A few months ago I was on a virtual panel on the future of marketing put on by an Israeli group. Finally got the embed code.
A few months ago I was on a virtual panel on the future of marketing put on by an Israeli group. Finally got the embed code.
Chris Edward did a post yesterday from over the "pond" on the blurring of the lines between PR and journalism, as personified by PR giant Edelman. Some journalists are concerned about the lack of a filter in a medium controlled by corporate flacks, but Edwards correctly states that most of that concern is unwarranted.
"The trend in recent years, despite all the talk about engagement and two-way communication, has been to sell, sell, sell. Don't go off-message, no matter how dull that message might be. Because no-one is going to get fired for sticking to the pre-approved script. At least not until companies start to see their profiles become less and less prominent. Then they might have a go at proper communication."
Proper communication is not just controlling the medium. It's all about conversation. And if you try to control the conversation, it becomes a monologue, not communication.
The key here, as I have said before, is ethics and a dedication to truth. That's primarily why I can't really call most of what passes for public relations as anything more than marketing communications. Real PR is an advocacy effort, but ALWAYS tempered by truth, not spin. And until people in corporations realize this, they will be no more successful with their efforts to reach the public then they have in the past.
Good call, Chris.
In part one of this series I talked about how Gen Y (and everyone else since then) are the first people in history to not need formal organized gatherings to maintain relationships. Those gatherings include religious groups (churches, temples, mosques, synagogs), political parties and, trade shows.
Does that mean those gatherings are going to disappear? Not necessarily. There are enough baby boomers with enough buying power to keep those things going for another 10-20 years, but those efforts are going to die out altogether unless they make some significant changes. Right now, as the economy seems to be leveling off, the attendance decline in trade shows has flattened, but should there be another dip, look for popular events like CES to start nosediving again. Where you will see growth is where companies approach these gatherings with a new perspective.
Most companies gear up for their primary trade shows, many target only one now, and they pour the lions share of the marketing budget into that effort hoping for a few hundred leads that they can work on for the year. In this approach, the trade show is the center and beginning of their marketing efforts... and it is pretty much useless with the current crop of customers who are used to social media as a form of communication. A great example of the "new" type of trade show is SXSWi in Austin, Texas. Originally a music festival, the social media crowd latched onto it, added the lower case "i" (for interactive) and use it as a rallying point in the course of their ongoing marketing efforts. It may seem that companies are "launching at that show, but the only one that really has made that successful was Twitter and that company is almost one and the same as the event now, the driver of the conversation of SXSWi at the conference and beyond.
What a lot of people miss in the excitement of the conference is the conversation that leads up to it for months. Companies are actually launching is smaller, less formal events that in themselves are driven by the conversation in various social networks. And companies not even associated with social media are playing in these new events and finding customers and partners faster than any other companies using traditional marketing efforts.
Social means a conversational/relational market that never stops.
I'll be attending the Design Automation Conference this year under sponsorship of Vpype and one, as yet unnamed sponsor and this will be one of the questions I'll be posing is about how these companies approach marketing in a post-tradeshow economy. The design automation industry is still dragging it's collective feet in the adoption of a social strategy. Social is still a tactical effort for the industry, but some companies are getting it. We'll be looking for some that do.
Today's entry is going to be completely different than what I had planned all because of a lunch meeting I had yesterday with major media mogul. It does follow the theme, however.
I approached the first part in the context of the trade show, and how the current generation of customers is more comfortable with social media than traditional media, and I'm going to continue that is part three. But my lunch conversation yesterday was very enlightening.
An independent survey for a major media house showed that the electronics/semiconductor industry sector is the worst in transforming leads into sales. In some cases, companies participating in the survey had no idea if any leads developed in any venue - advertising, PR, direct marketing or trade shows - had been developed into sales. Now that's pretty amazing considering that every company I know and have worked with translates marketing success into the accumulation of leads. This is more than a breakdown of the marketing process. This is a breakdown in basic communication.
For decades, it was assumed that marketing efforts drove sales and that could be proved by the discussion around companies in the media. If a company did well, or poorly in its sales, it was reported in the media. That was true for both public and private companies because when the media was flush with advertising revenue, the news of major deals for private companies were necessary to fill pages. The public discussion of industry news helped fuel sales.
But we have lost that vibrant media due to significant loss of advertising revenue for publication, who have dramatically cut editorial staff. They no longer have the time or space to report sales of private companies, so the buzz about particular companies dies. They don't get sales, acquisition offers or venture funding.
This would not be true, however, if companies had a mechanism for understanding where the breakdown in communication is. Social media is not going to help any company that just wants to push out information in exchange for a business card or a badge scan that will be used to impress the CEO. Those kind of companies are just going to burn through capital unless they learn to converse.
There are only three or four marketing people I've ever worked with in 20 years that understood how to get that kind of conversation going. They drove sales departments and were consistently hated by sales VPs because the marketers demonstrated that sales were dropping because sales staff weren't following up on leads developed by marketing. The ironic outcome in these cases were the marketing execs were often fired at the behest of the sales VP, or they were put under sales altogether.
So to bring this together, "social" means interactivity. It means engagement and it takes more effort then most companies are willing to put out. At least for now.
The hot news today is that the EE Times Group of United Business Media (UBM) has purchased the DesignCon conference for a bargain price of $1.4 million. Yikes.
I've always enjoyed DesignCon because it's technical content is just outstanding and very diverse... and I know I'm not alone in that belief. Most editors I talk to prefer going to DesignCon than DAC for that reason. (That's not to say DAC doesn't have good content so put your pitchforks down.) The big difference between the two conferences is that the former is targeted toward what is going on inside the industry and the latter to what is going on in academia. Plus dealing with the constantly moving circus that is DAC compared to the consistent location of the Santa Clara Convention Center makes planning and costs a lot easier to control.
But I've also felt that DesignCon's marketing has been about at par with what DAC has always done and as a result, the emphasis never changes: DesignCon is always the little cousin to DAC. The acquisition may change all that.
UBM's Embedded Systems Conference has been a consistent money maker for the company and the push the hell out of it. Going to the conference exhibits is always exciting and something news is happening every year. Contrast that to the consistent lack of traffic on the DAC and DesignCon floors and you can see why people still spend money to exhibit there.
DAC is definitely upgraded its web presence and is making noises about how much better it will be for exhibitors, but I've heard that before. The organization is still top heavy in academics, including those who represent companies. I have by doubts, though, about how good the marketing is. That's no insult to the people that do the actual marketing, either. What has hampered DAC marketing in the past is engineers and academics overruling marketing plans and initiatives rather then let real marketers implement appropriately.
In the case of DesignCon, now in the hands of a company that calls itself a "marketing firm," We're going to see something completely different for the EDA world. There will be no "nickel-and-diming" the organizers who are not dependent on the good graces of the powers that be. We might even see a real combination of the embedded and EDA worlds in a common location with systems people at the wheel, rather than chip people.
We might see DAC return to its roots as a strictly academic event, held over a couple of days at a hotel. I don't think that would be a bad thing. And I see this news today as a very good thing for everyone
A couple of weeks ago I talked about marketing assumptions or, in the vernacular, "drinking the Kool-aid." It's been rolling around in my head and I thougt I'd take it a little further, especially since this is this week's lesson for my tribe.
The lack of accurate data is the source of failure for most companies and social media programs. The good news is adopting effective social media practices solves the bad data problem for both.
Most companies begin with some good data that assumptions are based upon and direction is decided. What causes failure is when ll future assumptions are based on the original data and subsequent anecdotal evidence that validates the original assumption. That's a recipe for failure or, in the least, a continually contracting market.
It used to be that companies would invest in some level for real market data, but falling revenues at all analysis firms shows that time has come to an end. For about the past decade, most companies coming to me with market data to back up their claims admits the data they have came from a former company who bought it up to 10 years ago. The information floats around the Internet and people pick it up as though it is recent, just because someone reposted it a month previous.
Now that might have worked when the data was two or three years old, but when it get's past that time it has the aroma three-year old lunch meat.
In the same way, social media efforts based on those same assumptions make the efforts useless. Audiences growth plateau as the market realizes the content is just rehashed brochure material and they move on to find something valuable, and executives wonder why they are wasting time on the effort.
It is still possible to get encouraging data from a bad social web effort, if you continue measuring web stats as they were done 10 years ago -- eyeballs and downloads. But modern social approaches to web-based information have found those metrics to be completely useless. Spiders sweep pages for search data and are measured as as though a real human viewed the material. Much of the content downloaded is never read, and often downloaded multiple times by a single person who keeps forgetting where the put it.
What truly counts is the identity and engagement of the audience. It is possible with social media to learn who exactly, not generally, is reading your content, what they think about it, whether they consider it important enough to share it and who they invite to the party. Measurement for this effort, will not be based on numbers, but on the participation, or engagement, of the audience.
In social media, there are a bunch of tools for measuring, producing and improving engagement are one in the same. I've been finding some excellent result from products from Apogeeinvent, Crowd Factory and Arkayne that provide the data necessary to measure engagement and drive the engagement deeper.
However, from the outset, establishing an arbitrary "goal" for certain numbers to indicate success is not efficient because it will take time to establish a true baseline. Success is determined by an organization's ability to adapt to the demand of the market, not drive it where you want it to go. That's the value of assumptions based on real data.
Got a tweet from my buddy Robert Jones at OpDots today on an article in Mashable about Twitter (And don't you just love how you get information nowadays). the article was primarily a graphic on Twitter results since it's inception.
You've probably all heard bits of this before and you use the information to determine whether you are going to get involved at all. Why be on Twitter when most of the conversation is pointless crap and lots of people drop out. Well, to paraphrase an old adage on government: People get the kind of media they deserve. If you want to have excellent media that you don't participate in, then you are going to have to pay for it. If you don't want to pay for media and don't want to participate, be ready to accept a lot of crap. But if you deliver valuable content and participate in the conversation, you get valuable media that you don't have to pay for.
Twitter has some definite strategy problems, but they are not the creator of the content. They are just the pipe. You are the source, and if the content is crap, take a look in the mirror and think about what you do. You actually might want to get some direction on how to be better as a source.
Spent a few days away... thinking. Lots of stuff needs to be sorted out and I'm getting there. Much of it has been inspired by Seth Godin's book Tribes, which has been incredibly encouraging personally and I highly recommend it. But another large chunk came out of a story that Craig Ferguson told about buying a rug in Turkey.
He said he found this rug in a shop, liked it and asked how much it was. The shop owner quoted a price and Craig reached for his wallet. The shop owner said, "Let's have a cup of tea first." They sat, drank tea, chatted, and then dickered on the price of the rug. An agreeable price was set and Ferguson walked out with the rug at a price less then was originally quoted. It's the way things are done there.
What was not talked about was the reason it was done. the merchant just didn't want to sell something that had taken so much effort to create to just anyone. He wanted to know who his customer was. If the customer is a jerk, no amount of money is enough.
That is the essence of micromedia marketing.
In mass media marketing. You push out tons of information to tons of people hoping you get a positive reaction from a very small percentage. As long as you get a few "qualified leads" it was worth the effort. Once you have those qualified leads, you bombard them with the message until they give in. You really don't know the customer other than what his budget is and you try to get as much money out of them as you can before moving on to the next lead.
In micromedia marketing, done properly, you are in relationship with your customer. You know what he is going through and you really care about his success. Why, because you've spent time listening to him before you ever bring up the contract. This means your customer base is going to be much smaller, but much more profitable and, in the end, spiritually satisfying. The customer/client is no more. He is now your partner and you are his. Your mutual success is intertwined. And the people you call partners; those you bring in to land the deal, are part of your organization, or what Godin calls the tribe.
This is what I've come to realize in the past year. My model has changed from trying to sign clients and more to engaging with partners. It's probably not for everyone. I had a client describe by service to him as one who "drinks the koolaid." The meaning being that once I commit to a client, I truly believe in the goal. And if I don't believe, I don't commit. This way of doing business means walking away more often then signing new clients. It isn't easy, but it's starting to pay off.
It's time to fess up. All the problems with the Toyota Prius brake and acceleration systems are my fault. Let me explain.
A few years ago I was a PR consultant to VaST Systems who made virtualization technology allowing engineers to simultaneously test and modify hardware and software designs prior to prototyping and manufacture. Shortly before I came on board, EE Times did a teardown of the Prius at the 2007 Embedded Systems Conference and one of the small bits of the discussion was how VaST Systems tools were used to build the engine control systems of the 2006 models. VaST was very proud of this fact and as a result, they turned a lion's share of their concerns to automotive systems development. Toyota was a marquee customer that th mentioned in all their presentations.
Through most of my tenure with the company I regularly but softly recommended that improved safety and reliability should be front and foremost in their presentations, but the reality was that the message was a throw away point. Most of the presentations were focused on time to market, and product quality and making engineers' jobs easier, which is pretty much the same thing that everyone else discusses in the semiconductor/hardware industries. I let it go because, after all, the client is always right, aren't they?
In 2008, however, the automotive market starting hitting the skids and everyone was cost cutting, even high-flying Toyota. Among the cuts were purchases of design tool licenses, including VaST which devastated a lot of the companies in VaST's niche, including CoWare and Synopsys' Virtio. My relationship with VaST was discontinued in April 2008 and I had failed to win my point about the importance of safety and the bottom line. This is my understanding of what transpired after that point.
(NOTE: I know the publicized accelerator problems were mechanical, not electronic in nature, but subsequent recalls have been based on electronic/software issues, especially after Steve Wozniak himself brought the issue forward)
For 2008 and 2009 Toyota made do without the VaST technology as cost cutting became the important issue. Yes it made the engineering easier, but engineers get paid pretty well so they need to work a little harder, don't you think? That would turn out to be the years for the development of the 2009 and 2010 models. Just a few weeks ago, VaST was sold at an undisclosed (and apparently very low price), along with CoWare to Synopsys giving the latter a virtual stranglehold on the entire market.
I say all this and take responsibility for what happened because I want to make a point. Some people want to know why I seem so angry and confrontational about the changes in media and communication paradigms. This situation with the Prius is why.
As professional communicators, we have a responsibility to look beyond the trite marketing messages and ancient sales philosophies that our clients and employers cling to and see to the real potential, both good and bad, of what they are creating. We are the people that create the vision and if we don't have it, people can die.
I'm not being over dramatic here. Take a look at what is playing out on Capitol Hill this week. Look at the pictures of the charred wrecks. Toyota could have avoided this if they had the right tools for the job, and maybe they were short sighted, but the message that was given to them was that we could make their jobs easier and maybe make their products cheaper, but we just don't have the research in hand to prove that last point... so let's just go with it makes an engineer's job easier.
The research that needs to be done to prove the hard bottom-line and human safety of the systems rolling out the door is done by marketing and communications people. If companies don't want to invest in that kind of effort, that's on them, but as professionals in the business we need to make them understand what kind of hell they may be unleashing if they do. And we need to be ready to walk away if they won't listen.
Synopsys now has that responsibility. They have the technology to stop this thing from happening again, and it is the responsibility of the marketing people to find the right message and It isn't time to market and it isn't ROI. I have every confidence in their ability to do exactly what needs to be done. But I reiterate: People's lives depend on it.
What we do is neither inconsequential nor should it be done on the cheap.
I'm taking some days off next week. This has been a marathon week because the world is changing faster than I can type. I'll leave you with an often unremembered quote from Peter Drucker:
"Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two--and only two--basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business."
I'll get back to the Twitter stuff in the next post, but we need a State of the Media update regarding the takeover of EDN, Test & Measurement World, Design News and Packaging Digest. I tweeted about the latest twist yesterday with the layoff of embedded/DSP/processor guru Robert Cravotta and got the requisite wrist slapping from the EDN team about being being "sensationalistic" by calling their embedded coverage dead.
For the record, I know that what remains of the Reed electronics editorial team will do all they can to continue covering an important industry like embedded, as well as DSP and microprocessors and they will do it as well as they possibly can. But there are only 24 hours in the day and seven days in a week. EDN now has at least one less team member to cover a growing industry and their current resources are going to be stretched even thinner.
(Let me just say it again, with more feeling: EDN/T&M have an incredible editorial team, still. Even though Canon Communications doesn't appreciate that fact.)
Cravotta, at the same time, was one of the cream of technology journalists. He was an experienced engineer and approached the industry with a critical eye. When I did PR I always new I had the right story when I could convince him to take a meeting. I knew the pitch was a home run when he wrote about it, even if he didn't praise it. That's what Canon let go.
We can expect to hear of employees getting squeezed with reduced benefits, expanding emphasis on the use of contract writers, more trusted sources heading for the door and journalists in other Canon pubs given the responsibility for covering more. Even the best of the best is going to see the quality of their work diminish under these conditions. But that's just at the new Canon titles. Penton Publications declared bankruptcy a couple of weeks ago, and that's eventually going to put the hammer on the editorial staffs of those publications, who are already stretched thin. (There is some good news on that front. According to the redoubtable David Maliniak, the Penton crew are getting on the social media crew, at least at Electronic Design, so there is hope.
A few years ago, when I was talking about the death of EDA coverage, I predicted that the embedded world would be next... and for the same reason. The industry just doesn't support it's media. United Business Media (aka, EE Times) has made adjustments, knowing they can't expect advertising to return and they are finding alternate revenue sources. Right now, the Embedded Systems Conference revenue is subsidizing the news coverage so if the industry wants to avoid sinking into the abyss of the EDA industry, they better keep supporting that effort. Of course, they COULD start advertising again (*snort*).
What's even more disturbing, however, is the lack of interest the industry is displaying in social media investment... and where they are they go about it all wrong because thy just don't understand their own market. But their customers are out in the blogosphere, happily dealing with issues and blocking out the vendors who are clueless.
So, as far as embedded coverage goes, there is only two publishing houses with dedicated editorial staff: EE Times/Embedded Systems, led by Rich Nass and Electronic Design with William Wong (upon whom I bestow the mantle of Embedded Guru, now.) Everyone else -- RTC, Open Systems, Tech Focus Media and Extension Media -- are splitting responsibilities or employing contractors. That's better coverage than EDA is getting, but give it a year. I'm sure at this rate it will be at parity by then.
Wake up, people. Here we go again.