The digital, social media-driven world is changing the way businesses market themselves and in turn changing the way solution providers need to serve their customers, said Heidi Dethloff, vice president, business partner marketing at IBM North America, during a keynote session at UBM Channel's Solution Provider 500 conference in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday.
"It's a digital, social, mobile world. We are more empowered. How many of you go to Yelp before you try a new restaurant in town. How many check how a friend is doing online rather than having a conversation," said Dethloff.
"We're empowered consumers," Dethloff said. "All this digital evolution is impacting how we transact, how we do business with suppliers, how IBM does business with you, how your business partners do business with ISVs and other business partners at the local level."
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IBM recently completed its bi-annual CEO study of more than 1,700 global CEOs from 18 industries. For the first time in the study's history, since 2004, "technology factors" was chosen as the leading external force that impacts the organization. Of the CEOs survey, 71 percent said technology is a force in their organization. "Market factors" had been the top external force since 2004 but fell to third place this year, she said. "People skills" was number two in 2012, at 69 percent, according to IBM.
About 1.2 billion people, or 20 percent of the world's population, are on social networks, Dethloff said. That creates an untapped opportunity for technology providers to leverage that power to their advantage, she said.
One example of technology becoming a factor is the ways in which it’s being used to empower employees, Dethloff said. She cited Bausch and Lomb, which is using social media techniques internally to create more open dialogue between employees. "It allows employees to feed up content to be shared across the population. This creates a shared environment, but also a trusted environment," she said.
Social media will continue to be a dominant communications tool for years to come, according to the CEO study. While 80 percent of CEOs said they leverage face-to-face events today, only 67 percent expect to do so within three to five years, according to IBM.
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Meanwhile, social media is only used by 16 percent of CEOs today, but that will skyrocket to 57 percent within three to five years, according to the study.
Another IBM study, of chief marketing officers, found that the explosion of data and social media represent two of the biggest areas where organizations report feeling unprepared, Dethloff said.
"Three themes from the CMO study are delivering value to empowered customers; fostering lasting connections; and capturing valuable and measurable results," she said.
IBM itself is investing $2.5 billion in new capabilities to go after chief marketing officers as a new buyer opportunity, Dethloff said. "We're looking for ways to create new capabilities in the marketplace," she said.
One example is a new mid-market application for the iPad, designed for IBM business partners, that includes content and presentations to bring to a client. "The tool itself might not be the closer, but how and when you use the tools [is]," she said.