Get Ready for the Upswing

Last week, I attended the IDC Directions conference in Santa Clara and came away with some interesting statistics. John Gantz, Chief Research Officer from IDC had some sobering data about how the recession hit the IT market:
  • The IT industry lost $1.7 Billion between 2007 and their forecast to 2013
  • BUT, there is a recovery it’s way
  • Nearly half of the new spending in 2013 is expected to come from emerging markets, where as in 2009, it was around ¼ of IT spend.
  • There will be an incredible proliferation of new devices and sensors which will connect objects to objects, devices to devices. You will be able to put a sensor in your FedEx package that tracks not only its exact location throughout the journey, but the surrounding temperature, and even vibrations.  Check out this video to get a glimpse of the future. HP Labs: Central Nervous System for the Earth
  • We’re about to hit an IT boom period. Companies have been holding off IT expenditures for as long as possible. When demand begins to pick up, these companies will need to upgrade ASAP to capitalize on growth.
  • John peppered us with all sorts of overwhelming statistics about how many petabytes, trillions of instant messages, and cell phone subscribers there will be.

If you have 5 minutes, you can get the full IDC prediction here.


Are Organizations Ready?

If John’s right, we need to begin turning on our jets in sales and marketing to get ready for the upswing. As many of you know and have likely personally experienced, marketing is one of the first areas to get hit when it’s time to tighten the belt.

What happened to the sales pipeline when they turned off marketing? Anything? Senior execs may not notice an immediate change in the bottom line which is why many conclude that marketing is a cost center, a waste of money. Over a long b2b sales cycle here’s what will eventually happen without the proper marketing investment.

  1. Fewer leads
  2. Deterioration of awareness and branding
  3. Lack of an overarching story that shapes your offering in the customer’s mind
  4. Fewer tools the sales force can leverage to convince customers of your value proposition

Marketing is an investment, not a cost center. Yes, sales will always close the deal and therefore get 98% of the credit for each sale. However, like a missile on its way to hit its target, there are thousands of touchpoints and variables both online and off that a customer hits before he or she ends up speaking with a sales person. And, once the sales person is out of the room, there are dozens more Google searches, conversations with colleagues, blog reviews, and industry forums the customer will use as he or she gathers information to make the final buying decision – many of these are “unmanaged,” out of the vendor’s control.

Customer Touchpoints

Touchpoints a customer may encounter throughout the phases of the b2b buying cycle.

Marketing’s job is to get into and influence as many of these touchpoints as possible to guide the customer down the right trajectory.

So, if you’re an executive wondering when the downturn is going to end, don’t wait until you report positive earnings to crank marketing back up. Like investors who sell all their stock and stuff cash under their mattress, those who keep marketing on ice too long will miss the boat when the turn around happens. Competitors will have already stolen your customers’ mindshare with their slick new “renaissance” campaign. Now is the time to recapture customer mindshare BEFORE they buy.

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Getting your executives onboard with blogging

At a recent event in San Francisco, I spoke with a CMO from Telco manufacturer in Texas who was wrestling with a common problem: he’s the only one in his firm who thinks social media has potential as an effective communication channel. His peers look at him like he’s nuts when he says he writes a blog. I’d like to share some of my experience from HP “outting” content experts and executives into social media.

At HP, we are making significant investments in trying to get everyone – all of our content experts – to dive into social media. For an executive or content expert, the most logical place to kick off his or her debut is through a blog. From my experience, about half the time, an executive blog starts off with great enthusiasm. Everyone’s delighted to bring their executive in the 21st Century. However, after a few entries, the exec runs out of time or patience. Don’t let this happen to your executive!

With only so many hours in the day, the most common concern is “Where am I going to find the extra time? What’s the ROI? Will it sell more product?” These are all great questions which don’t have easy answers. It really depends on the executive, the company culture, and the communication objectives of the company. Here’s an easy litmus test to determine whether you or an executive should start a blog. Choose the question that best fits your situation, then write down the number on a piece of paper.

Company Environment

  • Is your company a startup eager for PR and Buzz? (2) 
  • Do you work at a larger organization with a sizeable marketing budget (1)
  • Do you work at a company that handles highly confidential or regulated information (0)

Executive Patience Level

  • Does your executive have a strong point of view or a passion about his or her business? (2)
  • Is your executive somewhat interested in social media, but have very limited time? (1)
  • Does your executive have little interest in blogging (0)

Communication Objectives

  • Is it very important to be perceived as a thought leader or have differentiated products? (2)
  • Is awareness an important communication goal? (1)
  • Is every ounce of communication resource focused on driving sales? (0)

Executive Availability

  • Is the executive able to spend 1 hour a week on blogging? (2)
  • Will the executive only participate if he/she has a ghost writer? (0)

Add up your score…

Score 6 – 8: you’ve got a shot. Give it a try.
Score 4 – 5: Perhaps your exec can write a guest blog entry on a prominent team blog rather than starting his/her own.
Score 0 – 3: don’t bother.

I would not set expectations about expected results at the beginning. Some executives are able to have amazing successes with their blog, some flop. Don’t set yourself up for failure.

Please post your thoughts and comments.


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