Engagement != Experience != Relationship — You Know That, Right?

Oracle announced the acquisition of Vitrue this morning.  Did they need that?  Let me put it this way… if I say “Databases” you probably think Oracle… If I say “Marketing” there may be a lot of companies that come to mind before Oracle, if at all.  It will be added to their cloud offerings, joining the likes of RightNow and Taleo at the very least in their expansion as a SaaS provider.

Oracle has been executing well on their cloud strategy this past year.  In their global analyst day a few weeks back, the vision and message shared (most of which remains NDA for about another month or so) was quite advanced and well done .  They have a good vision, and a good wallet to execute on that vision as the recent acquisitions of RightNow Technologies, Taleo, and few others show.  They are making the shift to that place that Larry Ellison derided in 1999 when he asked “Why on Earth would anyone want to use the cloud?” (paraphrasing).

Credit where credit is due – they are doing a good job of coming up to speed in it as their clients take on it and ask Oracle to join them there.

There are many things that are not yet done in the execution of that vision but this is not the place for it; there are  some parts that are being executed quite well.

The messaging shift to “Experiences” as the replacement for “Relationships” in CRM is one of those.  They get it, they know what they are going after, they understand what their customers are asking and what they need to do (side item: that has always been Oracle’s strength and strategy, come from behind the hype and deliver working solutions that are good for mainstream, not ahead for early adopters – but I digress, and will discuss Oracle’s innovation credentials at some other time).

What prompted me to write this post is this tweet I saw this morning.

I am not taking on Alan individually, he is a great analyst at Constellation (where I sit in their Board of Advisers) and he is doing a great  job. What he is saying is a simplified statement (140 characters only goes so far), and partially right.

But I want to take on the wrongly stated concept that end-to-end engagement is the same as end-to-end experiences which in turn is the same as end-to-end-process.

That is not the case, by far.

There is still room for relationship building with customers, even in an experience-driven world, since not everyone is looking for an experience.  I just want my checking account balance, not an experience.  That two second interaction is just a small part of  the relationship that I have with my bank.  I don’t want to be asked how it was, to have it improved, or to be made fast or interesting or different.  I want a number.  I expect it to be there, accurate, and ready when I want it – it is the bank fulfilling their end of our relationship.  This is simply content provided on-demand when needed. There is no context, no intent, and not circumstances that surround it.  Not an experience, just part of the relationship.

There is a certain set of processes, that can be transformed into an experience.  If I want to open a new account with the same bank, I’d expect an experience.  I’d expect context and intent, I’d expect more focused and complementing information to be provided, different steps in the process delivered via different channels (I can choose which one I want) but the ultimate goal is to complete the set of transactions with the least effort on my part, best result, and a happy win-win for the bank and myself.  The complex and intertwined processes the bank needs to undertake in the back-end to make this happen (provision the account, verify my identity and credit-worthiness, give me content to support my decision-making, interact with me at different touchpoints, offer me specific products and solutions based on my needs, and more) will make this an end-to-end experience.

Engagement is just wrong.

I was in a panel last week where the use of the word engagement was all over the place; apparently it has replaced relationship and experience as the new go-to-word for everything we do in business these days.  I did not know that customers are demanding engagement (they aren’t, trust me) and businesses need to engage to retain Trust (another one, I don’t want to go down that rabbit hole right now – but they don’t either).  Sure, bring your “research” and put it in the comments, glad to debate that down there… if you feel it is debatable.

Paraphrasing Scott McNealy – there is no engagement, get over it.

It is a buzzword used by the Social Media Gurus to try to control the next stage in the evolution of business on the road to becoming a collaborative enterprise.  I won’t go into a lengthy discussion on that today (1,000 words is more than enough for this), but seriously — who wakes up in the morning and says “I so wish I could engage with my bank this morning as I need to get my balance” or “If my bank does not engage with me when I try to open a new account, I am done with them”.  Even better, can you imagine the CEO of your bank saying “How come we are not engaging more with John? He seems to be upset about it”.

Engagement does not exist, it is a word used to make believe that businesses are “social” and “human”.

If you want to sound hip and modern, go ahead and use engagement and engage as much as you want. Just make sure to explain that you are only using it because is part of the vernacular, not because you believe in it.  You’ll get more respect in the world of real business.

At the risk of dating myself here, flame on.

disclaimer: Oracle is a customer and have frequent interactions with them as part of their IR program, including attending the global analyst day for free and getting my expenses paid to be there. I am currently working with Oracle on an unrelated project to create content. Vitrue was never a customer.

Gamification Designers? Really?

As I mentioned before, I am working with my “most excellent” friends at Badgeville (try to read that with a Bill and Ted enunciation)  on a series of blog posts, webinars, and ebooks to define the business value of gamification for the enterprise.  I believe that we are so focused on the gaming mechanics that we are losing sight of what we are trying to do: bring about business value.

I wrote one post already, and did a webinar – and am now adding with the “The Gamification Designer – Lynchpin to Business Value” over at the Gamified Enterprise blog.  Check it out, let me know somewhere (here or there, there or here — on a house, with a mouse, in a car, or a tarp — you get the idea) what you think.

The New Way to Segment For a 6x Greater Return

I have been thinking about this for some time (BTW, this is a short post – hope to ignite some discussion with this), would love to get your thoughts.

Traditionally (as in most everybody I know in this world) we use financial metrics for customer segmentation, right? Either lifetime-spend, latest-spend, last-year-spend, or profitability, or what-not.  We may use other aspects of segmentation for marketing (like demographics, products purchased, support requested, etc.) depending on what someone in someplace decided it would help us find the “right” people to buy our product (usually that someone was a marketer, or a focus group, or an MR firm we hired – or something altogether).

This has — well, worked for us until now since we have been focused on the shotgun approach to marketing and sales for the most (yes, I know that means anybody but you who have done a masterful job of hand-selecting your clients, unlike your competition).  That is, we loaded the shotgun with pellets, shot in a general direction (segment) and some hit and some missed, if we did a decent job of segmenting we shot into a bush with tons of birds and we hit more than we miss.

This is not the bestest model in the world, but it works.  Sells product, mostly targeted at the right people.

As I was doing research for a deck I did on long tail CRM, I found a case study that was too good to pass up.  I have been using it for the past few weeks in presentations and talks, but wanted to get your thoughts.  This is from a company that chose to remain nameless, but can tell you that they are in telecommunications.  I can assure you, their work applies to either B2B or B2C or whatever letters and numbers you want to put together. OK, stage is set.

They used email marketing.  As we all know, email is “virtually free” to send; but that is irrelevant.  See the table below, first column is past, second column is the new model they use for segmentation (more on that after the fold).

mass market segments long tail segments
segment size 20,000 200
emails sent 18,762 200
emails opened 15,449 162
emails clicked 817 98
leads 42 52
deals closed 2 12

Now, anyway you want to look at that — it is good.

Either because they sent fewer emails, got more of them opened, more clicks,, generated a similar number of leads as percentage of people reached — and 6x more closes.  These are good numbers, no matter how you look at them.  As I said, they are based on a real case study from a company I talked to at length and you can see that they knew what they were doing, the number of emails opened was outstanding before the long tail segments were created.

Of course, now you want to know how they did that, what is the long tail they aimed for.  That is the purpose of this post anyway…

Use Case Segmentation.

Instead of focusing on profitability, past purchases, ownership, time, dollars, or similar this company used analytics to find a very specific use case (sorry, cannot reveal details here) among their customers and found a service that applied to those people.  By using the data available to them, they were able to fine-tooth-comb their customer base and found these few people who were more receptive to the message (which was also carefully crafted to reflect the use case) and make more money, for a lower cost (we won’t debate that now, but let’s assume a lot of sunk costs and just a per-email cost was used to calculate it).

What do you think?  Would love to hear your comments…

Good For You, Lithium

It has been said that behind every successful man there is a powerful woman to support them.

I’d like to revise that to say that behind every successful enterprise software company there is (at least) one nagging analyst egging them to do things right.  I’d like to think that I am that analyst for Lithium.

Lithium kicked off their fifth annual (if badges are to be believed, this is my third time here) LiNC customer event in San Francisco today.  I am just getting started here, so will have more on what they are doing right (and wrong) and how well they communicated the message in a later post.

A large part of my relationship with Lithium revolved around my criticism of their approach to Customer Service.  I have been saying for the past 2 years that their efforts and focus have been around Marketing almost exclusively to the detriment of Customer Service.  Their Brand Nation marketing and branding efforts in last year’s conference and collateral were the icing on the cake – of sorts.

I have been vocal about this in notes in the past.

To be fair to them, and I have said this repeatedly before as well, they are winning deals left and right in that market.  They have become, for lack of a better metaphor, the de-facto standard for communities in support.

This is a market fact.  I have not seen a single deal pass my desk in the past few years that did not have Lithium as a finalist in it.  And they do win a fair amount of them (although not all).

My issue is that they have become complacent, believe they are done with the product.  I have been egging them, unsuccessfully,  to become more innovative, bring a new model to the market and continue their leadership position instead of relying of what has been done in the past.  Until now, it has fallen in deaf-ears of sorts: while Lithium continued to do a good job, they were more focused on marketing.  This has played well for their competitors who have been winning more deals in the past year or so, playing to that message of indifference to the support market.

I am glad to see that is changing this year.

Their message is about both marketing and support.  Case studies on stage are talking about support to a large degree, and Lyle Fong (their architect and visionary) is doing a good job of bringing support back into the limelight.

I am glad.  This should pay off for them.

However, this is not about me being right (I am almost always right anyway) or them proving me wrong (been proven wrong three times in past 25.  This is about Lithium claiming their place in the market one more time.  We will see the reception from the market for this renewed focus.

Good for you, Lithium.