Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The most important factor in building community

Ben posted some analysis yesterday on The Ruby Connection, an initiative from Westpac in Australia. He quite rightly points out a number of issues with the initiative while still contending that this is a pretty good first foray for Westpac.

I have to disagree. I think it misses the mark. Here's why I think that.

In my experience there is one factor above all others that is critical in establishing community. It's dialogue.

If you look at etymology for the word community, it is sugggests it is from the Latin communis -meaning shared with many. I'd take it further and say you can break it down into two words

cum: meaning with

mundus: meaning world

To have community means that you are 'with the world'. Communities are 'worlds' that gather together around a shared purpose.

Communities do not exist without dialogue. Dialogue is what makes sharing happen. Westpac have identified a shared purpose - helping women succeed in business. What they haven't done is created a dialogue. Their proposition does not have this at its heart. Rather it seeks to tell rather than encourage members to share.

The site is essentially a monologue, with the exception of some capability in the Forums to reply. There is no engagement with the key content contributors, who I am sure have been well paid for their well-written thoughts (which is fine by the way). They set the purpose but it is broadcast. The investment in their writing is not going to have a long-life.

Sustainable communities very rarely form around monologues - there is no way to engage with the message which means the message fades.Looking back at Roman history, you can see why the Forum was so important. It was the place that the community came together to engage without any barriers to dialogue.

My recommendation for anyone building community is to over-invest in the capability, processes and functionality that facilitates and encourages dialogue. Make it the heart of the community. It's what the community reverts to in the absence of anything else. The investment doesn't have to be all about 'online'. Geekgirl's suggestions on getting your community together in person is a great example of the investment that is required to encourage that dialogue and make it more meaningful.

Ben's recommendations can follow as second order priorities, making the community more vibrant.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Theophany Loudspeaker Demonstration in Wellington

I've been looking around for some new Hi Fi gear - talking with the resident experts in the office I've been pointed towards Theophany Speakers. They are apparently amazing. The story behind them even more so.

I contacted Garth from Theophany a few weeks ago to see if they had an outlet here where I could try some - the Epiphany M3e look like they would suit. Sad to say that there are no outlets here - these guys are pretty new and just in the process of setting up distribution.

So I was very excited to get this email from Garth yesterday (reproduced by permission)

Hello, in the last year you have contacted us and asked about Demonstrations of our loudspeakers in Wellington.

Due to the demand we have decided to come to Wellington for a four day period from the 7th to the 10th of July. At this time we will demonstrate both HiFi and Home
Theatre speakers, amplifiers and source components as well as 1080p screen and
projector options currently available on the New Zealand market.

What ever part of the market you consider yourself to be in we would be very happy to offer our time to show you what we have available, especially in our range of world class loud speakers.

We have a suite booked at the Duxton Hotel where all of the gear will be set up. If you would like to make a time to come and have a listen and coffee with us, without any obligation to purchase please either email or call me back to arrange a time. We like to set aside specific time for clients so if you have a particular time that you think you would be available I would appreciate it if you could let me know as soon as possible as we already have quite a few people that want to hear our gear in action. We are happy to take appointments right into the evening if that is better for you.

I look forward to meeting you in July.


Garth Murray

Theophany Loudspeakers Ltd.
Cnr Weedons
Ross & McClelland Road
R.D.5 Christchurch
P +64 3 347 7232
F +64 3 347 7532
M +64 27 567 7335

If you are introduced in hearing and seeing the best of NZ's HiFi equipment, book some time with Garth now as slots are filling up fast, although he is suggesting there might be an opportunity to do some combined evening demos.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Kiwi capability gaps

Over the last few weeks I have been observing the people and behaviour around me and have been noticing some things - I call them Kiwi capability gaps. These are the things which in our traditional culture we might have considered to be positive aspects of our culture but they are, I believe, elements which are holding us back from performing to our potential. 

There are three of them that are top of the list 

1. At heart, we are not engaging people

This is something which I picked up on as part of  a presentation made by Thomas Scovell at the recent Interactive Marketing Conference in Auckland. Thomas' presentation was about using the analogy of a Farmer's Market and the experience of 'tasting the fruit' to build a relationship with your customer. It made me reflect on the different market experiences I have had. I love going to markets in Europe - there is engagement. There's chatter, tasting, arguments - in fact the sale is almost incidental. My observation of NZers is that - broadly generalising to the Anglo Saxon background - we are not comfortable engaging in the physical market conversation either as buyers or sellers. Thomas put it well - the typical Kiwi response is 'I'm just browsing'  - it's code for 'Leave me alone - I don't want to engage'.

This goes back to the archetype of the stoic Kiwi - they can do it all on their own. This attitude means we don't try stuff nearly as much as we like. Because we don't engage, the market seller is unlikely to hear directly how to improve their service - the lose the gift of feedback. And since they don't get feedback, when they receive it they don't know how to react - so they don't listen.

In the end - it means no-one improves as fast as they might normally.

It also means we don't engage in the broader community with more serious consequences.
This conversation on Rod's blog is instructive - there are 40+ comments on the recent acquittal of Chris Kahui. Only one comment asks the question that is the most important - what are you going to DO about it. We've settled - this is someone else's fault. Either the govenment or the police or the tight 12 or a racially defined part of our community (i.e. not us). The fact is, this is in our community and can only be resolved by community action. The action required is to engage with the broader community. More on that in another post.

2. We have low degrees of financial literacy in the part of the market we need it most

This one sits right with the above average income earners. If you ask anyone who has aper annum household income over $150k what their cashflow position is, their current target to pay off debt and their investment positions are my guess is that only 3/10 people know this information.

When I ask what the rationale behind this is, I hear that they don't need to know - they are doing well enough and you only need to worry about this if you are on a budget. I classify this group of people as those who have had it too good for too long. They (We!) have high lifestyle costs and don't worry much about tomorrow. Because of the age at which people are having kids is moving later and later this constitutes a huge spending bubble which just feeds on itself but does not produce anything. This is a fundamental issue - if you are not worried about where your next dollar is coming from, or where it is going, you end up with waste. Lots of it. Note that these people are probably deciding what to spend in private and public companies.

Dan, Ben and Rowan have picked up this issue too. My view is that this is NOT about the lack of tools - its about a lack of discipline.

3. We settle - it's good enough

This might be the underpinning factor behind Item number 2. As NZer's we settle for 'good enough'. This post from Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson, is fascinating.

While he talks about the How of WOW its interesting to note the graphic 

The Experience Stoplight

As he points out Good is actually not Good enough -  as NZers we frequently sit in Yellow and Red. It means we stand still.

So those are the three observations. You combine them and you get a culture that is standing still and is ok with it. I am not ok with it.

I am not going to tell anyone what to do - here is what I am going to do. You tell me if you see a difference.

1. Take every opportunity I can to engage with your community in any way I can. Give and receive feedback. Learn.

2. Build my own personal cashflow - start running my personal finances like a company. 

3. Use the traffic light - know the expectations and always strive to exceed them Don't stop until you have - and then once I've learned that, keep on going...

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Magnum Mac After Sales Service

As a bit of an Apple fanboy I am usually reminded that while Apple's products are great, their  after sales service is usually pretty poor.

I've been dealing with Magnum Mac , the local Apple reseller in Wellington on a couple of issues

1. A noisy fan on an imac purchased from the refurbished Mac site - great deals on that site
2. A battery on my MacBook Pro that would discharge to 50% and then completely switch off - no sleep, just off.

In both cases they've done a really good job.

For the iMac they changed out all the fans, realised it wasn't those so then got a logic board in. It took a while to get to the bottom of this and I had to ask them what was going on but they nailed the fan noise. Looks like they disconnected the RHS speaker so iMac will be going back in.

As an aside the one piece design of the iMac makes it very easy to transport into Magnum Mac - just keep your original box!

For the MBP battery , they went one better. After pointing me to the apple site on battery recalls, (check the site out - extends warranty on your MBP battery to 2 years) I took the battery in. It got sent to apple and they claimed it was outside their policy. I asked Magnum Mac to check again and today I got a new battery. And it goes - even better.

I would highly recommend Lester and the crew at Magnum Mac with any repairs - they definitely look after you.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

At least he doesn't expect much

If you subscribe to Seth Godin's marketing philosophy, marketing is about telling stories with customers. Ideally it is about creating stories with customers. Its a philosophy that is really powerful and emotive - and links to but is not driven by analytics. I was involved in a conversation with a marketing professional today who really wants to engage with his customers more. He is really keen and wants to make a difference and he knows a lot.

1. He knows who he wants to tell his story too
2. He knows, to a broad extent, what his story is - but I am not sure if he believes it. He knows he has to tell this story but that's not the same as believing the story
3. He knows where he wants to shift his customer's perception to and where his customers perception was - in an analytical and emotional sense
4. He knows when he wants to tell his story
5. He knows how he wants his story told

The things I don't get are this
- he wants someone else to tell his story for him to his customers
- he doesn't have time to share his stories with his customers himself-
- he is happy to invest in a heap of market research to tell him months after the fact what his customers think and feel about his story, rather than hearing it from him direct
- he wants to tell his story the same way his competitor tells his story rather than telling his story in a more personal and powerful way

When I asked him how successful he expected to be in shifting customer perception he saide doesn't really expect his customer to change his mind much in the next year - at least he has realistic expectations.

How do I help him understand the power of sharing directly with his customers?