Good news! The U.S. Department of Labor has reported that the job market has finally recovered to pre-economic crisis levels. Still there are some lessons that should not be forgotten. With this recession, enterprises around the globe adjusted their policies on how they make buying decisions. Across the board, enterprises implemented a strict set of requirements to justify purchases of new products and services. They require that each purchase needs to show a clear definition of the expected total cost of ownership (TCO) and anticipated return on investment (ROI). This has created new challenges for sales teams.
In order to enable sales teams to achieve their goals, they need to adjust their sales process. They need to be able to demonstrate they clearly understand the business of their customers and articulate how the product or service they offer will enhance their business. With tighter controls on spending by the enterprise, the burden of proof is in the sales teams court. To accomplish this, they need to team up with their product managers and product marketers to define effective ROI/TCO modeling tools to show the benefits of their product or service.
Beware of Snake Oil
I have seen a variety of ROI/TCO modeling tools being used in the technology sector. Some of them definitely fall into the category of “snake oil” or “cure-all” elixirs. These are the models that typically require only a few inputs, such as “Quantity of licenses to purchase”, and result in an amazing too-good-to-be-true ROI. Often, these models don’t take into consideration all of the critical factors to estimate a realistic total cost of ownership and return on investment.
Effective ROI Tools
An effective ROI modeling tool to support the sales effort is going to take into consideration the viewpoint of the customer CFO. It should allow as input all the expected cost factors experienced by their operations and particularly those factors impacted by a purchase of the product. Some of the factors would include:
- Manpower costs
- Facilities costs
- IT and data center costs
- Administration and maintenance costs
- Infrastructure costs such as new servers to support a software purchase
- Costs of the product and/or service being sold
The output of the ROI modeling tool should also be able to show the expected benefits that would result from the purchase of the product or service. These benefits may include reduction in operational and fixed costs such as:
- Reduction of infrastructure
- Redeployment/re-purpose of manpower
Benefits may also include new efficiencies such as:
- Increases in speed to revenue
- Efficiencies in transaction processing and volume management
- Improvements in customer service
A good ROI modeling tool will also be able to clearly define “tipping points” such as whether or not it makes sense to utilize cloud-based services or purchase premise-based equipment. This is a topic for a future post.
Corner Office Wisdom:
Sales teams, product managers and product marketers need to have the ability to show the ROI/TCO benefits of their products or service in order to be successful. This will require a comprehensive set of tools and training in order to empower the sales teams to have such a discussion. If they cannot support such a discussion and the competition can, they will lose the opportunity.
(The following blog entry is a re-post of my article from www.successfulworkplace.org)
In the late 1990’s, early 2000’s, the book Who Moved My Cheese? An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life was a popular motivational book by Spencer Johnson. It addressed the issue of experiencing change in one’s work and life and possible reactions to those changes. The premise of the book is that mice in a maze are rewarded for finding cheese. When the cheese moves, some go in search of it while others keep coming back to the same place, weaker each day.
Boom!! With the explosion of mobile devices, analytics, higher bandwidth and social media, it may be time to re-read a not-so-old classic. The frequency with which business paradigms are shifting is ever more rapid and compressed. We blink and discover the cheese just moved again. We need to be serial cheese-finders.
Corporate cheese finding
Companies are no different. For them, the cheese is found at the intersection of the customer’s preferences and loyalty. When things move rapidly, some companies will double down on finding the same cheese in the same place while others will see the change coming and begin to change tactics. Like the characters in Johnson’s book, businesses today have three paths to choose from…they can ignore change, worry without making a decision, or act and take advantage of the situation.
The biggest challenge to finding the new cheese is tradition, especially traditions (processes, techniques, skills, personalities) that have been most successful in the past. Traditional businesses will find their data in traditional sources, analyze using the same methods and execution will continue through the same channels. Look no further than Borders, who did not adjust when their cheese moved and their customers began buying books online and using tablets and e-readers. Border’s is now extinct and its stores are closed.
The quicker you let go of old cheese, the sooner you find new cheese
Businesses have an opportunity to “own” their customers by focusing on their preferences and making the offers more personalized. Everyone enjoys feeling important and special. There is a restaurant that my family and I frequent that serves a great set of curry dishes. The prices are comparable to a similar restaurant across the street. But at this particular restaurant, the chef/owner knows who I am, knows my voice on the phone for takeaway orders, and uses my name when he sees me. With that kind of personalized service along with the good food, it makes it me loyal to his restaurant.
More importantly, he stays close enough to me to know my changing tastes and preferences.
In contrast is another example of one of my local grocery stores. They have a great idea of providing coupons to you when you are checking out. The intent is to provide us with more incentive to come back. Unfortunately, they are not products that my family has purchased in the past, nor are they products we intend to buy in the future.
They don’t know me and probably never will. Their cheese will move and they’ll never see it coming.
When you move beyond your fear, you feel free
With paradigms shifting so quickly, many are having a difficult time changing. They are following the human tendency of sticking with what they know while their cheese disappears, revenues drop and customer-base deteriorates.
The businesses and marketers that take advantage of the new information sources, data management techniques and intelligence tools available and deeper insights into their markets will have a much greater chance of success. They can be my favorite restaurant, but with scale.
Move with the cheese and enjoy it
With change occurring with increasing frequency, the companies that are nimble, proactive and embrace change are the ones that will thrive with each shift of the market or customer. These will become “anti-fragile” because they are able to adjust and even capitalize on change. These companies are more likely to survive and thrive as the economy and the buying habits of customers change. Those that are reactive will always be behind the competition and the distance between them will grow. Those that do nothing will no longer be in the race.
Did you blink? The cheese just moved again.
When I was 11 years old, my father gave me the assignment of cutting the lawn once a week through the summer. The lawns in our neighborhood were about ¼ an acre so it took some effort – especially after a lot of rain. As part of the assignment, he wanted me to make sure the lawn was cut following straight lines, the cuttings were bagged for trash pick-up and the edges were trimmed. He wanted our lawn to represent the neighborhood well and he showed me how to make that happen by paying close attention to details and keeping a regular service schedule.
Our neighbor, however, was struggling to keep up with his lawn. If he let it grow for longer than a week without cutting it, it would look like a jungle compared to our lawn. I talked to my father for permission to use our lawnmower to cut the neighbor’s lawn for a fee. He agreed.
I spoke to the neighbor about cutting the lawn once a week and we settled on the price of $10.00 each week. It wasn’t long until his lawn started to look good like ours. I decided to go through the neighborhood to see if there were others that needed their lawn regularly serviced. As a result, I found another neighbor willing to let me care for his lawn.
Then, one weekend in mid-summer, something interesting happened. Someone walking by while I was servicing one of the lawns asked if I would do his lawn as well. He had spoken to the homeowner of the lawn I was servicing and they were impressed by the:
- Regularity and reliability of the service
- Quality of the service and attention to detail
This happened more than once and by the next summer, I had accrued 10 different customers. By the time I was 13 years old, I was making over $100 per week. This wasn’t a result of me soliciting additional business, but it was a result of great customer references.
As a result of this early training by my father, I learned the value of providing a reliable service with high quality. By applying that training, I learned the additional lesson of the value of great customer references. Through great customer references, I was able to dramatically increase my income. I have carried these values with me throughout my career.
Corner Office Wisdom:
There is no substitute for a great customer reference. They will help you grow your business. To get great customer references, one needs to focus on high quality and reliability.
Big Data has become the generic term for the massive amounts of data businesses have accumulated during the course of their operations. There are ongoing discussions on how useful it might be and how it can be used. By applying the right analytics software to the data, most believe it can lead to new efficiencies, improved business processes, lower costs, higher profits, improved customer experiences, services and loyalties.
Communication Service Providers (CSP) have an absolute mountain of Big Data within their domain that is clearly untapped – or at the very least under-utilized. Is this a missed opportunity for differentiation? Let’s take a closer look at their current business model and assess if there are new possibilities.
Mobile CSP’s revenue streams are based on service usage and their major costs are subscriber churn, device subsidiaries and keeping their networks current. To differentiate themselves from their competitors, they focus on devices, price plans and network. The problem:
- They all have the same or similar devices and price plans.
- They all claim the fastest 4G/LTE network.
Within their domains, they have available both real-time and “static” or near real-time data. A small subset of available real-time data includes:
- Currently active identity and device(s)
- Current location, presence, availability
- Active content
- Charging preferences, prepaid balance
- Minutes and data usage
A small subset of “static” or near real-time data includes:
- Real Name and Billing address
- Number of devices
- Web-sites accessed, searches made
- Friends and Family, Business associates
- Defined preferences
- Content and genre purchased and downloaded
For CSP’s that also offer wireline, broadband and video services, this list can grow to include number of devices in the home, devices active, channels watched, time of day, days of the week and many more data items.
Each service provider also has multiple third-party partners that augment their services. These partners are also going to have more information about subscribers relevant to what, how and when services and content are accessed and utilized.
With 10, 20 or even 100 million plus subscribers initiating a combined millions of transactions each day, all of which gets distilled into data records, that is a massive amount of data that can be used to establish insights and intelligence about subscribers and understand their preferences.
Identity and Master Data
All of the above data items are tied together by the mobile number/account number which acts as the common Identity or primary key of the subscriber. By using master data management techniques such as centralization, virtualization and federation, CSP’s can establish a single, universal view of the individual subscribers.
With ongoing advances in analytics software, CSP’s have at their finger-tips the means to truly understand how their services are used and by whom. They can also define, redefine and fine-tune market segments, demographics and buying characteristics. As a result, it doesn’t take much imagination to brainstorm a list of ideas for service providers to:
- Personalize the service experience
- Develop enhanced loyalty management programs
- Enable targeted advertising specific to the individual’s preferences
Are there opportunities for service providers to differentiate themselves beyond just price plans and devices? Absolutely. There is a mountain of Big Data available to make it happen. With just a subset of the available data, there is much more that a service provider can do to enhance the experience of their subscribers. The category of personalization alone can create a whole new set of ideas and innovation.
Corner Office Wisdom:
In order to think outside the box when it comes to finding new opportunities and enhancing your business, sometimes you just need to look inside the box.