4 Implications for Tech Products in a Hyper Social World

What does it take to execute and thrive as a tech business in a hyper connected and noisy social web?

New market participants face audiences that have “Attention Deficit Disorder” and also seem to have no real long term brand loyalty. If your product “does it 90% as well as the competitor at 1% of the competitor cost”, or does what the competitors do twice as well, you will rapidly co-opt the existing client base. This is especially true if “word of mouth” about your product, or some element of your marketing campaign goes viral on the social web. It also means that people will drop you like a rock if you anger them on the social web (think RIM, think Netflix).

The barriers of entry to the marketplace have also rapidly fallen in terms of the cost of the technology, the availability of connectivity, and the ubiquity of storage.  What we increasingly see are products being launched that are “just good enough” to take advantage of ever shorter product development cycles and  even shorter consumer/end user adoption cycles.

The combination of the above brings me to some observations on what might be the essential “ingredients” successful tech execution today.

1. Speed To Market – With social media, and a very reactive blog sphere, if your product is good, and it’s first to market, people are eager to spread the word for you to prove that they are knowledgeable early adopters. Get your product to market fast, OR ELSE. Dilly dallying, presenting your “concept” to analysts or other forums before anything is baked or launched means that more people are going to discuss your product with other people who just might execute your idea. This is also valuable time that the market is changing underneath your feet.

2. Resources - From a resources dedicated to the project perspective, you need to come out “swinging for the fences”. This seems a little counter intuitive doesn’t it? Come to market quickly, but also swing for the fences? Put your top people on the project and pump out the most complete 1.0 product you can in the shortest timeframe possible. Don’t use 0.5 developers to bootstrap the project, use the number of developers you need to get the project out the door in 6 months or less. Watching someone else eat your lunch because they hired a few more developers sucks, and really undermines all the hard work you put into the concept. The idea is valuable, but only if executed correctly, because your miss-step is somebody else’s shiny new opportunity.

3. Clean Messaging - It’s a Twitterized world, people want to know something in 140 characters or less. Marketing needs to be cognizant of the simple fact that people don’t want to read a web page that is a wall of text with grainy screen shots.  Within 15 seconds of scanning your website the reader needs to know exactly what they will get from your service. Having a free version of your service doesn’t hurt either. (Check out mint.com or cloudability.com for some great examples).

A company called Cloudability takes this “clean messaging” paradigm a bit further by tying their tag line to a service most people already know to be easy to use, and extremely powerful dubbing themselves “the mint.com of cloud computing”.  This clearly defines Cloudability’s value via a well known and trusted reference service in “5 words”, well played sirs, well played.

4. Listen to the Market - That’s right, if you execute quickly, get your products in the field, and make it easy for people to understand your product – YOU WILL GET GOBS OF FEEDBACK. Some good, some bad, some ugly, but all of it useful. This will ensure that you will be in a unique position to lead the field and bring innovative features to market. Arguably field feedback is 100x more valuable than anything some analyst in the ivory tower has to say.

So what does this mean?

I enjoy watching the Tech Battles videos from Tech Crunch Disrupt, because it is 100% clear that the next generation of entrepreneurs really “Get It”. They realize that they need to bring something innovative to the table now, they need people to understand and use their service quickly, and they also know that they need to secure the required level of funding to “go big or go home”.

So what’s the future for businesses that can’t bring new 1.0 products to this new environment? Don’t be the next RIM. Cluttered messaging, slow time to market, and a blind eye to what the social web effects would have on their subscriber numbers and brand perception can bring even the biggest giants to their knees.

 

Human Nature, Uncommon Sense, and the Failure to See Root Cause

Today I stumbled onto a story that seems to prove to me that we (as humans) often overlook the root cause of a problem. By overlooking the root cause, we often prescribe solutions that not only solve the wrong problem, sometimes we actually complicate the problem with unintended consequences. Have a read below and see if you can see where I am going with this.

The article in the Toronto Star today describes a bear being shot by the authorities because it was “foraging too close humans”.

[Source]

At first glance, this seems to make quite a bit of sense. But let’s take 2 seconds to think about this problem and see if it really is as logical as it seems.

Jeannie (the bear) had a bear cub, and for years had been part of the Whistler community she called home. Tourists and residents alike enjoyed catching her in photographs and occasionally providing food for the bear. This bear was known to be friendly to humans, so why would it suddenly need to be shot?

Due to a sub standard crop of natural foliage, Jeannie was getting hungry and as a result foraging closer and closer to populated areas.There were reports of Jeannie trying to “hip check” her way into a community center for food.

So this would seem to be justification for a group of people to  get together and decide that “they have the answer, let’s shoot the bear”. I’m sure they put a lot of soul-searching into the decision. Sadly if they had just directed that energy towards finding a possible alternate solution, things could have been very different.

The problem I see as the “root cause” is that the bears don’t have adequate food supply this season. To me an obvious and more humane solution involves providing alternate food sources in their natural habitat and replenish them till the end of the season. This would allow the bears to weather this season, and result in them being less aggressive with foraging. The other huge benefit is that Jeannie would be alive to raise her own young.

Unintended Consequences

How much do you think it costs to hand raise a young bear? What are the ramifications of having a young bear cub hand raised? Won’t the cub now imprint with humans and eventually be more prone to getting close to humans in the future?

Will we hear about Jeannie’s cub being shot for the same faulty reason in 10 years?

Unfortunately this kind of failure to look ’2 steps forward’ is prevalent in our own personal decisions, public policy and in the private sector. Is it human nature?

Maybe I’ve missed something in my analysis, and maybe providing food to the bears isn’t feasible. Do you have some insight into why my solution wouldn’t be possible? Do you have information that indicates that someone did evaluate this and decided it made no sense at all? Stick all your thoughts into the comment box and we’ll discuss!

 

It’s a Good Life – Right?

It’s a great life, everything I’ve ever wanted to happen is happening at this very moment in my life. So why do I need to write a blog post?

Right now I feel unbelievably sad.

I just read about Jack Layton’s cancer spreading. [Source]

I can’t believe we haven’t solved this challenge as a race, I can’t reconcile the loss I’ve seen in families - including my own.

I want to do something about this on my own, but not in a small way, in a big way.

-K