Monday, December 31, 2012


Will 2013 be the Year of Branded Content?
Economic optimism  even as we fall over the cliff


According to a new survey by the Custom Content Council and ContentWise, brand content (aka brand journalism, sponsored editorial or thought leadership content) is getting a bigger slice of the marketing pie: a 13 percent increase, or $1,640,107 in spending for the last two years. As more organizations jump onto the content marketing bandwagon, let’s hope the standards don’t slip.

Top Four Reasons for Using Branded Content

Respondents’ primary reasons for using branded content are: (1) educating customers, (2) boosting brand loyalty, (3) up-selling and (4) retaining customers. Again, No.3 won’t work in a vacuum—you can’t simply upsell when you need a sales boost; you need to work the up-sell efforts in smartly while you’re educating, engaging and retaining your customers all year long on a consistent and non-intrusive basis.

Need for Outsourcing

Four out of five marketers (79%) say their companies are moving into branded content either at a moderate or aggressive pace, but they can’t do it alone. More than half of respondents (52%) say they outsourced some portion of at least one type of branded content creation in 2012. Researchers say more outsourcing dollars than ever are being spent on external agencies such as custom publishers, PR/social media firms, design firms, ad agencies, and interactive agencies handling aspects of branded content. More than half of brands (56%) now outsource, and of those, the average annual spend is $987,417, an increase of 46.6 percent from a year ago.


Importance of integration

According to researchers, three in four brands build content for print and repurpose that content for social media and the brand’s parent website. The multi-channel nature of content marketing is driving an average brand to investment over $1.7 million annually, up 5.1 percent increase from a year ago.

Our Take:
As more and more B2B marketers search for ways to cut through the clutter and bypass banner blindness, the need for high value content will reach a new level. Fortunately, most journalists, analysts, researchers and academics we know will resist the temptation to sell out to the highest bidder for the services. A few organizations will look to save a few bucks by aggregating, scraping and video clipping whatever they can get their hands on in the public domain—or turn to low-cost vendors who provide those services. That approach will come back to bite them (hard) in the long run.

If you outsource, stick to your guns and hire only proven service providers who have true subject matter experts creating expert content for them.


Final Macro View of 2012

With six hours to go in calendar year 2012, we’re still on a fiscal cliff hanger and not likely to be rescued.
Here’s what are best sources are telling us: The White House and Senate Republicans are closing in on a budget compromise that would raise tax rates on couples making more than $450,000 a year, increase taxes on VERY large inheritances and extend unemployment benefits for a year. But, with the January 1 deadline fast approaching, negotiators are hung up on how to postpone the $110 billion in spending cuts due to take effect January 2.

Most likely it will be a series of stop gap measures. Government will continue to find ways to spend money irresponsibly and legislators won’t be fired or laid off if they fail to come up with a deal by the stroke of midnight tonight. Regardless of income level, we’ll all be feeling a pinch in one way or the other, but for most Americans (individuals and businesses) there will be gradual pinches over months and even years, irritating yes, but not painful bites that could knock us on our butts in one fell swoop.

So let’s tough it out and look at two very important positives that came out late last week

1) U.S. ad spending should rise by at least 5 percent (eMarketer, Veronis Suhler, Media Post and others agree)

2) Home prices increased for the fifth straight month year over year The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller national home price index released late last week showed that prices increased 4.3 percent from October 2011, the largest year-over-year increase in two and a half years, when a home buyer tax credit temporarily increased sales. October was the fifth straight month of year-over-year gains, after nearly two years of declines.

Conclusion

We can’t do much about the waste in Washington, but consumers and businesses have been on a three-to-five year waste reduction program and the fruits of those labors will slowly but surely pay off in the months and years ahead. Onward and upward in 2013—the year of thought leadership (aka the Year of “I Told You So.”).


VCRGD6XDXT3T


TAGS: fiscal cliff hanger, U.S ad spending, Standard & Poors/Case Shiller, content marketing, Custom Content Council, Content Wise, eMarketer, Veronis Suhler

Saturday, December 22, 2012


Online Video Has Too Much Potential; Don’t Make TV Broadcaster Mistakes
Forget the fiscal cliff--focus on fiscal 2013

Whether you’re in consumer or B2B, it seems like everyone’s jumping on the video bandwagon to connect with customers and clients and to show they’re cool. However, if you’re using video to steer prospects closer to a purchase decision, then you better take the high road and keep the intrusive hard-sell to a minimum.

New research from AOL and QaulVu indicates that consumers would rather be pitched prior to watching short videos rather than being pitched at the beginning and middle while watching longer videos online. "Consumption habits are evolving rapidly, and we're seeing consumers display many of the same ad avoidance tendencies online than they do with TV," said Ran Harnevo, senior vice president of The AOL On Network, in a press release.

Our Take. Duh! But before dismissing this report as just another expensive exercise in restating the obvious, let’s drill down into some useful kernels of insight:

The AOL/QualVu study found that ads in short-form content actually produce significantly higher recall, brand affinity and purchase intent than those in long-form content.

Additional findings include:

  • Ads in short-form videos are more effective than ads in long-form content-- short-form video produced a 25 percent higher brand recall and a 42 percent higher purchase intent for the featured product or service.
  • Viewers are adopting traditional avoidance behaviors during ads within long-form videos. If ads are too frequent and interruptive; they’ll avoid them altogether (by walking away, going to other sites, multitasking with their phone). This is the same “annoyance” behavior that is demonstrated when viewing television without the use of a DVR.
  • Consumers want content that’s more targeted and more humorous. Researchers found that 67 percent of respondents would be willing to answer a question to make their ads more personalized and enjoyable.
  •  ‪Consumers understand the exchange of free content for advertising, but they want to make sure their time tradeoff of watching ads also benefits them. They found coupons, contests and links as the most positive forms of engagement.

Don’t insult the viewer’s intelligence. They’re busier than ever and have a myriad of myriad of ways to bail on you instantly if you bore them, bother them or overbear them with your message.

Fiscal cliff and beyond

Whether or not Congress sends us over the fiscal cliff next week, it can’t stop the calendar from rolling over into 2013. You have budgets to meet, customers to serve and new products to roll out. At the end of the day, most of you are in businesses that won’t live or die by new capital gains rates on the ultra wealthy and a few more bucks taken out of the average worker’s paycheck. They’ll be some residual impact, but the overall macro economy is showing more positive signs than ever and the so-called cliff is more likely to be a gradual slope than a one-step painful trip to the auto body shop.

Are we out of the woods yet? Not by a long-shot, but it’s going to take some real legislative hubris in Washington to put us on a direct flight to Recessionville.

Here are some positive macro-indicators that have us encouraged:
  • The U.S. economy grew faster than expected (3.1%) in Q3 according to the Commerce Department. Consumer spending, which the Department says fuels 70 percent of the economy rose 0.4 percent in November and incomes rose 0.6 percent, the biggest gain in 11 months
  • Homebuilding permits reached their highest level since July 2008 in November the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. Further evidence of consumer confidence and demand is that mortgage rates are actually inching higher according to a separate report from the Mortgage Bankers Association.
  • The National Federation of Independent Business reports that the share of small business owners who say their credit needs are not being met is falling.
  • Corporate profits are at a high. They’ve amassed mountains of cash waiting for fiscal cliff and other issues to be resolved. They have tons of cash available to buy cash or hire people when the feel secure enough about the recovery.
  • Consumers have become a lot more responsible about debt. They’ve significantly deleverage themselves since the downturn began and are finally feeling a little better financially, especially with housing market bottoming out according to experts.
  • Household formation is picking up: Young people are finally getting some form of employment and moving out of the parental nest and into their own homes, according to Moody’s Analytics. Demographic data suggest there should be about a million more households headed by younger Americans today than there actually are—that bodes well for continued formation of households and typically injects about $150,000 of output per household into the economy, according to Moody’s.
  • The average vehicle on the road is at a record high of 11.2 years, according to research firm R.L. Polk. Experts expect pent up demand for new cars being unleashed (especially as job market slowly improving and workers need reliable transport to get to their jobs).

Conclusion

Have some eggnog. Unwrap those presents and let’s hit the ground running by the middle of next week. Don’t wait for the day after New Year’s. We’ve got to much work to do. The world didn’t end when the Mayan calendar expired yesterday and it’s not going to end on January 1. You customers, clients and constituents are counting on you.

VCRGD6XDXT3T


TAGS: AOL, QaulVu, Ran Harnevo, Commerce Department, fiscall cliff, online video advertising, ad avoidance, R.L. Polk, Moody’s Analytics, National Federation of Independent Business, Mortgage Bankers Association

Saturday, December 15, 2012


Make Every Day Count

Yesterday’s senseless tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT reminded me of how short our time is here on this planet. Newtown is about 25 miles from where I live. It’s a quintessential New England small town which I’ve visited many times. It’s got to be one of the safest and most wholesome places in the U.S. to raise kids. Yet, even in a place like Newtown, the lives of two-dozen young people were snuffed out in a flash yesterday. Just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.
I have school age kids myself. Pretty scary when your wife calls you from work in a panic ("Did hear there was a shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut?"). At first we didn't know which town or which school.

My kids  didn’t know any of the victims personally, but they played baseball at the Sandy Hook field complex this summer, just a long relay throw away from where the tragedy took place.  Surely the opposing players and coaches had siblings, relatives or neighbors impacted by yesterday’s shocking events. I can’t imagine what they must be feeling today. A close friend of mine had a sports medicine practice in Newtown until just a few years ago. He has elementary school age children and thinks he once treated the shooter and his family.  He lives 1,000 miles away now, but to say he’s shaken up by yesterday’s events is an understatement.

Last month, the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy came to within 10 feet of my home, but did not leave a drop of water in the basement or a single shingle out of place. Many of my neighbors were not so lucky.
Two week before Sandy, my younger sister (one of the healthiest and most upbeat people you’ll ever meet) thought she was suffering from migraine headaches. Her family doctor ordered an MRI just to be safe. Turns out she had a baseball-size malignant tumor in her brain. She had surgery two days later despite a mountain of responsibilities at work, at home and being in the final stages of a campaign for elected office.  No time to re-schedule. They caught it just in time. The chemo and radiation is no picnic, and her life’s been altered forever. But she’s handling the treatment like a champ. She’s able to continue working and hold on to her elected position with only limited side effects and fatigue.

 On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was supposed to be at a 9 am meeting in Jersey City. To make that meeting, I would have been on a PATH train, under the World Trade Center Towers at about 8:45 am—right when the first hijacked plane made impact with the iconic skyscraper. But it was a Tuesday. We had Primary elections that day in my state and I took a slightly later train into Manhattan in order to vote. My cousin, who worked on the 60th floor of the South Tower had a breakfast meeting in midtown that day so he avoided certain disaster and my other sister, who worked at No. 7 World Trade Center, had just bought a home and was moving that day and never came to work. Oh, and my company at the time was scheduled to start leasing space in the South Tower in December of 2001.

Talk about near-misses and good fortune.

No matter how carefully you plan out your life, it’s really just a series of chance encounters, random events and near-misses. Make the most of your encounters and celebrate your good fortune each time you walk away unscathed from a near-miss.

No matter how tired or unmotivated you feel, make sure every day you do at least one of the following things, if not all four:
·        
  • DO SOMETHING FUN
  • DO SOMETHING PRODUCTIVE
  • FIGHT FOR WHAT YOU BELIEVE IN
  • DO SOMETHING WORTHWHILE THAT GIVES BACK TO OTHERS


You’ll never hear any of us here at HB Publishing & Marketing Company say, “What Can You Do?” or “It Is What It Is” or “Same Shit Different Day.” Those are cop outs for not living your life giving your life 100 percent each and every day. We don’t do hire people who use those expressions and we don’t do business with them either.

Life’s too short. Make the most of it.


VCRGD6XDXT3T




Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Size Matters When it Comes to Email Subject Lines


According to new research from a British online marketing firm, email subject lines that work best are either less than 30 characters, or longer than 90 characters. You want to avoid the  “dead zone” between 30 and 90 characters.

The study conducted by Adestra, which analyzed over 1 billion B2B emails sent within the last 12 months, found that marketers using 90 characters and up produced the highest response rates because more benefits could be communicated. In contrast, snappier subject lines that used 30 characters or less performed well in the case for transactional or direct-action emails.


Word count is a proxy for character count, and vice versa. But, in B2B, where industry-specific jargon tends to be long words, it’s important to consider this metric.


Researchers found that word count results in the study produced similar results to the character lengths in that each end of the count scale performed the highest. However the comparative results show that much shorter subject lines (14 or fewer words) produced considerably higher engagement than longer subject lines.

While conventional wisdom says using dollar signs in your subject lines is risky, researchers say spam filters use “Baysian” filters to determine spam ratings, and in the B2B world, users engage strongly with currency symbols. Thus spam filters no longer penalize for dollar signs. That being said, the report found that engagement is high only when relevant and valuable financial email content is communicated in the subject line.


No kidding!

Here’s a summary of the report:

  • Discount terms: These generally performed below average. “Sale” was found to above-average, though, in opens (14.4%), clicks (76.5%), and click-to-opens (54.3%). Others such as “% off,” “discount,” “free,” “half price,” “save,” “voucher,” “early bird,” and “2 for 1″ all came in below-average in all 3 metrics.

  • News terms: These had better success than discount terms. “News” (16.2%), “update” (4.9%), “breaking” (33.5%), “alert” (25.9%), and “bulletin” (12.5%) all saw better-than-average click-to-open rates, with “newsletter” being the only term to perform below-average in each metric.

  • Content terms: “Issue” (8.5%) and “top stories” (5.9%) were the only to perform above-average in click-to-opens, although the latter saw slightly below average open and click rates. “Forecast,” “report,” “whitepaper,” and “download” all saw below-average performance in each of the 3 metrics. “Research,” “interview,” and “video” scored above average for opens, but below average for clicks and click-to-opens.

  • Benefit terms: “Latest” was the only to see above average clicks (8.8%) and click-to-opens (9%), while “special,” “exclusive,” and “innovate,” while performing average in opens, fared far more poorly in clicks and click-to-opens.

  • Event terms: Each of these terms performed below average in opens, clicks, and click-to-opens. The terms examined were: “exhibition,” “conference,” “webinar,” “seminar,” “training,” “expo,” “event,” “register,” and “registration.” The worst offender for click-to-opens was “webinar” at -63.5%.

  • Multichannel terms: Facebook (21.6%) and Pinterest (16.4%) were the only terms to score above average in clicks and click-to-opens, though both showed below-average performance in opens. However, “app” and “iPad” were above average in opens, and below average in clicks and click-to-opens. Both “Twitter” and “LinkedIn” were below average in all 3 metrics.
Social Networks
Generally speaking, referencing social networks won’t get you great response. Experts say this could be due to the huge volume of emails pertaining to them, or it could be an indication that in the B2B world people aren’t using social networks as much as pundits had predicted.

Personalized Subject Lines

With personalized subject lines, recipients feel instant engagement, but engagement falls off when people open the email, since in most cases the content of the emails is not personalized! The key here is to construct a congruous user experience, says the report.
As with everything else in B2B marketing, there’s no one-size-fits-all option. You just have to keep testing and tweaking as Adestra researchers agree.

Macro Economic View

Despite yesterday’s disappointing numbers on manufacturing activity, auto industry analysts reported yesterday that new vehicle sales rose 15 percent in November and a measure of planned business spending rose to its highest level in five months in October, the Commerce Department said last week. Meanwhile, single family home prices rose for an eighth straight month in September, according to the
Standard & Poors/Case Shiller composite index.

Our Take: We think the overall trend is positive as the manufacturing index from the Institute for Supply Management is based on sentiment while the aforementioned data are from actual results. We’re also encouraged that the financial markets have held their ground despite no clear indication that the fiscal cliff will be avoided before January 1, 2013.


Conclusion

Just as there’s no one-size-fits all solution for email marketing, there’s not going to be a one-size-fits all marketing strategy for 2013. Things will be in constant flux regardless of what the economy and DC policy makers throw at us. You need to keep adjusting, tweaking and constantly measuring your game plan. You also can’t keep your head buried in spreadsheets and computer screens. In this data driven, ROI and KPI era, the need for anecdotal feedback is more important than ever. Go ahead and crunch the numbers. But, don’t forget to pick up the phone and call your clients and customers. Better yet, go spend some time with them, preferably at their offices or facilities. Get a feel for their culture, pain points and morale.

That’ll tell you more about their spending plans than any forecast or new metric.

VCRGD6XDXT3T


TAGS: Institute for Supply Management, Adesrta, email subject lines, size matters, Standard & Poors/Case Shiller, auto sales, housing market


Monday, November 26, 2012


Billionaire Buffet Offers Plain Talk Tax Solution

Online viewers watch more long form videos thanks to tablets

Consumers who stream TV shows, movies and sporting events are increasingly tapping their tablets when they tune in, with tablet video viewers watching 54 percent more long-form videos than they did at the start of the year, according to video technology and streaming provider
Ooyala in a new report analyzing video habits of nearly 200 million unique viewers across devices for Q3.

Researchers said tablet owners spent 71 percent of their total tablet video viewing time watching videos 10 minutes or longer.
What’s more, the report said the overall share of tablet video viewing grew 90 percent in the past two quarters, an increase from 46 percent in the first quarter. That’s a significant rise in a short period of time, and suggests that tablets are becoming akin to second TVs for many who have them.

I’m in B2B, so why do I care? You care because your target customers (and their families) are also savvy, device-equipped consumers. Whenever you direct them to one of your webinars, podcasts, thought leadership videos or whitepapers, they’re more likely than not watching them on a tablet or smart phone. And they expect a professional quality experience from you.

Your customers, clients and prospects are watching “TV” more than they’re reading at work at home and on the go. But, that doesn’t mean you can be cheap or careless about what you put into your videos. Do it right, or don’t do it at all. 

Your customers will thank you and be more likely to refer you.


Buffet Straight Talk on Taxes



In a New York Times editorial today, Warren E. Buffett, billionaire head of Berkshire Hathaway, threw out some pragmatic ideas about taxing the ultra-wealthy and a smarter definition of the minimum threshold for “wealthy” in this country (hint it’s not $250K a year). Regardless of the motive for Buffet’s altruistic intentions, we agree with buffet that $250K annual adjusted gross income does not make one ultra-wealthy in many of the places you readers hail from: the Bay Area, Southern California, the Northeast, South Florida……His suggestion for $500,000 is a start.

What we liked more about Buffet’s op-ed is that he argues for Congress to get started on a few pieces of must-have tax reform, rather than straightening out the whole labyrinth IRC which could take years—and give opponents plenty of time to stall and continue reaping aggregious gains.

For instance, Buffet argues for a minimum tax on truly high incomes ASAP—at say 30 percent of taxable income between $1 million and $10 million, and 35 percent on amounts above that. “A plain and simple rule like that will block the efforts of lobbyists, lawyers and contribution-hungry legislators to keep the ultra-rich paying rates well below those incurred by people with income just a tiny fraction of ours. Only a minimum tax on very high incomes will prevent the stated tax rate from being eviscerated by these warriors for the wealthy.”

Again, we’re advocating the removal of uncertainty—we’re not advocating removal of incentives to get rich and be successful. That’s the American way and it’s in our DNA….just like Black Friday shopping.

Buffet says our government’s goal should be to bring in revenues of 18.5 percent of G.D.P. and spend about 21 percent of G.D.P. — “levels that have been attained over extended periods in the past and can clearly be reached again.” According to Buffet it was about 15 percent in and 22 percent out last year.

“All of America is waiting for Congress to offer a realistic and concrete plan for getting back to this fiscally sound path. Nothing less is acceptable.”

Amen to that.

TAGS: Warren Buffet, $250,000, taxes on wealthy, online video habits, tablets, Berkshire Hathaway,
Ooyala

VCRGD6XDXT3T


Thursday, November 15, 2012


VCRGD6XDXT3T
Fiscal Cliff Notes
Don’t get sucked into the pessimism. Why are investors and big business leaders so surprised?
U.S. stocks hit a three-month low yesterday as big business leaders and institutional investors continue to be spooked by the looming fiscal cliff, continued worries about Europe and finally admitting to themselves that they’re facing four more years of a President who may not necessarily be anti-business/anti-wealthy people, but is certainly hell-bent on spreading the nation’s wealth (and financial pain) around.

This didn’t exactly come out of left field like Hurricane Sandy. Duh.

The threat of spending cuts, an end to coveted tax breaks and a financially weak Europe have been issues for a long time. Iranian hostilities didn’t just bubble up yesterday. And the prospect of Mr. Obama winning a second term shouldn’t strike any rational person as a huge upset. Most reliable polls had him as a slight favorite for several months, even before challenger Romney’s ill-fated “47-percent” remark. The only thing that surprises us is the level of surprise. You’d think there might have been a contingency plan or two put in place? They’re not small-mid business owners and B2B marketers like us.

Sure the Dow is off about six percent since the President won re-election, but isn’t this the same administration that held the White House during an 85 percent gain in the Dow during its first four-year term?

If you’re a business owner or B2B marketer, don’t get sucked into the recent wave of pessimism. The macro-problems we’re dealing with have been with us a long-time and we’re still seeing slow but steady gains in hiring, job creation, home prices, consumer confidence, business confidence and more.

Great companies will continue to do well. Great products will continue to sell. And great marketing will continue to create demand for great products made by great companies. It’s those on the margins who might get whacked if they don’t get it together ASAP.

Are things great? Not by a long shot.

The Institute of Supply Management’s business confidence index is at 51.7, just slightly below its historical average of 52.8, but a significant drop from the low-60s it reached mid-year. About three-fourths (73%) of the corporate elite who attended this week’s Wall Street Journal CEO Council conference in Washington said their primary concern was the "fiscal cliff," the federal spending cuts and tax increases that begin in January unless policy makers intervene. Only one in eight (12%) said their top fear was Europe's financial crisis.

The President and Congress are trying to put together a long-term deficit-reduction package that could replace the fiscal cliff, but they have made little progress and have just seven weeks to cut a deal. Experts say the fiscal cliff would raise taxes roughly by $400 billion and cut spending by roughly $100 billion in 2013. Several economists say the measures would cause another recession.  The President and House Speaker John Boehner claim they’re open to compromise and don't want to replay the BS that occurred last year during a fight over raising the government's borrowing limit. But you know negotiations will go slowly, most likely into 2013—i.e. over the perceived cliff.

The Wall Street Journal report that several CEOs at its conference claimed this uncertainty has prompted them to make contingency plans for layoffs and prepare for a sharp economic contraction, which is holding back investment. You know that’s an excuse.

Business leaders and policy makers have known of the fiscal cliff since it was created last year as part of the deal to raise the debt ceiling. But few paid much attention to it because they were focused on the presidential race. "The narrative of the country was completely dominated by the election, and that's changing currently," said Stephen Schwarzman, chief executive of the Blackstone Group., a private-equity firm.

Our take: Congress will likely extend all expiring tax cuts for at least another year and make gradual plans to shore up the deficit and even out the tax pain faced by businesses and individuals of all income levels.

The long-term U.S. deficit must be addressed,
Seifi Ghasemi, CEO of Rockwood Holdings told the Journal, but, "I wouldn't lose a lot of sleep if we have negative growth for one quarter in order to solve the longer-term problem."

Conclusion

We’re sleeping OK as well. Maybe not all the way through the night, but at least we’re getting some rest. We’re hitting it hard right now—not waiting till 2013 to find out what may or may not happen. We suggest you do the same.

TAGS: Hurricane Sandy, fiscal cliff, Institute of Supply Management, business confidence index, Stephen Schwarzman, Blackstone Group, Seifi Ghasemi, Rockwood Holdings

VCRGD6XDXT3T


Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Wait-Till-After-the-Election Excuse No Longer Valid


Wait-Till-After-the-Election Excuse No Longer Valid
Time to start making (and sticking with) decisions

The elections are over….thank God. Within the next 24 hours we’ll finally get a break from those inane political ads and we’ll most likely found out who the new President is. And now what excuse will you use for procrastinating about your next big hire or capital expenditure? C’mon already.

As we’ve said many times before, campaign promises aren’t legally binding and Congress isn’t on commission and doesn’t have specific deliverables to hit like the rest of us. The election process shouldn’t be taken lightly, but you’re mostly voting on faith…not on hard facts.

Sure, there are significant differences between the two main political parties in this country. But either way, you can be sure we’ll remain a democracy. Either way, you can be sure we’ll be in a slow growth economy for the foreseeable future (emphasis on growth, rather than on slow). Either way your corporate and personal taxes are likely to go up. Either way, major cities in the Northeast will be untangling a hornet’s nest of legal, ethical and financial issues from last week’s storms for months to come.

As for the “fiscal cliff” looming on January 1, don’t expect a series of all-nighters from Congress to solve it in late December. Expect a series of strategic delays and stalling tactics. Again, not much will change for your business and your portfolio exactly on New Year’s Day 2013.

If that’s what’s really keeping you up at night then things won’t really get scary until Fed chairman, Ben Bernanke likely steps down from his term in 2014 regardless of who wins today’s election.

So here’s the deal. We have 55 days left in 2012—about 40 quality work days left. That’s practically half of a fiscal quarter. Be bold and be smart, but by god make some decisions or get the heck out of the way for those who can make decisions.

The on-ramp’s going to be a lot more crowded than the off-ramp in 2013. You better start making some media buys while you can still get quality audiences at a fair price. You better start hiring good people while you still can and you better start filling up that product pipeline fast.

The only certainty for next year is that the pace of business will never be faster and the competition for market share will never be more cut-throat.

Are you ready to get back in the game?

VCRGD6XDXT3T

Monday, October 22, 2012


Mobile Video Viewers Watch 7 Minutes Daily; 3.5 Hours a  Month 
But B2B marketers who take the cheap route to meeting demand will ultimately get burned



If you think mobile video and advertising is growing fast, you’re not alone. The Interactive Advertising Bureau said last week that mobile advertising had nearly doubled in the first half of the year to $1.2 billion, while eMarketer has said that half of smartphone users watch video at least once a month on their phones. Plus, research from Cisco, the networking giant, said that two-thirds of the world's mobile data traffic will be video by 2016. In other words, the average device owner is watching about seven minutes per day according to NPD Group  or about 10 minutes per watching videos on their phone, according to Nielsen’s findings.

Quality vs. Quantity

Unfortunately for most B2B marketers, you can’t get by with the cheap, homemade variety of video that still dominates YouTube and America’s Funniest Home Videos.

Online video has become critical to corporate Web pages, helping with search indexing and giving you type of visual impact that customers and prospects demand. Beyond having a respectable corporate web presence, virtually every brand needs a Facebook page--and video helps with page ranking there as well. You also need an official presence on YouTube.

Broadcast-quality video used to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce. Now thanks to technological advances in capturing, editing and streaming video, you can produce ALMOST the same quality for a lot less. But it’s still not dirt cheap. See our web site home page if you’d like high quality without high prices. Do we offer it dirt cheap? No. But, you’ll be surprised what you can get if you can commit some time and resources to our vision of B2B video.

As Neil Perry noted last week in Online Video Insider, “Marketers are simply not interested or able to spend $300,000+ on a single commercial spot and still meet their video needs when considering the required quantity and quality. Whatever the case, marketers who can find or devise the most creative solutions will be the ones who will win for their brands in the coming years.”


Macro View

The median price for a home resale rose 11.3 percent from a year earlier. Experts say the rise in prices appears to be a result of tight inventories and a downward trend in foreclosure sales. More importantly, the nation’s stock of existing homes sale fell 3.3 percent last month to 2.3 million units. At this rate, housing experts say inventories would be exhausted in 5.9 months, the lowest rates since March 2006 accord to National Association of Realtors.

You might also be surprised to learn that U.S. Stocks are outperforming all other major asset classes. According to Bloomberg data, for the first time since 1995 U.S. equities are a better investment than
Treasuries, corporate bonds, commodities, the dollar and equities in Asia and Europe.

“For all the concern about unemployment and manufacturing growth, the best assets this year remain American companies after unprecedented steps by the Federal Reserve to support growth. Forecasts for a rebound in the U.S. economy and the central bank’s pledge to keep interest rates near zero for years convinced bulls the S&P 500 will extend gains. Bears say political gridlock will drag down prices after monetary stimulus wears off.”  

Conclusion

Whether your producing high quality video for your organization, entering the online advertising fray or deciding which asset class to invest in for your company or your personal retirement account, be smart,  but don’t be cheap. In the long-term, you always get what you pay for.


TAGS: Online and mobile video advertising growing, Bloomberg data, US stocks outpaces other asset classes, housing prices gain, Neil Perry, Online Video Advertiser, NPD Group, Cicso, Interactive Advertising Bureau, National Association of Realtors


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Tuesday, October 16, 2012


At Tonight’s Debate, Will Anyone Get Gas?

Stocks closed in on their biggest one-day gain since the Fed announced new stimulus measures in mid-September. Experts said the rally was driven by better-than-expected earnings from blue chip stocks and very optimistic numbers from the retail and housing sectors. That said, we’ll have to see what happens in the financial sector after the surprise resignation of CitiGroup head Vikram Pandit. His departure came one day after the bank reported an 88 drop in third-quarter profits. Also keep your eye on the tech sector—another big area for our clients and both IBM and Intel reported disappointing Q3 earnings. Intel blamed a decline in demand for PCs and IBM blamed lackluster tech spending globally and currency fluctuations. What you need to ask yourself as both an investor and as a B2B marketer, is this: In the case of all three of these aforementioned Blue Chips, are we looking a lackluster global demand, unpopular products, ineffective marketing or inability to innovate fast enough. We think it’s the last two.

The Debate, Round 2

So we’re going to try the town-hall thing again tonight. Remember 2008, when Mr. Obama squared went at it against
John McCain in a town hall brawl. Gasoline prices were about $3.80 a gallon; Wall Street was in the middle of its worst week ever; President Bush had just created TARP and the economy—rather how the heck to fix it—dominate the verbal sparring.
In some circles, cynics would say not much has changed. Gasoline prices average $3.78 today—much higher in California and the northeast; unemployment remains historically very high; and each side will blame the other for not being specific enough about who has the better plan to jumpstart the economy.

REMEMBER: CAMPAIGN PROMISES AREN’T LEAGALLY BINDING! 
Both sides will be trying to sell you on their vision, but that’s all it is—a vision of the future. By a healthy skeptic about anything you hear tonight.As was the case four years ago, energy independence is likely to come up as gas prices are up 16 percent in the past two months alone. Four years ago, Mr. Obama said prices at the pump were high enough to make energy policy “priority number one” for his administration; health care was explicitly meant to be “priority number two.” Gas prices are about the same, but priorities sound a little different. Hmm.

Conclusion

As a wise man once said, it’s a recession when your neighbor loses their job; it’s a depression when you lose your own job. Are we better off than we were four years ago? Most Americans would say yes—but how much better after four years of anguish and a whole lot of effort?
As was the case in 2008, both parties will probably trumpet energy as the magic cure for the slow growth economy—even if their prescriptions have very different side effects and very mixed results. If people don’t have jobs to drive to or need more fuel to keep their fleets running, then it doesn’t matter how low gas prices go when there’s no demand for the stuff.

We’re not going to tell you how to vote in November. But, we’re urging you to take the process seriously and remember this: the Election is just the first step…you need to stay on your elected officials throughout their terms to honor their promises and be accountable to their constituents. Otherwise it’s just a lot of hot air.



TAGS: Obama, Romney, gas prices, presidential debates, CitiGroup, IBM, Intel, economy, Vikram Pandit


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Monday, October 08, 2012


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Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Not Federal Spending, Will Get Us Out of First Gear
Startups are what create net new jobs

Friday’s jobs report – most likely the last one we’ll see before the November elections – showed employers added only 114,000 jobs last month. Not a great result in an economy of our size, but better than many economists expected. Somehow the mediocre gain dropped the official unemployment rate to 7.8 percent from 8.1 percent. We’re not going to waste your valuable time questioning the veracity of the numbers, but politicians who try to take advantage of this perceived job surge in their campaigns should be honest about the rest of the report—the share of jobless workers who’ve been out of work for at least six months is still extremely high at about 4.8 million. That’s about 4 in 10 total unemployed workers. Very depressing when we’re supposedly three years into the “recovery.” 

Long term joblessness, which tends to be a more accurate picture of what’s going on with mid-level and senior level job-seekers, has a debilitating effect on the economy. While some say it justifies the need for more federal spending to maintain and create jobs, we say long term joblessness highlights the need for more pure entrepreneurship and innovation. If there aren’t enough higher level jobs in the corporate and government sector for these talented folks, then make it easier for them to start their own companies, hire/mentor others and built productive assets.

As Thomas Friedman noted in his op-ed piece in yesterday’s New York Times, “If there has been one consistent weakness to this president’s public messaging, it is that it is often lacking in any excitement about innovation and entrepreneurship—the real drivers of our economy. In recent years, all the net new jobs in America have come from startups.”

Free agent economy

In many “idea” businesses, including software, media and marketing that are heavily dependent on out of the box thinking, you can get most of your work done by tapping into the “free agent economy” and using outsourced expertise. Here’s a
great example of how companies are growing and moving the economy along by doing everything except hiring permanent full-time W-2 workers with benefits.

It’s like we’ve been saying throughout the economic downturn, there’s lots of work to be done, just not a lot of jobs in the traditional sense of the word “job.” Whether you’re a job seeker, an employer, a recruiter or an investor in companies, get used to the free agent economy. It’s here to stay.

Macro view
Despite the plague of high gas prices, long-term joblessness and a depressed housing market, Americans are still going to drive. And when they can’t squeeze another couple months out of their worn out vehicles they’re going to bite the bullet and get a new one. Driving (i.e. independent transportation) is part of our DNA and always will be. Case in point: Auto sales hit their highest level in four years in September, as nearly 1.2 million vehicles left the showroom—a 13 percent increase from a year ago. The cheap financing isn’t hurting either.

OUT TAKE: As auto makers and suppliers start to feel more flush, expect a significant surge in Super Bowl advertising this winter and stronger than expected ad spending across the board for a post-election year. Whether you’re in consumer or B2B, we advise getting your 2013 media buys in early this year as they’ll be more competition for desirable inventory than you’ve been used to fighting for since the recession began a half decade ago.

While the looming fiscal cliff on January 1 has been grabbing all the headlines, another large, but generally ignored cliff is about to wreak havoc with both individual and institutional investors—the amount of time that swollen private equity funds have to start making some deals or else return money to their investors. As this
report related, “The private equity world is sitting on that 13-figure sum. It’s what the industry calls dry powder. If they don’t spend their cash pile snapping up acquisitions soon, they may have to return it to their investors.”
To make sure, we checked in with our friend Paul Brian Gibson, Portfolio Manager for Norwalk, CT-based Harborview Capital Management and he agreed.  “I’d say that’s just about right, and it’s been going on for quite some time, to the point where these private equity funds will have to start returning money to investors. Post-crash buyers finally came bidding, but sellers did not want to sell in the "hole", so like our residential real estate there was a strike.  Since then the amount of money private equity managers have had has grown, but the good deals have been done. You’ve seen M&A volumes down sharply as well (my investment banking friends are trying to hang on, but we should see more cuts into year-end by the JP Morgans and Bank of Americas of the world.


Conclusion

Let’s get these elections over with so we can start making long-term decisions, investing in great businesses, producing great products, services and marketing campaigns and keeping our customers and clients thrilled with what we do.


TAGS: auto sales, Paul Brian Gibson, Harborview Capital Management, jobs report, November election, free agent economy Thomas Friedman, startup companies


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Monday, October 01, 2012


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Research Shows Ad-Supported Web Businesses a Major Source of Job Creation
U.S. housing  firming up

By now it’s hard to find a lot of B2B marketers who are still skeptical about the power of web-based advertising and marketing. But, whether you’re all in or still sticking your toes in the water, it’s clear this business is growing robustly and will be here for a while.

Consider this. New data from Harvard Business School claims that employment in the ad-supported Web ecosystem doubled over the past four years to 5.1 million. What’s more, those jobs contributed $530 billion to the U.S. economy last year -- close to double the 2007 figures. The HBS research, commissioned by the Interactive Advertising Bureau, found that, “Jobs grew fastest in digital advertising agencies, ad networks, ad exchanges, customer analytics firms and listening platforms,” report authors said. “The engine of growth was not just consumer-facing companies like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, but also firms that used the data spun off by them.”

OUR TAKE: What encouraged us the most was the fact that overall job creation was highly dispersed. Instead of being dominated by Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, the majority of new jobs were being offered at smaller entrepreneurial ventures across every state and county. Sole proprietors and small firms were cited as the big winners, this year. They contributed 375,000 full-time equivalent jobs to the 2 million in the Internet ecosystem. App development alone accounted for 35,000 full-time equivalent jobs, and the number of moonlighters was an order of magnitude larger.
Click here to download the study

Macro view

According to the Case Schiller index, single family home prices went up for the third straight month in July in all 20 major cities measured. Meanwhile, consumer confidence rose to the highest level in seven month, the Conference Board said
last week. Economists say consumer confidence accounts for as much as two-thirds of economic activity in the U.S., which analysts suggest is a sign that consumers and businesses are finally readers to spend more aggressively.

Meanwhile, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday that new home sales in August were up
a whopping 27.7 percent from the pace a year ago. The median price of a new home jumped 11.2 percent in August to $256,900, the biggest one-month gain on record. The median sales price was up 17 percent compared with August 2011. According to housing experts the $256,900 median price in August was the highest sales price since new homes sold for $262,600 in March 2007, a period when prices were coming down from the peaks reached during the housing boom.

Conclusion

Fiscal cliff worries aside. Regardless of how you think next month’s election will turn out, the economy is slowly but surely on the upswing even if we it takes years more to get back to the level of PERCEIVED prosperity in the middle of the last decade. As the HBS research shows, it’s a new world out there and we’re likely never going back to a media environment or business climate that we had before. Move fast. Move smart. Do your best to stay on top of every new tool you can for doing your job better. They’re not all going to work, but you’ll forever rue the day that you didn’t make the effort to explore the one killer app that could have revolutionized your business—and instead revolutionized the competition’s.

TAGS: Harvard Business School. Web advertising ecosystem. Case Schiller index. Home prices. Job growth, Interactive Advertising Bureau

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012


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For B2B, Numbers Point to Signs of Optimism
Don’t wait till after the elections to start making decisions. There ain’t gonna’ be an ‘all clear’ signal.


Several key numbers jumped out at us this week and we think they’re worth heeding for B2B marketers. Remember, your customers are not just executives and trade show attendees; they’re homeowners, consumers and individual investors as well.

Through the end of 2011, the tradeshow industry performed better than the U.S. economy in general, beating even an industry-affiliated organization’s forecast for the year and recorded its eighth consecutive quarter of growth according to Center for Exhibition Industry Research (
CEIR) President Doug Ducate.

The CEIR index, which takes into account net square footage, attendance, number of exhibitors and revenue, found that the industry grew by 2.7 percent in 2011.Attendance was the indicator that saw the largest jump, from 2.4 percent in 2010 to 3.4 percent last year.

OUR TAKE: Considering the long lead time involved in the live events business, we’re probably just now seeing signs of optimism that first surfaced in 2010. Like CEIR, we predict event stronger numbers for the live events business as digital fatigue has worn on business professionals who now crave face-to-face interaction even more, albeit selectively, to close deals and consummate relationships.

Shows in some industry sector saw particularly strong growth in 2011. Among them were business-related exhibitions, including those involving machinery (11.2 percent overall); communication and information technology (8.1 percent); and transportation (5.7 percent).

Continuing to lag furthest behind other sectors was that with shows involving building, construction and real estate (which experienced a 5.3-percent decline in 2011).

Macro view
Let’s start with housing. Last week, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported that sales of existing homes rose more than expected in August to a two-year high, an additional sign the U.S. housing market is firming up in the second half of the year. Purchases of previously owned houses increased 7.8 percent to an annual rate of almost 5 million, the most since May 2010, NAR said. Another report showed that construction began on more single-family homes last month than at any time in the past two years. The median price of an existing home climbed 9.5 percent to $187,400 from $171,200 in August 2011.

OUR TAKE: This confidence should lead to a rise in psychological feelings of wealth, which will lift consumer confidence and spending. We were also encouraged by a couple of things: the housing market should similar gains across ALL regions of the country. What’s more, first-time buyers made up 31 percent of the total compared with the average of 40 percent to 45 percent seen in normal years, which means, longstanding homeowners ARE feeling able to unload their homes and either trade up or scale down as their needs would dictate in a normal economy.

Construction companies too are noting better business conditions. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo index of builder confidence climbed in September to the highest level since June 2006. Work began on 5.5 percent more single-family houses in August, taking starts to a 535,000 annual rate, the fastest since April 2010, figures from the Commerce Department also showed today.

Investor confidence in U.S. capital markets rises, doubts remain about overseas markets

The number of investors with at least some confidence in U.S. capital markets has increased slightly since the end of last year, according to the Center for Audit Quality, a public policy organization. Almost two thirds (65 percent) of investors with at least $10,000 in investments have at least some confidence in the market, an increase of 4 percent since 2011, says the Sixth Annual Main Street Investor Survey taken of 1,003 investors. By contrast, their confidence in capital markets outside the United States fell by 8 percent to 35 percent.

For U.S. investors, the CAQ survey found 64 percent feel their personal financial situation will stay the same, while 25 percent feel it will improve over the next year. The four top economic concerns investors have are not having enough money for retirement, not being able to afford health care, not being able to maintain their standard of living and losing their jobs.

Conclusion


As American humorist, Evan Esnar once quipped, “Statistics is the only science that enables different experts using the same figures to draw different conclusions.” We like to think of stats as another way of quantifying what’s in your gut. Too much business activity is hung up in wait-and-see mode until the November elections conclude. We strongly urge you to make important decisions NOW for 2013 and beyond. By the time the dust clears, your competitors and best prospects will be far down the road ahead of you. And you’ll be nursing your sorrows at some dingy dive in the town of ShouldaWouldaCoulda.

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TAGS: Center for Exhibition Industry Research, CEIR, Doug Ducate, National Association of Realtors, CAQ, Center for Audit Quality, housing prices, B2B marketing, National Association of Homebuilders Wells Fargo Index, Evan Esnar

Monday, September 17, 2012


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New Year’s Resolutions in September?
iPad 5. No surprises, but still takes consumers and marketers by storm


As many of you know, last night marked the start of Rosh Hashana, the important Jewish Holiday signifying the start of a new year on the Hebrew calendar and a time of self-reflection and fresh starts. But some things never change (see early mobile/social media device at left introduced about 5,000 years ago).

Regardless of your faith, September tends to be a time of renewal for many of us in the B2B world. Kids are back to school; a new football season is under way; the leaves start turning in many parts of the country and everyone in the business world has shaken off the post Labor Day rust to start making real decisions about Q4/2012 and 2013 (aka Hebrew year 5773).

According to the findings of the "2012 Meetings Industry Pulse Indicator" from Successful Meetings, nearly two-thirds (63.9%) of C-suite executives, presidents, and vice presidents predict that business conditions will be the same at the end of the year as they are now. Of the remainder, one in four (23%) predict better conditions and 13 percent predicting worse conditions. OK, so that’s not exactly a warm and fuzzy forecast, but it also means seven out of eight top level business leaders DO NOT think things will be worse next year, regardless of the election outcome.

PREDICTION: We have no idea which party is going to win the Presidential election. But, we can tell you that if you’re not planning to hit the ground running at 100 percent full speed in 2013, then you ABSOLUTELY will be left in the dust by your competitors and strategic partners. “Cautious optimism” is the new optimism in this hyper competitive global economy. You need to take advantage of any opening you can, just like a bruising running back who turns a tiny opening in the line into a 7 yard gain.
imPact of iPad 5

Consumers aren’t the only ones licking their chops over the arrival of the iPhone 5. As expected, Apple rolled out The 5 on Wednesday with a larger display, improved camera and 4G LTE networking all in a thinner body of aluminum and glass. A JP Morgan estimate projects Apple will sell some 45 million iPhones in the fourth quarter, with more than half being iPhone 5s. What’s more, the dang thing is sold out--Apple reported today that iPhone 5 pre-orders topped 2 million in the first 24 hours--more than double the record set by the iPhone 4S, last year. Retail analysts are reporting back orders of two to four weeks.

While there was nothing in iPad 5’s introduction that hadn’t already been predicted by industry analysts and bloggers, digital ad executives and analysts expect the iPhone to attract new customers and provide a richer platform for mobile campaigns and m-commerce. Forrester Research analyst Charles Golvin said in his blog post last week that competitors such as HTC and Nokia already offer some of the features Apple introduced Wednesday, like those for imaging. “But Apple still outpaces the competition when it comes to the entire package--the new iPhone unites significant improvements in industrial design, imaging, audio and connectivity, along with the wealth of new capabilities that iOS6 enables.”

Why ad execs are juiced about the 5

Ad executives see promise with the iPhone 5's larger, 4-inch screen with Retina display, boasting 18 percent more pixels for delivering interactive campaigns. Experts say Mis-clicks will be less likely and actions a little easier to execute. Extra screen size will also be a bonus for landing pages and sites that campaigns link to, encouraging interaction.
The faster delivery of mobile data via 4G could spur greater use of video in advertising with the knowledge that users are likely to have a better experience than with 3G networks. Combined with the better visual aspects of the iPhone 5, it could lead to increased use of apps, the mobile Web and other types of mobile media.

Our Take: If you’re trying to connect with your customers, clients and hot prospects in any
meaningful way, you better assume they’re mobile more often than desk-bound and when they’re mobile, they’re most likely on the Apple platform.

Conclusion

Be smart, be aggressive and be mobile in 2013 (or Hebrew Year 5773). L’Shana Tova. Basically that means have a healthy and sweet New Year. From where we sit, 2013 starts now.

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TAGS: Rosh Hashana, Charles Golvin, Forrester Research, Successful Meetings, Apple, iPhone 5