The Marketer Diaries - What I Learned From The 2013 Forrester Marketing Leadership Forum

I am probably one of the few individuals who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and only heads to Los Angeles during Forrester's annual Marketing Leadership Forum.  I recently had the opportunity to visit Los Angeles for the second time and, just like last year,  did not venture too far from my hotel.  I have yet to experience the true LA "scene" or even get a glimpse of an actor, musician or sports star!  But the highlight of my annual trip to LA is having the opportunity to completely immerse myself in various discussions with fellow marketers (yes, I still consider myself a marketer at heart!).  Who needs to see Ozzy Osbourne's Jessica Simpson's mansion in Beverly Hills when  I get to mingle with the real "stars" who are the clients,  attendees, vendors and Forrester employees who participate in the Marketing Leadership Forum with such passion?

 

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You Get Out Of Your Community What You Put Into It.

For the first time since I started my analyst role at Forrester in 2011, community conversations have surpassed social media conversations during my client meetings. Online communities and social networks have been around for many years, so why are communities such a "hot" topic among marketers? These days it is rare to find a company who has not either launched their own customer community, published a fan page on Facebook, or created a business profile on LinkedIn. These tactics are not new, so why the increased interest? I believe that marketers are finally beginning to absorb the fact that their perpetually connected customers frequently tap into online communities. Their customers frequent communities at each stage of their customer life cycle to gather information and connect with others. Today, marketers know that they can use online communities to reach, deepen engagement, and establish relationships with customers. In addition, marketers have a stronger case to increase investment in their community strategies since there is growing evidence that deploying a customer community can lead to positive ROI through support call deflection, increased leads, and stronger engagement with brand advocates. 

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You Get Out Of Your Community What You Put Into It.

For the first time since I started my analyst role at Forrester in 2011, community conversations have surpassed social media conversations during my client meetings. Online communities and social networks have been around for many years, so why are communities such a "hot" topic among marketers? These days it is rare to find a company who has not either launched their own customer community, published a fan page on Facebook, or created a business profile on LinkedIn. These tactics are not new, so why the increased interest? I believe that marketers are finally beginning to absorb the fact that their perpetually connected customers frequently tap into online communities. Their customers frequent communities at each stage of their customer life cycle to gather information and connect with others. Today, marketers know that they can use online communities to reach, deepen engagement, and establish relationships with customers. In addition, marketers have a stronger case to increase investment in their community strategies since there is growing evidence that deploying a customer community can lead to positive ROI through support call deflection, increased leads, and stronger engagement with brand advocates. 

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Top Twelve B2B Tech Social Marketing Highlights Of 2012

Last January, I kicked off 2012 with a report titled “The New Year Of Social Marketing”. The theme of that report was that B2B marketers would begin to emphasize the “social” of “social media” by focusing more on engagement and  interactions and less on broadcast marketing. I explained how marketers would continue to adopt social media listening and community platforms, that social media tactics would be used across various marketing functions within the organization and that marketers will start taking a community perspective to their social marketing strategies.

I humbly admit that my 2012 predictions were very conservative.  2012 was a remarkable year for B2B social marketing as seen by the acceleration of B2B social media adoption, rapid consolidation of  the social media platform market and the evolution of digital and social marketing. Savvy B2B tech marketers are quickly adapting to these changes in order to effectively (and efficiently) engage with prospects and customers.

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Jump Start Your Online Community

 

Over 40% of business technology decision-makers indicate that support forums, discussion forums, and professional social networks influence them throughout their online journey. Yet many marketers overlook the impact of the conversations that occur within these networks.

Chances are your company has an online community that requires your attention. Whether you have a support forum on your corporate website, a company page on LinkedIn, or a brand page on Facebook, somewhere there is a community of customers, partners, and influencers that is talking about your brand.

It is up to you to take advantage of this opportunity to interact with your community members, but it requires a new marketing mindset. It requires a shift from traditional media creation to social capital creation. It requires an ability to engage and motivate influencers. It also requires time, energy, and commitment from you and the stakeholders within your organization.

It is difficult to ignore the impact that community interactions have on decision-makers. But why do online communities often fail? We speak to many clients who struggle with establishing their communities and found five common mistakes:

1.       Choosing the wrong approach. Communities are not a “one size fits all” strategy for customer engagement. Companies must understand how and where their customers and prospects prefer to engage online and the types of activities that will drive member participation.

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B2B Marketers, Get Inspired By Our 2012 Groundswell Award Winners!

Today, at the Forrester eBusiness Forum in Chicago, Nate Elliott announced our 2012 B2C and  B2B Groundswell Awards winners and finalists!  One of my most enjoyable tasks as a Forrester analyst is reviewing all of the Groundswell awards submissions. And I know many of you also look forward to seeing the innovative approaches that other B2B companies use to listen to and engage with customers.  This year, we received 45 entries and  we judged submissions across seven categories:  Listening, Talking, Energizing, Spreading, Supporting, Embracing and Mobile. 

 

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Unlike Apple's Map App, Our Community Roadmap Will Get You To Your Destination

The silver lining on Apple's iOS6 Maps App snafu is that it has fueled much humorous poking. My favorite so far is the photo going around Facebook of Tom Hanks in "Cast Away." There is also a blog called "The Amazing iOS 6 Maps" that includes a collection of Maps mishaps sent in by users. It seems that negative product and service experiences often turn into comedy (remember "United Breaks Guitars"?). A funny photo or link shared on Facebook is often how product issues are initially brought to our attention. 

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Marketing Is Alive And Well.

Over the past 2 weeks, we have seen a lot of buzz from a HBR blog post written by Bill Lee.  The title, "Marketing Is Dead" continues to get Bill's blog post quite a bit of mileage and even today, there is still much heated debate over the article's intent.   

The fact is, I agree with many of the points Bill makes in his post...except for the title.  A more accurate title would be"Traditional Marketing Is Dead In The Social And Digital Age", but the marketer (and analyst) in me always appreciates the impact of a bold and controversial statement!  Here's my take on the points Bill makes in his post:

- Traditional marketing tactics are having less relevance in an age where buyers lead the journey and increasingly tap into online resources and social networks for information.  Yes, marketers face the difficult challenge of competing for their buyers' attention in a crowded and noisy online environment.  Traditional tactics may have less influence on buyers in social networks, however they should not be abandoned!  Our research shows that buyers are still influenced by traditional tactics like physical events and even printed content.  Successful companies use an effective mix of complementary traditional and social tactics.

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B2B Marketers, It's Time To Influence Your Community Strategy With CLICK

Yesterday, I spent a good portion of the day with a Bay Area community platform vendor's exec and management team.  We discussed the current and future state of online communities, spoke about market growth and B2B marketing trends.  It was a passionate, energetic discussion...one of those rare moments when everyone at the table realizes that we all on the same page, each of us "preaching to the choir" about the incredible opportunities that online communities offer to companies across all industries. Opportunities that many B2B marketers miss.  

Well, the time has come for all of you to take advantage of these opportunities. Our Forrester research team has been quite busy over the last 2 months, working on a B2B Online Community Playbook that will provide you with all the research, tools, assessments and guides to help you plan and execute  your online community.  One of the critical reports in our playbook (what I like to refer to as the "heart" of the playbook)  is now available, and provides you with 4 unique community strategies and a simple framework, called "CLICK",  for building them: 

 

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Submit Your Entry For Forrester's 2012 Groundswell Awards!

Today we officially launched Forrester's 6th annual Groundswell Awards! Since I cover B2B tech social media/online community research, I am always looking for interesting examples of how B2B companies are getting exceptional results using social media. I use the B2B Groundswell Awards winners in a majority of my client presentations, reports, and webcasts, and these best practices are often a highlight. After all, Forrester's Groundswell Awards winners inspire others to set the bar higher!   

 
My colleague, Nate Elliott, provides some guidance to improve your odds of winning here. This year, we have added "mobile applications" in our B2B category. So make sure you consider your mobile programs in addition to your social media programs when you submit your entries!
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