Category Archives: Community

Mount Tamalpais, from Berkeley

Running Mt. Tam, 110 Years of Cloud-Enabled B2C Communities

Building communities is a key part of B2C marketing, especially in the cloud market, as no single vendor can thrive alone. In a cloud-enabled B2C community, cloud service providers band together with providers of content, applications, and services to form a healthy cloud ecosystem, such as the one we built in my last organization.

I was reminded of cloud-enabled B2C communities last week, while running Mt. Tamalpais, with my good friend Kevin, who, as  I mentioned in my first post, inspired me to write this blog.  Mt. Tam is the highest peak in the Marin Hills, with awe inspiring views of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the East Bay.   With over 100 miles of trails, Mt. Tam is a destination for runners, mountain bikers, and hikers.   It is the site of several of my favorite runs, including the Quad Dipsea, the Miwok 100K, and the Headlands 50 and 100.

How the Cloud Helps Runners Expand Their Community

Tied together by long hours, incredible scenery, and let’s be honest, shared misery, ultra runners have long built a tight-knit community that spans age and ability.  When I lived in Northern California, I was a member of a group which met at 7AM on Saturdays at various parks.   We’d gather in the parking lot, chat while stretching, then head off for a 4 or 5 hour run.   Different ages and speeds, we re-connected at various points during our run, and again at the end, for a bite to eat before heading off to resume our day.  The ultra running community was small,  so I made additional friends at races, both on the trail and at the finish line, where the fast and the slow would mingle together, sharing war stories.

Strava Capture Mt Tam 19 Miler
Strava Capture Mt Tam 19 Miler

Today, the cloud enables runners to build an expanded, virtual community.   Companies like Strava and RunKeeper allow runners to use a GPS enabled device to track their runs and upload the workout information to a site, where it can be viewed and shared.   (Check out the data from our 19 miler!) Users track their progress toward goals, analyze data,  and compare their performance to others.   Like other social media sites, Strava allows users to follow one another, post supportive comments, and build groups.  This cloud-enabled B2C community provides the same aspects of our Saturday AM running group, just expanded across geography and time, and with a lot more features.

Mount Tam Has Long Inspired B2C Communities to Come Together

Fostering shared experiences among runners, bikers, and hikers is not a recent phenomenon on Mt. Tam.  During last week’s run, I came across an example of a B2C community from last century.  We reached the West Point Inn, on the southern slope of Mt. Tam, after eight miles of ascent.

West Point Inn, 1904 example of B2C community
West Point Inn, circa 1900s

The West Point Inn was built in 1904 at the western terminus of the Mill Valley and Mt. Tamalpais Scenic Railway, known as “The Crookedest Railroad in the World.  It served as a restaurant and stopover point for passengers connecting to the stage coach to Stinson Beach and Bolinas.  The inn was also a popular destination for those seeking the views and the experience of riding the gravity train.

Gravity car on Mt. Tam
Gravity car on Mt. Tam

Although the railway ceased operation in 1930, the inn was run as a public tavern until World War II, when it was closed as unprofitable.   In 1943, he Marin Municipal Water District planned to raze the abandoned buildings, considered a fire hazard.  A group of hiking club members and local citizens formed the West Point Inn Club to take over the operation and maintenance of the facilities.   Today, the West Point Inn Association, 500 members strong, continues to support the inn as a historic landmark and operating lodge.   Every month,the association puts on a pancake breakfast as a fund-raiser.  It’s hard to beat the views from the patio.  With fog rolling in on San Francisco Bay, the West Point Inn continues to serve as a shining example of a B2C community coming together in the clouds to support sharing the beauty of Mt. Tam.

Have you run or hiked Mt. Tam?  Do you have any examples of a similar B2C community based on history?


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4 Reasons B2B Marketing is an Endurance Sport

I have to thank the Kevins.  For both the idea of creating a blog focused on B2B marketing, and for adding ultra-marathon to my world of endurance sports.  The identity of the Kevins is beside the point, but let me justify my claim that B2B marketing is an endurance sport with 4 examples.

1.  Both take disclipline.   Hours on the trails, roads, and pool, constant practicing of the various skills needed to excel in swim, bike, and run.    In B2B marketing, you need discipline to constantly refine the message to address just the right pain point for the customer, to respond to competetive threats, to understand what is needed to move prospects through the customer buying cycle.

2.  One discipline is not enough.  I grew up as a competitive swimmer, and in the early part of my triathlon career reveled in being first out of the water, only to have my euphoria crushed, as runner after runner passed me in the last stage of the race.  Similarly, it’s not enough for B2B marketers to have great awareness campaigns that draw prospects to your site; you have to have the product marketing skills to ensure their first experience with your free download is a positive one – intuitive user interface, easy to understand documentation & support, clearly articulated benefits.    If prospects abandon your free trial, you’ll never get them back.

3.  Hard work beats flash every time.   “Pink Beauty” was what I called my first bike.  It was a neon pink DiamondBack, a regular road bike, with mis-matched wheels and an old-school bolt-on aero-bar.  Nothing satisfied me more than passing people who took the easy road to success – spending big bucks on the latest titanium frame to save a few ounces, rather than getting out on the road and slogging through the miles.  Similarly, it’s easier for marketers to focus on latest technology and tricks rather than doing the hard work to truly understand their customer – the customer persona, their business challenge, the language they speak, and exactly what they need from your product or service to move through the buying cycle.   There’s no short-cut to putting in the time.

4.  Focus on goals.   What counts in a 100 mile trail run is your finishing time.  At the Western States 100, if you break 24 hours, you get that silver buckle.   Your split time at the Foresthill School (mile 62) doesn’t matter if you bonk in the last few miles of the race.   Trust me, I’ve seen it happen.  In B2B marketing, the goal is solving problems for specific buyers and selling your service.  Getting buyers to enter the buying cycle by effectively addressing a need they have, without enabling them to understand the advantages of your offer is like being in first place at mile 3 of a marathon.   Worthless.

What do you think?  I’ll explore these areas, and others in more detail, in coming posts.   Still not convinced?  Give me your thoughts.  It’s a long road and time goes by faster when there’s someone to talk to.

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