• Design Thinking,  News,  Vendor Selection

    Democratic Research

    So – you need to automate important marketing processes in your business, and have begun researching which vendors provide the software your business will require for optimal functionality and strategy. 

    The good news? You’re not the only one who has travelled down that research path, and Research Reports can be an excellent source of information supporting your marketing automation decision. 

    The bad news? These report shouldn’t be taken at face-value, it’s important to understand the behind-the-scenes of each to determine just how big a grain of salt you are reading.

    There is a multitude of research report types so let’s categorize them at the highest level. On one end of the spectrum, you have the Analyst POV Reports with industry analyst expertise and in-depth research. On the other end, we have Crowd-Sourced Reports in which rankings are driven by the quality and quantity of user reviews. 

    Analyst POV Reports

    Pros: The research and evaluation processes here cannot be understated – the “Tier One” industry analysts who do this work are experts in their field and seriously know their stuff. They sit through strategy and product presentations/demos and some even get feedback from referenced customers. The vendors invest days of time and resources to provide the right information to the analyst. Of course, many also sign up as clients and engage with the analyst on an ongoing basis to optimize the relationship. 

    Spoiler Alert: In my time as Research Director at Forrester, I had an analyst in my team who only advised and consulted about how to execute the process of Analyst Relations (it’s part of B2B Marketing after all) – including how to get yourself placed in an optimal position in a quadrant or wave analysis.  

    Cons: The Analyst POV Report is offered to the research firm’s clients, which are usually large enterprises (that fact also influences the list of vendors included, of course). These are smaller communities than is often assumed. Usually, the readership of each report behind their paywall is perhaps in the hundreds – one vendor client told me that the latest two reports where his product was featured had 480 and just 58 views on the research website.

    That can be a little depressing to the analyst – all that work and so little attention. Of course, the brand power, and resulting product-marketing ego, of being in a “Magic Quadrant” or “Forrester Wave” means that some vendors buy reprint-licenses and offer a download of the report through their  website. And they book the analyst to make speeches/webinars about the research – a little show business that compensates for the initial disappointment perhaps. 

    Some of the vendors are just happy to be in the report, regardless of whether they are positioned well or not. Here is an example of someone who bought a license –even though Gartner had rated eight vendors higher than them in Execution capabilities. 

    Crowd-Sourced Reports

    Pros: It’s probably also helpful to seek out feedback from other users; peers who share the good, bad, and everything in between about a product. There are several such feedback websites now up and running for all types of software applications, including marketing. 

    Cons: Have you ever looked up your favorite restaurant on Yelp, noticed a few one-star reviews, and wondered how they could come to such contrasting conclusions? A single review (good or bad) shouldn’t dictate your software-buying decision, just like with any other product. Remember: User opinions have varying levels of actual marketing automation understanding–that is to say, just because someone writes a review does not make them an expert in the field.

    Additionally, report rankings are driven by the quality and quantity of user reviews. If a company has a few hundred reviews with a high rating average, and another has a few thousand reviews with above-average ratings, it is likely the latter will position better in the report due to the sheer number of reviews. This is a huge advantage for larger vendors that have been on the market for a long time, and it’s likely they have review incentive programs to boost their ranking.

    Well, What About Something In-Between ?

    We’ve created a different methodology at my business partner Research in Action. We survey 1,500 practitioners about THEIR view of a vendor’s product, service, value-for-money, and ability to innovate. The vendors who score highly enough in the survey qualify to get into the Vendor Selection Matrix™ report (usually 15 to 20 vendors). 

    Then, that curated market feedback is flavored with a touch of industry analyst expertise to provide a more well-rounded recipe for successful vendor selection. In fact, much more than the quadrant or wave reports, these reports are embellished with several pages of trends insights that inform both buyers and vendors alike about what is most important when investing in the upcoming project. 

    Democratic Research is In-Between and Open 

    When Research in Action publishes its (my) reports, they are made available to several communities, for free:

    • Survey respondents. The 1,500 marketing software decision-makers who answered the survey questions are provided with the full report as feedback
    • Survey panel. Research in Action maintains an active survey panel on a global basis with contact details and topics of interest: a current total of 90,000 Marketing Automation decision-makers. These panel members are informed of the report and can download it if desired
    • Website visitors. Any viewers of the Research-in-Action website sees a “public version” without the exact scores and matrix placements of each vendor (to save their embarrassment) but with all insights and the most important facts on each vendor.  
    • Vendor reprints. Research-in-Action does also license reprints, where a vendor can distribute a copy of the report, including their detailed profile, to interested parties. 

    As an analyst, I am proud that so many people now get to see my work. And, when I am booked to do speeches and webinars, I realize that they are booking me personally, not the brand power. 

    The Vendor Selection Matrix™ reports do fill that gap between an industry analyst report focused on large enterprise needs, and the “trip-advisor” type of review websites. They also reach and assist a broader community of software buyers. Lastly, the community reading the reports is probably a whole order of magnitude higher than the audience able to access the “Tier One” research reports.    

    Here is our latest Market Impact statistics chart.

    Always keeping you informed! Peter

  • Design Thinking,  News

    Der Martech Strategie Prozess

    Diese Monat co-moderierte ich die Keynote der GetStacked Konferenz, welche von der B2B Marketing Organisation erstmalig auf einer virtuellen Plattform ausgerichtet wurde. Ich war damit beauftragt die Highlights unseres neuen Forschungsberichts mit dem Titel „How is Marketing’s Technology Stacking Up?“ zu präsentierenWir haben über 300 B2B Marketing Spezialisten zu Martech Investments und Einsatzplänen befragt und zusätzlich einige Marketing Manager interviewt, um tiergehender Hintergründe und Erkenntnisse zu erfahren. Der entstandene Bericht, verfügbar bei B2B Marketing, enthüllt manches Betriebsgeheimnis, eine Fülle an Statistik und peer-to-peer Begutachtungen — wobei das Hauptziel des Berichts bleibt, eine Konversation durch die Bereitstellung von umsetzbaren Ratschlägen zu entflammen.

    Die Studie brachte einige ziemlich verblüffende Statistiken hervor. Beispielsweise konnten die Teilnehmenden mit Hilfe einer Selbstauskunft den Zustand ihres Martech Bestands angeben – Die Beantwortung war denkwürdig: Lediglich 13% konnten bestätigen, dass ihr Martech Bestand aktuelle und zukünftige Bedürfnisse zufriedenstellend abdecken kann. Fast ein Drittel betrachten ihren Martech Bestand als unzureichend und sehen akuten Bedarf einer Erweiterung. Der Rest gab an, ihr Bestand sei aktuell adäquat zu ihrem Bedarf, brauche jedoch für zukünftige Bedürfnisse weitere Erweiterungen. Dies wirkt tröstlich … jedoch nur auf den ersten Blick.

    Also ….. Wie kann man dieses Feedback erklären?

    Nun hat die ungezügelte digitale Transformation in der allgemeinen Geschäftswelt zwei klare Veränderungsmuster für uns B2B-Marketer hervorgebracht. Zuerst mussten wir uns daran anpassen, dass wir nun durch viele neue digitale Channels mit dem Markt kommunizieren. Darüber Hinaus mussten wir eine Reihe von neuen Technologien adaptieren, welche unsere neuen Geschäftsprozesse unterstützten. Ich vermute die Geschwindigkeit der Veränderung hat uns in beiden Bereichen etwas überwältigt. 

    Marketing Organisationen haben unterschiedlich auf diese Herausforderungen reagiert.

    • Einige haben rasch Marketing-Automatisierungs Plattformen adaptiert, teilweise mit vordefinierten Prozessen, welche die ausgewählte Software bereitstellt. Jedoch wurde häufig kein Veränderungsmanagement bei der Installation des Prozesses angewandt. Dadurch wurden die Mitarbeitenden oft nicht angemessen vorbereitet.
    • Andere haben eifrig selbst, oder mit Hilfe von Beratern, ein idealisierten Zielbestand (Stack) von Martech erarbeitet (Eine Art Architektur), um daraufhin verschiedenste Software Abonnements abzuschließen bis ihr Bestand aufgefüllt ist. Das Ergebnis ist meist eine Sammlung von abweichenden und unkoordinierten Systemen, welche nur schwer zu handhaben sind. 
    • Eine weitere Gruppe von Unternehmen erreichte das gleiche Resultat dadurch, dass sie alle Vermarkter in ihrer Organisation befähigen, ihre eigenen Tools auszuwählen und als Betriebsaufwand zu lizenzieren. In meiner Tätigkeit habe ich bereits einige Male beobachtet, dass sich die verwendeten SaaS-Programme über Marketing Abteilungen hinweg divers gestaltet. Dies zeigt, dass viel mehr Technologie angewandt wird wie ursprünglich angenommen oder geplant. 

    Insgesamt hat der Handlungsdruck im Bereich des digitalen Marketings eine Art Aufrüstung hervorgebracht, bei der viel Technologie taktisch angeschafft wird, oft als Reaktion auf die teils dreisten Versprechungen der Marketing Software Anbieter. 

    Unsere Studie zeigt außerdem, dass meist keine großartige Zufriedenheit mit den installierten Technologien oder Plattformen besteht. Die niedrigste Zufriedenheit in der Studie wurde bei CRM festgestellt, welches als unbeliebtestes System für Marketer gilt. Für die meisten Marketer ist CRM ein externes System: installiert bevor Sie digitalen Marketing betrieben und gebaut für die Bedürfnisse von Vertrieb nicht Marketing.  

    Die größte Martech Herausforderung oder Erfolgshemmer war

    “Zeitknappheit und Mangel an Ressourcen, welche effektiv genutzt werden können.”

    Offensichtlich kaufen und nutzen viele Unternehmen Software ohne eine Erwägung der erforderlichen Ressourcen, um von dieser Software zu profitieren. 

    Also, ein bedauerlicher Stand der Dinge. Eine Kombination aus kurzfristigem Denken, Ego-Käufen und unkontrollierten Anbieter Verhalten hat einen Martech Jungle für die meisten B2B Organisationen erschaffen. Erlauben Sie mir an dieser Stelle einen Gedanken hinzuzufügen, um eine Diskussion anzuregen. Wir haben eine weitere Frage in der Studie gestellt, eine welche ich häufig im Rahmen meiner Verpflichtungen stelle: “Haben sie eine Martech Strategie vereinbart und dokumentiert?”

    Ich bin fortlaufend daran interessiert, das aktuelle Dokument zur gesamten Martech Strategie meines Klienten zu sehen. Meine Erfahrungen weisen Ähnlichkeiten zu den Studienergebnissen auf, lediglich einer von fünf ist in der Lage mir ein solches Dokument zur Bewertung bereitzustellen. Immerhin 57% gaben an, aktuell daran zu arbeiten. Wir fragten auch nach dem erstrebten Zeitrahmen und ein Viertel der 57% erklärten, die Strategie sei für 6 oder auch 3 Monate vorgesehen. Nun ist jeder Zeitrahmen unter einem Jahr für eine Strategie unzureichend – schließlich dauert jedes große Martech Beschaffungsprojekt typischerweise 6-9 Monate von der ersten Festlegung bis zur Anbieterauswahl, mit einer darauffolgenden ähnlich großen Periode für die Implementierung.

    Ich erwarte von einer Martech Strategie, dass sie einige Elemente der Planung, Richtlinien und Rahmenbedingungen enthält. Wie der Titel impliziert, schließt dies den Technologieplan mit einer Beschreibung des aktuellen Zustands mit ein (gestützt von einer kürzlich stattgefunden Technologie-Audit) und eine Liste/Kalender der Technologieprojekte für die bevorstehende Period (aufgeteilt nach Investment-Bereichen, Make-or-buy-Entscheidungen, Status des Technologieerwerbs und einem integrierten Projektplan). Es sollte außerdem ein Prozess-Überarbeitungsplan enthalten, welcher diskutiert wie eine neue digitale Marketing Methode mit adäquatem Veränderungsmanagement adoptiert werden kann. Darüber hinaus ist ein Ressourcenplan mit Dokumentierung von Personalbestand, Rekrutierung, Externer Assistenz und Trainings unverzichtbar. 

    Marketing wird zunehmend digital und erfordert Technologie und eine geeignete Martech Infrastruktur von jeder Marketing Abteilung, um effektiv zu agieren. Gleichermaßen benötigt digitales Marketing entsprechende Organisation und Rahmenbedingungen, um effektiv in der Anwendung zu sein und die Infrastruktur wirksam einzusetzen. Eine klare strategische Herangehensweise an den Martech Bestand ist nun essentiell um sicherzustellen, dass die Ausgaben im gesamten Marketing Budget optimal investiert sind.

    Der CMO oder Marketing Direktor muss die Verantwortung eventuell an einen erfahrenen Vermarkter übertragen, eine Art Chief Marketing Technology Officer. In größeren Organisationen kann eine separate Gruppe für Marketing Betriebsabläufe gegründet werden, um die Technologie zu verwalten – die Führungskraft dieser Gruppe könne der Verantwortliche für die Martech Strategie sein.

    Eine Martech Strategie wird als Rahmenbedingung für alle Marketing Mitarbeitenden und die beteiligten IT Fachleute benötigt. Digital bedeutet, dass es viele Kategorien von Marketing Fachleuten gibt, welche intern und extern involviert sind (Als Digitale Marketing Dienstleistungserbringer): 

    • Marketing Programm End-Nutzer 
    • Marketing-Aktivitäten Staff
    • Vorstände, welche Berichte benötigen 
    • Entwickler von digitalen Erfahrungen oder externen Marketing Programmen 
    • All die potentiell Anwender-Käufern von Marketingsoftware für individuellen Nutzen (z. B.: Analytics)

    In einem modernen demokratischen Geschäftsumfeld gibt es keine Möglichkeit individuelle Investments zu verhindern. Man kann jedoch Rahmenbedingungen für alle schaffen, welche potentielle Schaden begrenzen (Integration, Sicherheit, Non-Compliance, Datenschutzverstöße).

    Der wahre Wert einer Martech Strategie liegt nicht im dokumentieren und archivieren. Es geht vielmehr um die Meetings, Kommunikation und Verhandlungen, welche für die Entwicklung des Strategie unabdinglich sind. Der fortlaufende Dialog hilft allen die Wichtigkeit der Planung zu verstehen, sich an diese Strategie anzupassen und Ressourcen- sowie Integrationsprobleme rechtzeitig zu erkennen und anzugehen. Eine Martech Strategie sollte kontinuierlich weiterentwickelt werden und für alle Marketing Fachleute zugänglich sein.

    It’s the Process That Counts!

    Always keeping you informed! Peter

  • Design Thinking,  News,  Vendor Selection

    The Martech Strategy Process

    This week, I co-presented the keynote at the GetStacked conference, hosted by the B2B Marketing organization on a virtual platform for the first time. My brief was to present the highlights from our new “How is Marketing’s Technology Stacking Up?” research report  We had surveyed over 300 B2B marketers about Martech investment and development plans and we interviewed several marketing executives for in-depth background and insights. The resulting report, available from B2B Marketing, reveals some industry secrets, plenty of statistics and peer-to-peer review – though it’s main aim is to ignite a conversation by providing actionable advice

    Our survey collected some quite startling statistics. For example, the respondents could self-assess the state of their Martech stack and the response was extremely thought-provoking: only 13% of them could confirm that their Martech stack was performing well for current and future needs. Nearly one third even consider their stack as poor and in dire need of expansion. The rest reported that their stack was currently adequate but needs developing for future needs, which sounds comforting … but only at first. 

    So ….. How can we explain this feedback?

    Well, rampant digital transformation in the general business world has raised two distinct patterns of change for us B2B marketers. Firstly, we’ve had adjust to communicating to market through many, new digital channels; and secondly, we ourselves have had to adopt a realm of new technologies to support our new business processes. I suspect that the pace of change in both areas has overwhelmed us somewhat.  

    Marketing organizations have reacted to these challenges in different ways. 

    • Some quickly adopted marketing automation platforms, sometimes with processes pre-defined by the software they selected. But often they were bought and installed without process change management and employees were left unprepared. 
    • Others eagerly drew up, or had it drawn for them by consultants, an idealistic target Martech “stack” (a sort of architecture) and embarked on a buying binge of software subscription after software subscription to fill out their stack. The result is mostly a collection of disparate, uncoordinated systems which is a headache to operate and manage. 
    • A further set of businesses ended up with the same result, not through a stack approach, but because all marketers in the organization were empowered to license their own tools as an operating expense. I have seen many times in my engagements, that a SaaS-Apps audit across the marketing departments invariably shows much more technology being used than originally assumed or planned.    

    In summary, a sense of urgency around digital marketing created a sort of arms race where much technology was being acquired tactically and often in response to brash promises made by marketing software vendors.

    Our survey also shows that there is no great satisfaction from anybody in marketing with the installed technologies or platform types. Highest of this diss-satisfaction was CRM – it is the most-hated system for marketers in general. It scored most negatively in the satisfaction question. For most marketers, the CRM is an external system: installed before they were doing digital marketing and built for the needs of Sales not Marketing. 

    The most major Martech challenge or success inhibitor was

    “Lack of time/resources to use effectively”

    Evidently, companies buy and set up software without considering whether they have the resources to take advantage of it. 

    So, a sorry state of affairs. A combination of short-term thinking, ego buying, and uncontrolled vendor behavior has created a martech jungle for most B2B organisations. At this point, please allow me to provoke some thought into the discussion and suggest what is really missing in this story. You see, there was another question we posed in the survey – one that I often ask in my engagements as well – when helping marketers select the right technology vendor for a project: “Do you have an agreed and documented martech strategy ?”

    I am always curious to see the current document on my client’s overall martech strategy. And my experience is similar to the survey result –  only one out of five can even give me such a document to review. Now, 57% did say they are currently working on it, but we also asked what timeframe these plans were being laid out for – and a full quarter of the 57% responded that their strategy plan is for 6 or even just 3 months. Well, any strategy timeframe under a year is not a strategy at all – after all, any major Martech acquisition project will typically take 6-9 months from initial specification to vendor selection and that time period is followed by a similar block for project implementation.

    I would expect a Martech Strategy to include several elements of planning, guidelines and frameworks. As the title implies, it includes the Technology Plan itself with a description of the current status (backed up by a recent technology audit) and a list and calendar of technology projects for the coming period (broken down into investment areas, make or buy decisions, status of technology acquisition, and an integrations project plan). It should also have a Process Re-Engineering Plan, discussing how it is planned to adopt the new digital marketing methods with the associated change management projects addressing migration and skills acquisition. And a Resources Plan (documenting staffing, recruitment, external assistance, and training).  

    Marketing has become primarily digital and requires technology to operate effectively and a suitable Martech infrastructure is required by every marketing department to achieve that goal. But equally, digital marketing also requires the appropriate organization and framework of business processes to be effective in operating and leveraging that infrastructure. A clear, strategic approach to the Martech stack is now critical to ensure that, ultimately, spending across the whole marketing budget is optimally invested.  

    The CMO or Marketing Director must assign this responsibility to a senior member of the marketing staff – a sort of Chief Marketing Technology officer perhaps. In larger organisations, a separate group for Marketing Operations is created to manage the technology – the leader of that group could be the owner of the Martech Strategy.    

    A Martech Strategy is needed as a framework for all marketing staff, and IT staff, who are involved with the technology. Digital means that there are many categories of marketing staff now involved internally and externally (at Digital Marketing Service Providers): 

    • marketing application end-users
    • marketing operations staff
    • executives who need reports and dashboards
    • citizen developers of digital experiences or external marketing apps
    • all those potential rogue buyers of marketing software (such as analytics) for individual use.

    In a democratic modern business environment, there is no way to stop the individual investments, but establishing a framework for all will limit any potential damage that is caused (integration, security, non-compliance, privacy breaches).    

    The true value of a Martech Strategy is not that it is documented and placed on a booked shelf. It is in the meetings, communications and negotiations that are need to develop the plan. That continuous dialogue helps everybody to understand the importance of planning and then aligning to that plan and will probably limit resource and integration issues in the future. A Martech Strategy should be a continuous work-in-progress and openly accessible to all of the marketing staff as listed above. 

    It’s the Process That Counts!

    Always keeping you informed! Peter

  • Design Thinking,  Vendor Selection

    Design Thinking About The Vendor Selection Process

    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