It’s Not Stalking, It’s Social Selling. Three Lessons for Corporate Social Success

A few years ago, while working with SAP, I setup a social selling program for our leading global sales team. Given their initial reluctance – and the bad wrap that social media held within corporate circles – I developed a deck with the title “It’s Not Stalking, It’s Social Selling”. The title alone got us over the first hurdle – the natural distrust of technology and social networks that almost all of us feel when first venturing into the vast social network space. But what followed was an eye-opener for both me and the teams. And those lessons continue today.

Here are three vital lessons that I learned years ago, but continue to learn from today:

1. You’re only a leader when you have followers

When I boldly pitched this program to senior executives, I had a sense that it was groundbreaking. That no one had done this before. But it also needed to succeed, so I had to tread carefully. It had to be successful. The first focus for “social selling” was Twitter. We built a program, trained the teams and gingerly began engaging with customers. What response did we get?


Then a couple of clients emailed to explain that they LOVED that we were engaging this way. But they were not ready yet. Don’t expect engagement. Interaction. Sales progression. The program was too early. It was worth nothing.

2. Go with your instinct but follow the data to reach a discovery

Following on from my disastrous first steps, I realised that I had followed my instincts not the data. While my instincts were correct, they led to the wrong conclusion. Yes, the shift was on for digital engagement and social selling. But no, at that stage, Twitter was not the right channel (but these, days, hmmm – maybe we should talk). When I conducted a personal branding audit, I realised that the teams had an untapped resource right at their fingertips. LinkedIn. There was a network already in place. They were comfortable in using it. And our clients were also present.

Go with your instincts – but back it up with data. Setup a hypothesis, test it and learn. Save yourself the grief of a too-soon failure.

3. We are all experts

Hardly any of us can view our skills, experience and achievements objectively. Naturally, we judge our own capability according to our own efforts and the activities of those we trust most – and if we all work, operate, collaborate and share with like minds, we often don’t end up with innovation but with “group think”. Keep this in mind.

When I began shifting the social selling program from Twitter to LinkedIn, I conducted a brief audit. I rang participants to understand their online behaviours. I asked about how they used LinkedIn, what worked for them and why. I also looked for best practices. I found there really were LinkedIn gurus within the company whose abilities and profiles were far superior to my own. They used LinkedIn in a qualitatively different way. So I canvassed their opinions and insights too.

I learned that each person’s view of expertise is limited to their worldview. The first step in transforming practice is to open that worldview to the “glare of the guru”. And this is where data comes into play again. If you have been using a social platform for years, have a few hundred followers or connections and feel like you have “joined the conversation” – then you’ll be an expert. But are you an expert at scale?

If only I had LinkedIn’s social selling index back then. It’s a daily-updated dashboard that measures how effective your personal brand is, how well connected and engaged you are on the LinkedIn platform, and how well you build relationships. Importantly, it also measures you against your existing network – as well as your industry – so you know how you compare across two measures, not one.

Of course, it’s focused entirely on driving greater use of LinkedIn, but if that is where you are starting with your social selling program, then it’s perfect.

Based on my profile, it seems I need to engage more on LinkedIn (ie consume content, comment etc) and find more prospects (no doubt with the LinkedIn Sales Navigator). At least I now have action points based on data. So look out, if we’re connected, I’m coming to talk to you about what I’m good at. But don’t worry, it’s not stalking, it’s social selling.


Oracle and the Future of Enterprise Software

Constellation Research’s annual customer conference, Connected Enterprise is like no other conference you’ll have the pleasure of attending. It is two intense days of keynotes, forums and meetups. But it’s also immensely collegiate. Anyone you meet in the audience at this conference could have been presenting on the stage. In between sessions you will rub shoulders with startup innovators, enterprise CEOs, analysts, inventors and even artists.

But if you were unable to make this year’s conference, some of the sessions are now available online. In this interview, R “Ray” Wang, founder of Constellation Research, speaks with Mark Hurd, CEO of Oracle. They discuss the future of enterprise software and delve into the disruption that large scale businesses will face in the coming years.

It is a rare opportunity to hear directly from Oracle’s new CEO. Some of the standout topics include:

  • The challenge of the next generation of leaders and how Gen Y will change the way we consume software in the enterprise
  • Oracle’s clear strategy around “The Cloud” (“best of breed in applications, segment by segment … AND suite”)
  • The flexibility of integrated SaaS and PaaS and the challenge this presents for system integrators.

This also means that Oracle will be well positioned to tackle the challenging mid-tier and small business end of the market. And that will make it interesting for the startups who survive on servicing smaller customers. What’s that? More acquisition targets for Oracle?

Mobile Isn’t Just a Marketing Conversation

  • “Mobile first” won’t cut it – businesses need to think “mobile only”
  • It’s time for CMOs to climb aboard the technology bus
  • CIOs need to buy-into the marketing conversation

Could it be that 2013 will indeed be the “year of mobile”? Mobile internet traffic is now accounting for 20-30% of total web traffic working from a 5-7% base only 12 months ago. These usage patterns, when combined with strong demand for mobile devices (smartphones, tablets etc), indicate that businesses are going to have move quickly to address this changing engagement landscape. eMarketer suggests that “mobile first” will be a priority for 2013, but recent research by Constellation Research Group indicates that this will not be enough – that brands must consider a “mobile only” landscape.

Digital disruption is impacting every industry – from retail to financial services, mining to tourism and everything in-between. Driven by the five forces of the consumerization of IT – social, cloud, mobile, big data and unified communications – CMOs are challenged to respond to the rapidly changing business landscape. And for those who are not already engaged with technology transformation, it may be too late. As a matter of priority, marketers must not just consider and evaluate technology – they must grapple with it, engage and implement. In short – it’s time to get on the technology bus or look for a new role.

This, however, is more easily said than done. Mobile isn’t just a marketing conversation. IBM’s new Worklight solution highlights the fact that mobile is also – rightly – part of technology strategy. And that means talking with the CIO.

Innovate 2012 – Start Now for 2013 Success

Many businesses are now planning for 2013 projects. But if the consumerization of IT has taught us anything, it is that your customers move at the speed of social, not the speed of enterprise. And that means, executing now and executing again later. If you want to be successful in 2013, you cannot afford to wait until Q1.

IBM’s Innovate2012 event showcases the transformational aspect of mobile devices and platforms:

  • There will be 10 billion devices in market by 2020
  • 61% of CIOs view mobile as a priority
  • Businesses are seeing 45% increased productivity with mobile apps

CMO to CIO – It’s Time We Talked

But CIOs cannot hive off mobility as a technology-only direction. Just as CMOs must start to engage with the nuts and bolts of technology, it’s also time that CIOs bought into the marketing conversation. CIOs have the experience of delivering large scale, high value technology projects with enterprise level governance and business change management. CMOs can benefit from this experience and expertise. Conversely, CMOs are experiencing unprecedented pressure to deliver customer value. This means speed to market. Collaborating around these challenges will see massive benefit for marketers and technology teams.

PCN Connect: A Little Something I Prepared Earlier

About two years ago I wrote that Social Media is Not Sexy. This post was about the business challenges of social media and just how complex, challenging and incremental it can be within large scale, enterprise sized businesses.

About eight or nine months after writing this post I took on a new role with SAP’s Premier Customer Network. I’d already launched an online platform for SAP’s education team with a heavy social media element – and this new opportunity to work closely with the world’s largest companies in a social media focused role sounded fantastic. But what would it really take? How far could we go? Would it be as unsexy as I thought?

I can recall speaking with Mike Hickinbotham who suggested that there WAS a deep down sexiness to getting big companies to engage in social media. And he should know, working with one of Australia’s largest companies, Telstra – but his point was not necessarily about the glitz and glamour that comes with flashy campaigns – it was about the slow burn that comes from changing the nature of the relationships that we have with our customers.

Over the last 12 months or so, we have been working with some of SAP’s most strategic customers in this way – creating a secure, closed community called PCN Connect. It is still early days – but it is exciting – and maybe even a little sexy – to see this site come to life.

Here’s a taste of our journey so far. But like any social business initiative – there is still a way to go – and it gets more interesting with every step.

Social Business Maturity Model

Almost every day there is another way that social media encroaches upon our businesses. It could be a new technology designed to help us reach new customers or something to help us target buyers more accurately. It could be a new device, some software or a must-have community building platform.

Similarly, in our so-called “personal lives”, we are seeing a blurring of the boundaries – between home and work, work and play, friends, colleagues, connections and family.

But while many of us have been weaving social media into the fabric of our lives, most businesses are at the very beginning of this process. Their efforts are ad hoc, barely repeatable and hardly defined. There is confusion, miscommunication – and even misinformation.

So what then would be a model that enterprises – large scale businesses – could look to? I thought I’d try my hand at putting a “social business maturity model” together. Running vertically are the five stages of enterprise maturity. Each of these stages have key process areas which provide milestones and evidence capabilities that mark the transition to a new level of maturity. It’s a draft, but I’d love your input and suggestions. How can we make it better? What would you add or change?

A Living Company

Here is a neat presentation from Dachis Group’s Dave Gray on organisational systems – contrasting the way we live with the way we work. On the one hand, we have our communities, neighbourhoods and streetscapes – and on the other we have our workgroups, our teams and business units. Why don’t we envision our workplaces in a similar way? Would this improve our sense of belonging, our productivity or our customer satisfaction scores? Take a flip through and let me know what you think.

Ten Ways to Kill Community

Sometimes the best way of understanding HOW to do something is to think how NOT to. In this fantastic short presentation, Marilyn Pratt steps through the 10 things that you can do to kill off the community that has begun to grow around your brand (or products, services etc). There is some great insight that can be applied to any business’ community – and each point is backed up with the hard won experience of working in, building up and evangelising a large corporate community.

Marilyn is one of SAP’s community evangelists and knows first-hand what works (and doesn’t) – but does this accord with your experience? What other ways have you found to kill your community?

Social Media is Not Sexy

Be afraid!While Web 2.0 and social media tools provide great opportunities for businesses from a branding and marketing point of view, there are also a raft of other opportunities which are easily overlooked. The very same benefits that can be achieved through your social media efforts can also be applied across your enterprise – from employees to partners, vendors and even shareholders. Sounds great, right?

But let me tell you a little secret. This sort of social media (and almost every aspect of social media) is just not sexy. It doesn’t have the glitz and glamour or even the spotlights of advertising; and there’s not the breathtaking scale of large format outdoor advertising. But if you can get past this, you will find that your social media efforts really will transform your business.

But where do you start?

I always start with people and with their behaviour. What sort of relationship does you business have with them? The thing about Web 2.0 or social media is that it is participatory – and many, if not most, businesses and brands base their stakeholder relationships around transactions. In fact, we have built our entire businesses around this – just look at the success of that once new-fangled concept of “ebusiness” or “ecommerce” – and now think about whether you would ever open a bank account that didn’t have an online banking option. Even my mother uses online banking. To me, that makes it ubiquitous. It makes it mainstream.

From a business perspective, the transactional relationship works. You know what you want out of the relationship (ie money) and it is easy to measure (volume). But to enable a transactional relationship with a large audience requires technology – and with that comes complexity, long timeframes for implementation and a whole lot of work on your internal business processes. And because of the scale, complexity and cost, it comes from the top down – it is driven by your business executives.

Web 2.0, on the other hand, is simple to implement. Sometimes you can get extensive functionality for little or no up-front cost – you can use open source software, free or cheap web hosting or you can choose a hosted (software as a service) model. Once you decide to go down this path, you can implement your ideas very quickly. Within minutes you can have a blog setup and working, a wiki ready for team collaboration and Google Analytics ready to measure your traffic, goals and conversion rates. And did I mention that ANYONE can make this happen. All you need is a web connection. From the CEO right down the new intern, anyone in your business has access to the tools that can transform the relationships that you have with your stakeholders. That’s right – it is bottom-up transformation.ThreeLeversSMsuccess

But there is a problem. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you SHOULD. And just because it’s available, doesn’t mean it will be ADOPTED. The challenge for brands and businesses who want to shift the needle on their business relationships is to move from transaction to participation – to create an engagement layer that bridges the transactional parts of the business with the newly emergent participatory elements.

Those clever folks over at McKinsey’s have published Six Ways to Make Web 2.0 Work (registration is free) which points out some of the challenges (and approaches) which can can use. But for my money, it is that middle layer of Engagement that builds success. It is the messy, unsexy aspect of business (and marketing):

  • Communications: Keeping your stakeholders up-to-date with improvements, road blocks, outcomes and risks is an essential element. This can also flow over to other aspects of marketing/advertising.
  • Change management: There is always a pre-existing way of “getting things done”. Helping people adopt new behaviours and new technologies means managing and measuring that change.
  • Framework establishment: Many of your stakeholders will have had some exposure to Web 2.0 tools in their personal lives. You will need to provide frameworks which provide the context within which they can most effectively use them at work.
  • Informal leadership: Nothing says “move ahead” like the CEO and leadership team informally adopting the Web 2.0 tools.

But while this is unsexy – with the right strategy, it actually delivers on the promise of Web 2.0. And that is good news for businesses and for brands. Hands up for some unsexy marketing?

The Secret to Marketing

SP099018I read the Cluetrain Manifesto when I was in my first official marketing role. I had been “doing” marketing for years before this – building marketing plans according to the rules, following branding guidelines, keeping and enforcing the exclusion space around the logo to a consistent 36 points.

But the Cluetrain was astounding not because of the challenge it presented to existing marketing – it was astounding because there was no CONTEXT in which it could brought within business practices. The conversations that we were having between the MD and the marketing department – and between the Board and the marketing department – went something like this:

Me: “we need to re-do this website”
Everyone else: “what’s a website?”

But soon, this conversation changed. It changed because the website project I was heading delivered results. We got something done and it changed the way that our employees thought about the company and it changed the way that our customers thought of our employees. And perhaps, more importantly, we measured what we did and we focused our continuous digital strategy around the outcomes that we set up-front, and refined along the way. We did this not because it was expected, but because we wanted to know what worked and what didn’t (hey, no one even really thought a website was important, so measurement was not on the agenda). But this conversation seems to be re-occurring – just replace the word “website” with the word “blog” and add water.

These days, the Cluetrain IS the context through which we conceptualise marketing innovation.

A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter—and getting smarter faster than most companies.

These markets are conversations. Their members communicate in language that is natural, open, honest, direct, funny and often shocking. Whether explaining or complaining, joking or serious, the human voice is unmistakably genuine. It can't be faked.

So, if we take this at face value, we would think that company or corporate blogs would be on the must-have list of every marketing director across the country (or across the world for that matter). But this is hardly the case. Why? (Check CK's blog for some ideas.) While a number of companies may use a blog to publish news, they are not really “blogging”. In fact, Mike Hickinbotham on one of the Telstra blogs has a theory:

My working theory (based on anecdotal stories) is that generally the greatest push to explore the use of social media comes from the middle versus the top end of most Australian corporations/organisations.

This, I think, is one of the secrets of marketing – and that is getting things done. You see, for years those who wanted to DO things – to make a difference in the way that we talk or engage with customers or partners or employees – knew that words and actions go together. And “getting things done” takes some effort in a large organisation. It takes a level of seniority – but you can’t be too senior. It is the role of the Business Designer that I wrote about here:

The Business Designer does not sit in a creative studio. Rather, she operates across business units — touching marketing, customer service and new product design. The BD has a finger on the pulse of finance and lives cheek-by-jowl with the legal team. There is the touch of the management consultant in the way that the BD navigates the org chart — but also the fervour of the evangelist. She may be T-shaped. She may be a green egg. But above all, she is an experienced business professional. That's right — she knows how to get things done.

But “getting things done” is not the only secret to marketing. There is one other. You have to “get emotional”. You have to tap into the emotions of the people around you – whether they are customers, bosses or the dreaded legal team. Mike says you need to “seek like-minded people out” – and he is right, because they will be on that same emotional wavelength as you – but you also need to go beyond that. You need to find the secret of the secret – the trigger that opens the flood gates.

As Clay Shirky explained about his own emotional involvement with the mini-crisis that was tagged as #AmazonFail:

When a lifetime of intellectual labor and study came up against a moment of emotional engagement, emotion won, in a rout.

And that’s the secret in action. Emotion wins everytime. Hands-down. A best-kept secret is just that – and it will do no one any favours. Isn’t it time you pulled a rabbit out of your hat?

Social Media Hits the Fortune 1000

Blog CouncilSome time ago a group of Fortune 1000 companies got together to understand, discuss and evaluate the impact of social media on their businesses. The Blog Council, operated by Andy Sernovitz’s Gas Pedal, has 45 big business members – including my own employer, SAP. And although I have no input to the Blog Council, there are clearly benefits for large businesses to collaborate, share best practices and work through the opportunities and challenges that social media presents for large businesses.

In yet another indication that social media is mainstreaming, the Blog Council has announced that Bob Pearson, former VP of Communities and Conversations at Dell, is joining the Blog Council as President. Bob’s work at Dell is often discussed as a model for the kind of transformation that businesses dream of – moving from Dell Hell to Web Darling – indeed, I use this story as a case study whenever I speak about social media. As Bob explains:

Social media represents a disruptive set of technologies and techniques that will transform a company’s business practices, improve conversational capabilities with customers and empower employees to learn and share their knowledge in real time.

And while this sounds a little jargonistic, there are some serious objectives underlying this announcement. Not only does this signal a rapid maturing of social media in the enterprise space, it also goes beyond the marketing cauldron – with Bob clearly targeting cross-line of business capabilities. It will be fascinating to see how Andy Sernovitz – author of Word of Mouth Marketing and CEO of the Blog Council – will team up to accelerate the adoption of social media in the enterprise. As Andy explains:

Social media is no longer experimental. It is essential for every company. Bob's practical experience will help our members implement effective social media programs.

I look forward to seeing this happen on a global stage – but hope this announcement also provides encouragement for Australian businesses considering a move into the social media pond.