The old joke about a boat anchor

5:23 PM

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On a recent family road trip I was reminded of an old joke about things that become a "boat anchor". It essentially referred to some item that was so old or so useless that it's only use was as a boat anchor.

While on a recent road trip my son commented that his iPod Touch was running low on juice, I said that he could charge it up when he got to grandma's. There was a moment of consternation and then a longer period of silence as we continued to drive along.

On the way to grandma's we stopped off to get the car washed and I looked back to find my son still playing his iPod Touch and I laughed when I saw that he had taken my netbook (backup computer) out of its pouch and was using it as a backup battery to his iPod Touch!

It really made me realize how quickly we have moved from a PC world to a hand held world, whether that be a smart-phone or an iPod. My once cherished Netbook is now nothing more than a boat anchor or in the case of my son's purposes a source of energy that makes it possible to keep using his iPod on a long road trip!

Thanks,

Ed

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Ed Loessi

Here's the problem with subscribing to blogs, tweets, and social networks

11:30 PM

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So I've been thinking about information and knowledge a lot lately. I remember the first time I discovered an RSS feed and I thought that this was really cool. I figured I could just have it scour the web looking for things that I was interested in and have it presented back to me in an easy to digest format, man that is cool.

Well, for while I was actually correct, it was cool and it was a very quick way to keep on top of what was happening. Flash forward, imagine, my excitement when I started realizing the benefits of joining social networks and then subscribing to specific blog posts and bloggers whom I was interested in and then of course the ability to subscribe to tweets, the joy was un-imaginable, the knowledge I could gain was virtually unlimited, talk about a fire hose!

I would say for close to two years I was able to get a virtually unlimited amount of information on almost any subject for which I had an interest. To some extent this has been pretty good. I've actually been able to gain a vast amount of different knowledge about subjects that I had very little knowledge of at the time. This is been especially good when working in small and medium businesses addressing issues of growth, where you have to multi-task and develop new skills at a rampant pace.

Over time, however, I realize that I was becoming overwhelmed with information, that I was unable to turn into knowledge. It was taking more and more time everyday just to casually review the information on subjects which I actually had a specific interest (most of which are now stored in Evernote, for future reference). I noticed that most of this time increasingly was devoted towards filtering out things that I already knew as opposed to actually looking at things that were in fact new bits of information.

As an example, when SEO became an important function of the marketing process I needed to understand how it worked. In particular, I needed to understand the most basic aspects of SEO and determine how it would affect the business, how to implement SEO correctly and how to monitor it.

So, like many I subscribed to bloggers who wrote about SEO, people who tweeted about SEO and news feeds related to SEO. The challenge was, as my general knowledge increased I had no way of telling my subscription services that hey, I already know a bunch of this stuff, what I'm really interested in this things that I don't know about SEO. I know longer wanted to read articles that started out with "5 things that every CMO needs to know about SEO". Heck, I knew 50 things about SEO by that time, what I wanted to know was the 2 "really new" things that I didn't already know.

What I really need now is the ability to follow certain subjects such as SEO, innovation, and start-up/growth business, but a much higher level of understanding. I know a lot about these subjects already, so spending my days sorting through titles or first sentence previews of information streams is really just a waste of time, what I need is the ability to tell my subscription services that I'm no longer at a basic level of understanding I need more advanced information on the subjects.

When I first began thinking about this problem, I thought that the easy solution would be to subscribe to the people who were writing at a more advanced level, so a blogger that wrote about advanced SEO as opposed to a blogger that wrote about entry-level SEO. The challenge with this is that many bloggers who are writing about a certain subject have to cover the entire gamut from early endeavors to mid range activity to more advanced activity, in order to make the writing interesting for any user (newbie, mid-range or expert) who might happen to find out about them by searching the web. So, I don't think it's practical to say just subscribe people who write at a higher level or just subscribe to the terms that may be used in higher-level discussions etc.

In the end my information subscriptions need to know how much information I've already covered they need to know how to sort out the basic from the mid range to the more advanced and only show me the information based on where I am in the understanding of a particular subject.

A man has got to have dreams.
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Ed Loessi

We have effectively killed off the "X" Steps to "Anything" idea in marketing

2:49 PM

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Not long ago, maybe a year or so, there were a raft of blog posts written about, well, how to attract people to read your blog posts, and one of the main suggestions was to write posts about things that contained some number of steps:
  • 3 Steps to CRM success
  • 7 Steps to winning venture capital
  • 30 top lessons from ......... whatever ... I am already tired of thinking about it
In little more than a year it now seems that virtually everything that I read contains the phrase "X" Steps to "Something", heck I even did it on this post (hypocritical?). This of course shows the power of social networks for disseminating ideas as well as the power for ideas to became virtually useless in record time. In effect new ideas in marketing spread so fast that they lose all of their uniqueness in capturing people's attention.

So, what now, well here are 3 steps to ...... crap I almost did it again.

If you have a message break it down into parts, instead of talking about the steps try making a story out of it. As an example I wrote a blog post titled 3 signs your strategic plan is going to fail - if I wrote that post today I might say that "Once upon a time I worked at a company where we created a great plan and put it down in words, but Monday morning when we all got back to work I didn't know what the first step was and then I realized that I didn't know what anyone else was doing and that in the end the plan failed, so here is what I would do differently".

To me it's just more interesting to read it as a story or as a personal example than as a series of steps, after all I am not trying to assemble a chair from Ikea. I am trying to learn something and be captivated beyond a set of bullet points.

Now I know stories were all the rage a few years back and we probably killed that too but maybe it's time to bring them back? I guess I am just all stepped out for the moment.

Thanks,

Ed

Ed Loessi

Here what I'm saying, June 20-27, 2010

4:42 PM

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Grabbed my posts from Twitter this week to see if I was under the influence of anything in particular. Noted that most of my good ideas weren't posted because they are secret :)


Hanging in Gloucester, MA at the "Greasey Pole" event, an annual classic


RT @alex: This is how I would fix modern schooling: http://jefmenguin.files.wordpress.com/2007/03/selfesteem.gif


Now that's funny! - Look honey I got the new #iPhone http://ht.ly/23x32


More on Rework by 37 Signals and the challenges of #Freemium business models http://ht.ly/23unB


Great clips! The Smith Report » Kindle Clippings – Rework by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson http://ht.ly/23u51


old style much better! - RT @HootSuite: Fan of old style RTs? Click the Owl > Settings > Preferences > Uncheck "Use Twitter Web retweets"


Always a good refresher - Guy Kawasaki’s 5-Point Guide to Personal Branding | Personal Branding Blog - Dan Schawbel http://ht.ly/22wsV


Sliver Businesses, I Iike that analogy - Chopping Up The Twitterverse | Get Venture http://ht.ly/22rFZ


12 Reasons people 55 and older gave for being on Facebook and why they like it - http://ht.ly/219oO


Great post! - The Stages of Innovation Acceptance http://ht.ly/20ZkT


Picked up the URL offeredlocal.com figured what the heck, everyone's on the local bandwagon these days, might think of something :
)

Person on the T is stuffing their face with a burger while talking on the phone, funny how some people were raised :)

Ed Loessi

Pricing and Freemium models in Minimum Viable Product, Release Early, Release Often and Lean Startup

8:51 PM

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Ian Smith has put together another good set of ideas from one of the companies that I have followed for a number of years, 37 Signals.

The Smith Report » Kindle Clippings – Rework by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson

The one topic that I love to see debated and one that Ian highlights is - when do you need to be clear about your profit model:

#2 Clipping: Anyone who takes a “we’ll figure out how to profit in the future “ attitude to business is being ridiculous that’s like building a rocket ship but starting off by let’s pretend gravity doesn’t exist. A business without a path to profit isn’t a business it’s a hobby.

So I’m dead against freemium models, because for every Twitter there are a million failures. It’s true that a well financed VC backed business can ignore profits for a while to grab market share but they will have worked out a profit path in the not too distant future.


I think the debate gets a bit cloudy when married with the ideas of "release early and release often" popularized by Guy Kawasaki, "Minimum Viable Product" by Eric Ries and "lean Startup" in general. What I think startups struggle with is "when should I charge" not so much "should I charge" for my product.

I think most people start businesses with the intent that they will earn money, yes, it is probably urban legend that it is not necessary but I still think that most companies that actually get off the ground do in fact have a vision of how people will pay them for their product or services.

My advice centers around the following, at least in the startup phase:
  • Create a Minimum Viable Product to see if you can even build something that remotely meets your own expectations
  • Release Early and Release Often until you have enough feedback that lets you know the idea is not a pipe dream
  • Be a Lean Startup using the simplest method of payment until you get some momentum i.e. 2 pricing plans and email and social media for customer service until you are profitable
In principle I agree with Ian on the dangers of Freemium except in the case of something that is trying to be a platform. There would be no micro-blogging like Twitter if in fact it was not free. Now of course if you are offering products that help people harness the power of Twitter such as managing advertising for businesses then yes, freemium is not going to be the way to go, so make sure you know if you are the platform for delivery or a tool to work the platform as they may aid your decision on freemium versus paid and when and how to start the charging prooces.

Thanks,

Ed
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Ed Loessi

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What's your strategy? Game Mechanics to navigate your company's products and services

2:06 PM

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Game Mechanics at Work and Play — Competing on Execution

Meri Gruber from Competing on Execution makes a very good observation about game mechanics with her trip to a kids science fair, one that actually reminded me of what people are doing in location based products like Foursquare.

In thinking through it a bit more it may be as simple as providing a subtle bit of organization, which is the key driver. As noted Meri had two experiences, one in which she attended an event that had a list of all exhibitors (art fair) and another (science fair) that had a similar list in the form of a passport where you collected badges once you had seen the exhibitor.

In the end the passport badge format of the science fair provided a much better experience because she didn't miss any exhibitors and there was a sense of accomplishment at the end, no reward mind you, but just the knowledge that she came to an event and saw all that it had to offer. In the end Meri wrote about the science fair, which in and of itself says a lot.

From a strategic marketing standpoint there are some good takeaways here:
  • Are you making it easy for customers to navigate all of your offerings - checklist, tracking process, making a game out of it?
  • Are you providing a reward or recognition for being a great customer - Meri was a great customer of the science fair?
  • Could you tie into the game mechanics of a partner for both of the above?
I would also add that this is more than just a traditional loyalty club question, it really goes beyond, it's about a higher level of engagement, in essence a game!

Thanks,

Ed Loessi
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What's your Strategy? - Google Streamlines, Targets Search: Its Biggest Change in Years

9:34 PM

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Google Streamlines, Targets Search: Its Biggest Change in Years | Fast Company

In his Fast Company review Dan Nosowitz did a good job of highlighting the key points of Google's newly update search interface. In my opinion, one of the key points that may actually pass over the heads of many people was:


"Novice users may finally try out the different types of Google search, now that they're sitting right next to the general results and are targeted more specifically."

So, why is this so important? Well, let's look at the realities of search at the moment:
  • The millions of average searchers today generally go to web and for the most part Google, since it is now a verb, and they type in some words and then they see what comes up on the first page or in the top 1-5 Adwords positions and they click on something that catches their eye.
  • Marketers of course covet these positions and spend millions/billions of dollars a year in SEO and PPC programs to be on that first page and get the clicks from people who have largely been blissfully unaware of the other types of web content that were up above their eye line (at the top of the web page) or mixed in with the rest of the content further down the search pages.
So, what has changed with Google's major update?

Well for many web searchers they are going to suddenly find out that for their keyword searches there are actually videos, blog posts, Twitter (and other micro-blog) updates and discussions that pertain to what they are searching for, essentially many pages not just one, in essence a whole new world of content just a few clicks away.

However, the real change is going to be for marketers. There is now no longer just one page to try and be in the first 10 listings of, there are at least 5 pages that first page relevance is going to be required because Google has essentially added a first level filter right on the left hand margin where people can actually see it.

This means that as a marketer you will need to be producing video content, blog content, Twitter conversations etc. because millions of people can now easily filter you right out of the equation.

Give it a try, if your company currently appears on the first page of a Google search, enter in those keywords and bring up that page. Now, click on the filters along the left and see what happens to your position (or should I say lack of position) and now you will have a good feel for what will be happening now that it is both apparent that there is other content in the world besides your SEO optimized web site.

I've tried this with a few client sites and for those companies who have primarily relied on having had a web site for a long time or having gotten lots of links to their home page, it's ugly. All of a sudden your competitor who has 50 YouTube videos or 3000 Twitter followers is all over page one of the video or updates filter and they are no where to be found.

Best advice, you better get cracking and start producing content where you have been lacking because that nice SEO authority that you enjoy now will quickly be disappearing and your competitors will be madly producing content to gain that first page advantage.

Thanks,

Ed

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Ed Loessi

How to Predict Whether a Startup Will Succeed or Fail: Testing the

3:51 PM

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How to Predict Whether a Startup Will Succeed or Fail: Testing the “Disruptive Innovation” Model

This is a very interesting article, I still think the main question is what teams can be successful implementing the paths that are suggested. Using Thurston's model for predicting the right path is fairly straightforward and should be used by people as a barometer to determine are they reading the market opportunity correctly. The big trick is to both read the market and get people that can actually do something about it.

Thanks,

Ed



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