Tag Archives: Social Business

Product Management – What makes a great product ?

Every now and then a product comes along that changes the way we view and do things. The product becomes a natural extension ourselves and the way we express ourselves. In most cases these products are not net new thinking (i.e. invention) but they innovate upon existing ways. In most cases if you are like me you end up thinking, Duh!! what didn’t think of that!

      Yes, I am little over analytical on matters such as that and sometimes the window opportunity goes away. But there are also times where I don’t think much and just do it, those moments sometimes payoff  but most of the time I end up saying maybe I should have gone slow. In my line of work I get to see a lot of complexity in how we build software and there are a lot of moments where we over think a problem, make the problem more problematic than it already is. After going through several discussions around this topic with folks that much more smarter than me I have narrowed them down to 3 things:

1- Product must be simple 
This to me is the golden rule. When you make your end user or client think for just the basic functions you have lost them. The immediate gut reaction is “If the basic function is so complicated, I wonder how the complicated functions are”. And once that mindset takes hold it is a uphill task to regain any lost ground.  I am not saying that you make your product idiot proof, because that would be wrong and painting everyone with the same broad brush. There can be features that require some advance thinking but those things are not features that everyone uses everyday i.e. the HotSpot  feature on Smart phones, how many people truly know how to use that?

2- Product must understandable 
To this day I have not figured out what was the purpose of the scroll lock key on a keyboard and why is it so important to keep the key on a standard keyboard in the first place? When you don’t make products understandable for basic functions, it makes the end user feel like the product is talking down to them and somehow questioning their intelligence. Don’t do that, you might start alienating people without even knowing it.

3- Product must be complete
Last point is when you think of the basic function or whatever basic scenario you are delivering. Make it complete. A great example of a complete product is a power utility company, when you have electricity the only thing you worry about is flicking the switch and the power comes on.  You don’t even think about how the power gets transmitted to your home. That is a complete product and definitely miss it when it not there because it has become such an integral part of your life

These are just some of my musing on how a product or service ought be delivered. There are several great examples of these ideas in the market place today. Just think of them if these products did not have these capabilities would you have incorporated them into your daily lives.

Social Media – The power of "people like me"

Every now and then I hear marketing guys talk about social media as another channel to advertise. I feel like marketing, sales, development, and other part of any organization’s value chain are just plain missing the point.
In a world where people have access to so much content, how will blasting out content indiscriminately get you what you want to get? Television advertisers know this really well, in their business model they have to create ads that resonate with their potential consumers in less than 30 seconds. How do you define success of such campaigns? I would doubt that a lot of people get convinced to buy J’Adore perfume for their wives or significant other just because they saw Charlize Theron strutting in the commercial.  
In today’s world of social media I posit that the “word of mouth” seal of approval gets more attention than a traditional advert. This is typically true when you are purchasing big ticket items, although some small ticket items are gradually coming into the fold thanks to Amazon, Apple and other application marketplaces.  I call the “word of mouth” seal of approval to what Robert Cialdini calls social proof.  Seeing other “people like me” that have experienced a similar problem and the product they purchase solved that problem for them, gives me assurance that I am buying something that is worthwhile to me. 
Scenario: The case of me and people like me
Prior to the internet, the social network “of people like me” represented the people I knew or who were in my immediate vicinity. In this case due to personal relations and biases, I would take feedback with a grain of salt and unless I knew that person really empathized with my situation. With social media and other venues I now have access to collective mind share that I did not have access to. Now I understand this is not like self diagnosing an illness on the internet, but if there are people that are passionate about a piece of technology and write about it, then it is worth considering. Now obviously there will be contributors bringing in their respective biases but you have to realize how much influence such voices will have on your decision. When buying expensive gadgets or workout equipement online, I depend on the reviews that other people have provided. Obviously I have to have my filter on, but these days, I am making decisions based on experiences other people have had prior to buying a product. These people that I am being influenced by are people that I have no direction connection to but their seal of approval is important to me because they share my problem (primarily because I do not want to have buyers remorse after my expensive purchase). But when I am scouring for “Social proof” I don’t look at the stream of announcements a company makes about their products (i.e. in their tweets, facebook posts etc.) . What I look for are the interactions they are having with their community members and the interactions between the community members themselves (Western Digital, Apple, Google forums are great examples of this). 
Just like Oscar Wilde states ” Experience is the name what people give to their mistakes”, there are hits and misses in taking a stranger’s opinion. But that does not mean one has to regress into their shell and become a hermit (this is shaped by the utility derived by the purchase as well). In my case I have now developed a sense of whether or not the feedback is genuine i.e. as in the case of Amazon reviews (BTW there are companies now that make sure that reviews posted are genuine).  Now one could argue that what if the company is paying people to write great reviews about their product so that more people purchase it. This again is not a new thing. Have you seen TV informercials lately? Companies that employ such  tricks and tricksters are eventually found out and are shamed publicly. That in it self, in most cases acts as a disincentive to such acts.
In this brave new world, where more people are making decisions based on others experience for all kinds of purchase decisions, social media just amplifies that voice of “people like me”

Social Media – What does being Social mean for a Social Business?

This topic has been grinding my gears for a long time. You hear a lot of people saying they are now a social business. Honestly it does not mean a thing because what they really mean is that they have a facebook,pintrest, or even a twitter handle. My response usually is congratulation you are the reason for bastardizing the term social in social business.
Let us get this straight, just because your are tweeting, putting status updates on facebook, does not mean the world is listening. Just like everything in life the basic tenets of engagement do not change with the change in technology. When you join a social network you “friend” people who know you i.e. have shared interest of some sort and from a business perspective shared interest becomes even more paramount. As a business you want people that have shared interests with you to actually be your client, because you are business and you are selling something that solves a problem for someone.  Let me show you through 2 scenarios one with a company that does business in a traditional model and the other one using social media. 
Business in the traditional model 
Company A sells specialized widgets to a particular group of clientele. The reason for Company A’s success is that it has an army of sales force that is always there at the beck and call of it’s clientele. The  clientele feels that the sales force is an effective mechanism for them to articulate the changes they want in the product. When widget company delivers the next iteration of the product, they feel like they have been listened and continue to purchase more widgets. The sales team acts as a feedback loop to Company A about what their clients tastes are and how they are changing.
Business that is a Social business 
Company B sells widgets too, but they are a social business. Unlike Company A they have small but effective inside sales force. Their channel to sell to their clients is the web. How do these folks get their clients to come to their website? These folks before claiming that they are social, they target the right folks i.e. partners, competitors, analysts etc. These folks hear what their future clients are saying and learn to speak the language of the people they want to be associated with. Once they establish that they focus on what kind of content they want to build and get their constituents excited about it. Well how to they get them excited about, they use twitter, facebook, pintrest etc. Well what does that mean ? Suppose Company B gets 1 client and that one client has around 400 friends on facebook and 600 followers on twitter. Some of this person’s(i.e. the 1 client) friends are in a similar industry that use similar but expensive widgets. This client likes the facebook page of Company B and Company then starts to post special offers on this person’s profile page. This person takes one of their coupons and makes another widget purchase. To make things simpler if the person were to get into a problem with the widget, the company makes a conscious effort to responding to this person directly in a medium of this person’s choice (i.e. twitter, email, facebook). This responsiveness makes the user feel that the company is still listening to them and that Company B is going out of there to make this person feel special. Company B, based on this feedback loop is able to foresee changes in taste in the marketplace and react accordingly. Because Company B is so good in responding this person’s need, this person talks more about it with the people this person has similar interests. Now the other people in this person’s network are curious and they give this widget a shot and Company B gives them the exact same great service and these new clients are now hooked and this cycle keeps going on, until Company B has to now grow up and attract bigger clients. Company B being social has already been preparing these changes and for the big companies to make the right decision, all they have to do is to look around, the large companies see the social proof of other clients experience and that makes their job easier to make a decision. Now those 400 facebook friends and 600 twitter follower actually have a meaning.
Now obviously you would notice that Company B has to go through hoops unlike Company A. But if you take a closer look it is exactly the same process, instead of  humans being in the forefront of the interactions, humans are now interacting with each other via social media (some people call this web 2.0 or even web 3.0).  But the net of it all is whether it is a large sales force or via social media the focus is conversion from a casual observer to an actual client. That is the most important thing
Just by claiming that you are social does not mean you are social, it is like saying every time you talk people listen (you maybe talking but nobody is listening). Next time when you say you are social please make sure you have some sort of strategy to engage with your clientele versus just constantly bombarding people with meaningless content.
And now I can go think something else that drives me nuts !