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The Next Generation of Apps Will be All About You

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I had a dream last night that I was hiking along a stream with my family.  The same path we’ve hiked and geocached dozens of times. Except this time, Siri’s voice interrupted our hike and asked if we’d like to play a game.

An app I had downloaded came on, and using GPS, our hiking history, and topographical maps of the area, had created a real time obstacle course, complete with the map, times to achieve, and “land mine” rocks to avoid.  The “App” had proactively invaded our routine hike by creating a totally new experience.

When I awoke I wondered if I had read this, or if it was truly a dream. Concluding that it was a dream, I knew the article that helped to “inspire” it, and perhaps, playing a little too much Candy Crush may have lead to the creation of the “land mines”.

Earlier in the week, I had read about fitness apps that, for the first time, were positively impacting behaviors. I thought it was noteworthy because even with time spent on mobile devices continuing to grow, we have not invited them into our lives as an active participant, although my teenager may disagree with me.  In 2013, Gartner reported consumers spent an average of 2 hours and 28 minutes per day on devices (phone and tablet), and 80% of that time spent inside apps.

Apps have been in “ondemand” mode waiting for us to engage. They haven’t been invited “in” because, for the most part, they haven’t been smart enough to provide us with value.  With the era of the “internet of everything” we are entering a new world of connectedness.  With devices able to communicate with each other, and soon apps, is this the beginning of new phase of app development?

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An era that goes beyond the first generation of “dumb” apps, similar to “dumb terminals” of yesteryear, in that they, with a few exceptions, mostly games, are nothing more than version of existing websites that have been optimized for mobile devices.

Next generation “smart” apps will have the potential to become an active part of our lives by tracking, and understanding our unique behaviors and habits, to creative highly personalized recommendations and experiences.  But by 2017, Gartner predicts that mobile apps will have been downloaded more than 268 billion times, and mobile users will provide personalized data streams to more than 100 apps and service every day

Our mobile devices, which many of us carry 24/7, can remember where we’ve been, what we’ve done, and when we did it.  They can listen in on our conversations, as we’ve learned, and can access data we have stored on the device and in the cloud.

As a result, be on the watch for the following in the near future:

  • The emergence of “small data” – the value and functionality of your mobile device will shift from connectivity to data capture and transfer.  In a sense, your phone will act as your own “black box” recording your daily activity, similar to a flight recorder.  Apple and Google have the ability to track activity across devices so that most of your waken hours will be captured.
  • A “listening” mode on your phoneit already exists the difference is that it will be a setting you control (instead of others).  This will add a layer of richness to the data that is already being collected and enable apps to pick their spots to intervene with information, recommendation, etc.
  • Highly personalized experiences - apps will leverage multiple sources of data and with artificial intelligence begin to create experiences and recommendations in real time, much of it designed around our daily lives and routines.
  • Intelligent Ads – yes, someone has to pay for the free apps and advertisers will be at the ready.  As the apps get smarter, so will marketers! Ads will appear at the right time, with relevant offers based on your interest, past buying behavior, and preferences.   Some will be rewards based on certain behaviors, and other offers will incent them.

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Signs of these types of apps are starting to appear.  Apps like the Sleep Cycle alarm clock, that gently wakes you by analyzing your sleep patterns.  Using your iPhone as an accelerometer, Sleep Cycle monitors your movement to determine which sleep phase you are in (see the image on the right). Once learned, the phone alarm then wakes you with soothing sounds in your lightest sleep phase.

Think of the convenience of having an app on your phone listen in on conversations when you’re traveling abroad and translate, in real time, in the dialect of that region.  Or, as in my dream, the value of taking a routine outing and creating a totally new and highly engaging experience.

Of course progress comes with a cost.  Increasing the availability of personal data also increases the threat of those who would like to get their hands on it.  In fact, it will slow the progress of this smart app generation.  That said, we will see improved security built into devices, and hopefully, there will be “an app for that” as well.

Everything We Thought We Knew about B-to-B is Wrong Video

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In December, I had the opportunity to be the Keynote speaker at the Bowery Capital CMO Summit in NYC.  The event featured a number of high profile CMO’s speaking with an audience of mostly early stage startups (under 20 employees).

My presentation was based on the recent Forbes blog post Everything We Thought We Knew about B-to-B Marketing in Wrong.  The audience also included some local media, a reporter from CMO.com wrote a summary of the speech.

 

Everything We Thought We Knew About B2B Marketing is Wrong

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What company do customers feel most connected to emotionally?

Apple?  Nope.  Amazon?  Sorry.  It must be Nordstrom’s then, right?  Not even close. To find the company that has the strongest emotional connection with customers, you have to leave the consumer world behind.  Blows your mind, doesn’t it.

According to new research from Google and the CEB, customers are more emotionally connected to B2B brands, and it’s not even close.  The company customers say that they are most emotionally connect to is…Cisco.

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Why?  Well, it’s about understanding risk.  The more risk involved with a purchase decision, the higher the likelihood of an emotional connection.  Increase the variables related to risk (e.g. losing a job, wasting corporate investments) and you have the ingredients for an emotionally involved buyer.   Personal risks peak when others are counting on you to make the right decision and the stakes are highest.

How did Cisco become number 1?  It has to do with Cisco’s ability to reduce risk with buyers.  Forrester ‘s Evaluate Your Channel Partner Loyalty Program, surveyed over 250 hi-tech business partners to understand the drivers of loyalty.  Partners were asked to select the reason/s “why their most strategic vendor is their most important vendor” (see the table below).

Screen Shot 2013-10-27 at 6.57.52 PMPartners, buyers of Cisco gear, selected Cisco for the strength of the relationship, despite that fact that Cisco was also the most profitable vendor (established earlier in the research).  Cisco partners value the relationship more highly than other partners, 26% more.

The reason is related to how Cisco is able to create and communicate what the CEB and Google research describes as “personal value” consisting of four parts; professional, social, emotional and self-image benefits.  Some of which are communicated, others realized through the customer experience.  For example, existing customers understand the “personal value” associated with an existing vendor 2X that of non-customers.

Cisco has built a strong “personal value” equation by investing heavily in their partner’s success.  It supports them professionally through training and certification programs.  Invest in the brand to support the emotional bond and self-image, and in sales and marketing activities to drive demand.

All of which reduces the risk associate with failure, be it personally or professionally.  And in return, they trust Cisco with their livelihood, valuing the “Relationship” above rational drivers, like profits and revenue.

Getting Personal and Emotional

How can we leverage this insight?  To start, focus on better communicating “personal value” to non-customers.  The research found that brand messaging connects with buyers early on, but the excitement wanes over time as we move down the buyer journey into the evaluation phases.

The rational brain takes over to assess risk, and the complications associated with the purchase, at this point as much as 50% of the potential deals stall or fall out of the process.  Risk impacts their initial positive emotions, and unfortunately, we don’t much to help them.

To counter those feelings engage them with personal-value messaging, go beyond just using feature/functionality language (functional benefits) to describe products or services by combining the emotional and self-expressive benefits as well (see below).

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Like Cisco, understand how your products or services impact buyers.  Does it make them feel “smarter” by having the latest technology, or more “secure” in their role.  Although buyers are individuals with unique personalities, and should be treated that way, they most likely share the same fears, uncertainties, and doubts we have in our roles.

Get to know them, like you know yourself.  Stop assume they are always rational and buy on price and/or functionality.  And finally, realize that there are customers who are emotionally connected to your brand, and/or highly value their relationship with your organization, and when they say that they “love your product or company”…they actually might just mean it.

6 Tips to Better Market Yourself on LInkedin

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Linkedin’s stock opened at $45 a year and a half ago, it now sits at $120.  Unlike Facebook, one of the primary reasons it has done so well is that it found its’ “killer app”early on, and built a business model around it.

For recruiters, Linkedin is the largest (now 200 million members) and most current database of business professionals in the world.  For job seekers, it’s a portal into new opportunities, connections and references.

To learn more about its capabilities as a recruiting tool, we posted an open account supervisor position for our DC office on Linkedin. The resumes have been sent directly to me for the past month.  Unfiltered by a recruiter or HR person, I got a direct shot of the power of Linkedin.  As the hiring manager, I learned a good deal about using the tool, and how job candidates can better marketing themselves for posted positions.

Because of the volume generated by Linkedin, hiring managers have the luxury of trying to find exactly what they are looking for without having to dig too hard to find it.  We quickly scan the email summary and the attachments.  As a result candidates need to:

  1. Read the job description – hiring and HR managers spend a great deal of time defining the role.  Take the time to adapt your resume to highlight those areas that best match what we are looking for don’t make us connect the dots because we won’t…we’re already on to the next candidate.
  2. Customize your cover letter – tell us why you’re the right candidate for the position in the cover letter, especially if you can’t link it on your resume. Make a compelling case as to why we should spend additional time looking at your resume and background.  A generic cover letter is a waste of time and a sure way to take yourself out of the race.
  3. Know that we will check you out – if we find someone we like, we’ll spend time checking your Linkedin profile (beyond the email summary below) our current and former employers, as well as your social profile.  For example, a person that caught my attention was eliminated from the process because I couldn’t find their last two employers on the web.  The learning – companies go out of business or are acquired all the time, make sure your resume reflects or notes that change.  We will “Google” you.  Slide1
  4. Brands count – recruiting firms use key word searches to pull resumes.  As for me, I scanned resumes also looking for those “key words.”  Again, because of the need for speed certain words “pop.”  Brand name companies caught my attention (whether the candidate worked for them or had them as a client).  Schools you attended, the types of skills you have, and your accomplishments, especially if they were award winning.  I also took notice of the number of Linkedin connections and references…it does matter, I’m looking for a good marketer.
  5. Using a connection/s worksleverage your Linkedin connections to find a common link to the hiring manager or job poster for an introduction.  I trust the recommendations of people that I’ve worked with in the past.  As a result, do your homework. The closer the connection to the hiring manager or recruiter the better chance it will get you noticed.
  6. What does not workI found the executive education programs to be confusing.  It took too much of my time to figure out if you graduated or only took a class.  Consider moving the later under skills or experience rather than putting in education.  I also found resumes that were more than 2 pages too long to read.  A summary is a good to have upfront, but don’t go beyond more than a third of the page.  Get into your experience quickly.

Talent is the lifeblood of an agency…for that matter most companies.  What you think, say and produce grows our business.  We need you, and we have jobs.  Help make it easier for us to find you, link your experience and expertise to our needs.  Hurry, I need someone…like yesterday.

The Disappearing Sales Process

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Twenty-five years ago, I was a snot-nosed kid out of college who suddenly decided that law school was not in the future.  With a recession on, and needing to pay the rent, I took the first job offered and went into sales.

Having learned nothing about the profession in college, I picked up a copy of Miller Heiman’s Strategic Selling — still have a dog-eared copy on my bookshelf.  I learned everything I could about the buyer types, account management, and the sales process.  “Know the process work the process,” as my first sales manager used to say.

Typically, that process came down to 5-to-7 steps that generally covered the following areas below.

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Over the years, I found that working the process helped give you sense of control.  It came down to the numbers; calls, leads, transaction sizes or conversion rate.  Call on X number of qualified prospects to get Y amount of proposals, at Z close rate, and you made bonus.

But, research from Google and CEB entitled The Digital Evolution in B2B Marketing provides new insight into buyer behavior, and it challenges the conventional wisdom.  According to the study, customers reported to being nearly 60% through the sales process before engaging a sales rep, regardless of price point.   More accurately, 57% of the sales process just disappeared.

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What are buyers doing if they’re not talking to sales?  Well, they’re surfing corporate websites to identify and qualify vendors, instead of the sales forces qualifying them.  They are engaging peers in social media to learn more about their needs, potential solutions, and providers.  And they’re reading, listening to, and watching free digital content that is available to them at the click of a mouse.  No longer is the sales force the sole source of information.

What does this mean for sales and marketing? 

The study recommends focusing efforts in three areas; 1) improve marketing communication integration, 2) develop and activate a content strategy, and 3) strengthen multichannel analytics.  Nothing new or breakthrough here, but the study provides good examples of how companies are executing against each point.

However, I found a number of other points to take from the research.

  1. It is not all bad news – for products or services with low price points and/or margins, having customers self direct themselves through the sales process can help reduce the cost of sale and/or create leverage for the sales force.  In fact, in certain situations an organization will want to encourage and/or incent this behavior.  The research also found that some customers felt comfortable going through 70% of the process before making contact.
  2. Changing buying behavior – an old manager used to say that technology changes fastest, then consumer buyer behavior, and eventually, organizations.  The “57%” stated in the research makes for a good sound bite; the fact is, that number will vary, greatly by customers, transaction, industry, etc.  The point is that change is a constant; the question is how far ahead or behind is your sales and marketing efforts? Are you keeping pace?  The second question is, how would you know?
  3. Content Distribution – as the study notes, the sales force is still the most effective and important communication channel.  When developing the content strategy ensure that the best and/or most valuable content is not in the public domain, reserve it for the sales force.
  4. Time to Take Social Media Seriously – with well-informed prospects, sales reps have to quickly learn what buyers know or perceive about the organization, products/services and competitors.  Social media can help them better understand what is motivating buyers to take action, what buyers believe to be true, and perhaps most importantly, who they believe.

The Future

Business decision makers will continue to drive their buyer process deeper into the sales process.   As a result, relevant content will continue to escalate in value, especially content related to consideration and purchase drivers, and the business application of the product or service.

Social media and monitoring has helped many marketing organizations understand this trend and to make the transition from being content “dictators” to information “facilitators.”

For sales, the research may be an epiphany.  No longer can it be successful focusing solely on an inwardly directed process intended for reporting and planning purposes.

With ever-increasing knowledgeable buyers waiting longer to engage, sales has to transition from being a “product pusher” following a process, to an insight “provider” adding value to the buyers business.  As the study states, sales must deliver “pointed insights and evidence that seek to challenge an entrenched point of view among potential customers.”

Finally, it is time to recognize that we’re not in control, and perhaps we never were.  The traditional sales process is now obsolete; it is now time to follow the buyers’ journey.

HACKED

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On June 5th my blog was hacked and deleted.  The perpetrator got my password as a result of the Linkedin hacking.  He (definitely male and most likely, a college student) then hi-jacked my url, redirecting traffic to a college message board.

In what must have been an entertaining night of mischief, he destroyed seven years of laborious work (first post November 15, 2006).  He stole content, fooled Google, and for the coup du gras, put a ransom note in the call to action “this domain is for sale.”   Apparently, this wasn’t his first, or probably last, hack job.

What I’ve learned from the experience:

  • You get what you pay for when it’s free – up until this point, I have been using free blogging tools to post and host my blog via Blogger (a Google company).  There is no customer services phone number to call, and no one to respond to messages on the Google Product Forums Help Center.  You’re on your own, and if something happens hope that some other user has experienced the same issue, solved it and is willing to respond to your request.   I’m now paying for a hosted service…lesson learned.  Also, recommend this path to other bloggers out there.
  • Good people – thank you to everyone that notified me that my blog was down.  Albeit, painful to receive a tweet or message from a reader trying to access the blog, I do appreciate you notifying me.  Also, special thanks to Ryan DeShazer, a former colleague, and good friend, for helping me navigate this mess.
  • Change your password – often, and use multiple variations.  I learned that lesson the hard way.  For tips for creating a secure password click here.
  • The Internet is the wild west – even though I know the profile of the person who hacked my site, it’s virtually impossible for me to identify him and/or to do anything to punish him.  There are no cyber police.  My blog is “digital personal property” and he destroyed it.  The fact is that bad people exist, and those who destroy rather than create, are the lowest of the low.  So be careful out there.

Bare with me, this is going to take a while.  As I am rebuilding the site I will be posting from the latest post to the most recent. Not all post will be published; this will be a “best of” approach.  That said; if there is a post that you’d like to see please let me know.

Onward.