Posts filed under ‘Ramblings’

Brand Loyalty and Domain Names

I just finished reading an interesting post about “building an army of brand loyalists” on the CityMax Blog, posted by  Grasshopper’s Ambassador of Buzz, Jonathan Kay. The post got me to thinking about the power of a domain name in building that buzz that Jonathan (and Grasshopper) is famous for (click here to read their coming out party and one if my favourite examples of buzz building).

For those that don’t know Grasshopper, they are the group that sent 5,000 chocolate-covered grasshoppers to key influencers across North America. They are also the ones who still make my hair stand up every time I watch their video about Entrepreneurs Changing the World.

A large part of the value of a generic domain name comes from the emotion or understanding that it conveys to your audience. Over at TeeTimes.net, people instantly get that which we do: we do golf tee times. But what about Grasshopper? They don’t sell grasshoppers. Yet still, as a generic domain name, it is a very powerful.

I wonder, would Grasshopper have the brand loyalists they do were they still called GotVMail? I mean, they still could listen to their customers, add value, and the rest of the points made by Jonathan, but would they still have as many loyal followers? Personally, I don’t think they would have.

Unfortunately, branding of this sort is one of those things that can’t happen in a vacuum and use normal scientific methodology (two identical companies, each executing the same strategies with the same product lines, and the same principles driving the company). I guess this is one of those philosophical chicken-and-egg type questions. What came first: brand loyalty or the domain recognition?

I think one of the points that Jonathan made is very important and it relates back to what we are doing at CityMax.com. Jonathan wrote:

“…The more you know about your customers, the more likely you will be able to set them up with other customers who might be able to help each other out. That is a memorable connection. Here at Grasshopper we have gone as far as to set up a formal program: Tell Us Your Story. This gives our entrepreneurs an opportunity to tell us what makes them unique, and how they are changing the world. Not only do we promote them to the media, but now we also have real stories and examples of entrepreneurs living their passion. Actively trying to help your customers businesses grow is a definite way to create a brand loyalist.”

At CityMax.com, we have been promoting many of our small businesses to media and to other customers (and we will be doing even more so in the coming months). We believe that “every website tells a story” and what makes the story interesting is not the website itself or the CityMax.com website builder technology driving the website, but what the individual entrepreneur was able to accomplish with the tools. One such good example of this was the “Homepreneur of the Year” award that CityMax.com handed out last year to Marco Barberini. Marco’s story is inspiring to other entrepreneurs.

So what do you think? Would Grasshopper have achieved brand loyalty under the name GotVMail?

March 30, 2010 at 4:09 pm 1 comment

Happy New Year! Now back to blogging about marketing, entrepreneurship, domains, and life in general

My how time flies when you are having fun! I can’t believe that this small business blog was starting to go the way of so many abandoned blogs, having not written anything in more than 8 months. So this post is a little bit of a catch all catch up.

I stopped writing those 8 months ago after accepting a position within CityMax.com to bring ideas and passion into the 10 year old company and join on for what was promising to be a most “excellent adventure” (to badly paraphrase Keanu Reeves) — another guy from whom you haven’t heard anything intelligible from in awhile.

Officially, the job title on the business card reads “VP Marketing”, but in reality it might read “Entrepreneur-in-residence-and-the-guy-who-helps-coach-the-marketing-and-sales-teams-about-marketing-sales-pr-domaining-ppc-seo-and-other-hats-as-required”… But that might not have fit on the business card.

I am still involved in other startups of course. TeeTimes.net, my golf tee times and reservations company, is still going and growing well. Texts.com was sold off. Other ventures are percolating slowly. In fact, it is mandated at CityMax that all employees must also be entrepreneurs.

Painted Picture and Vision for CityMax.com

CityMax.com Painted Picture ... It is worth a read.

CityMax, after all, is trying to inspire the dreams of more than one million entrepreneurs through its small business website software (read the CityMax Painted Picture here) … And by being entrepreneurs ourselves, we can better understand and help customers (while seeing Blue Ocean opportunities as they arise).

So why am I back blogging again after such a long hiatus? It is a new year that is full of new possibilities… And I thought it would be such a shame to let all of this pass unrecorded.

To everyone in business, cheers to a prosperous and rewarding decade ahead.

John

January 14, 2010 at 10:27 am 1 comment

The science of marketing

Before I started typing, I checked the Category as “rambling” as I don’t know where this post is going, but I was thinking while driving home this evening (always a dangerous prospect). My conclusion: marketing is no longer an art. Marketing is now a science.

Back when I was at UBC, I obtained a Bachelor’s of Arts (English & Art History). And while marketing was not even on my radar at that point, I never considered myself a man of science. I mean, I always enjoyed Science Fair projects, but I really was not a fan of Biology, Chemistry, Physics, etc. Math was something I dreaded going to. The benefits of Science at UBC, was the 432 and some of the beer gardens.

When I got into marketing, I was focused on the copy writing, communications, branding, programs, and the like. I have been calling it “extroverted marketing” now for several years… though this is mostly to differentiate it from the “introverted marketing” that I was doing over the past 5+ years. Introverted marketing is the product marketing, market requirements, technical specifications, product road maps, and the like.

In conversations with my father-in-law (an Engineer), marketing has always been second fiddle to a man of science. We were the ones that wrote the “spontaneous quotes” to feed the executive team. Science was what made the world go round. But at some point in the past few years, marketing has become a science. I don’t know the exact moment it tipped, but it has.

This really hit home when I was reading a very good post from ClickEquations called “The Economics of Quality Score”. In this article Craig Danuloff wrote:

So What Is Quality Score Worth?
Knowing this is how cost-per-click is calculated, we’re able to determine the specific impact of any quality score on your cost-per-click.

And therefore the exact cost or savings from any single-digit increase or decrease in your quality score.

Yes that’s right – we can tell you the specific change in your CPC that is due to the quality score you’re getting for each of your keywords.

For example, your QS=10 keywords are enjoying a 30% CPC discount as compared to if they were QS=7 and in the same position. And your QS=4 keywords are paying a whopping 75% premium for their position.

This excerpt was followed by a very good analysis of the importance of quality score and how it can dramatically impact your paid search marketing activities. Check our the piece for sure…

But here I was, a self-professed math-o-phobe, reading with interest the statistical analysis of quality score. This is, of course, on top of the bi-weekly Marketing Experiments webinars on landing page optimization. More science.

Every day, I am pondering the stats and metrics of my assorted paid search campaigns. What gives?

You see. Marketing has changed. It is no longer an art. It is a science.

What does that mean to the world at large? Well perhaps the next marketing recruits will no longer be coming out of the art schools. Perhaps agencies should be scouring the Physics and Math departments of university campuses. I don’t know… maybe they already are?

Years ago, I was brought back to UBC by the Arts Undergraduate Society to talk to 1st and 2nd year students in a session called “Beyond the BA”. The focus was on what a person could do with an Arts Degree. Of the other panelists, I was the only one to go out and get a ‘real’ job. The rest had gone on to a technical program (BCIT), onto Education [when in doubt, teach], or onto Law.

The advice I had for the students at the time was that it was OK to go out and learn business on the job. Use your BA as an opportunity to learn how to learn, how to communicate, and how to synthesize. These traits would be useful wherever life takes you, and at the time this took me into the marketing of software.

But in hindsight, seeing at where marketing is at presently, perhaps the advice I should have given was this. If you want to be a good marketer, forget about studying English and Art History as yours truly did. Go out and look at the hard sciences and learn to do research. Think about the math programs so that you could discover the next formula for optimization. Be a scientist. And with it, you will become a better artist.

March 26, 2009 at 11:12 pm Leave a comment

What to look for when buying a domain name

I often get questions from people about my opinion on domain values, domain valuation, and what to look for when buying a domain… especially from people who want to get into the domain speculation and aftermarket business. I just wrote the following response to a colleague that I thought I would share:

*********

{Billy Bob},

In my opinion, there are very few names that are available in the primary market that are considered ‘investment domains’. There are discounts in the secondary market, however, as many people who purchased domain names as speculators over the past couple of years with the assumption that they would be able to monetize a domain via parked revenue. This revenue has decreased by 50% in the past year, so many of these holders are over-leveraged and liquidating some assets.


The names that are good, in my opinion, are ones that reside where there exists a clear consumer intent of what the domain offers. Something like “JuiceCalifornia.com” does not communicate this. CaliforniaJuiceCompany.com does communicate that value. In the former, a person does not know what resides at the destination, in the latter, one would expect to see a California Juice Company.


There are also three measures of value in my opinion:

  1. Value to you – If you build out the domain with a business that is enhanced by the domain itself. Can you use the domain to build it out with SEO and turn it into a real company (using the domain to drive relevancy, organic traffic, and better quality score results for your PPC campaigns), giving you a competitive advantage in an even playing field.
  2. Value to others: a domain that is worthless to me might be MayneIslandPlumber.com. However, to a plumber on Mayne Island, this domain could be worth a fair bit. Domains that sell to the end user always generate considerable more revenue than names that are resold to other speculators. So make sure if you are buying a domain for resale rather than development, think about how many potential buyers you might have. With the above example, there may be only 1-2 plumbers on the island described above. If the don’t buy it, the domain is relatively worthless.
  3. Value to the collective: Some domains, namely those with direct navigation, linked, or organic traffic have value based entirely on its ability to be monetized at a set rate through various parking services. Your chances of finding a domain like this are slim as software automated this many years ago and unless you can find a just born concept (new words, new trends, etc). And if you would get a domain that monetizes at a certain rate, many of the large domain owners could out monetize you anyway (their advertising revenue share will always be greater than the small player), so they are capable of paying rates that you would not.

I tend to like the domains of the first point above, identifying domains that could be built out that communicate a clear value proposition and give you brand presence allowing you to compete with the big boys right off the bat. My model lately has been to identify under-performing business assets (e.g. poor parking revenue producing names] that have these traits:  sufficient search volume, high transactional value, and others who have blazed the trail for you and proved that there is economic activity online for your domain.

If you are considering buyin a domain, there are a few good acid tests right off the bat to see if a domain has value:

  • Search for the exact match domain on Google (i.e., search “keyword keyword” with the quotes. If there is advertiser depth, as in more than one advertiser, at least someone thinks that this search phrase has relevance and has value (they are paying for it afterall), and probably could be monetized.
  • Use the Google keyword tool [or similar tools] to see if people are searching on the concept that the domain represents, using both exact and broad match search values. Obviously, the more people searching for the term, the better
  • Ask a friend that if they went to “UniqueDomainName.com”, what would they expect to find. A good landing page should meet consumer expectations and match relevance. The domain name is a good start for this. When I ask a golfer what they expect to find at my golf reservations website  teetimes.net… the answer is simply, “I don’t know… tee times?”
  • And the final one, that could be done quickly, is ask yourself, “How big is the market, is it growing, and do people turn to the Internet for information on the core economic aspect represented by the domain?” For my SMS marketing and text messaging venture, Texts.com, the market is expected to be a $150 billion market by next year and 20 billion texts were sent in Canada last year alone (growing at 100% per year

I hope this helps.

John

***********************

Anyhow, I am not sure if this helps anyone else or not, but my few minute reply to my colleague turned into a pretty long, rambling email. I thought it would be good to share this knowledge with others. What do you think… agree or disagree with any of the points?

March 21, 2009 at 10:55 am Leave a comment

Vancity Savings – an example of great customer service

I had a great customer service experience at Vancity Savings, the credit union I deal with. And as they say, when you have bad customer service you tell 10 people, and when you have a good experience, you tell 1. Well I think that is wrong, so I am telling the world.

I was doing a wire transfer out today from an account that, in its classification as a “high interest savings account”, required that a $5 fee be imposed should I withdraw funds while interacting with a teller. It sounds like one of those rules that a bureaucrat makes up, though I assume it had some thought put into it.

Anyhow, after I said “that’s fine” and was more than willing to pay the fee, the teller offered this up, “How about I log out of my terminal, log onto our website, and then you could transfer funds from this account, into another one of your accounts. From here, we will do the wire transfer out of your other account, saving you the $5 fee?”

Pardon? What happened to the concept that all banks are evil, money-hungry, and only interested in their bottom line?

Well maybe they are still interested in the latter point, but the empowerment of the frontline staff to suggest things like this would generate way more revenue for them than a measley $5 fee. After all, not only do I do a lot of business them, but with good service, I will tell someone else. And that is exactly what I am doing.

Kudos to Vancity and the staff in Maple Ridge. And thank you.

March 20, 2009 at 11:11 pm 3 comments

Personalization in Email

I just read some interesting observations by Justin Premick over at AWeber with regards to personalization and email. It made me recall a story from several years ago (as in 10+)  when I was working for a banking automation campaign that was focusing on helping banks leverage 1-to-1 marketing and CRM to focus on the most profitable customers in a bank.

This could be an urban legend, but this is how I remember it:

A junior employee at BankBoston was using mail merge software to send messages to their most 1000 most profitable customers… as in people with a very high net worth. As a placeholder on the mail merge instead of “Dear {!firstname}”, he used the placeholder of “Dear {Rich_bastard}.

And yes, he lost his job when the 1000 most valued clients received the communciation with exactly that in the personalization field.

February 27, 2009 at 11:44 am Leave a comment

Advertising Golf on FaceBook

Well I finally succumbed to the masses. I joined Facebook. Not as in the sense that everyone could ‘poke’ me or add me as a friend (I am still a holdout on that side of the ledger), but in the sense of that I am now starting to advertise tee times using FaceBook’s contextual ads for my TeeTimes.net venture.

First impressions (3 days in)? I expected to receive poor results, but I didn’t think it would be that poor. Here are some details:

  • Averaging 3800 impressions per day
  • Affinity targeted to those people who like “Golf”, “Golfing”, “Playing Golf”, “Vacations”, etc.
  • Geo-targeted to people from whom I receive a large percentage of web traffic for golf trips

The results:

  • CTR = 0.00%
  • Clicks = 0

The good news:

  • Ad Spend:  $0.00

I mean, I have heard that Facebook converts poorly and that the latest eye tracking is showing an increasing amount of banner blindness [one would expect that the results are higher for really sticky websites that people interact with on a daily basis like FaceBook], but I would have thought that I might have gotten at least one accidental click or something. But nope. Nada. Thank goodness for PPC.

With regards to Facebook’s business model, I am sure that monetization through advertising is not a sustainable strategy. And with Facebook expected to have a negative cash flow of $150 million for this next year, one has to hope (for all those addicted to their community), that they could figure out how to capitalize on the traffic, and more importantly, the knowledge of the “who”, the “what”, the “when”, and the “why”.

What are your thoughts? Will social network advertising ever work? Or should Facebook and others just hurry it up and get on with other business models?

I heard someone compare Facebook to broadcast television a while back [I don’t remember who] with the arguement that if NBC, ABC, et al could monetize the eyeballs with advertisements, why can’t Facebook. I don’t buy it. My interpretation: NBC and ABC are now fighting to prevent people from skipping over  the ads with Tivo and other PVRs, injecting commercials into programming and finding other ways to monetize.

Anyhow… my thoughts for the day

February 27, 2009 at 10:27 am Leave a comment

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