Professional Development

5 Ways To Make Or Break Your Team – Tips from PM Network Magazine

Soft skills and general management knowledge come very handy whether you are a marketer or product manager or some other professional. To be successful, it pays off to refresh your insights and ponder on how you can use them today in your current project. 

Thinking of this topic made me look through a current version of PM Network Magazine, I receive monthly, and surely I ran into a very concise but valuable article by Chauncey Hollingsworth on “5 Ways to Make or Break Your Team”.  I felt compelled to share the tips with you and add my experiences on top. So what are those 5 situations you can “zoom into” today and make a choice where to lead them? And the “winners” are:

Issue 1: Out-of-control meetings

How many times have you experienced days full of meetings which painfully kept all other work getting piled on, becoming a huge mountain of “to dos” that you are still responsible for? How many times have you experienced an hour meeting becoming a two-hour? If you are the one scheduling those numerous meetings or dragging them on and on (though rightfully so to clarify the issue), time to stop and think how to start controlling the meetings avalanche before it starts controlling you!

What to do?

The article suggests to  “give people what they want – nothing more, nothing less…stick to the point.” How often we forget that! My tip to remind yourself of this rule – think how much money you will earn doing something else these 30 mins times seven days a week? Now works? Adding monetary value always works for me. Another way to prevent this, that I use daily – ask yourself if the information you need from those people can be received in a more time-saving manner and preferably documented to save you even more time in the future.

Issue 2: Seemingly random changes in project direction

What a common scenario? Have you only managed to get into “production groove” with a well-earned sigh of relief from overcoming the review stage (always reminds me a musical chairs game), when the out-of-the blue change request comes in from a client?  And now your perfectly orchestrated order falls into a chaos again!

What to do?

The article encourages “keeping the lines of communication open” and providing reasons why the change is necessary to all team members to alleviate resentment and irritation. I would also add that before the change is executed, it is advisable to evaluate its effect.

Issue 3: Overly demanding stakeholders

I loved how the author brought the example to life ” The team met the deadline and feeling pretty good about their accomplishment. Then, the client comes in with a 12-point list of revisions. And they are going to need those by tomorrow – end of day is fine.”  I confess, I experienced it on both sides!

What to do?

Sitting down with a team and assessing what realistically can be done is one way as recommended. Communicating the change request effect to the client in relation to scope, time and budget and clarifying what he/she wants to accomplish as a whole is also advised.  From my view and experience, if you are the one giving a laundry list – make it easy for the vendor to implement – help them understand the changes, provide only approved changes and brief on the selected list in a separate discussion with reasons why those are critical. Imagining yourself in their shoes also helps! What would you wish to hear or to see from your client if you were in this situation?

Issue 4: Energy-zapping unexpected delays

How easy do you lose your cool when something is to happen – does not happen? I mean – the deliverable? A glitch in planning or a real problem that is being hidden for a moment? What if, you are waiting that deliverable to start on your part, because without it, it is not possible or your progress is in jeopardy? The team member that once inspired you, the same one that is to deliver, becomes an energy sapping issue? Trust and respect get broken so easily if timely communication does not happen. What if you are the one – “flanking” on the deadline?

What to do?

Communication, communication, communication! Oh how deeply I agree with that advice! Tell the truth and save the energy. Admit the mistake and rectify it right there and then and tell about it to your partner/team – he/she will surely be standing behind you 100 percent if you sync up with them. When I see a risk that is inevitable, I do my best to sit down, write it up clearly and read its description out loud and deliver it with a proposal on how to fix it. That instantly turns a problem into a potential bonding experience for your team, as they will see you in action, as opposing to in panic.

Issue 5: Team squabbles gone awry

And the finalist described becomes the favorite – “getting personal” stuff! If someone tells me that there are no conflicts in the team, chances are – they exist, they burst, but are not explicitly admitted. Every team experiences a conflict – which is a normal state of a working social group. The trick is in how they deal with the conflict that makes it or breaks it. Almost like a statement from Dr. Phil on marriages & relationships!

What to do?

Saving time is the ultimate incentive and as the article recommends, ” the project manager must be willing to get the two members together to iron the differences between each other firstly on their own, then if fails, together with an option of exit.  When things get personal, there is no other way but elimination of one to save the bunch.  How to do that? Who is the one with the most value to the project?  Who is the one most committed to its success? Answer those questions and decide, provided you have the authority to do that.

This is all you need to know today! Now go and act on the insights!

Brilliant Marketing Gets Born When You “Become a Unicorn In a Balloon Factory”

How was your week? Really? Did you happen to create what you planned? Did you manage to create the reality you want? Or was it “just fine”? Or did you happen to hold tight to the status quo you worked for years and the work that you have done? Do you spend more time defending your projects versus creating them? If so, think again.

Creativity is an ultimate aphrodisiac of life. It is an ultimate catalyst for success in what you do. You know it. You experienced it before. Remember the time when you took over that pet project of yours that you grew faith for? Remember how fun it was to spend hours to make it happen? Remember the tribe of followers you created once the project got materialized more and more into something beautiful? You felt like an artist and you loved every minute of it?

Oddly enough, this very “seem-to-be-general” idea of finding happiness in what you do is also explored by Seth Godin in his new book “Tribes“. What I did not expect to see in the new book of a marketing genius of our times – such a simple, but yet, very prominent thought – “Create your own reality, take initiative and make things happen the way you see them, and success will follow”.

I grabbed the book with an expectation to brush up on the next “hot” marketing techniques and to my utter surprise, I find the similar idea that has been feeding my curiosity over the possibilities of life over the past few months. Seth points out that brilliant marketing happens when you lead, not just manage. I loved that!

In other words, if you ever felt like “a unicorn in a balloon factory“, or you feel like one today – in your organization – you might have opportunities for something spectacular to produce! Go and dare to make it happen! Do not ask for permission, take charge and show us what you can! We are all looking forward to your new masterpiece!

What Do Product Marketers Do?


The definition for Product Marketing seems to be quite different, when one tries to draw the scope of roles and responsibilities. In some companies, it a very strategic multi-dimensional position, in some it is shared by a number of people.  There are functional overlaps with Product Management, there are functional overlaps with Market Research. So pondering on the scope of work or some sort of viable range of activities, I plunged on the journey to define the role myself. Why is that relevant on this blog? Because knowing the difference can actually redeem the value to the type of work Product Marketers do and  clarify the myths and misconceptions.

To start, I turned to wikipedia’s definition: “Product marketing frequently differs from product management in high-tech companies. Whereas the product manager is required to take a product’s requirements from the sales and marketing personnel and create a product requirements document (PRD),[2] which will be used by the engineering team to build the product, the product marketing manager can be engaged in the task of creating a marketing requirements document (MRD), which is used as source for the product management to develop the PRD. In other companies the product manager creates both the MRDs and the PRDs, while the product marketing manager does outbound tasks like giving product demonstrations in trade shows, creating marketing collateral like hot-sheets, beat-sheets, cheat sheets, data sheets, and white papers. This requires the product marketing manager to be skilled not only in competitor analysis, market research, and technical writing, but also in more business oriented activities like conducting ROI and NPV analyses on technology investments, strategizing how the decision criteria of the prospects or customers can be changed so that they buy the company’s product vis-a-vis the competitor’s product, etc..

In smaller high-tech firms or start-ups, product marketing and product management functions can be blurred, and both tasks may be borne by one individual. However, as the company grows someone needs to focus on creating good requirements documents for the engineering team, whereas someone else needs to focus on how to analyze the market, influence the “analysts”, press, etc. When such clear demarcation becomes visible, the former falls under the domain of product management, and the latter, under product marketing.

In other words, Product Marketer is a hybrid between Product Management and Marketing Communications? It also appears, that Product Marketers will pick up from the first “P” in charge (Product Manager) the developed product and translate its functionality and usage patterns for the communications specialists. They will also match back the functionality against the competitive products and validate the value with the customers that they chose and identified. In short, Product Marketers will take the product message and bring it to channels by working with communications and sales. Still blurry if described in words.

To my luck, I stumbled upon a new post on Steve Johnson’s blog, where he shared a new ebook that clearly defines functional lines between Product Management and Product Marketing.  But what I liked the most is the functional org chart he shared in the ebook where the roles not only well-defined, but also shown as a team with dependencies based on qualifications and expertise.  As an example, according to this ebook: “The Product Marketing Manager – (PMM) provides product line support for program strategy, sales readiness and channel support. This position requires close interaction with Marketing Communications and Sales Management.  Strong communication skills are a must.  Duties include converting positioning into key market messages and launching the products into market. The PMM owns:
- Defining buyer personas and determining market messages
– Maintaining product launch plans
– Identifying best opportunities in lead generation
– Creating standard presentations and demo scripts
– Writing white papers and technical communications
– Facilitating direct sales and channel training
– Supporting trade shows and other company-sponsored events
– Limited online channel support and phone assistance
 

The author also brings into the picture Technology Product Manager as another functional hybrid. 

 In conclusion, both sources (wikipedia and Pragmatic Marketing ebook) and even Geoff Moore referenced in the latter agree on the external focus of Product Marketer, who “usually talks to the market”, while Product Manager “listens to the market”.  The role is well-defined!  

 

Presentation Matters! The Top Information Design Principles That You Need To Know

Communication is a vital skill that we developed and enhanced beyond the level that our counterparts in the animal world can currently rely on. However, we are still evolving and the amount of information we share rises every day. We are being trained or forced to perceive lots of complex information that we are to digest and to move on to the next batch.  So, it is almost critical to learn how to present yourself well, how to communicate your message effectively and how to make your information-based products  the ultimate delights for your customers.

The information you sell (be it a report or a dashboard of some sort) must be “pretty”, in other words, it should be quite visually appealing and well organized to make a difference for your users.  There is a fine line between the simplicity, enough information and information overload that you might want to test with your users.

“The danger of clutter – especially on a visual screen – is that it causes confusion that affects how well we perform tasks. To that end, visual clutter is a challenge for fighter pilots picking out a target, for people seeking important information in a user interface, and for web site and map designers, among others.” (MIT news).

To our luck, there is a whole discipline devoted to this question – Information Design that have to be a must read topic (and it is) for web application developers and product managers.  I find it very useful as well as a marketer and communicator.  In fact, anyone can benefit from this extra knowledge, or information to reduce the information overload we impose on our audiences.  According to Rune Pettersson, “Information Design is a multi-disciplinary, multi-dimensional, and worldwide consideration. It is not possible to develop a number of firm message design rules telling the information designer exactly how to best design a message and develop information materials. However, based on research it is possible to formulate several ID-principles and then develop a number of guidelines for the design of effective and efficient messages and information materials.”- International Institute for Information Design  So what are those top 10 or 16 ID-principles that we should keep in mind while engaging in product design or testing a product or participating in a beta?  You can actually find 150 ID-guidelines for 16 designs principles in Rune’s research, “It Depends“:

  1. Define the problem (Find what the user wants to achieve)

  2. Provide structure (Develop a clear structure, minimize the number of levels, show the  hierarchy graphically)

  3. Provide clarity (Go through the details: fonts, pictures, layouts, color, symbols, maps and make the all work in unison) – that’s where the pretty piece comes in!

  4. Provide simplicity (Check the readability of all items above)

  5. Provide emphasis (Use contrast and exaggeration or interactive elements to bring attention)

  6. Provide unity (Be consistent in your terminology, typography, layout and style) – make the information fluid!

  7. Consider information access (Use standards, internationally accepted, provide support for important context)

  8. Consider information costs (This one relates more to graphic design of web sites and implies production costs)

  9. Consider information ethics (Refers to considering copyright, media guidelines and image manipulation)

  10. Secure quality (Implies establishing the review cycles and ease of use for your reviewers to follow. If we apply that to a finished product, it can consider an organized storage or archives system).

  11. Strive for harmony ( I love this one – finding balance within the visual presentation of information)

  12. Follow aesthetic proportion (Implies finding the receiver’s aesthetic proportions, finding balance between the decorative use of color and cognitive importance)

  13. Facilitate attention (Refers to the mastery of bringing attention through text, layout, and colors)

  14. Facilitate perception (Here you must use your knowledge on perceptions of color, text, shapes, layout to make your message come through the way you want it to be)

  15. Facilitate mental processing (Utilize examples in text, provide realistic time for your audience to get the information, be consistent)

  16. Facilitate memory (Consists of presenting a limited number of information elements at the same time, with close connection of text and illustrations) – This is where the context is the key!

In addition, the information must be within the context, relevant and simple to produce actions you desire. Others call it the ability to provide a clear line of sight to show a complete picture. Others advise to present information in 3 blocks on one page to make it more meaningful and easily comprehensive. No pun intended, but there is so much information already about information design that helps simplify the information -that makes one’s head spin.  For example, there is even a comprehensive book of papers in IA (Information Architecture) or ID that one can immerse into to become an expert that can solve such problems in a matter if minutes.

While getting myself more into the subject, I found a good guide to make my quest for answers even easier and not so “overloaded” – I recommend to add ‘The Visual Display of Quantitative Information” by Edward Tufte to your library.

 

 

Expanding Marketing Tool Set With User Experience Design Model

Mingling with the UI (User Interface/User Experience) folks brought a number of eureka moments. I think User Experience Design should be more openly introduced to the marketing crowd as it helps to expand and reiterate powerful models that both professionals use – like storytelling.

Narratives are used by UI designers to generate and validate design ideas. Marketers use the power of a story to create a brand and help the audience visualize its character. Stories help us get connected with the products as if they were humans. Our social nature contributed to our overall evolution, so it is not as surprising that if we keep it in mind – we would design better products and we devise effective marketing campaigns.

Digging deeper, the personas seem to be another useful model that marketers can contribute to first and benefit from later. Personas are not market segments, but the former can be better constructed thanks to the latter. Marketing segments add demographic and relational framework to the persona development, filtering the research stage of the user design process. The difference between the two is that: marketing segments reveal demographics, sales and distribution processes, while design personas describe user behaviors, goals and motivations that represent a particular user group. At the same time, using the final personas developed in the process can be a great technique to develop effective promotional materials and sales training documentation. Imagine how useful it could be for the new product launch!

Marketers, mostly generalists, are fortunate to incorporate ideas and techniques while working with a number of other professionals, thus making it a constantly rewarding career.

P.S. To learn more about the User Experience Design, check out the site for Clear Sky Interactive that explains very well what the process entails.

Want to Get Fresh Ideas and Mingle with Exciting Folks? Attend Internet Strategy Forum: Executive Summit Event 2007

End of June…Feels like everybody went on vacation…so steady…even my Blog Reader is not as full with marketing articles and posts! However, there is no excuse to get into the steady easy “summertime” coma! Get out and meet new people in the industry! Get excited with the new ideas: attend a conference!

Internet Strategy Forum, Portland Chapter, is hosting a conference that should shake things up at the minimum: I know I am looking forward to it!

The sessions showcase industry experts sharing their experience and knowledge on internet marketing:

- Cammie Dunaway, Chief Marketing Officer, Yahoo!, Inc. talking about “Building Brands in a Web 2.0 World”

- Tim Kopp, Chief Marketing Officer, WebTrends, covering the topic on how to “Turn Customer Insight into a Strategic Advantage”

- Mark Colombo, VP Electronic Channels and Strategic Marketing, FedEx, sharing how FedEx sees its online strategy as a logical extension of its corporate values, and how the company’s early adoption of social networking tools like RSS, internal blogs and wikis, gadgets and other tools is helping it connect employees and customers

- Robert Scoble, VP Media Development, PodTech.net, co-author of Naked Conversations, exclaiming that ” It’s a Google World (and Facebook too!)”

- Rey Ramsey, CEO, One Economy Corp., talking about “Digital Inclusion 2.0: New Dynamics, New Solutions” and how social media can include adoption by low-income people, as the opportunities to reach an often overlooked, underserved market.

- Erik Kokkonen, VP, Global Publishing Services, CNET, contemplating on the trends of web2.0 and its adoption

- Mike Moran, Distinguished Engineer, IBM, author of Search Engine Marketing, Inc., sharing on “How the Internet changed the old marketing rules”

- Bryan Rhoads, Sr. Internet Strategist, Social Media, Intel,
– Mark Erickson, Sr. Computer Scientist, Adobe
– Mary Alice Colvin, Senior Marketing Consultant, Allyis, all three sharing their web2.0 implementation insights

To learn more and register for the event, click here.

Finally, there is a Digital Reception Party on Day 1 (July 19, 2007) worth attending to get more social interaction and ideas’ sharing! I know I will attend it! :)

P.S. View the interview with the event chief – Steven Gehlen to get more sizzle on the upcoming experiences!

Added on July 1, 2007: More coverage on the event, see the article at Portland Business Journal

Relevancy Marketing, Takeaways from the Marketing Profs B2B MKTG Virtual Conference

It was quite a convenient experience to attend a virtual conference set up by Marketing Profs on B2B Marketing Wednesday this week. At the same time, the most valuable parts of the arrangement is the ability to download presentations right away and the ability to listen the recorded sessions afterwards! Great value! Saves time, provides flexibility and shares content freely at no charge. More about a similar positive “user experience”, check Jeremiah’s post.

The session on B2B Marketing by Google’s folks: Benjamin Chung and Mark Martel was of most interest. The term of Relevancy Marketing peaked my attention. The idea is simple of putting your ads and products in the right context -where your users are and where their behavior illustrated obvious interest in those products. Sometimes, Relevancy Marketing is called Contextual Marketing that has a power of effective influence over one billion people online today. Its key benefits are: being transparent and flexible for adjustments in real-time. Also, online sources of information become very influential today for B2B segments. Niche content grows significantly attracting the involved end-users. Hence, B2B advertisers move online as well. The top three tips to remember are:

1) To focus on the customer
2) To profit from fragmentation
3) To measure, learn and optimize.

(See the link below to access the details and narration for the session.)

According to eMarketers’ article on “The Behaviorally Targeted Ad Audience” :

In a May 2007 consumer study by JupiterResearch and AOL, revealed:

1. 74% of frequent ad viewers stated they would pay more attention to a contextual ad vs. 89% who would pay more attention to behavioral ads

2. 63% of online consumers say they pay more attention to ads that fit their specific interests vs. 49% who pay more attention to ads that are directly related to their current online activity; that data could be interpreted as more attention for contextual (specific interests) than behavioral (current online activity)

3. 67% of online shoppers — defined as those who research and/or purchase online — notice behaviorally targeted ads vs. 53% who notice contextual targeted ads

Personalize the content, do you “research” or use your research and I will spare a minute to pay attention. Relevancy marketing translates into more effective marketing communications and eventually a greater awareness about the product offerings by the target audience.

Other sessions at the virtual conference included:

- Keynote: B2B Marketers Need An Interactive Makeover by Laura Ramos
– Customer Reference Programs and the Social Media Revolution by Bill Lee and Jeremiah Owyang
– Email Marketer Seeks Customer for Long-Term Relationship by Brian Ellefritz and Scott Barnett
– Is Thing On? Social Media for B2B Marketers by Greg Verdino
– Using Sustainable Word-of-Mouth Marketing in Growing B2B Business by Greg Spangler

P.S. Here is the link to the recorded sessions – check them out – time well spent.

What I Love About Marketing: My Definition of Marketing

One of my favorite questions to ask is “What is your passion?” The answer allows me to learn about a person so much more…It allows to learn about the object of passion (a professional occupation or interest), so much more. At the same time, I was numerously asked as well: Why Marketing? Why not Finance or something else? So, it would be only fair to share my own definition of it.

Marketing for me is not a matter of pure message crafting and information repackaging. It is not about creative eye-pleasing presentation…It is not about selling and convincing people into a purchasing decision. I say that without discounting the monetary value this function brings to the bottom line. There is no question that marketing initiatives have to be accountable and measurable, add value and contribute to ROI. But, the true motivation is not of dollar value.

Mainly, for me, marketing is connecting with people and understanding what makes their hearts and minds resonate. It has to do with the emotional aspect of social interaction that brings change or moves forward even the most logical planning and strategy. You need emotion to bring change to life. You need emotion to instigate progress.

As an occupation, marketing is:

- Flexible: it allows adjustments in the flow of events; it is applicable across industries, geographies and cultures! You practice and transfer it anywhere in the world! People will consume and trade as long as we exist!
– Dynamic: it is never boring! Constant change what can be better?!
– Broad: the scope of jobs to do, projects to accomplish and specialties to immerse into is as large as the ocean, enough for a life time!
– Deep: one can find 3-5 specialties and become very knowledgeable about them and still enjoy the challenge of change.

On the other hand, being a marketer allows playing so many roles! When I was little, I was dreaming to be an actress (so typical). Being a marketer provides so many opportunities to act and I love it every time I learn something new (play a new role)!

My favorites are:

- When I do market research, I become a detective, a CIA agent, “sometimes under cover”, trying to understand what makes those foreign species (new target market or user) tick…what makes them happy? What connects them? What drives them? What makes them laugh? What makes them “them”?

- When I do competitive assessment and strategy, I become a warrior, General with an army to lead and ability to predict the next steps of the contender.

- When I engage in writing and planning ads or event management, I become a producer, an entertainer and even a magician depending on the mystery level the audience craves for. Mystery does not necessarily exclude clarity and simplicity.

- When I engage in business development, I become a connector, a merchant that fuels the trade of information, opportunities and people.

- When I develop promotions, I exercise my creative mind and imagine myself being a painter that aims to draw a well-balanced masterpiece that brings harmony and evokes a following. Or, I could be an alchemist that works hard on the new recipe of the multiplying substance that has the ability to grow exponentially…

Thirdly, the challenge to curb this trade (marketing) and make it more intelligent, accountable and measurable provides lots of room for thought, experimentation and testing. Marketing can be and should be intelligent. Marketing should be supported not only by emotion, but logic (data, information).

Marketing is the driving force for change in consumer behavior. It is not a self-serving influence and persuasion; it is effective communication that drives our actions through emotion, connectedness or affiliation with the other humans and places our market choices based on common sense.

Why We Marketers Should Adopt Another Segmentation Tool – Personas from User Experience Design

The best discovery from last week was stumbling upon Steve Mudler’s session at Webvisions on personas . It almost feels like the more I learn, the more is out there still awaiting for discovery. Two weeks ago, I was rambling on the database marketing and its behavioristic approach to segmenting. I was thrilled and motivated to learn as much as I can about it. Last week, my attention radar caught the concept from the user design (scenario design) field – creating “personas” to segment potential customers and be able to communicate better with them, while resonating with their specific challenges. “Personas”, as a market segmentation tool does bring: focus, empathy, consensus, better designs and communications.

If I narrow down to the two major benefits of this technique, I would mention its flexibility and applicability to real life situations we marketers face and its fundamental psychological truth about discrepancies of people’s words and actions.

The greatest part about creating “personas” is that it allows segmenting your market while you engage into the limited market research initiatives. Let’s face it – most of the time, we (marketers) have limited budget and resources (people and time) and there is so much that we could do but we cannot afford….How do you find out what your potential customers will want and to what they would respond to if you only have 4 weeks, 4 people and no budget? You can only interview a small number of people, you can do so much as opposing to engaging in the ideal long and steady market research process that we learnt from the books or that is feasible if a specialized agency does it for us for a good sum.

Well, we have “personas”! Steve Mudler actually shares his expertise on it in his book ” The User is Always Right”, As an example, creating personas becomes a good segmentation alternative in the real life situation where you are developing a channel for a newly developed product or a “newly-is-still-in-development- product-that-is-has-to-sell-in-6-months”. There are three primary approaches, based on the type of research, scope and analysis performed:

• Qualitative personas (based on interviews, as an example)
• Qualitative personas with quantitative validation (interviews and surveys)
• Quantitative personas (surveys, data from the CRM systems, etc.)

Thus, it allows you to apply this technique to any scope of research that you are doing. Flexibility makes it a good model.

Another useful disclaimer that all of us – marketers performing research should always keep in mind is that what people say is not what they necessarily do. What they say is important as it reflects their goals and attitudes as well as perceptions and aspirations of being seen in a certain light. What people do is just as important, since actual behavior can reveal more about people than what they say. Behavior reveals patterns around which you can design your product or communication strategy. Again, the perfect combination of promise and action, if those are consistent – you got your answer and you are on the right track, if those are conflicting, you have to test your hypothesis again or change it completely.

Web 2.0 Expo, Day 2 and Day 3, Experience Takeaways

It took me 2 days to get into my normal routine after such a whirlpool of knowledge sharing and social networking using traditional and web technology methods. Instead, I am still catching up with all the people I met. However, I thought I would quickly put my notes in this post. So what happened within those 2 days and what and who inspired my curious mind?

I. Behavioral Targeting, a session led by Basem Nayfeh, explored the world of web analytics and database marketing that allows to target your customers based on their behavior. It is not a new technique, but I was happy to see how pronounced the topic becomes. The complexity and at the same time, the solutions it brings are worth exploring by every marketer in any given organization. It allows to make a pause and ask a question where consumer attention is and follow it. Paying attention to customer steps on your page or online allows to be an effective marketer. An interesting fact that 60 % of content is posted by someone “we know”, “you know”, exemplifies well that our social behavior does not change dramatically on the web. Behavioral segmenting is intelligent segmenting and qualifying people based on their actions: (searches made, product interests, articles they read, navigation, geography, keywords, workplace attributes). Behavior is captured and targeted message is delivered, new knowledge about your product is discovered, etc.

II. Web Analytics and Internet Marketing Solutions session by Akin Arikan touched upon similar topic. He also shared a free whitepaper that illustrates well the major points on how to optimize your online marketing campaigns. The Web Analytics Recipe Cards provides an overview on how to maximize the number of qualified leads captured online, maximize online and offline revenue and increase brand awareness. Another document that is worth reading, shared by Unica, summarizes how today’s marketers can anticipate, understand, help their companies profit from the web transformation.

III. Social media discussions were quite popular and interactive. I am “delegating” this topic to Jeremiah and Mario, as lots of coverage can be found at their prominent blogs: Marketing Nirvana and Web Strategist.

IV. The best part of the entire event for me was meeting a number of brilliant people. The social aspect of the conference attendance left the most satisfaction. People who make a difference in this industry being in either big or small companies is the biggest asset of web.2.0 revolution and evolution. I had a lot of fun meeting people at the expo, at the after event parties and during live upstreaming opportunity with Podtech. The combination of knowledge and social capital gained definitely exceeds the projected ROI. Web 2.0 expo 2007 is money and time well spend.

V. (Added on April 29, 2007)
And I also wanted to express my joy and thanks to Marcelo Paiva who volunteered to help me fix my style sheet issue when I discovered it at the event. I still cannot help but smile every time I see my new blog design! People would point me out that due to some coding my blog content would show up crookedly in Firefox. This was rather embarrassing since most of the web 2.0 crowd uses Firefox and while sharing and introducing myself I had to make a disclaimer. Not any more! Social media got another outcome of connecting people that might never be due to geographies and other restrictions. If it were not for Jeremiah’s live blogging and video casting at the event, I would never have a chance to get fast help and collaboration right away. Moreover, we used Skype to do virtual collaboration and remote desktop access tool VNC to fix the problem! This was a very empowering experience, collaboration on the user level where you get the same results as if you work in big corporations with virtual teams, but here you use basic web 2.0 tools that enable individuals!
Marcelo also created my new logo, which I find rather a perfect fit. Talking about branding on one’s feet and Skype!
Finally, we discovered similarities in professional interests (user design, marketing, CRM, segmentation) that allowed both of us developing another value-add professional connection, which we completed via registering it at LinkedIn. :)

Web 2.0 Expo Day 1, Knowledge Nuggets and More Inspiring People

Day 1 was so good: the energy of people I met and the knowledge I got kept me so invigorated and excited throughout 18 hours of stimulation.  Before the next wave of events hits my “ship”, I wanted to set in stone the nuggets for Day 1 at web 2.0 expo.

I. Web Technology

Google Analytics and all the magic you can do with this free tool was shared by Brett Crosby. Get your web metrics into the order, get your data and make your site more effective, analyze your marketing campaigns ROI.(Example: Paris Hilton Commercial, was produced normally in a ad agency, but distributed through the web (YouTube). The effect is beyond what a TV ad of the same caliber can do. Due to the viral effect, people actually went online themselves (control of content/infomation consumption) and watched it on average of 6 times. Where else do you get such coverage, reach and ROI? It was cheap to place on the web!) The package is free, delivers on the promise and can make a difference in your web communications. Spend a few minutes and learn more how you can optimize your web site. You do not need to be a statistician to get the maximum benefit. (I am going to deploy it for my blog and once I have enough experience I will share my recommendations).

  1. Google Analytics = track your traffic and ROI on marketing campaigns
  2. Google Webmaster Tools = know your audience and optimize your site
  3. Google News = free way to make images searchable
  4. Google Maps
  5. Google Earth
  6. Google Catalogs = upload your catalogs, get the content out, make it discoverable
  7. Google Website Optimizer = great tool to track PPC, does not hurt organic search (was considered during the development stage), you can even start your free multivariate testing to learn more what your audience is doing on your site and how to make them do what you want them to do!

II. More Web Analytics

Avinesh Kaushik shared his insights on how you can test the effectiveness of your site, optimize your conversion rate based on real feedback from your customers! I must confess, it was the best session so far, as much as, Avinash promised at the start. Using Multivariate Testing, marketers and web strategists can expose their customers to variations of web site design (multiple pages produced automatically by a tool) and get feedback (behavioral feedback!) on what works and what does not to arrive at the site that generates sales or delivers what you want your audience to do on this site. Most companies do not know why their customers come to the site. Avinesh’s golden rule is testing, testing, and more testing. One cannot get the same information on what works through the traditional focus groups, surveys and interviews of the customer base. “Customers yell out problems and do not provide solutions”. At the same time, our bosses think that they represent the customers and know how the site should look like to deliver the best and their decision influences the final product that might not be user-friendly at all. Even if it does, it could be not as optimal in delivering to the bottom line. Even the userbility testing is not as effective. “They way we do userbility is isolating a sample of people in a room, putting a bunch of devices on them and ask them to act normal. People do not act normal in such conditions and they would be extra cautious, biased or wierd.” You can get the basic ballpark, (maybe, maybe not) on your testing. With multivariate analysis you are measuring the entire consumer experience, even when they are shopping on your site in their pijamas. Little Ajax script is all you need to get your testing set up. It creates variations of your site for further testing. You can test all the ideas you have, not just 2-3.

Avinesh is planning to publish a book in the near future, called “Web Analytics, An Hour A Day” (which I will definetely read!). You can even pre-order it at Amazon.com. All the proceeds (100%) will go to local charities.

III. Great ideas from the Keynote

Keynote was very well put together and this video called Digital Ethnography by Michael Wesch launched the discussion. I could not help but share this video, it illustartes so well the evolution of the web and though, I am not a geek, it stimulates my mind and heart. 

There was lots of fun speeches at the keynote and Richard MacManus covers it well on his blog.

My favorites were 3 launch pad ideas:

Spock.com = allows you perform human search! You can now get the full scoop! (My KGB roots make me so excited about this one! :))

Npower.com = finally, a web 2.0 application for intraverts! and people who care a lot about personal growth, allows to measure your actions towards your goals, incorporates training and coaching knowledge with a web 2.0 capabilities of interactivity and user content generation. Unfortunately, I have no URL for it to share.

IV. Social Mingle Afterwards

It was a lot of fun to explore web 2.0 social mingle scene and parties afterwards. The best part is to meet the personalities and simply personable people to close the day. Special thanks to Jeremiah, other Podtech crew and Mario for being hospitable hosts! Anytime, you are in Portland, OR, please let me know and I will show the city at its best and I am very good at it!

Attending Workshops at Web 2.0 expo – Community Evangelism

I started my Sunday morning with a workshop at Web 2.0 expo on Community Evangelism with Deborah Schultz and Anil Dash. I thought I can get away without much effort of focus on a Sunday morning and I did not bring my laptop. Well, once you see Jeremiah Owyang running around with a camera video-streaming live the event and Mario Sudhar liveblogging, one cannot get away from the energy those folks generate.

What are the takeaways from this workshop? Why should we care about community evangelism? Here are the ideas that Deborah and Anil shared with us.
Community Evangelism is an ideal customer referral program made feasible to execute via various web technologies like blogs, forums, podcasts and other social sites. It allows companies reaching their customers and transform transactional customers into loyal ones through building the relationship, making an emotional, personal connection.

Persistence and awareness are the key to maintain relationships online. If you ventured a blog for your company, you engage into a social contract, a sort of committment to ongoing conversation with your customers. This implies a continuous sharing of value content. You expand your relationship with a customer into a more enriching experience.  Continuity of a two-way communication process provides for creating meaningful life moments that your customer records in his/her memory. A good example would be books, CDs, movies that we buy or get as gifts from other people and might never read, watch but keep being attached to them as they connect to someone we care about. Connectedness, continuity and non-disposability = all due to the value of a relationship that carries it through.

Awareness is not just about notification. Providing your customers with a control to chose how they get information about the product and services – this makes your communications effective. Why? Think about products people absolutely love: iPod, TiVo, Wii. They empower consumers to be in control when to consume content, service, product. So, do the same with your marketing communications to make them more effective – provide those in RSS, blogs or other format that your customer can choose to control both in the reception phase and content scope.

What’s Evangelist? He/she is a

  • customer advocate
  • educator
  • among the people interacting with the community where they live
  • human face of the company
  • cross-functional, not just a marketer
  • a foil for the company

Human skills needed to be successful as a community evangelist:

  • listener
  • connector
  • catalyst
  • critic
  • partial geek
  • detective
  • diplomat
  • juggler
  • driven by relationships
  • approachable
  • intuitive
  • inquisitive

Pursue evangelism with passion, be present where your customers are mentally and physically. Use what you got and have fun!

P.S. I just found out how messed up my blog looks like in Firefox! Tried to contact technical support and it is temporary closed! What do I do? I have to fix it, otherwise it is simply embarrassing.

The Essense of Passion

Well…I have been asking number of people on “What makes you wake up in the middle of the night to think about what you do (for a living)?” Why you are doing it? Why this industry? and I must confess I get perplexed when I find no passion in the profession a person is engaged into. I think being passionate about the cause of your actions is so important. It is like having a quality experience. It is like being in a continous process of extending your imagenary limits….I can understand people have mortgages to pay and children to feed. But, why not find something you enjoy and be passionate about it and get the bills paid? I also observed that in some industries there is a bigger percentage of passionate people than in others. Why? In my opinion, there are variations of passion in the industries that have those: it could be a strong brand of the company that drives the culture and creates a cult (which is not a bad thing), or the venture is so exciting and going to change the way we do things. But, I will never understand doing things just because you have to…why not do the things you care about and can invest maximum energy?  I also found that being around passionate people creates an invisible aura of can do attitude which actually gets realized in real life. In reverse, lack of passion is so infectuous that it makes me want to run (cause I do not wish to catch it). Am I too idealistic in what I expect? Do not think so.

How To Communicate the Idea To Inspire Action and To Actually Have Things Done

Teamwork, group projects and things that need to be done moved me to revisit the basics of how to get some action out of group communication process. I found a very useful framework of natural planning techniques from David Allen’s book (Getting Things Done) that I would like to share. It is a 5 phase process:

1) Purpose – never hurts to ask the question “why we are doing it”, helps to focus, define sucess, align resources, motivate and expand options.

2) Principles – “a great way to think of principles is to complete the following sentence” – “I would give others totally free rein to do that as long as ….” , thus they provide guidelines on the packaging or points of reference.

3) Vision (Outcome)…how would success would look like, feel like, sound? I really liked the qoute ” You often need to make it up in your mind before you can make it happen in your life”, very powerful and I know I can do that!

4) Organizing – get all the ideas OUT OF YOUR HEAD – in front of your eyes – thus patterns and relationships emerge from the “invisible world”! Sort those out by components, sequences and priorities.

5) Action – Next Steps. Clarify what can be done today, who should be doing what, what you will be waiting for.

The idea is to walk your team through this process and the project should be implemented with ease or at least save time in the preparation stage. The trick is to walk yourself through the same process first, utilizing “the outside your head tracking system”. The work of the “communicator” is never done!

EQ Important Factors for Marketing Professionals

It was interesting to see how the EQ (Emotional Intelligence Knowledge) is applicable to work success within various business functions. According to Steven Stein and Howard Book, there are 5 top factors that are relevant to work success for marketing professionals:

1) Optimism – one has to have it while looking for market opportunities!
2) Reality Testing –  to accurately/ballpark assess the situation
3) Independence – to be able to make decisions on your own
4) Impulse Control – to be able to think before leaping
5) Social Responsibility – to be able to see far enough to not step on someone’s toes

Great insights. I think, personally, I would focus on working more on reality testing, impulse control and self-regard.

Oddly enough, for a marital bliss, interpersonal skills come last on the list. The most important factors in priority are happiness, self-regard, self-awareness and self-actualization and reality-testing.

It Pays Off To Start Actively Developing Emotional Intelligence

This week I felt a need to seriously engage into learning more about emotional intelligence. Juggling a myriad of projects, interests sometimes get on the way of being always present and aware of what is going on in the current environment. I started looking for a good book to immerse into the subject and went through a number of HBR articles. I found a few on leadership, controlling emotions and becoming a master that can perform under stress continously and can make his team deliver quality results.  It takes practice to achieve that and sometimes takes years. For me it is a challenge as my passion for a topic or a project or an idea gets on my way sometimes. It is great in its nature to support continious delivery, but it gets on the way of being a good leader. Can one have both? Yes. I met a few people who were passionate and emphatic. Some people are born with it, some people get it through experience. It is also something that can be learnt as long as you practice every day or at least intensively in the beginning. So, this is hope! Being realistic, learning continously, watching the language and connecting on the emotional level are the basics of EI. I wish I could find bloggers – experts on the topic. Perhaps, it would be a good supplemental reading before going to bed.

One Minute Business Plan Pitches That I Got A Chance To Observe at Angel Oregon

Today, I got a chance to attend a session of one-minute pitches at the Angel Oregon 2007, hosted by Oregon Entreprenuers Network. Very interesting crowd! It was very educational to see how a number of presenters compete for the attention. The idea is to communicate how your product is going to solve pressing needs and how it will return your investment in spades.  At the same time,  the secondary thought would be to be able to infuse your own enthusiasm into angels’ hearts. Some presenters used visual aids, some used strong openings, some dressed up in costumes. I must say that being original helps, at the same time, you have to make 3 major points why your company deserves an investment. Some folks approached it by starting with a problem (using voice pitch and intonation to stress the urgency) and weaved into their product that resolves it. Some painted imaginative pictures of a perfect future their product can create. I think I only remember those just because they involved emotion and engaged one’s mind as opposing to the majority that “gunned” their 1 minute spill. Another interesting element is how visual aids are used: only a few, perhaps 4 out of 20 (random number based on observation) utilized this opportunity. Cards with numbers, posters and product samples showed up today. I really liked the idea of cards with $ numbers or market size estimates (all crucial info) that can engage angel’s attention.  Finally, the most important part is being a strong speaker: being able to express the idea with confidence, clarity and passion.

The Truth About Ad Agencies Parody Video from Seth Godin and B.L. Ochman

Catching up and scanning my RSS marketing library this week, I saw a great video that B.L. Ocham posted on his blog. Seth Godin has comments on it. I am sure if you watch it, you might have a de ja vu feeling. Most agency presentations have some elements that are “hyperbolized” in this video. Very amusing and worth passing around. Perhaps, agency folks can get a bigger kick out of it rather than the client side compatriots. My favorite part are the actual presentation: “inflated numbers and…so on”

Studying on Monday Night and Checking YouTube from Business Law Instructor’s Reference

Monday night and my mind is spinning again. Sunday yoga effect is no longer working and I am thinking about all the things I want to do in life. I have 20 windows open on my laptop, multitasking, planning, thinking, communicating and trying to joggle 10 + things at once.  Since the beginning of the 2007, I have been rethinking my entire life and directions I want to go.  I had a few roadblocks I faced, but those were necessary for the new beginnings. Today, in my Business Law class, an instructor recommended to view Steve Job’s commencement speech. I did take a mental note, but it is funny the way it all played out. Tonight, I again was feverishly thinking about all the people I need to see this week, all the things I want to accomplish, all the ideas I need to realize before it is too late. I never could understand that feeling about “jumping before the cart”… I tend to think 2-5 years ahead and worry about it now in the present…perhaps being a prematurely born child gives it some history as my Mom says…” You always wanted to experience life earlier and if you want something you want it now”… I always feel that if I do not do this (any idea I have at the moment) now, the opportunity will be gone tomorrow and I would not have time to pay attention to it as new things come up that compete for my time…. My thoughts brought me again to a very disturbing state and I took a break from my readings and checked the referenced video. Hearing Steve Job’s speech brought peace and affirmation that it is ok to feel this way I described above. Connecting the dots does happen backwards, and one should keep plugging in in making a difference…chasing the dream…searching and not compromising both in work and love….”stay hungry and stay foolish”… Keep looking; don’t settle…I subscribe to those words… If you feel the same today, view this speech and get your heart aligned…we are not the 1st and we can make it!

Hura, Memesponge! Finally, I got my own blog going!

Hi, there…a blogosphere! It took me… lets say… 9 months to get my own professional blog going. I guess it is a legitimate timeframe for a project of that sort. :)

I named it “memesponge”. In my perception, a “meme” is a catchy idea that people cannot help but pass along and share.  A “sponge” part came from observing my own habits of learning new things and obsorbing information all the time.  Memesponge is a place where I would share my thoughts, interpretations and findings about creative marketing, web technology and reaching people’s hearts. I will also share my own learning experiences within a field of my passion = marketing a path that is growing rapidly in various directions, weaves into eurika-like patterns…This is what makes me stay long hours and read…it keeps me up at night…this is a way I connect my tendencies of creating stories and visions (dreams and fantasies) into the trade of profession that I can do best.

The idea was cherished for a long time, nurtured by my learnings about web 2.0, blogs, podcasts and all the new web tools that recently came into existence.  Once one starts watching and tracking all web developments, it is easy to fall in love with the possibilities web provides for marketers and end users and real people.  However, the major motivation for me to step in were the relationships with people who were already present in the space, whose posts I read almost every day and whose lives and passion became shared. And of course, once you start communicating and getting connected online and offline, a whole new world opens up before you!

Please welcome me officially into your world. In this blog, I am looking forward to sharing the creative ideas I run into every day, while catching up on the news of creative marketing communications that build relationships with customers.  Commucation, sharing ideas and connecting with alike and the opposite are the best life enriching  experiences a human being can get.

There is a saying, whose author I cannot recall at the moment. “The difference between the day today and the same day in a year are the people we meet and the books we read”…I would add and the blogs you read! :)

Finally, I would also like to thank Josh Bancroft, a Technology Evangelist and a Geek Blogger, for introducing me to the world of blogging that changed my life!

 Scroll to top