By Fred Isbell, senior director and head of Thought Leadership – Digital Business Services Marketing, SAP
It was my pleasure to attend and present at the Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA) Technology Services World (TSW 2016) event recently. The conference showcased several topics and statistics that lend a sobering realization amidst an environment of declining technology product and service spend since the start of the Great Recession eight years ago.
As product revenues continue to fall, technology services are finding growth by embracing cloud-based, everything-as-a-service (XaaS) subscription models. Traditional services firms focusing on on-premise software and solutions are achieving profitability despite little growth or, for some, modest loss. Meanwhile, service firms betting on a cloud- and subscription-based approach are generating even greater growth, yet they are not profitable.
If we investigate why there are such differences between these two strategies, it becomes apparent that the marketing function needs to change and adapt to this “new normal”. Investing more in sales and marketing activities are not sustainable in the long term if our goal is profitable growth.
Navigating a world of outcome-based solutions and digital transformation
The world of services marketing is undergoing unprecedented transformation along with the businesses we support. Trends such as digital transformation and innovations – including cloud, social media, Big Data, and analytics – have fundamentally redefined the landscape of marketing. The modern marketer must combine both art and science to meet the ever-evolving needs of the services market, our stakeholders, and ultimately, our customers.
As part of the TSW 2016 “Services Revenue Generation” track, I presented the session “Modern Services Marketing: Navigating a World of Outcomes-Based Solutions and Digital Transformation with Thought Leadership and More.” My attendees and I examined the characteristics of a successful modern services marketer and the technology that can act as a key enabler of transformation and innovation. We addressed specific best practices for thought leadership and storytelling – along with the required skills for modern marketing as a required core competency.
Interesting enough, I was fortunate to hear from my session attendees who shared some “aha moments” and key takeaways:
- The art and science of marketing are critical, but first, marketers must upskill. Marketers should improve their knowledge in marketing processes and the measurement of investments and success. The influx of skills related to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) is real, and everyone is feeling the need to be more proficient in these areas. Although marketers are not required to get a Ph.D. in data science, they still should acquire a certain level of competency in analytics. Plus, marketers should understand how to collaborate with teams and individuals and drive successful reporting and analytics, which will eventually include predictive analytics.
- Target audience segmentation has never been more critical. This observation applies to buyer persona and segmentation, as well the targeting of marketing and developing valuable offers. Bringing together art and science, marketers can use elements of psychology to understand needs, profiling, and segmentation to build target groups and exercise analytics to measure their impact and success.
- Thought leadership based on solid storytelling simplifies unprecedented complexity. Customers expect storylines that are compelling, succinct, and value-adding. Great storytelling includes a challenge, an escalation, and a resolution. This best practice is useful in a host of formats and mediums – from white papers and videos to in-person events.
- Marketing technology has matured, bringing a significant variety of options and choices. Despite experts predicting a mass-market consolidation, the services industry has continued to expand. In fact, there are ten-fold more offerings than what was available just four years ago. Several major solution categories require the integration of both systems of engagement and systems of record. It will be fascinating to watch this trend continue to grow over the next couple of years and see if the anticipated consolidation occurs.
- Digital transformation is impacting the marketing function across all industries and markets at different rates. Specific, unique digital marketing is not going away anytime soon. In fact, it’s now part of the larger marketing landscape, which requires a certain level of digital acumen. Take social media, for example. No longer is it just a vehicle to send messages to customers and followers – it’s a required channel across all marketing.
As the current event season winds down, it will be time soon to plan for 2017. And thankfully, the examples, frameworks, and suggested research acquired during these events are providing the insight my fellow services marketers and I need to deliver the value and resources our customers need.
Fred is the senior director and head of Thought Leadership for Digital Business Services Marketing at SAP.