Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Marketing and IT: Come Together, Right Now!

Some of my learned industry colleagues at Forrester Research have released a new report. It's entitled "CMOs Must Merge Marketing With IT To Win In The Digital Decade." Here's an excerpt from the report's Executive Summary (which you can view at no charge here).

"In the future, only companies that understand and anticipate their customers' needs and can consistently deliver unique, tailored customer experiences will be able to attract and retain loyal customers. This requires not just having the knowledge about the customer but also the processes and the systems that create unique customer insights and deliver compelling interactions across the customer life cycle. To achieve this, CMOs must form a strong partnership with CIOs, going beyond collaboration to co-create new organizations and processes, where both teams share ownership of goals and business outcomes."

This follows a Forrester report released in July 2011 (and apparently updated in October) entitled "Marketing And IT Must Align For Business Success." Here's an excerpt from that report's Executive Summary (on view here).

"Today's marketing organization must use technology to deliver compelling brand experiences and drive business growth. Today's IT organizations must tune their efforts to needs of the business. This convergence of expertise dictates that to succeed, CMOs and CIOs must form a collaborative partnership focused on driving business results that support long-term and short-term goals. CMOs and CIOs must embrace a shared view of the customer as well as share business goals and metrics in order to ensure competitive business success in the age of the empowered customer."

All good so far. But for goodness' sake, some of us have been preaching this gospel for nearly 35 years now. (Yikes!) So what's the hold-up?

Well, I've trod that ground pretty thoroughly already, here and elsewhere. (Two recent examples from my posts at The CMO Site: "Why Companies Struggle with Marketing Automation" and "When Marketing and IT Don't Cooperate, E-Commerce Misses Target." ) But what's more important is why this is such a big deal (again) now.

To be brief, it's "the mobile, social cloud." It's making everybody an influencer of purchase decisions and how vendors and solutions are perceived. And it's drastically shortening the time between events and effects. For these and other reasons, it's making more, better and faster collaboration between marketing and technology decision makers more and more critical to the success (if not the survival) of more and more businesses.

Of course, that doesn't force or even necessarily accelerate the changes in human behavior necessary to make such collaborations happen effectively. As the old joke goes, "How many therapists does it take to change a light bulb? Only one, but the light bulb has to really want to change." But it's gotta start somewhere, and if that means multiple pundits and prognosticators repeating the same message multiple times over multiple years, that's fine. As long as it leads to positive effect. Eventually.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Marketing to IT: Please Make Inventory Management Invisible, NOW!

Inventory management? A concern for marketing and information technology (IT) decision-makers? Oh, yes…

One of marketing's primary concerns is how a company is perceived. It turns out that how well your company manages its inventories of the things it sells is a primary determinant of how that company is perceived. Because if you can't deliver what I want when I want it, I'm going to be unhappy with you, regardless of how good your marketing or other operations might be.

Meanwhile, your customers, partners, prospects, competitors and purchase influencers are all increasingly participatory inhabitants of "the mobile, social cloud." Which means your company has to be there too. In ways that make your company more agile, responsive and, well, social.

And what do inventory management and inhabiting the mobile, social cloud have in common? Why, IT, of course. Unfortunately, at many if not most businesses, 60 to 80 percent of your IT budget is being spent on just keeping what you've already got working. Not exactly a running start on improvements in things such as inventory management.

What's a marketer to do?

Sit down with IT decision makers and convince them that this is a challenge you and they need to confront jointly. Then work with them to determine how and how well inventory is being managed now, and where improvements might be found most quickly. Then, look at some premise-based, cloud-based and cloud-enabled inventory management solutions and how they might help your company.

You can find a great rundown of several of these in an article published by Inc. in May 2011. My favorite: Fishbowl Inventory. It integrates with Intuit's QuickBooks and offers options that can take a company from better inventory management to more and better sales, fulfillment and resource planning and management, as recently covered by eWeek.

We in the punditocracy blather on incessantly about how business and IT have to get better at working together. A great way to foster such collaboration in meaningful ways is to focus on areas that avoid leaving money on the table while improving customer satisfaction, corporate perception and revenues. Improved inventory management can do all of these things.

A Special Offer: If you're interested in Fishbowl Inventory, drop a line to vip@fishbowlinventory.com. I've negotiated a relationship with the company that guarantees that every one of my readers who uses that e-mail address will get priority treatment and help getting started with their free trial of the software. And if you promise to share your feedback with me for possible inclusion in future blog posts or research (anonymously if you prefer), you'll get undying gratitude from me -- AND a five-percent discount from Fishbowl if you purchase Fishbowl Inventory! A win for everybody!