Customer Relationship Innovation for the Emergent Social Business

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Speaking at an event hosted by SugarCRM and IBM Social Business this week, I informally polled the audience.

“How many of you are NOT on facebook?” No hands were raised.
“How many of you have a twitter account?” Most of the room raised their hands.
“LinkedIn?” Most of the room again raised their hands.

I repeated the same questions, referencing the people in the room’s businesses, and a slightly smaller number of folks raised their hands, but more than half still did.

I then asked – “How many of you know what to do with them?” Giggles. Laughter. Very few hands.

This is where we collectively find ourselves. It’s representative of a number of organizations that I have the opportunity to work with and speak to.

I didn’t even think of asking if any organizations in the room had created a tactical plan to listen and engage with customers and create a seamless (and amazing) experience across multiple channels and domains. Most companies are still trying to get the fundamentals right (as Filiberto Selvas pointed out here)

It’s easy to join a social network. It’s harder to engage. What should I say? What will they think? Do I have permission?

It’s even harder to engage with a coordinated strategy and accurately measure the results of your efforts. Blend activities on the social web with what’s happening in the rest of the organization…across departmentsacross silos?

If we’re not even on the same page internally, how can we communicate a unified message to the world that hasn’t been careful crafted by our marketing team and the agencies that they work with?

My anecdotal observation is that many companies get here and then acknowledge that it’s just too big of a challenge to tackle…at least for now.

“If you’ve got to start somewhere, why not here? If you got to start sometime, why not now?” – Toby Mac

New landscape.
New customer.
New roles.
New communication mediums.
New expectations.
New corporate culture.
New Focus.
New Critical Success Factors.

It’s quite a bit to digest when people are trying to keep their jobs and help keep the company profitable, when they’ve already just absorbed the jobs of 1-2 people who were laid off over the past few years. However, only focusing simply on the here and now is the path to extinction.

Those who understand how these new changes are affecting their marketplace (which in most cases is larger, more complicated, and more diverse than it was just a few years ago) will be hyper-rewarded. Those who fail to admit, understand, and adjust to these rapidly evolving new realities will be destroyed, or more likely die a long, slow, painful death.

Below are a few highlights from the presentation.

B2B Buyers

FOUR THINGS TO FOCUS ON NOW

While there’s no notes or audio to the full deck, I’ve provided it below. Hopefully it provides value, and helps to stimulate some interesting conversations on the social web and for you in your respective organization(s). Interestingly, Mike Fauscette touched on many of the same themes in his blog post “Customer Service – the new Marketing in the era of the Social Customer”. It’s definitely worth a read.

One other final fascinating tidbit from the event was that I met and had a good chat with a Director of Marketing from a Silicon Valley startup. I meet and talk with plenty of Directors of Marketing. What was interesting about this one was that she said that she was actually a social anthropologist. My ears perked up. Seems like someone is paying attention. While the roles of social anthropologist and Director of Marketing may seem to be world’s apart, they’re not. Here’s a link to an article I wrote highlighting why it might be the perfect fit.

It’s fun to be part of the greatest transformation since the industrial revolution? Are you in?

In an era of crisis & revolution, is your company the next target?

We are living in interesting times indeed. Geo-political revolutions, financial crises, economic uncertainty. Try as we might to ignore them, the fact is that the very fabric of capitalism is being re-evaluated, and perhaps even rewoven.

What we have assumed and known for at least 150 years is at the very least being questioned. Institutions that have spanned generations are now vulnerable.

Banks are still closing down weekly. The situation in Europe is increasingly fragile as previous whispers of dramatic austerity and potential collapse of the Euro become potentially viable outcomes.

In the United States, President Obama’s approval rating is at an all time low. Congress approval rating is at 14% – FOURTEEN PERCENT! – also an all time low.

Civil unrest has spread from oppressive dictatorial regimes in the Middle East and Africa to the developed world (see London riots).

Corporate America is obviously feeling the effects of many of these issues as they affect all of us, directly or indirectly.

You are likely familiar with the recent collapse of these famed organizations:

  • Lehman Brothers
  • Merrill Lynch
  • Blockbuster Video
  • Borders Bookstores

Power to the People

Friends, we are living in a unique era. While world leaders collectively wrestle with the greatest economic challenges in the last 70 years, many corporations find themselves doing the same. Customers are voicing their opinions about companies they do business with, as constituents voice their displeasure about the poor job their leaders are doing on their behalf.

The following incidents caught executives by surprise as specific cries against corporate actions rallied the hearts, minds, and activity of thousands in revolt against insensitive corporate interests.

  • Dell Hell
  • United Breaks Guitars
  • Kevin Smith’s Southwest Airlines Incident
  • Greenpeace and Nestle

Jeremiah Owyang chronicles a more complete list of corporate social media crisis here

What’s perhaps most interesting is that these recent revolutions and crises, whether political or corporate, are being fueled and enabled by the reach and connectedness of internet based social networks.

While Jeremiah and the team at The Altimeter Group once again published a quality open research report titled “Social Readiness: How Advanced Companies Prepare” , it is possible to miss some of the larger, more important underlying issues.

The Seeds of Revolution

Surely, rapid uprisings and revolutions don’t just happen because someone tweets about it, or posts a YouTube video. It’s not the medium that really matters. It’s the ability for the message to spread, and for people to self-organize quickly – to out-think, out-flank, and out-number their oppressors or aggressors.

Revolution happens because a latent frustration finds an outlet. It happens because enough people unite and take action around an idea of change. Connected by a common interest or frustration, the network effect takes place as people unite in a flash mob around a common goal. It happens because the thought of things staying the same becomes more fearful and oppressive than the uncertainty and risk associated with standing up and going a different direction.

According to BJ Fogg’s behavioral model (Hat tip to Dr. Graham Hill and Dr. Michael Wu for pointing me his way), there are three primary factors that lead to behaviors:

  • Motivation
  • Ability
  • Trigger

You see, I believe that there are tons of latent motivations out there that never turn into anything because the other two factors don’t exist. Social Networks and ubiquitous connectivity are providing the ability to actually do something once a trigger occurs. With latent motivations and now the ability to do something now in place, a trigger event becomes a spark that can quickly flame into a roaring fire.

In a world that is increasingly connected, increasingly digital, and access to anything and anyone is available in real time, corporate leaders should be considering the following questions.

The fabric of global society is transforming from a collection of lots of small, geographically connected groups to groups that are connected in a new geography that transcends previous space and time limitations.

Much of the new global infrastructure has been laid and it will continue to become more pervasive and more powerful.

People can now aggregate across boundaries, and organize beyond the constraints and management comforting silos. Al Quaeda and WikiLeaks quickly come to mind. In the same way, business units are self-organizing around the constraints of their IT departments.

Guess what? Our prospects and customers now have the ability to do the same.

The question every executive should be asking right now

So then the next question is, will your organization lead the next revolution in your marketplace, empowering and giving voice to the latent motivations of your customers, or will it become a victim of a more agile, more united group of customers who will self organize around their collective needs and jobs, leaving your outdated organization in their wake?

Let’s continue the discussion

If you are in Southern California or Arizona, please join me on September 21 and 22 as I lead discussions centered around this topic in a series of Executive Breakfasts sponsored by NICE.

Networks, Signals, Reputation and Delight

The era of mass marketing, sales driven information gathering and sharing, and being “just good enough to win” is being shattered by the rapid emergence of a smart, networked, and increasingly demanding generation of empowered customers. In the fragmented and fast moving world of concepts, buzzwords, technologies, and applications, most executives are looking for looking for answers to a few basic questions:

– What matters?
– What’s different?
– How can I and or my organization benefit?
– Where is the opportunity?
– What should I do now?

As I survey the evolving landscape, there are four primary things that stand out as emerging keys to sales and marketing success in an always on, attention scarce, information rich world.

  • Growing your network
  • Sending signals that are valuable
  • Building a glowing reputation
  • Focusing on delighting your customers

None of these are new tactics. They’ve all stood the test of time and have been employed by folks over the last several hundred years. However, the speed and access to people and information has made each of them exponentially more important. Take a look at the stats in the image below.

*** TAKEAWAY ***: When buyers want something, they’ll turn to search and their network to look for answers. Make sure you are there.

Why reputation and ranking is important

A great “human digitization” is taking place. Hordes of people and content are flooding into the web. Search engines and other content and people filters have to come up with a scoring mechanism to make results meaningful. Google, Bing, Facebook, and others are merging “people rank” with “page rank”. Search results are now being presented taking into account the “influence” and “reputation” of the messengers who are sharing it.

*** TAKEAWAY ***: Position yourself and your organization as a voice that matters (among those who know you, AND those who have yet to discover you)

Messenger as Important as the Message

*** How do you do this? ***

  • Build your network(s).
  • Send valuable signals – these could be blog posts, tweets, white papers, videos, comments, etc.
  • Focus on delighting your customers, prospects, partners, employees, suppliers, etc. It matters. It stands out. It breeds enthusiasm, loyalty, and word of mouth.
  • As your networks and signals expand their reach with positive sentiment, your reputation will increase.
  • As your reach and reputation grows, it provides an even greater platform to create moments of “delight”
  • Congratulations! An exponential and continuous feedback loop has been created.

Networks, Signals, Reputation, and Delight

For more on the concept(s), feel free to download/view the entire presentation below, or simply contact me directly.

The Future of Customer Relationships: Where is all this heading?

Shifts in technology and human behavior are rapidly changing customer’s expectations of companies. Things are moving so fast, that most executives are not only trying to catch up with the changes, but identify what some of the changes are. Understanding what those changes mean to each business is a more complicated matter altogether.

Ross Dawson brilliantly lays out his observations of the mega trends happening around us in the charts below.

Ross Dawson Map of the Decade

Ross Dawson Zeitgeist 2011

Two growing and intertwining concepts (influence and reputation) are rapidly gaining ground and creating controversy as to their accuracy, adaptability, and use. There is a growing gap between those who believe that these scores and algorithms are the key to priority and leverage, opening up the door for profitable arbitrage, and others that believe that this is the emergence of a new caste system based on false measurements.

Just today, Klout just released a plugin for Twitter that displays an “influence” score (see the screenshot below), but this type of technology and scoring is currently in its infancy, and still marginally beneficial in the context of real life. However, some large and well known organizations are already giving perks and preference to customers with a high klout score.

Twitter Klout Plugin

Dr. Michael Wu, Chief Scientist, of Lithium Technologies, has been doggedly trying to uncover the meaning of influence, its impact on relationships, and ultimately corporate profit structures. Target the influencers, and you can move the crowd. There are seemingly vast opportunities in understanding and leveraging influencers within networked communities.

Influencer Network Graph

But, in reality, the influence/reputation conundrum is just one small movement in a massive tectonic shift happening that is disrupting geopolitical structures (Egypt, Bahrain, etc.), macro-economic theories and assumptions (the financial meltdown and the current response(s), human behavior, and corporate sustainability.

In late 2009, in one the most popular posts ever on customer focused portal, CustomerThink, Graham Hill outlined 15 tenets in his “Manifesto for Social Business


No1. From Individual Customers… to Networks of Customers

No2. From Customer Needs, Wants & Expectations… to Customer Jobs-to-be-Done

No3. From Company Value-in-Exchange… to Customer Value-in-Use

No4. From Delivering Value to Customers… to Co-Creating Value with Customers

No5. From Marketing, Sales & Service Touchpoints… to the End-to-End Customer Experience

No6. From One-Size-Fits-All Products… to a Long-Tail of Mass-Customised Solutions

No7. From Competing on Products, Price or Service… to Competing over Multi-sided Platforms

No8. From Company Push… to Sensing and Responding in Real-Time to Customers

No9. From Technology, Processes & Culture… to Complementary Capabilities and Micro-Foundations

No10. From Made by Companies for Customers… to Made By Customers for Each Other

No11. From On-premise Applications… to On-demand Solutions from the Cloud

No12. From Stand-alone Companies… to an Ecosystem of Networked Partners

No13. From Hierarchical Command & Control… to Collaborative Hybrid Organisations

No14. From Customer Strategy… to a Portfolio of Emergent Customer Options

No15. From Customer Lifetime Value… to Customer Network Value

Add to these, the fast growing mobile, always connected individuals, and you have the making of a perfect storm, for those who understand where things are headed.

Join the Conversation

On Wednesday, February 23, 2011 at 1 pm PST / 4 pm EST, please listen in to a conversation as some of the world’s brightest minds will evaluate and debate where we’re heading, project how multiple trajectories might collide, and what your organization should be preparing for now.

I’ll be participating in a roundtable, hosted by Focus.com featuring experts Ross Dawson, Dr. Graham Hill, Dr. Michael Wu, and analyst and futurist Denis Pombriant as we explore topics such as:

1) Influence and Reputation: How forward thinking companies will leverage these new measurements to attract and keep customers
2) Co-Creation: What it is and why it’s next in the evolution of customer centricity
3) The Impact of rapidly maturing mobile and collaborative technologies on organizations, their customers, and society as a whole

Here’s the call-in information – I hope you have the chance to join us:

Toll-free Dial-In Number: (866) 951-1151
International Dial-In Number: (201) 590-2255
Conference # : 4999006

International Toll Free Numbers
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Social Media, Collaboration, and Customer Insights with an elite group of experts: April 4-6, 2011

When SugarCRM asked me to assemble the social track for SugarCon, the first thing that impressed me was the “spirit” of the track, and conference for that matter. It had little to do with touting Sugar; the company, or the products they make. Rather, it was all about creating a gathering of thought leaders, practitioners, and vendors to mutually work together in the effort of taking the next leap in improving customer relationships.

The great thing about working in collaboration with an open source company is that they “get” stuff like “open”, “collaboration” and “community”. It seems to be just naturally in their DNA and has been since their inception.

SugarCon 2011

I am excited about the lineup. The quality of speakers is amazing, and contains a diversity of perspectives that is hard to emulate, especially at a vendor conference. If you are free April 4-6, 2011, please mark your calendars and plan to attend SugarCon.

Considering that the price for the entire event is far less than what these folks normally charge for an hour of their time, plus the invaluable benefit of networking with other executives, marketers, sales folks, and technologists, it makes it a no-brainer if you can attend. Add to that the additional keynotes, 5 additional tracks, and it’s truly an event you won’t want to miss.

***** To make it even sweeter, mention the special discount code #SCON040511 and get $150 off. *****

Here’s a quick breakdown of the presenter’s lineup, chalk full of folks who have a reputation of keynoting on their own.

Paul Greenberg

Paul Greenberg

Paul Greenberg (@pgreenbe)

Paul will be keynoting the event. If you don’t know who Paul Greenberg is, you probably “have been very busy”. He’s written four versions of the best selling book, “CRM at the Speed of Light”, is an independent analyst, and a well respected consultant to some of the largest and well known CRM vendors in the world. He coined the most used definition of Social CRM, and has energized an industry with his research, intelligence, signature writing style, inquisitive mind, and kind and generous nature. Paul was the mastermind and primary catalyst behind one of the most unique and powerful events I have been to almost exactly a year ago, which has since quite literally propelled an industry (Social CRM) that Gartner is now saying is greater than a $1 Billion marketplace. Paul is well worth the price of admission alone.

By the way, there’s another one of these now famous #scrmsummit events coming up next month (March) in Madrid, Spain if you can make it.

Esteban Kolsky

Esteban Kolsky

Esteban Kolsky (@ekolsky)

If you clicked on the Madrid, Spain “Social CRM Strategies for Business” link, you probably saw a picture of Esteban dropping knowledge in a purple shirt and a shiny blue tie. While he likely won’t be wearing a suit, he most definitely will be dropping knowledge about the evolution of social and CRM to this point in time, and will be leveraging his extensive research experience (former Gartner analyst) to paint his view of the coming “collaborative enterprise”. Esteban is one of the sharpest minds in the space, and possesses a great blend of experience (analyst, consultant, practitioner), and background (an Argentinian of Eastern European descent that floats around Silicon Valley). He’s also got a great sense of humor. You won’t want to miss his session.

Dr. Natalie Petouhoff

Dr. Natalie Petouhoff

Dr. Natalie Petouhoff (@drnatalie)

One of two PhDs. in the lineup, “Dr. Natalie” made quite a splash last year when she jumped from Forrester Research as a Customer Service analyst to take a role as “Chief Strategist” for Weber Shandwick, one of the world’s leading global public relations firms. In fact, Weber Shandwick was just named global agency of the year, for the second year in a row. In addition to being an actual rocket scientist, Dr. Natalie has written multiple books, is a university professor, and has led organizations in a wide variety of capacities as an analyst, consultant, and senior executive. Bringing together a depth of varied experience and a warm and entertaining style, Dr. Natalie will inspire new thoughts and ideas for you to take back to your organization.

Adrian Ott

Adrian Ott

Adrian Ott (@ExponentialEdge)

There’s not many people who have been called “Silicon Valley’s Most Respected Strategist”. Her consulting work is rooted in 18 years of corporate experience, and Adrian recently wrote and published her award winning book “The 24 hour Customer” which takes an intriguing look at why time is more valuable than money, and why and how to work with attention deprived customers. She’s appeared on Bloomberg TV, BusinessWeek, The Washington Post, and other major media for her research and insights about growing businesses in today’s exponential economy. Seriously good stuff. That’s all there is to it.

Dan Zarrella

Dan Zarrella

Dan Zarrella (@danzarrella)

Dan is the original Social Media Scientist. Beneath the hype and hyperbole of the social media evolution, one guy has a reputation of looking deeply into the numbers and producing insights and takeaways that often fly in the face of the mainstream cheerleaders. He knows why certain tweets gets retweeted, and when and why to post certain messages on your facebook page. He is the author of The Facebook Marketing Book and the Social Media Marketing Book. Based on his research, he knows what day and what time you should blog, or tweet. Hubspot is leveraging guys like Dan to fuel exponential growth. Take copious notes when you’re listening to Dan because they’ll translate to success and dollars when you’re back in the office.

Dr. Michael Wu

Dr. Michael Wu

Dr. Michael Wu (@mich8elwu)

Speaking of scientists, Dr. Michael Wu is taking some of the most complicated subjects underpinning the social web, social business, and social networks, dissecting them and then educating the masses with detailed yet digestible explanations of how things really work and how successful organizations can leverage networks to thrive. As the principal scientist of Lithium Technologies, a leader in Gartner’s Social CRM Magic Quadrant, and the pioneer platform provider for customer communities, Dr. Wu has access to a boatload of data, and he slices and dices it with precision. The output is keen insights into why some communities, organizations, and individuals thrive on the social web, and others don’t. Dr. Wu will teach you how seemingly far reaching concepts such as influence, gaming dynamics, and other factors can be key differentiators between marketing and customer service success and failure.

Becky Carroll

Becky Carroll

Becky Carroll (@bcarroll7)

What Becky Carroll is working on now could be enough for most people to complete in a lifetime. She’s a professor at UC San Diego, an NBC news correspondent, book author, consultant, and manages the Verizon customer community. She’s long been an author of one of the most popular blogs in the world focused on customer service and customer experience. Entertaining, multi-talented, and engaging, she understands the social world well, and knows what works with customers. Soak up her wisdom and add to your bottom line.

Christopher Carfi

Christopher Carfi

Christopher Carfi (@ccarfi)

Christopher started his blog called “The Social Customer Manifesto” in 2004! He saw today’s reality nearly a decade ahead of it’s time, and is now looking ahead at the future and the impact of the perfect storm mashup of social, mobile, and cloud computing and what it means for consumers, and in turn, the organizations that seek to earn their business. After nearly a decade at Anderson consulting, he founded Cerado, Inc. to provide software and services that enable businesses, organizations and associations to better connect and understand their customer and member communities. He recently joined Edelman Digital, the digital arm of the largest, independently owned communications firm in the world, Edelman, the publishers of the Edelman Trust Barometer, the subject of my last blog post.

Brent Leary

Brent Leary

Brent Leary (@brentleary)

Another guy who was early to the game, Brent literally started the social crm conversation on Twitter back in 2008 by creating the #scrm hashtag and bringing together a community of thousands to discuss the topic. He co-authored Barack 2.0, chronicling how Barack Obama leveraged Social Media on the way to the presidential election. Brent is the principal and founder of CRM Essentials, and is a well respected analyst, consultant, and thought leader. His thoughts are regularly featured in Inc. magazine, OPEN by American Express, and he’s been quoted in several national business publications, including the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek and Entrepreneur magazine. Brent specializes in the SMB market and always has unique, relevant and actionable insights to share.

Laurence Buchanan

Laurence Buchanan

Laurence Buchanan (@buchanla)

Laurence heads up CRM and Social CRM within the UK for Capgemini (Technology Services). In his current role Laurence is responsible for Capgemini’s CRM & Social CRM go-to-market strategy and business development across all packaged vendors and industries. He is passionate about helping clients articulate their customer-centric vision and strategy, and enabling that through the smart use of technology. Prior to Capgemini, Laurence spent a decade with SAP, where he was global vice president for SAP CRM. He is a recognised authority and evangelist on CRM, Social CRM and customer experience transformation. He writes regularly on Social CRM at The Customer Revolution and is a member of the CRM advisory board at the Rotman Centre for CRM excellence in Toronto.

Matthew Rosenhaft

Matthew Rosenhaft

Matthew Rosenhaft (@mmrosenhaft)

Matthew Rosenhaft is the Principal of Social Gastronomy and Co-Founder of the Social Executive Council, an elite group of global CxOs, focused on leveraging social technologies in their organizations. He is a former marketing executive who specializes in Social Business, Marketing, and Architecture Strategy. He also has founded several early-stage venture-backed technology companies and holds a US patent for a mobile marketing technology. You won’t want to miss Matthew’s session as he unveils the research findings of his firm, and provides an ultra-tangible example of how companies can leverage social market research to provide insight into strategic customer focused initiatives. The subject of his research? SugarCRM. Come attend this no-holds barred session as Matthew unveils clues to Sugar about what the marketplace and prospective buyers think about them, and offers some suggestions about how they might respond.

That’s the lineup. What are you waiting for? Register here, save some cash with the #SCON040511 discount code, and let’s setup a time to connect while you’re there.

Exploring the future of computing: The Hybrid Model

The migration to the cloud is well under way. Like little water drops evaporating, data and applications are heading from the vast ocean of On Premise Servers and databases to the great cumulonimbus in the sky.

With guys like Marc Benioff as the flamboyant ringleader, there’s no wonder why there is so much hype. Slowly and steadily over the past several years, salesforce.com, one of the earliest pioneers in cloud computing, has been evolving from its CRM SaaS (Software as a Service) roots into a more complete cloud computing platform, casting a vision that extends their Software as a Service platform beyond CRM, but also provides Data as a Service, and Database.com, which is aimed at being an agnostic cross technology/cross operating system data platform.

Hyperbole aside, there are indeed proven and valuable benefits that cloud computing has ushered in. Some of these include:

– Quick deployment
– No (or limited) CapEx investment
– Rapid scalability
– Lower maintenance costs

Microsoft with its Azure platform, and the Amazon Web Services EC2 cloud, among countless other providers illustrate the current demand and mass movement towards cloud computing, and increasingly validate the trend as being viable for a growing number of business scenarios.

But as much of the the marketplace rushes to the cloud, others are moving back to On Premise deployments. Concerns about data security have largely been answered, but data governance and management are still at the top of CIOs minds. In some scenarios, cost, system speed, or integration requirements with other legacy systems become a challenge. And I wouldn’t be surprised if sometime in the near future, one of the large cloud players gets hacked, sparking a backlash against the cloud computing model.

As someone put it yesterday on Twitter (let me know if you said it and I’ll give attribution), bank robbers go where the greatest amount of money is, hackers go where the greatest amount of data is.

According to an article on Biztech2.com, Stephen Mann, an analyst with Ovum recently stated:

“There is currently a buzz around SaaS, but CIOs need to ensure their decision to introduce it is based on a strong business case, rather than on the back of industry hype. SaaS is now becoming a mainstream part of the corporate IT mix but using it for the right reasons, in the right places and in the right way within an organisation is crucial. CIOs need to establish this before embarking on an implementation project.”

I agree with his assessment. In the CRM space, some companies have abandoned or avoided salesforce.com in favor of options like Microsoft CRM or Sage SalesLogix because of their flexibility to move and manage data and portions of the application stack between the Cloud, On Premise, or a combination of both.

Recognizing the trend, Enterprise 2.0 vendor SocialText today announced a migration service for those unsatisfied with Clould provider Yammer. They contend that the new offering has the potential to bring IT personnel greater control, more predictable costs, and better security. In a recent conversation, SocialText Co-Founder, Chairman, and President Ross Mayfield shared stories with me about how several organizations have come to SocialText, frustrated with having to pay money to use basic services such as managing users, segmenting data, or to simply get their data out. Mayfield contends that Yammer has a model that “VC’s love, users like, and IT personnel don’t like”.

The future of computing isn’t cloud, nor On Premise exclusively – it’s a hybrid of both where applications, data, and devices interact to help users find, analyze, consume, and contribute information across a myriad of interfaces, data sets, and physical locations. A blend of Cloud, On Premise, and Web Services all play a part in designing the information management systems of the future.

Piecing all of that together and creating the right mix is a challenge that CIOs, with the assistance of practitioners will continue to sort out over the next several years.

It’s a 2.0 World – Part One: A recap of the Sales 2.0 conference

It’s a 2.0 world. Everywhere I look, there’s either a 2.0 on the end of a word, or social at the start of it. Hype and hyperbole bombard us with new shiny toys, and snake oil to cure what ails us.

However, beyond the rah-rah and kumbaya, there IS INDEED a shift going on around us. The shift is happening in the way that humans communicate, in the way that business is done, and in the way that technology opens up new opportunities for arbitrage.

Last week, a drive up the beautiful California coast from my home in Orange County, with temporary stops in Redondo Beach, and idyllic San Luis Obispo, ultimately landed me at the first of two immersive destinations, the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown San Francisco for the Sales 2.0 conference.

Given the Four Season’s iconic reputation for customer experience, it made perfect sense for approximately 500 sales and marketing leaders to converge and discuss some of the biggest challenges and opportunities facing customer executives today.

Key Takeaways

Illumination is starting to take place
Anneke Seley pointed out during her breakout session how 2 or 3 years ago, the concept of purposely telling your sales people to spend time on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn was heresy to many in the sales world. It was unheard of, and an utter waste of time. Today, there is a growing interest, and more and more stories are emerging like that of Dan Harding, who says that he achieved 25% of his quota from leveraging social tools, or as one person from the crowd shared that they make all their sales people check LinkedIn profiles prior to making outbound phone calls.

Sales is lagging other business functions in social media adoption.
Early adopters were blogging in the middle of the web 1.0 era. Hundreds of thousands have rushed to Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn over the last half decade. From my vantage point, the majority of sales people still don’t see value in bringing this into their daily routine.

This doesn’t necessarily tell me that sales people are ignorant, technophobic, or just don’t get it. It tells me that the technology isn’t quite valuable enough yet to make a meaningful difference in the day to day lives of sales people. As with the previous adoption curve of core CRM functionality, if any tool, idea, framework will not “help me sell more”, I won’t adopt it. More so than any other role, the “time is money” adage is never more applicable to any other group than the hardworking professional sales person. They are a true litmus test of value as they don’t have the luxury to “play” or “experiment” with new tools. As illustrated above, however, the tide is slowly changing.

Social Media is forcing alignment between sales and marketing (or making it more uncomfortable for those who aren’t aligned)

  • 50% of materials marketers are creating aren’t being used by sales
  • 70% – 90% of leads generated by marketing are never followed up with by sales – Marketing Sherpa

Mark Wilson, VP of Marketing for Sybase, provided dozens of valuable insights during his keynote on Sales and Marketing alignment. The metaphor that sticks out most in my mind is the transition in mindset from the traditional concept of marketing passing a baton to sales to the mental image of a crew rowing together.

Sales and Marketing Alignment

The role of sales will continue to evolve

For those who have been around sales, and especially in a complex, consultative type sales environment, the necessity of establishing the “trusted advisor” role will be nothing new. However, the emergence of the social customer has introduced a dramatic change to something right before our very eyes. According to a study from Sirius decisions, 70% of the buying journey is completed prior to speaking with a sales person. That’s pretty staggering, considering that sales used to be responsible for most of the education. I shared some additional thoughts with Adam Metz, in “The 5 Things most sales people don’t know about the Social Customer”.

According to Forrester Research, only 38% of sales people understand prospects’ needs and how their products/services can address those issues. According to IDC, only half of all sales people reached their quota in 2009. There is a slow and steady shift underway for the role that sales plays in customer acquisition strategy.

Customers no longer need sales people to provide them with product and company information. However, buyers are still looking for people they like and trust to help guide them through the evaluation process. As a guy who’s spent a significant amount of time as a sales person and as a consultant, it’s fascinating to watch the roles blur.

The shift of power to the customer
Gerhard Gschwandtner briefly touched on the growing importance for sales organizations to raise their head from the persistent focus on internal efficiencies and redirect their attention to the customer. I was pleasantly surprised to hear him even mention co-creation as a theme growing in importance.

Underscoring my previous thread of sales people morphing into true trusted advisors and consultants, imagine today’s typical sales person actively participating in a co-creation environment that might involve significant engineering and/or business design influence. There is a definable gap between where we are today and where things are heading.

This transition to the customer is illustrated by the rapid shift and evolution in strategy and tactics from CRM (Customer Relationship Management) to Social CRM, which is rapidly gaining traction across organizations of all sizes. For more on Social CRM, feel free to visit The Ultimate Social CRM Resource Guide, Part 1.

Other highlights

Jim Dickie of CSO Insights shared an amazing array of deep insights and anecdotes about increasing revenues through well researched and systematic insights and subsequent operational adjustments and improvements.

During a fireside chat with SAP executives, one customer shared her companies’ challenge and painful journey with implementing SAP’s ERP solution. In a somewhat awkward exchange (which by the way, Jonathan Becher, EVP Marketing and Chris Ball, RVP Enterprise West, did a nice job of handling), it provided a fitting metaphor for the current societal transition underway. The customer has a voice. The crowd is listening, and the company is on the hot seat and is forced to present a transparent and unified message.

The Vendors
While I was familiar with most vendors at the event (see a full list here), a new name for me was iMeet, created by PGI, one of the biggest companies you’ve never heard of (according to them powering more than 75% of the worlds conference calls).

iMeet provides a platform that takes web conferencing, social networking, and video technology, merges them all as one, and in my opinion provides the intermediary step between today’s web conferencing technology and ambient presence technologies of tomorrow.

Peter Stewart of PGi showed a number of witty spots and video segments that highlighted the challenges of today’s remote meeting environments.

Some interesting trends shaping the future of remote meetings are:

  • Ave. phone meeting is 4.5 people for 45 minutes, Add a visual and ave. is 5.5 people and 55 minutes
  • Over 1/3 of virtual attendees join from their mobile phones
  • Web conferencing has been around for 15 years. Only 10% of meetings include more than voice.
  • Having access to profile data in the midst of a meeting actually may provide advantages over meeting face to face by providing a deeper context of the person you are meeting with outside of the nature of your transaction.

It was a great time of seeing some familiar faces, and meeting several new ones. Kudos to Gerhard Gschwandtner, Selling Power magazine, and the entire Sales 2.0 conference team.