Recent Posts: Expanding Social Authority and Enlivening Boring Predictions

This blog hasn’t been very active lately, but that’s because most of my contributions have appeared elsewhere. Here’s a roundup of what I’ve been musing about.

10 Tips for Expanding Your Social Authority in 2015 - Part 110 Tips for Expanding Your Social Authority in 2015 – Midsize Insider, Jan. 1, 2015

I go into detail on strategies to get more out of your existing social presences and where to experiment with new ones. It comes down to basic blocking and tackling, and making sharing part of your daily routine.

Organic Facebook Marketing Is Dead; Think Customer Service Instead – Midsize Insider, Dec. 22, 2014

Numerous studies have shown that organic posts by Facebook pages are reaching only a tiny fraction of the audience they used to. This may finally be a wake-up call to marketers to share Facebook responsibility with customer service and to use Facebook as a listening post and customer-retention vehicle.

Research Shows CISOs Gaining Influence Even as Challenges Mount – Midsize Insider, Dec. 15, 2014

IBM’s annual CISO survey shows that security executives are finally getting a seat at the leadership table.

20 Ways to Enliven Those Boring Year-End Predictions – LinkedIn, Dec. 16, 2014

Annual predictions are now a dime a dozen, and most are predictable, self-serving and monotonous. Instead of following the pack and issuing the same old lame set of predictions, change up your angle and approach to make them stand out. Here are 20 ideas organized into eight categories.

Rick Short, IndiumFIR B2B #20: Indium’s Awesome Engineers

In Episode 20 of the For Immediate Release B2B podcast, we speak to Rick Short, Director of Marketing Communications at Indium Corp. Indium has created a creative and successful inbound marketing campaign that connects engineers to customers to solve problems in exchange for contact information. It’s paying off so well that the company can afford to increase its focus on lead quality because it has more than enough leads in the hopper.

FIR B2B #19: Doubts about Social Media’s Lead Gen Potential

Two new surveys cast doubt on the value of social media as a lead generation vehicle. One found that the top three value propositions of social media relate to ongoing customer engagement rather than lead generation. A second found organic social media marketing and social media advertising, which have some of the lowest costs per lead, also produced the worst quality leads.

In our interview section, we speak to Don Lesem and David Wagman of IHS and Engineering360, which is one of a suite of vertical communities the B2B information provider is launching to increase customer engagement.

FIR B2B #18: John Fox on Why Marketers Need to Get Out of the Office

John Fox has led the launch or re-launch of 44 companies, resulting in double and triple-digit growth for every client served. He thinks all the talk of a radically new B2B buyer journey is overblown. The process hasn’t really changed all that much, he says in this interview, and he has provocative thoughts on what content really motivates buyers.

Engineering360 Joins Expanding World of Vertical B2B Communities

The world of online B2B news services continues to expand with the introduction of Engineering360, which owner IHS calls “the world’s largest online destination for engineers.”

Edited by David Wagman, a journalist and analyst who’s covered engineering for more than 25 years, the site features news, analysis, product research and tools, events, product catalogs, an interactive community and other resources typical of professional networks. Formerly known as IHS GlobalSpec, it was relaunched last week with an expanded news and community focused. The site is posting original news daily, most of it written by freelancers with apparently good domain knowledge. Their feature stories are mixed with a steady stream of un-bylined news shorts.

IHS Engineering360 editorial “covers the entire engineering landscape, with key areas of focus such as automation and control, electronics, energy and natural resources, general engineering, manufacturing, materials, network and computing and process equipment,” IHS said in a press release. IHS is the biggest media company I’ve never heard of. Based  in Englewood, CO, it had revenues of $1.8 billion last year providing information services for a wide variety of mostly heavy industries.

This is the latest in a series of 360 online platforms launched by IHS. Others include Electronics360.com, Janes360.com, IHSmaritime360.com, Datasheets360.com and IHSairport360.com. I’m working on getting an interview with some of the principals involved in these new communities for my FIR B2B podcast.

American Express Dreams Up a Potential Win-Win-Win

Here’s an example of a B2B2C initiative that looks like a potential winner for all parties involved.

American Express OPEN, the hugely popular community for small businesses sponsored by the credit card company, and Etsy are partnering ahead of Small Business Saturday on Nov. 29 to encourage small business boutiques  to support local Etsy sellers by hosting Trunk Shows.

According to a press release, “These events provide online sellers with the opportunity to put their products in front of customers in a traditional retail setting. For boutique owners, the trunk show is a chance to increase foot traffic into their store by providing diverse product all while supporting a local artisan in their community.” Each boutique that agrees to host a Trunk Show gets $75 worth of credits to buy supplies and a chance to win a $5,000 design consultation from Rue Magazine.

I’ve long been impressed by American Express OPEN. In addition to representing a large financial commitment on AmEx’s part, the community is a great example of a B2B initiative that really gets close to the customer. Small Business Saturday, which Amex invented four years ago, is one example of the energy and creativity that Amex has put into courting this audience. The Trunk Show idea is not only innovative, but it potentially benefits American Express, its small business merchants and independent crafters. That’s a rare win-win-win.

Marketo Tells How to Use Social Media for Lead Generation

Marketo: How to Use Social Media for Lead GenerationI often cite marketing automation vendor Marketo as a shining example of a company that gives away great information as a way to promote its business. Marketo recently contacted several B2B social media marketing pros to get their tips on how to generate leads with social platforms.

They report encouraging results. For example, 58% of marketers who have used social media for more than three years say it has helped boost sales. The marketers quoted here (I’m one of them) offer advice on how to create unique content that stimulates engagement, which is the currency of social media marketing.

Check out “How to Use Social Media for Lead Generation.” It’s a quick read and I think you’ll find some useful takeaways.

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Constant Contact Colocates with Small Business Customers

Great companies go beyond just providing a product or service. They think of themselves as partners in the success of their customers. Three companies that do an outstanding job of advocating for the small business customer are American Express (with its Open Forum small business community and annual Small Business Saturday promotion, among other things), Intuit and Constant Contact, the Massachusetts-based e-mail marketing company.

I often use Constant Contact’s Twitter and Facebook profiles as models for other B2B companies to follow. About 90% of the content the company posts in social networks is intended to help customers succeed in small business marketing. Less than 10% promotes Constant Contact products. It’s like that in the company’s remarkable Pinterest account as well.

Constant Contact’s Small Business Innovation LoftNow the company is taking customer advocacy to the next level with the launch of the Small Business Innovation Loft. That’s a physical space within the company’s Waltham, Mass. offices were startups can set up shop for four months at no cost and get $10,000 to spend on marketing activities. They also get free meeting space and priority support from Constant Contact’s support team. This press release has more.

Innovation labs aren’t new, but they are usually sponsored by venture capital firms or real estate companies that hope to cash in on them. In contrast, won’t take equity in the startups it nurtures. The value to the company comes from the promotional benefit and the word-of-mouth awareness that will develop as some of these companies invariably succeed and set off on their own. What better way to put your money where your mouth is?

Constant Contact makes it a point to get inside the minds of its customers and understand their ambitions, fears and motivations. That’s the secret of content marketing, however you define it. Check out this clever year-end video the company put together to celebrate its customers.

A Nice Collection of B2B Marketing Stats and Videos

Earnest is a U.K.-based B2B marketing agency that says its mission is, “to chase out the humdrum and bring a lot of love and passion to B2B marketing.” Its work certainly bears out that goal. Earnest’s B2B campaigns have a lot of B2C energy inside them. Its research and how-to presentations on SlideShare are an excellent resource for companies that want to get into content marketing.

Here’s its latest collection of recent trends and statistics: This is the year that was in B2B Marketing crunched. Be sure to check out the links to some of the year’s best B2B videos on slide 37. You can also download the presentation as a PowerPoint if you want to borrow a few of these stats.

I’ve Been Writing A Lot Lately, Just Not Here

I only update this blog occasionally because most of my writing these days appears on other people’s websites. But my blog is still my home base. Here’s a round up of what I’ve been scribbling about elsewhere of later.

Social is the Future of Search (Profitecture Blog)

BuzzFeed HQ

(Photo credit: Scott Beale)

What could possibly unseat Google as the king of the Web? The answer might be incubating in fast-growing media operations like BuzzFeed (right) and Upworthy. These publishers eschew search optimization in favor of creating content that people want to share. From an SEO perspective, they do a lot of things wrong. And they’re killing it online at the moment.

Marketing’s big miss (BtoB magazine)

A new McKinsey & Co. report reveals a startling disconnect between B2B companies and their customers that should give every marketer pause to reflect on his or her priorities. The research shows that the themes that B2B companies emphasize in their marketing messages are wildly inconsistent with the factors that B2B buyers care about most.

Short on content? Repackage (BtoB magazine)

A lot of marketers are frustrated by the perceived need to turn out a lot of content, but the problem is much more manageable if you reuse and repackage creatively. Here are some ideas for how to get more mileage out of the stuff you already have.

Rewarding Bad Behavior (Godfrey Blog)

Marketing and sales organizations at most B2B companies have a relationship that can be politely described as strained. Sales complains that marketing gives them lousy leads while marketers charge that sales wouldn’t know a good lead is it bit them on the nose.

Both sides are correct. That’s because many organizations reward their sales and marketing people for the wrong things. Improve lead quality and a lot of the bad karma disappears.

Altimeter’s Brian Solis: ‘It’s the Customer Experience, Stupid’ (Huffington Post)

Brian Solis at Upload Lisboa, Portugal.

Brian Solis (right) is one of the most consistently provocative and perceptive analysts in the world of new media and social business. I caught up with him shortly before his Pivot conference in October to find out what’s on his mind. He believes few CEOs know how dramatically their businesses will change as a result of customer empowerment. And he thinks any business can enchant its customers. Even one that makes hammers.

Five Important Differences Between Paid and Earned Media (Profitecture Blog)

Many marketers treat social or “earned” media the same way they treat advertising and direct mail, but the two forms of media are very different. Earned media is more valuable because people volunteer to share your information. This benefits small and patient companies disproportionately. If you talk at customers in earned the channels the way you do in paid channels, your results will probably disappoint you.

 

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Bidding Fond Farewell to BtoB Magazine

BtoB_logoI was sad to learn this week that BtoB magazine, which has existed under various brands for nearly 100 years, will be swallowed by Advertising Age at the end of the year. I have worked with BtoB for nearly seven years, publishing about 120 columns and articles during that time. The staff has always been a joy to work with, and BtoB has played a critical role in my own education about the transformation of media. It’s the most important publishing brand I’ve been affiliated with during my eight years as an independent consultant, and I’m truly sorry to see it go.

My association with BtoB began as a happy accident. Shortly after going on my own in late 2005 I encountered the then-editor-in-chief, Ellis Booker. Ellis had worked for me at Computerworld years before and our mutual geekiness had cemented a friendship. At the time I reconnected with Ellis I was becoming fascinated by the changes in the publishing world driven by social media. I pitched him pretty hard on stepping up BtoB‘s focus on that area. Ellis has always been a forward-looking guy, so he began to feed me some assignments, which I tackled with zeal. Here was a chance to learn by talking to practitioners on the leading edge and earn a few bucks and a byline in the process.

In late 2006 Ellis offered me a monthly column on the editorial page called “New Channels.” I’m still writing it more than six years later. I’ve never been paid for it, but I would probably pay BtoB for the privilege.

New Channels gave me an opportunity to share what I was learning with more than 30,000 subscribers and perhaps to materially impact the way B2B companies were thinking about social media adoption. I sweated every one of the 450 words I was allocated each month and still think it was some of my best writing of the past six years. When you have so little space to say something, you have to focus and minimize waste. Length limits are a great way to improve your writing.

Looking back on some of those early columns dramatizes the speed with which things have changed. In 2007 I remarked on how big brands were embracing blogging and YouTube, completely unaware of the impending arrival of social networks. In 2006 I wrote about Microsoft’s Port 25 blog, which invited its critics in the Linux community to heap abuse on it in a Microsoft-branded channel. Thanks to Facebook, such interactions are common today across hundreds of brands.

John Obrecht took over from Ellis in 2010 and was kind enough to ask me to continue writing the column. I understand John will be leaving Crain Communications when BtoB shuts down. If you want a top-notch business editor and writer who understands B2B markets, be sure to give John a call. He’s in Chicago and hopes to stay there.

Gillin_at_BtoB_eventOver the years I’ve had the opportunity to be involved in many of BtoB‘s social media-related projects. I’ve helped judge its Social Media Awards for the last four years and also contributed to the annual Interactive Marketing Guide since 2010. I’ve been privileged to be on the stage for the past four years to present awards to some remarkable companies that are innovating with social media and to participate in numerous other BtoB events. The association with the BtoB brand has been invaluable to me. Despite all my blogging, books and contributions to other websites, the BtoB magazine association is the one people still mention most often when I meet them.

Many readers of my blog probably know that I also maintain a blog called Newspaper Death Watch, where I’ve commented on the massive changes sweeping through the newspaper industry for more than six years. BtoB is a victim of those same forces. The advertising market for business publications is in free fall, and since most of the magazine’s advertisers are themselves B2B media companies, BtoB has suffered along with everybody else. Crain Communications is notable for its commitment to print publishing. It sustained a print presence for BtoB long after most publishers probably would have opted to go online-only. The decision to shutter the brand isn’t surprising, but that doesn’t make it any less disappointing.

 

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8 Data Points about the Importance of Customer Experience

I was asked to prepare some background information on the importance of delivering a positive customer experience, and I thought I would share some of the research with you.

How much does the market reward companies that deliver excellent customer experience? Consider that the Fortune list of the world’s 10 most admired companies in 2013 includes seven that are renowned for excellence in that area: Apple, Google, Amazon, Starbucks, Southwest, Disney and FedEx. The world’s two most valuable brands – Apple and Google – are considered world-class.

Recent research worth noting:

  1. Dell has published internal metrics showing that 97% of dissatisfied customers can be rescued with proactive intervention and more than 40% of those people actually become raving fans.
  2. Siegel+Gale’s 3rd annual Global Brand Simplicity Index reported last year that nearly 1/3 of American consumers would be willing to pay an average of about 4% more for simpler brand experiences.
  3. Gartner estimated last year that by 2014 “failure to respond via social channels can lead to up to a 15% increase in churn rate for existing customers.” You have to wonder why one-third of large corporations still block social network use by their employees.
  4. Research published by Temkin Group last year reported that only 7% of the 255 large companies it surveyed could be described as reaching the highest level of customer experience maturity, although nearly 60% said their goal is to be the industry leader in customer experience within three years. That’s gonna be a tall order.
  5. A July, 2013 Lloyd’s survey of 588 C-suite executives found that customer loss was their second biggest concern, exceeded only by worries about high tax rates. Respondents also indicated they are under-prepared to address this risk, with executives giving themselves only a 5.7 rating on a 1-to-10 scale (see chart below).Areas of Biggest Business Risk As Defined by CEOs
  6. Sixty-two percent of B2B and 42% of B2C customers purchased more after a good experience, while 66% and 52%, respectively, stopped making purchases after a bad experience, according to a recent survey of 1,000 people who had had recent customer service interactions. The research also indicated that customers are somewhat more likely to share bad experiences through social networks than good ones.
  7. Executives talk the talk but still don’t walk the walk. An Oracle survey of 1,342 senior-level executives from 18 countries earlier this year found that 97% agree that delivering a great customer experience is critical to business advantage and results, and that the average potential revenue loss from failing in this area is 20% of annual revenue.  However, 37% are just getting started with a formal customer experience initiative, and only 20% consider the state of their customer experience initiative to be advanced.
  8. A survey of 2,000 adults last year found that 83% are willing to spend more on a product or service if they feel a personal connection to the company. One-fifth said they would spend 50% more on companies that they felt the company put the customer first.

How to Get Salespeople Aboard the Social Media Train

One of the most common frustrations I hear B2B marketers express is about the difficulty of getting salespeople interested in social media. Outside of prospecting with LinkedIn, few sales pros are willing to make the investment of time to learn and use tools that promise a payoff months or years down the road.

Jeffrey HoffmanJeff Hoffman says he knows precisely why salespeople are so reluctant because he was one of them for a long time. Hoffman, who runs the Boston-based MJ Hoffman and Associates sales training and consulting agency, shared four ideas for getting salespeople off the social media dime in a presentation at the Inbound13 conference in Boston today. I think they’re worth sharing.

Hoffman listed four characteristics of salespeople that make them poor candidates for social media success:

They’re reluctant to share. Information is competitive advantage in sales. Whispered tips from insiders and competitive intelligence can make the difference between closing the deal or losing it. Many salespeople see no upside in sharing information, which is a practice which is essential to building social capital.

They’re short-term thinkers. Sales pros are driven by quotas, which are measured in monthly increments. Telling them that social media prospecting will pay off in a year or two doesn’t interest them. They’ve got a quarterly quota to meet.

They express only neutral opinions. Anything that ticks off the prospect can sabotage the sales, so salespeople are trained never to express strong opinions, especially negative ones. How good is a competitor’s product? It’s great, but we’re different and let me tell you how we’re better. The problem is that visibility in social media accrues to those who have strong opinions to share. By keeping their opinions to themselves, salespeople limit their potential social capital.

They’re natural quarterbacks. Salespeople are lone wolf decision-makers. They want to be given goals and also the latitude to figure out how to achieve them. If you know any successful salespeople, you know what I mean. Don’t waste time collaborating on a solution; give them the ball and they’ll run with it.

Lemons into Lemonade

So how do you convince people to be more social media-savvy when their natural inclinations go against the grain of everything they need to do? Hoffman says you turn a handicap into a virtue. Here’s his advice for dealing with each of these anti-social behaviors in order.

Reluctant to share? Make it a contest. Sales pros are naturally competitive, so make the process of building social capital a game. Set measurable goals like the number of Twitter followers, number of LinkedIn connections of number of contributions to the corporate blog, then put rewards in place. People will try to cheat, but that’s OK. The point is to get them involved.

Break down long-term goals into short-term milestones. Using the technique above, share the numbers with your sales team as social quotas. Post a leader board that shows each rep’s progress toward that goal. Make sure everyone can see the rankings. Salespeople take pride in beating their quotas, so make sure they know their up-to-date progress toward this one – and also everybody else’s.

Make it safe to express opinions. Ask for a blog entry on what they like best about sales, why they came to work for your company or 10 reasons to love the local football team. Find topics that enable them to exercise their opinion muscles without risking backlash. As they gain confidence (and see response), they’ll feel more comfortable venturing outside their comfort zone.

Turn quarterbacks into captains. Give sales reps the same control over their social capital as you do over their territories. The conversations on Twitter and LinkedIn will go on with or without them. Don’t change quotas, but create incentives for sales brought in through social channels. Then let the reps figure out how to achieve them.

The one theme that runs through all four of these tactics is competition. Sales people respond better to challenge than they do to opportunity, and better to short-term than to long-term goals. Make the process of building social authority a game and let the instincts of your sales people take over from there.

 

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