17
Jul

Further on our experience with LinkedIn Premium for Lead Generation for Complex Sales

We decided to cancel our paid subscription to LinkedIn within the second month. Bottom line: we were unable to identify benefits of the paid subscription that would further reduce our costs of sales and marketing beyond the savings we have already successfully realized from our free membership.

Overall, we have found LinkedIn to be a useful service that we avail of on a daily basis. We use LinkedIn as a repository of names. Presently we can access this repository from our free plan just fine. The additional features included in the basic premium plan, we think, are carefully tailored to support professionals in the recruitment field. We are not in the recruitment field and, therefore, decided that we did not need to spend the money on the premium plan.

As we have noted elsewhere in this blog, we are increasingly skeptical of the value of either placing unsolicited outbound telemarketing calls to potential prospects, or sending contacts unsolicited email messages. Frankly, we have seen poor results from either of these independent activities. We are still considering how best to approach the job of generating promising enterprise IT market leads for our clients’ products in 2012. Our search for an effective approach is a pressing priority. For example, on July 10th we sat through a webinar offered by Jon Miller, VP of Marketing at Marketo. We also read a short interview as published in the MIT Sloan Review with Phil Fernandez, CEO of Marketo on the same day. When we saw the revenue success of this business we thought we ought to check out their approach.

We have had some decent recent results with carefully reviewing news sources to identify businesses with the type of “pain” that we are after for our clients. But we plan on re-allocating the time we have committed to our outbound direct contact tactics into more time spent developing content for our online marketing efforts and carefully positioning our content to better serve our objectives. Frankly, in the enterprise IT sales climate of 2012 we don’t see the return on our investment in “pushing.” Better to go further with prospects with a decent interest level than to expend lots of energy banging on the door. Finally, better to collect these prospects through techniques that will encourage inbound contact.

A LinkedIn premium subscription would not add value to this effort, hence our decision to terminate the plan. If you are looking for methods of developing complex sales leads, please contact us. 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

16
Jul

In a World Where Enterprise IT Buyers Rule, Don’t Try to be King

In 2012, enterprise IT buyers certainly rule the sales landscape. Lots of businesses that make money selling automated sales and marketing tools have noted a “new” reality, seemingly a different world, which, they claim, has resulted from the advent of a very rich repository of information that can be found online, AKA the Internet. Certainly, we agree that direct marketing methods, including telemarketing, need to be rethought (and re-positioned) for this new marketplace. In theory, the offerings of these businesses are that much more compelling, as they can be found within the very exclusive ranks of products that produce useful results in this tough enterprise IT market, meaning genuine, relevant marketing leads that can be “nurtured” into sales opportunities.

We need to note a bit of skepticism on this topic. We are not disputing the relevance of the picture of the enterprise IT market that these businesses portray. In fact, we are largely in agreement with their opinion, but for a different set of reasons. Our skepticism has arisen as the result of our observation that the new attitude of enterprise IT buyers has arisen as the result of a very long string of failed IT projects, rather than as the result of buyers doing more of their preparation online, regardless of whether by desktop computer, smart phone or tablet. In fact, we think the real point that innovative tech businesses targeting enterprise IT markets need to understand about today’s market is that enterprise IT buyers are, to a large extent, doubtful about any/all purported solutions and, therefore, have opted for limited engagement with sales and marketing. Further, we think that these buyers will be held accountable for delivering tangible costs savings as the result of each approved purchase; therefore, the buyers are, pervasively, taking on the task, unilaterally, of framing problems, and solutions. If you follow our thought, then you can see why the role of vendor sales has been relegated to little more than a response mechanism across most sales opportunities. Of course, we leverage our skills and experience to mine much greater value from the 20% of these opportunities that we can transform into something truly valuable for customers and vendors.

Regardless of how the market actually evolved to its current condition, the realities are still the same, whether we are looking at them, or other businesses like Marketo, Alinean, Marketing Sherpa, etc are looking at them. Further, given the realities, the question then is how to work successfully with current conditions to develop marketing leads that can then be fostered (or nurtured to use a common phrase voiced by most of these businesses) into genuine sales opportunities.

We are in agreement that positioning online content represents a useful opportunity for sales and marketing teams to develop a predictable flow of leads. We are simply not sure as to how best to position content for the results that we are after. We will certainly write on this topic as we make progress towards our goal.

Until a useful system of at least capturing a steady flow of names from online promotional efforts can be achieved at manageable cost for very early stage tech companies, it is incumbent on entrepeneurs to build sales and marketing organizations that utilize direct marketing strategies to produce at least names for further contact. Once those names are in hand, then relationship development strategies can be implemented, loosely the equivalent of “nurturing” programs, to develop bonafide sales opportunities. Naturally, these strategies must be very carefully designed and consistently implemented.

If you need an opinion as to the usefulness of your sales and marketing programs, and need to fill gaps while you fine tune your online lead development program, we would be happy to hear from you. We will be happy to spend 15 minutes with you on the telephone at no charge. Please complete our contact form if you would like to take advantage of our offer.

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

13
Jul

Mining for Complex Sales Leads with a Twitter Page can Produce Positive Results

A properly managed Twitter page can produce useful leads for complex sales of IT products/services/integrated solutions to enterprise businesses. Three steps need to be taken to ensure useful results:

  1. Your tweets should be consistent with your Twitter brand. Use the first weeks of your presence on Twitter to gauge the appropriateness of your Twitter brand. Modify as required to ensure that your visitors are “welcome”
  2. Block followers who bring no related interest to your page. Amassing a lot of spurious Twitter followers is clearly a waste of time
  3. If you plan on “retweeting” other information that you find online, then you should curate the content with your own unique annotations

Step 1) is the most important of these 3 steps. If you plan on using Twitter to attract a following of enterprise business prospects, then you should structure your Tweets along topics of interest to these visitors. We have derived useful results from tweets on IT support and/or training topics for an audience of enterprise IT operational staff. We plan on tweeting on IT systems adoption topics to magnetize visitors from enterprise IT management.

Enforcing step 2) will ensure that you won’t have to spend lots of time wading through useless followers to identify followers worth pursuing. As well, if you plan on using Twitter to drive visitors to your corporate web site, you will have a substantially greater likelihood of achieving your objective if you consistently block followers who are just looking for “follow backs,” etc.

Finally, annotation (appending comments to information that you have located online) is a great way to follow a daily routine that will produce opportunities for you to publish original content. Publishing original editorial content on a daily basis will provide useful support to your efforts to build up unique visitors to your business website. For better or worse, search engine referrals are still a very important method of driving web site visits. We do not see this reality changing anytime soon.

We have recently closed substantial business from Twitter page referrals. If you opt to follow the tips that we have provided in this post, please don’t hesitate to contact us with your results. We would welcome an opportunity to learn about your experience. Further, if you are looking for a comprehensive program for a Twitter page, perhaps in conjunction with efforts on LinkedIn, Google Plus and Facebook, we would be happy to discuss your objectives with you. 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

12
Jul

Accurate Business Performance Forecasting Remains a Top Holy Grail for Enterprise IT

We read with interest an article on the Computing dot Co dot UK website, RBS: crisis means organisations are focusing on data architecture. When we read how Colin Gibson, Head of Data Architecture for RBS, characterized the intention of his large enterprise to “to take information from disparate systems and provide insight into potential crises.” we had a sense of deja vu. In our opinion Mr. Gibson’s comment simply adds one more voice to the collective enterprise “cry,” which has echoed over the last 25 years or more for someone to find the “holy grail,” meaning a method to produce truly accurate indicators of future business performance from data collected across disparate sources, regardless of silos, within enterprise business.

While we are skeptical of the ultimate value for enterprise business of large IT projects in this area of business performance prediction we have no choice but to affirm that customers are “still out there” searching for these solutions. We think that innovative tech businesses can carve out defensible market niches by addressing the components of the overall sought after solution. For example, we have considerable recent experience with the markets for Microsoft® SharePoint®. We have noted a strong interest on the part of enterprise SharePoint users to avail of taxonomy, the term store and meta data to enhance the accuracy and usefulness of SharePoint search as a means of exposing as much critical data as possible to scrutiny by management decision-makers. Tech innovators with a solution to connect Business Connectivity Services (BCS) to non Microsoft databases like Oracle®‘s MySQL will likely have a healthy market opportunity in this same space as many of these enterprises support a disparate group of databases, including the very popular open source MySQL. Of course, it is difficult to build an entire business around simply one connector, but expanding the market to include enterprise IT organizations looking to empower SAP, Oracle and IBM users with the same type of capability would likely make for much more of a business from this type of effort.

If you are tossing around some notions as to how to best position, or re-position your business for enterprise IT markets interested in data analytics, business intelligence gathering and the like, then 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

11
Jul

Tech Innovators should be Prepared to Capitalize on Enterprise Marketplace Hyperbole about Cloud Computing

On July 3, 2012, Daniel Ferry, who writes for the Motley Fool blog, published a post, Enterprise Software Firms Rush to Plant a Stake in the Cloud. We caught a whiff of hyperbole through several of Mr. Ferry’s statements, including:

  1. “Cloud computing is typically more efficient, as the machines that actually store and compute data in the cloud are far more powerful than local machines”
  2. ” It’s probably inevitable that most, if not all, enterprise customers will eventually migrate to the cloud.”
  3. “After just launching its cloud computing platform last month, enterprise giant Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL) faces the daunting task of completely transforming its business model.”

There are a healthy number of additional quotes that we could add to the above from this post, but it should suffice to simply discuss each of these three to make our point. With regards to 1), in our experience Mr. Ferry’s contention that cloud servers are “. . . far more powerful than local machines” is simply not true. There is no reason whatsoever for a cloud services provider to use Intel Celeron powered computers in its data center. Likewise, these firms can opt to use Intel i7 chips or whatever they like. Indeed, cloud computing options for storage, computing speed, etc. are all variable features that follow very much the same lines as local computing — especially where local computing translates into an enterprise computing environment at, say, JP Morgan Chase or at a firm of comparable size.

With regards to 2), we entirely disagree with Mr. Ferry’s assumption. We do not need to retrace steps that we have already taken in past posts to this blog, but to sum up, we are firmly convinced that not all enterprises will “inevitably” migrate to the cloud. In fact, we think the “what you see is what you get” assumption will likely prove true 5 years from now, as it does today. In other words, enterprise businesses will use a combination of on premise, managed services and cloud applications.

Finally, with regard to 3), it’s a shame that Mr. Ferry apparently believes that the type of “extreme makeover” that he suggests will actually prove to be the case for Oracle. We think that Oracle has been leasing applications to customers for quite a while. Billing monthly lease payments is not much different than billing monthly subscription charges. We think that Oracle’s existing organization will do just fine if the task will amount to billing for monthly subscriptions. But we do not see the radical change that Mr. Ferry predicts; rather, we see largely status quo with incremental shifts between on premise vs. managed services vs. Software as a Service (SaaS) over time.

In sum, tech innovators looking to capitalize on enterprise IT markets should maintain a product development strategy, where it makes sense, that assumes a blend of enterprise computing platforms, at least for the next 5 to 10 years. If you would like to further a discussion with us on this topic, please contact us. You may 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

10
Jul

Opportunities still exist for Innovative Technology Businesses to Offer Diversified Services to Enterprise IT Organizations

We’re quite familiar with a very common business model for enterprise computing technology businesses. This model includes building a Software as a Service (SaaS) system for a niche market, promoting that system exclusively online, dispensing with direct marketing and sales in lieu of simply fielding incoming inquiries. Lots of emerging technology businesses are following this model. Nevertheless, we think the 95/5 rule will certainly apply to these efforts; in other words, 95% of them won’t work out, while a mere 5% will succeed.

We actually like the better odds represented by a diversified services model, the kind of model that we think Dell is following with its recent set of acquisitions of Independent Software Vendors (ISVs). These companies, including Quest Software, offer a series of solutions for the enterprise IT computing market. As Joseph F. Covar noted on July 2nd 2012 in his article Quest Acquisition Opens Door For Dell To Focus On Complete Solutions, Not Parts, we think that Dell is looking to walk in the footsteps of IBM Corporation, in other words, to be synonymous with diversified services and technology advisory for enterprise IT businesses. Of course, the stock in trade for this type of business is building entirely integrated solutions which, we think, promise a very healthy and highly profitable revenue stream.

Of course, scale does matter as businesses compete in this enterprise IT market for diversified technology services and integrated solutions. Nevertheless, picking specific niches with few competitors, but solid interest on the part of the market can open doors for innovative technology businesses to enter the integrated services market for enterprise IT. Historically, companies like Razorfish, Sapient Systems, etc. established a toehold in services markets by offering expertise that was otherwise elusive for enterprise businesses. The pervasive winning formula was to have skilled professionals on the team for highly important marketplace needs that simply had to be filled. Therefore, applying this approach to today’s markets can, and will, produce results as long as product marketing has done its job, in other words, has identified those needs that absolutely must be met where few competitors can meet the requirements.

Successfully entering these markets can be very profitable for emerging businesses. Profits may, in fact, result from a sale of a business to a competitor (this proved to be the case for Razorfish). If you are contemplating entering the services market for enterprise IT systems and feel that you have some compelling technology for needs that are attractive, then 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

9
Jul

Don’t Plan on Extinction for Legacy IT Skills Anytime Soon

Ever since the mid 1980s there has been constant chatter on the topic of the likely extinction of “legacy” computing within enterprise IT organizations. Now, with the advent of cloud computing (which comprises infrastructure/platform/software as a service offers), the volume level on this chatter is increasing. We don’t think it makes sense to plan on the demise of these systems any time soon.

In fact, mainframe computing is still around. As Robert Collins points out in an April 23, 2012 entry to his blog, “It’s a COBOL World” titled COBOL Today, “COBOL is an ever advancing language and is as current and modern as anything else out in the market. COBOL is in use every day in literally thousands of companies.” We think it is highly unlikely that these businesses are going to walk away from substantial investment in mainframe computer systems. In fact, from a data center security perspective it makes perfect sense to support additional protocols like SNA (Systems Network Architecture) over which mainframe computers communicate data, in addition to today’s ubiquitous TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol) networking protocol.

We think that the realities of ongoing mainframe application development will spill over to application development for on premise client server networks. In other words, we do not see an end, anytime soon, to this area of development for desktop computing inside enterprise firewalls, regardless of how compelling Cloud computing happens to prove to be. Therefore, innovative tech businesses can safely continue to develop specific applications for enterprise IT computing, regardless of operating system or local vs remote serving considerations. Betting hard on cloud only computing predictions may still be a risky bet. There may even be opportunities for SaaS vendors to service desktop computing needs within a computing environment that includes mainframe data sources. In sum, discounting “legacy” computing systems for enterprise IT is not a strategy that we think makes much sense.

Of course, building applications for a shrinking set of computing environments will certainly carry a higher cost. Finding COBOL or CICS developers will certainly be more difficult. As well salary costs will likely be higher. Nevertheless, achieving a position in markets with far fewer competitors, but markets with pervasive and persistent needs for solutions may be a highly defensible option for tech innovators. If you plan on exploring the opportunities presented by these “legacy” enterprise IT computing markets, we welcome an opportunity to speak with 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

6
Jul

Decision Making on IT Implementations at Enterprise Organizations is Often Dysfunctional

We’ve frequently characterized enterprise organizational planning for information technology as a “dysfunctional” process. There are many free resources which can be used to either affirm or refute our characterizations. Blogs that include interviews with IT planners from large organizations are an excellent resource for this type of information. For example, we read with interest Q&A: Jack Israel on FBI Sentinel and federal IT development shortcomings. We think that Mr. Israel’s comments lend substantial credibility to our characterization: “I’ve been in IT development in government for over 10 years. It started at NSA, then 5 years at the FBI, and I finished about a year at DHS. I grew very frustrated working on large IT programs. Because, by and large, I came to believe that these programs just don’t work.”

This type of candid assessment of marketplace realities provides invaluable data. Simply consider how useful these observations ought to be for innovative tech businesses focused on enterprise markets. After all, once Mr. Israel’s observations are carefully digested, these businesses ought to be able to create/modify/replace sales plans as required to better project the length of likely sales cycles. As well, these businesses will have important information on hand that can be used to forecast the number of quality leads that ought to be in process to ensure adequate revenue flow while deals slowly close over time. Further, this type of information should also prove to be very useful for product marketers who need to balance market pricing against sales and marketing costs.

The kind of major IT plan characterized by the FBI’s Sentinel program is usually included in a 5 year plan. As a public organization the FBI provides a Information Technology Strategic Plan FY 2010 – 2015. Obviously 5 years is a very long time to wait to close a deal, therefore, businesses looking to compete in this type of market ought to carefully plan the resources required to go the distance as these plans are conceptualized, break down, regroup and, ideally at some point, come to fruition.

We think Mr. Israel’s point that “. . . [i]t doesn’t matter who you are, because unless you can logically break them down into very small pieces . . .” failure is a likely scenario is quite accurate. As well, this points out an opportunity for businesses who want this type of market to look for opportunities to participate within the “very small pieces” that make up the overall IT plan for the enterprise. In fact, the IT implementations that take place within these pieces can deliver the level of revenue required to fuel a business for the long haul as the larger plan takes shape (or fails to do so).

If your business simply must have a seat at the enterprise IT table you ought to very carefully review the information included in Mr. Israel’s interview, along with the FBI 5 year plan. If you would like some advice on how to proceed, then please contact us. 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

5
Jul

2 Important Points Emerge from Microsoft’s Unsuccessful Acquisition of aQuantive

Innovative tech CEOs studying Microsoft’s public announcement on July 2nd that it would take a $6.2Bil charge against earnings as it writes down an unsuccessful acquisition of aQuantive should note two important points:

  1. Companies like Microsoft that have proven to be enormously successful servicing the needs of enterprise IT computing are not necessarily going to be successful should they choose to enter into other technology-driven markets like online advertising. In fact, we think that the two markets are largely dissimilar. Enterprise IT ISVs like Microsoft would do better to either allow acquisitions to self manage or to stay out of these markets, altogether
  2. In our opinion the online advertising market built around click ads (regardless of whether revenue models are built on pay per click, or pay per action) is not the cash cow that it is generally taken to be. At some point Google will catch this same cold.

The inevitable conclusion that must become apparent as the result of point 1) is that innovative tech businesses planning on entering enterprise IT markets should staff up with talent in marketing and sales with demonstrated success in these markets. Enterprise IT is a world unto itself. It is not possible to extrapolate from online sales success, even with business to business products, to success in enterprise IT markets. Better to source candidates from known competitors than to chance a hire with little if any experience in the enterprise IT computing area.

The second inevitable conclusion should be that innovative tech businesses looking to online promotion and advertising as a revenue model should exercise skepticism as they formulate and then review revenue projections. As we mentioned above, we think the online click ad market will not display the exponential year over year growth that was formerly the case, despite an opportunity to extend advertising efforts to a growing list of mobile devices. Bottom line: click advertising is an expensive method for almost any business that opts to avail of this approach to advertising. Until a better return on investment can be found, better to assume attrition in the size of this market than to bank on a strong flow of easy money.

Of course, we think it makes complete sense for CEOs to keep both of these points in mind and plan accordingly around them. If you are grappling with a need to improve planning and market position for your business, we would welcome an opportunity to connect with 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

3
Jul

Competitor Success Stories are Also a Good Source of Potential Leads

Where competitors have either lost market share, or are in the process of doing so, their published success stories can be a useful source of contacts willing to talk and to provide referrals. Companies with a significant commitment to IT systems in attrition likely are feeling some pain, whether as the result of having to pay hefty hourly rates for consultants with unique skills not common in the market, or for projects that have failed to consistently deliver operational savings over a product life cycle. Finally, where IT solutions have “stood still” while the rest of the market has continued to evolve, obsolescence is either at hand or just around the corner; therefore, large communities of users will likely be considering major changes.

We have had useful telephone conversations with CIOs mentioned in a number of these published case studies. Almost always, these conversations have produced referrals to lower level contacts within an organization, which is just the type of successful mapping that we were after. We prefer a top down contact strategy. Reaching out to high level contacts mentioned in case studies is an example of putting our strategy to work.

It is difficult to avoid some type of presentation on these calls, but we counsel keeping as clear of presentation as possible. In 2012 avoiding presentation has become difficult. Here is an example of this difficulty: we spoke recently with a senior IT analyst at a public organization at a state government level here in the United States who requested some information for review prior to proceeding with a conversation with us on behalf of one of our clients. His rationale was simply, “if I do not know anything about you, then I will not talk with you.” We sent this contact a whitepaper, conference flyer and a brief overview of our client’s product. However, had we known more about this contact prior to reaching out to him, we could, perhaps, have provided him with a reference to one of his peers as an example of the type of implementation that is usually made with our client’s product in his particular market. We think a referral would have sufficed.

Another option would have been to have sent him a direct marketing piece crafted to provide some information, without a formal presentation of products/services/integrated solutions. An invitation to discuss well known industry-specific issues with a representative, or to review a white paper, could have constituted the MARCOM content for such a direct marketing piece. Closing the piece with a sentence to the effect that representatives would shortly call to field any questions that recipients may have would provide a useful segue to a follow up telephone call (which ought to be placed between 24 and 72 hours of direct mail reciept).

If your business plan calls for contact with CIOs and other prominent decision makers in enterprise IT organizations and you would like to learn further about our work, then 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