Random thoughts on CRM: Why emotional verticals are good for your health

Random thoughts on CRM: Why emotional verticals are good for your health

Summary: Paul Greenberg delivers more insights into the customer-facing market, including a look at specialization, verticals, interesting companies, current projects and a couple of rants.

TOPICS: Tech Industry

I was very surprised at the response I got for the Random Thoughts on CRM I wrote on my flight out to Las Vegas for CallidusCloud’s C3 conference.  There is so much more to customer engagement and to other areas that are customer facing, I figured I'd use my return flight to follow-up with a look at specialization, verticals, interesting companies and some more on the extant projects. 

The roiling of the markets continues: forget sales enablement, optimization; remember specialization

I hope we can all agree that sales force automation, the driver of original CRM, is now pretty much the same from tech offering to tech offering.  It’s been the same for a long time and probably isn’t going to go much further.  However, under the rubric of sales enablement and sales optimization (both terms that are overused big time), I’m seeing a lot of specialization areas – value adds to sales technology and related systems that are substantially important. 

Companies like InsideView (arguably the first of these types of companies), Lattice Engines, ClearSlide, Xactly and CallidusCloud are growing quickly and making substantial inroads because they offer important additional value. There is a wide variety.

Some, like Callidus Cloud and Xactly, cover compensation but are focused in what are now diverging directions.  Some, like Lattice Engines, are looking at next best actions and predictive analytics to drive them.  Some, like InsideView, are focused around deep sales intelligence. ClearSlide is built around personalization based on sales target behaviors.

Tech vendors who are capable of entering this particular vertical and are not thinking about it are – to put it nicely – out of their minds.

There are many other players having an impact in the market.  There is even a realignment of the market and a huge upsurge of interest in demand generation and lead generation/nurturing. We are seeing a broad alignment of sales and marketing departments at many companies that is changing the way that the two departments work — both apart and together — which is causing many tech companies who had historically focused on sales or marketing applications to redesign their products and/or add to their portfolios. Cases in point are salesforce.com moving Pardot, a full-fledged marketing automation suite for mid-sized companies, into the Sales Cloud. 

It is why we’ve begun to see an evolution of the traditional marketing automation technologies to account for the change via what they are calling (see Oracle Eloqua and Marketo here) revenue performance management – or, to use a much better term from The Pedowitz Group, revenue marketing.

The opportunity in what was a pretty mature, staid sales force automation (and even marketing automation) marketplace lies in the above. It's also why you see NetSuite CEO Zach Nelson's argument that CRM doesn’t work unless you include order management and ecommerce begin to actually gain some legs, though it is still way overstated. The market is looking for the things that give it either greater operational effectiveness or some competitive advantage and that understands the nature of the 21st century customer. It's a tall order, but a great opportunity: Specialization with a distinct purpose.

The emotional verticals are good for your…no, great…

I have this idea that there are these verticals which are ripe for a big dose of 21st century thinking and provide some of the greatest opportunity for businesses in the technology world – but also for companies that are doing strategic and programmatic advisory work.

I call these "the emotional verticals." These are where the deepest emotional stakes exist for customers and, therefore, the place where customer behaviors matter most and are most available (note I didn’t say easiest) to identify and anticipate. These are also where customers can be most deeply and continually engaged — if you can anticipate their behaviors and provide them with the products, services, tools, and consumable experiences they need to stay engaged. These verticals are where the customers either willingly or sometimes unwillingly invest emotionally. They are, in no particular order:

  1. Retail
  2. Media, entertainment, sports
  3. Travel
  4. Hospitality
  5. Financial services
  6. Health services (including wellness)

There may be others I don’t know.  All of these have meaning to each of us.  Arbitrarily, how do you feel if:

  1. You find “that thing” you’ve been looking to buy “forever” — and you buy it?
  2. The team you’ve rooted for your entire life is winning? Losing?
  3. You are upgraded to first class on a long flight?
  4. Your hotel room sucks. Or is a suite upgrade (or should I say “sweeeet” upgrade)?
  5. You lose all your money in a financial crash?
  6. You go to the doctor to check on what may or may not be a problem?

You know that as you read each of these, you felt a little something and immediately understood which emotion you would feel – which is the same as pretty much everyone (remember the commonwealth of self-interest here).

These emotional verticals are where everything we speak — touchpoints and customer experience and customer journeys and customer engagement — become really important to the customers and opportunities for the businesses. The neurons and synapses are firing, the feelings during the interactions in these instances are running intense in some overt or unsettling way. Our behaviors are being driven to a large extent (though not entirely) by these feelings. They are real to each of us and all of us.  Which is why I call them emotional verticals.

There is a huge opportunity to gather what is needed for insight into behavior and providing those customers who are feeling it with what they need to feel valued – and thus engaged – and thus remain a (hopefully) profitable customer for a long time. Why? In the immortal words of the Mickey Mouse Club “because they like you.”

That’s also why I’m not including verticals like manufacturing, or construction, which, while important, don’t have the same universal emotional impact. I’m using the word “universal” by the way, so I don’t get somebody telling me “well if someone loses his or her job in construction, that’s emotional.” Sure it is. But that has nothing to do with what I’m telling you. So consider this a pre-emptive strike. 

….For your health

I think the biggest opportunity lies with the overarching health services vertical.  When I say health services, I’m not just saying doctor patient stuff, but also including pharmaceutical and — even more important to the contemporary nature of the crowd — wellness services.

This is preliminary stuff for me.  Again, random and unverified.  But here are some things I know:

  1. The total encompassing health services spend is expected to be $3 trillion in the U.S. by 2015.

  2. The health technology spend is expected to be $56.8 billion by 2016. Cedegim, a technology solutions provider that focuses solely on this universe including pharma, is a $1.2 billion company that remarkably few people outside of health services have ever heard of.

  3. Companies in the wellness universe (like Precor) that produce seriously good fitness equipment are tying it into the cloud and the Internet of Things, by enabling all their machines (over time) with cloud services. So, for example, you’ll be able to work out at home, upload to your profile, go to a hotel gym  with a Precor machine, download your profile, upload it back to the cloud when you’re down, and access it wherever. 

  4. Microsoft has HealthVault, a complete medical records including wellness repository. They sync with 226 applications and 141 devices – all in the cloud – and are able to provide doctors with complete health records. (In theory, so far — I’m not sure how many use this.)

  5. Companies like NexJ out of Canada have an excellent health and wellness application suite – though they don’t focus on it enough.  But the technology is there for holistic oversight of health for both doctor and patient and other health services providers.

This is big stuff and tech vendors not thinking about it who are capable of entering this particular vertical – to put it nicely – are out of their minds.

Five smallish but established technology vendors with tons of promise and no explanation forthcoming here as to why I like them…though I know why

  1. Thunderhead.com
  2. Clarabridge
  3. CRMnext
  4. NexJ
  5. Coveo

More on my projects

More of the stuff I’m really liking doing.

  1. The 2015 Customer Engagement book  - I think that the format of the book will be the chapter core material, a case study of significance and an outside expert’s best practices. The Customer Engagement Technology Matrix will be a baseline standard for what a customer engagement platform and/or solution should and might include as of publication and will discuss companies that meet that standard as of the writing of the book.  The CETM will be kept up annually.

  2. The CRM Watchlist 2015 – For those of you who don’t know, registration for the CRM Watchlist is now open for 2015.  While I’m done with the registration form, I’m redesigning the questionnaire to get rid of some of the clearly blurry questions I’ve had you all answer. I apologize for any confusion I have caused due to my lack of clarity. That is being fixed. I’m also changing it because, once again, we are in the midst of major change so my “index” and “key indicators” need to change too. So please register.

    Send me an email at paul-greenberg3@the56group.com asking me for the registration form – and in return, I’ll send you the form and the CRM Watchlist 2014 Yearbook which has the bulk of the amended 2015 rules as an Appendix – and a big hint there on what I’ll be looking for. (Although I am reserving my right to change my mind.)  Then when the questionnaire is done, I’ll send you the new questionnaire.  The due date for the questionnaire submission will be December 4, 2014. The due date for registration is October 31, 2014. 

Two questions I really want answered – HELP!!

These are rants disguised as questions, to be perfectly honest. However, I would like you guys to answer them.

  1. I hate the term “omnichannel” for literary and descriptive reasons. For those of you who don’t know the expression, it is the idea that we enable all channels because we communicate on all channels. We normally hear "omni" preceding “present,” “potent,” “scient,” and “bus.”  It has supplanted — in forward thinking companies at least — "multichannel" as a foundation for strategy. 

    The difference lies in that multichannel says “we need to give the customers the channel(s) that they want to communicate on, with an underlying assumption (most of the time) that there is one channel at a time that customers prefer to communicate on.

    Omnichannel goes to the idea that customers can communicate on multiple channels in a time period simultaneously (in parallel) or serially switch seamlessly from one to another, adding a degree of complexity and urgency to the strategizing around communications and interaction.  But omnichannel is a lousy word for it. 

    Jamie Anderson, VP of CRM Product Marketing at SAP, captures the heart of the matter when he calls it “channel-less” communications – meaning the channels themselves become transparent to the interactions – and that’s absolutely true. But it won’t do as a term because of the businesses that have to understand the term. They don’t and can’t think “channel-less” because they have to plan for spending money on the pipes not the communication by the customer only. So we need another term.

    I don’t have a better name, but if you can come up with one that I can use in my presentations (and attribute to you of course), I’ll send you a $100 gift certificate to Amazon as a thanks for saving the English language (and the languages we translate your term to) and feel so much better. Hey, okay, I know its only $100 Amazon gift certificate, but I haven’t sold a tech start up lately. Or ever.

  2. Can anyone explain to me how customer experience management technology (again, not strategy or programs) is any different than things I’ve seen at the back end of CRM systems around customer analytics? What makes it customer experience and not just sentiment analysis and/or text analytics or other “been-there-a-long-time-as-customer” analytics?  Just tell me why customer experience technology is distinguishable from what I’ve seen with other names for years?  I’m confused.  Please tell me.

I hope this is Hangover not Hangover 2. I know there are only so many times Ken Jeung jumping out of something is funny.   I’m not going to a #3.  It’s no good for sure then.  At least not in close proximity.

Topic: Tech Industry

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  • Omnichannel CEM - or so

    Hi Paul,

    let me use my time zone advantage to give some brief tries answering your questions:

    When it comes to technologies supporting "omnichannel" communications I tend to think of channel agnostic communications. This is because - apart from the apparently different means of delivery of the communications (the channel) - it should not matter what the channel actually is. Transported are product/solution/brand/ communications that are supposed to be consistent. The legwork of optimizing the communications to the used channel needs to be hidden from the users on both ends. Hence channel agnostic.

    Difference between CEM tech and CRM tech. Well, although I am not always fully consistent I think that the difference is more of a gradual nature than fundamental. I tend to agree with your last post where you say that CEM seems to include CRM. Both technologies exist to serve binding customers to vendors. The difference in nature that I see is that traditional CRM comes from a transactional corner and uses transactional data to communicate (or should I say: engage) with the customer, regardless (originally, again) of how that looks like for the customer. CEM puts a layer of sophistication on top of it by including the customer experience into the equation and by attempting to be consistent across channels, from a messaging content and style point of view. Here we are back to channel agnostic. The point is that this layer of sophistication is better prone to "influence" (lacking a better word) customers to be or stay with a brand than pure transactional relationships.

    I also think that Siebel and SAP with a strong focus on CRM suites have been laying the groundworks for CEM very early on, without probably really knowing it ...

  • Ominchannel

    Hi Paul,

    We need to get past the word channel when it comes to communications and media. Channel implies structure and a linearity of communications. Communication is less linear than it's ever been. It is now chaotic, hyper-connected, ubiquitous and decidedly non-linear. Conversations now leap among platforms and channels with an unprecedented fluidity — a Twitter update engenders an SMS text which leads to a phone conversation that informs a blog post that points to a web-site viewed on a mobile device which generates a sale in a brick-and-mortar venue.

    I've written about "pervasive communications" and "pervasive media". Maybe they aren't the right terms, but I think they bring us closer to what we're experiencing.

    My $0.02,
  • Object Oriented Communication

    Hey Paul,

    Another thought. Again, close but not quite it. Back in my salad days as a programmer on Wall Street I was first introduced to object-oriented programming (OOP). It was a leap forward in the craft because it allowed a new way of looking at programming and data. A team could spend months developing the appropriate "objects," then rapidly deploy applications by simply stringing together objects and methods.

    A key feature -- and paradigm shift -- was encapsulation of the state of an object separate from the program itself. There's an analog here for communications and channels. The interaction with a customer is the equivalent of an object. It has context and data that should be available regardless of the channel being used.

    An additional $0.02
  • Strings of Packets

    Good point, Alan. I like your OOP analogy. But perhaps pervasive media isn't the end, but the defining characteristic that enables "conversation strings" - they span multiple mediums, channels, etc. and literally render the channel/medium irrelevant.

    The channel no longer needs to play an influential role in our conversations, provides no unique context, does NOT need to remember our conversations or play a role in our "next" conversation. In effect, channels play a stateless role in our overall #CX. Use one, then the next. One ongoing (discontinuous?) conversation over a series of "stateless" channels.

    It's not omnichannel as much as it is channel-irrelevant. So lease your stateless channels, plan for them, utilize them (because they do exist as independent channels), but don't let them define your conversation (which is what you really need to remember - today).
  • Emotional Verticals

    Hi Paul, great insight as always, however I personally believe the latest round of CRM company pre-occupation with verticals and tailoring a solution and defined process to fit a sector can often miss the point, as a long standing CRM provider of some 25 years and thinking we have seen most things before, at Maximizer we still make mistakes on this. We are happy quote our largest sectors as being Financial Services, Manufacturing, Professional Services, Media and Communications etc. and yes we do have a substantial number of clients in these broad areas. However when you drill down there are obvious sub-sectors, sub-sub-sectors and even sub-sub-sub sectors to the extent that most companies are actually pretty unique and work differently in many ways to each other. There are a thousand ways to do business out there.

    Ok I agree there are things that can underpin a sector such customer similarity, regulation and compliance, but the way Sales, Marketing and Service function in any organisation or team can vary, I maintain nowadays that CRM should not attempt to be over prescriptive, staff in a sales, marketing or service function are generally clever people that know what they are doing, the CRM should enhance the way they work and perform, not undermine productivity with a very rigid process or procedure. This thought morphs into the specialisation you speak of and how each company is ‘special’ in it’s own way. Proper implementation, consultancy, training and quick wins for everyone using a CRM system are the things that lead to success.

    On the subject of emotional verticals, one thought I had on reading your piece was do charities or educational establishments also fit into this bracket? They are currently good markets for CRM and the unique relationship of non-profit organisation to an individual person (donor, student) as the ‘customer’ is quite a different proposition.

    Mike Richardson
    Maximizer CRM
    Maximizer CRM
  • One

    Hi Paul,

    how about "one communication". It's simple, catchy, and IMHO focuses on the commonalities of any potentially diverse / divergent enterprise-to-customer communication. Hence, it puts The Communication in the focus, not its means (channels, etc).

    What I dislike anyway about the term "channel" is that it assumes a one-to-one direction. It doesn't allow 'others' to engage. Isn't "social" all about networking?!

    Just my 2c,
    Stefan Radulian
    Stefan Radulian