Category Archives: Uncategorized

Outsourcing – trials and travails

As an attempt to keep our costs down, we outsource much of our work. And yes, in the traditional sense such as sending work to countries like India, Pakistan and Indonesia.

Generally, the work and results are quite varied. Sometimes, you hit a gem of a worker, the majority of the time though you end up with people who have issues with the English language. And while I’m used to working with people whose English isn’t perfect, there’s a workable level that you require.

On the other hand, using a system like oDesk / elance; we get a lot more applicants a lot faster. In fact, we generally find that we get better response to our requests for work than if we use individuals here.

Our most recent banner request is a great example. Asked for a quote from a designer we have worked with in Vancouver – never got a reply after 4 days.

So we ended outsourcing it because we needed the job done. Fast. That’s what we got – within 24 hours, we had the banner done. Even if it did come with an extra hour of aggravation


Had my first experience with crowd-sourcing recently, specifically creating a logo for a new project. It was certainly quite interesting, and we got a ton of great submissions.

One of the things that we found was that we didn’t get many submissions till the end, which was a bit of a shame since at least 1 of the submissions we received was so close. As usual, the early bird gets the worm in this case.

The other thing that we found was that due to the large number of submissions, we had some great ideas and concepts introduced to us. It certainly worked quite well.

Lastly, perhaps the thing we found the most difficult was the amount of time it required from us – commenting on all the logos, going through the multiple options and ranking them, etc.

I guess that’s the minus of crowd-sourcing compared to traditional sourcing via an ad agency or graphic designer. Time vs options.

Groupon, LivingSocial & Social Coupon Sites

Lots of new data coming in about Groupon, LivingSocial & the rest of the Social Coupon Sites.  Like the fact that 40% of Groupon users would never use them again.

On the other hand, Amazon had over $110 Million worth of sales in one day thanks to Groupon or that they invested $176 million.  Or the fact that Google was considering buying them.

Lots of people are saying that they are the next big thing, others that it’s just a fad that is going to disappear soon.

As a business model, these companies have it great.  Their only cost is the website, the coding and set-up of offers (which frankly, would only take 1 person at most) and the cost of acquiring new accounts.  Their take? 15% of each sale – and like 3% or so goes to their gateway services.  So 12%.  A mildly successful coupon site that pushes say 100 $20 coupons just netted itself $300 in revenue, $240 in net not including other services.

The other side? The customers… meh.  Make sure you have a good product or service and you’re off.  Service sector companies would work well especially if you’re launching.  Introducing a new service and ‘filling’ your blank spots are great – ditto on perishable goods.

For non-perishable products – now that’s more debatable.  Would it be worth it? I’m not sure.  Gut feel – probably not.  Certainly not like Groupon; where you have no control over the number of coupons.  The others are more flexible, which allows you to control your cost.

Social Marketing – the Next Big Thing

A long time ago in University, the Next Big Thing was the Internet.  Among the proclamations was that the Internet was going to render all other forms of advertising irrelevant.  The Internet was going to change everything in marketing.

I hear a lot of the same thing being said of social marketing these days, and I repeat what my Professor had to say to this ‘Hogwash’.

Yes, Social Marketing is important.  Yes, it has altered how we communicate.  Yes, it’s providing some great returns.  Sometimes.   However, it’s worth noting that it is a tool, and should be considered only one of a variety of tools at a marketers disposal.

Here’s an example.  In 2006; I worked for an e-commerce company that generated 80% of its revenue and leads from Search Engine Marketing.  It took me 6 months, but I finally convinced the CEO to allow me to do offline marketing.

We set up a new website and then  I took out a series of print advertisements in a magazine.  In 3 months, we had generated an ROI of 4.  In 12, our monthly ROI was 20.  3 years later, the company generates 50% of it’s revenue from offline advertising.

The fact is, your customers will have diverse viewing habits. Some might only do e-mail.  Others social websites.  Others, just skim the news and some favourite websites.  And even more might just not use the Internet at all except for work.

Your marketing plan must encompass all of these, or else you’ll just be fishing in the same spot repeatedly.  Sooner or late, that spot is going to go bare for new customers.

Facebook and Privacy

Since it’s the thing to discuss Facebook and their Privacy issues, let’s.

It’s been discussed to death why unilaterally setting an individual’s privacy settings to ‘Public’ is bad.  It is potentially illegal (depending on which country you are in and your policies); it removes a customer’s choice and most importantly, it annoys your customers.

Since that’s been done, let’s talk a bit more about the marketing implications about Facebook’s current strategy. And let’s be clear here – consistent, repeated actions such as this constitute a strategy.  Even if it is a bad strategy.

Social network sites are built and succeed due to two major factors:

  • their technology
  • a critical mass of individuals

Right now, Facebook holds the edge on technology, but barely.  It won’t take long for some site (whether it’s a new upcomer or heck, even Google) to build a platform that is just as good if not better.  Technological advantages as a strategy is very, very difficult to upkeep and very expensive.

The more dangerous for Facebook’s long-term survival is that of critical mass.  Once a viable alternative appears, if the level of ‘pain’ experienced by customers on Facebook is sufficient, they will begin to migrate.   Critical mass works both ways – if Facebook loses a sufficient number of customers, the drop will become exponential.

It’s worth noting as well that Facebook is still not profitable.  As such, if the investors decide that Facebook’s current policies are affecting them badly enough, there just might be a slight revolt.  Whether it’s a withdrawal of capital (i.e. cutting losses) or a coup.

Overall, if you own or run a company that collects private information; it’s nearly always better to keep your customers happy.  Build and keep their trust, and that will allow you to build your business.

On Affiliate Programs

So. I just launched an affiliate program on 2nd tier affiliate network. Why 2nd tier? Mostly because a 1st tier network costs a lot of funds to set-up. Of course, the potential advantages are huge tool but dropping $10 – 15,000 on initial set-up is quite, quite expensive for a SME.

Pros of Affiliates

  • The Work is Out-Sourced
  • Initial cost of the marketing is borne by the affiliates
  • Potentially wide network reach
  • Individual affiliates can have multiple, older websites which can provide great link opportunities

Cons of Affiliates

  • No guarantee you’ll get any good affiliates
  • Initial setup cost can be relatively high; with low returns
  • On-going cost of good affiliates can be extremely high as % of sales
  • You lose control of your marketing

New Directions – on consulting and business

I’ve been considering what to do with this site / blog and it occurred to me that I really should start writing more marketing strategy / tactics post.  General how-to’s as they come to me.  Frankly, I’m not sure if I want / have time to do consulting work at the moment since the other businesses are doing so well.

So let’s talk about consulting.

Consulting by it’s nature is a matter of selling your time and expertise for money.  Generally speaking, the more time and the higher expertise you have, the higher that you can charge.

What’s a good rate? Good question.  Accountants and lawyers generally charge between $80 – 200 per hour depending on their seniority and the like.

Marketing consultants generally range from $50 – 200 from my experience, with most clustering around the $80 – 120 dollar mark.   Generally this is because we do not have a professional association that you have to join to be accredited (thus increasing competition), and there is as such not as strenuous legal obligations.

What many people forget is that you are generally not just paying for the time that a consultant is working on your project, you’re paying for his overhead, his marketing and downtime.  Much like with plumbers, consultants have to cover the cost somewhere – and thus the higher per diem.

Since my downtime  / networking time these days is non-existent, I really can’t expect too many customers to start popping in.  And frankly, I’m not sure I want them too.

For now at least, I think I’ll be focusing more on marketing topics in general, than actually looking for work.  I’m busy enough as it is, and it’ll be good to just do some post about marketing to remind myself about the important aspects that I forget.

Short term vs long term

There’s always a push between short-term marketing and long-term marketing tactics that any company faces. Some short-term tactics can be very, very effective – but impact a company’s overall long-term growth.

A good pair of examples are spam and pop-up advertising. Both forms, in the short-term can be extremely effective at generating revenue in the short. However, in the long-term the company faces problems with their reputation and building trust.

On the other hand, many good long-term tactics require a lot of time to develop. SEO and word-of-mouth marketing are some of the most effective forms of marketing possible – but both require a large amount of time. In the meantime, you aren’t generating much revenue.

A good marketing plan takes into account both short-term and long-term tactics in development. Planned carefully, short-term tactics can be the foundation of your plan – like certain Pharmaceutical companies have shown.

Perfection and it’s price

I just finished watching ‘This is It’ – the Michael Jackson documentary. One of the thoughts that struck me while watching it was just how good he was. And the sheer amount of work he threw into the show.

To be good at something, you just need to be talented and have a little experience. To be great thought, that requires more than just talent. It requires dedication and preservation. It requires sacrifice.

They say it takes 10,000 hours to become an Expert at something. Well, how much more time is required to become a Master?

I get a half-dozen newszines sent to my mailbox every day. I have another dozen RSS feeds from blogs that I feel should be read. And of course I wander through dozens of forums. And I barely feel adequate at times. What does your marketing consultant do?

Social Marketing – the latest buzz word

I’ve recently been noticing more and more of a push for Social Marketing Managers or Co-ordinators or Experts. It’s an interesting, hot new area that promises a lot and has caught the buzz.

However, I wonder how many of the companies looking to hire in those areas have actually considered the implications of Social Marketing. Both for their marketing plan and their organisation.

Not all companies would benefit to the same extent through social marketing. It’s a difficult area of marketing to get right, and it requires a large amount of time and resources dedicated to it. More importantly, it might be easier and better to use more traditional marketing tactics – especially if the company currently isn’t using any.

In addition, social marketing requires the company to interact with the audience. this requires giving up a lot of control of their marketing message – and understanding that it’s no longer ‘their’ brand, but the market’s. This can mean a lot of bad publicity as well as good – so it’s not always to the companies best interest to engage in the conversation.

It’s true that consumers are changing, and becoming more proactive, discussing brands and actively influencing one another. However,taking part / actively doing social marketing is the difference between being the parent who gives the children a house to hold the party but stays in the study while the party goes on and one who joins the party. If you’re out there, you better be ready to party.