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Sunday, July 26th, 2009

SWOT Analysis

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I’ve been using SWOT Analysis for strategic planning lately and I thought I’d share the basics of it.

What is a SWOT Analysis

SWOT is a strategic planning tool. The acronym SWOT stands for:

S= Strengths

W = Weaknesses

O = Opportunities

T = Threats

The importance of a SWOT Analysis

A SWOT Analysis is a great exercise to help determine your tactics or execution of an objective.

The more you can prepare before you jump into your tactics (or execution), the better off your results will be.

How to do a SWOT Analysis

First, pick your topic (e.g. your topic might be broad such as on your business/company overall (a “Company SWOT Analysis” or something more specific such as a department in your business (e.g. a “Marketing SWOT Analysis) or it could be for yourself as an individual (a “Personal SWOT Analysis”).

Next you pick your objective. For example, if you’re doing a Company SWOT Analysis your objective may be to double the business within the next three years.

Now do the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats related to that topic or objective:

  • Strengths — These are attributes that you or your company possess that would be helpful in achieving the objective.
  • Weaknesses — These are attributes that you or your business have that are harmful to achieving the objective.
  • Opportunities — These are the external circumstances that are helpful to you achieving the objective.
  • Threats — These are external circumstances that could damage the performance of your objective.

Next, ask yourself if your objective is achievable given your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Is SWOT objective achievable?

If the answer is no, you have to revise your objective and do another SWOT.

If your answer is yes, then you can now move into discussing the tactics related to your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Specifically, you’ll want to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. How can we leverage each one of our strengths?
  2. How can we improve upon each weakness?
  3. How we can capitalize on each opportunity?
  4. How can we minimize each threat?

A SWOT Analysis Example

[Check out my SWOT Analysis Examples posting to see larger company SWOT Analysis examples]

Here’s a summary of a general Business SWOT Analysis I did on our start up Mojam about ten years ago.

Our objective was to double the revenue of the business within twelve months.

Strengths

  • Amazing team
  • Large quantity of product
  • Well-connected investors
  • Good at partnering

Weaknesses

  • Low amount of capital
  • Mediocre product quality
  • Geographically fragmented team

Opportunities

  • Yahoo is interesting in partnering with us
  • Company can turn a profit with just a few more customers
  • Smaller competitor is distressed and may want to sell
  • New revenue sources such as merchandise sales are right around the corner

Threats

  • A small new competitor has entered the space
  • We may not make payroll if we can not raise more capital or grow our business

When we asked ourselves if the objective of doubling our business was achievable given these strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, the answer was yes…so we moved on to answering the four questions on each SWOT.

E.g.:

  • How can we leverage our amazing team?
  • How can we exploit our large quantity of product?
  • How can we grow our capital?
  • How can we improve our product quality?
  • How can we close the Yahoo deal?
  • How can we start merchandising as a new revenue source?
  • How can we combat the new competitor that entered the space?
  • How can we buy more time to make payroll?

Now you’re into tactics and execution and that requires prioritization, time lines, business plans, etc….or, in other words, you just go do all the things you just said you shoud do in your answers!

Who should carry out the SWOT Analysis exercise?

Ideally it’s a cross functional team (e.g. someone in sales, marketing, finance, technology, etc.)

Who Invented SWOT?

Most people credit Albert S. Humphrey, a business and management consultant who also founded the Stakeholder Concept and Team Action Management (TAM) Concept.

note: Some people mistakenly call it “SWAT” Analysis (SWAT is an acronym for special weapons and tactics started by the Los Angeles Police Department around 1968 (coincidentally, Albert Humphrey began popularizing SWOT right around the same time (in the late 1960′s!))

A great definition of SWOT can be found at SWOT Analysis Wikipedia.

Good luck with your SWOT!

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Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

My First Experience With Toastmasters Public Speaking

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Public speaking is people’s number one fear…#2 is death…as Comedian Jerry Seinfeld put it: “That means you’d rather be laying in the casket at a funeral than giving the eulogy.”

I’ve had a couple of smart friends recommend that I check out Toastmasters as a tool to sharpen my public speaking saw for a few years now…so I finally took the plunge.

I highly recommend that you try it out — you can find one of 12,000 Toastmasters locations in 130 countries. Toastmasters International is a non-profit (though they do charge you if you want to be a member) that began in Santa Ana, California in 1924.

I picked a Toastmasters club in San Francisco (there were a dozen to choose from!)…coincidentally, one of them was located in a building I used to work.

Common Questions People Have About Toastmasters Public Speaking

How much does Toastmasters cost?

You don’t need to pay anything to check it out. You can be a free guest for as long as you want which allows you to both observe others giving speeches and also give your own short speeches (I’ll explain what guests do in a moment).

If you’d like to become a member (which means you’ll receive some curriculum and the opportunity to do longer speeches (and get feedback on them), the Toastmasters dues are $20 one-time and then $27 every six months.

Do I have to give a speech at the first Toastmasters meeting?

Yes, though it’s a short one. At your first meeting, you are asked to stand up and introduce yourself and how you came about choosing Toastmasters. You will also have the option to do a Toastmasters table topics speech at your first meeting.

What is a Toastmaster table-topics speech?

A Toastmasters member at each meeting will give guests a random topic or theme for a speech (called a table-topic) and the guest is asked if he or she would like to speak about that topic right there on the spot (without preparation) for a couple of minutes. Table-topic speeches are designed to help you think on your feet — my first table-topic was a college graduation commencement speech.

What are the different Toastmaster parts/roles that people play?

  • Toastmaster — They open and close each meeting as well as introduce speakers throughout the meeting
  • Toastmaster Grammarian — They give a speech on what the Grammarian does (which is to count how many times speakers say words such as “like” or “uh”) and give a Grammarian’s Report speech of all Speakers.
  • Toastmaster Timer — They give a speech on what the Timer does and another speech on how much time each Speaker took.
  • Toastmaster Guests — They give a brief speech (standing up behind their chair) about how they learned of Toastmasters.
  • Toastmaster Speaker — They give a speech on some topic that they were given a week or two earlier.
  • Toastmaster Master Evaluator — They give a speech providing feedback on all of the speakers
  • Toastmaster Evaluator — They give a speech on the Toastmaster Speaker.

Note: Every single person in attendance at a Toastmasters meeting is asked to speak (you may decline) and every person is there to learn (there are no Toastmasters employees in attendance!).

How frequently do Toastmasters meetings take place and how long are they?

Toastmasters meetings are typically weekly for one hour. But you’re under no obligation to attend every one (I attended my first three over a two-month period (because I was traveling).

Toastmasters provides two good top 10 lists for public speakingj. Here they are:

10 Tips for Better Public Speaking

1. Know your material. Pick a topic you are interested in. Know more about it than you include in your speech. Use humor, personal stories and conversational language – that way you won’t easily forget what to say.
2. Practice. Practice. Practice! Rehearse out loud with all equipment you plan on using. Revise as necessary. Work to control filler words; Practice, pause and breathe. Practice with a timer and allow time for the unexpected.
3. Know the audience. Greet some of the audience members as they arrive. It’s easier to speak to a group of friends than to strangers.
4. Know the room. Arrive early, walk around the speaking area and practice using the microphone and any visual aids.
5. Relax. Begin by addressing the audience. It buys you time and calms your nerves. Pause, smile and count to three before saying anything. (“One one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand. Pause. Begin.) Transform nervous energy into enthusiasm.
6. Visualize yourself giving your speech. Imagine yourself speaking, your voice loud, clear and confident. Visualize the audience clapping – it will boost your confidence.
7. Realize that people want you to succeed. Audiences want you to be interesting, stimulating, informative and entertaining. They’re rooting for you.
8. Don’t apologize for any nervousness or problem – the audience probably never noticed it.
9. Concentrate on the message – not the medium. Focus your attention away from your own anxieties and concentrate on your message and your audience.
10. Gain experience. Mainly, your speech should represent you – as an authority and as a person. Experience builds confidence, which is the key to effective speaking. A Toastmasters club can provide the experience you need in a safe and friendly environment.

Top 10 Public Speaking Mistakes

  1. Starting with a whimper. Don’t start with “Thank you for that kind introduction.” Start with a bang! Give the audience a startling statistic, an interesting quote, a news headline – something powerful that will get their attention immediately.’
  2. Attempting to imitate other speakers. Authenticity is lost when you aren’t yourself.
  3. Failing to “work” the room. Your audience wants to meet you. If you don’t take time to mingle before the presentation, you lose an opportunity to enhance your credibility with your listeners.
  4. Failing to use relaxation techniques. Do whatever it takes – listening to music, breathing deeply, shrugging your shoulders – to relieve nervous tension.
  5. Reading a speech word for word. This will put the audience to sleep. Instead use a “keyword” outline: Look at the keyword to prompt your thoughts. Look into the eyes of the audience, then speak.
  6. Using someone else’s stories. It’s okay to use brief quotes from other sources, but to connect with the audience, you must illustrate your most profound thoughts from your own life experiences. If you think you don’t have any interesting stories to tell, you are not looking hard enough.
  7. Speaking without passion. The more passionate you are about your topic, the more likely your audience will act on your suggestions.
  8. Ending a speech with questions and answers. Instead, tell the audience that you will take questions and then say, “We will move to our closing point.” After the Q and A, tell a story that ties in with your main theme, or summarize your key points. Conclude with a quote or call to action.
  9. Failing to prepare. Your reputation is at stake every time you face an audience – so rehearse well enough to ensure you’ll leave a good impression!
  10. Failing to recognize that speaking is an acquired skill. Effective executives learn how to present in the same way they learn to use other tools to operate their businesses.

I hope you try Toastmasters out — I’d be surprised if you didn’t find it a super-positive experience.

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Friday, July 10th, 2009

How to Use Marketing Analytics

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I had the good pleasure of sitting down with Anup Samanta recently.

Anup worked for Mojam (the company I co-founded) early on in his career. He’s gone on to an interesting business journey that included Discover Financial, Lycos, MyPoints and Navistar.

Analytics Pro Anup Samanta

Analytics Pro Anup Samanta

Anup specializes in analytics and he and I decided to do a question and answer session on the topic of Marketing Analytics

Hi Anup. First off, what is the definition of Marketing Analytics?

Marketing analytics is primarily a data-driven function that extracts, validates, understands and reports on the quantitative data points generated from market-facing tactics to not only measure the performance of those market-facing tactics, but to also forecast sales demand across multiple channels being used by the brand to acquire and retain customers.

What are the top paid Marketing Analytics tools out there?

Every company has internal systems that aggregate different categories of data. It is important for market analysis managers to understand the data infrastructures of these internal systems.

Microsoft Excel, SPSS and SAS are generally adaptable and flexible marketing analytics tools that can handle huge volumes of data, regardless of the derivation of the data point.

There are also industry-specific data sources that can help supplement the integrity of reports created by the market analysis manager.

What are the top free Web analytics tools available?

There are several free Web analytics tools available. I use Google Analytics, Feedburner and ShareThis to track site performance metrics of my Stratelysis blog.

And I am happy with the ease of use these Web analytics tools.

I notice a lot of Web searches on Google Analytics, Thomson Analytics and Siebel Analytics — what’s the difference between those three?

These tools are very different as they serve different industry players and have various levels of complexity, but are similar as they deliver a data-driven solution to assess business or functional actions.

Google Analytics enables website managers to track site performance metrics to make decisions on how to better engage visitors.

Thomson One Analytics enables clients to track the performance of financial markets to make better decisions on how to allocate their money for maximum returns.

Siebel Analytics (Oracle Marketing Analytics) allows an organization understand marketing return-on-investment (ROI) by reporting on customer preferences, purchase behavior and segment profitability to drive profitable revenue and build brand.

Do you need separate tools for Web Site Analytics versus Search Analytics versus Email Analytics versus Mobile Analytics versus Video Analytics, etc.?

About ten years ago, brands allocated a larger piece of their marketing budget for offline than online tactics. Within the past five years, that allocation has shifted, especially as mobile, Web 2.0, video and photography technology have not only greatly approved, but rapidly proliferated.

The pace of technological growth has fundamentally outpaced our ability to understand the data coming from the technologies. Large agencies that execute multi-channel campaigns are aligning with specialized boutiques that focus exclusively on one, two or all of the online technologies listed above (Here’s an interesting Internet Companies & Ad Agencies article on this).

Based on media mix shifts and existing agency structures, clients must depend on separate tools for online analytics.

And I know you’re into social media — what are your thoughts on Twitter Analytics or Facebook Analytics?

I know that a lot of good work is being done on Twitter and Facebook analytics. It’s important to take a step back to understand the metric of success for a brand marketing itself on these sites.

For Twitter, is it about acquiring twenty followers a day? For Facebook, is it about targeting someone with 500 friends, fifty percent who provide status updates about beer?

In addition, qualitative customer research must be done to optimize the site layout so users are not only engaged with the activities of their followers and friends, but experience an advertisement and buy a product.

A suboptimal online marketing strategy is one where the brand engages the target customer via Twitter or Facebook, but has fewer incremental online sales versus a baseline online strategy where Twitter and Facebook aren’t deployed.

Brands and agencies that can figure out how to monetize social media will be the marketing gurus of our future.

Where in the org chart do you recommend Marketing Analytics reside (in the Marketing department or a separate Analtyics department)?

Marketing Analytics should report into a Marketing Business Intelligence or Customer Intelligence team that reports up to the Chief Marketing Officer or Vice President of Marketing.

Where’s the best place for employers to go to post marketing analytics jobs?

Employers should visit my alma mater to post marketing analytics jobs: The Medill Integrated Marketing Communications program at Northwestern University teaches a very customer-centric, data-driven, integrated marketing approach to its students, anticipating a new way on how stakeholders interact with brands.

About 80 students graduate from this program each year.

If someone wants to get in touch with you, what’s the best way for them to do?

Please visit my my Stratelysis blog and contact me through there.

Thank you, Anup!

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Friday, July 10th, 2009

How to Scrum & Sprint (Agile Computing)

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I’m sitting here talking with Jane Newcomb, a firm believer in Agile Project Management, including the Scrum approach, to getting things done.

Jane works on product development for BabyCenter.com, the dominant Internet baby company.

Srum Enthusiast Jane Newcomb of BabyCenter

Srum Enthusiast Jane Newcomb of BabyCenter

I thought I’d share her perspective with you through a question and answer session.

Why do you use Agile Project Management with Scrum?

BabyCenter applies the Agile Scrum Methodology to our new product and software development because we found through trial and error (including trying the Waterfall methodology) that Scrum was the most efficient project/product management tool.

Talk about Agile Methology versus Waterfall Methodology?

At the core, Waterfall Methodology assumes all aspects of a project, all features, all the funtionality — it’s all completely mapped out upfront…and then four months later the finished product is rolled out to the business owners. The business owners don’t see any code or software until the entire feature/product is delivered.

And then it’s often not the deliverable that the business owners were expected.

Whereas Agile Methodoliges are more flexible and allows business owners to see working code rolled out every two to four weeks…that allows for change in direction, alterations based on business need changes, marketplace changes.

What’s An Agile Scrum?

The Agile Scrum represents executionof  the Agile Methodology: it’s the daily huddle where team members come prepared to talk about what they worked on, what their obstacles are and what they’re working on for the next 24 hours.

It’s the daily check-in to allow business owners to understand what’s going on…and make adjustments as needed.

Do You Use Agile software development with Scrum?

Yes, we use an out of the box software tool called VersionOne.

What Is An Agile Scrum Master?

The role of the Scrum Master is to keep the team focused on the tasks and the stories that are part of whatever Sprint we are working on. It is their job to remove any obstacles and to help keep the team on track

What is an Agile Sprint?

A Sprint is the amount of time from start to finish that business owners agree to let the team work on the pre-defined set of requirements that were agreed upon prior to going into that Sprint.

How often do you use Agile Sprints?

The average Sprint lasts two to four weeks.

Did BabyCenter provide you Agile Scrum training?

I personally learned it on the go. But you can become a certified scrummaster through Agile training.

Thanks for sharing, Jane!

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Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

Top 10 eBay Selling Tips

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eBay has a lot to offer for you to sell products on the Web, though the various costs of selling on eBay reads like a Chinese Menu (check out a list of eBay fees).

Costs for selling on eBay may include:

  • eBay Auction listing fee
  • eBay Auction listing final value fee
  • eBay Fixed price listing fee
  • eBay Final value fees for fixed price listing
  • eBay Business and Industrial Equipment insertion fee
  • eBay Business and Industrial Equipment reserve fee
  • eBay Business and Industrial Equipment final value fee
  • eBay Reserve fee
  • eBay Buy it Now fee
  • eBay Listing upgrade fee
  • eBay picture hosting fee

eBay’s fees are so complicated that a few clever people have built eBay fee calculators….try out this free eBay calculator — just looking at it stresses me out!

So I was happy to hear that Marshall Smith, a Senior Software Engineer at ChannelAdvisor, was doing a presentation on cost-saving tips for selling on eBay (at eBay’s DevCon ’09 earlier this month at eBay’s headquarters in San Jose).

I sat in and here are Marshall’s Ten Selling Tips for Reducing eBay Fees:

1) eBay Variations

You can list 12 variations of a product (e.g. different sizes and colors of the same priced t-shirt) as one listing and thus save listing fees. This only applies to certain categories (which eBay seems to be actively adding right now).

2) eBay Catalog Adoption

You can cut eBay submission fees in half if you are selling a catalog of products by using the eBay Catalog. You also get promotion in product-based search methods.

3) eBay International Site Visibility

You can reduce ebay auction listing fees for additional countries by inputting in one country. It’s more advantageous for auction/dynamic priced listings where you could save $1.63 on a $49 auction listing (For eBay fixed-price listings, it makes sense to list once for each country).

Note: Some categories are not supported.

4) PayPal Micropayments

Leverage PayPal’s Micropayments — this is useful for sales with order value of less than $12 .

For example, you can get a rate of $.05 + 5% (instead of $.30 + $2.9%).

For eBay sellers with variable sales, configure two Paypal accounts used based on order value.

For 200 $5 transactions a month you could save $29.

5) eBay Sales History Relist

Sales history is one element used for eBay Fixed Price items in the Best Match algorithm. When you list an item, that specific item doesn’t have any history (it hasn’t had any purchases).

So what you can do is use the relist functionality and link the two items together. It tells eBay this is the same as the previous item I was selling so that you have a starting score when you have just opened an item (otherwise it’ll have a score of zero).

There is no need to use the eBay Featured First function.

6) Immediate Payment

There can be some real advantages to using eBay’s Immediate Payment — it requires the payment from buyer at the time of purchase (as opposed to the buyer paying later).

You don’t have to file any UPI (unpaid item) requests. This could be really desirable for a highly desirable item (event tickets). Because it’s already been paid for, you’ll be faster to ship and the customer receive the product sooner.

7) Improving eBay Seller Metrics

Providing Shipping information to eBay (using CompleteSale API so it shows up in MyeBay. This reduces buyers requesting “Where’s my item?”

It also gives you more leverage in any potential INR disputes. You might also find better DSRs on communication.

8) Submit detailed eBay Seller Policies

In your eBay listing detail your return policy, handling time and shipping options — This reduces buyer confusion and increases confidence in the transaction.

You as a seller have to follow through on your policy. If, for example, you provide returns everywhere except Australia, you must mention that!

9) Efficient Timing When Processing eBay Orders

The eBay order import needs to work with seller’s fulfillment processes and timing — Missing a shipping cutoff window may delay buyer’s receipt by 3 days (Friday to Monday).

Sellers need to get packages into the system as fast as possible (you’ll get better ratings and thus potentially lower fees).

10) Higher DSR’s Reduce Seller Fees

E.g.

  • A rating of 4.6 earns a 5% discount on final value fees
  • A 4.8 earns a 15% discount
  • A 4.9 earns a 20% discount

If all of these eBay costs seem like too much a headache, you can try the little “free ebay” service my friend and I put up.

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