Part 2 of my post started yesterday. I figured you don't like to read long articles so I broke it up :-P
Now, you might be saying, oh come on you are being too tough on them. It is a growing market, right? Yes it is. According to the FCC, there were 24.7 million cable lines at the end of 2005 which was a 3.4 million increase over 2004. With Vonage's customer base at 2,057,844 that is a less than 9% penetration. (I didn't count DSL because you have to keep a line to maintain DSL to have Vonage go over it; pretty much wiping out your savings.) I know rough math and I mixed annual numbers around, but give me a sec to prove this out. According to Comcast, they added 483,000 voice customers during 3rd quarter 2006 and since they are one of many cable companies with this service, you'd have to assume that going forward, Vonage will not be able to keep pace and will fall behind. And, that doesn't even factor in Skype. Besides Vonage's lousy marketing, they have probably hit their peak market penetration and the cable companies will continue to out market share them going forward.
Next, when I was surfing the internet I got hit with this horrible pop-up ad. I guess the geniuses that brought you an increase in CPA with a budget cut figured that they would borrow a page from the X-10 Camera playbook and start running pop-ups. The problem is that a) people hate pop-ups b) they most likely get hit with a filter c) people really hate them. Back in the day, the X-10 online marketing manager was a real genius because they sold tons of these on the internet and for the most part pop-ups work for ROI focused companies that can make these leave behinds fun when they embed their marketing within a game. Or in X-10's case, sex. The problem with the Vonage ads is that they are both boring and annoying. And, to top it off, pretty much every line has some sort of caveat on it. My favorite part of this horrible ad is the line that says "Save up to 50% or more". Please, how does someone save "up to" and "or more" at the same time? It is this kind of language that helps fuel churn and that's in addition to the cash offer borrowed from an old MCI winback strategy of - when all else fails, use cash.
Finally, the folks over at Motley Fool named Vonage The Worst Stock to Own in 2007. 'Nuff said on that subject.
What the Vonage is going on here? Clearly they can't sell this service without spending a ton of money to pay people to take it. They have share pressure from all over including Skype and may have enrolled as many tech junkies as they possibly can. Their strategy and marketing plan looks to me like someone used a ruler to extrapolate their early numbers and said - "look at all the money we can make", forget about competition and customer service. I'd say in 2 years or in the next economic slowdown, Vonage will be gone leaving behind their rich founders and poorer investors.
Yes. It has been a long time since I visited with my second least favorite telecommunications company, Vonage. Quite frankly the reason was I get a little bored with the subject and move onto something else. However, day after day I receive visits from people searching on subjects like "vonage complaints site" (today), "vonage pop-up ad" (12/26), "vonage marketing complaint address" (12/25), and etc - you get the idea. The people have spoken (or searched) and who am I to disappoint my fans.
So, what have been holding back? A lot. First off, this moronic, idiotic commercial with the pretty blonde getting hit on the head with a Vonage box. Yes. It has been around for a while but it still bugs me. Why? Well clearly they are making her out to be dumb, but even after she gets hit in the head with the box, she still acts stupid by running into the water to play with the sharks. Seems to me the shark playing blonde is a metaphor for all the Vonage customers who got swindled when they bought into the Vonage IPO. I think the ad is more insulting to these customers than to blondes everywhere in the world.
Next up, I've been noticing that Vonage has been cutting back on their online advertising spend. Back in the day, they were the number one waster, err I mean, spender in online advertising. One would think that with the ROI potential of online and the fact, that their service works with, umm, broadband customers, that they should be able to manage their marketing spend. As this chart shows courtesy of TNS by way of ClickZ, they have cut their online marketing spend to 55% over a year ago. So, with that chart, you'd think they were reducing their cost per acquisition, right? Wrong. These marketing geniuses saw their cost per subscriber go UP by 6% over 2nd quarter to $254. I can tell you one thing as someone who has managed plenty of marketing campaigns in the telecom world is that when you starting trimming your budget, your CPA should go down; the last piece you should cut are good performing programs. Oh by the way, their churn also went up by 13% to 2.6% due to this lame reason "The increase is attributable in part to the rapid growth in subscriber lines throughout 2006 and resulting impact on customer care." Nice.
See tomorrow for Part 2 (yes it is already written). BTW, if you are looking for the Reagan/MSN post, scroll down to about the middle of the page or hit this link
It's almost the end of the year and with the kids being off from school, they are staying up later, cutting into my computer time. Anyway, I was expecting to see little traffic on the website, but surprise I have good traffic. In fact, I've had good traffic for a while now. It couldn't possibly be the Reagan/MSN post I did from a few days ago; what I thought was going to be a good post, didn't even make the cut over at Marketing Prof's Daily Fix Blog. So what gives? It is a combination of the Z-Lister Meme and my content popping up in search results; this experience should be helpful to new bloggers. Of course, it is meaningless if you already have a name for yourself out in the real world.
One of the keys to getting traffic is to have momentum with your fellow bloggers. Sure you might start out to attract other readers, but at the end of the day you need the blogging community to link to your articles to boost your ability to be found. Personally, I haven't focused too much on Technorati, but with the boost in links from the Meme, my rank has dropped from around 195,000 to 47,113 which is great. The links also help with your search rankings.
The second tip I'd give new bloggers is to focus on trying to get associated with a larger blog or network. That was a tip someone gave me a long time ago and I can vouch for it. I can't tell you how many links, emails, and comments I've received from folks that read my posts over at Marketing Prof Daily Fix. I can't thank Ann Handley enough for inviting a year back when she started it.
Also, focus on your own content. Write your own material. Constantly commenting on others blogs won't do it and will not build an audience. If you want to link to articles that you think your readers will like, then just make a post of links and don't waste people's time with comments. I like using Del.icio.us to auto post to the blog.
Finally, don't make the same mistake that I did and have two URLs pointing to your blog. That's the single biggest mistake I made in the past year. What this did was split the blog traffic between pardonmyfrench.typepad.com and www.ericfrenchman.com. I didn't think it would be so critical when I moved over to Typepad from Blogger, but it has. Pardonmyfrench.typepad.com has a ranking of 362K probably from all the search results while www.ericfrenchman.com has an Alexa of 483K. If I only had one URL pointing to the blog, it is quite possible I'd make Mack's Top 25 Marketing Blog list further helping my traffic.
That's it for today. Check back tomorrow night. I have a What The Vonage Post on the way for you fans of my Vonage series.
A little historical back drop for you. Back in 1947, Ronald Reagan, President of the Screen Actors Guild was called to give testimony to the House Un-American Activities Committee on communist activities within SAG. A quote from Reagan is important to be reminded of today regarding Microsoft Vista/IE 7(stay with me)..
In opposing those people (communists), the best thing to do is make democracy work. In the Screen Actors Guild we make it work by insuring everyone a vote and by keeping everyone informed. I believe that, as Thomas Jefferson put it, if all the American people know all of the facts they will never make a mistake. Whether the party should be outlawed, that is a matter for the government to decide. As a citizen, I would hesitate to see any political party outlawed on the basis of its political ideology. However, if it is proven that an organization is an agent of foreign power, or in any way not a legitimate political party -- and I think the government is capable of proving that -- then that is another matter.
Back to the present keeping in mind that phishers=communists and Microsoft=HUAC. According to the article in the December 19th edition of the WSJ called Software to Spot Phishers Irks Small Concerns Microsoft seems to start a new Green Scare. In this case Microsoft is trying to be the judge, jury, and executioner of what is a legitimate site or not without the whole picture (opposite of Reagan's quote - "if people know all the facts, they will never make a mistake".) Unfortunately, according to Microsoft they won't know all the facts. What that means is that if you don't have a green bar you could be avoided. How do you get a green bar? I don't know, ask Microsoft but if you are a small business and not an LLC, partnership, or S/C corp you will not be in the green zone for a while (according to the video link found on the article, maybe 6 months). And, when you couple this with phishing filter you could end up worse off with a yellow bar.
Sure Microsoft says this is all in the name of protecting consumers from terrible phish sites, but how about the legitimate small business trying to make a buck on the internet? What happens to them? Don't they get to participate in the Long Tail? This certainly puts a burden on small business, but boosts big e-Commerce sites like eBay and Amazon.
Seriously. What do you think? Is it fair to hammer small business in the name of protecting you from phishing? How about Microsoft setting themselves up as the final arbiter of what is a legitimate site without complete information. I think I can guess what Reagan would have said on this issue...
Well, just when I rip on my own post for not getting any love over at Marketing Profs (I think it just has to do with timing), I receive a nice link from The Street.com. Thanks James!! As some of you readers know, I've always been a fan of The Street.com and my Mother might be Jim Cramer's biggest fan.
My fellow Marketing Prof blogger Mack Collier from The Viral Garden tagged me with the Z-Lister Meme going around. Thanks Mack. Anyway, here's the list of blogs. I can't say that I've read all of them, but there are quite a number on this list that I check in on a regular basis or subscribe via RSS. Who knows, maybe you'll find some more you like to read in a day. I plan to visit them all in the next few days. BTW - for you non-bloggers that read my blog (yes you know who you are), this is like a chain letter only the benefits are a blogger will get more links to their website helping with traffic. Plus, it is a great way to discover new people to communicate with.
Movie Marketing Madness
Blog Till You Drop!
One Reader at a Time
The New PR
Own Your Brand!
Work, in Plain English
New Millenium PR
Pardon My French
Troy Worman's Blog
The Instigator Blog
The Marketing Minute
The Frager Factor
Open The Dialogue
Note to CMO:
That's Great Marketing!
Shotgun Marketing Blog
Being Peter Kim
Pow! Right Between The Eyes! Andy Nulman’s Blog About Surprise
Billions With Zero Knowledge
Working at Home on the Internet
Two Hat Marketing
The Emerging Brand
The Branding Blog
Drew's Marketing Minute
Tell Ten Friends
Flooring the Consumer
The Copywriting Maven
Scott Burkett's Pothole on the Infobahn
Logic + Emotion
Branding & Marketing
Popcorn n Roses
On Influence & Automation
Servant of Chaos
¡Hola! Oi! Hi!
Shut Up and Drink the Kool-Aid!
Women, Art, Life: Weaving It All Together
Social Media on the fly
Jeremy Latham’s Blog
SMogger Social Media Blog
The Viral Garden
To: FCC Chairman Kevin Martin
CC: WSJ Editorial Page
Re: AT&T Merger with Bell South, Net Neutrality or Why There Is Still No Phone Competition in Long Valley, NJ
I know it must be tough for you these days as the last check into this bad for consumer deal between the new, new, we swear we won't do no evil AT&T and Bell South. Especially now that Robert McDowell decided to abstain from voting on the merger which results in a 2-2 tie between Republicans and Democrats at the FCC. Wow to think how billions hang in the balance between 4 people. That's quite a challenge, so let me, as a 10 year veteran of the old and better AT&T give you some advice. Sure this is free, but if you study the downfall of AT&T you will realize that the current uncompetitive environment is much of a result of bad management by C. (how) Michael (bought Excite@Home and TCI high and sold them very low) Armstrong and lies and underdeliveries by the Baby Bells of the promised made in the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
I submit to you my recent experience with home service in beautiful Long Valley, NJ which is a mere 30 minutes via a country road to the old AT&T HQ and now the current Verizon HQ in Basking Ridge NJ. Back in the day when that building was filled with veterans of the long distance wars, people actually switched carriers and received offers. In fact, towards the end of my time there we had plans to invade the local business and the Baby Bells had plans to invade ours. I can remember the first time Bell Atlantic/Verizon actually started appearing on outpic reports (just in case you don't know what an outpic is that's when someone actually switches their LD carrier). A funny thing about Long Valley is that both Embarq (the worst brand name ever) and Verizon split local service here. You can bet that Verizon would love to have the whole town, but sigh they don't want to invade the territory because well they don't have to because why rock the boat. This is what happens when regulators like yourself allowed the telecommunications industry to become an oligopoly - the kind where prices don't drop because they know the outcome - no response.
So what did I get as an credit card billed, online care, all you can eat long distance customer that never bothered AT&T when I wanted to switch? Nothing. Zilch. Oh I did get a lousy customer service rep located in India who after giving me my outpic (there's that word again) confirmation number offered to give me 7 cents instate LD for a lousy monthly fee (ugh), AT&T CallAdvantage (why would I want crappy VOIP), or get this WorldNet dial-up (words can not describe the futility). I thought for a second the rep was going to offer me cash to stay (you remember those tricks), but then he caught himself when he realized that I was out of territory (probably forever) so I can't have local or their great TV service that may arrive by 2020. He could have offered some wireless offer because I used to have AT&T Wireless Service back when I was AT&T's bundle boy, but sadly, the new, forgetful AT&T doesn't care about bungling, err I mean bundling wireless and LD anymore.
Why the lack of save programs or wireless bundles? Simple. There is no competition in a state like NJ and won't be for the near future. And, that Mr. Martin gets to the heart of the Net Neutrality argument. Yes. Net Neutrality. See I agree in concept that if you lay the pipes for high speed than you should be able to charge whatever you want. What makes this easier for the Baby Bells is that they are allowed to have a virtual monopoly in a region and charge whatever they want for local service, because there is no competition. They don't need to waste valuable dollars in customer care or marketing or promotions because they don't need to. What's an angry customer supposed to do? Switch to the equally frustrating cable companies? Yeah right. Fact is Net Neutrality is an issue because they are controlling both ends of the pipe thanks to regulators like yourself who hide behind free markets that don't exist (take some notes WSJ).
Yes, I do believe in our economy, free markets, and that if all things being equal, competition will give consumers more choices and better prices. However, it doesn't work when you allow each Baby Bell to have a virtual monopoly in their territory, resulting in no alternatives for consumers. Use your own experience and see if you can switch services. Competition doesn't exist and this merger shouldn't be allowed to go through without significant concessions.
Originally I was just going to tag this and have it auto-post to my site, but I decided against it because I think it needs a few comments. The Chicago Tribune posted this article called Draft finds no wrongs in Wal-Mart ad pitch and I think DraftFCB is missing a point in the firing. The question is not whether the sales team violated Draft's or Interpublic's policy but whether they met Wal-Mart's strict vendor rules. Here's the quote in the article I'm referring to:
As of this morning," he wrote [Howard Draft], "we have completed this investigation, which has not uncovered any instances in which we violated either [DraftFCB or Interpublic] policy. It is important for you to know that--and equally important that our clients know that."
If you know your client doesn't want you to even buy them a cup of coffee, than shouldn't that be your policy? If something like that is put in the RFP or you know that based on signs posted in their offices, than shouldn't that be part of the agency review process? I know some of you are thinking that an agency shouldn't police their client, but you should have some responsibility, no? Especially if you know that is the rule going in? Maybe DraftFCB was mislead or maybe the relationship was doomed from the start, but what I'd like to know is did they violate Wal-Mart's policy of vendor's not giving gifts to their employees.
I saw this article in MediaPost called Schwab Ties Positive Gains to Chuck and I thought you'd like to read a little more behind the ads. The ads in question are the cartoon like Talk to Chuck creatives, but before I go on about how much I like the ads let me give you a little background.
Back in my day as Managing Director, Channel Marketing at Harrisdirect which was the 17th largest US advertiser in 2005 right before E*trade acquired us, I pretty much ignored Schwab's online advertising. What?? How do I ignore such a large advertising spender? Simple, they had no clue as to what they were doing and were a complete mess when it came to online advertising. All my agencies would come in with their competitive scans and tell me how much they were spending and what they were doing and my reply was always the same "Oh, they'll change their creative strategy by the end of the week." And, sure enough, the Big Dawg (me) was always right. Out would come a new creative execution that was completely disconnected from their offline ads and in general was just awful.
Plus, their media buys were all over the map and inconsistent. They would often buy the same button position for Schwab Active Trader and Cybertrader, basically competiting with one another and paying double. I never knew how the economics would work out on that. Plus, their search marketing was in the dark ages. All that changed in April 2005.
Going into 2005, we were working with our traditional agency of record, EuroRSG on a new brand platform. It was a complicated process, but we were making some real headway and were putting into motion a non-traditional marketing plan when Euro won Schwab's account. Schwab's first demand was to drop Harrisdirect as a client which they did. A few months later, Euro pumps out Talk to Chuck and we recognized it as a great execution of our direct investor platform, but backed up with the humanity of asking Charles Schwab. Quite a winning combination. (side note: I am not saying that Euro used our ideas, pretty much everyone in the direct broker category had a direct investor brand play).
I'm glad that Schwab has righted their ship and are seeing success. Plus, I'm happy that the hard working folks from EuroRSG finally got to put a good plan in action in the financial services industry. It all is good because if they didn't win the business, they would have lost out on our business anyway with the acquisition.
The only knock I'll send Schwab's way is based on this statement "Already, Schwab is ahead of most advertisers, Stuart maintains--noting
that although 25% of all media consumption is online, most advertisers
allocate around 10% to online ads. Schwab already spends about 20% of
its media dollars online." That is just sad in the financial category. Sure versus ALL advertisers Schwab is spending more on average, but within the direct brokerage category, I'm sure they are WAY BEHIND. I once had a director of marketing from TD Waterhouse tell me that after they viewed competitive spend of the competition who allocated 10-20% online, they saw the Harrisdirect spend which was 75% online and he realized that was the future. That was back in 2003.
Come on Schwab you can do better than that. Just lift your head out of the sand and see how the world has changed and figure out that the audience shifted a long time ago. If you can't, I'd just talk to Chuck.
So, today I saw an online ad I absolutely loved. It was for Oral-B Triumph. Yes I wrote Oral-B Triump a suped-up toothbrush. Why do I love it? First, it was a packaged goods product which until recently I thought would be the last to embrace the internet for advertising. It is welcoming to see agencies for traditionally big TV and print spenders finally wake up and see that they can accomplish their goals online. The banner ads themselves are very clean and even if you do catch the entire ad, the last frame tells the whole story (one of my personal best practices which is the final frame is the most important one), but the flash microsite is also well done. Sure the frame is a little busy, but I like the rollover features to demo the toothbrush, plus the demo, and product features. Again, try getting that information in a 30 second TV commercial.
Now for the most annoying, neanderthal marketing I've seen recently. Yes, I'm speaking about the childish shadow dancing LowerMyBills.com ad that won't go away. Every time I log into my Earthlink webmail (I have DSL), I'm guaranteed to see these awful ads multiple times in a session. Now, it is no surprise that they either have a CPC or CPA deal with Advertising.com because that's what is typically responsible for the banner ads in Earthlink. Plus, according to TNS, they were the 12th largest spender of online advertising in October 2006, but they are just wasting their money.
Personally, I lived on CPA deals while at Harrisdirect so I can appreciate a well-oiled acquisition machine, but to rotate in the same ad, over and over again is just bad planning. Sure, I had the famous Elsie Lee Harrisdirect ad which was my #1 served ad for over 2 years, but I still rotated in as many as 7 ads in an individual placement at one time and then let my ad server, BlueStreak, figure out the optimization. There is no way that the shaking shadow ad can possibly be that succesful.
About 2 years back I had a phone interview with LowerMyBills but decided against continuing because I didn't want to move to California. Back then, they were very proud of their spend and I have to admit I was intrigued to run such a large campaign. Now, they look like a shaking shadow of themselves and forgot to either pay their creative agency for new ads or just got lazy towards the end of the year.
I saw this article in Thursday's Wall Street Journal called Google Tests New Ad Offerings - but Will Advertisers Follow (sorry no link today; my online subscription expired and I need a special renewal code) and it reminded me of Danny Sullivan's keynote speech at Search Engine Strategies. The keynote is almost 50 minutes long and it is fairly interesting so if you can spare the time while multi-tasking it makes for a great listen.
The three key points that resonated with me during his keynote were (and I'm paraphrasing):
Point #3 brings us back to the WSJ article. It describes how Google wants to bring print, radio, TV, etc to the masses and this interesting quote from Eric Schmidt that says "The long-term fantasy is we walk up to you and you give us say $10 million and we'll completely allocate it for you" which looks like a fantasy today. What makes Google work today is that search is a) completely measurable b) auction driven c) very simple to run and d) you pay for what you use.
Google's Print and Radio products are a) auction driven and b) hopefully simple to use. What? What do you mean it isn't trackable? I thought the article mentioned Google Trends. Well you could use it but this is what you'd see today if you were say exploring a run for president and only relied on Google Trends for measurement. What's the first thing missing? Numbers and the last time I reported results of an advertising campaign (which was yesterday) they were a critical component in the analysis. How are you supposed to show results, correlation, trends without umm numbers? I guess if you had real access to Google numbers that maybe it would work, but you'd still be estimating.
I was asked last week what I thought of Google Radio and after reading today's article and going back over my notes from Danny Sullivan's keynote, I can boil it down to this - you want to purchase radio in an auction style, easy to use process than I'm sure it is fine, it may be great, and I'll probably use it. However, if you think because the product you are using is called Google Print or Google Radio that it will perform the same way as AdWords or even be measured like AdWords, then you really aren't reading the fine print and have just bought ino all the fantasy hype.
***********UPDATE THIS AFTERNOON************
My blogger friend Bill Tancer provided some data on Google Finance which pretty much backs up my conclusion. Hitwise data shows that Google Finance is 16th overall in their Business and Finance category even after their redesign. One of the reasons Bill gives is the traffic distribution. Please see Bill's post called Google Finance - After the Redesign.
Now, I never met Julie Roehm and have also never done business with Wal-Mart; in fact, my wife breaks out in hives whenever I mention that we should go there to pick up an item. I've been reading a ton of articles on the subject because it has the makings for a great soap opera. Accusations of inappropriate behavior, big dinner parties, and what looks like a butting of culture heads. In my opinion, it just looks like a marriage doomed from the start and that Wal-Mart was looking at any way to get themselves out of this deal and that includes choosing DraftFCB as their AOR. The most interesting article I found was from Stuart Elliot of the New York Times called Wal-Mart Fires Marketing Star and Ad Agency. Why, because it talks about someone I worked with during Harrisdirect's agency search, Linda Fidelman.
Linda, president of Advice and Advisors, runs a very well organized and thorough agency review process. She helped Harrisdirect navigate through choosing our last AOR, Strawberry Frog. And, that was quite a complicated review because I had chosen Grey Interactive as our interactive AOR and when we needed print/TV help (BTW - why did we ever do print ads - UGH) after Schwab had Euro RSCG dump Harrisdirect, I asked Grey WorldWide to pinch hit until we chose an offline AOR. Linda set the review ground rules including who can meet with the perspective agencies, who can fill out the forms to help narrow it down, and even who can join in with the agency socials to understand chemistry.
She is quoted in the article regarding comments made at the now infamous DraftFCB-Nobu party and correctly pointed out when:
Ms. Fidelman said she asked Ms. Roehm why she appeared at the dinner and whether the other ad agencies being considered along with Draft FCB were upset. Ms. Roehm’s reply, according to Ms. Fidelman, was along the lines of “if you don’t ask, you don’t get.”
Ms. Fidelman said guests at the dinner were “all fairly flabbergasted,” adding, “I’ve never seen an existing client at one of these things — much less a prospective client.”
That was classic Linda telling it like it is and trying to keep order around an agency review process that she had nothing to do with (assumed). Linda's number one concern is to have a fair and unbiased agency selection process, especially when things can get out of hand. For example, I was once offered New York Yankees World Series Tickets during a review process which I of course turned down; some agencies will do anything to win your business and that's why people like Linda are there to protect the process.
Anyway, that's a little more background added to the story. I do hope Ms. Roehm lands on her feet. I witnessed plenty of change agents brought into the old and better AT&T who were shunned by the old timers when they tried to buck the AT&T culture. It is a double edged sword because as a change agent you are brought into well, make changes, but often you run into the old ways of doing things that people cling to and in the end you either compromise and give up your change agent mantra or leave. At AT&T most of them ended up leaving...
I love Google. I called them the day they turned on their PPC product and have been advertising with them ever since. Every single online advertising plan that I've developed since that day includes Google Search because it performs. I also love Yahoo and especially Yahoo Finance. It is still the premier spot on the internet today for reaching people and professionals in the finance category (Yes as part of my own company Eric Frenchman LLC, I still buy a lot in the finance category).
Anyway, I saw this announcement on the revised Google Finance page with accompanying YouTube video release and I really think they should just forget about it. Google Finance is just not relevant and according to Hitwise there is very little traffic as compared to the rest of Google's products; the number is 0.07% of Google's traffic. If it wasn't for the release and subsequent pickup in the blogosphere I wouldn't have known about it. Why? Doesn't even come to mind.
The category leaders like Yahoo Finance, MSN Money, Street.com, Motley Fool have their niches and reasons for visiting them. Organizing quotes, news, and charts has been around forever and just because you slap an Ajax interface on it doesn't change what you get which is trends, patterns, and news. The video release lists these 4 items on a blackboard as key updates:
The biggest issue is who is the target segment for this? The average investor, professionals, stat junkies, all of the above? I can't figure it out. If you want to bring finance to the masses and democratize the data, I'd like to see a simpler approach with more organized news, video, professional commentary, and even research. Heck, even though I got into a big debate over BloggingStocks.com I think they at least tried to have a different approach of bringing a different set of datapoints to the party.
Back when Google Finance launched in March I gave a luke-warn review and I still see it that way. It has some nice Ajax functions, but at the end of the day I think Google will eventually shut this down because there just won't be enough traffic or advertising dollars to support this. At the end of the video, the product engineer says "they will do a better job of helping you find and organize your financial information". I agree that Google works best when they organize data that is unorganized, unfortunately for them, this data has been well organized for years and no amount of Ajax can change that. On a side note, I do agree with fellow MarketingProfs blogger B.L. Ochman that using YouTube to issue a press release is a brilliant idea.
A few weeks back I passed my one year anniversary of writing and caring for the PardonMyFrench blog. I know I didn't celebrate it because it really isn't that big of an accomplishment. Sure I've had some good posts and some bad posts but what I'm most proud of is that I have a mission as to why I do this and I do my best to stick to it. I also think I found a little niche. One of the things I've noticed of late is some interesting traffic patterns to the website. Take a look at these stats from December 1st through just a minute ago.
According to MyBlogLog which I use for tracking my site, I had 744 visitors and that excludes my email and RSS subscribers (about 100 per day) who don't have to visit the site to read my posts. Of those 744 visitors, 99 came directly to the site and 35 came from a redirect posted on a Google press release. So, 13% came directly to the site, 5% from a Google press release and the other 82% mostly from search results. Take a look at the screen shot - it really is a Long Tail on content.
So, what does this traffic pattern tell me and what should it tell all new bloggers. A lot, so here's what I learned while blogging for a year.
Eric's Blogging Lessons Learned
My wife is the classic super star shopper. Back in her day she once hit 6 malls across three states in just one day. No exaggeration, 3 different states. That's a lot of shopping bags. However, no more. Yes, we did go to a mall after Thanksgiving, but that was more about getting ideas for our holiday lists. And, when we do go to a retail store, it is one of the local ones in Chester for unique gifts and for just a walk about town. Did my wife suddenly stop shopping? No. She buys almost everything online.
Take this past Friday as an example. The mailman once again rang the front door to drop our mail off and a package. An hour later (mind you I have a home office), the door rang again and it was DHL with another box (BTW - I didn't think DHL was still in business). Then an hour later, it's the doorbell again but this time it is Federal Express with another box. Ok. That has to be it right? Wrong. Around 4:30 PM I see the brown truck back into my driveway. Yes back in because it is easier for the driver to get the boxes out. So, I met him down in my garage to get more boxes. What did he say to me when I opened my garage door and he saw this picture?
"Man, I hit Long Valley and I set my truck on autopilot to your house." BTW - those boxes prevent me from pulling my car into the garage.
So, what does our favorite shopper have to say about online shopping? First, looking online for ideas is not very easy or fun. Second, it is hard to figure out what you are going to look like or how the shoes or clothes will fit. That's why the return policy is so critical. Finally, search functions are critical - not just paid click on Google results, but search on the ecommerce sites.
What's Mary's secret? She uses catalogs to supplement the lower resolution of PCs to figure out what something will look like and to get ideas for people. Don't need a connection to do that and believe it or not, some things are just better the old fashioned paper method. However, when it comes to placing the order, nothing beats online.
Yes with all the shopping we do online, I'm sure of one thing. These shippers better be cashing in big time, at least my stock portfolio looks a lot better than my car parked out in the cold until Christmas.
BTW, if you need to go to a good place at the last minute. Ask Mary. She knows. I needed a place to buy shoes. She said go to Zappos - they have everything and a 365 day, free both ways, return policy. (Try reading return policies at big retailers like Target to see how that compares) Their site side search is terrible, but you can find almost anything and they ship quickly. That white Zappos box on the bottom of the picture arrived within 3 business days. Have a merry online shopping...
I had dinner yesterday at Redwoods with an old colleague from AT&T (the better version, not the current anti-net neutrality, anti-competitive one) to discuss online social communities. As we were leaving, I had a modest moment (yes it happens as often as a total eclipse of the Sun in North America) and said, not bad from a guy from New Jersey and I received a reply back that said "no, you are not from NJ you are from the internet." And, that got me thinking, well I guess I am.
After working from my home office for the past year, I've often struggled with the stereotype of being at home and constantly proving that I am working hard and not hardly working. One of things my wife complains about is that she doesn't know when I'm working, playing World of Warcraft, posting on my blog, or just plain surfing the internet. Why? As Mary says, it all looks the same. My counter is that "look, all I need is a laptop, high speed connection, and my experience to work". And, I believe with broadband spreading like crab grass in your lawn, that my situation will become the norm in a few years.
Why do you need an office? Why do you need to commute? Sure if you have an important meeting it is better face to face, but with Second Life for virtual meetings, conference calls, emails, etc you literally can be anywhere and get work done.
Well, I'm not crazy. Virtual offices are the way to go. In this week's (or is it next week's) Business Week there is a featured article called Smashing The Clock which goes inside Best Buy's radical plan for reshaping their work force. It also talks about IBM's efforts to also push virtual offices. You know what is says? People work and accomplish more when not glued to their corporate office and they also have more freedom.
See, a virtual office is the wave of the future. Broadband access lets you operate anywhere and with the cost of laptops and other necessary equipment dropping, you have to start asking yourself why do you need an office? I bet in 5 years there will be an army of people with virtual offices...I'm glad to see I'm once again on the cutting edge of society ;-)
I saw these two articles today on some expert's forecasts for advertising spending and maybe I'm the only one a little upset over one of the sets of numbers, but I am shocked over what I read. At AdAge the article Advertisers Expect Modest Growth for 2007 was where I first read this about Universal McCann's Robert Coen, senior VP-director of forecasting's online numbers. It seems that Mr. Coen does not include search numbers in his online forecasts. Coen predicts (maybe guesses) that online will grow by 15% without search. Here's what AdAge reported:
....has become a topic of debate, as seen by Mr. Coen's decision to leave internet search spending out of his numbers and Mr. King's decision to leave it in
Ok, I don't think I can type words that describe how myopic that is, but then I read this follow up article via the New York Times called Troubling '07 Forecast for the Old-Line Media but Not for Online where the reporter Stuart Elliot wrote that not only does Mr. Coen leave search out of his numbers "...classifying it as more promotional in nature". That's even more ridiculous. Search marketing is Advertising. I'm sure the rest of his analysis is top notch, but I wouldn't pay any attention to that. My old AT&T boss back when I was a statistical modeler and database marketing analyst used to tell me for a model: garbage in=garbage out and by ignoring the impact of search marketing on advertising is just trashy.
BTW - all the other mediums of choice (bad choice, I mean) are forecasted to slow down while online is expected to grow...
I had no intentions of making another post today because I have several lined up, but with the news of Yahoo's Reorganization and several high level departures, I can't resist one more post. You can read the official press release, CEO Terry Semel's blog post, or wait a little longer in the day for links to several other blogs commenting on the story. Personally, the other blogs didn't add too much, but the best one I saw was Om Malik's Yahoo Reorg or Retread; not that I agree with everything that Om wrote but at least he added to the discussion. Speaking of adding to the discussion....
I've bought tens of millions of dollars worth of advertising on Yahoo over the past 6 years and continue to buy advertising on them. Why? In the finance category they are the #1 property, can reach targets using their behavioral modeling (Fusion) better than others, provide scale, huge branding opportunities, and low cost/high reach units. The account and sales team are the most professional around and if you know how to work with them it is very smooth process. Plus, the Finance team has always recommended and helped me navigate Yahoo's org structure when I wanted placements outside of their core area.
However, Yahoo is very big right now with many organizations. The streamlining in the reorganization hopefully will help; however, please don't start layoffs. It will just kill morale and from what I've seen in the Finance Group, you need more people not less. I also hope the reorg allows Yahoo to bring new products, processes, tools, and rationalize overlapping products already in their portfolio. Yahoo should be the leader and the #1 destination for all advertisers, not just Finance.
However, with the announcements of Dan Rosensweig and Lloyd Braun leaving (yes the name from Seinfeld) what was left unsaid was that as long as Yahoo's Chief Sales Officer Wenda Harris Millard is still leading their sales group, Yahoo will win in th e long run. I've spent some time with Dan R. at a Yahoo/Jack Welch dinner and met Yang and Semel, but I've spent a lot of time with Wenda over lunch, meetings, and even via email. Out of all the sales executives I've run across Wenda is the most professional one out there and if you read this AdAge article still has a lot of fight left for Yahoo.
The Ad Age article is pure Wenda as she comes out swinging and telling it like it is. Here are some quotes:
That was pure Wenda and I wish I was there to see it when she delivered those messages. Maybe Yahoo's problems are that they aren't sexy enough for analysts any longer or they can't quite keep up with the growth expectations. Certainly not upgrading the old Overture Search platform is/was a critical mistake, but they have one ace in the hole unmatched at other online companies, which is their Sales Officer.
I've been so busy as of late that I let this one slip through. A friend of mine from Google, in addition to a few folks from Connell Donatelli, sent me this link last Thursday called Google CEO Calls Net Key to Whitehouse but I never commented. So, better late than never.
First of all, of course Google is correct that the internet is key to gaining the Whitehouse in 2008. The examples that Eric Schmidt gave are the obvious ones which include postings on YouTube of Rep. Murtha and Sen. Allen, Kingdom of Bahrain having screen shots from Google Earth posted comparing lavish homes with the average person's home, and of course Google Bombing the election courtesy of some liberal bloggers. Ok, so what's a politician supposed to do with these? Simple, stop ignoring that this can happen and be proactive about using the internet.
I witnessed some of these examples referenced by Schmidt. In the case of YouTube postings a simple way to combat the posts was to make sure your own messages are posted on YouTube earlier enough in the process as well as running search ads so that the YouTube postings don't appear so high in the results; you can no longer ignore 323K views of these videos. Why? Even politics is effected by the Long Tail of Marketing: reaching smaller niches of people in very cost effective methods or said another way, a few 1000 people viewing a not-so-flattering video can cost you an election.
Speaking of ignoring things, I still believe Google should do more to combat Google Bombing certain words. I firmly believe that this impacts their brand and shows that a small group of people can manipulate the results. Google Bombing the mid-term elections was really started too late to impact the vast majority of targeted campaigns, but the fact remains that people believe that they can manipulate Google's organic search results. Sure, campaigns are starting to embrace the internet, but the internet should do a little more to customize tools and reach out to the market place; ending Google Bombing would be a start in the right direction.
Is the internet key for 2008? Well it is a key component in messaging and strategy. Just like anything else in the world, a good product will sell itself, but it sure helps when marketing channels are used effectively. Stop trying to fight what's happening online by sticking with the same old ways of marketing; use the Long Tail to spread your message out more to many groups of small niches.
Every year for the past 17 years, Mary and I would drive out to Wyckoff's Tree Farm in Belvidere NJ to cut our own tree down. Wyckoff's was famous for literally having mountains of trees to choose from. After cutting the tree down, we'd head to a Poinsettia Farm across the street (Gro-Rite) and then down to Hot Dog Johnny's in Buttzville NJ (no there is a Buttzville and you can have your mail stamped from their post office). Year after year a little bit of Americana served Northwestern Jersey style.
Last year, Wyckoff's started showing its wear and tear as other people discovered it and their owner was stricken with cancer and missed a growing season a few years back. However, we remained faithful more to the entire experience, but faithful never the less. Now, our annual hot dog-Xmas tree-poinsettia tradition has run into a humbug courtesy of outsourcing.
As always, we ran to the Poinsettia Farm's greenhouses that used to be filled with an endless sea of plants. And, not your standard red and pink boring poinsettia plants. There were mixed colors, burgundy, pink and white, and poinsettia trees. However, it was locked and when I went to ask the worker we've seen for years to let us in to take pictures, he said they stopped growing them because it costs too much money and it is cheaper to get them from Ohio. Ugh, back to the standard boring plants that you can get at Walmart.
Now, I'm not saying that I understand the farming business, but this was a unique opportunity. I mean look at these pictures from the last two years. Where are you going to see something like that (I know, Ohio)? This farm seemed like a well kept secret, so perhaps a little marketing could have saved our unique plants. That's what some of the more successful farms in our town have done like Alstede's.
Outsourcing took a way one of our favorite Xmas past times. We were still able to cut down a tree at Wyckoff's but with everything they've been through the mountain of trees are long since gone and they are trucking pre-cut trees in too. It is a shame that a unique product is being swept aside for homogenized profits. At least the hot dogs we had at Hot Dog Johnny's were still served by the same people for like a $1/dog with only onions, mustard, and pickle available as condiments. Hopefully, they continue to embrace their uniqueness in a sea of sameness. Long Live Hot Dog Johnny's.
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