Collaboration, Marketing, Sales, Social Media

Powering Mass Collaboration with Salesforce Communities


salesforceportalsVcommunities

My firm works with our clients to deliver world-customer service and collaboration solutions on salesforce.com. Many of our clients cite interoperability with front-office systems (sales, marketing, customer support, and others) as a priority outcome of their collaboration initiatives. For those who are contemplating, or have already invested in the Salesforce platform,Salesforce Communities offers a powerful solution.

Driven by CEO Marc Benioff’s relentless vision for social business and mobile innovation on the platform, Salesforce Communities has evolved over the past few years from a simple chat application to a robust collaboration platform, fully mobile responsive. These changes have transformed Salesforce into a recognized leader in enterprise social collaboration with some distinct advantages in certain areas:

100% Data Driven: Salesforce is always in sync and interoperable with production data on accounts, contacts, opportunities, campaigns, and more – right out of the box, with no need for a traditional data integration effort.

“Lead with Mobile” Philosophy: Salesforce has extended the full functionality of the Salesforce platform, enabling you to automatically leverage your knowledge workers in the field to dramatically increase the freshness and accuracy of data. This built-in mobility also allows you to spend more of your implementation effort on functionality and outcomes vs. development of a “mobile version” of your social applications.

Mass Collaboration on “One Version of the Truth”: You can include customers, employees, and partners directly and securely into your front office processes on one, central database. Having this system of record dramatically improves data leveraged in the user experience. The various components of Salesforce Communities – such as Chatter, Chatter Answers, Knowledge, Cases and even Visual Workflow all leverage a consistent data set within your community.

Connect and Extend: When the need arises to integrate to core systems outside the front office, the Salesforce platform is among the most secure, and extensible on the market. The freedom to further enrich the customer/partner/employee experience by syndicating data from other enterprise systems is another way that Salesforce Communities can increase system-use efficiency and enterprise collaboration.

Measure to Manage: The Salesforce platform embeds powerful analytics to make fact-based decisions on the iterative evolution of your social business. You can share reports, and now Salesforce dashboards with Salesforce Communities users to measure and guide behaviors for community activation, adoption, and ongoing optimization.

Link to the Broader Public Conversation: Salesforce allows you to participate in the conversations that happen outside of your four walls as well, with social listening and outreach tools such as Exact Target Marketing Cloud and Radian6 Social listening and strategy are a core offering of 7Summits. We can now integrate these enabling technologies to complement your Salesforce system for real-time open social feedback on your collaboration efforts.

Mass collaboration and social business solutions can be a powerful factor in driving your business outcomes and aligning your front-office operations.

If your enterprise technology playbook includes Salesforce, 7Summits can help you take those outcomes to the next level.  Feel free to contact me to continue the conversation: (Twitter) @tim_kocher

Marketing, Social Media

The Big Question on Social…Can It Move The Needle? (Spoiler Alert…YES)


The NeedleI’m often asked various forms of the question “What can ‘social business’ actually deliver in terms tangible benefits?”It’s a fair question, for a relatively new set of processes and tools for the vast majority of companies today, social collaboration can sometimes seem like alchemy.

One way to provide some answers is to quote statistics that have emerged from the industry as it matures. For example,McKinsey estimates that through added value and productivity, social could add $1.3 trillion to the economy.

But perhaps a more valuable (or at least more tangible) insights can be gained by real-world examples of organizations that are doing it right. One solid example is a client of my firm, 7Summits, who was entered for a 2014 Forrester Groundswell Award, Penn Foster. Penn Foster is the nation’s leader in distance education, offering more than 105 accredited and career-focused degree, diploma and certificate programs. The school is also a Training Partner to over 1,000 corporations and 400 schools and institutions, and has over 25,000 graduates each year. For a full description of their recent initiative and it’s impact, please see this post on the 7Summits Blog.

Here is how Penn Foster answers the big question:

  • 200% increase in user adoption
  • Over 60,000 registered users within the first year of adoption
  • 30% reduction in email interactions for 2013
  • Cost per interaction has improved by 45%
  • Increased engagement with students and unprecedented access to personal insights that help tailor communication

That’s the sound of the needle moving!

Marketing, Sales, Social Media

The Value of “The Human Interface”


face to faceIt’s an unfortunate paradox, but one that is harder and harder to ignore.  The more energy we all pour into our computers, social media, and mobile interfaces, the less time we spend on our person-to-person, human interface.  There are many articles highlighting this dynamic – that social media is ironically making us less social human beings. A great Facebook-focused article on this topic can be found here in The Atlantic.

But you don’t need to do comprehensive research for this information, the anecdotal evidence is all around us – kids texting from across a school bus aisle, adults arguing via Facebook posts, even teens impersonating other teens using “text spoofing” and other electronic interfaces.

The Workplace version of this story took on a new reality last week.  Here is what happened, according to Tech Crunch:

While at a Python programming conference, a developer who used to work for a company called Playhaven apparently made a joke about “big” dongles and “forking someone’s repo.”

Adria Richards, a developer evangelist sitting in front of them, called them out on Twitter and in a blog post for making the conference environment unwelcoming toward women

A huge, nasty online exchange erupted on the social media universe, and ultimately, both the programmer and Adria lost their jobs.  Very serious.  Very sad.

What if instead Adria had simply turned around and told the programmer that she found his comments offensive?  It’s easy to imagine that with face-to-face communication, this conflict could have been resolved much more effectively.

So, what does this have to do with sales and marketing?  A lot, I think.

I believe that we as Sales and Marketing Professionals have also lost some practice with direct human communication.  We use voicemail, email, text, and even social media to carry out much of the communication that was once almost exclusively face-to-face with our customers.  Have there been efficiency improvements, absolutely.  But, I can’t help but wonder how much more effective some of our critical conversations would be if we delivered them on the human interface.

Sales, Social Media

Time Travel…A Tale of Sales Tool Evolution!


The tools of the [sales] trade have changed remarkably since I began my career 20 years ago.  That fact struck me on a recent business trip to San Diego even harder than the strange weather (It was 30 degrees warmer in Chicago than Southern California – in March!).  On this trip, I got more work done during my flight than I could have done over the course of an entire week 20 years ago.  It was truly like time travel.

Yes, sales tools have changed…Actually, sales tools have been radically transformed over the past 20 years.  Only after the day had ended, when I was eating dinner and reflecting, did I piece together just how amazing the transformation has been.

Here is a summary of the tools that I leveraged.

First, the travel itself.  I booked my trip through Travelocity, managed my trip through Tripit on my iPhone, and boarded the plane (using my mobile boarding pass of course).  In the “old days” this would have called for me collaborating with a travel agent via phone while the agent looked up options on their private terminal.  Then, I would have received physical tickets in the mail, and checked in at the airport to receive physical boarding passes.

On to the research.  I began by  the exploring the backgrounds of the clients with whom I was to meet, literally gathering more information than a team of people could have done over several days in the 1990s.  I accessed bios on each attendee of my meetings via LinkedIn, then accessed breakdowns on their company via Data.com and Google Finance.  Finally, I Checked Radian6 and HootSuite for any social media postings by or about them or their company.

Then there was the preparation of meeting materials.  While in the air for the 4 hour flight (which used to be 4 dead hours) I worked on my PowerPoint presentation, connected to the in-flight wi-fi on American Airlines, collaborated with my co-workers via Skype to complete the presentation, then emailed it to my team at the destination.

Suddenly, Radian6, my social media listening tool flagged a newly published article about another key client of mine.  Before I landed in California, I had clipped that article, emailed it with a congratulatory note the my key contacts at this important client, and landed a meeting with their CEO, all of which was neatly and automatically tracked and summarized in my cloud-based CRM system, salesforce.com.

On the way to my meeting, I called up the mobile version of salesforce.com on my iphone, downloaded a map to the meeting place, called my contact, and logged a note to remind myself of our conversation.

Amazing.  Nothing short of stunning, really.

In one day, I had leveraged “sales 2.0” tools including:

  1. Wireless internet during a flight: Go-Go in-flight internet on American Airlines (converting 4 dormant hours to productive time)
  2. Cloud-based CRM: salesforce.com and integrated Outlook email
  3. Online intelligence:  Data.com, Google Finance
  4. Social media: Radian6, HootSuite, and LinkedIn
  5. Mobile solutions: salesforce.com mobile, Google Maps,

This is such a fundamental paradigm shift for someone who began in sales at a time when the fax machine was breaking its own paradigm of physical document delivery (Remember?…”It sends the contracts over the phone lines as data and then re-assembles them on the receiving machine!”).

So, before jumping into your next big day, take a moment to reflect and appreciate the progress we’ve made.

Of course, as a famous time traveler once said,”It’s always a big day tomorrow – I’ve got a time machine; I skip the little ones!” ~The Doctor

Marketing, Social Media

Understanding “Google +1”


Although it launched months ago, Google +1 went live in June. 

If you are in marketing, you should get a baseline on it. You should understand the +1 ramifications to your paid and natural search.

Here is a great summary from Smart Insights (http://www.smartinsights.com)

My favorite implication mentioned in the article is that Google +1 offers “social proof” to search – analogous to Facebook “likes.”

Marketing, Sales, Social Media

Sales People – Play Your *Position (*It’s Changed)


Parents who have watched their children growing up playing soccer can appreciate this.  It’s the phenomenon I call “swarm-ball” where the young kids cluster around the ball, eyes fixed on it, and move as a swarm up and down the field, flitting around to the brink of exhaustion.

Years go by.  Then, something magical happens.  All the coaching sinks in and like a light-switch, the players lock into the concept of playing their position.  Suddenly all the lost energy becomes focused and efficient.  Players are making passes, assists, and goals more often with less exertion and more accuracy.

Sales people have a position to play in a selling process too – and it’s changed.  Radically.

In recent years, as the internet has exploded and buyers are more educated than ever, sales people can no longer afford to just “chase the ball.”  Buyers don’t like it.  They won’t tell you – they just won’t buy from you.

It boils down to this, you are no longer the source of information on your product or service.  Whether they have it or not, clients will come to you feeling as though they have all the knowledge about their purchase (want proof of this trend? Ask your Doctor if Web MD has caused her any frustration in this area with the medically “brilliant” patients she now must deal with).  Clients do their homework first.  We all do this when we buy. 

My respected friend, Ardath Albee (follow her on Twitter immediately if you don’t yet – http://twitter.com/#!/ardath421 )  is a thought-leader in content marketing.  This is the art and science of generating interest, attention, value, and engagement (that leads to YOU and the active selling position you play).   Here is Ardath’s new concept of a sales funnel:

The bottom line is that you as a sales person no longer work the entire funnel.  You and your organization need to need to put good, valuable content out there to capture the interest, gain the attention of, communicate value to, and Engage potential buyers.  This is where your position kicks in.  At this point is where you can make a huge difference as a sales person.  You can have more qualified sales conversations, and close more sales, if you play your position

Don’t to shoe-horn your clients into being “sold” on your product.  Instead, play your position by leveraging content marketing techniques to engage clients in the front end of the funnel while you bring value to buyers in key conversations and their decisions to buy. Be the best possible player you can be from “engagement” onward in this funnel and you will score more goals!

Social Media

Making Dogfish Into Lemonade – Great Social Media Save by The Red Cross…


Think you can let your social media team tweet away and not monitor the mentions and results? 

Well, this week the American Red Cross, they learned a sobering lesson (pun intended) that you better be listening.  They were, and they recovered…

There was an accidental tweet of a personal nature launched over the American Red Cross Twitter account.  It referred to a staffer partying with friends drinking Dogfish brewery’s Midas Touch beer – and it lit up the Twittersphere.  Here is a link to the full story on the Huffington Post.  Better yet, jump into the Tweet Stream on this topic and get a load of all the traffic this thing drove: http://twitter.com/#!/RedCross

With some quick thinking and some quicker action, The Red Cross has turned this potentially embarrassing gaffe into a fundraiser.

This proves once again that if you can show that you are listening in social media, and that you are a part of the community, the community will reward you with the benefit of the doubt, and maybe even some donations.  You might even say the Red Cross has the Midas Touch!

Marketing, Social Media

The Four Stages of Getting Twitter


Have you been using Twitter?  Well, 190 million people have found some valuable reasons to.  Perhaps it’s time for you to check it out.  Once you do, don’t expect to become an expert or to fall in love right away.  It takes some getting used to.

Here’s an example: Aaron Lee, who is a great “Tweeter” on social media topics, “Re-Tweeted” (forwarded)   Jay Oatway‘s tweet about the info-graphic above in November.  It’s posted on pop-culture blog TopCultured and captures your learning curve better than anything I’ve found out there.  Without Twitter, I would never have known it existed.  He breaks it down into 4 Stages:

 Stage 1: You begin – “Crazy morons…”  and “…I tried it for a day, it’s stupid!” 
Stage 2: You will progress to being curious: “…I had a burger today.”
Stage 3: The light bulb comes on: “…I think, therefor I am.”
Stage 4: You are a full convert:  “Hey, @Tim_Kocher – Thx for re-tweeting!”

 Once you get there, you’ll find Twitter can be your most valuable source of targeted, real-time, and interactive information.  It’s like a cable TV channel that you build over time with the most relevant and up-to-date information that exists for you. 

So get started, you have a few stages to work through!

Marketing, Sales, Social Media

Your Client Is Like Santa Claus…


I could not resist looking through the red and white lens for this week’s post.  There are a lot of analogies to be drawn here.  I’ll skip the most obvious (we should all be thankful to our clients for the gift of business they give us…) and get to some of the other comparisons:

…He sees you when your sleepin’… You may think you’re getting away with it when you are dogging it at work in a sales role.  You may even pull one over on your boss.  But, your clients will notice.  In a world where product differentiation provides only the slimmest advantage, responsiveness and even proactivity remain your key strategic differentiators.  If you slow down, your clients will sense it. There is a great book on this concept called “Selling the Invisible,” by Harry Beckwith.  Read it.

..He knows when you’re awake
…If you are a solution-maker for your client, you will get their attention.  If not, you’re toast. You need to work on these relationships in earnest.  What have you done for your client that is truly different or better than anyone else?  What has your firm done to stand out as leaders in your industry? What are you doing to show that you’re awake?

He knows if you’ve been bad or good…It used to be that your customer would need to try your product/service and let you succeed or fail a few times before learning if you were bad or good.  What’s changed?  The internet and  Social media are the new norm.  You don’t go car shopping without knowing the VIN#, invoice price, and full specifications of the car your buying, and your client doesn’t buy from you without knowing your offerings as well or better than you know your own.  They now also know what your other customers think about you– BEFORE they even contact you.  Better be on your toes!

I hope your year is winding down to a successful end this week.  The next 10 days are a good time to reflect on 2010 and prepare for an even better 2011. 

…So be good for goodness sake!  Happy Holidays

Social Media

Tim on Twitter


No, not me.  I’m highlighting an interesting post on a very cool blog that I just discovered from Tim Berry, President and founder of Palo Alto Software on the nature of Twitter. 

Tim argues Twitter can be a good thing or a bad thing.  At its best, it is a game-changing business must-have for every serious marketer.   At its worst, Twitter is time-wasting drivel.  In the end, however, it’s neither.  It all boiled down to how you use it.

I think we’ve all caught ourselves in that moment of shock waking up from a Twitter bender having just spent more time that we’d like to admit on the “bad” Twitter. 

Tim Berry’s Synthesis: “Twitter is the brush, not the painting. It’s a tool for a new kind of self publishing with a different kind of reach. Talk of business benefits of Twitter are like talk of business benefits of the telephone, or of conversation, or of advertising. It’s all in how you use it. Who or what are you trying to be in Twitter, and what does that have to do with your identity, your message, your business, your self.”

How are using your brush?

Read more of Tim’s interesting blog at: http://timberry.bplans.com/2010/12/twitter-is-the-brush-not-the-painting.html#ixzz188ajPUqj

Marketing, Sales, Social Media

Are You LinkedIn?


I had the pleasure of co-facilitating a workshop on LinkedIn this week.  There were more than 20 people in the room with varying degrees of familiarity with the LinkedIn platform.  It was a fun event, and we received some great feedback on the usefulness of the tool, particularly for these folks, many of whom are in a job search.

They say you never learn something until you teach it.  What I learned was just how far this platform has come in the past 6 months.  As an early adopter, I sometimes take it for granted.  But seeing it through the eyes of a newcomer really highlighted just how powerful this tool set is.

LinkedIn is:

  • Your Personal website.  It’s YOU.com (just Google yourself and see)
  • Your LIVING Rolodex (it grows exponentially as you nurture it)
  • A “P [professional] RM” System  (moves with you from job to job)
  • A Social Media Platform  (hooks into Twitter, “like”, “sharing,” etc.)
  • A Database of Corporate Information (“Company” entity added)
  • A Job Posting / Search System (powerful for recruiters /job-seekers)

If you (or anyone you care about) are still not on LinkedIn, you need to get on pronto.  If you are a power user, it’s time to take a look at the new features available to you.   LinkedIn has centralized some very useful training information in a section called “The Learning Center” http://learn.linkedin.com/ where you can quickly update your knowledge and skills.

Get to it!

Social Media

Social Monetization and Social Ubiquity


…That is Denise E. Zimmerman, president and chief strategy officer at NetPlus Marketing Inc. with one of the most eloquent synthesis I have heard bundling the important trends happening in social media today.

Many of us are processing social media’s evolution through the tools that we are using: blogs, twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. but seldom stepping back and viewing the forest for the trees.  It is a very valuable exercise.

Denise shares her vision of these “ubertrends” in her recent article published today in iMedia Connection, “Social media trends to watch for 2011.”  

Social Monetization, she says,  is the use of social apps that drive revenue and ROI.  Social Ubiquity is the proliferation and convergence of the social web.

These two ubertrends and the subtrends that comprise them are driving much of what we’re living through in social media today.

This article is a great read and frames some of the issues of the day (including privacy) in a larger context.  You should definitely give it a try.

Marketing, Social Media

What’s your Digital Lung Power?


It’s an interesting way to think about the effectiveness and reach of your presence online.  How loudly can you be heard ?  Are you just a whisper – not connected through anything but an stale, partly filled-out profile on LinkedIn?  Or, are you a force to be heard – connected not only through LinkedIn, but perhaps a blog, TwitterFacebook, and the many other outlets available  in your industry or areas of interest to richly share your thoughts online? 

Want to do a quick exam of your digital lungs?  Just type your name into www.google.com and see what comes back.  

Then you should take some steps to ensure the patient isn’t barely breathing.

Marketing, Sales, Social Media

Are You Content Marketing?


If you are marketing today and not doing so through organized publicity of your intellectual capital through Content Marketing, you’re missing the boat!

Before you jump in, there are a few things you need to know:

  1. It’s a LOT HARDER THAN YOU THINK!   This takes planning, organizational alignment, rigorous scheduling, and new processes to start,  and – most importantly –  discipline to maintain.
  2. It’s a LOT SIMPLER THAN YOU THINK!  The tools available to support your efforts in this area were simply inconceivable only a few years ago.  Now they enable you to do this complex job more efficiently and effectively.
  3. It’s about WILL POWER!  Focus and tenacity are the hurdles here.  If you have them, you can be winning with content marketing in very short order.

What are the benefits?  “Brand Stickiness,” “Google Juice,” – whatever you want to call it, will bring recognition>leads>business!

The graph displayed here is an image from an excellent research piece done by Roy Young of  Marketing Profs and Joe Pulizzi of  Junta 42 “(B2B Content Marketing, 2010 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends” [download here] that will give you an overview of the major components of a content marketing effort, along with some very useful statistics.

Some highlights:

  • Nine out of 10 B2B marketers are using content marketing to grow their businesses.
  • Enthusiasm for content marketing is high; however, marketers are still unsure about the effectiveness and impact
  • Content marketing deployment is high across industries, with no single industry reporting below 78% adoption
  • Web traffic is the most widely used success metric (56%) followed by direct sales (49%)
  • On average, B2B marketers allocate approximately 26% of their total budgets to content marketing initiatives
  • The largest challenge is “producing the kind of content that engages prospects and customers” (36% of respondents
  • Social media and article posting are the most popular tactics and are currently used by 79% and 78% of B2B marketers

Get this paper and digest it today!

Social Media

Jeff Bullas’ Top 5 Posts…


I’ve sung the praises of Jeff Bullas in past posts.  If you’re not following him on Twitter, it’s your loss.  Pound for pound, it’s the best social media direction I’ve found out there.

Here is an interesting post of his from this summer.  It is from his blog readers’ perspective.  The focus is what they have found “most newsworthy and topical in the last 90 days.” 

Summary:

  1. 30 Things You Should Not Share On Social Media
  2. The 7 Secrets to Ford’s Social Media Marketing Success
  3. 20 Things You Should Share On Social Media
  4. Twitter Reveals 11 New Facts on its Traffic and Usage
  5. How To Use Twitter For Business: 5 More Incredibly Interesting Case Studies

As usual, great stuff.  Thanks, Jeff!

Social Media

If We All Had These Core Values…


While reading another fantastic blog post by Jeff Bullas  (who if you don’t follow on Twitter you must – as he highlights and summarizes some of the most interesting concepts in social media marketing today)   I ran across this summary of the 10 core values driving the online shoe retailer Zappos.  Jeff’s focus was linking these values to  ways in which social media reinforces the culture and the success of Zappos, and it’s a great post. 

I’m still just processing this list (for the first time) on a simpler level.  I am simply struck at how different these values are from most of the generic, boring, homogenized core values in corporate America.   While reading them I asked myself (and urge you to do the same) how much better would my (or any) company be if we focused on these unique values?

Have a look and let me know your thoughts.  Here is a link and the list:  

  • Deliver WOW Through Service
  • Embrace and Drive Change
  • Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
  • Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
  • Pursue Growth and Learning
  • Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
  • Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
  • Do More With Less
  • Be Passionate and Determined
  • Be Humble
  • Marketing, Social Media

    Jet (Black and) Blue Pushes Back…


    Fresh from the front pages…

    Unless you’re dead or off the power grid, you may have heard the story of the flight attendant turned emergency-ramp-escapee Steven Slater, a huge PR fiasco for Jet Blue exploding all over the internet.

    But, as covered in a Fast Company article by David Zax this morning,  in a sign that major companies are learning to flex their new social media muscles to leverage perception in the marketplace and not just be ruled by it, Jet Blue responded in a simple blog entry that many are crediting for turning the tide on their perceived role in this mess. 

    Think of it – for virtually NO COST – and in a few pithy sentences, a major up-and-coming airline changed the prevailing winds of public perception fueled by a (albeit completely overblown) major news story.

    That’s an interesting power that did not exist even 24 months ago

    Please lower your tray tables, fasten your seatbelts, and prepare for takeoff…

    Marketing, Social Media

    Do Your Executives and Social Media Mix?


    How engaged in your social media efforts are your executives?  If you are like most of us, the answer is…not very.  But why is that?  Here is some great perspective from Erik Qualman.  He takes an interesting angle on social media in his post published yesterday:  Social Media and Executives Don’t Mix.   This post is Qualman’s summary of a great source post by the social media firm DemingHill.   It asks you to think about  social media from the executive’s perspective.  It is an interesting way to calculate the social media quotient at your company.   Qualman takes these lessons away from DemingHill’s (excellent but longer) post on why senior execs often don’t like social media:

    1. Lack of understanding = fear. The rapid rate of change in digital innovation has caused CEOs to feel extremely vulnerable around technology.
    2.  I want control. I want to control my company! I want to control my brand! I want to determine my destiny! It’s too important to leave it to chance (or simply be outvoted by the uninformed bourgeois)!
    3. Fear that it’s a fad. The truth is, I would love to commit to social media in a significant way, but so far nobody in my organization has stepped forward with a cerebral, strategic, multigenerational, integrated, systematic, and sustainable methodology and roadmap for synergistically capitalizing on this medium over the long haul.

    So why should executives get behind the momentum of social media efforts in their marketing mix?  The authors suggest a few good reasons that include:  unfiltered feedback from the market, authenticity-“keeping it real,” and the fact that it’s a powerful but relatively low-cost marketing approach. 

    Check out the posts from the links above and see what you think.