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Mark Polly

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B2B Content Marketing: What type of content has the most clout?

Marketing to other businesses (B2B) is very different from marketing to consumers.  We’ve heard and talked a lot about Content Marketing in past, although it mostly has been focused on consumers – B2C. I just came across an interesting bit of research from Eccolo Media that looks specifically at content marketing in the B2B space.

eccolochart

Infographic by Eccolo Media

For the past few years, Eccolo Media has been surveying B2B marketers and buyers to get a pulse on the market. In their 2015 B2B Technology Content Survey Report they created an infographic describing which content has the most clout for B2B.

The first thing to note from the report is all the different types of marketing content that are available and used by B2B marketers.  Most of these are tried and true marketing vehicles: white papers, email messages, case studies, product brochures.  But Eccolo Media has also asked about webinars, blog posts, ebooks and even podcasts.

B2B customers consumed all of these content types. In fact, no less than 25% of the respondents consumed at least one of these types of content. That tells us that various types of content are important to reach the right audience.

However, the most revealing data is shown in the chart I’ve included here: What content types are the most influential for a B2B customer.  You can see that our old friend “product brochures and data sheets” still come out as the top influencer. White papers and case studies  came in second and third.

For all those marketers trying to influence B2B customers through email campaigns, the survey results here show that email influences only 15% of the buyers. That is only slightly higher than social media and print magazines. Also interesting is that tweets on Twitter were the least influential of all the content types.

Again, this data is for B2B marketing only. When you are looking to create or update your content strategy, you should take into account this kind of research data.

Lessons from 2014: Healthcare and Patient Portals

There was a lot of talk about Healthcare and Patient Portals in 2014.  Health insurance exchange portals started to mature a little bit with healthcare.gov finally coming on line.  The Affordable Care Act requires providers to provide access to medical records for patients and many have looked to implement patient portals.

Looking back, here are some important lessons that we learned.

Healthcare Informatics said that despite many challenges facing patient portals, patient portal usage continues to grow.  In an October 2014 story, Survey: Patient Portal Usage Growing Despite Reservations, Gabriel Perna talks about a survey conducted by HIMSS that “More healthcare provider organizations are adopting patient portals, much of it facilitated by the electronic medical record (EMR) vendor.”  Still, cultural issues were identified as the biggest challenge to patient engagement initiatives.

Patient Portal Awareness. Source: TechnologyAdvice.com

 

Janice Jacobs, Healthcare Life Sciences (HCLS) Social Media Director, Dell Services wrote an article called Best Practices for Patient Portals. She lists the following components as necessary for best-in-class patient portals:

  • Branding and user experience are key.  You have to focus on functionality as well.  I’ll take this one step further and say you need to really design based on personas.  Most patients will never use your patient portal.  Some chronic-disease patients will use it all the time. And some people will use it while they are in treatment periods and forget it when not.  The experience has be tailored for each of these types of users.
  • Information display – you have to “deliver and display the information in a way which is most intelligible and actionable to patients and caregivers.” She shows an example of test results that show the results, but provide no context or guidance about what the results mean.  A better approach is lay out the results so they are easier to consume, provide context (i.e. this number is too high), and are more graphical for the lay person.
  • Use appropriate language.  This applies to all healthcare portals too.  Providers and insurance companies tend to speak in their language or medical terms too often.  Lay people may not understand that when they want to see an eye doctor that they have to look up Ophthalmology, which is even spelled funny.
  • Anticipate obstacles for patients.  As mentioned before you will have all different types of users, some who may be very familiar with your portal and others who are not.  Find out what are the barriers that people encounter and come up with a plan to fix them.

Finally, I presented “Healthcare Portals: 5 Core Needs for a Great Experience” at two IBM conferences in 2014.  You can see the slides referenced here in a blog post by Michael Porter.

Lessons from 2014: How to get more clicks on Facebook.

Merry Christmas!  As I have some time off at the end of the year, I’m looking back at information I have gathered in my reading list that I find interesting.  I came across the article We tested all the best advice to get more clicks on Facebook. Here’s what worked by Kevan Lee at Buffer’s Social blog.  As I re-read the article I had a funny feeling that I’d commented before on posts by Kevan Lee.  Sure enough, I found two other blogs posts from this year that contained information from Kevan.

What is intriguing to me about this article is that Buffer used a very methodical approach to testing each of their theories.  Too often I see companies just try things without really following a good scientific methodology.

First Buffer started with a baseline of how their Facebook page performed.  This is critical because you can’t measure what works without having a baseline.

Here are the seven techniques Kevan used to see which were the best at getting users to click on a Facebook post:

  1. Post to Facebook at non-peak times
  2. Post more frequently to Facebook – six times per day
  3. Post less frequently to Facebook – once per day
  4. Ask questions in the updates
  5. Change the style of the update
  6. Post only link updates
  7. Post different types of images with the links

That seems like a pretty good list of techniques. I won’t go through the results for each test here – you can read through Kevan’s blog post for the details.  However, here is an example of the results from the first test – posting at non peak times:

Source: https://blog.bufferapp.com/facebook-marketing

Here they found a big increase in clicks at 11:00 pm, even though they were posting less frequently at this time.  Very interesting.

Here are the three techniques that worked the best for Buffer:

  • Share link posts
  • Share in the evenings
  • Create a main image/graphic for your post

Of course this is data only for Facebook for Buffer.  You should follow a similar test regime to see what works best for you on Facebook and other social media sites.

Lessons from 2014: The Problem with Sentiment Analysis

As we wind down 2014, I’m taking a look back at some items in my reading list and bringing forward the ones I found important from a learning standpoint.  The article The Problem with Sentiment Analysis by Sarah Kessler at Fast Company in November 2014 qualifies as one of those “aha” articles.

Analyzing social media has been a hot topic in the past couple of years.  Ms. Keller points out that during the 2012 presidential election season USA Today had a daily story about President Obama’s “sentiment” score versus Mitt Romney’s score.  The score was calculated by analyzing social media posts about each candidate.  In theory, the analysis could show which candidate is getting more positive comments versus negative comments.  And, in theory again, this could tell us about public opinion for each candidate.

However, Ms. Keller interviewed Marc Smith who pointed out that this type of sentiment analysis is inherently flawed.  Marc Smith is a sociologist who specializes in the social organization of online communities.  He went so far as to say about the USA Today stories that “This is remarkably poor data. That this is borderline criminal.”  As Keenan Thompson says in Saturday Night Live, “What up with that?”

Tight Crowd Pattern Graph: NodeXL Graph Gallery

Mr. Smith argues that this type of sentiment analysis only reveals which group of supporters “shouted” the loudest that day. It really tells us nothing about public opinion of either candidate.

What I found really interesting is Mr. Smith’s work on how crowds form around a topic on social media in six different shapes:

  • Polarized crowd in which two groups form and rarely interact with each other.  This is akin to the political sentiment described above.  The Obama crowd did their thing and the Romney crowd did theirs independently.
  • Tight crowd where a small group of people cluster around a conference.  The image in this post shows a tight crowd pattern.
  • Brand cluster in which people talk about a brand, but rarely interact with each other in the crowd
  • Community cluster where multiple small groups form
  • Broadcast network in which many people connect with a media outlet, but not with each other
  • Support network where something like a service center connects with lots of people, but those people don’t really interact with each other.

According to Mr. Smith, looking at the shape of the network lets you see that not all social media posts can be treated the same.  He argues that you should report on the size, volume and content of each major cluster over time.

This makes a lot of sense to me.  If you are measuring sentiment for a particular brand, event or anything else, you should be interested in how the network aligns with your goals.  Say you are hosting a conference – you’d want to see the social network form into a “tight crowd” pattern.  If it doesn’t then something is probably not working right.  Likewise if you are a brand and see the “brand cluster” pattern emerge, you may want to take steps to encourage your followers to interact more with each other, if that is a goal.

If you are involved in sentiment analysis or any social media analysis, I encourage you to follow the links here and take a look at Marc Smith’s research in this area.  Let me know what you think.

G2 Crowd scores Salesforce Chatter top social collaboration tool

I saw the following tweet from Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff:

Image of tweet from Marc Benioff

This was interesting enough for me to follow the link to see why Salesforce Chatter was rated the best social collaboration system.  Barry Levine at Venture Beat had a nice article about G2 Crowd’s grid on social collaboration.  Here are the first two paragraphs:

Salesforce’s Chatter is the social collaboration tool with the highest customer satisfaction.

That’s a key takeaway from G2 Crowd’s new Grid for Social Collaboration tools, the first Grid report for this category. It scored 14 business products based on G2 Crowd’s customary metrics of customer satisfaction and business presence, in this case based on over 325 reviews from business professionals.

This was really interesting to me.  G2 Crowd allows people to rate these systems and then translates those ratings into a 2×2 grid similar to Gartner’s Magic Quadrant.  Venture Beat also mentions the 325 reviews used to generate the ratings.

While the G2 Crowd rating system looks good and in theory produces crowd-based results, when you dig a little deeper, you find that G2 ratings are really based on much smaller sample sizes. For example, here is the latest grid as of today:

G2-Social Collaboration

In looking at the Leaders Quadrant, you find that Chatter had 97 reviews and Microsoft Lync had only 11 reviews.  You can click on an icon to see the number of reviews:

g2-lync

I don’t dispute that Chatter is an excellent social collaboration tool and Salesforce should be proud to share these kinds of results.

However its hard to rank these tools on customer satisfaction alone from such small numbers of reviews. First, I imagine you could easily get 11 reviewers to enter lower scores for any product. Likewise, I’m sure you can ask 11 people to go rate a product very high.  I’m not suggesting anybody is doing this on the G2 Crowd site to impact the rankings, its just a possibility.

Second, and more importantly, assume that the total population of users for all these tools were 1,000,000 users.  That’s probably very low, but its a nice round number.  To have any confidence in our survey, we’d need a sample size of over 1,000 users responding to the G2 Crowd reviews. And that would be 1,000 random users.  With only 11 reviews or only 97 reviews, statistics tell us that we should not be very confident in the results.

The G2 Crowd information is interesting and it would be great if we could get the right number of reviewers to make the data statistically meaningful.  But, really, don’t rely on this information alone to make your purchasing decisions.  That’s why Gartner, Forrester and Perficient use a variety of factors when rating these systems.

 

 

Digital Transformation is All Around Us…Again

The phrase “Digital Transformation” has re-emerged as a new phenomenon. Google tells me there are 49 million (49,000,000) search results for the words Digital Transformation.

First, why do I say it is a phenomenon? It seems that many of our leading think-tanks are talking about digital transformation. Here are some examples:

But is Digital Transformation new?  Not really. The idea of digital transformation goes back many years. My guess is that it first arrived as a concept back in the 1990s when we were going through our first dot-com bubble.  In fact, way back in 2000, Keyur Patel and Mary Pat McCarthy published a book titled Digital Transformation: The Essentials of E-business Leadership.

Back in the day, companies like Amazon, Priceline and others were redefining business models, business processes and customer engagement using digital as the mainstay.  Many of these early digital transformation pioneers crashed and burned in the dot-com bubble burst in 2000, but several have become powerhouses.

So why is Digital Transformation re-emerging as a new phenomenon now?  Or why, all of a sudden, are we talking about Digital Transformation again?

In my opinion, we now (finally!) have several important technologies that have matured enough and when combined together have the capability to be truly transformative.  I’ll mention a few of the technologies or concepts below and then talk about how a combination of these technologies can lead to an even higher level of customer engagement and can improve business outcomes.

First, let’s talk about big data. In the early days, our systems could not handle the amount of data or provide timely analysis of what we captured.  We had to wait until the end of the day, week or month to really analyze large volumes of data. Now we have platforms and systems capable of processing massive amounts of data and we have analytics systems that can sort through the data to provide us meaningful insights within seconds. Companies are using these capabilities to understand customer buying behaviors as fast as trends start to appear.

Second, we have “The Cloud”. Before the cloud, companies were tied to limitations of hardware buying practices.  When you wanted to build a new system, you had to wait for the servers to be acquired and installed, physical space has to be developed, network firewalls configured, etc, etc.  If your site started to get overloaded it could take weeks to add the required capacity.  “The Cloud” has enabled companies to create systems quickly and now can react quickly to changes in demand without tying us to those infrastructure buying cycles. Its becoming ever easier to connect systems and “things” together around the world.

Third, mobile.  Mobile, mobile, mobile.  As one person recently said, if you don’t have a mobile optimized web site, you are already behind.  Mobile was not a factor in the early days of digital transformation. Thanks to smart phones, anybody can now participate in the digital world any time of the day.

Fourth, we have new technologies for creating excellent customer experiences. Web Content Management Systems, Portals, and eCommerce platforms have tooling to create great sites, can be mobile ready, and can take advantage of analytics to tailor each user’s experience.

Combining all of these technologies can lead to the digital revolution we are now undergoing. Here is an example:

A customer enters a store carrying a smart phone.  A beacon system in the store monitors the customer’s movements. This data is relayed through a cloud-based system and combined with other store data from around the world.  Two transformative things are happening simultaneously:

  1. The customer stops in front of canoe on display.  Our beacon tells our content management system that the customer has stopped near this particular canoe.  Our CMS sends a notification to the customer’s smartphone with information about the canoe and a link to a video showing how fun it is.  After the customer buys the canoe, we connect their phone with the registration information in our CRM system and use that data to begin offering the customer additional content on our website.
  2. Data from all customer movement in all stores are combined into our big data system.  Analytics on that data reveals that our customers are tending to move toward a certain display area.  Using that information, we reconfigure some stores and move the display toward the front.  After monitoring the new layout, we can continue to make adjustments to optimize the store based on our customers’ behaviors while shopping.

In the early days of digital transformation, this example would not have been possible given the technology available at the time. Now this example is real and has been implemented in the U.S.

This example shows why Digital Transformation is so important. Companies that align their businesses to take advantage of all these capabilities will be more connected to their customers and will have better insights into their customers’ expectations.

Dreamforce: Community Cloud for Healthcare

All this week I’m at Dreamforce, the annual Salesforce conference.  Salesforce has come a long way with their platform and they’ve recently introduced Community Cloud.  Community Cloud is an evolution of their portal product and includes many features that we see in other enterprise-class, horizontal portals.

We are seeing a lot of interest in portals from our healthcare clients.  At Dreamforce, I attended a session on using Salesforce Community Cloud in healthcare.  I blogged about this on our Perficient Salesforce Blog and I encourage you to read Dreamforce: Community Cloud for Healthcare post to see how organizations like Health Leads are being innovative with portals using Community Cloud.

Salesforce Community Cloud Roadmap for 2015

Salesforce Community Cloud can be used for a variety of applications, including sales communities, customer self-service, marketing campaign management, or anywhere you need portal, content and social combined into one experience.

At Dreamforce 2014, Salesforce has been having a lot of sessions related to communities and I’ve seen a lot of communities focused on partners.  That is if you are company that has sales partners, dealers, etc. a partner community would be relevant to you.  

The Community Cloud sits on top of the Salesforce1 platform and Site.com, so it takes advantage of all the features of that platform and the mobile version as well.   For example, if you need to expose sales leads to a partner, you can use the Salesforce CRM capabilities and display that data on your Partner Community.  You can also incorporate Chatter and get instant file sharing, social networking and group features in your application.

Salesforce shared their roadmap for communities today at the Dreamforce Conference.  Here are some of the items I captured that are on the roadmap for the Winter 15 release:

  • Self Service Templates
    • All templates are automatically responsive for mobile devices
    • Topics are used to organize content on the site
    • Feature topics can be used to highlight special content on the site
    • Discussions are available for public users and are separate from Chatter. When you add a new discussion item, the system will try to automatically add topics based on your content.
    • Login pages are already templated.  You can also use Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn
    • There is a personal news feed that shows all your own posts.
    • Profile has been simplified and you can also include gaming in the system
  • Community Console
    • A community moderator has access to community management features
    • Case management can be integrated and a case can be started from any discussion topic.  From their service console a case manager can respond through the community to an individual user or to everyone in that community.
    • Community Management now has more tools to manage community.  They can see analytics about the community – there are about 160 additional reports available to the moderators.
    •  There are reputation levels and points so you can drive adoption. You can also use these points in other applications through custom APEX objects.
  • Community Designer
    • The designer is in beta right now and is targeted at a Salesforce Administrator.  You can modify some parts of the UI.  If you need more than what’s in designer, you can get under the covers too.
    • The designer lets you change the branding with a new header image, different fonts and colors.
    • Each of the features within the community are going to be Lightning components when Lightning becomes fully available.
    • There is a preview feature to show you how your design changes look on different devices.

Future themes for Community Cloud include:

  • More templates and allowing administrators to create their own templates
  • Increasing the speed of delivering a community and more analytics
  • Improving adoption techniques for communities

Community cloud is clearly a highly viable horizontal portal that can be used to satisfy a lot of business needs.

 

Successful Partner Communities with Salesforce

Zero Motorcycles needed a way to consolidate multiple partner-facing systems into a simplified user interface, track sales and monitor participation programs and automate workflows. As we’ve seen from other customers, partners had to login to multiple systems. Using Community Cloud, Zero was able to provide one interface for the partners to login into and get information and process leads and improve sales.

Zero’s original model was B2C, thinking that consumers would order electric motorcycles on the net. But that didn’t work out and Zero found out they needed dealerships to provide test rides and provide customer engagement. (more…)

Creating Customer Happiness with Salesforce Communities

Community Cloud is Salesforce’s newest and fastest growing cloud (until tomorrow). IDC has seen a huge jump in using social media to communicate with customers and respond to customer inquiries. The top 3 technologies that are planned to be used include discussion forums, public social networks, and online communities, which is where Community Cloud comes in.

Constant Contact

Constant Contact, an all-in-one marketing platform, has over 600,000 small business customers. Constant Contact uses over 9,000 partners to grow their business.  They have built a partner portal on Community Cloud to support their partners, which will hopefully increase revenue. (more…)