The way Gabe Zichermann tells it, Data.com (now a Salesforce.com company) was almost too successful when it applied game principles to building its contact database for sales.
“The concept was to crowd-source leads, sharing leads by uploading business cards,” said Zichermann, CEO of gamification agency Dopamine, information and blogging site Gamification Co. and a well-known blogger about games. “But they were paying $1 a card at first, and the problem was they couldn't scale it up. It would cost too much.”
Instead of dismantling the campaign, Data.com took a different approach. First, the company took away the cash reward and replaced it with “virtual currency” that could be used to buy other, smaller rewards, thus reducing the overall monetary value of the rewards. Then it introduced a leaderboard to show who was winning the race for uploading leads. And it worked.
Gamification is the hot thing in b2b marketing for that simple reason. According to experts such as Zichermann, gamification takes advantage of basic human needs for recognition and entertainment. That's nothing new to the incentive industry, where decades of studies have shown that recognition is a far more powerful motivator than cash. But only recently have marketers figured out how to apply that to their trade by developing games that shower users with recognition while delivering powerful marketing messages at the same time.
Heavyweight b2b companies like General Electric Co., IBM Corp. and Siemens have figured out ways to introduce game elements into recent marketing campaigns.
When developing a gamified marketing campaign, according to Darren Steele, principal and strategic director at Mindspace, a marketing boutique that specializes in gamification, the challenge is to tie the game back to concrete business objectives and design a game that actually delivers greater interaction.
“One mistake people make is thinking a video game is the same as gamification,” Steele said. “It's a form of it, but it's not the most involved form. It's not tied to your information objectives. The way we approach it is to say, let's define an underlying objective and look at your existing marketing tools we can use.”
In many cases, Zichermann said, the best games deliver solutions, then teach mastery in using those solutions. As an example, he cited IBM's Innov8 program. Originally developed as a game to help internal software engineers design business process management software, the company decided to release the platform as a free download available to anyone who uses business process management software.
As a result, Innov8 is now used in more than 1,000 institutions as an educational tool to teach business process modeling and, according to Zichermann, it's the No. 1 lead generator for IBM Services.
Games also have changed the way Siemens Industry markets itself. Last year the company introduced Plantville, an interactive game that lets players try their hand at being manufacturing plant managers by using Siemens solutions.
Siemens' customer base is engineers, so Plantville was designed to be deep and realistic, with meaningful goals in achieving plant productivity, energy efficiency and sustainability. Players earn points by running their plants effectively, “and picking products that happen to be Siemens products to help them out,” said Catherine Derkosh, marketing communications director at Siemens.
“We also want to tie this in to generating new business,” Derkosh told Social Media Marketer. “We're getting some sales leads, and we'll be watching as those turn into new business.”
But even with these models before them, marketers need to think clearly about how their marketing games are structured, Zichermann said.
“One mistake marketers make is thinking something simple like badges is enough,” Zichermann said. “They're common in gamification, and they're meaningful to show progress and accomplishment. But badges aren't enough. You have to give other recognition areas and show achievement, mastery and progress.”