After traveling 5,000 miles in three days to speak about digital disruption (I know, it's odd that my physical body has to go somewhere to talk about being more digitally disruptive), I fell asleep on a train yesterday and missed one of the most noteworthy events of the week: Amazon acquired Goodreads.
Full disclosure on this one up front: Amazon published my recent book, Digital Disruption. At the same time, I am a Goodreads member for more than five years; in fact, if you have read any of the most-liked reviews of the Twilight books on Amazon, chances are good you've read mine. That is to say that I am not exactly neutral on this one. But I'll do my best to be objective in answering all the anger being expressed on Twitter and in the trades when I point out that Goodreads was not saving itself for Amazon like some virginal tribute. It has been sitting there, all along, waiting for the right offer to come along. That's how venture capital works, people.
That's not to dismiss altogether the reactions I'm seeing, which range from Amazon wants to own the whole world (and to be fair, maybe it does) to How could Goodreads do this to us. But among all the hurt feelings and handwringing about the fall of publishing and the eventual reign of cohabitating cats and dogs (oh, I do hope you get that reference), I have an important question to ask, one that I am stealing from author Nick Harkaway (@Harkaway) who wrote this on Twitter the morning after:
The Huffington Post publisher Janet Balis recently shared 10 tips for marketers on how brands can become content kings. Balis commented that “one of the most fundamental dynamics of publishing is to connect content and conversation . . . it’s time to move beyond consumption and engagement and translate [content] into social actions.” At the heart of marketers' interest in branded content is the realization that old-school push communications have lost impact with consumers. And we’re not just talking TV and print here. Forrester’s Technographics® data shows that digital ads such as banner ads, text, and mobile apps are the least trusted form of advertising communications; only 10% of US online adults trust banner ads on websites. With multiple connected devices at their fingertips, today’s perpetually-connected consumers can opt in or out of content on a whim. Branded content offers an opportunity to truly engage with consumers in a way that marketers have never done before. But there’s no shortage of content out there, so where do you start? Apply Forrester’s four C's framework to build your brand with branded content:
Capture the brand’s North Star in branded content. Authenticity is critical for branded content. And authentic content begins with knowing who you are. So ask yourself, what’s your brand North Star?
. . . Ok, maybe not so "live" because it is now late in the evening on the day of the conference, but I'd like to share a few insights I gathered about the state of business-to-business (B2B) digital marketing today.
BtoB magazine's one-day event features frank conversational discussion from top B2B brands (mostly tech ones like Cisco Systems, Intel, SAP, VMware, Tellabs, and IBM) in moderated panel format. Digital lead generation/pipeline augmentation, social selling, agency trends, building B2B community, developing engaging content, and mobile marketing filled out the agenda.
This was my second year at the event, and the highlight again was the social media awards. Featuring 10 categories ranging from integrated campaign, to Twitter, mobile, and Pinterest, BtoB singles out top performers in social marketing. It also unveils tech and nontech people's-choice awards as voted on by subscribers.
You can find the full list here, and I hope BtoB will publish the scripted descriptions in a future edition because all honorees were interesting and unique and offer B2B marketers a look into how to use social to advance business. Heartfelt congratulations to all award winners — well deserved!
Looking over the list, here are a few observations you can take away about the state of social marketing in B2B:
The inimitable Ice Cube once sang that you should "check yourself before you wreck yourself." To be honest, I don't know what else was in that song, but that one line is a good one for today's CMOs to heed if you're looking for success in the age of the customer — an era where your only source of competitive advantage comes from relationships with customers. Over the past few months, I've been writing and talking at length about the importance of moving to a customer-obsessed marketing organization: a well-oiled machine that is organized for and around customers' needs. We use the customer life cycle to illustrate how marketers should approach marketing to differentiate the brand or company in a highly complex landscape of products, media, data, and conversation. There's no one-size-fits-all approach for it either. But there are five key areas on which CMOs should focus to facilitate the transition to a customer life-cycle-driven marketing effort:
In years past, technology trade shows like CeBIT or its cousin in the US, CES, have been a place for the introduction of new devices. Whether it was Nokia introducing its comeback phone or Sony pushing 3D displays, computing technology and consumer electronics companies have used these shows to introduce the next big thing.
But what happens when the next big thing isn’t actually a thing but is, instead, the arrival of platforms that enable a more effective marketplace? That’s the shift that’s occurring in the world, thanks to digital disruption. Under digital disruption, companies innovate by using cheap (sometimes free) digital tools and exploiting digital platforms to change products as low-tech as the toothbrush or waterless hand soap. They also use those digital tools to alter the way they make and deliver their products and services, including things as analog as fingernail polish, something I heard about today and will blog more on in coming weeks. As a result, every company is now digital, no matter how physical their processes and outputs.
Digital disruption means that the technology companies that provide these digital tools and platforms have more opportunity than ever. Their devices and systems will be necessary in the lives of every consumer as well as every enterprise. Witness the amazing growth of Amazon Web Services as it enables businesses across the gamut with its cheap access to storage and delivery tools.
Once upon a time, you could trust that your business was insulated from disruptive innovation because only people already in your industry had the skills and the tools to try to change your industry. Thus, McDonald's competed with Burger King, Crest competed with Colgate, and Dell competed with HP. When innovation did arise, it came from companies that had similar economics and were evaluated by Wall Street using the same criteria. That meant that competition, although fierce, stayed within fairly defined boundaries and real surprises were few.
Digital disruption will change that -- or already has, depending on your industry. Under digital disruption, any company of any size can make a play for your business. That's how the Zeo sleep monitor, a $100 device that can monitor your sleep nearly as effectively as a $3,000 sleep lab visit can, potentially disrupts research hospitals, the makers of sleep meds like Ambien and Lunesta, and eventually the insurance companies that have an interested in promoting your health. That's how Amazon is now a major competitor for TV show pilots, using its vastly different economics to justify buying shows that would normally have a narrow set of bidders among broadcast and cable networks. That's how startup software companies are building apps to insert themselves into consumers' lives in ways that bigger companies should have done first by offering menstrual cycle tracking, DIY home improvement cost estimating, and weight loss monitoring.
If you’ve turned on reality television lately (and I’m sorry if you have), you have seen a lot of overconfident folks who think highly of their ability to cook, sing, model, dance -- whatever -- when in actual fact most of them stink. The spectacle of these shows comes from watching to see if these people ever accept the painful gap between their perceived and actual abilities.
From data we have just published today in a new Forrester report, Assess Your Digital Disruption Readiness Now (client access required), it turns out that digital disruption is like reality TV in at least this one way: There is a significant, even painful, gap between how ready some executives think they are to engage in digital disruption and the actual readiness of the enterprise.
This disparity rears its ugly head at a crucial time. As Forrester principal analyst James McQuivey has recently written in his book Digital Disruption, digital disruption is about to completely change how companies do business. Digital tools and digital platforms are driving the cost of innovation down to nearly zero, causing at least 10 times as many innovators to rush into your market while operating at one-tenth the cost that you do. Multiply that together and you face 100 times the innovation power you did just a few years ago under old-fashioned disruption (see figure).
If you’ve been following my posts, you already know that I love sports. But, if this happens to be your first time reading my blog, I’ll admit it right now . . . I’m a sports fanatic. In fact, I’d say I’m just slightly to the side of being obsessed. Seriously obsessed.
Second only to the Super Bowl for me is March Madness, the greatest time of year for NCAA college basketball. What makes it so great is the passion and enthusiasm that takes over every one of the 64 teams that make it into the tournament. And, of course, the Cinderella stories that seem to emerge, year after year.