps. Once you’ve got these practices in place, you’ll be in a position to measure not just marketing performance but also the contribution of every area that touches the customer journey.

You’ll be able to demonstrate how changes based on customer insight are directly impacting customer satisfaction, performance and profitability.

Something so valuable to the business should be worth further investment so you can develop and deliver more, and keep marketing in the center of business transformation.

To find out what other marketing leaders are doing with customer journey mapping, and get some pointers on how to put it in place, get yourself a copy of the report.

(Editor’s note: this post was originally published on CMSWire.com)

Have you been Ubered? Has technology reshuffled the deck in your industry? Are you about to become obsolete as some new (or renewed) competitor steals all of your hard-won, seemingly loyal customers?

Digital disruption is the new buzzword in the business transformation consulting circles, and for good reason. We are watching business model after business model being disrupted by ridiculously fast evolution in mobile tech, new marketplaces are popping up all over the place and faster and faster communication keeps connecting buyers and sellers in new ways. Technology has truly punched the accelerator on business digital transformation in industry after industry.

But what’s the one immutable fact through all of this? Customers are king. Today’s customer expects immediate answers and instant gratification. You may have a fantastic product or service, but if you don’t put an outstanding customer experience at the center of all your business planning, you will lose. This means the most impactful digital transformation strategy for your business must be around transforming your customers’ experience with your company. In short: Make it easy. Make it awesome.

That’s where modern CRM comes in. With a thoughtful investment in CRM technology, you can impress your customers by putting all the answers and insights they could ever need, right at their fingertips. Regardless of the channel, from classic retail (like your nearest mall) to modern mobile marketplaces (like Uber), CRM technology puts immediate, relevant answers in front of your customer. Sounds like lots of moving parts though, right?

Taking a step back for a moment, it is worth reflecting upon the fantastic evolution that CRM technology has gone through. Thirty years ago, Customer Relationship Management software meant call center software for tracking trouble tickets. With the advent of laptops in the early 90’s, sales force automation became the hot new CRM topic for helping companies accurately forecast their sales pipelines. And then in the late 90’s, outbound emailing became Marketing Automation software. But what truly transformed the CRM software industry was when companies stopped looking to CRM software just as a way to gain efficiencies from their employees. Instead, when companies began looking to CRM software to orchestrate a set of interactions between the company and their customers, that’s when CRM transformed from a cost reduction investment to a growth acceleration investment.

However, many organizations are often stuck in their old habits, using their legacy CRM technology to support separate, siloed business functions. By looking forward, the opportunity exists to use modern CRM as the backbone of a digital, customer-first strategy. Here are your four steps to CRM transformation:

  1. Transform Initiatives – Align your business initiatives with customer needs. If a customer-first strategy is at the center of your business, it makes sense, then, that your CRM must follow suit. An organization evolving to meet the new demands of the customer — in fact, building infrastructure around the sole purpose of serving them — recognizes the customer’s power, and will ultimately succeed.
  1. Transform Individuals – Empower individual employees. Your CRM platform must be designed with the individual employee and the customer in mind. As CRM has evolved to meet customer demands, organizations must remember that helping their own people get their job done is equally important. The right CRM helps salespeople sell and helps customer service agents deliver an extraordinary customer experience by providing the right information to the right person at the right time — even before they ask.
  1. Transform Interactions – Orchestrate customer interactions across the customer journey. Doing so brings a customer focus to everything and orchestrates consistent and informed interactions throughout the entire customer journey and at each human and digital touch point across departments, processes and systems.
  1. Transform Information – Deliver insight with a single view of customer information. Today’s customer is more informed, thanks to smart phones, social media and the rise of the digital economy. A Modern CRM gathers and organizes information about the customer across all internal and external data sources.

If a customer-first strategy is at the center of your business, congratulations. You’re squarely on your way to fostering a customer-first strategy. Your next goal should be to ensure your CRM supports this strategy and positions you to win in this era of digital transformation.