JvE blogremarks

Remarks by me ( @Blauw ) about (social) media, advertising, tech and stuff I see on the web.

The Google race

The reason I strongly believe Google still has the best cards vs Apple & Facebook is the one simple reason: they have Android.

Obviously, there have been some problems to Android in the recent past. One of the most major things was that Google licenced so much phones that it became almost impossible to develop an app that works flawless on the near 300+ devices running Android.

Some other problems were related to Android 2.* which was - to be honest - a bad fake copy of iOS. But, Google strongly turns the tide with the beautiful, fast and awesome ICS which is now on version 4.0.5 on Galaxy Note & Nexus.

The lack of Apple’s innovation on the iOS front could damage the company in the longer haul. I think that iOS now is out-of-date and lacks specific needs the user might has. iOS is one of the major things that hasn’t been part of big changes since the first iPhone came out in 1998. So you can say that the OS is now over 4 years old, but not growing into something. 

Pricing is also a thing here. The reason why Apple isn’t too market-dominant is the fact that the iPhones are expensive and Google has a whole line of not-so-expensive phones such as HTC, Samsung and Sony.

Facebook is hot and their mobile app has gotten better and better over the years, but there still working on the framwork which will automatically run native html5 in the canvas from within the FB app. This is something that is on a long term roadmap for Facebook, but not coming closer. Since FB relies on advertising revenue by selling your data to clients (‘if you don’t have to pay for a service, you ARE the product’) this is a bad promise for the next years where Facebook will turn out to be the evil guy by selling your profile to anyone interested in your likes, and other stuff you might wanted to stay more privately. Eventually people will leave Facebook for it. A future IPO will do the rest; there will be more pressure from shareholders in the future to maximise profits over users-rights and stakes, so the user will eventually be the cash-cow.

That being said; I think Apple is nowhere near disctiontion, but I think they clearly need to rethink strategy as they now turn out to be the absolute mainstream. This will cause the core-group of feeling dissatisfied, and creatives getting unsatisfied can bring great damage to Apple. Will this be in short term? No, cause their products right now are just too good and there is no strong competition around the corner. Also, it’s quite difficult to create both the hardware and the software at the same time. Apple does a better job on the hardware, but it needs good & better software to keep up.

Google can stand on a great account of advertising spend (96% of their annual revenue in total) and therefore has the ability to be playing on a lot of boards at the same time. So therefore they are into desktop browsing with Chrome, into mobile stuff with Android and into TV with Youtube and connected services related to it. Google Play will eventually turn out to be a marketplace not only for mobile, but also for content on demand. The day Google buys Nexflix could be a critical step in gaining momentum towards dominance within your household where the big money (also from cable companies) is.

What’s missing? Well, actually: hardware. Google pushes Samsung and other manufacturers to get the best hardware on the line to finally get traction out of the beloved iPad. But this doesn’t seem to be working cause of the competative advantage that Apple has. The new iPad is now the best selling tablet ever, and the Galaxy tab & note are in the shade of this. But, the new iPad isn’t that revolutionary as the iPad 1 or 2 were. This was more of an update of something that already existed, just as the 4S. 

Google has the biggest team (32.000 employees) and the best assets to get things big. The reason Plus doesn’t get of so far is the reason Google is not very good at selling their ideas to a crowd. If they manage to create a one-line story about the reason to click on a +1 button anywhere they have a strong asset to enricht search results with social components.

8 do’s for pitching & (idea-) selling your product

Last month I wrote a blogpost with the 12 common mistakes about pitching & idea selling. I got some quality feedback on this, which I obviously love about blogging. 

Now I like to take this topic into the more positive side. I took some of the companies I now work with as an example and did some thinking on them. What are they doing that I love? How did they get in? We also have had some excellent businesses coming in with a excellent pitch but where we did not end up doing business with. Also some examples of them.

This is one of the most serious recommendations I have. Prepare the meeting. You can do this while reading the corporate website, and some other stuff your propably know, but try to dive deeper into the topics you are interested in.

For instance:

- Try to figure out what the social strategy is
- What kind of marketingcampaigns they run
- Which brands are in portfolio, and which of them have the most clear focus 

A good and thoughtfull preparation makes you look smarter in a conversation, and we won’t have to waste time on much introduction. 

Ask questions
The best business relationships I have is from people constantly asking questions. Not only about business strategy but also more down the road stuff, like wheter I have assingments for them, or feedback on how they could improve their product further down the road. These people already asked a lot of questions on the first meeting I had with them, but also showed up in the mail asking additional questions.

Pricing & business opportunity
Be very clear on your pricing strategy. Point out what kind of solution you offer to what problem I have. And please, try to make this as clear as possible. Like many other people I don’t like hidden fees or strange setups with monthly fees. If you are uncomfortable talking about money; get it away. Business is about money. At least come up with some price range you think it will turn out.

I think the pricing component is one of the key drivers. This sounds a little cheap, but I think companies miss a lot of opportunities cause they are just way to expensive to work with. Even if you are pitching your products for a big company: they might not have the budget available.  

Examples & mockups 
This is something that US companies do, and I think I like this approach. Create mockups. Create and visualise how your idea or tool will look like, especially when there’s a need to integrate stuff or ‘white label’. Trust me; most marketeers will only look at your mockups and decide wheter they have fallen in love with it or not.

Follow up
After the first meeting, set up a quick follow up. I often have a nice conversation but then forget to email or call you back. This is not because I do not like you anymore. I’m just busy or I totally forgot.  

What do you really want? Sometimes I get requests of people initially want me to pitch their ideas. Later on they also look for an investment and more later on it seems they even haven’t started their company yet and looking for ideas. Try to be clear on the goal you approach me with. ‘Participation’ is not al clear goal, so try to see whether you can make this more clear. Looking for investments? Please say so.

I love people who remain in contact, even if I did decibe I did not want to to business with them. This does not mean you have to send me a christmass card (I got one last year from a guy I opted not to do business with) but seriously: some follow ups can’t do any harm and it looks like you are really interested in me, even if we do not currently do business.

I love a deal where we can easily set up the agreement. Don’t you? Consider this; letting a contract pass legal, my boss and maybe 2 or 3 others is gonna take a serious amount of time. Skip it, and get to the same pace as me. Maybe write me an email with 5 or 6 bullets you are gonna deliver and we’ll be fine. Trust me. If you’re contract is less than 10k of money involved; don’t bother.

12 common mistakes about ideaselling and pitching

Working as a business developer also gets you in the frontline of every company that wants to do business with us from the perspective that we should be their customer. And believe me; there are a lot of companies, startups or temporary comittees of people pitching ideas with us. I’ve decided to take these conversations - wheter they were really high level or just informal coffee meetings - into a blogpost about common mistakes made here. A brief introduction to 12 most common mistakes in random order.

Sure, I like to hear a bright idea, or a wildly innovative concept. But what I hate is when people think these ideas are billable. Some of these startups even ask to sign NDA’s. We took the policy not too by default, cause we believe ideas are very hard to protect in an open and (very) competative business. 

We don’t pay for your ideas
Let’s say this again; we do not pay for ideas. Especially not on ideas on operational stuff we can do ourselves. Such as; marketing, social media and other very operational things. Please, give us a prototype, or even better; a working example. Or, best; the project running for some other client who is so satisfied to write a review or recommendation about it.

We don’t want to hear your full story
There are a lot of small companies who take an hour or so to chat with me about their product or proposition. Actually; I like these conversations, also on Skype or IM. What I hate are small businesses filling an hour of my time with a monologue of the things they did, how they came to start this business and how good they are doing it. Please, stop. Introduce yourself in less than 4 lines and then ask as much questions as you can to see wheter your product is actually needed in my company.

Knowledge driven
This is a knowlegde driven economy. We assume the data in your presentation are hardfacts, based on serious research. Not some N=1 sample or vague assumption. When you do vague assumptions to an MT or board you might get away with it, when you pitch this to a product manager or marketeer you won’t. Don’t tell me what the average spent is per user when I have more hardfacts on this. Be absolutely sure about numbers. You won’t get away with this talking to experts in the field.

Tailor made
Obviously some products are tailor made. But too often I hear lines like; ‘yeah we can do this, it is all tailor made.’ Most people saying this try to prove their product is very flexible, but in general I think it’s a bad idea. Custom made sounds like two things. One; the actual product misses out critical features and/or two: the product is very expensive and only suitable for one client

'We have a higly adoptable, custom build frontend with some API's to extract data and integrated social media solutions which work out of the box.” Yeah right.

Get to know us
Sometimes I get visitors who are very eager to make an appointement but then pitch their ideas with a total wrong concept of what we are actually doing as a business. When we are a B2C company, don’t pitch me ideas for a B2B sollution. I won’t be able to change strategy here. Sometimes I will forgive this, as it is hard to really see the sheer amount of brands etc. we have inhouse, but sometimes this gets me very annoyed in a bad way. Please do your homework. This usually has a correlation to the second thing I mention above; I don’t want to hear your full story.

This has a lot to do with the thing mentioned above. Please, do not underestimate my company and/or the things we do. One example; people who actually think that social media is entirely new to us. Your wrong. 

Exec level
A lot of companies want to get in touch with the execs of our company. This is a bad idea for a couple of reasons.

1. Execs seem to make descions but they don’t. While my exec points out he’s complete overhead in many conversations, I take him very serious on that.

2. You won’t be working with exec’s. A lot of exec’s will listen to your story and then decide whether and who they will send you to at a lower level. Save yourself some time and skip the usually very busy schedule of an exec.

3. I personally am not interested in your relationship with the exec (See below) and I don’t want to talk about the business club you guys met.

Honesty is one of the best business drivers This might sound a bit like an open door, but seriously. If there isn’t any business match; please say so. I will.

Don’t be shy and tell me where I’m looking at. This is a car, but is it a Ferari or a Skoda? Am I looking at a €20.000 investment or a €2.000.000 one?

Don’t bother me telling that you know the exec in person, or any exec withing the company in person; I do not care. Seriously; I don’t. (see; exec level). Things I also hate here; saying that you actually talked to 5 of my collegues but you cannot remember their names or the department they came from. This is a special turnoff cause it seems that you bypassed feedback of my collegues and still want to talk to me. So, are you deliberating taking our time?

Next week; somewhat more on idea/concept pitching and 12 common DO’s here.  

HTML5, the future of the web?

Lately I hear a lot of marketing- and productmanagers talk about HTML5. They say it’s the future of the web, and that it is native compatible for mobile. It’s kinda strange though. I never hear them talk about any other programming language we might think are very cool (Ruby? Not cool anymore! Node.js? Yeah, kinda). Yes; html5 is very nice. But there are also enablers for html5. And not all our work gets done by simply putting the brand new html5 doctype on top of the page.

I think al lot of marketeers try to say with the phrase ‘html5 is the future of the web’ that we have a lot of new (open source) stuff available to make scalable and things for not only the web, but for every device. I think you should just say; we make web things that work. Webstuff that works native and smooth on every device. Our goal is to make every pageload - no matter on what device - a breeze. An enlighten UI experience. And it should not matter wheter this is in HTML5 or not. It just does not.


Why I love Shortstack

Reading my blogposts back, I feel I’m always complaining. That’s not true. In fact; I still love the interwebs for what it is. Especially when you find great tools that make your life much easier.

Since a month now Facebook requires your fanpage-pages to have a certificate. This quite lame, cause it puts everyonein the position where you need to ask for a certificate (about 80 euros/year here) and also to actually install it. To be honest, I still ask the tech-guys to do so cause I am too dumb to actually learn this (Well I guess I am not, but hey, this is quite hardcore stuff we’re talking). But then somebody came up with Shortstack. Shortstack is a quick to learn and easily to manage CMS where you can create fanpage stuff. This is awesome because it is both easy and very versatile. Now, the whole company where I am working for uses it and it is great so far. Everyone is now able to set up their own (simple) marketingcampaigns on Facebook with an hour. This is a huge time saver for me and the team and I measured that we already gained over 15.000 fans over the last month by using this tool. So, where are you waiting for? Get it, it’s almost free as well, or with $30,- a month you cannot possibly get wrong, can you? 

Social space does not need brands

One of the most obvious reasons I do not love Facebook so much anymore is the sheer amount of Facebook fanpages I am connected to (also because of my job as a business developer social) a lot of fanpages, all challenging me with the same stuff. This leaves me with a huge amount of Fanpagecontent, without me actually want to connect with this content. And I am affraid I might miss out friend-content.

I think Zuckerberg knows he’s kinda wrong about brands connecting with their fans on social media. Brands are not meant for social media, and neither do Fanpages actually contribute to the social atmosphere. They only represent social activity as long as we can take it. (like & win!).

Please let the next social network be a atmosphere without brands connecting to me, or have a status which is not connected to my content. Brands should be brands, and not represent themselves as beiing humans. Only when I ask them something, they should say something back. But please, make sure an employee anwers my question on behalf of the company. 

Super-agile development

I know ‘agile’ and ‘SCRUM’ are the hypes of 2011, but hey; let’s discuss it now we can ;-)

I work at a big media-company (largest in the Netherlands) but I got the change to work within the business development team and employ my own developers. Usually these are students. Young guys with lots of guts and not affraid to work, play and experiment with code, command line and databases (and not afraid to edit stuff remote from production ;) ).

When we got into a new project recently I found it very interesting to see what Bas whould actually come up with. But he got to an insame tempo building the backend, and doing all kinds of neat stuff from a language he is very common with; good ‘ol PHP. In the end, we struggled the most with the interface, which is still not very good looking, but hey; it’s a start. I proudly present: DealsXL.nl  

So, what process did we go through?

1. First, we talked about the project, some insights we had and the opportunities to get all the deals scraped from the dealssites. I think this took over an hour or so
2.  Bas started building the scrapers, while I was searching for a UI/UX expert within the company to get started with the frontend
3. Bas got up to speed building 20 different scrapers for all the websites we wanted. We discussed some more about possible features (tags, categories, Facebook login)
4. Because of costs we decided not to design anything but come up with some simple graphics
5.  We used LESS and Twitter bootstrap to setup some of the form elements on the frontend
6. Bas worked his way into getting the frontend in place and we took quite a long time to manage different screen-sizes, and padding stuff. This was also the time I introduced a project management system to track bugs etc (which was in this case Unfuddle)
7.  I talked with some of the managers from different business units to get things going
8. We did some white-label versions for those business units
9. .. and of we got! We did the initial launch internally at our Yammer space, got some compliments and feedback

Obviously, we got onto some other stuff (server migration etc) as well, but I think this proces is a very good start of doing super-agile stuff without the need of learning yourself all the SCRUM master techniques etc. What also really helpes is to be on the same desk. This sounds very obvious, but I think the best development comes from very short interactions. I think overall we sent out about 4 emails each. That’s it.


Publishing on a broad range of channels

I’ve been discussing this with business owners a lot; should you be broadcasting the same content on different (social) channels, or should you opt to diverse the channels into segments where you all have this unique content. This is a tough one.

You might want to think there is one center of the universe, the place you want to drive all your visirots to. This is usually the place where you actually earn money, so in Sanoma’s case this is usually a magazine or a website. But this is a limited thought, indeed.

Let’s review it a little bit closer. For obvious P&L reasons it is neccesary to use all the marketingchannels you have and drive visitors to places where you actually cash in. The most businesses I’ve seen have a lot going on; the website + blog, their magazine, a weekly (or worse, daily) newsletter and their social presence, such as Twitter and Facebook. More and more channels may be very innovative (hey, let’s start a business page on Google+!) but tend to bring in more work. So it is neccerarly to review all these channels, all the time. I don’t have the time to do all this stuff’’, I hear from some of the editors who are responsible for some of the channels. Ok, fair enough. But then you did not clearly make a choice on ROI, and you certainly did not make it ‘all the time’. You just thought you did not had the time.

A lot of businesses I see, the marketingdepartment does not evaluate their efforts in terms of ROI. They do not ask editors how much time it costs to create this marketingcampaign, they do not ask how much time they need to update the Twitter account and manage questions etc. Maybe the’ll take this into their plans for next years (‘we want to focus more on social media’) but it turns out they do not often evaluate their marketingstrategy and their ROI.

This could be a fairly simple process. Let’s do an example here.

Let’s say the brand has 15.000 newsletter subscribers and about 5.000 of Facebook fans. Reasonable numbers. Let’s also assume that an editor of the magazine needs about half a day to send out the newsletter to all the clients. This includes writing copy, sending out tests, checking wheter all the links work, etc. etc.

Now let’s go into the math and check stats.

The newsletter is out weekly and give about a 30% open rate. 20% of the people opening the newsletter actually clicks on one item. This item links to the website. The eCPM on the website is about $3,- 

ROI on half a day work is then (15.000*0,3)*0,2=900 so you earn a mere $2,70 on the website. 

Let’s see what you can do with the 5k of Facebook fans. In one week, the editor posts about 4 updates which cost her about 10 minutes each = 40 minutes a week. 70% of the fans are engaged ((on average) so all the post in one week do have 14.000 views and with an average clickrate of 45% this is 6.300 views which would bring you to somewhat more than $18,-.

It’s that simple. Should you be making choices based on these numbers? Yes and no. I can immagine that the newsletter also is available to brands wanting to pay for actual spots, so this drives up the value of the newsletter. But in my example, social brings up 6 times more in value, in about 6 times less time. That seems like a good deal. Tweaking your performance on social a bit, and you could easlily double up the efford. But hey, evaluate all the newsletters and social performance takes you to another challenge; get all the data and interpret it in the right way. But I think that should be your biggest + as a product/marketing manager.

Going back to my original question; do you want your content strategy to be linear, or should you be ‘storytelling’ different things on different networks? I think it’s safely to assume that this really does not matter, as long as you try to evaluate the whole contentstrategy as an example I just did above. Try to see what kind of marketingmix of different channels works best for you. Tweak the performance, but not on daily bases. Try to see with the editors what they think is the best way to go here. Maybe they like tweaking up a little bit more as well.

Next blogpost coming up: creating the 2012 social masterplan

Groupoff: bad deals gone even worse

Long live daily deals! Well, that was last-years opinion. Things can get very ugly in a short amount of time. Or at least; they did for Groupon. A lot of organisations in the Netherlands are now publicly against Groupon and their business strategy and advice not to do business with them. That, from itself, is a good advice. Groupon is not nice to businesses now it turns out that coupon buyers aren’t loyal customers. Their disloyalty cost the enterpreneur a serious amount of money. The deal itself is - sometimes - already a huge investment, but seeing that efford gone in a non-loyal customer is even worse.

The big questionmark is the amount of time Groupon can live on. Without enough interesting deals the website will run dry on visitors. So now it’s all about a good story for potential b2b customers. On the b2c things look a little bit brighter. Groupon still has a lot of users, and when they can keep selling the best deals, they might live longer than we would expect at this point.

Disadvantages of co-creation

Co-creation through social channels is really hot these days. It may be the wet dream of every marketeer to have such a dedicated community that customers will help each other and will instantly deliver you all kind of ‘excellent insights’ about their product.

This happended to me today. I had a bad experience with an iPhone app I was using to navigate and complained about it on Twitter. Instead of getting a ‘sorry to hear about that’ message I got a message with, ‘please fill in your suggestions here’ linking me to an questionaire about the whole company. This did not lead to a better situation on my side: I just want an app that actually sends me to the right direction. If it is not working for very obvious reasons (I was in the middle of Amsterdam, enough 3G reach and the adress was not hard to find) it just sucks big time. Stop sending me surveys how ‘we’ can improve the app. Test your own shit before billing me a €1,99 for this crap. I am not gonna fill in the survey. Why? Cause I think this app sucks very obvious. If it was some kind of a glitch; ok, but the app crashes for no reason, it is user unfriendly and worst of it all; it gives me bad advice about directions. I am mad, so please do not bother asking me to be part of your co-creation. Don’t ask your customers to do the work for you.