MAD Perspectives Blog

Are You Mobile When You Are Social?

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Where do you socialize?   At home?  When you're out with friends, family or colleagues.  Do you socialize at the office?  Yes - we all socialize everywhere and the social networks understand this.  While they started as online platforms accessible primarily at home, they are increasingly accessed via mobile devices such as IPads or Smartphones. 

In the B2B world, we've been addicted to voicemail, then email.  In our desire to stay connected (or should I say competitive), is social networking the next business addiction?

I've been reading articles about John Doerr's most recent investment strategy at Kleiner Perkins (the Silicon Valley venture capital firm) focused on
Social-Location-Mobile. It got me thinking about B2B social media and mobility. After all,

- 72% of the workforce is mobile.
- 64% of corporate decision makers are checking email on their mobile device.
- 70% of mobile users say that their cell phone is their primary communication channel.
- 72.5M smartphone users in the U.S.

Every leading social network (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, WordPress) has an app for iPhone and Android. Why? Each of these networks recognizes that we, the consumer or business owner, craves connectivity - wherever we are. In fact, as social media and the related social networks have become a pervasive part of our lives, we can now find others near us or invite colleagues to join us at a defined location.

It has been said that while social media allows us to make the connection, mobile apps ensure that we remain connected. From 2009 to 2010, there was a
240% surge in mobile social networking (Comscore MobiLens April 2010). For B2B users, the potential lies in making enterprise apps available for sales personnel. These teams are on the go - that's their job. How could mobile social networking help?

- sales managers stay in contact with their teams
- easy access to fast moving industry news about their customers and competitors
- sales on-demand supply chain updates to fulfill customer demands
- reminders from or updates to CRM systems

There is much buzz around Location Based Services.  In my opinion, it is still unclear how beneficial location based services will be for B2B. Companies have trialed location programs at conferences and exhibitions with mixed results.  With social networks evolving around location (FourSquare) or enabling location (Facebook) users are "checking in" and catching up with friends.  However, most sales people are not comfortable revealing their location due to competitive concerns.

Are you using social networking on the go? I post updates to my personal Facebook, I have 'checked in' occasionally.  For business, I am tied to LinkedIn and login throughout the day to check trending news amongst my contacts and group.  I'll be travelling in the UK for the next two weeks and I will definitely be accessing social media from my smartphone!

What's your perspective?



Can You Initiate a Social Media Plan Without Executive Support?

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I was in Silicon Valley meeting with various companies, two weeks ago, to talk about their social media strategies (or lack thereof). I want to share my learnings from two of these companies as they both reflect the importance of having executive support. I will not share the names of these companies as I do believe that I may not have the full story in either case. However, each left a lasting impression.

I met with the VP of Marketing for Company A, a provider of video delivery solutions. I had casually met him at an industry event and was connected to him on LinkedIn. However, I pursued the meeting via the VP of Sales for one of their divisions, as I had a very strong relationship with this individual. The VP of Sales clearly understood my goals to discuss the value of the customer insight that is found through social interactions and other online behavior. Company A has grown through acquisition over the past few years and their customer base is growing as enterprise companies produce and distribute increasing amounts of video content. 

The VP of Marketing has a very busy schedule and was kind to give me some time to discuss their use of social media and how social media can provide them with competitive intelligence. It was an interesting discussion where I found out that the company does not integrate social media into their marketing plans.  They feel they already know who their customers are and what they want. Their only goal is to streamline the sales cycle. This company is monitoring the social networks using Radian6, yet they are not actively participating. Monitoring tools like Radian6 are dependent on selecting the most relevant keywords.  Pursuit of this discussion to understand how they selected their keywords (I was thinking about the importance of long tail keywords) was a deadend. In summary, this VP of Marketing is currently unimpressed by social media's value for B2B companies. He is concerned about the investment of people resources to manage any social media agenda. Thus, for now, this company will not officially pursue a social media marketing strategy.

The second company I met with, Company B, is in the enterprise content delivery space.  Again, I was introduced to the VP of Marketing through the VP of Sales.  We had spoken several times in 2010, but his social media efforts never materialized.  He was open to discussion when I indicated I would be in the bay area.  We had a fascinating conversation.  His challenge, in developing the marketing plan for this small technology company, was a CEO who was watching and second guessing every decision.  He was unable to put a comprehensive marketing plan together, that would have included social media, due to lack of empowerment.  As a result he chose to focus on a narrow scope that proved to be challenging yet successful in increasing industry awareness and perception of the company as a market leader.

As Company B's market expands beyond large enterprise companies, they do understand that traditional offline marketing efforts may not be enough to broaden market awareness and understanding of their solutions.  Fortunately, there has been a change at the top and the new CEO is supportive and empowering of the VP of Marketing's efforts.  It's challenging in a small company to find and align resources, but now there is support from the "top" and they will tip-toe their way into social media.

I share these experiences as you may be facing similar challenges in your company. It is critical to have management support for your social media efforts. There is a strong focus on the ROI of social media in 2011.  I have ambivalent feelings about ROI as numbers can be manipulated to appear to meet goals. That said, it is important to understand your business goals and how social media can help you achieve them. For example, Company A wants to streamline its sales cycle. It would be important to understand what information customers need that would allow them to make a buying decision more quickly. Could influence be established via a social network?  Possibly. Do potential customers seek advice from other buyers and seek casual interactions to uncover their experience with Company A?  Possibly. Establishing a plan, really thinking through the activation and delivery of the plan, and taking the time to understand and define meaningful metrics will keep efforts focused.  And, given the right time frame, results will follow

Winning executive support is a must for entering the B2B social media space. Social media takes time and people. Without clear direction and understanding of the rules of engagement marketing, customer support, sales or product teams cannot engage to drive awareness, customer satisfaction, revenue or innovation.   Are you facing challenges getting executive support for a social media strategy? Let me know your challenges. We can all learn from each other!

What's your perspective?



The Resume is Dead, Long Live LinkedIn!

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Do you use LinkedIn? If so, you're one of the 90M+ people, in over 200 countries, that have a profile on LinkedIn. If you are a business person and you crave an online professional networking destination - LinkedIn is it.  You can:

     - Tell your professinal story
     - Get and stay connected with business colleagues - even if you, or they, change jobs
     - Pursue career opportunities
     - Get informed about people and companies before you actually meet them
     - Identify decision makers or influencers and get connected to them
     - Ask questions about ANY business related topic

There are competitors who offer business networking (i.e., Plaxo, Naymz, Xing) or job search (i.e., Monster, CareerBuilder, Ladders), but LinkedIn has created (and continues to enhance) the site for professional networking. It is a critical part of your online social identity - particularly as it relates to your career.



I joined LinkedIn while i was still working at Hewlett-Packard. I was happy in my job and was not particularly interested in online networking. However, I responded to an invitation from a colleage and so began my LinkedIn journey. It started as an "online rolodex" - a place to capture the details about the business contacts I made while jetting around the globe on behalf of HP.  Now, it is an integral part of every business day.  How?

LinkedIn provides me with insights about people and companies.  I learn about an individual's experience (roles, companies, responsibilities, value), education, social behavior (do they blog?  tweet?  join discussions?), personal interests, travel schedule and their connectivity (how many LinkedIn contacts do you have? and, who do they know?).  With the introduction of Company Pages last year, I can gain quick insight into the companies where they have worked.

I am about to head out on a business development trip to California.  As I was thinking about this trip, I prowled through my list of contacts on LinkedIn. I was seeking colleagues that worked at companies that might be interested in my consulting services. In many cases, my connections had changed companies and I found that I had contacts at many companies that were of high interest to me as potential clients. I used LinkedIn to reach out to these contacts and set up meetings. I did not need to know their current email addresses - LinkedIn was my intermediary.

I also learn a lot about people simply from the way they have created their profile. Many colleagues, who are extremely happy in their current jobs, have profiles that I consider placeholders. They share the bare minimum of information about their professional background and interests. They have less than 50 connections. They do not have linkes to their company page or website. I'll know they are job hunting when they beef up their profile and their connections! 

Have you worked on your profile lately? If you need to connect to a key decision maker, increase your professinal visibility or are seeking a new job, check out your profile and think about what it says about you.  Chances are that your new contacts are going to check it out too.  Here is a quick look at the most important features:

     - Professional headline - this is who you are or who you want to be, it is not necessarily your current title
     - Picture - this should be a headshot and yes, you should have a picture.  Proessionals like to do business with people, not profiles!
     - Links - reference urls for your company's website, its blog (or your blog!), twitter, etc.
     - Summary - this is about you and the value you provide.  This is your opportunity to highlight what makes your special, what gets you excited and your dream role.  It should not be a description of your current job as you will have the opportunity to share that under Experience
     - Experience - reflect not only your title and responsibilities, but the value that you provide to your customers (we all have customers, some are external and others are internal to the company)
     - Recommendations - request references from your colleagues, customers and partners.  Their comments will be revealing to you and to your connections!
     -  Contact Settings - indicate the types of contact you are interested in receiving

LinkedIn vs. Resume - LinkedIn is living and dynamic, just like you.  The resume is not dead, yet, but it is a static snapshot of your skills, education and experience. It is still relevant to have both a resume and a LinkedIn profile. They should be complementary. You can walk into a meeting with a resume and your resume can include a pointer to your LinkedIn profile. Like all things social, your LinkedIn profile should offer transparency and authenticity. Let the real you shine through!

Go ahead, go check out your profile.  Then check out the profiles of some of your connections.  What do you think?  Let me know what your learn!

What's your perspective?

Stay tuned, next week I'll take a deeper look at LinkedIn value for companies.



Is Your Social Media Plan Balanced?

Peggy Dau - Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Today's Web-Strategy post by Jeremiah Owyang really struck a chord with me.  In it he reflects on the dramatic shift by marketers towards excessive use of micro tools.  While these tools, aka Twitter, are fantastic for broadcasting a quick message, creating momentary awareness, searching for trending topics and sharing instantaneous opinions, they do not provide depth.  As each new social platform hits the market, we race toward it and test its use.   But, is our usage across social media platforms and across all marketing outlets balanced? 

I'm a big fan of having a social media plan.  In defining the plan, a company should be thinking about how each of the various social platforms works, the audience they reach and how they fulfill the company's business goals.  What do I mean about how they work?  I mean what kind of content can be shared?  Is it brief?  Is it meaningful?  Does it fulfill a customer need?  How long will your content reside on the platform and be visible?  In most cases your content is available on the platform indefinitely.  The challenge is in how many customers actually see it.

How about your audience.  Do you know which social platforms your customers are using to both share and seek content?  If they are not on Facebook (just for the sake of argument), then why are you?  A social strategy .that assumes a need to be on the every platform, is not a well thought out strategy.  Every companay needs to think about who their customers are and the kind of information they need to consume.  C-level execs want overviews with key value propositions.  Technologists want the gory details.  Business leaders want to understand market trends and know what industry influencers are saying.  Seekers of business solutions want information and education.

It takes a balance of both online and offline marketing to fulfill customer needs.  It takes an understanding of customer need and the role of different platforms to communicate effectively.  Jonathan Owyang provides great guidance in his blog as to relevant platforms, so I'm not going to reinvent the wheel.  Check out his thoughts and think about how the platforms he references can provide balance to your social media strategy.

What's your perspective?



Watch Your Language!

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Social Media is immediate.  Video is memorable.  Online interactions via blogs, social networks or communities are forever.  We search online support forums for assistance with our PCs, cars and travel reservations.  If I’m acquiring IT products for my business, I can investigate user experiences for printers, servers, software and more. We are using the internet to find information that can help us in our buying decisions.  However, we’re not only seeking information, we’re checking out attitude.  We’re trying to understand how that company represents itself and its products.  We’re looking for a solution provider who “gets” our needs and our style.

Steve Jobs and Apple have been uber-successful in understanding our desire for intuitive, stylish products that make our lives simpler for both work and entertainment.  Apple may keep the details close to the vest, this culture of secrecy has only made them more attractive to their customers.  We are compelled to watch Apple's announcements, not only to capture the information but see Steve Jobs share his passion and excitement for every new , very appropriately, as their ambassador - announcing every new product, service or content relationships with enthusiasm and passion.    We, Apple's customers, crave the information and the manner in which it is presented. 

In today’s hyper connected online community, our thoughts, rants and raves are ‘out there’ forever.  We need to think about what we say, how we say it and when we say it with an eye towards its impact on our target audience.  I don’t mean to say that we should be scripted and working off a teleprompter.  In fact, in the social arena, this is contrary to the desire for authenticity and transparency.  What we do need to think about are the nuances of language and emotion.  Here is just one example and you’ll see what I mean:

  • A business leader participates in a web video interview about a technology company’s participation in the first practical implementation of a new global initiative

o   He describes the initiative, from a technical perspective, without naming the participants

o   He explains his company’s role in the initiative, at a high level

o   He does not explain business benefits to customers

o   He does not acknowledge the intelligence of the other members participating in the discussion

o   He does not seem particularly excited about the topic

o   His body language is very closed (arms crossed, legs crossed, little eye contact)

  • This business leader failed to inspire action from his audience due to his lack of authenticity, passion  or interest in his topic. 

Personal style is increasing in importance as we communicate socially.  Think about your colleagues.  I bet there is a least one who just fantastic in business meetings.  What makes him or her so successful? Most likely it is their ability to align the conversation with their customer’s needs.  They communicate in a way that resonates with their customer.  They use the appropriate language or buzz words.  They listen and look for verbal or physical cues, and respond to them.

As we communicate socially, we need to listen and respond to those same cues.  It’s a little harder when your audience is not in the same rooms as you.  However, if you can inject energy, passion  and intelligence into content that is aligned with your customers needs, you will be successful.  As businesses, we must listen to our customers other via blogs, twitter, facebook, linkedin and understand priorities, needs or challenges.

Think about your customer’s needs.  Then watch your language!  Communicate in a way that is meaningful to them.  Use the language that helps them realize that you “get” them.  Use language to get them to want to work with your company!

What's your perspective!

P.S.  As I finish writing this blog, I’ve clicked on a link from one of my Facebook friends.  I’m not alone in my thoughts.  Check out:  http://eatsleepsocial.com/ we’re on the same wavelength!



B2B Marketing Budgets - Show Me the Money!

Peggy Dau - Tuesday, January 25, 2011

OK.  We're almost one month into the new year.  How's it going for you?  Have you been buried in snow?  Awash in floods?  Bemoaning the loss of budget dollars and resources to pursue effective marketing and communication strategies?  I've been looking at the plethora of data provided by marketing firms such as Marketing Sherpa and Marketing Profs related to B2B marketing budgets for 2011.  Just in case you have not seen their reports or presentations, I'm going to share some highlights.

The good news is - marketing dollars are on the upswing.  Of course, this is an increase after 2 or more years of dramatic cuts, so we're not really back to normal.  But then, what is normal?  The past few years have seen a marked shift from offline marketing to online marketing.  The question is, where is the money being spent and how effective are the different marketing strategies.  The key metric for ALL B2B marketers is Lead Generation. 


Offline marketing activities such as executive breakfasts, PR, tradeshows and insides sales/telemarketing are still big parts of the budget, yet their effectiveness is shifting.  Inside sales is considered one of the most effective strategies for improving the number and quality of leads, yet companies continue to limit the budgets allocated to this valuable effort. At the same time PR budget may be stagnant, but these agencies are increasingly asked to expand their capabilities to include social media.

This leads us to the discussion of online marketing.  This segment is seeing budget increases for 2011.  The key areas for investment are corporate website, search, webinars and social media.  Despite many statements in the past year that social media and Facebook in particular, will displace the need for a corporate website, B2B companies place their website as the fulcrum of their overall online marketing strategy.   This is a smart decision by B2Bs.  Their websites are the validation of themselves as a meaningful, differentiated, competitive business.  Optimizing the website for search, ease of use, availability of relevant content and interactive discussion requires ongoing investment and a cohesive strategy.

Note the topics related to the corporate website.
  
     - Search - this is more than keyword analysis.  This is development of content and web pages that will improve organic search on Google (where 93% of B2B buyers start their research).  This is also social search.  How, when and where are B2B buyers seeking recommendations about the solutions they need.  Are they on LinkedIn?  Twitter?  What terminology do they use to search?

     - Content - There is simply not enough that can be said about creating and delivering the right content at the right time to the right audience.  while the corporate website can become a repository for piles of information, it is important that prospective buyers can find the content they need easily and quickly.  

    - Social Media - Social platforms enable a company to increase their reach.  They allow companies to become more personal.  They also allow companies to understand their customers better.  It is about more than just listening to what their customers are saying.  It's about engaging, resolving, promoting, inciting and inspiring.

    - Webinars - This is the MOST effective online tactic as reported by Marketing Profs.  This is also one of the leading areas for increased online marketing investment.  This technology has become more sophisticated (incorporating social chat, polling and survey capabilities) and more affordable, enabling even the smallest B2B company to inform and educate its target audience.  Bottom line (as I've mentioned repeatedly), video is memorable.

The challenge is to balance your marketing budget across the most effective marketing channels.  Sometimes the less effective channels consume an inordinate amount of budget.  Understanding your customers and where they will be physically or virtually may help justify shifts in budget allocation.  Understanding how your customers are talking about your company will help you develop a content marketing strategy that leverages online and offline channels.  Check out both Marketing Profs and Marketing Sherpa (yes, I'm a member of both groups) to see their 2011 projections and the details that I allude to here.  The online marketing landscape continues to shift and evolve.  Will 2011 be the year for B2B breakthroughs via social media?

What's your perspective?



Influence B2B Buying Decisions with Social Media

Peggy Dau - Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What actions do you take to encourage your customers to make a purchase?

The goal for any company is to drive revenue, manage expenses and earn profits.  Companies employ a variety of strategies to encourage customers to purchase their products or services.  These strategies increasingly incorporate different types of digitial media, from online advertising, SEM and SEO to social media, from online video to video conferencing.  Use of any of these customer centric efforts is to motivate customer action.  The ultimate desired action is for the customer to make a purchase, however, there are many other actions that may lead to that purchase.

Much emphasis is placed by B2B companies on lead or demand generation.  The basic premise is that the larger the funnel of opportunity, the greater the number of closed deals.  However, how does a B2B company inspire action through social media?  B2C companies offer special promotions or discounts to their fans and followers.  B2B companies have not, generally, seen increased sales directly related to limited time offers or discounts.  However, they have seen increased webinar attendance, increased whitepaper downloads and website visits when using social networks to enhance the visibility of the companies' programs.

North Plains, a digital asset management vendor (see North Plains case study), participates in many DAM related LinkedIn Groups.  By promoting their educational webinars in the groups, they increased anticipated attendance at their webinars.  Increased attendance equates to increased awareness and potentially increased sales.

The goal is consider what phase of the sales cycle your audience  is in.  Are they building knowledge?  Are they assessing vendors and options?  Or, are they in the decision making phase?  Aligning your content efforts with these different phases can help drive a desired action.  TechTarget shared the following findings in 2009 as related to IT buyers interest in online content based on stage in the buying process. 



This study provides some interesting insights that can help you target your content efforts to drive the desired action.  It reinforces the need for an integrated marketing strategy that incorporates social media, streaming media, marketing collateral and whitepapers, shared across a combination of your corporate website and social outlets.  It reinforces the need for a strategy that aligns content development efforts with all phases of the buying cycle.  It reinforces the need to understand your customer's needs when creating content to drive a specific action.

Social networks are a relevant source of information.  They can help a potential customer increase his/her knowledge of your company and its products.  They can faciliate community discussions.  They can inform a potential customer on where or how to find more detailed information, but can they actually convince a cusotmer to make a purchase in the B2B space?   In my opinion, the jury is out on this topic at this time.  While there have been many reports indicating that B2B marketers have found success increasing awareness and knowledge, I have not seen clear evidence that shows Twitter or LinkedIn, much less Facebook, are driving significant sales of B2B products and solutions.  Companies such as IBM claim to have sophisticated listening tools to help them uncover leads, however that is not a sale.  Perhaps it's a matter of time.  Perhaps it is dependent of understanding key drivers influencing the buying decision and aligning that understanding with the right social networking.

How well do you know your customers?  Stay tuned for further discussion on this topic.

What's your perspective?



B2B Social Media - just more Push Marketing?

Peggy Dau - Thursday, January 13, 2011

So, it's 2011.  How are your social media efforts working out for you?   2010 was a watershed year for companies adopting social media as a part of their overall marketing strategy.  Large companies, small companies, mid-size companies - they all jumped on board and started tweeting and blogging and posting...and wondered about the benefits. 

Many social media marketing firms talk about the benefits of Pull Marketing over Push Marketing.  Just as a brief reminder, Pull Marketing is the development of content, messaging or ads directing at the end customer who will make a purchase decision.  The content is created to drive an action by the customer to inquire or purchase your product.  On the other hand, Push Marketing is the development of content, messaging or ads directed at a distribution channel or other intermediary that provides your products, with the intent to get them to promote your product on your behalf. 

social media pundits emphasize the benefit of social media marketing in giving companies an opportunity to interact DIRECTLY with their customers.  This means they can implement a greater number of pull marketing strategies.  They can interact with customers to understand their needs, provide discounts and other incentives, not available through other channels,and inpsire action by the customer.  This works reasonably well in the consumer space, but how about the B2B space? I have talked to companies who have offered free software, free iPads, free services to fans or followers, without any meaningful result. Therefore, we could state that Pull marketing does not have the same impact in the B2B space.  And,  I would argue that the implementation of social media by B2B companies is an extension of Push Marketing, rather than an increased use of Pull Marketing.   Is this a problem or is this ok?

Right now, it's probably ok.  Many B2B companies have adopted social media to increase brand awareness, to be perceived as thought leaders, or to address customer service issues.  When we look at the goals for these types of communications, measures of success are not centered around customer action (except for customer service).  To date, measures of success have been about numbers of fans or followers, but not about actual sales. Social media is yet another communication channel through which the company can educate its target market about the company culture, industry trends, product developments.  These companies may sell their products directly or through a distribution channel of some sort.  Regardless of the purchase model, they want to increase knowledge about their products.  They do want to be "top of mind" when potential buyers are defining their requirements and considering potential solutions.  Social Media provides the opportunity to increase the volume of communication.

Social media continues to be one part of an overall marketing strategy.  The focus on a 360 degree integrated strategy is still very important.  I have mentioned before, that it is very important to tailor your story to your audience and the channel through which they hear your story.  While it is reasonable to re-purpose existing content for use through social channels, it is important to remember the origin of these channels.  They are personal.  They are meant to be interactive.  Adapt your social media marketing to reflect the culture and personality of your company.  It's ok for social media to be another push marketing channel, but think about ways to drive meaningful interaction with your customers.  Think about what will have real impact on your business?

I'll be blogging further about inspiring customer action, measurable benefits and meaningful storytelling over the next few weeks.  Stay tuned!

What's your perspective?



Let your Personality Shine!

Peggy Dau - Tuesday, December 21, 2010

'Tis the season to be jolly.... People are walking the streets and the shopping malls with a little extra bounce in their step this holiday season.  That may be due to stress or it may simply have to do with the joy of the season.  Do your communications to your customers and partners also enjoy a bit more "bounce" this time of year?  If there is anything that social media has tried to teach us over the past few years, it is to let your personality shine!

People relate to people regardless of the medium.  Yes, we want to share valuable insights about our company, our business, our industry.  However, people buy from people.  Think about walking into an party where you don't know anyone.  Who are you drawn to?  It's usually the individual with a compelling personality.  I've been told that I have a very identifiable laugh.  I do enjoy a good chuckle, but probably lean towards a guffaw if the topic really amuses me.  My point is that when you are passionate about your topic people are drawn to you.  So, simply re-iterating your product feature and functionality won't create a community or a loyal following.  However, the company that can inject a business conversation with relevant commentary and personal anecdotes creates a memorable interaction.  They show a passion for their subject that is infectious.

Your company's social persona should reflect your passion for your products and customers.  Who do you want to be?  I worked for HP for a loooong time.  For many years, the joke in Silicon Valley about HP and its marketing efforts was that HP would market sushi as raw dead fish.  They meant that HP was candid to a fault.  HP was not know for its marketing capabilities, they were a company of well engineered IT products (as well as test & measurement, analytical & medical product, at that time).  I think we can agree - they've come a long way! 

What is your company's personality.  Is it open?  Is it technical?  Is it fun?  Is it intellectual?  A company with a serious intent (say, pharmaceutical) can still be social in an interesting way.  Understanding what drives the R&D teams who are so committed to developing life altering drugs, can help put a face on the company.  Your company has its culture and it has a personality.  Let it shine through - especially in your social interactions!

What's your perspective?



Telepresence - Its Time has Come!

Peggy Dau - Tuesday, November 16, 2010

When it comes to video conferencing solutions, telepresence is king.  Telepresence is an immersive video conferencing experience with enhanced audio/video enablilng an experience as close to face to face as current technology will allow.  Why is telepresence so compelling?  It provides a customer experience that puts traditional video conferencing to shame.  The key differentiator is the ability to look your participants in the eye, even when they are in a room half way around the world.

Telepresence (or dedicated video conferencing) solutions typically run on a dedicated network, provide very high Quality of Service, include high end audio/video tools and studio style lighting.  All of this provides the endusers an impressive alternative for avoiding airports, travel delays and overall travel expenses.  Most companies that install telepresence already have some experience with video conferencing and use it primarily for internal communications.  However, those internal communications often include executive briefings with customers.  Telepresence improves employee productivity, enhances effective collaboration, accelerates decision making and reduces your company's carbon footprint.

When it comes to companies offering telepresence solutions, Cisco leads the pack.  With their acqusition of Tandberg earlier this year, Cisco arguably has the broadest set of video conferencing/telepresence solutions for business ranging from small to large (and pricing commenserate with size of rooms, number of people and locations).   I have not had the chance to experience Cisco's solutions but have been impressed by their overall strategy related to all things video (for both business and consumer). 

As a former HP employee, I often leveraged HP's Halo Rooms for executive meetings, training sessions and team meetings.  With a global team spread across 3 countries, Halo helped my team manage its travel budget yet still benefit from virtual face to face meetings for internal collaboration, quarterly reviews and hands on solution development.  HP's solutions target the large, multi-national enterprise who may select to install and manage the services themselves or have HP manage it for them.

I recently met with a new entrant into the teleprsence market, Vu Telepresence.  headquarted in India with a keen eye on the U.S. market, Vu is targeting SMBs who cannot afford the high-end, elegant solutions offered by Cisco, HP or Polycom.  I participated in a live session connecting NY, Silcon Valley and Bangalore.  While the system does not enjoy the studio style lighting of the high-end systems, it does provide high quality audio/video, the ability to share a laptop screen and connect up to 6 locations.  The Vu Telepresence solution is a good fit for individuals in SMBs that need to connect between georgraphically dispersed offices.  Think of small to mid size law firms and technology companies with off-shore development or manufacturing.

I'm encouraged to see the investment and growth in this market. I am a big fan of solutions that enable employees and business colleagues to connect and collaborate quickly and easily.  Solution pricing ranges from the low end (Vu Telepresence) of $1500 for one station to the high end (Cisco, HP or Polycom) of $350,000 for a dedicated, private networked, custom built studio. IDC forecasts the dedicated video conferencing and telepresence market to grow to $8.8B in 2014 from $1.9B in 2009.  This is a collobaration solution whose time is now.  The economic recession has forced companies to re-think their travel options.  These high quality video conferencing solutions provide an attractive alternative to time and money consuming travel.

What's your perspective?