B2B sales: The downfall

In this article, we discuss how different sectors such as banking and accounting were affected by the growth of digital transformation. We emphasise  the impact digital transformation has on sales. The B2B sale sector was considered to some extent protected from the transformation wave. But it somehow appears to be hit by this phenomenon too, in a big way. Actually, there are two sides to this story that are debatable. 

B2B sales impacted by digital transformation and Big Data

On the one hand, B2B sales is said to be resilient, since it is based on one-to-one contact and individual salesmanship. 10 years ago, famous author and researcher Bernard Cova told me that a B2B brand appears to be less important than a B2C brand. He believed then that the contact with the salesperson at the time of the purchase was a definite advantage, as opposed to B2C. What he meant by that is that it doesn’t matter if your brand changes or even disappears, as long as there’s someone to explain it to customers. In a way, what Bernard said is true. In fact, a small consulting firm like ours, is able to gain the trust of big accounts. It’s simply true because of our capabilities to explain and deliver services to clients in earnest, based on our expertise.

Ironically, buyers dislike salespeople, but they love to buy from them

Nevertheless, all that Bernard Cova told me 10 years ago is no longer entirely true anymore today. B2B sales is changing completely, in all types of markets (lower-end, mid-tier and high-end markets). Ironically, buyers dislike salespeople, but they love to buy from them.

B2B sale
B2B sales caught in a downward spiral

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Intuit: the social media manager who found his job with social media

Intuit is a company offering business financial solutions for small businesses. It has been awarded great distinctions including the great place to work award by Fortune. This presentation was delivered by Björn Ühss, global social media manager at Intuit at the useful social media conference which took place in London last week. It was about the changing landscape and mindset of Social Media:

image

[Björn Ühss, in the background, behind Amber Hayward, became Social Media manager after targetting his future employer via LinkedIn adds]

“One of the things that changed is that social media reached the C-suite and it’s more and more of a priority. At Intuit it is coming from the CEO, it’s a business decision” Björn Ühss said. “It’s not a marketing decision and it concerns everyone in the company” he added.

According to Ühss, Edelman ranked Intuit quite high in the hierarchy of companies using social media too. “Starbucks has issued numbers whereby 38% of their fans are more likely to visit the stores when they have seen a branded message” Björn Ühss went on. “Social Media has now reached considerable scales. Besides, Facebook has now become a giant and is on a buying spree like former high tech giants were a few years ago”.

The presenters stressed that the recent IBM CEO 2012 study predicted that in five years’ time, CEOs will be hired not only on their credentials but on their ability to manage their e-reputation and that of their company.

Björn Ühss gave us his check-list on how he got social media implemented at Intuit:

  1. How social is your CEO? lead by example
  2. is your culture ready?
  3. who are your social media supporters?
  4. where are your customers?
  5. what data can you use?

Intuit has also managed to make social media work for sales with £99 sale add campaigns (“despite what people say” both presenters emphasised).

But the most interesting thing maybe is that Björn Ühss himself found his job with the help of social media. He posted adds targeting Intuit executives until they thought to themselves “we’ve got to hire that guy” Intuit’s Amber Hayward, social media marketing manager concluded.

SAP: convincing the CFO that B2B social media can be a benefit

$-largeLast week I had the chance to bump into Sarah Goodall from SAP; I was very pleased to see her at the usefulsocialmedia conference in London one year after being acquainted with her at a marketing conference in London. Sarah is one of our best social media practitioners in the B2B world and I was lucky enough to sneak out of the B2C session and switch rooms to listen to her. Her presentation was about how to convince your CFO about the benefit of social media. Not an easy task, but Sarah knows how to circumvent the issue; here is how:

Sarah Goodall looks after social media for EMEA and she presented on June 26th at the usefulsocialmedia conference in London. “How can social media generate value? I haven’t got all the answers!” Sarah said as an introduction, but she has a few clues which she wanted to share with us.

sarahgoodall

Sarah has worked for small and large companies and knows “how to make things work on a tight budget”. SAP sells software and services to businesses; it is forty years old and it comes from “a traditional marketing background” Sarah said, and moving into social business “is a true cultural shift”. Hence, social media “came as a shock” to SAP according to her and “it helped [them] turnaround the sales cycle” Sarah went on. What it means is that there has been more emphasis on posting content on where customers are getting it rather than push that content over to them. Therefore, the transition is to inbound Marketing “even though we are not there yet” Sarah said, very honestly. “Outbound still represents twice the budget which is spent on inbound marketing” she added.

How to attribute social influence to revenue?

At the very heart of the business, there is the owned SAP community, using Jive internally and an external community with customers. On top of that, there are channels which aren’t owned by SAP such as LinkedIn, Slideshare, Facebook, Twitter etc. The SAP community network is fairly known outside of SAP, and is 3 million big nowadays. “A lot of bloggers are contributing in this community, most of them aren’t part of SAP by the way” Sarah added.

On external platforms, SAP have enough fans to fill in football stadiums several times “but this is still not sufficient for CFOs!” she said. Hard facts are required, more arguments needed. So what will it take to drive the point home? “What the CFO is interested in is the impact on customer value, and the bottom line and it’s tough, I’m not going to lie” Sarah said.

secret sauce

So here are a few of Sarah’s secret recipes for getting CFOs to buy in to social media:

  • Potential cost of R&D saved: if you use the comments and the voting and offset that against the money saved on R&D, this is tremendous. There is also a cost of loyalty and there are savings which can be made.
  • Social commerce: this is a little more tricky because “the SAP sales process doesn’t quite work like that” Sarah said. SAP tried to embed links in LinkedIn and experimented on how Facebook posts can lead to a registration. “It’s not enough to generate revenue” she said “it’s not an exact science but it’s enough to uncover value”. There are also chance engagements, they don’t happen very often, but when a potential customer has been turned into a customer later then it is a great achievement.
  • Social intelligence: “this is a little bit more woolly” Sarah said but you can try and get insights from social media, and it can be shown that click-through-rates can be influenced through social media.
  • Social insight: social media is also useful in order to measure brand health. SAP is monitoring what users are saying about  SAP and their competitors. “There aren’t any numbers but it is useful” Sarah said.
  • Sapphirenow: this is the biggest business conference which is organised by SAP. In Orlando, 15% of twitter handles of delegates were identified, and 25% followed the @sapphirenow Twitter handle. “This is still early stage Sarah said but it is very useful to tie to something related to business and prove it’s useful” Sarah said.
  • Social efficiency: social media saves a lot of money on support and reduces significantly the amount of inbound calls SAP is getting for support. SAP mentors are SAP’s brand advocates and “this is media which can’t be paid for” meaning that it is invaluable. SAP also launched a #suithugger hashtag which brought amazing results.

the right metrics

As a conclusion, Sarah said that “you would have to “communicate the right metrics to the right audience. Don’t show clicks and followers to CEOs! Show how social media is impacting productivity. You can’t really talk of the ‘ROI of Facebook’” Sarah warned.

Pearls of wisdom … does anyone have anything to add to this? I don’t.

10 Major Trends In Corporate Social Media Management (2/2)

http://oran.ge/10smtrends

This is part 2 of a two-part piece dedicated to the major trends in coroporate social media management, which will serve as a basis for my presentation in Bucharest at the ronewmedia digital conference due to take place on May 16th, 2012. I will use my 5 years of practice in that field at Orange and dwell on some of the major trends impacting Social Media and its management in large corporations. My presentation will highlight these trends which will be illustrated with real life examples taken from the field.

[photo Yann Gourvennec, cc 2012 http://bit.ly/picasayann]

Trend number 6: clients want direct interaction to take place on social media 

We have been debating about social CRM for quite a while now. It has always been my view that there was no such thing as social CRM but that it had to be a means for customer relationship to add one more channel to its current toolbox. However, this is more than just an additional channel. It is a channel which forces customer relationship management departments to better handle customer requests and complaints. On social media, it is no longer possible to hide direct interaction. It is immediately visible to all. At the same time, a survey carried out by orange business services in France has shown that the requirement for customers to interact with real people is of paramount importance to these customers. I see this as a real opportunity to make “social CRM” really useful insofar as it is happening in real time and cannot be hidden or postponed and therefore thi fulfils the requirement expressed  by customers.

Trend number 7: enterprise social networks are certainly the future, but we are not there yet

The future of social media isn’t where you believe it is. The internal part of enterprise collaboration (aka enterprise social networks) is probably the line of business on which the biggest numbers will be made at least according to Gartner. There is no doubt that you will hear far less noise about the new version of SharePoint or Lotus Notes or blueKiwi than the recent takeover of instagram by Facebook (see trend number 10). However, we’re still a long way from implementing social networks inside organisations in a seamless manner. Such implementations are fraught with social issues (often, it’s employees who actually feel reluctant to use internal social networks rather than management, and the latter are sometimes unable to explain that internal social networks are here to help them and not spy on them) as well as many implementation issues. It is far from being accessory. For people like me in charge of external social networks and websites, the use of the internal social network is of paramount importance if one wants to find help and support internally. Things are moving forward but a lot remains to be done  and things are far from being perfect. As often, technology isn’t the major issue.

Trend number 8: turning one’s employees – not just community managers – into brand advocates

Working with external bloggers is nice, having community managers who have become experts in the facilitation of social media communities is not bad either, training one’s communications managers on the use of second generation web collaboration techniques and platforms is also nice (and Orange is doing this and I am actually the sponsor of this initiative), but we cannot think that we have achieved our goals until we have managed to convince most of our staff to become – if they so wish – our brand advocates. In our case, it is particularly challenging given the fact that we are 170,000 employees around the world, scattered around more than 35 countries, and 220 countries and territories if we include Orange Business Services. This is why I believe in this initiative that we are launching at this moment, which we are naming “social media champions”, the details of which are explained on our social media guidelines page online: http://orange.com/smg

Trend number 9: social media strategists will have to / must deal with the proliferation of social media platforms, due to peer pressure and self-fulfilling prophecies initiated online and/or by the Press   

This isn’t as easy as it seems. Everyday or so, a new platform is born, which creates a huge buzz on the web and puts considerable pressure on web teams within large organisations. Can we, or can we not, ignore Pinterest for instance? Depending on our line of business, positioning, or even just the number of resources that are available to us, the response to that question may vary; yet there is a strong probability that you will not be able to evade the question, for fear of being taken for a twit or a has-been, or even because of internal pressure too. Yet, with the hardening of the current crisis, we would probably have to learn how to say no… human resources and time cannot be expanded without limits even though our “champions” (see trend number eight) can help.

Trend number 10: the new bubble is coming, the signs are worrying

During the first dot com bust, between the year 1999 and 2001, there was no shortage of pundits who would tell you, a calculator in their hands, that the so-called “new economy” was real and that the gross market cap over evaluations of the period were justified. The fact of the matter is that they were right insofar as there was really something new happening for which many of the benefits are only reaped nowadays. However, there were wrong in the evaluation of certain companies, and they had even lost common sense in more than many cases. We now know what happened next. To a large extent, this is also what we are witnessing today. There is no question as to the amazing success of Facebook, even to a certain extent as a platform for advertising. I am still flabbergasted however to see the Facebook – or any of the other platforms – is not trying to make money out of the numerous brands which are now thriving on their platforms whereas in fact it would make perfect sense for an enterprise to pay for the service as it offers considerable publicity for them and helps maintain the service. A premium version of Twitter for instance, which would offer multilingual support, would be something I’d be ready to pay for because we need it. Yet, the battle has shifted to the stock market, IPOs and new Web entrepreneurs who make no money but are ready to “flip it” as  they say in the Valley. People never learn. The valuation of Facebook itself at anything between $90-$100 billion seems over the top. Even the fact that the company (even before it launched on the NASDAQ) has been able to take over Instagram (and God knows I love Instagram) for $1 billion even though it is only made of less than 10 people and hasn’t started to generate a penny worth of revenue is a worrying sign that something wrong is happening … again; naysayers would probably say that a bubble his buying another bubble … Sensible Web managers have to look after this kind of things and prepare for the future, that is to say protect themselves from current excesses as well as future excesses in any direction. Despite what people think, Web assets are developed in the long run, not with platforms which come and go; stability is of the essence.

10 Major Trends In Corporate Social Media Management (1/2)

http://oran.ge/10smtrends

8 years after its introduction – and a few name changes – Corporate Social Media can no longer be considered as an innovation. We have clearly hit the third wave of its implementation in Corporate environments, that is to say the structuring of collaborative web initiatives in order to scale in multi-billion dollar companies (and smaller companies. In this piece which will serve as a basis for my presentation in Bucharest at the ronewmedia digital conference due to take place on May 16th, 2012. I will use my 5 years of practice in that field at Orange and dwell on some of the major trends impacting Social Media and its management in large corporations. My presentation will highlight these trends which will be illustrated with real life examples taken from the field.

[diagram: 3 stages in social media, Kabla & Gourvennec, 2011]

First and foremost, it has to be confirmed that this is definitely the end of the beginning of social media in large enterprises. Almost 10 years after the invention of Web 2.0 and its deployment in enterprises, brands are no longer toying with the idea of jumping on the band waggon, but are rather busy at structuring and streamlining their initiatives. In our book (“social media talked to my boss” published in Paris in 2011, the English adaptation of which is in progress, the working title being “social media from the trenches”), Hervé Kabla and myself were already emphasising the need for a third stage in the implementation of social media (structuring).

This statement is even more true nowadays with the advent of a second wave of a very serious European economic crisis, to a certain extent a lot deeper and harder than the one that struck in 2009, even though the numbers related to the growth in GDP are – so far – less ominous. As a matter of fact, that crisis is beginning to wear thick on the allocation of marketing budgets (even though digital is still considered low cost by most) and to an extent it is a good opportunity to streamline our processes and curb a few excesses.

As we are working towards this streamlining phase, which is definitely on the agenda at Orange where I manage social media and digital for the group, I feel 10 major trends coming to the fore in 2012. Here they are, in random order, based on my experience in the field:

trend number 1: mobile devices/iPad (and not tablets) are becoming obligatory, whether you like it or lump it

this statement is less obvious than it may seem. I have noticed as I was attending many meetings with my peers in the digital world recently, that few actually knew how many of their users were looking at their websites via a mobile device. Facts and figures related to my website orange.com (anything between 1.2 and 1.5 million monthly uniques) are however very clear: since 2011, it’s more than 15% of our users who have gone mobile. Yet, something new has happened in that area. I mean the proportion of iPads (and I don’t mean tablets in general) which are being used by our readers. In essence, twice as many iPads as there are iPhones, in themselves by far the most used of smartphones as far as our readers are concerned! Without judging, the amount of the audience using android devices is very fragmented, non-iPad tablets being completely invisible in my statistics. These numbers are not neutral when it comes to designing websites or adapting social media platforms for brand purposes, and let alone when it comes to the socialisation of traditional websites which is another major trend which we have observed (per below).

Trend number 2: content marketing is no longer a gadget, it has become central to our strategies

I often tell the story about my beginnings at orange business services when I started to introduce business blogging and started recruiting experts among our ranks. The first few reactions which I got at the time were “we are not the New York Times!” Whereas I do agree with that statement and wouldn’t even venture to compare blogs to eminent news pages, everybody who’s been working in the web industry for at least a little while understands that the web is fuelled with content. Internet content, and particularly user generated content (UGC) has become central to our content driven strategies nowadays and is no longer debated. This is the case also at Orange where we have been able to impose many of these platforms such as orange – innovation.TV, the feed (UK), le collectif (France), as well as live.orange.com and very soon orange inside which will be available directly on the main orange.com portal (see our major trend devoted to curation). Not to mention the Orange Business Services blog which I created more than four years ago. These sources of information are now part of our communications landscape, are no longer seen as a gadget, and are directly incorporated within the enterprise and embedded in its DNA.

Trend number 3: social media has changed the way one hires new employees … for ever

Due to sociological, structural and organisational changes, the good old resume has become largely obsolete. In Canada alone more than 90% of jobseekers are using social media to find for a new employer. There is no reason why employers, this side of the Atlantic or anywhere else, should do anything else either. At a time when Monster is going through a rough patch, one could actually say that LinkedIn has killed the traditional resume and the way that one used to look for a job in the past. I won’t complain about it personally. I have always found degrading the practice of sending one’s curriculum vitae through the post so that it would end up in an unknown anonymous pile of 2000 resumes.

Social media and e-reputation now enable employees to “sell” themselves online, without having as if they were brands. Eight years after its release, LinkedIn is now slowly but surely becoming the world’s online and rich media resume. To a large extent this changes the way companies too are using social media, and the impact on HR strategies being driven by digital and how they attract new candidates is of paramount importance.

Tools like LinkedIn, Viadeo, Xing and Vkontakte in Russia and even Facebook are becoming unavoidable.

trend number 4: curation (in the noble sense of the term) can become a major asset for companies which are into content marketing

“curation”, is not a term of which I have always been fond. In the beginning, curation very often meant that people would actually steal your content using RSS feeds not quote the author and plonk the content back into their own blogs or platforms, without having to pay tribute to anyone. Whenever you came back to them they would answer something like “Oh! there is nothing I can do about it, this is just the platform you know; it’s automatic!” Even though the statement was feeble, there was indeed very little you could do about it. However, may be with a little help from the Google penguin (and before Panda) algorithm, one managed to do away with most of content aggregation platforms, and now original content is back on the agenda; content producers can at last reap the harvests they have sown. As a matter of fact, certain platforms have either disappeared or been taken over (like summify which was taken over by Twitter and for which new user registrations are now closed) while others have matured considerably. I would for instance dwell on the scoop’it platform, a Franco-American start-up, which has always taken great care at promoting original content through its curation technology rather than steal it. In early June 2012, Orange will release a new curation platform powered by Scoop’it in order to fuel is brand-new inside orange dynamic site. There will be a dual stage curation process on Insife Orange : first aggregating internal Orange content throughout the world (23 different RSS feeds) and second proposing external content curated by the team. Platform will be available at inside.orange.com.

Trend number 5: beyond the fan page

a year ago, I was already announcing that the future would not be for brands to develop bigger and bigger and bigger fan pages, even though some analysts are still stuck with a measurement of the number of fans on brand names therefore triggering a silly competition for which customers pay very little interest. Engagement rates on these fan bases are smaller and smaller, and the bigger the fan base, the smaller the engagement rate. With the advent of Facebook timeline, discussions are now even less visible on brand fan pages. The future will be about the capitalisation on such discussion platforms in order to create second to none content, which readers would want to share on their own spaces. This has now become reality on most content websites which already incorporate what is now known as Facebook opengraph and Facebook connect (not to mention Twitter and LinkedIn connect etc). Sharing buttons are now trivial and are not even part of the debate any more. Even though it has taken us a little bit of time to implement it (in fact we didn’t just change the website, we overhauled the entire platform), this vision is really central to the new orange.com website which we will release at the end of May, as well as it enhancements in mid June.

to be continued on Visionary Marketing …