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Spot Buying Improves Procurement Process

Blue Marble Media shows how mid-market cloud selling gains new life via Ariba Discovery

This latest BriefingsDirect podcast, from last month's 2013 Ariba LIVE Conference in Washington, D.C., explores how Blue Marble Media in Atlanta has been using so-called spot-buying capabilities on the Ariba Network and Ariba Discovery to find new sales channels and new clients in the cloud.

To learn more about how agile procurement works for on the mid-market sell side, we're joined by Cal Miller, Vice President of Business Development at Blue Marble Media.

The interview is conducted Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. [Disclosure: Ariba, an SAP company, is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

Here are some excerpts:

Gardner: Tell us a little bit about your company -- your size, what services and products you provide. And why is the cloud not intimidating to you as a smaller firm for selling and finding new customers?

One of the real benefits we found out early on Ariba Discovery is we can help educate people on the process of looking for companies like us.

Miller: Even though we're very, very small, less than $2 million in revenue, we have clients like Georgia-Pacific, Verizon, Ariba, and the CDC. We work with a lot of medium-sized companies and even startups, very small ones. So the whole planet is our opportunity, if you will. We develop video, motion graphics, and animation for sales support, marketing, corporate communications, and just about any type of visual presentation that you might need.

Gardner: Why go through non-traditional channels to get to new business?

Miller: Actually, it’s a very overcrowded supplier sector. We're a little different in that we're a turnkey provider. We're not just a “video house.” There are many of those out there, and they're good firms, but we're much more strategic. We do well when we begin a project and can interface at a C level with a company and help them come up with the strategy and the solution that eventually drives the message.

Our strength quite often is something that people don’t know is even out there. One of the real benefits we found out early on Ariba Discovery is we can help educate people on the process of looking for companies like us and then hopefully they are going to say, "Okay, we'll call you back."

Halfway to goal

Gardner: As someone who is already on the Ariba Network, they need to know and need to acquire, so they're halfway to finding the goal. You're going to need to go halfway toward them with your specific differentiating value and make that understood.

This notion of spot buying however expands that, it allows more than just a structured procurement professional who is looking for services and extends this down to people who are doing ad hoc, occasional, once-in-a-blue-moon types of buying. How has that worked out? Tell me a little bit more about how you even got involved with Ariba Discovery and spot buying at all?

Miller: In our world spot buying is probably half of our total business. Even large companies may only have a need for a high-profile video series once a year, two times a year, or every other year. So the people that are charged with developing that solution quite often aren't the people who are going to be writing the check or making the procurement, and vice versa.

Miller

So the real challenge there is to get these people to understand that there is a vetting process. Ariba has provided this service, so a company like us can sit up and say, "Hey, we're a little different than the other guys. Let’s engage and start some dialogue."

Gardner: What have been the results? Let’s learn first about how long you've been doing this? What’s the timeline on how you have been using Discovery and extending that to that spot buying type of clientele?

We've learned that you still need to respond, because you get that opportunity to almost simulate a face-to-face meeting.

Miller: It will be a year in a couple of weeks. We took a few months to learn the system, ramp up, and get going, but we've already had a very nice project and contract from a national bank that came through the network. And we have kind of a follow-up project with them. So that will be additional revenue.

We have several opportunities that have been presented to us and we are in different stages of developing those projects as they move forward.

Even on a few of the introductions that we've passed up, we've made a response, but we knew it wasn’t a good fit. We've learned that you still need to respond, because you get that opportunity to almost simulate a face-to-face meeting, because they get to learn about you, and you're building a relationship.

One of the biggest challenges that people on this network don't realize is to not look at your computer screen like it’s just another interface computer screen. You're looking through the eyes of Ariba at a real, live person on the other end- who can write you a check, and that changes the dynamic of how you communicate through the Network.

Gardner: And if it’s not a right fit for them, they might have a word-of-mouth, community, or social connection with someone that they could refer you to. So there are concentric circles of engagement.

Circles of engagement

Miller: That happens very often, especially with the larger companies. It’s, "These guys can do this. Here, give them a call in three months or pass this on to Joe, because they are going to need this." That’s worth its weight in gold. You can’t get that by knocking on the door or shooting out a bevy of emails. It just doesn’t happen.

Gardner: Now, as a mid-market company, a smaller company, you are of course price conscious yourself. What was the spend experience when you got involved with Ariba? How did you step into the water?

Miller: We had been a supplier to Ariba for about a year and a half, and then it was suggested that we needed to be on the network.  We looked at it and started at the basic level. Within about four months, we realized that this is really a good deal. So I spent a lot of time learning more about it, and we immediately upgraded to the Premium Advantage level. It's the best investment we ever made.

And for us as a small company, and many of you listening may be able to identify with this, we have all these different marketing and sales-support options out there, and they are all good tools in their own right. But if you have limited time and budget, to me it was a no-brainer. This is the best way to make use of our time, get the quality of leads that we need, and make the contacts that we're looking for at a C level.

We immediately upgraded to the Premium Advantage level. It's the best investment we ever made.

Gardner: And that seems to be especially the case when an organization like yours has a significant, maybe even a majority, portion of your sales in that ad-hoc spot-buying type of engagement.

Miller: Very well summarized, Dana. That's very true. For a company like us, we would love to get ongoing contracts, but in our world and with the product and service we offer, it doesn’t come that way. So spot buying is going to be the focus of how we utilize our partnership with Ariba.

I wish this had been around 20 years ago.

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More Stories By Dana Gardner

At Interarbor Solutions, we create the analysis and in-depth podcasts on enterprise software and cloud trends that help fuel the social media revolution. As a veteran IT analyst, Dana Gardner moderates discussions and interviews get to the meat of the hottest technology topics. We define and forecast the business productivity effects of enterprise infrastructure, SOA and cloud advances. Our social media vehicles become conversational platforms, powerfully distributed via the BriefingsDirect Network of online media partners like ZDNet and IT-Director.com. As founder and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, Dana Gardner created BriefingsDirect to give online readers and listeners in-depth and direct access to the brightest thought leaders on IT. Our twice-monthly BriefingsDirect Analyst Insights Edition podcasts examine the latest IT news with a panel of analysts and guests. Our sponsored discussions provide a unique, deep-dive focus on specific industry problems and the latest solutions. This podcast equivalent of an analyst briefing session -- made available as a podcast/transcript/blog to any interested viewer and search engine seeker -- breaks the mold on closed knowledge. These informational podcasts jump-start conversational evangelism, drive traffic to lead generation campaigns, and produce strong SEO returns. Interarbor Solutions provides fresh and creative thinking on IT, SOA, cloud and social media strategies based on the power of thoughtful content, made freely and easily available to proactive seekers of insights and information. As a result, marketers and branding professionals can communicate inexpensively with self-qualifiying readers/listeners in discreet market segments. BriefingsDirect podcasts hosted by Dana Gardner: Full turnkey planning, moderatiing, producing, hosting, and distribution via blogs and IT media partners of essential IT knowledge and understanding.

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