The Rise of the Social Business Software Buyer

Picture this.

Your wife tells you that you need to find a better hotel for the next vacation. You jump on Google and zoom in on a few based on location, star rating, price and user reviews. At this point you are probably surfing on Trip Advisor, Kayak or Expedia. As for your next step, you will most likely visit the sites of the one or two hotels that you’ve selected to check all the amenities and whether you can get an even better deal.

Now picture this.

Your boss tells you that you need to find a better software. You jump on Google and zoom in on a few based on your use case and (if you are lucky) price. At this point you are probably surfing on the vendors’ sites skimming through all the marketing hype. As for your next step, you will most likely engage with a bunch of sales reps and start the lengthy process of comparing features, requesting each vendor to speak with one of their reference that fits (if you are lucky) your profile and negotiating best deal.

You get the picture.

Business software buyers should deserve the same information transparency and access to independent user reviews as do consumer buyers. And they will. Brian Solis and Jeremiah Owyang have laid the ground for this revolution in their insightful Social business and Collaborative Economy research. In fact the shift is happening right now and as a marketer you need to pay strong attention. Your world is about to change. How you will influence early on your buyers through voice of your customers will be as much if not more important than what you do on your site. As a sales rep, you also need to pay strong attention. Your buyers will know more about your software than you do when they reach out. How you establish early on a trusted relationship with them will be key to securing the deal.

Joining the revolution.

Today I am pleased to announce that I have decided to join TrustRadius, a quality “Yelp” site for Business Software powered by in-depth, structured and vetted crowd sourced user reviews and discussions. As a product marketer (and former software vendor), I see TrustRadius as a game changer in the way business software buyers will identify, compare, collaborate and select software in the future. In fact if you are in the market for social media, marketing automation or Business Intelligence tool, give it a go today and check the following overview video. Then seat back and think about how this is going to change your sales and marketing world, or better, read this very insightful article on the consumerization of B2B buying behavior by Tony Zambito.

You have a choice to make.

Watch this revolution happening and do nothing about it OR embrace it and adjust your marketing strategy and sales initiatives around your customers’ buying journey. I am definitively planning to blog more about the rise of the social business buyer and the broader implications on the world of software marketing, business technology research and analysis. In the meantime, how do you plan to adjust?

Leave a comment or send me a note at I would love to hear your thoughts on TrustRadius and/or broader impact on your sales and marketing world.



Continuing on the theme, here are few more things that I have been thinking about as of late. Hope some are useful for you.

  1. This is very sound advice and could easily support a full book on the subject – Beware of chicken and egg products. Make sure your product provides immediate utility.
  2. This is a lot harder than it sounds – When you’re faced with a feature that only 8% of your user base are using, you have to make a call: Kill it or Keep it.
  3. I am a big fan of the power of a story and the importance of baking it in. Looks like there is now some positive research on advantages of focusing on your story.
  4. If you are faced with a choice between cheaper or better, the answer can now be empirically quantified: make it better.
  5. What do your users want to be “badass” at? Watch this video from Kathy Sierra to help figure it out.
  6. Don’t underestimate first impressions. The First 5 Minutes (REALLY) Matter.
  7. When it comes to marketing, it isn’t all about conversions. Well, it really is all about conversions but your entire marketing strategy can’t be about hoping to show up at that right moment before purchase. You need to spend more time thinking about the Think and See consideration stages.
  8. Customers hire products to get a job done. If you want to get more customers, you can  make your product better at the job it currently does. Otherwise, you need to start focusing your product on a new job.
  9. Call me biased, I am a product guy after all, but this is truth – Product comes first. If people love your product, the tiniest announcements will get attention. If people don’t love your product, no amount of marketing effort will help.
  10. Getting to simple is not an easy path. If you are looking to get there, start by looking at authentic design. What’s authentic design? Authentic design is about doing away with features that are included only to make a product appear familiar or desirable but that otherwise serve no purpose. Authentic design is about representing function in its most optimal form, about having a conviction in elegance through efficiency.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

When it comes to building a product, you are always making decisions.

  • What are you building now?
  • What are you building next?
  • What are you not going to build?

There is no secret way to make to make it easier but there are some techniques that can help.

The most important thing to realize is that when you are gathering data, you are completely bias. You are going to look for data to help support your cause whether you realize it or not. Even when you run into data that points to a contrary decision, you are more than likely to ignore it.

From the book Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath,

Researchers have found this result again and again. When people have the opportunity to collect information from the world, they are more likely to select information that supports their preexisting attitudes, beliefs, and actions.

and to support the point,

In reviewing more than 91 studies of over 8,000 participants, the researchers concluded that we are more than twice as likely to favor confirming information than disconfirming information. (So, scientifically speaking, you’d probably read twice as many four-star reviews as two-star reviews.

Your best bet is to realize that this is human nature and to look for ways to counter it. The Heath brothers have put together several techniques to help – widening your options, reality testing, attaining distance, and preparing to be wrong, You can find a nice summary here (email reg required).

Dear Product Managers, You Can’t Have it All


I love this cartoon from Hugh MacLeod (GapingVoid). It is so simple but at the same time, so powerful.

There are lots of ways you could interpret this message but I have been thinking about it in the context of product development.

More often than not, you don’t have the time or resources to tackle everything. This means as a product manager, you have to make some tough choices of what not to do.

Great products (and companies) intentionally leave out features that some customers find unacceptable. While this means that some customers won’t buy their product, it means they can focus more on the ones that will.

I also ran across another example that I think really highlights the point of intentionally making decisions not to do something. Doc Searls’s new book, the Intention Economy, has a great overview on the grocery chain Trader Joe’s (a company that has been historically very private about its operating strategy).

Here are some of the things that Trader Joe’s says no to:

  • No ads, sales, loyalty cards, etc. No gimmicks.
  • No trade shows. They don’t chase the latest fashions.
  • No muscling suppliers. Instead they partner to offer the best product at the best price.

Most importantly they say no to selling a lot of products. They don’t try and sell every type of food item. They don’t sell electronics. They don’t sell toys. They just focus on selling “innovative, hard-to-find, great-tasting foods.

Trader Joe’s have consciously made the decision to try to not sell everything under the sun. This allows them focus on adding “unconventional and interesting” products that keep customers delighted and coming back for more.

Stick with Hugh’s advice and pick your sliver well, my friend and your customers will reward you.


Cartoon Credit:  GapingVoid

The Process of Finding Breakaway Ideas

the idea hunter If your goal is to come up with something new, be it for an existing product or a new to the world innovation, you are going to need a list of ideas to work with. The question is, how does one come with an idea in the first place?

According to the the book, The Idea Hunter, if you are waiting for a time to start looking for ideas, you are too late.

 “BREAKAWAY IDEAS COME TO those who are in the habit of looking for them” – The Idea Hunter

While this sounds like a simple approach, the challenge is in the implementation. Just because you are blocking time on your calendar to “brainstorm” doesn’t mean ideas will be waiting for you to show up.

Finding new ideas begins with the discipline of intentionally looking for ideas all the time. We are often so busy running from meeting to meeting and project to project that we miss opportunities to digest information that could produce the next big idea.

To hep prepare you for becoming an idea hunter, the books covers 4 principles that will help improve your ability to find ideas  – Interested, Diverse, Exercised, and Agile. Additionally, the book continues on with some techniques on how to make sure you get the most out of the ideas you find through prioritization and implementation.

“Albert Einstein once made the disarming comment, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” – The Idea Hunter

Overall, I would say the book was a good read and left you thinking more about how to make idea hunting part of your daily routine. I also like how there was a focus on what comes next after finding that next great idea.

Remember – ideas without execution are hobbies!

Check it out!

8 Reasons to Like Likeonomics

I like Likeonomics and I think you will too. What is Likeonomics?

Likeonomics is a book by Rohit Bhargava about being likeable and everything that goes into it (Rohit also wrote the book Personality Not Included which I would highly recommend).

Likeonomics is based on the simple idea that, “People buy from people they like”. I wasn’t kidding when I said it was a simple idea.

In the book, Rohit breaks down what goes into being likable – truth, relevance, unselfishness, simplicity and timing. The idea being that if you can understand what makes a company more likable than others, you can try to apply to your situation.

Along with the framework, there a lot of great Likeonomics stories so you can see the concept in action. This makes for a fast, fun, and informative read that will leave you with plenty to think about when it comes to addressing the Likability-Gap” with your product and company.

To give you an idea of what Likeonomics is all about, here are my favorite 8 quotes from the book:

  • Marketing has played a central role in creating a culture where people are afraid to trust the media around them.
  • The American poet and activist Audre Lorde is credited with the famous saying: “There are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt.”
  • In the long term, the only thing that can help the most successful organizations and people differentiate is based on their human elements, as well as what they sell or what they say.
  • The Likeability Gap describes the difference between what people do because they have to, and what they do because they want to. In a world where just having a good product or service isn’t enough, the likeability gap explains success and failure.
  • In order to be believable, the most successful people and organizations always find a way to share their truth, and then build on it.
  • …finding the right truth is hard. The truth can be buried. It can feel wrong to share.
  • It is impossible to care about everything. Things like irrelevant products and over-the-top sales people are easy to tune out. That is a choice many of us make on an hourly basis without thought.
  • The important thing to remember is just because a topic is relevant for someone doesn’t mean that you automatically have relevance to that topic.

Image Credit:  rohitbhargava

There Is No Magic Bullet In Creativity


The book Imagine addresses the monumental task of trying to figure out how creativity works.

What makes people creative in the first place? How do you maximize creativity? What do you do when you hit the wall and can’t come up with an idea?

Even though it did rely on a few cliché examples , e.g. Pixar and 3M, I enjoyed this book and the way it explored creativity from a thinking perspective. It should come as no surprise that there isn’t a magic bullet when it comes to new ideas but there are different approaches you can use that can help improve your odds of success.

The book was a fast read and left you with several ideas to try next time you are seeking to find a creative solution to a complex problem. One of the suggestions I really liked was why you shouldn’t brainstorm. The problem with the “no idea is a bad idea” approach is that without discourse and criticism the ideas don’t get filter and pushed on to the next level. Turing the spark of an idea into something that is really creative takes work and without the pressure to make it better, it usually doesn’t happen.

Here are a few more of my favorite inspirational quotes that I captured while reading through the book.


Taking Risks With The Startup of You

The Startup of You is a book on career management authored by two successful startup entrepreneurs, Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha.

The theme of the book is that you need to take ownership of your career, much like an entrepreneur takes ownership of his/her business, and create a plan to adopt to a changing marketplace (see The End of Business as Usual). While this is not necessarily a new thought, their framework and advice does make sense and sounds very applicable to today’s technology related careers.

Here is some of the advice I noted while reading the book:

Professional loyalty now flows “horizontally” to and from your network rather than “vertically” to your boss.

Permanent beta is essentially a lifelong commitment to continuous personal growth.

Imagine you got laid off from your job today. Who are the ten people you’d email to solicit their advice on what to do next? Reach out to them now, when you don’t need anything specifically.

Golden opportunities are not wrapped in pretty packaging with a clear label; killer job opportunities are rarely advertised on job boards.

Almost every case of serendipity and opportunity involves someone doing something.

The concept from the book that resonated with me the most was on risk taking. The Startup of You advocates that taking calculated risks with your career not only helps you reap the rewards of new opportunities but also better prepares you for future surprises. From the book,

Without frequent, contained risk taking, you are setting yourself up for a major dislocation at some point in the future. Inoculating yourself to big risks is like inoculating yourself against the flu virus. By injecting a small bit of flu into your body in the form of a vaccination, you make a big flu outbreak survivable. By introducing regular volatility into your career, you make surprise survivable. You gain the “ability to absorb shocks gracefully.”

Looking back at my career, I would point to a few startups during the days that I worked at that seemed highly risky at the time. The companies ended up being failures which is never what you hope to have happen.

However, if I would have passed on the roles, I would not have gotten to work with so many great people while trying build a business. Being asked to own something and take on new challenges gave me a firsthand experience on how to generate and execute ideas and what to do when things don’t turn out as planned.

While the risks didn’t have an immediate payoff, the return came over time as the expertise learned and networked gained helped me move on to bigger roles and other companies over the years.

Speaking of building a network, the Startup of You also introduced some interesting thoughts around the benefits of strong allies and weak ties that you need to help support your efforts.

Want to learn more about it? Read the book!


Image credit:  koalie






How Not to Resonate During your Presentation

Josh Duncan presenting at Product Camp AustinIn all my years of presenting, last Saturday was the first time that I was tempted to run out of the room as fast as I can. It really couldn’t have started any worse.

How did it get to this point? Let’s start at the beginning.

Nancy Duarte’s book Resonate has been on my reading list forever and I figured with my plans to present at ProductCamp Austin, it couldn’t be a better time to read it (also, it worked well with my 2012 book reading goals).

The book was highly recommended and I can honestly say that it lived up to the hype. Nancy’s philosophy for presenting is that it is up to the presenter to inform and inspire. To make this happen, Nancy advises that you take the audience through a journey to a destination. This means that every piece of content needs to build towards your final goal.

To accomplish this goal, you need to take time turning the information you have gathered for the presentation into a meaningful story. Here are a few of the techniques that I tried to use in my presentation:

  • One idea per slide and evocative visuals:
    • All of my slides featured one point and relied heavily on visuals to help communicate the message. For example, I used the following quote from Seth Godin to help communicate the point that having a story isn’t enough and that you need to have a message that stands apart in your market. Things that Glow by Seth Godin
  • Order the structure for impact:
    • My presentation started with tactical examples of how stories can be used to deliver the message and positioning of your product. From there I built on the idea that in order to be successful, all the stories that your company tells need to be aligned with a common framework. And then to support my theory, I ended the presentation with two powerful examples of companies that evolved their story over time helping them to maintain their differentiation and position in the market.
  • Share the main event:
    • In order to help keep the audience engaged and part of the story, I planned on including them in the discussion during the presentation. This would not only help build on the examples but make sure that my ideas were hitting home.

So, where did it go wrong?

When my presentation started, the system running the 20 foot display screen crashed. This meant that I had no audio or visual in a 300+ person conference room. As you can see in the picture above, it was kind of hard to see my 15″ laptop screen.

While I had practiced delivering the presentation several times, I had never done so without the slides. I was dependent on the visual cues for my supporting points and guiding the flow of my presentation. Additionally, I had quotes, like the following, that I had not memorized but needed for support.

Do you see what I mean about running?

Thankfully, the audience gave me some great encouragement to continue on with the talk. Overall, I was able to manage my way through but I know that it did not resonate at the level I hoped it would.

What will I do differently next time?

Overall, I loved the advice from Resonate and will use it as a mainstay going forward. I think highly visual slides are a good approach to telling your story but next time I will make sure that it is only the audience that needs to see them.

If you are going to go in blind to a presentation, you had better be able to see your story in your head if you hope to be able to communicate it to your audience.

The Art of Data-Driven Marketing

data-driven marketing by the numbersMarketing is about being creative.

Marketing is about engaging. It’s about meeting customer needs and delivering an experience.

Marketing is an art.

But, there is a science behind marketing and that is where Data-Driven Marketing comes in.

Metrics like net present value (NPV) and customer satisfaction (CSAT) are a good starting point, but don’t forget customer lifetime value, return on dollars spent, and transaction conversion rate (TCR).

Does this sound familiar or like a foreign language?

These are the type of numbers you need to have in order to answer questions such as, “When will we see a return?“, “Is this worth doing?“, and “What are your assumptions?

In total, Mark Jeffery covers 15 essential marketing metrics, that you need to know, in the book. If it has been some time since your last finance or statistics course, not to worry. The book not only goes over the formulas, but also provides case examples to see how they would work in the real world.

But what if your company doesn’t do Data-Driven Marketing? You are not alone. In his research, Jeffery found that 80% of companies don’t use these metrics to drive their marketing efforts. However, the ones that do have a greater chance of capturing more revenue and meeting their financial goals.

What’s not to like about that?

Image credit:  artnoose