Innovation and disruption in the technology sector are soaring, but customer experience continues to falter. Research from B2B International shows that only 14% of large B2B companies are truly customer-centric. However, progressive companies that have seen great success over the past couple of years are focusing on disrupting the customer experience to ensure buyers control the decision-making process, have as little friction as possible and build genuine relationships with their new partners.
This was the recurring theme at HubSpot’s INBOUND 2019 event in Boston, where roughly 25,000 B2B and B2C practitioners came together to learn about how they can adapt their business strategy to disrupt their go-to-market strategies and provide genuine customer experiences.
“Disruption is at an all-time high,” said Brian Halligan, Co-Founder and CEO of HubSpot, during his keynote presentation at the event. “It is speeding up, not slowing down.”
Halligan went on to describe how the word “disruption” has been misused and misunderstood since the phrase grew in popularity at the height of the martech boom.
“My theory is that, when most of us think about disruption, we think about companies that are ‘technology disruptors’ like Google, Intel and Apple,” he said. “However, companies like Netflix, Atlassian and Glossier are not necessarily ‘technology disruptors,’ but a new breed that I like to call ‘experience disruptors.’”
During his keynote presentation, Halligan detailed five key adaptions that can help businesses become experience disruptors that greatly impact relationships with their customers for the better:
- Getting Experience-Market Fit: “Don't obsess completely about product-market fit, because somebody in your company's obsessed with that,” Halligan said. “You, as a marketer or sales rep, should be obsessed about experience-market fit.”
- Removing Friction From The Customer Journey: “Dollars flow where the friction is low. It’s important to maniacally remove friction and automate, automate, automate.”
- Embracing Personalization: “Automation with no personalization is what people call SPAM.,” he said. “Personalize the automated customer experience — think Netflix or the human fingerprint.”
- Selling Through The Customer: “Don't just sell to your customers, but sell through your customers. Be good at not just creating your own content but encouraging and enabling your customers to create content, too, so there's hundreds of thousands of pieces of content out there about your products created by your customers.”
- Attacking The Traditional Business Model: “It’s time to rethink the old business model,” Halligan said. “Look at your terms and conditions, look at your pricing package and look at your competitors — rethink the whole thing.”
“My favorite thing about this list is that nowhere on here does it say blockchains, and nowhere on here does it say artificial intelligence,” Halligan concluded. “Mere mortals, like me, can do this. Mere mortals, like you, can do this. How you sell is why you’ll win.”
Boardroom Perspective: Intuit Chairman Shares Thoughts On Modern Leadership
During an intimate, 1:1 discussion for a live recording of the #FlipMyFunnel podcast with Terminus’ Sangram Vajre, Intuit’s Executive Chairman and former CEO Brad Smith shared his experience fostering leadership within the company and how he believes CEOs should better enable employees to innovate and disrupt their industry.
“The most important job of a CEO is to know what the job is not,” Smith said during his interview. “It’s important to create an environment where the greatness of your employees can emerge.”
When asked how he learned to become the leader he is today, Smith noted that it comes from the scar tissue gained from past mistakes. He went on to share an example of when he was a General Manager for the company’s Small Business Division, and his team tried to reorganize to get ready for the Cloud.
“For six months, we worked every angle and studied every aspect,” Smith said. “We laid out every option and came out with this big announcement of how we're going to restructure — and it failed, absolutely failed.”
Smith described how he stood up at the next meeting and admitted the failure and that it was his mistake.
“I stood up and said that ‘this is on me,’ and the employee said, ‘No kidding! Next time, start by talking to us when you have questions and don’t have any answers, and maybe we can help come up with a better solution.’” Smith said. “So, I believe that, as leaders, we need to start talking about [failure] even more. Invite the dialogue and the discussion, then you're going to have a better outcome.”
He also discussed the importance of finding employees and senior leadership that have a high “Curiosity Quotient,” which he described as an ongoing curiosity to learn new things and identify new approaches to future challenges.
“It’s important to learn if they seek to understand before they seek to be understood,” Smith said. “The other thing I look for is humility — the willingness to admit mistakes and talk about things they learned from their failures. I also look for employees with the ability to say, ‘these are individuals that work for me that are now even higher up or have bigger jobs, and I'm proud of their accomplishments.’”
6 Steps To Scale Growth & Optimize For Customer Self-Service
The Australian enterprise project management software company Atlassian is known in the industry for its unconventional go-to-market strategy. From the start, the company has worked to find unique ways to remove friction from its customers’ buying processes and has seen its company grow from 100 employees in 2008 to more than 4,000 in a decade.
During a session with Atlassian President Jay Simons, he discussed how the company positioned itself to scale so rapidly.
“We are participants in building towards scale, either by the decisions that we make as individuals or as leaders,” Simons said. “These decisions we’re executing have to be imbued with the intention of being sustainable. Are they contributing to the next five or 10, or 15 or 25 years of this company?”
"Scale can't be achieved in a day, but it can be built every day." @jaysimons of @Atlassian at #INBOUND2019 talking about how the company scaled its business from less than $25M in revenue to billions by 2019. pic.twitter.com/OmiW6vsw59— Brian Anderson (@BranderSays) September 5, 2019
Simons went on to share six key tips for any business looking to position themselves to scale in a similar fashion:
- Create Durable Values: “We were just 100 people in the company when we decided to pour cement on this foundational set of beliefs and principles that could embody the company,” Simon said. “Part of building this value system was to ensure we could scale our founder’s beliefs and ensure every new hire met our needs no matter how much we grew.”
- ‘F&%#’ Convention: “It’s really about choosing the path less traveled. In enterprise software, it's really easy to get caught up in the patterns of the past or the status quo of how things have been done. So, we broke a bunch of different conventions that now, in 2019, might seem more common. Our whole go-to-market experience was really built off of customer orientation and empowering the customer to basically self-serve.”
- Create A Culture Of Openness: “You must focus on scaling trust, so that you can trust scale when you get there. I really believe that those things are related. We focus on building trust specifically through transparency and openness among our business and the employees.”
- Prioritize The Team Dynamic: “Companies tend to focus on what you need to improve as an individual, while spending very little time on the team dynamic,” Simon said. “About five years ago, we began to look at teams that were high-performing inside of the company to understand what makes those teams successful. We pulled out a set of attributes that were common across every team that was really successful, and we basically built a tool — called a health monitor — that allows any team to assess themselves.”
- Invest In Word-Of-Mouth: “One of our founding ideas was to build remark on the product. So, one user can get another user, and one part of an organization can get another part of the organization. That network effect is what propels our business.”
- Innovate Anywhere: “It’s important to create time for your team to scratch itches,” he said. “We have a ‘Ship It’ program where, for one whole day per quarter, the whole company dedicates time to scratching those itches and innovating parts of the product or the company.”