One of the most significant developments at Bamboo in 2008 was the introduction of several new software Suites, including Bamboo Ultimate. Based on your experience, why are many customers attracted to Suites as opposed to buying products on an as-needed basis through the Bamboo online store?
The Suites come with three benefits that you cannot get by purchasing our products individually. First, all of our Suites come bundled with Premium Support along with all of the upgrades and new product additions for an entire year. Our new enterprise licensing model allows you to activate over 40 Web Parts with a single license key and lastly, you are able to get some really cool products which are only available through the suites, such as Project Portfolio Dashboard and SharePoint Navigators. So, besides just the cost savings, a lot of our Suite customers like being able to purchase "the whole package" at one time and are really enjoying the way it's made their SharePoint portal easier to use. And of course, they love getting all of the new products without even having to go to the online store.
You've introduced a new "Build Your Own Pack" program to allow customers to assemble a personalized and discounted bundle of Bamboo products. How does the new program work? How has the reaction been so far?
The "Build Your Own Pack" is a great option for our customers who are not quite ready for the Project Management, Administration, or Ultimate suites. We've heard a lot of feedback about budgets being cut across the board and we still wanted to have something to offer people who are interested in a large number of our products. So customers are certainly responsive and appreciative that we have this offering. While you don't get a lot of the exclusive benefits of a suite, the Build Your Own Pack allows you to choose the exact Web Parts you need to enhance your SharePoint portal, and still offers a discount. So far, we've gotten a great response and while it's a bit of "soft release" (i.e., not on the storefront yet), we are looking at the option of making it available in the online store next year.
Last year your team started making a follow-up courtesy call to everyone who downloaded free trial software from Bamboo. How is this new process going? Are people glad to hear from you?
Definitely. Each day hundreds of people are downloading our software and while we provide many resources to get support - i.e., KBs, the forums, our Support team - what was missing was a "check-in" so to speak. Our goal is just to make sure that trial downloaders are happy with their trial, that they were able to successfully install the product, and to answer any other questions they may have.
You added three new team members in 2008 and have a fourth starting in January of '09. How did you go about selecting the new team members? What is special about each of your new team members?
For me, one of the best things about 2008 has been all the new people we've hired throughout Bamboo. It's been a lot of fun seeing some new faces in the Bamboo kitchen! When it came to selecting new members for my team, I looked for people who are outgoing and have a "customer first" attitude. They also need to be willing to get their hands dirty, so to speak, with our products - there is a lot of technical training about SharePoint and our Web Parts that comes with the job.
My team is made up of several different types of personalities, but we work together very well as a team, to which I attribute our success this year. Lucy is very process driven, organized, and is the go-to person on the team for information. Lucy's customers all love her because she's honest and reliable. Mayline knows our products really well and is great at helping customers make a purchasing decision. She's the quietest of the group but works extremely hard and is someone I depend on each day to help me stay on top of things. Chris is great at really working the sales cycle and closing deals, and is always looking out for his customers. He's also the most outgoing and can always make us laugh (even if it's at him). Mike Kelleher was the driver behind our Hands on Workshops which introduced Bamboo to hundreds of customers and sold out all over the country. The success of those workshops can be attributed to him. He's hardworking and dependable, and most importantly, he knows how to sell!
Lastly, a lot of our success this year came from our EU team's efforts. Martin and Hakan have been instrumental in not only European sales, but also increasing our presence overseas. They have literally been all over Europe to all kinds of SharePoint events, big and small, and have really contributed to our international growth.
You're been with Bamboo for several years now, so I'd imagine that this gives you a unique perspective from which to comment on the explosive growth of SharePoint in general, and Bamboo in particular. Has the growth surprised you?
I started in June of 2005, and it was a very interesting time to be joining the company - 6 months after I started, we officially joined the SharePoint space with the launch of our online store. So, it was interesting witnessing the whole transition - there was a lot of uncertainty back then! The growth has definitely surprised me. I knew what we were going to do was going to be successful (I hoped...), but I doubt anyone thought it would be as successful as it is now. I remember watching when the first sale came in on the storefront, or how happy we'd be if we saw a "big" sale of $1000 - so, yeah, to be where we are now is incredible.
We've discussed your new staff and some of the new processes regarding Bamboo's approach to sales that you introduced in 2008. What changes or refinements do you foresee over the coming year?
As the number of our products grows, a big challenge for my team will be to stay up to date on the technical side of the business. We're not developers, but the Sales team's job is not just to send out quotes and process orders. We like to engage with customers on which product is best for them, explain the functionality, and then of course, sell them the Web Parts!
Our new CRM system is also something we will be utilizing a lot more in 2009 - with all of the new people on the team, plus our customer base growing the way it is, it's really important that we keep all of our information centralized. But for the most part, there are no huge changes coming in 2009 - what we've done this year has been very effective, so it will be more about just making slight changes and improvements to the process.
[Editor's note: This Q&A is one part of a multi-part series presenting Bamboo's 2008 year in review. It all kicks off with a candid blog from CEO, Mike Tanner, who presents An Optimistic View for 2009 and Beyond, and continues in the form of conversations with the following Bamboo department heads:
Dec 12 2008, 01:23 PM
John Anderson joined Bamboo Solutions as Manager of Content & Syndication in May of 2008 after a 12-year career at AOL. New to SharePoint at the time of his hiring, John was tasked with creating a new blog for the just-launched Bamboo Nation community in which he would document his daily SharePoint learning process. Thus was born the end user-centric SharePoint Blank, for which John authored 200 posts within a year, and which he continues to write today (albeit much more sporadically). Currently serving as Managing Editor, John sets the tone for Bamboo Nation as its lead blogger, and oversees content across Bamboo properties.