Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Will the "I" in BRIC become Indonesia? CNN Says So.


What Indian Management Needs to Understand About the Global Economy

I watch CNN a lot. Recently on "Quest Means Business", Quest asked an Indian business analyst, "Aren't you concerned about India's failure to deliver?" Fareed Zakari of "GPS" on CNN recently did a spot on the potential of Indonesia and forecasted that with India's slowing growth, and Indonesia's rise, that BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India & China) may soon replace the "I" in BRIC with Indonesia.

There are substantial flaws in India's ability to evolve, from its lack of quality education for the majority of its citizens, its substantial failing at providing infrastructure (roads, water, electricity, housing, etc.), and by far the worst, the deep, long term and entrenched corruption at local, state and national levels. Manufacturing and (some) innovation have been making substantial change, but I keep hearing, "Where is India's Google, Facebook, or Groupon?" What's built here, while some are wildly successful, are copycats, not gamechangers.

Indians like to point at the Tata Nano as a gamechanger and I scoff at that, especially for India. While the idea at heart makes sense, there problems that make it not a game changer:
1. It is a cheap car for the masses in a country of 1 billion that doesn't have roads to handle the current traffic.
2. It uses fossil fuels. If this car was green -- electric, or built on a Stirling engine using hydrogen, thereby reducing CO2 in a country rapidly succumbing to the worst pollution levels in the world, it could have been a gamechanger.
3. It's not as cheap as it was supposed to be. The design itself has issues (try fixing a stall on the road - you have to take the back seat out to access key components) so it won't work in Western countries (and I'm not sure it has the emissions technology built in to allow it to be sold in the EU or California).
4. An industry insider said that 25% of the components that make up the Nano are manufactured in China.
5. It was a marketing disaster.

Another weakness than many Indian companies have selling overseas is that many don't respect that the customer is king and you need to respond to them as such. One Indian CEO said to me. "Why should I bother with customer service when there are a billion of us here?" Ethics are expected in global business. Excellent customer service is expected. Product quality is demanded, on time at the price quoted. This issue becomes more dominant when working with Western buyers because we don't negotiate off proposal prices. What you've presented, we usually believe to be the final price. We respect that and pay it. Our Indian vendors consider us fools for doing so, thus their existing high profits. This is changing as salaries continue to rise and Western companies go elsewhere.

So where should Indian companies go? Start domestically. Every MNC is salivating on India's fast rising domestic market and there's a lot of money up for grabs. Foreign products go for high prices due to draconian tariffs, but people are willing to pay for them because they expect a quality product and customer service, things they're not sure they'll get with a domestic product. The Chinese have been successful here by producing low quality goods at a price that's more affordable, providing long term pricing contacts that allow for minimized risk, even though there are conflicts on their shared border. India is trying to keep the "Giant from the North" from flooding their market with cheap goods, but they're coming in anyway, cutting into the domestic market that India's companies should already be serving.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/rob-magazine/huawei-will-china-conquer-the-world/article2243928/

Another issue is culture. Middle managers build fiefdoms for themselves and seek short term solutions, instead of convincing their seniors on long term strategies that will sustain them over the next decade instead of the next year. Incentives based on performance need to be standard practice. Communications from the CEO all the way down to the tea boy needs to be clear, measurable and effective. People need to know what you want, when you want it, and engage across the company, You're a team, people, not silos of information and skills sets to set upon each other in a drag-out fight for supremacy.

Invest in serious innovation, not copying other companies. Sure, you might be able to copy a widget, even make it better at a lower price, but that's not really innovation. Make a widget that the consumer doesn't know he wants yet. Find ways to see a problem and come up with a different, more elegant solution. Figure out how to change the world. That's innovation, and if Indian companies really do start investing in real innovation, no one would question the "I" in BRIC. Watch out.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Localization: More Challenging Than CEOs Think

One of the mistakes many companies make during expansion is putting up foreign language web sites and thinking this is the end of their localization initiatives.

Imagine walking down the street in New York and a guy in a hot dog costume hands you a flyer in Hindi with a call to action. When you pick up the phone and call, what language do you expect the call to be answered in? Hindi, right?

Once you start down this road, by putting up your first Spanish web site, you have set expectations to your visitor that you will support their language across all their touchpoints:
  • Sales Literature
  • Tech Support
  • Customer SUpport
  • Invoices and Billing Information
  • Sales Proposals
  • Contracts
  • Technical Documentation
  • Installation + Maintenance Manuals
  • Social Media
  • Blog
  • Advertising
  • Everything
Develop a cross functional team and list every deliverable to be produced, staff to recruit, procedures and approval processes. Finalize your budget and determine what it will take to establish return on investment (feasability). Implement one language at a time, doing milestone reviews and documenting any improvements that could be made to streamline processes, decrease costs, improve quality.

Also bear in mind that local languages come in all different flavors. Portuguese in Portugal is very different from Portuguese spoken in Brazil. For some languages, like Spanish, classical versions will enable you to serve more customers across the Spanish-speaking world. Prioritize your language set by markets and potential reach.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

How to Maximize Your Social Media Strategy

Social media can be a very powerful driver of traffic to your web site. It can also be a major investment that doesn't justify the salaries of the staff involved. How do you maximize the effectiveness of your program and convert fans into leads that convert to additional sales?


NOTE: A technical issue - social media sites are not built as a vehicle for marketing. Making fake profiles for marketing purposes is against most Terms of Service. One of the ways that they catch “social spammers” is by capturing their IP address. Most company networks typically use a single IP for the entire system. If 20 people using the same IP address suddenly become active, their software will suspend or delete these users. A few suggestions to counter this issue is to utilize a number of different IPs, usually through a proxy, or to connect from mobile phones, or from different locations.

Facebook


WHAT: Facebook is the single largest social media site in the world and has the highest potential for growth. Search for SEO keywords, and identify similar pages and special interest groups. These groups can be utilized to link back to your domains. Even if you have an established Facebook Fan Page, all "public writers", i.e., any personalities that you use online, such as spokespersons, story-line characters, etc., should have professional profiles and Fan Pages as well. All staff should be fans and actively participate on your company's fan pages. Writers should post links to their latest stories.

WHO: 110,278,000 registered users visited Facebook this year, a 278% increase over last year. Facebook has earned more than a 45% market share, with 52 Billion page views/month. The average time on site is over 20 minutes. In 2007, Facebook eliminated its reporting of political views, but information from then indicates that 2.8 million identified as liberal, 1.9 million as moderate and 2.2 million as conservative.

DO:


Corporate:

  • Enhance your Company Fan Page.
  • Develop giveaways that can be downloaded for user pages, such as widgets, badges, etc.
  • Develop an API construct such as a poll, game, etc. that links back to your web site (preferably to a targeted landing page that amplifies the interaction while pointing to other parts of your site for demos, downloads, product information and sales.

Individuals Profiles:

  • Friend people of similar interests by joining groups, searching for interests, etc.
  • Check in on Birthdays on the homepage (extremely high CTR).
  • Respond to any comments on your wall.
  • Post at least one status message daily.
  • Share at least 3 interesting updates you find.
  • Comment on at least 7 updates or status messages.
  • Leave a message on 2 fan pages.
  • Leave a message on the walls of 2 people.
  • Respond to any event invitations by leaving a message.
  • Recommend at least one person to your contacts.
  • Add at least one update to your Group / Fan Page / Business page.


LinkedIn

WHAT: LinkedIn is the top most visited professional social network site in the world. It is the best platform to raise questions on your industry, recruit staff, talk about industry issues, etc.

WHO: LinkedIn receives over 14 million visitors a month on average with 42.9% from US alone. Visitors has been increasing at the rate of 3.75% on a monthly basis between April 2009 and April 2010. Their audience is between 25 to 54 years old, with 35-44 as the largest group on LinkedIn. Over 9 million of its members have a college degree and over 4 million have a post graduate degree or above. An average user views 8.45 pages on LinkedIn and spends over 6 minutes on-site.

DO:

LinkedIn Company Profile for Your Company
In order to have a brand presence on LinkedIn, you must have a company profile. To start one now, visit: http://www.linkedin.com/companies?didentcompy=. It gives your company a face and the visitor an overview of what you’re all about without having to visit your website. This will give your online presence a boost as well as bring in curious visitors.

Network with Thought Leaders and Potential Strategic Partners
LinkedIn groups are one of the best places to network with thought leaders in your industry and listen to what others are thinking and saying about in your industry. You’re allowed to join 50 groups on LinkedIn but don’t join all the groups in your industry. Find similar people in groups that are peripherally connected to what you do.

  • Do market research and get feedback
  • Depending on how active the people are in each group, the individuals should be sent links to blogs and articles on your web site.
  • Asking questions in the LinkedIn Q&A Section can generate content as well as a community discussion. They can be asked what their take is on a particular subject with a link back to the original article or post.
  • LinkedIn Polls will allow you to get sample data from your professional network as well as publicity on various issues related to your company and industry.
Become a LinkedIn expert
Once you volunteer to answer questions in the Q&A section of LinkedIn, you’ll have a chance to become an “expert”. You can monitor questions by subscribing to related topics via RSS feeds. Depending on how often you answer and how you answer questions, it may take a while before someone marks you as an “Expert”. It’s worth your time if you can answer things the right way, and really think about the answers. If you’re an expert in your area already, you won’t have to think about it much. Besides, you’ll be getting good LinkedIn karma by helping someone out, and others will contact you if your answer is interesting enough.

Nurturing and Generating Leads
The contacts you gain through LinkedIn will give you email addresses as well. They can be sent an canned welcome email on whether they’d like to subscribe to company newsletters or alerts. Personalizing the email will be seen as a personal invitation to subscribe and not as spam.

Host a Group on LinkedIn
Make a group for dialog between people who are concerned about issues and concepts related to your company and industry. Invite those individuals who are already in other related groups. Most groups have few members because there is no dialog or activity within the group. The right audience will be already there since they’ve joined other similar groups. Being a part of a larger group with a personal invite also means that they can engage in conversations that they’re have an interest in already.

  • All authors, staff, and board/advisory members of your company should have a profile on LinkedIn. They should accept any invitations that make sense to accept.
  • Enter any recent business cards to invite them to LinkedIn or connect with them and point them towards your group. 
  • The dialogs from a conference can start and continue online through group discussions. The group should also link back to videos of panels.
  • Recommending colleagues and partners is a must. Provide 1 recommendation every few days and be honest.
  • Update your status at least once a day or tie in your status with Twitter.
  • Make at least one introduction/recommendation to those with similar interests.
  • Industry keywords should be highlighted as one of their interests on LinkedIn. The Linkedin group should also be prominently displayed in their profiles.


Twitter

WHAT: Top micro-social blogging site in the world.

WHO: Twitter had over 21 million registered users in the last year, spending an
average of seven minutes per session, with 6.57 page views each.

Goals in Using Twitter

  • Generate Traffic
  • Engage with users, readers, fan base, and even the critics -- controversial topics will spark more discussion.
  • Reach a wider audience who might be following influential twitter people.
DO:

  • Search for SEO keywords and respond to those tweets as appropriate.
  • Have a Google Alerts set up for related keywords for news and articles.
  • Retweet 7 things and reply to at least 5 people, with FULL replies.
  • Recommend 1 person you admire (#followfriday).
  • Follow back at least 10 people.
  • 10 minutes of polite 2 way chit chat goes far.
  • Tweet 3 business related Tweets.
  • Tweet 2 personal related Tweets.
  • Ask at least one question that requires answers.


Del.icio.us

WHAT: Community saves and shares web bookmarks.

WHO: 2 million registered users; 2 million visitors / mo. Somewhat young,
technical and web centric, but growing in reach, Del.icio.us has a broad audience,
but skews toward people interested in media and blogs. Visitors tend to average 3
minutes per visit with an average of 3.36 page views per visit.

Digg


WHAT: Community submits and votes on news stories.

WHO: 18 million visitors/ month; 4 million registered users, 94% young males (88% are 18-39 ) working in technology. 64% have an income of less than $75,000/year. 39% blog.

DO:

  • Post articles as soon as they are live on the site in the correct category.
  • Broadcast post and encourage digging them up.
  • If it’s already been posted, vote it up.


StumbleUpon

WHAT: Community submits and votes on web pages, then people visit pages based on the number of votes.

WHO: 4 million registered users; 1 million visitors per month, (people use the service without visiting website) averaging 4:40 minutes per session, with 6.5 page views per visit.

Blogs

DO:

  • Reply to at least 5 comments on your blogs.
  • Comment on a couple of your commenters’ blogs.
  • Stumble or socially bookmark your commenters’ blogs.
  • Write the occasional blog post promoting another blog.
  • Email a synopsis of recent posts at least once a month.
  • Find 2 new blogs to comment on each day.


Forums


DO:

  • Reply to at least 2 threads every day.
  • Post one new thread.
  • Make a point of thanking people who reply to you.
  • Accept any connections that make sense.
  • Recommend a member’s blog or website and say why.


Niche Groups

NING, Buddypress, Kickapps and Posterous are DIY social network builders. Any person can setup their own network online devoted to a topic of interest. Your company can build its own network and tie in to other existing groups to drive like minded individuals back to your web site. Ensure your site has targeted landing pages to address each online group's individual needs and their content interests.

Tie in to other social media more powerfully - use the interaction from other sites as adjunct content - let your readers also be active writers - enable them to upload content to the site. Make your use of SHARE buttons for social media much more prevalent. This makes them more loyal to you as well, and ask them to recommend you to their friends - this has the highest clickthrough rate potential you can get.



Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Content is King

Most SEO companies demand content, and lots of it, in order to generate the high search rankings that are their ultimate goal. You can buy content, hire freelancers, or hire full time staff, but are your long term goals being met by all this content being spread across the "interwebs"? What exactly are you accomplishing?

In the short term, this plan can be effective, but in the long term, you may end up driving untargeted traffic that only wastes bandwidth. For example, one company I worked for targeted the keywords, "signal enhancement" and a majority of the content generated focused on these keywords. Because "enhancement" can be paired with other words, most notably "pen*s", we drove a lot of traffic from the search engines for "pen*s enhancement".

Watch for any keywords that may be paired with porn or gambling casinos, as they can unfairly keep you from generating the rankings you desire. Most blackhat SEO companies utilize similar word pairings to drive traffic to their sites from unsuspecting surfers.

To battle this, a company should put in place a content strategy plan, along with an editorial calendar, that focuses on your entire set of keywords, from top ten to long tail, to ensure that your content is written FOR the user, not the search engines. It should meet BOTH criteria - keyword frequency and information for the reader that is engaging, informative and serves their needs.

Ultimately, it's your visitors that are important. You need them to pick up the phone or place an order online in order to drive revenue. Keep this in mind as you build your content  and your content will drive the right traffic to your site, keep them engaged, and act.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Do You Have A Case of the Mondays? (NSFW)

I love istock. Yu Yu and I were looking for royalty-free images for a logo she needs to develop and we stumbled upon CSA Images. As we were reviewing these, we decided to come up with some captions for a few.

NOTE: We're using low-res comps because this is just for fun. We highly encourage you to visit istockphoto.com, which has a wealth of amazing images, illustrations, video available for download at very reasonable prices.

"And this is how we plan to screw over the employees."

"Why yes, I DO lead the Marketing Department. How did you know?"

 "Why yes, I did overdo the Xanax today... why is the wall paper moving?"
"Hey! You're zipper's open."

Man: "Honey, I have to confess. I'm a teabagger."
Woman: "Oh, honey, I love the Tea Party, too!"


"I hope he doesn't discover my balls are tucked in."

"Oh no, I think they know I peed in the office coffee this morning..."

Enjoy.




Thursday, March 1, 2012

Improving Market Share Through the Development of an Interactive Online Presence (Part 2)


PHASE TWO:


Internet Marketing:
Consists of traditional search engine marketing, traffic analysis, link exchanges with high ranking related web sites, posting and linking back from related web sites, online advertising, etc.

Blog Marketing:
The purpose of the blog is to update visitors to the site on a regular basis. The blog should encompass more than company-centric content and more on your industry as a whole, broadening your SEO capabilities, enabling RSS registration, and providing a web destination that is empirically recognized as the place to go for information on industry-related topics, segmented by your company’s main product offerings.  Short articles of interest to visitors, links to other sites of interest, comments and responses to industry announcements, etc. should be scheduled on a at least a weekly basis for B2B marketing, with a higher frequency for consumer marketing.

Explore rich media such as webinars, video demos, films, interviews of your staff - humanizing your company, providing faces to go with names, goes far when engaging your customers and prospects.

Let's talk a second about content. It can be re-used, but it has to be done smartly. What I've done in the past is have different copywriters re-write the same content for different purposes. A blog post can be extended to become an article for distribution. An article can be augmented to become a white paper. Short paragraphs from any of these items can be linked to the rest of the content on most social media and blogs. Think about how you can reuse what you already have.

Email Marketing Implementation Strategy:
Persuasively written personalized email campaigns are far more effective than traditional direct mail campaigns. Opt-in email newsletters are an inexpensive yet highly profitable way to contact customers and prospects on a regular basis to announce company news, product launches, staff introductions, industry-related news, job openings and more, without the high cost of printing, postage and labor to process a printed newsletter version. This process describes a one-to-many distribution method. Before the internet, it was always a many-to-many distribution which resulted in people having different versions of their latest contact with you. Now, you have control of who sees what when. You can even have a membership-driven pre-announcement version for those who pay for the privilege.

Marketing can send email messages in any format including text, html, embedded graphics and attachments. Monitor and analyze your email campaigns with reports to learn who reads the emails and who clicks through to your web site.

Email Alerts and List:
Using an email marketing tool such as Relevant Tools, you can send email alerts to all the registered users informing them whenever a bulletin or announcement is uploaded to the site. This can also be used for regularly scheduled email newsletters directed to different target audiences, such as prospects, press/media, Spanish speakers, etc. This will cut down on costs and help in the timely broadcasts of information to those who request it. The list should be updated automatically as soon as a visitor enrolls to receive the email.

SOCIAL MEDIA ENGAGEMENT:

Three Types of Social Media
1. Publish
2. Share
3. Network

Social Media: The Publish Construct 
Everyone can publish anything for everyone
Publish everything we have anywhere we can
Monitor what others publish, promote it
Empower your customers to publish
Monitor What’s Published
Promote Flattering Content
Empower Customers to Publish 
Social Media: The Share Construct 
Anyone can promote anything to everyone
Monitor what’s being shared about us
Find where our audience hangs out
Promote our content and other content
Produce content our audience will love and want to share 
Social Media: The Networking Construct 
Anyone can connect with everyone from anywhere
Make friends
Find your existing connections
Network through groups
Add to your email signature, blog articles, bio or profile…
Be helpful
Answer questions
Share interesting content
Make connections

Activities:
Join Social Networks
Develop consistent, in-depth profiles
Meet people and start conversations
Answer questions – help others
Ask questions – trust others’ advice

Become a Real Member of the Community:
Add value to the community
Ask and answer questions
More effective than live cocktail parties
No boundaries of time or space
Other people can listen in easily

Measuring Results
Blog Subscribers & Visitors
Del.icio.us Bookmarks
Inbound Links
Facebook Fans & Activity
Retweets

Other Metrics to Pay Attention To:
Video views on YouTube
Friends on Facebook or LinkedIn
Votes for blog articles
Posts in forums
Questions answered on Yahoo Answers

Online Advertising Campaigns Deployment Strategy:
Plan and implement an online marketing strategy to generate targeted traffic to the web sites. There are many aspects to online advertising from simple banner ads, Google Adwords, to rich media placements. Identifying the correct sites to advertise on is key.

Evaluate not only the unique visitor numbers (to maximize exposure to your market), but location, if you are focused on a particular market. Review "real estate" - when negotiating with a site, check what ads sizes and locations are available and whether sub-pages would be preferable. Ad management and rates are all over the place. Test lots of ad sites AND A/B test ads to see what drives traffic. Is it an offer for a free white paper? Is it a free 90 day trial of your online service? Testing different approaches is crucial to find out what are the emotional touchpoints that will drive click-throughs to your web site.

Online Advertising Campaigns consists of the following fundamentals:
Online Advertising Campaign Management
Advertising Creative Concept Development
Media Buying / Placement Services
Adwords/Adsense
Pay per Click (PPC)
Cost per Action (CPA)
Banner Advertising
Web Site Sponsorships

Link Building Implementation Strategy
Generating quality back-links from websites, blogs and other online destinations to drive traffic to the website and increase Google PageRank. The trick to making this a long term, qualified traffic growth strategy is to links between high quality, relevant sites between your web site and other industry related sites, authorities, etc. Usually calling this page "Resources", and be genuine that these links ARE actually resources, can drive cross traffic between your sites for mutual benefit.

Example Link Exchange Acceptable Link Guidelines*:

Page on which link exists must be cached by Google.
Page on which link exists features 150 outbound links or less.
Page (or Home Page) on which link exists has a PR3 or above.
Site in which link is placed features no more than 25,000 links.
Site in which link is placed is not blacklisted or identified as a SPAM site.
Links must last a minimum of 90 days. Obviously, you are looking for maximum life span.
Links should be on domains that are registered in the locations of interest (India for domestic marketing, international sites as targeted by your marketing plan.).
Link page should not have junk links or unrelated links.
Site in which link is placed should be theme-based and not a directory.
Linking sites should have different class C IP addresses.
Linking domain should not be redirected to another address.
Page where our link is located should not redirect to a different domain.
There must be a direct link to our site in spite of having certain redirects.

* These are the minimum criteria. The criteria may be changed as needed.

These two blog posts detail the very basics of internet marketing. If you have specific comments about your particular industry or have specific challenges you'd like me to respond to, please let me know by sharing a comment below.


Why HR Needs to Understand Founder Exit Strategy

Exactly what is “Founder Exit Strategy”? Long ago, I discovered that being successful meant always planning all activities with a focus on what the entrepreneur plans to do with the business in the end. Does he want to take it public? Is she planning on a short exit through selling the organization? Do they plan to bequeath the business to their heirs? This is what I call founder exit strategy.

Each department should be responsible for their part of meeting that goal. HR should work closely with Marketing to share resources, cross-team, to strategize on what activities can be done to acheive the exit strategy. Let’s say the plan is to go IPO. Are there external funders or other stakeholders that need to be advised? Will the company need them to achieve their goal? If so, what VCs or other funding resourcers do we want to attract? What messaging will attract these VCs? What sort of personnel will be required and how do we want to attract them?

Brainstorm ideas, prioritize those to focus on the short-term, new initiatives to test as resources become available, and develop a complete plan that addresses the needs of all stakeholders. You may also want to transform the work environment to facilitate the implementation of the plan. Team growth or decrease may require changes to the floorplan configuration for more conference and meeting spaces, or an expanded space for R&D, training venues, modernization, for examples. Marketing can work to ensure that the space conveys the same attributes which align with branding and messaging. For example, you can’t have an internet company in an office that looks like a bank. Dress codes are different as well. The HR policy makers may be persuaded to add word-of-mouth benefits, like being a pet-friendly office, or “ties not allowed” – something interesting that becomes a potential conversation starter or a mnemonic.

What other ways do you see synergy between marketing and HR? Leave them in the comments below. Cheers.