I am increasingly expected to frequent the musk-scented washrooms and fastidiously monitored self-service comestible bars of international airport business lounges.
It would appear that my legendary status at the very forefront of the digital B2B revolution is attracting a wider audience than I expected. I think, and I secretly hope, it’s because businesses are starting to take a more serious interest in B2B branding.
It’s actually a very specific audience that is prepared to pamper me with the executive international washroom facilities I so rightly deserve and send me to such wild and far flung locations as, well, Munich, for example. The C-Suite is finally talking an interest.
The C-level audience has been slow to adjust to the transfer of digital power in the social space. At the junior end of the business, the ‘Y-Gen’ digital natives are fully committed – it’s a problem to keep them off Facebook and on the job in hand. In the middle management tiers there is interest, but not always the budget or mandate to fully commit marketing resources. And then there’s the C-Suite.
CMO, CEO, CIO, CTO even the CFO. These are the people with the power and money to make a difference and yet this group has remained almost completely disinterested in the process of online engagement. Until recently. Whatever the reasons for the slow adoption of the C-Suite (and there are many) they appear, at last, to be taking a more healthy interest in the subject.
I’d obviously hate to be the one to tell the C-Suite they’re a bunch of Luddite laggards just as they start to get their shit together.
What I can tell them, however, is to stop complaining that they ‘haven’t got time’ for social media. The conversation usually goes something like this –
“Scot we invited you here to the exotic Schipol Airport Conference Centre because you seem to be thoroughly versed in this newfangled ‘social media’ thingy. Everywhere we look, we bump into your name. So we thought we’d ask you how you find the time. We’re such incredibly busy and, frankly, important business executives that we simply don’t have the time.”
“…Well, we’re very, you know… ‘Senior’. And Executive.”
“Is that it?”
“Good. Right then…” And there follows a practiced routine of pithy one-liners and knob gags where I charge the client an inordinate amount of cash to expound on the vagaries of the digital economy. I could save myself a considerable amount of airline indigestion if they would only appreciate one thing – they can’t afford not to find the time. I used a double negative there. It’s that important.
The accessibility (or inaccessibility) of brand leaders has never been more apparent. Digital channels totally flatten the communications hierarchy. If you don’t like the answer you receive from the customer service rep, you ping the Chief Executive. That’s not unusual, it’s now expected. It’s also expected that the CEO will be listening – not only to the contents of their inboxes, but to a spectrum of social channels. Alternatively, the customers will post their experiences online for the whole world to form its own opinion of the brand. Whichever way the CEO looks at managing the company’s reputation, social media is now their business. It’s quite a commitment, not least because the CEO is busy. And executive.
That usually gets them thinking. There will be nods and smiles. I’ve even seen someone take notes. But it’s not as good as the “Why me?” question.
“Why did you pick me to give this presentation? How did you find me? How did you become my customer? Why did you give me an airline ticket, indigestion and, significantly, a pile of cash?” The answer is usually, “We follow you on Twitter”, or, “We found you on LinkedIn.” The fact that social media directly generates revenue isn’t lost on them, but I still feign surprise and say, “Oh, are you using social media then?” They look down at their shoes, shuffle their feet and say, “Um, no… I don’t have… ehh… time…” The job of finding and listening to what the customer wants can be delegated to anyone. The responsibility can’t. Find the time.