Thursday, March 26, 2009

What I Learned at Satellite 2009

I've spent the past two days at the Satellite 2009 trade show. Given the overwhelming negative news these days, I'm thankful to spend some time with individuals and companies that are doing well, making money and excited about the future. The industry seems to be in a much better place than 2001 and seems poised to motor through 2009.

Here are the main takeaways:

1. Satellite operators and services companies have multi-year contracts that buffer them from somewhat from quarter to quarter fluctuations in the economy.

2. By and large, most satellite companies have remained immune to the leverage mania of the past decade and are in reasonably good financial shape.

3. The government continues to buy a huge amount of commercial satellite capacity.

4. Satellite capacity is at 90% utilized and there isn't a big number of new satellites going up in the next few years so pricing power and margins will remain good. There is no glut, like in 2001.

5. With utilization so high, current issues are interference mitigation and squeezing every last drop of data through the pipe.

6. Communications on the move (COTM) is again a hot application for both the military and commercial customers. I particularly liked the AT&T CruiseCast in-car satellite TV.

As with the FOSE show, I interviewed a number of people about their take on the show, hot trends, etc. We'll be polishing those up over the next few days and releasing them out into the wild...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Brand New Straight to the Point Podcast with Ed Bursk

I've been interviewing marketing executives as part of the "Straight to the Point" series for almost two years. One guy I've been working hard to schedule is Ed Bursk. Ed is a marketing consultant who has worked with numerous technology, networking, telecom and government IT companies in his career and has a wealth of knowledge and best practices. His experience includes Nortel Networks, Alcatel/Lucent, KORE Telematics and others. Take a listen to the interview and let me know what you think?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Social Media Is Sales

Social media is direct sales, sales support, customer service, advertising, public relations, and marketing. All in one. This fact is being increasingly proven in real world environments, especially sales and customer service. Here is the story from InternetNews:
Enterprises may be late adopters of social media, but a new effort by Salesforce aims to make it easier for companies to tap into the trend for customer service.

The company today announced a Twitter extension to its Service Cloud, the company's customer service solution.

The news marks the Software-as-a-Service (SAAS) CRM giant's most recent foray into social media. Last year, the company began showing off for Facebook, an application that lets enterprises build applications in Salesforce (NYSE: CRM) that take advantage of Facebook's social features and massive audience.

But there's demand in particular for customer service solutions because there's pain in the call center, said Alexandre Dayon, senior vice president of the customer service and support division at Salesforce.

Customers no longer go to companies to solve problems because the existing tools prevent it: Automated phone help is often seen as confusing, while Web knowledge bases are filled with irrelevant information and e-mail takes too long.

Instead, customers frequently abandon the telephone and the corporate support infrastructure and go to Google, Facebook, Twitter and to community message boards to get their answers. In response, companies are aiming to follow them to the Web, and some already have.

Forrester analyst, Jeremiah Oywang says in his blog, Web Strategy, referring to Twitter that-
Although they have not directly said it, I think Twitter can go further than this, they could be their own CRM system, by perhaps offering their own analytics system to brands, that will help them to track and manage the conversations within the 140 sphere. This has tremendous opportunities for Twitter should they create their own brand management system that they can resell to the world’s companies to monitor, alert, track, prioritize, triage, assign, followup, and report on the interactions with brands. The myriad of authority based tools will need to be incorporated, as some users have a larger network and are therefore more influential than others. On the other hand, they just might leave the firehose open for the incumbent CRM companies to take advantage of –and miss this opportunity, hell, Scoble is already expecting brands to contact him when he has a major life event. Either way, with a recent funding amount of $35mm, they’ve enough run rate to first manage growth, then prepare for monetization.

There are a few layers when it comes to how Social CRM can evolve, I’ll save that for a future post. On a related note, this is one of the key findings from our many interviews for the upcoming report: The Future of the Social Web.

Customer service integrating social media feeds is a good thing. However, I thing the real value of social media comes when you tie it directly into the sales cycle. When the sales cycle is nothing more than a natural extension of the real, open individual interaction between a prospect and a company, then we'll have realized the ROI of social media.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Old World is Gone...The New One is Here

It's an exciting day in the business world as Congress pummels the CEO of AIG, a company they own, the Federal Reserve announces that it will engage the supercharger on the nation's printing press adding $1.5 trillion (!) to the financial system and news leaked that IBM is thinking about buying Sun Microsystems, reversing a nearly 20 year trend focusing on software and services.

The understanding of the world we developed over the last 10 years of what was possible, of what was expected behavior has been radically transformed. Newspapers are going bankrupt, trade magazines are no longer credible and social networks have passed email in popularity. This disruption is affecting nearly every aspect of our personal and professional lives.

So.....imagine my surprise when last night I attended a seminar on state of the art government marketing practices...and no one talked about social if everything was exactly the same as it was in 2004. Hard to believe really, given that buzzwords like Gov 2.0 have been on everyone's lips as of late. It's clear that there needs to be yet more education on the measurable (read: $$) ROI of social media and how to integrate it into an overall marketing campaign.

Have you come across people that seem to be completely disconnected from the transformation that's occurred in PR and marketing in the past few years? I'd love to hear your war stories...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

FOSE- Part Deux

Another busy day at the FOSE trade show at the Washington Convention Center. I interviewed several business executives who focus on the government IT market for my Straight to the Point podcast series. I won't spill the beans now as we'll be releasing the video early next week, but here are some key takeaways:
  • all three executives are adding headcount and resources to their federal, state and local government sales and marketing teams
  • all three agree that the stimulus package will be flowing real dollars into state and local government coffers
  • beyond stimulus, all agree that the Obama administration's new priorities will shift new and real resources into cybersecurity, electronic health records, the smart gird and green technology more generally
  • two execs believe that there will be a pronounced relative shift in funding dollars away from the DOD/Intel world into the federal civilian agencies
Tomorrow is the final day of the show. I'll be working the show floor to meet as many companies as possible as well as heading over to the adjacent GOVSEC show.

Were you at the show? What did you think about it? Did you have any insightful conversations?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

FOSE- Day One

Well, FOSE got off to a bang with a keynote speech by Chris Anderson, the editor in chief of Wired. Chris is famous for the idea of the Long Tail, and has a written a book on the same topic. No surprise, but he was strongly in favor of government embracing social media, cloud computing and all the rest of the shiny new tools of the new paradigm. It was a full crowd and I saw many, many people typing away on their laptops. Given the number of #FOSE hashtags on Twitter today, there is plenty of interest from techie types in the idea that the government may be the last paying customer on earth.

I strongly recommend attending the keynotes of any conference but FOSE has a strong lineup this year. Tomorrow morning there will be a speech by Ann Livermore of the Technology Solutions Group at HP and Thursday morning there is Louis Freeh, the Former Director of the FBI.

Moving to my favorite place on earth, the trade show floor, I reveled in the pure capitalist splendor of several hundred technology companies, professional services outfits and systems integrators proudly displaying their latest shiny booths, giving their pitches and handing out schwag to the milling hordes of government workers. The common knock on FOSE is that there aren't that many actual, y'know, decision makers there, and that it's main value is awareness and networking. This is especially true for companies that offer services at a pricepoint that require the buy-in of a CIO, agency head, or (god forbid) Congress.

Still, given the overall economy, I felt better seeing all those hard working people greeting, talking, networking, twittering, selling, buying, researching, listening, talking, laughing, shaking hands and hopefully closing some business...better than cowering under the desk waiting for the world to end!

Sneak preview of Day Two tomorrow- I do video interviews with execs from Lenovo, Kodak, KORE Telematics and Spectra Logic for the Straight to the Point interview series.

Monday, March 09, 2009

The Week Ahead...FOSE/GOVSEC

Well, I've done it...I changed the layout of my blog for the first time in two years. Exciting, huh? I'm now using the TicTac Blue template that Google has so generously provided me for free. For those who haven't been paying attention, I previously used the Minima template, also from Google- although I had customized it to have three columns, something that took me a week, if I remember correctly. Zzzzzzzz.

LOL, setting aside the first paragraph, this is going to be an exciting week! I'm going to be spending a great deal of time at the FOSE/GOVSEC show down at the Washington Convention Center. I'll be meeting with prospects, new and old, catching up with contacts I haven't spoken with in months and conducting some video interviews of senior level marketers who's expertise is how to sell technology and services to the federal, state and local government.

The impact of the new Obama administration is becoming clearer as the months go by.
It certainly will be interesting to see how all this gets paid for: higher taxes (slower growth) or a debased currency (high inflation). Perhaps both. Not to worry- those are problems for another day, right?

I'm looking forward to speaking with the professionals at FOSE who interact with their government customers everyday. Their insight will be enlightening. This is what I want to know:

1. How is this year going to be different than previous years given the effect of economy and the new priorities of new administration?

2. What are government customers telling them about where procurement dollars are flowing? More, less? DOD/intel versus civilian?

3. What are they doing different this year in terms of sales and marketing strategy or tactics? More trade shows? Less? More sales staff? Less? More Lead generation? social media?

Is there anything else you'd like me to ask? Drop me a comment and I'll get the answers you're looking for...

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Prognosis Negative on Social Media Adoption in Healthcare

We all can be susceptible to hype, so it's a good thing to try and gather empirical evidence from time to time to challenge one's notions. Even if you think you are in great shape and have the body of a 20 year old Olympic athlete, it's probably a good idea to step on a scale once in a while and confirm that this is actually true. -ahem-

Everyone is talking about the impact that social media is having on the healthcare industry. But is it really? There are plenty of patient and doctor social networks and lots of hospital twitter accounts. But is any of this obvious activity actually engaging these disparate audiences? Are we all confusing motion with progress?

Well, my colleagues and I got to talking about the need for an informal survey to determine what impact all this social media adoption is having. Are people satisfied with the healthcare industry's embrace of social media? are they getting the information they are looking for? What sort of info are they, in fact, searching for? So we set up a quick survey on and distributed it through Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media sites.

Here are a couple of nuggets to digest:
  • 96 percent of respondents said the industry is not using social media enough to communicate, share information and engage with patients.
  • Ninety-nine percent of the respondents frequently used social media, including blogs, social networks and online communities, to discuss and research a wide variety of healthcare topics.
96% for a small survey is still pretty much everyone. I think we can conclude that the healthcare industry is nowhere near effectively engaging with it's stakeholders. Lots of work still needs to be done.

Take a look at the survey results. Let me know what you think- leave a comment...

1. How often do you review blogs, social networks, online communities and discussion forms for healthcare related information?
  • Never- 1%
  • Only once- 0%
  • Occasionally- 17%
  • Once a day- 16%
  • All the time- 66%
2. What kinds of information do you look for in social media and online communities?
  • Personal health information- 51%
  • Public policy information- 65%
  • Scientific research and developments- 68%
  • Market trends- 82%
  • Employment information- 21%
3. Do you think the health care industry, as a whole, is using social media well enough to communicate, share information and engage with consumers?

Yes- 4%
No- 96%

(BTW, any comments about statistics, sample size or standard deviations will be summarily mocked. :))