The Customer Experience Management space continues to evolve rapidly, with innovative start-ups and global software giants still rubbing shoulders in competition for marketing spend in an effort to provide customers with an optimized global digital experience.
The ever-changing industry dynamics and dizzying M&A activity can make it hard for professionals in the space to chart a target career path – most CXM experts are so absorbed in daily tasks that they rarely have time to take a step back from their own desks and look at the market from a higher viewpoint and ask “where is my career path taking me – and where do I want to go?”
Working in the consulting field can offer exactly this perspective. To get an expert eye, Adaptive’s Kerry Bowden spoke with Piyush Patel, CEO of digital consulting agency Accelerating Digital.
What are some areas of the CXM space where smaller, niche players still win out over their enterprise competitors – where do the small guys still have the edge?
Piyush: If we look at the factors governing how people make buying decisions, it breaks down into brand recognition, price and capabilities. For each one there are big and small factors which determine where a vendor may win.
The smaller guys win when the customer does not want to feel that their problem is common and like the others; when they need something more aligned to their business and they are not like the other small businesses. This is where many smaller niche players get ahead. For example, a company in Germany may win local business in Germany.
The small players win at a granular level, whereas bigger vendors tend to build sales from demonstrations of case studies on other clients. With those case studies, the buyer doesn’t always get to compare their precise needs against relevant use cases.
Price is a fairly easy one. It’s not just the price of the software. When you look at savvy customers, they’ll be thinking “When I buy Adobe vs. system X, can I get an Adobe guy trained and on my team and stay within budget?” In terms of professional service, SI and support hires, smaller guys may have a smaller ecosystem of certified players but owing to comparatively lower demand their rates are much more in line with small business budgets.
Do you see any changes in tech/agency partnership dynamics – are professional service models in SaaS generally driving a need for more agency partnerships, or taking business from them with growing in-house capabilities?
Piyush: Right now there a lack of uniformity regarding who is responsible for what. Traditionally, you bought your software and your SI did the development, then IT would cover ongoing management after that. Now all the roles are up for grabs. The software vendor can do all 3 if need be.
In recent years, agencies have stepped up to manage customer sites and scale up managed service offerings.
The relationship is definitely changing. IF agencies end up owning the entire marketing effort for a company – creative, development, host and run, then there will be huge changes coming down the line.
Epsilon was one of the first ones to do it a few years ago. With so many providers trying to figure out the extent of their scope of services, there are gray areas in partnering – depending on if you are a partner, you may also be a competitor.
It’s a key question a lot of my clients ask: “who should we be partnered with?”
Lastly, what are your ideas on how to interview/choose a digitally savvy CMO? Fast-growing companies may know that to unlock growth potential they need to hire a tech-aware marketing leader to design/implement a cutting-edge MarTech stack, but often they don’t have the experience themselves to structure the interview and vetting process to determine suitability for the task. How do you advise businesses looking to choose a CMO to square this circle?
Piyush: In my work I still see a lot of people claiming to be good in a technical CMO role, but I see far fewer that have any true credibility. It’s a very difficult task and a key role to get right.
The difficulty during vetting comes from a simple complication: a lot of people twist involvement in a project with a leading role in a project. For companies looking to hire, they need to be careful to ask: “were you involved [IN] this or did you actually do this?”
There are a lot of Martech professionals who take credit for work being done. Many hired a team via a vendor, and had success. However, they didn’t actually run the team, it was outsourced. This is a crucial distinction to screen for.
Ultimately, if you are hiring without the technical expertise in house then one good route is to find someone who transitioned into marketing but who came from a technical inception in their career. This – as a minimum – ensures the technical grounding on which marketing skills and training can have been layered.
Feel free to reach out to her on LinkedIn for a networking conversation.
Tel: (760) 284-3369
E-Mail: kerry.bowden (at) adaptive-ca.com
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