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BtoB

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.

***

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.

***

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.

***

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.

***

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.

***

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.

***

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.

***

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.

***

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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Earlier this week I had the pleasure of presenting, together with my friend and colleague Ken Goldberg, to a group of technology entrepreneurs brought together by CRDF and TEC.  We talked about establishing alliances with much larger companies – a topic that’s often daunting for new ventures. Its a subject that’s near and dear to our hearts because we’ve spent lots of time on both sides of those relationships.  Some do’s and dont’s that Ken and I discussed:

Do

  1. Have a Plan – Develop an approach, time line and road-map. It will focus your efforts and help you assess progress.
  2. Be Relevant – Understand what’s in it for the partner and the partner’s customers
  3. Be Aggressive – Attack top down and bottom up, be creative, be persistent.
  4. Behave Like a Mature Company – Have policies, approval processes, multi-level teams.  Don’t send in your CEO until you have a meeting with a key decision maker.
  5. Be Unique – Articulate what you can offer that others in your category can’t.
  6. Think Big Dollars – Demonstrate that you can have a big impact on revenue and help the partner win big deals.
  7. Prove It – Be ready to show integration, value add, or joint customers.
  8. Find a Sponsor – Use your network to find an internal cheerleader (or 2)
  9. Negotiate Smart – Share the risk and get mutual commitments
Don’t
  1. Bet on one partner -We’ve seen multi-million dollar companies disappear because the one big partner changed course.
  2. Be vague – Vague, unsupportable claims about your products or capabilities create doubt, not progress.
  3. Lie – Exaggerating the number of people on your team? Claiming a few extra deployments?   Savvy bus dev professionals will notice, and likely drop you from consideration.
  4. Over-promise – Either you’ll fail and lose the one opportunity at a critical alliance, or you’ll be forced to commit too many resources, distracting from your company’s other important priorities, and risking too much on a single relationship.  (see #1)
  5. Expect or make 1-sided investments – Expect some skin in the game from the partner.  It shows you have confidence in the value of your own investment.
  6. Forget it’s a relationship – Focusing too much on the deal and ignoring that you’re building a long-term relationship is a mistake.  Signing the agreement is when the real work starts.  Even if you never sign an agreement, the people you worked with may change their minds next year, or next month when they switch jobs.
  7. Give up – If not today, tomorrow. If not this decision maker, call another one. If not this company, talk to all their competitors.
Have a few of your own? Please share.
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Social media and B2B lead generation

by Lilia Shirman on October 19, 2009

in Sales 2.0,Sales Tips

Later this week I’ll be moderating Silicon Valley American Marketing Association’s event on Social Media for B2B Lead Generation. The keynote speaker and panel are as well-informed a group on this topic as you’re likely to find: David Meerman Scott,  author of New Rules of Marketing and PR, Brian Halligan, CEO of HubSpot and author of Inbound Marketing, Mike Linton, former CMO at eBay and before that at Best Buy, and Zack Urlocker from MySQL (now Sun Microsystems).

What would you ask this group about using Social Media to drive a sales pipeline?  Here are some of the questions I’ll have for them:

  1. How do you move from conversation to lead generation within social networking environments, and without angering the people you’ve engaged?
  2. How does a company select the social media hubs that are most important to their business and their audiences?
  3. What constitutes a “qualified lead” in the social media context?
  4. How do you estimate the resources required to create a presence in social mediums?
  5. What can B2B companies learn from BtoC practices?
  6. What’s your advice for the change agents who are advocating greater investment in social media by their companies?
  7. How should resource-strapped start-ups allocate the time and resources for social media?
  8. What are the top three do’s and dont’s for using social media to feed a sales pipeline?

Your turn!  What would you ask?  I’ll post some of the answers to your questions here after the event.

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5 Ideas to Slice and Dice Your Market

by Lilia Shirman on April 3, 2009

in Customer relationships

Given that segmentation is the cornerstone of marketing, I am often surprised at how little of it B-to-B companies actually do.  Company size and geography are often the only criteria for segmentation, with industry being a distant third. There are other ways to slice and dice.  A few ideas:

1. Look at customer characteristics such as tolerance for risk, speed of technology adoption, core business driver (are they technology-driven, customer-driven, supply-chain driven, etc.)  – some may be much more likely to buy from you than others.

2. Separate customers with different levels of familiarity and experience with your company and products – your objectives and sales approach will be very different.

3. Split companies up by specific situations, business processes, or use-cases that are common to an industry or a business models.   The solutions and services you offer them will vary drastically.

4. Define audiences based on their roles and responsibilities within an organization or within the decision-making process.   Also consider segmenting by organization structure and culture – highly hierarchical, process-focused companies need a different sale then flat and agile organizations.

5. This seems painfully obvious, but then again, its rarely done:  Segment based on actual customer objectives.   This one is difficult and takes account-specific research to determine who fits where.  So we tend to just assume that all companies in an industry, experiencing the same pressures (you know, the slide that says “Increased competition, Decreasing customer loyalty / ease of switching, regulation and/or deregulation, growing complexity of IT environment..”) must have the same objectives.  But in fact, some are looking to get bought, some want to grow internationally, some want to raise revenue from existing customers, while other are focused on boosting profitability.

Most companies also under-utilize the insights that segmentation provies.  Next time we’ll explore the uses of segment characteristics in various parts of your organization.

Comment and share some innovative segmentation criteria you’ve seen used by BtoB companies.

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What advice would you give small companies trying to prioritize target industries?   Robbie Baxter of Peninsula Strategies, an expert in on-line, recurring revenue streams, asked me a this very interesting question!

At companies with a sales history, industry-specific activity and resources are focused in two kinds of areas:  Where most revenue is coming from already (this is by far the more common focus area), and where there is greatest opportunity for growth in the future.    There can be lots of complex analysis, but in reality few big companies do much proactive planning.  That’s a whole other blog, though.

With a smaller company, the first part of that equation is missing. They don’t have the sales history, references, and channels to naturally leverage into an already-active vertical market.

So, here is a try at some things I’d look at as a small business deciding where to focus.

1. What industry will value what you do most? Where will you impact mission-critical results?

2.  Over time, what group of customers are going to be needing you more and more (and feeling increasing pain you can solve) due to external pressures and trends in their industry?

3. Where are you best able to access the financial decision-makers? (This is a combination of your company’s existing connections and lists, and the target industry’s propensity for doing business with small companies.)

Note that its easier to find ways to reach financial decision-makers than to change the core value of what you do or convince an industry to focus on non-critical issues.  Unfortunately, many small companies start with #3 as the first, not last criteria for selecting target markets.

Please comment with your own thoughts on selecting target industries at small companies.

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After 2 days at the Sales 2.0 conference, I fear we may be on the same path CRM took in its early days.  Though some of the new tools are great, and MUCH easier to adopt, there is too much talk of technology, not enough  about behavior and cultural changes.   All things 2.0 are really about interaction and collaboration with customers. And that requires a change in mindset.

Basic example of 2.0 principles in action, that actually requires less technology.  (A version of this focused on customer references was used very successfully by Beverly Chase and the  BEA marketing team)

Instead of arming your reps with the new and improved power point presentation, design a white board talk.  Script it with questions and discussion points instead of spiel.   The result is a conversation where customers contribute ideas, and the content evolves based on the here-and-now in the room, and not what marketing thought up a month ago back at corporate.

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More ideas on cultivating customer contribution and creating opportunities for interaction by turning traditional marketing into Marketing 2.0

6. In-person events – These are expensive to put on, so why spend the entire time lecturing on information that’s already in your collateral? Third party presenters can be more interesting, but any lecture can get dreary fast. Give attendees lots of time to interact with you and with each other, while you listens and takes notes. Consider a workshop rather than presentation format so that the entire event is interactive.

7.   Trade Shows – This seems like a highly interactive event, but most booth staffers are so focused on doing the demos and spewing the spiel, that the opportunity to listen is lost.  (I adore alliteration.)   To change the mindset, make it clear you’re at the show to interact with and listen to customers, not just to be seen and heard.  Set objectives of specific information you want to gather from booth visitors or people attending your sessions.  Ask a few questions or give a short (5 questions max) survey before handing out the tchachkis, or organize mixers and events that have information gathering as an explicit objective.

If a widely open a conversation seems too much of leap, try these by first letting a small group of customers you know well contribute and participate, then open further when you’re comfortable managing a broader conversation.

Have you tried these or other ways to engage customers in conversations?  Share them in your comment!

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Turning Marketing into Conversations – Part 2
Turning Marketing into Conversations – Part 1

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In a tough economy, impact revenue or go home

by Lilia Shirman on March 3, 2009

in Economy

It was great to be speaking to a room full of entrepreneurs last Thursday at the TechCoire panel, Strategies to Drive Revenue in a Recession.   Gopan Madathil masterfully organized the event.  The big takeaways form our panelists (Igor Shoifot of Fotki, Rajat Paharia of Bunchball, and Vadim Rosenberg of CA) for generating revenue in this economy:

  • Listen more carefully than ever to customer requests and use them to create new revenue-generation initiatives
  • Look at the ideas you’ve accumulated but never executed. This might be the time to finally try a few.
  • Don’t walk away from customers who like what you’re offering but don’t have the budget.  Instead get creative about restructuring the deal – change payment terms, deliver in phases, start with smaller volumes, etc.
  • Always be on the lookout to great sales people – those who know how to connect and build rapport with customers.
  • MOST IMPORTANTLY: Revenue generation is the top priority for just about any company right now.  Resuscitate stalled deals and accelerate the close by showing how you can help customer sell more.

Got more ideas for driving revenue while everyone clutches their wallet ?  Comment!

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More ideas about how to transform traditional marketing tools into Marketing 2.0 vehicles.

3.    Websites – Don’t hide customer feedback and support in a corner of your site. Place feature request and comment links right on product pages, so that customers can respond immediately to the content they see. Asking a question gets the customer more engaged than downloading a white paper. Involve product management and engineering in responding to the queries. It’s a great way to for them to touch the customers they otherwise rarely or never see. Post the most interesting questions and answers or turn them into additional content.

4.    Press releases – What if your PR people became your customers’ and partners PR people? Lots of stories would best be told by someone other than a vendor. (And would be more likely to get picked up for coverage.)  Build relationships with your customers’ and partners PR departments to understand how and where they want to be seen, and how talking about your relationship can help with that.  Have your PR staff assist partners and customer with replying to PR opportunities.

5.   Webinars – Yes, by now, this is a “traditional” marketing tool. But many companies tend to make webinars too one-directional.  Use all the interactive tools (and the many webinar hosting services that offer them). Polls, chat, and Q&A are the common set. Use surveys both before and after your webinar. And don’t limit the surveys to questions about the webinar like the all too familiar “Did you find this useful?” Instead, ask questions that help you understand customers or that customers will be interested in too. The latter gives you an excuse for a follow-up contact that actually delivers value.

Have you tried these or other ways to engage customers in conversations? Share them in your comment!

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Turn Marketing into Conversations – Part 1
Turn Marketing into Conversations – Part 3

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Social networking channels are not the only way to make your marketing efforts more interactive.   While you experiment with social media, you can make traditional marketing methods conversational too.

Getting customers to contribute to the substance in your marketing content, events, products will raise the value and trust customers place in them.   Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational, demonstrates that  “labor enhances affection for its results.”

This week I’ll be posting a series of ideas on adding interaction and soliciting active customer engagement and contribution through traditional marketing tools.   Here are a few to start off.

  1. Value proposition and messaging – Starting with the obvious here: when crafting your claims of benefits, value, and ROI, ask your customers what benefits they’ve actually received.    Use these results to create your messages about benefits and value.  Then go back and ask customers if they “buy” the story you tell about how your product leads to business results. You’ll have messages that really resonate, and your will have created references that back up your story because they ARE the story.
  2. Collateral and White papers – Create a Wiki instead of static product data sheets, brochures, and white papers.  Provide a framework and some base content,  then give customers the ability to contribute.  You can moderate to ensure accuracy, of course.  With customers contributing,  you’ll have more complete, relevant, and trustworthy information.

Have you tried these or other ways to engage customers in conversations? Share them in your comment!

Read More
Turn Marketing into Conversations – Part 2
Turn Marketing into Conversations – Part 3

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