What Ever Happened to Trust and Honesty

June 9, 2009

trust me I'm a docter-786643There will always be things in place to keep us honest.

Doctors and Lawyers have malpractice to keep them from making mistakes, not following procedure, and not taking care of those people they are there to take care of.

The government has the people they represent to keep them in check because they will always be up for re-election again.

CEO’s have a board of directors and large groups of investors to make sure they are doing the right things with the company’s money or else a replacement will be found.

It seems we are kept as honest as we can be because if we stray too far off course, we risk losing a title, or some power, or our money.

But what about just being honest?  What if elected officials, doctors, lawyers, bankers, and CEO’s – the people that we need to trust in order to successfully grow ourselves personally and professionally – were just honest people.  Maybe it’s just a matter of greed, and it will never be perfect.  And I know I am lumping large groups of people in where they don’t belong, but it just seems that if we have to fear people in power then we are never going to dig our way out of tough times.

Trust is an important thing.  It can mean the difference between success and failure.  So let’s put honesty back in its place.  You don’t need us to keep you honest.  Just do it.

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Ad Market Down, Innovate to Increase Value

January 23, 2009

logoseamlesswebboxIn a down economy, many things take a hit.  One market that is hurting right now is the advertising market.  Advertisers are spending less money, pulling ads that they don’t necessarily feel good about, and eliminating all ads that do not convert.  This means that websites that rely on advertising revenue to survive must respond in any way possible.

The two most important things that you have to consider when selling ads are website traffic and advertiser relevance.  Since advertisers are going to need to see real results to continue to advertise in this economy, websites need to be able to produce those results right away.

  1. Increase the value of the site. Increasing the value of a website will help drive more traffic.  The more traffic you get, the more ads you can serve.  This will help you reach more advertisers, and charge more for each ad.
  2. Increase the quality of your ads. Increasing the value of your ads means analyzing what it is that your users are looking for while they are on your site.  If it is a free service, most likely there is information that your users are looking for.  Nailing down the right ads to fit with the user experience can increase your click through and conversion rate a great deal.

For a quick example, take a look at two very similar websites, Seamless Web and Menu Pages.  Both sites are designed as online directories of restaurants in New York City.  Both serve the same purpose: I want to order food but I don’t know where or what.  On both, I can narrow down my search by location, value, type of food, etc.

The major difference is quite simple, Seamless Web allows you to order directly off of the website, while Menu Pages does not.  What does this mean?  Seamless Web has created an enormous amount of value to their site by making it more useful to its users.  And while Menu Pages is a great service, and possibly more popular, they fail to meet all the needs of their users.  For that reason, Seamless Web is set up to get more traffic, and more traffic can lead to greater ad sales.

One final example is Plenty-of-Fish, a free online dating site.  Plenty-of-Fish creator Markus Frind created the site with a simple concept, find an industry in which all competitors are charging, offer the same thing for free, and sell ads.  The idea has flourished.  By adding value to the site (making it free), he has made it one of the most popular online dating services in the world.  With all the traffic he gets from members and potential members, he can serve more ads than similar websites.  And if the average click through rate of an ad is constant, more ads means more $$$.

These are a couple of things to consider as you begin to create or redesign a service.  Websites that show real value to advertisers are going to get the advertising money.  And in this type of economy, it’s something that you need to do to survive.

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Don’t Get Caught in the Recession Trap

December 9, 2008

“Oh no, we’re in a recession,” you think to yourself, “How is my small business ever going to survive?”

“We’ll have to lay off the entire staff.  We’ll have to cut our marketing budget.  We can’t buy any new supplies.  Time to buckle down and wait for them to tell me when it’s over.”

It’s time to take a good long look at the reality of your business.  The recession is real, and it may be impacting us for quite some time, but it will not touch everyone.  Everywhere you look there are businesses that are managing to move along quite well.  And if you own or operate a small business, don’t get sucked into thinking that you have to be stingy right now.  That could be the mistake that costs you your success.

The National Small Business Administration has eased lending to small businesses nationwide.  That means that the tightening credit market may not affect you as much as the big corporations.  And for many small businesses, the amount of credit needed is not significant enough to cause any real trouble.

Small businesses are nimble.  You can come up with new and innovative ways to do business early and often.  This leaves the door open to meet new customer needs, market aggressively without spending a lot of money, and offer a little compassion to your bigger clients who may be feeling the recession more than you are.

It’s true, some small businesses are definitely going to be affected.  But many are not.  Many have the opportunity to thrive and grow during this time.  I am currently working with two small businesses that have seen increased growth in the past few months, and there are no signs of slowing.  Here are a few strategies that your small business could use to grow while everyone around you sinks:

1.    Increase your online marketing. It’s cheap and easy to run a couple of search engine ads.  Develop a word of mouth campaign that your customers can use to spread the word.

2.    Lower your prices. Your customers are cutting their spending.  If you want their business now and in the future, cater to their needs.  They will remember you for it.

3.    Offer a free trial to potential customers. If you can take advantage of those people or businesses that are price shopping now, you can steal some market share from the competition.  Now might be the cheapest time to attract new business.

4.    Focus on customer service. People need to know that you care.  Now, more than ever, a good customer service department can go a long way towards forging strong customer loyalty.

5. Create a detailed spending plan.  Don’t be afraid to spend money, just know where it is all going.  Find the things that are working, and do more of it.  When the market comes back, you’ll find yourself on top.

Just because the economy is in a recession, that does not mean you are.  Take a second to think for yourself.  Could your business be doing more right now?  The way to get to where you want to be is to be moving forward as everyone else is standing still.

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From Crisis comes Opportunity

November 3, 2008

Productivity comes from innovation. Innovation comes from investment and change.

Those were the words from Seth Godin yesterday in his blog about the need for innovation right now to lead us out of the current recession. And it is a great point, one that gets lost in the noise.

Tomorrow is election day, and this election comes at a time when the country needs a great change. And even though the media will tell you over and over again how bad things are, we will work through them. Out of every crisis comes opportunity and development. We will put in place new systems to control the problems for the future, but we will also develop new ideas and new strategies that take us to the next level.

Innovation comes from an investment in something new. To invest in something new, a company may need to reevaluate what is important to their future growth. That may mean shifting investments from one area to the other. This is a strong, healthy process for our economy on the whole. A crisis like this forces companies, large and small, to turn the looking glass on themselves. For the first time in a long time they will have to make the tough decisions about what stays and what goes.

Economic booms are great, but they don’t encourage change. Who is going to lead us to the next boom?

The Government Doesn’t Get It

July 15, 2008

Innovation is hard.  As a concept, innovation is not something that just happens on its own, hence the whole point of this blog.  It becomes even harder for those of us that are not used to and have not been built on innovative principles and experience.  Case in point, our government.

The government has never been an institution that has embraced change all too well.  They are slow to move, slow to act, and quick to defend the old ways of doing things when presented with change.  When presented with a situation in which change is necessary, they don’t know what to do.

One example of this is the current economic conditions.  They know that certain things must be done to help the individuals and the companies that have been hurt the worst.  The Federal Reserve has arranged buyouts and bailouts for struggling financial institutions.  Congress approved a stimulus that put billions of dollars back in the hands of consumers.  And now everyone seems to be debating what to do about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Short term fixes and get out of jail free cards will never get at the heart of the problem.  These are not solutions because they do not address the underlying issues in the financial institutions.  They are just cover ups, like medicine for the common cold.  I am not going to sit here and say that I know what to do, but the government needs to take a long hard look at themselves and realize that in this day and age, they need to be able to adapt to change quickly and decisively.  No longer can partisan politics keep this country from moving forward.  It causes more pain in the end when we hesitate or do nothing than simply taking action.