Posts on B2B

100% of Plans Are Wrong

Posted on 06/08/2013

Yes it’s true. 100% of the plans you make whether at work, planning your career or anything else are wrong. Why? Because no one can foresee the future with 100% accuracy and since all plans are forward looking they are always wrong. The question is how wrong and how right and how will you know which is which?

I was fortunate to learn this lesson very early in my career. I was working at GE on a very large project that would land in front of the CEO (Jack Welch at the time). After a few 80 hour weeks, my manager and I were going through the last review prior to sending it up the chain. We went through it and all seemed good. Then I’ll never forget what my manager did next. He pushed the project summary back across the table at me and said “Katrina, what is the one thing you know is always true about every plan?” Being entirely too tired for riddles, I said I wasn’t sure and was frankly a little too tired to guess well. My manager replied “They are all wrong – every single one.” Snapshot the first moment in my career that I nearly burst into tears – I’d worked my you-know-what off for weeks and now the plan is WRONG?!?

Keeping my calm, I asked what exactly was wrong. The answer was this – “Nothing is wrong with the plan itself. But plans are forward looking and no one can predict the future with 100% certainty. Some of the most successful business endeavors occur because people are watching in real time; keeping an eye on the market, on customers, on the competition, on the world. So tell me how you will provide a radar to the world in this plan and what are the sign posts that will trigger a shift in the plan and then you can call the plan both complete and well done.”

So I did and the plan went up the chain to very positive feedback and impact. And I learned one of the most valuable lessons of my career. You only know what you know in this moment. The world is not a static place. So if you don’t have a radar to adjust to the world around you, prepare yourself to either achieve success through luck or make your own good fortune by moving in tandem with and sometimes ahead of the world around you.

Yes the radar matters. It matters a lot. A good radar is a mix of data analytics, qualitative experience, related experience from other industries, sectors or customer segments and good old fashioned gut-feel. This combination has served me very well over my career – it is some of that rare, timeless advice. I’m very thankful to my manager at the time at GE as he taught me this and many other things about business on a global scale.

So the next time you’re building a plan remember that it is wrong, not because you don’t know what you’re doing, but because all plans are wrong. So build your radar and don’t rest on your laurels. Enjoy the success that results – it will be amazing!

You’re Never At the First Meeting

Posted on 04/14/2013

You’re never at the first meeting.

You’re never at the second meeting.

You’re rarely at the third meeting.

In fact, you may not be at several more meetings.

Then, if all these previous meetings go well, you are invited to meet with a potential customer. How can this be? Because your potential customers are meeting your company, brand, products, other clients and even your employees digitally long before they actually meet you in person.

Consider these statistics from Explore B2B:

93% of B2B purchases begin with an Internet search.

Sales reps used to get involved with a prospect about 30% of the way through the sales process. Now the sales rep gets involved when the prospect is 70% through the sales process.

And these statistics from SiriusDecisions which found that most C-level executives rely on general perceptions and influence of others (essentially word-of-mouth, usually delivered digitally) the vast majority of the time in validating purchase decisions. In fact, the combination of brand perceptions without previous brand experience; customer references and testimonials; and internal or external colleagues opinions account for the following amount of influence in the purchase process:

CFOs   67%    Chief Financial Officers

CSOs   64%    Chief Sales Officers

CEOs   54%    Chief Executive Officers

CMOs  50%    Chief Marketing Officers

CIOs    47%    Chief Information Officers / Chief Technology Officers CTOs

It should be noted that CIOs and CMOs seemed least likely to try a vendor they had not used before, hence the lower impact of non-brand generated influence.

The simple math shows that all brands need to actively manage their digital presence, engage in digital conversations to understand and steer influence or perceptions and recognize that they are dealing with far more informed prospects than ever before.

This is a big challenge for CMOs who often receive the brunt of the impact from this shift. CMOs need a solid relationship with their CIO so that monitoring, measurement and engagement technologies can be put in place. CMOs also need a new mix of talent in their organizations as the traditional push-marketing or advertising has been replaced by conversational marketing and engagement over time but build positive influence. The ripple effects in brand positioning, messaging and campaign design are huge. This also means CMOs need to be aware that influence plays a larger role in how their peers, and their boss, will interpret the effectiveness of a CMO’s strategy than perhaps the CMO realized.

CMOs in fact have to place the digital presence of their company, brand and products at the forefront of their marketing strategy. This is the only way to make sure those first series of meetings do in fact go well so you get invited to a real meeting down the line.

So You Say You’re A Chief Digital Officer…

Posted on 03/09/2013

I recently attended a first-of-its-kind conference for Chief Digital Officers. It was a very worthwhile event and if they do another, I will definitely attend and recommend it to others as well. This post includes some observations I made during the event. I hope you enjoy it. 

So what is a Chief Digital Officer (CDO) anyway?

While a rare few hold the actual CDO title, many of us have roles that are essentially that – being the strategists, stewards, champions, educators and just-get-it-done leaders of all that is digital in business. It was an enlightening and funny conversation around the room as to what exactly each of our jobs entailed.

The mix of focus in the CDO roles of those attending was quite varied, but seemed to align with the progression of digital understanding and adoption of the company where each of us worked. All the companies represented were over the initial fear of digital and at least recognized the need to adapt. From there it was a wide open array of what the job was and how well the company embraced and empowered the CDO as a change agent.

Who are these rare creatures, CDOs, and where are they?

From research by David Mathison of @BeTheMedia and Chadick Ellig, 54% of CDOs are 40-49 years old and 80% of them are men. Most commonly cited qualities of a CDO include: strategic, committed, do-er, relationship-builder, leader, entrepreneurial, and innovative. Essentially the most successful CDOs were mentally elastic – thinking big picture, operational execution and building relationships inside their company and outside to get things done.

Not surprisingly most CDOs are on the east coast with a center of gravity around NYC and the west coast, primarily in various hubs of California. Since much of US business is coastal and the need for people with a technology understanding in the CDO job, the locations made sense. 90% of CDOs were hired into their role in the last 2-5 years and trends show that over 25% of enterprises will have a CDO by 2015. Similar to the rapid growth of CMOs, the CDO role seems poised to be the next executive career path opportunity for people and companies looking to take a leadership position in their industry.

Critical Skills and Challenges Faced by CDOs:

Many of the panel speakers alluded to both the skills they found critical for success as a CDO and the biggest challenges faced in the role.  Needless to say these are connected. The biggest challenges faced by those in the CDO role included:

  • Culture Change – all across their organizations. Often cited as an ongoing endeavor.
  • Constant Education – helping people inside and outside their organization understand the digital realm and opportunities. A big part of this involved understanding where various people were in their understanding and comfort level with digital, then helping them take steps or leaps forward.
  • Effectiveness – demonstrating meaningful impact or effectiveness in the role. This was viewed as a challenge as many companies thought they wanted more change, only to realize they weren’t quite ready for all that. Being effective in role meant creating new performance indicators that were often a blend of hardcore metrics and milestones involving change management.
  • Change Management – being disruptive while staying true to the roots of the company or brand. Since many CDOs were new to the company they joined as a CDO, understanding decision-making and appetite for change was critical to success. For in-house hires, they understood the decision making process but often faced some “why on earth would you want this job?!?” thinking and push back on their strategies and plans.

Critical skills mentioned by the various panelists centered on things needed to overcome these challenges effectively, efficiently and in a way that sill allowed them to enjoy their jobs. Loosely summarized these skills came down to:

  • Diplomacy
  • A good BS filter
  • Adaptability to deal with a whole variety of people, situations and personalities throughout a day
  • Love of the business they were in. Being great at digital requires a deep appreciation for what makes the company great overall and bringing that to light through digital opportunities.
  • Comfort with technology, data and qualitative information all at the same time. Many CDOs seem to be very left-brain / right-brain balanced people and thrive in situations that let them use that talent.


That’s the high level view of a day that was packed with great information, interesting people and fantastic networking. Many thanks to David Mathison, Janice Ellig, Thomson Reuters for hosting the event and Deanna Zandt and the Lux Digital team for the digital coverage.


IF to IS

Posted on 05/05/2012

How do you build a culture that embraces Intelligent Failure (IF) to drive Increasing Success (IS)? Well, last week I attended The CMO Club Innovation Summit in NYC to speak on a panel about digital marketing – great event and great conversations. Innovation was top of mind which led to a lot of discussion about Intelligent Failure or IF and how that can lead to Increasing Success or IS. Here is my view on how to create a culture of IF to IS.

Intelligent Failure or IF means enabling your organization to “fail” in an acceptable manner. IF requires you to culturally embrace that the only real failure is a failure to learn and/or a failure to apply what you learned to other ideas. Iteration is a key component of IF. Iterating in smaller ways lets you quickly find blind spots, potential failure points as well as potential points of increased success. Whether you have an answer to these things or not is less important in IF than that you welcome the possibility to see them and work out a revised approach to your idea.

Increasing Success or IS occurs when your organization makes the concept of IF part of its DNA. IS happens because it becomes acceptable to share what was learned to save others from learning the same things the hard way. By embracing a culture of IF to IS, you empower people to come up with the best answers to things that would have otherwise led to failure or decreased success. IS is a result of faster innovation through leveraged learning and a culture of teamwork. This innovation also tends to cost less over time since you don’t have to spend money over and over for project teams to learn the same things the hard way.

A culture of IF to IS does not mean you cannot take on a “big bet” it just means you should break that big bet down into smaller pieces and apply the concepts of IF to the smaller pieces as well as the whole. IF to IS scales to everything from a personal project to a small company to a global organization.

As a leader, you have to set the tone of IF to IS for this to work. Putting IF to IS into your organizational culture means that as a leader you have to make a habit of asking people:

“What did you learn?”

“What would you do differently now that you know more?”

“What would you recommend to others facing similar situations?”

“What other projects do you think would benefit from what you’ve learned?”

Get in the habit of asking these questions for every project whether it met the original goals or not. Beginning with these simple questions and getting your organization in the habit of thinking this way and sharing the outcomes relieves the fear of failure. Fear of failure, which is really a fear of the consequences of failure, is the biggest deterrent to leveraging IF to get to Increasing Success or IS. So make these questions a habit, embrace the change and enjoy the success of IF to IS.

Relevance is Relative

Posted on 04/22/2012

Warning… this post is a bit of a tongue twister. Is your brand relatively reliably relevant? Say that 5 times fast – LOL.

Each day you wake up and have the opportunity to earn a spot on the relevance radar of your customers (or prospective customers). In the digital realm, however, relevance is relative. It’s relative to:

  • Where a person is in the conversation lifecycle: Have they heard of your products? Have they purchased from you? Are they a fan? With a little encouragement would they be an influencer for your brand? The contact lifecycle in digital doesn’t end with a purchase. Instead that begins a new series of conversations.
  • Where someone physically is during the day:  Are they always on the go so you only have a few moments to grab their attention between activities – if yes, mobile is a good way to go. Do they work with a laptop or tablet – if yes, then a great website is a must. If they tend to be a highly connected consumer during the whole day, social media is critical.
  • The source:  Information coming from a reliable source like a friend or trusted authority is more relevant than the same information coming from a random or unknown source. Better still is a group of related messages coming from a group of reliable sources – now that is relevant! 

When building a campaign or conversation plan, think through what a day in your target customer’s life looks like. Understand where they are relative to the conversation lifecycle. Remember when trying to drive repeat purchases that your goal is usually a combination of emotional connection and reinforcement that choosing your brand again is a wise and valuable choice. Never tell a customer they are out of date or behind the times – seriously, who would want to hear that even if it were true?

Understanding the flow of a person’s day and what marketing moments you have as a result can let you make powerful emotional connections and drive action as a result. Delivering these messages through media that they will see or use during these moments makes all the difference in being relevant.

Lastly, recruiting reliable sources to reinforce your message adds relevance. Today anyone can validate facts you present with a simple web search. To be personally relevant, your message needs to come through a reliable and known source with social media and blogs being an excellent route to personal relevance.

Each day your brand has the opportunity to be relevant. Plan accordingly and you will be relatively reliably relevant and that is very reassuring.

Iconically Social aka How-To Guide for a B2B Social Media Group Hug

Posted on 03/29/2012

Like many people, I’ve had great success in my career at companies with iconic brands – GE, HP, Microsoft – all with long tenures in their respective industries. Loved by many and hated by some, brands like these have a difficult path in the world of B2B digital marketing. Social media in particular can be a challenge for iconic brands – how do you embrace new media and yet still be you?

The challenge big brands face is multi-faceted in B2B. The desire internally to “stay true to the brand”; the fear of “what if people say something bad”; the fear that “we can’t control the message”; the perception that “social doesn’t apply to B2B” are all part of the conversation internally at companies with iconic brands. So here’s some ideas that can help.

First some things to remember….

  • You can stay true to your brand in social media. This is done by pulling out meaningful threads of your brand strategy, adding a human voice and engaging your target audiences through new media. It’s not about your whole brand; it’s about the meaningful pieces of your brand for your audience.
  • People may say something bad, but guess what; they’ve been saying these things for a while. You just didn’t see it as clearly before. Don’t fear the negative comment, instead embrace it. Being able to engage in these conversations and steer the perspective in your brand’s favor is a great thing and one that is best done via social media. You’ll also learn a great deal that can shape your brand strategy going forward.
  • Make peace with not being able to control the message. This is actually a good thing. You’ll find out very quickly what people perceive your brand to REALLY be. As I tell my team regularly, doing social media for a big brand requires us to be a good dance partner and let the community lead us. This also means having patience and diplomacy when they step on our toes or we accidentally step on theirs.
  • B2B is social because people buy your services not companies. To paraphrase a friend of mine from SAP (@ToddMWilms) “Treat businesses as people because business is about people”. Well-said Todd and I couldn’t agree more. People in the B2B space know this intrinsically, they just haven’t applied it yet in social media or more broadly in digital for that matter.

Great, so what to do? Ah, embrace the unique advantages of having an iconic brand and have some fun:

  • Be the heritage. A company with a long tenure has fantastic history to embrace. This fuels all kinds of “this day in history” content as well as an ability to embrace the concept of “we’ve been there for you through thick and thin”. Use your heritage as a content and brand advantage. History is full of powerful emotional connections to leverage.
  • Be the human voice of business. Business is really about people and your customers are people first and representatives of companies second. So connect with them on a personal level via social media. This isn’t that different from the face-to-face relationship building. Include some interesting content in your social media. Sponsoring the Olympics? Let them know. Sponsoring students via contests or scholarships? Let them know as well – you never know they may want to hire some of these kids some day. Connect with content they care about as people then infuse business content as appropriate.
  • Connect with your customers’ social media. Friend,Like or otherwise connect to your customers’ social media efforts. Amplification and collaboration are part of being a good social-media-citizen. So embrace the crowd and do the social-media-group-hug of message amplification. They’ll return the favor if you do it well and that is all goodness.

B2B social media success for big brands is both achievable and needed. Give it a try and you may just be surprised at the positive response. After all, who doesn’t like a hug?

Welcome to the Social Media Cocktail Party!

Posted on 02/25/2012

What kind of party guest is your brand? Most companies discuss their brand’s social media plan in terms of information distributed, leads generated, likes, follows, and re-tweets. But the real discussion should be about your brand’s personality, content and targeting that content in real time with a variety of audiences – much like being at a cocktail party.

Let’s review the stereotypical party guests and see which one your brand compares to:

The “Buy My Stuff” Guest: This person only talks about work. They tell you what they do and why you should buy their products. Rarely do they ask you anything other than some very basic profiling questions and they will shove a business card in your face whether you want one or not.

The “I’m the Greatest” Guest: This is the egomaniac. They are perfect at everything and won’t stop talking until they’ve told you all their heroics. Perfection is boring and blind, but these people fail to understand that.

The “Wallflower” Guest: These people hang out on the edge of the room, drink in hand pretending to participate but really only being a voyeur of others’ fun. Trying to have a conversation with them is risky as you never really know what they will say. They are often inconsistent in their replies because they are nervous or socially awkward.

The “Loose Lips Sink Ships” Guest: These chatter boxes go overboard on the TMI scale in a nanosecond. They’ll tell you all kinds of things you really don’t want to know, and probably shouldn’t either. Brands without a social media plan and without an employee social media policy are most likely to fall in to this category.

The “All I Do is Vacation” Guest: They go everywhere and often have fascinating stories, but leave you wondering how they make a living and if they can focus on a theme or activity. Adventurous but one-dimensional conversations are typical with them.

The “I’m Too Sexy for This Party” Guest: These are the people who know a lot of people but seem to somehow gain extreme pleasure in letting everyone know who they know, but not sharing the connection opportunities.

The “Real Person” Guest: These are people who have a life. Their life includes work, people and fun. They can talk about what they do or their friends/family or recent vacations with ease. They usually have some great hobbies and are interesting to talk to.

The “Guardian Angel” Guest: These people love helping other people find people who are interesting to them or can help them. They are truly gracious with their time, knowlege and connections. Meeting them is a blessing and being able to return a favor to them is always a treat.

The “Quintessential” Guest: These people work the room with ease. They ask great questions and often listen more than they talk. They move between topics and people with grace and a sense of humor discussing personal adventures, business, current events, etc. These are the people we all want to be at a cocktail party and when we spot them, we’re fascinated.

Being a good party guest is all about being informed and having a plan and your brand’s presence in social media is exactly the same. You know the host (media type), who will be there (audience), the theme of the party (what is important to the audience), what to wear (style that resonates with the audience), etc. And you have a game plan for interesting stories to share; people you want to meet; and information you’d like to gather. But most importantly, you’re open to new ideas, conversations and viewpoints. Make sure your brand has some personality, isn’t too perfect, has a sense of humor and can laugh at itself. Engage and work your brand’s social media presence like a combo of the quintessential guest plus the guardian angel guest and you’ll have more likes, follows and invitations than you can count.

Find a Little Digital Marketing Happiness, Coca-Cola Style

Posted on 06/27/2011

My day job is digital marketing with a decidedly channel pivot (versus end customer), but that does not mean I cannot learn a lot from companies who are amazing at consumer marketing. A community is a community after all, especially in the digital era so learnings from B2B and B2C are highly transferable. One company that is truly great at marketing innovation, and has been for decades, is Coca-Cola.

 Digital marketing and social media in particular have a natural gravitas for food and beverage companies. After all, sharing a Coke with a friend is one of life’s great social pleasures. Coca-Cola products are guests at most social functions in some capacity, so presence in the social media space is more than natural, it is absolutely required for Coca-Cola to get right. With a brand like Coca-Cola you simply cannot afford to be the “social” outcast.

 Wendy Clark, Senior VP of Integrated Marketing Communications and Capabilities at the Coca-Cola Company recently spoke at the AdAge Digital Conference about marketing innovation in the digital era. While you would expect someone with a job title like Ms. Clark to have lots of snazzy catch phrases, you might not expect them to be so universally relevant. Coca-Cola is a large, older company with an enviable market position in numerous products after all. But even with all the marketing budget and brand horsepower that the Coca-Cola Company brings, Ms. Clark gave an inspiring and enlightening presentation.

 The overarching theme of Ms. Clark’s presentation was… be gracious.

Yes, that’s right – be gracious. Being gracious with your communities, customers, indeed all your marketing activities has paid off substantially for the Coca-Cola family of products. Their internal research shows that as soon as they start to push in a community (translation, not being so gracious) the community backlashes either in small waves or large ones.

 This quote from Ms. Clark sums up why being gracious is so important:

 “The days of controlling the message are absolutely over.  At best you’ll be invited in and you’ll get to co-create and participate with consumers.”

 She went on to explain that marketing is “liquid and linked” in ways never before. Liquid because “everything communicates” as Ms. Clark says. And she is right – vending machines, trucks, even the cans themselves communicate to the consumer possibly long before they see one of your artistic print ads, or hear your new jingle on TV.

 My favorite part of her presentation was talking about creating an emotional experience connection with customers via art images on the Coca-Cola cans. Basically she turned a fixed cost of operations (producing the cans) into a marketing asset. She explains that Coca-Cola has to make the cans anyway, so why not have them communicate as well! Everything communicates in the same gracious way. And that is the linked component. All your marketing, messages, community engagement must be linked back to your core brand strategy.

 Why is linkage so important? Well here are some more interesting stats from Coca-Cola. On YouTube, there are 146 million pieces of content for Coca-Cola, but only 26 million, or 18% of the content was actually created by Coca-Cola. Their fans created their own content on top of the company-generated ideas, shared their content with their networks and extended Coca-Cola’s brand reach far beyond what the company could do alone. It is rather amazing when you think about it. 82% of Coca-Cola’s YouTube content was generated by their fans so this fan-generated content by definition resonates with the unique cultures of the various fan communities of Coca-Cola products. That’s right, it resonates with various cultures – allowing the Coca-Cola brands to be gracious yet again.

 Building great and gracious marketing in this liquid and linked world requires a new framework to think about digital marketing. I liked Ms. Clark’s spin on how to use the widely accepted Paid-Owned-Shared-Earned digital media model that most of us use each day. She’s put an action spin on it like this:

 Innovate Paid

Activate Owned

Integrate Shared

Engage Earned

Include storytelling content across all your media.

 To net it all out… Be gracious and celebrate the community in this very liquid and linked world. It’s a new age of marketing and Coca-Cola certainly is a leader. If you need some inspiration, watch the video of Wendy Clark’s AdAge keynote – the talk track is wonderful. And with that, I think it’s time for a Coke and a smile :-)