Here are the most memorable personal insights I’ve had as an analyst (so far) and the most impactful lessons I’ve learned during my last four years as a SiriusDecisions analyst. I shared these recently during Microsoft Dynamics’ take on a TED talk on marketing leadership at Convergence 2014 in Atlanta.
AHA #1. Most content assets we produce are like selfies.
My most recent aha moment occurred at the beginning of the school year when my 12-year-old daughter came downstairs all dressed up and stood in the foyer taking picture after picture of herself in the mirror with her phone camera. I was just finishing six weeks of intense research interviewing for a messaging study I was working on, and as I watched her strutting in front of her phone camera, I had an epiphany: The content the B2B marketing factory produces is just like a bunch of selfies. It’s narcissistic – all about us and our products. By the way, last December, Oxford Dictionary named “selfies” the 2013 word of the year.
We estimate that 60 to 70 percent of the content produced by the B2B marketing factory ends up sitting on portal shelves unused. Why? Because we post too many selfies. An oversupply of product-centric content (selfies) is produced today, which means there is a severe lack of the audience-centric content required for inbound programs to enable digital, social, and influencer marketing.
Lesson learned: Product, solution and industry marketers need to embrace a transformation in messaging skills and content processes to enable a shift from content about what we sell – selfies of our offerings – to content that focuses on business issues using vernacular that is meaningful to customers (vs. internal acronyms or product jargon) to fuel the conversations that buyers and sellers need and want to have.
AHA #2. The buyer’s journey is not truly understood.
My second aha moment occurred not long after I started at SiriusDecisions in March 2010. I was sitting in the Friday research review meeting – an intense two-hour meeting where analysts pitch their new research, which is critiqued by peers in an open forum. One piece of research was on the SiriusDecisions customer buying cycle, a six-stage framework that categorizes the stages B2B buyers go through when making a purchasing decision. I recall thinking that when I was doing product marketing, I was intent on filling out the content templates for battlecards, cheat sheets and sales training presentations with my product knowledge, but that it never occurred to me to align content to the stages of the buying process. I remember wishing I could go back to my old job so I could redo much of what I had done using what I was learning about the buying cycle framework.
Lesson learned: Content creators must understand their buyers, down to the most granular level – the buyer persona – including how buyers engage in the buying process and what type of information they need at every stage of their buying process.
AHA #3. There are similarities between the television reality show Survivor and the corporate world.
My third revelation took place about two years ago, while I was catching an episode of Survivor in a hotel room after a client workshop. It dawned on me that the human behaviors and team dynamics that come into play on Survivor look a lot like what happens in corporate culture. Success comes as the result of an ability to influence your personal network, and to earn trust and to choose the right people to trust. While teamwork, survival and business growth stem from collaboration and consensus building, there is also a negative component that is usually referred as politics. Sometimes personal aspirations, the power of persuasion and emotions like fear cloud what’s right for the business. I may sound a bit jaded, but I have been in the corporate world for more than 20 years and have seen a lot.
Lesson learned: It is possible to have a productive, healthy corporate culture that doesn’t resemble the business version of a Survivor tribal council. The key is fact-based decisionmaking. The models we produce for our clients are tools to structure decisions, alignment and processes as quantitatively and objectively as possible, taking the gray area out of roles and responsibilities and the personal influence or natural human bias out of decisions. It’s one of the reasons I love being an analyst – helping people drive business growth and reach success in a productive, intelligent manner is rewarding.