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Chatbots Gaining Altitude
November 15, 2018
How do they really know? That's the question that immediately comes to mind in reviewing the top-level data from Voxpro's recent survey of customers and their relationship with chatbots. The data show that 68 percent of consumers haven't used chatbots to contact a brand. About 1,000 people answered the survey. How reliable is that number, though? I'm not disrespecting Voxpro -- just the opposite.
Above the Funnel No More
November 7, 2018
The conventional sales funnel exceeded its usefulness a long time ago, roughly when the Internet gave us the ability to gather information about vendors, products and services. Without the necessity of contacting a salesperson, individuals and businesses could eliminate the middleman in the information exchange. The result was sales cycle compression and more emphasis on getting a good deal.
Digital Disruption Pathways
November 5, 2018
Digital transformation means a lot of things to different people, but if you do it right it should be virtually unique to your circumstance. The other day I caught up with Rip Gerber, CMO at Vlocity, the Salesforce partner that specializes in vertical industries like telecommunications and insurance. Of digital disruption, Gerber told me, "Nobody changes anything without a strong business case."
How E-Commerce SMBs Can Step Up Sales Engagement
November 1, 2018
"Sales engagement" is not a new concept, but the premise around its application has matured over the last few years. So, what is it? If you want the TL;DR version, it's the process of engaging with new sales opportunities quickly and persistently, with a cadence designed to connect, using multiple channels such as telephone, email, SMS and social media.
Oracle OpenWorld: Margin Lab
October 24, 2018
Markets grow at the margins. This bit of sage advice was given to me at the start of my analyst career, and it has kept me in good nick for nearly two decades. Of course the focus has drifted over time but that's the point: The CRM market has evolved, and the job of an analyst is to make sense of the evolution. Oracle OpenWorld 2018 held in San Francisco this week is a laboratory for the margin.
Turning a Corner in CRM
October 19, 2018
For the last 20 years, CRM has occupied a preeminent niche in enterprise software. It has been the hip, up-and-coming solution in the front office, brimming with innovation and new approaches to some difficult problems. CRM applied basic database technology to a business' chaotic collection of customer data, streamlining business practices and boosting productivity in sales and service.
OpenWorld Preview
October 17, 2018
As of this writing, I haven't been prebriefed on what Oracle will be announcing at OpenWorld regarding CRM -- or as it refers to it, "CX" -- so this is a good time to express my own opinions. Oracle's direction in the last few years increasingly has been toward cloud computing and the autonomous database, and each has several flavors or divisions. The company has three levels of cloud.
For Great Customer Experiences, Design Great Employee Experiences
October 16, 2018
"Customer experience" is the great watchword of 2018 -- and it was a great watchword in 2017 and 2016, too. Eighty-five percent of executives said that CX was important to their companies' strategic priorities, in an Accenture survey. Sixty-two percent of companies viewed CX delivered by contact centers as a competitive differentiator, Deloitte found.
5 Tech Advances That Can Deepen Customer Engagement
October 11, 2018
Customers are crucial to a successful business. They can be one-off customers or repeat buyers. Ideally, a business wants a mix of both. Problems arise when marketing tactics fail to attract either type, which is why customer engagement is so critical in today's hypercompetitive e-commerce environment. It should be no surprise that customers prefer companies that treat them as valued individuals.
The Fine Art of Winning Over Gen Z Consumers
October 9, 2018
From generation to generation, retail has evolved into a global business. Gone are the days of the local corner store. Today's consumers have access to products from across the world with a simple click of a button. Even brick-and-mortar stores are adapting to e-commerce as retailers find innovative ways to incorporate online orders into the storefront to accommodate their shoppers' expectations.
The CRM Oligopoly
October 4, 2018
As markets mature, they trend toward oligopoly or even outright monopoly. There isn't much difference, because an oligopoly has several members instead of just one. Examples include electric power generation, an oligopoly made up of vertically integrated monopolies in most areas, and the airline industry -- an oligopoly made up of many airlines that may have monopolies in regional hubs.
Dreamforce 2018
October 1, 2018
Salesforce has been very good at skating to where the puck will be, to paraphrase the great Wayne Gretzky. As a result, the company has a long line of firsts, beginning with its initial disruption and continuing through its early adoption of social media and analytics. So it's no surprise that it is pursuing some very different issues now than it did almost 20 years ago -- or even five.
5 Reasons the Sales A-Player's Era Is Ending
September 28, 2018
Sales talent for a long time has been broken up into three groups: A-players, B-players and C-players. Everyone loves the A-players -- they're the ones who bring home the bacon, after all. The B-players show promise and, with the right training and motivation, could become A-players. The C-players? Well the less said, the better. This simplistic method of segmenting a sales force has worked for decades, but it dates to a simpler era.
The Best of Both Worlds: Converging Online and Offline Shopping
September 27, 2018
Online and offline shopping businesses have to work together to improve customer engagement and retention. Although some brick-and-mortar stores are suffering revenue loss to online retailers, there is still an important space for them in the shopping experience. By joining forces, brick-and-mortar and online stores can meet the emerging needs of today's customers.
Silo Buster: Salesforce Attacks the Data Sprawl Problem
September 25, 2018
I have never been a big fan of the term "360-degree view of the customer," mostly because you never can have a complete view of your customers. It's simply impossible. Things happen that you don't capture in the data, as CRM guru Paul Greenberg has pointed out. They get divorced, their dog dies, they get a really nice birthday gift. Those things can affect customers' buying behavior.
Oracle's Earnings Angst
September 22, 2018
OK, this is looking somewhat predictable. Oracle reported $9.20 billion in Q1 revenue, or $0.03 per share, against consensus estimates in the $9.24 to $9.29 range. In other words, it missed its number. How concerning is this? Excuse me while I yawn. It's important all right, but no reason to get crazy. Still, some representatives of the widows and orphans who own the stock went into a tizzy.
A Good Storm
September 20, 2018
Dreamforce continues to bear down on the world like a hurricane slowly approaching from across the ocean -- in a good way, if that makes any sense. Salesforce has pumped new products into the market that will serve as the focus of at least part of the discussion. The company recently introduced improvements or whole new products for the SMB market, philanthropy and financial services.
Utopia or Disaster? AI's Transformation of Sales
September 19, 2018
If there's one thing that can be said with certainty about AI in the field of sales, it's this: It's coming. Solutions for sales leaders, account executives and business development reps tout various AI-enabled features and the benefits they offer to sales. Writers breathlessly forecast the loss of millions of jobs due to AI, including the decimation of most professions, sales included.
Salesforce Philanthropy Cloud at Dreamforce
September 13, 2018
At the last Dreamforce, Salesforce introduced a new cloud dedicated to philanthropy, and the company began delivering on a three-part strategy this year. The Salesforce Philanthropy Cloud is a product of what used to be called the "Salesforce Foundation" but now is referred to as "Salesforce.org." The idea is not rocket science. The new cloud is designed to be a meeting place that facilitates interactions between nonprofits and funding sources.
Sign of the Times
September 11, 2018
Well, here's one Dreamforce idea I never heard of. A group of groups opposed to the Trump administration's immigrant detention and separation policies has announced that it will picket Dreamforce. It already has called on speakers attending the event to pull out. A long time ago, a very underfunded Salesforce marketing team tried a similar stunt, disrupting Siebel user group meetings.
Nimble CEO Jon Ferrara: The Beauty of the CRM Beast
September 6, 2018
"The reality of relationships is that people buy from people they like, know and trust," said Nimble CEO Jon Ferrara. "In the old days, before we ever engaged in selling, we made a connection by looking at books, things on the shelves, that kind of thing. Today, we're doing that more and more electronically. Social is the perfect way to know more about somebody, and that's actually your job."
How Retailers Can Use AI to Break the Compensation Equation
September 4, 2018
Nowhere is the customer experience more vital to the long-term success of a business than in retail. This is particularly evident as retailers work to ensure that brick-and-mortar shopping experiences are as seamless and personalized as those offered by their digital counterparts. Nearly 80 percent of Americans are now online shoppers, according to Pew Research Center findings.
Dreamforce Considerations
August 28, 2018
The Salesforce people whom I speak with are all heads down and breathing hard in the big push to Dreamforce. In other words, things are normal for this part of the cycle. The big questions for each show are, "What will the vendor emphasize this time?" and "Will that be a tone set for the industry for the year ahead?" Sometimes the announcements set a tone but not always.
Pulling a Thread
August 25, 2018
There's an emerging theme in sales and marketing that I expect could influence some of the messaging associated with upcoming events like Salesforce's Dreamforce and Oracle's OpenWorld. Each company will have lots to say about security, analytics and machine learning, the IoT, and blockchain, but what's under the radar is the practical application of much of this to marketing and sales.
Oracle's Bad Boy Image
August 21, 2018
No one at Oracle will ever be nominated for sainthood, and that's probably OK with them. Over the years the company has developed a bad boy image that in some cases is richly deserved, while in others it has been embellished by events. Much derives from the brash doings of founder and longtime CEO (now CTO) Larry Ellison, who may be a charter member of the "never explain, never complain" club.
Oracle Confronts Lawsuit on Its Path to the Cloud
August 18, 2018
The City of Sunrise Firefighters' Pension Fund has sued Oracle, alleging that its executives lied about the company's successes in the cloud and engaged in coercion and threats to sell its cloud products, "creating an unsustainable model that fell apart." The plaintiff apparently is seeking class-action status for the suit. Oracle has called the suit meritless and said it would defend against it.
Sugar's New Shot Clock
August 16, 2018
SugarCRM has agreed to acquisition by Accel-KKR, a leading technology-focused private equity firm. Although the announcement calls the deal "a significant investment," what typically happens when private equity moves in is that venture capital moves out. Private equity likes to own everything and thus have greater control. In basketball terms, Sugar just got a big rebound and a new shot clock.
JEDI Mind Games
August 15, 2018
During the same week it was sued by irate investors over progress moving its customer base to the cloud, Oracle protested a procurement process for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure. The lawsuit will take a long time to resolve, and it's difficult to see how the plaintiffs can prove their case -- but in comparison, the Department of Defense's procurement will run at light speed.
5 Strategies for Collecting, Creating and Circulating Customer Testimonials
August 14, 2018
Most of us understand how overwhelming it can be moving to a new city. Surrounded by a host of options for dining, shopping, daycare, leisure time, auto mechanics and everything else under the sun, making an educated decision on where to go involves some groundwork. So what is there to do? Many of us will turn to a new coworker or neighbor for recommendations.
Oracle Releases Second Half of Autonomous DB
August 10, 2018
A lot of people might have thought Oracle's announcement of the autonomous database at last year's OpenWorld and its subsequent release earlier this year were the whole story, but there's a lot more. This week's webcast featuring Larry Ellison was proof. Ellison must find his CTO role -- since he handed the CEO reins to Safra Catz and Mark Hurd -- to be stimulating and liberating at the same time.
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How do you feel about Black Friday/Cyber Monday this year?
I'm excited to find great deals and plan to do some serious shopping on BFCM.
I'll watch for BFCM sales, but I intend to drastically curb my spending this year.
BFCM has become a season -- I no longer feel driven to look for bargains on those specific days.
I plan to have most of my holiday shopping done *before* BFCM.
I detest the holiday sales hype and will avoid shopping on BFCM.