Hark has reached a milestone– 15 years of delivering innovative software solutions including aWorkbook and aHub to support the B2B sales process. There’s much to say about how our software’s evolved over the years; the growth of our customer base; how our offer supports your digital transformation; our talented, committed team who go above and beyond for every customer … But as I look back, it strikes me just how much has remained the same for our customers since we launched in 2004.

Getting visibility on your ranges

Right from the start, customers spoke to us about their challenge in getting visibility on product information. Legacy systems held data in silos, with product managers working in isolation on their own ranges.  I remember the astonishment of one VP of Apparel, who saw in our app that there were 93 colourways on offer, rather than the 40 or so he guessed to be in their latest range.

Product USPs was another source of frustration. I recall a footwear brand with 14 different sentences each describing, ever so slightly differently, a technology that featured in their iconic boot. Season after season, someone sat down to write the USPs afresh, oblivious to what had gone before. If visibility is still an issue for you, the increasing demand for clean data to meet your different sales channels will only compound the problem.

Brands are recognising how vital it is to supply accurate, valuable product information to those making the buying decision, whether it be wholesale or retail customers. Tailoring the product offer to meet a specific customer segment is a key strategy for brands today, but brands can struggle to communicate this information internally (to get their sales force on board) and externally to the customer (to demonstrate the strategic value of the approach). The right sales tools can create different views from your core product information – say goodbye to ‘one size must fit all’.

Do you Excel?

Excel is loved and loathed in equal measure. Familiarity with the app means people are comfortable managing product information in this way, but the pain of sharing a single spreadsheet is acute when data is overwritten by mistake and no-one spots it!   If that makes your heart sink, then you’ll recognise the value of online collaboration.

To print or not to print?

The tension between print catalogues and digital versions is still as strong as ever.  Some sales reps and their customers see a glossy print catalogue as a safety blanket. ‘Buyers like to make notes on it’ or ‘They can look at it when they get home from the showroom’, they say.  But print and distribution costs are high; eyebrows can be raised around the environmental impact; buyers negotiate tradeshows weighed down by paper and there’s that howling error in the product name on page 4 that only jumps off the page once the first copies roll off the press!  A digital catalogue, easily updated, fixes all those post-launch product drops, size changes and typos.

Resistance to change

And what about the perception of resistance to change – still cited as a concern when introducing new sales tools. ‘Our reps are behind the times’ or ‘They won’t embrace new ways of working’.  But give your reps a tool that will make them more productive, improves their sales and enhances their presentations, and make sure they are familiar with how to use it, and even the most resistant can soften their stance!

Finding the time

Time pressure and a lack of resources remain at the forefront of minds when committing to a new way of working. It’s always a trade-off between finding time to research, commit to and deploy a solution, and the need to proof-read 128 pages of a product catalogue before tomorrow’s print deadline, while chasing down missing imagery and cajoling a colleague to deliver on some marketing collateral for the sales meeting!  Find a software company that is on your side, willing to flex to make things happen when you need them.

What are you trying to fix?

Businesses still struggle to identify the precise issues they want to resolve. When looking for tools to improve the Go-To-Market process, brands can find themselves overwhelmed by the breadth of solutions out there. Each one solves a problem from a slightly different angle, but if you don’t know exactly what that problem is, then selecting the right solution is near impossible.  The broader the solution, the greater impact across the business, adding more stakeholders who need to be convinced that this is the way forward. No wonder the status quo seems so attractive!

Bob Apollo at Inflexion-Point recently wrote

“Technology will not solve a lack of focus, process or understanding but it can reinforce those things when they exist …”

Bob Apollo, Inflexion-Point

Wise words, in our experience. Automating a flawed process won’t deliver results, nor will an attempt to fix multiple problems with a single solution that doesn’t cover all the bases.

So what have we learnt at Hark over these fifteen years?  

  • That not enough people start looking for a solution with the end in mind – understand the problem you want to solve.
  • That when your time and capacity is stretched thinly, it takes a strong resolve to opt for change, even when the benefits are clear to all.
  • That with the right tools and support, even the most resistant colleague can embrace new ways of working.

At Hark, we’ll understand your problems.  After 15 years, we’ve already solved them for someone else!

About the author:

Claire Higgins Co-Founder/CEO of Hark Solutions, delivering competitive advantage throughout the B2B sales process with aHub and aWorkbook.

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Designed and built in the UK by Hark, the aWorkbook digital catalogue and sales app and aHub, our cloud-based content platform, combine to bring together all your product content, enriched and ready for sharing with the right market, sales channel or platform, swiftly and easily. aHub helps product managers and marketing teams collaborate in product planning and range merchandising  or whenever accurate, consistent product information is needed. aWorkbook brings competitive advantage throughout the B2B sales process. Rollout of our software solutions are supported by our in-house data services team, primed to help overcome your data challenges.