Sorry to say this is the last in our series of conversations at the recent, and very successful, AIIM Forum Europe in London in November. We’re ending with a great one —Jennifer Van Lent, who is the Managing Director of European HubSpot partner Digital Doorway out of Amsterdam, a company all about helping European IT companies with inbound marketing and sales as they believe the key to attracting better leads, nurturing high-value prospects and winning new customers is “the right strategy, processes and content, not just technology”.
We asked Jennifer for her impressions of this world after having been in it for about a decade; what has she seen change, and how does she feel about it?
“Well, I’ve been part of the AIIM community now for probably more than 10 years actually. I come to the Forum and its predecessor on a fairly regular basis, but this year specifically I came because the industry is changing so much.”
We asked her what she meant by that. “The traditional ECM and Content Management and Record Management services worlds have evolved so much, they’re almost at a place where they’re not recognisable. When you take a look at how companies are positioning themselves today, it’s completely different from previous years – including the type of business user or prospect they are speaking to, the type of persona or profile of their target customer, and the value proposition that they have for a highly segmented marketplace.
“The question then becomes, what is the best way to map the needs expressed by a customer into what my company is selling? Many of the great vendors that were at AIIM Forum Europe last month were actually only offering a part of a solution for a defined business process… the vendor knows they’re delivering technology which is part of larger IT infrastructure or ecosystem, but that may not necessarily be how the buyer looks at their situation. So, the buyer may need to have a solution for one particular area but they’re really not taking a look at technology per se – meaning, they may not expressly look for a document capture solution or a content management platform. Instead, they’re considering business issues such as, What do I need that can help my business go from A to Z? How can I accelerate revenue and find new customers? Where can I differentiate my business from competition? How can I transform what I’m doing today into something better and more efficient, more productive (and at a lower cost) tomorrow?
“Maybe that means there’s a disconnect between what the vendors are saying in terms of their offering and what the customer feels they’re looking for. I believe this actually has been the scenario over the past couple of years— but what you’re seeing now, which is one of the reasons 2019’s Forum was so interesting, is that technology providers are taking a step back to reconsider their solution as seen through the eyes of their customer. They’re not talking about Enterprise Content Management services in a silo, they’re not talking about Records Management services or scanning as a standalone process anymore; they’re finally talking about what is impactful to a customer in their terms: What is the business process that I have, what are the issues that I have? It’s no longer a discussion about whether or not I can read documents or manage my data. Instead, the vendor – client discussions centre around questions like “How can I provide a secure, compliant environment for my business? What business insights can I generate from information inside and outside my company, and how can I help those insights bring value to my organisation?
“Ultimately, people don’t think about technology, they think, ‘I’ve got a problem, how can I solve it?’ So for me, the excitement in attending events like the Forum is seeing how many technology providers have at last been able to capture their client needs and communicate their story in a way that positions their solution more effectively than they were doing two or three years ago.
“But that’s not easy; there’s work to do. You need to start by taking a look at bringing people from across your organisation but also outside of it to map out your ideal buyer personas. That means having somebody for example, from sales, from customer service, maybe bring a partner, or a customer in, to help you understand the end to end buyer journey—everything from, what are their needs and their pains, that’s very obvious, but also what are they really looking for? What type of alternative technologies will they consider?”
And, she warns, not every customer is the same: far from it! “On the one hand, you may have a transformative C-suite executive who has put a stake in the ground to say that Information Management is key to their company’s future. They see AI, or Machine Learning, or Blockchain, or cloud as technology table stakes for their organisation, and they’re going to transform their organisation to maximise that for their business and bring value from that transformation. But you also absolutely still have the company who probably hasn’t changed, never will change, and is happy with the technology they’ve had for the past 10 years and is just more traditional. So, if you are a transformative, innovative vendor who has a cutting-edge solution which is, for example, cloud based or leveraging AI or Blockchain, your real target customer is the first example – the one with an innovation-minded C-suite executive – instead of somebody who’s the opposite and doesn’t want to hear your change message. It can be equally important to align with a potential customer on factors such as a mindset for change or focus on innovation as it is on other criteria like product fit and functionality, which often is a given in a competitive bid.
“Once you understand where you are on the ‘change’ spectrum, once you understand who within that organisation you need to speak with and which groups of people will influence the purchasing decision, that really helps you along your journey to make sure that your fantastic product reaches the market that it needs, and that you are delivering the message that you’re so passionate about delivering to the people who want to hear it.”
AIIM Forum Europe was held on the 19th of November, which built on 17 years of success of the previous show, AIIM Forum UK but was re-modelled for 2019 to AIIM Forum Europe
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