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Archive for September 10th, 2007

Twitter Makes 10 Most Asinine Trends List: The Shouting Will Continue Until Clickthrough Improves

Posted by Bob Warfield on September 10, 2007

I came across this at Logic+Emotion.  Twitter, among a number of other Web 2.0 things makes Marc Simon’s list of the 10 Most Asinine Online Trends and Why CMO’s Should Ignore Them.  The article really got to me (and I’m not the only one), so I had to rant about it.

The problem I have with Simon’s list is that he seems to view marketing the way Seth Godin says the world used to before the Web:  It’s shouting at strangers.  At least that’s the impression I get when Simon talks about using 140 characters to shout out about what they’re doing as being an advertising platform.  In the process of missing Twitter’s point, he’s completely missed the whole Web 2.0 point:  it’s not about shouting at anyone, it’s about collaboration and communication.  Twitter enables real-time conversations, not shouting, between folks who want to communicate.  Viewing as a place to stick banner advertising clearly misses its real purpose.

In fact, Simon mistakes so many things as one-way vehicles to shout yet more advertising messages that you have to shake your head:

1)  Virtual Worlds:  “Today, walking (or flying) through these branded areas is more chilling and depressing than walking through an abandoned amusement park. Do you really think IBM’s brand is being helped by hosting a 3-D area that has tumbleweeds rolling through it?”  No, of course not.  But whose fault is it if advertisers thought of virtual worlds as a place where anyone would want to fly through a 3D display filled with essentially billboards?  Where was the thinking about interactivity, 2-way communication, and collaboration?

2)  Pay for Post:  “Do marketers seriously believe consumers are going to be gullible enough to believe product recommendations from people who are being paid to recommend the products?”  Partial redemption on this one.  There is no real collaboration with Pay for Post. 

3)  Smart Ads:  “Ad units capable of displaying customized creative keyed to historical search behavior are a great idea in theory,” but Simon’s concern is more than one person uses the computer and so the wrong ad may be served up as users for the machine change.  Now completely ignoring the many ways this particular problem could be overcome, why are we back to trying to make sure the right people are listening when we start shouting?  Quit shouting!  Go interactive.  What better way to ensure you have the right person than to have a dialog?

4)  Searchless Advertising:  Simon has figured out that ads keyed to search beat a lot of conventional advertising.  Nice job being hip with the Internet, there Marc.  Too bad this stuff has been done to death.  The Venture Capitalists I know refer to Google Ad Words as a tax on marketing.  You have to do it, but if that’s all you do, you can’t rise above the crowd because everyone is doing it.

I could go on, but it’s too painful to go through the whole list and the point has been made.  Heck, Fred Thompson understands the web better than this guy.  Maybe the whole problem is that it was an article in Advertising Age.  Just try reading the comments on Simon’s article there without handing over your passport and you’ll see what I mean.

Stop thinking that the Shouting Can Continue Until Clickthroughs Improve.  Start thinking about the Web as a 2-way medium.  Consider how persuasion ought to work in a Web 2.0 world.  Think about how Learning Styles affect how people are receiving your message and how they’re prepared to interact with you.

Related Articles:

Corporate Journalism vs PR:  Another take on how to stop shouting and start listening for better results.

Organic Branding: “People don’t buy your stuff for your sake, but for their own sake,” sez Bizbob

Posted in Marketing, Web 2.0 | 3 Comments »

Marketing is Tragically Knowable (Should I use Social Networks Like Facebook for Marketing?)

Posted by Bob Warfield on September 10, 2007

Marc Randolph, a good friend of mine, and the smartest marketer I know (co-founded NetFlix and was the original CEO) has a phrase about marketing that has always stuck with me.  We were in a big meeting discussing some marketing initiative or other, and we were getting the usual sad story about how a ton of money had been poured into some initiative and it hadn’t panned out.  Marc’s response was, “That’s a shame, because it was tragically knowable.”  What he meant was that the idea should have been tested on a small scale before the big bucks got spent on it.  It’s amazing how often big programs are rolled out on gut feel and the variety of “logical” reasons that are given for why you shouldn’t wait to test market.  Yet I’ve watched Marc build companies from scratch doing exactly that and doing it well.

I was reminded of the concept of Tragic Knowability while reading a blog post that asked whether you could do B2B marketing via a Social Network such as Facebook.  There was a lot of backing and forthing about whether the audiences would match and the usual kinds of yada yada that enter into these discussions.  The real answer is that these things are Tragically Knowable:  Put together a test program to learn the answer. 

Here’s one thought about a test program that costs almost nothing.  Pick a few Guinea Pigs who will donate their Outlook contact lists to the cause.  Pick a subset of their contacts so as not to rile anyone you think is at risk.  Pick a subset of Social Networks that you’d like to test.  Facebook and LinkedIn would be of interest to me, so I’ve already conducted the experiment.  Now use the facilities in the Network to send invites to everyone in the Contacts and see who responds and how they respond.  You’ll immediately get some data to start looking at.  Assuming it looks promising, ramp up slowly.  Create some trial presences on one or more of these Networks.  I like the model that got Blogs rolling in the Business World:

“I’m writing this blog, it isn’t really my job, anything I say here can’t be held against my employer, but here is what I think.”

In other words, put it in a skunkworks and don’t showcase it until you see how well its working and get it tuned up.  You will need some talented Evangelists to play this game, because they’ll need to be nimble, creative, and industrious to rub the metaphorical sticks together fast enough to start a fire.  Approaching it this way lets you learn a lot pretty quickly without risking very much.  Once you have the creative content assembled and the troops to get it out to the world on your chosen platforms (please try several and keep trying new ones all the time!), you need to establish a mechansim to take some metrics (the “knowing” part of Tragically Knowable).  For a quick walkthrough of how that works by a great marketer, take a look at Dave McClure’s Pirate Marketing post.

One of the other unique advantages to the approach is that it tends to foster trying a lot of things and not putting all your eggs into one basket.  The markets seem to be similar to the stock market, in that many marketing tactics often can quit working over time.  Perhaps you’ve heard the message or tired of the gimmick.  Or, as another smart fellow (this one a Sales Exec) I know once said, “If you want people to make a new decision, you had better give them some new information.”  There is also the issue that different messages work for different sub-audiences, particularly in a Web World where you may be trying to catch small herds of early adopters and fan their enthusiasm into mass market appeal.

Yup.  Many things are Tragically Knowable.  Thanks Marc!

Posted in business, Marketing, strategy | 15 Comments »

Google Apps Can Win in the Enterprise if they Leverage the Business Trust Fabric

Posted by Bob Warfield on September 10, 2007

Lots of chit chat in the blogosphere about the announcement that CapGemini will be distributing Google Apps in the Enterprise–an apparent threat to Microsoft’s Office.

The reasons to do this seem to focus around the improved ability for teams to collaborate with Google Apps, and because it lets people who don’t have PC’s gain access to these productivity apps. 

These are weak advantages at best.  The team collaboration thing has to do with not having to send files as attachments, big deal.  People are used to it, and it works.  Not a strong reason to change.  As for folks not having access to PC’s, I have to wonder how valuable it can be to give them access if their employers didn’t see fit to do it in the first place.

Techcrunch says that Nick Carr said (yeah, I hate that too, but it’s what happened) the problem was Sarbanes Oxley and security.  Companies can’t afford to have their data on Google’s servers because it goes against Sarbanes Oxley.  Whoa!  Nothing could be further from the truth!  And nothing gets us closer to a real opportunity for web apps to show Enterprise Strength over the desktop.  BTW, I saw none of that in the Nick Carr post they linked to, but whatever, we’re on to something, let’s run with it:

Sarbanes Oxley, commonly called SOX, is all about requiring companies to button down processes for key areas.  The theory is that if you button down a process, you eliminate potential for corruption, fraud, and other misdoings.  It was enacted in the wake of scandals such as Enron in an effort to make future scandals less likely.  As the accounting folks say, it mandates a set of internal procedures designed to ensure accurate financial disclosure.

SOX is extremely costly for most companies to implement, yet it is a requirement for public companies.  It shaves millions off the bottom line and requires a considerable amount of process automation to be brought into an organization.  Often, this is best accomplished by installing new software.  Is the light beginning to dawn?  Pray, let me continue.

There is no requirement by SOX that data has to be on a company’s own servers, just that the data be carefully controlled and audited.  It should be possible to control exactly who has the ability to change the data, how they can change it, and automatic audit trails need to be kept of what changes are being made.  Given how much information is commonly kept in Office-style documents, this is the real opportunity for Google and other web apps to take advantage of.  It is actually the opposite of collaboration.  Rather, it is applying better governance, security, and controls.  It is enabling the creation of a Business Trust Fabric around the requirements of Sarbanes Oxley.  This is something that current desktop apps do relatively poorly.  I was at a public Enterprise software company when SaaS came into being, and I can tell you we bought some SaaS applications to help automate internal processes.

Do you still think it’s better to keep your data on the desktop in a SOX world?  Phil Wainewright thinks your data is safer with a SaaS vendor.  I agree.  Being able to better satisfy SOX and other governance requirements is a golden opportunity for the SaaS world to kick it up a notch competitively.  My biggest concern is that companies like Google don’t necessarily get the Enterprise world yet.  They’re still thinking Socially.  They need to understand that Business Web 2.0 demands a different Trust Fabric than Social Web 2.0.  Once they figure that out, they’ll realize that SaaS and SOX are highly compatible bedfellows.

Related Articles:

Rational Security wonders how to use Google Apps securely

Zimbra claims SaaS apps have SOX problemsGoogle must have scared them for that kind of FUD to be launched!

The GOOG Scares MSFT Too!

I can’t believe how many are just reprinting Zimbra’s bogus claim that SaaS fails SOX!

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Posted in business, saas, strategy | 5 Comments »

Links: September 10, 2007

Posted by Bob Warfield on September 10, 2007

It’s faster and easier to build apps in Flex than AJAX:  Wow, that’s quite an admission from an AJAX evangelist.

Tree Map of book sales tells what’s hot or not:  Computers are having a resurgence after many bookstores trimmed shelfspace.

70% of code for games is wasted, here is what to make into a platform: Like I’ve said, people are reinventing a lot of wheels. Pick the right language/platform to get ahead!

A periodic table of visualization methods

Fabulous list of quotes about design.

C is really just a portable assembly language

SaaS data is safer than desktop data

Multicore goodness:  8 vs 2 cores, Transactional Memory, and Erlang

Don’t paint your architecture into a multicore corner

Video:  Web 2.0 Explained in a Minute.  Awesome vid, worth a look!

Ruby will actually remove features to keep it simple

Posted in saas | Leave a Comment »

Who Says You Can’t Undo A Web Application

Posted by Bob Warfield on September 10, 2007

I don’t know what Ryan Stewart is talking about when he says you can’t undo web applications.  I’ve got several here that undo just fine, thank you. 

There is definitely some confusion over whether the “Back” button on the web browser should implement Undo, but I think that’s wrong too.  A lot of people have developed habits for how they use the “Back” functionality that have nothing to do with an intent to undo, so let’s don’t overload that function.

There are several things I don’t like about the web applications I use, but mostly they’re idiosyncracies of the particular application.  This is not to say that the browser doesn’t need to improve the web experience possible with the platform: the browser does need to improve.  Tops on my priority list would be better clipboard support, but folks like Ray Ozzie are already thinking along those lines so I’ll be patient about it. 

Posted in saas | Leave a Comment »

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