Archive for the ‘Web 2.0 Software’ Category

10 Top Questions for Contemplating Social Media Monitoring

For companies contemplating social media monitoring, this post analysis is meant as a starting point for integrating such an offer with Social Gastronomy’s Enterprise Social Management consulting services.

The Social media monitoring technologies are not sufficiently mature to be “install and go”; especially if the provider is looking to integrate multiple tools. This will require additional selling, implementing, customizing, and executing to manage the integration of the multiple data stream; which are exponentially more complex beyond single tool selection. Some large brands use up to 16 different tools in its social media monitoring program, we use 10+ for just our social market audit. Adding to the complexity in tool selection is the fact that a strategic snapshot that shows the relevance to the brand and business is different than the tactical dashboard and may require a completely different tools set.

 Additionally, the competitive tool landscape becomes more complicated as provider moves up the “food chain” to sell to new levels. The expectations as to how extensive the monitoring program will become will be dictated by the CMO’s desire to consolidate efforts; ie. Across monitoring for brand, reputation management, customer contact, etc. the provider could find itself competing for a broader base of business against PR, Marketing Communications, and Contact Center firms for the Social Media business. We suspect that this will naturally (already) occur as CMO’s will come to the conclusion that the monitoring and listening capabilities should be centralized and feed data for multi-purposes.

Recommended Planning Steps

Area of Planning Key Issues Impact
Business Planning
  • Expected return
  • Ownership within Organization
  • Measure success
  • What are you really buying
  • Investment required over time
  • Resources
  • Business case
  • Technology investment to support offering
Roadmap will dictate the business and investment requirements. If requirements are more extensive than expected, will cause perception issues as to quality and ability to execute.
Program Management 
  • Pricing
  • Packaging
  • Target customers within organization
  • Tool selection now and future
  • Duplication of data
  • Data cleansing process
  • Start with a core application and add other offerings
Expectations around the offering will dictate whether one tool or many will be required. We are seeing client have more mature requirements in terms of comprehensive information collection and synthesis.
Operation Execution
  • People Requirements
  • Process Requirements
  • Technology Requirements
How far along the business requirements have gone in preparing to scale the a program
Solution Customization
  • Add’l types of listening tools
  • Process
  • Training
  • Dashboard
  • Addl tools
  • Packages?
  • Pricing
If you trend as other enterprise social media clients that we have seen, then the customization requirements eventually will be extensive. Preparing for scenarios may allow for better initial package and accelerated scalability
Integration
  • Process
  • Requirements
  • Customer training
  • Project set-up
  • Policies and procedures setup
  • Roadmap for clients

 

The enterprise customers seem to be more mature in expectations around integrating offering into their environments and not as tolerant for siloed management. Has impact on operations and customization.

 

10 Top Takeaway Questions to Answer

  1. What is the expected hand-off when Social Gastronomy does strategy?
  2. What if organization wants other tools to include into the mix?
  3. What if monitors in other areas and wants to combine – call center, pr or marcom firm?
  4. Reputation monitoring, brand reach, complaints, categories, competitive intelligence, and qualitative analysis – what are you monitoring and why?
  5. Sentiment analysis – how leverage, how integrate with other data, how overcome shortcomings?
  6. Sentiment analysis challenges and manual review, omissions, volumes, discrepancies
  7. What does the integrated tool dashboard look like? Is there a different dashboard for the daily user, weekly manager, and monthly/quarterly executive?
  8. Integration into CRM – process, results, so what?
  9. How integrate into broader programs, how to use as door-opener for new expanded social media presence management?

10.  Where does this go? Roadmap?

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Enterprise Social Architecture: Need My House Jack?

We spend a lot of time with larger enterprises discussing how to integrate these newer technologies; web 2.0, community, social media, collaboration, etc into their existing environments.

There are similarities to owning an older home. Learning a lot lately about how older homes were constructed. Our house was built in the 1950’s and they used a center beam and wing construction model. Think of a ship, center beam and wings fanning out from there. Over time, the center beam begins to sag a little, not very flexible so you put in house jacks, bracket the beam, and put in supports, etc. In older homes, you always find that the previous owners have added their improvements; rewired electricity, added a bathroom, added an addition built on a different foundation, etc.

If you think about many of the larger enterprises, they have the same challenges. Centerbeam for support which isn’t very flexible and sags. The center beam is the ERP system and the wings are the other systems that hang off of it; payroll, onboarding, content mgmt, crm, business Intelligence, supply chain, logistics, intranets, portals, various biz apps, email, etc.ERP. Added a lot additions; business intelligence, CRM, content, web apps, intranets, supply chain, etc.

 We spend a lot of time with enterprise organizations and their domain experts talking about how to socially enable the core business systems and processes custom lifecycle management. We hear all the time from CIO’s that they don’t want to make any major system changes as they are still paying for it; with all of the additions and changes, they still have a hefty residual mtg payment or amortization and  would like to get more life out of the systems without having a payment.

 The good news is that the home remodeling busness has advanced with new technologies, techniques, and implementation processes to retrofit an older home with the latest green and or backbone and foundation strengthening and life extending techniques for older homes.

Same thing for larger enterprises looking retrofitting their social backbone for their organization to gain effiencies, competitive advantage, or keep up wth their customer requirements. They can implement a social architecture without requiring them to rip out existing systems or do major infrastructure changes.

 We have begun to develop social program and system implementations with the variuos partner organizations to take advantage of enterprise class social for lead generation, customer lifecycle mgmt, business intelligence, new product development, project collaboration, and emploee engagement as just a sampling of initiatives that we are seeing.

Retrofitting a home is harder than new construction in a lot of ways, but for many homeowners who want to keep the charm of their home intact or who cannot afford to major home repair, it is an attractive option.

Retrofitting older information infrastructures to take advantages of social and collaboration can provide similar life extending and or cost reducing alternatives to upgrading without disruption.

Note to Social Media Platform Vendors: Consodidation is Coming

As we have been ramping up the platform selection process for several clients, it has become obvious that some of the vendors are struggling. I can’t speak to their financial situation, but I can speak to the frustration that we have with many of them who still think the platform war is about features and functionality. As a consultant, you have to know that I see a lot of platforms. I think the last count was that there were over 100 platforms. If I can’t see anything special about your particular platform, how will the market?

That doesn’t mean that there are not good platforms out there. There is a group of the top platforms that do “get it” and are building the functionality to support the customers in the right way. See, web 2.0 is about empowering the customer, goving them that unique experience that gets them to come back over and over. Adoption trumps functionality. Customers don’t care about widgets, all they care about is the experience. By the way, I am talking about the platform customers’ customers…

Vendors who are building platforms to provide the flexibility to provide that “mass customized” experience are going to be the winners.  The ability to provide unique functionality to the users in a seamless, non-intrusive way will win. That means, as I heard lately, that the “platform” will have to disapear. Both in terms of becoming components AND in the unique quirks of design that enables you to figure out a particular community is actually run on XYZ platform.

My customers, who buy platforms, do not want their customers to think about the community platform, rather they want the experience to fade into the background and the focus to be on the content and the interactions with their company. The platform vendors who can do that effectively the fastest will grow the fastest. Believe it or not, it isn’t really about software development and how you can connect to ~500 enterprise applications. That is now becoming table stakes for the social media platform market.

The next bar will then be how do I fuse the public social network experience with my corporate community to enable potential buyers to easily transition to my platform without a cumbersome registration process (that still gives me their information) and a seamless ability for my current customers to share their customer experience with the world (better ways of optimizing the syndicaton process for search optimization and supporting the influencer marketing process).

Platform vendors who are marketing how easy they are to do business (easy to assemble widgets, flexible architecture, designable workflow, flexible data modellng, just in time report development) with AND have a standardized model for mass producing custom experiences will win (the experience based upon who I am, what I want to do, and when I want to do it can be built iu real-time).

If you are still trying to sell a standardized SaaS software package to  the world, you may want to rethink what the market leaders are doing. They are not selling features and functionality, they are selling solutions. And by the way, the solutions are focused on satisfying their customers’ customers…

Web Marketing: Leveraging First Mover Advantage on the Web

Since I did a MBA research project on First Mover Advantage on the Web in 1996 for a hybrid Micro Economics & Marketing class, I have approached marketing on the web with an eye to the economic impact that the low (near zero) cost for distribution on the web would have on competition.

We have seen it in multiple online vehicles; first it was email, then application distribution, ecommerce, blogs, online communities, and now social media tools like Twitter. My research was about the challenges first movers have in creating sustainable barriers to entry for subsequent market entrants. The ability to create entry barriers for competitors directly impacts their ability to maintain profit levels (reflection, in part, of customer acquisition costs) as subsequent companies enter the market.

We are seeing in the IPhone market with applications. Someone creates a popular application and then there are four similar applications. The challenge is that there is very little in terms of barriers to entry for the competitors. The first mover can get a very limited runway to market themselves with a unique offering before the market is established. The subsequent buyers cannot really differentiate in quality. The only barrier to entry for later entrants is the number of users of an application (popularity) which provides a small advantage for the first mover.

Now, a first mover can take advantage of the web to solidify a lead if they can combine entry barriers with exit barriers. If I can get into the market before others, create a differentiation that is hard to duplicate, and find a way to make it even harder to switch (for cost or niches), then you can build upon the lead.

First mover advantage, even in that situation, is not absolute as there are large numbers of examples where later entrants, with deep pockets and brand equity, were able to catch up to the first mover. The reasoning is pretty simple. you are the market leader with a large percentage of the market, but only sell to 5% of the available market. The competitor buys 80% of the next 10% of the available market that actually buys & they all of a sudden they can catch you and become the market leader.

Here is the lesson for early stage technology companies & the tie back to the title.

  • Because the internet allows you to communicate cost effectively to large number of people, this means you have a relatively low barrier to entry into a market.
  • At this point, a potential buyer will not be able to differentiate the quality of your offering or the credibility of your firm.
  • If you pioneer a market and prove successful, you have validated the market for potential entrants.
  • If those entrants have an existing customer base & available dollars for marketing to the market, you do not have a very sustainable barrier to entry.
  • Hence, you will have to spend more of your dollars as you grow to obtain customers because the market will be more competitive & the economics of scaling communications on the internet. It is exponentially harder to get 1000 people to listen to you versus 100, and exponentially harder to get 100,000 versus 1000. Economies of scale work against you on the internet due to the messaging noise.

Ok, so if you are introducing a new product, how do you protect your advantage?

  1. Word-of-Mouth Marketing = Lower Customer Acquisition Costs – You have to drive an effective referral program over the web. Social media allows you to do that if you can get a core set of evangelists. This is fundamental to lowering your AVERAGE customer acquisition costs. Free referrals balance your costly marketing and sales costs. Don’t count on word-of-mouth marketing, though, very few companies get homeruns. Hope for the homeruns, but be prepared to manufacture runs to stay in the game until you see the right pitch.
  2. Offering Value = Adoption – you have to meet & exceed the customers expectations around the value of the offering with something they cannot get anywhere else easily. That means you cannot satisfy everyone, so target an audience who will appreciate your offering. Make sure you get them to be raving fans. This gives you a core group of evangelists. Provide features and functionality that are must-haves, not nice-to-haves. This will involve a great deal of market research to understand the difference. This means investment in technology, automation of processes, unique approaches, patents, etc. Differentiation is not absolute, but it the starting place….
  3. Pricing & Packaging = Competitve Positioning – Assume that you will have competition and that they will be strong. You need to plan on an aggressive pricing and packaging strategy that creates both barriers to entry for competitors and barriers to exit for your customers.
  4. Partnerships = Distribution – the right “big brother” partner can enable you to leverage their customer base and brand marketing power to lower your average customer acquisition costs. Partnerships are difficult to build and are time consuming to manage. If done right, you will seed the market for the partner, provide them with sufficient channel support, and assume that you will have to do most of the heavy lifting in terms of closing sales until they see success.
  5. Creating Long Term Relationships = Barriers to Exit – This is the tricky one as there is a fine line between providing customer value & building in barriers to exit; ie. contracts, location, ability to export data, feature breadth, etc. Barriers to Exit can be perceived by customers as barriers to entry with a vendor. My belief is that companies should strive to be “easy to do business with” and they should focus less on building artifical barriers to exit, but rather more on the true barrier to exit for a customer which are value-based pricing, planned commoditization, continual innovation & service. At the end of the day, if a company can provide competitive pricing for the basics, unique differentiated functionality, and provides world-class service; why would anyone switch?

My next post on this topic will be for companies who are entering an established market with a new, differentiated offering. How do you leverage the web to displace entrenched, but less capable competitors.

The Triple Crown of Web 2.0 & Online Application Development

From a product management perspective, the three major critical success factors for building online applications are Adoption, Distribution ,and Value. Notice that functionality is not on the list & I will explain why. Also, you may think I am having a product management conversation, but as with any good marketing, it has to be rooted in economics. More importantly, focusing on customer acquisition costs. 

Unless you have are building your online application as free-ware without a way to monetize the relationships (there are a good number of Silicon Valley garage & VC backed companies still doing this, also a good number of IPhone apps), then eventually you have to figure out how to make money from the application that you are building. Even if you are creating a free application to drive distribution, but you assume that at some point that you will sell something, upsell something, or advertise something; then you probably need to have thought though these issues.

1. Adoption – in a previous post, I discussed why adoption trumps functionality in Web 2.0 applications https://rosenhaft.wordpress.com/2009/05/21/in-web-2-0-software-adoption-trumps-functionality/ Bottom line is that without users, web 2.0 collaboration cannot occur. You can look at the ecosystem of twitter or facebook apps to get an idea, but it works on a micro-level, as well. If you don’t get a significant percentage of your available population to use your application, it isn’t very valuable. With near zero distribution costs on the internet, the real price is customer awareness. You have to capture their attention and interest; otherwise the value of collaborative applications is marginalized.

2. Distribution – If you are distributing your application, you would assume ubiquitous distribution, but the problem is that so does everyone else. I had coffee with a CEO recently who told me that there wasn’t a great deal of competition for their application, but when I went online to do research, I found at least 25 or so competing applications. The direct competitiveness was questionable, along with the quality, but even if you gave it away for free; it would be difficult to break through the noise without significant marketing $’s OR a partner that could distribute the application. In essense, you need a “big brother” partner to assist you in breaking through the noise so that you can overcome the barriers to market entry. The partner provides the ability to differentiate from the crowd, gain awareness, and creates an assumption of quality. This can be a technology platform vendor (Iphone, Facebook, Microsoft, Sony, etc) or it can be an industry brand that the customers already buy a complimentary offering. Giving away a free application to drive distribution is also a good strategy, as long as it is part of a larger strategy.

3. Value – you have to provide more value than the prospective user will give; whether its there time, money, attention, relationships, etc. This sounds simple, but when you take into account market segmentation, competitive factors, and other market noise, it isn’t as easy. Let’s assume that you are servicing a vertical market with a very cool web-based application that allows the customer to save 20% off their transaction costs & shave 2 hours per user a week on a particular process. No brainer, they should value this application at least $1,200 per user per month, we should charge them $600. We are done, let’s go to market…. right? Wrong!

Pricing the application is more complicated than that when you take into account the switching costs from things they are doing today, competitive offerings, customer acquisition costs, exist costs, etc.

  • You find out they are using an old windows application that they have been using for 12 years. 20% savings doesn’t really mean much to the people using it day-to-day.
  • The business owner has an annual contract for support that has another 9 months left on it so the 20% isn’t as attractive as you would think.
  • The legacy application does not have the ability to easily export the 12 years worth of data to your web application. So, even though you have used the latest technologies for creating your API, it requires professional services to transition them. Wipes out the 20% savings in the first year.

I could go on, but when you begin to think about how to launch a new web 2.0 application, even though it seems like a game-changer for the market, there are legacy issues that need to be thought through. “Build it and they will come syndrome” has tripped us a good many new improved software applications.

It is hard and costly to simplify the adoption, distribution, and value proposition, right? Yes and no. If you ask the market and potential customers, you will incur costs and time to understand and overcome the potential roadblocks, but the risk mitigation is priceless.

Some simple advise to close on:

  • Go where customer is, not where you think they are… Customer perception is your reality…
  • It is easier to sell to companies that have money… don’t be afraid of competition or large markets, but do your homework. Smaller, niche markets also can produce more revenue is the pain is greater.
  • Customers buy from the company that is easiest to do business fromwith… registration, price, package, etc.
  • Distribution on the web is about finding relationships to reach likely customers in buying mode…
  • Value is identifying pain, “must have” versus “nice to have” – we are all overwhelmed with choices, where do we focus is prioritized based on our perceived needs. Even opportunities are based upon perceived pain.
  • Emotional connection play a large part in impulse, attention, switching costs, substitutions, opportunity, & empathy – all of which play a part in buyer behavior

The single biggest mistake I see companies make in launching new online applications is that they do not think through the factors outside of their immediate control. If you had enough warning that you were going to crash your car, you could change direction or avoid a potential wreck. Involving distribution partnerships and customers earlier in the product development cycle is exactly the way to identify potential “app killers” and allow you to make that “killer app”.

In Web 2.0 Software, Adoption Trumps Functionality

The last several years have seen the greater adoption of social media and other Web 2.0 software components. These component software tools provide users with a more interactive experience, personalization, with the ability to create their own content, links, tags, navigation, etc. Additionally, you are seeing the growth of the “connected web”; web services, RSS, embeddable code, ubiquitous meta-tagging, widgets, consumable data, etc.

The proliferation of these software applications has migrated to every sector; consumer, enterprise, SMB, etc. What used to take NDA’s, sharing and modification of API’s, and endless meetings now can be accomplished with a snippet of code.

As the web transitions to more semantic driven applications and less user-interface driven, you would think that functionality would become increasingly important in applications.

In my experience, the trend is towards the opposite and that ADOPTION trumps functionality. The challenge is that we have too many options on the internet; too much data, content, search results, websites, applications, etc. The word I hear over and over is “overwhelming”.

So, if you have a very limited window of attention from your audience, why would you throw extraneous “stuff” at them hoping something would stick. Instead, take advantage of the Web 2.0 technologies and provide them with a tailored experience with just-enough functionality.

More importantly, focus on what is their motivation and interests. Not all potential buyers are the same. Don’t provide a generic website experience that meets 80% of 80% of the visitors and satisfies none. Instead, focus on identifying what a 100% of a smaller audience that you know will buy and add additonal functionality to support additional segments over time. Customers provide unsolicited referrals when you exceed their expectations and provide them a WOW! experience. This is the heart of word-of-mouth marketing. EXCEED CUSTOMER EXPECTATIONS!

If you cannot exceeed the whole group, then focus on a small enough group that talks to each other and build from there. You see countless blogs and articles about how to launch products on the interet. This is the reasoning behind the axioms. You need a critical mass of associated happy customers that will tell others about it.

It is about numbers. If you satisfy 1% of a large group, that doesn’t make much of a market impact. If you satisfy 80% of a small group, you own the market. Bottom line, adoption of your solution is more critical than providing everything, including the kitchen sink.

Of course, the secret is prioritizing the “right” functionality to satisfy the customer which takes someone asking them….