The only B2B gamification primer you need to read

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They are good at setting goals. They are driven to achieve their missions. They celebrate the rewards associated with stellar performance, no matter how tangible of intangible those rewards might be. Those three statements describe an entire generation of workers raised on a cultural landscape of networked multiplayer games. And they aren’t just workers. They are clients, parents, and consumers. They are no longer them. They are us.

As soon as the first Xbox live subscribers entered the workforce, gamification became the catchword in employee training, client education, B2B engagement and incentivization. It was meant to capture the mission-setting, competition-loving and interactive personality of our times.

In short, gamification is the application of game strategy, game mechanics and the flow of gameplay, to non-game related tasks. In the B2B world, this has translated to issues of employee training and client education.

In its early days, gamification was personified by services like Captain Up that rewarded site and app users with badges, points and positions on leader boards for engaging in behaviours that promoted engagement. Watching a video about how client services functions, for example, could help a client earn 10 points. Leaving a comment on the video or subscribing to the YouTube channel might result in a virtual scout badge, and, if the client earned more points than any other, they could win a trip to Florida during the cold Canadian winter. Wait! Which of those details do you think is made up?

True Incentives Offer Meaningful Rewards

If you guessed the trip to Florida, you are correct. One of the flaws of contests in the pre-gamification B2B world is that rewards either weren’t meaningful enough, or prizes were awarded too randomly. It was a flaw that was passed down into first-gen gamification efforts. We now know that our competitive culture wants prizes that are won through a genuine display of skill, or a meritous honour that is rewarded based on effort.

“The critical part (of a gamification campaign) is to figure out, ‘What is the meaningful reward that I would like to give to people?’” Rajat Paharia, a founder of Bunchball, told David Kirkpatrick for this guide to gamification. Trips to Florida, cash, and even community status recognized by a badge or other virtual symbol can all be made meaningful in the context of an interactive community.

Enticements to Participate

While incentives encourage participation in online communities built around client education, or employee training, how can gamification entice employees or clients not only to participate, but to complete the task and then remain engaged?

According to Bunchball’s whitepaper, Gamification 101, “gamified activities address and satisfy basic human desires, creating the addictive experiences that motivate users to take specific actions, and to return more frequently.”

Bunchball defines the basic building blocks of game mechanics as meeting basic human motivators. “People have fundamental desires for reward, status, achievement, self expression, competition, and altruism, among others,” the whitepaper reads. “These desires are universal, and cross generations, demographics, cultures, and genders. Game designers have known for years how to address these needs within gaming environments, and gamification now enables these precepts to be applied more broadly.”

But How Has It Worked?

It all sounds good, but doesn’t the novelty of gamification wear off? That’s a question more and more B2B professionals are asking. Andrzej Marczewski’s overview of case studies called Gamification in the Wild attempted to answer the question by looking at a number of firms, such as Deloitte and their goal to increase knowledge sharing between consultants. They also looked at companies such as Accenture who want to increase adoption of their Sharepoint platform.

Reading the case studies, Marczewski makes it clear that gamification can be a successful strategy in the long term, but there a few conditions to meet. First, the desired behaviour or “mission” must be clearly defined by both the enterprise and the user/gamer. Next, the gamer is incentivized to participate and continued participation is rewarded at each level of depth. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, highly-skilled and highly-rewarded or honoured gamers receive recognition in the community created to meet the mission.

In other words, successful B2B gamification strategies don’t just motivate the gamer to win, but to keep them winning in new ways.

A final example to share: SAP has a massive online community of both staff and representatives. Several years ago, they saw this online community as a “tremendous marketing instrument,” as we learn here. To gamify the community, SAP studied how users are helping other users along with social sharing of community threads.  The reward for community users is to given an “expert” designation in different areas. Experts enjoy an elevated status in the online community when they share information or answer a question.

How would your B2B gamify staff or your online community? Share your tips below

Photo via Schoology.com

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Kate Baggott

Kate Baggott

Kate Baggott is the Managing Editor of B2BNN. Her technology and business journalism has appeared in the Technology Review, the Globe and Mail, Canada Computes, the Vancouver Sun and the Bay Street Bull. She is the author of the short story collections Love from Planet Wine Cooler and Dry Stories. Links to recently published pieces can be found at www.katebaggott.com
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