I admit that I am a data junkie. I have found that data, both quantitative and qualitative, enables me to better understand key topics and trends. I am a voracious consumer of various periodic surveys. Recently, I read SalesForce.com’s third annual “State of Sales” research report. I believe that many organizations could obtain some significant benefits from sponsoring annual surveys amongst their customer bases. In this post I will talk about three specific surveys and how these surveys bring outsized benefits to their organizations.
The surveys I find most beneficial are those that examine the business processes and users that a particular solution helps automate. These are not surveys about the features and functions of a specific application, instead they focus on the environment and people. Good surveys have over 1,000 respondents from a variety of organizations and geographies. Most surveys capture demographic information about the respondents – location, company size, company vertical, title, reporting relationships, years of experience, and in some cases even compensation information. They also typically cover “a day in the life of” the survey respondents. For example, here is a breakdown of how sales reps spend their time in an average week according to the State of Sales report (p9):
Another annual survey that I like is Pragmatic Marketing’s Product Management and Marketing survey. They recently published the 17th annual edition. Here’s a snapshot of their version of a “day in the life of” a product manager/product marketer:
Almost all surveys anonymize responses. People that participate in these surveys should be rewarded and not subject to aggressive direct marketing campaigns based on their responses. For some amusement read this Open Letter to Vendors piece written by the CISO at Penn State about the perils of vendors bombarding prospects.
Periodic surveys help sponsoring organizations demonstrate thought leadership. By analyzing trends and changes in business processes and technology they can illustrate what is new and interesting in the marketplace. For example, in the SalesForce report they make several references to the rise of artificial intelligence in sales:
AI is a huge new theme for SalesForce and they have an entire section of their website dedicated to AI Research. Einstein is their new AI capability they are embedding in almost all of their products.
Surveys and reports can also demonstrate a firm’s subject matter expertise. In addition to product management, I have spent a lot of my career working on Mergers, Acquisitions & Divestitures. One of the best sources of information on tech M&A is published by the Software Equity Group. SEG “provides unparalleled M&A advisory services for emerging and established software companies.” They regularly publish free quantitative research about M&A transactions. One of the things I like about this research is that it provides a snapshot of what realistic valuations are for tech companies. Here’s an extract from their recent Q2 2018 report:
The depth and quality of SEG’s research can only serve to reinforce their credibility and capabilities with the current and prospective clients.
I believe that almost all tech organizations can benefit from sponsoring some type of annual survey. It is a way they can provide some differentiated value to their current and prospective customers. It enables them to take the pulse of their target markets and validate what is and is not happening. Surveys also provide excellent content that can be used to support a buyer’s journey through awareness, evaluation, and eventual purchase of a solution.