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What impression am I making? Who do I know? What do I know about them? … and many more questions – SUMMARY

February 8, 2011 4 comments

Well, it’s been a great experience pulling together this three part series. I hope that in reading it, you have found some insight in to your Personal Network – I certainly have in writing it.

I’ve reviewed three new products/service – from MyWebCareer, Connected and Nimble. I have also had the privilege to interview the founders of each business.

The first step with each of these solutions is going off to the “cloud” and pulling together personal information

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from the likes of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google. However, each solution has a different angle on aggregating this information.

I started this series of posts by asking a series of questions? They were:-

* What impression am I making?
* Who do I know?
* What do I know about them?

My exploration of the value of Personal Networks constantly throws up questions – and these are only three of many.

What impression am I making?

MyWebCareer, undoubtedly answers this question. Although, like everything in life – it’s only an opinion.

If you are developing and cultivating your Personal Network – you should be concerned about your “brand” and how you are perceived by your network. I don’t see any reason for not giving it a try – and using its clever scoring system to bench mark your Personal Brand and on-line presence. I’d also recommended this service to Personal Brand consultants (like Beth Campbell Duke) – it’s a simple way to get clients thinking about how they shape up … and how they can improve. I will certainly diary time each month for a brief review of which direction my MyWebCareer score is moving – and why.

So, this is the easy bit of the post – if you want this question answering .. then just log in to MyWebCareer.

Who do I know? What to I know about them?

This is a tough one. The undoubted, sure fire winner of the commercial race is Nimble! It’s driven by an inspirational founder, Jon Ferrara – with the conventional CRM customer base waiting with open arms for a Social CRM solution. It will work for SMEs (Small & Medium Enterprises) at all levels from management to sales staff to customers.

However, my interest is in Personal Networks. As regular readers will know, my favourite quote is from Mick Cope, who wrote the FT book, “Personal Networking”:-

“By professional networking I mean a set of close contacts or associates who will help deliver my value to market. The key thing is that these are people who will ‘help’ you in the market, THEY ARE NOT THE MARKET. Sorry for the full-on letters, but my definition of a network is ‘people who will help amplify my personal capital in the market’, not a bunch of friends and colleagues to whom I try to sell under the guise of giving them a great opportunity. Active management of these people is not networking; it is client relationship management, a whole different ball game…”

This is the third time I’ve quoted this in my blog – it sums up the idea of a Personal Network for me. Mick will be charging me royalties soon….

During the interview with Sachin Rekhi, the founder of Connected, we discussed who was his customer. He said: “We looked at delivering this products to companies – chasing the VP of Sales. However, we decided that Connected is a more personal product – and we’re committed to take the harder track of acquiring customers one at a time.”

So, for someone with the long-term/life-long strategic goal of cultivating and developing their Personal Network – I think Sachin has set the best strategy. Unfortunately, this does not make it a sure fire commercial winner like Nimble! Getting people to stand back, take stock, work out where they are going – and recognising that their Personal Network is the key to long-term development will be a challenge.

While writing this series of posts, trying out the software and interviewing the founders, I’ve started to get a much better feel for the support needed for a Personal Network to function. The “Who do I know? What to I know about them?” is a fundamental building block in this.

I’ve also taken a look back my blog post “Personal Networks, Soloware and ‘The Individual is the new Group'”. In summary, that post makes the argument that the power of the individual through “Soloware” is much greater than that of the Enterprise through “Groupware”.

From all this deliberation, I am starting to understand that the Linchpin society put forward by Seth Godin in his book (indispensable, unique people are the future) – means that enterprise driven CRM systems are not the solutions required for the social media connected 21st century.

I always believe that when I am getting to grips with a complex issue, if I can visualise it (or in my case create a block diagram) that I am getting near a solution. Here’s my first iteration:-

Here the individual has their Personal Network, gathered from the “cloud” – which we see in solutions like Connected and Nimble. However, the significant difference that I envisage is that the enterprises we engage with as “Linchpins” to deliver projects will need to give access to their corporate information in the same cloud based way.

This will demand a whole new level of trust between individuals and enterprise – and a shift of power. In our new world – The Personal Network is king!

Thank you to Nip, Sachin and Jon – I’ve really enjoyed connecting with you … and wish you and your ventures every success.

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What impression am I making? Who do I know? What do I know about them? … and many more questions – PART 3

February 7, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve enjoyed writing this series of posts. It’s been a privilege to “be in the room” with some inspirational startup founders/entrepreneurs.

Let’s get the hard bit out of the way first. Despite my promise at the end of Part 2, this post – reporting back on Nimble and interviewing their founder Jon Ferrara – will not include my summary. I’ll do that tomorrow… Think of it as a 3 part post and summary… I know, I know, how can you ever trust me again! Sorry.

Jon, as I mentioned in the post last week, was the founder of Goldmine – a ground breaking CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool

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from 20 years ago (in fact it probably defined CRM!). He’s a busy guy – and I really appreciated that he was prepared to give me an hour out of his busy schedule to do a Skype video call.

We seemed to hit it off from the start. After Jon telling me how warm it was in Santa Monica (and showing me he was in short sleeves and shorts) I turned around my camera and showed him the sunset view of the Alps from my chalet in Switzerland. We chatted for a while about the pleasure we had shared in selling our businesses – and then taking time-out to spend with our young families growing up.

Then Jon kicked in to telling me about his new venture, Nimble – and I knew straight away he was focussed on success. Earlier in the year, I wrote a post about how I was struggling to find my way and whether I could bring a team together and achieve a second entrepreneurial success. My post was base on an analogy around Pink Floyd and the success of their Dark Side of the Moon album. Well – I might have pulled back from thoughts of startup for now (hence the concentration on daily blogging) – but Jon’s undoubtedly got an idea for a platinum album that’s going to top the charts (again) for a long time. He’s a visionary….

His starting point this time is very, very different than his days as co-founder of Goldmine. Jon says: “I started Goldmine with $3,000 and an idea. It was the days of pink ‘while you were out’ slips and little black books called Daytimers. We had no loans and no venture capital.”

He continued: “We had absolutely no money for advertising, so I made friends with people who were writing about the space. The writers told me ‘we want to have stories about people using the products’ – so that’s what I gave them. Goldmine’s name got more column inches than anyone else.”

There was a strange Déjà vu feeling about all this. Back in the late 1990s, my business chose Goldmine – and we did the case study working with their solution partner. It’s still on Goldmine’s site (the company was acquired by Frontline in 1999 for tens of millions of dollars). Today, he’s taking time to chat and give time to a start-up blogger… Sound familiar.

Jon speaks at a 100 miles per hour. He warned me about this before he launched in to a presentation about Nimble and a walk through of the system. He talks so fast he could have a second career as a rapper!

Nimble is much more than a PRM (Personal Relationship Management), CRM or sCRM (Social CRM). In fact, Jon says: “I don’t like acronyms.” However, he does recognise that a world with social media creates new challenges. He says: “I want to help Nimble clients swim in the social river. Social Media is akin to the industrial revolution. If people and business don’t understand that it’s the place to manage relationships, listen and communicate – they are going to get killed.”

Jon’s reinvented himself, but with the same passion for helping people build relationships with customers (and colleagues). He’s cynical about the CRM business that he helped to build with Goldmine. He says: “You look at these systems with a screen laid out with 50 fields. That’s grandpa’s CRM system!” He also describes these systems as “stodgy and old school.”

I’d been given access to the Private Beta and had a play. I can imagine that for anyone coming from the structure of Goldmine or other enterprise CRM – this is the ideal transition to “swimming in the social river”. Jon showed me through some of the updates in the pipeline, He’s intent on making the interface even more visual. For example, losing the names and links and putting pen portraits anywhere he can. He’s building the system to be able to do absolutely everything a person/enterprise will need to make sales and build relationships. There are already a raft of integrations with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Gmail, Imap, Google Calendar – and he sees no limit to the role Nimble will take in unification.

I asked Jon about how this would work in practice. I seem to remember the Goldmine salesman 15 years ago flashing me through screens at the speed of light – and I was convinced it could do everything I could ever dream of. Jon said: “I realise that with all these systems the 10% that people definitely use is contact management. The challenge is to get the 10% for relationships used. With Nimble, we are going to give the contact management away – that’s the free part. The rest will be the important bit – getting in to the conversation and building relationships.”

We talked about the “battle for the tabs”. As Jon shared his screen during the demo, I took a look at the tabs he had open in Google Chrome. It was a similar mix to mine – the usual suspects of GMail, Google Calendar, Hootsuite, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc. For systems like Nimble to become THE contact/relationship/personal network service – they need to get on the tabs – and then push the others out (in my opinion). Jon said: “I want to get a space on there – and happy for the others to stay. However, Nimble will connect the dots in your life – we’ll help nurture those relationships, communicate and listen.”

Jon is preparing to market Nimble through his well worn path of “classic CRM resellers.” This is a very familiar strategy to how he built Goldmine. He sees the “sweet spot” as the “SME business users who are mostly ignored.” He defines these as anything from a single user to a typical 10-25 seat sale. He’s also keen to bring in individuals – and his proposed free contacts only service reflects this.

Jon has set up Nimble with a clear strategy in this new area of social media. He’s using tried and trusted methods to get to market – skills he learned building Goldmine. He’s also got the financial resources and clout to get what he needs done (some of the LinkedIn integration he showed me in beta was groundbreaking). Jon will find a shoal of “Grandpa’s CRM” users coming to swim with him in the “Social River.”

I’ll finish this post slightly flipantly, with a “British” twist on brand names. Nimble has a very fond place in the memories of my youth (I am showing my age). Nimble was a household name through British TV ads about a special bread to keep an eye on your weight/figure. Take a look at these ads – brought to you by the wonders of YouTube. One even features a very young Joanna Lumley. It will bring back memories for my older UK audience…

Jon’s Nimble is no lightweight – but it’s certainly going to fly! Do take the time and register for the Private Beta.

Back tomorrow, with a summary of where I think MyWebCareer, Connected and Nimble sit in the world of Personal Networks.

What impression am I making? Who do I know? What do I know about them? … and many more questions – PART 2

February 4, 2011 2 comments

Hopefully, you are visiting this post after reading Part 1 yesterday. Today, I’m focusing on a new service called Connected that was launched earlier in the week. However, there is a summary of both Connected and MyWebCareer at the end of the post.

The review of Connected is interspersed with quotes from Founder Sachin Rekhi. He kindly gave me 45 minutes of his time (very generous for a man launching such a major service) – and I only wish I’d recorded

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the chat for you. He’s an inspiring person to interview.

Connected grabbed my attention while waiting for a flight that had been delayed for 30 minutes. I checked my Twitter feed and spotted a message by Guy Kawasaki that announced the new service – it sounded exciting.

I’d only got my iPad to hand – so thought I’d boot up Safari and check out the service. I’m glad I did – because the service was a WOW! You don’t get many of those from start ups….

In the time that I had free before the flight left I’d “touch screened” my way to connect all my various repositories of information (and there are many), explored some fantastic apps – and bored my wife by saying “look at this!” several times.

I was surprise by three things on first impression:-

1. It worked great on the iPad – looked as if it had been made for the device
2. All the connections to Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, etc were seamless – and merging/matching was excellent
3. I’m very used to services offering integration to contacts via these services – but Connected also brought your communications/messaging in to the system, as well as calendar

I mentioned this to Sachin on our Skype call. He said: “We started the business a year ago, went live to the world two days ago – but have spent 6 months in private beta. I had a couple of beta users using iPads – and they beat me up on the interface … They were happy when we launched, and I am glad you are too.”

The result of this trawl of personal data collated all the information I need to answer two of the big questions in Personal Networks – “Who do I know? What do I know about them?”

I discussed this with Sachin. My view was that Connected was producing the sort of contact report that I would expect to get from a good (maybe great) personal assistant before a meeting/call. Sachin said: “I’m really delighted to hear that. Many of our potential customers already value relationships and are willing to do the work – and Connected makes their life easier and saves time. There are another group who just want things on a plate – and it works for them too. Our focus is to make Connected easy and lightweight for the user.”

I have a real interest in the language used to communicate a fresh idea. My particular issue when I talk about Personal Networks is that people say “Oh, you mean like Networking – going and giving business cards to lots of people” (which I hate) or “Ah, It’s Facebook then – isn’t that just for saddos. And why do people keep pestering me to friend them on LinkedIn.” (well not quite!).

Sachin and I discussed whether he felt there was “baggage” associated in words he had used in his blog posts like “Rolodex” and Personal Relationship Management (PRM) service – with connotations of CRM. Sachin said: “We talked a lot about this. Rolodex can be connected with salesmen from another age. CRM has a lot of issues too. However, these terms bridge the gap to help people to understand what we are offering – and then we’ll show them the new way we are approaching things. I’m still staggered that there is still such a huge installed base of products like ACT! and Goldmine. I’ve been driven by the fact that there are abysmal tools available for people wanting to develop their Personal Network.”

We both agreed that the initial WOW of Connected was not in question – but the retention of customers to make it THE dashboard for the the Who and What of their Personal Network was the real challenge. Sachin said: “We’ve no doubt that folk who want to do a better job will like Connected – it will appeal to many. Retention will require us to get users to understand that with the benefits come constraints and disciplines. However, I think we are keeping this to an absolute minimum. Beta users are reporting that they are putting aside 10 minutes each morning to use Connected and then keeping it open in a browser tab to review during the day. We are also offering a daily email which gives a summary of who you are connecting with – and who you might want to connect with.”

It’s still very early days for Connected – and although the list of integrations is long (Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Contacts – Calendar – Voice) there are some missing. Sachin said: “We wanted to start the conversation with customers – so have gone to market with many features still in the pipeline. We are a long way down the road with prototype integration with Outlook – and will hook up with mobiles (already doing that with Google Voice) with either an iPhone App or at&t piece. In the long run we’ll be aiming to get all communication in there – including SMS and Skype”

The user features are rich. For example, there are a range of Apps including Contacts Maps. This is an integrated solution similar to MapMyConnections which I reviewed earlier in the week.

I’ve tried out quite a few services in this space. Gist is the most well known – which personally I find an information heavy experience. I don’t feel that it really gives me the Who and the What – and is especially annoying at not matching contacts. Also, in terms of contact integration, I have used (and paid for) a service called AddressBookOne (which has some nice iPhone integration).

I found the experience of Connected – and chatting to Sachin – energising. I would recommend that everyone who has a Gmail/GoogleApps account and a social media network to give it a go. It will be a challenge to make it THE key app for your Personal Network – but it’s got a great chance. If Path founder Dave Morin is turning down offers for $100m from Google – then Sachin will soon be beating off offers too! He seems to have this area sussed. Remember, you heard it here first … well except for Guy Kawasaki and a rather nice review by Yesware.

This post has gone on a bit – and I’d like to summarise in another post (Part 3 on Monday!). There was also another late entry to this theme in the form of Nimble (another PRM). Nimble was originally introduced to me by Neal Schaffer of Windmill Networking (whose book on LinkedIn I reviewed last year). I was invited to their Private Beta yesterday – and will be interviewing their Founder, Jon Ferrara (who also helped to create Goldmine) in the next couple of days. It will be interesting to chat with him and make the connection – my old business was a Goldmine user “way back when”.

Back on Monday with Part 3 – and I promise not to drag it out to 4 parts! Have a great weekend…

Personal Networks, Soloware and “The Individual is the new Group”

November 5, 2010 Leave a comment

I’ve recently discovered the blog of Christopher C. Penn. He’s an excellent writer on many business topics – and an expert in email marketing and social media. Digging through his past blog posts – I found an interesting visualisation of Personal Networks and their interaction with employees and the company they work for. Christoper says:-

If we drew a Venn diagram (you remember these from school, yes? Logic class?) of the various personal networks and

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interests of your employees, you’d get something that looks like this:

That tiny little wedge in the middle is the intersection of personal and corporate networks. Companies that force their employees to rigorously keep personal and professional separate or even require employees not to participate in personal media creation outside of work create and get access to only that tiny little wedge in the middle, and nothing else.
Now imagine that a company, instead of discouraging or trivializing employees’ personal brands, encouraged them to actively grow their own networks, to use and leverage social media and new media to the best of their abilities.
What would that company’s reach be? Well, instead of the tiny intersection in the middle of those three networks in the chart above, the company’s effective reach would be the sum, the union of all the networks. Each employee’s personal network would contribute to the effective reach of the whole network.

Christopher’s point is made with a focus on social networking – but I think it makes a good case for companies giving resources/time/training to individuals in their organisation to develop their Personal Networks. This benefits the employee – and in turn the business. It would be interesting to have feedback from corporate readers as to where they “hold” their Personal Network contact information. I know when I ran a business – there was the sales CRM system that I as CEO never used … and my own repository of contacts held by me! This was in my own company….!

I’m increasingly becoming anti-groupware – and a big fan of “soloware.” Unfortunately, I’m not the inventor of the term Soloware – although there’s not been much work on the idea since it was muted in 2006 by Stowe Boyd and Matthew Glotzbach.

I like the ring of “The Individual is the new Group!” – courtesy of Stowe. Power to the person…!

Mia, the rainshower, the Yellow Suit, Cuban Dance and Profit Power Economics

August 16, 2010 Leave a comment

Well, earlier in my blog, I did mention that I had a tenuous link to a person in my PNN (“Personal Network” Network). Mia de Kuijper is a world leading economist/strategist – with strong view on “power nodes”.

I have actually met Mia once – and reading her book “Profit Power” my thinking change from looking at solutions in the area of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) to understanding the power of individual components/nodes (in my case people) in the new economy.

Anyway, my meeting with Mia was caused by an early arrival at

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a Theatre (near the London School of Economics) to watch Cuban Dance! There was a rain storm – and a bookshop was open at the back of LSE. My wife and I dashed for cover and were confronted by a staff getting ready to lock up – and a lady in a stunning yellow suit finishing signing books. Who could resist a book on economics! She kindly signed the book – and as well as brilliant night at the theatre … I got a great insight in to the power of positioning yourself correctly in the new economy.

In particular she introduced me to the work of Albert-László Barabási. She describes in her book his work on Internet search engines and Hollywood figures that produced “Powerlaw Networks”. Although the book focusses on the strategic positioning of businesses in the global market place – the principles are equally applicable to an individual finding their place in the world through finding the right place in their network (much like Barabási’s Hollywood figures did naturally!).

Mia’s book was certainly the first step in me stopping thinking of contacts as Rolodex cards or Outlook VCF files – and much more as nodes in our networks, stars in our solar system!

Thank you Mia.

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