John Akerson's Thoughts

Business, technology and life

Smart Phones Rise

I am at Internet Summit 10 and I have noticed that Mary Meeker’s quote about smart phone numbers exceeding personal computers by 2012 has resonated with everyone.  To refresh, her quote is: “smartphone sales will surpass PC and laptop sales in 2012, with more than 450 million units sold.” So – the panel is talking about technology, infrastructure, net neutrality and how important it is to focus on customers…

Dana Todd  asked, “For marketing people like her, how do they deal with that technology” She meant the increase in smart phones, the changes in how people use technology. She wants to know how the increase in mobile information technology will impact what she needs to do as a marketer.  When mobile users exceed laptops, netbooks, ipads and other personal computer devices – how can marketers best deliver what customers need?

How will Mary Meeker’s projection change what people need? How will it change what people buy, what people use, what people want and what is important to people?  (assuming that people = customers)

These are great questions – what do you think?

Advertisements

November 17, 2010 Posted by | Business, Competitive Advantage, Continuous Improvement, Marketing, People, Technology | Leave a comment

Shifting Media

Media is changing, rapidly and thoroughly. I think the only certainty about this seismic change is that if you could ride a Delorean 10 years into the future, what media will look like then bears absolutely no resemblance to what it looks like now. How will it change?  Opinions vary wildly based frequently on the benefits seen by the person expressing the opinion.

Avner Ronen, Boxee’s CEO thinks that a payment platform will win over TV networks.  Bruce Eisen, VP of Online Content Development and Strategy for Dish Network thinks tomorrows media distribution model will be today’s, unchanged. But things are already changing in extreme ways. Greg Kampanis, an executive from South Park Digital Studios has seen that offering all of their shows as free content online has resulted in “an increase in ratings along with online advertising revenue.”

And Michael Willner, CEO of Insight Communications asks if Hulu is bad for Broadcasters.

Mr. Willner’s most essential point is about the viability of the current distribution model. To quote: “Eisen’s argument is that even if putting this content online for free has short-term benefits for broadcasters ultimately it will encourage more users to cut ties with their cable or satellite provider, undermining the current distribution model.” (I added that emphasis, here, to make my point.)

The current distribution model is like a woolly mammoth and broadcasters are like little birds that ride the mammoths. At some point, the woolly mammoth became a species doomed to extinction. Some birds hopped onto elephants instead. Some found other ways to survive their ever-changing, evolving environment. Some of the birds didn’t make it. Some of the elephants did.   The ones that thrived were the ones that were both smart enough to recognize the changes and fast enough to react.

I think that Bruce Eisen is in a difficult position, and if he thinks that South Park’s benefits are only short-term. Things are not going to settle back to a 1980’s paradigm where media is controlled by the current industry giants.  There are so many disruptors in the current woolly mammoth-dominated media environment. Although many things are difficult to predict, the future of those mammoths isn’t. The smartest will see that the “current distribution model” isn’t the same as the future distribution model.  Acting like those things are the same, is understandable, and protectionist, but isn’t the most productive long term strategy.

A better approach is to consider, given the current distribution model, and the currently known disruptors, what other distribution models can simultaneously deliver value to viewers and profit to companies that act as media managers, creators, producers and aggregators.

I think Netflix is poised to deliver on that simultaneous-value sweet spot, and their freely-available corporate strategy/playbook suggests they already know it. 

Who will their competition be?  Will they succeed? Will Dish? 

What do you think?

November 11, 2010 Posted by | Competitive Advantage, Continuous Improvement, Marketing, Technology | Leave a comment

Why You Should Avoid the Golden Ratio

In the last two days, I have been blown away by Twitter’s new design. It is a delightful improvement. Media is impressed because it is bright, shiny, new and vastly improved. Why is it so much better? Twitter’s new design is great because it is both functionally and aesthetically improved. Bravo Twitter!Golden Ratio on JohnAkerson.com

Remarkable attention (even Mashable remarkable attention) has been paid to the way that Twitter made use of the “golden ratio” in the new improved design, but you should avoid the Golden Ratio and here’s why:

There is a long history of paying attention to the golden ratio in design, in natural designs and in web design – (Tutsplus.com had a great tutorial that remains relevant and informative.) But you should still avoid it.  So – if the Golden Ratio is good, and if Twitter’s new design is a sensational improvement why should you avoid it?  There are four things are wrong about highlighting the use of the Golden Ratio.

  1. There is nothing unique in using the Golden Ratio in web design.
  2. There is nothing unique to Twitter as a current website using the Golden Ratio
  3. Most importantly: Using the Golden Ratio is NOT good web design, it is detrimental. 
  4. When web design matters, the important gold is the Golden Triangle.

There is nothing unique in using the Golden Ratio in web design. It has been an element of all sorts of designs, and it has been an element of web design forGolden Triangle and Golden Ratio years.  It provides a nicely balanced web page, aesthetically pleasing and it is a design that pays homage to a traditional approach to design.  You should avoid it because it is the wrong kind of gold. The Golden Ratio is NOT the best thing about web design and usability.  The Golden Triangle is!  (and this overlay shows both the Golden Ratio and the Golden Triangle

Here is an example of the Golden Triangle, overlaying the Golden Ratio.

Golden Ratio on ChrisBrogan.comBefore going any further, it is VERY important to mention that Twitter is not unique in using the Golden Ratio. Look at a dozen current websites, and it is a safe bet that eight out of ten of those websites use the Golden Ratio. Chris Brogan uses the Golden ratio with his blog. I use it with mine. Amazon uses the Golden Ratio, Facebook uses it, Brightfuse uses it. Almost everyone uses it.  Don’t believe me? Look at these overlays of various websites.Golden Ratio on JohnAkerson.com

The Golden Triangle is way more important. If you’ve never heard of the Golden Triangle – it refers to Google’s Eye-tracking studies that show a sort of golden triangle on the top left side of a web page. It is where people focus on search results. The “Golden Triangle” is important because it shows where people focus on EVERY web page. The Golden Ratio puts important elements of a web page in places where people aren’t looking. It puts unimportant elements of web pages in places where people look first.

Golden Ratio doesn’t equal Golden Triangle! For most websites, the Golden Triangle is essential, but the Golden Ratio should probably be avoided.  

A final thought: There are some designers  who do NOT use either the Golden Ratio or the Golden Triangle.  FourSquare (4sq) doesn’t use the Golden Ratio or the Golden triangle. They probably do not really care about either golden design reference because 4sq’s websiteisn’t really relevant to their business. Why not? Well, for FourSquare, their website is NOT their primary user interface, and website usability isn’t nearly as important to them as the other interfaces and applications that they provide. 

FourSquare screenshot with Golden overlays.Let me say that again. For FourSquare, their web design isn’t critically important because of the other apps that people and businesses use access their service. Their website design is just not that important.

That is very significant for FourSquare, and also for Twitter. For Twitter, their website is NOT their primary interface either because Twitter’s customers use Tweetdeck, Social Oomph, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter App for BlackBerry, Hootsuite, Twittergrader and another half million apps. That is really significant for Twitter because for them, the Golden Ratio might be irrelevant to the Golden Triangle, and equally irrelevant to the quality of their redesign.  Regardless of Golden Triangle, or Golden Ratio, Twitter’s redesign is still a serious winner! 

Design is just not essential for people and companies who have websites where they know that the website is not the primary interface that your customers use. Those websites can design with considerations for the Golden Ratio. If your website design IS a primary interface for your customers – take heed of the Golden Triangle instead.

September 30, 2010 Posted by | Competitive Advantage, Continuous Improvement, Marketing | Leave a comment

Kindle is Your Paradise

Killer gadgets today are killer because they let us do everything. Is your newest latest Droid/Blackberry/iPhone a killer gadget? Maybe it is, but maybe not. What about the Kindle that only does one thing? Maybe a better question is, do you want more “killer gadgets?” Or do people need one device that does one thing?

From my perspective, the Kindle is better than a killer gadget. It is a paradise device and a paradise business model. The Kindle does only one thing, really well. That is the point. It is killer BECAUSE it does only one thing. It is paradise because it does only one thing. It can give YOU paradise if you have one, and it is paradise for Amazon. The proof is in this delightful, engaging, brilliant Kindle Ad. Please watch it because it explains everything: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGmRKSds9OY

On the surface, if you have $140 sunglasses and love sitting poolside reading your Kindle, it is an easy sell that your Kindle will work better than other multifunction book-type devices. (iPad) Depending on what statistic you pay the most attention to, Amazon is selling either 143 or 180 digital books for every 100 hardcovers sold.   Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos says it is “astonishing when you consider that we’ve been selling hardcover books for 15 years, and Kindle books for 33 months.”  That is a tipping point!

Back to the Kindle Ad!  The great irony is that Amazon’s Kindle mirrors the most successful single purpose device in the last decade, in every meaningful way – the iPod. The iPod is a singular-purpose device created a billion-dollar digital download store for Apple. (Perhaps $15 billion) Amazon’s Kindle is another killer gadget, but it is better because it is a single purpose killer gadget. The single-price digital music pricing model has simultaneously destroyed and reformed the music industry and it might yet do the same thing to the motion picture industry. Meanwhile, the publishing industry is being pushed and perhaps dismantled by Amazon’s amazing digital sales… driving per-copy prices down way past where publishers want.

So – coming full circle, here is the situation: iTunes drives Apple revenues with a product to be used on Apple’s iPods. Amazon’s delightful advertisement with their Paradise Device is thoroughly brilliant. It takes Apple out of the black turtleneck cool and plops it down. Where? in a the gut of a man wearing a semi-yellowed white-ish t-shirt over wrinkly khakis (1) at a pool with an iPad (2), sitting side by side with a kindled-up bikini girl. Mr. Apple-man is without sunglasses and looking kind of uptight and stressed, but she finds every relaxed way to look simultaneously hot… and very cool. People might not notice in the commercial, but there is a subtle plate of apples in the background (3)   Back to the stress… in this commercial, this alternate vacation reality – it is the iPad that is stressing him. His iPad is not relaxing and is not helping his vacation one bit! It is not helping him find paradise and it sure didn’t help him select his poolside wardrobe.

When you look at these two people, you can tell neither is married. (4) You can tell that she is enjoying her vacation in paradise. She has the shades, the attitude, the smile, the perfect hair, the perfect black bikini, and the perfect device with which to download digital content… and reading. Why is it so great that she has a single purpose device?  Everyone wants the paradise that comes with no deadlines, no meetings, no emails, no texts, no web to browse, no pdf’s, no buzzers, no noise, no distractions, and nothing at all beyond reading. It is only one simple pure function. Yet, nothing is getting between her and her Kindle. It is almost an intimate connection. A bargain that cost less to her than her sunglasses.

In a cluttered world filled with multifunctional device Swiss army knives, the Kindle is a Katana – sharp, purposeful, effective and to enemies, it must seem splendidly frightening in its potential and its execution. In the advertisement, everything in the girl’s vacation is elegant, relaxing and perfect. She is lost in the Kindle, lost in her reading. She has reached that intimate Kindle-paradise and left the stresses of her life behind. It is exactly the moment in exactly the vacation that everyone could use – everyone with lives that are torn by a never ending assortment of multifunction devices that sing like canaries in a mine full of hyper stimulated under-satisfied stress.  Matt Richtel wrote a great piece in the New York Times about how “Digital devices deprive the brain of needed downtime.
So – she is cool… she is hot… she is on vacation… and she can read her Kindle in direct sunlight, with her high-end fashionable sunglasses on. Why didn’t he bring sunglasses? Was he too busy in is iPad world with stimuli hitting him everywhere? Was he really TRYING to read or was he hitting on her? Does he not know how to adjust the brightness and contrast on his iPad? It doesn’t matter at ALL to her. She doesn’t have a care in the world. She is on vacation in paradise. She can relax perfectly with her kindle on her vacation reading her book in her world without interruption. That is exactly what she wanted. She didn’t want the sunlight to blind her. She wanted to be fashionable. She wanted to relax, cool by the pool, and her Kindle is exactly what she needed. Suddenly the Kindle is black bikini cool in a world of drab white t-shirts. It is a single word, a single device with a single purpose, and it is simultaneously cool, hot, functional and inexpensive. Does he need a pair of $150 sunglasses to read his iPad? No, he needs to ditch the iPad for a Kindle. The Kindle is EVERYTHING he needs. The Kindle is singular in purpose and effect. It is the paradise that he seeks, even on a perfect day when he is actually IN paradise.
The Kindle is exactly what Amazon needed. It isn’t perfect, multifunctional, or multitasking. It doesn’t read all the formats. It doesn’t try to make nice with the Nook or other devices. It is a single-purpose device in a world of multipurpose devices that gives people a way to escape all those other intrusions on their lives. The Kindle is the device that wraps an ADHD world into a single stimulus that can draw you in and encompass you the way that an afternoon with a good book could in a world that has gone by, long ago, far away. And for every Kindle Amazon sells to turn your life into a paradise, it will sell, based on current averages, 24 digital books.

Narasu Rebbapragada writes about people who pursue “any machine that does as many things as possible, that’s what I want”  but also talks how  the Kindle “retains the fundamental characteristics of the printed page, (and) encourages deep attention to story.”   Deep attention to a paradise where one device does one thing and doesn’t interrupt itself and you.

Books are to the Kindle as music was to the iPod, and anything more is unnecessary and detracts. You might say that with Amazon’s paradise device, Apple just got Kindled.

September 21, 2010 Posted by | Competitive Advantage, Environment, Life, Marketing, People, Technology | 1 Comment

Less Clicks: Good and Bad

Having less clicks in an advertising campaign can be both good and bad, but not for the most obvious reasons. It is important to remember the business objective behind the advertising so that when you create an advertising campaign, so you can use the campaign to reach those objectives. It is important to measure those objectives and it is important to try to improve your results.   There are times when fewer clicks can be good for meeting a business objective. So lets talk about clicks. 

Generally when you develop a Google ad campaign, your ads are shown on Google as a response to a search, and you pay when people click on your advertisement. (generally meaning that they are taken to the particular landing page on your site where you try to convert that click, and that specific interest in your products and services into an action – a sale, a registration, brand building or whatever)

The theory behind developing your advertisement is to develop the ad that converts the highest possible percentage of ad-views into ad-clicks. Here is an example: If you have 1000 people search for “Buick Regal” in Winston Salem, NC, and you sell Buick Regals in or near Winston Salem, NC,  and you develop an ad campaign, you want to get a high percentage of those people to click on your advertisement.  You might have a text based ad campaign that says something like this current campaign from Vestal Cars:

2010 Buick Regal
Get your Buick Regal Internet Price
Now & call For Special Incentives
VestalCars.com

If you click on Vestal’s advertisement, you come to an inventory page that shows their current inventory of Buick Regal automobiles.  That seems well formatted, well directed, and as effective as possible. If someone is searching for a Buick Regal to purchase, Vestal Cars is showing them exactly those cars, in that location. If a potential customer searches for that, and clicks that, Vestal has done everything right to (a) convert views to clicks, and (b) convert clicks to action.   In this case, the business objective is to sell cars.  To sell cars, they need customers to consider their cars, to look at their cars, to visit their car lots, and ultimately to find a car they want.   Vestal Cars wants to get people who are already searching on Google for a particular car to see their inventory of that car.  Their thought is likely that a person searching for a particular model of car is apt to be interested in that particular car. In the nebulous world of search-advertising, that is a pretty logical assumption, and I think their well-crafted advertisement is as likely to sell cars for them as anything.  I’m not sure why they’re returning 2010 Buick Regal information instead of 2011 Buick Regals, but apart from that very minor quibble, I really like their advertisement. For the most part, they have done it right.  In their case, a higher click through rate will likely support their business objective – and fewer clicks would be bad.

Google’s Adwords are a very effective way to advertise, and per-click charges make billions of dollars of revenue and profit for Google each quarter. Large companies spend millions of dollars on campaigns annually, and for particular events.  (AT&T spent more than $8m on the iPhone 4 release, and BP spent more than $3.5m for “oil spill” related searches recently.) Those companies, however, are really enormous.

There are cases in which smaller businesses, and entire categories of smaller businesses might not want someone to click their advertising. Think about that. For particular categories, an absolute minimal % click rate might be optimal. For these businesses advertising campaigns, fewer clicks would be wonderful. Why?  Why would you develop a campaign to target less clicks?  That campaign would be done where less clicks is a more effective way to support the business objective.  What would that look like? 

Here’s an example where the fewest clicks possible produces the best results – the most optimal business results.Twin City Towing Tow Truck  Although that is good, not for the obvious reason, it is also bad, and also not for the most obvious reason.

I recently put together a campaign for Twin City Towing.  Their business objective was to increase their volume of towing. To do that, they want Google advertising to increase calls to Twin City Towing for people who want  Towing services and the other services that they offer:   Here are the two advertisements that I put together as part of this campaign.

Twin City Towing, W-S, NC
24/7 flatbed towing – Cars, Trucks
Boats, Etc,Call 336-692-2615
www.twincitytowing.net
$59 Quick Tow, Car Towing
Call
(336) 692-2615 WS – NC
More Towing & Services Available
www.twincitytowing.net 

This campaign was designed to target searches that were done in and around Winston Salem, NC for about a dozen terms like “Auto Towing”  “Local Towing” and “Tow Truck.”  All of this is pretty straightforward. I also targeted the advertisements for good placement.

Here is my most important point: A perfect response to this advertisement would be someone who saw the advertisement and called Twin City Towing to get towing services.(not a person who clicks through to Twin City Towing’s website.)

Because the advertising is charged per click, I want great placement on the advertising, and I also wanted the highest response to the advertisement for people, but I also want the lowest possible click conversion.  Here are possible response rates and their implications: If there is a click through rate of 2%, and 100 advertising impressions shown at a cost of $1.00 per click, my cost to reach 100 potential customers is $2.00. If I have a 20% click rate, my cost of reaching those same 100 potential customers is $20.00.  (or, for the same $20, I can reach 1000 customers.)

Think about this: If a business wants someone to CALL for a tow – why bother getting them to click to a website that tells them what to call? Why not simply include the phone number in the advertisement? Including the phone number in the advertising means that a stranded motorist who does a mobile phone search for tow truck doesn’t need to click through to a website, he needs to call a tow truck. Including the phone number saves the customer a step. It is simply more convenient for someone that needs to get towed, and that should increase business.  This is a case in which a lower click through rate simultaneously gives customers what they want while increasing business more cost-effectively. So what has the response been for this ad campaign?  From August 31 to September 6, 2010, here are the actual raw statistics:

Impressions: 959  –   Clicks: 4  – Click-rate:  0.42%  –  Cost per click: $1.29   –   Total cost $5.15

For most campaigns, that would be an extremely low click-through-rate.  If the campaign continues at this rate, a theoretical advertising budget of $100.00 could last for almost 20 weeks and reach almost 20,000 people.  If the business has added two tows this week, their cost for adding each tow will be approximately $2.57.  That is extremely cost-effective advertising, built on a counterintuitive philosophy of Less Clicks.

So – that seems good, but it is actually both good and bad.  Where is it bad?  Earlier I described search advertising as nebulous. The downside of advertising for a response that does not result in a click is that without other changes, it will be impossible for Twin City Towing to know, based on their call volume, and also impossible based on Google’s advertising campaign statistics if particular towing calls are actually coming from Google Advertising.   If there is an increase of call volume from towing customers, it might be cyclical, it might be due to a decrease in car reliability. It might come from Bing, or Yahoo, or perhaps the yellow pages. Because the response is NOT click-based, the perfect response to their Google advertising produces zero in specific and measurable statistics. 

So is this a good ad strategy?  Would it also work for cab companies? Would it work for other business segments? Are there better ways to quantify how this ad campaign meets the intended business objective?  

What do you think?

September 7, 2010 Posted by | Business, Competitive Advantage, Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, Technology | Leave a comment

Are You Stale?

Are you stale? Is your business stale?

I was in a wonderful quaint gelato shop earlier this evening – Café Gelato. I enjoyed the chocolate and amaretto gelato, and I was amazed to see the clerk there (Sarah) reading a copy of “Always On.” For those who haven’t read it, “Always On” is a slightly dated but very useful book that describes the impact of the internet on marketing and advertising, from a customer perspective.
Always On” talks about looking at the customers viewpoint, listening to the voice of the customer, and it was fairly predictive, even though it is a few years old now. The book does NOT explain how the Old Spice guy could put about a hundred videos on YouTube, and DOUBLE sales of Old Spice products… But the book explained how that could be done, before Old Spice executed it. The book emphasized the importance of customer-focused advertising and marketing. That is absolutely essential.

So back to the question – Are you stale? You may never want to ask the question, “Are you stale?” It sounds like a negative question. Nobody wants their business to be stale, nobody wants to be seen as unchanging, static, or inflexible. Nobody wants to be wearing an five-year-old dusty suit or dress and nobody wants to give the appearance that they are caught in the 20th century. But what about your business? Is it stale?

You might not want to ask that question either – so try asking this: “Are you fresh enough?” Think about what that means. Are you new enough? Are you current? Are you fresh? Are you fluid? Are you flexible? Are you responsive? Most importantly, are you as fresh as you need to be to keep your current customers, and deepen your relationship with them? Are you as fresh as you need to be to get new customers? Ultimately, are you as fresh as your customers want you to be?

If it is important to be fresh, and important to not be stale, how would you measure it?

This is pretty easy. If you have never asked this question before… you are stale. If your website hasn’t changed in 6 months, you are stale. If you haven’t tweeted this month, you’re stale. If you’ve never put a video on YouTube, you are stale. If you are only now realizing that Facebook has gone from 53 million users to 500 million users in the last two years… you are stale.

If you put a new sign up at a brick-and-mortar business every three years, that might be frequent enough to keep it fresh. But the internet is always on. The news cycle is always on. Advertising and Marketing is always on. The great effect that has is that social media, internet and all of its tentacles are a living breathing thing that works for your business 24 hours a day, every day, every week. The not so great effect is that if your business’s online footprint is stale, your octopus might as well be wearing a five year old dress.

Is that an unattractive picture to paint?

Fixing it is up to you. Painting it is up to you. It is up to you to make your online marketing and advertising fresh. Make the decision to ensure that your online presence is always fresh. Keep it fresh. Be fresh. Your customers will know, your revenue, and your success will reflect that.

DO something about your online presence. Do it today.

September 4, 2010 Posted by | Business, Competitive Advantage, Continuous Improvement, Marketing | 1 Comment

Google v Facebook

There is an important equation for the competition between Google and Facebook. 
 
Google and Facebook are both enormous companies, both are Internet companies, and both are at their core, fueled by competitiveness and greed. Sure Google has that “Don’t be evil” philosophy that was their corporate value at one point. I think Google abandoned that when they joined Verizon in the destruction of net neutrality.

But that is not the issue here.

The issue is a string of Tombstones the people erect at Google’s feet, as if Facebook has vanquished it at something.  These are ironic and irrelevant tombstones, and thoroughly inaccurate and deceptive.   Adam Rifkin wrote a good one yesterday on “Why Google has no Game.”  His main point was that Google doesn’t really get social engagement. His underlying idea is that social engagement is a sort of be-all-end-all of internet value.

My initial reaction was that he was wrong. I read comments on his blog like this one: “if Facebook shut down today it would not impact on my life in any tangible way. However, if Google shut down, I’d be in deep trouble!” (attributed to Kullar) 

I agree with that, and would take it a few steps further.

For me – I would miss neither, but by a narrow margin, I would miss Google more, and here’s why. Google does things with the Internet, on the Internet, to the Internet and for the Internet. Facebook wants to be its own “internet.” That strategy didn’t work for AOL. Facebook is inherently more profitable than AOL because Facebook tries to be its own “internet” without the costs that AOL had in creating its own content. But that is a moot comparison because AOL isn’t AOL anymore. A better question to ask is whether Facebook more profitable than Google. Is it? No. absolutely not and it is not even close.

Why is Google more profitable? Facebook screams “We have 500 million users.” but users don’t translate directly to profitability. Google is more profiable because it is just inherently more valuable. Why? Because Google has enormous data on what people DO, around what people WANT, and around what ultimately inspires people to ACT – essentially Google knows who, what, where, when and to some extent, why people want, what they want, what they do about it, and what causes or inspires them to act – across the entire scope of the Internet. (not just Facebook’s 500 million members – but the ENTIRE internet) Facebook only has data around what people SAY on Facebook. I think Google’s data is inherently more valuable, more relevant, and I think it will only sap their energy if they chase Facebook. I don’t see any benefit for them.  Where is the profitability in chasing Facebook? Particularly when Facebook is a mastadon, big, plundering, and at some point, Facebook’s sub-glacial pace and lack of creativity and profitability will doom it to extinction.  Google has all that data, and as the icing on their profitability cake, they really know how to monetize their data.

I think it is all about money. Follow the money, the revenue and profits.  In that regard, Facebook is not really any competition for Google at all.  People have been surprised by estimates that Facebook’s 2010 revenue could be as high as $1.2b. This is so surprising because Facebook’s 2009 revenue was estimated at $800m.  ON that view, Facebook has increased income by 50% year to year. That seems great, but there are two critical issues with those numbers. One is that Facebook’s numbers are unaudited. It is a privately owned company, so there’s really no hard firm way to know if those revenue numbers are accurate.   The second and more important problem with those numbers is that they are only stating REVENUE… not Profits, not Income.

How does that compare to Google?  A quick glance at Google’s AUDITED and reported numbers shows that  Google’s Q2 revenue was 6.8b – their revenue for 2009 was $23.6b
Google’s net income was >$6.5b in 2009.  That is INCOME. Profit. That is actual money that they made.  Here’s another interesting statistic.

Google’s Q1 and Q2 revenue last year was about $5.5b each quarter.
Google’s Q1 and Q2 revenue THIS year was about 6.8b each quarter.

To put this in another perspective -> Google’s QUARTERLY INCREASE in revenue this year over last year is about $1.3b. To emphasize, that is the INCREASE PER QUARTER, and it exceeds Facebook’s annual revenue estimates.

Google is chugging along at a roughly 28% profit rate.  Again, since Facebook is privately owned, nobody really knows if Facebook has ANY profit, or what their profit rate might be.

So – what is the Google vs Facebook equation? $ = G > F.  It is that simple.

August 26, 2010 Posted by | Business, Competitive Advantage, Technology | Leave a comment

7 Skills to Unemployment-Proof

I read an interesting article at Computerworld this morning: “Ready for 2020? Advice for every career stage.” 

It discussed the differences between different ages of technology worker, and the different interests and abilities. I thought the article had an interesting conclusion: that different workers had different challenges to face. It went on and on about how recent graduates don’t have experience and certifications, and how cell phones are more important, etc. That is obvious. Another article I read recently in Think Big Be Big showed that mobile DATA traffic exceeded cell phone PHONE/VOICE transmission traffic every month in 2009.
Data and Voice

It is a wired world and  I recognize the differences in the newest texting generation, but I completely disagree with the conclusion of the article.

Since I started working with technology around 1982, there has been a constant drumbeat of change. Every piece of technology impacts business. Someone needs to communicate it. It changes constantly. The points where technology creates advantages moves instantly and frequently. Those change elements are constant.

The offshoot is that technology professionals have to keep a relevant skillset, develop skills for whatever is coming next, understand when, where, why and how “their” technology provides value, and understand how to communicate all of that.  That means that with a common set of skills, technology professionals can be unemployment proof. These skills are the ones that provide value no matter what the flavor of the month is.

Here are 7 skills that will help unemployment-proof a technology professional:
1) A love of learning and willingness to learn.
2) An understanding of the impact that technology and business have on each other.
3) A willing acceptance of change in all its forms.
4) An ability to communicate and translate business and technology.
5) A professional willingness to do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done.
6) An ability to demonstrate and showcase your skills.
7) An ability to learn from mistakes and use that learning to prevent new ones.

If you have these, your personal professional competitive advantage will ensure you are constantly employable and constantly employed.  I’m not saying that a short sighted company won’t downsize you. I’m just making the point that with this skillset, you will have other companies ready and eager to onboard you if that happens. You will provide value across the technology and business spectrum. That’s a formula for unemployment proofing.

Can you think of other things? Do you disagree?  Let me know

August 23, 2010 Posted by | Business, Competitive Advantage, People, Technology | Leave a comment

FOUR FACTS YOU MUST KNOW (to make your business fail)

I’m a fan of Bob Parson’s charisma and his videos. I think they explain powerful, simple, intelligent ways to improve business, to succeed, and I like it that he gives advice to anyone who wants it, whenever and wherever they are willing to listen.  He is also a former Marine, an 0311, I suspect – and I respect his service. 

You may not know Bob Parsons, but you know his company. Bob runs GoDaddy.com.  You’ve probably heard of them, seen their Superbowl advertisements, and their spokespeople.  You might not know that he was also behind Parsons Technology – Bought by Intuit for $64 million in 1994.
In short, he is a proven entrepreneur.

In his video blog Episode #36, “FOUR FACTS YOU MUST KNOW (if you’re going to sell anything)” he lays out 4 secrets for creating the sorts of enormous successes he is used to building.  He lays out these success secrets, but he could also explain the dark side of his secrets. they are …

FOUR FACTS YOU MUST KNOW (to make your business fail)  His secrets lead directly to 4 things NOT to do. 

His FOUR FACTS, paraphrased, are: 

1) A business cannot succeed by being exactly like its competitors.

2)People resist changing buying patterns.

3) To succeed, Give customers compelling reasons to change their buying habits.

4)Being better is not enough, you must let your customers know that you are better.

So – these are each great ideas.  I do not disagree with any of them. I think it is important to also highlight the dark side.

1a) If you are exactly like your competition, and nothing good separates you from your competition, why should anyone use your products or services?

2a) Help your customers make you their habit.

3a)DO NOT give them compelling reasons to change their buying habits once they are a loyal customer. Do not give them compelling reasons to pick someone else if they are a prospective customer.

4a) If you don’t tell your prospective and current customers why you are better, they will never know, and they will not become or stay customers of YOURS.

What do you think? Are there other business maxims that mean more when you consider their polar opposites? Why? How can you use them to help you with YOUR success?

August 16, 2010 Posted by | Business, Competitive Advantage, Continuous Improvement | Leave a comment

4 Solutions

If you are working for someone else, anyone other than yourself, your job is temporary. It may last 30 years, but it is temporary because you are working for someone else. You may lose your job.  You would need a crystal ball to know when your job.

Given this challenging economy, and the fear that comes from having a temp job in a difficult time, you may ask yourself, what can you do?  This is a complex question because it is really several questions:

  • What can you do to keep your current job?
  • What can you do to get your next job?
  • What can you do to get a new job at your current employer?
  • What can you do to have the most job security?

I don’t like asking 4 questions without answers, so here are some answers to these questions. Here are my 4 brief solutions:

What can you do to keep your current job? You can be so valuable that you your employer cannot do without you. You can become the best known, the best educated, the best qualified for your job, and as long as you are not the CEO of your company, you can become trained, certified, educated and experienced at doing your boss’ job, your co-workers’ jobs. But there is more to it than that. You need to help your managers and executives KNOW that you are the most well qualified, the smartest, the most creative, in short, you need to make sure that the people responsible for hiring and firing YOU, know that you are the very best at everything that you are the best at. 

What can you do to get your next job? First, figure out what and where your next job will be.  Figure out what you want to do, and who you want to work for. Find out what that person or company needs, and figure out what YOU can do to contribute to their success. When you are looking for a job, it is NOT about you, it is about what you can do for someone else. Know what that company needs and be the person who can do what is needed.

Hired!

What can you do to get a new job at your current employer?  Here is an important thing to remember. The company that you already work for is likely to be the best place to find a new job. There are two great reasons for this. The first is that they know you. They know your performance. They know your skills, your abilities. They don’t have to figure out anything about hiring a new employee, adding a new person to their payroll, onboarding a new person.  The second reason is that for you to get a job at a new employer, your package of knowledge, skills and abilities have to be so overwhelmingly positive that you are worth the risk.  Look where you are at, talk to people. Find your opportunity!

Which brings us to my 4th solution. 

What can you do to have the most job security?  The answer to this question is simple. Work for the one person in the world who would NEVER fire you. WORK for YOURSELF. Find a passion, develop your abilities, learn something unique and valuable, start your own company. Provide something new, something great, something unique, something creative. Figure out what gives you your own unique and personal professional competitive advantage, and figure out a way to profit from it. Charge what you are happy receiving, work at what you are proud of and carve your own niche, whether it is microscopic, or enormous.

If you know what you CAN do – your next question is, what SHOULD you do?  That is an answer for another day.

July 29, 2010 Posted by | Business, Competitive Advantage, Life, Marketing, People | Comments Off on 4 Solutions