Business Development 2016

A few days ago, I came across a posting for a Business Development Manager at a company I admire. It tripped a circuit in my head and I started thinking on what they would be looking for.

First: The definition of business development has changed in a significant way over the last 10 or so years. It used to be that the business development professional was working within the company to identify company strengths and capabilities and try to imagine or create paths to new products that could be offered to new markets.

Second: Some companies viewed the position as a pure relationship builder and customer relationship tracker. Imagine the individual cold calling, trying to line up golf, dinners etc. with the hopes of getting names that could be entered into CRM as contacts.

Third: Other firms just threw multiple hats (that others did not want to wear) at the position, and hoped for the best.

The problem:

You can only improve what you can measure – Much of what falls into the bucket of business development is qualitative in nature. You can put numbers to the results, but they are lacking in a very important dimension which is CONTEXT.

Its not good enough to just state how many contacts have been made and where or what products need enhancing or development, the main qualification should be WHY!

Modern Digital Business Development

We are now part of an era where we can track, quantify and record almost anything. Large data databases can record and store enormous amounts of information, the trick is making sense of that repository of valuable data. Enter analytics!

Yes, even business development can thrive by understanding the power of crunching analytics. I am a proponent of recording business development data in modern analytic centric products. What I mean by that is viewing qualitative data as a set of parameters / columns in a spreadsheet. A customer engagement should now be viewed in a different way:

Instead of recording several paragraphs of nice descriptions of the event with the customer and the hopeful outcome, the event should be dissected into database parameters:

Customer account priority, contact position grade, level of social interaction, perception of interest, chance of re-engagement, type of entertainment (golf = 1, dinner =2 etc), daytime or nighttime………..etc. By parsing engagements in this manner, you can run analytics to research best path to effective customer relationships (very qualitative).

Let me explain:

Would you be interested in knowing that strategic level, purchasing managers are 80% converted by golf on weekday early mornings that were pre-justified and had been followed up in 2 weeks instead of 2 days later? would you be amazed at graphs that show a conversion “sweet spot”? would you like to have a predictable game plan that has been shaped by dependable data at the most efficient COS figures?

Digital Business!

Any event in human nature can be parsed, sliced up into descriptors that can be given a value. Is this perfect…..NO! is it better than paragraphs in a customer visit report?…..YES!!!!!

Create a database, define important parameters, capture the data, parse the data in ways that generate quality analytic reports that drive future strategy and ……….WIN!

 

How to Hire a Digital Business Professional

How many of you caught or are aware of what happened with Oreo cookies at Superbowl XLVII?  The reaction to the Super Bowl blackout by the Nabisco marketing team was outstanding in many respects. If you don’t know what happened, Rachel Sanders of Buzzfeed summarized Oreo’s brilliant move very well.

The part that resonated with me was the fact that the marketers that where working for Nabisco during the Super Bowl actually knew what they were doing!!! oreo social mediaI know that sounds weird to say, as of course they knew what they were doing, as they are paid professionals……………..welllll way easier assumed than you might think.

The Super Bowl moment and how well it was handled contrasts against a disturbing trend that I have noticed in Digital or Inbound marketing and it will be the subject of today’s post:

Does your marketing team REALLY know how to do digital or inbound marketing?

I’m sure that after the Nabisco’s team performance there were marketing professionals being grilled as to why they have not come up with viral, free and effective messages that draw leads to their companies. The answer to this question is very simple in many cases……..THEY DON’T KNOW HOW TO DO IT.

It’s amazing to me how many companies that I engage with, have been taken for substantial amounts of money from traditional marketers that convince companies that they know how to do modern digital or Inbound marketing. I am constantly cleaning up the devastation left by old school marketers, that did not know that inbound marketing requires FAR more than just creating Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and Instagram profiles. Then they make things worse by following the old intrusive messaging playbook that just upsets people now. The social channels of these victim companies then just become a forum for people to vent about the annoying and intrusive product offerings etc. or worse become abandoned “zombie” sites that not only are no longer valuable but actually do massive harm.

These “professionals” do a huge disservice to their clients/employers and are giving proper inbound marketing a very bad reputation. Clients/employers don’t know any better and they just label web marketing a failure and go back to intrusive cold calling methods with 0-3% conversion (and these are dropping) and very high COS rates.

If you are a business owner and this has been your experience, please understand that you did not get your money’s worth, your competition just may get a competent marketer that will proceed to take your company’s market share in an astoundingly quick way. Understand, digital marketing is now the norm and if you are not using it you ARE losing to your competition.

If Oreo would have had marketing support from the old way of thinking, that amazing viral event would not have happened. There were many reasons that were catalysts for the success of that extremely effective product message and most of them are not even considered by most of these “expert inbound marketers”.  I will cover them as we go forward.

How to hire REAL digital business professionals

Just because somebody seems like they should be a good digital businessman does not make them one. Having a young MBA approach you with a well tailored suit and telling you that he has 20,000 followers on Twitter and has been doing social media for 10 years does NOT make him a digital business manager!

All his followers just mean that he has spent most of his time collecting followers and that is an incredibly small part of the digital inbound process. I would argue that people with that many followers mean that they have not spent any time working on the other 90% of the inbound process and instead have spent many hours just getting people to follow them. Also a long list of followers does not mean that they are qualified leads for your products.

So what to look for when looking to hire somebody to help you transition to this new and EFFECTIVE marketing paradigm?

First lets get the smoke out of the way or outline things that DON’T matter when vetting a hire.

  • School: Does not matter!, yes that’s right. Most of the latest and most effective strategies and tactics are so new that they are not in curriculum yet, as a matter of fact community colleges that are tied to technology centers are the ones reacting the fastest as their professors are usually working professionals in the field. So don’t look down your nose at candidates because they don’t have an Ivy League background.
  • Age: Does not matter! Just because you are a young person that has grown up texting and has a long Facebook history does NOT mean you can market products using the web and inbound techniques. Most of the thought leaders in inbound marketing that I personally know, are well established experienced professionals that realized years ago that the business world had changed and decided to not only change with it but lead the movement. That does not mean that all experienced marketers know what they are doing, because they don’t, many have missed the boat entirely and are scrambling to catch up.

Now lets discuss some of the things the inbound or digital business expert you are hoping to hire HAS to know (beyond being well versed in business and marketing fundamentals). You should ask them to explain the following:

(Disclaimer alert – I will not explain every single thing here as this post would become a book.)

First the easy and common stuff that most everybody should now:

SEO

  • SEM and SEO and have them explain the difference and the problems keeping SEO working (the answer which is that SEO is a dynamic problem, Google just last year made over 500 changes to the search algorithms that do page ranking and things that used to work don’t anymore)
  • PPC, AdWords and Keywords how they relate and the how to measure and report ROI (hint: a lot of this data is qualitative).
  • Internal and external references/links to your content and how Google rates them and are there bad links that could lower your ranking scores.
  • Ask them to explain Google’s quality standards.
  • What are blackhat techniques and should they be used.
  • Do they know what website metadata to optimize for SEO? (clue, different heading tags are weighted differently by Google crawlers  <h1>heading gets a higher rating than words in the <h2>heading for example)
  • Do they know where all this valuable information is outlined? (google.com/webmasters)

Inbound Marketing

What is involved in building a proper inbound marketing platform or campaign?

  • Explain a CTA (call to action) and an LP (Landing Page)
  • How does content (blogs, video channels, ebooks, webinars) figure in the platform and how do you promote your content (social media, email, paid etc)
  • How do you track what is working and what isn’t (analytics and have them explain how analytics work, how they are interpreted and how you establish baselines)
  • Have them explain the conversion funnel and how you determine or qualify where your leads are at within the funnel. (getting eyes on your website, conversion and measurement)
  • How do you track your leads over time and gain intel on where they are at at any given time in the process of getting them to purchase.
  • Describe the iterative inbound marketing cycle (content, promote, offer, CTA& LP, Email and analysis)

Now please understand that these questions and topics do not fully capture everything an inbound marketer needs to know in order to do their job well, but if your candidate or employee can answer all that is above in a satisfactory way, then chances are they are at least competent. Unfortunately the main reasons for somebody being a superstar are purely qualitative in nature and hard to measure. Things like creativity, innovation and intuition are extremely important in this position and you can only hope to get a feeling about those qualities.

Back to the Oreo cookies story……the most important thing Nabisco did was empower 360i with the authority to make an almost instant call on a Tweet to their followers and other Twitter #groups that had formed and that were tracking the Super Bowl. Nabisco was forward looking enough to not only have that robust Inbound Marketing initiative in place, but to have high level branding executives on hand to make the strategic call to release that Tweet. I invite you to visit the Nabisco page for Oreo marketing and take a look at what a proper Inbound Marketing effort looks like.

Look, Inbound Marketing is a complex new way of doing business and the solutions are not a one size fits all proposition. It takes knowledge, experience, creativity, intuition and most of all dogged determination and patience to succeed but if 80% conversion rates are attractive then its all worth it. Though Nabisco reaped the benefits from something that only took minutes to create (thus the power of social media) the fact is that Nabisco had invested and worked hard at adopting an inbound strategy and putting the systems in place to act on their initiatives and hired the right people to carry them out. Is THIS what your Inbound Marketing efforts look like?

In closing as always if you found any value in this post please Like, Favorite, Link to it or just plain tell somebody about it especially if they are in business as you could save them from a VERY costly mistake that could ruin their business.

Family Initiatives for Social Media, Help Your Children.

With the advent of another teenager taking her life because of bullying on the web, I felt compelled to act NOW….not tomorrow or sometime in the future. The web and social media are very powerful tools and as readers of this forum you understand that these are the proverbial double edged sword and cut both ways.

We have a worldwide epidemic of young people being devastated by the repercussions of using social web techniques for communication without being trained in their use. How is it that in business we implement social media initiatives of vast complexity, with carefully mapped constraints and yet we allow children full access 24/7 without even rudimentary guidance or instruction?

Parents, are you aware that even if your children don’t actually suffer a severe event like being bullied or having the embarrassment of private photos spread virally around the world that there is plenty going on that could cause real and permanent damage?

Are you aware that those schools that they hope to attend are now investigating applicant’s web backgrounds as well? They can see the conversations your children are having and whom they are associating with. I have nephews and nieces that use language and discuss topics that would make a sailor blush and they do it without the slightest reservation.

Those who HAVE made it through college are finding it very hard to get a job now and don’t understand that employers are ESPECIALLY scouring the social media channels to gain perspective on new members trying to enter a work force that don’t have a work history. What young people say and have said MATTERS!!! And can last for a long time on the web.

PREVENTION

Telling your children “just don’t do it” won’t work and neither will spying or trying to lock down machines and accounts. As Dr. Ian Malcolm said in Jurassic Park… “I’m simply saying that life, uh… finds a way”. Kids will find a way around you with relative ease.

The solution is to make them WANT TO use the web in a better way!!  But how to do that……………..

Kids want to be taken seriously and be treated as adults across the board. Leverage that desire in your favor  by positioning social media as the powerful life changing and shaping force that it is. Set time aside with your children as often as possible but at the least weekly to work with them on ……………………………………wait for it………….(trumpet sounds hailing the next statement)………..

THEIR PERSONAL BRAND!!!!!

Now folks; the fact that you follow or have arrived at this blog means you are in the marketing community or at least general business. You know the value of branding and all its ramifications. Expose your children to the concept and excite them to develop their own personal brand! Teach them how to build a network with people that will help them, mentor and connect them etc. They WILL rise to the challenge as they are being treated as peers and people that have to already take responsibility for their own actions and their future.

Help them create a blog or video channel (yes, a proper one), show them how to generate content that positions them as thought leaders within their age group. Teach them how to expose their blog/channel and promote it to their peers so that this behavior can influence others to learn a new way and realize that the value in social media is not just constantly barking out what they are currently doing or sending out information that does not help them.

Now… you may say “Dwayne, that’s all well and good for parents with youngsters that are just learning how to use the web, but what about those of us with older children that have already been using these tools and even have a deeper understanding of them than we do?”

GREAT POINT there Devils Advocate Dwayne! Yes, my children are 11 and 8 years old and I am in time to affect their view of this world, but others are not as fortunate. In most cases you will require external intervention. Most parents already have a history of fighting with their kids over what they are doing on the web and any efforts as those I have outlined above will be met with suspicion if not outright resistance. But there is a way to get them into the program…….

Back to my course of action……..this blog entry is not my only reaction to the latest child taking her life. I have started developing a course that I will present to parent and youth groups that will not only outline the dangers inherent in the system but teach them a fun and challenging way forward. I will present in a modern way using multimedia with new music and an engaging approach. The last thing you want to do is come off as preaching to young people as they will instantly shut you out.

So here is the challenge to YOU!

First, don’t assume that everything is just fine with your children because nothing severe has happened. If they already have Facebook, Twitter and/or other accounts and they don’t want you as a ‘friend’ on them…… chances are there are conversations going on that should not be occurring on the web. Don’t get me wrong, kids should be able to have private conversations with their friends, just don’t do it on the web. Encourage them to use a phone instead, help them remember that voices are just as good at communicating as their thumbs and these conversations don’t remain as permanent record at the disposal of anybody else that wishes to discover and use the data against them. Enforce the fact that they should ask themselves a simple question prior to posting: “would I mind if my mom, dad and heck my grandma read what I am about to say” and if the answer is no then don’t post it.

Second, run searches on your children’s names on Google and other search engines and see what comes up. Try to see what they are discussing on the web and get an idea if there are already problems out there. You may have to take steps to “scrub” information on the web. Scrubbing is a difficult thing to do and will take effort…..depending on the severity and amount of information found you may actually have to seek professional assistance in this effort. There are many ways to do this yourself if the damage is not extensive and searching for topics such as “how to scrub personal information” will yield quite a bit of information.

Third, obviously YOU do know what you are doing as you are reading a blog dedicated to the subject of social marketing on the web and you can more than likely put together a household social media initiative but others can’t. Identify friends who have children who aren’t as fortunate as you are and see if you can help them understand the problem and at least get them to seek help in getting up to speed. Don’t sit idly by and watch a tragedy happen to someone you know, especially if you could have helped as it can haunt you. If YOU also have children try to help each other implement each other’s plans. The one thing to keep in mind is don’t do it on a whim, discuss the plan of action and get buy in from all those involved. Agree on a good strategy and the tactics you will use to achieve results. Approach this as any good business plan if you hope to succeed.

Lastly, DO NOT TOLERATE anybody that takes delight in being labeled a web troll. These “people” are cowards of the worst kind. They sit behind their anonymous cloak and take pleasure in hurting and destroying people and because of the reach of social media they can do damage on a very large scale. Challenge them and call them out as the insecure degenerates that they are, for in doing so you may enforce somebody whom may be a recent target of their poison and lift their spirit.

Look, it really does “take a village” especially now. As a people we have never been more connected and yet we have never been so isolated in many ways. Look out for each other, be your neighbors’ keeper and most of all keep non virtual face to face communication alive and well.

Dwayne

Content as a Path to Business Growth

Laying in bed a couple of nights ago, my wife texted me a warning she had just received from one of her friends (the fact that we text each other while we are both home is a theme for some other post😉 ) It seems there is a fad going around that involves watching a web movie called “Marble Hornets” on YouTube.  The warning involved the fact that school age children are discussing it and sharing it with other children and kids are being affected by the movie, pretty seriously in some cases. First, a description of what it is:

Concept – It’s a movie about some friends filming a movie for art school or something. Suddenly the guy who was producing it decides he will not continue the movie and abandons the project. One of his friends (Jay) that helped film the movie goes to visit him and finds him looking like hell and can’t get anything out of him as to why. The producer just gives Jay the movie and tells him to figure it out himself but asks that he never bring it back to him or discusses it with him ever again. His friend starts watching what they had recorded and things go VERY wrong from there!! Just the online descriptions and details of the actual Youtube movie were enough to scare me and make me not want to actually watch it. WARNING it is VERY scary and it has caused certain people to have serious reactions that can last for days or weeks!

So why do I bring this up on my New Marketing Blog?

THE DELIVERY PLATFORM AND MODE! – What the guys that produced the project did was absolute genius. They decided to build their project directly on a social platform (YouTube) and then using it and Twitter marketed the movie and then watched viral behavior spread their product like a napalm fueled dry brush fire.

What’s the fuel and the secret sauce that drove this phenomenon? First, it stimulates both the visual and audible senses and its delivery mode is extremely creative, they made it seem VERY real by uploading the movie in bits and pieces in an ongoing fashion. They are still uploading more “video journal” entries (content) today. They further heighten the experience by involving a user (totheark) that comments on the video postings in the comments section and he is flat out creepy!  He even has a Twitter account where he takes the project into further levels of creepiness.

Great Content   +   imaginative delivery  +  evangelical consumers  + Careful brand monitoring  = Success

These guys are now the talk of Hollywood and will now be making $$$$$$. They created great content, figured a way to freely distribute it in a continuing fashion and have virally grown their user base. These are the basic concepts of new digital marketing.

Today I want to start a new topic dealing with a very important topic which is “Content Creation” and how this is THE KEY to new marketing. The new marketing paradigm requires that you build relationships with your customers and content is what will draw them to you to begin with. Content creation is a deep subject but basically the lifecycle of content reads as follows:

Initial Hook–>Educate/Entertain–>Set Impression

Initial Hook – Probably the most important consideration when you set out to create content. The initial hook is that which compulses the user to engage with your content. This could be an image, words or even a sound. You want to create a doorway to your content that is attractive and draws the user to click on your link and descend into your message, article, video or any form of media that you wish to provide that provides value.

Educate/Entertain – The next consideration is what your content will be. Depending on the business you are in, you have to decide the kind of content to create.  You have to think of your targeted market and the problem your product solves, then you craft your material discussing the problem in different ways that provides a service or networking of those experiencing “the problem” etc. In short you want to become an advocate/mentor/expert that is there to help and THEN your built relationships lead to the purchase of product that you “so happen” to sell.

Set Impression – the last consideration you should have is “what do I want to leave as the remaining impression when the user is done”. This takeaway is a combination of the hook and the content. You wish to leave the user with a feeling that they have been exposed to something they want more of, leading to bookmark, follow, like or some other form of recording you for future reference. Once this happens you have just begun a relationship with this person and it should be viewed and valued as such. How much value do you think a sales person would put in having a new contact? $$$$$ …CORRECT!

WARNING!: I mention this A LOT in my postings, DO NOT use these methods to push your message on others. That is old marketing and really does not work at all anymore. People don’t want to see what you are selling without them asking for it. There is growing frustration with old school marketers that are venturing into social media still using intrusive out dated methods to push product onto people. You and your company instantly get labeled “spammers” and that reputation will also spread like wildfire. JUST DON’T DO IT!

THE HOOK

I find that users are making decisions very quickly now on what they wish to engage with. Typically you have less than 3 seconds to grab somebody’s attention and cause an attraction reaction. That means that that you need a good image/picture as a lead-in to your content if you hope to stand a chance at drawing attention. The visual sense is a very powerful one, and is the one I will focus the rest of this post on.

The problem is that most social platforms don’t lend themselves to using images very well………….until recently!

The newest arrivals into the socialverse are sites like Pinterest and Clipix.  Finally, social platforms that have been developed with IMAGING as the prime delivery vehicle. These companies have developed  products that allow you to “Hook” with IMAGES! There is no longer a need of having to place images somewhere and then going to a platform like Twitter and link to them etc. I will use Pinterest as my example platform as Clipix is very new and though in my opinion has a better product than Pinterest it has nowhere near the users that Pinterest does as of now.

With Pinterest not only can you “Pin” images to draw eyes to your content but you can “pin” images of your products on your sales “boards” and by just adding the text “$100” to your picture description AUTOMATICALLY create a diagonal banner on the upper left corner of your image with $100 in it just like my image above. A full Pinterest “board” with shoe “Pins” would look like the image below (by the way the yellow shoes in the center are cute!).

I have found Pinterest to be the most business friendly social platform yet (again I think Clipix is better but new) and that probably explains why over 12 million people are regularly using Pinterest every month. It is now only behind Facebook and Twitter in number of users and monthly traffic. The stratospheric growth has leveled off in the last couple of months and could be due to some growing pains. These happened to Twitter as well in its early days and look at it now.

I showed you the image of a “product Board” on Pinterest just to show how easy it is to create a web based store front with this platform.  AGAIN, the product board should never be linked in a cold call/push  fashion anywhere or for any reason! You need another “board” on your profile that actually provides value and a reason for users to engage with you. In the shoe store example I would be tempted to have a board with “pins” (hyperlinked images) that lead to a blog that discusses shoe trends of the rich and famous (the influentials I have discussed so often). On that board you could encourage the discussion of who is wearing what and how AWESOME or HORRIFIC they look.

Once you have relationships you can gently drop the OCCASIONAL link to shoes that you sell that would “help their look”. Chances are you won’t ever have to do that as people you draw to your content  board will naturally explore the other boards on your profile. Following my own advice I am adding my blog content to my personal Pinterest profile so that a few brave souls may venture away from my blog content and get to know me better by viewing some of the work created by my artsy side. More than that its just an example of what a Pinterest site looks like and that my Social Marketing Board would allow people to drift and open my other boards.

http://pinterest.com/dwayneholst/

One of the things that I like very much, is that Pinterest organizes all my blog posts into discrete “pins” with their associated images which makes it easy to click on a post of your choice. Click around on my pins and explore my content and of course I appreciate re-pins if you have a Pinterest profile!

Summary: The hook is the most important consideration when creating content on the web. You need to catch peoples attention and you only have an instant to do that. Make sure your hook is on a platform that already has momentum and then follow it up with meaningful content that provides real value to those you wish to engage with. Last, once you are in a relationship with people exercise patience and do not push your product, they will come to you.

The Uncertainty Principle and the Death of SEO?

Hi all!  I had a wonderful break and I did miss my blog. I’ve had wonderful contemplations while I was away and found it very difficult to decide if I should continue to elaborate further on Analytics, dive into AdWords or do as I am about to do and just take a little scenic side road that popped into my head while I was away.

One day I was adding air to the tires on one of my vehicles and the engineer in me started churning away in my head………”So Dwayne, I see you just used a pressure gauge on your tire to check the pressure, how sure are you of what it’s telling you?”

Well the artist in me responded….”Hey Dork, go back to sleep, 33 PSI is close enough for me and most government work!”

But that’s not where it ended. The artist started thinking about what science boy had just stated and started taking that statement into the philosophical realm of “Uncertainty Principle”. Now, before I get a bunch of emails from some other fellow Geeks telling me that the uncertainty principle that Heisenberg talked about had nothing to do with philosophy but Quantum Mechanics and the position of sub-atomic particles let me assure you THAT is NOT the principle I will play with here.

The easiest way for me to describe where my artsy side decided to dance away to, is the thought that “the mere fact of measurement will affect that which is measured”. In other words I started to envision how many atoms of air were now actually in the tire gauge and thus not part of the air in the tire anymore OR the fact that the attached tire gauge now increased the actual volume of the container (tire) of air I had hoped to measure. Because of that the pressure would actually be lower by maybe hundredths of a PSI.

Hard to understand? let me take it to a higher level then. Say you have a tire that is inflated to 40 PSI and then you take a hose from it and connect it to the valve of a PERFECT copy of it that is COMPLETELY flat. Then you open the valve sharing the air from tire 1 with tire 2. The pressure in tire 1 will now have dropped in half to 20 PSI as tire 2 just balanced the pressure in both tires. So, the tire gauge no matter how small and accurate IS taking air from the tire it is measuring changing the pressure in the tire……GET IT?

I know, I KNOW!!! silly thing to think about, but when you actually do think about it the subject actually has valid ramifications in many things we do on a daily basis………..

SEO is Dead!

That’s all I hear anymore!…..”Really!, Mobile apps have doomed it Dwayne!!” “People prefer the simplicity and elegance of dedicated native applications and won’t use the web for purchasing anymore!”

Before I get going on my responses, lets clear up a few terms so that you understand what I will be discussing:

Native App – Is an application written specifically for a mobile device of some kind. iPhone and iPad apps are written in Objective-C which won’t work on Android which are typically constructed with Java. What makes native apps attractive is that they are highly tailored to the device that is using them and provide the best user experience (when done right) as they can leverage all of the phones special built-in features like accelerometers, cameras, microphones, etc. The drawback is that they ARE highly tailored so you need to write one for Android, one for iOS (Apple) and then add special features for an HTC Android smartphone and some for Samsung Galaxy and on and on. This all adds up to $$$ and time.

Web App – Is an application that though created for a mobile device is actually written in a language that is run by a mobile device’s browser, so you first launch your web browser and then run the app within it. These can be written in HTML5 or Java etc but what makes them attractive is that you write one app and it works on all phones and you don’t have to register the apps with iTunes and Google Play store and give them money. The DRAWBACK is that they run in a browser with all its limitations and lost screen real estate and you don’t have access to all the nice features of a given mobile device. These are the easiest and least expensive apps to develop.

Hybrid App – Is an application that is written to be a web app but will also leverage some of the mobile devices features that are in common with most Smartphones. The advantage of these is that you get the universality of a web app and can still heighten the user experience more than a web app by taking advantage of some basic mobile features. The DRAWBACK of these apps is they are harder and more expensive to develop than a web app, you still have to consider multiple platforms and they still aren’t as elegant and powerful as a native app.

On with the story…..so why would people using apps have anything to do with SEO and other internet based marketing tools?

Answer: Apps are self-contained applications that can be run completely independent from the web. Companies love these as they can push their content directly to you. Search engines like Google can’t crawl them and can’t push stuff to them. So its easy to see if the world suddenly decided that all we need is an iPhone and the iTunes Store then the web would cease to be relevant in the commercial space as everything we need would be fed by apps provided to us by Apple or the Google Play store etc. SEO in effect would be dead in this scenario and analyzing markets, analytics and marketing in general would depend on numbers probably sold by Google or Apple. Product marketing in general would become even more dependent on affiliate channels and content publishers. Customer relationships would become imperative and social marketing would become absolutely necessary.

Case: —Amazon—, why would you go on Google and type in “Canon 1D Camera” when shopping for one? you would get thousands of hits and options. You would see sites selling them, some that service them, others that provide usability and training on them etc. Say you want to buy one; then you have to choose a site that carries them, follow that link and then browse to the item. Next you add it to a Shopping Cart followed by following a Checkout link. Then you are taken to all the checkout forms where you enter your information and finally purchase the item. With the Amazon app you type in Canon 1D, you see the prices, click to buy and you’re done! it will even send you a text message telling you when the item ships.

Yes, there are inherent risks to using services like Amazon’s 1 click and having your credit card information stored online but that is not really the topic I am discussing here.

The Amazon case is just one example of a native app being far more efficient and elegant to use and when we add MOBILE to the equation, you can easily start seeing the attractiveness of this combination for consumers
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Now I have set the table for THE MAIN question……………..

Is web business dying and consequently SEO and other web-based marketing techniques are walking the road of the Woolly Mammoth? Are tablets and smartphones taking over the world? are laptops going the way of the desktop?

Lets answer the latter questions first; there is no doubt that laptops are losing market share. Tablets by themselves will pass DESKTOP sales by late 2013 and this does not include people like me who now use a “Phablet” or a large smartphone like a Galaxy Note, that can be considered a large smartphone or a small tablet (including those devices, mobile has caught DESKTOPS already). Looking at the graph you can see the decline of notebooks as well and the rise of tablets….its only a matter of time before tablets and other mobile devices are the top sellers over all.

In the image above I have tried to summarize data that I have found scattered around the web describing PC sales (Personal Computing) for the last few years and then found some forecasts for the next few years as well. Unfortunately a lot of the forecasts I came upon are little more than linear extrapolations of what has happened so far. If linear forecasting was so awesome what happened to tablet sales in 2010??!!!

Linear doesn’t work. There are many factors that influence tablet sales like the state of the economy or an awaited launch (Apple stating there will be another iPad generation could kill sales until it releases the new machine). But overall, Technology advances or lack of them in the tablet world are far more volatile than they are in the other platforms as the market is still young.

I have skewed MY forecasts a bit higher than most as I am in the silicon design business and I understand what technology is coming down the pipe. With tablets moving into the sub 20nM (very small) processes its my opinion that we will see revolutionary leaps in low power cores that will move tablets into full competition for performance with notebooks. You add collapsible bluetooth keyboards that weigh ounces and fit in your pocket and suddenly carrying a laptop around is not very exciting.

So with all this bad news for those of us who depend on the web to markets our goods what do we do???…….NOTHING! we keep doing what we do now as there are many moderating factors that will keep the world wide web chugging right along for a long time to come.

Some factors:

People still don’t like to have to switch from say a CNN app to an NBCNews app to another of hundreds of possible news sources. It really is much simpler to type the URL into a browser and start creating tabs.

Top companies especially those in publishing have given up or are in the process of giving up on apps for several reasons. Chief among them is Apple’s exorbitant 30% fee for every sale of content. Then there’s the complexity  of coding in different languages for different platforms and even having to create versions for those that like to read their news in portrait mode vs landscape and on and on. The accumulation of all this cost really outweighs the elegance of a native app just ask The Financial Times!

People love choice!!!, having an app or two providing some sort of service just makes you wonder if there is a better one out there!….that leads back to……

SEARCH! …….people still want to “search”, searching is one of the things that people do the most on their devices……..RIGHT THERE!,….SEO will continue to be very important including to those that sell apps!!. So don’t worry, all our favorite little acronyms like CRO, CTR, CPC, etc will go on and on.

Back to the Uncertainty Principle; what did that have to do with anything? You start poling people on what is more important: web apps or native, tablet or notebook, self-contained environments vs. open web………..the answers you get will not only depend on the observed but will depend on the observer. How did you ask the question? did you pose a very notebooky biased question to a guy with the latest iPad under his arm? did you ask somebody with their brand new Amazon tablet and app about SEO? surely you would get an answer that does not match up with the fact that 10 minutes later he is on Google searching for the latest news on his new toy. Gathering reliable data is tricky business right now. The data you collect has found a comfy chair in the home of the Uncertainty Principle and even costly data provided by “experts” needs to be taken with a boulder of salt. Experience, creativity, innovation and most of all agility within a marketing structure will be key for quite a while.

The browser is still the most used app on any personal computing platform, mobile or not and it will continue to be that way. So keep obsessing on ways to get your results listed before your competitors and keep taking your blood pressure meds as all is well. Regardless of the hardware platform, SEO will continue to deliver.

SEO is DEAD, LONG LIVE SEO !!!!

Analytics, That Dirty Little Word

Now that I have my health back (after that bad little fish…you know who you are), I find myself very grateful for my health and enjoying every breath I take. I find it sad that sometimes our lives get so crazy with all the noise around us that we take the most important things for granted, like HEALTH, family and friends. Other than food water and shelter what do we REALLY need? ……………and how do we get these essentials for life in this day and age?

Yes, I would argue that we don’t really need to complicate our lives as much as we do. Our pursuit of ever grander reward, status symbol and leisure; places a lot of pressure on us and the system as a whole. All the noise generated from all this activity can be overwhelming at times, but it’s an unavoidable side effect of a system whose organism’s backbone is increasingly built and supported by technology and our NEED to be current  valuable cogs in that machine.

Just a little over a decade ago cell phones were the realm of the privileged and were the size of a brick and the internet was a way for universities to share and communicate research. Computers as a rule were not used in homes and look at us now! Thanks to our advances in “efficiency” we have created an interconnected WORLD, not just a few terminals in some network. If the internet and the cell phone infrastructure were to collapse, society in general would fall into chaos as all the old systems (pencil and paper, wired phones etc) have been replaced and done away with. Just witness what happens at a modern airport when a given airline’s computer system goes down….it’s not pretty.

So how to talk about analytics after an intro like that? Hardly anybody even knows of their existence but they are now essential and just 5 years from now business will not remember what it was like to be without analytics and will not function without them. Systems adapt to efficiencies and the survival flow below has evolved as well. Society can no longer live off the land; there are not enough naturally available resources to feed all of us. Without modern agriculture there would be massive famine and starvation; fish in lakes, deer in the fields and wild fruits and edibles would last for a matter of weeks if not days.

Systems that are invented to make things easier or efficient just have the effect of driving society to grow to the new ceiling and thus these systems then become indispensable. In the survival flow below the items in bold are new necessities and those that aren’t soon will be.

Current requirements for subsistence:

Food+water+shelter–>Money –>economy and business –>networked systems –>computers and Internet –> web sales and marketing –> analytics –> Social/Viral business and marketing.

Analytics are already firmly entrenched in most major corporations in some way or another and those that are not using them are increasingly at risk. Analytics make those who use them MUCH more efficient and these users will devastate a competitor that has not realized their potential. So even as far down in the eco system as analytics are they are now crucial and will soon be a requirement for business survival.

Analytics And You

Before we get into the heart of the matter, today we need to look over a few terms I will use:

Cookie: no, not the yummy kind…is an identifier generated by a website that is stored on your machine that for the sake of this discussion consists of a unique identifier (random number), time stamp and a visit counter added to it.

Session: another word for a visit to a given site. If you leave a site and return you have started a 2nd session.

Bounce: much like it sounds is a visit to your site that terminated prior to visiting any other page. A visitor “landing” on your site and instantly leaving is a bounce.

Landing: A visitor arriving at one of your site’s pages creates a landing event.

Keyword: words that you use on your site that hopefully are the sort of words people search for on search engines to find the content they are looking for.

S.E.O: Search Engine Optimization. A method for increasing the exposure of your website when people execute searches on the web.

Account: You need a location to store and analyze the data, for this example you need a Google account.

Profile: You need at least one Google Analytics (GA) profile in an account. The profile is where you actually store the data you collect. This allows a single “Administrator” to collect data on many efforts or web pages. You might have several businesses that have their own web pages and you would want a profile for each business, instead of having a ton of data for different businesses all in a big pile.

Administrator: A person responsible for the analytics account. The “admin” can create profiles, manipulate what is reported and define “Users” that have access to this data and what level of access they have (you wouldn’t want the web designers who need metrics on the effectiveness of visuals to have access to financial analytics).

User: Anybody given access to the analytics data by an administrator.

Conversion: A visitor that has gone from just being a visitor/prospective customer to actually becoming a customer of your company or content.

Though in my previous post I already gave a high level description of some of what I will touch on, I decided to go into a little more detail because of an overwhelming response on this topic. As analytics are still a subject that could take months to learn in detail, I will try to at least paint a common case of how you setup analytics and what the data you collect means to you and your business.

Analytics setup

The most important thing to learn is that analytics don’t just magically happen, you can’t just go to Google for example and get the data you want about your website. YOU have to do some lifting on your end as well. For data to be collected on your site you have to actually add some JavaScript instructions to the header of your web pages that tell your browser to execute code that sets up communication with Google Analytics. The code is generated by a utility in your Google Analytic account that makes it unique to your website. Detailed instructions on installation are available at google.com/analytics.

Data Collection

As I explained in my previous post the first step to making sense of the data you collect is to first establish a “normal” baseline. You should collect data for a predetermined amount of time in order to understand a normal pattern of current traffic and the metrics associated with your normal day to day traffic. Then you have established data that you can compare to results once you start making changes to your web site’s appearance, content and start other efforts like SEO.

Once you have a clear picture of your website’s current behavior you can start making changes and use analytics to monitor the effects of these changes whether positive or negative to your business. Once again I can’t stress enough how important it is to track what changes were put in place and when, so that you can correlate these with the data you collect. Your web initiatives need careful thought on who makes changes and how these are recorded.

For Example: If you suddenly changed your websites backgrounds to psychotic green and three days later actually made a relevant positive change to content, you want to remember that the increase in bounce rate started with the color change and not your new content.

How it Begins

When a visitor arrives at your site your GA code will generate a cookie of varying kinds. The cookies will contain a prefix for the kind of cookie that you want set (Permanent, temporary, Campaign etc). The cookie will identify the user with a random number your website will now assign to them and time stamps to indicate when they arrived, the time when they last visited, the time of the beginning of their current visit and a counter that tells how many visits they have had to your site.

GA will create a cookie if this is a first visit or will read and increment an existing cookie if it already exists. The combination of cookie management with associated pages and site events is the basic mechanism on how GA then starts collecting data that you will need to analyze to determine how effective your web presence is.

Data Analysis

I will now just cover SOME of the most useful concepts that are used most often as this is not a tutorial. As such I will constrain my descriptions to generalities and not “click this and then click that” etc.

Once in your profile in Google Analytics (GA) you will have a bunch of tabs that are organized to group data and function categories in ways that make sense. You will have areas that report how many visitors you have had in a given time period  and if they are new visitors or returning, you will have an area that reports time metrics like how long they stayed on any given page as well as their progression within your website from one page to another. This information is very effective for determining if your keywords and SEO and even traditional marketing are doing a good job at getting eyes on your web pages.

Quantity Vs. Quality

Now just because you go the visitor section and see a huge number of visitors have suddenly come to your site, the analysis of that metric is not done..……Quantity does not equal Quality. Yes, there is a metric for that as well; it’s called “Bounce Rate”. If you are getting a ton of visitors to your site but you have a high bounce rate (they instantly leave your site) you probably have at least one of several factors at work.

  • Something is forwarding visitors to your site that have nothing to do with what you sell (guys being forwarded to a site that sells women’s clothes for example just because of a keyword match)
  • Your product is not appealing
  • Your website look, feel and content are inadequate
  • Landing page is incorrect (e.g. people are landing on the “Contact Us” page but were trying to get to one where you display shoes for sale)

In the graphic above you can clearly see that the most common term that routed somebody to a site that matches people up with nonprofit jobs was “I Want To Volunteer” which generated 45,172 visits; but the bounce rate was very high at 56.68% above your mean. The Term “Non Profit Jobs” was the most effective term as it yielded a decent visit count of 5,838 visits and they remained on your site 35.94% MORE than mean. The Term “Nonprofit Careers” was the one that matched your content the best at 65.43% above mean but the quantity of hits was too low. This means that you might want to invest money in “Non Profit Jobs” as a keyword string and don’t waste your money on “I Want to Volunteer” as it will have a high CPC (Cost Per Click) because of all the hits but they will arrive and not stay.

Once you are beyond bounce rates, you start to analyze what pages people are visiting the most and if they are returning to them and how long they spend on them. The Time metrics are some of the most useful and clear content metrics that tell you that you have the products/content people find worth their time. Low time on page or worse a high bounce rate after a given page should tell you that the product or content on that page needs to be improved.

Organic Vs. Adwords

The term AdWords is a product sold by Google to help you get your website to appear at the top of search results. The metric that tracks this is CPC (Charge Per Click). I will deal with the subject of AdWords in another post later as it’s a pretty involved topic as well. Just know that if you have decided to “bid” for certain keywords and yet your Organic results are higher than CPC then chances are you are paying for the wrong AdWords. This concept is one of the main influentials that drives your S.E.O. efforts.

Data Funnels

In my humble opinion Funnels are one of the most powerful tools in GA. Funnels paint a powerful picture that shows the overall health of your website. It’s not good enough to know your total visitor count, Bounce Rate or time on page etc. These are symptoms of the health of your website but Funnels have the capacity to holistically track the progression of a “visitor” all the way to a “conversion”. It gives a graphical representation of this transition.

In the graphic above you see a funnel. It describes in detail how 164 people arrived on your site and the paths they took once there. At the opening of the funnel you see that right off, 94 or 57% of your visitors bounced and left your website on arrival. On the left you see what pages they “landed on” when they arrived at your site and on the right, pages that were visited by those that exited. The funnel proceeds downward and you next see that 70 visitors actually made it to your Registration page. At this step you lost another 40 visitors or 57% of those that arrived at your Registration step were lost, this number might tell you that your registration process is too cumbersome. At the output of the Registration funnel you see that 30 visitors out of 164 actually achieved your goal of downloading the white paper you created.

Funnels are amazing at diagnosing the overall performance of your site and should be designed carefully in order to be able to see all the steps that matter. GA has a great feature that can also be enabled called Reverse Goal Path. In essence it’s a funnel in reverse. GA will show you your conversions and track upwards through their engagement funnels to their entrance and possibly show you that you constructed your funnel in a way that neglected another path….Cool Huh??!!

Alerts and Goals

You can use GA to plan and set operational goals for all your efforts and the metrics that define them. These goals will be displayed in your GA graphics as well as be tracked realtime by GA. Because of this capability you can also associate “Alarms” that are triggered by a goal threshold having been exceeded. Alarms can be attached to positive as well as negative numbers that you are monitoring. Alarms can generate an email to you or even better send you a text message right to your cell phone.

As an example you could have a negative alert such as daily visitor count falling a certain % on a given day. This alert would make you aware that something possibly may have happened to you brand that day, like an influential person said something negative about your product. Knowing this the day it happens allows you to react before real damage is done.

A positive alert could be something like you set an alert event to trigger when your “Sale Complete” page count for a certain item exceeds a certain level. This is a very good alarm as it means you have exceeded a certain amount of sales but you need the alert because you might have to instantly place an order for more inventory to meet future demand in a timely manner.

Filters

GA allows you to filter data that you collect. There are many reasons to want to filter data. Data can be filtered to route certain data to one profile (maybe E-Commerce financials) and another profile (visitor counts, time on page etc). The financials profile would be setup to display data for those in the sales channel and not web designers. The visitor counts profile would be accessible to all users outlined previously. Its important to understand that once the raw data is filtered there is no going back to it. Because of this its advisable to always have an extra profile (maybe called RAW) that would collect all the raw data with no filters. So in this case we would have 3 different profiles for one product; A RAW profile accessible only by the account administrator, A Financials Profile accessible only by those in Sales, Marketing and Finance and last a General Visits Metrics profile that would be accessible by all those previously listed as well as other users given this level of permission. Obviously the Account Admin can access any profile at any time.

Filters support Regular Expression or RegEx. You could also set a filter that would only collect data for index pages 1,2 and 3 on my website if I had 10 for example. The filter would be set to URL/index[1-3]. The data on dwayneholst.com/index4 for example would not be collected.

There are many ways to use filtering and the limits are your imagination. You can use them to reduce the amount of data in a given metric or even to do something like a Search and Replace function. A good example of that would be renaming referring web pages. This way when you generate a report you would have “News and Observer” as your data label instead of http://www.newsobserver.com/2012/07/23/2217110/smithfields-new-human-resources.html  for any referrals that came from The News and Observer.

Summary

I hope this post at least whets your appetite and gets you to start taking a look at analytics and what they can do for you. I personally am always fascinated at the insight I can glean from these reports and the picture they help me paint when I present my findings. As always you can comment on my blog or continue to do as you normally do by dropping me a note at dwayne.holst@yahoo.com. I will be taking a 2 week break from my blog….this last post made my little brain ache!…SHEEESH!! I will talk to all of you soon. Go GET’EM!

 

HOW to Add Viral/Social Marketing and Intro to Analytics

Last time I left off with the teaser “Stay tuned for Pt. 5 where we start to look at how to identify who to target, how to measure results and quantify your efforts as you go along.” ……I decided to break with that topic now and rename the continuation to “HOW to Add Viral/Social Marketing and Intro to Analytics”.

This is the beginning of the real hardcore part of social marketing that people get paid to do. We will first discuss how we will gather data and interpret it so that we can not only understand where we stand at any given momentandwho to target but know how the data points the way forward. It’s also crucial to establish accurate and measurable baselines PRIOR to starting any new marketing effort including social marketing in order to understand the effects of the new techniques.

Will Rogers once stated “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” This could not be truer in Social Marketing. The funny thing is many don’t even know if they are on the right track to begin with and for the most part are the overweight tourist with an outdated map standing at an intersection in a foreign country with cars zipping all around at high speed. You know you want to get somewhere awesome but don’t know where you are, have no idea how to get there, see people that obviously know where they are going but you don’t understand their language or customs……sound familiar?

HOW can we know if we are on the right track and know we have a current map with explicit instructions on how to get where we want to go?

The first and most crucial element is DATA!!!!, find a way to collect it, interpret it, discriminate what’s important and then act on it.

Luckily in the world of the World Wide Web we leave footprints everywhere we go. Companies like Google are very interested in knowing where we go and what appeals to us. They make an insane amount of money with this knowledge and amazingly you can use their data gathering tools and reports and get this…………………………………………IT’S FREE!

Analytics and You

When I was laying in the emergency room last Thursday evening after ingesting expensive salmon that had been mistreated and developed a toxin I was amazed at the supervising physician who almost instantly diagnosed me upon arrival. Junior doctors and the EMT’s who transported me were suspecting a cardiac event but his brain collected the data, interpreted all the variables and it all gelled into a diagnosis of Scrombroid poisoning.

The DATA by itself was not good enough to render a diagnosis in inexperienced hands but was indispensable in the process. The analytics of the situation though crucial were just data. It took a doctor with EXPERIENCE and SKILL to consume all the facts and come out with the road forward which in my case thank God was the path to saving my life. It was an amazing teaching moment and a great excuse for the delay of this blog entry.

As I was creating the graphic for this post I realized a crucial point; web analytics require experience, skill and most of all IMHO is a mix of humility and wonder to interpret and blend it all into an actionable path. Yet the social marketing paradigm is relatively young and those of us “playing” in this field also need to keep the soul of an enlightened child;  the wonder, whimsy and creativity with the lack of fear of a child are indispensable in this new reality. We are creating the Socialverse as we speak….why constrain it to familiar boundaries?

The clinical definition of Analytics is: the discovery and communication of meaningful patterns in data …sounds simple huh?

I would like to take this moment to thank the web gods for Google Analytics as I don’t believe in the history of computing has there been a bigger value proposition. This tool gathers the data that can drive a corporation to success with the right creative marketers for no charge. The Google analytics service gathers website usage data such as

  • How did a visitor come to your site
  • Are they a new or returning visitor
  • Pageview information, unique and otherwise, time on page
  • Event information (used as a metric to measure click events on a page with long events like flash video)

These are just a sampling of the buckets of data collected by analytics. Within these buckets reside multiple layers and categories of the data that put together by experienced hands paints a very important and clear picture of the current health of your brand.

So as an example, let’s say you have run Google analytics for a month while you plan out your social marketing campaign. You take a look at your numbers and you should have your baseline. Sometimes you may need a few months to truly notice a trend and hopefully it’s somewhat flat. Otherwise, something is already affecting your business and you will need to first try to identify what that is. Once you have a good idle condition or somewhat understandable baseline you can put your plans to work and start monitoring analytics.

You put your social initiatives to work….if you suddenly have many more new visitors than usual your efforts are starting to pay off. You want to find out how they came to you first; were they a direct visit? (they typed your address directly into a browser), a referred visit (by clicking a banner or something on another site) or organic (the result of say a web search). These metrics will give you a first and strong perception of ROI…..”have I attracted new prospectives for conversion”

When returning visitors increase it tells you your content is good (products or intellectual content that generates interest). People are coming and finding what you offer good enough to make note of you and return. Time on page is another good metric to judge what is working or not working on any given page.

Any time a change is made on a webpage of any kind that event needs to be recorded in order to compare it with what the numbers say happened after the event that was recorded. This will help you decide if the change was positive or negative. The numbers take time to accumulate so you have to keep good record of your changes to be able to correlate them against the metric graphs.

The subject of analytics is deep swimming for sure and beyond the scope of this blog, but luckily the Google Analytics site has comprehensive training in how to use their tools. The art exists in the analysis of what the data is saying and to determine what is affecting your efforts and what you should adjust in your tactics to fortify and grow your brand. Thanks everybody for your patience in waiting for this post, its been a crazy time for the Holst Family and I would just like to close this post with…………

My family and I thank you Dr Scholer! We will always be grateful for your amazing talent.

Dwayne

Stay tuned for Part 2.