Recently, Warren Buffet said that folks are a success when they do what they love. That’s it.
See, the thing is this. You can try to convince people that you’re something that you’re not, or you can actually be the thing you want. It’s that simple. A number of smart folks back it up, including Fred Wilson (both here and here), the fabulous Anne 2.0, and Matt McCall. The common thread in each of these, for me, is that all really define success against internal measures, not how much money flows to the bottom line. Sure, the money often follows, but it’s not the first consideration in any of these cases.
In business, too often, when we focus on what’s going to make the most money, we achieve poor results. I think it’s more effective to focus on what inspires our passions. At the very least, if it doesn’t lead to fame and/or fortune, you’ll have enjoyed the process along the way.
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One of the cooler memes running right now is the concept of a manifesto (see here and here). Not wanting to miss out on all the fun, I wanted to take a crack at it, too. Here’s what I got:
When you stop listening, you stop learning
When you stop learning, you die
Nothing is less interesting to other people than what’s important to you
…Unless it’s also important to them
Creativity is overrated
Execution is underrated
Creativity is nothing more than outstanding execution against what people actually want
In other words, if you want others to care about what’s important to you (your business, your cause, your life, whatever), you sure as hell better understand what’s important to them, then work like mad to deliver on it unfailingly.
Here are a handful of examples. The iPod works because it takes what’s important to its primary consumer (lots of music for a relatively low price, simple interface, “cool” factor) and delivers on it. Same with Starbuck’s (and Dunkin’ Donuts, for that matter), Google, and Warren Buffet.
Thanksgiving is later this week here in the U.S. It’s my favorite holiday by far. There’s a lot to be said for taking a moment every so often and giving thanks for what you’ve got. Here’s my quick list:
My family – First, last, always
Work – Good for the soul; also good for the first item in this list
Writing – I’d write this blog even if no one read; it provides me an outlet that I didn’t know I needed before I started it
Readers – Of course, it’s nice that some folks read
The web in general – Anyone know what we used to do before? How in the world did we get anything done?
Writers I admire – I’m a huge fan of Anne, Sam, and Fred. Also, this Jo chick can write a little bit, too. (What, you don’t read for pleasure?)
People who commit themselves to the greater good – Thanks for saving my mom’s life
This list is by no means exhaustive. If I described all the many things about my family I’m thankful for, that alone might stretch to thousands of words. Still, you get the point. My question for you is, what are you thankful for?
What’s great about search engine marketing in general, and SEO in particular, is it provides you access to potential customers exactly at the time they are looking to solve a particular problem. Given that generating awareness and interest help lead directly to sales, simply showing up when a consumer is looking for an answer, in theory anyway, provides some of the most qualified leads any e-commerce site could hope for. Obviously, the key steps to turn that theory into reality are:
Choose the right keywords
Make sure your site ranks well for those keywords
While paid search gets most of the ink, if for no other reason than it helps drive the bulk of Google’s (and others’) revenue, and while results vary by brand and by term, natural search often drives greater click through among consumers. Grappone and Couzin do a great job of describing approaches for each of these steps above to ensure your business succeeds. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy for yourself.
A friend (a brand manager for a well-known consumer products brand) and I recently got into a debate regarding appropriate goals for specific online marketing activities. He insisted that brand awareness meant everything for his brand. He supported his argument with data showing unaided awareness among the brand’s target demographics consistently trailed the brand’s competitive set, albeit by a marginal amount.
My response: So what? Awareness doesn’t buy you anything, figuratively and literally. Show me your conversion rate and your revenues. Enron probably had fantastic unaided awareness. Fat lot of good it did them in terms of making money.
Awareness is just a stepping stone along the path to some larger goal, revenue and conversion rate primary among my favorites. Clearly, no harm comes from tracking awareness among consumers with a propensity to buy; however, if they don’t actually buy from you, now or in the future, awareness doesn’t amount to anything.
In the MeCommerce world, relevance beats awareness every time. Consumers, bless their hearts, are getting extremely good at finding those things relevant to them, either via search engines, word of mouth, or more traditional channels (Admittedly, it’s weird for me to think of “word of mouth” as non-traditional, but that’s a topic for another day). Know your customer first, live where they live second, then make it easy for them to accomplish their goals. Anything else is a distraction from real goals.
A couple of days ago I was working on a draft posting about the power of online video in e-commerce and hit publish by mistake, well in advance of having anything to actually say on that matter. I quickly unpublished said post, only to have my mistake turn into an eye-opening experience. In the last seven days, I’ve gotten more clicks on that phantom article from my feed than on any of my actual articles during the same period. What is it about video that’s so special? Lots, actually.
OK, cheap shots aside, I think he’s right. Marketing to your customers entails speaking to them about things that are relevant to them even if they don’t know it yet. The video works because its makers focus on benefits to the consumer, albeit demonstrating the consumer benefit in an extreme manner. You want a blender that will blend anything? Oh, and want to see something you’ve never seen before? Still, it’s pretty effective. The thing’s gotten over a hundred thousand views and received pretty active commentary from its viewers.
The main reason it works is because video itself is so effective at conveying an experience. [NEW: 06 September 2007] The main reason it works is because the product itself does what it’s supposed to do. The video simply demonstrates that, albeit in a surprising manner. [end new] It appeals to more of the senses than just reading about it or looking at a picture about it. The biggest challenge in online marketing and e-commerce is helping your customers understand the experience before they clickthrough or convert. In a traditional retail environment, the customer can pick up the widget you’re selling, touch it, feel it, smell it, see it in action. Online, not so much. The lesson here is clear: marketers need to find ways to convey that experience in a compelling manner online if they hope to attract new customers. So throw a boatload of stuff in the blender and see what happens. Just make sure you capture video of it. And don’t be afraid of your mistakes. They just might work to your advantage.