As is often the case, his advice pertains more to B2C than B2B, as I point out in a comment:
“Utility” is a clear, succinct way of putting it. I am concerned about the B2B side of things, though, for complex technology solutions in particular. For customers in this realm, I think utility has long meant access to their peers and to expert advice during the purchasing and post-sales processes. The utility would be in making that easier to do than it is now (going to vendors for customer references, calling up their networks of peers for recommendations and advice, sifting through analyst reports and trade magazines, going to trade association events). Social media hasn’t taken off for B2B because it doesn’t provide any more utility for making those things happen (except perhaps for finding old colleagues on LinkedIn). Online communities try to offer it all in a box, but I don’t see much utility there except for technical people looking for solutions to specific software and hardware problems. For the real customers of complex technology solutions, it doesn’t seen like utility will ever come through an app, unless that app links to a much deeper, rich experience that combines all of the things mentioned above. Perhaps we need to wait for the second coming of Second Life for that.
Awhile back, I tried to get at this concept, though much less elegantly than Joel, in terms of how B2B could make use of mobile apps. I wonder if anything has changed since I wrote it. I’m not seeing the killer app for B2B utility emerging yet.
About the Author: I'm a B2B marketer, researcher, writer, editor, and former technology journalist. Currently an editorial director at SAP (opinions are my own, not SAP's).
Reproduced with permission from his blog
I’m sure I don’t need to introduce you to Forbes’ “BrandVoice” program (used to be “AdVoice). The guy who manages the platform at Forbes, Lewis Dvorkin, (if he also created the platform he’s a freakin’ genius) recently wrote about its power to disrupt traditional journalism, citing my new employer, SAP, as one of the companies that sometimes get more hits for the stuff it posts than Forbes’ own journalism.
He concludes that journalism (what little is left of it) is safe from the assault of brands like SAP. I agree (journalism’s future will be determined by its ability to create a business model that pays better than the current one: giving away content for free and charging way too little for ads), but I think he missed the more important disruptive power that platforms like BrandVoice really do have: to disintermediate traditional marketing.
Reinforcing the no-pitch rule
For the past few months, I’ve been one of the authors of content on SAP’s little corner of the Forbes platform and I’ve become a big fan. I’m especially fond of the effect it has on my colleagues in SAP marketing: they understand that they no longer need to pitch products to get the attention of customers and prospects. Indeed, there is a sense among my colleagues (that has been voiced to me as a rule), that Forbes frowns on stuff that shills products or links back to stuff on our company’s website that does.
As a practitioner of idea marketing at SAP, that’s music to my ears. Our group’s mandate is to research the business issues that SAP’s customers and prospects care about and write exclusively about those issues—not our products and services. The Forbes platform is Exhibit A for marketers who think what we do is a waste of time and money. That’s because customers and prospects actually come to the Forbes site and read our stuff. More importantly, they see smart people from SAP featured in it and that helps everybody.
What’s Wrong with BrandVoice
I don’t see everything SAP is doing on the Forbes platform as contributing to the education of customers (and thereby hopefully increasing their loyalty to the brand). A lot of it still brags about how great the company is, even if there’s no direct link to our stuff. And some of it is, to my taste anyway, pure link bait (links that we’re sending to Forbes rather than SAP). But hey, I’m a known crank. I give us a B- overall—not bad for a product company.
A Step Toward Better B2B Marketing
So the temptation is still there for marketers to market themselves or their companies rather than ideas. But the Forbes platform is an important step in helping companies understand that there is a time for selling but there is also a time (generally much earlier in the sales process) when customers and prospects are simply looking to be informed, educated and entertained. Proving that this kind of engagement helps make customers more likely to consider the company is the next big hurdle that marketers (myself included) have to cross.
P.S. Forbes has an profile section that BrandVoice authors are asked to fill out. I filled mine out today and thought the questions were really fun and interesting. I’ve enclosed them and my answers below in case you’re remotely interested. I’d love to hear how you would answer these questions.
Cool profile questions Forbes BrandVoice asks authors (and my answers)
I’m Watching For…
Great ideas to help businesses and IT
This Is Annoying Me…
The costs of change
This Is Making Me Worry…
The freakin’ weather in the Northeast
This Is Bringing Me Joy…
My family and cycling (in that order!)
I’m Running From…
Crappy, self-serving marketing content
This Is Helping Me Create…
Awareness that there many smart people within SAP who do more than install software
This Is Making Me Think – Hard…
The melding of business, IT, and personal life
This Makes My Teeth Itch
Selfishness and lack of compromise in Washington
Can’t Do Without
John Lennon, Robert Plant, and MLK
My Most Awkward Moment
Don’t know where to start
My Secret Ambition
To raise a moral, thoughtful, and funny child who will change the world
I’m Known For…
Journalism and marketing
My Current Project
Build a library of library of interesting and fun stories that plumb the minds of smart subject matter experts to help companies make better decisions–without shamelessly trying to sell stuff
My Greatest Achievement
Besides standing around while my daughter was born and being smart enough to marry my wife, uncovering a cover-up of doping in cycling in the US–in 1984
My Biggest Regret
That journalism is dying
I Truly Respect
People who do stuff for others without telling anyone or expecting anything in return
Moments I’d Like To Forget
Pretty much all of junior high, high school, and college (I was a nerd before it was even remotely cool to be one)
How I Pay For This Wardrobe
Two suits bought 25 years apart!? Myself, thank you very much.
Blocks I’ve Been Around
Liars and phonies (interviewed two (that I know of) C-level executives who were later convicted of white collar crime)
Things That Really Happened
Sent to the hospital four times by drivers who hit me while riding my bike legally and carefully in traffic (one of whom told me to “use the f-ing sidewalk next time” before gunning it and leaving the scene)
Where I’d Like To Be 10 Years From Now
Living in a country that leads the world in promoting freedom, compassion, and honesty (hope it continues to be the US–I’m beginning to have my doubts)
The Forbes platform is truly unique–a way for companies to add to the conversation about the future without having to resort to shameless self-promotion
About the Author: I am a writer, editor, B2B marketer, researcher, and former journalist. Currently, I’m an editorial director at SAP (of course, opinions here are my own). I focus on discovering, developing, and disseminating good ideas that customers can put to use in their companies.
Reproduced with permission from his blog
Check out this 40-second web video - (refer to the video below the article)! As far as B2B content goes, this video made a lasting impression on me. With most well done web commercials, I vividly remember the story, the actors, and even the last minute twist, but I am unable to recall the brands. But for this video it’s easy to recall these elements, as well as the humor, the products, and the brand.
The Brand Content Challenge: Global to Local
I’ve been asked how to create global content with minimal localization and translation while taking into account local needs. This video is a great illustration of how to approach the task. Unlike conventional B2B content that focuses on products, this video puts storytelling and emotional connection first, and then weaves the products into the story in an organic way.
The 5-Step Brand Content Solution: Identity to Broadcast
1. Discover the brand identity: At a macro-level, marketers need to understand why the brand exists, and then communicate that to the audience.
Logitech is a well-known computer peripherals brand. Chad Thompson, Worldwide B2B Marketing Director at Logitech, and Joe McCormack, Creative VP at Doremus, tried to unearth the new spirit of the Logitech B2B brand in their campaign.
With ubiquitous connections and on-the-go mobile devices, work and personal boundaries no longer exist; any place can now serve as an office. Logitech identifies itself as offering products that are designed to help business users work in offices, wherever they may be; thus, the idea for “The New Office” was born.
2. Start with crisp strategy: Three marketing strategies were in play here to bring the Logitech brand persona to life.
- Reclaim relevance: Showcase Logitech products’ compatibility with new technologies to solve “office anywhere” challenges.
- Cross-promotion: Focus on the usage models. Here, Logitech redefined the categories not by devices but, rather, by the concept of “workspace”. Four workspace categories are relevant to the Logitech brand: larger/open workspaces, smaller office spaces/cubes, home offices, and to-go workspaces (e.g., a café; the airport). This strategy of focusing on the category, rather than on a specific product, also allows for cross-selling of multiple products.
- Engage customers: Redesign websites and customer-facing interfaces or collaterals with new creative to reflect the new brand promises.
3. Create stories to scale: Once they identified the “why” (brand essence) and the “what” (marketing strategies), Logitech and Doremus created the “Welcome to the New Office” campaign.
From the get-go, they set their minds to creating video content that could easily be distributed throughout different regions. Because of this, the creative content could not heavily tie into rituals, local customs, cultural differences, or too many dialogues. Yet, the story framework needed to be familiar and understood by all audiences, regardless of where they live. This video, featuring a dad making dinner for his kids and attending a meeting, is something that small business owners or working professionals, like me, can relate to.
4. Find a great director: Once you have a good story and script, the next step is to find a director who can bring the story to life in a visually compelling way.
Given that the budget was tight, it was even more essential for the Logitech team to find a director who would be attracted to good storytelling. They were very lucky to find Eric Steinman, who loved the script and was willing to work astutely within the tight production budget.
5. Make it happen: The original script had more dialogue. To make it work more globally, the team worked hard to find visual ways to “show” the dialogue without words. They also made casting global. The shooting took only one day in Los Angeles, using non-union talent. The whole process from planning to production took three months.
A good product markets itself. A good story idea attracts collaborators who want to be part of it. The secret is to find the humanity.
Really take the time to pinpoint scenarios that highlight your audience’s pain and present the solution in a very human, simple, and universal way.
(Special thanks to Joe McCormack of Doremus, who shared his insights and thoughts for this article.)
About the Author: Pam Didner, selected as one of BtoB’s Top Digital Marketers in 2011, is the Global Integrated Marketing Manager for Intel. She has led Intel’s Enterprise product launches and worldwide marketing campaigns, and she has managed Intel’s main proprietary event, Intel Developer Forum, across nine countries. Didner is an expert in creating successful global marketing plans that meet local marketing’s needs. At Intel, Pam develops and manages Intel’s worldwide Enterprise and Small Business Strategies. She also provides strategic guidance on audience development, messaging architecture, editorial planning, content creation, media buys and social media outreach on a global scale. Pam is also a guest blogger for BtoB Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @pdidner
Syndicate Partners: Content Management Institute
Video and Image Courtesy: Content Management Institute
Companies that target business buyers rely heavily on the white papers, articles, books, and other documents they publish to position their products or services as effective solutions to those critical business problems their customers face.
But in creating this content, B2B companies often face a common, two-fold dilemma: first, determining which topics they should focus their content development efforts on given limited marketing resources, and second, how to stage those topics over time to keep the content pump primed.
A simple framework like the one below (Figure 1) can help companies create a portfolio of short-, medium- and long-term activities to both focus their content development efforts and fill their publication pipeline. This framework enables marketers to understand what they have to work with: Which ideas should be pursued and published right away, which should be developed over time, and which should be left unpublished. Armed with such insights, B2B marketers can create a content development program that supports demand generation not only for the current quarter, but for well over a year or multiple-year period.
This framework consists of two evaluative axes: The maturity of an issue or topic is on the Y axis, and the depth of expertise the firm has with the issue or topic is on the X axis. By comparing potential topics a company could write about along these two axes, B2B marketers can quickly get a picture of where they should be investing their time and money — and how.
An emerging issue with which the company has much experience would fall in the lower-right quadrant, or “expose.” An “emerging” issue is one that target buyers are just beginning to address — think the early days of social media, when companies were struggling to understand this new medium and how it would affect their business.
With deep knowledge about an emerging issue, a company should look to capitalize on first-mover status and define the market to its advantage through early, insightful publications that clearly position the firm as the leader. In other words, a company should get its insights to market as quickly as possible to capture business opportunities immediately.
A mature topic on which a company is well-versed and deeply experienced would land in the upper-right quadrant, or “sustain.” Here, the guiding principle should be ongoing attention. With plenty of experience to draw on, a company should use a steady flow of new publications on the topic to generate as much revenue from the market before the issue is no longer relevant.
For example, customer relationship management is not a new topic. However, consulting firms and CRM software companies with a long track record in helping organizations implement and use CRM principles and technologies can still provide value by adding their latest insights on the issue to the conversation. Conducting content-rich webinars, publishing in-depth case studies on CRM implementations, and writing a comprehensive book on CRM best practices are some of the ways such firms could draw on their extensive experience to educate prospects and clients.
A topic that’s just beginning to get the market’s attention and is also new to a company would fall in the bottom-left quadrant, or “cultivate.” A company should approach such an issue as a long-term bet. Provided the issue represents attractive growth potential and is not progressing so rapidly that it requires urgent attention — and no other company has already staked a solid claim on the topic — a company can take a measured approach to penetrating that market.
One example could be new governmental regulations set to take effect in a particular industry in, say, five to seven years. In this case, a company has time to develop its point of view on how the regulations will affect the industry and what organizations should do to prepare for them. The return on that investment will come down the road, as the deadline approaches and companies get serious about being in compliance.
A mature topic on which an organization has little experience would land in the upper-left quadrant, “ignore.” As the quadrant’s label implies, the company should pay little attention to this topic, because it offers scant return on investment. Because it got a late start in the game and the market essentially has already passed it by, a company likely will find it extremely difficult to create content that can attract the attention of business buyers who have, for years, been using established providers that already meet their needs. Thus, developing such content would be a waste of time and money, not to mention an exercise that could damage the company’s brand image.
When following this framework, marketers should take care to avoid putting most of their eggs in any one of the four baskets. For example, focusing too much on the short-term basket can meet immediate market needs but fail to position a company on critical emerging issues that offer significant potential growth. Conversely, emphasizing the medium- and long-term baskets can establish a company’s competency in an up-and-coming market but compromise the ability to capitalize on current opportunities. Short-term ideas must be marketed to keep the inquiry pipeline full while the bigger bets have time to develop.
And whatever the mix, the ideal portfolio must align tightly with the company’s targeted growth areas. In other words, marketers should avoid producing content on topics that are of little strategic concern to the company. This can be a challenge in professional services companies, where a consultant, for instance, may want to produce a white paper or article that boosts his own image but covers a topic that has little relevance to his firm’s business. Such vanity projects waste time and money and dilute a company’s market position.
As the competition for buyers’ attention becomes more intense, a B2B provider that produces great content stands out from the crowd. A portfolio approach can help B2B companies create content that is more relevant to buyers and that positions the company as the provider best suited to solve buyers’ business problems. And it can enable marketers to keep the pipeline full of compelling content when it is needed to help the company capitalize on short-, medium- and long-term growth opportunities.
About the Author: Bernie Thiel is a partner with Alterra Group, a thought leadership marketing firm in Cleveland. In his consulting role, he helps professional services firms develop compelling, high-quality marketing content, including white papers, books, case studies, bylined articles and research reports. His clients include global and boutique management consulting companies, as well as major IT services and solutions providers.
Syndication Partner: Content Management Institute
Image Courtesy: Content Management Institute
Very few companies have achieved success with products as well as services. Is there a difference in skillsets required? What are the attributes of a successful marketer in both cases? What do we need to do to build successful product brands?
Click here to view the presentation made by Sumit Virmani, Head of Marketing - Products and Platforms, Infosys Technologies at the official launch of Paul Writer.
Businesses are looking to leverage social media as a way to gain deeper insight into what customers want and get feedback on how to improve the customer experience, while also attempting to navigate and utilize these same platforms for internal communication and creativity. Jeremy Cooper shared his insights on how cloud computing can bring together industry leading cloud platforms like Google, Facebook and Twitter with traditional contact center channels like phone, email and chat to capture every conversation and leverage every community expert in the cloud. He also demonstrated how consumer driven sites have shown companies a smarter way to collaborate, leveraging ease-of-use and social features to create rich user experiences and improve productivity.
Click here to view the presentation made by Jeremy Cooper, Regional Vice President-Marketing (Asia Pacific), Salesforce.com at the official launch of Paul Writer.
Video of the Q&A session with Jeremy Cooper is also available here.
Digital technology makes it easy for firms and individuals to build custom communities. Even as the usage of the web drops, membership of walled garden groups are rising. How can marketing keep up with the huge explosion in customer data? Can marketers benefit from this trend? Or is it more likely to be used for employee communities?
Click here to view the presentation made by Hari V. Krishnan, Country Manager - India, LinkedIn at the official launch of Paul Writer.
Video of the Q&A session with Hari Krishnan is also available here.
The other day, I had this opportunity of spending time with some start-up entrepreneurs and dreaming-to-be entrepreneurs. One of the stuff we discussed was how to present their exclusive ideas to a VC (venture capitalist), when the need comes in for more finance to continue growing. After our discussions, I looked up articles by a lot of experts in this field and finally came out with these important facts a VC needs to know, when listening to an entrepreneur. (And they must answer Who, What, How much, When, Where, How and Why)
- What is the industry you are going to operate in?
- Do you see a problem or an area which can be made better?
- Does your idea provide a solution to that problem?
- What is that solution (product or service)?
- Do you have a team? And how are they value-adding to the growth of the idea?
- What is the business model?
- What kind of technology are you dependent upon?
- What plans do you have for sales and marketing?
- Who are your competitors?
- When – do you have a planned time-line in place?
- What are your planned milestones in the plan for growth?
- How are you going to execute these plans?
- How much funding is required and why?
- Why this will work?
- Why the VC should invest so much?
- Why the VC will make money?
Again, I had the opportunity of sharing with a group of entrepreneurs and I facilitated a presentation based on the above. The same was well taken and the important agreement we could all come to is:
It is easy to show a whole lot of researched, experienced, creative complex information, but a VC is not interested in that. So what one needs to do is to take all the complex information – Discover the core concepts as mentioned above – Design a presentation story (different kinds – not just PPT) around it –Deliver it with passion and confidence.
Did the unusual headline catch your attention and perk your curiosity? Quite out of place for a B2B blog post and even more for a B2B Webinar - which talks about qualifying and converting social media leads!
Well, there is no denying that Lady Gaga is taking the world by storm, she is everywhere - more than 10 million fans on Facebook and 5 million followers on twitter. For long she has reigned the trending topic space on twitter and is now being touted as one of the biggest phenomenons of our times. You may like her or hate her, you certainly cannot ignore her.
And just like Lady Gaga, Social media has rocked the B2B World, there is enough that's being written about it, strategies, methodologies, success stories, tips, measuring ROI. It doesn't really matter, if you think social media is overrated and fails to meet the established definitions of B2B marketing, there is no way you can ignore it. According to most online marketers, analysts and soothsayers, it is the 'it' thing; If your are not on the social media boat yet, you probably don't even deserve a mention.
Having said that, as companies who are accountable for every penny spent in the name of marketing, measuring it up against the returns it brings in, it is reasonable to question, if social media is really all the things it is projected to be? And if it is, how do you make sure, that as a company you too benefit from this phenomenal social revolution.
Several research and survey reports have established the fact that social media does help in creating brand awareness and in increasing the traffic to your website. Now if your company uses a sales opportunity trackingor Lead analytics solutions, you might be able to track the leads that come from referral sites (social media platforms). These leads can then undergo the regular process of lead scoring and lead nurturing depending on the interest and intent expressed by them on the site.
But then social media is not just about getting your potential customers to your website and then tracking them, its more about interacting with them on a neutral platform, engaging them and educating them about your company and its offerings, in a setting they are comfortable with and like to frequent.
In this context, social media takes a whole new meaning - a 'like' on Facebook fan page, a reweet or follow on twitter, a comment on the Linkedin group are all instances of your prospect showing some interest in your company and what it has to say. But can these small acts of liking and sharing be a reason enough to qualify a social media follower as a potential lead? Now that is a million dollar question and one that Neil Glassman, a digital and linear media marketing strategist, answered in the LeadFormix Webinar (held on August 19, 2010).
Apart from these signals of interest expressed on social media platforms there are also explicit requests for help, more information or suggestion, which if tracked can easily convert into sale opportunities.
In a post on his blog Buzz Marketing for Technology, Paul Dunay writes - "There are several types of conversations that you can encounter out on the social web anything from a complaint to a compliment to what I like to call the Expressed Need. The best way to watch for expressed needs is to look for keywords often used to describe those needs. People make known what they are doing and often ask the general public for advice when they are about to make a purchase. Both of these situations provide an opportunity to reach out with an offer of assistance, information, or even a free demo or sample. People appreciate when a company listens, and they don’t mind offers of assistance, especially when done in a helpful, friendly way."
And mind you, your competitor is watching out for such expressed needs and responding to such leads on social media - to cite an example, a simple query on one of the groups in Linkedin about - "What program or company do you use to handle your e-mail marketing?" Garnered close to 500 responses, each respondent trying to push the product they use or promote.
So, while you might think social media is outlandish, difficult to measure and hard to keep track of, the truth is - social media today means serious business and a more healthy sales pipeline.
If you are still not convinced, check the recording of LeadFormix Webinar - "Why B2B Leads from Social Media Are More like Joe Biden than Lady Gaga" and find out how to qualify and convert leads from social media.
Many marketers involved in social media management tell me that they struggle to get their subject matter experts engaged in social media. But focusing solely on engagement is the wrong goal. What we should be talking about instead is getting those experts involved in creating ideas.
In an interview this week with Stephanie Tilton on the Savvy B2B Marketing Blog entitled How to Gain Real Traction with Thought Leadership, I talk about how marketers need to create an idea network within their organizations to spur their subject matter experts to start thinking.
Create an idea network as the basis for social media
Marketers need to facilitate a process for internal development of ideas and for external feedback. The combination of internal and external creation and feedback creates friction and competition. Experts need to defend their ideas, get input and collaboration from others, and compete for attention. Here are some examples of how this can work:
- Knowledge share sessions
- Awards programs
- Primary and secondary research
- Competitive intelligence
- Customer councils
- Collaboration with academics and analysts
- Partnership with trade associations
Creating an idea network helps demonstrate the importance of ideas to the organization. Many companies take it a step farther by making idea development part of employees’ annual goals. The high-end consulting firms like McKinsey have done this for years. Ideas are baked into the culture. To rise in the firm, consultants know they need to come up with good ideas and try to get them published.
Marketers need to help create that culture in the company by facilitating the idea process. Companies need to create a platform—and an expectation—that enables subject matter experts to be thinking all the time.
When ideas are an expectation, social media participation is easier
When employees know that they are expected to be thinking—and getting that thinking out into the market—engagement in social media participation becomes easier. They have something to talk about! Social media becomes a great test bed for testing ideas and getting feedback. It also becomes a way to slice up big ideas into more consumable pieces.
What do you think? How are you getting subject matter experts to engage in social media?
Courtesy: www.christopherakoch.com (Reproduced with permission)
Image Courtesy: clix