Posts Tagged 'Community'

Building a Community – Lessons from GFI Max

One of the ways you can tell if a good product or company is gathering momentum and becoming popular is by how much of a community is building up around that product or company. When people are passionate about something they want to talk to other likeminded people about it.

GFI Max LogoOver the past couple of years, GFI Max is one such company where I’ve observed a growing community of people who want to spend time together talking about the Max RMM tool.

Whilst this isn’t something that has happened entirely by design, it’s not something that happened by accident either.

GFI have helped facilitate their community by providing the GFI Max LinkedIn Forums – a place where Max users can chat, exchange ideas and give feedback to the GFI team – good or bad. Whilst these forums are monitored and members of the Max team participate in discussion themselves, they aren’t moderated in the sense that if a Max client has a gripe about the product or the company that they air with their peers – the GFI team don’t delete the message or shy away from it, they respond to it directly. This attitude towards being open and transparent hasn’t gone un-noticed by the SMB Community.

Members of the GFI Max LinkedIn forums are usually the first people that get to hear about new features and the forthcoming Max Roadmap too, further building a sense that the community is valued.

Earlier this year, GFI responded to a request from the Thames Valley Small Business Specialist User Group led by Chris Timm. The group, which has a high proportion of GFI Max users within it, was looking for a new sponsor, and GFI agreed to step in and help that group continue to grow.

All of these things on their own aren’t enough to persuade people to use GFI Max products. You still need a really good product and service delivery (which I believe GFI Max has). But if all things are equal, and an IT company is faced with choosing between two or more really good products – as is the case in the RMM market populated by GFI Max, Labtech, Kaseya and others – people tend to choose the product that their peers have recommended to them.

You can’t fake this stuff. Building a community of raving fans isn’t something you can acquire. People can tell the difference between a paid endorsement and genuine goodwill towards a company or product. It takes time and it’s not easy. Most IT vendors give up because it’s too hard. They want immediate returns. Those vendors will still sell stuff, because generally their product is good, but retaining clients and as importantly, having clients who will talk about their product to others? That takes commitment.

GFI Max Global Conferences 2011Over the next few weeks, GFI Max will be taking another step towards supporting their community and will be hosting their first GFI Max Global Conferences at four locations across the globe.

The UK Conference takes place in Oxford on October 20th.

The USA Conference takes place in Florida on November 8th and 9th.

Not forgotten, Australia gets it’s Conference in Sydney on December 1st, and Europe has a Conference on November 23rd in the Netherlands.

I’ll be attending the UK Conference on October 20th, and will be looking forward to getting together with a whole load of GFI Max users.

Are you a GFI Max user and attending too? Let me know!

 

Richard Tubb is an IT Business Consultant who works with ambitious IT companies who want to grow their businesses in a scalable and sustainable way. He is also a Microsoft UK Small Business Specialist Partner Area Lead (PAL) and the elected chair of the CompTIA UK Channel Community. You can e-mail him at richard@tubblog.co.uk or connect with him via Twitter and LinkedIn.

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CompTIA UK Channel Community – Three Member’s Opinions

imageLast week I attended two events out of the Ricoh Arena in Coventry. The first, held on Thursday 12th May, was the CRN Partner Connect Exhibition – which many of you may know better by its previous name, the UK Channel Expo. The event saw hundreds of Vendors, Distributors and Resellers got together for an expo, networking, and a series of educational presentations.image

George Ilko of Vitality Presenting at CRN Connect 2011It’s fair to say that I’m somewhat of a veteran of IT Conferences by now, so whilst the line-up of presentations looked good, I’ve long since realised that the value of these events is the meetings in the Corridors and Coffee Shops of the venue – spending time with my peers, catching-up with old faces and meeting new ones. I did make time to visit the session with George Ilko of Vitality (pictured right) as he presented on Managed Services for IT providers – a great presentation delivered by George within difficult time constraints.

CompTIA UK Channel Community mealThe evening saw a number of Vendors and Resellers get together with CompTIA UK for a drinks reception and meal in the G Casino, part of the Ricoh Arena. As I alluded to above, I know from experience that the nuggets of wisdom and advice you can pick-up from your peers in an informal environment like this can be invaluable, and this particular evening was no exception.

The next-day, Friday 13th May, saw the second event which was the first in-person meeting of the new CompTIA UK Channel Community group, of which I blogged about earlier this year when I was honoured to be voted in as the groups new Chair, along with Vice Chair Lee Evans of Vital.

The event was well attended by a mixture of Vendors and Resellers of different sizes, and more importantly – everyone (and I do mean everyone) who attended contributed ideas and got actively involved in the discussion.

The day saw an opening presentation on the state of the industry from CompTIA President Todd Thibodeaux, and the group also heard a well received and lively presentation from Linda Ockwell-Jenner of Motivational Steps.

Member participation saw some lively discussions and the group lay plans for an initiative to deliver a Vendor Marketing Portal, as well as an initiatives to deliver Legal Contract templates for use by members, and other initiatives that would benefit the group members.

Lee Evans, Andy Parkes of IBIT Solutions, and George Ilko delivered exceptional pitches to the group to help decide on a UK Charity that the group would work with to deliver $5000 of funding to.

We also congratulated and gave a prize to Ben Tristem of Embrace IT for his winning idea in the 30-second Best Practice competition, as the group voted his idea the winner out of the dozens of great ideas that were put forwards. The real winners, of course, were all the attendees who came away with dozens of good ideas to implement in their own businesses.

I felt privileged to be so closely involved in the first meeting of a group of people who are so clearly passionate about the industry they work in. I’ve been a part of the UK SMB IT Community for many years now, attending lots of meetings of various groups, but I felt this group has the opportunity to make the most impact of any I’ve been to.

But what did the other attendees think? Well, judging by the fact that there were still people sat together, exchanging ideas and chatting some 2 hours *after* the event had finished – I suspect it was well received!

That said, I took time to record short video interviews with three of the attendees to get their thoughts. I chose the three individuals specifically because of their involvement in Peer Communities in the past.

In Rob Copestick of Spiral IT, we met somebody who is brand new to peer groups. Rob has only just made the decision to start his own IT company, and so I was interested to hear what he had to say about his experiences at the meeting as he first of this kind.

Rob Copestick of Spiral IT

Rob Franklin of JPT Solutions is somebody who has been a part of the Microsoft Small Business Specialist Community, and in particular, the AMITPRO group for a couple of years or more. Rob has recently taken big steps to grow his own business, and so I wanted to get his views on how Peer Groups like CompTIA can help a growing business to accelerate that growth.

Rob Franklin of JPT Solutions

Finally, Gareth Brown of SYTEC is someone many (myself included) consider to be one of the long-time key influencers of the UK SMB IT Community and somebody who helped build the Microsoft SBSC programme alongside people such as Susanne Dansey of Purple Cow (who was also in attendance). I specifically invited Gareth to the meeting as I knew his expertise would be invaluable, and I was intrigued to hear his feelings on what a well established and very successful company like SYTEC gets from these meetings.

Gareth Brown of SYTEC

Interestingly, all three individuals gave a similar message – that taking time out of their business to spend time with their peers was time well spent.

For me, this is no surprise at all – I grew my own MSP business off the back of the great ideas and advice I picked up at UK SMB IT Community events. What’s more, I personally came away from the two days with CompTIA with a ton of great suggestions for my own business. That’s invaluable and to me is the difference between growing your business slowly, working things out as best you can, and growing your business quickly by working with others for mutual benefit.

I’m excited to be the Chair of the CompTIA UK Channel Community, and I think that the group has the rare opportunity to help bring together some of the best and most engaged members of the UK SMB IT Community to raise the bar in the IT industry as a whole.

The group is free to join, and you don’t have to be a member of CompTIA to do so – although I strongly encourage to join CompTIA as a member (as I have) as they really do offer many benefits that you’ll both find useful, and help you both save and make money for your business!

My thanks to William Linard, Matthew Poyiadgi and especially Jim Hamilton of CompTIA for helping us organise such a successful first meeting.

You can see some more photographs from the group meeting on my Flickr page.

The groups next meeting is scheduled August 2011 – you can find out more via the groups LinkedIn group, by visiting the Community Portal page, or by reaching out to me directly.

 

Richard Tubb is an Independent Consultant who works with IT companies to enable them to feel more in control and to grow their business. He is also a Microsoft UK Small Business Specialist Partner Area Lead (PAL) and the chair of the CompTIA UK Channel Community. You can e-mail him at richard@tubblog.co.uk or connect with him via Twitter and LinkedIn.

Error. Please Removes Spaces – Are you kidding me?

Frustrated GirlHave you ever attempted to complete a short on-line form, something that should be quick and simple, and ended up ready to throw your computer out of the window in frustration?

I know I have. Just this week, I wanted to view some information on a web-site but frustratingly was required to sign-up as a member to the site before I was given access to the information I wanted. <grumble> The on-line membership sign-up form I was presented with then asked me for a relatively large amount of information, including my address and telephone number. <grr> By the time I’d filled all this in, I was tempted to simply seek out the information I wanted from another web-site altogether! But I pressed “Submit” and to my irritation was given the following error back.

“Please remove Spaces”.

The error referred to my telephone number, which I’d input on to the form with a space between dialling code and main number.

How ridiculous! How simple is it for the form itself to remove the spaces, and let me get on with the job at hand?

All of us regularly come across examples of these roadblocks in our day-to-day lives, and whilst they are often simply irritations to many of us, in the age of convenience these irritations can also mean the difference between a user completing a transaction with us or throwing their hands into the air and giving up.

  • You ask your clients to give you feedback on your product or service. They happily agree, then you e-mail them with a dozen “Rate on a Scale of 1 to 10” items. At best, they get bored and click randomly. At worst, they get bored and leave the survey unfinished. How about picking just the one or two most important questions you need answering for your survey, and focusing on them instead?
  • Residents are encouraged to report pot-holes in their local roads to their Council, for repair. They are offered a telephone number to do so, but the number is only manned between 9am and 5pm on Weekdays. How about offering residents an e-mail address or SMS facility that allows them to report issues 24/7?
  • A reader visits your blog and enjoys an article. She wants to share it with her friends via Facebook or Twitter but that involves visiting Facebook directly and cutting and pasting the link. How about making it really simple for them to share the article by providing buttons that allow direct posting to Facebook or Twitter, with the article link automatically populated?

Review your external touch-points regularly, and put yourself in your customers shoes. Is it simple and obvious for them to achieve their desired goal? Take steps to simplify and streamline these touch points. This is especially important when you solicit feedback as part of a Community.

We are in the Information Age where, whether we like it or not, people move quickly and attention spans are limited. If you don’t make it as simple and convenient as possible for people to interact with you, they’ll simply go elsewhere – and now, more than ever, there are plenty of alternatives for them to try.

 

Richard Tubb is an Independent Consultant who works with IT companies to enable them to feel more in control and to grow their business. He is also a Microsoft UK Small Business Specialist Partner Area Lead (PAL) and the chair of the CompTIA UK Channel Community. You can e-mail him at richard@tubblog.co.uk or connect with him via Twitter and LinkedIn.

AMITPRO Meeting – The Arden Hotel, Solihull – 8th March 2011

AMITPRO LogoThe March AMITPRO group meeting will take place on Tuesday 8th March, 2011 at The Arden Hotel in Solihull, with a couple of interesting speakers lined up:-

Bill Jest and Vin Jauhal – WemTel

They will be talking about hosted Voice-over-IP (VoIP).

Outline agenda

  • What do Customers look for?
  • Why deliver Voice?
  • Platform and Architecture
  • What are the requirements?
  • Who is Hosted VoIP for?
  • Options and Features
  • Advantages ‘The Pluses’
  • Disadvantages ‘The Pitfalls’
  • The Opportunity
  • Deployment Examples
  • Customer Savings & Seller Profits

The second speaker is:-

David is a digital forensic examiner and his specialist area is the analysis of handheld digital devices, such as Smartphones and iPhones. His main area of work is for criminal defence lawyers and he has management vetting clearance as a sub-contract forensic examiner of mobile phones, for a local police county. He is the digital forensic expert for the Cavell Group who are specialists in crisis mitigation and can be called upon by them at anytime and potentially may have to travel anywhere in the world in response to a crisis. He also now provides forensic services to businesses which may involve assisting with providing evidence for HR matters along with digital audits. In his presentation he will discuss the types of evidence that can be found in handheld devices, the ethical side of digital investigation, the challenges involved and also what advances, such as the cloud, may offer additional challenges to forensic examiners.

***

On a personal note – I’ve had the opportunity to chat to David Benford about Technical Forensics and let me just say the whole topic of his presentation is both very timely and fascinating. I’m really looking forward to David’s presentation, as I think it’ll be a real eye-opener for those that see it!

Visitors to the group are very welcome! Arrive at 1700 for 1730, with the group networking in the bar area both before and after the presentations.

Want more details? Reach out to AMITPRO Group Lead Andy Parkes, or feel free to drop me a line!

 

Richard Tubb is an Independent Consultant who works with IT companies to enable them feel in control and grow their businesses. He is also a Microsoft UK Small Business Specialist Partner Area Lead (PAL). You can e-mail him at richard@tubblog.co.uk or connect with him via Twitter and LinkedIn.


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