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Disruptively Customer Centric B2B sales – Tools for Crossing the Chasm

B2B sales has been under major disruption due to content marketing and automation surge. I am a big believer and practitioner of these tools and methods my self and I’ve been convinced that this is the way to create naturally supporting customer journey towards a happy end and the results have proved how well it works. Now I have to admit that you can go way beyond.

Let’s  consider the B2B buyers and procurement and their process:

TOP OF THE FUNNEL has to do with planning and designing the change. This work is mostly done with internal stake holders, consultants and designers. The buyers are exploring options, pondering their current solutions and how they fit with the change. This stage is really about learning and defining what would good outcome look like.

PROBLEMS:

  • The buyers don’t engage with vendors at this stage, although they are likely to use vendors’ content marketing materials. Most of the buyers’ time is spent searching on Google.
  • Buyers have hard time finding relevant content because the market is quite cluttered with generic content that doesn’t really support buyers’ process. What customers really need and look for are: Solution facts, Business Cases, White papers, Success Stories, Reviews… Tangible and concrete tools for their process. These are not easy to find!
  • Customer would benefit from dialogue with the vendors, but they don’t do it because they don’t want to get harassed by sales. Buyers want to drive the process and manage it efficiently. Active sales is considered disturbing.
  • Large vendors dominate the space, because they have resources to produce content, they have strong page ranking and their brands pull customers to their resources. This logic and dynamic will enforce status quo and buyers don’t find NEW, INNOVATIVE AND MORE COST EFFICIENT OPTIONS. These vendors are not known yet and they concentrate on their product and service development – not in content creation. Their page rank is low and Google doesn’t find them. The buyers interest is to find the best solutions but they have very hard time finding them.
  • When the logic of top-of-the-funnel goes like that, it influences the request for proposal (RFP). The RFP and vendor list that will get that RFP will consist of well known players and leave very little room for innovative approaches
  • You don’t get trustworthy reviews from B2B companies anywhere, really. It’s difficult to compare sales pitch with actual delivery experiences. Success cases underline success, but hide failure.

Screenshot 2016-01-19 07.06.45

MIDDLE OF THE FUNNEL is about engagement with 3-10 recognised players who will get the RFP. This is the first time for the buyer to allow vendors to ask questions and study options with them. Vendors have experience from multiple customers and they can reflect previous cases and their results which could potentially lead to better outcome than the one outlined in the RFP. Connecting customers challenges to vendors solutions could create a new solution, which would be the best case

PROBLEMS:

  • Most innovative and best solutions are not the ones to get the RFP and the customers will probably choose solutions that are established, expensive and quite similar to those that their competitors are using
  • The most innovative people don’t get to influence the buyers thinking and the buyers don’t get the kind of edge to their operations that would have been possible
  • The market logic will enforce status quo: innovative SMEs don’t get to grow and once their technology is proven the entrepreneurs will make an exit and sell their company to big players years after the development of better solutions and at that point the big players will introduce the solutions to the market and scale them. At this point buyers don’t get such benefit from their choice anymore and they will pay much more than they would have paid a couple of years earlier

I met the Founder and CEO of SpendLead Fabrice Saporito last autumn and their solution really impressed me. SpendLead is an environment where the optimal buying process has been made possible and allows the most innovative players to engage with buyers early. The founders have their history in procurement and they have developed a dream environment for the buyers to realise the optimal buying process!

SpendLead founders have their history in major companies buying processes, which has allowed them to get these buyers in. There are already major companies procurement departments which have combined buying power worth more than 200 Billion/year using SpendLead which gives the service a unique value proposition. eg. BBC

Screenshot 2016-01-19 07.36.28

The service has been built around these buyers interests, which means that they have embraced it and adopted it rapidly. It’s now time for sellers and marketers to take advantage of this possibility. How it works for marketers promoting their services in SpendLead? You publish exactly what the customers are looking for:

Screenshot 2016-01-19 07.43.23

And you get tools to do you engagements and lead generation:

Screenshot 2016-01-19 07.43.40

For an SME this environment gives full toolkit, allows very easy publication and enables anonymous engagements with buyers who want to learn more at the top of the funnel. This will speed up and strengthen the innovative solutions adoption. This environment magnify solutions and their impact, not brands. That’s why I think that SpendLead can disrupt the market logic over the next couple of years. The service is completely free for buyers and the business model is based on leads. Their pricing is very affordable, 1,99USD/lead and it will probably disrupt the lead generation market also in case of bigger brands. At least it is great way for SME’s to scale their sales reach. I don’t think that big companies can afford to neglect this kind of player in case their buyers adopt the service.

SpendLead is definitely worth trying and their thinking is solid. I’m really interested in seeing how this kind of disruptive new service will change the way we do B2B selling and buying!

In case you have experiences about customer dialogue and sales process inside SpendLead I’d be very interested in hearing actual experiences from both buyers and marketers point of view

Making millions with pennies – BEHAVIORAL ECONOMICS

Growth and productivity

When I think about board member’s day to day life and board meeting’s average content, I know it’s full of big decisions. What is our growth strategy? Are we willing to invest millions of euros/dollars in technology in order to enable customer relationship strategy and automation? How can we reduce our churn? How can we lower over all costs and increase productivity? Thinking big is important, but I’ve come to conclusion that thinking big also makes board members blind to potential that is at their reach with minimal investments.

I’ve been working on direct marketing, sales development, customer journey analytics and customer experience-  and customer interface design since 2004 and learned that the potential is amazing. Realizing the potential often only cost pennies, but requires new point of view and strong experience. So what is this really? It’s BEHAVIOURAL ECONOMICS. Using BE in order to rapidly create major changes has to do with Choice Architecture and Nudges, leveraging behavioural patterns. It’s very much like Service Designing, but doesn’t necessarily require total make over, just adjustments. I decided that I collect and publish some of the actual outcomes that I’ve discovered with my clients so that there is tangible proof of what I am talking about. These cases are anonymous and from multiple market areas including both B2B and B2C cases:

Conversion: Sales increased by 240% by only re-designing the way the product was introduced and how customers actually were steered to made the purchase. Investment level 5000€ – sales value in millions
Sales: Changing messaging order and starting marketing by allowing own members to buy first, before others. Creation of momentums inside the campaign. Sales index was 200% in a first year and 260% in second year compared to the original target budget. Investment level – no change. Double profitability impact:  higher margins and stronger sales. The sales impact was + 20 millions.
Churn reduction: By changing the way how the company did invoicing, the company’s churn reduction was almost 1/3. Investment level in thousands – savings/improved loyalty > 1 million
Customer service cost reduction: Changing the way invoicing was done, we were able to cut contact center calls to half and allocate that free capacity to proactive contacting of customers who had given critical net promoter scores. Multiple impacts: NPS increase, higher loyalty, higher ARPU, lower cost to serve. Customer feedback also gave insights to overall service and product development. Investment level in thousands – impact in hundreds of thousands
SEO/SEM improvement: Cost of acquisition is often a critical profitability factor. In one case I analysed company’s current reach of SEO and SEM and came to conclusion that 1) Their all key words were targeting the last moments of decision making = most expensive 2) They completely missed the contexts that made their service interesting and valuable = high reach, low cost. Also, they renewed their website, which cut their lead generation to half. The solution: conversion fixes on website with minimal cost, new approach to SEO/SEM. Investment – re-allocated current marketing budget, projected impact more than 200% sales increase
Proactive service messaging: Sending customers service messaging with automation multiply their frequency to use service, increase spending and reduce churn. Investment apr. 100K, sales increase impact in millions.
What board members should consider:

We already have technologies and on-going spending – can we improve their impact
We already have thousands/hundreds of thousands/millions visiting our customer interfaces. Can we improve conversion to sales?
What is our level of contact center costs? How many contacts is there? What is causing those contacts? Can we do something about it?
What is our churn level (leaving customers)? What does that mean in euros/dollars? Can we do something about it?
We have tons of data. Have we really understood the value buried in it? How can we transform data into money (operational improvement with current offering – potential for new businesses and offerings)
One case I am currently working which is special for one major reason, its public, is Kela (Finnish pension insurance company). KELA is government managed and doesn’t have competitors, which means that I can talk about the case without breaking any NDA’s. Due to a legislation change, Kela is going to take over a new service area in the beginning of 2017 that currently employs 600 working years in employee resources. I have a privilege to analyze how customers are currently using Kela services, how and why they use office- and call center services. Based on this data I am looking for ways to increase self service level and decrease cost of servicing. The goal is, that by changing the customer interfaces and service processes we can decrease the service need so much, that Kela DON’T need to hire 600 more people to fulfill the new responsibilities. Since I started analyzing data, interviewing customers and customer service people, we have already found improvement points that allow Kela to cut hundreds of thousands and eventually millions of calls or manual applications. Very little user interface element changes alone can reduce costs by 1,5 million euros in one single service segment. These findings are now in process to be realized with lean UX workshopping.

There’s one specific finding that I just have to point out. In every application context Kela gives an average decision making time. The idea to give an average time is natural and intuitively right way to approach the customer need. However, there is a problem. Giving an average time for decision will create expectations. Giving an average time actually means that HALF of the applicants feel they get below average service, get worried and call. The number of such calls is +200K in total. What can we do? We can change expectations by changing ONE LINE across all services.

“The decision making typically takes AT LEAST xx time”

The change of this one line has very meaningful benefits:

half of the customers feel that their service EXCEEDED expectations
The other half is more patient
The projected saving for this very simple change is at the level of +1 million euros. The cost to make that change is 0€. When scaling all improvements together the savings will be calculated in multiple millions.

What is that KELA case really about? It’s about recognizing why people get worried, feel anxiety, what they don’t understand and how can we improve their feeling of confidence that things are going well. In practice we improve customer experience. In a commercial context this means higher NPS, stronger customer relationships, higher demand, higher conversion rates, lower cost of acquisition… the list is endless and it’s full of direct profit impacting factors.

What I suggest for your next board meeting is, that you take the board consideration list above and put it on  your agenda.  Then honestly consider if there is room for improvement. My experience is, that there always is. Then contact a person who has real experience about recognizing improvement points, analyzing the data for potential and capacity to create insights and design changes that make millions in ROI.

This is what I do.

Here is a short introduction to my offering and how does it impact company’s customer centric transformation, management, culture, infrastructure and processes: Behavioural Economics offering


Let me know if you want your company to take a leap to a whole new level of productivity. Let’s have a chat and see if we both get excited 🙂

Toni Keskinen
+358 50 55 222 76
toni.keskinen@futurecmo.org
http://www.linkedin.com/in/tonikeskinen/
@Toni_Keskinen

Business Design and Transformation process for growth

I have been privileged to be part of some major enterprise transformation processes over the past decade that have taught a lot about how do you actually enable and enforce change for customer centric, holistic, agile and innovative corporate culture. In the business world we are living in today, brands are created with customer experience and corporate culture. The capacity to serve customers in an omni-channel world the way they want to be served is becoming a competitive requirement instead of being an advantage.. This can not be done with silo organisation with responsibility barriers, split budgets, strict hierarchy, fixed roles and waterfall development processes. Those things are true status quo traps that will eventually kill any business sooner or later.

Just like Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden, the authors of Lean UX -book, I got fed up with cases that were perfectly planned but never implemented or the implementation was too far from the plan and naturally didn’t deliver as expected. I’ve also grown out of creating strategies and roadmaps and moved to actual change making. I really love Lean UX. Lean Start-up- and design thinking adjusted to established enterprise environment. Solving real problems, creating customer insights, direct applications and implementing them asap is much more rewarding for everyone involved than just designing the change. Getting results fast accelerate learning, inspire innovation and motivation beyond anything else. The gradual change is also much easier to manage than a complete turnover at once.

The key rules for success are:

  1. Outside-in > understand customers and markets first, then look at your offering, customer interfaces, brand, invoicing, agreement processes, up-sales, cc etc. Be honest and learn.
  2. Bottom-up > The need for a change should be recognized at the board level, however the change learning should start at the bottom – with people who are directly communicating with customers and know their frustrations and understand company’s challenges. Most often they can directly tell you what needs to be changed. Once you know these, you can take it to the board room and be honest again and learn more
  3. Do and learn fast, adjust and improve. Don’t try to get everything right before releasing something. There are no watertight facts before there are real life results. Most things can be tested small before scaling or making major investments before proof of concept. Stay curious and lean even in case of larger enterprise

Based on my experience, this approach works every time:

customer centric management transformationIt is crucial to work you way bottom up in order to obtain actionable insights

Bottom-up strategy creation and implementation

1. Create customer insight. Use customer data, analytics, scoring model, online data, research and any available data sources in order to understand who the customers are how do they behave. If you don’t have enough data, get it, make 1-2-1 interviews or research and mash-up other datasources. Create a customer journey map based on these findings and engage with people who work in direct customer interfaces like sales, retail, call center, research, support, invoicing, credit negotiation, specialists, etc. By connecting these two realities you can see a couple of things:

  1. Who are the customers, what are they doing, how and why?
  2. How does this customer behavior show in your customer interfaces, what are the most important pain points and frustrations customers have and what can you do about it. Once you have the facts, you can see how you can extract painpoints by re-designing the customer journey experience across customer interfaces and how that will reduce costs to serve while also improving NPS. That has a direct bottomline impact. Also, you can recognize opportunities that will help you sell more effectively, improve conversion rates and thus drive marketshare and sales up.

When you have understanding about the customers and you can define Customer relationship-, Customer experience vision, set goals and recognize their impact to revenue and bottomline. The Customer interface and customer analysis becomes the roadmap for better and enables a shared language thru organisation. Everybody can agree with the facts and understand their own role in the customers’ process. The discussion is around customer behavior and going forward, it’s not about blaiming anybody for their decisions in the past. The mandate for change comes frome the customers and dictates what needs to be done. This is why everyone can agree with it and don’t lose face or feel the need to defend prior decisions. In every single case this first part has been capable of igniting inspiration, trust in own capabilities to do meaningful changes and realize them. Insights and understanding create momentum that makes it possible for a company to change fast in a meaningful way. This change is done because people love it and their hearts and minds are burning to make an improvement. It’s not done because management has told employees to change or because the management team has come up with new organisation chart… This route to transformation can be rapidly implemented and the results are quickly at hand. These results justify futher improvement.

It has been interesting to learn, how much silent knowledge, un-tapped knowledge and supressed passion can be found in any given organisation. This capacity can only be realized by deploying the change within the organisation. This is why outsourcing the planning is not a good idea in my opinion. Carrying light inside with a bag doesn’t help, you need to light up the people. Once you release that passion and knowledge in constructive way, it will change the organisation permanently. The way of working will change, it will improve job satisfaction and willingness to push the limits further. At best, it will create a positive cycle for competitive advantage and growth.

2. The next stage is about turning insights and understanding in to systematic Way of Working. This is actually very practical consideration about recognizing responsibilities, ownerships over larger entities, creation of KPI’s and information flows or designing the approach to commercial management in general. Often there are factors like scorecards and conflicting interest in the organisation that need to be fixed, rewarding mechanisms or silo cultures that just need new perspective and solving. Very often dysfunctional organisation has everything in order on the surface, but multiple little things that paralyze the operational engine, innovation, productivity and motivation. Sometimes management isn’t even aware of such issues that could be historical relics that should have been solved ages ago.

What ever there is in the way of working, the new perspective gained in the first stage will help in finding solutions to them. The work is done gradually case by case and the excitement and positivity for change gradually take over the entire personnel. At this point, the company should reach a positive cycle that feeds winning mentality, job satisfaction and capacity to innovate.

3. The first two stages have already revealed the challenges that can be found from systems architechtures and platforms. While the first stage already enables major improvements with UX design and coding, the platforms enable strategic development and automation. This naturally takes more time and is different kind of project, but by this time the needs, benefits and requirements should be selfevident. As the learning has already started at frontend level, the understanding about available business benefits should also be clear for decision making and investment planning.

This kind of change can improve efficiency and productivity very fast without showing anything outside yet. However, when the company is really changing it should also show outside. In my experience advertising is actually very effective mean for internal change communication. The promises that the company gives outloud enforces the internal resolve to follow thru and deliver as planned. Advertising is about communicating the core values and that goes to own personnel, customers and the market. There’s just the question of timing that must be carefully considered. If the advertising starts too early and the personnel hasn’t really got on board, it might have double negative impact:

  1. internal feeling of disconnect between promises and capability to deliver and
  2. customers feeling that there isn’t enough substance behind those promises which could damage the brand and destroy the momentum that would have been available.

Like anything that has to do with people and emotions, these are delicate matters and require consideration. In order to do things successfully you need to have a clear plan but it has to be flexible enough so that it can be deployed in right order.

These transformation stories are truly interesting and educating processes. I’d love to hear your stories and experiences about them. Please comment and share 🙂

SEE ALSO:

About Author

7P’s interview – Ephlux Insights with Toni Keskinen (of Future CMO)

Here’s my interview with Mr Babar Khan Javed about the backround of my thinking that led to re-creation of Marketing’s 7P’s published in ADMAP November 2014

Further reading:

Author: Toni Keskinen, Change Catalyst & Executive as a Service
http://www.linkedin.com/in/tonikeskinen

Join FutureCMO Movement LinkedIn Group here

Branding = Change Management and Operational Excellence

Over the past couple of years I have been involved in the development processes of SME’s and some major companies with hundreds of millions or billions in turnover. These processes are about change:

  • The emphasis is moving from advertising and external media to own touchpoints and communications with own customers
  • The marketing as such is becoming more and more targeted and measurable. Marketing has a business case and acts more and more like a business unit
  • The view is moving from products and services to customers and customer centric insight driven development
  • The development requires companies to change the way they operate and how they are organized
  • Big data about customers, their behavior and their needs is required in order to enable the change
  • The change requires companies to re-consider their KPI’s and what data do they use in order to increase transparency and enhance and empower internal innovation and cross-silo collaboration
  • This change must be managed and management must change in order to enable the change for better

I recently published my view on the new and re-designed 7P’s for marketing. In this article I already underlined the fact that marketing has changed profoundly. Brands are no longer created – they are earned. Brands live in customers’ minds and they grow from experiences.. own and peer experiences. In my opinion CMO’s are at the very core of corporate Must Win Battles like:

CMO and corporate must win battles

This is why I would say rather confidently that the path from good to great brand includes these stages:

branding, marketing, operational excellence

First: You need to have goals and vision. They act as a unifying master plan that everyone in the company can understand and accept. What kind of brand are we trying to create? What kind of customer experience and and relationship are we trying to deliver and earn? What kind of impacts are we trying to get?

Second: When you analyse the customer journey accross all touchpoints and channels, you get to see how are you currently performing, what and where do you need to improve. This is where the magic happens between your brand and customers

Third: You need to take a look at how does your company actually operate and how is it managed. Does your current ways support and enable the customer interface operations that you are trying to achieve. Are you organized right, do you have right kind of KPI’s, are different diciplines and silos working together or do you lose insights between gaps and inevitably cause corporate autism?

Fourth: Does your corporate infrastructure enable everything mentioned and planned above? Do you have legacy systems and technology, disconnected data etc. In case the technology and infrastructure doesn’t enable the change, how do you take action? What kind of roadmap and investments are required? What can be done fast, what takes more time and effort? What can be piloted and can you start the learning curve growth with some manual work that enable more effective technology implementation?

This same approach to change management can also be seen as work that moves from practical customer interfaces insights and understanding to top – not top-down. This is how it works:

upside down strategy workWhen I have been running these cases I have learned that this approach works very, very well. The reason is that everyone is involved and the process in it self actually enhances the learning and feeling of unity, shared goals and willingness to change. This is because the process inspires, makes difficult theory work feel practical and easy to adopt. Very often the process generates several small victories and improvements that can be implemented immediately. The good experiences start building up and people get the feeling that these things are really happening and we are really doing something meaningful. Once the plan is ready, the organisation has already moved several steps to the right direction and has become excited about the development. For the management this is extremely valuable situation, because they can just enable what the organisation is asking for instead of trying to order and manage changes top-down.

The reality is that the use of data and data driven operations are requiring new approach to technology and companies need to adopt it some how. Here’s an example about the use of external data ecosystem along with own data

Internal and external data use in marketing

The role of internal and external data:

the role of internal and external data in marketing and customer services

This is how I see the brand development in this day and age. Do you agree/disagree? Would you have any cases, experiences or hints how I could develop this approach further?

See also:

SEE ALSO:

About Author

2013 internet trends by Mary Meeker & Liang Wu

The internet changed marketing by enabling a completely new service and transaction channel. Then came social media along and changed the way how people communicate and share experiences. Then came the mobile internet, apps,… and the change just accelerates.

This Mary Meeker’s and Liang Wu’s presentation, a rather comprehensive one, is about the current state we all need to be aware of. (original presentation at http://www.kpcb.com/insights/2013-internet-trends)

The velocity of market change has never been as fast as it is now and the speed just continues accelerating and everything becomes more and more connected, bundled, interdependent. Connected world support a new strategic approach: Symbiosis Strategy. The idea of Symbiosis between customer and company can be described with levels of synergy: a) product centric b) customer centric c) symbiosis
Symbiosis also comes in many forms:

  1. Shared Value = Symbiosis between society and business
  2. Platform/standard based = Symbiosis between platform owner, partners and customer
  3. Co-created = Customer & company
  4. Coalition = Several companies working together for a customer

As the velocity of change accelerates further, it becomes more and more difficult to keep up with it alone. Symbiosis strategy represent a great opportunity. Learn more about Symbiosis strategy here.

Author: Toni Keskinen, Marketing Architect & Customer Journey Designer

http://www.linkedin.com/in/tonikeskinen

Join FutureCMO Movement LinkedIn Group here

 

Business Design.. with customer centricity

Here is my presentation that is about Business Design and how you lay the foundation of business development and value generation on customer journey and diminish the complexity to understandable and measurable insights and practices to marketing, operations and R&D. Recognition and simplification is the way to go and insights come from that. I’ve just landed back to my roots and start Business Development consulting which is really about customer and total marketing driven corporate transformation. That’s why it was relevant to take a look back and make a fusion from past to current.

I came to conclusion that past was already right – but required a lot to learn in order to develop the understanding and methods further.. Even if your theory and concept were perfect – making it a practice and a reality takes a lot of sweat, consideration, trial and error, right context, position and organization. However, enjoy. This material was better than I remembered (I was a founding member at Taivas Business Design and OneExperience planning director before my assignment as marketing architect at Toinen PHD and starated Future CMO transformation consulting and coaching in Jan 2014). 

WHY THIS ONE EXPERIENCE FAILED TO SCALE INTERNATIONALLY?
One Experience was a cross-channel behavior analytics tool and methodology we at Taivas Group started developing already back in 2004. Professor for Masscustomization Jarmo Suominen (MIT/UIAH) contributed to the theory and framework tremendously in the beginning and I led the project turning the ideology in to OneExperience online platform. This tool was extremely advanced back then but also represented a Utopia as practice. It turned out the tool was not viable back then due to siloed ecosystem which made it totally impossible to distribute and scale globally as a SaaS planning platform. Combination of qualitative and quantitative studying methods and total planning approach delivering insights about customer interfaces, brand status, distribution channels and product/service qualities it was impossible to integrate in WPP organisation and scale with Ogilvy Group, JWT, RMG, G2, GroupM, MillwardBrown… Why? We talked to everybody and they all loved it. Well, you would have needed to involve crm, online, advertising, promotion, creatives and media planning from separate organizations and align all their efforts for unified practice and goals. The same applied to client organizations. CMO’s at that point were more brand and advertising directors than true business drivers with full marketing spectrum and integration to operations.
That.. well.. was utopia in 2007 when we launched the tools.  We did good in Finland where we were a single team working for clients in Finnish culture with low organization hierarchy enabling collaboration directly with CMO, board of directors and business managers responsible for operations. We did great results but could not turn OneExperience in to international business as such.
The world has changed over the past five years.. This change is now reaching the tippin’ point. Perhaps we are closer to that Utopia now.. or are we? This change involves every one in the ecosystem and everyone inside corporate management. This is what we are now trying to do at ToinenPHD in Finnish scale. Is the world ready for scaling this kind of Total marketing approach and Customer Journey driven ideology in to practical daily work. Are CMO’s and the ecosystem ready for it now? Is it possible to make Utopia a reality?
SEE ALSO:

Author: Toni Keskinen, Marketing Architect & Customer Journey Designer

http://www.linkedin.com/in/tonikeskinen

Join FutureCMO Movement LinkedIn Group here

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