E-Commerce Times

The Top 20 CRM Blogs of 2017: Countdown, Part 1

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Something very interesting is happening in the world of CRM blogs: CRM is becoming less and less of a subject. Oh, it's in there — it's just being elbowed to the back of the stage by a whole host of other related disciplines and technologies.

Customer experience, customer engagement and content marketing are vying with artificial intelligence, Internet of Things and bots to elbow CRM to the back of the stage. CRM is still back there, though — and it's CRM that glues these disparate trends and market forces together.

So, instead of creating lists of the five top customer experience blogs or the seven top customer technology blogs, we're going to stick with the top 20 list — for now, at least.

Some of those at the top have been there for a very long time. Some toward the bottom and middle are on the list for the very first time. They all share a similar commitment to consistency, quality and attitude that keeps readers coming back, and that makes them important voices for anyone working in the CRM field.

The criteria are simple: You may not be a vendor (though there are good vendor blogs out there), and if you work for one your blog must be vendor-agnostic. You must post at least seven times in the last calendar year, and your primary focus must be on CRM, or at least be what CRM analyst Brent Leary describes as "CRM-ish."

With that established, let's take a look at the list, starting at number 20.

20. Lynn Hunsaker

Sometimes, you just need the facts. Lynn Hunsaker, writing for
CustomerThink, lays out the facts of customer experience in every post. There's usually an introduction, which may touch on a metaphor for the lesson in the blog — and you'd better catch your breath now, because when you get into the meat of her posts there's a lot to digest.

Laid out in an organized, almost scholarly manner, Hunsaker's blogs deliver checklists of best practices that go deep and are very complete, perfect for organizations that want to overhaul their customers' experience efforts or build can't-miss systems for measuring their success.

She also brings the numbers: In one post about customer service and customer loyalty, she argues that you must immerse all employees at all levels in the customers' realities, which is easy to assert. Then, she drops the bomb: A company that has done this — and in the process reduced its time to resolve issues by 89 percent, saw a 288 percent increase in customer lifetime value.

Most of her posts use this tactic: Make an assertion, offer advice based on it, and then use some statistics to show how solid the initial assertion is. Customer experience, marketing operations and understanding how to evaluate success and failure effectively and economically are among the most frequently touched-upon topics.

Posts in 2017: 20

Favorite post:
Preventing Customer Experience Process Silos: 4 Prerequisites

19. Kerry Bodine & Co.

Former Forrester analyst Kerry Bodine brings her expertise on managing the business aspects of delivering customer experiences to her
Kerry Bodine & Co. blog. While it's clear she enjoys talking about the process of journey mapping, and the science of measuring customer sentiment about their experiences, there are some very human things she and occasional contributor Amelia Sizemore have to keep returning to.

Technology will never keep a promise made to a customer — only a human can do that. Technology can never think through the odd things that may go awry for a customer, and prepare for those events in advance to ensure the customer's problem turns into a positive experience — but people can do that.

Bodine describes herself as a designer, but the systems she talks about designing are neither digital nor analog — they're a synthesis of technology and human activities, reflective of the real world.

Too many people talking about customer experience are so touchy-feely businesses can never put their ideas to work; others become so fixated on the technology that their advice loses its humanity and thus has little impact on the customers it is supposed to influence.

Bodine does a great job of bridging the gap, presenting achievable ways to create better experiences for buyers, outlining smart strategies for evaluating how you're doing, and prioritizing the two.

Blog posts in 2017: 42

Favorite post:
Why You Need to Measure Journeys — Not Just Touchpoints

18. Natalie Petouhoff

Natalie Petouhoff, Ph.D., may be a Salesforce VP (and program executive in the Innovation and Transformation Center, to be exact), but
her blog is completely vendor-agnostic, and she assiduously sticks to a purely educational tone.

Roughly half of the posts are from guest bloggers, but this blog is at its best when Petouhoff puts virtual pen to electronic paper. For instance, her story about a program to boost employee development highlights three things: the value of talking to customers (in this case, the company's employees); the need to cater to the emotional needs of the people you're trying to influence; and the value of establishing an ROI number, especially when trying something new that may seem "warm and fuzzy" to an executive who controls the purse strings.

The blog is sprinkled with these sorts of articles — which, in a small number of words, touch upon a collection of interconnected larger points.

You'll need to read with your brain turned to 11 to pick up on all the little lessons mixed into the larger customer experience, business and CRM discussions — what was that? a paragraph on the hazards of group-think in a piece about digital transformation? — but it's worth it. Petouhoff's blogs are fun to read, packed with ideas, and backed up with data.

Posts in 2017: 25

Favorite post:
What's the Number One Thing Today's CEOs Must Do? Do the OODA Loop Faster and More Innovatively

17. Toolbox Tech CRM Blog

Toolbox Tech, the former InsideCRM blog, has been streamlined and cleaned up, resulting in a nifty product that delivered a post for every business day in 2017.

The quality of the posts is still fairly varied, but it's a lot steadier, thanks to writers like Rick Cook, Henry Kaiser and Lewis Robinson — people who have been around the block enough to watch technology history repeat itself.

Until recently, the byline was almost always a cryptic "CRM Desk," as if a piece of furniture were churning out this prolific blog, but the writers are getting the credit now — as they deserve to.

There's none of the rewritten press release posts of last year, either — this is all fresh stuff, and it's written at a level that will be beneficial to all but the most battle-worn CRM practitioners. Your humble reporter started this blog, but he's not being sentimental — the crew at work on it today elevated it to a new level in 2017.

Total posts in 2017: about 270

Favorite post:
Winning the Clean Data Battle

16. Customer Experience Matrix

David Raab's somewhat cryptically named
Customer Experience Matrix (its moniker is taken from a tool he developed to visualize marketing and operational interactions) is the smart person's guide to marketing automation, the changing approaches to marketing, and the various other technology tools that are being pulled into marketing's orbit.

That's a pretty broad swath of stuff, and Raab negotiates it with a seemingly bemused attitude — he may be a serious authority on this stuff, but he does not take himself seriously.

Evidence of that came in a post called "2017 Retrospective: Things I did Not Predict," sort of the opposite of a predictions article, in which he describes eight trends that surprised him.

At times deep in the technical details and at other times up at the level where strategy is discussed, this blog is becoming more readable over time, while also growing more indispensable as a guide to the confusing world of MarTech.

Total posts in 2017: 45

Favorite post:
Amazon Buys Whole Foods. It's Not About Groceries

15. B2B Lead Blog

In the age of customer experience, the pendulum has swung hard toward the customer. The advice is always about being "customer centric," or putting "the customer in the center of everything you do." But your business is still a business, and it needs to do things in order to survive and thrive. How do you achieve a balance?

The
B2B Lead Blog, written by Brian Carroll and others, does a great job of explaining how to address conflicting business and customer needs without seeing them as a zero-sum game.

Yes, you should be hugely empathetic, deliver great value, and build your processes around customers — but only after you've been rigorous about marketing activities, like deciding which customers are going to pay off best for you and focusing on them. This realistic advice is complemented by long-form interviews with marketing leaders with similar outlooks.

Total posts in 2017: 16

Favorite Post:
How to Attract B2B Customers with Amazing Content

14. The Epokonic Blog

Stumped about the possible ramifications of an acquisition in the CRM space? Hit the
Epikonic blog, written by Thomas Wieberneit. He's probably already thought about it, applied his experience as a consultant to the subject, and turned around a 1,000-word post on this blog that provides multiple takes on the subject.

That's not the real strength of this blog, however. Perhaps the most eager-to-learn thought leader I've ever met, Wieberneit also delivers treatises on topics like ambient computing, artificial intelligence and customer service (his comparison of a modern call center to a soccer team — with position players, assignments from a "coach," and scoring the goal of customer satisfaction, for example) demonstrates storytelling ability with an objective in mind.

What frustrates him? Disconnected and fragmented systems that make it impossible to deliver a consistently high-quality experience to customers. The answer: stepping back and understanding that trust, human connection and empowered people are required on both sides of the buying and selling interaction.

Those things, Wieberneit notes, don't require any technology to deliver, and that is part of the point of the blog. Great customer experience is the goal; all the technology that delivers it is merely a tool set for achieving the real goal.

Posts in 2017: (54)

Favorite Post:
Customer Service — How to Turn a Poor Experience into a Positive One

13. CX Journey

In 2017, Annette Franz went from being a thought leader working for someone else to the CEO of her own CX consulting firm. You might think the extra time required to run the show would have sapped her energy for the
CX Journey blog — and if so, you'd be wrong.

Yes, she included some guest posts here and there, but they weren't there to buy her time. Instead, they added to the conversations she already had started. Since CRM (the discipline, not the software) starts with engaged employees, her frequent advice on how to engage, educate and enthuse workers is especially helpful.

Franz's efforts to shed new light on subjects like company culture, change management, and leadership reinforce her view that engaged customers are a result of the efforts of engaged employees.

Lest you think all the advice here is focused inward, there's plenty of push for activities aimed at making the organization more customer-centric: better customer journey mapping, more effective voice-of-the-customer programs and customer communities, for example.

Instead of offering a lot of little point solutions ("collect data about THAT!") as some blogs do, this one takes aim on creating a healthier organization that leads to healthier customer relationships.

Total Posts in 2017: 68

Favorite Post:
How to Engage Employees in Your Customer Experience Strategy

12. Duct Tape Marketing Blog

Not everyone's an ideal target for John Jantsch's long-running and prolific
Duct Tape Marketing blog: It's aimed squarely at the small business. That means you don't get a lot of CRM technology content, or discussions of departmental relationships and organization. Instead, you get plenty of posts about actually doing things — something that small business people need to do to survive, but also something the rest of us can relate to.

There are a lot of podcasts mixed in here (and even some articles about how small businesses can create their own podcasts!) and John has a lot of help from guest writers and interview subjects with some great perspectives.

I particularly like Jay Baer's advice to seek out negative reviews online, because they're an ideal way to discover ways to make your business better.

There's a lot of focus on the customer experience, but also on other things that impact customer relationships — content, public relations, website experience and so on. There's also a healthy dose of advice about back-to-basics sales processes like lead generation, funnel management, and techniques for driving return sales.

There's a lot to digest here — so the blog has a 15-category menu at the bottom, which can help you binge on posts germane to the business issues weighing most heavily on you today. The basics are important — and this blog continues to cover them very well.

Blog posts in 2017: many (format makes an exact count impossible)

Favorite post:
Why Customer Experience is the Key to an Amazing Business

11. Nick Baggott's CRM and Digital Marketing Blog

Writing short is hard. Writing short about complex topics like SEO, content marketing and customer loyalty is really hard. Thus, a tip of the hat to Baggott for managing to get so much valuable advice into his posts, which are to the point and leave you plenty of time to think about how to apply his ideas.

Some are fairly common sense — content marketing and SEO go hand in hand! — but need reinforcement. Others, like his post about dealing with negative social media comments, are much more in depth and tackle topics that worry many small businesses, but for which there's little practical and actionable advice available.

He also mixes in essays about things like marketing in developing countries, which gives him a chance to go back to the basics — even without a ton of technology, the ideas are the same. Baggott is a helpful voice who provides a useful foundation for professionals toiling away on the marketing side of the CRM equation.

Posts in 2017: 17

Favorite post:
How to Improve Your Influencer Marketing

Top 20 CRM Blogs of 2017: Countdown, Part 2


Chris Bucholtz has been an ECT News Network columnist since 2009. His focus is on CRM, sales and marketing software, and the interface between people and technology. A noted speaker and author, Chris has covered the CRM space for 10 years.
Email Chris.

Original Article

E-Commerce Times

Feds to Ramp Up Online Purchasing Presence

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Online retail has been booming, with consumers flocking to the Internet to shop for almost anything. Online retail revenues in the U.S. would reach a projected US$445 billion in 2017 and jump to $600 billion by 2020, according to a report FTI Consulting released last fall.

The U.S. government has begun developing a program that would allow agencies to utilize e-commerce portals for purchases of commercial off the shelf (COTS) products.

The program could impact e-commerce in two significant ways.

First, it could provide a major boost to Internet marketing in general by putting a huge amount of federal government purchases in play for online procurement versus standard paper and contract-based purchasing. For example, office supplies could be acquired via Amazon, suggested Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, a key supporter of the program. However, other early reactions to the idea reflect concerns about concentrating federal e-commerce with a dominant provider.

Second, it could affect the way information technology providers market their offerings to federal agencies. It appears that government e-commerce purchasing eventually could include IT offerings, but a number of federal requirements would have to be addressed before any substantial volume of IT business would move through a digital procurement channel.

How the Program Would Work

The federal General Services Administration has begun developing the e-commerce purchasing program in conjunction with the White House Office of Management and Budget. GSA was directed to implement the system through a provision of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, which became law last month.

As originally proposed by Thornberry, the program was limited to the Defense Department, but the NDAA expanded it to cover all federal agencies — both military and civilian. Government-wide spending for commercially available products and services amounts to more than $50 billion per year, according to GSA estimates.

The law stipulates that federal e-commerce purchasing be phased in through several steps. While program development could extend into 2020, the first phase already is under way and must be completed this March.

In the first phase, GSA is required to create an implementation plan and a schedule for launching the online marketplace program. Within a year of implementing the first phase, GSA must prepare recommendations for any changes or exemptions to existing laws that would be necessary for making the online program operational. Lastly, OMB and GSA must create guidance for the program within a year of implementing phase two.

GSA has been making a major effort to obtain input from the private sector during the program development process. The agency conducted a town meeting forum earlier this month. During the NDAA enactment process, drafts of the e-commerce proposal changed significantly, partly as a result of comments from private sector parties who were asked for feedback by congressional staff.

For example, the Coalition on Public Procurement provided a background paper contending that the draft under consideration last fall embodied "the most consequential procurement policy change in a generation." The draft language would result "in only one or two providers" having "the capability and potential regulatory compliance" to be selected as an e-commerce portal, the coalition cautioned. "Thus, the proposal could result in monopoly or duopoly control over access to the federal market for commercial items."

Law Requires Competitive Platforms

The final version enacted into law addresses that issue. The law "makes clear that GSA must enter multiple contracts with multiple commercial e-commerce portal providers, thereby allaying fears that the bill could lead to a monopolistic online marketplace provider capturing a substantial portion of the government's needs," according to a commentary by Holland and Knight attorneys Robert Tompkins and Ronald Perry.

In addition, the law specifies that all existing laws, including federal procurement restrictions, apply to the online marketplace program.

"GSA therefore will have to enter contracts with commercial e-commerce portals through full and open competition," Tompkins and Perry observed.

At the GSA forum, attendees presented various ideas for constructing a federal e-commerce acquisition program.

"One model that was discussed would require a portal provider to contract with GSA to provide an online interface. Under this approach, suppliers would then sign up to use the portal, potentially via a contract with the portal provider. Next, government purchasers would select suppliers from the portal, entering prime contracts with suppliers directly," wrote Susan Cassidy, a partner at law firm Covington and Burling, in an online post.

Another approach would require online portal providers to sell directly to the government, providing a user interface for online purchases and the end items of supply, she noted.

"Consistent with the text of the statute," numerous attendees said that multiple online portals would "encourage competition among a larger pool of potential contractors and deliver better value to the government," Cassidy said.

"It is still very early in the process, and it was clear at the industry day that GSA has many questions to answer and decisions to make," said Eminence Griffin, director of federal procurement at the
Information Technology Industry Council.

"That being said, we continue to advocate for adequate competition for the marketplace contracts and a level playing field for government e-commerce sites as well as guidance on how this will impact supply chain and cybersecurity requirements," she told the E-Commerce Times.

Tricky E-Commerce Landscape

Despite the scope of commercial off the shelf products involved in the GSA program, it is not related to a different federal effort to utilize commercial off the shelf software, Griffin noted.

"For COTS software, that generally means shrink-wrapped software, which is not often a candidate for government software needs," she said.

"At the federal level, the focus is usually commercial software solutions for large institutions. We don't see substantial changes to the market for COTS software, and this statute has no impact on the acquisition of commercial software," Griffin explained.

"While part of the first two phases of implementation will involve determining what products — or types of products — are appropriate for the government to purchase through digital marketplaces, we believe the government will start with simple items that don't require configuration," said Steve Charles, founder of
immixGroup.

"This could exclude laptops, for example, because the government requires its own software install," he told the E-Commerce Times.

It appears that use of the e-commerce program for procurement faces numerous hurdles, when it comes to commercial off the shelf software.

"We view COTS as any software that is commonly sold in substantial quantities to the general public, such as individual consumers and commercial enterprises and companies," Charles said.

However, "the acquisition of software is quite unlike buying paper towels or paper clips. For instance, there are additional terms such as software license agreements, that must be reviewed and agreed upon," he pointed out.

"In the government's case, only a warranted contracting officer can bind the government. Whereas, when a consumer could simply click 'agree,' the government cannot," Charles said.

Other factors, such as integration services or the use of cloud associated software, also would have to be addressed when considering the use of online platforms for software procurement.

The situation can get even more complicated in the case of software resellers. The potential impact there "is getting cut out of the government's supply chain if just any third-party reseller is allowed to place products on e-commerce portals without authorization from the OEMs," Charles noted.

"A critical factor is that only resellers that have been authorized by and have a relationship with the OEM can stand behind a warranty and guarantee to deliver only genuine products," noted Jeff Ellinport, division counsel at immixGroup.

Furthermore, reseller arrangements can often involve multiple intermediaries.

"Only OEM authorized entities should be able to place an OEM's products for sale on a portal," Ellinport told the E-Commerce Times, "and the portal should then be required to validate that such entity is authorized to resell the OEM's products."


John K. Higgins has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2009. His main areas of focus are U.S. government technology issues such as IT contracting, cybersecurity, privacy, cloud technology, big data and e-commerce regulation. As a freelance journalist and career business writer, he has written for numerous publications, including
The Corps Report and Business Week.
Email John.

Original Article

E-Commerce Times

Don’t Discount the Business Power of Emotions

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What accounts for the amazing success of Apple and Starbucks? They both connect with users on an emotional level. This "secret" is evident to anyone who looks closely, and you can apply it to succeed with your own company and improve your own life.

Apple was a struggling computer maker until the 1990s, when Steve Jobs returned. Jobs connected with the user base in a new way. Customers loved him — he created an emotional connection with the company.

That emotional connection helped Apple grow rapidly, even with several missteps along the way. The iPod, iPhone, iPad and more have lulled users into a comfortable cocoon that has been pretty much bulletproof, so far.

Ties vs. Turtlenecks

Think of how Apple compares to Microsoft. Microsoft is more like IBM. Perhaps its employees don't wear suits, white shirts and ties, but that's no longer true at IBM either. Still, the analogy holds: Microsoft is a large and powerful company, but without emotion.

On the other hand, Apple has more of a hippie persona — you know, Apple employees are warm-hearted folks sporting jeans and flip flops, and wanting to save the world. Yes, Apple is run by smart business people, but the company's brand oozes emotion. Terms like "love" seem to apply to Apple, not Microsoft.

Starbucks is another example. Its customers get a warm and fuzzy feeling going to their favorite coffee shop. There are many other companies that fit the Apple and Starbucks model. Appealing to emotions is a winning model.

When companies succeed in getting their customers to fall in love with them, they win loyalty. Even when the company makes a mistake, its customers don't run to competitors. Instead, they give them the time and room they need to fix their problems. Loving a company lets customers forgive the occasional screw-up, and every company screws up from time to time.

Staying Power

Apple has survived problems in the last decade what would have sunk other companies. Remember antenna-gate several years ago? Now it is dealing with battery-gate. I predict Apple will get past this new problem as well, simply because its users love the company — and love is the key.

Apple and Starbucks each filled an emotional need that previously had not been addressed. I am not suggesting these companies don't make mistakes — they make plenty. However, their customers don't leave, due to the emotional connection.

If you can focus on making strong emotional connections in your company, as well as in your professional life and your personal life, you may find yourself on the same winning wave as Apple and Starbucks. It's worth some consideration.


Jeff Kagan has been an ECT News Network columnist since 2010. His focus is on the wireless and telecom industries. He is an independent
analyst, consultant and speaker.
Email Jeff.

Original Article

E-Commerce Times

Salesforce’s Triangulation Strategy

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Partnerships may be playing the role usually reserved for merger and acquisition activity in the CRM world right now. Generally a company makes a purchase when it wants to capture the benefits of another business' R&D or established market base. However, at the moment it appears that the desirable targets are too big to swallow, and the result is more partnering between the big guys and the really big guys.

Salesforce has been pursuing this strategy for most of the last year with Amazon, Google and IBM. This says a lot about the state of the marketplace on several fronts.

Joining Forces

First, Salesforce and Amazon announced a partnership in which Amazon and its AWS infrastructure service would become Salesforce's strategic infrastructure
partner when Salesforce absolutely had to deploy a data center in a foreign land.

This makes perfect sense. As I have often said, it makes no business sense to build (in this case, a data center) when you can purchase the solution at a reasonable price on the open market.

As a competitive issue, Salesforce's choice of Amazon is a direct challenge to Oracle, because it offers a safe haven, which enables Salesforce to diversify its partner portfolio while keeping Oracle and Microsoft at arm's length. Given the rumors of Salesforce being acquired by a big tech firm over the last few years, this seems a good way to help preserve its independence.

Much the same can be said of the alliance with Google. This is primarily a play for more small and mid-sized business customers, and it's a good one. Salesforce and Google announced their partnership around G Suite, Google's free office apps.

A while ago, Salesforce and Microsoft created an integration with Outlook, effectively making Outlook another user interface for Salesforce. This parallels Microsoft's own integration with its CRM and Outlook. So this partly neutralizes Outlook as a differentiator in any CRM decision.

Google integration gives Salesforce access to all those G Suite users who need CRM, especially in the SMB space. It also gives Salesforce another way to compete against Microsoft CRM. Of course, the company didn't stop there. Salesforce also now has an integration with Google Hangouts, an effective counter to Skype, which now is owned by Microsoft.

Away from the SMB space in the enterprise market, Salesforce also forged a relationship with Google Analytics. Not that it needs more analytics, but the two partners have developed plausible processes that use Google Analytics to surface macro trends and Salesforce Einstein to go the last mile, a model that works with IBM too.

Salesforce and IBM got closer last week, with Salesforce naming IBM a preferred cloud services provider and IBM calling Salesforce its preferred customer engagement platform for sales and service. The agreement leverages IBM's Watson analytics and its cloud, as well as Salesforce Quip (more office software) and Service Cloud Einstein.

21st Century Information Utility

In all of this, we can see that Salesforce has been working to maintain its independence by linking with anything that can enhance its CRM and make it less desirable as an acquisition target. Of greater importance, it's these relationships and others like them that will help Salesforce reach its goal of US$20 billion in revenue in a few years.

When your revenue needs are this big, you need to leverage the market penetration of similar companies. While all of the companies named are bigger than Salesforce, each needs the bragging rights of working with the most popular CRM in the world.

Another question in all this is what's happening with M&A activity, which seems to lull while partnerships blossom. The merger market is notorious for running hot and cold, and right now it seems tepid, like there's more opportunity for large companies like Salesforce crafting relationships with bigger partners.

It's not clear if this means there are few attractive acquisitions out there, or simply that the times require different approaches to the market.

More than once in talks since Dreamforce last fall, Marc Benioff has used the logic that "my enemy's enemy is my friend." This logic is being played out in the partnerships his company has been spawning. On one level, it's just smart business — but in the back of my mind, I see the information utility of the 21st century forming.

It will resemble the current electric utility in that no single provider will dominate and a high degree of interoperability will be needed. Standards like 120 volt and 60 Hertz electricity are what give us the impression of a continental electric utility grid, but in reality the grid is made up of smaller vendors adhering to the standards.

Likewise, there's no single vendor capable of dominating the information utility market, and standards will be vital. That's why it's so important when a company like Salesforce inks partnerships. These incremental agreements have more significance than the announcements might allude to. They are steps on the road to something bigger.


Denis Pombriant is a well-known CRM industry researcher, strategist, writer and speaker. His new book, You Can't Buy Customer Loyalty, But You Can Earn It, is now available on Amazon. His 2015 book, Solve for the Customer, is also available there. He can be reached at
denis.pombriant@beagleresearch.com.

Original Article

E-Commerce Times

New Service Aims to Ease B2B Tech Purchasing Process

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TechTarget last week launched Deal ScoreCard, a quarterly report designed to help B2B technology executives make better purchasing decisions.

Deal ScoreCard covers 20 technology product market segments across the storage, data center, cloud, and end-user computing enterprise technology markets.

It leverages proprietary buyer-generated data across four categories:

  • Pre- and post-purchase data;
  • Web interest data; and
  • Buyer narratives.

"This content is specifically designed to aid enterprise technology buyers in making real purchase decisions," said Bill Crowley, TechTarget's EVP of data business.

Pre-purchase data is gathered from interviews and surveys with IT buyers after they have confirmed a project in the technology area of the research, such as converged infrastructure, but before they purchase the technology, he told the E-Commerce Times.

Post-purchase data is gleaned from IT buyers after they have bought technology.

For Web interest, Deal ScoreCard shows subscribers the relative interest in categories of users' activity on TechTarget's website and their email activity, Crowley said. It also indicates how the interest trends over quarters, which topics and articles are the most popular during the quarter, and which white paper topics are most popular in email promotions.

Deal ScoreCard reports verbatim quotes from interviews with buyers on major research topic areas for buyer narratives.

Focus on Information

Among Deal ScoreCard's benefits:

  • It shows the ranked importance of different pain points, initiatives and features in buyers' minds before and after purchase, and the relative strengths of a company's products and those of competitors;
  • It lets sales leaders compare their companies to market leaders and the competition, understand what concessions competitors are offering in deal cycles, and get quarterly updates on the data directly relevant to decisions about training, as well as demo and pitch construction;
  • It helps content marketers improve positioning, message development and content by showing them the most important and fastest-growing topics, and by noting which topics their company is relatively strong or weak in; and
  • It gives competitive intelligence teams a more independent, detailed and regular view of market dynamics than available in customized reports by including pre-purchase shortlist insights, along with unbiased win/loss buyer data.

"We've seen a huge shift in both B2B selling behavior and in B2B buyer preferences, the former being driven by the latter," said Joe Andrews, VP of marketing at
InsideView.

Buyers used to "rely very heavily on the knowledge and charm of sellers," he told the E-Commerce Times, but "today [they're] much more informed when they enter the sales conversation and have higher expectations."

TechTarget monitors online behavior across 140 enterprise technology-specific websites it owns, and more than 10,000 topics, TechTarget's Crowley said.

"Since we own the content and can identify active users, we're able to easily monitor visitors' behavior and our over 18 million registered members, and catalog activity against specific topics," he noted. "This is processed and made available to drive our portfolio of data-driven products and reports."

Moving to Real-Time Data – or Not

Businesses increasingly seek real-time business data on which to base their decisions.

"It takes weeks to drive data into product and policy decisions," noted Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

"If you already start a quarter back, by the time you respond to a market change you'll likely be too late to truly benefit from it," he told the E-Commerce Times.

However, TechTarget doesn't publish in real time, "because we need time to do quality control on responses and bring the various types of data into a single report and create a cohesive package," Crowley noted. "We collect data right up to the time we compile the report."

Creating the data is the hard part, he pointed out, but network and processes that the company has put in place over almost 20 years allow it to produce and manage very high-quality data.


Richard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology.
Email Richard.

Original Article