Inside Access and Common Sense

What I’m about to say is not earth shattering. It’s common sense. However, despite it being common sense, you’d be surprised how many people don’t seem to understand this concept.

In today’s blogging world, as in the journalism world, everyone wants the early story; the scoop; the information that makes you the source and causes everyone to bow at your feet in humility. Trust me. Everyone wants this. Sometimes, if you play your cards right and happen to know the right people or be at the right place at the right time, you might just get access to information that is not common knowledge. Some of this information would make a heck of a blog entry. It would mean lots of traffic and you would surely end up on Techmeme or on Digg.

Stop. Just stop.

Think. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Will blogging this story cause me to lose friends or relationships?
  2. Will blogging the story cause me to break an embargo I agreed to? (Embargos sent without prior agreement are fair game, in my opinion)
  3. Will blogging the story violate an NDA?
  4. Will blogging the story cause other people not to share information with me?

Like I said – common sense. Personally, I’ve been given intimate knowledge of LOTS of things. Google related things. Early previews of alpha products in stealth. Insider knowledge of how organizational health of some companies. Indications of where key players may end up and who’s talking to who. What employee at a tech company is sleeping with the CEO. Yes, I have access. No I am not blogging any of this stuff. Why? Because… it will hurt my chances of getting other access or it may cause me personal relationships with folks.

Common Sense.

Oh, and don’t share private conversations without permission.

Fantasy Picks for Week 13

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a big fan of football. You also might remember when I blogged over at Squib Kick before the current author, Jim Edwards, began. Since Jim started, the blog has become one of my favorites sports blogs anywhere. Recently Jim encountered some health issues that have forced him to do less blogging and as a result, several folks have been guest blogging over there.

Today, I began a weekly segment I’ll be doing for a bit until Jim gets back. Specifically, it’s for those of you who do fantasy football. Go check it out.

G.I. Joe is a Meanie

I was looking around on IMDB this morning when I came across this atrocity. Apparently, they are making a movie set to be released in 2009 based on G.I. Joe – yes, the toys, cartoons and comic books that every boy growing up in the 80s remembers fondly.

I was excited that they were making a G.I. Joe movie. After all, Transformers rocked. Then I saw the movie description:

A European-based military unit known as Global Integrated Joint Operating Entity (G.I.J.O.E.), a hi-tech, international force of special operatives takes on an evil organization led by a notorious arms dealer.

What the hell?! G. I. Joe was a real American hero, not some European, internationalized commando group. Give me a break. I guess a “Real American Hero” doesn’t play well in a world that despises America and relies on the United Nations to make all decisions best left to the sovereignty of nations.

As my friend Keith noted, “GI Joe is being EU/UN-ified? Can’t wait until they’re brought to the Hague for being mean to Cobra Commander.”

Insanity. Don’t mess with my heritage, please.

Cómo aprovechar la Reputación de Nuestro Producto

Manejando de regreso a casa estas vacaciones, vi un Toyota accidentado en el borde de la autopista y no pude evitar pensar “Es una trampa!” recordando el famoso comercial de Toyota (click aquí para verlo en YouTube).

En este comercial, el malo de la película se disfraza como una bella modelo en apuros, accidentada al lado de la carretera en su Toyota Corolla, pero es descubierta cuando sus victimas se percatan de que el auto es un Corolla y estos “no se accidentan.”

Toyota aprovechó la impecable reputación de su Corolla para crear este comercial. Lo interesante es que el comercial vino una vez que la reputación existía y no para crear esta reputación. Esta estrategia solidifica la reputación de Toyota como una marca confiable.

El caso contrario, tratar de convencer al cliente de una supuesta característica de nuestro producto casi nunca funciona (ver el caso de Wal-Mart y su blog) y menos ahora que estamos todos conectados, cualquiera puede montar una página web y nuestras quejas llegan a millones de oídos en un click.

¿Tienes algún ejemplo para compartir? Deja tu comentario y enciende la discusión.

Never Trust a Chef…

Remember Sy Sperling? He was the President of Hair Club for Men who is famously quoted as saying, “I’m not just the president, I’m also a client”.

Other phrases such as, “Never trust a chef who won’t eat his own cooking”, or similarly, “Never trust a skinny chef” have come to represent the sentiment that the best vote of confidence in a product is when the owner/producer/creator also uses it.

Last night, Biz Stone, one of the founders of Twitter blasted this message out to his Twitter followers:

looking at an email receipt from iTunes for a vampire series I apparently bought””but I haven’t any vampire shows!

Fairly innocuous, I suppose. I hope the series was Buffy. Sarah Michelle Geller is HAWT. The point is, unlike many CEOs and company spokesgroupies, Biz is not promoting Twitter outright. He is not telling people the multiple virtues of Twitter, or explaining best practices of Twitter. Perhaps because Twitter doesn’t lend itself to a defined set of rules defining what it is or what it should do, but that is beside the point. Biz’s endorsement of his own product is a plain, everyday use of his own product in a non-promotional way.

Marketers need to get this. CEO’s need to understand this. PR people need to learn this. Your best sales technique is the technique that is not a technique. It’s just use. We’re watching you and how you use your product. The best time to sell is when you are at your least salesy.

Your thoughts?

The 2007 Travel Awards

I have never traveled in my life as much as I have this past year. I have taken 12 trips and I think I’m done for the year – though I do think I may need a Toronto trip before Christmas. At any rate, I can look back at various trips and point to them as memorable for one reason or another. So, I present to you the 2007 Travel Awards. These awards are only for my own trips but I’d love to hear about your trips as well.

  • Longest Trip: Toronto, 9 days, May 26-June 3. This trip encompassed Mesh Conference as well as b5 business in Toronto
  • Shortest Trip: 1 Day (overnight), Toronto, Aug 23-24
  • Most Enjoyable Trip: Gnomedex 7
  • Least Enjoyable Trip: SXSW ’07 – The Hampton Inn was the beginning of a bad bad trip
  • Trip I least wanted to go on that I enjoyed the most: PodCamp Philly
  • Trip I most wanted to go on that I enjoyed the least: PodCamp Boston 2
  • Best Networking Event: Blog World Expo
  • Most drunken event: San Francisco, January 2007
  • Most Expensive Trip: Blog World Expo, Las Vegas

Did you travel at all this year? What are your awards?

Nuevas Técnicas para Estudiar Comunidades Online

Tradicionalmente, los mercados analizados para publicidad han estado concentrados alrededor de variables demográficas como edad, sexo, ubicación geográfica y poder adquisitivo. Estas variables ya no sirven como únicas medidas para identificar una comunidad.

Las comunidades online tienden a crearse más alrededor del contenido que alrededor de las variables tradicionales, quizás porque en Internet las variables tradicionales quedan ocultas, permitiendo a personas de distintas edades, orígenes, y clases sociales compartir experiencias que normalmente no hubieran compartido.

Comunidades Creadas Alrededor de Contenidos

Mientras en el mundo “real” sería muy dificil conseguir adultos y niños compartiendo sanamente alguna actividad, en la Internet es muy normal encontrar grupos de adolescentes jugando en linea contra equipos de adultos, por ejemplo.

Las comunidades con más éxito en Internet están construídas alrededor de un contenido particular y no alrededor de un grupo demográfico en particular:

Siempre existirán productos que necesitan ser mercadeados alrededor de variables demográficas tradicionales (por ejemplo, productos de higiene femenino, algunos juguetes, medicina anti-acné), pero las oportunidades y herramientas para expandir los mercados nunca han sido tan buenas.

Business Plan Series: Part 7 – Sales and Marketing – Sales Strategy

Last time in Part 6, we discussed how to discuss your marketing strategy with investors. This included your approach, penetration strategy in addition to growth and communication strategies. But what is marketing without sales? Many say sales is marketing with actually asking for the close. I disagree and while they are closely intertwined the skills and goals are completely different.

Marketing strategy deals with broader markets but the sales strategy focuses on the individual..

Sales Strategy is separated into four major areas in the Sales and Marketing section. They are:

1.) Direct Sales Force Strategy
2.) Indirect Sales Channel Strategy
3.) Sales Prospecting Strategy
4.) Sales Campaign Strategy

So let’s talk about the first one, Direct Sales Force Strategy. This is about demonstrating how a direct sales channel is internal and is focused on signing new customers. The advantages to this approach allow a company to focus resources like account managers and bonus them based on achievable and measurable goals. The disadvantage is the overhead entailed with managing a direct sales force and waiting for them to produce. One approach to this strategy is to find more experienced sales managers who have sold in a respective industry and for entry level sales people to be trained and molded to sell your product(s). You also need to discuss compensation which includes possibly a base salary and a bonus based on performance. You should show growth numbers and plans to leverage that increase in staff.

Related to the “Direct” approach is the Indirect Sales Channel Strategy. This is really focused on the various sales channels you can leverage to increase your sales success. For example, this could be resellers, franchise partners and licensed partners. You will want to discuss the type of partners, how many and the regions you will leverage and the growth strategy attached to the revenues you expect these indirect channels will produce.

Once you have defined your sales channels it will be time to craft the proper processes to do prospecting. This Sales Prospecting Strategy will be supported by a direct sales force, indirect sales channels and supported by direct mail, web advertising, and search engine placement. To build our sales prospects to a quality level, one strategy is to offer free access or use to the first group of clients (10 or 100) that sign with you. You should identify how you will create these lists of prospects. Sources include membership directories, trade show lists, Hoovers and even D&B.

Finally, you will connect the dots of how you will utilize your direct sales force, indirect channels and prospecting processes to run campaigns that are effective and meet the numbers set in the financial projections. This Sales Campaign Strategy is designed to layout a clear direction in which to maximize all resources at your disposal with clear campaign ideas, messages and target markets/customer groups.

As you write these subsections always keep in mind how sales leverages marketing and supports the long term goals of the company. We will cover Operations next time in “Part 8-Operations Strategy and Processes”.

Leveraging Yesterdays Technologies for Tomorrows Innovations

Perhaps I’m getting old fartish, but I’m mildly disturbed by some of the “innovations” that are coming out these days. It once was cool, but now it’s just getting obnoxious. Take Cumul.us for instance, a service I just discovered today thanks to my friend Frank Gruber over at Somewhat Frank. This service tries to take the Twitter meets Facebook approach by asking what the weather is like now, and pulling in friends to figure out what everyone is wearing. I’m sorry, but I don’t see value in this iteration of social media.

Since when does anyone ask other people what to wear? I check out the temp and figure out for myself if that hoodie is going to get use or if the tee-shirt from Lijit is going to see the light of day. This is not rocket science, and it certainly does NOT need a social network built around it – at least not funded (and to be fair, I have no idea if they are).

I pick on Cumul.us because they are fresh in my mind, but they are not the only company doing stupid things. But let’s not focus on the negative. I’m certainly a fan of services and technologies that bring real life usefulness to real life people in very real senses.

The trick, in my mind, to a valuable company, is in using yesterday’s technologies to bridge the gap to tomorrow’s innovative new services. These are the valuable services. These are the ones I want to latch on to and evangelize. These are the ones that, if I were an investor, I’d be tossing money at. The bridge to Web 2.0 was on the back of billions of dollars of investment in fiber optics during Web 1.0, which allowed us the bandwidth to have the rich applications we enjoy today.

So let’s look at some successful companies that have real life application, that were built on the back of yesterday’s technology.

Utterz

Utterz is a viable player because it is based on the cell phone. You know, the thing that came out in the mid 90s that is attached to everyones hip today? Utterz allows you to call a phone number, leave a message similar to what you would do on any voicemail system, and then publish the message to the web, in various places. That’s a useful way for an everyday kind of person to experience today’s web.

Twitter

Twitter is a great crossover from another mid-90s technology, Instant Message, as well as text messaging into the great wild of the microweb. Again, Twitter is a valuable tool that builds community on the back of technologies that we have all enjoyed, and in some cases come to rely on, in an everyday world. Twitter is sticky among common users (and trust me, it’s more than just us early adopters using Twitter) because the obstacle for mom and dad is non-existant. Since everyone has a cell phone, everyone can use Twitter – regardless of if they even have internet access.

It’s even possible to have engagement in the Congo, where few people have internet access, but the wireless telecom industry is booming. That’s actually useful.

Tripit

Tripit is a valuable company with real world application because, let’s face it, just about everyone rents a car, takes a flight somewhere or stays in a hotel and it’s really damn hard to keep track of all those confirmation emails. Then you have to print them all and trifold them so you have a thick stack to take with you just to keep you on track with what you’re supposed to be doing and when.

Tripit offers absolutely ZERO obstacle to use. Not even an account. One will be created for you automatically if you don’t already have one. Simply forward your confirmation email from U.S. Airways (or any airline itinerary, hotel reservation, car rental, etc) to plans@tripit.com and looky, you now can login with your email address and print your itinerary. Travel alot and have lots of confirmations emails? Forward them all. Tripit is smart enough to organize them.

Tripit was built on old world technologies – email and confirmation sheets. Everyone understands these, but Tripit makes sense of it and helps everyday users save hassle, headache, time… and for the green among you, paper!

The challenge for all innovators is coming up with the idea no one has thought about and doing it in such a way that anyone, and I don’t mean early adopters, can use and immediately benefit from. Lots of cool gizmos out there, but if there’s no real world value it’s just noise. We need less noise.

Update: After re-reading this several days later, I realized that it sounded like Tripit was only for US Airways. I was using that as an example. Any airline confirmation email, hotel reservation or car rental can be forwarded. I’ve updated the entry too to reflect that.

Business Plan Series: Part 6 – Sales and Marketing – Marketing Strategy

Last time in Part 5, we discussed how to evaluate and present the competition in a manner that allows your company to stand out. Now that you have covered who you company is, what it provides and how you stack up against the competition, it is time to show how you market and sell it to the rest of the world.

Part 6 and 7, will cover the Marketing Strategy and Sales Strategy which is usually combined in a business plan. This is to allow sufficient discussion in each area and not make the posts extremely long.

Marketing Strategy is separated into four distinct areas in the Sales and Marketing section. They are:

1.) Market Profile and Approach
2.) Market Penetration Strategy
3.) Market Growth Strategy
4.) Market Communication Strategy

So let’s talk about the first one, Market Profile.
Market Profile is the discussion of the types of customers in your initial markets. This sets the stage for how and why you will market to them in various ways. You should talk about how many potential customers exist that you could sell to. You should discuss how big the market potential is and how much of that you think you can capture. Be sure to be able to back up your numbers and not say things like “1% of a $1 billion market”. That won’t work and no one will take it seriously.

Next up is Market Penetration Strategy and the focus is how you will use your unique value or selling propositions to create a compelling story that sells your customer on your business. The whole point is to discuss how fast and how deep you can get in there and market to acquire new customers.

Once you enter the market, you need to grow our current and future opportunities. This is the Market Growth Strategy and includes both retaining and acquiring customers through various growth strategies. These growth strategies can include expanding product and service offerings, expanding into new verticals or even expansion through new locations or franchising.

As you continue executing your marketing strategy, you will need a solid communications strategy that includes public relations, product marketing, creating tactical selling tools and an online marketing strategy.

As you write these subsections always keep in mind how this ties into an overall selling strategy and we will cover this next time in “Part 7-Sales and Marketing Strategy-Sales Strategy”.