My mother passed away in 2004. I miss her very much and I think about her every day.
Mom was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer near Thanksgiving in 2003. In April she went into a wheelchair, then into a hospice bed, then died on May 3. She was 63 years old.
Mom fought hard. I don’t know if the radiation and chemotherapy did any good or if it helped her make it to spring. But I do know she had a chance to sit in the sun and watch the love-struck grackles try to mate.
She was famous for her kitchen. Fried okra. Dim Sum. Gumbo. Smoked turkey on the grill. Peanut butter and honey sandwiches.
She loved to linger at the table after each meal, sip coffee and talk and catch up with all of us. With three slightly high-maintenance children, she kept track of everything and she did more than her share of worrying. But she taught us to be self-sufficient. She taught us all to cook and to do our own laundry. She told us it was okay to cry. She lived in a way that taught my brother and I to honor women. She made us eat our vegetables. She made sure we had good shoes.
Mom encouraged our creativity. We all tried to play an instrument even though none of us could carry a note. Through it all, she encouraged us and listened to our practice as if the angels themselves were singing. She taught us a lullabye that we sang to our children and I’m sure they will sing it to their children.
Mom taught us patience (especially on the forced marches to Civil War battlegrounds my father called vacations).
When all the kids were in high-school, she went back to work – we suspect she worked simply so she could spoil us on birthdays and Christmas. Before her passing, her biggest worry was “who will do the Christmas shopping?”
The beautiful thing was — mom was mom – she didn’t change. Despite this horrible illness, her true colors shone even brighter. She wasn’t thinking about her pain, she was thinking about her family. Her illness made her family stronger.
Mom, the teacher, taught us creativity, and empathy, she let us swear when it was appropriate (which was pretty neat). When we were young, our friends always said “your mom is so cool.” When times were tough, she didn’t complain when Bryan and I ate an entire loaf of bread (with peanut butter) and drank a gallon of milk in one sitting.
Most of all, in those last 5 months of her life, I watched my mother live. In the week after her diagnosis, while we were still in shock, she told us not to mourn. She said “this rots,” and that was it…nothing negative ever crossed her lips again. Even with this terrible diagnosis, we never saw self-pity, we never saw fear, we never saw anger. While cancer ravaged her body, we have never seen Mom more alive. Even after the chemo stole her gorgeous red curls, she had style.
With the holidays and a long winter creeping up on us, I’ll be glad to see spring because I know the flowers will bloom and bring color back to the yard. The grackles will mate. Peanut butter, honey, and milk will always be plentiful. Robert the Rose Horse will keep sneezing. Grandchildren will learn the right way to fry okra. And for these lovely gifts, I give thanks to my friends, family and for the many blessings we have received.
I’ve been knee deep in a project for Transverse (www.gotransveres.com). Transverse offers a product called TRACT which does accounts receivable automation and SaaS billing.
When we talk about all the ways that Transverse can improve the overall financial performance of an organization by increasing the velocity of accounts receivable, we sometimes forget to talk about the simple impact of making it easier for customers to pay their bills on time.
When you take the billing process out of human hands you can decrease the rate of human error. These conclusions were validated once more with a 2013 study conducted by TermSync as quoted in CFO Magazine:
Among the 100 CFOs, controllers and other accounting executives surveyed by TermSync in the U.S. during the first half of 2013, 49 percent cited invalid or missing purchase order information on invoices as a reason that their customers did not pay their bills. TermSync performed an analysis of 10,000 invoices more than 30 days past due from companies that have revenues between $30 million and $200 million.
Here’s the link:
Non-billing related problems, such as a broken or defective product, made up 13 percent of the reasons for nonpayment. Interestingly, in 11 percent of the cases, the customer did not actually receive the invoice at all.
Want to get paid faster? Start with error reduction. When simple billing mistakes are eliminated, that is one less excuse for customers to miss payments.
Using marketing to create meaningful product differentiation separates you from competitors and allows you to command price premiums. For SaaS and MSPs, one differentiation strategy should be the elimination of bad discounts. Discounts should never lead to a loss of margin. Instead, discounts should reward customers for activities that improve their value as a customer – either by reducing your costs or improving demand.
As a first step, evaluate and build systems that reward customers based on desired behaviors.
- Not getting paid on time? Equate prompt payment with a discount that reduces your aging.
- Have customers that are time consuming? Provide a discount for ordering online.
- Have customers that are not properly utilizing their software? What about discounts that kick in once certain adoption milestones are achieved?
With win win discounts in hand, sales is then equipped to suggest discounts from a menu. The customer can then select the discounts that are in their best interest. It is important to properly understand how discounts incentivize certain behaviors and how those discounts are enforced. For example, should volume discounts be granted before certain sales volumes are achieved or are they paid back as credits once the customer hits the appropriate milestones? Enforcing performance milestones can be a technical challenge without the proper billing system.
The challenges of win win pricing
Any activity that is measureable is also monetizeable. Win win pricing requires a complex array of interrelated processes that must be managed: everything from the initial contact with a customer, to the placement of an order, to the provisioning and activation of a service, to the billing and payment, and then beyond to the capabilities that keep the customers hooked over time with new activities.
Managing the recurring customer relationship includes two critical subscription processes not normally available in off-the-shelf ERP, CRM or GL applications: the Order-To-Cash process where the relationship with the customer is established; and the Activity-To-Cash™ process where the relationship is expanded according to the consumer’s behaviors and preferences over time.
Nurturing the relationship requires that multiple pre-billing processes and complex functions such as Event Handling and Rating be in place for controlling usage and activities. That control comes through the assignment and enforcement of entitlements, which help to authorize and authenticate whether a person is who he says, and whether he should have access to the services he’s requesting.
That means the billing platform must know what a customer has purchased and where he is in the consumption of his subscribed services, and whether actions should be taken, such as advice-of-charge, balance checks, updates of allowances or reversal of events, suspension of accounts, and application of late payment fees and penalties.
For organizations that want to capitalize on the natural evolution of consumption, win-win pricing should include a mechanism for accommodating, and even evolving the subscription relationship.
Activity-based subscriptions can create sustainable relationships and prevent the loss of customers that might otherwise not be able to, or want to, make one-time purchases. The goal of activity-based pricing is to stimulate more consumption with price levers that accommodate changes in circumstances, usage and preferences.
The ability to add and manage consumption – or activity-based price levers to a product mix – gives a company a powerful tool for growing its customer base (recurring revenue) and maximizing lifetime value of the customer (reducing churn).
The win win
When you adopt win-win pricing, you map your prices to what the customer is willing to pay. At the same time, your customer benefit from discounts that are aligned with their needs – which improves win-win behavior. Last, you only pay out discounts that reduce your cost or improve customer performance.
Previously, Avanquest’s VCOM division used a collection of homegrown systems to manage the sale, renewal, and tracking of licenses. With their aggressive growth plans, the VCOM division needed a centralized automated billing system that would scale with growth. After considering several billing solution providers, the VCOM division awarded Transverse the billing business and began the implementation process.
“The TRACT Billing platform is extremely flexible and sophisticated, allowing us to manage billing and licenses, as well as run reports that help us to better understand our business, understand our customers, and grow our revenue,” said Kevin Bromber, Executive Vice President and General Manager of VCOM, the SaaS division of Avanquest Software. <READ MORE>
Research consultancy Software Advice recently released the results of a five month-long investigation into which channels, content and offers business-to-business marketers find most successful.
The project called the “2012 B2B Demand Generation Benchmark Survey” asked 156 professional marketers which channels are most productive for producing a high quantity of leads, and which produce the highest quality prospects.
The poll also asked similar questions about content and offers, such as live demos, free trials, webinars, videos and more. Finally, the group was surveyed about their spending priorities next year and how that might change from 2012.
Overall, digital channels – particularly those related to search – dominated the results. Email marketing to a house list was the most popular channel and voted most as producing quality and quantity of leads. Oddly, social media was among the most popular and a top spending priority next year, despite receiving low marks for quality and volume.
Marketing Automation Adoption Survey
If you are evaluating marketing automation platforms, take some time to complete the marketing automation adoption survey at Macon Raine.
The survey is designed to identify and track marketing automation adoption trends and provide guidance to firms contemplating a marketing automation purchase.
The survey asks questions about barriers to marketing automation adoption including:
- Cost of the marketing automation platform
- Integration of the marketing automation platform with other systems such as CRM
- Lack of experience with marketing automation platforms
- Internal politics – people were not convinced we needed marketing automation
- Articulating the marketing / sales handoff to the sales team or other leadership
- Other priorities got in the way
- Change management and changing the behavior of the marketing department or the sales organization
- Demonstrating marketing automation ROI
In a few weeks, we’re getting ready to launch a new service called CleanMyCRM. We started the service at the request of customers who needed a smarter way to research incomplete contact records. They told us append services are expensive and they were looking for ways to clean smaller batches (1000 records).
The cost of dirty data is huge. Factor in the cost of bounced emails, returned direct mail, wasted time, salaries paid to sales people who are calling people that don’t exist in that role anymore.
Our service is simple – human researchers that manually maintain your database so that your sales and marketing teams have a edge in their next campaign. Human researchers to manually review, research and update incomplete contact records. Thanks to the power of technology to streamline our workflow, we can research 1000 records for only $400.
We’ve always preached that clean CRM is a journey – not a destination. It is an ongoing process. Cliff Langston likens cleaning the CRM to painting the Golden Gate bridge. “What do you do when you are done? Start over at the beginning.”
Getting started cleaning your CRM is not really that difficult. You can reduce your stale data and your data cleaning costs by following a few simple steps:
1) Someone should own the project. Your CRM administrator, your marketing manager, your sales admin. It doesn’t matter who owns it as long as someone owns it and is measured and evaluated based on the completeness and accuracy of the database.
2) Prevent bad data at the source. When you standardize data entry formats and enforce completion of critical fields, you eliminate a large part of the problem before it even begins.
3) Link customer self-service features to your CRM data. When customers maintain their contact information for you, you capture better data and maintain better data with little cost.
4) Use third parties to validate your data a couple of times a year. A regular schedule of data validation and augmentation prevents data from getting stale.