My Thoughts on All About The Cloud

For those who missed it, a brief recap of the cloud marketing panel this morning at All About the Cloud – I joined Marketo CEO Phil Fernandez, Joe Payne, CEO of Eloqua, and Appirio CMO Narinder Singh, for a discussion about how (and why) new cloud-based technologies and services aren’t just re-inventing  old-school marketing processes to optimize sales growth, but opening up a fast-growing business category – revenue performance management, or RPM.  Jigsaw founder Jim Fowler sat in as moderator.

(Brief aside: Fowler opened by throwing a curveball at each panelist — asking each to share a haiku that best captured their vision of cloud-powered business. Outflanked by executives of competing cloud-marketing companies, I defended the sales-side perspective: Salespeople know best, It’s about the quality, Not the quantity.)

So just what is RPM and what is its potential? Payne, Fernandez, and Singh, not surprisingly, shared the bullish long view. “It really works,” Payne explained. “Companies adopting RPM are winning their markets. And you’re not doing this, you can bet that your competitors are.”

I had one caveat: For RPM services to live up to billing, they need to better integrate sales teams and processes and avoid tilting towards the marketing sides of any organization. “Sales and marketing are far from being aligned in RPM. One of the worries I have is that while marketeers love intellectual things and data, most of our B2B revenue comes through our sales team. It’s easy for marketing people to get excited about things like lead scoring and other things without ever forcing themselves to talk to salespeople. So [RPM] really does have to be not just a marketing thing. More technology coming from the marketing side has the potential of distracting from the sales side.”

So what should traditional companies be doing to optimize revenue streams using some of the new tools? Fernandez went first: “Realize that the world has changed. You need to start to see the world through the eyes of your buyer – not your vendor – and your buyer doesn’t care about the cloud. They only care about a great customer experience.”

I followed up with “We talk too much about systems and data. The key thing is, buyers have changed their behavior. Are they picking up the phone for more cold calls and emails? No. You have to focus on what you’re doing to engage buyers in a relevant conversation. Give up the idea that you’re going to succeed with more calls and email blasts – it won’t work. Coversion rates will go down and down. Engage your prospects, earn the right to have that conversation. There has to be a shift here – and a realization that the old ways aren’t going to allow you to be successful.”

Last, the panel shared predictions about how the business models in this nascent category will likely evolve – I am seeing more freemium-based services having a clearer path to growth. “Pricing is changing”. “More freemium models will emerge. People expect to try and experience with stuff for free before they make a big financial commitment, and services with models like Box.net and Yammer I think will go forward. We should all think about what that means for us.”

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