The B2B Social Spotlight: Jill Castilla

 

Jill Castilla

Citizens Bank of Edmond has people and businesses personally asking the CEO to take their money.  

Over Twitter.

Really.

How did a 114-year-old, single location suburban community bank get to the point of generating business over social media and compete head to head with institutions many times its size?

President and CEO Jill Castilla says the bank is thriving because she and her staff connect deeply, positively and consistently with the people, businesses, and institutions in and around Edmond and nearby Oklahoma City.

This Army vet and mother of three has kept community banking in the family. She is the 4th generation of ownership and management of the bank, founded in 1901 (before Oklahoma was even a state).

Like many banks, Citizens Bank of Edmond saw difficulty after the Great Recession. Upon returning to Edmond after stints as CFO with a community bank in Minnesota and various posts with Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, she applied the force multiplier of social media.

Leveraging it and positive messaging, Castilla and her staff have made the bank a vibrant and award-winning institution. It competes with 50 different financial institutions, yet is consistently ranked in the top five banks in the region.

Castilla was recently recognized as Woman of the Year award by the Edmond Chamber of Commerce, American Banker Top 25 Women to Watch and was named by Independent Community Bankers of America as a top social media influencer.

What did Citizens Bank of Edmond intentionally set out to do – or do differently – using social media?

I recognized early on, from my first interactions on Facebook and then Twitter, that the next interaction I had after the initial connection could go much deeper. Social Media allows a relationship to grow more quickly than even after years of being in a community. It allowed me to gain a lot of credibility, to connect with service organizations and really become a leader in the community very quickly.

Coming out of the financial crisis, I first used Social Media to optimize our search results to help shift the stories about the bank from negative to positive. From there, that was the focus: deliver positive messages, advocate for the bank, the industry and the community. So, in the beginning it was mostly me on Twitter developing relationships.

I also loved the time efficiency of having meaningful conversations while multitasking at your desk, instead of shaking hands at traditional networking events.

Social is about producing business outcomes, but it begins with developing relationships and supplying valuable content. What did Citizens Bank of Edmond do to build dialogue?

We lift other people up and offer assistance. It’s similar to overhearing someone talk about banking, your community, your industry and then interjecting your perspective/assistance. If there’s a way that you can help them — being very genuine in how you interact with them — you are accepted and welcomed into that world.

With most of my local Twitter community, we’ve gone the next step to meeting in person. It’s how I met one of my greatest mentors. I’ve been following him for a long time and then tweeted that my New Year’s resolution was to meet him. He has a huge following on Twitter, lives in my community and shares wisdom that resonates with me. His response? Let’s make it happen! Now, we meet for coffee frequently, and he’s become a great advocate for our bank and such a great resource for me.

I don’t use Social Media as a targeting mechanism to try to get particular business. I don’t promote our products and services. It’s really just being part of the conversation that people start viewing you as more of an expert, or as a resource at least, for banking, and our community.

What other tools do you use besides Twitter?

While Twitter is my Social Media of choice, we utilize Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Google+. I also experiment with the Social Media tool du jour so that we can stay relevant and engaged with our target audience.  We use Instagram for many of our photos when we do what we call “Cash Mobs”, which is a way we interact with some of the small businesses. It’s produced amazing results for us, including traditional media coverage.

We give money to our team to go to a particular business on a specific day. And while wearing their Citizens Bank of Edmond T-shirts, and on a prior day, coordinate with the small business so that they know that we’re coming in, our staff goes in and takes pictures, and puts it on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and then that business also does the same thing.

I use LinkedIn extensively to connect with peers as well as build on relationships that start via some other interaction, either on Social Media or in real life.

Twitter is the primary driver we utilize to interact with our customers and our community. It’s an amazing way for us to connect with financial technology firms because many of them are early adopters of Twitter, and so they’ll interact with you quite a bit. In some cases, you get to be on the leading edge of adopting a new technology because they feel like they know who you are.

I just got back from a large banking conference, and it’s amazing how many vendors and bankers that I saw there that I had previously interacted with on Social Media. As a new conference attendee, having so many “friends” made it very easy to network and further deepen relationships.

How did you arrive at your content and engagement strategy?

We have a social media plan, and structure, but we have no contrived content strategy. I have never scheduled a tweet.  I enjoy being in the moment and accessible so that I can have authentic engagements.

We’ll talk about what’s happening in town beyond the events calendar. We celebrate others – it’s the whole “rising tide lifts all boats” strategy.

I think other banks can make a mistake in maybe engaging a third-party service that’s going to provide generic financial information and banking information that’s being broadcast by five thousand other people, and kind of generically put out there. We want our personality to shine through.

How have your social media activities influenced your company’s bottom line?

I can easily say yes. I probably don’t measure our success in social media like people typically track their success on social media by boasting about the number of followers or interactions. I get at least one new account per week from a relationship that originated from social media.

I consistently gain loan referrals from my interactions on Twitter and LinkedIn. It opens many doors with the prospect of millions in commercial loans for our institution. It also solidifies relationships to acquire that next loan with little to no competition. Social media has made my bank more profitable and increased our loan volume.. The possibilities to develop the pipeline through it are a gold mine.

What’s the one thing people would never know about marketing a bank?

We’re regulated, and that can be scary. But I think the thing that would surprise everyone is how much freedom you have to communicate via social media that don’t trigger the regulatory concerns.

What is one thing your social followers don’t know about you?

I love rap music. My family has rap battles at home.

What three blogs would you recommend?  

Scott Williams and bigisthenewsmall.com is my favorite.

Oomphcast.com, is an Oklahoma-based marketing podcast.

Becky McCrea, at beckymccray.com and smallbizsurvival.com, talks about entrepreneurship and small business issues.

How can people connect with you?

Twitter is super easy, @JillCastilla, and via LinkedIn. Email is the most terrible way ever.

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Do you know of other B2B marketers who are effectively integrating and using social media to fuel their businesses? I want to talk to them and share their story. Drop me a note at bob@rurelevant.com or via Twitter at @RAReed.

Picture This: What A B2B Company Can Show (and Tell) About Its Business

Maersk Effingham, by André Hueners

So much social media and marketing content is all about the telling… or writing. From the consumption perspective, it’s all about the reading.

Now, it seems, the social prognosticators are telling us that content is now all about the viewing. Fackbook’s Timeline, Pinterest, video, and infographics are thrusting all things visual to forefront as the next social media “It Girl”.

True, visual elements are getting more attention. Before Instagram’s eye-popping acquisition by Facebook, its user base was 35 million. Alone, Facebook users uploaded more 170 billion photos.  Pictures have been a part of marketing for the last century. Who remembers the Sears Catalog?  It’s not like the Daguerreotype was invented yesterday.

Visuals also mean video. Look at YouTube and you’ll quickly see (minus the teen kitty videos and Star Trek fan remixes) just how much visual content we generate.

Even with this visual Tsunami, images and video are underutilized mediums by B2B companies. Just as there is a lot to write about, there is also just as much to leverage visually to better connect with customers and markets. Visuals can — and should — reach into every aspect of your communications.

Usage. Is there a way to illustrate the breadth and scope of your company? Check out how Maersk Group leveraged photography of its ships, containers and facilities and attracted 237,000 followers on its Facebook page… in five months. User engagement via Instagram was a winning strategy for this huge B2B company. (Tip: check out how Maersk developed its social program via the folks over at Convince and Convert.  But don’t let size  lead to intimidation. Look how this small boat building operation uses photography.

Behind the Scenes. One of the less flashy, yet compelling TV shows in recent memory is called “How it’s Made“. So, how do whistle manufacturers get that little ball of whatever it is in that piece of bent metal? The same can be said for your business. People want to know more about you and your company. Put your processes and machinery on display, as well as your people. General Electric asked Instagram users to capture GE products using the app, offering the winner a free flight to the United Kingdom for an Instagram shoot.

Demonstrations and Installations. B2B products are typically complex and/or sophisticated. Many involve technological solutions and advancements, whether it is machinery or professional services. Visually demonstrate how your products work. “How-Tos” and “What For” video and still content can help you solidify a claim of a new or improved product over a competitor; show ease of use; or used as targeted content help a propel a prospect further down the sales funnel.    

Visual Repository. For companies with histories that span generations (and maybe younger), reaching back into photo files can find a treasure trove of imagery that can communicate a corporate story and heritage. Facebook’s Timeline is geared toward this kind of representative story telling. It’s also an effective way to highlight employees and related events.  For B2B firms, showing people behind the brand can help further humanize the firm.

Whether you use shared images, compelling video, or pictures from your corporate yesteryear, pictures can help you tell thousands of stories.

In what ways have you used imagery in your marketing?

The B2B Social Spotlight – New Feature!

When it comes to examples of social media in action, consumer companies dominate. From this B2B marketer’s perspective, it is like a tired A-side of well-worn 33-rpm disc: food, fashion, travel and consumer goods. The B-side has its own groove with a preponderance of IT-related social result stories.

Time to change the record.

We’re launching a new, ongoing interview series called B2B Social Spotlight. It’s our way of shining some well-deserved wattage on those B2B marketers who are putting social to work to elevate commoditized products and services. Our goal is to let these folks tell their stories of success (and failures) and help others know the potential power and value of social business.

That said, welcome to installment number one.

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Kyle Thill, Director of Services, Toyota-Lift of Minnesota

Kyle Thill, Toyota-Lift of Minnesota

No matter how you look at it, there is nothing glamorous about a forklift. Lifting and moving things from one place to another is about as utilitarian as an old brown-colored Chrysler K-car… but much more useful and reliable. 

So why does Kyle Thill, Director of Services at this materials handing dealership, Toyota-Lift of Minnesota, have over 18,000 Twitter followers and, as of this writing, sent over 98,700 Tweets?

It’s simple really. Think about how many different types of businesses rely on these brawny little workhorses. It allows Kyle to Tweet a universe of content related to businesses that depend on supply chain and logistics. Kyle’s prolific tweeting helped earn Toyota-Lift of Minnesota the B2BTOTY (B2B Twitterer of the Year) award in the category “Natl/Intl B2B Manufacturer”.

Chalk it up to Kyle’s focus and passion about facilitating smooth operations throughout the business, from personnel, technology infrastructure, and knowledge of inventory control, to data management and analysis, and managing parts warranty and service. It is that range of experience of 28 years with Toyota-Lift that earned Kyle the Toyota Material Handling’s National Aftermarket Sales Manager of the Year in 2010.

E-R: When it comes to marketing Toyota Forklift, did you intentionally set out to do something differently?

Thill: We ventured into social media just to promote our OEMs and us, and to replace the advertising they used to pay for. There was little then, and not a lot more now, of the brand’s representation anywhere in social media. Additionally, as Toyota cut our marketing budget, they prompted us to enter social media because it was “low cost”.

We look to get people to read our blog and possibly get local people to subscribe to our newsletter so to ingratiate us to our brands. Being present, supplying relevant information, and doing in it in a reasonable way can be of value.

E-R:  Forklifts can be seen generic pieces of equipment. How do you work to attract not just customers, but create relationships and build dialogue? 

Thill: We focus on issues that are important to them, such as costs, durability or fuel consumption. For safety, we can talk about safety systems present on our equipment and not on other makes. Ergonomics and operator comfort are a number of critical points that can be focused on there. Everyone has a need. We just have to find it and focus in on how we can satisfy it.

E-R: What aspects of social media have worked for Toyota Forklift? 

Thill: Our primary goal is to expose the market to our people and company through our blog, and not truly focus on anything other than digging into the topics we think our customers are concerned about. I feel our biggest success has been simply to raise the awareness of business to our brand.

E-R: You are a prolific Twitterer.  How do you manage your presence on the platform?

I’m in front of a computer almost all day and use a mix of real-time posting and automation, such as Buffer. I rely on Google Alerts, and Google Reader as my information aggregator. Even with the automation, I think it’s important to be there to respond and interact.

E-R: What online tools do you rely on everyday? 

Thill: Our Blog, Facebook, then Twitter.

E-R: What do you regularly measure to see what is working and what is not?

Thill: As small as we are, we can’t afford too many calories to be spent on analytics. We fall back to the position if what we are doing makes sense we’ll simply “do it” without truly looking back.

From websites, outside marketing firms and social media, there isn’t anything we’re doing that could be questioned regarding value or worth. We think of it as “eating healthy”. It’s difficult to point to anything specific that it makes better, but at the end of the day, you feel good and you’re able to continually improve the effort.

E-R: What has been your biggest mistake using social media? 

Thill: We don’t focus enough on our other brands, meaning those markets that are much smaller than Toyota, with the possible exception of Aichi and its construction equipment.

E-R: What is one thing your Twitter followers don’t know about you? 

Thill: We’re humbled by what we see others doing in the social media arena.

E-R: What is the one thing people would never know about know about a forklift? 

Thill: At some point in the supply chain, a forklift has touched their stuff. We’re more reliant on material handling that anyone knows. I’m not certain my parents think yet that this is a permanent job.

E-R: How’s the business doing in light of the economy? 

Thill: We achieved ten percent growth last year, and it looks like the same this year. Our fiscal year ends this month.

E-R: What three blogs would you recommend?  

Thill: That is the hardest question. I’d have to answer in categories. Those from other dealerships or OEMs, followed by construction then logistics or trucking. If I answered with specifics, I’d only change my mind a few moments later.

E-R: How can people connect with you? 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/toyotaequipment

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Toyota-Lift-of-Minnesota/201975476484625

LinkedIn, Kyle Thill: http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=51923164&trk=tab_pro

LinkedIn, Toyota Lift of Minnesota: http://www.linkedin.com/company/toyota-lift-of-minnesota

Blocked From Blogging? Create a “Non-blog” Blog Instead

There’s a lot B2B companies should like about blogging when it comes to raising awareness of their companies and delivering customers.

Consider the following eye-opening stats courtesy of HubSpot’s “State of Inbound Marketing” report for 2011:

  • 57% of companies using blogs reported that they acquired customers from leads generated directly from their blog.
  • Businesses are increasingly aware their blog is highly valuable: 85% of businesses rated their company blogs as useful, important or critical. 27% rated their company blog as critical to their business.
  • Businesses are now in the minority if they do not blog. From 2009 to 2011, the percentage of businesses with a blog grew from 48% to 65%.

 

The writing on the wall as to how blogging could serve your business is so big that Mr. Magoo couldn’t miss it.

To be sure, not all companies need a blog nor should they if they can’t marshal the time and resources to make it good.

But then there are those enterprises that understand enough about social media to go as far as to create social media policies to ensure everyone understands that engagement isn’t allowed.

They have their reasons, some real, some imagined. Compared to many other industries, social media engagement for highly regulated industries, such as financial, pharmaceutical and law, is more of an involved undertaking.

If you work in one of these segments, is developing and sharing content out of bounds for you? The answer, thankfully, is no.

One of the huge benefits of blogging is increased traffic. Search engines rank more highly those websites that offer users regularly updated content. Consistent updating brings search engine spiders to your website frequently, resulting in an increased number of crawls, which in turn increases the number of citations on Google, which means more people could find your business.

But you don’t automatically need a proper blog to deliver targeted, helpful and educational content to your prospects. Blogging platforms make this regular addition of new content easy. They’re designed for it. But even with outreach limitations, you can still build better organic search results with a simple alternative: a non-blog blog.

A non-blog blog is single page of a website altered every week to include a new piece of content, along with an additional page to archive previous weeks’ posts. Here’s what you need to get started.

      • Gain permission to post previously corporate-approved and publically available content. There is nothing controversial about sharing what has already been approved by your legal department
      • Take stock of available content, such as white papers, reports, educational materials, videos, podcasts, etc.  Also, ferret out all related stories occurring within your industry.
      • Revise the page’s layout to include copy that explains what visitors will see on the page and why you are providing it. If you have a rationale, share it.
      • Set up your weekly content portion of the page so it is easily distinguishable from the rest of the page’s content.

 

Now, for a quick note of caution about limitations. First, don’t get too fancy with the page and don’t work to alter the primary navigation. That won’t go over well with the corporate Webmaster. What is limiting about this approach is that it will take the Webmaster time to update the page.  He or she is likely stretched thin.

Now, I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re thinking, “Just how effective could this be?”

Plenty.

For one of our clients, we altered its portion of a huge large corporate site to mimic a blog using this very approach, encompassing a piece of new content every two weeks (yep, busy Webmaster), such as existing articles, podcasts and curated information. You can read how that turned out here.

Spreading your content, while adhering to company policy and without running afoul of industry regulations, is possible with some imagination and a little hustle. Obstacles to social engagement can be overcome. After all, bureaucracy is the art of making the possible, impossible.

 

 

 

 

Keeping your Child’s Eye Open for Greater Creativity

“How sad if we pass through life and never see it with the eyes of a child…When we start off in life, we look at reality with wonder, but it isn’t the intelligent wonder of the mystics; it’s the formless wonder of the child.  Then wonder dies and is replaced by boredom, as we develop language, words, and concepts.  Then hopefully, if we’re lucky, we’ll return to wonder again.” – Anthony de Mello

One of the disadvantages of growing up is the loss of your “child’s eye”, that simple accepting, sense of wonder of first time-experiences unmarked by skepticism or cynicism.

After reading a comment from Sean McGinnis on a SpinSucks post about developing social content for B2B companies, I began looking for resources on how we might lighten up the reality-based shades we adults wear and so we can better see and appreciate what our businesses have to offer our clients.

Naturally, we have to create programs that deliver a business outcome, whatever that may be, but staying open to those creative possibilities could help us deliver the right ideas.

I came up with short list of resources (some of which themselves are expansive) to help keep the child-like wonder alive.

1. One Man’s Wonder, by writer, traveler and marcom agency owner Jeffery Willus, is about looking further, paying attention, making time for discovery, celebrating little things, and being open to wonder. Check out his “How To Be in the Moment – 101 Tips” series.

2. 50 Ways to Lighten Up & Become Child Like Again. Many of these seem elemental, but they resonated with me. When my son was much younger and yanking open our kitchen cabinet doors (and subsequently baby-proofing the place) I decided to make one small cabinet completely his.  I called it “The Discovery Vault”.  Each day I’d place something new for him to discover and play with. It got to the point that if I’d forgotten to put something new, he’d show disappointment. He wanted to keep the vault fresh. Reminds me of fresh content.

3. From my recent online acquaintance, Kaarina Dillabough defends (and rightly so) the many times we believe we’re not creative. She delivers a simple list of 10 creativity starters.

4. If these don’t resonate, take the adult path of negative/positive reinforcement with “How to stifle your creativity in 10 easy steps”.  Number one on the list goes to the heart of thinking like an adult versus a kid.

So what did I get out of these? It came through loud and clear. As adults running businesses, we have to act realistically, sensibly and rationally… most of the time.  When we can free ourselves, dreaming, curiosity, and wishful thinking — all of the traits a child would have – keep us open to endless possibilities.

How do you keep you child’s eye open and alive?

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