OXM… Really?

haloIt all began when I started receiving random friend requests via Xbox Live. I was suddenly hit with a flood of new requests from people I didn’t know. Then came the news that my gamertag TheBlackFin and blurb were included in the October #75 edition of the Official Xbox Magazine.

There is a section of the magazine called “Live Spaces” it is a page dedicated to highlighting a few of the Xbox Live community members (pg 95). You write in about the achievement you are the most proud of, games you are looking forward to playing and a little bit about yourself.

I am definitely the most proud of the 100% completion achievement (This is a single achievement in the game, not a 100% completion of all achievements) on Lego Star Wars II as it was me and my then 4 year old son Gavin playing co-op together almost every night. We searched every level as we built, smashed and jumped our way through the game. I really liked the fact that we can spend time together and have a lot of fun without worrying about the content of the game.

Xboxmag

The Halo 3 Marketing Machine

While flying to New York today I was reading an industry magazine and came across a Halo 3 cross-promotional ad that caught my attention. Outside of this ad featuring Halo 3 & 7-11, the teams at Bungie and Microsoft are collaborating with a number of brands and agencies, including the same team that brought you 7-11’s transformed into Kwik-E-Marts, to kick off a Halo 3 go-to-market campaign that will be assaulting mainstream audiences faster than Master Chief can blast a covenant elite with a dual-wielded mauler.

It looks as though Halo 3 inspired Mountain Dew will be flying into 7-11 sometime in August. This promotion will also see Halo 3 Slurpee cups and Master Chief emblazoned bags of Doritos. The Doritos campaign will be tied to a voice cameo contest for the upcoming Ensemble Studios Halo Wars title. I have been very impressed with 7-11’s strategy over the past year. You would not think that a convenience store would have this type of marketing prowess but the proof is in the tie-in’s… Spider Man, the Simpsons, and Halo. And this only accounts for campaigns launched in 2007.

Regarding Halo’s GTM strategy, other brands will also leverage Master Chief to help cross-promote their offerings. Pontiac, Burger King and even a Halo 3 sponsorship for an upcoming music tour featuring acts like Linkin Park are just a few of the publicly available elements of the upcoming campaign. All of this does not include the Microsoft centric items such as Halo 3 branded Xbox 360’s, controllers and Zunes.

What this tells me is that the point is no longer to just make a game that entertains. The main goal now is to develop something that can transcend a niche genre and break through to the mainstream. It happened with Pac Man in the 80’s, it has happened with the Electronic Arts Madden franchise which is the best selling franchise of all time and now Halo is primed to cross into the mainstream by following the road taken by many a Hollywood blockbuster… meaning directly into kids meals at Burger King and on the bag of chips you eat in your living room… while playing Halo 3. Who says marketing doesn’t work?

MasterChief

2008 & Beyond

Strategic planning, execution and constant measurement are the key factors in taking an organization from good to great. Currently each member of the Telligent leadership team is drafting a business plan for their respective areas of the business. That means I had the privilege to prepare 3 (Product Sales, Services Sales, & Marketing). The focus of the documents are to review goals to close out FY07, but more importantly to define a roadmap of where we expect to be and how we expect to get there in 3 years.

This exercise is key as with any organization that handles the amount of business that we do you can get caught up in the day-to-day activities and not necessarily keep a razor sharp focus on where we need to go. We have outlined aggressive but achievable revenue goals and expectations and it is a great exercise to pause and take a macro view of the organization to ensure that all teams are working towards the same objectives.

I look forward to the presentations on Monday and more importantly the specific action items that will result from the meeting. This is a very exciting time as 2008 looks to be another phenomenal year across all areas of the organization.

20,000 Points

It is finally official. I have reached the 20,000K gamerscore mark!!! I have expressed in the past that I am an avid gamer and I enjoy the work that we do with various gaming studios such as Electronic Arts.

One thing about me is that I am very competitive and focused on results. I like to set goals and subsequently achieve them. This coincides very well with the Xbox 360 achievement system as you get a very measurable ROI metric out of your gaming experience.

Gaming is a lot like marketing in that you select a specific vertical that you want to target. For example, I like to focus on sports and retro titles. Then I formulate a plan based on the market segment that I have selected. I review the achievements that are available with each game prior to playing to predetermine ratios around potential time spent on pursuit of the goal vs. actualization of the achievement and then move towards the execution phase of the plan. Once the plan is put into motion it is very easy to then determine success of the strategy. And it is just a lot of fun to have the achievement pop-up on my screen once I have earned the achievement.

So is a 20K gamerscore required to be a good marketer? Not at all… All it shows is that you spend a lot of time looking at a screen. Speaking of which I have to thank my wife and children for allowing me the “small” amounts of time that I spend on…. market research. I also would like to thank the guys at EA for giving me the hookup on the best EA titles.

Thanks again! On to 30K!!!

Did You Know?

Taking from an old ESPN Sportscenter segment, I thought it would be an appropriate title for this discussion. With more and more people plugging in to social networking sites like MySpace it is becoming a tool used by organizations to scout potential interview candidates prior to ever meeting them in person.

Normally it is the individual who is being interviewed that researches the organization and if available the bio of the person who will be conducting the interview. But with the flood of personal information that is now available it is the employer who is researching the potential candidate.

A hiring decision is one that requires a significant investment in an individual and a one hour meeting here and there does not always allow you as a decision maker to have all of the information necessary to make a hiring decision. Most candidates put their best foot forward and are actively trying to make a good impression. It is interesting to read blogs of potential candidates and how they interact with others. As I have stated before a resume is a foot in the door, but it is how you will fit within the culture of the organization that is also very important. And that is difficult to determine within the limited amount of time allocated to the recruiting process.

So my word of advice is to be mindful of what you make publicly available as it is just that publicly available. It is not only your peers that read what you have to say. Prospective employers are very interested as well.

Top Daug

We arrived in Orlando on Monday to meet with our client teams at Disney and EA’s Tiburon division. The Tiburon group owns the EA Sports titles that we have all come to know and love. NCAA, Madden, Tiger, Nascar… It all happens here. Being in Orlando reminds me of the first time I was here back in 1996. For those of you that don’t know, I am an alumni of the University of Oklahoma. I bleed crimson and cream and I have an insane amount of loyalty to my university and it showed.

While I was a student at OU, I was the mascot for the University of Oklahoma men’s basketball team, Top Daug. I did this from the spring of 1994 to the start of the 1998 season. Yes you are probably wondering why OU would have a dog for a mascot? Don’t you have a big wagon or something? Yes, but the wagon did not play nicely with the wooden floors of Lloyd Noble Arena. Back in the mid 80’s the coach was Billy Tubbs and he proclaimed that OU would be the Top Dog of the then Big 8 conference and thus Top Daug was born. Unfortunately Top Daug was recently retired in order to make way for Boomer and Sooner, they were to become the mascots for the university athletics across the board and Top Daug is no more.

It was a very fun and rewarding job. You have the ability to walk up to virtually anyone and for some reason they are very comfortable with you. Little kids would either love you or run away in sheer terror. The best part of the job was having some impact on the game by getting the crowd into the game. There was a lot of dancing, skits and half court shots, which I did make my share… there is video somewhere. There were costumes and stunts and one instance of being lowered down from the top of the arena to the floor below while losing my shorts when taking off the harness. Luckily I was in full fur.

We did not have the best postseason record while I was the mascot, but I did get to travel to the Big 8 then Big XII tournaments in Kemper Arena in Kansas City and to whatever location we would land at in the NCAA tournament. We went to Memphis to play the Manhatten Jaspers. Yes those mighty Jaspers slayed the Sooners that day and we were out in the first round of the tournament. We played Stanford and let’s just say I had fun with the Stanford tree. You may get the idea…. Dog + tree =…. But in 1996 we were matched up with the Temple Owls and the game site was in Orlando. It was great! We received passes to Disney World and spent time just wandering around the park like big kids. Of course we did lose to Temple the next day but I did hit my half-court shot during half time. Orlando was a great city to visit and now that we work with the Parks & Resorts team at Disney and also my kids have been to Disney World, but it will always remind me of my time with the Sooners.

Announcing Social Networking

Starting August 29th Telligent will host a monthly breakfast at our office in Dallas as an interest group for Social Networking and Communities.

What is it?

It’s not going to be technical. Visual Studio won’t get opened. What it will be is a fun conversation with like-minded people about topics related to social networking and communities all centered around how these concepts and technologies can be applied successfully for organizations.

Where is it?

We’ll have the first meeting at our office in Dallas, TX, but we’re going to video-cast (not live) too. If it takes off we may even do a small road-show.

Who is it for?

It’s for anyone that is interested in these topics. It’s going to be more about “how do I make this stuff work for me” and less about “how does the technology work”. For example, our first topic is going to be Blogging in your Business. We’ll talk about how tools such as blogs promote transparency and really open some news ways for you to talk to customers or employees.

What is the format?

8:00 – 8:30 – Light breakfast (coffee, bagels, etc.)

8:30 – 9:30 – Blogging in your business, Rob Howard

9:30 – 10:00 – Open discussion

Microsoft + Electronic Arts = In-game Advertising?

Coming to you live from Oklahoma City. Wi-Fi in a hospital room, who would have thought it was possible? No I am not in the hospital just blogging from one. So Microsoft and Electronic Arts have partnered together to sign the largest in-game advertising deal to date. Initially the campaign will be rolled out to the Sports titles like Madden, Nascar, Tiger Woods and Skate.

The reason this is possible now is how connected most gamers are. Think about some of the current titles in your library. You can get up to the minute ESPN feeds and updates now when the game fires up in NBA Live 07 and other EA titles. These feeds are a precursor of what’s to come. In reviewing research for this post it turns out that there are 4.4 million connected gaming console households. With 46 million game consoles in homes and another 148 million people with access to gaming consoles these numbers will continue to increase. So needless to say it is very appealing to advertisers to want to reach this segment of the population as this is a key demographic for positioning products and services.

All of the major consoles now have an online presence with Xbox leading the way online and the Wii attracting scores of new gamers. The industry is definitely in for additional growth online. So this all leads to the million dollar question… er the $600 million dollar question (market projection in 3 years)… Do you want ads in your games? It is nice to see the Dodge ads on the billboards in Crackdown and it does add to the realism in games, but how would you respond to something that interupts game play?

Personally, I like the subtle (or sometimes not so subtle) product placement approach in most films. It is about characters interacting with name brand products but not about the product itself. This to me has more impact and would make me more likely to remember the reference than stopping in the middle to see a pop-up or ticker during game play.

So whether you are a fan or not, In-game advertising is coming and in a big way. There are too many dollars and distractions these days to not take this medium seriously. What do you think? Are you for, opposed or just in-different to in-game advertising? In the end it will be your dollars that do the talking.

EA Skate Round 2

For most of this week I will be in Vancouver, British Columbia. Today I was on-site at Electronic Arts Blackbox location. This is the studio responsible for the upcoming Skate release. If you recall back in June I posted about my first experience with the alpha build of Skate. Today I played one of the latest builds and all I can say is WOW.

The realism of the game is incredible. The movements are based on physics vs. animation so it gives the skater a natural flow that is not common in most of the current titles. The “flickit” controls are clean and really allow the user to have complete control but also gives you almost an unlimited ability to pull and sequence tricks.

The most impressive aspect of the game though was the ability to capture and manipulate in-game video footage from within the game. The game will cache the last 20 or so seconds of your run. If you pull off a wicked combo you can simply go to the replay option and begin adjusting camera angles, speed of replay, and apply different effects to your clip. Then the clip will upload to the soon to be launched Skate video gallery that is powered by community server. You will be able to share your clips with friends or for all of the skate community to see. You can also view some of the top clips from within the game.

The beta should drop on August 21st via the Xbox Live Marketplace. Definitely give it a go. You will be able to save video from the demo and it will carry over to when the game releases in September.

$44 Billion Really?

I just flew in from Denver and boy are my arms tired… Seriously though, I enjoyed attending the 2007 Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference last week. I was even quoted in the Denver Post about being a Microsoft partner. It is always interesting to get an inside look at Microsoft as I have been consulting with this organization for the past 8 years. It has been intriging to watch the transformation from a decentralized, maverick organization to one that is applying more traditional business controls such as a focus around procurement, to their ability to quickly adapt in an ever-changing marketplace.

What really impressed me is the partner ecosystem that Microsoft has been able to develop. With 10,000+ attendees at this conference representing 120 countries it is no wonder that 96% of it’s $44 billion in revenue 2006 came from Partners. With their ability to not only provide outstanding software products, Microsoft really focuses on establishing platforms that can be extended, defining industry standards and ensuring interoperability with their offerings. This makes it very easy for organizations to partner with them.

It was very evident that many start-up organizations can benefit from niche offerings around Microsoft products as they are very open to partnering with early adopters. The focus on partners is a key element to their continued success. As I stated before in Software + Services there will always be the customer segment that lives in the now and is focused on the best solution that meets their needs today vs. the trendy offering of tomorrow.

Here at Telligent we have deep roots with Microsoft from Rob Howards time with the ASP.NET team, to 2 Regional Directors, multiple MVP’s and a focus on Microsoft technologies in our products such as Community Server. We look forward to continuing to build out our own partner ecosystem. We focus on providing software platforms that can be extended vs. single applications as well. So why wouldn’t we follow in the footsteps of Microsoft. $44 billion can’t be wrong.

Software + Services

There has been a lot of hype around Software as a Service of late. A number of people in the know say this is the future of business. If we have learned anything over the past few years it is customers want a choice.

You will always have the innovators and early adopters setting the pace for technology adoption. But when you hit the early majority you will have to understand that the latest and greatest is not always what is needed or wanted. Therefore as a solution provider in order to gain a true competitive advantage you need to have a blended offering.

From a software perspective that means in order to maximize your potential you need to offer products that meet the needs of both sides of the spectrum. From an on-premise implementation that allows enterprise level players to have the ultimate control and integration that they desire to the mid-size organization that does not want the responsibility of maintaining the infrastructure associated with the offering.

We at Telligent are very aware of this and one of our biggest advantages is our ability to tailor our solutions to adhere to both scenarios. We are as hand’s on as our clients need us to be. We can provide a fully managed solution including customization of the Community Server platform, professional services and creative, or we can offer just licensing, software assurance and support. This has enabled us to be on the forefront of online collaborative solutions and work with some of the biggest names and brands across multiple verticals.

Is That a Kwik-E Mart???

7-11 just did something that is pretty innovative from a marketing standpoint. They have transformed a dozen stores into Kwik-E-Marts from The Simpsons in an effort to promote the upcoming Simpson’s movie. I really like this campaign as it is a great example of reverse product placement and by the buzz and lines at the store I went to today it seems to be working.

KrustyO’s, Squishees, Buzz cola and the ever famous pink Homer Simpson donuts are just a few of the products that you can now pick up and take home with you and as they state have “absolutely no nutritional value”. For those of you wondering, Duff beer did not make the product cut for this promotion.

The ability of 7-11 to “laugh at itself” is very key in this promotion. “The idea of actually changing the stores into Kwik-E-Marts was over the top but a natural” stated one of the execs at 7-11‘s agency. “It shows they get the joke”. You would not think decorating a store to look like a cartoon would be that effective, but they are definitely reaching a new audience as I saw people in the store today that you normally would not see going to a 7-11 for a specific purpose.

It is funny that I get this excited around a campaign, but as an instructor of marketing and a marketing professional, it is great to see creative application of marketing strategy and the ability of a proven brand to embrace something that is “different” in order to garner additional attention. Plus it is just a lot of fun.

Tom-simpsons-7-11

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.

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.   

tom-paintball

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.

skate-promo-450x197

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.  

Community ROI

Changes have been in the works over the past few years, dramatic changes and challenges are beginning to have an effect on traditional business. You look at software as a service (SaaS), service oriented architecture, and especially Web 2.0 and how organizations are trying to define new strategies. From my perspective, I focus a lot of time around discussing Web 2.0 and the value to traditional business. 

Some of the common questions that are raised are: how do I calculate ROI around community? What are the contributing factors? How do I know that it is truly beneficial for me to have a community vs. not having one? The most common mistake when calculating ROI around community is to focus solely on the activity of the community. Things like unique visitors, page views, session time, community click throughs, read-to-post ratios, are all very useful in defining the health of a community, but they alone do not translate into a tangible business value that you can hang your hat on. When reviewing ROI you have to look at economic indicators such as the incremental value of the community and conversion rates.

Incremental Value is the difference between the value created by a business with an online community and the estimated value that the business would generate in the absence of community. There are a few guidelines that serve as baseline factors when calculating ROI. Research shows that Community members make up only 5% of the overall customer base, but this group accounts for 30% of the purchases and average transaction size is twice as large for community members as for non-community members. One of the biggest factors in calculating Incremental value is the referral factor. Community members are twice as likely to refer others to the site and the retention rates are 50% longer for community members than for non-community members.

With that in mind I began the process of creating a formula that took into consideration variables such as Advertising Dollars, Potential Market, Current Market Over Time and Direct and Indirect Growth to both Community and Non-community Members as well as accounting for retention and Word of Mouth. The end result is the following:

(A+(Nt/M) (b)) (M-Nt) = Community Member
(A’+(Nt‘/M’) (b’)) (M’-Nt‘) = Non-Community Member

Here are the variables
A= Advertising Dollars
M=Potential Market
Nt=Current Market over time
b= Direct Growth + Indirect Growth (CMs)
b’= Direct Growth + Indirect Growth (NCM)
r = Retention = 10% or .1
w= Word of Mouth Referral = 5% or .05
c= Content = 5% or .05

b = referral + 2(.005) = r + 0.0115
b’ = referral + (.005) = r + 0.01/2

So with this in mind you can look at this practical example:

Nt/M (M-Nt)

Nt= 10,000
M= 1,000,000

10,000/1,000,000 (b) (1,000,000 – 10,000)
b/10 (990,000)                                           

b=.1 + 2(.05) + .05 = .25                             b= r + 2w + c
b’= .1/2 + .05 = .1                                       b’ = r/2 + w

CM (10K, 1,000K) = (.25)(99,000) + 10,000 = 34,750
NCM (10K, 1,000K) = .1(99,000) + 10,000 = 19,900

Thus based on the criteria referenced above, having a community will yield a 74% increase over time as compared to not having a community based on the sample size.

In future posts I will look at another example of ROI calculation based on the average value of a Non-Community Member compared to the value of a Community Member. This will focus on monetizing the community and assumes a product based community. This requires an understanding of the average transaction per customer, total customers (projected or actual), potential market and the current conversion rates of the product. I will also review how Subject Matter Experts and Word of Mouth is calculated to come up with the 5% referenced above.

 

 

Viral Marketing & SMO

Viral Marketing is now one of the most powerful ways to market online. The key to viral success comes down to interruption vs. invitation. Traditional media such as television has the potential to reach hundreds of millions but the message may not resonate or be clearly discerned by the prospective target audience due to the “noise” and passive positioning associated with this type of delivery. The beauty of viral messaging is that it has a much better chance to get the users attention as the message is either coming from a trusted source, a recommendation, or meets the search criteria defined by the user.  Also, this type of message is available on-demand which gives the user ultimate control over when and where consumption occurs.

One viral aspect that is getting a lot of attention is online video. If you are reading this you have more than likely viewed a user created video on YouTube or some other site and you are not alone.  Online video is beginning to garner more attention from average viewers with 4% of people over the age of 18 watching videos daily and another 14% watching at least once a week. Research shows more organizations will be shifting marketing dollars to producing and positioning online videos. The reason for the shift is that video ads show a propensity to generate higher ad interaction and longer ad viewing (2/3 of the way through on average) this in turn leads to higher click-through rates.

So as an organization you may be thinking about focusing on online video or maybe you are looking to tie into user generated content and incorporate your advertising. If so, you need to focus on a few key factors. As with any type of marketing activity consistency is the key. Ensure that you are intrinsically linked to your brand, your video should require online interactivity and it needs to have synergy with offline marketing material. The other key factor revolves around the concept of Social Media Optimization or SMO.

SMO is the process of optimizing your online media presence by becoming more visible through searches within online communities and community web sites. The concept of SMO is to increase the chances of your video being distributed more widely through community search engines. This is very important as this is the key driver for this type of viral strategy.

As you consider your viral strategy it may become clear that you need a solid community presence associated with your brand. This is where branded community offerings can be applicable. Integrated platform (Blogs, Forums, File, Photo Galleries, Video & Podcast support, RSS) that streamline the positioning of an online community. Let me know if we can assist you with your community or viral marketing needs. We would be more than happy to assist. Feel free to contact me with questions at tedwards@blackfin360.com

Go Vikings?

It is official… Adrian Peterson is now a member of the Minnesota Vikings. Peterson was built for the NFL and should do very well, especially with the Minnesota O-line. I will be taking my son to the Minnesota vs. Cowboys game in October.

Draft time is one of my favorite times of year, I liken it to Christmas… I love the overcoverage of the event and the ebb and flow of the picks, especially when something happens that is unexpected… like a certain Notre Dame quarterback falling to the 22nd pick.

Speaking of the draft it was great to see the Madden08 commercials. It is a great feeling to know that you had a part in contributing to something that you are passionate about. Community Server powers the blogs of the Madden08 site as well as the forums for the Dallas Cowboys, Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Houston Texans, and the NY Giants

I can’t wait for football to start!!!

10,000 points and the NFL draft

It took 7 months but I finally broke through the 10,000 point barrier (Xbox 360 achievement points). Let the celebration begin, okay on to 20,000! In another update to the never ending hockey series, Rob and I once again dropped 2 to the Scott Dockendorf and Kevin Cunningham combo (yesterday). Back to the drawing board.

I am really looking forward to the NFL draft tomorrow! For those of you that don’t know I am a big OU Sooner fan. I can’t wait to see where Adrian Peterson ends up, I just hope that the Bills don’t trade up (Eric Smith’s team). As that would mean I would have to root for Eric’s team and that just can’t happen.

Also, Telligent will play a part in the NFL draft tomorrow. When EA announces the cover athlete to Madden08, the blog portion of the Madden08 site will be powered by Community Server via an iframe!!! Great stuff!!!

 

1000 pts w00t!!!

Alright, I have finally broken the 1000 pt barrier on a game. Thanks to EA’s Fight Night 3 (Great game btw) and 5 nights of gaming and a very understanding wife (love you babe). In the latest news Rob Howard had a big collision during a pick up game of hockey yesterday… don’t worry Rob, scars are cool :). In other updates the never ending series with Scott Dockendorf and Kevin Cunningham took a turn for the worse after directly calling them out in a previous post, we dropped the best of three series 2-1. We will see who is feeling it today.

Being an avid gamer, I have a tendency to focus on vertical markets that I enjoy personally, so we have made significant traction in the gaming industry. From our relationship with the Xbox team, Community Server powers the Xbox forums, Major Nelson‘s blog, Gamerscoreblog, and the new Forza Community. We are doing some very cool work with Electronic Arts that will become public very soon, but one of the sites rhymes with “aladdin” hmmm. Also, we just rolled out a great new site for Ensemble Studios. The new Age of Empire III forums which are powered by Community Server. The real reason we do it is for the free games :P

Also, I have a few positions open in the Dallas area, I am looking for an account manager for CodeSmith Tools as well as a Partner Channel Manager for the Community Server sales team. 

Game On!

One of the great things about Telligent is that we work hard, but we also play hard. At any given time you will either see a heated game of ping pong, scooter races, WoW card games, (I call it adult pokemon others call it geek poker) numerous circular objects making there way towards someone’s head, nerf guns of various shapes and sizes or the all out competition of direct gaming, I am talking head to head, no holds barred Xbox 360 and PC gaming at it’s best. The game of choice for us Xbox guys is NHL 2K7, why? it is fast paced, takes about 15 mins for a game, and you can absolutely school your buddy when they go for the big hit. Scott D, you know who I am talking about :). At any given point in time you can catch me and Rob Howard taking on Scott Dockendorf and Kevin Cunningham in what seems to be a never ending series of games. There have been swings from one side to the other, but I do think that Rob and I hold the all time series lead in this one :). We will have to find out who has the hot hand tomorrow.

Outside of the office there are about 20 or so Telligenti, yes that is what we call ourselves, who are Xbox 360 gamers. We like to co-op or just try to see who can build up the most achievement points between us, FWIW, I am leading the way with 9000+ points. 

We also have what is affectionately known as frag night the first Tuesday of every month, it is our time to order pizza, and get our gaming on. We do need to look into getting an air hockey table or one of the old school hockey games with the guys that spin around. That would be a great addition! 

Why Telligent

One of the more frequent questions I get is why Telligent? I joined the Telligent team about a year and half ago. Previously I was a co-founder of a Professional Services firm that focuses on custom application development and works extensively with Microsoft. I was the VP of Sales & Marketing, a member of the Board of Directors and had equity in the organization. So why leave for Telligent? Two words, Vision and Collaboration. When I met with Rob Howard, Jason AlexanderScott Dockendorf and remotely with Scott Watermasysk one thing became very clear, this was a team that has the vision and domain knowledge to do something truly unique.

When you first meet Rob Howard one of the first things you will notice is the passion that he has for Telligent and Community Server. If you ever happen to catch him at a conference, or via webex demonstrating Community Server you will immediately recognize that Rob truly is a thought leader in terms of understanding the application of business intelligence, specifically around collaborative software and online community. More than that though, Rob understands the concept of the blue ocean. Mainly, don’t compete over minor scraps in the red ocean of over saturated products and competition, look for the blue ocean and ensure that the focus of the organization is to build something that provides value but may not be completely mainstream just yet. This is where the collaboration reference comes into play.

One of the big shifts over the past few years is the emergence of Web 2.0. Web 2.0 focuses on collaboration. From an organizational standpoint this trend is really gaining traction with traditional businesses. The move from traditional marketing to a more viral approach has accelerated the emergence of strategy aimed at bottom up marketing, whereas the end consumer either B2B or B2C has direct impact on the direction of marketing strategy for an organization. This was very key for me as it provided an opportunity to guide the marketing direction of a product that was still in the early adopter phase of the product lifecycle. The ability to ride the wave of collaboration combined with the vision and drive of the Telligent team were an easy sell for me. Over the past year we have made significant penetration into a number of great accounts, Disney, Conde Nast, MSNBC, Intel, Dell and Electronic Arts to name a few. What is really exciting is that enterprise level organizations are truly just scratching the surface of what is possible in terms of Web 2.0 marketing strategy and software solutions. This means that Telligent and Community Server will continue to be in very high demand.

This year has already started with a bang and with the release of Community Server 2007 which is the best Community Server release to date it just keeps getting better. The roadmap is defined and we are looking to do some very special things in upcoming releases. Look for the announcement of some very large initiatives that are in the works and will be launching later this year, one is just mind boggling and definitely affirm that Community Server can scale to meet the needs of almost any organization.

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Why The Black Fin

Hello and Welcome to the Black Fin Blog. I am Tom Edwards, VP, Sales & Marketing at Telligent Systems. The purpose of this blog is to provide additional insight into Telligent and Community Server as well as provide my perspective on sales & marketing. So why the Black Fin? It is a newly acquired nickname given to me by one my co-workers. He thought it would be funny to name my hair, so it stuck. Yes I choose to go with a more aerodynamic approach, but hey it can cut through water like nothing else. Anyway, I will try to keep it light and interesting moving forward.

I am an avid gamer (Xbox 360 is my platform of choice) gamertag – TheBlackFin. Look me up on either the http://www.360voice.com/ or anytime you are on Xbox live. I am always up to co-op on the latest game.

Take care,

Tom