Just got back from our Tech Growth and Innovation (TGI) event last week in San Digeo and wanted to share some thoughts and observations from the event (see below). But before too much time passes, I want to highlight our new Cool Vendors in Tech Go-to-Market, 2018 research (subscription required), which published last week.
One of the recurring themes of my presentations and discussions at TGI was around complex, team-based buying for technology products, and how it lengthens sales cycles and causes projects to be cancelled. Account-based marketing (ABM) programs and new approaches to sales enablement can help alleviate some of the pain here. The vendors we (me, Mark Paine, Hank Barnes, Tad Travis and Ilona Hansen) selected for this year’s Cool Vendors all provide software to help direct and indirect sellers better succeed when selling more complex solutions to lots of decision-makers and influencers. They include:
Akoonu- Marketers and sales reps are always challenged to understand the participants on a buying team and the exact roles they play. This is especially important as part of an ABM program. Akoonu helps B2B companies uncover and visualize the dynamics of the buying team. Their solution maps known relationships to personas and finds gaps in engagement that highlights potential reasons for deals slowing down or cancelling. Akoonu can also generate customer journey maps. While some of the functionality exists in other solutions (like Engagio’s Scout tool), there aren’t a lot of similar offerings on the market. The category isn’t broadly established, but holds a lot of potential promise.
Seismic- In the digital content management for sales (DCMS) solutions and sales enablement platform markets, Seismic is the largest player. But just because their rapid growth has allowed them to hit scale, that doesn’t mean they aren’t doing some really cool and innovative things. While Seismic’s offering does everything you would expect from a DCMS and sales enablement platform, it can also take in a wide range of first-party and third-party data and deliver AI-driven recommendations to sellers. These recommendations aren’t simply limited to what content to send and what videos to watch, but also include what products to pitch, what channels to use and which individuals to target. (One of my recent research notes includes a case study from Getty Images that highlights the flexibility of the platform).
Webinfinity- Resellers and other indirect channel providers are an important part of the route-to-market strategy for many tech companies and collaboration and co-selling is critical for success. Many of the traditional PRM tools on the market don’t talk to each other, which hinders the collaboration between vendors and their partners. Webinfinity sits on top of other PRM assets and creates a personalized and relevant user experience. This provides better visibility for the tech vendors and delivers just-in-time content to sellers. We’re likely to see CRM megavendors and traditional PRM vendors add this functionality in the future, but few (if any) are doing it today.
Tech Growth and Innovation Conference- Observations and Musings
This is the third year we’ve done the event (our only conference designed explicitly for the technology and service provider audience) and attendance was up 88% from last year’s event. In addition to my presentations (Taking ABM to the Next-Level and Reimagining Sales Enablement) and workshop (Getting Started with ABM), I spent a lot of time meeting with clients and prospects. Here are a few takeaways.
- TSPs are getting more mature with ABM deployments, but the same problems still exist- Based on the conversations I had, you can definitely see the difference that ten months makes in how far along TSPs are when it comes to ABM and the level of sophistication. But there are a still a lot of TSPs just getting started as well, which is to be expected. What struck me was that I’m still seeing some of the same issues from before- overly ambitious programs (not using a pilot or phased approach and starting at scale), lack of buy-in/coordination with sales and an inability to view ABM as a more than just a different way of running demand generation. I did see a few examples of where this wasn’t happening and even when these problems are present, the ABM programs are still providing some value. But I would remind everyone that these problems are real and need to be addressed before you start your program. (If you are a Gartner client, we can give best practice guidance on how to overcome them).
- Complex team-based buying dynamics are forcing a much-needed discussion around sales enablement-Going in to my presentation on Wednesday morning, I was a little concerned that my sales enablement advice would seem to futuristic to the audience. But many of the attendees of the session had attended an earlier session where Hank Barnes highlighted some of our new research around technology purchasing (see here and here). And that session really provided data to back up things that many attendees had already seen in their own environments. So the prescriptions around sales enablement, particularly around situational awareness and AI, were well-received, based on questions I took afterward and comments in the evaluation forms. We’ll be focusing more around this topic in the future.
- Marketing investments within startup and emerging TSPs seem to be on the rise- Some of my colleagues within other parts of Gartner have measured the increase in marketing investment (both on an absolute basis and as a percentage of revenue), but the data sets were for larger companies or covered more than just tech companies. That also now looks like the case for startup and emerging TSPs. (With the exception of one memorable meeting where the client said she had a $20k marketing budget, which included two events). Many of my discussions were with companies below $50M in annual revenue and based on how they outlined their resources (both staff and spending), I walked away with the impression that CEOs are starting to understand the importance of having a robust marketing function earlier in the company’s growth path. In the past, the money might have spent on sales or engineering, but that seems to shifting.
All in the all, the event was thoroughly enjoyable (although exhausting) and I personally love having face-to-face interaction with clients that I normally don’t get to see in person. And of course, it’s always great to see my fellow analysts. Looking forward to an even bigger and better event next June.