Yours Sincerely... "Trusted Voice"
The Mindmap library at Biggerplate.com was recently invited by Mindjet to become one their recognised "Trusted Voices". This invitation was one of 14 apparently sent out to those who have demonstrated "dedication to the mapping community" and helped "champion the mapping way of life".
The concept of publicly recognising/identifying respected sources of content is not a new one (in broader marketing terms) and in fact, is actually what the majority of Social Media activity is based upon these days. Strangely though this invitation leaves us feeling rather underwhelmed, as it seems to be lacking a degree of clarity around what the "Trusted Voice" community is supposed to represent, and why/how mindjet intend to engage with them. Perhaps Mindjet have clarity in their minds, but they have not necessarily communicated this in a manner that paticularly enthuses me. For example; why does the Trusted Voice badge (offered as an incentive to join) click through to the generic homepage on the Mindjet website? Surely it could/should direct people to a dedicated page explaining who the Trusted Voices are and why they have been chosen? Surely this is the information people are likely to be seeking when they click the badge? Maybe this is on the way, but I imagine this would have made the prospect a far more appealing one for the 14 people initially invited...
Interestingly, there does not (as yet) appear to have been a single twitter tweet or blog post from Mindjet about any of their newly named trusted voices. And yet mindjet have just gained a more prominent and visible link to their website (through the badge) on several of the most visited mapping-focused sites on the internet, not to mention the associated blog posts and tweets by the individals who have accepted their invitation. The net result seems to be distinctly weighted in Mindjet's favour at this point... Many of these websites are already regularly visited due to the work they do (independently of Mindjet) to promote themselves, but what all of them would surely appreciate is a much greater effort by Mindjet to direct people to them from the minute an individual downloads a trial or purchases a licence? Or even expresses a passing interest in the product...
Since launching the mindmap libary at Biggerplate.com in January 2008 I would estimate that we have had only a couple of blog posts written specifically about us on the Mindjet blog, and the contribution of mindmaps to the library from Mindjet themselves has been minimal over that time, with the notable exception of a couple of great contributions from Michael Deutch. This seems strange, given that our site probably represents one of the (if not the) largest (and most active) communities of Mindmanager users online, with over 10,700 members and growing. If the clients we work with at Biggerplate Consulting had the opportunity to engage with such a captive and targeted audience and were not taking advantage of it, we would probably be screaming at them! For example, I wonder how many of our 10,000+ users are using MM 6 or 7? I would suggest at least a thousand. And, I wonder how many of them might be convinced to purchase an upgrade to MM8 once aware of the new features and benefits? One would imagine a significant number. Yet engagement with this community or Biggerplate, even on the most basic level, is minimal. Again, if our clients were presented with such an opportunity, you can be sure they would be making the most of it! Even if we had to beat them with a stick to do so (please note, Biggerplate Consulting do not beat clients with sticks).
The engagement by Mindjet with the Biggerplate map library is simply an illustration of a larger point, and should not be confused as the primary focus of this post. There are a million examples of companies that fail to pay attention to their current customers whilst blindly pursuing new customers or strategic goals (like trying to make yourself an attractive sales target for a larger organisation). The special offers from banks that are "only available to new customers" is a classic and extreme example of this, and I would not suggest that a company like Mindjet falls into this category, as they do actively engage with current customers in a number of different ways. However, in cases like this there has surely been some sort of strategic and tactical oversight when so much effort is directed blindly outwards to the general public whilst the thought and effort directed at those who are already highly engaged with the product is represented in many ways by the Trusted Voices idea, which (after 2 years of minimal contact or engagement) seems to represent something of a token effort to appease, rather than a strategically considered effort to engage.
If you put any faith in Pareto's Principle (the 80/20 rule) then this might represent a good example; by focusing a little more considered effort on the 20% who are most likely to engage you are more likely to obtain the 80% return that this percentage tend to provide. For Mindjet, this may mean engaging more actively with the Biggerplate.com member community, or more regularly (and noticeably) promoting the 'Trusted Voices' before expecting more from them (remember the net result observed earlier). Perhaps it may even involve paying a little more attention to those ultimate advocates who have supported the Mindjet business through the creation of numerous great add-ins for the mindmanager software. This group seems to represent something of a forgotten community in the brave new world of Mindjet, and this perhaps represents one of the more alarming aspects of how things have evolved in recent years, given the degree to which these individuals have been trusted voices in the mapping community and advocates of Mindjet from the very earliest days, long before today's Trusted Voices like Biggerplate even existed.
If you spend your time marketing to the larger 80%, you are likely to get the 20% return that they tend to provide. Often the tactical effort required to engage with the top 20% is significantly less, and often yields a great deal more. If the figures at Mindjet (or any other business) significantly beat that trend, I would be fascinated to hear, as they will almost certainly represent a very rare breed of business in our experience. I would suggest if this is the case, your biggest strategic concern should be the sustainability of such a business and marketing model in the longer term.
We await with interest the feedback of the other Trusted Voices as to how they benefit from this initiative, and we look forward to seeing how Mindjet develop this idea. At present however, we may keep our badge in reserve. Should the initiative reveal itself to be a more sustained and thoughtful effort than it appears at present, then we would be delighted to take up this invitation if it remains open to us.
I would be delighted to hear comments about any aspect of this, and I hope you may take the time to leave your thoughts here.