Your Business Operates As Designed

May 9th, 2013 by Matthew Rosenhaft Leave a reply »

A great quote from a long-lost marketing guru who I would love to find again. He basically said that the business operates as you designed; whether consciously or unconsciously. Even better, the design may be from long ago of someone no longer with the company. Worse, someone you fired for their crappy design…

So, you ask what is wrong/broke with our business design today so badly that I MUST fix it now versus a nice-to-have improvement?

  • I don’t care about your solution. I expect you to solve my problem!
  • You have designed our business systems around the evangelism and delivery of solutions, not solving specific buyer problems. Perception is reality. If you have two different companies in similar industries, but different applications and custom projects; do they have the same “generic” problem? Or do they have different PERCEIVED problems?
  • If the customization to your offering, product, solution, or consulting is done “after” the understanding of the aforementioned, you are not actually solving a problem. You are evangelizing your solution and customizing the delivery. Adoption is an afterthought.
  • Adoption is the only thing buyers care about. If you define buyer adoption as “from point of pain to resolution of problem” then they are focused on only that. I don’t care about your solution, I care about solving my problem.
  • If IT projects fail to deliver on the value or derive satisfaction for buyers, why? Adoption, wrong expectations, project scope drift, lack of buy-in? How about failure to solve the underlying problem(s) because of misdiagnosis, treating symptomatic pain, missing underlying additional problems, getting agreement/buy-in to the problem the team will solve, clarity as to definition of success as solving the problem(s).

So, how does this mean our business systems are wrong?

Given the shift from vendor driven to peer influence on the buying process, buyers are taking control of the process. They are demanding problem solving rather than solution evangelism.

Given that 80% of potential buyers in the universe (market) are uneducated and do not connect the dots to your solution. Or in complex transactions, some on the team “get it”, but most don’t. So they do not consider themselves in a particular vendor market to buy a solution or even educated enough to be aware of what solution they need, this means that the traditional structure of markets are not effective to reaching these buyers:

  • Identity – direct marketing assumes some form of identification of who and how to contact. First time, uneducated buyers who have not self-identified are not reachable from direct marketing.
  • Awareness – awareness of the solution category precedes awareness of vendors in the category which precluded many of these buyers who are still in discovery or problem identification.
  • Interest – given complex purchase committees, interest 1 or 2 of the members does not really constitute interest of the company.
  • Response – since many of these buyers do not yet know that they are ready to buy a particular category of solution, response for education does not qualify intent to purchase.
  • Intent to Purchase – at point of communication, chances are the buyer is now engaged with multiple buyers as they usually cannot differentiate solutions based upon available marketing information matched to their particular scenario = set of pains, problems, and requirements. Vendors will not necessarily be given sufficient flexibility to combat misinformation, build trust, or influence the requirements as one of many.

In most functional business organizations, we are focused on different components of the solution evangelism so no one is responsible for ADOPTION from a buyer’s perspective, let alone at a market level. Your systems are designed from the perspective of solution evangelism :

  • Marketing – driving awareness, interest, and differentiation of the solution in the marketplace
  • Business Development – proactively identifying potential opportunities through networking and relationship building with key market/buyer influencers and direct outreach to decision makers.
  • Sales – building a trusted advisor relationship and addressing the buyer’s needs through the decision process

The challenge is that each “stage” of the buyer’s lifecycle is siloed and focused on aiding the transaction. Solution delivery is responsible for delivering the value of the solution. Solving the problem is done throughout the process in stages, but the risk increases with the larger cost of the transaction, complexity of the buyer organizations, complexity of the technology, degree of customization, the complexity of the implementation, the amount of change management to rip and replace an existing solution, etc. Adoption is an after-thought for the vendor, but central to recognizing the value of the solution and critical to solving the problem from a buyers perspective. The amount of complexity increases the odds that the buyer will NOT solve the problem they engaged with the vendor to solve, but rather increases the risk that the vendor will deliver their solution effectively, but will not solve the underlying cause of the problem, but treat the symptomatic pain.

Hence the misalignment with your business systems:

Typical Company Perspective:

  • We need to sell more solutions
  • We need to derive customer satisfaction to get better reputation
  • We need to keep our costs of acquiring new and servicing existing customers as low as possible to derive profitability

80% of  Unqualified Solution Evangelism Recipients = Individuals who may be potential, but not qualified as to defined pain, active in solving pain/problem, or responsible for solving problem:

  • I don’t care about what you are marketing
  • I don’t agree/not sure relevant with the pain that you are articulating
  • I don’t understand what you are selling and cannot connect with one of my top priorities that I need to solve

80% of Likely Buyer Teams working together/researching in marketplace to actively solve pain/problem = Buyer Market Adoption

  • Looking to identify underlying problem(s) that are causing symptomatic pain – diagnose problem to see if superficial (tactical) or deep (strategic)
  • Need to facilitate consensus, decision making, and determine roles/responsibilities to fix
  • Need to define and manage success in solving problem – roadmap, milestones, roles, and expertise

This model was ok for when the market was defined and structured. Most buyers showed up in the usual places and our solution evangelism teams played their roles to get people into the funnel. We got enough through to hit our numbers. Buyers had no real alternative but to engage in the solutioning process because they couldn’t get a diagnosis on their own.

But, this is now and it isn’t working as well. Even perfect, your solution evangelism is only going to reach 20% of the active market because they don’t match your solution to their perceived problem solving. Buyer personas and buyer’s process are generic if not anchored in understanding the buyer’s perspective. Pain is generic if not tangibly anchored in the buyer’s perception of problem. You have to model the differences in adoption across buyers in the market. Start with their understanding and model the process they go about to adopt the technology solution to solve their problems. See the difference, segment the differences, target the differences, and engage the differences based upon their perception of reality. You still need solution evangelism, but you need to develop adoption as a function of your business.

The same way that “quality” was quality control, a back end function that morphed into quality maturity as a business discipline. Quality from start to finish to ensure that quality would become a competitive core competency. Adoption today is a professional services, implementation back-end function, but should become a business discipline to become a competitive core competency tomorrow.

Managing buyer adoption at a market-level as a business core competency is a rare expertise today, but I believe it will become the next frontier for business. Just like the web, ecommerce, digital, quality, mobile, social, etc. I believe this will be the game-changer disruptor for the early adopter companies. Bottom line, you are leaving lots of money on the table with potential buyers who are in pain, but don’t recognize the need for your solution. Plus, you are working twice as hard to stay in place with the people who are aware of the solution. Why?

Why not build an adoption focus for your business? No brainer, must-have to fix a broken system.

Matthew Rosenhaft

Matthew is a Social Marketing Executive and is co-founder of Social Gastronomy, LLC and the Social Executive Council. Prior to founding Social Gastronomy, Matthew has over 18 years’ experience as an executive in marketing, product management, and sales. Matthew has an extensive background in the SaaS Software, Social Media, Mobile, IT Services, and Telecom industries. He has prior entrepreneurial experience as a founder and executive in several early-stage venture-backed technology companies, as well as, holds several US patents for a mobile marketing technology. Matthew is a prominent blogger and regular industry speaker on social marketing and strategy topics. Matthew’s blog can be found at www.socialgastronomy.com/blog. For more information on Matthew, you can check out his LinkedIn profile at www.linkedin.com/in/rosenhaft or contact him directly at mrosenhaft@socialgastronomy.com.