Strategy

Sticking to Your Goals No Matter What

Is a very bad idea, usually.
Most of our goals and aspirations are extremely affected by our current state of mind. When I’m really thirsty, I decide to drink gallons of water when I have access to it, and I mean it. But we know what happens when the water comes. Two or three glasses are more than enough to satisfy the thirst.

Many times we set goals and objectives for ourselves as a reaction to what is going on in our lives. Nothing wrong with that, we need to respond to what’s going on and shouldn’t be blind to it. The problem is when we stick to those goals, even after we had our three glasses of water.

It’s difficult to imagine feeling warm when we are feeling cold. It’s difficult to imagine feeling full when we are hungry. And so, as the need continues to be unsatisfied, we start to exaggerate how much we need it and how happy we will be when we attain it.

The key is to differentiate between the real needs that really need following through to the end, and the ones that are reactions to a state we are going through.

It's not the Quantity, it's the Quality

Watch out when you hear this from someone, because what it usually means is the quantity of quality that they are looking for. Someone talking of "higher" or "more" quality, is talking about having more quantities of quality. It's just a smarter and more efficient way of getting more of a certain thing.

Online Marketing Skills: Business Thinking vs. Programming Thinking

online marketing skillsThere is a constant struggle in online businesses between business people and technology people. From each perspective, you always hear bad things about how the other guys (sorry, it's usually guys) don't get it. Both perspectives are right from their own side but the characteristics of online business necessitate something that includes both, very good business skills and a programming approach. You need to be analytical and intuitive at the same time. Extreme analysis of a fragmented market is essential, but you can easily get lost in so many details if you don't have a good overview of the big picture. Although the numbers can tell you that something is definitely wrong with a page, your judgment and sense will lead into a good diagnosis of what might be wrong, what to test, and what new options to creat. The business mind and the programming mind are both crucial, yet they are both flawed when it comes to having a complete grasp of the online business.

Doing campaigns online is somehow similar to writing a program. You are telling a computer to behave in certain way under certain conditions, and if something else happens, you tell the computer to do something else. The process runs on its own and you'd better 'program' it properly or you will get surprised with terrible results. For a programmer, this kind of program is easier than the easiest program they ever wrote. It's just a smal set of rules, and they are managed in a simple way. The granularity the programmer has allows him to manage much more complicated processes, and they find this one very easy. The flaw is in the business sense. Most programmers get lost in the details of the trees, and cannot see the forrest. This is their problem.

For a business person, conceptualizing the campaign, thinking of options, writing ads is extremely easy, because they know the business, know the language, and are familiar with marketing terms and language. Their flaw is the lack of granularity. They tend to be sloppy when it comes to details, and they tend to miss out on important 'small' things that can cause disaster.

The online marketer has to somehow be both, a little bit of a business person to know the big picture, strategy, marketing, and the human touch, at the same time, they need to be able to handle details and go granular in their approach and execution.

Non-Linear Thinking Lessons from Freakonomics

If you have read the book, you would have probably been intrigued in a very amusing way. The insights and findings are shocking, the relationships and parallels drawn are a clear sign of genius. Very interesting to know certain statistics (like the fact that sending your kid to a friend's house who has a pool is more dangerous than having them go to a friend who's father owns a gun!). Apparently, more kids die drowning in a swimming pool, than from accidents related to guns. The main lesson in all the findings is almost the same. Don't rely on your gut feeling, or any heuristics you may have about a certain decision, but look at data.

Great information, a big hit to our instinctive thinking, and a reminder that the facts can be completely different from what we feel they are.

The problem is that it ends there. You learn the facts and know that you should be more concerned if your kid wants to go swimming at a friend's house. Most of the stuff is like this. It is a great display of genius and insight, but it hands us ready-made facts based on years of study and data analysis. It gives us a fish, but doesn't teach us how to fish. It's just like if I tell you that eating potatoes is more beneficial than you thought, and that research shows that if you have 5 potatoes per week, you are 27.5% less likely to get a heart attack. Ok, so I start eating more potatoes, if I have the discipline, and that's it.

I'm much more interested in lessons that can become tools for thinking and can be used in other situations. I'm interested in becoming a fisherman. 

There was one really valuable thinking tool that I was able to extract, and is really helpful in explaining many personal and economic behaviors. This is basically the non-linear (on non-absolute) way we take positions toward a certain topic.

This lesson / tool struck me through the Sumo wrestlers study. It shows that the wrestlers are willing to lose certain fights in certain situations. When the stakes are high (determining whether or not a wrestler goes down to the lower levels), things aren't as straightforward as they seem. Wrestlers are likely to have a tacit arrangement, whereby "I let you win this time if you let me win the next time I'm in need". Since one of wrestlers doesn't have much to lose by loosing, they gain a future favor from their opponent who is desperate for winning.

The important learning it gave me is to stop dealing with people's positions in an absolute manner. "This consumer is loyal", "this person loves me", "my boss is really into this project", "the company wants me". All these statements are wrong regardless of whether or not they are true in the moment. The reason is that they are incomplete descriptions of the positions of these people.

To complete these arguments, we need to mention the conditions under which they remain true. The company is really into this project, as long as ... is a more complete argument. The 'as long as' part is crucial, because it might get the other person to have a completely different position, even against their initial position, because their incentives have changed.

Marketers and Greed

Gordon Gekko teaches us that, "greed is good" in the classic movie Wall Street. It is such a relief to get approval for one of our basic tendencies by such a successful person. He's making a lot of money, and enjoy it after all! I agree that greed is good, with some caveats, but that's a different subject. I was recently accused by a good friend of mine that I'm becoming too greedy, and mainly focusing on generating money, as opposed to being passionate about the work itself, and loving it for its own sake. My response is thatWall Street - Money Never SleepsI'm a marketing person, I do business. And my job is to create / manage products and services that liveor die based on whether or not they make money. We marketers get excited when we find a niche in a certain market, and when we can see that there is hope that what we are offering to this niche is making money. Otherwise, it's just a cute idea, without commercial value.I generally judge ideas based on the value they provide to the ecosystem and the world ito which  they belong, but from a strictlymarketing perspective, the name of the game is to create stuff that people are willing to pay money for.Since our measure is generally how much money (or any other result) we can consistently make we tend to enjoy the process the more money there is.A designer's greed consists in creating something useful, beautiful, and easily understood. The engineer wants to create a great system that is efficient, and works nicely. The doctor needs to do difficult operations, and get higher degrees and specialization.The difference is that if a doctor is too focused on the money, he would probably be compromising something of his work's quality. If an actor or musician thinks mainly about what makes money, then there is the risk of being influenced in that direction as opposed to truly communicate their vision to their audience. This could potentially negatively influence the quality of their work.On the other hand, when a marketer doesn't focus on making money, he is not doing his job properly!

Why The Next Big Thing is the Previous Big Thing

"The Next Big Thing" is a very nice thing to figure out. To be ahead of the market, to invent something that nobody thought about, and make a revolution. That's all cool stuff, nothing against it. As everything else, because the potential gains are enormous the risks are enormous too.

You can't 'know' what the next big thing is. You can speculate, do your homework, take the risk, and hope for the best. Again, nothing against that. I'm just analyzing what needs to be done.

The preious big thing, however, is the trend, brand, or idea that is no longer in fashion and buzzing, but started to gain credibility as a viable business option, and it is on its way to maturity.

In this case you have the most profitable option because you are benefiting from the momentum, maturity, and experience that has been gained in the industry.

Email marketing is a great example. It even sounds outdated! But it is still one of the most cost-effective and profitable marketing methods out there. There are many providers giving you tons of options, the analytics and testing are evolved, and there's a ton of data about people's behavior and responses. Furthermore, you can learn a great deal about it, and become really good and sophisticated in your offering.

All these factors make it much easier for you to sell the previous big thing, and since it is still not completely flat in terms of growth you can charge a big premium for it.

Unless you can afford the risk and budgets of going into the "next" big thing, sticking to the "previous" one can be much more profitable.

Making Web Analytics Actionable - Part 2

"Not everything that matters can be measured and not everything that can be measured matters" said Einstein. This is the main problem in the thinking behind my first post about making analytics actionable.

The assumption is that what you can control will immediately influence results on your site. There is also an implicit assumption of a linear relationship and direct correlation.

The most important things have an exponential effect after being done consistently and for a long enough period of time. For example, if you do a lot of research and reading, it will reflect on the quality of content, people will find it useful, and they will promote it for you. There is no metric that measures what you do outside your website.

So, to refine the first argument, we need to assume that all variables are held constant, and then we can correlate some actions to certain outcomes and results.

Another important thing is to know that there are things that have to be done outside the site, but will have a huge impact on the reputation and brand, thereby affecting results of the site.

Making Web Analytics Actionable

Having actionable insights is one of the most important things in any analysis you do. Ok, understood. But now what? How do we "make" our analytics actionable?

Page views increased by 15%, or page / visit went down 17%. So what?

These are the results of things that happened on your site, and caused page views, pages/visit, or whatever you are measuring to go up or down. After discovering the disaster (or the great news) you will have to dig deep and know why it happened in order to remedy the situation.

But there is another approach, which starts the other way around, preempts problems, and gives a clear action path in situations like the above.

This is inspired by a sentence that Bryan Eisenberg said in a webinar,"It doesn't make any sense to measure anything if you don't know what you are going to do with it."

Bingo!

This approach starts with the available actions you can influence in your site, and then builds the measurement strategy based on that:

1. Start by asking,"what actions are available to me on the site?"

Possible answers: I can change the content, I can change the layout of the page elements, I can change PPC bids, etc...

2. For each action, list all the possible things it can affect so that you have a ready action list during analysis.

Possible examples: Adding/removing keywords from my PPC campaign affects my conversion rate, getting high quality links affects my position on search results for keywords X,Y, & Z.

3. Build you KPIs based on the things that are affected by what you have control over.

Possible examples: Conversion rate of campaigns if you have control over, pages/visit for traffic sources you can control (like PPC), user experience of a process that you can influence the business rules.

With this approach you almost automatically know what you need to do when KPIs tell you something, because you know how they are affected, and because you already chosen the ones that you can influence.

The answer to "how to make analytics actionable?"...

You don't. You see what you are already empowered to do and analyze accordingly. Important things that you can't control should definitely be reported and you should seek to influence them, but in the current situation you should start with what you have.
 

Frequency vs. Importance

If you look at the statistics of your mobile phone calls, you will probably realize that the frequency with which you call people is not evenly distributed.

You probably call some people every day, some people every week, and so on.

But how often do you call your mechanic? Or an emergency doctor, or the police? Probably once in the lifetime of your phone? But that one call, that brought in the doctor at the right time to save a life, or that mechanic that came helped you when you were in the middle of nowhere, was as important as all the calls you made to an "important" person combined.

Just because you don't call them frequently does not mean that they are not important.

Likewise, when analyzing visits to pages on a website, focusing on high traffic pages might cause you to loose sight of other low traffic, but potentially very important pages in terms of content. The same applies to your Facebook friends, Twitter followers, and simply, everyone you know.

The Silent Storm a.k.a "Digital Life"

Anyone working in the new era of factories (people who have their heads inside a computer all day long), lives full days of silent storms. From the outside, you just see a person sitting in a chair, typically slouching, eyes fixed on the screen, and hours passing by, where we go through emails, funny videos, interesting stuff, stressful ideas, deadlines, etc.
On the inside, the person is living in a storm; every video, email, or spreadsheet, is fueled with emotion, stress, conflicting thoughts, and inherent ambiguity, not to mention the unpredictable stuff that keeps coming with no limit. 
It's a storm of ideas that is impacting us on a real level, but it looks silent on the outside.
The funny thing about this storm, is that we somehow control it, and that's precisely why we are controlled by it! 
Because we can open 100 windows at the same time, we do. Because we can have seventeen different applications running at the same time, we do. Juggling, is the new name of the game. Speaking of games, I think gamers are the ones most suited to be the future business leaders. What they can accomplish in a game is precisely what "professional" people do in their computer; they multi task, make split-second decisions, and are comfortable with an ever moving and firing environment.
Dealing with this situation is about being able to channel every idea that comes in a fluid way. An inherent problem with the office atmosphere (which is different from gaming) is the fact that you can easily shut down any of the applications you are running and take a break whenever you want. Of course, the stuff keeps coming, and your clients and bosses are waiting.
The next time you are caught playing a game at work, tell them you are training for the new economy! 
 

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