MAD Perspectives Blog

Consumer Tools Inspiring B2B

Peggy Dau - Monday, March 23, 2015

I've lived in a B2B world my entire career. Sure, some of the products manufactured by my employers end up in the hands of consumers, but my positions were always focused on the enterprise. My concerns were always about how business would deploy and utilize products. My interest was and continues to be how to deliver solutions that solve a business challenge. In the past, many of the technologies developed for business, were adapted for consumer use. 

However, we've moved past a key tipping point where consumer behavior is actively influencing enterprise solutions. I don't mean their buying behavior. I mean the dramatic shift in how we as individuals share and consume content. Social networks evolved as consumer centric platforms to connect students and friends. Each new social network that emerges is focused on what millennials and Generation Z want to share. Is it text, images, video? Where and how do they want to share it? Are they concerned about privacy? Yes? No?

As each social platform emerges (hello Meerkat!), we are exposed to yet another method of communicating. For businesses, the lesson is to understand which of these methods makes sense given their productions and solutions, and most importantly, the needs and behaviors of their audience. Landor predicts 2015 as the year that B2B trumps B2C in social media. In what year will the volume of B2B apps surpass B2C apps?

Enterprise applications, such as CRM or ERP, are all under the gun to become apps. The difference being in how users interface with these enterprise critical applications. New businesses are emerging that offer these functionalities and others as apps. They must be accessible on the employee device of choice (BYOD, yet another sign of the consumer impact on the enterprise) and provide the required information on demand, while also allowing for content upload.

If you think this it is crazy that a consumer centric solution can change enterprise behavior, look at how hiring and recruiting models are being turned on their heads thanks to LinkedIn. Or, how differentiated itself with integrations to Facebook and Twitter and then incorporated social monitoring and sharing.

I've heard arguments that these consumer inspired tools are not relevant. I've heard the statement "oh, i don't need to worry about that - i work in an office." But I will hazard a guess that even with many of the big tech companies pulling employees back into the office, the demand for ease of use, ease of access and ease of sharing, will not dissipate. If you want to know the future of how corporate america will function, pay attention to consumer trends!

What's your perspective?

Mobile is the new Social

Peggy Dau - Monday, January 07, 2013

Entering 2013, it is almost impossible not to consider the opinions of online, media and advertising pundits heralding the power of mobile. Even though the first mobile phone was released in 1946 (yes, 1946 thanks to AT&T) they didn't get "smart" until the Blackberry hit the market in 1999 and Ericsson introduced the the "smart" term related to its R380 mobile phone.  But, the current phase of smartphones really arrived when Apple launched the iPhone and its App Store in2007. Apps have changed our relationship with our mobile phones, turning them into devices that combine work and play, encouraging us to advance from texting and emailing to interacting with content enabled by the plethora of apps.

When it comes to social networks, mobile is the future. Facebook was criticized in 2012 for its lack of a clear mobile strategy. As the details of their mobile strategy were clarified, the stock began to climb. The Pew Research Center reported in late 2012 that 60% of Americans use their smartphone to access social sites (vs. 68% in Great Britain, 72% in Greece and 74% in Mexico). Why are smartphones so popular with business users? One reason is portability. While mobile phones started as large, cumbersome devices - they quickly shrunk to compact, pocket size devices. Interestingly, the form factor has increase in size to allow for larger screens, but they still fit in pockets. Analysts are already predicting a combination smartphone-tablet as gadget enthusiasts head to CES in Las Vegas this week.

More importantly, smartphones are multifunctional. Not only to they enable voice and data, in the form of both text messaging and email. They allow users to share pictures and video. If you are in business, you can share pictures of products, quickly read and reply to customer questions, research competitive offerings or download the latest price list. With network connectivity constantly improving, accessibility via 3G, 4G or WiFi networks allows sharing of greater volumes of data. From a social perspective, LinkedIn's mobile apps continue to evolve and will allow you to see who's nearby - enabling ad hoc meetings with colleagues in the same locale. Or perhaps you notice a negative tweet about your company, your smartphone allows you take action to resolve a potential problem - whether that is to respond to the tweet, call your social media gurus or text a colleague.

Social networks may connect us to friends and colleagues, but mobile is the enabler for that connectivity. The advancement of mobile apps targeting the B2B community is the next wave of investment. In 2013, look out for apps that improve productivity for the road warrior. Mobile will displace social as the most talked about technology.

What's your perspective?

What's Your Backchannel?

Peggy Dau - Tuesday, September 18, 2012

I've been busy researching the topic of Social TV (more on that in a few weeks) and was intrigued by the use of the term - backchannel.  Social media provides a backchannel for conversations around many topics.  For news, it is all the side conversations around a topic such as the 2012 political campaign, the Olympics, unrest in the middle east or whether the Yankees will make the post-season.  These backchannel conversations happen for B2B as well.

These are the discussion that still happen on the golf course, over dinner or at a conference.  However, now social media provides additional mechanisms supporting those conversations. Whether it is discussion of new products, market trends, customer support or stock price, there are a myriad of conversations related to your business. The question for small, medium and large businesses is - are you listening to those conversations? 

Data provides the keys to the kingdom in understanding your customers. Huge investments are being made in BIG DATA. Social media provides even more data points than previously existing marketing and data collection solutions. If your big data analysis does not include social media,you are missing out on the information that reveals what your customers are really thinking about.

In the broadcast industry, Social TV platforms are enabling content producers to engage with their fans in a way that has not been possible. They share content with their fans and in return, their fans share thoughts, opinions and desires.  Broadcasters and producers are learning how and audience becomes fans and how fans want to engage with their shows. The next step, of course, is translating that knowledge into revenue.

Imagine the backchannel around your business and industry. What data are you missing because you are not listening to social conversations. There are many tools available to help you monitor and analyze customer conversations.  Check out my post on customer support to learn about a few of them.  Listening is important for more than customer support. Your customers will tell you which product features matter most to them; which competitors are making inroads; how they are being treated by your sales teams; whether your marketing is hitting, or missing, the mark.

Check out the back channel, you'll be amazed at what you can learn.

What's your perspective?

The 4 Bs of B2B Social Media

Peggy Dau - Monday, June 25, 2012

It's all about business for any company engaging in social media. Sometimes we forget that these platforms are a means to an end. That end is revenue. All the effort to win fans, followers, interactions, comments and click-thrus is part of a comprehensive effort to increase visibility, generate leads and sell products.

So, why is social media so important for companies selling products and services to other companies? It's all about the 4 Bs.  

#1 - Business Intelligence:  Social media allows companies to share content and capture data. Various tools and platforms exist to discover, analyze and assess this data. Individuals and companies gain knowledge about the demographics of their customers, affiliated industries, emerging topics, key trends, competitor activities, opinions regarding products and services, and more. Social media provides additional insight that can help companies create and sustain powerful relationships with their customers.

#2 - Business Development: Revenue is the life blood of all companies.  Without it, a company will eventually disappear. Therefore any tools to simplify or accelerate the acquisition of new business, whether from new clients or existing accounts, are welcome. Social networks provide companies with additional channels through which they can identify prospects, learn about companies and individuals. Platforms, like LinkedIn, Plaxo, Branchout or Zerply, can help users figure out how to connect with key decision makers or influencers. Individuals can learn more about them via blogs, tweets, status updates, presentations or videos.  56% of B2B marketers acquire new business partnerships through social media (Social Media Examiner, 2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report). Imagine that first meeting with an understanding of what's been top of mind for that individual based on their social commentary!  

#3 - Business Relationships: Once a relationship is developed, it takes effort to maintain it. It's not always possible to enjoy face time with contacts. Social networks provide an alternative method of staying in touch with colleagues, customers and competitors. It's possible to congratulate contacts on promotions or job changes, make introductions for peers seeking new roles and comment on shared content. Here at MAD Perspectives, we reach out to connections on a regular basis, simply to catch up with old business friends.

#4 - Business Conversations: Social networks are all about engagement. They provide a platform to discuss topics of mutual interest, ask & answer questions, collaborate on new ideas, share content and to learn. Entrants into a new markets can learn about local business culture, business priorities and key competitors. 62% of business technology decision makers now read and post comments on blogs (Social Media Examiner, 2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report).  Participants can turn casual conversations into long-lasting relationships. However, just as in face-to-face conversations, each party must provide value to the other.

Social media mirrors the business activities of any company. It is simply another channel through which to pursue these actions. As you consider your use of social media, think about the 4 Bs. Perhaps you are using all 4, or maybe you've just started engaging. Either way, be strategic and tactical about how social media can help you connect, collaborate and communicate to achieve your business goals.

What's your perspective?

Video Marketing - A Follow Up

Peggy Dau - Monday, May 21, 2012

A month ago, we asked if you were ready to embrace video marketing. As often happens, additional facts, figures and reports have appeared that reinforce our belief that video must be a strategic element of your overall marketing strategy.  Here are some tidbits that we found interesting:

  1. Social Media Examiner's "Social Media Marketing Industry Repot 2012":

       "For the second year in a row - a significant 76% of marketers plan on increasing their YouTube and/or   video marketing.  This is slightly down from 2011 (77%).  Business with 26-999 employees indicated this is a key growth area, with 80% responding affirmatively.  Younger marketers (77% of those aged 20-49) are also more likely to increase their video production than older marketers (68% of those aged 60+)."

     2.  ComScore indicates that consumption of online video will continue to rise.  In the U.S.: 

- In 2010, 175 million viewers watched an average of 15.1 hours of online video per viewer.

- In 2011, 181 million viewers watched an average of 21.1 hour of online video per viewer.

          - In 2012, 192 million viewers will watch an average of 29.4 hours of online video per viewer    

    3. and Digiday, Q1 2012State of the Video Industry Report

        "Industry optimism is healthy.  96% of video buyers we surveyed estimate that their 2012       video ad budgets will increase by at least 23%."

    4.  Other tidbits:  

       - HD will become the standard

       - content will increasingly be consumed on wireless devices such as tablets and smartphones

       - people are becoming more savvy, creating demand for quality and originality

Video will continue to challenge and intrigue us as we seek the best methods to engage our customers. Planning will address issues such as good storytelling, tagging to ensure search engine optimization and click-thrus to your website and marketing strategy integration (including social media!). Your goal is simple - to get the highest possible return on your video marketing investment. So, we'll ask again - are you ready to embrace video marketing?

What's your perspective?


The Power of LInkedIn

Peggy Dau - Tuesday, May 08, 2012

161 Million members in over 200 countries, with 2 new members joining per second.  Wow!  This represents over 4.2 billion professionally-oriented searches in 2011.  So, this begs the question - how do you use LinkedIn? My friends and colleagues all know that I am a big fan (and for complete disclosure, i do own a few shares of LNKD). The common perception is that LinkedIn is a career networking site. It provides individuals with a mechanism to display their professional talents and find a new job. It helps recruiters find the best talent. It helps sales teams uncover network links to key decision makers.  These are all fantastic uses of LinkedIn.

But, have you thought about using LinkedIn to do market analysis? Or, to empower your employees? Here at MAD Perspectives, we use LinkedIn to pursue new business, learn about market trends, share thoughts and stay connected to colleagues. We have posted questions in groups to learn about new technologies.  We have answered questions posted in LinkedIn Answers. We have also leveraged LinkedIn to fulfill client projects, some directly tied to LinkedIn, others using the power of the network.

Check out our case studies:

     - LinkedIn for Competitive Analysis

     - LinkedIn for Accelerating Sales

     - LinkedIn for Solution Consulting Services

Social media has changed the way we share and obtain information at the the personal and business levels. Each of the social networks adds value to how we communicate and stay in contact with friends, companies and colleagues. It's up to each of us to determine how these platforms can best serve us. Don't be afraid to be creative!

What's your perspective?

What's Up With All the Pinning?

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The latest social media buzz is all about Pinterest.  If you are a female consumer ages 25-54, you might be using Pinterest to invite comment from friends and family as to interior decorating options, travel destinations, gifts or recipes. According to Pinterest they are "a virtual inboard.  Pinterest allows you to organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web." While this may be fine for consumers, I'm challenged to think of the the value for B2B companies.  Sure, technology companies such as HP, IBM, EMC and others have some limited content on Pinterest, but how can Pinterest help your company achieve its strategic goals?

The answer - I don't know. Hubspot has a good blog on this topic reflecting on the ability for users to follow boards or entire accounts. So, you could elect to follow the board of a industry thought leader or a specific industry topic. If you search "social media" a slew of pins appear. The most important thing to remember about Pinterest is visual.  It is about images. A pin cannot be created if it is not associated with an image.

Of course, Pinterest could be part of an overall strategy to increase awareness of the company and its products. The key is whether your target audience is on Pinterest. Then the challenge is to represent your business using visual images. This could be an infographic, logo, presentation, pictures from an event or product images. Don't forget, visual content is more memorable than text.However, it's about this being the right destination for your content. It's not that this content is not located anyplace else on the web, it's that you want to reach an audience that is spending time on Pinterest.

Think about how Pinterest may advance your business strategy. Brainstorm the different types of images that can personalize your business and then align those images with your overall marketing strategy. A simple starting point may be related to an event. There are dozens, if not thousands, of pins from the recent South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas. I'd be curious how many of these pins are also twit pics or pictures of Facebook pages. Do these pins increase awareness or drive leads - or is it just a way to humanize your business?

Pinterest can be linked to your Facebook and Twitter accounts, meaning that your pins show up in those feeds. This is great for personal use, but for me, the jury is still out on the relevance of Pinterest in the B2B space, but I'll keep watching and brainstorming!

What's your perspective?

Using LinkedIn to Build B2B Followers

Peggy Dau - Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Every day there are more articles showcasing the value of social media for business.  However, 80% of those articles reflect the value for companies marketing to and communicating with consumers.  The challenge, for companies selling products or services to other companies, is how social media can help them.  After all, when most people are on Facebook, they are there to communicate with their friends and family.  Sure, they may be job hunting, and Facebook has proven to be a good place for employers to recruit new employees.  It is also a good place for companies to connect with users regarding customer support issues.  However, Facebookt is still first and foremost a destination for the individual thinking about personal, rather than business, topics.

A recent article on The Next Web highlighting the high proportion of U.S. based LinkedIn members, with membership growing internationally. What was more interesting is how companies are taking advantage of LinkedIn, particularly those in high tech. One of the dominant metrics, for measuring success in social media , is tracking the number of followers. For a company in the B2B space, it is most important for followers to be individuals who can influence purchasing decisions. LinkedIn is the most relevant social network for attracting influential followers. Who's are the companies leading the pack?

    1. IBM, ~590,000 followers

    2. HP, ~449,000 followers

    3. Microsoft, ~424,000 followers

    4. Accenture, ~419,000 followers

    5. Google, ~409,000 followers

    6. Oracle, ~293,000 followers

    7. Deloitte, ~283,000 followers

    8. Apple, ~253,000 followers

    9. Dell, ~244,000 followers

    10. Cisco, ~240,000 followers

source:  Zoomsphere

It's not a surprise to me that tech companies lead the pack.  Tech company employees tend to adopt new tools more rapidly than individuals in other markets.  IBM, in particular, has invested heavily in "socializing" its entire approach to business. This is partly to promote their own business intelligence capabilities, but also to simplify how employees get and stay connected internally or externally.  

These companies use LinkedIn's company pages to promote the company and their product lines. The benefit of promoting products and services on LinkedIn, allows the company to highlight new products, customer case studies and increase attention to key product lines. Another benefit is the ability for users to provide recommendations for company products. Hewlett-Packard, in particular, has gained a significant number of recommendations across all of its businesses. In addition, they sponsor several groups targeting different customer segments.

Social media is changing the way we connect with customers.  LinkedIn provides an additional channel for communicating value and differentiation, as well as listening to what customers are saying.  Look into leveraging LinkedIn for more than your personal profile, there are benefits for large and small businesses. Check it out!

What's your perspective?

Social Media Storytelling 201

Peggy Dau - Thursday, January 05, 2012

Every company has a story to tell.  There is the story about its creation and growth.  There are stories about its products and solutions.  There are insights about its impact on society, markets and individuals.  These stories are told through a wide variety of communication platforms. Social Media 101 would recommend defining a plan aligned with your strategy, then using the most popular social media platforms (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, blogging) to fulfill that plan. As we enter 2012, lets look at some additional tools that will expand the audience for your business stories!

1. Slideshare - As the name indicates, share your presentations.  Not only can companies post presentations and whitepapers, they can create audio to complement the information in the presentations. Slideshare is great outlet for establishing your position in the market, sharing insights in a visual manner, promoting new products, providing "how to" content, and more.  Tell stories through graphics, pictures and key highlights.

2. LinkedIn Groups - Every LinkedIn pundit promotes the benefits of a good profile, increasing connections and gathering recommendations. They also encourage involvement in groups, yet many of the individuals that I talk to don't realize the value of groups. There is a group for just about any industry, technology, profession or interest.  Your company can create groups specific to product categories or market needs. It provides an alternative channel to promote your company's value. Groups allow members to ask and answer questions between themselves or the group moderator. Stories evolve through these interactions.

3. HootSuite or TweetDeck - Simplify your monitoring and posting of social commentary. Each platform allows users to establish multiple accounts (i.e., on behalf of clients), receive notifications, schedule updates and view multiple columns of content on a single screen. These tools provide a single destination for managing your posts on platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Foursquare, WordPress, Ping and others. They provide you with instant access to content to keep your story relevant.

4.  Apps - 2011 saw the rise of the app as a means of sharing content on mobile devices.  Given the restrictions of these devices, apps streamline user access and interaction. Without apps, smartphones and tablets would not be enjoying such high levels of success. The challenge for B2B companies is identifying and developing apps to address employee and customer needs. Apple launched its B2B App Store in late 2011, acknowledging the unique needs of this market segment.  Apps simplify how employees or customers can engage with your company while on the go.  Some broad ideas for relevant apps could be customer service FAQs, order management, product highlights and demos, need feeds incorporating corporate, industry and social content.  Apps help you interact in a new way and share your targeted elements of your story.

Coordinating cross channel communication efforts will be the 2012 challenge for sales, marketing and customer support. Creating and adapting content for use across multiple platforms takes time and talent. Companies will face resource challenges to manage content development and distribution. In parallel, social platforms continue to emerge and there are several technologies that all marketing strategists should be addressing. They include the use of mobile devices (e.g., smartphones, tablets), adoption of monitoring and analytics platforms and the importance of location based services.  

Be aware of how any platform can benefit your company's goals as well as increasing awareness and interaction. Use the same methodology you've been using to align and integrate your communications strategy. Define your audiences, the content they need and the best communication channels. Take your strategy to the next level -  testing and analyzing platforms relevant for your business and your customers.

What's your perspective?

Engaging Thoughts on Social Media

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I've been traveling for business and pleasure for the past 2 weeks.  It was a great trip and I reconnected with former colleagues and made new connections.  As I was preparing for a social media workshop with Ivory Europe, an independent strategic communications and experiential agency, and some of their marquee clients I used the internet and social media platforms to gain insight about these clients.  My goal was to facilitate an engaging, interactive discussion about corporate use of social media.

Preparing some slides to guide our conversation was the easy part. Understanding how the participants (a combination of Ivory employees, PR firms representing financial services companies, public sector marketing and employees from leading social media companies) would engage was the challenge. Ivory Europe was kind enough to give me advance notice as to the identities of the possible attendees.  I checked out their company websites to see if they had integrated social networks into their websites. I was surprised to find that only 50% of the sites reflected any kind of social media. I also looked up the individuals on LinkedIn. (Yes, all of them are on LinkedIn). Based on their profiles, I was able to quickly understand who they were, how active they were in using social media and how their backgrounds might influence their participation. Interestingly, there was an intriguing mix of journalism and military service in their prior experiences. 

What did I take away from gaining this insight?  I felt that this was a group of people who understood the value of communicating, but who also would crave structure around the process.
This group was a great audience for me as I constantly emphasize the importance of planning.  I believe in the power of relevant communication.  And let me emphasize the word relevant.  We discussed how and why businesses are using social media, how they get started, where we think it is all going and why certain platforms make more sense for some businesses versus others (see my previous blogs for how to get started and aligning your use of the various platforms).  Our key takeaways from this 5 hour session were:

     1. Planning is critical as it helps to align strategy with business goals
     2. Understanding your brand and its voice is critical for a successful campaign 
     3. Content can be re-purposed, but it must be aligned to audience and goals
     4. Consistency is important to building a following
     5. Listening is the easiest way to get started (and it's addictive!)
     6. Human resource is the biggest obstacle.  There was a clear understanding that being social takes time and finding the right resources within your business to represent your firm is very important.

Depending on the. nature of your business, your implementation of social media will vary.  Whether you are a start-up with an exit strategy to be acquired or a government agency reinforcing policy or an established enterprise planning for a new product launch - social media is an expected element of your integrated marketing strategy. Learning from others and brainstorming internally can lead to a plan that achieves great results. Seek help where you need it (possibly in the planning stage), align resources (make sure they understand your brand and your goals) and get started!

What's your perspective?