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CIO’s Are More Than Just IT Buyers

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Original Post Date 9/22/11

Even if you believe in love at first sight, the likelihood of a marriage proposal on the first date is highly unlikely. Committing yourself to someone without getting to know him or her first is a ridiculous idea. Yet far too often companies are asking audiences to “commit” at the hint of an interaction despite knowing little about each other.

Why?

In the tech industry and according to author Tom Grant, Ph.D, companies desire early commitment, due to the industry’s “voracious appetite for leads.” As Grant explains in his report, Tech Marketers Pursue Antiquated Marketing Strategies, the “high-speed innovation” rate drives a hyperfocus on product marketing and lead generation compared to other industries.

In fact, only 22 percent of marketers in the technology industry said that customer relationship management was one of the two most important priorities. Contrast that with 52 percent of marketers in non-tech companies. The focus is obviously on producing a measurable outcome that drives the product P&L: leads.

Developing a relationship with an audience takes time and resources, and it can be perceived as a distraction to the task of finding “ready to marry” prospects. This inward-out view of marketing ignores audience needs and assumes that all audiences are the same, and that all searches must indicate intent.

However, the key to driving demand and lead generation in today’s economy is not being more aggressive and pushing harder, but rather, taking time to develop and nurture relationships. Audiences, like dates, can sense desperation.  Perhaps the way to go faster is to slow down and shift the focal point from the conversion to the conversation.

We have long known that relevancy drives conversion and that conversion drives revenue. Getting to relevancy requires us to engage with the audience to understand their unique needs and motivations. As a result, our role changes from dictating to facilitating and understanding that it’s now on the buyer’s time frame, not ours.

New technologies such as Bizo enable us to know who the audience is at the first interaction. We also know where they’ve been for 30 days (who they’ve been dating, so to speak) before the conversion point, via Google Analytics’ new Multichannel Funnels.

We can serve up custom content through retargeting based on audience profiles, adapt for whatever device they are using, and deepen engagement by providing specific product or brand messages that align with their journey.

95% of prospects on your website are not yet ready to talk with a sales rep.” Source: 2011 MECLABS research

We no longer have to interrupt a buyer’s journey to gauge the interest level.   We no longer have to call a prospect to qualify him or her.  When a company offers something of value (i.e., relevant and personal), buyers are more likely to share their interests, desires and needs, but only if we listen, nurture and respect the relationship. According to Forrester, this intimate information is critical to creating real opportunity (leads) for the sales force.

In the Technology Buyer Insight Study, Forrester found that although tech has done a good job of equipping its sales force to discuss company products, it had failed to provide reps with insight into the buyer’s roles and responsibilities. Only 29 percent of CIOs said that sales reps could “relate to their role”; less than a quarter (24 percent) of business leaders said that reps were “knowledgeable about their business.”

Still too touchy-feely for you? Consider Harte Hanks’ report, Mapping the Technology Buyer’s Journey, which states that the relationship with the vendor is still a top five consideration driver. The first and second most important drivers are what you’d expect: (1) Meets all needs and (2) cost.

Competitors can match your price, but they can’t necessarily match your understanding of the buyer’s need or the relationship developed through that journey.

Could Advertising Pay for Your Child’s College Education?

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Years ago, a friend of mine sold his company to national telecommunication company.  With time on his hands, and being a serial entrepreneur he set out on his next project.

Watching his two children come home every night with overstuffed backpacks full of books, he decided his next venture would be to lighten their load. With a track record of technology innovations, he developed an e-reader years before the IPad and Kindle.  The reader had an interactive note pad on one side and the e-reader on the other side.  He provided much of the funding and line up production in South Korea and China.

Next, he would need the education system to play along.  And that’s where the story ends.  He preached of the value of democratizing education to school systems, locally and nationally.  The opportunity to generate new revenue streams by promoting college professors, courses and information beyond the classroom to the reach of every student with internet access.  But the old guard was too wedded to their legacy business models, and their traditional thinking of a “campus education” and as a result, they never got onboard.

That was until now.  Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs are changing the mindset of some of the most prestigious colleges in the US.  Leading universities like Harvard, MIT and Johns Hopkins are now putting some of their marque courses online, and many of them for free.

MOOC platform providers like Coursera, edX and Udacity believe higher education is a basic human right and, as a result, have seen a surge in interest.  Coursera now has more than 1.7 million registered students.   Brian Caffo, a professor at Johns Hopkins University, teaches what he calls a “math biostatistics boot camp” that usually draws a few dozen graduate students (found 15,000 students from around the world had signed up for the free online course).

Bringing higher education to the masses also comes paradigm-shifting challenges. It has the potential of redefining the value of a “campus education” and to disrupt the traditional business model.   Nick Anderson of Washington Post suggest that MOOC platforms pose a key question for universities “Are they undercutting time tested financial models that relies on students willing to pay a high price for a degree from a prestigious institution…or are they accelerating the onset of a democratized, globalized version of higher education?”

Burck Smith likens it to the challenge newspapers faced when they first launched web sites.  Smith, the CEO of StraightLine, which sells low cost online courses says, “Free content has never really been a successful business model.”

Perhaps Mr. Smith is wrong.  With two kids not far from college, I’d like to suggest that there could be a new business model built on free content – Advertising.

In this new world, Universities become, in a sense, content houses, similar to publishers.  By making the best universities, courses and professors available to the masses, the opportunity to draw huge audiences and to build brands worldwide is created.

For example, the eight courses made available by Johns Hopkins have drawn more than 170,000 students from around the world.  And where there are highly engaged and defined eyeballs, there are advertisers waiting, and wanting to gain access, especially given the fact that courses are available in multiple formats and devices.

Although this “revolution” is in its early stages, it has to the potential to redefine the college experience, education and business model.  And, as the story of my friend attests, the industry is slow to change, but with cost of an average public college education at $27,435, “free” sounds pretty good to me.

Lessons from the World’s Most Famous Press Release

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Original post date July 2, 2011

It was written 235 years ago. Between 200-300 copies were printed for towns up and down the east coast, and a few made their way to Europe.

Contrary to popular belief, the original copy contained no signatures and what it promoted was completely unique, new and…flawed.

The Declaration of Independence may very well be the world’s most famous press release. That’s according the curator at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, where it was written and approved in its final form (unsigned) on July 4th, 1776.

The signed copy we are familiar with was created later for ceremonial purposes.

I found it interesting to hear one of the world’s most famous and important documents being referred to as a press release during a class field trip with my son.  The curator used the analogy because he said that there is confusion regarding the purpose of the Declaration:

… the goal of the document was to only articulate “What” and “Why,” not “How … ”

This history lesson is an important best practice from the Founding Fathers.

Lesson: Focus on effectively communicating ONLY “what “and “why.”

How many times have you written and/or read a press release that tried to say too much, or that lacked clarity on its objective?

Another interesting point from our visit was the struggle to form a new federal government (the “How”). Under the Articles of Confederation, the new federal government had no revenue source (taxation), and no real authority over the states.  The states were sovereign, operating essentially as their own countries making decisions on their own currency, religion, and diplomacy with other countries.

Again the marketer in me saw the similarity to the power struggle between corporate marketing and other sales/marketing organizations (Product, Field, Region, etc.).  Would history provide another lesson for marketers?

Know Your Customer

Congress struggled with governing under the Articles.  Instead of revising the existing document, the Federal Convention decided to draft an entirely new frame of government. According to that curator, three key issues hung up the approval of the framework:

  • Religion
  • Slavery
  • The power of the federal government (which many saw coming at the expense of the states.)

Addressing the religious issue was easy; they left it out of the Constitution.  It was later covered under the Bill of Rights.  On slavery, they reached a compromise by outlawing slave trade in 1808, twenty years in the future.  But the single most important change was the shift from states to the individual in granting the federal government its power.

We the people of the United States … do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States.”

The federal government now answered to citizens, not the states.  State representatives and congressmen now represented the views and best interests of the people within their districts.  By putting citizens first, the founding fathers established a focal point that transcended state interests.

Lesson: With the rise in social media adoption, marketers now can better gauge the direct needs and desires of their customers.  Customers for their part are showing a willingness to engage like never before.  Marketers are presented with an opportunity to shift focus from solely addressing and satisfying internal “state” needs to anticipating, engaging, and serving the needs of “citizens” … customers.

Is it time for a marketing revolution?

Although I’m a proud Virginian, I’m no Patrick Henry but I say marketers, it’s time for our own declaration … marketing by the people, for the people!

Happy Birthday America.