Tips on Influencer Programs courtesy of IBM Smarter Commerce

Craig HaymanEvidently, I’m an influencer. Or at least IBM thinks so which is why I was invited to their Smarter Commerce Global Summit in Nashville this May.  There I joined 15 or so true influencers like Pam Moore, Glen Gilmore, Sandra ZorattiTed Rubin, Dino Dugan, Rob Moore, Pete Krainik, Bryan KramerBryan Eisenberg, Peter Shankman, Tonia Ries, Kim GarstSteven Dennis and more including the emcee Jay Baer.  None of us were asked to write anything or say anything favorable about IBM but of course, we did.  Not because we felt obligated but because IBM served up genuine news, impressive case histories and provided access to senior sources for interesting content.

For me, the real education was seeing how to put on a world class influencer program. Here are a few of the tips I gleaned:

  1. Assemble an eclectic mix of influencers so they aren’t all talking to the same people.
  2. Bring the influencers together so they can bond, cross-pollenate and help amplify each other’s content.
  3. Have a social media center with a leader board so there’s a bit of a competition during the event.
  4. Have a photo booth of some kind to make it easy to get pics that will get shared.
  5. Let them do your video interviews–its fun for them and saves you the trouble.

Which brings me to the other purpose of this post–give you a quick overview of my video interview with Craig Hayman, General Manager, IBM Industry Solutions.  Figuring that most of you don’t have a spare 17 minutes and 7 seconds to watch the whole thing, here are some of the highlights of our conversation which focused on how big data is changing the way companies do business.

Drew: Tell me what you think are the three biggest takeaways from today’s activities at the summit?
First off– how big data analytics applied through mobile, social and cloud is better serving the customer. The second thing [is the] very exciting announcement here — Watson has another job. Watson, the doctor, is now Watson call center agent as an advisor or behind the scenes. And the third area [is] the moment of engagement. That precise moment when we as individuals, we as consumers lean in.  Lean in to a discussion that’s occurring and we become interested in something.  I think we all experience that as individuals but how do you get large companies to do that at scale [and in a] reputable way.

Drew:  Interesting. Can you share a real world example where a big company is leaning into an individual and catching them at that moment and doing something with it?
One of the examples we talked about earlier was ING Direct in Canada.  So, you know everyone’s got a mobile application for banking.  You can check your bank account.  You can move money. I think most of us are used to that by now.  They did that and they did something special.  They caught onto that moment where you don’t buy something where perhaps you forsake a purchase.  Maybe you don’t buy a cup of coffee [or an mp3 download].   And, so they found a way to connect that moment with their brand.

In their mobile application you can mark that moment by moving that money into the account, to say, ‘I just saved a couple of bucks here — I didn’t buy a cup of coffee,’  and even better than that you can share that we your friends.  Together you’re sharing to buy something, maybe a summer rental or something with some friends.  And you become a passionate advocate for that brand.

Drew: What role does IBM play in the ING example?
First, we have mobile capabilities that we deliver to allow them to deliver that mobile first application.  Secondly, we’re collecting the data allowing the transactional systems connecting to that mobile application.  And third we’re sort of guiding them in terms of reinforcing [and encouraging ING Direct] to do more of that.

Drew: How about another example?
We’ve helped Costco replatform their commerce engine on WebSphere Commerce.  We’ve connected their suppliers into a B2B network so new suppliers can on board as Costco goes through this amazing growth of over 50 to 60 million members of Costco.

But for me personally, a great moment was I was able to order a year’s worth of contact lenses [from Costco online].  It was delivered to the store in less than three days and this was an example of their supply chain connected to the online experience in the store.  And that’s the reason why Costco is in the top four optical suppliers in the United States because it’s just so easy to do business with them.

Drew:  I heard at the presentation today that IBM is helping Caterpillar, especially in the area of post-purchase support.  Tell me about that.
So, let’s assume you have a piece of Caterpillar equipment.  You need a replacement part.  So, what they’ve done is come up with QR codes that can be attached to the part that are actually in the Caterpillar goods as they’re manufactured.  So, if you need a replacement part for something, you hold your phone up, scan the QR code, and you’ll now get precisely the right part.  Not the part you think you need, but, precisely, the right part that you need for them.

The second thing they’ve done is connect through social and mobile to reach out to dormant customers.  To progress them.  Perhaps they had a relationship with their distributor.  Maybe today they don’t.  Maybe they’ve moved or something.  So, they reach them through social, mobile, progress them, and educate them.  Give them information about advances in technology.

And at the right time, hand that lead together with the information about what that person is interested in back to the distributor, to again convert from what is a digital handshake of relationship education into a physical relationship based on trust and authenticity.

Drew:  We’ve been talking a lot about big companies.  I’m curious, is there an opportunity in this sort of big day that customer service world person midsized companies?
I think for midsized [companies] this is where cloud really plays a role.  Of course, if you buy software, then you have to install it.  You have to buy the machines to install it on.  You need the services to configure the software, etc.  The beautiful thing about buying things through the cloud is you avoid all the capital expenditure.  You have minimal operational expenditure to run it.

So, what we have been doing is delivering more and more of our capability as a service in the cloud.  Most recently, we delivered Websphere Commerce as a service.  We delivered something called IBM Marketing Center as a service.  We’ve actually made this available to our business partners for one year for free, so they can kick the tires and make sure they understand it.  And so for these small and medium businesses, this is a great way to consume marketing or procurement capabilities or online e-commerce capabilities.

Drew: How is IBM using some of these tools to market themselves?
We push our own internal teams to use our capabilities.  So, for marketing, IBM Marketing uses Unica and Coremetrics.  For procurement IBM uses Emptoris. For commerce, we use Websphere Commerce.  And even internally, we’re using Watson ourselves to understand our customer.

Drew:  Interesting.  So, let’s sort of wrap up here and if you could sort of, as we look at smarter commerce and big data and customer services, give me sort of the best practices really in a nutshell in this world.
We have worked with [nearly] 3,000 global brands now.  And we spent a lot of time understanding what it is that they did that worked and understanding what they did that didn’t work and try to let everyone know what’s the recipe, right.

      • So, first, [leverage] big data and analytics, apply that through mobile, social and cloud.
      • The second is, understand your customer.  Capture data about that customer at every touch point.  Every time you touch that customer in store or online capture data so you can better predict their behavior.
      • Third, engage with that customer in a way that’s very compelling using that data.

Drew: Let’s dive into the 3rd point a bit deeper.
When you walk in a store and someone says hello, welcome to my store.  It’s not that engaging. Whereas perhaps if you know that you’re browsing the shirts and you’ll looking at a certain stack of shirts then maybe assist them [by] checking out a collar size or sleeve length or something, that’s an engaging dialogue.  Or do that online.  Progress and engage people.

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