06 April 2012 | ID:G00231939
Analyst(s):Tiffani Bova, Jennifer S. Beck, Richard Fouts, David Mitchell
This Cool Vendors report showcases companies that have innovative capabilities to help companies with their sales and marketing initiatives. By using services such as these, companies can strengthen performance in areas that are beyond their core business.
A hot topic for executives who are responsible for sales and marketing is how to combine multiple data points from internal and external sources into an actionable dataset to improve sales performance.
Building an online community quickly — along with a recruiting strategy that will encourage members to actively participate and manage it — is a skill that is blooming among smaller companies. Smaller firms are not saddled with traditional marketing techniques that don't translate well to social networks. They are also more able to respond to lessons learned.
There are many creative and interesting ways to engage audiences today, yet most companies persist with using mainstream communications practices and tools from the 1980s, without considering the impact on their brand image.
Sales and marketing leaders should investigate external (third-party) service providers that offer services to augment internal processes for enhancing brand recognition, sustaining customer loyalty and driving revenue.
Consider hiring a niche, boutique social media firm that specializes in combining portals, content and collaboration to start a new community or revive an existing community that has become dormant. Pay particular attention to the service provider's methodology for how members are recruited, but also how they are encouraged (even rewarded) to participate. Ensure that you are not seduced by service providers that can build a great portal for community collaboration, but have no track record in sustaining the interest and participation of the members.
Make it a contest, label it a think tank, or make it someone's job, but find the new rich-media capabilities and new languages to create real-time Web experiences. Consider throwbacks like "chalk talk" to engage your audiences, appeal to their imaginations and stop boring them. Many service providers have access to a global talent pool and some of the smaller emerging players have a better way to do just about everything.
Sales and marketing leaders who investigate Cool Vendors such as the ones we highlight here need to build them into their overall sourcing strategy, to ensure that they don't acquire capabilities in an uncontrolled way. Just as the CIO function needs sourcing discipline, so the new CMO buyer will need the same self-discipline.
This research does not constitute an exhaustive list of service providers in any given technology area, but rather is designed to highlight interesting, new and innovative service providers, specifically of interest to sales, channel and marketing professionals. Gartner disclaims all warranties, express or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.
This research features a few of the companies that bring something new and useful to the "table of considerations" for sales, channel and marketing executives. Executives should examine the companies highlighted in this research for ideas on improving internal processes, developing new tools and campaign techniques, and engaging their audiences.
Denver, Colorado ( www.channelinsight.com )
Analysis by Tiffani Bova
Why Cool: Channelinsight specifically focuses on providing high-tech, semiconductor and telecom vendors, including 15 of the top 50, with the visibility and control to increase sales through their indirect channels. The company collects channel and inventory data from all major IT wholesale distributors and value-added resellers (VARs) globally, and uses patented matching technology and a unique crowdsourced directory to provide these companies with an accurate, rolled-up picture of their sales through their various indirect sales channels all the way to the end customer.
The reporting suite provides real-time visibility into channel sales, inventory and incentive performance, and the analytics to slice the data by program, partner, geography, market segment and product. Channelinsight also works with salesforce.com CRM/partner relationship management (PRM) to close the channel opportunity management loop; it automatically updates salesforce.com dashboards and alerts through Chatter when channel deals ship. All functionality is accessible in the only multitenant, cloud-based channel sales management solution available.
Challenges: Third-party services that help IT providers improve their sales performance is nothing new; however, tracking "lead-to-ship" is a piece of the puzzle that not many providers have attempted to reconcile. Personnel who are responsible for data collection, consolidation and cleansing are all over the organization, which means that Channelinsight will have difficulty identifying the one person tasked with capturing the holistic all-in sales view and attracting the attention from complex sales organizations, even if the solution can provide measurable returns.
Who Should Care: Executives who are responsible for sales and marketing initiatives, sales operations directors, supervisors of field sales channel or sales teams as well as any role that requires (or demand) data to run their business.
Madrid, Spain ( www.mobext.com )
Analysis by David Mitchell
Why Cool: Mobext is a mobile marketing platform and services agency that allows business-to-consumer (B2C) and B2B customers to run interactive mobile marketing campaigns in a number of different industries. The company brings together a portfolio of solutions (such as Short Message Service, quick response codes, Wireless Application Protocol, search, video, location-based services, mapping, navigation and applications) with high-quality mobile user experience, creative design expertise and behavioral analysis to improve consumer relationships; it allows all of this to be managed via enterprise-class campaign management tools. This combination of platform, creativity and campaign management is distinctive and can enable mobile marketing campaigns to be most effective. Mobext has a strong reference client list that includes Citroen, Coca-Cola and McDonald's, and other global brands in the consumer goods, financial services, media and automotive sectors.
Challenges: Mobile marketing has potential applicability in so many markets that Mobext needs to set careful go-to-market priorities to avoid spreading itself too thinly. Focusing on a manageable set of vertical markets will be important. Keeping a balance between m-commerce projects and other mobile marketing activities will need monitoring to ensure that Mobext keeps a balanced portfolio of mobile marketing capabilities.
Who Should Care: B2C and B2B brands are vying to gain customer attention. Sales and marketing executives who are trying to gain attention, sustain customer loyalty, enhance their brands and drive revenue in consumer-facing industries should find Mobext an attractive partner.
Johnson City, Tennessee ( www.ntarainteractive.com )
Analysis by Jennifer Beck
Why Cool: N-tara is classified as a digital agency, but it's actually an agency of duality — equally capable in creative design and technology foundations, and appealing to IT, and sales and marketing. The company produces immersive rich-media experiences and simple user experiences across many industries. When clients hire n-tara, they get the whole team — subject matter experts, strategists, designers and developers — all in-house with no contracting from outside the company. Creative integrity is upheld, and there is no trendy design that looks like what everyone else has. N-tara builds digital user experiences and interactive applications for presentation management, sales enablement and mobile applications. The company has a track record of generating sales revenue and improving close rates for some of the biggest B2B and B2C brands in the world.
Challenges: N-tara is a small firm located in a rural location "off the beaten agency tracks" of the popular New York, Los Angeles and London locations. It has a limited number of long-term clients. The company does everything in-house, with no outsourcing or outside assistance. As a result, n-tara is not a well-known brand and can become capacity-constrained if it stretches beyond a select client list.
Who Should Care: CMOs, website masters, marketing technologists and senior vice presidents of sales in B2B or B2C enterprises, with complex products or services that sell through highly distributed sales forces or indirect channels.
Toronto, Canada ( www.sequentiaenvironics.com )
Analysis by Richard Fouts
Why Cool: Sequentia's founder Jen Evans saw, in 2002 (years before the social media revolution found its way into marketing), how communities of everyday people were all too eager to act as spokespeople for brands (regardless of whether those brands liked it). As the momentum of this movement began to snowball (regardless of whether marketers liked it), Sequentia Environics was born to help organizations that were threatened by social media use it to their advantage. More than 100 communities later, Sequentia continues to help its clients, through its proprietary Interpreter methodology, turn customers (even prospects) into brand ambassadors and salespeople. Chief marketing officers (CMOs) who become disconnected from their constituents have never fared well. Those who overlook the potential of customers to act as brand ambassadors and salespeople will become irrelevant.
Challenges: Sequentia will need to work hard to compete on more than just its methodology, by finding new ways of helping clients translate customer advocacy into measurable outcomes. Marketers are demanding (due to pressure from the CEO) to measure advocacy marketing's contribution to customer retention, profitability, loyalty and wallet share. Sequentia will have to meet the new quantitative demands of marketers to continue its growth.
Who Should Care: CMOs, vice presidents of customer advocacy, vice presidents of digital marketing and customer experience officers who have an online audience that interacts with each other through the blogosphere, social networking sites, the media and wherever the conversation is occurring.