Xactly Inspires Sales Performance with Coaching and Insights

Imagine how the third Monday in next January looks to leaders in the sales department. That’s the first day of the annual sales kickoff and the excitement level won’t get any higher. New products and services are in the works, lucrative customer contracts are up for renewal, alliance partners are in the house, and qualified opportunities are already flowing through your pipeline. The executive team is expecting big things from sales in the new year and has approved hiring additional people to address opportunities that otherwise would be neglected. But despite all this activity, the organization faces two big problems in hiring and integrating new sales staff.

One is that the market has been changing with as the economy improves. The pendulum has swung, from employers having the upper hand on hiring to employees being more in control of their careers. That includes outstanding salespeople. The most productive ones have usually been able to write their own tickets, but they, too, have become increasingly selective about where to work. They won’t consider working for companies with inefficient and dysfunctional sales operations. Moreover, experienced salespeople know that the excitement of an annual kickoff doesn’t last far beyond the trip back to the airport on the final day of the event. The fading of that excitement may expose inadequate weekly sales calls, revenue-oblivious marketing and a general lack of appropriate field coaching, education and support.

It’s here that the second problem comes into focus: the widespread belief that confining onboarding to three days of immersion in discussion of corporate practices, products and partner relationships will prepare people to deliver performance results at least matching, if not exceeding, expectations. In fact, onboarding of new sales reps successfully requires ongoing departmental initiatives that enable a company to ramp up new reps, align them with goals and incentives and provide personalized training and education. It also demands technology tools that facilitate vr_scm14_01_impediments_to_effective_sales_compensationall of these processes and make the sales job easier, not harder. In this competitive employment environment, many outstanding potential sales force candidates won’t settle for less than this level of technology support when they sign on.

Companies struggling to recruit and empower sales talent must address the issue of ineffective technology systems. Our benchmark research on sales compensation identifies several issues that motivate organizations to consider new technology investment, most commonly inconsistent execution in sales (cited by 61%), ineffectiveness of sales (48%) and lack of alignment of sales and strategy (45%). These impediments make it difficult to readily onboard new salespeople, let alone attract industry-leading candidates.

Xactly is one software vendor that addresses these issues. It provides a suite of sales performance management applications, delivered as software as a service (SaaS), that support the sales function. Now the company has added Inspire to its portfolio of products. Xactly Inspire supports the sales onboarding process where companies and their sales departments need it the most – immediately after the annual kickoff. Inspire provides tools for individual rep coaching, performance measurement, continual assessment and suggestions for corrective action. It helps sales managers work individually with their team members to produce revenue-generating results. Inspire has the potential to shorten the ramp times for January’s new hires and ensure that all reps are aligned with organizational goals by matching coaching, training and educational activities to sales incentives.

Xactly continues to expand its offerings in areas of sales performance management. With the debut of Inspire, it announced enhancementsVR2015_InnovationAwardWinner to Insights its sales compensation planning application, which increase the range of data available compare and benchmark sales compensation. Customers can use the data to compare their performance to that of their peers across dozens of sales and financial measures.

Xactly Insights won Ventana Research’s 2015 Technology Innovation Award for sales excellence. Inspire adds to the breadth of its offering. We recommend that organizations consider Xactly’s products to help them attract and support sales talent.

Regards,

Tony Compton

Vice President and Research Director, Sales and Marketing

Follow me on Twitter and on LinkedIn

Hive9 Helps Tame the Chaos of B2B Marketing

It often seems to business-to-business (B2B) marketers as if the only people who understand them are other B2B marketers. They feel that salespeople don’t get what they do day-to-day, that friends and family don’t understand what they do for a living, and most of all that the executives to whom they report have no interest in what they do – that is, until the last day of the quarter. Then they require that B2B marketers deliver positive, lead-generating and revenue-producing results in reports that detail how their efforts supported sales in the previous 90 days. And they expect those results to be reported in a format understandable to all.

The B2B marketer’s daily routine also is stressful. Each morning starts with urgent demands from managers and fellow employees in sales, finance and IT as well as partners and customers. B2B marketers have to respond to the array of requests, in each case speaking the language appropriate to the individual, department or account. And if the company relies on siloed applications and an outdated technology infrastructure, the departmental pit can easily appear bottomless and the effort to clean things up endless. Bottom line: The B2B marketer’s business day can quickly degrade into a chaos of reactive tasks that hinder him or her from providing anything of strategic or even tactical value.

Hive9, a software company helping marketing organizations, is familiar with the ruthless challenges these marketers face. Its marketing performance management suite reflects Hive9’s understanding that chaos is the one constant in the marketer’s day.

That chaos prevents strategic plans from being developed, confounds the budgeting process, antagonizes the sales and marketing relationship, stops programs from being thoroughly executed, and prohibits quarterly and annual departmental results from being properly reported. As my colleague Mark Smith has written, it takes more than good intentions to master marketing mayhem. It takes a deliberate effort to abandon manual, time-devouring processes supported by desktop spreadsheets. And it takes the right tools.

Well-designed marketing performance management software can help marketers use marketing data, customer and prospect information and actionable intelligence derived from analytics to do their jobs better and control the chaos. Hive9’s marketing performance management suite, available as software as a service (SaaS), provides marketers with intelligence that allows them to do what’s most important: take immediate action to meet the steady stream of rigorous organizational expectations. The three-module suite covers the fundamental areas of marketing planning, programmatic measurement and performance optimization and does so by integrating with the gamut of related applications: customer relationship management, business intelligence, marketing automation, financial, Web, social media and custom-built. Hive9’s suite stands out in the market by its ability to apply predictive analytics to plan, test and build any needed marketing mix of lead- and revenue-generating programs. The Hive9 Plan module offers visualization of marketing plans and forecasts through a waterfall analysis supported by the inclusion of data on financial investments and budget allocations. The Measure module enables creation of comprehensive dashboards, and the Optimize module applies analytical intelligence to every step of the customer experience, with the aim of satisfying customers’ expectations.

Hive9 should appeal to marketers on two fronts: It’s data-driven software that simplifies complex marketing components, and being SaaS it can be quickly deployed. The three parts of the suite fit well with the marketing processes of organizations today. Given the constant struggle to produce a single orchestrated view of marketing activities, the Plan module is the place to start. In the intermediate Measure module sales leaders and executives will find value at the end of reporting periods by being able to review outcomes of marketing efforts across various customer touchpoints and identify programs that have led to revenue-generating campaigns. The Optimize module supports technically advanced B2B marketers providing the ability to apply decision-making intelligence to every step of the customer’s experience. In its latest innovation is journey mapping which it recently announced that helps visualize the path that prospects are taking through marketing activities. As my colleague and our research have pointed out that journey mapping is essential for optimizing the customer experience.

As the Hive9 product evolves, I would like to see additional functionality that provides insights through integration with critical marketing activities such as sales enablement and content planning, development and usage, product information management, and customer billing, subscription and recurring revenue.

Our benchmark research makes clear that marketing organizations can benefit from capable software that enables them to deal with the pressures executives place on them. According to our marketing analytics benchmark research, three-fourths (76%) of vr_marketing_analytics_02_most_important_marketing_metricsexecutives view the impact of marketing initiatives on corporate revenue as an important marketing metric, and half or more also cited sales’ use of marketing-sourced leads, the quality of those leads and the conversion of leads into revenue-generating opportunities.

Generating and tracking such metrics requires flexible software. Yet despite the unprecedented performance standards to which marketers are being held, they’re often thwarted by tight departmental budgets, cobbled-together technical infrastructures and incomplete and stale data. And they’ve been expected to perform while short-staffed, locked out of the executive boardroom and buried under distressed timeframes. Experienced B2B marketers know that to be ready for the final day of the quarter, they must overcome roadblocks and make the most out of each of the previous 89 days. Hive9’s marketing performance management suite can help them do that. Marketing performance management software is long overdue, and Hive9’s efforts in the market can help them overcome chaos and establish productive, revenue-generating relationships with sales, executives and other departments.

Regards,

Tony Compton

Vice President and Research Director, Sales and Marketing

Follow me on Twitter and on LinkedIn

Salesforce Assimilates Demandware, But Will it Help Them?

In July Salesforce officially closed on its purchase of digital commerce platform provider Demandware for US$2.8 billion. Salesforce’s executives were interested in acquiring a digital commerce platform, and they claim that Demandware was routinely mentioned in their due diligence of the market. So out came Marc Benioff’s and Salesforce checkbook, and they paid. Handsomely. For that sizeable investment, Salesforce will add Demandware’s SaaS-delivered digital commerce capabilities to its Customer Success Platform, while Demandware customers will have access to the Salesforce suite of cloud-based sales, marketing, customer service and analytics tools. But savvy business and IT customers are not getting distracted by the details of this transaction or the acquisition’s market impact. Knowledgeable executives expected a significant deal like this for Salesforce, and they were already thinking ahead of laggards who are just now assessing the implications of this transaction.

Salesforce already was a major influencer in sales and marketing and advancing into supporting all forms of customer engagement, and the inclusion of Demandware’s offerings puts Salesforce that could challenge industry heavyweights such as IBM, Oracle and SAP in digital commerce. However, even with the acquisition, Salesforce does not offer a complete package for optimizing customer experiences in digital commerce environments. Providing omnichannel customer experiences requires an integrated product, marketing, sales, service, and billing with recurring support environment, which is much more than the Salesforce-Demandware combination supplies. Alliances will still play a prominent role in Salesforce-anchored offerings. Savvy professionals already knew that, and so, hopefully does Salesforce and its top competitors.

Business leaders who have mapped the comprehensive technical environment they require to be able to deliver a superior customer experience know that even after they combine robust repositories of customer data, intelligence and analytics with creative digital storefronts and commerce clouds, critical components are still missing. For instance, among companies participating in ourvr_NGCE_Research_13_growth_in_channels next-generation customer engagement benchmark research, a majority said they expect substantial growth in online and mobile communication channels. That anticipated demand can’t be satisfied by the capabilities of conventional CRM systems and current customer-facing digital commerce technologies. In a recent analyst perspective on digital commerce, I noted that software for product information management (PIM) and customer billing and payment systems are two applications required in supporting a great customer experience and are lacking from Salesforce and Demandware. Any robust digital commerce environment also should include product life cycle management and location-based consumer intelligence.

The Demandware acquisition also underscores the importance of having employees with the creativity and technical acumen to manage digital commerce environments. Simply put, a chief digital officer or someone with those responsibilities must be engaged in rolling out any comprehensive digital commerce solution. As I mentioned above, providing a solid customer experience through Web and mobile channels includes effective use of product information management and modern billing and payment systems. Marketers with only conventional skills are most likely ill-prepared to work with PIM and latest in mobile and location technologies for commerce. Moreover, IT staff can’t be expected to write engaging product descriptions or other content for omnichannel marketing campaigns. Indeed, neither most marketers nor IT staff possess the skill set needed to drive modern digital commerce initiatives. A chief digital officer and digital marketing team, however, should be able to do so as well as to identify both the technical and human resources needed to address the rapidly changing opportunities and demands presented by digital commerce. Savvy business professionals focused on commerce and digital innovation already had been looking at such plans before the Demandware acquisition was announced.

Many of us with long experience in the software and CRM industry remember Salesforce’s insistence on “no software.” To this day, Salesforce’s home page asserts that the company offers the “#1 CRM Solution.” But to call Salesforce a CRM company is now becoming more accurate. By necessity it has grown into CRM; it has made the configure-price-quote and marketing automation technology segment through its acquisitions are just more applications on a product roadmap for integration. The Demandware purchase and acquisition of digital commerce technology are simply an incremental step in the evolution of Salesforce. Management’s sights are set on evolving it into a company that offers the end-to-end technologies needed to engage customers throughout the life cycle. That mission is so clear that even the not-so-savvy business professionals will soon catch on.

Regards,

Tony Compton

Vice President and Research Director, Sales and Marketing

Follow me on Twitter and on LinkedIn

Evolution of Digital Commerce Challenged by Technology Barriers

Businesses and customers are ready for a new generation of digital commerce technology, but implementing it is challenged by significant barriers in two basic categories: technology commoditization and the lack of an IT and business framework for delivering great customer experiences.  Regarding the first, for some companies making large IT purchases, the way an enterprise employs CAPEX and OPEX accounting practices to categorize spending on technology may be a deal-breaker when coupled with the time and resources needed to implement and maintain a product. But these subjects are increasingly relegated to the 55-minute mark of conference calls that weigh the pros and cons of available technology. Because while few organizations make a platform purchase based solely on the cheapest price, astute IT buyers now discuss and invest in analytical, data-driven tools for sales, marketing and service, deployed across Web and mobile environments, that help produce differentiated customer experiences and strengthen personalized, real-time digital commerce offerings. That leads to the second key consideration: Improving the customer experience is the top driver for almost three-quarters (74%) of organizations participating in our next-generation customer engagement benchmark research.

While differences exist in prices and delivery vr_NGCE_Research_01_impetus_for_improving_engagementmodels among leading digital commerce providers, nearly all of them present themselves and their products in the same way. They claim that establishing a digital commerce presence is easy. Mix some customer data and match it with a little product information, some marketing and static digital assets, and online and mobile digital commerce storefronts begin to take shape. To a certain extent, that’s true. Possessing good customer data, some intelligence about buying patterns, knowledge of consumers’ preferred channels of interaction and the ability to analyze habitual behavior can facilitate quick creation and launch of a digital commerce environment. But it seems as if almost any digital commerce vendor can do what the next one can do. And it’s not just the content of their positioning statements that’s concerning but also the technology as well. Cookie-cutter tools are not likely to enable creation of a distinctive experience that lasts over time, and commoditized digital commerce products need a host of additional components to be able to deliver exceptional customer experiences.

We advise organizations to take stock of their Web-based and mobile sales, marketing and customer service technology infrastructure, map their digital commerce business practices and budget for additional components required to produce consistently superior customer experiences. Start by creating a plan to make it easy for your customers to do business with you, no matter how they interact over any digital channel. This applies to both B2C vr_Recurring_Revenue_11_benefits_of_dedicated_billing_systemsand B2B environments. The first step in that process is to understand the context of every digital customer interaction. But while that may sound simple enough for today’s enterprise, what follows in the digital commerce planning process has taken on a new sense of urgency and economic importance.

How an organization enables, supports and analyzes a customer’s economic activity, financial contributions and purchase patterns is critical. To compete effectively today you must monitor the economic health of every customer relationship and take corrective action when necessary. Further, examine whether your billing and payment systems are appropriately supporting your most loyal customers – those who engage in repetitive transactions, including subscriptions. They would be best served by billing and payment systems built on subscription-based and recurring revenue models that are designed to meet the ongoing commercial needs of consumers, regardless of their preferred channels of interaction. Look for dedicated technology suited to support in-depth billing and payment structures that thrive in digital commerce environments. They may not be easy to find; as my colleague Mark Smith has pointed out in discussing NetSuite  and Salesforce, the largest providers of subscription software as a service (SaaS) don’t effectively manage billing, payment or recurring revenue processes. Billing and payment for digital commerce is an aspect of the customer experience essential to managing and monetizing relationships over time. Our benchmark research on recurring revenue finds that flexible invoicing, efficiency and accuracy are the most commonly cited benefits of dedicated billing systems.

Keep in mind that the goal of digital commerce is for businesses and consumers to purchase products and services, not just click through a website. To succeed an organization must offer engaging presentations of products and services. This often is not the forte of digital commerce software providers, but addressing it is pivotal to supporting the effectiveness of digital commerce initiatives. In presenting multiple products to customers on the Web and on mobile devices it is necessary to give them access to consistent, accurate information about every product, regardless of the source or supplier. To strengthen their offerings in this area, some commerce vendors partner with product information management (PIM) providers. Our analysis of the role and effectiveness of PIM providers in supporting digital commerce in our 2015 Value Index on Product Information Management found many of them advancing to embed these capabilities; look for the latest evaluations of vendors in the upcoming 2016 Value Index.

An organization’s goal should be to go beyond ordinary commoditized digital commerce tools. Successful digital commerce requires presenting customers with multiple products and services, aligned with the context of every interaction, through every digital channel, in a way that will be seen as both unintrusive and valuable. This leads to strong engagement that can result in purchases of products and services.

In a digital commerce environment the customer experience, all the way through completing a transaction, must be seamless and designed to maintain and indeed strengthen relationships over time. This new generation of digital commerce technologies is radically different from earlier ones, and through well-architected infrastructures these tools can differentiate one’s brand and enable effective competition. This is what Mark Smith means by supercharging sales and commerce.

The internal back-and-forth between IT and business units in evaluating products based on price and platform and the allocation of future resources has become ancillary to what the real conversation should be: about the value created by providing a great customer experience. Managing digital customer experiences over time to maintain relationships and grow new ones is possible only by going beyond outdated technology systems. This focus is at the core of my analyst agenda and upcoming research. Please follow me as I offer guidance to organizations seeking to uncover the business benefits of evaluating and implementing the next generation of digital commerce.

Regards,

Tony Compton

Vice President and Research Director, Sales and Marketing

Follow me on Twitter and on LinkedIn

Rescuing Retail’s Mobile Customer Experience Requires New Technology

One aspect of living in downtown Chicago is that there’s always something going on. But as distasteful as the subject matter of certain local events can be, some proceedings can inspire perspectives on a number of topics. One that occurs to me is how the retail industry can apply the new generation of mobile and location-based technologies not only to shape the customer experience but even rescue it from challenging situations. On Nov. 30, 2015, the Chicago Tribune reported that the Black Friday protests on the city’s Magnificent Mile cost local businesses 25 to 50 percent of their expected sales. While protestors have a constitutional right to free speech, business operators also had an opportunity and a responsibility – to proactively engage customers before, during and after the tumultuous Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

As many of us will recall, the events that led up to the protests in Chicago on Friday, Nov. 27, 2015, were tragic. News was made when a dashboard camera video surfaced showing a Chicago police officer fatally shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. As a result, the officer in question has been criminally charged and is awaiting trial. When the video was released, tensions permeated the city. Emotions ran high, and protests became a part of the city’s downtown landscape. But let’s be clear about that Black Friday on the Mag Mile in Chicago. Retailers and many other business owners in that high-end shopping district knew that protesters would take to the street that day in an attempt to halt commerce. Retail operators also knew that their customers would share that busy street. Nevertheless, I know of no business that chose to close in advance of the protests. Moreover, I’ve yet to learn of any business that made plans to protect their customers’ collective holiday shopping experience, let alone secure the revenue that might accompany it. In my opinion business operators on North Michigan Ave. failed their customers and stakeholders on that Black Friday.

Media reports claimed that the Black Friday protests in Chicago were peaceful, and a festive atmosphere even accompanied one local television reporter’s account, as she proclaimed that the stores were open and people are shopping! But in a few hours, the consumer shopping experience dramatically changed. As seasonal rains came that evening, protestors systematically cut off street-level access to retail locations, leaving bitter customers out in the cold. Stores began to lock their front doors. Many, including globetrotting tourists, stood confused and abandoned. If retail operators had anticipated this scenario, they could have thrown a lifeline to marooned shoppers by developing a technology-assisted customer experience plan that could have rescued the situation and even saved a substantial loss in holiday sales.

The retail industry’s keys to meeting the challenges presented by Chicago’s Black Friday protests should have consisted of five components: segmented and robust customer data; a strategy for mapping local consumer shopping territories via geo-fencing and real-time analytical insight into individual location information; two-way acceptance of mobile communications; a customer-centric technology infrastructure; and a consumer team that possessed the dedication and creativity to respond quickly to rapidly changing market conditions.

As Black Friday events began to unfold, affected retail operators should have executed a communication plan that immediately addressed known local customers. Advisory communications could have been sent via email or text message to local residents, holiday shoppers or not. Those personalized messages could have been reinforced by notices posted to all available social media channels. Moreover, retailer operators in tune with their mobile customers could have reaped the benefits of acting on customer proximity and location analytics. Retailers with robust mobile customer relationships could have utilized geo-fencing technology and intelligent consumer apps to immediately interact with those who were inside the protest zone and in close proximity to one of their stores. Any interactive mobile customer who became locked inside or outside a store, or who was connected to a retailer equipped with beacon technology and a customer experience platform augmented with real-time location analytics, could have been guided down alternate paths to open and accessible locations, optional online services or even a secure personal refuge.

For retail operators interested in the ability to quickly engage customers in the midst of any rapid change in local conditions or market dynamics, the overarching challenge has become threefold: securing a customer base that will opt in to mobile technology in advance of receiving real-time communications; employing talent that can creatively craft breakthrough notifications; and adopting a technology environment focused on making the most of opportunistic omnichannel customer experiences.

Indeed, retail operators who proficiently use next-generation location-based and mobile solutions can make the most out of every individual interaction and stand to benefit from measured increases in sales, service, customer satisfaction, organizational alignment and competitiveness. Vibes Media is one technology provider of products for GPS-enabled, location-aware mobile devices that can access latitude and longitude coordinates near stores in order to trigger important notifications. Contextual marketing tools from Pitney Bowes allow marketers to deliver messages to customers at any time and place, across preferred channels of communication. Moreover, one can imagine how geodemographic segmentation offerings from ESRI could have been used to proactively beat competing Chicago retailers to the punch in the hotly contested local shopping arena. Our benchmark vr_LA_location_analytics_delivers_business_valueresearch on location analytics finds a variety of ways in which such systems can benefit businesses; improving the customer experience is the one most often cited (by 20% of participants).

The pace at which retailers are using the new generation of interactive technologies to revolutionize the mobile customer experience must increase. The volatile situation in Chicago is far from over and may be replicated in other cities. It is only one example of what any retailer anywhere and its customers could face in the near future. Some mobile technology services have been designed to support customer loyalty initiatives, and they should be rolled out in the effort to generate sales and  revenue, as well as being implemented in the service and support of customer communities. For retail operators who possess the imagination and initiative to employ the mobile technology required to adapt to unforeseen business situations, there are no limits to what they’ll be able to do for their customers and accomplish for their business, even under seemingly insurmountable stress. The revenue they’ll be able to source and the customer loyalty they’ll be able to report as a result of these efforts will be proud measures of industry success.

Regards,

Tony Compton

Vice President and Research Director, Sales and Marketing

Follow me on Twitter and on LinkedIn

Microsoft Accepts LinkedIn Connection: Will it Matter?

For some people in sales and marketing who struggle to meet their quarterly targets, the blockbuster announcement that Microsoft will buy LinkedIn for US$26.2 billion may seem like a midyear holiday present: a digital business Rolodex filled with new global connections that can make the task of generating revenue dramatically easier. Problem is, sales leaders and revenue-focused marketers worth their weight already know everything there is to know about their target audience, and they’re taking action on that intelligence every day. They’re already power LinkedIn users who have optimized their personal profiles, ensured that their public-facing company information is up-to-the-minute, scrubbed buyer and influencer pages, read the latest corporate and competitive intel updates and scanned their Pulse newsfeeds, and they have done so for free before finishing their morning coffee ahead of the next meeting. Microsoft’s ownership of LinkedIn won’t cause top performers in sales and marketing to dramatically alter or change their productive and profitable habits. At least not right away.

For marketing organizations that already spend part of the budget to target business professionals by advertising and pay per click (PPC) with LinkedIn, not much will change in the short term. Microsoft of course will want to increase this revenue stream but hopefully not increase the cost per click. After all, knowledgeable marketers spend their time and money on LinkedIn with one goal in mind: to cost-effectively identify and contribute highly qualified leads and revenue opportunities to the sales pipeline. Microsoft will have to work to demonstrate that it can increase the size of the business community and the accuracy of information in LinkedIn, and that any investment in its services will stand up to all other lead- and revenue-generating expenditures competing for immediate attention and budget. Moreover, for most marketing organizations, Microsoft is not a relevant provider of applications that could benefit from synergies with LinkedIn. In this way it is unlike IBM, Oracle and Salesforce, which made acquisitions to build out their respective marketing portfolios, or Marketo, which is being taken private by Vista Equity Partners.

In human resources, many organizations have used LinkedIn Recruiting services to present career opportunities to appropriate audiences and help identify candidates who may not necessarily be looking for a new job. This service has been invaluable to many organizations, and it is part of the value LinkedIn can add to Microsoft, which has lacked a comprehensive strategy for human resources and recruiting. How Microsoft capitalizes on this part of the revenue stream, and where it could use existing efforts to move forward, is not clear, since it has no competencies in this area except for its own recruiting teams.

After the acquisition, the two companies intend to bring together their respective professional cloud and professional networks to increase engagement with LinkedIn, Office 365 and Microsoft Dynamics. As if it were important, we’re also being told that LinkedIn’s brand, culture and independence will remain intact. During the investor conference call, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said that LinkedIn is to become the “social fabric” for all of Microsoft’s efforts. Of course, that depends on the willingness of intensive users of LinkedIn to share their personal, professional and corporate data. Without our cooperation, the value of the acquisition is greatly diminished.

For sales and marketing professionals, the value proposition of the acquisition is obvious: Tighter integration between Microsoft and LinkedIn means more available prospect and customer information, timelier corporate information and more relevant insights, all of which could lead to highly -targeted lead generation campaigns, an influx of qualified revenue opportunities, greater sales efficiency and effectiveness, and award-winning customer service. But why would anybody who has integrated a process for smartly using LinkedIn content now as part of their current sales, marketing, and customer service programs actually value Microsoft hanging its “new ownership” shingle over the storefront? This is the critical question, it seems to me.

It also seems that this acquisition has come along at a very opportune time for Microsoft. The global sales and marketing audience has an insatiable appetite for data to increase the velocity of demand generation and insights into its targeted community. But the cautionary note is this: Sales and marketing leaders already crushing it will view new analytical offerings as a value-added piece complementing their own well-oiled machine, while industry laggards who enthusiastically hand over a check for snappy-looking reports will find little benefit without the people or sales and marketing processes needed to make sense out of it, let alone drive value, revenue or return on the investment.

Another of area of opportunity for Microsoft resides in upgrading of multiple facets of the LinkedIn user experience. Advancing the integration between Microsoft Dynamics CRM and LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator seems like a great place to introduce innovation in the service of those seeking better sales and marketing enablement, efficiency and effectiveness. And something must be done about LinkedIn’s stale and clunky community, which has been slow to advance. For those of us who have not been revenue-generating subscribers of LinkedIn, the process of mining data and content through LinkedIn’s seemingly neglected website has become a predictable, step-by-step procedural slog that has grown long in the tooth in an era of rapid technological advancement. In addition, the support of LinkedIn has been its weak spot; many users can attest to the weak responsiveness for recapturing your business profile that links to an old employer email address. How Microsoft addresses the LinkedIn user experience, on the Web and in the Office 365 and Dynamics environments, will be closely watched and improvement welcomed. Indeed, the success or failure of the new venture is riding on that user experience. Because LinkedIn’s content is provided by users willing to publicly share data, without a better user experience data and content contribution will suffer, and the negative downstream impact will be felt by all.

If all goes according to plan, Microsoft will monetize the avalanche of business contacts and company information found within the LinkedIn environment, expertly fold that public and private data into tools for social selling, and enable sales and marketing organizational transformation. But while that sounds compelling to some, that package of services will appear lackluster those at the head of the sales and marketing class.  To the marketing producers and the champion closers on the sales team, those business solutions will have the appeal of a road side gas station that only warrants a mere glance. When the engine is racing and the gas tank is full, there’s no need to pull over and pay for services you don’t need.  Organizing and bringing structure to LinkedIn’s data as it migrates into the Microsoft Office 365 and Dynamics environments has potential value, but do I really need to have where somebody went to college or worked last listed in my Outlook Calendar each and every time we have a sales call? After all, if I have a 10 a.m. sales meeting with the CFO at MultiNational Corp. and I don’t know everything about the source of that opportunity, all of the details surrounding the business opportunity, and how I’m going to communicate and close the deal, I have much bigger problems. Microsoft will need to work to find ways to further enrich the data in LinkedIn, elevate its importance to business, and eventually force sales and marketing professionals to stop and take notice.

For sales, marketing and human resources professionals, not much has changed in how we use LinkedIn in the short term. It will be up to Microsoft to determine how to improve the offering to make it more valuable. It will require more investment and integration to make LinkedIn more relevant by increasing the size of the community and its value to business. How Microsoft accomplishes this with LinkedIn being managed separately is not clear, but for now the connection has been made, for more than $26 billion, and it remains to be seen how successful the ROI will be. Microsoft has not had the best track record for acquisitions, so let’s hope it can manage this one more closely and learn from its own past experiences.

Regards,

Tony Compton

VP & Research Director, Sales and Marketing

Industry Veteran Brings Leadership on Sales and Marketing

If you’re a sales or marketing executive or manager, your window of business opportunity is closing rapidly. In fact it started closing the day you began your job. Time is not on your side – and your career may well hang in the balance. I want to help you shift that balance to your advantage.

My name is Tony Compton. I’m a new member of the industry analyst team at Ventana Research, and I’ll be leading our research on the full range of sales and marketing as the VP and Research Director. I’m going to help you drive your sales performance, perfect your marketing strategy and find value in the jungle of technology options – and we’re going to do that while the world continues to change in ways that inevitably make your job more difficult. Together, we’ll assess opportunities, refine the customer experience and deliver the superior results you need to exceed your stakeholders’ sales and marketing expectations.

I began my journey into customer relationship management and contact centers 20 years ago. I watched as many companies excitedly tried the latest offerings. The global economy of the late 90’s soared. Then, several years later, it all flipped, to downturn and bust.

Since then, I’ve held marketing leadership roles at Response Design Corp., eLoyalty, Knightsbridge (now part of HP), SAVO, Infor, KnoahSoft, Hollister and Microsystems. During those years and experiences even more recently as managing director and adviser, I aimed to become a salesperson’s best friend – and I measured my success by their successes. I learned that even with tighter budgets, constrained resources and fewer people, the corporate sales and marketing scoreboard stays in force. I stood on the front lines with some of the best salespeople on the planet in the toughest of economies. Now, as an industry analyst at Ventana Research, I’ll offer you access to the value I’ve distilled from that experience. Add the benchmarking, unique insights and research-based technological analysis produced by the analyst team here at Ventana Research, and you can start to envision the benefits of working together.

Sales and marketing practitioners have immediate business and technology needs. I’ve joined Ventana Research to advance its history of expertly addressing those needs. They come in the form of a dichotomy: On the one hand, you need to take on and win at the 90-day sales and marketing challenge to be productive, produce results and demonstrate return on investments. On the other, you have to do expert work in evaluating the rapidly changing technology landscape and implementing the most effective mix of useful systems and tools. At Ventana Research, I’ll add to the work of a dynamic team that provides its world-class customers with exclusive quantitative and qualitative research, provocative thought leadership and innovative strategies for achieving success. I’ll work to ensure that you’re receiving information, counsel and advice to meet the incessant daily challenges as well as gain longer-term perspectives. I am proud to be taking the lead on the sales and marketing research agenda and to expand on our Chief Research Officers views on the dynamics in sales and marketing to provide direct guidance on the applications and technology that matter the most to your efforts.

To be as wildly successful as you need to be in your sales and marketing pursuits, you’ll need to stay up-to-date on the latest advances in commerce, marketing automation, product information management, recurring revenue, sales talent management, sales force automation (SFA), sales performance and all the marketing and sales applications that can help increase individual and team productivity. We think that your list of competitive requirements mirrors the Ventana Research agenda, so you’ve come to the right place for the most comprehensive and actionable information available on analytics, big data, collaboration services, cloud computing, cybersecurity, the Internet of Things, mobile t and wearable technology. It’s a compelling menu of critical technologies and even others like predictive analytics and gamification, designed to match your most demanding requirements for rapid success.

Success in the sales and marketing arena often is elusive for those who wait for their ideal business situation before pursuing robust sales, marketing and technology initiatives. Experience has taught me that the window closes rapidly for those standing on the sidelines waiting for conditions or circumstances to improve, and for risk to disappear. The research at Ventana Research finds significant barriers in using the wrong technology not designed to unify marketing and sales processes with integrated technology. Then there are those sales and marketing leaders who consistently break new ground as a result of innovative positions that they’ve taken, progressive solutions they’ve created and advanced technologies they’ve introduced. Those leaders enter the executive boardroom on the last day of every quarter with confidence knowing they have enabled their team to support them with the applications that make them effective in execution and resulting performance.

With Ventana Research, you’ll never be on the sales and marketing sidelines. Using our market research and experience to form best practices and education will accelerate your ability to perform. Together, we’ll discover what’s possible, and how you can be a leader on the corporate scoreboard and in your company’s boardroom. You and I will keep that window of opportunity wide open – and climb through it to a better, more profitable world and one that provides the best possible experience for you and your customers.

Regards,

Tony Compton

Vice President and Research Director, Sales and Marketing

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