The Surprised Entrepreneur turns Rebel Entrepreneur

What makes a rebel.

What makes a rebel.

“Judy,” a sweet tech project manager said to me recently after I discussed some of the gaps in the social marketing ecosystem “You are on a crusade.”

I didn’t see that one coming so it stopped me dead in my tracks. What crusade was that I wondered? I probed but she dodged answering me. The word crusade is laden with meaning so it stuck with me – what had I said to give her that impression?

In hindsight it seems obvious but in the moment, I was oblivious to the shift in my thinking from simply being a Surprised Entrepreneur (as I posted here) to becoming a Rebel Entrepreneur.

My cause was simple – to put the human element back into the business of marketing that has been platform’d to a near digital death. I am driven to re-infuse marketing with the sense of wonder, joy and creativity that I had the good fortune to revel in during my earlier career days.

In those ancient days (one generation after Mad Men but before the Internet revolution had really hit) we could put hearts into our work because there were few tools or platforms or technologies to guide the work. It was pure creativity and smarts. It was hard to measure the effectiveness of the much of the work but you knew your work made a difference when the company did better – jobs were created and bonuses were happily doled out.

Over the years, technology improved how we deployed marketing but we continued to be driven by our nobler motivations to create great marketing that improved people’s lives. We knew we could make a difference.

But there’s been a shift in the industry over the past 3 years. Marketing, especially social marketing has become a tech-heavy exercise of manipulating retargeting platforms, or reward systems or algorithmically based big data platforms. Social marketing is reduced to a conversation about content syndication or sentiment analysis.

So it’s no surprise that over that period of time, inextricably, I have seen tech and platforms taking the joy and the nobility out of the system. I have become overwhelmed by the supremacy of marketing platforms over serving people and algorithms over inspiration.

My sense of alarm was quite publicly aired in the digital pages of Ad Age and Huffington Post. I ranted at Facebook when I felt defeated at using Facebook productively. I admitted frustration at the black-box techno-jargon wave that swept over us marketers drowning us in confusion. I’ve even had the chutzpah to question the funding strategies of VCs who are basing their investments on marketing principles that simply don’t apply anymore. But mostly I challenged the 20 something CEOs who created marketing platforms that are long on cool but short on practical application for real marketers.

In the process, I have been:

  • Flamed by Macboys and called a hack (look up “Judy Shapiro” and “mac security”)
  • Accused of being techno-phobic and capable of only kitchen related work, ideally pregnant at the same time thus preventing me from ever writing offending articles ever again
  • Tarred and feathered as an “old line” marketer unable to keep up with the iteration savvy tech guys
  • Harangued for questioning if the “Content as king” model was sustainable
  • And very nearly digitally lynched when I first suggested in 2010 that perhaps Facebook had jumped the shark.

And so against all odds – here I am, founder and CEO of a social tech company, readying the BETA launch of our new network called Eden for Q1.

Against all odds, this little venture that started a year ago will be introducing a different type of social marketing framework that is a based on an “opt-in” paradigm. We are going up against the big “push based” social marketing platforms and networks. It is an uphill but noble fight. In our vision, Eden is a place where users control the action – how they see content or which brands they interact with. It is a reversal of the; “It is our platform so you have to play by our ever-changing rules” social network that dominates social marketing today.

Against all odds, we managed to secure funding including from an early stage VC for which we are eternally grateful. We’ve created relationships with agencies ready to sell Eden to their clients and we’ve sealed meaningful partnerships that help us gain access to the highest levels within publishing and brands.

Against all odds, as one woman in her 50’s, I am privileged to be joined by a community of seasoned marketers to help in this crusade. Our collective goal is to right the marketing ship listing dangerously to one side from the weight of platforms and big data. I can’t express my gratitude to this brave league of fellow crusaders other than to give them full credit for their invaluable role in our noble adventure. I give them a place of honor in our company’s history:

  • Peter Hubbell, CEO of BoomAgers and former Saatchi Board member. www.boomagers.com
  • Griffin Stenger, a founding partner of Concept Farm, a leading social marketing agency [Crain’s]. www.conceptfarm.com
  • Robyn Streisand, Founder and CEO of The Mixx Group – a branding agency and an early investor in engageSimply. www.themixxnyc.com.
  • David Hoffman whose career spans four decades as a film producer and corporate strategic communicator. Wikipedia’s simply calls David: “One of America’s veteran documentary filmmakers.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Hoffman;
  • John Bowman, was Exec VP Strategy at Saatchi working on their premier brands and is now authoring a book about his great Grandfather, Archibald Stark Van Orden http://theassassinsassassin.com/about/
  • George Collins, a long time database expert and CEO of Research & Response – a database management consultancy. http://www.rresp.com/
  • Mark Bonchek, Founder of Orbit + Co whose strategic consultancy is “creating a new direction in business by shifting the relationship of individuals and institutions from PUSH to PULL.” http://www.thinkorbit.com/

Against the odds, I have been able to attract a seasoned management team of  marketing practitioners who had to “build it” after the consultants talked about loving it but conveniently left when the real work began. They were the ones who built those first generation eCommerce sites and created the principles that good UE designers use today. Our journalists understand SEO and our artists are offering their images for free all in an effort to be a part in the creation of an alternate social marketing reality – a fresh start called Eden.

So against all odds, I find I have become a Rebel Entrepreneur – so strange especially given my training, temperament and age. The potential high rewards of being a rebel all too often comes at a high price and we’ve seen our share of deals gone bad, betrayal by trusted colleagues and funding plans gone awry (Sandy was devastating to the startup community).

And yet, despite the odds, we are close to the launch of our network.

So I invite you all over to Bit Rebel to experience this journey with us as we sprint to Eden’s launch in Q1. Celebrate our highs and feel the unnatural lows that are endemic to startups. Share our anxiety as our burn rate increases but our funding outlook seems further out (we are doing a second round of seed funding now). Take a peek behind the startup curtain, see what’s really going on and help shape what happens. The success of Eden will be a triumph of us marketing practitioners like web designers, SEO geeks and developers over algorithmic feats of IP muscle.

Our mission is noble and our cause true.  Come join us.

I guess like any good crusade, we need a flag and a manifesto. Stay tuned – I am just learning how to be a rebel. Kinda of exhilarating actually. But

Judy Shapiro

P.S. My rebellion gets its own website: http://judyshapiro.wix.com/rebel-entreprenuer. Viva Le Rebellion.    

The Surprised Entrepreneur – Diary of new venture – Entry #3:

“Mama never told me there’d be weeks like this…”

It has been a while since my last entry and I am relieved to say it is mostly for good reasons. Over the last few months, this little venture has begun to take hold – to wit:

  • I have been on the speaking tour about The Interaction Engine capping it off with a spiel at ad:tech this month.
  • We have closed two new clients – one in the consumer electronics space and one in the mobile app space.
  • I am getting better at presenting our system in meetings – now I can kinda explain it in about 30 minutes. It still falls far short of the 2 minute elevator pitch – but hey – we are getting better.
  • A number of marketing and technology companies have contacted us to “partner” – not sure what that means though
  • We have done a few presentations to media buying agencies as they are challenged to “buy” social media. They are interested in working with us (again – no idea what that means)
  • Most important – revenue is beginning to accrue

Yet, despite the clear progress and momentum – I recognize the utter fragility of this venture. Of the dozen or so folks that are part of this company – most (but not all) are getting paid some compensation. No one is getting what they deserve – yet.

But my biggest challenge is that as we get more noticed, there are far more opportunities that need to be assessed and prioritized. Fundamentally, these opportunities run along three basic lines:

  • Technology Partnerships – there are 4 companies that we are talking to now in the marketing technology space. These companies are anxious to partner with someone like us because often these tech companies have no easy distribution channel. A cool recommendation engine is nice – but it’s hard selling a “stand-alone” technology to a big brand or agency. As a quasi “system integrator” of social media technologies – they see our Interaction Engine as solving this major channel issue for them.  thsi is not a pr 
  • Funding Options – my initial plan was to sell the Engine we have now (does not require any development) to generate about $500K in revenue. While that plan is still in play – I realize that getting to that sales threshold might take longer than I can wait to begin the second phase of this company – to develop/ sell “self-serve” integrated social media programs to SMB via web hosts. I am encouraged by experienced colleagues who tell me I can go get funding now with what we have. TBH, I am still unclear whether any VC would consider this investable. My colleagues are so confident that this can get funded that they are willing to spend their own time over the next few months to work on this. On the one hand, that’s a funding gift that I would be crazy to reject. But on the other hand, it will still require my time for an exercise that I’m not convinced will have a successful outcome. Getting VC funding is a huge time hog – not matter who helps you. I keep wanting to put it off or get a traditional loan to ease the short term cash crunch. this is since this is not any way understand how to make this spaceing this work. it is frustating to say the least but this need
  • Media Alliances – Unlike most other marketing technology companies, I focused on the technology platform but I built it within a holistic system that includes an organized set of content assets from a diversity of publishers. To me, content is not king – but rather the juicy bait to start the engagement process which is why I had to collect relevant content assets. So while I spend a considerable amount of time building these alliances – there are many more people looking to partner with us because so many content producers and writers have been caught in the tumult of “freep” (free and/ or cheap) digital content distribution. In our system, these folks have a voice and a stake, so we solve a problem for them too. The problem is deciding who we can take on.

Most interestingly (and yes – it is a surprise), it seems that our Interaction Engine System (a coordinated, tech mashup of a monetizable “community of interest”) is an approach that can integrate disparate marketing activities into an operational program. In essence, instead of pitching an individual program to a client where I have to plug into their operations – we are being seen as our own ecosystem and other marketing programs and/ or technologies have to plug into us. I won’t say I planned it that way – but I am loving how this is playing out.

Now on to my biggest “what’s keeping me up list?” for this entry:

  • Knowing which contacts are worth pursuing on the tech front, on the funding front and on the editorial front. The response to my presentations has been great – but overwhelming actually.
  • Keeping the pressure up on the sales front –  our issue now is too many great leads and not enough time to follow them all up.
  • Keeping the team motivated and monetized – always a struggle whether you are a new company or an old one

The next four weeks tend to be intense because marketing budgets are being finalized so we need to keep the pressure up – yet people’s mind are on the holidays. This requires an elegant and thoughtful approach to sales (I hope we are up to it).

Day after day, it seems the ride I am on gets more thrilling, more scary and more substantial. As the stakes keep going up, Mama never told me there would be weeks like this where too much is happening too fast. But I guess that beats the other option: too little happening too slow; by a mile.

“So dear Mama – I am grateful you taught me to appreciate a good ride when I see one which is exactly what I am doing  – even though it feels like I caught a tiger by the tail.”

I don’t intend to let go now.

Judy Shapiro

In the data business – stuff can go really wrong.

Here’s an ironic but sad way many marketing efforts can go awry.

Take a look at this picture.  This email blast from a tech company (left unnamed to protect the stupid) was offering “A deduplication guide.”

See my inbox :)

The dangers, difficulties and disasters of database management.

The Twitter Secret – why & how to use Twitter for B2B and technology businesses. Rant #1

This is one of those hissy fit posts I sometimes write in frustration when I see my friends at B2B or technology companies struggling with new marketing technologies when they shouldn’t be struggling at all. There isn’t a CEO, COO, CMO et al friend of mine who has not said to me recently; “I don’t get Twitter/ We don’t do Twitter”. URRGGGHHHH!!! This gets me going because using Twitter (or not) should be an informed choice not a result of ignorance. Yet, the lack of Twitter savvy spanning companies of every size, often reflects a lack of marketing leadership from internal marketing folks and more often than not, the agencies that serve them. Sorry – agency people, but nearly all of my corporate side colleagues express a near universal lack of confidence in their agency’s depth in newer marketing tactics.

So, here my dear friends who are CEOs, COOs, CMO, CIOs, CTOs  and directors of companies of all sorts, is the definitive guide to why Twitter matters for B2B and technology businesses. Feel free to share it with your agencies – gratis.

A deeper dive – who really uses Twitter anyway?

First it helps to put Twitter usage in perspective. A recent report from Edison Research gives us an excellent reference point (here is a PDF –   http://trenchwars.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/twitter_usage_in_america_2010.pdf )

Most importantly, it helps to understand that, despite the hyper buzz, at most only about 7% of US population actually uses Twitter despite an astonishing, almost universal 85% level of awareness.

So who are these “7%’ers”? IMHO it happens to be those people who pushed Twitter into the face of “Judy Consumer” with such success – the media/ marketing/ PR world. These folks love Twitter because it is a digital, communal bulletin board, water cooler and late night hangout all in one place.  It’s an efficient amalgam of interesting stuff, useless stuff, ego stuff and occasionally a real gem, like a source for a story. Hence media’s love affair with Twitter and the correspondingly high awareness among the Judy Consumers out there.

Now that we have framed the Twitter picture correctly and hung it on the wall, it’s time to make practical use of it in our marketing decorating scheme.

The secret of Twitter for B2B and technology companies.

At the most basic level, Twitter is mainly about;

1) Listening to what’s going on

2) Connecting with specific reporters, stakeholders and influencers and

3) Broadcasting to a large following

Let’s break this out in more detail (and for you impatient CEO friends of mine – I used as many bullets as I could for quick scanning :)

1) Listening:

Why do it?

In this mode, Twitter offers three excellent strategic advantages:

  • It is one of the best research/ early warning brand monitoring systems on the planet. With Twitter, you’ll learn of gathering negative corporate sentiment storms before they become too big or too hot to handle.
  • It provides you with an easy way to identify key stakeholders for your brand within the industry, media and regulatory groups.
  • Finally, if you become astute at listening, you can learn the hottest trending topics that can provide powerful platforms for your branding and any Corporate Social Responsibility campaigns/ programs you have in mind (more on this later).

How to execute:

  • I’ll start with a “don’t”. Don’t just follow people who follow you otherwise you will have too much noise. Be very judicious in who you follow.
  • To know who to follow at first, spend a week identifying well respected people, analysts, thought leaders who publish in leading trade journals and follow them. An agency can help you identify important tweeters in your space, but supplement that with your own research.
  • At this stage, focus on quality of information not on quantity of who you follow or gathering Twitter followers. Also, at this stage, do not try and outreach. Give yourself time to get accustomed to the character of the Twitter-sphere.

Who should do it:

Set it up so that everyone in the company follows the same key people for a consistent flow of information. Specifically, though, here is who should be “listening in”:

  • Everyone in the “C” suite:
    • I hear you, my C level friends kvetching that you don’t have time. Nonsense. To check Twitter every day is at most a 15 minutes task spread through the day. The rewards can be tremendous as it can be amazingly energizing and motivating – like a decadent chocolate treat at 3:00 in the afternoon.
  • Every marketing person in the company
  • Key people at the agency.

Best used with:

Nothing in marketing should live in isolation and Twitter is no exception. For the listening side of the Twitter value equation, this is best used as part of the strategic process that determines corporate messaging platforms, as in for example, a corporate social responsibility program. This provides a powerful “real time” voice in the internal strategic corporate brand tracking processes.

2) Connecting:

Why do it?

Simply, Twitter gives you direct access to media and industry thought leaders: Think of Twitter as an extension of your PR machine since you get unmediated access to many reporters that are important to you.  Focus on identifying analysts, trade journals and event organizers that are the gatekeeper for what the industry sees. You want to know what these folks think about.

How to execute Twitter for media/ industry outreach:

Strategically, it is wise to remember that Twitter provides the “public” with a very probing view into your company. I suggest you confine the connecting part of Twitter to people who have both intelligence and sensitivity to recognize that their personal brand will get attached to the corporate brand. It is something not easily outsourced to an agency TBH.

It’s therefore best to set up a formal program and a great example is Robert Scoble of Rackspace. He is one arguably one of the most respected tech Twitterers out there, yet his work is supportive of the Rackspace brand. The point is pick a person/ people with the temperament, passion and intelligence to do you proud.

Once your Twitter Dream team is in place, tactically, here’s how you do media outreach on the Twit-o-sphere. Respect the fact that Twitterers are etiquette sensitive so you want to give yourself time to learn the courtesies:

  • Start by simply retweeting the articles of these influencers that interest you. Be sure you actually look at what you are retweeting and that it is of high quality. What you retweet reflects what interests YOU, so please please don’t just retweet something from important people you follow without looking at it first. If you like, the retweet can have a brief personal comment just to add a bit interest.
  • After you get a feel, then directly respond to the tweets of key influencers with a thank you for sharing something interesting or a comment on their observation. You can even disagree with the Tweeter, but always keep the karma positive and always include their Tweet handle via the @ sign. Twitterers hate rudeness or snarky for the sake to impress. Keep it honest, simple and direct. BTW -don’t expect anyone to answer or acknowledge you. Just keep at it, over time it will pay off.
  • Once you gain some confidence (and that is key), you are now in a position to use Twitter to promote your own agenda using the platform of these contacts. This is the real payoff and it works like this.From your listening stage, you may have identified a powerful positioning platform I call the “ignition point”. Then:
      • Have a blog or article written about the ignition point.
      • Then create a google search alert on the topic and/ or the people within the field who cover the topic.
      • When an article comes up (and it won’t take long if you “listened well”), then comment on the article at the article’s website and point back to your article.
      • Once you have commented, then tweet about the article and include a link to the article – not to your blog. Why? Because people are more likely to discover your article if it is introduced on a well known website rather than a directed link in a Twitter update you post.

Quality content and ideas will attract attention and recognition. Not every platform will work – but over time, you will have a consistent engine for getting your ideas out into the marketplace.

Who should do it?

I will start by suggesting who should NOT do it — an agency should not do this unless they are totally immersed in your business. Period. Otherwise, pick a trusted communicator within the business. They can be in any department: product management, technology, marketing – doesn’t matter as long as they have your trust.

Best used with:

Combining this aspect of Twitter with LinkedIn rocks. Specifically, you want to join LinkedIn Groups from media/ industry thought leaders and you should also start your own LinkedIn group where white papers, company news and updates can be shared.  Continue to post/ share (they can be linked so it is easy to do once) regularly.

3) Broadcasting:

This one is easy because IMHO, as a B2B or technology company you need not worry about the broadcasting aspect of Twitter. Honest. The broadcast aspect of Twitter works best if you are a B2C company where you can REGULARLY pump out promo’s which is how you will build your Twitter following. Otherwise, it really is a waste of effort because in the B2B world, it’s not about scatter broadcasting but narrow casting in your segment. It’s better to have 600 well placed followers then 600,000 “whoever”. I know having a big Twitter following feels good – but that’s not a good enough reason to spend time building it.  The only possible exception to this rule is if you are B2B company hell bent on becoming heavy duty content producer. If not, believe me when I tell you it is a waste of energy.

There you have it – the why and how of Twitter for business. But probably the uber power secret of Twitter is this — simply to show up every single day. Consistency pays off in dividends – but don’t despair because it will take months of steady, deliberate practice. But patience and persistence will pay off.

Now dear friends that you understand Twitter, let’s use this power for good – please.

Judy Shapiro

Is Chris Brogan worth $22,000 a day? You bet… BUT.

This was too tempting a subject to pass because of the reaction to the revelation that Chris Brogan (celebrity blogger and author of book; Trust Agents”) gets a consulting fee of $22,000 a day.

My initial reaction to the news was a simple “A bi gazhunt” to Chris which is Yiddish for “be well”, but really means “My hats off to you”. Why shouldn’t a company pay him $22,000 if it will save them 10x that if they try and learn about this stuff blind.

But this revelation from Chris launched a vibrant conversation with a diverse range of opinions from indignation to envy to those who shared my personal reaction; “well done”.

The topic was quickly losing interest for me except Chris himself came out to declare this was the; “smartest post yet about my pricing post:http://bit.ly/aP4l9w (anchoring. Neat term!)”. I was curious so I went to check it out and in this post, the author believes that Chris now set the “anchor point” – a water mark for what “this stuff goes for”.

Whoa Nellie – this is when this conversation went silly for me.

I don’t buy for a second that Chris’ rate establishes anything, and certainly not an anchor point unless of course you want to be totally self serving. Chris is able to garner these fees TODAY because expertise in this area is still at a premium and there are few credible sources. In about a year, when there will be more “supply”, the rates will adjust accordingly.

And oh BTW – here’s another reality. Chris has to charge so much for a day of consulting because there’s not a lot of repeat business consulting on social marketing. This stuff is not hard and after you’ve told them the basics they are usually good to go. He has to extract as much as he can from them because it’s probably a 1x only appearance.

If you doubt this truth of this conclusion – think about it for a moment.  Would Chris have to create the “The Third Tribe” service or his New Marketing Labs or all his other self promotion stuff if he could regularly snag “two or three” gigs like that a month? I don’t know about you, but if I could reliably do $500K/ year by working 24 days – I wouldn’t be doing all the other stuff or maybe I wouldn’t be charging anything at all to most, (and I cheerfully congratulate Chris on how much of his smarts is freely available).

Chris was clever to have cultivated credibility in a space that became very important very quickly. This is a quintessential case of right place at the right time and he is milking it for every thing it is worth. I congratulate him on his skill and luck. But let’s not see his fee success as anything more than a temporarily aberrant blimp in time and it is certainly no anchor point. Hey, if tomorrow someone figures out that they can substantially grow their business learning the secrets of Hasidic philosophical spirituality – then I’ll be worth $42,000 a day! But only for a while. I know I’ll milk it as long as I can.

Judy Shapiro

My top 10 New Year’s “un-resolutions” for 2010

We all know about our New Year’s resolutions. We make them with all good intentions to keep them. But we also know that what usually happens is that, inevitably, one by one our resolutions go by the way side. So I stopped making those New Year’s resolutions years ago because it seems to be a recipe for failure.

Instead, this year for a change, I have started to make “un-resolutions” – things I am determined NOT to do. Here’s my top 10 un-resolutions. Take care – this may become a new tradition.

1) I will not get seduced by any new digital marketing toy just because some industry pundit thinks it’s the coolest thing to hit the street. Nor will I believe every promise made by every new marketing technology company.

2) I will not abandon common sense in digital marketing and be blinded by digital agencies promises that their “new” campaigns will go viral and get the attention of millions of people. I will continue to listen to my gut and if it sounds to good to be true, I will let skepticism drive my decision.

3) I will not abandon newspaper, magazines, radio and other forms of traditional media if it is the right vehicle. No matter how sexy digital media may seem because of the perceived lower cost, I will continue to create integrated programs that weave together the best of both the traditional and digital worlds.

4) I will not give up my attachment to email marketing. Sorry folks – but email marketing, well done, drives real business results. If your email campaign did not work – either you had a bad list or an inadequate call-to-action or maybe your agency did not know what they were doing.

5)  I will not be fooled into thinking that the ad market is going to rebound in 2010. Nope. The ad market will continue to be buffeted by the tides of an evolving economic landscape and by consumers’ ever fickle attraction to new tech toys like mobile devices.  These trends will continue to dampen ad revenue for publishers for some time to come.

6) I will not get excited about cloud computing – at least not yet. I do see how it is going to dominate in the next 5 years – but there are real security problems to solve before everyone can get into the clouds. Conversely, I do get excited by all types of ASP offers as that is a steady business model that offers real value to consumers.

7) I will not blindly follow Google as they chow down every tech industry from telecom to digital publishing. Ever one loves to love Google. Me too. But that does not mean that I have to support every initiative as Google relentlessly marches toward digital dominance. In the process, they stifle competition and kill real innovation by companies who deserve to succeed. Now here’s my one New Year’s prediction (for 2012) – I predict that Google will have to break themselves up to avoid the growing recognition that Google is really a monopoly, albeit a new kind.

8 ) I will not diminish my slavish devotion to data driven marketing no matter what new platforms come out that can behaviorally target any audience any way I wish. I know I know – the BT folks can slice and dice an audience so many ways that it makes a marketer salivate. But unless I can see, touch and feel the data – I will pass for now.

9)  I will not start following every Tom, Dick and Jane to gain more Twitter followers. OK, so I only have about 175 folks following me but at least I know they read what I tweet. Quality – not quantity is what drives social media.

10) And my final un-resolution. I will not try appear to be “30 something” just because I love digital marketing. I know that the average age of people in digital marketing tends to be 27 – but my depth in this space has yielded real world, hard won recognition. And while I am at it, will not submit to peer pressure to use more “hair product” than one can find in a Duane Reade store so I can appear suitably young as a digital marketer. What you see (grey hair and all) is what you get :)

There you have it. My top 10 un-resolutions for 2010. If you have your list – feel free to share it here.

Judy Shapiro

Ten things that will thrive BECAUSE of the recession

                                             

I read a recent an article in ComputerWorld entitled “Ten things that won’t survive the recession” by well respected reporter Mike Elgan (http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9124260&intsrc=hm_list.)  The article was depressing largely because it was so well written and his casualty list was well considered. It was not a pretty picture.  

 

So in a defiant act of faith, let me offer my counter list … “Ten things that will thrive because of the recession”. (At least I’ll feel better trying to come up with such a list.)

 

1)     Direct marketing … but reinvented.

To me, the internet is one big direct marketing engine where prospects “self select” via their searches. When thought of this way, many of the principles that drive great DM will also drive great internet marketing.  Dust off those old “Direct Marketing 101” books – they’ll get the job done in this digital age.

 

2)     Good ol’ fashioned marketing common sense.

I hear many pitches from agencies and online properties that make no sense whatsoever on any normal metric. These are often made by companies trying to sell me on the “branding value” of an online buy.

 

Get real. Branding value in the online world is about effective as a one of those banners that flies behind planes. Limited.

 

Advertising in the online world is based on good old fashioned reach and frequency and has to roll up into a business metric. If the buy does not make financial sense – just walk away. Online marketing is not the place to make branding campaigns. If you don’t know why, see #1.

 

3)     Social marketing campaigns.

If you think great social or viral marketing campaigns just happen – think again.

 

Good viral marketing engages a well coordinated set of tools to create the effect you are looking for. It is not haphazard and it is not “luck”. It is a planned promotion that you can manage once you know the elements. Best of all, many of the elements are free if you know what to look for.

 

Here are some of the top components:

·        A viral video BUT …

Do not expect much to happen – no matter how interesting you think it is – unless you overtly build in the “kicker element”. Meaning, it must have an element that satisfies some specific emotional need to directly compel someone to send it along (think direct marketing call to action). It’s not about spending a lot of money either – it’s about getting to a concept that is built around its “virability”.

 

For example, a recent no cost success in viral videos was a web cam of six new born puppies hanging out in their basket. It was viral because it was so sweet to look at and people wanted to share it. It taps into our deeply ingrained satisfaction in looking at babies – or cute animal babies J. Here’s another example of a very successful video where the recipient looks like they were running for president.http://www.columbusalive.com/live/content/features/stories/2008/10/09/ca_l_net.html 

 

Do viral video – just do it right otherwise you will be disappointed. 

 

·        Customer feedback platform for a site. This is one of the most effective ways to leverage the power of social networking. You can even do this for free with a UserTrust, a feedback platform from Comodo, a leading Certification Authority.

 

·        Community chat.- you can get this for free too from Paltalk chat software. Just download the software and you can start a room for free where people can chat with each other.

 

·        Video streaming – You want to demonstrate your new product? Use a video streaming platform – also from Paltalk using their premium rooms.

 

·        Start a blog — You can share ideas and get honest feedback from your visitors. But beware, never say anything in a blog you wouldn’t want showing up on Page 1 of your local newspaper. ‘Nuf said.

 

4)     Comprehensible data run businesses.

I read a disturbing factoid that asserted most companies (80%) have lots of information and not a lot of comprehension. More simply, too much data of the wrong kind without the intelligence to allow someone to get what they need.

 

This issue has plagued CIO’s for at least a decade and the holy grail of delivering usable, configurable data is close. Why? Because the industry is moving away from rigid taxonomy driven databases where everyone “categorizes” everything the same way to a more fluid metadata structure which provides a new opportunity to get to the Promised Land.

  

5)     Explosion of Internet community groups and micro-businesses

The chat room of yesterday will reinvent itself as a vital part of the ecommerce sector. Rooms with video streaming capability can be secured so that they can handle transactions. This sector is the digital pushcart equivalent of the real world pushcart business of today, a low barrier to entry to eCommerce.

 

6)     Configurable, web based rich media communication services.

That pile of techno babble simply means that people will be to use video, audio and text in any combination interacting with as many people as they want when they communicate online. They will be able to choose whether they want a small media rich chat or a large multi person video streaming conference – just with a click of the button.

 

7)     Online authentication services.

We must become practical about how we bridge the trust gap that now exists between our ability to authenticate in the real world versus the online world. As we conduct more and more of our business online – this is not a nice to do – but must do. There are innovative companies like Comodo creating these type of centralized and distributed authentication services using new techniques in smarter surfing and authentication as an integrated business process.

 

8  ) Practical eCommerce driven ways for everybody to “go green”.

Today, if you want to contribute to help our planet’s environment, it’s difficult because there are so many disconcerted programs and projects and charities. On top of that, local community efforts seem well intended but often lacking in practical application.

 

In the next few years, consumers will get tired of waiting for government to act and will demand better ways to link environmental efficiency with an economical benefit. Companies that let people easily manage their eco-evolution will thrive. These companies will be a single resource that helps people contribute to reduce their own carbon footprint and will also offer guidance on ways to reduce costs using eco-friendly methods.

 

9)     Nanotechnology

This has been on my radar for about 4 years now and I still think it is one of those “step change” technologies. As resources become scarcer or more accurate sourcing for resources becomes more challenging, technologies that can scale up in terms of productivity while scale down in terms of resource consumption is a no brainer winner. Nanotechnology is one of those few technologies that meets both criteria.

 

10)  Digital and identity protection services.

We are living in the Wild West of digital landscapes in some ways because it’s often hard to know who to trust online and it’s even harder to deal with a problem once it emerges.

 

In response, a new set of coordinated services will emerge that covers a wide range of needs from secure backup services (there are great free ones today though like Comodo Backup), to identity protection and restoration services to PC management and protection against the relentless technological warfare being waged against ordinary PC civilians.

 

So there you have it – my predictions for winners that could only be possible in current conditions.

 

Now that I think about it – I’d love to have the longest “who will succeed in this recession list” on the planet. Send me who you think will succeed and have your friends send me their bets on future winners too, I’ll add them all.  

 

Maybe by sheer force of positive thinking we can help in ways that the economists could never guess. (This reminds me of the scene in Peter Pan when he asks the audience to clap for Tinker Bell to save her…)

 

Send me your digital clap. It’s worth a try.

 

Judy Shapiro

 

 

12/26 UPDATE:

Here are 3 additions to our 2009 Companies that will thrive because of the recession list. Keep ‘em coming…

  • Printers, books and printing … a resurgence of old fashioned direct mail – submitted by Ben
  • Trains transportation – submitted by Harvey and Lisa
  • Gardening and farming – submitted by Kay

 Spread the word and we’ll keep adding to the list. Judy Shapiro

 

 

 

_____________________________________________________________

Update: December 30, 2008

 

These winners were just in  

  • Cloud computing for ASP type application (thanks Ira)
  • Multi-player real time gaming
  • Wireless marketing (OK – I have heard this before – maybe this year if smart phones reach a critical mass)
  • Which leads us to Smart Phones

Keep ‘em coming :)

HAPPY 2009!

Judy Shapiro

 

 

 

 

 

The Three “M”s of Marketing

 

It seems that marketing has been defined is such ridiculous and out-of-date terms lately that I thought a mini guide to what marketing is and is not was in order. (This little tirade was prompted by a marketing graduate student I recently encountered who seemed to have no clue what marketing actually was.)

Let’s start with that classic marketing definition  … the Four Ps – product, place, promotion and price. This well worn definition worked well in the dominant days when a product manager (PM) at a large packaged goods company had total responsibility for a product  – from development to marketing. The PM at Gillette or P&G had total life cycle management for that razor or fruit juice and the four Ps worked well in that model.

Today though that model is wholly inadequate for many businesses particularly technology companies. Product development in technology is not about buying pineapple juice concentrate or manufacturing packaging. The products are often complex technology platforms requiring a level of expertise beyond a typical product manager. 

Or let’s take marketing in an online world. A marketing plan for an online business would look nothing like a marketing plan for a traditional packaged goods product. It would include sections outlining viral marketing and SEO plans and it would spend a lot of time analyzing site statistics.

So you see why it does not work. Let me, therefore, put forward a definition of marketing that is broad enough and relevant enough to apply to virtually any business model out there.

I call it the three Ms of Marketing.

It breaks down into the following –

M #1 = Magic

M #2 = Muscle

M #3 = Method

#1 – Magic

Marketing requires a sense intuition, imagination, insight and ability to see the world through your prospects eyes. Traditionally, marketing spent a lot of time researching these questions but in the fast paced almost real time business environment of today, by the time the research is done – the market has moved.

 

It is sometimes hard for people not very intuitive to be willing to let go of research to guide their decisions. These people either are not intuitive or don’t have faith in their intuition. Either way, they need research and facts to shape their ideas. This to me seems too inefficient. If you start from a reasonably well grounded theory based your intuition, there are free and quick validation tools out there (e.g. free survey tool  http://www.surveymonkey.com/to give you some feedback.

In the end, M #1 is the sizzle behind the product or brand. It is what people react to when deciding if they will purchase your product.

#2 – Muscle

This is the personal leadership skills to get people to believe in you and how you imagine a product’s positioning, plans and tactics. This is where M #1 is first tested. Can you convince your peer group that your intuition and insight are right.  

This is not as easy to accomplish as one might think. First, this M needs time, 6 months maybe more. And you gain their trust by being true to yourself. Not always easy in some environments. But if you are consistent and proven over time to be right – then they will follow where you lead.

Patience and persistent.

#3 – Method

This is the executional nuts and bolts of marketing, a.k.a. marketing operations. In today’s complex marketing that has a lot of technological tactics and programs built in, marketing operations is the engine for the marketing organization’s success.

No ideas – no matter how brilliant – is not worth much if it never sees the light of day. The marketing operations of marketing is not what one typically thinks of as a marketing requirement – but it is nevertheless one of the pillars of marketing.

So that dear friends is what I believe the new marketing model looks like. A good marketing leader understands this model and populates a marketing department with people who collectively have the three Ms covered.

Forget the four Ps – this new model is how to win in the marketing wars.      

 

Judy Shapiro

The 2008 prediction for where the smart investment $$$ is going – and why

I love this time of year because it is only during this season that the heat is turned down in business – just a bit. During “the season”, the capitalistic oven that normally burns at high heat at every successful, growing tech company, now feels warming rather than scorching. So it is at this time of year I can luxuriously imagine what’s next? How will technology fare in the coming year?  

With those questions in mind, I seemed to all of a sudden notice how much media coverage there is about lots of new technologies being launched. The news is not different – “CEO Mr. Bright had an idea which got funding” but the sheer numbers of these news-bytes has gone up recently – way up. And these new ventures are playing with “stuff” involving digital sharing, web 2.0 (like virtual worlds), virtual commerce and more. It seems like we are “virtually” swimming in a sea of interesting ideas. That point was driven home recently when a VC buddy of mine hunting for ventures he could invest in called to ask whether any interesting ventures had crossed my path recently. That hadn’t happened since 2002.

There is now a new vitality and diversity of ideas I haven’t seen since 1998. In those days, I was at Lucent, working within the Bell Labs New Venture Group as Marketing Director where I helped evaluate technologies for commercial potential. I got to see all sorts of “technology stuff” – AT&T stuff, Bell Labs stuff, other people’s stuff. Stuff that evoked more “gee whizzes” than I thought was possible. Then, there was a sense of optimism and I sense that optimism is here again. Then, there was a feeling that there was always investment money to be had if you had a good idea. Now, the optimism is tempered with a new sense of maturity reflecting this new breed of entrepreneurs who know they better have a damn good revenue engine at the end of that damn good idea.  Gone are the days when ventures were launched with almost no profitable revenue in sight in the foreseeable future.

 

The sheer volume of news surrounding venture launches are indicative of the work that has been quietly going on behind the scenes for the last 6 years at the smart and growing technology companies. These companies have been building an impressive patent portfolio by, among other things, buying smaller technology companies that were the casualties of the last bust. Next, these companies are integrating these portfolios in new and very very interesting ways involving better ways to digitally communicate, play, and share – you guessed it – “stuff”. Then, in the final stroke of cyber luck, just when these companies needed new development tools to get this interesting “stuff” out there, we see a flurry of innovation in development technologies. Coming on line now are new pools of qualified labor using an explosion of new application development tools. Ruby on Rails is a prime example of a development platform that is open source (a.k.a. free) and which lets developers quickly add new capabilities to existing software reliably and without too much fuss.

 

So mix it all up – and you have it – the ingredients for a boom. This is the moment smart investors and smart technology companies have been waiting for.

 

The next logical question then one might ask is where to focus your investment attention? For fun, I decided to join the legions of people making New Year’s predictions and offer my predictions for where the smart money will and won’t go in 2008 …(use with caution J)  

 

Money will go into …  

  • Companies and platforms that can create social marketing campaigns with a similar organized approach that now dominates the execution of traditional advertising campaigns.
  • Companies that promote more integrated ways of communicating and sharing – across platforms (e.g. IM, mobile etc etc) and digital media types.
  • Companies that enable better online play experiences across platform migrating from a PC to a cell phone seamlessly. e.g poker that can be played on a PC and an iPhone.  
  • Companies that deliver online authentication, security and online trust –  especially involving authenticating digital transactions, identities and even content.
  • Companies that deliver wireless, proximity based marketing programs. 

Money will avoid …

  • Community sites that have their business model solely dependent on advertising because there just won’t be enough advertising dollars to go around to all the community sites being launched now
  • Mobile marketing companies that rely on next generation wireless phones
  • The next best “version” of a YouTube or Facebook. Sorry folks, but these guys created new distribution channels not to be easily repeated in this space. If want to succeed in this space, the difference had be better humongous – not just incremental.

There you have it. My predictions for 2008. Lots of promise with lots of risks wrapped up in the classic high risk high reward situation.

 

Let the boom games begin.

 

Happy New Year

Judy Shapiro

The Top 5 Myths of Viral Marketing

 

I am surprised at how mysterious this wide world of viral marketing is to many of my colleagues. It reminds me of the days when companies were first learning about  the Internet. Companies were slow to climb on the Internet learning curve then and now I feel like this is a mass déjà vu moment again.

So to help accelerate the learning curve this time around, I’d like to explain what viral marketing is NOT  because it’s easier first to explain what something is NOT and then you can better understand what it is. So here is my top five list of what viral marketing IS NOT. Take note comrades – nothing is a silver bullet and viral marketing is no exception.

1) Viral marketing does not cost a lot

It is a mistake to assume that viral marketing is something that happens if you sprinkle pixie dust into the Internet engine. There are costs but it is often hidden. Great viral marketing is about participating “in the conversation”. That takes time. The “time is money” cliché is true. And guess what – since there are no automated tools to participate in the conversation – participation can be time consuming and therefore not cheap.

 

2) Build a blog and they will come

Sound familiar? Marketers rushed to create websites using that mantra and we know how that ended. Getting a blog going is just the beginning but for it to help create brand buzz requires time and diligence and patience. Blogging at its best can give your brand a personality and a way for people to engage with you. But it needs care and feedling just like any other marketing tactic.

 

3) Viral campaigns can’t be planned – it just happens

On rare occasion that is true. But here’s the reality – most viral marketing successes are the result of careful planning, good execution and a sound strategy. Just like any other marketing campaign.

 

4) Viral marketing can take care of itself

Successful viral marketing is no different than managing a successful direct marketing campaign or advertising campaign or public relations initiative. It must be measured so it can be managed.

 

Which leads me to the final myth …

 

5) You can’t really measure a viral campaign

This is arguably one myth that does the most damage and is a myth that agencies like to promote. After all, it is in the agencies best interests to convince clients that viral marketing can’t be measured because then there is no accountability. But not only is viral marketing measurable – it is in some ways easier to measure than many other tactics. You can measure traffic volumes, responses to blogs and more. So next time your agency hems and haws about measuring a viral marketing campaign – keep looking. You can do better.

So now that we have debunked some of the biggest myths – what now? Let’s talk about what’s a good way to execute a viral campaign. There is a new disciplined type of viral marketing called “content campaigns” that uses an emerging model, PVR – public + viral relations. This means that all content is focused on a few themes and it is distributed across all media – PR, SEO, corporate blogs, white papers, seminars etc etc. By coordinating content creation and distribution, you can optimize search volume and that my friends is how business gets done today.

Buzz that.

 

Judy Shapiro

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