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.

Criticizing Google. Does Anyone Dare

Apparently Ken Auletta dares, and with very precise and detailed observations on the company's weaknesses, contradictions, and lack of human touch. It wasn't a negative talk, but well balanced, and based on deep analysis, citing actual conversations with the founders and top management. He was introduced by Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt, who also mentioned how detailed Ken was in his research and reporting.
It's refreshing to see something negative about Google, calling them 'cold engineers', as opposed to the Microsoft people who were labeled 'cold businessmen'.
The weaknesses and opportunities of Google are very important to me also, both as a fan of the company, and as someone who's work relies mostly on their products.
The disruptive force of the company was discussed and its effect on several industries, especially with the 'everything for free' model. Interestingly, Ken says that he doesn't have an answer to the new business challenges posed by this model, and that's a very tough question.
A very good talk and should be a wake-up call for their engineers. Maybe they'll get to their senses one day and hire some designers!

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.


SEO for Images and Videos

Search engines can easily read and process text, although not in natural language yet. They actually "love" text because it can easily help them make sense of the pages they are crawling. The challenge with images and videos is that search engines cannot "read" them, yet.
They rely on the tags, descriptions, and the title of the page to categorize and index images and videos.
A good idea to help search engines understand these media better is to encourage users to describe, instead of comment on them. The typical comments to a video are; "nice", "cool", "very bad" etc... Nothing descriptive of the image or video.
Implementing this would give you two main advantages:

1. Better indexing for your pages: since your page will be full of relevant keywords that actually describe your content, the search engines will find it much easier. This is especially beneficial for sites with huge content, in leveraging a very long tail of keywords. Someone looking for "dog with green shirt" will definitely land on your page if a user described it this way. Moreover, the user will be happy to have found exactly what he is looking for.

2. Rich user experience: having a synopsis of a video, or a creative description for an image will help the viewer in recognizing certain things they would have not recognized otherwise. A new angle, or a special detail would give the content a new perspective. This would especially helpful with videos, since many times you wait several minutes hoping it is the content you are looking for, and then discover it is not. This way users are prepared for what they will watch.


It is not as easy as it sounds (I have yet to test it and see for myself) especially if you have users already user to just drop simple comments.

A good idea might be to introduce descriptions with (and eventually replace) comments. Users who don't want to write descriptions can vote for each description. This way, the best description rises in position and gives new users the best description available.

The level of interaction with the content goes up when people try to describe, instead of just venting their impressions. The number of people participating will definitely be less, because naturally, it is more difficult to describe than to just comment. I think it is a risk worthy of taking, to improve the way people use your service and to differentiate it among competitors.


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.

Free Online Market Research

Google finally decided to share the volume data of the search queries that they receive. This is too good to be true for someone like me living on these numbers. Now you can see the number of searches conducted per keyword, instead of the relative volume that was given previously, and was only segmented in five main segments.
It is generally estimated that 80% of all internet traffic starts at a search engine. And since Google accounts for almost 80% of search engine traffic, this is quite a good estimate for the market per keyword. This means you have a fair idea about 64% of the total market.
This marks a new era in market research and how scientific you can be in estimating your market size, and how much of it you are getting.Moreover, "market" is no longer a set of people with generalized demographics. It can now be measured by the number of people who are interested in a concept (or group of concepts) as specific as you define it.
I tried the service once, but then it seems it crashed, I'm sure a huge number of people is trying it. I'll test it more extensively and compare with actual traffic figures that I have to see how best to use it.

CPC Affiliate Marketing: It's a Lot Like Good Ol' Store Keeping

The term sounds quite sophisticated. It is. And it's nice to see people puzzled not knowing what the hell this is. But after you cut through the CTR, impressions, clicks, ad copy, and the technical issues, you end up like a traditional merchant in front of a salesman (been there before - the salesman that is). You would be evaluating each product, how much sales it might generate and how much profit margin it can get you. This is how it is in CPC affiliate marketing. You have to start thinking like a store keeper, except without the store, and without the merchandise, and the good news is, you only pay for sending people to the store. If you succeed in sending the right pople, you can start earning commissions on that.
I never thought of myself becoming a store keeper or merchant, but this was a strange discovery for me.
But this seems like a great store. There are no cases to deal with, and you can shift products, brands, or even industries, within seconds. You can also sell a wide range of unrelated items in your online conglomorate.
The fun part for me is in figuring out the right keywords, and testing different ad texts and seeing how they affect users' behavior. It is really fascinating every time I think about it; here I am (wherever I am, logged in my account) thinking about what attract people more. At several other points in the world, there are people searching for certain keywords, I somehow manage to get a part of them, to be directed to my products, and buy it. They come and go, get their products shipped while I'm somewhere else doing somethig else.
I like this store!

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.