I’m coming to the end of my next report, on Sales Engagement Management. I’ve enjoyed working through the data and vendor evaluations from our survey of 1500 practitioners – and I’ve certainly enjoyed the meetings I’ve had with most of the vendors who were mentioned in the survey.
It took me back to 2010 when I helped Forrester Research invent and define the term Sales Enablement. And I remember well in 2015 when, as research director and conference host, I closed that year’s Sales Enablement Forum with the advice “Don’t help just Sales – see all buyer touchpoints”. Of course, the other thing I did at that conference was co-present our new report at the time called “Death of the B2B Salesman”.
I still get to speak on the topic now … on podcasts (Sales EnablementPRO and Evolvers) and at conferences, so I am looking forward to providing a research “call” on how companies are automating their Sales Engagement Management process, as I now prefer to call it. The data shows that 48% of companies are investing here for the first time – here is an automation market perhaps coming to the end of its “early-adopter” phase and about to mature, aggregate and consolidate. The vendors will need to develop thought leadership and educational content, as opposed to picking low-hanging fruit projects.
As I like to say, our research discovers a “vendor landscape” – those vendors who are the most highly regarded by users for automation of the process (or family of processes) we discuss in the survey. Due to geographical, segmentation and functional differences, it is not always a list of direct competitors. In fact, most respondents deploy at least two to cover their needs.
The survey respondents told us that their most overriding concern is seller adoption – will they use the system after it has been set up for them. Quantifying the investment in terms of business value is also rated highly as a challenge.
Concerning adoption, I think that the most successful SEM solutions will need to focus on providing the optimal selling experience. This will achieved by offering through superior integrations to adjacent systems; having an empathetic user interface; being adaptable; and, perhaps most-important, supporting those devices that sellers prefer.
The 15 vendors profiled in the report will be:
ACCENT TECHNOLOGIES, APPAROUND, BIGTINCAN. BRAINSHARK, CLEARSLIDE, CUSTOMSHOW, HIGHSPOT, MEDIAFLY, PITCHER, PROLIFIQ, SALESLOFT, SALESPHERE, SAP, SEISMIC, SHOWPAD
with honourable mentions (named in the survey but not enough data):
CIRRUS INSIGHT, CLIENTPOINT, DOCSEND, GROOVE, JOURNEYSALES, OCTIV, OUTREACH, PREDICTIVE PLAYBOOKS (by XANT), VANILLASOFT, YESWARE
If you would like to see more of the report, such as the individual vendor profile sheets and full scoring schema, please contact me.
Always keeping you informed! Peter
I’ve now published the new Marketing Lead Management (MLM) vendor selection matrix via my business partner Research in Action. Our global survey of 1500 business decision makers found that 72% of business will be investing in new MLM software – over half for their first time. This area of marketing automation is a critical backbone for most marketing organizations but I also know from my recent research with another partner, B2B Marketing, that only 60% of existing users are satisfied with their current solution, citing issues like lack of time/resources to use it effectively and integration – that report comes out in a few days for B2B marketing premium subscribers.
That is probably why the report has discovered a vendor landscape for MLM which is an interesting mix of Email Service Providers, Marketing Automation vendors and even some Customer Data Platform vendors, showing the range of MLM project maturity across organizations (see my MLM S-Curve Maturity Model).
Congratulations to Marketo, who were named and rated the highest of all under that brandname, even though the company was acquired and absorbed by Adobe several years ago. In contrast, the other early market leader and innovator, Eloqua, has somewhat disappeared under the Oracle brand; though it’s customer satisfaction scores have improved greatly since last year’s survey. An interesting brand highly-rated for MLM process automation continues to be Creatio (previously known as bpm’online). Act-On and Hubspot also appear in the Top 5 as rated by the survey respondents.
As well as the ratings, we now also ask respondents whether they would recommend the vendor to their peers, the percent of affirmatives is documented as the Research In Action Recommendation Index; it ranges in this landscape from 83% to 96%.
Our survey also returned that organizational issues are the most significant success inhibitors – 20% cited executive buy-in is a serious barrier and, evidently, some CMOs still struggle to even get a role in the lead management process and must argue with sales about “turf“.
The report states that functions provided by lead management systems are also of increasing importance to other departments and programs in a business: internal communications, customer satisfaction initiatives, customer service or support, and channel management. That increases the installed footprint for MLM providers but also expands the user profiles that they sell to and work with.
If you would like to see more of the report, such as the individual vendor profile sheets and full scoring schema, please contact me.
Always keeping you informed! Peter
Marketing Lead Management (MLM) automation continues to be a priority investment – in our new global survey of 1500 business decision makers, 72% said they’ll invest in new MLM software – over half for their first time. The report is available here and it shows a vendor landscape for MLM, as voted by the business decision makers, which is an interesting mix of Email Service Providers, Marketing Automation vendors and even some, such as Evergage, who I’ve written about last month, described often as Customer Data Platform vendors
This is due to the range of project maturity across the landscape and I think that, over time, the prevalent transactional prospect/lead process in MLM will mature to a lifecycle-based customer engagement process in both B2C and B2B.
Our surveys and consulting work enables us to continually assess the maturity of marketing organizations (combination of organization, process and technology). We have identified five maturity phases for MLM and associated processes:
- Chaotic. Lead management neophytes commonly first focus on eMail campaigning to purchased or built-up lists. The goal is to distribute content to qualified contacts and provide rudimentary leads to Sales.
- Reactive. Initial fulfillment creative matures to a content marketing program earning an audience and new contacts from inbound lead capture. Marketing-qualified leads are generated and passed on.
- Stable. An operational MLM system shares content and run digital campaigns, nurturing and progressing leads through all digital channels, including indirect business channels such as subsidiaries, distributors, resellers (TCMA).
- Proactive. Marketing’s role matures from supporting sales transactions to ensuring a customer experience. The necessary functionality is found in more mature MLM solutions or from additional products. Sellers are supported as a vital experience channel and marketing at the account level becomes mission-critical.
- Predictive. Over time, the prospect/lead process changes to a more holistic Customer Engagement Management process. Every industry is morphing to an “as-a-service” business model and digital channels will increasingly be used to engage with customers throughout their lifecycle: from initial research through to product use or service consumption.
The various processes can be mapped against this model on what we call an S-Curve Maturity Model.
Whether you are trying to win over consumers to be active in communities and social media, or if you are trying to recruit a business buyer to be a loyal user and advocate, the classical lead generation paradigm for all marketers is going to be replaced by new relationship-based metrics of customer success.
Always keeping you informed! Peter
Marketing Lead Management (MLM) automation continues to be a priority investment – in our new global survey of 1500 business decision makers, 72% said they’ll invest in new MLM software – over half for their first time.
My new MLM Vendor Selection Matrix report, with the 2020 MLM vendor landscape as selected by those 1500 respondents, will come out later this month. But, due to this week’s news, I’ll point out NOW, that it is an interesting mix of Email Service Providers, Marketing Automation vendors and even some specialist vendors, such as the vendor Evergage.
Variously described as a Personalization Engine, Customer Data Platform, and other categories that analysts like to invent, Evergage is an exciting newbie on the MLM block. Regardless of category (and marketing professionals do not buy in categories), Evergage earned its place in this survey because it has been found and deployed by marketing professionals who searched for more functionality to optimize their ongoing engagements with buyers and customers.
My interviews showed that many firms are deploying it together with their established MLM platform to improve the customer engagement process. In the context of MLM, it is mostly bought by experienced users of Marketo, Eloqua and Salesforce Pardot seeking a 1-to-1 customer engagement: personalized email campaigns, website or mobile app renditions, and other lead generation activities.
Earlier this week, Salesforce acquired Evergage. It is unlikely that Salesforce wants Evergage as its CDP, though it may well leverage some of its IP and people, as that product roadmap is already well underway. No, I think Salesforce bought the vendor to enhance its own MLM offering for all the reasons described above.
For those of you needing some background, here is the already-completed Evergage vendor scorecard for my upcoming VSM report. This is what I write up for each vendor in the report and it is sent to all survey respondents and to our research clients.
Always keeping you informed! Peter
Ready for a new age of Partner Management Automation???
I ask because I’ve just surveyed 1500 users of Channel Marketing and Enablement software and talked to the most major vendors in that landscape. I was deeply curious, expecting to hear about great change and progress compared to my last review of the market when I was still at Forrester in 2017.
Channel marketing and Enablement is defined in detail here. In short, I mean those business processes involved for a manufacturer or vendor promoting products and services through partner (channel) organizations.
As I said, I was very expectant of this research … I’d assumed this market would be energized by a clear transformation in the relevance of channel strategy for modern businesses. For decades, it was just a peripheral process in most industries – “first we sell direct and then we’ll find some partners”. Which was fine for most firms: they were selling physical products (or at least on-premise software) and needed knowledgeable sellers to present and position the offer to buyers. The people responsible for the channel side of the business usually worked in their own silo, outside of the view of marketing or even sales management – not really a strategic role in the company even.
But now every industry is morphing to an “as-a-service” business model. And buyers pull the service based on their own research. But heh!, channel partners are not being “dis-intermediated” — this was such a strange cliché back in the 1990s when the Internet took hold and everybody was writing about eBusiness and eCommerce taking work away from channel partners. If anything, partners are now even more influential and advocational for businesses. But the partner business model has changed too and they’re more than likely to live off revenues earned end-users than from manufacturers they now occasionally represent. And in addition to resellers or distributors, we now have channel players called affiliates, referrers, associations, communities, groups, ambassadors.
Below, I’ve described how I see this transformation under seven trend headlines. Over time, all these aspects of channel management are moving from the left-side state to the new or emerging state described in the corresponding right-side – allow me to propose calling this new state Partner Management Automation. (“Channel” often gets confused among marketers and, as we see in the table, not all partners are a channel anymore.)
The transformation has already hit the tech industry hard. Early last year, sitting on the top floor of Salesforce Tower in San Francisco, I reviewed the briefings I’d heard that day: Salesforce plans to work with perhaps 250,000 new partners in the near future? – it was the only way they can double their revenue in five years, they said. Now, they know that SaaS is not necessarily a reselling market – only around 30% of SaaS revenues is booked by partners (compared to the old SW model of around 70%) – but they still realize that their future success will depend on the recommendation and influence of many new intermediaries, most of whom the vendor will not even know or recruit formally as reseller partners. They will be lawyers, tax advisors, estate agents (realtors), financial and other types of advisers.
The Swiss software company VEEAM, who provide cloud data management software and lead their industry segment, work through over 70,000 partners globally. They do not have hundreds of partner recruiters and managers to handle this volume, they must rely on a software platform to do that. And their channel enablement platform includes a concierge program in recognition of trend # 4 on this slide – the program provides relevant information to a concierge partner and also rewards that behavior.
And it’s not only the tech industry. When I talk to one of the global leading manufacturers of industrial bearings, Sheaffler Group here in Germany, they’ve found that their new sensor technology has created a whole set of new markets for them as an Internet-of-Things data provider – for example, the sensors they have installed in trains is now being combined with AI technology to provide important maintenance data about the railway tracks themselves which they can sell on to the Deutsche Bahn who maintain the infrastructure. Schaeffler continues to be a manufacturer and supplier but now also have a data service business through new partnerships. As-a-Service is happening everywhere.
Ultimately, when all of these trends have completed their cycle from left to right, manufacturers will need a much more holistic Partner Management Automation system to covers all of these scenarios. I say much more, because, till now, most channel software has been focused on just one or two of the family of processes under channel marketing and enablement.
In our survey, one question we asked of the 1500 gave a clear marker – business buyers are now looking for a software platform that cover all of their needs regarding partners – marketing, management and even sales. But the current vendor landscape for this family of processes does not yet reflect this market need. Most of the vendors still focus on either channel marketing or enablement only. In my meetings with the vendors, my test question was “how do you handle affiliate partners then” and the response was mixed. The vendor landscape continues to be highly-fractured with deep specialization.
I am not confident that all of the vendors will be able to react to the disruptions described above — manufacturers seeking a channel platform that can support a highly-volatile partner community through a much more complete business cycle: from connection to order processing and service delivery. The vendors I found from the survey that do cover BOTH channel marketing and enablement are (listed alphabetically): Ansira, ChannelXperts, Impartner, TIE Kinetix, and Zift Solutions. I see only these vendors, plus the newer vendor Impact (mentioned but not with a sufficient number of respondents to be profiled), being able to cover the next generation channel management needs. Interestingly, Impact has already introduced the term Partnership Automation and talks about “automating the partner lifecycle” – a quite different perspective to how other vendors talk about their solution.
Anyway, when I survey the market again next year, I will be using the term Partner Management Automation to discover the appropriate vendor landscape.
In 2019 I have discovered many separate vendor landscapes – all listed below for everybody to read.
During these projects, I interviewed thousands of marketers on their business processes automation and talked to some 120 marketing software vendors – usually analyst relations staff and product marketing managers, as discussed in this blog.
The vendor-marketers have often commented something like: “strange, there are vendors on your list that I do not see in deals or think I compete with”.
Well, that’s because I first describe a marketing process in my interviews and ask respondents which vendors they work with on that process. I try to avoid category terms invented by other analysts or product managers because the chances are: marketing people don’t think in categories (that’s more of an IT-centric trait).
I’m currently updating my Marketing Lead Management (MLM) report. The survey is in and the new vendor landscape is an interesting mix of Email Service Providers, Marketing Automation vendors and even some describing themselves as Customer Data Platform vendors. My observation is that the MLM process is changing to a Customer Engagement process in many companies and that is why we have this mix.
So the challenge for marketing software marketing professionals is: Do you focus on shining in a category or ensure you are found by marketing professionals when they are seeking a solution to their automation challenges. Sometimes, these objectives and tactics may be mutually exclusive.
Here are the vendor landscapes discovered in my global process-oriented surveys.
Marketing Lead Management (Nov 2018). MLM processes are deployed in marketing and/or sales operations departments to support the collection of unqualified contacts and opportunities from various sources such as: Direct mail or email responses; Database marketing programs; Other multichannel marketing campaigns; Offline interactions such as seminars and tradeshows; Social media contacts; and web pages.
ACT-ON (#1 Overall, #1 Customer Satisfaction), ADESTRA, ADOBE, APRIMO, BPM’ONLINE (#1 Price/Value), CRMNEXT, ENGAGIO, HUBSPOT (#1 Customer Satisfaction), IBM, IMPARTNER, MARKETO, ORACLE, PEGASYSTEMS, RIGHTON INTERACTIVE, SALESFORCE, SAP, SALESFUSION, SUGARCRM, WEBMECANIK, ZOHO
Brand Content Management (Dec 2018). BCM is the management of all digital content assets in order to govern the brand messaging across the company, from corporate brand to the individual messaging statements around products. Companies working in a more distributed (sometimes called local) marketing environment deploy BCM processes to manage content across all their internal organizations, subsidiaries, and/or all business partners.
ADOBE, ANSIRA, BRANDMAKER (#1 Overall), BRANDMUSCLE (#1 Customer Satisfaction), BRANDSYSTEMS (#1 Customer Satisfaction), BYNDER, CAPITAL ID, CELUM, CENSHARE (#1 Price/Value), CODE WORLDWIDE, EPISERVER, IBM, MARCOM CENTRAL (#1 Price/Value), NORTHPLAINS, OPENTEXT, PICA9, SAS INSTITUTE, VYA, WEDIA
Sales Engagement Management (Mar 2019). Marketing plays an increasingly active role in enabling the sales team, collaborating with their colleagues in Sales Operations with a robust set of sophisticated tools in an all-in-one platform in order to engage productively with knowledgeable buyers and customers.
ACCENT TECHNOLOGIES, APPAROUND, BIGTINCAN, BRAINSHARK, CLEARSLIDE (#1 Customer Satisfaction), CLIENT POINT, CUSTOMSHOW, DOCSEND, FILEBOARD, HIGHSPOT (#1 Customer Satisfaction), INSITE SOFTWARE, JOURNEY SALES, OCTIV, PITCHER, PROLIFIQ, SALESLOFT, SAP, SEISMIC (#1 Overall, #1 Customer Satisfaction), SHOWPAD, MEDIAFLY
Web Experience Management (May 2019). WEM is an integrated set of business processes for the creation, management, delivery and optimization of contextualized digital experiences on websites. Software used to automate these processes must deal with an ever-more complex, extensive and interconnected technology landscape.
ACQUIA (#1 Customer Satisfaction), ADOBE, AMPLIENCE, BLOOMREACH, CONTENTFUL, CROWNPEAK, COREMEDIA, EPISERVER (#1 Price/Value), E-SPIRIT, EZ SYSTEMS, IBM, KENTICO SOFTWARE, MAGNOLIA, OPENTEXT, ORACLE, PROGRESS, SDL, SITECORE (#1 Overall, #1 Customer Satisfaction), SQUIZ
Digital Asset Management (July 2019). The DAM process is the storage and management of digital files, in particular digital media files like graphics, videos, sound and text components needed for digital content production. DAM catalogs and retrieves the digital assets for various types of users working in marketing, product management, sales, service, design, and manufacturing departments of an organization.
ADOBE (#1 Overall, #1 Customer Satisfaction), APRIMO, BYNDER, CANTO, CENSHARE, CLOUDINARY, COGNIZANT, CELUM (#1 Customer Satisfaction), CUMULUS, DIGIZUITE, EXTENSIS, MEDIA VALET, MEDIABEACON, NORTHPLAINS, NUXEO (#1 Customer Satisfaction), OPENTEXT, PICTUREPARK, SITECORE (#1 Customer Satisfaction, #1 Price/Value), WEDIA, WIDEN
Account Based Marketing (Oct 2019). The ABM process is actually a long-established marketing/sales methodology in business services companies, where success depends so much on personal empathy and the relationship. The advent of digital marketing, tooled by technology advances in website and data analytics, now allows all B2B businesses to do ABM by leveraging collected behavioral and profile data on companies (accounts) or even individual buying decision-makers.
6SENSE (#1 Customer Satisfaction), AGENT3, D&B DATAVISION, DEMANDBASE, ENGAGIO (#1 Overall), KWANZOO, INSIDEVIEW, JABMO (#1 Price/Value), LATTICE ENGINE, LINKEDIN, MADISON LOGIC, MARKETO, MRP (#1 Customer Satisfaction), RADIUS, ROLLWORKS, TECHTARGET, TERMINUS, TRIBLIO, TRUE INFLUENCE, ZOOMINFO
Channel Marketing and Enablement (Nov 2019). Channel Marketing and Enablement processes cover the tasks involved for a manufacturer distributing products and services through partner organizations as their indirect channel. Only a few vendors can help marketers to automate both sets of processes.
ANSIRA, CHANNELXPERTS, IMPARTNER (#1 Overall, #1 Price/Value), TIE KINETIX (#1 Customer Satisfaction), ZIFT SOLUTIONS
Through-Channel Marketing Automation (Nov 2019). Part of the channel marketing processes involved for a manufacturer distributing products and services through partner organizations as their indirect channel, TCMA brand and content asset management; where programs, promotions and leads are managed both down and up the channel. TCMA is also known as Local or Distributed Marketing.
ANSIRA, BRANDMAKER (#1 Customer Satisfaction), BRANDMUSCLE, BRIDGELINE DIGITAL, CHANNELXPERTS, CHANNELKONNECT, ELATERAL, IMPARTNER (#1 Overall, #1 Price/Value), NETSERTIVE, SPROUTLOUD, TIE KINETIX (#1 Customer Satisfaction), ZIFT SOLUTIONS
Partner Relationship Management (Nov 2019). Part of the channel marketing processes involved for a manufacturer distributing products and services through partner organizations as their indirect channel, PRM is the set of processes around the partner relationship itself: recruitment, registration and classification, contractual details, information exchange, and more.
ANSIRA, CHANNELXPERTS, CHANNELTIVITY (#1 Price/Value), CHANNELKONNECT, IMPARTNER (#1 Overall, #1 Price/Value), MAGENTRIX, ORACLE, SALESFORCE, TIE KINETIX (#1 Customer Satisfaction), WEBINFINITY, ZIFT SOLUTIONS
Feedback and comments are welcome, here or directly to email@example.com
Always keeping you informed! Peter
I’ve just published more Vendor Selection Matrix reports – on channel marketing and enablement. I’d been curious about this topic all year, expecting great change and progress compared to my last review in 2017. I’d assumed this software market would be energized by a clear transformation in the relevance of channel strategy for modern businesses.
Let’s be honest, for decades channel marketing and enablement was just a peripheral process in most industries; the mantra was: “first we sell direct and then we’ll find some partners”. Which was fine for firms selling physical products (or on-premise software) needing knowledgeable sellers to present and position the offer to buyers.
But now almost every industry is morphing to an “as-a-service” business model. And buyers are pulling the service based on their own research. And no, channel partners are not being “dis-intermediated” (that strange cliché of the 1990s eBusiness articles) – they’ve become even more influential and advocational. But their business model has changed and they’re more than likely to live off revenues earned from the end-user than the manufacturer they occasionally represent. And instead of resellers or distributors, they are called affiliates, referrers, associations, communities, groups, ambassadors.
Earlier this year, I was sitting on the top floor of Salesforce Tower in San Francisco and reviewing the briefings I had heard that day: how does this SaaS provider plan to recruit 250,000 new partners in the near future? Salesforce executives had stated that this was the only way that it can double its revenue in the next five years. The why has been clear to me since years: the success of any new business software apps will be dependent on the recommendation/influence of many intermediaries, most of whom the vendor will not even know or recruit directly as partners. Lawyers, tax advisors, estate agents (realtors), financial advisers — basically, to cite the nursery rhyme “the butcher, baker, and the candlestick maker”. The how is certainly more of a challenge; you cannot hire enough recruiters and channel managers to handle that volume – it needs to be automated to the highest degree.
Salesforce even engaged researcher IDC to produce a report predicting that Salesforce and its partners will between them create 4.2 million new jobs and $1.2 trillion in new business revenues worldwide over the next 5 years.
Enter the need for a much more strategic channel marketing and enablement software stack. Now, our vendor selection matrix research starts with a global survey. We firstly defined channel marketing and enablement as all processes cover the tasks involved for a manufacturer distributing products and services through partner organizations as their indirect channel. And we asked the 1500 respondents to name and score the vendors they know in that context. The 20 vendors with highest ratings and sufficient mentions are then profiled in my report. The survey also returned that the second most important priority for buyers considering software solutions is “Coverage of all three components”, i.e. Marketing, Enablement, and Sales Enablement.
The resulting vendor landscape does not yet reflect this market need. Most of the vendors still focus on either channel marketing (usually called through-channel marketing automation, TCMA) or enablement (partner relationship management, PRM) only. In my briefings with the vendors, my test question was “how do you handle affiliate partners then” and the response was mixed. The vendor landscape continues to be highly-fractured with deep specialization. I am not confident that many of them will not be able to react to the disruption described above — manufacturers seeking a channel platform that can support a highly-volatile partner community through a much more complete business cycle: from connection to order processing and service delivery.
So I have ended up producing three reports on this topic profiling the vendors in their chosen sub-categories.
- TCMA: The vendors that have the heaviest focus, or focus solely, on channel marketing processes
- PRM: The vendors that have the heaviest focus, or focus solely, on channel enablement processes
- CME: Those vendors servicing both channel enablement AND some marketing processes.
Incredibly, 3 vendors selected and reviewed by the survey respondents have insisted on being left out as they see themselves as “The leading vendor for …..” (they each wrote that). Those vendors in the survey that do cover BOTH channel marketing and enablement are (listed alphabetically): Ansira, ChannelXperts, Impartner, TIE Kinetix, and Zift Solutions. I see only these vendors, plus the newer vendor Impact (did not have a sufficient number of respondents to be profiled), being able to cover the next generation channel management needs. Interestingly, Impact has introduced the term Partnership Automation and talks about “automating the partner lifecycle” – a quite different perspective.
The top five vendors rated by the users for PRM are (listed alphabetically): Channeltivity, ChannelXperts, Impartner, TIE Kinetix, and Zift Solutions. The vendors Ansira, ChannelKonnect, Magentrix, Oracle, Salesforce, and Webinfinity complete the list of vendors who cover the channel enablement processes. (Note that this list includes the vendors named above.)
The top five vendors rated by the users for TCMA are (listed alphabetically): BrandMaker, ChannelXperts, Impartner, TIE Kinetix, and Zift Solutions. The vendors Ansira, Brandmuscle, Bridgeline Digital, ChannelKonnect, Elateral, Netsertive, and SproutLoud, complete the list of vendors who cover the channel marketing processes. (Note that this list includes the vendors named above.)
Abridged versions of the reports can be viewed here. Contact me if you’d like more detail.
I’m coming to the end of my first year back as an industry analyst and thanks to all of you who recognized me from previous contacts and worked with me in 2019. Through my collaboration with Research in Action GmbH, I’ve interviewed thousands of marketers on their business processes automation. And I’ve also talked to some 120 marketing software vendors and some have told me that I’ve set a new standard for market analysis. Here are a few general impressions from the year.
- Business POV is the right approach. My research reviews MarTech from the business practitioners’ point of view and names their most important business process, or perhaps family of processes. Why? Well, that’s how business people plan their automation projects and look for suitable software or SaaS suppliers. In our interviews, we discuss the process first and then the vendors they work with to improve that process in their company.
Many vendor CMOs tell me that this approach has been an eye-opener to them and some have even debated changing their messaging. On the other hand, quite a few still respond that they prefer to see themselves in a different technology category (than where customers named them?) and that I am therefore “wrong”. Others gladly take note of competitors they’d underestimated.
- Tech marketers still misunderstand the significance of brand. I’m amazed at how many MarTech vendors still only talk about themselves and their products, relying on product-based differentiation to be noticed. They don’t get that their customers are now expecting every aspect of their experience with a vendor to be as sophisticated, consistent, and frictionless as those they have with the most admired B2C brands.
Many vendors object to the weightings of selection criteria I use. But Customer Satisfaction and Price/Value Ratio feedback does far overweigh what people think of the product itself. The emotions that buyers experience when they consume a vendor’s content and engage with its employees define a company’s brand more than the product or service.
- Perception is reality and so important. We ask survey respondents to rate the vendors they know well – but that doesn’t mean that they’re customers or users necessarily, so it’s also an awareness and perception survey. Business professionals care about whether a vendor is innovative or if it has a partner ecosystem rich enough to reach their needs (geographic or industry), and they form those impressions based upon what information is available.
Incredibly, I have heard counter-arguments from several vendors that they only reveal their innovation and go-to-market strategy to anybody under non-disclosure terms. These day, so many vendors are eliminated from a list by buyers doing their own initial research – and the vendor doesn’t even know about it.
Next year, I will continue the same research process and revisit most of the topics covered in 2019. It will be interesting to see how the vendor landscapes change.
I will also be doing other research in collaboration with the B2B Marketing.net organization, based in London and Chicago. My first project is to prepare the keynote research, and a premium report, for the next GetStacked conference in March 2020, where I will report how B2B companies are planning and developing their marketing technology stacks. This is nice extension of the work described above and is determined by their conference schedule. Later in the year, I will explore other topics across B2B marketing.
Always keeping you informed! Peter
I’ve been researching the topic of Account-Based Marketing (ABM) and find that 57% of businesses plan to invest in ABM software in the next 1-3 years. Business marketers in every industry must add ABM functionality to their marketing tech stack because their buyers only want communications relevant to their current business issues.
The ABM process is actually a long-established marketing/sales methodology in business services companies, where success depends so much on personal empathy and the relationship. So, they research the interests and needs of their target audiences and provide that “market intelligence” to their sellers or account managers.
The advent of digital marketing, tooled by technology advances in website and data analytics, now allows all B2B businesses to do ABM by leveraging collected behavioral and profile data on companies (accounts) or even individual buying decision-makers. ABM software enables marketers to channel personalized content to potential buyers. But first and foremost, ABM is a strategy and is applicable to all marketing channels.
ABM is currently the most-used promotional acronym by marketing software vendors with well over 90 software vendors claiming to provide ABM-specific functionality. There are probably several dozen more with no ABM claims but also being used by B2B companies to market to specific accounts with target-market segmentation and content personalization. Still, I estimate the software market at around $750 million in 2019 with a current annual growth rate of some 12%.
The term ABM is actually a misnomer, it should be Account Based Marketing and Selling (ABMS). The ABM process will only succeed if marketing collaborates with its sales counterparts to select the target accounts; share the important contact data; coordinate content distribution and distribute intent alerts. My survey found the second most important driver for ABM investment to be “enable sales to better understand their customers”. Some interview respondents pointed out that they have always done ABS but this is now supported better by their ABM project.
My prediction is that the current mire of confusingly-positioned vendors will converge to a couple of dozen platform providers supporting all, or most, of the ABM-related processes such as account and contacts selection; analytics and insights, content personalization, customer engagement orchestration, and performance assessment. Many survey respondents reported deploying two, three or even four ABM vendors, with integration an issue. 30% plan to migrate to a more suitable system, unusually large compared to other vendor selection matrix surveys.
As usual, I will publish a Vendor Selection Matrix showing the ratings for the 20 most cited ABM vendors across our survey of 1500 practitioners. That will be on October 8th. The top ten vendors rated by the respondents are (all listed alphabetically): 6sense, Demandbase, Engagio, Kwanzoo, InsideView, Jabmo, Madison Logic, Adobe (Marketo), MRP, and Zoominfo. In positions 11 thru 20 are vendors Agent3, D&B Datavision, Lattice Engine, LinkedIn, Radius, RollWorks, TechTarget, Terminus, Triblio, and True Influence
Way back in my first years working for an IT vendor, I quickly learned to schedule my vacations according to my marketplace. Common practice was, when customers (or those who I wanted as customers) went on their vacation, they first dumped some work on my colleagues and myself. We’d receive a thick envelope (no Email in those days) containing a “Request for Proposal” or even worse (sounded so uncommitted) a “Request for Information”. These were long, detailed documents laying out a series of specifications and functions that they wanted to see in our product. We would be expected to process and answer all questions and reply when they came back from vacation. Most RFPs would be issued, especially here in Germany, during the summer months and just before Christmas.
I got the impression that creating these RFP documents, and then processing the vendor replies, was the main focus for many buyers. The later stages (presentation, demo, negotiation, sales) seemed to happen very quickly afterwards.
Of course, further work experience taught me that the famous adage that “70% of IT projects fail” is very true and continues to be so. I would suggest that one reason for this is the above process. Many companies assume that the most important component of any process automation project is the vendor selection process (VSP). Once that’s done, it is easy sailing – then .. just install it, configure it, train the users and run the system.
Well, I’ve just assisted a client through their VSP and sat in on their meetings with five different potential vendors to provide my input as “an outsider”. I trust that my assessment of the vendors’ offerings and potential to fit into their planned technical architecture was useful. But still I left with the feeling that the client was not really prepared for the full project – the danger of it being one of the 70% is imminent. So I went back and told them that I had noticed, when I asked them about theirneeds and challenges, that many aspects of the project were not yet thought through. There were:
- No sample business workflows (much of which is outside the software they’ll buy)
- No profile of their potential users (devices, competencies, preferences)
- No sample reports or dashboards designed
- No prioritization in their list of requirements – all was equally important.
Process automation projects fail because of a bad fit between project solution and requirements. And when I say “project” I mean much more than the software product. The solution must cover the complete business scenario to be improved, which is usually only partly through technology – process and organization always needs to be tuned as well.
I suggest that it is now time to reconsider the role of the VSP – it should not be “the means to an end” – better to turn it into the kick-off for a process transformation project.
In 2009, the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford came up with the concept of “design thinking” which has been adopted by many IT organizations and software vendors as the basis for their development projects. The associated meeting/communications method, SCRUM, has now even been adopted by modern marketing departments.
The Stanford dSchool process proposes these steps in a project:
Empathize – Define – Ideate – Prototype – Test.
So here is what I envisage in a modern marketing process automation project:
Empathize. Collect and describe the requirements based not on technical specifications but by describing real business scenarios – improved workflows that marketers care about.Include persona profiles and the desired “usage tone” (marketing- or IT-centric, advanced or casual user, terminology known or not, device preferred, location of task, reporting requirements, millennials!). A scenario documentation should resemble the briefings given to marketing agencies – not an RFP spreadsheet.
Define. Based on the make-up of the user-team and other requirements such as integrations and services, you should be able to easily segment the vendors and arrive at a shortlist. Provide the scenario documentation to those vendors and gather their responses as a first selection phase. Allow them to be creative – they may even be able to propose process improvements that you had not yet identified.
Ideate.Invest time here to engage with three to five vendors to explore how they would help you to automate the scenarios. If you want to restrict this phase, limit how many scenarios each vendor works on – one will probably suffice for you to form an impression of the vendor’s suitability as a business partner.
Prototype.The people at Stanford would love you to be putting Post-It notes on the wall in this phase, but you should probably expect your vendors to be able to demonstrate how they would support your scenarios with their software. You should now be down to one or perhaps two vendors. As well as checking whether they have realistic expectations, also use this phase to observe how the project members will work together – vendor people with your colleagues but perhaps you are also bringing together colleagues who are strange to each other. Create a conflict situation by changing a scenario and see how all players react.
Test.After selecting your technology provider, you now move into the project roll-out phase, which is usually focused on just one team, location or business area to generate success and then a more expansive roll-out. Continue to expect the vendor to treat you as a business partner and working to ensure your success.
The test phase should actually never end. Wise project managers will maintaina running, live doc of the business requirements, because they’ll change over time. Display it in a flexible and editable spot to allow you to constantly re-check what you need, and the costs associated with it. Also, ask yourself periodically what can you cut? Or what hasn’t been used in months? Who is now using the software – is that different than initially assumed?
I have already been commissioned to deliver workshops based on these ideas, so watch his space for more experience stories later this year.
Always keeping you informed! Peter