Can B2B Products be “Social Objects”?

A couple of weeks back I attended MeshMarketing and Hugh MacLeod of Gapingvoid was the keynote speaker.  In his talk he discussed “social objects”.  By his definition a “social object” can be a thing a person or an idea that people talk about.  Hugh talked about working at an ad agency where customers would ask them to get people talking about products like it was as easy thing to do.  His comment was (I’m paraphrasing) “Getting people talking is magic!  They were asking us to perform magic but their perception was that we were just pulling a lever.”  His described how people talk about things they are passionate about and how creating that passion in customers is about more than mere features and functions. “It’s not about features or what you build, that’s important,” he re-iterated “it’s about how people talk about what you produce that matters.” This isn’t a new concept for traditional marketers.  One of the folks on the panel I moderated (Barry Quinn from Juniper Park) gave the example of car companies sponsoring Formula 1 racing as a way to get people socializing around a brand.  However, that thinking has historically come after the product is delivered.  After it’s released, traditionally companies just had to pay the ad agency to pull the “make people talk about it” lever. I’ve seen some products coming to market where the social aspects are a key design point, particularly on the B2C side but I haven’t seen much evidence of that type of thinking in B2B.  Rypple (case study here) is a great example.  But frankly, for B2B, those products...

Unhappy Customers Complain

The last few days I’ve had a lot of interesting conversations about Twitter because what I am now referring to as “the incident”.  This has already discussed way beyond what it deserves but there is one point that has been missed that I feel like I need to clarify. The reporter did not call me because I was in marketing.  He called me to comment on a story he was writing about an ex-employer of mine.  He called late in the afternoon and I returned his call the next day right after I picked up his message.  I happened to be in a meeting that went ran all afternoon and later into the evening.  If Obama had have called me that afternoon, he also would not have gotten a call back until the next morning. I don’t have an admin doing this stuff for me and I don’t do PR so when you call me sometimes it takes a day for me to return your calls. He answered the phone and was extremely rude to me.  He yelled at me.  He cursed at me.  I have the feeling he had forgotten why he called me and thought I was a PR person who should have returned his call within an hour instead of a day, instead of a regular citizen that happens to be an ex-employee of a company that he covers for his newspaper. He was at work, doing his job representing his company and I had just had an amazingly negative experience.  I complained about it on Twitter without mentioning the reporter’s name nor his publication.  He...

Innovating Through Recession

Paul Dunay at Buzz Marketing writes a post here pointing to a research paper by Andrew Razeghi from the Kellogg School of Management on Innovating Through Recession. Andrew makes 7 great points in this paper but I love the first one where he states: Listen to the market. It’s quieter when it’s less crowded. Unmet needs abound. And here is the quote I love the most in that section: During difficult economic times, market needs are more exposed than they are during an economic boom when the market is saturated with everyone’s “great idea” – many of which are chasing needs that have already been satisfied. When markets turn south, it’s easier to discern what the market needs precisely because the market is thinking more about what it needs and why it needs it. We are simply more thoughtful, more aware, and more focused during economic downturns. I think it is hard for companies to stay focused on customers when they have their own economic problems to deal with.  During tough economic times, a focus on innovation is more important than ever.  Innovation thrives on constraints.  What is a recession other than a time of great constraint? Customers are trying to do more with less.  Enterprises are looking for ways to decrease their cost of sales, shorten their sales cycles, reduce costs associated with business travel, decrease their need for physical real estate, improve their time to market, reach more customers while spending less – the list goes on and on.  What a perfect time for great product managers and marketers to take a step back and listen to...
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