Who’s The Hero?

In the world of entertainment, there’s nothing quite like that “hero twist” at the end. 
But the hero in business isn’t dodging bullets. 

Kari Ramirez, one of our account managers in Silicon Valley, contributed today’s guest post on this very topic.  

As you’ll see, even an enterprise computing company can have heroes (roughly 97,000 for those counting). 


By Kari Ramirez
The Hoffman Agency (Silicon Valley)   

disney heroIf you’re like me and grew up with Disney movies, you know each classic opens with a “Once upon a time …” screenshot. And, for the next hour-and-a-half you’re connected with the heroine who usually experiences a devastating and life-altering catastrophe, but still manages to end up on top, living “happily ever after.” 

If only Disney created my life. 

Unfortunately, it didn’t. 

Instead, like my fellow Generation Y-ers, I’m continually hoping for that “happily ever after” moment, so I am on a personal life quest to end up like so many Disney characters – a hero. 

Fast forward. 

My Starbucks Idea? 

Comcast Cares? 

Windows 7 Was My Idea? 

So, what does Disney, a global coffee chain, a cable/Internet provider and a dominant OS have in common? 

Each has created a world where its customers are the hero. Starbucks, Comcast and Microsoft get it: yes, the customer is always right. From a PR perspective, each of these companies has successfully made a connection with the end user (me) – heck, these guys make me feel smart and valued. 

But, what happens if you, like many in the high-tech business, are a B2B company? Can you still effectively connect with your customers? 

Looking at one of my clients, SolarWinds (I know, shameless plug), the company’s online community, thwack, is approaching 80,000 community members after a mere five years. For a company with 97,000 customers, this number is damn impressive and inspiring. 

So, how has SolarWinds made the connection with users? One word: heroes. 

thwack calls its heroes MVPs (which are featured on the Who’s Who page). MVPs get early access to products and periodically get briefings with product managers and the development team. On the community hub, the company also offers giveaways, has fun contests, and most importantly, offers its community valuable information (and free tools) that allow users to get their jobs done and be the “hero” of the IT department. 

Rewind. 

Let’s take a look at Dell. Founded in the 1980s, Dell started with the PC, but has added to its portfolio, which now includes: servers, storage, networking hubs and switches, and a whole bunch of other products that read like an IT admin’s wish list. 

In 2007, Dell created the “IdeaStorm: Dream it. Share it. Make an impact.” site. 

There’s that powerful connection to the reader again. 

To date, the community has 15,000+ ideas. And, when visiting the forum, users can “promote” or “demote” ideas, integrate Facebook, visit the Twitter stream, participate in “Storm Sessions.” And, if you’re lucky enough, you could be listed as one of the “Top Idea Contributors” and get bragging rights. 

Fast forward. 

So what does this all mean for us? 

With the rise in social media, companies must continually find new ways to connect with their customers heroes. To do this, companies need to: 

1. Have a personal voice that connects with their heroes

2. Keep in mind that their heroes will always wonder, “What’s in it for me?” – freebies can go a long way … 

3. Think to themselves, “What’s going to keep driving people back?” 

I’d love to hear your input on other B2B companies that you’ve come across that promote heroes. Leave a comment here!

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5 comments

5 Comments so far

  1. Christine Li March 31st, 2011 10:14 am

    Great post and very insightful ideas :)
    Two-way communication is important, espeically in the social media environment. Each individual has his/her own voice. Companies need to identify their target audiences, understand what problems they have, offer related solutions and give them what they really want. At the end of the day, it’s the loyal customers that support the company.

  2. Jodi March 31st, 2011 12:54 pm

    Hi Kari: Thanks for the kind words about SolarWinds Thwack community. We think it’s pretty awesome too and the best part about it is that it’s organic and the people who participate see that their input makes a difference in terms of what products and free tools we release! One reason I think we’ve been successful in keeping the community vibrant is that our product managers are involved in the discussions as well to provide support and LISTEN to our customers.

  3. Joe March 31st, 2011 1:33 pm

    Very insightful! Any adherent of Geoffrey Moore (author of “Crossing the Chasm” and Inside the Volcano) will have to take refocus on the importance of social media and the importance of listening and understanding your customers.

  4. Kari April 1st, 2011 4:38 pm

    Thanks for the comments everyone.

    Through this exercise (and after visiting different online communities), I found that customers should truly be the number one priority. And, the ability to be genuine can go a long way.

    It will be interesting to see what other B2B companies take note from both SolarWinds and Dell to connect with customers.

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