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Demand Generation Summit II (return of the DGS) 25 March, 2009

Posted by Steve in B2B, demand generation, marketing, Technology, telecoms.
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Ever since we held the last (and first) European Demand Generation Summit at Altitude last November, we’ve had a thirst to do it all over again.

As part of the feedback process on the last event, we asked what people thought of the day, the content and speakers. We also asked what changes they’d like to see in the format of the event in the future and what topics they’d like to see covered.

Perhaps predictably, it was the day’s agenda and calibre of the speaker line-up that attracted most people to the first event. Not to mention it was free to our invitees. Of course our speakers scored very highly, but coming away from the day almost all commented on how much they’d valued the opportunity to network. I’m sure they found it cathartic to share some pain and understand that others out there were trying to overcome the same hurdles.

Three key pieces of feedback came through, which we’ve tried to listen to in putting together the agenda for the forthcoming summit:

1. People want more practical content and less of the theoretical. There’s an appetite for stories of bloodied knuckles, as well as a hunger for real learnings from people who’ve been there and done it. We were very conscious not to make last year’s event a beauty parade of vendors and ensure it was client-side marketers telling their stories. This time round we’re trying to encourage our speakers to tell their success stories, and what mistakes they’d avoid the second time round. As an example, Shawn Burns from SAP is coming along to tell the story of how he and other marketers transformed sap.com from a largely brochureware site to a ‘demand generation machine’. Good stuff.

2. Attendees wanted more opportunity to network and learn from their peers. We had some great table conversations at lunchtime last time round, and we tried to allow generous breaks. For the most part people resisted the lure of their BlackBerries, made conversation and benefited immensely. This time round we’ve gone a bit further and we’ve made the afternoon sessions entirely interactive. Attendees will have the opportunity to attend three out of four workshops on social media, accelerating sales, using webcasting and online video, and measuring and optimising campaigns. We’re going to have people capturing learnings from one group to another so that through the course of the afternoon we generate a body of knowledge which can then be shared with all attendees afterwards.

3. In terms of the content, there was a lot of call for tips on making the most of a credit-crunched budget, using social media and proving a return on marketing activity. Our first speaker of the day, Jim Cassidy, is an ex IBM marketer now at European company StepStone. In his previous life with a budget of millions, his greatest challenge used to be how to spend marketing budget fast enough. He’s now in a position where every penny (cent) has to be accounted for. Jim will talk about what he’s prioritising, how he’s making a case for spend with the board, and how he’s making his marketing assets sweat. We’ve also got a great panel line up, led by Cisco’s Amanda Jobbins. They’re going to give their take on some of these topics.

So hopefully that gives you something of a taster for what’s to come on the 30th April. If you need any more encouragement, the venue we’ve chosen this time is simply stunning – a private member’s club at the top of Centrepoint.

About time you registered I think: www.demandgenerationsummit.com

Remember, we’re only accepting registrations from client-side marketers from the B2B services, technology and telecoms sectors. No offence intended to others, but demand for places is extremely high.

Hopefully see you there.

P.S. If you’re of the twittering kind, you can get regular updates by following us at www.twitter.com/demandgentweet or subscribing to the RSS feed

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Content comes before communication 14 October, 2008

Posted by Steve in internet, marketing.
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One of the big themes of our upcoming Summit is going to be the importance of content when it comes to generating leads. My favourite quote on the topic comes from the people over at the advertising giant JWT, who proclaimed when relaunching the agency that we needed to “stop interrupting what people are interested in, and be what people are interested in.” Two years on and it still rings true as a clarion call to our industry. But the fact remains that the bulk of demand generation spending still gets piled in to intrusive, interruptive marketing.

I believe that’s because so many of the principles and thinking driving marketing communications are still derived from the old advertising world. The more attention spans have shortened, the more time we’ve spent agonising over the single ‘killer’ concept that’s going to stick in people’s heads, the arresting visual that’s going to grab their attention, the call to action that’s going to make them click or pick up the phone.

By comparison, most agencies tend to spend very little time thinking about what they’re actually driving people to. Typically, a landing page with a visual and headline that perhaps match the DM piece. A collection of all our analyst white papers and product datasheets. And forms asking customers to tell us everything from their budget to their waist size.

What if we were to channel more of our energy and creativity into developing the content that actually helps people decide whether our product or service is right for them? Better still, help them to get stuff that matters to them done. We are looking at re-writing our creative briefs so that we force ourselves to think about the content before we dive into the communication. The simple logic says if we first make the destination more attractive, then designing the signposts that get people there becomes so much easier.

The Demand Generation Summit 30 September, 2008

Posted by Steve in internet, marketing, web 2.0.
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We’re really excited about an upcoming event we’re co-hosting with a bunch of like-minded partners. On November 4th we’re launching the European Demand Generation Summit in partnership with Google, Eloqua, BrightTALK and MarketOne. It’s going to be held in London at Altitude, which is on the very top floor of Millbank tower with views across London. Speakers include Amanda Jobbins, Omniture’s Neil Morgan, Jeremy Bevan from Novell and Justin Gale, a senior online marketer from HP.

So why are we doing this? Well we’re really seeing a major change in the way demand generation is moving. More importantly, the way in which prospects and customers are responding to campaigns. The fragmentation of media channels, increasing cynicism and resistance to push ‘marketing’, coupled with empowered customers who search for whatever they need and would sooner be talking to each other than vendors. OK, so this doesn’t necessarily make us marketing visionaries, but at a time when everyone’s beginning to feel the pinch (or waiting to feel it) – it makes it more of a pressing issue than it has been for the last year. Best start planning sooner rather than later.

We figured it would be a good start to gather together some experts from across the industry. Not just our fellow hosts, but some of our customers and their peers who are actually tackling some of the challenges we’re all facing… How to develop content that people want to engage with and map it to the buying cycle; how to target timely, relevant communications to someone whose name you don’t necessarily know; how to harness emerging and social media; and how to turn customers into advocates, either online or face-to-face. Then of course there’s the small matter of measuring return on all these marketing investments.

Over the next couple of weeks in the run-up to the event I’ll be picking up some of these themes and expanding on them. In the meantime you can visit the event site here. It’s open to marketers from technology and telecoms companies, B2B and B2C. A bunch of invitations should be going out in the next day or two so keep an eye on your in-tray and in-box.

Time stands still at the IDM B2B conference 7 March, 2007

Posted by Jay Ball in B2B, marketing.
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So I spent yesterday at this year’s Institute of Direct Marketing Business-to-Business Conference. I rarely get to conferences. Even the ones I book on always seem to fall on days where ‘stuff happens’ and I become another no-show. But yesterday, I actually made it.

And wished I hadn’t.

The only reason I will go to events like these is to learn stuff. I’m not interested in the networking (probably because I’m rubbish at it) and catered food only holds so much appeal. It’s all about new thinking that challenges the mind and expands my understanding.

Apart from the odd mention of blogs and a good overview of search marketing (presented really well by Chris Warwick of Hoover’s) this could have been a conference in 1997 rather than 2007. We were told of the need to understand business customers as people. How marketing and sales really should get on better. And given an insight into how a campaign can progress from “frankly we don’t know what we’re doing” to “for the most part, we do know what we’re doing.”

I then joined the “marketing to corporates” stream that conscientiously avoided any mention whatsoever of how to market to corporates. Soon after, I lost the will to live.

Business-to-business has always been FMCG’s ugly sister. But the challenges and opportunities within B2B/considered purchase are (IMHO) far more interesting than FMCG. The complexity of the sales. The need to really engage with the market over a long period. The chance to partner with customers. All offer massive scope for innovative thinking and fresh approaches.

If what I saw yesterday is representative of where most of the industry is at, we should all be very afraid.

So how did Tahoe do? 7 December, 2006

Posted by Jay Ball in marketing, theory, web 2.0.
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When Chevrolet jumped into consumer generated media with its ‘build your own Tahoe ad’ there was a collective gasp of ‘you don’t wanna do that’ from the internet. And yes, pretty soon people put their satirical skills to work with a series of ads highlighting the Tahoe’s woeful green credentials and the general perceived stupidity of anyone considering buying one. As of right now, you can see over 70 of these on YouTube (click here for a look). And, as is the norm, once the initial furore died down, it all went quiet.

Well, Wired has followed up on the story to see how well (or not) the campaign actually worked.

As it turns out, not badly at all.

BY ANY OBJECTIVE MEASURE, the Tahoe Apprentice campaign has to be judged a success. The microsite attracted 629,000 visitors by the time the contest winner, Michael Thrams from nearby Ann Arbor, was announced at the end of April. On average, those visitors spent more than nine minutes on the site, and nearly two-thirds of them went on to visit Chevy.com; for three weeks running, Chevyapprentice.com funneled more people to the Chevy site than either Google or Yahoo did. Once there, many requested info or left a cookie trail to dealers’ sites.

I guess the kind of people who are considering buying a Tahoe really won’t be that worried about its eco-credentials. They are not making a decision between a Tahoe and a Prius after all but probably between Chevy’s option and an even worse gas guzzler from another manufacturer. In that context, the difference between a brand that helps them celebrate their decision and others who remain detached is pretty clear. It’s just a shame that it’s working to put yet more CO2 into the air.

RE: How to sell new technology 13 November, 2006

Posted by Jay Ball in marketing.
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Faris at Talent imitates, genius steals has some thoughts on selling new technologies. He points out how most tech companies are in essence run by engineers who love technology for technology’s sake and how this leads to the kind of technobabble communications that have typified the industry for so long.

This kind of speeds and feeds approach of course means very little to those outside the early adopter community. In mass markets, most people’s eyes simply glaze over when faced by the likes of a “256MB PCI Express ATI RADEON X1300 Pro graphics card” or any of the other components that make up many of today’s tech products.

Personally, I think much of the industry has moved on from this approach (with differing levels of success). With many of the features reaching near parity and an influx of marketing talent, the pitch has moved on from the “my Dad’s bigger than your Dad” contests of old. It’s no longer about who’s got the most gigabytes, dots per inch or maximum write speed. Today, in the mass market, it’s about who captures the imagination.

The thing about really new technology is that, for the most part, customers have no previous experience of it to base their judgements on. This is why many tech companies get so frustrated with research that either fails to ‘give them the answer’ or that spectacularly fails to predict customer reactions to new products in the real world.

In Faris’s Wii example, while most people understand the concept of a games console the idea of motion sensitive controllers is new. Nintendo looks to get round this by giving the viewer a vicarious experience of the Wii product. The issue for me in this example is that it feels a bit too sterile. The people on the whole are too styled, the rooms too set-like. And, for the most part, the experience they convey is (for me) underwhelming. If I put myself in their places, I come away with “that’s interesting” rather than “I must have one!”

Contrast this with the Playstation Double Life ad:

Now that engages the imagination. Yes, it’s of its time and I don’t think the same approach would work quite so well now. But it brought the product to life, created empathy with existing gamers and aspiration with non-gamers.

The real challenge in selling new technology is to give customers a compelling picture of their future lives (at work or play), one that is both inspirational and grounded.

The end of loyalty? 31 October, 2006

Posted by Jay Ball in marketing.
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The subject of customer loyalty is guaranteed to get the attention of virtually anyone involved in marketing. The cost of acquiring new customers always massively outweighs the cost of retaining existing ones (although sadly retention is still given too little meaningful attention by too many companies). And with so many technologies approaching parity, switching brands has never been easier.

Of course, exactly what marketers mean by loyalty is often a somewhat fuzzy idea. Generally it comes down to a desire for existing customers to carry on doing what they’re already doing (with a hope that they may do a little more too). As a result, many ‘loyalty programmes’ use classic behaviourist ideas of rewarding desired behaviour and habitual repeat buying. This is fine when we’re talking about getting some points on a store card for buying sugar but doesn’t stand up to anything more complicated than simple reflex purchases. This is because it is focused almost solely on habits of mind rather than anything deeper (what academics term ‘routinised response behaviour’).

A truer definition of customer loyalty is whether people will wait for your product if it is out of stock (or still in beta). Whether they will recommend it to their friends (or blog favourably about it). And whether they’ll forgive you when you make mistakes.

But in a 2.0 world is anyone really ‘loyal’ to brands anymore (especially in the tech sector)? Loyalty is, to some degree, a measure of permanence. Yet as we all know, technology is about relentless change. The technology graveyard is littered with the remains of brands and products that at one time attracted many loyal users. And we are potentially seeing a new wave of change with the move to webOS-based services.

It was unthinkable at one time that Sony Playstation users might defect instead of waiting for the next version. Yet right now the brand’s position seems more precarious than ever as PS3’s release date and availability moves ever farther away and the competition gets its act together.

Likewise, until Firefox came along, Internet Explorer had effectively won the browser war. Sadly, having won, there was no need to remain focused on improving the product (ie better serving users) and, from a technology standpoint, Microsoft has been playing catch up ever since.

Even Apple, one of the more bomb-proof tech brands, only had to have a few scratched Nanos and discolouring MacBooks to see once ‘loyal’ customers fall out of love with the brand.

One reason for this is that there is no habit of mind for most technology purchases. They are two infrequent, too expensive and the next purchase is almost never a like-for-like replacement of an older product (tech moves on too quickly). Buyers are also more informed than ever before (and far less scared of technology than they used to be). They are more willing to adopt earlier because on the whole the consequences of getting it wrong aren’t too worrying.

So where does this leave tech marketers?

The first thing to do is turn the whole loyalty question on its head. Instead of asking how loyal your customers are to you, ask how loyal you are to your customers. What can you do to help them get through their day? What would you do if you really were on their side? Find ways to be loyal to them (their wants, needs and aspirations) between purchases.

Secondly, involve customers in refining existing products and developing new ones. Work as partners with them. The open source ethos of co-creation comes into play here. If customers have some skin in the game then they are more likely to stay the course.

Finally, never, ever compromise on support. For most tech companies, this is the prime communication customers have with the brand between purchases. Yet examples of great support are considerably rarer than those of diabolical support. There is no faster way to squander hard earned brand equity than to deliver a crappy support experience.

So is loyalty dead? Yes and no. Traditional notions of brand loyalty are, in the tech sector at least, gasping their last breaths. But in their place could come a more authentic, more effective relationship with customers.

It’s all mashed up now 21 September, 2006

Posted by Jay Ball in marketing, web 2.0.
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Technology mash-ups are all the rage right now. It’s seems to be a byproduct of the web 2.0 / open source mindset. With so many companies releasing the source code to significant parts of their software, it’s become easier than ever to spawn new services.

The daddy on this is Google Maps which has been mashed more times than a sack full of spuds. It’s been mashed with BBC News to give BBC News Maps so you can see where top stories are coming from (and run the other way). Combine it with a whole bunch of others and you get Weather Bonk (not sure how well that translates into UK English) that shows the weather where you are without you having to look out the window. It’s even been mashed with Flickr to create Dog Friendly Hotels. In fact, the ProgrammableWeb site lists over 500 others using Google Maps and over 1,000 mash-ups in total.

There are, of course, mash-up marketing opportunities for companies both in terms of creating new services and in how they communicate and engage with customers. Rod Banner covered a new service idea in a recent edition of BiteMe (our regular newsletter) where social networkers could use their own prestige and connections to sell personalised products (eg NikeID gear) – you can read the article here.

Surely this is just the beginning. Increasingly, communications must have intrinsic value in their own right over and above their informational content. Engaging with the customer, partnering with them to create solutions, entertaining them in interactive, non-linear ways – these are the characteristics typifying more and more successful marketing initiatives today.

We can do this interactively through adding mashed functionality into interactive comms. Or we can take on a mashed mindset to create more effective, more integrated campaigns. The result, I believe, will be deeper, more enduring relationships with customers (plus, we’ll have more fun in the process).

Source: ProgrammableWeb (via ValleyWag).

Change everything 14 September, 2006

Posted by Jay Ball in marketing.
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ChangeEverything.ca is a new community site based on the area around Vancouver. It’s essentially a large community site focused on ideas about making the area a better place (although as a confirmed Vancouver-phile I find this concept perplexing). In some ways the site is similar to A year of living generously but it’s not a not-for-profit project.

The reason I’m talking about it here is that, as much as it has a not-for-profit feel to it, the site is in fact funded by local bank Vancity. To quote from their part of the site (sorry, it’s a bit long):

So maybe you’re wondering… why is Vancity creating an online community? Why would a bank care about anything other than its products and sales?

First of all, and this is important, this site is NOT a place where Vancity will sell you mortgages, term deposits and accounts. (To everyone who was just aching to find a place where we’d bombard you with annuities come-ons: sorry if we yanked your chain.)

Second, and more fundamentally, Vancity isn’t a bank. We’re a community-based financial institution that is as interested in making our community work as it is in making money. And these days, community is more and more about what happens online, which is why we’re so interested in the Web’s potential for supporting community development in the Lower Mainland and Victoria.

We have a triple bottom line, which means that we don’t gauge our success merely on our profitability, but also on how we are helping the communities and improving the environment where we do business.

As an exercise in creating relationships with customers, I really like the site. It has a deftness of touch and confidence you don’t see often. The writing is good too.

It’ll be interesting to see how well ChangeEverything works in terms of community participation. It will live or die on how many people take up the idea and get involved. At the moment it has a relatively limited number of active participants but to be fair, it is new.

Personally, I wish it well.

Source: TechCrunch