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Saturday, May 17th, 2014

The Network Effect

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The network effect is defined as an entity getting more valuable the more people who use it. This can equate to a “winner-takes-all” position for businesses and a “moat”, as Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger like to say, to defend your castle (business).

Let’s look at a few examples of The Network Effect:

Amazon

A key to Amazon’s success is that it:

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Saturday, June 11th, 2011

Don’t Screw Up Prioritizing Your Customers Like Hearst’s San Francisco Chronicle Did To Me Yesterday

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I was preparing my Dino kale salad with hard-boiled egg yesterday morning, and did a quick scan of the cover story in the San Francisco Chronicle (owned by the mighty Hearst Corp.).

The headline read:

“Bakery boss”

The Wrong Way: The San Francisco Chronicle prioritized their advertiser J.C. Penney over their reader when they placed a sticker ad that covered up the front-page headline

I didn’t get it: why would the Chronicle run a headline that simply said “Bakery boss”?

It had a picture below it of two people hugging…I was still confused.

Did a local baker get promoted to “boss” and that somehow was newsorthy?

I’m a former journalist and the first rule of headlines is that it should be compelling enough to make the reader want to read on.

Then I noticed that there was a sticker on the paper and maybe that was hiding something.

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Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

My Favorite Vision & Mission Statements

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Below is a list of examples of effective Mission Statements and Vision Statements that I believe are clear.

As a reminder, an effective mission statement (or vision statement) should be:

  • Concise
  • Specific
  • Answer the question: “Are we working on the right thing?”

See How To Write A Vision/Mission Statement, an article I wrote, for more on how to write one.

Enjoy!

AOL

The largest high-quality content producer for digital media – locally, regionally, nationally,
and globally (as of 2011).

“To be the world’s most customer-centric company.”

Apple (back in the early days when they were Apple Computer)

“A computer in the hands of everyday people.” (this was from their early days)

Ben and jerry logo.svg

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Monday, June 21st, 2010

3 Easy Steps To Using Google Analytics

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I got asked today how you track links on your blog or Web site.

The simplest way to track your Web site/blog usage is to use Google Analytics.

I like it because it’s free and it gives you massive amounts of data in fairly easy to use interface.

3 Easy Steps To Tracking Web Site Usage Through Google Analytics

Step 1: Sign Up For Gmail

You’ll need a Gmail email address to get started. This is free and you can create one from here:

https://www.google.com/accounts/NewAccount

Step 2: Install Google Analytics Code On Your Web Site/Blog

Next, you want to install Google Analytics. Again, this is free and here’s a great tutorial on setting up Google Analytics.

You will have to wait about 24 hours for Google Analytics to start working (to show you stats).

3) How To Use Google Analytics

Twenty-four hours after you’ve installed Google Analytics, you can start seeing your data come in.

There’s a lot of data that will help you track such things as:

  • Number of visitors
  • Number of page views
  • The keywords that people search Google on to end up on your site
  • Which articles on your site are most popular
  • Which countries/cities your visitors come from
  • Which browsers they use
  • How many of your users are visiting you from mobile devices
  • And much more

Here’s a good tutorial on how to use Google Analytics:

If you want a more complex look at analytics, you might try reading my How To Use Marketing Analytics posting.

I hope you found this useful!

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Sunday, April 4th, 2010

7 Business Lessons I Learned From The Grateful Dead

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I’m a big fan of the Grateful Dead — I attended 100+ shows, collected 300+ bootlegs (that are in cassette form still in the hallway of my San Francisco apartment!) and I received an original signed 1968 Grateful Dead concert poster as a signing bonus when I sold the Mojam business.

In additional to bringing me a bunch of musical joy, The Dead taught me a ton about my other passion: business.

Just look at the numbers: The Dead pulled in $95 million a year at the height of their 30+ year journey (according to Booz & Co.) and was referred to by The Altantic Magazine as “one of the most profitable bands in the history of music” (see Management Secrets of The Grateful Dead article).

The De-facto Leader of The Grateful Dead Jerry Garcia

The De-facto Leader of The Grateful Dead Jerry Garcia

So allow me to elaborate on two of my favorite subjects: business…and the Grateful Dead:

7 Business Lessons I Learned From The Grateful Dead

1) Moving the “Free Line”

There’s a lot of talk in Internet business these days about “moving the free line” — in other words, providing more of your products/value available for free and make your money on the back-end.

Well the Grateful Dead were doing this 40 years ago.

The Dead made much of their product (their music) free by allowing fans to make recordings at their shows — they even set up a “taper section” dedicated to the fans who were recording so that all of their tall microphones and other equipment could be conveniently placed in one part of the concert venue.

Those recordings were of course copied and shared amongst many fans (both those who attended that particular show and those who didn’t) and acted as free viral marketing for the band (I had 50 bootlegs of the Grateful Dead before I even attended my first show!).

So, let’s take me as a customer for instance: the Grateful Dead didn’t have any of my money for the first year of my exposure to their products.

The Dead were pushing the concept of "moving the free line" 40 years before this best selling book on the subject

But by the time I attended my first show (October 12, 1983 at Madison Square Garden in New York City) I was hooked as a customer– and would invest many thousands of dollars on additional live shows, t-shirts and recordings over the next 12 years.

Think about it: Would you allow me to have some of your products for free for a year if you knew I would be a loyal customer paying you $5,000 for additional products over the following decade (and turn on a number of my friends who would also invest around the same!?).

I think so!

2) Product First, Profit Later

Sam I. Hill, Chief Marketing Officer of Booz-Allen & Company in Chicago, points out that the Grateful Dead were leaders in the “Product First/Profit Later” philosophy later executed by Nike, IAMS Pet Foods, Snap-On Tools and MTV — (e.g. Nike set out to build a better running shoe; IAMS, a high-quality pet food) in this  “How to Truck The Brand: Lessons from the Grateful Dead” article from 1997.

Hill added: These companies simply believed in what they were doing and “were smart enough to see when it worked, and to exploit it.”

One former President of the Grateful Dead, Ron Rakow (whose cool business card from the time is here) is an uncle of a friend of mine. Ron once told me a relevant story that I’ll do my best to paraphrase:

Rakow said that early on in the Spring of 1967 he asked the band (before the band was successful) what they envisioned success looking like. A few of the band members responded with such comments as:

  • “I want to have a number one record;”
  • “I want to have a number one hit;” and
  • “I want us to be famous”

But Jerry Garcia, the band’s unofficial leader, said something more to the effect of:

“That all sounds good, but I think we’d just like to have as many people as possible enjoy our music.”

Rakow told me at this point that all the band members nodded their heads in agreement with Jerry, saying “Yes, yes, …lots of people should listen to our music — that’s it!”

As Rakow tells it, the band then agreed to empty all the money out of their pockets (there was a total of $50 or so) and rent a flat-bed truck on which they would play a free live concert in the Panhandle near Golden Gate Park in San Francisco).

The band indeed put on a free show on May 28, 1967 in the Panhandle…Rakow says that initially very few people showed up but the band kept playing for a few hours and eventually many thousands of people joined in.

…and the Grateful Dead product was on its way (with profits very soon to follow).

3) Secret to Being #1: Do NOT Be The Best At What You Do…

Music Promoter Bill Graham famously described the Grateful Dead on the Marquee of the Warfield Theatre in San Francisco as:

“They’re not the best at what they do, they’re the only ones that do what they do.”

I think you get it? Focus on what is truly unique about you or your business…and then OWN that!

Examples of the uniqueness of the Grateful Dead included:

  • Making up the setlist every night — They operated without a setlist most nights
  • NOT playing their biggest hits every night — They repeated songs live (including their most popular) only once every 4+ shows
  • Creating their own music category — Because they blended so many musical styles — rock, country, bluegrass, jazz, funk, R&B, reggae and more! — The Dead were impossible to put into a category…so, guess what: the world created a new one for them: called either “Jam Bands” or just simply “Grateful Dead type music”
  • Being the first band to play at the Pyramids in Egypt — The Dead invested $500,000 to visit Egypt and play at the Pyramids and donated the proceeds to local organizations within Cairo (the final night’s performance was capped off by a full moon and total lunar eclipse)
  • Using two drummers — Hardly any top rock bands were using two drummers. One of them, Micky Hart, played an unusual 11-count measure to his drumming
  • “Spacing” Out — Every night, the band would play music with no words for about 20 minutes (this was called “Drums/Space”
  • Recording when they felt like it — They were known to go into the recording studio only when they felt like it. I’ve heard Garcia admit that they simply weren’t very good studio musicians — live music was their strength!
The Dead Were The First Band To Perform At The Pyramids in Egypt

The Dead Were The First Band To Perform At The Pyramids in Egypt

I can’t tell you how they came up with such unique approaches as above…but if I had to put money on it, I’d bet that these things happened organically, played to their uniqueness/strengths or that they did it just for the hell of it.

One thing’s for sure: they did NOT conform to the industry norms!

4) Embrace Your Community

The Dead invested a bunch in their community.

I already mentioned the taping they allowed, which helped build a massive community that they could not easily reach on their own.

Another example of community was that they allowed fans to mail in requests for tickets (as opposed to relying on buying tickets from a ticket seller like Ticketmaster) (there was also a Dead hotline).

This gave Dead fans a feeling of connection with the band (as in, we kind of know where they live).

Here’s a cool shot of some of the mail that the Grateful Dead Ticket Sales (GDTS) received in their offices (which last I heard were in Stinson Beach, California)

GDTS88.jpg

Source: Gypsy Cowgirl's Picture of Some Mail at GDTS

Other examples of the Dead’s support of community included the Parking Lot scene at shows.

The Dead allowed vending in one part of the parking lot (which Deadheads called “Shakedown Street) and many people made their living selling t-shirts, bagels, grilled cheese and pizza.

One friend of mine sold $70,000 per year in pizzas at Grateful Dead concerts! And the Dead embraced it!

The band eventually brought these vendors in as official licensees, according to Booz & Co.

The Dead also embraced fans making money from small community projects such as Deadbase, a print-out of every concert the band ever played with the setlist of songs (that some people sold (such information is now free)).

The Dead was constantly testing cool new things for its community.

I remember walking up to their sound engineer Dan Healy at a 1986 show in Pittsburgh, PA and he explained how they were testing out emitting a radio signal from their soundboard of each show — so that people could listen to the show on their radio.

I tested it out and it was amazing: I was inside a concert listening to an FM Walkman with higher-quality audio than I was hearing within the arena itself. And the fans in the parking lot (who didn’t have tickets to the show) were even more excited that they could hear the show with nothing more than a radio (for free!).

5) Organized Chaos: “Grateful Google?”

A big buzzword in business strategy these days is “Organized Chaos” — Google may be the true master of the concept.

Examples of Google’s chaos: employees can decorate their offices however they want, ride around offices on scooters and goof off on company time and the founders have a “we’ll do what we want, whenever we feel like it” attitude.

However, Google is highly organized/structured: Google breaks down most teams into small groups with two engineers co-running them; the recommended allocation of goof-off time is 10% and the entire company is behind Google’s mission of organizing the world’s information.

Talk About Organized Chaos? Here's Google's First Production Server to Organize the World's Information

Talk About Organized Chaos? Here's Google's First Production Server to Organize the World's Information

But long before Google it was the Grateful Dead who were laying down the magic formula for Organized Chaos.

I probably don’t have to spend much time explaining the chaotic part of the Dead (picture the band showing up in their t-shirts and jeans jamming out to whatever setlist they felt like that night with their avid tie-dyed clothed fans twirling around in circles (many of them under the influence of LSD).

But in actuality, there was a lot of organization to the Grateful Dead:

  • Touring — They consistently toured 50 to 100 shows per year (including a Spring & Fall Tour) in four regions with very specific dates and locations/venues.
  • Sets of Their Shows — Almost all of their shows were structured into two sets with 5 to 10 songs in each set, followed by an encore.
  • Drums/Space — The second set of almost all shows (from the mid-1970s on) included a section in the middle called “Drums/Space” in which the percussionists jammed out alone for awhile and then the rest of the band noodled around with non-song music. While Drums Space was highly chaotic at times (check out this 1987 show (with some cool visual graphics), it was predictably time in the concert with a handful of songs before and after it.
  • Distributed Management — The Dead’s band members (and some crew) rotated as CEOs on a regular basis — how’s that for sharing accountability!?

6) Co-Opetition: Grow Your “Orbit” By Inviting In Your Competition

Long before Silicon Valley coined the phrase “Co-Opetition” (the concept of cooperating with your competition), The Dead made it a key part of their movement.

  1. They invited bands who were competing for the Deadhead customer base — including Phish and The Dave Matthews Band — be their warm-up band for concerts.
  2. They openly invited competing musicians, such as Carlos Santana and Pete Townshend, to join them onstage to strutt their stuff.
  3. They played cover songs of many other bands such as The Beatles, Rolling Stones and Bob Marley) whose products were still marketed at the Deadhead demographic.

This had the effect of keeping such rival music closer within the Grateful Dead “orbit.”

Afterall, if you could get a bit of The Beatles, The Stones or The Who as part of your Grateful Dead experience, isn’t the Grateful Dead orbit even more powerful!?

7) Reinvent Yourself

While the Grateful Dead’s leader Jerry Garcia died August 9, 1995, their music and business lessons live on with members of the original Grateful Dead playing in such bands as The Dead, Phil Lesh & Friends, Bob Weir & Ratdog, Rhythm Devils and 7 Walkers.

It’s a testament to the powerful momentum of the Grateful Dead, that numerous successful bands emerged from the ashes of the death of its de-facto leader.

And the business innovations from these Grateful Dead spinoffs keep comin’.

Marcom Professional’s Marketing lessons from the Grateful Dead points to his recent experience with the spin-off band The Dead:

So, 45 years after the Grateful Dead were founded, the band’s enterprise value “keeps on truckin onnnnn, on.”

I hope you leverage these tips to design your business to last that long!

Postscript:

One more thing: After I wrote this, I got pinged by a guy named David Merman Scott who said he found this article valuable for his Marketing Lessons From The Grateful Dead book.

Here’s the Grateful Dead Marketing Lessons Book on Amazon:

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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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