I screw up a lot, always have, always will, but what matters is what I do next.
My first presentation to a Forrester client was a total F-up. I’m not new to speaking, but presenting in the Forrester style requires a specific style, and as trained speakers, clients pay a lot of money and expect very polished ‘performance’.
Here’s what happened: I was out in NY, and I wasn’t fully prepared, I’d only done a half-ass job of rehearsing the presentation. I had the wrong date typed on the opening slide, and the client saw it. Also, I was giving covering for a colleague and doing her speech, therefore emulating her style, and not doing my own thing. Apparently, the client wasn’t impressed, and even suggested I was dressed inappropriately, I’d argue that I was, but the customer is right. The next week, in the de-brief with the account team, I got a 30 minute well deserved earful, and had to sheepishly apologize and sent them an mea culpa email which I hope they forwarded on to the client. Fortunately, the relationship with the client is salvaged, and we continue to do work with them, although I probaly won’t be invited back.
I sadly dwelled on this for a few days, got some support from my colleagues (Josh, Charlene), my boss-boss Cliff Condon was supportive, mentioning to me it was a ‘hard-knock’ a good lesson to walk away with.
So what was I going to do about it? I made a vow to correct this problem: I started to rehearse outloud several times before new presentations (in the car, at home, in the hotel), started to read more materials on how to be a better speaker, and got some internal training and support. So far, I’ve given maybe 30-50 presentations since that ill-fated day, each with good-to-great remarks from clients, I’m confident the things within my control won’t happen again.
So what did I learn? Every company, every website, and every individual is going to make mistakes and fall. What matters is to quickly learn from those mistakes, and improve that it doesn’t happen again. It’s important in the web industry (a rapidly changing one) that we work in environments that accept mistakes as long as they are not repeated again through hard lessons.
The trick is to quickly make mistakes and then rapidly fix them and move on. So my friends, fail fast.
Now back to you, how have you quickly turned a negative (product, feature, complaint) into a quick positive iteration?
I’m in the unique position that I get to speak to enterprise brands, white label vendors, and now CMS vendors on a regular basis, here’s what I’m seeing:
It’s now quarter 3, and I start research on the big report, the Forrester Wave (learn about the reports) on the Community Platforms (White Label Social Networks) the Vendor Catalog of this space will be published for clients in the coming days. The process, which has been completed for many other markets, is detailed, granular, and will take me over 10 weeks to complete. The results will yield a report that indicate the strength and weaknesses of those vendors for enterprise class interactive marketers.
[Trend watch: Enterprise CMS Vendors to enter the White Label Social Networking Space and offer Community Features and Platforms]
Social Features a Commodity
As I’ve mentioned time and time again, it’s a crowded space in the white label social network space due to low barriers to entry, and commodity features, in fact with 80+ vendors (could be 120+ if I counted insight vendors and collaboration vendors), there’s no shortage of those who will throw their hat into the ring.
Overview: Enterprise Content Management Systems
I’ve started to notice more of the ‘traditional’ CMS and Portal players that already have deep footprints into the corporate web teams that are inching into this space. First, let’s take a historical view, many of these vendors appeared in the late 90s, they offer easy ways to publish online for corporations, often including advanced review workflows, templates, and staging and dev sites. I’ve been on the teams (I’m a former corporate web guy) that have had to implement, manage, or train stakeholders to use these. Next, in the early 2000-2002 we started to see acquisitions into this space by large ERP players: Microsoft acquired CMS which eventually evolved into Sharepoint, EMC acquired Documentum, and other ERP players such as Interwoven, Vignette, Stellent, IBM’s Filenet and LotusNotes, edDot CMS, Xerox’s Docushare, and Saperion started to extend their KM products for public websites. There’s a great list of these vendors from CMS watch.
CMS Vendors sniffing the social space
Fast forward to 2008. With the demand and buzz for social network features, or community offerings, these established CMS/Portal vendors recognize the demand, and see opportunity dollars falling through the cracks. I’ve started conversations with several of the big players to gauge where they are headed. Of course, the conversations don’t end up on this blog (unless they give me permission, or publish first) but it’s quite obvious where things are headed. In fact, see my predictions referenced in a recent Techcrunch article. They won’t be the only ones, we’re starting to get glimmers of social platforms tying to CRM systems too –integration afoot.
Three Options for CMS Vendors
There are at least three ways these large CMS vendors can head:
1) Develop the features and roll out community suites. Acquire new staff to understand this new world (it’s a different skill set than CMS rollout and management). This will involve client side training, consulting, development/design, new metrics packages, and series of recurring support revenue streams.
2) Acquire the successful white social networking vendors that complement their existing offerings. Find a player that digs deep within Fortune 5000 that offers 100k revenues on first year from a solution sell, and 50k for ongoing support and services. Or either find and easy to use vendor that offers few but broad features, and attached advertising streams and develop a media network.
3) Do nothing. Some CMS vendors may be content with their current product offerings to client, and don’t want to jump into a crowded pool and may choose to avoid offering social features to clients. With third party developers offering widgets and embeddable applications, they actually may not have to.
Four Options for White Label Social Networks
Some of these enterprise class vendors (I’ll know more when wave report comes out), it’s likely they will do a few of these, it’s not exclusive, and will have a strong stance to do the following:
1) Stay independent. I could call this ‘do nothing’ but it’s not the case. Like the CMS/Portal space in late 90s, some of these vendors will continue to grow and be stand alone companies, who knows, some may actually become publicly traded companies.
2) Start partnerships. We’re already seeing some of these companies band together such as Mzinga/Prospero, and now Awareness ties data to Sharepoint, this nods to a direction of working with others, or at least having interoperability.
3) Design for acquisition. Some white label vendors have thought this through, and are building their software in the platform or language of another traditional CMS company and are making themselves ripe fruits for acquisitions.
4) Develop flexible architectures. The future of the web is amorphous, therefore some white label vendors will heavily depend on open APIs, Data, and develop or work with widget vendors to let social content be shared and ‘fly’ around the web. Eventually, some of these widget features could easily be embedded into CMS systems, even if they don’t offer these features.
1) Develop their own social software features. I know a few brands (despite me suggesting they buy) are extending their home grown CMS systems to add on social features. For those with large web development teams it makes sense. For others wanting to be fast and flexible, it’s often not an efficient path.
2) Work with a White Label Vendor. Many are choosing to rope in these vendors to develop, train, design, and manage these communities, in most cases they sit ‘off to the side’ of the corporate website and are not integrated with product pages. Of course, this whole discussion excludes marketing efforts on organic social sites like Facebook, MySpace, etc.
3) Wait for CMS vendors. Many brands are just toe-dippin’ into the social space, they are not offering community features, don’t see the point, or have other objectives to fulfill. As a result, they may just wait a few quarters till CMS vendors offer this ability within their existing platforms. Of course, this comes with risk from deploying too late, or not offering features that meet the needs of community members
4) Do nothing. In the end, some brands will choose not to engage customers in community sites, for a variety of reasons such as products or services that are sold to resellers and rebranded, deep technology components that are mainly a b2b sell, or lack of vision to embrace customers.
Watch this emerging trend
Where are we now? We’re at the very beginnings of this journey, with most white labels being around for just a few years, and the established CMS vendors starting to sniff this sector and gather requirements (many are coming to me) we’re clearly at the R&D stage, with some banding development teams to enter this space.
Questions that will be need to be answered by this space:
Will CMS vendors be able to adapt to social features into their legacy systems?
Is the demand from client side strong enough for CMS vendors assert flexibility?
How will these commodity social features be monetized, with everyone having them, how will you differentiate?
Will CMS vendors build, buy, or ignore social features?
When will we see existing internal knowledge management systems integrate these features?
Will the small white label vendors start to get friendly with the CMS space and start to develop an exit strategy?
Are white label vendors building their products for easy integration into CMS vendors?
I’ve been thinking about developing a ‘show and tell’ event where both of these vendors can come together for a meet and greet, if I did, would you attend?
Chime in, love to hear you answer these questions I posed above.
I create many lists, have been doing this since I started this blog. Why? It helps me to keep track of the industry I’m covering, I can watch it grow, and it’s a reference I can quickly pull up and demonstrate to others who’s doing what well –and wrong.
If you’re in the Finance, Auto, or Insurance industry (or one of your clients is), I recommend forwarding those links to your colleagues, so you can quickly assess the competitive landscape. If you’re leading the charge at your company, show the list of full time social media folks to the key decision makers.
The following six lists have been growing, or show remarkable traction, I wanted to call them out since of them may be older.
Kristie Connor, a Marketing Consultant, submits on the concept of ‘fluidity’. I like this concept as the corporate website won’t be the only container of brand and product content but also this content will spread to wherever the conversations flow on the web: Social networks, blogs, friendfeed and wherever else. She writes the following:
“Corporate websites of the future will be less about canned content and more about fluidity. Meaning, the consumer will demand websites that are connected to the ‘users’ and ‘consumers’ personal networks which will promote and instill word of mouth as a best practice for business development and ultimately sales. The infrastructure will be designed in a way that company developed case studies, webinars and such will be replaced by real consumers leaving messages and user created video’s. The back-end will be light and built to accommodate the interactivity of users and social networks. Customer generated content will be ranked higher in search engines and push the website owner to move in the direction to capture mind share.”
Additionally, this evolution will put the consumer in the driver’s seat which will drive accountability from outside in.
Christopher Smith, VP of Digital Media Marketing and the Creative Director at MediaTrust submits an excellent piece highlighting that people, real humans will be front and center, rather than the stock photo and corporate happy talk, I couldn’t hope and agree more. Perhaps the future holds a ‘customized’ social network where people you actually know that work at the company are front and center on the website, or customers that are connected to you on your social graph:
“Jeremiah, in response to your contest I submit the following:
I actually believe in 5 years the “corporate website” as we now it will no longer exist. Gone will be the days of the static brochure site, supported by a “dynamic” sub-branded social community. There will no longer be the “self-service” document download centers, or the video case study hiding the infomercial inside.
I see the corporate website as hub of individuals that become your first point of contact, and guide you through your search for products, service or support. Consider the example of the Apple Retail Store experience and extend that to the web. You are going to the corporate site for a reason. Even casual browsers to a corporate site have a passive agenda. Virtual corporate ambassadors will assist you in your interaction with the company, blurring the lines of sales, CRM, and support, with the use of chat, video feed, guided browsing, VoIP… the list goes on.
How will this happen in 5 years? I have already begun this work for my company’s new site, and have begun working with our customer experience team from the tech side to insure that we begin building the opportunity today and defining the process in design and test.
And yes, I already have the date in my calendar, and plan on attending as much of the conference as I can. The downside of winning your contest will be that I am required to visit my mother in law if I am Portland.”
Doh! Have fun with your mother in law Chris. For additional reference, do read my post on the Irrelevant Corporate Website, and how to evolve it. Although over a year old, we’re just starting to see websites evolve.
Above: I spent Saturday on San Gregario beach in Half Moon Bay, just a few minutes from the hustle and bustle of busy Silicon Valley, pics from mobile phone.
While only 30 minutes from companies like Siebel, Oracle, NetSuite, and Visa in San Mateo, Half Moon bay is a world apart. A short 12 mile jaunt westbound on 92 will take you over the reservoir, which coincidently is in the shape of the fault line (an aerial view indicates it is the fault line) and over the San Mateo hills. You’ll immediately notice a temperature drop and increase in the humid, salt, air as you drive through the eucelpyous groves. In the fall, you’ll see the magic of the pumpkin festival, kids on pony rides, and the various smoked salmon shops and mini-wineries.
Half Moon Bay is home to many silicon valley executives, corporate offsites, and rolling beaches. You’ll find the Scobles, Tracy Chapman, Singer/Songwriterand Phil Schiller – Apple Marketing SVP. Head south and you’ll find a handful of public –and private—beaches. In college I took a geology class, and learned all about the very unique sand/rock stratifications and the collision between water and rock to make some of the most dramatic –and beautiful– landscapes. Other notable areas is the famous Mavericks surf, where world class surf competitions take place.
There’s a reason why Silicon Valley is one of the most expensive places in the world to live, aside from the thriving technology industry, the quality of life makes it a desirable place not only to work but also to relax.
Previously, we heard that Andrew read this blog and got a job, now more success stories that people are connecting –and getting jobs from reading the web strategy blog, this is great news. I’ve been given permission to publish this email from Jonathan:
Thanks for your DM. It would be my pleasure to share my story… one of your tweets (almost two months ago) mentioned your job feed on your site. Feeling quite unsettled in my current position, I click and found what looked to be a perfect job. I fired off my resume and received a call the next day from the hiring manager. After a series of calls and an intense day of interviews, I received an offer! My new job is Web Director at the Association of Corporate Counsel. It’s a logical step in my career and should involve a good deal of strategy and operations.
I gave my official notice today — my manager was in a state of shock. I, on the other hand, am so excited to move.
PS Aside from my gratitude for all you do for the community (including the job feed), I certainly owe you a drink! I’ll be blogging about my experience once the department knows (law firms are such a strange environment).
Congrats Johnathan, I’ll take that drink, red wine is a fav.
You can find jobs, connect with others, and read other case studies by clicking the “on the move” section. Or, see the Web Strategy Job Board, where recruiters are posting jobs (paid) and a dynamic listing is available.
It seems odd, but yes, there’s a unique need for marketing executives that must know traditional marketing strategy, but also the social media space. Perhaps not in the Fortune 5000 ranks, but for the many social media companies that are appearing (only a handful are thriving) this specialized skill set is critical.
If you haven’t done so already, subscribe to Marketing Voices, a podcast focused on Marketing+Social Media. The content is tight, succinct, and high value and hosted by former colleague, Jennifer Jones, who teaches me something new about VCs, PR, and Marketing every time I chat on the phone with her.
I can’t believe how fast time flies, I’m now at my second year for this domain. While I’ve been blogging longer than two years (blogspot, 360, etc), the purchase of this domain web-strategist.com has been a milestone, let’s recap.
By the numbers: A Benchmark
What was the path? When I started this new blog, according to Technorati, it was ranked in the millions of blogs, last year was 1,708 and today it’s ranked at 540 (the lower the better), and has over 10,000 incoming links. According to Feedburner there are now over 12,000 subscriptions. According to Google Analytics, there are 86,725 Visits, 132,198 Pageviews, in the last 30 days. WordPress indicates there are there are currently 1,914 posts and 17,017 comments (over the two years).
Two year Impacts
Despite all this, most of these numbers are meaningless. For each of these metrics, I question the validity of measurement and measurements only make sense if you benchmark against the previous year, which of course, I did: see last year’s stats. What really matters is the impact that blogging has over the industry that I cover, and the jobs it’s helped me to get.
My Blog Strategy: How I did it
So enough stat-porn, I’ll tell you exactly how I did it, giving you all that I learned so you can improve too. Here’s how I did it:
Created focused content
I focused on the topic of making decisions for corporate websites, primarily around social media. It’s important to find something interesting and unique to discuss, avoid echoing techmeme. When I first started, I tried to be on Techmeme, I just became a small link when someone else would break a larger story. For some time now, I’ve avoided being on techmeme, as I’d rather be original and small rather than larger but just echo. I also avoid ‘blog fights’, I’d rather deliver ‘how to’ posts an be a resource.
I published nearly every day, in fact multiple times a day. How’d I find time to do that I slowly work on drafts (I’ve over 100 of them sitting in wordpress) and I’d budget my time in the morning to pay myself first. (It’s 430 AM when I write this).
Think of readers first
Make it easy to read. Sure there’s a lot of text, but I organize it in an easy to scan (yes scan) way by indenting, use horizontal rule (lines) bolding and using indent points. I approached this as more of a resource to busy professionals rather than my personal journal (although I occasionally share personal info in the context of posts). Forrester conducted a survey, if you want to see who reads this blog and why, the results are public.
Join the conversation. Such shallow words that are thrown around now, but it’s true. I link to whatever else readers would want to learn about (knowing the more I helped them, the more they’d come back) answer comments on my own blog, and occasionally leave comments on other blogs (I could work on that more). I self reference to older posts, and that helps to tie everything together as the body of work builds on top of itself.
Developed some unique posts that were mainstay type of posts: my digest, the many index lists, and the on the move series. These help me to manage the industry I cover, have an online archive, make it easy for info-hungry folks, and reduce my time to come up with constant new ideas.
I’m so lucky that I get paid to do what I love, I think this is one of the most important things to do in life, sadly, it’s hard to tell when work starts and stops. Many people thought it was really strange when is started this blog, many said it was a fad, and really didn’t look down the line.
So what’s the future to hold? Well for one, I’m starting to ask people to follow me on Friendfeed. Regarding this blog, I’ve no intentions to stop this pace sharing and learning, thanks for being part of this, it’s a fun adventure and I learn many new things from being part of the conversation, (from your comments and links) every day.
I just got back from Forrester’s Finance forum, according to one of our long term attendees Steve blogged it was a success. This is one of the perks of the job, being able to meet interesting folks and hearing how you’ve helped them be better at making decisions.
For those that have been reading for a while, or following me on Twitter, you’ve noticed I’ve been very busy helping clients, conducting research, and sharing what I’ve found with the press and media. After 8 months as an analyst the questions from the market have just increased, between helping clients and managing this blog, I’m operating at an efficient speed where things go very well. Having successfully launched their book Groundswell fly even more than I do, delivering the POST methodology to individuals that want to learn how to approach social computing and social media.
I’ve received news from Cliff Condon (my boss boss) that based upon client needs, we’re expanding the team. We’re going to be adding some additional roles in the Analyst and Researcher position (each job performs a different function) in order to meet our clients needs. The job descriptions are available for the Analyst and Researcher position, and if you’re qualified, please submit your resume to the website, and reference that you saw this from my blog.
I can’t speak for the researcher role, but being an analyst was the logical step for me in my career, while a very challenging job, you’ll have the opportunity to touch all parts of the industry, make sense of chaos, and define a path for companies to ventures towards. You’ll have access to Forrester’s immense survey data, work with smart people, help clients, travel, and grow your career a few steps up, I often tell folks being an analyst is like a “Living MBA program”. Not only do you study business, you get to help clients apply your knowledge.
Josh provides a bit more information about the jobs, do read his posting.
I’ll update this post when we fill the position, so you’ll know when it’s filled.
I’m rewarding two readers with a complimentary VIP pass to the Internet Strategy Forum Summit conference on July 17th at the Governor Hotel in downtown Portland.
If you’re passionate about making your corporate website the best it can be, and want to connect with others who are leading the charge at their companies, then you’ve already marked a place on your Calendar for the Internet Strategy Forum Summit in July 17th in Portland.
• Geoffrey Ramsey, Co-founder & CEO, eMarketer
• Charlene Li, VP & Principal Analyst, Forrester Research (I can’t wait to meet her someday!)
• Chris Shimojima, VP, Global Digital Commerce, Nike
• David Placier, VP, Consumer Insights, Disney Online
• Nancy Bhagat, VP of Sales and Marketing Group, Intel
• Daniel Stickel, new CEO, WebTrends (formerly with Google)
• Shane O’Neill, Chief Technology Officer, Fandango
• Mike Moran, Distinguished Engineer, IBM, author (highest-rated speaker at 2007 Summit)
I attended last year, and was impressed to see all the corporate web leaders (web strategists) attending. Steve Gehlen for the Internet Strategy Forum, who founded ISF, has done a great service to our industry, in fact, he and I worked together to form the Silicon Valley chapter a few years ago.
We both realize that many of the readers of this Web Strategy Blog would love to attend the ISF conference, so we’re giving away two free tickets.
I will be selected two winners who answer the following question:
1) Question: What is the future of Corporate Websites in 5 years?
I’ll be looking for out-of-the-box thinking, plausibility, and ability to logically connect the dots why and how your 5 year prediction will happen.
2) Write it clearly and succinctly, points assigned for brevity.
Effective strategists are excellent communicators.
3) What percentage will you attend the conference?
I want to give these tickets to someone who’ll really use it, I encourage you to answer this even if you don’t plan to attend, have fun with it!
Thanks for reading, I’m grateful to get enough traction now to reward readers with conference tickets, books, and the ability to network. Have fun with this, and strut your stuff strategists!
Update June 28: I’d like to thank Christopher Smith and Kristie Conner for their excellent responses (scroll down) to their vision of the future of the corporate website. While everyone provided excellent answers, I enjoyed hearing the focus on people from Chris (sites become social) and Kristie’s notion on ‘fluity’ of the future of the corporate website –it’ll spread both off domain and aggregate social content. Thanks all for playing.