Social media adoption: Europe Seen from down under (1000heads’ @JoanneJacobs)

Social Media Adoption

We, in Europe, see ourselves as whingers (Britons are supposedly nicknamed “whingeing poms**” by Australians) and on both sides of the Channel, one keeps hearing complaints about this and that and the other. Yet, seen from down under I realised that our image and potential is probably a lot better than we think and that “old” Europe isn’t yet finished. I asked Joanne Jacobs who now leads 1000heads in Australia to share her view of Europe, social media adoption by businesses and also Asia. I have known Joanne for many years now. We met while she was based in England as part of the Like Minds alumni. Not only is she a social media expert but she is also a trained actor, able to deliver a pitch on stage, captivating hundred of people, with a timed presentation and … cracking jokes on the go without losing track! She came back to Australia over two years ago and we caught up with each other through Skype … despite time differences which, as you will see, are far from being abolished.

** “prisoners of her Majesty” for those who don’t know the joke…

Europe? More Internet savvy than we may think, Australian expert says (photo: antimuseum.com)

Interview of Joanne Jacobs of 1000 heads Australia

Now  that Facebook is 10 years old and LinkedIn 11 years old, what is your view of the status of social media in general?

Generally, I think we are living in a transition phase. The critical mass has been reached in terms of users but, there is still a lot more to teach of the actual benefits for the business community in terms of its adoption of social media. The business community is, generally speaking, fumbling in the dark. Either because they’ve been given the wrong advice, by people who are marketing themselves as social media experts, or they’ve been measuring the wrong thing. Lots of it comes down to the fact that businesses are used to measuring eyeballs across a marketing campaign and then they are not really thinking about how to engage with their audiences effectively. There is a great potential for the use of social media which has not yet been tapped into.

We are living through this transition phase but I think that it will change in the course of the next 5 years to 10 years. One will develop some degree of maturity as to what we should be measuring.

You relocated to Australia a couple of years ago what did you find?

I have to say, that coming back to Australia was very hard indeed for me. Never let it be said that technology overcomes the tyranny of distance. It doesn’t. And one of the main reason why doesn’t is that time zones exist. I was not able to communicate as effectively with the people and the networks that had built up in the UK and Europe. So, it was therefore very difficult for me to come back to an environment which was so isolated that it was effectively between 9 and 11 hours difference in terms of time zones. It was quite difficult too because, even though Australia is a technology savvy country, there are serious problems of interconnectivity here, the cost of broadband in this country is unbelievably expensive and the quality of the connections that we get is poor. So in terms of social media, the community was smaller, there is less engagement, and ironically, they are little communities in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Perth, but we are all disconnected from one another because it takes an hour to fly between Melbourne and Sydney and that’s one of the shortest journeys that we have in this country. So, even inside our own country, we suffer from the tyranny of distance.

You mentioned losing your Twitter following from the UK when you moved to Australia can you expatiate on that?

In many respects, that issue of losing my following was a product of those time zones differences. when you are no longer communicating regularly at least during working hours, with the people that you are engaging with, you will then lose followers because people will not be able to communicate with you any more nor share information nor participate in discussions. For me in particular it’s been really difficult to participate in online events that were happening in Europe or in the UK because they are always happening between 7:00 PM and 6:00 AM my time. By participating in those events, even remotely, you gain a lot of information from various subject matter experts. So, I lost a lot of followers that way and I also lost followers I believe because I started to communicate with other people in other interest areas and I had to communicate with a community locally, and as a result was considered less of an influencer in the areas and the markets and the audiences within my previously connected life.

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Content marketing in UK and Europe: mind the Gap!

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.

Retail: Marketforce Set to Improve European Shopping Experience … Beyond Big Data Dashboards

ideoshoppingcartMystery shoppers aren’t anything new; this marketing technique dates back from the 1940s. It was then used even before the term “marketing” had been coined. Yet, MarketForce, a US company with offices in Britain, and more recently in France and Spain, have begun to revolutionise the way mystery shopping surveys are carried out, thanks to crowdsourcing techniques and the extensive use of digital marketing.

MarketForce offers a piece of software in a software as a service model on which customers can actually build and look at their marketing data in real time. That in itself is very much in sync with what we can be seen with other companies doing big data and is not extremely innovative. But there is one area in which MarketForce is certainly going further than all the companies trying to improve big data usage, it is the way that they collect the data itself. As a matter of fact, much of the quality of the output of big data boils down to the way the information is collected originally. As the old IT adage points out: “garbage in, garbage out”.

Besides, There is something a little bit naive in all the big data craze at the moment, in believing that software alone could actually solve all the marketing issues that companies have regarding mostly CRM, and other subjects, just by the touch of a button. First and foremost, data quality and a clear objective are required. This is definitely what Marketforce have done by integrating the whole chain from data collection to data delivery. As a matter of fact, Marketforce is as much a research company a market research company as it is a big data company, and that is what makes it standout from the crowd in what can almost be described as a blue Ocean strategy.

Janet Eden Harris and Simon Boydell who answered our questions in Paris

Above all, they are using extensively digital marketing techniques (marketing automation, affiliates marketing, etc) to recruit genuine customers who help them carry out the research. As they set up shop in France and in the rest of Europe, where customer service is traditionally bad not to say appalling, MarketForce have provided a business case about French petrol stations (check 2013_Petro Findings France_SB_Final_Clean)  which shows the level of satisfaction even for such a straightforward kind of service. As they say, “okay is just not enough” and hopefully, this piece of research, and the service that MarketForce provides is a great assets for European companies to change their ways about how they keep customers satisfied which, in turn, will help them get through the crisis that we’re experiencing at the moment.

Let us develop this story, with Simon Boydell and Janet Eden Harris from MarketForce, whom I was able to interview in Paris a few weeks ago*.

mysteryshopper copy

cartoon by antimuseum.com

with Janet Eden Harris, CMO & SVP Strategy at Market Force Information  and Simon Boydell, Global Marketing Manager at Market Force Information

What is market force about?

Janet: we have a solution which provides the ability for big retailers to improve their business by focusing on customer satisfaction and the experience they have when they walk in the store.

Simon: we focus on retailers, leisure and hospitality providers, any business that has B2C contact with customers and that can be across all channels, so it’s not just in-store, it could be online, using the call centres, we will be collecting customer experience feedback across all those different channels.

A SaaS model: the knowledge force platform

Simon: our customer intelligence platform knowledge force is the central point for all clients. After login each client has individual tailored user access to the site so that they can access their results live and in real time so they can see exactly how the customers are feeling about the business. It does look like it’s built like a SaaS model but itis something which is very different from the other sorts of CRM systems that are out there. All information is produced and made available across all different devices; you can login and you see those dashboards, it’s not just a predetermined set of dashboards, we also have a series of reports that users can go in and use and create their own individual reports, so they can cut and analyse the data in their own way and at their own leisure.

Data collection: from mystery visits to social media

Simon: we have 600,000 genuine customers now, while going out and completing mystery visits for us and providing feedback on experiences they receive, we also operate customer satisfaction surveys which go out to any customer that the business has and it can feed the information straight back into our system and our customers get to see the results as they are happening, so they can always keep their finger on the pulse of the customer.

Janets: we can also pull out things such as social media data and we can tie in this data potentially with other data that is collected from other vendors and even our customers’ own financial data so that they can match them all together.

Ensuring consistency

Janet: how we do it boils down to the location level so that if I am a manager of that location I can look at the customer satisfaction data for that particular location as well as my mystery shoppers and any social media commentary so that I can take action. I can understand where we’re doing well, and I can also understand where we have to improve.

Recruiting genuine consumers

Simon: there are challenges, but a lot of it comes from the way we optimise our website for search in search engines; we have a variety of initiatives in a number of websites so get a lot of people involved too, looking to experience new and different things so that these people want to get paid to get to the places they enjoy going to already.

It’s a very small amount that there own but they do get reimbursed towards any products that their purchase, so you could say that this is almost a free night out, like going out for a meal out at a restaurant.

UK, France and Spain

Simon: we’ve have been based in the UK since 2003 and we have opened an office in Paris, and we also have one in Madrid and the decision has come by opportunity. We think we have to support businesses in France to get a better understanding of their customers, because in today’s economic climate, customer loyalty is of absolute importance, and we feel the insight we can provide and the data we can collect will really help businesses understand how they can drive that loyalty and where they should look to improve specifically in the business, that will drive future sales.

Business case on French petrol stations : “okay is not good enough!” (check 2013_Petro Findings France_SB_Final_Clean)

Simon: we have recently run a piece of research on a panel to get feedback on people’s experience of petrol stations in France and we are sharing this on the web right now. This highlights which stations people find to be the favourites, not only that, but also the reasons which drive them into these petrol stations, and what are the decisions they are making in those stations and what the opportunities for those retailers to understand whether the service is okay or not. The research highlights that “okay is not good enough!”. 3

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Customer experience in Europe? In the words of my old maths teacher … “could do better!” (excerpt from the Petrol Station research)

This piece of research was carried out with 1,500 consumers across France, evenly spread across ages, sex and the geography; yet our programs will vary depending on the sector.

What insights

Simon: the impact satisfaction can have on consumers on the likelihood to recommend is one of the areas of importance: if you score something like a 4/5, there is a big difference, the research highlights, with 5/5 satisfaction.

Customer experience

Price and convenience are always going to be important, that’s fairly natural but, it’s also about the service they receive in the stations, friendly and efficient service will always go along way in; whilst people might not especially expect it, when they receive it, it will make a very big difference to the customer’s experience.

About the company: a blue Ocean strategy

Our ambition is to help French businesses improve the service they give to their customers. We certainly intend to grow the business; we think we have a very exciting offer for the retailers, leisure and hospitality businesses, they are going to find that very exciting.

In terms of our competitors, we don’t have one single direct competitor, we have several competitors across the various disciplines and methodologies that we use.

We certainly intend to grow and invest into the business here in France, we intend to grow our team rapidly here and I think we’ll see a continuation of the success we’ve had in other countries, here.

Marketforce has 450 employees worldwide. In Europe, we have 156, is growing rapidly.

Janet: our revenues are about $60 million right now.

*note: this interview survived the theft all my belongings in July 2, including my notebook with all his notes. I reconstructed this interview from memory and using the sound bite which I recorded on condition

Sugar CRM: a European perspective


This is the third Sugar CRM executive to be interviewed by visionary marketing.com. My first interview took place two years ago with Larry Augustin, CEO and founder of the CRM company, who is also one of the people who coined the phrase: “open source”. After a brief Skype encounter with the company’s marketing executive Jan Sysmans last year, I now had the chance of spending some time with Tom Schuster, VP EMEA of Sugar CRM. Let’s see what’s happening in Europe with regard to the development of CRM usage in this exclusive interview with took place a few weeks ago.

Sugar CRM: less known than Salesforce but doing frightfully well

Larry had explained his plans 2 years ago and 2 years later, we can say that “he has delivered on his plan” Tom said. Sugar CRM has been through phenomenal growth and is becoming, according to him, the “fastest growing CRM company in the world”. So, what are the numbers? Sugar CRM grew by  52% in 2009-2010 and 67% 2010-2011 and the company has been cash positive since end of 2010. Whereas it is still less known than Salesforce, which was started in the 1990’s, Sugar CRM are broadly recognised. “It’ a fantastic company” Tom Schuster added, “ in 2012,  we are planning 100% growth in Europe!”  a foray into the high end market … with a little help from IBM

Sugar CRM is in its 7th year of operation. It is mostly active with mid market customers (i.e. with 100-150 users), but in the last 6 months the company generated more activity with higher end customers (those with 1000+ users). “This is a space we didn’t target at first, but in which we are definitely getting” stated Tom Schuster.

This hasn’t been quite left to chance though; for “Sugar CRM has a strong relationship with IBM and work very closely with them  in the field”. This is what is driving a lot of the growth. Tom has actually seen an acceleration of his business since Q4 2010. According to Tom, Sugar CRM is “now in 3rd position globally in terms of number of users, with Salesforce at the top of course. The open source company “can now boast well over 800,000 seats worldwide and this is still accelerating” added Schuster.

Close integration with IBM has also been worked out from a technical point of view (with regard to the Cognos and Lotus product lines). IBM helps Sugar CRM address both the mid market and  very high end customers.

Sugar CRM in the magic quadrant

“There are  between 200,000 and 350,000 users in Europe” Schuster added, “this is pretty big business”. And Forrester gave the company an accolade by placing it in the leader portion of its CRM magic quadrant, i.e. not just celebrating the company’s vision but also its execution capabilities.

the ride of open source

“Open source is now able  now able to compete with regular software publishers” Tom Schuster went on. This isn’t new if you include open source stars like EZpublish (of which I am a client), Drupal or Joomla for instance. Yet, Sugar CRM is the first in the application arena to make such a big breakthrough. “With Sugar CRM we are going beyond mere open source software” Tom developed. “the code is free and can be changed, but building a business on that concept of openness and community is mostly about state of mind and attitude” he rightfully added.

3 focuses : social, cloud and mobile

There are 3 areas for the development of Sugar CRM. Let’s review them now:

  1. social: of course, our readers know about that, this is a very hot topic at the moment. The real issue is to know how to position the software in the future when social will become very big, that is to say probably very soon. “Lotus live, Web conferencing, messaging systems, linkedIn data, Twitter data are all interfaced and it’s a new way of working with  CRM software” Tom Schuster added. Hirleo (an Israeli company) and Portuguese Gulf are already using Facebook as the main gate to their CRM system. Younger workers want to work with new fangled applications and social media is their favoured starting place. “Most of the marketing data are in the social media space anyway” added Schuster so the challenge is on how one regains ownership of that data.
  2. cloud: can be run anywhere. but it can also be transferred from one hosting service to another. For instance, “one can get started on Sugar CRM with an Amazon cloud infrastructure and then move it somewhere else and this doesn’t cost anything in terms of licence” Tom Schuster went on. This transfer capability is “transparent to them” Schuster added, “Sugar’s code is free and this is a lot more than a buzzword. It’s a movement and while many have old sheep in new clothes, this isn’t the case with Sugar” he added. “Cloud means you choose your service and don’t even know where it is coming from” Schuster detailed . Sugar CRM have their own hosted on demand service, fully replicated, and it also exists on Amazon, which means that when you buy their hosting service you may choose to get Sugar CRM directly while benefitting from all of Amazon’s  cloud features. “it’s really revolutionary” Schuster added, “you have more control on your data, and you can move them 100% without loss and additional cost.
  3. mobile: “mobile usage has rocketed up” said Schuster, therefore confirming what I have witnessed over the years too. “as of 2010, only a very small fraction of B2B usage was made by mobile” he said. “2011 saw a huge rise in mobile usage of CRM, up to 15% of total usage” Schuster said, “but it’s growing fast now”. [note: Orange.com mobile usage also amounts to 15%, therefore confirming Tom’s numbers. As of 2010, mobile usage on Orange.com was limited to 10%]. Sugar now exists in 2 different versions: corporate and ultimate. The corporate version  now amounts to 50% of total revenue, and it includes a mobile module, which supports all kinds of operating systems. An application has also been developed for each mobile OS in order to improve user experience. “There is no other way” Schuster concluded. The mobile browser experience is not a pleasant experience”.

Google’s privacy threat? not so serious Guardian says

Google – Privacy Threats

Google is big. And getting bigger. In the online advertising world they have now become unavoidable and so far they suffer no rivalry. They are also projecting to take over  competitor doubleclick but the merger is still under investigation. Grossman’s point in this article is that Google obviously has all the means to massage piles of data about users and usage patterns and even do evil things with them but that Google doesn’t have an obvious vested interest in using this data in the wrong way, or rather that it has yet to be proven that it has. To put it in her words: “And shouldn’t the company actually commit the crime before we punish it?”. In other words, a lot of our fears around privacy are more related to rumour than fact. I think she has a very good point.