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As we enter 2015, it’s a good time to take stock of how far social marketing has come, and where it might be headed. The lion’s share of social marketing attention this year has centered around organic reach, specifically the steps Facebook has taken to decrease it for marketing messages. Twitter continued to build out its ecosystem and ad offerings. Pinterest continues to quietly build traffic and an impressive inventory of high-quality pinned content.

As we enter 2015, it’s a good time to take stock of how far social marketing has come, and where it might be headed.

The lion’s share of social marketing attention this year has centered around organic reach, specifically the steps Facebook has taken to decrease it for marketing messages.  Twitter continued to build out its ecosystem and ad offerings.  Pinterest continues to quietly build traffic and an impressive inventory of high-quality pinned content.  And new entrants like SnapChat have made their first steps into accepting paid advertising.

I predict that 2015 will be even more eventful for social marketers, in these three ways.

Prediction #1.  Social Relationship Platforms will cease to exist as we know them. 

Social has become the next great broadcast medium: built by the social platforms, programmed by individuals and media companies, and fueled by advertising dollars.

Marketers will continue to listen for potential customer service issues, but the responsibility for routing and tracking these social interactions will reside with their existing CRM systems, which have the routing, tracking, and analytics already mapped to the organization’s needs.

As CRM systems take on a larger role, the Social Relationship Platforms will instead become Social Broadcast Platforms, focused on helping marketers reach the right kind of audiences and gain the right kind of attention to support their marketing objectives.

Prediction #2.  The decline in organic reach on Facebook will finally free us from the crutch of organic reach on social networks.

I confess that I find it odd that marketers—who are tasked with reaching consumers with commercial messaging—often express outrage at the decrease in Facebook organic reach.  “Free marketing” is attractive for all of the obvious reasons, but is hardly a sustainable strategy.

The social platforms have aggregated a breathtaking number of users, and as marketers we have no choice but to try to reach those users, when and how they are interacting with content.  Twitter and Facebook have invested significantly in building an advertising products and an ecosystem of companies to help makreters achieve their objectives, and we’re really just in the infancy of learning how to properly use those.

People have been predicting the convergence of Paid, Owned, and Earned media for years now.  Perhaps the right framework is for Owned media to become a feed into Paid.  As marketers align the community management elements of their social presence with their media buying, the effectiveness of both will increase.

Prediction #3.  Native Advertising Will Continue to Scale, But Not in the Way You Think.

Many have expressed concern about the rise in Native Advertising, whether it be John Oliver on HBO, or in a Federal Trade Commission workshop on the topic.

The industry clearly has some work to do in defining terminology, and in identifying and rooting out bad practices and bad actors.  But the bigger concern about Native Advertising may not be the erosion of “church and state”, but instead its lack of scalability.  Put simply, how many Native campaigns can a reputable publication execute well, and at what cost?  Companies like Buzzfeed have not been shy about building large departments of “advertorial” creators, but it’s hard to imagine more traditional publishers being comfortable with an advertorial room that is larger than the newsroom.

Under the category “everything old is new again”, we’ll see a resurgence of old-school advertising:  notably, marketers associating advertising with high-quality editorial content that is already engaging users.  That will happen directly in the social feeds, as advertisers sponsor publishers’ best-performing content, which is distributed as a promoted post or promoted Tweet.  That then generates click-throughs to deeper content and more engaging advertising, including retargeting.

In that scenario everyone wins:  the Advertiser has a editorial vehicle to which to attach commercial messaging; the Publisher has a new revenue stream for its existing content; and the Consumer is seeing sponsored editorial content in her social feed.

Conclusion

2015 will see a number of big shifts, as the industry’s social marketing efforts mature.  As an ever-increasing quantity of content competes for a fixed amount of consumer attention (we each only have 24 hours in a day),  social marketing will evolve to behave more like traditional media platforms.

Not surprisingly, LinkedIn was the most popular source of information for professional users, with 9 out of 10 of them regularly using it to keep abreast of industry updates and fresh content, ahead of new sites.

In a social media savvy world, sharing and distributing content has become easier than ever before, with organisations using social channels to target receptive, relevant audiences. LinkedIn’s recent 2014 Professional Content Consumption Report looked into the way professionals are connecting with and reacting to online content.

Not surprisingly, LinkedIn was the most popular source of information for professional users, with 9 out of 10 of them regularly using it to keep abreast of industry updates and fresh content, ahead of new sites – 64%, Twitter – 29%, Facebook – 27%, and Google Plus – 16%.

As a result of these statistics, LinkedIn is also the first choice for big businesses, with 86 of the FTSE 100 companies having LinkedIn profiles. In contrast, 70 are active on Twitter, only 42 have Facebook profiles, and just 12 use Google Plus, making LinkedIn comfortably the most popular social media platform for businesses.

With LinkedIn being so popular among industry professionals, we decided to investigate the most successful and influential brands on the platform, to provide some insight into the best professional content marketing tips. The following three (Inc., Word Economic Forum, and Forbes) have achieved the highest LinkedIn content marketing scores, according to the aforementioned report.

Inc.

Inc. Magazine rank third for their LinkedIn content marketing score, and one of the reasons behind their success is their effective implementation of case studies. These are absolutely perfect for professionals, as they provide actionable examples of industry successes that users can then go away and implement themselves. They make content instantly digestible and relevant, rather than just boring readers with an overload of inapplicable theory.

World Economic Forum

The World Economic Forum have reached second spot on LinkedIn because of the fresh perspective they apply to their content. Rather than just regurgitating the same standard stories about their interest areas of academia, politics and business, they analyse and provide expert insight into the issues they cover. This all boils down to understanding the purpose of LinkedIn, compared to other social networks. For example, users wanting live updates on a breaking story will use Twitter, and those seeking their friends’ opinions on a topic will use Facebook. LinkedIn, on the other hand, is for providing innovative views and industry specifics on a topic, making it perfect for professionals.

Forbes

Forbes Magazine have established themselves as the most effective LinkedIn content marketers by constantly presenting brand new, engaging research. Their strategy is to become a genuine thought leader by providing professional users with a constant stream of top quality content. All of their output is specifically targeted at their highly career-focused audience, and presented in a way that is easy to digest. Forbes’ commitment to providing this regular content and the engagement metrics behind it are both impressive; in the last twenty-four hours at the time of writing, ten original articles had been published, some achieving over 100 likes and all of them obtaining multiple shares and comments.

In addition to this, Mark Williams, the UK’s first certified LinkedIn trainer, has assembled seven tips for maximising opportunities on LinkedIn that businesses should refer to when considering their strategy for the platform. These are:

  1. Stop selling – rather than direct, product-focused campaigns, look to become a thought leader.
  2. Provide fresh research – make your content stand out by providing original industry research.
  3. Engage your users – provide them with content they will want to like, share and comment on.
  4. Connect with people – genuinely interact with your followers, rather than just connecting.
  5. Provide regular, useful content – give your users a regular stream of content that serves a purpose.
  6. Build trust with your followers – build a rapport with your followers, so content is not a one-way street.
  7. Meet up with people – meet people, attend events, and expand your network face-to-face.

Referring to these tips, as well as the using the top LinkedIn professional content marketers as examples to aspire to, is a great way for businesses to formulate an effective strategy for the platform and ensure their professional content is as effective as possible.

Is American Express a credit card company? Yes. But if you speak to CMO John Hayes, he’ll tell you that American Express is first and foremost a service company. How do Hayes and his marketing team push the boundaries of marketing as service? By fostering workplace curiosity, taking up their customers’ interests and extending benefits to non-members.

Is American Express a credit card company? Yes. But if you speak to CMO John Hayes, he’ll tell you that American Express is first and foremost a service company. Not only is it a provider of financial services, but also a purveyor of entertainment, networking and business growth tools for cardholders and potential customers alike. How do Hayes and his marketing team push the boundaries of marketing as service? By fostering workplace curiosity, taking up their customers’ interests and extending benefits to non-members.

"It starts with understanding what business you are in and understanding that this is a company that believes it’s noble to serve,” Hayes says. “From that comes the way we go to market."

Fostering Service Through Creativity

[[{"fid":"222516","view_mode":"default","fields":{"format":"default","field_file_image_caption[und][0][value]":"","field_file_image_caption[und][0][format]":"filtered_html","field_file_image_alt_text[und][0][value]":"john hayes headshot","field_file_image_title_text[und][0][value]":" "},"type":"media","attributes":{"alt":"john hayes headshot","title":" ","style":"line-height: 1.538em; height: 420px; width: 300px; margin-left: 7px; margin-right: 7px; float: right;","class":"media-element file-default"}}]]The first step in creating marketing initiatives that lead to great service? According to John Hayes, it begins from deep within the company. At American Express, nurturing a working environment where inquisitiveness is encouraged has rippled out to the kind of innovative marketing that reaches the customers.

It’s important to “generate a level of curiosity about what’s happening in the world,” Hayes says, “both in terms of the talent you bring into the company as well as the culture that you build and maintain over time.” He continues, “We have been able to build a culture of curiosity where people are curious about how to make things work better."

Curiosity, Hayes says, leads to bigger and bolder marketing initiatives. At American Express, settling for the tried-and-true is simply not an option, and the team is encouraged to move beyond what worked in previous cycles. "If you’re going to do something,” he says, “We believe it should live up to very high standard of innovation and newness.”

At the same time, Hayes and his team are careful not to abandon past successes. “We are taking the things that worked...and applying [them] all over the place."

Taking Up the Customers’ Interests

Moving on to exactly how American Express markets differently, Hayes stresses the importance of taking interest in his customers’ lives outside of the their AmEx card use.

Much like a new relationship, talking about yourself too much or serving your own interests often leads to dead ends and disappointment. But actively understanding your customers’ lives outside of your product or service, and finding the footholds where you can be useful, is a mark of true marketing-as-service, says Hayes, and will lead to customer loyalty.

"You’re going to serve businesses and people. You need to talk to them about their life,” Hayes says. “Not what they’re going to use to pay for something."

This notion not only informs the content that customers see, but also the additional perks that American Express cardholders enjoy, such as live-streamed concerts and pre-sale tickets to events. Hayes says, "If you look at what we do on stage – bringing music to so many people on a live-stream basis – the philosophy is the same. That is our way of serving customers who we know have a passion for music because of the things they do, because of the way they spend their money.”

The Value of Inclusiveness

Many of the company’s lifestyle perks are offered not just to existing customers, but also to potential cardholders — a risky move that may not always pay off for most service companies.

Take, for example, American Express’s Open Forum, an online space where business owners and executives can freely exchange ideas. “We don’t require people to be a cardholder to use Open Forum,” Hayes says. Or Small Business Saturday, a widely successful initiative that encourages consumers across the country to do their holiday shopping with small businesses.

Why extend these initiatives to those who aren’t even cardholders? “Many of these experiences are open architecture,” says Hayes, “because we want prospects to know that’s what it feels like to be a member.”

“When you’ve contributed in a meaningful way to a small business’ success and then say, ‘Hey, I’ve got some other services for you. I’ve got a card that could help you manage inventory better,’ they are quite open to it because they’ll say, ‘Well, you guys have already been enabling my business, enabling my success,’” he says. “And that’s the philosophy.”

Some might say that these practices are a gamble, but Hayes says that American Express reaps the benefits over time. “We’ve seen the impact that service has on the American Express brand, our customers and their behavior following a positive experience,” he says, adding, "We’re careful not to overvalue the things we can measure or undervalue the things we can’t."

In partnership with The CMO Club, The CMO of the Week series profiles CMOs who are shaping, changing and challenging the world of modern marketing. For Neisser’s complete interview with CMO Award Winner John Hayes, click here.

In this post, we’ll take a look at some personal branding examples from industries including finance, architecture, and marketing. Which tools and techniques have high-visibility experts used to take their reputations to the next level? We’ll look at four techniques our research has found to be most powerful for personal branding, and show how real experts used those platforms to get ahead.

Our recent book, The Visible ExpertSM, explored the many ways that high-visibility experts’ personal brands boosted the profile and ultimately the success of their firms. The research behind The Visible Expert drew on a study of more than a thousand professional services purchasers – as well as the experiences of some of the best-known experts in the professional services world.

In this post, we’ll take a look at some personal branding examples from industries including finance, architecture, and marketing. Which tools and techniques have high-visibility experts used to take their reputations to the next level? We’ll look at four techniques our research has found to be most powerful for personal branding, and show how real experts used those platforms to get ahead.

Ready? Let’s get started.

1) Content Marketing – Blogs, Articles, and More

One of the most effective ways for a professional to share their specific expertise with the marketplace is through educational content: blogs, magazine articles, videos, and other forms of content designed to teach audiences useful skills and lessons related to their industries.

Alan Weiss, Ph.D. is a preeminent Visible Expert in the consulting field, and throughout his career he has made masterful use of content marketing to build his personal brand. Today, his practice serves Fortune 1000 clients such as The New York Times Corporation, Mercedes Benz, GE, Hewlett-Packard, and Merck. Weiss acts as a consultant to consultants, and is widely respected as an author and a speaker.

How did he build his profile to its current status? While consultants are often wary of sharing their knowledge or intellectual property, Weiss took a different approach. Not only did he embrace the idea of sharing his expertise, he shared it across many different channels.

“You never know what will appeal to different people, so spread it out,” he tells us. “Try using video, blogs, real books, white papers, and webinars.” By creating content that helps his audience better contextualize and understand their problems, Weiss creates a lead generation framework in which clients seek out his highly visible expertise.

Jay Baer, president of the digital marketing consulting firm Convince and Convert, helps high-profile clients like Salesforce and Oracle employ similar content marketing strategies. And he practices what he preaches. Baer is an active blogger and social media presence; he delivers webinars and co-hosts the podcast Social Pros. He points out that content marketing efforts tend to be mutually reinforcing.

“The things I do on social media,” Baer says, “drive traffic to the blog. Once you’re on the blog, you might subscribe to our newsletter. Or you might book me for speaking or download a webinar.” When used strategically, content marketing can act as a complex machine that raises an expert’s profile and attracts an ever-increasing audience.

2) Writing an authoritative book

Our research revealed a powerful secret to building one’s personal brand: if you want to grow your visibility more quickly, write a book. Indeed, experts who wrote authoritative books on their industries tended to rise in prominence more quickly than others.

Youtility by Jay Bayer

Jay Baer’s second book, the New York Times bestseller Youtility, helped secure his status as an industry all-star. The book was “very impactful,” he says, helping to create new speaking and business opportunities. Baer’s book not only established his authority and credibility in the digital marketing space, but staked out new ground and helped guide the industry forward. This kind of leadership helps set Visible Experts apart from the rest of the pack.

Alan Weiss generated similar benefits with his major book, Million Dollar Consulting – the book that launched him to even greater fame in the consulting industry. Sarah Susanka, a widely-respected architect specializing in the residential market, launched her reputation into the stratosphere with the release of her book, The Not So Big House. Previously known primarily in Minnesota, Susanka’s book carried her reputation around the world, landing her interviews with Oprah, Diane Rehm, and Charlie Rose.

“The book caused a huge shift in my life,” she says. “I thought there would be an audience for it, but I didn’t realize how big. It was incredible to watch how, within 3 months of publication, I went from being known only in Minnesota to being known internationally.”

3) Speaking engagements

For rising Visible Experts, speaking engagements can be invaluable, placing them center stage in front of an audience of industry leaders and influencers.

Ted Sarenski, financial planning and wealth management expert at Blue Ocean Strategic Capital, learned this lesson quickly.

“In the early 2000s,” he says, “I was on the executive planning committee for AICPA (American Institute of Certified Public Accountants). They started a conference on financial planning and they needed someone to speak on social security, and I said I’d do it. I read the social security manual cover to cover and threw myself into doing a great presentation. That first year there were 500 attendees at the whole conference, and I had 250 of them in my workshop.”

Today, Sarenski’s workshops draw even larger audiences. The last conference saw over 1,100 attendees. Speaking on social security has become a specialty for Sarenski, delivering both press attention and additional speaking requests.

Jay Baer has likewise invested a great deal of energy in speaking engagements. In fact, he averages about 60 speaking events a year – in addition to dozens of webinars. By speaking for key industry audiences, Baer has not only built his visibility and spread his ideas, but forged direct connections with decision-makers around the world. Speaking engagements take time and energy, but by choosing the right engagements an expert can put themselves in front of focused, highly relevant figures in the marketplace.

4) Specialization in a niche

As we’ve discussed our various personal branding examples, you may have noticed a trend: all of the Visible Experts we’ve mentioned are, to one degree or another, specialists. That isn’t a coincidence: our research shows that the fastest-rising experts tend to specialize in a niche. Our research also shows that specialization is a top trait buyers value most.

What Buyers Value

It’s not hard to understand why specialization is so powerful. It differentiates you from competitors, helps you focus and define your audience, and makes it easier to attain visibility as an authority in your particular area – as long as you have the expertise.

SEE ALSO: The Rise of the Specialist: The Advantages of Specialization in Management Consulting

Sarah Susanka built her reputation by specializing in the residential market. “There were very few large successful residential architecture firms doing single-family work. This struck me as strange,” she says, “because I knew that most people were fascinated by house design. There had to be a way to make services available and reasonably priced to reach them.” This recognition of an unfilled niche was the genesis of her firm – and ultimately, her career as an author, speaker, and Visible Expert.

Ted Sarenski also identified a niche full of opportunity. In the wake of his accounting firm’s merger in 1997, Sarenski created a focused investment management division, which was a swift and tremendous success. “By 2007,” says Sarenski, “65% of the division’s business was coming internally from my division, and 35% from the other 11 partners.” Within a year, Sarenski bought out his partners and formed Blue Ocean Strategic Capital.

Conclusion

The personal branding examples above illustrate some trends that are consistent throughout the marketplace. When rising experts specialize in a niche and share their knowledge through a variety of channels – particularly books, speaking engagements, and other forms of educational content – they give themselves a strong foundation on which to build their personal brand. By sharing useful expertise with the marketplace, experts can take the steps necessary to make themselves visible…and eventually to become superstars in their fields.

personal branding / shutterstock

As the year draws to a close, I thought now would be a good time to look at what the next twelve months hold for social media marketing.

As the year draws to a close, I thought now would be a good time to look at what the next twelve months hold for social media marketing.

With anything in the digital industry, social media is developing at a rapid rate, so it’s worth taking a look at what direction it will be taking in 2015.

If you’re also interested in the SEO/content side of things, Amy will be sharing her Top 7 SEO and Content Predictions For 2015 tomorrow!

1) Much More Video Content

While video has been a popular social media marketing option for a while, I think it’ll gain a lot more traction in 2015.

With the rise of young video bloggers (or vloggers) such as Zoella, Tanya Burr and Alfie Deyes (they have millions of YouTube subscribers each and have signed beauty and book deals worth thousands of pounds), it won’t be surprising to see brands jumping on the video bandwagon, with some of the larger companies vying for the chance to have one of the famous vloggers front their campaigns.

2) Goodbye Google+?

2015 might be the time that Google says au revoir to its own social network for good.

As Vic Gundotra – Google’s Senior Vice President of Social and the “father of Google+” – announced he was leaving the company back in April, and Google killed Authorship back in August, so it seems that they’re phasing out the platform.

A lot of people spent time building their Google+ profiles in hopes that their content would appear higher in search results, but now that Authorship’s been scrapped, it wouldn’t be surprising to see people migrating away from the network, and Google ultimately closing the project.

3) Even More Paid Social

Anyone who manages a company’s social media presence will know that Facebook has been dramatically decreasing organic page reach in a bid to promote their paid advertising offerings, and that unless you’re a huge brand with a significant following, the only way to reach all of your fans is to stump up the cash.

Couple this with Pinterest rolling out its Promoted Pins feature to more businesses in August, and Twitter expanding their advertising offerings to include more specific mobile targeting, businesses will more than likely boost their social media advertising efforts, as well as explore the possibility of hiring paid social media experts (we covered this in our digital job trends blog here).

4) Mobile

It seems an obvious prediction to make, but there are lots of reasons to suggest that 2015 will see an even more dramatic increase in focus on mobile-first in terms of social media marketing and advertising.

With Twitter developing its advertising platform and giving businesses the chance to target users by mobile network and users with new mobile devices, as well as buying mobile ad firm Tap Commerce back in July, it’s clear that social is leaning heavily towards mobile.

With this in mind, it won’t be surprising to see teams in larger companies purely focused on mobile social media advertising.

5) Bigger Use of Data/Analytics

Several social media platforms have really upped their game when it comes to analytics and data on offer in 2014, so I would expect to see even smaller companies making more use of the information on offer to them in 2015.

This comes after Pinterest released its revamped, incredibly detailed analytics dashboard in June, and Twitter announced that they’re experimenting with inbuilt analytics within tweets last month, so it’s clear that social media platforms are keen to share their data with their customers, and this will have a knock-on effect on businesses who will use this information for more intelligent social media marketing.

So there we go, some predictions on social media marketing in 2015. Do you think these will happen in the next 12 months, or do you have any predictions of your own?

Let me know in the comments below!

McKinsey & Company recently published "How Big Data Can Improve Manufacturing," which provides insightful analysis of how big data and advanced analytics can streamline biopharmaceutical, chemical and discrete manufacturing. The article highlights how manufacturers in process-based industries are using advanced analytics to increase yields and reduce costs. Manufacturers have an abundance of operational and shop floor data that is being used for tracking today.

McKinsey & Company recently published How Big Data Can Improve Manufacturing, which provides insightful analysis of how big data and advanced analytics can streamline biopharmaceutical, chemical and discrete manufacturing.

The article highlights how manufacturers in process-based industries are using advanced analytics to increase yields and reduce costs. Manufacturers have an abundance of operational and shop floor data that is being used for tracking today.  The McKinsey article shows through several examples how big data and advanced analytics applications and platforms can deliver operational insights as well.

The following graphic from the article illustrates how big data and advanced analytics are streamlining manufacturing value chains by finding the core determinants of process performance, and then taking action to continually improve them:

Advanced Analytics Big Data in Manufacturing

Big Data’s Impact on Manufacturing Is Growing

In addition to the examples provided in the McKinsey article, there are ten ways big data is revolutionizing manufacturing:

  • Increasing the accuracy, quality and yield of biopharmaceutical production.  It is common in biopharmaceutical production flows to monitor more than 200 variables to ensure the purity of the ingredients as well as the substances being made stay in compliance. One of the many factors that makes biopharmaceutical production so challenging is that yields can vary from 50 to 100% for no immediately discernible reason. Using advanced analytics, a manufacturer was able to track the nine parameters that most explained yield variation. Based on this insight they were able to increase the vaccine’s yield by 50%, worth between $5M to $10M in yearly savings for the single vaccine alone.
  • Accelerating the integration of IT, manufacturing and operational systems making the vision of Industrie 4.0 a reality. Industrie 4.0 is a German government initiative that promotes automation of the manufacturing industry with the goal of developing Smart Factories. Big data is already being used for optimizing production schedules based on supplier, customer, machine availability and cost constraints. Manufacturing value chains in highly regulated industries that rely on German suppliers and manufacturers are making rapid strides with Industrie 4.0 today.  As this initiative serves as a catalyst to galvanize diverse multifunctional departments together, big data and advanced analytics will become critical to its success.
  • Better forecasts of product demand and production (46%), understanding plant performance across multiple metrics (45%) and providing service and support to customers faster (39%) are the top three areas big data can improve manufacturing performance.   These findings are from a recent survey LNS Research and MESA International completed to see where big data is delivering the greatest manufacturing performance improvements today. You can find the original blog post here.

LNS Graphic

  • Integrating advanced analytics across the Six Sigma DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control) framework to fuel continuous improvement.  Getting greater insights into how each phase of a DMAIC-driven improvement program is working, and how the efforts made impact all other areas of manufacturing performance is nascent today. This area shows great potential to make production workflows more customer-driven than ever before.
  • Greater visibility into supplier quality levels, and greater accuracy in predicting supplier performance over time.  Using big data and advanced analytics, manufacturers are able to view product quality and delivery accuracy in real-time, making trade-offs on which suppliers receive the most time-sensitive orders.  Managing to quality metrics becomes the priority over measuring delivery schedule performance alone.
  • Measuring compliance and traceability to the machine level becomes possible. Using sensors on all machinery in a production center provides operations managers with immediate visibility into how each is operating. Having advanced analytics can also show quality, performance and training variances by each machine and its operators.  This is invaluable in streamlining workflows in a production center, and is becoming increasingly commonplace.
  • Selling only the most profitable customized or build-to-order configurations of products that impact production the least.  For many complex manufacturers, customized or build-to-order products deliver higher-than-average gross margins yet also costs exponentially more if production processes aren’t well planned.  Using advanced analytics, manufacturers are discovering which of the myriad of build-to-order configurations they can sell with the most minimal impact to existing production schedules to the machine scheduling, staffing and shop floor level.
  • Breaking quality management and compliance systems out of their silos and making them a corporate priority.  It’s time for more manufacturers to take a more strategic view of quality and quit being satisfied with standalone, siloed quality management and compliance systems.  The McKinsey article and articles listed at the end of this post provide many examples of how big data and analytics are providing insights into which parameters matter most to quality management and compliance. The majority of these parameters are corporate-wide, not just limited to quality management or compliance departments alone.
  • Quantify how daily production impacts financial performance with visibility to the machine level. Big data and advanced analytics are delivering the missing link that can unify daily production activity to the financial performance of a manufacturer.  Being able to know to the machine level if the factory floor is running efficiently, production planners and senior managementknow how best to scale operations.  By unifying daily production to financial metrics, manufacturers have a greater chance of profitably scaling their operations.
  • Service becomes strategic and a contributor to customers’ goals by monitoring products and proactively providing preventative maintenance recommendations.  Manufacturers are starting to look at the more complex products they produce as needing an operating system to manage the sensors onboard. These sensors report back activity and can send alerts for preventative maintenance. Big data and analytics will make the level of recommendations contextual for the first time so customers can get greater value. General Electric is doing this today with its jet engines and drilling platforms for example.

Additional sources of information on Big Data in Manufacturing:

Courtesy – Louis Columbus

top image: big data / shutterstock

Companies need to know that as attractive as BYOD can be, that doesn’t mean they should ignore the costs that can come with it. Few policies are without some drawbacks, so a realistic approach to BYOD can foster the benefits while appropriately examining the costs. With the right plan in place, the transition to BYOD can be a smooth and productive process, paying dividends for many years to come.

With all the hype surrounding bring your own device (BYOD), it’s easy to see why businesses are so eager to adopt BYOD policies. For one thing, there’s the promise of getting more productivity out of employees since they’re more familiar with the devices they can now use at work. That can also lead to higher rates of job satisfaction from all who participate in a BYOD program. Beyond these benefits, many companies are also enticed at the prospect of cutting costs through BYOD. After all, having employees use their own devices seems like it would lead to lower operating costs since organizations wouldn’t have to provide the devices themselves. This line of thinking, however, might not be entirely accurate. So businesses need to think beyond what is BYOD and instead ask themselves if it really saves money.

There is no true consensus as to whether BYOD by itself saves organizations money. Some studies, like the 2012 research done by the Aberdeen Group, show large businesses actually lose money as they adopt BYOD. That Aberdeen study found organizations that used at least a thousand mobile devices spent $170,000 extra on BYOD each year when compared to other mobile plans that used corporate-owned devices. While that may seem convincing, other studies and use cases show different results, where business actually saved money in the long run when adopting a BYOD policy. From these differing results, it becomes clear that simply implementing BYOD may not be enough to save on costs; it’s how the expenses from BYOD are managed that is the most crucial component.

One area that certainly deserves attention is the hidden costs that can accumulate from having employees bring their own devices to work. Without knowledge of these unexpected burdens, the costs of BYOD can quickly spiral out of control, effectively minimizing any benefits that could come from the program. The biggest source of concern with hidden expenses usually originates from employees engaging in costly behaviors. When expenses are paid for by the company, some workers may end up taking advantage of this and billing their employer for expensive data plans they normally wouldn’t purchase. Employees that are out on the road a lot may accrue roaming charges that the company would have to take care of. Some workers may also choose to upgrade their phones, again having their employer foot the bill. The key to ensuring none of these expenses gets out of control is to outline clearly in the BYOD policy which actions and behaviors are allowable and which are out of bounds. Equally important is the enforcement of these guidelines to make sure employees are always following the rules.

Perhaps the most important thing all businesses should focus on when adopting BYOD is the way the program will reimburse the employees. Some companies may choose to simply give employees a monthly stipend to cover the added costs that will add up from using personal devices on the job. A second option is to have employees fill out expense reports that will see them get reimbursed for specific charges. Either option is a viable strategy, but each one should be approached carefully, knowing full well that there are potential costs to each choice.

Handling expense reports is a straightforward solution with its own hidden costs. While the reimbursement is itself a cost that needs to be calculated, each expense report is also an added expense. According to business analysts, the cost of processing an expense report can range from $15 to $20. In large companies, the total cost can add up quickly. Part of that expense comes from having to deal with different parts of the company, like the finance and IT departments. The best way to manage the reports is to allow employees to file them less frequently, at least quarterly or even yearly. As for stipends, management should take a larger role in centrally planning how stipends are given out. That amount should be determined by factors such as the employee’s role, expected device usage, etc. Having a centrally managed BYOD plan also allows companies to negotiate better plans with providers, thereby reducing the costs of BYOD even further.

Companies need to know that as attractive as BYOD can be, that doesn’t mean they should ignore the costs that can come with it. Few policies are without some drawbacks, so a realistic approach to BYOD can foster the benefits while appropriately examining the costs. With the right plan in place, the transition to BYOD can be a smooth and productive process, paying dividends for many years to come.

The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) is out with its annual list of content marketing predictions. Here are a few of them that stood out for me.

The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) is out with its annual list of content marketing predictions. The organization published its list in a blog post yesterday titled 60 Content Marketing Predictions for 2015.

It’s hard to believe CMI has been publishing predictions on “content marketing” for seven years because it doesn’t feel that long, perhaps serves to underscore the important role of data.  While my own writing on these very pages often laments how far we have to go – one thing that struck me in reading through this year’s predictions was the realization of just how far we’ve come.

It is perhaps, the beauty of paradox: it is nearly impossible to look forward without in some way, shape, or form, reflecting on the past.

Below are a few content marketing predictions – in some cases bits of predictions – from this year’s list that stood out for me, though I’d encourage readers to make time to read through the entire deck. 

1. Content by acquisition.

“Medium-sized and large businesses will begin to purchase niche media companies because they thirst to create real relationships with targeted audiences,” says Joe Pulizzi, who founded CMI.

In my view this is a well-grounded strategy for business leaders who take the time to understand the media landscape shake up – and the opportunity in developing a community. What Adobe has done with CMO.com and CDW with BizTech Magazine, for example, are notable proof points.

Joe’s book also tops my reading list for any business leader trying to understand what content marketing means for business.  Here’s my take on his book: 8 Epic Takeaways from Joe Pulizzi’s Epic Content Marketing.

2. Rise of marketing ops.

“In B2B in 2015, we will see…Marketing ops will come of age,” writes Doug Kessler of Velocity Partners, based in the UK.

I couldn’t agree with Doug more, because I view this as a corporate huge pain point that can only be solved from within. More than just driving consensus on what is and what is not a qualified lead – and then routing those accordingly – I see marketing ops as the engine behind marketing automation, to include people, process and technology.

Marketing ops needs to be both business marketing and technology consultants.  They need to be able to paint artful pictures, draw effective flow charts all while writing scripts in code to link together tech systems.

3. Cooperative content.

“2015 will bring decentralized content creation programs with participants across the company (not just marketing), as well as content initiatives that rely on user-generated content in expanded and highly strategic ways. The best source of content in most companies may be right under your nose: your employees and customers,” says Jay Baer of Convince and Convert.

In my heart of hearts, I could not agree with Jay more. The businesses that nails this prediction in 2015 will find good fortune.  Jay has also written a book that I place quite high on my recommended content marketing reading list.  Here’s my review: Book Review: 7 Takeaways from Jay Baer’s YOUtility.

4. Participation marketing.

“Participation marketing is co-creating content with existing customers, partners and especially with prospective customers in the community, and I think we’ll see a lot more of that kind of crowdsourcing, which will affect content development and promotions,” says Lee Odden of TopRank Marketing.

Lee is an absolute master of co-creating content. It’ll take just a few minutes of scrolling through the posts on his agency’s blog the Online Marketing Blog to see examples.

I have followed Lee’s blog for a very long time – probably longer than any other marketing blog I still read consistently. So when he published his book…you guessed it…I called it a must read.  Here’s the review: Nine Takeaways from Lee Odden’s Optimize.

5. Distribution side of the equation.

“Content creation has gotten a lot of attention lately, but content management and distribution will rule the day in 2015,” writes Mike Myers who pens a blog titled Always content, never content.

Creation gets all of the glory but distribution must account for the other half of the content marketing equation.  This seems to be a recurring conversation of late, I have the sense Mike is right and predicting a renewed focus on distribution is a pragmatic expectation for the next 12 months.

6. Content marketing as a minimum barrier to entry.

As for my own prediction, here’s what CMI found fit for print (click here or image to enlarge):

Pragmatic Content Marketing Predictions

I’d be interested in your views, so please feel free to sound off in the comments.

Photo credit: Flickr, Rob Shenk; CC BY-SA 2.0

There are many different types of native ads, and two of the most common ones are search advertising as well as content marketing, the latter being particularly useful for businesses who are trying to increase their brand awareness, to diversify their target market as well as to boost their revenue. Sponsor-funded content is often placed alongside editorial content, with the specific purpose of reaching the target audience.

There are many different types of native ads, and two of the most common ones are search advertising as well as content marketing, the latter being particularly useful for businesses who are trying to increase their brand awareness, to diversify their target market as well as to boost their revenue. Sponsor-funded content is often placed alongside editorial content, with the specific purpose of reaching the target audience. 

Why Are Businesses Expected To Invest More In Native Ads In 2015?

The answer to this question is very simple: native advertising is flourishing across Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and other social media platforms and content portals, as well as news websites and streaming services. More than two billion people have constant access to Internet, and this is precisely why native advertising is one of the most efficient and straightforward ways to send a message and to raise visibility for a product or a service, thus helping business owners increase their sales and awareness. 

At the same time, another reason why the native ads spending will increase is because an increasing number of people have started to rely on mobile devices, such as tablets or smart phones, in order to access their favorite news portal for information or to buy items online, from retailers and online marketplaces. Statistically speaking, it was proven more than once that native ads are the most efficient in the content streams that are commonly accessed by mobile phone users – and media publishers, advertisers, marketers and business owners certainly want to make the best of that. In addition to this, recent surveys have revealed that the print ad spending is expected to decrease by $1 billion in the United States in the next few years – while the print ad spending records a decline, the online advertising industry (and native advertising in particular) will record a significant increase. 

In the United States alone, the digital ad spending on both online magazines and newspapers was of little over $7 billion, and it is expected to revolve around the sum of $8.5 billion a year, within the next several years. In 2015 alone, there is expected to be an approximate 30% increase in the native ads spending, as opposed to 2014. Native ads are literally being used by everyone – from high tech companies like Dell and IBM to internet fads like Ukraine dating. Media companies, social networking websites and all the other publishers are eager to create new revenue streams based on native advertising that would help them compensate for the constant decline in the print ad spending mentioned above – the more streams available, the more likely it is for marketing and advertising agencies as well as businesses to invest in native advertising. 

Google has certainly played a very important role in the increase in native ads spending over the past decade, as it has repeatedly launched products and tools to help marketers and publishers reach common ground. Taking Product Listing Ads as an example, this marketing tool has become an $8 billion market within only two years from the moment it was launched, back in 2012. Google was, and still is, the primary destination for searching products and services, even though increasingly more people have started to rely on mobile devices to get what they want. 

Online retailers are recording a 60% yearly increase in the revenue that originates from social networking websites. At the same time, the Product Listing Ads program mentioned above helps businesses that use it increase their mobile-generated traffic (people who visit their website via smart phones or tablets) by almost 50% each year. 

Overall, it is important to mention the fact that native advertising offers brand agencies the opportunity to help business owners gain an edge over their main competitors. The traditional native ads as we know them are somehow becoming obsolete as they are replaced by the native mobile ads, one of the most powerful and efficient tools used by digital marketing professionals in the United States for brand affinity. 

Last, but not least, it must be said that besides the fact that online advertising is slowly taking over offline advertising, there are several other notable benefits to native ads that will make them even more popular and sought-after in 2015: in addition for being a great tool for promotion, native ads are also great for lead generation and for increasing the conversion rate. From many points of view, it is safe to say that native ads play a much more important role in the sales and branding niche than direct-sales agents, and this has certainly caught the attention of large corporations. 

Anyone frustrated by the slow progress in adoption of mobile pay by consumers can thank Edward Snowden. Why? Putting the genie back in the bottle with respect to the public’s privacy concerns is going to take time. So is it any wonder we value privacy above all mobile commodities? And will Mobile Pay ever be accepted? Yes - and here's why.

Anyone frustrated by the slow progress in adoption of mobile pay by consumers can thank Edward Snowden.

Whatever side of that debacle you fall on – horror at the idea of Big Brother watching, or horror at the ease with which an NSA employee was able to leak thousands of classified documents – one thing is clear: putting the genie back in the bottle with respect to the public’s privacy concerns is going to take time.

Even the most even-keeled among us can’t avoid at least a flickering sense of paranoia post-Snowden, especially when you add in incidents like the Target and Home Depot hacks.

Is it any wonder we value privacy above all mobile commodities?

Think I’m exaggerating? Consider the over-the-top response to Facebook’s independent Messenger app. How many of your friends have yet to download it after all the privacy warnings that circulated upon its release?

While it was much ado about “nothing-more-than-you’ve-already-allowed-via-every-other-app-already-on-your-devices” (including Facebook itself), the list of permissions did give many people pause. As do digital privacy concerns in general.

So Will Mobile Pay Ever Be Accepted?

Yes. Of course it will – just like all other Internet-related activities we used to freak out about (like shopping and banking online). But it will probably take longer than technology companies would like.

Then again, it will depend on how well the front-runners handle things (for those not paying attention, that’s Starbucks and Apple).

Starbucks has been the poster child for single-retailer mobile pay success since its launch in 2011. Apple has just entered the picture with Apple Pay, but could there be a better masthead for an across-the-board mobile pay solution? It’s early in the game, but no one will be surprised in a few months if the numbers bear out that assumption.

But beating (or even keeping up with) Starbucks will still only account for a fraction of transactions (15% in Starbucks’ case), which isn’t exactly a rave for the adoption of mobile pay. Sure, some people are giving it a try, but the real truth is most people are super hesitant about the whole thing.

Mobile Pay is Scary but Inevitable

Here are the two biggest obstacles to adoption of mobile pay, according to a new report by leading engagement and insights platform, PunchTab, people don’t think they need it - and people are afraid of it.

About one-third of consumers are perfectly happy with the payment options they’ve got. And why not? They’re working well. They’re easy enough. What’s the rush to go all futuristic? But those people would probably jump on the bandwagon once mobile pay is being used regularly, and they see which apps are working best.

The real problem is the 62% of people concerned about data security. Comprised of people who don’t trust technology, are concerned about privacy, and/or concerned about the security of their personal information, this majority is who retailers and broader mobile payment solutions companies (like Google Wallet and Square) have to convince that mobile pay is safe, above all else.

For that you’re going to need a little help. (More on that below.) First, some good news. While the overwhelming majority either see no need or are wary of mobile pay, they still offered up a wish list of features they’d like to see incorporated into a mobile payment app. Sounds like they plan to join the ranks eventually, doesn’t it?

Consumers Want Specific, Yet Broad

Knowing what consumers want will help brands smart enough to give it to them gain the edge as consumers cross over from hesitation to adoption, and it will happen sooner than you think.

In short, consumers want it all. They want a mobile payment app that:

·      Can be used anywhere, but also offers store-specific integration

·      Speeds up the checkout process, and eliminates the need to carry cash or credit cards

·      Connects to their favorite loyalty programs, accruing and displaying points earned, as well as offering special deals and coupons

By 2020, the mobile payment industry is projected to reach nearly $3 billion (US) according to a study by Grand View Research, Inc. But retailers and other app developers shouldn’t assume that means they have plenty of time to get in on things.

Yes, most consumers are leery right now, but that will certainly change as early adopters spread the word (the help I mentioned above), and prove privacy concerns to be over-blown. Savvy Millennials (who particularly want store-specific integration along with broad-use options, even more than the 35+ demographic) are major influencers of all things tech, swaying older generations to jump on board.

Smart retailers won’t run scared just because consumers are – they’ll get in the mix and stake their claim in the mobile pay game now. Those that do will surely reap the benefits down the road when mobile pay becomes the next big thing we take for granted.

Where do you fall on the mobile pay spectrum? Are you nervous about data security, or just waiting until all the kinks are worked out before picking an app?