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Technobabble solved (well, almost)

By Danny Sullivan

Following on from Linda’s piece on acronyms last month, I recently stumbled upon Ade McCormack’s Digital Business Glossary on FT.com. One of the more frequent challenges faced when working with a new IT client is to come up to speed with the range of terms (more than just acronyms) used in their particular segment of the industry.

While still far from comprehensive, Ade’s glossary is a pretty decent link to have when you are reading through all that collateral during those early days.

Is biotech beginning to turn around?

By Danny Sullivan

It probably depends who you ask, doesn’t it? Still, at this week’s BioPartnering Europe conference in London, there were definitely some positive signs for those companies striving for success in this battered market.

The conference was thick with representatives from big pharma – many senior executives were present and there appeared to be a renewed appetite for the acquisition of new technology.

One pleasantly surprised delegate was Rainer Engelhardt, CEO of GangaGen, which develops bacteriophage-based treatments for infectious disease.

“I have definitely noticed a sense of optimism and enthusiasm for the future,” said Engelhardt.” The presence of big pharma is very encouraging, and there are signs that they are beginning to take an interest in infectious disease again, which is good news for GangaGen.”

It’s still early days, of course, and from a PR firm’s perspective, it’s a long way from being an ideal market. But there were enough positive rumblings from some of the executives we met to justify this company’s continued interest in the sector.

Many smaller biotech companies view PR as a non-essential function that can be handled by someone internally, as and when the need arises. And to a certain degree, this is probably true, but the benefit of taking a more strategic approach to the area of one’s business cannot be underestimated. Rather than simply making sporadic announcements about company and product developments, PR can also be an effective tool to help support the drive towards business goals such as financing, partnerships, licensing deals and so on, as well as simply helping to keep awareness up during the periods between news events.

Of course, strategic PR requires a budget, so here’s hoping this positive attitude at BioPartnering is a sign of what is still to come.

Getting your customers to talk

By Danny Sullivan

In today’s noisy technology markets, the media invariably seek ways to separate the most useful stories from the rest. As a result, the ability to deliver a customer perspective has become a significant barrier to entry for getting quality vendor ink.

And this presents one of the greatest challenges for technology vendors in virtually every sector. Time and again I encounter companies that claim to deliver tremendous business value to their customers, but that their customers aren’t willing to have this story told in public. The main reason for this lack of enthusiasm is often simply that the customer in question does not have anything to gain from doing so.

Unfortunately, there is no magic password that you can whisper in the ear of your customer to transform them into the glowing PR resource you want them to be (and if there were, you can be assured I wouldn’t be revealing it here!). But there is a different way of approaching the issue that may help improve the value of what you manage to get out of them.

The key point is to try not to approach the issue holistically. Many vendors will try to include a line in the contract with a new customer stating that they agree to do “joint public relations activities” or something similar. This is still a good tactic, as it at least raises the issue, but it is invariably one of the first things crossed out by the customer upon review.

And who can blame them. “Public relations activities” could cover a whole multitude of sins, and might mean having them be involved in everything from news releases and glossy case studies to tradeshows and speaking slots.

Sure, if you can get them to agree to all of the above, then great, but getting their agreement to sign-off on a four page case study, or to provide a quote in a news release, can still often be a tedious and sometimes fruitless exercise.

The reality of what is required from customers is much more simple. The media are usually far more interested to have access to information that is not publicly available. So, without wishing to detract from their value in other areas like marketing and sales, polished case studies and quotes in news releases are often of little real use to your PR program.

The most useful participation of all is a simple agreement to take a few calls from some relevant media over a certain period of time. With this arrow in your PR firm’s quiver, they will be able to achieve more than with any pre-approved quote or material.

Achieving this agreement is all about the management of your customer. Finding the right person to raise the question with, and broaching it in the right way. The idea of taking a phone call from an individual can feel a lot less significant than signing off on a news release that will be distributed to the world at large.

And involve your PR firm in the process. They are (hopefully) experts in the field and should be able to help both you and your customer understand what is required. Working together with our clients, we regularly craft other creative ways to circumvent the approvals barriers customers usually erect in this area.

Ultimately, unless you are one of those very lucky companies whose customers want to shout about the great things they are doing with technology, it’s never going to be easy to get your customers to talk. But you can at least focus on getting the most valuable participation out of them when they do.

Congratulations ciboodle

By Danny Sullivan

More from Call Centre Expo. I just have to say a big well done to Graham Technology for winning the show’s Best Product award for its customer interaction platform, ciboodle.

I have had the fortune of working with Graham Technology since ciboodle’s launch last year, and the marketing team made achieving this award as a goal ever since. Mission accomplished – great job guys!

Dialling in to Call Centre Expo

By Danny Sullivan

I spent yesterday in bitterly cold Birmingham, attending Call Centre Expo, the U.K.’s major contact centre tradeshow.

Despite the cold, the show was doing its best to warm things up inside. Contrasting sharply with the straight-faced, serious demeanour of last week’s ECOC event, Call Centre Expo was bustling with activity. Exhibitors were engaged in all kinds of activities to raise their profile above that of the competition. Jugglers, magicians, cocktail-spinning bartenders, Nintendos, musicians and actors were just some of the tactics employed by the hundreds of companies vying for attention.

With all the marketing dollars on display, the contact centre technology market is clearly one that is in a robust state of health. Competition is fierce, and, unlike the telecoms sector, there are obviously many different options available to those responsible for building contact centres… Do you go with a hosted or premise-based solution? Do you choose IP over traditional telephony? Do you buy each component product as you need it or deploy a complete solution that can handle everything you might ever want to do?

Lots of good questions and lots of companies putting forward good cases for each side. Glad I’m not making those desicions!

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