Close that IT Ticket and Fire the Social Media Consultant: Qualtrics Gives Marketers a Direct Link to Users
As the war for talent in Silicon Valley has shown, those with technical prowess are some of the most persnickety, expensive, and hard-to-find souls on the planet these days.
You remember those “studies” that claimed a woman was more likely to be killed by a terrorist than get married after 40? I haven’t done the research, but I’m betting the order of likelihood goes something like this: Killed by a terrorist, then get married after 40, then win the lottery, then stumble upon an amazing developer whose dream is to spend life as the in-house IT guy.
As startups vacuum up the most qualified, ambitious, and glory-seeking techies on the planet, big companies’ IT departments frequently leave… well, let’s just say, something to be desired.
It’s not always their fault. In-house techies have the thankless job of handholding the untechnical masses, trying to make sure the technical needs of the giant, while superseding the technical needs of the few. And listening to a lot of bitching. “Don’t you dare install that unapproved device on my network!” they screech. They have little choice but to reside over their fiefdoms with an iron fist, insisting that help desk tickets be filed before they solve your problems, and dispensing sighs, condescending tech speak and “Battlestar Galactica” references as they roam the corporate badlands, troubleshooting and resetting passwords for the masses.
So it’s good news that the new wave of enterprise software companies are continually taking power (or thankless duties, depending on your perspective) out of the corporate IT guy’s hands. Some fight it; the enlightened ones mostly embrace it when corporate regulations and security concerns allow them to.
There are plenty of examples of freemium cloud computing services that departments of corporate giants adopt without permission, because they can start using them quickly. A small team using Yammer to communicate, or using Box or Dropbox to share files.
But Qualtrics launched a product called Site Intercept today that allows people to make on-the-fly changes to a Web site to engage a specific shopper, reader, browser, or visitor — no IT guy required.
Let’s say I’m looking at our analytics and see that we have a flood of New York-based readers coming to read a specific story. Maybe I had no way of knowing that story would take off with New York-based readers, but for whatever reason a couple of influencers have passed it around, and the scene is all over it. Rather than hoping they’ll click on the events page and register for our next PandoMonthly — or putting a banner across all the pages as we do now — I could within minutes of seeing that traffic trend, pop a little promotional unit onto the side of a page reminding them the event isn’t sold out. And I could do it on the fly without so much as dropping an email to our developers. You can never totally predict what customers will do on your site, so this is a way to turn that unpredictability into the results you want.
It’s essentially a way to make marketers — or anyone in an organization — into mini-Web developers. “They can go in and intercept anyone in an intelligent way,” says Ryan Smith, Qualtrics founder and CEO. Read: Not popping up a generic and obnoxious chat window. “They can promote a social media page to them; they can promo certain specials; they can A/B test things and do it without any IT help.”
He cites the example of the Viceroy Hotels, one of 30 invite-only beta users who have been testing out Site Intercept. It’s a small chain of 14 boutique hotel properties, and there’s exactly one guy who monitors its sites. He didn’t understand why so many LA-based people were looking up information about its LA hotels. So he asked them, via Site Intercept, and found out they were inquiring about happy hours. Now when anyone from LA comes to a Viceroy Hotel site, there’s a little pop-up that shows the happy hour menu.
“We have interns using our product but we also have the most advanced researchers using it,” Smith says.
The Viceroy has made dozens of small changes like this on the fly. Things they couldn’t have anticipated when the site was being designed. Recently Smith was on the Viceroy’s site looking at different room prices and saw a pop-up that asked if he’d gone through a tour of the rooms. “It was classy,” he says. “It wasn’t annoying. It wasn’t until after I clicked on it that I realized it was using Site Intercept. That’s exactly how the product should work.”
The last time we heard from Qualtrics, the little known Provo, Utah-based company was raising a whopper of a $70 million series A from Sequoia Capital and Accel. That round helped accelerate the development of this product, which has been in the works for more than a year, Smith says.
Conceptually it’s very in keeping with Qualtrics’ view that market research is a broken, bloated $20 billion industry in huge need of disruption. Smith argues that there are thousands and thousands of tiny actions consumers are taking on sites everyday and that’s all valuable data mostly slipping through companies’ fingers. Because it’s so minute, it’s data the board level never sees. So why not give the people closely watching the analytics on a daily basis the tools to make it actionable on a minute-by-minute basis?
The same way Qualtrics allows companies to cut their pricey outsourced market research budgets; Smith hopes that Site Intercept eliminates the need for even more expensive consultants. Particularly the most hated category of all — social media consultants. People paid to get companies friends. Smith gives the example of one the Game Show Network — another early Site Intercept user — who increased its Facebook “Likes” by 65 percent just by using the software.
“They were ready to pay an agency $20,000 a year to grow their Facebook page, and decided to try Site Intercept instead first,” Smith says. “All they did was ask people who fit a certain criteria to ‘Like’ them on Facebook, and it worked.”
The product is affordable — starting out at just $5,000 a year, although the price escalates based on what you want to do with it. Smith wouldn’t venture projections on how big of a business this could become, but says so far they’ve seen success with it outside the company’s existing customer base — a good sign.
We’re going to test it out at PandoDaily and see if it’s as easy as advertised. (If I can use it, anyone can. I struggle with WordPress from time-to-time.) It certainly sounds like an easy way to make all this hype about big data very real and actionable for nearly anyone with a website.