Strategy is critical. Applications facilitate communication. Something we have never talked about here, until today, is that the actually physical tools and devices that B2B marketers use are changing.
Briefcases are quickly turning into backpacks that hold the tools to enable connection to and creation of content for the social web. The notepad and pen are getting replaced by a new set of items that help content generators capture and publish text, images, audio and video. These tools to are becoming essential everyday tools, as well as must haves while at conferences.
So what does this digital tool-belt look like? What cost does it come at? That is the issue for individuals and businesses looking to engage customers and become online publishers. The few dollars needed for paper and ink has now been replaced with thousands of dollars in highly connected technology.
Today’s B2B Marketers Digital Tool-Belt
Backpack – Sadly, for many B2B marketers going digital has not lightened the load, but instead added more items to always have on hand. Because of this we are seeing a shift to durable packs from companies like Timbuk 2, Patagonia, and Targus.
Smartphone – This is the most important item on the list. You can get by without some of the other items as long as you have the right smartphone. Smartphones enable more than phone calls. They allow for connection to social applications like Twitter, can help manage blog posts, capture images and video for publishing online, as well as many other uses. Obviously, the most popular smartphones right now are the iPhone, Blackberry, Palm Pre and the just released Droid. I have an iPhone and love it, but all smartphones come with their pros and cons. The important thing to do is think about what type of content creation and engagement you plan on doing with the phone and then gett one to fit those needs.
Laptop or Netbook – If you work for a company or organization, they have most likely provided you with a laptop. However, every laptop is not created equal. Battery life is an important issue when you are trying to live blog an event or are constantly creating content on the go. Additionally, built in web cams are becoming a standard for video conference calls, as well as live streaming from tradeshows. The bigger issue is often mobility – how portable is the laptop you use. Because of the portability issue, many marketers are turning to ultra portable netbooks from makers like Acer, Asus, and Dell. These ultra light weight computers have great battery life, are light weight and cost only about $300 on average.
Digital Camera – This is one that is not an essential, because many smartphones can take good pictures. That being said, photos are big on the web. Flickr is probably the most underrated social network out of the major ones. By using a good point and shoot, or even a digital SLR camera (one with interchangeable lenses), you can can capture better images for blog posts. Higher quality images are also likely to be used by others in blogs posts and even trade publication articles. Many options are available for point and shoot cameras, while Nikon and Canon are the leaders in the dSLR space. Point and shoot cameras fit in your pocket, while a dSLR adds to the growing weight of your toolkit.
Pocket HD Video Camera and Tripod – One tool that has become a staple in the B2B marketers’ bags, and didn’t even exist two years ago, is the pocket HD video camera. These were originally made popular by Pure Digital with its Flip Camera product line, but recently Kodak has become a competitor with its Zi8 camera. The thing to know about these cameras are that they are not for high end video production, however they are perfect for creating video for the web, for things like client or internal team interviews. The other thing to know is that you will need a portable tripod as well. My favorite is the Gorilla Pod, but their are many other good options as well. These cameras are also more budget friendly than traditional camcorders at between $150 and $200.
E-book Reader – With all of this content and information available on the Internet today, I would argue that it is important now more than ever to read books. Internet content is brief by design. Books provide the true depth that we need to help drive business results. While you don’t need an e-book reader, you will soon find that building a book shelf is expensive and those thick business book like Good To Great are hard to fit in to a backpack. E-book readers can save a lot of space and cut the prices of books by more than 50 percent. I personally like the Kindle from Amazon, but the new Nook is getting good reviews as well.
Backup Batteries – The other problem of living in a digital age is that all of these things listed are digital and need power to work. You can only depend so much on the battery that comes with the device. That is why it pays to have extra batteries, or better yet a backup battery pack that can charge a wide variety of you devices. You will soon realize that backup battery backs are the secret edge in the battle to engaging in an always on world.
Do you need all of this stuff? No. However, look around at your peers and these are the devices that you will begin seeing appear in the hands of B2B marketers everywhere. To me a good smartphone is far and away the most important. We are living in a changing world and these are the new tools of communications.
The important thing to do is look at your workflow. What are the communications tactics you need to enable on a daily basis and then ask yourself what tools do you need to help make that work a reality.
I hope you enjoyed my change of direction into the world of gadgets for the day. Do you think I left anything off this list?