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.
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.
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.
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.
But there are some rules and guidelines to follow.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: