Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Finishing What You Start

What U.S. military and women’s soccer team can learn from savvy marketers. Hiring trends optimistic for digital media. Speed and innovation key.

For better or worse, it’s that time of year when vacations, out-of-office replies and steamy summer weather conspire to slow down the pace of business decision-making worldwide, even in the U.S. For most of us here at HB, it’s the most stressful time of year, because we worry we’re overlooking something or just plain not trying hard enough when the phone’s not ringing off the hook and frantic emails aren’t clogging our inboxes.

Other folks—the smart ones—take this opportunity to catch their breath and contemplate where their businesses are going, what could be going better and what could be done more efficiently.

Thanks to the ease of social media, online video and virtual events, our guess is that there have been a record number of new media initiatives started in both the corporate and not-for-profit world. But, rather than really analyzing what’s working and not-working well, most organizations just keep launching new initiatives to show they’re cool, up-to-speed and always in touch with their customers, clients and constituents. Of course, constant startup, without the discipline of mid-course corrections, much less finishing, will simply drain your energy, your resources and your organization’s patience and take you off your core mission. Either that, or a cynical CFO, VC or IT person asks to see some measure of return on resources expended. At that point, most innovators throw in the towel…or start something new.

Soccer, military and finishing

If you saw Sunday’s heartbreaking World Cup overtime loss by the U.S. women’s soccer team to Japan, you know what we mean. How many times did the commentators and even U.S. national team coach, Pia Sundhage use the term “finishing” or lack thereof? The U.S. kept blowing scoring chances throughout the scoreless first half and through much of the second half. Then every time they managed to bang one through the back of the net, the plucky Japanese squad would score the equalizer a few minutes later. When it came down to overtime penalty kicks, you could tell on the Americans’ faces they knew they would be toast.

We’ll keep our political views out of this forum, but, we can only sustain so much “nation-building” in Afghanistan, Iraq and other war-torn regions around the globe at any given time. Without the resources and strategy to finish what we started, we’ll have nothing to show for all the lost lives and billions of wasted dollars across the globe….kind of like a website with lots of outdated “news”, and old links leading nowhere.

Upbeat hiring trends for digital media professionals

Ed Koller, Managing Partner of Howard-Sloan-Koller Group wrote to clients on Monday that “innovation” was the dominant word in business last year. “But know we know that innovation alone is no longer enough. Speed is the overarching mandated. Speed to market for products; speed to hire for talent.”

HSK says despite the gloomy job market nationwide, there is a “staggering volume of demand” for digital product development, content development, sales and marketing professionals. As New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman wrote last week, companies “are increasingly picky. They are all looking for the same kind of people —people who not only have the critical thinking skills to do the value-adding jobs that technology can’t, but also people who can invent, adapt and reinvent their jobs every day, in a market that changes faster than ever.”

Finishing what you start (video)

So if you’re an employee, manager or business owner, how do you make sure you and your teams are ready to really finish what they start? We recommend this video by best-selling author and futurist, Seth Godin who argues we don’t need people to be more creative. We need people to keep thrashing and have the courage to ship—when they say they’re going to ship.

WARNING: The vid’s about 18 minutes long. Don’t view it unless you have time to watch it all the way through and give it your undivided attention.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

End of Space Shuttle Program Doesn’t Mean End of American Innovation

VC investments way up and B2B advertisers look to third wave of advertising

We’re no rocket scientists here, but today and July 20 will mark historic milestones for the U.S. space program. In case you missed it, today was the final “spacewalk” by the crew of the Space Shuttle Atlantis. And when the shuttle lands on July 20 at Kennedy Space Center, it will be on the 42nd anniversary of the first moon landing. For many of us born at the tail end of the Baby Boom, Neil Armstrong’s historic moonwalk was one of our earliest memories of actually paying attention to something on the evening news. This month, as the space program goes into early retirement, it signals our generation’s official descent into middle age. But, we don’t seem to be the only ones running out of steam. That’s just not acceptable to us here.

As Frank Bruni of the New York Times wrote the other day, the shuttle was the “centerpiece of our country’s gaudily ambitious space adventures. The shuttle program was a pre-eminent symbol of our belief that there were literally no limits to where we could go and no boundaries to what we could accomplish, so long as we hitched our ingenuity to our imagination and marshaled the requisite will. The program’s end carries the force of cruel metaphor, coming at a time when limits are all we talk about. When we have no stars in our eyes.”

Yesterday, a sobering U.S. Chamber of Commerce Report was released. According to the Chamber, almost two-thirds—64 percent—of small-business executives surveyed said they weren't expecting to add to their payrolls in the next year and another 12 percent planned to cut jobs. Just one in five (19%) said they would expand their work forces. This comes after a Labor Department report Friday showed employers added few jobs in June, and unemployment rose to 9.2 percent. The Small Business Administration says small businesses, defined as companies with fewer than 500 workers, employ about half of the workers in the private sector. In the Chamber's survey of 1,409 executives, conducted by Harris Interactive, small businesses were defined as firms with revenue of $25 million or less.
A Gallup/USA Today poll conducted in late April found that 55 percent of Americans considered it unlikely that children today would have better lives than their parents, while only 44 percent considered it likely. Those responses were the most negative, by far, over the last quarter-century, and they undercut a central tenet of American optimism.

And 39 percent of the respondents in a recent New York Times/CBS News poll characterized that decline as permanent, at least in economic terms. That was a marked increase from 28 percent who said so last fall.

The President talks a great deal about charting “the frontiers of innovation,” but his administration doesn’t seem to have a plan and maybe we shouldn’t leave it to the government to do it for us.

Our take: The U.S. space program was created not out of scientific curiosity but out of national security to keep pace with the Russian space program. Right now we have a different kind of threat and that’s economic threat of China, India and other fast developing economics. We need to have an economic/innovative version of NASA right now……education, starting companies and smart, efficient marketing.

3rd Wave for advertising

If you get a free moment, take a look at J. Brooke Aker’s piece from Online Media Daily about the maturity of display advertising. Aker also quotes Google’s Neal Mohan who’s argues we are just now entering the 3rd Wave of digital advertising maturation that futurist Alvin Toffler predicted in the 1980s. Apparently we have moved from media explosion (Internet, ubiquitous connectivity and multiple devices) to technology that makes ads efficient and makes media pay, to a user-centric 3rd wave.

Our take: We’re encouraged by this assessment because this is where consumers have much more say -- in the ads they skip, ads they replay or their preferences for ads. Amen to that.

Venture Capital on the Rise

Total capital raised by U.S. venture firms in the first half of this year hit $8.14 billion, that’s a 20 percent increase over the same period last year, according to Dow Jones. Meanwhile, the National Venture Capital Association said capital fundraising during the first half of 2011 totaled $10.2 billion from 76 funds, a 67 percent increase by dollars compared to the first half of 2010.
Next week we’ll look at how content marketing is challenging traditional advertising for smart B2B marketers.


Friday, July 01, 2011

Mid Year Review: Companies Thriving, Wage Earners and Homeowners Still Suffering

How smart B2B marketers thrive in this schizophrenic economic climate

U.S. stocks rose sharply today, on pace for their biggest weekly gain in a year. Strong readings of manufacturing activity lifted spirits ahead of the long holiday weekend and investors may feel confident that no major “fireworks” are forthcoming from the euro zone and Greece debt crisis to ruin their barbecues and parades. Industrial, financial and tech stocks have led the rally, which is good news for many of you readers who work in—or sell into—those sectors. The market registered sharp gains after data released by the Institute of Supply Management showed the U.S. manufacturing sector expanded briskly in June. The ISM's manufacturing purchasing managers' index rose to 55.3 in June from 53.5 in May. Experts say readings above 50 indicate expanding activity.

If you’re wondering how the financial markets and corporate profits can be so high at a time when the jobless rate, housing market and energy prices are in the dumps, researchers at Northeastern University may have some clues. In their newly released study, (PDF file) “The ‘Jobless and Wageless Recovery’ From the Great Recession of 2007-2009, the Northeastern economists found that since the recovery began in June 2009 following a deep 18-month recession, “corporate profits captured 88 percent of the growth in real national income while aggregate wages and salaries accounted for only slightly more than 1 percent” of that growth. The study, said it was “unprecedented” for American workers to receive such a tiny share of national income growth during a recovery. The study called that $27 billion loss in aggregate wages and salaries during the seven quarters after the recovery began “the first ever such decline in any post-World War II recovery.”

“Aggregate employment still has not increased above the trough quarter of 2009, and real hourly and weekly wages have been flat to modestly negative,” the report concludes. “The only major beneficiaries of the recovery have been corporate profits and the stock market and its shareholders.”

Our Take: Consumers are still very pessimistic about their home values and job security, so if you depend on luxury goods, discretionary spending for travel and entertainment, then you’ll have to pick and choose your marketing spots very carefully. But, if you’re targeting decision makers in the heavy equipment or large corporate sector, then you need to get on their radar ASAP as they’re setting budgets for long-term capital expenditures right now.

Here are some key marketing trends to watch for the second half of this year

First two non-events: the new HP tablet and the Zynga billion dollar IPO. These are not game changers as much as late arriving “me too’s.” Don’t be fooled by the hype

Location infiltrates the advertising market

Location-based advertising is set to triple its percentage of mobile advertising in the next four years. The increase will partially be due to the US’s high adoption rates of mobile devices with GPS capabilities. Revenue for this advertising market is projected to increase ten-fold in the same time period, according to Pyramid Research.

Our Take: Consumers will have greater access to this type of advertising in the near future because of technology progression. Advertising companies at the front of location-based services could see much higher demand from businesses in the near future.

eReaders on the rise, tablets cool off

The ownership of eReaders has surpassed that of tablets largely due to price differences and improvements in technology. The entry price for eReaders undercuts tablets by a few hundred dollars, and eReaders are taking up a share of the tablet market as they begin to incorporate internet-based applications, like browsing the web and checking mail.

Our Take: The rise in eReader adoption will lead to a shift in support and resources from companies appealing to consumers. In part because of their lower price point and lesser technology, eReaders are cheaper to develop applications for than tablets. As many industries are probably in a hurry to try and capture the market opening caused by the iPad craze, it actually may be wiser to focus on the rapidly expanding eReader market. eReaders are also more literature-focused, which could lead to higher adoption rates in the corporate world. Additionally, recent reviews for products such as the nook and kindle have been raving according to CNET www.cnet.com , while their price factor helps them beat out the iPad in a recent CNET head to head comparison.

A new approach to banner ads

New Google studies show that the average rate of users who click on ads is 0.1 percent. A separate study, conducted by Real Media, shows that the main reason people ignore ads is because they did not want to leave the web page they were currently on. In light of this information, startup Adkeeper www.adkeeper.com has put a new spin on ads, one that increases that click rate by 34 times—that’s right, 34 times higher! Adkeeper is making advertisements ‘less interruptive’ as company founder, Scott Kurnit, told the NY Times on Tuesday.

Our Take: Although the articles take on adkeeper is heavily skewed towards entertainment and consumer-oriented industries (and not B2B), there is still a strong possibility that Adkeeper can help businesses. If a company is targeting the right audience and advertising on the right sites, then consumers will save these ads. For example, many may be reading an article and see an ad that they do not necessarily want to click on right away. However, if the ad appeals just a tiny bit to them and their industry, they can easily save and go back to it later.

Have a great Independence Day Weekend and remember what a great (and resilient) country this is despite all our current challenges.