A&S talks to Anthony Ball, Senior VP of Sales and Marketing for Identity and Access Management at HID Global, about the company's marketing strategies.
HID Global's marketing strategies lie at the very heart of its corporate success. "Our marketing efforts touch on the way we do business," said Anthony Ball, Senior VP of Sales and Marketing for Identity and Access Management at HID Global. "At the core is our reason for doing business, our reason for being."
According to Ball, HID wants to be at the forefront of its respective industry. "We deliver solutions for secure identity," said Ball. "This is the driving force; we look at how to articulate and translate that in our message to the customer."
To accomplish this, HID profiles its customers' personal behavior, looks at how cultural perspectives have to be adapted regionally, and examines how to address customer needs both on the basis of region and organizational structure.
With respect to behavior profile, HID prides itself on its strong channel networks, explained Ball. "Our account professionals spend time listening to the customer to find out what he or she needs. Then you put the right people in front with the right channel network; you are very well-equipped to take action."
Recently, HID surveyed roughly 1,000 customers to get their responses on what the company was doing well and where it had to enhance. "The survey was profiled so that we learn whether we are giving the customer what he or she wants," said Ball. "It wasn't a general survey that compared us against the competition; it measured whether we deliver in our specific areas of service against the specific requirements of a specific customer."
Ball observed that there were no challenges in contacting customers. "We are very well-connected to them and their businesses. The challenge is to take that input and understand how to improve. Worldwide, the challenge is to respond to specific needs in specific markets." In practice, "we balance our corporate strategy with providing solutions that, ideally, approach 80 percent of a specific customer's needs."
Another important factor is that central messages must be not only translated into local languages but also take into account cultural factors that affect the way that communication is delivered. "Some cultures prefer face-to-face exchanges; others might be comfortable with receiving information via the Web, while still others prefer video conferences or conference calls," said Ball. "That's why we adapt our communication vehicle. We understand it's not only important what you communicate but how you communicate and who it is that communicates that message."
Ball recognized that communicating via e-mail or fax may not always be appropriate when transmitting secure data. "That's why we use secure data interchange. We equip our customers with secure computer portals to send and receive key data. The program is held securely in a vault so that there is no threat of it becoming available in the public domain. That gives the customer confidence in doing business with us."
Global, Regional, Local
The structure of decision-making within a corporate entity is critical as well. "We've become a global structure but, within that, you must have autonomy within regions to respond quickly and effectively to customer needs. You still have your global message, but a fast response is also required," said Ball.
"I work with the management team in a classical fashion to drive information back into the decision making process. We take this information and use it to look at our customer and overall strategy. We then map that back to ensure that we make it easier for our customers to do business with us."
HID's three major regions are EMEA, the Americas and the Asia Pacific. "To work within this structure, we stimulate our customers through solution seminars and roundtable discussions." HID has organized several in North America and the United Kingdom. "We invite consultants and integrators to solicit feedback. We also use these opportunities to find ways to better communicate our capabilities to them."
HID pulls customers to find out what they want rather than pushing to promote the available products and services. In EMEA, for example, HID had a customer that wanted to incorporate specific programming capabilities, so HID examined how to equip him to extend its reach.
"The process involved the MD (me), sales, marketing, technical support, personnel and operations to find ways to provision them with our products so that they, in turn, could meet the needs of their customers," said Ball. "This required that we listen to the customer and look at ways to innovatively add value and protect our capabilities."
Products Tailored to Meet Local Needs
What it takes for this approach to be successful is to adapt products and solutions to local customers. "To do this," said Ball, "we have to listen effectively to customers on a daily basis. We have the account professionals and regional managers in place who understand how to do that." For example, "our products have to work in extreme conditions, such as inclement weather or in environments characterized by vandalism," said Ball. "If you provide a reader for extreme temperatures, you need to ensure that it's robust enough to withstand these conditions."
In certain locations, it may be that a certain language is required to operate the product. In other markets, it may be compliance with certain standards or specific testing. "We account for the way that people will use our product, including the user interface (hardware and software)," said Ball. "In this business, you cannot adopt a one-size-fits-all approach."
When it comes to user interface, language is most obvious; HID examines how people view the software, and that requires adaptation and continuous update.
Certain parts of the world are much stronger when it comes to adopting technology. "In the United States, we need to present our content in an easy-to-use format. This may include using bubbles to provide directions to the user." In other markets, there may be less need for as much leading or direction. "We try to blend our software and hardware protocols to balance all of these various needs so that we don't have to come up with 25 versions of the software," emphasized Ball.
As proximity to the customer and careful listening are crucial to HID's marketing efforts, the company established its HID Academy in 2008 to provide internal and external training.
Attendees have unprecedented access to world-class programs and resources, including HID's e-learning, solutions seminars and webinars, as well as its comprehensive training library and knowledge resource materials. The HID Academy is a Web-based portal that provides distributors, resellers, integrators and end users with a wealth of information that only HID Global can provide, helping them gain technical understanding, learn industry best practices and successfully implement any HID security solution.
"At our academy," said Ball, "account professionals from entry-level to advanced undergo global account training that incorporates multiregional and multi-account levels. It also trains customers and partners to use our products and services, adapting them to meet specific market requirements."
Account professionals and account management at the highest level have to be able to communicate a message both culturally and regionally, and that requires outstanding messengers. "They must also be able to take central communication and guarantee that it filters down to the regional level."
This is particularly important with essential accounts — those that HID deems critical to the future growth of its business. These include large, renowned companies in the industry, such as Honeywell and ADT, among others.
Beating the Drum
Good management practices require advocating a modern management environment. "It may sound as if I were beating a drum," said Ball, "but you have to listen to the customer. You have to be connected at all times and align your response to what those needs are."
He also stressed, "If you fail to meet your customers' needs or are slow to respond, your competitors will do so. That's why it's so important to have a management structure that enables fast, easy communication. To achieve this, you need to have cross-functional teams in place."
Ball's final point is that when extending capabilities to a third party, management has to understand that it is not just a sales and marketing decision, it is also a business decision. "To be successful, you have to involve all stakeholders."