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Technology & Internet5 Minutes with: The Conversation Agent
Valeria Maltoni is a bilingual strategist, with a host of thriving clients and one of the top blogs on business development. Using the fast-paced advancements of the Digital Age, she helps companies work through the complexity of business trade, networking and communication, creating an environment for financial success. Here's a look into the experienced world of Valeria.
Welcome, Valeria! From your blog we can see that you are an expert in facilitating conversation and building online communities. Can you tell us a little bit more about what you do?
V: I design and execute digital brand strategies in highly competitive industries. The aim is to create strong, resilient and enduring brands through a combination of strategic insight, design thinking, decisive decision-making, and delivering on promises. I work to and with the strengths of the people around me.
My focus is connecting technology and social media to measurable and sustainable profitability. To do that, I leverage relevant trends and strategic intelligence. The biggest opportunities for growth I see are in customer acquisition, sales and retention. Some of the things I apply are influence mapping, customer insights, content strategy, brand advocacy, and data analysis.
What first sparked your motivation to help companies communicate?
V: Complexity and working as part of a network feel natural to me. I enjoy helping organizations deconstruct their model and put it together differently to look at fresh new ways to trade for growth.
Social media has undergone some major disruptive changes in the last 10 years. How have you seen companies adjust to these changes?
V: There’s a question here about how technology has accelerated the pace of change, which has brought stress on many existing systems and processes. The most interesting of those changes are the degree to which people have adapted.
This is the first time in history where customers are ahead of organizations. What seems to have changed is that people are now comfortable using technology to share -- privately and in public. Customers are connected to their networks in more places and in more ways; that makes it easier to record their activities and preferences, or to simply access and follow the recordings of others.
How do you use social media and online marketing to advance the needs of your clients?
V: It depends on their goals and type of model, doesn’t it? To narrow the scope of the question, let’s just focus on what digital is really good at: to help organizations connect with likely prospects at various stages of their buying cycle, and to create the context for a transaction to take place. Now you’ve got a buyer. Social helps you turn those buyers into customers, which means they come back and buy more - and they bring their friends with them. If they’re really happy, they’ll tell everyone who listens, thus becoming advocates for your brand.
Looking at it from the business standpoint, you have the opportunity to keep delivering on your promises and reminding your customers about it, building relationships with networked individuals in the process. It’s not separate from how you do business; it’s part of it. There is still enormous opportunity for B2B brands, which I hope to help organizations tap into this next year.
Can you give our entrepreneurial readers any reading tips?
V: It may sound simplistic, but: it’s an outcome of doing the work. Putting some thought, research, and commitment behind publishing completes the sentence with “leadership.” Simple is not the same as easy, though. The blog was always the last thing I did in the day, or I should say night, after delivering at my corporate job, and the first place where I tried new ideas in digital marketing, studying the results for potential implementation at work. It’s the place where I took all the risks, every day. Being consistent and persistent helps.
Writing on the blog was only part of the equation. Commenting on other blogs, extending discussions, helping others with research and content via interviews and writing for other sites with higher visibility like Fast Company, Marketing Profs, Daily Fix, The Blog Herald, Marketing 2.0 made it all work.
Then, of course, we had Twitter (where I founded and moderated a weekly chat on business and shared content daily), the Facebook page (where we talked possibility with a “what if” series), and now Google+. For more about how I use social networks, see here. All together, I figure I published upward of 2 million words. Staggering digital and social inventory, isn’t it?
Publishing in English and Italian is quite an impressive feat. How does being able to communicate your ideas in more than one language influence your business relationships?
V: It is a feat, because culture is a dominant part of language and identity. In March, The New York Times published an article that discussed some recent research that supports what many people who speak more than one language have experienced to varying degrees:
"SPEAKING two languages rather than just one has obvious practical benefits in an increasingly globalized world. But in recent years, scientists have begun to show that the advantages of bilingualism are even more fundamental than being able to converse with a wider range of people."
The brain grows by use. We saw proof of that when working with early child brain development in the first several years of my career. Back then, I was actually logging in forty hours of simultaneous interpreting and a hundred or more in written and consecutive translation per month. Going to-and-from one lanuague to another literally requires a constant adjustment to thinking in a different context, based upon cultural references. I used to laugh because it took about twice as long to say anything in Italian than it did to say the same thing in English. Italian is a descriptive language, you see.
You learn to identify patterns early and to connect meaning quickly - when you do that day in, day out. Extrapolating the lessons for business in digital media and on the social Web means being attuned to the opportunities that develop to form relationships in the moment. It’s as much an art as it is a science.
What is the one, most important bit of advice you would share with professionals on how to drive online growth?
V: Timing the future starts with what you’re doing right now.
... Thank you, Valeria!
5 Minutes With is an interview series by exploreB2B that elicits the success stories of entrepreneurs from around the globe. These businessmen and women take us through the history and methods by which they have reached the level of professional achievement they enjoy today, with the aid of social media. Connect with them on exploreB2B.