For some B2B organizations, the risk of becoming an echo chamber when it comes to company strategy is real. This month, during our webinar on analyst relations, we discussed how analysts can provide third-party feedback to help companies create a solid communications plan.
In her role, Patty ensures Symphony RetailAI, which is a client of Ketner Group’s, addresses the retail supply chain market with the right products, services and communications. At RSR, Steve helps current retailers make more strategic decisions about the role of tech in their enterprise.
According to Steve, the sooner the better. Engaging with analysts does not need to be expensive and there’s truly no bad time for a discussion.
Patty agreed that “the best time is all the time. When you think about building solutions, it’s really important to vet out the tech and the messaging. From a marketing perspective, it’s helpful to run these things by analysts, and have that as the backbone of your overall strategy.”
What are analysts looking for in a briefing?
The best inquiries all quickly summarize the company’s story. “We want to know what problems you’re trying to solve with your tech. That makes for a great conversation,” Steve said. “Don’t show me how the technology works right away; if I want to know, I’ll ask.”
Patty recommended technology companies identify a goal ahead of time. “Even before we have a conversation with an analyst, I want there to be mutual understanding of what I’m looking to get out of the conversation.”
Most importantly, both Steve and Patty emphasized the importance of being honest when it comes to what your technology can do and what you have planned for the future.
How can companies set the stage during a briefing?
“Establish objectives of a briefing early,” Steve said. He identified this as something Ketner Group, or another communications firm, can help with. In the beginning of the call, introduce the attendees, remind everyone what the goals of the discussion are and summarize the objectives.
For example, “We’d like to learn more about RSR. We’d like to introduce our new product, X. And we’d like to get perspective on how to bring the product to market.” For more tips on briefing best practices, check out these resources from RSR.
“As you’re getting your marketing materials together, getting perspective on even a word or two in your messaging can be valuable,” said Steve. Patty agreed that advice is helpful, particularly when using analysts as external validation for an internal idea.
B2B content has always been a key part of building thought leadership, engagement and even leads. Over the past few years, it has become even more important, but brands have struggled to keep up with the breakneck pace of change.
That’s where Alicia comes to the rescue. As the director of content at G3 Communications, she aims to help businesses take an omnichannel approach to thought leadership and ultimately build passionate, empowered communities.
2020: A landmark year for B2B content
For the past decade, DemandGen Report, a G3 publication, has been tracking content preferences. “Year over year, it remains the same,” Alicia said, “folks say, ‘over the past year, I’ve relied more on content.’”
As companies continue to rely on content, they have also seen a corresponding increase in demand.
Last year was no exception to the rule. While the full report isn’t out yet, Alicia was able to share some initial data from an upcoming DemandGen Report.
“62% of respondents said they relied more on content over the past year than any other year,” said Alicia.
Factors such as lockdowns and a lack of in-person events have driven the demand for content, which has become a key component of the now-digital sales processes.
Incredibly, according to McKinsey, only 20% of buyers and sellers want to go back to in-person. “If you can have the right kind of content and can guide someone through an experience digitally, you don’t need to get on a plane and go halfway across the country,” she said.
Creating creative marketing that stands out
When it comes to impressing potential buyers, businesses need a wealth of content. According to Alicia, buyers will engage with 3-7 pieces of content before they actively engage with sales.
However, when it comes to the type of content buyers prefer, there was a major shift last year.
“In 2019, it was all video. This year, webinars shot to the top,” Alicia said.
Research is showing some interesting contradictions in how people consume content. There’s a demand for easy-to-consume content, while at the same time there is demand for long-form content like whitepapers.
With iPapers, “you can see how much time users are spending in the experience. What people are clicking on, how long they’re spending on the page. This allows you to see what the tangible engagement is.”
“I encourage everyone to look at their content and find those bite-sized pieces to expand upon and connect to that long-form piece.”
Using content to generate leads
“How does content turn to leads?” It’s one of the biggest questions for marketers, alongside, how does PR drive leads?
“When we ask our customers what drives them to engage with content, there are always two answers: the trustworthiness of the source and the credibility of the content,” said Alicia. To build this trustworthiness, “you need good storytelling.”
According to Alicia that means understanding the audience, getting to the heart of their pain points, understanding their goals and framing the story through their eyes.
“Powerful, empathetic storytelling is what drives that lead generation success.”
When it comes to the numbers game, however, Alicia says to stick to quality, not quantity.
“A common thing we hear is that clients create huge projects that generate thousands of leads and none of them are qualified. Sales teams don’t even want to reach out to these leads,” she explained.
Want to keep talking about B2B content?
The webinar is over, but the conversation doesn’t have to be.
For the first KG Connects of the year, we were delighted to have Tameka Vasquez — strategist, educator and futurist — join Catherine Seeds to discuss the importance of being what Tameka calls, “stewards to the future.”
In her day job, Tameka serves as a global marketing leader at Genpact. She also just recently jumped back into the world of academia as an assistant professor at St. John’s University in New York. She started her work in futurism because, as she describes, “everything in the world is just made up, and we have the power to make up something else.”
Read a summary of the webinar below, or if you’d like, watch the full webinar on-demand through Zoom.
What is a steward to the future?
Tameka often uses the phrase, “steward to the future.” To her, it’s a literal phrase.
She explained that a steward is a person who takes care of passengers on planes or cruise ships during their trip. The same concept applies to marketing, according to her, marketers need to think, “how do we use [marketing] to navigate people from the point of where they are today to the future?”
A futuristic remix on the four Ps of marketing
Most marketers know the four Ps of marketing — place, price, product and promotion — as well as how important this is for organizations. However, in future-work, Tameka takes a different approach to this classic method.
She puts forth the following:
Possible: what is something that can reasonably happen?
Plausible: what is feasible given what we know right now?
Probable: what is likely to happen?
Preferred: what fits expectations and ambitions?
She stated the importance of these future four P’s, especially for marketers, because, “there is a high degree of uncertainty and there are a lot of contextual instances where you have to apply these four p’s.”
Applying futuristic thinking to marketing plans
As part of her work as a futurist, Tameka has to think, “What does it mean when we say the future?” She continued, “that could be 2021, it could be 2030. Whatever that marker of time is, you can then decide what the story that you want to tell about the future is. How do we use the attention that we have in the moment to give people a view of the future?”
Using 2020 as an example, she described how we needed to meet the moment by educating people on COVID-19 best practices while also thinking about how current events allow individuals and organizations to reimagine what the future could be.
“If 2030 was a time where certain things were possible, 2020 probably accelerated that path where we now need to think about those things far more intentionally,” she explained.
Getting comfortable with discomfort
The future means change, and change is very uncomfortable for many. Especially when those changes run counter to organizational planning. Tameka says that while strategic planning is never really going to go away, we can factor change into our planning easier than we could in the past.
She said that, “we have the capability to be social listeners in a way that we just hadn’t historically. While you’re in this space of planning, you also need to be in a space of listening.”
When it comes to meeting business goals, Tameka explained that it’s still possible to apply futurist thinking. The trick is to focus on KPIs while, “making slight pivots. The plan doesn’t get thrown out the window, you’re slightly shifting.”
Learning more about futurism
Futurist thinking isn’t the easiest to jump into. Tameka’s preferred method for learning is to look at what brands are doing beyond the product or service.
“I really want people to look at how certain companies have captured the moment and how they’ve used the sentiment of the time to better position themselves,” Tameka said.
She used the example of how Twitter has been able to respond to the moment where trust and transparency are critical. She said that Twitter has been creating features that improve transparency, such as flagging questionable information. This does two key things simultaneously: it demonstrates Twitter is rising to the moment while also showing what a future of transparency might look like.
Tameka also shared some great beginner resources:
Prescient2050: Free resources that will help get you started learning and using the tools of strategic foresight and shaping your future.
Brookings Events: A nonprofit that conducts in-depth research that leads to new ideas for solving problems.
Futures Festival: An event that highlights principles of inclusion, plurality, and collective participation as a means to how we can move toward challenging the status quo and move toward preferable shared futures.
Last week, we were excited to host our first-ever panel discussion on KG Connects! Moderated by Ketner Group president, Catherine Seeds, our panel chatted about the future of work and included: Daniel Oppong, founder of OhanaHealth; Carolyn Birsky, founder of Compass Maven; and Sterling Hawkins, internationally recognized thought leader who focuses on the #NoMatterWhat approach.
As Catherine said as she opened the webinar, we couldn’t have picked a better topic for the end of the year. The working world has changed so rapidly that it has been hard for anyone to keep up.
Fortunately, our panel was able to help us make sense of it all and walk us through the changes they’ve seen companies undergo throughout 2020, as well as what that means for 2021 and beyond.
Catherine: I’m curious, Daniel, are you seeing a lot of interest in the health-tech space right now?
Daniel: It’s a mixed bag, honestly. Even with the increase in hiring for the health-tech space in general, companies are still trying to figure out what they can do sustainably. Just because there is demand now doesn’t mean there will be demand over X amount of time.
Catherine: Has COVID helped or hindered companies’ recruiting efforts?
Daniel: Thinking about hiring, especially with the early-career candidates that I work with, presented a paradox. There’s a lot of opportunity, but also a lot of uncertainty as to where numbers are going to land at the end of the year. At the beginning of the pandemic, companies had to stop and see where things were going before making any hiring decisions. But as things have stabilized, companies know a little better going into 2021.
As far as creative ways to hire, look at more bespoke ways to distribute jobs. Look at more niche job boards like BuiltIn, Angel List or OhanaHealth to distribute jobs to the demographic you want to target. Additionally, get creative with who you involve in the hiring loop. Not everyone needs to be in the same physical space for an interview, so you can get more creative with who you involve in the hiring process.
Managing our teams in the COVID-19 environment
Catherine: Carolyn, you started your new managing position at the start of this pandemic, so I’d love for you to share some of the ways that you created a virtual environment to help them feel inspired, energized and innovative.
Carolyn: I joined my team fully virtually and I’ve met just one of the people that report to me in person at a distance. So, our entire experience together has been virtual. The biggest thing to focus on as a manager is being purposeful about the interactions you’re having.
I’ve encouraged my team to have office hours where new members can go to them and foster a team environment. We also do cold call blocks on Zoom where everyone mutes their audio, but we can see each other making calls, and we message each other asking questions or sharing success. I’ve been looking for opportunities to do those kinds of things that we wouldn’t be able to do in office.
How remote work changes company culture
Catherine: Sterling, how are companies keeping culture fun and alive within their organizations while remote?
Sterling: Culture is this very nebulous thing, but it’s something that each of us innately knows. For example, if you travel to Dubai, Shanghai or Paris, something inside you knows you’re in a different world and that you have to operate differently.
The same thing happens in companies, and it gets reinforced from the conversations we’re having internally. But the transition to the virtual world is a chance to distinguish what that culture really is. We can start to see there are pieces of our culture that aren’t effective. Or maybe they were effective, but they aren’t anymore. How can we change some of those dynamics?
Catherine: Company culture is a big part of recruiting, and how does showing that culture translate to the current circumstance?
Daniel: COVID has separated everyone from the idea that they can come to a space and get a feel for the company culture there. How are companies showing up for the candidates that they are interviewing? The value proposition of the company, the clarity of the mission, the experience of interacting with the manager in the hiring loop all has to speak volumes.
Moving from the brick-and-mortar to the virtual
Catherine: Moving forward, what do we do with our physical office space?
Sterling: The short answer is that it depends. What part of the world are you in? What are you working on? But Synchrony Financial Services announced they are closing their main offices and turning what’s left into a shared workspace. Now they’ve taken their overhead down and created a more dynamic, interactive environment. There is now some kind of hybrid approach that will look different going forward.
The hardships that come with the virtual workspace
Catherine: How do you deal with the isolation and depression, as well as the other mental hardships that come with working during the pandemic?
Carolyn: It starts with compassionate leadership. Even when we’re in person at an office, you need to, as a leader, start from a compassionate place. Certain people may have different home situations, you won’t know what that is, and you can’t pry into that, but you want to create a space where you say that you’re here to support them. It starts with leadership saying that your situation is OK and that you or anyone in the company is there for them.
Sterling: It’s so interesting how the pandemic has humanized all of our interactions. It’s almost expected and embraced for things to come up like crying children. Having some compassionate leadership is a piece of the puzzle, but also having some of the right support mechanisms inside companies to help people grow from these things matters. As we give our team mechanisms to help them grow, I think they’ll show up.
Daniel: I have to agree. Think about parents who don’t have changing work demands, but now have to think about their kiddos. How do we prioritize that? One of the things my company has done is focusing on employee resource groups. Like a working parents’ group, which has been a really meaningful way to support parents. To Carolyn’s point, having that empathetic view goes a long way.
Keep the conversation going
The conversation doesn’t have to stop when KG Connects is over! Stay connected with our panelists:
We just looked at the future of work, but the future isn’t just work. Marketers have a unique new world to conquer that requires moving beyond selling products and services. Learn how strategist, educator, and futurist Tameka Vasquez thinks we can all embed futuristic thinking into our strategies. Register here.
In November, we had the pleasure of being joined by Gary Hawkins, founder and CEO of the Center for Advancing Retail Technology (CART), on KG Connects. Hosted by Ketner Group CEO, Jeff Ketner, Gary walked listeners through what the digital evolution of grocery means for retailers and shoppers alike.
CART connects retail to new innovative capabilities through programs, events and education. Additionally, Gary is a highly sought-after strategic adviser and speaker, as well as a board member of companies that bring game-changing capabilities to market. He has written three books, Retail in the Age of i being the latest.
Retail 4.0: What the future of grocery retail entails
To set the stage, Gary and Jeff first discussed Gary’s latest whitepaper, “Retail 4.0: The Age of Metamorphosis” reveals the current and future changes expected in the grocery industry. There are three key themes Gary focuses on.
The first is the blurring of reality.
As Gary explained, “The world of digital, the online world is meeting and fusing together, melding with the actual physical world. As these things come together, it’s absolutely beginning to change and transform how we shop.”
The majority of people use their phones while they shop, which, according to Gary, opens the door to not only incredible amounts of information, but also augmented reality. As augmented reality technology continues to improve, the in-store experience will begin to utilize it more and more.
The second theme is the automation of business practices.
“Instead of a physical robot, we’re talking software robots that can begin to automate the decision-making process in a growing number of areas across the retail organization.”
The third theme is the opportunity for traditional retailers. Specifically, the ability for these retailers to, “play the exponential value creation game building out their digital networks.”
Who’s spearheading the future of grocery retail?
After the closer look into Retail 4.0, Jeff asked a rather simple question, “Who is doing it right?”
Who else but Amazon?
“The new Amazon Fresh Farm…They’ve brought Alexa into the store now,” Gary described, “if a shopper has a question, they don’t have to seek out a clerk, they simply go to an Alexa station and ask their question.”
Which ties right back to the first key theme in Retail 4.0.
The pandemic’s impact on retail
When asked about the role of COVID-19 on the grocery industry, Gary had one word—Accelerant.
“Before [the pandemic], online grocery was maybe somewhere around one or 2% of sales. Literally overnight, retailers experienced a doubling or triple of online sales. I’ve talked to some retailers that saw even 5x or 6x of online sales growth. Simply exploded.”
Gary continued by explaining that the growth has plateaued, allowing retailers to reassess their systems and ensure they are prepared for the foreseeable future.
He also noted that, “for an industry that has almost resisted innovation and change for the past 100 years, when they need to, retailers can move really fast.”
One area where he saw this unusual speed was employee communication. Retailers, typically through apps, were able to push out training for sanitation, coordinate messaging and rapidly changing scheduling for every associate.
Grocery innovation on the horizon
Being at the forefront of new technologies, Gary sees a lot of interesting new startups enter the retail space. One area that he is watching with a keen eye goes right back to the first theme of Retail 4.0: augmented reality.
“I saw a stat recently from Gartner that over 100 million people are using AR primarily through their smartphones. I think we are simply going to see that explode in the next 12 months as Apple introduce their smart glasses,” Gary continued, “I’m really looking to that technology to transform the shopping experience.”
Marketing to the individual shopper
Augmented reality isn’t the only cutting edge. Gary also lauded AI and machine learning’s current and future potential, as well as its ability to power key business systems such as personalization.
“It’s helping to facilitate the automation of different decisions. For example, it is more efficient for a mass retailer to go to market on an individual customer basis than it is to go to market with traditional mass promotion.”
While it would seem that meeting the individual preferences of shoppers may be harder to achieve, Gary explained that, at scale, the 1-to-1 marketing tactics will, in-fact, smooth supply chain issues by removing the spikes in unit sales caused by mass promotion.
While there are challenges to implementing this method, they aren’t caused by technology, but by retailers and brands themselves. Gary stated that retailers need to move away from over a century of thinking about how they do business.
This includes brand promotions as well.
“When you shift to a true 1-to-1 model, that changes how brands pay retailers to promote their brands to shoppers on a mass scale.”
The 2021 digital retail experience, and beyond
The fact is, in twelve months, we may find a very different retail experience in grocery stores that are on the cutting-edge of technology. Online grocery has had a major impact on the physical store, and Gary expects to see stores become hybridized between a traditional grocery store and a micro-fulfillment center.
“Every retailer is now focused on making online retail profitable, and when you’re sending people up and down the isles to fulfill those orders, it’s tough to get profitable,” Gary said.
Gary is seeing a, “stampede,” toward the automation and micro-fulfillment side of grocery retail. He expects that stores will begin to move the micro-fulfillment center to the back of the store, while the front half focuses on fresh foods and customer experience. Experience being the operative word according to Gary.
“If that store can’t provide an experience to get shoppers out of their home and into the store, they won’t be there,” and because grocery delivery is so prominent, he explained that, “the days of utility shopping are gone.”
Breaking into the grocery technology market
Gary was asked, “how do new technology companies market themselves to retailers?” While the inability to meet face-to-face makes marketing a challenge, Gary offered a bit of advice.
“Understand the space, the retailer’s challenges and needs and then work to craft that vision and story about why the retailer should be talking to you. Retailers need to focus on the vision — what’s coming — because things are moving really, really fast.”
Regional grocers can utilize technology to keep up with major retailers like Walmart. According to Gary, “it’s not about access to the technology, it’s about can that regional retailers change their culture? Can they move faster? Deploy things faster? Can they change their processes and how they think about their business?”
Hear it direct from Gary and sign up for the next KG Connects
As we wrap up 2020, we’re looking toward 2021 and how work will change even further than it has over the past year. Join Carolyn Birsky, Daniel Oppong and Sterling Hawkins as we dive deep into how to maintain a culture, recruit talent and keep some kind of normalcy all while remote. We look forward to seeing you! Register here for free.
In our latest KG Connects webinar series, we heard from Jackie Trebilcock firsthand about the work that the New York Fashion Tech Lab (NYFTLab) is doing to empower women-led fashion-tech and retail-tech companies.
Jackie is the managing director of NYFTLab and boasts over 15 years of experience in fashion, technology and business development. She has spent much of that career working with entrepreneurs to grow their vision and companies via strategic planning and relevant industry introductions.
Elevating fashion-tech companies
For the past eight years, NYFTLab has facilitated partnerships between growing companies and big-name global brands. Founded by Springboard Enterprises, alongside key fashion retailers, NYFTLab’s mission is to support women-led companies that have developed incredible innovations merging fashion, retail and technology.
Through the connections to capital and retail partners, Jackie describes what NYFTLab does as, “a business catalyst…our whole goal with this is to provide more exposure and a platform for the companies to share what they do.”
This is a sentiment echoed by co-founder and CEO of HaftaHave, Amanda Latifi, a 2020 Lab participant.
“The connections and relationships that Springboard and Jackie have forged with top brands and marketers in the retail industry is bar none,” Amanda said. “This is not VC’s telling retailers about emerging tech, but retailers selecting emerging technology to work with based on known needs and pain points.”
NYFTLab is empowering women and emerging tech
NYFTLab is highly focused on a particular group, recruiting women-led early and growth-stage emerging technology companies. While that description might be narrow, the areas of interest for the Lab are anything but. AR/VR, blockchain, data analytics, content marketing, supply chain and so many more technologies are welcomed into the fold.
Participants in the Lab have hailed from all over the globe. From Paris to Singapore, anyone from anywhere can apply to the NYFTLab program. The Lab also partners with brands and retailers from outside of the U.S.
“It’s becoming increasingly more global than it was when we started,” Jackie said.
While the participants were selected in February, the fact that they are pushing the bounds of technology means that they were well-poised to take on the unique challenges that 2020 brought.
When asked about the intersection of technology and fashion, particularly in the pandemic, Jackie said that, “everyone needs to think differently. The consumer has been really changed and challenged as to how they can shop how they used to. All of this has created a huge opportunity for new companies to come to the forefront.”
Watch this webinar and sign up for the next KG Connects
On deck: Grocery’s Digital Disruption: What’s Ahead for 2021
The world is changing at a breakneck pace, and retail is no exception. Mark Fairhurst and Sylvain Perrier, creators of the “Digital Grocer” podcast will focus on what’s ahead for grocery retailers in this fireside chat featuring special guest host Jeff Ketner. We look forward to you being there! You can register here.
Kia is an entrepreneurial solutionist who intersects communication, culture, crisis, and community, most specifically through her leadership with MEPR Agency – a boutique communications and community engagement agency founded in 2006.
Defining diversity, inclusion and accessibility
To begin, Kia defined concepts that are essential to driving change.
While diversity is about differences, inclusion is about experience. Inclusion involves fostering an environment that is safe and welcoming regardless of experience.
When moving from diversity to inclusion, what’s often missing is equity. Before establishing true inclusivity, historic wrongs need to be made right. Policies and processes of change must be underway in order for a community to advance.
How do companies start diversity initiatives?
When working to achieve diversity and inclusivity, there must be commitment from leadership in order to enact change. Then, companies must look externally to an expert that can help point out blind spots, and operationalize and implement practices.
It’s important to recognize visible things that are missing from an organization – whether the answers are a who or a what. For example, when employees had to work virtually because of COVID-19, many companies didn’t assess the access employees had to the right technology and connectivity.
What’s more, knowing that conversations around diversity and inclusion will be difficult, it’s helpful to start small. Consider this moment as a time to adapt, and truly listen.
As communicators and marketers, setting goals is second nature. For diversity and inclusion efforts, businesses should look at goals in two ways: visually and anecdotally, which might not be measurable. Trust is a metric that’s hard to quantify, but absolutely important to the process.
Start with a conversation – Discuss the internal and external climate with employees. Whether this is as a one-on-one or in a large group, as formal training or a book club, current events constantly affect the work environment.
Ensure goals are embedded into strategic plan – Goals that involve diversity and inclusion should be embedded within the company’s growth plans. If it’s not written down and assigned, it won’t be managed, measured and achieved.
Be explicit – Lay out how you want your teams to look, and ensure that they are reflective of the communities you serve. Remove “cultural fit” from your hiring vocabulary, and instead focus on “cultural add.” Often, it’s not an issue about finding diverse talent, but keeping them.
Work together to re-evaluate company values – Discuss as a whole how the business moves from conversation to putting efforts into practice. Ensure you’re held accountable. The processes often takes a long time, as you’re reevaluating company values.
Developing external communications
Lastly, Kia pointed out what’s lacking in inclusive external communications. Media needs better visuals that accurately capture our society. Share images of what might not be considered “traditional,” such as a nonbinary person or someone with a prosthetic, and ensure you’re using actual voices. Most importantly, these efforts must be authentic and true.
When looking to understand other communities, Google is your best friend, as it can provide information into classes and resources that may even be provided locally. Nielsen and Pew can also serve as great data sources.
Next up: A peek inside the New York Fashion Tech Lab
Technology and innovation is critical to the fashion industry. In October, we’ll host Jackie Trebilcock for a look inside the New York Fashion Tech Lab and how it empowers women-led tech companies. We hope you’ll join us! You can register here.
For the August 2020 edition of our KG Connects webinar series, we hosted internationally known retail experts Manolo Almagro and Ben Gauthier from Q Division. They are experts in commerce and technology, working with startups and brands worldwide to promote and deploy emerging retail tech and take advantage of key trends. They joined us for a conversation on what to expect as the retail world resets, recovers and advances in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic and economic downturn.
COVID-19 creates an opportunity for retailers
While “post-Covid” may be overly optimistic to say at this point, retailers and technology companies need to know what to prioritize and where to focus to shore up infrastructure while the “opportunity” of closed or limited store capacity, so to speak, still exists.
While big box retailers including Target, Lowe’s and Best Buy have performed exceedingly well in recent months, mall-anchor retailers such as Macy’s, Nordstrom’s and Kohl’s are facing big challenges. In all cases, most of the response to the pandemic was cemented well before 2020, as they deployed or failed to deploy the right technology infrastructure, customer engagement strategies and assortments that served customer needs.
A big part of that is that the way people shop for regular items – from groceries to back-to-school items to holiday shopping – is changing. Of course, that was true before the pandemic and those changes have accelerated tremendously since.
Retailers must go virtual to meet changing consumer behavior
Just like the way we communicate and entertain ourselves as communities have gone fully virtual, retail has to as well. And it’s benefited the big retailers who have pushed innovative solutions to sticky problems and punished the laggards hanging onto old glory.
As foot traffic in physical stores continues to slowly but steadily regain momentum, it’s essential to remember that it’s human nature to be social. Shopping in person is part of that, but in a “post”-pandemic world, the digital influence can’t be ignored.
Of course, the way technology is deployed needs to be strategic and what works for one retailer would be foolish for another. That said, technology investments shouldn’t be patchwork, hole-filling remedies. Retailers need to truly reconsider how their business model plays with their consumers’ wishes – now and into the future – and respond in kind.
Technology is ready to power future retail success
Ben and Manolo took us through some of the most important innovations. Of course, the pattern will be different for everyone, but what’s true for all is that a service or process that was once radical may quickly become foundational, and what was once foundational may seems suddenly secondary.
For example, curbside was a forced behavior among most grocers. A somewhat slow-to-innovate industry with customers who aren’t always highly tech savvy, curbside quickly became a lifeline and is now very popular across demographics.
When we look at restaurants, we also learn a big lesson on loyalty and owning the customer relationship fully even when launching new services. Restaurants obviously took a huge hit. But some sectors, such as pizza, did well. They were structured to thrive on quick delivery and had the ecosystem in place.
For others, the fees were so high on partnering with a service like Uber Eats that they struggled to really take advantage of the profit those services bring. And when the customer interaction with the restaurant goes through the app, brand identity and value take a hit, too.
That said, consumer loyalty across retail segments quickly shifted from an enjoyable in-person experience or goods rewards program to more fundamental needs, and availability became paramount for driving loyalty. Now, success is all about delivering those new services with efficiency and transparency, and providing great results with availability, quality, speed and consistency.
How to identify the best technology application
Want to learn about the specific technology applications that will take center stage as retailers look to own their customer relationships while reimagining what retail experiences mean to their brand? Watch the webinar to learn more about:
Walk-up, curbside, drive-through
Virtual shopping / telepresence
Home delivery partners
Buy now pay later
Loyalty = availability
Operations and supply chain
ML demand forecasting
Autonomous everything and robotics
Next up: discussing inclusive communication
It’s also critical that no business loses sight of the power of communication to develop and maintain strong communities. In September, we’ll host Kia Jarmon for a conversation on The Art of Inclusive Communication on how to do just that. We hope to see you there!
90 million Americans regularly consume podcasts. And B2B podcasts are an increasingly key part of that.
Listeners tend to be educated, affluent and loyal – the exact audience most B2B brands want to reach.
That’s why we were fascinated to talk with Clark Buckner, co-founder and partner of podcast consulting agency Relationary Marketing, for our July 2020 KG Connects webinar. He gave us the scoop on why B2B podcasting works so well and shed light on his five-step process for how to develop a great B2B webinar.
Does B2B podcasting work?
Yes, B2B podcasting works well for three reasons:
Podcasts are intimate – When you listen to a podcast, it’s a real human speaking directly to you about something they’re passionate about and you’re interested in. It establishes a sense of shared experience that supports the idea of an established relationship.
Podcasts are accessible – In the car, at work and especially streaming from smartphone on any number of apps, podcasts are a versatile medium for sharing and consuming high-quality content.
Podcasts are passively consumed – While listenership has taken a small hit during pandemic as fewer people commuted, they’re still popular to consume while doing other things like going for walks, doing a workout or cooking dinner. Really, any time away from a screen provides both a captive and passive audience for podcasts.
How do I start a B2B podcast?
Clark uses a tried-and-true formula when helping his clients launch a great B2B podcast:
When viewed in a list, it’s easy to assume that each stage should be given equal consideration.
That’s not a wise approach.
Brands considering a podcast have intrinsic challenges. It’s labor intensive and rare to have all the right technology and skills internally to produce a great podcast.
It’s now easier and more affordable for agencies and brands to work with a company like Relationary than to do it alone. But first, they need to master step one – content design.
What’s the first step of launching a B2B podcast?
The first step of launching a B2B podcast is content design. A lot of companies get caught up worrying about technology or guests or who will host it… all undoubtedly important questions, but not the first thing to worry about.
Clark recommends focusing exclusively on five elements of content design before stressing the small stuff.
Goals – What does success look like for your podcast? Be specific about one or two goals that a podcast can uniquely achieve for you. Brand awareness, lead generation or helping existing customers get the most out of your platform are all good options. Given that you’d need 10,000 regular listeners to even consider selling ads, B2B podcasting is about relationships. Sell the mission and a belief in your team and company as trustworthy and capable partners.
Target audience – Most B2B companies have highly targeted audiences. Will everyone in your consumer base pay attention to or be motivated by a podcast? Will prospects at different stages of the funnel be more interested that others? Once you know what the goal of the podcast is, you can define the audience and figure out what matters to them most.
Episode structure – Will you do one-on-one interviews between a company employee and a guest? Will you have an independent podcaster lead these conversations instead? Or do you plan to only interview internal experts? You could also develop a narrative structure and tell stories of great case studies or have people you’ve helped record themselves telling a story. Options are limitless, but pick one that will work for you and stick with it.
Episode frequency and length – How many interesting conversations can you really lead? How much time will you dedicate to the podcast and how much time do you expect your audience to give? Think of podcasts like a TV show, with seasons. Figure out each season’s episodes ahead of time and stick with a standard cadence and episode length. You can always change it up for season two.
Title/marketing – Like any form of branded content, podcasts need to be promoted to attract attention. Figure out how you’ll recruit listeners and what kind of resources are available to bring in new listeners. Podcasts are far easier to produce than ever before, but without additional promotional effort on top of it, you’ll be sitting on great content with no listeners.
How do you go from plan to production?
With this foundation, it’s relatively easy to go through the rest of the steps as long as you have access to the right network, skillsets and technology.
Step 2: Prep
Figure out who you’re going to have on your podcast and how you’ll prep them to lead a conversation that serves your company’s goals. It’s great when your guests are the kind of experts who can talk at length about a number of interesting ideas. It’s your job to let them know what you need from them, and have a plan for keeping them on track.
Step 3: Record
Unsurprisingly, the environment you record in matters. Surprisingly, the tech doesn’t matter that much. It’s far more important to have a great environment. It’s better to use basic headphones that come with a phone and be in a quiet, confined space than use an expensive mic in an open space such as a kitchen.
Case in point: Clark usually has an office to record in, but working from home during the pandemic, he uses his closet.
Step 4: Produce (i.e. edit)
You’ll never get commercial grade quality from the raw footage you record. To polish the final product, work with a partner or invest in technology that offers sound editing and also content editing.
Don’t over-edit. You want it to sound human. Breathing sounds may feel awkward at first, but it’s elements like this that give podcasting it’s personal touch and relationship power.
Step 5: Publish
At this stage, most brands will send the final product off to their marketing team, creative directors or communications agency to help promote the material and drum up interest.
Like we said before, if people don’t know the content exists, they can’t listen and become loyal brand fans and customers.
Let’s talk about podcasts
If you’re interested in launching a B2B podcast or getting more visibility for one you already produce, we’d love to help you do it. Check out Clark’s full presentation or shoot us an email to set up a free 30-minute consultation.
Note: We published this blog post in preparation for Justin Goldstein’s webinar on broadcasting. Since publishing, the webinar is live, and you can catch it on demand!
Broadcast media is booming as the Coronavirus pandemic restrictions only begin to loosen and everyone searches for sources that can provide reliable and timely information. Consider, recent findings from Nielsen show that 83% of consumers are listening to as much if not more radio than before the pandemic.
Clearly, if you’re looking to secure television, radio or podcast placements, now is the time to do so. But, be aware that producers and reporters are just like us and mainly working from home due to the virus. A refined approach is more important than ever to break through your contact’s inbox and earn their interest in an interview.
Here are a few recommendations to consider:
Provide Key Assets Upfront
Are you in the process of developing assets like b-roll, headshots and bios for your spokesperson(s)? If so, hold on pitching until you have these elements so that you can include them in your first pitch to producers and reporters.
These contacts are sifting through hundreds of emails while trying to coordinate interviews via platforms like Zoom and Skype that they normally don’t work with. There’s a good chance that if a reporter opens your email and doesn’t see at least one or two of these assets listed, he or she will delete your email and move on to the next opportunity. If for no other reason, moving on reduces the stress of sending a follow-up email to ask questions.
How can you best incorporate this information into your pitch?
In your subject line, note that you’re offering an interview and these assets.
Provide a link to download your b-roll and headshots via Dropbox or a similar platform to avoid your message going to spam.
Include your spokesperson(s) bio towards the end of your pitch so that it doesn’t take away from the story that you’re trying to tell at the top.
Use Your Voice
Phone pitching is critical in broadcast media relations, especially during COVID. Newsrooms are overwhelmed with pitches, coordinating segments with their producers from afar and receiving updates on Coronavirus-related stories from the public. So, the chances of them responding to email outreach are less than the print/online reporters that you might be more familiar with.
It will likely be harder to reach reporters and producers directly. Your next step is to call a network or station’s assignment desk and speak with an assignment editor. They are well-positioned to coordinate interviews or connect you with a contact that can do so. You can also leave a voicemail on a producer or reporter’s phone. They often check to make sure that they’re not missing any important messages while away from the office.
Many broadcast contacts are doing their best to adapt to navigate the pressures of virtual planning meetings and interviews. While you can certainly share your spokesperson(s) platform preference for connecting, try to be flexible.
If a reporter asks to connect via Skype and your spokesperson(s) is hesitant to pursue because they’re not used to the platform, try to schedule a quick training session. Get them to feel confident and comfortable going into an interview rather than push back on the reporter.
Consider creating video-conference meeting invites for reporters and producers and offering your willingness to do so in your pitch. This removes one extra step in coordinating an interview that they don’t have to manage.
Be aware that if you’re staffing interviews on Zoom video, your video box will appear, so it would be best to confirm with your contact that he or she can have their team edit you out before finalizing their segment.
Broadcast media is a powerful tool that should be leveraged for your media relations program. But, it’s crucial to approach your contacts in a strategic manner to garner their interest. Your results depend on it.
Attend June’s KG Connects Webinar to learn more
Want to hear directly from Justin about the state of broadcast media and both evergreen and timely best practices for securing coverage?
Join us on Friday, June 26 at 10:00 a.m. ET for the next edition of KG Connects! Learn more and register here.
About Justin Goldstein
Justin is president and founder of Press Record Communications, a strategic media relations agency with expertise in broadcast media. He is an award-winning media relations pro, voted an Exceptional Under 35 by the Public Relations Society of America. He has developed and implemented broadcast media relations programs that have supported clients like General Motors, Best Buy and the Clinton Global Initiative.
In recent years, Justin has coordinated event broadcast press campaigns for the Consumer Electronics Show, Detroit Auto Show and Conference of Mayors. Justin also served as morning drive producer at WRHU-FM, New York’s number one non-commercial radio station. His work has been recognized by PR News, PR Newswire and the Hermes Creative Awards.