My blog post Define a taxonomy of customer-pain-points and map your products & solutions against them got a response that asked for a taxonomy that works as a standard across all industries containing all possible pain-points that customers could have.
Here is my answer:
Each business or organization has to get to know their respective customers or audiences very deeply in order to list all possible issues that trouble them or could trouble them. This list has to be written from the point of view (!) of the customers or audiences and with their choice of words (!).
Then this list can be structured as a taxonomy and the vocabulary can be used to articulate all unique value propositions (USP) that the business or organization has to bring to the table.
Once the taxonomy exists, all unique value propositions, marketing content, sales content, human resources information about subject matter experts’ contact details / learning and development content / training content, and other content can be mapped against the taxonomy. This will reveal gaps and outdated versions.
The suggested approach to articulate a THE one taxonomy as the overall standard across all industries on the planet sounds very ambitious. I’m with Jorn Barger and Daniell Koller who write on quora that
“You can’t build a universal ontology using natural language. Its words are too vague.” [...] “You can’t build an universal ontology, but I would like to add that – for most of the use cases I have seen until now – THE one correct & complete ontology is not needed. [...] To my understanding it is much more important to be able to work on your own ontology subset and to link it with somehow more general documented wisdom. [...] My experience from this kind of standardization projects is that you might be able to manage the technical side of it, but the organizational and managerial aspect get very complicated once you target a singel taxonomy [...]“
As stated above, I think each business or organization has to go through the process of crafting this taxonomy for themselves and keeping it fresh (in times of mergers and acquisitions etc). The very process of crafting it in the voice of the customer or audience, will help the content and the conversations, the employees have, to resonate better with the customers/audiences. The customers need to be surprised by the extend to which the sellers speak their language and know about their pain before they actually expressed it.
When I worked at Nortel, we had the role of an information architect for Nortel. This role was in charge of keeping the taxonomy (of all products, services, and solutions) fresh and ideally making each taxon on the higher level sound like a need in the voice of the customer.
I agree that there is value in seeking standards and one common ontology, especially when we really reach the times of the semantic web / web 3.0. Then applications need to know which taxon is a treatment/intervention/mitigation for which other taxon etc…
The company BizSphere AG (which introduced the role of the information architect at Nortel and provided a semantic solution including software to edit the taxonomy) also developed the approach shown in this screen shot.
Full disclosure: I work with BizSphere AG. Here is a list of all other vendors I know of.
One of my posts on the question “where Sales Enablement lives within an organization” got a comment requesting further clarification of the following graphic:
The comment was asking where to find sales people in the graphic and what the role of sales playbooks is. I have to admit that it is difficult to read, but the sales people are actually represented within the green area as indicated by the words Sales Force. (This is not a reference to salesforceDOTcom.)
This speaks to the point that sales people and the legacy sales portals, that are supposed to enable them, sit in between a highly matrixed organization on the one side and just as complex an organization on the client’s side. These legacy sales portals are one-dimensional (they fail to show content & contact details of subject experts in the context of the highly matrixed organization and in context to which pain point on the client side is addressed) and there are often several portals as there are so many silos of information.
Each sales playbook is a great tool for a small subset of the sales force (as shown in the graphic), but comes out of one of the silos, fed by only some of the Product/Portfolio Marketing teams or one regional team. When all content (e.g. customer references from different regions or specific value propositions per industry vertical…) lives in a multi-dimensional business context like it is made possible in BizSphere (which is a Sales Enablement Solution Suite that was designed to cut across all silos. Full disclosure: I work with them.), a completely customized sales playbook for any given sales situation can be auto-generated.
In contrast to legacy sales portals, BizSphere takes at least three dimensions into account. These could be:
- Where is the seller going to a meeting? (Sales regions, countries…)
- What does the seller want to sell (Portfolio of products, services and solutions.)
- What does the seller need in order to be successful in the meeting? (Content types like white paper, case study, ROI-Calculator, contact details of a subject matter expert, etc…)
You might also want to define a taxonomy of customer pain points and map your products against them or add other dimensions that your company thinks in. BizSphere then lets you filter down by media type, language of the content, and/or the sales step you are in with the opportunity you are working.
- Imagine the 1st orange arrow in the graphic above to be a customer reference from a Canadian client for a specific security solution.
- Imagine the 2nd orange arrow to be the contact details of the sales engineer in South Africa who is the expert for a given service.
- The 3rd orange arrow could be an ROI-calculator for the same service but it is really specific to the mining industry and therefore relevant in Western Australia.
Can you get lost in BizSphere? No way, because nothing is easier than answering: What do I want to sell, where do I want to sell it and what would help me to close the deal? Once you set your context in these three dimensions you will have filtered down from thousands of marketing assets / pieces of collateral to only the relevant ones.