Archive for the ‘complexity’ tag
Nobody said it was easy.
As the years wane on and you gather perspectives and insights from your business, your industry and your peers, what you quickly realize is this: nothing is easy… nothing is simple. Even quick scores (like Instagram grabbing close to one billion dollars from Facebook) was not a cake walk. All companies (and the people that work for them) understand the difficulty that is business. There is a small part of me that wishes we could simply close our eyes, click our heels three times fast and make a wish that business should be as much fun and as easy to do as taking the kids to the park… but alas, money complicates things.
The news of JC Penney dismissing their CEO, Ron Johnson, after just 17 months broke my heart in many different ways. Primarily, I’m a big fan of retail and an enthusiast of the industry. As digital as my existence may be, I’m a complete urbanist and revel at the opportunity to walk through a big shopping mall. I love the smell of commerce in the morning (to quote the movie, Mallrats). I am fascinated with the changing landscape of retail and even more enthralled with the place of shopping malls in our culture (more on that here: Do Shopping Centers Have A Future?). When Johnson (who was previously heading up the retail division of Apple and was responsible for some of Target‘s success prior to that) was picked to help reinvent the beleaguered department store chain, I held high hopes that his actions might reinvigorate the entire department store model.
This is where things get selfish.
On a selfish level, I spend a few paragraphs of energy talking about Ron Johnson and JC Penney in my upcoming business book, CTRL ALT Delete (out on May 21st). As soon as the news broke, I got an email from Joseph Jaffe asking me if there was time for me to edit, update or change the part of my book that speaks to Johnson’s work. My gut reaction was to call my literary agent and editor to seek their guidance. I reviewed that, specific, part of the book and it reminded me of something very important. The story that is being told isn’t really about JC Penney or Ron Johnson or how successful they could be. The true story was about that fact that Johnson was trying to bring a lot of simplicity to a business that had become increasingly complex, bloated and somewhat uninteresting to today’s shopper. The story of JC Penney is just as applicable today as it was when I first wrote about it. Maybe even moreso now that Johnson has been shown the door. Trying to untangle a business and make the offering as simple and delightful as possible is very, very hard work. It gets much harder as you get bigger, and it gets much harder the longer the company has been in business. We’ve all heard the Einstein line about simplicity being the ultimate in complexity, and the news of Johnson’s departure simply reinforces that.
How simple are things?
If you polled employees at Apple (and if they were willing to tell you the truth in candid fashion), you would probably uncover that Apple is not a simple company at all. That with all of the secrecy, layers and more, every individual is not working in an open and collaborative environment, but rather a complex place where pieces and bits are being mastered and optimized without a full understanding of how the pieces and components shore up to a bigger product or service. Often, the excuse given is that this decreases the likelihood of something being leaked, but if you peel the layers of that onion away, what you find – at the core – is a very complex model that results is products that are simple for people to use. Still, the business is not simple.
Business is not simple.
The over-simplification of business may be a misnomer. Ultimately, all of us (whether we’re B2C or B2B businesses) are trying to create products and services that are simple and intuitive to use. That journey is one that requires many complex things to happen. When the news broke of Johnson’s departure, something fascinating happened. According to article in Time, JC Penney Ousts CEO Ron Johnson, Ullman Returns: "Penney’s stock price Monday evening showed investors’ frustration with Johnson and it’s uncertainty about Penney’s future. When news began to leak after the market closed that Penney was ousting Johnson, the stock, which had closed at $15.87 in the regular session, climbed nearly 13 percent to $17.88 in after-hours trading. But as pleased as investors were about getting rid of Johnson, they didn’t appear impressed with his replacement. After Penney announced Ullman would take over, the stock reversed course falling as far as 11 percent from its regular closing price, to $14.10. That’s 21 percent from its after-hours high."
Here’s the other thing…
Perhaps Johnson wasn’t the right fit. Perhaps his strategy was met with friction from the existing customer base, maybe his marketing strategy was off, but here’s the thing: JC Penney was in need of Johnson (or, at least, a reinvention). Ditching him doesn’t change that. It merely reinforces it. Where this will ultimately net out is anyone’s guess, but rest assured that whomever takes the reigns at JC Penney will be focused on creating an in-store experience that is in-line with the consumer of today. And, rest assured, the consumers that become the heavy users and brand evangelists are the ones who are getting products and services that are brilliantly simple. No, I’m not going to go back and change the contents of CTRL ALT Delete. In fact, I think the story glorifies this moment of purgatory that business finds itself in (and that’s the core message of the book). Could you turn around an organization of that magnitude in 17 months or less? It’s not an easy task, and it’s the new reality of the speed and transitions that we see in business today. I start the book out by saying that people need to look to their left and then to their right at the people around them, because the odds are that one of you won’t be around in the same vocation in the next five years. Maybe the real editing of the book should be around the timeframe. I hope 17 months doesn’t become the norm.
JC Penney still needs a reboot. My guess is that there are parts of your business or your own career that need one too.
The most useful software tool for Windows that I’ve discovered this year (if not in the past few years) is Connectify.
This utility lets you connect your laptop, netbook or other Windows PC to a wired or wireless internet connection, and then share that single connection with your mobile devices via a secure personal wifi hotspot that Connectify creates.
And that’s just using the free version. The additional features you get with the paid Connectify Pro include using a cellular 3G or 4G connection to the internet to create your personal wifi hotspot when there’s no internet-wifi connectivity.
Without doubt, I’ve found Connectify to be an essential tool when travelling – even on a one-day trip into London – that simplifies the complexity hotels and others place in front of you when you want to get online.
Now, the Philadelphia-based software developer is taking things to a new level:
Since Wi-Fi networks are popping up just about everywhere, and many of us also carry around mobile broadband devices that offer 3G/4G access on-the-go, we started to wonder: with so much bandwidth available across our networks and devices, why are we still left choosing only one Internet connection at a time?
They answer their question with Connectify Dispatch, a new service that, simply put, lets you connect to all available internet connections simultaneously, whether wifi or cellular.
To bring this new product to market, Connectify decided to use the popular crowdfunding site, Kickstarter, to prove that there is widespread demand for a fully-featured Connectify Dispatch consumer product.
This project will be funded only if at least $50,000 is pledged by Friday September 7, 2012. If you pledge your support – which can be as little as $10 – there is a range of benefits in return including free product.
I want to help “the emerging leader in easy-to-use wireless networking software” (such a simple and humble corporate description) succeed so I think it’s worth supporting. See if you agree after watching CEO Alexander Gizis’ video pitch.
You have likely heard something about “big data” and wondered what it is and if it has any impact on marketers and your world.
There are lots of ways people use (and misuse) the term, but for purposes of this column, let’s say that big data is marketing data that is multistructured (not linear or easily aligned to a structured database format) and sourced from multiple customer interactions. That might include clickstream (website visits), behavioral insights, email and SMS response data, social posts, tweets, and search keyword activity.
In essence, big data disrupts marketing. It upsets the normal “container” of marketing data because the unstructured and multistructured formats don’t match the kinds of one-to-one relationships of data element with database field (the way that structured data works). Big data upsets the CRM paradigm because it’s fluid, hard to sort and prioritize, and not always attributable to a specific person. Big data also disrupts the infrastructure capex budget.
Big data is just that: big.
Gartner has reported that competitive advantage goes to folks who tap into this disruption of data.
Do not be afraid. There are plenty of opportunities that involve harnessing big data and making sense of it. At one level, it’s important to just ask questions of the data. You can only make better decisions if you use the gems hidden in your vast data storehouses. Better yet, imagine what you could do if you could use all the data you have. And I mean: All. The. Data. That is pretty exciting. You’d be doing things like social community relationship analysis, persona-based segmentations, behavioral modeling, path-to-purchase analysis, real-time offer management, multi-touch attribution analysis, advertising and media analysis, and more.
Big data can be an incredible opportunity, but folks can be frustrated by trying to get their arms around it.
One area where marketers are optimizing their investments in big data analysis is in the area of digital marketing attribution, which is itself the first step to digital marketing optimization. Most attribution today is last click, more for the complexity in managing data than from marketer choice. But now that we are tapping big data, attribution analysis can track behavioral insights and better understand and serve customers who are interacting across an expanding universe of multiple channels, touchpoints, and data sources—everything from email to search, digital advertising, websites, and social media.
The volume and complexity of new data sources require advanced analytics beyond “last touch” or “last click” attribution. To make accurate budgeting decisions, marketers need to take into account multichannel, multitouch purchasing cycles.
Consider two examples of how attribution could work for you.
- A major online and offline retailer leverages big data to derive consumer insights that are deployed across channels. Instead of relying on sampling, customer intelligence is created from big data analysis. Customers benefit from more personalized experiences.
- An online-only retailer ties together clickstream information with email logs, ad viewing information, and operational information to identify customer preferences and behavior—and to optimize marketing spend. That includes parsing of Twitter feeds and sentiment analysis.
Data-driven marketers must think differently. Our customers expect it, and our markets demand it.
Consider these types of initiatives for your own organization, where digital marketing attribution can help.
- Gain visibility into marketing activity to optimize the use of new channels and deliver remarkable customer experience across conversation points.
- Automate marketing processes and simplify cross-channel measurements. Facilitate experimentation and iteration to optimize digital channels by using quantitative results as they happen.
- Empower yourself to think differently; think that the answer is already there in the data.
- Take a complete look at the data, both digital and non-digital information, to get a more complete view of customers, their preferred channels, and interactive behavior.
- Procure the right big data analytics tools that will integrate with your marketing database, campaign management, CRM, and digital messaging solutions.
What is your story around attribution? Are you on a path to tap the disruption of data or are you sticking with last click attribution models?
Share your learnings below.
(Photo courtesy of Bigstock: Comical Boy)
A WebmasterWorld thread has one AdWords advertiser sharing his experience going through the decision making process of allowing a Google employee to set up a new AdWords campaign for free and see how it goes.
The outcome was that he decided to see what the AdWords representative can do. Let it run for a bit and see the results compared to what he could do himself.
Six weeks later, the results seem pretty impressive.
- Clicks – up 23%
- CTR -up 103%
- Avg. CPC – down 13%
So clicks are up, CPC prices are down – that seems great! Well, doesn’t it?
As moderator, buckworks, asked – how are conversions?
I’d assume those are doing well also, but I am waiting for the post to be updated. If conversions are the same or better, then this advertiser won big time by using the right Google AdWords representative.
Is it always worth a shot? That depends on the complexity of your business model.
Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.
AppFog is a Platform as a Service (PaaS) provider that wants to do for developer platforms what Google did for email.
GMail launched in 2004 by giving its users a distributed service with 2 gigabytes (GB) of free disk space. Search made it possible. It disrupted competitors like Hotmail that provided a measly 2 mb of free space.
Today AppFog is offering 2 GB of RAM for free. It is the first PaaS provider to offer a RAM based service that starts with such a large free amount. You can use the service as much as you want and never pay a dime until you use 2 GB. Users get load balancing, multiple instance scaling and failover to different infrastructures in case of problems. AppFog is available on Amazon Web Services, HP, Rackspace and Windows Azure.
Other service providers range in price from $58 per month up to $360 for 2 GB RAM.
This is AppFogs’s attempt to commoditize PaaS in the same way Google commoditized email.
AppFog Founder and CEO Lucas Carlson said PaaS users are getting penalized for becoming active users. The Instagrams of the world are not using PaaS in part due to the cost that comes with the PaaS services. Reliability and performance issues further aggravates the problem.
Reliability issues have been a persistent problem for infrastructure providers such as Amazon Web Services. Users never know when a a disaster may affect service or operations mistakes will be made. Interoperability is difficult betweeen vendors.
AppFog’s service extends across different infrastructure services. It does this by using CloudFoundry, VMware’s PaaS, as the universal API to multiple infrastructure environments. That allows the service to exist on any infrastructure without the complexity that usually burdens the customer.
For instance, pricing can get quite complex. Pricing calculators are the norm. Customers get confused as the contracts are different from the one they were accustomed to with their on-premise environments.
AppFog abstracts the complexity. Users do not have to have contracts with infrastructure providers. The RAM customers use can be subdivided among providers.
Google used its search to disrupt the old, file-based model of organizing data. Search replaced the file folder metaphor.
If AppFog has its way, RAM will be the new metaphor, replacing virtualization as the common way to calculate pricing and use of an infrastructure environment.
Here’s a quick tip if you’re planning on smoking some meat soon: Instead of soaking wood chips in water, try a flavored liquid like beer, wine, or fruit juice. This will give your food more complexity. More »
Drew’s note: Here’s a guest post by Brad Shorr on a topic everyone wants to know more about — how to improve SEO.
Don’t be daunted by the complexity of SEO – especially now. Google has introduced a ton of changes to their ranking formula recently, most of which penalize complicated, manipulative SEO tactics. As a result, SEO has become simpler. Today the keys are:
- • Having a clean site that communicates well with Google
- • Creating great content that naturally attracts backlinks
Here are 10 crucial items for a 2012 SEO tune-up. The first five are onsite SEO activities, and the next five are offsite activities.
- 1. Update keyword research. Popular search terms change. Your business model may have changed as well. If you’re ranking well for keywords that have lost strategic value, all you’re doing is attracting visits from the wrong prospects.
- 2. Update title tags and content. Once your keywords are updated, put them in meta title tags and on-page content. Don’t just cram the keywords in: if necessary, rewrite pages to make the new keywords completely relevant.
- 3. Add new pages for additional keyword terms. Google loves fresh content. Add pages or blog posts steadily over time, using less popular (“long tail”) terms with strategic value.
- 4. Run an SEO diagnostic. Google’s Webmaster Tools is a great, free online resource that itemizes your site’s SEO issues making cleanup easy for you or your developer.
- 5. Set up a good internal linking system. The pages you link to most often on your site are the ones Google thinks are most important. We often recommend displaying links to your top lead-generating pages in the footer of the site, using keywords in the anchor text of the links.
- 6. Update good backlinks. Let’s move to offsite SEO issues. If you know of links coming into your site from popular sites/blogs, check the anchor text on those links. Ideally, anchor text should include keywords. If not, ask if they can change it.
- 7. Remove bad backlinks. If you know of links coming into your site from content farms, ad sites, and other sources with bad online reputations, remove them. These links could lower your rankings.
- 8. Do guest posts. A great way to create valuable backlinks is to write useful content on high quality blogs. Guest posts normally include a link(s) back to the writer’s site.
- 9. Update directory listings. Many people list their site in directories when it launches and never look back. Make sure those directory listings are up-to-date in terms of keywords and pages you’re linking to.
- 10. Update social media profiles. Along the same lines, keep keywords and links current for your profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter – and Google+ if you’re there. People tend to forget about their profiles on peripheral social sites such as Twellow and FriendFeed, so keep those on your SEO radar as well.
Brad Shorr is Director of Content & Social Media for Straight North, a Chicago marketing firm. They work with B2B clients in specialized niches, such as knife safety gloves and high visibility clothing. Brad writes frequently on SEO and its relationship to social media and content strategy.
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As developers add more interactivity to their apps, PubNub has emerged with a platform for sending out real-time messages and notifications without investing heavily in the infrastructure needed to support it. While it has historically been focused on one-to-many notifications, the latest product from the startup, PubNub Pulse, will allow developers to add persistent connections between users.
PubNub works to allow developers to add robust messaging into their apps without having to “rebuild the wheel.” The startup’s initial product, PubNub Galaxy, was designed for app makers who wish to simultaneously push out real-time messages in a one-to-many fashion. That allows publishers to push messages to mass-scale audiences during major events to multiple mobile and web applications.
PubNub Pulse, by contrast, was designed with low-latency, one-to-one communication in mind. That will let publishers deliver messages in less than 50 milliseconds without having the complexity that comes with keeping connections live between devices and apps. Initial customers for PubNub Pulse include MyPCBackup.com, Dice with Buddies, CometChat, and “a large VOIP company” which is using the product as a replacement for the SIP communications protocol.
Traffic from clients using the service has exploded over the last several weeks, as PubNub has grown from 1,000 active customers in March to more than 1,500 at last count. Three months ago, it hit a peak of about 100,000 messages per second. But the most recent milestone saw it deliver ten times that — 1 million messages a second — thanks to voting and sentiment analytics apps being used during the E3 gaming conference, as well as HumbleBundle live commerce launch last week.
San Francisco-based PubNub has 14 employees, and recently closed a $4.5 million financing round led by mobile-focused VC firm Relay Ventures.
New York City-based Yext, a company that offers a simple way to control your business data across more than 50 local search publishers, announced today that it has landed an additional $27 million in a fifth round of funding.
Yest says it will use the funding to expand its platform to more publishers. The company now distributes information for over 50,000 businesses on more than 50 sites. The latest round was led by Marker, a new fund by Crescent Point Capital founder Rick Scanlon.
“We think global discovery is going to be fragmented, which ultimately benefits users,” Yext CEO and co-founder Howard Lerman told VentureBeat in an interview today.
The company initially started out as a phone transcription service, and later offered a featured, Yext Rep, to help business owners monitor their listings on on local business sites. Eventually, that evolved into PowerListings, which is now the core of Yext’s business.
“PowerListings was the solution to the problems we showed you with Rep,” Lerman said. The company learned that if you’re going to tell customers they have issues with their business listings, you also need to offer a way to fix them. “The underlying complexity to fix it is way harder than the underlying complexity to tell you about the problem,” Lerman added.
PowerListings’ ability to keep your data in sync across multiple services is a “pretty sophisticated technical challenge,” Lerman said, and he notes that Yext is the only company that offers a direct connection to listings stored by its partner publishers. The company is using a patent-pending architecture, dubbed Dual-Sync, that allows it to push updates to publishers and have them respond right away.
Yext says it has powered more than 950,000 location updates since September. The company connects to popular local business sites like Yelp, Mapquest, Yahoo, and plenty of others.
For merchants, the benefits of Yext are obvious. It’s becoming increasingly important to make sure your business is searchable with accurate information on the web, and it’s a major pain to update your information across several sites manually. Yext claims that 6 percent of businesses change their listings every month, and 20 percent of local searchers by consumers return wrong information. (The hidden message: don’t let that be you.)
With today’s funding, Yext has raised more than $65 million so far, and its valuation is around $270 million, TechCrunch reports. Michael Arrington’s CrunchFund also participated in the round, along with previous investors Sutter Hill Ventures, Institutional Venture Partners (IVP), and WGI Group.
Bitly launched a major update and redesign of its link shortening service today that, in the eyes of many of its users, de-emphasizes some of its core feature. Instead of being able to just copy and paste a link, users now have to go through a few extra steps to get their shortened links, for example. This extra complexity brings many new features to the service, but some of its users are anything but happy about the changes.
With this update, Bitly is becoming more of a social bookmarking site than “just” a link shortener. Its users, however, were taken aback by these changes. They are, after all, just trying to shorten a few links and track their analytics. For the most part, they aren’t looking for Delicious replacement in their link shortener.
Looking at the comment thread on the Bitly blog, it’s pretty clear that this update took users by surprise. While Bitly had hinted at the updates last month, the company never shared the exact details of today’s changes before actually putting them into action.
Bitly: “”It’s the response from the vocal minority who are quick to complain about any change.”
As Bitly’s CEO Peter Stern told me, the company anticipated the negative reaction: “It’s the response from the vocal minority who are quick to complain about any change. We put a great deal of thought and effort into making the change as minimal as we could, but we recognize that people don’t like change.” What we are not seeing, said Stern, is all the users who are now interacting with features that had always been available on the site but were difficult to use.
A radical change like this will always upset some people, especially if your service is aimed at mainstream users. Sadly, that’s just the way the Internet works these days.
— Roger Ebert (@ebertchicago) May 29, 2012
2 features I wish the new @bitly had: 1-click copy button when shortening links (why the extra steps?) & more than 30 days of click data.
— Nicole Callahan (@NACallahan) May 29, 2012
And no, @bitly, I don’t want to save every link that I shorten. I have no idea why this is so irritating, but it really REALLY is.
— Talia Buford (@TaliaBuford) May 29, 2012