My background is both marketing and software. For most of my working life I have worked with some of the leading brands in the UK devising strategy at the intersect of marketing, marketing communications and technology that will deliver business performance improvements and that also make those companies easier to do business with. Software companies, particularly of the B2B variety, the “enterprise software” vendor do largely seem to be struggling to harness to potential of social media within their businesses. There are some notable exceptions and AutoCad is one of those.
Becoming “socially competent” is something of an evolutionary journey; particularly for established companies whose business practices may be somewhat entrenched. Reading a recent AutoCad case study in Social Media Examiner it is interesting to read how Chris Hession, product and marketing manager at the firm has made social media central to the businesses strategy. What may surprise some readers from the B2B software sector is that the social media platform that Chris has utilised is Facebook. Shot down are a set of assumptions about Facebook only being good for B2C.
The figures speak for themselves. 652,000 Facebook fans, 8,300 twitterers and 742,000 views on youtube – video has been a central tenet of the strategy.
Chris in describing his firms endaevours said:
“Just in the last year and a half, social media has become not just a component of our product marketing plan, but really the core component,” said Hession, currently senior manager of Autodesk’s AutoCAD product marketing.
“Pretty much for everything we do, we’re looking at, ‘How can we make this work for social?’”
Which is pretty good stuff to hear. AutoCad have clearly recognised that Social Media is not something that you get the youngsters to do “because they know about that sort of thing” but have recognised that for success an evolutionary path that embeds Social Media into the way that the organisation does business is rather important.
That video has been used also demonstrates the strength of commitment. Video is a key way of communicating with people – and these days it doens’t take double or triple digit figures to produce useful informative video for customers. AutoCad may well have recognised that marketing has now moved from linear event driven activity to being something of a live production unit; integrating and mingling with it’s user base to benefit both parties.
I see four distinct evolutionary steps in the process to building the socially active and productive organisation.
Step 1- Good Old Fashioned Marketing
Marketing works in something of a silo, digesting information from product managers and pushing information out through traditional event oriented channels i.e. “The Email
Campaign”, “The Trade Show”, “The User Group” and so on. Customer support is still largely conducted by telephone hotline or to some poor individual who is on call to get woken up at 3AM in the morning. Equally this orgnaisation will be paying little attention to what is being said about it’s own and competitors products and service online. Executives may think that notions of the social organisations are a flash in a pan that will quickly pass. Keep flogging the sales force that’s how we will grow! (perhaps being unfair to a few sales directors out there!)
Step 2 – Tinkering
Some people within the company have recognised that perhaps a little bit of attention grabbing online might be useful to the company. Sales people still see little value in the process whilst techs are beginning to exchange ideas with their contemporary’s online. If
people are permitted people are approaching it in anyway they feel and their is little measurement and no formal “conversation” monitoring in place. A few people are starting to get the occasional result; perhaps a new relationship or two, perhaps some insights into what people are saying about the company. This leads to a general water cooler consensus that perhaps someone should table this to the board; which they do and a small budget is allocated.
Step 3- Beginning to make it real
With some degree of approval from the board, a plan needs to be pulled together and some measurement needs to be put in place. A small working group is organised and it is decided that cohesiveness, consistency is now important. It is also recognised that in order to communicate authentically online members from across the organisations business units need to start participating – co-ordinated by a centralised team. This process starts and after
a few months something is beginning to happen. All of a sudden, the sales team is getting leads from this channel whilst produce development is gaining new insights into what customers and prospects really need from new products. Meanwhile the service organisation is finding that a few useful tips published online are beginning to reduce call costs on certain types of queries. The customer support people now have more time to focus on high priority customer issues. The board is now starting to get interested.
Step 4 – Social Media has become Business as Usual
With the board interested and now becoming convinced (hey that £500k deal certainly talked), results start increasing and customers and prospects are now beginning to work for you, recommending you to others and distributing your firms online prowess to other members of their company. Measurement becomes more formalised and a through education process starts to pervade the business. Each business function gets a social team leader who reports into the centralised team, now growing in numbers. The firm has become adept and productionising a 24/7 communication within its markets and even the sales people are suddenly finding time to contribute their bit, discussing the interesting solutions that they are providing to their customers thereby attracting more customers with the same issues. Now the focus is on continuous improvement, consolidation of capability and organisational competence. Social has become mainstream in this firm.
Clearly AutoCad have reached Step 4 and must surely be reaping significant reward and Chris Hession and his team deserve accolades for what his team has achieved. A centralised team is orchestrating activity that reaches customers globally. The steps to get there are incremental and are about delivering new organisational competences. There is much that B2B software companies can learn from the success AutoCad have made of their social media endaevours.