Monetize 9 was not for the faint of heart. On a cold blue day in downtown Amsterdam, the MGI Research event saw over 100 people (largely dark-suited men) from across Europe pack into a stately old conference room.
Some twenty of those people then took turns subjecting themselves to 20-minute interviews in which they shared their insights on topics ranging from billing to payments to CPQ (Configure-Price-Quote) to recruitment to regulation to data to subscription economy to… well, I must admit that after 6-7 of those in a row, my attention span needed a real break. Not helping matters was the fact that I was going to be up there soon myself, to tell our own tales on the intersections of billing, payments and messaging channels.
So what do you do?
Those intersections have been hard to label. Which is frustrating if you’re the product marketing person, which I am. Explaining what we do typically involves explaining the parts, for the sum of those parts to come to life. Four legs, a head, a body, a tail… and even that’s not right. Because we don’t really do billing, we’re not a classic Payment Service Provider either, and we’re not in the business of sending chat messages or building client portals. We’re a cloud-based software toolbox to tie it all together into smooth transactional flows for larger companies serving consumers and small businesses. Take a bill, arm it with an online payment option, and deliver it to the customer. In endless variation, and there is more to it than that.
And so we talk about Digital Transformation, Customer Journeys, Quote-to-Cash, Payments Innovation, Bill Pay, Omnichannel and other monikers to capture our small but important place in the enterprise. And those clothes don’t quite fit, either. If you make a Venn diagram of all these big themes, we’d be right there in the middle. Especially if you also add circles for Social, Data, Security, Compliance, Analytics, Cloud and Mobile. Alas, I can’t credibly claim that we already play in or with Blockchain, although several colleagues are anxiously monitoring their precious cryptocurrency investments.
Quick side note: there was also a blockchain interview with Gijs Burgers of Innopay, who caught himself already talking about “traditional blockchain” as new initiatives evolve to cherry-pick some of its initial concepts. Ain’t that something? Traditional blockchain!
You need Monetization, and it needs to be Agile
But then… the good folks of MGI Research demystified what until then had been a very abstract term for me and apparently many others in the room: Agile Monetization. Add Platform, and we’ve got ourselves a new acronym: AMP.
It started out suspiciously, with their definition of Monetization. Here it is: Monetization is how efficiently and effectively market demand is created and translated into revenue, profits, and competitive differentiation. Thanks guys, I think we were fine with the word Business. The broader context however revealed the true and valuable intent: as a company, having a good brand and vision and product or service will only get you so far. Real success only comes if you also take care of all the operational things needed for your customers and your company to smoothly go through buying and payment journeys. And have all those elements connected:
Now, you may miraculously have all of that humming along one day… but then your products or prices or subscription models need to evolve, and your monetization components need to adjust accordingly. The ability to do that quickly and effectively is increasingly crucial, as large brands innovate and compete in new channels with new business models. Hence, your monetization capabilities need to be Agile. Hence, Agile Monetization.
From semantics to actual software
Should you have one platform to take care of it all, you have your Agile Monetization Platform. You’d be the first though, as there does not seem to be a vendor today that checks all of those boxes. And so you do the best you can, with an ERP or CRM or (Subscription) Billing system as beating heart and other components connected via API or other means.
And this I recognized from our client base. This is how our solution fits in, and this is also where we enable the Agile part of the equation for those intersections of billing, payments and messaging I mentioned. Take a large Dutch insurance company, which now defaults to us whenever a team wants to facilitate online payments somewhere. They know the vendor, they know the software, it is part of their infrastructure… all they need to do is turn it on. Online payment from an email reminder for an unpaid health insurance bill? Done. Online payment from the chat function in the app? Got it. Online payment from the website or the client portal for short-term travel insurance? Sure. Online payment from Whatsapp or Facebook? Coming soon. New startup brand? Please talk to our online payment partner. Time to market is key.
Agility first and foremost needs to come from people and organization: teams with a mandate to make stuff happen across departmental silos. Once there, it really helps to then standardize on trusted proven familiar tooling for monetization components that will always be part of the equation. Reaching into source systems of record, and then reaching customers in the right channels to help them pay for something is indispensable plumbing. And if you do business in different countries, you also want that plumbing to insulate you from different and changing payment methods, banks or PSPs. You just want to turn it on, whatever “it” is at a given time and place.
Wrapping it up
Agile Monetization. Besides hosting a good event jampacked with interesting people and content, MGI Research with this term also defined a new house for our business to live in. Or be part of, rather: I think we’re the hallway between several rooms, or the staircase between floors. Or the plumbing for water. Someday I will find the perfect metaphor. And it can’t be about cars. Any help?