I don’t think most companies have realised yet but the sales battle for contracts, from major to minor, is increasingly being fought out in the blogosphere. If you don’t play then you may miss out on a pay day.
Two examples for you from today.
First Matt Mullenweg calls out that Sun isn’t Relevant To Startups. I have pushed Sun on this before, so I leave it to defend itself. But that’s not what is interesting to me about the blog. What is interesting to me is the declaration and tag aggregation, or if you prefer the request/response from recent Tecosystems Technical Innovation Award winner Jeff Barr, from the Amazon Web Services team, when Matt says he has been considering working with Amazon for its storage and processing needs as it scales. Jeff simply comments on the blog:
“Hi Matt, before I got to the punch line of your post I was thinking that I should talk to you. I would love to discuss the ways that you can use EC2 and S3 for WordPress!”
Trigger pulled. Blammo! Establish business relationship and obvious responsiveness. Now bear in mind Jeff is currently recovering from an operation (here’s to a speedy recovery!) and it gets even more impressive. Great work Jeff. I should give you a Monkchips award for business development skills.
So did you guys see that? Go read Matt’s blog again. As an RFP.
But who is Photo-Matt? Just some blogger right? Who gives a crap. Doh! That’s Matt Mullenweg, lead developer on the open source blogging platform with the strongest community out there, WordPress. And wait – that’s the Matt Mullenweg that runs Automattic, a company that does WordPress hosting, and may need a ton of storage in future. Blogs are getting richer all the time- and that means BIG STORAGE needs.
Wheels start turning. How many servers is this company going to need again over the next five years? Oh no – that means… our sales teams will have to know more stuff, and start… DA DA DA! reading blogs?
This new world is going to be scary for many many people. But new processes are going to be needed (or new ways to avoid processes) and new kinds of bonuses awarded. That said, Matt makes it clear that’s where Sun needs to improve (process, that is). But who is going to watch out for these blog embedded RFPs? If RedMonk brings an example to the attention of one of our clients is that just part of the service? Is that a value add when Technorati does what it does? Who gets cut out of the equation? Who wins? Who loses?
I gave a first, so what about the second? Now I am going to point to another example of the new declarative purchasing, which kind of shows how life could get harder for companies that thrive on secrecy and information assymetry and may not read blogs. I mean it might be nice to keep a customer opportunity secret and take it to my client, for example. But a truly public RFP? “Normally I only have to worry about that in the public sector”. I mean the information is out there. Snooze, lose, its public. What if someone else chooses to magnify the RFP? But maybe its one of those slick RFPs that clearly defines the product in question so its not so much an opportunity to win as one to lose. Oh no- other people might help define potential alternative solutions. What if the customer is asking for a business model change?
One of the guys in my network is Ric the Aqualung. He wants an easier way to consume Rational Requisite Pro. He wants it on demand. Ric doesn’t want a big perpetual license fee- he wants.. Software a service.
So what am I saying? Never mind salesforce dot com is what I am saying, we’re entering a new and for some, quite scary, era where responsivess and ability to bash through process and treat potential customers as people rather than prospects comes into force. We’re entering an era of online relationship-based business, which has nothing to do with crappy acronyms like CRM and everything to do with being in the flow, always looking for opportunities, and being ready and charming when they arrive. Trying to help people out. There has been some fuss recently about vendor relationship management. Its happening. Right Now. At a blog near you.
This has implications for just about everyone – analysts, journalists, software suppliers, hardware providers, customers, standards bodies.
It strikes me in reading this blog one last time that its clearly oriented at people looking to win customers, and that’s a bit one-dimensional. Next week I will write the same idea from the customer perspective: Online and blog RFPs: A How To Guide, or something.
Just before I sign off I want to say that the trend I describe here doesn’t just apply to IT, or even just business to business sales. Many consumer products are expensive enough it would be worth paying people to watch out for online RFPs. Why wait til they go to Amazon to buy something? You really want to catch them at the point of desire. Like Jeff did with Matt. Pay at the point of value, but sell at the point of desire. People declare their desires online everday. There is an infinity of desire and opportunity played out online every day. I call it declarative living, John Batelle calls it a Database Of Intentions (started reading The Search last night. looks like I am going to love it).
disclaimers: IBM is a customer, Ric might become one, and RedMonk uses WordPress as our blogging platform.