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Thought leadership selling for enterprise software creates a qualitative feedback loop that can get marketing & product management on the same page. May 5, 2014

Posted by Bernard Lunn in Blogging, Enterprise Sales, Enterprise Web 2.0, SAAS, start-ups.
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There are two core jobs in enterprise software; you either code it or you sell it.  All the other jobs, vital as they are, facilitate those two core tasks. In the great companies there is a culture that synthesizes the best of the coding world and the best of the sales world. In those companies both techies and hustlers respect each other and know that they depend on each other like mountain climbers roped together.

Sadly that kind of mutual respect culture is all too rare. For the first generation of enterprise software, the sales guys ruled and they often abused that privilege. It is therefore no surprise that in the next generation, characterized by SaaS and consumerization, many technical founders sought to write the sales guys out of the script.

In the consumer world, there is no selling (door to door salesmen are only in history books), there is marketing and that is tightly integrated with the product (lots of AB testing to find out what gets consumers to hit the buy button).

Marketing has become a science. The creative folks and their hustlers that we watch with such amusement on MadMen have been banished to the history books along with door to door salesmen. We now have a perfect quantitative feedback loop of Analytics feeding into Marketing Automation feeding back into product feeding back into Analytics….

That would be OK if selling to the enterprise one user at a time – the consumerization story – was all that was needed. It is a venture lifestage issue. You get early traction, the foot in the door, one user at a time using Freemium. To grow your share of budget you need at some stage to engage with the people who manage these enterprises (or sell to an acquirer who can do this but that is a very limited pool of acquirers).

So what you need is a qualitative feedback loop integrated with this quantitative feedback loop. You need to hear what people are thinking and feeling about your product, what would entice them to buy more. When you find this out you need to quickly integrate this into your product and your marketing; this has to be an agile feedback loop. For this you need humans who can understand the nuances of the enterprise you are selling to, the geography and the trend line dynamics in the niche you are focused on. They also need to be credible inside your company so that the voice of the customer is heard.

Thought leadership selling is a forgotten art. I think of it simply as industry expert bloggers who sell or salesmen who blog credibly about the industry. This Forbes article outlines it well, the key quote is here:

“Take Salesforce.com as an example. This was an organization that took cloud-based software-as-a-service for customer relationships into the mainstream marketplace. There are several elements to its success, namely a strong product, but it also has an army of thought leaders who specialize in app development, sales lead development, sales management, etc. that helps customers do their jobs better. Salesforce’s model, driven by product success and thought leaders, has led to a familiarity with “the cloud” and a willingness to accept it in a corporate environment. These achievements not only helped the cloud computing industry with adoption rates, but helped make Salesforce a leader in the cloud-based CRM space.”

I think of this simply as industry expert bloggers who sell or salesmen who blog credibly about the industry. It is no longer OK for customers to read interesting blogs on your site and then meet sales people who cannot continue the conversation because they follow the old fashioned scripted model of selling. This is particularly true when crossing the chasm through the bowling alley of niche markets. Of course in the early days, the founders do this and in very late days you can hire teams of sales people who follow a more scripted approach, but you need thought leadership selling to make the tough transition from the early days of founder led selling to mature enterprise sales processes.

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Why I Like Writing January 8, 2014

Posted by Bernard Lunn in Blogging, Journalism.
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I have friends who are dyslexic. One saw me writing and asked “what are you doing?”. He assumed I was doing something painful and difficult because I had to.

When he asked me why I was writing, I had to think about the question because nobody was paying me to write and even in the most convoluted indirect economic justification for the use of my time seemed a massive stretch. So I just said “because it is fun”. He gave me a “you are weird” look. I could only say “guilty as charged your honor, yes I am weird”.

So I thought about this a bit more and decided to – yes  – write about it. For I am not the only weird person who writes for fun. In fact a lot of Internet entrepreneurs have got rich off our free labors. No worries, Ev Williams et al, I do it willingly and so I don’t begrudge you getting rich from free tools that make it easier for me to indulge my folly.

My inner editor is saying “cut to the chase, write the lede”. I like writing because:

1. It helps me to get my thinking clear. Sometimes this has an economic purpose, I am trying to understand some rapidly changing space in the technology business. I talk to lots of people, read a lot and then the process of writing helps me synthesise. Sometimes (this piece for example), it is just because understanding something is err, fun.

2. Feedback to complete my understanding. This is the beauty of online writing. The most obscure subject finds those other weird souls who are thinking about the same obscure subjects. That is why the Interest Graph is different from the Social Graph and why I tend to enjoy Twitter more than Facebook. Don’t get me wrong, I love my friends and family, I just don’t expect them to share all my obscure interests.

3. Communicating. Its a social acceptable form of madness. The guy opposite me on the train is muttering to himself, talking to somebody who seems real to him but who is clearly not with him in meatspace. He is clearly mad as defined by society. Blogging/tweeting is a socially sanctioned form of this insanity. Thats OK with me, I saw the line recently that falling in love is a socially sanctioned form of insanity; so I am OK with another socially sanctioned form of insanity.

Before blogging enabled everybody to get published, many people made a good living from writing. I do sometimes have a twinge of guilt that I am yet another amateur helping to make life a bit harder for professional writers.

Twitter Is Not Enough: 6 Needs Of Investigative Journalism #futureofnews May 21, 2011

Posted by Bernard Lunn in Blogging, Journalism.

See earlier post on Investigative Journalism Needs More Than Curation Tools for context.

1. The reporter must be able to control the URL and the monetization. News that goes to closed social networks that monetize the free contributions cannot be sustainable. Journalism has to be paid for. We can use social media to listen (Twitter Lists are just the old “little black book” of sources) and to promote stories and get incoming links. But journalists who want to make a living cannot simply make the social media founders/investors rich.

2. The reporter must be able to contribute news using the lowest common denominator tools: mobile phones and email. Expensive, proprietary tools will be a barrier. Even a free app that has to be downloaded before one can contribute, will be a barrier. The person who happens to be “on the spot” where the news is breaking must be able to report what is happening.

3. The reporter must be be able to publish automatically on real time without asking anybody’s permission. This is the gift of the social media age. Yes, this same tool can be used by spammers, scammers and hacks paid directly by special interests. That is the price of openness and the reason why the next point is so important; but the alternative (control by a few media moguls) is worse.

4. The reporter must be able to proactively choose sources and ask them for specific contributions. Relying on curating existing flows on social networks is reactive and not the essence of journalism. This capability must be available to the single individual (the “person formerly known as blogger” and occasionally called citizen journalist) as well as media organizations large and small.

5. The reporter must be able to request payment in various forms. This won’t apply to salaried reporters working for large media organizations.  But all forms of free agent reporter are likely to create the majority of news content in the future and they should be able to request payment in whatever means makes sense to them – non-monetary recognition, stringer type retainers, per item fees. For example, the person who records a key moment of history should be able to get paid by the highest bidder, unless they have contracted with another news organization before the event.

6. Text is not enough, we need millions of TV stations. Mobile video is a reality and consumers want the old lean back TV experience with an interactive twist. Everyman can be a TV anchor replaces the earlier blogging dream of everybody can be a published writer.

Investigative Journalism Needs More Than Curation Tools May 19, 2011

Posted by Bernard Lunn in Blogging, Journalism.

Investigative journalism is important to society, somebody needs to “speak truth to power”.

Historically the newspaper business was so profitable that it could fund long investigations. They could also take the risk of lawsuits that often resulted when the rich and powerful did not like the truth that was being reported. But today, those budgets are being cut to the bone and newspaper owners are too scared for their own survival to consider investigative projects.

Nor can the pure play online only blog-based businesses pick up the slack. They have to pander to page views and keep costs within the boundaries marked by ever-falling CPM and CTR ad rates. “Reporters” have to create 4 posts per day, usually around 500 words. Their best attempts at adding value to press releases are clearly no substitute for investigative journalism.

For a while, I thought that “citizen journalism” would be the answer. The idea was that any citizen can hit enter on their blog and the truth is revealed, they have no gatekeeper (who might be conflicted by their relationship with a special interest) who can say no.

The problem is that, for every honest citizen trying to do their best, there are way more spammers, scammers and paid hacks of the rich and powerful. So the consumer of news has to filter out the nuggets of truth from the mountains of rubbish. To do that they need well-trained and motivated journalists and editors. So we get back to square one.

Many techies dream of an automated answer, the perfect social curation filtering tool that will automagically assess every source’s credibility and only deliver the good stuff to your personalized online news service. Yep, and the high school student will find the cure for cancer in class and invent something that goes faster than the speed of sound.

I love how Andy Carvin at NPR is curating the news from the Arab revolutions using Twitter lists and other tools. The best tech bloggers, such as Marshall Kirkpatrick, have used these tools for a while, now we are seeing these tools used to report on matters that really matter to humanity. That is all great.

The danger is that we fall back into a naive view that technology will replace the need for people like Andy Carvin. Or that it is easy to get mainstream journalists to work the way he works. It maybe that this is something that is perfect for early adopters but won’t scale.

We need tools that empower trained journalists and editors, that help them to identify more credible sources and to efficiently get those sources to contribute. Those same tools can be used by citizen journalists. The tools must be very simple and very cheap, so that they are accessible to citizen journalists and local news operations. Exposing a $50,000 corruption at your local town hall matters just as much as the $500 million corruption at a national level when that $50,000 determines whether the school budget passes and your kids get art class.

I was initially sceptical about non-profit institutions getting involved. I thought that the answer had to come from the market. But I have been impressed by what ProPublica is doing and their model may be sustainable, as they get revenue from commercial news organizations. But we need more ProPublicas as well as purely commercial versions of ProPublica. For that to happen, we need a revolution in efficiency.

There needs to be something like a Moore’s Law of investigative journalism where the cost drops significantly every year.

Disclosure: this is the focus of ReportingLiveFrom, a new venture that I am co-founding. We are not yet ready to go live with our tools, I am writing about the issues to get our thinking clear and engage with other interested parties.

Why I Am Returning To My Wordpress Blog May 4, 2011

Posted by Bernard Lunn in B2B Media, Blogging, Journalism.

I was late to blogging, around 2007, but had written a lot in other media. I started with WordPress, then wrote for Read Write Web, SemanticWeb and SmallBizTrends.

I have no intention of monetizing via advertising, so I don’t care about page views (that is only a vanity stat). Nor do I have any single business objective, so I don’t feel the need to be disciplined about writing every day. I really do write for fun, I enjoy writing. It is a way to organize my thoughts. But it is also, hopefully, a conversation. I want to engage in a dialogue with people who are “thinking along the same lines”, even if they tell me I have got it totally wrong (I love changing my point of view).

So, the question is not whether I should blog. It is whether I should blog here, or on some high traffic site. A few years ago, it was different. Then it was obvious that you should blog as a guest author on a high traffic site. Four things have changed my mind on this:

  1. Google is indexing my blog posts within less than a minute. Yep, this no-name blog is being indexed almost in real time! I tested this myself. I assume this is because WordPress adopted RSSCloud.
  2. I tested on a blog network that lets guest authors post freely (SeekingAlpha) and on this blog and the number of page views was almost the same.
  3. I asked some blogs that have a restricted guest author policy and found that I had to write in a way that fit within their editorial guidelines. If I wanted to be a professional writer, that would have been a useful exercise. But I am determined to remain amateur in my writing and want the freedom to write what I want, when I want.
  4. New style aggregators such as Hacker News and Techmeme have a way to submit posts, so you can alert a specialized audience on a post by post basis. Hacker News found me about a year ago when my post on “punk manufacturing” was discovered and yesterday I submitted something that got a great conversation going. Methinks Techmeme is more news-driven and that’s not my game, but lets see.

This tells me that it might be possible to get the blogging magic quadrant – freedom on one axis and engaged audience on the other.

Curated List Of Curation Resources March 2, 2011

Posted by Bernard Lunn in Blogging, Journalism.
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How nerdily recursive is that? Its a hot topic, so here is my index to the interesting stuff on curation (one man’s view of what is interesting is all, but that is what curation is all about, so no more apologies):

http://twitter.com/#!/saved-search/Curation Follow that search term and you have curation stuff in all it’s raw, noisy glory

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nUDPFtOCQVA&feature=player_embedded The way Andy Carvin curated the news flow from Middle East revolutions. This rang very true to me, I was doing the same – in a very haphazard way – as an amateur who was obsessed with what was happening.

http://www.linkedmediagroup.com/ten-steps-to-content-curation/ Curation 101

http://curationchronicles.magnify.net/ Steven Rosenbaum wrote the book on curation – literally

http://vodpod.com/watch/1172451-clay-shirky-its-not-information-overload-its-filter-failure-web-2-0-expo-ny Shirky at his brilliantly incisive best

http://scobleizer.posterous.com/the-new-billion-dollar-opportunity-real-time Scoble gets a lot more people thinking about curation by mentioning a $ billion.

http://scobleizer.com/2010/03/27/the-seven-needs-of-real-time-curators/ Scoble gets a bit more specific

Page Flakes replacing MyYahoo – what else? July 24, 2007

Posted by Bernard Lunn in Blogging, Online Advertising, social networks, start-ups.
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MyYahoo has been my start page since 2000 and it has been great, but I wanted to try out the alternatives. I opted for PageFlakes as I saw management came from Yahoo so I thought it might be an intuitive switch. In 30 minutes I had my new start pages on PageFlakes. So it certainly meets the ease of adoption criteria. Here are the obvious benefits:

  1. Gmail in my start-page. As I started to use Gmail it started to become my home page, which was not what I wanted. Will I be locking myself out of Google widget ecosystem? I think that Widgets will be neutral to start-pages/social networks so I can get the best in whatever start page I choose.
  2. Personalized WorldClock, another simple time-saver, no need to open another window/tab.
  3. Changing layout is easier than in MyYahoo. Not a big deal as I don’t do that often.

In summary, ease of adoption = good, impact = nice to have but minor. Would I have switched if I was not interested in researching new technology? Probably not. I wonder if they get switchers or new users? This matters because it seems that in America at least the new users are not getting start pages they are going to social networks.

I notice that PageFlakes is from Germany and NetVibes (their main competitor) is from France. Do young Europeans use start pages more than social networks? If so will PageFlakes add social/colloboration features that are compelling? What I have seen so far was not that useful to me at least.

I think that WordPress i.e. my Blog is a more natural collaboration tool than my start page. I use my start-page to consume. So I consume RSS feeds from people who I want to keep track of on my start page and I create RSS deliverable content on my Blog for people who want to see what I am doing/thinking. There is no reason why producing and consuming need to be in one tool.

Blogger types and what this means for B2B Media July 11, 2007

Posted by Bernard Lunn in B2B Media, Blogging, social networks, start-ups.
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Traditional media is still figuring out how to work with Bloggers. Some in the Web 2.0 world are claiming Blogging is old and tired and declaring that Social Networks and Twitter will replace Blogging (by the time a new technology gets used by the masses i.e. crosses the chasm i.e. becomes economically interesting, the ‘”new, new thing crowd” has moved on).

So I thought it might be useful to think about a taxonomy of Bloggers and which ones are core Bloggers, which will move into a re-vamped media role and which will move more into Twittering and hooking-up.

  1. Unchained Journalists. I first started reading Blogs from Journalists that I had originally enjoyed in print. They became unchained by choice or were pushed into it when their magazine folded. Byte Magazine’s demise liberated a lot of great journalists as they came from (IMHO) the best technology magazine ever. This trend is likely to continue as more print magazines close down when most of their audience has migrated online.
  2. New Media Magnate. TechCrunch and ReadWriteWeb come to mind. Given low barriers to entry there is very little to stop an Unchained Journalist from becoming a New Media Magnate. While VC will look sceptically because “Content Businesses Don’t Scale Anymore” there is a good “lifestyle business” in many niches.
  3. Corporate Blogger. This is now so common in the technology and new media worlds that it is just another part of About Us. It serves a useful purpose that falls between the cracks of Press Releases and White Papers (i.e. we have something interesting to a small part of our market (sorry, lets be Web 2.0 correct and call it “community” rather than market) but not important enough to get picked up by traditional media.
  4. Hello World Look at Me. This is what will move to Social Networks and Twitter. If you are a very good friend I maybe interested in your latest thoughts about your cat, but….
  5. Niche Passion. These are the people who really don’t care if anybody reads their Blog, they are just writing about what they love. If you love the same thing, this is the best thing since sliced bread. This is classic long tail blogging.
  6. Already a Famous Hub. This is a way for highly connected and influential people – the people that everybody else wants to talk to – to get their thoughts out there. VCs and Angels in the technology world are the most common examples and Fred Wilson and Marc Andreessen are the two masters of the art. This serves two purposes. First it helps filter the people who come to them because they know what will interest them. Second it makes them look like reasonable human beings.
  7. Consultant/Service Provider Attention-Seekers. This is where Blogging and White Papers intersect. It is a form of open source. Create some useful analysis/insight so that your market sees that you could be useful and make contact.
  8. Journalist Manque. Journalism, of the Woodwood/Bernstein type, has some glamor and many people have harbored ambition along those lines and now they have a chance…
  9. Attention Seeker for a cause. Can be a marvelous way to rally people to a good cause or a horrible way to rant your prejuduce and both will continue to thrive.
  10. Attention Seeker for a company. PR Hack in another guise unless done very well. Blogging does rather dis-intermediate the PR role.

That is where we are today. Peering into that murky crystal ball (will somebody please wipe that muck off the glass):

  • The biggest number of Blogs (all those statistics about x gazillion blogs created in the last 15 minutes) will be Hello World Look at Me and that is the domain of “few to few” media like Social Networks, Twitter. This will take some of the hype out of Blogging as a mass medium. This is co-existence and complementary. Some social networking twitterers may move back into Blogging to meet some other need and Bloggers will also Twitter about their cat.
  • Niche Passion and Attention Seekers (for cause or commercial) will be the core Blogging long tail world.
  • Media firms (new and old will merge) and Corporates seeking attention will merge Blogging, Social Networking and other content forms as dictated by their market.

Full disclosure, I categorize myself as Consultant/Service Provider Attention-Seekers on behalf of my company as well as some element of Journalist Manquee.