Strategy

The Marketer vs. The Technician

An interesting thing I read recently mentioned that Google transformed advertising into a software program. Well, they are not the only ones. Many other companies have transformed many other crafts and professions into software programs.
That is what appears to the superficial observer. People, who have learned how to use a specific software start thinking that (or forget) they are (should be) marketers.
Real people, selling real things, to other real people, who are responding to messages meant to convince someone to do something.
A very clear symptom is when these people start talking solely in terms of click-thrus, conversion, and any other technical terms used to evaluate their efforts.
The way to tackle this issue is two fold:
1. Technical: Yes, you need to master each and every feature of that program you are using. The better you get at it, the more freedom and efficiency you will gain and it will have a great impact on your original objective.
2. Marketing / Business: Well, this is why you exist, isn't it? You need to master the understanding of PEOPLE you are trying to influence to do something. The ins and outs of the business, and what those people are like, how they think, what their preferences are, and what you can learn in order to create a great following.
The more you walk on this parallel path (both at the same time), the more each will make sense, and the more you find value in every new discovery you make in either path.
Try exchanging technical terms with human terms to remember what you are really doing.
The Click thru rate increased: people interested in X responded to this emotion better.
The conversion rate dropped: we need to better understand what is preventing people from trusting us enough to buy the product.
This is not an exercise in positive thinking, it is a focusing tool so you don't get carried away with all the new features you learned how to use, and focus on the core activities you need to focus on.

AdWords Workshop - Social Media Forum

I shared this presentation during the last Social Media Forum in Abu Dhabi, and it was great interacting with AdWords users at different levels of expertise in CPC and online marketing in general.

My main frustration is with AdWords technicians who view it as a software that they just "use", instead of dealing with it as one of the tools available to them as online marketers.

Hence, the structure of the presentation is on how to best use AdWords for effective marketing, and didn't give much focus on the details of setting up accounts, campaigns, etc.

For simplicity, the concepts were presented in three main sections:

1. Understanding the market: using whatever AdWords provides in tools that help in research, and how to use the data for segmenting the market and inferring user intent from the keywords. The two main tools are the Keyword Tool, and Insights for Search.

2. Understanding your website: something I don't usually see in AdWords teaching materials, but I think is vital before you start any campaign or any marketing activity. Understanding comes in terms of what kind of website you have, and therefore what are the actions that you want your users to complete when they come. Another frequently neglected aspect of campaign is checking whether or not the content on your site reflects the needs of the market (you need to compare the understandings of section 1 and 2). Finally web analytics should be used to know what is already working and what is not on your site, so as to point users to the right pages.

3. Strategies and Tactics: based on the understanding of the market and your website, you are now ready to formulate your strategies and tactics and to decide on what tools you will use to maximize your results. This section explores the main options available.

Here is the presentation:

Focus on the Results Only... If You Want to Fail

So you want to loose some weight? The best thing to do, is to look at yourself in the mirror ten times a day. Every morning check out the latest developments on the sides of your belly, your thighs, and anywhere else that loves to accumulate fat. These are the visual results of yesterday's activities. You should also keep checking your weight three times a day, and make sure you are familiar with the results as much as possible. To be more in touch with results, please check all the clothes that you have and make sure you know which ones still fit and which don’t fit anymore. Focus also on how much you are able to eat as opposed to the past, and how much less exercise you can perform. And keep going like this until you really loose yourself, instead of loosing weight.
This is how you focus on results and results only. This is the “right and professional” way of working. You keep thinking about whatever results you are getting.
Several problems.
First, you cannot control the results, so stop focusing on them. You can’t force people to love your product, or adopt your new technology.
Second, you will create stress in the environment. Instead of looking at the sky and feeling bad about the result (rain), you know what the obvious thing to do is.
Third, you will loose touch with reality and the great opportunities that come with it. The map you have for yourself about the world is necessarily not the most accurate, and you gain better understanding as you go through the process. The more focused you are on the results the more likely you are to miss these opportunities.
Fourth, no learning, no experience. For the same reasons, you are out of touch with the realities, and you will not allow for serendipity to enter your world. You are also shutting yourself out of your ability to contain serendipity in the project. 
In my strategy course in college, we were taught that the proper way of executing a strategy, is to decide on it, and follow through until you achieve it. As a control freak, I had a simple question, “what if we discover half way through, that we don’t have the right strategy?”. I didn’t have the guts to ask that question, but I do now.
Our other class on flexibility in the new market place made sense though.

 

Managing the Attention Brand / Business

If you are working in the business of generating attention, time, and hopefully viral effects for your content, please try not to fall in the trap I’ve fell in several times.
The typical process is coming up with a list of things that can be done, and then going on to generate a huge list of ideas that seem really cool and popular, and “would really be great”. The next step would be to religiously follow these steps as if they are steps that get you closer and closer to the greatness you are aspiring to.
Usually, these ideas are nothing but me-too ideas hoping to aggregate everything in one place, or the other extreme, where your team mates will try to not imitate anyone, and find our own edge with something “really unique”.
I totally disagree with both approaches. They are purely business approaches.
The first approach assumes that the road to success is clearly carved, and you just have to get the whole thing working, and people will love it. In actuality, you are getting ideas that are working and trying to just group them together, or trying to beat the good ones in their own game.
The second approach assumes that if you are unique enough your product will kick off. This is just putting one egg in one basket. If it doesn’t pick up (and it probably won’t) you are left with no eggs.
My proposed approach is not a synthesis of these two, and doesn’t try to get the “best of the two worlds”. I think the investment should be in the readiness of people working on the project. This can be done by strongly establishing the attitude and approach of hunting.
The hunter invests in being ready, in having good tools for hunting, protection, navigation, and team work. Fishing is a great example. You need to be extremely patient, and extremely alert at the same time. Because, when you least expect it, a huge fish might catch your bait, and you will have to go full force making sure you properly capture it. And you will definitely have to let go of all the other “tasks” on your project list for that day. 
Establishing a brand is more of a fluid game than it is like building a building with known boundaries and calculated costs and timelines.
The investment should be in equipping the team with the necessary tools that allow them to be flexible, alert, responsive, and hopefully patient. The investment should be in creating and maintaining this mentality in the minds of the team, and training them on operating in this mindset, not in carving huge project plans and tasks. These will all change when the rubber hits the road.

Tags: 

Think Linear, Act Non-Linear (You Have no Choice)

There has been a lot of talk about the non-linearity of the world, and change. Quantum mechanics teaches us that change happens in bounces and stages, instead of increments. Chris Anderson talks about the non-linear long tail, and how disproportionate the different pieces are in terms of their share of the "pie". Seth Godin wants us to forget the tail, and focus on the head because of the disproportionate rewards and because "the winner takes it all".
I have personally observed that the road from becoming an F student to C student is shorter and easier than the road from A to A+. I have also noticed a jump in my skill in certain things that I am learning. All of a sudden, there is more clarity in handling the skill, and there is a distinctive difference in the amount of comfort and confidence in dealing with it.
We can easily demonstrate that, by observing the explosion in popularity of some of the biggest websites, that did not exist several years ago.
The immediate reaction might be to embark on a "non-linear way of thinking and operating" due to these facts and to the nature of change.
Although we need to take this into serious consideration we should remember that we are linear. We as humans have certain limitations that allow us to only do so many things at once, and therefore we should seriously consider that we are bound to act in a linear way.
You can only say one thing at a time, sell one customer at a time, and learn a certain number of words per day.
We should stick to the "old" way of improving our business and learning, and that is, by doing the maximum we can do per day - every day. Then every now and then, we will experience a jump (or a fall) in our performance due to the combined efforts (or lack thereof) and to some dots that became connected.
The point is not to be fooled by the hope of getting very lucky and forgetting about the importance of hard work and patience.

The Good Customer, and the Not-So-Good One

How do I classify my customers / clients? An interesting question that always arises in discussions of segmenting our client base. Whether it is types of customers, or good and bad ones, there is always a problem of drawing that "fine line". We usually know that we have clients who pay more than others, and we know that we should therefore treat them differently, but "how do we draw the line?" could become a tricky question. I prefer getting the answer from the clients collectively. I would like an approach that fits to my special case, and can be used over and over without having rigid lines differentiating between "good" and "bad" clients.
This is a simple technique where you just plot your clients on a graph, draw a line, and that's it!
First create a list of all your clients, and next to each one the average purchases they make, and rank them from the highest to the lowest.
Then, plot the results on a graph, and you will end up with a "long tail". Draw a line to separate the head and the tail, and you get a fairly good segmentation between good and bad customers.
long tail.bmp
The important thing about this technique is that it is flexible and scalable to any business, and to any number of clients. It can also be used for any time range. Also, you get rid of rigid classifications (a good customer is someone who buys more than $1,000/month). This way of classifying could become ridiculous in six months, since your business can grow and your clients' purchases also.
This classifications doesn't look at amounts, it looks at the relative positioning of your clients according to their performance with your business.

How a Bit More Content Means Much More Website Traffic

Let's explore whether or not we can get more website traffic by adding more content to our website. I'll try to make it scientific and later we will tackle the issue from a human perspective.

Create in your imagination a world with the following characteristics:

  • The internet has only two sites: 123marketing.com and ABCmarketing.com.
  • Pages indexed on search engines are two hundred pages, split in half between these two sites.
  • Each page talks about on of the only two topics; marketing or advertising.
  • All pages are ranked equally on search engines, meaning they have the same degree of optimization, and therefore, they are all equally likely to show up as the first search result for their respective keywords.
  • 123 has 80 pages about marketing and 20 about advertising. On the other hand ABC has 20 pages about marketing and 80 pages about advertising.

The table below hopefully simplifies the whole story:

                             Marketing         Advertising        Totals:

123marketing             80                     20                  100

ABCmarketing             20                     80                  100

Totals:                       100                    100                 200

As we assumed above since all pages are ranked and optimized equally, they are all equally likely to show up on search results and assuming the first result will always be clicked on, we can say that for the query “marketing” 123marketing.com has a 80% chance of getting that visitor, while ABCmarketing.com has a 20% chance. The same applies to the query “advertising” with the opposite results.

We can now easily see that for every 1000 queries of “marketing” 123marketing.com will be very happy that day, while ABCmarketing.com will feel a bit frustrated. This means that, with all factors held equal, the more pages you have about a certain topic or keyword the more likely you are to get traffic from search engines.

Another way of looking at is by considering that all the pages that contain the keywords you are writing about, are competing with you on that same visitor. The more pages you have about a certain topic (the bigger market share you have of that little universe) the easier it will be for you to get visitors.

That was simple math. Let's take a human look on the issue, and take a more realistic approach where not all pages are ranked equally, and many webmasters are trying to manipulate the search results. We will also consider that an intelligent human being is searching and she knows what she needs really useful information that will help her in her work or life in general.

First of all, there are many variations of one keyword, and it can be combined with a lot of other words, to form phrases. This means that people will not only be searching for “marketing”, they will search for “internet marketing”, “advertising and marketing”, “radio marketing” etc...

If you have 100 different articles about marketing, then you will qualify to satisfying 100 different people when they are searching. Each will be satisfied differently because they will probably have a certain aspect of marketing in their minds. Remember, the longer the keyword, the more the searcher knows what they are looking for, the happier they will be to find an article just about that niche of the subject.

What about the smart SEOs that can get to the top of the search results of a hot keyword? They will sure get tons of traffic!
But, if they lead users to a site that contains 3-4 pages about a certain query, those users will finish reading those pages, still be hungry for more and never come back. They will keep searching until they find a site that really has enough content to cater for a huge number of search queries, and a huge number of people.
Why does a bit more content mean a lot more traffic?

Simply because pages have more than one keyword in them, and because people search for keywords, and combinations of them.
You will be getting traffic for people searching for the article's main topic, and for all the related topics in that article.
One last reminder. Search engines are becoming much more efficient and accurate in directing you to the best available site. So, if you are like me, by the time you figure out how to manipulate your way to the top of search results that “algorithm” will have improved and you will be thrown away from the arena.
My simple advice: just try to be useful, write about it, and they will come.

Website Navigation: You Lead the Way

Imagine you have a sports club, and from experience, you know that people come to do mainly two things; either to play, or to watch sports.
So you make it a policy that every visitor be greeted on the door, before entering the club, and they should be asked the golden question, "Would you like to PLAY or to WATCH sports today?"
The first visitor says that he wants to play. He is taken to the playing area, and asked a more specific question, "What type of sports do you prefer to play? Group or individual sports?" According to the answer he is then taken to the relevant place. After that suppose they choose to play basketball, you can then take them to the next game you have on schedule.
Then, and only then, will this customer be really happy to know what basketball shoes, balls shirts etc. you have to sell or rent! After you knew what he really wants, and after he clearly saw that he can participate in his favorite sport. The freezing water you give him during the game is worth thousands because it would be really well-timed and in need.
The second visitor that day answers your golden question with, "I would like to WATCH." You then lead them to the places from which she can watch her favorite sport. You ask a more detailed question such as, "Would you prefer to watch from the restaurant, the terrace, or directly from the court?" According to that answer you lead her to the most suitable place from which she likes to watch. Then, and only then will she really appreciate your presenting her with the menu. She was asked what she would like to do, connected with herself, decided the type and location of the watching experience, and is totally ready for what relevant things you want to sell her.
This is the power of proper targeting, and guiding the visitor to the place they really want to be in at this moment.
The same process should be done by the website. On each page, there should be two, or a maximum of three big buttons that clearly show the available choices to the user. A news site should probably have three buttons for example: Read, Write, and Discuss news. This is particularly relevant to sites with dynamic, and huge amounts of content. The user is typically faced with tens of links, from which they have to choose. You, as the website owner should categorize all these links and put each of them in one of the three predefined choices when they enter your home page, or any other page. The following page should give the user some further choices regarding their preferences, and then they can enjoy endless browsing when they find the type of content / activity they want.

Family Business Conference

 While learning a new language (Turkish), and deeply getting involved in understanding the whole culture, I had some great realizations.
First of all, learning a language is not only about learning its words, and knowing how to formulate sentences. There is a deeper understanding of culture and values that is necessary to be able to really speak and interact in a certain language. During learning, and while developing an understanding for that culture, it struck me that a new person is also developing inside me. That new person was born the day I started my quest, and just as a native baby would be, I started mingling in that culture and a "Turkish personality" somehow evolved in me. When you go deep in a certain culture, you not only assimilate with them, but the words, phrases, values and norms set forth a certain way of functioning that you don't use while speaking other languages. You can observe this with people who lived abroad and are really familiar with that country. The funny thing is that you become German when speak German, and you become Japanese when you speak Japanese! Of course this depends on how deeply you understand the language/culture.
The learning could also be applied to learning in general, and we can also see that the more one spends time on a certain activity or trade, the better they are at it. I also realized the importance of family businesses and the inherited knowledge that comes with it, based on decades and generations of experience. 
Being in the third generation of a family business, I can immediately identify with this. I have naturally learned the trade, and was able to slowly grasp the values under which our business is run. I didn't need excessive training, I just went there whenever I had the time, and was able to make my own mistakes, and learn in a safe environment. The discussions at home and the general outlook on work was also teaching me how to run the business. But since our industry as a whole is not developing, I'm not involved in it any more. But I can immediately go and start working tomorrow if needed.
Although I still beleive in the importance of stability in a person's life, and its role in hard-wiring all the things he has to learn, I'm starting to question the validity of this thought. At least in some situations.
The Family Business Conference has validated my idea through the different speakers an dspecialists who showed how relevant this type of business still is. One of the charts proved the effectiveness of family businesses by showing the superior performance of family-owned businesses over other ones, which was depicted on a graph that showed that the former out-performed the S&P ratings in the last decades. This is the result of the long-term focus, ownership, and the deep learning and lifelong understanding that came with being raised in a specialist family. By the way, Beethoven and Strauss came from musical families, and Picasso's father was an artist too.
The conference that was attended by Jordan's prime minister Dr. Maarouf Bakhit, had several international contributors who specialized in this field. Several were actually spending years with certain families and their businesses working on how best to devise the structure, how to deal with the technical and legal issues, and most importantly how to make a smooth transition from one generation to the next.
It was really surprising to me how relevant and timely these issues still were. Some speakers stressed the fact that the issues faced by family businesses are universal in nature, and are almost the same across cultures. Haluk Alacaklioglu made a good comparison between the general practices in different cultures.
Two very interesting consecutive speakers gave us an in-depth view of Gezairi, a second generation company transitioning to the third generation. The first was by Dr. Renee Ghattas, outlining her scientific study of the company's different struggles and challenges throughout the years, and it was great that we had the director of that company, Mona Bou Azza Bawarshi, to give us the personal side of the company and how she manages it.
To me the general discussion was about familiar things, but the approach of dealing with the different challenges was totally new to me, not to mention the legal aspects of family businesses!

Presentation Tips

I gave a presentation about the basics of Web 2.0. I discovered several important things, and experienced important learnings. Thank God I made some good mistakes!

1. Forget about the time, and look at the faces: Give your breaks when you feel the audience needs it. Never mind about what time you planned to give the time out. When they are listening intently and following you, it's meaningless to stop this. After all, you have spent some good time on building and maintaining their attention. Don't waste it. It's like the ace in your hand. Use it wisely.

2. Magnify the relevant comments only : Most of the time you will have some people commenting on what you are saying. Some of it will be relevant and useful, and some will just be people saying whatever comes to their mind. Your response to these comments magnifies their importance to the audience. The audience is yours, and they will pay attention to whatever you tell them. Don't try to please everyone by attending to whatever they are saying. Make sure you reward the good comments.

3. Talk to faces, not the "audience": Try to make good use of eye contact. This means that you should connect with as many people as you can by looking in their eyes several seconds and making sure you "attract" them and keep them with you. You need to have this backed up by a logical flow of arguments. The people in the front rows can be powerful anchors for getting others to pay attention too. You can easily look in their eyes.

4. Relax!: Don't try. Just talk to the audience. Having a loud and clear voice is essential to keeping them with you. But when you talk in a relaxed manner, you convey your confidence and you send out the message that they should listen to you.

Here is the Web 2.0 presentation.

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