The Mountaintop Insights, Inspiration and Perspective for Enlightened Marketers

March 7, 2010

Social Relationship Strategy for Large Enterprise B2B – Part 1 of 4 on Social Experience Design

Filed under: Demand Generation,Social Experience Design,Social Media — Jeff @ 12:00 pm

For large enterprise, the rationale to get involved in public social media needs to be well thought out before deciding its right for your business and your customers. It should be approached strategically from the outset.

Why Strategy is Critical

The first question you need to ask is “Can Social Media actually do anything for me as a large enterprise serving other businesses?” Its a tough question that needs exploration in regards to who you want to target and will/are these people using Social Media channels now. Here are some points to think about and remember

  • Decision-makers don’t use it. Senior Executives are unlikely to use it at all. They are much more likely to listen to colleagues. IF you have something mobile however, they can be very active.
  • Influencers do use it. Many types of influencers use Social Media but each one has different reasons for it.
    • Middle Management: Typical usage is for personal reasons, but many blend business interests with personal. They are looking to advance in ranks in their companies so any knowledge or interactions that help make them more capable will go over well. Most are GenXers.
    • Thought leaders: These individuals vary the most and will be looking for content and interaction that promotes thought on specific ideas important to them and the businesses they represent. They will be more involved, more vocal on opinions, and asking more questions.
    • Media and analysts: Journalism went online a while ago and many have taken to the new medium of Social Platforms. These people are highly active in using the web to research and to share their findings and opinions. Most of them are very active in the blogging community.
  • Now ask who are you targeting? Where do they live online? What do they want or value from you?
    • What do they want? Needs, issues, drivers.
    • Do you have ideas to share with them that are actually different
    • Do you have an approach that matches Social Media delivery? (Friendly, engaging, balanced, not trying to sell, nor promoting yourself are all good starters)
    • Do you have a spokesperson/team that these people will accept and respect?


The Importance of Research

Researching your targets, where they live and what they want is primary to success. Without it, you are basically throwing crap against the wall and hoping something sticks.  The other things you need to consider are:

  • Who are the third party thought leaders in the areas you want to plant your flag in?
  • What is the competition doing in these areas and how can you craft a more meaningful, differentiated approach?


The Executional Plan

This is where it all either works or falls apart. This should coordinate 4 very important factors:

  1. People: Who are your people (roles and responsibilities) and who is the target audience
  2. Content: These are your ideas, opinions, thinking, and content on specific areas of interest to your targets
  3. Channels: Everyone thinks Twitter, YouTube and FaceBook, but in my experience, these are secondary (or even useless) compared to blogs, newsletters, and community sites that are just off the radar.
  4. Actions: What are our objectives, how are we going to acheive these objectives, and how does it integrate with everything else we are doing?

Once you have the research done and the strategic plan, you need to coordinate it with other marketing and relationship initiatives. Live events are a powerful medium for connecting the people you have built relationships with online to your people and your brand. After all, events are highly social.

Critical Objectives and What Social Media can Deliver

Do not look at Social Media as a channel that can deliver sales. Look at it as a channel that can deliver relationships that can deliver top of mind presence that leads to sales. The tremendous power of social media is its reach and interaction capability. If you manage expectations back to the Enterprise with this understanding, you can manage your risk for delivering results easily.

Remember, decision-makers are most likely to be influenced by peers or subordinates in their organization or busienss networks. Craft your strategy to reach those people so that your ideas reach the top of the totem pole through people decision-makers trust.

Please feel free to comment, push back or ask questions on this or any other topic. I enjoy every discussion.

Jeff – Sensei

February 8, 2010

Setting Expectations – The inaugural first post

I must admit I dithered just a bit about what to put in my first post. After some thought and discussion with some colleagues, I settled on something simple – set some expectations by creating common understanding. If you are going to invest your time coming here, I want you to have some type of expectation for what you will receive.

What is the Mountain Top?

Think perspective. Depending on where you were in relation to the mountain, it looks and feels dramatically different. If you are at the top, you feel triumphant and exhilarated. If you are clinging to the side you feel determined and cautious. If you are looking at from the base you feel overwhelmed and in awe. Now change from a person to a bird or animal and the perspective changes yet again as do the feelings.
Perspective is the combination of three things:

  • Situation (what has brought me here)
  • Vantage point (who and where am i)
  • Experience (how have my experiences and the experiences of others affected my beliefs)

Take a simple garbage dumpster. A wealthy person looks at is as a disgusting place meant for trash. A homeless person looks at it as shelter from the elements and a source of food. That is the power of being able to understand and change perspective.

What The Mountain Top will deliver is a unique perspective on some very specific areas of online marketing and communications:

  1. Social Media: A term I personally dislike and feel it misrepresents what we are looking for which is to “be social” with our customers. I much prefer Social Experience Design.
  2. Demand Generation: The art of creating demand in customer’s minds for your products, services, and solutions.
  3. Customer Experience Design: The foundation stones of any marketing and communication program. We will explore the soft, dark underbelly of emotional experience design and the human behavior that drives it.

What is Social (Media) Experience Design?

Lets establish a common understanding of the terminology.

  • Social Media: It is a distribution channel for User Generated Content (UGC). That’s it. Most marketers only focus on Twitter, FaceBook and You Tube, but it includes all sorts of various specialty channels, the blogoshpere, and customer communities. Social Media is not new; it has been around since the web began and has always been social. Marketers just took notice because of the sheer number of consumers on the top channels. These top channels are consumer wastelands and at best indifferent to most companies and at worst hostile.
  • Social Media Experts: It is truly frightening to witness what passes for an expert these days. 2000 followers on Twitter does not a Social Media Expert make. We will look at what core skills an “expert” needs and how to spot a gong show before it happens. If the advice has been to use Social Media channels as just another PR outlet, then you should hear the banging of gongs in the background.
  • Social Experience Design: Is the art of creating a positive experience in social channels and the art of creating favorable social environments. It combines a deep understanding of the environment and the customers. It is also about understanding your role as a company in social media environments – that role is the enabler. We will dig deep into human behavior, identify best practices, and examine all sorts of current examples.
  • Favorable Social Environments: Think of these as customer communities, but also places where your brand can flourish rather than struggle to survive. How do you identify external communities and how do you design private ones.
  • Social Experience Strategy: A Social Media strategy is impotent without understanding audience need and the experience you need to create in order to meet that need. How are you going to anchor your appraoch to what the customer holds dear? Who do they trust already? How can our current customers become brand champions for us? Is there such a thing as targeted social (media) experience?
  • Strategic Rationale: I seriously question why many companies even get involved in Social Media. Many times, the compelling reason has been “everyone is doing it, so I don’t want to be left behind”. We are going to look at who is best positioned to be “social” and which companies should save their time, money and brands.  What you should really be asking is how can I develop better relationships with my customers?

The end result of Social Experience Design is an evolved, very different and very personal relationship with potential and current customers. It is full of risk because it exposes us to the unknown in an environment we cannot control. Those who master this environment stand to gain significant advantage over their competitors. Those who go in without a sound, well researched strategy introduce high risk to their brands.

What is Customer Experience Design? 

While the field is fairly mature, I tend to take a different approach to CE than most. It is based on several fundamental approaches to people, even in a B-to-B model.

  1. Emotional Experience: As companies, we have analyzed the bejesus out of our customers spending habits, demographics, psychographics, etc… We understand the rational mind of the customer. The problem is that the customer, often times, is not rational at all (at least to us). We will focus on the dark half of customer experience design, that being the emotional experience. The emotional experience is an enigma wrapped in a mystery. It is the one place, that if we understand, we can make tremendous progress to acquiring and keeping customers. It is the feeling we all have that answers the question “do i feel good doing business with this person?”
  2. Human Behavior: Behind our emotional experience is the behavior that drives us. Why do we do the things we do? How can different situations or experiences influence action? Can we create those specific situations or experiences by better understanding primal drivers and embedded human perceptions? We will explore all sorts of edgy ideas on human behavior and the art of influence.
  3. Customer Centric: This is based on 3 areas of commitment.
    1. Customer Enablement: Focus on clearing obstacles from the customer relationship, enabling ease of access to knowledge, understanding and service. Share power with the customer.
    2. Customer Advocacy: Deep understanding of the customer and the customer’s customers. Investing in the relationship. Being there through thick and thin. Putting their needs ahead of our own by paying it forward.
    3. Customer Relevancy: Ensuring everything is relevant to the customer and their needs; that value is delivered at every step.
  4. Balance: Everything is about balance. Everything. We will look at how to identify what a balanced customer experience is and how we can achieve it. This includes looking at Employee Experience Design (how can we deliver a positive customer experience with disenfranchised employees?)

Sensei Customer Experience Design
The Mountain Top will explore new perspectives and challenge norms around customer experience design. We will look at current examples and identify emerging best practices to dramatically improve the customer (emotional) experience.

What is Demand Generation?

In my experience, this is a practice area that many confuse with lead generation; the two are very different. A lead is something any chuckle-head can get because usually the definition is so broad. “They downloaded a whitepaper, therefore they are a lead!” or “we had 100 people register for this event!”. These are not leads, but they are often precursors to leads or prospects depending where that individual is in their decision-making process.

I have always defined a lead as: An expression of interest to do business with you from someone who is not currently a customer.

What does it mean to have demand?

This is where we start. Demand is simply that; when a person thinks of a business problem or a consumer thinks of fulfilling some kind of need, they seek the solution that is top of mind and has the most positive experiences attached to it. It is about positioning within the minds of specific targeted customer groups. It is about creating groundswell.

How do we generate demand?

Demand generation is a very strategic process. It all starts with knowing your customers (emotional/psychological needs, preferences, and decision making processes being the most important). Contrary to many people’s opinions, I believe this is always an integrated approach combining marketing tactics (both direct and indirect) that have been identified through research as being high potential.

There are a couple factors to my approach that stand out as different and perhaps can help you identify ways to improve your demand generation programs.

  1. Behavioral Profiling. We use this as the basis of everything we do. It gives deep understanding of customer language, behavior and emotional patterns above and beyond what standard segmentation research can provide. It takes a little digging to find a company that can do this, but they are out there.
  2. Customer Experience Design. You are designing a customer experience, not a demand generation campaign. If you change your thinking to this way, the results can be dramatically different.
  3. Think baby steps not giant leaps. I have always carefully managed expectations around Demand Generation to focus on the incremental steps to building a relationship with a net new prospect rather than getting a sale. A sale is the result of the process of building rapport, comfort, and trust with a person and is the essence of long term, profitable customer relationships. If we focus on a sale, we are often disappointed.  A sale is timing. Demand is being top of mind when the timing is right.
  4. Continual engagement. I have seen so many demand generation programs planned without any consideration to ongoing engagement once the “official” campaign has ended. This goes back to timing and that often the timing just isn’t right for the majority of people we connect with, but they still express high interest in our brand. Continual engagement is how we effectively and efficiently continue to foster a positive relationship that will eventually lead to sales. This is a process best addresses by web and social media.
  5. Don’t neglect the website. Most demand generation focuses on getting people to the website, 800 number or retail location. But that is only half the battle, in fact many people who are potential customers already know about you. In my experience embedding a custom new customer engagement process in the corporate website is fundamental to fulfillment. To use a simple metaphor, it is the difference between telling a person to climb a mountain and giving them a sherpa to help them along the way.

These are the kinds of topics I am going to cover off as well as looking at practical applications of these elements in demand generation, case studies, and insights into best practices you can easily integrate into your demand generation programs. These are principles that equally apply to B-to-B and B-to-C models.

Strategic Crossovers

Lastly, we are going to look often at how each of these areas supports and crosses over into the other. For example, I firmly believe that customer experience design is the basis for every success in marketing including social media and demand generation. I also believe you can integrate Social Media into Demand Generation programs very effectively to close the loop between the two and justify entry into Social Media.

It’s all about you.

This blog is about paying it forward and sharing all of the knowledge and experiences I have gained. I won’t be able to cover everything myself and often, I will bring experts in specific fields into The Mountain Top to delve deeper into these subjects.

Many times you will have questions or issues that I haven’t covered, I want you to feel comfortable asking questions via comments or this question form. I will respond on the blog within several days to answer your questions as best I can.

I am not promising enlightenment, but hopefully we can travel that path together and uncover the answers for the betterment of all.


Jeff – Sensei

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