The Journey To Modern Services Marketing Starts Here

Fred Isbell

The hallmark of great solutions marketing is the ability to unite products, software solutions, and services. As a high-tech marketing professional, my personal journey and constantly evolving messaging has now spanned four decades. My roles may have changed and evolved over the years, but I still enjoy speaking on behalf of SAP throughout the year at business conferences and universities.

I was very pleased to attend and speak at this year’s Technology Services World (TSW) event, hosted by Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA) in San Diego. TSIA is an amazing collection of services and systems integrator companies, and SAP is a longtime active member. TSIA is like an ecosystem of member organizations coming together to examine the world of technology services and support.

What’s new in the ever-evolving world of services marketing

TSW 2017 was centered on reoccurring revenues amid the massive transformation toward cloud-based businesses, subscription-based revenues, and entirely new business models. From the start of the conference, there were plenty of great lessons and ideas shared. From the opening-day keynotes, including two SAP Digital Business Services executives, to my session the last day it was another great experience.

I always say that a good conference provides several aha moments – and this year’s event certainly didn’t disappoint! Here are three of them:

1. Cloud subscriptions and reoccurring revenue are here

Cloud-driven business models are revolutionizing how the services business engages and collaborates with customers. Now, the customer is in the middle of a genuinely outside-in transformation.

Organizations of all sizes are undergoing this transformation, although there are risks. The hype cycle –popularized by Gartner – shows that the services market is experiencing productivity growth and proving real solution benefit. We have exited the exciting, albeit risky, cycle of pure hype to enter the reality of outcomes-based solutions and much more.

2. Services selling has expanded and changed

New ways of selling and engaging customers are coming into play, and the importance of services has never been greater. I was thrilled to see sessions on “expanded selling” – something that I’ve advocated for years.

The services organization has multiple and deeper exchanges with customers and offers a lead-generation opportunity with far lower costs. The challenge resides in unlocking intelligence, assistance, and expertise to unearth the inherent opportunity that customers have. It is critical to go beyond customer engagement to make good on promises of follow-up. Although this method may impact customer perception measurements such as net promoter scores if the follow-up and execution are not properly done, the advantages are significant.

3. Marketing needs to enable new revenue growth

Reoccurring, profitable revenues is one of the benefits of offering cloud services and enabling digital transformation. Marketing is part of this journey, tasked to deliver a total solutions approach. Through the organizational convergence of sales, marketing, and services, the business can articulate the value of its outcomes-based solutions and services while further transforming itself and the industry. Once merely the provider of events and/or advertising and related services, marketing has a strategic seat at the table.

10 best practices for the modern services marketer

After two days of learning new perspectives and networking, I presented my breakout session, “Marketing Outcome-Based Services in the Age of Digital Transformation,” which included my spin on David Letterman’s famous “Top 10” lists to offer some proven practices for modern services marketing. Here’s a short run-through of my advice.

  1. Understand how innovation technologies drive digital transformation: It is critical to comprehend and embrace technologies that are reshaping industries, such as cloud solutions, Big Data and analytics, social media and marketing platforms, and the Internet of Things (IoT). Although some of these technologies have yet to ascend to the peak of the hype cycle, they still offer incredible promise fueled by the unprecedented proliferation of data.
  1. Tell your story through thought leadership: This form of simplified storytelling continues to help modern marketers do everything from content management to creation and delivery of the right message at the right stage of the buyer’s journey. The key is to provide a point of view that adds value to the customer conversation.
  1. Plan and execute the modern webinar: As discussed earlier this year in my blog, “This Year’s Technology Services World (TSW) Confessions Of A Webcast King: Modern Marketing, Webinars, And The Future Of Digital Marketing,” webinars create the perfect storm of a story told by credible speakers and subject-matter experts and kept fresh with an engaging, conversational approach.
  1. Define and use buyer personas: The modern marketing conversation is outside-in and tied to the specific messages and value of buyer personas. SiriusDecisions and research and advisory firms have refined this approach to an art form, providing the right way to target buyer-centric messaging, value propositions, and conversations.
  1. Guide customers on the new buyer’s journey while uniting and aligning sales and marketing: It’s time to take “new” out of “buyer’s journey” and focus on executing successful customer experiences with the right content, multi-touch interactions, and unified sales and marketing operations and insights.
  1. Implement structured methodologies, processes, and governance: Even though the backdrop hasn’t changed, businesses still need an underlying framework of systems and processes, dashboards, and analytics/reporting, and most importantly, continuous governance and review. In my blog, “The Marketing Funnel May Not Be As Dead As We Think,” I discussed some issues of the traditional marketing funnel and the latest modern marketing models, SiriusDecisons’ Waterfall Model, addressing key process improvements.
  1. Leverage account-based marketing (ABM): This account-centric approach has traveled the hype cycle and proved to offer great marketing ROI. ITSMA and SiriusDecisions have also turned ABM into highly refined best practice, and SAP and others have seen tangible and quantifiable results.
  1. Embrace data science: The geeks won; it’s time to finally embrace advanced analytics. Business intelligence is seeing unprecedented opportunity as technology catches up to the challenges of the digital economy. Not everyone needs to be their own data scientist, but we all should leverage this skill as much as possible.
  1. Navigate the marketing technology landscape: A couple of years ago, we thought that the market for marketing technology providers and solutions had peaked and that a period of significant consolidation was coming soon. As it turns out, the predictions were wrong. The number of competitors continues to grow as customer relationship management, marketing automation, Big Data, analytics, dashboards, and predictive analytics solutions are used to expand and improve capabilities and skills. We must all understand and embrace this world of “MarTec.”
  1. Invest in change management: Whenever a new era emerges, organizations need to embrace change management collectively. But this is easier said than done. Any change is not easy; in fact, our human nature resists it. Nevertheless, everyone needs to be on board to manage a consistent, connected process to transition.

Please check out my virtual trip report from TSIA TSW 2017. In the meantime, I am getting ready to attend a few more conferences: First the SiriusDecisions 2017 Summit, and my return to the “Woodstock of B2B Marketing” – with a few marketing events coming to evangelize the modern marketing journey with a healthy dose of innovation and digital transformation. Stay tuned for my next series of blogs covering my experiences and newfound knowledge!

Fred is the senior marketing director for SAP HEC and Digital Business Services Marketing at SAP. Join Fred online:


About Fred Isbell

Fred Isbell worked at SAP for nearly 19 years in senior roles in SAP Marketing. He is an experienced, results- and goal-oriented senior marketing executive with broad and extensive experience & expertise in high technology and marketing spanning nearly 30 years. He has a BA from Yale and an MBA from the Duke Fuqua School of Business.