March 21, 2012

Customer service is the new marketing


Image by tmcnem on BigStockPhoto

Christopher RollysonIn most brand organizations, marketing investments rest on 20th century marketing principles whose results are diminishing every year. At the same time, an increasing portion of products and services are commoditizing, which puts more pressure on marketing to “create” differentiation and value. In many cases, there is no escape — except by changing the rules.

Here I’ll show how marketing can reinvent itself by using social business to tap a hidden gold mine. Here are the ways that CMOs can leverage digital world of mouth:

The threat: Dire straits in marketing

Marketing’s credibility will never recover because customers now have a more trusted alternative: other customers

Marketing as a profession emerged in leading economies during the mid-20th century, when manufactured products were novelties in many categories. Marketers came to assume that they could “create an image” or “brand” using the mass communications to which few had access. Individual customers had no leverage because word of mouth was analog. Word of mouth has always been the most trusted source of product or service information, but it had no leverage until social peer-to-peer technologies emerged. Marketing’s credibility will never recover because customers now have a more trusted alternative: other customers. You can make this work for you.

The opportunity: Customer service as marketing

For customers, the most compelling information about companies, products or services is often conversations about how products or services can be used in specific situations. They have high credibility because they are initiated by customers and show what happens when exceptions arise. Simplistically speaking, marketing’s job is to increase demand for the company’s products and services. Customer service conversations will be more compelling than marketing messages in many situations, but they have to be treated completely differently. Continue reading

March 13, 2012

How social business will transform B2B Sales & Marketing


BigStockPhoto image by kentoh

B2B must evolve to meet clients’ changing needs

Christopher RollysonClient work for B2B and B2C organizations has me reviewing thousands of conversations in social venues every month, and it’s becoming increasingly obvious that much of Sales and Marketing as we know them is significantly out of alignment with B2B clients. They are much smarter now and want a new style of relationship with their business partners (erstwhile “vendors,” “providers”). Social business is permeating client networks throughout the economy and changing client behavior and expectations.

This has created a rare opportunity for B2B sales and marketing people who understand and respond ahead of the market. Here I’ll do a deeper dive into how legacy Sales and Marketing functions will evolve, using social business as a lever.

Reexamining B2B Sales and Marketing

Marketing assumes it’s not economically feasible to have large-scale one-on-one client conversations. Sales assumes it must rely on one-on-one prospecting to drive value. Both assumptions are increasingly false.

Two examples of misalignment: One of Marketing’s underlying assumptions is that it is not economically feasible to have large-scale one-on-one client conversations, so marketing must achieve scale through secondary research (and remain isolated from the client). One of Sales’ key assumptions is that it must rely on primary one-on-one prospect/client/customer communications to drive value. Both of these are increasingly false, so I’ll drill down on them before offering practical recommendations for how Sales And Marketing can explore social business at a new level.

As head of marketing for several B2B firms with direct sales forces since the 1980s, I have worked with my fellow execs in Sales, Operations, Finance & IT to drive the top line. As a management consultant, I have advised clients in adopting numerous disruptive technologies that have confronted enterprise functions with change. These experiences lead me to believe that social business will transform B2B Sales And Marketing during the next 5-10 years. Moreover, organizations that begin the transformation process earlier will profit at the expense of laggards because social business will improve enterprises’ communications and collaborations with clients by an order of magnitude. Continue reading

March 6, 2012

2012: The year of B2B social business adoption

How B2B firms can reduce their cost of sales 30-50% by using social platforms

Christopher S. RollysonBased on CSRA’s recent research as well as my 25 years’ experience with guiding B2Bs’ adoption of disruptive technology, I predict that 2012 will see significant social business takeup among B2B pioneers. First, a critical mass of B2B executive leaders are familiar enough with social technologies to consider them for the first time. Second, the business driver will be the economy. During the past 4-5 years, enterprises have continue to cut costs wherever they could, but few are performing at the level they want to be. B2B sales and marketing are under more pressure to perform very efficiently than ever, and some leaders will enlist social business because they have tried everything else.

B2B adoption

Although I have served numerous B2C enterprises, I have a more profound understanding of B2B because my businesses and employers have sold to businesses. Web 1.0 (“The Internet”) adoption is a very useful pattern for understanding Web 3.0 adoption (we’re way past Web 2.0 now). For brevity, I’ll use it, along with some other patterns, to explain why my crystal ball says that 2012 will see serious B2B adoption of social business.

  • Adoption of disruptive technology begins with consumers because their cost of trying new things is far lower than businesses’. In addition, families, since they include people of all ages, are hotbeds of disruptive technology adoption. What’s better than confounding parents by doing marvelous things that they don’t understand?
  • B2B executive parents, being upstanding responsible adults, always reject such frivolities at first; however, they cannot stop themselves from peering over their kids’ shoulders. When a situation occurs in which the disruptive innovation adds surprising value, their attitudes begin to change. They start experimenting (what’s the No. 1 reason execs joined Facebook?), but since they have preconceived notions about how things should work, the learning process is slow. But they eventually learn to adopt the disruption in their personal lives.
  • Once executives get comfortable enough with the disruption, the adventurous portion of them starts taking its disruption-enabled “approaches” to doing things to work. Experimentation continues for a while, during which the disruption is a “nice to have” option. In some cases a situation develops in which the innovation adds surprising value in the work context, which drives adoption further.
  • Social business — applying social technologies to evolve business processes — is reaching this point. Another Web 1.0 lesson is that the early 2000s’ bad economy helped Internet adoption after the meltdown. Although most executives were too ready to dismiss “the Internet” as a fad, enough of them persisted and proved the value in increasing areas of business.
  • At PricewaterhouseCoopers, I helped B2Bs apply Internet applications to their business processes. Once they dropped the assumption that the Internet was about Pets.com and money-losing online bookstores, they could start thinking about how they could save serious money by empowering stakeholders with real-time information and the ability to transact with their enterprise systems.

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July 6, 2011

What kind of Web 3.0 world should we make?

Reid Hoffman
LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman (photo by JD Lasica)

Reid Hoffman on pervasive data and how it will impact business in the future

Christopher S. RollysonIn addition to being the founder of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman is a Silicon Valley insider with rich insight into technology trends, markets and building companies.

I attended his presentation at SxSW, where his main message was that the future was bearing down on us, and he prophesied that it would “arrive sooner and be stranger than we think.”

  • He painted the context for his theme, “Web 3.0 as data,” with this timeline:
    • Web 1.0 was a low bandwidth environment in which individuals searched for files online (and on demand). The concept of “cyberspace” was separate from the “real” world. It was an anonymous world in which many people participated as animes.
    • Web 2.0 was a shift in which people increasingly participated with their real identities (MySpace notwithstanding), and the online world became increasingly integrated with the offline world. Social networks mapped social graphs (again, with real people), and most people blogged as themselves. Online became firmly embedded in offline life, as a way to help manage and navigate by using reviews and other buying tools. Wikileaks and the current revolutions in the Middle East are part of this larger trend.
    • Web 3.0 is mostly to do with the massive amounts of active and passive data we are generating. An example of passive data is phone calls from mobile devices. Bandwidth is increasing, which enables video, audio and graphic sharing and data. Hoffman advocates thinking hard about it and acting to protect data. Think about what kind of future we want to create.
  • Web 3.0′s data introduces significant risks to privacy because every transaction, passive and active, is linked to our real identities. Mobile device transactions are constantly tracked, and this is relevant because they are tied to real identities.
  • Hoffman’s biggest fear is how governments could use information to control people. Governments are organizations that are closest to what he called “pure power” (because they integrate information, legal authority and military/police power). They can mine email, text and all other digital data to learn anyone’s social graph.
  • Unlike corporations, government is not incented to care for citizens; he implied it is less accountable. Continue reading
June 22, 2011

How Facebook has quietly created a gold mine for marketers

Facebook ad

Inside the huge banner opportunity created by Facebook

Christopher RollysonFacebook’s development schedule epitomizes the “white water, fast iteration” approach to serving company and customer. Although its mishaps are legendary, it succeeds in consistently fielding a mind-numbing array of features, so it is difficult to keep up and very easy to miss the significance of things.

To wit, very few people people have noticed that Facebook has quietly revolutionized banner ads through a feature that is maligned by users but gold for marketers. This feature has created two opportunities for e-commerce marketers: a new means of inexpensive market research and an easy way to improve relationships with their viewers.

Read on to do this to your competitors before they do it to you.

‘You have removed this ad’: A spark in a dry forest

I hope you have used the “remove this ad” feature that Facebook introduced, I believe, in Q4 2009 or Q1 2010. When you mouse over most Facebook ads, you will see an “x” in the far right (1 — see above). When you click the “x” to remove the ad, you get the dialog box beneath, which gives you the radio buttons (2) and the all-important “other.” When you hit “Okay,” you get the gold box. Seems innocuous, right? Wrong. It has begun to change the expectations of your prospects, who will increasingly expect to give feedback on all ads.

Removing ads: Customer viewpoint

I have been using “remove this ad” since it was released, and I have noticed several things about it:

  • There’s very little talk about it online. Any dialog is dominated by users who hate “remove this ad” because they hate ads in general and they would like “removing” the ad to be permanent (i.e. bar chart brains would never reappear). Note that the gold box doesn’t promise banishing the ad. Users don’t care, though.
  • I’ll hypothesize that only a small portion of Facebook users bother to give feedback, but I’ll wager that most of those who do want to do it everywhere.
  • Yes, when you remove the ad, it isn’t banished from your land forever, but clicking the “x” and adding a peppery comment can be satisfying anyway.

Removing ads: A marketer’s viewpoint

Now, think about yourself as a buyer of millions of dollars of banner ads per year, which all CMOs do. What if, for appropriate (geeky) segments you would introduce this functionality in some of your banner ads (not necessarily on Facebook)? This would help you:

  • Conduct low-cost market research by collecting responses; on Facebook itself this is particularly interesting because Facebook knows user demographics. However, off-Facebook, wouldn’t you like to know if readers of certain sites find your ads offensive or …? (you design the responses)
The majority of ‘display’ ads will be selected by customers within 10 years at the outside; certain demographics much earlier.
  • Improve your relationship with prospects when you give them the option to respond; you suggest that you are interested in their viewpoints.
  • You can take this into account when selecting your ad mix. You read it here, in 2011: The majority of “display” ads will be selected by customers within 10 years at the outside; certain demographics much earlier.
  • I recommend pilots this year to get ahead of the market. Of course, many of your ads are syndicated, etc., but you can select specific situations to experiment and learn.

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June 9, 2011

A blueprint of how to succeed in social media

social_media_monopoly

 

Conversation trumps content: It’s the human spark of knowledge and caring that carries true value

Christopher RollysonAs adoption of social technologies spreads into even the most risk-averse industries and companies, executives have questions about where social media could take them and where the different kinds of social media consultants can guide them.

Depending on how one defines social media, it is a multimillion-dollar consulting and services industry. Most of the players have a marketing approach in which they help their clients to create content and interact with people in major platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, MySpace, blogs and specialized social networks. Most firms focus on consumer-facing (“B2C”) scenarios because the market for business-to-business use of social technologies significantly lags consumer uses.

The three main types of social media services providers are:

  • Pure play social media consultancies have been created specifically to address this market.
  • Legacy advertising and marketing firms have mobilized social media practices. Most of these are focused on content creation, their traditional domain.
  • Technology vendors are two types: pure play tech startups and legacy enterprise vendors that are bolting on social features to their suites.

Continue reading