The Dos and Donts of Software Evangelism

sw_evangelism.jpg

I think I first was introduced to the concept of software evangelism back in the mid-nineties when I first met Guy Kawasaki at Macworld Boston when Gil Amelio was train-wrecking the company. The idea seemed like a novel one and since hind-sight is 20-20, it was clearly a brilliant marketing concept allowing for reaching a broader range of customers while enfranchising the development community. Of course Steve Jobs came back to Apple and Guy left soon after… in my opinion Apple wasn’t big enough for both Guy and Steve. Nonetheless, they have both been extremely successful since parting ways.

Software evangelist’s are now common place in most tech companies, and the role has evolved considerably. The lines are blurry in what exactly the responsibilities of them are from company to company, but I think I’ve got a good perspective of what makes a good one and a bad one based on my personal dealings with them. If you’re an evangelist, here’s a quick list to maybe take a look at:

    Do:

    Answer all email’s from customers, no matter how ridiculous of mundane. Worst offense of this is when I would see an email of a somewhat difficult question on forums and not hear a peep, yet easy questions were answered quickly in the same time-frame. Silence really speaks volumes in cases like this and calls to attention integrity and expertise.

    Don’t:

    Shamelessly and relentlessly trash your competitor publicly on web forums like Twitter and Facebook. Even I have bias and preferences, but I’d like to think that good products speak for themselves and because of that I can remain agnostic. Let the community trash talk for you, they’re the best barometer of if something is “better” than something else.

    Do:

    Operate a personal blog and reveal a little of yourself to the community, even with off-topic posts of your personal life. Like mountain-climbing or Anime? Tell us. These tidbits create in-roads to folks who may not be inclined to reaching out, unearthing opportunities otherwise hidden.

    Don’t:

    Be aloof at conferences and events with a generic “no comment” to most questions. I understand NDA’s and the need to keep quiet on competitive product news but there is a lot that can be done to mitigate this. Deflect the topics to ones that you can talk about or try and on-board these folks legally. Usually the people asking these questions are smart, get them under an NDA and get some valuable customer data rather than turn them away.

These are just a few examples I’ve seen from BIG companies and I bet more than a few of my friends could think of specific people I’m talking about. I won’t identify them, but I will identify someone who I think is a great evangelist.

Chuck Freedman from Ribbit is in my book, the quintessential evangelist. He’s smart, personable, and approachable on many levels and keeps his small yet growing developer-base updated and involved. Evangelists at big companies may want to take notice of Chuck’s work.

I know, half of the job is marketing and holding the torch for your company/product but take this advice from me as your customer. It’s politics. Be a good politician and you’ll be successful.

Advertisement

I’m Speaking at Harvard

harvard.jpg

There’s something I thought I’d never say. Yup, little old me is very excited to be addressing some of Harvard University’s faculty and staff next week at this months’ Harvard Flash User Group Meeting. The details are below:

    Fidelity Investments has been extremely successful in defining, architecting, and building a variety of industry leading and award-winning rich media experiences for our customer base. The session will provide an overview of how technologies are identified and developed for maximum flexibility and scalability from a product life-cycle management perspective. Several real world examples will be showcased of how Fidelity has used Flash technology to drive business, educate our customers, and extend our brand across mobile and desktop devices. Come see how interesting and exciting even financial services can be when you add a touch of Flash.

I’ll admit, I avoid “The People’s Republic” most of the time and prefer Boston proper but I’m really look forward to this. Especially since my brother “Unca Mike” is currently a Harvard student. I believe it’s somewhat open to the public so check their policies for details if you’d like to come.

It took Apple SVP Phil Schiller to convince me on the iPhone

schiller_th.jpg

I had the opportunity to go back to my alma mater Boston College to go see Phil Schiller speak yesterday. Phil graduated from BC in 1982 and is Senior Vice President of Worldwide Product Marketing, Apple Inc. Something tells me Phil was also in town for the BC-Notre Dame football game this weekend as well, but I digress.

In a nutshell, Phil’s presentation was excellent. Since it was mostly educators there, Phil didn’t try and spin a elearning context to Apple’s product, but he did touch on how the iPhone was changing everyone’s (particularly BC students) lives. Whether he was trying to sell the crowd on the iPhone or not, he got me. I’d been really thinking about getting one lately, particularly after looking at the SDK. The big epiphany for me was his emphasis on software being the most innovative thing driving the iPhone. The cell-phone industry had traditionally been so centered on hardware first and software last. Apple saw an opportunity here and entered the mobile market positioning the iPhone as a high-end device which was all about killer apps. And yes the iPhone as a device is still sexy, but lacks in camera, removable storage, etc… What I’ve realized recently is… who cares? Software is king and really allows for the fastest path to innovation, and who’s better at software than Apple?

Of the five questions asked after the talk, I asked him directly about Flash on the iPhone. As an aside Phil told me interestingly enough that they bought Flash will he was at Macromedia years ago over Christmas since they knew Microsoft would be on to it any day. But I got the vanilla Steve Jobs answer of “legacy video player, performance hog, not built for touch” etc… I could have pushed him on this here since all those answers are kind of a cop-out. There’s clearly an angle with Flash undermining their service delivery model for software. But there it is… that’s about as close as you can get to asking that same question to the Jobs man himself.

Don’t be surprised if you see an iPhone up in my banner soon.