Dave Sohigian

23May/081

Insight #2 from Groundswell

I have been reading Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research and thought I would share the insights I gain while reading the book.
Cover Image
My second insight in the book is a bit of a story. I have been pushing for using new technologies in our marketing at Guidewire (where I work as an Technology Evangelist in marketing) for a while. I pushed for internal blogs about three years ago, and those have been quite active ever since. I put together the Guidewire Development Blog, which has seen lots of traffic thanks to our brilliant blog author/developers. Most of our other marketing, while of very high quality, is fairly traditional. Although there is support for trying new things and taking risks, the market we serve (Insurance) is quite conservative and it's not clear exactly where these new technologies can be most effective.
Enter insight #2 from Groundswell. From Page 69 (adapted somewhat):

Traditional Groundswell How is this different in the Groundswell?
Research Listening This entails monitoring the conversation your customers are having with each other.
Marketing Talking Participating in and stimulating two-way conversations your customers have with each other
Sales Energizing Finding the lead customers and using their enthusiasm to sell each other.
Support Supporting Using groundswell tools like social networks to and social forums to enable your customers to support each other.
Development Embracing Integrating your customers into the way you do business. Your lead customers will have great ideas for new design and product offerings.

This table describes how to relate traditional marketing to groundswell marketing. The beauty of this chart is that you can use it to talk to traditional marketers about what areas you should be putting your groundswell efforts. The authors make the point that you should choose just one of these areas to focus your initial efforts.
This concept is really useful for me in my work at Guidewire. Looking through this list, I realized that there are some things that we already do very well at Guidewire, including support, development, and research. We are also good at marketing and sales, but I believe we could benefit from the groundswell in these areas (as a caveat: my view has something to do with the fact I have worked in sales and marketing at Guidewire).
So why do I think we are covered in support, development and research? Because our products at Guidewire are amazing. They really go well beyond every other option available. Our development organization is unique in it's ability to create great software (see the Development Blog if you want evidence). Our services group is skilled at supporting our customers and we have tons of happy customers that love us. Every time I get to talk to on of our customers I come away even more passionate about our products. And when it comes to research, we are still very close to our customers and get regular feedback from them. We also have experts that understand the market (see the Guidewire Claims Blog for evidence of that). This is not to say that we can't benefit from the groundswell in any of these areas,  but I don't think it should be the focus of our first efforts.
The reason why I see marketing and sales as more challenging has nothing to do with the people in those departments (I work with all of them all the time, and I am blown away with their expertise and performance). It is not about the whether our marketing and sales are effective (they are). The main challenge I see is getting our customers to talk regularly about their successes. The market we serve is conservative and risk averse (it is insurance, after all). So we can't expect our customers to easily volunteer their opinions about our software, even though they are overwhelmingly positive. The categories of "Energizing" and "Talking" are particularly attractive for these reasons. To me, this is the place where we need to focus our initial efforts in the groundswell.
This categorization has been particularly helpful for me in knowing where to focus my efforts. For example, I have been working with the Product Management group and talking to them about creating a blog similar to the Development Blog. For a while I had been considering making their blog private and only allowing customers and partners to have access to it. My reasoning was that it would allow for a more open conversation with our customers about how our products are created. After going through the categories above I realized that a private blog between our PM's and customers would fit under "Embracing", an area where I don't think we need a lot of help. It would be more useful if we could engage the PM's in a way that is more on "Energizing" or "Talking". Perhaps a public blog for the PM's would encourage this sort of interaction, but maybe not. I look forward to more insights further along in the book to help with figuring that part out.
The thing that has been extremely useful about this section of the book so far is in helping me understand where to focus my efforts. Armed with that information I can make better decisions about what to do, and more importantly, what NOT to do.

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  1. Dave, you read so much I’m amazed. When do you have time to watch American Idol? hahaha.


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