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5 Step Plan To Thought Leadership

Defining thought leadership is one thing, contextualizing this elusive ambition and successfully achieving thought leadership recognition and benefits are quite another.

Thought leaders lead with their thoughts. To garner attention and credibility, their thoughts are original or innovative, or at least demonstrate evolutionary thinking. The power of thought leadership lies in the engagement and reaction of target audiences. Participants view thought leaders as innovative, refreshing and filling a void in their lives in a way nobody else does. They respect and reward thought leaders with their praise, referrals, loyalty and purchase power. Thought leaders trump their competitors by shifting from product to user experience, from company to personal aspiration and from price to customer value and ironically, most competitors never see it coming until it's too late.

It's also important to recognize that thought leadership is a business strategy which seeks to be different, rather than better. Being different is a more sustainable strategy and provides customers with unique value they cannot get elsewhere. Here is the 5 step plan to achieve thought leadership position. More ...

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Creating Real Competitive Advantages

Creating, messaging, positioning and promoting real competitive advantages is a difficult undertaking successfully performed by few organizations. While the upside is universally appreciated, the task itself is generally underestimated and few marketers and brand managers successfully develop competitive advantages which directly contribute to their organizations sustained advancement.

With increased global competition, the introduction of new delivery models (such as software as a service), new technology plays (such as open source), and the rapid commoditization of technology solutions, enterprises must provide their prospects and customers with clear and convincing reasons to buy from them.

The Challenge

When crafting competitive advantages, the goal is to create clear, relevant, measurable and unique competitive advantages that answer the question “Why should I do business with your company and not your competitor?” Most companies fail to provide real competitive advantages for one of the four following reasons:

  1. They do not have any competitive advantages, fail to acquire them over time and instead revert to more tactical comparison points or positioning statements. These companies employ the short term tactics of sales gimmickry and the power of persuasion before ultimately reverting to price as their competitive advantage, thereby (often unknowingly) relegating themselves to a commodity status. These organizations often fail to realize (until it is too late) that without a competitive advantage, price becomes your only differentiator, and unless you’re Wall-Mart, results in an unsustainable business model.

  2. They think they have competitive advantages but they really do not. These are often companies which provide vague, ambiguous or imprecise generalizations. Most of the time, if you ask different executives in the company for their competitive advantages, you will receive different responses.

  3. They mistake strengths for competitive advantages. Competitive advantages are not subjective or broadly claimed. Customers normally do not buy from technology suppliers because of Boy Scout traits. For example, while the below strengths are admirable, they are not competitive advantages:

    • Great customer service – who doesn’t claims this?
    • Quality products – while quality is a loosely defined term, what company is not going to make this claim?
    • A trusted partner – this phrase is so overused that it is not believable and can actually invoke cynicism.

    Claims of strength such as those cited above are so broad, ambiguous and unsupportive that they are often viewed as boastful and normally tuned out by buyers.

  4. They have competitive advantages but don’t consistently message them, position them or proactively leverage them (and instead revert to price and perceived relationship skills to secure new business). In this scenario, when asking 10 staff why the company should be selected, they give 10 different responses – and none of them match the CEOs response.

Failure to achieve competitive advantage over time will unquestionably fail the business. As Jack Welch quotes, “If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.” More ...

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Sponsoring Communities To Promote Thought Leadership

Sponsoring or facilitating user forums and online communities can offer an outstanding method to promote thought leadership. Thought leaders at both major consumer brands and entrepreneurial start-ups are implementing interactive online communities in order to acquire customer insight, grow customer advocacy and support business development objectives.

Online communities offer diverse but strategic benefits. Some thought leaders, like pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, leverage online communities as standing focus groups while others, like Hitachi Data Systems, use them to deliver customer support. Chip maker Intel uses an online community to gather technical feedback for contribution to its next-generation technologies and online broker TradeKing has successfully engaged communities to acquire new clients and expand its brand, resulting in increased revenue growth. More ...

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The CEO's Guide to Social Media | 5 Steps to Align Social Media to Your Business Objectives

Too many CEOs sit on the social media sideline because they lack the understanding in how to align and leverage social media with their existing business objectives. Even within progressive enterprises, more Web 2.0 initiatives are launched from the lunch room than the board room. Each social media constituency has its own goals and when CEOs attempt to extrapolate their existing objectives of increasing revenues, decreasing costs or reducing risk with new social media tools and technologies operated by Gen Y or other stakeholders for different purposes they encounter a divide which often rebuffs social media as out of tune with the company’s most strategic objectives. However, this all too common experience is analogous to putting the cart before the horse and reinforces the need to start with strategy and objectives and then seek out the supporting tools and technologies.

To craft your own business strategy to social media alignment consider the below five step approach. More ...

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Three Steps to Recruiting Success

Most organizations look at recruiting as a departmental function managed by HR. However, while important to all types of companies, successful recruiting is absolutely mission critical for software technology companies which achieve business success through the creation, distribution and support of intellectual property.

As CEO of three software technology companies over the last 16 years, I’ve recruited, interviewed, hired and fired plenty of staff while simultaneously trying to learn from the experiences and understand how to do it better. I’ve compared notes with dozens of other CEOs, many of whom believe that you create a systemic process to weed out the initial layer, but at the end of the day it’s a crap shoot. While plenty of recruiting experts suggest that the recruiting process is more art than science, it’s been my experience that there are plenty of lessons learned which collectively add science and predictability to the process.

I’ve found that by insisting that recruiting be a company core competency (and not a departmental HR function) and evaluating candidates by comparing them to the characteristics of over-achievers and the behaviors cited by the legendary Jack Welch, you can dramatically improve your ability to hire and retain great talent. Here’s the process that works for me. More ...

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Top 10 IT Buyer Information Sources

June 1, 2009 The Internet has become the go to resource for IT buyers who wish to survey the market, educate themselves and ultimately develop a short list of IT solutions for purchase consideration. In many ways, the Web has replaced consultants, sales people, trade shows and industry events as the initial discovery step when commencing an IT procurement project. In fact, even when IT buyers learn of technology solutions offline, they generally perform an online search in order to learn more. This IT buyer shift in the sourcing of information presents proactive IT suppliers with an effective approach to leverage online channels to reach IT buyers.

Vantive Media subscribes to third party research and performs recurring proprietary survey analysis to understand the channels, methods, messages and content considered most useful by IT buyers. Survey questions are designed to understand where IT buyers get their information and how they value that information. Information source composite scores are equal to a blended average of survey ratings in the categories of information relevance, credibility (trust) and authoritative value. The 2009 IT Buyer most valued information sources are illustrated below.

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 CRM Products Top 10 IT Buyer Most Valued Initial Discovery Sources
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2009 IT Buyer Rating
1. Third Party Technology Focused Web Sites
4.4
2. IT Trade Magazine
4.1
3. Business and Management Magazines
4.0
4. Social Media including Blogs and Wikis
3.9
5. Third Party Broad Based Web Sites
3.85
6. Social Networks (such as Forums, FaceBook and LinkedIn)
3.75
7. Vendor Web Sites
2.9
8. Analyst Web Sites
2.2
9. Webinars and Virtual Trade Shows
1.4
10. Twitter
1.25
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To achieve a more qualitative analysis, key findings for each information source are aggregated and highlighted in the following paragraphs. More ...

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Apps.gov | Step 1 to Government Cloud Computing a Reality

With the release of Apps.gov, the GSA and federal CIO Vivek Kundra have demonstrated their undeniable intent to promote both increased utilization and accelerated procurement for cloud computing applications. Apps.gov, which launched September 15, looks like a B2C storefront for the procurement of turnkey cloud computing services. The e-commerce portal delivers shopping cart functionality and a streamlined click-to-order process for business systems, productivity applications, social media tools and cloud-based IT services.

In an effort to clearly set expectations, cloud computing chief evangelist Vivek Kundra suggested that apps.gov was built on top of GSA Schedule 70 in order to accelerate go-live and comply with federal procurement policy. Apps.gov is managed by GSA CIO Casey Coleman. According to Coleman, apps.gov “is not the final solution … It’s the beginning of the final solution.” To date, no contracts have yet been issued on apps.gov, however, software technology and cloud computing vendors were in large part caught off guard with the sudden web site release and are now scrambling to get their software as a service (SaaS) solutions listed on what is to become the most touted cloud computing storefront. More ...

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What's Next in the CRM Evolution?

The now universally understood term of CRM has been around since 1994, however, the business concept of knowing and accommodating your customers has been around since the start of commerce. Customer relationship management as a business strategy supported by CRM software is clearly advancing at an increased pace. New delivery options (software as a service), pricing models (subscription pricing), technology plays (open source) and industry shifts (social media) are advancing CRM solutions in a way that was unimaginable to most only ten years ago.

So what’s next in the CRM evolution? Of course the industry will consolidate, new software capabilities (such as mobile CRM and business process automation) will advance, new technologies will emerge and existing products will mature into requirements-driven customer segmentation models. However, these facets occur in all information technology segments and are hardly thought inspiring or interestingly predictive. I’ll use this post to forecast some of the more meaningful CRM industry advancements. More ...

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What's Next in the ERP Evolution?

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software applications have long been regarded as unexciting albeit mission critical business systems which permit organizations to perform their daily processing. Their mission and delivery have largely stood steadfast with incremental advancements providing a slow but steady evolution. In this post, we look at several innovations which offer the potential to accelerate ERP software advancements beyond the pace of prior years. The most compelling advancements from the current market of ERP applications include: More ...

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Cloud Computing Market Confusion

Cloud computing has become one of the most frequently cited and infrequently understood new technology terms pitched to IT buyers, analysts, media, industry observers and the public at large. Despite the term’s pervasiveness in trade magazines, event key notes, marketing collaterals and vendor web sites, cloud computing lacks a consensus definition or even a loosely shared understanding among IT buyers and business decision makers. In fact, even some of Silicon Valley’s most famous IT visionaries seem to be at a loss.

"I have no idea what anyone is talking about," replied Oracle’s CEO Larry Ellison when talking about cloud computing at a financial analyst conference in September 2008. "It's really just complete gibberish. What is it?" Ellison went on with his rant, "When is this idiocy going to stop?"

2009 survey research by Version One revealed that two-thirds of senior business executives and 41% of senior IT professionals admit that they "don’t know" what cloud computing is. Of the remaining 59% of IT managers who profess to know what cloud computing is, 17% characterize cloud computing to be internet-based delivery while 11% believe it is a combination of internet-based computing, software as a service, on-demand software, outsourced or managed service and a hosted software service. The remaining respondents understand cloud computing to be a mixture of each of the elements.

Much of the confusion stems from the tech industry’s fascination with buzzwords and jargon – or in this case, the desire to leverage a softer, friendlier term than the all too typical techno-babel or TLA (three letter acronym). In fact, from the media and marketing perspectives, cloud computing is a phrase which suggests a vision, destination and general understanding that data processing and storage leverage the ubiquitous and limitless scale of the Internet and are ultimately housed in an almost make believe place only known as ‘the cloud’. Notwithstanding the need for clarity, cloud computing is a more approachable, more conceptual, near self evident and non-threatening term when compared to predecessor terms such as Application Service Provider (ASP), Utility Service Provider, On-Demand Application Delivery or even Software as a Service (SaaS) (or the continual run on of SaaS deviations such as Platform as a Service (PaaS) and others). More ...

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The Dynamic Duo of SaaS and Green IT

The convergence of software as a service (SaaS) and Green IT are creating a symbiotic relationship whereby the market adoption of each new technology contributes to an increased value proposition and accelerated advancement of both technologies. The most cited benefits of SaaS include the elimination of up front capital expenditures, lower total cost of ownership and outsourcing non-core competencies such as IT maintenance and administration to a centralized data center operator. This last benefit provides enormous value to the Green IT movement which seeks to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions.

The SaaS model delivers a twofold combination to carbon dioxide emission reductions. The first benefit is from the economies of scale gained from centralized processing and a shared services computing model. Instead of hundreds or thousands of customers individually operating thousands of servers and the power hungry facilities to sustain those servers, the SaaS multi-tenant model centralizes and shares data center operations to use far less equipment and a small fraction of the facility costs. When you realize that the supporting facility costs for single tenant data centers generally outweigh the emissions production of the servers and related computer equipment which they house you get an idea of the mass efficiencies gained with SaaS. The bottom line is that one centralized data center is dramatically more energy efficient than hundreds or thousands of single tenant data centers. A recent McKinsey data center research report demonstrated that for many companies, server utilization is often 5% to 10% and can be as little as 3%. SaaS providers are forced to maximize much higher server utilization in order to achieve economies that support their business models.

The second SaaS-related benefit to carbon dioxide emission reduction is derived from SaaS providers taking a leading role in their commitment to decrease energy consumption and increase their cost savings. With high data center utilization and equipment density, SaaS providers more routinely recognize and take advantage of energy-efficient equipment, server refresh cycles and energy savings best practices.

For cloud computing and SaaS companies, efficient data center operations is their core competency. SaaS providers are in the full-time data center business and as a matter of practice exercise thoughtful decision making and a desire for improved power consumption, cooling efficiency and equipment density in order to achieve both material paybacks and big gains for the environment.

With increased Green technology momentum, the SaaS value proposition which has historically touted savings in up front costs for hardware, reductions in capital expenditures for software licensing and the avoidance of recurring costs for IT personnel and software maintenance will now be bolstered by undeniable reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.

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The Business Case For Brand Building

While much has been written of branding in general, nearly all content and advice are developed around the CPG (consumer packaged goods) industries where branding has enjoyed mind share and measurable success for centuries. Technology branding faces vastly different markets, customers, messages, purchase cycles and challenges than the more traditional CPG industry. As branding for the technology market is less understood I will use the next 6 blog posts to flush out the most salient technology branding concept and strategies. I intend to cover the following 6 topics over the next 6 weeks.

  1. The Business Case For Branding (this post)
  2. Why Technology Branding is Different
  3. Brand Building Challenges (Know Before You Go)
  4. Crafting a Winning Brand Message
  5. Brand Design
  6. Brand Strategies

More so in the technology sector than many other markets, effective brands have become the differentiating factor in an industry facing rapid hyper-competition, perceived commoditization and accelerated technology obsolescence. The simple truth is that there are only two marketing methods to secure client relationships. The first is to know your customers better than your competitors and leverage this knowledge to secure customer relationships. The second is to differentiate your solution through effective branding so that the solution is perceived to be unique or superior to competitive offerings. More ...

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Why Technology Branding Is Different

More so than consumer or other business to business industries, technology companies struggle between the competition of short term product marketing versus long term brand building. While mature technology companies strike a balance as they clearly understand the strong competitive advantages derived from brand initiatives (4 of the world’s top 10 brands are technology brands, including Microsoft, IBM, Intel and Nokia), most other tech companies dilute or forego branding in favor of more tactical technology evolution, new product feature sets, increased flexibility or improved price-performance. This short term focus results in a product marketing emphasis, which renders the marketing spend and message obsolete as the technology continually advances.

More thoughtful technology leaders recognize that messages which strike competitive advantage based on feeds and speeds are short term gains and balance the need for product messaging with branding efforts which build long term and sustainable advantage.

Technology advantages, disadvantages and competitive positioning change and outpace virtually any other industry. As technology markets mature, competitors copy and imitate market leaders and product and service differentiation give way to commoditization in relative short order. Technology solutions reach a threshold of feature/functionality breadth and depth which then delivers diminishing marginal returns that are beyond the point where the technology solutions are good enough for most buyers. At this point, only companies which have acquired brand preference, over more temporary product preference, will insulate themselves from commoditization and set themselves apart for continued growth. More ...

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Brand Building Challenges (Know Before You Go)

Designing, developing and achieving successful brands are perhaps the most difficult tasks a marketing professional will ever incur. The primary obstacles faced in building brands include time to value, living the brand and brand messaging.

Sales and marketing professionals are generally incented and measured on short term sales goals. Stakeholder interests and executive management are most focused on sales results in the current period, or perhaps as far out as the current quarter. Similarly, brand building investments require immediate and quantifiable expenses while results are difficult to quantify and future based. These business truths put brands in a precarious position as their development is a long term loosely measured asset which competes, often unfavorably, with precisely targeted short term financial priorities.

Brands are long term assets and it is not wise to suggest otherwise. While positioning brands as demand generation methods is not credible, thoughtfully planned brand building initiatives can directly compliment already qualified sales prospects or prospects in the sales funnel. In fact, experienced sales and marketing staff leverage their branding programs with select funnel accounts in order to gain additional credibility enhance their competitive position and accelerate sales cycle durations. More ...

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Crafting a Winning Brand Message

In my prior blog post, titled Brand Building Challenges, I wrote of both challenges and recommendations to succeed is this arduous task. However, from the number of comments received it seems readers are looking for more detailed guidance. I’ll use this post to add science and structure to the task of building winning brand messages.

While I use the term brand messaging, many brand managers use the phrase brand positioning as an alternative or a compliment. Irrespective of the term used, the mission is to articulate the brand in a way that infers a specific meaning by consumers. The messaging should communicate the goal or results achieved by the consumer and explain why the brand is superior to competitor solutions.

Winning brands share several common criteria in their messaging.

  • Strong brand messages describe the target market in terms of some identifying criteria such as demographics (i.e. physically quantifiable characteristics) or psychographics (i.e. interests or opinions).
  • Brand messages should include a frame of reference – which is a promise of the goal or result achieved by customers when consuming the brand.
  • Messages should also include at least one point of difference – which convincingly demonstrates why the brand is better than alternatives.
  • Finally, the brand message should provide reasons to believe – which validate the point of difference to the frame of reference.

Developing a frame of reference is most commonly done with either a product or service oriented benefits statement or symbolized in more abstract customer goals. Within the technology industry, and particularly in the software technology industry, a third method of illustrating a frame of reference is to associate your brand to recognized competitor which already exemplifies the brand benefits. While this strategy must be thoughtfully and cautiously pursued, it works particularly well when the referenced competitor is recognized as the gold standard for the solution type and benefits achieved. If successful in making the association, the two solutions will bond in a concept referred to a category membership and those features which are shared by the category members are identified as the points of parity. More ...

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Brand Design

The most critical prerequisites to effective brand building include extraordinary clear understanding of your target market and the psychology of perception for your targeted consumer. Understanding the demographics of your target market and psychographics of your target consumer require a combination of strong industry experience and methodically executed customer research.

While not commonly applied among brand managers, Vantive Media recommends that clear and concise competitive advantages be solidified and weaved into the brand. This is somewhat unique and has a particularly strong benefit in the technology industry. Unlike retail brands, technology brands are evaluated at great depth for longer periods of time by more dubious buyers. Technology selling is normally solution selling and is more often than not characterized by positioning an intangible, selling to committees (not just a person) incurring longer duration sales cycles and demonstrating a combination of risk reduction and ROI maximization. Buyer perception is generally acquired faster and with increased favor as a result of increased alignment between your competitive advantages and your brand. Remember, for competitive advantages to be valid, they must be relevant, objective (measurable) and unique. A fourth sought after characteristic for competitive advantages is sustainability, however, due to its difficulty and sometimes impossibility (particularly in the technology industry), this is normally considered an optional characteristic for competitive advantages.

With the prerequisites and competitive advantages complete, you are ready for brand design and in position to model various names, phrases, key words, symbols, patterns and colors to most handily convey the solution benefits that comprise the brand. Creativity is considered the only constant in brand design. However, as the technology industry makes more extensive use of online and digital delivery mechanisms than most other industries, the power of color and font are considered to be more powerful visual cues, than for example symbols or pictures, in maximizing favorable buyer perception.

Brand managers experiment with many brand composition variables in order to influence buyer perception. When buyers discover a new technology solution they immediately categorize it within their known context. This is the psychological process of perception and brand managers can influence buyer perception by manipulating the brand attributes to influence the buyer’s cues when classifying the product or service. More ...

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Brand Strategies

Brand strategies are most broadly implemented consistent with relative market position. The most misunderstood or missed all together brand strategy is the pre-market strategy.

Pre-Market Strategy

Pioneers face the challenge of introducing new technology solutions to a conservative IT buying community. For game changing technologies which render existing business models inferior or redefine new value propositions, the challenge is significant and messaging must be reinforced with strong combinations of education and media. Pre-market brand strategies begin the race for mind share in advance of the race for market share.

Experienced brand managers employ a pre-market strategy which begins well before the new product or technology solution is available. By crafting the brand message prior to product release, brand managers are not just illuminating their visionary solution, but actually defining the market in a way that links their product with the market or positions the market in a way that only their solution can succeed. Pre-market strategies leverage pre-launch events well in advance of product availability in order to experiment their brand messaging, establish the company’s standards as the industry’s accepted standards, position the company as a thought leader, place the company’s executives as the go to media resources and prime the IT buying community for initial market share acquisition.

The target audience for pre-market launches is much broader than with subsequent brand strategies. Instead of focusing the brand message directly on the customer, pre-market events address a much wider ecosystem which includes media, analysts, developers who may create complimentary products or product extensions, third party ISVs (independent software vendors) who may integrate their solutions, business partners who may bundle the new solution with other solutions, distributors who may increase the company’s delivery channels or complimentary vertical market companies who may be willing to OEM the technology.

Pre-market brand executions are difficult even for experienced brand managers. Prior to Apple’s impressive success with the iPod, the company failed miserably when CEO John Sculley pre-marketed the Newton PDA as the digital device of the future. Similarly, while Sun CEO Scott McNealy pre-marketed ‘network centric computing’ well before the company ever had a web server and then became a market leader for a category which it heavily influenced, CEO Larry Ellison’s similar vision for the ‘network computer’ was unsupported, discredited and failed.

Pre-market brand strategies are separate from pre-release product announcements. The later are generally used as sales strategies intended to slow the market’s current purchase cycles, stop competitor sale opportunities from closing and increase sales cycle durations to a length where vendors currently without products may later have products ready for sale. More ...

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The SaaS Value Proposition

Despite the continuous growth and market adoption for Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions, or perhaps because of it, many SaaS vendors are attempting to alter or advance the SaaS definition to more closely align with their particular solutions. Sales pitches that include terms such as 'multi-tenant' versus 'isolated tenancy' - or - 'SaaS' versus 'Software + Services' are just a few of the technical arguments which ultimately cause more confusion than value for IT evaluators and buyers.

To separate claims and hype from substance and benefits, focus on the true definition of SaaS as well as the SaaS value proposition.

SaaS Defined

While SaaS is a broadly defined term for which there is no definitive consensus, the below definition of SaaS enjoys industry agreement.

SaaS is a software delivery model which provides web-based application access from a central shared services hosting facility over the Internet based on a subscription pricing model.

Key SaaS characteristics include the following:

  • Browser-based access to software applications
  • Pay-as-you-go subscription pricing - akin to rental
  • IT management is performed centrally rather than at each customer's site
  • Shared services application delivery which generally includes impressive Tier 4 data centers and may consist of a multi-tenant architecture or in some instances a single-tenant (or isolated tenant) architecture
  • Centralized software management and upgrades (which eliminates the need for end-users to download and install software patches and upgrades) More ...

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The Semantic Web

The Semantic Web, or what is sometimes referred to as Web 3.0, is steadily making the transition from theory to practicality. The Semantic Web is a slowly emerging set of standards and technologies designed to improve classification, access and usability of information and software services on the Internet. While the Web 2.0 evolution is largely about connecting people through social media channels such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs and wikis, the next generation will be about connecting information in new ways that people will find more relevant and meaningful.

Today’s Internet mainly presents content. The Semantic Web goes a step further by providing additional meaning to content. While seemingly a subtle shift, this evolution creates powerful opportunities for illuminating content and associating information with other relevant resources on the Web.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is the focal point for Semantic Web developers from industry and academia and describes the Semantic Web as a common framework for data sharing. This framework can accommodate many roles, but the two functions that stand out from all others are describing data so users can more easily find meaningful information through Web searches, and describing applications or similar online services so that other applications and services can more easily identify how they work or offer inter-operability in order to provide synergistic or extended functionality for user requests. More ...

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Winning Sales Strategies | Staging The Buy Process

A key solution selling best practice religiously exercised by top technology sales professionals, and missed by the remaining market majority, is staging the buyers’ buy criteria.

Contrary to popular opinion, buyer evidence reveals that technology purchasers more often than not do not desire, have the experience, possess the skills or have the time to pursue a methodical technology evaluation process which fairly and systemically evaluates the most relevant market alternatives. Whether shopping for customer relationship management (CRM) software solutions, enterprise resource planning (ERP) back office systems, routine hardware or even professional services, technology buyers seldom consider all the options, weigh them carefully and reach a deliberate choice.

Every experienced sales person has responded to countless request for proposals (RFPs) only to recognize those RFPs where the requested items are not prioritized and the responses will have little to no bearing on the final software selection decision. The all too common template RFPs which contain generic and completely irrelevant requests are the epidomy of a broken process. Technology buyers do not desire to waste time, however, key technology purchases must be justified and the RFP is often the backdrop for claimed due diligence. Properly executed RFPs with meaningful, precise and weighted requests that are used to develop vendor short lists and base the final purchase decision are an unquestionable best practice, however, are also the exception and not the rule among the vast majority of technology purchases.

Instead of the presumed conventional procurement rational, most technology buyers look for information sources that train them how to jump start or accelerate the decision making process. Armed with this real world information, the most successful solution selling account executives and sales professionals apply a sales strategy of engaging with sales prospects early, determining whether the buy criteria is emotionally or logically founded, and aiding the buyers procurement process with information that facilitates both the buyer and the seller.

These top producers move quickly to discover the prospects true buying behaviors and then offer information and resources which blend content useful to the buyer with content supporting the sales persons’ solution. In fact, when done in a way that is both not manipulative and constructive for the buyer, the sales person delivers a roadmap which can be steered to a predefined destination. More ...

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