IMA: Crossing the Chasm

The Technology Adoption Curve

If you’re a marketer of high-tech and have not read Geoffrey Moore’s book, Crossing the Chasm, I recommend you do so. One of the best works on how to market anything high-tech. We’ll return to the term, Crossing the Chasm, in a moment as it relates to a blog post I read last week over at B2B marketing, by Lauren CarlsonCRM market analyst.

The post was called, Tailwinds for marketing automation software, and while the gist of what Lauren had to say was right on the money, I have to say I disagree with the headline.

She began her post with these words:

Marketing Automation software is quickly becoming the fastest growing segment of the CRM industry. Several years ago, it was a more specialized system used by a handful of organizations. Now, marketing teams are scrambling to adopt this hip new automated marketing software. But why this sudden growth? We propose that there are some pretty strong tailwinds at the back of the marketing automation software industry.

It’s the tailwind part that I find off base. As one of the early entrants into this field, we’re keen followers of the trends in the Inbound Marketing and Marketing Automation space. Hell, we even coined the phrase Inbound Marketing Automation as we combined these powerful trends to derive the biggest advantages for our clients. But we believe that our clients, and everyone else using marketing automation, are still at the sharp edge of the technology adoption curve.

According to the Wiki definition of the Technology Adoption Curve, the graph of the way people embrace new technology looks like this:

The Technology Adoption Curve

Crossing the Chasm from Innovator to Early Adopter

That’s where the phrase Crossing the Chasm comes in. Moore is referring to the difficulty of moving past the Innovators to attract the Early Adopters. His book is filled with advice on how one does just this. And my issue with Lauren’s headline is that our clients are all people who relish change, thrive on new technology and embrace new advances in an effort to beat out their competition.

By definition, then, they are Innovators. They are not the kind blown along by tailwinds, but rather the kind who create the news and case studies which generate the tailwinds which blow the early majority into making the leap to a new paradigm. And as further proof, consider this – according to our own numbers, verified by every marketing automation vendor I have spoken to, somewhere between 2% and 5% of companies now use IMA systems: Directly under the Innovator portion of the curve.

As an aside, I will add that in our exposure to these early adopters, both in Canada and the US, most actually only use IMA as a glorified email automation tool, barely scratching the surface of the potential of Inbound Marketing and Marketing Automation. I guess it goes with the turf of being an early adopter – most of us are Do It Yourselfers and these systems are complex enough that one needs real expertise to get them to truly sing.

But back to Lauren’s article. In her defense, she did go on to say:

In fact, these tailwinds are really the headwinds of an increasingly challenging B2B sales environment. This change has forced organizations to modify the way they conduct business, which translates into modifying how they do their sales and marketing. There are several trends that are changing the purchasing process, making marketing automation a necessary addition to any organization looking to keep up with the flow.

And the trends she cites are:

  • Buyers want valuable content
  • Buyers hate the phone
  • Desire for marketing accountability (check out our ROMI calculator!)
  • Sales cycles are longer in a down economy
  • Consumerization of the B2B sales process: (we call this one putting the buyer in control of the process instead of the seller).
  • Marketing channels have changed and grown
  • SaaS systems are greasing the skids.

A good article, then – apart from the headline, as these are the trends fueling the desire to use Inbound Marketing Automation, or IMA. In fact, they are pushing people to look for alternatives. And people are “playing” with Marketing Automation as a possible solution. But why distort a post with a misleading headline? Sure it’s difficult thinking up catchy headlines, but really, Lauren:  To truly cross the chasm and sign up companies who make up the early majority on the adoption curve, IMA vendors (and that includes all of us in this space, not just the software suppliers), must:

  1. Make it easier to implement IMA. It’s a complex beast with many interacting parts which must all work in concert to achieve the effect. Big effects are possible (the technology and approach really does work), but it can take a while to get there. Early majority users want it fast and easy
  2. Prove the business case with proper Return On Marketing Investment calculations and demonstrate this all in case studies for each industry vertical. Early majority people want proof before they risk a bet.
  3. Make it easier to use. Think of how many more drivers there are today who use an automatic transmission automobile rather than a standard. Early majority folks prefer automatic approaches to more manual intensive efforts. As the software becomes more sophisticated, the vendors must design it to become smarter and more aware of the other “pieces” of the puzzle. For example, some of the more sophisticated marketing automation solutions already incorporate social media connections, making it easier to market your content by automatically posting it to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. So lets add this same kind of “intelligence” to the connections to a CRM, for example (making it easier to connect all the right custom fields to each other instead of mapping them individually). And to every facet of the functionality.

Overall, my sense is that many companies who have adopted IMA are in fact only “playing” with the products because they are still too complex to do well. Lets face it, IMA requires a sophisticated overhaul of your website, a rethink of your online marketing strategy, a thorough review of your lead generation and handling process, and a hard look at the way your sales and marketing teams interact. And that’s why so few end-users succeed without an IMA consultant by their side. Again, this complexity is a typical characteristic of a pre-chasm market.

I’d love to believe we’re sailing downwind and that we’ll be seeing a rapid increase in pick-up soon. But I think the tailwind is a couple of years behind us just yet.

Bit-by-Bit # 36 from Eric

2 Comments
  1. Axel 3 years ago
  2. Eric 3 years ago

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