Shelly Palmer
November 23, 2018

2019 CES—Everything B2B Businesses Need to Know

Guest: Shelly Palmer - Founder and CEO, The Palmer Group

Every January, over 180,000 people converge on Las Vegas to place their bets on the coolest and potentially coveted gadgets the world has yet to see. The 2019 CES promises to be “the world’s gathering place for all who thrive on the business of consumer technologies.” It’s a can’t-miss conference for marketers and business professionals from all industries — even those in the B2B space.

On this episode of Renegade Thinkers Unite, Drew talks with Shelly Palmer, CEO of The Palmer Group, about what attendees can expect and look for at the 2019 conference. You’ll hear about why B2B professionals owe it to themselves and their clients to learn what is up-and-coming, as well as why attendance ROIs are so individualized. Be sure to listen to catch Shelly’s expert insights on new sub-conferences at the 2019 CES and how you can make the most out of this major networking experience.

Get up to speed on the upcoming 2019 CES – listen now.

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What You’ll Learn

Here’s what you can expect at the 2019 CES

Shelly explains that CES has been a proving ground for new technologies for the past 50 years. Not only will attendees catch inside glimpses into brand-new technologies already on the market, but they’ll be able to understand what’s coming in 18, 24, and even 36 months. He says it’s a “unique crystal ball into the future,” and allows you and your team to begin building new technological opportunities into your own business plans.

Networking opportunities and big-picture dreaming will be abundant in January

Virtually all aspects of modern businesses are influenced by technology. Shelly tells Drew that even giant corporations have individuals on the receiving ends of B2B sales calls, and those individuals use everyday technologies that are featured at CES. That’s why even B2B professionals have countless opportunities to add value to their companies and careers by attending the 2019 CES.

Simply reading about CES after the fact won’t give you the full scope. To truly understand the importance of this event, you have to experience it for yourself. No longer just an “electronics show,” Shelly believes that the 2019 CES is truly a “business show.” Drew, Shelly, and hundreds of other industry leaders will be at 2019 CES – will you?

“Resiliency” will be a new focus at the 2019 CES, and it’s an area of innovation that deserves your attention

One business and marketing trend you need to be aware of is “resiliency,” explained by the Consumer Technology Association (owner and producer of the CES) as the ability to “keep the world healthy, safe, warm, powered, fed and secure, even in the face of adversity.” Innovations that will help restore power and cell service to disaster-riddles areas, for example, will be featured at this sub-conference event. “The Resilience Conference will deliver world-class conference programming, insights, and solutions,” says a recent CTA press release. In order to be informed and responsible global citizens, marketers can’t afford to miss this event.

B2B and B2C marketers alike will have dozens of opportunities at the 2019 CES to expand their network, brainstorm with like-minded professionals, and plan for the future. For more information on 2019 CES and to register, visit the conference website.

Timeline

  • [0:28] This year’s CES conference is not you can’t afford to miss
  • [7:27] B2B people need to attend the CES event too!
  • [13:34] Here’s what you need to look for specifically at this year’s CES event – and what not to believe
  • [21:44] “Retargeting is evil, but it works beautifully!”
  • [26:14] Shelly transformed his family-owned consulting business into a global entity that does “engineering for engineers”
  • [33:00] “Resilience” will be a new focus at the 2019 CES
  • [32:28] The ROI on CES is very individualized, but 100% worth it

Connect With Shelly:

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect with Drew

Full Transcript: Drew Neisser in conversation with Shelly Palmer

Drew Neisser: Every January, over 180,000 people converge on Las Vegas to place their bets on the coolest, sexiest, and potentially coveted gadgets the world has yet to see. It’s a gathering I’ve rarely missed since 1989 when the legendary new business whiz, Don Peppers, showed me the ropes—not just because we had clients exhibiting or prospects to meet, but also because there is almost no aspect of business today that isn’t affected by the innovations first shared at CES.

In this special episode, we’ll take a sneak peek at the 2019 CES through the eyes of business-to-business marketers identifying technology and trends these folks need to know they need to know. I can think of no better guide than Shelly Palmer, making a second appearance on Renegade Thinkers Unite. Welcome back to the show. How are you?

Shelly Palmer: I’m great. How are you?

Drew Neisser: I’m awesome. And it’s almost CES time.

Shelly Palmer: It is almost CES.

Drew Neisser: That’s a big-time for your business.

Shelly Palmer: Yeah, we love the show. As you said in your intro, CES is a unique crystal ball into the future. You can see 12 months out the stuff that’s being sold. You can see 18 to 24 months out stuff that is just getting ready to be sold, the chipsets that are just now out of development, and you could see about 36 months into the future which are the chips in pure concept or the concept demo. Understanding what’s already in a consumer device, what’s going to be in a consumer device, and then what may one day be in a consumer device, that gives you a lot of stuff to think about.

Drew Neisser: Well, it’s funny—when we were talking in the pre-show here before you all got a chance to listen to us, one of the advantages of having some experience in the business is that you actually have perspective and you can see patterns. It’s not like you could walk into the show the first time and suddenly see it all and understand and see the patterns, and that’s what expertise is. You’re an expert in this area.

Shelly Palmer: Thank you.

Drew Neisser: By the way, I noticed that Procter and Gamble is going to be exhibiting for the first time at CES, and I thought, “If ever there was a moment where everyday life and technology have converged, that is the symbol.” Or, it’s the symbol of the apocalypse. I’m not sure which.

Shelly Palmer: That is a really interesting observation. I think it’s one of the horses of the apocalypse. I do, and I’ll tell you why. Mark Pritchard and his group at Procter & Gamble are really smart people, and they have a really big set of problems to solve for, not the least of which is the fact that they are experts in making lots of copies of identical things at the lowest possible price, getting them out, distributed worldwide, and communicating that they’re available at a very good price to as many human beings as could possibly buy them.

The problem is that reaching people at a price in mass-market communications has never been harder, media mixes have never been harder, and there are thousands of ankle-biting companies that are just torturing Procter and Gamble, Unilever, and RB, and all the FMCG and SBG companies. Even the craft beer guys are coming after the beer guys. There isn’t a place you can look where someone said, “Here’s the way the founders were,” or “This is the way all the videos go.” “I used to do this. I hated it. So, I founded this, and now you don’t have to do that.” It’s like, how many of those have you seen?

Drew Neisser: Here’s a question for you—because this is my theory on it, and I could be completely wrong, but I’m interested in your perspective. I do want to get to B2B but, several years ago, I’m going to say somewhere around 10 years ago, P&G decided they were only going to support their billion-dollar brands. They were going to have a series of them, I think they have 22 or something like that. My theory is that was the day innovation died, and I’ll tell you why. The same thing happened with pharma, where they said we have to have the billion-dollar brands, and they stopped developing these little ones that could grow into. You lose the ability to say, “Hey, we’ve got this $50 million exciting thing that’s doing innovative marketing, that’s reaching a target,” and you stop competing with yourself, so you cede everything below a billion to all these other guys, and then you’re going to pay a billion for Dollar Shave Club.

Shelly Palmer: There are many schools of thought about that. Certainly, that observation is accurate, and whether it’s characterized as the end of innovation or the death of brands, I honestly don’t know if I would go to that extreme, but what I will say is the following: I think a lot of people have analyzed the failure rate to grow something from scratch. If you know about the internal capabilities of a large corporation, no matter what large corporation it is, it’s very hard to get buy-in from stakeholders, it’s very hard to take eBid out of that as part of the bonus pool for senior executives and get them to spend it. It is so much easier to let the outside world be your entire laboratory.

Google is expert at this. For years, they assumed every engineer all over the world already worked for them, and they knew they were going to pay a premium when whatever technology those engineers were working on. There were three or five human beings that got in a room and made something amazing, so, yeah they had to pay $25 million for it, which to those three or four people was like life-changing money. But to Google, they didn’t know they wrote the check. They still have incubators because the West Coast does it slightly differently, and big brands don’t tend to do it as well, although many have mimicked the incubator methodology. There are people who will just tell you that it is way cheaper, on average, to buy something that you know is going to work than to try 20 things and figure out which one is going to work. It’s just a different way to think about the business.

Drew Neisser: Okay fine. So, we’ll buy our way to success. It’s certainly what IBM has tried and B2B.

Shelly Palmer: And by the way, it doesn’t always work. I’m not an advocate of either one. I’m just saying there are two schools of thought.

Drew Neisser: Okay. I also noticed in my research that Raytheon was going to be there, and I thought, “Huh, okay, this is a big defense company. This is when we make the pure pivot to B2B at CES.” Why is a B2B business like Raytheon exhibiting at CES?

Shelly Palmer: There are several. Bosh is there; they’re all B2B. They make stuff that makes your stuff better, they don’t make any stuff. Aptiv, which is the old Delphi, they’re there and have been. They make all kinds of OEM stuff for car manufacturers, but understand that every major car manufacturer is there, so they’re there to support the executives that are their biggest clients.

Also, I think it’s important for B2B companies to understand that all human beings are consumers. So often, when you’re having a B2B conversation with a marketer or a senior executive at a B2B company, they’re saying, “Well we don’t really care about smartphones or tablets or computers or anything that people are doing or streaming media or what have you.” And it’s like…”Whoa, wait a second. Everybody that you’re going to sell to has a smartphone, has a certain amount of empowerment from that technology, has a behavior shift that’s going on in the way they consume media, and the way they consume information. So how is that not critically important to you?” Of course, it is critically important, they just don’t necessarily think of it in the context of the consumer because of the word “B2C.” The initialism B2C versus B2B comes with connotations, but in practice, we’re all people.

A B2B sale is a person sale, right? You’re selling to a human being on the other side. You’re not selling to a building. You’re selling to a person. There are a lot of B2B businesses at CES. There always have been. Look at the Aptiv exhibit, you need an appointment. It’s not open to everybody walking into CES. You can walk by it and see a few things on the outside, but if you want to talk to them, you have to make an appointment. There are several, several organizations that do that.

Drew Neisser: If you were a B2B brand and you weren’t exhibiting at CES, but you were going to attend, what kinds of things should you have your antenna up for this year?

Shelly Palmer: The first and foremost is what’s actually real and what’s just in the hype cycle. You can tell a couple of different ways. You can tell by the size and the amount of money that was spent to talk about stuff. People who are prosperous generally will come in force. People who are well-moneyed will come in force. People who are also-rans, it’s easy to tell. You get a sense of how many people are in a given part of a given industry at CES because so many different disciplines are represented.

Whether you looking at drones or if you’re looking at wellness tech or if you’re looking at wearables or if you’re looking at good old-fashioned TV sets, how big is China? How big is Korea? How big is Japan? What’s happened in that business? If you walk through Central Hall, you will have an opinion on the other side of it. Now, whether you need that opinion or not is completely based on your businesses, but if you go to CES with intent to understand various marketplaces and how they might impact your business, or to look for new areas where your business could supply things. A lot of the companies that we work with, they go there. They are experts in supply chain. They are experts in tooling. They are experts in all kinds of different things, even logistics.

You say, “Wow. Look at the size of that business. They’re going to need our stuff. Let’s go talk to them.” They don’t necessarily talk to them at the show. They make some introductions, and then they do follow-ups, but how do you get a sense of where this is going and who’s who? It’s visceral. You have to physically walk the floor to see it.

Drew Neisser: You’ve got to walk the floor. It’s hard because I know a lot of people say, “There are too many people going, and I’ll just wait for the CNN report or Shelly’s report or some others.” I have found well—not to mention seeing the tech but the people that are there—it’s an incredible networking moment as well.

Shelly Palmer: Yeah, we do a Wednesday morning breakfast that is really the networking must-have at the thing, and it evolved into that just based on the people who were showing up. It is all about people. It’s not that our reports are good or bad, or CNNs are good or bad. Everybody reports as well as they can for their audience, but here’s the problem with just relying on reports: by their very nature, they’re not what you need to know. They’re going to be about a bright shiny object or something that will get your attention for all intents and purposes. Even our reports contain quite a bit of clickbait.

It’s like, “Look at this new foldable phone. Look at this new contact lens with a heads up display.” Yeah, it’s not manufactured yet, it’s a concept thing, but, sure, we’ll put those out because we saw it at CES. But when you go there, you have a different experience. As you said, you meet the people and you also get a sense of what’s real and what’s fake that you personally own. Now you’re not taking someone’s advice or opinion about it—you have an opinion that is a gut check for yourself. During the year, when someone comes in to pitch you something, you can say, “Nah, I don’t see that happening.” It’s a wonderful bit of empowerment.

Drew Neisser: And just for Lincoln fans, “Lincoln on Leadership,” it’s management by walking around. You’ve got to go out and survey the field. You just can’t do it all from home base. Alright, we’re going to take a quick break and when we come back, we’re going to dive into some very specific trends that could impact B2B marketers

BREAK

Drew Neisser: We’re back, and my guest is Shelly Palmer. We’ve been talking about the quote “Consumer Electronics Show,” but we really know it’s a business show. It is all about bringing people together who are going to create the products and services of the future, whether we’re talking about consumer-oriented or business-oriented. Let’s talk about what you see ahead. Is there anything from a B2B standpoint that you’re looking for or that B2B marketers should be looking for at this show versus past shows?

Shelly Palmer: That’s really a very good question. This show is going to be interesting. First of all, it’s not referred to internally as the Consumer Electronics Show anymore. They just named it CES, and the reason they did that is because they renamed the organization from the Consumer Electronics Association to the Consumer Technology Association a couple of years back.

This show has almost nothing to do with consumer electronics. In fact, you could argue what will consumer electronics be in a world of smart homes where speakers are already built-in and amplifiers are connected to speakers and the Bluetooth toolset that’s going to access them, or the Wi-Fi tools are in your pocket already? What are you buying? You’re buying your phone or something? The consumer technology business where consumers are going to make decisions is getting smaller every day.

Where B2B guys make decisions—people that build houses for a living, people that do renovations, people that plan communities, people that plan smart cities, people that plan municipalities, people who think about self-driving cars and self-driving roads, people that are thinking about identification versus identity, safety, security, perimeter security, physical security, how you’re going to use technology and padlock—all of those disciplines are represented at CES, so it’s a broad base of business-to-business technologies that ultimately will end up in a consumer’s possession, but not necessarily only consumer’s possession.

If you have a factory, you’re going to want to use 5G internally for industrial internet. You might want to use a certain network of drop cams. You might want to try location from Wi-Fi signals so that you could actually find the position of certain things based on their IDs inside the factory along the chain. There are so many things that are really B2B, that look a little B2C-ish but are really B2B at CES. That’s what B2B marketers should look for. They should be looking at the crossover technologies, and there are so many.

Drew Neisser: Let’s go through a few of the ones that you and I know are going to come up. AI. How do you even look at AI at CES? Could you get a sense of that, or is that a bad show for this?

Shelly Palmer: The mythology and the hype around AI, which is “artificial intelligence,” it’s the worst set of letters. Most people think it means AGI, “artificial general intelligence,” where Terminator is coming to get us, and Skynet is going to blow the world up. People ascribe all kinds of capability to AI that it doesn’t have, and at CES, sadly, and I’d say this in front of anybody: everybody is going to say they’re using AI.

Whether they’re using machine learning or AI or cognitive agents or some subset, or whether they’re doing straight heuristics, or whether they’re just doing logistical regressions and pretending it’s AI, everyone’s going to say they’re using AI, and they’re going to say that their toolsets are empowered by this technology. I’m here to tell you that that is 100% horse hockey. It’s just not true.

I wouldn’t go to CES thinking you’re going to learn a lot about artificial intelligence. You will hear a lot about artificial intelligence, but you’re not going to learn a lot and certainly, if you want to learn about AI and machine learning and how it would apply to your business, the best thing you can do is call up one of your consultants that is a specialist in turning data into action, and come with a problem that says, “I have a pile of data, and I need to turn it into action or actionable insights.” State the problem, and then apply the tool. AI is not a general tool that solves for everything. It’s a purpose-built environment that is very carefully tuned to accomplish a goal that human beings cannot do.

Just quickly, if I gave you a 10 by 10 metrics of your business—a spreadsheet that is 10 rows and 10 columns—and said, “Hey, here’s your business,” you’d look at it, and about three or four minutes later you’d start telling me, “Oh that’s double income, no kids, a single household, this is that,” but if that was 25,000 columns by 250 million rows, there’s nothing you can do about it. You are going to need some computational tools to understand what that data set is, and you’re going to have to have a way, from a data scientific method, to take what you understand about the small matrix, create some kind of mathematics that are well rounded enough and not so tightly fit that you get an overfitting problem just that serendipity and randomness are still allowed, and then you’re going to need to test it relentlessly to see if you got it right.

By the way, you won’t get it right until a lot of iterations. This is a complex, serious subject that a lot of people abuse, so expect to hear a lot of BS about AI and believe a fraction of it. It’s all in the hype cycle right now.

Drew Neisser: So, this notion of Next-Best-Action for the marketer. You tend to hear it more in B2C, but it really matters in B2B as well. In theory, there’s a 14-month buyer’s journey. There are 5.4 people involved in the buying cycle. Each one of them has their own particular information needs, so based on any kind of data that you have on this individual before, “Oh, it’s time for them to see the ROI calculator,” for example.

Are you seeing this notion of Next-Best-Action? This would be an application for B2B marketers. We’re going to use Salesforce and our Marketo and all of our tech stacks so that we can serve up the right content to the right person at the right time. That’s what this stuff is supposed to be able to do. Are you seeing that happening?

Shelly Palmer: I think that is happening. What people don’t realize generally is that you need an enormous amount of data to train a system to do that in some meaningful way. You need a high school degree in calculus and a little bit of linear algebra under your belt to be able to just do it with equations and a few algorithms. For Next-Best-Action—sure, there’s probably a world where you could train a cognitive agent to do that well, and there are people who are doing that. I’ve seen it. Salesforce has enough data to do it. There are companies that have enough data to do it.

You could have 25 million customers, and it wouldn’t be enough data to actually do the work you need to do. I shouldn’t say it that way. You would do just as well using math as you would using some kind of artificial intelligence. It’s like, how much brain damage do you want to go through and how much grief do you want to go through? If you’re looking for Next-Best-Action, A/B testing is under-utilized and underrated. Test, test, test, test, test. That’s what we do. That’s what everybody should do. Take nothing for granted. Assume you know nothing. Assume that the Internet is a dispassionate place that will tell you when you make a mistake. The beautiful thing about it is then you can test a better version and see if they like it better. It’s objective. These are objective facts, and you don’t need a lot of special tools to do that. You just need the tools that are out there.

Drew Neisser: Test, test, test. Did you hear that? Test, test, test. That is the fourth pillar of the Renegade model of CATS—the courage, artful, thoughtful, and scientific. That scientific notion is “test.” A/B test.

Speaking of test, I was just curious, and this has nothing to do with B2B, but let’s say you are going shopping on a website today. Brooks Brothers or some other silly site. The next day, you will be followed by pictures of the things that were in your shopping cart that you didn’t buy, and maybe even one that you did buy. What I couldn’t figure out is, is that because they’re dumb or smart?

Here’s why I ask that. I thought it was because they were dumb. They should know what I bought. Why are they showing me what I already bought? That could be dumb. Or they’re smart because I did buy it, and therefore, it signals to me, “Oh look, there’s that sweater I just bought.” Which one is it?

Shelly Palmer: Wow, I don’t think I’m smart enough to know the answer to that, but what I’ll tell you is that retargeting is insidious and evil, and it works beautifully. In fact, it’s never going away. It’s funny. A lot of people think that’s AI. It’s not. It’s dropping a cookie. It’s the furthest thing from AI. It has nothing to do with that.

Drew Neisser: They’re just grabbing 8 images that were sort of generally related to the things that I was generally looking at, and they followed me around to put them in there, whether I bought them or not.

Shelly Palmer: It can be more sophisticated than that. It can be. There are some great tools out there that some of our friends are using. Even our engineering team has written a couple of tools where it’ll look at your profile, if the cookies dropped and you’ve got a customer profile, it’ll take some educated guesses as to what that image ought to be and what the price ought to be. Did you abandon a shopping cart because of price? Did you abandon it because you found another thing? It’ll take a guess at that. Again, it’s test, learn. Test, learn. Test, learn.

There is a wide range of retargeting tools out there. Everything from the dumbest possible retargeting tool like drop a picture, fire an image, call it a day to drop a cookie, analyze the cookie, go back to reverse append it or just analyze the profile, make some educated guess about the profile, send the images. The sad news is that generally none of the systems know that you purchased or didn’t purchase.

Drew Neisser: So, then the answer is they were dumb. They were just guessing. I don’t understand that. Why can’t they equate purchase data with targeting?

Shelly Palmer: It’s not that. In almost every case that I’m aware of, when you abandon a shopping cart, even if you come back later to buy, the shopping cart abandonment triggers a set of actions like Next-Best-Action. It just doesn’t know.

I think at some point, someone’s going to realize (and everybody already knows) that it would be great if that could get fixed. There are some mechanical reasons why it’s hard to do. It’s not impossible. It’s just hard to do, and by the way, the driving force behind this is, and this is the driving force behind everything in this planet—it’s not going to be that much more effective if they limit duplicated reached by 4% or 7% because they’re going to show it to you six more times, then they’re going to let it go because you didn’t buy. They get six more facings in front of you. They could put the right thing in front and maybe you’d buy something else. That’s true, so there’s a missed opportunity cost.

But how heard are they, based on how heard they’d be if they didn’t get that in front of you? There they know that’s a demonstrable, absolutely calculable, loss they take if they didn’t retarget you. The over-under on that doesn’t say to spend a ton of money on your Martech stack to fix it. My 30 Martech tools.

Drew Neisser: Another tool to fix that.  Alright, so we’re going to take a quick break, and when we come back, we’re going to really zoom in on B2B marketing from a smaller business standpoint because that’s the world that Shelly and I live in on a personal basis, so we’ll be right back.

BREAK

Drew Neisser: We’re back. We’re going to wrap up this episode with my guest Shelly Palmer. We’ve been talking about technology and the impact that it has on all businesses. I want to zero in a little bit on small businesses and small business marketing. In many ways, Shelly and I live parallel lives in that we have essentially marketing services.

Let’s put it this way—we have firms that provide consulting services to companies, and you were talking about the fact that you all hired an outside company to come in and look at yours, which is exactly what we did too because as the expression goes, it’s very hard to read the label from the inside of the bottle. I love that expression.

Shelly Palmer: A few years back, we were seeing big changes coming because that’s kind of our job, and the obvious question is, “Well, how could every business in the universe need to evolve and transform except us?” Duh. The question is, well, what would that look like? You can’t run a process on yourself. You’ve got to bring in somebody who understands how to do it, and I want to be part of it, but I couldn’t run it. I wanted to be part of the process, as opposed to the facilitator.

We brought in some friends who do what we do, and they helped us understand our business a little bit better. About four years ago, we began this evolutionary transformation from a strategic advisory shop to strategy design and engineering.

We’ve always had in-house engineering. People know that. We started working in the late 70s, early 80s on digital audio recording, and what is a tapeless studio? We put the first tapeless recording studio commercially available in the world online in April of 1986. All of that math that was required to do sampling, to disk, to sample to memory, to take musical sounds and voices and all audio and translate them into some kind of super high-quality audio file that was editable.—that math is the same math that you use for everything and in all of statistics. Shaping a wave, anti-aliasing, de-noising something—all those things have analogs today in the world of marketing. We’ve always had in-house engineering, but we never sold our tools to our clients. We never manufactured anything for them.

Drew Neisser: So, you’re actually making stuff now?

Shelly Palmer: Yes, we really are in a big way.

Drew Neisser: Interesting. The strategic plan and the evolution is from being a services company to being a product company?

Shelly Palmer: Pretty much. We’ve gone from strict consulting to now. We will consult—we’ve always written RFPs, and we always run the RFP process when asked. Now, our designers will go in and analyze and design a system, and our incredible engineering team that my son Jared leads—he’s just done an incredible job bringing together some of the world’s best front-end programmers and also some of the world’s best back-end programmers. They’re building digital product across a very wide spectrum. They’re building phenomenal front-end solutions. A lot of open source tooling that’s used by a lot of big companies.

We’re very proud of the open-source work that they’re doing and the attention it’s brought. The long and short of it is that we can now deliver manage services to our clients for all kinds of processes that they didn’t use to have. They used to have to build in-house or buy outside, and now, we’ve got some solutions for them.

Drew Neisser: This media engine that you have that is basically your brand and your name that has this reputation as an expert in the industry—is that still the media exposure that drives the interest in this newer business?

Shelly Palmer: Wow, I wish I could say that it was. I am very blessed. I am a father with two of my three children in my business. My daughter Alexis is our Chief Operating Officer and Head of Client Services. My son Jared leads an incredible engineering team, one of several that we have. They came to me a couple of years ago with a new logo and a new name: The Palmer Group, and their name is now on the door. They are the next generation.

Certainly, I’m having fun with my media exposure and all the things I like to do—talking to you, writing some books, writing my blog and various newsletters every day, and going on television—but at the end of the day, the work that the Palmer Group is doing, which now, more than 50% of our business is engineering. It’s an incredible transformation from just strategic advisory to physically building product every day and building a lot of product for a lot of people, a lot of components for other developers. Our coders think of it as engineering for engineers. We do quite a bit of that, and it’s super fun. It’s the next evolution of the organization.

Yeah, some of my exposure helps, but mostly the world we’re journeying into right now is a field that is super exciting, it’s explosively growing every single day. Tomorrow, there’s no version of the world where there’s less data than there is today. We’re living in a world where the velocity of data is increasing and will always increase. Turning that data into action is the thing. Creating consumer experiences in a digital world is the thing. Being able to analyze the data that comes back is the thing. We’re just concentrating where all of the growth is, and it has been a good strategy for us.

The Palmer Group, which is the evolution of Shelly Palmer Strategic Advisors, is thriving right now. Be it ever thus, knock on wood. We’re trying our best, but what a great ride. Like I said, I’m very blessed. It’s a family-owned business and we consider that an asset, not a liability. We’re family-owned, and we’re not selling anybody anytime soon. This is a 100-year business, the way we’re thinking about it.

Drew Neisser: At some point, they say, “Why don’t you take a longer vacation, Dad?”

Shelly Palmer: I expect I’m going to be put on an iceberg with three days of food and pushed out into the ocean at some point. And by the way, I can’t wait!

Drew Neisser: Yeah that would be kind of cool. You hear that kids? That opportunity awaits. I’m all ears. Well, as we bring this to a close, that’s really interesting. This is an odd question—do you know anything about the resilience conference that’s happening at CES? What’s going on there? That, to me, is a very important part of using technology to drive change, to make people healthy, save global warming.

Shelly Palmer: What that is is we’ve had some amazing natural disasters. For example, hundred-year Superstorm Sandy, and of course we’ve had several since Sandy that have been equally devastating. There are earthquakes at levels we hadn’t seen before. When the world becomes so reliant on infrastructure and technology, what happens when it’s taken away from you, and how can a municipality or can an area be resilient in a time of great devastation, whether it’s from a natural disaster or even a man-made disaster?

CTA, in their wisdom, and Gary Shapiro and Karen Chupka have put together this resilience conference at CES this year. I think it’s going to be really great and super important, and all the technology you’ll see on display are answering questions like, how do you get cell service restored as quickly as possible so people can communicate and you can know where people are? How can you get fresh water running as quickly as possible? How can you get generators and electricity as quickly as possible? What’s the best way to get food distributed?

All of the problems that happen for first responders—the devastation in Puerto Rico after the hurricane. There were people who couldn’t size the problem because there just was no way to get there. Looking at that from a human standpoint, and saying, “Well we’re technologists. How do we fix that?” I think CTA is brilliant in putting that together. Hats off to Gary and Karen and the whole CTA board for putting that together. I think it’s going to be a really important sub-conference at CES this year.

Drew Neisser: I want to give a shout out to the Urban Green Council, which I’ve been on the board for like 9 or 10 years, which is focused on helping green-ify buildings, both existing buildings and so forth. Since buildings are responsible for 60 plus percent of the carbon emissions, it’s a pretty big deal. I’m interested, and I will in particular be paying attention to that aspect of it because if you build better buildings or retrofit them, you help address the issue. That’s a big deal in New York City, obviously, resilience. There’s a lot going on in that area.

Alright, so last bit of advice for those folks who are on the fence about attending CES this year? Let’s just give them one last push.

Shelly Palmer: The ROI on CES is very individualized. You can think that you’ll learn about it after the fact, and it’s true, you will learn about it, but to experience it, as we spoke about earlier, comes with its own set of values. I think if you are in a business where human beings interact with your organization, where they’re empowered by technology, where their behaviors are impacted by technology, you owe it to yourself to understand what’s coming in the short-term future.

If you don’t, by the time you read about it in the paper, you’re not going to have a lot of time to business plan for it. I have to quickly just say—one of the reasons that we do tours at CES, and they’re not open to the public, you have to be clients of our organization, but the reason we do tours at CES is that the show is too big to manage. Our job is to make CES smaller, more relevant, and more curated.

For our clients or small groups that come to us, we curate an experience based on business strategy, and that’s whether you come to us or a firm like ours or you do it yourself. The good news about CES is that the entire directory is online. Everybody’s going to be there. They do their best to categorize it. You can plan an agenda, and when you go, you should go there with an ROI in mind. If you can’t come up with a return on that investment, then don’t because there’s no point.

Drew Neisser: Last year, I actually went on your tour for the first time and it was really quite informative. I’ve been doing this for a long time as we established at the beginning of the show, but right about three-quarters of the way through, the lights went out, and it was hilarious. It was an amazing moment. Here’s this big giant show, and the lights were out for an hour and thirteen minutes or something. But your guide was really great, and we had this private violin performance. This woman just was there, and she just put on a show for us, which was not expected. That was an unexpected ROI for CES.

Anyway, Shelly, thank you so much for spending time.

Shelly Palmer: My pleasure.

Drew Neisser: And for those of you listening, a couple of thoughts. There is no way you could be in an industry that isn’t being touched by technology. It’s impossible. Just think of it this way: how much of your content right now is being consumed on smartphones? Probably 50+ percent of it. How many of them would love to do digital transactions with you, even pay the bills or submit the bill? There’s almost no aspect of business, and I don’t care what it is that you’re doing, technology is going to have an impact on it.

Secondly, if you are thinking about innovation at all, one of the most interesting things about CES is just imagining crazy mashups, just for fun. What if we take this robot and put it over here with this health device, and put it over here? We talked about that on the show last year. Between the “see the future,” “imagine the future,” and “living it,” it’s a fun show. Plus, I’ll be there, and I’ll be looking for folks to hang out with. That’s another incentive. That’s really about it for this time. Thank you as always for listening. If you enjoyed the show, please share it with a friend. Sharing is caring. Until next time, keep those Renegade Thinking Caps on and strong.

Quotes from Shelly Palmer

CES is a unique crystal ball into the future.
It's important for B2B companies to understand that all human beings that they sell to are also consumers themselves.
There are so many things at CES that can look B2C, but have actual applications in B2B.
If you are in a business where human beings are empowered by technology, you owe it to yourself to understand what's coming in the short term future.

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