Be Wary of Applying Captology to Marketing Enterprise IT Software

The concept of Captology is defined by Dr. B.J. Fogg of Stanford University’s Persuasive Tech Lab as “the study of computers as persuasive technology.”

We think that this concept may be highly relevant to the momentary experience of individual visitors to web sites and, perhaps, to attendees of online presentations. However, we think the concept is of little value to product marketing for enterprise IT products. Therefore, innovative tech businesses will do well to curtail most efforts to incorporate the principles of online experience that are implicit to this concept in their online marketing communications plans.

It is worth noting that curtailing these efforts may be difficult. In our opinion, a substantial amount of the theory behind the “value” of web 2.0 online marketing (social media, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook) is built on principles of Captology. Therefore, it was helpful for us to visit the web site of the Persuasive Tech Lab where we could read their opinion of the power of comments on Facebook, the power of Twitter to influence online behavior, etc. When we connected the dots we were satisfied that, finally, we had achieved some clarity as to why availing of social media has generally produced poor results for enterprise IT ISVs.

In fact, complex purchase decisions are not made as the result of momentary experiences of individuals. The opposite experience is, in fact, more usually the norm. These purchase decisions are made over time as project plans evolve from the contributions of many team members. Attempting to influence the behaviors of a group of team members is difficult and, we think, a spurious activity. It is only through a specific, quantified analysis of costs in comparison to the savings represented by an implementation of a specific enterprise IT software solution that a dependable, solid purchase decision can be made.

In sum, we think that the role of Captology within the social media marketing communications strategies of Enterprise IT ISVs need to be rethought if Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn are to deliver the impressions, contacts, and even leads implicit to marketing plans. If you agree with our opinion you may want to contact us as we can save you precious time and effort as you reformulate your social media communications strategy. You can contact us online or telephone us at +1 631-673-2929. The first 15 mins of any consultation is always on us.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved


Revisiting Surveys as a Lead Generator for Complex Sales

Where budgets are limited it is very difficult to identify specific enterprise and/or public sector prospects for complex IT products. We make regular, daily use of free of charge news services (principally Google News, LinkedIn, Twitter & Facebook), but are, more often than not, disappointed with results. Certainly lots of enterprise businesses are losing money each and every day on their IT investments, but few of them will go public with this information. Even a review of financial statements for publicly traded businesses that need to publish quarterly earnings reports will rarely reveal a business that is losing money in a manner that can be corrected through an acquisition of a specific product. Finally, even when losses on failed IT projects are publicized (for example, recently several businesses publicly disclosed large losses as the result of failed ERP projects), the negative stigma of these events, in our experience, generally constrains the ability of the victim to reach out to alternative providers.

As we have written in this blog in other posts, there are paid services that claim to provide this type of information — just to name four, Hoovers, Factiva, Lexis Nexis, and Harte Hanks. We cannot comment on the usefulness of these services as we have no experience with them as a customer. We can say that we have had extensive conversations with all 4 of these vendors. Presumably their services afford customers an opportunity to drill down to specific groups within administration or operations to identify potential leads.

We think it makes sense to maintain an ongoing direct effort to engage with enterprise IT software markets around surveys. In our experience surveys can produce leads that, over time, will mature into sales leads. We find that enterprises will generally have an interest in participating in surveys that provide results that can be used by these contacts to establish a position for their enterprises as compared to peers on the same topic. Further, if the survey is successfully designed to unearth information that can be used to identify qualified prospects, then some volume of ongoing lead production can be quantified as a complement to other activities, such as online engagement.

If your budget is limited, but you have an ongoing requirement for leads, you should consider designing a survey which will provide your business with results that you can use to qualify prospect opportunities. If your experience is limited in this area, you should consider using a third party to design the survey, provide your teleprospectors with a call script, and interpret results. IMB Enterprises, Inc. should be on your list of potential solution providers in this area. You can contact us online or telephone us at +1 631-673-2929. The first 15 mins of any consultation is always on us.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved


Buyer Skepticism must be an Underlying Assumption for Enterprise IT Sales in 2012

We read recently of a well publicized failure for a large scale ERP project for a publicly traded business that markets products to the United States Department of Defense. In fact, this failure was significant enough to negatively impact on the quarterly return, meaning profitability, for this business. As we read further about this misfortune, we noted the names of other publicly traded businesses that had sponsored similar failed projects.

We think this type of experience is quite common in the enterprise IT software market. Therefore, we advise that it is entirely mandatory that sales and marketing teams for innovative tech businesses looking to enter these markets assume that buyers will express, at some point during the sales cycle, a skepticism about products and related projects. Further, these same sales and marketing teams need to set reasonable expectations of product and project results. In 2012 we think it is much better to make a mistake by under estimating the final benefit to a customer than to over estimate in any way the end result of a purchase. Finally, any quantified ROI estimates need to be rigorously tested to ensure accuracy.

Maintaining a sales plan that assumes skepticism and related “environmental characteristics” ought to lead sales and marketing to look for opportunities to not only include purchase proponents, but likely opponents, as well, in a sales plan. It is far better to obtain advance notice of pending criticism than to be surprised after the fact. Of course, the question then becomes how to collect contrarian views on a purchase within a plan? We think it makes sense to either convince buyers of the necessity of gaining a preview of any objections (along with an identification of the source) or to work with contacts at competitors who may be privy to this information. The end result should be a much stronger sales plan, one that can withstand internal objections and scrutiny.

We hope that it is apparent that highly experienced sales and marketing staff need to be on hand to deliver a positive result for the type of sales activity that we have just sketched. Skeptical enterprise buyers who have experienced failed projects will be loathe to trust “just any” sales personnel. Rather, familiar personalities (potentially ex employees) will need to be included in the sales effort to provide a rationale for enterprise buyers to trust tech innovators enough to collaborate on designing a sales plan.

If your business can use the type of expertise required to put together a successful sales campaign for enterprise IT buyers, we would like to hear from you. Please telephone Ira Michael “Mike” Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved


Thoroughly Sample Markets Before Finalizing Product Development Plans to Avoid Costly Oversight

We are very strong believers in the value of “customer-centric” product development. Our belief translates into a strong dictate NOT to proceed on any product development prior to collecting sufficient opinions from market contacts to support a meaningful decision as to whether or not it makes sense to build a product. Frankly, the financial pitfalls of skipping this step are dangerous enough to sink most emerging tech business efforts.

Selecting useful contacts for market sampling is a task that also needs to be very closely managed. Of course, selecting individuals who are likely to be most representative of market buyers would be ideal. It may make sense to implement an NDA and to require that any contacts who choose to participate in a pre market survey only do so after they have signed the NDA.

Lots of precious cash can be saved by passing any and all product notions through a sampling effort prior to taking any action. Why go through the expense of building a piece of software only to find out, after the fact, that your product is missing a key feature that most of the market requires? In some cases, unearthing this type of information can send product developers back to a new design stage to retrofit the missing feature back into the product. Naturally, this type of retrofit can prove to be very expensive.

Entrepeneurs who operate strictly under the dictum of a “ready, fire, aim” business model are hard pressed to understand the sampling imperative. If business management is self aware, and notes this issue, then it would make complete sense to turn the product development reins over to a third party who can be trusted to collect the market opinions required, to evaluate the opinions and, only then, render an opinion as to the market viability of a product concepts. Given the downside risk, we do not see how it makes sense to operate in any other manner.

Correctly implementing a market sampling stage for product development delivers either a more credible product, or more cash left in the bank. Either result is a benefit for any business and, therefore, a market sampling stage should be mandatory for any/all product development notions. If you understand the sampling imperative and would like to engage with a competent third party that can manage the effort for you, please consider IMB Enterprises, Inc. You can telephone Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Ira at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved


The Enterprise IT Market for Business Analytics is Alive and Well in 2012

Per IBM Corporations second quarter earnings report for 2012 enterprise IT customers maintain a high interest level in the type of analytical software that can contribute to relevant, if not accurate, predictions of business performance. This software segment of IBM’s business grew substantially year over year. We should note, however, that nevertheless, IBM’s results point to a generally flat to contracting market for enterprise IT software, year over year.

We think the growth in analytical software sales points to a real interest on the part of enterprises to capture unstructured data. Further, these customers need to include this unstructured data within any predictive process used with regards to future business performance. Finally, we think this need on the part of enterprise customers is significant in that it points to a growing role for software like Microsoft® SharePoint®, which is a multi featured solution that provides enterprises with document and list repositories as well as a growing list of collaboration features.

We have excellent recent experience with the SharePoint marketplace. In most cases we see enterprise customers using the product as the foundation for Intranet and/or Extranet communication. With documents, lists (largely composed of data extrapolated from line of business databases), and discussion data all stored in SharePoint, a different set of tools are required to pull relevant information out of this unstructured repository, hence the surge in business for IBM in this space.

Of course, innovative tech businesses focused on capturing enterprise business from niches within the overall process of working with unstructured data stand to benefit, short term, from this buyer interest. Nevertheless, the probable sales cycles for these products will conform to the standard sales cycles for these types of products. Therefore, planning on working long and hard on any opportunities that emerge for your offering as you will need to steer successfully through a complex set of contacts, etc before you reach a sale.

As well, it cannot be over-emphasized that the IBM results, nevertheless, point to a dismal, flat enterprise IT software market. It is critically important not to lose sight of this reality as product marketing strategies are considered for the next one to two years of your business. If you have a product that you think provides an important component to collecting accurate business intelligence from unstructured data, you should seriously consider going to market under present conditions in 2012. If you cannot formulate a sales and marketing plan and need consulting services, we would like to hear from you. Please telephone Ira Michael “Mike” Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved


On the Value of Sampling Market Opinion for Product Marketing

Product marketing should include market sampling as a core function. By requiring market sampling for any/all product development notions, tech businesses can avoid “solution without a problem” product development syndrome. Of course, useful market sampling results depend upon the collection of information from a set of respondents to a consistent, uniform series of questions. Therefore, it makes sense that conversations with market respondents be scripted. Finally, whoever undertakes the responsibility for market sampling must be entirely comfortable with telephone conversations and reliable as regards strictly adhering to scripts.

Implementing a market sampling function brings product development closer to a customer or market “centric” position. We favor this type of position for product development as there is little danger (in our experience) for businesses that successfully design products that markets are after. Further, markets often ask for product reliability and task transparency rather than high end features. Therefore, a further benefit of maintaining and exercising a market sampling function is that product development can focus more on building a “minimal acceptable model,” which promises more profits. Why design in features that a market is not after?

But what is a tech innovator to do if a contact list is not at hand to provide the basis of sampling a market? We think the best remedy for this condition is to look to introductory (cold) calls in the aftermath of a press release, or other publicity event. Naturally, if a business lacks telephone contacts, it may very well lack an opt-in email list; therefore, we suggest some sort of public announcement (can be as unobtrusive as an article in a trade publication) as a means of “softening” recipients in advances of an unsolicited telephone call.

The subject of this unsolicited telephone call needs to be technology, rather than brand, specific. Recipients of market sampling calls will prove to be much more receptive to calls about trends than they will be about specific companies. Call scripts should adhere to this same industry focus. Member lists liked LinkedIn can generally be looked to provide the contact names, at no charge, that must make up the contact lists for sampling.

If your business would benefit from taking the pulse of your market, you should certainly build a market sampling function. This function is perfect for outsourcing. We have considerable experience in this area, both in the areas of placing these unsolicited calls and producing useful scripts that deliver the information businesses require to make useful product development decisions. Please telephone Ira Michael “Mike” Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved


Does a Channel Sales Strategy Still Make Sense for Enterprise IT ISVs?

We think that the recent, well publicized pivot on the part of Microsoft® Corporation with regard to its channel strategy should give enterprise IT ISVs reason to carefully review their assumptions about where and how it makes sense to build a channel/partner component for marketing and sales strategies.

For the last 10 or more years Microsoft has represented one of the last technology vendors to successfully utilize a broad channel strategy to add substantial revenue to enterprise IT sales. Given much of the recent press about the debut of the Surface tablet, we can’t help but conclude that this channel revenue has started to drop off and, perhaps, precipitously. After all, why else would Microsoft proceed on a very public about face on very high level OEM partners?

But the changes in Microsoft’s partner strategy are not simply confined to the Surface hardware tablet. If one considers how Visual Studio is now provisioned to developers who need to take advantage of a free-of-charge acquisition option, one notes, as pointed out by the Ars Technica blog site, that acquiring a free-of-charge version of Visual Studio is strictly limited to Microsoft Partners developing Windows 8 Metro apps. Evidently the value of further application development for Windows 7, XP, etc no longer delivers the benefits, for Microsoft, as it did in the past, else why restrict access to this free-of-charge development tool?

Enterprise IT ISVs, especially those with SaaS offerings, may not need channel partners at all. In fact, it may very well make sense to opt to develop SaaS products as a means of retaining margin that would otherwise have to be paid out to channel partners. Admittedly, many enterprise IT ISVs with SaaS offerings have also concluded that it makes sense to entirely dispense with sales personnel, altogether. For the record, we don’t see how a viable business strategy can, in fact, be created without a sales component. We had first hand experience working with one of these businesses over the last couple of years. We can attest that they successfully signed a very large customer as a subscriber to their offer, but we think they would be better off with a basket of customers of similar size, which they do not have. Bottom line: they need a sales team to put together a group of customers, which will provide them with insulation from the shock of losing one of these essential revenue sources.

If you are mulling over a decision about the type of distribution strategy that will make the most sense for your enterprise IT ISV, we think you need to carefully consider the changes implicit in Microsoft’s recent string of decisions. We can certainly help you frame a viable opinion on this question. You can contact us online or telephone us at +1 631-673-2929. The first 15 mins of any consultation is always on us.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved


Capturing Audience Sentiment on Campaigns is an Essential Method of Measuring the Effectiveness of Marketing Communications

It ought to be mandatory that any opportunity to engage with contacts produced by specific marketing communications campaigns include a set of questions crafted to sample audience opinion of the quality of the communications piece. Nevertheless, this opportunity to listen to market opinion, which is opened as the result of incoming inquiries is very often passed up by businesses. In our experience, too tight a focus on sales lead development contributes to the frequency of this oversight.

Of course, if you have no idea of how your market message is received, you will not be able to make corrections, regardless of whether those corrections amount to providing truly accurate information about products/services/integrated solutions, or better emphasizing sticking points that are actually working for you. Therefore, a couple of sentences nested within a reply to an email inquiry, or during a telephone call that specifically request information from a contact about your communications piece (for example a press release, free seminar, etc) makes a lot of sense. We think a great phrase to include in a question that will produce useful opinions goes something like “What was it about our Press Release that prompted your call” or the equivalent. Note the mention of the communications piece, itself, within the question, it is the key component of attracting a useful answer on this topic.

A consistent effort to collect audience impressions results in a set of accurate empirical data that can be used to design and/or refine marketing communications efforts into more productive vehicles. Why waste time with efforts that do not produce results? We have worked with several clients over the last few years who were not only wasting time with mere “brochureware” web sites and spotty integrated direct marketing efforts but, even worse, eschewed MARCOM, altogether, as a promotional opportunity. In all most all cases these clients were “sales obsessed,” in other words, looking to jump into selling and persuading prospects who actually had little if any understanding whatsoever of specific business offers.

It is, obviously, very hard to maintain a “sales obsessed” approach with enterprise prospects. Businesses with neither a truly unique product offer, or some positive reputation in an industry will very seldom make any headway with enterprise IT prospects. Therefore, it should make lots of sense to proceed carefully with a genuine ongoing marketing communications program, collect response and fine tune/enhance as appropriate. If you are looking to implement a marketing communications program from an innovative technology business, we would welcome an opportunity to speak with you. You can contact us online or telephone us at +1 631-673-2929. The first 15 mins of any consultation is always on us.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved


Use a Call to Action in a Variety of Different Landing Pages to Motivate Web Site Visitors to Submit Names for Lead Generation

Early stage enterprise IT ISVs should allocate resources required to craft web site content into a method of encouraging visitors to submit contact information for lead generation programs. Missing the low cost opportunity represented by a web site as a method of collecting contact information is a serious mistake. In sum, and as discussed over several very recent posts to this blog, a web site is a very efficient means of soliciting contact information.

The problem is converting visits into actions. As anyone who uses online analysis tools like Google Analytics is aware, for most “raw” web sites (meaning web sites that have not been organized with lead generation programs in mind), a very small proportion of web site visitors — in our experience, less than 1% — will decide to either submit contact information for further discussions, or pick up a telephone to place a call to a business.

If web pages are designed without so-called “call to action” content, then it is very unlikely that site visitors will convert at all. Therefore, at a minimum, web site editorial content should be organized to provide visitors with a “call to action.” Of course, look to the editorial content, itself, for a compelling reason for visitors to take planned action. Therefore, it is critically important that the editorial content on the web site meet at least minimum requirements for timeliness and relevance.

We don’t think that the task of creating timely and relevant site content is that simple. Therefore, we recommend that a variety of different methods be tried prior to reaching a conclusion on the usefulness of a content approach. In other words, different pages on the web site (perhaps pages merely created as landing pages for email and/or telemarketing campaigns) should be built with the same call to action, but packaged differently. Testing the same content, albeit in different packaging (meaning landing pages), will amount to a thorough method of determining visitor interest (and endorsement) of editorial content.

With a variety of landing pages in place, a historical review of the behavior of visitors to a web site with calls to action in place will provide enough of an indicator of whether or not the content meets the requirement, or not. If visitors are not taking the planned action, then the content is missing the mark and ought to be changed right away.

If you would like to take us up on our offer of a free 15 minute telephone conversation about your specific needs for a better lead generation program, then please contact us. Alternatively, please telephone Ira Michael Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Ira at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved


Online Engagement: When Something Sticks Do More Of It

We recently worked with our customer, Rehmani Consulting Inc of Plainfield, Illinois on a Press Release and follow up response on the topic of a debut of a new product. Our customer is in the business of producing video training content for Microsoft SharePoint. The response to the Press Release for VisualSP was surprisingly good. We received a magnitude higher level of in bound requests for information than we had for other online campaigns. Our natural response, and one that we highly recommend for innovative tech businesses, is to do more of what works.

Of course, a key component of getting to the point that we have arrived at is maintaining a “ready fire aim” strategy for marketing communications. We’ve written elsewhere about this approach, but with regard to core product marketing. While we do not like the very fast market entry that is characteristic of businesses that implement “ready fire aim” for core product marketing, we do like it for online marketing communications efforts. We think we are in good company with our position. General industry position appears to be that tech businesses should experiment with different approaches to online communications until a working formula is found that is “repeatable”.

So what is going to be our next step, now that we’ve found something that sticks to the market? As mentioned above, we will do more of the same. But we need to collect opinions from “names” from the market who have opted to engage with us to determine just what it was that they found to be sticky. Was it the communications piece itself, or something else? We will not be able to offer an answer on this until we have collected responses to make that determination.

Despite our uncertainty, we can certainly note here that even if the responses have been stimulated by the type of product, itself, we can still reframe the rest of our marketing communications efforts around a product theme, which is consistent with this effort. If this effort succeeds, then we will have successfully added more stickiness for the rest of our online communications efforts.

If your business is grappling with a need to produce more engagement with online web site visitors, email campaign recipients and the like, let’s talk. Please telephone Ira Michael “Mike” Blonder at +1 631-673-2929 to further a discussion. You may also email Mike at imblonder@imbenterprises.com.

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2012 All Rights Reserved