From the category archives:

People and Leadership

Blog_06-13-13I recently had the opportunity to chat with Rajat Paharia, founder and chief product officer at Bunchball, about his new book, Loyalty 3.0, pivoting startups, and the differences between the business of games and the gamification of business.

Lilia: You were one of the first to see the potential for gaming methodology in marketing.   What sparked this idea?

Rajat: The company I founded in 2005 was the right idea, but it was 2 to 3 years early to market.  It was a social gaming platform, and in the process of building it, we examined what made gaming sticky. Pogo was one of the best, most used sites at the time, and they had all these statistics that they were able to stitch together into a really engaging experience.  So we started building that idea into our gaming platform – for game results, but also to get people to do other things, like invite friends.  We saw that it worked for motivating more than just behavior within the game itself – and that was the spark.

We realized that combining data with “gaming” concepts can be used in other interactions.  We were still a small company, so we had to make a very tough decision – continue in the social gaming market, or shift to gamification for businesses.  We chose the latter, but we were early to market – again.  Ultimately, though, that turned out to be a good thing – because we had time to develop a strong skill set and effective motivation techniques.

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Lilia: Bunchball has helped well over 300 companies, including dozens of global brands, leverage big data to drive gaming-inspired loyalty programs. What surprised you most about how those companies have put this technology to use?

Rajat: We started with B2C applications of gamification, but the surprise has been how rapidly the business has transitioned to B2B uses. Companies are using (our solution) to motivate and train employees in sales and service, and to influence partners.  B2B has taken off and is growing incredibly fast. That’s something we didn’t foresee.

It makes sense, of course.  Consider that Facebook, Amazon, etc. know more about your employees than you do.  Yet companies ignore tons of data about employees who spend 8 to 10 hours a day working for them and delivering enormous value. That data lives in Salesforce, Jive, Cornerstone, Successfactors and all manner of enterprise apps and systems.

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Lilia: Loyalty 3.0 requires Big Data. Does that mean only big companies can really use it for employee and partner loyalty?

Rajat: Our customers range from small companies, as small as 10 to 100 people, to the bigger ones.

What you need is to understand customers’ or employees’ motivation. Then you need data.  And today we are walking data generators – constantly throwing off information that can be used to create loyalty 3.0 programs. Now, when I say Big Data, I’m referring to the large volume of data being generated by each of us as individuals – a lot of it unstructured.   Those individual data streams are available to any business, not just large ones.  Finally, you need Gamification – that is, you need to create data-driven motivational techniques.

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Lilia: In your book you discuss the entry of Gen Y into the worksforce.  Is it that younger generation that’s really the audience for gamification?

Rajat: No. It’s based on fundamental human motivators, so it works for anyone. The demographic of our customers’ customers and employees is across the board.  The thing about Gen Y is that this is the air they breathe. So to motivate them, these methods are indispensable.  Gamification works for everyone, but it’s absolutely critical for the Gen Y.

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Lilia: What do you find is the most common misconception people have about gamification?

Rajat: The word is a double-edged sword.  People think it’s games and entertainment.  And they don’t want their employees playing games. They want them working.  The reason these techniques came out of the gaming industry is because game designers have been living in  data-rich environments for the last 40 years, and have had a chance to learn and develop all these techniques for motivating and driving behavior.  Now the rest of the world has caught up. So gamification is really not about games at all. It’s about business results.

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Lilia: Certainly wearable computing will create a huge opportunity for gamification through increasing the volume of data even more and through the “everywhere with me” aspect of those devices. What are some other emerging trends that you see either enabling or driving the demand for gamification?

Rajat: The notion of sensors everywhere. There’s a company across the street from ours that’s making ingestable sensors, powered by stomach acids.  So you can tell exactly when the medicine was taken, and how the body responds.  That means we can use gamification to motivate healthy behavior like taking your medication on time. More broadly, technology is mediating a lot of what we do – and all those systems are throwing off data that can be used to motivate behavior and inspire loyalty.

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Lilia: Where should a company start when considering gamification?

Rajat:  Always start by determining what you are trying to accomplish. What’s your goal?  For example, “We want our channel partner sales team to contribute 10% more to the pipeline.” Gamification starts with a business mission statement.    Then you decide how you will measure that.  Then, understand what are the behaviors that I need to affect.   Next look at users and understand what motivates them.

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Lilia: That sounds straightforward, but how would a company actually know what motivates customers or employees?

Rajat: The best way to do that is by talking to a few of them.  Ask them lots of open-ended questions.  You only need to talk to a few to get really smart. We break it down in the book – how to craft an experience that fits, and create automated, scalable, repeatable motivation and intervention that you can use to motivate employees or kids.

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Rajat’s book, Loyalty 3.0, launches June 18th through all the usual channels.  In the meantime, you can pre-order at http://loyalty30.com/  and get extra gifts with your pre-order.

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Amid meeting quarterly numbers, executing strategic programs, and dealing with day-to-day minutia, it’s helpful to occasionally pause, look at the big picture, consider long-term objectives, update strategies, and make plans.

That pause often takes the shape of a management off-site.  (I’m calling it an off-site even when held in a large conference room on site.)  An effective one will produce alignment on strategy, clear and measurable objectives, and specific action plans.  A bad one will simply waste time.

I’ve seen as many of the latter as the former, and have created this handy list for how to waste decision-makers’ time while leaving the organization to continue on whatever path it was already meandering down.

  1. Everyone is extremely busy, so don’t bother participants with prep materials before the meeting. They won’t read them anyway.
  2. People who need to present information can bring it to the meeting.  They are all experienced professionals so there is no need to review their content ahead of time or provide guidance. They know what level of detail is appropriate for this audience.
  3. The decisions you intend to make will impact the entire company.  Make sure as many people as possible are there to participate and contribute to the discussion and the decision-making.  The more the merrier.
  4. When disagreement arises, chose one of the following options. a.) Let the debate go on until it’s time for lunch; you can catch up during that flexible ½ hour you built into the agenda in the afternoon.  b)  Shut down the discussion as quickly as possible. The issue is too big to address in the meeting, so will have to get worked out later.
  5. Use the breaks to catch up on email and voicemail.  You’re spending the entire day talking to the other participants, so why bother checking in with them during the breaks?  If anyone has a concern or opinion they haven’t yet voiced, they will tell you eventually.
  6. People always take notes during these meetings, so you can rely on them to keep track when an action item comes up that they own.
  7. It’s a long meeting, so when you get back to your desk, dive into the work that got delayed while you were at the meeting.  You can tell people what happened and about any decisions that got made when you run into them in the coffee room.

Please share your own suggestions for how to hold completely useless planning meetings!

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I sell to some really big companies.   One rule I established when I founded my business is that sales is about listening and collaborating, not presenting.  The reason was that I had watched cost of sales at many companies skyrocket due to huge investments preparing elaborate sales presentations that often fell flat and pursuing deals that should have been disqualified or re-framed early on.

Even with the best qualification questions and inside sales efforts, a sales rep walking into an initial customer meeting is going to have, at best, a superficial understanding of the customers’ need.  If they start by bulldozing through pre-prepared slides, they are likely to a) waste time on topics irrelevant to the customer b) miss the opportunity to gain a better understanding and c) fail to establish a collaborative relationship with the customer.

If you’re a marketer creating content and tools for a direct sales force, ask yourself if the information and asset you’re giving them help sales people to:

  1. Ask questions that both demonstrate their expertise and help them gain greater insight into customer needs
  2. Facilitate in-depth discussions that are positive and valuable experiences for customers
  3. Articulate how what they’re selling is directly relevant specific customer situations they discover during the meeting
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Giving employees motivating purpose

by Lilia Shirman on June 15, 2010

in People and Leadership

In a previous post, I noted that traditional sales rewards may be insufficient to inspire stellar performance in the complex task of enterprise sales.  I suggested that companies evaluate and increase the autonomy, mastery, and purpose – all critical to high performance on complex tasks – that their sales reps have.

My suggestions on increasing purpose related to the company and its customers.  I’m happy to report that Matt Bertuzzi has responded to my request to share alternative sales incentives and practices.

Here is a thought-provoking interview by Matt with Linda Flanagan, COO of Green Leads, on creating purpose through external social and philanthropic programs.

Of course, many companies engage in philanthropic giving and projects. What I love about this idea is how directly the employees are involved.

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