Marygrace Bateman, Marketing Manager for IBM Business Analytics software
Follow Marygrace on Twitter at: @bateman_mg
"I love going to the dentist!," said no one, ever. Yet we all need to go, every six months to be exact. You could argue a dentist visit is a commodity; there's demand for dentists due to the necessity of oral hygiene, but do you really have a truly differentiated experience from one dentist visit over the next? Each visit is essentially the same, the fluoride cleaning by the hygienist, the gentle scolding regarding flossing, the free toothbrush hand-out at the end... right?
No, not necessarily.
Due to a recent relocation, my last visit to the dentist was my first time at this particular office, and to my surprise, it was actually kind of pleasant. More than that, it was different. They had a T.V. in the room where I was having my teeth cleaned, so I could be entertained while the hygienist worked away. They showed me the fun activities they would have my toddler do if I brought her in for her first check-up. I even left with a brand new electric toothbrush that I was excited about giving my husband for Father's Day (he being equally excited to receive it is another story).
The difference was in the experience, and in this competitive marketplace, experience is everything.
Unfortunately, some IT vendors are OK with dishing out commodities. The mentality is that everyone needs things like business intelligence, customer relationship management systems, marketing automation systems... so they will continue to produce and sell them as is, thinking that as a necessity there will always be demand, and therefore there's no need to offer a differentiated experience for the end user. These vendors won't be around for long.
We will continually go to the dentist, but we won't remain loyal to a particular one until we want to (and wanting to go to the dentist is quite a feat). Organizations will continue to use things like BI, CRM, ERP, or whatever other fun-sounding acronym they deem essential, but they won't remain loyal to one vendor unless a differentiated experience is packaged within the solution.
So what's in a differentiated experience? Two things come to mind:
1) Exploit assumptions. Remember what you previously thought about the dentist: fluoride, flossing, free toothbrush. Thinking about my recent dentist visit, none of these commodities come to mind; instead, I recall being comfortable, excited to bring my toddler and satisfied with my purchase (note: in the past, I got a free toothbrush, in my recent encounter, I dropped a significant amount of cash on the electric one, but was more satisfied). I recall positive experiences not items, and I was willing to pay a price for them.
Now think about business intelligence. Commoditized-thinking would generate images of dashboards, reports and charts. Utilizing a BI tool that has differentiated features like advanced visualizations, predictive insights and mobile accessibility would generate an experiential-mindset for the end-user. Now, a marketer wants to drill deeper into a particular segment to understand why a campaign did not reach its objectives, predicts which new segments would respond favorably to a new offer, utilizesa mobile device on an airplane so she can continue to work without being locked to her office... The dashboard has changed from a tool that is needed to view historical performance but, like a check-up, is nothing particularly unique, to one that can be dynamic, forward-looking and game-changing for a marketer who can easily consume the results, use them to anticipate future events and overall, make her job easier and her actions more impactful.
2) Empower the end-user to get the most out of analytics. Once you've used an electric toothbrush, you rarely go back to the regular kind. Same for analytics. Once you've conducted analysis with IBM SPSS Predictive Analytics, you don't use spreadsheets for deep, accurate analytics. The automated data preparation techniques, data validation mechanisms, wide array of algorithms and data visualization options far surpass the manual, error-prone and time-consuming nature of spreadsheets (see: The Risk of Using Spreadsheets for Statistical Analysis for more information).
One of the most important factor in implementing an analytics solution is empowering the end-user to gain deep, analytical insight via graphical user interfaces, wizard-driven instruction menus and drag and drop features, because what's the use of implementing an analytics solution if your demand marketer can't get immediate insights into pipeline coverage, if your sales manager can't track opportunities and close rates, if your supply chain director can't predict if there will be a shortage in goods from a particular supplier?
With the self-service BI tool IBM Cognos Insight, the business user can independently explore, analyze, visualize and share data without relying on IT for assistance. With the cloud-based IBM Analytic Answers, the end user gains immediate predictive insight from their data without purchasing software, acquiring analytic expertise or implementing infrastructure. With the new IBM SPSS Analytic Catalyst, analytics is made fast, easy and smart, as it automatically uncovers key insights and statistically interesting relationships from big data sets.
Is it the end of commoditization? Possibly, so ordinary vendors, watch out. But hopefully it's the end to unpleasant dentist appointments.
To learn more:
Attend my webinar on June 26 at 1 PM ET with customer United Stationers: Using Smarter Marketing to Drive Customer Value