The New Wrinkles

We’re coming back. We aren’t out of the proverbial woods, but we should be on the upswing from the long downturn. According the Labor Department, the U.S. economy added 103,000 jobs in December, bringing the unemployment rate down to 9.4 percent. Jobs are traditionally a lagging indicator, so even better.

Most importantly, this was not a one-time event. October and November each showed upticks in employment, and the revisions announced at the same time as the December numbers paint a story of improving jobs growth through the fourth quarter. The revisions looked like this: October — from +172,000 jobs to +210,000; for November — +71,000 from +39,000.

So that’s all good, and you have probably digested this news and moved on wondering when it will effect you. Fair question. Coming out of recessions, we always seem to find a new wrinkle to make us just a bit more efficient at our jobs. People get re-hired, but the jobs they are hired for are not quite the same as the jobs they left.

In the Front Office

I see a lot of this in the front office. I have been speaking with expert in various front-office disciplines recently, and they’ve given me some things to think about. In sales, for instance, Anneke Seley, coauthor of Sales 2.0, tells me that her clients are moving to Web and phone strategies.

Phone and Web might not be right for everyone, but it fits many cases for some important reasons. Prices have taken a beating in the recession, which means that vendors have smaller margins to work with, so anything a vendor can do to reduce overhead is worth a try. Reducing the field sales effort — if and only if it can be done without damaging the revenue stream — is a great way to save on overhead.

This does not mean giving up on field selling; it simply means doing a little less by judiciously picking your spots and supplementing with a combination of automation (social networking, analytics) and different job types. And that is why I say people get re-hired but the jobs they are hired for are not quite the same as the jobs they left. If you are in selling, you might find yourself doing more phone work and online demos before you meet the customer in person. If you are a sales manager, maybe you are thinking of adding inside people rather than field people.

If you are really thinking strategically, you are looking for better ways to identify the people you want to spend time with regardless of whether it’s on the phone or at a conference room table. In this vein, I was blown away by one statistic from Eloqua recently. According to the Eloqua Benchmark Report of its customers, users reported being able to reduce the size of their campaigns an average of 41 percent without sacrificing leads simply by using their automation.

Now, automation can only do so much, and the point of automation is that it imparts a new and, hopefully, better way to do something — a method. The results Eloqua cites are methodological, so my point is that similar results are within the grasp of anyone employing the right combination of social technologies and analytics. This takes nothing away from Eloqua, which had the sense, the right combination of products and the customer base to perform the analysis. Good for them.

Video Libraries

Another statistic that impresses me, which I pass on for your benefit and possibly amazement, comes from a Salesforce video on how to use online video for B2B marketing and sales.

According to Salesforce, the company receives more than 7,500 hits per day on their video library. By their math, if the average view lasts two minutes, it’s like having an extra 46 “hyper-efficient” reps on the phone. Holy #%*& Batman, that’s a lot of reps!

Now, the fine print here is that Salesforce has been building its video library for several years and today has a stash of over 1,500 of them online. They seem to add several per day lately, and I don’t know how they do it. There’s no reason you can’t start today to invest in a video library too, though it might require slightly different skill sets than you have in a marketing department focused on events, PR and brochures. Seems like the mantra plays out again, people may get re-hired, but the jobs they are hired for are not quite the same as the jobs they left.

What impresses me is that the Salesforce video in question appears to be a primer for anyone who wants to check it out — customers, partners, competitors, it doesn’t seem to matter. That’s a sure sign that change is afoot. We aren’t marketing or selling quite the way we did before and, as usual, the first to pick up on this are the ones that will benefit most.

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 the author of Hello, Ladies! Dispatches from the Social CRM Frontier and can be reached at [email protected].

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