Marketing Led Sales – a new era for Hubspot and CRM

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Back in the beginning of 2013, I released a research report into the field of marketing automation. It investigated the challenges faced by marketers – from the explosion in digital and social channels to the newly emerging connected consumer and sought to map out the strengths of the various marketing technology vendors and their software offerings. In this report, I had identified that:

HubSpot looks to upset the apple cart.

With the focus on inbound marketing I predicted that HubSpot was well placed to become a future category leader.

At the recent INBOUND2014 conference, HubSpot announced a bold new offering – HubSpot CRM. Now, HubSpot, along with many other marketing automation platforms have long provided a simple CRM-style database – or tight integration to dedicated customer relationship management platforms such as Salesforce. But this feels different. It is different. It is FREE – as part of your HubSpot subscription.

But it’s not the pricing (or lack thereof) that feels revolutionary. It’s the fact that the HubSpot CRM reverses the priority of CRM – from sales first to marketing first. So now, rather than CRM and sales leading the customer process, HubSpot reaches out through its marketing platform to engage customers and then automatically connects them through to the sales teams seamlessly. The CRM platform works almost behind the scenes, logging your sales emails, phone calls and leads as they are made, not after the fact. And because it is part of the one platform, the marketing data that has been accumulated through various touch points, from web, to download, to webinar and so on, is also immediately available to the sales team as the relationship moves closer to conversion.

This new extension to an already powerful mid-market solution will strengthen what is already an attractive software platform. More importantly, it presents small and medium businesses with a compelling proposition – all in one, integrated sales and marketing automation.

And while this is a welcome mid-market addition, I am most excited about what this means for those organisations actively engaged in strategic digital marketing. Sure, most companies are shifting to digital, but those organisations with a mature approach to digital will be able to quickly deploy this kind of solution to create a competitive advantage. With HubSpot CRM, customers – and the customer experience – is more tightly connected to the sales process. It’s marketing led sales, not sales driven marketing. And this is a revolution that has been waiting in the wings.

Now I can’t wait to see what the next act brings.

Going Viral for all the Wrong Reasons

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Every time someone reads, clicks or shares a link or piece of content that we have created, it sends a small dose of dopamine into our brain. This release provides us with a sense or reward, pleasure – and encouragement. It’s why (for the marketer) digital marketing or social media can be addictive. It is also why those who don’t use social media fail to understand the way that participation can become contagious – or how content can go “viral”.

Unfortunately, the concept of “virality” has positive and negative connotations. And while the highs that come with a viral “hit” can be dwarfed by the lows that come with a viral “miss”. Where once we held that there was no such thing as bad PR, we now know that there IS such a thing as bad social media – and there are very real impacts on our reputation (personal and corporate) and even downsides for our corporation’s share price.

For those who have one eye on the audience and another on your corporate reputation, Sprinklr’s recent whitepaper on crisis management will be a must-read. Covering the five essentials for crisis preparation, it includes a handy score card to help you assess when a crisis is likely to move from medium to critical, and even includes a sample flowchart which you can adapt to your own organisation.

The whitepaper by Rick Reed (Intel), Melissa Agnes (Agnes + Day) and Sprinklr’s Ali Ardalan and Uyen Nguyen is a handy document to model your own crisis plan on. And it might just be your saviour should you find yourself “going viral” for all the wrong reasons. Download your copy here (registration required).

Earned Audiences–Where Twitter Meets TV

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There was a time when sitting down in front of the TV was a family affair. It was me, Dad, Mum and maybe a dog. The little brother was tucked up in bed and the little sister, well, she was far off into the future. And while there would be the occasional conversation – mostly during the ad breaks between episodes of Prisoner – or when the footy would break at the end of six – watching TV was a shared experience with limited variation.

These days, the tables have turned.

Sure, we still arrange rooms around a large glowing screen. But it’s not just one glowing screen in the room any longer. The big one on the wall fights for attention with the various smaller devices – smartphones, tablets and notebooks that adorn our laps. TV is no longer the centre of authority in our night’s entertainment – it’s just the context for a much broader conversation.

TV shifts from content to context

One of the most interesting transformations that has come about in recent years is the demotion of TV from centre of an experience to the frame for that experience. These days, TV is just the start of a conversational journey that happens within a home. From there, hundreds, thousands, millions of streams of opinion, humour, sarcasm and even spoilers, issue forth from the devices of the people who are consuming shows while simultaneously co-creating as-yet-unwritten meta-narratives via Twitter, Facebook and specialist apps like Beamly or GetGlue. The shows provide the context into which “prosumers” pour their creative energies and content.

What does this look like?

ABC’s Q&A program creating earned audiences

QandAtweetsA great example of social media connecting audiences is Australian Broadcasting Service’s Q&A program. Actively curated for live amplification during broadcasting, the #QandA stream prompts conversations amongst participants, friends and connections along with a generous smattering of online trolling and vitriol.

Some participants argue with points raised live on the show, some share links supporting their arguments and others just simply throw their best lines into the void hoping that their 140 characters will somehow be picked up and shared with the TV audience. One of the more prolific protagonists, Wolf Cocklin, has gone so far as to create a line of #QandA related merchandise that he sells via creative community/marketplace, Red Bubble.

Tellingly, this audience sprang up organically, adopting the #QandA hashtag and generating a massive stream of content. At first, the QandA producers appeared unaware or uncertain of how to approach this new community of viewers. After all, they were at times, unruly and prone to swearing. But as an “earned audience”, it was icing on the cake of broadcasting. For while TV runs multiple rounds of surveys to understand (and extrapolate) viewership, people who participate using #QandA:

  • Self identify
  • Reveal a range of interests via their profile and publishing
  • Share networks of others
  • Rally audiences and grow reach

In many ways, this audience is the programmer’s dream. So it makes sense that before too long, tweets began appearing on-screen and spurred on by the promise of 5 seconds of fame, participants responded, growing a massive audience that spans Australia’s three timezones.

The last couple of months has also seen participants publishing their tweets many hours ahead of broadcasting. This strategy seems designed to maximise the possibility of a tweet being broadcast. After all, the views of the show’s panellists are known in advance as are the hot topics of the moment. And if you can give the producers a few easy, early tweets that can be loaded into the system, then everyone wins.

Bridging the brand and consumer gap with earned audiences

While the lessons from #QandA are interesting, it would appear at first glance, that going from “conversation to conversion” is more challenging. For some time, marketers have been keen to identify the connection between social media and sales – with many giving up the ghost. But new research sponsored by Twitter seems to suggest that Twitter-based brand exposure does indeed drive action. This includes:

  • Visiting brand websites
  • Visiting brand Twitter pages
  • Searching for the brand
  • Consider trying the brand
  • Retweeting the brand

As expected, the tweets that originated from the brand were less effective than those that originated organically (or appeared to be organic).

While this is interesting research, it smacks a little of research that shows that “radio ads are more effective”. For no matter how engaged or how “managed” a branded social channel may be, Twitter chats, hashtags and the like remain wild, contested territories for brands. Yes, there can be cut through, but it comes with risks.

And while the stickiness, energy and passion that comes with social media may be the flame to the marketer’s moth, an earned audience is not a PERMISSIVE audience. And just because people are talking about you, doesn’t mean that they want to talk TO you. That requires a whole different level of trust. And it’s a world away from TV.

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Take the Australian Social Business Survey 2014

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To call out the term “social business” seems almost anachronistic in 2014. After all, aren’t we all now working in “social businesses”? Haven’t we all been part of the digital transformation sweeping every business?

Well, yes and no.

When I ran my first social business survey back in 2011, I was interested to gather some data on Australian-based businesses. After all, there was plenty of information available about the US – but anecdotal evidence suggested that we were behind that curve. Way behind. And again, in 2012, the survey revealed that there was a gap – not only between Australia and the US – but between businesses and the customers they served. It was what IBM called a “perception gap”.

These days, despite what we hear at conferences and read on news sites and blogs, it seems that social business, digital transformation and (dare I say it) innovation continues to struggle. Sure there are pockets of connectedness. Campaigns for transformation and change. And even some success stories. But what is the true picture?

Participate in the survey and receive the report for free

When you participate, you not only have the chance to share your perspective on the state of social business / digital transformation in Australia. You will also receive a copy of the report when it is complete. This will allow you to get a sense of where you and your business stand in relation to others.

Please take a few minutes to complete the survey. And if you already happen to have AskU on your smartphone, simply enter the Private Code social2014 [case sensitive]. And be sure to share it with others. The more responses we get, the better the report will be.

When Big and Data got together, it was love at first Like

Love´s in the air!! Muuuitos corações!!!!

Breathless. Heart beating. We all know the feeling. It’s all heart, feeling, emotion. We’re waiting for the brain to kick in – but there is no relief. It’s really a sign of madness.

Love is merely a madness: and, I tell you, deserves as
as well a dark house and a whip, as madmen do: and the
reason why they are not so punished and cured, is, that
the lunacy is so ordinary, that the whippers are in love too.
— Shakespeare, As You Like It, 3.2

But these days, meeting and falling in love is not just a physical thing. It’s virtual … and played out on social networks.

Facebook-Love

The Facebook data science team has been digging through the mountains of interactions that take place between people before, during and after they fall in love. They looked in detail at the number of posts exchanged going back to 100 days before the “couple” changed their relationship status from “single”. What they found was that social media interaction plays an important role in the formation of the relationship:

When the relationship starts (“day 0″), posts begin to decrease. We observe a peak of 1.67 posts per day 12 days before the relationship begins, and a lowest point of 1.53 posts per day 85 days into the relationship. Presumably, couples decide to spend more time together, courtship is off, and online interactions give way to more interactions in the physical world.

And this is where big data gets interesting. We are now starting to see digital traces of behaviours that have real world impacts. The things that we do and say online can be correlated across thousands of data points to reveal actions that take place in our so-called “real lives”. But where does it go from here?

  • Social lifestyle mapping: Facebook (and other collectors of big data) can map and improve personas, track shifts and changes in community trends and lifestyles over time
  • Predictive targeting: With social lifestyle mapping in place, algorithms can be used to predictively target individuals and groups with relevant information. This could take the form of advertising, public health messaging/recommendations, career suggestions and so on. In fact, the possibilities are endless
  • Location awareness: As a large number of Facebook interactions take place on mobile devices, location awareness can add a greater degree of relevance to any of these predictive or realtime offers.

High level barriers:

There are some immediate barriers to usefulness that spring to mind:

  • Brands are slow to catch and embrace technology innovation: Facebook (and indeed Google) have a great deal of work ahead to prepare brands and governments for the power and opportunity that this presents. Thus far we’ve seen precious little in the way of focused education and leadership in this area and without it, organisations simply won’t be prepared (or interested) in this
  • Organisations lag in digital transformation: For these opportunities to be embraced, most organisations have to undertake digital transformation activities. Ranging from change management and education to strategy, business system overhauls and process improvement, digital transformation is the only way to unlock organisation-wide value – but few are seriously committed to such a program
  • Privacy is shaping up as a contested business battleground: Many governments, corporations and individuals fervently hang on to notions of pre-internet era privacy. Laws and regulations have struggled to keep pace with the changes taking place in our online behaviours. Meanwhile public and private organisations are conflicted in their use of, protection and interest in privacy. We’ll need to work through this to understand whether privacy really is dead.

Love´s in the air!! Muuuitos corações!!!! erika k via Compfight

Trust is Up across Australia–Edelman Trust Barometer

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One of the more useful and interesting regular reports is the Edelman Trust Barometer. Each year, thousands of people are surveyed – and the global and national results for 2014 have now been published. It’s well worth a deep dive into the information, statistics and analysis. But one of the standout observations is that “Trust in every institution is at its highest point”.

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This is particularly interesting for a number of reasons:

  • Locally we have emerged from a particularly tumultuous election cycle. While trust in government has improved – the growth in trust in the NGO sector has accelerated. We increasingly place our trust in independent organisations NOT governments
  • Business leaders and CEOs remain at the bottom of the trust heap. This may not be an issue for many organisations but for businesses that operate in high-touch environments, CEO profile can have a significant impact on a range of indicators from share price to employee morale, net promoter score etc
  • Experts are back on the favoured list – with the public increasingly supportive of experts and academics.

If – as we expect – the connection between social media / business / life becomes much more nuanced and integrated through 2014, then trust will become a much more important factor in our business, professional, personal and social lives. And for organisations wanting to remain relevant in the lives of connected consumers, that trust counts.

The question for marketers is – have you built trust into business DNA? Because now more than ever, marketing = business and business = marketing.

Australian Social Media Users–Distracted by Distraction

Innovative survey app AskU

No matter whether we are at home, work, attending a social event or even in the car, social media is increasingly an integrated part of our lives. And while social media is being used by brands to engage their customers, the vast majority of people use social media outside of their professional lives – it seems that social media still has some way to go in the lives of Australian business professionals. This infographic created by innovative survey app AskU reveals some of the emerging behaviours of Australian social media users.

Interestingly:

  • 72% of people use social media daily
  • Over 80% of regular social media users use social media for pleasure (not work)
  • And 88% of people know someone who “overshares” on social media.

Does this sound like you?

Brandwatch Vizia Shakes Up Social Media Command Centers

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The concept of social media monitoring seems like a no-brainer. Marketers use keyword driven technology tools to tap into the vast oceans of social media data to reveal mentions of their brand, products and company and then determine how best to respond. It’s a model that replicates the traditional “media monitoring” approaches that have been in existence for decades.

But in the shift to digital, it’s not just advertising that is being overtaken by digital derivatives – news, commentary and analysis is challenging our ability to understand, collate, curate and respond to shifts in community, political and consumer sentiment. New forms of media engagement like social media has further complicated the situation, to the point where some form of digital or social media command center is not just useful but necessary.

Where once the news cycle evolved at a slower pace, this digital transformation has accelerated our need to understand and respond to these challenges. Our monitoring solutions must now be real time, contextual and their insights actionable. And we need to view them not as pretty visualizations to fill out our reports mid- and post-campaign, but as vital business intelligence systems that can inform our decision making. We need to think of these social intelligence systems as an MRI for brands allowing us to understand what resonates with customers, where the blockages are and what has velocity and vitality.

In short, the age of command centers is ending and the need for social intelligence is just beginning. It’s less about a room with big screens and funky graphs – and more about getting that vital information to the right people in your organisation at the right time.

This is where the new Vizia platform from Brandwatch comes into play. Announced today, Vizia combines a spectacular (yes, indeed) user interface with a business model that provides unrestricted access to users across your enterprise. This means that the same data source can be accessed and analysed by Marketing as well as HR, by Customer Service and the Executive Board. It puts data into the hands of the business decision makers at all levels of your organisation – in realtime.

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You can find out more about the features of Vizia here.

As a next generation command center – or social intelligence platform – Vizia is shaking up the market which has been relatively uneventful for the last couple of years. With market consolidations and jockeying for position there has been little innovation – even amongst the smaller players and new entrants, but Brandwatch’s Vizia with its multi-screen display and generous licensing model is set to reinvigorate the market.

It’s particularly worth investigating where you need:

  • Broad access to social intelligence data and reporting
  • To showcase social initiatives across your business
  • A way to manage online crisis communications
  • To capitalise on real time marketing opportunities

Take a few minutes to watch the explanation video on the Brandwatch blog – it’s worth it to see the software in action.

We Are Smarter Than TV

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Back in 2007, Drew McLellan and I embarked on a journey of crowdsourcing discovery. Inspired by the We Are Smarter Than Me collaborative writing project, we wanted to see whether the collective intelligence of marketers across the globe could make sense of the emerging social media landscape. Three months later, the first edition of The Age of Conversation was published. It brought together over 100 writers from 22 countries and captured the mood of the time.

Three editions and six years later, working on these collaborative publishing projects has made me a firm believer in the power and insight that comes from focused communities. In fact, working on the latest edition – Age of Conversation 4 – is again reminding me of the breadth and depth of insight that comes from a diverse – yet focused – group of professionals.

The one consistent theme through all of the four editions, however, is the role of inclusiveness. From a brand perspective, we tend to think of this as a “loss of control”, but through the lens of the consumer, it’s a different story. Rather than seeing this transformation in terms of a shift of power, we should view it as a fundamental mark of mutual respect. And rather than thinking about limitation and even copyright, we should think of generosity and awareness. Effectively this shift means a transformation of what we consider the “marketing funnel” with “conversion” being less about sales and more about shifting our customer relationships away from transactions and closer to longer term engagement. This in turn requires an understanding of customer lifetime value.

The publishing industry has faced this transformation for decades and continues to struggle. The music industry is now making a much better fist of the challenge, but TV seems resolutely trapped in the quagmire of industrialised thinking. This makes the entire industry ripe for disruption. And platforms like Netflix and Hulu are well placed to deliver this kind of broad disruption. And as Oscar winner and artistic director of the Old Vic theatre in London recently said, it’s time for TV to learn from other industries. It’s time for them to learn from the crowd. After all, we are smarter than TV.

1963 ... television eyeglassesCreative Commons License James Vaughan via Compfight

Social Recommendation in Action

Jawbone Up

I like marketing and branding, but I have always been more interested in action. In movement. In change. And how we make decisions in a digitally connected world.

I like seeing the way that words, image (and sometimes) music, can set a ball rolling.

And this is precisely why social media is fascinating. Take today for example. I had been thinking recently about my lack of exercise and had been looking for a way to break my own personal deadlock. A random tweet on the subject resulted in a relatively quick outcome – I went from thinking about fitness and a solution like the Nike Fuel Band to the purchase of a Jawbone Up in hours.

How did this happen? Take a look at the Storify below to see.

Now tell me, do you make decisions this way? Are brands listening in? Do you think they care? They should.