Author Archive

The long and short of sales cycles

This data chart above, from an interesting survey done by MarketingSherpa (a firm that specializes in researching Marketing itself) with over 1000 B2B marketers reveals the wide gulf in the average B2B sales cycle. From lead generation to sales conversion, while 17% claimed to take less than a month on average, at the other extreme were a sizeable 11% who said that it took them over 12 months!

What makes the difference? Well, a good many things impact the average length of the sales cycle, including the nature of the industries and market segments that each firm caters to, but surely – 12 months is excessive?

While we are eager to blame external factors for long sales cycles – recession, bureaucratic customers, decision-making by committee etc – more often than not, it is the insight into buying behaviour or lack of it, which makes the difference. Sharpening such insight directly impacts the length of the sales cycle, and therefore profitability.

As product managers, what stops us from gaining such insight and how can we improve the situation?

Lack of focus. If product managers are busy doing everything else – from defining product features to troubleshooting, the essential role of developing market insights gets missed. In the Indian context, PMs have an uphill task – to convince business owners that allocating time to market understanding is crucial.

Lack of access. Without access to decision-makers in buying companies, Read More[ READ MORE ]

Positioning: judged by customers and nudged by competition

Watching well-made ads like IBM’s “Let’s build a smarter planet” or even the latest “Incredible India” campaign, it’s easy for even those of us trained in the practice of marketing to sometimes end up confusing these with Positioning. What is worse, we think that Positioning is relevant mainly for consumer-facing businesses and not B2B firms, which the majority of technology product companies are.

Positioning is not about advertising campaigns or memorable taglines. Al Ries and Jack Trout define Positioning as “the sum of all activities that position the brand in the mind of the customer relative to its competition.” It applies to a company producing ERP solutions for Fortune 500 companies as much as it does to one manufacturing motorcycles for a rural market.

What is interesting about the “relative to its competition” part is that, not only do your customers judge you against the competition – the competition also makes active efforts to change the rules by which the judging happens.

Think of the recent controversy that Google has stirred up by accusing Bing of stealing its search results. If the usual contest among search engines revolves around speed and accuracy, Google has just introduced another variable – originality/plagiarism. Only a very small percentage of search users may become aware of it, but the negative publicity has gone out to analysts and investors as well.

Well, accusing the competition of plagiarism may not be what most of us need Read More[ READ MORE ]

A Different Mindset for Ecosystem Innovation

While much has been written on Innovation and how to enable it in an organization, one of the most useful concepts I’ve come across on the subject is the ‘12 vectors of Innovation’ developed based on research conducted by Mohan Sawhney and Rob Wolcott, faculty at the Kellogg School of Management.

A framework to help companies identify innovation opportunities, it is built around 4 broad areas: Offering (What), Customers (Who), Process (Who) and Presence (Where). Those interested can read up more here, on the 12 vectors of Innovation (PDF) and its application.

What I’d like to talk about in this post is a mindset aspect of Innovation, especially when it comes to one of those 12 vectors – ecosystem innovation.

Innovation by its very nature requires the ceding of control. Before those innovations happened, businesses had never had their customer relationship data hosted elsewhere (Salesforce), been able to return shoes without question at any time after purchase (Zappos) or work with international customers despite being a micro business (Skype).

Zappos’ no-questions-asked returns policy exemplifies the company’s ‘customer first’ policy, but it cannot work unless the company’s mindset allows it to confront the possibility of losing control. “What if a million customers were to return shoes on a single day?” Zappos’ Innovation in customer experience would not have happened if Tony Hsieh had baulked at that possibility.

One of the reasons so few companies venture towards Ecosystem Innovation is the prospective loss of control. Mohanbir Sawhney defines Ecosystem Innovation as Read More[ READ MORE ]

3 Essential Vectors for High Tech Product Firms

2011 promises to be a challenging year for the many technology product firms emerging from and growing in India. Companies want to go global, yet must contend with distinct local buying practices and customer expectations. Buyers look to technology to simplify processes, reduce costs and add value to their customers; at the same time, they look to tech product firms to anticipate their needs and offer products that are intuitive and relevant.

These will continue to be some of the biggest challenges that technology product firms and product managers will face in the coming years. (Read more, in our latest thought paper, Product Management in India – 4 Key Challenges).

Especially for start-up and small/mid-sized firms running on a low level of resources, these challenges can be mind-boggling. To help companies address these challenges and go global is why we have recently reconfigured our offerings along a 3-vector framework.

The 3 vectors, Product Management, Customer Management and Marketing Management together form a 3600 framework that companies need on their journey to scale and reach global markets.

  • How do we build products that truly meet customer needs?
  • How do we acquire the skill-set to read markets and customers as accurately as possible?
  • How do we talk to the right customers, in a language that they can relate to?
  • In an age of information overload, is there a process we can use to distil the chaff from the wheat when it comes to learning from the Read More[ READ MORE ]

2010: Product Management takes strides in India

Companies in India are no strangers to Product Management, but 2010 perhaps can be counted as the year that a sizeable number of technology companies adopted the function whole-heartedly. Our own experiences with customers – during our consulting, coaching and operational interventions, reveal greater interest in using a market-centric approach and building highly relevant products, rather than just technology-based ideas.

Among our work in this space has been the thought papers we’ve continued to bring out, on different topics such as the role of Product Management, the ERP market in India and the challenges in value-based Pricing. (You can find all our thought papers here.)

We’ve of course also been sharing our thoughts on the blog here, and for those of you who missed reading, here are some of the best posts of 2010: • Market validation for the bootstrappedThe hidden reasons why clients won’t buyWorld-class technology products from India?What’s the buzz over Marketing 3.0?5 ways for B2B companies to leverage social media

A key event for Confianzys in 2010 was the launch of the Product Management Training program in association with Blackblot, and the enthusiastic response to the first such event has encouraged us to continue with more training events, including client-specific/onsite training programs. (If your company can benefit from such training, mail us at engage@confianzys.com for more details).

Other events Read More[ READ MORE ]