Collaborate to accumulate
Psion’s IngenuityWorking community has played a crucial role in developing its products and marketing, turning engaged users into significant financial returns.
Time is a valuable commodity especially for an international airport working to shift plane-loads of people and cargo minute by minute.
Düsseldorf International Airport, for example, handles 750 take-offs and landings a day and 19 million passengers annually. Behind this feat of efficiency is Psion, the British-based pioneer of personal digital assistant (PDA) products and technology.
Psion’s PDA, which provides the backbone to industries such as logistics and shipping, is designed to provide an almost bespoke solution to clients’ needs.
“Our product platform is adaptable,” says Psion chief marketing officer Nick Eades. “That is really important in this $4bn industry because our product is neither expensive nor commoditised a good, strong differentiation.”
Back in the Eighties, the company rode high on the popularity of the Psion Organiser, then the must-have device for tech-literate consumers. For Psion, consumer products are now a thing of the past and its wares are strictly B2B. It provides crucial data capture, RFID, speech and wireless technologies to airports, warehouses, factory floors and other industrial environments. Its technology is central to managing complex supply chains and tracking goods and people.
Psion might stand tall in 2011 with its industry positioning and product portfolio, but the journey hasn’t always been smooth. In 2008, it reported an £8.8m operating loss and a 0.2% decline in revenue.
Research firm Forrester reported on Psion earlier this year, citing a number of historical hindrances, including low confidence among channel partners.
“Value-added resellers and distributors were critical to its success,” noted a March 2011 Forrester report entitled ’Psion embraces intercompany collaboration as a core part of its business’. “However,” it continued, “Psion lacked a coherent partner programme to help its channel market and customise the devices.”
In a bid to tackle these challenges and make digital central to its brand, Psion has sought to change the way it does business. The resulting IngenuityWorking social platform, which launched in March 2010, is a digital initiative to improve product performance, foster innovation, enhance customer support and provide a framework for marketing. It works like a typical online community with user profiles, blogs and discussion forums.
“As Psion developed its brand, digital was a key factor, but it has become more important than ever in the past two years,” says Eades. “The brand really comes to life digitally and lends itself to digital use.”
In Psion’s new incarnation, which was brought to life through a Futurebrand redesign in 2011, its company website is now little more than a corporate brochure a classic dotcom from which to obtain spec sheets.
“The way we live, what we do and therefore the way we feed marketing channels, such as search and online PR, comes through [community] IngenuityWorking,” says Eades. “We only need a dotcom because we are a public company. If you want to see what we do, how we do it, how we are different and how we could help you, you go to our community.”
The relationship between Psion’s employees, partners and customers is based within the cradle of IngenuityWorking.
Eighteen months since the community’s launch, an in-house research survey has found that most of Psion’s core reseller audience visit the site twice a week; 50% believe it gives them the chance to influence future products and services from Psion and 70% say it gives them new ideas and insight to put to use.
Most tellingly, 84% say the tools it provides make a positive contribution to their business.
In Psion’s digitally-oriented space, interactive marketing is now vital to everything it does. “We view our brand as living in the digital world, along with all the different assets we use as a marketing vehicle,” says Eades. “We have several different marketing platforms and IngenuityWorking is fundamental to launching our footprint in the digital space.”
Operating with supportive, informative and collaborative brand values, Psion wants to attract and retain its crucial reseller base.
“We are trying to make being a reseller the best experience in this industry,” says Eades. “So we have lots of digital support, a partner portal, easy access to collaboration, funds and resources to make campaigns a success.”
There are over 8,000 discussions going on at any one time on the site among the 15,000 signed-up members. The user-base is augmented by about 700 people who join each month numbers that all add up to it being the largest community in the industry by far.
Similar to other externally-facing communities created by businesses, Psion has a support area in IngenuityWorking. Removing the barriers between employees, customers and partners is its recipe for success.
Psion has convinced its customer support staff to actively participate and an active base of about 50 ’super-users’, drawn from resellers, customers and developers, act as influencers, advocates and helpers.
“I am solving problems I didn’t know I had because these people are using their experience collectively,” says Eades.
“We didn’t know the super-users were out there until we started the community, and we’re just starting to fully understand the value of what they do.”
The use of the open forum saves Psion’s helpdesk money at the same time as enhancing customer service via ease of use, language friendliness and 24-hour availability. In 2010, the year IngenuityWorking launched, the brand saw a 5.33% drop in helpdesk requests in the Americas compared to 2009 a fall of more than 500. The trend is continuing for 2011, with 9.8% fewer enquiries than in the same period last year. In Europe, Psion anticipates a 10.33% drop compared with 2010 a reduction of almost 1,000.
“These figures may not look big,” says Eades. “But as a smallish company of 1,000 people and under £200m revenues last year, they’re a strong signal that what we’re doing is having a substantial positive impact for the company.”
Through the open innovation business model spearheaded by chief executive John Conoley, Psion intends to work directly with its customers and partners to co-create new variants of its mobile hardware, software and service to better meet the needs of the market. Psion is asking customers to suggest changes to products.
As part of its digital strategy, the company claims it makes significant savings by securely collaborating on information regarding products in the final stages of development with key business partners and customers.
Beta-testing is one of the principal activities where IngenuityWorking is used. Typically, 40 partners and 20 customers are signed into a private, secure zone to test a product before it is launched. For example, the Omnii XT10 hand-held computer was rolled out to the secure zone community six months before it was launched.
“With the Omnii XT10, the resounding feedback from the community was that they did not like the keyboard and they were quite specific about how they wanted to reorganise it,” explains Tony Condi, global director of field marketing at Psion. “The product was successfully reconfigured and launched with the support of that beta trial group.”
“This process has helped to minimise errors with the added benefit of insight regarding new features and applications,” Condi says. “Our market is valued at close to $4bn a year. If we can gain just 1% more market share by adapting the product collaboratively with our partners and customers, that 1% is worth $40m annually well worth the investment.”
Social media in all its forms has been embraced by Conoley. Using a non-corporate style, his blogs are picked up by the wider world, driving significant traffic to the site. “We have used many of his blogs in outreach to resellers and reseller partners,” says Eades. “It is nice being a mid-cap, B2B company when you have a soul and it is visible in your community.”
Another thing that makes the company human is an area of IngenuityWorking called ’The Pub’. Instead of talking about supply chain, data capture and RFID, community members can go to The Pub and chat about football, for example.
“It allows people to learn how to blog and post photos,” notes Eades. “It is fun, easy-going and the moment people learn the ropes, it means they can go into the serious side and post with confidence, track and trace and stay in the conversation.”
Tracking is part of Psion’s DNA. The brand has a robust marketing automation system, allowing it to interact more specifically and deliver the type of content users want to see.
“If you have gone to IngenuityWorking and have spent a lot of time browsing its RFID pages, that tells us we need to send you our latest RFID articles and offerings,” says Condi. “That also goes for the wide-area mobile space or something in transportation.”
Condi also thinks that brands should use the rich data the community provides.
“It is an ongoing way that we test from a campaign perspective and then, via IngenuityWorking, we will put blogs out there and ask people what campaigns they like best,” he says. “It is real-time marketing research and means you have adapted, changed and avoided going down the wrong routes.”
Psion estimates that it has an 80-20 split between digital and traditional marketing. “The way our industry works is via a lot of little trade shows but the way we get people to the show is through digital,” comments Condi. “Added to that, all the harder-hitting marketing campaign stuff is now digital.”
Within this digital framework, IngenuityWorking is the platform and launch point for everything that is Psion. Beyond that, the company executes a number of separate marketing efforts to generate new customers and new business.
For example, the brand will use display advertising to launch campaigns within industry publications. These will then lead back to various microsites and to IngenuityWorking. Campaigns consistently follow a multi-channel approach and the aim is to touch people more than once with any particular digital display ad.
Consumers will be targeted according to their interests and at the same time introduced to IngenuityWorking so that Psion can drip-feed them with relevant marketing messages further down the road.
“We don’t just want to send someone to a site we want to engage with them and involve them with IngenuityWorking,” says Condi.
Psion estimates its community delivers a return in new members which is equivalent to £10,000 a month. In addition, when evaluating organic search, Psion estimates that IngenuityWorking contributes an annual value of more than £160,000, comparing well to other types of activity for similar viewership.
The community is a useful search marketing tool in itself. It has many thousandsof pages indexed by search engines. Over the 18 months since IngenuityWorking was launched, the community has had more than 3.5 million page views.
If social media didn’t exist, Psion would have been forced to do that networking in the physical realm through established channels, such as the conference centre model. Updating traditional business models for a digital world means finding the right way to hold together established methods of doing business and IngenuityWorking is the digital glue that bonds it.
Eades is enthusiastic about placing the community at the heart of Psion’s marketing. As the numbers grow, there are plans to add additional communities into the original one.
“If you look at the way social media communities are projected to develop in future, they grow and then split, like cell division,” says Eades. “We see the community growing through verticals and specialisms to see how it goes and just keep pushing the boundaries.”
- Psion has found the best way to break down the walls between internal teams and external constituencies is social media.
- There is real value in designing a business online community to be similar in style to popular consumer ones with user profiles, blogs, wikis, discussion forums and tag clouds.
- Through a combination of member-to-member best practice sharing and in-house experts, make a community the place your consumers go to for help and support.
- Make significant savings by securely and collaboratively sharing information regarding products in the final stages of development with key business partners and customers.
omnii XT10 product launch
Psion’s Open Source Mobility business philosophy has led to the creation of Omnii, a highly modular device platform launched in September 2010. The Omnii XT10 was the first product created for the initiative.
The Omnii XT10 is a rugged, modular handheld computer, targeted at demanding users, such as ports, airports, supply chain and logistics operations.
Devices built for the Omnii platform can be adapted for new technologies and even repurposed. They are designed to offer the best lifetime total cost of ownership.
With the launch of this product, Psion needed to increase awareness about the Omnii platform and highlight how it is different from other products. With digital now at the heart of its business model, Psion worked with several channels to raise awareness of its new product platform.
Before launch, it executed a series of webinars and training videos to create awareness and interest among Psion reseller partners, internal teams and existing users.
Besides issuing a press release, Psion targeted key bloggers and leveraged social media, including tweeting about the launch, posting on its Facebook page and uploading a video to its YouTube channel.
Within its own social media community, IngenuityWorking, Psion has tried to increase awareness by uploading videos and posting blog entries about the Omnii XT10.
Cementing these initiatives, Psion also created an aggressive direct marketing campaign, aimed at end-users and the Psion partner community. This was executed by creating a partner-specific landing page at omnii.psionteklogix.com. Direct marketing, including email, print and web advertising, multimedia and mail, were also used to promote the benefits of the new device.
A key element of the direct marketing campaign was a direct-response mechanism through Psion’s Omnii online configuration tool. This allowed potential users to create a personalised version of the device and have the added commercial benefit of capturing potential end-customer information.
The Omnii launch campaign achieved widespread awareness in traditional and digital media outlets. In traditional media, Psion achieved dozens of placements across several countries, reaching thousands of readers. Psion’s outreach to new media was also successful as it was featured in IDG News Service’s World Tech Update, a global online show that recaps technology news. An influential site, World Tech Update runs on IDG websites in 15 countries and is featured on Macworld’s YouTube channel.
Before and after the launch, webinars enabled the brand to gain more than 200 initial sales leads throughout EMEA, Asia and the Americas. The materials developed for ongoing awareness and lead generation continue to be used by Psion.