Dec. 4, 2006 SDF Technology & Evangelism

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SDF Technology Leadership & Evangelism in the Participation Age

On December 4, 2006 at the Network Meeting Center in Santa Clara, SDForum hosted the GNoTECon (Global Network of Technology Evangelists, see www.gnote.ws). Their goal? To “evangelize evangelism”.

GNoTECon
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Anand Iyer of Microsoft, Kiran Patel of RingCube Technologies, Inc. and Dan Theurer of Yahoo! chaired the first event dedicated to evangelists and their leadership role in technology.

The Evangelist Guy
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What are the critical factors for success in a changing environment for evangelists? The question was put to keynote speaker Guy Kawasaki, Managing Director, Garage Technology Ventures. He created the title “Technology Evangelist” while working for Apple Computer in the late 1980s. His role was to cultivate mindshare and spread the word about the company’s products and brand. He shared his past experiences and excerpts from his latest book, The Art Of The Start. Evangelist is now a recognized profession, with over a thousand open job postings on any given day. He thinks evangelists are made when they find great things that add meaning to their lives. They want to tell people about something that changed their lives for the better. It is hard to evangelize crap.

Here are words of advice from Guy. Mission statements don’t work, short mantras do. Great products are deep; they have a great deal of thought put into their design and use. People fall in love with a great product. Target a niche market and go after them one at a time. Ask customers why they are buying the product and find similar reasons they would want to buy more of it. Focus on believers or agnostics; don’t try to fix a non-believer’s objections. Create a valuable product so unique no one can compete with it. Aldus Pagemaker was the killer app that made the Apple Macintosh the leader in desktop publishing. Customers may use your product in an unexpected way. If they do, listen to them and take their money. Ask what personal story you can tell about the product that changed your life. The true influencers are not consultants or big titles so don’t try to sell to the top. Let people test drive your product. Give customers a low barrier to entry. Don’t let negative bozos get you down. Don’t be your own bozo.

Since Kawasaki’s pioneering effort, companies such as Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, and Yahoo! and others are using evangelism to reach out and market their products.

The Participation Age
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Matt Thompson, Sr. Director of Technology Outreach Group, SUN Microsystems discussed global technology outreach in the Participation Age, where user communities drive the development process. Because innovation can happen anywhere, Thompson’s team travels the world making enterprise level infrastructure easier to use. Sun builds communities of teachers, students and entrepreneurs in fast growing IT markets like Poland or the Philippines. Evangelism bridges the chasm preventing adopting of new technology. It gives the engineer more than lines of code; it must change their lives. Listen when your best customers to tell you what they want.

The Evangelist In You
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Jean Fuller, Fuller Coaching moderated a panel with Jeff Barr, Sr. Web Services Evangelist for Amazon, Mark Finnern, Director SAP Community Network, Frederic Lucas, President for Growth Resources, and Jeremy Toeman, Technology Influencer for Live Digitally. Each of them oversees developer communities and shared their experiences encouraging customers. Communities range from a few hundred to hundreds of thousands. Successful evangelizing needs continuous feedback with motivated customers. Evangelists need passion, persuasion, patience, energy and the ability to multi-task.

Evangelizing Evangelism to Evangelists
Mahajan Romi
Romi Mahajan Group Marketing Manager, IT Professional Audience Marketing, Microsoft. As a marketing manager he wanted to reach and not preach to the choir. To ignite customers you have to find the driest tender, the most influential people who are ready to listen. Fan the flames and scale out to more and more customers. Save the coals by maintaining strong relationships with customers. Evangelists make a difference. They transformed Silicon Valley from orchards to the greatest generator of wealth in the world. Evangelists spread ideas, someone builds on them, others service them and others talk about them, restarting the cycle of innovation. Don’t let bureaucracy stand in the way of organic innovation. If you give up, you become a stiff.

Evangelism Success Stories
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Rafe Needleman, Editor CNET moderated a panel with Buzz , CEO for Activewords, Inc., Anil Dash, Vice President of Professional Products, Six Apart, Ltd., Jeff Sandquist, Microsoft Evangelist for Channel 9 and 10, and Zawodny, Technology Evangelist for Yahoo!

Jeff Sandquist remembered how Microsoft’s PDC events and how Channel 9 built momentum from user interest. Giving customers access to developers allowed them to relate to each other as people. This put a human face on Microsoft.

Jeremy Zawodny talked about Yahoo! Hack Days, where outside developers are brought in to the company to show what they could do. It energized their community and even resulted in a few hires.

Anil Dash agrees about telling stories. He told his story about changing an angry blogger into a supportive developer. They try respond to every customer comment. By listening to customers and looking at their products from an outside perspective, they were able to improve the customer experience. Embrace your critics.

Buzz Bruggeman discussed his experiences at a small company. He spends most of his time on the road meeting with customers. Customers love Activewords and tell others their stories, building a huge market on a very small budget. Some customers like his product so much they will let him stay overnight in their homes. He advises evangelist to tell the truth and be transparent. He said one determined detractor is equal to 100,000 positive mentions. It can turn into thermonuclear war.

Evangelists are a growing recognized necessity to reach customers and drive innovation.

Copyright 2006 DJ Cline All rights reserved.