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Social Executive Council: Leaders of the Buyer Adoption Movement

Social Executive Council: Leaders of the Buyer Adoption Movement



We thought you might be interested in hearing about the Social Executive Council. ...

We thought you might be interested in hearing about the Social Executive Council.

We are a group of +3,300 senior executives (C-Suite, VPs) who have gathered together to address the foundational changes happening with buyer adoption in the market and the impact it’s having on our businesses.

Membership is free, but “by invitation only".

Here is the link to join: http://linkd.in/boqHYb.

The shift to peer-influenced buying has forever changed the way buyers adopt disruptive and innovative technology solutions in the market.

Our mission is to address buyer adoption as a business core competency, as it becomes the next frontier.

Just like the web, e-commerce, digital, quality, mobile, social, etc. this will be the game-changer disruptor for early adopter companies.

We welcome your expertise and your experiences into the group.

Judy Mod, President
Dan Webber, Vice-President



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    Social Executive Council: Leaders of the Buyer Adoption Movement Social Executive Council: Leaders of the Buyer Adoption Movement Document Transcript

    • Social Executive Council: Leading the (Buyer) Adoption Movement The Social Executive Council (SEC) is an invitation-only group for Executive Officer (CXO, President) or senior executives with P&L responsibility (VP and above). The SEC is incorporated as a non-profit global professional organization. Membership is free, but “by invitation” only. Social has provided us a lens into the world of our buyers and continues to transform the way buyers go-to-market to solve strategic business problems. It has also illuminated a significant gap between the way buyers enter the market and vendors go-to and evangelize within the market. This disconnect, our lack of visibility, and the barriers to buyer adoption are having a significant impact on business performance, including pipeline, revenue and market share. For that reason, as senior executives, we have the responsibility, the accountability, and through the Social Executive Council, the opportunity, to collaborate on developing the enterprise-wide business strategies necessary for us to understand, address and support the needs of our buyers throughout their entire life cycle with our organizations. Our objective is to explore the definition of social market leadership, as together we are leading the “Buyer Movement” in our respective markets. We propose the exchange of ideas around the development of strategy, execution, and measurement with the associated ROI. We host both online discussions and organize strategic events, including the Social Executive Council Member Showcase. Within the showcase, we tap into the collective knowledge of the members of our group to share their insights, expertise and experiences on an ongoing basis. Through these discussions, our goal is to empower a more substantive dialogue as we cross this chasm together. Social Executive Council – 1200 Abernathy Road NE, Building 600, Suite 1700, Atlanta, GA 30328 - (404) 307-9613 Copyright © 2012 – Social Executive Council Page: 1 Proprietary and Confidential
    • Social Executive Council: The Central Thread Bigger the Technology Disruption = Harder the Adoption Over the past few weeks, I've had many conversations with the CEOs, the board, and the investors in companies who are bringing unique, innovative and even disruptive technology based solutions to market. The one question on each of their minds: "How do we accelerate our product adoption?" My response: "Fix buyer adoption." In doing my homework, I take a look at the company (and the market) from the POV of a strategic buyer, in the market (with their team) to solve a business problem. How do I know if they have an adoption problem? I. They Fit The Profile  Complex, education intense, disruptive technology  At (or near) Series A or B funding  New market or pre-market  Ready for market expansion  Beyond proof-of-concept and early wins With the shift to peer-influenced buying, these companies are the most susceptible to the change in the way buyers adopt solutions to their problems in the market. The bigger the disruption = The harder the adoption. II. They’re Not Accounting for The Complexities of Adoption (For the Buyers) III. They’re Creating an Adoption Problem (For the Buyers) Their sole focus on the adoption of their products isn’t relevant for the buyers who are pre-market. Buying your technology ≠ Solving their problem. If you agree that you have an adoption problem, here’s how to Overcome the Complexities of Adoption, and let’s schedule an applied conversation. Social Executive Council – 1200 Abernathy Road NE, Building 600, Suite 1700, Atlanta, GA 30328 - (404) 307-9613 Copyright © 2012 – Social Executive Council Page: 2 Proprietary and Confidential
    • If you fix this, it’s the difference between product adoption in-market (18-36 months and $3-5 million) vs. buyer adoption pre-market (3-6 months, $25-$50k pilot, $100k annual). Which do you pick? Open Letter to CEOs: Revisited The underlying problem that we think that you are having in your markets from a BUYER's perspective is that your company is not helping them understand what problem(s) you solve for them. But, why is this a CEO problem? CEOs are responsible for the business’s focus. Why do we exist? Are we here to sell more product, deliver solutions, meet revenue targets, return shareholder value? Yes. But fundamentally, we exist to solve a problem for our buyers. Ideally, one they actually have. Better yet, one they knew that you helped identify. Bonus, one that you're uniquely qualified to solve. Somewhere along the way, we lost sight of a fundamental truth. As the CEO, if your company is not articulating a tangible, targeted problem; not a symptom, not a value proposition, not a differentiation, but a simple problem that they say “yes, I have that specific problem”, you're not helping them solve the problem. You're leaving money on the table. “What problem do you solve and for whom” is a very simple question, but not an easy answer. If you lose 80% of your prospective buyers from awareness, interest, to close, why? If you aren’t identifying what problem you solve on your website, how can you expect your buyer to be able to answer? They didn’t see themselves in the problem, couldn’t get agreement to the problem, or connect it to the solution. Do you continue to optimize “Solution-ing” or invest in “problem-ing”? So, what does the Social Executive Council recommend? 1. Get agreement to the problem - What problem(s) do we solve and for whom? Does everyone buy the same way, for the same reasons? Do we help them buy or do we just market at them? 2. Acknowledge that you are probably doing some of this - Every successful business has to articulate a problem somewhere along the way. But, are you doing it 1:1 in the sales process or in the market? Are you known for solving particular problems or a product list from A to Z. 3. Meet buyer expectations and match to a business problem. Some companies won’t even let you in unless it is a critical, important problem they need to solve. If you don’t make it past their “problem filter”, you can’t get in the door with traditional lead generation. 4. Benchmark and Roadmap – Every company and every industry is not “unique”. If you sell a product or a packaged service AND every sale is unique, something is broken. Do I have to sit down with your sales team for a lengthy, custom discovery process to figure out how to apply your product? Help me with the strategic business problem that I can get everyone on board with all of the painful stuff that we are struggling. Help me by making my decision easier. 5. Separate the problem from the solution – Let them come to that conclusion that the problem that you highlight is Social Executive Council – 1200 Abernathy Road NE, Building 600, Suite 1700, Atlanta, GA 30328 - (404) 307-9613 Copyright © 2012 – Social Executive Council Page: 3 Proprietary and Confidential
    • one that you solve rather than try to manipulate. They are rational. Especially in complex, corporate purchases. They need consensus and buy-in. We have updated the problem evangelism presentation (http://www.slideshare.net/JudyMod/social-executive-councilproblem-solving-is-the-problem-18949004) to fill in gaps: • Why this is critical to the business – CEO corporate cultural problem. Not just sales and marketing. The maturity curve highlights what CEOs need to evolve to get there. • How do we know? – benchmark your adoption against what is possible; doing right, not so right, and downright wrong. • Connect problem to adoption to market share – companies that are more adept at anchoring and solving problems will be able to break through the noise. • Where to invest? - balance optimizing “solution-ing” versus problem solving • The best problem diagnosis allows us to get consensus to the problem – consumable, sharable, and collaborative. So please use it to build consensus in your organization, distribute it to help others, and give us feedback to make it better. Buyers are driving the process Over the past few months, I've had numerous conversations with senior executives within the Social Executive Council. Some common themes have emerged that I thought would strike a chord with you:  Traditional lead generation activities seem to have plateaued or are in decline  Marketing automation and other direct marketing techniques helped alleviate some of the problems, but hasn’t seemed to generate the return as expected  But, vast majority of buyers are not paying attention or responding to traditional calls to action  Especially true for markets with complex transactions; strategic decision, high risk, highly technical requirements, multiple influencers in the decision, long sales cycles, etc.  Increased pressure to produce quantifiable results from new market penetration For many, “We need to accelerate market adoption of our solution” is their #1 priority, but they're uncertain in how to deliver. Our belief is that "Market Adoption" is not taking into account the changes that we are seeing in buyer behavior in the peer markets. Buyers expectations are changing. They want to get clarity on their situation and see confirmation that you understand their pain before they engage around your solution. In short, buyers are doing their own research to diagnose their own problem (definition/differentiation) and their specific requirements. Then they look for what technologies/innovations/changes that they need to adopt to solve their pain, before engaging sellers on solution differences and selection (value proposition). Social Executive Council – 1200 Abernathy Road NE, Building 600, Suite 1700, Atlanta, GA 30328 - (404) 307-9613 Copyright © 2012 – Social Executive Council Page: 4 Proprietary and Confidential
    • Many have told me that they really don’t understand the individual buyer’s adoption process nor clearly articulate the business problem that a particular buyer is trying to solve. They know when an individual buyer reaches their website or responds to a marketing communication, but don’t really have an understanding of the motivation that is driving the buyer until they self-identify. Hidden amongst the challenges that we are hearing from senior executives is an unspoken fear that they are losing control over their ability to influence the sale. I suspect you might have a Buyer Adoption problem too if you are experiencing these symptoms:  No visibility to when active buyers enter the market  Not in consideration for opportunities that you should be (short list)  Not reaching buyers early enough to influence their decisions  Many opportunities that start the process either cycle too long or are lost to “no decision” If you cannot model the differences in how individual buyers enter the market to solve their specific business problem and the process they will go through to figure out the best resolution, we are realizing that you will find it difficult to accelerate market adoption. We can share an example from the email marketing/marketing automation industry that highlights the challenges that buyers are facing when vendors do not clearly identify the problem for the buyer. All of the vendors use the same language and are very feature/functionality oriented. How can a buyer tell what problem they have, let alone determine which vendor is better suited to solve that problem for them based upon the website language. In short, the vendors are driving the buyer towards peer forums to help them understand the nuances and their requirements. The vendors are disinter-mediating themselves from the buying process and losing the opportunity to influence the buyer’s decision. If you would like to discuss buyer adoption, what other Social Executive Council members are doing to solve this problem, and/or get a competitive buyer adoption comparison done for your market, I would be glad to schedule a call. ************************************************************************************************** How to Accelerate Market Adoption (and Revenue) by Overcoming Buyer Adoption Challenges in your Market Happy New Year! The Social Executive Council is planning some major realignment for 2013. For starters, we believe that our mission has evolved from just about social business to the business of the buyers. Buyers? Social? Our perspective is that we saw a tipping point in 2012 in that buyers no longer saw social media as something different. It merged into “online” for many and “just part of the research process” for most buyers. Social is a means to an end and that end is a solution to a problem. We believe the insight into the buyer’s adoption process is one of the most valuable contributions that social can make towards business. So, we have been quietly Social Executive Council – 1200 Abernathy Road NE, Building 600, Suite 1700, Atlanta, GA 30328 - (404) 307-9613 Copyright © 2012 – Social Executive Council Page: 5 Proprietary and Confidential
    • testing that hypothesis with small groups of senior executives to get a better perspective on what they are seeing in the market. We recently ran a workshop with a group of marketing and sales executives, what they wanted to talk about were the changes in buyer behavior, the complexity of how buyers go to market, how this is affecting (solution) adoption, and the impact this is all having on revenue. To begin we asked, “What is the strategic business problem that your buyer needs to solve in 2013 that you can uniquely solve better than anyone else? When asked about the problem, most articulated their solution value proposition, not a problem. This isn’t as easy as it sounds because how buyers define the problem is based on the context of what’s specific to their circumstances, what’s relevant and tangible to them, not simply a theoretical or generic pain that you can solve. At the same time, until they get clarity around and agreement to the problem they need to solve, you’re “shiny penny” solution is at risk of being a want, not a need. From a buyer’s perspective, the problem that you solve defines you. Do you want to sell to “need” or “want” for business buyers in this economy? The difference is the tangibility of the problem. I’m sure you would prefer need, but without the ability to understand the complexity of how different buyers qualify their business need based on pain, motivation and their unique requirements you will not become a part of their buying process early enough to influence their decisions. This is the buyer adoption process. To this end, we have planned a peer online roundtable for SEC members focused on how to accelerate market adoption (and revenue) by overcoming the buyer adoption challenges in your market. Tuesday, February 12th @ 12 pm. Send me a note if you can join and I will reply with the dial-in instructions. There is no charge for SEC members, but we are limited to 20 participants so registration is on a first come-first serve basis. We will use the email marketing/marketing automation industry as an example to seed the discussions and drive the takeaways for your market: • Data on market adoption vs. buyer adoption in your market • Insight as to whether or not you have a buyer adoption problem • A prototype for how to fix buyer adoption in your market If you cannot participate, but would like a synopsis of the roundtable, reach out to me as well. ************************************************************************************************* Making the (Business) Case for the Buyer We continue to address the impact that social is having on markets and buyers. We can now say, with conviction, that this is no longer about social. We have crossed the chasm. The real value and impact is social has opened up the doors for us to connect in a way that allows us to become better buyers in the market. But at the same time, we have inundated our buyers, by pushing more and more content into the market, making it harder to break through the noise to really engage. Truth be told, as vendors, we’re not making this easy for them, as we keep putting up barriers to adoption. One of their Social Executive Council – 1200 Abernathy Road NE, Building 600, Suite 1700, Atlanta, GA 30328 - (404) 307-9613 Copyright © 2012 – Social Executive Council Page: 6 Proprietary and Confidential
    • challenges is that they can’t clearly address the root business problems that they entered the market to solve. They don’t have the time or the patience to dig as they struggle to figure things out. They want “easy” and now social media isn’t. They are forced to cobble things together on their own, which doesn’t give them confidence in what they’re finding. We don’t provide them with what they need to build their requirements list so they can compare vendors’ offerings in an apple-to-apples way. If only we realized that the more we help buyers, the better off we would all be. In talking with a CEO about this, “You’re making the case that we need to start thinking about this differently.” Yes, I believe that’s why you joined the Social Executive Council. We can solve this. But I’m asking for your commitment to putting your buyers front and center and make the (business) case for them, within your organizations, so they can then make the business case for you. To highlight what’s happening, we started doing quick research for new members to help you make the internal business case that the noise in your market is overwhelming for new buyers. By putting ourselves into the shoes of your buyer, we provide tangible proof of the challenges they’re facing; in the market, on your website (if you’re lucky enough that they land there), and within the competitive landscape. We can clearly see the gap between how we’ve been goingto-market and how our buyers enter the market. (BTW, if you’d like to see the research for your company, just send me a note.) Buyers don’t really care about what you do and why you’re great. All they care about is that you can help them solve their business problem and that you’re going to arm them (and their team) with what they need, in the right places, in the right way, so they can make better buying decisions, every step of their way. Because if you do, it’s the Holy Grail, the difference between potential unqualified market versus engaging with “qualified” buyers who are actively in the market. We have heard mentioned that a lot of marketing companies are working on identifying the “buyers’ journey.” It’s where you start, but we know that buyers don’t have the same needs, let alone follow a generic “path”. They’re rejecting the “one size fits all” approach. The key to buyer adoption is to focus on what’s different, not what’s the same. To close the gap, as daunting as it may seem, you have to recognize the complexity of what you’re facing, the dimensionality in “each” buyers individual journey. How do you target their unique business problem, configure what you do to their needs and align with their maturity, as individual buyers and their organizations? How do you do this mass customization? Well, it can’t be about company size, vertical, role, or any other demographic way. This has to be about segmenting the market by modeling buyer behavior to highlight “likely” buyers who are in the market, now. Without deep buyer intelligence, you’re just guessing. From another member, “The implications of what you describe, we are one of many trying to understand and address this somewhat un-chartered territory.” Welcome to the new frontier. Social Executive Council – 1200 Abernathy Road NE, Building 600, Suite 1700, Atlanta, GA 30328 - (404) 307-9613 Copyright © 2012 – Social Executive Council Page: 7 Proprietary and Confidential
    • Welcome to the Buyer-Centric Movement In response to my last two posts, an “Open Letter to Buyers” and an “Open Letter to Buyer-Centric Organizations”, I have tried to articulate the evolution in the conversations I’ve had about why social is disruptive to business as we know it, why a buyer-centric approach is so critical to the long-term viability of your business, and why your team needs to pay attention now. In its simplicity, buyer-centric means “it’s not about you, it’s about them.” Buyers are tuning out self-serving messaging. They crave context and the ability to compare. But perhaps, it would make more sense if we look at our evolution which has now brought us to buyer-centric. In our infancy, as a sales-centric organization, we were very reactive to the market. Our initial belief was that the market was craving a strategic forum for social. If a buyer approached us within a specific need that we could fill, we wanted to centralize it for them. We quickly realized that all things social meant that you could not satisfy everyone. We advocated for thought leadership, but early interactions were vendor driven conversations. As we began to package our discussion into executive thought leadership proactively, a more product-centric approach to social, we would push unique perspective with the hope that the buyers would let us know when what we had was something they were interested in. A better acceptance in the market, but a lot of work to evangelize. We got a smattering of feedback from buyers. We thought that maybe evolving into an industry association would help to bring sponsorship and create more compelling engagement. As we matured and gained knowledge and experience about the ways in which our buyers approached social products and services, our value proposition, we could begin to predict how buyers would engage with us around this solutioncentric approach. Again a much better uptick in actual buyers engaging with buyers around decision support. Vendors were interested in reaching the executives in the group, but we continued to lock down the engagement to keep out self-serving messaging. The challenge was that we needed to evolve our thinking as to why the SEC existed. We felt torn between a loyalty to both vendors and buyers. About 6 months ago, we made a decision to stay true to our buyer-centric focus. We let go of the anxiety about creating an “organization” and rather focused on trying to create the best social buyer experience. We figured that if we focused on helping buyers frame their decision making appropriately, we would help the market. As a result of that focus, we have gotten to have a tremendous amount of conversation with executive leaders who are willing to share their perspective on their needs. We have fed that back into the SEC which has fed more conversations. Which has led to our belief that the real value of social media on business is the ability to become more buyer-centric. So, before you say anything, I know that regardless of where your organization is in your own maturity curve whether sales-centric, product-centric, solution-centric, or whether you may be hitting your revenue goals, I would suggest, that our experiences are not isolated and probably more instructive and reflective of the future in terms of buyers demanding that organizations put them in the middle of the buying process rather than merely focusing on selling advocacy. Social Executive Council – 1200 Abernathy Road NE, Building 600, Suite 1700, Atlanta, GA 30328 - (404) 307-9613 Copyright © 2012 – Social Executive Council Page: 8 Proprietary and Confidential
    • Why? Because we’ve heard this in almost every conversation that we’ve had in the last several months as we’ve discussed buyer-centric. Senior executives are reflecting on themselves as both executives with P&L responsibilities, as well as, their frustrations as actual buyers. Talk about hitting a nerve. We can’t lead the market if we don’t immerse ourselves in the world of our buyers. Let’s put ourselves in their shoes. A movement has to start with a “moment”. As buyers ourselves, we hope it starts soon. Open Letter to Buyer-Centric Organizations The last two posts, an “Open Letter to CMOs” and an “Open Letter to Buyers” have triggered a large number of pretty intense conversations about the frustrations that you’re feeling today around the disruptive impact social media is having on your markets. It’s disruptive, not because of the technology, but because of the impact it’s having on your relationships with your buyers, their perceptions of your organization and their desire to want to begin or continue to do business with you. The fear and the uncertainty that you’ve shared with me is not knowing what impact this disruption will ultimately have on your company’s reputation, revenue, market share, the quantity and quality of the relationships with your buyers, if you were to just continue down the same path you’re on today. At the same time, even at the point where you commit to taking a buyer-centric approach to your market, going into 2012 strategic planning, you don’t have a good feel for how to operationalize this, how to integrate this into your organization, how to justify the investments, how to determine what % of your budgets should be allocated to buyercentric vs. seller-centric programs, since you simply don’t have any historical data to fall back on. If we look back on the first “Open Letter to CEOs” at that point we were trying to address the applications of social within the business. We are now moving into a “buyer-centric” social engagement world, embracing social within a broader context, by orienting and aligning our organization to identify, understand and intimately serve the needs of our buyers, from their perspective, not ours. Evolving into a buyer-centric organization is easy to say, but extremely complex to become. Our teams, our processes, our systems today are seller-centric in orientation. The magnitude of this shift will be felt by our organizations for the next 3-5 years to come. To begin, let’s look at some of the questions the CEO of a buyer-centric organization would ask: • How do we help our buyers decide what the best solution is for them? How do we make sure we are the easiest company to do business with? • How do we make our buyers’ lives better? Do we help them make the best “fit” decision for them? Do we listen to their needs? Are we transparent in our engagement? Do we meet and exceed their expectations in before, during, and after the sale? • How do we rationalize our spend from the buyers’ perspective? Are we spending money to market to them or help them realize the best solution for their needs? Do we have confidence in our ability to satisfy the customer if they had an honest comparison? Social Executive Council – 1200 Abernathy Road NE, Building 600, Suite 1700, Atlanta, GA 30328 - (404) 307-9613 Copyright © 2012 – Social Executive Council Page: 9 Proprietary and Confidential
    • • Do we understand not only the demographics of who bought from us, but the context of the purchase around what specific problem do we solve for them. In a complex sale, do you understand the motivational differences between the different stakeholders? • How do we balance our need to reach potential buyers with a message that catches their attention around our solution with the ability to satisfy those who self-identify with the problem, but aren’t yet sufficiently educated to determine what solution options are available to them? How do we leverage our existing market relationships to strengthen are ability to connect with those potential buyers? To be buyer-centric, we can no longer silo our engagement with our buyers, as they no longer segment their relationship with us. We are seeing a fusion of marketing, sales, business development, customer care, product management, information technology, etc. through this transformation. The “shiny penny” days of investing in social are over. Without tangible proof of a hard ROI, it will become increasingly difficult for us to secure the funding that we need to support our buyers. But if you focus on them, the revenue they will reward you with will justify this new means to that end. Open Letter to Buyers We owe you a mea culpa…. We’ve been seller driven, not buyer driven. We’ve focused on selling you what we think you need (what we sell) versus helping you make better decisions. We haven’t helped you make the business case for why this is a significant problem. We’ve automated our marketing systems to better reach you, but never asked if or what you’re interested in. We’ve treated you as a company, not as a group of individuals with different needs, perspectives, and roles. We don’t know what a “day in your life” looks like to give us context as to why you don’t have the time to sit through our “canned” presentation, educate us on your business, and sift through all of our market claims. I know, you’ve been trying to tell us for a while. You sent out a letter telling all of your vendors that their sales people aren’t allowed onsite anymore. You deleted all of your voice mail messages without listening to them, only giving your mobile# to the folks you want to talk to. You don’t respond to cold calls, even your gatekeepers have gatekeepers. You don’t show up at events because you don’t want to be bombarded by sales people. You have your admin go through the 400 emails you get a day, deleting most of them along the way. You’re tired of all of the generic content being pushed out through social media. And so on. In isolation, we can always find a reason (excuse) to explain it away and justify why it’s OK for us to keep doing what we’re doing. But in combination, there’s an underlying trend here and you’re sounding the alarm. For one vendor, in the past 90 days, 40% of their “potential” market (email list) opted-out, globally. Stop the bus. I get it. You’re on information overload, trying to come up for air in these oversaturated markets and you’re fed up. I don’t blame you. When I’m the buyer in this scenario, so am I. So, I hear you and you’re absolutely right. It can no longer be about us, it’s got to be about you. It’s about time we “snap out of it” and take a buyer driven approach, a 180-degree shift from the way we’re marketing to you today. In order to deliver on these rights, we have evolved through social media, social marketing and are now moving into a post-social world. So, what’s the difference between seller and buyer driven? Social Executive Council – 1200 Abernathy Road NE, Building 600, Suite 1700, Atlanta, GA 30328 - (404) 307-9613 Copyright © 2012 – Social Executive Council Page: 10 Proprietary and Confidential
    • Seller Driven vs. Buyer Driven Potential vs. Motivational Demographic vs. Psychographic Campaign vs. Momentum Opt-out vs. Opt-in Transactional vs. Educational Product Benefits vs. Customer Impact Commonality vs. Differences Ambassador vs. Evangelist Macro vs. Micro Adoptive vs. Adaptive Company Solution vs. Buyer Decision Being buyer driven doesn’t mean that you lose your competitive edge, but rather the opposite. By focusing more on finding buyers who really need and want to buy from us, we’re more effective at acquiring customers at a lower cost. Motivation and pain are more critical than “potential market” when it comes to closing sales. Who knew? We can hold our sales and marketing teams accountable through the integration of social, web, and CRM to measure, metric and track every step of the way. The Social Executive Council is a microcosm of what’s going on in the larger world. Once we flipped to focus exclusively on buyer decision support, you’ve shared how this is helping you change perspectives, sell this within your companies and is the peer validation for your decision making. We’re seeing these same shifts in every industry. With social, the ability to become buyer driven is transformative and the wave of the future. No more “look at me” SPAM messaging over social, no more creative campaigns to nowhere, no more untargeted messaging. If it doesn’t add value, if it doesn’t help you make a better decision, if it doesn’t make us easier to do business with; we continue to be part of the noise problem instead of the solution. Open Letter to CMOs It has been awhile since I wrote my last open letter to the SEC, but my goal with these is to summarize important trends that I see consistently across the executive members within the group in a way that helps highlight major strategic challenges. In speaking with many of the CMOs, I am seeing that many have started social marketing programs, but many are struggling to integrate these programs into the rest of their marketing efforts and to justify the investments. You’ve shared with me examples of what’s not working and why you are frustrated, but everyone seems to be challenged as to why we are struggling in building traditional justification and accountability models in social marketing. I probably have had conversations with variations on this theme at least 50 times in the last month. It is also interesting to note that the more complex the sale, the harder it is to calculate the business impact. In the last couple of weeks, I think we have come to some startling conclusions about social media that I thought worthy of sharing. After 27 years of living in a complex sales world, I’ve come to the realization that we are now witnessing one of the biggest disruptions in business in my career. We have seen the underlying trend that buyers are leveraging social media to assist in their purchase research, but I think the real disruption is that we have come to realize based upon our conversations with senior executives and our market research data that social media is actually changing complex Social Executive Council – 1200 Abernathy Road NE, Building 600, Suite 1700, Atlanta, GA 30328 - (404) 307-9613 Copyright © 2012 – Social Executive Council Page: 11 Proprietary and Confidential
    • purchase behaviors. We are hearing and seeing buyers leveraging social markets to build their business case for making investments in complex solutions BEFORE making the decision about what solutions to invest in and justifying their recommendation about who to invest in. Simply put, buyers are evaluating vendors prior to the traditional engagement with the sales organization. They are making decisions about vendors many times even before engaging with them; sourcing options, soliciting recommendations, building long lists, validating vendors reputations, building short lists and even building requirements and expected ROI. All roles traditionally supported within the sales relationship. In short, traditional complex purchase decisions were made during the sales process and then the customer was responsible for building the business case with the sales organization to justify their decision. Not anymore. Today, we are seeing the business case precede the vendor discussions. If you are not influencing that process upstream of your involvement, you are not really in consideration. This is forcing a major shift in the roles of marketing and sales as the responsibility of the business case now lies with marketing, not sales. Marketing’s role is no longer to create soft awareness or gin up demand, but now they have to make the business case to get in the door even before the sales team can be engaged. The sales team is still responsible for customizing the solution and assisting in the selection process, but now they have the added responsibility of assisting marketing in evangelizing the business case, protecting brand equity, and extending the company’s sphere of influence within the market. In my conversations, I have heard the frustration as to the misalignment of expectations and the challenges that both sales and marketing organizations are struggling with as marketing was not supposed to make the business case nor was sales responsible for brand. We are seeing this manifest itself in several ways within sales organizations; low response rates from traditional lead generation, sales teams struggling to reach decision makers, buyers coming to the table with better defined requirements, external market sources like blogs and peer networks being used more heavily by buyers to source, companies less willing to schedule onsite sales appointments, and gatekeepers increasingly blocking the sales team’s attempts at relationship building prior to decision. As a result your team is invited to do a presentation for the selection committee. Your team brought a canned presentation to educate the team, only to learn that the client was already ahead of you in their education and expected you to be able to discuss the specifics of how this applies in their organization. Your sales team is getting more and more detailed RFPs without the ability to engage with the prospects or influence the requirements. Your team learned that you lost a deal because the buyer based their decision on outdated information about you in the market which led them to believe you missed a key capability that they needed. In marketing, we are seeing the results in less direct, but just as telling ways. The bloggers and review sites don’t really respond to the latest rebranding messaging, the click through rates from SEM and the email marketing campaigns are slowly eroding over the last couple of years. You purchase a list to give to the telesales team and despite their best efforts; they are getting about a 3% interest rate. You know it’s not a lot, but it’s better than nothing. Your agency built your presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter; your team is distributing content through these channels and you have gotten a good number of “followers”, but you can’t prove that any sales resulted directly from these programs despite the upgrades in marketing automation and analytics. For social marketing to be effective and impactful, we have heard four major “themes” that we believe will assist your organization in thinking about this from your buyers’ perspective: Social Executive Council – 1200 Abernathy Road NE, Building 600, Suite 1700, Atlanta, GA 30328 - (404) 307-9613 Copyright © 2012 – Social Executive Council Page: 12 Proprietary and Confidential
    • Killer Applications vs. Killer Features  The majority of the buyers in the market have a business pain/problem/need and have yet to determine the solution.  Buyers can’t tell which is the best solution, if they can’t figure out how it’s going to solve their problem. They can’t build their business case on generic/theoretical information/approach. They need to build different business cases for different applications. Social marketing allows for “mass customization” of these business cases.  Rather than focusing on “killer features”, marketers should be analyzing and assessing the market to understand the buyer’s “pain” and the “killer applications” that will best serve them. Evangelism and Advocacy  The ultimate goal is to align the buyer’s business case with your solution to enable their decision about their investment. Rather than relying on your buyers to figure it out for themselves, help them. It’s no longer just about the homework you’ve done on them, it’s about the homework they’ve done on you.  Evangelism is about helping the buyers figure out what they need to do (business case). Advocacy is about helping the buyers through their decision support process so they invest in you (justification).  To build credibility, you have to do both, at the same time, in real time, in a balanced fashion. If you swing too far towards evangelism, you’ll educate the buyer, but they may not select you. If you swing too far towards advocacy, you may be seen as self-serving. Complex Buying Process  Today, buyers go through a very complex, multi-directional, multi-dimensional, multi-influence, networked buying process to build consensus around the investment while mitigating their risk around the decision.  Rather than solely focusing on the impact of their demographics/attributes on this process, it’s critical to understand what types of buyers they are, their motivations, what’s going to trigger a change in behavior as they transition from browsing to shopping.  Focus on the specific interactions that will compel the buyers to take action and propel them further/faster in their buying process. Economics of Buying/Selling  The organization that can assist the buyers in building their own “custom” business case earlier in the process will be the winner.  The business case is not a one-sized-fits-all canned document, but is a component based, distributed set of thought leadership, business decision support tools that enable buyers to quickly assemble the information they need, when they need it, and in their own terms, to compare solutions options and validate your offering on an apples-to-apples basis.  When done correctly, social marketing’s delivery of this business case can be tracked, measured, and will produce a hard ROI in terms of efficiency for the both your organization and the buyers.  The ability to easily validate from other customers the quality of the delivery and the caliber of the customer experience is a part of the business case as buyers who have to go out of their way to check references and validate your claims have to absorb that cost. Companies that foster that transparency and cater to their existing customers have a huge advantage in that they can easily reference customer satisfaction in their business case. Social Executive Council – 1200 Abernathy Road NE, Building 600, Suite 1700, Atlanta, GA 30328 - (404) 307-9613 Copyright © 2012 – Social Executive Council Page: 13 Proprietary and Confidential
    •  We are seeing those companies that have transitioned from marketing communications via social media to more buyer decision support to assist buyer’s in lowering the cost of acquiring their solution are finding that they are able to measurably see the return in terms of impact to their business. If you had told me several months ago that the ability to generate a tangible ROI from social marketing would hinge on the ability to deliver a customized business case; I am not sure I would have recognized the importance. However, we are now seeing that this may be the foundation for really producing effective results. More importantly, we are also seeing this as the “tip of the spear” in terms of building the larger social business case within the organization. If you can tie a hard ROI from revenue growth to social business by assisting buyers in building their business cases while aligning the organization to improve delivery of the solution; it will be much easier to justify the soft ROI from enterprise collaboration and productivity gains from social business. Open Letter to CEOs Several of you have shared with me this week that you have a meeting with your CEO in the next couple of weeks, next month, etc. The topic is “social”, what you are doing today and what you are recommending the company do next. In this meeting you need to be able to articulate a business case of why you should be investing in this and how will it impact your business. The top 5 questions CEOs ask in these meetings… 1. How are we going to make money at this? By being strategic in our approach and aligning to our core business objectives. We can no longer be just tactical. Having said that, having just a strategy is not enough. We need a clear operational plan to make sure that we execute on our strategy. Otherwise it’s only theoretical and we’ll be standing here a year from now having the same conversation. 2. What are our competitors doing and how do we make sure we do it better? We need to do much more extensive market research to make sure we have a good handle on the current state of the market. 3. Do we have a plan and how much is this going to cost us? We’re at the beginning of this. We will build a deliberate and staged plan which will allow us to pay for our incremental investments from the returns we realize as we go. 4. Do we have the all of the right people on the bus? Not yet. As we build this as a core competency we will need to shift some people around, hire some more specialists, and then train everyone. Social Executive Council – 1200 Abernathy Road NE, Building 600, Suite 1700, Atlanta, GA 30328 - (404) 307-9613 Copyright © 2012 – Social Executive Council Page: 14 Proprietary and Confidential
    • 5. Do we have to rip out all of the technology that we invested in the last 5 years? No, we can leverage what we have and then layer in the social, collaboration, and other technologies as needed. We will replace as we go, but we can start simple. These technologies are designed to be modular and scalable. The point of this meeting isn’t for you to have all the answers, but to show through these questions that you understand why this is critical to the business, what you need to do, that you have a plan and can take command of this process, so that your CEO can stand in front of the “board” with confidence knowing that the team has it covered. From there, you will need to make sure that you can discuss the operational aspects of a business case: • Benchmarking - The shift in the market and its effect on the competitive landscape and your market leadership position • Value - The change in buyer behavior and the economic impact on how you market/sell • ROI - Define how you will make money (top line) and reduce cost (bottom line) • Application - The operationalization within your organization • Roadmap - Organizational impact (people, process, technology, change management, adoption Social Executive Council – 1200 Abernathy Road NE, Building 600, Suite 1700, Atlanta, GA 30328 - (404) 307-9613 Copyright © 2012 – Social Executive Council Page: 15 Proprietary and Confidential