Customer Engagement in Product/Service Development – new hints from Nokia

It is widely accepted that the more closely tied, integrated even, customers are in your development process for new products and services, the more likely success will follow. An April 13, 2008 article in the New York Times Magazine, “Can the Cellphone Help End Global Poverty – why a corporate ‘user anthropologist’ is spending so much of his time in the shantytowns of the world” (by Sara Corbett) sets a new standard. Nokia has Jan Chipchase wandering about the world seeking out what the next three billion cell phone users desire.

The first billion cellphones sold in 20 years; the second billion in four years; and the third billion in two. 80% of the worlds population live within range of a cellular network. The uses cell phones are already being put to in the underdeveloped world are quite unlike those in the developed countries. The only way to understand these and to begin to elicit input from new users is to go out and ask them, face-to-face. So, Nokia has full time personnel, on the ground, sending reports back to headquarters and trying out mockups of potential new products with real people.

It would serve everyone who is envisioning a new product or service to ask themselves:

  • “Have I actually asked real customers what they want or need?”
  • “Have I tested my ideas and received direct feedback that my product actually delivers a value someone wants to pay for?”
  • and so on.

Don’t let your engineers, marketers, sales people, or worse, you own enthusiasms, substitute for live human feedback.

Must Read Web Marketing Book: D. M. Scott’s “The New Rules of Marketing & PR”

Michael Volpe, VP Marketing at Hubspot, the web marketing software company, pointed me to this book in one of his presentations. I have been sufficiently impressed by the quality of HubSpot’s work that I ran over to my local library and signed it out.


The New Rules of Marketing & PR is a breakthrough book for me about the new world of web-marketing. Here is Scott’s list of the new rules of marketing and PR (I added the numbers to the list for reference later):

  1. Marketing is more than just advertising.
  2. PR is for more than just a mainstream media audience.
  3. You are what you publish.
  4. People want authenticity, not spin.
  5. People want participation, not propaganda.
  6. Instead of causing one-way interruption, marketing is about delivering content at just the precise moment your audience needs it.
  7. Marketers must shift their thinking from mainstream marketing to the masses to a strategy of reaching vast numbers of under-served audiences via the Web.
  8. PR is not about your boss seeing your company on TV. It’s about your buyerts seeing your company on the Web.
  9. Marketing is not about your agency winning awards. Its about your organization winning business.
  10. The Internet has made public relations public again, after years of almost exclsuive focus on media.
  11. Companies must drive people into the purchasing process with great online content.
  12. Blogs, podcasts, e-books, news releases, and other forms of online content let organizations communicate directly with buyers in a form they appreciate
  13. On the Web, the lines between marketing and PR have blurred.

Numbers 3, 4, 5, 6, 11, & 12 are the core of the message. And I might add a couple of more notes here. First, all of this is hard work. You don’t hire some outside ad firm to handle this. People intimate with your company’s core values need to be involved. But, then, this means that with a bit of good focus and time management, you also do not need to spend a lot of money to utilize these tools. Second, the role of truth seems central to how you communicate, listen to, converse with, and engage your audience, your clients and customers.

Scott’s book is very well written and clearly organized. This is a must read for those of us still trying to figure out how to leverage the new web-marketing world. It provides a great introduction to seeing an overall strategy for web-marketing.

Microsoft Goes Crazy – the Office Live Small Business tools

Yesterday’s New York Times contained an article by David Pogue, “Mom and Pop Get a Partner: Microsoft”, that announces a whole new suite of services for small businesses from Microsoft. And they are all virtually free. You can set up a website in minutes, purchase your own domain name for free for the first year, get email, use collaborative tools including calendaring, project management, shared documents and more. All of this come with some pretty powerful user access controls so that you can set up teams to collaborate internally or include your customers and everyone sees and changes only what they are supposed.

I would say that anyone in a startup or small business who does not already have a website and these other tools should immediately click on over to Microsoft’s OfficeLive site and check this out. This will require some real work to take advantage of all of the tools available here, but it is not often that such a comprehensive suite is available essentially for free.

If you add a few web-based applications for writing, number crunching, and presentations, clearly we are approaching the new world of cloud computing more rapidly than I had thought. I regularly use  Buzzword for my writing. Others may like the suites of tools at Google or Zoho, for example.

“Management Notes – the blog” Goes Mobile

Last night I attended a meeting of the Web Innovators Group here in Cambridge. Among the new businesses that caught my eye was a mobile site creation company.

As I have been learning, the next phase of the Web is emerging on hand held devices. There may be 600-700 million PCs in the world, but there are already over 2 billion cell phones and the forecast is for 3 billion soon. Most of this growth will occur in the developing world. With the next generation of devices looking more like mobile computers, this means that most human beings will, in one generation, go from no telephone service to full-blown access to everything on the Web. I will restrain myself from further imaginings about the impac this will have on how and what we do.

Looking shorter term, I clicked over to the Mofuse website and hooked up my Management Notes blog to their mobile site creator. If you have a suitable mobile device you can now read this blog on the go at:

I do not have a suitable mobile device so I am waiting for feedback from this distant universe.