The Future of Mobile Advertising…Unless We Screw It Up

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 5.09.17 PMOne morning a couple of months ago I got in the car and my phone said travel time to my office 20 minutes and traffic was normal. A new feature of iOS9 is the ability for Apple Maps to detect when you enter your car by syncing with Bluetooth. I didn’t find it invasion, in fact, living in one of the worst cities in the country for traffic, I welcomed the information.

Now that I’ve had a taste of IoT and “things connecting to things” I want more, and it’s given me a glimpse of what the future of mobile advertising might look like. Ads will go from being disruptive to being useful, perhaps even helpful. Mobile devices will become your digital doppelgänger signaling to other devices your presence, preferences and patterns.

For example, I’m on my way to LA for a meeting. My United app holds my flight itinerary, terminal and gate, Google/Apple Maps knows my current location, and my Starbucks app knows my buying behavior. My phone holds my intent, location and past purchasing history that could trigger opportunities to give me promotional messages as I journey to my gate.

Given the early morning departure, I’m in desperate need of coffee. The wall-mounted screens on the “people mover” (in the future) could flash me offer as I pass, inviting me to stop at a convenient store location by my gate. In this new world, my order would be ready and waiting for me when I arrived. Being between two locations, and missing the closest one, I would of appreciate this information as I have no time to backtrack.

Here’s the point — we are quickly moving to the ultimate marketing goal of getting the right message, to the right person, at the right time, and in the right place. But to enable this future, which will be data driven and permission based, the challenge for marketers is — how do we enbable it and/or keep from screwing it up?

Here are four things to consider:

  • Retargeting – we have to stop being “creepy” by being better at targeting and knowing when to turn the “switch off.” Enough said on this topic, I think we all know the issues. Trying to be “personal” without having a relationship will get you into trouble.
  • Overemphasizing AcquisitionIAB reported that digital advertising increased by 20%, and mobile by 66%, in 2015. Yes, there are certain elements of digital that deserve the investment, but attribution issues still exist. Take a hard look at your revenue mix and understand the most productive lead sources. Place your bets on improving conversion metrics, not just increasing volume. Don’t create a bunch of unnecessary noise at the top of the funnel.
  • Undervaluing Upsell, Cross Sell and Renewal – With a future built on “permissions” existing relationships are the perfect starting point. Invest in helping customers become better consumers by thinking for them. Reposition marketing activities from being interruptive to being helpful, innovative and informative. Proactively reach out to them with offers based on their behaviors, focusing on how it will help them in their role, and not necessarily how it directly benefits your organization. Trust me, it will come back to you.
  • Scrutinize Technology Investments – ChiefMarTech estimates that there are now over 3500 MarTech providers. It’s a “killing field” as Larry Ellison once described it. Over the next 2-3 years companies will either 1) run out of money, 2) merge or 3) be acquired. Carefully consider and select partners that will help build new mobile platforms, capabilities and tracking. Invest the time to get to know their business/funding model, existing customer base, and account team.

In the near future, highly personalized ads will spawn in real time based on consumer’s intent and location… and they won’t just appear on devices.. Let’s hope that point arrives soon. I really could of used that Grande Dark for the plane ride. Airline coffee may say it’s Starbucks, but it really doesn’t taste the same.

How Marketers Will Win (or Lose) in the Age of Digitalization

Organizations are spending millions of dollars to “digitalize” themselves, as a way to become more agile and responsive to customer needs. As Gartner says, “Companies should be able to ‘react at Internet speed’ with real-time analytics to better understand individual buyers, and how to serve their unique needs.”

The payoff of these efforts is a more competitive and innovative organization that provides a consistent and engaging customer experience. As the organization become flatter and more transparent, it also brings a certain degree of risk. And, increasingly, that risk is falling on one group.

Yes, you guessed it: marketing.

According to HBR’s Designing a Marketing Organization for the Digital Age report, marketing is not only responsible for creating a consistent customer experience across the enterprise; perhaps even more challenging, it’s responsible for getting the organization to embrace change.

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Ramping up the organization to operate at the new “Internet” speed of change is critical, according to McKinsey’s Cracking the Digital Code global survey. Forty three percent of executives surveyed said that high-performing digital companies go from idea to implementation in less than six months.

And let’s not kid ourselves about the herculean effort this may involve. Twenty five percent of executives who participated in the survey expressed concerns about their organization’s ability to keep pace, and its ability to adopt an “experimentation” mind-set required to make this transformation.

Marketing is, however, well equipped to take on the challenge; it has always advocated for customers and their experiences. Now it’s being empowered to take ownership of it across the entire enterprise. Marketing has long been the “tip of the spear” for digitalization, operating as the “hub” of digital interactions with customers for years. No other group has had to embrace and operate at the “speed of the Internet” like marketing has.

So it’s not surprising that 75 percent of marketers expect to be responsible for the customer experience, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.

If marketers can successfully bring about the change needed to digitalize the organization, it should also yield additional organizational benefits that go beyond the customer experience. For example:

  • Improving the culture. 89 percent of senior executives said that great companies build cultures that consistently create excellent customer experiences. Corporate culture also plays a critical role in attracting and retaining digital talent, according to McKinsey.
  • Aligning customer service to the brand message. Although this has been discussed for years, companies are increasingly aligning the performance of customer service to brand health metrics, according to the HBR report. The Aberdeen Group also noted that when customer service is in sync with how marketing manages the brand, company revenues rises, as do social media mentions.
  • A new organizational model. According to Frank van den Driest, author of The Global Brand CEO: Building the Ultimate Marketing Machine, in a digital world, marketing will evolve from expertise in “things” like television, ecommerce and media, to “thinkers” who excel at understanding and using data, “feelers” who are immersed in customer behavior and interaction, and “doers” who implement campaigns, creating content and measurement.

Given the importance of this digital transformation, improving the customer experience is now the No. 1 CEO expectation of their chief marketing officer, according to Gartner. For years, marketers have been asking for a seat “at the table,” and now they have it…and it’s a hot one.

Why B2B Marketers Struggle Selling Brand Building Investments

follow-1210793_640Having a hard time convincing “the powers that be” to invest in the brand? Ever wonder why it’s so hard, why all they want from marketing is leads? Let me explain.

In organically grown companies, an organization develops a product or service and goes to market through a sale channel, either owned or via a partner. At this point, the organization is focused on acquiring customers and generating revenue. With low market awareness the organization typically has more sales capacity than demand for its products or services.

If marketing exists, it’s in its infancy, and plays a tactical role developing sales material, supporting business development activities, and it may have a small social media presence.

To fuel the company’s growth, the management team begins to realize in order to make sales and revenue objectives it has to be able to create demand beyond what the sales channels can generate on its own. As a result, marketing expands beyond its most basic sales enablement role into being responsible for generating leads.

When growth slows and/or begins to plateau, the executive management team will (or should) begin to explore the value of “strategic” marketing. Unfortunately, these strategic marketing activities and investments aimed at broadening awareness of the brand are often misunderstood and/or dismissed all together. Here’s why they shouldn’t be, and why they are critical to unlocking a company’s next phase of growth.

Why it’s so hard getting to “Yes”

The challenge in convincing the organization that marketing can be a strategic growth level is one of perception. Because marketing evolves “bottom up” as I just described, the common perception among executives is that marketing is a “tactical support” function.

The second issue is the messenger. The staffing needs of marketing in its infancy are simple, and usually satisfied by an entry-level hire or someone without a marketing background. Rarely, will this person rise to a senior management level. Achieving senior executive “gravitas” is critical for changing perception among the senior management team, especially if the company has a strong sales and/or product culture.

How to win the battle

To convince executives, you have to tie brand investments back to something “tangible.” Your argument has to show a direct connection to an organizations performance, be it sales, profit or the customer. And, if you can improve your message, you will also improve how your executives view the messenger. Here are three areas to explore.

  1. A strong/valued brand lifts price point. Are reps constantly complaining about being beaten up on regarding cost/price? A company that has a strong brand can command a price premium. Years ago, I did some work with competitor of Cisco and found that the Cisco brand had a price premium of 7% over the competitors. Why? B2B purchases are high risk, and as a result, are emotionally charged. Buyers that connect personally to brands are willing to pay more for their product if they believe it will reduce the risk of a bad decision. Need proof, click here.
  2. Improving top of the funnel performance improves the performance of the entire pipeline. Need to increase leads? You have two choices, expand the top of the funnel, or increase conversation rates. The best solution is to do both. By expanding the number of prospects aware of your product you increase the number who will also consider it, which increases the number of opportunities, leads and wins. If you only focus on increasing leads, you’re stuck with improving conversion rates, which may be much more difficult and/or costly.
  3. Brand building doesn’t mean you need a big budget. The fact is you’re doing it everyday, for better or worse. Every conversation a sales rep has with a prospect creates a brand impression, every unresolved service call to the contact center has the potential to damage the brand. You can make great strides by clearly and consistently communicating what the brand stands for both internally and externally. Once defined, put it into the language of your audience in the simplest terms possible. Complex, “consultant like” words and terms are meaningless. The really smart folks simplify the complex.

Now that you’ve made the argument, it’s time to close the deal. When an executive evaluates a proposal from your company against other competitors, do you know what tips the scale in your favor? No, it’s not price, or the “relationship,” it’s your reputation, your brand. It’s how they feel about your company…and that’s not in your proposal.

3 Dirty Little Secrets About Marketing

Screen Shot 2016-01-14 at 10.59.59 AMGo ahead and get mad at me. Feel free to fill up the comment section below. I’m going to share our closely held secrets with sales people, skeptics and other critics of marketing. I know you would rather I not, but it’s best for all of us, trust me. Here we go…

 

#1 – You got lucky – if you generate leads off the first drop/wave of a new account acquisition or a lead generation campaign for a solution, you’re more likely to be lucky, than right. Yea, you may have had a compelling offer, and the call to action was intriguing, but the chances are, you just happened to hit a prospect at the right time.

Sure, in some industries you can buy data that identifies a company’s spend on certain products or services. But you don’t know if the budget is available, what portion of it, or who controls it. And since this is a prospect, you are most likely targeting a title, which could be a decision maker, a budget holder, or just a curious information seeker.

At the beginning of a campaign you simply don’t have the information on a prospect to know where they are, or how to advance them in the buying process. So, if a prospect does put their hand up and says, “Call me,” you most likely hit them at the right time in the buyers’ journey.

#2 – Your messaging is weak – the effectiveness of your message is being compromised by the fact that you are trying to motivate an audience to think or feel differently without explaining why. According to Pat Spenner, co-author of the new book entitled The Challenger Customer, marketers spend too much time focusing on how they want audiences to think, or feel, without understanding their current mindset.

Research for the book found that the receptiveness and/or openness to a message depends heavily on an audience’s existing belief system, which drives their behavior. According to Spenner, marketers first need to understand and break down the audience’s current mindset using insights about their business, customers, markets, etc. It’s an opportunity to “teach” audiences that their current thinking is no longer valid and why a new way of thinking is needed. If done well, the new mindset will uniquely lead them back to your product/services or brand.

For example, Merck developed the cholesterol-lowering drug Mevacor at a time when doctors knew little about the effects of cholesterol on the body. The current mindset was that hypertension (high blood pressure) caused heart disease. Merck used clinical research to show doctors the impact of high levels of cholesterol on arteries and the correlation of plaque buildup with coronary heart disease (the “teaching” moment).

As a result, doctors should test patient’s cholesterol levels to see if they are at risk. If a patient had a LDL cholesterol level above a certain point, doctors should start with a therapy regiment that included diet and drug treatment (the new mindset). The only cholesterol-lowering agent available at the time was, you guessed it, Mevacor. Merck, by getting doctors to change their mindset about the causes of heart disease, lead them back to their product. As Spenner puts it, effective story telling for marketers should “lead to, not with.”

#3 – You’re doing lead nurturing the wrong waychanging mindsets takes time. Yes, you’ve built prospect profiles, aligned content to their interest, and you may even know how to engage them in their preferred communication channel. The problem may not be your content marketing efforts but the fact that prospects are stuck in the status quo. They may find your information interesting, but it hasn’t convinced or motivated them to change their behavior.

Nurturing efforts should continue to break down, or build up, the new mindset across the buying group. The ability to drive specific information aligned to individual buyer’s needs may actually be causing more dysfunction within an already dysfunctional group. To advance a prospect/s refocus efforts on driving consensus on the issue and solution within the buying group. If done correctly, like Merck, prospects will come to own conclusions that you offer the best solution for their needs.

 Motivating an audience to change doesn’t happen overnight. Unfortunately, marketers are under constant pressure to perform and rarely have the luxury of time to change their approach. It’s the reason I shared the first dirty secret, to buy marketers time to create the type of campaigns that deliver insights told as a story revealed over time.

The first wave of your campaign will generate leads, but it’s the waves that come after that really count. If marketers can stop telling customers why they need their product and let them come to that conclusion on their own, response and conversion rates will double based on my experience. But don’t tell anyone, it’s a secret.

The Bots Are Coming For Your Job

robot-916284_1280Gartner predicts that by 2018, machines will replace writers, authoring 20% of the content you read. Daryl Plummer, a Gartner analyst said that “Robowriters” are already producing budget, sports and business reports, and this trend is happening without notice. One advantage for machines according to Plummer: “They don’t have biases or emotional responses.”

I’ll buy machine generated content for basic information, like the items mentioned above, and that may signal that it’s time for some writers, in particular those who create “formulaic” content (like press releases), to get their resumes together. But what I won’t buy is a world of content that exists purely on fact and data, void of any emotional connections. In fact, another trend is now happening that may signal a need for even more writers who can make personal connections with audiences.

“Design Thinking” to the Rescue

The good news is that companies, like IBM and GE are following Apple’s lead in embracing “Design Thinking.” This year alone, IBM is seeking to hire 1,100 designers to help reignite growth and change the corporate culture. What may be a “boom time” for designers may also have a waterfall effect on content creators, here’s why.

Companies are embracing design thinking as a response to the increased complexity of today’s products and/or business environment. As Apple has learned, people need their interactions with technologies and other systems (for example, Healthcare) to be simple, intuitive and perhaps, even enjoyable.

The first principle of design thinking for products is to empathize with users by focusing on their experiences, especially their emotional ones. To build empathy with users, a design-centric organization empowers employees to observe behavior and draw conclusions about people’s needs and wants.

As author Jon Kolko states in his Harvard Business Review article entitled Design Thinking Comes of Age, “organizations that “get” design use emotional language (words that concern desires, aspirations, engagement, and experience) to describe products and users.”

“Design thinking is an essential tool for simplifying and humanizing.”

As companies improve the product/user experience, organizations must improve how they communicate emotionally derived value propositions…and that is the opportunity for content marketers. “Robowriters” can’t understand the emotional triggers involved in the purchasing process — at least not yet. As CEO Tony Fadell said in an interview published in Inc., “At the end of the day you have to espouse a feeling—in your advertisements, in your products. And that feeling comes from your gut.”

With ever expanding distribution channels, the need for content has never been greater. As machines move in to fill the void, the world of content will divide into algorithm-assembled fact oriented content, and human generated “emotional” content.

The handwriting may on the wall for some writers but the upside of this trend may just usher in golden era of impactful relevant content marketing for many. For now, if you a create content take inventory of what you do on a daily basis, and make plans to move to the human side…or risk being replaced by a “Bot.”

Telling is Selling?

My first job out of college was selling office equipment. The first thing I ever learned about selling (from my very Southern sales manger) was that “Telling ain’t selling.” In layman terms, stop telling customers why they need your product and start listening to their needs.

For years this simple phase remained in my memory. It guided me as a way to engage prospects in advisory-like sales dialogue, probing for a need to sell to. But, after attending CEB’s Sales & Marketing Summit last week, where new research highlighted the increased complexity in reaching a purchase decision, I’m now considering rethinking my whole approach.

Why? Because buyers have become overwhelmed by the potential choices, IMG_1220and the involvement of other decision makers in the process, according to Brent Adamson, co-author of The Challenger Customer. Too much information, too many options and too many people involved in the process are making it more difficult than ever to reach a consensus, let alone a purchase decision. Given the complexity, stalled deals are no longer a sales issue; they’re a buying problem.

The question is: Are marketers contributing to that problem? Is it possible our content marketing efforts, aimed at helping buyers make an informed choice, are becoming part of the “too much” problem? According to Psychologist Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice, too much choice often results in no choice at all.

Dr. Schwartz’s research has shown that limiting choice is often necessary to reach a decision, and/or to speed up the buying process. As he said, “When you make choice easier, or more simple, you will sell more.”

For business-to-business sales and marketers, the key is to become “prescriptive,” according to Adamson. Customers need a “trusted advisor” to help guide them through the complexity of the decision making process, in particular in driving a consistent point of view on the problem, and the best solution. Schwartz suggests focusing on the following three areas:

  1. Be the “expert” or “simplifier.” Help reduce the complexity of the problem, process and/or solution. Smart content should help to explain and simplify solutions to complex problems.
  2. Create an “anchor.” Help customers understand how to assess the value you offer. Buyers may have a hard time assessing the true value of a new purchase or a new vendor. Help them by giving them context. Find a relatable anchor comparison. Think: ”Platinum service at a standard price.”
  3. Understand the impact of “no decision.” If no decision is the right decision, then find a way to make it the default answer. This approach is commonly seen in software or subscription-based services where membership/licensing automatically renews.

Do we now dictate to customers/prospects? Not according to Schwartz. Asking probing questions that lead customers to convince themselves that they need your product is the path to goal attainment. Help them understand how your product/service uniquely solves their problem by guiding their path to purchase.

The words of wisdom given to me years ago were right, but given today’s increased complexity it needs an updated “Telling ain’t selling…until it is.”

Why “Cheating” Brands Break Customers’ Hearts

IMG_1184The Volkswagen scandal has already claimed the CEO. But could the damage also take down the company, or be the nail in the coffin for diesel automobiles in the US? Some are starting to think so: VW stock has fallen 30 percent since the scandal broke, and there are broader concerns about the impact on the reputation of Germany’s automobile industry. How could something that has the potential to be so damaging to an organization, and industry, happen?

At some point, someone in the VW organization decided to cheat, and others within the organization approved that decision. And with that, it set in motion a chain of events that would reach across the organization. Someone designed the “defeat device” that could sense when the car was undergoing emission testing; another group tested the software to ensure it was working properly. Others submitted data to governing organizations using the deceptive and/or outright false data and so on (you get the picture, and it’s not pretty). VW’s corporate culture condoned this behavior.

“Big deal,” you say. “Things like this are probably going on in big global corporations all the time, all over the world. CEOs are out to win at any cost.” Not so fast. Research from the FORTUNE Knowledge Group and gyro found that sixty percent of executives prefer to do business with companies that are intent on doing what’s right, even when it doesn’t necessarily maximize revenue.

And don’t think that CEOs aren’t paying attention to a company’s reputation. When choosing a company to do business with, 70 percent of executives in the study cite company reputation as the most influential factor, with the company’s culture being the top driver of reputation, according to 53 percent of executives surveyed by FORTUNE and gyro.

Not only will VW take it on the chin from consumers – especially customers who own their diesel cars – but they are also going to feel the repercussion on the business side as well. Key decision makers, from suppliers to dealers, are going to be distancing themselves from the organization. This could potentially hurt the company’s ability to repair its reputation, which, according to a 2013 study by Deloitte, is the “number one strategic risk for large companies.”

The lesson: If you cheat, you will eventually get caught. Even though you may be able to avoid punishment (like a certain football player), you will not escape having your brand and reputation damaged. For some brands, that could represent up to two-thirds of the company’s value.

When an organization deceives us, they betray our trust and it’s deeply personal. It doesn’t matter if it’s a friend or a car manufacturer, our brains trust brands the same way we trust our friends, according to research from the Institute for Experimental Business Psychology at Leuphana University in Luneburg, Germany (of all places).

The Paradox of Personalization in B2B Marketing

Just when we’ve convinced the organization that the key to our marketing communication success is personalized content, new research from CEB highlights that we actually may be doing more harm than good.

The years spent improving our understanding of the buyers journey, the development of more insightful personas and content, may have resulted in marketers ability to be too good at personalizing solutions to buyers. How can that be?

Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 4.08.13 PMThe issue, according to CEB’s research underpinning their new book The Challenger Customer, is that our improved ability to increase a buyer’s awareness of those areas of a solution most relevant to them, has inadvertently increased visibility into the overall risks associated with the purchase decision and/or change. As a result, buyers begin to unbundle and simplify solutions, driving down price points. The shocker of this insight is that marketers improved ability to personalize content may be coming at a cost to sales.

According to co-author, Pat Spenner, the real challenge lies in convincing buyers to first agree on making a change. “Focus your content marketing efforts on creating a consensus case for change among the decision making group,” which according to CEB’s research, now involves at least five people in the typical B2B purchase.

According to Spenner, “personalization can hurt the buyer’s ability to get that critical early consensus, because it can cement those individual stakeholders into their individual contexts, without doing anything to bring that more diverse group together around a common vision for change.”

So should we stop personalizing our communication? No, but it does highlight the need to also create that common rallying point, and to equip key buying group stakeholders with the tools to create consensus around it. Something the authors say helps clients elevate the conversation from “me to we,” an umbrella approach that ties your content efforts together regardless of the audience being targeted.

To motivate buyers to change you first have to disrupt their status quo by planting and nourishing seeds of doubt about “business as usual.” Show them not just the benefits of action, but the consequences of inaction. CEB recommends using fact-based content built off a Commercial Insight to break down buyers existing mental models.

Concurrent with breaking down the audience’s long held beliefs, you need to give them something to aspire to — a new future state that rallies the group to take action. This is where a compelling creative campaign does the heavy lifting. A “big play” campaign, like IBM’s “Smarter Planet” creates a compelling future vision but also provides a broad platform to disrupt IBM’s many different buyers and to cover IBM’s expansive solution/product portfolio.

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Personalization is still essential, and comes via messaging to specific audiences, but it is built on the commercial insight, and aligned to the common vision of the future state. It’s not that personalization doesn’t work, in fact, it can be very effective for breaking the status quo,” according to Spenner, “but you also need an unifying rallying point for buyers who may be too attuned to the risk associated with change.”

The key to leveraging the good work marketers have done to increase relevancy with buyers? Properly balance and/or convince the audiences that the rewards associated with making the change, both organizationally and personally, outweigh the risks you’re asking them to take on. If not, they will reduce the risk for you, and you may be hearing about it from sales.

3 Mind Benders from Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech Conference

This year’s Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen was an incredible experience.

FullSizeRenderThere were fantastic insights dropped by speakers like Rahm and Ari Emanuel, John Doerr from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Reid Hoffman, CEO of Greylock Partner and co-founder of LinkedIn. I came away from the two and half-day event with three “ah-ha’s” because of their potential impact as game changers for marketers.

The New Native Advertising

Consumers are interacting with brands nearly all of the time. In the past, no one was watching and no one really cared, but new digital platforms and big data companies are about to change that. Companies like Storehouse, are giving consumers a platform to tell and share their story, many of which involve brands. Organizations like Ban.jo are capturing those moments and are beginning to alert brands. This “new native advertising” will grow out of naturally occurring brand experience that quickly get amplified and shared with others — real people, experiencing real brands, in real time. As this trend evolves, look for the role of the agency to shift from that of being the creator of disruptive ads aimed at getting your attention to amplifier and distributor of consumer generated organic ads.

 Smart Carts

Jet.com recently launched to bring club discount shopping online. Its innovative business model is built off of the “smart cart.” As consumers fill up their cart, the price of the items begins to change based on availability of the item and the shipping location. Jet.com sources items from small business and tries to fill orders from local merchants. For example, you buy a baseball and a bat; you’ll get one price, add a baseball mitt and it will change the price for all three items depending on what type of mitt you are buying. To get the best price, wait a couple of days for shipping. Buy it immediately, and you’ll pay another price. Jet.com promises savings of 10-15 percent by using the advantage of filling orders locally and then passing the shipping cost savings along to the consumer.

The Internet of Things

Connected cars are coming. Actually, you could argue that it arrived years ago with GM’s OnStar. The next evolution later this year will include apps, beacons and commerce platforms like Visa Checkout and Apple Pay. Order a pizza from the Pizza Hut app on the screen in your car and payment processes automatically. Pull into the specially marked space in front of the restaurant and a beacon alerts them you have arrived for pickup. It also verifies your identity confirming payment. As beacons and autos unite, companies must begin to find ways for that 5-8” screen in your car to be the next big opportunity for advertising. IMG_0930

The most mind-blowing thing I saw or heard, though, is Ban.jo. Founded by Damien Patton, the company is what Inc. magazine describes as the “The Most Important Social Media Company You’ve Never Heard Of.” Ban.jo, by mining social media, can figure out what is happening anywhere in the world in real time by looking at a specific place at a specific time. Ban.jo was the first to detect the Boston Marathon bombing, the Ukrainian plane downing and even the Amtrak train wreck in Philadelphia. According to Patton, they beat traditional media organizations to the story by eight minutes on average.

Here’s the mind-blowing part: Ban.jo has built a virtual grid of more than 25 billion squares as an overlay of the entire globe. Their software monitors geo-located social posts for anomalies and then flags them for further investigation. It is, as Damien describes, “a crystal ball.” For marketers, it presents an opportunity to help facilitate the new native advertisement I mentioned above.

IMG_0936Overall, the event was one of the most insightful conferences I’ve ever attended. From the location (Aspen) to the speakers, the event had a certain energy unlike any other event. It could be because of the amount of start-ups and investor present, but I believe it came from the attendees themselves. I met interesting people from fascinating companies who had a shared goal of meeting people and gaining knowledge. If you have the opportunity, put this in your budget for next year and book this event. I highly recommend it

3 Hidden Reasons Why B2B Companies Have Hard Time Being Authentic

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 5.11.57 PMJohn Grant, author of The New Marketing Manifesto, states that, “Authenticity is the benchmark against which all brands are now judged.” If being authentic is that important, why has it been done so poorly by so many? If honesty and trust are foundation elements for building authentic brands, shouldn’t it be easy?

Business marketers often site issues relating to creating a consistent experience and message across the organization and/or across channels, staying true to the organization’s origins, and/or delivering on brand/product promises. All valid reasons, but perhaps there is another challenge at the core that goes unnoticed, something that inhibits the organizations ability tobe “real.” Aproblem simple in form, but difficult to detect and correct.

Yes, it is the senior executives, marketers, sales folks and service people themselves. The employees, who as humans, are uniquely influenced, and some may say flawed, by their own perceptions, bias, and motivations. Here are a few flaws that inhibit an organizations ability to be authentic:

  1. Biased views – research has found that executives, for better or worse, create “business personas” and view the world with that “business hat” on. In some ways, we play a “role” at work that fits a title, area of responsibility, or how others view you, that may not be realistic. Are we being fake? Maybe, maybe not, but if we say one thing, and believe something else that may be at odds with our “persona,” we just might be. It’s phenomenon researchers have observed with consumers their actions don’t necessarily match their words. In the business world, we act in a similar manner and may not realize that we are not being completely honest with ourselves, or with our customers…but they know.
  2. Refusing to recognize or accept change – customer preferences shift, markets fluctuate, competitors enter and exit, and companies evolve. One of the few certainties in business is that change is a constant. The problem is that many organizations are slow to recognize and react to a change. Even worse they flat out ignore it. As a result, companies continue to live in the past, or recognize the need for change and try to shift overnight. Authenticity involves an emotional connection with an audience and that connection is forged over years through consistency. Consistency builds trust and integrity. Ignoring the reality of your audiences’ world, trying to be something you’re not, or telling customers what you think they want to hear, quickly deteriorates trust and erodes integrity. “Keeping it real” involves keeping your head out of the sand and on the lookout for change, for better or worse. It also involves accepting reality as it is, no matter how painful it might be.
  3. The need for control – trust is a foundation element, and when we feel like it is lacking it sets off a basic human reaction to seek control over a situation. Inversely, when we trust, a handshake, for example, will often do look at the rise of shared economy companies like Uber, Airbnb. For established companies, take a look at the ever-expanding legal language in contracts and evaluate the impact it might be having on eroding trust with customers. In the business-to-business world, there are some situations where people have to trust each other to be successful and/or make progress. If we make it too complicated, we invite doubt and/or skepticism into the conversation making it difficult to create the foundation for a long-term relationship. Additionally, if we have an established relationship with a customer keep an eye on  contracting, service agreements, product delivery language, etc.

I’ve only a listed a few of the “flaws” that challenge companies, many more exist, but multiply these by the number of humans (employees) at your company, and the number of channels an audience has to interact with your brand, and you begin to get a sense of the complexity of business marketing.

How do successful companies do it? How do they create and maintain an authentic message, perception, and/or brand, by building and preserving a strong corporate culture, but allowing for flexibility. As Bill Breen writes in Fast Company “To maintain its integrity, a brand must remain true to its values. And yet, to be relevant—or cool—a brand must be as dynamic as change itself.” Or as Shakespeare might say: “To thine own self be true.”