Thursday, March 19, 2015

WTF Product Roadmap to EPIC FAIL

Planning product features and the product roadmap -- it's something established businesses do in an effort to chart the evolution of a product in alignment with the market. While it's usually based around a presentation, it's really a conversation to discuss whether the direction makes sense. While someone may own it, it should be a consensus document. I write this to underscore how this recent feature deprecation announcement from represents a strategic choice on their part; albeit one that has the potential to drive a broad exodus from the platform.

What change is looking like it may be the stupidest roadmap decision of 2015? Salesforce has essentially killed support for email integration for companies using POP and IMAP.

But wait, you might say, there is "Email to Salesforce". What I'm talking about is the integrated support for Microsoft's Outlook email client, what used to be the "Connector for Outlook" and then became "Salesforce for Outlook". Salesforce for Outlook, the product feature that they've been telling us is the path forward for four or five years now, does not support POP or IMAP. In the past, the product managers at Dreamforce used to tell us, "although POP and IMAP aren't officially supported in "Salesforce for Outlook", go ahead and use it. It should work." However, the latest version of Salesforce for Outlook only works with an Exchange server. Why? Because they baked in validation to make sure that there's a connected Exchange server.

And then there's this from their blog:
Announcing Availability of the Salesforce App for Outlook
Mar 18 2015 | By Ryan Aytay
Today, we’re excited to announce the new Salesforce App for Outlook. This exciting integration gives you a brand new way to experience Salesforce, right from Outlook and Office 365. Even better, it’s 100 percent cloud based with nothing to install! The Salesforce App for Outlook is the latest milestone of our strategic partnership with Microsoft.
This follows an email that they sent out the day before. Here's a snippet from that:
What is changing?
With the Winter ‘16 release*, we will retire and end support for Connect for Outlook. After the release, the application will no longer save your emails or sync your contacts, events, and tasks between Outlook and Salesforce.

*Currently targeted for October 2015; date subject to change

What do we recommend?
We understand that this retirement will cause some disruption for customers using Connect for Outlook, and we are here to help. Prior to the Winter ‘16 release, we encourage you to migrate to Salesforce for Outlook, the application with enhanced features that brings Salesforce directly into your Outlook environment. There is no cost to migrate, and you can learn more about it in the video here. To get started, please see the Salesforce for Outlook Quick Start page. In addition, you can find more information in the Connect for Outlook Feature Retirement Knowledge article.

Why are we retiring this product?
Salesforce for Outlook supports the latest versions of Microsoft’s operating systems and Outlook. Moving forward, we will continue focusing our development efforts on Salesforce for Outlook.
And then there's this from their ideas portal. The gist of this idea thread is that for four years -- since they first dropped Salesforce for Outlook on users -- people have been asking for POP / IMAP sync support. In the latest comment from Project Management section, there's this from early March:
Kristie Garafola
Thanks everyone for your thoughtful feedback. I completely understand the frustration and the challenge this presents. While Pop3/IMAP was never officially supported by SFO, you have all made it very clear that it was used- and used heavily- prior to the release that added the supportability check that is causing the problem now.

I have consolidated your input and am escalating this to see what our options are here.  Thank you and I'll circle back as soon as I have more to share.
The reality is that the most likely victims of this shift in product support is the SMB market. These are the businesses that are more likely to use Outlook with a POP/IMAP set-up and an email system like Google Apps. Microsoft's Office 365, the product direction from the Microsoft roadmap, is a subscription-based cloud service that parallels the pricing structure of Google Apps. Of course, since they announced a partnership back in 2008, customers have been asking for integration and sync between Salesforce and Gmail, but there has been no support nor improvement in support since that time. Contrast that with the current move -- basically Salesforce for Outlook will work correctly if you pay Microsoft about $4 per user per month. Merry F'n Christmas Salesforce customers!

For Salesforce users that need email sync -- which is virtually all of them -- we've had to endure shitty email sync for years. Connector for Outlook was a good tool, but when they first rolled out Salesforce for Outlook, it was essentially a canned version of Email to Salesforce -- it would only add email to Leads or Contacts and Opportunities if the Contact was on the opportunity. It sucked, but it was the only solution for 64-bit OS users and later versions of Outlook (2010 and beyond). It took two years of updates before they actually approached the functionality that in the original Outlook Connector. Now this move. And don't even get me started on "officially supported Mac email sync.

The bottom line really is, has shitty email sync and integration support and their roadmap is for more of the same. If you're a sales guy and you can't sync your customer's email to your CRM platform, then it's not much of CRM platform. Instead of actually building in useful email integration, Salesforce seems like they would rather devote product engineering resources on things like "Like" buttons for Chatter and those "all critical" tangential product elements like HR systems and Or maybe support for the Apple Watch. Exciting. New markets are all well and good, but if "the Number One CRM Platform in the world" can't easily record customer communications, it may be time to abandon that moniker. And, for customers, it may be time update your roadmap with "start looking at alternatives".

Friday, March 13, 2015

A Nice Look at the Why of a Gold Apple Watch

Here's a good, quick read looking at the why of the high dollar gold edition Apple Watch. Sometimes, you can do things because you're the only one that can do them.

Why is Apple making a gold watch?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Apple's 99% Customer Satisfaction - I am the 1%

While some may look back at the Occupy Movement and associate the 1% with the extremely wealthy -- the kind that can afford a gold edition Apple Watch without blinking -- the one percent has a number of potential connections. Wikipedia has about 14 different topics linked to the one percent. For me, the one that still resonates most prominently is the one characterized in Hunter S. Thompson's Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga; "99% of motorcyclists were law-abiding citizens, implying that the last one percent were outlaws".

Yesterday, during their big spring announcement, Apple claimed a 99% satisfaction rate for iPhone customers. As I read through a live blog of the event, that stat became one of the most salient points for me. I am the one percent! Or, more correctly, I am a one percenter. I am not satisfied with my iPhone, nor have I been since the interface changes in iOS 7. I used to be satisfied. Elated. Awed. And the ironic part is, I could be again -- my issues are essentially with the software.

Yet another example is the most recent update to iOS 8.2. Apple has added the Apple Watch app. On the list of people not planning to purchase an Apple Watch, me. But now I have the app on my phone. As a bundled part of software, I understand what they're doing, but I much preferred the old way of "this is something I need, so I'll download it."

Perhaps the worst metric of success is the percentage of users running the latest version of the OS. Realisticially, it's a great benchmark against the carrier-deployed Android phones that may be running generations old software, but let's not kid ourselves -- I didn't update my OS because I'm satisfied, I upgraded my OS in hopes of addressing the endlessly evolving security concerns. If I could go back to older software with no security liability, I would do it in a heartbeat. But perhaps you are considered satisfied because you're running the latest version of the OS too. Maybe you are really in the one percent as well...

Monday, March 9, 2015

Monday Morning Internet Linguistics Reading

Here's an interesting little piece on linguistics and the language of the Internet. Definitely worth a look...

That Way We’re All Writing Now

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

SMX West Expo: Why do you charge for your expo?

So you're hosting a conference and you decide to charge for exhibition attendance, what's your strategy? Often, a baseline charge is a good way to make an event more exclusive, providing the exhibitors with a filter that reduces the number of people who attend simply to sell the exhibitors something.

Put differently, if you're hosting an exhibition, you're exhibitors would probably rank conference attendees as their best prospects, people who use the products or are in the industry as second best, and the least desirable being the vendors and businesses that attend simply to sell products or services to the exhibitors -- exhibitors, publications, consultants, shipping companies, suppliers. We've even had people come in off the street collecting bags of booth give-away stuff -- on occasion.

An on-site charge can go a long way to prevent this kind of traffic.

However, I'm trying to imagine the "bad" traffic in that mix trying to sell to companies exhibiting at a search marketing conference. Now weigh that against the potential "walk-in" customers to an exhibition that might actually benefit from the products or services that a company exhibiting there would display. If I were an exhibiting company, I would be pissed. Or rather, I wouldn't be a repeat exhibitor.

This is to you, sponsoring companies of the SMX West Expo -- I won't be visiting the expo because they decided to charge for expo admission. I don't know anything more about you or your business. Google, Yahoo, I didn't get to speak with your team there. AimClear, Alight Analytics, Marin Software, SEORadar, Moz, Yext -- I missed seeing your booth. If you were trying to reach me, your marketing dollars were wasted. Were I in your shoes, I'd express some concerns.

SMX West: The Secret Conference

As a marketing pro, I get a lot of emails promoting conferences. One of the great rules is that, if you go to a conference once, you're going to get email from the conference forever forward. I think that the last Macworld I went to was probably in 2010, but I still get emails from them every year.

That's what makes the SMX West conference even more baffling. Searching my inbox, the last time that I received an email from the SMX group was all the way back in 2011. Contrast that to the RSA conference where I probably get an email a week. There are two possible take-aways from this:
  1. The SMX Conference marketing team has a strategy, and that strategy doesn't include emailing people to alert them to the conference. Perhaps they don't like email or don't want to spend on email. Perhaps they only know search. Or simply underscore the importance of search. Either way, at this point, if I hadn't looked for the conference I wouldn't have known anything about it.
  2. I am not their target demographic. Sure I manage search marketing programs. Sure, I've been to their conference before. But maybe I don't spend enough. Maybe I'm not buying a particular set of tools that they believe in. Maybe I'm not somebody who's going to spend $2K on a conference. 
All of that being said, it's unlikely that I will be pointing out much of anything valuable in terms of marketing take-aways from this event -- except perhaps as a case study for the most invisible promotional efforts.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

SMX West Search Marketing Conference: Marketing FAIL

A funny thing happened to me on the way to the SMX West Conference Expo -- I got ready to register to attend the expo only to discover that they wanted to hit me with a $50 registration fee. Why? Because the conference started today. If I had registered yesterday or before, I would be eligible for the "early bird rate" of free. What a difference a day makes.

The irony is that several years ago, I actually walked the show when it was in Santa Clara. It was worthwhile enough that I probably would have attended again had other business commitments not kept me from attending. Essentially, I was out of town when the show was going on for the past couple of years. Enter 2015 and a conference that had enough traction with me to have me dive in and figure out when it was scheduled. Imagine my surprise to discover that the event it taking place right now. "Awesome," I thought. "I'll head over there right now." Then registration and styme.

At this point, I think it's important to talk about just what exactly that $50 registration fee means. Sure, I could pay it. I could expense it and it wouldn't come out of my pocket. But I'm not going to spend it. For me, what that $50 fee does is actually more of an insult than it is an obstacle. In a single pricing decision, I have been moved from attendee / potential customer to offended critic.

I'm sorry for the companies that have paid to exhibit and participate in this conference. I will not see you. My colleagues will not see you. If you had anything new or interesting to offer, we won't learn about it.

The Problem with Google's Campus Development Proposal

So the news of the week is that Google has proposed a significant overhaul of its business campus over in the Shoreline area of Mountain View. From Mountain View's The Voice,
Google gave the Voice a look at the plans Friday morning for a 3.4 million-square-foot campus to hold 10,000 new employees, the first buildings Google will have designed and built in Mountain View, despite the city being home to its headquarters since its inception. 
Of course, Google isn't the only one proposing new development, Google, LinkedIn and five real estate developers have submitted plans to build millions of square feet of new offices. Along with Google's proposal, there are a host of other civic improvements that they've bundled in too. The crazy thing about all of this is not the unique architecture, it's really more about trying to imagine another 10,000 people going in and out of that area each day. As anyone who has tried to navigate the intersection between 101 and 85 during rush hour knows, even with Google buses hauling thousands of Google employees in and out, the area is still a congested mess. Even if you consider their current numbers where about 1/3 of Google employees arrive by Google bus, that's still another 5000 or so cars trying to squeeze their way into the area.

The reports on the radio were all making a big deal about housing -- where are all of these new Googlers going to live? The reality is that that's really a minor part of the story. Unless the downtown Mountain View train station is redeveloped to look more like Tokyo station, with multiple train lines running through in multiple directions, the Magic Eightball prediction for traffic in the area is FUBAR.

The other funny thing about this is the "this will bring 10,000 new jobs into the area" message, the great canard of the "tech boom". The real truth underlying this "boom" is that this "10,000 jobs" number is not "people that need a job here in the area" -- this is not a new factory hiring local workers to come in and operate the machinery -- it's more likely 10,000 prestigious college graduates and international Visa holders brought in from everywhere else. I know that sounds like a joke, but having lived in Mountain View for fifteen years, I've had many Google neighbors but none of them lived here before they were hired by Google. In short, for most of the "new generation" of tech companies, there is a simple rule -- if you already live here, you're probably too old (unless you're a student at Stanford or Berkeley).

Don't get me wrong -- I think that the new architecture is interesting and would be a welcome addition to the office park. But beyond those buildings, those open spaces and those bike paths, there needs to be a lot more investment in how people get around. Money being what it is, I expect that it is unlikely to expect "the character" of Mountain View to remain the same as it was even 10 years ago, but what it's destined to become is a mess unless the infrastructure to support all of this is developed.

FitBit FAIL: Why I will not buy another FitBit device

A couple of weeks ago on a Sunday, FitBit got me again. Friends were talking about steps, we were talking about playing along on the competitive step tracking, and I was poised for a week of tradeshow activities -- usually good for 20-25K step days. And so, on the way to the airport, we popped into Costco to pick up some new FitBit units.

We needed new hardware because we had both gone through the inevitable losing the FitBit experience... twice. Enter the latest in chapter in our Fitbit saga, the Fitbit Flex. Initially, when we were looking at the Costco packaging, it looked like a great deal -- we could get three Fitbits for $100. Then, somebody in the store explained to us that it was only one Fitbit with three wristbands (the packaging is not particularly clear about this). So, somewhat discouraged by getting less of a deal than we expected, we decided to move forward. In the parking lot, we soon discovered that the multiple color options was not, in fact, much for multiple color options -- instead, just two color options and a second size (the bands come in small or large). And as we continued to the airport, be began to muse as to the purpose of including so many wrist bands -- do they wear out that quickly? Are replacements expensive? So many product mysteries.

My trip was a short one -- just down to Anaheim for the night, set-up the next morning, then back. By the time I had left security at John Wayne airport, I realized that my new Fitbit Flex was gone. Your first instinct is to go back to security and look for it, but when you know that you didn't take it off in the first place, you can bet that it fell off sooner than than. When we first bought the units, we wrestled with trying to get the little plastic snap through the rubber wristband -- why not use a traditional watchband clasp? My complaints at that time were only a fraction of what they were once I realized that the crappy snap-in design didn't stay on my wrist.

Part of the reason why we purchased the Fitbit from Costco was their excellent return policy -- the idea that if we didn't like the wristband unit, we could return it easily. Sadly, when you have lost your Fitbit, you can't really return it for it's sucky design.

Perhaps the most ironic Fitbit thing -- I remember sitting through a session at Dreamforce where they were talking about what a great customer experience Fitbit provides using the marketing features in When a person activates a unit, Fitbit sends them an email. You might think that Fitbit would send you an email when they suddenly see your activity stop. Then again, that's probably an indication that you lost yet another Fitbit. Feedback? no. Need help? no. Discounts on replacements? no. Loyalty? none.

I'm done.