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The 3 Year Itch
I have been involved in the BCM industry for the past few years – knee-deep in our company’s marketing, branding and social media activities. I also wear a CRM hat and track all the sales and marketing efforts. On average, we receive a few hundred enquiries for our products from our contact widget on our website. We get a few hundred more qualified leads from our participation in various industry trade shows. All these sales opportunities are followed up diligently by our Sales team.
When analyzing the CRM database, a very interesting pattern emerges:
The 3-year itch
Prospects with whom we’ve dealt before often return with requests for product and pricing information. Most of them occur on 36-month cycles. These prospects stay engaged for varying periods – from a single conversation to as long as 6 months. If they decide to buy a competitor’s product the conversation ends – temporarily. They often pop up again in 36 months to start the whole process again.
Why the 3-year cycle? In most organizations the amortization period for IT software is 36 months (the software is depreciated and written-off the books in 3 years’ time). When someone returns from their 36 month vacation, we ask them why they’re back. Almost every response falls into one of three categories:
Buying for all the Wrong Reasons
The prior decision may not have lived up to expectations. A good salesman may have sold them on esoteric, feel-good criteria such as “simple” and “easy to use”.
Sometimes there really are no expectations to meet. The decision may have been made purely on price. And sometimes even that’s not really the goal; the IT/DR or BC manager was simply looking to tick a box on a checklist. Acquire BCM software? Check.
We hear a surprising number of stories in which the selected product never left its shrink-wrapper. So after lying low while accounting rules write-off the bad investment, they come back again.
Some planners & consultants see a BCM software tool just as a dumbed-down document repository; they find little value in the tool’s analytical capabilities. These planners, many of whom have been in the industry for decades, believe that BCM policy, framework, RAs, BIAs & plan templates all have to be created prior to storing BCPs in a document management system. They’ve been using the same software seemingly forever. It has served their limited purposes, so there was never a need to change. They do periodic RFI’s (just to make the Vendor Management people happy). Then suddenly that BCM leader or consultant has left the building.
So a new BCM leader reaches out to vendors to start another tool evaluation, and the cycle starts again. Our CRM database shows the footprints of various industry personalities as they move from one organization to another, or as they move from engagement to engagement. The pattern is obvious, and often colors how we respond to their requests.
Sometimes the previously selected product could never be implemented – because the sales-pitch sold ‘vapor-ware’ (a pretty slide deck with no real product to match). Or the product simply didn’t meet expectations. The vendor eventually decides to call it quits, leaving customers holding a wasted investment and a product that does not work. It’s happened several times. Again, after the mandatory 3-year waiting period, they start the evaluation all over again.
Patience, Patience, Patience…
So we wait for those three year cycles to come back to us. We smile politely and respond to all the enquiries (well, most of them anyway). We don’t sell vapor-ware, we don’t tell prospects we have something that we can’t actually demonstrate. We may not win every competition. But even when we lose, we know we’ll probably see them again in 3 years. We are always open for business – just as we have been since 2002.