Research shows young procurement professionals embracing social web

Planning on using the social web to market to B2B decision-makers?  According to just-released research from London’s Base One Group, you might consider the age of your target audience.

In a comprehensive study of 503 UK B2B purchasing decision-makers, those under 30 years of age were twice as likely to be fans of the social web and use it actively as an information-gathering tool.

The report does a nice job breaking out the information channels used by B2B decision makers by demographics and industry, but also by the stage in the decision-making process.

For example, decision-makers under 30 counted on blogs, Twitter and Facebook at the exploratory stage of a supplier search about 30% of the time compared to about 6% for those over 30 years of age.  The one exception was LinkedIn, where both age groups found equal utility.

Important implication of this –  the upcoming generation of professionals is relying heavily on new media as an information gathering tool.

Blogs rule?

Another thought-provoking nugget in the study, is that when B2B procurement decision-makers were finding potential new suppliers, Twitter and blogs were considered as a more influential source of supplier information than any other information channel, including word of mouth, seminars and industry publications.

However, the most popular sources of information across all ages remains decidedly “old school:” web searches, supplier websites, seminars, and the industrial press.

In fact, when asked how their information gathering behavior had changed, procurement professionals cited the greatest increased use of web searches (up for  64% of respondents) and supplier websites (up for 61%). Social networking sites Facebook and Twitter experienced 6% and 10% net increases respectively, and LinkedIn saw growth of 19%. Online videos/webinars/podcasts were also a strong source of information with an increase in usage of 36%, consistent with other B2B research that has been featured on {grow}.

Base One Group commissioned the new research in association with B2B Marketing Magazine.  The study had a diverse industry profile including manufacturing, business services, financial, public administration and healthcare. About 50% of the respondents had 1,000 employees or more.


The email marketing classic FAIL

“The essence of an exceptional technology public relations agency is not something that can be captured with words. Rather, it is something that must be experienced.”Tech Image website

Well, I sure had an “experience” with Tech Image — and not a very professional one.

I get “pitched” by authors and publicists every week who are trying to get a mention on {grow}.  As you’ve noticed, I don’t normally advocate products or services here. To me, the blog would start looking like one of those jackets the NASCAR drivers wear. But I’m polite, especially when the folks think enough to write a personal note or even mention my blog. Even though I may not be interested in a product, I’m always interested in the person and building new connections.

Likewise, I also get tons of spam like everybody else, which I politely dump.

But this week I got one of the worst pitches ever … from a notable PR company (the aforementioned Tech Image) because it was spam … publicizing an eBook on email best practices from a company called Campaigner.

The irony of this is just too great to ignore.

So let’s use this as a lesson on how NOT to promote yourself to a blogger.

1) If you’re sincere in trying to make a connection with me, don’t send a form junk letter pretending to know me. Then I have to figure out if I really know you and that just takes up time that I frankly don’t have. It would be much better to say upfront, “we’re sending this out to a list of marketing bloggers who might be interested in …”. At least then I know you’ve done a little homework … which is good … but that I don’t have to figure out where we’ve met before.

2) Don’t send me unwanted spam to tout email marketing best practices. When I send out my email newsletter through Constant Contact it takes me through a series or prompts to remind me that people I am contacting have actually opted-in for the mailer. Isn’t THAT a best practice?

3) If this is important to Campaigner, why isn’t Campaigner sending out the email?  So let’s get this straight, I’m getting a promotion on email marketing best practices, published by an email marketing company, who can’t send out their own email marketing? Having a third party send out your emails. Hmm, is that also one of the best practices I should note?

Now compare this to a note I got last week from Chris Houchens.

Hi Mark –

We follow each other on Twitter (@shotgunconcepts) and I’m a reader of your blog.

I was wondering if you would be interested in a comp copy of my latest book, “Brand Zeitgeist: Embedding Brand Relationships into the Collective Consciousness.”   The book reinforces basic marketing and branding principles and illustrates how businesses can use fundamental aspects of human nature to develop a brand strategy.

Also since I’m so close to Knoxville, I was wondering if there was a possibility of some sort of event we could partner on. I could give a 30/60 minute presentation on the basics of branding, do book signings, etc. You could invite current/potential clients of your agency to the event and use it to develop your business. Just a thought. If you have another idea, I’m open to all.

Now isn’t THAT how it’s done?

P.S. “Brand Zeitgeist” is a short, sweet little book on brand evolution using examples from some of the world’s most enduring icons. The book can be found HERE. Support the community : )

Is technological complexity just covering up your other business problems?

Complexity has been a theme through many posts on {grow}, most typically connected with the word “STRESS!”

I had a fascinating discussion with one of my ex-professors about technological complexity and why it is often making business life more difficult, instead of easier. A fundamental idea we explored was that often, technological systems are implemented to try to make up for a loss of business experience.  Let’s see what you think.  Here’s an example, comparing two real companies I have worked with:

The case for experience

Company A is a mid-sized tech firm whose newest senior manager joined the company eight years ago. Most of the top executives have been in the same company, in the same market, for 20 years or more. Even during the recession, they have made it a priority to retain experienced managers.

Company A has a simple CRM system to keep their sales pipeline straight but for the most part rely on their cumulative industry experience and intimate customer knowledge to serve their market and respond quickly to opportunities. Do they rely on Twitter and social media monitoring to “listen” to their customers? No. They KNOW what’s happening because of their deep personal relationships.  Their customers typically pay more for their services and demonstrate incredible loyalty due to these long-term bonds.

Now let’s turn to Company B.  Over the past decade, this company has rapidly replaced people who fail in a job. So even an experienced “superstar” who goes into a new job and doesn’t knock the lights out right away is replaced by an outsider who has zero experience in the company and probably zero experience in the industry. Within a few years, only one out of their 12 most senior executives was “home-grown.”

Implications of tech versus experience

To make up for the rapid experience and knowledge drain, many of the new executives instituted their own management systems, often carrying over a familiar application from their previous company.  Workers at Company B are almost constantly learning a new “process.”  To make matters worse, if a rumor begins that an executive is on the way out, all progress comes to a halt because they know that the replacement manager is just going to change direction on technology again any way.

When Company B was faced with a contract negotiation with its largest customer, all of the managers who knew the customer and had been part of previous negotiations were gone.  So they hired a consultant to build a computer model that considered supply, demand, competitor capacity, pricing scenarios and every possible angle to produce a can’t miss negotiation strategy.  The result?  Company B lost the customer entirely, an event the computer model predicted could not possibly happen. The computer couldn’t account for trust and business relationships.

Now I know there are a LOT of managerial problems with the Company B scenario I’m presenting, and obviously some level of complexity is inherent in any business.  But the point is, too often we …

  • Rely on software to mask over deeper management problems.
  • Focus on data instead of information.
  • Take comfort in analytics instead of common sense.
  • Minimize the value of real business wisdom and (gasp!) intuition because we feel the latest tech hype must be infallible.

Most likely, relying on software in place of real business experience results in personal stress, bloated costs, wasted resources, and excessive complexity.

As you try to stay ahead of the mounting technological tsunami, perhaps it is time to pause and consider whether there is a true business case for that new app or if this is just an attempted quick fix to bigger problems.

What do you think? Does this idea about complexity make sense in your company and your life?

Why politics may drive the social web

While President Obama’s use of the social web to connect with voters and raise funds has been well-documented, it may be Scott Brown’s impossible 2010 senatorial win that cements the social web’s role in politics — and perhaps sets it at the forefront of social web innovation.

To set the stage, this was one of the most important state elections in American history.  Healthcare reform was the centerpiece of the Democratic platform and its success hinged on the simple fact that the party held 60 seats in the U.S. Senate, the majority needed to overcome procedural tactics from the opposition that could prevent a vote. That tenuous balance of power shifted when Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts died of cancer last August. The future of healthcare reform and the political makeup of the Senate apparently would be determined by a special election in that state.

This Massachusetts senatorial seat has had a Democratic incumbent for 57 consecutive years and Martha Coakley, the state’s well-funded attorney general, was considered a prohibitive favorite to continue that trend.  Yet the victory went to Brown, a little-known Republican state senator, who surged in the final two weeks of the campaign and overcame a 30-point deficit in just over two months.

What could have caused this amazing turn of events?  While his election was certainly aided by growing concern over Democratic policies, tireless campaigning, and some timely Republican funding, his use of the social web, as documented by a new study, may be the tactic that will imprint state and local elections forever.

According to  research conducted by the Emerging Media Research Council, Brown’s effective use of social networking tools including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. could have been a factor in his surge.  Here were his numbers as of election day:

Facebook Fans:  Brown (70,800), Coakley (13,529) He received 10 times more Facebook interactions than his opponent.

Twitter Followers:  Brown (9,679), Coakley (3,385)  Brown’s Twitter feed dominated his web page.  Both candidates tweeted about the same amount, but Brown offered twice as much original content, providing a more “engaged response.”

Ning:  The “Brown Brigade” had 6,000 members. The platform created a campaign community to announce events, organize outreach, and compile blogs about his campaign.

Blogging:  Did not appear to be a factor. Brown did not have one. Coakley’s discussed campaign events and received few comments.

YouTube Video Views:  Brown (578,271), Coakley (51,173)

While visits to both candidate webpages were about equal, the study concludes that Brown’s use of social media helped drive his election in several ways, including boosting name recognition both in Massachusetts, and out (which helped fundraising). They note that just 51% of Massachusetts voters had heard of Brown in a Nov. 12 poll, and by Jan. 14 his name recognition was at 95%.

An irony of this development is that Democrats have received the bulk of the credit for progressing campaign-oriented social media networks, but were out-done by the Republicans.  In fact, a report released this year found that Republican lawmakers were using Twitter more than five times as much as Democrats.  Leading tweeters are Sen. John McCain and South Carolina Senatoe Jim DeMint, who was determined by one algorithm to have more Twitter “clout and influence”  than any other senator.

Clearly, the use of social media will now be inexorably linked to political campaigning.  But the more interesting prospect may be what is yet to come. With the intense research, resources and scrutiny given to the use of the social web as a tool of stakeholder engagement, could political parties emerge as principle technology innovators?

Politics as social web innovator and driver brings up some other interesting questions:

  • How do social web lessons from the business world translate into the world of politics?
  • How will social media policies apply to political campaigns … to prevent potential embarassment from over-zealous tweeters, for example?
  • How will these lessons translate in other countries, especially where social media adoption is just beginning?
  • Why weren’t blogs more important as a mechanism for political response and establishing a voice of authority? Are they afraid of putting their stands in writing?
  • What business opportunities will emerge from this insatiable need for political social media consulting?
Illustration: New York Times
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