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)
If 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.
My Starbucks Idea?
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.
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.
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!