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

Scarcity versus Misplaced Abundance

(this is a departure post – meaning it’s not only philosophical, it goes outside our stated scope.  It won’t offend me if you skip it if that’s not what you’re wanting to read today).

So much of what marketing is supposed to do – what we are told we need/desire/cannot live another moment without – is about creating scarcity.  As my dear colleague Gregor McElvogue reminded me the other day, the whole discipline of economics relies on this notion of scarcity – that we might not be able to have that shiny object makes us salivate over it even more.

Yet, just about everything I looked at in my innovation research leads me to think this is wrong.  What if we are trying to solve the wrong problem?  What if we simply have misplaced abundance?  How would we design products, solutions, interactions, if we went into things assuming that we could fulfill most of our needs to a point that we wouldn’t need to fight about it?  How about that most of our needs are already met and we simply need to redistribute?

Sure, marketing is responsible for this grand set of desires where self actualization is associated to our vehicles, purses, green grocers.  We are complicit if not more. We tell people:  “Your clothes are less clean if you don’t use detergent y.” “Your kids are less well fed if you don’t serve them soup brand x.”  And “your teeth are definitely less white than a models unless you use our product.” ” You’re less well rested” and “your neighbor is happier with her car than you are with yours.”  Marketers create that perspective.  On purpose.  However, it’s not just marketers.  It’s the news media, heck, it’s even sports.

In baseball there are generalists, who keep their eye on the ball and see the big picture; football is full of special-duty characters who are very limited in terms of their range but have depth. Baseball represents America before the frontier ended…The game is relaxing and not particularly taxing on the players… Football is tremendously difficult on the players and is so tiring that sixty minutes of clock time–which amounts to several hours of real time–exhausts them. Baseball developed when we thought nature was a limitless reservoir and we would always live in abundance. Football reflects a different world view; everything has to be fought for, resources are precious, hostile people (guards, monster men) are everywhere and in such a world you have to grab what you can. –  Arthur Asa Burger

How different would marketing look if we just focused on merits (the best features) and not creating scarcity?  If we focused on art and not artificial need?  How would things change if we stopped “differentiating ourselves” (marketing speak for putting the other product down) and put more money into endearing ourselves to our customers.  You’ll note I did not use anything about utility – that takes us to a totally different economic conversation.  Endearment trumps utility.

One of the reasons apps are popular is that they focus on need, even tiny slivers of utility.  Some can even rise to that level of endearment.  However, they don’t do so by bashing each other or creating this “have and have not” mentality.  (Maybe because it’s a little piece of code and for the most part, I can guarantee that life will go on without it.)   But at the same time, they behave less like marketers and more like participants in an effective exchange.  I haven’t often seen an app that says “pick our app, we’re better than that app.”  There is a tacit understanding that apps were designed for specific groups of people – there simply is not a totally universal app.  With the apps we have on our devices, we actually celebrate our differences.  We don’t expect that anyone has the exact same set of apps.  And that’s a good thing.  Apps are part of abundance.  They are about sharing – data, experiences, music, interactions…

Maybe if we led our companies based on sharing abundance we would care less about profits and shareholders and more about providing healthcare.  And shareholders would care about providing healthcare – and not for Utopian reasons, but because health leads to productivity.  We would notice all the abandoned retail buildings and offer them to civic groups who could use the space – because the fixed costs are what they are.  We’d focus a lot more on co-creation and collaboration on a less grand scale.  Like a daily one.  We’d measure our reputations on our contributions – free and paid – to others.  The earned would grow to be far more valuable than the paid.  We’re already seeing this.  I am not making up anything, simply pondering how to make it faster, bigger and more accessible.

So much of what once was inaccessible is now accessible in new forms.  The old, less abundant approaches are being redesigned – not by wars (although that is still true) but by committed people and technology.  Ivy League educations on video for everyone, great global pediatric care via great networking and shared protocols, classrooms in containers with solar power, eye-wear companies who do “buy one/give one,” cancer research being advanced by 15 and 17 year olds, retailers who offer discounts for bringing used clothing and then redistributing it…I spent 2012 seeing a lot things and am only now processing what it might mean.

I’ll end where I began:  I really think there is something here and I wanted to get the thought out before I lost it.  Even if it is not fully formed.  Your thoughts are welcome, especially if they’re a little more baked than mine. -c-

115 Innovative Ideas for the Modern CMO (pretty version)

115 Innovation ideas for the modern CMO presents eight categories of concepts loving curated to incite creativity

YAY!  It’s finally in a pretty and fully linkable format for you to enjoy.  Thanks so much for taking a look and please tell me what your favorite ideas are – either here or on our corporate site – under the headers for thought leadership and MKT_Innov8.

MKT_Innov8 Ideas for Innovation FINAL Formatted

The Modern CMO – Describing her competencies

Who is the Modern CMO?  Well, you, we hope.  As part of the development of our MKT_Innov8 Study, we developed a perspective on the competencies marketing innovation requires, but we also felt strongly that we needed some better definition of the competencies for the modern CMO as well.  

I first used the term the Modern CMO in my whitepaper The Agile Enterprise Marketer in 2009 (available through links in the right sidebar).  However, only recently is it showing up everywhere.  We thought a definition might clear up confusion across the multiple places it might exist.  Modern CMOs demonstrate these core competencies (most of which are directly applicable to the MKT_Innov8 mindset):

  • Tech embracers – you can’t do this without technology and you can’t leave learning it to someone else.  Be tech-curious.  Face it, if you are going have a bigger tech budget than the CIO, you need to be conversant.
  • Measurement drivers – getting budgets that support innovation means meeting the CFO’s desire for ROI details. We aren’t saying kill an idea you can’t measure but think of the metric types you can get up front to design accordingly.
  • Fearless testers –you have to develop an ethos and discipline that puts testing in the DNA.  That means not everything will work, but it’s only a failure if you failed to learn from your tests and trials.
  • Accountability supporters – In our research, marketers unfailingly claimed some ownership for innovation.  With that comes accountability for results.  It’s that simple.  Be accountable for learning a lot through what you test.
  • Collaboration gurus – you need allies, both inside and outside your organization to bring ideas to life.  Giving up an inch of control often yields a mile of benefit in the race toward delivery of campaigns, media and of course, innovation.
  • Multi-channel mavens – there is no such thing as a single channel effort any more.  Whether creation or response, all efforts are blended.  This will continue.
  • Partnership developers – agencies, researchers, innovation labs, collaboratoriums, industry experts.  We get by with a little help from our friends.  No one knows it all, and the sum is bigger than the parts.
  • Credit sharers – often, one person is responsible for an invention.  Innovation takes a village for flawless mobilization.
  • Global learners – Seoul, Zurich, Cambridge (Massachusetts and England), Sao Paolo, Vietnam, Chennai.  The best ideas are only out there if you look beyond your geography.
  • Industry agnostics – if you only look within your industry for talent, ideas and innovation, you will miss great potential to apply the success of others to your domain.  You don’t exist in a vacuum, and your search for ideas shouldn’t be limited either.

Creativity, operational expertise and good management skills are still required – they’re the ticket to entry.  These skills are needed, not next week; now.  Either have them or surround yourself with people you trust to have them.  The future of marketing relies on you. -c-

Why Horizon Scanning is Important – and How to Start

So we need find them…designers, engineers, bloggers/journalists, academics, futurists, innovation labs, thinkers, tinkerers, tradesmen. To be practical, you can’t boil the internet ocean. Big data is crushing and you don’t have the time or interest in sorting it all out. So, the way you do this is by structuring 5 key keyword queries that represent not your current market but the markets/products/consumers next to it. Let me stress again – NOT your current business. The people who do customer service and community management will handle those. You keep adding or changing your wording a little bit until you start to find aha moments. You can, if you have a well articulated set of innovation initiatives, look to further down the horizon line using the same method.

To start, this might not seem to be about marketing innovation – hold tight, we’ll come back around to it.

One US entity, The National Cancer Institute, has a USD $5B budget.  They spend about $2B of that on research.  While I’d argue that’s a lot of money in and of itself, it’s basically the tip of the iceberg of cancer research spending since so much of it is held in other institutions, private companies and charities.  Doctors and researchers everywhere have been searching for ways to prevent, predict and treat the “Emperor of All Maladies.”

But consider this:  the two largest breakthroughs – breakthroughs of staggering proportions were made this year by two teens.  Brittany Wenger is 17.  Jack Andraka is 15.  Brittany developed an artificial brain that diagnoses breast cancer with 99% accuracy.   It uses “an artificial neuron network to detect patterns across the nine indicators that signal a malignant mass.”  It beats all current diagnostic approaches.  Because the model gets better with more data – she’s opened it up to the world to make it patient ready.  That’s free.  In winning the Google Science prize, she receives $50,000.

And if you want to see what pure and lovely geeky happiness looks like, meet Jack.  He won the Intel Science prize for $75,000.  Based on diabetic test paper, Jack created a simple dip-stick sensor to test blood or urine to determine whether or not a patient has early-stage pancreatic cancer. His study resulted in over 90 percent accuracy and showed his patent-pending sensor to be 28 times faster, 28 times less expensive and over 100 times more sensitive than current tests. Jack received the Gordon E. Moore Award, of $75,000, named in honor of Intel co-founder and retired chairman and CEO.

So, we have two very young people transforming cancer research for a very “nominal” reward.  However, think about the nature of the rest of the researchers’ work.  How are those researchers finding people like Jack and Brittany?  Because while these two are highly visible examples, they are surely not the only examples.  The question is how do you find the next round of Brittany and Jacks in your industry without stalking high schools, college campuses or anywhere else?  Research – akin to innovation – is generally held by a relatively small group of people working in very narrow fields on complex problems.  The same is true of innovation in general.  It is especially true for marketing innovation.  Since it’s a competitive differentiator around customer/data/experience/analytics, we treat it as proprietary – just like research.  And with that, we begin to lose.  We close off our eyes, put our blinders on and look down.  It’s time to look up out and around.

So, let’s consider this in a marketing not a medical context.  Marketing needs to have access to the next generation of relevant Brittany- and Jack-type people, regardless of age, geography, language or industry.  You need to be listening without prejudice.  So many times we pay attention only to the people directly around us.  Our personal network.  That’s not bad.  However, it leaves people like Jack and Brittany out of the equation.

So we need find them…designers, engineers, bloggers/journalists, academics, futurists, innovation labs, thinkers, tinkerers, tradesmen.  To be practical, you can’t boil the internet ocean.  Big data is crushing and you don’t have the time or interest in sorting it all out.  So, the way you do this is by structuring 5 key keyword queries that represent not your current market but the markets/products/consumers next to it.  Let me stress again – NOT your current business.  The people who do customer service and community management will handle those.  You keep adding or changing your wording a little bit until you start to find aha moments.  You can, if you have a well articulated set of innovation initiatives, look to further down the horizon line using the same method.

Your goal is to get 15 people you don’t already have in your stable.  From there, explore their content to find 5 more people each (a total of 75).  Use Hootsuite (or other social monitoring tool) and other free or low cost available tools (contact @cunningham_kev if you need free recommendations) to create a quick set of scans/monitors.  From there, explore adding 5 academics who are doing interesting work in the field.   Add five innovation labs – such as the BMW, MIT or Stanford ones.  Find five futurists.  We’ve written about a number of them and can provide recommendations if you need them.  That’s a total of 90 new contacts.  Now send a tweet, short message or other means of contact to introduce yourself and what you’re interested in.  Connect with them on Linked In as well.

Now you’re in full-on listening mode for their new content.  You want to see what they’re talking about.  Those of you with social media monitoring software will find this method much easier.  You’ll also find the ability to keep your list current and automatically update your queries to be rather seamless.  I highly recommend Crimson Hexagon.  If you’re interested in what they have – reach out to Melyssa Plunkett Gomez.  She truly gets the marketing space and can be assistance as well.  You’ll want to run and review your queries at least monthly.  Take all of the tweets/posts and content and create a set of word documents.  It’s a bit of painful copy and paste exercise, but any member of your team can do it.  Give it to the person likely to find the next part most interesting.  Start to use a visualization software to view the content – keywords/authors/cross-references/links.  Crimson Hexagon has a lovely interface, it’s one of the reasons I recommend them, but others have good reports baked in as well.  IBM has tools that specifically address finding influencers.  They too have even made it simple.  The tools are out there, free or paid, per-use or enterprise grade.  Your organization likely already has them.  You can use the ones you’ve got, you just want a few queries and it’s a nominal cost for a big payout.

I’d like to say you want this content weekly, but I know how time strapped you are, so realistically, monthly.  Go take the report and get out of your office to read it.  Take your laptop and begin to explore the links. Dive in.  You’ll be shocked what you learn and see in short order.  What you will see are open pathways and connections that will make you smarter.  Now, you are better equipped to define where you innovation investments can be made.

-c-

(personal note, Michael Wertz died of pancreatic cancer on 8/16/07.  I loved and miss him.)

Un-Loose Change

Rule Number 1:  Any system will move toward chaos.  So, in response you must:

–       actively participate in your organization’s adaptation to something new

–       be forced to change anyway

See, your desire to participate in an organizational change or not has no bearing on the outside world who will continue to adapt or die in a million little ways every day.  So you can participate or face obsolescence – it is definitely a choice.  However, sooner or later a lack of change catches up, and the bed is on fire.  (If you doubt that, maybe ask Research in Motion, or Myspace or CD manufacturers.)

Rule  Number 2: Change is as hard as you make it.

Face it, “change management” is by default an unnatural process.  It involves people who fall across a widely varying spectrum of desires/needs/resistance to actually doing something different.  Organizations, are, by default, designed to do the same thing with some level of repetition and create value in doing it.  Managing change flies in the face of what organizations and the individuals who populate them are made for.  That being said, you can often find enough people willing to take on some level of change.

Our company works at the intersection of marketing strategy and technology.  Over the decades I have done this, I have planned, partnered, prayed, cajoled, pouted, and almost screamed (okay, I think I did actually scream) about organizations that need to change.  Here are four things you absolutely must do:

1.  Analyze your stakeholders.  This means finding not only your enemies, but even more importantly, your frenemies.  You can handle a clarified bad relationship.  The people who are out stabbing the boat later are the ones you need to worry about.  We break these folks into three buckets (consider this a modified approach to Napoleon’s Thirds) :

Tech savvy; the people who understand the benefits of technology and aren’t afraid of breaking something

Process driven; those who accept that a new method is coming and they might not always be entirely comfortable but best to play along

Self-sufficient; these folks have done it the same way for a long time and its not broken.  They don’t like technology, often find every workaround and amplify every challenge

Here’s the thing:  you have to give the tech savvy the loudest voice you can but you really need to just let them do their thing.  They will get it, and bring the process folks along.  Just introduce them.  And then you need to spend the rest of your considerable time and talent winning over and or mitigating the potential for damage by the self sufficients.

2.  Design your education approaches for the self sufficients.  The tech-savvy will watch video or be willing to poke around to get what they want.  They understand that nothing was ever installed and perfected at the same time.  The process driven will use any tools they find, so give them a wide variety.  They will also get the most out of side-by-side education.  Once they get over any minimal hurdles, they’re golden.  But the self-sufficients will require every trick in your education toolkit.  The level of detail will be needed once they realize that the train is moving forward without them.

3.  Report to management using the three groups.  Name names.  Give them an understanding of who is doing well and who is not and where the hang-ups are.  They need to understand the successes and the challenges.

4.  Stay focused on the value of the effort in all of your communications.  The organization invested heartily in the effort.  There was a defined need and benefits case.  The only way the self-sufficients will finally come along is when they start to realize the organization needs the value of the effort to contribute to its success.

And remember:

If you dislike change, you’re going to dislike irrelevance even more. – Eric Shinseki

Increasing Your Speed to Market

It’s interesting how many companies say they want to increase their speed to market.  And then go right on throwing major obstacles in the way doing that.

If you want to move toward the market with the speed of well tuned racing bike, then guess what?  You better make sure you have cleared the road and enabled the racer.

That enablement has a few key parts:

– Allow the racer to make key decisions that move the process forward.  For what good marketers are paid, they really have the credentials to make smart decisions without a ton of oversight.  Executives need to clear obstacles – extra layers of approvals, committee meetings and the like – for the rider, who is primed to get to the market with all speed.  Don’t make smart people navigate, enable them to race forward.

– Benchmark so you understand what the actual time is under varying conditions.  You can’t know if you’ve improved if you’re only using cursory measures.

– Automate wherever you can.  Having a detailed process where everyone flawlessly focuses on the finish line actually allows each person to contribute efficiently.  It also allows you to understand specifically where critical time is lost.  A lack of process is actually a fast way to slower progress.  The sneaker patrol cannot move as fast as the racer needs.  Workflows, QA checks, self service approaches for marketers allow opportunity to move to action more quickly.  Just as there is a pre-race, in-race and post-race checklist, workflows put the right resources at the racer’s disposal at critical points.  They also ensure safety.  When the process is compromised, everything gets a little more (and sometimes a lot more) risky.

– Keep testing new technologies all the time.  Just as new tire materials, different frames, new gear come out, channels will change, messaging approaches will too.  You need to continually allow the racer to combine his expertise with tools that will improve his performance.  Just as racing has become technology intensive, marketing must embrace technology with wonder, delight and head-on engagement.

– Collaboration and market sensing.  It’s how you find those technologies referenced above.  If you’re waiting for them to come to you, you are significantly yielding the potential for an edge in speed.  The things that improve your performance might not come from your ad agency.  In fact, I can pretty well guarantee they won’t.  They may come from China, Russia, Chile or Colombia.  If you aren’t watching, then you’re missing out.

In a marketing department, each person should contribute to creating customer engagement and value.  In the same way, an entire team commits to speed to market – and stops throwing tacks on the track.  Modern racers need clear paths, timed goals, technology and collaboration to win.

-cjgw aka Hermione1

(@erik_d, this one is for you. )