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Evolving With Your Customers

by Hank Barnes  |  June 26, 2018  |  2 Comments

Recently, many of my posts have related to helping your customers buy and, by extension, selling the way your customers want to buy.   In response to one of those, Eric Holmen, the SVP of Worldwide Sales for Urban Airship, reached out to me.  He wanted to share some of the things that they have been doing to evolve with their customers.

A little history.  Urban Airship was one of the early providers of Push Notification technology.  Their early customers were big brands.  Their technology was purchased by technical teams that worried about the details: performance, scalability, reliability, documentation, etc.

But as the market matured, and notifications spread beyond apps to websites, mobile wallets, email and more; Urban Airship started seeing the dynamics of the buying teams they were engaging with change.  Rather than being led by technologists, now it was marketers and product managers that were often leading the effort.  The technologists were still involved, and reliability was still important, but the key criteria and final decision-makers changed.

What did these new team leaders care about?  Data (of course).  They wanted to understand the results and value of the notifications and be able to take immediate action at the person-level across the best channel to engage the customer.

Digging deeper into this, Urban Airship decided to rethink their pricing and packaging.  Instead of traditional technical measures such as number of messages or number of users, they created packages composed of two dimensions: 1. engagement (from simple to sophisticated) and 2. data analytics options (from notification reporting to cross-channel analytics and predictive machine learning). When used together, these approaches can help their clients orchestrate and optimize more effectively.   The repackaging has helped make new channel adoption easier because a known contact only counts one time, regardless of the number of messages or channels they’re engaged with. Another way to think about it was aligning the value chain: the end consumer is now at the center of the pricing rather than the tactic or method of distribution.

Source: Urban Airship

Source: Urban Airship

This change is also driving substantial changes in every aspect of their go-to-market strategy.  They have to market differently, they have to sell differently—with a different story—and to broader functional roles (from data analysts to email and loyalty marketers). That shift moves from technology leading the sale to business cases being the driver.   In many cases, the things Urban Airship has learned from its customers become a source of ideas and value for other customers.   Rather than get in discussions of speeds and feeds, they now share ideas for how to engage more effectively   across customer journeys—proving and improving results and customer value with data.

Eric and his team are experiencing the challenges—and opportunities—of evolving with their customers.   They are discovering that pricing and packaging can change the whole discussion—and shift the perception of their company from that of technology supplier to a strategic partner.    And they are also learning that this is a big change, one that they have to help their teams, and their customers, understand.  Teaching their customers how to reimagine push notifications and the in-the-moment experience they deliver across new channels and platforms is something many customers want, but don’t fully understand. Customers also buy in a whole new way, which is not easy, as an extensible platform involves more people, processes and needs across the organization compared to solution sales.

But, by learning something in every engagement, using that to improve their own effectiveness, and teaching future customers how to buy, they are positioning themselves for more opportunity and growth.   I’m looking forward to learning more about their progress.

Category: go-to-market  

Tags: buying-cycle  market-evolution  market-maturity  sales-enablement  selling-process  

Hank Barnes
VP Distinguished Analyst
6+ years at Gartner
30+ years IT Industry

Hank Barnes provides research and advisory services on go-to-market strategies for technology providers. His research efforts focus on understanding the dynamics, challenges, and frustrations enterprises face when buying technology products and services. He then applies that research to explore the implications on vendor strategies, supporting the efforts of product marketing, general managers responsible for product portfolios, and CEOs. Read Full Bio


Thoughts on Evolving With Your Customers


  1. Hank, the cloud is forcing many companies to transition from product marketing to product “use case” marketing.

    • Hank Barnes says:

      Agree, but I think it is more than the cloud–it is an overall growing in the maturity of companies–they increasingly understand tech and are more tech literate, so now you have the sell on use cases, not features. Everyone has features…



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