Brain Vibe

marketing muses to stay engaged

Commercials Aren’t Dead

Communicate passion.  Tell a story.

We tell our stories through one-on-one conversation, phone conversations, texting, books, magazines, blogs, radio, podcasts, TV shows, and movies.  They are experienced verbally, auditory, and visually.  In marketing, we are spending more and more of our effort shifting to a single form of story-telling and that is verbal.  Our messages are increasingly moving towards mediums of online print over full sensory experiences.  Whether it is because budgets are smaller, resources are tighter, or social media is the ‘new’ thing to do, it is creating a smaller impression with customers.

There is certainly a decline in TV advertising as viewership is on the decline.  Digital recorders allow you to pass over commercials, and people that do watch are either not the right audience or ignore commercials when they air.  However, there is a genius to visual marketing and advertising in the ability to engage, entertain, and leave a memorable impression that can be more powerful than the printed word or truncated and symbolic creative.  While TV commercials are not as viable as a marketing vehicle as they once were, they are still powerful in other venues.

Don’t Give Up on Commercials – Transform

I was reminded yesterday about the power of visual marketing and advertising and what we miss when we don’t incorporate our stories into a fuller sensory experience.  First, there was a question posted by Leena Goswami on LinkedIn on how to inject some life into B2B marketing.  The second was stumbling upon the new Apple/PC commercial on CNN Money.

In response to Leena’s question the first thing that came to mind was a commercial Dassault Systems had produced a couple years back that aired on TV and websites.  In addition, they had secured a mention in a PBS Frontline episode on their contribution to the engineering process of the Boeing Dreamliner.  Dassault is a leading provider of product development and lifecycle management solutions.  Aerospace and defense is a major customer base.  Sales cycles are long and complex.  Relationships are decades old.  It’s a typical mature B2B market where the players are defined and heavy consolidation is happening.  So, as a marketer, how do you get your customers excited about you?  They told their story through video around the story –  “Create, share, and experience in 3D. Dassault Systems, see what you mean.”

Of course, you can’t talk about visual marketing and advertising without Apple.  As much as they put their commercials on TV, they are also placing them on websites, their own website, and up on YouTube.  Their latest web commercial for iLife transformed the banner add from a click to entertainment.  It’s already spreading across YouTube.

In both of these examples they not only tell a story and communicate passion, the fact that they are traditional commercials and incorporate visual and auditory aspects makes the experience more memorable.  It sticks.  Apple commercials are so good they are shared.  Dassault’s commercials set them apart from lack luster and dull communications of their competition allowing them to freshen their image and show they were a leader.

Commercials have gotten a bad wrap of late due to lack luster results from traditional TV placement and concepts that are more art interpretations than stories.  However, that doesn’t mean they are not viable and in certain cases more so than even social media marketing for awareness and reach.  Permission marketing is certainly important and preferable, but there are times when you need to get your message out and certain venues allow this without asking permission.  In an age when time is everything, permission marketing and social media marketing can be too slow.  There is quality, and there is spam.  If you are going to disrupt, make sure it is appreciated and not irritating.

Tell a story, communicate passion, know your customer.

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The Fine Line in B2B Social Media

Social media, and more specifically social network connections with real friends and family is a much more interesting and comfortable place to be than it is for business.  How I envy even the business-to-consumer businesses where they can cozy up with entertaining and light games, gimmicks, and discussion.  Yet, while we all dress business casual these days to go about our daily work routines, we still have to put on that respectable suit in client and customer facing activities.  Thus, is the case with social media marketing.

If the intent of social media marketing is to provide greater transparency, where do you draw the line?  And, does that line move depending on how engaged and connected your customer is?

Several years back I had a conference call with an executive at a large media company.  The call was on a day that I was working at home and happened to be in the kitchen with the back slider open letting in the beautiful day.  As we were discussing the finer details of a project, a turkey chick happened to wonder up on my deck and right into my kitchen.  Wide eye’d and shocked, I ran through the kitchen to grab a broom and shoo it out.  As I did this, who happened to follow looking for the chick, you got it, mamma turkey.  Half in the conversation, and half out of my mind, I began to swing carefully at the birds to get them back out on my deck.  Mamma turkey was all too ready to defend her chick and the gobbling began, the wings flapped, and clawed feet came up.  I squealed half under my breath but of course my client was on to me.  First I had to explain that I was working from home, then I had to explain the noise and squeal.  I was mortified.  As it turned out, my client found the situation hilarious and since we had a fairly good relationship, it all worked out fine.  Yet, I was not prepared for such an unprofessional event to intrude on my business at hand.

Had this been a sales call or first meeting, I don’t know that this incident would have come across as well.  Such is the issue with social media engagement.  Since conversations are typically out there for all to see, there are going to be times when long time connections and newly created ones will interact with you and each other at the same time.   With newly engaged connections you may want to err on the side of safety and maintain the business suit, but with long time customers, jeans and a button down may be just fine. You don’t have control over what is said, only how you respond. Will you shoo away newly engaged customers if they intrude on conversations you are having with existing customers or those that are ready to enter your sales cycle?  Or, will you shoo away long time customers when you are developing a new relationship?  In social media, you don’t really have the option to ignore or push off if you want to hold and nurture your community.

The more I ponder the nature of relationship building in social media, the more I conclude that engagement and transparency may take on a more homogenous aspect and that the line moves as engaged connections move into the sales cycle, solution cycles, and support cycles.  Social media is good as a communication stream with a broad ability to form direct connections, but it won’t necessarily build deep connections where the line of transparency and relationship begins to dissipate toward arm chair discussion.

If the goal is a customer relationship that is a partnership, social media is a piece of this and can facilitate communication.  However, will it really be the primary mechanism of the relationship?

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Filed under: b2b, communication, customer relationship, networking, social media, social media marketing, , , , , , , ,

The Value of Social Media for B2B Purchase Decisions

digital-medium-used-by-us-professionalsUnderstanding how customers decide what solutions they need, which services they need, or what vendor to work with seems to move in peaks and valleys.  With social media on the scene and companies embracing it to get closer to customers, the question is arising again.  The real question is, how does social media contribute to a customer’s purchase decision?

Taking visitors to social media networks or connections to social media marketing efforts into the sales process has thus far eluded marketing.  The answer may be in this recent analysis provided by  While GenY is more optimistic about visitation and use of social media activities by US Professionals, Boomers and GenX think that professionals are less inclined.  This is not surprising as other statistics show an age gap.  What is important to realize is that Boomers and GenX are typically the ones making the decisions and holding the purse strings.  If they aren’t using social media to gather information about solutions, services, and vendors their purchase decision is not going to be influenced by what marketers put there.

Another revealing aspect of this study is the individual vehicles and their place in the typical workday.  Social networking, where marketers are looking to develop one-to-one relationships, are not as frequented by decision makers.  The other area to connect directly, internet forums, is also a lagging vehicle.  On the other hand, traditional vehicles such as a news site and personal email are ingrained in everyday behavior.  Social media, as a newer communication and information source, requires change in a decision maker’s behavior.  Other tools, such as mobile devices, were readily adopted due to teh fact that they mimicked and incorporated existing communication methods.  It wasn’t as much of a leap for people to make.  Social media, on the other hand, my be too different from how decision makers gather information or collaborate.

In a world where the journalist is considered a dying breed, across the board responents reconginzed the role they play in a professionals workday.  In fact, the gap is significant when compared to blogs.  This seems to point to a need to value and validated content versus opinion.  Another aspect to consider is that business journals are still able to sell online content and information.  Social media in time may become a trusted source of informtion, but today’s the number indicate that decision makers as designated by generation still rely and trust traditional sources.  Blogs, forums, and networks may still be seens as commentary and biased even is they are produced in journalistic fashion.

As GenY moves up the ranks and GenX further gravitates to social media int the workplace, things will shift.  But, this may still be several years out.   As marketers, we need to consider our audience’s preference for communication and information gathering when leveraging marketing tools that should drive sales.  Social media in business is still an immature source even as the hype has reached a crescendo.    If social media is not used regularly in a workday, it does not have the marketing power to transform engagement into sales.  Purchase decisions are complex and content and engagement needs to happen in a manner that creates trust, credibility, and aligns to the customer decision process.

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Filed under: b2b, marketing operations, marketing technology, networking, social media, social media marketing, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Business Intelligence: Decisions, Decisions

Business Intelligence is all about supporting business decision.”

How many times have you heard that?  It’s become the standard mantra.  It is so ubiquitous that I don’t think anyone questions anymore the validity of the statement.  It just is.  However, this is probably the hardest part to facilitate when building out you business intelligence practice.  Facilitating decisions is what makes BI stragetic.

Just what is the business decision? What does a business decision look like?

Elements of a Business Decision:

  • Purpose:  drive a business outcome – ex: revenue, shareholder value, profitability, market share
  • Position:  leads a company, division, department
  • Point in Time:  transition along a process or environment

A typical approach during the business analysis phase for BI is to at business decisions across a business process and where questions are asked to change behavior in that process.  Although, the difficulty with this level of granularity is that it is too deep.  These transition points are tactical.  Intelligence across this process and at these decision points is important, but you don’t get the strategic value of BI at this level.  You need to look at the outcome of the process and provide a platform that supports the decision of what to do next.  This is the unstated question.

Let’s take an example.  Sales management will always want a perspective on the pipeline and forecast.  This shows them how they are meeting their numbers quarter to quarter.  However, outside of conversion and volume, there are business decisions that sales managers need to make.  Should they adjust their territories to capture new opportunity or shore up existing business?  Are there changes needed in commissions to incent sales people along certain products and services to improve profitability or revenue?   BI can lead sales management with insights that will guide them to optimize their processes and management rather than just data.

Purpose:  market share, revenue, profit
Position:  sales
Point in Time:  aligned to quarterly pipeline and forecast

To align BI to the business decision it is important to include executives in the discussion.  Get beyond the reports they want to see and ask the question about how they manage their business.  Walk through scenarios of what they ask as changes in the market or the business arise and how information can help them make a decision.  The better able you are to see how they manage their business, the more valuable the BI practice will be to supporting the business.

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B2B Social Media is Not One-Size-Fits-All Part 2

In Part 1 I wrapped up with, “The big question is, what does social media marketing do for B2B? ”  Not surprisingly, it all depends on who you speak to and what a company is expecting out of marketing.

Marketing’s main focus is the ability to drive three things: Awareness/Thought Leadership, Relationships, and Leads.  Social media marketing appears to have success in some areas, but lagging in others.

Awareness/Thought Leadership

Paul Dunay writes in his Daily Fix for Marketing Profs that social media marketing outperforms traditional marketing effort. “(Unaided) awareness from podcasts were 68%, compared with 21% for streaming video and 10% for television.”  Whether it is because there is a novelty and newness to social media or there is something intrinsic to how it conforms to a more natural interaction remains to be seen.  But, currently there are obvious lifts in driving awareness and in turn thought leadership though social media marketing.

Another advantage seen of social media marketing tactics is the ability to leverage SEO to drive more traffic towards websites.  It is one aspect that ties into established metrics so that benefits are clearer and in terms that marketers understand and familiar with.

Relationship Building

Tim Whiting, Integrated Marketing Leader at Motorola, provided an excellent framework for how he approaches social media in a discussion on LinkedIn.  Engagement, Connection, Intelligence.  From this perspective he sees this as a cycle by creating mechanisms that entice customers, allow you to have venues to converse, then following up on that with a way to measure progress and success.  Tim is finding that the benefits of social media is connected to loyalty and advocacy.  His experience seems to bare out with trends in consumer benefits where customer service leverages social media tools to improve customer satisfaction and mitigate churn.

In a previous article, I also provided the example of IBM Cognos and their success in building relationships specifically using Twitter.  Overall, the ability to reach out to customers and get them to interact with the brand has been a positive experience.

Lead Generation

The challenge, as yet, appears to be lead conversion.  This is either due to the infancy of social media tactics within B2B, or it is more difficult due to those that engage are not qualified to enter the sales pipeline.

Forrester found that 25% of B2B marketers cannot connect social media marketing tactics to sales pipeline.

In a recent discussion with the head of business development at a information services company, those that engaged in discussions on blogs and LinkedIn tended not to be good candidates for opportunities.  The reason was that in many cases those that engaged were not really customers but consultants or agencies that gave perspective but weren’t in need of services and solutions.  They piggy backed on other’s marketing efforts.  Another issue is that for B2B service providers, social media gave too much away for free reducing the ability to sell services.  The take away seems to be that marketing needs to improve its ability to connect with the proper audience and strike the right balance between thought leadership and planting seeds.

As I researched lead generation in social media I found a lot about tactics to us, but very little in terms of success.  Marketers claim they are generating a high volume of leads.  However, when I speak with sales executives, they have not seen the value of these leads or leads have not filtered their way into the pipeline.  Sales is currently not convinced that social media efforts drive revenue.

Warm and Fuzzy

No one can dispute the value of social media marketing in B2B and certainly the increased focus, even without budget, is a stong indicator adoption and use.  So far, though, social media marketing helps in the traditional space of the warm and fuzzy aspects of marketing.  This may work in the short term as a way to show initial success, but eventually it will need to convert leads to sales before it will be taken seriously and have longevity in the B2B marketing mix.

Part 1

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