GE, LinkedIn and Twitter: 'Allow consumer participation to drive marketing'

A lively discussion at Salesforce ExactTarget Connections 2014

Companies must understand what makes their clients and customers successful in order to understand how to market to them, said Beth Comstock, SVP & CMO at General Electric at Salesforce ExactTarget Connections 2014 in Indiana.

Speaking at a roundtable led by Lynn Vojvodich, Executive VP & CMO at Salesforce, Comstock said consumers and businesses have so much information at their fingertips that they can easily become familiar with brands; therefore, she said businesses must be more imaginative when trying to reach consumers, rather than simply promoting their brand.

Additionally, Comstock said simplicity and speed are imperative for brands. However, for big companies like General Electric, speed can often be difficult. To achieve the speed necessary to reach consumers and businesses, she said General Electric partners with startups and smaller organizations.

"Marketers have to be the force for the company that knows where the world's going," she said. "You have to innovate."

Twitter's marketing philosophy

Gabriel Stricker, Chief Communications Officer at Twitter said marketers now know they can connect with anyone, so they must focus on how to do it properly, rather than whether or not they can make an initial connection.

Once marketers determine the proper approach to reaching consumers, Stricker said it's crucial brands figure out ways to enable consumers and businesses to spread the marketing message rather than force-feed it.

Stricker also said user collaboration often leads to innovation. Such as when Chris Messina, an open source and open standards advocate, in 2007 suggested Twitter leverage the hashtag to unite groups and topics.

"The hashtag was a user [innovation]," Stricker said. "It's not like we [imagined] that."

LinkedIn's approach

For Nick Besbeas, VP of Marketing at LinkedIn, the key to successful marketing is "participating in" conversations rather than trying to drive the narrative. For LinkedIn, this means bringing users and employees together for events like Hackathons in order to drive innovation and learn about user needs.

"The common thread is engaging customers on their own terms," he said. Marketers must "pay attention to those moments when you can make a lasting impression."

For Besbeas, one of those lasting moments in his life was when he opened his very first Apple product, he said.