Content marketing in UK and Europe: mind the Gap!

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There has been questions in certain European countries with regard to how widespread the adoption of contact marketing on the continent could have been (cf. this piece on my French blog, translated into English by the Google robot). Although undeniable progress has been made in the past few years over here in that respect, and though we may even consider content marketing to be a staple of marketing and especially B2B marketing, it is debatable that the adoption of content marketing in certain European countries is ubiquitous and fully understood.

Considering that, in France for instance, 70% of small businesses websites are never updated (source: Marketing PME’s Serge Henri Saint Michel), we can surmise that there is definitely room for improvement.

I found the following survey from the content marketing Institute which shows the huge gap between what we witness in Europe and what is happening in the United Kingdom. The vast majority of UK B2B companies, either large or small, have all embraced content marketing (95% of the B2B companies having responded to the survey have, even though the sample is very small but varied).

Mind the Gap!

Let us make that point clear: the sample is very small, and we have to remain cautious; but at least one feels that there is a major trend and one more European divide in the making. Whereas, on the continent, I am still battling with certain people about the fact that white papers, for instance, are useful devices (I still hear stuff like “White papers serve no purpose!”), in the United Kingdom, this kind of tactics has been embraced fully and totally incorporated within marketing thinking.

Besides, it is only subcontracted by 55% of the sample. There is one more caveat beyond the size of that survey sample though, and it’s that most interviewees are not always satisfied with the results: approximately half of them rate the results of content marketing as average. One assumption would be that competition on content marketing is very harsh in Britain, and the English-speaking world in general, and that doing things differently in English is a lot more exacting than with other, less represented languages on the Internet.

Obviously, in order to stand out from the crowd, A lot of thinking has to be put into your content beforehand . There is a paradox that the areas where people think that whitepapers aren’t any good, are in fact those where it is a lot easier to produce and promote them than it is in Britain, where adoption is broad but competition is fierce. I can predict that a lot will happen in the B2B arena in the near future, at least on the continental side of the Channel.

innovation : what new really means? the data center robotics example

eye-large_thumb.gifWe’ve already asked this question many times. What is innovation? What does it mean to build/sell/buy something “new”. And inevitably, as we ask this question, we leave a door open to interpretation. “innovation is in the eye of the beholder” I sometimes add. What seems obvious with consumer products however, is also true of technological products for businesses ; sometimes, “new” means “only better/faster” and it doesn’t have to be bad … this should make you think next time you shrug you shoulders while hearing “incremental innovation”.

What prompted this blog post is a piece found at datacenterknowledge.com which describes the data center of tomorrow. Or rather, it was some of the comments underneath (sometimes rather harsh) about whether that was or wasn’t new. The bone of contention was the following: while the author contends that future datacenters will be fully automated, the illustration of the Google data center he chose was dismissed by one of the readers as not being that new. True enough, I delved into Youtube and found quite a few old videos describing fully automated storage robots like this one:

And fully automated data centers aren’t to be seen in the future, they are already up and running as in Amazon glacier’s example. In this instance, backup and retrieval is performed by Amazon using a robotic tape library: “when you make a retrieval request, a robotic arm grabs the tape with your data in, slots the tape into a drive, and then your data will be transferred to a hard drive ready for you to access”. All is done in a 3-5 hour window and the principle is that you pay for data retrieval, while data storage is dirt cheap.

Yet, what Bill Kleyman describes is something entirely different. Instead of small robotised data storage room, he believes that whole data centers could be robotised on a massive scale, therefore making it possible for vertical as opposed to horizontal expansion. This is a new revolution I believe. Well… maybe. I first visited Whirlpool’s washing machine automated vertical storage warehouse in … 1986! Robots were moving up and down the alleys at breakneck speed and were able to store products and parts anywhere and very fast indeed. Whether you can apply this to a data center makes no doubt to me, and is certainly a step forward in better and faster data center management. Once again, innovation isn’t always about disruption, it is often about making things better.

innovation in the data center: how robotics is changing the game

The Robot-Driven Data Center of Tomorrow Tape libraries, like this one at Google, provide an example of the use of robotics to manage data centers. Robotic arms (visible at the end of the aisle) can load and unload tapes. (Photo: Connie Zhou for Google) There is an evolution happening within the modern data center. Huge data center operators like Google and Amazon are quietly redefining the future of the data center. This includes the integration of robotics to create a lights-out, fully automated data center environment. Let’s draw some parallels. There’s a lot of similarity between the modern warehouse center and a state-of-the-art data center. There is an organized structure, a lot of automation, and the entire floor plan is built to be as efficient as possible. Large organizations like Amazon are already using highly advanced control technologies – which include robotics – to automate and control their warehouses.

via The Robot-Driven Data Center of Tomorrow.

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:

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[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.

Hitachi: making social media work for B2B

Sharon Crost is Global Online Marketing and Social Media Manager at Hitachi Data Systems and she delivered what I believe is one of the most inspiring presentations on March 27 at Blogwell in San Francisco and it’s no surprise to me ( who already made a presentation at an earlier edition of Blogwell in Atlanta a couple of years ago) that B2B is one of the major targets for social media. Here is why, in 5 questions, asked by Sharon to the riveted Blogwell audience.

imageHDS products (left) are not sexy” was Sharon’s introduction to her pitch at Blogwell. It doesn’t seem very intuitive that social media could work out for products like that. Yet, it proved very rewarding for the storage and data recovery company. In just five questions, Sharon proved her case very compellingly. Here is my account of her punchy presentation.

Question 1: is social media a good investment?

Although many of the people in the room anticipated the answer to that question to be a “yes”, Sharon explained that they “were not so sure at first sight because it’ wasn’t an obvious thing”. So they “needed to test it out” she went on. Being a B2B company, they didn’t have much of a presence at first and even with a very small budget, which was used very effectively they managed to get some very good results.

They started with a test of a quiz campaign in which they tried to get people to engage on social media. The prize was a Hitachi LCD HD TV set. This campaign drew people to their social site to answer the quiz. Another campaign was the “globe campaign” and you had to spin the globe and click on the tweets, the whitepapers etc. A third one was entitled “a quest for scalability”…

Sharon concluded that first chapter by saying that “the first lesson is to think about what is socially sharable about your brand and this may not necessarily be your products!”.

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

Q2: if people aren’t in the target market, should you discourage them?

Her answer was neither yes or no this time. “In fact you have to be nice to everyone (you never know), but you have to treat them nicely but differently”. For people in our targets we let them win a “storage assessment” she added; those who won TV sets were kept happy but they weren’t forcibly part of HDS’ audience.

The current campaign is a storage mapping tool. People can still engage to win an iPad “but they aren’t the target audience” Sharon added. Target customers or prospective customers are also given a chance to opt-in for free information.

Q3: can you do that on a shoestring?

Sharon’s answer is a resounding Yes! (and all voted for that answer in the room). Earned is the most important part, but “paid” comes to amplify the message.

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Q4 which one works best? Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook?

The answer to that question is very counter-intuitive and it must be pointed out that it might very well work differently depending on the brand or mostly, where it’s based. The very footprint of Facebook in the US is making it unavoidable. And therefore, HDS found out that it was indeed Facebook which worked best for “with a small amount of money [they] could see the ROI for each channels and Facebook proved the more rewarding” je concluded.

Q5: what is the most obvious benefit for B2B?

There isn’t one answer to that question Sharon said, and she listed a number of benefits including

  • cheaper marketing
  • community of influencers
  • re-engage participants
  • better conversion results

The results for Hitachi Data Systems were tremendous and way above the initial goals. For whitepapers only, 9,000 of them were read said Sharon, a tremendous result when you think that most B2B companies will pay – not always wisely –  big money for doing this.

5 recommendations

Sharing issued her recommendations to B2B users:

  1. test, go out there and find out what social engagement means to you;
  2. segment your audience (target and non target audience). All you have to do is give them the option and let them choose what role they want to play ;
  3. you don’t need a large budget but be sure to amplify the impact of your campaigns;
  4. performance metrics are important (think Dashboard);
  5. social interactions must be nurtured, have fun and play games.

Q&A

is there an internal program at Hitachi Data Systems ?
There is an internal social media ambassador network. HDS wants to show its people they are encouraged to retweet, share the information and be twitter/Facebook champions. and they can also win an iPad. Sister Hitachi companies provide the freebies.

Japan
It’s not easy because they don’t have the same culture in Japan (it’s “closed versus open kimono” she said). They don’t want to respond to any tweets. A big struggle took place but they were able to show them the purpose and they eventually were retweeted but “you had to show them first that you respected their culture” Sharon concluded.

metrics
Hitachi Data Systems have a major social media dashboard which they publish twice a year and they use it to show stakeholders what major benefits and issues are at hand and how many clicks are generated for instance (like 9,000 on whitepapers and how much you’d have to pay for such clicks)

Chinese Internet industry ready to grow beyond borders (1/2)

chinese-flag-Internet Attribution Chinese flag photo, some rights reserved by Philip Jägenstedt

imageby Alban Fournier (http://www.value2020.net) QQ ID: 1557637787

Alban Fournier is a graduate from Essec Management School in Paris. He has proficiency in Management, Change Management, Marketing and Consulting services. He has worked on various engagements with Schneider Electric and Tencent, the leading Chinese Internet company.

China will be the World’s next Internet giant!

Which Internet company generates the greatest number of micro transactions for virtual goods on a daily basis? If they were asked this question, most of our Western readers would undoubtedly mention Google, or Facebook and they would be wrong. In this piece, I will explain why China is virtually the only country that is able to compete with the United States of America with regard to the growth of its Internet industry.

China has the world’s largest Internet audience thanks to its population, the world’s biggest with more than 1.3 billion people. With the strong increase of its Gross Domestic Product, extraordinary engineering talent, plenty of venture capital, Chinese entrepreneurs and large firms have now the resources to compete worldwide.

What makes the the Chinese market stand out is that Chinese people use intensively their mobile phones. They are not just using their devices to communicate with other people : they also play games, issue payments and perform many other things online.

Overall, Asia is ahead of us with regard to the usage of mobile devices, Japan and Korea being the most advanced countries. This high and ever growing usage of mobile communications empowers local players such as China Mobile (70% of the market), China Unicom (20%) and China Telecom (10%).

[China Telecom phone booth image AttributionNoncommercialShare Alikesome rights reserved by mjaniec]

According to CNNIC[1], the total number of wireless Internet users in China reached 302.7 million at the end of 2010, representing 66.2% of the local Internet user base. Such high equipment rates were mainly driven by the superior wireless data infrastructure in the country and the availability of mobile applications such as WAP portals, Instant Messaging (IM) and social games. Secondly, while traditional Text Messaging (SMS) continued to develop after a year of strong growth in 2009, microblogging enjoyed explosive growth and emerged as a major social media contender in China.

Telecom is still a local industry in China … as of now

A characteristic of the Chinese technology industry however is that few of those Chinese companies, however successful, have decided to go beyond their own borders. There are counter examples with firms like Huawei which has now managed to become a global company and has clients in many countries, namely by providing infrastructure equipment to Western network and service providers.

And the winner is … Tencent

Getting back to the question I asked at the beginning of this post, the World’s leading Internet company in terms of the number of online transactions on a daily basis is neither Google or Facebook; it is a Chinese company and is name is Tencent. The next part of this piece will be dedicated to their success story.

… to be continued.

________________ [1] http://www.cnnic.net.cn/