Nobody’s site is perfect at converting visitors to customers. Not mine. Not yours. Not even these 20 killer e-commerce sites you can read about on Varien.com. How does your site stack up? What do you need to do to improve? And what sites did the folks on Varien miss?
Steve Krug would call it the Don’t Make Me Think test, but what a classic expression. If, – and I would never suggest thinking of your customers this way – a moron came to your site in a hurry, could they accomplish their goal? Something to think about.
By the way, thanks,Brian, for the link.
Om Malik gives the skinny on the deal and, like me, seems OK with Microsoft’s bid. In fact, they might have underpaid.
I’m not suggesting $240 million isn’t a lot of money. For you and me, that is. For Microsoft? A company with $23 billion in the bank (that’s billion, with a “B”)? A company that spent $7 billion on R&D in their most recent fiscal year? A company that spent over $11 billion on sales and marketing?
One last stat: Microsoft lost over $3.5 billion over the last three years on the Xbox and Zune product lines. Seriously. What’s $240 million really mean in that context?
Here’s what it means:
- Access to customers – Facebook reportedly has 50 million regular users. Regular users increasingly engaged with Google and Apple and everyone not located in Redmond. I don’t know Microsoft’s cost per acquisition, but $4.80 per is damned cheap ($240 million divided by 50 million customers. Even if you factor in the fact that MS gains only 1.6% of the company, $300 per isn’t ridiculously high depending on lifetime value of the customer).
- New technology platforms – Microsoft’s online services business (i.e., Live Search and MSN) lost $730 million last year. Clearly, 1.6% of Facebook isn’t going to make that back right away, but it looks a bit like Microsoft is looking to buy – as they have in the past – what they couldn’t build on their own.
- Great PR buzz – Finally, folks are talking about Microsoft again. Almost as though they were relevant again. Seems like a long time since that happened, no?
I don’t know that Microsoft will ever see the value of this deal. Like most folks, I’m staggered by how much this deal suggests Facebook is worth. Staggered, perplexed, confused and continually doubtful. Still, Microsoft could have made a dumber move. And they probably blocked Google from doing something similar. That alone, these days, constitutes a win for the Redmond folks. And that doesn’t seem too high a price for them to pay at all.
That’s right. Overrated. It might be the most overrated topic in business today. Sure, you need to innovate. But a boatload of good ideas gain you nothing if your culture, capabilities, or competencies keep you anchored in the same spot. One good idea delivered trumps fifty great ideas sitting in your head.
Take this example. Maybe you’ve heard of Facebook? Been in the news lately. Facebook didn’t build the first social network. They weren’t the first to open their site to new customer types. They didn’t even build the only one targeted at college students. They simply delivered on the needs of their customers and then fed that network back on itself repeatedly. In other words, they executed. They delivered what they planned to do. What brilliant ideas sit on the whiteboards of Facebook product managers? Probably the same ones that sit on the whiteboards of product managers at MySpace, LinkedIn, Xing, ClubMom and so on. Ideas on whiteboards don’t matter. Only ideas that see the light of day have any chance of growing into something special.
A reporter once asked football coach John McKay how he felt about his team’s execution. McKay deadpanned, “I think it’s a damned fine idea.” A joke, sure. But the point’s the same. The best innovation is the one that gets to a customer.
Are you innovative? Or are your competitors eating your lunch? Do they really have better technology, tools, processes? Or is it that they’re just better at getting to market?
David Weinberger – based on his 2001 classic, The Cluetrain Manifesto – is a god. That book, originally published and available for free online, discussed the need for companies to “get on the Cluetrain,” and recognize that the web enabled customers to have as large, if not larger, a voice as companies in the marketplace for products and services. It tore through the Web like a bullet (train) to the brain. Weinberger’s insight presaged blogs, user-generated content, consumer-generated media and many of the other transformational shifts companies and the mainstream media spend much of their days trying to capture, comprehend, and control.
Because of his role in shaping this dialogue about the new brand dialogue, I tore into Everything is Miscellaneous, anticipating Weinberger dropping some knowledge and, once again, racing ’round the curve, providing a ride to a place I’ve not been before. Perhaps I expected too much. It’s not that Everything is Miscellaneous is a bad book; it’s more that Weinberger set the bar too high the first time for anyone to clear again. Perhaps his omniscience in Manifesto only gave the impression he was a god, when, in fact, he’s merely a very good writer who understands the changes wrought by the weavers of the web implicitly and who helps make those changes explicit for those who do not. That’s not a bad thing. I definitely learned a few things reading Miscellaneous, for instance, the way in which tagging enables computers – and people – to identify relationships between content not obvious at first glance, or frequently at second, third or fourth. Pretty cool. Did the Earth move, though? I’m afraid not.
I don’t like to slag books. And I won’t begin here, because this book is far too good for that. If you’re not a regular user of del.icio.us, Flickr, ma.gnolia and the like, you will absolutely benefit from reading Everything is Miscellaneous. If you do use these sites, if you already ride this cluetrain, you’ll find Weinberger conducting a thorough, and thoroughly enjoyable, tour of the state of the art for these technologies, with a glimpse of what’s to come. If, however, you seek a religious experience, as I was and expected based on the original Manifesto, I’m afraid Weinberger proves he is nothing more, and nothing less, than a very good writer wielding a topic he knows well. You could do much worse. All aboard.