Over my vacation a week or so ago, I read Behind The Cloud The untold story of salesforce.com by Marc Benioff & Carlye Adler.Behind the Cloud - salesforce.com

(published by Josey-Bass –  ISBN978-0-470-52116-8)

It was an interesting read following at a high level how Mr. Benioff and team formed Salesforce.com, got it started, and how it exploded into the poster child for Software as a Service (Saas) or a piece of what we call ‘cloud computing’.

Each chapter describes the issues, decisions and actions that were taken along their road to growth. Call it a road map of what worked for them.

There are two really key points in the text that we all should be thinking about.

First, in selling the product, Salesforce.com did not sell the features 0f what their product could do, they  evangelized the concept of Saas, selling the experience & advantage,  not the product. In fact in their book The Power Of  Pull, Hagell, Seely Brown & Davisson state that 80% of Marc Benioff’s communication was educating – not selling the product.

There was also a huge second  recurring theme threaded throughout the text;

People People People

‘Nuff Said


We humans are vain.

I know the term is fairly negative and synonymous with conceit, but admit it! most of us get a thrill from seeing images of ourselves or our names somewhere.

You could call it our desire for that 15 minutes of fame, perhaps it is just seeing our name in print, I don’t think it matters what we call it, the result is usually the same.

So work with it!

How you work with it may vary depending on your organization size. But that little bit of human vanity may be something that we should not ignore.


For smaller businesses, take a look at this website sample. This smaller business has put photographs of customers on their website for a few years now, but now they are even adding the ability for their customers to add their own images.

If a customer puts their own photograph there – you can bet that at least family and friends are going to be referred to it! One of those family or friends just might say;  hey! I they had a great time, we should check it out….

For larger SME’s that exact idea may not work for you. But how about internal motivation? employee engagement?

You have an internal company newsletter or intranet site – how about a quick picture accompanying that successful training program completion (they do call the concept recognition after all)

The SMB Takeaway

Don’t underestimate the power of the human ego

I have written before about the risk of taking shortcuts.

I want to revisit this to give an example of how not taking the extra 30 seconds to do something right the first time can add hours of extra work later on.

This scenario is true by the way!

Lets imagine that your company name is ACME Building Corporation Inc.

Lets also imagine that your domain name and web address is http://www.acmebuilding.com – seems simple enough right?

Now lets imagine that it is a few years later, you have been growing and it has reached the time where you want to add a secure Web Mail server for your remote people, or perhaps you want to add the ability for people to shop on line at your website.

The most common way to add this type of security is to add SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) security technology to your website. This technology is what gives that little lock on your web browser to confirm that the website you are visiting is indeed who they say they are, and to assist in keeping data transfers secure.

To get this SSL technology, you need to request a certificate, the company providing the certificate makes some checks to ensure that the website you want to secure is legally yours, and you get one of these certificates. Again – not overly difficult.

So! step one, you go through the process to request the SSL certificate – Then step two? you find that whomever first registered your company name on the interwebs for that http://www.acmebuilding.com domain, was too lazy to register it to your complete company name; ACME Building Corporation Inc.

They cheated, and took the shortcut of registering it as being owned by the shortened ABCInc.

Since that shortcut of ABCInc is not your registered business name, you cannot add that SSL certificate until you get that company name fixed. In our case we had to create a new company record and actually transfer the domain ownership to what should have been our name in the first place.

As a note, this could also happen if you had a supplier register your domain name under their business name. By this I mean that your acmebuilding.com domain was created and owned by Shay-Dee Web Design Corporation.

The SMB Takeaway

Take the 30 seconds to do it right, the first time.

And a reminder, if you had someone else set you up on the web – make sure it is your name as owner – not theirs.

Book Review: Switch

July 13, 2010

Switch: How To Change Things When Change Is HardSwitch

Chip and Dan Heath provide an easily readable text on change. and in this case, the definition of change being both organizational change and self actualization.

Written in made to stick allegorical format, (the elephant and the rider) the text explains much of the psychology of change in an easy to read, easy to understand format. And let me clarify – they are not attempting to demonstrate some pop-science idea, they use current learning in psychology and behavioral theory  and package in a way that makes it intuitive for those of us who did not major in psychology or the behavioral sciences.

One interesting concept they explore is what behavioral theory calls self fulfilling prophecy. Simply put; if you think of yourself, (or more importantly, about others) in either a positive or a negative fashion, the more likely that we (or they) begin to act or to behave in a fashion that matches those positive or negative perceptions.

And a statistic that the authors identify?

..in an analysis of 558 emotion words – 62 % were negative

So at least in the English language – we humans seem to come pre-wired to think negatively about ourselves or others rather than positively. We demonstrate this by relentless focus on problems, or what was wrong, we don’t look at solutions or what went right.

To paraphrase the authors, four A’s on a child’s report card always seem to be eclipsed by the one F grade don’t they?

The SMB Takeaway

Problems are easy to spot, progress and success is  much harder. So make an effort to celebrate the successes. Celebrate the positives.

You may find that they become more visible, and more frequent.

PS: the italicized made to stick is a reference to the authors first book of that title!

This post is the next in my occasional series introduced in this post titled; IT In Marketing.

The short summary – this series documents a pretty typical smaller business that does not have a marketing staff, and the relatively simple changes that can be made that will improve the website part of your marketing efforts. For the last episode, click here.


I had a great conversation with Glenn Schmelzle, unlike myself, he is a professional in marketing. Glenn blogs about marketing and technology on his Marketing Whats New blog.

First, he gave me a good lecture on some ideas that I had neglected to think about!

Now, in my own defense, Glenn did have one excellent question though that I had already though about and could answer with at least reasonable intelligence.

What am I measuring?Measuring Results

There is an old old saying; If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.

And any work on your website is no different, you need to know where you are going, and how you will measure that you are getting there.

I need to know what is being truly measured by the work I am doing. How do I know if I am actually improving anything? – because If you are measuring nothing – you never know what you have actually achieved.

In this case?

Since I was starting from zero, my measurements for this first stage of redeveloping our website were really modest.

In one of the earlier posts in this series,  I documented that we were invisible. If you used a search engine to look for products in our space, you  could not  find our website. The only way you found us was if you actually searched for some portion of our company name.

From that I could infer that this meant that people were using Google as a phone book – Google our name then click the link that leads to our contact information. Not the best for new business!

Two simple measurements

So my initial measurements?

Measurement #1 is simply that when people search via Google, Yahoo or Bing for information in the area in which we compete, that we begin to be found.

Measurement #2 When people do find us, it is not simply a one page click – Google our name – then click the contact page for the phone number. In other words I want to show that as people begin to find our website, that they are taking a few minutes to actually read up about our product, service etc.

It is still early – but both of these measurements are beginning to improve.

Photo Credit Darrren Hester via flickr

Customer Service Failure

One simple question, but I still haven’t received an answer. One of the following gripes is simply poor set up of a customer service IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system.

But the second? (for the record – the original title to this was going to be WTF are they thinking,,, without the short form)

Well, I support being sure of information, and being sure of security – but there comes a time……

First let me back up with two background facts;

First, Yes I am married, but my wife uses her maiden name.

Secondly, just about three years ago we purchased my daughter a cellular package from Solo Mobile here in Canada. She was still a minor at the time, so the purchase was not in her name. And in this case it was my wife who went with her to get the phone, (but it could have just as easily been myself with the same following problem)

Did you notice that I stated; just about three years ago? We knew that we had purchased it around the beginning of her school term at the time. Meaning that sometime between August and October of this year that three year anchor (sorry, contract) is expiring.

At least with some carriers here, you also need to give three months notice that you are letting a plan expire – if you don’t, the carrier just rolls over the same plan and same phone at the same price on a month to month basis.

You can see the beginning of where I am going!

The supposedly simple question: What is the exact date that this plan is finished so this old phone can be allowed to die?

I could not find that information on the monthly statement, I could not find it on the electronic customer service portal either.

So I had to call their customer service line. Strangely enough – service only until 6 PM, so I had to call at lunch.

Their IVR system had “press 1-2-3” prompts for seeing phone usage stats, upgrading or adding features, support and other prompts. Buth there were none for my question; when does this plan terminate!! There was no press a button prompt to get to a human either. Although on one positive note, there was a prompt to reverse up the IVR tree each time I reached a dead end in my button pushing, so I was not forced to hang up and re-dial each time.

That was the minor IVR annoyance – now here is the kicker

1) I called customer service from that cellular phone

2) I had the credit card number it was purchased on

3) I had the monthly statement in front of me

3) I had the account ID number

4) I had the client ID number

When I finally found the correct sequence of prompts that got me to a human?

Their customer service still refused to speak with me because my name is not Heather!!!

And as hard as it sounds, there was worse!

Well two things were worse, one was the following statement, and the second was that I was not smart enough to take advantage of it when I was arguing with  them.

The statement?

“.. if Heather is there, just put her on the phone to prove its your plan you want to terminate”

What I should have done?

I should have handed the phone to the woman in the office next to me and just told her;

‘Just say you’re Heather, date of birth is dd/mm/yy when they ask for the Mothers maiden name it is xyz.’

The Takeaway

The IVR was an annoyance, no more.

But what in the hell information do I need to cancel a cellular phone? A faxed copy of the wedding certificate? (or, god forbid, a death certificate?)

We are not the only family in the world where the ‘dear wife’ (forgive the sarcasm) is not Mrs. Elliot Ross. Many women keep maiden names (default in province of Quebec in fact) and many hyphenate.

Dear Solo, a ‘security’ policy that you won’t talk to me because of my name, but would talk to the woman beside me if she said the right name, needs just a little bit of work.

UPDATE – 24 September – Solo has screwed with us again –

Since they would not talk to me, my wife had to call – (copy paste of the email below with addresses redacted) Solo documented the call and suggested calling again on the termination date to confirm.

Guess What?

When my wife called?

They said 30 days notice required and we were on the hook for another 30 days. Notice the email date – July 06!

From: Heather Buchan [mailto:heather.b@<deleted>.com]
Sent: Tuesday, July 06, 2010 15:38
To: Elliot Ross
Subject: RE: Solo won’t talk to me

Elliot, I spoke to Solo, the plan expires September 21st, 2010.  They have noted our file that we wish to cancel as of September 21, however we need to call them again on September 21 to confirm.
I will put a reminder in my calendar.

Photo Credit nathangibbs via flickr