Led by PricewaterhouseCoopers’ US Innovation Leader, Mitra Best, this panel focused on how companies can drive innovation by putting the customer at the center of the company through social engagement. The two panelists represent individuals who have exercised true innovation in facing the business challenges and recognizing the opportunities within a new “social era.”
Linda Boff, Executive Director of Global Digital Marketing, GE
As Executive Director, Global Digital Marketing, Boff is responsible for setting GE’s digital marketing, content and commercial strategy, including all GE websites, search, mobile, and social efforts. Additionally, Boff leads experiential marketing, user experience, and sponsorship for GE.
Denis Browne, Head of Imagineering, SAP
Denis Browne leads the team at SAP Labs that explores disruptive technologies, business models and market opportunities across the many industry sectors SAP services today and beyond to those markets that SAP may serve in the future.
How do you define the digital consumer?
Denis: They are the king of the hill right now. We no longer look at it as B2B. We look at our business at B2B2C. We understand that one person can have a major impact.
At our most recent SAP Customer Conference, we had over 24,000 tweets posted, with 75% of those coming from people not from SAP. We’re hoping to engage with those people, learn from them, create new solutions for them.
We’re also seeing from our employees a desire to bring the stuff they use in their personal lives into the workplace. Basically overnight, we deployed nearly 15,000 iPads across the organization.
How has the shift of consumerization shifted the practice at GE:
Linda: I can’t tell you how many meetings I sat in with executives and heard “We can’t sell jet engines online. We can’t sell wind turbines online.” Well, frankly, we can’t sell a can of Coke online either.
For GE, it’s more about being transparent and real. Showing GE as its best self. The more people know GE the more they want to partner with us, buy our products, and buy our stock. All of this digital technology allows us to share our excitement and passion about science and technology.
On the business side, we’ve also leaned into social media for co-creation of products. We are now experimenting with an idea for an inflatable wind turbine. That’s something we brought in from the outside…we would have never have come up with that on our own.
What advice would you give B2B companies?
Linda: A few things. One, it was only about 18 months ago that we really started asking how we embrace social, how do we embrace mobile? It doesn’t take a lifetime to get up to speed. Don’t be intimidated.
And listen really, really hard. For us, it’s about sharing but even more it’s about listening to the marketplace. Resist the urge to productize the conversations.
But, when determining whether to engage or not, ask yourself “What’s the risk of us not being part of the conversation?”
The digital platform is here. It’s not alternative reality, it’s our reality. It provides us limitless upsides. We are in a time that allow us to detroy old business models and create new ones. At the center of those new business models must be the consumer.