Unless you’ve been living under a proverbial (or literal) rock, or your passion for Black Mirror has made you disconnect from all technology whatsoever, you’ve probably heard of the #Internet of Things (#IoT). While the IoT is still mainly utilized in the industrial sector, there are a number of IoT-ready products that have hit the mainstream market. Maybe you installed a Nest thermostat in your home, use Amazon’s Echo to help organize your life, or wear a FitBit to track your daily steps (are you up to 10,000 today?). Even if you’ve never used or heard of these products, you’re likely a part of the IOT without even realizing it thanks to the one device we all cannot live without: your phone.
IoT Collects and Shares Your Data
At its most basic, the IoT is a logical evolution of our love of technology and data. The IoT makes it possible for all of the things we use in our lives – from our refrigerators to our cars – to be connected to the Internet. And as a result, our things become capable of receiving, collecting, and sharing data. We can track how efficiently our air conditioners are working or if our new truck is running as expected, and then monitor this performance with apps.
At first glance, this may seem like some Sci-Fi fantasy. But it shouldn’t. While the application of the technology is new, the foundation of the IoT is not. In essence, the IOT is just attaching sensors to all of the things that make our modern lives possible and then rolling up the data generated by those sensors.
And this is where you come in. Most people are already a part of the IoT whether they realize it or not. And that’s thanks to your phone. Many of the apps we use on a daily basis are part of the IoT. The navigation and traffic app #Waze is a great example.
Google Invests in Waze
Every time you use it, Waze turns your phone into a sensor and as a result, you become a part of the IoT. Waze is the next evolution of navigation apps – it leverages crowdsourcing to get accurate real-time traffic updates, suggests alternative routes and even allows users to pinpoint speed traps, school zones, and a variety of other road hazards not available in most navigation apps. Google’s belief that Waze was an improvement over Google Maps (or could at the minimum enhance it) at least partially informed its purchase of Waze three years ago.
Waze is an IoT app because it’s essentially using the data your phone is already recording (like your global position) and then adding in interactive user feedback (watch out for the cop behind the bushes on Route 9!) to create a data-driven interface that presents current traffic situations. Like all parts of the IOT, Waze is about real-time information – there’s little to no lag time; as information is tracked, maps are updated. Waze even allows users to log gas prices, so that anywhere you are, everyone in the Waze network can see where the cheapest gas is available.
Things Talk in Real-Time
This real-time availability is what has so many people excited about the possibilities of the IoT. Instead of driving right into a traffic jam, you can avoid it and find a quicker route with Waze. Or using Nest, you can see sudden spikes in your home’s energy usage while you’re on vacation, alerting you to the fact that you forget to turn off your air conditioning, which you can then turn off wherever you may be. Or your smart refrigerator can alert you that the water filter on its ice machine is in need of replacement and it can even order one for you automatically.
The Upside and Downside of the IoT
No one should be blind to the trade-offs involved with the IoT, including a loss of privacy and allowing manufacturers to know far more about how and when we use their products than ever before. But, it’s also impossible to ignore the upsides. Having real-time feedback on the products and things we use can make our lives easier and improve the performance of those products. And over time, it’s inevitable that the IoT will become more and more ingrained in our lives. Our use of Waze highlights this – with the help of our smartphones, many of us are already a part of the tech revolution that is the IoT.
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An unspoken, yet fundamental law has reigned over the world of #content marketing: B2B is boring.
Last month that law was repealed when Content Marketing Institute named Velocity Partners as the first B2B agency of the year. Read more
Even in this age of digital media and ubiquitous online content, books still possess a certain aura of magic. We have a tendency to view books only as the finished product, the perfectly polished manuscripts that came flowing out from the author’s mind in just a few sittings.
It’s no secret that buyers are more educated and have access to more relevant information than ever before. Most B2B marketers anticipate that their buyers will be well into the consideration phase before they ever make contact. That’s why savvy marketers are putting so much emphasis on creating top-of-funnel, educational content. They understand that their prospects are out there, hungry for relevant information and research, and providing nourishing, quality content is the best way to stand out.
But what about, as David Dodd calls them, the “casual learner”? Casual learners aren’t actively seeking a solution to their business problems, but they are educated, voracious consumers of industry-specific content and publications. They stay abreast of industry trends and hot topics; they keep their finger on the pulse of what’s new and innovative. They may even encounter a solution to their business problem before they knew they had one. If marketers wait to engage until casual learners enter the formal information-gathering phase, they may be too late.
That’s why establishing #thought leadership in your industry is crucial.
Put yourself in their orbit by placing articles in the publications they consume. Provide content that sparks their interest, and maybe it might also solve a problem they didn’t know they had.
Why B2B Marketers Should Care About “Casual Learning”
Much of the conversation in the #B2B marketing world over the past several years has revolved around the emergence of empowered and independent buyers. A wealth of easily-accessible information now enables buyers to perform research about business issues and possible solutions on their own. The most widely-discussed result of this development is that many – though by no means all – buyers are postponing direct interactions with potential vendors until later in the buying process.
Information abundance has also led to a dramatic increase in what I call casual learning. As I’m using the term, casual learning refers to learning and information gathering activities that occur before an intentional buying process has begun.
Most traditional models of the B2B buying process assume that the process begins when a company’s leaders or managers recognize a need or problem, and decide to address the issue in some way. These “buyers” then gather information about the need or problem and possible solutions, they evaluate the available options, and they may or may not decide to purchase a product or service to address the problem or need.
So our traditional view of buyer behavior is that most information gathering occurs after an intentional buying process has started. Today, however, information is so abundant and easily accessible that many business people routinely consume information about business issues long before they have formed anything close to a “buying intent.”
In their book, Absolute Value, Itamar Simonson and Emanuel Rosen call this type of information gathering “couch tracking,” and they argue that couch tracking is one of the major emerging trends in consumer decision-making. The same abundance of information that drives couch tracking by consumers also fuels casual learning by business decision makers.
The growth of casual learning has important implications for B2B marketing, but the significance of casual learning isn’t fully appreciated by many marketers. Most B2B marketing tactics and programs are designed to identify business people who are ready to begin a buying process, or to encourage those already involved in a buying process to move toward a buying decision. At any given time, however, most of your potential customers aren’t likely to be “in-market” for the products or services you offer, and most of your potential buyers are more likely to be “casual learners” than “active buyers.”
Creating relationships with casual learners is important because the impressions they form during casual learning remain influential when they become involved in a buying process. Therefore, if a company can build and nurture relationships with casual learners, it will have a competitive advantage when those casual learners turn into active buyers.
The bottom line is, B2B marketers can’t afford to ignore this important group of “embryonic buyers.”
We are working on a new B2B technology offer for our clients. In the presentation we are creating we have put our buyer at the center of the story. This approach is logical but not easy to execute. In this article, Kylie Lobell shares Google’s approach to creating content. Empathy is one of the tenets that the article explores. Yes we agree that intimately understanding your buyer is critical to creating content that attracts the audience.
The tech world has long perpetuated the “if you build it, they will come” myth — the idea that great products will inevitably find their market and fly off the shelves. But a great product is not enough. Without a clearly defined sales and marketing strategy, even the giants among us can fail. Wendy Lee’s recent piece on the uncertain future of #Yahoo CEO #Marissa Mayer brings to light a cautionary tale for tech marketers.
Mayer’s strategy for Yahoo relied heavily on attracting a talent pool to build great products, thereby drawing a large audience and hence, advertising budget. But without integrating product, sales, and marketing from the get-go, Mayer’s strategy amounted to a chain reaction that never set off. Successful strategists iterate the marketing and sales processes in tandem with product development. And you don’t need to be a Yahoo or a Google to get the job done – check out our survivor’s guide to #tech marketing for more on do-it yourself marketing and scaling effectively.
As veterans in the b2b technology space, we understand the unique challenges of #partner marketing. When technology partners go to market, they want to tell a unified story, but also each maintain their unique brand and identity. We help our clients deal with those challenges; bringing partners together to tell a unique story that rings true to both partners’ voices. Theresa Caragol of thewhir.com sets out a few best practices to meet the challenges of partner marketing.
We are in the golden age of #content marketing. With the proliferation of marketing automation tools we can engage like never before with hyper-targeted audiences. Advanced analytics deliver in-depth insights to us in real time. But sometimes we get caught up in our shiny new tools and lose sight of the most fundamental content marketing wisdom: humans crave compelling stories. In the past we’ve written about the power of stories and how to humanize content. This week, we’d like to share some wise words from econtent magazine’s Andrew Martin on how to bring the art of #storytelling back to #b2b marketing.
At Evolved Media we write about enterprise technology, but recently realized that we were hiding our analytical skills under a bushel. We create content about products that transform #Big Data, perform analytics, create better clouds, or improve security. And we deliver that content to marketers of all stripes who use it to raise awareness and find new customers.