B2B Marketing Leader Interviews: Andrew Cornell, Managing Editor, ANZ BlueNotes

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In the leadup to the B2B Marketing Leaders Forum APAC 2016, I took the opportunity to speak with the Andrew Cornell, Managing Editor of BlueNotes, the ANZ newsroom about brand publishing, strategy and content.

Gavin Heaton: Earlier this year, eConsultancy published an article saying that the trend of brands becoming publishers is a nonsense. But BlueNotes has found success. What are the top three things that you are doing differently?

Andrew Cornell: Having worked in the traditional media for 30 years, I’d describe Fairfax and News as brand publishers too – a minority of their actual revenue comes from either subscriptions or direct purchase of articles. Audiences too, particularly when not familiar with the mastheads, have no pre-conceptions. The critical elements are audience understanding and quality content. So for BlueNotes, the three things are:

  • Truly understand your audience and what they value (and how they want to get their content)
  • Provide actually compelling content – which can’t be marketing or direct promotion. It needs to be thought leadership (as it has long been with Economic and business research the traditional media has always used)
  • Ensuring BlueNotes looks interesting in its own right, not as a “brand” site, although we’re clear our “publisher” is ANZ.

 

Gavin Heaton: At the B2B Marketing Leaders Forum there is a theme of linking marketing with the bottom line. What does that mean for BlueNotes – and perhaps as importantly – what does that mean for ANZ?

Andrew Cornell: For ANZ BlueNotes is a kind of online weekly magazine version of the thought leadership the bank has always done with economic research report, industry insights and major analyses like Greener Pastures and Caged Tiger, our long studies of the agricultural opportunity and the transformation of the Asian financial system. The “marketing” advantage for ANZ is reputational, not direct sell. This is a bank that is innovative with content, authoritative and able to provide genuine insights

 

Gavin Heaton: Where would a CMO start with a program like BlueNotes? Is it strategy? Is it vision? And what would you recommend?

Andrew Cornell: Start where any good journalism needs to start: who is the audience? How do they get their information? What do they want? Each is necessary. The content especially has to be authentic, genuinely insightful and valuable in its own right – audiences increasingly source information from multiple sites and mastheads so there needs to be a reason to come back – and that’s quality.

The B2B Marketing Leaders Forum 2016 runs 25-27 May in Sydney, Australia. It equips B2B marketers with the skills to cut through the technology hype and keep up with the many changes in digital disruption, industry and societal change and learn strategies for turning their departments into revenue generating machines.

B2B Marketing Leader Interviews: Emma Rugge-Price

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In the leadup to the B2B Marketing Leaders Forum APAC 2016, I took the opportunity to speak with GE’s Vice President of Brand & Communications for GE Australia & New Zealand, Emma Rugge-Price about B2B content marketing and what it means to move from “interruption to interaction”.

Emma-Rugge-Price-GE-Australia-New-Zealand-Speaking-B2B-Marketing-Leaders-Forum-2016400x400Gavin Heaton: GE has taken a novel approach to content. Was there a trigger that prompted this?

Emma Rugge-Price: Our approach developed out of a shift in thinking in 2012-13 on the back of GE’s global growth strategy. We asked ourselves how we could become a global company rather than just a multinational company. A core part of that is building brand awareness in each market around what takes place in that market.

So we started out with locally developed creative above the line campaigns. It’s expensive to do that, but not just expensive –  it’s challenging to be true to the brand.

At the same time, the media world was being disrupted, opening up new opportunities for creative content development and distribution. We launched a global media manifesto in 2013, which challenged us all to ‘think like a publisher’. This drove our content strategy.

Gavin Heaton: B2B marketing is often seen as B2C’s unsexy cousin. But GE has been bringing a cool factor to their content program – what is the secret?

Emma Rugge-Price: B2B may appear unsexy but it can also be very cool. Maybe it’s B2C’s SMARTER cousin, able to find compelling ways to influence what are often long and complex sales cycles.

Our media manifesto challenges us to shift our marketing focus from ‘interruption to integration and interaction” and it’s one of the themes of my presentation at the B2B Marketing Leaders Forum.

We have been co-creating content with publishers locally to reach our audience where they are consuming information, entertainment and media so that we are part of the conversation on the issues that matter to Australia. And, because GE works across so many critical industries, we bring substance and authenticity to those issues and those publishers. We augment that local content with what is often surprising and always innovative global content that showcases the brand with a-ha moments. This means that we can adapt big brand content, combine it with local content and business opportunity – to connect the dots for our customers and our business.

I think the secret to cool is that we like to be first – the copycats are rarely the cool ones. This means first with content ideas but also channels like SnapChat, WeChat, even Facebook back in the day.

Gavin Heaton: ROI is always a constant question for B2B marketers. How can marketers think differently to connect content to the bottom line?

Emma Rugge-Price: In B2B the sales cycles are long and the deals are complex, so you don’t get “click to buy” opportunities available to B2C. Our approach has been to create a halo around the customer as part of the sales process. For example, we used our content strategy to support positioning and business development in renewable energy to great effect. We partnered with the AFR to create some fantastic content and drive a dialogue for the industry which supported our local business strategy. It’s the holy grail – moving from content to the bottom line.

The B2B Marketing Leaders Forum 2016 runs 25-27 May in Sydney, Australia. It equips B2B marketers with the skills to cut through the technology hype and keep up with the many changes in digital disruption, industry and societal change and learn strategies for turning their departments into revenue generating machines.

B2B Marketing Leader Interviews: Jarther Taylor

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In the leadup to the B2B Marketing Leaders Forum APAC 2016, I took the opportunity to speak with Telstra’s GM Marketing, Jarther Taylor about the state of B2B marketing, the challenges that lay ahead, and the surprising ways technology and a focus on customer experience is changing the marketing and sales landscape.

 

Jarther-Taylor-Telstra-Business-speaking-B2B-Marketing-Leaders-Conference-Sydney-Australia-2016Gavin Heaton: We hear a lot of talk about the “marketing funnel” and the “sales funnel”. In your experience are these becoming one and the same?

Jarther Taylor: There are three factors driving convergence and of the marketing and sales funnel. So, yes they are becoming one and the same.

Firstly, as marketing increasingly digitised it can deliver better quality and more progressed leads at scale.  That is in the past, a B2B marketer may have had a bunch of responses from a DM piece or an event, and sales would then have the explore and develop that basic opportunity.  Today marketing can not only capture interest, but also progress that interest to a point of being ready to buy and then pass to sales to close the deal and help nurture and drive advocacy post-purchase.

Secondly, the buying process (which has replaced the selling process) is non-linear.  Gartner as a good model for this fluid approach of buying – Explore, Evaluate, Engage, Experience.  This fluidity and uncertainty is more culturally acceptable in marketing.  That is marketing leaders understand the customers may shift from being close to ready to buy (Engage) , to back to the Explore phase.  Sales management drives for a steady progression through the funnel, and sales teams are not ‘permitted’ to have an opportunity go from 30% certainty to 70% certainty back to 50%.  Marketing can help ensure that sales resources only engage during Engage!

Thirdly, the importance of customer experience across the buying and usage cycle is increasingly seen as a differentiator.  While at one point, sales was at the end of the line and customers were then exposed to usually less resourced service organisations, this has shifted with the introduction of Net Promoter Scores and the consumerization of business products (e.g. “why can’t my experience with you be more like Uber, AWS, Apple, etc.”).  This means than marketing, who has traditionally been responsible for representing the customer in the organisation, has a far great role to play across marketing, sales and service.

Gavin Heaton: Up to 60% of purchase decisions are made before a buyer reaches out to the brand. How is this changing the work of sales people?

Jarther Taylor: Sales used to be the ‘smartest person in the room’ when it came to B2B selling.  That is, the technical expertise on the product was what customers were after and went to the vendor to get that information.  Today most of the studies that support the 60% number show that digital research and speaking to peers is done well before engaging with the vendor.  I had a discussion with IDC just over a year ago, where they gave me multiple examples of customers wanting to now minimise the amount of time they spent with sales.

So sales need to get engaged earlier on in the piece.  That is, they need to be present in the online forums that customers are doing research in.  Marketing can help this through digital strategies like content marketing and social selling. Social Selling has proven extremely successful both at IBM and Telstra in building advocacy, trust and engagement with customers.

So with customers doing more research and having more knowledge before they get to the sales person, the conversations shift.  Sales need to have the capacity and capability to discuss options with a customer, challenge their thinking and add value to the buying process beyond taking an order.  For many sales organisations this is a major shift in culture, capability and structure.

 

Gavin Heaton: As consumers, we have become adept online purchasers. We plan and buy our own travel, research our purchases online before shopping around and so on. How is this self-service approach impacting the B2B vendor?

Jarther Taylor: Self-service in B2B tends to reside the in the Experience phase of the buying process I referenced above.  That is, once a commercial relationship between a customer and vendor has been set up, many of the more mundane actions can be done through a self-service portal.  Let’s say I’m an OfficeMax customer, then my office administrators can order approved stationary via an online portal.  Managing your billing or usage of technology via a self-service portal is also popular for many XaaS solutions.  AWS ,for instance, pretty much has it all online.

As a B2B vendor this can potentially mean a loss of engagement opportunities with a customer, but is also means that the engagement can be a lot richer.  For instance, rather mourning the loss to sell additional items in person, usage data of a product can suggest that the next best product is.  So it drives efficiency and also advocacy because you are offering the customer more useful products and solutions.

Another efficiency gain is the post-sales service can be scaled.  That is a contact centre can manage a much larger number of customers in a much more personalised manner.  Customers get better and more relevant marketing, sales and service engagement.  And as a vendor I am keeping my costs down.

Demand Generation and the New Marketing Order with Carlos Hidalgo

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IMG_4215Despite numerous attempts to live stream a discussion on demand generation with author Carlos Hidalgo, I was forced to revert to Plan B. And Plan B involved a cup of coffee, a quiet room and a Skype video call with CEO of the B2B demand strategy firm, Annuitas, and upcoming keynote speaker at the B2B Marketing Leadership Forum in Sydney, Australia. Having read his book – and been heavily involved in B2B marketing most of my career – I was keen to learn some of the insights and approaches that have transformed B2B marketing in the last decade.

Gavin Heaton: In your book, you call out the challenge of B2B marketing training. In my experience we are seeing students graduate from marketing degrees with no clear understanding of B2B. Do you see this too?

Carlos Hidalgo: We are not seeing B2B taught at university. At a recent speech at a local university, a junior asked “what does B2B stand for?”. We are starting to see alternatives. eLearning has become a very useful way of educating people about B2B marketing – with places like eCornell doing a great job.

Gavin Heaton: You also talk about “marketing enablement”. What does that look like? What does it mean?

Carlos Hidalgo: What do we have to invest to make our marketing people succeed? Sales have had enablement and skills training for years. Companies have become very good at sales enablement. But on average, most marketers are self taught. There’s no true marketing enablement within firms. We need to fix that, and there are a few key areas:

  • Truly uncover and diagnose who our buyers are and how they buy
  • Qualitative research – we need to understand this and do it better
  • How to speak to customers about their buying behaviours to uncover insights
  • What are the conditions that push or lead people into a buying path
  • What does and should reporting look like
  • Doing qualitative analysis on reports – after all, the rest of the business runs according to financials, KPIs and metrics
  • Putting together training curriculum – let’s support our marketers
  • We need to document and understand marketing KPIs

We also need a better understanding of our buyers, their behaviour and the way that this impacts our marketing programs.

Remember, marketing is being asked to do things that it’s never done before.

Gavin Heaton: When I speak with CMOs and CIOs, they think the answer is already in place. Technology. Has technology solved the sales-marketing alignment challenge?

Carlos Hidalgo: Technology has made the marketing-sales alignment worse. Often a CMO will say, “We just need to get our martech stack in order.”. But technology is an enabler to a strategy.

We need to retrain sales as they’re not as front and centre as they were 101-5 years ago when information was hard to come by. They don’t need to sell in the same way, but be educators to help their customers think through their problems. The buyer probably already knows more about your products.

Sales need to “unteach the buyer” – so that we can open the conversation and position ourselves as the expert on the challenges that the business is facing.

When it comes to marketing and sales alignment, the problem isn’t alignment at all. They’re not aligned around a “common sense of the customer”. As marketers, we have been taught to think that “sales is your customer”. This is only true when marketing is producing content. Marketing needs to lead sales and help develop a “continuity of conversation” – and that conversation these days is largely digital. The two need to work together to provide that continuity.

Gavin Heaton: You write about demand process transformation. What does that look like?

Carlos Hidalgo: This is about aligning people, process, technology and strategy around the customer. Aligning content by the buyers journey. For those organisations that do this well, we are seeing benchmarks being blown away.

Gavin Heaton: So who decides this kind of transformation is important?

Carlos Hidalgo: Who thinks this is important? Say a VP or CMO. I am seeing more people with the title of VP of Demand Generation. Typically they have marketing automation and up to 15 technologies in place. But no one is closer to the customer. We are not seeing the breakthroughs.

Typically we need someone open to the idea that what is happening now is not good enough. And then they start to look for marketing automation strategy or demand generation strategy. New ways are required to deliver the breakthroughs. It’s about true change management.

Gavin Heaton: What is the role of an external change agent? How useful and when should they be used?

Carlos Hidalgo: When I went out on my own, I consulted back to my old firm. My client presented back the same presentation that I created. What they needed was what I was advocating. External change agents can be the people you can invest in beyond the reach of your firm. They bring important experience across many organisations.

From an internal perspective, you need someone who can be objective and not worry about politics and sacred cows. External change agents are not in the “day to day” so they have a perspective that we can easily miss from the inside. As an employee we are too close.

External change agents are also vital in getting things done. Most clients who say “we’ll do it ourselves” find that 12 months later nothing has happened. .

See Carlos Hidalgo live in Sydney

Remember, you can see Carlos live in Sydney at the B2B Marketing Leadership Forum, and he is running a limited capacity workshop on demand generation on Day 3. Be sure to book in early.

Join Me and Carlos Hidalgo and Meet the Modern Buyer

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Marketers are doing more, spending more and creating more – yet only seeing marginal results. These days, B2B marketers need to transform the way they do the work of marketing. It’s about changing culture, thinking about demand generation in a new way and thinking from the outside-in to focus not on what and when we want to sell to customers but to understand how they want to buy.

One of the keynotes at the B2B Marketing Leaders Forum APAC, Carlos Hidalgo and I will be discussing that it takes to be a successful B2B marketer now and in the future. Carlos will also be running a demand generation workshop to help you understand how to integrate strategy and tactics into your ways of working. He shares some of this thinking in this clip below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sShulJ4oZoc

In preparation for the forum next month, Carlos will join me for a discussion on demand generation and the modern buyer. You can watch – and maybe even join our discussion live – this Wednesday morning, Sydney time at 7am. Watch the stream live on Blab – or here on my website.

And remember, book-in to the B2B Marketing Leaders Forum. It’s Asia Pacific’s only dedicated B2B marketing conference.

For Many B2B Marketers, It’s Time to Set the Foundations

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For all the how-to guides, blog posts on best practices, tips and tricks, there is a simple reality to modern marketing that we often overlook. In our rush to use the technology, spend our budget and brief our agencies, we forget that good marketing is established on firm foundations.

A recent study by B2B International found that the top business challenges relate to growth:

  • 62% of marketers are focusing on growth
  • 59% of marketers are driving / needing innovation.

But in the area of out performing the competition, there are two significant weaknesses:

  • Sophisticated segmentation
  • Unique selling proposition.

In the research, on 43% of respondents indicated that they were using a sophisticated approach to segmentation. This means that almost 60% are leaving the door open to their competitors who double down on segmentation, audience analysis and journey mapping.

Furthermore, B2B marketers are rating their USP as a weak 6.3 out of 10.

Yet on the surface, all these things are under the immediate control of the B2B marketer.  Growth and innovation have tactical and strategic elements and can be tackled through short and medium term activities (yes, this is where those blog posts and tips and tricks can come in handy). Segmentation and analytics is a burgeoning field, and while skilled practitioners may be hard to find, they do exist. And there are great sources of training, conferences and even courses available in convenient online formats.

Messaging and the strengthening of your value proposition can be hard work – but again – there are agencies who can help, freelancers and brilliant techniques that can help you land on a compelling and differentiated messaging architecture.

But the data in this report makes me wonder whether we are looking at the right things. Are we valuing the right things. And are we looking for answers everywhere that we should not? I am convinced that the best marketing investment we can make is in our own skills. And that we should seek out a deep appreciation and understanding of the foundations of modern marketing, get back to basics and make our customers delightfully happy.

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Bringing the Glitz to B2B Marketing #b2bmktg16

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B2B marketing is often seen as the nerdy, slightly less glamorous cousin of B2C marketing. And sure, there are fewer celebrity endorsements and precious little in the way of mainstream news and media coverage. We often struggle to even get a write up in Mumbrella, unless something goes wrong.

But a quick search on LinkedIn reveals that there are at least 65,000 B2B marketers working in Australia. They cover a wide range of functions, from social selling to demand and lead generation through to content strategy and marketing, marketing automation, customer experience and analytics. Those working in B2B marketing know it is a constantly changing field – with exacting business and stakeholder demands, expectations of strict ROI, exploding content and channel opportunities and and ever shifting technology opportunities, risks and costs.

No wonder B2B marketing is a challenge.

But for many of us, it is a challenge that drives us.

Come to the B2B Marketing Leaders Forum

Despite the fact that we work in teams, B2B marketing can be a lonely profession. It doesn’t get the focus and attention that other marketing disciplines receive, marketers are time poor and under pressure, and there are competitive issues that we struggle to be able to talk about openly.

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to meet other B2B marketers? Share stories? Learn from the experiences and case studies of others?

Well, here is your chance.

I am chairing the first B2B Marketing Leaders Forum APAC this May. We have put together a brilliant agenda, sourced world class speakers locally and internationally and are crafting a conference experience that will both inspire you and your teams and provide you with practical insight you can bring back to the office.

Book in now. And let’s bring shine some light onto the brilliance of B2B marketing.

I look forward to seeing you there!

Beyond Innovation Bingo: Doing Business with Government in the Digital Age

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We have been living in the 21st Century for almost 15 years, and at last it seems, that governments at all levels in Australia have finally got the carrier pigeon. With Primer Minister, Malcolm Turnbull’s very public recalibration of the business conversation towards “innovation”, there has been a remarkable level of energy and dynamism pumped into the the business world. From Wyatt Roy’s PolicyHack to the Telstra Digital Summit, and from the SydStart startup conference to the opening of the Australian Digital Transformation Office, it feels like we are constantly playing innovation bingo.

Will all this talk result in action? And will that action result in anything like lasting change? More importantly, will the benefits of this innovation – the digital transformation programs – actually deliver value and opportunity for anyone other than the big end of town?

On Thursday, 5 November 2015, InnovationAus.com is hosting an Open Opportunity Forum to address these questions. This breakfast event at the offices of Swaab Attorneys, aims to “provide the highest level briefing of digital engagement – to give [mid-tier technology companies] a practical guide to meeting public sector demand.”

Speakers* confirmed include:

  • The Hon Karen Andrews MP, Assistant Minister for Science, Australian Government
  • Professor Roy Green, Dean Business School, University of Technology Sydney (UTS)
  • Martin Hoffman, Secretary, NSW Department of Finance, Services and Innovation
  • Adrian Turner, CEO, Data61
  • Patricia Kelly, Director General, IP Australia
  • Audrey Lobo-Pulo, Data Scientist, Australian Taxation Office (ATO)
  • Latika Bourke, Press Gallery Political Reporter, Sydney Morning Herald (Event MC)

In addition, Wyatt Roy MP, Assistant Minister for Innovation will kick off the breakfast with a live cross from Israel. Rounding out the event, I will share some practical tips on what businesses can do today to make a difference tomorrow. It promises to be informative and perfectly timed to help us all make sense of the newly emerging innovation landscape.

Hope to see you there!

Taking Digital Leadership to a New Level

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When I started this blog ten years ago, it began with a rant. A call to action. It was a poetic exploration of what it might mean to focus on your customer above all else. It was also a warning about what would happen if businesses refused to do so.

There are more to the words of consumers than the corporations expect.
We huddle in groups, in chat rooms.
We explode on the keyboards of a million call centres.
Our imagination is unheard of. Our thoughts cancel out the process.
We are your hearts and your minds.
We are everywhere, all places, all over the shop.

Fast forward ten years and over 2200 articles later, and it feels like we might be making a little progress on this transformation in business that we call “digital”.

When I spoke at Telstra’s Vantage conference just a couple of months ago, there was a palpable sense that a shift was underway in the way that Australia’s largest telecommunications company was presenting itself. It was more assertive. Less about cables and wires. More about services and transformation. About helping customers solve business problems.

And with the Telstra Digital Summit, we are seeing a stronger Telstra yet again. Also see Joanne Jacobs’ live blog.

Kicking off with Andy Penn, CEO of Telstra

It was the most comprehensive display of digital leadership that we have seen from Telstra. In fact, I would be hard pressed to think of another company that is making such a concerted shift. There was context setting from Telstra CEO, Andy Penn and newly minted Minister for Communications, Mitch Fifield, sprinkled with humour, references to 80s music and examples of how Telstra is shifting from its telco base to become more of a “technology business”. There was still a reliance on numbers over storytelling and “core” messaging than vision, but it’s a new dance that Telstra is learning and like anything at this scale, it takes time.

A vision of the future with Robert Scoble

Peering into the near future, Robert Scoble and Kathryn Parsons talked about the way technology is empowering people, students and businesses to transform their own futures. Robert, in particular took us into a world whose future is inextricably linked to technology. Part geek fanboy and part techno-utopian, Robert’s exciting new world is populated by ever more deeply connected, yet strangely disembodied, individuals shuttling between meetings in driverless cars and adventures in virtual reality. Robert is an expert at connecting out-of-this-world market valuations for new technology with a vision for the future that is yet to be created, but in a country that is struggling to spread 20th Century broadband copper across its vast distances, it feels like it may take Australia longer than most to reach this new future.

Decoding the future with Kathryn Parsons

The energy of Kathryn Parsons, CEO of Decoded is palpable. A great storyteller, she effortlessly weaves her own story with that of Decoded – the accelerated learning program designed to get you up and going with coding, data and technology in a day. Soon to be launching in Australia, Decoded’s launch reinforces the fact that education is one of the great opportunities of the early 21st Century. And just as Australia exports a substantial amount of education to overseas markets, we are now seeing more overseas businesses eyeing the Australian markets keenly. Joining the US-based General Assembly, along with almost all the universities, Decoded brings a rapid sense of flair to adult learning. It will be interesting to see the ripples as they roll out here.

Enterprises learning to dance – Telstra’s Muru-D accelerator

Annie Parker, founder of Telstra’s startup accelerator, Muru-D, showcased two of the current businesses working through the program. When I first saw Holly Cardew talk about her Pixc business, it was all images, and online products. Today, just months later, it’s storefronts, investments and ecommerce – a dramatic and welcome move up the value chain. And Cate Hull’s vision for FreightExchange – an uber for excess freight capacity – remains clear and eminently viable as it did on day one.

Dazzled by data – Lithium’s Rob Tarkoff

Rob Tarkoff, CEO of Lithium dazzled the audience with insight, data and a world of big data experience. He toyed with the audience – testing our understanding of Daniel’s Market Theory (ie there is no theory, Daniel is his son) – going on to explain how the “born digital” generation are already exhibiting different behaviours and expectations from businesses and communities.

The rear view from out in front – Uber in Australia with David Rohrsheim

Uber’s David Rohrsheim was a crowd favourite, riding the wave of popularity that Uber is experiencing in Australia. When he asked how many in the audience had taken an Uber in the last week, almost the whole audience raised their hand. Here, David was preaching to his choir. This is where I hoped for a little more than the “why Uber is so uber”, but the audience certainly loved the storytelling.

X marks the spot with Brian Solis

After lunch is one of the most challenging speaking slots. Stepping into the void, Brian Solis took us the challenging landscapes of customer experience. As ever, Brian delivered insight in a smooth, easy to understand way. He is certainly one of the most accomplished speakers I have seen – polished, word perfect and authoritative. This time he was all these things, but with another quality. A depth or humility that I had not noticed previously. And this made his talk on X – customer experience, the crossroads for business – so good.

A brain on legs – Larry Marshall moving CSIRO to a new tune

We often say that “if you are the smartest person in the room, you need to get out”. And if this is the case, Larry Marshall, CEO of the CSIRO, is likely to find himself meeting-free for years to come. A great combination of entrepreneurialism and scientific chops, he has a clear vision for his 90 year old startup. Echoing Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull’s push for innovation and “agile government”, Larry challenged not only the audience but his own teams – “we have to be beta all the time”.

Telstra’s digital journey with Kartsen Wildberger

Rounding out the day was Telstra Group Executive, Karsten Wildberger sharing part of the Telstra digital journey. He touched on the challenges as well as some of the wins. It was refreshing to hear Karsten taking on the challenge of disruption, reframing it as opportunity rather than a threat – and encouraged the audience to think the same way. “Keep the customer at the centre of everything”, he urged.

Lethal Generosity with Shel Israel

The nicest man on the internet, and in many ways, it’s chronicler, Shel Israel, stepped us through what it takes to be “lethally generous”. And he is that in person. In fact, this is the title of his new book, generated to the millennial generation which he sees as the “greatest hope for the planet”. Listening to Shel, you hear not just a connection to technology but also a sense of the great underlying humanity which the technology was created to serve. As he says, “great customer service, even if it costs you a sale, gets you a customer for life”.

What the tweet – Twitter in Australia with Karen Stocks

Rounding out the day – in the last presentation before drinks – was local Twitter CEO, Karen Stocks. Given that the whole room could be categorised as “early adopters”, it was a shame that the presentation didn’t take us more into the future of Twitter. Clearly there was a lot of love in the room for Twitter and for Karen as CEO – and the segments on #likeagirl and Periscope reinforced the power and relevance that Twitter has created in the community. But it would have been great to hear more about their story with data and the tools that are available for businesses, their partnerships with companies like IBM or new features and capabilities coming down the track.

What’s next for the digital summit?

It was a broad brush conference and tied together many of the digital challenges in easy to consume, shorter, 20 minute snacks. There was fabulous diversity in the speaking line-up – it certainly wasn’t yet another conference dominated by MAMS (middle aged men in suits). The tweet stream provided some great, light hearted moments and worked to engage the audience across the day.

The faster pace also kept the audience focused and the energy levels high. And Telstra’s new-found confidence was surprisingly refreshing. Where once, their positioning was tinged with the air of superiority and arrogance, this conference felt like a more hands-on, let’s get things done attitude was pervading proceedings.  Some ideas for the Telstra Digital Summit 2016 (hey ideas are free):

  • More Australian speakers actually speaking about Australian businesses and conditions. It would be great to hear from Telstra business customers and the successes they are having. Some of the Telstra Business Awards winners had compelling stories and amazing digital outcomes. More of that please
  • Breakout sessions for case studies and deep dives. There’s plenty of room in the exhibition area to have mini-talks on digital topics. This would be a great way for Telstra to showcase their depth of expertise and “lethal generosity”
  • Connecting the audience. With around 1000 people attending the conference is now at the scale where connecting and networking with others is a challenge. With plenty of conference apps now available, it might be worth investigating something that helps connect people, ideas and opportunities.

Interestingly, while reading back over my blog, I found this article from 2008 urging Telstra to embrace an “almost unmatched opportunity” on the digital frontier. It has taken six years to hear these words from the lips of a Telstra CEO. Let’s hope that this forward momentum will continue.

DiG Festival – Australia’s Best Conference You’ve Never Heard Of

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There is a low murmur sweeping in to the auditorium from outside. There are people moving in and out – greeting each other, chattering, delivering coffee (yes, true, and more on that below). On stage, author and digital transformation leader, Jesper Lowgren, is stepping through the “new thinking and new doing” required by businesses to deal with the challenges of digital disruption. All around me, I can see people taking notes, nodding, whispering to each other.

“This is great,” I think to myself, “Jesper is going to make my job easier”. I’m speaking next, sharing the “Seven Unbelievable Rules for Survival” in the age of disruption – and I’ve been focusing on the positive aspects of disruption in my recent talks. It makes opportunity more tangible. Realistic. And “disruption” can often feel too loaded and combative for an audience.

DiG 2015 – Jesper Lowgren

Swede Jesper Lowgren is a published author, keynote speaker, member of board of advisors for Enterprise Transformation 2020, and a business & digital transformation thought-leader with Telstra. Produced by eluminate: www.eluminated.com.au

2015-10-13 10.05.38-1 This year’s DiG Festival focuses exclusively on “digital disruption”. It’s a theme that almost every business is facing but few have plans for. In almost every client interaction I have had in the last 24 months, we touch on disruption and innovation, but always find a lack of preparation or willingness to tackle the challenge beyond the technology. But the challenge is profound.

Macquarie Bank research evaluated the potential impact of disruption to the Australian payments system at $27 billion a year. And while this has spurred an interest in “fintech” startups and innovation labs within parts of the financial sector, there remains plenty of wheel spinning. Not only is there more to do in financial services – many other sectors are still just covering the bare basics of digital strategy and execution. The retail, healthcare, pharmaceutical and mining/energy sectors – Australia’s engines for economic growth – are notorious digital laggards.

But digital disruption is not all about technology. It’s also about culture. Opportunity. Diversity. It’s about shared value and a vision for the future. And it’s about education.

And this is where the DiG Festival outstrips the performance of almost every other conference.

Over the next two days, we are treated to a feast of international and Australian speakers, workshops, announcements and networking opportunities.

Is DiG Australia’s SXSW?

Originally envisioned as Australia’s answer to SXSW, DiG is punching above its weight, attracting world-class speakers on business essential topics:

  • Women in Tech advocate, Ruthe Farmer, head of strategy development and partnerships at the National Center for Women and Information Technology in the US, is blazing a trail that we are just embarking upon. She has spoken at the White House, advised the United Nations and has a formidable list of achievements
  • Rebecca Caroe lays bare the hard truths of working with millennials and what it takes to challenge and grow the next generation of leaders. Her talk was jaw droppingly insightful as well as entertaining – and saw her swamped by questions in the breaks
  • The University of Newcastle used the festival to announce its new Entrepreneurship and Innovation program scheduled to start in 2016
  • The dynamic Eve Mayer flew solo off-the-cuff to step through the gory details of social media in a serious business context. Inspired by the University of Newcastle’s new program, she offered one lucky student an internship in her business in Texas. Now it was just a matter of sponsoring travel and accommodation. Within minutes, business leaders were jockeying for position.
  • Trent Bagnall from Newcastle’s Slingshot startup accelerator launched into my favourite topic – corporate innovation, sharing the hard won stories of innovation mis-matches, middle management anti-bodies and the successes of their partnership with the NRMA JumpStart program
  • Scott Yates from content crowd sourcing machine, Blogmutt, showed just how powerful crowd generated content can be when focused around your business goals and strategies
  • Alison Michalk shared the process of “birthing a business and launching a baby” while building a global business without an office, but with a strong sense of culture and purpose.

And like any good conference, there was more. More great speakers. Fantastic ideas. Workshops were jam packed. And the open areas were abuzz with conversation. The whole vibe was one of collegiality and good will. Speakers and audience members easily mingled, drank coffee and exchanged cards. Speakers vowed to return. Business leaders left inspired.

But this conference should have been 10 times the size. The topics and insights delivered are hot for Australian business leaders right now. Luckily, the DiG Festival team are packaging up the conference content and will make it available online. Register your interest online. And next year, show up in person. You’ll be glad you did.