Monday, March 15, 2010

Membership has its Privileges; Best Practices IP vs. Social CRM

I wrote recently about our decision to expose our pricing publicly on our website. It was one of the most commented-on posts ever on this blog, as it seems to have connected with a number of people in the same situation. The intersection of theory and reality in the world of social media always spurs some interesting debates. We all agree that transparency is great and noble... but... what about the realities of having a broad set of products that range in price by a factor of over 10x? What about low-end competitors who compete aggressively on price? When reality and theory intersect it spurs some fun debates, and I appreciate all the comments from people in similar situations.

Today, I want to share with you a similar change in philosophy that we just made at Eloqua, that had equally passionate debates.
Last week we opened up public access to Eloqua’s best practices community portal where the biggest and most vibrant community of marketers gets to work, tackles challenging business problems, and builds the lead management processes that power their businesses.

This caused substantial debate internally, that is likely not unique to Eloqua, as we wrestled with the pros and cons of making this change. Given the response to the last post, I wanted to share with you our thinking on transparency, social CRM, and best practice knowledge.

Why do Marketers Upgrade?

The challenge that we wrestled with was that one of the main reasons that our clients join us, or upgrade from low-end systems, is to join the “community”. They want to compare notes with peers, understand how other marketers are engaging their sales teams, see what analytics their colleagues in similar industries have on their marketing dashboards, and get tips and tricks from people who have gone down this path before. This "membership has its privileges" motivator was very compelling.

The thought was, in opening up our online community portal, are we not giving away the “essence” of this community? The knowledge, best practices, tips, tricks, analysis, and ideas are all there. Could you not just buy a cheap-and-cheerful solution, and then leverage the experience and expertise of this community?

It was a very valid question, and it caused us a lot of consideration. In the end, after much debate, we opened up the portal and shared our expertise publicly. Rather than decrease the value of this knowledge, through giving it away, we are trusting that it will greatly increase the enthusiasm of marketers to join the best marketers on a journey of transforming their businesses.

Does Sharing Expertise Increase or Decrease its Value?

One of the parallels that worked well to win over those who were hesitant internally was that of Mike Holmes on the home renovation TV show Holmes on Homes. Sharing his expertise publicly, week after week, to 100 Million TV viewers has not, in any way, reduced the demand for top quality home renovation contractors. Far from it, it has increased it.

Can home owners watch the show, take notes, and then do it themselves, or use a low cost contractor to get the work done? Perhaps, but they now know the realities of the projects they are tackling, and are more likely to want to engage with a renovations contractor that brings expertise as well as power tools.

Sharing Marketers' Stories

As with any company, we have long been sharing client stories of success. We share videos of Mark DiMaurizio from Comcast Spectacor talking about how the Philadelphia Flyers and 76ers use deep segmentation to connect with B2B and B2C buyers, and we show Katina Fisk of Approva talking about marketing analysis and dashboarding.

These are great testimonial videos of the end state, and they highlight a great “finished product” in terms of results (thank you Mark and Katina). However, what we wanted to showcase in opening up the community was how those results actually get built. This is where the best marketers shine.

In the online community, however, Amit Varshneya and Tom Svec look at the nuts and bolts of building the type of deep segmentation that Mark talked about by leveraging company-level rather than contact-level information. Similarly Tricia Wilkerson looks at the specifics of tracking and analyzing banner ad clickthroughs in order to generate the type of marketing analysis Katina highlights.

Each of these marketing success stories, like Mark and Katina’s, that we share comes from the work of marketers like Amit, Tom, and Tricia. By sharing these stories, we hope to paint a picture of what marketing success truly looks like. Will the passion for great marketing that is shared by community members outweigh any downsides of sharing this “under the floorboards” view? We believe it will.

Have you had similar internal debates about opening up your expertise to the world? Please share them here, we would all benefit from your experiences on this topic.
Many of the topics on this blog are discussed in more detail in my book Digital Body Language
In my day job, I am with Eloqua, the marketing automation software used by the worlds best marketers
Come talk with me or one of my colleagues at a live event, or join in on a webinar


Laura Hoffman, Microscan said...

Great blog post Steve - very interesting to hear the reasonings behind opening your customer portal. Similar situation is currently on my radar.

FYI, you have a great product and we're looking forward to the new release.

Steven Woods said...

Thanks Laura,
it was a fun debate, but we're glad that we did it. The response has been very positive thus far.

Thanks for the kind words on Eloqua too, glad you're enjoying the product.