And We’re Full!

I was checking the attendance number for my VMworld 2013 session today and realized it was completely full! Now that’s intimidating.

Preparing for the session has certainly been taking up a lot more of my time than I originally envisioned. The session is BCO5652 – Three Quirky Ways to Simplify DR with Site Recovery Manager and I am definitely planning on erring towards the more technical content. One drawback to this kind of presentation is that there is always way to much information to fit into a single presentation. A corresponding advantage however is that I have some material for the next few blog posts after VMworld!

VMworld 2013

In 2012 I attended VMworld for the first time. I managed to sneak in a breakout session or two amongst a multitude of customer briefings and prowling the Expo floor to see some of the shiny new things from the ecosystem. It was certainly an exciting event and a great introduction to the excitement and passion surrounding VMware. One of the few downsides to last years events was that I missed a lot of the after-hours activities due to the commute back to San Jose every evening.

Well it’s 2013 now and VMworld is rolling around again. This year I am lucky enough to be presenting a session, BCO5652 – Three Quirky Ways to Simplify DR with Site Recovery Manager. Also I will be taking advantage of San Francisco’s hotels and staying in the city during the conference so I can be closer to the action this year.

B2B and Social Media

For my Social Media class I was asked to read an article by Valeria Maltoni called The Truth About B2B Social Media Adoption. The article covers the frustrations that many business experience:

The truth about social media adoption… is that many B2B (business to business) marketers are frustrated and less than satisfied with the performance of their website, social, search marketing and sales conversion efforts. This is especially true in small and mid-sized companies…

Valeria’s article references a survey by Penton Marketing Services that reveals a majority of B2B companies are dissatisfied with the performance of their website in meeting their companies goals: It doesn’t deliver enough leads, doesn’t effectively support customer service etc. Given this fairly poor base it is easy to see why many small to mid-sized businesses are loathe to invest much money or effort in social media.

Determining the Social Media Marketing Mix

Companies that are investing in online marketing need to determine what marketing mix to use, for many businesses it is invested in those channels that have an easily measured impact on the business. Justifying marketing spend on vanity metrics like likes or re-tweets is getting increasingly trickier, tying the impact of social channels into metrics that reflect desired business goals is increasingly important. Ensuring these links are correctly attributing the impact of social media is important, Adobe recently published a report that shows that common methods of attributing the impact of social media can underestimate the impact by up to 94%.

On social media adoption Valeria writes that:

Among those who have social media outposts, Facebook, at 90 percent, is by far the most widely used networks, followed by Twitter at 53 percent, and LinkedIn at 47 percent.

B2B companies are mainly adopting the Hub and Spoke organization for their online properties. Companies can be seen to be using different social media channels for fairly different reasons:

Purpose/Channel Blogs Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Youtube
Customer Service X
Product Marketing X X X
Brand Marketing X X
Company News X X X
Industry News X
Recruiting X X

Some channels are better suited to communicating certain messages. For example the professional focus of LinkedIn has made it a favored channel for recruitment, meanwhile YouTube is often used to provide additional product information or general brand promotion.

Impact of the Right Content Strategy

It is important to ensure that the right channel is delivering appropriate content that supports the business goal. Delivering effective online content and promoting it can dramatically lower the cost of generating new leads. Hubspot have estimated that inbound marketing costs about 62% less than outbound marketing per lead.

What is a content strategy and how do you know you’ve got it right? One of my favorite definitions of content strategy is:

Content strategy plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content. Necessarily, the content strategist must work to define not only which content will be published, but why we’re publishing it in the first place. Otherwise, content strategy isn’t strategy at all: it’s just a glorified production line for content nobody really needs or wants. (See: your company’s CMS.)

Kristina Halvorson

If we know why we are publishing something we should be able to tie that into a measurable metric, whether it’s cheaper leads, increased order sizes, shorter sales cycles etc. At the end of the day to show an ROI we need to either show we are either making money or saving money by investing in this pushing content to our channels.

Engage Intelligently

In her post Valeria makes the point that B2B organizations where many subject matter experts reside. If we want to effectively reach them we need to communicate using smart and engaging content.

If we can deliver this we can be influencers within our target industries so that when those organizations are early in their procurement life cycle we are top of mind.

Does Emotional Advertising Work For Businesses?

In my earlier post discussing emotions in advertising I made the point that advertising that connects with us emotionally is more effective than advertising that promotes product features”. This is a fairly accepted point but how true is it? For some campaigns, such as UK Cancer Research, the use of powerful emotional appeals is congruent with the subject matter. However how does this work for Businesses looking to make emotional connections? Coming on too strong would no doubt turn consumers off.

For me Dove’s campaign for real beauty is a great example of a brand that was able to successfully make a powerful emotional connection.

By transitioning their messaging away from the typical features and benefits to a more emotional level Dove’s brand became much more differentiated. This emotional connection ensures customers have a higher recall of the advert and impacted their purchase behavior. These effects have been observed in a variety of advertising.

The ads that performed well on the traditional system two measures (persuasion, cut-through, brand linkage, message delivery) were actually less effective in market than the nine ads performing poorly on these measures. In fact, designing the advertising to perform well on such measures may work against effectiveness. Meanwhile, the nine most emotional ads delivered greater business effects than the nine least emotional ads.
Let’s get emotional about ads

For businesses making a strong emotional appeal can move the needle, if it is congruent with their brand. So should we neglect rational adverts? Research suggests that actually a balanced approach works best. Emotional adverts tend to outperform purely rational adverts, but a combination of emotional advertising that clearly communicates rational benefits performs best.

How I learned to love access over ownership

Up to my mid-20s I dutifully built up my CD collection by buying new releases on a regular basis, by the time MP3s started hitting the online stores I wasn’t as big a music purchaser but I still picked up a few albums and tracks from iTunes and Amazon’s MP3 store. After ripping all my CDs I had a little under 4000 legally acquired tracks in my iTunes library.

I’ve been a reasonably happy iTunes user despite having to break out junction a few times to enable multiple windows users to share the same media library. Having two computers as well as an iPod nano and iPod touch was starting to get a bit painful. The straw that broke the camels back was having to work on another computer for a few months that I didn’t own. Not having my music collection available was a real pain so I spent a few nights uploading all my music Amazon’s Cloud Player.

Having all my music in “the cloud” and being able to play it from there worked really well. I still had to use iTunes to sync tracks to my iPods but I don’t buy as much music as I used to so that isn’t too frequent a problem. After a few months I was starting to get bored listening to the same tracks over and over and I wanted to listen to some of the more recent releases that I had heard on the radio so I checked out iHeartRadio.

I liked choosing a specific artist and then letting iHeartRadio generate a playlist based on that artist, I heard a few new artists that I liked and bought a couple of tracks from them. After a while though the same songs kept repeating themselves and it got a bit frustrating not being able to listen to a specific track when I wanted (at which point I’d switch back to Cloud Player for a while). Eventually I decided to move to Spotify which gives much greater control over the songs I listen to as well as giving me access to people’s shared play lists.

“We’ve found that the more social our users are — i.e., they’re sharing music — the faster they grow their own music library. [And] the faster they grow their music library, the faster they become paying customers.”

Daniel Ek, Spotify

Amazon have made some recent changes to their cloud player to make music discovery a easier by leveraging their recommendation engine. While the move by Amazon is a step in the right direction I don’t typically buy new music until I have heard it a few times. the discovery options available via iHeartRadio and Spotify are much more integrated into the overall listening experience.

Alternative Twitter Advertising

Twitter followers of Manchester United’s Rio Ferdinand were treated to a series of unusual tweets recently. It appeared that the footballer had taken up the delights of knitting…

These first tweets were in fact teasers for a marketing campaign for Snickers UK which would be revealed in the final tweet of the campaign.

This twitter campaign, using Rio Ferdinand and some other UK celebrities, was one channel used to deliver the marketing message. The message was also pushed out over TV adverts and other media.

Using social media to promote products is certainly not a new idea, and using celebrity endorsements has a long history as well. In this example however it was interesting to see that the campaign didn’t use any specific twitter advertising features such as promoted tweets and trends. The campaign instead used the built in social media features to reach the celebrities existing audience.

What are your thoughts about using twitter for celebrity endorsements like this?

MBA Tech Treks

One cool thing about the BYU MBA program is the Morning Market Call program. It provides an opportunity for MBA students to discuss issues related to the program, interview guests from a variety of companies and get more comfortable being in front of a camera. Recently there have been a couple of programs discussing the tech treks that BYU MBA students go on to visit tech companies in Seattle and Silicon Valley.

In the first program Melanie and Ryan discuss their visit to Silicon Valley.

In the second video Panu and Jared discuss their trip to Seattle.

I went on the Tech Treks last year and found them really useful in getting to see a bit more of the internal cultures of the companies we visited. For me the most useful aspect was being able to meet face to face with the BYU alumni who I’d previously spoken with on the phone and get to know them a bit better.

First Impressions of SlideRocket

In my last post I talked about some of the lessons I learned from my strategy simulation class. Luckily I was able to take the class again this semester with a couple of my class mates and had another really great experience. As part of the class we have to do a brief presentation on the results of the simulation and I thought it would be neat to share it online.

Having used, and been unimpressed by, some online presentation tools in the past I decided to try something new. Having recently learnt about SlideRocket I figured that importing my presentation into SlideRocket would be a good way to put the application through its paces.

As you can see the results are quite good. The free version was easy to sign up to and the import process handled the animations and transitions in the original PowerPoint pretty well. There were some minor fidelity issues, but nothing that couldn’t be sorted within a couple of minutes editing. All told I was able to sign up, take the interactive tour, import and tweak the presentation in under ten minutes. I was pretty impressed.

In addition to standard presentation tools SlideRocket offers some interesting looking analytical features in the professional version such as who is looking at your slides and how long people are spending on each slide. One question I couldn’t find answered in my brief excursion on the site though is how well such analytical data can be shared with other analysis tools for further investigation.

Update: According to SlideRocket you can export your analytics as CSV files:

Games for MBAs

During my MBA I have taken several classes on strategy, one of my most enjoyable was the strategic simulation course. Teams are pitted against each other in a simulated world and are judged on how well they perform in a particular industry. Two of the key things I took from the Fall 2011 class were:

  1. Focus on the strategy not just on the financials.
  2. Depend on operational excellence

Focus on the Strategy

One of our failings was that when our strategy was going well we were tempted to deviate from our strategy in an effort to capitalize on the strength we had built up in the market. For example at one point with our low cost base we were operating profitably in one market without competition who could undercut us without them losing money. We took advantage of this to drive out competitors. We then decided to raise prices substantially only for a new competitor entered the market and undercut us. We came back into the market with aggressive, but profitable, prices and won back our market share. Later in the game this competitor responded by lowering their prices below cost in an effort to damage us financially. If we had not seceded this market by raising our prices and instead stuck with our strategy I think it would have made the market less attractive to others and prevented some of the aggressive moves that occurred.

Operational Excellence

One of the keys of our strategy in the game was to invest in quality and operational efficiency. We tried to lead the industry on capacity and so we could leverage our fixed costs and cumulative quality investments over a larger number of products, thus lowering our variable costs per item and keeping a low cost base. Ensuring our operational decisions were always aligned with our strategy allowed us to be really efficient and operate at levels other companies couldn’t approach cost wise.