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Next Tuesday and Wednesday, April 26 -27, the National Summit on Strategic Communications, will convene at the Hilton Crystal City in Arlington, VA.  The two-day event will explore the increasing digital interconnection of people and its impact on innovation, growth, and purpose.

One of the day 1 sessions (April 26) features a panel discussion on the importance of Relevance for today’s organizations and how it’s becoming the new Reputation in today’s social/digital world.

Below are some initial thoughts from the panelists on this most intriguing subject:

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Chris Preuss, Senior Vice President, Communications and Marketing, Delphi

Living within the somewhat finite universe of the B2B realm, the need for relevance is no less important than in the consumer space. For Delphi Automotive, our ability to maintain top-of-mind presence in what is an intensely competitive and cost sensitive market, is critical to our success.  Complicating the situation is Delphi’s long history of being an off-shoot of General Motors in 1997, and having endured a very public and painful restructuring during the period of 2005-2006.  Even with reasonably informed customers, Delphi suffered from an image of being a one customer entity with little global reach. The good news is that the building blocks of solid reputation – consistently delivering above expectations and doing what you say – has elevated the company greatly over the past several years. In other words, I don’t think there are shortcuts to gaining the kind of relevance that makes a reputation transactional.

Another interesting point to relevance is the need for our brand and our reputation to resonate for the purpose of recruiting. We are now spending almost as much intellectual and execution energy on attracting young engineering and software talent, as we are attracting customers. The need to understand who we are communicating with and where they are consuming their information has never been more important. And to be honest, this is not a great muscle in many B2B organizations. Most of our analytic and marketing automation capabilities have been targeted to a very narrow customer market – now we are having to act much more like a consumer brand to find the talent.  The good news is the environment to effectively and efficiently communicate with broad reach has never been better. Developing the story and content that will engage them is an evolving journey.

Carol Cone

Carol Cone, ON PURPOSE Collaborative

We live in a world where more people care. Public demands – for transparency, for trust, for sharing, for inspiration – have never been greater.  People expect brands and organizations to stand for something meaningful, and want to know more about how products are sourced and made, what businesses do to minimize their impact, and how they make a positive difference.  More than just hearing nice stories, people want to feel and be a part of purpose-driven change.

No longer just consumers, we are now citizens who want more. More sharing. More caring. More meaning. More understanding about why brands and organizations exist, what they stand for, how they engage employees, people and communities, and how they play a positive role in the world.

We’ve believed this for decades, and pioneered the idea and breakthrough programs that brought purpose to life. In the beginning it was “if” an organization existed beyond profits. Now it is about the “how,” with the power of purpose proven across every metric: revenues, productivity, innovation, employee retention, consumer loyalty, and community support.

Bringing purpose into the core of your business is the single most important action you can take. We call it the evolution of purpose. It’s a process. It takes vision, patience, and organizational champions.

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Rob Clark, Vice President, Global Communication, Medtronic

A 2014 study showed the following:

Every minute…

  • Facebook users share nearly 2.5 million pieces of content.
  • Twitter users tweet nearly 300,000 times.
  • Instagram users post nearly 220,000 new photos.
  • YouTube users upload 72 hours of new video content.
  • Apple users download nearly 50,000 apps.
  • Email users send over 200 million messages.

With all of this content flying around, how can a company or institution break through?  How can we meaningfully engage with customers, partners and employees through this noise?  This is the challenge for communicators and marketers around the world – being relevant with our message and growing brand equity in a time of a data and information explosion.

The answer is routed in what we have known for years – we have to fundamentally understand our customers and employees and never have we had more data and insights by which to determine this.  In a digital world, virtually all things can be tracked, monitored, and assessed for insights on what is relevant to our stakeholders.

At Medtronic, we have been tackling the following areas to better identify, understand, and engage with our stakeholders in the hopes of meeting their needs and advancing our reputation and preference in the marketplace.

  • First, infrastructure.  Legacy systems and siloed approaches are coming down.  We recently began implementing a single, global platform for digital and social media that provides a common content, distribution and analytics platform globally.
  • Second, content.  We’ve reassessed our content and how we deliver it.  Technical, bland content goes nowhere.  Though hard for a technology company in a complex, regulated industry, we are striving to develop content that is simple and interesting — crafted through better insights and delivered through compelling stories.
  • Third, data and analytics.   The good news – we have never had more data and information on our stakeholders than now.   The bad news – we are generally bad at aggregating, analyzing and turning into this information into action and relevance.  We are seeking to better track data longitudinally and then close the loop to better craft our content and programs.
  • Fourth, and probably the toughest…culture.   Large companies are not set inherently positioned to win in a digital world.  Historically, IT, HR, Marketing and Communications have operated independently with different roles in customer and employee engagement.  To the stakeholder – the employee or customer – that typically creates a complexity, blandness and lack of timeliness that makes the company increasingly irrelevant.   Bringing those constituencies together to examine and engage our stakeholders more horizontally in a digital world requires a new conversation and a new connectedness.

In the end, this work cannot be divorced from our core purpose – delivering great products and services that meets our customer’s needs.  Actions ultimately speak louder than words.  And, when these actions are paired with meaningful content, the company’s purpose and reputation will find its way through the clutter and be deemed meaningful and relevant.

Looking forward to seeing you there next Tuesday, April 26 at the Strategic Communications Conference in Arlington, VA for what will be an incredible discussion on the future of our work and efficacy! Register using code C786W2O for a discount on the conference.

 

In the past six years, I can count on one hand — one finger, actually — the number of times I’ve attended a conference and not been an active participant in the Twitter conversation onsite. It was 2009, my laptop was at the office, and I did not yet have a smartphone. You can bet that was the last time I traveled without multiple devices, a smartphone being one of them.

As a millennial — yes, one of those — I began my career at a time when Twitter was only for the tech elite, Facebook was still “The Facebook,” and LinkedIn was a glorified resume. Now, similar to how no one can remember a time when anything got done without email, I can no longer fathom — nor want to — a world where social media wasn’t a driving force behind how business gets done, and done well.

In my past life as a healthcare conference producer, social media wasn’t yet the widely adopted medium for communication and collaboration that it is today. Speaking faculties and conference agendas were created from research and whatever publications and articles were available online, and events were publicized via mass email campaigns and cold calling. Just a few years later, the landscape had already changed drastically.

In my next role as an editorial content producer at a technology publisher, hashtags were the new sources for news stories, LinkedIn was the first point of contact, and QR codes were all the rage. To stay timely, topical and relevant was to keep up with the rate of change in social media adoption and use. Today, that thinking still holds true. Only now, the cost of not participating is something that individuals and brands alike can no longer afford.

We’ve all heard that “content is king,” and from a content generation perspective, Twitter is one of the most valuable — and all too often, underrated — sources. If someone had told me back when I was putting together conference agendas that there would soon be a channel that would provide, in real-time, insights on the topics and trends that your target audience cares most about, I might have traded an arm or leg for access. Now, that information is just a screen tap away.

But the wealth of benefits that Twitter provides goes well beyond social intelligence — topic and audience targeting, influencer analysis, idea generation and the like. While it’s true that the incredibly rich data that Twitter provides — when paired with the right analytics, active listening tools and analysis in place — creates an unmatched opportunity for social optimization and ROI-inducing initiatives, to me, the most valuable aspect of the channel has been the relationships that is has allowed me to cultivate. And for that, I could not be more appreciative.

While conferences and networking events might have previously been where industry colleagues would be introduced to one another for the first time, now, these onsite interactions are simply an extension of the relationships that began through a series of 140 character posts. The number of times I’ve approached — okay, ran toward — industry colleagues with whom I’ve connected on Twitter first, and recognized solely from their profile picture, is a bit embarrassing. But the amazing opportunities, incredible learning experiences, professional connections, and friends, that I have made, simply because we were engaged via the social medium first, makes it all worthwhile.

Case in point being earlier this year, at W2O’s #HITsmCIO event at HIMSS’15 in Chicago, where provider innovation, information and technology chiefs gathered together to discuss the proliferation of social media in healthcare. UPMC’s chief innovation officer, Rasu Shrestha, M.D., one of the Twittersphere’s most active — an quite frankly, awesome — digital health leaders, shared that when it comes to hospital and health system use of social media, “it’s less of a question about whether you should do it; it’s can you afford not to.” I would have never gotten the opportunity to meet, know, and most importantly, learn from, Dr. Shrestha in the same capacity if not for Twitter, where his perspective perfectly echoes what we advise our clients, friends, and ourselves, regarding social media engagement.

For House of Cards fans, during one of his infamous first-person narratives to the camera, Frank Underwood noted that “imagination is its own form of courage.” For anyone who has yet to take the leap or see the value in social media from a personal perspective, I’m here to tell you that it’s worth it. Imagine yourself interacting with and learning from individuals you had previously only read about, fostering relationships with an unmatched network of thought leaders, and carving out a voice for yourself in the space. It might take a bit of courage to put yourself out there, but just imagine the possibilities.

And for those brands who have yet to harness the power of social engagement and intelligence — from healthcare and digital health, to technology and pharma, through B2B startups to well-established B2C staples — the time to imagine how these social channels can drive opportunity and incredible value for your business is now. Remember, it takes imagination — and courage — to see innovation and opportunity where others cannot, and social media engagement is no exception.

For more information on how social commerce and SoMe intelligence is driving change, enabling opportunity and creating a competitive advantage across the marketing and communications landscape, be sure to follow #PreCommerce on Twitter for updates and notable information from W2O’s EMEA annual PreCommerce Summit, taking place in London on September 14, 2015.

Please see here for more information on the event. In the area? Come join us – registration is free!

I have always enjoyed reading what David Cassak, Editor-in-Chief of The MedTech Strategist, has to say about medical devices and innovation.  Recently, I participated in a column written by David that was published in the April 13th issue of The MedTech Strategist.  Enjoy, Bob

The Column

The argument that digital health proponents often make as to why they healthcare industry needs to step up its game – and quickly – when it comes to digital technologies is simply that if the whole work is incorporating digital technology into its day-today existence, how can healthcare not follow along? If virtually everyone on the planet has made smart phones and similar devices integral to every day functions, healthcare can’t help but become part of the phenomenon.

Can a similar argument be made for Social Media? If Facebook and Twitter have become major media of communication, shouldn’t healthcare companies find a way to incorporate those channels into their communications efforts as well? As the accompanying chart suggests, medial device companies – to take just one segment of the healthcare industry – lag far behind consumer and tech companies in their use of Social Media sites like Twitter and Facebook and generate dramatically fewer hits on Google and YouTube (See Figure 1). To be fair, more and more device companies are incorporating Social Media into a broader strategy that embraces a direct-to-consumer approach. Companies like sleep apnea specialist ResMed Inc., for example, diabetes company Dexcom Inc. or cold-therapy company MyoScience Inc. are not only aggressively using Social Media, they’re bringing on staff marketing folks who specialize in the media (See, “MysoScience: The Promise of Cold Therapy,” The MedTech Strategist, February 27, 2015)

Areas of online Influence

But effectively using Social Media isn’t simply a matter of racking up the most “likes” or hits. Bob Pearson, president and CIO of W2O Group, an integrated marketing agency powered by analytics, notes that all B2B and B2C populations follow what he calls “the 1, 9, 90 model” – i.e., “less than 1% of a population creates content, approximately 9% shares or moves content and 90% lurks and learns and benefits, via search mainly.” And he notes that device company customers – namely, hospitals and physicians – “are online, learning from each other today,” making it incumbent on medtech companies to begin to understand the 1% and 9% who create or share content “well enough to understand what [those customers] desire/need/ask about.” He says, “Patients, payors and other parties are often following each other and are learning form their communities.” More, he notes, providers aren’t just following providers. Thus the critical question Pearson poses is “What is the social media network that is shaping the market’s perception of a given device?”

Pearson insists that “it’s not all that important how many Facebook ‘likes’ a device company has.” That’s a nice metric, but largely irrelevant, he says. Rather, more important is whether device companies have “defined the exact audience that is shaping the market’s perception and activity related to a disorder or disease, a device or your company.”

Indeed, he says that while device companies are amazing at understanding which physicians are most important, how to train them and build relationships, nearly all such activities today are done in person and offline. “That same experience should continue online,” Pearson says.

But device companies can’t make customers and other influencers come to them. They “must become expert at Audience Architecture to identify, build and interact with their audiences in a highly engaging/content driven relationship.” In short, rather than just chasing “likes” or followers on any given social media channel, it’s about understanding your audience and how they’re participating in social media in all of its ramifications, and in particular, how that audience perceives and understands individual medical devices.

My experience is that the best new models are very simple.

A great example relates to the B2B market.

Companies have been spending millions of dollars for years to reach CIOs, physicians and other experts who have tremendous influence on their business.  However, they don’t know how to reach them effectively, so they resort to a wide range of ways to get their attention from direct mail to advertising to emails to sales calls to webinars to symposium to special events and much more.

Some of it works, some of it doesn’t, which is why marketers often say they know that half of their money is leading to ROI, they just don’t know which half.

However, what if “direct” took on new meaning?

If we make the model simple, we get the breakthrough.

For example, let’s take healthcare.  We don’t want to reach all 240mm Americans online to reach U.S. physicians.  So what if we tracked all 600,000 physicians online?  We can see what content they like, who they share content with, what language they use and when they are active online.

We did this by first indexing 3.5 million medical providers and then figuring out how to identify with 100% accuracy who a physician is online.  We can then answer questions like “what are cardiologists in Dallas interested in?”

If we move to technology and we’re in the enterprise technology space, there are about 2,000 CIO’s that really matter.  What if we tracked all CIOs and all IT managers in one place, so we could see the entire IT conversation with a focus on the Forbes 2000.   We might be tracking 20,000 people total, but they represent the true “buyer’s market”.

We can then answer questions like “what is the top issue that CIO’s care about in Europe or Spain”?

To do this, we’ve had to rethink how you build a B2B ecosystem engine, which we call a “custom search engine”.

We’re working on our platform daily now, starting with MDigital Life for health and moving with speed into other areas.  We take a look at conversational and behavioral patterns to better understand what really matters to a specific audience.

The result is a new and important media channel.  It’s the customer themselves.

No third party intermediary is necessary to see what they think or what they do. The only thing keeping a company from becoming part of their world is their ability to be relevant, also known as being helpful.

The B2B audience is interacting right in front of us. With this knowledge, we can build out the social cloud architecture that will ensure we become a relevant peer with our customers, so that we add value to their professional lives and, in return, we get to stop wasteful spending that probably never reached our audience in the first place.

Great models are simple.  Great models also take time to build, which is what we are committed to doing.

More here in this brief video and much more from our team on Custom Search Engines in the year ahead.

Enjoy, Bob

 

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Below is an article that recently appeared in BMA Buzz, one of the top outlets for B2B marketers worldwide.  BMA continues to be one of my favorite organizations for all they do for B2B.

Bob Pearson is president of marketing agency W20 Group and author of Pre-Commerce: How Companies and Customers are Transforming Business Together. His next book, focusing on megatrends of social commerce, is due out in the fall. The industry veteran shared his social marketing outlook with BMA Buzz.

BMA Buzz: What will be the major 2013 social trend lines for b-to-b marketers?

Bob Pearson: I meet with hundreds of companies of all sizes each year. I see three key trends for b-to-b marketers. The first is the emergence of “forensic” analytics. Marketers should think of themselves as detectives. They should figure out what they need to know and then use customized analytics that often look back over several years to find clues that will create advantage. For example, they can stack-rank the efficiency of 10,000 resellers online—including web and all social channels—then determine exactly which one is most productive for their brand. They can know their competitors’ habits inside and out.

The second trend relates to a new concept that we call storytizing. Advertising has always been our attempt to interrupt someone, to get their attention and drive them to more information. With storytizing, we know where our customers are online, and we deliver a full story—video, slides, images, links, white papers—via new technology. This is a new concept and one that will be a powerhouse in the years ahead. Over time, storytizing will become more important than advertising.

The third relates to executives. I am seeing the most innovative companies step back and realize that they need to train all of their leaders to digitally transform themselves. When the top 10% of leaders of companies agree to evolve their thinking, a long-term transformation will be about to take place.

Buzz: Will b-to-b marketers be under more pressure to meld social channels with lead-generation revenue?

Pearson: Absolutely. More than 90% of customers lurk and learn, meaning that they never join the conversation. If we know how to profile them and build the right algorithms, we can determine where the next generation of customers resides today. This is what we call modern demand generation, and it is dependent on behavioral analytics. If we use the right technology, we can deliver videos, testimonials, special deals, slide decks and studies, all at the time of first click, whether it is via paid search, email or a website visit. First touch should deliver the full impact of your brand.

And, perhaps most importantly, we can track all of the touches that are occurring online, almost in real time. We can see the content that is preferred and the way that information is shared. Based on the patterns that we are seeing, we can then dynamically change the content in the market in real time.

Over the long term, we are becoming increasingly aware of how, where and with which audience content is shared. In a sense, we are building out a social cloud database, one that is far less expensive [than traditional databases] and fully reflective of what customers actually want.

It is time for lead generation to make the big leap into integration with social marketing techniques and tools. Higher conversion awaits us all.

Buzz: How will the dynamics of integrated marketing change in 2013?

Pearson: Brands will care less about likes, fans and impressions. Those were never the right indicators. Innovators are realizing that they can add value—and conversion—to emails, paid search, social media posts and even their websites if they are using the right technology and optimal analytics.

Like any marketplace trend, there is a lot of noise out there about social marketing. But as marketers increase their sophistication about what is truly possible, they will gravitate toward techniques that really drive sales and create valuable relationships. They will move away from the proliferation of apps, sites and relatively mindless engagement that doesn’t really move the needle.

 

Originally posted on Pre-Commerce.com

Background

One of the things I’ve learned from years of working with companies that sell products and services to other companies (B2B)  is that they benefit just as much from engaging in social media as any consumer brand. However, many B2B marketers tend to think too narrowly when it comes to developing a social media strategy and action plan. Many subscribe to the conventional wisdom of creating an obligatory LinkedIn presence and probably a corporate blog. If they are a little more forward thinking they may even be on Twitter or Slideshare. But many don’t feel like they have any business on Facebook, Youtube, Flickr or iTunes which is a shame because social networks, online video, pictures and podcasts drive a lot of engagement along with a lot of search engine activity.

Equally important is a recent stat from eMarketer that points out that 86% of all technology buyers at B2B companies use social media over the course of their day at work. It should be obvious that this doesn’t mean these B2B folks are just using social media FOR work but like many of us, they are allowing their personal and professional lives to intermingle as they tweet in between meetings, watch Youtube videos on their phones and update Facebook during lunch. To that end, with this increased time spent on the social web comes an increase in opportunity for discovering new content, companies and connections.

Content (not Sex) Sells

With this new phenomena comes an opportunity for companies to gently insert themselves into relevant conversations — mainly through good content. To give an example, if I’m a marketer and I’m looking for a new e-mail service provider (ESP) and I see that one of my professional friends has just “liked” a Constant Contact video on “10 Things You Should Know When Evaluating an ESP,” I’m heading over to check it out. If the video provides useful information how which ESP criteria I should be using, there is a good chance that Constant Contact is going into my consideration set. The graphic below from MarketingSherpa (via eMarketer) reinforces this point… good content creates good interactions and ultimately leads to leads and sales.

For better or for worse, the content that most B2B marketers create today looks like white papers, webinars and product demos. Fortunately, these foundational pieces of content can all be cross-purposed into other pieces of content like infographics, podcasts, slides, tweet chats and web videos. Because humans digest content differently, putting similar pieces of content into different formats across different channels ensures that more people will see your content. Take it one step further and link these cross-channel pieces of content together and you will exponentially increase your search engine optimization (SEO) juice.

How Can Companies Unearth More Good Conent

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post on creating, capturing, curating and cross-purposing content. If you missed it, I pointed out some easy ways that companies (B2B or B2C) can use to maximize their content creation. For example:

  • Creating content with short videos – Arm someone in your marketing/PR department with a flip camera. Have them schedule weekly video or audio interviews with your product or customer service team. Create and post them on a company Youtube channel.
  • Capturing content at conferences – If you or one of your employees is speaking at the event, consider posting their Powerpoint slides to SlideShare.com. You can also pick a favorite Slideshare deck and feature it on your website, LinkedIn or Facebook accounts.
  • Cross-purposing content – Take the FAQs from your website and post 1-2/day on your Twitter account. Hashtag the content with #usefultips so that people can search and find all of your tips and even add their own.
  • Curating client or partner content – Ask your customers, partners and industry influencers/analysts to guest blog for you. Better yet, create a series and line up one a week for the entire quarter.

Do you work at a B2B company? If so, what are some of your best tips for engaging prospects and customers in social media?