The world is changing. Fast. Business is changing. Now. And yet every day I see around me examples of businesses unable to see the benefits of embracing the ideas of openness.
Take online services. Basecamp won us over almost a year ago by showing plenty of screen shots, displaying their pricing right up front, and offering a free trial. They have since opened up even more, releasing completely free applications to help generate buzz, and providing forums for their users to openly discuss their love (and hate) of the product. It has worked brilliantly. They are creating passionate users. The folks at 37signals have become authorities, rising stars of the online business world.
Contrast this with a local company, which shall remain nameless, that develops a content management system. Well, we are developing a kind of CMS also, so of course we have taken an interest in similar offerings. I spend lots of time looking around from the perspective of a potential customer. What’s out there? What does it cost? How hard is it to integrate? The interesting thing is, I could find answers to none of these questions from the website of this company. So I emailed them. This was followed up by several phone calls from them, offering to discuss my needs.
This all seems somehow old world to me. Are they going to try to sell me health insurance too? I just want to visit their website and get the information I need to compare them to the other guys. If I had to put up with telephone negotiations with everyone I was considering, I would just set up a blog and be done with it! I can go to typepad.com right this instant and see their pricing in one click. I can also sign up for a free trial. That’s it.
As a customer, this appeals to me. I’m not going to get that from the still-unnamed CMS offering. Who knows what it will look like? Who knows if I will like it when it is up and running? How will it feel? Will my web designer want to deal with it? No idea.
I might decide against Basecamp, or Typepad, or Backpack, or whatever… but they sure are on my radar. They are open about what they offer, and they do not force me to endure the sales pitch.
That is my Web 2.0.