A special thanks to the Business Ecosystem Alliance and Dr. Annika Streiber for hosting me on the topic of “Ecosystematic” – the forthcoming book co-authored with Philip Kotler:
I go to my local bookstore, drink a coffee and browse the shelves. When I get home, I rush to the computer and buy the books I fancied – online! If it’s a business book, I download a copy on my digital reader, and if it’s a literary work, I buy the physical book at a discounted price.
As a way to assuage my guilt, I’ve thought of some ways to help my local bookstore survive – because, like so many of us, I love the physical bookstore experience – nothing beats the Zen practice of disinterested info-grazing – and I’d like to continue to enjoy it.
However, I notice at my local Barnes & Noble that they’re busy selling Nook ereaders in every cranny. [Do they really think they can compete with the iPad or even Kindle?] Is this really going to save the physical store? Nope.
Most likely, it’s an idea dreamt up by the financial types at headquarters who’ve been “missioned” to tap into the digital value-stream. After all, why should B&N just stand there and watch their profits drift lazily down a South American river? It’s important to note that despite B&N saying the Nook is a “success,” they still rely on brick and mortar stores (retail and college bookstores) for over 75% of their revenue and the competition is going to become even more intense with dozens of new tablet and reader devices being introduced this year.
And how does B&N take a trip down the Nile? Apparently, the secret sauce is that they allow Nook owners to take their devices into any B&N physical store and read any e-book for free. Nooktalk tells us that in reality, it’s not exactly a seamless reading experience.
And now that Amazon allows Kindle owners to “lend” books to each other, the Nook may find itself in the, ahem, corner.
So what can your local bookstore do to take advantage of its strengths?
Here are three suggestions to shake up the physical bookstore business model:
Daily Book Rental
Why can’t the bookstore become a pay-as-you-read library? As a kid growing up in India, I remember borrowing books (alright, some these were Asterix and Tintin comics) from the bookstore for a daily fee. This business model shows some reverse innovation promise. Can you imagine “tiered pricing” linked to free coffee rewards? Sign up for the all-you-can-read buffet. And of course, we get to pay fines if we return our books late.
Publish and Distribute Local Books
What if a physical copy of your book gets published in-store and sold in your town’s bookstore?
Can you visualize a “Newbie Authors” section where one copy of your book gets to sit on the shelf for a week? If it doesn’t sell in a week, you can either pay for shelf space or you can buy your books back. The minute you or your mother buys your Great American Novel, a new one is printed and placed on the shelf. The top 5 bestsellers in each town get national distribution and placement for a week. Book fest!
Nurture Communities of Interest
- Healthy Living
- Food + Wine
- Art History
How does a bookstore do this? If you’re Barnes and Noble, you could hire retired teachers to do this; pick people who are enthusiastic and spread their love of the subject. If you’re a small bookstore, you can still find enthusiastic community leaders to do the same – in fact you can specialize, and create a niche around the main clientele in your store.
Does all of this sound a bit off the wall? Good, then it’s worth a try. The Nook, I’m sorry to say, isn’t going to save Barnes & Noble.
P.S. Over at HBR, Sarah Green gives us another suggestion: Amazon should partner with Independent Bookstores!
For the past two years I have been conducting some extensive testing with a number of my clients in various fields – software, consulting services, academics, non-profits, entertainment, and self improvement – and here’s what I came up with at the end of the study. I’m interested in one metric – conversion to sales.
Conversion to Sales
Website: 29.5% of sales
Facebook: 4% of sales
Twitter: 1.5% of sales
Print: 2% of sales
Book: 9% of sales
E-book: 7% of sales
Email newsletter and blog combined: 42% of sales
The old rules of online marketing beat social media by a mile, period.
See you later, FB and Twitter…
For the first time, in 2010, online advertising will pass traditional advertising on TV and print:
While this is remarkable, I can tell you where the highest ROI is.
It’s with the Republican party. You can buy every single Republican vote for a paltry $34 million, as the health care circus has shown us.
Wow. Who needs Google when all you need is the budget for one Superbowl ad. Think about that: all it takes to buy the entire GOP is one Superbowl ad. There goes the future of our country.
PS – On a side note, I wonder what it takes to buy our Supreme Court… 5 bucks to Clarence Thomas’ wife?
Just a few days ago I praised Forrester‘s decision to create individual blogs for all their analysts. So they finally get it, I thought. Boy, was I wrong!
Yesterday I noticed how their migration to the new blogging platform was executed:
Yes, that’s the dreaded “The requested page could not be found” message.
Apparently, for Forrester, moving to a new platform means all old URLs die.
This is just so wrong. Linkrot is a common mistake that companies and institutions make all too often. For this to happen at an institution like Forrester shows me they don’t understand web basics. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of big companies have made this mistake, but for Forrester it’s inexcusable!
Maybe Forrester should have a chat with Jakob Nielsen. Check this:
Any URL that has ever been exposed to the Internet should live forever: never let any URL die since doing so means that other sites that link to you will experience linkrot. If these sites are conscientious, they will eventually update the link, but not all sites do so. Thus, many potential new users will be met by an error message the first time they visit your site instead of getting the valuable content they were expecting. Remember, people follow links because they want something on your site: the best possible introduction and more valuable than any advertising for attracting new customers.
At other times, it becomes necessary to re-architect a site and impose a new structure. Even then, the rule continues to be: you are not allowed to break any old links. The solution is to set up a set of redirects: a scheme whereby the server tells the browser that the requested page is to be found at a new URL. All decent browsers will automatically take the user to the new URL, and really good browsers will even update their bookmark database to use the new URL in the future if the user had bookmarked the old URL.
I remember when the same stupid mistake was made by Harvard Business Review back when they switched domains from hbswk.hbs.edu to harvardbusiness.org. Overnight, they destroyed their online ecosystem, as Forrester has just done.
What’s the big deal, you ask? In today’s connected world, this is brand destruction plain and simple. Not the way to build an attention platform.
This is something that keeps happening with IBM’s FTP server.
I was just trying to download this report: Seizing the advantage. When and how to innovate your business model”…
I have to say, this happens all the time on the site.
What’s going on IBM? This is not exactly the best way to win friends and influence prospects.
P.S. – will let you know if I ever get to the document!
UPDATE: Not sure if this is the same document, but I found it on the UK site.
UPDATE #2: Look what I found at Booz >>
UPDATE #3: And this from EY >>
Listen to this:
Junk food elicits addictive behavior in rats similar to the behaviors of rats addicted to heroin, a new study finds. Pleasure centers in the brains of rats addicted to high-fat, high-calorie diets became less responsive as the binging wore on, making the rats consume more and more food. The results, presented October 20 at the Society for Neuroscience’s annual meeting, may help explain the changes in the brain that lead people to overeat.
So is this another example of addiction as a business strategy – similar to what the tobacco companies were doing earlier?
Maybe that’s why the IT geeks have such a hard time implementing Lean IT >>
Townsend makes a good point:
So why can’t a company like GE follow down this path with “open reverse innovation”
– inviting small companies in India and China to submit their products,
services and ideas to be evaluated by GE for global distribution. Of
course, the open model would require an environment of trust –
but what better way to create goodwill in new markets than to be seen
as a development partner in the China, India, and resource-starved
Africa? A.G. Lafley sits on GE’s board; surely he could help them get started.
Townsend also proposes the formation of innovation collaboratives funded by companies like GE to create a pipeline of new products for GE.
Not a bad idea, if you consider that a recent
McKinsey survey found that 20% of companies have opened up their
innovation processes to employees and customers and they report a 20%
rise in the number of innovations, on average.
Edo Segal has an interesting guest blog at TechCrunch describing the “Future of Media.”
He points to Apple’s App Store as an example of what the rest need to learn:
The only way to block the incredible ease of pirating any content a
media company can generate is to couple said experiences with
extensions that live in the cloud and enhance that experience for
consumers. Not just for some fancy DRM but for real value creation.
They must begin to create a product that is not simply a static digital
file that can be easily copied and distributed, but rather view media
as a dynamic “application” with extensions via the web. This howl is
the future evolution of the media industry. It has arrived from a
company that is delivering the goods. Apple has made it painless for
consumers to spend money and get the media they want where they want
it, proving that consumers are happy to pay for media if delivered in
ways that make it easy and blissful to consume.
He also states, rather matter of factly, that “he premise of extending the media experience to the cloud is a core
necessity for the survival and growth of the media industry.” I agree. The media industry needs to “sell access and experiences, not media files.”
So how does an artist or a media company build these experiences?
I’ve been doing some thinking along these lines for a band I’ve followed for many years – Steel Pulse. What’s interesting is that while the band has a huge, global, cross-generational following built over the past 35 years – the media companies that were responsible for promoting them have done absolutely nothing to tap into this enthusiasm. Not one thing.
The same goes for most of my business thought-leader clients as well. The publishing houses do nothing to create a conversation with the passionate fans.
Engagement is the key. How does a musician or an author engage with their audience, their fan-base? It starts with the quality of the conversation. And let me tell you, it’s far easier for an individual thought-leader or musician to do this than companies, largely because companies are too formal, too corporate, and don’t usually communicate with a human voice.
What’s needed is a way to go direct.
Let the celebrity or thought-leader engage with their fans directly to build an attention platform, unique to the celebrity. The company that empowers this attention platform, and builds new services for the fans, will build the next media empire with the “lock-in” that comes with authentic engagement.
Of course, none of this works without authenticity. The celebrity must remain true to themselves. In Steel Pulse’s case, this means they need to stick to their core brand dimensions. So each successive album, each song, each product, each statement, builds on the Steel Pulse Experience.
They could even track the core messages of a successful album – in this case “True Democracy” – and extend their meaning in new songs and releases:
Phase One: PUSH
So what does the celebrity do today? In Britney Spears‘ case, she’s
tweeting her launch of a new song. To me that’s not much of anything.
Yes, she’s reaching out through social media -Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace – but these are all still one way marketing pitches – push media.
The artist pushes their songs, their products, their newsletter, their tweets, etc. etc. No discussion, no give and take. Products are created and sold. One market, one size fits all. Core fans are treated the same as newbies. Nothing special except the show and the products – media files: audio or video. See what I’m getting at?
All of this is still just pushing product.
Phase Two: PULL
What happens if the fans come to you – with their suggestions, requests, and insights? What happens when they want to participate? Is it possible to co-create products and services based on insights from yoru fans? Of course it is.
Start the conversation. Go 80/20: focus on the 20% of fans that will get you 80% of your profits. Start talking (and listening) to your biggest supporters.
Engage: physically meet the 20%. Create special events for them. In soccer for example, fans pay $30-50 dollars just to watch Cristiano Ronaldo practice. What’s wrong with doing a 30 minute sound check for your fans? Invite them to the sound check – and have exclusive “sound check products” available only for these fans – available at the event, and online as well. You could even have a question and answer session that they get to download later that evening.
Then of course you sell the live version of the show – for a “limited time only.” Vary the show slightly with the song set, so every night is a different.
Let your fans download the raw tracks and make their own mixes. Have a contest for the best mixes. Sell the mixes to other fans. Use them in your album.
And when you create a new album, it’s version-time. Reggae music has a long history of selling versions. What’s sad is they’ve stopped this traditional practice when really they need to be exploiting it. (See Hal Varian on versioning.) So every song should have the following versions: album version, extended version, dub version, accapella version, acoustic version, dance version, Nyabinghi version, etc. etc.
Talk to the fans about the songs through webcasts, band-calls. Let then know where and what’s next. Let them vote on what you should do next.
For legacy songs, make sure you sell versions-in-time. The 1983 version of Chant a Psalm a Day is quite different from the 2000 version, which again is totally different from the 2009 version. Real fans want them all.
All of this is do-able today. It’s not about technology, it’s about attitude, and the ability to communicate, to lead. For a cause-driven band like Steel Pulse, this is their opportunity to shine.
And let your fans share in creating and spreading your experience.
Now let’s take a quick look at the business world.
VG, as he’s called affectionately, is an author and well known strategist. His latest article in the Harvard Business Review, co-authored with Jeffery Immelt and Chris Trimble, has been a huge success – introducing the world to a concept called reverse innovation.
What we’re doing now is building his engagement strategy – through his innovation newsletter. The idea is to start a conversation about innovation with the people most interested in this topic.
A small step to start, but I know from experience that a “simple” newsletter can drive over 50% of monthly sales online.
The great news is anyone can build an attention platform like this. And if you have something important to say, your platform will bring you the attention you deserve.
It may even elect you President!
As I was finishing up on this, I just saw a tweet from John Hagel on author platforms (read here). Again, if Apple can help an author or musician build that platform, then Apple will “lock-in” that artist for life. Same goes for Amazon.com. The distribution model for media is changed forever, period.
This is a digital reprint of an interview I did about ten years ago with UC Berkeley’s Hal Varian. At the time Varian was co-author of a bestseller: Information Rules: A Strategic Guide to the Network Economy; it’s still worth reading today. Today he’s the Chief Economist at Google. There are still a number of good things in this interview that the media companies could learn from… (I’m a bit embarrassed by the silliness of my questions, but hey.)
I suppose we should begin by asking you for your definition of “information” and what you call “information goods”.
When we talk about information goods, we mean anything that can be digitized. Text, pictures, moving images, sound, all the media that can be delivered over a digital connection. Some people call them digital goods.
Information goods have some interesting properties. On the supply side there’s normally a big fixed cost to create the first copy, of say a movie, and then a negligible cost to create additional copies. On the demand side, the interesting feature is that you don’t really know what information is until after you’ve consumed it. So you have to experience it to know what it is.
When you’re selling information, you’re dealing with how do you give free samples, how do you give part of it away, how do you establish a reputation so people will purchase the information you’re providing, etc. etc.
I read about a travel publishing company that put its contents on-line, and their book sales went up, because people wanted the books with them when they traveled…
Yes. Another example is the National Academy of Sciences. They found when they put all their content on line and people could actually look at what the content was, they were more likely to buy.
What are some of the techniques you find companies use to create and sell information products? How do you sell an information product to different customers at different prices? How do you find out what the different customers will pay? Can you do this on a website?
The trick is to “version” your information product: construct a product line of your information goods that will appeal to different market segments. A common way to do this is to use delay: issue a book first in hardback, then, a few months later issue a cheaper edition in paperback. The people who are really interested will get the hardback, whereas people who are only casually interested will wait.
We see financial sites on the Web that sell real-time stock quotes, but give away quotes that are 20-minutes delayed. A movie first comes out first in the theater then six months later in video.
Then there are other things, user-interface, for example. If you look at Dialog, which is a search company, they have two types of search engines- one is a professional search engine, with Boolean searches and all sorts of options, and then they have an “ordinary-person” search engine, with a stripped down interface. It’s nice because the ordinary person wants to use the simpler interface, while the paying professional uses the professional interface. So there isn’t any cross-market cannibalization.
Other dimensions on which to version your product are user convenience, image resolution, capability, features, tech support, etc.
You mention Gresham’s Law of Information in your book. What is it?
Gresham’s law said “bad money crowds out good”. We coined “Gresham’s Law of Information” which says “bad information crowds out good”. Low-quality, cheap information can displace high-quality, authoritative information: look what happened with Encarta and Britannica. However, Britannica is now fighting back and has come out with products that are much better suited to computer use. Smart consumers will look for quality information.
Your example of the struggle between Encarta and Britannica, how Britannica lost out to the upstart $49 Encarta…
Right, although they’re coming back. They’re doing some clever things now. What happens there is the incumbent in the industry has a very low marginal cost, so they should be able to beat the entrant but they can’t quite change their business model. It’s hard. Telephone companies are having this problem, the print/publishing media is having this problem, TV networks have this problem vis-a-vis cable.
(This was before Wikipedia!)
Since there’s a high cost of innovation and a low cost of imitation on the web, isn’t it harder to keep “first-mover” advantages?
You’re right, we talk about this — the competition is only a click away. But the clever company, which has that first-mover advantage, will try its best to create “lock-in” for their customer base. For example, look at what Amazon has done- one click ordering, keeping information on what you purchase so they can recommend books to you. If Amazon is recommending good books to me and I want to switch to say Barnes & Noble, I have to start all over.
Another good example of that is e-toys. You put in the birthday of your nephew, your neice, and your cousins, whatever, and they send you a reminder that your nephew’s birthday is coming up and here’s a nice stuffed rabbit that’s very popular with children in his age group.
Can you tell us a little more about your lock-in strategies?
Since the competition is just a click away on the Web, it pays companies to invest in building customer loyalty. The best way to do this is to produce a product that is so much better than the competition that they don’t want to switch! But there are other ways too, such as loyalty programs, like frequent flyer programs that reward frequent purchasers.
What about lock-in strategies for suppliers and partners?
What we were thinking about there was that if you have a group of loyal customers that are purchasing your products, and there may be other complementary products that they would also purchase, but you may not be the best firm to supply that. So then what you do is sell access to your customers.
The portal companies are doing this. For example, I go to Yahoo, and Yahoo charges other companies to have access to me. Let’s say e-toys wants to move into baby or children’s clothes. They might not do that themselves, but they could partner with other companies that do that.
So once you have a loyal customer base, then you can sell access to that customer base for other products that complement what you are selling.
What about the dangers in this, with privacy issues?
It’s certainly convenient for me to be reminded when my anniversary is or my nephew’s birthday or something. That’s a service, a good thing. Of course they can use the information about me in ways that could be detrimental- they could sell it to mailing lists and I get deluged by email. So the trick is to make sure that consumers give their consent; you want to know exactly how the information is going to be used by the company in question. There are companies like e-trust which meet a very important need.
I was looking at ANX, the auto-industry supplier network, and I found out that Chrysler, despite its enthusiasm during the pilot, isn’t part of the production version of ANX. And if you go to the Chrysler supplier website, you find they’ve created tons of business applications. So when does it make sense to join a standards organization and when does it make sense to go it alone?
There’s this fundamental equation that says that the value to you is your share of the market value times the size of the total market. So some of your actions, like standardization, can increase the total size of the market, but it can decrease your market share because it creates more competition. So you have to trade-off these two effects.
So you’re saying if the total size of the market gets bigger, and you make a bigger profit despite a lower market share, then you are on to something… How do you protect intellectual property on the web? Will the current move of providing patent protection to internet business models help or hurt the future of e-commerce?
The point is to maximize the value of your intellectual property, not maximize its protection. You can charge a lot lower price for content on the Web because you can reach a much larger audience.
I’m quite unenthusiastic about patent protection for Internet business models and feel that it will retard progress in this area.
(Like I said, my questions are quite stupid, but the versioning of information goods – that’s still something the media companies can learn about! This cartoon was also done about the same time…)
Finally, to get you up to speed, here’s a decent interview with Prof. Varian with the [global-warming deniers](http://blogs.harvardbusiness.org/winston/2009/10/superfreakonomics-misses-the-b.html) at Superfreakonomics >>
How GE is Disrupting Itself describes the concept of reverse innovation – how products developed in and for low-cost countries (like India and China) by multinationals (like GE) lead to growth – not only in the low-cost market, but at home as well.
VG says the article has touched an “emotional” chord with readers who are saying that this approach is just what “western” multinationals should be doing – designing products for the local market at a price-point which is within reach.
Check out the advertisement for one such product:
To me, this is just the first step to being truly global (as they say at Thunderbird). With business commitments at a local level, social commitments will surely follow.
Now let’s see some “ecomagination” in action and build portable solar/wind electrical generators for off-grid villages at an affordable price-point. Right, Bob?
Michael Moore brings his unique perspective to the issue:
Question: why is this a unique perspective?
Because, all too often, we don’t really care about our customers.
Here’s my intuitive intelligence interview with Francis Cholle at Emory Marketing Institute >>
Cholle’s main point is that businesses have lost track of how to manage holistically. They are too focused on counting beans to create sustainable business value.
He’s not saying analytics are useless. He’s just saying that Mark Hurd at HP isn’t going to come up with the products HP needs for the future by using analytical processes (that’s not in the published interview – but we did discuss it!).
Read the interview here>>
The acquisition of Wind River by Intel should not come as a surprise for anyone who has been paying attention to the rapid evolution of the online experience. We know for example that the future of electronics is collaboration, sharing, and access – anytime, anywhere, on any device..
Companies that build a vision around the future and then work to make that future a reality using their business ecosystems will win the next round of competition after we emerge from the recession. Intel’s shaping strategy, as my friend John Hagel would call it, is nothing short of brilliant.
Let’s see why.
In the automobile “infotainment” world, Intel has been quietly working with Wind River and BMW (and others) to build a shared platform for devices based on open source standards. The ecosystem partners comprise the Genivi Alliance and are in competition with another, smaller ecosystem of partners driven by Microsoft. The difference is that Microsoft’s infotainment stack is not open. Ford’s Sync and Fiat’s Blue & Me products are based on this competing platform. (How long before they switch?)
The ultimate irony – both platforms are built on Intel. And in this case, Intel knows something that Microsoft doesn’t – that open systems are the future.
The Wind River platform is not limited to automobiles. They’re doing the same across a variety of marketspaces, like the Open Handset Alliance Android – another open source platform.
The Wind River acquisition also helps include “Intel Inside” on all the devices which cloud computing will bring. Intel is making sure that the Telcos, IT hosting providers, hardware and software vendors – everyone gets to use Intel as the foundation of their future business.
Shaping Strategy 101: Intel gets it.
The Work of Byron Katie can be used as a tool to challenge business assumptions.
Here, on Byron Katie’s blog we find the following business inquiry: “Having More Customers Means Having More Profits” in which a biz-dev manager starts questioning his team’s belief that “more customers equals more profit.”
The process is described as business inquiry.
Here are the manager’s conclusions:
“Having fewer customers means having more profit.”
“One, we could focus on the customers that have the strongest cash positions, the ones who are most likely to weather the recession.
“Two, we could stop wasting time on difficult customers, the ones that keep changing their orders. They’re very high maintenance, but we keep them because we think we need them to meet our numbers.
“And three, we could stop serving customers that don’t pay in a timely manner, the ones with poor payment history.”
More at Byron Katie’s blog >>
David Reibstein‘s theory holds true online as well. Let’s look at an example of how this works with online communities, knowledge – based communities in particular. Let’s say we build an online community around a specific topic. When the site starts up, we attract the early adopters – some of them thought leaders in their fields. The posts, articles, and debates are generally led by a handful of these thinkers, and they attract a following. The newbies, as they engage with the community start off by learning, asking questions, sometimes just lurking. The quality of these early debates is typically high and participation intense and invigorating.
So what happens when the community suddenly experiences growth – massive numbers of the hoi-pollloi descend on the site and suddenly the quality of discussions takes on a Twitter-like feel – stupid and stupider. The old school rebels, first through silence, and second by disengaging. This takeover by the wisdom of the masses can be avoided, through ruthless editorial direction and skilled moderators. And every once in while, the new participants challenge assumptions that deserve to be challenged, and are given their space in the sun.
So how do we manage this growth and stay true to the community’s intent?
Three options come to my mind:
1) Manage membership – simply keep the community at growing in a measured way – firing the “bottom” 10% each year, and bringing in a fresh crop of participants at 20%… This is the surest way to sustainable growth.
2) Create a merit-based aristocacy – with tiered membership based on the value of the participant’s contributions.
3) Create a feeder community which is built for the masses and an elite community for the thought leaders and their followers. Moderate the interaction between these groups with the possibility of upward migration based on peer-based invitations.
You’ll notice I am not advocating open communities where everyone has an equal voice. That’s because I’m not talking about social communities, but communities of practice where respect is reserved for the competent.
While newspapers and print outfits are losing their shirts all around us, the German company Axel Springer recently reported its “highest net income since the company was founded” 62 years ago.
How is this possible?
What are they doing that our friends at the NY Times aren’t?
From the NYTimes:
Axel Springer generates 14 percent of its revenue online, more than most American newspapers, even though the markets in which it operates — primarily Germany and Eastern Europe — are less digitally developed than the United States.
One reason, Mr. Döpfner said, is that Axel Springer has dared to compete with itself. Instead of trying to protect existing publications, it acquired or created new ones, some of which distribute the same content to different audiences.
At one newsroom in Berlin, for example, journalists produce content for six publications: the national newspaper Die Welt, its Sunday edition and a tabloid version aimed at younger readers; a local paper called Berliner Morgenpost, and two Web sites.
Though advertising has slumped in Germany, Axel Springer has been able to offset the shortfall by raising the price of publications like Bild, which sells more than three million copies. Now Axel Springer is looking for “undervalued assets” to buy.
Mr. Döpfner said the company would even have a look in the United States “if a meaningful position arises in a significant market.”
OK. So what are newspapers in this country going to do? Stay tuned.
Have you ever used YouTube‘s “Insights: Statistics and Data” feature?
It’s a remarkable tool for effective market research in real time.
Let me walk you through how I use it to:
– test new product ideas
– learn what customers like right now
– deduce where events should be held
– learn exactly which portion of a video clip grabs audience attention
– see which topics get customers engaged and why
– learn the exact demographic profile for each product
The first thing to do is create a separate video for each product or idea you are interested in selling. If you’re selling an information product – like a video or an audio, simply use a short excerpt. Keep it under five minutes. Three minutes is optimal. Upload your clips, make them visible to the public, and watch the fun begin.
In a few days or when you get to over a thousand views, it’s time to check your YouTube Insights.
Here’s what YouTube gives you:
This summary of your results:
(1) Tells you how many views your videos are getting. This will tell you if you’re getting any attention at all.
(2) Shows you which video is getting the most attention. Now you know what your prospects like – and the margin between what’s getting attention and what’s not.
(3) Expose your real demographics. Not too fancy, but you get to see the age range your product resonates with. Every now and then I’m surprised.
(4) Identifies the regions where you are getting traction. Again, results do vary by geographic location, so you can decide if you want to spend some money to gain exposure in a particular country or state, for that matter, or if you want to focus on your natural geography – the places in which you’re getting organic attention.
Now let’s go further:
(1) View your traffic over time – days, months, a year.
(2) Sort video popularity by region – again, a handy guide to what the reaction is to your message… country by country.
(3) Details on which videos are winners and which are not. Based on this you can decide which product merits backing, and which ones need more work.
(1), (2) and (3) Which videos are getting the most traffic and from where…
(1), (2) and (3) Which countries (or states) are most receptive to your work!
(1) gives you the age breakdown for your products. Is it senior women or adolescent boys?
(1), (2) and (3) tell you which products get the most response from your prospects – positive or negative. Let’s you know early on if you need to go back to the drawing board. A quick measure of engagement.
Probably the most powerful piece of information, this tells you the level of attention – the peaks and valleys – for your work. Use it to optimize your messaging. Now you too can be a Frank Luntz (just don’t go over to the dark side).
All of this information costs nothing. And from my experience, the quality of results can’t be matched easily, not even by expensive focus groups!
The Cloud will change the way you live. Everything as a service: your computing, your desktop, your life.
One of the things I like about my job is I learn about cutting edge stuff, like customer-driven innovation, intuitive intelligence, and now cloud storage strategy.
We launched the cloud storage strategy site a few days ago, and now it’s simply a matter of keeping up with ideas. The Economist for example, in their global entrepreneurship survey, tells us that:
The development of “cloud computing” is giving small outfits yet more opportunity to enjoy the advantages of big organisations with none of the sunk costs. People running small businesses, whether they are in their own offices or in a hotel half-way round the world, can use personal computers or laptops to gain access to sophisticated business services.
Now that’s what we’re talking about!
I think I spend too much time doodling and not enough writing.
I hereby resolve to get this book thing done once and for all.
I wrote once on another blog, that no one has time to read Harvard Business Review, or listen to an entire music CD, or watch the whole movie.
Our attention span is somewhere between 3 to 5 minutes. And that’s the size your idea-bite has to be if you’re going get heard at all. See Twitter, YouTube, CNN, et. al. We’re getting dumber second by second by second.
How do you build a business model for short attention spans? I think this is the key challenge for online publications – from newspapers, to blogs, to forums. Perhaps the key is enticing readers to return over and over – let’s say twenty times a day! So online journals must be updated very often (compare HuffPost with the NYTimes) with corresponding micro-blogging on the same topics.
And the revenue will come not for selling ads, but selling products and services. And sometimes, you may just sell them the longer version of your story.
As someone who has started a business in a down economy, I have to say it is not as easy as these articles (see below) make it out to be.
For starters, this is not the time to write a business plan, as some of them would have you do. Instead, focus on finding and keeping customers.
Two, get ready to answer these questions from your customers, er, prospects:
– Who are you?
– What can you do for me?
– Why should I believe you?
– How soon can you make a difference to my bottom line?
– Starting a Business in a Downturn – BusinessWeek
– Strategies: It’s a good time to start a business – USA Today
– How to Start a Business During a Recession – eHow
– Starting Up in a Down Economy – Inc.
– Five reasons why a recession is a good time to start a company – The Industry Standard
What’s a good business to start now? Something you’re good at, crazy about. Something people call you about to get free advice on. Something you want to do for the rest of your life.
Can’t think of anything yet? Here are some fun new business ideas, 999 of them to be precise…
If you already have an ongoing business, here are some things to do now >>
The points raised by Anil Gupta and Haiyan Wang in their book – Getting China and India Right: Strategies for Leveraging the World’s Fastest Growing Economies for Global Advantage are echoed in this BusinessWeek article by Gunjan Bagla and Atul Goel.
So are things slowing down with the global recession? Here’s what they say:
We believe there may be a temporary hiccup in R&D globalization, caused primarily by companies freezing in their tracks as they reassess the new financial realities. But as soon as they rebuild their product road maps, nimble companies will actually accelerate their globalization efforts, pushed harder by tight budgets and the realization that the old ways can be disastrous.
Next up: What’s up with Dubai?
Thank goodness the Republicans have not yet mastered the art of tweeting. It’s hard to use open communications when you don’t believe in openness.
Will Newsweek be able to compete against the Economist?
That’s what they’re betting on, apparently.
The goal is to turn Newsweek into an opinion-based “thought leader” with branded journalists like Fareed Zakaria, Christopher Hitchens, and that fossil of a conservative, George Will. So we’ll see lots more trash-talking and provocation.
While this is a step in the right direction, I think they’ll really have to worry about low-cost, online disruptors like HuffPost, DailyKos, and The Week, as well as established institutions like The Atlantic and The New Yorker.
The makeover is supposed to gain them mindshare and, ahem, walletshare. Where have we heard that before?
What they’re missing is a daily view of their ecosystem. I’ll get into that in a separate entry on ecosystemwatch.com. And as I tell my clients, thought-leaders do dominate in ecosystem competition, so the Newsweek strategy does make sense.
What I don’t see any mention of is value-co-creation with its readers. And their revenue model is still based on advertising. Even the Economist knows that to make money you’ve got to sell those country reports, the surveys, books, and conferences.
Finally, I hope they’ve thought about video – online video – as another key ingredient which makes online news attention-worthy.
I think we’ve finally hit the wall in terms of design.
Whether you’re designing a product, a service, or a website, the designer has to make their work relevant to the buyer in ways they may not have considered before this recession. Here’s what I mean. Your offering is no longer competing for attention or even price. It is competing on usefulness and time to value.
The question you have to answer is this: Why will this product/service help me now, and how fast can I see results?
And, two – “How can I justify spending any money on this at all?”
Three: “What’s the risk for me (and my money)?”
Pretty simple, but your survival as a company may just depend on answering those three questions properly.
So Hyundai designs a car which says, buy it, use it, and we’ll take it back – if you can’t pay because you lost your job. The policy allows people to return vehicles in the first 12 months if they can’t make payments due to job loss and Hyundai covers depreciation. In essence, Hyundai is eliminating your risk.
Consider a small business in today’s economy. Why would they spend money on anything but the essentials? So who needs MS Office when you can use Google Docs? Who needs a Mac when a netbook will help you get by? Who needs office space when you can work from home? Who needs to fly when you can Skype it in? Who needs to buy when you can rent? It’s not about how much the website costs, rather, it’s about how fast will I make money from the website? Why do press releases when you can blog?
It’s value time, period. Show me, don’t tell me.
One last thing, why should I trust you? Are you trustworthy? Is your product/service trustworthy? Maybe trust goes beyond the product/service. It lies in the concrete actions you take to actually help your customer. Have you ever thought of helping someone out who is not your customer?
The science of shopping?
The article should’ve been called mind control in your local supermarket.
I agree with this: “despite all the new technology, simply talking to consumers remains one of the most effective ways to improve the ‘customer experience’.”
Too bad we can’t spend the same kind of money on research figuring out the best way to teach Johnny how to read, write and do arithmetic…
Here’s “Mind Control” from Stephen Marley:
“online advertising will continue to expand in the recession—just not as quickly as previously expected…”
Online advertising is 100% accountable, period. And what’s more, campaigns can be optimized in real-time.
That said, there are ways to escape the tyranny of search. All it takes is ecosystem intelligence.
Bill George (yes, Medtronic’s Bill George) gives us a few more lessons learned from the Obama victory:
• Obama created a grassroots movement by building an ever-expanding organization of empowered leaders, who in turn engaged people from their social networks like Facebook.
• The entire organization was aligned around a single goal—electing Obama as President—and operated with common values (“Offer messages of hope, don’t denigrate our opponents, refuse to make deals”).
• Campaign leaders subordinated their egos and personal ambitions to the greater goal. Those who deviated quickly exited.
• Obama set a clear, consistent tone from the top (“No Drama Obama”), and never wavered, even when things weren’t going well.
• Obama’s greater mission transcended internal goals, such as fund-raising, endorsements, and campaign events, but each of these areas had goals tied to the greater mission.
• The campaign team used the most modern Internet tools to communicate, motivate, and inspire people and to guide their actions. Each day, 5 million people received personal messages from campaign headquarters or even Obama himself. This organization collaborated across a wide range of geographies and campaign functions, all tightly integrated nationally and executed locally.
Finally, just in case you missed the other business lessons, here you go >>
Invest a little, learn a lot.
In this month’s Harvard Business Review, authors John Hagel III, John Seely Brown and Lang Davison provide a road map for the daunting task of shaping strategy as technology-driven infrastructures constantly change.
The article is called: “Shaping Strategy in a World of Constant Disruption” and you can download it here (thanks Deloitte Consulting!) >>
In my view this is a very timely piece of thinking from my heroes JH3 and JSB (and Lang Davison). I’ll dig into it later this month on ecosystemwatch.com…
Wait, there’s more. Check out the podcast >>
Don’t look now, but P&G is trying some direct selling online.
From the Financial Times:
Procter & Gamble is testing its ability to use the internet to sell its toothpaste, household cleaners and nappies directly to US households, in a potential long-term strategic challenge to its retail partners.
…The move brings P&G into direct brand competition with its retailers, underlining the extent to which e-commerce is contributing to changes in the way the two sides have traditionally worked with each other.
OK. The site is called theEssentials.com, but so far it looks like they have very little traffic.
Is this how they intend to fight the private label war? I’ll talk about them later this month on ecosystemwatch.com
Looks like Rupert Murdoch’s WSJ is thinking along the same lines we are (for a few seconds at least).
They’ve gone an dug up an old article Peter Drucker wrote for them: Planning for Uncertainty.
Here are some of the key questions:
– …traditional planning asks, “What is most likely to happen?” Planning for uncertainty asks, instead, “What has already happened that will create the future?”
– “What do these accomplished facts mean for our business? What opportunities do they create? What threats? What changes do they demand — in the way the business is organized and run, in our goals, in our products, in our services, in our policies? And what changes do they make possible and likely to be advantageous?”
– “What changes in industry and market structure, in basic values (e.g., the emphasis on the environment), and in science and technology have already occurred but have yet to have full impact?”
– “What are the trends in economic and societal structure? And how do they affect our business?”
– “What is this company good at? What does it do well? What strengths, in other words, give it a competitive edge? Applied to what?”
He ends with a serious warning for the bean-counters:
There is, however, one condition: that the business create the resources of knowledge and of people to respond when opportunity knocks. This means developing a separate futures budget.
The 10% or 12% of annual expenditures needed to create and maintain the resources for the future — in research and technology, in market standing and service, in people and their development — must be put into a constant budget maintained in good years and bad. These are investments, even though accountants and tax collectors consider them operating expenses. They enable a business to make its future — and that, in the last analysis, is what planning for uncertainty means.
And don’t forget his advice for retail strategy >>
One of the great things about the late Peter Drucker is that he can be summoned to solve just about any problem.
One of my clients is a web retailer. They’re having serious issues with “customer hesitancy.”
And of course the headlines are now full of bad news in retail.
So we had a long chat about customer hesitancy. What makes the customer hesitant? Is it really the news on TV? Is it the fact that they might be out of a job?
My first piece of advice to them was straight out of Drucker: Stop selling and start buying for the customer.
Are you buying for the customer? Really?
That line of reasoning led to these predictable questions: so exactly who is your customer? Are there segments you aren’t serving that you should? Are there segments you should stop wasting your time with?
We were able to go and look at their historic web-sales data (for the past two years down to the last two weeks) to find out who their customers really were. And surprise, there was no customer hesitancy there!
All they needed was to focus on the right segment. We changed the website to do just that.
Listen to good old (in this case a younger, “1.0 version”) Drucker:
Level-one flowcharts of how to run a profitable, sustainable, online business. Covers the following work processes:
1) Offer development process
2) Offer creation process
3) Sales process
4) Marketing process
5) Order fulfillment & support process
6) Financial process
7) Licensee certification process
8) Licensee business development process
9) Events process
10) Archival process
You’ll have to register for this one >>
Despite the downturn, there is evidence that consumers are interested in “purpose branding.”
That’s the spin from Procter & Gamble’s Jim Stengel who (surprise, surprise) is leaving P&G at the end of the month to join a “purpose branding” consultancy.
Back-up data: In a study released this month, 26% of consumers expect companies to give more support to causes and nonprofits in an economic downturn, while 52% expect companies to maintain existing programs. Another 79% of consumers said if price and quality were similar, they would switch to a brand associated with a good cause.
OK, I’ll buy it.
And if your company is looking to do some cause-related branding, here’s a cool green company you should team up with: The Solar Electric Light Fund >>
From The Economist:
In 2007 digital downloads accounted for 15% of global music sales compared with almost nothing in 2003. But the outlook for the music industry is worrying. Despite the growing market for digital downloads, music sales have declined over the past four years and are set to continue to dwindle, partly as a result of piracy.
BTW, does anyone really believe that Sarah Palin reads The Economist?