Simplistically, RunMyProcess offers a cloud platform and expertise that helps businesses implement digital transformation in a way that works for them. Instead of ripping out existing technology in an attempt to replace entire systems, they deliver small, fast projects that provide quick solutions to everyday business challenges. This allows companies to take an evolutionary approach to digital transformation, solving many specific problems quickly that – when connected – add up to big changes.
Insightive.tv: You have recently gone through a rebranding process, can you tell us about the drivers behind this development?
Ian: I think that, today, both product and services marketing are very saturated. Everybody is pushing their offering and trying to get attention by shouting louder than everyone else and having more features than everyone else. But in a digital age technology effectively ceases to be a product you can simply buy and use and becomes part of the fundamental fabric of your business. So companies are now looking beyond specific products and services and looking for a partner who shares their values and their vision for the future. Committing to technology partners is now the start of a long and very critical relationship – as the core of every business becomes digitally encoded in software – and so there has to be a meeting of minds as much as a discussion about specific products or features.
For this reason it becomes much more about having a strong passion for what you do, a clear vision for the future you want to build and a clear narrative about the journey you will undertake with each and every one of your customers — it has to be something that resonates with people and makes them believe in working together to shape your joint futures. I have come to believe that it’s only through finding shared ground in this way that you can move beyond the ‘digital saturation’ you mention – as a result building this story about who we are, where we are heading and how we like to work together was a critical driver for our decision to rebrand as ‘digital problem solvers’.
Insightive.tv: Do you think this change is more reflective of deficiencies in your old approach, or changes in the contemporary market?
Ian: Well we were a B2B startup originally and I think it is a natural part of the process of starting a company that you spend several years experimenting with different messages and trying to find something that fits to a market. From my perspective, as someone who came in after the business was well established, this heritage resulted in a message that had a number of problems with it. One was that the organisation was targeted at smaller businesses— which are sometimes considered easier to break into where SaaS is concerned. Another was that our message was very diffuse; because we had found a range of very specific cases in different parts of the business — IT, HR, finance — that had worked at different times we were effectively trying to express our value in many different ways without any strong underlying purpose. This made it very fragmented and difficult to understand and believe in.
At the same time our old website and content were very focused on providing product information and supporting direct sales efforts – there was very little about the wider challenges we wanted to solve as a company. We’d basically become defined by a set of messages crafted when survival hinged on the next deal and the next and so on. To address your question directly, I believe that the issues we faced were certainly related to our own unique history but also deeply reflective of the way the market has changed in recent years – i.e. that there is now too much information and too much competition for attention and this in turn means that you have to build a relationship across channels by being helpful, clear and valuable to your audience.
So my job has been to refocus the company from two perspectives – firstly by clearly identifying the larger organizations who could most benefit from our offer and secondly thinking about the needs of the people we wanted to speak to rather than our own. This actually changes the necessary approach quite significantly — firstly by putting less emphasis on product specs and more on helping people see a way past their problems and then secondly – which is very important in larger organizations – opening that out to show a bigger set of values and a longer term journey that demonstrates why you can be a great partner beyond this specific problem.
To do this – and break out of the marketing cacophony – you have to be able to confidently express who you are, where you are trying to go. If you enter into a partnership with a large organisation, that is something that may potentially go on for years. Because of this, it becomes about how your organisations will meld together to create working solutions moving forward. The primary questions become — do I buy into your vision? Do I buy into your organisation and the way you work? Can I imagine us working together?
A lot of people, they spend a lot of time worrying about competitors and features. But our experience tells us that organisations respond very positively to confidence in who you are and the value you can deliver. Although it is obviously essential to have a good product that delivers on your promises, this is really table stakes today – it is often the vision of what you will achieve together that is the selling point. After that features and pricing become a proof point and starting point for negotiation and not the main point of the dialogue.
Insightive.tv: What roles are you targeting as your primary audience?
Ian: Today weare primarily focused on CIOs and the IT leadership team – and this is because they still sit in the optimal position to drive organization-wide digital transformation as the owners of a shared capability that sees the moving parts across the entire business. We also really believe that CIOs are the right people to step up and take control of the digital agenda in their organisations – success stands or falls on the ability to blend a company’s existing assets and resources with new digital technologies and techniques. For this reason, we try to empower the CIO with content, arguments and technology that make them better able to connect with their business colleagues and ensure that their organisation’s digitisation process is coordinated, evolutionary and sustainable.
But we also find ourselves talking to people who we simply classify as ‘digital leaders’ – that is people who can come from anywhere in the business but who are passionate to bring the value of digital technology to the way that their area of the organisation works. We want to empower these people and so we always engage with them – but always keeping in mind the way in which we can educate them on the wider impacts and help them connect with their CIO over time – and vice versa – to ensure that their great local initiatives have the maximum possible impact beyond their initial implementation.
This whole area was actually really challenging because before, we were talking to everyone but without any real perspective on the persona that fit or the connections we wanted to encourage between different parts of the organisation. So we wanted to talk with CIOs about IT processes, HR directors about HR processes, or finance directors about finance processes. And that is why we ended up with a fragmented story — because it was aimed to catch everyone, it didn’t really catch anyone. I guess we correctly understood that the buyer landscape for technology was changing, but perhaps didn’t realise immediately that simply talking to everyone is not a sustainable response. But by identifying our core target – IT – and then identifying the archetype ’hero accelerators’ of digital transformation in the wider organisation it enabled us to talk to a wide range of different people who maybe had different roles and responsibilities but who still shared some key common traits. Again these kinds of insights have been critical in making discussions more productive and filtering out a great deal of noise for both parties.
Insightive.tv: What is your biggest channel management problem?
Ian: We may be somewhat unique in this survey because a couple of years ago the company was acquired by Fujitsu, one of the world’s largest IT companies. This brought a pretty hungry global channel in its own right. But as a global cloud platform, we also have a network of partners, some of whom operate in regions in which we are not present — and this also works well, opening up a range of different segments and geographies. But, at the same time, it becomes very difficult to retain the integrity of the message you want to deliver as you scale your channel.
As a result, I think that the major channel challenge for us is not so much recruitment, or having access to partners or prospects, but is really about how we ensure that we have partners with the sophistication necessary to deliver a complex message to the larger organisations we target. We need partners that are sufficiently conversant with what we want to say that they are able to deliver it crisply, cleanly and with passion every time.
Insightive.tv: How many online channels do you actively manage?
Ian: We go through a range of online channels and this is often doubled by our work with Fujitsu’s global channels, where we both provide content and share content from other parts of the group.
But, simplistically the main online channels we have used are our website, Twitter, Linkedin, Google+, Youtube and a little bit of Facebook. Having built a foundation of content, my next task, really, is to focus in on which channels we want to actively use going forwards to engage with like-minded people. And I think, honestly, that it is probably going to come down to choosing a smaller number that we can engage with well – previously I think we spread ourselves out too much. For example, we got a lot of engagement on Facebook – for example, more likes and views than everywhere else – but while this provided some nice vanity metrics, the results were negligible from a business perspective because of the type of business we are. On the other hand on Linkedin, we see a much lower volume of activity but what we do get is much more engagement. My goal is to really quiet everything down and go to fewer channels, and have fewer conversations, but have more meaningful ones.
But at the bottom of everything our website is by far our most productive channel – a big percentage of all our new business comes through the website. I think that is probably because this is the channel in which we have invested the most resources and is also the one where our content and brand are most tightly linked. I guess RunMyProcess is also known for being a cloud company and so people are naturally inclined to approach us online.
Insightive.tv: How do you evaluate emerging market channels?
Ian: We have always been a company that experiments a lot and so testing things and working out what to do next is part of our DNA. Our early experiments tended to track some basic statistics related to the number of views or the referrals to our website. The big problem is that this didn’t tell the whole story – of course just because people look at something or even follow a link it doesn’t mean that this person will engage with you or buy anything. As a result, we saw a growing gap between our great marketing metrics and concrete results. This means we have had to continually refine our tests and the data we use to allow us to really understand the depth of engagement.
So the evaluation criteria that we have now is an attempt to not only know how many people are coming from a channel, but also what they do after they arrive. We want to know the conversion rate between the number of people who come to the website, the number of people who contact us, and the number that become customers. And then you have to look at what that means in terms of cost of acquisition – how much does it cost us to bring these people from that channel.
So the biggest change we have made is simply learning from our early experiments and looking at how we evaluate emerging channels with a greater depth of tracking — going beyond clicks to see where people end up. As a result, our evaluation method has always been similar – investing modest amounts in new channels and tracking the results – but by actually getting on with it we’ve been able to learn a little more each time about the goals and types of data you need to do it well.
Insightive.tv: What types of channels produce SQLs v.s. MQLs, and what is the ROI and time to close?
Ian: Our average time for a deal can be anything from a few weeks up to 12 months. The longer deals naturally extend because in those engagements we are selling the transformation of something. That is quite a complex thing that requires a lot of human interaction to achieve both the necessary level of understanding and – sometimes more importantly – the necessary level of trust.
To date the online channel we would identify as most critical has been our own web presence – this is really where a large proportion of our deals come from. When we look beyond that at other social channels or even in-person events we haven’t really found a channel that accelerates the basic deal flow once they land at our properties. There is also no real difference in the data that we’ve seen to date that suggests there is a huge difference in the likelihood of leads being successfully qualified or ultimately becoming customers, across acquisition channel. From that perspective we’re now looking at the additional channels we use as a vehicle to drive engagement and share our opinions – via content – rather than as an end in themselves.
It’s interesting to note the difference because previously, most of the people coming to our website already knew who we were and so had already pre-qualified themselves to some degree. At the same time, we tended to push product messages into our social channels rather than reach out to engage in discussion and let that discussion organically flow back into our content – in fact, we were not able to do that at all. This was actually a massive problem because we were missing all the people that had yet to find us or were interested in the kinds of topics and problems that we were passionate about but for which we weren’t visible. So today we are rebooting everything and we will see how it goes with this different emphasis – but so far for a whole host of reasons I don’t think we have discovered a perfect channel; all of our channels attract leads, and all of our channels bring people who go onto become customers. But there is no one channel where I would say — that is the one that – beyond the website – I should put all of my money into today.
Insightive.tv: How do you know when a channel has become too saturated?
Ian: On one level I think others might have a better answer for this question than I do, given that I am not a traditional marketer. But from a very personal standpoint, I think that it is largely when we see the volume of interest, or better the level of engagement, start to drop away. Once you have a high volume of one-way conversations happening, rather than a diverse dialogue with many participants, I think that’s where it is saturated and people have stopped listening. And so if you have a hashtag, a group or even a whole network, and you start to see it is losing the engagement of the people involved in the discussions — I think that is a signal that there is a developing fatigue on that channel.
But I don’t think it is really about saying — there are a million posts about a specific topic, so it is too saturated now. I think it is more about watching what the audience is doing. If you see a big group of engaged people contributing to that topic then that’s a community. But if an audience is fleeing and the discussion is being subverted by messages from a smaller number of participants then I think that is the clearest sign that it has become too noisy, or is just no longer interesting.
To me, saturation means that people are losing interest because it has ceased to be about a dialogue that’s of interest to them and purely become about positioning or selling – at that point it’s basically reverted to push advertising and there is no value to people in participating anymore as it is no longer two-way. But until that point, I don’t think there is a point of saturation based purely on numbers, as you can always find interesting two-way dialogue that builds engagement when people are participating – even if the scale of the conversation makes much of it look like noise.
Ian Thomas became CMO at RunMyProcess two and a half years ago and has a long history within the tech-sector, having worked in telecoms, financial services, IT services and software. We spoke with Ian to discuss the challenges he faces in an era of digital marketing saturation and the way he has worked to address these in a recent rebranding of RunMyProcess.