But what type of relationship?

Most B2B marketing teams spend an awful lot of their time implementing some sort of Customer Relationship Management Programme (CRM) looking to sell more to their customers and for longer. Some of them are incredibly simple while others are very sophisticated based on expensive platforms costings millions.

But here is the issue, very few of them take time to consider what type of relationship they should actually be having with their customers, the presumption is often the closer you are to your customers the better it is. However that simply isn’t the case. If you invited your new neighbours around for dinner, that would probably be considered pretty normal, if you invited them round to share your new hot tub, that might be too much too soon. Closer isn’t always better.

 The Harvard Business Review examined this issue recently and suggested customers wanted very different relationships with companies depending on a wide range of factors and looked at a set of 6 basic customer expectations:

  • ·         Basic Exchange
  • ·         Business partners
  • ·         Fling
  • ·         Best Friends
  • ·         Buddies
  • ·         Master-Slave

Essentially CRM programmes organised around a clearly researched and segmented set of customer needs and expectations proves much more successful than a programme that looks to achieve ever closer ties with every customer.  Possibly this is the most appropriate starting point for CRM planning rather than “which platform are we going to sit it on?”


Buying IT is changing for ever

At CMFG, we’re currently witnessing with a number of our clients, a fundamental shift in how IT is bought and sold. Previously IT has always followed the traditional sales process for bespoke solutions often costing millions, with long consideration and shortlisting times and then complex formal tender processes to select the final supplier. On the supply side, the solution was normally bespoke to the prospective client’s specific specifications and required considerable development before it was ready (if it was ever completely ready!)

But Government procurement in particular has started to change all that. No longer do organisations look for bespoke solutions that they will have to pay to be developed and no longer are project implementation times measured in months or even years.  Customers now demand proven, off the shelf, ready to run modular solutions that they can implement in weeks rather than months.  

Initiatives such as Government’s G-Cloud led the way in the UK delivering significant procurement savings and a major reduction in project cost over runs and implementation delays. The rapid advent of Cloud computing is now bringing the off the shelf modular model in reach of not just major multi-nationals organisations but also SMEs where the cost reduction and agility can be crucial factors. Are IT companies ready for this seismic shift?


Death of a salesman

Victoria Clarke in a recent B2B Magazine article asked the question does digitalisation and marketing automation spell the end of the traditional sales role. . It is increasingly the norm for the B2C sector but an immediate reaction is that it will be different for B2B. But will it?

With smaller ticket B2B items the shift has already occurred some years ago, you may not have noticed it but in revolutionised the sales team set up for businesses such as stationery suppliers. Now there is very real evidence that it is occurring for major ticket items such as IT as well. Let’s look at Government IT procurement where contracts can be measured in hundreds of millions. More and more Government IT procurement is taking place through the G-Cloud, an online market place with a single framework agreement.

Rather than a single supplier creating a bespoke solution that takes months if not years to implement, Government now buys off the shelf already proven packages from multiple vendors to build their solution in weeks – without a sales person in site. In such scenarios this means an increasingly important role for marketing with a shift in the ongoing client responsibility from the sales team to the key account management team.

So the real question isn’t is the sales team role changing in B2B, but just how quickly and how far it will change.


Google top 10s for 2013

2013 has been an odd year. It started with economic disaster forecasted by many, but has ended more upbeat than almost any of us expected. But for a real snapshot of 2013, there is no better place to look than Google's "Top 10 searches of 2013" summary. People, film, travel destinations, its all there but CMFG's favourite for putting your finger on the zeitgeist is the "What is..." Top 10. In 2013 it looked like this:

  1. What is twerking?
  2. What is my IP?
  3. What is yolo?
  4. What is a prime number
  5. What is illuminati?
  6. What is my car worth?
  7. What is spooning?
  8. What is global warming?
  9. What is Zumba?
  10. What is the meaning of life?

From the temporary to the timeless, something for everyone. CMFG wishes all its partners and clients a very happy Christmas.


The recession had ended!

WPP until recently the world's largest agency group (and almost certainly to overtake the recent Omnicom - Publicis merged entity once the client fall-out is complete) announced a 19% increase in first half year profits. Profits increase of that scale imply a genuine and sustained uplift in marketing spend, not just in the UK but globally. Marketing services are normally the first budget to be ciut and the first to return, so can we now cofidently say we have passed the worst of the recession. Talking to CMFG's clients it certainly seems that way.