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There's a Map for That: Our Review

I've received numerous emails and twitter/linkedin/facebook messages from people regarding the creation by Mindjet of their own mindmap library. I’ve been asked how this affects Biggerplate and thought I would pull together the various discussions into one blog post. It's a big post. If you dont feel up to it, just scroll down to the comparison of features - some easy reading for a friday!

Firstly, it's a no-brainer for mindjet to construct a stepping stone to the catalyst/connect product through a map library of their own. If people become more accustomed to sharing maps and engaging with Mindjet "on their turf", they are moving a little closer to the idea of collaborative mapping, and hopefully (from a Mindjet perspective) to the next purchase option (whether that is the latest software release or connect/catalyst). When I first took my idea for a map library to a senior Mindjet figure four years ago, he agreed that this was something that Mindjet needed to do, but in his words were "too sluggish" to get around to doing themselves. This individual (no longer with Mindjet) always maintained that content was king, and on this we very much agreed. Four years later, the Mindjet map gallery comes online and it appears the words of my colleague (and our agreed perception of the value of community content) have been proved right. I may even owe him some money...

We don’t really know how this new site will impact Biggerplate. Will people prefer to upload their maps to Mindjet, or to Biggerplate, or both? Who knows? My guess is it depends what you are looking for in a map library. I am confident that what we have created thus far will stand us in good stead, and what we have planned over the next 6 months will have a significant impact on engagement with our site. Anyone who has read Jim Collins 'Good to Great' will be comforted to know that we are very much aligned with our "Hedgehog Concept", and the next 6-12 months will demonstrate this rather nicely!

As always, I find myself looking at this from a marketing and business strategy perspective, and like the "Trusted Voices" initiative, it strikes me that another sound idea may not reach its full potential due to a lack of joined up thinking, and/or clarity about the purpose of the endeavour. I think of this in two parts, firstly - the execution of the idea (ie. how the thing works), and secondly, how the idea fits into the larger Mindjet strategy (whether the idea is a "strategic idea").

Part One: The Execution

One of my conversations over the last couple of days went something like this:

Friend: "Are you going to write about the feature differences?"
Me: "Maybe. Why?"
Friend: "What if you point out what's missing and they take your ideas?"
Me: "Then they will have a much better site"

My point is not to brag (much). My point is that if Mindjet wanted any pointers, they only need to type a few letters into their browser and have a click around our site; me pointing them out here makes little difference. This is a small point, but links to the larger question of strategic and joined up thinking that I will come to in part 2. In any case, if you see a few of the points below being rectified over the next few weeks, you may draw any number of conclusions. I will conclude that I have helped.

Let's look at the Mindjet offering:

Ratings - A star rating is shown but with no indication of how many times a map has been rated. Is a 5 star map rated by just one person better than a 4 star map rated by 20 people? We do not think so, but how could you tell? Also worth noting; you do not have to have downloaded a map to rate it. You can just login and go on a rating spree!

Views - You can see how many times a map has been viewed, or more accurately, how many times someone has clicked on the page with the map on it. The site registers a page view as a map view, making the numbers appear somewhat grand. Refresh the page: that counts as a view. If 1000 people "view a map" and only 2 download it, does this make the map more interesting/useful than a map with 100 views and 99 downloads?

Uploading - You can upload a map. You also need to create, save, and upload a thumbnail image for the site to display. Get to work; there are things to be done!

Finding maps - Use a search bar and view the results. But what if this map wasn’t quite what you needed, are there some similar maps visible to take a look at as alternatives?

While I might not be considered a neutral reviewer, are these not valid questions to ask? I can certainly say that these are the questions we asked from day one in building Biggerplate. So what did we come up with in comparison:

*Ratings *– We display a rating out of 5 stars, and how many people have rated it. Simple. And informative. Oh, and you cant rate a map until you’ve downloaded it. We like to make sure people get a rating that reflects their work.

Downloads - We show you how many times a map has actually been downloaded. We think this is a more useful indication of map popularity than how many times a map has been passed over.

Uploading - We create a thumbnail for you. Put your feet up. We've got it covered.

Finding Maps - Use the search bar, use the browse function, click some tags, view particular map categories, see the most popular list, or the other maps an individual has created. Basically, there are many ways to find interesting maps!

There are many more features on Biggerplate, but you probably know it all, you are familiar with the site and already use it. Again, my point is not to show off, that's too easy. Let's not kid ourselves, Mindjet could create an all-singing all-dancing map library in not much time at all, and then Biggerplate might be in real trouble. They have more money, more people, and more reason to do so. But this raises the question - why didn’t they?

Part Two: Strategic Ideas

I said earlier that if Mindjet wanted to replicate features from Biggerplate, they only need to click around the site and take the ideas they want. I also said that with the resources they have at their disposal, they could create a site that probably betters Biggerplate in no time at all. Both of these points again raise the question of why didn’t they?

My suggestion is this; while the map sharing site is a nice marketing tool for Mindjet, they have less interest in creating something that is of genuine use to mindmanager users. While they would like to badge their creation “the youtube of mindmaps” (it is after all, an attention grabbing headline), they do not seem to have put much effort into replicating even half the useful features that are on YouTube (or Biggerplate), so the claim seems somewhat premature. Can you think of any other content sharing site where you cannot “Tag” your content in some way for example? The endeavour therefore comes across (to my eye) as being something that is not fully supported by or integrated into the larger Mindjet strategy (whatever that may be). If it were, you would imagine that Mindjet would be throwing their full weight behind developing something that truly delivers a “wow” factor. They clearly have not (yet), and the result is actually very similar to some of the earliest map libraries around, albeit with a bit more shine. It is not therefore, a strategic idea. It is just an idea. A good one perhaps, but one which does not seem to quite know its place. Having referenced Jim Collins earlier, it seems relevant to ask whether the new map gallery would align with Mindjet’s “Hedgehog Concept” or whether they even have one to begin with?

Like the “Trusted Voices” idea, the map gallery comes across then as a fundamentally sound idea that has been conceived, developed, and executed in relative isolation, albeit with the best intentions. Please note; having a large number of people working on a project does not necessarily prevent it from existing in isolation. If you work in isolation, you risk replicating the efforts of others, and/or ignoring the larger picture. In working with clients we regularly implore people not to “re-invent the wheel” when approaching particular challenges or projects. It is an often-used phrase but a little-used principle. The new map gallery is perhaps a classic case of re-inventing the wheel by working in isolation, away from the total picture (and weighty resources) that might be available if an idea is lined up with the overall business strategy. Unfortunately, the wheel has moved on, and will continue to do so. And the new gallery looks a little rough around the edges in terms of functionality at the moment. Like a prototype wheel perhaps. Or perhaps just like a rock. Will the weight of the rock burden and distract from the more strategically important tasks like promoting and selling the latest release of MM9? Only time will tell.

Kevin Roberts (former CEO Worldwide of Saatchi and Saatchi) said the following in relation to researching your target market – “If you want to understand how a lion hunts, don’t go to the zoo, go to the jungle”. If Mindjet wanted to learn more about (and market to) Mindmanager users who like sharing maps, they could/should have come to the fairly significant jungle that Biggerplate represents. Instead they built their own zoo. I can say (with some sense of retrospective grandeur) that had a Mindjet representative called me to ask whether Biggerplate could help them to create a map library, I would have told them that they could have all the functionality you see on Biggerplate, but branded and personalised to suit their needs. Perhaps most importantly, we would have asked what relevance it had to the overall strategy, and adapted it to suit that too. Think of the time/effort/money saved. And the fact that you would have a starter population of over 11,000 people and over 1000 maps. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the wheel. Look familiar?

That call never came, nor do I expect it to anytime soon. I would (as always) be delighted to work more closely with mindjet or at least discuss these ideas. I do not however expect this to happen. As a “Trusted Voice” you might think Mindjet would have paid attention and perhaps engaged with my previous thoughts on the trusted voice initiative. Nothing as yet. Perhaps my trusted voice is on mute…

The fact remains that with the marketing capabilities, user databases and other resources that Mindjet have at their disposal, they may be able to market this endeavour into a map library with more maps and more active users than Biggerplate. They may even be able to do it by the time I finish this lengthy blog post. This does not concern me. We have a clear plan for Biggerplate, and I am confident we are on the right path to provide something truly useful and interesting that will not easily be replicated.

What concerns me is that many people will once again engage with Mindjet in the hope of some genuine reciprocal engagement and be left somewhat under-whelmed, as they simply become a recipient of yet more marketing messages. Should this occur, it will be because Mindjet have half-heartedly gone about executing an idea that was not fully considered from a strategic perspective. To go through this effort and leave people disappointed would not only be sad for their customers, but also represent yet another missed opportunity for this previously customer-fanatic company.

As always, I welcome your comments and thoughts, and (as always) invite Mindjet to contact, correct, or copy me as they see fit.

Have a great weekend.

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Liam is the founder of Biggerplate.com, and tries (with varying success) to write about key projects and progress at Biggerplate, as well as the wider world of mind mapping and our place within it.
London, UK Website