Inc. reports this month that machine-to-machine (M2M) connections soon will "rock the Internet."
M2M refers to automated devices—instead of people—connecting to the Web.
Devices like cars, major appliances and industial equipment.
In fact, there are already more machines than people using the networks run by AT&T and Verizon, according to Inc.
"For people, the conveniences are limitless: empty pill bottles that request their own prescription refills with the drug store, tracking devices for lost pets, cars that upload the latest engine diagnostics to the service department before actually going to the service department, etc."
M2M data mining is also coming our way.
"Forget spam," Inc. warns. "Your biggest worry to come won't be the latest phishing scam. More likely, it will be something like your refrigerator or home alarm system ratting you out to marketing companies."
Five years ago, marketing gurus cautioned us: customers' worldviews had changed.
They no longer trusted institutions of any kind, whether business, government, nonprofit or media.
Arguably, the distrust was deserved. Rascals and reprobates ruled the day's headlines. Kenneth Lay. Bernie Ebbers. Jack Abramoff. Jayson Blair. I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
But that wasn't the whole story.
The gurus held out another warning at the time.
Trust—the bedrock of purchasing—had not merely ebbed. It was in near-mortal danger.
As things turned out, the gurus were right. The years of distrust have ended.
We've entered the Age of Suspicion.
Customers today aren't just distrustful. They're downright suspicious.
They no longer give you a pass to treat them as lemming-like receptacles for marketing messages. Instead, they discredit your messages before they've even taken them in.
Everyday objectivity has given way to habitual disbelief. It's as if your attempts to communicate were toxic or, worse, "candy from strangers."
Old-fashioned curiosity, open-mindedness and the benefit of the doubt have vanished. Ordinary trust is a dinosaur.
We see proof of this constantly from public opinion polls.
Recent polls show, for example, that:
25% of us doubt President Barack Obama's US citizenship
40% think the government is suppressing evidence of extraterrestrial life
52% have little or no faith in banks
72% believe corporate wrongdoing is widespread
Social scientists teach that trust is a bond based on one person's willingness to become vulnerable to another.
Sadly, that bond has been broken once too often in recent years.
As a result, customers no longer feel safe enough to consider unfamiliar risks, even trivial ones. And their refusal to lower their defenses makes customers virtually immune to most forms of persuasion.
Customers today reject most of the tools that have traditionally functioned as marketers' stock in trade.
Customers no longer tolerate the expert opinion, the reasoned argument, the manufacturer's warranty, the "act now" deadline, or the product-claim based on the avoidance of pain.
If you want to win customers in the Age of Suspicion, you cannot rely on outmoded means of persuasion. You must adjust for mistrust.
Marketing sage Seth Godin suggests there are only two ways.
The first way to succeed is to steal the show. To stage your company's presence so that it dominates the event.
"When you have the biggest booth, when you are the buzz of the event, when you are everywhere people look, you reinforce your position as the leader," Godin says.
The second way to succeed is to design the interactions. To target the few attendees who'll really benefit by talking to you and leave little to chance.
By "designing these interactions so that this small number of people set out to evangelize their peers on your behalf," you'll come out ahead.
The most common mistakes exhibit marketers make?
They set out to dominate, but don't spend the money required.
They chase after every attendee, at the expense of ever getting personal.
For an overwhelming majority of firms, designing the interactions is the smart—and safe—choice.
"If you staff and invest appropriately, you don't have to 'win' the show to make it worth the trip," Godin says. "On the other hand, if you're setting out to win and investing at the appropriate level, you better win."
Paul Gillin and Eric Schwartzman have been around the block. And it shows.
Coauthors of the new Social Marketing to the Business Customer, Gillin and Schwartzman have the street-smarts to avoid those golly-gee-whiz, social-media-is-just-awesome sort of statements that have grown so wearisome.
Instead, they've produced a sound—and in some instances profound—little book, filled with tactics and tips that any business marketer should find welcome.
Part One argues, convincingly, that despite the relentless attention paid to B2C social media efforts, "B2B companies actually have more to gain from social marketing than their consumer counterparts."
That's because social media mirror many of the needs of business buyers (such as their demands for tons of technical information, open communication, and multi-level relationships with suppliers).
But Gillin and Schwartzman are wise enough to state that social media marketing isn't a "panacea."
In fact, they admit that some B2B marketers may discover social media "has little or no apparent value."
Part One also provides guidance in two crucial areas, "winning buy-in" and "creating a social organization."
If you struggle to overcome internal critics, you'll do well to study the two chapters devoted to these topics.
Part Two walks you through all the basic social media tools—blogs, podcasts, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, SlideShare, etc.
Here, the authors focus on avoiding risk. Andwhat risk is that? The risk that you'll waste time and money if you choose the wrong—i.e., nonproductive—social media platforms.
A worthwhile consideration indeed.
Part Three relies largely on case studies to examine the best uses of social media for lead generation, which the authors call the "Holy Grail for B2B companies."
You'll learn from the far-ranging experiences of such organizations as the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Avaya, Cisco Systems, Deloitte, Indium, SAP and Spiceworks.
Without doubt, you'll find this the most rewarding portion of a most rewarding book.
Create smart navigation. Make sure to give readers distinct ways to link to your “cornerstone content.”
Employ friendly design. Use plenty of whitespace around paragraphs. Break up long blocks of text and make sure your content is easy to scan.
Write clearly. Make sure to use compelling headlines that let readers know they’re going to have a good experience reading your content. Getting quickly to the point also assures readers can digest your material on their mobile devices, even while they’re distracted with other tasks.
Clicking “Publish” doesn’t have to mean your content has reached the end of its life. With a little ingenuity on your part, it can live on in new incarnations.
Blogger Gautam Hans recommends these seven ways to extend the life of your content:
Guest posts. Reproducing your content as guest posts is a great way to build links and drive traffic to your Website. Write an extract that gives readers a taste of what they can expect if they click through to your site. There’s a good chance they’ll turn into loyal readers.
E-books. Republishing the content of your Website as an e-book is another smart option. An e-book can be used to increase your mailing list. Many people are eager to provide an email address in exchange for a free e-book. Take your work a step up by adding it to the Kindle store. If it’s any good, you’ll make sales.
Membership. If you believe your content’s too valuable to share with just anyone who happens to breeze through your site, consider creating teaser copy and holding the “good stuff” behind a gated area. This is another good way to build your mailing list and add a revenue stream.
PowerPoint slides. Take the key elements of a post and build a set of PowerPoint slides from it that you can add to directories like Slideshare.
Videos. Repurpose your PowerPoint slides into videos, talking the viewer through each set of points.
Podcasts. If you decide to talk through each point, why not also record a Podcast? Ideal material for iTunes.
Evergreen posts. Posts can become dated quickly. Why not freshen up some of your old ones and recycle them?
The Comeback will help you sort the smart from the stupid as you try to make sense of the national debate that surrounds us all the time.
Shapiro paints a grim picture of America's near-term future, in plain and powerful language we need to hear.
“America is faltering” he writes. Within a few years, “the United States could find itself a second-rate economic power.”
We're faltering because ill-conceived government policies and wreckless spending have put a deadly grip on private-sector innovation—the very thing that's made America "exceptional."
The latter, in my view, is The Comeback's "big idea."
Lots of people claim the US is “exceptional,” but few can define why.
He ties America's exceptionalism to its history as a nation of innovators; and links that history to America's unique status as an immigrant nation.
Innovation is all.
"If we want to guarantee our children the chance to live the American Dream," Shapiro writes, "then we have to protect what is best about our nation: We have to save American innovation."
The bulk of the book comprises his complex prescription for saving innovation.
Some recommendations are familiar. Reform immigration. Cut corporate taxes. Curb entitlements. Embrace free trade. Fix the schools. Quit regulating businesses. Kill all the trial lawyers.
Some recommendations are novel. Take spectrum away from broadcasters and give it to other companies. Let independent commissions select our infrastructure projects. Ban the passage of any new regulations for the next three years. And collect income tax from the working poor on their tips; from small business people "living out of the business;" and from corporate fat cats who abuse their expense accounts.
Unions don't come off well in book. They're blamed for federal, state and local government deficits; the failure of our schools; and trade imbalances. Shapiro recommends that the protections unionized workers enjoy be removed and that governments rescind their unionized workers’ pensions.
Strong medicine. All in the interest of protecting innovation.
"Innovation is America," Shapiro writes. It is our special sauce, our destiny, and our best and only hope for escaping the economic malaise, which decades of excessive government spending and intrusion have created."
With 90 million users, LinkedIn has become a darling of B-to-B marketers.
With a LinkedIn Company Page, you can put the social network to the ultimate test.
Adam Kleinberg, who runs a social media firm that "aligns psychology with technology," points out the features he likes best:
Banners. Company Pages lets you create products and services pages and place big banners on them. The banners can rotate and link to specific URLs; the latter can be landing pages designed to capture leads.
Video.You can also embed YouTube videos on your Company Page and each products and services page.
Endorsements. You can solicit testimonials from customers for each of your products and services. The feature works like the Recommendations on an individual LinkedIn Profile.
Customization. You can customize how you present your products and services to distinct target audiences. LinkedIn lets you create audience segments; select their attributes (job title, company size, industry and location); and post an edited copy of your pages.
Offers.Each product and service has a placeholder for a unique offer, such as a white paper or discount coupon.
Ads. You can create targeted ad campaigns to drive traffic to your Company Page. The system works like Google AdWords.
Analytics.LinkedIn provides charts that let you track your results and compare them to those of similar organizations.
Hawkins works for Hinda Incentives, which markets employee recognition and loyalty programs to businesses.
His secrets are pretty simple:
Devise a strategy. "Our social strategy boiled down to one goal: drive traffic to our Website—our largest source of lead generation. Our theory was, if people liked what we had to say in our social outlets, they would be more likely to visit our Website."
Narrow your options. "We narrowed our 'voice options' down to a few select channels. Our emphasis went toward content development for our blog. We generated traffic to our blog using Twitter and LinkedIn, and some relevant, B2B-friendly networks."
Build a community. "After building online relationships with a couple key influencers through blog commenting and Twitter conversations, we began to build our own community around the strategies of recognition and loyalty programs."
Hawkins' results are impressive:
Followers on Twitter and LinkedIn doubled in 6 months
Blog traffic grew to 1,000 visits a month in 12 months
Website traffic increased 15 percent in 12 months
Lead quality measurably improved in 12 months
And what's he learned along the way?
Be patient. "We’ve been working for over a year and a half on our efforts and are just now reaping the benefits."
Focus on quality. "We’ve learned that there’s more to social media than just having a ton of followers. It’s converting to meaningful relationships that counts."
Know your audience. "Flying by the seat of your pants in social media isn’t strategy. Before starting anything, you should research who you need to target, where they hang out on line and what they talk about."
Social media has changed email marketing, says Gail Goodman, columnist for Entreprenuer.
Persuading readers to share your emails has become critical. You can prompt readers to share your emails by providing content that signals you understand their priorities; entertains them; and asks for feedback and participation. Four additional things you can do to create a “social e-mail experience:”
Include a social icon in every email. The "Forward to a Friend" feature lets readers share your content with another person. But by adding social icons to your email, the same reader can now share it with her entire Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn networks.
Include links to your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages in your emails. Be sure to give reasons why readers should join you on social media destinations.
Entice readers with a link to a conversation you want to continue on Twitter or to an exclusive contest or survey you're featuring on Facebook.
Always post your email content on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Keep conversations alive by reposting snippets on different social media destinations.
In a recent post on his blog, venture capitalist Mark Suster shares what he's learned about PR.
His advice is meant for startups, but it's good advice all round.
PR is a process, not an event. Patience and perseverence are essential. It takes months, if not years, to build relationships with journalists.
PR can't be delegated. You need help to research journalists, arrange meetings, pitch stories and write copy. But you cannot delegate media interviews. "If you want PR coverage, you’re going to have to dedicate a non-trivial amount of time to it."
If your budget's limited, don't hire a big PR firm. You won’t get the senior team’s focus; instead, 22-year olds will do all your work (and won't have enough billable hours to do it justice). If you need outside help, go to a small firm or an individual; or hire a part-time PR intern.
Be authentic. Don't conduct interviews as if you were running for office. "Talk like a human. Give real answers. Show a sense of humor and humility."
Have a viewpoint. Too many executives avoid controversy. That’s fine for the executives at Apple; they'll get coverage anyway. But you need to go out on a limb and present informed opinions.
Don’t cry wolf. "Make sure you’re not spewing out meaningless reams of press releases." And don’t spam people. The good stuff will get lost.
Get media training.Media training will help you keep interviews on track and focused on the story you want to tell.
According to MediaPost News, a new study from Razorfish reveals that customers don't consider Twitter and Facebook important ways to engage with a company, despite the pronouncments of social-media experts.
Most customers still prefer traditional marketing channels, such as email and word-of-mouth.
Why? Customers believe "feeling valued" is the most important aspect of brand engagement. They don't feel especially valued, just because a company Tweets or posts a status update on Facebook.
The study also found the experts' "consumer in control" mantra is hokum.
Customers were asked to rank six attributes of engagement: feeling valued, trust, efficiency, consistency, relevance and control.
In an imaginative post on Social Media Today, entrepreneur Jay Deragon asks a daring question.
Are online communes replacing online communities?
"Haven’t you noticed," Deragon writes, "that your real network is actually becoming smaller, regardless of how many followers and friends you think you have?”
Your followers and friends are catching on.
Although the darlings of every new-media maven, online communities leave a lot to be desired. They're large, loose and transaction-oriented (often to the financial betterment of their facilitators).
By virtue of these qualities, online communities make it "impossible to hold true relational affinities."
Online communes, on the other hand, are small, tight and focused on the common interests of their members. They represent "a natural migration of human dynamics, where the membership is designed to have a higher degree of connectivity."
Because they only bring people together in order to fleece them, communities are old school. Deargon cites Internet guru Clay Shirky: “The problems of the past are being leveraged by organizations which have created solutions that preserve the old problems.“
Bazaarvoice surveyed 175 chief marketing officers in late 2010 and discovered they're measuring social media by a new yardstick.
The survey shows that CMOs still put the greatest faith in two hard measures, sales and revenue.
They also put faith in measures like site traffic, number of fans and number of customer comments.
However, a whopping 93% of CMOs now plan to use "customer-generated content" when arriving at new-product decisions.
The preferred forms of customer-generated content are customer stories, product ideas, polls and customer reviews.
"CMOs have moved beyond fear and skepticism to embrace social media as the source for strategic intelligence that can transform their products, brands and business," says Erin Mulligan Nelson, Bazaarvoice's own CMO.
The survey also found that more than half of CMOs currently don't see any ROI from three of the most popular social media tools, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.