I only just recently started watching Mad Men — a shock to many of my marketing peers and to regular folks who now think I’ve been living under a rock for the past five-plus years. I’ll save my thoughts on the show for another time, but what strikes me at least once during each episode is how much everything (tactics) and nothing (strategy) have changed. Similar fundamental challenges weigh on Sterling Cooper’s clients’ minds and on our CMO clients’ minds today: How do we connect with our consumers in a way that differentiates us from the competition? While Don Draper was limited to print and TV, thanks to digital platforms and tools, today’s CMOs have an almost-infinite number of options with which to build relationships with consumers.
2013 is the year that digital takes on a much more significant role in marketing and business strategies at business-to-consumer (B2C) organizations, and CMOs will be responsible for shepherding the change. 2013 is the year that CMOs will leverage digital tools to drive innovation of new compelling brand experiences — not as add-ons or enhancements but as integral elements of the brand’s messages, actions, and products that will differentiate your offering.
B2C CMOs, your 2013 resolutions should be to:
Embrace digital disruption. Digital disruption has remarkable strength. It's able to bulldoze traditional sources of competitive advantage faster, with greater power, at less cost than any force that came before it — and no business is immune. CMOs must make a strategic commitment to innovation and stop thinking about digital as another media channel. Digital is everywhere and should elevate marketing and business priorities for consumer benefit.
While Social Business continued to evolve in 2012, 2013 will see the emergence of digital business as a new strategic theme for many firms. What's driving this shift and what does it mean for CIOs, CEOs, and chief digital officers?
The Communications Evolution
Communications continue to evolve. Consider how humans have transformed communications over the centuries: signal fires; semaphore; Morse code; the telegraph; the telephone; telex; fax; email; SMS; Facebook; and Twitter. I have no doubt that this evolution will continue in 2013 and beyond. Perhaps beyond 2013 we will eventually achieve the ability to communicate our thoughts directly — whether we’ll want to is a different question. As people the world over learn to use new social networking tools, they drop older tools that are no longer useful to them. Regardless of where you are in your personal communications evolution, the undeniable truth is that over the past decade we have significantly changed how people communicate; we are no longer dependent upon email. But social tools and 24/7 mobile access have not removed the complexity or decreased the volume of information we must process. Time remains our most precious resource and we’ll always seek ways to use it more effectively — but social tools are not necessarily the silver bullet we might think. In 2013 we need to rethink business processes to take this new communications paradigm into account.
I am delighted to announce that our annual report on The State Of Consumers And Technology: Benchmark 2012, US is now available. This report is a graphical analysis of a range of topics about consumers and technology and serves as a benchmark for understanding how consumers have changed over the years. For those of you who aren't familiar with our benchmark report, it's based on Forrester's annual Technographics® online benchmark survey that we've been fielding since 1998 and for which we interview close to 60,000 US online adults. The report covers a wide range of topics, such as online activities, device ownership — including penetration data and forecasts for smartphones and tablets — media consumption, retail, social media, and a deep dive on mobile.
We analyze our findings through a generational lens, including Gen Z, Gen Y, Gen X, Younger Boomers, Older Boomers, and the Golden Generation. Age is a key factor behind consumers’ usage of and attitudes toward technology. However, one finding spans the generations: Consumers of all ages embrace the opportunity to find information and connect with people and brands wherever they are. And while online penetration in the US remains the same as a year ago — at 79% of all adults — the depth of Internet usage has grown; more consumers go online on a daily basis and they connect on more devices. The graphic below illustrates our point: US smartphone owners use their device almost everywhere. They aren’t just connecting at home but wherever they go; in fact, they’re more likely to access the Internet on their phone in a store than in their own kitchen.
Don’t link to your Facebook brand page from your B2B corporate home page just to show your CMO you know what Facebook is.
Forrester has long-viewed our POST — people, objectives, strategy, and tools/technology, in that order — methodology as a primary tool for social marketers to use when developing a social strategy. This requires thinking about your audience and their social behaviors first (people), then your business objectives that you are using social to meet, then what your strategy should be, and finally, what tools, technology, and platforms will help you reach your goals. Yet I’m having more and more conversations with B2B marketers who haven’t articulated their audience’s business social behaviors about social platforms they maintain a corporate presence on and link to on their corporate home pages.
Your customers’ and prospects’ use of social is exceedingly context dependent — and you only care what they are doing in a business context in relation to your solution. Forrester’s data consistently shows that Facebook is not very influential in the B2B purchase process. For this reason, before you decide to put a link to your Facebook group (or page) on your B2B corporate home page because your peers in other organizations have done so, or your CMO requested it, consider the following questions:
Does my audience use Facebook in the context of my solutions (e.g., to talk about networking hardware or financial services), or just in a personal context (e.g., to look at photos of their children’s soccer game or talk about their upcoming vacation)?
Do I have an active community on Facebook so that when a customer goes to my Facebook page, they will have a positive experience with my brand?
For social media evangelists, the question on everyone's mind is this: "How do we effectively measure the business value of social initiatives?"
Even when we get close, there's always that pesky issue of causation vs. correlation — can we really prove causation even for examples with high correlation between social initiatives and business outcomes? (Read Freakonomics, or watch the documentary, for insights into the challenges of causation vs. correlation.)
Take a second to think back to the year 2009. The US was in the thick of the financial crisis; companies were slashing budgets, and the unemployment rate was in double-digits. And do you remember a little thing called the “swine flu”? The World Health Organization (WHO) deemed the H1N1 strain of the swine flu influenza a global pandemic in June 2009. These were just some of the events top of mind for much of the nation and the broader global community three years ago.
2009 was also the year that the annual Forrester And Disaster Recovery Journal (DRJ) Survey focused on the role of risk management in business technology (BT) resiliency and crisis communications programs. Needless to say, the survey was fairly timely. Forrester found risk management was becoming a more common practice for business continuity teams, but that there was still more room for further collaboration with their risk management counterparts.
Fast forward three years, and the 2012 Forrester/DRJ survey is again focusing on the role of risk management in BT resiliency and crisis communications (you can take the 2012 survey by clicking here). A lot has changed since 2009 with a number of new events, technologies, and organizational challenges currently plaguing business continuity and risk management professionals.
Now that the confetti has been swept off the floor of our eBusiness Forum in Chicago, its time to offer a behind the scenes look at who won our 2012 B2BGroundswell Awards and why. Mark you calendar and register today for our upcoming Webinar on November 8th in which the judges will dish on the companies and social strategies that knocked their socks off. Who knows, you might get an inside track on winning next year, or better yet, knocking out a winning social strategy of your own. Register here to save your space on this one time reveal on the best of the best in B2B social.
A few minutes ago I had the pleasure of announcing the winners of the 2012 Business-to-Consumer Forrester Groundswell Awards at the Forrester eBusiness Forum in Chicago. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read through, not just the highlights below, but the full entries for all the finalists and all the winners — because once again this year we received many outstanding entries. It’s clear that social media has reached a tipping point, where savvy companies are using social tools to pursue real business objectives rather than simply chasing fans and followers. The 2012 winners put social programs to use in their organizations — successfully marketing their wares, supporting their customers, and generating insights.
Here, then, are our B2C finalists and winners for 2012.
ABC News and the United Nations Foundation partnered with BlogFrog to raise awareness and funds around issues affecting moms and babies around the world. This program identified more than 800 social influencers and activated them to create trusted content about motherhood. In total, the bloggers reached more than 15 million readers and garnered over 31 million total social media impressions. This in turn led tens of thousands of people to get actively involved: More than 15,000 people signed up for the Million Moms Challenge Community in the first two weeks.
Customer experience horror stories are not quite as inevitable as death and taxes but they are close cousins and we all have a large back catalogue of screw-ups to rant about operatically. That crappy cheese sandwich, the misleading advice about product features or being ushered into an avoidable gargantuan queue by a staff drone. Some of my own frustration exotica include annoyances like harmoniums couriered from India and only good for firewood (or modern art) on arrival in Edinburgh*. Yes, the world is a stage but some brands can look like The Three Stooges on it.
Here’s one of the biggest trends for off-domain social initiatives that I’m tracking as I kick off a new overview of social tools for B2B marketers: Marketers like you no longer want just the perfect point solution for each new social marketing campaign; instead, they want integrated solutions and are starting to use larger software packages aimed at providing complete digital marketing solutions.
This is welcome news because successful social programs should be part of your comprehensive marketing plans; they can’t exist as their own island. Several years ago, B2B marketing organizations could run their social marketing initiatives in a silo, but today they must coordinate them with their lead origination and lead nurturing programs as well as with other awareness campaigns.
The three leaders in the most recent Forrester Wave™ evaluation of email marketing vendors reflect this change in their products; they all promote their social offerings front and center on their home pages, often with the same prominence as their traditional email offerings. Screenshots of each of those home pages are below.
ExactTarget expanded into social marketing beginning with its acquisition of CoTweet some time ago in March 2010.It now has a “Social Marketing Hub” as a part of its “Interactive Marketing Hub” — email marketing is just one of three product categories on its website, getting equal billing with both social and mobile marketing.