Thought Leadership and Social Media Marketing in a Product Company
A Conversation with Avaya’s Paul Dunay
For more than a decade, Paul Dunay has been a leading light on the marketing of information technology and IT services. Last year, he was named one of the top 25 B2B marketers by BtoB Marketing Magazine. His blog “Buzz Marketing for Technology,” was named as a Top 20 Marketing Blog in 2009 and 2008. And his 2009 book “Facebook Marketing for Dummies” (Wiley) has been strongly received as companies continue to embrace social media marketing.
For the last two years, Paul has been Global Managing Director of Services and Social Marketing at Avaya Inc., a Basking Ridge, N.J.-based company that sells technology and services for business telecommunications systems. Avaya is a privately held company that was spun off from Lucent Technologies in 2000. Prior to Avaya, Paul held marketing management positions at BearingPoint (a major consulting and IT services company), Nuance Communications, and Scient, one of the first Internet consulting firms.
The Bloom Group’s Bob Buday and Tim Parker recently talked to Paul about marketing in a product-oriented firm with a services business, and how thought leadership and social media come into play.
Thought Leadership Marketing in a Product Company
Bob Buday: Paul, Avaya is largely an IT product company, with a services arm. Since you joined the firm, you have made thought leadership marketing one of the tools in your tool belt. Why does thought leadership marketing matter for a product company?
Paul Dunay: In a pure play services company, thought leadership is super important because people are the product. And when you stack one of those products against someone else's, you're just looking at two different people. The only way to distinguish them is to say, “Hey, this guy's a distinguished author, and he has a point of view on your topic. If you do a Google search, you’ll find all this great information about him. He is going to be the one — or he and his team are going to be the ones — that you're going to want to hire.”
While I was at BearingPoint, my aim was create the rock stars. And then the rock star would create the rock band – other people in the firm who could also be positioned as experts on the topic. Of course that can be an issue if the individual leaves before the fame has spread to the band.
Avaya is a product and services company, so we have a physical product to stand on, and that's a lovely thing to have in the background. But from a services perspective, we want to demonstrate that we have thought leaders who can help install, maintain and optimize the product in the customer’s environment, and that customers can get the maximum benefit from their investment in Avaya.
Bob: Was Avaya already doing thought leadership marketing when you arrived, perhaps under another name, or did you start from scratch?
Paul: We began from a standing start. Of course, there was already some thought leadership, but it was rather product-centric. So instead of addressing more complicated issues such as “How to Minimize your Environmental Footprint with the Product,” we started with an earlier page from Bloom Group’s book. Essentially, I sat down and I asked, “Where's the 10 Tips to Better Implementing Unified Communication?” “Where's the Nine Causes of the Worst Contact Center Disasters?” “Where's our 10 predictions of What's Going To Happen In The Communications Field in 2010?” And people said, "Well, we've never done that." So I said "Well, now you will! Let's get going."
The reaction of the press was "We're not used to seeing you guys comment on this stuff." So I thought, "Ah ha! What I have to do with my thought leadership is to train them; to create a Pavlovian effect so that any time they think about communications, they think about calling Avaya for a comment. So I took a very rudimentary approach to it. I just keep giving them these "How To" and "10 Tricks" and "5 Tips" and "7 Pitfalls" and so on, to get our cadence right so that they would think of us going forward. In the meantime, I was building a content-generation engine.
Of course, this is a strategy that’s very specific to a product led firm that has services and wants to establish itself as a thought leader. It's a different challenge than I had at BearingPoint.
Tim Parker: Why do you think that thought leadership is important for a predominantly product company such as Avaya?
Paul: It's becoming more important for Avaya because we're in a relationship sell. Any time you're in a relationship sell, you need thought leadership. For instance, we have 10, 000 partners who can provide those services, too. So assuming you’re a customer that has made the decision on the product, now you have 10,001 choices for service. As the manufacturer, we should be able to distinguish ourselves by taking the body of knowledge that already exists within the firm and showing that to the market, so that we grow our services revenue.
Tim: When you asked people for the five critical success factors for whatever, were you able to extract that from the organization reasonably easily or did people have trouble stepping up?
Paul: It depends. With some groups, it's easier because they just get it. But some groups don't even understand what you're saying when you say “thought leadership.”
But I think I've gotten through that. We've escalated the game now from just basic thought leadership and starting to do some which is more advanced. We're looking at speaker bureau opportunities and putting a certain few key people forward and building them up so that we can develop a rock star team underneath them. They are, of course, natural leaders within the organization, so there are people beneath them anyway. But it takes work to get all of them visibility in the marketplace.
Informative and Breakthrough Thought Leadership
Tim: You talk about basic and advanced thought leadership. We sometimes refer to these as informative and breakthrough thinking. Informative ideas tell people the things the organization knows already such as certain pitfalls to avoid. The breakthrough material, on the other hand, comes from doing research, looking for patterns that lead to success, and then presenting something new about how to successfully tackle an issue.
Paul: I'm right at the brink of that. For our contact center products and services, we should be doing time-and-motion studies and call lengths and costs and benchmark studies on an annual basis, maybe in certain verticals. But we're not there yet, mainly because the bulk of my budget has been focused on getting the basics down this year. Then, we can start to add some of those nice, layering effects — like IBM’s CEO study, for instance. I'm a huge fan of that.
Bob: To borrow an analogy that you've used. Perhaps that's more of the Wayne Gretzky School of Marketing; getting out in front of the puck as opposed to looking back?
Paul: We can't afford to do Wayne Gretzky School of Marketing right now, because we're building basic thought leadership to establish ourselves in a leadership position. In the schema of Wayne Gretzky, that was getting out in front of a trend, calling a marketplace and building into it. We did that very effectively with several regulations at BearingPoint -- the Check 21 Act and Sarbanes Oxley, for instance.
It's not that we can't play there. It's just that I'm choosing to spend my dollars in a much more metered way.
Collaboration with Product Marketing
Bob: Paul, do you have a counterpart on the product side who gets involved in thought leadership marketing programs?
Paul: Yes. I have four counterparts on the product side, one each for the small- to medium-size business product line, the contact center product line, the unified communications product line and the data networking product line, which we bought from Nortel at the end of the year.
Bob: Do you collaborate with them?
Paul: Yes. They're quite focused on whatever the next release or revision of their existing product. We can help them by creating thought leadership around the product; how to use it correctly, how to install it, how to make it better, how to optimize it.
Bob: Do you find that product people recognize the value of thought leadership marketing?
Paul: Yes. In a pure-play services organization, the marketer plays a critical role. But he doesn't get a lot of love. You're fighting for budget, and you try to prove value. Product-oriented companies love and understand marketing. I would even say the budgets are a little bit healthier, a little richer. So you get a little bit more love. But if you are the services guy, like me, it's a little bit harder because they love the product more than they love the service.
Bob: So how do you get them to love services?
Paul: Typically, what I hear from a salesperson when she all of a sudden becomes a huge fan of services and services marketing is, "Gee, I wish I had brought you guys in sooner. I wish I had called you on that particular one that got way." I know I've got them hooked when I hear that, and that's really cool.
Facebook in B2B Marketing
Bob: You already have "Facebook Marketing for Dummies" under your belt, and I understand you are working on another book.
Paul: Yes, I am almost three-quarters done with the next one, which is "Facebook Advertising for Dummies" and in between I've put out one called "Social Media and the Contact Center for Dummies."
Tim: Where do you see the most interesting developments in social media for marketing of IT services?
Paul: We target technology people within IT firms, and they're all very “social-friendly.” So it makes sense as a B2B marketer to have a strong social media footprint from which to communicate with organizations, whether that is through blogs, micro blogs, forums or social networks. Those are the four mainstays that I set up at Avaya when we first built a social media strategy.
Tim: How about Facebook?
Any strategy I would write would have a Facebook component to it, because I believe in it as the hub of everything that you do. Facebook is a once-in-a-century communication tool. Every prior communication technology such as the Marconi radio, the Gutenberg press, photographs, video, TV, is on everybody's Facebook profile, which is next door to everybody else's Facebook profile with a low, low price of free. And the same is true of company pages.
I get even more excited about their ad platform. Why? Because for the first time, you can truly have a one-to-one ad. I posted recently about someone who targeted me. He said, "Hey Paul. I want to talk to you." For the unbelievable cost of $1.94, a B2B marketer can get to another B2B marketer. Of course I took the call. I like someone who's that innovative and wants to get in my face and have a conversation with me. I want to talk to them.
Bob: It's amazing but a little scary though.
Paul: I know. But I kind of like that. I think those forms of technology are really important tools for any successful B2B technology marketer. They have to be a hallmark of their strategy.
Other tools in the toolkit are videos, podcasts and other media for getting your message out. The marketer can use them to squeeze into every possible corner and making it as frictionless as possible; that is conveying it easily to the reader without their having to download pages for instance.
I've come about a full circle on that since we talked a couple years back, because I was a big fan then of populating my database. David Meerman Scott really got hold of me with his book “World Wide Rave.” He said, “You have to let that stuff go, and only ask for registration for premium content.”
We've been very successful with formulas like that such as eBooks. For my book "Facebook Marketing for Dummies,” I put three eBooks out in the three months prior to the launching. They were "Seven Ways Facebook Will Change Your Life," "Five Ways to Make Money with Facebook," and "Five Dumbest Things People Have Ever Done with Facebook."
At the end of each book, I said, “If you're interested in more on this topic, you can order the book on Amazon.” We sold 4,500 copies before it hit Amazon. The first press run was 7,500. At the end of the first month I got a call from the publisher saying, “We need your edits to the next edition.” I said, “What do you mean? I just gave the manuscript to you five minutes ago.” Of course, a million things have changed in Facebook technology, so we're actually going to a second edition as opposed to a second printing. And we should hit 20,000 or 25,000 copies sold in less than a year. So giving away content is clearly working.
Bob: I believe many people such as me use LinkedIn for work and Facebook for non-work personal use, i.e., with family and friends. Obviously, many B2B companies are not following that formula.
Paul: The lines between work and play are blurring. I recently saw a stat that there are two times more business-oriented searches on Facebook than on Google, which I find hard to believe, by the way. But I think it's interesting that people have Facebook open that much.
Another stat that blows my mind about Facebook is that people are staying on it an average 20-plus minutes at a time. I've seen one estimate of 45 minutes. Back in the Internet days, we used to say, "Oh, eBay, really sticky site. People are staying there a minute, a minute and a half.”
Tim: So, do you think LinkedIn has missed the boat here? Shouldn't LinkedIn be getting at least as much business-to-business usage as Facebook?
Paul: At LinkedIn, the numbers are a tenth of the size of Facebook. Facebook's going to announce half a billion people shortly. LinkedIn is at 50 million people. But, there's a rich conversation going on there. A lot of their groups outflank Facebook groups in a huge way.
Nonetheless, if I gave you the opportunity to put a billboard up in the middle of Times Square, would you do it, or would you put it in Jersey City across the way? Times Square is always the answer. That's the power of Facebook.
Twitter in B2B Marketing
Tim: How are you using Twitter?
Paul: Within services we have a group called Support. These are break-fix people who respond to maintenance requests. I figured there has to be someone who's not happy about the service we gave on any given day. Not that we give bad service. We are J. D. Powers winners two years in a row, and have been inducted into the hall of fame at the Technology Services Industry Association.
So one day I searched Twitter for Avaya and I pulled this Tweet, "Hey my blankety blank Avaya blankety blank mother board is down again. Blankety blank blank blank blank." And all those blanks are curse words. I printed that out and ran it in to the head of services and said, "Hey who's supporting that customer? He looks pretty unhappy."
He said, "You are, because I don't know how to spell Twitter. Go for it. Do anything." So we started to move into area pretty significantly. It's a little bit like email. The more email you send out, the more you tend to get back.
Same thing happens in social media: The more you get involved and the more you start connecting with people, the more you start getting conversations back. We've taken our conversation level from about 1,000 mentions per week, which was a shocking number to me, to 3,000. And we're going to reach 4, 000 mentions in next couple of weeks.
We're diving into dozens of issues: “Hey I need this, I can't find this.” “Where do I find this on your site?” “How about information on this?” “Where do we get a part for this?” Or “Something weird appeared on my bill.” Sometimes an error occurs and we need to get involved immediately. People are very happy when we respond to those.
The reason I am going into this detail is because in the middle of trying to craft our strategy, we actually found a product idea and market opportunities for it. I started to compare notes with folks at Dell. They have an entire team devoted to Twitter and community. But they're getting 10 times what I'm getting. They're responding to 4,000 to 5,000 mentions per day.
When I was talking to them in December, they said to me, “Aren't you from Avaya and don't you guys do contact center stuff? Aren't you number one in contact centers? Biggest market shares, 57% globally?” I said, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, that's us.” They said, “Then why can't you help us with this Twitter issue? Why can't you listen, pick up the stuff in Twitter that's related to support issues? Take it off of our back. Put it into the contact center where it belongs.”
Bob: Of course, it's another critical customer feedback channel. I presume that a firm like Avaya – since it sells technology into contact centers would be all over it.
Paul: Exactly! So I called Avaya Labs, also known as Bell Labs, the predecessor part of AT&T. They had seen this coming and they had been working on it for a couple of years, which was quite nice. In December I had the conversation with Dell. In March, we showed our new solution at VoiceCon [a major telecom trade show] in our hospitality suites.
The market’s reaction to it was fantastic. We were selling into true demand. We were able to tell people that if they wanted to beta the product, they had to allow the use of their name in a press release. If they didn’t, then no problem; we had other customers right behind.
Launching a new Product and Service with Social Media
Bob: Paul, are you going to market the new product/service opportunity?
Paul: The product's in beta and it's going to be launched in the fall.
Bob: How are you going to market it?
Paul: We will be doing everything! We're doing webinars. We have the physical book, "Social Media in the Contact Center for Dummies.” I have an e version of the book with premium content pieces you need to register to receive it. We've got a number of blog posts that I have put on our website, and we're going to continue that. The overall theme that this is rolling up to is “Experienced Management within Your Contact Center.”
We are also looking at sales force automation tools, at how perhaps you can take that data and pull it in with your tweets. The world is going to be a lot different when you start to say, “Oh, let's pull in all of the publicly available information from Facebook on this particular customer into the contact center.” And “I know your friend Sally who I helped last week — do you want me to conference her in, or do you want to just open up a Facebook chat with her and ask her directly what she thinks about the product?” Life is getting a lot smaller.
Social Media Disruption in Organizations
Paul: By the way, I think social media has a very business process reengineering (BPR) dimension. You don't hire, as you did for the web, a bunch of gray-haired or long-haired people and put them in a corner and let them go do something funky with the website. Social's not like that. Social is going to do a whirlwind BPR tour of your organization. It starts in marketing and communications. It already exists at Avaya in HR and recruiting. Obviously, IT is already involved in it. Billing and accounting, even product development and R&D are now being touched by social. Marketers have an unbelievably golden opportunity, but I'm fearful they may mess it up. With social media, you can take the whole organization and center it on the customer, making it all more customer centric. Or, you can just Tweet about some press releases, which is what I see happening now.
I don't see the balance of power swinging from traditional media to social media just yet. I'm hoping it's going to, but I think it needs more people like you to be out there saying, "Hey! Remember BPR? This is the new one. And this has the opportunity to transform your entire company, communications in particular."
Bob: I agree. Though I also think the resistance is going to be significant. The discussion we've just had on your blog about the death of the white paper is a microcosm of how difficult it is to get marketers to think differently. We took a very narrow topic called white papers and said, "Websites and social media have changed the game." Your past practices of automating the white paper, i.e., putting it in a PDF, need to be rethought? And look at the pushback we've gotten from people who are invested in white papers.
Paul: I know what you mean. But I think that the idea that social will transform the organization is inescapable, and there’s more work to be done on a wakeup call that needs to happen.
Paul: The privacy gods are rolling over in their graves. And the reason I say graves is because Scott McNealy [the ex-CEO of Sun Microsystems] said, “Privacy, there is no privacy, get over it.” That was before the turn of the century, easily 10 years ago.
I think of our children. Both my sons are very open with their information on Facebook. One is 15; when he hits 25 and is in an organization, I imagine he is going to want to see a very open, transparent dialogue with companies and its employees. He’ll want to be able to see the 360-degree feedback from his boss, and his boss's boss, and the CEO — to comment on it. This is the way that they are going to be thinking about our world.
We are not there yet, but we can expect everything to become more social. Your refrigerator is going to start tweeting, “I need service.” We can be shocked by some of this openness, but there is no turning this ship around. One statistic: The volume of user generated content has now surpassed that of publisher content. We (marketers) are the white noise now to user generated content.
I was at a concert at Madison Square Garden a couple of weeks back. Everyone was taking pictures and videos, and twittering and texting. Within a two row area of me, in that short amount of time, we were creating more content than I had created all year last year. And just think about that magnified across the entire Madison Square Garden, what must have been flowing out of that place in one evening.
That is what we are up against, as thought leadership, white paper content marketers. We've got to compete with them when we are their white noise. That is an unbelievable dynamic for us to be a part of right now. And certainly we are living through historic times. We need to find a way to get ourselves recognized as having valuable content.
A person can only take in so much content in one day. If someone says, “Hey, check out this video from this rock concert that I was at last night. And he is my friend from high school that I really, really love.” Of course I am going to check it out, because the next time I see him I am going to say, “Hey, I found it really cool and blah blah blah.” This will take away from time that I would have spent reading a new white paper, or reading a provocative blog post.
So if you do not have particularly valuable content, and you don't have a conversation with people, you are going the wrong way.
We all know how difficult it is to produce valuable content. And you've got to keep going with it. A white paper every quarter doesn't do it anymore.