MAD Perspectives Blog

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 Does B2B need a new app?

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Many years ago a technology industry CEO distributed a poster throughout its various corporate, sales and manufacturing offices stating something like “Technology is always changing, if you cannot keep up with the pace of change then you are in the wrong industry.”  This was before Unix, before the internet and long before social media was even a glimmer in anyone’s eye.  The technology industry IS constantly changing and at pace unimagined more than 20 years ago.

So, how do we keep up?  Social media has changed the face of communication forever and who knows what’s next.  While it is possible to imagine that IT hardware will continue to see improvements related to performance, price, environmental impact and size, it is more difficult to forsee how applications will evolve.  An articled on Wired.com recently debated the death of the web while the internet lives on.  Regardless of your point of view, the commentary regarding the implication of an app based future is intriguing

Thanks to Apple and its ubiquitous devices, there seems to be an app for everything from reading our favorite publications to comparison shopping to bouncing penguins off the wall.  Social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, FourSquare, Groupon have led or leveraged the growing social mentality to share, communicate, and interact based on interests and now location.  Whereas 20 years ago we spoke of Big Brother’ and our fear of anyone having any visibility of comings and goings, now we have left “1984” behind and voluntarily share our likes, dislikes, and destinations.

Do we need to adopt all forms of social media and start developing apps for fear of being considered a ‘neo-luddite’? The term “social media” is becoming all encompassing.  Any application that creates some sort of community experience is considered social.  A community could be moms against peanut butter or customers interested in new storage technologies or individual investors trying to navigate the financial markets.  The challenge is in how any of these tools can provide solutions that are aligned with strategic business goals.

B2B Companies are using or experimenting with social networks to:

  • - understand customer opinion -> to increase customer satisfaction, customer retention, modify product features/functionality, maintain customer loyalty
  • - invite customers to events or webinars -> to  increase customer knowledge, increase customer touch points, qualify customer interest, increase quantity of leads
  • - provide product updates ->to  increase customer knowledge, invite customer input, increase customer loyalty
  • - share industry insight -> to show thought leadership, educate customers,  improve competitive differentiation
  • - offer special discounts or deals -> to drive short term revenue, create awareness,  reward community members
  • - create communities -> to understand trends, drive discussions on select topics, recruit new employees, crowdsource to solutions to simple and/or complex challenges

As long as these activities support higher level goals for sales, innovation, operational efficiency or other needs, the investment in social media is beneficial.

With the increased focus on apps, should companies be developing apps as well as using social networks?  Perhaps apps can help companies address these same goals.  If an app can be distributed on multiple devices, does that make it social?  Personally, I don’t think so.  Being social is about interaction and community.  So, if that app enables customers to easily interact with each other in some kind of semi-private walled garden, then perhaps it is social. 

I can envision B2B apps focused on addressing frequently asked customer questions.  As a long time HP employee in my past life, I can image HP apps to troubleshoot printing problems, a SMB focused app to configure servers, or an app to easily locate your nearest value added reseller (VAR). Other companies could leverage the data associated with calls coming into their 800 numbers to develop apps that easily and quickly address frequently asked customer questions.  By using social networks to inform their constituents that these apps exist and are available for download to defined devices, these companies leverage the two hottest trends (other than cloud computing), apps and social media to enrich their customer’s experiences.

Perhaps we need an app to help us keep up with all the new technologies that are emerging.  Ooops, perhaps that is the new Mashable app!

What’s your perspective?