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

Just-in-Time Advocacy Marketing – A New Trust and Revenue Building Opportunity

by Hank Barnes  |  April 22, 2014  |  4 Comments

Offering Web site visitors the ability to chat—at the time of their choosing–is something that is valuable (But please, don’t have your chat window pop up on the screen without the visitor asking—it is annoying and disruptive).   And at least one company, Needle, is providing a way to take this to the next level.

The typical chat option on a Web site is often promoted with a simple link somewhere on the page, like this:

Contactexample1

This is nice, but some browsers may be cautious about doing this.  They may want help, but aren’t ready to talk to someone in sales.  Why?  Because buyers, in general, don’t have a high degree of trust for the companies they do business with or their sales representatives. (Check out the Edelman Trust Barometer for more details on this trust gap.)

There may be another option that more buyers will find of interest.   For example, if you visit Norwegian Cruise Lines site, you might (depending on your activity) see an option on your page like this:

ncl-rail

This looks a little different, and it is.  Norwegian works with Needle to take a different approach to chat.  Instead of Norwegian personnel on the other side of the connection, buyers are able to talk to “real” people–advocates that love Norwegian cruises so much that they want to share their experience with others and help them choose the best possible cruise experience for them.  I actually blogged about a similar approach, but for in-store usage, early in 2013.

They are not employees.  They are customers.   I’ve talked about Advocacy Marketing before, and recently saw an interesting infographic on the statistical argument for Customer Advocacy.   The approach that Needle is enabling is taking this to another level.

It is truly Just-in-Time advocacy marketing.   You have someone looking at your products and services, what could be better than offering them the ability to talk to someone like them–someone they are more likely to trust–to get ideas, suggestions, and answer their questions.

This approach could work for any company, including B2B sellers, provided the following is true:

  1. You have a strong base of customers that are truly fans—they love your company, products, and services so much that they want others to know about it.
  2. Within that group of customers, there are people, by the nature of their work or geographic location, that could make themselves available to accept chat requests during key time periods for visits to your Web site.
  3. Your target customers use your Web site as a key part of their buying process, to learn and/or to purchase.

That’s really it.   If those three things are true, this is something I’d highly encourage you to explore.  The second requirement makes this more tricky for B2B companies, but when you think about time zone differences, it could work.

But with that in mind, how do you do it right?  First, promote in prominently on your Web site (making sure it’s only visible when you have advocates available to chat).   This has a dual impact.  Even for visitors that don’t want to chat, they will see that you offer this, and it will increase their confidence in your company (“Wow, if they have customers who will take their time to chat with me, their stuff must be good.”).  You are building up trust just by offering the option.

Second, and most importantly, make it very clear that these are not employees–they are “real people” just like your buyers.  (I’m bolding that, because I think it is so important) Norwegian does a decent job of this, but I think they could go further, it could say “Chat with a Happy Norwegian Cruise Customer”  (or something more creative than that).   Remember, buyers trust people like them more than your employees.   A generic promotion like “Chat with an expert” is likely to be viewed by a visitor as an invitation to talk with an employee–with some level of skepticism about their real expertise (“if they were really an expert, would they be spending their time responding to chats?  I doubt a real expert will be on the other end of the line.”).

You may still want to have chat options with employees, particularly for service issues (and if you could easily transfer a customer  from an advocate to a company representative, that would be cool).

Third, monitor, measure, and coach.  The beauty (and some of the fear) of advocates is that you can’t control them.   You really don’t want to put words in their mouth, since that will cause them to start to sound like employees.  But you can coach them on ways to be most effective.  All advocacy programs succeed by integrating gamification elements, with points, leader boards, and rewards (both tangible and intangible) that help participants “see where they stand.”   Use this data to help guide advocates toward more effective interactions.

At the same time, you can also track if advocates are behaving in ways that are detrimental to your business.  I’d posit that any advocate that denigrates your business is not an advocate (and you should remove them from the pool).  The risk of bad advocate behavior is very low—it is almost an oxymoron, so don’t let that fear stop you.  If you really have that concern, I’d suggest you need to evaluate the passion of your fans–it may not be to the level you need to have an effective advocacy marketing program.

But the positives of Advocate Marketing far outweigh any risks.  And it says a lot about your company to potential customers.  It says you trust your customers enough that you’ll let them share their experiences and ideas (good, bad, and in between) with your prospects.   You are increasing the likelihood that a visitor will trust you more just by doing this.

The power of Advocacy Marketing is undeniable and the Just-in-Time approach makes it even easier for buyers to engage with people who love your brand.   If your business fits the criteria above, I highly encourage you to explore the impact it could have on your business.  And, if you do move forward with it, whether on your Web site or even in your stores,  do it transparently and prominently.   This is so important, I will say it again: make it very clear that you are offering visitors the opportunity to talk with someone just like them, not just another employee sitting in a call center somewhere in the world.

 

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

Wasted Words – Why Marketing Content Longer than 3 to 5 Items Does Not Work

by Hank Barnes  |  April 15, 2014  |  4 Comments

I’ve long been a believer in simplifying your story and finding the 2 or 3 things that matter most, emphasizing those and leaving the rest for more interactive discussions (e.g. when responding to questions from your prospect).   When I bring this up, most people generally agree that it is a good thing, but I still regularly see things like:

  • Feature Listings with dozens of features that are either uncategorized or grouped into 6 or more categories
  • “Company Differentiation” powerpoint charts with 7 to 10 items listed
  • Benefits pages with bullet after bullet of benefits—often too many to even count

All that extra stuff may be just wasted words—and there is research to prove it. Last week I was reading a blog post on the Business 2 Community site titled “How to Sell Complexity Beyond the Customer’s Capacity to Understand“.  It is a great post and it mentioned a research study that showed that (quoting from the article) “our limited short-term working memory that’s capable of remembering only 3-4 items of new information at a time.”

glowing_brain

That stat came from a research study by Nelson Cowen title “The Magical Mystery Four: How is Working memory Capacity Limited, and Why?”  Cowen basically was able to prove that the central memory systems for adults can only handle a few chunks of new information.

So what happens if we throw a lot more at them?  Well, they either only remember 3 or 4 of them or, even worse, the information overload causes them to forget most, if not all of it.

So, there is scientific proof that too much detail will do more harm than good.

Are there exceptions to this?  I have not found research to indicate that, but I believe that once you have someone’s attention and they have allocated space in the brain for you, then you can build on that with more detail.

This is another case for the idea of Progressive Engagement, something I blogged about in early 2013.  At the time, I was recommending the approach due to short attention spans and the opportunity for distractions.  But, with this additional information, you need to take the approach regardless—it reflects the way people remember.

What is progressive engagement?  I think of it as telling people a little bit of information (now refined to be a maximum of 3 to 5 related things).   Make it compelling.  When they ask you to “tell them more”, you engage with additional detail.

This continues as long as the engagement interest is there.  If it wanes, back off and revisit where you were.  Rebuild interest and then continue.

Let’s face it, most technology products today are so robust and complex that it is impossible to narrow things down to only 3 to 5 things.  But you have to.   Find ways to group things into a higher level story—-add the details as your drill down, progressively providing more and more information.  While not easy, this is not impossible.

But it requires a great positioning foundation to have clarity of what matters most and why.  It also request flexibility—adapting your story based on the feedback and interests of the buyer.

So, what do you do now?  Review all of your existing materials.  Anywhere you see long lists, find ways to group and simplify.   If you list 8 or 10 benefits or differentiators, get rid of at least half of them.

Shoot to focus on no more than 3 things, but if you need to add 1 or 2 more, don’t agonize over that.  But don’t fall into the “just one more thing” trap and watch those focus items return to the long lists of the past.

 

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Category: Go to Market     Tags: ,

Want to Understand Your Customer’s Buying Cycle – Just Ask Them

by Hank Barnes  |  April 8, 2014  |  Submit a Comment

A fundamental aspect of successful selling (and marketing) today is to sell they way your customer’s want to buy.  Aligning your efforts to the things that buyers need to do to gain approval for a purchase is a great strategy–it helps you reduce time you might waste on things that aren’t relevant to the buyer and helps the buyer maximize the efficiency of their purchase efforts.

So, how do you do this?  Its actually pretty easy—Just ask them.

I first saw this many years ago when I was in product marketing for an Employee Self-Service startup.  One of our sales reps, Dave Wischerath, did this very well.   Our solutions, which saved companies millions of dollars in HR administration costs, were not inexpensive.  Early in sales efforts, Dave would say something like this:

“Selling is my job.  I enjoy it, but I don’t do this for fun.  And evaluating options is part of your job, clearly, or you would not be here.  What I would like to propose, so I don’t waste your time, and frankly, so you don’t waste mine, is this.  Let’s map out the things that need to occur in order for you to choose our solution.  Take me through all of the steps that need to happen.   I will then confirm which of the things that you need from us that we can do and identify ways I can help you with your internal efforts.  At any point, if either of us are not getting what we need, then lets discuss it.  And, if we can’t resolve it, it is best for both of us to move on.”

Now some might find this a bit upfront, and presumptuous, for a sales rep.  But he’s right.  It is a job.  If a buyer won’t share with you what needs to occur for them to make a purchase, your efforts to help them are frankly guess work.

We recently tested this with a question that we asked Gartner clients who are members of our research circle (a group of clients who we regularly survey on various topics).  Specifically, we asked:

Q:   When buying IT products or services, would you be willing to share details of your organization’s buying process with a trusted sales representative so they may tailor their sales activities to the way you buy? (By trusted sales representative we mean someone you have developed confidence in their credibility based on previous interactions.)

The answer mix was revealing:

  • 25.7% said they view that information as confidential and not something they share with sellers
  • 48.6% said they would share information at a high level, defining only the major gates that have to be addressed to move to a decision
  • 11.4% said they would share granular details, but would not provide information on the specific person/people that own each decision point
  • 14.3% said they would share granular details, including who owns each decision point

So, almost 75% of organizations are willing to share these details.  In my personal opinion, the 25.7% that won’t are doing themselves, and their providers a disservice, creating obstacles that make it harder for them to buy.  If you encounter an organization of this type, you might want to think hard before you invest a lot of time and sales energy.   Make sure you are not just “column fodder”.  Look for signals that the buyer is willing to collaborate with you.  If you aren’t getting positive signals, try a statement like Dave’s.  If it doesn’t work, walk—it is not worth your time to continue a pursuit that is likely to end us as a loss for you, or, just as likely, a very long cycle that may result in a no decision.

But, let’s look at the positive side of things.  What can you do when a buyer will share information on their buying process?  A lot–and it can have a huge impact on you and your organization.  Here are some of the possibilities:

  • Evaluate your content, marketing activities, and sales approach –  making adjustments (adding, removing, changing) based on the value they provide to the buying process
  • Develop a collective view across many customers to have a good composite picture of the buying process—and use this with customers that aren’t as forthcoming about their company’s approach
  • Encourage more collaboration across your sales organization, encouraging reps to share their approach to learn the buying approach of their customers

I recently published another note related to this topic.  The note is called “Tech Go-to-Market: Create Activity Paths Through the Tech Buying Cycle for More-Effective Selling” (subscription required).  It is part of the latest wave of research on the Future of IT Sales, an ongoing Gartner special report covering the dramatic changes in sales and marketing for technology companies.   The note is focused on using knowledge of the customer buying cycle to align all of your marketing and sales efforts to make it easy for customers to buy, guiding them along their purchase journey with a mix of content, programs, and interactions.  It provides a five step process to improve both sales and marketing effectiveness with this approach:

 

 mappinggraphic

 What do you think?  Do you ask your customers what their buying process is?  Will you start now?

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

Realistic Market Segmentation Goes Beyond the Bulls-Eye

by Hank Barnes  |  April 1, 2014  |  1 Comment

The need for effective market segmentation is practically a universal truth when it comes to introducing new products, particularly for new companies.    But it is a universal truth that is seldom followed.

Based on past experience and interactions I have with Gartner clients, the vast majority of technology companies do a poor job of either clearly defining target segments or, if they do have clear targets, don’t follow through by focusing their marketing and sales efforts around those segments.    The primary exception to this trend are companies whose whole business is built around a focus on one vertical market.  But even there, more detailed segmentation could provide benefits.

Why does this happen when everyone agrees that segmentation is important?   I believe that it is largely driven by fear.

  • Fear that there will not be enough opportunities to meet the initial revenue targets
  • Fear that the targets are not right—-opportunities will be missed
  • Fear that being focused limits the long term potential

In some regards, the fear is legitimate—the early stages of product introduction are the most pressure packed.  It is understandable that people feel the pressure.  But the reality is that the best way to alleviate that pressure is to be highly focused–marshalling all the scarce resources toward a common target.

At the same time, having well defined segments does not have to limit you to only pursue those opportunities—it is a guide, not  a mandate.  I advise clients to think about this like a simplified archery target as shown below:

Target with Citation

 

Your target segment is the bulls-eye.  This is where the bulk of the marketing focus should be–creating content and campaigns, for both inbound and outbound usage, that “speaks” to that target.

The next ring is adjacent segments with similar needs.  If sales teams need to expand their pipeline and leverage existing relationships, guide them to pursue clients with similar needs, even if they are not in the target segment.   Do not support their efforts to steer you toward customers with different needs just because they have a relationship or a “big opportunity”–in most cases these will either be rat holes or require so much effort or product enhancements that it won’t be worth it.

Finally, the outer ring is people that find you.  Ideally, your inbound marketing efforts will lead prospects in your target segment to you, but you can’t control that.  Others will find you as well.  Apply the same filter that you do for sales generated opportunities.  If the needs are similar, then  its worth pursuing.  If it takes you down another path, you may want to think twice.

As you can see segmentation starts with marketing, but extends to sales in terms of qualification.    It is not a “marketing responsibility”–embrace it across the organization.

As you roll out this approach, it does not mean forever.  Monitor your results.  If you are less successful than hoped, you may need to adjust your target segment definition.   But don’t do it based on knee jerk situations.   Be thoughtful and adjust as quickly or slowly as needed.

For Gartner clients that want to explore this in more detail, you can check out my latest research note, “A Practical Guide to Market Segmentation” (fee/subscription required).

What do you think?  Would using the Segmentation Target Model help you get more people bought in to your segmentation efforts?

 

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

Getting over Marketing’s Inferiority Complex

by Hank Barnes  |  March 25, 2014  |  2 Comments

Last week, I saw a blog post that brought back memories of a conversation, actually an argument, from years ago with my sister.   Beth, my sister, has spent basically here entire adult life in college.  Either as a student or professor.   She currently teaches at the University of Kentucky, covering topics like advertising, integrated marketing communications, and other related topics.

college_lecture_hall

The argument arose when I was fresh out of college (or maybe still in college—the exact timing is not something I remember).   I was brash and enjoyed harassing her about the fact that she needed to get out of college and get a real job.  Furthermore, I told her how shocked I was that she taught marketing, since I viewed marketing to be all about common sense—which she had little of (at least in my eyes).   She really did not appreciate my attack, but I am pretty sure I won the argument.    What’s funny about it now is that I’ve been a marketing professional for the last 25 years or so.  And I still believe common sense plays a huge role in marketing.

But my earlier perceptions play out the challenge that marketers face–everyone  thinks they can market.  As a result, we are constantly on the defensive, trying to convince people of the value we provide. Sometimes, this goes too far—where we define marketing as being the hub of the business, trying to get over our own inferiority complex by making everything else inferior to us.   As I hear more and more talk of marketing having “revenue responsibility,” I worry that this is going to far.   Sales has revenue responsibility.  Marketing’s job is to make it easier for sales to sell and customers to buy.  But if we broaden the scope of marketing too far, we are doing what was done to us—devaluing key roles and functions in the business.

The blog post that  triggered the memory (and this post) was “The marketing paradox: To spend or not to spend” on  VentureBeat.com.  It is a great post, but the article really focuses on one aspect of marketing—spending money on advertising.   The argument is that many great companies don’t advertise a lot.  So the thing to do is create great products.    It’s hard to disagree with creating great products, but I would argue that it is marketing that helps you figure out what those great products need to be and that help people understand the story behind the products.

This theme occurs over and over in business.  People equate marketing to advertising or lead generation or marketing communications.   All tactical activities that may be important, but effectively diminish the real value and purpose of marketing.

So what is marketing, really?

I’m going to forego the variety of definitions that are out there (just do a search–you’ll find plenty) and create my own here.  Marketing is in the business of stories.     Authentic stories that are the embodiment of the value that your business provides to customers..

The story business is not just about storytelling—it is about figuring out the right stories to tell, who to tell them to, and creating ways for there to be interest so people will want to listen, hear, and ultimately experience the stories for themselves by becoming customers.  It has to be authentic, because the stories have to ultimately communicate about the value of what you can actually deliver.   Great stories that are fictional don’t work for business.

When you think of marketing this way, the role is pretty broad.  Its about contributing to what is being created.  Its defining who the target customers are and the value they can expect to receive.  It’s sharing the story broadly so that the job of your sales channels (whether ecommerce, direct, or indirect) get easier.  You want to be that favorite author–the one who fans wait impatiently for their next book or story and tell all their friends about.

Whether you like my definition or hate it, the big thing is to get over marketing’s inferiority complex.  Refute definitions that define marketing based on a single tactical activity.  Participate in strategic discussions and fight hard for the good of the brand and brand promise.  I recently advised one client that has an incredible track record of successful implementations that that was a claim to stand behind.  And, if any of their product lines did not match that standard, they should either be  divested or work must be done to the product or services to get to the level of the other products.   That is marketing driving strategy and it makes sense.

Contributing in this way will help marketing get over being marketing.    No great business succeeds for the long term without it, but it is also not the only thing a business needs for success.

 

 

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Category: Go to Market     Tags: , , ,

Rethinking Case Studies for Buying Cycle Activity Streams

by Hank Barnes  |  March 18, 2014  |  2 Comments

Last week, my colleague, Todd Berkowitz, wrote an excellent post on case studies.   Todd provided a lot of great suggestions for making sure that your case studies deliver value.  This week, I want to expand on Todd’s ideas with a few more.   The power of case studies come from helping buyers build confidence in you as they move through the buying cycle.  Therefore, it is time to stop thinking of case studies generically and start focusing them in on specific questions that buyers have as they make decisions.

happy_people

As a reminder, we first introduced the idea of Activity Streams in the Technology Buying Cycle last year.  We are continuing our focus on this buying cycle, and what providers can do to be more effective in working with customers as they move through it, so expect more research and blogs about it.  But returning to case studies, since they are a powerful tool.

While Todd talked about the structure and approach for case study development, I think you can take it even deeper.   As you look at your customer stories, there are actually 4 different angles you can explore.  These align with activity streams

  1. The Business Value Angle – This aligns with buyers who are exploring–looking at potential approaches and opportunities to address a need–to determine if it makes sense to invest in a project.   Case studies that are focused on business value should be all about the outcomes delivered the the problems addressed.  Think of these as being very similar to many case studies you see in tech magazines.  The focus is on the issues, not the products.  Products are mentioned, but typically in brief.  You can take this approach yourself to build up interest in the early stages of buying cycles.
  2. The Competitive Angle  – This aligns with buyers who are evaluating providers.  More competitive oriented case studies put more emphasis on the reasons that the customer chose your product or service versus others.  You still need to talk about outcomes and results, but all this should be positioned in the context of the competitive advantage that you provided as opposed to other choices.
  3. The Implementation Angle - This aligns with buyers who are engaging with a short list of providers.  Here, you want to focus on how the results were achieved.  Describe the implementation and rollout approach.  Guide the reader on how the project was executed. You are painting a picture of how to achieve success.
  4. The Experience Angle -  This aligns, rather obviously, with experience.  In this study, the tone is all about what it is like to work with your organization and your products.   The story should communicate how easy you are to work with and how the users love the product.  The tone is all about how you worked with the customer to create a great experience end to end.

All four of these approaches still need to talk about business value (outcomes), problems addressed, and resolution, but the core of the story should explore one of these angles in detail.  Doing this will provide you with a diverse set of case studies that can be used to assist buyers at various stages of their buying cycle.     You could even do an in-depth series on one customer (if they are willing), looking at their story from all 4 of these perspectives.  This does not have to take a ton of additional time with the customer during the interview–it just requires more planning on your part to get the most from the interview session and to cover each of the four perspectives.

Adding a focus on the theme of the story will provide more clarity to your case study development and make it easier for potential customer to consume and embrace the information.    One size fits all case studies are a thing of the past.  They overwhelm buyers with too much information–information that they may not even care about, depending on where they are in the buying process.

Beyond these streams, always take a step back before developing case studies.  Think about your target audience and make sure you are communicating with them in a way that they prefer.  If they are aggressive buyers, the industry and details of the company matter less than the innovative nature of the solution.  Conversely, more mainstream and conservative buyers want to know that your solution is proven in their industry.  Additionally, make sure you are always reinforcing your key areas of differentiation that are appropriate for the situation.

Case studies, references, and advocates are some of your most powerful assets.  Take a more focused approach to the development of these assets following the guidance from Todd and the tailoring of the stories to activity streams to get even more value from them.

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

The Impact of Market Stage on Messaging

by Hank Barnes  |  March 11, 2014  |  Comments Off

My latest few posts have talked about models for market adoption, with a particular focus on disruptive products.   Whether you have a disruptive product or not, understanding the general stage of the market should be a key consideration in your messaging strategy.

At a most basic level, just being in a market should give you some feel for its stage.  To go deeper, Gartner clients can leverage tools like Hype Cycles, Market Clocks, and our Forecast Analyses to get additional details to really hone in on the market stage, trends, and how to navigate through using those insights to direct your positioning and messaging.

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This is an area I expect to cover formally later this year, but I thought I would share some ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

Let’s start with truly disruptive products.   By their  nature, disruptive products are likely to be creating a new segment within an existing market (or a new market entirely).  So in general, you’ll want your messaging to compare you to “the old way of doing things.”  If you take into consideration John Lovelock’s ideas about additive, destructive, or competitive innovations, you can go further:

  • Additive – Focus your messaging on the improvements (to capabilities, outcomes, or price/performance) that caused many people to stay out of the market, waiting for something better.
  • Destructive – Focus on comparing to the existing alternatives that you want to replace—provide strong reasons that the benefits of waiting until a normal replacement stage occurs are far outweighed by the costs of waiting.  Include messaging about how you can help make the transition to your technology easier and less risky.
  • Competitive – This is later stage messaging as you move from attracting additive and destructive purchases to more traditional situations.  In all likelihood, when you reach this stage, you’ll be in more of a mainstream market mode.

For products that aren’t destructive, your messages shift from being focused on innovative features to focus on proven product value:

  • Early market – As I indicated in my first post in this series,  don’t get too hung up on the competition in this phase, until you are competing for specific opportunities.  Focus on competing with alternative approaches.  You need to grow the market and your success.   The messages here may be additive or destructive, depending on the nature of the current status quo.  In some ways, you are treading a fine line between being a disruptive product and an incremental improvement.  You are one of a group of products that are disruptive, but you were not first to market (or first to recognition).  So, for educated buyers, who understand the products, you’ll need to shift your messaging once you have their attention to differentiation versus the other products in your segmetn.
  • Early Mainstream – References and whole product messaging should be the focus.   Your story should be all about how this is a proven solution that is delivering value for other companies with a clear explanation of how to implement and roll-out successfully.
  • Late Mainstream – Your message should be about risk avoidance, broad adoption, and market leadership.   Subtly, orient your stories to the idea that “you can’t afford to wait any longer”.

Gartner’s Hype Cycles provide additional insights.  For example, if the market you play in is in the ‘trough of disillusionment’, you should focus on case studies that show not only that customers have gotten value from your solution, but how they did it.  Other phases will have similar considerations.

Applying these considerations will help your positioning and messaging efforts.    And, don’t forget, that positioning, and the messaging that results from it, are the key initial ingredient (provided you treat the idea that the product you offer is of high quality and has some value) for planning and executing go-to-market strategies.

Do you have any stories of how you have created, or adapted, messaging based on the stage of your market (or stage changes)?  I’d love to hear them.

 

 

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A Deeper Look at Market Disruptions

by Hank Barnes  |  March 4, 2014  |  Comments Off

Last week, my post was about the latest update to Geoffrey Moore’s classic, Crossing the Chasm.  The motivation for the post was both the release of the 3rd edition of the book and my long held concern that many apply some of its guidance incorrectly.  Linking it specifically to their products, when the book is really about markets–and specifically the introduction of disruptive technologies.  If you are the first mover with the disruptive product, it is about your product.  But if you are a follower, you need to look at the state of the market, you may have a new product, but the market is in the mainstream–so you better appeal to those buyers.

After writing the post and promoting it on Twitter, I heard a lot of  commentary around new market models.  Moore himself addresses some of the dynamics of consumer oriented technologies that don’t really follow the traditional market adoption model in the appendix of  the book.   For these type of products, Moore discusses a four gears approach- Attract, Engage, Convert, and Enlist.

Additionally, there is some very interesting thinking Larry Downes and Paul Nunes on Big Bang Disruptions.  I have not read the book yet, but you can find some interesting articles about it at Harvard Business Review and Wired.  My (perhaps) overly simplistic summary of their analysis is that some technologies start with a set of trial users then rapidly grow–with adoption happening by users of all types (so forget the traditional Adoption Cycle)–and then adoption drops much more rapidly as  saturation occurs.

One of the my thoughts as to what has enabled Big Bang adoptions is that we have reached a point where most technology innovations are a derivative of existing technology based approaches.   In the earlier stages of technology markets, the status quo prior to a technology introduct was often not technology based, either manual approaches or some other thing that was dramatically different in the past.  But now, with the majority of buyers being more tech savvy, innovations are more easily understood.

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Take the iPad.   While extremely innovative, it was not the first tablet PC.  So some of the traditional Chasm issues and challenges were being handled by others.   One could say that the iPad came to market with a true Whole Product — an ecosystem of content (apps, music, movies) via iTunes that was well understood.  A company with a complete distribution model for mobile techologies.  A strong brand.    In the traditional Technology Adoption Model–it was past the Chasm.

But you can also take a big bang view.  Part of the rapid adoption of iPads came from its appeal to a whole class of users who compared it to traditional PCs (primarily for home use).  For them, the iPad was a breath of fresh air.  They saw it as what they had been waiting for—an affordable, ease to use device for doing some basic tasks (check email, browse the web, view movies, etc.).   One of these early buyers was my colleague John Lovelock’s mother.  She just happens to be 82 years old.  The iPad was the first “computer” she ever purchased.   Not an early adopter by any means.

So there are elements of both the traditional technology adoption cycle and big bang in the iPad story.     As you look at your new innovations, you may have a Big Bang opportunity and it may be enabled by applying some whole product concepts along with demonstrating how this is such a leap forward from traditional alternatives.  Offer it at a compelling price, that removes a lot of the perceived risk from the purchase and you might just see hypergrowth.  This is probably easier in consumer markets (does anyone have good examples in enterprise markets?), where some price points make technology “disposable” (or easy to trade in for credits–I am personally on my 3rd Kindle Fire and have traded-in the first two for Amazon Gift Cards).

If you are a Gartner client (and your subscription enables access), I’d highly encourage you to read John Lovelock’s recent research note,  Taking Advantage of the Three Phases of Market Disruption.   In it, John outlines insights, driven from our forecast work, about how disruptions impact market dynamics, positing that a disruption can be additive (new buyers like his mother that did not participate in the market before), competitive (a new alternative for traditional purchase cycles), or destructive (so compelling, people replace existing technologies faster than they had planned).

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This is a great way to think about your products as your bring them to market.   Is it compelling enough to attract new buyers who have stayed out of a market due to concerns like price, performance, or risk?    Would a buyer replace an existing solution faster than they had planned to get the benefits of your solution?  Or are you just fighting for business (new or traditional replacement cycles) in a typical competitive model?

The dynamics behind technology markets are definitely evolving.  Have they changed entirely from the past?  Probably not, but there are certainly new approaches and opportunities to accelerate adoption.   Behind it all is the need to deeply understand your ideal buyer—what drives their behavior and what makes them the best fit, your sweet spot, for your product and company.    You can expect more formal research from me and others at Gartner about these dynamics and how to manage them in the coming months and years.

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

Products, Markets, and Crossing the Chasm

by Hank Barnes  |  February 25, 2014  |  1 Comment

I have long been a fan of Geoffrey Moore.  His ideas are thoughtful,  yet simple to understand and apply.   Like most people, I have long been a fan of Crossing the Chasm, which many people still tout as the high tech marketing bible.   I use his original ideas on positioning of technology products, with a little extra twist of my own in acknowledgement of the growing importance of Customer Experience,  to guide my interactions with Gartner clients looking to improve their positioning and messaging.

I recently purchased the latest edition of the book (link above) as Geoff talked about some updates to it in a couple of posts he did on LinkedIn (that can be found here and here).   Reading it was a great refresher of some key principles for high tech marketing professionals.

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While I am a big fan of the book, I get frustrated when it gets applied incorrectly.   The book is focused primarily on marketing and selling disruptive products, starting by attracting innovators and early adopters and then, hopefully, Crossing the Chasm, to reach the early majority of mainstream customers.

One of the most common misuses is when companies apply the market adoption model to their product, feeling that when they are early in their lifecycle, they need to “Cross the Chasm.”   This may not be appropriate.  Chasm crossing refers to markets, not specific products.   If you have a disruptive product, then you are creating a new market.  Or you may be one of several similar products that have not achieved broad success.  In those two cases, you (and others like you) should be focused on helping the market get past the chasm.  Its about growing the market and your business.

But many times, we find that competitors in early markets gets fixated on each other.   Once they get some early adoption, the goal is to beat that competitor.   That may be okay, but it can also cause you, your competitor, and the market as a whole to get stuck in the cchasm.  I personally believe that this may have happened to the business process management (BPM) market.   The ROI on most successful BPM projects is eye-popping.  This is simply because many processes are sub-optimal, before applying BPM techniques and technologies to improve them.   One of the biggest threats to BPM is actually packaged applications, like ERP.  ERP systems talk alot about automating processes.      While workflow, EAI, and eventually BPM vendors fought with each other, the market for packaged applications exploded.    Meanwhile, BPM technologies never seem to have hit their full potential.  Yes, the market continues to grow.  Yes, new opportunities are emerging as a result of the Internet of Things, mobile device proliferation, and a desire to address less structured processes.  But, it still feels like it is stuck in the chasm.  (Note to Readers:  This commentary is based on my past experience in the BPM market.  I have not been directly involved in it in several years—so some things may have changed.)  I still feel like the market growth would have been greater if the vendors in the market would have spent less time competing with each other and more time growing the market versus alternative approaches (customization of packaged applications or outsourced processes).

Similarly, if your product is not disruptive, then you are likely to be pursuing a market that is in the mainstream.   In that case, the focus, according to Moore, is on the creation of a whole product—-basically assembling the combination of products, services and partnerships that together are needed to deliver the complete, expected value of the final solution to the buyer.  You win by having the most complete solution.  And, you win by reducing risk for the buyer.  Finally, you win by building the buyer’s trust in you.   So, in that case, even if you are fairly new to the market, you need to adjust your tactics for the mainstream buyer.  And, your competitive focus is likely to be on other providers (the market is already sizable) more than alternatives.

Regardless of where your product fits and the state of the market, Crossing the Chasm continues to be a must read for high tech marketers.  The new edition has plenty of refreshed content and some new thinking as well (driven by new opportunities enabled by the Nexus of Forces (my words, not Moore’s)).    Ideas in the book can help any technology company, as long as you apply them appropriately for your business.

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Category: Go to Market     Tags: , , , , ,

Combine Crowdsourcing and Scenario Planning for Unique Insights into the Future

by Hank Barnes  |  February 18, 2014  |  2 Comments

Scenario planning has long been recognized as an innovate way to plan for the future.  The basics of this approach is to target a future point in time and then explore, with a small group of people, what things could look like, based on their experience of how their market, business, or speciality has evolved from the past to the present.  Some information on scenario planning can be found here.

My colleague, Frank Buytendijk (an incredibly innovative thinker, fantastic speaker, and funny man), recently added a new test to scenario planning for a project he calls “Datatopia.”  The idea-rather than use a handful of experts to explore scenarios, he crowdsourced opinions, inviting anyone who was interested to share their perspective on what the future of data might look like.   The result can be found here—a free e-book that you can download.  It is a great read.

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From simply scanning the material, it is easy to see that the topic that was explored–data–has broad implications.  The responses actually described future societies and how people and machines may interact in the future.  I was struck by both the breadth of the ideas generated as well as the commonality within the ideas.

What does this mean for Go-to-Market Strategies?

At a minimum, you can explore this look at the future from the context of “How would this scenario impact me and my business?”.   But you could also take it farther.

Consider adding scenario planning as a part of your strategic planning efforts.  Explore the Future of Sales (one of the reports from the series was on this topic exactly (subscription required) - Tech Go-to-Market: Test Future Sales Models With Scenarios to Prepare for Changes Ahead), the Future of Marketing, or the future of your particular market and business.  Consider the impact of choices you are making right now as a result of the impact of the Nexus of Forces or Digital Business.   Set a few parameters to focus the discussion around areas that impact your business, but don’t constrain thinking by imposing to many assumptions.

You could even crowdsource the opinions like Frank did.  Where could you go to invite people to participate?   Your employees, your partners, or even your customers could have fantastic insights that would provide intriguing perspectives on your business–both today and in the future.   You could go even broader with market studies and sponsor this broadly in partnership with an organization that has a community of people focused on the market.    At a minimum, I would recommend you include a few people that are not part of the inner circle of management—you want perspectives that aren’t jaded by biases or coming from the same frame of reference. (This outside perspective is something that clients tell me they value the most when I work with them on their positioning and messaging.)

The opportunities are broad, the impact could be significant.

Why?  And this may be the most important part of all.

As Frank describes, it has been proven that simply thinking about the future makes you better prepared to deal with it effectively.

Start planning your future today.

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