Aftermath of "The Markets have changed"

This was originally written on 31 Aug 2005. I have been unable to release it until other things happened.

In my last pre-Carnival posting, I wrote on The Markets have changed which built from many of the ideas laid out in The Cluetrain Manifesto and explained how I have applied them to the efforts of CaseySoftware to benefit our customers. As I mention in one of the comments on that posting, we had a follow up discussion here where I went as far as passing him a link to the Cluetrain book. Here I'm including the verbatim IM logs to demonstrate how the conversation went:

Customer: i was taught that stuff back in sales
Customer: and marketing ;-P
caseysoftware: a marketing class is teaching the Cluetrain Manifesto?
Customer: not the cluetrain
Customer: but making your company more 'human'
caseysoftware: then you haven't read it. there's “making your company more human” and then there's “showing that your company consists of human” they're completely different. one is marketing, the other is conversations. one is hype, the other is buzz. one is packaging, the other is living.

The final response was:
Customer: mm hmm

I might have come off a bit exasperated, but this was after an hour long conversation starting at 8:30pm the night before when the customer assured me “that we get it” and made completely bogus efforts to improve. Well, apparently not everyone is ready to hear it…

As a result, CaseySoftware is no longer on this project.

I'm not concerned about the loss of revenue. I'm not concerned about the time my team and I had wasted. I'm not concerned about other project difficulties that happened along the way. I'm not concerned about what a disgruntled customer could do to our reputations. The single most frustrating aspect to me is that “they don't get it.” Right now, I'm convinced that the only thing preventing many businesses from completely eclipsing their competition is that they don't get it. Why has Flickr gotten so popular? Why has blogging become so popular? Why are Friendster, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc so popular?

It's because they took some simple concepts:
* people like to talk;
* people like to talk to friends and/or people they have something in common with;
* people will share and talk about some of the most inane things in the world given the pseudo-anonymous feel of a website.

It's not quite as simple as “If you build it, they will come,” but it's not too far off. As was in Monday's Carnival of the Capitalists, Crossroads Dispatches discusses the phenomenon of A Sense of Place: Brands, Authenticity, Blogs. I suggest you go read it. It takes more than simply building it. The place – real or online – must be something that motivates people to stop and enjoy, check out regularly, and miss when you don't get there as often as you'd like. This is Borders and Barnes and Nobles has been doing for a decade. A coffee shop and a bookstore are symbiotic in that both encourage you to stop, take your time, browse, and potentially bump into that old friend, find that book you had forgotten about, or read the paper. What do you think this does to their bottom line?

Some closing thoughts… I was just thinking yesterday, “Wow, I haven't been to a book store in weeks.” When I was working for “The Man” – defined as “not me” – on a daily basis I caught a shuttle from the Pentagon City Metro back to my apartment. Every day I would have to stand by the Borders to wait and I browsed their shelves at least 2-3 times each week even when I had a huge reading list, nothing on my mind, and was making a weekly pilgrimage to the local library. That is the power of “place”.

Place is the key.