Progressive and high-growth organisations are continually exploring innovative ways to generate new business, competitive advantage and customer value.
Many have responded to the extraordinary change in buying and decision making cycles that are increasingly self-service and incorporate peer sourced information and opinion.
Vendors and services providers are attempting to trigger and engage in those digital conversations that occur within their target market segments, hoping to increase awareness, reputation, thought leadership, online connections and lead origination.
Being visible and credible in the industry segments across the media networks and channels where your target audience interacts is now a necessity of modern business.
Many organisations do not have the understanding or capability to effectively deliver this, and others are simply too slow to execute the precise strategies and tactics that capture the window of opportunity to return wide ranging tangible benefits.
Organisations struggle with transformation and agility
As businesses attempt to transform their operations and processes around modern customer journeys and 24/7 multichannel interactions, many struggle with the culture shock and complexity of integrated sales and marketing, automated prospecting and the latest data driven engagement practices.
High growth businesses must execute at speed to maintain advantage, and are open to emerging mechanisms for increased agility.
Larger enterprises are often unable to overcome their own inertia to ever attain first mover advantage, but would also consider credible practices for enhanced agility.
The buying cycle has changed to where a major new stage has appeared (see THEN and NOW). Marketing’s role has shifted from supporting the sales effort to a more collaborative relationship in order to support ‘1:1 Digital Engagement’.
Engaging prospects early and often in the decision cycle is now a pre- requisite of modern business, and the battle for attention is fought through subject matter expertise, peer conversation, thought leadership and non-promotional value. Conversion of that hard earned attention into prospects and leads is a combination or science and art.
This post introduces an ‘agile engagement’ strategy, framework and methodology that enable an organisation to quickly establish and rapidly accelerate their ability to engage with target audiences via social channels and the latest demand practices, through the creation of a digital industry network.
What is a digital industry network (D.I.N.)?
A D.I.N. is tightly controlled multichannel professional network, comprising a custom configured conversation zone, information sources and communication feeds.
Target audiences are able to interact with peers, subject matter experts (SMEs) and industry thought leaders in order to progress their knowledge around a high value trending industry topic.
A D.I.N. is dynamic because it is developed at speed in order to maximise the potential of a fast moving topic, event or threat, where first-to-market movers attract critical early thought leader and share-of-voice advantage.
Who are the targets for a D.I.N.?
An organisation looking to originate a D.I.N. may already be active in social and professional networks. Successful vendors like SAP and VMware already have established large online communities, based around broad subject matters, many being product based.
However, a D.I.N. should be focused on a high value trending industry topic, and provide a credible and trusted resource for its participants to engage in peer conversation, ask questions to subject matter experts, access non-promotional content, and easily reach out to service/solution providers for assistance as and when needed.
The D.I.N. should consist of a leader, or evangelist, who is the focal point for connectivity and the managing of invitations, content and conversations, as well as the recruiter of key influencers for that topic.
He or she should not be perceived in any way to wear a sales or vendor hat, but to be an impartial, driven and qualified catalyst for a valued industry networking group.
What is the value to the originator of the D.I.N.?
Whereas SAP and VMware spent years investing and cumulating online communities, a D.I.N. rapidly establishes a highly focused, engaged and managed network of targeted professionals who are motivated, impacted, and influential.
Spammers and competitors can be locked out, enabling originators to develop relationships via quality conversation and information provision.
By following the framework and methodology below, owners of digital industry networks are able to realise several business development benefits oriented around the selected industry topic and related market segments:
- Branding and awareness
- Thought leadership, reputation and credibility
- Growth of network and contact database
- Demand Generation and lead origination
- Lead nurturing via pain diagnosis and solution discovery
Well-crafted conversations and the subtle offering of non-promotional content such as industry surveys, risk/reward calculators, SME video/audio interviews, infographics and breaking news alerts, all provide top and middle of funnel accelerators.
For conversion, conversations can be directed offline as needed by sales and business development personnel.
Digital industry network framework and development methodology
To be successful with a D.I.N. it is necessary to execute many of the tried and tested practices of modern marketing, from audience insights to decision journeys to content mapping to social engagement to data driven optimisation.
To be agile it is necessary to streamline this process, to select a high value industry topic for your target market, and to apply accelerated growth practices to establish the desired degree of network participation, activity and authority within weeks.
Here is a framework that focuses on the key success drivers, which are oriented around four categories:
- Context – Ensure the selected topic is high value/impact for the targeted audience, and aligns with organisational goals and markets.
- Community – Select appropriate configuration of social channels and information sources, and ensure the evangelist, influencer and participant combination is synergistic within the context of the chosen topic.
- Cadence – Determine the optimal frequency and types of conversation and content that resonate with the audience.
- Agility – Apply appropriate growth resources to reach network effect tipping point, in both network size and engagement levels.
Also, a one month methodology enables marketers to break down the D.I.N. development process in to four steps:
- Insight – Perform research on topics, value, audience targets and network community structure.
- Design – Formalise design of community, channels, content, calendar + growth mechanisms.
- Prepare – Create target lists, invitations + initial content assets.
- Launch – Execute invitation campaign sourcing contacts from house lists, existing networks and social channels (e.g. LinkedIn). Execute week 1 welcome track, establishing value and education of topic/network breadth.
In today’s highly competitive markets, agile competitors are able to leapfrog laggards for mind and market share. It is now imperative to grasp the full array of emerging business, social and technical models to enable customer value and competitive advantage.
D.I.N.s allow organisations to reduce and divert budget away from telemarketing, advertising and other promotional activities to the more compelling ROI of originating and nurturing business from high-value target market industry networks.
Develop business relationships using the power of industry knowledge and a desire to share opinions, content, experience and your network of qualified connections. This is the new era of collaborative business development.