Hank Barnes

A member of the Gartner Blog Network

Hank Barnes
Research Director
1 years at Gartner
25 years IT Industry

Hank Barnes provides research and advisory services on go-to-market strategies for technology providers. He focuses on issues related to product marketing, positioning and customer experience. Read Full Bio

Tech Buyers Want Vendors to Respect Their Buying Process

by Hank Barnes  |  January 20, 2015  |  Submit a Comment

“Based on the 100+ marketing emails and 15+ cold calls I get a day, they seem to already have my contact details.”

“Vendors need to be aware of our buying cycle and process not their quarter end pressures.  Also corporates are increasingly mature and will conduct research, this [requesting content] is not a buying sign.”

These were  two  of the responses to a recent survey we did at Gartner, asking technology buyers about their willingness to share contact details with providers  via requests on landing pages or other Web vehicles.   Aggregating the sentiment of the bulk of the responses and the message was clear.  Buyers want tech providers to respect their process.

respect

When they are visiting your Web site, they are typically exploring new ideas or evaluating.  At that point, they really (and they mean really) don’t want to be sold to.   It is not the right time.    Most of the buyers said, “We will contact when the time is right.”    For some, asking for contact too soon, or placing a sales call too early, means immediate disqualification—they will go look elsewhere.   There was a strong tone of distrust in the feedback.  For example:

“We have consistently seen problems with vendors swamping us, by contacting every individual possible within our organization. This disrupts our business.  As a result, we wait as long as we possibly can before indicating any interest in any product/service.”

The perceived lack of respect for their time and their business hurts everyone.  Buyers put up more and more walls to protect their time.  They view every contact with skepticism.  Its an uphill battle for providers to get back trust and respect.

At the same time, buyers understand that selling is a job and they’ll share contact details as a result.   Despite figures from others that found that buyers are anywhere from 57-75% through their buying process before they will contact a provider and the  “we will call you when the time is right” sentiment,”  we did find a willingness to connect earlier in the process—the late in the process idea may not apply as much for technology.  One respondent voiced the challenge clearly:

“When I hand over my contact details, I’m apt to get bombarded repeatedly and far too frequently by vendors.  So I’m cautious about the timing, and it depends on how familiar I am already with the product or kind of technology.  If I’m uncertain or need advice I might make contact earlier in the process but it varies widely from one project to another.”

They are worried that contact may cause “bombardment”, but at the same time, will reach out if they want additional information.   This can happen early in the process,  For a provider, this is a make or break opportunity.   It starts with having enough compelling information available for the buyer to research on their own to gain interest.  If they do reach out or express a willingness to be contacted, respect their process.  If they are just exploring, offer insight and clarification to address their questions.Ask them about their buying process—then help it along the way.  Don’t force the sale.

Finally, two more  responses sum up the sentiment clearly:

“I expect a vendor’s publicly available material to provide a thorough explanation of the workings of their product. If that’s not the case, I am not likely to explore interest any further.”

“I respect the vendor’s time and their sales process. In return, I need my time and process to be respected. It’s in nobody’s best interest for conversations to take place before both parties are ready. Insofar as a vendor requests my contact details before I feel I’m ready, I’ll resist providing them and resent the vendor.”

The message:

1. Buyers expect to have ready (gate-free) access to enough information for them to assess if the provider is likely to be a good fit for their business.  Think case studies, product overviews, some detailed technical information, etc.   There is no magic formula of what is perfect for this, but I’d suggest you ask yourself (or your customers)—from what we share, can a potential customer effectively assess fit?

2. Buyers are conflicted.  They recognize, and value, the need for quality sales interactions.  But the overwheming volume of  time wasting interruptions. that are about selling and raraely about them,  leaves them jaded.   So they avoid contact unless its necessary for them to make progress.   If contact is made, then buyers want added value, not sales pitches.   Providers need to be prepared, using what they know about the buyers from their Web interactions, prior history, and personal research, to quickly learn where the buyer is in their process, to understand what additional information they want (or need), and to offer a path that works for the buyer.

We all know today’s buyer is able to, and wants to, do more personal research.  At the same time, technology buying requires lots of interactions with providers.  This can come early in the buying process or late.   What your team does when the opportunity to interact arises forms the basis for the customer experience going forward.  Will it move on a path of building trust or one of frustration, skepticism, and doubt?  The answer is driven by your understanding and respect for your customer’s buying process.

 

 

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Category: Future of Sales Go to Market     Tags: , , ,

Is Advocacy Marketing Driving Success for Technology Companies? — Maybe

by Hank Barnes  |  January 13, 2015  |  3 Comments

In early December, I published a post, requesting to hear from technology companies that executed successful programs through Advocacy Marketing in 2014.    This was a followup to my post at the beginning of 2014 asking if 2014 would be the year of Advocacy Marketing.  The December post generated a lot of comments from advocacy marketing proponents, so the interest seems high.

But I’m  having doubts.  Why?   To date, I have received ZERO (that’s right, zilch) stories.  I’m a little surprised, because of all the early interest and some exchanges and interactions I’ve had with providers of Advocacy Marketing solutions, but it is what it is.

zilch

Now, there could be several reasons for this, including:

  1. Timing – I probably asked for the stories at a pretty bad time.  People were closing out the year and preparing for the holidays.  I did ask for stories by the end of January, but many people may have simply forgotten or not gotten to it yet.
  2. Requirements – I am looking for stories with quantifiable impact from technology companies that are willing to also speak with me.  I proposed a format that Gartner advises clients to follow in their own stories, but can be challenging to follow when you a first learning it.  These requirements may have limited the willingness of people to followup with me.
  3.  Confusion – As I mentioned, I got a lot of comments.  If you just read the headline and scanned the post quickly, you might have thought comments were exactly what I wanted.  I really appreciate the comments, but I am looking for more.
  4. Audience – I may not have a big enough following to my blog.   I do have a decent readership level, but it not in the tens of thousands, so many may have missed the story (even with the interactions with Advocacy Marketing companies). I’m also limiting this to Advocacy Marketing in Technology companies (products or services).
  5. Reality/Inertia – The final possibility is that Advocacy Marketing is not yet delivering tangible results for a significant number of technology companies.   We can find some good case studies on provider sites, but that may be it.  The effort to change long-standing opinions on working with customers is impacting the speed and impact of Advocacy programs.

I suspect the biggest reason is the timing, followed by the reuquirements, of the request (and hope it is not inertia), but we’ll see what happens in the next few weeks.

I believe this is important for those of us who believe in Advocacy Marketing.   We need to share stories of success.    In our Hype Cycle for Digital Markeitng, 2014 (Gartner for Marketing Leaders subscription required), Advocacy/Loyalty Marketing is moving toward the trough of disillusionment—which often means users are struggling with finding ways to make the technology work for their company–struggling to acheive tangible value.  Now that hype cycle looks across many industries, not just the technology space, for its assessment of a category, but it still applies here.

We know buyers look to peers and third parties that they can trust, so its clear that helping them make connections with your existing customers is a good thing.  But perhaps we are still struggling to figure out the best ways to do that and systematic approaches that deliver results?  Stories will help others understand things they can consider.

Are they out there?

If so, let me reiterate the earlier request, but let’s adapt the requirements:

  1. If you’ve done some things with advocacy marketing and are a technology company AND you are willing to talk to me, drop  me an e-mail (hank DOT barnes AT gartner DOT com).   In the e-mail, share as much of the store as you can, but don’t worry about the exact format or detailed quantification of value (that is important and is what I am looking for so if you have no ability to assess value, even qualitatively, you may not want to submit).   I’ll followup with you and work to explore some of those details through our conversation.
  2. To provide a couple of examples, I am not looking for “We now have 200 advocates in our program, up from 50 at the beginning of the year.”  That is great information and how you did that might be interesting.  But I’m looking for applications  of Advocacy Marketing.  Like, “we enlisted our advocates to submit reviews on public review sites and now have over 50 reviews on the leading sites.  Since that has happened, we’ve seen our lead volume and quality increase”.   Or, “we deployed advocates through online chat to engage directly with potential clients.  When prospects chatted with an advocate, our close rate tripled.”  Or, “we asked our advocates to promote a new video we developed (that celebrated customer success) to their peers.  That video has the highest engagement rate of any video we have ever done and we have seen over 50 leads that we can attribute to the efforts of our advocates.”   Note: These are not real stories–they are examples of what I am hoping (expecting?) to hear.
  3. If you don’t want your company name shared (for whatever reason–most likely legal or other communications restrictions), that is fine.   I’ll either (a) not use the story publically or (b) use it and “anonymize it” (with your approval).
  4. If you want to submit on behalf a client (integrators or advocacy marketing providers), that is fine, but I will need to be able to talk speak with them at some point (happy to discuss with you first) if I am to use the story, even anonymously.

Does that help?  I hope so.  And look forward to hearing from many of you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Category: Go to Market     Tags:

A Mythical Million – Where I’d Spend Extra Marketing Dollars

by Hank Barnes  |  January 6, 2015  |  2 Comments

My colleagues, Tiffani Bova and Todd Berkowitz , and I came up with an idea for an interesting (we hope!) collection of blog posts to kick off 2015.  The three of us are independently writing a post about where we would allocate 1 million dollars if we ran marketing for a technology company.  Check out their ideas at the links above.

questions

The only assumption was that the basics are covered–this is an extra million to go above and beyond.  Also, think of the million as a relative figure. For some providers, a million is a small addition to the budget.  For others, it represents a significant addition.  But regardless of size, 1 million, spent well, should have a big impact.

With that as a setup, I would invest in 4 areas.  The exact amount for each would depend mostly on what we learn in the first activity listed.

  • Buying Process Knowledge –  I would perform targeted market research to understand, in depth, the buying process of my key target customers.  Using focus groups, individual interviews, and other tactics, I would prioritize getting a deep understanding of the major activities, hurdles, and intricacies that drive their buying processes.  That understanding would fuel much of my other marketing and sales activities.
  • Addressing Buying Gaps – Using the research above, I’d optimize my sales and marketing efforts to focus on providing the content and interactions that buyers need.   While I’d like to believe I’d already have this covered, I’m pretty sure there would be gaps.  Filling those gaps (and potentially dropping low value items) would become a priority.  In all likelihood, this would require continued development of compelling, focused stories to address different members of buying teams and different stages in buying.
  • Influencer and Advocacy Marketing  – I would not be working for a company that did not provide a product that I love, so I’m going to add an assumption that my company would have a collection of fans that love our products and our company.  With that assumption, I’d invest in implementing, or improving, our advocacy program–making it easier for customers that love us to share their stories and strengthen their voice in the market.  I’d look beyond our advocates to find others in the industry that buyers trust and look to gain their support–broadening our influencer reach.
  •  Sales Enablement – Finally, my last investment area would be sales enablement–focused heavily around three areas:
    • Buyer Understanding – Making sure our sales team understand our ideal customer profile and how to find and qualify the fit of their targets to that profile
    • Buying Process – Communicating the impact of the research on buying process mentioned above.  Guiding our sales teams on how to make it easier for their customers to buy.
    • Customer Marketing – Working on strategies to grow the value of existing customer relationships.  From encouraging customers to become advocates to exploring how to identify expansion opportunities to linking existing areas of value to new options to make it easier to cross-sell additional products and services, the focus would be on how to build off existing levels of value to go even further.

There you have it.  My approach to spending and extra million dollars.  As you can see, it is extremely buyer centric–as I think the key to success lies not inside our organization but in the hearts and minds of our buyers.

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Category: Future of Sales Go to Market     Tags: , , , , , ,

Caution on the Customer Experience Battlefield

by Hank Barnes  |  December 30, 2014  |  Submit a Comment

My colleague Jake Sorofman recently shared some results from a Gartner survey on the high level of  priority  marketing groups have given to customer experience (CX) in their 2015 plans, calling it “the new battlefield.”   I could not agree more, but want to express a word of caution.

yellowcard

Old marketing approaches are losers on this battlefield.

CX is not about marketing on its own.   Marketing can’t deliver a great customer experience independent of sales, service, and any other part of the organization, and your ecosystem,  that impacts how a customer perceives your company  and your products (and/or services).

Yes, personalized experiences during the buying process matter.  Yes, using extensive data analysis to gain insights for that personalization matters.  But those are just elements of the experience.  What matters most is consistency end to end—from the time buyers first learn about your company through the buying process and beyond–as they use the product and get value.    Without a holistic approach, you are really only hoping that you can deliver a great experience.

Before I joined Gartner, I was part of technology companies that believed in the importance, and value, of customer experience.  But those companies could be myopic.  We’d say  things like, “Customer Experience is about great content management” or “Customer Experience is a subset of digital marketing.”  We’d try to skew the customer experience focus to fit our products.   I’ve come to realize that does not help anyone.

If you are going to fight on the CX battlefield, you better bring a unified force of marketing, sales, service, and more.  In fact, you might want the front line of your battle force to be your advocates–current customers and influencers that love what you do and have seen for themselves the value you provide.   The main weapons on this battlefield are trust, credibility, and shared context.   Dazzling spectacles that entice can work, but if they aren’t steeped in authenticity, it will be a temporary win that  will soon be followed by losses.  The backlash when people discover reality will be huge.  Service realities matter the most in customer experience.

So, if you are part of a marketing team that is placing big bets onf CX, make sure you don’t think you can go it alone.  Your effort has to be an integrated part of a whole.  If marketing is still viewed in your organization largely, or solely, as “the people that generate leads”, you will fail.    That internal perception will wreak havoc on your efforts to create great experiences.

Is Marketing up to the challenge?  We’ll see.

Despite being proud to consider myself a marketer, I have my doubts.  I still feel that for this to work, a different approach is needed–something I blogged about a few years ago.  It will be interesting to see what happens.  But it will be a shame if the CX concept gets derailed due to half truths and disconnects across the customer lifecycle.

None of us can ever forget, we can’t “own” the customer experience.  It lives in the perceptions created in each customer’s mind by the all interactions they have with our companies.

 

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“Ignore our Web site, it needs work”

by Hank Barnes  |  December 23, 2014  |  Comments Off

In my role as a Gartner analyst working with technology providers, I often have what I would call ‘first time” inquiry calls–the first phone interaction between me and a client.  To prepare for these, I always try to do some homework. I look at their CRM records to see other interactions they have had.  I go visit their Web site.   And that sets the stage for some “fun.”

I would have to say that, more times than not (and that means easily over 200 times this year), I hear “Oh, our Web site needs to be updated, it doesn’t reflect what we do.”    It’s almost like the company wishes they could change the URL to www.PleaseDontVisitMeRightNow.com or www.DontTrustTheInformationHereItIsOutofDate.com.

Dontvisit

Ouch.   I wonder if they say that to their prospects and customers whenever they talk to them?    And if so, how does that go over?

Does this sound like you?

This is a big problem–one that needs to be considered primarily from the buyer’s perspective.   Our research into buying processes show  a few things:

  • Early in the buying process, buyers don’t go to provider Web sites looking for information.  They use trusted independent Web sites to get ideas, suggestions, and recommendations. So from that perspective, maybe it is not so bad.
  • As they get deeper into their process, they always visit the provider site, but they are usually not confident that they will get the information they want or can trust what they get.  This may be a symptom of the “our site is not up-to-date” situation.
  • Throughout the process, they look for validation of information they get in other places (including through interactions with sales teams) and they use the Web site to try to do this.  When they see different information they are at best confused and at worst filled with doubts about what the right story is.

Considered together, the inability to clearly communicate a value story that is current on your Web site has driven buyers to other places to find information they can trust and likely excludes you from or delays buying processes due to inconsistencies between what they see and hear.

What can be done about it?  Here are a few suggestions:

1. Simplify – Simplify your home page so that you can change it easily.  Make sure it always tells a simple story that include the value that you deliver and how your deliver it.   Include validation with customer ancedotes and quotes, third party endorsements, etc.   If you have more  resources you can build a more complex home page.  But always factor it against how fast can you change it to keep your message current.

2. Make Consistency a Priority – Once you get a great story, make sure you tell the same basic story (albeit with varying levels of detail and different examples) everywhere.   The story on your Web site should echo what you say in live interactions.  The stories you push out to other sites (to draw people to yours) should be reinforced and expanded at your Web site.     Part of consistency is don’t change too often—The basic story can stay the same–the way you tell it and the details can and should change.

3.  Synchronize Change – Unless you are just testing new ideas and stories (which is a good idea), make sure that when you decide to change, you synchronize things.  Don’t make the change in one area (e.g. sales presentations) and say “we’ll get to the Web site later”.   Make sure it is coordinated so that you can achieve consistency.  Simplification will also make synchornization easier.

Certainly there are times when this coordinated approach is not realistic or appropriate.  Testing, as mentioned above, is one example.  Another might be if you are previewing a new product or idea that has not launched.    But more often than not, coordination should be the mandate.

The next time you say to yourself, or anyone, “Our Web site does not reflect what we do or why we matter,” make sure you make it a priority to fix it fast.  Failure to do so diminishes the value of everything else you are doing from a sales and marketing perspective.    If you can move buyers to a new place, a place where they trust the information on your Web site, then you are giving yourself a significant advantage over most of your competition.

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Category: Go to Market     Tags: , , ,

The Biggest Content Gap in Technology Marketing

by Hank Barnes  |  December 16, 2014  |  6 Comments

A few weeks ago, Jon Reed (of diginomica), and I had an interesting (at least we thought so!) dialog via twitter and blog comments about case studies.  We both were lamenting the lack of great case studies in the technology industry.  But we had a disagreement about what needs to be in them.  Jon, who is a savvy businessman and strong technologist, is a big believer that case studies should almost always have information on implementation, training, and support.  I, on the other hand, believe in fit for purpose.  If you are using a case study to illustrate why someone should consider doing something different, you don’t need to talk about implementation details.  Save that for later.  For me, it’s all about where you see the case study helping the reader in their buying process.

That being said, within this dialog was something that I may have unintentionally implied was not important.   That is the necessity to provide potential buyers with details on implementation, training, and support.   The lack of good content in this area is, for me, the biggest gap in technology marketing.

mind_the_gap

There are a couple of research data points that illustrate the importance of this.

First, in our survey about differentiation early in 2014, the respondents told us that Service and Support was the strongest differentiator.  This was for people that felt providers did a good job of differentiating themselves.  Conversely, those that said providers were not good at communicating differentiation–the majority–cited the inability to understand the details of service and support as one of the major issues.

Second,  in our more recent research on buying cycles and influential marketing activities, two of  the top three reasons for buyers stopping a buying process–the dreaded “no decision”–were concerns that buyers developed about achieving the targeted ROI and the risk of the project.   Effectively, we interpret that to being an issue where buyers initially think the project makes sense and they get some evidence of this during the evaluation process.  But at some point, they are unable to embrace how they specifically can achieve value and minimize risk.

This disconnect is often driven by the lack of information to help buyers understand the steps that need to be taken to get value.  I believe that if providers developed content that described “the first 90 days with our product” (or any other relevant time frame), that these concerns would diminish.  In that content, you would outline the steps that have to be taken by project teams to be successful.  Implementation steps. training.  How to engage support.  What the customer needs to do and what you as the service provider will do.

And not just a description of your training options or support programs.   But an authentic story about how to take those things apply in specific scenarios.  Jon is definitely right here.  Case studies that share how other customers achieved success are fantastic for this purpose.  (Here is a good example I came across recently from Minitab.  While the story does not explain the exact details of implementation, it does provide a lot of detail on how their product was used to come up with a solution that had a big impact for their customer, Ford.)

I’d be shocked in anyone questioned whether this makes sense.  But the reason for the issues is that this is easier said than done.   This type of information lies at  a bit of a tipping point (not in the “innovation sense” of the phrase).  It is the bridge that moves from more traditional marketing materials toward what we think of as documentation or help.    Marketing can’t (or shouldn’t) develop this material alone.  They need to work with the services, support and product teams.  At the same time, if you leave this purely to the services or product teams, you run the risk of it being overrun with minutia that, while important at some point, derail the story and the sales effort.  It is a tricky balance.

Navigating this “content bridge” and then going deeper along thispath with all the other content that actual customers need  (online help, user guides, etc.) is a critical, often forgotten element of delivering a great customer experience.   The stories aren’t the same, and the depth of coverage is different, but the storyline and narrative needs to be consistent.   Inconsistencies confuse customers and can halt them in their tracks.

What does this all mean?  I’d suggest you do a content audit to assess if you have the information potential customers need to help them understand, quite specifically, how they will actually be successful with your solution.   Then make sure that the additional customer documentation extends the storyline.  Ideally, use some of your case studies (does not have to be all of them) to help tell these stories.  Done right, you’ll be better positioned to deliver on the expectations that you set in your marketing and sales efforts, without confusing the customer with different stories and themes.

If you have this content gap, fill it and let me know if it helps you progress deals faster.   If you’ve already filled it, I’d love to hear how (and if it is working) you use this content to accelerate deals and build customer confidence.

 

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Category: Future of Sales Go to Market     Tags: , , , , ,

The Stories of Advocacy Marketing Success – Submit Now

by Hank Barnes  |  December 9, 2014  |  21 Comments

At the beginning of 2014, I made what some found an intriguing statement, asking “Will 2014 be the Year of Advocacy Marketing?”  My belief was that it could be, and should be, simply because buyers are consistently telling us that they trust peers and third parties more than they trust the vendors that provide them with product and services.

Can you hear me?

Since the year is almost over, it is a good time to reflect.  Did Advocacy Marketing have a big impact on businesses this year?   Intuitively, I think it did, but I’d like some validation.

If Advocacy Marketing had an impact on your business in 2014 (or even earlier), I’d like to hear about it.   Please send me your stories (restrictions and requirements below) by emailing me at  hank (dot) barnes (at) gartner (dot) com.    I would like to use the best stories in a future research note on the topic.  If I get enough, I will also share some of the stories here in blog posts.

Now for the details:

Requirements

  1. Must submit the story by no later than 1/31 to be considered for the research.
    (I would love stories anytime, and will share interesting ones via my blog when possible, or save for future notes, but for the current work I am planning 1/31 is the deadline.)
  2. Must be submitted by, or on behalf of, a company that provides technology products or services, preferably in B2B environments (but B2C technology use cases are acceptable).  If you are a company that provides Advocacy Marketing products or services, and are doing advocacy marketing yourselves (I’d be shocked if you aren’t), your stories are eligible.
    (I know that advocacy can be used in most industries and is great for building up consumer fan support, but my specific focus is technology and those are the clients that I serve, so please focus there.)
  3. Must have a proven, ideally quantified, business impact, such as increased revenue, reduced sales cycle times, improved retention rates.
    (Less interested in stories about improved response rates or increased lead generation (e.g. increase in pipeline), but will consider them.   Strong preference toward stories that show the ultimate results–more revenue, faster revenue, less churn.)
  4. Must provide contact information and include a statement about  your willingness for me to share this story via research or blog posts.  I may need to followup with you to get clarification or to review material for research.  If you are submitting on behalf of another firm, I will need contact information for a representative of the firm that can answer questions about the story.  Please copy them on your message to me so that they are aware that I may be contacting them.

Story Format

In order to be considered, your story must follow the following format.   Those of you that are regular readers won’t be surprised by the format at all.

  1. Open strong
    • Lead with the Outcome (the more quantified the better) that makes me want to learn more about this
  2. Describe the “Current State”
    • the situation before you took an advocacy approach and the impact/pain you were feeling as a result)
  3. Describe the “After State”
    • The Advocacy Marketing program you executed with some level of detail on how you executed the program
    • If you are using a technology solution or services to help with this, feel free to mention them.
  4. Close the loop –
    • Reinforce and expand on the outcomes that you opened with, providing some additional detail and related benefits

I look forward to reading your stories and sharing them broadly.  (And for those of you doing providing Advocacy Marketing Products and Services, this might be a great time to show the power of your advocates.)

 

 

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Category: Go to Market     Tags: , ,

Interruptions Are Accelerating – Unfortunately

by Hank Barnes  |  December 2, 2014  |  Comments Off

This morning, I was using some “think time” to come up with ideas for this week’s blog post.  Then, my home phone rang (I work from a home office).  It was someone trying to sell me health insurance (sorry, Gartner has me covered).

BU004918

Then, I went out looking at some of the articles I have saved to review while I was traveling the past few weeks.  The majority of the time, my ability to view the article was delayed as a pop-up ad covered the content.  Then a few emails came in asking me to buy a list or subscribe to a research service.

We interrupt this post to share with you an advertisement that is highly likely to be irrelevant to you and whose main value, if you call it that, is to distract you from getting stuff done.

These interruptions are getting out of hand.  For me personally, it is causing me to reactive extremely negatively.   Sometimes, I stay on the phone to talk to an agent just to let them know how annoying their company is.   For ads, I increasingly search for the “X” (close) button as quickly as possible.   I am either totally ignoring the ad or developing a very, very strong distaste for the brand.   Additionally, I’m starting to remember, and avoid when possible, the Web sites that promote this behaviour (as part of their advertising packages).

As a marketer, I understand the need to advertise, but can we find ways to do it that don’t interrupt and annoy our audiences?  Is a 1% response rate on a “low cost” calling campaign worth the “anger rate” that is likely to be much higher?   Do we really need to interrupt people to get their attention v. earning it?  Can we use context information to find times when an interruption is actually welcome?   Are there other ways to use context to create ads that are relevant and connected to the activities being performed?

If you care about customer experience, then figuring this out is crucial.  We are already dealing with so many distractions that it is hard to develop deep engagement.  Making it worse with interruptions that annoy will create a backlash.    Please just make it stop.

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Winning in the Moment

by Hank Barnes  |  November 25, 2014  |  Comments Off

I just returned from my, and Gartner’s, final Symposium of the year.  Having visited with well over 100 technology providers over the last 6+weeks in Orlando, Barcelona, and Gold Coast; it is easy for me to say that the technology industry has a good future.   Whether solving old problems in new ways or creating new business opportunities through innovation, it is clear that the future is bright for firms that focus on customers, address their critical needs or opportunities, and exceed their expectations.

A big theme at the Symposium series this year was Business Moments.  Gartner introduced our ideas around Business Moments –transient opportunities that are exploited dynamically- last year, with increased focus and examples this year.   Be cautious about your interpretation of “exploited”—this does not mean “take advantage of for the good of you and the detriment of someone else.” By exploited, we really mean an opportunity to use digital technologies to better serve our customers.   There is a collection of research (and examples) on Business Moments on gartner.com (clients only).

This year, we linked Business Moments closely to the Digital Humanist Manifesto (see my earlier blog on this topic) as Business Moments are truly human moments.  If we “exploit” them for our own good, then customers may revolt.  We have to get the balance right.

But what does this mean for technology providers.   It means a whole lot. Business Moments are a broad ranging opportunity.

The most interesting thing is that while a Business Moment is transient, the way we handle it often takes time.  It some ways, it is like a fast moving car (like the picture below taken from the window of my hotel room in Sydney).  The car is only in one spot for an instant—but it still has to get to a destination.  Business Moments capture the instant, but require additional activities to get to the destination.

Fastmovingcars

 

Business Moments will trigger a wide range of activities–things like notifying people, updating systems, kicking off processes, and more.   It sounds an awful lot like business process management (BPM), and it certainly poses opportunities for the BPM crowd.    It is also a great opportunity for the consulting and services community–as organizations seeking to capitalize on business moments will need helping putting together the systems to get it done.  But there are many other opportunities hidden in those moments. Its up to providers to uncover them and help digital businesses.  Human factors will be critical as ethnography (detailed observation of behavior)and the related customer experience design will be a critical skill to identify the most important business moments–and the key activities to follow.

Be looking for more on this topic, and how providers can help digital businesses in 2015.

 

 

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Confusion on the Trade Show Floor

by Hank Barnes  |  November 18, 2014  |  3 Comments

This week I am at Gartner’s APAC Symposium in Australia.

sympgc

Last week I was in Barcelona at the EMEA event   It was a great, high energy event with a packed schedule.   I did not have much time to spare (like Orlando), but was able to do a very quick stroll through the ITxpo show floor.   And like Orlando (and I suspect like I will see in Australia at the Symposium here in Gold Coast), my quick observations were consistent.

Most exhibitors have a major messaging issue (probably to no surprise to anyone who reads my blog on a regular basis).

Here is a selection of the key messages that I saw on booths (Company Names Omitted Intentionally):

  • “The Art of Connecting”
  • “User Choice: Your device/Your apps/Your content/The experience you love”
  • “Smarter Customer Interactions Start Here”
  • “Connecting and Protecting the Networked World”
  • “Mobilizing Your World”
  • “Securely Connecting All:Your People, Applications, and Devices”
  • “Architecting the Enterprise”
  • “Delivering Workplace Transformation”
  • “Engaging People”
  • “Flow from One Step to the Next”
  • “Redefining EMM”

Do any of those messages say anything to you that make you want to visit their booth?  If you are like me, probably not.

To be fair, these messages came from a mix of big brands and some smaller players.  The bigger the brand, the less compelling and differentiating your message needs to be–since buyers will seek you out because of the brand knowledge alone.  Unless, of course, you are introducing new products and services that you are not known for–then you have to fight for recognition in those areas with everyone else.

From our research, buyers visiting trade shows are often looking for solutions to known problems–wanting to compare various alternative providers side by side.  If you are already on their list (either through other marketing activities or through the way you describe your company in the show guide), then your booth messaging may not be as important.  But if they don’t already know you, or are exploring new ideas based on things they learned at the conference, then your messaging (and your overall trade show strategy) becomes critical.

The messaging above won’t cut it.  It is too generic, too broad, and too much like everyone else around you.   I did see a couple of bright spots.  One booth had a couple customer quotes, with the customer describing the value that they have acheived by working with the provider.  Another had a list of quantified outcomes that their clients had achieved through the use of their technology.  But those were hard to find (and admittedly, I may have missed some other good examples in the limited time I had).

Messaging for trade show booths is not easy.  I know that.  You have limited space to communicate quickly to folks walking the halls.  But what can you do.  Here are three suggestions:

 

1. Save the Taglines - Taglines are great once people know who you are.  Great tag lines help people remember you once they have some context.  But they usually don’t work as the starting point of understanding.

2. Provide Context - Be clear on the category that you products and services fall into.  This helps people find things that they are looking for.

3. Focus on Value - Use Customer quotes or facts from existing clients to illustrate the business outcomes you help clients achieve.

And most importantly, get an independent third party to review what you plan to use on your booth.   If you are a Gartner client, you could do this with me or my colleague Todd Berkowitz who spend a lot of time working with clients on improving their positioning and storytelling.   Or, for that matter, you could ask any of the analysts that you work with on a regular basis to provide feedback.

If you are not a Gartner client, find someone you trust, preferably someone who does not have extensive knowledge of your company , to take a look.  Ask them if they can tell what you do and why you do it from the messages.  Ask them if the messages would make them more or less likely to come into your booth for a conversation.   The feedback will be invaluable.

Great messages alone don’t make for a great trade show experience.  But they sure can help.

 

 

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