Archive for 'technology'

SEO Class Recap

On Thursday, SMB Consulting hosted a SEO Training Seminar/Bootcamp at the McConnell Technology Training Center off of Industry Blvd. here in Louisville. We had six attendees that seemed to really enjoy the class especially the hands on nature of it. Analyzing keywords seemed to generate the biggest “ah-ha” type of moments, and spying on competitors provided some eye opening information that is sure to help with the optimization efforts moving forward for everyone. One area that didn’t seem to matter as much is the history of search engines (beginning of the class) so less time will be spent on that as things progress.

One thing I personally learned is to combine the workbook with the textbook I generated for the class. I apologize to those that attended this particular class for the confusion the two books seemed to cause. I thought it might be better to have a separate workbook in order to go back and perform some of the tasks without having to weed through a larger book, but I was wrong and the updated book has the contents of both. The new book has been e-mailed out to everyone in the class so please contact me if you did not receive one.

We’re having another SEO Class on June 14, 2007 at the same location (visit http://mttc.org for more information and a map) from 9 AM to around 4 PM. There are a few spots open if you (or someone you know) might be interested in attending. Get more information about the class by visiting the SEO training section of our website (http://smbconsultinginc.com/seo-training.html). We’re also planning SEO Training in Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Nashville, and St. Louis should you live in one of those locales and have an interest in learning how to optimize your website for the search engines.

After a lengthy bike ride last Saturday, I had some serious neck/upper back pain. It’s somewhat common for me after longer rides (3+ hours), but I somehow aggravated the injury while I was (of all things) taking a shower the next morning. I figured it was muscle fatigue or a mild strain that would disappear after a couple of days. Didn’t happen. After three days, it was time to bite the bullet and visit a professional.

There’s a new chiropractor/massage/rehab facility that opened less than a mile from my home so I figured I’d pop in on them to see if they could help me. There was even a sign in the front window stating “now accepting new clients.” Excellent! Not only are they convenient, they’re actively seeking people like me right now. Or so I thought. I entered and told the girl behind the desk that I thought I needed a massage to work the kink out of my neck. She said “great, let me see who is available and if we can get you in today.” Mind you, NO one else was even in the place from everything I could tell, and I saw three doctor/therapist types walking around as if they had some free time on their hands. After the girl looked at the computer schedule, she sheepishly looked up to tell me they could fit me in two weeks later, but they had nothing open until then. Another girl walked over as if she found that bit of information a little erroneous and suggested they might be able to fit me in the next Tuesday (today). The other girl said “no, that’s not right because he’s on vacation (meaning the therapist) so that wouldn’t work either.” They both agreed then looked at me like “sorry about your luck pal.”

If I had agreed to go through testing with a doctor and undergo x-rays, an hour questionnaire, poking and prodding, I could have seen someone the next day, but I couldn’t get anyone to help me with my immediate problem–the damn kink in my neck that was making it difficult to move my head around to see. If I had agreed to sign up for a treatment “program” (read: more expense), they might have magically found a massage therapist available. I left the joint a tad amused and a lot put off.

This incident was a further reminder that if you’re going to open the doors and welcome in “new” business, be prepared to take it in whatever way it comes to you. Suggesting that you welcome new clients is suggesting you’re not booked solid. Judging by the parking lot (I was the only car) and the doctors shuffling around as I stood there waiting to see if someone would be able to help me was further evidence that they definitely had room to take on more paying clients. They just don’t have room to take on new clients that don’t do things THEIR way (setting up an appointment weeks in advance, PLANNING for nagging injuries or aches, going through an insurance carrier, etc.) I was a walk-in customer that was prepared to turn over my credit card to receive immediate attention. I essentially had an open “budget” when I walked in there because the pain was strong enough, and I wasn’t in a mood to haggle over pricing or fee schedules. To me, immediate attention (time constraint) was more important than what it might cost (budget constraint). I had no idea what quality might come from being a walk-in, but I was willing to roll the dice to get rid of the kink so I wasn’t a difficult customer to please at that moment. They couldn’t even mildly accommodate me though.

Having read all of this, what are the odds I’ll return? They weren’t prepared to do business on my terms–take my credit card, some information, and administer a damn massage. They wanted me to jump through their hoops at their pace JUST to do business. I wasn’t a complicated case–just a simple massage today, please. Tomorrow I may decide I need x-rays and doctor assistance, but let me make that decision. Your policies and procedures shouldn’t prevent you from taking someone’s money and giving them what they want (within the broadest objectives of your overall business) as quickly as reasonably possible.

I worked in outside sales for two technology companies that I frequently challenged during sales meetings with this question:
“If a customer walked through that door RIGHT NOW and offered us cash to buy something we have in stock, could we sell it to them in less than 20 minutes?” You’d be shocked at the answer each time–it was “no, we’re not setup like a retail outlet like that. They’d have to fill out customer information, a credit application, references, etc.” What?!? To pay cash, they’d have to do all of that? Asinine and utterly amazing yet extremely true. That’s how some businesses set themselves up though. Don’t be one of those–be prepared to make it easy for someone to do business with you. Complicating things just to have a process or system in place is one of the dumbest things you can do if it doesn’t make it easy for someone new to do business with you. That’s common sense, but it’s amazing how uncommon that is anymore.

by Guy Kawasaki

At the Elite Retreat I gave an off-the-cuff answer to a question concerning getting the attention of venture capitalists. My buddy Wendy Piersall blogged about my answer, and it was a very popular. However, to truly help entrepreneurs, I’d like to provide a cogent list of the tips to get the attention of a venture capitalist.

  1. Get an introduction by a partner-level lawyer. He should work at a firm that does a lot of venture capital financings like my buddies at Montgomery & Hansen. Best case email/voicemail: “This is the most interesting company I’ve seen in my twenty years of legal work for startups.” Venture capitalists dream about calls like this—it’s the equivalent of a scoring shot that knocks the goalie’s water bottle off the top shelf.

    Incidentally, this part of the reason of why you should pay top dollar and use a well-known corporate finance attorney instead of Uncle Joe the divorce lawyer (even if he handles venture capitalists’ divorces). You’re paying for connections not only expertise.

  2. Get an introduction by a professor of engineering. Best case email/voicemail: “These students are the smartest ones I’ve ever had in twenty years of teaching computer science. Larry and Sergei would have carried their backpacks for them.” Arguably this is even better than the lawyer’s call if the school has a history of receiving multi-million dollar donations from its alumni—if you know what I mean.

  3. Get an introduction by the founder of a company in the venture capitalist’s portfolio. Best case email/voicemail: “My buddies are starting a new company, and I think it’s really cool.” For this to work, it would help if the person making the call is a successful company in the venture capitalist’s portfolio. Also, this would be a good time to tap your network in LinkedIn to find acquaintances in the portfolio.

    Here’s a power tip regarding getting to venture capitalists using LinkedIn. Maybe it’s only me, but I hate when a connection of a connection of a connection wants me to take a look at deal. LinkedIn enables you to just go direct, and that’s my advice if you can show success (see below). If you can’t show success, the connection of a connection of a connection is useless anyway.

  4. Show success. Suppose you can’t get any of the introductions mentioned above. Then the most compelling email/voicemail that you provide is this: “My buddy and I have been working in our garage, taking no pay, and with MySQL we built a site that is doubling in traffic every month. Right now, we’re at 250,000 page views a day after thirty days.” With this one sentence you’ve proven you can (a) make a little bit of money (“none”) go far, your architecture looks scalable so far (once in my career I’d like scalability to be a problem), and most importantly, the dogs are already eating the food.

    Another way to show success is to hit it out of the park at Demo or the poor man’s Demo we call Launch: Silicon Valley, but this is a game that only a few dozen companies can play in every year. Finally, you can provide links to articles singing your praises, but this only means that you fooled the press, not that the dogs like what you’re serving.

  5. Make sure your company is in the right space. No matter how you get to the venture capitalist, make sure that she is the right one for you. For example, if you have the cure for cancer, contacting a firm’s enterprise software guru isn’t the brightest idea, so get on the web and do your homework.

  6. Use a short email. The ideal length of your email is three or fourth paragraphs:

    • What does your company do?

    • What problem are you solving?

    • What’s special about your technology/marketing/expertise/connections?

    • Who are you?

    Here are some things not to do:

    • Attach a PowerPoint presentation. I don’t care if it even adheres to the 10/20/30 rule. Save it for the face-to-face meeting.

    • Use the word “patented” more than once. All it takes to file a patent is $1,000. No good venture capitalist believes patents makes your company defensible. They just want to learn (once) that there might be something worth patenting.

    • Claim that you’re in a multi-billion dollar market. Isn’t every company in a multi-billion market according to some study? At least every company that’s ever pitched a venture capitalist.

    • Provide a lofty financial projection. Most projections that I see show how you’ll grow faster than Google. Frankly, I wouldn’t provide any projection at all. It will be either too low and make your deal uninteresting or too high and make you look delusional.

    • Brag about an MBA degree. Most venture capitalists want to invest in hardcore engineers at the start. The MBAs can come later, so focus on engineering or avoid the subject completely.

    • Try to create the illusion of scarcity. Many entrepreneurs claim that “Sequoia is interested.” If Sequoia is interested, you should take its money. If it isn’t, then the venture capitalist won’t be either. Either way, don’t even think of blowing this smoke.

This posting is merely about the process of getting across the moat. To learn more about what to do once you’re there, read how to fix your pitch by Bill Reichert of Garage.

How to Beat Google (Part 1)

by Rich Skrenta

Our entire industry is scared witless by Google’s dominance in search and advertising. Microsoft and Yahoo have been unsuccessful at staunching the bleeding of their search market share. VCs parrot the Google PR FUD machine that you need giant datacenters next to hydroelectric dams to compete. They spout nonsense about how startups should just use Alexa’s crawl and put some ajax on top of it. Ye gods.

Grow a spine people! You have a giant growing market with just one dominant competitor, not even any real #2. You’re going to do clean-tech energy saving software to shut off lightbulbs in high-rises instead? Pfft. Get a stick and try to knock G’s crown off.

So here are my tips to get started. These are all about competing with Google’s search engine. Of course G is big business now and does a lot of different things. Their advertising business is particularly strong, and exhibits some eBay-like network effects that substantially enhance its defensibility. Still, even if you’re going to take that on too, you have to start with a strong base of search driven traffic.

  1. A conventional attack against Google’s search product will fail. They are unassailable in their core domain. If you merely duplicate Google’s search engine, you will have nothing. A copy of their product with your brand has no pull against the original product with their brand.

  2. Duplicating Google’s engine is uninteresting anyway. The design and approach were begun a decade ago. You can do better now.

  3. You need both a great product and a strong new brand. Both are hard problems. The lack of either dooms the effort. “Strong new brand” specifically excludes “search.you.com”. The branding and positioning are half the battle.

  4. You need to position your product to sub-segment the market and carve out a new niche. Or better, define an entirely new category. See Ries on how to launch a new brand into a market owned by a competitor. If it can be done in Ketchup or Shampoo, it can be done in search.

  5. Forget interface innovation. The editorial value of search is in the index, not the interface. That’s why google’s minimalist interface is so appealing. Interface features only get in the way.

  6. Forget about asking users to do anything besides typing two words into a box.

  7. Users do not click on clusters, or tags, or categories, or directory tabs, or pulldowns. Ever. Extra work from users is going the wrong way. You want to figure out how the user can do even less work.

  8. Your results need to be in a single column. UI successes like Google and blogging have shown that we don’t want multiple columns. Distractions from the middle with junk on the sides corrupt your thinking and drive users away.

  9. Your product must look different than Google in some way that is deliberately incompatible with their UI, for two reasons. One, if you look the same as them, consumers can’t tell how you’re different, and then you won’t pull any users over. Two, if your results are shown in the same form as Google’s, they will simply copy whatever innovations you introduce. You need to do something they can’t copy, not because they’re not technically capable of doing so, but because of the constraints of their legacy interface on Google.com.

  10. Your core team will be 2-3 people, not 20. You cannot build something new and different with a big team. Big teams are only capable of duplicating existing technology. The sum of 20 sets of vision is mud.

  11. Search is more about systems software than algorithms or relevance tricks. That’s why Google has all those OS programmers. You need a strong platform to win, you can’t just cobble it together as you go like other big web apps.

  12. Do not fear Google’s vast CapEx. You should wish maintenance of that monster on your worst enemies. Resource constraints are healthy for innovation. You’re building something new and different anyway.

The Secrets of Selling


BY STEVE COHN
Saturday, March 3, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

1. “Understanding Media” by Marshall McLuhan (MIT Press, 1964).

I have no idea who might be the smartest human ever, but the most brilliant marketing mind of all belonged to Marshall McLuhan. “Understanding Media” is a timeless analysis of how language, speech and technology shape human behavior in the era of mass communication. The book is a cautionary tale for marketers today who hear the Web’s siren call and ignore the power of the spoken word. Whether heard onstage, over the phone, or on radio or TV, McLuhan says, the spoken word is ultimately much more powerful than the written. Part anthropologist, part psychologist, part behavioral scientist, McLuhan ponders many other aspects of how we connect, such as the persuasive powers of typography. He was a genius who understood why mass media holds us in its grip and never lets go.

2. “Brand Sense” by Martin Lindstrom (Free Press, 2005).

Of all the books I have read on marketing, “Brand Sense” is the most dog-eared. Martin Lindstrom makes a strong case that engaging the five senses is crucial to selling a brand. Whether marketers are trying to persuade consumers to buy a particular car or soda or shirt, they had better be aware of the role that each sense plays in the selling process, Lindstrom says, or they are working with only half a deck. Lindstrom displays much original thinking here, particularly with his “authenticity test” for brands. Does the brand feel real? Does it smell right? Does it tell a story that stirs emotion? The final payoff in “Brand Sense” is Lindstrom’s checklist to help marketers build maximum brand loyalty in their customers.

3. “Reality in Advertising” by Rosser Reeves (Knopf, 1961).

Rosser Reeves is not as well-known as the advertising giants of his era, such as David Ogilvy, Leo Burnett and Bill Bernbach, but he was every bit their peer. Reeves originated many of the concepts–including what he called the “unique selling proposition”–that make the difference between marketing success and failure. Reeves was immensely talented, and he expected to be paid commensurately, which led to an incident that has become something of a legend in the advertising world. When a client demanded that he justify his fees, Reeves asked him to take two quarters out of his pocket and hold one in each hand. Reeves then explained: “You pay me to tell the consumer why the quarter in your left hand is absolutely fantastic and the quarter in your right hand is not.” Reeves chose exactly the right title for “Reality in Advertising”–all the marketing theory in the world means nothing if it can’t be translated into specific techniques that make a product or service stand out among all the others in its category.

4. “Why We Buy” by Paco Underhill (Simon & Schuster, 1999).

So you go to the mall, pop into a handful of stores and walk out with a few shopping bags–mission accomplished. Understanding how retailers can facilitate that experience is the particular talent of shopping-pattern researcher Paco Underhill. He and his trusty band of young sleuths have studied all age groups and looked at every angle of how we behave as shoppers. More than 70% of the purchases made on most shopping expeditions are unplanned, Underhill notes. He then explains shopper psychology and the techniques that retailers should use to maximize their chances of snagging our unintended expenditures. From describing how to create the most effective window displays to analyzing optimum shopping-basket placement, Underhill is unrivaled in his ability to dissect the countless variables that are essential to a store’s success.

5. “Branded Nation” by James B. Twitchell (Simon & Schuster, 2004).

James B. Twitchell begins “Branded Nation” by asserting that “the secret to great brands is that they are often nonsensical.” After all, what’s golden about McDonald’s? What’s real about Coke? Among the endless number of books churned out each year that try to explain brand success, this is the best overview of the rules of the road. It also provides an in-depth look at the often overlooked marketing strategies of churches, universities and museums. Twitchell is unusual among college professors in that he teaches both English and advertising, two disciplines that make perfect sense together.

Mr. Cone is a senior marketing executive at Citigroup and the author of “Steal These Ideas: Marketing Secrets That Will Make You a Star” (Bloomberg, 2005).

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