Is Blogging Dead ?

In Wired’s November issue, Paul Boutin contends that blogging is dead, a victim of micro-communication (micro-messaging / micro-blogging) technologies like Twitter.  He cites the general transition from personal to corporate blog content, competition from large publishing entities, and the recent actions from the likes of Jason Calacanis, who recently shut down the blog network that has made him millions, as signs that blogging is a dead art form.

True, blogging has evolved.  And so have other technologies, making blogging no longer the silver bullet of web traffic.  But it certainly is not dead.  It is just another online marketing tool – complimenting the content engine which delivers valuable content to users, subsequently driving online traffic.

Twitter and other micro-communication tools are excellent ways to keep in touch with existing users, but they still have not matured in their ability to drive new users.  We rely on SEO/PR, online advertising, online articles, SEM, email marketing, social network marketing, and yes, blogging. to gain awareness.

So yes, embrace micro-communication tools!  But DON’T STOP BLOGGING.  Keep generating valuable content intelligently!

EyeSpot’s Demise Re-Enforces Importance of Revenue

A few days ago EyeSpot, the unique video sharing site that allowed users to create video mash-ups using content from other members, closed their doors.  The EyeSpot team posted this on the homepage of their website:

We deeply regret to inform you that Eyespot has ceased all operations.

We have spent three years providing over a hundred thousand of you with a unique video experience. We believed that by putting creative tools and rights-cleared media into the hands of influencers and connectors, Eyespot would enable social media and participation culture like no other company.

After playing over two hundred million of your video creations, we have to stop. After assembling possibly the most potent team in digital media ever, we’re now moving on.

Thank you all for being part of our community over the past three years.”

This reminds us of how fragile venture funded startups can be (especially in a difficult economy) and the importance of implementing a strategic marketing plan and getting to revenue quickly.

The key to getting to revenue quickly is focus.  Start-ups typically lack a formal structure, which breeds chaos.  Management’s responsibility is to harness that chaos, fostering the creative flexibility of the start-up while ensuring that the entire team remains focused on achieving specific revenue driven goals.  Team members should be aware of their role in the strategic marketing plan, and how their actions affect the bottom line.

If your start-up is near-terminal, it can still be saved.   Saving a cash starved start-up requires quick and decisive action.  If you must downsize staff and facilities, do it sooner than later.  Don’t waste money waiting until you are forced to do it.  Perform lay-offs in a single sweep, then reassure the remaining employees that this round of layoffs was done to help secure their jobs.  You must keep morale up, and inspire the team to save the company. Remind departing employees that their positions will be available to them when the company is in a better financial position.   Downsizing facilities, re-negotiating contracts, and revisiting your marketing strategy to identify new revenue streams are just some of the other things that can be done to bring your start-up back online financially.

Unfortunately, funding complications are a common concern in start-ups that poor economies unmask.  Fortunately, they are resolvable with the proper focus and direction, supported by a solid marketing plan.

Pay Per Click Basics

Pay Per Click advertising, where you as the advertiser pay only when a user clicks on your online advertisement, can be an effective way to quickly drive traffic to your website.  But managed incorrectly, Pay Per Click marketing can be VERY expensive.  Here are a few tricks to improve the results of your Pay Per Click campaigns.

Dynamic Landing Pages

The beauty of search engine traffic is that it is highly targeted.  The traffic driven to your website from search engines is pre-qualified.  The person searching is obviously interested in the subject that they searched on … well, because they searched for it.   Unfortunately, many people simply direct their Pay Per Click marketing to the homepage of their website.  This is probably the single most common mistake in Pay Per Click marketing.  Rather than direct the traffic to a single generic page, send them to either an interior page which relates to the searched topic keywords, or better yet, a customized dynamic landing page.  Customized Dynamic Landing Pages (DLPs) change on the fly based upon the search terms used during the search.  Dynamic Landing Pages can be designed to change, on the fly, depending on the keywords that a user searches for.  And they are specifically designed to reduce “leakage”, by focusing the potential customer’s attention on items related to their search, and reducing the number of external links that take them away from the sales path.

Dynamic Landing Pages are easy to design, and can dramatically improve the effectiveness of your Pay Per Click marketing.

Ad Testing

Search engines make it very easy to perform multi-variant testing to determine which ads perform the best.   Create several ads, using a variety of writing styles.  Test ads written in the first person versus third person voices, suggestive versus obvious, funny versus serious.  Over time you will identify the basic characteristics of a successful ad targeting your market.  But don’t get too comfortable!  Due to the nature of the Internet and online marketing, this testing never ends.  You’ll always be trying to test and improve your online advertising – increasing the exposure of more effective ads while removing those that do not perform as well.

Keywords Keywords Keywords

Keywords are the life blood of any Pay Per Click marketing campaign.  Choosing the right keywords, at the right price, will help ensure that your Pay Per Click marketing campaigns are profitable.  There are many techniques to finding the right keywords for your campaigns (too many to discuss here – but feel free to contact us for more info on this) – but the main trick is to use highly specific keywords and phrases.  Specific keywords and phrases will help ensure that you target the right customers, and are typically less expensive than their more general counterparts.

Facebook Ties Fans to Advertising

Facebook has recently added a special touch to their advertising …. Fan Endorsements.  As you can see by this ad, Facebook advertising can be tied to the noted likes / dislikes of your Facebook Friends.  In this case, the launch of a Dancing with the Stars online banner ad included a search for my friends who are fans of Dancing with the Stars.  Certainly much more compelling than a plain old banner ad, especially if you trust your Facebook Friends’ taste in entertainment.

Facebook Ads Promote Fans

Facebook Fans Promote Ads

Top 10 Software Marketing Mistakes

Successfully marketing software depends equally on what you do, and what you DON’T do.  Marketing software is a long journey, and along the way there are many pitfalls.   Here are the top 10 most common mistakes made when marketing software:

    As with any company, revenue is the fuel that keeps a software company moving.  Far too often, the focus shifts from revenue to user acquisition, at any cost.  The management team fails to make revenue a priority in the software marketing strategy.   The reality is that revenue is just as important as user acquisition.  Strangely obvious, but you’d be surprised how often this needs to be reiterated. Sure, in rare cases software companies with zero revenue and a tremendous user base are sold for incredible amounts of money (YouTube, for example).  But these are the exception, not the rule.  And just imagine how much more valuable those companies would be if the user base was properly monetized.
    Your marketing shouldn’t just support your software.  It should be a part of it.  Every time  someone uses your software, you should engage them with ever so subtle marketing.  Some ways that you can market through the software include communicating with your customers through the software, exposing advanced features and up-selling them directly through the user interface, and building your user driven viral marketing campaigns into your software.
    In order to successfully market software, you MUST remove all barriers to entry.  If this requires you to give away a free version with limited functionality, and upsell them on advanced features over the lifetime use of the software, so be it.  Don’t give a potential customer any reason to disengage.  Your primary focus is acquiring the user, then repeatedly monetizing them.
    Finding an unfulfilled need in the market is the first step in software marketing.  Skip this step, and you risk creating a “me-too” product.  This exponentially increases the difficulty of marketing your software.  You want to look for the unsatisfied need, not battle against entrenched competition.  Remember that a unique product isn’t created by simply adding another feature that you competition doesn’t (currently) have.  You must be able to position your software as distinctly different from your competition – or be prepared for a long battle in the marketing trenches.
    Your early adopters, those who truly believe in your software so much that they’re willing to put up with the inconveniences of using imperfect beta software,  are your most important allies in software marketing.  So don’t alienate them – embrace them.  Empower them to give you candid feedback on the software, and help lend guidance with new features and improvements.  Make sure that you give these advocates the time they need to properly vet, and promote, your software.  Don’t rush to get out of Beta and into market until you’ve address the major issues which your early adopters bring to your attention.
    The “wouldn’t it be cool” mentality – which leads to feature after feature being added to the software – can be the kiss of death for any software launch.  Feature creep creates additional development and testing time, which can significantly push back the product launch date, and the additional features make it difficult to give your software a singular identity.  The entire company must recognize that your software cannot be everything to everyone.  It must fulfill a specific need for a specific market.  Additional features in line with that identity can always be added at a later date.
    Channel partners and affiliates are critical to marketing your software.  As trusted authorities, they represent direct access to potential users.  Make sure that your software is Channel Friendly.  Building channel / affiliate tracking into the software, ensuring that there isn’t any “sales leakage”, will make your software very attractive to potential channel partners.  Offering the ability to white label your software is another added benefit.
    It is not uncommon for a software company to have a “build it in-house” mentality, where third party and open source options are shunned for internally developed solutions.  Keep yourself open to utilizing solutions that aren’t build in house.  Time is your enemy and building everything in house can cripple your efforts to launch your software in a timely fashion.  By utilizing a modular development structure, you can always go back and “rebuild” the outsourced components internally and offer them as a free upgrade for existing users, when you aren’t under pressure to build your user base.
    Don’t be averse to developing software which supports or enhances other software products.  The Microsoft Outlook Add-On Market is a multimillion dollar industry.  By developing software which supports existing, widely used software solutions, you free yourself to focus on developing software rather than trying to decide who you should market your software too.
    Open source software development practices can quickly become powerful marketing tools.  By allowing other users and companies to enhance your solution, you immediately make your software a defacto standard for their solution.

Developing and marketing software is a long process.  Along the way, there are many opportunities to make critical mistakes that can effect the bottom line.  To learn more about the potential pit falls, or for a complementary software marketing analysis, please contact us.