Friday, May 28, 2010

My Best Career Advice: Don't Wait... Ask!

Image Source

I seem to be in a bit of a retrospective mode this week. That, and I've happened to have some very interesting conversations lately with some very interesting people.

On Wed., I posted thoughts shared by Scott Kier about Google's energy ambitions. Yesterday, it was a response to a request I received about corporate blog best practices.

Today, I'd like to share an introspective chat I had earlier this week with a former colleague of mine from Resolution Media, Josh Dreller, who's gone on to build quite a name for himself and his current agency, Fuor Digital, in the digital marketing space.

We got to talking about what it takes to succeed in this industry. Sure things like smarts, connections, and passion came up. But we landed on one very simple tenant that really separates the wheat from the chaff. And, looking at some of the most successful folks I know in this industry (and others, for that matter), I find this to be something they all exemplify...

Don't wait for anything to be handed to you. Ask for it!

This adage certainly applies in the sales and business development world where "asking for the order" is Sales 101. But anyone anywhere can take this to heart and use it to propel themselves and their company to higher levels.

The bottom line is that it's rare to work for a company where anyone is really looking out for you and your best interests. Sure, there are good managers that will reward you with more money, a promotion, etc. But, at the end of the day, they've got their own asses to cover. And they'll respect you as an employee even more if you show some initiative and ask for whatever it is you want.

Now, of course, make sure your request is grounded in a) reality (read: commensurate with your contributions/skillset and the current marketplace) and b) the best interests of the company (read: more revenue and/or reduced costs) or else your "ask" will fall flat as will your chances of moving up the chain of command.

For whatever reason, I find that the vast majority of people in the marketing world are too scared, embarrassed, timid, jealous, and downright unsure of themselves to ask for what they want. And, of those that do, only a few actually take the time to consider the position of the "askee" and determine if what they are asking for is something that deserves to get green lit.

Yes, that means doing some homework. Yes, that means practicing your pitch. Yes, that means listening intently. Yes, that means understanding the motivations of the person you're asking. Yes, that means building a business case. But, most of all, that means getting off your ass and doing something about your situation.

To be sure, some folks may say that it's even better advice not to ask for permission, rather ask for forgiveness. In other words, don't wait to be told... don't even ask... just do it. Many times I'll agree with that approach but it's hard to make a sweeping statement like that and advocate for it across all situations. There are times where that can get you into serious hot water. So, as a rule of them, I'd start by asking until you get familiar enough with all the moving parts in an organization to know when it's ok to "just do it."

So, now, I ask you, what are you waiting for?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Corporate Blog Best Practices

Image Source

Earlier this week, a colleague asked for my thoughts on best practices for corporate blogs. This was for a service provider in the digital marketing space but I think these guidelines can be applied to any business:

• Post at least once a week. Blogs are supposed to be timely. Any less frequent posting will show you're not serious about the platform.

• Have multiple contributors but one voice. No-one wants to hear only from the CEO or only from the marketing director. We want to see the different personalities and viewpoints of the company. That said, we also don't want 100 different styles or writing, contradictory POV's, etc. Create a filter that all content must pass thru. For example, before posting, always stop and ask yourself, "Would I say this to a customer?" Or, always use "we" when referring to the company and never use "they" without specifying who "they" is.

• Create a schedule ahead of time so everyone knows when they are on the hook for content.

• Always keep 2 posts "in your pocket" for when scheduled contributors are delinquent.

• Pick topics that are a) relevant to your business b) relevant to SEO keywords you want to win for and c) controversial (to generate links).

• Don't just talk about yourself. Make it personal and show your personality but it shouldn't just be a less-formal version of a self-promotional corporate website. Comment on (and link to) topics of interest for other companies, even your competitors as appropriate. To be clear, it's ok (and encouraged) to post about the goings-on at your company but if every post is a pat on the back, your only readers will be employees and their friends/family.

• Along those lines, keep your audience in mind. It includes your clients, competitors, employees, potential employees, etc. Everything you write should be meaningful to all those constituencies. If you write in a tone that only appeals to one group, you risk alienating the others. For example, I never like to use the word "clients" because that means something different to a network vs. an agency vs. a marketer. Whenever referring to corporate marketers, I say "marketers."

• Don't write in a formal tone. But don't use too much slang. And certainly mind your grammar and spelling.

• Link wherever possible to other web pages related to your topic.

• Cross-link to your own older posts as relevant. Extend the shelf-lives of that archival material.

• Create categories to bucket content into and tag each post accordingly. This helps readers go deeper on certain topics of interest.

• Make it easy for others to link to your posts. Include social-bookmarking and sharing icons as well as FB "Like" buttons. RSS Feed is also a must for people who prefer to consume that way.

• Give people a reason to link to you. Write about things that others will find useful.

• Use images (and video) wherever possible. All text blogs are boring. Also, bullets and lists are helpful. No paragraph should be longer than 3-4 sentences. Quick, puchy reads are best.

• Make sure sensitive content is not posted (eg, client data, internal memos, etc.) without the proper permissions.

• Encourage feedback and comments. Blogs should be 2-way (or multi-way) dialogues. Don't censor comments. Take the good with the bad. It's part of building a community and a conversation.

• Promote your posts. You can't just post and expect people to read. Tweet links to new posts. Ask employees to email links to relevant parties. Include links in press releases, POV's, decks, newsletters, emails to customers, etc.

• Have fun with it! If your people enjoy contributing, it will come thru to readers and they'll have fun reading it!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Big G is Energized

Google EnergyImage Source

A good friend and colleague of mine, Scott Kier of Mosaic EcoSystems, pinged me a few weeks ago asking for my POV on Google's Energy Foray. I turned the question back on him and here was his response (posted with permission). Very intriguing stuff...

"One of the silver bullets in terms of energy efficiency is the 'smart grid' - a power grid that does more than just send a powerful stream of electricity to your home or office or factory for you to tap into. Rather, it's going to involve attaching a network to the grid - or merging the grid entirely with existing data networks.


Just about anything that's plugged in - a lamp, a dishwasher, etc... - draws a trickle of power even when turned off. Eliminating that trickle won't revolutionize anyone's electric bill, and fossil fuel energy remains extremely cheap for you and me, so we don't tend to worry about these small moves towards efficiency. But if EVERYONE eliminated that trickle, collectively it significantly moves the needle of overall energy usage. So what needs to happen isn't just turning off the power switch on the appliance, but rather, turning off the outlet it's plugged into. So you need the outlet to be networked so that when you turn an appliance back on, it re-activates the outlet.

Here's another smart grid application: the power company in Las Vegas knew that people were over-cooling their homes. In the summer in Vegas, setting your thermostat to 78 feels the same in the dry air as setting it to 69-70 does here in Chicago. But most people were setting it to 72-74. Well, when it's over 100 outside, cooling those extra 5-7 degrees is a major usage of power. So stimulus money went to providing single-family homes in Vegas with a smart thermostat which allows the power company to set a default temperature. You can override it, but they were convinced that people wouldn't do so when they realized that 78 degrees was perfectly comfortable and saw the result of that on their electric bill. My parents' electric bill last July fell almost $100 year-over-year.

There are tons more, like smart water heaters that shut down when not needed as opposed to running all the time, keeping water hot.

And when most homes have at least supplemental solar and wind power, it's going to take a smart system to know how to optimize the mix of in situ renewables and grid power, in much the same way as a Google algorithm generates placement for paid search and SEO.

Think of the progression from the typewriter to the computer: it gave you and me a lot more to DO, a lot more access to information, it replaced the card catalog at the library with a query, so we could customize our usage of information. Droid and iPhone OS are the distillation of that for mobile usage, and I believe (and HP seems to believe, too, based on the rationale for their acquisition of Palm) that this is the way in which more and more people will interact with their data.

Well, the progression from a dumb power grid that just blasts power and loses a ton of it along the way to a smart grid that, much like a query, will only go where it's needed - will only find the "relevant" destination - will give you and I will many more applications to manage that, just as we have applications to manage our data.

Tom Friedman calls this the 'energy internet': replacing a dumb, manual system with one driven by queries and manipulation of data. This is exactly what Google knows how to do, so as we move into an era where energy and data will be part of the same technological ecosystem... who better than Google to be a leader in an emerging space that will be built as much on a technological, data-driven platform as an industrial one? They have the processes and culture for innovation, many of the core competencies, and the resources to to be ahead of the pack in this next phase and essentially avoid the fate that befell Microsoft when they really fell behind Apple and Google when the game moved on them.

(Yes, I know PC still crushes Apple in market share, but Apple is still viewed as the premium product, and as tablet computing emerges, Apple will narrow that gap dramatically, and Google will further encroach on Microsoft's position as you have Droid-based tablets.)"

Monday, May 24, 2010

Don’t Hate the Mayor. Hate the Game.

Mayor QuimbyImage Source

I’ve been cited in the press twice in the past two weeks regarding social media.

The first pertained to Four Square monetization and the second was re: Facebook and privacy. As always, I’ve posted recaps of the Connectual blog and added an extended POV on each topic and the implications for the digital marketing ecosystem.

So the next time one of your friends annoys you by clogging your social media feeds with check-ins or crop-dusting, just think… it could be worse. Imagine if those notifications came with ads!

Putting the KITT in Kittlaus

Knight RiderImage Source

In last week’s Search Insider column, I share the complete transcript of my interview with Siri CEO, Dag Kittlaus.

I conducted this Q&A in the context of exploring the future of search for my book. Chapter 21 is titled “Future-Proofing” and takes a look at what the world of Google will look like 10 years from now and how marketers can best prepare.

Without stealing thunder from my book, the short story is that the future of search will look nothing like the keyword-triggered results we get today. As app-ssistants like Siri complement -- and eventually replace -- Search Engines, we’ll see instruction-triggered actions leveraging intimate knowledge of our preferences.

And, with Apple now owning Siri, we may also see a shakeup of power among the key players in the space.

Let’s just hope the next wave of virtual digital assistants leaves the Hoff behind.

Here’s the blurb…

A Siri-es Of Fortunate Events
Posted by Aaron Goldman on May 19, 10:07 AM
To be sure, Siri is not yet ready for prime time, but it has all the makings of a Siri-al Google Killer. And, with continued investment from Apple, it's not unreasonable to think that Siri could do to search what the iPhone did to phones -- that is, completely change the way we think about them from both a consumer and marketing standpoint. Here's my chat with Siri CEO Dag Kittlaus.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Yahoo Chides Google for Keeping It Simple. Who's Stupid?

I came across this video in my Facebook news feed thanks to my friend who runs the self-titled "Geoff DeMars Internet Marketing News" page on FB.

The crux of this video and Yahoo's new campaign can be summed up in these 2 lines...

"There's nothing to look at but a box and a button... you come to this place so you can leave."

"At Yahoo, we've got another idea... a place you want to stay."

In his post, Geoff linked to this piece on Search Engine Land in which Yahoo's approach is called "misguided and off the mark" by Greg Sterling and "stunningly stupid" by Danny Sullivan.

For what it's worth, I see merits and demerits to this strategy...

Merit: Yahoo realizes it can't compete with Google and is trying to position itself as an entirely different resource.

Demerit: If Yahoo really realized it couldn't compete in search, it wouldn't repeatedly play up its search capabilities in the voiceover.

The bottom line, though, is that there's nothing Yahoo can do about the fact that most advertisers don't want to reach people on a place that "people want to stay."

Rather, as I discuss in Chapter 4 of my book, "Everything I Know about Marketing I Learned from Google," advertisers want to reach people when they're in a commercial mindset aka "buy mode." More often than not, that type of intent is displayed by going to a place to find what you're looking for and leave. Hence why Google did $6.7 billion in revenue in Q1 compared to Yahoo's $1.6 billion.

I cover the whole "should I stay or should I go" thread in Chapter 3 of my book and the copy is so darn close to the script in this Yahoo ad I thought I'd better share it now before anyone reads the book in September when it's released and thinks my POV was skewed by the Yahoo campaign.

So here's an excerpt from Chapter 3 -- the first 797 of 3647 words in the chapter, to be precise. Note, this is unedited copy from my original manuscript and, outside McGraw-Hill, no-one else has seen it. Would love any and all feedback.

Chapter 3: Keep It Simple, Stupid

What are you supposed to do on

Easy, right? Search.

The big search box surrounded by white space beckons you to do one thing and one thing only.


When you first told someone else about Google, did you have to explain how to use it? Nope.

How do you think Google became a verb? Simple.

There’s very little ambiguity. Google means search.

Today, this seems like a no-brainer. But, in 1998 this was a novel concept. At that time, the most popular websites more closely resembled newspapers, covering every inch of the page with content and ads.

What you were supposed to do on these sites was less clear. Read articles. Look at ads. Communicate with friends. There was one common goal, though. These websites wanted you to stay -- maybe not on that particular page but definitely on that site.

Contrast that with Google. Google doesn’t want you to stay on its site. It wants you to leave.
And what better way to hammer that idea home that to put a big box in the middle of the page with nothing else around it.

Fade to White

Today Google could command millions of dollars for ads on its homepage. But that would distract you from the task at hand. Searching.

In fact, Google recently went a couple steps further. First, in September 2009, it made the search box bigger. Then, a few months later, it removed everything but the box, logo, and search buttons, only fading in the other menu items, links, and footer upon movement of the mouse.

In a blog post, Marrisa Mayer, Google’s VP of Search Products and User Experience, explained the change as follows…

“For the vast majority of people who come to the Google homepage, they are coming in order to search, and this clean, minimalist approach gives them just what they are looking for first and foremost. For those users who are interested in using a different application like Gmail, Google Image Search or our advertising programs, the additional links on the homepage only reveal themselves when the user moves the mouse. Since most users who are interested in clicking over to a different application generally do move the mouse when they arrive, the ‘fade in’ is an elegant solution that provides options to those who want them, but removes distractions for the user intent on searching.”

Of course, what happens after you search is a different story. In the early days, Google results pages were pristine lists of blue links. Today, they resemble almost every other page on the Web replete with images, widgets, and ads.

This layout is quite calculated, however. Once you’ve already searched, Google doesn’t want you to search again. It wants you to click. On whatever seems most relevant to you at the time. Organic listing. Image. Map. Ad. It doesn’t matter. Just click. Hopefully you’ll have found what you wanted and then come back again to search.

Everything about the way Google lays out its pages screams what it wants you to do. Search. Then click. And repeat.

“Don’t over think it. Sometimes simple creates the best experience.” -- Sean Cheyney, VP,
Marketing & Business Development, AccuQuote @scheyney

Easy Does It

On its corporate website, Google lays out its design principles. One of them speaks to the power of simplicity.

“Simplicity fuels many elements of good design, including ease of use, speed, visual appeal, and accessibility. But simplicity starts with the design of a product's fundamental functions. Google doesn't set out to create feature-rich products; our best designs include only the features that people need to accomplish their goals. Ideally, even products that require large feature sets and complex visual designs appear to be simple as well as powerful. Google teams think twice before sacrificing simplicity in pursuit of a less important feature. Our hope is to evolve products in new directions instead of just adding more features.”

In June of 2000, Google stuck a deal with Yahoo! to power its search results. But, despite returning the exact same results, more and more people flocked directly to when they wanted to find another website. Why? Simple. Google meant search. Yahoo! meant stay.

As Kenneth Fadner, Chairman and Publisher of MediaPost and one of the founders of Adweek, observed, “Yahoo's search was always buried inside its cluttered portal page. When people thought "search" they thought about Google, even while on the Yahoo page, where they could also search using Google. It was not the promise of a better result that moved them, it was the inability of people to hold multiple thoughts in their heads at the same time that made them think: ‘If I want to search I need to go to Google.’"

It was that simple.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

I am Siri-ous and Don’t Call Me Shirley!

Leslie Nielsen AirplaneImage Source

As promised, in today’s Search Insider column, I cover Apple’s acquisition of Siri in the context of its ambitions to change the way we think of mobile and search marketing.

I asked my Twitter followers to weigh in with other good Siri puns and @telerob inspired the title to this post. Here are some others I like:

1. Siri-al (Google) Killer
2. Mis-Siri Loves Company
3. A-Siri-an Nation
4. World Siri-es Champ
5. Look out Siri-han Siri-han
6. Siri-sucker Suit
7. Montes-Siri Education
8. Siri-ndipitous Turn of Events
9. The Sooth-Siri Sees All
10. Healthy Does of Triglyc-Siri-ide

In my next Search Insider column, I’ll share highlights from my interview with Siri CEO, Dag Kittlaus. Meantime, I need to Siri-ously get a life.

Here's the blurb...

Apple Is Siri-ous About Search

Nearly one year ago, fellow Search Insider Gord Hotchkiss declared, "Search needs an iPhone." With this "mobile Web and computing device.... [Apple] intended to vault over the competition, changing the rules and opening a new marketplace. Apple strategists had nothing short of revolution on their minds."

Two recent events make it pretty clear that Apple feels the same way about search as it does/did about the phone.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Privacy Shmivacy

IAB privacy

Today marked the first time I encountered (or noticed) one of the IAB ads from its "Privacy Matters" campaign. Launched back in December, the goal of the program is to "to educate consumers and provide them with the resources to help them manage their privacy online."

Accompanying the ads is "an information-rich website where consumers can... engage in conversation about their privacy concerns."

Now, I don't know about you, but the only place I've seen people engage in conversation about their privacy concerns en masse is on Facebook via threads related to the latest effort by the social media giant to "extend the social graph" by sharing personal information with little-to-no advance notification and a mere opt-out.

Of course, the data collection, sharing, and targeting practices of IAB members are also opt-out but seldom (if ever) involve personally-identifiable information. Alas, the call to action to "engage in conversation" has produced a grand total of 16 comments to date on the IAB Privacy Matters website.

Google, for its part, took a different tact when it launched Interest-based advertising. For the most part, it avoids using the words "behavioral" and "targeting" altogether. Instead it suggests that its platform makes ads more "relevant" and "useful." I believe I called this approach putting lipstick on a pig.

My personal take? All the campaigning, notifications and wordplay in the world can't change the fact that the reason people don't like behaviorally (or otherwise) targeted ads is because they know someone's getting rich off their data and it ain't them.

Don't get me wrong, I applaud the IAB and its members for doing something to educate the public and keep the vocal minority from becoming a vocal majority. That said, I think we need pop the pig open and see if it squeals rather than just making it over.

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