Friday, February 22, 2019

Competing in the Experience Economy

By Yousuf Khan, CIO and Customer Success and Start-up Advisor
Over the last few years, the level of innovation that has transformed every industry has resulted in companies questioning their strategies – not just for growth but in some cases for survival in industries they took for granted. If there is one question that companies have to ask themselves it has to be, “what are we competing against?” The answer is no longer a matter of pointing to a better feature in a competing product. A company’s brand value represents not just their product, but how it is made.
Similarly, a company’s hiring objective is no longer just about how many people they can hire, but the culture they build. In enterprise software, it’s no longer just about supporting customers, it’s about customer success. It’s not about what happens after you buy a product but the entire process around buying, using, and then deriving the value you expected, whether it’s a car or enterprise software.
All of these points have a common thread. They form part of the entire experience that a customer goes through, whether it’s enterprise software or consumer goods. Companies are now competing in what I refer to as the Experience Economy.
Quickening Pace
The pace of innovation we have seen over the last few years continues unabated. There’s a very good reason for this: It’s never been easier to build a product, to distribute it, and suddenly finding yourself competing against industry leaders.
For example, the financial services industry has gone through what one leading strategist explained to me as “compressive innovation.” The fintech industry continues to grow not because it is any less regulated but because of the compelling new experiences it provides – from mobile-app banking to electronic payments and wealth management – stealing customers from larger financial institutions in the process.
The same can be said for newly built experiences that are transforming industries such as healthcare (higher quality and faster diagnosis), industrial machinery (driven by sensors), and of course enterprise infrastructure and software.
Examples of the Experience Economy are all around us. Look at how people buy shoes, for instance. They’re no longer just walking into stores and trying on shoes. Now you can go online and customize products to your exact tastes, and have it delivered in a few days. After you receive it, you can expect to be connected to a mobile app that gives you a recommended fitness regime to match your new pair of shoes. Now that’s a whole different type of shoe-buying and wearing experience. In the same way, Levi’s has transformed buying jeans into one that offers a universe of customized, personalized denim.
Global Trend
All of this is becoming a global trend because the cost of building software continues to drop with the help of cloud platforms available to all of us. The use of cash and card is becoming obsolete in countries from China to Kenya as people move to mobile payments as the standard.  There are more sensors being put into cars and factories than ever before, triggering actions that optimize production -- and support customers better.
Customer experiences matter more than ever – and they are changing radically across the world because consumer expectations have become ridiculously high. This is not just about being more vocal about our experiences, but about having more choices. Today, our actions in switching to other products are continually amplified.
In order to compete in the Experience Economy, companies need to ensure that the entire customer experience resonates. They need to reimagine customer experiences that are fresh and meaningful, not just a little better.
Retooling for Success
Companies need to think about the tooling and operating platforms they’ll need to build for their companies -- something CIOs have a huge opportunity to deliver on. More than ever, companies have the power to measure customer experience and change it based on data. CIOs are being called upon to make experiences more enriching for both customers and employees alike.
Over the years, I’ve engaged with all kinds of companies in buying everything from marketing and sales productivity tools to cyber security solutions. I’ve learned that the experience is not just about how you buy the product, but about the team behind it. It’s about the company’s vision – and how much value it is driving.  
From my standpoint, companies that focus on building amazing experiences are the ones that will thrive over the long term. They’re the ones that only build great products but also make the experience of buying, implementing and delivering value truly exceptional. Enterprise IT companies need to ask themselves what a successful customer experience really looks like. That will require companies need to get into the minds of their customers and get their hands on realistic and actionable data.
It’s no surprise that companies in the enterprise IT space are waking up to the Experience Economy, with mindsets changing from just “deploying a solution” to “ensuring and measuring success.” In the process, the success bar is getting raised ever higher. It’s no longer just about retaining customers. It’s about inspiring customers to advocate for you, to champion your cause, and even to help build your product roadmap. Any company can provide training to your customers about your product, but wouldn’t you rather focus on enabling them to partner with you?
Of course, all of this is probably old news to many of you. But for the first time, I think we have available to us not only the computing power but the necessary intellect, imagination and data to build truly exceptional customer experiences. It’s an opportunity that we should embrace, knowing that it will be the cornerstone of how companies will compete and win in the future.
Is your company building and delivering great customer experiences? As always, I’d love to hear from you.
Yousuf Khan

Monday, February 11, 2019

They Don’t Believe Your Business Case? That’s a Good Thing.

By Richard Hamje, Senior Strategy Consultant, Mainstay
The first step in the sales process typically begins when you introduce your solution to the prospect. During that introduction, you might also provide an estimate of the business value you should be able to deliver. But since you’re producing the estimate without knowing the details of your prospect’s situation, he or she will likely be skeptical of the promised benefits.
This is a good thing!
Objections are actually great opportunities for engaging your prospects – because now you can offer to work with them to refine the business case and help them gain greater confidence in your solution.
Of course, a good business case requires a lot of data – such as device counts, maintenance bills, project plans – that only the prospect will know. So how do you work with your prospect to dig up these facts and build a winning business case?
There are basically two modes of collaboration -- asynchronous and synchronous – and the best approach is usually determined by the availability of the parties involved, and your deadline.
Asynchronous collaboration
Since asynchronous collaboration doesn’t happen in real time, it’s often the best way to work together when you and your prospects have trouble finding mutually open time slots; when you're separated by long distances and time zones; or when there is just too much data – from too many sources – that you need to pull together.
There are two effective ways to work together asynchronously:
  • Questionnaires. Sending a list of questions to your prospect is a simple way to collect the information you need to build your business case. It’s a good idea to add some context to a questionnaire, such as hints on where to find the requested data or methods for estimating unknown data. Your prospects can respond at their own pace, providing individual data points as they become available, or waiting until they’ve compiled the full set.
  • Tool sharing. Web-based business case tools are a fast and efficient way to collect and share data points. Your prospects can just submit the information online and their responses are captured and logged automatically.

Questionnaires might take a little extra work because you need to track and remind your prospect, log their responses, and transpose them into your spreadsheet or other business case tool. Tool Sharing does all of this automatically. Either approach, however, will minimize the need for in-person meetings and it gives your prospects enough time to track down data within the organization. The downside is that it often takes longer and requires regular reminders to get all the data assembled.
Synchronous collaboration
This form of collaboration happens concurrently, in real time. Obviously both parties must be available at the same time and focused on gathering data. The prospect needs to have most of the data points at his or her fingertips – or at least be able to bring all the data holders together for the meeting.
There are basically two way to collaborate synchronously:
  • In-person. If proximity permits, meeting in person with your prospect is the best approach. Not only can you enter the data points directly, you will be building rapport with the prospect and may be in a better position to detect sensitivities.
  • Online meeting. If proximity (or time zones) are an issue, online meetings are a good alternative. If you have a high-quality video conferencing capability, you’ll still be able to build rapport this way.

As you might imagine, the challenge with synchronous collaboration is getting everything set up. Multiple meetings may be needed, compounding the difficulty.
Regardless of the type of collaboration method you use, it’s important to document everything carefully. When you later present your business case, you may be asked to validate the numbers. Records showing who provided the input values, and when, will help prove your case. Again, tool sharing provides these records for you without extra effort – the other methods will requires that you keep manual notes.
Whether you collaborate synchronously or asynchronously, when you base your business case on numbers provided by your prospect, it has an excellent chance of being accepted. For a significant opportunity, it’s well worth your effort to engage your prospect directly in the process.
Looking to build a compelling business case for your prospects? We’d love to hear from you. For more information, visit or email