SXSW: Consumerization of IT Trend Shows No Sign of Slowing

I was able to hit two sessions yesterday afternoon in the Four Seasons here at SXSW, apparently ground zero for us more sober “enterprise” types, one on enterprise mobile apps and one on gamification + Big Data (“datagamify”). What connected them, in my mind, is the consumerization of IT. This is the concept that employees are increasingly expecting their experience with technology in the workplace to be as simple, fun and engaging as their experience with technology in their personal lives.

Long crowds await the SXSW Interactive opening keynote.
Long crowds await the SXSW Interactive opening keynote.

Eric Lai from SAP observed that 80 percent of the Fortune 500 has adopted iPhones and 65 percent of them iPads. Predictably now, the fastest growing category of apps in the Apple App Store is enterprise apps, and by 2016, that market will be worth more than $7 billion a year (IDC data). And yet Alex Williams from TechCrunch noted that most of these enterprise apps are ugly and that hurts usage. Employees don’t want manuals to learn how to do things anymore.

Meanwhile, the gamification advocates are motivated by a sense that life is a game. Plotting your career, for instance, is viewed in some ways as a game. We can now use apps and Web experiences to enhance these gaming aspects of our lives, to encourage our audiences to learn and engage.

One of the areas where these trends both come into play for B2B is around online customer communities. I suspect that tolerance for complicated, dry, blandly designed internal and customer communities by the users of those communities will wane. It won’t be enough to have one that functions.  Making it work – in other words, generating great engagement – will require more attention paid to elegant design and fun experience.

Social Media Week: The B2B Content You May Have Missed

It’s been a busy week in social media as cities, brands and people came together to discuss all things social — from Facebook’s initiative to remove bots to Instagram overtaking Twitter on mobile phones. We decided to pull together some of the best B2B focused content from this past week and share it with you. If you have any other links (including your own) that you think we should have included please add them in the comments.

There was a lot of content to consume this year.
There was a lot of content to consume this year.

Hootsuite has added a “conversational” dashboard to help facilitate better real-time collaboration (Disclaimer: I’m a Hootsuite customer).

LinkedIn (a favorite tool of B2B marketers) has rolled out an “endorsement tool”. Why don’t you connect to all of us here at B2B Voices on LinkedIn: Kate Brodock, Arik Hanson, Aaron Pearson, Allan Schoenberg.

Gartner says CMOs better start thinking like CIOs. Speaking of that relationship, IBM has a new study out looking at how CMOs and CIOs need to work more together. If Gartner and IBM are talking about this you better be paying attention (and fine-tuning your technology skills).

You’ve always wanted to take your social media strategy global; no worries, HubSpot has you covered.

Do you know the behavior of your B2B customers? This Buyersphere survey looks at that topic to determine just exactly what is the actual behaviour of B2B buyers (PDF).

If you haven’t started a Facebook page yet for your B2B brand (or haven’t given it attention lately) you better get going. A new study shows that brand pages are getting some serious attention.

I asked you earlier if you were ready for a real-time B2B world, but what does real-time search mean for B2B marketers?

Do you want to be more effective at B2B marketing? Focus on creating better content.

Are you thinking about how your mobile strategy is working? If not, you should because everyone wants it.

The doctor is in and it’s time for a social media check up for your brand.

If you like infographics you will not be disappointed by this one from Brian Solis: The Brandsphere and why it matters.

Last, but definitely not least, are you measuring your influence and what you do? Apparently the C-suite isn’t very impressed with marketers.


B2B Creativity is Not an Oxymoron

One of the myths around B2B communications is that the industry lacks creativity – or the drive to be creative. I can’t think of anything that’s farther from the truth. And while it’s true that B2B companies don’t buy the flashy Super Bowl ads or use various mascots to win over customers, we are challenged day in and day out to think differently.

Another Lego creation at home.

Just like with B2C companies, creativity can be driven by a company’s culture. We’ve always been focused as an organization on innovation, which is why we’ve been so successful at trying new things, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and mobile devices. Ben Parr over at Mashable posted last year how B2B companies will be using social media as part of their creative campaigns. And Aaron Pearson just posted here on B2B Voices a post on world-class B2B social practices that’s a must read.

But there are some rules and guidelines to follow.

  1. Your ideas should always be in line with the brand you are trying to convey. Don’t be creative just for the sake of being creative. While this can work more in the B2C space, it rarely works with B2B companies. We have fewer opportunities to sell our products and services and every opportunity counts. In addition, B2B purchases are usually long-term investments by companies and they want to trust you. Any creativity — whether its very smart and interesting or immature and insulting — will reflect back on your organization.
  2. Study the competition — and be better — don’t copy or instigate them. Your competitors can always give you new ideas and thoughts, but I’ve seen B2B companies try to take on their competition head to head in ads and direct mail. That’s hard to pull off successfully (it can be done) and I always feel it’s better to focus on your strengths than your competitors weaknesses in paid campaigns. Save your competitive arguments for non-paid mediums such as your website and the media.
  3. Always be thinking about driving sales for the organization — this means being fully integrated. We know in B2B the sales process and cycle is much longer than in most B2C decisions, so you will need to think long-term for your campaign. If you are thinking of a new creative campaign it needs to play out online, at trades shows, through direct mail and in person. “One hit wonders”, like a weekend sale, are simply not the norm for B2B campaigns.
  4. Take risks, but know your limits. Good creativity helps you to stand out, but as you think about how creative you should be and how you will use the ideas read points 1 – 3 above.

Here are some other ideas from Marketo on being creative in B2B communications. It’s worth a read if you are looking to learn more about this topic.

I’ve been lucky to work on both national and international B2B and B2C campaigns in my career and personally I’m glad I’ve gravitated into strictly B2B. The creative challenges are different. They are more demanding. They require more time to succeed. And they need more buy-in from the organization. Not to take anything away from B2C creativity, it’s still demanding, but I’ve always liked that challenges and pressure as a professional of being more creative in B2B communications.

If you enjoyed this you may also want to read:

Finally, a comprehensive B2B social media study

World-Class social practices for B2B companies

Are you ready for a real-time B2B world?

Using social networking sites in B2B businesses?

Blackberry World: Social Networking and the Enterprise

I’m in hot and humid Orlando for Blackberry World, and attended a session yesterday on how social networking tools are or could effect enterprise-level communications.  The speaker was John Jackson of CCS Insight.  I thought he had a lot of good things to say, which I was tweeting about during the session.  There weren’t too many other live session tweeters, so I included below some of the thoughts he had from my point of view: