One of the recurrent themes in this blog is that I share with you some of the seismic changes going on with online reviews, social networking and community sites in the consumer world and extrapolate how those changes will impact us here in the world of enterprise technology.
In that vein, I read a great article on the front page of the New York Times about how social media is changing the way that companies get input from customers about their products. The article covers the consumer market and how B2C (Business to Consumer) companies use social networking sites as "virtual focus groups" to gather new product ideas. If you'd like to read the article on the Times website, click here.
Now, let's consider our world of business-to-business enterprise technology products and services. While the article cites examples that are not relevant for our world, there are some key lessons to be learned:
- When most enterprise technology companies the input usually comes from existing customers and prospects in advanced stages. What's missing is the voice of the rest of the market. Especially for vendors that want to grow their market share, this is a very valuable community that is not usually tapped into for roadmap planning
- As Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen wrote in his classic book The Innovator's Dilemma, successful companies can put too much emphasis on customers' current needs.
- End users of technology, who are looking for technology solutions to meet their needs, do not have a vendor-neutral community platform to share their thoughts about what they need and how they need it packaged.
All of this points to a latent need in the market: Virtual focus groups for enterprise technology products that enable real users to share their candid opinions with potential suppliers of technology solutions. It's a win for the real users who get to express their opinions before engaging in a sales process with a vendor, and it gives vendors objective feedback about what the market needs. That's a win-win!
One of the exciting features we plan to roll out at IT Central Station is our virtual focus group program, where we match users with vendors to share their opinions. The system will be entirely opt-in for the users, which means that only the users who agree to participate will be included.
Sound fascinating? If you would like to participate, first you need to register at IT Central Station. And if you're a user, write a review. It will increase your chances of being invited to a virtual focus group in the future! If you're a vendor, please contact me and I'll be happy to share our own roadmap with you!Follow Russell on twitter