Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Innovation, the consumer and SaaS together at last! - connecting scalably to the consumer

As much of my writing suggests, my true passion lies in the area of innovation, culture and people.  No surprise there.  But one of the other things I find very fascinating is the framework by which behavior can be changed and innovation can thrive.

During my time within start-up world as Chief Evangelist of NetBase Solutions has been taking my experiences as a Product Developer of Cleaning Products at Clorox and translating those skills to tackling the social media market.  Talk about a chasm to walk across on a string.  That being said, I never realized until recently that when a person is tasked with mixing a bottle of chemicals together with susie home maker in mind and how this consumer will wipe a counter, clean a toilet or even take care of their children you gain the ability to put yourself in the consumers shoes.  This "consumer variable" is something that has helped me think about not only what a good idea is but how to connect with the consumer who uses it.  Many of us have it, but leveraging this knowledge and being a user is critical to helping this personal skill live.

What does this have to do with social media and SaaS companies?  Actually everything.  Most SaaS companies are working to create a solution that consumers will use and love everyday.  It is the lifeblood of a scalable business model.  But what are the consumer elements that give the business model life?  There is no question that a huge portion of this lies in a companies' ability to develop a solution that fits into relevant business processes in a way that provide financial value of some sort on an ongoing basis.  And while this is the tangible effort every company it enough?  In some cases, the answer is yes.  If the software is functional and performs a job that helps the company run better it can simply be the best technology that it can be to provide this value.  On the other end of the spectrum, however, are solutions that require culture change to see them "cross the chasm".  What is the secret to unlock this benefit so the software can scale and grow?  It's emotion.  And emotions that are tied to consumer perceivable benefits to really drive the change.  So the next question what are the key emotions that will help create a scalable consumer perceivable benefit?

There are three (in my opinion) that any SaaS company should think about with each and every feature/function/improvement they consider adding to their offering.

What are they?  Control, Confidence and Efficiency.  As I like to say...take it in.  Think about it a bit.  Why these three?  We have left out fun, easy, smart and many other relevant words.  The reality is this;  every consumer of your product is strapped for time, what to trust what they use on a day to day basis and most importantly have differing needs based on how they like to innovate (and thus control how they do things).  Each of these emotions are critical to unlocking the key to consumer behavior.

A great example of this would be in our own business where our index enables consumer to search on a brand or topic to unlock the emotion and passion within social media data.  What happens when your brand or topic is something like the brand Tide?  Tide can mean a great many things.  But at its highest level it can mean Tide laundry detergent (what you are probably searching for).  But it can also mean the Alabama Crimson Tide or even the Tides in the ocean.  How can you create a query that lets you zoom down to the data you want to look through?   In fact for many months our software (and I am not the most experienced software user although I am good at applying social media) had no way to help you deal with this problem without thinking through the all the key terms you need to separate out the data so to speak.  And as someone who only likes to focus on detail like that for short periods of time, I found myself not using the software.  I was essentially stopped passing go because setting up a search wasn't (do I hear it) efficient.  It took a long time to think through the words you would exclude or include, what context might help your narrow things down or where I might even want to look.  Second, when I did try to go through this process when I had to I was never sure I had set things up right.  So I had no Confidence in my work.  I did have control, because I could choose whatever terms I wanted to make it go.  But this problem at the beginning of our software lacked two of the three emotions (confidence and efficiency).

A few months later we added our disambiguation wizard.  Now before I press go I can look into the search and see what key words are coming up.  I can click on a word see a sample of sound bites to decide if this word is relevant and when I want to exclude it I can see how much data is removed from the dataset.  I can go back to my search query and add more context or more filters or whatever I want and then go back to the wizard.....(you get the idea).

In the end I can cycle through the until my changes yield just that, little change...AND THEN PRESS GO.

This new system takes a few minutes (efficient), helps me know I have the right data (confident) and I can keep or remove what I want (control).  Its the emotional trifecta of SaaS.  Think about it.  Every feature and benefit can be put through such a filter to help on decide whether they are hitting the right emotional consumer targets.

As the title says...innovation, the consumer and SaaS together at last!

No comments:

Post a Comment