This is an edited transcript of an interview between ITBusiness.ca Editor Brian Jackson and Influtive CEO Mark Organ, taking place Nov. 18 in San Francisco at the Salesforce.com Dreamforce conference.
ITBusiness.ca: What do you mean when you talk about creating a new market category?
Mark Organ: Take Salesforce, for example. A category of cloud-based CRM is one Salesforce.com established in 1999. They established a cloud-based platform in 2005. So there are a lot of benefits that companies get, not just for creating a great company but for creating an environment for a whole host of companies to go and compete in.
How do you create a new market category?
The process for creating a category is not just in creating a great company, but defining a whole new space in which companies can compete. It really involves two main things things, having a transformational experience and a revolutionary buying process for a customer..
Salesforce.com changed how CRM was rolled out to sales reps. That used to be really painful, they used to go to IT and say make this happen. IT would say give me two years a whole bunch of money and I’ll pile a whole bunch of boxes up to the ceiling and maybe you might get something that will work. That changed from that to: push button, configure, done. The buying experience was also revolutionary. It used to involve that sales manager having to go to the CFO asking for CRM. The CFO would have to go to the board and ask for that money. It changed from huge amounts of friction to put your credit card here.
Categories are created by having transformational experience and revolutionary distribution model. Tesla is a great example. Not necessarily the first electric car company, but the first to create the revolutionary experience of having an electric sports car in terms of safety and other features. What people often don’t pay attention to with Tesla is the revolutionary way to buy it. You don’t go to a regular dealer the way you would with General Motors or Toyota. You configure it online and you have amazing process to acquire that car that’s different from everything that came before.
Influitive CEO Mark Organ’s slides from his Dreamforce presentation:
You’re saying ‘revolutionary’ a lot. So do you have to be revolutionary to be create a new category? Define how one is revolutionary.
You have to be comfortable with disruption and you have to be a contrarian. People will tell you it can’t be done, maybe that should be a signal that you’re actually on to the right track. It certainly happened a lot when I was building my last company, Eloqua. But I was so focused on the experience my target market had and the trouble they had in doing the kinds of things in marketing they wanted to do. I knew I was on the right track. So if you want to be a category creator, you have to be willing to run 180 degrees from the herd.
Let’s talk about Eloqua. You’re not too closely associated with them anymore, but what was it like to see it acquired by Oracle?
It was at first surprising. It’s not who I thought would be a fit. But upon reflection, it looks like it’s been a smashing success so far for both the Eloqua shareholders and Oracle shareholders. One of the things I’m gratified by is the fact it’s a powerful and independent organization inside of Oracle. They’ve been wise enough to leave it alone for the most part. I just came from the Eloqua Experience a few weeks ago and I’m proud to see the culture has lived on there.
How has your second time around in creating a new market category, with Influtive, been different from Eloqua?
That’s what I’m talking about in my key note, what was the same and what’s different. Probably what’s the most different is taking the time for design and quality. The focus at Eloqua, and I think the focus that many startups I think have, particularly in that area, was one of rapid iteration. Let’s get a viable product out there in the market and rapidly iterate. During that era the lean startup has become very popular. I still think that’s really important, but now I think it’s important to design our products so they’re a joy to use and at the same time design our businesses. You have to think about getting the right experience, and iterating that quickly to get to the ideal experience.
You mean the customer user experience.
The customer experience, the user experience. In our case, we have a customer that buys our product, but the real customer, the real personae we’re designing around, is the customer, the advocate. That’s something that’s never been done before to my knowlege. No one has thought through these special people that give us referrals, that give us the data for case studies, that speak for us on stage, and all these things. No one has really thought through what is it they want?
It’s interesting to think about it. You’re designing an app for your customers that will in turn recruit their customers to use it, so there’s a layer of separation there.
There is a layer of separation there and I think more and more that’s what you’re going to see in terms of the real powerful cloud software of the future. Thinking about who is the end user and how do we make their experience great? If the advocates love the experience using our product and they’re doing a ton of activity, and say the companies we sell to, maybe their experience isn’t as great, then we’ll still do really well. Because at the end of the day what they really need is a lot of advocate activity. Now of course we want both, we want our program administrators to love using the product. But what turns their crank every day is seeing their advocates doing all this activity that helps the company grow better and faster than anything else.