Archive for the ‘B2B marketing’ Tag
The sun was barely over the horizon on a cold Saturday morning when a caravan of vehicles drove across the SAS campus. The vehicles were full of camera equipment, lights, props, and the all-important catering supplies to keep everyone well fed. Work was about to begin on shooting of a series of spots featuring Big Data Guy (BDG). Before the day was done, equipment packed, and food exhausted, a crew from SAS’ Video Communications and New Media (VC&NM) team completed shooing three spots highlighting how SAS can help organizations take advantage of the massive amounts of data they collect.
Long before the last edit was made, before the first scene was shot, before the scripts were even written – there is the back story. The project started as a challenge issued by Bill Marriott to his VC&NM team. The challenge, each quarter come up with a unique idea for a project and drive it through to completion. “We have a lot of highly creative people in our group, but the day-to-day work of the department often demands quick delivery on tight timelines. This project was an opportunity to empower the team to do what they do best, create compelling content that delivers the SAS message.”
A Visit From Big Data
As in most things, nothing happens until someone takes ownership. Taking up Bill’s challenge, Brendan Bailey proposed creating a series of spots using the classic TV formula of Conflict & Resolution. “Many commercials use this formula. It provides an opportunity to pose a problem and offer a solution. The issue of big data fits this model. It’s a challenge, but also a great opportunity; with the answer being SAS.”
A series of brainstorming meetings followed which resulted in a dozen script treatments. At that point the team ran into an impasse. The outlines all treated the BDG character differently. “We lacked a clear understanding of who we wanted this character to be,” explained Todd Johnson. “So we spent some time debating the character and wrote a back story detailing who BDG is and how we want him portrayed.”
With a clearer understanding of the character, the question remained, how well would he work? David Stephenson took the lead and drafted scripts for three initial spots. “The character somewhat wrote himself. As the scripts came together the creative team focused more on content and creating spots that were flexible enough to use in different ways.”
Big Data Knows That’s A Stolen Credit Card
The team continued to debate how long to make each spot and if released to YouTube whether length mattered. At the suggestion of Bill Marriott the team decided to work toward the length of standard broadcast commercials. “Building standard length :15, :30, and :60 second spots added structure to the process. The constraints of a blueprint can often help focus energies on the best way to make something happen.”
Scripts complete – check. Locations secured – check. Talent hired – check. The day of shooting finally arrived. It was time to see how well BDG would work in delivering the SAS message about big data. From dawn to dusk the crew and on-camera talent wandered around the SAS campus collecting footage needed to create the spots. Gary Peterson and Mark Lawrence managed the day-long shoot. “It certainly wasn’t our usual day of shooting,” said Lawrence. “Even though the final spots are short, they require a lot of material. We had only the one day to get all the shots. We knew we weren’t going to have the chance to grab extra shots later. It had to be done right the first time.”
Now complete, the spots are posted to the SAS website and in use at customer events. The response has encouraged the production team to begin work on another round of spots. Given a blank canvas and creative freedom, it’s amazing what a creative team can deliver.
PowerPoint is the tool marketers love to hate. At least that’s what I hear at almost every conference, seminar, and workshop. At a conference I attended this fall, the moderator of the two-day event declared it a “PowerPoint free zone.” Within five minutes he called up the event agenda… on a PowerPoint chart… so much for a PpT free zone.
There is a lot of good information on-line about PowerPoint design principles. Here’s a tip about how to structure a good PowerPoint chart deck. Use the onion approach, build content layer-upon-layer. This approach can be especially helpful when as a presenter you may not be in control of your time on the agenda.
Chart 1 Title Slide: Often thought of as a placeholder, this could be the most important chart in your deck. Use it to own the topic. If this is the only chart people see from your presentation, it should convey your organizations expertise and leadership. It should include your name and contact information as the thought leader on the topic. If presentations are made available following an event, the only chart from your presentation some people might see is the title slide. Make it good, capture attention, and take ownership of the topic.
Chart 2 Presentation Summary: Skip the agenda and bio slide, make this chart the elevator pitch. Everything the audience needs to know about your capabilities should be summarized on the second chart. That doesn’t mean using 3 point font and cramming in dozens of lines of text. All the rules of effective design still apply. (Large font, limited words per line, etc.) Use images and bold text. Drive home a single take away message about: 1) Features or Background; 2) Benefits or Opportunities; and a 3) Call-to-Action. I’ve been in meetings where the audience (usually a group of executives politicking for advantage) has interrupted the presenter who never got past the second chart. Structure your talk so that if your time on the agenda is hijacked by others in the room, you can still deliver the central message.
Charts 3-5 Key Points: Expand on the three points from the second chart. If time is running short, these three charts provide a bit more detail and can quickly highlight your most important take way messages. If time is not an issue, they can serve as an overview for details to be discussed later in the presentation.
Charts 6-20 Main Talk: If as a presenter you’ve reached this point in your talk, time on the agenda is yours. Use the remaining 15 charts in your presentation to finish your talk. In most cases, 20 charts should be enough to cover your topic. Remember, the charts are not your presentation, you are the presentation. Charts serve to illustrate and reinforce your message.
Charts 21+ Supplemental: If your talk is very technical in nature you may want to have a collection of charts that provide a very detailed, deep dive on the topic. These can be helpful if the presentation ends with a closing Q&A. They can also be useful information if the chart deck is provided in PDF following the conclusion of your talk.
PowerPoint is only a tool. In my workshop I have hammers, saws, wrenches, and a lot of tools I have no idea how to use. I don’t hate my collection of hammers. When I need to drive a nail a hammer works quite well. When used correctly, it’s the right tool for the job. It’s not much different with PowerPoint.
This week I had the opportunity to attend The Economist conference on human potential and developing ideas that matter to both society and businesses around the world. There was great debate on the big issues of how to boost productivity by harnessing the potential of individuals and societies.
During the conference a new report released by The Economist Intelligence Unit focuses on many of the challenges faced by global organizations in the coming decade. Sponsored by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the report is a wake-up call for what corporate leaders must do to prepare their organizations for the challenges of operating with a workforce spread worldwide. Survey respondents report their organizations will become larger and more global in the next ten years. They will be less centralized with local operations having the freedom to pursue opportunities that fuel the global organization. Organizational hierarchies will become flatter. At an earlier stage of their career, employees will have more responsibility and greater decision-making responsibility. More contingent workers will reduce traditional organizational loyalty, leading to an increase in employee churn.
What does this mean in practice for how organizations will be managed now and in the future? At Manpower Inc. Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Joerres spoke passionately about how the role of leadership must change, with senior executives serving as coaches – replacing the traditional role of mangers that control every aspect of their operation. With an increasing number of younger workers, organizations must operate in new ways. That is exactly what Scott Cook, Founder and Chairman of the Executive Committee, has done at Intuit Inc, North America’s leading payroll service supplier. Cook believes the role of the CEO is two-fold: first, set strategic direction and goals; and second, make available the resources necessary to enable employees to deliver on the objectives. Creating such an employee-empowered organization is increasingly essential for workers worldwide to develop a common sense of purpose and belonging. Dr. Jim Goodnight, Chief Executive Officer of SAS, believes in challenging employees to achieve great things and drive the company forward. At the height of last year’s economic downturn, Goodnight made a commitment of no employee layoffs because of economic conditions. The result, in 2009 SAS grew revenue through a dedicated global workforce, despite the most severe economic conditions in a generation.
The economic collapse of the past couple of years points out the difficulty of forecasting how market forces will affect companies over the next decade. Regulatory changes, scientific breakthroughs, and geopolitical events will greatly influence how business executives set strategic direction and goals as Scott Cook is doing at Intuit. Who will succeed? Over the next ten years the businesses that thrive will be those that successfully manage the complexities and paradoxes of operating on a global basis.
The paradigm shift empowering leading-edge advantage towards world class leadership is building momentum for… cut the bull, plain English please.
We’ve all read endless streams of corporate-speak: jargon-filled, filtered, and antiseptic ‑ rendering real communication all but impossible. For communicators it’s a slippery slope. While every industry has a unique language, accepted acronyms, and technical vocabulary, the trap for communicators is when we yield to company-speak and avoid the battle for clear, concise, communication.
In the wonderful book, Why Business People Speak Like Idiots, authors, Brian Fugere, Chelsea Hardaway and Jon Warshawsky offer a compelling alternative. For those of us working in the communication trenches, the book is a valuable reminder of the slow brainwashing that over time can influence the way we choose to communicate.
And yes, it’s a choice. If your ambition is to serve as a mid-level bureaucrat using Mad-Libs fill-in-the-blank jargon for your next assignment, you will be well on your way to an all but invisible place on the org. chart. While remaining hidden behind fact-free, mind-numbing bulls*it seems a safe place to remain unseen, in a difficult business environment it’s also a sure way to an unceremonial pink slip. In a tough business climate, organizations need communicators who help strengthen the business, create compelling dialogues, and develop innovative ways to influence people.
The book exposes several common traps that can transform the unwary communicator into a boring business stiff:
1. Businesses focus on themselves over their audience
Too often those creating business communications aim to impress, not to inform. Rather than using plain, simple language everyone understands, business communicators fall back on the use of jargon or insider phrases. The authors describe it as becoming “a kind of intellectual powerhouse, generating concepts that are too lofty to be expressed in something as mundane as English.” We too often fear that straightforward language might make us look dumb.
2. Business people fear concrete language
Avoiding commitment, and thereby liability, has evolved into something of an art form. The problem with this approach is that through “vagary and verbosity,” the credibility of whatever follows is reduced. In short, people recognize B.S. and give up looking for meaning. Remember, for communicators the bottom line is to connect, convince, and help the organization move ahead.
3. Business is boring
How can you not purchase a book with a chapter titled “Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll for Business People”? The authors offer a hilarious look at why business-speak is so ridiculous. They remind everyone in business that connecting with an audience, any audience, is about gaining their attention. “Make it relevant. Make it vivid. Make it compelling. Whether you like it or not, you’re in the entertainment business.” This admonition applies to everyone within an organization, none more so than those responsible for crafting communication messages.
The authors offer this key take away, “bullshit eats away at your personal capital, while straight talk pays dividends.” Make the wise investment, fight the bull and make clear, compelling communication the hallmark of your personal success.
Everyone in marketing and sales wants in to the C-Suite executive. Marketing and selling at the executive level has long been a favored business strategy. But as marketing communicators, how well do we assist sales with messaging that truly resonates at the C-level?
Marketing deliverables must support sales initiatives at multiple stages of the customer buying cycle. That’s why we create ads, glossy brochures, webcasts, white papers, and all the tactical deliverables required to move a prospect over to the sold column. But what about messaging for the C-level?
In the book, Selling to the C-Suite, co-authors Stephen Bistritz and Nicholas Read address the issue from the point of view of sales strategy. For those of us in marketing, the book is a valuable guide on how to support sales in their efforts to sell at the highest levels. The heart of the issue is that C-level executives have different priorities from others in their organization. For any proposed spending, C-level executives have multiple options. They can choose to buy your product or service; they could buy from your competitor; maybe they could achieve similar financial results by hiring more sales people or increasing staff training. The C-level perspective is not about the widget or servicing the widget, it about how for a given investment, the organization can derive most benefit – and often in the shortest amount of time.
People who make a career in sales understand this. As marketers, support for C-level engagements must be less about the widget, and more about return on investment. Next time you are asked to develop marketing support for C-level engagement, stay focused on quantifiable business impact. It’s the “elevator speech.” Hold subject matter experts responsible for laser-like focus on the issue of bottom line business impact. Far too often content-gathering conversations start here, but quickly devolve into performance details, technical specifications, and the standard Features & Benefits information that can be found on any organization’s website.
For a moment, think of yourself as having the big corner office – maybe it’s your favorite chair in a corner of the kitchen. If you receive a profit-sharing bonus, a tax refund, or a Nigerian email scam actually sends you money (OK, the last item may be a stretch), as family CEO what do you do with the available funds? You could pay bills, make some home improvements, put money down on a car, or buy a vacation… you get the idea. Business leaders make similar decisions about projects to fund or activities to support.
Make it Effective:
- Focus less on product/service and more on value
- Don’t use jargon, messages should focus on outcome level
- Enable sales to personalize the assets to individual C-level executives
- Content must be relevant, engaging, and, focused on the industry sector
- Create conversation starters: interesting data about industry trends, success stories, etc.
Such a strategy proved effective for business analytics software leader SAS. Last year, a series of thought leader events was held in about a dozen cities across North America. The events featured analytics consultant, author, and educator Tom Davenport, and focused on how companies can use analytics to drive business results. Tactical marketing support included print, an online presence, advertising, and live event support. All of the tactical deliverables focused on business outcome and value. For the SAS sales staff, the events were a great way to engage prospects and customers while building stronger relationships.
Your marketing support activities may only get one chance to assist sales in making an impact at the C-level. Keep the messaging focused on what your organization offers that can help a senior executive deliver results demanded by the board of directors. This will help establish your sales team as trusted advisors to your customers and open new opportunities for your business.
At a recent marketing meet-up, thought leadership was a hot topic of conversation. Amidst the canapés, glasses of white wine, and the exchange of business cards, talk of thought leadership came up frequently. What struck me was the level of interest for including thought leadership as a key marketing tactic. Some of those gathered worked for organizations on the cutting edge of emerging technology. Others were marketers working for established companies in mature industries. Regardless, most of the marketers I spoke with planned to include thought leadership in their 2010 marketing plans. Those with a clear understanding of how thought leadership fits into the buying cycle have the opportunity to succeed. The others will soon be in search of the next bandwagon upon which to jump.
Marketing consulting firms, professors, and authors all publish models of the customer sales cycle. Whatever model you subscribe to, most have certain elements in common. However, what’s often undervalued in these models is the issue of market maturity. Industries transition through phases: from radical new concept; through paradigm differentiation; to the point an established market develops and offerings are seen as commodities. An analysis of the environment in which the business operates is central to delivery of an effective thought leadership program. Whether the subject is cloud computing or cloud-soft tissues, thought leadership can help differentiate a business from the competition. The key is identifying an approach that sets an organization apart from competitors while building a stronger bond in the supplier-customer relationship.
As a “pull” tactic, thought leadership or knowledge leadership is most applicable early in the sales cycle when building awareness. It also plays a role in helping organizations maintain customer loyalty. Thought leadership marketing is about conveying the image of market leadership. It should take a strong position on where markets, technology, or regulatory requirements are heading. It’s not necessary that the organization be the market sales leader. Rather, it’s about exhibiting a depth of understanding and generously offering original insight.
As a marketing tactic, thought leadership must be inexorably tied to an organization’s competence and how it plans to differentiate itself from the competition. A solid thought-leadership program has a number of essential characteristics.
• Unique Voice – Take a stand with a clearly defined message. Demonstrate you are the leader and expert in a given field. Break new ground with ideas that challenge the status quo, creating opportunity for prospects and customers to take a new look at your organization.
• Extend Your Reach – Take on public speaking opportunities, start a newsletter, author a blog, get published. True independent thought leadership is not about publishing ideas exclusively on your company website. It’s about creating a uniquely defined, forceful, and compelling vision so your ideas are sought out and published on someone else’s website.
• Inform, Don’t Sell – While thought leadership must support an organization’s overall marketing direction, it should generously provide insights from which others can benefit. Challenge your audience to think outside the box by presenting useful information. Invite others into the conversation. Be willing to test your ideas and assumptions, especially by extending your reach through social media.
• Long Term View – As a marketing tactic, thought leadership is not about filling the sales funnel for the upcoming quarter. It’s about building relationships and moving from being seen as only a supplier, to being seen as a trusted advisor. Thought leadership is not a form of marketing collateral. It’s a long-term strategy whose results are best measured over time.
As a marketing tactic, thought leadership can be applied in both B2B and B2C marketing. But, thought leadership is not for every organization. Taking a unique stand and openly sharing intellectual property goes against some organization’s culture. However, for those organizations seeking an effective pull tactic to balance the marketing investment in standard push marketing techniques, a thought-leadership program offers a unique longer-term return on investment.