You Want The Case Study That Google Got

how to create detailed case studiesIn the past, I’ve ranted about what vendors leave out of their case studies, what they need to make them great, and how much of your “secret sauce” you should reveal in them.

But rarely do I see a case study that is so good it sets the bar for the industry. It involves Spotify switching from its own data centers to Google to host its streaming music service. Published in the form of a blog post from Spotify, it goes far beyond the usual “apple pie and motherhood” generalities to describe specifically why Spotify chose Google over other cloud providers.

Maybe this level of detail results from what sort of a discount Spotify got. More likely it has to do with an engineering-centric culture at Spotify that led them to share the technical details behind their infrastructure growth in gleeful detail.

But instead of wondering how this case study came about, let’s talk about what makes it so good and how you can try for the same level of detail with your customers.

Why They Choose Google – Specifically

In its blog post announcing the shift, Spotify said:

What really tipped the scales towards Google for us…has been our experience with Google’s data platform and tools. Good infrastructure isn’t just about keeping things up and running, it’s about making all of our teams more efficient and more effective, and Google’s data stack does that for us in spades… (f)rom traditional batch processing with Dataproc, to rock-solid event delivery with Pub/Sub to the nearly magical abilities of BigQuery, building on Google’s data infrastructure provides us with a significant advantage where it matters the most.

Note that Spotify went beyond euphemisms such as “enhancing efficiency” or “end to end solution” to talk specifically about how Google helps them cut costs and improve the streaming experience for their users. It also mentioned specific Google  tools. While the post could have been more specific about how those tools helped, it’s already head and shoulders above most case studies.

Questions to ask your customers to get similar results include:

  • What specific products or services from other vendors did you consider besides ours?
  • For each of our offerings you chose , describe the specific benefits (such as lower cost, higher performance, greater ease of use) that drove your choice, with at least one example of how we were better in each area.
  • What strategic aims or needs (such as optimizing use of your infrastructure or assuring a great customer experience) drove your purchase decision? Please provide an example of how each of our products or services helps you reach these high-level objectives.

Honesty – Painful Honesty

In its more detailed “deep dive” technical blog post,  the Spotify team also discussed frankly what they don’t like among Google’s tools and services. It found, for example, that the Google Cloud Deployment Manager was too difficult to use, leading it to build its own  Spotify Pool Manager to more easily spin up new servers as needed.

Admitting your own products aren’t the absolute ideal fix for every customer, regardless of their needs, takes courage. Standing by graciously while one of your customers does so ain’t easy either.  But the smart, and ethical, product managers I talk all the time are the first to know, and admit, when one of their solutions isn’t a good fit for a specific customer. Just imagine the credibility you get by being as honest, and as technical, as Spotify is when talking about Google.

Sweat the Details

The common theme here is the importance of details in making a case study come alive. Push your customers to explain what they mean by jargon such as “transformation” or generalities such as “agility.” Digging into specifics helps tell your story, and may even give you added insight into your client’s needs for follow-on sales.


Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email or call me at 508 725-7258.

How Big Data Will Fail. Why That’s Good

Big Data marketing tips When clients ask for “thought leadership” white papers, they want  ideas that aren’t yet common knowledge and that will grab and keep readers.

Here’s some thought leadership about the hot topic of Big Data: It can do massive harm if you use it to ask the wrong questions, overload users with documentation, implement it with the wrong data or ignore common sense. Being first to guide your customers around these pitfalls can mean competitive advantage.

Big Noise About Big Data

Big Data – analyzing a greater volume, variety and velocity of data to make better decisions – will grow at six times the rate of the overall information technology market, reaching $41.5 billion in 2018, says market researcher IDC.

Businesses have sliced and diced data about everything from underground oil deposits to customer sales for decades. But the growth of the Internet, of devices linked to the Internet of Things and social media means more data to mine every day. The opportunities range from using location data to text coupons to customers based on their location in a store to using arrest records to predict where crimes are likely and prevent them with a heavier police presence. (Hello, Minority Report.)

So what could go wrong? At least three big things. Here’s how to use each of these minefields to show thought leadership and speed the benefits of Big Data to us all.

  1. Data for Data’s Sake

ICD-10 is the latest version of the codes used around the world to describe medical conditions, and is the basis on which providers get paid by insurers. The most recent version, which went into effect October 1, is much more detailed than the previous versions, with 70,000 codes for everything from parrot bites to getting sucked into a jet engine. While the extra detail may help health researchers, Bloomberg Business Week reports says it means huge amounts of unpaid paperwork for providers – time they could be spending with patients. Skeptics note the added complexity means a windfall for consultants and software companies happy to sort out the mess, and gives insurers an excuse to deny claims.

  Thought leadership: Big Data will only be cost-effective and gain the trust of customers if we         gather only the data we need, ensure data gathering doesn’t interfere with an organization’s prime mission and is used for good, not evil. Be proactive about addressing these issues in your marketing.

  1. Forgetting the End Customer

In industry after industry, practitioners are scrambling for data-driven rules that will assure them they are doing a good job. In education, for example, some claim that the more a teacher moves around the classroom, the better their teaching. Have you ever had a teacher who could keep a classroom spellbound while standing in one place, and others who bored you to tears while they paced all over the place? Another teacher pointed out that too much stimulation (like a teacher wandering around the room) might distract students with autism or other disorders. Our fixation with data can blind us to our own experience.

Thought leadership: Stress (as many analytic experts already are) the importance of working closely with business managers and front-line workers to understand what data matter in the real world. Focus on metrics that matter to the end consumer. In education, for example, don’t monitor the teacher, but the students, and whether they’re listening raptly or are tapping on their smartphones. In sales, customer service or app development, focus on the user experience, not just stats like system response time.    

3. People Aren’t Robots. Yet.

There may come a day when we’re always guided to rational decisions by embedded neural networks, but we ain’t there yet.

Consider the financial meltdown of 2007-2008, which almost sank the globe into an economic depression. Some experts did predict the crash, and there was data (such as overly inflated home prices and rising household debt) that pointed to trouble.

But some of the biggest dangers were neither reflected in the data or the analytic models acting on it.  They include the folly of home buyers taking on mortgages they couldn’t afford, the greed of mortgage issuers (or those who packaged those loans for resale) in hiding rising delinquency rates, or the temptation for credit scoring agencies (who get paid by big financial firms) to keep the bad news quiet.

Thought leadership: Don’t just admit that human factors defy Big Data analysis. Become a leader in explaining the limits of Big Data, and advising your clients on when to supplement it with focus groups, qualitative research and field experience that take the human factor into account.

Big Data is still in the “peak of inflated expectations” phase of what researcher Gartner Inc. calls the “hype cycle” each new technology goes through. Next up is Gartner’s “trough of disillusionment” as customers fall prey to Big Data mistakes like those I’ve described.

As we learn how to use Big Data right, we’ll enter the sunny uplands of what Gartner calls the “slope of enlightenment” and “plateau of productivity” for new technology. Generating, and promoting, insights into the proper uses of Big Data will get your company, or your clients, to that happy state first.

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email or call me at 508 725-7258.

Back in the ‘80s, rockabilly giant Sleepy LaBeef recorded a song called “It Ain’t What You Eat (It’s the Way How You Chew It). Sadly, even Google can’t find it now, but I recall one of the lines was “It ain’t what you do, it’ the way how you do it.”

When it comes to marketing automation that means it’s not only what you do that’s important, but how you manage and measure it. Which is just what The Pedowitz Group and The Lenskold Group learned in a recent survey of more than 370 B2B marketing organizations. It found that marketing automation, combined with tracking ROI metrics such as lead acceptance rate and revenue per sale, made top-performing organizations more efficient and effective.


Top Performers

According to the survey, the top segment of companies – 11% of all marketers surveyed – demonstrated distinct advantages in outgrowing competitors by adopting integrated marketing automation and using ROI metrics. After deploying a marketing automation solution, 48 percent of marketing organizations saw an increase in lead acceptance, the survey found, while 28 percent of organizations saw an increase in revenue per sale.

While “all the key outcomes went up,” total marketing revenue contribution rose the most “for the organizations that had marketing automation and were also using ROI metriecs to help manage their effectiveness,” said  Lenskold Group President Jim Lenskold.

Key Success Factors

The importance of management showed up again in findings that the organizations that reported the most success were:

  • More likely to report strengths in their organizations’ structure and processes related to lead generation;
  • Three times more likely to drive repeatable and predictable lead-to-sale conversion rates; and,
  • Better able to manage their marketing funnel, measuring incremental sales and revenue, providing a pipeline forecast and being accountable for revenue goals.

It all shows, as if we needed a reminder, that simply purchasing a marketing automation system isn’t enough to realize these benefits because systems don’t operate in a vacuum. At the end of the day, software is only a tool and using it effectively requires process improvements and adherence to best practices.

You can watch Lenskold and Debbie Qaqish, a principal at the Pedowitz Group, discuss the survey in more detail on CRM Software TV.

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email or call me at 508 725-7258.

Content Marketing Success in Just Hours Per Week

If you think you need to be Cisco or GM to have a profitable content marketing strategy, talk to Margaret Johnson.

She’s managing director of marketing for Oakwood Systems Group Inc., a technology consulting and services firm in St. Louis. The 30 year-old, 150-person firm has been using Genoo for marketing automation for about three years. She says Genoo  has been critical to the marketing outreach that has become Oakwood’s hallmark.  Growing nearly 30% in each of the past two years, the organization is positioned to see “hockey stick” growth in sales, in part due to the marketing efforts enabled by Genoo, says Johnson.

Best of all, she spends only one or two hours a week producing and distributing content. She admits she’s a faster than usual writer, and has 30 years in technology to speed her writing. (She also has her marketing automation platform and a solid content strategy in place.) But given that, she says any smart marketing person can do what she does in half a day a week.

Needing Nurturing 

Before adopting Genoo, Oakwood had no easy way to monitor its ongoing interaction with prospects or to nurture them if they “were interested in what we had to offer, but not for six months, nine months or a year,” says Johnson. If the CIO at a prospect suddenly announced `We’ve got to have this capability now’” there was no way to assure Oakwood but would be top of mind.

To remedy that, she created a series of regular client touchpoints, including a newsletter highlighting recent entries from the Oakwood blog, a comprehensive event strategy and the associated invitation cycles, and a series of topic-specific lead nurturing sequences.  The click-through behaviors of the client or prospect dictates whether they are automatically entered into further nurturing sequences, which automatically sends them content customized based on what they’re already read.

Show Me the Money

Oakwood has gotten great feedback from customers, such as “I love the information,” and “You’re the only partners I have that do they something like this, and it’s impressive.” As a result, “When they think about what they need to do, we’re at the top of their list,” says Johnson.

The real payoff, though, is increased sales. “To publicize our portals practice, we sent an email to about 600 people every six weeks, over a specific period of time” says Johnson. One reply was from a Fortune 500 company, who said, `You guys are really forward thinking. I like what I’m seeing here. We need to do a project.  Are you interested in proposing on it?’” The result was a $350,000 deal from a company Oakwood wasn’t calling on because they had previously determined “they weren’t buying our kind of service,” she says. Through the newsletter, “We found a latent opportunity and wound up closing the business.”

The Genoo software also informed Johnson that “one prospect was clicking through on every single thing we wrote that had to do with mobility. We were able to say to sales, you need to call on this fellow.” The result was a five-digit project to develop a mobile app for trade shows, with Oakwood continuing to execute further business with the client.

Another prospect signaled, through their reading behavior, they were interested in Oakwood’s services for migrating apps to the cloud. She alerted a sales person who followed up and “got a sales meeting with a huge account.”

Automate, Automate, Automate

Creating a plan and automating it is essential to generating sales without burning too much time.

She has configured Genoo to automatically create and send the client and prospect newsletter every 14 days, automatically pulling the three latest customer stories as well as an upcoming event list from the Web site. Whenever she, or one of her internal contributors, publishes a new post to the Oakwood Insights blog, a Genoo widget automatically posts that content on the appropriate portion of the website, and promotes it on social media such as LinkedIn and Twitter.

Johnson still does a fair amount of writing, but is turning more over to outside writers and internal experts. “As I’ve opened this up to the entire organization I’m seeing blog posts pop up from unexpected sources,” she says. A formal training program helped, and the organization is working on a program that gives team members some form of internal recognition and/or incentive for writing blog posts. But the biggest incentive, she says, is that Oakwood team members want to be known and noticed.

Trust But Verify 

Her internal contributors have shown “excellent news judgment” under a “trust but verify” system where only their first few posts are reviewed, after which they can self-publish. She also suggests that her authors get peer reviews of their content, which most employees do “because they don’t want to look stupid.”

Her rules include: Business-relevant content, no client names, no client secrets, no Oakwood secrets, “and if I find you using an apostrophe `s’ to make a plural I will hunt you down!,” she adds, laughing.

And finally, she advises, use the blog for education, not overt sales pitches. “We sell more if we aren’t selling,” she says.

Margaret’s story (learn more in this video) shows that content marketing can work and be done by mere mortals. But you will need a strategy and a tool to automate at least some of the grunt work. 

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email or call me at 508 725-7258.

Chapter Four: They always say don’t change horses in the middle of the stream. But if the water is rising around you and a stronger-looking horse (or a better-looking email editor) comes around…well you get the idea.

After burning more than a week and about 10 hours of my Web developer’s time trying to create emails in LoopFuse, I was about ready to launch my first email when the photos stubbornly refused to display correctly. Just then, an alert person at their rival Genoo (having read my blog whining about this issue) suggested I check them out. Turns out Genoo is unveiling e kind of easy to use, template-rich email designer LoopFuse lacked so I’m in the process of making the shift.

Stuck in a steady flow of tech issues.

(Before jumping ship, yet another shout-out to the superb sales and support folks at LoopFuse, who did all they could to help, as well as to Josh at their services partner Clever Zebo, who also jumped into the fray. For those of you with strong HTML skills in house, I’d still recommend LoopFuse as a good low-end platform and, besides the email, I like their interface. But I need to get the email portion of my marketing done ASAP, and messing around with email design was just getting in the way.

So far, the Genoo email interface looks useful, but as with anything there’s a learning curve. I managed, for example, to trash my image library by deleting the default “micro site” Genoo creates for each new user. Leave it to me to find a way to break something straightforward. (Genoo is currently tweaking their code, I understand, so anyone else who deletes all their micro-sites won’t run into the same issue.)

Suffice it to say, once more, whichever tool you use leave some time for learning and troubleshooting.

Now, for some good news. Even before launching formal content marketing, I’m getting results from the more frequent, consistent and focused blogging, Tweeting and LinkedIn commenting I’ve been doing. I was invited to do a guest post on the value of personas at the Savvy B2B blog, am in partnership talks with a Los Angeles-based demand creation agency, and got a query from a potential client about help with a lead generation program. While I can’t write “content marketing” on a check yet, after only six weeks I’m moving in different circles and getting interest from new and different potential clients.

Meanwhile, the tide of regular, paying work is picking up after the holiday lull, putting more time pressure on. The challenge new becomes to stay disciplined and to keep building out my Web site, content plan, and email blasts to not let my momentum slide. If anyone finds more hours in the day, send them my way!

Author: Bob Scheier
Visit Bob's Website - Email Bob
I'm a veteran IT trade press reporter and editor with a passion for clear writing that explains how technology can help businesses. To learn more about my content marketing services, email or call me at 508 725-7258.