Watching Ecosystems: a blog about marketspace analytics

Announcing our new blog at www.ecosystemwatch.com >>
The idea is fairly simple: If you don’t understand the ecosystem you’re competing in, you can’t compete effectively…
The blog will cover the following topics:
– Blogosphere
– Branding Ecosystems
– Business Ecosystems
– Business Models
– Case Studies
– Disruption
– Ecosystem Maps
– Industry Ecosystems
– Influencers
– Innovation Ecosystems
– Political Ecosystems
– Product Ecosystems
– Social Networking
– Strategy
– Value-Networks
This is a natural offshoot of our Ecosystem Intelligence™ service; take a look…

Lessons Learned: Branding and Online Communities

Back in 2000 I was the leading an interesting experiment at one of the world’s largest software companies. The idea was simply this: if we build “communities of interest” around a specific topic (e.g. “database management,” or “innovation,” or “quality of experience”) we’ll be able to attract a significant number of our “target” audience and convert them to paying customers over time.
In a year and a half, we built seven distinct communities each supported by an ecosystem of vendors and partners. For four years we tried to make these communities work, and we did, with various levels of success. Along the way we learned several key lessons and I mention them here because while they seem basic, few companies ever seem to get them right:
Communities build Brand Equity
Unaided brand recognition for our company went from 12% to 84% within two years. Our “agency” did the survey and couldn’t believe the findings. Like most agencies, this one was focused on producing “creative” work rather than figuring out how to be useful to the consumer. Of all the sites we built, this was the only one which received “full funding” and was strongly supported ($) by the sponsoring business unit. It became a major hub in the ecosystem we were competing in, and we literally had about 50% of the “target audience” “opted-in” to our email newsletter. Furthermore, in terms of online referrals, this community accounted for as much as 40% (yes, forty percent) of referrals to the online store.
Communities are Self Segmenting
We learned we didn’t have to target or segment anyone. The content did the work for us. Because each community was “vertical” and concentrated on a specific subject, the only visitors we got were people interested in the topics we wrote about. In fact, the some of our more successful sites became the hub in the marketspace we were targeting.
Stop Selling, Start Learning
We didn’t push products on the sites. In fact, we tried hard not to sell. Instead, we focused on educational content from the world’s leading experts. The result, we had “stickiness” numbers even I couldn’t believe. On our best site, the average user spent over an hour per visit. And this number held up every month, for three years in a row. While we tried our best to teach, we also spent a considerable amount of time learning. I’d spend afternoons poring over site statistics – trying to figure out what was going on.
The 90/10 Rule applies
As we studied visitor behavior, we looked at content and author popularity, the clickthroughs and conversion rates, and resilience – which articles or discussions stood the test of time. Surprisingly, we noted that 5% of our authors drove 95% of our traffic. And 5% of our readers drove 95% of our sales. This was the pareto-principle on steroids (Richard Koch was right)!
Communities Drive Demand Generation
10X better than traditional online techniques like SEO and PPC. Our cost per lead was so low, our EVP of Sales couldn’t believe it. He became one of our biggest supporters.
Corporate Marketing is the Enemy
Don’t ever sell “communities” to a marketing department that thinks in terms of quarters and campaigns. As our communities took off, we experienced all sorts of difficulties, not from the outside, but rather from the corporate marketing staff. My boss believed that companies must drive traffic to their branded company URL, and not to a myriad of niche sites with funky names like linuxvalue.com (the site no longer exists, but it did work). Luckily my boss got zapped before I did, and I was able to keep the experiment going over four years and three different corporate marketing regimes. To this day, they don’t get it.
Forget the Wisdom of the Crowd, Focus on Thought Leadership
Communities are not necessarily social networks. We learned early on to allow the leading experts in the field to write about their pet peeves and passions. Sometimes they would come to “virtual blows” – one expert against the other – each presenting their views with wit and learning (and the occasional threat).
Manage the Ecosystem
After a year of slogging, we suddenly noticed that we didn’t have to worry about keywords or search engines ever again. We had become Google favorites. Almost anything we wrote about on any of the sites rose to #1 in Google and stayed there for years. Why? Because we had built a strong enough ecosystem- not a business ecosystem, mind you, but a consumer ecosystem. Our readers loved us. The experts loved us. Google loved us. What a game! All we had to do was focus on quality content. Our ecosystem became impenetrable. We had built a firewall against all competition. One example is particularly striking. Even after we stopped updating the site in question, we remained at #1 in Google for a highly competitive key phrase – not for a month or two, but for straight three years, after we had stopped touching the site at all!
There were a few more lessons we learned as well, but I think I’ve done enough jabbering for today. The end game for me was Double Loop Marketing™ and Ecosystem Intelligence™ – both direct offshoots of my time spent figuring out how to make communities succeed.

Online Brand Monitoring: A survey of marketspace analytics vendors and why they fall short

From GE to Target, from IBM to Best Buy, companies of all stripes and sizes are struggling to quantify the effects of Web 2.0 on their companies. What are the blogs saying? Are they positive or negative? What’s happening on Second Life? Where are our customers congregating? Who are the influencers in the marketspace?
The result of this anxiety is a new booming business in “marketspace analytics”—companies that profess to track your brand over time and alert you to news (bad or good) in real time.
Given some of the new findings about buzz in the blogosphere (positive online buzz for cars and trucks doesn’t necessarily translate to volume sales) you have to ask, are they wasting their time?
My take on this is somewhat biased. I view all of these brand monitoring products as the online equivalent of the traditional press-clipping tracking function the PR companies used to cling to as a way to justify their existence.
That said, online brand building is a critical competence for today’s marketer. What matters is not online buzz which is a temporary spike in attention, but what that buzz does to your position in your online ecosystem.
Your competitive position in your ecosystem determines your destiny:
• How do you and your competitors compare in terms of return on marketing investments and relative share of the ecosystem?
• How are the leaders making money, and what is their approach in the ecosystem?
• What is the full potential of your business position in the ecosystem?
• How big is your marketspace—the size of the ecosystem you want to compete in?
• Which parts of the ecosystem are growing fastest?
• Where are you gaining or losing share in the ecosystem or sub-ecosystems you compete in?
• What capabilities are creating a competitive advantage for you in the ecosystem?
• Which capabilities need to be strengthened or acquired to help you compete in the ecosystem?
Because we couldn’t find anything to help us with these questions, we decided to build it ourselves. That’s how our Ecosystem Intelligence™ service came into existence:
(i) to help measure a company’s position in the ecosystem(s) it competes in, and
(ii) to help improve that position in the marketspace over time
Now let’s check out some of the competing brand monitoring vendors:
Biz360: provides customer opinion measurement from thousands of expert and consumer product review websites, shopping sites, blogs and message boards
Cymfony: rated highly by the tech analysts, they claim to “quantify your amount of coverage as well as get expert qualitative interpretation of how effectively your message is being picked up in traditional and social media.”
Skygrid: a search tool that sifts through hundreds of web and mainstream media to show you just one thing: whether the balance of the news on a public company is good or bad, and how the “mood” is changing.
BrandIntel: collects, processes and analyzes online consumer content and applies human analysis to the results in context.
Factiva: monitors your competitors, customers, and industry, with in-depth research and company financial data reports.
MotiveQuest: “sees” the “peaks of passion” in online conversations to understand customer motivations. Again, a combination of proprietary software and human analysts to explore what drives customer behavior.
Nielsen Buzzmetrics: measures consumer-generated media to help companies understand consumer needs, reactions and issues. They use a data-warehouse approach to index customer sentiment.
Scout Labs: allows users to track brands and reactions to those brands. In essence, the company helps companies make sense of positive and negative brand sentiment in blogs, user generated videos, and images.
Umbria: analyzes social media—including blogs, message boards, Usenet, and product review sites. Umbria also adds human insights to their data reports.
And there you have it, all variations on the press-clipping theme.
And unfortunately most companies (including the ones above) don’t get it.
It’s not about tracking buzz, it’s about starting a conversation.
Seth Godin gets it.

Online Buzz Bubble-Popper: Positive reviews don’t necessarily mean more sales

Positive online buzz for cars and trucks doesn’t necessarily translate to volume sales, period.
Here’s the story in AdAge: “What Web Buzz Does for Car Sales: Not Much”
Turns out that BrandIntel has been monitoring 450,000 comments over the past year. Comments made by “enthusiasts” in consumer discussion forums on auto-information sites such as Edmunds.com, newspaper and magazine sites, and blogs.
Let’s look at the print/paper analogy. This is the equivalent counting the number of press-clippings in the trade mags. As a measure of PR efficacy of getting stories published, it worked great. As an indicator of sales, it didn’t.
What matters in print and online is the credibility of the messenger and the size of the audience. A story in Rupert Murdoch’s WSJ or the NY Times may have a dramatic impact compared to the same story in your local rag.
Online, credibility and audience-size still matter, but so does findability. How easy is the story to find? Does it come up high in Google and to a lesser extent Yahoo? If there is buzz, is the buzz on a hub or a backwater site? Is it getting attention or play through links from other noteworthy sites?
How does one measure that? There is a way – ecosystem relevance – which measures the position and rank of a site within its industry/category ecosystem.

Marketing in a Downturn

Seth Godin writes about “marketing in a recession” :
The challenge for marketers is to figure out how to change the story they are living so that their customers can change the story they tell themselves. What you make, where you make it, who makes it, how it’s priced and sold and … it all adds up to a perception. If you change these elements the story will change too.
His point is that Starbucks becomes the indulgence of someone who has just traded down to a small rental apartment. Gone are the days of $4.00 coffee just for the heck of it.
I think Starbucks is busy changing their story. They’re trying to be a new, upscale McDonald’s – rapidly working to add in a “drive-in have a happy meal” component to their business model. The trouble is in the demographics. Bill Tancer at TIME tells us that “the Big Mac customer base has remained relatively stable, while Starbucks’ coffee-drinkers have diversified. It used to be that Starbucks attracted customers from a small, elite segment of the country; now, its visitors pervade many more segments across America.”
From my own observations at the local Target, I see far more customer buying ICEEs rather than Starbucks coffees. This is the “threat of substitution” that is always around the corner, no matter how good your product is. Seems like the days of mass-luxury are over.
So where does retail find its consumer, er, citizen? Turns out they’re not citizens at all – you’ve got to sell overseas. India and China are experiencing a huge boom in luxury, thanks to an explosion in middle class prosperity. The fortune is in the middle and the bottom of the pyramid.
And if you can’t reach those consumers? I wrote about that in an earlier post about advertising in a recession.

Double Loop Marketing: The Blogging Model

Almost every day I get an email from someone asking for “the simplest way to use double loop marketing.”
And I ask them: “Are you blogging yet?”
The simplest form of double loop marketing is the double loop blogging model. It is best used to establish a thought-leadership position – generally embodied by the CEO or a senior executive in the company who is either an expert in the field already, or wishes to establish themselves as one.
It works for large enterprises talking to the masses although it is more effective for SMBs and non-profits targeting a specific audience in their industry.

The four components of the double-loop blogging model are as follows:
1. Thought-Leadership Blog
Goal: Build mindshare
This is the most important component of the double loop marketing model in terms of attention management. The blog helps you establish your credentials and build a relationship with readers. With a few exceptions, it helps if you blog regularly covering topics which entertain and educate. Relax, and be yourself. Be authentic. Don’t blog if you see it as a chore.
2. Vendor Site
Goal: Sell products and services
This is the “second loop” component of the double loop marketing model. The job here is conversion to sales. If you don’t make it easy for customers to buy, they wont. The focus here is helping customers buy with the least amount of hassle. Trust is established through the testimonials (and case studies) of name brand clients. The buying process must be as simple and clean as possible. Support and post-sales interactions are critical to building profitability with follow-on sales. The post-sales funnel must be designed before you sell your first product.
3. Newsletter
Goal: Trust Building & Conversion
Your newsletter is the best way to build loyalty and drive prospects back to your “vendor site” every month. Despite the rumors you may have heard, email is far from dead. Our clients experience a 25-30% boost in revenue each month from their newsletters. The newsletter must be a thought-leadership vehicle, not a sales-driven tool. This makes it an effective vehicle for viral marketing: everytime you send out your newsletter, more people opt-in and become a part of your list. This is the simplest and most effective way to escape the tyranny of search engines and the PPC game.
4. Management
Goal: Process Optimization & Ecosystem Positioning
The management of the three elements mentioned above is a process unto itself. It’s function is optimization – finding and turning prospects into profitable customers at the lowest possible cost.
This component includes devising an ecosystem positioning strategy for the blog, conversion strategies for the vendor site, and opt-in and delivery strategies for the newsletter. All aspects of execution must be tracked and measured against a baseline to continuously improve performance.
Pretty simple, isn’t it? So why aren’t you blogging yet?!

Advertising in a Recession: Bye-Bye Magazines and TV?

The Economist tells us that Hyundai almost yanked its Super Bowl advertising due to economic concerns. At the last minute, they decided to stay put.
Yank it, I say. And spend the money advertising on the Internet!
The article goes on to tell us that: “Marketing spending is one of the first things companies decide to cut when faced with slowing sales.”

This is true, but only when companies don’t understand marketing. Which means despite what Maurice Lévy at Publicis Groupe and Sir Martin Sorrell at WPP are saying, look for a crash in marketing spend.
The NY Times tells us “Forecasters Say Madison Avenue Will Escape a Recession, Just Barely.”
I say they’re wrong.
We know that the research tells us that recessions clearly reward aggressive advertisers and destroy timid ones.
In a study of U.S. recessions, McGraw-Hill Research analyzed 600 companies covering 16 different SIC industries from 1980 through 1985. Results showed [hat tip to MacTech] that business-to-business firms that maintained or increased their advertising expenditures during the 1981-1982 recession averaged significantly higher sales growth, both during the recession and for the following three years, than those that eliminated or decreased advertising. By 1985, sales of companies that were aggressive recession advertisers had risen 256% over those that didn’t keep up their advertising.

Sales for the companies studied were relatively even before the recession, but varied sharply during and after. Companies that cut advertising during both of the recessionary years maintained flat sales during the period and only modest sales growth in the following two years. In contrast, the companies that maintained their advertising experienced significant sales growth throughout the four-year period.

According to the study and contrary to popular belief, cuts in advertising during a recession decrease net income over the long haul. Companies that maintained advertising during the recession enjoyed measurably higher net income gains not only during the recession, but even more so, two years after the recession. This in stark contrast to those companies those companies that cut advertising both years and significantly reduced their profits during the recession, and for years following.
On top of that, my friend Sundar Bharadwaj insists that “the impact of branding on firm performance outweighs both the impact of the competitive environment and resource allocation.”
But that, ladies and gents, was before the Internets.
Now, we’re going to see something we’ve never seen before. The end of advertising as we know it. If the Olympics go south, as they just might especially given the lame coverage we’ve seen in the past, I expect that TV will be hit hardest, followed by print – magazines and periodicals.
Radio will stay flat, and the biggest (and only) gainer will be online advertising.
I’m convinced we’re going to see a boom in marketspace analytics.
Smart money will focus on ecosystems. They’ll know exactly where to advertise to get the best response to drive quarterly results.
Ask yourself:
– Are we in the right ecosystem to begin with?
– Who are we competing against really? (versus who we believe we are competing against)
– Where do we stand vis-à-vis our competitors?
– Who else is in our ecosystem? Are they neutral, friends, or enemies?
– What are the microtrends? Are we gaining or losing on the competition?
– What are the keywords being used to dominate our ecosystem?
– Are there any potential partners in the ecosystem we want to compete in?
– Is our target demographic well represented in our actual ecosystem?
– Do we need an offensive or defensive strategy to challenge the competition? Can we do both?
– Where does the traffic for our ecosystem come from? Is it global?
– What must we do in the short-term to compete? What about the long-term?
– Where should we be advertising?
– Can we dominate our industry ecosystem?
Welcome to ecosystem marketing.

8 Business Tech Trends to Watch in 2008

The McKinsey nerds have been doing their homework. In particular they seem to be paying attention to the ideas of McKinsey alumnus John Hagel who foretold almost every single one of these “trends” a decade ago.
In Eight business technology trends to watch they tell us that “Technology alone is rarely the key to unlocking economic value: companies create real wealth when they combine technology with new ways of doing business.”
Here are the eight technology-enabled business trends they’ve identified:
1. Distributing cocreation
“Technology now allows companies to delegate substantial control to outsiders—cocreation—in essence by outsourcing innovation to business partners that work together in networks.”
2. Using consumers as innovators
“As the Internet has evolved—an evolution prompted in part by new Web 2.0 technologies—it has become a more widespread platform for interaction, communication, and activism. Consumers increasingly want to engage online with one another and with organizations of all kinds. Companies can tap this new mood of customer engagement for their economic benefit.”
3. Tapping into a world of talent
“Top talent for a range of activities—from finance to marketing and IT to operations—can be found anywhere. The best person for a task may be a free agent in India or an employee of a small company in Italy rather than someone who works for a global business services provider. Software and Internet technologies are making it easier and less costly for companies to integrate and manage the work of an expanding number of outsiders, and this development opens up many contracting options for managers of corporate functions.”
4. Extracting more value from interactions
“The application of technology has reduced differences among the productivity of transformational and transactional employees, but huge inconsistencies persist in the productivity of high-value tacit ones. Improving it is more about increasing their effectiveness—for instance, by focusing them on interactions that create value and ensuring that they have the right information and context—than about efficiency. Technology tools that promote tacit interactions, such as wikis, virtual team environments, and videoconferencing, may become no less ubiquitous than computers are now. As companies learn to use these tools, they will develop managerial innovations—smarter and faster ways for individuals and teams to create value through interactions—that will be difficult for their rivals to replicate. Companies in sectors such as health care and banking are already moving down this road.”
5. Expanding the frontiers of automation
“Companies, governments, and other organizations have put in place systems to automate tasks and processes: forecasting and supply chain technologies; systems for enterprise resource planning, customer relationship management, and HR; product and customer databases; and Web sites. Now these systems are becoming interconnected through common standards for exchanging data and representing business processes in bits and bytes. What’s more, this information can be combined in new ways to automate an increasing array of broader activities, from inventory management to customer service.”
6. Unbundling production from delivery
“Technology helps companies to utilize fixed assets more efficiently by disaggregating monolithic systems into reusable components, measuring and metering the use of each, and billing for that use in ever-smaller increments cost effectively. Information and communications technologies handle the tracking and metering critical to the new models and make it possible to have effective allocation and capacity-planning systems.”
7. Putting more science into management
“Just as the Internet and productivity tools extend the reach of and provide leverage to desk-based workers, technology is helping managers exploit ever-greater amounts of data to make smarter decisions and develop the insights that create competitive advantages and new business models. From “ideagoras” (eBay-like marketplaces for ideas) to predictive markets to performance-management approaches, ubiquitous standards-based technologies promote aggregation, processing, and decision making based on the use of growing pools of rich data.”
BTW, this “trend” is owned by one Tom Davenport.
8. Making businesses from information
“Accumulated pools of data captured in a number of systems within large organizations or pulled together from many points of origin on the Web are the raw material for new information-based business opportunities.”
Take for example, ecosystema >>
So what have they left out? What business-tech trends have they overlooked?
Here are a few I came up with:
a. Internal Branding
The use of technology to improve internal communications and encourage employee engagement. Read up on Tammy Erickson!
b. The Return of Online Communities
An old idea, but with Web 2.0, companies must learn to engage their partners, suppliers, customers, and yes their competition. This does overlap trend # 4 (extracting value from interactions) but it’s far more than that. More about this from John Hagel >>
c. Greenwashing
Every business, even in the technology world, must learn how to become sustainable in this age of environmental activism. Companies that do so half-heartedly will pay the price.
d. Authentic Marketing
Using technology to drive a company’s message to capture attention using techniques that are authentic and reflect the core values of the company. The key to this will be ecosystem management.
What else?

Beyond Chatter: Monitoring Online Ecosystems

There’s a flutter of activity in the ad-agency world around the subject of tracking online conversations.
WAPO reports on a tool call Buzz Manager, “a Web-based research tool that trolls sports blogs, message boards, podcasts, YouTube and similar sources, capturing relevant chatter on behalf of a client” — whether a racecar driver, corporate sponsor or sports league. That information is analyzed for content and impact and then translated into a Buzz Rating — a single number on a scale of 1 to 10.
In my view, this is just an online version of the old “press-clipping” service that PR companies would go use in the old days of Web.0!
What they’re missing is a map of the entire ecosystem. How does traffic (and attention) flow through the ecosystem? How many people are in the ecosystem? Which sites are positioned as hubs in the ecosystem? Are they friends or foes?
Wait a minute. That’s why we developed our Ecosystem Intelligence™ Services.

Fred Reichheld: “Drop Lengthy Customer Surveys”

Your next customer survey needs to ask one question, just one:

“How likely would you be to recommend our company to a friend?”

That’s what Mr. Loyalty has been saying for some time now.
And:
“Our research indicates that customer-satisfaction numbers fail to show a consistent correlation with actual customer behavior and growth. Many companies have benefited from measuring customer retention, which provides a vital link to profits. Yet, measuring what we call “net promoters”-the percentage of customers who are promoters minus the percentage who are detractors-is even more accurate and makes the economics of retention more practical and achievable.”
I’ve been asked many times by clients what I think about net promoter scoring when it comes to online business. To which I say, net promoter scores are important online, because people trust their peers, more than they trust Gartner and Forrester for example. So start by make this one question the only question you ask in your online survey!

The $40 Entree: Restaurants & Dynamic Pricing

From the NYTimes, an article on pricing in the restaurant and hospitality industry.
“Forty is the new 30,” says Richard Coraine, the chief operating officer of Union Square Hospitality Group, which recently began charging $42 for a 1¾-ounce appetizer portion of lobster at lunchtime at the Modern in New York. Ten percent of its lunch patrons order the dish, it says.
Apparently the $40 entree is migrating from high-end NY restaurant menus to your average restaurant chain across the nation.
Here’s the real story – the use of analytics to increase profit margins:
But what makes the rise of the $40 entree so significant is not just the price creep, it’s the sophisticated calculation behind it. A new breed of menu “engineers” have proved that highly priced entrees increase revenue even if no one orders them. A $43 entree makes a $36 one look like a deal.
“Just putting one high price on the menu will take your average check up,” said Gregg Rapp, one such consultant. “My mom taught me to never order the most expensive thing on the menu, but you’ll order the second.”
With just a few keystrokes, restaurateurs can now digitally view the entire history of a dish: how the lamb sold around this time last year, whether it did better when paired with squash or risotto, and how orders rose or fell when the price went from $39 to $41.
With a few more clicks and a new stack of paper in the office printer, the menu can be revised to test new prices.

Meanwhile the obesity problem just keeps growing. Wonder if that would end if McDonald’s switched to $40 dollar entrees…?!
Speaking of analytics, to learn more about “Competing on Analytics” check out Tom Davenport’s free webinar on the subject – October 31, 2006.

REWIND: Remember The Cluetrain?

Some of my clients (both B2B and B2C) need to go back in time and read The Cluetrain Manifesto.
Here are the classic “95 Theses” (try substituting the word “market” with “customers” or “friends”):
95 Theses
————————————————-
1. Markets are conversations.
2. Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.
3. Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.
4. Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived.
5. People recognize each other as such from the sound of this voice.
6. The Internet is enabling conversations among human beings that were simply not possible in the era of mass media.
7. Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy.
8. In both internetworked markets and among intranetworked employees, people are speaking to each other in a powerful new way.
9. These networked conversations are enabling powerful new forms of social organization and knowledge exchange to emerge.
10. As a result, markets are getting smarter, more informed, more organized. Participation in a networked market changes people fundamentally.
11. People in networked markets have figured out that they get far better information and support from one another than from vendors. So much for corporate rhetoric about adding value to commoditized products.
12. There are no secrets. The networked market knows more than companies do about their own products. And whether the news is good or bad, they tell everyone.
13. What’s happening to markets is also happening among employees. A metaphysical construct called “The Company” is the only thing standing between the two.
14. Corporations do not speak in the same voice as these new networked conversations. To their intended online audiences, companies sound hollow, flat, literally inhuman. ‘
15. In just a few more years, the current homogenized “voice” of business—the sound of mission statements and brochures—will seem as contrived and artificial as the language of the 18th century French court.
16. Already, companies that speak in the language of the pitch, the dog-and-pony show, are no longer speaking to anyone.
17. Companies that assume online markets are the same markets that used to watch their ads on television are kidding themselves.
18. Companies that don’t realize their markets are now networked person-to-person, getting smarter as a result and deeply joined in conversation are missing their best opportunity.
19. Companies can now communicate with their markets directly. If they blow it, it could be their last chance.
20. Companies need to realize their markets are often laughing. At them.
21. Companies need to lighten up and take themselves less seriously. They need to get a sense of humor.
22. Getting a sense of humor does not mean putting some jokes on the corporate web site. Rather, it requires big values, a little humility, straight talk, and a genuine point of view.
23. Companies attempting to “position” themselves need to take a position. Optimally, it should relate to something their market actually cares about.
24. Bombastic boasts—”We are positioned to become the preeminent provider of XYZ”—do not constitute a position.
25. Companies need to come down from their Ivory Towers and talk to the people with whom they hope to create relationships.
26. Public Relations does not relate to the public. Companies are deeply afraid of their markets.
27. By speaking in language that is distant, uninviting, arrogant, they build walls to keep markets at bay.
28. Most marketing programs are based on the fear that the market might see what’s really going on inside the company.
29. Elvis said it best: “We can’t go on together with suspicious minds.”
30. Brand loyalty is the corporate version of going steady, but the breakup is inevitable—and coming fast. Because they are networked, smart markets are able to renegotiate relationships with blinding speed.
31. Networked markets can change suppliers overnight. Networked knowledge workers can change employers over lunch. Your own “downsizing initiatives” taught us to ask the question: “Loyalty? What’s that?”
32. Smart markets will find suppliers who speak their own language.
33. Learning to speak with a human voice is not a parlor trick. It can’t be “picked up” at some tony conference.
34. To speak with a human voice, companies must share the concerns of their communities.
35. But first, they must belong to a community.
36. Companies must ask themselves where their corporate cultures end.
37. If their cultures end before the community begins, they will have no market.
38. Human communities are based on discourse—on human speech about human concerns.
39. The community of discourse is the market.
40. Companies that do not belong to a community of discourse will die.
41. Companies make a religion of security, but this is largely a red herring. Most are protecting less against competitors than against their own market and workforce.
42. As with networked markets, people are also talking to each other directly inside the company—and not just about rules and regulations, boardroom directives, bottom lines.
43. Such conversations are taking place today on corporate intranets. But only when the conditions are right.
44. Companies typically install intranets top-down to distribute HR policies and other corporate information that workers are doing their best to ignore.
45. Intranets naturally tend to route around boredom. The best are built bottom-up by engaged individuals cooperating to construct something far more valuable: an intranetworked corporate conversation.
46. A healthy intranet organizes workers in many meanings of the word. Its effect is more radical than the agenda of any union.
47. While this scares companies witless, they also depend heavily on open intranets to generate and share critical knowledge. They need to resist the urge to “improve” or control these networked conversations.
48. When corporate intranets are not constrained by fear and legalistic rules, the type of conversation they encourage sounds remarkably like the conversation of the networked marketplace.
49. Org charts worked in an older economy where plans could be fully understood from atop steep management pyramids and detailed work orders could be handed down from on high.
50. Today, the org chart is hyperlinked, not hierarchical. Respect for hands-on knowledge wins over respect for abstract authority.
51. Command-and-control management styles both derive from and reinforce bureaucracy, power tripping and an overall culture of paranoia.
52. Paranoia kills conversation. That’s its point. But lack of open conversation kills companies.
53. There are two conversations going on. One inside the company. One with the market.
54. In most cases, neither conversation is going very well. Almost invariably, the cause of failure can be traced to obsolete notions of command and control.
55. As policy, these notions are poisonous. As tools, they are broken. Command and control are met with hostility by intranetworked knowledge workers and generate distrust in internetworked markets.
56. These two conversations want to talk to each other. They are speaking the same language. They recognize each other’s voices.
57. Smart companies will get out of the way and help the inevitable to happen sooner.
58. If willingness to get out of the way is taken as a measure of IQ, then very few companies have yet wised up.
59. However subliminally at the moment, millions of people now online perceive companies as little more than quaint legal fictions that are actively preventing these conversations from intersecting.
60. This is suicidal. Markets want to talk to companies.
61. Sadly, the part of the company a networked market wants to talk to is usually hidden behind a smokescreen of hucksterism, of language that rings false—and often is.
62. Markets do not want to talk to flacks and hucksters. They want to participate in the conversations going on behind the corporate firewall.
63. De-cloaking, getting personal: We are those markets. We want to talk to you.
64. We want access to your corporate information, to your plans and strategies, your best thinking, your genuine knowledge. We will not settle for the 4-color brochure, for web sites chock-a-block with eye candy but lacking any substance.
65. We’re also the workers who make your companies go. We want to talk to customers directly in our own voices, not in platitudes written into a script.
66. As markets, as workers, both of us are sick to death of getting our information by remote control. Why do we need faceless annual reports and third-hand market research studies to introduce us to each other?
67. As markets, as workers, we wonder why you’re not listening. You seem to be speaking a different language.
68. The inflated self-important jargon you sling around—in the press, at your conferences—what’s that got to do with us?
69. Maybe you’re impressing your investors. Maybe you’re impressing Wall Street. You’re not impressing us.
70. If you don’t impress us, your investors are going to take a bath. Don’t they understand this? If they did, they wouldn’t let you talk that way.
71. Your tired notions of “the market” make our eyes glaze over. We don’t recognize ourselves in your projections—perhaps because we know we’re already elsewhere.
72. We like this new marketplace much better. In fact, we are creating it.
73. You’re invited, but it’s our world. Take your shoes off at the door. If you want to barter with us, get down off that camel!
74. We are immune to advertising. Just forget it.
75. If you want us to talk to you, tell us something. Make it something interesting for a change.
76. We’ve got some ideas for you too: some new tools we need, some better service. Stuff we’d be willing to pay for. Got a minute?
77. You’re too busy “doing business” to answer our email? Oh gosh, sorry, gee, we’ll come back later. Maybe.
78. You want us to pay? We want you to pay attention.
79. We want you to drop your trip, come out of your neurotic self-involvement, join the party.
80. Don’t worry, you can still make money. That is, as long as it’s not the only thing on your mind.
81. Have you noticed that, in itself, money is kind of one-dimensional and boring? What else can we talk about?
82. Your product broke. Why? We’d like to ask the guy who made it. Your corporate strategy makes no sense. We’d like to have a chat with your CEO. What do you mean she’s not in?
83. We want you to take 50 million of us as seriously as you take one reporter from The Wall Street Journal.
84. We know some people from your company. They’re pretty cool online. Do you have any more like that you’re hiding? Can they come out and play?
85. When we have questions we turn to each other for answers. If you didn’t have such a tight rein on “your people” maybe they’d be among the people we’d turn to.
86. When we’re not busy being your “target market,” many of us are your people. We’d rather be talking to friends online than watching the clock. That would get your name around better than your entire million dollar web site. But you tell us speaking to the market is Marketing’s job.
87. We’d like it if you got what’s going on here. That’d be real nice. But it would be a big mistake to think we’re holding our breath.
88. We have better things to do than worry about whether you’ll change in time to get our business. Business is only a part of our lives. It seems to be all of yours. Think about it: who needs whom?
89. We have real power and we know it. If you don’t quite see the light, some other outfit will come along that’s more attentive, more interesting, more fun to play with.
90. Even at its worst, our newfound conversation is more interesting than most trade shows, more entertaining than any TV sitcom, and certainly more true-to-life than the corporate web sites we’ve been seeing.
91. Our allegiance is to ourselves—our friends, our new allies and acquaintances, even our sparring partners. Companies that have no part in this world, also have no future.
92. Companies are spending billions of dollars on Y2K. Why can’t they hear this market timebomb ticking? The stakes are even higher.
93. We’re both inside companies and outside them. The boundaries that separate our conversations look like the Berlin Wall today, but they’re really just an annoyance. We know they’re coming down. We’re going to work from both sides to take them down.
94. To traditional corporations, networked conversations may appear confused, may sound confusing. But we are organizing faster than they are. We have better tools, more new ideas, no rules to slow us down.
95. We are waking up and linking to each other. We are watching. But we are not waiting.
Special thanks to Levine, Locke, Searls & Weinberger. And John Hagel before them.

Christian Double Loop Marketing™

I always knew that Double Loop Marketing™ facilitates “putting butts in seats” as one of my clients likes to say, but this is just too funny:
“Themed Web sites create buzz, drive attendance swell for two churches”
Exhibit A: mylamesexlife.com
Result: attendance up 70 percent
Exhibit B: mymarriagesucks.info
Result: attendance up 68 percent
Note the use of TV ads and billboards to get attention for the websites.
Although this is not full-fledged Double Loop Marketing™, it is a start. In some ways, this is identical to the microsites the pharma companies keep pitching on TV.
The one problem I see is that these are not sustainable “thought-leadership” based campaigns.

Penn State Webinar: Demand Generation Using Double Loop Marketing™

Institute for the Study of Business Markets (ISBM)
Smeal College of Business
The Pennsylvania State University

Webinar: Double Loop Marketing™: The New Online Strategy to Build Brand Awareness, Accelerate Demand & Generate Leads
Presenter: Christian Sarkar, Founder – Double Loop Marketing LLC
When: Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Time: 1:00pm EDT
Free One-Hour Web Event
Description: Double Loop Marketing™ is an emerging online strategy. The “Double Loop” approach requires a company to first develop “mind share” by building a company sponsored site that offers genuinely useful information and advice to consumers in the subject matter areas most relevant to their products. This is the first loop of the firm’s interaction with customers. Only after such a site achieves credibility among its community of visitors can the company, in the second loop of customer interaction, try to convert that “mind share” into “wallet share.”
Double Loop Marketing™ can yield surprising results – often 10 times the number of qualified sales leads generated by conventional advertising and marketing approaches.
In this webinar you’ll learn:
– Where to start: are you positioned in the right ecosystem?
– What is “Double Loop Marketing™?”
– Who is using it: surprise, it’s not just high-tech companies
– How it’s being used: case studies (B2B) from companies using “Double Loop Marketing™”
– The results: comparisons of effectiveness between traditional online advertising and double Double Loop Marketing™
– Barriers to execution: what separates success from failure?
– It’s not about technology: how blogs, RSS, and mobile applications play a role but are not the defining elements of Double Loop Marketing™
Sign up here >>

How Software Platforms Revolutionize Business

From HBSWK
“You can’t see them, but we’ve all used “software platforms” over the last few decades, whether they are embedded in the Windows operating system, a cell phone, or game machine. In a new book, the authors term software platforms “invisible engines that have created, touched, or transformed nearly every major industry for the past quarter century.”
“Think of software platforms as ring leaders of ecosystems in which a few or many companies can participate to reach users. These core products, like Windows, for example, offer software services that can be used as the basis for independent developers to build new features. The cell phone has become a lucrative platform for more than handset makers—also in on the party are makers of digital cameras, music services, and organizer software.
“Not only are existing industries being transformed and sometimes toppled by software platforms, but new industries are also springing up around them; witness the multibillion-dollar ringtone business.”
Yup. Read the article here >>
It’s all about building digital business platforms

Martin Sorrell Doesn’t Get It

The Internets is not just another new media.
And Sorrell should know better.
I must say I’m stunned by his ignorance. It’s not TV. Not even close. If you want Internet strategy, based on Sorrell’s view, I would not talk to these people:
– Grey Global Group
– Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide
– Young & Rubicam
– JWT
– Hill & Knowlton
– Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide
– Burson-Marsteller
– Cohn & Wolfe
– Mediaedge:cia
– Mindshare
– MediaInsight
– Maximize
Step down Sorrell. No wonder you guys at WPP and Co. don’t have a clue.

The Community Trap: Joga.com vs. SoccerBlog.com

At first glance I have no chance.
How can my puny soccerblog.com site take on the likes of Joga.com from Nike + Google?
Answer: It doesn’t have to.
Joga.com from Nike + Google is too commercial, period. So it’s no contest.
Communities have to be open – in spirit and intent. They cannot exclude players, teams, or participants. I’m sure Nike + Google will learn. Until then, I’m having fun!
John Hagel: Joga.com and the Return of Community
William Dunk’s Global Province: Agile Companies #281

The Time is Now for “Narrowcasting”

According to the NYTimes:
“In the last six months, major media companies have received much attention for starting to move their own programming online, whether downloads for video iPods or streaming programs that can be watched over high-speed Internet connections.
“Perhaps more interesting — and, arguably, more important — are the thousands of producers whose programming would never make it into prime time but who have very dedicated small audiences. It’s a phenomenon that could be called slivercasting.
The web has always been a narrowcasting medium.
More from the article:
Discovery Communications, which has been a master of the current system, creating 15 different cable channels including Animal Planet and Discovery Health, is now exploring even more specialized services over the Internet. One will be introduced tomorrow for $9.95 a month. It will offer 30,000 video clips excerpted from its library of documentaries and other educational programs to help grade school and high school students with their homework. In the future, other services will offer content focused on narrow topics in travel, science and health.
Discovery, Mr. Hendricks says, is in a good position to create such services because of its large archive. “We have a wealth of programming just related to cancer, just related to Alaska and so on,” he said.
In addition to offering Internet distribution, Discovery will start to broadcast some of these programs late at night on its regular channels and encourage people to record them, he said.
To be sure, there are doubters. “I’ve never been a believer that we should create channels for all these niches like beach volleyball,” said John Skipper, a senior vice president of ESPN, a unit of the Walt Disney Company. “They just don’t pencil out. Because if you have 12,000 people, you can’t afford to do it. And if you can’t afford to do it, you can’t make any money on it.”
One reason that ESPN has shied away from this sort of niche programming, he said, is that its brand stands for a level of high-quality visual production that would be difficult for small channels to afford. Indeed, ESPN has been investing millions of dollars to produce programs in high-definition formats.
But reticence by some big media companies is making room for independent programmers to explore all sorts of niches.

Hmmm. ESPN doesn’t get it… perhaps Steve Jobs will wake them up.
Here’s the article in full>>

Building a Digital Business Platform

For over five years now I’ve been working on the problem of how companies can build a community for prospective customers. The question I asked myself was:
How can we get customers to collaborate with the company/companies to co-create products and services that benefit everyone involved?
I had some long discussions on this with John Hagel and the late John Rheinfrank. Here’s what we were thinking:

[click to enlarge]
Any suggestions?

Who Won the Superbowl Ad Contest? Let the Brains Decide…

So who won this year’s Superbowl ad-wars?
This year, at the UCLA Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center (don’t you love that name), Marco Iacoboni and his group used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure brain responses in a group of subjects while they watched the Super Bowl ads. The way fMRI works is relatively simple: different levels of cerebral blood oxygenation have different magnetic properties. Moreover, changes in blood oxygenation correlate with changes in neural activity. Thus, without using any contrast agent, fMRI can measure how much brain areas are activated during sensory, cognitive and motor experiences.

According to the brain-waves, “the overwhelming winner among the Super Bowl ads is the Disney – NFL ‘I am going to Disney’ ad. The Disney ad elicited strong responses in orbito-frontal cortex and ventral striatum, two brain regions associated with processing of rewards. Also, the Disney ad induced robust responses in mirror neuron areas, indicating identification and empathy. Further, the circuit for cognitive control, encompassing anterior cingulate cortex and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, was highly active while watching the Disney ad. We consider all these features positive markers of brain responses to the ad. In second place, the Sierra Mist ad, activated the same brain regions but less so than the Disney ad.”
Great. Disney? Give me a break. That said, I know someone (a famous business guru) who is visiting Disney this week, so maybe the ad worked after all!
Here’s the one I picked as the winner. (Doug Smith agrees!) >>

Anyway, read all about the brain wave theory of advertising effectiveness here >>

Ad Agencies Face Accountability

Google may be diversifying offline into radio, print and potentially TV advertising sales, but its plan is to utilize its powerful online backchannel to measure results of those deals.
If successful, the initiative could provide a new, empirical way of proving the ROI of traditional media advertising deals. In an interview with MediaDailyNews, Google’s Director of Advertising Strategy Patrick Keane said the plan relies on techniques already being utilized by some advertisers who use an online component of their media strategies to measure the effects of traditional media in their mix.
One straightforward strategy, he said, would be driving readers or listeners back to the online realm and measuring them there.
“The smart advertisers have been coming up with linked campaigns for a while,” Keane noted. “They’re no longer conceiving of advertising campaigns that are limited to the various silos–just print, just radio, or just Internet, and so on.”
As an example, Keane noted how marketers might include a unique URLs in text ads, allowing advertisers to measure by site visits the number of visitors who interacted with the text ad. He suggested advertisers could cast an even wider net by including an old direct response technique–the unique 1-800 number–in print campaigns and radio advertising. As aficionados of late-night TV know, 1-800 numbers are old hat; in this system, the studio selling albums, for example, pays out to the broadcaster based on the number of phone inquiries they receive.
Another approach might include econometric modeling, which uses sophisticated statistical analyses to determine the effect offline advertising has on driving consumers to online activity and vice versa.
This is good news for everyone except the ad agencies. They certainly don’t want accountability!
BTW, this approach isn’t new. David Ogilvy talks about it in “On Advertisisng” as does the late Claude Hopkins in his book on scientific advertising…
I’ve been proposing this approach to my clients for over five years now: every ad, no matter the media, must have a web-based call to action, period. Either that or a 1-800 number with a promo code…

I Work with Fools

The stupidity of business – exposed.
Why is it that stores don’t let you surf the Internet in the store? [I know they’re scared I’ll compare prices… but aside from that?]
Recently I needed some information to make a purchase, so I asked the store manager if they had an Internet connection where I could look up my information. “Sorry, you can only visit one site, ours…” he smirked.
I went home to get my info, and the company lost about $500.00 in sales, because I couldn’t stand the attitude.
The customer is not content to sit in a box any longer…

PR vs. Advertising: Barking up the Wrong Tree


Again, from the Economist:
“…PR is surprisingly effective, at least according to a recent study by Procter & Gamble, the world’s biggest consumer-products group. P&G is a firm that marketers pay a lot of attention to, not least because of its advertising budget of some $4 billion. It has always been at the cutting-edge of marketing—P&G is credited with inventing the television soap opera as a new way to sell goods. But with fewer people watching television and the circulation of many papers and magazines declining, the firm has become pickier about where it spends its advertising budget. Increasingly, it wants a measurable return on investment from its campaigns.”
Read it in the news >>
My point- at least PR is trying to tell a story.
So how does advertising fight back? With knowledge and entertainment, and yes, branded-experiences. Problem is most agencies are too stupid. Maybe it’s the stupidity of the clients.
Both PR and Ad agencies are inauthentic. Why do you want to hear propaganda and lies all day long? Give us truth, knowledge, insight, and a little bit of humor. Talk, don’t preach. Get a conversation going. And don’t talk about your products unless I ask you a question.
Of course, I’m talking about double loop marketing.

Stupidity 101: Newspapers and Freebies

Asks the Economist:
“IN A letter about pay-rises to staff at the Sun last year, Britain’s biggest-selling newspaper, Rebekah Wade, its editor, remarked that in future the paper’s success would probably depend more on free CDs and DVDs than on its journalists. British newspapers are frenziedly giving things away, and in Germany, France, Italy, Poland and throughout Latin America papers are also increasingly relying on freebies to try to attract new readers. In Britain the circulation of national newspapers fell by 3% in 2005, following a 2% decline in 2004. The same pattern of falling circulation is being repeated across Europe and the United States. So are all the free gifts a sign of desperation from newspapers, or an entirely sensible new marketing strategy?”
My “hero” Rupert Murdoch, owner of the Sun and the Times, said last November that he dislikes it because “people grab the paper, tear the DVD off and throw away the paper”. He’s right.
This is the same kind of stupidity that software companies engage in when they give away free T-shirts. They don’t attract the target audience, but end up with droves of kids wearing “.NET” T-shirts. A friend of mine used to give away free T-shirts to the homeless, until his boss found out. Hurts the brand, you know.
Bet you 85% of the people grabbing the CDs and DVDs don’t read the paper at all.
This is what I call GM-style management.
Read all about it!

China’s 5 Surprises + 1

From S+B:
Five facets of business in China may surprise most outsiders:
1. Local entrepreneurs are interested in producing global brands, not just low-cost commodities
2. China has become a hotbed for rapid innovation
3. Executives from around the world are moving to China for the long haul
4. Good management and transparency are starting to count more than patronage, at least in some sectors
5. China is becoming a catalyst for growth in emerging markets throughout the developing world.
Let’s add another surprise:
6: China is becoming a market for high-end luxury items once thought to be “exclusive” for the western elite and Middle-East oil-barons.
Also:
“Because they are in such a hurry to make a place for themselves, and because it is still early in the life cycle of their ambition, Chinese entrepreneurs tend to give the impression that they don’t care much about quality. However, that is not universally true. Many of them recognize the trade-offs among cost, quality, and time that exist for any startup, and they have explicitly chosen designs and processes that sacrifice quality for the sake of speed and cost savings.
“But this doesn’t mean that China will always be a nation of commodity enterprises; indeed, many Chinese businesspeople know the price of a Motorola phone in Chicago or a pair of Nike sneakers in Manhattan. They ask themselves, “If I can make these things, why can’t I sell them for higher prices?” Some of them are already laying the groundwork for the evolution of their industries from low-cost producers of shoes, handsets, and components to branded enterprises.”
Read the entire article here.
This will come back to bite almost all of our western “outsourcers.” See “Innovation Blowback” by JSB and JH3 >>

Jakob Nielsen: Google, Yahoo are Leeches!

Usability guru Jakob Nielsen says: “search engines extract too much of the Web’s value, leaving too little for the websites that actually create the content.”
And: “In the long run, every time companies increase the value of their online businesses, they end up handing over all that added value to the search engines. Any gain is temporary; once competing sites improve their profit-per-visitor enough to increase their search bids, they’ll drive up everybody’s cost of traffic.”
According to Nielsen, “liberation from search dependency is a strategic imperative for both websites and software vendors.”
What does he mean? He means that companies need to focus on search engines for initial acquisition, but then bring them directly to the site- i.e. keep ’em coming back for more.
Again, his words: “The question is: How can websites devote more of their budgets to keeping customers, rather than simply advertising for new visitors?”
Nielsen offers the following suggestions:
– Email newsletters
– Request marketing
– Affiliate programs
– Newsfeeds
– Stick your URL onto any physical product you sell
– A hardware component that’s hardwired to connect to your site’s service
– Mobile features
I have a powerful answer: ’tis double loop marketing!
Read Nielesen’s post >>
Bonus: an interview I did with Jakob Nielsen years ago now…

Clicks and Conversion Rates in 2005

I just read a Brian Eisenberg article in which he says:
“Depending on whom you ask, average conversion rates are between 2 and 4 percent. By today’s standards, you get bragging rights and the full dose of hero treatment if you can maintain a conversion rate of 5 percent or above. You have deity-like status if your conversion rate approaches double digits. the world’s finest players sport double-digit conversion rates of somewhere around 12-14 percent.
“Of course, I’m referencing top-line conversion: Tthe number of visitors who take the macro action you want them to divided by the total number of site visitors.Aa double-digit conversion rate seems unimaginable to some, but experience demonstrates it’s certainly possible. We’ve seen it happen time and again.”
The funny thing is I have a client, who for some reason, is unimpressed by a 44% conversion rate I’ve gotten for them over the past year. Some months it went down to 39%, in other months it was up as high as 53%. I’m not kidding. And the client still doesn’t understand how amazing this is.
What’s amazing about Double Loop Marketing is just how effective it can be. For instance, my record-breaking conversion rate was 98% for an offer on a landing page from John Hagel and JSB. Now granted, JH3 and JSB are smart people, and when they give away something for free, it’s not difficult to see that they’d have a great conversion rate. That said, 98%?!! I’m still in shock over that one.
This year I’ve resolved to publish a book on the power of Double Loop Marketing, with a few, real-life case studies comparing traditional online marketing approaches with Double Loop Marketing tactics. God and the devil are both in the details, as they say. John Hagel’s has committed to writing the foreword for the book, so I think that itself will make the book worth reading 🙂

Another Service in Googlespace

Google keeps on introducing micro-services. Here’s one I find very, very interesting: Blogger Web Comments for Firefox.
Despite the geek-inspired name of the service, it’s another brilliant move. Here’s how it works:
As you visit any given page in Firefox, a comment panel featuring blog posts linking to this page will appear on the bottom right of your browser. Clicking on any of the entries will open that blog post in a new tab. You can toggle between the compact and extended comment lists, or even hide the panel completely. To bring it back, just click the icon or the icon in the lower right corner of your browser and select “View comments.” When there are lots of comments, you can click on the “Show lots more…” link, which will open a new tab in your browser with all Google Blog Search results.
Pretty nifty, ha?
Of course, to add your own comments on the page you’re on, you’ll need to have a Blogger account.
What it does for Google is take it one giant step further into the social-networking-wisdom-of-crowds space. And they didn’t have to acquire anyone to do it.
Learn more about Google’s product development process >>

Joe Vitale: How to Write a Press Release to Get Attention

Just before the last US presidential election, I asked Joe Vitale to write a product press release for one of my clients. The product was a political toy- a frisbee for dogs- one for Kerry-bashers, and one for Bush-bashers.
Here’s what he wrote:
Who Would Your Pet Vote For?
New Online Poll Lets Pets Decide Next US President
If you can’t decide who to vote for this November, there’s a better way to make a decision than flipping a coin: Let your pet decide.
“This race is going to the dogs anyway,” says the three mysterious men in Arizona who created the world’s first polling booth online for pets at http://www.xxxxxx.com
“We thought we would simplify the process by creating a poll where our pets can go vote,” they explain.
The creators also developed a way to determine if your pet is a Republican or Democrat. There are twenty categories of statements. For example:
If your pet likes to display affection in public, it may be a Democrat. If it doesn’t like to show affection, it may be a Republican.
If you pet sues incompetent vets, it may be a Democrat. If it always gets the best in vet care, it may be a Republican.
“We didn’t stop with just the poll,” says the creators. “If your pet wants to get out some aggression, it can get one of our chewable Frisbees and tear the heck out of it.”
It’s a cloth Frisbee with a caricature of either George Bush or John Kerry that has the international sign for “no” across the face. There’s a navy-blue border with stars, and a squeak toy inside.
“People may find it comforting to chew on one, too.”
Who will the pets decide should be our next President?
Watch for the results at http://www.xxxxxx.com
*** end ***

The results? In 48 hours we got 12 responses, 8 for national radio-talk shows. Part of it was the product, part of it was the “is your pet a Democrat or a Republican” angle I dreamed up, part of it was the distribution of the press release. But the most important part was the way in which Joe Vitale captured your attention with words. It was a press release that had to be read.
Copy is king. Hypnotic copy builds kingdoms.

MBA Blowback? The Chinese B-School

B-School’s are booming in China, says BusinessWeek:
“For U.S. companies, the emergence of China’s new managerial class has positive and negative implications. For those seeking to penetrate China’s massive market of 1.3 billion people, the graduates of the nation’s new MBA programs will supply a steady stream of local talent with in-depth knowledge of China, something their Western managers can’t provide. But as Western management ideas take root in the nation’s corner offices, multinationals could find themselves confronting a newly powerful adversary: Chinese companies suddenly in possession of the management knowhow needed to go head to head with global giants. Those same ideas — about efficiency, productivity, profitability, and growth — hold vast potential to ignite China’s already blistering economy, raise living standards, and transform the nation from a low-cost manufacturing center to a make-or-break battleground for the global economy.”
Read the full article: China’s B-School Boom
Is this the MBA Blowback? Read JH3 and JSB’s paper on “Innovation Blowback” to see where I’m coming from.
By contrast, in a BW article earlier this year, here’s what they reported about US B-Schools:
“In 2005, just 19% of full-time programs in the U.S. reported an increase in application volume, down from 21% in 2004 and 84% in 2002, when applications reached an all-time high.”
The news for US B-schools just keeps getting worse. A study from the Graduate Management Admission Council shows applications to full-time U.S. MBA programs down for the third consecutive year.
A tale of two empires? One going up, one down? Or is the world just getting flatter?

Santa Goes Online: Record Holiday Sales for Online Retailers

Several online merchants reported record sales during the holiday shopping season, including online retail giant Amazon.com, which said popular items were iPod music players, video games, coats and jewelry.
Amazon said it had its best holiday sales season ever, with more than 108 million items ordered. The busiest day for the world’s largest online store was Monday, Dec. 12, when more than 3.6 million items were ordered, or 41 items per second. The most expensive item purchased during the period was a pair of diamond earrings worth $94,000.
A study from Nielsen/NetRatings, Goldman Sachs and Harris Interactive found that between Oct. 29 and Dec. 16 holiday online retail spending reached $25 billion, a 25 percent increase from the same period last year. Shoppers spent the most on clothing, followed by computers and hardware, consumer electronics, books and toys, and video games, the study found.
Read all about it >>

Why Do They Want My Phone Number?

Next time you go to the store and they ask you for your phone number when you’re checking out, just say “NO.”
Here’s an ABC News article to shed some light on the mess we’re in.
“The various data companies are trying to acclimate people to invasions of privacy. It started with the zip code and now it’s moved on to phone numbers,” said Chris Hoofnagle of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in San Francisco. “I’m willing to bet that retailers’ market research is showing a willingness of customers to share the telephone number, and that’s why it’s happening.”
It could open a person up to telemarketing — even if they are on the federal “do not call” registry. According to Hoofnagle, giving a phone number while making a purchase may establish a business relationship, and companies can call individuals on the “do not call” list with whom they have prior business relationships.
Susan McLaughlin, a spokeswoman for Toys R Us Inc., said its stores have asked for phone numbers for several years. She believes most customers have no problem voluntarily giving their numbers at the register — though it’s “no problem at all” if they decline. “It’s so we can send you offers, coupons, et cetera, and we don’t sell it to third parties,” she said. “I’d say the majority of people like getting coupons.”
The ToysRUs people just upset me. Next time they ask for a number, give them: 1-800-869-7787. That’s their “guest” line.
And don’t look to the government for help with privacy. They’re busy spying on you.