Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The All Mighty Sound Bite

Last week I moderated a panel discussion featuring a set of accomplished corporate and government marketers.  Produced by market research firm Market Connections in partnership with Strategic Communications Group (Strategic), the topic was timely and telling:  social media adoption and use cases in the public sector.

My partner Chris Parente published an excellent write-up of the event here, as did Aol Government’s editor Wyatt Kash whose article can be found here.

The feedback I’ve received from attendees – including Strategic clients at Iron Bow Technologies, Blue Coat Systems, Pitney Bowes Government Solutions, Polycom and Intelsat General – has been mostly positive.  The exception has been a few shots at a rather rambling, nonsensical question blurted out by someone in the audience.

I’ve gotten a number of “what was up with that person” comments.  And deservedly so.  The inability to articulate a clear and concise message in an engaging manner is a shortcoming of many an executive.

It was with this experience in mind that I stepped into an event on Friday morning hosted by the Association for Corporate Growth,National Capital Chapter, as well a session today presented by the law firm Morrison Foerster and accountancy Ernst & Young.

Rather than transcribing my notes, I thought I’d share with you a few sound bites from each event that I thought hit the mark in terms of content and delivery.

“We are burdened by a distorted labor market.  There are a few number of highly qualified, technical talent who hold security clearances.  This creates high demand for those people that the customer ultimately pays for.”

Hillen's not stacking midgets.
“We are not in the ‘stacking midgets’ business when it comes to acquisitions.  We are looking for deals that position the company to win big jobs as a prime contractor.”

John Hillen
President and CEO
Sotera Defense Solutions

“If management uses the word ‘strategic’ in the press release announcing the acquisition, then short the stock.  It means they overpaid.”

Edward Caso, Jr.
Managing Director and Senior Analyst
Wells Fargo Securities
Caso dreads the word "strategic"

“The threat environment today is much more complex and multi-faceted.  The tools to combat these threats are diverse which creates market opportunities for integrators and technology companies.”

Greg Van Beuren
Managing Director & Partner
Bluestone Capital Partners

“We are in the business of prospecting for executives.  The best management teams will capitalize on market opportunities.”

Craig Bondy

“The best dollar we spend at SAIC is the dollar we spend internally.  It delivers more value to the shareholder.”

Walter Havenstein
SAIC's Havenstein

Sunday, October 16, 2011

2 Must Follow Approaches to Social Media Creativity

As the legions of the socially engaged continue to swell, the chatter from updates, likes, check-ins and tweets has reached a near deafening roar.

The same goes for the blogosphere where it has now become Mission Impossible-esq to stand apart from the army of scribes who pass much of their day furiously pounding away on a keyboard.  Their march for mindshare and SEO relevance is often one of content quantity, rather than a commitment to carefully constructed, insightful prose.  

The path to awareness we followed in our client work a mere 18 months ago was to stand up a social site, articulate an opinion, promote in targeted communities and lean on the company brand for credibility.  Those days have faded to reveal today's more challenging reality. 

For corporate funded social media marketing campaigns, the escalating competition for readership, attention and community places an absolute priority on creativity and thought leadership.  We've been quick to recognize that success attracting quantity and quality of social site visitors for our clients now demands the articulation of thoughts, opinions, perspective and analysis in a unique and, at times, unexpected way.

Consider the "Secure Thinking" program we work on in partnership with British Telecom's (BT) Managed Security Services group.  Now in its fourth year of execution, the clean, news publication inspired design on the social site remains constant.

Yet, the editorial strategy has evolved to incorporate user attributed content from clients, partners and industry analysts, collections of posts tuned to timely issues, and point/counterpoint themed debates that involve recognized and respected industry thought leaders.

Xtranormal videos included on Secure Thinking.
The program's priorities are clear: 

--deliver to readers an informed perspective they will only find on BT's Secure Thinking
--work collaboratively with the client's sales team to support the achievement of critical benchmarks related to lead generation, prospect cultivation and deal capture

Creativity is social media execution can also be expressed in how content is presented, rather than merely an innovative methodology for its construction. 

Case in point...I recently came across a Q&A with Intel'sPam Didner in Chief Content Officer magazine.  When asked about the "cool stuff" the company is working on in the area of social media, Didner cited a campaign developed by their Asia-Pacific team called "The Museum of Me."

Museum of Me shines with creativity.
The campaign's content is merely a repurposing of updates, photos and videos from a participant's Facebook presence.  However, the idea of displaying this content in a unique, museum style online environment is brilliant.

The audience reaction was swift and effusive with nearly one million hits within five days from launch.  Plus, the creativity and imagination of the campaign reflects well on Intel, positioning the company as a market leader with the ability to transform industries.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Social Media and Sales Acceleration in the Public Sector

When it comes to the public sector there is seldom a quick hit in enterprise sales.

Prospective government customers are appropriately demanding.  They assess corporate capabilities and reputation.  They evaluate product features and service offerings.  They judge track record and contract performance. 

A vendor that attempts to rush this evaluation process can sour the deal and, in some instances, soil the long-term relationship.  That's because connections with government buyers are cultivated over time. 

In fact, it's quite common for the opportunity identification and capture process to be measured in years.

The payoff sure is sweet though.  Revenue generated from a multi-year, enterprise deal with a government agency can run well into the millions of dollars.  Plus, the lifetime value of the customer engagement is significant, as it provides a critical qualification that can lead to follow-on work and new opportunities.

At Strategic Communications Group (Strategic), the majority of our clients sell complex products and services to government agencies, at both the federal and state/local levels.  As such, our social media marketing focus and engagement methodology has gravitated towards direct support of the three most important benchmarks for success in the sales process -- lead generation, cultivation of prospect relationships and deal capture.

Yes...it is possible for executive management and marketers to align social media with sales by following these four steps:

Step 1 Evaluate prospects in the pipeline and prioritize the hot ones.  Work closely with the sales team to cull prospects based on their purchase authority, intimacy of the existing relationship and timeline to buy.  We'll typically select 20 to 25 targets who we anticipate having a need in the next 18 months.

Step 2 Map and monitor.  Outline each prospect's social media engagement and online participation.  What social networks are they active in?  Do they blog?  Who do they follow?  Who follows them? 

Monitor and update this social media map at least twice monthly to stay tuned in to how the prospect's network of connections evolves.

Step 3 Engage in a prospect's communities of choice.  Connect socially with each target in LinkedIn, Govloop, GovWin, Twitter and the other online networks where they already spend time.  Follow the conversations they participate in and stay tuned in to their updates. 

Then, identify opportunities to bring value to the online discussion by sharing relevant content.  This could include posts from your corporate blog, links to trade articles or research, and technical white papers and presentations.  Steer clear of a blatant sales pitch by focusing on thought leadership and best practices.

Step 4 Evaluate, evaluate, evaluate.  Set tactical benchmarks such as the number of prospect connections made in a social environment, online interactions and prospect visits to the corporate blog.  Government buyers engage with those they trust, so this dialogue represents a deepening relationship. 

Equally important, collaborate with the sales team on an ongoing basis to shape content for the blog and provide intelligence on how prospects interact with the company in an online environment.  Seek anecdotal feedback from sales reps to understand how they have leveraged these social contacts to move deals forward more quickly.

This article will appear in an upcoming issue of an e-newsletter published by Market Connections, a provider of business-to-business and business-to-government market research services.  Strategic Communications Group (Strategic) has partnered with Market Connections to survey the social media adoption of government agencies and public sector contractor community.