December 30, 2012

Two essential questions

Filed under: business,creativity,internet,marketing,media — Erik Dobberkau @ 19:16

A few days ago, a colleague of mine launched her portfolio website. Of course I couldn’t help picking the holes, which brought me back to two questions that apply to any marketing effort someone is about to make:

  • What are you trying to accomplish?
  • What is the next step you want a prospect to take?

These two questions will trigger a process during which more detailed questions will occur, and all of them better be answered. Write it down. Measure. Learn. Try alternatives. And so forth.

But only do it if you really want it to have an actual effect. If you’re only trying to build an excuse it might be counterproductive.

One last tip (if it’s a website): Make it work and look good on a mobile device.


November 6, 2012

Source vs. outlet

Filed under: business,creativity,marketing,media — Erik Dobberkau @ 23:24

It’s worth remembering that money is not always being made at the source. Just because you create, build, assemble… that’s where the thing to be sold is made, but it’s only in commodities like crude oil where the source is the point of maximum cash conversion. In many other cases, the outlet is where you get the most bucks for your bang.

Which again is just a paraphrase of the old mantra: know who your buyers are, know their needs, build a direct relationship, etc. etc. Even if your source doesn’t spew out a commodity, it doesn’t mean it’s valuable right from the start. Increasingly more stuff is less valuable to more people. Ignore this at your own peril.

August 21, 2012

What customers are paying for

Filed under: business,marketing,media — Erik Dobberkau @ 07:26

They don’t pay for a product or service. They pay for an experience. This applies for consumers as well as for B2B. Which is why racing to the bottom makes less sense every day. How great an experience can you deliver when making a commercial priced at 3,000 bucks with an intended profit margin of 20%? As opposed to 30,000? Sure, you have to deliver a lot more, but not in the product.

The product itself will come and go, it is just a temporal symptom, a fad, not to be talked about once the shine has worn off. But the experience of how the customer got to it will last much longer. That’s what she remembers, what she’s telling friends, colleagues, business partners, even her competition will be hearing of it. That’s what brings future business.

How much it costs is not as important to a prospect as it is for the salesperson desperate to close the deal. Yet salespeople are often trying to make the whole transaction a safe one, knowing they can deliver what they have sold, or, if they can’t, have an excuse, because the customer wouldn’t pay more, etc. But the fact is, more often than not, they are afraid they won’t make the stretch, they are afraid of uncharted territory, of leaving their comfort zone. Their own perceived sovereignty is more important to them than the delight of their customer and the advancement of their own company.

As Seth already pointed out many years ago, the problem with racing to the bottom is that you might win.

June 16, 2012

Niche size

Filed under: business,creativity,marketing,media — Erik Dobberkau @ 11:38

What’s the size of a niche, preferably one you can seize? Because they keep getting smaller, they need to be smaller the more you want to be the first or maybe only one who caters to and for it.

Sports, for instance. Do we need another sports channel? Maybe not. Okay, make it one step smaller. Do we need another football channel? Maybe not. One more smaller. Do we need a sports channel for the football team of one state? Maybe… or maybe not. Do we need a sports channel for the football teams of one single city?

You see where it’s going. The big “niches” have already been taken, in most cases in such quality that it’s not worth putting up with it. So the obvious thing to do is to find the niche inside the niche. Once again, somebody was having this idea before you, bummer. And in terms of big media, i.e. magazines or TV, doing another iteration often is no use, because the audience keeps getting smaller and smaller, or, to connect the issue to numbers, the cost per reader/viewer starts to increase significantly because attention doesn’t increase proportionally.

That said, the question “Do we need another…?” is misleading in economical terms. When it comes to consumption, we have barely a scarcity of anything. The point is, when you’re not able to make a profit of owning the niche, why have it?

Instead of this deductive approach maybe an inductive one yields better service. A doctor is of most value to those who hurt. And it seems in general, western societies don’t hurt a lot at first sight. But we do, and often we’re not aware of it, because, and this is where the fun kicks in, for every obvious pain we’ve been educated to have there’s a remedy. Well, of course they’re placebos, because those who make them don’t intend to cure us.

So where’s the beef? Well, I think we as human beings want to feel alive, as much as we can. It’s only frustration that lets us drug ourselves down with consumables of whatever kind. If you turn your focus on how you can make people feel alive, that’s where the fruitful niches are.

June 15, 2012

…in my underwear

Filed under: creativity,internet,media,personal — Erik Dobberkau @ 06:50

Going through Hugh MacLeod’s latest book last night, I felt reassurance that writing the last post the way I did was the right thing to do (at least for now). After all, what’s the point in trying to be insightful and witty fot its own sake? What’s the point if it’s not personal? It’s not about whinging or bragging or ranting, it’s about making use of this medium as a means to discover oneself, or one’s self.

Now I’m smiling because I was really wondering why I had such a writer’s block over the last months. It’s not that there were no ideas (after all, ideas are here), but I felt some strange obligation to express them in a reasonable, insightful, generalized, pragmatic way. Bullshit. Self-imposed limitations like these prevent most people from releasing what’s inside them. What a waste.

So here I am, actually not in my underwear, trying a slightly different approach of writing, and I’ll see shere it gets me. For now, I’m happy.

June 8, 2012

The ubiquitous canteen

Filed under: media,personal — Erik Dobberkau @ 20:35

Several years ago, British comedy artist Eddie Izzard did a brilliant parody of Star Wars. In case you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the video:

And there’s a big truth in there, because this happens all the time, to almost everyone, almost every day. So instead of getting pissed because everyone around you is acting like a jerk (from your perspective), you might wanna remember this and have a good laugh.

January 2, 2012

Angry nerds

Filed under: business,creativity,internet,IT,marketing,media,politics — Erik Dobberkau @ 20:49

Today the German version of Jonathan Zittrain‘s essay “The PC is dead” has been published (which he closes by saying we need more angry nerds), tempting me to comment on it in a lengthy post. Instead I recommend you to read it yourself.

My two cents: For platform owners such as Apple, Amazon, Google or Microsoft, the ‘art’ is to close the door only so much that the input-providing participants don’t feel uncomfortable squeezing through it, and keep providing stuff (apps and content), because the consuming participants will only start switching once they realize the restrictions applied lead to a perceived lack thereof. Angry nerds won’t fix it. Unless they invent a different thing that restarts the cycle.

October 23, 2011

“One day, the Web will be friggin’ empty”

Filed under: business,internet,marketing,media,politics — Erik Dobberkau @ 18:28

That’s what the CEO of the German VPRT, the lobby of commercial broadcasters and tele-media, said on his keynote during the Munich Media Days last week. No, wait for the punchline! It’s also his organisation who’s commissioning the study which concludes that the web is full of illegal content (in this study, everything that was availbale for free was counted as illegal — yes, they were and still are on a mission).

What he meant to say with the headline quote was of course that the world needs his peers to enjoy the richness of online media, and he argued that the government needs to push for stricter copyright laws. Like what? Sanctioning free content because it’s harming his peers’ business? I’m sure he’d love that. It’s just that way of 19th century thinking that once you’ve set up your factory, it’s going to run forever and all the boss has to do is maximize profits. In addition, new industries would pop up and the one with more money would buy the other and so forth. And it all keeps growing and growing.

But as the post-industrial age has kicked in long ago, it should have become obvious that it doesn’t work like that any more. And it won’t help that your industry is not producing material goods but collecting and repacking information (or rather data, I can’t help but come back to my axiom again), because it’s still run like the old-fashioned factory. We don’t need factories any more, we’ve had them long enough.

What’s not working anymore is people who used to buy an issue of a magazine with at least 50% advertising in the real world, won’t do this online. They have the choice of getting their desired information one article at a time from the source they like best. With ads or without. Paid or for free. Yet publishers had a hard time adapting their question “How can I get as many people as possible to buy / subscribe to my magazine?” to “How can I offer the best content for an acceptable price?” (of course there’s also the industrial “How can I lower the quality without losing too much of the readership?”), but the new question is a different one.

This new question is “How does my stuff fit into the big picture?”. There are millions of outlets on the Web offering articles on the same topics as pay-for magazines, but for free. Not as consistent in terms of output volume and regularity, but often in terms of quality. This leads to my idea where commercial publishers seek the cooperation with authors who publish for free. The commercial publishers will then support the free authors by publishing their (commercial) articles on their (free authors’) website or blog, like guest articles (of course these article have to be paid for when someone wants to read them, and the free author whose site the thing is published on gets a small share), thus improving the experience for the audience.

Instead of trying to persuade the world to come to their place, publishers of every kind of media must start serving all the outlets out there (this is what Seth Godin refers to as curatorship). What publishers understood is they need to be on the shelf in as many stores as possible. Now, moving beyond physicality, the number and variety of stores is infinite. And infinity has always been a good prerequisite to make money for a long time to come. If you embrace it.

August 25, 2011

The Information Myth

Filed under: business,creativity,internet,marketing,media,personal,workflow — Erik Dobberkau @ 05:58

Sometimes, when a term has been coined, it’s hard to get rid of it albeit it’s plain wrong. As it is the case with “Too much information!”. I don’t know where it came from (and don’t intend to research it now, feel free to post it in the comments), yet it is unimportant for the matter of the fact. So how did I come to this conclusion?

Last week, German newspaper Die Zeit published an article citing a study among managers and their biggest issues on the job, resulting in ten rules a good manager, according to the paper, should follow. Let’s just say the author would have better read some books on the topic, yet he seemed to prefer the blather. But that’s not why I’m writing this.

The study revealed that one of the most pressing problems of managers is the amount of decisions, which requires a lot of information for each of them. Obvious. To decide, you need information. Now, what is information?

I like Fredmund Malik’s definition that information is knowledge that leads to action. Now, if you think about it for a few seconds, how much of the things that enter you brain in the course of a day do lead to action? Indeed, very little. What’s the overwhelming majority then? It’s data. When you look up the definition of data and information at Wikipedia it’s all there, though I don’t agree that a book with all data about Mt. Everest automatically becomes information. Data only becomes information when it is put in a context that leads to an action on your behalf.

Looking at all the bits and pieces we’re dealing with daily that way, it’s plain to see why making decisions is such a massive time-consuming process. It’s not information we’re dealing with on the input side, it’s data that we must put in perspective, be it an analytics report, a movie clip, the latest news. It’s not that we (as humans) were producing ever more information, we’re just producing ever more data which in turn we must filter out to obtain information.

Now, is what I’ve been writing about in these few lines data or information to you? Since we will keep producing ever more data, the ability to distill data to information will become key to future success for anyone, because all success depends on the ability to make decisions. This necessity requires not only organizations of every kind to teach their employees how to get better at this, it also requires schools to switch from teaching young people to learn everything from a limited resource (i.e., a school book) to learning the process of filtering out the irrelevant data from an unlimited resource (i.e., the Internet). For the careful reader, the previous sentence has turned data into information. Thank you for reading.

June 9, 2011

The Basics of Spreading Ideas

Filed under: business,creativity,internet,marketing,media — Erik Dobberkau @ 09:42

Once an idea makes it to the TV screen, it’s approved. Otherwise TV wouldn’t spread it, we assume, so we can spread it avoiding the risk of going out on a limb.

But that’s not what we need. To make it really clear: We need to spread ideas that have not been approved yet. Not only is this when innovation happens, it’s also where the money is made.

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