All posts by TheBlackFin

Chief Marketing Officer, Agency at Epsilon & Principal at Blackfin360, LLC.

Where Are We?

In our mini-van, yes I know I just lost major street-cred by referencing the fact that my wife and I do in-fact own a min-van, but it’s a fully loaded mini-van thank you very much!!! We have built-in navigation and DVD systems for the kids.

Now instead of actually paying attention to where I am going, I am mindlessly following the directions given to me by the authoritative female voice and glowing maps. As my brain wanders, thinking about parenting, profitability and ROI analysis, Xbox 360 gaming and what’s for dinner, I realize that if we suddenly lost power to the nav system I would have no idea how to find where I am going.

Thinking about this and the High-Tech industry in general and reading Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm I began to think about the importance of not only understanding where you are going but more importantly how are you going to get there.

We at Telligent are at a crossroads. We are almost upon the transition from the Innovators and Early Adopters to the pragmatic Early Majority in terms of product adoption. Marketers are good at identifying fads and even better at exploiting trends. We are currently in the middle of a major trend which is the collaborative boom of Web 2.0 solutions. And Telligent is definitely on the forefront of providing the needs to those Innovators and Early Adopters. With success implementing solutions and providing Community Server to organizations such as: Disney, MSNBC, Dell, Microsoft, Electronic Arts, Intel, Mazda, Honda, Adidas, Lego, etc… We have laid the foundation to successfully cross over to the upcoming Early Majority.

But the Early Majority requires different messaging and they are less concerned with the technology and more concerned with ease of use, support and referrals from others in the Early Majority. This is one of the key areas where High-Tech companies fail. They see the growth in sales between Innovators and Early Adopters and they ramp up their teams and expect big revenue numbers to continue to spike, what they do not count on is the potential marketing pitfall that occurs between the Early Adopters and the Early Majority.

The Early Majority is a very important segment during the product adoption life-cycle. If you catch the wave between Early Adopters to the Early Majority this is where true success starts to materialize.

What we are seeing from organizations is that the Early Adopters were looking for an edge on the competition and now they have found a way to leverage collaborative solutions and engrain them into their marketing strategy. Now the Early Majority is taking note of the trend and patiently waiting to see what best practices arise.

The one thing to keep in mind in all of this is that it is not always the best product that gets selected by the Early Majority, it is normally the products that can market themselves in such a way and are continuous in their innovation that they speak directly to the needs of the Early Majority and are not as disruptive as the competition that they in turn cash in with market share. We at Telligent have the premier collaborative solution in Community Server. The next step is ensuring that we speak to the Early Majority and let them know exactly why it is the best. The rest will take care of itself.

Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference

Scott Dockendorf, VP of Professional Services for Telligent and I will be attending the upcoming Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2007 in Denver, Colorado July 10-12.

I am looking forward to the keynote by Steve Ballmer and the various breakout sessions, exhibits and of course networking. If you are going to be attending the conference please let me know. It is always great to put a face with a name.

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Paintball Anyone?

Team Building. That is what it’s called when a company has a sponsored outing. In order to partake in team building on this day you had to drive to the middle of nowhere, don camouflage from days gone by (ex-military) and pick up high-powered weapons that shoot plastic balls filled with paint at high rates of speed. Then divide the company into two sides, line up on the ends of the playing fields and wait for all hell to break loose.

That is exactly what transpired on Friday with Telligent’s soon to be inaugural paintball adventure. Imagine if you will a group of mild mannered developers, program managers and sales team members. All friends during the day, collaborating on multiple project initiatives, driving towards company goals… but when the masks drop down and the last of the air cartridges are full, they turn into lethal paintballing machines.

The battles had an ebb and flow to them. One side would gain control and then the other would push forward. Towards the end of the day the term “surrender” had no meaning. Many casualties were met on this day as some team members bravely charged into bunkers where automatic weapons lay in wait. There will be posthumous medal ceremonies for those brave souls. There was the occasional friendly-fire incident and many shrieks of pain as the impact and subsequent explosion of paint could be heard by anyone within ear shot.  

When it was all said and done: 20 boxes of paint, 1 neck shot, hundreds of whelps and countless chigger bites later the goal of the day had been accomplished. There were many that wore weary smiles as they painfully made their way to their cars. The next day the IM titles read like a list of honor… 15 whelps here, 12 whelps there, paintball recovery day 1, etc…

Battle brings the best and worst out of people. I hope on this day each individual caught a glimpse of themselves and were happy with what they saw.

On this day there was much team building indeed.   

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Tom-Sniper

The Next Gaming Platform & A Look Back

As most of you know by now I am an avid console gamer. I was hooked at an early age. First it was the Odyssey² in 1978. I loved that the Odyssey² cartridges looked like 8-tracks with handles… Then it was on to the Nintendo 8-bit explosion of the mid-80’s.

I was amazed by the graphics and as soon as I saw R.O.B. the Robot playing Gyromite I had to have it! Who says marketing doesn’t work. I remember many hours spent on Excitebike, Zelda and Metroid. You had to ensure you had a good supply of Q-tips and rubbing alcohol to make sure you could still fire up your favorite games. And how did we ever live with just two buttons to mash is beyond me.

Next for me came the 16-bit Sega Genesis, with its slick black design and innovative controller layout (3 buttons vs. 2!!!) and titles like Phantasy Star 2  I had to have it.  Plus my console came with a fun game that had a blue hedgehog that was lightning fast. On a side note, it amazes me that the same games I enjoyed are now available for my kids to play. My 5 year old son now loves all things Sonic the Hedgehog. He has the Sonic Mega Collection for his PS2 that allows him to play the original port of Sonic. And don’t forget all the retro arcade titles on Xbox Live Arcade…Like father, like son.

I had a bit of a gap between the genesis and my next console. I bypassed a lot of the other options of the day, don’t get me wrong, I still played them with friends, The Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64 (Goldeneye is still a classic), Sega Saturn etc… It was not until the Sony Playstation came out that I got back into consoling gaming head first again.

Sony redefined mainstream gaming with its CD only media and a truly amazing controller. The basic design of the controller was so solid it is still in use through 3 versions of the product. The graphics were amazing and I remember friends demolishing their PS1’s as they tried to mod them. The library of games was also really impressive. I think that is one of the ways they gained market share as quickly as they did, that and it was a 32 bit console. (First console to reach the 100 million mark) and all of these factors turned me into a Sony fanboy. To this day the best games I have ever played are the 3 CD behemoth Final Fantasy VII & Xenogears on PS1. I absolutely love those games.

Of course I picked up a PS2, this sixth generation 128-bit console was impressive, I remember seeing the first videos of Madden and the realism of the players just blew me away. This is also when I became 100% addicted to the EA NCAA football franchise. I played it in 1999 and a few versions on the PS1, but nothing compared to taking over the University of Oklahoma and leading them to national championship domination year, after year, after year in dynasty mode. I have probably logged over 500+ games of NCAA football across platforms.

By this time I wanted to take my gaming with me, I was traveling a lot and decided to pick up a Gameboy Advanced SP (The PSP was still on the horizon but not yet available. I played everything from Dragonball Z and Megaman to SpyHunter but it was short lived. The PSP was finally released.

All I have to say about the PSP at the time was WOW. The size of the screen, the ability to hold my photos and music all in the same device was just too cool. I remember when it first came out hacking the browser in Wipeout and thought it was the greatest thing that I was online with my PSP.  Alas, my PSP was stolen in Seattle and my desire to continue with the PSP went with it.

Which brings me to the here and now. Me being the Sony fanboy that I was means that I did not own an original Xbox. I was a member of the Sony Gamer Advisory Panel, I beta tested upcoming Sony titles and I could not wait for the PS3. With a brilliant move by Microsoft, instead of trying to cram everything into their console, they went to market first with a next-gen console that was just what the market could handle. I held out for a long time as many of my friends picked up the Xbox 360. I would passively sit back and just wait for the PS3 thinking it would be worth it.

At the Telligent office we began playing NHL2K6 on the Xbox 360 and things started to get really competitive. I wanted to get a leg up so I jumped head first into the realm of 360 gaming with very low expectations, I mainly bought the console to play the game and this was filler until the PS3 shipped. My gamerscore was zero, I casually played Halo and other Xbox titles with friends on their consoles so I was a true Noob when it came to the Xbox.

Fast-forward 14,000+ gamer points later and 50+ games played and I still do not own a PS3, nor do I see myself going that direction anytime soon. The biggest selling point to me besides achievement points was the way you can easily collaborate with your friends over Xbox Live. Granted it is not perfect, but I really like being able to see what games my friends are playing and the game specific leaderboards, how far they have progressed, or if I want to challenge someone or just co-op on the latest game it is easy to do.

I look forward to the eighth-generation consoles like the Xbox 720, Playstation 4 and Wii2 or whatever the future may bring. With amazing strides being made with the game engines (Look at the upcoming Mass Effect and Unreal Tournament 3 titles) and consoles like the Wii changing the way people interact with games, it is going to be a fun ride.

 

 

San Francisco & EA’s Skate

For most of this week I will be in San Francisco, beautiful city btw. Today I am on-site at Electronic Arts in Redwood City. It is always good to see the EA team, the core group that we work with are a great bunch of guys. We are working on a community project tied to the upcoming Skate game that is very impressive. The marketing site done by Blast Radius is already up and running.

I played an alpha build of the game today and was very impressed. Not only is it a fun game, but it takes skateboarding to the edge in terms of the realism of the game compared to other titles that are out today (Tony Hawk series). The “Flickit” controls were very responsive (Think Fight Night 3’s analog controls), I was able to pull a number of tricks but the level of difficulty is there giving it a feeling of real skating and not an arcade simulation. It is not simply hit a button perform a trick. There is a flow to the moves and a seamless transition between tricks if done well. The graphics were impressive and it has a real sandbox feel in terms of roaming the different cityscapes in freeskate.

One of the great features of the upcoming Skate game will be the ability to record in-game footage and upload it to the upcoming community server based site. It will allow a level of Web/Game integration that we have yet to see in a next-gen title.

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What Do You Look For?

One of the most difficult tasks to undertake is adding a new member to a team. There are so many factors that you have to consider, the balance of personality types… strategic thinker vs. execution mindset… you have to factor in the dynamics of the existing team members and you want to ensure that the prospect has a clear understanding of the expectations of the position.

When I look to hire a new member to the team the main area I focus on is not necessarily their extensive skill set or the impressive list of previous positions on their resume. I look for both tangible and intangible traits. Does this individual possess the type of personality that can thrive in this environment. From my experience individuals can really thrive in an open/start-up type environment, others it can be a very uncomfortable place to be if they are not accustomed to fluid processes.

The other personality trait I focus on is ego. When hiring, especially in a sales type capacity you want someone who is confident in their abilities but at the same time recognize a sense of humility. This is very key as with this type of position the ability to develop and maintain relationships is such a key element.

To succeed within this culture attitudes and egos need to be checked at the door. I also look for signs from the individual that they have the ability to add value in multiple areas, be it experience in an area of interest or the desire to continue to develop professionally. Finally, is the individual an enabler. Can they bring the best not only from themselves but positively impacting the other members of the organization.

To summarize, it is not always about the resume and what you have done that get you in the door, it is more along the lines of highlighting the value that you can bring to the team and having just the right mix of personality that can take you all the way.

Fun on a Friday

Today was one of those rare days. It is Telligent’s 3rd Anniversary and it was a day when you have an opportunity to do something that is just plain funny! After a month of planning, today was the “unveiling” of Rob’s clone/Evil Rob/Rob2… In other words a life size cutout of Rob Howard, CEO of Telligent Systems.  When the group had gathered and Rob entered the room his reaction was the payoff that we were waiting for. For those of you that don’t know me, I am a bit of a prankster. I like to conduct “social experiments” to see how people respond. With today’s experiment we are testing Rob’s tolerance to literally laugh at himself.

The planning started a month ago. Rob had recently completed a photo shoot for a cross promotional ad with ComponentArt and our Community Server product. So a high-resolution image was floating around just waiting to be a part of a fun prank. When I initially, innocently inquired about said photo I was met with resistance, so an alternate path had to be taken. Once the photo was in hand it was time to find the perfect printer, and that came in the form of Advanced Graphics. AG specializes in life size cut outs and I highly recommend them. Then the waiting game for the item to arrive. So today the package arrived. We quickly unpacked and reviewed the item. The next thing you know an e-mail is sent out to meet in the ping pong conference room and the team showed up quickly. A camera was ready to capture the reaction and Rob did not disappoint. Once plenty of pictures were taken the “Rob Clone” found a home in the front lobby.

Why is a life size cutout of Rob so funny? Because if you know him you have to know that the last thing in the world that he would do would be to promote himself in that way. It so goes against his personality. So if you happen to catch him at TechEd next week, be sure to ask him how his “clone” is doing and which one is the good Rob and which is the evil one.

Rob and Evil Rob

The Three-Screen Universe

While flying to NYC today I read an interesting article talking about “the three-screen universe” (TV, PC, and cell phone/gaming gizmo/iPod). The basic premise was that we have so much information available to us that it is potentially causing a social breakdown by contributing to ADHD type behavior and actually isolating us from interacting with one another. The more I thought about this I began to apply the meaning of the article to myself. How many times a day do I check my smart phone? 10, 20, 30 times a day??? Knowing me it is probably more like 50-100 times a day. Then I think about all the time I spend gaming (granted the kiddos are asleep) but that time could be spent interacting (No co-oping with your buddy does not count) or sleeping and of course the weekly TV (LOST) and during football season the weekly Oklahoma Sooner game. Then I started thinking about potential disruptive behavior in meetings, laptop open and working during meetings, checking the smart phone 15 times during the meeting, etc… you know you do it or have done it at one point in time. The whole point is to just say every once in a while before you go to pick up that controller or smart phone/ipod/blackberry think about doing a little something for society and interact (positively) with your environment and don’t feed the e-mail monster. It will still be hungry in the morning.