Tuesday, 3 February 2015

The Culture of Community & Product Market Fit

Wow! Three months since my last post... What's that all about? I hope I'm still able to put a blog post together! But where have I been? On an extended Christmas break? A lottery win? No such luck.

I've been taking John Golden's advice regarding social selling or, if you prefer, taking Susan Cain's recommendation that there is value in introverts spending some time in the wilderness.... I've been on my on-going mission to achieve product market fit.

Three Months of Research... And Counting? Will it be worth it?
Or more accurately looking for ways to effectively implement my plans in different ways. Not only has this has involved a level of research and mundane spreadsheets that has been a real test of patience, but it's also seen me drop out almost all Social Media during this period. (This includes some 10+ Twitter chats, publishing blog posts and curating various bits'n'bobs...There goes the Klout score. Lol).

The only thing that keeps me going is thinking of the value that this work may have for innovative but cash strapped, time poor EdTech startups and how it should help connect startups with educators quicker and, hopefully, in a meaningful and collaborative way using social business practices.

Among the challenges that I face in my search for product-market nirvana is re-skilling from a traditional sales background to being all together more "social"

Love this Video! 
Being based in Scotland, having an interest in startups, education and social business is an interesting experience as there are some phrases that appear with so much regularity in some communities but rarely in others.

Silicon Valley Vs Scotland
When looking at any of the San Francisco based startups and the opportunities in Scotland I can't help but notice that;

1) Recommended Reading: Any mention of the books that people like Bill Aulet recommends is met with comments like "That's a great book." If I mention these same books in meetings in Scotland few people have heard of them, let alone read them.

2) Rhetoric: Phrases like "Product Market Fit" and/or "Pivoting" until the elusive quest for product market-fit has been complete are common place in some community discussions.

Check out the inaugural #InBoundChat and see how often product-market fit is mentioned, they even included a link to a "Product Market Fit Survey" (Replace your org's name with "The Best Web 2.0")


Not only are those phrases missing in some education circles, but the entire product-market fit process can appear to have been missed out!

We can see this disconnect as company literature boasts of being "The largest/best/market leader" but educator feedback and/or their rate of growth maybe suggests otherwise. (This is not my opinion but the feedback from reports like The Gates Foundation Teachers Know Best findings).

3) Key Roles: Hiring a Community Manager at an early stage seems to be relatively commonplace (Among the first 5 positions filled). I regularly check for Community Manager positions in education and other sectors in Scotland, but few searches come up.

Are these things related? I believe they are.

Community Management and Product Market Fit... Two Sides of the Same Coin: CultureI took a welcome break from my never ending spreadsheets last week to listen in on the Community Manager Appreciation Day presentations, a 24 hour celebration of all things relating to #Cmgr.

All of the presentations that I saw were fantastic (As I've come to expect from the +My Community Manager team) but, due to the relevance of where I am at with my development I found the Determining the Business Value of Community Managers at Startups and Is your organisation ready for community? How to assess & stress test presentations to be particularly useful.

I was fortunate enough to have the first panel answer one of my questions:

"To what extent are great communities a result of great products... People won't hang around if a product is poor"

When the panel was asked "Should every company/startup have a community manager" I thought that a great answer was "Not every startup deserves one!"

Given all my exploration of product-market fit, Community Management, Social Selling etc everything seems to come back to one thing: Core values determine the culture.

If you have a culture of listening to your customers and delivering value then one of the first hires may well be in community management/social selling/inbound marketing.

It then follows that if you have the right culture and a community manager that listens to, and implements user ideas/comments, you're more likely to achieve product market fit?

Here are are three very powerful examples of Community Management helping organisations achieve Product Market-Fit;

1) Twitch: I watched "The Rise of the Cyber-Athletes" and was amazed at the size of this sub-culture which I knew nothing about. When I explored Twitch further, which  was sold to Amazon for $1 billion, I found this article:

How Twitch won the Hearts and Minds of Millions in the Gaming Community in Just 3 Years

2) Independence Referendum: Regardless of your political persuasion you have to marvel at the fantastic grassroots community building efforts of the Yes Scotland campaign organisers... A level of brand recognition and loyalty that I'm sure many a business would be delighted to have.

3) ClassDojo: I've written 3 or 4 posts in support of this service that helps educators with student behaviour and parental communications. I have no affiliation with this organisation but you can't help but be in awe of how they have achieved product market fit and the way they are obsessive about listening to their user base One Billion Points for ClassDojo

Customer Profile
When you're starting out Geoffrey Moore advises that you have a profile of potential customers in mind as this helps with your planning. For the last 2 years one of the customer profile I've had in mind has been ClassDojo.

Universally loved by their existing users, organic word of mouth roll out, 30million users... all done with a $5,000 marketing budget? Talk about product-market fit!

I recall having a discussion about how to assess if an Education supplier has achieved product market fit and with some Educators and said;

 "Ask the sales rep if they have school aged kids... If the answer is 'Yes' ask if the school subscribes to the service they sell. If they say that it doesn't then maybe some questions around product market fit needs to be asked"

I will be making my kids school know that ClassDojo is now focusing on working with UK and European educators.

The question is with such universal praise have I done enough in reskilling from traditional cold calling to being more social to add any value to an organisation like this? Time will tell, but I am working on a "Cunning Plan" that just might impress ClassDojo and other innovative EdTech organisations.

In the meantime ClassDojo, in line with my standing offer of "How can I help you achieve your goals" for anyone in education, I'm happy to help in any way I can. If your are involved in education please feel free to support ClassDojo by joining their first European EdChat #DojoChatEU tomorrow at 8:30pm and/or share details of this new chat with your colleagues.

I will also be doing what I can to promote the merits of Community Managers within Education and Scotland with Drop Box Global Community Manager Edu Giansante... and hope that we'll have enough people to be able to host a Community Manager Appreciation Day event in Scotland next year.

Still not convinced? Go and Google your faviourite product/brand and see if they have a Community Manager.

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