Action amidst Uncertainty | green revolution in the boardroom?!


In the midst of the perhaps biggest environmental catastrophe ever – the oil spill in the Mexican Gulf – sustainability demonstrably rising on the executive agenda provides some inspiration. Even in this economic downturn companies now see the business benefit of ‘going green’ both in terms of bottom line cost reduction opportunities and top line growth. Has the green revolution now really reached the executive boardroom?

A survey (‘Action amidst Uncertainty’) released by Ernst & Young last week indicated CXOs are now serious about riding the green wave. Some 70% of all CXOs participating – three hundred global corporate executives from 16 countries with at least US$1b in annual revenue – indicated to significantly increase spending relating climate spending.

The key 5 take-aways for me from this E&Y survey:

1)   Whilst sustainability is getting senior management attention, only in 30% of cases is the role accountable for making sustainability work a full time job. In two third of all companies, the ‘CGO’ (Senior Green Officer) does not report to the CEO (yet).

2)   Whilst the western world still predominantly seems to react to the green wave –  spurred into action by changing legislation – Asian companies take a far more proactive attitude – thinking (& acting upon) green innovation and sustainable products.

3)   The lack of global standards and regulations does not slow climate change investments. Other market drivers, such as equity analysts’ growing interest in climate change performance, equally drives the market to go green. The lack in global standards does not hamper the audit industry either; the majority of surveyed companies (62%) do prefer to have their sustainable progress benchmarked by an independent 3rd party.

4)   Two so-called ‘HR-issues’, the lack of required skills and lack of awareness, both would call for a more ‘open’ attitude to solving the green jigsaw puzzle, for instance by adopting social innovation and Enterprise 2.0 strategies in an effort to better assess real needs and wants in the marketplace as well as to build a platform for online co-creation and recruitment. Both inside and outside the enterprise.

5)   Whilst 2/3 of companies are involved in active dialogue with suppliers on the sustainability issue, only 1 in 3 companies actively collaborate with their suppliers in order to make tangible green progress. The survey does not mention active involvement with customers surprisingly enough (was it included in the questionaire at all?!). Especially in B2B environments one would expect customer advisory or innovation board to touch upon the green theme.

When are companies like BP finally going to realize that the disciplines of Social | Green | Business are inextricably and increasingly linked? As the E&Y rightly summarizes “Integration is essential for successful execution.“

Envisaging work 2.0gether


Recently I had the opportunity to attend the Great Place to Work event in Amsterdam. This platform brought together nominees for the GPtW award, i.e. the best employers in the land. My 5 key take-aways from the session, in random order:

  1. In the category medium-sized companies there was only 1 public organisation, i.e. the RGS Enkhuizen (a secondary school) nominated (congrats btw). Having spoken to its dean, it became clear how much room for mutual learning there still is. Too many schools isolate in splendid isolation and show to learn little from more advanced peers in the nation (or abroad).
  2. In general, there is a 20%+ gap between GPtW nominees and ‘the rest’ of the pack. Dutch employers on average score a meagre 58%, whilst top GPtW companies score almost 80%. Roooom for improvement therefore.
  3. The value of employees’ personal vision statements as input to build a more sustainable joint company roadmap and vision. Personal vision statements can also help better (re)connect employees which benefits work satisfaction, employee retention and generally a better flow of ideas. Just to name a few. A personal vision is all about knowing who you are, what you want (short & longterm) and what you’re best capable of. Aspects that seem so obvious, that most of us professionals or companies spend little time exploring, formalising or reshaping. Yet when shaped together, a personal vision becomes a very powerful perspective as Ilse Nelemans and Salem Samhoud describe in their book on this topic: “You Are Who You Will Be”.
  4. Almost all of the nominated companies operate in the business of consulting, professional services and IT. Is there a relationship between verticals and score or has GPtW simply not been marketed as enthusiastically in eg manufacturing?
  5. Authenticity counts. A number of videos of best places to work were shown to the crowd. Whilst all companies video-taped stressed the need for authenticity, personal touch and so on, only 1 company (NetApp) came with a video from the heart: not scripted and without auto-cue.

GPtW nominees perhaps have better managed to redefine the meaning of work to their employees, customers, partners and themselves. What’s your definition of Work 2.0?

Enterprise Social 2.0: 4 more P's in the marketing mix


As promised in my most recent blogpost last Friday, here’s a second analysis and recap of some of the most inspiring stuff exchanged at the Social Enterprise 2.0 conference (tagged #es20 on Twitter) that was held in Amsterdam, the Netherlands – January 28th & 29th 2010. My previous blogpost covered the marketeer’s challenge of having to start inside one’s organisation in properly deploying social media. Paradoxically to most – as marketeers have been conditioned to look outside for wants, customer segments, opportunities, threats and market trends prior to doing some proper introspection. This blogpost covers the external aspects and value of Enterprise Social 2.0.

Marketing mix 2.0
Various #es20 speakers including SAP’s Sean MacNiven and Ellen Petry Leanse (Google) referred to Forrester’s obvious yet valid POST approach for leveraging social media. Starting off any social media initiative should not only be kept modest in size, but should build on a definition of the ‘who’ (what is the target audience, or People), the ‘why’ (Objectives), the ‘how’ (Strategies) and finally on the ‘what’; with what instruments should one execute the social media strategy (Tools)? KODAK’s Kees Mulder and Nokia’s Jussi Pekka Erkkola for instance propagated moving from the good old 4 P’s (products, place, price, promotion) to the new (?!) 4 E’s in the marketing mix , i.e.:

  • engage,
  • educate,
  • excite,
  • evangelize.

To my mind however, these 4 E’s were essentially of similar weight in the 1.0 era. Whether in B2B or B2C (or in B2G | Business to Government for that matter), hasn’t the marketeer’s challenge not always been to properly raise awareness, boost customer’s interest and desire, thereby resulting in a profitable transaction and preferably a relationship? An enduring relationship in turn, that ideally renders fans and (super-)promoters of your brand, products and services. The difference in Enterprise Social 2.0 primarily is all about the speed and intensity with which this process now takes place. Also it entails a revised competitive landscape and ‘level’  playing field as web 2.0 acts as yet another of Thomas Friedman’s flattening forces. More players with their own unique service or product now have access to the same global e-market. The same flattening effect goes for branding. As Ellen Petry Leanse phrased it: “your brand is now public property. Just because you have a vested interest, doesn’t necessarily make you into a trusted source”. Petry Leanse (Google’s Head of Enterprise Marketing & Communications) continued to stress that marketing 2.0 moves beyond mere branding and building awareness to “building a movement”. To some, this may sound almost a bit Marxist or at least politically flavoured. I do feel over 1 billion people (and counting!) involved in some social media network, building a movement of committed followers (possibly in a niche) is simply becoming sound business practice.

All in all – I’d argue the new 2.0 marketing mix adds 4 new P’s: psychology, personality, people and participation.

1. Psychology
As a 1st year university student of management science back at Groningen (Netherlands) & Warwick (UK) in the 80s, this was one of my favorite topics. Nobody would deny that success in eg sales, marketing or general management to a considerable extent depends on the ability to touch a customer’s or prospect’s deeper sentiments, wants, needs and fears. Yet the public eye seems to perceive the art of psychology as pertaining to the domain of shrinks, medics and alpha ‘grey-wool-sock’ scientists. Wrong. For organisations to successfully engage on the global 2.0 playing field, they should first of all excel at self-reflection. Who do we really want to be, for whom? What’s our passion, why are we in business in the first place? Subsequently, in reaching out to selected communities or crowds, the days of Shout & Send are over. In comes the era of listening and truly showing empathy for your customer- & fanbase. Listening to relevant conversations and when engaging, being prepared to go deep, both require psychological know-how and skill.

2. Personality.
In addition, social media and web 2.0 provides a viable platform for personal branding as eg Dan Schwabel eloquently and tirelessly points out. It also paves the way for leveraging corporate personality. Of which constitutes a fine example on Twitter. As Philips’ tandem 2.0 presenters Hugo Raaijmakers and Marco Roncaglio quite candidly pointed out, “Philips has no automatic presence of its own and needs to humanize itself”. The Roger Smith Hotel’s case shows that the company personality is built by various people of the hotel’s team, not just the general manager or the Head of New Media Marketing, Adam Wallace (also speaker at #es20). “Our employees realize they are on stage too and have come to see that every visitor should be treated and considered a possible New York Times reporter.”

3. People
Some folks would argue that people have already long been an element in the marketing mix especially when you are in the services business. I would not disagree. Yet I do see the need for a different perspective here. Every single employee or customer now has the might to influence a company’s reputation and brand. That’s why for a social media strategy to work, one should treat one’s employees all as possible ambassadors. This applies normally just as much as in times of handling a crisis as the panel discussion moderated by Jennifer Gehrt reflected on. And that’s why companies like Vodafone are starting to measure the social conversation with customers in terms of for instance social authority (who’s talking about me), social conversation (to whom do they talk), social sentiment (how do they talk), and social network valuation (churn & promoter scores).

4. Participation
It’s imperative for senior management to take part in the intra-company dialogue through wiki’s, fora and blogs as companies like SAP, Airbus and SIEMENS stressed. Externally taking part in social communities is of equal importance. Some might say that listening alone suffices. Why not tap into the millions of conversations going on there and use social media insights to keep a realtime finger on the pulse of the competition or customer trends. As Joel Comm points out in his book Twitter Power, “from a business point of view there is much to be gained from simply listening, without the intention of ever participating”. Generally, having moved external in one’s 2.0 approach,  I believe  there are few organisations that keep a stealth, low-profile approach as there’s bound to be some form of participation.

The great examples from eg KODAK (thru crowdsourcing 28,000 suggestions were submittted for a new name for the Zi8 digital camera), the RogerSmith Hotel in NY (improved brand awareness and customer advocacy), Dell as well as JetBlue (improved customer service and boost in sales thru Twitter promotions) and LEGO (huge community of enthusiasts sharing videos, innovation and product ideas amongst each other – 275,000 LEGO movies on YouTube. Top 5 have 47m views!) reflect the huge external market potential that’s only just being discovered.

Perspiration (!) might be an additional 5th P to the new social media marketing mix, as various speakers and participants stressed that for social media this mainly takes time, commitment, passion and dedication.Enterprise Social 2.0

B2B Social media eVALUEated

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As mentioned in my previous post, the buzz around social media is also building a discussion regarding its soft and hard ROI. To my opinion, its measurable and financial value in B2B will further be recognized overtime yet is set to contribute to enhancing at least:

* Market | Customer | Competitive intelligence
* Branding
* Product development & innovation
* Customer support services
* (Open) innovation
* Lead / Demand generation
* Employee related benefits such as enhanced project collaboration and knowledge sharing, employee motivation, (management) development & retention

For political, lobby-intensive or CSR-related organisations social media additionally might bring value in terms of Return on Impact. Social impact therefore in terms of mobilizing citizens’ voice by organisations that target both other businesses as well as consumers such as @350, @WWF, @changents and others. But let’s focus now on businesses that need to satisfy their shareholders.

Speed, transparency & efficiency key benefits
Almost 1700 executives from around the globe took part in a longitudinal 3 year study by McKinsey on social media entitled ‘how companies are benefiting from web 2.0’. 69 percent of respondents report that their companies have gained measurable business benefits, including more innovative products and services, more effective marketing, better access to knowledge, lower cost of doing business, and higher revenues.

Scanning diagonally thru its key results, it seems that bigger speed & transparency as well as reduced (travel & communications) costs are seen as most significant business benefits. Increasing revenue is mentioned by some, yet this is the lowest percentage. Whereas ‘measurable gains’ were reported, the McKinsey researchers unfortunately did not explicitly state whether and in how many cases there actually was a positive ROI in financial terms – dollars, euros, rupiah, sterling or yen.

Me, myself and my community
The McKinsey research distinguishes between the deployment of social media internally to employees and externally to partners, suppliers and customers. Judging by the relative number of respondents as well as the relative biggest gains reported, internal at present seems to be the most popular category. The survey does highlight the relative usage of SM across verticals – not surprisingly high tech and professional services frontrunners – and reports a 35% gain in employee motivation.

With the relative loose connection in most western companies between organisation and employee, this is a significant gain that merits further study. Whilst in many cases the increasing individualization and economic downturn may cause low levels of employee-employer commitment, which in turn results in suboptimal retention – the need to build a powerful corporate community is as strong as ever.

The massive uptake of Facebook, Hyves and other social, friend communities reflects the need for human beings to belong and connect. Why therefore would a corporate environment not try to build a successful, happy community of (professional) employees? To my opinion, this should definitely enhance a firm’s capacity not just to attract, but also to attach the right workers to the right place at the right time. A ‘happiness factory’ – perhaps.

#TEDxAms & Social Media: ideas worth spreading?!

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Two days ago the first Netherlands-based version of the world reknown TED (Technology Design Entertainment) conference was held in Amsterdam. A rich blend of dutch and international speakers covered a wide array of topics ranging from eg architecture, the produce made from pig ingredients, human fears, diversity to sustainability. And inspirational talks and ideas they brought!

TEDx as powerful platform?
As the TED motto rightly says, good ideas are ‘worth spreading’. However a platform for some of the brightest individuals on the planet to my mind is only as effective as the influence one is able to exert as a result of this meeting of the brains and minds. I am convinced that a great deal of valuable networking took place in Amsterdam, contact details were swapped via bluetooth and intentions for new or further collaboration were nurtured on the day of TEDx. Yet wouldn’t TEDx be even more powerful a platform if and when the best ideas on say sustainability would be taken to the next level by the TEDx audience? Here’s where social media could to my mind lend a helping hand.

Social Media around TEDxAms
A brief and pragmatic analysis of the buzz surrounding TEDx Amsterdam was conducted thanks to TED participants and fans using the hashtag #TEDxAms. The analysis was done one day after the event, just before midnight CET November 21st 2009. Some 2810 tweets were made on TEDxAms according to Tweetvolume. The average number of tweets per day according to TwitterVen amounted to 335 for TEDx Amsterdam, somewhat higher than the score for the NY-based event Web 2.0 expo #w2e but frankly speaking not a big difference[1]. The noise generated by a powerful crowd of 400+ TEDx attendees, augmented by their followers, friends and fans objectively could be a lot higher than this. Yet one could argue, quality matters more than quantity. Browsing through the word cloud and some TEDx tweets, it becomes apparent that the majority of tweets either praise the TEDx organisation, reconfirm their happiness with attending the inspiring event or indicate their favourite speaker(s). Using Twitter StreamGraphs and screening for the last 1,000 tweets on TEDxAms, this picture is reconfirmed.

Leveraging social media as catalyst for influence
First of all why not limit the number of TEDx topics and speakers? Or swap the tail-end programme on TEDxUniversity dubbed by speaker @earlybird44 as an afterthought for further in-depth review of the content already on the table? The time won could then be re-allocated to have the TEDx attendees as well as other TED fans around the globe vote realtime and online for the best idea, and have them add their suggestions, contacts and tips as to how to make that best and brightest idea come to fruition. Crowdsourcing then would become a powerful instrument to refining both the best idea and moreover its deployment. Furthermore, assuming the power of social media is better leveraged one could use both the amount of votes for the best idea as well as the general buzz around TEDx to bring to the attention of decision makers or politicians that actually will be discussing next steps on that topic. The ROI/ Return on Ideas would surely benefit. With future TEDx events elsewhere and in Rotterdam, Netherlands coming up, please share your ideas and builds on Twitter or as comment to this blogged line of thought.



[1] PS Not significantly different/ higher from the combination ‘Frans, Verjaardag (dutch for birthday), Nederland (Netherlands)’ checking the amount of buzz surrounding my father’s 74th birthday yesterday November 21st. That combination’s score amounted to respectively 278, 747 and 2645 tweets ;-).