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Archive for February, 2011

Games as Content in B2B Marketing

Bob Johnson at IDG Connect sent me a brief on using games for B2B marketing.  I felt as if they had broken the silence on this marketing approach in B2B until I took a look around the web.  I found a few short posts (Tom Grant of Forrester, Howard Sewell of Spear Marketing and The Crocodile)  and a good video on the subject.  Turns out games have been used in B2B several (many?) times, including marketing for:

  • A six figure gene splicing machine sold by a major pharma company to bio engineers
  • Printers sold by Samsung to IT managers back in 2007 (game name:  Destroy a Printer)
  • BPM services sold by IBM to IT and business leaders (game name:  IBM Innov8)

The point is that games, as we all know, can be used to teach and a lot of marketing is education.  So how do you begin to think about using a game to teach what your buyers need to know? 

You start, as always, with the customers’ questions at each stage of the buying cycle.  You also need another starting point: your company’s world view or story line.  Velocity Partners’ B2B Marketing Manifesto, published last fall, calls this a past, present and future that lead to your solution.  This story line is the essence of your thought leadership: it makes clear what has changed, how it affects your customers and what you do to enable them to succeed.  Think about how you can incorporate that into a game that addresses questions buyers have.  

If you are a skeptic, consider reports from the Entertainment Software Association that break some of our stereotypes about who has fun with games:  more than 40% of PC gamers are women (30% for consoles), average age is 35, 67% of heads of households in the US play games regularly.  Must be some serious B2B buyers among those playing games.  As always, go where the customer is.

I’m sold.  What’s been your experience using games to engage and teach B2B customers?

“Curation” gets six tweets per hour…right now!

Take a look at Thoora, which helps users “Discover What the World is Talking About.”  Thoora, which calls itself a news discovery service, finds what is hot in blogs, twitter and traditional news media and displays the stories in real time ordered from mosts buzz to least.  Tweets per hour and the “sparkline” of tweet history is shown for each story.  When I searched for curation, it came up with six tweets per hour and I found a story I’d missed despite diligent following of the topic.  So if you are looking to leverage the wisdom of the crowd in your research or uncover new voices, take a look at this site.  It’s free.

Thoora’s crowdsourcing of the news isn’t unique, although it had a lot less company when it was launched in October 2009.  It does raise the fundamental question of whether you want to focus your time on what is popular to all versus what is important to you.  I lean toward the “what’s important” but like to mix that up a bit so I can periodically reassess whether my priorities still make sense and my sources remain close to comprehensive. 

Many of the content curation systems for business (Eqentia, Hivefire, Loud3r, ConnectedN, Aggregage, CIThread, CurationStation, DayLife, OneSpot, PublishThis, StoryCrawler and more) find relevant content and then give you an option to display it according to frequency of social mention.  So you don’t need to forego popularity measures in your search for what is important to you. 

What different uses do you see for crowdsourced news vs topically curated news?

Evidence: the heart of your business (and marketing) plan

Cover of "Getting to Plan B: Breaking Thr...

Cover via Amazon

If you haven’t read John Mullins’ and Randy Komisar’s book, Getting to Plan B, I urge you to do so.  Their research shows that businesses that try to execute their business plans flawlessly usually fail.  Most successful businesses did not start out intending to be in the business that succeeded for them. ( Read the book for some great examples.)

Instead of doing a business plan, they pose a five-step recipe for launching a business that will succeed (i.e., finding the successful business that you didn’t plan to go into). 

Step 1:  Look for analogs, or evidence that your business idea has legs.  For instance, the incredible success of the Sony Walkman was an analog for the iPod. 

Step 2:  Look for antilogs, or evidence that your business idea may not work.  For instance, why would people pay for music when they were used to downloading for free on Napster?  Conclusion:  Apple would have to make its money on the device.

Step 3:  Identify leaps of faith, or those assumptions you are making that are critical to success but for which no evidence exists.

Step 4:  Develop hypotheses to test each leap of faith and go into the market and start testing.  This is a key part…don’t wait to get into the marketplace.  Get in there and learn and then adapt based on what the evidence tells you.

Step 5:  Use feedback from testing your hypotheses as your dashboard for managing the business.  This is brilliant:  success is about adapting to evidence that your leaps of faith are wrong (if the are) and doing it quickly enough to be able to test alternatives (i.e., getting to plan B).  No sense watching traditional business metrics if the business’ success depends on those leaps of faith.

Marketers need to start operating in this same way.  What are your leaps of faith and how can you test them?

B2B battleground for content curation

Vendors providing content curation solutions for publishing (Loud3r, Daylife, PublishThis, OneSpot, Atex to name a few) are moving to provide B2B marketing solutions…in droves.  And new (e.g., HiveFireCIThread) or re-branded (e.g., Aggregage) vendors are coming on the market with B2B as their primary focus.  What will it take to succeed? 

The B2B marketer, like, publishers, need search and filtering that yields a quality collection of items (blog posts, articles, tweets) from which the curator can work efficiently.  This focus on quality of content presented to the curator is critical in publishing, where the productivity of editors is a major justification for content curation.  Quality is also critical in B2B applications…but other factors also play a significant role in how well suited a product is to B2B:

  • How easy it is for the curator to prepare thoughtful collections of relevant content.  In business, it isn’t just about breaking news it is about sides of an argument and points of view.  These need curation too.  Unfortunately many platforms don’t retain material for future reference.
  • How full-functioned the distribution mechanisms are. Publishing to a website or to social media platforms are fairly standard.  The nuances come in being able to route social media content internally so the right person can comment or in enabling information consumers to personalize their browsing experience…and using that data to engage them better.
  • How completely marketers can avoid involving IT resources in implementation.  Marketers often don’t have access to IT resources whereas publishers mostly do.

What else is crucial for marketers?