The Surprised Entrepreneur-Diary of new venture (Entry #4): A tale of two VC meetings.

For the last 3 months I have been very focused on sales of our Interaction Engine system and we are doing well on that score. As a result, though, I have not really shaped the business plan and the structure of our company for the inevitable VC round to come. Getting funding has not been an urgent requirement and it seemed far better to generate real revenue and then go for funding.

So as we are chugging along, our work has gotten the attention of two VCs who reached out for a meeting. This was my first introduction to the world of VCs and I confess, the meetings were startling and sobering; leaving me strangely ambivalent about the journey ahead on this front.

VC meeting number 1.

It was a rainy, NY winter day and we decided to meet at a coffee shop. I knew that this fund was more an incubator type which offered me the potential of being part of a startup community. It seemed like a good idea that I perhaps become part of the NY “Tech/ CEO club” since now, I am an outlier. I don’t hang out in Meetup sessions and I am not trekking across the country chasing the cool tech conferences (OK – I confess I am going to SXSW but only because they asked me to speak).

I enter the coffee shop with only the vaguest sense of what the VC looked like (his Twitter pix was decidedly not very useful). It took me a solid 8 minutes to spot him. As I approach I see this 30ish guy with a quirky winter cone hat that was just 2 degrees “off” – IMO wandering into “silly land.” It was hard not to laugh out loud at the effect – but I held my composure.

I sit down and we start chatting.  I was curious to understand his investing philosophy. His focus decidedly was on individual technologies – why Foursquare will be huge or how this new app model will revolutionize some trend or other. When I wondered with him about the lack of a clear business model which limits their practical use for marketers, he dismissed that concern with a wave of the hand. “Well, that’s won’t be a problem for long – once the old guard is gone.”

Wow. Clearly that meant me. I took his comment to mean that only the “newer” generation have the depth to understand new marketing technologies. I was dumbfounded and I was shaken. The gap between us was, technologically speaking, generational – perhaps never to be bridged. But mostly I was stunned at how immature his thinking was about how the business of marketing really works. I was shaken knowing his company was helping drive the evolution of marketing without a clue about what marketers really need.

The rest of the conversation was a haze TBH. I left traumatized and angry at how dismissive he was of the impracticality of his vision of marketing technology evolution.

VC meeting number 2

This CEO leads a well-respected large VC shop that does $2- 5MM deals. I had been introduced to this VC through a mutual colleague and we met at his office one snowy day.  He sat down in comfortable business casual attire that was in keeping with his experienced CEO role.

We started by talking about his company which was relocating to the East Coast from the West Coast. Interesting move and I asked him why. “Increasingly the smart money is coming to NY as this where many of the major new media and marketing operating business trends are evolving,” he said.

This was my dream VC – he understood the space and the problem my company was trying to solve – how to practically create the “many to many” marketing model. We compared notes on how the technology in this space was similar to CRM in the 1990s – full of possibility but lacking in coordinated systems to activate the technology. I suggested that we are a bit like what Siebel who, at the time, integrated all the telemarketing technologies into the system we now know as CRM. I feel that is what we are doing for the emerging “many to many” marketing model. We met for a solid 90 minutes at which point he asked me “What next?” Shockingly, I had no “ask.” I had been so traumatized by the first VC, that I had not really expected a question like that. I stumbled around and just admitted – “I don’t know.”

But then I turned it around and asked him: “How would you categorize my company? We are part system integrator, part content and media company. We are a “creative shop” in that we create customer interactions with technology. Are we a tech company, a services company?”

I could see he was sensitive to the dilemma of my question. Finally, he said, “I would put you in the digital media space.” I was shocked until he hastened to add: “You need to be defined somehow so people know to work with you and help you.” But in his gentle smile I could see his answer left him unsatisfied as well.

We parted agreeing to keeping up the dialogue. As I walked out of his office, I felt cautiously optimistic that the work we are doing is needed in the market.

One thing I learned from both meetings – the journey of starting a company will continue to be a journey of surprise. I never expected to have so dramatically divergent experiences as I tentatively start down the path of funding my company – even if I don’t know exactly what type of company I am creating.

All I know is that the “smart investment money is going towards the business operating companies” and that’s me. Cool – right?

Judy Shapiro

The Marketing Measurement Maze: measuring marketing is a mess.

Forgive the illustrative nature of the headline  – but I had to laugh out loud about this whole thing or else I would cry.

This post is a follow up to my previous post about how fragile measuring marketing technology really is based on a real time experience I was having with Technorati regarding the authority ranking of this blog.    Unhappily, my initial concerns about marketing measurement were realized so it is worth recapping.

About a week ago, by accident, I learn that according to Technorati this blog, getting a mere 1,000 visitors a month, vaulted 4x in authority rankings to about 400 when previously I ranked about 100. For about a week, I jumped up and down a few times going between 400 and then 600 (see pictures in my previous post).I contacted Technorati and told them I think there is a glitch. I got a very polite answer to tell me they are updating their rankings system and some blogs are radically shifting in position as a result.  Sounded rather fuzzy to me, but hey – what do I know?

After that response, over the course of the next 3 days, my blog bounced around some more in the 400 to 600 range and then yesterday I seem to have settled back into my original humble ranking of about 100. OK – I think – that sounds more reasonable – except now I am not even listed in the directory at all!

I went from a blogger superstar to a non entity in just three days and it is still not “unglitched”.

To put this into perspective, I get that when you are making improvement to a site, things go weird for a bit. But since Technorati is largely viewed as the authority on blogging ranking (and thus ad value), this whole episode is ample proof of the sorry state of measuring marketing efficacy. You often can’t trust the measurement data because of innocent technology glitches and then you have no way to verify the accuracy of the measurement reporting data you’re getting.

While it’s tempting to brush this aside as some little blimp in the world of marketing measurement – you can’t because the financial consequences can be significant. Imagine if my blog was a commerce oriented site or if I am advertiser trying to assess what’s the audience reach of all these blogs. Such variations in rankings can mean a lot of money gets spent or not depending on which side of the glitch you happen to fall on.  And this type of glitch is just the tip of the iceberg. I have seen measurement issues across the marketing landscape from traffic reporting to ad buys to data you get from PPD or CPL marketing programs.

Bottom line. It’s time to get serious about measuring marketing efficacy. Now it is a mess!

Judy Shapiro

Top 5 social media marketing mistakes clients most often make (but can be avoided)

Companies are quickly ramping up to integrate social and digital media effectively into their marketing plans. Unfortunately that has been a tricky proposition given the already complex and fluid landscape of the technology behind digital media. And a recent Forrester study confirms how tough it really is; “The complexity of the interactive landscape is creating a fragmentation of interactive agencies, which in turn is creating a whole new set of challenges to marketers,” said Forrester analyst and the report’s author Sean Corcoran. “Interactive marketers should prepare their organization for even more agency partners…” http://www.mediapost.com/publications/?fa=Articles.showArticle&art_aid=118779.  

This reality makes the already steep learning curve even steeper with lots of perils for marketers. In my experience, here are the top five typical mistakes marketers make (present company included) that absolutely can be avoided.    

1) Assume that great content alone will create buzz and go viral. This is such a typical mistake and yet it is probably one of the easiest to avoid. First, no agency should promise that content alone can go viral, it happens so rarely that I bet the odds are better at winning the LOTTO. So don’t fall for the “your content will go viral” promise. You are setting yourself up for disappointment.  

2) Put all your buzz eggs in one social media basket. The expectation that people have about social media is way out of proportion to what it can deliver. No self respecting marketer would put all their media weight in just one vehicle for one day (unless maybe we are talking Super Bowl – but even then). Yet, so often I hear that an entire digital marketing plan just includes a Facebook promo. Digital and traditional media work similarly in one important way – you need a diversity of outlets to achieve critical mass in reach and frequency to break through. Diversification is the hallmark of well developed digital plan.    

3) Diving into social media without a clear monetization plan. When I talk to business colleagues who are starting social media programs, I ask them, “What are your goals for the campaign?”  The typical answer is “Oh I want buzz…” Then, when I poke at that and ask, “Well what does that do for your business”, the answers get quite fuzzy quite fast. I wonder why it seems acceptable for social media to be held to a different set of performance standards than traditional tactics. Any seasoned marketing pro understands that marketing programs need clear performance benchmarks whether it be an email campaign or a new site. Why is it that marketers do not demand similar performance objectives for their social/ digital efforts?  Don’t fall for the buzz hyperbole. Instead be clear about what you want the campaign to do.   

4) Expect immediate results. Here too social media seems to live in a parallel universe where the rules of common sense marketing principles are suspended. No one expects traditional media plans to work overnight, yet people hope, even expect, social media to magically launch a brand overnight from a cold start because it can go viral. It does not work in any marketing program and social media programs are no exception.  

5) Be sure your agency walks the walk and does not just talk the talk. Here’s a true story that just happened to me a few weeks ago. The CEO of a large IT company was telling me how his social media agency included him as their case study right there on the agency’s blog which was featured on their home page. Way cool I thought. So I decided to comment on the case study on their site. Ya’ know what – I submitted the comment on the agency blog only yo see that it was posted a full month after being submitted. It left me scratching my head. I don’t expect an agency to spend all day long managing their blog – but I do expect that if they bother to have a blog then it should be managed as a reflection of their philosophy to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.    

It’s all too easy for companies to be convinced that social media is some magical marketing mystery. It’s not. In fact, much of what applies in traditional applies in social media too. Keep that in mind the next time you are seduced by some “sick” social or digital marketing tactic; feel free to fall in love – just don’t lose your business head in the process.   

Judy Shapiro

Digital’s dirty little secret.

Digital and social marketing erupted on the scene with such a splash as to rock virtually every marketing boat on the seas. Its deeply disruptive nature was cloaked within the seductive promise of lower costs marketing programs to get the message out. The social media’s no/ low cost myth was bolstered by a wave of technology plug ‘n play platform companies offering low cost ways to create communities, syndicate distribution of content, automate social network interaction and track all this activity. Then the myth was popularized into cultist status by charismatic young CEOs, like the energetic Alexis Ohanian of Reddit who give clever presentations at places like TED about how “low cost” social media helped save the whales via a social media campaign called Mr. Splashy Pants.

The promise of a marketing holy grail seems closer than ever for marketers.

But that’s where the dirty little secret comes into play. While self serve platforms offer the promise of “self serve” – they rarely are. Almost always, the platform has to integrate with existing systems and that needs expertise. Most technology companies who offer these platforms know that. Most markers do not until they go through it themselves. Then, somewhere along the way the brand sees that the final TCO is higher than the self serve budget allows.

I must give as an example a particularly egregious platform example. There is an affiliate marketing platform that lets you build an entire affiliate site sell through their platform. They provide keyword assistance, a wysiwyg interface and hosting. The sales pitch is compelling; “the only barrier is you and if you go through the process, it will work”. And so forth. They make up acronyms that make it sound easy but isn’t. Now I looked at this platform carefully because a colleague was working with it. He told me it took him over a year to make his affiliate site work on this platform. I was curious. This guy was smart – why should a “self serve” platform take so long to get functional.

That’s when I realized in actually working with the platform that while it does have some great technology in it –  it is only useful if you are an expert with 10+ years experience – maybe. The promise of “easy, anyone can do it” are simply false. They make it so hard that, when inevitably you submit a question which I did, you receive a very nice though decidedly unhelpful response ending with pitch for services.

That’s what irks me. These platforms are being pitched as easy, low cost, no cost, self serve, plug n play, automated wonders of technology when the truth is they can not really deliver as promised. It is the rare company that can use any of these tech platforms as is. That’s the real world. And it is in many cases, there is a shameless bait and switch game being perpetrated on companies.

Is too much to ask for a little truth in advertising please? I fear in the new techno self serve world it may be.

Judy Shapiro

The real lesson to be learned from Mister Splashy Pants

Like many of us – I use Twitter as a good filter for all the stuff that I should read about but would never, ever find on my own.

Anyway, one little bit caught my eye; “How to make a splash in social media”. It was one of those hyper fast – 4 minutes presentations presented at TED/ India, featuring Alexis Ohanian of Reddit with a clever bit about how Greenpeace used social media to halt whaling. Good cause. Great message.  http://www.ted.com/talks/alexis_ohanian_how_to_make_a_splash_in_social_media.html

His opening, “Lots of consultants make a lot of money talking about this stuff.. I’m going to try and save you all the time and money and explain it 3 minutes” was the beginning of a clever and catchy presentation on the power of social media.

I was hooked, that is until he revealed the story’s main theme. Somewhat stunned I heard him conclude that social media was largely free. I was disappointed to hear yet another digi-rati so in love with technology that he failed to be objective. I was surprised that Reddit’s CEO, Alexis, clearly a thoughtful man, fell into the trap so easily.

It seems, therefore, left to us real world practitioners to set the record straight. My message is very simple. Social media is not free – but the myth is perpetuated because capturing its costs is harder than traditional media.

So let me repeat – social media is NOT free and I will use Alexis’ case study of Mr. Splashy Pants to introduce reality to his ever sunny and youthful telling of the story.

The presentation itself condenses the uplifting real world experience of a Greenpeace program that wanted to stop whaling. They introduced a grass roots promotion to name this initiative to garner attention. One quirky name, Mr. Splashy Pants created a groundswell, among the community; including the Reddit team which helped Greenpeace achieve its noble goals. The whales win, Greenpeace wins, social media wins and Reddit too.

His quotable quotes reinforce the “social media is free” theme and included a wealth of digital “truisms” such as:

  1. “It costs nothing to get your content out there”
  2. “The content distribution platforms are free so it only takes a few minutes of your time to distribute…
  3. “All links are equal …”
  4. “And the cost of iteration is so cheap…”
  5. “We {at Reddit} got behind it ourselves,.. we changed the logo …

Now all these “ism’s” sound great until you actually think about each one critically. So let’s do just that and you’ll see why Alexis, earnest though he was, succumbed to the myth like so many before him.

“It costs nothing to get your content out there” .  Who does he think is writing all this content that;  ”costs nothing to distribute”- content fairies with some pixie dust?

“The content distribution platforms are free so it only takes a few minutes of your time to distribute…” And since when is time, even “a little time”, free? And what if you are not as tech savvy as Alexis? Would it in fact be “just a few minutes” for most people?

“All links are equal …” How can he say this with a straight face unless he means all links are, quite literally, created equal? But anyone in the real world knows that even a 1,000 links with little traffic has very little value versus one site with lots of traffic. Getting quality links is the point and that is not really free to get.

“And the cost of iteration is so cheap…” This principle has caused more money to be wasted than perhaps any other ill conceived corporate mantra. Take it from real world experience – iteration borne of a lack of preparation (e.g. research) is rarely profitable. The ideal is to get it roughly right … but that takes upfront planning time which is definitely not free.

“We {at Reddit} got behind it ourselves,.. we changed the logo …” This little point sounds innocent enough and it is. They felt it was a worthwhile cause to get behind by creating a logo and giving it support. Well done. But tell me how many companies can count on that type of support which surely helped? Would that cost nothing too?

Time is money – even in the social media world. Maybe the reason this myth is a hard one to beat is because no single social media activity takes a lot of time. But when you add all the pieces together, you have a “content campaign” which is a time investment that most definitely is not free – but it does seem invisible.

That’s why Alexis fell victim to the “social media is free” trap. Don’t you fall for it too.

Judy Shapiro

My top 10 New Year’s “un-resolutions” for 2010

We all know about our New Year’s resolutions. We make them with all good intentions to keep them. But we also know that what usually happens is that, inevitably, one by one our resolutions go by the way side. So I stopped making those New Year’s resolutions years ago because it seems to be a recipe for failure.

Instead, this year for a change, I have started to make “un-resolutions” – things I am determined NOT to do. Here’s my top 10 un-resolutions. Take care – this may become a new tradition.

1) I will not get seduced by any new digital marketing toy just because some industry pundit thinks it’s the coolest thing to hit the street. Nor will I believe every promise made by every new marketing technology company.

2) I will not abandon common sense in digital marketing and be blinded by digital agencies promises that their “new” campaigns will go viral and get the attention of millions of people. I will continue to listen to my gut and if it sounds to good to be true, I will let skepticism drive my decision.

3) I will not abandon newspaper, magazines, radio and other forms of traditional media if it is the right vehicle. No matter how sexy digital media may seem because of the perceived lower cost, I will continue to create integrated programs that weave together the best of both the traditional and digital worlds.

4) I will not give up my attachment to email marketing. Sorry folks – but email marketing, well done, drives real business results. If your email campaign did not work – either you had a bad list or an inadequate call-to-action or maybe your agency did not know what they were doing.

5)  I will not be fooled into thinking that the ad market is going to rebound in 2010. Nope. The ad market will continue to be buffeted by the tides of an evolving economic landscape and by consumers’ ever fickle attraction to new tech toys like mobile devices.  These trends will continue to dampen ad revenue for publishers for some time to come.

6) I will not get excited about cloud computing – at least not yet. I do see how it is going to dominate in the next 5 years – but there are real security problems to solve before everyone can get into the clouds. Conversely, I do get excited by all types of ASP offers as that is a steady business model that offers real value to consumers.

7) I will not blindly follow Google as they chow down every tech industry from telecom to digital publishing. Ever one loves to love Google. Me too. But that does not mean that I have to support every initiative as Google relentlessly marches toward digital dominance. In the process, they stifle competition and kill real innovation by companies who deserve to succeed. Now here’s my one New Year’s prediction (for 2012) – I predict that Google will have to break themselves up to avoid the growing recognition that Google is really a monopoly, albeit a new kind.

8 ) I will not diminish my slavish devotion to data driven marketing no matter what new platforms come out that can behaviorally target any audience any way I wish. I know I know – the BT folks can slice and dice an audience so many ways that it makes a marketer salivate. But unless I can see, touch and feel the data – I will pass for now.

9)  I will not start following every Tom, Dick and Jane to gain more Twitter followers. OK, so I only have about 175 folks following me but at least I know they read what I tweet. Quality – not quantity is what drives social media.

10) And my final un-resolution. I will not try appear to be “30 something” just because I love digital marketing. I know that the average age of people in digital marketing tends to be 27 – but my depth in this space has yielded real world, hard won recognition. And while I am at it, will not submit to peer pressure to use more “hair product” than one can find in a Duane Reade store so I can appear suitably young as a digital marketer. What you see (grey hair and all) is what you get :)

There you have it. My top 10 un-resolutions for 2010. If you have your list – feel free to share it here.

Judy Shapiro

Community Casting

I am just back from DigitalHollywood show. There was one question I heard more loudly than any other no matter which session I attended; “How do we monetize content?” The question now takes on an urgent tone as more and more traditional media struggle to answer that question before it’s too late.

And coincidentally, the dialogue at DigitalHollywood seemed a real world extension of the Ad Age article I had written that just was just published; Why Charging for Online Content (Mostly) Won’t Work. The article outlined why trying to monetize content is really hard and the better approach is to create unique user experiences, like a robust community, that then lets you create upsell opportunities. By the kinds of responses I got on the article, I seem to have hit a note. Many people wrote extensively about how current models don’t work.

And as in my article, the conference betrayed a gnawing sense of angst since no one anymore doubted that the old model was broken, but no one was clear about what will replace it.

We all knew we were on the precipice of something big, new, unknown and undefined. We were excited, inspired, and cautious.

We also knew we were all making it up as we go.

Yet even from within the doubts, one could see innovation all around. There are a lot of great tech companies offering lots of versions of video streaming platforms … from PPV to satellite to distributed networks. There were other great companies who had really interesting audience engagement models from the citizen journalists of AllVoices to MomTV who look to create meaningful interactions with Moms. Despite the cool technology we all saw at the conference, the chase for the content monetization answer trumped most others.

The Ad Age article seemed prescient to the conference’s theme because I actually answered that question directly by drawing on the experience of Paltalk, a profitable web 2.0 company. Paltalk’s monetization engine uses content to attract audiences but then creates end user value in offering real time, interactive video visitor engagement within our communities. Once the user is committed to a community, then there are interesting upsell opportunities possible.

This is what “community casting” is about. It is about creating and nurturing a community with real time community interaction with video and chat.  This is what will emerge as the new content monetization engine.

It is, in fact, already working now. Watch this space.

Judy Shapiro

http://twitter.com/judyshapiro

What do Ninja Turtles, Facebook, Hush Puppies and Pokémon all have in common?

The answer reveals the secrets to creating a viral marketing machine.

Back when I worked on the Hawaiian Punch business for P&G, we spent a fair amount of time analyzing how “fads” became popular with kids. We tried to understand what ignited meteoric “viral” success. We learned some ingredients of viral campaigns –  ease of acquisition, transmission and novelty –  but we never really cracked the code of how to predictably recreate a viral marketing engine.

For the last few years, there have been a host of books presenting research on how to create a viral marketing engine. These texts add insight into the dynamics of viral marketing, but they fail to define how to execute viral marketing well. How, for instance, do you realistically and reliably identify influencers or content creators or mavens?

Then, just as these concepts were making their way into marketing models, newer work by Duncan Watts seems to suggest that many previous models are not, scientifically speaking, valid. He argues that influencers are not all that influential after all. For something to go viral, he believes, is a function of among other things – “right time and right place,” he says.

How then can marketers effectively utilize this seemingly arbitrary dynamic? While researchers like Watts are still experimenting with new models, I’ll offer my own. My model lacks any published scientific study, but it is a theory grounded in understanding that breakthroughs happen when we blend science with human nature. So here goes.

When we think about wildly popular trends, from Pokémon to Facebook, they have a few things in common. They were all easy to share, they all presented a novel experience and the activity was largely democratic – easy for most people to participate.  But they also share one other, very important ingredient – they all powerfully satisfy our insatiable human need for “fun”. Yep, that’s it.

Now before you reject “fun” as being too lightweight in strategic value to drive business, it will be instructive to look at the iconic viral success stories for answers.

Let’s start with Ninja Turtles or Pokémon. Their success was grounded in the fact that their fun was incredibly engaging on many levels. They provided different modes of play (cards, video games etc), the fun was easy to transport and play could last hours. “Fun” explains the venerable viral success story of Hush Puppies because Hush Puppies reminded us of when we were kids and fun ruled. Fun by association works as well.

Now let’s look at, arguably the most successful viral engine ever – Facebook. When we apply the “fun” filter we see they carefully baked “fun” into every crevice of the user lifecycle – from encouraging friends to find each other and once found, to the plethora of fun ways for the friends to remain connected.

With this new understanding of balancing the latest scientific thinking with the human element of fun, here’s what a workable viral marketing engine might look like:

  • Enable easy content distribution.
    • Bake in the “6 degrees of distribution” as Watts demonstrated to ensure that messages can be easily transmitted.
  • Elevate “fun” to a strategic initiative in customer lifecycle management strategies.
    • Concentrate on creating a fun experience throughout users’ experience – from the moment you try to acquire them through every interaction with you.
  • Promote as broadly as possible.
    • Duncan Watts advocates for mass reach in digital campaigns because without enough reach, you may not have enough “fun distributors” to get the job done.  Tonnage is one of the secrets of viral success (counter intuitive as that sounds).
  • Timing can improve the odds of viral success.
    • Until the day that some clever researcher can scientifically figure out how to time “fads” (and maybe the stock markets too), this is probably the most challenging element in this model to execute. To stack the “timing” odds in your favor, troll the edgy blogs to see what’s percolating.
  • Create community to extend the fun.
    • Create an opportunity for people to relive the fun via community building programs, whether this is a Facebook group or a formal community. Done well, it is a powerful brand extender.

So there you have it – the new viral marketing engine based on the dual foundation of scientific research coupled with the pure joy of delivering fun. Don’t believe me? Just ask the Facebook people. They made “friend requests” fun and built an empire.

Reprinted from a MediaPost article on October 13, 2009

Judy Shapiro

What might Twitter and Facebook teach Google Wave about market success?

It’s not what you think but you’ll have to “pull” the answer out of me.

Recently, I have become fascinated with the new academic work around the paradigm shift to the “pull” form of corporate management from the more established “push” business models. This notion, which has been kicking around for a few years as far as I know, has recently become quite popular, probably helped along by recent work on the subject. One excellent white paper entitled; “From Push to Pull; emerging models for mobilizing resources” from Deloitte, authored by Hagel and Brown provides a solid conceptual basis for the clear differences in these two principles.

Here’s a brief excerpt (but I encourage a read of the whole 23 pages):

The signs are around us. We are on the cusp of a shift to a new … model that will re-shape many facets of our life, including how we identify ourselves, participate with others, connect with others, mobilize resources and learn.

Over the past century, we have been perfecting highly efficient approaches to mobilizing resources. These approaches … share a common foundation. They are all designed to “push” resources in advance to areas of highest anticipated need.

This new approach, {however} focuses on “pull” – creating platforms that help people to mobilize appropriate resources when the need arises

The white paper goes onto to describe how when resources are tight, corporate “push” models dominate because they can control and optimize precious resource consumption. But with abundant resources, comes a different model – a “pull” model where users drive the rate of consumption of resources. I’ll also point your attention to the fact that this model is grounded in our very human need for “connectivity” as I will return to this theme shortly.

Now this is heady stuff because a pull model is nothing less than a 180 degree turn on how we think about the way to run businesses today. But what’s that to do with Twitter, Facebook and Google Wave? And what in heaven’s name has that got to do with corporate management theory?

Ah – not so fast – I said you would have to pull it out of me. In fact, I may stretch your patience even further by suggesting we go on a treasure hunt and the treasure we seek is nothing less than understanding why certain technologies succeed while others fail.

Our treasure hunt begins as most do with orienting ourselves on our treasure map. In this case, our orientation lies in having a compass to help us understand that technology breakthroughs rarely happen to the company with the best idea or the smartest technology or even the most deserving goals. Nope. Most often it happens in one definable moment – when the technologically breakthrough is symbiotically coupled to fulfilling a fundamental dimension of our humanity. Technology by itself is sterile.

Ok, now that we have our bearings, let’s follow our map to uncover our buried treasure.

If we follow the Internet’s evolution in the past 10 years, no one doubts that the Internet has become a highly dependent technology for people and business world over. It enables powerful communications and connectivity capabilities, but in its current iteration, the Internet lacks the basic building blocks for meaningful connectivity — like the technological ability to establish trust. (Tangentially, the issues of trust on the Internet are complex and well articulated by  Kieron O’Hara and Wendy Hall in their September 2008 paper;  “Trust on the Web: Some Web Science Research Challenges”; (http://www.uoc.edu/uocpapers/7/dt/eng/ohara_hall.pdf.)

So users started to “pull” trust into their Internet experiences partly through the creation of trusted communities like forums, blogs, review sites and the like. That trusted community concept was quickly embraced by the public so that now almost all of us engage in some digital social community or other (see Pew Institute research on the subject). The initial pull, to create trust in online interactions, spawned the great social networking revolution we are experiencing right now. I bet some future historian will pinpoint this moment as perhaps the tipping point moment propelling other “pull” corporate models.

Returning to our treasure hunt, though, let’s see where our map has led us so far. The Internet grew so fast because it expanded personal connectivity, which then created the need for trust within this new level of connectedness which then resulted in all forms (and variations) of “trusted” communities that were only possible because the new “pull” tech platforms let people utilize technology when they need it.

Still with me?

Ok – good and now your patience will be rewarded because here is where “X” marks the spot. The treasure we have been seeking is revealed in appreciating  that when technology truly serves humanity by fulfilling some basic human need or desire (like wanting to connect), it can become a powerful force that can move fast within the ecosystem, helped along by the emerging “pull” mechanism discussed above.

This is what Twitter and Facebook can teach Google Wave. They understood how to use “technology” to satisfy our very human need to be connected within a “trusted” community. In the case of Twitter, they innovated so anyone can have a “feed” to “their” network (a.k.a. community) and in the case of Facebook, they created a way for people to create their own trusted community. In both cases, (and many others too), we see that when technology is intrinsically woven in with satisfying a fundamental human need, like the deep need to be part of a trusted community,  with an effective dispersion model like our “pull” model, you have the ingredients for success.

Now I think Google Wave has the potential to be a technological milestone because it merges unified collaboration and communications (not new) within the fertile soil of a trusted community (this is new). “Pull” models coming online now enable this combination of dynamics to “gel” into a platform that can be vibrant and paradigm shifting. From anyone I talked to who has actually used the product, (I have not received an invitation yet, but I am a patient woman) there is an expectant hope for it – much like the expectation one might have at a party hyped to be cool but that just got started.

I hope Google Wave recognizes that people want to technology to power their trusted digital communities – and not so much their “communications and collaboration” (sounds pretty sterile doesn’t it?). I can see how this technology has the potential to truly expand our comprehension of what a trusted community can become.

The power of these converging trends – Internet, “pull’ models, trust and community – is the treasure any tech business can capture for themselves. I suspect that if anyone will know how to use this treasure it will be Google. I am rooting for them.

Judy Shapiro

http://twitter.com/judyshapiro

What does …”But I am not in marketing means” really mean?

If you’re in marketing, I know you’ve heard it. You’re in a meeting, and the CFO or the technology person prefaces a marketing idea with that phrase, “but I’m not in marketing”. It can mean a few things depending on who is saying it. It can mean; “Don’t blame me if this is a stupid idea – after all I am not in marketing.” Or it can mean, “Even I, who do not work in marketing, can figure this problem out.”

Either way, the implication is clear – don’t attach any stigma to them in the high likelihood that the idea fails. It is, in other words, their disclaimer and they are throwing you under the bus.

That’s not so unexpected given the fate of marketing as the corporate sacrificial lamb. But the perpetuation of that type of thinking is entirely misguided because modern marketing should not be thought of as just a functional organization. It should be thought of as a company wide discipline inclusive of everyone that touches any part of the customer experience. That probably covers most people in most companies.

So once that new type of marketing thinking is adopted, let’s turn our attention to understanding what people really mean when they say it (beyond the obvious CYA dimension of the expression).

The answer lies in why Judy Consumer was born, back in the halls of the Bell Labs New Venture Group of Lucent Technology on this very day about a decade ago.  Judy Consumer I was in marketing then and my job was to help developers determine what (if any) market value their innovations may have. I had to thread lightly – after all each technology was the personal creation of a developer. I had to understand a technology clearly before I could give the developer the news about whether their technology “baby” could have market value or not.

But getting a good understanding of a technology proved to be more of a challenge than you might think. Developers, as brilliant as they are, tend to be quite esoteric when describing the benefits of a technology. In other words, more often than not, when a developer explained a certain technology to me, I had no idea why anyone would use it.

It was then that Judy Consumer made her debut. I was working on a cool audio technology (5 point surround sound delivered with just 2 speakers), but the developer would speak in terms of decibel and sound perimeter and so forth. I understood the basics, but not the real benefit.

Then, in a moment of inspiration (or frustration – who knows), I told the developer, “Talk to me like I am Judy Consumer and not an employee here. Pretend you are explaining this technology to a friend in a coffee shop”. Then, I could see the light in his eyes and he started to describe why Judy Consumer would love this innovation.

It was then that I began to use the notion of Judy Consumer to help me get developers in the right frame of mind. I needed Judy Consumer to take these clever developers out of their technical world and into the real world where Judy Consumers really live.

But as I continued to use Judy Consumer over the years she helped me understand the phrase, “But I’m not in marketing” better. She helped me realize that what people really mean to say is that they don’t believe they could put themselves in the shoes of a Judy Consumer and see the world through her eyes. They lacked confidence that they had the imagination to get it right.

This is what people mean when they say they are not in marketing. And to some degree they are right. The ability to understand how someone else will respond to technology is what often separates the “marketing pro’s” from the hacks. But that does not let everyone else off the hook. Great marketers learn how to train their corporate and technology partners into seeing the world from the perspective of Judy Consumer.

That’s why I have become so attached to her. She helps me teach everyone in a company that they too are in marketing and Judy Consumer likes the company.

Judy Shapiro

http://twitter.com/judyshapiro

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