David Sacks who founded Yammer (the original enterprise social network) alongside Adam Pisoni, knows what it takes to build a business or two. He nailed it in this tweet from the other day:
Having worked at Yammer and been in the productivity game for a while now, I absolutely concur. I have always maintained that focusing on something as generic as improved productivity is not going to cut it🔪 Not in sales, nor customer success. Neither will focus on technology and feature or functions do. I’ve written about this before:
- The feature / function trap of enterprise technology adoption
- Beyond technology adoption – business scenarios with Microsoft Teams
- Technology alone is not enough
The two alternatives to focusing on productivity and their relative merits and challenges are discussed below:
Bottom-up freemium groundswell
Sacks is the master of this tactic. Yammer was predicated on making it easy for users to try Yammer for free, invite other users to try it and then start the groundswell needed to convince IT they couldn’t shut it down.
This is hard to do well. It depends a lot on the usability and virality of the product. The first is about getting users excited to use the product to such an extent that they want to share it with others.
Especially with products that rely on social collaboration, virality is probably built in because you cannot collaborate alone.
Building massively attractive products is also not easy but is made easier depending on how new the proposition is. These days with so much competition in enterprise software, that is really difficult.
From a people change effort, building a groundswell from the bottom up is also really heard in certain cases. Like when there isn’t an initial spark from product attractiveness or demand or it goes against the grain of the current company culture.
Solving a business pain
For me this is the more worthwhile alternative, at least in enterprise software. Its also not easy to do but if you nail it, you convince the people with the purse strings 💰 This is an eventual hurdle you need to overcome, may as well do it upfront.
Solving a business pain often means working outside of IT and that is often the first challenge. Ideally, you have business users that have come to the product through the viral groundswell 😁
If the business is engaged, whether through some initial use or not, on understanding how a product can solve problems or address opportunities, the battle is two thirds done 💥
Deep understanding of the environment the business operates in and mapping that to the use of technology is needed.
The more you focus on leaders in each business domain, the better. Although you can can also focus on regular business users and how they use technology currently and could do to meet their needs. Showing this to business decision makers will nail it 🔨
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