Dogs, Cows and Kids …

In every company, product managers have more things to do than you have time for. So how do you decide which products to fund? which projects to work on? and more importantly what NOT to work on? After all, if you have more things to do than you have time for, there is nothing worse than working on the wrong stuff. Marty Cagan of Silicon Valley Product Group says – “….lose your dogs and milk your cows, and you should have significantly more resources with which to feed your kids.”

Marty in his latest blog post “Dogs, cows and kids” talks about how to identify what to ride to the sunset, what to milk and what to focus energy on. It is a great read.

Do your customers know that “you” exist?

In one of my previous posts, I had talked about educating customers on all the different product enhancements you have made to solve their problems. But there is another problem that needs customer education.

The phone conversation goes:

Product Manager: “Mr. Customer, I am the product Manager from company X.”

Customer: “Product Manager? Who is that?”

This is not uncommon. Not many people know what product managers do in companies. Some mistake them to be salespeople or customer support. Yes, we are a not well known breed like salesmen, software engineers, finance, customer support etc. We have to take it upon ourselves to educate our customers on who we are and then build the rapport with them.

Once customers find out that product managers have a large influence on the future direction of products they use, you become their greatest ally. But it is up to us to communicate it to them, build rapport with them, listen to them (yes listen, not talk to them) and build solutions that will make their lives easier.

Cross selling to existing customers

This morning, I had to get an oil change and I drove up to the local Jiffy Lube. They charge $35 for an oil change. Cross selling to customersWhen I pulled in, they pulled up my car record and based on the mileage, they told me about the Honda recommended maintenance I have to do. Replacement of automatic transmission fluid and rotation of tires was due. They could do this if I could wait another 15 minutes. To remove any likely objection, they even threw in a 15% discount for all of the services. Why did I do it? – I knew I had to get these done but had forgotten about them – these were genuine maintenance things I had to get done. They did not push those services that I did not need – for example, they showed me the air filter and said it was fine. I was sold. Total charges = $154.

What is the lesson I took away from this – Jiffy Lube knew how to cross sell. First of all, they knew I was a return customer and based on my car records knew exactly what my needs were. They recommended solutions to satisfy those needs and got it all done, while gaining a larger share of my wallet. Not a small increment by any means – they got $119 more out of me than what I expected to spend when I drove in – a whopping 340% more.

How well do you know your customers? Do you treat each touch point with the customer as an isolated incident or does everyone who touches the customer know more about the customer’s needs than the customer himself? Is the customer aware of all the different products/services you offer for problems the customer likely has?

A mistake that companies make is assuming that the market is up-to-date on what products/services they offer. Customers don’t really care about a company’s products, they only care about solving their problems. It is up to us to create the awareness and cross sell these products/services to the customer. And don’t miss the opportunity to cross sell these products/services. But be genuine – offer only those services/products, the customer really needs – win the customer’s trust.

Retailers have figured this out the best – next to the toothbrushes are the toothpastes, dental flosses, teeth whitening strips, mouthwashes. Jiffy Lube is doing this very well.

Selling to existing customers is much cheaper compared to cost of acquiring new customers. Many companies forget this – Susan Oakes has an excellent blog post titled How not to retain key customers.

How well are we, as product managers, helping sales understand how to cross sell related products/services to existing customers?

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Image courtesy of Displays Plus Inc.

How “Human” is your business?

One of the wrong arguments you hear from businesses is “… but we are a B2B company and not a consumer company – so it cannot work for us”. But they forget that customer interactions in a B2B company are still between people. You are dealing with a purchasing manager, human resources manager, sales manager, CFO of companies – they are human as much as consumers are.

So how “human” is your company? How do you portray your company as “human” and not a “corporate” entity that has no soul?

Here are some good ways to do it in my opinion.

1) Presentations – if you are giving a presentation over the web, put your photo on the title slide – very simple to do, but puts a face in front of the audience, humanizes you and your company.

Gopal Shenoy
2) About Us on your company website – add photographs of not only just your executives, but also your employees. I love the way Communispace does this – see below. What messages does this send?communispace

  1. The company across as very personable and as a corporate entity.They are a bunch of people just like you and me.
  2. Smiling faces also indicate a good place to work for – important when recruiting people.

3) Add photos of your company events – picnics, dinners, other events where employees are having fun or add a blog which talks about your company culture. I love the way Zappos and care.com does it. It again comes across as a great place to work, but also shows how employees are enjoying what they are doing.

All of this of course, assumes that you have a great product and a great customer service. Otherwise, you don’t stand a chance independent of how “humanized” your company looks.

What do you think? What are you doing to “humanize” your company or business? Have you found other good examples?

Five reasons why analyst reports will become extinct

Research analyst groups such as Forrester, Gartner, Yankee Group, Aberdeen and others that publish the various industry reports and sell them to customers and vendors should be really worried about this part of their business. Here are the five reasons why?

reports

1) Analysts sell expensive, static and hence quickly outdated content – Many of these reports put out by these analyst groups are expensive. These reports are exhaustive, some of them are very large (100 pages is not uncommon), but the content is static once published and hence quickly outdated because of rapid changes happening in some of these industry segments. These reports are similar to the “10 mutual funds to invest in 200X” report published at the start of the year which assumes that nothing will change the rest of the year to change any of these predictions. In the world, we live in, where so much dynamic content is being generated on a daily basis, static content does not have value – you are not talking about a trend that withstands the test of time. Technologies covered by these reports sometimes have a very short shelf life – what starts as a big hype at the start of the year could go extinct in a matter of months. Snapshots that stay static for 12 months have lesser and lesser value these days. Plus, a lot of this content is available elsewhere, so why pay for this content? Where is the differentiation?

2) There is no measurable ROI for vendors – The analyst groups require the vendors to do an obscene amount of work to participate in their research that produces these reports. What is the ROI for the vendors for this participation? How many of their prospects read these reports? Of those who read them, how many are influenced by these reports in their purchase decision? If a vendor cannot figure this out, it is only a matter of time some of them will turn away from participation. It is my theory right now that vendor participation is because of fear than anything else – but this will change in the course of time because vendors can now measure and get better ROI from their other marketing efforts.

3) Every vendor claims the laurels - Many of these reports dole out laurels in one shape or form to all the vendors who participated in the report. All the vendors then put out press releases claiming victory – for example, after a recent analyst report, here are the headlines of press releases by three companies covered in the report (I have taken out the name of the analyst and the company names out intentionally)

New XYZ Study Affirms Vendor A’s Position as a Category X’s Category Leader

XYZ study Identifies Vendor B as a Market Leader

Industry Analysts XYZ Confirms Vendor C’s Dominance in Category X’s Market

What the heck does any of this mean? How does it solve the customer’s pain point? If everyone can claim victory, what really has the report done for the prospect? These reports are not objective or unbiased as these analysts claim them to be – or is it that the analysts do not really understand the differences between the different vendors and hence gives good grades to all of these vendors?

4) Analysts are not real users – Analysts do not necessarily use the products that they cover in their reports. So their viewpoint is not that of real users - analysts ask vendors to give them names of customers to interview – do you think a vendor will ever give the analyst the name of a customer who would give them the real insight (good, bad and the ugly) into the vendor’s product – NO – the vendors give them names of those customers who will rave about their product. So where is the value? This makes the analyst nothing but a pundit who can say anything they want with no accountability – they are NOT HELD ACCOUNTABLE for anything they can say. They can say that some new technology is great and then later in the year turn around and say that it was a hype.

This is no different from stock market analysts who predicted Google stock to be worth $1000 or those that predicted that oil will touch $200/barrel.

To make matters worse, some of the analyst reviews I have read contain nothing but a cut and paste of material from vendor’s marketing material. Where is the value?

5) Analysts are on payroll of vendors: Analysts do work for the vendors they cover on a consulting basis. They also sell distribution rights for portions of their reports to the same vendors covered in the report. There is a definite conflict of interest here. This is very similar to how Wall Street pushed the stocks they underwrote to their investment clients. What makes the analyst objective and unbiased if they have intentions to sell distribution rights to these reports to the same vendors being reviewed? Will they ever write such unbiased views of a vendor if they are earning consulting revenues from the same vendors? This is a well known fact among the vendors and the question is how long is this dance going to last? I predict not for long.

So what can these analyst groups do different instead of the current stale reports? – don’t know. But I know for a fact that the best 3rd party endorsement that a vendor can get for their product is from customers and not from these analysts. Analysts were important once upon a time to disseminate awareness of a vendor’s products before the arrival of the internet, but now product reviews written by real users are more prevalent and valuable than an analyst’s opinion especially when the analyst is not a real user.

If the analyst groups don’t come to this realization soon and not reinvent their business to address these changing times, they will face the very same challenges that is currently playing havoc with the newspaper industry.

What do you think?

Radio station needs your fund raising ideas

Product managers and others, here is an opportunity to get creative.

A well known radio station here in Boston is looking for your help in coming up with some creative ideas on how they can do fund raising. Currently, they do this via their broadcast, but unfortunately this results in interruption of the regularly scheduled programs and causes inconvenience to the audience who have tuned in to listen to these programs. Especially, if you have already contributed to their fund raiser.

So, if you were in charge of this radio station and you heard the above problem, what creative ways would you come up with to solve this problem?

Please submit your ideas as comments to this post. There are no wrong answers except one – the radio station needs to sell more ads – because this will cause further interruption of the programs and they do sell ads at this time.

Come on, let us get creative.

Image: Courtesy of hippyshopper.com

Why did Facebook and Google forget their users?

Recently Facebook did a major UI upgrade that caused an uproar in the user community. People screamed because the new Facebook UI was just awful and made the user experience terrible.

Google last week brought out the new iGoogle UI and it is awful. To make matters worse, they did not tell anyone, one day you login, the UI is different and it has a terrible user experience, with no way to go back to the one you were quite happy with.

If you check Google’s discussion forum there is a ton of activity on how many users hate it. So why did Google make this mistake? Did they not usability test this with real users? Given how backward it is, what was the problem they were trying to solve? I am left to wonder.

Facebook was even arrogant where they asked the userbase to get 5 million signatures on their online petition before they would consider giving the users the ability to switch between the two versions. Facebook, you created the problem by releasing a less usable UI and you now want the users to do the work before you would listen?

Yes, it is very difficult to make UI changes that are pleasing to everyone – but I don’t think these companies will have a tough time justifying that the new changes are liked by a whole lot of people.

What do you think? Why do you think companies fall into this trap?

Demo candy may not be sweet after all

Hey, it is Halloween time, so let us talk about some candies. Heard the term “demo candy”? – almost all of you probably have. Features that are thrown into a product because it appeals to the emotions of the buyer but basically a feature of less practical value.

But there are some demo candies that are going to be hard to defend. Everyone these days is talking about the iPhone. iPhone has such sex appeal – so should vendors need to jump on this bandwagon and build demo candies? Probably not, unless both of the following are true:

  1. Vast number of your customers (at least 30%) are heavy users of iPhone.
  2. Users have the need to interact with your application so often that they are very likely to use the iPhone to use your application.

If either of the above is not true, then it is not worth developing support for iPhone. For example, vendors in the HR space have started developing mobile support for career management and performance reviews. Now think about this for a second, can there be a convincing argument that you need access to these apps so often that you need to get to them via a mobile phone? And even if they did, can you imagine filling out a performance review form using the tiny mobile phone screen? Does it improve usability – No? So what does this actually solve. In my mind, nothing and I am not sure this demo candy is going to be sweet after all?

One can argue that more customers will own iPhones in the near future but what about point 2. Even if 100% of your customers have iPhones, will they need (and even want) to interact with your product via the iPhone? That is the most important question you need to answer.

Or am I completely missing something? Your thoughts?

Photo source: vendingdistribution.com

WBUR/NPR is not “On point”

I listen to WBUR/NPR every day on my 50 min drive to/from work. I listen to the BBC World news (and it really is world news) at 9am and to OnPoint with Ashbrook at 7pm. At last, I had found one radio station that I looked forward to listening to and getting quality news in the current day and age where you get everything else from the Internet.

Everything was going so well until WBUR started its fall fund raiser. I am a big fundraising proponent for worthy causes and I consider WBUR to fall very much into such a category. The first time I heard about it, I immediately called them up and donated money. But I started finding out that as days went by, this fund raiser announcements were becoming a nuisance. They have been so frequent that I get to listen to these fund raising pitches more than I get to listen to what I tuned in for. For example, BBC world news used to start at 9am sharp. These days, at 9am, I get to hear the fund raising pitch that the BBC news is now getting delayed.

It has become so annoying that I now think twice before switching to WBUR and even when I do, I immediately switch to another station at the very sound of the fund raising pitch. So has WBUR/NPR overdone it – absolutely yes, if you ask me.  With such frequent fund raising requests interrupting the programs their audience want to listen to, WBUR/NPR has forgotten the needs of their audience and instead has become more tuned into their needs. Don’t get me wrong – they need the funds, but so do other radio stations.

What would I recommend WBUR do? – have a smaller pitch – a 20 sec slot every 30 min that points people to a website where they can donate. People like me who really like their service will take the time to contribute. Screaming loudly at your listeners and even to those who have already donated is not going to help. In fact, it may do just the opposite. You are likely to turn them away.

My impressions of wbur has soured a little because of this campaign and I strongly believe they could have executed this a whole lot better with a little more thought.

Customer’s Wants vs. Needs

A customer’s wants vs. needs – This subject has been part of numerous conversations I have had in my working life. Every time I go to India on vacation to visit my family, I always think about this topic. I come back from these trips thankful of what I have and telling myself to appreciate what I have. Whenever I discuss this with friends or whenever anyone asks me what it is to live in India, I draw the following spectrum.

I explain that the vast majority of the US population falls in the WANTS spectrum. We have everything we need, we own/rent a house, we have food to eat, we drive cars or ride a bus, we have TV’s, we have electricity and running water. But we are constantly focusing on satisfying our WANTS with the next better/faster/safer gadget.

India however has a vast majority of its population still living in the NEEDS spectrum. All the IT improvements and the other technology advances that the country has made is still a drop (though a good size one) in the bucket that has made a small chunk of the population to move into the WANTS spectrum. Do not forget that India is a country of over 1 billion people.

So, why does all of this matter to you as a product manager. I liked what Seth Godin said at the Inbound Marketing Summit “We are living in a society where we have everything we need and hence we are left selling what customers want”. It is extremely important for us as product managers to clearly understand what our customers are asking for – is it a real need or is it a want?

Some customers may pay money if you satisfy their WANTS, but more customers will pay a whole lot more money if you satisfy a NEED that is unmet by you or by anyone else in the market place. So whenever you are talking to customers and they propose needed improvements, do the following

  1. First understand the underlying problem
  2. Second find out if it is something they NEED or WANT
  3. Third, is it a large enough NEED/WANT that they will pay you money if you solve them and
  4. Fourth, build solutions for ONLY those problems which a LARGE number of customers are willing to pay you money for.

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Need a head and a date

As product managers, we have to work with a lot of departments – engineering, qa, order admin, finance, shipping etc as part of creating the product and then putting that product into the market.

Doing all of this, involves choreographing and managing a lot of activities, so that the final dance that results meets the customer expectations.

Here is a common answer I get when I ask people to commit to a date when a task assigned to them will be completed by them – “I am not sure, I have a lot on my plate”. Great, you think I don’t have anything else to do?

Don’t accept this answer but counter it with the following – “OK, I understand you are very busy and you may need to get more information before you can commit to a completion date. But can you give me  a date when you will get back to me with a firm completion date?” This way, you are asking them to commit to a date to a date. To this, people will usually give you an answer.

Then when you end the meeting minutes, assign the action item to the person to get back to you with a completion date. Hold them accountable to the entire team and not just to you. Yes, unexpected things will come up, they always do, but you cannot run a business without a head and a date for each task.

Benefits of early usability testing

You do not need an Alpha/Beta software product to do usability testing. In fact, if you wait until then to do usability testing, you have waited too long. This late, making changes based on usability feedback will be costly and time consuming and apt to break something else.

The resistance offered by a software developer to change is directly proportional to the number of lines of code he has written. So the best time to do usability testing is before anyone starts coding anything. Make a bunch of images that show the proposed UI and create a click thru either using html pages (drop me a comment if you want to know how) or using powerpoint.

Then test with a bunch of your prospects/customers. Your customers/prospects should jump at a chance to see a preview of what you may be coming out with. Two things will come out of this testing:

1) You have nailed the usability (great position to be in, but very rare)

2) You will uncover some small or large usability issues.

Great! to make these changes is inexpensive, it will involve only your time, not that of your team. I don’t mean you are cheap, but in relative terms it is just your time.

Here are some guidelines to do usability testing with early mockups

1) Think about the main personas and their main use cases

2) Create mockups for these use cases

3) Never lead your audience – ask your testers to tell you how they would do the task given the mockup – if there is a large deviation between how they think they will do the task and how you will let them do the task – you have a serious usability issue.

4) If they tell you that they like something or don’t like something, ask them why – in either case, you need to know why – this is a wealth of information that will help you later when the product is built. You may even uncover some unique use cases by probing your testers here. You may hear things like – “Interesting, wonder if we could use this product to do X, Y and Z” or ” Hmmm, not sure if we would want to do this because later on we may run into problems A, B and C”. – again, great insights to get early on.

As you are doing this, ask them for their value proposition for what they are testing. Do they see value in it, if yes, what and why? If not, why not?

It usually takes only about 5-8 testers for you to see usage patterns and convergence of issues. If you see issues very early, quickly fix them before you continue to test with the remaining testers.

This is something I have successfully done for a long time with great success. Not doing usability testing very early on, is leaving things for chance. All you really need is some jpegs, a web conference tool like webex and 5-10 testers for you to work a lot of kinks out of your product early on.

BTW, invite your developers and QA testers also to these usability tests so that they are participants. This way you will get less resistance later because they will better understand the insights behind the UI that you will be asking them to code/test soon.

Google Chrome vs. Cuil – Product Management Case Studies?

By now, many of you are well aware of two new products that came out this summer (and if you have not, you were probably enjoying the summer a lot more than I was) – a new browser from Google called Google Chrome and a new search engine from a startup called Cuil

I was excited by both of these products and decided to try both of them. I had trouble getting to the Chrome download server but I waited patiently to get to it the next day. I found both the products to be buggy and gave up on Cuil and have never been back to it even once. I found Google Chrome to be buggy as well and uninstalled it because it did not work with my anti-virus software. So the initial product usage experience was the same, but there is one big difference.

I have talked positively about Google Chrome to a lot of people and given it glowing reviews – I have told them it was buggy, how I had to uninstall it and how I expect that these issues will be fixed. I have not talked to as many people about Cuil and to those who I have talked to, I have ridiculed it. I talked about what a joke it was and why I even needed another search engine when Google works so well.

So why am I spreading the positive word about Google Chrome though my first taste of it left lot to be desired? Interesting, isn’t it. Here is my analysis.

What is wrong with Cuil?

Very simple. It does not solve a problem I have. OK, you could say that you index more pages than Google but to me as a user, anything past 20-30 search results is Siberia. So the only yardstick is “Are the first 20-30 results better than what I get on Google” – No. So why do I care. So where is the product differentiation? No reason to switch from the incumbent vendor I use.

What is right with Google Chrome?

  1. Yes, the product is buggy (and aptly called Beta), but I buy into their vision. They have designed the web browser from the groundup to support web apps – at least that is what they claim. I buy into this vision. It does not solve my browsing problems today, but I know web apps are the future. So they are ahead of the game – they are looking out into the future for me.
  2. They released it in a very novel way – using the comic book concept. Very novel, again out of the box thinking.
  3. A company I respect tremendously for past innovations and I use their innovative tools everyday. If they have not got it right yet, I have the confidence that they will. Read “incumbent/entrenched vendors are always at an advantage”.
  4. When I had the issue with anti-virus software, they already knew about it and said on the forums that they were working on a solution – they were listening – they are on top of their game.
  5. They made it open source – they contributed their code base to the software community – I already know about the success of Firefox – they did not beat their chests creating another proprietary product, they are letting everyone use their innovations.

Product Management Lessons:

  1. Solve a real problem customers have (or will have soon)
  2. Incumbent vendors have a big advantage – to make users switch to your product, it needs to absolutely rock. If you are just a “wannabe” or if your differentiation is some metric which no one cares about, users will not switch.
  3. Past vendor success generates respect. Once you gain that respect, you will get a longer leash from your users (same applies to product managers too).

Saas model will collapse in two years – What?

In a mind numbing interview with ZDnet, Lawson Software CEO Harry Debes made the prediction that Saas software model is bound to collapse in two years. Even if I try to put aside his opinion (however dumbfounded it is), what I cannot comprehend is how a CEO of a public company can call his customers stupid and that they are addicted to software like they would to cocaine. Read that again – stupid? cocaine?

In his interview, does he say anything about benefits to his customers that Saas brings to the table? It all seems to be a pitch on how beneficial on-premise software model is to the vendor – profitability, captive customers, switching costs etc. I wonder if Harry has a clue as to the pain points involved in installing and upgrading on-premise software? Maybe he should so that he can feel the pain of his stupid, cocaine addicted customers. Maybe companies like Google, Microsoft are all stupid too for having Saas models for delivering software.

While I totally agree that Saas is not the panacea to solve everything that is wrong with software, that many of the Saas vendors are not yet profitable, I cannot come to terms with him calling his prospective buyers stupid.

What is next to collapse Harry – social media?

Product Manager’s new friend – Google Forms

I just discovered the forms functionality in Google docs. What an awesome piece of functionality that will help me a ton as a product manager. In a nutshell, it helps you create a form on the fly (think about creating a simple survey) and email it to a bunch of people. The recipients get an email with a hyperlink which when clicked takes them to a web page where they get to see the form and fill it out. They do not need to be Gmail users.

The responses are automatically get entered into a spreadsheet where you can do analysis of the responses – there are a ton of plugins that are available right from within the spreadsheet. Now if that does not satisfy your analysis needs, you can export this spreadsheet as an Excel file.

Now, why does this help me as a product manager? I have done so many surveys in the past and invariably after I analyze the results, I wish I had one or two questions that would have given me more insights. Instead of having to set up another survey and send the link, I could very easily use Google forms and quickly email it to the respondents of my first survey to get a very quick response. I feel like a kid in a candy store – just because of how easy it is to use.

It is definitely worth taking a look.

Differentiating in an overcrowded market

Ever wondered if any product management is needed for commodity products such as pencils, pens, toothpaste etc. where the customer needs have not changed for years?

Alain Breillat of Picture Imperfect has a great post on how to create product differentiation in an overcrowded market?. It is a fascinating read and gave me so many new insights. I especially liked the triangle of the consumer values – how buyers evaluate new products for the benefits they provide – I had never thought about this way. Thanks Alain for this wonderful post !

Business uses for Twitter

I have been using twitter for maybe the last 3 months now. When I saw it for the first time in 2007, my reaction was right! who has the time for this? Then I reluctantly signed up 3 months back and now I am hooked. Many of the folks I follow the say the same thing. If you are on twitter, you can follow me.

The reason I use twitter most of the time is to get information for myself. I follow some of the very well known social media folks and based on the links that they post I have discovered new content and in the process learned a lot of new things. Not convinced that twitter is useful for personal use? Watch this great video.

OK, so from a personal point of view that is great but does it have any use for businesses? I have found good use for businesses as well. Businesses can create a twitter account, do a search for twitter users who fit the profile of the businesses customer/prospect profile and follow them. Some of them will end up following you. Then use twitter as another vehicle to establish thought leadership in your market and also to create awareness of what you do. This can be done by posting twitter links to

  1. Articles about your company in the media
  2. New content articles on how to best solve problems your customers have
  3. Best practice articles (does not have to be written by you, provide links to other’s content, what is more important is to make your prospects/customers/followers get better at what they do)
  4. Your press releases
  5. Webcasts conducted by your company
  6. Product promotions
  7. Conferences or tradeshows your company may be attending
  8. Awards received by your company
    and this list can go on and on.
  9. (I am always looking for new uses for twitter, so if you have other great uses, please drop me a comment)

You get the idea. In the meantime, make sure that you are also searching twitter to see if anything is being mentioned about your company. This is extremely important.

Let me give you an example – recently one of my twitter friends Max (fictitious name), posted the following “Problems with GotoWebinar never end… Argh. Wish THEY were listening here. But they don’t even listen when I call them up”

So I emailed Max and asked about the specific issues and Max’s customer experience with GotoWebinar because it is one of the easiest tools I have found to conduct webinars. Max send me the details and here are the three takeaways:

  • I’ve communicated about them online, and got no response
  • Instead some of their COMPETITORS have responded to us to see if they can fulfill our needs
  • The problems have only escalated, causing me to be somewhat more vocal about my issues

What? Competitors were listening and they responded to take away your business? Max has close to 150 followers – just by posting a tweet about real experience about a product, Max had instantly spread the word to 150 people and also competitors that GotoWebinar has issues. Within a day, somebody else had asked Max the same question – Max responded “Mostly audio issues… both telephone and VOIP, which they just introduced. And really lacking in customer communication”.

Same day, Max again posted “Surprised by the response to my GTW issues… more responses than last time I voiced some frustration…” – so did GotoWebinar folks follow what is being said about them on twitter? – maybe.

I cannot tell you how important it is for companies to have a good presence on social media channels (blogs, twitter) and more importantly follow what is being said. Rick Burnes from Hubspot recently wrote a great blog post “How to kill a conversation and suck life out of a blog” on this topic.

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Companies ignore social media at their own peril

Last month, I slammed Infusionsoft when they started spamming me with email after I had downloaded an eBook from their website.

The very next day, CEO of Infusionsoft Clate Mask apologized via comments to that blog post. Here was his comment:

“Gopal–very fair point. We should have had the language on there that communicates we will send follow-up messages when you hit submit. My bad. We will change that. I complete agree with you about permission marketing. And I admit that sometimes we get going too fast and make mistakes that result in unwanted messages. But believe me: we do want to send value, build a relationship and become a trusted advisor to folks who want to know how to build their businesses more quickly and effectively. Thanks for your comment. It will cause me to examine things and see if we’ve been too heavy on promotion and light on valuable content to our prospects. BTW, I really appreciate your perspectives and am a little embarassed to be called out by you.”

I was impressed – a CEO was reading what was being said about his company on my blog and he took the time to admit the mistake, apologize and promise that the issue will be fixed. However, I was not going to be convinced until I saw that changes were made.

I went to their website last week to see if anything had changed and nothing had. Then I received another comment from Clate last night about this same issue.

Hi Gopal, I just want to thank you for your “criticism” a few weeks ago about our opt-in and follow-up marketing practices. Your post resulted in a meeting between me and our marketing director. We have already changed a couple of things in order to be more transparent to folks who opt in to my eBook and various white papers. And we are revising some other things we are doing–toning down the frequency of communications, etc. As our company has grown, I think we have gone a little overboard with the amount and frequency of email communications we send. Again, thanks for the nudge in a better direction.

Clate had kept his word, made the easy fix and is now working on fixing his messaging problem.

Think about it – how many CEOs or others in companies are paying attention to what is being said about their products/companies in the social media, how many of them take the time to correspond with this new media, admit that a mistake has been made and then make sure it gets fixed.

I have to applaud Clate for doing this. All of us make mistakes, what takes effort is the willingness to admit that it was wrong and then take the time to fix it. I am not a customer of InfusionSoft, but people who could be their customers may be reading my blog.

Clate – you are way ahead of your CEO peers. I have to say I am impressed.

Folks, if your organization is not paying attention to social media, you are digging a big hole for yourselves. Your existence is threatened and you should be worried.

Why do salesmen lie?

Shown below is an email I got yesterday (unsolicited I should say) from a company called SalesDiesel (this is a real company, they have a website and indeed do what they claim in this email).

Why do salesmen lie?

So why do I have an issue with this?

1) The email is addressed to himself and is not a personal email which means he has BCCd a ton of people.

2) This means that he has not tried to reach me at my office a number of times (not that I am complaining) – a big fat lie.

3) Does the email look professional to you that he thinks I will respond to this wanting to place my inside sales in their hands?

4) I have to call or email him so that he does not bother me or waste my time – you already have by sending me an email with lies and you want me to waste more time so that you shall not bother me?

Why don’t some companies in this day and age just get it? Why do they think prospects are stupid and will not see through such a charade?

Kristin Zhivago has written a great blog post : Salesmen talking : The 7 worst mistakes that is worth reading.

Does a vendor being #1 matter to buyers?

10 years back in Chicago, a colleague of mine was shopping for a Honda car. He went to one of the Honda dealerships. The salesman started giving him the standard pitch about the car and then told him that he should buy from him because they are the biggest dealer in Chicagoland and sell more cars than any other dealer. My colleague listened to all this and finally had it – he told the dealer – “I don’t really care how many cars you sell or if you sell the most, I only need one.”

So when a vendor spouts that they are #1 in some field, do you think buyers care? Why not tell them how you can solve their problem better for them than any other vendor – don’t you think that might work? Customers care about their problem being solved, not what your product is called or how many you sell. Yes, they do want to do business with a vendor who is financially strong and who will be around, but just being #1 will not cut it if you don’t have the best solution to back it up. If financial strength or the revenue size was the only metric, then do you think any of the startups that became juggernauts would have had a chance during the early days?

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