Saturday, December 08, 2007

Dot Com Crash - Here we go again?

In previous posts I have shared some of my past experiences including my very rough ride through the 1990s dot com rise and fall. While it was a bit painful at the time I wouldn't trade this experience in for anything as it helped me shape who I am today and the philosophy I use when working with clients. I was inspired to write this post by another awesome blogger who publishes a blog called The Digerati Life.

There is a quote by Robert Penn Warren...

"Those who don't remember history are condemned to repeat it."

I believe this to be so true. In the 90s we had a dot com bubble that eventually popped after that or even during that we had a real estate bubble that has now popped. What is it about Americans and our love of bubbles! It seems we are always looking for a fast and easy buck, but it seems only the first ones in the bubble ever make out and many of them end up losing because they get greedy and come back for more and end up losing it all. I can sympathize.

Anyway now that the real estate bubble has popped I am wondering if we are going back to technology to create a new bubble. I know I am going to do my best to educate my clients not to do this, but as Robert Penn Warren's quote tells us...know your history. For those thinking of the next Internet gold rush here is a video, which I originally saw on The Digerati Life blog...

While the video is funny it rings with an element of truth. Learn your history when it comes to the Internet it just may save you from some stupid choices down the road. However if you don't learn it, the good news is that you can come and hire me to clean up the mess and I will make a pile money! I have decided this time around instead of jumping in the actual Internet gold rush I will just sell the rest of you picks and shovels :)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Music Industry Is Missing The Train... Again!

For years the music industry pretty much ruled with an iron fist. They decided when and how to release music no matter what the consumer wanted and in what format. They would put a bunch of crappy music on an album with one good song and force the fans to buy the entire album for that one decent song. They also decided who would be blessed with star status, whose music would be reviewed and who would get lucrative recording contracts. Then the Internet arrived...

The music industry chose to ignore this and file sharing grabbed a hold of the market and after years of piracy and demands by music fans finally they [music industry] were forced kicking and screaming into the Internet age by releasing music one song at a time for .99 cents each. Many of us Internet industry guys watched this and marveled at the sheer power of the Internet to force change where it was needed.

However the music industry decided it might move into the Internet age, but it wasn't going to be nice about it. They have and continue to develop extremely draconian policies and security to stop piracy. I can understand after the entire Napster era their need for this, but they are again missing the train.

Now I am no sound recording genius, but I quickly figured out that music that was compressed from CD into MP3 format lost some of its quality and sound. I found as did probably many others that the sound quality just wasn't there.

However the market was quick to develop a solution, a software company developed a special plug in that as music is played from your favorite MP3 player jukebox software that it essentially "re-processes" the music and really brings it a lot closer to its original sound. I have no idea how this works nor do I care. I just know that it does work. The company that invented it used the Internet to distribute said software to everyone. Life was good.

However in an effort to again be idiots the music industry has put protections on music you download so that this third party application can't re-process the music and so it sounds terrible if you are used to hearing it the old way. Essentially they have stopped the players from feeding the music through this processing software because they believe it could jeopardize their iron-fisted grip on the Internet music market. Unfortunately customers like me who have already paid for this music and essentially own it for private use are unable to play it in a format that makes it better. They have seriously diminished my and many other's customer experience so that they could keep iron fist control of the industry.

Now if that isn't bad enough most of the players won't or can't allow users to burn this music to a CD. Again the whole piracy issue. As if I am really going to rip thousands of CDs and distribute them worldwide for my own profit potential, really, get real.

So again music that I bought online is again controlled in another fashion to "protect" the industry. So let's summarize, shall we, they were forced onto the Internet, which they reluctantly entered, but then decided to be as absolutely unhelpful and restrictive as possible.

Unfortunately this won't stop creative programmers from finding a way around this and when they do the music industry will again be forced to make changes, but not before they miss the train again. You see this draconian security they are using here is simply a way to make the Internet market a little less attractive than buying that CD in the store. Another very feeble attempt to hang onto their control and power and force the consumer to adopt to them instead of the other way around. One would hope that one day they will get smart enough to realize in the Internet age it really is about the customer and not your pathetic control that matters.

When software companies and innovative programmers find a way to again work around the fools in the music industry they will again be behind the curve and not in front of it. They will again be playing catch up. If they would simply find ways to make the customer experience number one instead of number 306 on their list of priorities they wouldn't have so many people trying to stick it to them.

At .99 cents per song, even hard core pirates have to acknowledge that it might just be easier to do it the right way instead of constantly dodging the music industry law suits and harassment's. Unfortunately when music purchased over the Internet is inferior, consumer will simply seek out alternatives, i.e. non-protected, i.e. non-Internet purchased music.

Too bad that means most likely pirated music which doesn't have the security and therefore isn't subject to all the restrictions. It is superior and superior product leaves the market wide open for pirates to keep doing what they are doing and you will have plenty of consumers willing to skirt the law to get the "good stuff".

To quote Mr. Smith from the Matrix 3... "Do you know what that sound is Mr. Anderson? It is the sound of inevitability!" In an open message to the morons running the online music industry...

That sound of pirated music is the inevitable sound of change and it is coming for you. You can be ahead of the curve or behind it the choice is yours, but know that the Internet and willing consumers are a powerful economic force that will and has changed many industries, including yours.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Internet Marketing Finds Offline Advertising Important

A new study recently completed by Jupiter Research revealed that 67% of online searches were driven by offline advertising channels, such as TV (37%), Word of Mouth (36%), Magazine ads (30%) with the balance coming from other sources.

In addition, 39% of the above cited searches converted into actual sales. Now that is impressive! One other interesting note about the study is that apparently after viewing the advertising the primary key word used in the search engine was the company name (44%) followed by other key words related to products or services (24%) with the balance coming from other items like company slogans or other product names/advertising.

I found the study very interesting for a number of reasons. First, it validates a strategy I have been advocating for years. On of my suggestions to many companies is an aggressive offline advertising campaign with the stated purpose to drive traffic to the site. My primary offline advertising has been direct mail and display advertising, which has worked very well for my clients.

Push vs. Pull

I believe this strategy is so powerful for a couple of reasons. First, mass market advertising has two principles to make it work, one that it is frequent enough for people to remember the ad and number two be memorable enough to have someone take any type of action. A key principle is that mass market advertising is very much a "push" type advertising where you are pushing your messages to people. Internet marketing is different in the sense that it is, in most cases, a "pull" type advertising meaning that the person is actually seeking you out and listening and absorbing your message.

Utilizing a relatively low cost offline channel to influence people from the "push" mentality to the "pull", i.e. your web site you change the psychology of the situation 360 degrees on the spot. Now add to that the power you have on your web site with the rich multi-media, such as video, audio, strong copy, testimonials, information collection tools, etc. and you have one very powerful marketing vehicle on your hands.

Strong Strategy for Local Marketing

This strategy works very well for companies that operate in a limited geographic area and it doesn't pay for them to obtain visitors and inquiries from other geographic areas outside of their area of operation. However as this study indicates it also works for companies that use the strategy to drive traffic to a site regardless of geographic operation.

Now to make this strategy work well, especially if you use direct mail or display advertising as I have is to...
  1. Use a strong headline to get attention
  2. Use the company name in the headline
  3. Use well written and hard hitting copywriting and direct response strategies.
Without a strong headline you will never have anyone even notice your ad, which will make it a waste. Not using your company name in the headline is also a big mistake according to this study since a bulk of the searches done after viewing offline advertising were on the company name.

Finally, failing to use persuasive and well written copy for your ads and direct mail packages will not convince someone that taking the time to even sit down and search for your company is worth their time. You need to give them a reason, benefits, and irrestable offers to take time to actually sit down and search out your site.

If you accept the findings of this study it will have a dramatic impact on the convergence of Internet marketing and offline advertising, which some of us have known for a while now, but it is good to have your strategies validated by others, even if they are bit late to the party.

Michael Temple

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Open Source vs. Pay to Play Software

A new article in InfoWord wonders if open source software will eventually take down the big pay to play software companies/applications from Microsoft, Oracle, and SAP. The article goes on to state they don't believe this will happen.

Personally, I love open source software and whenever I get a chance I have my developers develop web based applications in PHP with MySQL. I think the open source movement is an excellent one for a variety of reasons. First, from a security standpoint with so many companies and individuals working on applications a lot of the security holes that appear in Microsoft applications find a way of being worked out in Open Source. Now obviously this isn't always the case, but more times than not you don't have the same types of security problems with open source as you do with other vendor specific applications.

Second, open source applications can work extremely well. I have several open source tools that I use on a daily basis and even a few I openly recommend to clients for specific purposes. In these specific cases I find it difficult to even find a pay to play application that works as well.

However, sadly, I have to agree with the writer of this article. I don't believe the open source movement is going to eliminate the vendor specific applications anytime soon. For several reasons. First, at the end of the day we have a market economy and it takes money to continually develop, improve, and market a software application. The open source movement is one of volunteers and voluntary collaboration and while this does work for the open source movement many IT directors and corporate managers will not be willing to risk their butt on applications that may not be supported or have regular production schedules associated with them. There is an old saying that nobody ever got fired for buying IBM. This saying developed because at the time IBM had the best systems in the world and gave outstanding support to their clients and buyers knew that if they had a problem that IBM would fix it.

Unfortunately open source can't compete with that... yet. Many times if you have an open source application and need help you must spend a great deal of time posting and reading in various communities to find a solution to a problem and sometimes you never find one. Now this happens with Microsoft applications as well, but if you need it you can call a company that can offer support. They can offer this support because they are making a profit on the sales of their application and the corresponding support contract.

In addition, open source programs are released as people work on them and don't have specific releases and dates for releases. This makes it very tough on the company that needs to carefully plan upgrade schedules and roll outs to users. In addition, if a feature or problem is present in an application often times there is no guarantee when or if a new release will come out that will address the problem, which creates a problem for managers when they must answer to their bosses, boards, and shareholders.

I believe the strongest contribution that open source provides to the market is its ability to scare the pay to play vendors into constant improvements and innovations in their products. They know that if they fall asleep for even a little while that the open source guys can and will be there to eat their lunch. I love the fierce competition these guys must endure to stay alive because it ensures that we the consumer always have the best products and applications to choose from which is a fundamental principle in economics.

I will always use and endorse open source programming and movements, but I simply don't think they will eliminate the pay to play vendor. However if they keep that vendor on his toes and constantly innovating then they have provided a priceless service to the industry.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

CAN-SPAM 2007 - The Revenge!

Congress, in an effort to avoid solving any serious problems like Social Security or Tax Reform has latched onto "SPAM" as its next legislative victory. They are in the early stages of forming a new committee to look at the original CAN-SPAM 2003 law and see what modifications it requires since, in their enlightened opinion, it isn't working...really?

As someone that provides email marketing services to legitimate businesses I can safely report that the first version of the law has been totally successful at choking out a marketing channel to small businesses, increasing the marketing costs and legal hurdles while not even putting a minor dent into the real problem of spam. Sounds like just about every other "solution" that Congress puts in place to me.

I am thinking Congress should take a quiz before being allowed to modify this law the quiz would prove that they indeed know that the spam they are trying to stop doesn't come in little metal cans that contains some mystery meat. Turning over any technology solution to the idiots on Capitol Hill is like giving dynamite to your local street gang and hoping things work out OK.

The problem with spam is not a legislative problem, it is an economic problem. As any reasonably astute student of economics can tell you people will do what is in their own best interest including BREAKING THE LAW! Yes, I know this comes as a horrible shock to the intelligent ones on Capital Hill. The fact is because email is basically a "free" marketing tool, it will continue to be the tool of choice for scum sucking spammers that can't and won't carry their own weight in the marketing world.

Editorial Note: ISPs and IT Managers please note I am not implying there is no cost in providing and supporting email services. I am keenly aware of the costs associated with this, but "free" is a word that those in the non-technical fields understand when talking about email.

When I say "free" I simply mean unlike direct mail, TV and radio advertising, and other marketing channels that I am simply saying that the typical high costs associated with doing this type of marketing generally doesn't exist with email marketing. The point is if I can blast out 1,000,000 emails for virtually no cost, it pays if off if I receive a fraction of one percent as a return rate. Try that with 1,000,000 pieces of even the most cost effective direct mail campaign and you will probably have a pink slip or a very angry client by the end of the day.

Because it makes economic sense to break the law for spammers they will continue to do it and hope they don't get caught. Making the law even more stringent or adding in other commerce killing clauses will simply raise the cost of using this medium for legit businesses while again not making a dent in the real problem, remember brilliant ones on Capitol Hill, these people are already breaking the existing laws! What would possibly make them think if they make the laws more stringent that these clowns will see the light of day and quit spamming. Fat chance.

I had lunch the other day with a guy from a business that indicated his company was breaking the CAN-SPAM 2003 law. He explained that they gathered up email addresses from lots of public sources and would send an initial blast to this list. The message was from a real, legit, bricks and mortar business. The email address to reply to was real and the company's address and phone were clearly displayed on the message. If someone wanted to unsubscribe there was a link at the bottom to do so. Unfortunately for them because the list wasn't made up of individuals that indicated BEFORE the email was sent that wanted to receive the message they were law breakers and could be seriously fined for this.

Now to add one more element to this story you should know that over 8 jobs were created by doing this because it was the primary lead generation vehicle for the company. Some hard core web guys out there right now are no doubt screaming that it is still SPAM and that it costs money to deliver and maintain all the infrastructure to deliver those messages and they should all be locked up and have the key thrown away.

However I disagree. In my opinion they are a struggling small business and while yes, they are technically breaking the CAN-SPAM law they are taking great strides to insure that if you don't want the message you can get off the list immediately. They have clearly identified themselves so they are not hiding behind spoofed email addresses from servers located in Southeast Asia somewhere and they are trying very hard to offer a real product to the market.

Now assume just for the sake of argument that the entire list was also opt-in...wouldn't you still need the servers, IT personnel, and infrastructure to deliver this blast? Yes, you would and with this one minor change you have taken an email blast that was illegal and made it legal, but you did nothing to remove the stress such a blast puts on ISPs and IT Managers.

My point is that the law simply makes criminals out of legit businesses while not stopping the true spammer who hides his identity and goes to great length to skirt the law and does absolutely nothing to help victims stop this from happening again and again.

This company is simply trying to find a cost effective way to market their services and keep the people they have employed. Why we have this attitude about email that we apply to no other marketing medium is beyond me. You don't sue the post office because they deliver ads and direct mail packages you don't want do you? Do you think we need a law that says we all need to opt-in to some type of mail list before you can deliver mail to us, after all it does cause additional stress and resources on the postal system to deliver messages people don't want.

Solving spam is a complex problem, but ultimately it is a technology and economic problem and NOT a legislative problem. On a scale of 1-10 for technology awareness I would rate most of Congress with a -6 so I really don't want these morons spending more of my tax dollars trying to solve a problem that ultimately needs to be solved by the private sector with technology and the market place with economics.

The only thing a change to the law will do is make it harder and more expensive for a legit business to use this medium and give a few more lines of legislative crap for hard core spammers to ignore. If Congress wants to truly solve the problem then they simply need to keep their hands off the Internet and let private business solve this problem and the market solve this problem.

Michael Temple

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Who Certifies the Certifiers

Several months ago I had come across a news story that indicated the Direct Marketing Association was going to start offering a certification course in search engine marketing. You can see it here. There is also another certification from another group here. I was intrigued by this for several reasons. First, early in my career involving Internet marketing I was essentially a certification junkie, I sought out every certification I could find and collected titles like baseball cards. I spent a huge pile of money and used up the very valuable resource of time. Then one day a question came to me...

Who certifies the people doing the certifying?

Interesting question don't you think? It brings to mind that whole chicken and egg riddle. To offer a certification you yourself must have some type of certification or authority to do so. Who gave you this authority and how does anyone know that the individual or organization that gave it to you had the authority to do so? Of course this question can go in circles forever, but I think you get the idea.

Maybe it is because I have been in this field for so long I am a bit jaded, but I think the Internet revolution and more broadly, technology has produced huge quantities of "certifications" in everything you can imagine from hardware installation to now search engine marketing. However at the end of the day a certification simply says all you did was expose yourself to information from someone that presumably knew more than you and possibly took some quizzes or tests and now you are "certified" to do "that", whatever "that" is.

The bad news is I have run into people over the years that had various IT and technology certifications that couldn't install a light bulb much less Windows Server or individuals that have some marketing certification that is equally meaningless. I have also ran into "trainers" that know less than me and many others that knew just a little more than the class they were teaching. Conversely I have met people with no certifications who had vast amounts of experience and knowledge that would blow away most trainers. Now I certainly don't want to trash all trainers across the globe because after all I am one of them, but a valid question of any trainer is what makes you an expert that qualifies you to teach me? Here is mine

If life were so easy that all we had to do was simply go take a 10 week certification course in something and then we were presumably qualified to do that it would be a perfect world, but alas it doesn't work that way. True knowledge in any field comes from years of experience, reading, learning from others, researching, and writing. Anyone who has done what I just said for anything will also realize you can't impart this knowledge and experience to anyone by simply "certifying" them after 10 weeks and a few tests.

Now just so you certifiers out there don't get mad at me here is a bone for you. Certification (with the right teacher) can be a good way to start to learn a topic and gain some expertise. If the training is developed well and focused correctly it may even give you a good knowledge on one key element.

The certification course will help outline and package the information in a way that allows you to start down the path towards competent or with enough effort, expert, but please don't make the mistake when you are finished and have your shiny new certification that you are qualified or ready to go out and tackle the world and solve all of its problems.

These days all a certification says to me is that someone has taken the time to show me they are willing to learn and have a basic understanding of the topic and if leveraged correctly will guide them over time to resources and opportunities that will allow them to truly become an expert.

The other bad news about certifications is that they are typically very expensive and in my opinion not always worth the money you have to pay to get them. However way too many of us want things yesterday and don't want to really put the time and energy it takes into something to really learn it and become an expert. So we go out and pay large piles of cash and invest 10 weeks of our life and take a few tests and viola we are an expert...sure you are.

One of the best ways I have found to start learning any new topic is to write about it. Write an article or book on it. To do this article you will have to research, interview real experts, test your theories, think through the information and write your conclusions. You do this enough times on any topic and you will become an expert. Unfortunately you can't typically do this type of thing in 10 weeks and get a shiny certificate at the end.

If you want to take a certification in something to start you out on the basics and get you started in the right direction and you have the money and time, then great do it, but please don't think when you are finished that your certificate means you are an expert or ready to solve those problems for everyone else. Often times the certification isn't worth the paper it is printed on.

Many people today realize this, but many more still think that all they have to do is go get some certification in IT and they are no longer going to be flipping burgers and instead will be on the road to Internet riches.

If you are willing to start learning this stuff the old fashioned way that is a tried and proven model then visit my web site where I offer articles and position papers for free on many of these topics. If you find you need even more coaching and help please consider giving me a call to discuss a consulting or speaking engagement.

Oh, many of you may be wondering if I still go get certifications today. The answer is no, after a long and painful treatment program I was able to break my addiction to certifications :) Now I just learn the old fashioned way and it has proven to be the way that works best, but certainly not the fastest.

Michael Temple

Friday, April 13, 2007

Y Generation Entrepreneurs!

Readers of my blog will notice I have taken a little sabbatical, well sort of, I am waaaayy too riddled with ADD to every really take time off. I never really rest or sleep, or anything else that most people would consider fun, I am basically a workaholic. I have been working on bringing a really neat program to fruition. Over a year ago I started working with my local school district to found an entrepreneurial program in the business tech program.

I am proud to say that program is now a full blown success. The program has only been done one other place in the entire U.S. I am proud to say that our program is the second time it has ever been done. We took a class of kids from the business tech program and divided them into two groups. One group wrote business and marketing plans for businesses they would like to start. The second group were coached to be the "venture capital" group.

The kids writing the business plans presented their plans and defended them to the venture capitalists and requested funds to start and run their business. Both groups were coached by local business leaders including yours truly. The entrepreneurs were coached on how to write business plans, defend them, and get venture funds. Now they are being coached in the actual running of the business. The venture group was coached to look at business plans critically and evaluate them based on merit and opportunity.

The winning plans were awarded real cash as seed money to found their companies and see how they do with it. They are coached and mentored by the local business leaders that serve as their board of advisers and a sounding board for new ideas and help when things don't go as planned.

The program started off with an amazing success with 5 student planned and established companies receiving funding. All of them have gotten off to a really strong start with a big sales push through a local business expo. All of them are so excited and doing well.

I raised the money for the initial venture fund by approaching the president of a regional economic development agency that had seen the program work in another state. He agreed to fund the venture and ultimately would like to see it duplicated in all the school systems in the area.

Entrepreneurship is one of the great dreams of people in many countries including the U.S. and an awesome experience for anyone regardless if they stay the course or work for someone this experience will be with them forever. Now thanks to this program the new "Y Generation" has the chance to live this dream.

You can see a write up about the program in our local newspaper here. The program has even attracted the attention of business writers and columnists around the country for its uniqueness. I was interviewed by a nationally syndicated business columnists today that will be discussing the program in his May 9th column that will be syndicated to 400 newspapers nationally!

I feel confident that some of the seeds that were planted today will grow into great trees in the future and will no doubt change the course of some of these kids futures. That will be a site worth seeing.

Michael Temple

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Google Announces Local Search

A Google blog has announced that it will begin showing local business results every time a you search for a local business or information. In addition, they will begin showing ratings and other information about that business. Here is what they said...

From now on, you'll see this every time you search for a place, business, or other local information. In addition to providing the basic contact information and map locations for several choices at the top of the page, we also show ratings and provide one-click access to reviews on the search results page so that you can make more informed decisions about where you want to go.

The ability for local businesses to harness the power of the Internet has been a growing trend for years now. However the problem was always the same. Either they didn't want to do eCommerce or their business wasn't suited to eCommerce or they didn't know how to get people to view their web site if they invested the dollars into building it.

There was nothing I could do for the first problem, either you wanted and could do eCommerce or you couldn't. However for a few years I worked around the second one by utilizing local offline advertising outlets to advertise a client's site. This worked well and still continues to be a tool in the box for promoting a local site or for a business with a local only business.

However with this new feature, Google, which is arguably the best search engine, is making the ability of people doing local searches to find a business without spending piles of money in pay to click advertising. Now the announcement doesn't say it will specifically list a URL of the company's web site, but if it doesn't do it now I am confident it will soon. Google will begin listing this URL for some type of fee and the rest will be history.

For a local business this is very powerful. You could advertise in the Yellow Pages and for a large color advertisement pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars per month, but now with this tool you can create even more powerful advertising, i.e. color pages, photos, testimonials, product or service information, etc. for a fraction of the cost of putting even a limited amount of this info in the Yellow Pages. Now that is power.

While I use and still advocate traditional advertising channels like direct mail and others I also tell clients the flexibility of being able to add or change your "advertisements" on the web per se and still have it be in full color with all the power of full multi-media features like video, audio, etc. is really incredible for the small business. Add the new feature from Google and small and even medium sized businesses have capabilities that only very large companies with big marketing budgets had 15 years ago.

Michael Temple

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Yahoo Follows Google in Ad Quality

Yahoo announced yesterday that on Feb 5th they are rolling out a new advertising system that will among other things base the price of advertising on both bid price and quality/relevancy of the advertising. This follows Google's strategy to do the same thing. You can read the press release here.

As I wrote before upon Google's announcement this will force advertisers to use more talent in creating an ad, which even if they don't agree today is a good thing for them as well. The new technology will use the relevancy of an ad as well as its historical performance in arriving at a "quality rating".

The relevancy is really a key because with so much information on the Internet misleading ads causes people to waste a lot of time by clicking on ads they think is about one thing, but it turns out was simply a bait tactic. That creates a very poor prospect for the company and causes them to lose money. Therefore, choosing relevant key words to your product or service and writing good advertising will help create a better prospect.

The next grade is determined by effective advertising. Just like in normal direct advertising a compelling headline or opening statement that gets a prospect's attention is key. Using solid copywriting that builds your case to the customer is the next most important item. Finally, you want a compelling call to action. As with any direct marketing if they don't take action you have lost a lead. Using these principles in both the ad as well as the landing page will not only boost the conversions from the ad, but also the quality score that Yahoo is going to assign it.

Once you think you have developed a winning ad you are going to want to test it with an A/B split test at a minimum, but now there are tools on the Internet that will let you test multiple variables in your advertising at once. Test, Test, Test is an old rule in direct marketing and now it appears Internet marketing as well.

If you are running an online advertising campaign or considering one it might be very beneficial to hire a good copywriter and/or Internet marketing expert to help you get a quality ad campaign off the ground. With Yahoo's new search technology going into effect it will save you both marketing dollars, by helping to lower your cost of advertising, but also make each marketing dollar you do spend work harder by creating more conversions from the ads that are placed.

Michael Temple

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

SAP Feeling Pressure from Slow Growth

A story this morning in the WSJ illustrates a good point. SAP is suffering from slowing growth in the business software market even though the industry of business software is increasing and spending in this area is on the rise.

The article illustrates a good point that smaller and more innovative companies are creating better applications and getting them to market faster. It points out that businesses aren't spending large sums on new enterprise wide applications as readily as they did a few years ago.

I have often thought that companies like SAP, Oracle, and when they still existed independently, Siebel would run into a wall. There are only so many huge companies in the world and they are only going to spend or upgrade so many times. If you don't have really good mid-market and even small business solutions you might miss an incredible growth opportunity. All of these companies to a large degree have ignored the small business and even mid-market solutions. Unfortunately new and small business is where most of the job and economic growth is coming from and the smaller software companies that can roll out solutions to these markets in a cost effective way are going to beat the big guys that are still chasing huge fish.

The other point along this line is the ability of small companies to simply out maneuver the big software companies. We have all heard the jokes about big companies holding meetings to decide if they need a meeting and having tons of committees and hoops to jump through to act on anything. The large software companies that based their early growth on being quick and nimble are now HUGE companies that can't move as fast or innovate as fast, which is a big weakness in the technology industry. Take a look at Microsoft. They are a good company, but their stock price reflects investors skepticism that they will be able to grow as fast as they did 15 years ago.

One of their greatest strengths of the large technology companies 5-6 years ago is now gone. The growth in Internet technologies and innovative software is not a market that can allow huge companies that can't move quickly stay in control. It is too easy for 2 guys in a garage to start a software company and launch it to a worldwide market over the Internet and start eating the lunch of the big guys.

In addition, being able to create small business and mid-market applications and solutions that can be rolled out quickly and cost effectively without huge specialized teams of developers and high priced consultants will be more attractive to the larger and growing small-mid market companies. If this market is where job and economic growth is at doesn't it make sense this is where business software spending might be occurring at as well?

Guerrilla style marketing and economics is alive and well on the Internet and in technology. Those companies that still practice this will continue to grow. Those like SAP and Oracle, while still very powerful companies with a lot of capabilities, will be having more of those uncomfortable shareholder meetings to explain their lack of performance.

Michael Temple

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Local Internet

To me the word "local Internet" is somewhat contradictory, but more and more people are starting to use the Internet for local marketing and what some are calling micro local community news as discussed in this NY Times story. I came across the story this morning and found it interesting to individuals and businesses trying to find a way to do local marketing and communication via the Internet.

I believe local Internet marketing will become wide spread as time continues, but it does create an interesting paradox. Sometimes people simply like the experience of going into bookstores to touch and see books they are buying or into a unique gift shop. To these people it is as much about the experience of shopping as the actual act of purchasing something.

This particular article discusses the web being used as the virtual town square. Now the question is will people truly use it or is the physical experience of walking through and enjoying the real town square what people enjoy. I guess time will tell.

If this trend continues it will be interesting to see how individuals and businesses find ways to create money out of these virtual "local" experiences. After all the original town square was often where merchants and farmers set up booths and shops, hence creating money in a prime location. Will the same thing happen on the Internet's local town squares and shopping centers?

Michael Temple

Monday, January 15, 2007

Market Killing SPAM Protection

Over the last couple of weeks I have been helping some clients with email issues. They weren't getting certain emails from clients that were sending very important emails with contracts attached to them. After doing some research I discovered that the sender's domain had been entered on a SPAM list despite not ever being used to spam or even send automated emails.

This spam protection as it turns out was being applied at the server level of the hosting company. In otherwords the customer never even received the email - even in their personal spam filter - or had any opportunity to accept or reject this message. For all intensive purposes they did not even know the message had been sent.

I realize that ISP companies are involved in a never-ending battle to stop a tsunami of spam, but killing off email before the customer even has a chance to see it or somehow ok it is going a bit too far.

For email marketing providers this presents an even bigger problem. If your clients or customers have opted in or even double opted into your email marketing list then they should receive those messages. It shouldn't matter if the provider sends them with an automated system or if they have HTML in them or any of the other long list of things that ISPs will reject an email for.

My suggestion is that once an ISPs is contracted to provide services for a domain that the client should be allowed to upload some type of "white list" to the ISP. This list should be able to be updated quickly and easily by the client to adjust for continuing email needs. If the ISP chooses to run server level spam protection is should be secondary to the white list of the customer. If a domain is on the list they get through, period. If they are not on the list then the ISP has a right to do some spam filtering.

I know such a suggestion is more work for ISPs, but it is wrong to simply eliminate all emails based on some set of criteria that the ISP sets. Not allowing the client to have some say in what comes through at the server level is denying them control over their own email management and what they choose to get.

I have found spam protection companies that ISPs can hire that allow clients to log on and list people they want to get email from or domains. If an email comes from that domain the ISP using the service lets it go through even if it would have been stopped for some reason before, such as having HTML in the message or coming from an automated server.

If you are a client that is not getting your email because the provider, i.e. GoDaddy has decided to kill your email prior to you ever seeing it then you need to find a new provider. There are solutions out there and not using them is an injustice to the client and the marketers that worked so hard to gain their trust and permission to send them messages.

Michael Temple