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

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-

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-

Reclaiming Marketing Innovation: The Modern CMO Imperative

cover image

We’re happy to announce the outcomes of our “summer project” – a study and perspective on the state of Innovation in and around Marketing.  While it took us a while to release this report, we are extremely excited about it.  We’ll be sharing our favorite quotes, insights and charts.  We start by evaluating why people are interested in marketing innovation, move to what defines Marketing Innovation Leaders versus Onlookers.  Then we cover the key competencies of Marketing Innovation and how to deal with the obstacles.  We present a logical view on how to take an idea through the business case process, in a way that is manageable and simple to understand.  Throughout the perspective, you have plenty of space to take notes, create your own lists and make the document a personal workbook.

We’ve offered you two ways to download it here, but you can tab through the eBook on Covalent Marketing’s website.  (Link to follow, here, once I get it.  This is a real time effort, friends)

A quick sample from the introduction of Reclaiming Marketing Innovation, the Modern CMO Imperative:

The marketplace is changing, and as fickle as demand has become, today’s must-have product can become tomorrow’s bargain-basement special. However, one universal truth is emerging: to outperform in a complex, shifting and ever-so-competitive environment, innovation must become the lifeblood of differentiation and success. That’s not to say operational efficiency is not important; it is. No doubt operational efficiency “keeps the lights on.” But in today’s fast-changing world, it is innovation that provides new lights to turn on.

Innovation should be at – or at least near – the top of almost every enterprise’s list of needs. It is the catalyst that can boost organizations to customer- focused excellence. On the flip side, failure to innovate can hurl a company down a perilous path.

You have a choice.

In this report, we will examine in detail the benefits and drivers of innovation, and how CMOs can capitalize on them. We will dissect the practices of innovation Leaders – and reveal what separates them from Onlookers. We will provide specific competencies the CMO needs to be able to drive innovation. We will provide examples, ideas and quick starts. And we will give specific recommendations about how to progress along the path forward. Our insights come from our considerable experience in the marketplace and in-depth conversations we had with more than 50 CMOs, strategists and market leaders. We combed executive ranks and reports for detail on the current and emerging marketplace. We spent time with academics and thought leaders to develop a perspective for you that will help you set out on your own innovation journey.

You can download the eBook version (big file) here: MKTInnov8_Final HR or the PDF version (about 25% of the size, but still big) here: MKTInnov8wp_vF2_LoRes.  Welcome the chatter and conversation and challenges after you dig in.  Thanks to everyone who went on this journey with me, most especially Kevin, Liz, Kyla and Debbie, who were beacons of encouragement, excitement for the work and friendship.  -c-

Reputation Economy: Linked In, Maybe. Klout, Don’t.

The reputation economy is an outcome of the abundance of digitized information about who we are and what we deliver – whether in our work, our daily lives, our reviews of products, restaurants and services.  We place an inherent amount of trust in other peoples reviews.  Detailed reviews of product features, menu items provide us consideration points to guide decision making.  Importantly, we value the reviewer and the contents of review in the defined context of the situation in which we are looking to apply the information.  For a hotel, a colleague of mine wants it close to the office.  I want a comfortable desk.  We value the components of that room differently.  However, I wouldn’t trust those hotel reviewers to provide me guidance on how to hire a great consultant.

Rachel Botsman discusses reputation influences in her fabulous TED talk on trust, economies and collaborative consumption. While some people like to think this is a new discussion, let me put that to rest – Fast Company wrote about in 2008, Forbes in 2007 – meaning you are likely out of excuses for the knowledge gap.  The reputation economy – and the need for trust and context is now something you need to consider.  Especially in light of reputation management – yours and others you consider.  I offer you two examples that I think bear consideration.

Earlier this week, Linked In launched a new way to recommend someone simply and quickly:  Endorsements.  I like this idea I think.  I am one of those people who is very cautious about writing recommendations.  Partially because they require a lot of thought.  But more, because they always need to be reciprocal and I was never really sure if it diminished their value.  Yes, I have done it.  However, I only do so when I truly think the nature of our business relationship and its context warrants.

So now, you can click on someone’s skills in a moment and endorse them.  It’s easy to do.  And for me, again, that might be part of the problem.  I want to be deliberate and considerate in whom I endorse.  I went on and endorsed 6 people so far.  However, I am being offered up multiples at every turn.  To me, this doesn’t just cause over-exposure, it also allows you to over-credit skills based on likability.  It’s only a skill if I would pay top dollar to have you do that for my company.

Sorry, that sounds harsh. As long as people show discretion, it will be fine.

Then we get to Klout.  Fortune seems to favor the frequent and over-exposed in this Klout-driven world.  Also last week, Klout encourages employers to make hiring decisions based on their score – say what?  I am glad my Klout is a 57, it seems like a good score to have but I have no clue what that means.  It says I have 42% Facebook interactions – really?  I log into Facebook once a day.  I gave up on FourSquare because it told people stuff about me that simply was not valuable without delivering value in return (except in the form of a higher, and still dubious Klout score…circular logic if ever).  What does Klout say about my reputation?  Not much.   It says even less about why someone should trust me, my work, my company.  It simply means I am present and accounted for, and maybe even valued.  But trusted, not so much.

I’d not trust a Klout score – if I were looking to hire someone, I’d look at their content.  The score’s an aggregation of the unseen.  The content is something we can search and assess.  Is that the kind of thinking we value?  Is this content engaging to the reader/reviewer?  We all know the devil and the delight are in the details.  So, why, praytell, would a high Klout score mean something to me on its own?  People can game any of these systems – and that makes it a dicey proposition to treat any of the numbers as that magic bullet.

Recently, I was also invited to a conference on the basis of my Kred Score – where the discount I received was based on it.  My Kred Score is 690 with an outreach level of  6 (or 50%).  I have no idea, again, if my Kred score is good compared to my peers – who the heck do they consider my peers?  I don’t know.  When you do business and marketing strategy, the largest bulk of your work is not public on purpose.  So, why would I want a client to evaluate this?  Again, I would love for our clients and prospects to see my content, that of my team and my company.  I would love for them to see how different we are than our competitors in our broad-based knowledge and the innovative  methods we use.  I believe we are unparalleled in how we view, implement and deliver tech for marketing.  However, these are not reflected in their scores.

It’s actually something we are trying to change with #MKT_Innov8, our study of Marketing Innovation where we expose examples and approaches allowing the CMO to reclaim Marketing Innovation.  I am partial to the Kred viewability, but still, it doesn’t give a lot of understanding on how they assign me a score.  How can they value Innovation in the way the marketers I would like to influence value it?  They can simply tell you I talk about it (endlessly, really).

Then there is Twylah – which creates a newspaper style feed of what you talk about.  While it is kind enough to leave scores out of it, it’s a much nicer way to see what you’re talking about – and ensure you are providing the sorts of content you find valuable and you think your followers will as well.

PeerIndex allows you to see topics, but it puts Business – all business – in a single bucket.  How could that be helpful to CMOs who want to hire my company to do marketing strategy and technology work?  Those marketers, or the purchasing teams assisting them still have to go a lot deeper to see what might be a value to their specific context.

When we talk about marketing innovation, nay all innovation, we view it from the Kevin Kelly (Wired) perspective

The nature of an innovation is that it will arise at a fringe where it can afford to become prevalent enough to establish its usefulness without being overwhelmed by the inertia of the orthodox system.

That fringe – those people – have a specific context under which they are using the (fill in the blank).  They are not the mainstream.  Anything which serves the mainstream can only be marginally fit for purpose.   In the reputation economy, and the job matching economy (seekers of work, contracts, engagements, service providers),  don’t pay attention to the score.  Absolutely aim for your context – and make sure what you see is indicative what you get.

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-

Innovation in small cups: Dovely Tea

We often refer to innovation in its big, game changing approaches.  However, we often fail, at the same time, to remember that innovation as a game changer starts by changing the nature of experience for a limited bunch of ultra committed individuals who meet on common ground.

We see outcomes of innovation, not the small places where it starts.  In this case, with a cup of tea.  Not everyone drinks tea.  Not as ubiquitous as coffee drinking here in the US.  However, a large majority of the world prefers tea.  And we’ve seen places like Argo Tea and Teavana make a real business of the preparation and selling of tea.  Each of those, and I’m a patron of both, offer a good experience.  They are both very close to traditional retail.  However, innovation = needs of a few…and with that, I offer you an example of creating a really engaging experience:

That is an origami tea bag, shaped as a delicate bird and hand filled.  However, the tea bag is only part of the story, and one we often overlook.  It’s important to remember in ancient Asian cultures that the gift is not just the item inside.  It is the presentation – with two hands, specifically.  Disarming both the giver and the receiver.  It is also very much about the packaging.  An unwrapped gift is diminished somehow by its lack of attentiveness for the art of giving.  In this way, the attentiveness that Dovely has placed into creating a complete, rewarding and lasting experience provides a deep and abiding memory of the gift.  None of it is “throw away.”  Look at the wooden texture of the envelope, the silk screening of the packaging (which results in a raised ink that provides additional tactile sensations) – these are considered choices.

While I understand $8 isn’t everyone’s cup of tea – it should not be – the artisanal return to meeting the needs of a small market in such a deeply elegant way might still count as innovation when it moves from consumption to experience.  If you click on the picture, you can see the creation process.  (I originally typed production process.  I had to go erase it.  It felt like I was diminishing it.)

If you are interested in innovation around marketing, please consider participating our Marketing Innovation study – I would be most grateful to hear your voice.  I might even send you an elegant tea experience, if you’re willing.  It’s not a reward, but a gift for sharing with me.  -c-

Cristene Gonzalez-Wertz