#GrowthHacking with Blackberry

Background: I’m a learner. I am an OK writer. I’m fascinated with the idea of growth hacking. I’ve combined the three to help me with the following self-created challenge:

Research and analyze 10 completely different companies and write a post with recommended growth strategies for each one.

Disclosures: I do not claim to be, or think that I am more intelligent or better than those that work (or have worked) at the companies I analyze (or anyone else for that matter!) While I will state facts, the majority of the post will be purely my opinion, which may or may not be supported by anything more than my “gut feel.” I’m doing this for fun, and to hopefully inspire additional dialogue and thoughts from readers. I will try to limit the assumptions I make, and instead pose “hypotheses to be tested,” but will undoubtedly write several completely unfounded claims. I apologize in advance.

OK, here we go…..

For my first post, I decided to focus on Blackberry. While it may seem like an unoriginal and obvious choice given that the company is in the midst of a complete overhaul, I chose Blackberry because I have personally experienced their downfall. When I got my first job out of college at Principal Financial Group, I was given a Corporate Blackberry. It was the ultimate status symbol. Forget the reality that I found the UI extremely clunky and didn’t really know how to use it, I felt like a million bucks any time I could flash that thing in public. Yep, I was worthwhile enough to be given a company phone. How. Cool. Flash forward only a few years later, and my once-treasured Blackberry was just a token piece of equipment that showed how “old” and “outdated” I was.

Hindsight is 20–20. Looking back, it seems obvious that the whole concept of “bring your own device (BYOD)” was prime to explode as not only the sheer the number of smart phone users increased, but also the number of new apps and technologies available. A person’s “phone” became so much more than just that. I mean, does anyone come close to using their allotted “minutes” anymore on their cell phone plan?! Should Blackberry have been able to better predict that the divide between work and home would start to blur because of proliferation and reliance on smartphones? Maybe. But that’s not what this post is about. Instead, I want to focus on what Blackberry can do now, and in the future, to grow.

I do not plan on spending much time on providing factual information on Blackberry’s current (or past) state because it is publicly available and not up for much discussion or debate. If you are curious to learn more about the research I did before writing this post, here are the primary resources I used:

What Blackberry is doing right

  1. ) Creating strategic partnerships — I like that Blackberry isn’t afraid to join forces vertically, horizontally, or with direct competitors. I think the partnership with Samsung was very smart for both parties, even though it may seem like a move that could cannibalize existing business. Blackberry seems to understand, maybe because of the disaster that was the release of the Z10 in 2013, that it’s going to be extremely expensive and difficult to break into the consumer phone space. The Company has also joined forces with Google to “work closely together to set new standards in enterprise mobile security for organizations deploying Android devices” as well as Amazon to provide more apps to Blackberry users. According to Blackberry’s 2014 Annual report, the Company also has formed ties with Salesforce.com to connect its CRM platform to Blackberry’s enterprise solutions as well as EnStream “to provide a secure platform that supports transaction services between leading banks and consumers.” All partnerships that make logical sense to me.
  2. ) Exploring new markets — I also like that Blackberry is investing new opportunities, especially their “Internet of Things” platform that was announced last year. I recently read a great article on Tech Crunch that discussed the importance of “getting the Internet of Things right” — that having a bunch of products connected to the internet individually and in siloes will not add value to the end consumer; rather we need to develop a way to merge ecosystems so that synergies can be leveraged to reduce costs. The article used the example of the early days of the Internet when the “network of networks” was an issue at the protocol level, and how multi-protocol routers ultimately solved that problem. Based on what I read on Blackberry’s website, it seems as if their IoT platform is looking to play a role in this by providing a solution that is secure, reliable, and scalable. The Company announced an investment in NantHealth LLC which creates portable medical devices that capture and transmit secure medical data amongst patients, doctors, and hospitals. Additionally, I was surprised to learn about a product called QNX which provides software for automotive electronics for companies like Audi, BMW, Ford, GM, and pretty much all of the other big name players. Who knew?
  3. ) But staying niche first — Blackberry is being intentional with what and where it is expanding. For example, the Company is initially targeted automotive and asset tracking industries with their IoT platform mentioned above. Their enterprise mobility sales strategy is focused on winning markets that are on the far end of the data security spectrum like government, healthcare, and military. Blackberry has also acquired several other niche companies that play in the security space — Certicom specializes in applied cryptography and key management, Secusmart is a leader in high-security voice and data encryption, and Movirtu, which provides virtual identify solutions for mobile operators that allow multiple numbers to be active on a single device. If there is anything that has continued to persist with Blackberry’s brand it is the focus on high security for the enterprise.

Recommendations for growth

  1. Continue to explore and run tests in the Enterprise communication and collaboration space — One of the products I was most interested in was the BBM, which I assume stands for “Blackberry Business Messaging” space (side note to Blackberry: The number of acronyms that I can’t find translations to is ridiculous. Don’t use acronyms until the products are established, otherwise it’s extremely confusing.) I am all about making communication easier and more efficient, but the tools I have experience with suck (except Slack. I love Slack.) I hate Microsoft Lync. Yammer is SO yesterday. The experience of being a remote participant in a meeting or presentation is still no where close to what it needs to be in order to drive results across a global workplace. With Blackberry’s strong background and brand centered around security, continued iterations of their current product and additional customer discovery could fill a gaping hole in the world of secure enterprise collaboration.
  2. Utilize analytics and data to target potential customers for Enterprise Mobile Management (EMM) solution — The common theme amongst most stories of growth hacking I read about is that they all utilize (and analyze!) data in one way or another. I would think that companies would be most vulnerable for a EMM sales call after having a data breach within their own walls, or right after a big national news story breaks. Could Blackberry capitalize on that by sifting through public tweets and news articles to identify targets? Is there a “sweet spot” for some particular attribute (or set of attributes) that could predict companies most likely to need/want a EMM solution? I’m thinking some sort of mix of number of employees, amount of revenue, demographics of employees (larger number of young employees = more heavy BYOD environment/ris?) could yield a model that could help generate and rank leads.
  3. Stay on the forefront of the BYOD trend by talking to as many folks in that value chain possible — I’m all about the Lean startup methodology and talking to your customers. I’d be interested to ask a CIO: If you don’t have a EMM solution, why not? What is your biggest barrier or challenge with the current offerings? Too costly? Not worried about data security? Care, but not a high enough priority? What ARE your biggest priorities as a CIO today? I’d also love to talk to previous customers that relied heavily on Blackberry in the past — what did they LOVE most about Blackberry? What did they wish would change? And then you have the people like me who are on the other side — employees that bring and use our personal phones to work each day. I know what my opinions are, but if I worked at Blackberry and was focused on growth strategies, I’d be out there talking to as many different slices of employees as possible to better understand their needs. After all, if Blackberry could come up with a solution that protected the companies data while providing people like me something that elicited the feeling of “status” like their old products did, it could be a gold mine.
  4. Run tests on the Blackberry websites — For example, test making the “Contact your preferred BlackBerry partner” form multiple screens vs. one long form. I would try making this form into two screens so that it’s not as daunting at first glance and see if that increases completions. I would also experiment with the copy, page layouts/structure and other facets of the website to see if I could impact key stats such as: increasing the % of form completions compared to form page impressions, reducing the amount of time it takes for an interested party to complete the sales process, and reducing the number of human support requests that come through.
  5. Experiment with Creating Shareable Content — Blackberry’s website is missing trust elements. I want to see (and read about) who is using Blackberry’s technologies. I want to read about how Blackberry’s platforms and services saved a company a bunch of money or specific risk compared to what they were using (if anything) before. A lot of big companies have blogs, the best of which are somewhat off-branded so not to immediately “taint” readers into assuming sell motives. There really is little downside to providing relevant, engaging and most importantly — shareable content through a blog. Some of my favorite examples of big companies doing this right include: Zappos, Whole Foods, Flickr, Starbucks (a little different than a traditional “blog”, but I love the concept), Disney Baby, and Sharpie.

Final Thoughts….

This was fun!! I’m excited to try a different kind of company for my next post. None of the ideas I came up with are groundbreaking or all that sexy, but it was a cool exercise to put all of the stuff I’ve read about into an actual “case study” of sorts.

If you enjoyed my post, I would LOVE LOVE LOVE for you to Recommend it. ☺

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