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Get your front row seat for the race to be the B2B revenue platform of record

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There’s a positioning battle going on across B2B sales, customer, data, and marketing technology providers. Aiming to organize these diverse B2B solutions into a mega-category — we’ll call it “revenue technology” — the race is on to develop more modern, effective systems to generate customers and manage revenue. And while no one system can do it all, it’s clear a big payoff is awaiting the providers who can get it right in this next B2B era. 

Grab your popcorn and beverage of choice. This should be fun to watch. Well, not so much for the marketing, customer, sales, and operations execs who have to pick the right horse(s) to compete in today’s market while also placing bets on the future. 

Before we get into who is competing in this race, let’s talk about the “why” behind the positioning battle underway for the minds, hearts, and wallets of the B2B go-to-market (GTM) teams. 

For the past handful of years, B2B teams have been trying to transition from generating volumes of leads to focusing on the buyer and account engagement that more effectively, efficiently, and predictably generates revenue and relationships.

Developed well over a decade ago, marketing automation platforms (MAPs) have been the system to help marketers generate leads to support sales. CRM has been the default system to manage customers and customer data, primarily with the lens of an internal sales process and management. A range of ABM tools have supported account engagement.

MAPs and CRMs, while workhorses, haven’t been entirely effective in enabling marketing and sales teams to execute the transition. And it’s even more true today as the buying-selling environment is quickly evolving, becoming far more dynamic and complex. 

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The B2B buyer-seller relationship makeover needs something different

Today, sales has less direct access to the B2B buyers and accounts they must identify, qualify, and win as customers. In fact, according to Gartner, B2B pros spend only 17% of their buying journey with vendor sales pros. And this is combined time — not just with the chosen vendor! This all translates into Marketing’s, Customer Success,’ and other functions’ requirement to play a larger, more initiative-taking role in the revenue- and customer-generation effort. Generating leads and supporting sales is not enough with today’s reality. 

This means our customer, marketing, and sales systems of record the last decade-plus must do more. Consequently, there’s a huge opportunity for evolved types of systems (and set of providers) to play a bigger role. Many providers see these market shifts as an opportunity to broaden their product visions. Rather than developing systems for singular functions, they’re gearing up to become the B2B revenue system of record. In reality, and as we have learned in other technology markets, it will take five to seven years (or more) to develop technology that can support the evolving buyer- and account-centric approaches that today’s buyers demand. But the flag is up and the race is on. 

Sizing Up the Race for the Next B2B Revenue Platform

The technology and platform options for B2B sales, marketing and customer pros are diverse. And as stated earlier no one solution can deliver what’s required today, nor in the future. But gaining an understanding of the different options and where they fit, both today and leaning forward, is essential for delivering on our customer- and revenue-generation mission. 

Let’s take a look at the platforms vying for top billing in today’s B2B revenue stack. Note, this is a not a deep vendor-to-vendor comparison but a look across the B2B landscape to gain a sense of perspective. And we recognize more categories can be added to this positioning list. The mission here is to simply provide context of what’s happening in the market.

Lastly, this underlines the critical need to create and fund talent in the area of revenue and data operations (marketing, sales and customer success) — talent that can align technology, systems, data and processes with your revenue and business goals. 

  • Marketing Automation (MA) platforms. This large group of providers, who once were the center of B2B marketing stacks and demand gen marketing activity, have decreased in popularity. This is largely because their legacy lead-centric architecture doesn’t align well with the full customer lifecycle and prevailing account-centric requirements. In addition, with the acquisition of the major MA platforms by enterprise software players, namely Salesforce, Oracle, and Adobe, innovation has not kept pace with today’s rapidly changing needs discussed earlier in this article. Primary user = marketing. 
  • Account-Based Marketing (ABM) platforms. Because of the popularity of ABM, this category of providers is broad and deep. Vendors that play a role in developing and executing account-based strategies and campaigns are categorized into this group; in other words, most ABM solutions support only some individual elements of ABM strategies and, therefore, must be cobbled together with other systems and platforms. The providers include the predictive and intent solutions required for account-based GTM strategies, the original account-based advertising solutions providers, and the hundreds of providers that deliver account-based demand generation tools, campaigns, and data. Primary user = marketing with sales access. 
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platforms. With deep roots in managing and tracking sales organizations and creating a single view of the customer, CRM is the sales system used by every B2B team today. Today, we have all-in-one CRM platforms (sales, marketing, customer success/service, data clouds, etc.) and industry-specific platforms that focus on the requirements and nuances of vertical markets. But like MAPs, those major players have consolidated the CRM category, hindering the innovation required to keep up with evolving strategies. This has opened the door and requirements for additional systems to play a role in revenue and customer generation. Primary user = sales with marketing and customer success. 
  • Sales Engagement platforms. Focused on solving the huge sales productivity challenge, sales engagement platforms work alongside existing CRM and email systems to streamline the ways sales communicates with prospects (email to voice to social, for example). The value and promise of these platforms are increased sales productivity via streamlined process, tracking and analysis to deliver more impact at a time when sales has less and less access to buyers. Primary user = sales. 
  • Customer Success (Management) platforms. These applications, with roots in the SaaS/subscription business environment, help customer success teams to manage existing customer relationships. The software relies on pulling data from other systems like email, CRM, live chat, product utilization, and customer satisfaction-scoring systems to understand a customer’s current status, adoption, and likelihood to churn or renew their agreement. The rise of these platforms is directly correlated to the need to increase customer stickiness and lifetime value (LTV). Primary user = customer success.
  • Customer Data (CDP) platforms.  According to the CDP Institute (yes, there is such a thing and it’s pretty informative), CDPs are “packaged software that creates a persistent, unified customer database that is accessible to other systems…It centralizes customer data from all sources and then makes this data available to other systems for marketing campaigns, customer service and all customer experience initiatives.” Primary users = marketing and data teams. 
  • Demand platforms. This is also a broad category, primarily made up of media, marketing services and demand gen providers who are developing technology to migrate from a services-based offering to a SaaS-based subscription model. They are offering some mix of SaaS-based tools, analytics, and data with the promise of making third-party demand gen more efficient, more effective, and more predictable. Primary user = marketing. 
  • Data and Intelligence platforms. There are hundreds of data providers, from sophisticated multi-billion organizations to niche solutions offering access to B2B data. These providers typically offer access to data sets, contact and account records for enhancement, and predictive and intent data with the promise of making data science teams more valuable, sales and marketing more productive, and customer and prospect campaigns more intelligent. Many of these providers also compile data from multiple sources and turn it into intelligence because most teams don’t have the time, resources, or talents in house. Primary users = marketing, sales, and data teams. 

Understand the field before betting on the winner

2023 is just around the corner and the platform positioning and road maps are expanding rapidly. As you lock in your 2023 GTM strategies and business goals, now is the perfect time to take inventory of your systems and processes, identify your needs and gaps and understand the revenue technology landscape.

The good news is there are both incumbent and emerging options. The challenge in this positioning battle is understanding what’s right for your business, what’s real, and what’s next.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

How to turn the great buyer resignation into B2B career

Scott Vaughan is a B2B CMO and go-to-market leader. After several CMO and business leadership roles, Scott is now an active advisor and consultant working with CMO, CXOs, Founders, and investors on business, marketing, product, and GTM strategies. He thrives in the B2B SaaS, tech, marketing, and revenue world.

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His passion is fueled by working in-market to create new levels of business and customer value for B2B organizations. His approach is influenced and driven by his diverse experience as a marketing leader, revenue driver, executive, market evangelist, speaker, and writer on all things marketing, technology, and business. He is drawn to disruptive solutions and to dynamic companies that need to transform.

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The Role of Enterprise Mobility Management in Modern Businesses

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The Role of Enterprise Mobility Management in Modern Businesses

In today’s fast-paced business environment, Enterprise Mobility Management (EMM) has emerged as a critical facilitator for enhancing operational efficiency and competitiveness. EMM solutions streamline workflows, ensuring that enterprises can adapt to the rapidly changing digital landscape. This blog discusses the indispensable role of EMM in modern businesses, focusing on how it revolutionizes workflows and positions businesses for success.

EMM solutions act as the backbone for securely managing mobile devices, applications, and content that facilitate remote work and on-the-go access to company resources. With a robust EMM platform, businesses can ensure data protection and compliance with regulatory requirements, even in highly dynamic environments. This not only minimizes the risk of data breaches but also reinforces the company’s reputation for reliability and security.

Seamless Integration Across Devices

In today’s digital era, seamless integration across devices is not just a luxury; it’s a necessity for maintaining operational fluency within any organization. Our EMM solutions are designed to ensure that employees have secure and efficient access to the necessary resources, irrespective of the device being used. This cross-platform compatibility significantly enhances productivity by allowing for a unified user experience that supports both the agility and dynamism required in modern business operations. Leveraging cutting-edge technology, our solutions provide a cohesive ecosystem where data flows securely and effortlessly across mobile phones, tablets, and laptops, ensuring that your workforce remains connected and productive, regardless of their physical location. The adoption of our EMM solutions speaks volumes about an organization’s commitment to fostering a technologically forward and secure working environment, echoing its dedication to innovation and excellence.

Enhanced Productivity

EMM facilitates the seamless integration of mobile devices into the corporate environment, enabling employees to access corporate resources from anywhere. This flexibility significantly enhances productivity by allowing tasks to be completed outside of traditional office settings.

Unified Endpoint Management

The incorporation of Unified Endpoint Management (UEM) within EMM solutions ensures that both mobile and fixed devices can be managed from a single console, simplifying IT operations and enhancing security.

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Advanced Security Protocols

Where cyber threats loom larger than ever, our EMM solutions incorporate cutting-edge security protocols designed to shield your organization’s data from unauthorized access and breaches. By consistently updating and refining our security measures, we ensure your assets are protected by the most advanced defenses available. This commitment to security not only safeguards your information but also reinforces your company’s reputation as a secure and trustworthy enterprise.

Data Protection

EMM solutions implement robust security measures to protect sensitive corporate data across all mobile devices. This includes encryption, secure VPN connections, and the ability to remotely wipe data from lost or stolen devices, thereby mitigating potential data breaches.

Compliance Management

By enforcing security policies and ensuring compliance with regulatory standards, EMM helps businesses avoid costly fines and reputational damage associated with data breaches.

Driving Operational Efficiency

In the quest to drive operational efficiency, our solutions streamline processes, reduce redundancies, and automate routine tasks. By leveraging cutting-edge technologies, we empower businesses to optimize their workflows, resulting in significant time and cost savings. Our approach not only enhances operational agility but also positions your organization at the forefront of innovation, setting a new standard in your industry.

Automated Workflows

By automating repetitive tasks, EMM reduces manual efforts, increases accuracy, and speeds up business processes. This automation supports operational efficiency and allows employees to focus on more strategic tasks.

Real-time Communication and Collaboration

EMM enhances communication and collaboration among team members by providing tools that facilitate real-time interactions. This immediate exchange of information accelerates decision-making processes and improves project outcomes.

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Testimonials from Industry Leaders

Leaders in various industries have witnessed tangible benefits from implementing EMM solutions, including increased productivity, improved security, and enhanced operational efficiency. Testimonials from these leaders underscore the transformative impact of EMM on their businesses, solidifying its vital role in modern operational strategies.

Our commitment to innovation and excellence propels us to continually refine our EMM solutions, ensuring they remain at the cutting edge of technology. This dedication not only solidifies our standing as industry leaders but also guarantees that our clients receive the most advanced and effective operational tools available, tailored specifically to meet their unique business challenges.

Looking Ahead

The evolution of EMM solutions continues at a rapid pace, with advancements in technology such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and the Internet of Things (IoT) further enhancing their capabilities. These developments promise even greater efficiencies, security measures, and competitive advantages for businesses willing to invest in the future of mobility management.

Our proactive approach to integrating emerging technologies with EMM solutions positions our clients at the forefront of their industries. By leveraging our deep technical expertise and industry insights, we empower businesses to not only adapt to but also lead in an increasingly digital world, ensuring they remain competitive and resilient amidst rapid technological shifts.

In conclusion, the role of Enterprise Mobility Management in modern businesses cannot be overstated. Its ability to revolutionize workflows, enhance security, and drive operational efficiency positions it as a foundational element of digital transformation strategies. We invite businesses to explore the potential of EMM solutions and partner with us to achieve unprecedented levels of success and innovation in the digital era. Together, we can redefine the boundaries of what is possible in business operations and set new benchmarks for excellence in the industry.

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Lessons From Air Canada’s Chatbot Fail

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Lessons From Air Canada’s Chatbot Fail

Air Canada tried to throw its chatbot under the AI bus.

It didn’t work.

A Canadian court recently ruled Air Canada must compensate a customer who bought a full-price ticket after receiving inaccurate information from the airline’s chatbot.

Air Canada had argued its chatbot made up the answer, so it shouldn’t be liable. As Pepper Brooks from the movie Dodgeball might say, “That’s a bold strategy, Cotton. Let’s see if it pays off for ’em.” 

But what does that chatbot mistake mean for you as your brands add these conversational tools to their websites? What does it mean for the future of search and the impact on you when consumers use tools like Google’s Gemini and OpenAI’s ChatGPT to research your brand?

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AI disrupts Air Canada

AI seems like the only topic of conversation these days. Clients expect their agencies to use it as long as they accompany that use with a big discount on their services. “It’s so easy,” they say. “You must be so happy.”

Boards at startup companies pressure their management teams about it. “Where are we on an AI strategy,” they ask. “It’s so easy. Everybody is doing it.” Even Hollywood artists are hedging their bets by looking at the newest generative AI developments and saying, “Hmmm … Do we really want to invest more in humans?  

Let’s all take a breath. Humans are not going anywhere. Let me be super clear, “AI is NOT a strategy. It’s an innovation looking for a strategy.” Last week’s Air Canada decision may be the first real-world distinction of that.

The story starts with a man asking Air Canada’s chatbot if he could get a retroactive refund for a bereavement fare as long as he provided the proper paperwork. The chatbot encouraged him to book his flight to his grandmother’s funeral and then request a refund for the difference between the full-price and bereavement fair within 90 days. The passenger did what the chatbot suggested.

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Air Canada refused to give a refund, citing its policy that explicitly states it will not provide refunds for travel after the flight is booked.

When the passenger sued, Air Canada’s refusal to pay got more interesting. It argued it should not be responsible because the chatbot was a “separate legal entity” and, therefore, Air Canada shouldn’t be responsible for its actions.

I remember a similar defense in childhood: “I’m not responsible. My friends made me do it.” To which my mom would respond, “Well, if they told you to jump off a bridge, would you?”

My favorite part of the case was when a member of the tribunal said what my mom would have said, “Air Canada does not explain why it believes …. why its webpage titled ‘bereavement travel’ was inherently more trustworthy than its chatbot.”

The BIG mistake in human thinking about AI

That is the interesting thing as you deal with this AI challenge of the moment. Companies mistake AI as a strategy to deploy rather than an innovation to a strategy that should be deployed. AI is not the answer for your content strategy. AI is simply a way to help an existing strategy be better.

Generative AI is only as good as the content — the data and the training — fed to it.  Generative AI is a fantastic recognizer of patterns and understanding of the probable next word choice. But it’s not doing any critical thinking. It cannot discern what is real and what is fiction.

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Think for a moment about your website as a learning model, a brain of sorts. How well could it accurately answer questions about the current state of your company? Think about all the help documents, manuals, and educational and training content. If you put all of that — and only that — into an artificial brain, only then could you trust the answers.

Your chatbot likely would deliver some great results and some bad answers. Air Canada’s case involved a minuscule challenge. But imagine when it’s not a small mistake. And what about the impact of unintended content? Imagine if the AI tool picked up that stray folder in your customer help repository — the one with all the snarky answers and idiotic responses? Or what if it finds the archive that details everything wrong with your product or safety? AI might not know you don’t want it to use that content.

ChatGPT, Gemini, and others present brand challenges, too

Publicly available generative AI solutions may create the biggest challenges.

I tested the problematic potential. I asked ChatGPT to give me the pricing for two of the best-known CRM systems. (I’ll let you guess which two.) I asked it to compare the pricing and features of the two similar packages and tell me which one might be more appropriate.

First, it told me it couldn’t provide pricing for either of them but included the pricing page for each in a footnote. I pressed the citation and asked it to compare the two named packages. For one of them, it proceeded to give me a price 30% too high, failing to note it was now discounted. And it still couldn’t provide the price for the other, saying the company did not disclose pricing but again footnoted the pricing page where the cost is clearly shown.

In another test, I asked ChatGPT, “What’s so great about the digital asset management (DAM) solution from [name of tech company]?” I know this company doesn’t offer a DAM system, but ChatGPT didn’t.

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It returned with an answer explaining this company’s DAM solution was a wonderful, single source of truth for digital assets and a great system. It didn’t tell me it paraphrased the answer from content on the company’s webpage that highlighted its ability to integrate into a third-party provider’s DAM system.

Now, these differences are small. I get it. I also should be clear that I got good answers for some of my harder questions in my brief testing. But that’s what’s so insidious. If users expected answers that were always a little wrong, they would check their veracity. But when the answers seem right and impressive, even though they are completely wrong or unintentionally accurate, users trust the whole system.

That’s the lesson from Air Canada and the subsequent challenges coming down the road.

AI is a tool, not a strategy

Remember, AI is not your content strategy. You still need to audit it. Just as you’ve done for over 20 years, you must ensure the entirety of your digital properties reflect the current values, integrity, accuracy, and trust you want to instill.

AI will not do this for you. It cannot know the value of those things unless you give it the value of those things. Think of AI as a way to innovate your human-centered content strategy. It can express your human story in different and possibly faster ways to all your stakeholders.

But only you can know if it’s your story. You have to create it, value it, and manage it, and then perhaps AI can help you tell it well. 

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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Only 6% of global marketers apply customer insights to product and brand

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Only 6% of global marketers apply customer insights to product and brand

While many brands talk about focusing on the customer, few do it. Less than a quarter (24%) of global brands are mapping customer behavior and sentiment, according to Braze’s 2024 Customer Engagement Review. What’s worse, only 6% apply customer insights to their product and brand approach.

“At the end of the day, a lot of companies operate based on their structure and not how the consumer interacts with them,” Mariam Asmar, VP of strategic consulting, told MarTech. “And while some companies have done a great job of reorienting that, with roles like the chief customer officer, there are many more that still don’t. Cross-channel doesn’t exist because there are still all these silos. But the customer doesn’t care about your silos. The customer doesn’t see silos. They see a brand.”

Half of all marketers report either depending on multiple, siloed point solutions to cobble together a multi-channel experience manually (33%); or primarily relying on single-channel solutions (17%).  Only 30% have access to a single customer engagement platform capable of creating personalized, seamless experiences across channels. This is a huge problem when it comes to cross-channel, personalization.

The persistence of silos

The persistence of data silos despite decades of explanation about the problems they cause, surprised Asmar the most.

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Screenshot 2024 02 27 140015
Source: Braze 2024 Global Customer Engagement Review

“Why are we still talking about this?” she said to MarTech. “One of the themes I see in the report is we’re still getting caught up on some of the same stumbling blocks as before.”

She said silos are indicative of teams working on different goals and “the only way that gets unsolved is if a leader comes in and aligns people towards some of those goals.”

These silos also hinder the use of AI, something 99% of respondents said they were already doing. The top uses of AI by marketers are:

  • Generating creative ideas (48%).
  • Automating repetitive tasks (47%).
  • Optimizing strategies in real-time (47%).
  • Enhancing data analysis (47%).
  • Powering predictive analytics (45%).
  • Personalizing campaigns (44%). 

Despite the high usage numbers, less than half of marketers have any interest in exploring AI’s potential to enhance customer engagement. Asmar believes there are two main reasons for this. First is that many people like the systems they know and understand. The other reason is a lack of training on the part of companies.

Dig deeper: 5 ways CRMs are leveraging AI to automate marketing today

“I think about when I was in advertising and everybody switched to social media,” she told MarTech. “Companies acted like ‘Well, all the marketers will just figure out social media.’ You can’t do that because whenever you’re teaching somebody how to do something new there’s always a level of training them up, even though they’re apps that we use every day, as people using them as a business and how they apply, how we get impact from them.”

The good news is that brands are setting the stage for the data agility they need.

  • 50% export performance feedback to business intelligence platforms to generate advanced analytics.
  • 48% sync performance with insights generated by other platforms in the business.

Also worth noting: Marketers say these are the four main obstacles to creativity and strategy:  

  • Emphasis on KPIs inherently inhibits a focus on creativity (42%).
  • Too much time spent on business-as-usual execution and tasks (42%).
  • Lack of technology to execute creative ideas, (41%).
  • Hard to demonstrate ROI impact of creativity (40%).
Screenshot 2024 02 27 135952Screenshot 2024 02 27 135952

Methodology

The 2024 Global Customer Engagement Review (registration required) is based on insights from 1,900 VP+ marketing decision-makers across 14 countries in three global regions: The Americas (Brazil, Mexico, and the US), APAC (Australia, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Korea), and EMEA (France, Germany, Spain, the UAE, and the UK).

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