Bring the Fun Back in Business Software

Big Kid FunThe world of business software is going through an interesting time. A lot is changing, cloud computing, SaaS, whatever, it's all on the product road map agenda of every business software vendor. These changes bring both technology and business model challenges. The world is changing and there is no way back, it's only forward from now on.

One of the challenges for a traditional software vendor to a provider of software services is the increase of operational cost for providing a service to customers. In the past some software got sold and you got your revenue without having to thing about the costs for running your product, the customer would take care of that. Now you need to deliver an ongoing service and thus continue to make costs and it's in your interest to bring these down. There are many ways of doing this and one of them is to share the costs among many customers by driving up the volume of usage of your service. Creating volume and increasing the adoption of you services isn't easy and many software service providers look with a jealous eye to the hip web sweethearts like Facebook, Foursquare and even Evernote for gaining customers by the millions. How do they do it?

Well I can't tell you that, I wish, but I've, based on experience and study, some tips that can put you on the right track.

1. Remove all entrance barriers and complexity
  1. When you ask for too many personal details, forget it!
  2. When takes 15 minutes to set up, forget it!
  3. Provide instant value (Posterous let you start with skipping the whole sign-up process).
  4. It's a lot better to do one thing right than many things a little. This might be a bit of a contraction with the current, because a key feature of most business software is the advanced and compelling functionality. The web, however is changing how we consume functionality, it's now a lot easier to mix and match services into your preferred flavor. It's not really necessary anymore to consume all services from one vendor and settle for a Jack of all trades, master of none!
2. Add a social flavor
  1. It's hip, modern and a topic of conversation. It makes your customers also hip, modern and part of the In Crowd.
  2. You business will need it, because it's a good way to get closer to your customers.
  3. Close customer relations bring you more valuable referrals. Business models based on a pay as you go (either transactions or subscription) see relative high costs of customer acquisition. Referrals are an alternative for customer acquisition and thus should be nurtured.
3. Make the apps fun to use
  1. Make them human. Years ago I was talking to a voice response system. I worked well and got me all excited, because the machine on the other end was using a broad vocabulary. Instead of always answering Yes/No it would use terms like Yep, Ok, Got Ya, etc. It made the system more human and more fun to use. 
  2. Set goals and visualize achievements. Everybody in a business has goals, some are defined by the employer and some are defined by yourself. You wanna do well and you are interested in tracking your progress. However I haven't see many solutions that really entertain me with my progress and achievements. 
  3. Introduce competitive elements, you against the machine or you against someone else.
  4. Reward usage. It's not uncommon to motivate people with a reward, e.g. the employee of the month. Badges, as we see them everywhere now are a good example. Lets do badges for: working on a weekend, working 3 nights in a row, An early start, etc.
Fun is the key motivator for all of us. The world is changing and is giving you a new window of opportunity to shake down the dust and be young again, also worth reading on this:
Image: Steve Rotman

3 comments

I discovered a new beer app called Untappd - http://untappd.com. Untappd is a new mobile web app that allows you to socially share the brew you're currently enjoying, as well as where you're enjoying it, with your friends! When you post, you can add comments, an option to post to twitter, facebook, and add a location post to foursquare. Add new beers, breweries, pubs, map look-up with Google. Do all this while you earn badges and have fun, toast others, and add comments to their posts.

I am testing Evernote on Windows PC and my iPod Touch, this should be fun. I already noticed Evernote is integrated to Office 2010.

Good consumer internet app biz recap.

A confluence of innovations by platform companies like SalesForce are disrupting traditional sales by fat prophets to firms of all sizes. The new fat profits will be sustained by volume.

Nice!

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