“Our solutions providers can’t assume that we’ll stay loyal to them. From our point of view, they need to earn our business every day. If they provide us the value that they promise, we’ll be great customers for them. We’ll even help them get other customers.”
Does this sound like any of your customers? We’ve heard this opinion about satisfaction and loyalty from a lot of different solutions buyers. In our experience, they tend to be fair but demanding. Many of them appreciate the value that you bring them, but have the “but that was yesterday…what are you doing for me today?” attitude.
Driving Business Value — the Basis for all Customer Advocacy Activities:
Nothing can replace having great solutions packages that you can provide your customers. Niceties like immediately responding to phone calls, providing project updates on a weekly basis, having your executives stay in touch with their executives, etc., won’t substitute for great technology and solutions implementation processes and methodologies. It’s the overall value embedded in your solutions offerings that will carry the day. Your first step in driving high levels of customer satisfaction and loyalty — which should ultimately lead to proactive advocacy on your behalf — is to deliver real business value with every project or delivery.
The Case for a Strong Customer Advocacy Program:
However, in today’s global, hypercompetitive market, it can be really hard to differentiate your solutions over the long term. Even if your customers agree that you provide real business value, you still will have to emphasize the value deliver — and, in fact, add to it — by having a strong Customer Advocacy program.
The Role of Solutions Marketing:
Solutions Marketers have a critical role in transforming your customers into your company’s advocates. As I said earlier, the cornerstone of long-term relationship with your customers will always be the value delivered through your solutions. To ensure that you leverage that value, here are 4 steps that you can take that will put a spotlight on that value and lead to stronger relationships with your customer.
Why is this Model Relevant to Solutions Marketers?
While all of these activities could be relevant to services or product-based companies, they should be part and parcel for solutions companies. The main reasons for this are:
- Solutions, by definition, are about solving your customer’s business problems. This requires deeper knowledge of your customer’s problems, competitive position, strategy, etc. Your importance and status to your customer increases as you deliver more complex solutions with greater business impact.
- You have a longer relationship with your customer. Solutions typically take longer to implement and enable inside the customer’s environment, and the impact of the solution takes longer to measure. This can work to your advantage if you “keep your nose clean” and fulfill your promises as laid out in your Value Propositions.
So…now that we’ve looked at what to do, the next question is how to do it.
- Should all of the programs within each of the 4-step model operate independently?
- Should they all be managed and controlled by a single person or group?
- Where should the responsibility for making this happen live within an organization?
Share your experiences and insights with us…while we have our own opinions, we’d love to hear yours.
Syndication Partner: Solutions Insights
Image Courtesy: Solutions Insights
So far retailers are not taking full advantage of the opportunity to extend their content efforts to tablets, a survey of 100 major retailers sponsored by Zmags has found.
The study reports:
- More than two-thirds of retailers have not optimized their sites for tablet commerce. Instead, they are hoping their traditional websites are “adequate enough” for tablet shoppers.
- While some retailers have developed iPad apps, 25 percent of those don’t allow consumers to make purchases directly through the app.
The push to develop mobile shopping platforms (i.e. smartphones) in retail has been in high gear over the last twelve months, but the Zmags survey suggests too little attention has been paid to the surge in tablet adoption. This is notable because in October 2011 comScore reported:
- “Tablet owners exhibited significant use of their devices throughout the entire online shopping process – from doing the initial planning, conducting product and store research, making price comparisons, to finally transacting.”
- Almost 50 percent of tablet owners had completed a purchase on their tablet.
- More than half of tablet owners (usually iPads) “looked up product or price information for a specific store (56 percent) and read customer ratings and reviews while on a tablet (54 percent).”
Gilt Groupe, Disney, Urban Outfitters lead
While optimization for tablets among retailers is still fairly low, some are jumping on the opportunity to provide differentiated shopping experiences. Gilt Groupe, Disney, and Urban Outfitters are ahead of the pack in supporting commerce and marketing apps on most or all mobile devices, including iPads. In addition to providing a rich shopping experience with more touch-screen capabilities, these retailers also use their mobile platforms to promote events and distribute free music.
For Gilt Groupe, the return on investment is relatively easy to understand. When the luxury online retailer launched its iPad app in April 2011, it quickly found—within two working days, in fact—that the tablet app was generating three percent of the company’s revenue.
Nike also way ahead
Only one top-100 Internet retailer, Nike, is fully taking advantage of the tablet’s unique interface capabilities, study authors said. Nike’s native iPad app offers a rich interface to browse shoes and engage Nike’s rich media library.
More than half of the surveyed retailers have created simplified mobile sites for smart phone users, but few are developing native iPad apps like Nike’s. The findings should not be surprising, given the newness of the tablet phenomenon, and the uncertainty about which devices are “must-support” channels.
Most retailers are using their existing websites to display tablet content, which translates into a clunky and often frustrating shopping experience for consumers, the study suggests. Among the issues: slow loading times, unavailable content and Flash-related issues.
Opportunities for Marketers
Considering the adoption rates for tablet users, as well as the fundamentally different navigation experience of the tablet versus the laptop or PC, marketers must decide whether tablet optimization makes sense and what types of content make the most sense to distribute through tablet-ready sites.
What’s more, marketers must develop a better understanding of tablet shoppers. ComScore reports that in the U.S., tablet users “display the characteristics of early technology adopters.” That is, young high-income males. That said, it’s not clear how quickly these demographics are changing, nor whether tablet shoppers differ from the universe of tablet users.
About the Author: Gary Kim has been a communications industry analyst and journalist for more than 25 years, and currently writes mostly about end user behavior, mobile applications, mobile payments, mobile banking and business models in the broadband ecosystem. He recently was cited as a global "Power Mobile Influencer" by Forbes; ranked second in the world for strategic coverage of the mobile business. He writes for several online content sites, including Carrier Evolution, IP Carrier, Mobile Marketing & Technology, Content Marketing Institute and TMCnet.
Syndicate Partner: Content Marketing Institute
Image Courtesy: Shutterstock
If you think meta descriptions are no longer important, this post may change your mind. In fact, with the rise of social media, they are more valuable than ever.
Meta descriptions are little snippets of text (about 155 characters) that appear in search engine results and with links shared on social media and bookmarking sites. Although they have very little pure SEO value, meta descriptions are still important for communicating your brand message and for conversions — i.e., getting people to click on your links.
Meta descriptions in action
First, let’s take a look at meta descriptions in action with a recent post on my company’s blog, YouTube Video Optimization Best Practices. This post was originally published without a meta description. When the post cropped up on a Google search engine results page (SERP), this is what you would see:
Notice that for the snippet of text under the link, Google picked up the first 182 characters from the post. This is OK, but in my view not ideal for conveying the primary value of this post or motivating people to click through and actually read it. I added a meta description, and a few days later — after Google had re-indexed the page — the SERP looked like this:
The meta description above has three characteristics I shoot for in almost every situation:
- A quick summary of the content
- A reason to read the content
- Fewer than 155 characters
I’ll get into writing tips for meta descriptions later, but first I want to give you a feel for how meta descriptions look, and where they appear on the most popular social media platforms.
Meta descriptions on Google+
Google+, the latest and greatest social network, picks up meta descriptions on shared links. Again, let’s look at the difference. Here’s what people saw on Google+ before:
And here is the same post immediately after I added the meta description:
I hope you agree that the second version tells a better story, fits the Google+ format by eliminating truncated text, and does a better job of encouraging people to read and re-share the post.
Meta descriptions on Facebook
Facebook displays meta descriptions as well. Here is the post before:
And here is the post after:
Again, a meta description gives your social sharing more persuasive power and an all-around more professional look.
How to add meta descriptions to your web pages
If you’re not sure a published blog post or web page has a meta description, check your browser’s “View Source” option and look for the code contained in the red box (note: the box was added by me — you won’t actually see the box in your code):
If this line of code is not there, it means that search engine and social media text snippets associated with that page will probably default to:
- the first several characters of text (as we saw above), or
- text surrounding keywords from the page that matches up to the search phrase entered by the search engine user
Any decent content management system (CMS) allows users to add a meta description. We happen to use the All in One SEO Pack plug-in for WordPress, which looks like this in the post editor:
If your CMS does not allow you to add/customize meta descriptions and titles, I urge you to upgrade.
Tips for writing stronger meta descriptions
Use relevant descriptions. A good meta description provides an overview of the page’s core message and purpose. Descriptions should be fully relevant: There is nothing more detrimental to conversion and reputation than setting up people to click through to a link that contains content other than what they are expecting. You never want to mislead users and leave them feeling used and abused.
Highlight a reason to read. A gentle (or sometimes not so gentle!) call to action influences click-throughs. How will people benefit from reading your content? The meta description is an ideal place to tell them. Here are some examples:
- Learn the essentials about…
- Discover why…
- A complete guide to…
- Order by January 31 and receive…
Leverage your credibility. I once had a client that increased traffic to its remodeling services home page by adding, “BBB approved” to the meta description. For brands that are not household names, phrases such as “since 1975” and “more than 10,000 clients served” may strongly influence searchers to click.
Make it specific. The meta description examples above are powerful because they are specific, concrete and, therefore, meaningful. Empty words and phrases like “innovative” and “world class” are a dime a dozen. They do not inspire confidence and can even be counterproductive in terms of conversion. Make sure you speak to the real benefits that your content provides to readers, in terms of what they want — not what you want them to do.
Keep it short and sweet. Avoid your natural inclination to use all 155 characters. By virtue of its novelty, a short meta description may attract more attention in the sea of lengthy, keyword-stuffed descriptions that are out there.
Other important considerations
Speaking of keyword-stuffing, there are other important things you should be thinking about when you create and execute your meta description strategy:
Keywords and SEO. While it’s a good idea to include keywords in the meta descriptions you create for pages that are optimized around high-volume terms, recent changes in search engine algorithms are making this a less important consideration. In many cases, Google and other search engines pull text from the page itself based on the search query, rather than displaying the meta description. Given this fact, along with the more consistent and controllable display of meta descriptions on social media sites, focus on persuasiveness over keywords.
Uniqueness and SEO. Every blog post and site page should have a unique meta description or none at all. Duplicate meta descriptions influence Google to ignore them globally on your domain.
Create “default meta descriptions.” As we’ve seen, Google and social media sites sometimes pick up the first lines of content on a web page in lieu or in the absence of a meta description. For that reason, it is helpful to write those first lines of content so that they can double as a strong meta description, if necessary. For example: Take a look at the first two sentences of this post, which were written with this idea in mind.
Rewriting meta descriptions. Here are some final tips:
- There is no harm in rewriting or adding meta descriptions to previously published content. If you come out with an exciting new offer, consider adding it to the meta descriptions of your high traffic pages.
- It’s also helpful to add persuasive elements to meta descriptions on pages with high search rankings but low traffic.
You can recirculate old blog posts and web pages on social media with new meta descriptions — this will make them fresh to old and new connections alike.
About the Author: Brad Shorr is Director of Content & Social Media for Straight North, a Chicago marketing agency. Specializing in B2B, the agency has clients in niche industries such as cold weather clothing and truck tracking software. Brad is an experienced content strategist, respected blogger, and SEO copywriter.
Syndicate Partner: Content Marketing Institute
Image Courtesy: Content Marketing Institute
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
Regular readers of this blog (I know you exist) will know I’m a huge fan of Challenger brands, how they are born, operate and flourish. I’ve previously written several posts on the subject .
Recently an old friend opened a Challenger Brand Consultancy in Singapore and, over the course of a few emails, we started discussing why there still remains so few real examples of true Challenger brands.
My supposition is, that for many, attaching the moniker “Challenger Brand” to a memo is often seen as commitment enough to the Challenger cause. That extolling your agency to create Challenger brand advertising is your free pass to the Challenger Brand Hall of Fame.
Between us, we devised a quick “BS filter”, a number of simple statements to ask yourself (your client, your Marketing Manager whomever) to see if you’re genuinely committed to being or living the Challenger ethos or you’re merely hiding behind some cool, provocative language.
We’re not #1 in our category, we must be a Challenger brand: Nope. You’re #2, #5, #20 for any number of reasons. Brand neglect. Irrelevant advertising. Poor sales, pricing, distribution. Challenger brands are an attitude, a go-to-market POV – not a rank on the category sales chart. Red Bull owns their category yet retains a Challenger ethos.
We let Marketing handle this Challenger Brand stuff: Really? This is not a Marketing-centric task folks. It’s a whole organization ethos. That’s as misguided as saying the call center are the only folks we let talk to customers. If you think Marketing alone bears accountability for Challenger brand thinking then you’re doomed already. The tenets of Challenger brand thinking need to be internalized, understood and actioned at every point in the organization or forget it.
We’re going to drop this Challenger Brand stuff when we get to category leadership: Okie-dokie. Challenger brand thinking is not some tactical wand you wave to get you a requisite bump in sales or NPS. You want that? Take some pricing activity, have a summer promotion. Challenger brand thinking isn’t a short-term commitment, it aint a seasonal headspace. If it isn’t a principle way you’re operating then forget it. Think of it tactically and you may as well polish up your resume with your free time; it will fail.
We’ll give it a try on this one brand in the portfolio as a kinda trial: Grey area here. As a purist I’d say it’s impossible to launch Tide with Bleach (hypothetically) as a Challenger when all the other 40 SKU’s of Tide continue to act, market, behave as mainstream brands. Could the Atlanta teams behind Diet Coke act as a Challenger to Coca-Cola living under the same roof? I’d suggest it might be more likely to succeed – for the consumer, for management – if the “challenging” brand didn’t have the same mark, distribution, pricing, pipeline.
Anyway, it was a fun discussion. Challenger brand thinking is incredibly powerful when done right and consistently. When it is abundantly obvious it is a Marketing dalliance or a desperate attempt to infuse meaning (without substance) into a brand, its laughable.
So, are you hiding, or are you really committed?
About the Author: An insatiable curiosity is my defining characteristic. Which is probably why I got into advertising over 14 years ago. I know it aint a real job in comparison to say, a fireman or a nuclear physicist but hey. Anyway, along the way I've developed an opinion on a coupla things. This blog allows me to air a few of those opinions and thoughts. I thank you for your visit and welcome your feedback. http://www.hiltonbarbour.com
Image Courtesy: Hilton Barbour
Measurement and accountability is an evergreen subject in our industry. When dinosaurs ruled the earth and I worked at OgilvyOne it was foundational to our approach. Recently, accelerated by social media, the amount of available customer data has increased exponentially giving rise to our latest marketing-speak catchphrase: Big Data.
It has spawned a cottage industry of articles (almost as many as “How to measure social media ROI” – see image below) from this sublime piece in the New York Times to this metaphorically-dense piece in Advertising Age.
Straight-up I’m a fan of any tool, tactic, device, bright shiny object that can provide me more insight into the brains of customers. I’m a Strategy person after all. Here’s where the hype and the reality of Big Data seems to be diverging.
Too Much Data, Too Little Insight – we’re collecting terabytes per days but the computational power required to analyze and make sense of it all is not yet available. Moore’s Law needs to hurry up on this one. We seem to be doing more warehousing and not enough mining.
Not All Data is Equal – which datapoint is worth “pursuing”? In the proverbial haystack which are the needles, which are the pieces of straw? When does a datapoint become a trend that a marketer can leverage? Case in point, 3 months of googling “chocolate covered gnocchi recipes” during my wife’s pregnancy shouldn’t be construed as a long-term trend – or reason to keep sending me chocolate coupons.
Privacy, Privacy, Privacy – this is an easy, but legitimate, jab to take. Who is collecting all this data? How safe is it? How trustworthy are they? Do I even know what’s been collected and what it is been used for? All legitimate concerns and definitely the biggest considerations between the dream, and the realization, of Big Data.
While the promise of Big Data has marketers (let’s not forget politicians, scientists, lawyers, students) salivating, I’d propose it has most consumers feeling somewhat anxious, confused or terrified. Perhaps that could be reduced if we were clearer about the “value exchange” between us and our customers. Essentially answering their “What’s in it for me?” question.
Going out on a limb here but some ideas…
Tell Me What You’re Collecting: How many companies proactively tell customers what data they’re collecting on them? We’re legally obligated to share it when asked…but have you ever offered to share it? Will this spook some customers? Definitely but Transparency is everything in today’s market folks.
Tell Me Why You’re Collecting It: Again, Transparency folks. Why do you need that piece of information? Why is it critical to the relationship between me and your brand? Researchers will tell you that nothing turns people off like extraneous questions. However, if you make it clear why collecting that data point is valuable to the customer (less spam, better targeting) you’ll get more buy-in.
Then Friggin Do Something With It: My biggest peeve! You send me the same coupons I don’t redeem, offer me downloads to the same articles I’ve read previously, invite me to webcasts I’ve ignored previously. Why? Why? Why? If you’re not going to meaningfully use it all the data you’re collecting on me, you’ve just made a mockery of points 1 and 2.
Marketers are in the business of solving customer’s problems. Data is always going to make that simpler. However if we just keep collecting it and not leveraging it, we’re going to nurture an audience of Rejectors, Avoiders and Skeptics. Surely that’s not the promise of Big Data is it?
About the Author: Web Site: http://www.hiltonbarbour.com - An insatiable curiosity is my defining characteristic. Which is probably why I got into advertising over 14 years ago. I know it aint a real job in comparison to say, a fireman or a nuclear physicist but hey. Anyway, along the way I've developed an opinion on a coupla things. This blog allows me to air a few of those opinions and thoughts.
Accelerated innovation and adoption of ubiquitous computing, mobile devices, and rich sources of data are changing how we live, work, and play in urban environments. Increasingly, a digital landscape overlays our physical world and is expanding to offer ever-richer experiences that augment—and in some cases, replace—the physical experience: “The city is the platform, the network, the sensors, and the interface,” as frog creative director Rob McIntosh put it in a recent talk.
The City is – once again – at the forefront of massive technological, cultural, and social transformation. Many metropolitan regions and infrastructure players have joined forces and announced ambitious projects, and the (pop-)cultural debate is zooming in on it: See Cisco’s strategic initiative with the city of Barcelona; Ericsson's film on “Thinking Cities;” or Gary Hustwit’s new documentary “Urbanized.” TED awarded its 2012 TED Prize to “The City 2.0”(for the first time it didn’t go to a person), and The Atlantic devotes an entire section to it.
It started as one of our “Centers of Passion,” and the City has now evolved into a broader initiative at frog that comprises of the following components:
- Envisioning the “Meta-City”
Check out frog chief creative officer Mark Rolston’s much gushed about “Building the Meta-City” talk at the PICNIC conference in Amsterdam and creative director Rob McIntosh’s presentation at Mobile World Congress. Moreover, the upcoming print issue of our design mind publication will feature an article by creative director Scott Nazarian on “Re-Thinking the City in the Digital Age.”
- Membership in the New Cities Foundation
frog last week joined the New Cities Foundation (NCF), a new global platform for innovation and exchange on the future of urbanization. Besides frog, NCF’s membership base includes GE, Cisco, Ericsson, Orange, GDF Suez, Citynove – Groupe Galeries Lafayette, the Ford Foundation, Metropolis, NYU, the SENSEable City Lab at MIT, CITRIS, HEC Paris, the Urban China Initiative, the Climate Group, and USC’s Annenberg Innovation Lab. As part of our membership contribution, frog will run a 2-hour interactive session – titled “Navigating the Meta-City” – at the Foundation’s inaugural New Cities Summit in Paris on May 14-17. The Summit aims to be the leading annual global forum on 21st century urbanization. It brings together thought leaders in technology, infrastructure, architecture, energy, transport, national and local government, the media, academia, and the non-profit sector from all regions of the world. In addition to the working session, we will also produce a special online feature on design mind about “Cities” and the Summit.
- Collaboration with AMO
AMO is the think tank of OMA (Office for Metropolitan Architecture), one of the world’s leading architectural firms, founded by Dutch star architect Rem Koolhaas. A frog team met with AMO last Fall and engaged in an all-day debate on the future of cities. Following the session, AMO has invited us to visit and speak at the Strelko Institute of Media, Architecture, and Design in Moscow (where Koolhaas and AMO teach) in May.
About the Author: Tim Leberecht is the CMO of frog and the publisher of design mind.
Image credit: ionphoton.com
IKEA, the Swedish-based home furnishings retailer that operates about 38 stores in the U.S., launched a YouTube channel called “How to Build,” the latest in a series of new content marketing initiatives introduced by the company’s IKEAUSA division over the past year.
The channel currently has eight playlists with videos produced by the company on topics that include design tips, “How to” videos on putting together some of their well-known furniture pieces, and style ideas for various rooms, including kitchens, bedrooms and living rooms. One playlist also is home to all of IKEA’s ads.
The YouTube channel comes just six months after IKEA announced the official launch of a new community photo-sharing website called “Share Space,” which aims to give users a platform to upload photos of their own living spaces and share ideas with each other. At the time, IKEA said that it was introducing the photo-sharing site, www.theshare-space.com, in order to encourage consumers to dialogue on design and help them find ways to make the most of their own spaces.
These two content marketing initiatives illustrate a growing trend by companies to use visual tools and technology in their content marketing in order to engage audience members. Businesses are finding that visual content makes it easy to get people’s attention and compile even large amounts of information into digestible formats.
IKEA’s Own Pinterest
Such visual aids often need to integrate with more traditional forms of written content, and to that end, IKEA also introduced last summer a new blog called “Design by IKEA.” In it, the company’s design experts share tips, trends and ideas geared toward home and life improvement. The company also engages with customers through its Twitter handle, @DesignbyIKEA.
The variety of initiatives that IKEA launched illustrates the level of commitment it takes to build a following, said Tom Fishburne, a marketing consultant and founder of Marketoonist, which creates custom cartoon-based marketing campaigns for companies.
“It takes trial and error with content to see what sticks,” Fishburne said. “Companies need to think about creating valuable content over an extended period of time. They need to commit to trial and error. Virality will happen, but not necessarily on day one.”
IKEA has implemented several features on its Share Space site to encourage community-building.
For example, the company said that in addition to sharing photos, users have the ability to browse and comment on others’ spaces and save photos of rooms that they like best. They can tag IKEA products, save them in a personalized “wish list” and share photos with friends on social networks.
IKEA design experts also select one room each week as their “Pick of the Week,” displaying it on the Share Space homepage.
About Christine Dunn: Christine Dunn has almost two decades of experience writing about finance and business issues. As founder and president of Savoir Media, she works with companies and executives on developing strategic, integrated media and marketing programs. Prior to starting her award-winning company, she worked at Bloomberg News, where she served as Boston Bureau Chief and ran industry coverage for several national teams of reporters, including consumer/retail, mutual funds and education.
Syndication Partner: Content Marketing Institute
Image Courtesy: Content Marketing Institute
A Solutions Marketing Success Story - IBM
A number of recent B2B studies have indicated that marketing’s primary role is to generate qualified leads for the sales force. Given the importance of this activity, do you think your company would be interested in applying new marketing technology that would increase your funnel of qualified leads six-fold within a one-year period?
This is exactly what IBM was able to do by adopting a new marketing automation (MA) platform two years ago. Now that enough time has gone by that they’ve been able to measure the results of implementing the new MA platform, a compelling story has emerged about the role of technology in marketing and selling complex solutions. By having a more structured, systems-driven approach to lead generation and management, the number of real solutions opportunities that they handed over to the sales force went through the roof in a short period of time.
The Emergence of Robust, Multi-functional MA Platforms
While new systems and processes have burrowed their way into accounting, finance and sales departments, and have virtually taken over manufacturing operations, marketing has been one of the last major business activities to be converted. The continuous improvement of MA platforms from companies such as Aprimo, Marketo, Eloqua, Genoo, Unica and many others have provided the compelling reason for adoption.
Given these new, attractive options, IBM looked to transform how it was managing its own marketing activities. It began the process by looking at what could be automated, and they determined that lead generation campaign management (LGMC) was the best initial candidate. If an MA platform proved successful with LGMC, they would look to extend its functionality by automating their ability to maintain more relevant conversations with customers, improve their inside sales activities, and upgrade their telemarketing call automation abilities.
The Issues that an MA Platform had to Address
IBM knew that it had to find a way to be more effective with its internal marketing operations. The issues that it wrestled with included:
- Although IBM did a very good job in basic demand generation, was it able to identify key customer insights and needs?
- Could IBM improve its ability to execute a lead generation campaign in a timely, logical and effective fashion?
- How can IBM help its sales force engage in ongoing conversations with its prospects and customers that were more relevant and engaging? Solutions sales were often long term propositions, requiring continuous value-based and educational conversations with the customer. How could Marketing better support these sales efforts?
Would an MA Platform be the Answer?
IBM decided to see if any of the MA platforms on the market would give them the functionality and new features required to support their solutions marketing and sales initiatives. They put together a committee that included people from their existing demand generation systems, other marketing programs and functions, and IT and Business Unit leaders. The group evaluated all of the major alternatives, and concluded that Unica’s offering best fit its requirements. The final criterion they used was scalability since the system would be deployed in over 200 countries, which didn’t appear to be a problem for the Unica platform.
“We didn’t decide to implement the Unica system into IBM’s marketing functions because we had bought the company”, said Zarina Lam Stanford, VP Marketing, IBM. “In fact, it was the reverse. We decided upon the Unica platform because it met our very rigorous evaluation criteria in terms of our own marketing objectives. We then looked into buying Unica once we implemented it and saw how effective it was in helping us meet our marketing and business goals. We were happy to see that it gave us information and data needed not only to automate the execution of our campaigns but also allowed us to capture relevant information regarding the preference of the respondents to our campaigns”.
In conducting an assessment of the MA platform, IBM realized that they weren’t just “plain vanilla” process automation tools. In fact, they would actually enable Marketing to better support its campaigns and other outbound solutions-based initiatives. They allowed Marketing to establish a real dialogue with its customer base, with built-in feedback loops.
IBM decided to do an initial controlled introduction by deploying the new platform in North America, and from there they rolled it out to 50+ countries within 12 months, becoming the largest marketing automation roll-out ever undertaken by any company.
In the first year, IBM experienced a tremendous improvement in campaign execution and measurement. They discovered that the new system reduced the time it took to get reliable, quantitative feedback on their solutions campaigns literally from weeks down to several hours. An example of the system’s impact was with their paid search digital marketing campaign. The minute the campaign went live, the marketing team was able to monitor the impact of the campaign , which gave them the ability to make changes to the campaign faster and more economically.
“Think of the cost savings and higher impact that this has created for us” Stanford said. “In addition, we’ve been able to increase the overall volume of leads that we generate from a typical campaign around our solutions offerings to the point where we’re getting up to six times the response rates.”
This implementation of Unica transformed the IBM’s approach from mass marketing to a business-to-person marketing capability within a B2B environment. “With a marketing automation tool in place, said Chris Wong, Vice President, Marketing and Communications Transformation, we were able to conduct thousands ’s of campaigns for targeted groups of less than 100 people instead of a typical B2B campaign where we’d run 2 or 3 campaigns targeting thousands of people.
“Looking back on the selection and implementation of the Unica system”, Stamford said, “We should have included more of the other marketing disciplines earlier in the process. Having them play “catch up” after the decisions were made caused some unnecessary problems. We were concentrating on the needs of the demand generation teams, but overlooked the role that the content development teams played in the campaign processes.”
“Another lesson that we learned was to think about the entire demand generation eco-system beyond marketing. Once they engage and see the benefits, they become powerful allies”.
Wong also felt that there were a number of key takeways from the initiative. “If you look at it as a pure technology implementation, and only focus on systems deployment, you will fail. He concluded that success was dependent upon four critical pillars on how IBM performs marketing:
- Redesigning the entire process
- Developing new skills, including how to understand buying personas, what the buyer’s journey was like, and understanding preferences
- Supporting and aligning with the existing infrastructure
- Understanding how to expand their ability to collect, organize and govern the data”.
Unica is now part of the new Enterprise Marketing Management (EMM) group at IBM, and is considered an integral part of the company's Smarter Commerce initiative.
In our conversations with IBM, it’s clear that the implementation of an effective MA platform has had a huge impact on how they market and sell solutions. They’ve discovered that the more complex the offering, the more important it is to have integrated campaign management and business processes tools. Over the past two years, IBM has been able to measure and track the benefits on operating a new marketing automation platform, underscoring the fact that complex solutions require better technology-based systems and processes to be able to market and sell them.
Syndication Partner: Solutions Insights
Image Courtesy - Solutions Insights
Following a year in which “people power” was the rallying cry from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street, the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting 2012 in Davos, which ended last Sunday, might seem like an elitist anachronism, but it is worth noting how the WEF over the past few years has tried in earnest to include voices from civil society as well as younger generations – from new, very active communities within the WEF such as the Young Global Leaders and the Global Shapers to – this year – even Occupy Davos. The result: As a “platform for multi-stakeholder dialogue between business, society, and politics” (in the words of WEF founder and executive chairman Professor Klaus Schwab), the WEF is more relevant than ever (full disclosure: I am a member of the WEF Global Agenda Council on Values in Decision-Making).
That said, the Annual Meeting in the luxurious Swiss ski resort remains the “the world’s most exclusive gathering,” and it is hard not to be star-struck by a cast that this year included the likes of Bill Gates, Timothy Geithner, Christine Lagarde, David Cameron, Angela Merkel, the CEOs of most Fortune 500 companies, our very own Doreen Lorenzo, the president of frog, and – yes – Mick Jagger.
This year’s theme was The Great Transformation (borrowed from Karl Polanyi’s seminal 1944 book), inspired by the urgent need to explore new models of leadership and value-creation in the wake of a fundamental (identity, confidence, moral?) crisis of capitalism (sovereign debt crisis, lack of trust in business, growing inequality, etc.). Consequently, Professor Schwab remarked in his opening speech: “Davos is the world’s sanatorium,” referring to the local facility that rose to world-literature fame through Thomas Mann’s novel The Magic Mountain. The mood was definitely somber, at least in the beginning, and lightened up only a few days into the conference when the intense debates and working sessions brought forward more optimistic approaches to solving the world’s pressing problems.
The main topics in Davos were the Euro crisis (of course); the Network Economy; Big (Personal) Data and its implications for our concepts of privacy, productivity, and collaboration; and Values (converging several strands such as Michael Porter’s more integrative “Shared Values” notion of corporate social responsibility, the rise of social entrepreneurship, or the quest to explore happiness as an alternative metric for measuring economic progress, both at a national and company level - more on that later).
If there was one overarching theme for all these tropes, then it was the dialectic relationship between the potential and the risks of technological innovation. One the one hand, optimists were bullish about the digital revolution that has given amateurs unprecedented access to technology, as Neil Gershenfeld, Director, The Center for Bits and Atoms, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), noted: “Technology is allowing ordinary people to change and improve the world.” This becomes manifest in digital literacy, grassroots innovation movements such as Maker Faire, 3D printing, the mobile apps developer ecosystem, open data, and hackers-for-good communities. And the emergence of cloud computing means than anyone can quickly launch data-intensive businesses, which is accelerating innovation, product cycles, and competition.
On the other hand, the gap between individual understanding and technological progress seems to be growing. People’s fears about misuse of personal data, which led the European Commission to propose rather draconiandata protection laws for Internet service providers and other data collectors, is creating a “huge barrier to progress,” observed David Blumenthal, Professor of Medicine and Professor of Health Policy at the Harvard Medical School, and a member of the WEF Global Agenda Council on Digital Health. The general public needs to better understand science and technology, he urged.
Public Parts-author and digeratus emeritus Jeff Jarvis sees the digital revolution disrupt every single industry and institution, and believes that technology is leading to an “efficiency over growth” paradigm, with far-reaching implications: “Productivity will improve. Companies will be more profitable. Wealth will be created. But employment will suffer.” Jarvis acknowledges that great wealth can be created by serving millions of people with relatively small staff – see Google, Facebook, Amazon, and other icons of the digital economy – but he cautions that this might just further widen the income and capital disparity, which is “just wide enough today to cause unrest around the world,” as he writes on his blog. “That’s much of what #Occupy_WEF et al is about. That’s what is causing such tsuris and uncertainty on the stages of the world (Economic Forum). That’s what is causing the institutions represented here to fear, resist, and regulate technology in the hopes of forestalling the change it is bringing. There is the root of the disruption we’re witnessing now even in Davos.”
The Arab Spring exemplifies the ambivalence societies presently face when it comes to technology. Yes, technology has given ordinary people, particularly the youth, a voice to question the status quo and the power to even topple regimes. It has created and amplified (a sense of) urgency, and it has opened the door to being part of emerging governance, but as we witness in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, it has not necessarily enabled the creation of stable, truly inclusive governments and economies that produce the kind of steep job growth these countries so desperately need.
Technological innovation is also overshadowed by widespread pessimism and a credibility deficit that have resulted from the failure of institutions to effectively deal with a number of the recent economic and environmental crises. Trust in government and business has further plummeted, reports the Edelman Trust Barometer 2012, and there appears to be a fundamental loss of confidence in decision-making, with large parts of society – particularly young people and the majority of the impoverished – feeling that they’re being left out of the process, despite the democratizing effects of social technology and media. Some in Davos therefore called for a new “social covenant” that mandates fairness and mutual benefit for all, but not only by redistributing wealth more evenly, but by including all parts of society in the creation of wealth (“inclusive growth”) and the decisions that drive it.
But here’s the problem, as far as business is concerned: While there is broad consensus on corporations’ means (and responsibility) to positively impact society (the leadership role of business, so to speak), business leaders themselves may no longer be the right people to spearhead it. Sure, corporate bosses still hold considerable sway over creating a meaningful experience for their employees (they can “create and kill meaning,” asserts theMcKinsey Quarterly). But although CEOs are undoubtedly held more accountable than ever, they are facing not only an erosion of trust but also an erosion of their power. A recent Economist article describes these "shackled CEOs" as Gullivers who are tied down by Lilliputian forces – whether these are powerful boards, empowered employees, or a public that demands radical transparency. Consequently, among the world’s 2,500 biggest public companies, the average job tenure for departing CEOs has fallen from 8.1 years in 2000 to 6.6 years today, according to consultancy Booz & Company. In light of this trend, buzz words such as “humble leadership,” “servant leadership,” “open leadership,” and “bottom-up leadership” make the rounds, and Doreen Lorenzo, the president of frog, contends that the increased complexity of decision-making will lead to a “post-CEO world” where companies must move “from a guru model to one based on team leadership.”
Ironically, at the political level, the most inclusive model, democracy, is losing its halo, as it becomes pressured by ever-more demanding citizens whose frustration with their elected representatives and more publicized cases of corruption, nepotism, and decision paralysis is nowadays quickly amplified by social technologies. The Euro zone may be on the brink of disintegration, and the democratic legitimacy of the European Union, with so much policy-making power delegated to supranational authorities in Brussels, remains questionable.
The potent alternatives were on show in Davos, but not everybody may 'like' them: For one thing, there is state capitalism, which can claim credits for driving recent history’s most remarkable economic success stories: Singapore, Russia, Brazil, the UAE, and of course China. Over the past three decades China’s GDP has grown at an average rate of 9.5% a year, and over the past ten years its GDP has more than trebled to $11 trillion. This makes it the world’s second-biggest economy, and the world’s biggest market for many consumer goods.
A digital governance alternative is Facebook, arguably the world’s most powerful transnational organization, with a network of users that would count as the world’s third largest country. It already stores more data than any national government alone, and with its popularity, network effects, and comprehensive analytics, it holds significant deterministic powers: it can mobilize communities, influence constituents, predict trends and events, and draw a possibly discriminatory line between inclusivity and exclusivity (“weblining,” as law professor Lori Andrews calls it in her NY Times article “Facebook is Using You”). Like Google, it is inevitably evolving into the “The Matrix” or the uber-stream of what David Gelernter prophetically anticipated in 1990 as “Lifestreams” – albeit with little to no space left for ambiguity: the vision of a data-centric universe is one where human decision-making will be binary, with targeting so chirurgical that every '(life)stream of consciousness' will end with a clear ‘yes.’
Conversely, optimists herald the same personal data as a potential source for human development (e.g., through e-philanthropy or open-data initiatives such as the Worldbank’s) and refer to the rise of social innovation, social entrepreneurship, for-profit activism, and the concept of the Social Enterprise (as in Marc Benioff’s “Speedy-Open-Collaboration-Individuals-Alignment-Leadership” line). All of which are all fueled by the “new oil” data, if only it is put in the right hands.
And data can propel happiness, which has emerged as the buzzword de jour in business circles, also in Davos. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh has established it as his mission and primary business objective (shoes are just a means to an end), and his book Delivering Happiness was a national bestseller. Virgin, Coca-Cola, and other consumer brands have made it their core brand promise. Healthcare companies, and other industries, are looking into social products and services to promote it. After the King of Bhutan pioneered a Gross National Happiness Index in 1972, initially subject to much ridicule, NGOs such as the New Economics Foundation have been promoting it, and more and more corporations and governments (UK, India, France, etc.) are now exploring happiness as a holistic metric for economic progress and effective governance. And the Harvard Business Review, in its current issue, even devotes a special report to the "Value of Happiness,” arguing that employee well-being can boost productivity, customer loyalty, and ultimately profits. Two years ago, who would have thought that this publication had a cover on happiness! It seems as if the tougher the times, the harder the soft topics become. This is encouraging.
About the Author: Tim Leberecht is the CMO of frog and the publisher of design mind.
Image Courtesy: The Globe and Mail