B2B Social Media Breaks Out at SXSW

For those of us in the social media bubble it is that time of year again where we try to get our friends, fans and followers to vote for our submitted sessions so that we can speak at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Conference in March 2013. But as we have done in year’s past, we are interested in supporting the B2B community and promoting some of the other sessions in addition to ours.

Last year there was a B2B track with a day’s worth of sessions in one Standing Room Only room. It was a sign of progress for B2B content at the session. Kipp and I even did a book presentation for The B2B Social Media Book. Each year there are more B2B sessions submitted than the year before and this year continues that trend. Companies represented include many of the usual suspects like IBM, Cisco, Xerox, Salesforce, but there are also less known B2B companies like National Instruments and Honeywell Aerospace.

If you want to support your fellow B2B marketers, check out these and other presentations on the SXSW panelpicker site. Register for an account to like sessions, leave comments to make the sessions better, or even share them with your networks. Your support may help create more interest in B2B topics this coming year. If you are interested in attending the conference, note that hotels are selling out and the tickets are only getting more expensive as time goes by.

Digital A-Z for B2B

At last year’s SXSW, a starved crowd of B2B marketers shuffled into a standing-room-only session track to hear more about this often-neglected topic. Meanwhile, the volume of B2B transactions is 20 times higher than B2C – the B2B industry is worth more than $400 billion.

How drastically does the marketing world change when you’re selling to another business? Contrary to the Supreme Court decision, businesses aren’t anything like people. But marketing must reach out to role-based B2B tribes. What are the most civilized moves you can make?

In this topic session, you’ll learn everything from 101 marketing basics to how much of your budget to protect for unpredicted innovations. Learn how web analytics and optimization testing can help determine what advertising, content, promotions and strategies are right for your business model.

Social Conversion: For Love and Money in B2B

61% of B2B marketers use social media to generate leads, but that isn’t enough. Marketers are ignoring a much bigger opportunity: social conversion. Social conversion uses social content and social media platforms to induce an action from an evangelist, lead or customer. Going beyond lead generation, social conversion enables optimization through all stages of the B2B sales and marketing funnel. By using social content at each step of the online decision making process, marketers can drastically improve their results, while giving prospective customers the most relevant content personalized to them. Inject social into all stages of your conversion process from landing pages to your website homepage to scale your online marketing to new heights.

Paradise By The Dashboard Light: Success in B2B

There is a big myth in business today — “You can’t track your social media efforts like you do other digital media.” False. With the right tools, every component of social media can be tracked & measured against a business goal. You better form your business goals with such metrics to influence all your marketing channels. Yes, all of them.

While looking to understand what impact social activities are having, Mitsubishi Electric Cooling & Heating collaborated with WCG creating a consolidated dashboard to visualize its metrics. For upper management, this dashboard showcases all digital & social activities — in real time via web-based login, which can also be displayed for all employees to see in a common area. Independent figures as well as campaign specific data can all be expanded.

A business need to analyze and showcase ROI has become a real-time illustration board. The benefits to a brand are priceless in an age where strategies need to react as fast as social media unfolds.

Late Night Comedy Secrets for Social Business

Research shows that nearly 73% of people who read corporate blogs are people. One of the most authentic, intimate connections we can make with another person is to make them laugh; which makes comedy the ideal genre for corporate transmedia content. Learn how to apply the same comedy approaches used on Conan, Letterman and SNL to help strengthen and grow online corporate communities. Learn how to produce a comedy video for under $500. We’ll share a few successes, failures and near-fireable offenses; as well as case studies our productions including a Cisco video covered by The New York Times and an IBM video which ran on Comedy Central.com.

Getting Away With It: IBM Social Sells the Cloud

IBM and its web-based offering, the IBM Public Cloud, has gone social with its selling – and is exporting the practice overseas. Beginning in the US, IBM.com developed & launched an innovative Social Selling Program to help Public Cloud sales reps close new business using social media channels & techniques – primarily because traditional teleprospecting and email were not a market best fit. By embarking on internal social selling education, a social action marketing calendar, an influencer strategy, a social content management system, weekly reporting & prospect social tracking through the sales pipeline, the innovations has proven that social media has an invaluable contribution to the B2B sales & marketing mix. Hear from IBM on how this Social Selling Program was developed, the learning that the campaign has produced both in US and Europe – and the results that are now serving to influence the use of social media as a sales and marketing tool in b-to-b markets at IBM overall.

Bonus Session Listing (Not B2B, but mine):

The Incredible Disappearing Marketing Trick

Marketing is undergoing its biggest transformation in 80 years. It is disappearing. How can marketing actually disappear, you ask? Not only are marketers getting better at their jobs and creating things that don’t feel like marketing, but these highly valuable ideas are shared by your customers, prospects and advocates. By reducing the barriers between you and this army of supporters, your content can get amplified like never before. And this marketing trick will put you on the path to more customers in less time at lower cost. Now who’s the magician?

If there are other B2B sessions that sound interesting to you, add them to the comments below.

3 Unique Ideas from SXSW B2B Social Media Panel

At this year’s SXSW, one of the strongest B2B social media sessions was the panel “Social Media in the Underground World of B2B.” The panel provided eye-opening insight and touched on some unexpected topics, making it an invaluable learning session for B2B marketers.

SXSW B2B Social Media PanelThe presenters included Duane Schulz from Xerox Corporation (@duaneschulz), Jeanette Gibson from Cisco Systems (@JeanetteG), Shanee Ben-Zur from NVIDIA (@sbenzur), Susan Emerick (@sfemerick) from IBM and Melissa Chanslor from Text 100 (@Chanslor).

The panel opened by covering social strategy and engagement. The panelists agreed that the best place to start B2B social media marketing is where your audience is. Identify areas where key decision makers spend their time. Shape your engagement strategy around where those prospects are. Use listening tools, participate in the conversation, and measure effectiveness.

Unique Idea #1: Use Facebook and OpenID for B2B Website Login
Show the connection from social to sales. Cisco Systems is using Facebook and OpenID for login on their website. It’s led to a 40% reduction in cost and has increased event registration by 20%.

When it comes to participation, find the best social citizens within your organization to enact the social strategy. Enable them to be true representatives of the brand. By recruiting the right subject experts internally, brands can bring value to the conversation. And no one knows your brand better than your employees, so enable them and make sure they reflect your brand properly.

IBM stresses the importance of their people understanding that they represent the brand, and if they do it well, customers will become brand ambassadors too.

Adoption among employees is key. Engaged employees equals engaged customers. So how do you get employees to adopt social media?  Expose them to it.

Unique Idea #2: Conversation Starters
NVIDIA and Cisco System have large LCD screens that display real-time Twitter streams and other social conversations in high traffic areas of their office (meeting areas, near bathrooms, etc.). Employees routinely stop to see what is being mentioned about their brand online. This tactic leads to employee engagement.

When asked about B2B social media challenges, the panelists pointed to ROI and internal resources being the biggest obstacles.

On the topic of ROI, panelists noted that social media ROI can’t always be measured. They recommended creating benchmarks and showing growth over time.  Show that you changed a trend.

Shanee Ben-Zur from NVIDIA provided additional insight: “Your business objectives should guide you to what you should measure. Tie social back to the original objective and use that as the measurement standard.”

Dwayne Schulz said that Xerox is not worrying about ROI for the next 2 years.  Their goal is to create a literate community within their organization first.

Unique Idea #3: Gamification
Many B2B marketers may feel that gamification is only for consumer marketing, but rewarding people for participation and incentivizing behavior are tactics B2B marketers can employ too.  Integrate game mechanics into an interaction to emotionally engage and empower users.

IBM and Cisco are using gamification now. “IBM is using gamification internally to build leaders through rewards and recognition” mentioned Susan Emerick.  And Jeanette Gibson from Cisco Systems mentioned how they were using it on their blog.  “You can get badges for sign up, reading, commenting, sharing, etc.”

Although the panel covered several other notable points, these topics seemed to generate the most interest from the session attendees.  And with good reason- all are unique concepts that help these notable brands achieve success with their B2B social media marketing.

Are you using any of these unique B2B social media ideas?  Share your thoughts, stories and feedback in the comments.

SocialMediaB2B Founders to Speak at SXSW

The South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Conference in Austin Texas is one of the biggest web and social media conferences in the world with over 20,000 attendees expected. Kipp and I are super-excited that we are speaking at the event this year.

We are doing a book reading session for The B2B Social Media Book on Sunday at 12:30 in the Austin Convention Center Ballroom G. This short session will be followed by a book signing at the SXSW Bookstore, right outside of Ballroom G. We would love to see you there, if you are in attendance at the show. If you have read the book, we want to know your favorite parts. If you haven’t read it yet, pick up a copy at the bookstore, and we would be happy to sign it for you.

And if you will be at SXSW, but can’t make it to our session, reach out to us on Twitter: @jeffreylcohen or @kippbodnar. We would like to meet you and talk about what your B2B company is doing in social media.

We are also happy to see more B2B content being presented this year at SXSW. If you are attending, here is a list of other B2B sessions. Each session has its own hashtag, so you can follow the presentations on Twitter, if you will not be attending.

Other B2B Sessions at SXSW

Social Media in the Underground World of B2B
with speakers from Xerox, IBM, Cisco, Text 100 and NVIDIA

Everything You Need to Know About B2B Marketing
with the authors of Complete B2B Online Marketing

How to Work in B2B and Keep Your Creative Shirt On
with speakers from Somnio Solutions

Humanizing B2B Brands with Video & Comedy
with Tim Washer of Cisco

Using Psychology to Increase e-Commerce Conversion
with Joe Rawlinson of National Instruments

The Promise and Pitfalls of Real-Time Marketing
with speakers from Dow Chemical and McDonald’s

B2B Social Media Example: Dell on Facebook

At the recent South by Southwest Interactive conference I had the opportunity to talk with Laura Thomas of Dell about Facebook for B2B companies. She is a Senior Consultant in the Small and Medium Business Group and responsible for digital media. Follow Laura on Twitter at @LPT.

We talked about:

  • Dell’s B2B Facebook Initiatives including Dell for Business and Social Media for Business Pages
  • Advice for B2B companies getting started on Facebook
  • How to handle attacks on Facebook by bringing customer service people into the process, whether you work for a large or small organization

3 Successful B2B Marketing Promotions At SXSW

Many people gathered for the South by Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin Texas, around 19,000 of them, and there was not much talk about B2B social media marketing. The conference that grew from its design/development beginnings now has a huge marketing and social media component, but the information largely focuses on consumer brands. Between the sponsorships of the event and the trade show, there are companies pitching their products and services to other businesses, and that’s B2B. Some are done subtly with sponsorships or events, while others are overt at a trade show.

The following three promotional marketing examples are based on the company’s business, relate to the target audience and connect to the spirit of SXSW. We also offer a takeaway on each example for small and medium-sized companies.

GE Carousolar

GE set up a solar-powered carousel and outdoor lounge, complete with solar-powered charging stations. This large display was located in a parking lot a few blocks away from the convention center. It was visible and fun, plus it demonstrated GE’s ability to capture power from the sun and turn it into something both useful and entertaining. The conference included a Greater Good track, so there were many people and companies who are concerned with renewable energy and sustainable business practices. This “event” attracted both conference attendees and local Austinites, with and without kids. The connection between GE and solar power is easily made in people’s minds with the carousel, and they will think about GE when they think about solar power on a larger scale.

Social Component: Check in on Foursquare for a free shirt.

SMB Marketing Takeaway: Create a visible display that shows an unusual use of your product or service, but make it fun and memorable. Provide some value for visitors to the display.

FedEx Delivers Lunch

FedEx served lunch to hundreds of people of every day in Austin. It is easy to provide lunch to people, but FedEx tied it to their products and services in two different ways. Food truck culture is huge in Austin, so they converted a FedEx truck into a food truck and parked it outside the convention center to serve lunch. They also had custom made boxes that look just like regular FedEx boxes and labeled them Lunch Boxes. This was a FedEx experience that sticks with you and gives you a good feeling about them when you use their service. Will it make someone switch their business shipping from UPS to FedEx? Probably not. But it will make someone think about FedEx when they do have a choice.

Social Component: Prominently posted Twitter and Facebook links and had associates encouraging people to follow their social profiles and let friends know about the free lunch. I thanked @FedExDelivers in a tweet with a link to a photo of the lunch box.

SMB Marketing Takeaway: The product or service tie-in is the most important part of this example. Make sure that any giveaways show off your product. Squeeze balls and buttons might bring a bit of awareness, but they are not related to what your company does.

Softlayer Server Challenge

Softlayer makes servers and they wanted to make a splash at SXSW. The hottest giveaway on the trade show floor was Apple’s iPad 2, and Softlayer also was giving one away. But to enter their contest you needed to assemble a server. Yes, a server. They wanted to demonstrate how easy it is to put their servers together and get up and running. A contest where you do just that makes that point stronger than anything else. Remember, this is a conference for techies, as well as marketing folks, so there are plenty of people with experience building servers. Hands on experience with a product is a good way to make an impression with potential buyers.

Social Component: None

SMB Marketing Takeaway: Don’t just ask trade show attendees to drop a business card into a bowl for popular drawing. Have them interact with your product. If a timed contest doesn’t work, a random drawing is okay, so long as people had their hands on your product.

Do you have other suggestions how small and medium-sized B2B companies can make an impression at a large conference or trade show?

How B2B Brands Respond to Facebook Attacks

As B2B companies create Facebook Pages, in addition to creating a content strategy and an engagement strategy, which are processes for what to post and how to engage with comments, they need to develop a process for dealing with a crisis. The SXSW Interactive Session, How Brands Respond to Facebook Attacks, addressed this issue with examples and advice from the panelists.

Bryan Person, Social Media Evangelist, Liveworld (@BryanPerson)
Ekaterina Walter, Social Media Strategist, Intel (@Ekaterina)
Laura Thomas, Senior Digital Consultant, Dell (@LPT)
Michael Lazerow, CEO, Buddy Media (@Lazerow)

The session begin with a summary of the Nestle Facebook attack by Greenpeace, which encouraged backers to post negative messages on the Nestle Page using an altered logo in their profile pictures. Nestle did not respond well, but ultimately responded by changing their policy of sourcing palm oil.

Dell on Facebook
Dell has seen an overwhelming amount of negative posts on the Dell Page on Facebook. They organized a team comprised of people from customer service, social media and public relations departments to respond. There have been over 5,000 customers that have posted customer service issues on the Dell Facebook Page, and 98% expressed negative feelings toward the brand. After the customer service issues were resolved, 36% expressed positive comments publicly.

Intel on Facebook
Intel was prepared with a crisis plan and a crisis team, along with a listening tool in place that gave indication that something was coming. The connections between the listening team and the Facebook management team were not clearly defined as part of the process. Technology companies source products from around the world. People started to rally around mining in the Congo. There was a series of similar posts that were repeated on the Page. They appeared to be spam and were deleted as duplicates. More started appearing and the Intel team realized it was a coordinated attacked.

The team got together with customer service, pr, web team and legal department in the room. The team reviewed several options, and based their decision on what was appropriate for the community members. Rather than answering on the Facebook Page, Intel referred people to the Corporate Responsibility blog. They also turned off the ability for fans to post, and posted on the Page that they were doing this. After a three-hour period of answering questions on the blog, they allow fans to post on the Page again. The negative comments re-appeared and Intel continued at act in accordance with their Page rules and the comments died down. The listening team is now in sync with Page manager as a result of event.

Page Management Tips

  • Make sure you have a policy to respond, because inaction can be defined negatively. Put technology tools in place before an attack, so you can be alerted on your cell phone.
  • If you start a Facebook Page, make sure you allow fans to post, but make sure you are prepared.
  • Watch for patterns on the Page. An intern cannot properly manage a Page. A good manager know the fans, how active they are and what kinds of things they post.
  • Provide a commenting policy on the Page, but it does not need to be legalese. Setting these ground rules allows you to manage a Page according to these rules. You can even post that you can have deleted a comment due to profanity.
  • Comply with Facebook terms and conditions and add your own house rules. Intel’s Facebook House Rules are described as the good, the bad, but not the ugly. They keep positive and negative comments, but remove things that violate the rules.
  • Because of what is exposed through Facebook, a company is going to come down, just like governments. Consider running a real firedrill on an unpublished page where only admins can see the Page.
  • If you have to actively rally your fans to respond to posts on the wall, they probably won’t. The best fans will respond on their own.
  • An attack on a Page can influence how often Page shows up in newsfeed. With the changes to the algorithm, extra activity increases the popularity of a Page. It also brings lurkers out to post.

Are there other tips that you can share if you have handled an attack or highly negative comments on your company’s Facebook Page?

Top 10 B2B Comedy Videos

This list of funny B2B videos includes two of my own projects, one each from Cisco and IBM, which seems both reasonable and in compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley. To keep the comparisons somewhat fair, I’m going to exclude videos for smaller ticket products (e.g. FedEx, Nextel, Staples) since their addressable markets are much closer in size to B2C, affording much larger production budgets. The opinions below are my own, as my company officially does not comment on rumor or comedies.

1. The Cart Whisperer takes an idea we recognize from a Redford film and applies an absurd context that’s only remotely relevant to its sponsor VeriSign.  If during the approval process someone in marketing gripes, “What in the heck does this have to do with our product?,” you’re off to a great start.   This enjoyable experience continues on the microsite NoMoreAbandonedCarts.com, where we’re invited to participate by uploading our own photos of abandoned carts.

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2. While august Wall Street firms such as Goldman Sachs don’t need to lean on comedy to build a global reputation, that’s not the case for some smaller businesses in the banking ecosystem, like the regional repo-man.

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3. I’m pretty sure Art of the Sale was the first B2B comedy on YouTube.  My partner Scott Teems and I created it in the summer of 2006, featuring  sales vp Bob Hoey as himself.  Hoey began his acting career in 2004 starring in a comedy short “Z On Demand”  which was released direct-to-DVD (we copied discs for each regional sales meeting) and on the company intranet.   Since I couldn’t get a comedy video approved initially, I kept the financial risk small by offering Scott $400 to direct/edit/film the spot.  I think his fees have gone up a bit since his feature film won SXSW.

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4. I don’t like potty humor, but David Meerman Scott showed me a completely new angle in this brilliant CWS ad.  I’m sure the production benefited from a TV broadcast budget, but I’m still including it in this list because its for a narrow industrial market.  For more background, see this previous Social Media B2B post.

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5. Microsoft chose the classic comedy approach of juxtaposition to sell to advertisers.  In this metaphor, the man and the woman characters in the relationship represent advertisers and consumers, and to be sure we’re not confused, the symbolism is spelled out — on their t-shirts.

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6. Kinaxis used the same dating/relationship storyline to poke fun at a supply chain management rival, but thankfully  Sally Ann Perkins is not wearing a monogrammed t-shirt.  This kind of humor is perfect for its target  – inside jokes are flattering to your audience, and can build rapport by making fun of a shared pain.   Clare McDermott told me when prospective customers meet Kinaxis’ representatives at trade shows, they say that watching the video has made them feel like they already know the company.   There’s your ROI.

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7. Also early to YouTube in October 2006, Dell jumps in on the JibJab genre.  It’s very well executed with sharp graphics/animation and music, and a script full if inside geek jokes.  I’m guessing they didn’t get script approval from Larry.

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8. My hard-and-fast rule of never including a rap video on a top 10 list was softened to more of a guideline thanks to intern Greg Justice. When  original music, clever lyrics and Chuck E. Cheese’s references blend into an artful production, the genre is timeless.  I love Woot’s rhyme, jokes and the honesty.

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9. Keeping product specifics out of a video is always a good idea, particularly when the video goes live a few weeks before the launch.  And those aren’t my words — that’s what my manager told me after reviewing an early draft of my script.  So, instead of mentioning details of Cisco’s Videoscape announcement at CES, we empathized with the lonely TV set.

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10. “People just didn’t seem to like me”  is one of the touching admissions in this beautiful example of personification.  This clever story resonates with us, because we’ve all experienced this feeling.  It creates curiosity and delivers surprise.  Hats off to Mr. W.

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Let me know in the comments if there are other B2B videos that have made you laugh your way to a call to action.

Social Media B2B Founders Propose SXSW Panels

It is the time of year when social media speakers pitch their ideas to the community and beg for votes so they can speak at South by Southwest Interactive Festival (SXSW). As conference organizers determine which panels make the cut, 30% of the consideration is based on community voting and commenting. Kipp and I appreciate your support for this site, and we hope you will support our topics for the 2011 edition of this conference.

We plan on attending the conference whether we get the opportunity to speak or not, and we plan to conduct interviews and provide site visitors with content related to the B2B social media space.

You need to create an account to vote, and voting closes on Friday, August 27, 2010 at 11:59pm CDT.

Kipp’s Topic
Curation Is King and Content Is Its Bitch
Never in the history of the world has more free information and data been public. Conversely, all of this data has created more noise for information consumers, causing a need for information consolidation. This means that although original content is still important, the overflow of it has made curation the most important information related activity on the web. Business and individuals who want to build credibility and reach online must become master curators of information. Through quality curation they can become the pulse of an industry and the leader of a tribe.
Vote for Kipp’s Topic

Jeff’s Topic
Everything You Know About Social Media is Wrong
Seemingly every day new statistics are released about the adoption and success of social media. Many of these studies suffer from small sample sizes, niche audiences and online data gathering methods that prevent these studies from being applied broadly. Through case studies, best practices and relevant data, we will examine the real value of social media in a variety of companies, including ones where it does not work. By understanding the true value of social media, rather than headline-driven studies, session attendees will leave with a better understanding of how social media can help their businesses succeed and thrive in the changing online landscape.
Vote for Jeff’s Topic

Thanks again for all your support on this site, and if either (or both) of these topics interest you, please vote for them and leave comments. With over 2300 submissions, community support of a topic is important to SXSW organizers.

SXSW: B2B Information Firm Hoover’s Uses Social Media

In our final video interview from SXSW, I spoke with Tim Walker, Social Media Manager at Hoover’s, the leading supplier of business information on companies, industries and people. This company provides data that allow a variety of people within B2B organizations do their jobs better.

Their primary external social media platform is Twitter, with a hand-crafted list of interested followers, made up of customers, prospects, and others interested in their company. They use Twitter to share interesting information from their blogs, as well as information from the general business press. Tim engages with other users, talking about interesting things in their space, and answers questions about their products and services. This allows Hoover’s to serve the free users of their site, along with paid subscribers. Some social media connections are in the works for their subscribers, too.

Hoover’s uses social media collaboration tools internally, so they can move projects along. Tim’s role is to make sure that social media tools reach the right parts of the organization.

Facebook is still viewed as an experiment for this B2B company. They share content from their blogs, and other parts of their world. In addition to posting the occasional question, Tim has used it to promote things like training options to remind people of their existence, and that exposure has been helpful.

And finally, TIm’s advice for anyone starting in social media is to be open and be yourself. Understand that this is not a short term project. It is iterative, and cumulative. Get into a rhythm that you can sustain, and keep going.

Follow Hoover’s on Twitter at @hoovers and Tim at @twalk.

SXSW: David Meerman Scott Riffs on B2B and ROI

David Meerman Scott is a marketing strategist, keynote speaker, seminar leader, and the author of The New Rules of Marketing & PR, an award-winning BusinessWeek bestseller published in 24 languages. He is also the author of the hit book World Wide Rave and three other books. His Web Ink Now blog is ranked by AdAge Power 150 as a top worldwide marketing blog.

I talked to David at SXSW in Austin, Texas and he shared his thoughts with me on topics that he has spoken about before. David has strong views that may seem contrarian at first, but upon reflection, you realize that he presents clarity of situations that others just don’t see.

Is there any difference between B2B and B2C company? Not according to David. You are still selling to people.

And what about the ROI of social media? David views social media as a new form of communication, similar to a telephone or a computer. You don’t measure the ROI of those anymore. Watch the video to hear him say it and let us know if you agree with him or disagree in the comments below.