Involved, Engaged, Enchanted

I am the owner of a small software business. And as any small business owner I have three priorities. My first priority is money. The second is money. And finally, there is money. Invoices need to be paid, salaries have to be transferred and the world needs to go round. Money, money, money is my mantra. This article is about getting money, but first I have to introduce my girlfriend, Lisette Sutherland, and her business. She works on some interesting stuff that puts the money worries in a very nice perspective.

Lisette works mostly with charities, nonprofits and NGOs. In other words: organizations that rely heavily on volunteers. To facilitate the great work that these volunteers do, organizations deploy private Facebook-like software where volunteers can meet, manage projects and work together. The big question when deploying these communities is always: How do we create a place where great things can happen? After working on this challenge for many years, Lisette has become somewhat of an authority on the subject. And for this article I am building on one of her ideas. Read her blog here.

During her research Lisette concluded that community members go through three distinct stages. In the first stage people sign up and browse around. In the second stage people start posting updates, upload documents and generally really use the software. The third stage is the most interesting one. This is the stage where people love the software so much that they evangelize and encourage others to sign up as well. These three stages are coined: Involved, Engaged, Enchanted. Written in capitals to signify their importance.

Although the idea of ‘Involved, Engaged, Enchanted’ initially transpired from working with online communities, we wondered if it could be applied broader. Could we map the stages to other types of software implementations? Or (even bolder) to any type of business? We conclude that this is indeed possible, and more importantly that ‘Involved, Engaged, Enchanted’ feeds directly into the company’s sales process. The small business owner in me got excited!

As a software company, our business model is simple: develop software, sell it and send a monthly invoice. This may sound like easy money, but let me assure you: we experience spectacular, as well as point-blank depressing weeks. Our reality is as harsh as any business. And, as in any business, our clients are situated in varying states of happiness. Our client’s delight ranges from absolutely exhilarated to ‘not even using the software (yet).’ This latter state that is downright dangerous. We, as well as organizations deploying an online community, face the same questions: How do we motivate people to start using our software? How do we help people get up-and-running? How do we excite people so much that they tell others? Or: How do we get people Involved, Engaged, Enchanted?

We use the following definitions for ‘Involved, Engaged, Enchanted’. Organizations are involved when they commit to the software, that is when they sign up for a subscription. Engaged means the customer is happily using our software and OK with paying our invoices. Note that I don’t assume that customers are paying happily. That would be silly. Paying bills makes no one happy. The point is, that there are no objections to prolonging subscriptions. Enchantment is more fuzzy, but crucial to any business. For a conclusive definition I turned to Guy Kawasaki, who wrote a whole book on the topic. He states that enchantment leads to a ‘voluntary and long-lasting support that is mutually beneficial.’ Fuzzy stuff indeed. For now I am OK with not over analyzing love.

I like the way the concept concisely expresses the three challenges that a company faces: How to sell? How to deliver? How to sell again? I particularly like the strong customer focus. It helps define the customer journey, and where customers stagnate on their journey. To me the concept presents a treasure trove of questions and opportunities. Ultimately ‘Involved, Engaged, Enchanted’ guides to better relationships with customers and therefore help grow new business.