B2B Strategy Case Files: What If Both B2B and B2C?

When we wrote The B2B Executive Playbook, I had every hope it would forever change the hearts of minds of B2B enterprise.  Recently, however, my colleague and B2B strategy guru @seangeehan received the following email from “Still B2Cing," so I guess our work is not completely done.

 

Oh yes, we’ve seen this situation many times, and it is particularly pernicious as the challenge lies on two fronts:

  1. The overall enterprise has both B2B and B2C markets, such as a manufacturer who sells both direct to consumer and through a distribution network, as well as a massive organization like GE.  No one could possibly believe the executive who runs the GE lightbulb division has the same approach to growth and profitability as GE Aircraft. Unless the ELT understands the differences, most often we see the executives with the flashier high-profile B2C resumes take charge, and it is most often a disaster for the B2B side of the business. Hybrid organizations such as these are the most difficult to manage and grow unless you have the right playbook in place for the each side of the business.

  2. Ex-P&Gers who won't or can't adapt (or insert here alumni from most consumer packaged good companies). These proven, smart folks tend to struggle in their transition to most non-CPG companies, but especially when they move to B2B.  Most of them stick to what they know, apply the same go-to-market methodology/formula, and expect similar results.

The most common example of hybrids are financial institutions who have both consumer and commercial segments.  Because the hybrid situation is so prevalent there, we showcase Wells Fargo in The B2B Executive Playbook and how they address their hybrid organization, particularly the B2B side.  They have adapted specific B2B practices to address the commercial side of their business. Very smart.

Other industries that commonly have both B2B and B2C markets and offerings include hotel and hospitality, as well as computer and technology (Microsoft, Symantec, Dell).  Let’s take Dell for example. After successfully making B2C history selling PCs to consumers, as a growth strategy Dell began acquiring B2B firms (middleware, integrators, etc.) and building solutions for B2B customers (e.g., mainframes).  However, they did not change their go-to-market strategy and approached CIOs fairly similar to how they marketed to college students.  It didn’t work, and eventually Dell went private after stock tumbled. Our company, along with Dell’s biggest corporate customers, tried very hard to get them to understand that a different approach was needed. The CMO didn’t agree (ex-major CPG executive) despite our very “dynamic” conversations.  Suffice it to say, that CMO is no longer there, which is the unfortunate outcome we have seen for so many talented B2C executives. 

Facing similar challenges, both IBM and GE have all but left the B2C world, and one reason is they found it difficult to do both successfully for mostly the same reasons as other B2B/B2C hybrids.  Either you invest to execute different strategies, or you focus on one. There really isn’t a “one size fits all” solution.

Sean points to another notable example, Cisco. The B2B stalwart tried to get into the B2C market and failed miserably: $4-6B write down and complete shed or shut down of most of their B2C business. 

Sean focuses pretty hard on the topic of differing strategies for the two worlds in chapter two of his book.  The picture below provides a great reference point for where the approach differs between B2B v. B2C, and it primarily lies in go-to-market strategy: marketing, sales, and the biggest buzz-word today, innovation (R&D).

The one key element missing in this picture is service.  Service delivery may overlap or not, depending on industry and model.  The important point is you have to realize there may be key differences which need to be identified and addressed.  For more advice from Sean about this and other B2B strategies, check out his B2B Customer Strategies blog.

So take heart, Still B2Cing, there is hope!  Experience has taught us that if you can convince B2Cers they have landed in a different world AND they are curious and willing enough to learn and adapt to their environment, the path to sustainable, predictable, profitable growth (SPPG) becomes quite clear and straight-forward to navigate.  The missing link is found!

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Don't Let the Name Fool You: 6sense is Based in Math, Patented, and Grounded in Worldly Advice from Customers and Peers

According to 6sense CEO Amanda Kahlow, "Predicting buyers and the products they're interested in isn't magic—it's math. …And lots of behavioral, intent-related data."1 

The 6sense math is paying off for its customers. Shortly after a first round of funding in 2014, the company reported that one of its customers closed $300 million in new business as a result of the 6sense method. More recently, 6sense announced Netsuite has seen an 8x lift in conversions and $25 million in pipeline created since June of 2015, and Dell has witnessed a 2x increase in average opportunity size. Quoting Dell's Marketing Innovation Strategist, Enterprise Demand Generation Jeff Siegel, the Dell team likes to say, “If it's not 6sense, it's nonsense."3

The 6sense math is also paying off for 6sense. In July 2016, the company announced "breakthrough momentum with 4x annual recurring revenue (ARR) growth from this time last year and zero customer churn." (and their Customer Success team is still forming!)  Some of their other customers include ADP, Cisco, Cohesity, Dropbox, GE, HP, IBM, NetApp, Salesforce, and Xactly. Salesforce is also an investor, along with other lead investors Bain Capital, Battery Ventures, and Venrock. To date, over $36M has been invested.4  No hocus pocus indeed.

Born out of a consulting project with CISCO, Kahlow formed 6sense when she experienced an "Aha!" moment during a team meeting. Less than 10 years later, Kahlow continues to propel the company forward with two key moves which caught my attention.

First, to help secure and fuel future growth, 6sense shrewdly patented its method. Crediting Kahlow as the inventor, the USPTO patent covers a “machine implemented system and method of predicting future sales, leads and opportunities based on static data and/or intent buying behavioral data by connecting data from one or multiple sources.“ 

That's a mouthful. More simply put, the 6sense “network of intent data” looks at activity on thousands of B2B publisher sites, directories, blogs, communities, and forums, and combines that data with 6sense customer activity (weblogs, CRM, and marketing automation) as well as descriptive attribute data about the customer's products to make predictions about buyers. The real power of their method, according to Kahlow, is the descriptive information provided to their customers about what buyers want and where they are in their particular buying cycle, which is richer and more directional than a simple scoring of leads already in the funnel. By 6sense estimates, between 60% and 90% of B2B purchasing decisions happen before a customer makes it into a company’s sales and marketing systems. “That is, before that customer raises their hand and asks to be called."2 Those are the informed, motivated, and funded buyers 6sense finds for its customers.

According to the company press release, the patent "validates 6sense's unique formula and market leadership." So does the aforementioned results.

But what really caught my attention is the company's B2B Executive Playbook move to form a Customer Advisory Board (CAB). We have seen many companies like 6sense, whose founders lead the company to impressive growth (and several rounds of funding), lull themselves into complacency (and stagnating growth) with inside-only thinkingthe mindset that the collective brainpower of the internal team is the only store of knowledge and creativity needed for innovation and strategyUnderstandably, it is easy to rely only on the brilliance of the team who's got you there so far. Why change the formula? 

Unfortunately, inside-only thinking produces insular ideas and solutions which are not rooted in customer or market needs, especially as the leadership and product development teams get farther and farther away from direct interaction with customers, and more importantly, decision makers. They simply lose touch, and this thinking in a vacuum approach "contributes to the 60-70 percent product failure rate that continues to plague companies."5

6sense looks to avoid this pitfall with its CAB. Chartered to formalize the process to align product development with customer needs, Chief Strategy Officer Mark Dye, says their CAB allows 6sense to continue to innovate their platform and roadmap alongside the business goals of their most engaged customers.Taking customer engagement one step further, 6sense timed the launch of their CAB in conjuction with their recent Predictive Intelligence Summit, B2B ESP. With speakers from CISCO, Dell, and Forrester B2B sales and marketing industry analyst @lauraramos, 6sense seems to understand that the best results come from the thinking both inside and outside themselves. As CEO Kahlow notes, "We are thrilled to be working with some of the brightest and most innovative minds in B2B marketing and sales."With this approach coming straight from the top, I have a feeling she will keep this extended 6sense team on the path to sustainable, predictable, profitable growth.5

To my favorite skeptic's delight, I found a greeting card which proclaims, "Magic is everywhere, if you don't understand science."  Although I still like to believe in a little magic, I certainly appreciate when we can use math and science to create a sense of awe. Kahlow perhaps says it best, “The universe is a really incredible place if you put it to good use.”7 

That she is.

 

Resources.  Here are just some of the great resources I found to learn about 6sense:

1  http://www.fiercecmo.com/story/6sense-launches-tool-designed-pinpoint-b2b-buyer-intent/2014-08-06

2  https://techcrunch.com/2014/05/19/6sense-a-predictive-sales-intelligence-tool-exits-stealth-with-12m-led-by-battery-venrock/

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/6sense-announces-4x-growth-in-annual-recurring-revenue-300304671.html

4  https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/6sense

5  http://www.geehangroup.com/featured-publications

6  http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/6sense-establishes-customer-advisory-board-to-drive-customer-centric-innovation-300307442.html?tc=eml_cleartime

http://venturebeat.com/2014/05/29/hard-knock-life-for-this-family-led-to-3-ceos-4-startups/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thank You, Customer Success, for Uniting Marketing and Finance

“Over the years, I have come to dislike marketers,” a CFO at a $350M company recently told me.  “I have found they just aren’t good business people.”

I couldn’t help but smile and explain to him how his mind was about to change.

During the past several weeks, I've had the opportunity to work with my colleague Sean Geehan and the smart folks at Strikedeck to better understand the nuts and bolts of B2B marketing’s new priority, Customer Success.  Before this time, the Finance snob inside of me assumed “Customer Success” was just another slick label marketing had put on the tried and true function of customer service or the practice of simply following the immortal words of James Cash Penny, “The well-satisfied customer will bring the repeat sale that counts.”

I don’t know who gets credit for the name “Customer Success,” but my cohorts in Finance should scoff no longer.  Despite its glib name, disciplined Customer Success is serious business (over $50 million committed by the US venture community on solution providers), and it can make or break players in the Cloud Subscription XaaS Economy.  According to the Customer Success Association, “Across the SaaS B2B sector, the choice is becoming clear.  You either actively manage your customer relationships as strategic portfolio assets, or you effectively cede control over them and your company’s future to chance and/or the competition.” 

Whoa. Those kind of words place Customer Success at the crux of SaaS company strategy, so much so that the CS Association advises, “The ultimate strategic goal of the Customer Success role is sustainable corporate profitability and growth.  The method is to make your customers as profitable and productive as possible.”  With such an important strategic imperative, Marketing, who has to date been driving most Customer Success initiatives in XaaS companies, is now placed in an even more significant position.  I wonder if these marketers realize their elevated status (most think they are still low men and women on the corporate totem pole), or that to take advantage of it, they get to think again about a group to whom they can't help but feel a gravitational pull: Users.

"The fate of your B2B company rests in the hands of a few people," our team has said for years about the connection between executive decision makers and B2B strategy.  While this is still extremely true, in the SaaS model, users are taking back some of the attention because the adoption and use of their seat licenses have become a significant factor in determining the economic value borne by the purchase of SaaS technologies.  And, more importantly, it has become the onus of sellers and their technology to make sure users adopt and use it.  As such, a subscription based business is probably the closest a B2B organization has been to needing to consider users and their happiness strategically in quite some time. Furthermore, the importance of keeping user cheeks happily in license seats requires Marketing and Customer Success to plan, coordinate, monitor, and possibly even design most of the major functions of service delivery.

As one example, let’s look at one of the primary drivers of adoption and use: training.  In the not-so old days as a user, it was his responsibility to learn and adapt to whatever technology the decision makers several levels above his pay grade chose to purchase and install (I am reminded of a major software conversion required at a major US bank because the CEOs at the two companies golfed together).  To learn the new system, users might get to attend a class or benefit from hands-on training, but many times it came in the form of a set of very large binders through which time had to be found to dig and find answers.  Online training later offered a more efficient Q&A search tool, but again, the content was fairly static (and boring) and nowhere near our modern day definition of “interactive.”  All in all, learning the new system on which a user performed his job was really his responsibility, if he wanted to perform well.  The technology wasn’t going anywhere, or at least until when GAAP said it could.

Today, learning the system is no longer altogether the user’s responsibility.  Users expect the technology either to be intuitive enough so that even a caveman could use it, or to teach them with on-demand “Live Chat” training and quick answers to their questions in forums and chat rooms.  In fact, when I talk to millennials about their jobs, they expect to be taught how and when they want to learn.  If they don’t feel competent quickly enough - or they just don’t like the technology - they just won’t adopt and proceed to influence a move to an alternative.  It’s “There's another app for that” mentality. There is always another app or similar technology that can do the job just as well, but maybe it has better chat rooms with more clever emojis.  When their employers see adoption is low, they can scrap the technology by unsubscribing and moving their data elsewhere.  Gone are the capital expenditures that had to be amortized and force users to use or lose.

The Technology Marketing and Sales research and services company ITMSA recently held its annual Marketing Leadership Forum which included a panel discussion of leaders from Amdocs, Cisco, and Oracle on customer experience and customer success and the role marketing must take in both functions.  In his summary of the session, ITMSA President CEO Dave Munn notes the perspective of Steve Pinedo, vice president, Oracle Global Cloud Customer Success, “the shift to the cloud is driving dramatic changes in customer expectations for technology based solutions, with new demands for immediate and frictionless support and value at every stage of the relationship.  From a marketing perspective, this puts customer success front and center, and makes reducing customer churn the number one KPI.”

Customer Churn.  This is where the finance nerd inside me really takes notice.  As Sean wrote in his recent post "Customer Success: Applying Science to the Art of Customer Engagement," churn (the rate at which customers leave) is the metric which could finally give marketing and customer engagement a measurement by which these efforts have a benchmark, and benchmarks mean funding and more importantly, credibility and stature with The ELT. 

Armed with churn rates, Marketing may now have the words Finance has longed to hear.  Whenever Sean and I speak to a group of CFOs or financial leaders, we remind them of their right to demand ROI on the investments they make in marketing.  Unfortunately, their marketing peers have struggled to find an irrefutable number by which they can say, “Our programs elevated our position to Leader in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant,” or even, “Our efforts contributed to raising our market cap.”  The churn rate statistic erases this previous shortcoming as the metric becomes more heavily weighted in technology evaluations and company valuations.  Marketing leaders can now say, “Our Customer Success Program, with its new onboarding engagement plan, has lowered our churn rate and brought us a new round of venture funding.”  With this type of measurable contribution to the organization’s growth, how can a CEO or CFO not take notice?

Marketing has an excuse no longer to shy away from numbers and figures, and they should embrace this opportunity to take ownership of measuring, monitoring, reporting, and hopefully bragging about their contribution to low churn. This might be an overstatement, or even blasphemy, but marketing finally has a reason to embrace at least one statistic.  And they get to talk about user decision making behavior again.  Win-Win!

I end here by sharing a graphic I found on the Customer Success Association website because I think it effectively ties together the relationship between Customer Success, retention, and profitable growth.  It's a picture to rally around and unify all the corporate languages.

 

 

 

 

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3 Keys to Retaining and Growing B2B Revenue

In the B2B World, 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your customers. The reality is that losing just 5% of those customers could potentially sink your organization. So in this age of big data and rapidly evolving technology, what are the best ways to retain and ultimately grow those customers?

B2B companies must meaningfully engage with their customers to evolve loyalty into advocacy, and engagement begins with a relationship.  Through our work with over 50 leading B2B companies, we have found time again the following three key relationship building practices lay the foundation for account retention and growth:

1.    Educate, Don't Sell.  B2B relationships start with education, not a sales pitch. Educate yourself on your customer's industry, market, challenges, and opportunities, and then demonstrate how you can show them a path forward.  Providing relevant content through discussions and forums, blog posts and articles, and research is an excellent way to establish your credibility and begin the customer loyalty to advocacy journey.

2.    Customer Advisory Boards create a platform where you can leverage happy customers and drive innovation through customer co-design and collaboration. The end result is overall market alignment in offerings, communications, and strategy.

3.    Executive Summits bring key decision-makers together to preview a strategy, product, or market innovation. Through these focused exchanges, customers become first-to-know, first-to-buy, and first to advocate your solution in the marketplace.

Structured, proven, and dynamic educational forums, customer advisory boards, and executive summits help organizations develop a deep understanding of market conditions while building the rapport with key executives. This powerful formula turns customers into true advocates and is the best recipe for retaining and growing your top customers.

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DCR Workforce: Texbook Orchestration of B2B Growth Strategy

Holy Beethoven!  I read dozens of articles about innovation and strategy each week, but none of them reflect the simple foundational melody of B2B growth: engage your customer decision makers and provide a mechanism for them to collaborate meaningfully with your team. 

So imagine the music to my ears as I read "DCR's Customer Advisory Board: Orchestrating Innovation," a publication DCR Workforce (DCR) released along with its recent announcement outlining the collaboration between DCR customers and the company's product managers, solutions group, and internal implementation team.

In its press release, DCR, a provider of Vendor Management System (VMS) solutions, describes "the successful collaboration of its Global Implementation Summit in conjunction with its Customer Advisory Board Innovation Summit to produce the next generation of industry innovations."  Sequenced throughout the year, DCR meets with decision makers and ties their input directly to nearly all aspects of the company's product development and management processes. "DCR Workforce works closely with VIP clients in identifying industry trends and assisting in developing the overall strategic vision for our product."  The company describes getting feedback on both the current and new, including product roadmaps on recent releases, procedures for new customer onboarding, roll-outs of new features, specifications for more established, advanced users, and new innovative ideas the DCR team is "composing."  According to Rich Piva, Director of Implementation and Client Services, "We're orchestrating innovation together with our valued customers.  And this synergy continues to grow and make Smart Track the best VMS in the industry." 

Most importantly, DCR leadership understands its role in the B2B executive engagement process. "Our most important job during these Summits is to ask the big questions, then sit back and listen," says Naveen Dua, CEO and Vice President of Solutions. "We want our customers to know that we are true partners with them and take their needs very seriously."  It may sound elementary, but unlike Mr. Dua, a surprising number of very smart and successful executives continue to struggle with surrendering the PowerPoint.  I don't suspect this reluctance is necessarily a habit inherent to a generation, but rather a habit inherent to a career path which has been paved with having all of the answers.  Wisdom tells us, however, that oftentimes the roadmap which leads to one point of your journey won't necessarily be the same guide to your next. Let go of the clicker, and see your growth soar.

Bravo, DCR!  I look forward to reading your results over the next eight quarters and hearing the sweet music of B2B Sustainable, Predictable, Profitable, Growth.

 

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B2B Marketing's Huge Opportunity to Drive Profitable Growth

Marketers often times find it easier to apply the trusted tenets of B2C marketing to B2B selling. Unfortunatley, they then end up with disastrous results because of B2B marketing’s more complex and lengthier buying cycle. While some basic rules apply, B2B marketing is quite different and needs different tactics. It demands marketing involvement for a longer time, and with more specificity.

What else makes B2B marketing different? What should marketers change to get more results from B2B campaigns? How can a B2B marketer connect with customers and leverage innovation to drive business growth?

Join this free webinar sponsored by Regalix for a chance to engage directly with Geehan, as well as other marketing professionals. Don’t miss this insightful discussion on:

  • Unraveling the differences between B2B and B2C
  • Increasing marketing’s credibility with the Leadership team
  • Aligning strategies to market needs
  • Engaging & leveraging your most valuable customers
  • Achieving sustainable, predictable and profitable growth

All registrants will receive an abstract from Sean's National Best Seller, The B2B Executive Playbook.

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Learning to Drive B2B Profitable Growth at Ariba Live

Business strategy books fill bookstore shelves, but none draw attention to the unique ways in which B2B organizations need to strategize and run differently than B2C companies in order to achieve true sustainable, predictable, and profitable growth.

Please join me at Ariba Live In my feature break out session, where I will identify those unique differences and demonstrating how B2B companies need to apply B2B strategies with proven approaches. Everyone attending this session will receive a signed copy of The B2B Executive Playbook.

Don't miss this amazing event where you’ll learn to optimize the connectivity and analytics made possible by business networks and the Cloud, gaining essential insights that empower you to transform business commerce. This event includes informative breakout sessions, dynamic keynotes, and engaging networking opportunities, where you'll learn how to buy better, sell more, and manage cash more efficiently.

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3 Keys to Retaining and Growing B2B Revenue

In the B2B World, 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your customers. The reality is that losing just 5% of those customers could potentially sink your organization. So in this age of big data and rapidly evolving technology, what are the best ways to retain and ultimately grow those customers?

B2B companies must meaningfully engage with their customers to evolve loyalty into advocacy, and engagement begins with a relationship.  Through our work with over 50 leading B2B companies, we have found time again the following three key relationship building practices lay the foundation for account retention and growth:

1.    Educate, Don't Sell.  B2B relationships start with education, not a sales pitch. Educate yourself on your customer's industry, market, challenges, and opportunities, and then demonstrate how you can show them a path forward.  Providing relevant content through discussions and forums, blog posts and articles, and research is an excellent way to establish your credibility and begin the customer loyalty to advocacy journey.

2.    Customer Advisory Boards create a platform where you can leverage happy customers and drive innovation through customer co-design and collaboration. The end result is overall market alignment in offerings, communications, and strategy.

3.    Executive Summits bring key decision-makers together to preview a strategy, product, or market innovation. Through these focused exchanges, customers become first-to-know, first-to-buy, and first to advocate your solution in the marketplace.

Structured, proven, and dynamic educational forums, customer advisory boards, and executive summits help organizations develop a deep understanding of market conditions while building the rapport with key executives. This powerful formula turns customers into true advocates and is the best recipe for retaining and growing your top customers.

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Top 3 B2B Marketing Challenges from 2012

The end of the year always sparks a time of reflection, while the beginning of the year represents a new journey. The three articles below are my top picks for Marketing's biggest challenges faced in 2012 and a playbook that contains the best strategy to face these issues while providing the biggest opportunities for all B2B CMO's in 2013. 

Marketing’s Broken Foundation Measurement

Data is the foundation for analytics. Analytics is the foundation for marketing driven by data and insights.

Think Like a CFO to Gain C-Suite Credibility

Information technology is about driving business results through revenue growth, leveraging economies of scale, and optimizing business decisions through analytics.

Have we Lost the C Suite by Measuring the Wrong Things?

If the latest surveys are to be believed, B2B marketing is on the verge of a “crisis of confidence” within the C suite.

The B2B Executive Playbook

The B2B Executive Playbook describes four steps that can simplify strategic planning, focus product development and sales and marketing efforts, and, most importantly, create a clear path to market leadership.  When implemented properly, it will also add sustainability and predictability to a B2B company’s top and bottom lines. 

 

 

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How a Customer Advisory Board Can Help You Prepare for 2013

A Customer Advisory Board (CAB) is a high-return, high-profile event that can heavily influence your company's competitive standing. A successful CAB provides a powerful format that turns customers into true advocates and provides executives with the information needed to align customer programs with company strategy. A formal Customer Advisory Board should be in your marketing and strategic arsenal for 2013.

A well structured Customer Advisory Board is a proven and dynamic program that helps executives and decision makers develop a deep understanding of market conditions while simultaneously building relationships with key customers. A CAB is the perfect avenue for B2B Companies that have more than 60% of their sales with their top customers to receive relevant feedback that can be used in strategic business planning. A Customer Advisory Board not only helps your organization retain your most profitable customers, a CAB will help increase revenue opportunities within your customer base.

A Customer Advisory Board creates a platform where you can leverage happy customers and drive innovation through customer co-design and collaboration. The end result is an overall market alignment in offerings, communications and strategy that will prepare your organization for profitability in 2013 and beyond.

 

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