Guess who’s back?

2016-ibv-cognitive-studyI am so excited to be back in the IBV, working with my friends in Electronics and keeping up my ties with Watson Group.

At the same time, I am playing  with the layout here.  So if you come back and it looks different, don’t worry. It will probably take me a while to get comfortable again.  After all, I have been hidden away for 3 years.

The magical and emotional power of pattern recognition

Yesterday I spoke with a group of clients and I did something a little different – something I had wanted to do for a long time.  I cued parts of my presentation to songs.  It was a silly little thing, but as a person who loves music, I have wanted to orchestrate full playlists to presentations (hey, when you work with PowerPoint day in day out, you have to find little entertainments).  However, today I came across a second reminder of the power of pattern recognition and the tremendous power it has to connect people.  This is my second in just a few weeks. I’ll post the links below.

Net net, there is tremendous power to connect with people in the constructs of music.  Pattern, Rhyme, Cadence, Fugue.  As marketers, these are tools we overlook sometimes.  This is not meant to be an Imperative! (as in Use Music to connect!) but a consideration in how we design our communications with customers.

We have plenty of science infused into marketing these days – let us not forget there can be art and emotion as well.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ne6tB2KiZuk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CrZXz10FcVM (this one is pretty intense, but beautiful and well worth the 5 minutes)

We have the power to create magical and musical customer experiences – ones that really reach and in fact resonate and awaken potential.  This should be our goal. -c-

(also – just came across this from the NYT on October 12 – more on why music makes us better)

Strange Bedfellows: Innovation and the Powerful Role of Deep Pockets

cross post with the IBM electronics blog 

There’s a well accepted premise that big companies by and large have an anti-innovation bias. Simply put, they have a vested interest in maintaining the sales pipelines of the products that have put them in the market to begin with — covering the sales top line, and spreading costs protecting the bottom line. There are very few companies where most innovations are going to substantially influence portfolio value rapidly. For most companies, protecting the status quo is the order of the day – and for their shareholders, it’s the right thing upon which to focus.

Startups are unsaddled with the machinery of big companies (plants, executives, salaries, benefits), they conceive of new solutions – or so the story goes. As with most fairy tales, the magic is not necessarily in what you see, but instead the sleight of the storyteller’s hand. In our case, it’s often the investment of successful big companies in start-ups.  Just as fairy tales draw from ancient stories, this investment approach is by no means new.  A similarly viewed patron model has existed since the dawn of civilization, primarily in artist-patron relationships, the most famous of which is likely DaVinci with the Medicis.

This is especially true in one segment of the industrial/electronics sector, a blended category called “green tech.”   A recent report from the Cleantech Group (registry wall), they detail the market and what it means for tech and business.  I spent some time reducing the report to some valuable components for the reader, adding in additional qualifying points and exemplars.  I am broadening this from a clean tech discussion to some bigger implications for the electronics companies.

Cash, Collaborators, Convenience and Commercialization  

Cash is certainly a big benefit of the Innovation partnership. In 2012, roughly 20% of the green tech deals saw corporate participation – roughly 144 deals.

Yet, a case can be made that cash is the easy part, because there is a seemingly endless well of venture money in the category.  Annual venture investments are 5x bigger, with investments amounting to $5B (estimate).   There are also plenty of alternatives for getting cash for small start-ups such as crowd-sourcing.  However, corporate investments bring two other key aspects:  collaboration and convenience.  Startups have great ideas but making ideas real is often the benefit of big companies – especially in areas such as clean energy and large scale automation. Collaboration allows start-ups the access they need while shielding the corporate balance sheet from a lot of the risk. This presents a Convenience element – not needing to deal with a lot of the internal political strife needed to enable a team of employees to pursue uncertain outcomes.  Getting the board to agree can sometimes be easier than a set of executives with specific metrics. Commercialization runs the gamut from concept validation, access to resources, production expertise and distribution networks.

While everyone looks to Nest (disclaimer:  I own and love mine) and the $80mm, they raised, it’s not the norm. The media plays up these rapid ascents – and the rapid declines such as Solyndra – a magnitudes bigger failure (as in $80B).  The reality is somewhere in the middle. Companies like Intel Ventures, Mitsui and ABB play a real role in driving innovation throughout their ecosystems partners.

Building Your Next Business

For companies like Mitsui, these investments are about portfolio differentiation.  They feature a large number of investments in health-related assets. If we do finally embrace a greener future, oil companies will need new market offerings.  Contrast that with ABB Ventures, who is moving toward adjacencies with their investments. Intel – who has a highly successful track record in this area also stays close to its heritage – where it can offer the greatest amount of support, namely introductions to tech execs.  They backed 150 companies, conducted 7 IPOs and acquired or merged in 28 more.

cleantech deal counts

Fear of Failing

Yet, for all this goodness, there are a significant amount of unsuccessful market exits.  These are expected casualties, yet still painful. North of 40% of the businesses in these partnerships see distressed exits, according to Cleantech’s research.  I think that number would hold up across the larger electronics industry as a practical estimation.  In a world where so many businesses fail – especially corporate backed new products which fail 80% of the time or more, that’s still a great success ratio for both sides.

Diversifying your portfolio of investments and expanding your ecosystem are critical parts of the mix.  And in electronics, it’s a better bet than trying to do it all within your own walls.

Finding the Innovation Horizon

At Google Ventures, they talk about the difficulties of not knowing where a product, offering, industry or even the world will be 5-10 years out. That’s the horizon line to value for many of these investments. It’s the difference between the thermostat and generating the energy usage it displays. Still, every electronics company must look beyond its own walls for these types of investments sooner rather than later.

Robust ecosystem partnerships, attachments to University Labs (such as MIT’s indomitable Media Lab), and of course, exposure to the largest private lab with $5B in annual investment – IBM Research – offer you solid places to start.  In addition to IBM Research, there are three other entrants to increase your view and reach toward the horizon line:

  1. IBM AD Lab (Accelerated Discovery) : The IBM AD Lab will improve the technology used for discovery, while at the same time, allowing users to make new discoveries in their fields more easily, at a more rapid pace. The AD Lab supports a set of domain specific “Centers” such as, a Center for Healthcare Analytics. Research will be performed on problems relevant to the Centers (for example, finding the best policies for reducing the incidence of diabetes in a particular population, or the most effective use of limited funding to improve overall longevity, etc), and on the technology foundations for enabling these decisions (for example, tools for automating the discovery of entities and relationships in data, or new machine learning algorithms for detecting interesting correlations or trends, or tools for better visualizing data which has both structured and unstructured elements).
  2. IBM Accelerated Visioning enables Enterprises to embrace their Digital Futures: The e-Commerce Visioning & Roadmap for example defines an appropriate e-Commerce solution for your organisation, supporting growth through online channels for both B2B and B2C relationships. This engagement may include a visualisation prototype, an examination of the commerce architecture required to support your objectives and a roadmap and work-plan to assist you to implement the vision.
  3. The IBM Customer Experience Lab combines advances in IBM Research in social listening, multimedia analytics and machine learning to understand and predict the differences in individual customers across many different touch points.
  4. IBM Global Entrepreneur program within our PartnerWorld ecosystem, offering large benefits for big thinkers and small budgets.

Whether your enterprise is pursuing a venture strategy, a partner strategy or just starting out, we’re here to help.  You can reach out to me through email: cristeneg@us.ibm.com or through social channels: twitter or linkedin.

Semiconductor Companies: You Need Digital Marketing, Now

(Cross post with IBM.com electronics)

In 2012, the top ten semiconductor companies locked up 51% of the business, with Intel leading that pack – with nearly 16% market share followed by Samsung with 10%. It was, of course a mixed bag of economic results – with different companies taking different strategies, some succeeding and some failing. Only 3 players showed growth.

Yet, when we look forward instead of back, we find that an industry that stands to equip not only the rest of the world with cellphones, tablets and even a few laptops. More importantly, there are smarter washers, dryers, thermostats, door locks, haptic shoes and countless other expected wearables that extend beyond watches. Solar and wind energy?  Medical applications? The Internet of Things (IoT) offers semiconductor companies an unprecedented opportunity for automated, intelligent interactions. And while the traditional electronics markets will continue to drive the lion’s share of the business, then next ten semiconductor companies whose market share ranges from 1 to 2% will be looking to step up their game. They will start to find those new entrants who will deliver smarter water pumps and filtration, smarter tennis racquets and lighting systems.

Let me ask you a question? How will the makers of tomorrow’s electronics find you? How will they evaluate your offerings? How will they make decisions to do business with you? How will you maintain their business and grow with them?

Current State

With 57 percent of the purchase journey completed before the buyer contacts a salesperson, it’s clear that even the best sales force can’t do it. Even if they knew all of the right markers, directed their attention in all the right places, the ratio of qualified to unqualified leads would fast prove unwieldy. Contributing to that potent fact, add another – the salesperson is 4th on the list of information sources. They fall behind technology and solution provider websites, subject matter experts and search engines, and are tied with peers/colleagues.

SMarter semi 1

Simply put, websites and search engines (along with the attendant search engine optimization) are now clearly and squarely on the docket as mission critical tools. Yet, these new digital tools of the trade are not the areas of greatest expertise in semiconductor companies, nor is the part of the organization that owns them – Marketing.  And smarter companies who want a bigger slice of the new IoT pie will start by making marketing a priority.

No one is saying that sales doesn’t have a role. In fact, the contrary is true: their role will be more important than ever, managing large and or strategic accounts. However, they will be better equipped and supported by digital efforts that drive better communications, interactions and demonstrations of industry and solution prowess.

Future State

So, you not only have to build a site, enable interactions on it and create content, you have to create frequently fresh and good content. Why? Simple – search engines such as Google place a value on the freshness of your content. That means your marketing can’t continuously try to drive potential visitors to the same static pages. At the same time, visitors (e.g. potential buyers and influencers) are placing a premium not entirely on the product information. They actually expect you to deliver thought leadership, research, analysis and information. A whopping 88 percent this was either critical or important to their decision process.

smarter semi 2

So, sure your spec sheets and downloadable configurations are great but you must go further. Much further. Your goal is to create a relationship with the visitor in which they find your content relevant and valuable. This again, represents a primary shift for many semiconductor companies. And you need to make it easy to find, easy to read and easy to share. You want to acquire visitors; you want them to take action (to engage) and to measure outcomes. You’ll note I did not say measure sales. There are multiple successful outcomes on the way to purchase. For instance, before a sale happens, an engineer might visit your site three times. In the first visit he might get specs. In the second he might share content with a trusted colleague or development peer (or even purchasing to find out other details he needs along the way) or ask a question. In the third, he might look at sample or reference architectures you have on offer. Maybe in the fourth, he finally orders samples. This process may take days, weeks or months.

This means you have to have a great site structure into which you are continually pouring high quality content to create a consistently great experience. So, you know how you thought you could get away with one or two site refreshes a year? That’s no longer going to work. You’ll need to optimize the structure and pages periodically, but you’ll need to look at least monthly (or even weekly) at creating engagement that brings engineers back over multiple visits.  You don’t even need to create all of your own content.  In a soon-to-be-published post, my colleague Rami Ahola (and industry-experienced semiconductor expert) talk about crowd sourcing and leveraging content created across the industry by your communities.  Which gets to my next point…

On sharing content: the top three semiconductor companies are not simply competing on their sites. They are creating conversation through a “League of Experts” – both within their own companies – but also through their partners and industry pundits.  Social drives share of mind. It drives opinions and influences whether a search engine term is put in generically or if someone goes directly to your site. Enabling the social conversation takes great concepts, content and conversations and moves them into the public arena.  One of my favorite albeit dated Intel commercials talks about how we look at industry rock stars.  Your employees are your rock stars, now it’s time to make them front and center.

Is it risky? Of course. But it’s much less risky than doing nothing.  When the CEO of Intel, Samsung or Qualcomm is featured in the media, and a wide variety of people tweet, post or discuss their content, it changes the game. And those three companies are out there talking about what comes next for them and for the world at large. Their content is evaluated and when it’s good, it’s shared. However, if you are not in the conversation – or are simply making social media an alternative means of promoting product – you can’t gain critical advocates.  You also can’t influence the group of engineers and innovators working on the next generation of products, services and commercial models. So, a great social strategy actually drives visits – which drives people to your great website – where they see your great content – and where they start a great relationship with you.

I’ve oversimplified this for a blog post, but it was in the interest of hoping you’d want to engage. We can have a conversation about the best practice examples we’re seeing. We’d love to share a deeper dive on how commerce, collaboration and content can change the future of semiconductor companies – especially yours.  -c-

Images: IBM Interactive – I love you guys

Gartner Datatopia Contest – My Entry: “Breach”

If you are a Gartner Business Intelligence Member, you likely received an email for their research contest where the winner draws a free pass to the conference.  I wanted to share with you my entry.  I rest assured I have broken some of the rules or done something that will disqualify me, but I wanted to share it for fun, maybe 30 minutes of brain dump which may be worth nothing but the creativity applied to writing it…this is entirely my own work.  It is totally fiction.  While nearly real places and entities are used, they are for reference points, make no implication of any endorsement or criticism.

It figures.  It took until 2017 for society to go cashless.  It took until 2018 for governments to admit we really didn’t have much privacy, which heralded the route for Digiamedico to fully bioprint us by 2020 – for our safety.  Then, the world’s largest data theft occurs.  Research has taken us to the point where we ourselves have become engineered – and it wasn’t just bank accounts, this theft was the essence of 10 mm individuals.

It’s 2025; Ali and some of his colleagues were in what is now referred to as “The Breach.”  It doesn’t need a year, everyone knows it, no matter what language you speak.  While hackers were continuously assaulting the financial systems, the digitization of money, communications and medicine was what led to an unprecedented “identity” theft. 

The thieves didn’t make demands.  They had no intention of having a bidding war on the DNA and full lives of people.  They were going to “engineer out illness, program for smart and healthy, prevent obesity, diabetes and cancer.”  They were going to “create a race of super-smart people – reconstructing at the cellular level – the identities of the smartest people on the planet.”   Then, slowly, they would release them back into society.  They would be part cyborg, sure, but then who wasn’t these days?  We’d added intelligence to knees, hips, shoulders, hearts, ears, and finally the pancreas, once the guys at Doka Med started 3D printing body parts for real.  And at one time we tried to outlaw performance enhancing steroids in sports.  It seems quaint now when any player could be rehabbed and put back out with exo- or endo-skeletal jewelry in the space of weeks not months.  Once we had the means to enhance our bodies, were our minds to take long to follow?

So it was that right outside of Cambridge (Mass), Oxford, Rotterdam, Taipei, San Jose and other meccas of intellect that the Borg (it was funny in a trite sort of way, and played well in the infinite news stories) set up shop.  Their real base of operations was a satellite which was seemingly taken offline from a solar storm, and directed from Romania.  After combing through over a zetabyte of records and samples, and hacking every major government, they started stealing people’s complete identities, down to the healthiest, smartest individuals.  They stole Stephen Hawkings, but he was the exception, not the rule.  He took it with more good humor than most.

Being able to assemble a human being from its component parts isn’t all that hard anymore.  The data needed to be reassembled after decrypting it from ecdh-84 and a host of other new standards.  Then they wormholed into Council Bluffs and started stealing capacity in wee increments.  When Bryan, the CEO of the world’s largest data center, declared it was impossible, he misspoke.  Yet, a culture and a set of governments so intent on spying on their citizenry absolutely made it easy.  Some hacker was bound to want to say “screw you.”

Now, Ali faced the bigger problem.  Finding himself in the new world – literally.  The thieves weren’t shy about letting you know when they released the new you, but they wouldn’t tell you where. (Pride is still the biggest sin.)  He kissed his wife goodbye, activated the black market trackers in the roof of his mouth and between two of his toes and left.  Not knowing if he would come back.

He met with Aya and Martin at their own hub, they were among the fifty-two affected MAT students and alum who set up their own secret center.  With resources from DARPA, a few data savvy governments and Anonymous (who had fractured as parts of the group were also parts of the Borg) they began.  Using the patterns he had established all his life – what kind of company he’d work for and what role he’d take.  How far he was willing to live from work, what he bought at the market, what he looked for in a vehicle, how he picked a place to live…the team started to reconstruct Ali’s life through digital records.  His entire health history (including his carpal tunnel disorder – did they fix that in the new him?)

The MAT doctors introduced a slight new mutation into his DNA.  It wouldn’t affect his 150 year lifespan but at 77, he wasn’t sure how much he should care, he was in his prime and undetectable, as much as anyone can be these days.  He was banking on the fact that hopefully, they could not still see him as well as they could in the days before they stole his life.  He’d spent weeks going back through everything to re-engineer and rework himself; witness protection plus…  Within 63 days, the team had located 15 potential versions of him, including the algorithm’s most likely candidate eating curry 3 miles away.

He walked out – ran out – really.  There, near in the shadow buildings reflecting their green status on skinned meters on their surface and guided electric bikes displaying calories burned, he searched for the location using his Google glasses, synched to his own original DNA.  The onslaught of other noisy data was tuned out by focus.  “He” was dialing a call on his hand when Ali walked up.  Ali gripped the 3D printed gun in his pocket.  He released it, sat down, and asked why.  Only in humanity can we continue to find answers.

Again guys, totally fiction.  I have the utmost respect for science and technology, which is like stating the obvious since that’s kind of how I spend my life and livelihood.  Science and tech and the companies who pursue them are truly advancing the world.  Any fault or mischaracterization is all mine, but please forgive it for the sake a little exploratory thought.  Also, please note that for the most part I think hacking is not used for ill, but to solve big problems.  It is simply used here to make a point.  -c-

Here was the ask (and the link) if you’re interested.  Also, you can contact @FrankBuytendijk

The objective of the project is to create a futuristic set of scenarios to describe the role of information in society, in business and in our personal lives that is at least 10-15 years out. Far enough out to not be held back by today’s reality, but not as far out to call it Star Trek. What will that future look like? Utopian? Dystopian? Business as usual? You tell us!

In return, you will:
• Be entered into draw for a free conference pass
• Work with the analysts in this space
• Benefit from their thinking and draw upon their expertise
• Have your contribution be considered for inclusion in these Gartner Summits

Interested? Send me your contribution by clicking on the link below, in the form of an essay of around 750 words.

https://www.research.net/s/ZKG9YJ7

Here was

eCommerce Best Practices – Getting Great Reviews

Reviews are now a critical part of the shopping cycle. This is true not just for consumer electronics providers but for every part of the electronics value chain – from power and automation to service providers. As my colleague Shaji Thomas recently shared with me, 57% of the B2B buyers journey is complete before a buyer contacts a salesperson.  You need to help your prospects see the tremendous value you provide. As part of that process, your success is tied to having the powerful testimony of people who have used your product and their experiences with it.

As IBM clients, I know you deliver great products and services to your clients. So, how do you get your communities to act on your behalf in sharing what they know about you?

  1. You make it easy for them to write great reviews
  2. You make them feel good about doing so.

One of the single best examples I have found comes from another industry – travel.  I want to share with you how one company, TripAdvisor.com, helps me help their customers. In my role as an electronics industry expert, I travel a great deal. So, I have a lot of experience with what TripAdvisor.com offers – namely travel information and related services. I have ended up as an increasingly active member of their community. Why? They reward my status and have a simple yet complete reviewing experience. It’s no secret that Trip Advisor reviews are coveted.  Some hoteliers and restaurants even try to outsmart the system or offer free upgrades because their reviews are so important to travelers. (This has never happened to me and I would not let it change my review).

Here are a few things they do very well:

  • They reward me by making me feel good. They told me that 60 people have read my recent reviews. That alerts me that the reviews I provide are being read. When a reviewer knows their contributions are valued, it’s a reinforcement for the reviewer to provide good content
  • They share with me the amount of times my reviews have been helpful for those in the decision process
  • Then they put a “teaser” in – they tell me I can get to the next level of reviewer status in only two more reviews.

Trip advisor 1 sample

These pieces not only validate me, they encourage me toward continued participation. They make me actively want to advance my status. However rewarding the reviewer is only half the equation. They need to help me craft meaningful content in my reviews.

To do that, let’s review the second part – the components of a TripAvsor.com review. First thing – they thank me.  It’s a simple but powerful thing. Next, they associate a rating to each star, making it easy to set your benchmark.  They publish other recent reviews for you to contrast and compare with. They ask what kind of trip it was and when it was, so people can choose properties that make sense based on their particular circumstances. A family will likely have totally different needs than a business traveler and it makes it much easier to sort through the content.  The same is true for instance for someone buying a camera. An enthusiast will likely want different features than a novice. A company wanting a cloud computing solution might favor local support or deeper security. Be willing to get to the right dimensions for your users and shoppers.

tripadvisor2

Helping people slice and dice content means a better understanding for both the shopper and the site, so be sure to see what type of template options you have. Make sure you can differentiate.  Test what attributes are most meaningful to your customers.  You may want to explore different approaches for services than products.  It’s an area where customization here is rarely considered, but could be critically important to the best experience you can provide. Plus, the ability to choose a unique defining characteristic – in this case how to choose a good room – that provides additional interest.  Be sure to helptripadvisor3

Help your purchasers become community members and help them bring others to you with great reviews.  It’s not difficult but it is important and should not be overlooked.  –c-

google #fail – and that’s good

I ask myself, is it better to be early or irrelevant? Early teaches us so much more.

It is not a secret that many people consider Google to be an elegant solution, a finely run company and a bastion of innovation.  I’d say they earn those stripes every day.  Yet, when we talk about the Google Graveyard, it’s as if this is a bad thing.  So much so that earlier this year Slate Magazine allowed readers to put flowers on the graves of its most missed concepts (mine would go to Reader.  RIP Reader, I miss you).  It’s actually a regular feature – they clean the withered flowers off after a period of time – implying that Google has a long and storied history of failures.  They do.

google graveyard

I’d argue instead (contrarian that I am) that it’s a strong part of their success, a review of good ideas.  A mound of learnings I would excitedly dive into. That Google is willing to #FAIL in such a public fashion is a necessity of their business.  Tech changes every day.  Some new product fails every day (see yesterday’s post for two more).

If you are not putting a host of ideas out there, you will have very little understanding and even less to optimize.   See, that’s the funny thing about optimization – you can’t optimize just one thing.  Optimization is contextual.  It requires a benchmark, a baseline, a level.  If all of your benchmarks are external, then you are not learning.  You’re merely applying someone else’s information.  Google is willing to do the hard work of going first.  And that means they learn more than most other companies out there.

The best companies set the bar high.  And that means they will invariably fail.  I ask myself, is it better to be early or irrelevant?  Early teaches us so much more. 

-c-

cjgw || @hermione1 || cristene gonzalez-wertz

PS – 7/24 – this is by the way, a list of all the other stuff Google is doing.  So what if they have a graveyard, they also have a metric ton of coolness:  – thanks to Overdrive Interactive for publishing this remarkable view:  http://www.ovrdrv.com/goog/pdf/Google_World_Infographic.pdf