Widening Your Sphere of Influence

The extended-enterprise concept works positively at all levels of business management

Organizations today face challenges. They must encourage customers to more widely adopt existing solutions. They must persuade customers to purchase ancillary products or additional services, and keep them satisfied in order to protect the revenue stream.

Achieving a healthy rate of account renewal with minimum customer churn necessitates improved customer service, new ways to sell, greater knowledge of the customer, and innovative methods of adding value to current offerings.

At the same time, new business must be generated to provide additional revenue streams via precisely targeted marketing and heightened brand awareness.

But exactly how are these objectives attained in a cost-effective manner? The answer lies in the concept of the extended enterprise. An extended-enterprise platform is ideal for companies that somewhat depend on external audiences to promote and sell their products. Industries including insurance, real estate, financial services, durable goods manufacturing, health care, technology, communications, or any field relying on the channel or independent reps/dealerships. Firms operating in such sectors can harness extended enterprise to:

>> boost agility in rapidly changing market conditions;

>> improve business performance and productivity;

>> increase customer retention & acquisition; and

>> protect, reinforce, differentiate and promote brand image.

What Is It?

The concept of the extended enterprise encompasses the extension of a corporation beyond traditional bounds. It can stretch out into many different business or performance spheres. This might include customers, partners, suppliers, channel and distributor networks, franchisees, association members, independent agents, contractors or volunteers. Various combinations of these external audiences form part of any extended enterprise.

The purpose of an extended-enterprise training platform is to effect the efficient delivery of knowledge for the strategic purpose of transforming business performance. This can perhaps best be explained by looking at what typically happens with educational programs aimed at suppliers, distributor networks and independent agents:

Organizations send out material in the form of mailings, e-mails, PDFs or links to Webcasts in order to brief external audiences on their wares. This approach can be supplemented by visits to train these individuals in a classroom setting. However, they are also inundated by collateral about competitive offerings. In such an environment, even the most finely crafted training campaign is likely to struggle.

What the extended enterprise is all about, therefore, is achieving success with such programs. It cuts through the noise to effectively capture the hearts and minds of external audiences. Result: training initiatives are turned into profit centers.

Extended enterprise customers include some of the biggest names in technology, telecommunications, engineering and sales. In addition, a host of small and emerging businesses use the extended enterprise concept to stretch their sphere of influence beyond traditional corporate boundaries. Let’s look at some of the ways that the efficient delivery of knowledge can transform business performance.

Brand Image

The extended enterprise can exert a major impact with regard to brand awareness and loyalty by helping organizations to enhance information-sharing with external audiences. By making it easy for distributors to become better educated, you facilitate their emphasis on selling more of your products and fewer of your competitors’.

Customer Retention/Acquisition

Sales managers don’t typically think of training as a key element to address when leads are not being followed up. Yet extended-enterprise training programs can markedly increase responsiveness to the valuable leads generated through corporate channels. How? Vice presidents and managers often know what needs to change behaviorally to improve sales performance. You can develop short, targeted offerings to encourage the right attitudes and habits about sales leads.

Another benefit is reducing the amount of time spent in training by focusing only on areas that will have a positive impact on sales, as directed by the line of business managers. The key to sales success is to minimize training by specifically tailoring sales education toward driving behaviors with known positive outcomes.

Boosting Agility

In many verticals, speed to market is a major success component. Particularly in industries such as computer hardware, software, durable goods and telecommunications, rapid development of products is rarely enough. It takes velocity and agility on the marketing side to ensure results.

Take the example of a security software release. In many cases, multiple vendors come to market at the same time with their latest offerings. Extended-enterprise training can help differentiate products by educating channel partners and resellers about a new release more effectively than those of competitors. The speed with which knowledge gets out can make or break a new product release marketing campaign. This doesn’t mean that formal training has to be absent from the process. Distribution of a Webcast, PDF or PowerPoint in conjunction with accurate participant tracking can move your product to top of mind in the target audience.

Performance/Productivity

There are many ways the extended-enterprise concept can boost business performance. Besides helping organizations increase top-line revenue from more productive channels, it can also reduce the cost to sell to and service customers and channels.

Further, such training programs can become a valuable revenue stream. Companies with large affiliate programs, membership bases or external sales teams can charge fees for training and certification. At the very least, this can defray the cost of delivery.

Such initiatives must be rapid and effective, which is where the extended-enterprise solution comes into its own. Courses are fast, dynamic and to the point. Additionally, an extended-enterprise system can automatically track usage, making it easy to see how many users have completed training, how many are incomplete, and who has yet to begin. This data can then be correlated with sales figures to determine the effectiveness of training. For a small investment in training, sales can be increased significantly.

Extending Your Enterprise

Delivering training to an audience beyond traditional employees is one of the fastest-growing segments of the learning industry. According to Bersin & Associates, this type of education is increasing at an annual pace greater than 25 percent. This level of growth is occurring due to the business and economic benefits that can be realized by professionally delivered training.

Extended-enterprise solutions can help you:

>> develop and deliver training to audiences outside your organization;

>> drive revenue through customer, channel and distributor channels;

>> improve productivity and information sharing with external partners;

>> deliver certification programs and share knowledge;

>> eliminate excess training costs while accelerating time-to-market; and

>> increase customer satisfaction and product adoption.

—For more ideas and information about how to reach out to your extended enterprise, download the following whitepapers: “Widening Your Sphere of Influence” at www.geolearning.com/sphere and “The Art and Science of Extended Enterprise Training” at www.geolearning.com/artandscience, or visit www.geolearning.com/extendedenterprise

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