20 August 2008

Now at Biznology, a familiar face

This week an article of mine was published by all-around-nice-guy Mike Moran on his Biznology site. Check it out at Biznology: How Microtrends Change Your Internet Marketing. Check it out, and comment if you like!

I'll be putting my search-engine and marketing related content over at Mike's in coming months - I think they'll find more companionable neighbors there amongst the widgets and market analyses than here with the Norse gods, possessed adolescents, vampires and goblins.

19 August 2008

Pay attention to the little things

How Microtrends Change Your Internet Marketing

MicrotrendsBookCover.pngby Eva Lyford

Having trouble focusing on everything all at once? Identify a few microtrends and get moving on setting up matching landing pages to capitalize on them. You may find with a bit of segment tweaking that your widget will succeed in entirely new segments than you have addressed before. Microtrends are not Paris Hilton's latest choice in swimwear. Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow's Big Changes by Mark Penn and E. Kinney Zalesne covers a variety of trends that could be useful to anyone setting up segmented online marketing. Many businesses have a clear vision of who their customers are and how to speak to them about their products. Other businesses don't, or have spent so long trying to figure it out that they've forgotten what they set out to accomplish in the first place. If you're struggling trying to identify what landing pages to create and what groups to target, try a few of these on for size.

How can Internet marketers use knowledge of microtrend groups? Penn calls it Microtargeting, which is really just exquisitely tiny segmentation—something that search engines like and customers love. Not all of these will fit your product or niche service, but experiment with one or two and carefully track your conversions to see which one works better. You may find that your manly Handheld Cordless Dremel Tool is a favorite among Pet Parents for filing Fido's nails, and you could open up a whole new segment just by re-targeting. (It is true about the Dremel, btw!)

Penn covers a large range of microtrend groups. In the spirit of scientific inquiry I subjected myself to the Microtrend online quiz and it parsed me into the following microtrend group, shared (in part) here to give you an idea of the many categories Penn covers.

Your Results:

  • Social Geek. You love Blackberrys and phones and IM—how else would you know how to meet up with your friends? You're part of the growing group of Americans who've made computers (and their offshoots) incredibly cool—not geeky and loner-ish like those machines used to be.
  • Tech Fatales. You're a major driver in the technology field—women actually outspend men on technology 3:2. But chances are, you don't feel that way. Aren't you bored with the designs, functionality, and marketing of most tech products in America? Seriously, aren't there any colors out there besides gray and black ...?
  • Video Game Grownups. Welcome to the growing group of grown-ups who love video games—and are tired of being made to feel like that's somehow shameful. Games are challenging, exciting, and creative, and a LOT more adults are doing them than the ad-makers would have you think. The average age of computer/video gamers in the U.S. is 33!
  • Numbers Junkies You may not be a math and science genius, but you truly love numbers in your daily life. Whether it's watching Numb3rs on TV or solving Sudoku puzzles, you find that science- and numbers-based entertainment challenges you and sharpens your thinking.
  • Pet Parents. As you arrange the family for the annual holiday photo, Fido is front and center. If you have kids, your pet probably gets at least as much attention as they do—and if you don't have kids, well, all the more reason that Fluffy gets birthday parties, manicures, and kitty vacations. The best-loved pets in America live better than 99 percent of the world's population.

In the good ol' days, we worked with a careful set of customer segments in mind: the urban-up-and-comers, the empty-nesters, the barely-making-its. It was helpful. It was unifying. And most interestingly, it was measurable; having the customer segments identified, we could easily see whether a new central office product such as privacy manager was doing well or poorly in any group. Marketing spends could then be shifted to put momentum into a growing segment, or support a slacking one. And then you measure again, and start the cycle once more.

So, let's say your widget is easy to install, has above-industry-average safety features, and looks really neat. All of these features are vaunted on the product page, each given equal time. Why not make a landing page focused on the Pampering Parents microtrend, and focus on the safety features? Make another page focused on Second-Home buyers, touting the ease of installation into a second residence. Make 30 pages if you like, and make each uniquely search-engine friendly and time will be on your side as traffic starts to flow. Don't forget to measure what's going on; Google's Web Optimizer is a good tool to work with if you haven't got something else set up already. As Sun Tsu says, know your strengths in order to succeed. Go Darwinian; kill off the non-performing pages and build up a microsite around the ones that are excitingly active. Stand back and receive the applause at the next staff meeting. (Well, my co-workers don't applaud at meetings but maybe yours will.)

points to the authors for tapping into social marketing and setting up the spiffy facebook quizzes—so much more interesting than simply the "I'm a fan of" applications. For a quick idea of the microtrends, check out that facebook quiz. And Microtrending staff, take note: Why not add a feature to the quiz so that I can send the results to my friends and have them confirm my self-assessment ? Or tell me I'm wrong?

That would cover one microtrend that got missed in this book: the Hypercritical Fan. You know who you are, whether you watched Star Wars frame by frame or got agitated over a literary character's inexplicably changing eye colors in a George R.R. Martin book. Speaking of hypercritical fans: Mr. Penn, the Wii game is pronounced "Whee!" as in fun and together, not "Why" as in "Why did the audiobook fact-checker miss this?"

So, if you have a perfectly well-oiled hinge of a segmentation strategy set up, let me know because I would love to see such a unique creation. For the vast majority of us who are working on setting up segmentation, or refining our existing targeting, take a look through this book for some ideas on where to get some traction.

also published at http://www.mikemoran.com/biznology/archives/2008/08/how_microtrends_change_your_in.html

17 August 2008

Phèdre could do pilates

I recently started taking yoga again with an instructor who I haven't worked with before. He's tough - "can make it burn faster than anyone" as said a fellow student - and the class is convenient, hosted on-site at my work. Hooray for employers who value work-life balance and wellness!

Incongruously, during a particularly grueling pose, I recalled vividly a scene from Jacqueline Carey's novel Kushiel's Avatar where Phèdre guides a boat while fleeing pursuing warriors; if she could hold a pose overnight, I supposed I could make it through a yoga class. And so I did.

That did remind me, however, that I recently finished Kushiel's Mercy and hadn't yet shared my thoughts on it. It is good; darned good, and a heroic parallel to the first trilogy's story arc. I admire Carey for being able to create a flowing narrative and then create a parallel story to it that was so readable. She does tip her hat to readers who notice the similarity with some dialog between Sidonie and Imriel

"It's so very peculiar the way the events in our lives cast reflections."
"...Phèdre and Josselin went on a quest to find the Name of God and bind an Angel. You and I seek to free a demon with a word."

It lacked the darkness and brightness of the earlier series, and there were parts of it that seemed to be just tidying up plot lines hanging from the prior series; but there were also delightful references back to scenes in the first trilogy as well. One of the problems with doing this sort of trilogy is that the reader knows already that the main characters are bound to succeed, and thus read to reveal the details of their story. The risk to the main characters is expected to be real and harrowing but survivable, and that proves to be the case here.

Carey has started on her next book, Naamah's Gift, as noted on her website updates. I'm happy to hear she will be continuing the narrative for Terre d'Ange, and will look forward to the next books in the series.

11 August 2008

5 Dysfunctions of a team. Who knew there were only 5?

I recently started a new job, and within a day on the job I got a copy of a management book the staff was reading, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. I’m pretty upbeat about the new job, though, so I didn’t take it as a bad omen, just a confirmation of some of the research I’d done that the company is a learning organization and has a newly formed executive team.

T5DoaT is unusual compared to other business/management books I’ve read in the approach the author uses. Rather than take the usual smarter-than-thou approach and immodestly declaim in grandiose terms why the ideas presented are the best ever, Lencioni tells a story about a troubled executive team and their new CEO. A modern-day Aesop, he gets the moral of the story across by telling the tale of this team and their progress from infighting to working together. Generally, the approach is engaging – Lencioni relies on the gossip-loving tendency that most cube denizens have to engage them with a ‘fly-on-the-wall’ view into the executive suite. At times, it does get a bit preachy and obvious. Some of the plot points – such as hiring/firing decisions of the CEO – are oversimplified, but I mean that as a compliment to the author in that we don’t get bogged down with the normal tedium associated with staff changes.

The 5 dysfunctions and evidence of their occurrence are neatly triangularized in a hierarchy in the book diagrams, but I personally didn’t get the graphic. Is there a peak of dysfunctionality? Is a dysfunction higher up in the hierarchy less significant than those below? So here’s my own version. If I were graphically inclined, I’d try to draw it as a heat map.

The author describes each dysfunction as having a single defining symptom, yet the vignettes show that multiple symptoms appear to be associated with these dysfunctions. I ran through the matrix above and showed, additionally, what I thought were ‘secondary’ symptoms that appear consistently with the ‘primary’ symptom the author identified. I also noted symptoms that would occur ‘often’. (This was a personal exercise I did to process the book, not endorsed by the author.)

Overall, this seemed to be a 5 lb idea in a 10 lb bag; my eyes were relieved to see large type and copious white space after a day staring at analytical data. The core ideas are in the last part of the book, titled “The Model” – and a time constrained reader would do well to start with that section.

09 August 2008

Polaroid PoGo Gadget a go-go

I was checking out Dan Wheldon's car in advance of the Meijer 300 race in Kentucky today, and was started wondering what Polaroid is up to lately. My first camera was a Polaroid one-step so I do have a certain fondness for the brand. I checked out their site and found a neat gadget: the
Polaroid PoGo. My kids would be wild for an instant sticker maker that worked with my phone. Neat product, Polaroid!