Friday, November 28, 2008

Google Android – G1 – Making shopping for bargains easy

The HTC G1 from T-Mobile is the first smart phone with Google's new Android mobile platform. The coolest application that’s sure to attract holiday shoppers looking for the best bargains, is the bar code scanner feature. You could be at any store, see a product you want to buy (DVD, book, anything with a UPC barcode) and in just mere seconds you can check the lowest price online or in a store nearby. The G1 turns the camera into a UPC bar code scanner. Just point it at the barcode on the product packaging or label and up pops a menu with the cheapest prices for that exact same product. Here’s the best bit; if the product is cheaper at a local store, hit another icon and Google will pop up driving directions.....all in seconds. Very cool! The G1 is currently only available on T-Mobile but sure to be a ubiquitous feature on all phones in the future. Google’s competitive advantage is of course its integrated applications, from Android to the Google search to Google maps, all working together to produce a result to a search in just seconds. That’s a combination that is tough to match on say an iPhone, which would require Apple to make some strategic deal to have access to search and mapping. Post a comment or e-mail me at businessissuestoday@gmail.com

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Auto Industry - Bail Out Mania

While a Democrat-controlled Congress is trying to rationalize a new $25 billion bailout for the auto industry, at the Los Angeles auto show is a launch of a new electric car from Mercedes – the Mini ‘E’. In fact the gas version Mini has seen sales increase 30% year on year. There are clearly two auto industries in America: there’s American (Detroit) and foreign manufacturers. Could someone please rationalize why we are talking about bailing out Detroit for $25 B? For years, the American auto industry has struggled to keep up with foreign manufacturers like Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mercedes, BMW and VW, all of whom are producing fuel efficient cars that the consumer wants to buy. These companies have managed their businesses well and are in touch with consumer wants and needs instead of foisting products on the market that consumers don’t really want. From what I remember in my Masters in Marketing, this is basic marketing theory. (We seem to have management at the helm of the Big Three who seem unaware of this.) So what went wrong? The Big Three have been in decline for years due to mismanagement, an inability to control unions and as a consequence, labor costs that are far higher than their competitors. The Big Three pay out an average of $30/hour more than their competitors, including pension and health care costs for hundreds of thousands of retirees, guaranteeing nearly full wages and benefits for workers who lose their jobs due to automation or plant closure. It supports more retirees than current workers. Furthermore, they have shifted production of certain models to Mexico and Ottowa. Again, why are American taxpayers bailing them out? The Big Three Auto CEO’s quite frankly need to be fired, not bailed out. Yes we feel for the thousands of workers, but this is not the way to help them. What happens when the $25 B runs out? You guessed it. Layoffs! Why, because no one wants to buy their cars. There are many creative things we can do to stimulate job growth and assist people willing to re-train or re-locate. Indeed, just imagine how many start-up companies could be formed with a fund of $25 B. How about 10,000 companies funded by start-up loans of $2.5 M with restrictions and help with retraining and locating to depressed areas? Yeah some will fail, but what if it gives birth to a few more Googles? The Government would actually make money and create a lot of jobs with a trickle effect into the local economies. I'm not necessarily advocating this, but it is an interesting idea of what could be done. Taxpayers should not be footing the bill for what is clearly a temporary fix. In all my years as a consultant to start-up firms, no company gets funded without a sound and solid business model (post dot com bust). The Big Three have not presented a new sound and workable business model. They do not deserve a bail out and we need a Congress that actually has some experience in business rather than public policies and welfare programs. At least they should be consulting with business savvy people. A Bail out won’t work this time because it didn’t in the economic downturn in the 1980’s when the British struggling auto industry was also making cars the public did not want. Margaret Thatcher threw $11 B at British Leyland and couldn’t save it, nor the British car industry. What makes anyone think this time it’s different? We need to allow the Big Three to re-structure as many companies do under Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. And if we end up with the Big Two, so be it! It’s time for Washington to wake up. President elect Obama needs real business expertise around him, as it’s going to be a long tough ride over the next few years. Post your opinion or email me at businessissuestoday@gmail.com

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

How Do You Measure the Success of a Campaign?

With a plethora of affordable options open to marketers these days, there is certainly no excuse to cut all marketing activities. And it has never been easier to measure the effectiveness and track customer responses. Here are some basic guidelines: 1. Set some guidelines What are you hoping to achieve once a potential customer lands on your page? Obviously the desired end result is a transaction, but capturing some participation also has a value in terms of future offers and communications, and even brand building. This is establishing a Success Metric so remember to have a call to action such as registering for future offers. 2. What’s it worth to you? There’s always a cost involved in converting a visitor to a sale. Set some realistic expectations and budgets i.e. what is the action worth to you? 3. Gathering data and trends Google Analytics is an excellent tool providing significant angles to slice and dice the tracking data. However, don’t forget the powerful use of a promotion code in tracking exactly what your prospect does and when. Try and conduct your tests one at a time to fully understand what works and what doesn’t. Multiple and simultaneous promotions create confusion in terms of analysis thus loosing the opportunity to establish some key metrics. 4. Don’t get overwhelmed Today, there is so much data that one can get paralyzed. You can measure everything down to the individual, but ask yourself if it’s necessary. Start by obtaining an overall picture and monitoring the changes to be able to spot a trend. Getting the whole picture will enable you to hone in and refine later. 5. The new digital era marketing is not so different 'Test and measure' used to be the mantra of good marketers. It just used to take a lot longer with direct mail and cost significantly more. With today’s web marketing opportunities, never has it been easier to try, test, learn, adjust and change in days instead of months. In a down economy, expect to react to changes; monitor your market, know your customer because their buying patterns also change much more than in good times. To stay ahead of the competition you must hone in on these minor changes and create campaigns accordingly. Got a comment, post here or email me at businessissuestoday@gmail.com

Friday, November 14, 2008

Obama’s Use of Technology in the Digital Age

There has been much speculation over the last week over who will be President Obama’s CTO. Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google has declined the position. In the meantime, thousands of people are continuing to use Barack Obama’s website to suggest and vote on ideas on various issues including the CTO position. The campaign has more than 10 million e-mail addresses. This was the first election campaign to successfully use the benefits of technology: cost-effectiveness, scalability, instantaneous communications, interactivity and personalization. The Internet has provided a way of engaging directly with an audience in a personal and interactive way, unlike traditional media in previous campaigns. More importantly, President Elect Obama is acutely aware of how best to engage the younger voters who obtain more information online than from TV. • Engaging a co-founder of Facebook was a smart move Initially Barack Obama’s campaign sought advice from the Internet pioneer and Netscape founder Marc Andreessen, the man who created the first web browser. Then he attracted Chris Hughes, 24, one of four founders of Facebook to leave his company in early 2007 to work in Chicago on Obama's new-media campaign. The use of social networks has revolutionized the Web as a political tool in both raising funds and organizing and mobilizing hundreds of thousands of supporters. During the election, the Obama campaign uploaded 1,800 videos, five times as many as the McCain camp. Obama also made active use of Twitter, a popular networking tool that lets users send short text messages, or 'tweets', to users' mobile phones. Users could upload their personal contacts to the site and send group e-mails to get out the vote. Or they could download a script and based on their address, get a calling list for their neighborhood. Users could also link to about 18 separate social networks. It was not about the technology but using it as a tool to connect emotionally to people, to create groups and communities. Communications was simple and yet personal. Anyone registering on Obama’s site, purchasing from the online store or donating to the campaign, received e-mails. Just after Obama’s acceptance speech, those same registered supporters received a thank you message in email and text format. Future political candidates cannot afford not to incorporate the use of the Web, social networks and mobile texting technology to connect and communicate with potential voters. • The new President will continue to utilize the Web in a new age of democracy “Obama aides and allies are preparing a major expansion of the White House communications operation, enabling them to reach out directly to the supporters they have collected over 21 months without having to go through the mainstream media," The WashingtonPost. Businesses can learn much from our new President. From small business to big business to entrepreneurial start-up, a digital marketing strategy can help you connect with your current customers and prospects. In a tight economy, there’s simply no excuse to not engage and start building a relationship. Got a question: post a comment or e-mail me at businessissues@gmail.com

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Time to Repeal Sarbanes-Oxley?

This hastily passed Act post Enron has done nothing to prevent such collapses recurring and certainly has had no positive effect on the current economic situation. It is essentially just a massive tax on compliance at the worst possible time. The average company will now take 12 years before it can successfully issue an initial public offering (IPO) (up from 5 years pre-Sarbanes-Oxley) because they do not have enough capital to cover the estimated $4.36 million hidden tax in yearly compliance costs. It’s time for Congress to at least review this legislation. In the last five years, far fewer tech companies have made it to IPO or even been considered for an IPO in the U.S. markets. Furthermore, start-ups can't wait 12 years for an IPO; entrepreneurs could have created three companies in that time frame! As a result, the U.S. has become less competitive and many small companies have listed on the London markets. How is that good for America, especially in these times? • “In 2005, a report by the London Stock Exchange cited that about 38 percent of the international companies surveyed said they had considered issuing securities in the United States. Of those, 90 percent said the onerous demands of the new Sarbanes-Oxley corporate governance law had made London listing more attractive.” Tech firms in particular are not being encouraged to expand here in the U.S. where we now desperately need job creation. The tech industry is one of the most important sectors in our economy. It is technology that arguably got us out of the last major downturn in the early 90’s. • In the second quarter of 2008, there were no public offerings of Silicon Valley venture capital-backed companies, a phenomenon not seen since 1978. In the third quarter there was only one. If this draconian law is not repealed, then we could see Silicon Valley’s status as a hot-bed of innovation erode and see more and more of the future invented outside of the United States, taking much needed jobs overseas. President Elect Obama campaigned on “Change.” It’s time for change of the Sarbanes-Oxley law at the most critical time in our economy. Mr President Elect Obama, this is the easiest and quickest way to create jobs! Got a comment, please post or contact me for consulting at businessissues@gmail.com

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Microsoft launches BizSpark - free software for start-ups

BizSpark is an effort aimed to provide startup software companies with access to current, full-featured versions of Microsoft tools with no upfront costs and minimal requirements. What a great offer in tough economic times! Free 3 year program It’s a way of cutting through the funding crisis and helping seed new business. As long as the business is less than three years old and $1m in annual revenues, it qualifies. BizSpark is a three year program which gives start-ups sufficient time to build a foundation for future growth and potentially save up to $10,000. Upon leaving the program or surpassing the revenue limit, the start-up pays Microsoft a $100 fee and transitions into a normal licensing agreement. Start-ups also get the chance to list for free in the online directory of start-ups (www.microsoftstartupzone.com). Strategic move by Microsoft On the other side of the coin, this is a good strategic move for Microsoft in response to Google pitching its hosted Apps offering. Where there are many choices and competing platforms for start-ups, this is a necessary move for Microsoft to stay in the game. To launch BizSpark, Microsoft has partnered with a number of investment and development groups, including the National Venture Capital Association, the European Business Angel Network, Indus Entrepreneurs and various economic development agencies globally.
How refreshing to see the free markets operating in an economic crisis without any government intervention!
Got a question or comment? Post here or email me at businessissuestoday.com

Monday, November 3, 2008

Social Media – Now Mainstream

New research from Forrester shows that 75% of Internet users now participate in some form of social networking, up from 56% in 2007. The number of people starting a social network profile increased 39% over 2007. Participants of Blogs, whether writing or contributing product reviews has also increased markedly. About 48% in this survey said they had read one. People are clearly becoming more comfortable about social networking participation and the companies that don’t use this tool are missing a substantial marketing opportunity. Social Media: What does this really mean? More and more people are looking at Blogs, about 50% more than in 2007. Therefore Blogs have become an important source of information and brands must embrace them to survive. What still remains difficult is measuring the effectiveness of social networks. It’s fairly easy to get a measure for people signing up to a Webinar, but how can you measure whether a Blog or video results in a sale? You can't! However, Investing in social media to engage customers can generate positive word of mouth, but determining how much real value you're getting for your money is difficult. When it comes to social media ROI (return on investment), metrics have proven to be somewhat elusive. In fact, according to survey data for the new Aberdeen benchmark report, "Social Media Marketing: The Latest Buzz on Word of Mouth," more than one-third (34 percent) of all companies indicated that a primary reason that they don't currently engage in social media marketing activities is because they lack suitable performance metrics for evaluating the results. (Traditional P.R. cannot be measured directly either but it’s still used!) That is not an excuse The effects of engaging in social networking can be measured by brand awareness studies and increases in customer engagement, usually calculated in terms of click-throughs, opt-ins, content downloads, registrations and various other calls to action. Brand advocacy or "likelihood to recommend" ranks as another top metric companies have adopted to measure the success of their social media marketing activities. In the end, there are myriad ways to measure ROI in social media. But can you afford not to be part of the Web 2.0 environment when customers have come to expect a certain level of accessibility to information from peer reviews? The answer is “no”. Social media has become a form of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and it’s here to stay. Indeed, I would project that it will become even more important and instantaneous as mobile communications devices move toward universal wi-fi access. (But that’s another discussion.) Social media has become mainstream media. Embrace it to stay competitive and use it to learn valuable information about your customer, or get left behind. Got a question or comment, post here or email me at businessissuestoday.com

Sociable

 
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