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Sunday, May 31st, 2009

4 Easy Steps For How to Craft an Effective Email

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If you’re like me, you craft email messages just about every day.

I’m amazed at how many poorly-written emails I see on a regular basis (and some I don’t see clearly because they’re confusing).

Here are some basic rules I try to use for every message: (I’m using the example of a hypothetical partnership with Google as the topic at hand):

1) Clear Subject Line

The purpose of the subject line is to be clear about the subject (duh) and to get the recipient to open it (if relevant to them).

Examples (using the hypothetical Google partnership topic):

“Google Partnership” (Good)

“Google Partnership Closed: Next Steps” (Better)

“Google Partnership: Your Input Needed” (Best)

2) The “Door Opener”

The opening sentence or two of the actual message should be crystal clear about what you the you want from the recipent(s).

Examples:

“I would like your thoughts on section 5 of the attached contract for our Google Partnership.”

” We closed the Google partnership today — way to go, team!”

“I just got off the phone with Larry and Sergey about our deal; here are our next steps.”

3) The “Meat” of the Message

The next part of your message should include any important data or other information necessary for the recipient to be aware of.

Examples:

“Attached is the language in Section 5. Are you comfortable with payment terms described in it?”

“Now that the Google partnership is closed, would you please set up the kick-off call with Sergey and Larry to get things going!?”

4) The Closer

You should close with what action you’d like the recipient to take and any timing if applicable.

Examples:

“I’d appreciate your input by Friday as I have a Monday morning meeting with Google.”

“Thank you for your work on closing the Google Deal. Please put it in your calendar for July 15th to review its performance.”

“Please make sure to alert our Finance team to expect the Google wire transfer by Monday at 11am.”

If you follow these four steps for your email communication, you’ll speed things along and face fewer unpleasant surprises.

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Sunday, May 31st, 2009

"Bad News is Good News"

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Here’s a valuable lesson I learned when I failed to communicate some bad news about a startup at which I was CEO.

I made a bad executive hire for a company I was leading and decided, after speaking with some advisors, to terminate the relationship with the executive.

source: Hine, Lewis Wickes, 1874-1940, photographer

source: Hine, Lewis Wickes, 1874-1940, photographer

While the decision was sound, I failed to communicate this news (which some might perceive as “bad news”) in a timely basis to one key person (an investor) who instead heard about it from one of my advisors within 24 hours.

That investor was so upset with me keeping this “bad news” from him that he called me into his office, threatened to take his investment money back and lectured me for two hours on how important it is to communicate bad news in the same way you communicate good news (quickly!).

Perception Outweighs Reality

The problem with what I had done: while my decision to dismiss the executive was sound, it was initially perceived as unsound by the investor due solely to the fact that I withheld the information from him.

Perception in this case outweighed reality.

The investor said something that afternoon: “Bad News is Good News” — it’s a weird phrase but it has stuck with me ever since.

A related excerpt from Jack Welch’s book called Winning.

Information you try to shut down will eventually get out and as it travels it will certainly morph, twist and darken. He compares it to a really bad version of the children’s game of “telephone.”

Bad news is good news (when communicated effectively)!

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Friday, May 29th, 2009

Effective Communication By Bandwidth

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Choose your communication channel wisely.

Cerner Corp. CEO Neal Patterson probably wished he had when he fired off a message to senior managers at his medical software maker berating them for their work habits.

Cerner CEO Neal Patterson's Slip on Netiquette

Cerner CEO Neal Patterson's Slip on Netiquette

Excerpts of the email include:

“The parking lot is sparsely used at 8 a.m.; likewise at 5 p.m….

…As managers — you either do not know what your EMPLOYEES are doing; or YOU do not CARE.”

“You have a problem and you will fix it or I will replace you…

…What you are doing, as managers, with this company makes me SICK.”

The e-mail promptly leaked out onto the Web. Two weeks after Mr. Patterson sent the message, Cerner stock lost more than a quarter of its value (tens of millions of dollars) after investors became concerned about the company’s prospects and employee morale.

That story reminded me that when you are communicating in business (or for any reason), that you should pick your communication medium based on the sensitivity of the topic. The higher the sensitivity, the higher the bandwidth of communication.

Here are four examples of channels of communication and their relative bandwidth

  • In-Person (highest bandwidth)  — Use this for your most sensitive topics.
  • Telephone (medium bandwidth) — Use this as a backup for sensitive topics in the event you can not meet in-person with your audience.
  • Instant Message (lower bandwidth) — Use this for lower-sensitivty topics
  • Email (lowest bandwidth) — Reserve this for your lowest-sensitivity topics (unless it’s accompanied by a higher bandwidth in-person meeting)

Amazingly, Mr. Patterson is still CEO of Cerner today (8 years after the slip-up) — my hat is off to him for surviving such a firestorm.

What a survivor! — And Cerner generated $188 million in pre-tax profit in its most recent year on sales of $1.67 billion so I imagine he is doing something right!

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Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

7 Easy Tips On How To Be A Go-Giver (Not a Go-Getter)

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I first heard about the concept of being a “go-giver” from Bob Burg in a book he wrote called Winning Without Intimidation; he later made the phrase more popular by writing Go-Giver: A Little Story About a Powerful Business Idea.

I used the Go-Giver phrase, which is corny but good, in a speech I made to entrepreneurs a few years back.

source: Túrelio, Wikimedia Commons

source: Túrelio, Wikimedia Commons

From that speech, and others, here are seven tips to being a better networker or go-giver:

1) Giving is Attractive — “No matter what your profession, if you can give increase of life to others and make them sensible [i.e., “aware”] of this gift, they will be attracted to you, and you will get rich.” Wallace D. Wattles from The Science of Getting Rich

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Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

MySpace & Other Examples of E-CPMs

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I recently finished reading Stealing MySpace, an interesting “inside-baseball” look at the building of MySpace and eventual sale to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. for $750MM.

While the MySpace story had a happy ending for most, it also reminded me of the surprisingly low e-CPM (effective CPM or cost per thousand) of many Web sites that either sell through third-parties or have ad inventory that’s difficult for advertisers to understand/value.

e-cpm-stealing-myspace

MySpace earned an e-CPM of about $.20 in its early days (November 2004).

To put an eCPM of $.20 into perspective, that means that MySpace had to generate 500,000 page views on its Web site to earn just $100 in advertising revenue…or 5 million page views to earn $1,000… or 50 million to earn $10,000.

Now, MySpace charged much higher CPMs (up to $2 or so) on many of its pages, but the average it received for all of its pages was closer to $.20, according to the book.

For those of you thinking of selling advertising on your Web sites, I thought I’d add a few other less-known e-CPMs or CPMs for you:

  • Mojam (a music Web site I founded and sold) — Mojam had an e-CPM of $.91 while I was running it.
  • PlentyOfFish (free matchmaking site) — This innovative online matchmaking site had an e-CPM of $.75, in my estimation, during 2006 when various articles about their results (fueled when POF Founder Marcus Frind showed pictures of his giant Google AdSense checks (the calculation I’m using is $375,000 in monthly revenue divided by about 500MM monthly impressions).
  • StevePavlina.com — This useful personal development site had a Google AdSense CPM of around $2.80 in December 2005 when he shared some stats on his site (note: I used the term “Google AdSense CPM” for this one because Steve Pavlina generates income from other sponsorship/affiliate-related sources that he didn’t disclose) (interestingly, Steve Pavlina appears to have taken down all of his AdSense ads since then).
  • A Colleague of Mine’s Tips Web Site — Someone I know has a site currently (as of this month) generating 250,000 page views per month and about $200 per month in ad revenue; so his e-CPM is $.89.

Now, interestingly, while all these e-CPMs and CPMs seem low, all of the companies mentioned were profitable. That’s because their cost of delivering 1,000 page views was very, very cheap.

Hosting CPM

MySpace, for example, spent only $.07 on what I call “Hosting CPM” (i.e. delivering each of its 1,000 page views) in its early days (November 2004); and since they had minimal other expenses at the time they were able to break even at that point.

My colleague’s Tips Web site (in the fourth bullet above) spends only 3.5 cents in Hosting CPM and minimal other costs, so he makes a profit.

To see the other costs in running a Web site check out my How Much to Pay for a Customer article.

Your e-CPM Scales as You Scale

The economies of scale work in your favor as you are able to command higher CPMs as your volume of page views (and brand value) increase.

For example, MySpace is now reportedly generating $75MM per month through about 40 billion page views for an e-CPM of about $1.88, according to this Silicon Alley Insider article.

So, they almost 10Xed their e-CPM from their early days!

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Thursday, May 21st, 2009

Some SEO Basics

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I chatted with a guy named Dan Rosenbaum today.

Why? He knows a bit about SEO (Search Engine Optimization) — he increased organic referrals for #1 women’s site iVillage by 30% in one year.

Plus, he and I used to work together at a then-amazing company called CMP Media; and he said he was looking for his next adventure (job).

If you know anything about SEO, you know that good SEO people are hard to find! Plus, I look out for CMP alumni!

Dan’s perspective on SEO is made all the more interesting because he has 30 years of experience in content (offline and online).

This is Dan Rosenbaum, feeding us SEO tips

This is Dan Rosenbaum, feeding us SEO tips

I decided to pick Dan’s brain on some basic SEO stuff and share it with you.

If you’re interested in hiring Dan, then check out Dan on LinkedIn.

Ok, so here are my questions in bold — the rest is pure Dan!

Ok, Dan, so what type of SEO professional are you?

There are three types of SEO professionals.

There are some people who are very code-based about it. They see things through a lens of technology. There are some who see it through a lens of analytics.

My lens is a lens of content.

None is better than any other. I like mine (content) because I spent 30 years in content, so I come to SEO on a content basis.

What’s a surprising thing about SEO that most people don’t know?

Ranking in the SRP (Search Results Page) is meaningless. Anyone can get to the first page for something.

What I always watch for is traffic, and changes in traffic.

I care about the conversion of what happens once someone hits my page…clicking the buy button or the ad.

I can rank #1 on a search of “cellphone”…but if they come to my page and don’t convert, all I’ve done is cost my company money.

If I can generate meaningful traffic to my reader, to my customer…that’s the win.

As it happens, Google is helping that. They are working very hard to eliminate the concept of the importance of the first page of results.

Such as with Universal Search.

What’s Universal Search?

Universal Search is searching not just Web pages but audio, video, user reviews — which is a new thing.

So instead of having ten Web pages on the first page, you’ll have four Web pages, two videos, a little blurb about shopping sites, a blog post and a user reviews.

And the result for the user in San Francisco is different from the result of a user in New York.

And, further-more, the results may differ based on what’s in your Gmail Inbox.

A sufficiently-targeted ad is not an ad, it’s content. They’re as valuable, if not more valuable, than what the room full of editors is churning out.

It becomes even more important…and Google helps that along by lumping more information on the SRP that isn’t necessarily in control of Google or the Content provider.

We believe Google rolled this out a couple of weeks ago.

What changes did Google make a couple of weeks ago?

It used to be that a Content guy can control what was on the SURP (aka SRP or Search Results Page) — not so much now. It used to be that it was 156 characters — there’s the page title, two lines of text (maximum of 156 characters) and then the URL — you can’t dictate what that will be any more.

Google is in control of what’s on that page — Google will present whatever serves its user better.

This makes publishers and big e-commerce companies completely nuts — cuz they’re in the business of controling their message.

Until a couple of weeks ago, you could be reasonably sure based on how you coded your page of what would show up in your listing.

To an increasing degree, Google is no longer listening to that suggestion.

It’s actually going into the page and saying these two sentences are the most relevant and showing the Google user that.

Google used to show what was in the description meta text of a page.

Was there an announcement about these new Google changes?

Google admitted they were doing this a couple of weeks ago…at Searchtopia…a glorified news conference.

If you look at a Google results page, at the top left, you’ll see a link that says “Show options.”

You click that and it flies out a whole column of options that didn’t exist last month — it controls how much you see, what content you see and how long the snippets are that you see.

Google is pretty invested in making that [Show Options] link as prominent as they can.

What are other secrets about SEO that most people don’t know?

That SEO is not rocket science.

SEO isn’t an event, it’s a process. If you’re going to do it right, it has to involve every department in the company — the tech staff, the marketing, the research, ad and ad ops, metrics and, especially, executives.

The reason that there are so few good in-house SEOs, and that they bail for agencies all the time, is that people involved in SEO don’t have the management experience to come into a company and do that.

The difficulty of [SEO] agency work, is that it is kept at arms-length — and it doesn’t work that well.

As for companies who hire SEO internally, too often the employers  aren’t emotionally equipped to understand what SEO really is — it’s a quality process…that involves the entire company.

When Toyota decided they were going to out-quality Detroit, they didn’t hire a quality guy and stick him in a cube.

They hired someone who would come in and look at the operations of the entire company and build a process that baked quality in.

And the best companies that do SEO, bake SEO in.

Thanks for sharing, Dan. What’s your ideal next gig?

My job is to help people build great sites with great information that serves appropriate readers.

I want to get elbows- and knees-deep in the next thing. If there’s a company committed to that and SEO, that would be a good fit.

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Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

CEO Kobe Bryant

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I love basketball and I love business.

So I got enormous pleasure from watching the Spike Lee Documentary “Kobe Doin’ Work” on ESPN the other night (good for ESPN to make it advertising-free!).

As much basketball as I watch, I was amazed at how excellent a leader Kobe is…I think he’d make a great CEO.

Below are video clips of the entire documentary along with bullets that I think we can all borrow from Kobe to make us better leaders.

Being Nervous is Good!

Kobe: “I still get goose bumps every time I go out (on the court)”

When I heard Kobe say this, I was reminded of a mentor of mine who once asked me if I was nervous before a big speech. I said I was. She said: “Good, if you weren’t a little nervous I’d be worried about you. Nervous energy can be good energy.”

Respect the Competition

Kobe on San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili: ” That’s a bad boy right there. I have so much respect for his game. He’s an incredible competitor. I enjoy playing against him. He’s a fantastic tw0-guard”

“I enjoy playing against Tony…He’s so quick.”

Preparation & Execution

“You’re thinking about all the execution, all the things you gotta do, the preparations you’ve made.’”

Kobe says he knows where his teammates will be on plays from watching film of his own players. “You don’t want to be guessing,” Kobe says.

“You don’t build a house without blueprints…you gotta know what you’re doing coming in.”

Acknowledge Competition

Kobe on Tim Duncan: What can you say about Tim…He’s the best power forward to ever play the game. Period.”

Kobe later mentioned that he stole a jump shot in which he banks it off the backboard from Tim Duncan when he played him one-on-one before an All-Star game weekend.

Kobe on Playing Other Great Players: “A lot of guys when they match up against other great players, there’s a fear of embarassment. Fear that they might make you look bad. I really don’t care. It’s just fun going up against them. If you’re playing a great player, of course he’s going to make you look bad sometimes. It’s just part of the game.”

Kobe on who’s the best at the two-step move: “Nobody does (the two-step) better than D-Wade (Dwayne Wade) and Manu Ginoboli…and then probably Tony Parker.”

Communication

“I don’t think a lot of fans understand the amount of communication, execution that goes on in a game.”

“You have to emotionally be invested in the game, play hard, play with a lot of energy. But you gotta execute. We talk about execution all the time. We can’t stress that enough.”

Self-Honesty

On a blown layup: “That was doing too  much…That was just a dumb play by me.”

A lot of times when my shot is off, it’s cuz my shot is flat. When I put arc on my ball, I’m a much better shooter.”

On watching himself in the documentary: “This is funny watching cuz I didn’t think I talked that damn much.”

Kobe on Kobe causing an offensive foul: “You idiot (about himself)…you know that’s what he (Kurt Thomas) is gonna do…and, then, I blew it.”

Take the High-Percentage Opportunities

That’s all you an ask for…you just want…high-percentage opportunities.”

Be Positive About Your Teamates

When Sasha Vucajic pushed Ime Udoka of the Spurs, Kobe said “That’s my man, Sasha, doing what he does. Feisty kid.”

Kobe on Derek Fisher: “I love that guy. What a warrior.”

“We’ve got some great passers on our ballclub.”

Kobe on Lamar Odom: “Lamar is just an incredible player…his versatility is what makes us go.”

Kobe on Luke Walton: “Luke is a much better shooter than he gives himself credit for.”

Kobe to Teammate Pao Gasol: “I’ve never played with a center who can pass like that!”

In fact, I didn’t hear Kobe say a negative thing about any teammate or opponent.

Kobe on Great Competition

“A lot of guys when they match up against other great players, there’s a fear of embarassment. Fear that they might make you look bad. I really don’t care.”

“It’s just fun going up against them. If you’re playing a great player, of course he’s going to make you look bad sometimes. It’s just part of the game.”

Kobe About Recharging (at Half-Time)

“Now’s the time to collect ourselves, and talk about what we’re doing and what we’re not doing.”

Kobe on Coach Phil Jackson

“We both love basketball…Phil and I can talk about the game, non-stop, all the time. That’s made me such a better player.”

“Phil doesn’t call plays. He draws up sequences of options and then it’s up to us a team to figure out what’s the best option at that moment in time.” “He [Phil] doesn’t want to hold your hand and walk you through it…he wants you to figure it out. That’s when you become a great team.”

Kobe on Finding his Role on the Lakers Team

“In the past I would have to score 35 or 40 points just to keep us competitive. Now I don’t have to do that. You see me directing more. I’m more of a compass, making sure we’re going in the right direction. Making sure we’re executing. Because I have the personnel [now] to do that.”

Speak The Other Guy’s Language

It was cool to watch Kobe speak Italian to teammate Sasha Vucajic to make some points…it both kept the information a bit more confidential from the opponent and also seemed to form a bond between Kobe and Sasha.

Kobe on Failure (i.e. Missing his Shots)

“You gotta forget about it…move on to the next play. I don’t dwell on missed shots at all. I don’t think about that stuff. I’m very optimistic.”

“If I miss 5 in a row, that means I’m good for the 6th one. If I miss the 6th one, that means that I’m definitely good on that 7th one…If I miss that 7th one, that means that 8th one is going in.”

Kobe on Making Sure to Love What You Do & Have Fun

“It’s such an intense game, you have to have fun. Tease one another. This is the stuff we were doing when we were kids. ”

“You rib each other, you tease each other. It makes things fun.”

“This game is such a beautiful game.”

Be Thankful

“You have to give your thanks…We’re all blessed to be in this position to do what we do.”

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Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

The 9 Enneagram Personality Types

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The Enneagram Personality Types is an effective tool to understand the tendencies of yourself and others; including how you can work and play better together.

If you don’t know your Enneagram type, go here to check out the Free Enneagram Personality Type Tests

The Nine Enneagram Personality Types

the-enneagram-personality-testssvg1

Enneagram 1 = “The Perfectionist” or “The Reformer”

Enneagram 2 = “The Helper” or “The Giver”

Enneagram 3 =  “The Performer” or “The Motivator”

Enneagram 4 = “The Romantic”

Enneagram 5 = “The Thinker” or “The Observer”

Enneagram 6 = “The Skeptic” or “The Devil’s Advocate”

Enneagram 7 = “The Enthusiast” or “The Epicure”

Enneagram 8 = “The Leader” or “The Boss”

Enneagram 9 = “The Peacemaker” or “The Mediator”

If you enjoy Personality Types, you can also check out the Myers-Briggs Personality Types at these two links:

Free Myers-Briggs Jung Personality Test and

The 16 Myers-Briggs Personality Types

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