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Help Your Community Help You, An Example from Spiceworks

Spread Spiceworks

One of our clients, Austin based Spiceworks, launched an interesting page/campaign last week called Spread Spiceworks. As you’ll recall from past coverage, Spiceworks is a Rails based, behind-the-firewall application that does basic monitoring and asset management. The “trick” is that it’s free and ad supported.

Spread Spiceworks

The page outlines several ways that the Spiceworks community can help spread word about Spiceworks: badges, t-shirts, getting yourself on a list as a customer referral, and even little cards to hand out. One of the more “gets it parts” is the page’s encouragement to make your own shirts: “Want to design your own on Cafepress? Simply use the logos above and design away!” Never mind old-think logo control: make a shirt if you’re that passionate!

Now, for hard-core Web 2.0 people, the idea of making it easy for your community to spread the word (or “sell”) your product is no big idea. But, in the world of systems management, this level of community gardening on the web is rare.

The email for the page was just send out a few days ago (on Jan. 12th), so it’s just at the beginning stages now. It’ll be interesting to see how many badges we’ll see on web sites. Sidenote: they should really make it drop-dead easier by providing the full HTML for the button, which, to Spiceworks’ advantage, would make it easier to control the link, even for tracking.

Nonetheless, according to Spiceworks’s numbers, they’ve expanded to 30,000 “active users” (something more than just downloads and user registration) since starting last Fall.

“Free” and works has a way of juicing up a lot of passion and getting equal downloads.

The Crowd Sales-force

This morning James and I talked with Kenny Van Zant of SolarWinds. He noted that they’d had, and have, tremendous success selling their software over the web instead of the traditional long, high touch enterprise sales cycles. I misunderstood him to say “drunk sales cycle” at one point when he was saying “long” or “drawn out” sales cycle; it seemed accurate nonetheless.

The interesting part here was not only the nature of the software being sold, but that it had an average sale of $2,500 to $3,000. In the consumer space, we used to spend a lot of time fretting over how comfortable people were with using their credit card on the web. In SolarWinds’ case, it appears that there’s little fretting along those lines.

In Brand Hijack, there’s much talk of co-creation of your brand, product, and/or service. Again, that kind of thinking makes perfect sense to people who’ve been on the web for several years: Cluetrain is in the water supply now. In the case of Spiceworks and other sites, we have not only co-creation (there’s quite a lot of product management done by user voting, last I checked), but co-marketing and, perhaps, even selling.

Indeed, it makes me wonder if a referral program of some sort would work for Spiceworks. While fine for Amazon and others, such things have always seemed hokey and “above” people who sell software to businesses. That is, in one of those “you can’t escape tradition” cases, it might seem like a weakness to encourage “just anyone” to sell your software for a cut or lead-fee.

But now, for companies like Spiceworks and SolarWinds who want to avoid the “drunk sales-cycle,” that might just be the ticket. The shift is disintermediation, however sligt or large, between the vendor and the end-user. The disintermediationed in this case is the sales-force.

At the moment, I don’t suspect sales or leads will be massive, and I’m not suggesting that a sales force can’t/shouldn’t sell software. As ever, my thinking is additive. But, I’d wager that over-all marketing and co-creation/co-ownership effect with their respective communities would make it worth it. “Drunk-free marketing” would be the misunderstanding in this case ;>

Disclaimer: Spiceworks is a client.

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Categories: Community, Enterprise Software, Marketing, Systems Management.

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8 Responses

  1. I wasn't kidding when i said we need a Spread RedMonk page/ do we talk to Alex?

  2. I like disintermediation, particularly in software sales, and a sort-of-Amazon recommendation engine would satisfy the information-gathering phase (which is about the only time a “salesforce” is of use to me, and then limited) of the process. It’s also only going to carry weight if there is no remuneration involved …

  3. James – give me something to put on a t-shirt and I’ll wear it (with an XXL chest there’s plenty of airtime!)

  4. I'll have to whip up a page for that. We have the links in spades, we just need to centralized mojo.

    And then, some nice polishing by someone with graphic abilities 😉

  5. I’ve just started using Spiceworks for the offices I manage. Do you have any tips for using the software?

Continuing the Discussion

  1. […] In response to some recent (and past) comments on the topic, I put up a quick page of RedMonkGear. I have no graphical ability, so don’t expect any whiz-bang badges at the moment. Of course, those would be nice to have at some point 😉 […]

  2. […] I got my stack of Spread Spiceworks cards a few weeks ago, above. As I said awhile ago, I’m liking the Spread Spiceworks campaign. They’re making it easy for their community to spread their enthusiasm and co-marketing Spiceworks. We speak a lot about using your community to help spread the word, so it’s fun to see it in action from one of our clients. Another aspect, as I’ve mentioned before, is the co-creation going on in the Spiceworks forums: users can suggest and then vote on features they’d like to see. The multi-user feature has been getting a lot of votes recently, for example. The nice thing about feature voting in this context is that Spiceworks has a rapid enough release cycle to actually give quick feedback to the community on which features they’ve implemented (or not). That is: when you’re suggesting a voting on a feature, you know you’re not just posting into a black-hole. […]

  3. […] For more of a look into their marketing efforts there’re more preview videos here, check out the activity in their community forums, and check out some of my past commentary. […]