Monday, March 16, 2009

How to create an unbelievable amount of buzz

We were briefing a senior architect at one of our partners last week when he commented, "you know, for a company of your size, you generate an unbelievable amount of buzz." In the same week, we were flattered to have a competitor draft a lengthy blog post that listed all the reasons they were better than WaveMaker.

From the inside, it always feels like things are moving too slowly, but from the outside, clearly WaveMaker is, well, creating liquid oscillations.

Later on today, I am presenting to a group of Haas MBAs on the topics of innovation and entrepreneurship. So with my professorial hat on (and continuing my series on open source marketing metrics), here is my best guess at a stepwise approach to building buzz:
  1. Go open source to get into the game. It is amazing to me how many SaaS and cloud companies are still playing the old, proprietary enterprise software game. I believe that open source is the only viable technology channel today - without this, building buzz is almost impossible. Coghead was the latest victim of the proprietary software strategy, despite launching the first, easy-to-use cloud development platform. iPhone is a good counter-example, but Apple is a special case of a company that has always gotten away with murder because of their fanatic base of developers.
  2. Feed your community to build a fan base. Without an open source product, I would argue that it is almost impossible to create a self-sufficient community. Communities don't grow by themselves, though. It takes dedicated resources to nurture a community into a real advocate for your product.
  3. Blog your vision. Blogs provide a platform for entering into a dialogue (or at least a protracted monologue) about where the market is going. It creates a way to engage with the community and draw new people to the community. For the last 6 months, the Keeneview blog has always been the number 2 or 3 source of new downloads for WaveMaker.
  4. Twitter your tactics. Twitter provides an instant gratification approach to discussing the latest tactical nuances of your strategy. My Twitter account is where I make short, cryptic pronouncements for the benefit of all my ADHD friends.
  5. Carpet bomb your successes. Whenever anything good happens, I make sure the world knows about it. This includes not just spamming my own social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, dZone, delicious, stumbleupon) but also reaching out to all the other bloggers out there who are always looking for validation points around their own vision. For example, each time I make a blog post, I send emails to a dozen or so bloggers who I think will be most interested in it, thereby getting a multiplier effect.
  6. Brief analysts to confirm your victories. Analysts like Judith Hurwitz, Michael Cote at Redmonk, Mark Driver at Gartner and John Rymer at Forrester are critical for getting the word out, but I see their role as fast followers, not leaders of market momentum. Once you have enough proof points among bleeding edge adopters, the analysts can connect the dots for more mainstream adoption, not to mention perform major messaging tune-ups!
I'm not guaranteeing these techniques will work for everyone, but they should help get you on your way to "unbelievable" buzz!


bizQuirk said...

The analysts you mention are whores, and their agencies are pimps. They are paid by the vendors to write what is wanted, not to give fair evaluations of the products and sector. I can't recall the last time such analysts called a tune proper.

Christopher Keene said...

Hey, this is IT, not Guys and Dolls. Such vitriol is a bit out of place on a G-rated blog.

In my experience, most of the misguided anger at analysts comes precisely because their opinions are not for sale. Analysts are also not visionaries - their job is to help CIOs keep their jobs, not encourage CIOs to jump headfirst into every latest tech fad that us Silicon Valley dreamers cook up.

Notice that I put the analyst step last. In particular, notice that I put it *after* we had achieved a number of major customer validations.

I think talking to analysts before you have any customer traction is a waste of time, but I also believe that trying to publicize customer traction without analyst validation is equally impossible.

The IT Skeptic said...

Analysts are not for sale? Oh please!
I've heard inside reports from multiple vendor organisations of the consequences of NOT taking a five-figure annual subscription to the services of various major analysts.
And the boot-licking papers they churn out for the vendors speak for themselves.
Analysts are marketing outsourcers. They just pretend otherwise.

Christopher Keene said...

I sense a lot of unresolved issues around analysts out there in the blogosphere. My recommendation is to take a deep breath, let it out, and as you let it out try to release also your preconceptions around what analysts coulda, shoulda, woulda done for you in the past. There are many important professions for which there is a great deal of conflicting emotions - repo men come to mind.

You can believe whatever you want to believe about the analyst community. I will still contend that effective use of analysts is an important step to building buzz for an enterprise software product, regardless of what you think of their business model.