By APNWLNS payday loans
March 5, 2013
Want to see me cringe? Be a start-up founder and tell me you don’t have any competition.
Every company and every product has competitors. They may not have offices, there may not be a product, and your prospects may not know they are using your competition. But everyone has competition and it can come from very unexpected sources.
Even Google has tangent barriers.
Google’s Android mobile operating system is the most popular on the planet, especially in China where they appear on 90% of smartphones. The competition is not the hodge podge of OSs in the other 10%. Nor is it the gaggle of Chinese knock-off companies that wish Google would release the source code to new Android versions more quickly so they could create near-real-time Android clones. The new competitive threat is the Chinese government.
Mao’s mavens are not entering the smartphone market. These control freaks simply don’t like anyone else having that much control. At least that is the opinion of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (a department name that indicates exactly how important IT is to China’s future plans). In particular the Capitalist Commies fret that “The core [Android] technology and technology roadmap is strictly controlled by Google.” China’s geek ministry also indicated that their country could develop their own mobile OS.
They probably will, because it is tough to battle the American Capitalist Empire when your people gleefully buy directly from the source.
The new competition Google will likely face in China is not a mobile OS but crippling regulations and restriction by the Chinese government. In order to encourage a home-grown mobile OS, through which they can control advertising and other propaganda, as well as perfectly monitor citizens of both classes [elites and slaves], China needs to both develop product and restrict competition. Hence, even without a product competitor, Google will receive market penetration competition from the government.
(The best way to win market share is to get the government to hobble your competitors, which explains why interstate sales of health insurance has been illegal in the U.S. since the 1940s)
Everybody has competition, and sometimes it is simple inertia. When Quicken was first unleashed, sales were slow. People did not see a huge need to duplicate their check book register into a computer. The inertia of “how we do it now is Good Enough” kept people from adopting Quicken. However, once Intuit started facilitating the printing of checks (remember those, and the postage stamps required to mail them), sales grew mightily. Quicken’s competition was the status quo, and they had to invent new capabilities to make the old way appear to be the dumb way of paying bills.
For anyone in marketing, or any founder at a start-up, you need to thoroughly investigate how your prospects do business. Your competition might be the regulations they face, organizational resistance, severe price sensitivity, or a million other things that compete for your market share without being a product. If you don’t do this, you may face invisible yet impenetrable barriers.
February 26, 2013
Not knowing if your customers are satisfied should make you unsatisfied.
One of the oldest and yet more ignored market research activities is customer satisfaction surveying. Since customers are the source of buzz – both positive and negative – knowing what your paying customers think and feel is critical to seeing potentially fatal problems and capitalizing on stunning capabilities. It also can uncover where you think what you offer is important but actually disinterests the market.
It’s almost as good as surveying lost sales an activity which is very valuable and equally rare.
The key objectives of every customer satisfaction survey are to know where a company excels (for promotional purposes), where it lags (for improvement) and where there are opportunities for profitable change. I once ran a customer satisfaction survey that included a pricing sensitivity measure and discovered that my client was undercharging for their product. They received a 15% top-line revenue increase on that one data point alone while investing nothing for product enhancement (they also hired a tech writer because customers described the product documentation as “horrible”, “turgid” and “unintelligible”).
Marketing should lead customer satisfaction measurements because marketing is the primary user of the data. Customer attitudes drive buzz and brand. Lack of knowledge about what paying customers think means you have less insight into what they are privately telling your prospects. Product failings appear in satisfaction surveys and redirect development cycles (for example, a useless new feature set was eliminated and the budget shifted to a tech writer in the example above).
Measuring is the trick.
One mistake many marketing pros make is waiting for an annual (or longer) interval between surveys. People’s memories are shaped by time, modifying what they actually experienced and observed. Measuring satisfaction requires capturing early experiences as well as more marinated opinions. In a perfect world, you would poll a customer shortly after purchase (while the sales, support and implementation experience is fresh in their minds) and after a period of practical product use (note, this largely applies to complex B2B products – consumer products rarely have a long enough shelf life to need or make good use of two-tailed satisfaction surveys).
Some highly sophisticated firms break down engagement phases and survey at appropriate moments. Typical are post-sale, post-installation, first-quarter use and first anniversary mileposts. Needless to say, that is a lot of surveying and overkill for most. But it does illustrate that customer perceptions and what needs to be measured (sales/marketing effectiveness, installation/configuration design, learning curve issues, long-term viability) occur over time and that each shapes your whole product offering.
February 19, 2013
Perception is reality, until reality overrides perception.
Marketers are branded as liars in no small part because many of them are. So pervasive is the trait that certain smart people have made good money writing on the subject. Marketers are charged with promoting products, which entails setting public perception about the product. In modern use of the word, this often devolves into propaganda instead of persuasion. Effective in the short term, setting unrealistic public perception about a product will eventually backfire.
This happens to politicians all the time.
Since perception is reality, at least in the short term, you need to have a clear notion of the reality you create for the market. Like the elastic in a fat fellow’s waistband, it can only be stretched so far before it fails. Since product disappointment is the essence of negative buzz, the greater the degree of potential disappointment you create, the harder the fall once the market commences complaining.
And they know how to complain. I recently read a restaurant review where one consumer said “If they offer to pay you to eat there, Sweet Jesus, don’t do it!”
The market ultimately decides reality, and in doing so redefines your brand. No amount of remessaging or repositioning will change the soiled mind of the market once it has been misled. Criminally insane marketers (no, that is not a redundant phrase) often double down on deceit once their preliminary propaganda pops. Large amounts of otherwise good money is wasted in trying to force a market to disbelieve what it already believes, which is slightly more difficult than changing the moon’s orbit. It also tends to invite mockery and an accelerated decline in brand value.
It is up to you to define reality. But keep in mind that the market is not composed of idiots, despite the outcome of some elections. Your product promotion should nudge people in the direction of the desired perception, letting the market accept the possibility of your chosen product position. The distance between reality and the reality you try to create should be short … so short that you could easily augment the product into that condition. Making reality and positioning one and the same is even better, but foreshadowing your eventual position through current promotions is not unthinkable.
The marketing lesson is that honesty is one of the better policies. The backlash from setting unrealistic expectations is often and deservedly disastrous. “Keep it real” has real meaning.
February 12, 2013
Content is king unless it is crud.
There is no grand magic to content marketing. Yet many promotion probationers manage to muck it up. Long ago Google established that relevance was what people wanted in search, which really means they want relevant content. Producing relevant content and putting it where your target market can “discover” it makes content marketing works. Producing irrelevant content and forcing people to trip over it will cause you (and your company) to fail.
Many content marketers work on the volume of content, assuming that a large number of keyword rich pages will cause customers to connect. Such “strategy” once produced high traffic but low conversions. With Google constantly refining relevance filtering, voluminous content it isn’t even producing much traffic these days. Yet when it does, the outcome isn’t conversions, but annoyed ex-prospects who feel their time was wasted chasing the promise of meaningful information and being rewarded with mass-produced pap.
If they wanted that, they could watch Friday night sit coms.
For content (and its dance partner, search optimization) to work, content has to be targeted, relevant, spreadable and sharable.
Targeted: Knowing your audience and knowing the topic better than they do is key, otherwise your words, infographics and videos have no real destination and the content is aligned to nobody.
Relevant: The keywords that make your content findable must then deliver real, understandable, palatable, digestible information. Never serve content that people don’t find appetizing or that leaves them hungry (a little hungry is good and creates a great place to leave a call-to-action).
Spreadable: Content should syndicate, but lead always back to your stable. Posting content on other people’s sites or through syndication services works well when you have content that creates a desire for people to know more about its source and provides links that make easy work of finding it.
Sharable: This shouldn’t even need mentioning, but making content easy to pass along is more important than making it spreadable. One reader can, through the chaining effect, put your content in front of thousands and in a way that pre-selects your target audience.
Silicon Strategies Marketing and Marketing Memos is a good example (go figure). Our content marketing program has resulted in about 50% of our new business coming from inbound contacts (people finding us, then contacting us – no sales or other promotions involved). This despite breaking most content marketing “rules” – blogging only weekly and writing in long-form. Syndicating narrowly through channels has built our brand recognition, which led to my personal LinkedIn profile being in the top 5% most viewed LinkedIn profiles for 2012 (this despite me not being a LinkedIn connection collector, maintaining a mere 266 touch points).
The marketing lesson is that content is powerful and produces well if you make it matter to the right people in the right way. Otherwise, you’re just wasting electrons and people’s patience.
February 5, 2013
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Say goodbye to television (I tossed all mine in the recycling bin several years ago … quite a liberating experience).
Broadcast TV’s days are numbered, though when it will fade into distant technology memories is uncertain. Market forces can never be denied, and we are witnessing new and highly profitable ways of wasting people’s time (seriously, have you ever seen an episode of The View?). Broadcast TV’s demise will come both from consumer preference and the profit motives of providers and advertisers.
Is there any way we can speed-up the process? Please!
Broadcasting has always been a limited medium. Necessary in pre-digital and bandwidth poor eras, broadcasting was expensive and required people to be couch-bound at specific days and times lest they miss their favorite mental gruel. The high cost of entry isolated many creative people and separated viewers from buckets of new and potentially tastier gruel. Even starting a local television station, much less a national network, was expensive beyond anyone’s dreams. Cheap satellite bandwidth and cable affiliations went a long way to dropping barriers to entry, but it still required herculean effort to launch a TV channel.
Now anyone with a PC can do it on YouTube, and low-budget blockbusters are appearing on the likes of Netflix.
As with all things, following the money will tell you what will be profitable in the future. Netcasting (to hijack the term) is the tsunami that will eventually relegate network television to has-been status. Already people of all ages are migrating to non-broadcast consumption (that my daughter and father both consume non-broadcast media is an indicator of how viable and rapid this shift is). There are a number of customer, vendor and advertiser advantages that make netcasting an inarguable next phase in the numbing of human minds:
Asyncronisty: People have complex lives and non-aligned schedules. Netcasting allows them to consume content at their leisure, which makes them a more obtainable audience (larger viewer share).
Social: Office water coolers were broadcast television’s social media, and were thus limited to whoever was at the water cooler. Netcasting has built-in social sharing, and thus drives consumption faster, wider and deeper.
Targeting: Since people happily give some information to providers like Netflix and Amazon, it is easier for providers to attract advertisers since they can precisely target ads to the viewer (my wife and I get different ads even when we watch the same program – I get truck ads and she gets beauty product ads).
Modeling: Providers teaming with advertisers are tying big data on the back ends to model viewer behavior and consumption, making everything from A/B testing to remarketing fast, cheap and effective.
Scale: Try to scale any of this with a broadcast model. You can’t.
Say goodbye to the likes of ABC, NBC and CBS. Punt Big Bird to Roku. Turn your cable provider into a cheap bandwidth vendor. Say hello to being tightly identified, monitored and tracked so that you are compelled into buying more than ever before … and loving it.
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