Marketing on a Small Budget in Today’s World? Yes, It’s Possible!

 

The state of the art in marketing practices continues to evolve at a breakneck pace in our social, mobile, viral, info-tainment, personalized experience and short attention span driven world.  And the small software and services companies that we work with at UNDRSTND Group are finding it challenging to keep up.  So, let’s think about this practically and pragmatically, because for these B-2-B technology solution businesses, marketing is just a means to an end, not an end in and of itself.

 

If you don’t have a thought provoking, compelling and actively updated Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram and Web presence does this make you a bad company? No, of course not, but expectations are high for many that use these tools.  So, for the person who relies on Twitter for much of their news and interaction with the world at large, your failure to engage them on that platform could be problematic, if they are good target for your solutions.  But if you repeat this line of thinking for every viable channel of communications to your target audience it can become overwhelming and beyond the means of a small software and services company to address.

 

The story is similar on the content front.  Thought leadership blogs or more ambitious white papers are popular today.  Other people respond best to short videos but they better be entertaining and professionally produced which can become expensive.  And many people would prefer to consume complete self-discovery experiences on your website where they learn most everything they need to know about your offerings at their own pace without having to interact with a human and it better not be boring either (think about our experience as consumers on automobile manufacturer web sites exploring and building our dream car).  And of course, the pressure to constantly update material is greater than ever.  Oh, and have you implemented a chat function on your website?  Not yet? then you better get after it!

 

Now that we have shocked and depressed the small software and services business owner with a modest marketing budget, let’s get back to what we are trying to achieve with our marketing efforts and that is to drive revenue.  We’re not trying to win marketing awards or impress our neighbors with the cool company we are running … we’re trying to make our sales targets.  And to that end, let’s get practical and pragmatic with some ideas for how to make marketing work for us today:

 

  1. Less can be more. You’re better off investing in five really good marketing assets than spreading yourself too thin trying to have twenty pieces of collateral that end up being not compelling and become dated before you can circle around to all of them on a refresh cycle.
  2. Have a compelling website. It is the outside world’s window into your business.  So, don’t let that be a window into your cluttered garage full of old boxes and lawn equipment.  And remember that less can be more, so five really compelling pages is better than twenty pages of dated material.
  3. Drive them to your website. Once you’ve made sure that your website is good, use many of the other channels to drive people to your website.  A modest but compelling presence on social media that motivates people to visit your website is a good step.
  4. Multi-Channel Your Content. Do one really nice video to make sure to touch the YouTube crowd and reuse it across all your channels.
  5. Leverage other people’s content. Find well thought of businesses with larger marketing budgets with whom you don’t compete and ride their coat tails through thoughtful links and commentary around their thought leadership.
  6. Make marketing everybody’s job. Just about everybody in a small company can pitch it and help with your social presence.  The whole team should be active on social media building a following and promoting your brand and your message as part of their everyday jobs.

 

These are just a few high level practical ideas that we hope will spur your thinking and get you started down the road to successful marketing on a small budget in today’s world.  And if you still need help on this front, we’re always here at UNDRSTND Group.

 

Brent Bussell
Founder and Managing Partner
UNDRSTND Group

Brave New World

 

In Brave New World by Aldous Huxley set in AD 2540 a new world order has emerged while older, lower castes struggle to find their identity. I cite this book and author because for the past 18 months or so I have been blogging and speaking at conferences about the need for the digital content industry, to embrace major strategic change of direction at a vendor level – essentially to find their own “brave new world”.

At Docville in 2016 and again earlier this year, I spoke about “What Is Your Next Best Action?” and “Building a Growth Strategy” in my keynotes speeches and in our  UNDRSTND Group blog I have called attention to the echo chamber in which we seem to live and our indecisiveness as an industry but finally I really do believe that things are getting better and that we are now quickly moving beyond the “green shoots” of a new industry narrative and strategy for Enterprise Content Management. The brave new world is upon us and its exciting.

Some recent events have caught my eye and really give me hope:

  • Upland Software’s acquisition strategy is well documented but their recent $24.4mn acquisition of Waterfall, a cloud-based mobile messaging platform, to fuel their customer engagement solutions strategy shows a more creative use of digital content technologies than some of their other acquisitions. This also makes Upland a $100mn revenue per annum player in what they call the “Enterprise Work Management” market.
  • Ephesoft became a VC darling recently with a $15mn raise from Mercato Partners that will allow them to attack the cloud-based document capture market with new vigor. Founded in 2010 by ex-Kofax executives you might expect Ephesoft to be suffering from the same challenges as the former independent document capture industry leader, but instead they are charging ahead and posting significant growth while others decline.
  • Nuxeo, founded in the early 2000’s in France raised $20mn from Goldman Sachs in September 2016 to help them expand into North America. This alone would have you ranking them as a vendor to watch but then recently they hired both Chris McLaughlin and Danny Pidutti – former FileNet and Documentum talents that have a strong reputation for leading transformative change in product and marketing strategy. No doubt some creative solutions and go-to-market strategies will follow!
  • M-Files, a Finnish company, raised €33mn in 2016 to juice up international growth and are now making big in-roads into the SME solutions space for digital content solutions and not just in accounts payable! They have a broad range of solutions templates on offer to speed the deployment of content management for customers and partners alike.
  • Hyland’s acquisition of Perceptive and the Brainware suite looks to be a smart move to re-energize their business and certainly makes them a force to be reckoned with globally. It’s great to see a private equity investor, in this case Thoma Bravo the long-time backers of Hyland, stepping in to help fuel growth not just look for synergies, efficiencies and cost savings.

These vendors each have a vision and are putting financial resources behind that vision and seeing positive results – this is not status quo, consolidation stuff! These examples help me to believe there is a strong case for growth in the ECM and related solutions space. The larger vendors who consolidated the market in the mid-2000’s (IBM, EMC, Oracle) have other priorities these days but customers still have a serious need to move information to where it is needed and allow their customers, employees and business partners to make better decisions faster. They see value in these types of solutions and modifying standard products to specific business processes is the way to gain market advantage in an increasingly competitive world.

I am looking forward to my upcoming client workshops and speaking engagements and I feel that I can confidently share that growth is back in the digital content and process solutions space – assuming you are living in the Brave New World and not on the Islands that is! 😊

Martyn Christian
Founder and Managing Partner
UNDRSTND Group

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Things Can Only Get Better………..

 

“Things Can Only Get Better” was the title of a 1985 anthem by mop haired Brit Pop icon Howard Jones (not to be confused with D:Ream another Brit band who also had a hit with the same title in 1993 which became the theme tune to New Labour’s momentous election win in 1997 that put Tony Blair in power in the UK for over a decade)…….
Although nobody was bouncing around singing or dancing in the aisles at this years Docville 2017 – International Networking Event for the Information Management Industry conference, there sure was a more positive outlook and some real world examples of growth, success and things just getting better I guess.
The conference was held this week in Brussels. Michael Ziegler and Heiner van den Berg did a great job hosting and preparing the event and making it a true networking event and not just endless presentations from sponsoring vendors. I was asked to keynote again this year and took a more upbeat approach than in 2016. I focused on growth strategies for vendors and ISV’s in the ECM, BPM and IM space, and offered some insights and advice on how best to move forward and be successful. The keynote preceded the 15 roundtables that are run continuously throughout the rest of the day and the conference concluded with a series of short summaries of the roundtable findings accompanied by some predictions.
Some key highlights from the roundtable summaries included:

 

  • Digital Transformation – the biggest challenge is getting employees within the vendor community to engage in the change process needed – not necessarily convincing customers.
  • New Solution Selling Model – vendors believe that to grow in the digital transformation world they need a new, more virtual sales process with inside sales, multi-channel marketing tactics and nurturing campaigns based on content marketing disciplines.
  • GDPR – it’s scary and most people don’t really know what it is even though it’s a year from becoming law in the EU with fines of up to 4% of total revenue for infringement.
  • ECM or Content Services? – the audience was split on whether this was an important distinction and definition change in the market or just Gartner trying to make more money from a moribund market segment.
  • Product Portfolio and Branding – it was estimated that in the next 2-3 years 50% of vendors in the community will significantly change their product portfolio (buy or build) or rebrand… or both.

Attendance was strong, I would estimate over 100 attendees for sure and the quality of attendee and dialog seemed to be better than last year when my keynote was a “wake up and smell the coffee” message. Also about 30% of attendees were attending Docville for the first time which is a really positive trend. New vendors and solutions providers coming into the market is a healthy sign. I had one conversation with an incredibly enthusiastic vendor who was building a great new product and wanted to raise money and expand as quickly as possible. It wasn’t like a Silicon Valley event with VC’s jumping all over Stanford MBA’s but it was a positive vibe and I think the ECM community in Europe may just have turned a corner.

 

And as Howard Jones said in his rendition of Things Can Only Get Better…

Future dreams we have to realize
A thousand skeptic hands won’t keep us from the things we plan

Lets hope the dreams of the attendees at Docville this week will all come true!

Martyn Christian
Founder and Managing Partner
UNDRSTND Group

Are We Standing in the Middle of the Road?

Margaret Thatcher once said “Standing in the middle of the road is very dangerous; you get knocked down by the traffic from both sides.” Today, Day 2 at AIIM17 Conference, I felt a bit like I was standing in the middle of the road!

The day started with a compelling and motivational presentation from Cheryl Cran, an expert in the future of work and all things “change”. Author of The Art of Change Leadership, she certainly knows a thing or two about how people react to the opportunity (or threat) of change. Listening to Cheryl, I was reflecting on how much change there has been in the digital content management space over the last 20 years.

At FileNet we used to say it was the longest running growth market ever – and that maybe even more true today. This is a huge advantage because it provides a deep and wide supply of expertise and knowledge built over many years and with real world experience on what works and what doesn’t. The challenge, as Cheryl pointed out, is that work as we know it is changing beyond belief. With a work place increasingly populated by millennials, a generation born into a digital age where creating, curating and consuming content is a way of life and not a $1mn systems implementation. In my opinion the solutions offered by the vendors who are represented at the AIIM17 Conference  really change, and not in a “standing in the middle of the street” kind of way.

The radical innovation, growth of subscribers and pricing models of the File Sync & Share vendors like Box, Dropbox, Jive and many others has created a wave in the digital content market that ECM vendors are only just coming to terms with.

Yes, it’s a technology/platform/cloud thing but it’s also a business solutions thing. Customers are always going to deploy easy to use solutions that meet some of their needs some of the time, with Apps this just got easier and cheaper. But the real opportunity, in the digital transformation world we now face, is to deliver fully comprehensive business solutions that empower workers to make huge leaps in productivity, do their work twice as fast and reduce costs substantially – those are things people wouldn’t say about a product like Box or Dropbox….ever.

So, here is ECM standing in the middle of the road, Apps vendors driving down one side, millennials driving down the other, which is a very scary thought. But ECM vendors, users and solution partners have all the skills needed to avoid a serious crash and, even better, to build solutions that will be exciting, impactful and make a difference as the future of work is defined right in front of our very eyes.

Bringing together the market power of MFP providers, with leading intelligent capture capabilities, married to world class ECM and BPM solutions – all delivered on a mobile platform, accessed via the Cloud with pricing models that most investors would lick their lips at…. I truly believe that the current community of ECM vendors can deliver these solutions, they just need to embrace the change, explain clearly their strategies and plans and customers will follow.

As Cheryl said “Change is all about connecting, creating and culture” – connecting to customers, creating great solutions, building a culture of innovation and success…… haven’t all us “ECM” folks been doing that for years?

 

Martyn Christian

Managing Partner & Founder

UNDRSTND Group

The lyrics for the famous Beatles song “Revolution” sung with such angst by a young John Lennon may have pre-dated our current political upheavals and unexpected changes but now, just as then, it is a great question to ask!

John Mancini started his keynote here at the AIIM17 Conference in Orlando today with a reflection on Brexit, President Trump, The Mannequin Challenge, Pokémon Go and other revolutionary aspects of recent months and he ended by describing what he believes the revolution is in the world of digital content technology….. the question he didn’t really answer was “What do you call a revolution before people know it’s happening?”

Wikipedia defines “Revolution” as “a fundamental change in political power or organizational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time when the population rises up in revolt against the current authorities“. As far as I can tell nobody in the ECM vendor or buyer community has risen up and certainly nothing happens in the ECM market in a relatively short period of time…. but I found myself agreeing with John on the fact that there is a quiet revolution taking place in the industry, and frankly some people know it is happening and some people do not or are simply choosing to ignore it.

John explained the tell tales signs of the revolution we are facing as ECM vendors, solution providers and customers. The exploding volumes of digital content, the need for insight from content and related data, the need to know if content is good or bad in a way we have never been asked to manage before, empowering business users to exchange content with customers in a dynamic way and managing the risks associated with digital content that sometimes you don’t even know exists. All of these trends are gathering pace and, to be fair, some vendors are reacting through new products and innovative solutions but it seems like many people in the ECM ommunity simply aren’t seeing the revolution on their doorstep.

Recently I tweeted an example of a traditional ECM solution being delivered in a completely different and revolutionary way – I don’t know all the details but I suspect this insurance claims application was delivered at a 1/10th the price of a traditional ECM based solution and I bet the users didn’t have to go to a week’s training to learn how to use it either!

The AIIM17 Conference is buzzing – over 650 attendees, 50% here at the event for the first time according to Peggy Winton the new President of AIIM who shared the keynote with Mancini. It’s not like the AIIM events of old with thousands of attendees but back then we were all happy and excited that we could scan a document and see the image on a screen a few seconds later – our expectations now are much more of the revolutionary type – give me every bit of digital content I need, now, without me asking for it, show me who else likes it, curate and save it for me because I don’t have time…. And after that do it all again and only charge me a few cents for the privilege!

So what do you call a revolution before people know it’s happening and head to the streets? In ECM-land, I think people talk about “Well if its not ECM what is it?”, or “Lets redefine the industry” but our narrative is well behind the reality of what is happening in the wide world of Cloud, Saas, Mobile, App-ification and Social Media – the revolution is here and we need to get out there and support it.

It is time for the community to rise up, to move beyond the silent ECM revolutions of old, it’s time to get vocal, it’s time to share a new vision for digital content solutions with the world…. But hurry up because the revolution has already started and you wouldn’t want to miss it …would you?

 

Martyn Christian

Managing Partner and Founder

UNDRSTND Group

 

Alfresco – from ECM to Digital Business Platform…. just like that!

https://www.alfresco.com/news/press-releases/alfresco-accelerates-customer-time-value-new-digital-business-platform

Alfresco’s announcement this week of a new digital business platform is another clear indicator of ECM vendors making a move to the world of digital transformation as content gets swept up in a wave of new Apps and solutions for B2B and B2C processes.

Alfresco was founded in 2005 as an open source alternative to the heavy lifting ECM vendors like Documentum and FileNet who at that time were being acquired by even larger companies as part of infrastructure plays targeted at the Fortune 1000. It has had some success in open source ECM solutions but this might be an even bigger play for a company full of talented product people who has never really hit the growth trajectory that many may have expected. One key element needed to fuel fast growth is being as relevant and close to buyer behavior as possible and this move to a digital business platform is a broad and bold move as the Alfresco founders and management team continue to seek that lucrative IPO they have talked about for so long.

The new digital business platform comes with an application development framework built on Angular JS (2.0), with RESTful API’s for integration and extension to other Apps and a Quick Start cloud version based on AWS. This shows there has been some serious product development and that this is not all marketing re-positioning.

This in many ways shows the way forward for ECM & BPM vendors and is similar to the strategy UNDRSTND Group has been promoting to its clients and the market over the last 12-18 months. ECM vendors and their ISV partners can debate if ECM is “dead” or not as a market (its not btw – $6bn markets don’t just die!) but in terms of enticing customers to spend money on new projects not just support and maintenance, a focus on digital transformation and the tools, Apps and solutions needed to manage digital content is a critical part of any product strategy and positioning.

 

Martyn Christian

Founder & Managing Partner – UNDRSTND Group

Read Martyn Christian’s latest views on the ECM market on DMCollaborators blog – there’s good news and bad news….

What Was Enterprise Content Management, Grandad?