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CIO Review >> Magazine >> August - 2014 issue

Being Relevant in a Connected World

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Trelleborg Sealing Solutions is a global supplier of precision seals for the industrial, aerospace and automotive markets. It is a subsidiary of Trelleborg Group which has annual sales of about USD 3.2 billion in over 40 countries.
Product innovation, strong technical support and cost efficient supply chain management have been the focus of the world’s largest manufacturing companies since decades and continue to be so. However, with the advent of the so called IT megatrends, customer behavior has undergone a significant change.
Even for traditional B2B manufacturing companies, winning the customer today has to do with more than just impressive product demos. The customer of today is an aggregate of “social” beings, and their decision making process is as influenced by the social environment as of you and me as consumers.
Corporations vying to play a role in this process have started picking up this trend and are investing seriously in the engagement and education of their customers. New engagement models are emerging that tie the professional and social behavior of customers. The race today is to be on the top of the customer’s mind when he is making that critical decision – the race is to be relevant! Several key trends are emerging from this realization, which could serve as key differentiators for businesses.

Go Social
Today, nobody is asking if we have a presence on social networks or not. Everyone is looking at how we are leveraging our social presence. Social networks have emerged as the most important touch points to engage customers. While they are relevant channels for marketing, they also provide an apt avenue for companies to get some of their key customers talking about their strengths, which could be leveraged for others. Gamification is another emerging trend that can help engage customers and prospects, when implemented in the right context. Going “social” is not limited to online social networks today. Several companies are engaging with university students and researchers in variety of ways with an expectation of being relevant for the future generation. It goes without saying that in the absence of an analytics backbone, the “social” investments of the organization would find it increasingly difficult to penetrate the boardroom. So, it’s important to ensure that every social investment is carefully designed around what I refer to as the O-A-V (Objectives-Analytics-Value) model – the objectives of the program should be clearly defined and the key parameters carefully analyzed to demonstrate the value added to business and decide the steps for further improvement.
Be Ubiquitous
A look at mobile platform usage and revenue for key social networks reveals that more people are accessing these platforms on their mobile today than on the PC. While various other stats exist that reinstate the reach and impact of mobility in the last decade, it is quite obvious that the advent of the smartphone has resulted in disruptive business models around the world. In the current context, this translates into a tremendous opportunity for new age manufacturers to engage socially with their customers; importantly through a medium that is located “everywhere”. To make the best of it, we need to first create a vision that links with the key business objectives and then define the context in which we want to influence the customer. Once the goal is clear, avenues are many to interact with the customer. While mobile apps are the most popular media today, advancement in wearable devices can also yield significant results, especially when it comes to interpreting customer behavior through usage stats. Interestingly, it’s important to recognize that the apps that create the most significant impact
Often focus is on solving a problem that has no direct benefit for the business. As said earlier – the focus is clearly to be relevant!

Share Knowledge
This is not new. Sharing of knowledge has long been a practice across industries in the form of conferences, forums, magazines and so on – though most of what has been available in the public domain has been generic content. On the contrary, most of the manufacturing companies have traditionally been protective of the knowledge within the organization. This is changing. Companies are taking baby steps to invest on building platforms where knowledge, which is otherwise rarely available, is publicly shared. Sometimes this is related to their products, at others, specific industry topics. As a matter of fact, knowledge platforms could potentially be used for value creation by companies where product pricing is not a significant differentiator. In cases like these, IT can play a key role in assuring the desired impact from the investments – when executed in a social context and ubiquitous manner, knowledge sharing can provide a strong edge in terms of educating the customer and connecting deeply with his thought process.