Resolutions for 2008

There is a big difference between a forecast and a resolution, and the former is easier to make than the latter.

New Year’s resolutions require, well, resolve — the mental toughness to see the matter through while a forecast is merely something made by pundits from Olympian heights. The forecaster can walk away from the forecast, but the resolution maker owns the resolution and its outcome.

At any rate, since I have already made a forecast for 2008, I thought it would be fun to make some resolutions too. I didn’t want to bore you so I concentrated on resolutions that we could all consider.

Blog On

First, start a blog. This is especially aimed at people who have “chief” in their titles — like chief executives. It’s not that chiefs don’t have enough on the old plate already, they do, but I am not advocating simple busy work either. CEOs personify their companies, and they are, or at least should be, the chief exponents for their products and the benefits their products deliver.

The CEO is or should be the chief thought leader in the organization — the person who can most knowledgeably speak about the big picture benefits that his or her organization can deliver to customers.

Perhaps that’s why so many CEOs are so good at helping their sales teams in the later stages of deal closing. CEOs have enormous credibility, especially when speaking directly with their peers. So, the only question is why wait until the 11th hour to insert the CEO into the sales process? A blog is a great way to make the CEO’s thought leadership available to everyone.

Over the last few years I have seen some amazingly effective blogs fronted by CEOs and one of the most successful is written by Chuck Schaeffer, CEO of Aplicor. Chuck started his blog a few years ago never intending it to be more than his way of communicating with a limited audience of customers and prospective customers, and he’s done quite well with it.

Last month, Chuck’s blog was named to a prestigious top 20 blog list. Aplicor is doing very well in the competitive CRM world, and I’d say the blog is having the right effect.

Make Room for Marketing

Next, I think we all need to pay close attention to marketing this year. Given the success of last September’s first annual Sales 2.0 conference, it would be reasonable to think that this would be the year of sales, but I think not. Sales 2.0 looks a lot like marketing’s coming of age and much of the Sales 2.0 agenda seems to involve incorporating marketing tools and techniques.

So what can you do?

Resolve to pay close attention to the marketing process. You know, the objective is no longer to generate a big pile of suspects that your sales people can summarily reject; the objective is to generate a short stack of real actionable leads. It all starts with learning how to ruthlessly qualify out rather than promoting warmed over names that don’t have any business wasting your sales people’s time.

What it all boils down to is stringing together databases and tools that attract, nurture and promote leads in your unique company-wide process. If you are still living and dying by a single tool, such as e-mail marketing alone, branch out and include landing pages, microsites, portals and analytics. If you are a marketer, you probably already understand the importance of involving sales in defining the process and the expected output, and if you are in sales you might need to admit that those people in marketing might be able to help you do your job better. It ought to be a win-win, so get on with it.

Add a Dash of Social Networking

Mixed in with all this marketing is the idea of social networking. I would resolve to learn more concretely about what social networking concepts apply to marketing, sales and CRM generally. Social networking has an unfortunate association with dating, job seeking and Kevin Bacon, but there’s more to it than that. It’s worth making sure you have a working knowledge of it so that you can apply those parts that make sense to your business.

Along similar lines, learn the difference between single- and multi-tenant architectures if you don’t know already. Neither is right for all occasions, but multi-tenant is going to be more right more often than not.

There are an increasing number of conventional applications being repackaged as “on-demand” but in some cases the repackaging simply moves the computer room from your building to the vendor’s without dealing with the harder issues of rapid serial deployment, low cost and ubiquity. Know what you’re getting into.

Finally, I’d say, whatever your responsibilities — especially where CRM is concerned — remember to focus on your role as a professional practice rather than a job. In a practice, you take nothing for granted and every situation is an opportunity for learning and innovating. We’ve all gotten this far through learning and innovation, and there’s no reason to stop now.

Good luck in 2008!

Denis Pombriant is the managing principal of the Beagle Research Group, a CRM market research firm and consultancy. Pombriant’s research concentrates on evolving product ideas and emerging companies in the sales, marketing and call center disciplines. His research is freely distributed through a blog and Web site. He is working on a book and can be reached at [email protected].

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