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CEO Profile: Andy Monshaw, GM of IBM Global Midmarket

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Andy Monshaw, GM of IBM Global Midmarket Andy Monshaw, GM of IBM Global Midmarket

PRESIDENT&CEO Founder & CEO Paul Stukel speaks with Andy Monshaw, the GM of IBM Global Midmarket, about Social Media for the Middle Market

PCEO:  So Andy, we talked about social media, but it’s kind of a foreign concept to a lot of middle market CEOs. Can you tell us what you’re talking about?

Monshaw:  The idea behind social media is “how do you con-
nect with the entire ecosystem that is relevant to you. So the ecosystem could be suppliers, your own employees, etc., and it may be distributed down the hall or across the globe. It can be consumers, it can be influencers and the realm of social media has connected this ecosystem in a very new but very powerful way. So you hear about LinkedIn or Twitter or FaceBook, or Tumbler. But there’s also emerging social media inside a lot of the applications that middle market companies use today.  So instant messaging inside of email systems, or chatter inside of CMR systems, all of these are designed to connect the broadest possible set of people with common areas of interest.

PCEO:  So for a middle market CEO that’s sitting out there that really doesn’t or hasn’t had a lot of experience with this, what’s the relevance to him or her? Why is this important?

Monshaw:  That’s a great question, and it’s a question we get all the time. When you get to the middle market, there are no real common watering holes for information and this is the big “a-hah” that not only we had but a lot of these kinds of companies had. Think of a restaurant that’s gotten a bad word of mouth review or a movie that people don’t like or a store that sold bad food…that spreads incredibly quickly and our middle market clients have much more relevance to that kind of community. Now, you know, it’s not like someone’s going to go have a bad meal at a company that makes small radar systems.  But the idea is this: our data tells us that in the middle market about 85% of all purchases begin with “search.”  Unlike in a large enterprise where generally you have a team of experts that buy in a certain category and they go to the right conferences and read the right magazines and there’s a very traditional way of getting information, here influencers are the largest source of buying information.

PCEO:  Sorry to interrupt, but can you define “influencers?”

Monshaw:  Sure. If you go back to the restaurant or the supermar-
let example, you know who the influencer is. It’s your neighbor or someone who you trust.  So when you ask mid-market clients “where do you get information you can trust,” they go to their “circle of trust.” So they’ll Google a topic and look for conversations that make sense. They’ll put it out on their LinkedIn group or they’ll go to places where they got trusted information before.

PCEO:  What are the tools one needs to make that happen, to exploit that opportunity?

Monshaw:  We just finished a survey of chief
marketing officers, and what it really tells us is that most people are really unprepared for this space. So to answer your question, we need to say “how do you start?” more than “how you exploit,” I think. So how do you start? Well, first you listen. The most important thing to do is to listen to what is being said about you out in the social media space. That’s how to understand how to enter, and there are a lot of software capabilities and tools out there to help you understand what people are saying, where the conversation is going, and how to take advantage of that information. The second thing you need to do is participate. Which means, for example, some businesses still don’t have a web-site, so you need to have a web presence.  Getting a LinkedIn presence, getting a FaceBook presence - and you’d be really surprised what some of these mid-size companies have done with just those simple presences.

For example, a company called Varsity Brands, they make cheerleading outfits and sporting outfits for young ladies.  They created a FaceBook presence and had two or three hundred thousand followers on this Facebook presence, and working with a business partner, they were able to understand the conversation that was happening on that presence.  They created merchandise and were able to market out to them using that presence as a sales channel. That opens up tremendous opportunity, and it’s really very simple.

PCEO:  How do measure your impact? That is, how do measure how you’re doing once you get started?

Monshaw: There’s an emerging dashboard on ways to measure your social media impact. Very simple things like how many people “Like” you on FaceBook or how many people re-Tweet your information. But what’s more important than that is being able to put something into the social business space, and directly seeing the impact with consumer desire or purchases.

PCEO:  Some of the examples we talked about are retail and more consumer oriented-companies. Can you give an example of something more manufacturer-based? Let’s go back to the radar company again.

Monshaw:  Sure, I mean IBM is business-to-business, not business-to-consumer, and what we have found is that there is a whole sphere of influencers that our buyers look to for information. For mid-market customers, generally speaking, there’s not a large IT staff, and so they need to depend on these influencers to know what they should be deploying, what’s new and out there they can leverage. Like how to take advantage of the cloud, it’s a big topic right now with mid-sized companies. The idea for any company, this radar company for example, is to understand who your buyers are and who your buyers listen to. And as you understand this, you market to the interest of those influencers and those influencers market for you to the end users, whether it’s b2b or b2c.

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